Monday, January 28, 2008

Talk of “climate change” no more. No, it’s a new Epoch for the Earth.

From Yahoo News:

Say goodbye to the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch and hello to the Anthropocene.

Among the major changes heralding this two-century-old man-made epoch:

· Vastly altered sediment erosion and deposition patterns.

· Major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature.

· Wholesale changes in biology, from altered flowering times to new migration patterns.

· Acidification of the ocean, which threatens tiny marine life that forms the bottom of the food chain.


Earth's 4.5-billion-year history is divided into major eras, then periods and finally epochs. The Holocene Epoch began after the last Ice Age.

As early as the late 1800s scientists were writing about man's wholesale impact on the planet and the possibility of an "anthropozoic era" having begun, according to Crutzen, who is credited with coining the term Anthropocene (anthropo = human; cene = new) back in 2000. That year, Crutzen and a colleague wrote in the scientific newsletter International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme about some of the dramatic changes:

"Urbanization has ... increased tenfold in the past century. In a few generations mankind is exhausting the fossil fuels that were generated over several hundred million years."

Up to half of Earth's land has been transformed by human activity, wrote Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer of the University of Michigan. They also noted the dramatic increase in greenhouse gases and other chemicals and pollutants humans have introduced into global ecosystems.

It appears that even some hardcore Conservatives are coming around to the view that things are changing rapidly, in some very dramatic ways. Yet, there is always going to be that 20 to 30% who believe that this is nothing more than a “liberal plot”. Usually, plots have some sort of goal, like the Bush administration hiding behind “executive privilege”, such that they don’t have to explain any of their underhanded actions to anyone. What the point of this supposed “liberal plot” might be, I have no idea.

Humans, as a species, can be incredibly stupid and short sighted. The Earth, in some form or fashion, will survive. It has through many, many changes in the past, and will no doubt do so in the future. However, whether or not the climate will provide a nice habitat for humans and our society remains to be seen.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today's 10 Minute History Lesson: World’s Fair, Chicago, 1893.

The years in America after the Civil War and prior to World War I saw a huge change in this country, for the good and the bad. The Gilded Age puts to shame the excesses we are seeing in this country today. But, many good things came out of those times as well.

The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 produced several of these changes, or else set the direction for changes to come. Additionally, it produced just some really interesting and odd things as well.

- Electric power was in its infancy. Two types of electric power were still vying for supremacy; AC (promoted by George Westinghouse, whose design came from the inventions of Nikola Tesla) and DC (promoted by Thomas Edison and the General Electric Corporation). Both bid for the contract to supply power to the fair. AC power won out, unknowingly setting the standard for the rest of the country for the future.

- When the time before the fair’s opening was getting short, the unions working construction for the fair knew they held the upper hand. Many of them went on strike for better pay and working conditions. After some initial resistance, the fair’s management relented and signed a new labor contract. This became the model for future labor/management relations.

- George Ferris’s unveiled his new design, the Ferris Wheel, with the intent of “outdoing” the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed for the World’s Fair in Paris a few years earlier. This first Ferris Wheel stood approximately 300 feet high and carried train carriage sized gondolas high above the fair grounds. Each gondola was equipped with its own small restaurant.

- Elias Disney worked at a laborer at the fair. He and his family were awestruck by the size and magnificence of the fair. Elias’s son, Walt, would later go on to pattern his Magic Kingdom after the Chicago Fair.

- Frank L. Baum visited the Fair and used it as a model for the Emerald City in his later book, The Wizard of Oz.

- Novel products were first offered for sale at the Fair, including Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Mix, an “oddly flavored” gum called Juicy Fruit, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, a caramel coated popcorn mixture called Cracker Jack.

- New technological advances were introduced to the public, such as an automatic dish washer machine, Edison’s moving pictures, the first zipper for clothing.

It must have been a wonderful thing to see.

Source: “The Devil In The White City”, by Erik Larson. Copyright 2003. Vintage Books, published February 2004.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

David Brooks of the New York Times nails the Republican paradigm exactly!

David Brooks is one of those beltway writers that is very pro-Republican and anti-Democrat. They are easy to spot. Brooks is a bit different than some, as he is very well spoken and makes some very good points now and then. He even criticizes his own party at times. However, whenever he does that, you know, with 100% certainty, that he is going to come and whack the Dems even harder. The main thrust of those types of columns seems to be, the Republicans do screw things up now and then, and I am man enough to admit it, but the Dems are even worse! Then he goes and documents, real or fabricated, some offense of the Democrats that make the Republican offense seem trivial. No matter what, the Republicans are always better than the Democrats!

This column is the more of the same. But the charge he makes against the Republicans (before he gets to bashing the Democrats) is exactly spot on. He nailed it. The policy of the Republicans has become to oppose whatever their opponents want.

But then a great tightening occurred. Conservative institutions and interest groups proliferated in Washington. The definition of who was a true conservative narrowed. It became necessary to pass certain purity tests — on immigration, abortion, taxes and Terri Schiavo.

An oppositional mentality set in: if the liberals worried about global warming, it was necessary to regard it as a hoax. If The New York Times editorial page worried about waterboarding, then the code of conservative correctness required one to think it O.K.

Apostates and deviationists were expelled or found wanting, and the boundaries of acceptable thought narrowed. Moderate Republicans were expelled for squishiness. Millions of coastal suburbanites left the party in disgust.

And still the corset tightened. Many professional conservatives do not regard Mike Huckabee or John McCain as true conservatives. “I’m here to tell you, if either of these two guys get the nomination, it’s going to destroy the Republican Party,” Rush Limbaugh said recently on his radio show. “It’s going to change it forever, be the end of it.”

I truly believe that is what is behind the Republicans turning a blind eye toward the problems of global warming and the coming climate change. They cannot admit that their mortal enemies have a point. They would rather see all these dire predictions about the Earth come true before the can admit that Democrats and liberals (including Al Gore, who is fat, by the way) are actually correct. And anyone who actually strays from the lockstep of the Republicans are tossed out. They aren’t true Conservatives! They are the enemy!

That is a terrible reason for a political party to exist. That pretty much ensures that anything that requires the collective wisdom and willpower of the country to address will not get done! And that is a very sad, stupid way for a country to go down the drain.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My view of American society, in microcosm.

I just returned from a business trip. My flight was very bumpy and not very enjoyable. "Thrown about the sky" comes to mind. But the part of it that I would like to relate is regarding the person sitting in front of me.

I am a rather tall person, 6’3” or so, and therefore have very little legroom in the best of times. The person in front of me, of course, reclined his seat all the way, so the seatback was literally about a foot from my face and gave me absolutely no legroom. After a while, I noticed that he was leaning forward, working on something and was not leaning against his reclined seat at all. I tapped him on the shoulder and, very politely, asked if he might pull up his seat one notch, as I had no legroom. I also had knee surgery not that long ago, and am still having trouble with it. I didn’t tell him that, though.

This guy reacted like I had just asked him the most ridiculous thing in the entire world, something akin to asking if he would give me his brand new Porsche. He just glared at me with this unbelieving look. He did move his seat up after he made his point, but he did so in a very grudging matter and didn’t respond when I thanked him.

I thought that was the end of the matter. About 20 minutes later, when he had finished whatever he was working on, he threw back his seat with all the force he could muster, without warning me at all. Of course, he knew that I was already cramped, but that didn’t matter. Later, when he left his seat and then returned, he sat down with what I thought was as much force as he could muster so that his seat whacked me in the knees.

I was thinking to myself, you certainly are an infantile, petulant bastard…. I got the impression he was just waiting for me to say something. I wasn’t going to, at all. I’m not going to escalate the situation with someone spoiling for a fight.

I am positive that this guy was a hard core conservative Republican. He just had that look to him. The crewcut might have something to do with it. Now, he might have been one of the most liberal Democrats in the entire world, but I would bet $1000 against it. He struck me as one of those people who think that they have absolutely no use for anyone outside his little circle, and being nice or even accommodating to another person is something that just is beneath him. He ignores people when possible, and when they intrude on his own personal universe, do whatever he can do to “show them who’s the boss!”

And that is how I view about 30 to 40 percent of the population of this country. That little temper tantrum, when I asked nicely for something that I would do without a second thought, he had to show me that I couldn’t get away with it, demonstrates perfectly what I believe that a lot of people actually believe. That explains their entire viewpoint of “us vs. them”.

So, if I am correct in my assessment, this guy would never read a blog, much less a liberal blog. He just didn’t seem like the “bloggy” type. But, buddy, if you DO happen to read this, screw you! Grow up! Stop acting like an adolescent George Bush! Jeez.

That little rant accomplished absolutely nothing, except made me feel a bit better. Which is the entire point of rants, after all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On a business trip, try back this weekend.

I might have something terribly interesting to say by then.

Or not.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Messenger probes passes Mercury!

More knowledge about the solar system is being added in big chunks as the first spacecraft in some 30 years takes pictures of the planet Mercury.

I find this type of subject so fascinating. Humans, for as long as we have known about the existence of other planets, could only speculate about what they actually looked like in detail. Now we are finding out. I find exploration of space, by orbiting spacecraft, planetary rovers or telescopic observation (visible, x-ray, infrared, etc.) one of the more appealing things about our species. We now have the technology, as well as the will, to find out what our universe actually is.

There is speculation, no proof as of yet, that Mercury might have been a captured primordial body, similar to the one that collided with Earth during its formation and resulted in our Moon, and it did not actually form from accretion as did the other planets.

This is from NASA’s Astronomical Picture of the Day (APOD), a very cool web site indeed.

Two days ago, the MESSENGER spacecraft became only the second spacecraft in human history to swoop past Mercury. The last spacecraft to visit the Sun's closest planet was Mariner 10 over 35 years ago. Mariner 10 was not able to photograph Mercury's entire surface, and the images it did send back raised many questions. Therefore, much about planet Mercury remains unknown. This week's flyby of MESSENGER was only the first of three flybys. Over the next few years MESSENGER will swing past twice more and finally enter Mercury's orbit in 2011. MESSENGER is currently moving too fast to enter orbit around Mercury now. The above image was taken two days ago during MESSENGER's flyby and shows part of Mercury's surface that has never been imaged in detail before. Many more MESSENGER will hopefully help scientists better understand how Mercury's surface was formed, and why it is so dense.

The following text and picture at the top is from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory web site.

Just 21 minutes after MESSENGER’s closest approach to Mercury, the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) took this picture showing a variety of intriguing surface features, including craters as small as about 300 meters (about 300 yards) across. This is one of a set of 68 NAC images showing landscapes near Mercury’s equator on the side of the planet never before imaged by spacecraft. From such highly detailed close-ups, planetary geologists can study the processes that have shaped Mercury’s surface over the past 4 billion years. One of the highest and longest scarps (cliffs) yet seen on Mercury curves from the top center down across the left side of this image. (The Sun is shining low from the right, so the scarp casts a wide shadow.) Great forces in Mercury’s crust have thrust the terrain occupying the right two-thirds of the picture up and over the terrain to the left. An impact crater has subsequently destroyed a small part of the scarp near the bottom of the image.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still: Klaatu as a Christ figure?

This idea was suggested to me a number of years ago on another web site I used to frequent quite often, of which all the contributors to this site, along with a couple of reliable readers, are alumni. Anyway, although it’s not quite in the same league as The DaVinci Code, it’s rather interesting for film buffs. These allegories were known the Robert Wise, the director, at the time.

Klaatu comes to Earth with a message of peace, but also a message of terrible retribution if this message of peace isn’t adopted. He is killed by the Powers That Be, who are afraid of his motives and what he might bring about. He is then brought back to life. When questioned about this by Patricia Neils character, Klaatu responds that the power of life and death is reserved only “the Almighty Spirit”. (This message was not intended in the original idea of the film, as it was imposed by a Production Code. They evidently thought that the idea of an all powerful, all knowing race was rather at odds with the idea of God being the only all powerful entity in the universe.) Klaatu, like Christ who cured the lepers and changed water into wine, exhibited extraordinary powers in causing all electricity around the world to stop. Even the name of “Carpenter” that Klaatu assumes while masquerading as a local inhabitant is reminiscent of the message of Christ.

It is difficult to determine just what to make of this allegory. Personally, I have never been too keen on allegory and symbolism. I tend to take things at face value. The Christ connection never occurred to me on my own until someone else pointed it out, just as the message in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan as Christ never occurred to me. I work as an engineer and have training as a scientist. Clarity of information is paramount. Why anyone chooses to give a message by a method that is prone to personal interpretation, I have no idea. When I say this to anyone else, the answer I get back is, “That is the idea. What does it mean to you?” My answer back is, “I don’t know and I really don't care what I think. It’s YOUR story/movie/song. YOU tell ME what you intended. You obviously thought enough about your idea to put a lot of time and effort into it. I want to know what you intended. Why are you asking me to interpret something that you wrote?” To me, that’s just stupid. But then, I have found out that I don’t think like most people I know.

Therefore, it is difficult to reach any conclusions about what this Christ-like connection actually means in a sci-fi film from the 1050’s, when the concern those days was “The Red Menace”, “duck and cover” and building bomb shelters in your back yard. It is probably nothing more than an interesting idea that someone thought would make a compelling story, and as the film progressed, the more muddled it all became by other people in a position of power putting their fingerprints all over it.

My main concern about the message in this film is not the Christ connection. It is about the basic message that Klaatu delivered to Earth. “Become peaceful, or we will destroy you.” Talk about your basic contradictory message. “Do as I say, not as I do.” It just doesn’t really fit in with the concept of promoting peace and brotherly love. It is more of an ultimatum, not unlike that of the approach advocated by George Bush and Dick Cheney. “If we think you are threatening us, or even have the potential of threatening us sometime in the future, we reserve the right to annihilate you and to do so without a second thought.”

That is the message that I really have a problem with, in today’s politics or a sci-fi film.

More about this idea in contained in the IMDB entry for the movie, under “trivia”.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sitemeter, thoughts regarding.

I added the Sitemeter thing to this site a few weeks ago, just to see how much traffic I was actually getting. After blogger changed to this new interface, commenters to this place sure dried up. I wasn't sure that anyone was actually reading. But then, that isn't really the point of this blog. I am perfectly aware that this is about a fourth or fifth tier blog, and I don't do much (although there are a few posts) in the way of original thinking or reporting. Still, I was interested to see what was actually going on.

I did get a big bump for a while from the New Year's "Best of the bloggers" link from Jon Swift. That was neat to be in a list with some VERY good blogs. That lasted about two weeks. I get all sorts of hits for people obviously searching for something specific. (I was a bit alarmed when I saw that someone in Iran was actually reading my post about the possibility of the U.S. bombing his/her country. Just imagine, they were using me to get some information! Scary....) Fractals remains high on the search list, for some reason. That particular post is not much more than a cool picture.

I am very confused, however, about why 90% of the hits I get register as 0.00 as the time spent on the site. Someone clicks in and decides in less than a second they aren't interested? That's surprising. Jeez, you made the effort to click through. At least, look around for 15 seconds to see what's here. And it doesn't really jive with the overall average time that people spend on the site. So, I don't know how to intrepret that.

But here is the thing that I found amazing. Although I knew this kind of information was available, it took me by surprise about the information I can see immediately about each and every person who looks in. I can see the location. I can see the web access you are using. I can see what kind of operating system you are using and what kind of monitor you have! That's pretty scary. And that's just what is being presented to me, in whatever sorted fashion I would like! I have no idea what else people can get if they do a little digging.

It makes me not want to every look in on anything on the web again. Especially at work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This is hilarious, in a very ironic and depressing sort of way.

O.K., all that noise from the Bush administration about how, if the telecoms were not given retroactive immunity for all the illegal spying that they did on behalf of the White House, “Americans were going to die”. That was the line. If the Democrats didn’t cave and sign that monstrosity of a FISA bill, “Americans were going to die”. Huh.

And now, today, we have word (via the NYTimes and lots of other blogs) that at least one of the telecom giants stopped their wiretapping activities, which may have well been illegal, not because they have had a change of heart, not because it was against the law, not because they realized their duty to the Constitution of the United States. No. None of those. It was because the FBI didn’t pay the telephone bills.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation ''was halted due to untimely payment,'' the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

''We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence,'' according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

Well, glad to see that the telecoms treat the government just as they would any other American citizen. No money, no service.

I do wonder how they are going to justify all those dead Americans, however.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More thoughts about the presidential election season.

None of these items really are developed to the point that I could make a complete post out of any of them. So, I’ll just stuff them in a single one, sort of like sardines in a can.

- Ms. Clinton is being treated very unfairly by the media. They hate her, they have already made up their minds they are going to take her down, and that’s all there is to that. It never crosses their mind that journalists are not supposed to pick the candidates! That is not their job! They are supposed to report and analyze, not demean and bury just because they don’t like someone. When Ms. Clinton gets teary eyed, she’s weak and emotional. When she gets angry or frustrated, she’s strident and shrill. She has breasts. And she’s married to someone else that the media already hates. What could be better? And, as Maha likes to put it, Chris Matthews remains high on the list of people I would like to smack really hard.

- I am not certain that I am enamored with the idea of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I think she would probably make a good President (excellent, compared to the one we have now, but then, a Hello, Kitty! wall clock would be preferable to what we have now). However, I am probably pretty sure that she would get absolutely ripped to shreds by the Republicans and their attack dogs in the general election. Unlike John Kerry, she would definitely fight back. She’s been through too much already. However, it would be very nasty. The Republicans seem a bit nonplussed that Ms. Clinton has not already been anointed the nominee. But, I think they will get the “wind beneath their sails” as quickly as they adjust to the fact that Mr. Obama might be the nominee, instead of Ms. Clinton. In fact, they will probably have a field day. He’s black, he’s got a funny name that sounds a bit like the name of some lunatic that knocked down the WTC towers, he was born a Muslim…. Wheee!! Did I mention he is black? Still… I am thinking that, even though Ms. Clinton is undoubtedly qualified for the office, I don’t believe the country really needs to endure what will certainly happen if she is the nominee. I also am thinking that some fair minded, right of center Republicans might actually support Mr. Obama, where the mere mention of Hillary Clinton’s name seems to require some primal response from conservatives of all stripes, not unlike Pavlov’s dog. Conservatives, that is. Not Ms. Clinton.

- I very much dislike seeing the Democratic candidates really ripping on each other. I was very unhappy to see Barack Obama parroting Republican talking points in an attempt to trash Ms. Clinton. Likewise, I was very unhappy to see Ms. Clinton repeat that tired old George Bush line (that has been adopted with great gusto by Rudy Giuliani) that, if we dare elect anyone but her, the country will not be safe from terrorists. You would think that the Dems would have had their fill of that kind of crap over the last seven years. That kind of behavior absolutely stinks to high heaven, I don’t care if it is politics.

- I am rather excited by the possibility of having the good ol’ boy U.S. of A. actually electing a black guy as President. There are going to be many, many in this country who will start foaming at the mouth if this looks like it will occur, and I am going to be very fearful of Mr. Obama’s safety for quite some time. But, if we were actually to elect this man to the highest office, boy. What a step forward that would be for this country. He may be short on the specifics of his ideas for policies and how he is going to handle the numerous problems that the Bush administration is going to leave him, but his message is certainly resonating right now. We have heard “vote the bums out!” many times, but usually, the people who replace the ones we threw out were just as bad or much worse.

- If Mr. Obama wins, will all future candidates for high political office start kissing up to Oprah and trying for her endorsement? Oprah = Kingmaker!

- I rather feel for John Edwards. This should have been his time, after what happened in 2004. However, the world is not fair and things rarely work out like they should. I think Mr. Edwards would have made a very, very good President. Yes, he is still carries the label of “serious contender”, but he isn’t going to win the Democratic nomination. I wish both he and his wife the best.

- I am hoping that this cratering of the Republican candidates means the final breakup of the current Republican party, which is run by a bunch of power-mad, Constitution hating, testosterone frenzied freaks. They deserve to become totally irrelevant. However, as I have said before, I think that it is vital that this country have two vibrant political parties. I need not agree with both of them. If that was the case, what is the point of having two? But we just need that checks and balances that two parties can provide. However, and this is a big however, we need both parties to have a moral balance, a sense of fair play and working toward the common good. “Beating the crap out of the other guy” is not a reason for a political party to exist, and neither is cheating, lying and operating outside the law just so they can retain their power and line their own pockets with taxpayer money. That is what the current Republican party is, and it needs to change.

- I have been very fearful of the extreme Fundamentalist Christian right wing of the Republican party really grabbing hold of power and running roughshod over everyone and everything else, including the Constitution. I really believe that these people would like nothing better than to establish a Christian (Southern Baptist, of course) theocratic government, which would also probably produce something along the lines of a police state worthy of Mussolini. However, I see lots of pushback on that now, including some on the Republican side of the aisle. Fundamentalist Christians are supposed to know their place, just supply the votes when required, and then go back home until the next election period. The Republican establishment doesn’t really like this new Huckabee phenomena very much, so they are pushing back as well. I am breathing a bit easier than I was about 8 months ago. However, I think we still need to be very wary.

- Bill O’Reilly is, and will always remain, a unendurable prick who believes the world revolves around him. Unfortunately, a Democratic win in November will just mean that he, once more, has a reason to exist. That is, to attempt to destroy anyone and everyone who disagrees with him.

An emotional rant intended for an American audience only, and only those interested in NCAA football. All others, proceed cautiously while yawning.

The NCAA “National Championship” game was held this week in New Orleans, which, if I am not mistaken, just hosted the Sugar Bowl a little over a week earlier. In summation, LSU won, Ohio State lost again, for the second time in two years, and, outside of the states of Ohio and Louisiana, no one really cared. Big deal. Try telling the University of Southern California or the University of Georgia that LSU has a better football team. Heck, even the University of Missouri. This game really proved nothing. In fact, it was a complete and utter “don’t care”.

Listen up, NCAA. College football is supposed to be over on JANUARY 1st!! Just because you, the major television networks and the “BCS conferences” have figured out that you aren’t competing with yourselves when all the major bowl games were held on New Year’s Day, it doesn’t mean that people really give a flying fig about a game that is held over a week after everyone else has gone home? And on a Monday night? Sheesh. Can you say “anti-climactic”? Or perhaps, “post-coital depression”? If last night’s game really and truly was “for all the marbles”, then why did we all waste our time on those 26 other bowl games, or whatever it was, in the last month? Those meant nothing?

Even the name, “BCS National Championship Game” sounds hokey and totally bereft of any magic at all, when placed next to “The Rose Bowl”, “The Orange Bowl” or “The Sugar Bowl”. Those games have history and pageantry. Their very names invoke a certain mystique. They have an aura about them. The BCS National Championship Game is a cheap invention, “the big con”. It embraces all that is bad about the NFL Super Bowl, and has none of the benefits of being the final game after all the other pretenders to the crown have been dispatched. For your information, HALF of the teams playing in bowl games ended their season by winning their games!

Either make this one way or the other. Either you institute a honest-to-God tournament, like the DII and DIII playoffs (and I refuse to use that utterly insipid name the NCAA has foisted upon them, when even all the television commentators have given up and call them “the divisions that used to be called DII and DIII), or else go back the way it was, where all the bowl games mattered. Don’t pull this lame crap where we should all care about crowning one particular team National Champions, where it is all such a transparent farce.

The NCAA “Bowl Championship Series”. To me, it’s just another demonstration of the ruling class in our society pretending to address what was really an issue for many people (i.e., the lack of a true champion in NCAA DI football), but only coming up with something that just puts more money in the pockets of the people and institutions that already have lots of it already.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Portugal's amazing airport runway

The airport's runway is 2781 meters long, of which 1000 meters of the runway is supported by 180 pillars, each pillar 50 meters height (about 17 floors tall). Surprisingly, the runway is designed to safely handle a Boeing 747.

Look at the cars parked below the runway.

It rather looks like an aircraft carrier. On land. With really long legs.

(Thanks to my buddy Wolfman for supplying these photos and technical info.)

Update: This post has been getting quite a lot of hits from people searching on the words in the title, such as "Portugal" and "airport". I have to say that these photos look like they were taken by a professional photographer and are probably under copywrite. They are in the state that I got them, without any identification or attribution. If someone were to tell me that they are under copywrite, I would certainly either delete them or post them with an attribution, as I did the pictures of the storm pictures with the ferry.

This is known as "covering one's behind", in case you didn't recognize it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

“I’m for Mike Huckabee, as he is the only true Christian running for president.”


I don’t know how many times I have seen a statement similar to this one in print in the last couple of weeks. Mike Huckabee is certainly an interesting phenomenon, and one that might go along way towards splintering the current Republican party into about three pieces. It will be quite interesting to see how this all goes down in the next few years. Yes, the next year prior to the election will be VERY interesting, indeed. However, if Huckabee is indeed the Republican candidate, which is no sure thing, and he loses big time, then the years AFTER the general election will also be very interesting. The uneasy coalition of neocons (who are pretty much only interested in the U.S. throwing its weight around militarily around the world), theocons (who seem to be intent on implementing a theocracy in the U.S.) and the followers of Grover Norquist (who want the U.S. government to essentially go away, and to never pay taxes, ever again) will have shown that it isn’t working anymore. The theocons are wanting everything that the other groups have been promising them for the last 25 years, in order to get their votes.

But that isn’t the point of this post. I am writing about this absolutely insane idea that many Christians seem to hold that, if someone professes to be a good Christian and that Jesus is his main guiding light in everything, including politics, then that person can do no wrong. Never. It’s always the “liberals” and “secular progressives” (the worst thing they can think of to call someone) that are the evil ones, the ones that are the root of all problems. They thought this way with George Bush, even with all the myriad of his obvious faults that have come to light in the last eight years, and they think this way with Mike Huckabee. Even the story that Huckabee freed a serial killer and rapist while governor of Arkansas, just because one of the victims was a distant relative of Bill Clinton and Huckabee was looking to score some political points, and that person went on to rape and kill at least one, maybe two, more people after he was released makes absolutely no difference to the “true believers”.

From Digby:

Which brings us to the genuinely repellent topic of Michael Huckabee. The fact that he won the Iowa caucus chills me to the bone. This is a ruthless, ignorant, and dangerously opportunistic fanatic who is so unqualified for the presidency that no one in the media should have returned his calls. And they still shouldn't.

This is a man so bereft of character he actively worked to free a serial rapist, a seriously deranged sociopath who had also been directly involved in a brutal murder. And why did Huckabee proactively seek Wayne Dumond's freedom? For one reason only: Because his release had become a rightwing cause celebre. Sure enough, soon after Huckabee's efforts succeeded in returning Dumond to the outside world, Dumond raped and murdered at least one, if not two women.

Huckabee's championing of Dumond's release - Huckabee never read the court documents or appeals from Dumond's victims - is enough to demonstrate that he has neither the judgment or moral character to be a dog catcher, let alone president. But since then, Huckabee has made it his business repeatedly to lie about his involvement in Dumond's release - which would never have happened without his efforts. So let's not mince words here:

Huckabee is hardly a better candidate for president than Wayne Dumond himself would be, if he were still alive.

It is said in his defense that Huckabee has only slept with one woman since he married (and for all I know, maybe his whole life). He doesn't drink, and he doesn't smoke and he reads the Bible. In other words, Huckabee meets the minimum standards to be a fundamentalist Christian preacher, even if these qualifications are mostly honored in the breech. But whether one finds such behavior laudable or pathetically stunted, they are irrelevant. They are hardly positive character traits for a US president. Sober judgment, however, is. But Huckabee has none. Integrity is. But Huckabee has none.

Some of the worst crimes against humanity have been carried out by people who were absolutely certain they were carrying out “God’s Will”. I won’t go into all the obvious examples again. I will pull one out of somewhat recent (given the length of human civilization) American history. General Robert E. Lee was in charge of the military of the Confederate States of America. He was, by all accounts, a God fearing person whose motto was “God, Family, and Virginia”. He firmly believed that God was on the side of the CSA and on his side, personally. He prayed constantly, seeking divine guidance in his struggle with the North, otherwise known as the government of the United States of America. Yet, this person was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides, and was essentially a traitor to his country. Yet, he was convinced that God was on his side, as were all his followers.

You can see how well that all turned out.

The lesson that is constantly forgotten is that being a Christian does not automatically make you infallible or even “a good person”. The very fact that Christians see other Christians as being infallible make them blind to faults that are obvious to everyone else.

UPDATED: More on Huckabee and Southern Baptists from Frank Schaeffer at HuffPo.

Mike Huckabee wants to be our president. He doesn't know about foreign policy. But he believes every word of the Southern Baptist interpretation of the Bible. Here is what he believes. God is angry with us and has always been. He was pissed off with us from day one. He was so pissed off that He wrestled with making a choice between killing all of us in a flood or saving just one family -- Noah's -- so that later God could sacrifice His only Son to save everyone descended from the one family he didn't kill and/or send them to hell for eternity. God did this because Adam and Eve, not to mention Noah's great, great grandchildren-that's you and me-didn't live up to God's pre-creation expectations. Cheerful, huh?

I was a zealous evangelical back in the 1970s. When you are a zealous anything -- evangelical, Marxist, feminist, capitalist, Democrat, Republican, whatever-you express your zeal by lying. The lie is always the same lie: to say that you're certain about things, that you are right, and others wrong. They are so wrong that they are evil! This is a lie because truth is elusive. Nothing is as simple as any zealot, of any persuasion, thinks it is.

Huckabee represents the half of us who are waiting for Jesus to "rapture" us and believe that the other half are second class citizens that God is just biding His time to gleefully destroy and torture for eternity. Thanks but no thanks Iowa.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

This kind of person just makes me physcially ill to my stomach.

Ed Rollins has been in politics for quite some time and best known for running Ronald Regan’s re-election campaign in 1983. He is now running Mike Huckabee’s campaign. Here is a little snippet from Rawstory that illustrates the mentality of these people.

In a testy exchange just after his candidate won Thursday's Iowa caucuses, Mike Huckabee's campaign chairman acknowledged discussing the potential Huckabee would "go negative" in South Carolina and boasting about onetime-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani's foundering campaign.


South Carolina could present Rollins with an opportunity to go negative, after Huckabee scuttled a similar plan in Iowa. At a press conference Monday, the affable former Arkansas governor and ordained minister told assembled reporters that he had decided at the last minute not to run an attack ad aimed at Mitt Romney. Huckabee then played the ad for the press -- just to prove he actually made one, he said.

The attack ad, which questioned Romeny's positions on gun control, abortion and the death penalty, was Rollins idea, and the strategist told the Washington Post that he relishes the underbelly of politics.

"To me, hitting somebody, knocking somebody down, is a great feeling," he said. "Firing out a negative ad just feels amazing." (Highlight mine.)

This toad “relishes the underbelly of politics”. He likes to get nasty with other human beings. It gives him “an amazing feeling”.

And this is the party of God and “family values”? Is it any wonder why the country is in such sad shape? People who enjoy destroying other people are running it. Yes, I agree that there are a number of Democrats who have the exact same mindset. However, this kind of behavior has become the norm in the Republican party in the last 12 years or so. They have perfected it. That is how they operate. In fact, they don’t know any other way.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The best line I heard on MSNBC last night about the Iowa caucuses

Tweety (that's Chris Matthews to everyone not in the know, due to his shocking yet thin yellow hair and his big square head) on MSNBC was interviewing one of the campaign people for Obama last night. Tweety was making a point about the fact that younger women went, across the board, for Obama, while the older women seemed to go for Clinton. And Obama's spokesman (sorry, didn't get his name) said something like, "Yes, Obama has broad appeal."

O.K., now I know what he meant and it's a little sexist to purposely misread that statement. But I laughed through my nose when I heard that one. Someone needs to be just a tad more careful picking their adjectives.

The top ten things about this presidential election season about which I am absolutely gobsmacked.

1. We actually have people running for president of the United States who believe that the Constitution is subordinate to their belief in God, and no one in the press is really making an issue of this.

2. We actually have a black man and a woman running for president, both of whom have a very good chance of pulling it off, and nobody has rioted or burned down part of a major city.

3. The top GOP candidates, except for Ron Paul (who isn’t necessarily a “top candidate”), are all promising to maintain or even bolster the policies, if they can really be called that, of George W. Bush, who 70% of the country disagrees with.

4. The Republican candidates would rather beat their chests about how tough each of them will be on terrorists, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and generally any person who doesn’t look, act and sound just like us, but would rather not mention the incredibly pressing and important issues, such as global warming/climate change, the healthcare crisis, the widening gap between the top 5% of the wage earners in this country and everyone else, abundant corruption in government, and the undermining of the Constitution of the United States.

5. Iowa and New Hampshire are the center of the political universe, at least for four or five months, and can truly affect the outcome of an entire presidential election, and will disappear from all public discourse after that.

6. No mention, none whatsoever, is being made in the press about the elections for the Senate and House, in which the Dems will most likely clean the floor with the Republicans. There is a distinct possibility of the Democrats getting a veto-proof majority, and I haven’t seen one whisper of that in the press.

7. Oil has now reached $100 a barrel, when it was under $10 a barrel at the start of George Bush’s presidency. Yet, no one is making much noise about this fact.

8. There hasn’t been a “straight laced, family values” Republican in this country exposed for kinky sex (legal or illegal, gay or straight) in the last three months.

9. John Edwards’ haircut is STILL an issue in the mind of some.

10. And finally, I am absolutely dumbfounded that some people in this country can get so worked up about someone else “showing disrespect” to the flag of the United States of America, such that they feel that we need to amend the Constitution of the United States to protect said flag, and yet, these same people could care less that George Bush thinks that the Constitution is “just a goddamned piece of paper!” and uses it to wipe his butt every chance he gets. That “piece of paper”, which is the beacon, the guiding light, that this country has used since its inception, is apparently meaningless to those in power. Yet, the flag is so important that we need to amend the Constitution, that selfsame document which we don’t seem to give a flying fig about?

Color me gobsmacked.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I wish political reporters were as hard hitting with their interviews as sportscasters.

On New Year’s Day, during all the bowl games, I saw two interviews with incoming new head coaches (Rich Rodriguez with Michigan and Rick Neuheisel with UCLA). Rodriguez, ex-head coach at West Virginia, was asked what was different about being offered the head coaching job at Alabama last year and turning it down, and being offered the head coaching job at Michigan this year and accepting it. He somewhat skillfully avoided answering the question. He was also asked if West Virginia had been in the national championship game this year (which could have easily happened), would he have left WVU. Again, he didn’t answer. Neuheisel was asked about his rather checkered past at Colorado and Washington, which included a rather overblown gambling scandal, where he was involved in betting on the NCAA basketball tournament. To his credit, he said that he made mistakes in his past, they were his mistakes, and he wouldn’t make them in his upcoming job. Whether that is true remains to be seen. I wish him luck. (I met him several years ago, as he is a friend of my brother. It was a bit awkward, as he had just lost his job at Washington. I think I said something like, "Sorry about how the Husky thing turned out." He replied, "Yeah, me too." What a lame thing to say on my part....)

My point is this. Those are very pointed, potentially very embarrassing questions being asked of college football coaches on live national television. I suppose that, because of their visibility and large salaries paid for by state taxes, those are fair questions.

I wish, oh how I wish, that our national political media would be as hard hitting and probing with our politicians. Specifically, why do they let George Bush and his minions get away with breaking the laws, subverting the Constitution, stacking the Dept. of Justice with political cronies and ideologues, such that the DOJ became an arm of the Republican party, and let them get away with it without calling them on the carpet when they get a chance? Don't the people who run our nation, who have shown that they consider themselves to be above the law, deserve at least as much scrutiny as football coaches?