Friday, October 29, 2004

I pledge allegiance to .... Herr Bush?

One Nation Under Bush - At a campaign rally, Republicans recite the "Bush Pledge." By Chris Suellentrop
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Arms aloft eh? With elbows bent, or straight?

Bush did wear something News | NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate

I've mostly been ignoring this, but now I'm curious. I'd put it at a 50-50 chance Bush was wearing something at the first debate. I've no idea what it was and the article really doesn't address that.

Republicans for Kerry 2004

Republicans for Kerry 2004 - dKosopedia

An extensive list of well regarded Republicans who will not vote for Bush. Some will vote for Kerry, some will write in McCain or George Bush senior.

Bob Smith, a right wing NH republican, joined this group today.

Yesterday The Economist endorsed Kerry.

Go Sox Go.

Kay (the weapons inspector guy) on Qa Qaa (via CNN)

The Talent Show: An Expert Opinion
Well, at least with regard to this one bunker and the film shows one seal, one bunker, one group of soldiers going through and there were others there that were sealed, with this one, I think it is game, set and match.

There was HMX, RDX in there. The seal was broken and quite frankly to me the most frightening thing is not only is the seal broken and the lock broken but the soldiers left after opening it up. I mean to rephrase the so-called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rule if you open an arms bunker, you own it. You have to provide security....

...Iraq had, and it's a frightening number, two-thirds of the total conventional explosives that the U.S. has in its entire inventory. The country was an armed camp.

Bush can blame the soldiers. Who else can he blame?

Butterfly ballots -- what a nation

Pandagon: Follow The Rules, You Will Lose

I've never seen a butterfly ballot. These are astounding. We don't deserve this nation.

Yoo-hoo, don't forget me ...

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Bin Laden video threatens America

So he's not dead. Too bad, I thought he might be.

I don't think he's trying to seriously influence the election. If I can't figure out how this spins I doubt Zawahiri can.

I think either:

1. It's a signal for havoc
2. It's a sign of bin Laden's infamous vanity

We'll find out soon enough about the first. If nothing happens it suggests al Qaeda does not have much threat left in it -- at least for the US.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Lancet: 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq death toll 'soared post-war'
... Violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces - and most individuals reportedly killed were women and children.

Dr Les Roberts, who led the study, said: "Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths."

He said his team's work proved it was possible to compile data on public health "even during periods of extreme violence".

The sample included randomly selected households in Baghdad, Basra, Arbil, Najaf and Karbala, as well as Falluja.

Lancet editor Richard Horton said: "With the admitted benefit of hindsight and from a purely public health perspective, it is clear that whatever planning did take place was grievously in error."

He went on: "Democratic imperialism has led to more deaths not fewer. This political and military failure continues to cause scores of casualties among non-combatants."

He urges the coalition forces to rethink their strategy to "prevent further unnecessary human casualties".

"For the sake of a country in crisis and for a people under daily threat of violence, the evidence we publish today must change heads as well as pierce hearts," he said.

I wouldn't bet on piercing hearts. I suspect many soldiers already have pain in their hearts at the civilian deaths, but for most Americans it's an annoying astraction.

100,000. That's a city. It's much more than all the people I know. If the average victim weighed 60 lbs, than's 6 million pounds of person.

If the average victim was 12 years old, that's at least 5,000,000 lost years of life. Five million years ago we didn't even have Homo Erectus.

By the standards of the Iran-Iraq war, Rwanda, and the Congo, of course, it's a small number. It may yet be dwarfed by the deaths of a future Iraqi civil war.

By the standards of a civilized society ...

There are times when I would say war is unavoidable. (I might be wrong.) If it must be done, then do it with maximum care and the least harm possible. Treat children, at the least, as we would treat our own children.

We did not have the forces to invade Iraq "responsibly". We did not have the support of the world needed to find a way to get out of Iraq quickly. Rumsfeld was either delusional about the consequences of his choices, or he made an evil choice for evil ends. Bush did not fire Rumsfeld, evidently he approved.

If this were a just world they would be tried for crimes against humanity. Any educated adult, capable of reading and thinking, who votes for Bush November 2nd is also indicating they approve as well.

Wag the Dog

Shrillblog: Ex Bush Ghostwriter Mickey Herskowitz Is Shrill!
According to Herskowitz... Bush and his advisers were sold on the idea that it was difficult for a president to accomplish an electoral agenda without the record-high approval numbers that accompany successful if modest wars. The revelations on Bush’s attitude toward Iraq emerged recently during two taped interviews of Herskowitz, which included a discussion of a variety of matters, including his continued closeness with the Bush family, indicated by his subsequent selection to pen an authorized biography of Bush’s grandfather, written and published last year with the assistance and blessing of the Bush family. Herskowitz also revealed the following: -In 2003, Bush’s father indicated to him that he disagreed with his son’s invasion of Iraq. -Bush admitted that he failed to fulfill his Vietnam-era domestic National Guard service obligation, but claimed that he had been “excused.”... -Bush described his own business ventures as “floundering” before campaign officials insisted on recasting them in a positive light....

According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush’s beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.”

Bush’s circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: “They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.”...

There's more. Follow the link. If he'd stopped with Afghanistan, and done that properly, he'd be ahead by a mile now.

With great anguish and pained reluctance, The Economist endorses John Kerry for President | America's next president

This won't much difference to the electorate. The readers of The Economist are not likely to be undecided. It will, however, sting deeply at the White House. Are they sure the WSJ will really endorse Bush?

Some background. The Economist is probably the most influential periodical in the world, with the WSJ and NYT a close second. It's said to be the only periodical Bill Gates reads. It's historically been Liberal -- as in 19th century secular humanist Liberal -- with a strong libertarian bent.

Over the past 10 years the US circulation has grown sharply and the influence of the GOP has also risen. I've long suspected they were getting too many WSJ alumni.

Over this time they abandoned much of their historic legacy and began to track republican doctrine. Their attacks on Clinton has an amazing component of right wing moralizing -- in no way libertarian or liberal. Their endorsement of Bush was amazingly vacuous, and their editorial pages have sought every excuse to support him.

Meanwhile, in the back pages, a rebellion has simmered. A recent very positive review of Seymour Hersh's book is a case in point.

So this is a revolution. They'll lose a LOT of readers with this one, but keep others. Some excerpts from a fairly backhanded, agonizingly reluctant endorsement. At least they avoided the coward's choice of endorsing no-one.
The incompetent or the incoherent?
Oct 28th 2004

With a heavy heart, we think American readers should vote for John Kerry on November 2nd.

YOU might have thought that, three years after a devastating terrorist attack on American soil, a period which has featured two wars, radical political and economic legislation, and an adjustment to one of the biggest stockmarket crashes in history, the campaign for the presidency would be an especially elevated and notable affair. If so, you would be wrong. This year's battle has been between two deeply flawed men: George Bush, who has been a radical, transforming president but who has never seemed truly up to the job, let alone his own ambitions for it; and John Kerry, who often seems to have made up his mind conclusively about something only once, and that was 30 years ago. But on November 2nd, Americans must make their choice, as must The Economist. It is far from an easy call, especially against the backdrop of a turbulent, dangerous world. But, on balance, our instinct is towards change rather than continuity: Mr Kerry, not Mr Bush.

Whenever we express a view of that sort, some readers are bound to protest that we, as a publication based in London, should not be poking our noses in other people's politics. Translated, this invariably means that protesters disagree with our choice. It may also, however, reflect a lack of awareness about our readership. The Economist's weekly sales in the United States are about 450,000 copies, which is three times our British sale and roughly 45% of our worldwide total. All those American readers will now be pondering how to vote, or indeed whether to. Thus, as at every presidential election since 1980, we hope it may be useful for us to say how we would think about our vote if we had one.

The case against George Bush

That decision cannot be separated from the terrible memory of September 11th, nor can it fail to begin as an evaluation of the way in which Mr Bush and his administration responded to that day. For Mr Bush's record during the past three years has been both inspiring and disturbing.

Mr Bush was inspiring in the way he reacted to the new world in which he, and America, found itself. He grasped the magnitude of the challenge well. His military response in Afghanistan was not the sort of poorly directed lashing out that Bill Clinton had used in 1998 after al-Qaeda destroyed two American embassies in east Africa: it was a resolute, measured effort, which was reassuringly sober about the likely length of the campaign against Osama bin Laden and the elusiveness of anything worth the name of victory. Mistakes were made, notably when at Tora Bora Mr bin Laden and other leaders probably escaped, and when following the war both America and its allies devoted insufficient military and financial resources to helping Afghanistan rebuild itself. But overall, the mission has achieved a lot: the Taliban were removed, al-Qaeda lost its training camps and its base, and Afghanistan has just held elections that bring cautious hope for the central government's future ability to bring stability and prosperity.

The biggest mistake, though, was one that will haunt America for years to come. It lay in dealing with prisoners-of-war by sending hundreds of them to the American base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, putting them in a legal limbo, outside the Geneva conventions and outside America's own legal system. That act reflected a genuinely difficult problem: that of having captured people of unknown status but many of whom probably did want to kill Americans, at a time when to set them free would have been politically controversial, to say the least. That difficulty cannot neutralise the damage caused by this decision, however. Today, Guantánamo Bay offers constant evidence of America's hypocrisy, evidence that is disturbing for those who sympathise with it, cause-affirming for those who hate it. This administration, which claims to be fighting for justice, the rule of law and liberty, is incarcerating hundreds of people, whether innocent or guilty, without trial or access to legal representation. The White House's proposed remedy, namely military tribunals, merely compounds the problem.

When Mr Bush decided to frame his foreign policy in the sort of language and objectives previously associated with Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, he was bound to be greeted with cynicism. Yet he was right to do so. To paraphrase a formula invented by his ally, Tony Blair, Mr Bush was promising to be "tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism", and the latter he attributed to the lack of democracy, human rights and opportunity in much of the world, especially the Arab countries. To call for an effort to change that lamentable state of affairs was inspiring and surely correct. The credibility of the call was enhanced by this month's Afghan election, and may in future be enhanced by successful and free elections in Iraq. But that remains ahead, and meanwhile Mr Bush's credibility has been considerably undermined not just by Guantánamo but also by two big things: by the sheer incompetence and hubristic thinking evident in the way in which his team set about the rebuilding of Iraq, once Saddam Hussein's regime had been toppled; and by the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which strengthened the suspicion that the mistreatment or even torture of prisoners was being condoned.

Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam's record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam's remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America's reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity.

If Mr Bush had meanwhile been making progress elsewhere in the Middle East, such mistakes might have been neutralised. But he hasn't. Israel and Palestine remain in their bitter conflict, with America readily accusable of bias. In Iran the conservatives have become stronger and the country has moved closer to making nuclear weapons. Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia have not turned hostile, but neither have they been terribly supportive nor reform-minded. Libya's renunciation of WMD is the sole clear piece of progress.

This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent...

They go on to slander Kerry to cover themselves. I agree with much of their critique of Bush, but they're only scraping the surface. They know better, but probably feel they've risked enough.

They will pay dearly for this endorsement, but, in the ultimate test, they have redeemed themselves.

A completely unverified soldier's tale -- as related to an airline passenger

The Washington Note Archives

Excerpts here, emphases mine. Read the whole story at source.
I JUST SAT NEXT TO A VERY TOUGH SOLDIER FROM THE 82ND AIRBORNE on a flight back from Europe. I have been thinking for two days about how to share some of the things he told me without compromising him.

This guy I met is not one prone to talk; he was very serious, very mellow -- and comes from a family of enlisted military men. His dad was in Vietnam.

He has had one rotation in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. He is now in Germany but will soon be transfered back to Iraq. He was at Tora Bora and has seen a lot of Iraq, Afghan, and American dead....

...I asked him what he thought happened at Abu Ghraib and the handling of prisoners in general. He blamed both the people in the prison and their superiors. He says that everyone knows that the adrenaline rush and completely new experiences these young Americans are having lead to scary behaviors. He also stated that it is well known among the troops that al Qaeda takes (or keeps) no prisoners.

Early in the Afghanistan incursion, he said that he was on one of the last helicopters out of a very scary incident in which about ten U.S. soldiers were killed in a well-planned diversion and ambush by al Qaeda and the Taliban. He was at a fueling station between Kandahar and Shkin, very close to the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. A group began firing on U.S. soldiers at the fueling station, and some choppers and soldiers went after them. From behind, from the mountains on the Pakistani side, a massive number of al Qaeda and Taliban forces were streaming down behind the Americans -- and the soldier I was talking to could see this from the air in the chopper he was in.

Black Hawks were called in -- and the Taliban took out one or two -- but basically everyone just retreated. According to him at least ten soldiers surrendered to al Qaeda, and they were found later. One of the soldiers had had his penis castrated, and then this was stuffed in his mouth (sorry for the graphic detail, but it's important). The other soldiers were all shot in the head. Several others were "cut up," he said. To him, it was clear that they had been tortured.

He said that these experiences have been repeated in other encounters with al Qaeda -- and thus many of the soldiers who feel on the front lines of a war they don't understand and can't figure out -- have them so incredibly on edge that it's not surprising that they could come undone in a prisoner-holding situation. What he said though is that all of the officers know this to be the case and probably expected this kind of behavior from the soldiers and MPs.

He said that at night, when they are moving people or supplies, or making deliveries, they are scared -- and drive at 80 or 90 miles an hour with their lights off. He said lots of innocent people are killed by this night-driving and while the troops are supposed to report any damage or harm they do, almost none do -- no one wants to stop. This confirms an anecdote about the same kind of killer-driving that Seymour Hersh recently shared with me.

Interestingly, he said that all enlisted men or officers in command positions have orders not to talk about their war experiences with the junior and fresh troops. He refuses -- and tells those people under him everything he knows because he thinks it will help save their lives. When he went to Afghanistan at the beginning, basically nothing was told to them; he kept repeating "nothing." And he said that their basic training in North Carolina was 180 degrees opposite of what they really needed to know for this kind of combat.

He said morale is very low among the troops and that they all want out -- few believe in the war or Bush, and he thinks that many of these troops' negative feelings are being transmitted back to extended family networks that have traditionally been supporters of the Republican Party, like his own family.

He shared quite a bit more, including that his military commanders are planning for at minimum an eight year deployment in Iraq, maybe longer. He also shared an interesting anecdoted that about a year ago, certain commanders in the 82nd Airborne had been told to prepare for a quick incursion into Cuba. I was stunned.

He said, "Yep, we couldn't believe that on top of everything else, Bush thought he could go take out Castro." The Navy Seals were going to go in and do the dirty work, he said, and the "82nd was going to go in for clean-up." He said that he never heard more about it but that the orders clearly didn't go forward -- but they were prepared for that possibility and told that "Bush just wanted to take out Castro."

Another thing he shared was that after this incident at Shkin, mentioned above, the Navy Seals were sent in to go find the al Qaeda and Taliban troops hiding in the Pakistan mountains. He said that they were all through those mountains in Pakistan and what he told me was probably classified. But they found nothing, packed their bags, and went home.

... He said that in contrast to Vietnam where U.S. soldiers were killing other U.S. soldiers and officers whom they didn't like -- that is not happening in Afghanistan or Iraq. But he said people are getting depressed and disillusioned. They don't know what their objectives are -- and they see lots of dead children, dead innocent men and women, grieving families, whose early appreciation for Americans has given away to profound hate and resentment.

He said that if he were one of the Iraqi citizens experiencing what an occupying force was doing, he'd be fighting too. He said that the only way to win is to get out of there -- let the Iraqis resolve the issues they need to resolve internally. Give them money, give them resources, give them advice if asked -- but get the U.S. troops out.

This is completely unverified, but it contains absolutely no surprises -- except the oddball Cuba scenario (exception: the alleged treatment of captured US soldiers has not been widely reported -- however it is consistent with al Qaeda ideology and behavior). It puts into one personal scenario what's been reported and verified elsewhere.

It's noteworthy that US soldiers are holding up pretty well under incredible burdens -- fragging is not yet occurring and massacres of non-combatants does not appear to be common. However these are early days in a projected 8 year occupation.

Cut, run and contain may be among the least bad of a terrible set of alternatives. If this were a just world Rumsfeld and Bush would be drafted into the infantry. Perhaps Bush might complete his missing term in the National Guard?

George Bush, American Calvinist. It's as bad as Susskind said.

The New York Times > Opinion > ROBERT WRIGHT: Faith, Hope and Clarity

Robert Wright is a visiting fellow at Princeton University's Center for Human Values and the author of "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny." He wrote this piece for the NYT. It adds new details to Susskind's famed NYT Magazine article on 'The Power of the Will' -- Bush's faith-and-will based approach to altering reality. By Bush's own words he's a devotee of Oswald Chambers.

Bush is the American Calvinist, and the world is trapped in his beliefs -- and delusions. Emphases mine.
October 28, 2004

... there is a way to get a clearer picture of religion's role in this White House. Every morning President Bush reads a devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest," a collection of homilies by a Protestant minister named Oswald Chambers, who lived a century ago. As Mr. Bush explained in an interview broadcast on Tuesday on Fox News, reading Chambers is a way for him "on a daily basis to be in the Word."

Chambers's book continues to sell well, especially an updated edition with the language tweaked toward the modern. Inspecting the book - or the free online edition - may give even some devout Christians qualms about America's current guidance.

... the theme that dominates "My Utmost": committing your life to Jesus Christ - "absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will" - and staying committed. "If we turn away from obedience for even one second, darkness and death are immediately at work again." In all things and at all times, you must do God's will.

But what exactly does God want? Chambers gives little substantive advice. There is no great stress on Jesus' ethical teaching - not much about loving your neighbor or loving your enemy. (And Chambers doesn't seem to share Isaiah's hope of beating swords into plowshares. "Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm.") But the basic idea is that, once you surrender to God, divine guidance is palpable. "If you obey God in the first thing he shows you, then he instantly opens up the next truth to you," Chambers writes.

And you shouldn't let your powers of reflection get in the way. Chambers lauds Abraham for preparing to slay his son at God's command without, as the Bible put it, conferring "with flesh and blood." Chambers warns: "Beware when you want to 'confer with flesh and blood' or even your own thoughts, insights, or understandings - anything that is not based on your personal relationship with God. These are all things that compete with and hinder obedience to God."

Once you're on the right path, setbacks that might give others pause needn't phase you. As Chambers noted in last Sunday's reading, "Paul said, in essence, 'I am in the procession of a conqueror, and it doesn't matter what the difficulties are, for I am always led in triumph.' " Indeed, setbacks may have a purpose, Chambers will tell Mr. Bush this Sunday: "God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as his saint to get you in direct contact with himself." Faith "by its very nature must be tested and tried."

Some have marveled at Mr. Bush's refusal to admit any mistakes in Iraq other than "catastrophic success." But what looks like negative feedback to some of us - more than 1,100 dead Americans, more than 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians and the biggest incubator of anti-American terrorists in history - is, through Chambers's eyes, not cause for doubt. Indeed, seemingly negative feedback may be positive feedback, proof that God is there, testing your faith, strengthening your resolve.

This, I think, is Mr. Bush's optimism: In the longest run, divinely guided decisions will be vindicated, and any gathering mountains of evidence to the contrary may themselves be signs of God's continuing involvement. It's all good.

... Chambers himself eventually showed some philosophical flexibility. By and large, the teachings in "My Utmost for His Highest" were written before World War I (and compiled by his wife posthumously). But the war seems to have made him less sanguine about the antagonism that, he had long stressed, is inherent in life.

Shortly before his death in 1917, Chambers declared that "war is the most damnably bad thing," according to Christianity Today magazine. He added: "If the war has made me reconcile myself with the fact that there is sin in human beings, I shall no longer go with my head in the clouds, or buried in the sand like an ostrich, but I shall be wishing to face facts as they are.

If only Bush would move on to read the later Chambers, post WW I. Or if only Bush were a preacher or writer rather than President.

There are good reasons to vote for GWB. If you believe preventing abortion is the overwhelmingly important thing in the world, worth sacrificing thousands of adults and children to the pyre of war and chaos, then vote for GWB. If you believe he has been appointed by your deity to rule, then vote for GWB. If you seek the end of human civilization (radical green? millenialist), then vote for GWB.

I can't think of any other reasons.

Abu Ghraib -- lies and more lies

The New York Times > Opinion > Editoral: Abu Ghraib, Unresolved
When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal first broke, the Bush administration struck a pose of righteous indignation. It assured the world that the problem was limited to one block of one prison, that the United States would never condone the atrocities we saw in those terrible photos, that it would punish those responsible for any abuse - regardless of their rank - and that it was committed to defending the Geneva Conventions and the rights of prisoners.

We know now what we suspected then, all of the post-Abu Ghraib statements by the Bush administration were lies. The editorial goes on to refute each point, without using the L word.

Some Americans consider Abu Ghraib just fine with them. They favor more extensive torture and humiliation of the enemy. Most have put it out of memory.

As for me, it is a terrible thing by itself, but even worse as a sign of what else this administration has done and will do. The evidence suggests it is only a small part of a grim picture.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, it has alienated our historic allies far more than most Americans realize. If Bush is reelected, foreigners will (justly) conclude that Americans approve of Abu Grhaib. They will behave accordingly. Putin will be comforted, Europe will seek its own defense.

A military theorist despairs at the conduct of the war on terror

William Gibson

I read a later posting of this guy's. He's a rock-ribbed (ok, antediluvian) cultural conservative. I can't imagine him voting for Kerry. On the other hand, he sure thinks our Iraq war is pretty darned stupid.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Red Sox win, 'Hobbit' joins human family tree

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Hobbit' joins human family tree
But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

This is what happens when the Quantum gates open. The Red Sox win, and we discover a diminutive human species that probably survived at least up to 12,000 years ago -- when a volcanic eruption destroyed the peculiar fauna of an Indonesian island. Ok, maybe survived up to 300 years ago. What the heck, maybe they're still out there. Probably playing dice with neanderthals, using bones from homo erectus.

This might give religious fundamentalists a wee bit of heartburn.

I need to go to bed now. I think I'm hallucinating.

The quantum gates have opened. Kerry can win.

BBC SPORT | Other Sport | US Sport | Boston win World Series title

The old world has passed. A new era dawns. All that was once impossible is possible.

Role playing games and robotic simulants -- the future of games and the evolution of mind

Fantasy Economics - Why economists are obsessed with online role-playing games. By Robert Shapiro

I was discussing this topic with a colleague today. He mentioned how one company used "sweatshop" low wage Mexican game players to outsource the tedious work of building initial assets in many role playing games.

That led me to the next logical step -- robotic players. I was inspired by an old science fiction satire about a world in which the costs of production had fallen so far that consumption became a duty rather than a privilege. Only the rich could afford to live without constantly consuming goods. The protagonist breaks the viscious cycle by building robots to consume things. Ok, so it's not the same thing at all -- but that's how my brain works.

I don't mean simulated players within the game -- the game wouldn't allow that. No, simulated players outside the game. They don't have to strike keys, but they need to generate keystroke and mouse motion signals. They don't have to read the screen, but they need to be able to "interpret" the digital stream representing onscreen objects.

Observed within a game the avatar for such a simulated player might seem clumsy ... even a bit "mindless'. Or they might seem oddly smooth but "stupid". They would, however, react with lightning speed to certain stimuli. They could kill game-rabits and the like very well. They'd never advance far in the game, but they could earn a lot of low level script.

And there could be a lot of them. Thousands. Millions.

Just like robots in the real world. Or just like frogs.

Of course the game masters might come up with tricks to detect robots. mini-Turing tests that would a robot would fail. So the robots would get smarter. One human might manage a hundred robots, constantly on call to solve Turing tests the robots could identify but not resolve. The robots might be supplemented by rats responding to a rat-VR version of the game. Eventually rat tissue plated out in growth chambers would play a role.

And so it goes.

Eventually the robots/simulants become a part of the game. Other simulants compete with them. Some get their own tv shows.

And do it goes.

President Cheney: Reason enough to vote for Kerrey

The Washington Monthly....Cheney was a wee bit unhappy with their conclusions:
The CTC concluded that Saddam Hussein had not materially supported Zarqawi before the U.S.-led invasion and that Zarqawi's infrastructure in Iraq before the war was confined to the northern no-fly zones of Kurdistan, beyond Baghdad's reach. Cheney reacted with fury, screaming at the briefer that CIA was trying to get John Kerry elected by contradicting the president's stance that Saddam had supported terrorism and therefore needed to be overthrown. The hapless briefer was shaken by the vice president's outburst, and the incident was reported back to [newly appointed CIA director Porter] Goss, who indicated that he was reluctant to confront the vice president's staff regarding it.

Cheney is a raving lunatic. One heartbeat from the presidency. No wonder The Onion's Cheney parody was so persuasive -- it's easy to see him terrorising the nation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004 online ballot representation from Minnesota e-democracy

voter info from

Very impressive! Creates a simulated ballot based on address information. Candidates with web sites get a link to the site. This year it's very simple -- except for the mysterious soil and water commissioners. These seats are contested and I know nothing about them. These should not be elected positions. (Neither should the judges for that matter.) The Hunt for Osama bin Laden - November 2001 The Hunt for Osama bin Laden

I came across this reference in some old email of mine. Interesting to read it in light of what we know now. Rumsfeld's "trap" was not so well set as the journalist then imagined. I don't think they expected bin Laden to last past December 2001. (BTW, I'm inclined to think he's now dead, or, rather less likely, captured. Unfortunately, Zawahiri is likely neither.)

GOP Dirty Tricks in Ohio and Florida

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | New Florida vote scandal feared

Very dirty tricks. Tricks developed over generations of american apartheid. Now in the service of George Bush.

In this case the email went awry because it was sent to a .org rather than .com address. The .com address is the Bush campaign address, the .org is a democratic activist's domain.

Iraq is a festering pile of advanced explosive devices News | Tip of the iceberg
As I would later learn, the 120th had, for all intents and purposes, become the caretaker of Saddam Hussein's grotesque legacy in western Iraq: a vast, murky labyrinth of bunkers, tunnels and sandpits that contain a staggering menagerie of exotic bombs, bullets, shells, mines, missiles and torpedoes. All told, there are 103 known sites in the 120th's sector, encompassing approximately 100,000 of the estimated 600,000 tons of high-density explosives strewn across Iraq.

...To visit a captured weapons site the likes of which I saw at Taqaddum is to witness the byproducts of unfathomable delusion and malfeasance and to parse the chilling dreams of a lost regime with an unquenchable desire for ever-larger and more grandiose weaponry and death-dealing machinery. Surveying the kaleidoscope of munitions at Taqaddum, I could discern no real rhyme or reason to it at all. There were scores of 6,000-pound anti-ship bombs of Chinese manufacture, for which the Iraqis never possessed aircraft capable of lifting. Strewn throughout the maze of bunkers and sandpits were hundreds of bombs of South African, Chilean, Soviet, West German, Yugoslav, Czech and U.S. origin, almost all of them sitting on wooden pallets, left to the mercy of the elements and the wild dogs that haunt the place.

Much of this ammunition was decades old. Many of the bullets and bombs found at Taqaddum corresponded to weapon systems that have been obsolete for decades. It was as if someone had given their crazy uncle $10 billion and said, "Buy whatever you want, so long as it explodes." The tour guide for this potpourri of death, Capt. Bruner, mentioned that the Russians had probably been dumping untold amounts of obsolete ordnance on the Iraqis for years, exploiting Saddam's compulsive desire for power to obtain cold, hard cash.

...Regarding the general situation of unaccounted-for explosives, physicist and weapons expert Ivan Oelrich, a former consultant for the U.S. Army and now with the Federation of American Scientists, put it this way: "I'll bet if you took all the car bombs that have gone off in Iraq in the past six months and tallied them, [they] would add up to a couple of tons of high explosives. So if they're doing what they're doing with two or three tons, what difference does it make if they have 380 more?"

The Bush administration has a tragi-comic problem with the recent story of ungarded explosives. The real response to the accusations of negligence is to put it in perspective -- it's only a small part of an overall problem that's far worse. Not the answer Rove likes to give.

The editorial endorsements -- enough to shift the tide?

Shrillblog: The Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine Is Shrill And Unbalanced

The intensity and distribution of newspaper endorsement of John Kerry has surprised me. I was not expecting this level of ferocity. Even the Financial Times has spoken out (The Economist appears to be cowering in the corner -- terrified of losing 1/2 their readership and 3/4 of their UK staff).

Might this be enough to offset neo-fascist GOP motions in Ohio?

The GOP is not the Nazi party ...

Shrillblog: Wow. Diana Moon Is Actually Too Shrill
... As potentially unpleasant as this Ohio business is, it is a democratic paradise in comparison to 1930's Germany - and to 1930's America, for that matter. And despite some rather facile analogies of manner one could make - totalitarian tendencies here and there; an upsetting predisposition to blind hero-worship of Bush in certain circles; and the fact that, were it not for unfortunate historical echoes, a decent 4-word slogan for the Bush re-election campaign would be "triumph of the will" - there is no reasonable analogy of scale between the modern-day Republican Party and the Nazis. The modern Republican Party leadership is much, much, much better than the Nazis, probably better than Vladimir Putin, and not too much worse than the Republican Party of Nixon and McCarthy 50 years ago. It is important to remember that in 2 short weeks these people are going to voted out of office, soon to be but a memory, and it will be much easier for everyone moving forward if we don't have intemperate charges of Nazism on our consciences.

But this is not the real problem; the real problem is this: shrilly comparing republicans to Nazis is not only too shrill - it is also, paradoxically, not shrill enough. It is, in fact, but a pale shadow of true shrillness, which can only come from contemplation of the mendacity, malevolence, incompetence and simple disconnection from reality of the Bush administration. Looking for Nazi parallels blinds us to the fact that the Bush administration is made up of dishonest, incapable, easily-duped buffoonish ideologues, and takes up free time that could be more usefully spent ululating mindlessly to the dead, uncaring stars...

The good news is we've only slipped back towards the darker parts of American history, not German history. The bad news is that the dangers ahead may exceed those of 1939 -- if only because modern weapons of mass mayhem dwarf those of 70 years past.

Ralph Nader supports vote swapping - a way out?

VotePair News: Ralph Nader Points Swing State Supporters to VP
Ralph Nader on a C-Span mentioned that swing state supporters should check out The following documents where during the broadcast VotePair is mentioned...

Has Nader identified a way out of the conundrum? With the election perched on the finest edge of a razor, and minor details like human civilization at risk, has he taken -- at the last moment -- the higher road? If I were a Texas democrat, I'd trade my presidential vote to a Nader supporter.

Should Rove be scared?

PBS | I, Cringely . Archived Column
Anna Greenberg of pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research told the BBC, or example, that only three percent of Americans use their mobile phones as a sole communication device, but the FCC said two years ago that five percent of U.S. homes have only mobile phone service and that 15 percent of university students have only mobile phone service. And with 77 million U.S. mobile phones owned by people age 18-24, many of those supposedly counted are probably still associated with a parent's hard-wired telephone number but are really mobile. So the numbers of unpolled votes could be huge.

And though pollsters (who after all are generally in business to do this work) deny it, the switch from fixed to mobile communication is already having an impact on the outcome of elections.

In the last presidential election, one might have expected the final tracking polls to pretty closely reflect the actual outcome of the election only a few hours later. But no. Gore was generally two to three points down in most tracking polls conducted on November 6, 2000, but won the popular vote on November 7 by about half a million voters, or half of one percent. True, this is within the statistical range of most polls, but if the deviation from the actual vote count was truly random noise, then half of the tracking polls would have counted high and half counted low. But that's not the way it happened, and the reason isn't noise, but a consistent sampling error.

More recently in the 2003, Philadelphia mayoral election the final tracking polls gave incumbent mayor John Street a slight statistical lead over challenger Sam Katz, yet the actual vote went 59 to 41 for Street. How could those Philadelphia tracking polls be so far off? They missed the extensive effort to register student voters in that city, with its several major universities.

Now how about Diddy and all the others urging young people to register and vote in the upcoming Presidential election? Their stated goal is 20 million new voters (out of a total of perhaps 110-120 million voters) and given the fervent message and extensive advertising on MTV, VH1 and elsewhere, that goal just might be reached, presumably with most of those kids voting for Kerry, the Democratic challenger. If the polls are skewed, then Kerry is actually doing much better and can probably expect a comfortable win.

But if that's the case, why aren't we hearing about it?

The likely answer is simply because Democratic strategists fear any sign of cockiness will result in many of those newly registered young voters not bothering to vote at all, leading to a Bush victory. So nobody says anything, holding their breath and hoping for a particular outcome.

And Diddy, I hear he's planning to sublet the Lincoln bedroom.

I'll be out there November 2nd, on the phones and in the car. As for Rove, he's going to do something desperate.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Escape from Tora Bora: how bin Laden got away

How bin Laden got away |
Not quite the story Bush wants us to believe. Fascinating details!

Bush charity? Maybe. Or was it mandated community service?

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog
President Bush often has cited his work in 1973 with a now-defunct inner-city program for troubled teens as the source for his belief in 'compassionate conservatism.' 'I realized then that a society can change and must change one person at a time ...' Bush said in a video shown at the 2000 Republican National Convention about his tenure at P.U.L.L.... 'I was working full time for an inner-city poverty program known as Project P.U.L.L.,' Bush said in his 1999 autobiography, 'A Charge to Keep.' 'My friend John White ... asked me to come help him run the program. ... I was intrigued by John's offer. ... Now I had a chance to help people.

The program may have inspired Bush, but it appears he was not there voluntarily. It appears to have been some sort of mandated community service. Given his admitted alcoholism it was probably related to a DWI charge -- a drug charge is also a possibility.

The secret government

The New York Times > International > International Special > After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law
In early November 2001, with Americans still staggered by the Sept. 11 attacks, a small group of White House officials worked in great secrecy to devise a new system of justice for the new war they had declared on terrorism.

Determined to deal aggressively with the terrorists they expected to capture, the officials bypassed the federal courts and their constitutional guarantees, giving the military the authority to detain foreign suspects indefinitely and prosecute them in tribunals not used since World War II.

The plan was considered so sensitive that senior White House officials kept its final details hidden from the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, officials said. It was so urgent, some of those involved said, that they hardly thought of consulting Congress.

White House officials said their use of extraordinary powers would allow the Pentagon to collect crucial intelligence and mete out swift, unmerciful justice. 'We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve,' said Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a driving force behind the policy.

The "kind of treatment". Yes. An eye for an eye.

So Cheney wrote this. I wonder if Bush even understood what it was. No doubt Feith was involved, and Cheney's dark inner circle. I wonder if this was why Karen Hughes left.

Powell and Rice were not informed.

Why does Powell not resign?

Saturday, October 23, 2004 The Real Story on George Bush's "Wolves" Commercial The Real Story on George Bush's "Wolves" Commercial

The wolves speak up. They were conned. They support Kerry.

Sometimes humor is the only possible response.

Shrillblog: Conservative Daniel Drezner Is Shrill

Shrillblog: Conservative Daniel Drezner Is Shrill

A quite funny (in a dark and dire way) before and after blog posting. in 2002 Drezner mocks Al Gore's speech on Iraq, in 2004 Drezner is a raving lunatic anti-Bushie who makes 2002 Gore look like a friend of the Bush administration.

Shatner bids for seat on Virgin sub-orbiter

Slashdot | Shatner Aims for Real 'Star Trek'
Remember the PanAm orbiter in 2001? Maybe we'll have a "Virgin" sub-orbiter in 2011. Shatner's not a young man, but I hope he gets a seat. Branson could sell every seat on the first flight as a promo for a Star Trek movie and easily cover the seat charges ($210K/seat).

The first ship is to be called the "VSS Enterprise" in the "Virgin Galactic" fleet.

Hey, sometimes dreams are worthwhile.

Osama's Islamism and Saddam's Baathism are somewhat alike

Osama's Islamism and Saddam's Baathism are somewhat alike
Just as our government has ill-served the American people by habitually failing to explain its reasoning, then it is all the more important that journalists and intellectuals build constructively on each other's work to articulate and understand difficult and complex ideas. Regardless of the historical connections between Islamism and Arab nationalism, it's possible to make a very good argument against the administration's conduct of the war on terror—but it's hard to see the virtue of making one based on a faulty understanding.

Factual, insightful, persuasive. If only we had a leadership that was able to think rationally.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Cognitive Dissonance and the electorate

KRT Wire | 10/21/2004 | Poll finds reality gap among Bush supporters
There may be another reason, Kull said. Asked whether U.S. forces should have invaded Iraq if U.S. intelligence had concluded that Iraq was not making WMD or providing support to al-Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no.

"To support the president and to accept that he took the United States to war based on mistaken assumptions is difficult to bear, especially in light of the continuing costs in terms of lives and money," Kull said.

"Apparently, to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Bush supporters suppress awareness of unsettling information...

... The survey also found that Bush supporters have "numerous misperceptions" about the president's positions. Majorities incorrectly believe that Bush backs the Kyoto global-warming treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and the treaty banning land mines.

A majority of Bush backers (57 percent) also believe most people in the world favor Bush's re-election, contrary to the findings of several polls.

This is a variant on the 92% number -- the percentage of Americans who feel terrorism is our number one problem who support George Bush.

Bush supporters oddly enough have many of the same preferences as non-supporters. They favor various treaties, want to protect the environment, want to deal with global warming, don't want to go to war without sound reasons, etc. The problem is, they think Bush supports their positions. They even think the rest of the western world suporters George Bush!

In other words, the electorate is a bit balmy. Was it always this way? I can't imagine a point in my lifetime when so many people were so disconnected from fact. These aren't matters of opinion -- Bush vetoed the treaties his supporters think he favored!

The article ends with the sort of peurile pseudo-balanced comment that's common in modern journalism. I won't bother quoting it, but we do need to rewire journalism schools.

There are days when I think Ayn Rand might be have been right after all.

Bush: they hate us for our freedoms

Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide (
Most officials interviewed said Bush has not devised an answer to a problem then-CIA Director George J. Tenet identified publicly on Feb. 11, 2003 -- "the numbers of societies and peoples excluded from the benefits of an expanding global economy, where the daily lot is hunger, disease, and displacement -- and that produce large populations of disaffected youth who are prime recruits for our extremist foes."

The president and his most influential advisers, many officials said, do not see those factors -- or U.S. policy overseas -- as primary contributors to the terrorism threat. Bush's explanation, in private and public, is that terrorists hate America for its freedom.

Sageman, who supports some of Bush's approach, said that analysis is "nonsense, complete nonsense. They obviously haven't looked at any surveys." The central findings of polling by the Pew Charitable Trust and others, he said, is that large majorities in much of the world "view us as a hypocritical huge beast throwing our weight around in the Middle East."

Interesting that Tenet does focus on what's important. I cannot fathom Bush, is he mad?

Open Source Jihad

Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide (
Marc Sageman, a psychologist and former CIA case officer who studies the formation of jihadist cells, said the inspirational power of the Sept. 11 attacks -- and rage in the Islamic world against U.S. steps taken since -- has created a new phenomenon. Groups of young men gather in common outrage, he said, and a violent plan takes form without the need for an outside leader to identify, persuade or train those who carry it out.

The brutal challenge for U.S. intelligence, Sageman said, is that "you don't know who's going to be a terrorist" anymore. Citing the 15 men who killed 190 passengers on March 11 in synchronized bombings of the Spanish rail system, he said "if you had gone to those guys in Madrid six months prior, they'd say 'We're not terrorists,' and they weren't. Madrid took like five weeks from inception."

Much the same pattern, officials said, preceded deadly attacks in Indonesia, Turkey, Kenya, Morocco and elsewhere. There is no reason to believe, they said, that the phenomenon will remain overseas.

Such attacks do not rely on leaders as the Bush administration strategy has conceived them. New jihadists can acquire much of the know-how they need, Sageman and his counterparts still in government said, in al Qaeda's Saudi-published magazines, Al Baatar and the Voice of Jihad, available online.

Microsoft's dominance and power created open source solutions. Natural selection, operating in the world of economics, produced an entity that monopolistic abuses could not eliminate.

In the much more brutal domain of state and non-state conflict, Bush's strategy created a new entity, call it open source jihad. Fueled by donations from Saudi Arabia and Syria, trained by widely distributed manuals, inspired by Al Jazeera, powered by nihilism, hatred, despair and xenophobia. Bush's response is to keep killing them until they are all gone.

And 92% of Americans consider this an effective strategy?

The opportunity cost of invading Iraq

Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide (
At the peak of the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants, in early 2002, about 150 commandos operated along Afghanistan's borders with Pakistan and Iran in a top-secret team known as Task Force 5. The task force included a few CIA paramilitaries, but most of its personnel came from military 'special mission units,' or SMUs, whose existence is not officially acknowledged. One is the Army squadron once known as Delta Force. The other -- specializing in human and technical intelligence operations -- has not been described before in public. Its capabilities include close-in electronic surveillance and, uniquely in the U.S. military, the conduct of 'low-level source operations' -- recruiting and managing spies.

These elite forces, along with the battlefield intelligence technology of Predator and Global Hawk drone aircraft, were the scarcest tools of the hunt for jihadists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With Bush's shift of focus to Iraq, the special mission units called most of their troops home to prepare for a new set of high-value targets in Baghdad.

'There is a direct consequence for us having taken these guys out prematurely,' said Leverett, who then worked as senior director for Middle Eastern affairs on Bush's NSC staff. 'There were people on the staff level raising questions about what that meant for getting al Qaeda, for creating an Afghan security and intelligence service [to help combat jihadists]. Those questions didn't get above staff level, because clearly there had been a strategic decision taken.'

Task Force 5 dropped in strength at times to as few as 30 men. Its counterpart in Iraq, by early 2003, burgeoned to more than 200 as an insurgency grew and Hussein proved difficult to find. Late last year, the Defense Department merged the two commando teams and headquartered the reflagged Task Force 121 under Rear Adm. William H. McRaven in Baghdad.

An exceptional article in the Washington Post. Bush's 75% captured/killed statistic is bull feces.

Signs of the end-time

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog: My Name Is Frahnk-en-steen

Prosthetic hippocampus. Organic computation.

And so it goes.

The astonishing number: 92%

The Washington Monthly
92% of Americans for whom terrorism is their major concern plan to vote for George Bush

I am stunned. I wonder if North Koreans, famed for their isolation and media control, are really any more ignorant of the world than we Americans.

The Herald-Palladium's scoop on the Tenet speech: demographics, HIV and CIA failures

The Herald-Palladium

This off-broadway Tenet speech can be spun many different ways. He doesn't address the extent to which the Bush administration bent the CIA to give them the answers they demanded. That's the ongoing question of interest. He does say the CIA failed, but that's only step one of the picture.

He does say some interesting things about demographics and HIV. Shades of the "yellow hordes". I wonder what he means by "maintain its [our] position". Emphases mine.

BTW, it's interesting to read spin-free coverage of a speech.
BENTON TOWNSHIP -- Although he emphasized that the Central Intelligence Agency boasts 'tremendously talented men and women,' former CIA Director George Tenet said it 'did not live up to our expectations as professionals' regarding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the search for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

'We had inconsistent information, and we did not inform others in the community of gaps in our intelligence,' Tenet said. 'The extraordinary men and women who do magnificent work in the CIA are held accountable every day for what they do, and as part of keeping our faith with the American people, we will tell you when we're right or wrong.'

Tenet called the war on Iraq 'wrong' in a speech Wednesday night to 2,000 members of The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan at Lake Michigan College's Mendel Center. He did not elaborate...

... He said the United States is 'winning the war on terror' due to the CIA's efforts to 'capture or kill' three-quarters of al-Qaida's leaders, pinpointed before 9/11. He expects to see Osama bin Ladin captured.

... 'Demographics and distribution trends are something we also need to keep an eye on,' Tenet said. 'The developed world is not reproducing at levels to maintain its position, while developing nations who cannot afford it, mostly Muslim ones, are exploding.'

Tenet said a developing nation's low per capita income, high unemployment among young men and high infant mortality rate strongly increase its likelihood of becoming a 'terrorist safe haven.'

'In 2010, 100 million people outside of Africa will be infected with HIV,' Tenet said. 'The secondary implications of this are staggering.'

James Oberg on NASA and errors

Murphy's Law and NASA
Space observers recall the NASA announcement in 1999 that one of its Mars probes had crashed into the planet because workers had mixed up metric and English units of measurement. The story was a real howler, and had elements of truth to it — but it was fundamentally a cover-up and a diversion.

It did turn out that engineers who built the Mars Climate Orbiter had provided a data table in "pound-force" rather than newtons, the metric measure of force (about equivalent to the downward weight of an apple in your hand). NASA flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., had used the faulty table for their navigation calculations during the long coast from Earth to Mars.

Upon arrival, the probe did not skim the upper atmosphere, as it had been aimed. Misled by the wrong numbers, guidance computers set it on a course that actually hit the atmosphere — where it burned up.

The easy answer — "blame the stupid contractors" — was actually a NASA public-relations gimmick to duck ultimate responsibility for the disaster. In order to promote the image of a faster-better-cheaper space program extolled by the Clinton administration, previously used checks and balances had been canceled. And reportedly, when space navigators intuitively developed a feeling that there was something wrong with the navigational database, they were told to hold the present course until they could prove something was wrong.

By then it was too late. The proper attitude should have been that in case of doubt, steer more safely, and take the corner at Mars farther out. NASA’s mismanagement, not a worker-bee foul-up, doomed that Mars probe...

...But with the Genesis accelerometers, apparently the approved design allowed either direction of installation. From the NASA report, it seems that the accelerometers had to be X-rayed to determine the internal up-down orientation of their sensors, which reportedly were described incorrectly in the technical drawings...

... In September 2003, a quarter-billion-dollar observation satellite was heavily damaged in a hangar when it moved without bolting it to its support frame. A review board recently attributed this to “lack of discipline in following procedures [and] complacent attitudes [and] poorly written or modified procedures.”

In 1998, a LockMart Titan 4 booster carrying a billion-dollar LockMart spy satellite exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla., due to frayed wiring that apparently had not been inspected. The following year, the expensive LockMart Milstar 4 satellite was placed into a useless orbit by a LockMart Titan/Centaur upper stage, because of erroneous calculations fed into the Centaur guidance system. (Explanation: “Engineers were traumatized by the Columbine shootings.")...

Oberg attacks the "better, cheaper, faster" theme of his successor. Presumably he'd advocate a lot more review and redundancy. I suppose the alternative is to do more cheap probes and accept a higher failure level. I suspect there's a reasonable trade-off somewhere in there.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Foreign Affairs is shrill -- and against Bush

By Brett's telling, Foreign Affairs sounds pretty shrill.

Another Republican (former Senator) now voting for Kerry

'Frightened to death' of Bush
'Frightened to death' of Bush
By Marlow W. Cook
Special to The Courier-Journal

I have been, and will continue to be, a Republican. But when we as a party send the wrong person to the White House, then it is our responsibility to send him home if our nation suffers as a result of his actions. I fall in the category of good conservative thinkers, like George F. Will, for instance, who wrote: "This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and having thought, to have second thoughts."

I say, well done George Will, or, even better, from the mouth of the numero uno of conservatives, William F. Buckley Jr.: "If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."

... I hope you all have noticed the Bush administration's style in the campaign so far. All negative, trashing Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards and Democrats in general. Not once have they said what they have done right, what they have done wrong or what they have not done at all.

Lyndon Johnson said America could have guns and butter at the same time. This administration says you can have guns, butter and no taxes at the same time. God help us if we are not smart enough to know that is wrong, and we live by it to our peril. We in this nation have a serious problem. Its almost worse than terrorism: We are broke. Our government is borrowing a billion dollars a day. They are now borrowing from the government pension program, for apparently they have gotten as much out of the Social Security Trust as it can take. Our House and Senate announce weekly grants for every kind of favorite local programs to save legislative seats, and it's all borrowed money.

... I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with requested information. I am against a government that refuses to tell the country with whom the leaders of our country sat down and determined our energy policy, and to prove how much they want to keep that secret, they took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Those of you who are fiscal conservatives and abhor our staggering debt, tell your conservative friends, "Vote for Kerry," because without Bush to control the Congress, the first thing lawmakers will demand Kerry do is balance the budget.

The wonderful thing about this country is its gift of citizenship, then it's freedom to register as one sees fit. For me, as a Republican, I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war and then adds a war on terrorism to it without debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.

If we are indeed the party of Lincoln (I paraphrase his words), a president who deems to have the right to declare war at will without the consent of the Congress is a president who far exceeds his power under our Constitution.

I will take John Kerry for four years to put our country on the right path.

The writer, a Republican formerly of Louisville, was Jefferson County judge from 1962-1968 and U.S. senator from Kentucky from 1968-1975.

I'm convinced a large number of thoughtful Republicans want Clinton back - with a Republican congress. They don't dare to say it, but they know deep down that Kerry is basically Clinton with more discipline.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

How can Boston fans take this punishment?

Sports News Article | Rallying Red Sox Edge Yankees to Force Decider The Red Sox seem determined to inflict maximum agony on their fans. It looked like they would give their fans a quick and painless oblivion, but now they're back inflicting agonizing torments. Boston, we feel for you.

Update: I actually watched the 9th inning. I didn't want to watch too much, I was sure I'd jinx the Sox. My sister-in-law is the Sox fan, not me -- but like most of the universe I was hoping for a miracle.

Now I believe Kerry can win.

Smallpox and Influenza

Smallpox - where did the money go?

I googled on "smallpox and influenza" and came up with this 2003 article. It's a good starting point for a question that no-one ever asks (except, every few months, me). Maybe, given the influenza debacle of 2004, this might come up again.

In the build-up to the Iraq invasion there was much mention of the Iraqi smallpox program, and the evil and nefarious "Dr. Germ" (who is, by most accounts, a pretty nasty woman). There was a heck of a lot of press on this. The usual suspects (Rumsfeld, Condy, Cheney, Bush) raised the specter of bioterrorism and a smallpox attack. They made a persuasive case. Persuaded me anyway!

A big prevention program started up. Physicians and nurses were immunized. Some had nasty side-effects. I think at least one person died from an idiosyncratic reaction to Vaccinia (an odd virus that acts in some people like a "mild" case of smallpox).

Then came the invasion of Iraq. The immunization program was quietly dropped. (Later data suggests Americans are probably still protected by the immunizations of the 1960s -- but that wasn't known when the program was dropped.) It staggers on with a low level of funding and no political support.

So was the program always a fraud to provide support for the invasion? If so, that was one hell of a game to play. I suspect the persons injured in the vaccine testing might not feel happy about that.

Or was the fear genuine, but the Bush administration decided that meeting the challenge could pose an electoral risk -- so they decided to ignore the problem? That doesn't reflect well on them either. I wonder if that's the same kind of reasoning they applied when they were warned about the influenza vaccine problems.

It was when I realized that there was no good answer to the smallpox scam that I recognized what kind of government we had. Until then I was willing to give Bush a bit of trust.

Maybe they just figured that the power of their Will would defeat nature. Just like in that movie.

PS. I suspect Dr. Germ will only be released after the election is done. If she were released before November 2nd, she might stir some unwanted memories.

Triumph of The Will -- The Bush Story

Faughnan's Notes: Bush - American Calvinist -- more quotes from the NYT Magazine Suskind article

I was trying to remember what was so familiar about the quotes in the Suskind article. Then it came to me. Similar expressions were a part of a famous movie: Triumph of The Will.

Yes, that was a movie Karl Rove would understand very well.

Update: This has occurred to a few other people.

Bush suppresses CIA 9/11 report

Secret CIA 9/11 Report Names Names | The Regular
From the LA Times. The CIA apparently finds negligence and a failure of accountability in the Bush administration. Sounds like it may confirm Richard Clarke's account -- and more. It's become known to anyone who cares that the CIA now serves the President - not the nation. I think this bothers some patriots in the CIA.

Slate Election Scorecard Oct 19

Election Scorecard - Where the presidential race stands today. By William Saletan, David Kenner, and Louisa Herron Thomas

Kerry 284
Bush 254

I'm going to see if I can take election day as a vaction day to help get out the vote.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Yes Bush Can! Take the Patriot Pledge!

Take the Patriot Pledge!
I volunteer to have a permanent nuclear waste storage facility in my community.
I volunteer to lobby local, state, and federal officials for a permanent nuclear waste storage facility in my community.
I would personally feel more secure with America launching a new round of nuclear weapons development, even if this meant breaking current treaty obligations concerning nuclear weapons.

Hmm. Maybe this isn't really a pro-Bush site.

Billions misplaced in Iraq

William Gibson
Not just a little bit lost. Utterly lost. Billions. Enough to start 100 robust companies. Enough for 100 persons to retire in comfort. Enough to pay health coverage for a year for 100,000 families.

Enough to pay for a massive terrorist attack on America.

Loose change.

Bush - American Calvinist -- more quotes from the NYT Magazine Suskind article

William Gibson
'In the summer of 2002, after I [Ron Susskind] had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'

I am literally feeling goosebumps. Goering would have said exactly the same thing. In fact, I'm sure he must have.

I posted earlier on this NYT Magazine essay by Ron Susskind (of O'Neill book fame), but it's long and I hadn't read all of it.

Was the senior advisor a neocon? Do they realize how much they sound like Hitler's aides?

Here are some more excerpts. They paint a pretty clear picture.
... All of this -- the ''gut'' and ''instincts,'' the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ''faith,'' and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways. The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness.

The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now...

... In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject. [jf: weeks later Bush does concede that Sweden has an army] ...

... Such challenges -- from either Powell or his opposite number as the top official in domestic policy, Paul O'Neill -- were trials that Bush had less and less patience for as the months passed. He made that clear to his top lieutenants. Gradually, Bush lost what Richard Perle, who would later head a largely private-sector group under Bush called the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had described as his open posture during foreign-policy tutorials prior to the 2000 campaign. (''He had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much,'' Perle said.) By midyear 2001, a stand-and-deliver rhythm was established. Meetings, large and small, started to take on a scripted quality. Even then, the circle around Bush was tightening. Top officials, from cabinet members on down, were often told when they would speak in Bush's presence, for how long and on what topic. The president would listen without betraying any reaction. Sometimes there would be cross-discussions -- Powell and Rumsfeld, for instance, briefly parrying on an issue -- but the president would rarely prod anyone with direct, informed questions. ..

... A few months later, on Feb. 1, 2002, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners stood in the Roosevelt Room for the introduction of Jim Towey as head of the president's faith-based and community initiative...

... Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. ''Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!'' he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis's book, ''Faith Works.'' His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable -- a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, '''but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism.'''

Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.

''No, Mr. President,'' Wallis says he told Bush, ''We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.''

Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.

''When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking,'' Wallis says now. ''What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year -- a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.''

... George W. Bush, clearly, is one of history's great confidence men. That is not meant in the huckster's sense, though many critics claim that on the war in Iraq, the economy and a few other matters he has engaged in some manner of bait-and-switch. No, I mean it in the sense that he's a believer in the power of confidence. At a time when constituents are uneasy and enemies are probing for weaknesses, he clearly feels that unflinching confidence has an almost mystical power. It can all but create reality....

... George W. Bush and his team have constructed a high-performance electoral engine. The soul of this new machine is the support of millions of likely voters, who judge his worth based on intangibles -- character, certainty, fortitude and godliness -- rather than on what he says or does. The deeper the darkness, the brighter this filament of faith glows, a faith in the president and the just God who affirms him...

.. Every few months, a report surfaces of the president using strikingly Messianic language, only to be dismissed by the White House. Three months ago, for instance, in a private meeting with Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., Bush was reported to have said, ''I trust God speaks through me.'' In this ongoing game of winks and nods, a White House spokesman denied the president had specifically spoken those words, but noted that ''his faith helps him in his service to people.''

... Come to the hustings on Labor Day and meet the base. In 2004, you know a candidate by his base, and the Bush campaign is harnessing the might of churches, with hordes of voters registering through church-sponsored programs. Following the news of Bush on his national tour in the week after the Republican convention, you could sense how a faith-based president campaigns: on a surf of prayer and righteous rage.

... And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community.

The bond between Bush and his base is a bond of mutual support. He supports them with his actions, doing his level best to stand firm on wedge issues like abortion and same-sex marriage while he identifies evil in the world, at home and abroad. They respond with fierce faith. The power of this transaction is something that people, especially those who are religious, tend to connect to their own lives. If you have faith in someone, that person is filled like a vessel. Your faith is the wind beneath his or her wings. That person may well rise to the occasion and surprise you: I had faith in you, and my faith was rewarded. Or, I know you've been struggling, and I need to pray harder.

... In the end, Bush doesn't have to say he's ordained by God. After a day of speeches by Hardy Billington and others, it goes without saying.

''To me, I just believe God controls everything, and God uses the president to keep evil down, to see the darkness and protect this nation,'' Billington told me, voicing an idea shared by millions of Bush supporters. ''Other people will not protect us. God gives people choices to make. God gave us this president to be the man to protect the nation at this time.''

But when the moment came in the V.I.P. tent to shake Bush's hand, Billington remembered being reserved. '''I really thank God that you're the president' was all I told him.'' Bush, he recalled, said, ''Thank you.''

''He knew what I meant,'' Billington said. ''I believe he's an instrument of God, but I have to be careful about what I say, you know, in public.''

... "I'm going to be real positive, while I keep my foot on John Kerry's throat,'' George W. Bush said last month at a confidential luncheon a block away from the White House with a hundred or so of his most ardent, longtime supporters, the so-called R.N.C. Regents. This was a high-rolling crowd -- at one time or another, they had all given large contributions to Bush or the Republican National Committee. Bush had known many of them for years, and a number of them had visited him at the ranch. It was a long way from Poplar Bluff.

The Bush these supporters heard was a triumphal Bush, actively beginning to plan his second term. It is a second term, should it come to pass, that will alter American life in many ways, if predictions that Bush voiced at the luncheon come true.

... He said that there will be an opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice shortly after his inauguration, and perhaps three more high-court vacancies during his second term...

... Bush said: ''I'm going to push nuclear energy, drilling in Alaska and clean coal. Some nuclear-fusion technologies are interesting.'' He mentions energy from ''processing corn.''

... ''I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in,'' Bush said, ''with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security.'' The victories he expects in November, he said, will give us ''two years, at least, until the next midterm. We have to move quickly, because after that I'll be quacking like a duck.''

... The president, listing priorities for his second term, placed near the top of his agenda the expansion of federal support for faith-based institutions. The president talked at length about giving the initiative the full measure of his devotion and said that questions about separation of church and state were not an issue.

... Bush grew into one of history's most forceful leaders, his admirers will attest, by replacing hesitation and reasonable doubt with faith and clarity. Many more will surely tap this high-voltage connection of fervent faith and bold action. In politics, the saying goes, anything that works must be repeated until it is replaced by something better. The horizon seems clear of competitors.

Can the unfinished American experiment in self-governance -- sputtering on the watery fuel of illusion and assertion -- deal with something as nuanced as the subtleties of one man's faith? What, after all, is the nature of the particular conversation the president feels he has with God -- a colloquy upon which the world now precariously turns?

That very issue is what Jim Wallis wishes he could sit and talk about with George W. Bush. That's impossible now, he says. He is no longer invited to the White House.

''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''

A serious discussion of taxing only "sales" (value added taxation)

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: What if a Sales Tax Were the Only Tax?

It's ludicrous of course. A federal sales tax (VAT) has a role in overall taxation, but not as a sole item. Altman demolishes the Bush fantasy of a primary sales tax with a few simple questions.

Flu vaccine shortage: a failure of Republican governance

The New York Times > Health > With Few Suppliers of Flu Shots, Shortage Was Long in Making
The shortage caught many Americans by surprise, but it followed decades of warnings from health experts who said the nation's system for vaccine supply and distribution was growing increasingly fragile.

Governments are responsible for vaccine programs. This is a failure of government. Certainly a failure of the Bush regime, but it's older than that. I suspect it's a failure of congress rather than the executive branch -- which makes it a classic failure of Republican governance.

It resembles the same failure in governance that led to the fragility of our electrical infrastructure.

Republicans don't do infrastructure.

Republicans can be the most shrill of all ...

The New York Times > Magazine > Without a Doubt
'Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

There's a wing of the Republican Party that prides itself on a gimlet eyed rationalism. They're panicking now. They REALLY want Bush to lose.

Among the bad news -- a ray of light

The New York Times > Health > Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective
... The vaccine, tested on thousands of children in Mozambique, was hardly perfect: It protected them from catching the disease only about 30 percent of the time and prevented it from becoming life-threatening only about 58 percent of the time.

But because malaria kills more than a million people a year, 700,000 of them children, even partial protection would be a public health victory. The disease, caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, is found in 90 countries, and drug-resistant strains are spreading.

Dr. Allan Schapira, strategy coordinator for the Roll Back Malaria campaign at the World Health Organization, said the trial was "good news, and definitely of great interest for malaria control."

The director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which is underwriting tests on 15 experimental vaccines with money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the GlaxoSmithKline product tried in Mozambique was now its leading candidate and had proved that the concept worked.

ONLY 58% reduction in life threatening disease?!! If this holds up with limited toxicity, Bill Gates will win the Nobel Peace Prize while the vaccine developers will win the Nobel in Medicine.

This is huge. Ok, so it's an early study with small numbers. Maybe too soon to light the fireworks. Still, the Carnegie-Mellons salvaged some honor by their good works. Gates intends to exceed past tyrants of capitalism in both capitalistic savagery and post-triumph generosity.

Slashdot | Data Miners Moving to Offshore Data Havens

Slashdot | Data Miners Moving to Offshore Data Havens
Privacy is so dead -- except for the ultra-rich. The interesting question is how the privacy market will evolve in an essentially libertarian market.

One may expect all kinds of interesting trends. I think all these and more have been covered in science fiction stories of the past 20 years or so.

1. Noise generators: software and techniques that create false data, creating privacy by masking real data in a cloud of flase data. The same techniques used to filter spam may be used to identify the "true data".

2. Privacy scams: a form of noise generation. Since this is an unregulated industry a variety of data vendors will undercut one another on price -- while faking their own data.

3. High quality high cost vendors. Vendors who guarantee truth and accuracy and command a premium price. They might even allow victims to correct their (once) personal data.

4. An entire industry devoted to helping people create fake profiles, obscure their profiles, counter false and/or negative data ...

The current practices of Homeland Security into the low (fraudelent, lowball) range of the privacy vendor spectrum.

PS. The US government has dodged governmental rules for decades, including privacy rules, by moving data projects out of government and into the private sector. This offshore move, mediated by longtime government contractors, is just the next logical step.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

How adolescent and adult brains differ. By Amanda Schaffer

Head Case - Roper v. Simmons asks how adolescent and adult brains differ. By Amanda Schaffer
Indeed, using brain-imaging techniques, it may be possible to show that many people who commit violent crimes have aberrant prefrontal cortical activity, or other brain features that differ from those of the average adult.

Indeed. And so it begins -- the slow evolution of human thinking moves into a new cycle.

Sometine in the next 100 years the foundational concept of "responsibility" will begin to shift and sag. In the absence of a soul it is a hollow idea. What is a woman then, but the product of chance? Virtuous or neglectful, brilliant or average, spiritual or concreate -- all is but throws of the dice.

In some variations of Christianity it is said that God loves all humankind. This is not widely accepted. Presumably the list of God's beloveds would then include Hitler, Stalin, Mao, bin Laden, Ghengis Khan and a myriad of other "evil" humans. If, one day, we decide they were all tragic victims of misfortune, will we then be ready to talk with God?

Cheney threatens to attack the US

The Onion | Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected
'If the wrong man is elected in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other than myself,' Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro, NC. 'When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat.'

Added Cheney: 'It would be a tragedy to suffer another attack on American soil, let alone one perpetrated by an enemy as well-organized and well-equipped as I am. My colleagues and I urge voters to keep their safety in mind when they go to the polls.'

Although Cheney would not comment on the details of his proposed attack on a John Kerry-led U.S., national-security experts said he possesses both the capabilities and the motivation to pose a serious threat.

'There is no question that Cheney has the financial assets and intelligence needed to pose a threat to our nation,' said Peter Bergen, terrorism researcher and author of Threats And Balances: Former Executive Branch Officials And The Danger To America. 'After all, this fanatic can call upon the resources of both the Republican Party and Halliburton to aid him in his assault. America would be foolish not to take his warning seriously.'

Really, but Bush/Cheney standards, not so big a step.