Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Weather Makers

As both our regular readers can tell you, we've spent a lot of time lately keeping them up-to-date on the latest in weather, water, and energy news. Not as popular or interesting as venal and corrupt politicians selling the country out for themselves and their party (I'm actually talking about both parties), but the problems that will concern every nation on earth for the rest of this century, the only problems beside nuclear that can change human existence significantly, no matter how important gay marriage, Iraq, teen killings, or [add your own issue here] may be to individuals. We're just trying to make you pay attention. No need to thank us.

The tragedy of our coming history and of the Dems is that a focus on the community and international effort it will take to negotiate our weather,water,energy future would provide the narrative necessary to get us past the divisive politics and "us/them" politicians who now dominate. "We don't have time for all that now. The future of our children and grandchildren is on the line here." But that would have required foresight and wisdom. Just how often could those adjectives be applied to Democrats over the last 40 years?

If you want one book, the best primer, on the weather issue and its relationship to the other two (they're all actually subsumed under "continued human existence in marginally acceptable conditions"), I recommend
The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery. Flannery professes that he was skeptical about global warming and all its implications before doing the investigating necessary for this thorough, well-written, and frightening book. How skeptical you want to be of that claim is up to you. The point here is that he wrote this book as a means of blowing any skepticism about what we face out of the water (so to speak). This is what "An Inconvenient Truth" would have been if Al Gore could have gotten us to sit through a 12 hour movie.

Everything is there, the evidence for global warming and the short-circuiting of critics (just a metaphor, unfortunately, especially for corkhead Inhofe), the way weather works, what we've already done that may be irreversible, the scientific modeling, the likely inability of cities to function in "normal" fashion, possible solutions (and impossible ones, no matter how well sold or dramatic), alternative energies, and things individuals can do (much better and longer than Gore's ending). The most important topic for one trained in policy and politics is his discussion of what government can do and, better, what kind of government is even possible if action isn't taken NOW (it's not pretty). (The sad thing is that a guy named Ophuls wrote
Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity 30 years ago spelling the last out even better. But that was when it was "Morning in America" and Jimmy Carter was an idiot.)

This is the real fly in Bushnev's psychotic dream of dominance (which will not be derailed by the coming elections, despite the "clap louder" talk from the delusional bloggers on our side who think Bushnev is capable of everything except rigging these elections, and that's after 2000 and 2004, and GA in 2002). Reality is what took down the Soviet Union, not Reagan, and it's about to take down the people who think they are powerful in this country. Georgi and his Politburo, Pravda media, and can't-be-bothered-to-be-real-citizen "Americans" are completely unprepared for the next few decades. The problem for those of us it won't surprise (which will include you after you've read this book) is that scarcity almost always brings forth authoritarian regimes to handle the rationing and triaging. The only democracy that has a chance is one in which its people all recognize the common threat and work together to address it in a spirit of common sacrifice and accomplishment. Does that describe any US that you can think of right now?

So. Flannery is required reading for your future, whether you like the sound of this or not, unless you just prefer "hear no, see no . . . ". This IS your future, whether you like it or not. The evidence, as he piles on and on, is overwhelming, and we haven't as a nation even begun to address it as we should, much less prepare for its outcomes with some hope of retaining our culture and government. As Arthur Silber says in my other post today (below), we are living on lies right now, some told to us by "leaders" and media, others we tell ourselves. Of course, maybe Flannery's wrong, maybe I'm wrong, maybe we can all just ignore or wish away that coming tsunami.

There's a better chance Pat Robertson will divert it from the coast.



Arthur Silber is back and has written what amounts to the epitaph for the American Legacy, the murder of our hope for humanity by our dark elements that have poisoned us since this community started. Meanwhile, the less enlightened tell us that our votes will change things. We have to vote, just to force them to cheat and destroy, but the damage has been done, as the coming decades will show, for all the reasons Arthur outlines. Although, if I just depressed you, you maybe shouldn't read him. Reality is tough on illusion so enjoy the current lull for the bulk of us while you can. (h/t The Sideshow).

[And when you're done there, have
Tristero for dessert.]


Friday, September 29, 2006

Betty La Fea (Ugly Betty) Mas Bella Update XIX

Well, America Ferrera is indeed wonderful, and her boss is better than I would have predicted. The producers kept several elements of the original, just rearranged them, and the leads have chemistry. But I really don't think I'll plan on watching "Ugly Betty" (aka "Desperate Feas") very much.

If I hadn't seen "Betty La Fea" (and Ferrera really does capture the original "Betty" better than Angelica Vale has on "La Fea Mas Bella"), I'd probably think it was a show worth a few more views. But I know the first "Betty's" family and I've see this one. I know the original's characters and intent, and I've seen these. I know the original's playfulness as well as pathos, and I'm sorry, but the only playfulness came in Salma's series-in-series cameos with real telenovela actors. How long will she keep that up? I've wondered how the "suits" at ABC would deal with taking a five-day-a-week telenovela and turn it into a weekly hour show. I knew they couldn't capture everything given their time and format constraints, but what they've captured is old-hat and predictable, while "Betty La Fea" was unpredictably predictable and anything but old. And the "mystery" of the undead former exec and the death of the hero's brother, in a too obvious ploy at "Desperate," may capture more audience than fidelity to the original would have, but I'd stopped watching "Housewives" in the first season.

In short, "Ugly Betty" has promise and may be successful in traditional tv ways, and America is golden. But it's not "Betty La Fea" or even "La Fea Mas Bella," and that's the real gold standard. Too bad.

Speaking of diverting from the original, I don't remember Armando in "Betty La Fea" being as clueless as Fernando has become (the grocery episode the most egregious example), and the current extent of Fernando's clear commitment to Lety seems far more overt than I remember in the original. Am I making this up, those of you who have seen both versions? I always thought Armando's come-down was more powerful because of the intensity with which it finally dawned on him what he had had and lost. This more conspicuous version will allow the loss to be felt, but more like a traditional Hollywood movie. My wife (that is, mi esposa), who didn't see "Betty" I, thinks this will be fine. I'm not sure, but, if I'm just misremembering, then I'll hold off judgments.

Help me out here, okay?



Wrong to Be Right, And Vice Versa

Avedon links to a lovely (and by ‘lovely’, I mean ‘depressing’) Tony Judt column in the London Review of Books about the disappearance of true liberalism. In it, he attacks the Tom Friedman’s and Peter Beinart’s of the world who have solved the logic puzzle of figuring out how to say they were wrong about Iraq while still saying they were right (“I didn’t know Bush was going to screw it up, but picking a fight with a nation that couldn’t hurt us without any support from the rest of the world was still the right thing to do.”).

Those centrist voices that bayed most insistently for blood in the prelude to the Iraq War – the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demanded that France be voted ‘Off the Island’ (i.e. out of the Security Council) for its presumption in opposing America’s drive to war – are today the most confident when asserting their monopoly of insight into world affairs. The same Friedman now sneers at ‘anti-war activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in’ (New York Times, 16 August). To be sure, Friedman’s Pulitzer-winning pieties are always road-tested for middlebrow political acceptability. But for just that reason they are a sure guide to the mood of the American intellectual mainstream.

Friedman is seconded by Beinart, who concedes that he ‘didn’t realise’(!) how detrimental American actions would be to ‘the struggle’ but insists even so that anyone who won’t stand up to ‘Global Jihad’ just isn’t a consistent defender of liberal values. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, writing in the Financial Times, accuses Democratic critics of the Iraq War of failing ‘to take the wider, global battle against Islamic fanaticism seriously’. The only people qualified to speak on this matter, it would seem, are those who got it wrong initially. Such insouciance in spite of – indeed because of – your past misjudgments recalls a remark by the French ex-Stalinist Pierre Courtade to Edgar Morin, a dissenting Communist vindicated by events: ‘You and your kind were wrong to be right; we were right to be wrong.’

It is particularly ironic that the ‘Clinton generation’ of American liberal intellectuals take special pride in their ‘tough-mindedness’, in their success in casting aside the illusions and myths of the old left, for these same ‘tough’ new liberals reproduce some of that old left’s worst characteristics. They may see themselves as having migrated to the opposite shore; but they display precisely the same mixture of dogmatic faith and cultural provincialism, not to mention the exuberant enthusiasm for violent political transformation at other people’s expense, that marked their fellow-travelling predecessors across the Cold War ideological divide. The use value of such persons to ambitious, radical regimes is an old story. Indeed, intellectual camp followers of this kind were first identified by Lenin himself, who coined the term that still describes them best. Today, America’s liberal armchair warriors are the ‘useful idiots’ of the War on Terror.
The whole thing’s good. And again, by ‘good’ I mean ‘awfully sad and capable of causing rage among those who were “wrong to be right”.’


Oh Sweet Freaking Jesus

Your Senate Majority Leader (via C&L):

President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."
So the new strategy is to mock those who worry about the Iraq war...and the fact that more Americans have died in Iraq than in 9/11...and that things are apparently a lot worse than anybody wants to admit. And...THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME TO ME?? Ladies and gentlemen, the (roughly) fourth-most powerful man in America.

If I punch a wall right now like I want to, and I break my hand like I figure I will, can I sue?


Ahh, Credit Cards

Via The Butterfly’s mom, I came across this blurb today:

America's personal savings sank below zero in 2005 for the first time since the Depression, meaning Americans spent more than they earned. But, for under-age-35 households, the saving rate has plunged to minus 16 percent, which means the occupants are spending 16 percent more than they are earning.

Source: New York Times
Again, thanks to the yeoman-like work of The Butterfly (lord knows I deserve no credit), we officially became debt-free last month, but in general this is just frightening. The Dow is reaching record highs, while most of America sinks into worse and worse financial shape by the day. But least college kids are given snazzy free T-shirts on campus as they sign their life away to obscenely high interest rates.


FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! Happy 6th Birthday, Stan!

"I'm how old??'s all down hill from here..."


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 9-28-06

In a galaxy far, far away, China has run a successful test of an experimental fusion reactor. Not sure if I like the news of not, on several levels. . . . Clearly related, the Independent reports that global methane emissions have soared in the last 7 years as the Chinese economy has boomed. Previous methane declines turned out to be due to the drying of wetlands by global warming(!) so, if rains do return, the problem gets even worse. Guess fusion isn't the worst idea at that. . . . This comes from the WaPo, but via MSNBC, so I'll link to them--a repeat of the NE governors' agreement to set up rules to cut their states' greenhouse emissions by 10% by 2019, apparently following the European Union's carbon emission market scheme. Good primer on the topic, interesting details. . . . Unicef says a billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water from protected sources, which means death for 1.5 m. children under 5 each year. The UN wants to cut that number in half by 2015 but progress is unfortunately slowing. . . . The San Fran Chron digs deeply into all the CA politicians joining the anti-global warming parade in their gas guzzlers. . . . And the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver featured an Australian speaker advocating her country's policy approach to drought, with agencies on all levels coordinated around the realization that drought is a norm, not an aberration, and something to plan in advance for. Imagine that. Those crazy Aussies.


Thank You, Sherrod Brown

For proving everything I've ever said about you here, you sad Beltway piece of crap. And we could have had Paul Hackett. Happy, Sirota??


Random 10

From Top Rated list...

1. A Shot in the Arm, Wilco
2. Everybody Knows That You're Insane, Queens of the Stone Age
3. Jurass Finish First, Jurassic 5
4. John I'm Only Dancing, David Bowie
5. A Love Supreme Pt. 4: Psalm, John Coltrane
6. Angry Chair, Alice in Chains
7. Pennyroyal Tea (unplugged), Nirvana
8. Hallelujah I Love Her So, Ray Charles
9. Lonesome Day Blues, Bob Dylan
10. Custard Pie, Led Zeppelin

Considering this was on random, this has a pretty nice flow to it...

From All Songs list...

1. Runnin' Down a Dream, Tom Petty
2. Drive In Drive Out (Live @ Red Rocks, '95), Dave Matthews Band
3. Six Days on the Road, Taj Mahal
4. Race for the Prize, Flaming Lips
5. It's Like That, Handsome Boy Modeling School
6. Casiotone Nation, Soul Coughing
7. Essaywhuman?!!!??!, The Roots
8. When It Started, The Strokes
9. Days of Wonder, The Wallflowers
10. Mississippi, Bob Dylan

Yeah, I think Top Rated wins this time...


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


...I watched last night's Daily Show on TiVo a little while ago, and I must say...watching Jon Stewart interview Musharraf was pretty depressing for me. Stewart gets these people (Musharraf, Clinton, McCain, hell even Buchanan) to loosen up and open up and say twice as much as they would say anywhere else. And that's cool and all...I've watched the show religiously since Mo Rocca asked McCain "What do you have against Iceland, Senator?" in early 2000, but...seriously? The only place a politician can a) give something other than canned answers or b) actually get a pressing follow-up question when he/she does give a canned answer is...a fake news show?

It's pretty easy to see why, really. Jon Stewart is still Jon Stewart...he loosens you up...he keeps things relatively light. He presented Musharraf with tea and Twinkies yesterday, then suddenly asked, "Where's bin Laden?" Everybody laughed, but my god...less than five minutes later, Musharraf was talking openly about how he considered war against the US in 2001. He got John McCain to admit he was selling himself out to win the Presidency in '08. He got Howard Dean to admit that putting doorknob hangers with Democrat talking points is, well, kind of silly. He had Pat Buchanan on on Monday, and by the end of the interview, Buchanan was so loose that he made a "The Indians had an open border policy, and look what happened to them!" joke.

Anyway, relying on TiVo means I'm always 24 hours behind, so other bloggers have already mentioned the Musharraf interview, but hey...better late than never to join in...


Sports Night, Not West Wing

I like Sorkin's new show, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and will be a regular watcher until his ADHD kicks in. But the show is not banging up the ratings despite its high-powered cast, losing audience in the second half-hour of its premiere, then down 12% for its second episode (see here for details). The reason, I think, is that he's reproduced not his big hit, "The West Wing," but his big disillusion "Sports Night." Long-time buddy team--check. Old romance--check. One friend "single" and repressed--check. Hyper-competent female exec--check. Very "inside baseball"--check. Network "suits" and conflict--check. Tiresome and ignorant rants against bloggers--ch . . . wait, that was "West Wing." It's too well-written and -acted to die immediately, but it just feels old, or maybe predictable, like we've seen this before. Well, we did, and now have that "Ghostbusters II" feeling. Like "Sports Night," it will struggle for audience, just as it will produce some truly memorable television, amidst Sorkin's flittering and fluttering. And, in a couple of years, it will be gone, its death lamentable but understandable. Like "Sports Night." But maybe we'll be able to get the complete set in one DVD package, like "Sports Night," too.


Weather, Water, Energy 9-27-06

Good news. Acre, a Brazilian state, is taking action to force ranchers to reforest their Amazonian land and reduce loss of that precious forest. . . . In Britain the Environment Secretary is saying folks "should be scared" about global warming, that those who deny it are "the flat earthers of the 21st century" (actually Sen. Inhofe is 14th century), and that "something funny is going on with the weather." . . . He obviously didn't get this memo from the British Economic and Social Research Council saying scaring people and making them feel badly about themselves are the least effective ways to get people to set health and environmental goals. So let's just nicely coax everyone who's ignored the clear evidence around them for three decades to politely get off their ignorant a-ses and stop being so self-obsessed and demand action, you feckless fools . . . sorry, I'm Irish, not British. . . . One last BBC report, this one on Sir Richard Branson's follow-up to his recent $3 b. pledge to reduce carbon emissions. Just changing takeoff procedures and use of air traffic control apparently could save us tons of problems. . . . Nature is reporting that once again the Feds, this time the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have blocked an important report, this one on the contribution of global warming to the frequency and strength of hurricanes. Not so, say the feds, just delaying it for . . . really, really good reasons. I don't know how these folks sleep at night. . . . A study of how fresh river water flows into Liverpool Bay is helping scientists understand fresh/sea interaction and ultimately, hopefully, climate change. . . . Here's one closer to home (sort of) along the same line. U-Alaska (Fairbanks) scientists have documented "unprecedented" surges of warm water into the north Atlantic, with changes for the Arctic Ocean likely (not to mention ice cover and climate). . . . Another British study, trying to figure out how to control greenhouse gas nitrous oxide emissions from soil. Don't laugh. . . . Yet another is using satellite data to map plant use of carbon dioxide around the world to get a better picture of how gases are used by the planet (or not). . . . Speaking of satellites, this report shows how pictures from space reveal green areas after rains (which feedback into more rains), allowing better prediction of droughts and shortages. . . . From the potential water wars file, here's a story of how 7 western states are running a series of experiments on the Colorado River to figure out how to wring every last drop from it, I mean, how to reduce waste. The experiments include a test of a desalinization plant, a program that pays farmers not to plant, and building a small reservoir to catch water just before it makes it to Mexico. Won't solve how the saved water will be distributed and no mention of how Mexico will react. That's why it's in the potential water wars file. . . . In GA, the Repub gov is proposing, coincidentally before his Nov election, a tax incentive to get biofuel producers to move to the state and to help its farmers and failing timber industry. . . . Tsunami warning sirens are going up along the NW coast. Do not be alarmed . . . and move to higher ground immediately!!! . . . Opened on good news, closing on good news. There is a mining company in WY that is actually trying to reduce its co2 emissions (by turning off idling truck engines, for example), to the tune of a 9% cut since 1998. This story starts with focus on Rio Tinto Energy America, moves into carbon emission trading, touches on water and weather impacts, and invites folks to a public forum series on "energy futures." Truly good to see some people getting it (and not in the way Sen. Inhofe should get it).


Bite Me, Julian Simon

Hard for him to do, I realize, him being dead and all, but this reprehensible old reptile economist (redundant, I know) went everywhere on tv in the 80s telling people to ignore Limits to Growth and other warnings of the need to get smart about our environment. Just liberal doomsayers, everything's really peachy keen, he assured us. One of his favorites was how scarcity always brings forth new innovation so we never have to worry about finite resources. He famously won a bet with Paul Ehrlich (the other side's equivalent) on the price of copper after some time period (I forget when). Well, Ehrlich should have waited. The price of copper has now doubled due to its shortages, high enough now that less-than-bright lights are dying trying to steal it from power lines (we do appreciate your cleansing of the gene pool, fellas, RIP). Unfortunately, Simon kicked off before he could see it. It's not that what he said wasn't true sometimes. He just pushed dogma far past what history and experience support, like way too many economists. And gave support to too many obstacles to effective action against problems that are blossoming big time now. I'm sure he died thinking he'd left a proven legacy. In that, too, he was wrong, in ways beyond copper, as the revised Limits to Growth and others warn us yet again.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TUESDAY PIRATES RA...oh nevermind.

Blogger ate my Pirates Rant™, and it's too late to rewrite it. Bah. Life is hard sometimes. I'll just add it to next week's Season Ending Rant™.


Weather, Water, Energy 9-26-06

Cool. I mean, hot. James Hansen from NASA is at it again, headlining a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper detailing this period as the warmest in 12,000 years and heading full-blast at the warmest in a million years, complete with El Nino effects (sorry about the tilde, still haven't found it). Meanwhile, the century's Poster Child for Multiple Ignorance, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Repub (of course) from OK, "refutes" claims of global warming in a Senate speech replete with every half-assed, disproven claim from Global Warming for Dummies. I pray every night for the moron to have a long life so every single chicken can come home to roost on his cork-filled blockhead. . . . Speaking of obvious manipulation of fact and reality, Americans don't seem too duped by the sudden plunge of oil and gas prices just before the 2006 elections. I love the quotes about how the Big Oil Admini . . . Bushnev Administration doesn't have the power to control Big Oil supplies. The guy gets it recorded without the subsequent comment, "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA . . . ." . . . I frequently mention the BBC as the best overall general website on these topics, but the Christian Science Monitor, you may have noticed, frequently gives it a run for its money. Witness this excellent piece relating the increasing US population to environmental problems we just can't keep pushing off on our grandkids, the Boomers' greatest historical legacy. The best part of the article deals with the belated but welcome attention of (some) businesses and (some) evangelicals to the needs (if you overlook the quote from the U-MI nut). Don't stop until you get to the bottom and the US's rank in the "environmental performance index" (not that great, surprised?). . . . Here's a story on the politics and give-and-take of wind turbine projects, this time in VT. . . . In WI, just in time for the election, the incumbent governor is making a $80 m. investment in development and use of renewable energy, leveraging it into an additional $370 m. in matching private dollars. He's a Dem (of course). . . . Chevron, with help from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is going back into WY to restart a shale oil project it dumped 30 years ago. Oil prices are higher, tech is better, violent rebels aren't as prevalent as in other nations (although in some parts of WY . . . ). May take years, may not work. It's called business. . . . And in what is likely to be all our future, Australia is creating an office of water management to deal with water "drying up much faster than predicted" (like 40 years faster than its "worst case scenario" had forecast(!)). Australia's Bushnev/Inhofe wannabe John Howard insists Al Gore is still a nut, though. The biggest shock in the article is Australia's science agency predicting a warming there of 3.6 degrees F (the one we use) by 2030 and 10.8 degrees by 2070. Never seen anything that extreme in our reports here. Is it the Foster's, or do they know something we don't? Besides corkhead Howard, I mean.


Saying It All

Nothing much new to add to what we've already said here about the state of Dems/Repubs and of our democracy and Constitution, even in light of latest outrages, especially when Swopa and Mrs. Robinson get it done so much better.


First (BAD) Take

I'm waiting for the premiere of "Ugly Betty" Thursday before my next update, but this disturbing story on the parallels between it and "The Devil Wears Prada" tells me more than I want to know about the level of creativity in the show. I smell "suits," just as I've feared. I hope I'm wrong. We'll know in two days.


We're No. 6!

A quick note on the drop of the US economy from first to sixth in the listing of world's most competitive economies, now beaten by Switzerland (damn Nestle) and those Scandanavian countries--Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore. Seems we're a great place for business, if not for all those competing swords hanging over our heads housring, deficits, and politics-wise (education and healthcare don't help our rating much either). Here's a ray of hope, though, a real entrepreneurial opportunity in a nation of self-absorbed neurotics too influenced by "Sex in the City." I've got money to invest, folks. And it's just a matter of time before the movie or sitcom is done.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 9-25-06

Ted Turner is out there promoting biofuels not just as an energy alternative but as a means to improve incomes for the world's poor farmers. One thing about Turner, he's always been a nut, but he's never been crazy. . . . He might want to talk to this guy first, though, before he moves to biofuels too fast. Seems many of the plants promoted for the task are highly invasive species, like Johnson grass was, once promoted as forage grass and now I'm trying to convince my wife how good it looks all over the yard. One kind of potential biofuel is called "Johnson grass on steroids." I'm thinking that wouldn't be as cool as it sounds, although the Sci-Fi Channel might be interested. . . . Of course, as this TX story shows, distribution may be a bigger problem for these new fuels than production anyway. . . . Ants and grasshoppers in CO. The ants played fair on water, got screwed by the grasshoppers. Get ready for this being the story of the rest of our climate decisions. . . . A Boston Globe article notes that TX has proven much more proactive than MA in promoting wind power, attributed to a more receptive culture and resulting in a surprising alternative energy economic boom in TX. I've noted before as well the vast amount of the natural resource in question there. As we in OK always used to say, no matter what direction you leave TX, you're going into the wind because TX sux. . . . Meanwhile, less windy climes like WI are facing the nuclear question again. A decent article (pros/cons) on what will be an increasingly common topic in many states. . . . Good news in this article on forecasts that heating bills will be lower this winter as natural gas and home heating oil prices have dropped. . . . While we've been lauding CA's recent initiatives on alternative energy, perhaps this article should give us pause. Turns out the state has only increased use of renewable energy by less than 1% of the state's overall electricity use in the last 4 years. Moreover, some analysts project that CA will miss a regulatory deadline to get 20% of CA's electricity from renewables by 2010. Regulations are given much of the blame, of course. . . . In FL, proliferating algae blooms in Biscayne Bay are worrying state naturalists. . . . US News & World Report has an interesting piece on how the increasing costs of energy are also increasing workloads (and shortages?) for engineering and construction firms. . . . A conference in France produced a warning that, between global warming and increased use by ski resorts, mountain water resources have been endangered. Seems making fake snow leaves less downstream. More things we learn that we never thought of before. . . . Finally, Honda shoots yet another arrow into the US auto industry, with development of a new diesel powertrain as clean as gas-fueled cars, to be marketed here by 2009. And we get nitrogen at the end of it, for you possible fertilizer entrepreneurs. So get cracking.


Ants and Grasshoppers

I've always liked the moral of the "The Ant and the Grasshopper." Those of us ants who try to work hard and be responsible while the grasshoppers frivol away their futures. When hooey meets fan, boy, will they be in trouble, we ants like to laugh knowingly, while we work, of course. But, in fact, I've always wondered a bit about that would actually go down. Shouldn't we ants be well-trained in firearms usage as the hooey hits, or the grasshoppers will come beat the crap out of us and take what we've built up? What if there are too many of them for our ammo? Isn't it very possible that the grasshoppers will take everyone down with them?

It's very easy to fear this as you watch state after state follow the lead of the feds and pass debt after debt, encumbrance after encumbrance off on future generations, partying like grasshoppers until hooey reaches tpping points in one area after another--global warming, terrorist antagonizing, national debt, trade debt, infrastructure decay . . . had enough? Here's
one more--public retiree benefits. Legislatures in practically every state have bought votes and retained employee peace by promising benefits into the future that will either require massive crunches to live up to or massive defaults and betrayals. If ants were in charge, we might go with the former. But this country and its leadership have been grasshopper for a long time now. So what's the safe bet this time?

(But would ants like us really bet?)


Infrastructure, Sunk Costs, and Decline

If we had to start policy systems over from scratch today, which ones would we continue to do as we are doing them now? Public schools that educate for 9 months, then send kids home for 3 to forget? Criminal justice that waits for people to be victimized before leaping into action? Transportation based on a fuel that is now and ever has been finite? Higher education that takes anyone who walks through the door, interested in education or not?

The last is the premise of a provocative
essay by George Leef in the Christian Science Monitor. He puts into words what many of us with, in my case, over two decades of higher ed experience have felt for many years. The idea that this nation needs more college grads is just wrong. Most jobs don't require a degree, even those that claim to as employers use the degree as a cheap way to screen applicants. The jobs with the largest needs may require training, but not a college degree. Colleges should be the preserves of those who want to learn. Amazing concept. Instead, we have uninterested students who must be appeased with lower standards and pseudo-education in order to keep the dollars coming in. As he quotes one student, "People would be amazed if they knew how easy it is to graduate without learning anything." (While I agree that college degrees don't equal college education, I don't think they'd be amazed. As I've said before, most people do know, which is why they're happy to short-change higher ed funding and sprend money on prisons instead.) Meanwhile, the students end up with loans to pay back for educations they didn't need.

My point really isn't another harangue about the lost social purpose and ethics of American higher ed. It's more to focus on how the sunk costs of policy infrastructure limit our ability to deal in new or better ways with our problems. Let's say we did what Leef says--only have "interested" students in higher ed, presumably screen by higher standards in the classroom if not in selection. How many colleges and universities would you see us needing, and how many would close? The answer to the last, I would bet, is "plenty." Enough to cripple college towns and state economies, not to mention putting all those academics on the street causing havoc.

So forget it. Can't be done. Same with prisons, law enforcement, prosecutors, etc. If we "stopped crime," think of the negative economic impact it would have. Consider how frantic people have gotten over charter schools. Part of it is legit concern, but part is just the transformation they would make in employment and organization. You can play the game with practically any policy area of any length. (The military is just too easy, though.)

Leef isn't necessarily wrong, then, just wasting his time. (Sort of like blogging.) We've bought this particular farm, and we'll work on it until it's played out. And some other nation, more adaptable, may be even starting from scratch, takes our place in the world. Rise and fall--the story of institutions, systems, nations. But thanks for the reminder, Dr. Leef.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Busy week for Bubba...

...first, he kicks butt on The Daily Show. Then, he raises $7 billion to combat global warming. Then, he bitch slaps Chris Wallace on Fox (who innocently responds in the press with "I don't know why he was so defensive...I simply asked him indirectly if he was to blame for 9/11..." and "I ask tough questions of the Bush Administration all the time! Honest!"). Then, he goes on Olbermann (h/t Avedon) and reminds people what an American President who acknowledges reality would be doing right now.

There are plenty of legitimate complaints one could make about the Clinton Administration, but he's at least a professional. Having a professional with faults in charge is better than having an amateur who doesn't understand the buttons he's pushing and gets mad when somebody tries to show him what to do.


We use paper ballots and sharpies.

Never seen the problem with that method.

Never mind the fact that Diebold has 100% control over half the elections in this country (and are friends of Dubya), just because we have the technology to do something (i.e. touch screen ballots) doesn't mean we should use it. Paper ballots and sharpies are pretty fool-proof (well, nothing's totally fool-proof, but you get what I'm saying). And I guess it's better late than never that people are starting to figure out the drawbacks of putting their country in the hands of a private company...too late to do anything about it in '06, though...which is just unbelievably scary.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

When You Doing the Book?

Lance Mannion has started up his ruminations (here's one) on "Cheers" again, which is good news for more than just the show's fans. One thing, though, Lance. An essay about Lilith and her sexuality and nothing about the legs of the actress who first made her name in "Chicago"?


Moral Mazes

By now you've probably already seen or heard about this Rutgers study of grad students and cheating that found that MBAs are far and away the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) at it. I've had my fun with The Boy and spouse, both recipients of said degree, and you've likely e-mailed it to your MBA friends and relatives. The excuse is that competition is just so intense for this degree and everybody else is cheating and you'd be stupid not to and . . . and . . . and. Please. This just complements all those studies of undergrads that the only students who predominantly act like econ theory says people act (ahistorical, self-serving, short-term benefit, a--holes, etc.) are econ majors. Disciplines and careers see an awful lot of self-selection so it's not the competition, it's the mirror. (Really, is anyone surprised by the HP revelations?)

Let me temper that, however, at least as it may apply to others in business, those who majored in other things but now find themselves in that climate and forced to adapt to it. Human behavior is always the outcome of a blend of person and environment, from their genes to their organizations and networks. When things like HP happen (or Enron or Arthur Anderson or . . . .), it's not just because personnel got MBAs or slept through what passed for ethics ed or need to pay off their beemers. The nature of organizations and what they have to do to survive creates a web of imperatives that lead their inhabitants into what they might never otherwise do or thought themselves capable of. They find themselves, in other words, in mazes they have to weave themselves through, what one might call "moral mazes."

Actually, one has called them that. His name is Robert Jackall and he wrote a book 18 years ago with that title, Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. 18 years ago. His basic premise was this--we're all told in this country, and as a motivational tool in every organization, that hard work will lead to success. The implication is that the organized system within which we seek success is structured to reward this work. Now stop laughing.

Which is his point. That's demonstrably not how life, in orgs, in schools (hello, MBAs), in, well, anywhere practically, works. It's far more who you know, how you sell (aka pimp) yourself, and who happens to be in the room when the lucky break occurs (or the hooey hits you know what). So, Jackall asks, what happens when people in orgs disconnect work from success and tie it to all those other levers? Here's how he puts it:

"What becomes of the social morality of the corporation--the everyday rules-in-use that people play by--when there is no fixed or, one might say, objective standard of excellence to explain how and why winners are separated from also-rans, how and why some people succeed and others fail? What rules do people fashion to interact with one another when they feel that, instead of ability, talent, and dedicated service to an organization, politics, adroit talk, luck, connections, and self-promotion are the real sorters of people into sheep and goats?"

From his inquiry he ended up with "managers' rules for survival and success," the heart of what he called "the bureaucratic ethic." He concludes that "bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that they might adhere to privately and to follow instead the prevailing morality of their particular organizational situation. As a former vice-president of a large firm says: 'What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man's home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what the guy above you wants from you. That's what morality is in the corporation [emphasis in original]." (And clearly in more governments than we like to think about.)

This is clearly not news now, or even in the Reagan ("greed is good") '80s. As more recent books like The Cheating Culture and
Making Good make clear, the view is, if anything, more pervasive today, particularly among young people waiting to move into our leadership roles who told Howard Gardner and company that there'll be time to be ethical "later, when I'm successful." Do you really need anything else to show you why our businesses, our governments, our media, our academe, our culture have adopted "Survivor" as their operating philosophies? Why our future will likely not see improvement? Why Bushnev and his new-Bolsheviks came to be and have been able to survive and even retain 40% approval ratings from a society so fundamentally, let's just say it, immoral?

I've gone overboard? People, we're debating whether waterboarding is torture, much less legal.

Jackall's book is the first book any serious consideration of morality in action would start with, in whatever organizational context. It's very well-written, funny, thorough, and one of the scariest you'll ever finish. Like Joey on "Friends" with Stephen King, you might want to put it in the freezer a few times before you get done. It certainly should be the first book any MBA student would be required to read.

I had to show it to The Boy and spouse.


Random 10

Ripping 15-20 cd's/day, I'm only about a month (and 33 GB) from having filled the iPod.

I'm horrifically nerdy, and this only interests me, so I'll just move on to the list.

Random 10 (From Top Rated List)

1. Pantala Naga Pampa -> Rapunzel, Dave Matthews Band (from Live at The Gorge)
2. Helicopters, Barenaked Ladies
3. Right in the Head, M. Ward
4. High and Dry, Radiohead
5. Next Time This Time, Jim Croce
6. It Overtakes Me, Flaming Lips
7. Star, The Roots
8. Rip This Joint, Rolling Stones
9. Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (Again), Wilco
10. Pride, Pat McGee Band

Random 10 (Totally Random)

1. Oh Susanna, Taj Mahal
2. Neffrey, Zach Weisinger
3. Be My Head, Flaming Lips
4. Do The Evolution, Pearl Jam
5. Break, Jurassic 5
6. Long Hot Summer Night, Jimi Hendrix
7. Sutukun, Orchestra Baobab
8. Nobody Knows, Pat McGee Band
9. No Fun, The Stooges
10. It's Like That, Run-DMC

Hmm...I think I actually like the totally random one better...


Weather, Water, Energy 9-23-06

Great news. Just imagine what he could have done if he'd ever been president.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 9-22-06

I realize that, at a time when the Dems are completely worthless protecting our nation's values (even the usually reliable Steve Soto lets me down with "it would be fatal to protest" the torture approval--uh, Steve, the Dems are terminal already, this one turned off the machine), this little item may seem petty to bitch about, especially when, objectively, it's good news. Still, it brings heartburn since it's one more proof that the Dems' timidity and cupidity when real needs that the public wants action on are in front of their eyes and they still can't move. This issue should have been owned by Dems since Bill "sell out to be reelected" Clinton, and now it's shifting to the Repubs and certainly short-circuits any effort to hang Bushnev's idiocy on global warming around Repub necks. It also short-circuits the PR Gore's getting on the topic, even his role in the Virgin contribution yesterday. Just add it to election fraud, energy conservation, international human rights, F__KING TORTURE!!!!, and all those other highly needed and highly supported issues they've punted on while dittoing Repubs on how tough they are to Hugo. Jeez, Looooeeezzzzz. . . . At first glance, you'd think a story on how upper ocean levels have cooled, not warmed, in the last couple of years would cheer the nay-sayers on global warming. Until you realize that those ocean levels are still rising, which means the cooling comes from the ice sheets melting. Oops. Remember this if you get into an argument in a restaurant with someone citing the cooling. Or just drop an ice cube into their coffee. . . . A LA State U study in Science says that we can thank hurricanes, not rivers, for most of the sediment that state marshes there need to remain healthy, which makes sense but overturns a lot of that old favorite "conventional wisdom" (to our shock, I tell you). . . . SC and GA folks are meeting to coordinate contesting views of how to keep shared water resources (the Savannah River and Upper Floridan aquifer) viable without resorting to lawsuits. Or civil war. . . . Gotta love this one. Britain's foreign secretary has advised the US president to quickly get involved in global warming policy, that is, the NEXT US president. Time is short, she warns, and annoyingly backs up her case with evidence. If you don't like the Kyoto Treaty, she says, then "get involved with the next one, and the earlier, the better." Isn't it cute how she thinks there actually will be a NEXT president? . . . Finally, study of NASA satellite photos is showing enhanced deforestation of Brazil's part of the Amazon and poor follow-up land use. I don't have to tell you what that means by this time, do I?


Smoking Gun

This is the story that explains how the last 6 years happened, as well as Wed., Nov. 8, 2006. I need to be clear. I am not saying "Don't Vote" on Tues., Nov. 7. You have to, or they don't need to cheat. But Bushnev has told you the outcome--the Repubs will "win" both houses--and the Dems and their best supporters, including bloggers, have dithered and indulged themselves. Now, though, there'll be no mystery about how it happened or who could have shined the light to stop it.


FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING!! Just...pathetic.

Have you no shame, Stan?


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 9-21-06

The giant news today, of course, is the $3 b. (that's billion) pledged by Richard Branson (after a chat with Al Gore) to fight global warming and push alternative energy, the money coming from his transportation companies. Like I've said about the attention of blogs, there are many things to be concerned about and to contribute to right now, but nothing comes close to this and all those other things depend on what we do with this. Now, if only Gates, Buffett, Soros, and those other happy giving guys just read this blog . . . . Terra Daily is a one-stop shop for our news today. Here's a story I can't stop myself from loving. CA is suing the top 6 automakers for their contribution to global warming. CA is a silly zoo on a lot of things, from its criminal justice "system" to what it's done to its education, but they are clearly the leaders here. Elsewhere, a day after Bushnev's "climate plan" that ignores carbon dioxide emissions, even OPEC has called for their reduction, echoing China's recent call. The Terra folks also alert us to a study in Nature reiterating the dramatic melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which a 2001 study said wouldn't melt much at all this century. Surely all that new fresh, cold water in our oceans couldn't cause any trouble, though. And a story I love more than CA lawsuits--The Royal Society, Britain's top science group, has told the British piece of ExxonMobil to knock off funding all the anti-global warming research the bastar. . . company officials have been sponsoring. We'll see how that works out for them. And finally from Terra Daily, Saudi Arabia is worried about the effects on their society and economy if the West weens itself from oil. Uh, boo hoo. . . . Back in 1992 Congress said that by 2010 30% of the fuels for US vehicles would come from oil-replacement fuels. Now Bushnev and his Politburo are saying that percentage will actually be 2.5%, with the goal not being met until 2030. In fairness to Georgi (!?!), who was elected president in 1992? . . . This is a weird story, but one that shows how diverse and unexpected water problems are and will be. Seems the U of CT (aka UCONN) pulls water from nearby rivers and about a year ago sucked a section of one dry, killing 8000 fish. Now they're working on plans to prevent reoccurrence with other rivers. Seems like something a university should do.


The Wisdom of Conventional Wisdom

I've pretty much given up on sports, for a variety of reasons, leaving all that to The Boy. One of my reasons is just a general weariness with the hype and the bluster and the sports equivalent of political pundits passing on "wisdom" just as sound. However, I do still pay occasional attention and have come across a new example of the "wisdom" at work.

The CW right now is definitely that the Red Sox would be far better off putting rookie phenom Jonathan Papelbon into their starting rotation next year after an exceptional year closing. Closers are overrated and more easily come by than good starters, the "wisdom" holds. What good is a closer if your starters give up blowouts that don't need closing?

Not irrational, but always and every time true? Look at the Braves since John Smoltz let his ego overrule the team's needs and returned to the rotation. Did the Braves do better last year with him starting than they did with him closing the last 3 years? Uh, no. This year? Before picking up a bonafide closer (not one of those "anybody can basically do it" guys), the Braves had 27 blown saves in 47 chances. If Smoltz had remained as closer, the Braves wouldn't have blown probably 22-25 of those (or, frankly, any of them). Which would have translated into 22-25 wins, not losses. In the meantime John as a starter has won half as many games as he would have saved. And the Braves, instead of being 20 over .500 and in the playoffs will be watching on tv for the first time in many young people's lifetimes. (And Smoltz is reportedly ticked that the Braves management isn't negotiating cheerfully with him this year.)

Does this prove the CW on Papelbon wrong? Not completely. But, like the political CW, the only real CW that should ever be taken to the bank is that the CW should never be taken to the bank.

Enjoy the playoffs, John.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Weather, Water, Energy 9-20-06

This article is getting attention around the blogosphere, showing how my question "you think God will take you up to Heaven after you've let his creation get trashed?" is starting to split some "religious" people. I'll take full credit. . . . Terra Daily (among others) has the goods on satellite images showing openings in the Arctic's icepack big enough to fit Great Britain in, making that yacht trip you've always planned to the North Pole a little more manageable. . . . Visit Siberia while you're up there. Take some tennis gear. . . . Fortune reports good progress on US development of a feasible fuel-cell car. You get optimistic until you hear it's planned by GM. . . . Climate Progress has a couple of good posts up, one on how the same people who sold the safety of tobacco are involved in selling the "myth" of global warming, the other giving three cites (Al Gore's latest speech, a recent report on American energy, and a CBO report on the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions). . . . On the last point, read here about Bushnev's latest global warming plan that omits carbon dioxide emissions. . . . A state news roundup: A ME Natural Resources Council report on the effect of global warming on New England (bad scenario, and really bad scenario), A MD Chesapeake Bay Foundation plea for more money to get done what was already supposed to be done, that diverse meeting of citizens concerned about climate change in MT we've mentioned earlier, and the different perspectives on global warming and the ability of individual states to deal with it in the OR gubernatorial race, with the blowhole fantasist Repub and the guy who's right.


Popped Culture

Grreaattt commentary on Oprah and her typically self-indulgent "Big Adventure" with her friend Gail. I know that authenticity didn't become a commodity in American life just with Barbara Walters, Katie C, and Ms. Winfrey. Will Rogers and Disneyland certainly cha-chinged off it well before them. But "authenticity" for sale has done so much, by definition, to make our culture and world so superficial and shallow, and right now Oprah is the Queen of S & S, as this article demonstrates. As I've repeated repeatedly here, these are serious times, and democracy requires serious people. We are no longer serious people. We are diverted and self-absorbed. Can you say "Oprah"? The article is very funny and hangs her out to dry. Sweeeet. . . . Really mixed emotions about this review of former senator/current minister John Danforth's latest book calling for less overt involvement of religion in politics. If there is a Hell, Mr. Danforth has a reserved suite for his role in putting theocrat-to-be Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. But as a Repub with an audience that needs to listen to the well-known but too-forgotten history and future of a politics infused with on-your-sleeve, in-your-face religion, Danforth might be able to pull a "Nixon Goes to China" thing on some at least. I have spent the last decade or two wanting to punch out the Stephen Carters, Amy Sullivans, Barack Obamas who, despite their impressive degrees, have failed to learn the fundamentals about the combustion that occurs when religion and politics get mixed. Their "moderate," "tolerant" kumbaya world of religions respecting each other is and always has been a demonstrable hallucination. The Founders knew that democracy can't prosper where theocracy is a credible, possible goal, and our separation of church and state has promoted the greatest religious freedom in human history. Let people practice their faiths through their behaviors and interactions (uh, like Jesus said), but never let religious agendas contest in a political arena. It has never resulted in MisterRogers Neighborhood, and it won't now. Put salt in water or water in salt, you get salt water. Put religion in government or government in religion, you get Iran. And please don't cite Dr. King at me. Dr. King motivated his followers through religion, but his public agenda was founded on secular political principles in the Declaration and the Constitution. He never advocated replacing either with the Bible. Danforth maybe should have thought of all that when he was in a real position to do something about it, and could have kept his ayatollah protege off the court. . . . Finally, Eric Loomis at AlterDestiny says what should be said every time a Chambliss or Allen or Lott waxes nostalgic for the Confederacy. Folks, the South committed treason. Its flag symbolizes treason committed to protect slavery. Germany faced up to its past, took the blame, and now has a cleaner future. We apparently never will, and, as Jefferson feared, must hope God is not truly just.


TiVo Season Passes for the Fall Season

With the fall TV season approaching, I thought it would be interesting to look at what Season Passes we will be setting up on TiVo during Prime Time. I’m sticking to the prime time lineup, so it won’t be including the daily tapings of Pardon the Interruption, Good Eats, Scrubs reruns, Daily Show, and Colbert Report (or College Football Gameday on Saturdays). (No, we don’t watch all of those every day...except for Daily Show, anyway...but it’s lovely to always have them on call to watch.)


Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – I was impressed by the opener, as were most people (though The Butterfly said she was bored...blasphemy). Berlin Niebuhr has done all the analysis that is needed at this point, and I pretty much agree with him…though I didn’t think the religion subplot was as awkward as he did. It definitely looks like it will be pretty easy to set a frenetic pace, which is where Sorkin shows work the best.

Weeds – Simply the best sitcom on TV right now. Even the mediocre episodes are great. No other show combines extremely edgy humor (strap-ons, Andy’s legendary masturbation speech a few episodes ago) with family drama and “I hope nobody goes to jail” tension. Perfect lead (the show would not work with anybody but Mary-Louise Parker), perfect cast (Kevin Nealon, Romany Malco, Elizabeth Perkins, the dude who played the “cool priest”—and Mary-Louise Parker’s love interest—in Saved), perfect mix of slapstick and drama. I can’t say enough.


Gilmore Girls – One of The Butterfly’s few vices. It’s not in the “Buy all DVD seasons” pantheon status of Buffy and Veronica Mars, but it’s up there. And I’ll admit it...once I get my mind ready for the fact that everybody on the show talks way too fast, it’s a tolerable show to watch. A little too quirky for me (and I like me some quirk), but it’s tolerable. And she repays the favor by occasionally sitting through backlogged PTI episodes.

Veronica Mars – If Weeds is the best sitcom on TV, Veronica Mars is the best drama. I’ve started a few different “Why is this show so good?” posts, but I’ve never finished one. It just is. The cast is perfect, the writing/plots are always intricate and surprising, they’re able to string out a primary plotline through an entire season because the subplots are strong enough to carry small arcs of shows, there are always a million different things going on, and the characters are so good that you don’t mind. And Kristen Bell and Enrico Colantoni (a classic "that guy") have phenomenal chemistry as father-daughter.

And Kristen Bell is hot. The Butterly is sure enamored with co-star Jason Dohring, as well. Something for everybody!

Wait…timeout. I like the girl on the show who most resembles The Butterfly (when she had blonde hair, at least). She likes the bad boy who in no way, shape, or form resembles me. And she admits to thinking that Weezil, the leader of the biker gang, is hot too. What gives?


This appears to be the day that we will be catching up on back episodes of Daily Show and Good Eats. Woohoo.


My Name is Earl – Luckily for us, we don’t have the telenovela fixation that berlin niebuhr does, so we’re free to enjoy Earl instead of juggling Earl, Ugly Betty, and La Fea Mas Bella. Thursdays at 7pm will be tense in the niebuhr house.

The Office – This show grew very slowly on me. I watched a few episodes during Season One, but it just seemed to me that it wasn’t really separating itself from the British version of the show. But near the beginning of Season Two, this show hit its stride, and now it’s a definite can’t miss. Steve Carell, the office romance, the perfect supporting cast...everything is so well-established at this point that, like good Cheers episodes, this show almost seems to write itself at this point. I was happy to see it win the Best Comedy Emmy (even though Weeds would have gotten my #1 vote).

Ace of Cakes – See? I’m a good spouse! The Butterfly gets control of the TiVo as you can see from this show and the next one on the list...


What Not to Wear – For the first few months that we had it, TiVo had absolutely no idea what to tape for us as “suggestions”. We had it doing college football, food shows, Weeds, What Not to went through a weird “record anything with homosexual overtones” period before settling on mostly Food Network shows and Premiership soccer. Which is fine by me.




Everybody Hates Chris – I first thought it got absolutely screwed with this lame Sunday 6pm time slot, but then I realized that that means it doesn’t interfere with anything else I’d be wanting to TiVo. It might cut off the ends of the 4pm NFL games, but I can go into another room to watch that. Good show here. When it first started, I was curious how they would manage to keep up the off-beat humor and pacing (by far its biggest strengths...that, and a strong supporting cast…especially the parents), but it stayed entertaining throughout the whole season, and now I’m looking forward to Season Two.

Simpsons – Come on, it’s an institution. Looks like they’ll be pushing this thing right through 20 seasons, which is just amazing. And it’s still strong. Granted, it’s not as good as it was in the 1993-1997 range, but nothing ever will be. It stays surprising, and, after a couple of weak seasons in the 2002-2004 range, they seem to have established a strong rhythm again. Maybe the challenge of the Family Guy gave them a creativity kick in the ass.

Desperate Housewives – The biggest debate on the schedule is Housewives vs Family Guy, but the fact is, Family Guy re-runs are on all the time, so I caved on this one. Actually, The Butterfly also prefers FG (gotta love her for that), but this show provides good bonding time for Butterfly and her mom (Madame Butterfly? Sorry...), and it would break her heart if we stopped watching it. And it’s silly enough to enjoy.

Iron Chef America – Can you tell there’s an Alton Brown fan in the house? I’m not talking about myself here, but I will say that I’ve learned more from him, kitchen-wise, than anybody else I’ve had the pleasure/duty of watching on Food Network. And Bobby Flay, though arrogant, makes some good looking dishes.

So there you go. As would be expected with a Good Nonsense weirdo, we miss most of the big-name shows (Lost, Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.), but we stay entertained.

Anything out there that we absolutely must add to the schedule? It’s pretty booked already.


Words You'll Never Hear from Me Again

Go read Lou Dobbs.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

No, THIS Is Why Billmon's the Best

The Boy is pushing Billlmon's Orwell montage. I'm saying you should make sure you read this one on global warming. It's typical brilliance so read it all. Here's the money quote, though.

This is the kind of news that really tempts me to give up blogging, quit my job, abandon my family and go look for a good Zen Buddhist monastary in which to contemplate eternity while awaiting the end.

Or, at the very least, maybe I should put a disclaimer at the beginning of each Whiskey Bar post saying something like:

"While the political and/or economic topics discussed herein could be very important, it's also possible that they don't matter jack squat because the world as you and I know it is about to be parboiled."

Of course, this is what we've been saying. But we're not Billmon.


Weather, Water, Energy 9-19-06

Congrats to Great Britain!! Fishermen there just caught off the English shore an Atlantic triple fin fish, a fish normally found only off the coasts of Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean. It's joining the sunfish as a new arrival. Think of the new tourist fishing opportunities global warming will bring England and Ireland. (Except if that old "collapse of the Gulf Stream" thing . . . never mind.) . . . Speaking of Britain, the BBC reports on a new study there that shows temps in central England are up one degree (that weird centigrade one) since the '50s, and scientists estimate the odds of the increase not being human-related are less than 5%. Congrats again!!! . . . A good NY Times article (it can happen) on a Union of Concerned Scientists study detailing how age of reactor and experience of managers have no impact on their proneness to costly, lengthy shutdowns. Not thrilling news for those wanting to build new ones and pass the costs and dangers onto the next generation, the real US national pastime. . . . Terra Daily has a piece on Purdue Research Foundation technology that promises to produce ethanol at lower cost than existing techniques. . . . The AP has a story on the announcement from the CA, OR, and WA governors of their agreement to begin working together to manage Pacific health. Their efforts will include a joint message to Congress in the next 6 months opposing oil and gas leasing, development, or exploration off their Pacific coasts, along with a coastal regional research plan. Think the "dead zone" off OR we mentioned in an earlier "Weather . . . " had anything to do with it? . . . And, as we ponder what needs to be done to address the crises that face us on those topics, let us end with The Man Who Should Be King, Mr. Gore, who came out blasting both parties in a speech yesterday, but clearly going after Bushnev and his Politburo. You should read the whole article but, if you're in a hurry, here's the close, which will be ours as well:

In his speech, Gore framed the pursuit of renewable energy as an economic and national security issue for the United States, besides being an environmental imperative. But he also said the challenge of global climate change offered opportunities for innovation and investment.

'We can change this by inventing and manufacturing new solutions to stop global warming right here in America,' he said, adding that
venture capitalists are eager to put money behind effective technologies to cut greenhouse gases.

Gore laid out several policy proposals for reducing global warming. They included:

_ An immediate freeze on carbon dioxide emissions. He said continued debates on the matter represented 'a delusional and reckless approach.'
_ A retooling of U.S. auto giants to manufacture hybrid vehicles instead of gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. Such a transformation, Gore said, would save thousands of jobs at the car companies.
_ A shift to a greater reliance on ethanol, wind and solar energy.
_ A requirement that all new buildings to be 'carbon neutral,' meaning they don't produce more than they consume, by 2030.
_ An elimination of payroll taxes in favor of pollution taxes. 'Instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees, it would discourage business from producing more pollution,' Gore said.



I already know the answer to this question, but...what can be done about this?

[W]e’ve probably been executing military operations inside Iran for at least 18 months. The evidence is overwhelming.


The House Committee on Emerging Threats tried to have a hearing some weeks ago in which they asked the Department of State and Defense to come and answer this question because it’s serious enough to be answered without congressional approval, and they didn’t come to the hearing. There are sources that I have talked to on the Hill who believe that that’s true and that it’s being done without congressional oversight.


Number one, we have learned from TIME Magazine today that some U.S. naval forces had been alerted for deployment. That is a major step. That’s first. Second thing is the sources suggest the plan that’s not in the Pentagon. The plan has gone to the White House. That’s not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we’ve gone to a different state.
I guess the short answer is, nothing can be done about it. I can’t decide which will effectively end our relationship with the rest of the world first—this, or our deciding the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to us. Geneva has had the upper hand for a while, but unprovoked war with Iran is gaining ground quickly.

And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Well, hopefully
Jonathan Singer is right...though the odds of this aren't nearly as high as I wish they were. Our only hope is that Americans say enough is enough.

Leaving aside the fact that it would be terrible policy for America to initiate war with Iran at this juncture, this move could prove political suicide for the GOP. On the most surface level, the prospect of an expanding regional conflict between Iran and the United States would almost undoubtedly raise the price of oil (and thus the consumer's bill at the pump). But it would also play directly into voters' concerns about Republicans.

Polling released over the last couple of months has shown that while voters harbor some concerns that a Democratic victory in Congressional elections in November will weaken America's ability to combat terrorism, many more worry that a Republican majority would
overextend the US military and get the US involved in too many military operations. While Republicans have trotted out the "Democrats are weak on terror" card so often that it is losing its effectiveness, new developments in US-Iranian relations indicate that voters' worries about the continuation of Republican control might already be coming to fruition today.
Then again, the more likely response from American voters is “I don’t like what Republicans are doing at all...but we’re at war, so I have to give them my support,” or something like that.

Meanwhile, I don’t think #3 on
Tristero’s list would fall into the category of “surprise” at this point, would it? I mean...considering...

[T]the DOD has (naturally) been doing some analysis on airstrikes against Iran. The upshot of the analysis was that conventional bombardment would degrade the Iranian nuclear program by about 50 percent. By contrast, if the arsenal included small nuclear weapons, we could get up to about 80 percent destroying. In response to this, persons inside the Office of the Vice President took the view that we could use the nukes — in other words, launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike against Iran — and then simply deny that we’d done so. Detectable radiation in the area of the bombed sites would be attributed to the fact that they were, after all, nuclear facilities we’d just hit.