Friday, October 1, 2010

Adventures in stupidity

If this was fiction, it would be edited out for being too stereotypical, but it's real:
I tell ya, we’ve got some new problems in Washington. Big problems. Just today, Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said people in America are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. They want to give all the power to the federal government to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables. This is what the federal, CDC, they gonna be calling you to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, every day. This is socialism of the highest order!
GzeroP Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia.

Seriously, people? You want them back in power?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nobody could have predicted....

We're having a cool summer here in Sonoma County. It's wonderful. I'm grateful to live here when I read about the muggy, sticky steam bath that the rest of the country is suffering in.

Those of you having to endure that, can take a tiny bit of comfort in the fact that others have it worse:
The extreme heat has led to the worst drought conditions in European Russia in a half-century, prompting the Russian government to suspend wheat exports. The drought has caused extreme fire danger over most of European Russia (Figure 3), and fires in Russia have killed at least 50 people in the past week and leveled thousands of homes. The fires are the worst since 1972, when massive forest and peat bog fires burned an area of 100,000 square km and killed at 104 people in the Moscow region alone. Smoke from the current fires spans a region over 3,000 km (1,860 miles) from east to west, approximately the distance from San Francisco to Chicago.
Stephen Andrew explains what this would be like here:
To put this in rough perspective -- and note this is not absolutely precise, it's purely ballpark to give you some feel for what the Russian people are enduring -- if this heat wave was hitting North America, it would be near 100°F in Fairbanks, Alaska. Most of Canada would be baking at 100° or higher, the northeast, from Maine to the Great Lakes region would be hitting upwards of 105° everyday, even the nightly low in the massive urban heat islands of New York and Chicago would be over 90°! The midwest grain belt and parts of the Pacific Northwest would not see a drop of rain for two months and pushing as high as 110° in places. The desert southwest, even some of the higher elevations of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas, would be as uninhabitable as Death Valley or the Sahara.
A nightmare scenario that, sadly, we have been warned about for many years. Nobody wanted to hear it then, and people still don't, now. The problem with all of this is that these nightmare scenarios are now reality, and this reality will get worse. How much worse depends on what we do next.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


The Porsche 918 Spyder concept car has been greenlighted for production. Why do we care? Well, as a former 911 owner who still likes fast cars, but is also a realist who understands that gas-gulping supercars contribute to our mounting environmental collapse, this car shows you can have the best of both worlds.

500 horsepower from the gas engine to the rear wheels, along with another 218 HP from electric motors on the front wheels. 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. 198 mph top end. 78 miles per gallon.

Along with Tesla's pocket rocket that doesn't use any gas at all, and the amazing White Zombie, it shows that motorheads are warming up to petroleum alternatives.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

If Republicans take Congress in November

The fine folks who shut down government for an extramarital blowjob vow more of the same if they regain the majority:
According to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the House Republicans should exercise their power to subpoena and hold continuous hearings. Speaking to a gathering for the GOP Youth Convention on July 22 in Washington, D.C., she emphasized this point.

“Oh, I think that’s all we should do,” Bachmann said. “I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another. And expose all the nonsense that is going on. And it’s very important when we come back that we have constitutional conservative leadership because the American people’s patience is about this big.”
Did you get that? No legislation, no efforts whatsoever to solve the nation's problems, just one witch hunt after another for at least two years. These people still love George W. Bush and think he did a fine job. These are the stakes for this election.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who they really work for

Tony Hayward was supposed to be grilled by congress but Joe Barton(R-TX) couldn't help himself. Republicans were furious that he let their true intentions show, and made him apologize for apologizing. Republicans and their Teabag lackeys are supposed to be for the little people, but don't let them fool you. Their allegiance is to corporations, not the Constitution.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Won't spend a day in jail

Dubya casually admitted that he's guilty of war crimes, and that he'd do it again. Never mind that. The real outrage comes from Paul McCartney.

Wait, let's send this guy to jail instead.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Election time again

Boris Johnson

Don't forget to vote on Tuesday if you haven't already sent your ballot in! For those of you who haven't made your minds up, let me offer my recommendations on the ballot measures and selected races.

First and foremost for Sonoma County residents, vote Jill Ravitch for DA! The DA's office is currently wallowing in misery under a graduate from the Captain Queeg School of Management. Jill will have the prosecutors loving their jobs again, benefiting us in the process.

Prop. 13 - Yes. Though the name Proposition 13 bring a gnashing of the teeth, this one fixes some confusion regarding the reassessment of seismic upgrades.

Prop. 14 - No. Takes away the ability of parties to choose their own candidates, lessen third-party participation and unfairly decreases the power of progressives.

Prop. 15 - Yes. It's a step in the direction of taking money out of politics. We don't need eMegs and iCarlys buying elections.

Prop. 16 - No. PG&E's plan to protect their monopoly. Will take power away from voters.

Prop. 17 - No. Mercury wants to gouge more money out of you and is using this as a tool to do so.

Whatever you think, vote! Remember what Frank Zappa said, "if you don't vote, don't bitch."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jill Ravitch makes her case

LeeJ and I are volunteering for Jill Ravitch's campaign for Sonoma County DA. Here's some reasons why:

Now that Stephan Passalacqua is taking a page out of Karl Rove's book to keep his position and losing support over it, the choice is clear. We need somebody who cares more about the job than the career.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill!

How's that oily, drilly, thing workin' for ya? Currently spewing oil at the rate of four Exxon Valdez's every week, our newest poster child for corporate greed is threatening the Gulf coast with an environmental and economic disaster. Not surprisingly the greasy fingerprints of Halliburton are all over this, and there's more to come.

Just another Republican atrocity that'll be blamed on the Democrats.

Almost forgot, picture credit: NASA/Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center MODIS Direct Broadcast system. That's right, you can already see this from space.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Liars being honest for once

A cluster of admissions today gives us a glimpse of how much we can trust our leaders:

Republican congressmen say, "everybody thinks that Iraq was a mistake." I guess you were too busy strutting and chest-bumping to let us know that.

John McCain says he never considered himself a maverick. Sheesh, after building an entire persona around that?

Our military brass covered up two sickening incidents, just now admitting the cold-blooded murder of two pregnant women and a teenage girl, among others, then attempting to hide the evidence in an especially grisly way. The other is a 2007 video posted by Wikileaks from a helicopter gunship slaughtering 12 people, including two Reuters employees, with the crew celebrating.

Every now and then the mask slips and we see the rot underneath.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finally done


Health insurance reform legislation passed in the Senate today after more than a year of wrangling between progressive and corporate Democrats, and an all-out effort among Republicans to derail it. The Teabaggers and other right-wingers throughout the country reacted with their usual grace and sophistication: racist and homophobic slurs, vandalism, threats, envelopes of white powder in the mail and other charming instances of the spittle-flecked, purple-faced rage that spills over whenever a small, long-overdue step towards social justice is achieved.

The ignorance and incoherence of the Right was in full flower during the past year, what with cries of "keep government hands off my medicare," attacks on medical patients and children, and the comparison of Obama to Hitler in the apparent belief that attempting to solve the healthcare crisis is equivalent to exterminating millions of people.

The spectacle was similar to school integration in the 60's when the desire of dark-skinned children to have a better educations was a crime worthy of capital punishment by vigilante mobs.

It would have been nice to have a single-payer system or at least a public option for all this effort, but when you want something more than your opponent does, you are at a disadvantage in the negotiation process.

There is good to be had out of this, with the closing of the Medicare donut hole, the ending of discrimination against pre-existing conditions, ending limits on coverage, and of course, extending coverage to more people. I also hope that this ordeal has finally convinced Democrats that Republicans care about nothing but regaining power and will never negotiate in good faith.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What's up with Pluto?

Pluto, that used to be a planet but got laid off, is giving itself a make over. Hubble imagery analyzed over several years by planetary scientist Marc Buie at the Southwest Research Institute shows rapid color changes between 1994 and 2003. The Hubble is a powerful telescope but Pluto is rather small and very far away so this is still amazing:

Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Buie (SwRI).

The color changes are considered to be the result of methane ice sublimating into the atmosphere as the northern spring progresses. Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams noted this gives rise to a new mystery:
I thought the liveliest part of the teleconference on Pluto yesterday was Marc Buie’s response to what had appeared in his datasets. Buie (Southwest Research Institute) was looking at imagery collected by the Hubble Space Telescope from 2002 to 2003 and comparing it with the results of earlier ground-based observations, as well as with Hubble pictures taken in 1994. The dramatic reddening seems to have occurred between 2000 and 2002, even as the illuminated northern hemisphere continued to get brighter.

Asked about his reactions to the newer Hubble imagery, Buie was candid:

“The color change in such a short period had me scared, because it’s so hard to understand. I’ve been checking absolutely everything I can think of, wondering if I screwed this up somehow and got the wrong answer. If I did, I can’t find the mistake.”

Another key point: In the Hubble imagery, the color of Charon remains the same throughout, whereas the reddening of Pluto is pronounced.
Credit: NASA, ESA and M. Buie (SwRI).

Something weird is going on way out there. The enigmatic object, now considered to be a Kuiper belt object has some stories to tell. Rather than a frozen ball of ice, Pluto is turning out to be a dynamic world, with seasons, an atmosphere and a varied surface silently lurking in the dark.

New Horizons is due to reach Pluto and Charon in 2015 to capture the first close-up images of the frigid ex-planet. In addition it will acquire chemical and spectral data so maybe Pluto will tell us a few of those stories and hint at a few more. Bet on surprises. I can hardly wait.

Friday, January 22, 2010

SOLD to the highest bidder

This week the Supreme Court handed the country to multinational corporations. The Citizens United v. FEC ruling gave corporations unlimited ability to fund candidates. Unlimited. That means they can recruit or seduce their own candidates, give them enough money to blow a billionaire out of the water and buy the U. S. government, a seat at a time. Or all at once.

While constitutional scholars point out that this case actually strengthens First Amendment rights, the effect it will have on our political environment is undeniable.
But it’s one thing for U.S. firms to have their say. What about foreign companies that operate U.S. subsidiaries? Many of these, like American businesses, are owned by ordinary shareholders — but a host of others are owned, in whole or in part, by the foreign governments themselves.

One prominent examples is CITGO Petroleum Company — once the American-born Cities Services Company, but purchased in 1990 by the Venezuelan government-owned PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela S.A. The Citizens United ruling could conceivably allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has sharply criticized both of the past two U.S. presidents, to spend government funds to defeat an American political candidate, just by having CITGO buy TV ads bashing his target.

And it’s not just Chavez. The Saudi government owns Houston’s Saudi Refining Company and half of Motiva Enterprises. Lenovo, which bought IBM’s PC assets in 2004, is partially owned by the Chinese government’s Chinese Academy of Sciences. And Singapore’s APL Limited operates several U.S. port operations. A weakening of the limit on corporate giving could mean China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and any other country that owns companies that operate in the U.S. could also have significant sway in American electioneering.
Milton Friedman was wrong. Corporations are not people, and they don't deserve rights as such. Campaign finance needs to be reformed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Decade

george w. bush, muntadhar al-zaidi and nuri al-maliki

The first decade of the 21st century is now in the books. It can be remembered as the decade that conservatives were given everything they wanted. They were given all three branches of government by the branch they already owned; the Supreme Court. Osama Bin Laden gave them the war they always wanted with a bonus war, Afghanistan, thrown in. Phil Gramm, Alan Greenspan and others gave them the economy they always wanted. They were also given the energy policy they wanted (drill, baby, drill), the gun control policy they wanted, (none), the unitary executive they wanted, and the media they always wanted(Fox Noise).

They went on a binge and we were left with the hangover. We were told that they knew what they were doing and to sit down and shut up. We're now currently enjoying the results. It was only when we ignored that admonition that we could slow the destruction. Something to consider in the upcoming decade.