Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

We followed the stony way Hypselodoris apolegma traced for us
Up to the plains of the air and the unique silence.
We made our demanding love bleed,
Our happiness wrestle each pebble.

(Photo by Daniel Kwok.)

Friday Hope Blogging

Niger has been convicted by an African regional court of failing to protect women from the slave trade:

The case against the state was brought with the help of British-based anti-slavery organisations as a test case to press African governments to stamp out slavery, which campaigners say is rife in some African countries, despite legal prohibitions. The court ordered Niger to pay 10 million CFA francs (£12,200) in damages. There is no right of appeal.
And, in an equally unprecedented case, Egypt has prosecuted a man who sexually abused a woman:
When Noha Rushdi Saleh went to a police station to press charges against a man who had repeatedly groped her on the street, she was turned away. The police said that if she wanted to file charges against the man she would have to bring him to the station herself. Saleh, 27, promptly returned to the scene and sat on the hood of the perpetrator's vehicle and argued with him until they went to a local station where he was charged with assault.

Her decision to press charges paid off Tuesday, when a Cairo court sentenced Sherif Goma'a to three years in prison with hard labor and fined him 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895).
In related news, Los Angeles is taking tentative steps towards processing its untested rape kits:
Under the terms of the plan, which the City Council is expected to vote on today, the LAPD would allocate $700,000 to hire 16 more DNA analysts and support staff -- a boost of about 33% over current staffing. The city would also increase by $250,000 the funds earmarked to pay private laboratories that the LAPD hires to help with the daunting workload.
Connecticut's attorney general has advised justices of the peace that they have no legal right to refuse to marry same-sex couples:
In his legal opinion, Blumenthal also said that same-sex couples who have had civil unions are not required to dissolve those unions before marrying. He said that the state will continue to grant both same-sex marriages and civil unions under current law, and that Connecticut will recognize both out-of-state civil unions and same-sex marriages.
This, of course, is the Greatest Injustice least to hear this schmuck tell it:
“For the attorney general to try to force this upon people, it’s discrimination in reverse,” Norwalk JP Nicholas Kydes told The Stamford Advocate. “It’s discrimination against people who view marriage as a bond between and man and a woman.”
Discrimination in reverse? Why, that almost sounds like anti-discrimination! As Cicero observed during his prosecution of Gaius Verres, "Boo fucking hoo."

Here's one of those ideas that's so obvious that it makes your brain ache:
The e-charkha is an ingenious update to India’s ubiquitous charkha [spinning wheel] that transforms the simple machine into a potentially significant source of energy for millions of struggling families in India. Designed by RS Hiremath, the e-charkha “not only produces yarn but also generates electricity using a maintenance free lead acid battery fixed at the bottom, which functions as an inverter.”

Also in India, power from rice husks:
HPS utilizes a proprietary technology to run 35-100 kilowatt mini power plants, delivering pay-for-use electricity to un-electrified villages in India's "Rice Belt." HPS' five pilot projects have become operationally profitable within six months, delivering sustainable, environmentally-friendly, low-cost energy that is dramatically improving the lives of rural Indians.
I agree with David Roberts that this quote from Obama is very heartening:
One of the most frustrating things over the last eight years has been the ability of George Bush to pile up debt and huge deficits and not have anything to show for it, right? So, if you're going to run deficit spending, then it better be in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our sewer lines, our water system, laying broadband lines.

One of, I think, the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we're going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers, like Chicago. And we're going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that's generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create 5 million new jobs, just in new energy.
Sarah Palin, meanwhile, visited a solar panel manufacturer and used it as an opportunity to promote domestic drilling. The choice seems pretty clear to me.

Speaking of the election, this is a nice story:
About a month short of her 110th birthday, Amanda Jones – whose father spent some of his childhood as a slave – mailed in a ballot for the man who could be the first black president of the U.S. A life-long Democrat, Jones, who lives outside of Austin, first voted for president more than 60 years ago (for F.D.R.). Her father encouraged her to exercise her right, despite barriers preventing black people from voting – such as poll taxes and other means of voter suppression.
And speaking of voter suppression, Colorado citizens who'd been purged from the voter registration list will be allowed to vote:
Thousands of Colorado residents who had been scratched from voter registration rolls will be allowed to cast ballots on Election Day and their votes will be given special protection to ensure they are counted, following the resolution of a federal lawsuit filed against the state.
But wait...there's more!
In Michigan, a federal appeals court handed a similar victory to 5,500 people who had been thrown off the voter registration rolls....In a 2-1 ruling, the Cincinnati-based court said Michigan voters are properly registered when applications are approved and names are added to the rolls — not if they receive a card in the mail....

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction Friday that keeps early voting centers open in the Democratic strongholds of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago....The Court of Appeals rejected Republican arguments that state law required an unanimous decision by the election board to open the satellite centers.
In New York, the attorney general is taking steps to reduce corruption in wind-farm siting (a problem I previously discussed here).
New York's Attorney General launched an ethics code on Thursday that seeks to fight dirty business in the state's emerging wind power farm business....[R]esidents have charged that wind power companies have intimidated them and given gifts to officials in an effort to locate wind farms.

The code is a result of Cuomo's investigation into dozens of complaints from throughout the state.
In California, a new solar thermal plant was constructed in a mere seven months:
Ausra’s Bakersfield plant is expected to generate 5MW of electricity (enough to power 3,500 homes), and it is an exciting a proof of concept for a much larger 177MW facility set to open in 2010 in San Luis Obispo that will power more than 120,000 homes.

Ausra’s solar-thermal plants employ a technology called Compact Linear Fresnel Reflectors. The process use mirrors to focus the sun’s heat upon tubes of water, creating steam that is used to drive power turbines to generate electricity. Unlike wind and photovoltaic systems, solar thermal plants are capable of storing heat for times when power is needed, and the steam produced can also used for other applications.
And in Europe, those crazy Europeans have the crazy European idea of building some sort of centrally planned collectivist solar grid thing, which'll undoubtedly serve as a Trojan Horse for their larger goal of seizing our guns and teaching oral sex techniques to our preschoolers.
The Europeans are serious about nanotechnology to wean countries off using fossil fuels in the next century. There´s considerable interest in setting up a solar grid that is global because the sun consistently shines on some part of the planet.

The technologies European scientists say are going to dominate the sustainable energy sector include Dye Sensitized solar Cells (DSCs) and biomimetics. These two technologies are popular because they show great promise for capturing or storing solar energy. At the same time, nanocatalysis already has begun to churn out efficient methods for energy-saving industrial processes convincingly.
I don't know about you, but I'm going to put on a bowtie, turn on every light in the house, and smoke three cigars at once. Those Yurpeens ain't the boss of me!

They are the boss of deep-sea fishers, however:
Europe's exotic deepwater fish, some of which can live up to 150 years, won more protection from the European Union on Monday as fisheries ministers agreed to hefty quota cuts for the next two years.
An elephant poacher in Cameroon has been jailed:
“We welcome this new verdict and hope it will deter other poachers and their accomplices from decimating wildlife and above all protect rare and vital species from extinction for the benefit of the people around Korup National Park and mankind as a whole,” said Dr Martin Tchamba, Technical Manager, WWF-Cameroon.
The US has taken steps to protect a couple of rare corals:
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, elkhorn and staghorn corals in 2006 became the first species to be protected under the Endangered Species Act due to the threat of global warming and ocean acidification.
No word yet from the thinktank boys on whether this will lead to a new Stone Age and a human life expectancy of 23 years. But common sense says that if that doesn't do it, this will:
The United States, Mexico, and Canada will work together to conserve the vaquita, the world's smallest, and most endangered, species of cetacean.

The governments will fund research and work with fishermen in the upper Gulf of California to eliminate the use of fine-mesh gill nets and other fishing practices that threaten the species, which is estimated to number around 150 individuals. A U.S. vessel is already laying out a network of acoustic monitoring devices to track the porpoise in the Gulf.
A critically endangered bat has made a remarkable recovery:
Down from a handful of individuals in 1989, the Pemba flying fox population on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania, now stands at more than 22,000. The recovery owes to the efforts of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Department of Commercial Crops, Fruits and Forestry (DCCFF) which established new reserves to protect critical habitat for the species and launched local education initiatives to raise awareness of its plight and reduce hunting. Today local residents take pride in protecting the charismatic species, which is endemic to the island and is one of Africa's largest bat species (with a wingspan of five-and-a-half feet).

"Less than twenty years ago this bat looked set to disappear off the face of the planet forever. Thanks to the enthusiasm of local people, FFI's ongoing conservation efforts have managed to claw this species back from the brink of extinction," said Joy Juma, FFI East Africa Programme Assistant.
Costa Rica has banned the logging of a tree that houses the endangered great green macaw:
Costa Rica's high court has prohibited the cutting of a certain species of tree, in part because a highly endangered type of parrot uses the tree almost exclusively for nesting.

With one decision, the Sala IV constitutional court protected the mountain almond tree and the great green macaw, specifically in a sprawling area in northern Costa Rica. However, the court also ordered the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to spread the word to all its regional officials, thus protecting the tree throughout the country. The Sala IV also ordered the environmental courts to monitor compliance with the decision.

Efforts are underway to rid the world (though not, perhaps, the world's bioweapons labs) of a dangerous parasitic disease:
"I'm in a very lucky position that a lot of people dream and talk about, but virtually nobody reaches," said Professor Lightowlers. "This disease has been identified as one that could be eradicated from the globe, so this is a very significant hurdle which means the end is well and truly in sight."

Five field trials were carried out in Peru, Cameroon, Mexico and Honduras between 2006 and 2008. All five trials achieved greater than 99% success.

The field trials have proved so successful that the team has been asked to provide 210,000 doses of the vaccine for a separate US$15.7m project funded by the Gates Foundation in Northern Peru, with the first of these doses arriving next week.
And in the Gambia, the incidence of malaria has dropped dramatically:
At each of the four sites with complete slide examination records, they found that the proportions of malaria-positive slides had decreased by 82%, 85%, 73% and 50% respectively between 2003 and 2007. Meanwhile, during the same period at the three sites with complete admission records, the proportions of malaria admissions fell by 74%, 69% and 27%. Proportions of deaths attributed to malaria in two hospitals fell by more than 90%.
Will I link to an exhibition of photos relating to ghosts, apparitions, angels, spiritual visitations and views of the future? As someone or other once said, you betcha!

Other fish in the same barrel: Pinhole snapshots by Guillaume Zuili. Attentional landscapes by Odette England. And Tokyo Stories, "an exceptional exhibition of close to 100 rare prints, [that] reveals the multiple faces of Tokyo from the 1930s until the present day through the works of three of Japan’s leading photographers: Hiroshi Hamaya, Tadahiko Hayashi and Shigeichi Nagano."

Also: Abandoned sound mirrors, echoed in the works of Yvette Molina. The roadside art of Alabama (via Plep). And some Hallowe'en photos by Phyllis Galembo.

And finally, by popular demand, the highlights of Zagreb.

(Image at top: "Untitled (After Caspar David Friedrich)" by Gottfried Helnwein, 1998.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two Planets, No Waiting

A new study suggests that by 2030, we'll need two planets to support ourselves in the style to which we've become accustomed.

This study has some obvious conceptual problems. First, it ignores the potential benefits of wise policies like granting Monsanto patents on food crops, or killing all Islamofascists. Second, it's an example of what Gregg Easterbrook calls the Fallacy of Uninterrupted Trends: it overlooks the fact that science and markets will inevitably solve the problems caused by overconsumption, just as they've always done in the past.

As if to prove my point, India is lighting our way into the future by announcing its intent to mine the moon for uranium:

The Indian mission is scheduled to last two years, prepare a three-dimensional atlas of the moon and prospect the lunar surface for natural resources, including uranium, a coveted fuel for nuclear power plants, according to the Indian Space Research Organization.
This could provide a virtually limitless source of cheap, safe long as you ignore the staggering expense of interplanetary extraction and transportation, along with all the other little details that make this idea pointless, impractical, dangerous, and bizarre. Still, it's the thought that counts!

Of course, once India sets up housekeeping up on the moon, we know precisely where that will lead: Great Britain will move to establish a Lunar Raj and a new era of Company Rule, which will be cheered on interminably by Niall Ferguson and John Derbyshire (who has already been worrying himself sick over the threat of lunar multiculturalism).

One thing the moon doesn't have is fish. Rain follows the plow, granted...but I still think we should suspend this practice until we can get our lunar fisheries up and running.
Despite continuous warnings of emptying oceans due to overfishing, a new report finds that one-third of the world’s total marine catch is not feeding humans, but livestock. The fish are ground-up into meal and fed to pigs, poultry, and even farm-raised fish.
At the risk of sounding like some sort of radical firebrand, this is simply wasteful. There are plenty of redundant animals we don't eat that could just as easily be ground en masse into poultry feed. Rats come to mind, as do squirrels, vultures, and snakes; all of 'em will taste like chicken, in the end. That ought to keep us going until we're able to set up Punch and Judy shows by the lunar seaside.

If anyone doubts that scientific progress will reduce the resource exploitation that it constantly makes easier and more efficient, here's an inspiring example of human ingenuity:
A device placed on, say, a supermarket shelf scans the face of the person standing in front of it. It determines whether the person is a man or a woman and sends that information to a digital screen nearby. The screen will play an ad for women's razors if a woman is watching, Jeeps if a man is watching, or Gap if both a man and woman are watching. "People are not even aware that they are being watched and monitored," Rabenou said.

The video analytics software to do this was developed for the Israeli homeland security department. It can determine, by facial clues, the gender and age of the faces it scans. By next year, the company says, the software will be able to ascertain ethnicity as well.

The device can also track how long people stand in front of a retail display, determining whether the display is clear. In an Israeli trial, it helped advertisers realize that a lot of men were buying Pampers on Thursday nights, so the company started a promotion that gave free razors to shoppers who bought two packs of Pampers.
How's that for beating swords into plowshares? Of course, this sophisticated technology is intended to increase witless hyperconsumption...but why couldn't it be put to better uses?

Just imagine if it were used to display comforting messages when it detects shoppers with haggard, worried faces. Suppose I go into the drugstore, looking for a straight razor with which to slash my wrists. The store's video analytics software would recognize my puffy, red eyes, and the tears streaming down my cheeks, and it'd promptly cue up some reassuring message like "there is plenty of uranium on the moon," or "Precious Gems Discovered on Mars." And suddenly, I'd find the strength to carry on.

And that's just what's possible today. Who knows what we'll accomplish tomorrow?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

We'll start this week's edition with a brief exchange between Alan Greenspan and Henry Waxman:

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: "I have found a flaw. I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact."

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Mr. Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Mr. Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."
Meanwhile, FDR biographer Conrad Black reminds us of a few little details about the New Deal:
"The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York's Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown.

It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country's entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock."
Granted, a few nonconforming ciphers who refused to praise the mathematically perfect life of the One State were asphyxiated in the Gas Bell Jar, but we can't allow innumerate pity to cloud our judgment. The New Deal seems, on the whole, to have been a worthwhile idea. Perhaps it's worth another shot.

As long as we're puzzling over the pros and cons of civilization, it's worth noting that prosecutions for rape are increasing in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
The United Nations has said the Democratic Republic of Congo has some of the worst sexual violence in the world, according to the New York Times, but some recent efforts are starting to slowly change that.

In the last several months, international groups have poured money into the country to try to bolster Congo’s justice system. Investigators are getting more training, and an American Bar Association clinic has been opened to help rape victims get their cases prosecuted. Rape victims themselves are also speaking out about their experiences in forums that move listeners to tears, the Times said.
One of BushCo's hired goons will resign at the end of January:
Bloch who is under investigation for not only refusing to protect LGBT workers but also for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers in his own office said he will leave at the end of his term rather than stay on until a replacement is found by the next administration. Under federal law Bloch could stay for up to a year during the transition from Bush to the next administration.

Critics have termed Bloch’s tenure as special counsel as "bizarre," and lawmakers repeatedly have demanded he step down.
An extremely rare bird has been found in Indonesia:
Scientists have rediscovered the endangered Wetar Ground-dove (Gallicolumba hoedtii), one of the world's least known birds, 100 years after it was last seen on the remote Indonesian island of Wetar, reports Columbidae Conservation, a UK-based conservation group.

Surveying the rugged, 3600-square-kilometer island for bird life, scientists working for Columbidae Conservation found Wetar Ground-dove to be locally abundant, recording the largest-ever documented gathering of the species of 30-40 birds at a fig tree. The scientists also found the endangered Timor Imperial Pigeon (Ducula cineracea) to be locally abundant. In all, the expedition reported 39 new bird species for the island.

GrrlScientist has more on the recent ornithological discoveries in Indonesia.

In related news, a rare deer has been discovered in Sumatra:
A rare species of deer has been rediscovered in Sumatra 78 years after it was last sighted, reports Fauna & Flora International.

The deer, known as the Sumatran muntjac (Muntiacus montanus), was rescued from a snare during an anti-poaching patrol by the Kerinci-Seblat National Park Tiger Protection Team in Kerinci-Seblat National Park. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) subsequently caught two more of the deer on film using camera traps.
And eBay has banned the sale of ivory products:
"In reviewing this issue, eBay has consulted with a number of organizations, including World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The team concluded that we simply can't ensure that ivory listed for sale on eBay is in compliance with the complex regulations that govern its sale. So, to protect our buyers and sellers, as well as animals in danger of extinction, eBay has decided to institute a global ban on the sale of all types of ivory. This global ban will be effective January 1, 2009."
Turkey has decided not to flood a cave full of hibernating bats:
One cave near newly completed Havran Dam is thought to hold 15,000 to 20,000 bats of eight or nine different species, the second largest colony in Turkey. According to a 2005 paper in the journal Zoology in the Middle East, "the species richness and the colony sizes qualify the site as an Important Mammal Area and would qualify it as a Special Area for Conservation, according to the Habitats Directive of the European Union."
There's talk of creating a global, interdisciplinary science library:
The existing networks for collecting, storing and distributing data in many areas of science are inadequate and not designed to enable the interdisciplinary research that is necessary to meet major global challenges. These networks must be transformed into a new interoperable data system and extended around the world and across all areas of science. The General Assembly of the International Council for Science agreed today to take the first strategic steps to establish such a system.
A new water harvesting device will allegedly pull up to 3.2 gallons of water per day out of the air:
[T]he WaterMill is a small, relatively simple home appliance that draws moisture from the outside air and condenses it into fresh potable water. The WaterMill promises to provide 3.2 gallons of drinking water a day under ideal conditions - enough for a family of six.

While the elegant design of the WaterMill is striking, its real breakthrough seems to be its efficiency. According to Element Four, the WaterMill operates “at a cost of approximately 11 cents per gallon (three cents per liter), the average operating cost of 35 cents a day is a fraction of that of bottled water, which averages around $4.00 per day for the same amount of water.” Not bad!
Inhabitat also looks at a boardwalk that uses kinetic energy from foot traffic to pump water:
Detractors may cite the projected figures: “1 step -> pumping -> 1 liter water”, and “50 visitors/day = 5000 steps = 50000 liters water”, not to mention the fact that in Nam’s drawings, precious, life-saving water seems to be spilling into the desert unimpeded. However, similar kinetic energy prototypes such as MIT’s Crowd Farm demonstrate that the technology is certainly feasible.
Apropos of boardwalks, New Jersey plans to build a wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City:
The wind turbines will produce 345 megawatts, enough electricity to power all the single-family homes in Passaic County plus all the single-family homes in Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Paramus, Ridgewood, Mahwah, Bergenfield, Dumont, Englewood and Hackensack.
(h/t: Karin.)

India is experimenting with a solar rickshaw:
India has an estimated eight million cycle-rickshaws. The makeover includes FM radios and powerpoints for charging mobile phones during rides....

The fully-charged solar battery will power the rickshaw for 50 to 70 kilometres (30 to 42 miles). Used batteries can be deposited at a centralised solar-powered charging station and replaced for a nominal fee.
The Sietch Blog links to a film of a solar furnace that can melt steel. (See also the collection of innovative stoves at AIDG Blog.)

A Japanese airport says it will store snow as a coolant for summer months:
An unspecified amount of snow will be collected in winter and stored through the summer under heat-insulating materials (again, unspecified exactly what those materials will be). Tests done last winter show that up to 45% of the collected snow could be stored until September. The snow will be used in the warmer months to chill the liquid in the airport’s cooling system, thereby avoiding energy use which would otherwise emit an estimated 2,100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
An interesting idea, though as the article notes, the details are a bit too hazy for comfort.

New research suggests that "organic farming may offer Africa the best opportunity to break out of the devastating cycle of poverty and malnutrition parts of the continent have faced in recent decades."
The new report analyzed 114 projects in 24 African countries and found that yields had more than doubled when organic and near-organic practices had been implemented. In East Africa, the use of traditional farming techniques boosted yield by 128 percent.
Rivers and mountains compared: yet another candidate for the best post ever at BibliOdyssey. This also serves as a fine preamble to some recent photos of the Xe Bang Fai River cave in Laos.

X-ray photographs by Nick Veasey (via Coudal). The Atlas of Early Printing. Antique microscope slides by Thomas Southwart.

A prospective translation of Gilgamesh for apes (via Plep). Our simian brethren and cistern may also enjoy these recordings from the National Sound Archives of the Jerusalem National University Library. Or this attic full of cylinders comprising field recordings of sea shanties from the 1920s. Anatomy Acts explains "how we come to know ourselves." And Written in Stone explains how we come to know the geology of Canada.

Nomadic hotels and lighthouses (some of which were undoubtedly frequented by Loose Women in Tights). Speaking of which, The Bioscope reports that footage has been found of a seagoing tram:
George Albert Smith’s Brighton Sea-going Electric Car (1897), discovered this year by the Filmoteca de Catalunya is a mysterious masterpiece in miniature. This was an elevated, sea-going platform, a sort of maritime tram, invented by Magnus Volk, which is seen to traverse the screen from right to left, like some bizarre vision of modernity drifting into view then out again.

Last, here's some animation from 1935.

(Photo at top via Stuck in Customs.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hardship, Persecution and Suffering

Focus on the Family offers a chilling vision of the End Times:

"Hardship," "persecution" and "suffering" are among the prospects in a hypothetical letter from a "Christian from 2012" released today by evangelical leader James Dobson's political activist group Focus on the Family Action....

"I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat," says the fictional writer. "Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years," America is no longer "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Although these predictions are fictional, most of them are "based on established legal and political trends that can already be abundantly documented." In other words, the rigorous process of making shit up has not been tainted by bias, ideology, or wishful thinking.

Thus, we learn that in 2012, homosexual marriage "has been ruled a constitutional right that must be respected by all 50 states." Those of you who say it'll never happen are forgetting that there was a time when women couldn't vote, and blacks couldn't marry whites. Who can say how much further the gloomy path that leads away from bigotry will take us?

Once you've depicted the United States writhing under the lash of Teh Gayz, all other horrors seem trivial. But a few of them deserve mention, all the same.

By the fourth year of the Obama/Ayers regime, church buildings will be deemed "public accomodations" and will be as generously stocked with dental dams, condoms and lube as a Tribeca sex club. Adding insult to injury, high school students will no longer be allowed to pray together (or at least, not publicly, and we all know how insistent the Bible is on the importance of praying in public).

Also, the Boy Scouts will disband, kindergartens will replace Dick and Jane with Judith Butler and Monique Wittig, guns will be pried out of cold dead fingers by HIV-positive fags under the command of Janet Reno, in space no one will hear you scream, everybody will Wang Chung tonight, und so weiter.

Somewhat less surprisingly, it turns out that American healthcare will be inadequate in 2012. Some people actually may not get it when they need it.
"The great benefit is that medical care is now free for everyone – if you can get it," the letter writer says. "Now that health care is free it seems that everybody wants more of it....

"Because medical resources now must be rationed carefully by the government, people over 80 have essentially no access to hospitals or surgical procedures. Their 'duty' is increasingly thought to be to go home to die, so that they don't drain scarce resources from the medical system."
God forbid! If we ever limit access to hospitals and surgical procedures, it should be due to the patient's inability to pay the going rate, at which point the denial of care will be the just reward for a misspent life and a useful object lesson for lollygaggers and layabouts.

Interestingly, Obama's decision to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine will drive conservative talk show hosts off the air.
Conservative talk radio, for all intents and purposes, was shut down by the end of 2010.
This seems like a confession that these shows can only survive in carefully maintained hothouse conditions. But either way, the loss of principled men like Michael Savage and Sean Hannity, who'll inevitably choose silence before dishonor, is a comparatively minor inconvenience, given all the terrorist bombs that will be going off in American cities, and the fact that Russia will seize Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria "with no military response from the U.S. or the U.N." (I have to add that cramming all of this exciting activity into four short years strains my credulity, somewhat. If I'd written this letter, I would've set it in 2015, three years after Obama suspended the Constitution and declared himself Dictator for Life.)

Lest anyone think this letter is simply a matter of stirring up outrage against the usual suspects, the author is not shy about laying the blame for these imaginary outcomes squarely on misguided Christians who somehow failed to perceive that activist judges, homosexuals, environmentalists, the NEA, the ACLU, feminists, supporters of gun control, pacifists, and liberals in general are out to destroy everything God loves. That said, "Focus adds that evangelicals on both sides of the election should 'continue to respect and cherish each other's friendship as well as the freedom people have in the United States to differ on these issues and to freely speak our opinions about them to one another.'"

I agree wholeheartedly, and it is in this precise spirit of comity and benevolence that I offer this startling E-mail from 2012, every word of which has its roots in the deep, honest soil of Fact:
Hello from 2012!

First off, I'm sorry to have to inform you that Focus on the Family continues to comprise a gaggle of pathologically dishonest, power-hungry, pseudo-Christian fuckheads. Fortunately, not many people listen to them anymore, thanks in large part to the fact that James Dobson was recently caught sucking three men's dicks at a rest stop on I-10 near Rancho Mirage, CA. Despite stacks of incriminating photos, plenty of DNA and fingerprint evidence, and the eyewitness testimony of dozens of witnesses (including a busload of Boy Scouts), Dobson still maintains his innocence. Currently, he's claiming that he was kidnapped and drugged by a cabal of UN one-worlders, and didn't actually wake up 'til the flashbulbs started going off.

As for President Obama, he's pretty much what you'd expect: a smart, cautious centrist with limited interest in rocking the boat. I wish I could say that we're living in some kind of socialist wonderland, but that's not really the case. You'd never know it from listening to the Limbaugh and his ilk, though...they've all convinced themselves that they're suffering as no free people has ever suffered before. Their stately homes are mere outposts of the Gulag, to hear them tell it, and they condemn each of Obama's modest infrastructure projects as a new Belomorkanal.

On the bright side, Obama's not censoring scientists, he's reversed the global gag rule, he's made some wise investments in renewable energy and sustainable design, and he doesn't seem to mistake every single idea that wanders into his head for God's own truth. Things could be worse.

Not much else to report, except that Jonah Goldberg is writing a book on Pinochet. The working title is Tough Love: A Modern Day Man of Steel and His Lessons for the United Socialist States of America. In the only excerpt I've seen, he inventively links Pinochet's execution of Victor Jara with Plato's argument against "the assumption that in music there is no such thing as a right and a wrong." Plato calls this a "reckless excess of liberty" that leads ineluctably to the "refusal to submit to magistrates [and] emancipation from the authority and correction of parents and elders," and Goldberg's inclined to agree:
Much as we may deplore the inevitable excesses of a socialist like Hitler, the ongoing problem of entartete Kunst remains one that cries out for a final solution, whether we're speaking of the "universal confusion of forms" in Plato's time or the corrupting spirit of collectivist battle-cries like "People Who Need People" in our own era, which I think could arguably be called "Streisandian" for lack of a more authoritative scholarly term....

Liberals take great pains to pretend to find the idea of censoring musicians shocking, but if Toby Keith has not yet been lynched for his pro-America anthem "I Remember When That House Was White," it almost certainly has more to do with the feminizing effect of the metrosexual lifestyle than with any philosophical ideal of "tolerance." If liberals ate rare steak instead of wilted arugula, Keith would probably already be hanging from the nearest lamppost.
As you can see, not that much has changed in American political discourse in the last four years. On the other hand, a new pill from Eli Lilly makes it possible to take this stuff in good humor. The only side effect, so far, seems to be an increased tendency towards multiple orgasms, but I understand they're working on that.

See you when you get here!


(Photo of Ed Schrock via Pam Spaulding.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Hypselodoris infucata there.

(Photo by Stephen Childs.)

Friday Hope Blogging

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that gay and straight Americans should have equal rights.

The Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a ban on same-sex marriage on Friday in a victory for gay-rights advocates that will allow couples to marry in the New England state.

The court found that the state's law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
Ya don't say.

An ill-conceived relocation program for the desert tortoise has been suspended:
Fort Irwin officials on Thursday suspended their disastrous desert tortoise translocation program, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Survivors. The flawed translocation project, undertaken to remove tortoises from an area where the fort intends to expand its training areas, has so far sustained huge losses. More than 90 relocated and resident tortoises have perished, primarily killed by predators, and more losses are expected due to healthy tortoises being introduced into diseased populations — against the recommendations of epidemiologists.
Black rhinos have been released into the wild for the first time in 25 years:
According to an article from ZSL the fifteen rhinos were sedated and had GPS transmitters installed in their horns before being moved to their new home. The fifteen individuals were selected from a single herd, so the animals would already be familiar with one another. If the release proves successful, ZSL hopes to take what is has learned in Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania for similar projects there.

Argentina has banned fishing and trawling in a sensitive coastal area:
Burdwood Bank is rich with endemic species and serves as an important feeding ground for sea lions, penguins, albatross and other marine life. The area is also a breeding site for southern blue whiting and Fuegian sardine and supports unique hard and soft coral species.

WCS reports that the Argentine Fisheries Secretary permanently banned all fishing activities in the area — including bottom trawling — on September 26th, 2008.
Hundreds of new species have been found off the coast of Tasmania, including this odd sea star.

Chevron has failed in its latest bid to avoid paying for clean-up efforts in the Ecuadorean rainforest:
The set back for Chevron comes after a July report revealed that the oil firm has hired lobbyists to persuade the Bush administration and Congress to threaten the use of trade sanctions against Ecuador to get it off the hook for damages.
According to The Sietch Blog, the environazis have taken another step towards dismantling civilization:
Solectria Renewables has completed delivery of more than 5 MegaWatts (MW) of 95 kW three-phase grid-tied inverters for multiple photovoltaic (PV) systems in South Korea. These systems were designed and installed by Hyundai Heavy Industries and Jarada Co. Ltd., Solectria Renewables’ distributor in South Korea. This is a great example of American made products being exported to other countries.
While we're on the subject of economic opportunity, consider this:
As the economic might of Japan faces up to the global banking crisis, a single cat has boosted the finances of a small Japanese city by millions of dollars, according to a study.

Tortoiseshell Tama is the master of the unmanned Kishi train station where she was born and raised, on the provincial Kishigawa Line. But it is not her labours on the platform which have seen the cash rolling in.

It is rather Tama's irresistible charm which has brought tourists flocking in their thousands to the western city of Kinokawa to see the feline worker patrolling in the uniform of her office -- a Wakayama Electric Railway cap.

With 55,000 more people having used the Kishigawa Line than would normally be expected, Tama is being credited with a contribution to the local economy calculated to have reached as much as 1.1 billion yen (10.44 million dollars) in 2007 alone, according to a study announced last week.
The path to our salvation is clear!

AIDG Blog links to a nice story about a remarkable urban garden in Milwaukee:
Will Allen already had the makings of an agricultural dream packed into two scruffy acres in one of Milwaukee’s most economically distressed neighborhoods.

His Growing Power organization has six greenhouses and eight hoophouses for greens, herbs and vegetables; pens for goats, ducks and turkeys; a chicken coop and beehives; and a system for raising tilapia and perch. There’s an advanced composting operation — a virtual worm farm — and a lab that is working on ways to turn food waste into fertilizer and methane gas for energy.

With a staff of about three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as volunteers, his operation raises about $500,000 worth of affordable produce, meat and fish for one of what he calls the “food deserts” of American cities, where the only access to food is corner grocery stories filled with beer, cigarettes and processed foods.
Meanwhile, vertical gardens are springing up in LA's Skid Row:
“Bees and butterflies arrived within seconds after we put the walls up,” says Joyce Lewis, Urban Farming’s L.A. project manager, who organizes local volunteers to tend the vertical gardens. “They greened an environment that would otherwise just be concrete and steel.”
I like this idea quite a bit:
They are everywhere: images of animals and nature to market large corporations’ products. There is the simply-sketched penguin on every Penguin Book; the leaping silver jaguar from the car company of the same name; the jumping helmet-wearing dolphin of the Miami Dolphins’ football team; and the ubiquitous talking gecko used in Geico auto insurance commercials. Such logos have always been free; however a new campaign, Save Your Logo, will encourage corporations with animal or nature logos to support endangered species and their dwindling habitats.

According to an article on the IUCN website, the initiative is apart of a new partnership of the IUCN, The Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the World Bank with additional cooperation from the Belgian NGO, Noe Institute.
Consumer Reports has created a new website called Full Frontal Scrutiny in order to keep tabs on industry front groups.
[W]e created this focus public attention on the people and organizations who function in our society as hidden persuaders. You'll find them at work posting to blogs, speaking before city councils, quoted in newspapers and published on the editorial page, even sponsoring presidential election debates. All this while pretending to represent the grassroots when in fact they are working against citizens' best interests. We call these organizations front groups. One of the best ways to put their agendas in proper perspective is to expose their work. That's what this website is for. We hope you'll use it, tell your friends about it, even contribute to it.
There's more here.

A recordsetting 61 Nobel laureates have endorsed Barack Obama.
We especially applaud his emphasis during the campaign on the power of science and technology to enhance our nation’s competitiveness. In particular, we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research – to meet the nation’s and the world’s most urgent needs.
An adobe pyramid has been discovered in Peru:
"We know that many buildings are still buried under Cahuachi's sands, but until now, it was almost impossible to exactly locate them and detect their shape from an aerial view," Masini told Discovery News. "The biggest problem was the very low contrast between adobe, which is sun-dried earth, and the background subsoil."

Ethiopia will build Africa's biggest wind farm:
Ethiopia has been chronically hit by droughts, affecting the humanitarian plight of millions as well as crippling its electricity production, which is heavily reliant on hydroelectric dams.

The landlocked Horn of Africa country -- Africa's second most populous -- is currently experiencing a severe drought and has been plagued by incessant power cuts in recent months.
Indigenous forest dwellers in Borneo will not allow an oil palm plantation on their land:
In a two-hour meeting Saturday in the city of Miri, representatives from the Berawan-Tering ethnic group officially rejected an overture to turn their land over to a private firm for oil palm development. About 90 percent of community members opposed the deal which would have given the oil palm a 60-year concession to their land, according to former Baram District Councillor Philip Ube, who represented the native.
Indonesian officials have agreed to protect Sumatra's forests:
The ten governors of Sumatra — along with four federal ministers — have signed an agreement to protect forests and other ecosystems on the Indonesian island, according to WWF. The announcement is significant because Sumatra is a biodiversity hotspot — home to rare and endemic wildlife — that is under great threat from logging and expansion oil palm plantations. The island has lost 48 percent of its forest cover since 1985.
Inhabitat reports on a clever new bicycle design:
[T]he Aquaduct is “a pedal-powered concept vehicle that transports, filters, and stores water.” Pedal to the well, fill up the tank and by the time you’re home you have 8 liters of purified water....It works by using a pedal-driven peristaltic pump to drive water from its trunk through a filter into a clean tank. The bike can carry enough water for an entire family, and can filter while moving or stationary.
Scientists have reportedly found a way to identify sources of mercury pollution:
For the past eight years, Blum and co-workers have been trying to develop a way of reading mercury fingerprints in coal and other sources of mercury. The hope was that they could then find those same fingerprints in soil and water bodies, much as a detective matches a suspect's fingerprints to those found at a crime scene, and use them to figure out exactly what the sources of mercury pollution are in certain areas.

"For some time, we weren't sure that it was going to be technically possible, but now we've cracked that nut and have shown significant differences not only between mercury from coal and, say, metallic forms of mercury that are used in industry, but also between different coal deposits," Blum said.
This is pretty amazing:
Four months after a successful hand transplant -- 35 years after amputation in an industrial accident at age 19 -- a 54-year-old man's emerging sense of touch is registered in the former "hand area" of the his brain, says a University of Oregon neuroscientist.
Geoff Manaugh makes some interesting and timely points about the fixation of the American political elite on rural "authenticity":
If the United States – if the entire world – is rapidly urbanizing, then it would seem like literally the last thing we need in the White House, in an era of collapsing bridges and levees, is someone whose idea of public infrastructure is a dirt road.
Read the whole thing, by all means. It ties in with some speculations of my own, which I may eventually get around to posting here, or chez Echidne. (In the meantime, let's consider tea as a North/South litmus test.)

Things you lived long enough to see: The colors of the moon (via Plep). A prehistoric hedgehog figurine. The craters of Mercury.

In addition, if not multiplication: The not inconsiderable virtues of sandbag houses. The quietest place on earth, an unsettling locale for which the Western Soundscape Archive is a reliable antidote. Ice cliffs in foreclosed malls: one possible outcome of five failed political axioms, and a possible haven for Antarctic botany (this could save countless local economies, especially if the caretaker is a cat in snow goggles).

Furthermore: Junk Drawers and Medicine Cabinets (via things). The Routefinder, a strange and beautiful precursor to handheld GPS. And some evocative photos from the Moscow Zoo, 1920 (also via Plep).

Here's a movie to end with. Don't watch it all in one place!

(Photo at top: "Agar Plate of Fluorescent Bacteria Colonies" by Roger Y. Tsien.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Selling Bad Ideas

Shawn Akers follows the trail of soggy crumbs left by Jonah Goldberg, and discovers a grave and gathering threat called "Commufascism."

Here's how it operates:

The secret to selling bad ideas is to make sure they are the only ones available. This is how totalitarian regimes take power.
This is quite true, which is why we need to crush academia. And demonize anyone who suggests that there's any historical explanation for anti-Americanism in the Middle East. And represent abortion as murder, period. And denounce anything short of trigger-happy anarcho-capitalist chaos as a nigger-coddling Nanny State.
Whether it was Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany or Vladimir Lenin in Communist Russia, the pattern is largely the same – totalitarian dictators come to power by enshrining themselves as cults of personality and then creating political monopolies through often less than delicate campaigns of indoctrination and censorship – especially censorship enshrouded in the intimidating aura of state power.
This is such prodigious nonsense that I feel almost helpless before it; it's as though I'm trying to extinguish Vesuvius with a squirt gun. Consider Akers' plodding earnestness as he reveals the hermetic secrets of 20th-century totalitarianism. (Talking about serious things makes you a serious person! Try it at home! Impress your friends!) Consider his dainty objection to the "less than delicate" methods of Commufascist political monopolies. Consider his judicious distinction between totalitarian censorship per se, and the totalitarian censorship that's "enshrouded in the intimidating aura of state power." And, above all, consider his perfect obliviousness to the political culture of the last eight years, in which the most frequent complaint the Right had against government censorship and intimidation was that it stopped short of executing celebrity peaceniks.

Akers goes on to argue that when a government dominates, impoverishes, and enslaves its people, "the result is always the same – tyranny." Please do make a note of it.

All this proves once again that the Historical Perspective has only one great purpose in conservative thought, and that's to paint moderates like Obama as the rectally born love children of Hitler and Stalin:
[S]cattered around the nation are tri-color campaign posters of Mr. Obama, bearing a striking resemblance to the larger than life representations of Lenin, Marx, and Engels used by soviet propagandists in the glory days of Mother Russia.
Remember that thing Akers said a moment ago, about how "the secret to selling bad ideas is to make sure they are the only ones available"? Well, he's exactly right, and that's why Obama's mild call for expanded healthcare (plus American exceptionalism) and renewable energy (plus unconditional support for Israel) has to be cast as something out of The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution.

Akers complains that Obama is being transformed from an underachieving mediocrity into Our National Savior, which suggests that conservatives were right, for once, when they claimed that irony died on 9/11. It's not just that Akers dislikes being dosed with his own medicine, though; he has a larger, more universal concern.
[U]nfortunately for the American people, what has been true of the form of the Obama campaign is now materializing in its function as individuals cloaked in the appearance of state authority seek to silence dissent and indoctrinate the masses.
Akers is referring to the claim that an Obama "truth squad" in Missouri has vowed to prosecute anyone who dares to point out that he's a Commufascist, a secret Muslim, a Marxist, a neo-Marxist, a terrorist, a drug user or dealer, an advocate of post-birth abortion, a messianic megalomaniac, an America-hater, a citizen of Kenya or Indonesia, an uppity arugula-eater, the Antichrist, or all of the above. The chilling effect of this threat is demonstrated by the astonishing number of people who have called Obama these things and worse over the last week; this inspires Akers to rail against the "true Nazi-Reichsführer-school-meets-Communist-Reeducation-Camp style" of the "Obama jugend," whose impolitic language "would have made Stalin blush."

Worse, Obama's henchmen have allegedly threatened legal action against radio stations that "air unapproved ads." To you, it's common sense. To Akers, it's an example of "'forced coordination' – what the Nazis referred to as Gleichschaltung."

To his credit, Akers doesn't curse the darkie without lighting what the Nazis referred to as eine kerze.
Attempts at tyranny have historically struck a sour note in the collective [!!!] soul of Americans. There is something written on our hearts that says it is wrong to take property that does not belong to you even if you take it for a “good cause;” it is wrong to kill the innocent even if their existence is inconvenient for you; it is wrong to win a contest by intimidating the judges; and it is the honor of the strong to secure justice for the weak.
That's clear enough, right? Winning a contest by intimidating judges = Commufascism. Winning a contest by pretending that you're running against an Islamo-Stalinist Hitler = democracy and fair play.

This gibberish probably won't resonate with anyone who doesn't already hate Obama. But then, it's not supposed to. The point of Akers' piece is simply that if Obama wins, the victory will be both illegitimate and intolerable. Currently, Obama's popularity is proof that he's a quasi-fascist demagogue; if he wins, the idea that he was legally elected by a majority of voters will be rejected as a moral and mathematical impossibility.

In the coming weeks, these dangerous ideas will be "the only ones available" to real Americans, thanks to "less than delicate campaigns" like Akers'. And if anyone gets killed...well, sic semper tyrannis.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

In between a place and candy is a narrow foot-path that shows more mounting than anything, so much really that a calling meaning a bolster measured a whole thing with that. A virgin a whole virgin is judged made and so between curves and outlines and real seasons and more out glasses and a perfectly unprecedented arrangement between old ladies and Chromodoris collingwoodi there is no satin wood shining.

(Photo by doug.deep.)

Friday Hope Blogging

The American Psychological Association will prohibit members from taking part in interrogations at illegal detention sites:

"The effect of this new policy is to prohibit psychologists from any involvement in interrogations or any other operational procedures at detention sites that are in violation of the U.S. Constitution or international law (e.g., the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture)," says the letter, from APA President Alan E. Kazdin, PhD. "In such unlawful detention settings, persons are deprived of basic human rights and legal protections, including the right to independent judicial review of their detention."

The roles of psychologists at such sites would now be limited to working directly for the people being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights, or to providing treatment to military personnel. The new policy was voted on by APA members and is in the process of being implemented.

For the past 20 years, APA policy has unequivocally condemned torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which can arise from interrogation procedures or conditions of confinement. APA's previous policies had expressed grave concerns about settings where people are deprived of human rights and had offered support to psychologists who refused to work in such settings.
California has passed a new law that protects farmers from being sued when their fields are contaminated with genetically engineered seeds:
AB 541 indemnifies California farmers who have not been able to prevent the inevitable - the drift of GE pollen or seed onto their land and the subsequent contamination of non-GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, most notoriously Monsanto....The bill also establishes a mandatory crop sampling protocol to level the playing field when biotech companies investigate alleged patent or contract violations.
A 100-year experiment proves the value of sustainable agriculture:
A plot of land on the campus of Auburn University shows that 110 years of sustainable farming practices can produce similar cotton crops to those using other methods.

In 1896, Professor J.F. Duggar at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (now Auburn University) started an experiment to test his theories that sustainable cotton production was possible on Alabama soils if growers would use crop rotation and include winter legumes (clovers and/or vetch) to protect the soil from winter erosion
Colorado is testing a new system that may help prevent animals from being hit by cars:
[H]ighway officials are testing a system that involves a cable buried parallel to the highway. The cable emits an electromagnetic field that is calibrated to detect large animals.

When an animal is detected, electronic signs are activated to warn drivers.
Scientists are looking into the possibility of sending electricity from parked hybrid cars to the grid:
Think of it as the end of cars’ slacker days: No more sitting idle for hours in parking lots or garages racking up payments, but instead earning their keep by providing power to the electricity grid.

Scientists at the University of Michigan, using a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), are exploring plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) that not only use grid electricity to meet their power needs, but return it to the grid, earning money for the owner....The concept, called vehicle-to-grid (V2G) integration, is part of a larger effort to embrace large-scale changes that are needed to improve the sustainability and resilience of the transportation and electric power infrastructures. If V2G integration succeeds, it will enable the grid to utilize PHEV batteries for storing excess renewable energy from wind and the sun, releasing this energy to grid customers when needed, such as during peak hours.
A new device allegedly removes CO2 from the air, even though it's essential to life and therefore safe at any level.
University of Calgary climate change researchers say they are close to figuring out how to commercialize the capture of carbon dioxide directly from the air with a simple system that could be set up anywhere in the world.

If they can make it work, it would allow greenhouse gas to be removed from ambient air and reduce the effect of emissions from transportation sources such as cars and airplanes.
The EPA has withdrawn a plan to allow advertisements on pesticide containers:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally withdrawn a proposal to allow pesticide manufacturers to display “third-party endorsements” and charitable tie-ins on their labels. The agency acknowledged that these commercial displays on pesticide labels could confuse consumers and distract from safe usage directions on insecticides, herbicides, rat poisons and anti-microbial agents, echoing objections lodged by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
WorldChanging has an interesting article on recycling waste heat:
in a move that will save money and cut carbon emissions, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana has begun housing some of its computer servers in the nearby "Arizona Desert Dome," a conservatory for cacti and other desert plants. Computer servers create a lot of waste heat -- so much so that keeping them cool is a major cost driver and engineering challenge for data centers. Particularly in coal-fired Indiana, air conditioning for data centers equates to a lot of carbon emissions. Cacti, on the other hand, need a lot of heat, particularly in the winter, when South Bend is blanketed in snow.
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have banned their most polluting trucks:
The ban on pre-1989 trucks immediately excludes more than 2,000 vehicles -- roughly 14 percent of the ports' combined fleet of diesel haulers -- that account for about half of the port area's total truck pollution, port officials say....

"The ports will see a 50 percent reduction (in truck emissions) overnight," said Jessica Lass, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which helped formulate the clean-air plans after suing the ports to block expansion until public health issues were addressed.
Inhabitat reports on an interesting new modular rainwater collection system:
Simply put, the Rainwaterhog is a system of 100% recyclable, 1/4″ thick, UV stabilized, food-grade plastic 50 gallon units that can be connected with standard 1″ brass fittings to create a custom, DIY system. The modular nature of the system allows homeowners to place the HOG tanks at several different locations throughout the property, thereby lowering pumping and electricity costs and avoiding unsightly and/or costly large central collection units.
In the Netherlands, 90,000 homes will be powered by chicken manure:
The biomass power plant is more than merely “carbon neutral”. If the chicken manure were to be spread out over farm land, it would release not only CO2, but also methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. By using the manure for power generation, the release of methane is avoided.
The cheetah population has stabilized in Namibia:
Viewing the world's fastest land animal as a threat to their livestock, in the 1980s farmers killed half of Namibia's cheetah population. The trend continued into the early 1990s, when the population was diminished again by nearly half, leaving less than 2,500 cheetah in the southern African country. Today cheetah populations have stabilized due, in large part, to the efforts of the Cheetah Conservation Fund....
Also in Africa, conservation efforts are helping the painted dog:
While the outlook is not good in many countries, there are emerging signs of hope, particularly in Zimbabwe where the efforts of a community-based conservation project has nearly doubled the population of the dog to 700 individuals.

Photograph by Chris Johns

A frog long thought to be extinct has been found in Honduras:
A rough-skinned frog species thought to have gone extinct more than 20 years ago has been found alive in a Honduran rain forest, experts said. Craugastor milesi—also called the miles' robber frog—was considered "locally abundant" in Honduras until the 1980s, when attempts to find the frog proved unsuccessful.
Mexico has banned all parrot sales in order to crack down on smugglers:
The government has been unable to control the clandestine capture and sale of the protected birds, environmentalists say.

The new ban—an amendment to Mexico's wildlife law—will eliminate the parrot and guacamaya market completely.
China is stepping up efforts to protect its freshwater dolphins:
The key initiative of the new Yangtze Dolphin Network is to connect existing reserves established for the Baiji dolphin, the world's most endangered member of the whale family, and the finless porpoise.
Toshiba's e-waste recycling program will now accept electronics from other manufacturers:
Toshiba now has one of the most comprehensive trade-in programs when it comes to e-waste. The program now accepts e-waste that has no market value for recycling without requiring consumers to purchase Toshiba products.
Low-Tech Magazine expresses some timely "doubts on technology," and explains the history of the optical telegraph (via Plep).

In other news: The Geology of the Civil War. King Alfonso XIII's bathing machine. A human-powered ferris wheel from India. Epilectic Seizure Comparison, "an ongoing location wherein non-epileptic persons may begin to experience, under 'controlled conditions,' the majestic potentials of convulsive seizure." And photos by Rick Dingus.

Not enough for you? Then watch this incredible movie in which magnetic fields are "revealed as chaotic ever-changing geometries" (via Coudal). Afterwards, you can imagine how the fields would look around these Modernist gas stations (via things). Or in these photographs by Victor Prevost.

Still not enough? Danger Dogs of Nepal. Photographs of the Scottish Highlands. And Circus Slang (all via Plep).

Last, Carlsbad Caverns in the 1920s.

(Illustration at top: "Durack Range" by Sidney Nolan, 1950.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

An Unforgivable Choice

Matt Barber, a member in good standing of what Peggy Noonan calls the Conservative Thinkosphere of the Net, has discovered an ugly example of left-wing hypocrisy: Liberals claim to believe in tolerance, but in reality, they're intolerant...of intolerance!

If you don't believe this, try calling publicly for the extermination of homosexuals and see how long it takes for some lefty to get angry at you.

The fact that writers for Town Hall and NewsMax discover this paradox anew every few days shouldn't distract us from Barber's more impressive achievement: He has revealed feminist women once and for all as people who tend to support abortion rights and oppose anti-feminist politicians. The jig is up, ladies, and your disdain for Sarah Palin was what gave you away:

Palin blew it, you see. She made an unforgivable “choice.” She publicly expressed, through both word and selfless deed, that she values all people during every stage of development*, from conception to natural death.
*Offer may not be valid in all states.

In the real world, of course, no one finds Palin's choice unforgivable; many people, including myself, find it admirable. What's unforgivable is the fact that she wants to be applauded for making that choice of her own free will, and for wishing to take free will entirely out of the equation for women who don't have her personal beliefs or her financial resources.

Beyond that, her decision to give birth to and raise her own child doesn't indicate that "she values all people during every stage of development," any more than the prohibition on abortion in Pakistan makes that nation a peaceable kingdom (please note that I'm referring here to violence besides the support of policies that routinely result in women being mutilated or killed).

Barber singles out "abortion-centric feminism" for particular abuse, as though any other kind were possible while the earth is encumbered with panty-sniffing control-addicts like him. He admires Palin because she's "easy on the eyes" — as all godly men must — but also because she "declined to slaughter her own unborn child, Trig, to goddess feminism." And he complains that feminists are claiming en masse that she's "not a real woman," which is a terrible thing to say about any woman unless she's a feminazi or a dyke.

It turns out that feminists object to Palin's choice because they view abortion as an important rite of passage (which is why you never see them calling for sex education, male birth control pills or increased access to contraception). In fact, the credo of these barren, castrating, shrewish, ugly, unnatural, selfish quasi-women is as follows:
“All women are endowed by mother earth with the inalienable right to eat their own young."
Putting aside the issue of Barber's soul-deep loathing for women — which is as hard to miss, and as appetizing, as a foot-high pile of dogshit on your dinner plate — I have to say I'm weary of being lectured on "selfishness" by people whose idea of virtue involves heaping abuse and misery on the poor and the powerless, in the name of a religion whose only truths are emotionally alien and politically inimical to them.

I'm also tired of being lectured on morality by people whose basic discomfort with human existence is so profound that only potential life has any chance of meeting their standards for purity. And I'm tired of being lectured on violence by people who are not only comfortable denying human rights to their fellow citizens, and forcing women to bear the children of rapists, but also have no problem blowing up pregnant women in foreign countries and demanding that I wave the flag over whatever's left of their bodies.

One day, I hope to vote in an election that will finally sweep these people from any semblance of power, and to live in a country where their ravings get no more respect than they themselves currently afford to the pleas of the hungry and the homeless and the sick and the abused. For now, I'll gladly settle for flinging Sarah Palin back into the outer darkness where she belongs.

(Photo via Menstrual Poetry.)