[[ Check out my Wordpress blog Context/Earth for environmental and energy topics tied together in a semantic web framework ]]

Monday, February 28, 2005

I'm trying asbestos I can

I hereby relent and finally admit to believing in the theory of Intelligent Design -- the assertion that empirical evidence supports the conclusion that the initial life on earth, and perhaps some of its present details, was deliberately designed by one or more intelligent agents.

But as a striking challenge to the traditionalist ID'ers, I contest that my theory of Intelligent Design Design (IDD) beats all other comers in simplicity and self-consistency. Moreover, the theory, if taken to heart, should make all sides happy.

I postulate my theory based on two premises:
  1. That an Intelligent Designer created all life on earth and all the by-products subsequently derived, including fossil fuels
  2. But, something else designed the Intelligent Designer
I know that the first premise seems a tad wacky, but given a valid model for the second premise I think I can make it work.

My proposed model for Intelligent Design Design follows from a basic set of principles:
  • That an Intelligent Design Designer progressed from humble beginnings to an advanced form. I explain this via the process of nevolution, which essentially describes a succession of IDD agents over long periods of time
  • Along the way, the IDD deity-forms faced nutations in their functionality, allowing for variability in outcomes of agent formulations. "Survival of the fittest" agent provided a path to improvements in successive generations
  • Satural nelection eliminated IDD forms that proved out as dead-ends
  • As a corollary, certain elements of the IDD agents, hypothetically referred to as nenes, allowed the successful attributes to propagate forward through a mechanism I call ninheritance
  • Finally, at some long nevolved point in time, a nutated IDD agent achieved great technical proficiency. This IDD agent, let's call it Narwin, one day got bored and decided to start a hobby. After a bit of browsing through the back pages of a popular in-house science magazine, searching for some good ideas, Narwin latched on to the idea of letting loose a mixture of low-level and Bush-league life-forms on the planet Earth.
And the rest follows: 10,000 years of history.

Like I said, bullet-proof. And, are we happy now?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Cat as Trophy

Some patient souls have resigned themselves to waiting out the effects of the current administration's policies. They figure that whatever valley of doom we descend into, a resurgent democratic wake-up call will likely propel us back up the slope before we suffer any permanent damage. But as Dave Johnson of STF reminds us what happened when a similar perception pervaded 1930's Germany:
"Ernst Thalmann thought the same thing.

He died in Buchenwald."
The administration cutting back on federal funding for Amtrak, in some non-specific trial-balloon fashion, positions us further down the valley. Does BushCo have patents that cover the absurdity of their arguments?
Mineta said the federal government is better off spending wisely on transit projects created by the states than continuing to subsidize Amtrak. He mentioned Washington's $345 million investment in a rail line that runs from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia. He said ridership on that line has grown more than 300 percent in recent years.
Unless Vancouver resides in the United States, that sounds like a co-investment with Canada. And why wouldn't a transit line that stretches across a couple of states not show a similar ridership increase? I see little reasoning left for arguing with these knuckleheads. If this keeps up, plan for short commutes in the near future.

Philalethes has an interesting take on reducing consumption.
And while we're at it, what's the cost of impressing one's corporate cronies with a Cartier watch, instead of buying a ten-dollar digital from Walgreen's? About $4,440 , if you're pinching your pennies; you could easily spend five times that. And yet, you'll find Cartiers in boardrooms all over the country. What better target for journalistic mockery could there be than these money-squandering herd animals?
As I understand the argument, we have plenty of similar candidates waiting for energy harvest. For example, take first-class seating on airlines. I propose a simple conservation solution that essentially crams more people into first-class, but those passengers retain the distinction of their First-Class status. They still get seated first, and get to sneer at the rest of the rabble passing down the aisle. What more do they want? Increasing energy efficiency while maintaining class distinction should impress their corporate cronies just as much as a Cartier or a Prius.

Another 21st century status symbol: A stripper well in the backyard pumping a barrel of oil a day. I predict Huntington Beach will challenge Malibu as primo status real-estate. After all, NIMBY can only go on for so long.

Thom Hartmann gives us another Hitler analogy:
To the extent that our Constitution is still intact, the choice is again ours.

If this discussion occurred on Usenet circa 1990, the newsgroup police would have shut it down on the first mention of the fascist dictator. As I have mentioned him alot now, I officially loose and will pack it in.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Connect the dots

On her Saturday Air America radio show, Laura Flanders challenges "Where's the journalism, people? It's deal cutting time". This in response to the Bush-Putin meeting. She goes on, paraphrasing:
Bush and Putin meet for an hour and a half. Were they talking about democracy for all that time? I don't think so. They were talking about oil.

  1. Before the Iraq war: "President Vladimir Putin has assured LUKoil, the nation's largest oil producer, that its valuable assets in Iraq will be protected whether or not Saddam Hussein is driven from power", LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov told the Financial Times in an interview published Friday. (link)

  2. February 18: "Conoco has just boosted its stake to 10 percent and continues to buy. I think they're going to close the transaction and increase the stake to 20 percent within a year," LUKOIL Vice President Leonid Fedun told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in London. (link)

  3. Press conference transcript: "We also discussed the issues relating to Russia-U.S. energy dialogue. We've had some progress in this area, some good progress. We're going to continue this dialogue. Some issues have been positively resolved in terms of expanding the operation of U.S. companies in Russian energy markets. ConocoPhilips, as you know, has bought a stake in Lukoil, one of the major Russian oil companies. It bought a stake that used to belong to the Russia state. This happened recently, and I'm confident that this will be a success story, both for Russian and U.S. partners." said George W. Bush. (link)

  4. Yesterday:"LUKoil is planning to initiate negotiations to confirm its participation in development of the West Qurna oil field in Iraq as soon as the country's government has been formed, Vaghit Alekperov, head of LUKoil, stated yesterday. LUKoil owns 68.5 percent of shares in the development project of one of the world's largest oil fields - West Qurna, with oil reserves estimated at 20bn barrels." (link)

Notice that Bush talked about Russian "energy markets". Remember: Russia's energy markets don't necessarily reside in Russia. As Noam Chomsky has remarked, when somebody says the words "world trade" or international partnerships it doesn't necessarily mean a straightforward transaction of goods or resources between two countries has occurred.
So, for example, Ford Motor Company will have components manufactured here in the US and then ship them for assembly to a plant in Mexico where the workers get much lower wages and where Ford doesn't have to worry about pollution, unions and all that nonsense. Then they ship the assembled part back here.

About half of what are called US exports to Mexico are intrafirm transfers of this sort. They don't enter the Mexican market, and there's no meaningful sense in which they're exports to Mexico. Still, that's called "trade."

So, if we connect the dots around Bush's elliptical ramblings, the US needs to get in on the action or risk losing control of an Iraq source of oil.

other bits
WFMU radio has an audio archive of Chomsky illustrating how to parse globalization new-speak from a Cambridge talk he gave last month.

Also, kudos to Los Angeles station KTLK 1150AM for carrying AirAmerica. On travel, I noted that one days programming consisted of Marc Maron/Mark Riley railing against Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil exploration in the morning, Thom Hartman (subbing for Randi Rhodes) spearing rethug callers who questioned climate change concerns in the afternoon, and Sam Sedar/Janeane interviewing Jared Diamond in the evening. Why would anyone even consider listening to NPR for important issues anymore?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ox Gored

I have returned from business travel where I have witnessed the "ancient ritual in which everyone involved in slaughtering an ox avoided taking personal responsibility by passing blame onto someone else."

How refreshing to find, in the first blog I visit after returning, a perfect capsulization of the corporate world, both in macro and micro terms.

Figuratively, and almost literally, the powers have declared that I appear upside-down while everyone else exists right-side-up. I will take responsibility if that indeed pans out as true. However, if my inverted world holds true: Mr. blame machine please meet yours truly, Mr. immovable object.

Witnessing how these miniature socio-engineering experiments play out gives me pause on how larger issues ever get solved, or worse yet, erroneous solutions ever get overturned when based on incorrect premises. As always, I could be wrong, but like an ox, I possess a thicker than everage skin.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tour de Force

Anybody that has taken minimal economics in college has had to make the decision whether to go for the course in Macro or the course in Micro. For whatever reason I opted for the Macro course. (Taught by Walter Heller of JFK's CEA, that and a risk/insurance class comprised my business training.)

In the hard sciences I ended up taking lots of the equivalent macro courses, statistical mechanics chief among them. Studying how large populations of "dumb" particles interact cooperatively and independently, you quickly realize that you can make some gross predictions of numerical trends for "smarter" macro problems and that's about it. Topics like oil depletion estimation make up the mathematical landscape I inhabit.

This and the problems of chaos in general quickly sours one to worrying about futuristic apocalyptic visions. I won't pretend to predict how anything will turn out. Even the simplest predator-prey equations can drive a numerical analyst batty. Constructing more complex theories over how people will battle over table scraps just leads to mental traumas of a more clinical nature.

I mention all this because I don't think that the majority of the population understands the difficulty in predicting group behavior. If somebody says that Microsoft will disappear by 2009, I tune it out. Others believe that with a sufficiently persuasive rhetorical argument, you can sell books on any topic (see DOW 36,000 or the yet-to-be-published Bush Social Security fantasy).

Granted, in an artistic sense, I can appreciate when other people attempt to paint a picture. Good writing is good writing. However, I have an admission to make: even though I have a blogroll link to the Life After The Oil Crash web site, I have yet to browse through any of the post-crash scenarios that populate the site. Moreover, I don't think I have posted anything on this site on any futuristic sci-fi vision of my own making. I ask myself: What does it really accomplish?

With that I applaud Philalethes' tour de force articulation of my own thoughts, prefaced by Monkeygrinder's intro.

Kudos to both.

Plus, I really like the idea of subsidies for encouraging people to ride their bike to work. In the immediate future, and for me, it's really about health, fitness, and making the environment more pleasant. Screw the apocalypse. Do the little things and claim them as your own personal Tour de France victories.

International Petroleum Exchange riot

When a trader left the building shortly before 2pm, using a security swipe card, a protester dropped some coins on the floor and, as he bent down to pick them up, put his boot in the door to keep it open.

Oil is a metaphor for greed. More than anything in this story, the Greenpeace Kyoto demonstrators opening gambit to gain access to the petroleum trading floor shows a jaded brilliance. The theory goes that rich people will go out of their way to grab coins off the street, even though it is not time/cost-effective to do so.

And, given the next scene, the trader probably did not pick up the coins out of kindness to his fellow man:
“They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”

As I write this, Air America Radio's Laura Flanders is interviewing Greenpeace's climate campaigner Kurt Davies who verifies in a low-key manner the filing cabinet incident. Go to Air America Place for archives.

A novel idea

Normal Mailer wrote an interesting short piece on how creating a well-formulated novel has much in common with doing good reporting. He points to the importance of a good hypothesis as the critical element of any fiction that purports to represent some alternate reality. Any bad hypothesis will quickly get decimated by logical fallacies and inconsistencies, much like what happens to any journalist that starts to spin a story incorrectly.

After discarding all the other hypotheses, Mailer lands on this:
"I expect Cheney, for one, is in Iraq for one reason: oil. Without a full wrestler's grip on control of the Middle East oil, America's economic problems will continue to expand. That is why we will remain in Iraq for years to come. For nothing will be gained if we depart after the new semi-oppressive state is cobbled together. We will have gone back to America with nothing but the problems which led us to Iraq in the first place plus the onus that a couple of hundred billion dollars were spent in the quagmire."

Foreshadowing of Mailer's next manuscript perhaps?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Kingpin Projection

EE Times published a curious letter from T.J. Rodgers of chip manufacturer Cypress Semiconductor which essentially lambasted energy evangelist Richard Smalley for excess self-promotion:
It is true that sometime after my lifetime (I'm 56), we will run out of oil, in the sense that the oil available will be lower in supply and much higher in price. At that time, we will either have to consume less energy or turn to alternative sources, such as solar power.
Professor Smalley should stop talking about megagrants and megaprojects until he can articulate a clear-cut path as to how nanotechnology can contribute to the improvement of the solar industry in a vision at least as specific as the one above.
I have a couple of problems with Rodgers attitude. First, I don't believe Smalley has ever placed his research priorities above those of achieving a cooperative energy solutions, especially in regards to any public lecture he has given. Secondly, even if Smalley has advocated nanotechnology solutions elsewhere, this should not surprise anyone; when it comes to "domain" research solutions, he well should concentrate on what he specializes in.

Whether or not Smalley provides a rebuttal to this accusation, it points to a coming battle over turf between free-market solutions and government-funded initiatives. Unfortunately, T.J. Rogers has had a long-running history of taking a libertarian attitude to government interference (see keynote address of 1999 California Libertarian Party convention -- co-billed with Tim Lambert's arch-nemesis John Lott!).

Bottom-line, Rodgers has perfected the fine art of projection. By accusing Smalley of steering the government to potential solutions or common goals (ala the 60's space program), he actually secretly wants this money for himself. And like every corporate kingpin, he will likely use every trick in the book to get it.

Couple together a 25-year-old unnecessary slime of Carter with a few right-wing talking points and Rodgers is well on his way of currying favor with the current administration.
Rodgers:Smalley's solution to the energy problem is for the government — preferably under a "visionary" leader such as Jimmy Carter — to spend huge sums to focus carbon-based nanotechnology, buckyballs and nanotubes on solar-energy applications. He wants the taxpayer to fund his vision. Smalley puts your money where his mouth is.

We could be seeing our next Secretary of Energy in the making.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Wisdom from U. of Colorado

Professor talks at exponential rate
Bartlett believes such proactivity hinges on ending the widespread "innumeracy" — illiteracy with numbers — with respect to the hard truths of exponential growth.


"He sat down in a chair and you felt like you were talking to your uncle, who by God is going to tell you how the cow eats cabbage," Nation said.

Prof. Bartlett,
Thanks for all the work you have done over the years in educating us to resource depletion issues. I happened across a paper you wrote from the 70's referencing the publisher of Fishing Facts magazine, George Pazik.

I remember reading Pazik's editorials warning of an oil crisis when I was a teenager, and his insights have stayed with me since.

Here is his very thoughtful response ->

Thanks for writing.

George Pazik was very much a fan and admirer of the work of Hubbert. I once spoke in Milwaukee and George came down to hear me and we had a nice talk. George had a lot of courage to write articles about oil depletion in a fishing magazine.

I will send you an e-mail following this one, and it will have a long attachment which contains reprints of a number of articles I have written on these related subjects. I hope you'll find them interesting.

With best wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours,


Link to Prof. Bartlett's classic paper on exponential growth with the footnote to the Fishing Facts article!

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Because of difficult-to-break habits, I have tended to use footnotes liberally in my blog posts. Apparently, this will prove handy for me should I ever have to do battle with wing-nut politicos1.

1Mooney, C., Fun with Footnotes, excerpt: (Senator) Inhofe then commented that Crichton's novel "should have been required reading" and noted, "It is all footnoted in areas that are just incontrovertible in terms of the science.", The Internets (2005).2

2 Bubba says: I'm not impressed with your footnote.
Actually the reference to Inhofe reminds me of Al Franken's comments about Ann(tichrist) Coulter and her book Treason (or Slander - I didn't read either one). Anyway, Coulter's defense of her outlandish comments was that they were all supported by references "in the footnotes". Of course the "footnotes" were all BS.

3 WHT replies: Granted. But did she have cascaded footnotes that referenced other footnotes? That really shows superior intellect :)

Fruity Pebbles

Hey kids! Build a nuclear power plant, just like this:
The modules can be made in factories with high quality control, transported to a site, and assembled Lego-like into a power plant.


The "plug-and-play" approach to construction and the small size of the reactor could revolutionize how nuclear plants are built. "If this works, the economic obstacle to building new plants will be removed," said Kadak. If competitive, such small, modular plants will be attractive not only to the U.S. market but also to China and other rapidly developing countries that have widely dispersed populations.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Disposable Idiot

A local self-styled "taxpayer revolt" radio show presented for once an interesting topic. Although it usually consists of "get out of my yard, you dang kids" style rants, on one segment the host1 switched gears into a discussion of corn-based ethanol as a fuel replacement. He apparently chose this topic because of a proposed Minnesota law to maintain a minimum 20% ethanol content at consumer gasoline pumps, backed by a favored Republican governor.

Typically, ethanol topics bring out the libertarian side of human nature; opinions expressed usually include "it gunks up my car", "mom, apple pie, and gasoline", and "hippie earth-firsters". True to form, the dialog occasionally veered toward this territory but a serious undercurrent crept into the discussion, deep enough to undercut many of the traditional conservative "values" that the host had previously ranted about. This included admission of the importance of secular mass transit and amoral energy conservation principles.

As a smart move, the host brought in David Pimental of Cornell University, who has studied ethanol energy efficiency for several decades. I don't know much about Pimental's political leanings, but he kept responses mostly apolitical, preferring to talk only in terms of energy return. He covered ground much like this:
from PeakOil.com
I'll quote Richard Heinberg at p. 156 of The Party's Over:
Richard Heinberg wrote:
Cornell University professor David Pimental, who has performed a thorough net-energy analysis of ethanol, found that an acre of corn ultimately yields, on average, 328 gallons of ethanol. It takes 1000 gallons of fossil fuel to plant, grow and harvest this quantity of corn. Additional energy must be used in distilling the ethanol. In sum, 131,000 BTU are needed to make one gallon of ethanol, which has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU. This gives ethanol an EROEI of roughly 0.59, meaning a 41 percent net loss of energy.

Pimental definitely leans toward the commonly held opinion that ethanol as a net consumes more energy than it consumes. This conflicts a bit with others that claim by incorporating solar and using it for other than automotive applications you can bring up the EROIE as described in a Pimental rebuttal.

The most fascinating aspect of the radio show segment pertained to how the conservative host kept his eyes glued on only one thing -- to halt the ethanol madness. I could not believe that when Pimental mentioned in passing that the U.S. has used up 90% of its recoverable oil, the host did not respond and continued his ethanol-only line of questioning, clearly conveying that he believed that petroleum will continue to meet our needs. (Even bringing up the Arctic National Wildllife Refuge as some spectacular oil asset. Philalethes points out that Bush and his trusty budget believe the same fiction.)

In the end, I heard not one acknowledgement of the reality of oil depletion.

Conclusion: Ethanol subsidy discussions will work as a stealth issue to eventually corner the right-wing into admitting that we cannot contine as an one-trick-pony oiligarchy. Although likely not intentional, this little political pork-barrel of ethanol will result in a polarizing effect more extreme than any issue I can think of. When they start to add two and two together and find that we do not have any energy strategy and that ethanol lacks clothes, we will see some heads explode.

Given the fact that a significant fraction of citizens still believe that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, many probably also believe that conglomerates such as Archer Daniel Midlands can provide an endless source of energy for the future (commercials don't lie!). The difference being that the right-wing think tanks will continue to generate support for the former but are starting to show cracks in their belief in the latter.

1 David Strom, president of The Taxpayer's League think-tank, Ethanol Press Release

Friday, February 11, 2005

Another Forgery?

Although this blog deals primarily with energy issues, we occasionally make forays into exposing cases of fakes, frauds, and forgeries.

Fox TV personality Bill O'Reilly made news over 35 years ago for punting a ball backwards, and has been making news lately for spewing things out of his mouth ass-backwards. His recent Super Bowl essay chronicling his football heritage is only the latest installment.

The sleuthy Keith Olberman initially deconstructed O'Reilly's claims of winning national punting titles as an athletic youth by pointing out his college club-level affiliations (one step up from intramural). As part of an apparent rebuttal, O'Reilly provided a kind of defense by posting statistical and photographic evidence of his exploits as a Marist student-athlete (best analogy, picture a much, much shorter and slower Rik Smits). Unfortunately, O'Reilly has provided no corroboration for the veracity of the statistical evidence. As far as I can tell, O'Reilly called on no expert witnesses, preferably computer or NASA rocket scientists, to inspect the (evidently) typewritten but blurry N-generation photo-copied stat-sheets.

Olberman also found the after-effects of his early deconstruction most puzzling, bordering on the defensive. Keith relates:
Apparently I struck one of Mr. O'Reilly's many nerves.

Tuesday, I got one of the damnedest e-mails I've ever received, anonymous other than for its return address and the signature "J., Chicago, IL." Whoever wrote it seems to have been the club football equivalent of Deep Throat: "A long time friend of mine (and long time NFL scout) once told me that Bill O'Reilly could have dominated in the NFL as a punter if he had chosen that career path," he began. "And a cousin of mine..." -- maybe the best comparison to this guy isn't Deep Throat but Forrest Gump -- "a cousin of mine, who was the official statistician during that time period said that O'Reilly in fact did lead in punting net average..."
This immediately brings to mind similarities to the Memogate affair of last year, and in particular, Bill Burkett's explanation of a mysterious "courier" who delivered him records pertaining to Bush's service as a member of the Texas Air National Guard during the same late-60's to early-70's time frame. As Al Franken and other O'Reilly watchers have noted, facts and truth don't always mix in the No-Spin zone -- so this demanded further investigation.

Ignoring the suspicious origin of the typewritten evidence for the moment, a casual perusal of the online document reveal several logical idiosyncracies. First of all, the mast-head shows two possibly ambiguous sources for the data (i.e. an undated National Club Football Association yearly stat-sheet). I for one can't tell if St. John's University is the home of the "STATISTICS BUREAU" or Duquesne University is the source for the "FINAL STATISTICS". Either one of these sound rather official. However, any bureaucrat trying to CYA will lay down a purposely bewildering trail of evidence; in this case providing two potentially conflicting sources. Much like relying on two watches, you really can't tell which one gives the correct time, unless of course you go to a tie-breaking source. Which of course probably doesn't exist.

The other nagging point of information is the trailing-off of data near the end of the stat-sheet. If you scan down the page after the crucial punting stats, you find individual interception data that contains a statistical anomaly that looks suspicious at best. The two defenders, Brown and Kloss (?) of Providence College, each had 6 interceptions but totalled 0 yardage. Exercising my anal retentive skills, I can only think of a few interpretations for this bizarre outcome. Either Providence defenders are girly-men who immediately down the ball after a thrilling club-league interception or somebody got tired of filling out the stat-sheet because, well, the all-important punting statistics have already been covered and, hey, its deadline time.

Smelling a rat, and watching how skillfully Little Green Footballers fake punts every moment of their waking lives, I decided to test out my own amateur hypothesis : that, in fact, these may have been recently fabricated documents. Olberman himself had suggested the "font"-word on the Al Franken Show a few days ago. And obviously, with red-line box markings on the posted GIF-file itself, the document has already clearly been tampered with. No way did anybody have color printing 35 years ago (surely not someone from the blue-color environs of Levittown), and only a huge egomaniac would draw a red square with geometric precision around his name and accompanying stats. Who on God's green earth would be impressed by club league stats? Maybe an unpaid groundskeeper?

So the test was to transcribe the statistical data into a "*.txt" document (too blurry for OCR software to work effectively) and load that into Microsoft Word. The default font that the Word software chose was called Courier New. Sensing that Courier New sounded kind of futuristic, I decided to reformat instead to the plain Courier font.1.

The results of comparing the alleged stat-sheet with a modern MS Word reproduction can be seen in the following clickable link:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Notice how well the lines register with one another, both vertical spacing and line lengths. Any strange jaggies are easily explained away by multiple generations of photo-copies and low-resolution faxing. Not to mention that any curious vertical distortions can derive from pixelation effects as purveyed by the whiz-kid Memogate examiners. On top of that, a better choice of software font by me, such as a "Typewriter"-face, would likely have resulted in an even better glyph match. Truly astounding is how close the default font of circa-2004 word-processing software matches that found from a purportedly 35-year-old document.

Bill O'Reilly, J., or whatever your name is, send us the original documents! Although I hesitate to claim forgery, only a fair and balanced inspection of the original documents will put an end to questions of self-bias in such a continually vain media.

1 Something that J., a "courier" himself may have chosen? Maybe I watched way too many Batman episodes as a child, but I remain convinced that criminal masterminds always leave incriminating evidence along the way. Who knows, perhaps as a cry for help?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Tools of the media

We can either castigate somebody for not doing enough or castigate someone else for doing something truly evil. The Peak Oil message board has had a running dialog on how best to report on borderline tinfoil-hat theories relating to oil depletion and possible U.S. conspiracies. Since I do not pretend to know all the vagaries of journalism, but do know a little about how science works, it's potentially instructive to understand how journalistic discoveries (quack or not) relate to scientific discoveries (quack or not).

threadbear wrote (in response to a previous post of mine duplicated here):

A text book definition of courage in the scientific and journalistic realm IS parting with your peers.
I understand what threadbare is trying to say, but in the science and engineering world peers take on importance in confirming theories and ideas. Peer-reviewed journals become the equivalent of serious fact checking. If you become too iconoclastic, people won't want to spend too much of their time on your work, thus you lose valuable criticism. The ultimate example of letdown occurred when the Cold-Fusion Energy dopes played their peer dupes like a violin, getting other scientistis to spend MILLIONS trying to duplicate their own questionable findings.

threadbear wrote :
True, Hubble. This is why it is beholden upon scientists and journalists who have paid their dues, pushed through to the top, to take a chance. It would be much easier for someone like David Corn and Amy Goodman to go out on a limb, than those struggling through the ranks. At the highest levels, when it is free of commercial conflict, journalism can afford to be more open and flexible, even if it has calcified elsewhere.
In the scientific world, the quack Fleischmann of Cold-Fusion fame fits threadbare's hypothesis to a T:
Bio: Martin Fleischmann ... attended Imperial College in London after the war (1947-1950), and later distinguished himself by achieving at age forty the professorial Chair in Electrochemistry at the University of Southampton. Fleischmann has been called a genuine Renaissance man with a reputation for brilliant and creative ideas -- not all of which pan out, but such is the nature of creativity. Surely, when one listens to or is in the presence of Martin Fleischmann, one feels that the image of an exceptional polymath fits him like a glove.

Since 1986, Fleischmann has been a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honor given only to the most distinguished of scientists. The author of over 200 scientific papers -- a number of them with Pons as collaborator -- and a number of portions of textbooks, Fleischmann won the Royal Society of Chemistry's medal for Electrochemistry and Thermodynamics in 1979. He was president of the International Society of Electrochemistry (1970-1972). In 1985 he was awarded the Palladium Medal (how appropriate!) by the U.S. Electrochemical Society.
So he reached the top. Unfortunately, he then proceeded to blow it BIG-TIME, and get tagged as the instigator of the biggest scientific scam of the last century.

The con-man also did not go through a real peer review cycle, preferring to use press conferences to announce his (and co-researcher Stanley Pons) findings. The truly sad part of this transgression is that, almost 15 years later, the U.S. military continues to consult with him.

What you see here is not any kind of parallel to Amy Goodman or David Corn, but a direct analogy to the work of Robert Novak. The tool Novak (a) builds up quite a reputation (deserved or not), then (b) makes a mess of things with questionable reporting on ambassador Joseph Wilson and his CIA wife, (c) is forever tarnished by those who know good journalism, (d) but continues to have a job.

Novak took a chance, failed miserably, but did not get spanked sufficiently, and the right-wing media gets further emboldened. Truly pathetic when you consider that this could happen in the context of "courageous" media tools reporting without peer-influencing fear on important energy issues.

Without dedicated peers, the media hears whatever they want and fears nothing.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Radio Radio

Need further proof that WFMU tops the list? Old-timey songs about science from the FMU radio blog:

Listener Jake sez: Here is a page with mp3s from a collection of 50s/60s science records. Some nice tunes, very WFMUish. I've seen some of these records around but this is the first time I've seen them mp3ized.

Energy & Motion Songs
* What Is Energy (part 1)
* Grand Coulee Dam
* E-lec-tri-city
* Engines
* Solar Energy
* Energy In Roundabout Ways
* What Is Energy (part 2)
* Kinetic And Potential Energy
* Jets
* Ultra Violet And Infra Red
* What Is Chemical Energy
* How Do We Measure Energy
* Motion, Motion Everywhere
* Thumbnail Sketch Of Atomic Energy

Agent Provocateur Deux

In the past, I have pointed out that rarely does the right-side of the BelugaSphere report on oil depletion. Others have pointed out that programs like Democracy Now! do not mention it explicitly that much either (implying that Amy Goodman is some kind of plant or agent provocateur). Kind of a conundrum on the cursory face of it. However, if you dig deeper, you find out that Amy Goodman essentially coined the word oiligarchy to describe the state of things. My theory is that if any subject had an implicit meaning, the U.S. oiligarchy is probably one of the best examples on record. In other words, the journalistic story of the U.S.'s policies pertaining to access+control of oil tends to obscure the scientific story of oil depletion (i.e. the implied meaning).

And if Ms. Goodman doesn't understand oil depletion (as some contend from her temerity to report peak oil explicitly), then why does she do all the stories on climate change/global warming? Try this query and you will find dozens and dozens of stories. I believe that global warming when combined with the U.S. role (or non-role) in the Kyoto Accords gives these stories explicit meaning and they become transparent to the underlying scientific story.

Unfortunate perhaps, but journalists have to decide on what tip of the iceberg to report on. The left-wing reports on the tip (oiligarchy), and oftentimes misses the bulk (oil depletion). The right-wing reports on neither.

I have to quote the following entire post, because Bart nails journalistic credibility on a Peak Oil thread:
It's hard enough being a dissident as it is -- let's try to be fair and considerate to one another. If you disagree with someone, it does not follow that they are corrupt or idiotic.

Also for tactical reasons. A great way to disrupt a movement is to foment distrust and paranoia.

One problem with being outside the mainstream is that you are hit with a barrage of wild theories, most of which have no bearing on reality. Energy solutions that defy the laws of physics. Small secret groups that control world events.

We need gatekeepers.

As a former reporter, I have a lot of respect for Amy Goodman and Democracy Now. She's THE best broadcast journalist in the country. If there's a new issue, I tend to go with her judgment.

If a journalist does not talk about a particular subject, it does not mean they disbelieve it. It may mean that there is insufficient evidence to make a credible case.

I am impressed with the evidence for Peak Oil. I am not convinced by the evidence for 9/11 plots and I don't see that dwelling on 9/11 leads to productive action. There is no need to believe in 9/11 plots to understand the big picture and begin doing something about it.
The journalists referred to in this thread, Goodman and Corn, have their reputations at stake. They likely won't take the bait for connecting the 9/11 attack to some vast Bush conspiratorial cover-up. You might think this is some sort of weakness, but I consider it once again no different than what a scientist goes through with a new theory. I suppose we can postulate something equivalent to political capital, as in you only get to spend a few crazy ideas before you start to lose credibility. The particular 9/11 conspiracies favored by Michael Ruppert are neither the tip or bulk of the iceberg -- they aren't even on the iceberg. These ideas are floating turds in the water.

But, don't think for a moment that Goodman has no courage, take a listen to her spur-of-the-moment interview with Bill Clinton she did the day of the 2000 election. She enhanced her credibility by asking tough questions (that also essentially enraged Clinton). Was she a right-wing plant because she did this? No way.

If you look at what happened to Bill Moyers in the last few days, that is exactly what the best journalists try to avoid. He basically screwed up by instead of reporting on James Watt's corruption, Moyers went after some urban legend Watt religious rantings. Brutal.

The number of +70 year old Texas journalists with tarnished reputations has risen dramatically in recent months. Goodman is not even close to tarnishing hers.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Best Station

The free-form station of the nation and best radio in the universe has started a blog to complement their message board. Best Show D.J. Chris T. ruminates about bio-diesels and such.

Agent Provocateur

Robin Hitchcock gets to play a cameo as a double-agent in Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Asked about it on AirAmericaRadio's Majority Report, he indicated he wanted the role of single-agent. On the surface, it does seems a lot less complicated.

Elsewhere, others don't get either concept. For instance, the Peak Oil message board has attracted some people very confused about how this agent stuff works in the context of American politics. In particular, a few questioned the dedication of Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman in the context of conspiracy theories around the 9/11 attack. That in fact she might be a CIA operative. And just because she did a smackdown of someone named David Ray Griffin from the Claremont School of Theology over a government sanctioned 9/11 conspiracy idea (from a year ago).

On the face of it, this is pretty absurd speculation:
  1. DN! broadcasts from within spitting distance of the WTC in Chinatown. Did anyone listen to the program during that time? I found it harrowing. They were basically hunkered down in a firehouse basement with a bunch of cobbled together broadcasting gear.
  2. Juan Gonzalez of DN! has done the important work of tracking down collapse-related pollution and contamination after the fact.
  3. They are not retarded.

Now, ever heard of a provocateur? Hmm, Claremont School of Theology -- now that sounds like a breeding ground for plants (not the organic kind). The sister Claremont Institute funds a bunch of right-wing nut-jobs like Hugh Hewitt and the Powerline bloggers. Instead of calling Goodman an ally of the right, you could just more easily call Griffin that.

In the IndyMedia thread that was cited by the Peak Oil poster, somebody calls them on it:
Agent Provocateur: one who associates with persons of a group in order to incite them to acts which will make them or their group liable to penalty.

So, it basically works both ways:
By the way, expect a lot of books by CFR-controlled authors "explaining" the September 11 thing. One of them, already printed, is David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor, with a foreword by Richard Falk. The book is a classical example of a limited hangout operation.

CFR=Council of Foreign Relations

John Emerson had a post on this political strategy the other day at Seeing The Forest.

And don't think that Goodman and Co. don't understand this shuck and jive. After all, they are New Yorkers.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A lot of gas

Since Bush did not talk much about energy policy during the SOTU, or recently, for that matter, here are some excerpts from a March 2001 press conference. No mention of oil anywhere in the press conference, but a lot on gas, even if the question happens to concern black lung disease ...

Q: How about stopping the black lung benefits for families? This is sort of -- to increase some of the benefits of these minors?
THE PRESIDENT: We will work with members of the delegation and make sure people are properly treated. Ours is going to be an administration that makes decisions on science, what's realistic, common-sense decisions.

For example, circumstances have changed since the campaign. We're now in an energy crisis. And that's why I decided to not have mandatory caps on CO2, because in order to meet those caps, our nation would have had to have had a lot of natural gas immediately flow into the system, which is impossible. We don't have the infrastructure able to move natural gas.

We need to have an active exploration program. One of the big debates that's taking place in the Congress, or will take place in the Congress, is whether or not we should be exploring for natural gas in Alaska, for example, in ANWR. I strongly think we should in order to make sure that we've got enough gas to be able to help reduce greenhouse emissions in the country. See, gas is clean, any yet there is not enough of it. And we've got pipeline capacity problems in the country. We have an energy shortage.

I look forward to explaining this today to the leader of Germany as to why I made the decision I made. We'll be working with Germany; we'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases. But I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers.

One of the often repeated phrase coming out of Bush's mouth over the years, and still persisting to this day is "I will not negotiate with myself". Nobody has really figured out what Bush means by this, other than an implication of him battling some conflicting inner voices or of general intellectual confusion confronting a naturally belligerent personality.

Q You have mentioned today that there is an energy crisis -- THE PRESIDENT: Yes. -- and yet the budget resolutions that have passed the House and are due to be considered in the Senate next week do not include any revenue from the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I have talked to the people who have made that decision and they said it was a political fight, they believe unwinnable, that you could not, nor could they, create the majorities in either the House or the Senate to bring about drilling in ANWR, your number one solution, or one of the top solutions to dealing with the energy crisis. Does this not represent a rejection from your own party in dealing with the energy situation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Major, first of all, there are other areas in the United States on which we can find natural gas. I think it's important for us to open up ANWR. Whether or not the Congress sees it that way is another matter. That's not going to deter me from having, for example, the Interior Secretary look at all lands that are not -- not to be fully protected, for exploration. We've got a plan to make sure that gas comes -- flows freely out of Canada into the United States. I talked to the Prime Minister about that.

What I find interesting is that I think -- we have meaningful discussions about exploration in the Northwest Territories, right across the line, admittedly miles away, as ANWR. But nevertheless, it's a big, vast region of natural gas. And it's important for us to explore, encourage exploration, work with the Canadians to get pipelines coming out of the Northwest Territories to the United States.

I've talked to the President of Mexico about a policy. There's going to be a lot of areas where we can find natural gas in America other than ANWR. It would be helpful if we opened up ANWR. I think it's a mistake not to. And I would urge you all to travel up there and take a look at it, and you can make --Q: On energy -- Let me finish please -- and you can make the determination as to how beautiful that country is.

Q If I may follow up. THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Major.Q If the American people, looking to you to deal with the energy crisis, and you cannot look to your own party to deal with what you and your own advisors have said is a crucial area in which to explore, how can the American public have confidence in your ability to deal with Congress to address the situation you have called today a crisis?
THE PRESIDENT: There's a lot of other areas we can explore, Major, and one of them is to work with the Canadians. There's gas in our hemisphere. And the fundamental question is, where's it going to come from? I'd like it to be American gas. But if the Congress decides not to have for exploration in ANWR, we'll work with the Canadians.

I'm interested in getting more energy supply so that businesses can grow and people can heat their homes. We've got a shortage of energy in America. And it doesn't matter to me where the gas comes from, in the long run, just so long as we get gas moving into the country, so long as we increase supply of natural gas.

And we also need to have clean coal technologies, as well. And we need a full affront on a energy crisis that is real in California and looms for other parts of our country if we don't move quickly.

Thanks to Mike Malloy, for replaying the "There's gas in our hemisphere" audio clip during his Air America Radio show.


Monkeygrinder reminds us about the dangers of uncontrolled feedback. It's also been a little over 50 years since the world's first nuclear reactor was built. That's a short period in the technological timeline but a blip in geological terms.

Some of the Post-Chernobyl links caught my eye. This one looked as if it was transplanted from a Mayan ruin site in Guatemala.

Sad, but kind of ironic innit?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Reverse Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and The Amazing Kretin

Education, Fire BAD!
BoBo says the problem with Deocrats is that they are educated.

I'm just a simple engineer. I fell in some ice and later got thawed out by some of your cavemen. Your world frightens me! I am used to seeing a leader show intelligence and thoughtfulness. When I listen to BushMaster, I think: has his mind been transplanted? My genetically evolved mind cannot grasp his primitivity. His inarticulation confuses me. All utterances from the BushMaster must be carefully parsed and reconstructed to obtain their true meaning. How can this happen?

AlterMan, another simple yet educated man, has discovered BushMaster's tribal punditocracy that write collective screeds of no statistical value. The leader of your pundits is referred to as BoBo, and he triumphantly exalts apparently random cave dwellers to accurately represent BoBo's world.

However, BoBo finds himself as much confused about us as I have become pondering over him :

In 1980, at a time when about 15 percent of the electorate had a college degree, roughly 80 percent of the members of the Sierra Club and Naral were college graduates.
The biggest groups of donors to the Dean and Kerry campaigns were employees of the University of California, Harvard, Stanford, Time Warner, Microsoft and so on.

As for myself, a simple engineer, I ask: how can my world produce logical beings that can possibly compete with cavemen -- cavemen blessed with the pedigree of what the super-pundits call Intelligent Design. Fortunately, the Intelligently Designed creatures have never been reported to utter something as logically consistent as this:
My guess is the MIT electrical engineering department could have had the energy system running in Iraq by now. -- Noam Chomsky

Instead, your frightening world produces the opposite :

And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. -- Don Rumsfeld

Our world produces comedy "skits" that have mysteriously replicated your world to a T. Sometimes to a Mr.T. This also frightens me, as stupidity on this scale should be statistically insignificant in our world.
DonRum: And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. .
BillySolHurok: Blows up real good.
BigJimMcBob: Yup.

Your world does have entertainment, with unusually serious undertones, produced once again by your Intelligent Design process. Much like monkeys flying out of butts, this both frightens and disturbs me.
(Michael) Crichton believes in spoon-bending through the mind.
So, you have your AmazingKretin, while we get by with our AmazingRandi to understand how the BoBo, and, to a lesser degree, children can get fooled by such antics. For more nuanced explanations, we go to TimLambert and his simple explanation of graphs.

Serious scientific journalists in my world ask the question:
Do some conservatives simply have different literary sensibilities than the rest of us?
Being a simple engineer, the latest phenotypical classification of these archetypes as "conservatives" lays outside my range of expertise. However I take this to mean that these people remain illiterate, notwithstanding pleading cries to the contrary (e.g. "Footnotes are real.").

Serious bloggers in my world try to gain a deeper meaning:

Which is not an unreasonable reaction, but it's based on the disturbing -- and conservative -- notion that most people are so deeply stupid, or at least so uninterested in the world, that they can only be reached in the dishonest and patronizing ways conservatives have been reaching them.
Anything that encourages irrationality makes conservatism stronger.

Faced with the triple-threat of illiteracy, innumeracy, and irrationality, and having to live together in this strange new world, we must nevertheless work to solve long-term deficiencies in our shared space.

For example, I do not fear the concept of funding Social Security. Irrationality over numbers often leads to innumeracy. The fact that numbers can "increase" or "decrease", should not raise suspicions of an "evil takeover from radical elements". In fact, we can use the values of numbers (i.e. quantity) as input to feedback control systems to basically steer our society on a steady course.

The educated Atrios (together with KrugMan, the patron saints of basic "1+1=2" economics in my world) points out that pundit innumeracy may not be solved in our lifetime. This based on his tireless, yet largely hopeless efforts, to educate Nantucket dwellers in simple math (via integrating actuarial probability distributions).

I hate to think of riots that will ensue over BushMaster and the BoBo followers if they ever attain basic collective math skills. If 75% Social Security payout in the year 2042 means bankruptcy under the normal BoBo-style numeracy, what gnashing of teeth will a hypothetical 75% oil availability in the year 2009 cause (assuming our modern medicine can miraculously correct the imbalance of bodily humors from the typical BoBo)?

Or perhaps, a little bloodletting and some boar's vomit, and they'll be fine.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Election Scoring

Jamail: "Iraq's Oil for Guaranteed Political Power"

Select One:


theocracymafia rule

Friday, February 04, 2005

Want Some Wood?

Bob Whitson posted news on the latest political machinations surrounding Bush's "Clear Skies" plan at Howling at a Waning Moon.
The president's plan spells out new air pollution rules governed by a "cap and trade" system that allows utilities to buy and sell rights to pollute within broad limits.
Trading for pollution sounds like an excellent idea. We certainly have enough to go around. I would further suggest that anything in great supply should get serious consideration as a bartering tool. Here's a few more excellent ideas I will offer up:
  1. Trading in lies for partial-half truths
  2. Trading in torture for right-wing radio
  3. Trading in oil for flatulent gas-bags
  4. Trading oil-for-food (as in "The Oil We Eat") for oil-for-food pseudo-scandals

Al Franken was on Letterman tonight. Evidently Al did a show at Abu Ghraib (!) during his Iraq/Afghanistan USO tour from a few weeks ago. Dave asked him how the show went. Why Al didn't give the obvious comedian-auto-response of "It was torture, man!", we'll never know.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Big Gav has a post up called The Sum Of All Fears. Having not seen the movie or read the book by Tom Clancy, I understand that the plot-line involved terrorism at the Super Bowl. Actually, whenever I see that title, I remember the movie that won the Oscar that particular year, "A Beautiful Mind". A thinking man's Tom Clancy, "Mind" could have gotten extra snark points if Ron Howard had instead named it "The Fear Of All Sums".

In any case, clearly anything that happens to the global oil infrastructure would put any Super Bowl catastrophe to shame (excepting a wardrobe malfunction).

The last part of Gav's excerpt contains more references to the newly acquired green visions of a select group of neo-cons, who apparently are seeing the end-of-oil from their ivory towers. The fact that the three think tanks involved, Hudson Institute, the Center for Security Policy, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, conservative all, get paired with the progressive Natural Resources Defense Council strikes me as kind of odd. Remember that Robert Kennedy Jr. is a senior attorney for the NRDC. And Kennedy has regularly slammed the opposition.
This week (old article) Kennedy declares war on this new "enemy within" -- the term his father applied to the Mafia lords who were subverting American politics, business and labor -- with a passionate, sweeping indictment of the Bush-sanctioned rape of our environment in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Kennedy lays out in legal-brief detail how, under Bush, the federal agencies supposed to be guarding our air, water and natural resources have been systematically turned over to the industry foxes that are ravaging them. But the tone of his lengthy essay is far from lawyerly. Kennedy's original subtitle was "Corporate Fascism and the End of Nature."
If anything actually comes out of this alliance, Kennedy's Air America radio program Ring of Fire has got to mention it. Otherwise, it just has to be a ruse. Evidence is the next show's agenda:
Is Iraq the Bush administration's blueprint for colonizing the Mideast? Mike talks with journalist Larry Everest, a veteran of major Mideast events of the past 20 years. Larry's latest book is Oil, Power and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda.

Watch your backs. Remember that the neo-cons practice the axis of evil traits of Framing, Projection, and Branding.
  1. Framing - Claiming the comfort level via double-speak
  2. Projection - Claiming the moral and ethical high ground via reverse psychology
  3. Branding - Claiming the populism via repetition

Da Mayor

Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak has a blog up. I really don't know if he can keep up the pace, but he has already answered quite a few questions concerning mass transit and the local trail system.
At 7:23 PM, R.T. Rybak said…

Nick asked about a trolley on the Midtown Greenway. This idea really came out of the great community work being led by the Midtown Greenway Coalition...a really wonderful group of citizens who have created the vision that led to the conversation of what was once an abandoned rail corridor into a bikeway through the city. Now the idea is to have a streetcar on the dedicated right of way next to the bike trail. In my last budget I allocated money to move forward on this idea.
Think about how cool this could be: Take an LRT to the Greenway Streetcar, stop for lunch at the Global Marketplace at Midtown Exchange (the former Sears building), hop back on the streetcar and have dinner at Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun.
Better, take the streetcar to work at Wells Fargo Mortgage.
At 7:30 PM, R.T. Rybak said…

I forgot to add on the Greenway Trolley post the link it can be with the bus rapid transit route proposed on 35W.

I don't know how many people saw this last Friday but we won a big victory for bus rapid transit.

A couple months back the department of transportation wanted the city to sign off on an expansion plan for the Crosstown. We said we wouldn't do it until there was transit worked into the Crosstown, 35W area...a bus rapid transit line on 35W, I believe is the only way the roadway can work...If the vision was to just add car lanes, they would be filled at Day One and the road would be obsolete from the second it opened.

The good news is that--joined by---Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, CM Scott Benson and Robert Lilligren----we worked with suburban legislators and represenatives of Dakota County....and the Department of Transportation....and are coming to an agreement that could lead to bus rapid transit. Last Friday the Department of Transportation report said they, too , thought it was a good idea.

That's progress because I think this is the first time since my dad's drug store was torn down for 35W in about 1965 that leaders at the city and state have all agreed that there needs to be mass transit on 35W. That's progress.
At 7:37 PM, R.T. Rybak said…

Did anyone else just have the system crash on them? I think we had so many people on at once it did a hickup....anyway....
thanks for your comments about biking Brandon. Every year I do two budgets...the operation budget (this is where there is money for police, fire, administration, etc.) The other is the capital budget, which is for roads, bridges, etc.
I mention this because in each of the capital budgets we have been moving forward more bike trails. I really believe this is very important...not only for recreation...we are the number one bike communter city in the country.
This past year was espeically interesting because there was money for bike trails in northeast and north Minneapolis...two areas that have been underserved. In north Minneapolis we now have a community process to determine where the bike trails will go....That should be great because it looks as if we will have one from north to south....so people from neighborhoods like Camden and Lind Bohanan can get downtown to work...but also a couple east and west, to connect Wirth Park and the river.

Also kudos to the mayor for help in setting up an annual X-C marathon ski race in Minneapolis. You rarely find one of these held in an urban setting because of the logistics. Everything's melting, but still scheduled for this weekend, the City of Lakes Loppet.

Actually, now that global warming has set in, tracking on-line ski trail reports has become a necessity. Adelsman's Skinny-Ski site continues to amaze in this regard.

Megaptera Novaengliae

This little snarky allegory reposted by Moon of Alabama manages to both explain oil depletion, smack climate-change naysayers like Bjorn Lonborg upside the head, and ridicule the Dow 40,000 crowd, all at the same time:
My latest column at “Whale Central Station” is up, exposing the leftist myth of finite whale supplies.

1. Whales breed. Therefore, the potential supply of whales is unlimited.

2. As whaling technology improves, our ability to exploit this limited supply of whales becomes ever-greater. A few years ago, 40 whales in a four year trip was regarded as good going. Modern Norwegian whalers capture and process 40 whales a month. All of the estimates of the “sustainability” of the whale-based economy were put together before such inventions as exploding harpoons. And remember that the supply of whales is self-replenishing. Leftists seem not to understand that whales have sex.

3. Reducing whaling would cost vast amounts of money and destroy our economy; credible estimates would suggest that without whale-oil lamps we would all sit around in the dark until we die. This money would better be spent on providing aid to the Inuit.

4. We can’t give the Inuit property rights over their whales to help them manage the speed of whaling, because that’s just politically impractical.

5. Arrrrr!

Read Orcinus for the occasional reality-based killer whale story.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Different Kind of Tension

From Past Peak, this black-humor joke of the day:
The election was such a success, today Dick Cheney said, "We're so close to that oil, I can taste it." -- Jay Leno

I quoted Buzzcocks lyrics a couple of weeks ago. I might have to go through their entire catalog.
Well it seems so real I can see it
And it seems so real I can feel it
And it seems so real I can taste it
And it seems so real I can hear it
So why can't I touch it?

Then it looks so real I can see it
And it feels so real I can feel it
And it tastes so real I can taste it
And it sounds so real I can hear it
So why can't I touch it?

Then it looks so real I can feel it
And it feels so real I can taste it
And it tastes so real I can hear it
And it sounds so real I can see it
So why oh why can't I touch it?#

Here's another joke Leno can use:
"You know the colored stuff that the legislators coated on their finger at Bush's State of the Union Address? Apparently, they were all auditioning for dipstick in chief. Those weren't ink-wells they dipped their fingers into, they were simply checking the depth of the oil-well shaft rammed up our collective butt."

Thanks. I'll be here until next Tuesday.


From the new blog ThinkProgess at the Center of American Progress this quote from Bush's SOTU address:
President Bush said: “To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. Nearly four years ago, I submitted a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, alternative sources, a modernized electricity grid, and more production here at home, including safe, clean nuclear energy.“

Several commenters have pointed out that the Bush administration never calls on the natives to lift a finger. He evasively avoids any personal call to conservation, instead usually offering to tough it out himself ("I will personally save millions of barrels of oil by erecting a solar collector on my ranch"). You can see the detached impersonality via the quote of "environmentally responsible energy". With this phrase, Bush basically anthropomorphasized an inanimate object. Energy itself will become more environmentally responsible. Let's hear it for brave Energy. Hip,hip,hooray!

And the next sentence of "encouraging conservation" contradicts what Bush in fact had stated a few years ago: "We need an energy bill that encourages consumption."

More than anything, Bush's whole personna revolves around the goal of being perceived as the exact opposite of Jimmy Carter. He will continue to dance around the edges of displaying Carter-like concern until eventually circumstances force him to confront reality.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Here's my theory about certain theorists:

The word theory shares the same root as theology. When a scientist tenaciously hangs on to a theory well past its utility he has become theocrazed; hence the term theocracy to describe the self-delusional group-think that he and his followers may acquire.

As far as theory goes, I admit the previous paragraph is the scientific equivalent to iambic pentameter. However, I really would like to understand how the mind can get stuck in clearly debunked or misguided scientific trains of thought. From abiotic oil to perpetual motion, the energy field certainly has its shares of silliness. After fully digesting last week's article by the perpetual venture motionists Huber and Mills, I have to wonder when and where the foolishness and gullibility will end.

My only real educational experience of an academic who tenaciously held a wild theory occurred during grad school. Prof. Nussbaum did research in the theory behind heterojunction band alignment, crucial to the field of nanotechnologysarcasm. Nussbaum essentially tried to make sense of the physics by applying simplistic energy balance and field continuity arguments to a generalized semiconductor heterojunction.

Frensley provides a set of review slides to the field here.

It's likely even more complicated than that. Semiconductor materials don't normally like to be stuck together; interface states, traps, strain all add imperfections that could affect the alignment in the real world. One of Nussbaum's main opponents was Prof. Herb Kroemer of UC-Santa Barbara, who eventually received a 2000 Nobel Physics Laureate (bio) for his work on heterojunctions.

All of us students taking the class knew that Nussbaum did not match up well against Kroemer (to use a sports analogy). I was doing weird experiments on growing the structures at the time, and Kroemer was already considered god-like in the field (I have a hazy recollection of meeting Kroemer but do strongly recall his German accent from various talks of his). Even more sad, Nussbaum's own graduate students didn't seem to have the drive of other students.

I would have been a little more harsh in my appraisal of Nussbaum if I hadn't learned that the emeritus professor recently died at the age of 85. RIP. His pet theory likely went with him.

Or did it? One of Nussbaum's grad students was a young Turk named Hilmi Unlu. I don't recall if he finished his research with Nussbaum or not, but a quick Google search shows that this fellow is still working his thesis and applying it to GaN heterojunctions.

And to show that everything is connected, the vulture capitalists Huber and Mills company Digital Power Capital have put up extra seed money in a GaN manufacturer. That's the thing about theorists, they might get it horribly wrong, but as far as their instincts on where the money lies, they can get it dead to rights. The carrion of discredited theories still tastes good to these vultures.

"I'm exercising quite hard these days, and I get up very early. And so the book has become somewhat of a sedative.." George W. Bush talking with Brian Lamb