Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

(Photo by Steve Childs.)

Friday Hope Blogging

LA County intends to do something, at long last, about its backlog of untested rape kits:

Yesterday, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yarovslavksy announced that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department will completely fund the testing of every single rape kit in the backlog within the next two years, and the expansion of a staff to ensure that a backlog will never return to their shelves.
Australia's national rugby team is taking a stand against homophobia.
The campaign - This Is Oz - touts itself as "celebrating diversity and challenging homophobia," and uses its online photo gallery to feature athletes (and everyone else!) holding up messages supporting GLBT righ
Uruguayan lawmakers have approved a bill allowing gay adoption:
If it becomes law, Uruguay would be the first country in Latin American to allow adoption by gay and lesbian couples.

The law supported by socialist President Tabare Vazquez’s Broad Front coalition, which has already legalized gay civil unions and ended a ban on homosexuals in the armed forces.
Six suspects have been arrested in an important sex trafficking case:
Four men and one woman have been arrested on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking of children, as well as forcing and coercing adults to engage in commercial sex acts....

The charges against the six total defendants represent the single-largest domestic sex trafficking case ever prosecuted in the Southern District of Texas....At least one minor was rescued during the course of the investigation. Other minors and several adults have been returned to their families.
Despite the millions that the oil and coal industries are pouring into inactivism and slander, the number of Americans who support clean energy seems to be going up:
[T]he poll found that 58 percent of Americans would support lowering global warming pollution even if it cost them $10 more month. Two interesting points on this: One is that the Department of Energy says proposed legislation would cost as little as 23 cents a day - in other words, $6.90 per month, well below the $10 threshold. Wonder how that would affect the support figures?

Second interesting point is that the 58 percent level of support is 2 percent higher than the last time the Post/ABC poll posed the question, back in June.

Which means that this summer’s oil- and coal- fueled barrage of attacks on clean energy have pretty much failed to persuade Americans that the US should stick with dirty energy.
Speaking of which, the UN is looking to gather millions of signatures in favor of climate action.
The petition will serve as a reminder that our leaders must negotiate a fair, balanced and effective agreement in Copenhagen, and that they must seal a deal to power green growth, protect our planet and build a more sustainable, prosperous global economy that will benefit all nations and people.
You can sign here.

The White House claims it will create a task force to aid coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana:
In response to criticism that the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to take needed action, President Obama is creating a federal task force to overhaul management of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley made the announcement this week in an interview with Bloomberg News. The panel will consider options for revamping how the federal government manages environmental restoration and protection efforts in the region, which suffers from a serious coastal erosion problem.
Lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity have apparently scuttled a plan for clearcutting in the Sierra Nevada:
In response to recent lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity, plans to log more than 1,600 acres of Sierra Nevada forest have been formally withdrawn by Sierra Pacific Industries, the timber company that had proposed the logging. The Center filed three lawsuits earlier this month against the California Department of Forestry for illegally approving the plans without analyzing the carbon and climate consequences of the logging.

“Rather than attempt to defend the indefensible, Sierra Pacific Industries wisely retreated from this fight,” said Brendan Cummings, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The cancellation of these ill-conceived and illegal logging plans is an important step toward bringing the timber industry in California into the 21st century.”
The prototype for a solar highway is under development, thanks to a taxpayer-funded grant from our brutal socialist overlords:
Ever drive on the highway and think about how much solar energy is wasted on the asphalt below? Apparently, so has Solar Roadways. The startup was awarded a $100,000 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) grant this week to prototype its Solar Road Panel – an energy-generating panel made from solar cells and glass that is meant to replace petroleum-based asphalt on roads and in parking lots.

The panels, designed by Solar Roadways founder Scott Brusaw, contain embedded LED lights that might eventually act as a “smart” system, providing travel lines as well as timely warnings to drivers about roadblocks and wildlife up ahead. At the same time, embedded heating elements in the panels could prevent snow and ice from building up on the road.

Once a prototype is complete, Solar Roadways still has a long ways to go before its technology is commercialized. But if and when it is, Brusaw estimates that covering the entire U.S. interstate highway system with his 12′ by 12′ panels could fulfill the country’s energy needs (based on each panel producing 7.6 kilowatt hours of power each day).
Solar panels continue to drop in price:
Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.
There's also talk of spray-on solar cells, but it's more irritating than anything else, thanks to this quote from the lead scientist:
“The sun provides a nearly unlimited energy resource, but existing solar energy harvesting technologies are prohibitively expensive and cannot compete with fossil fuels,” says chemical engineer Brian Korgel of the University of Texas at Austin whose team is developing the graffiti-capable solar cells.
On the contrary, they can compete with fossil fuels, because they don't cause the expensive problems that fossil fuels cause, like ocean acidification, health problems, climate effects, and resource wars. Please do make a note of it, and best of luck with your research!

Cairo's slums are being improved with clean energy technology:
In the ghettos of Egypt's largest city, solar panels are sprouting on apartment rooftops, providing residents with clean power and water and a chance to directly improve their lives....

Solar CITIES' hot water systems are constructed from recycled materials and are uniquely tailored to the parts of a city where water and electricity availability are often sporadic.
In Utah, wastewater lagoons may be converted into an algae biofuel facility:
For the past several years, detergents and agricultural runoff have turned Logan's five wastewater lagoons into a phosphate-filled soup, posing a menace to sensitive wildlife habitat downstream and racking up costly clean-up bills.

But nature could be coming to the rescue in the form of green slime.

A collaborative project between the city and the Utah State University Research Foundation will use the ponds to grow algae, which might not only fix the phosphate problem for little money but produce energy. The city has won a $500,000 state grant to begin converting the 460-acre lagoon complex into an algae farm as a small-scale pilot project.
The EPA has agreed to limit fertilizer pollution in Florida waters:
The agreement, which environmental groups called a major milestone, settles a lawsuit the groups filed in 2008 seeking quicker action by EPA to shore up Florida’s water quality standards.

“This will be the engine that drives restoration of Florida rivers,” said David Guest, an attorney for public interest law firm Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit.
A chemical plant in West Virginia will reduce its storage of methyl isocyanate (which you may remember from the Bhopal disaster) by 80 percent:
The changes are part of a $25 million safety upgrade at its Institute plant, which is the only U.S. site that produces and stores large amounts of MIC.

An above-ground storage tank with the capacity to hold 40,000 pounds of the chemical was near the site of a blast that killed two plant employees last year. The blast didn't cause the release of any MIC, but it raised concerns about what could happen if a future mishap were to damage the storage tank."
The government is dooming us all to live in caves by cracking down on Midwest Generation:
By steadily replacing worn out equipment, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges, owner Midwest Generation kept Fisk and five other power plants operating well past the time when they otherwise would have been closed. The noxious smoke churning out of the plants makes them some of the biggest contributors to dirty air in the Chicago area, according to federal records.
We're not done yet, I'm afraid. Experimental homemade photography from Russia (via Plep). Lizard People's Catacomb City Hunted. Photographs of extinct animals. Paintings by LeeNora Parlor. Photographs from the Yangtze River by H.L. Tam. And for my Other Wife, Design Registers.

Puzzle and game maps. A friendship album by Jacoba Cornelia Bolten. The Chinese Mirror: A Journal of Chinese Film History (via The Bioscope). Early photographically illustrated books. Nova Scotia's Built Heritage Resource Guide.

Micronations of the World (not featured: my preferred auxiliary country of Elgaland-Vargaland, which comprises the borders between all other nations, and between mental states). Caribbean Views and charity cookbooks. From 1910, Birth of a Flower. A humorous t-shirt, available for purchase. Town and Country in Miniature. The Big Ben Collection. Atlantic Materia Medica. And the Evanion Collection of Ephemera.

And now, a word from our sponsor.

(Image at top: "Chicago. Bird's-Eye View at Night of Grant Park, the Fa├žade of the City, the Proposed Harbor, and the Lagoons of the Proposed Park on the South Shore." From Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago, 1909.)

Premises Based On Truth

Having noticed that not everyone thinks as she does, a disconsolate Mary Grabar goes in search of an explanation, and finds it in the very first place she looks:

Were it not for the “Destructive Generation” instantiating themselves in our schools, the election of Barack Obama would not have been possible. Had we had a generation who understood history, we would have had voters who understood the vacuity of his rhetoric and the implications of “spreading the wealth"....

We would have seen how his teaching a course on “critical race theory” would naturally lead to a nomination of a Supreme Court justice who sees herself as a “wise Latina woman” who can “empathize.”
We also would've realized that Obama's...uh...background makes him more likely to show favoritism to his own kind (politically speaking, of course), and had the good sense to elect someone objective, like for instance a white man.

This isn't a racial issue, you understand. It's just that certain cultures aren't quite as far along the road to civilization as they ought to be, objectively speaking, and therefore can't be trusted to play fair.

For her next trick, Grabar tries her hand at the Goldberg Method, by weaving loose threads of historical data into a web of weak analogical inference: Russian peasants received little or no education, and overthrew their democratically elected Tsar. American college students received the wrong kind of education, and installed Barry Obama as dictator for life, in an orgy of mob violence.

What's the missing link? Communism, natch.
With help from the Soviet Union, they fomented hatred of the United States and then successfully groomed a generation to colonize the schools....Employing the old Soviet strategy of “boring from within,” they focused on “an overlooked seat of influence”: the university. Divested of their history, literacy, and ability to reason, their students became the mob that elected Barack Obama.
One of this mob's most frightening weapons is critical pedagogy, which dares to look the gift horse of "Western culture" in the mouth.
The “dominant culture” the Western one. It relies on standards of truth, objectivity, and fairness. It uses the syllogism, where a premise based on truth leads logically to a conclusion. Our “dominant culture” also emphasizes fairness, such as notions that people of a certain race are not inherently wiser or that those who demonstrate merit should be rewarded.
Syllogism is a pretty weak foundation for pretensions of this sort, as Grabar might realize if she were a bit more familiar with the Western culture she claims to worship. If you do seriously propose to base a civilization on it, you can't really be surprised when the definition of "premises based on truth" becomes a matter for debate. Nor can you be surprised when people wonder whether a culture that hails itself as uniquely fair, objective, and truthful might be mired in a certain amount of self-contradiction.

What makes matters worse is that the premises here are actually Graber's own prejudices, which she's universalized so that she can portray anyone who challenges her self-satisfied assessment of her own tribal entitlements as an Enemy of Cosmic Order and the Illustrious Dead. Just as Fred Phelps conveniently worships a God whose every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of throbbing, pounding, triple-X buttsecks, Grabar seems to have invented a version of Western culture in which skepticism toward authoritarian claims is a betrayal of reason and logic. Which makes me wonder how she thinks the United States got here in the first place.

For someone who loves truth, revels in fairness, and counsels logical thought, Grabar is unusually prone to mythomania, sour grapes, and the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy:
Conservatives who have seen through these techniques but simply dismiss these kooky professors do so at their peril. They may be protecting their own children through homeschooling and private education, but they are reaping the products in the voting mobs that elected Barack Obama.
"Voting mobs," you betcha. Behold the wisdom and judiciousness of Western culture, as it articulates its eternal truths through the organs of its humble servant Mary Grabar. It's really too bad that when you reduce her argument to its essentials, it doesn't carry much more epistemic weight than screaming "shut up!" until your face goes purple.

It occurs to me that maybe's there's some commonality between Grabar's displeasure at the overthrow of the Tsar, and her outrage at the mere concept of questioning her paint-by-numbers idea of cultural authority, and her indignation at being challenged by her students, and her description of American voters who refuse to do her bidding as "zombies" and "mobs." Perhaps what we're hearing here is the banshee wail of a frustrated authoritarian, whose idea of noblesse oblige is to reward submission by calling it "individual choice" and "independent thinking."

Even when she shuts off the lights, holds a flashlight under her chin, and starts moaning about "death panels," one feels pretty certain that it's not the idea of imperious death-dealing power that troubles her, so much as the fact that this shiny bauble might wind up in someone else's playpen.

In conclusion:
The visions of modern-day brown-shirted civilian troops have predictably been dismissed as evidence of overworked imaginations of right-wing extremists.
Visions have "predictably" been dismissed as imaginary, eh? Shocking. Ought not to be allowed.

But what do you expect, in a country where a communist like Bill Ayers can divest students of their history, literacy, and ability to reason, until they're just as ignorant as the Russian peasants who deposed the Tsar, and then compel them to form voting mobs in order to elect a communist president who promises us free cars so that we'll submit to death panels staffed by white-coated communist Nazis who'll pursue "social justice" by means of a new Holocaust that we can't possibly afford without raising taxes, instead of leaving healthcare decisions to the wisdom of a market comprising millions of illogical zombies whose brains have been ruined by four decades of critical pedagogy?

It's a wonder things aren't worse, considering.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guardian Angels

I don't want to seem shrill, but there's something slightly...unedifying about this so-called death book controversy.

I suppose my qualms have something to do with the fact that several years ago, the GOP cheerfully spearheaded a couple of wars that continue to kill and maim American soldiers. And that having squandered these people's lives and health and sanity for political and financial gain, they now propose to strut around in tinfoil halos, posing as their guardian angels. I find this offensive.

It's offensive because they're infantilizing and condescending to people whose suffering, in many cases, is a direct result of the Republican pretense to military competence.

It's offensive because they'd have no problem glorifying premature death if the soldiers in question had been blown to pieces in Fallujah last Thursday, and no problem sweeping them under the carpet if they'd committed suicide while on duty in Afghanistan, and no problem walking past them with a sneer of distaste if they were begging for change on the sidewalk.

It's offensive because it suggests that soldiers are weak-willed pawns with no ability to think for themselves, and no ability to tell crocodile tears from genuine concern.

It's offensive because the real risk of suicide is highest among soldiers who've been emotionally shattered by what they've seen and done in Iraq and Afghanistan, but aren't being given the psychological help they need...partially because to acknowledge the depth and breadth of their suffering would be politically inconvenient (it might even shake our faith in our "essential goodness"), and partially because it costs money that'd be better spent on tax cuts for Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and the Scaife family.

Above all, it's offensive because it's not just a lie, but a sadistic lie, in that it makes a hard situation harder, and demonizes caregivers who must confront forms of anguish that conservative politicians generally prefer to ignore, in favor of waving little vinyl flags that were made in China.

What makes all of this especially disturbing is that it's so goddamn pointless. This slander is not going to turn the tide in the GOP's favor, nor boost them in the polls, nor make Jim Towey's five-dollar Message of Love mandatory reading for despondent veterans. Like the stomach-turning Festum Asinorum held outside Terri Schiavo's hospice, it's more likely to alienate people who are straddling the fence, and don't have the luxury of imagining that the Rapture will make living wills and estate planning irrelevant. It's hard to see it as anything more than an act of sheer spite, the biggest pay-off for which is the delight these con artists take in seeing their malignant horseshit portrayed on cable TV as the promptings of our national conscience.

Although my immediate response to this behavior is usually incandescent, sputtering rage, I know that's not very productive. There's really only one worthwhile reaction to these lies, and that's to remind ourselves that we can't allow important public-health questions to be decided by people who first send soldiers to war as casually as they'd order a steak, and then publicly slander the treatment and counseling that vets and their families need, in hopes that doing so will keep healthcare unaffordable or unattainable for the rest of us.

Losing on this issue, to these...people, is simply not an option. As I said in a much earlier post:

It's interesting that the people most likely to buy "United We Stand" bumperstickers are also very likely to see themselves as standing outside the webs of interdependence and mutuality that necessarily bind worthwhile human communities. This stance is typical of people who can't face up to their own vulnerability. Unfortunately, because they pretend to be invulnerable, they can't be relied on to protect themselves or their country; you can't protect anyone from a danger you refuse to acknowledge. These people aren't America's fearless guardians, as they like to pretend; they're cowards insofar as they won't face up to reality, and traitors insofar as they present an obstacle to protecting the nation's health.
With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to agitate for healthcare reform.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Human Needs

If there's one thing our troubled nation needs more than ever, it's a newspaper editorialist who's willing to take a principled stand for human needs.

And I'm not talking about clean air and water, or food, or education, or affordable healthcare, or the right to marry the person you love. I'm talking about real human needs, like building parking lots, sneering at science, conflating vulgar-libertarian claptrap with the Word of God, elevating willfully ignorant contempt for nature to a moral imperative, and turning environmental management decisions over to the extraction industries.

The first thing you need to understand is that things you've never heard of don't matter.

Ever hear of the Yellowstone sand verbena? Probably not, since the only place this plant is currently known to grow in North America is a beach in the Wyoming national park bearing that name.
Know how you can tell valuable things from worthless things? Valuable things become more valuable as they become more scarce.

Consider this: If Yellowstone sand verbena were of any use to anybody, people would be growing it on purpose and selling it. Since they're not, it's pretty clear that it does not meet human needs, and probably never will. (Unless it turns out to cure some disease or something, but what are the odds of that?)

And no, the desire to look at Yellowstone sand verbana doesn't count as a human need. On the contrary, it's an affectation. And not the good kind, like smoking a cigar while wearing a bowtie.
How about the meltwater lednian stonefly that is only found in Glacier National Park in Montana? That one will be gone by 2030, thanks to global warming — assuming global warming is a reality, as claimed by some scientists. Or, it may be frozen by the new little ice age predicted by other scientists.
If these educated fools had the sense to cast aside their astrolabes and alembics, and consider the world in the hard astringent light of Oeconomics, they'd know that both of these outcomes are a) impossible (or at least unlikely); and b) inconsequential.

People are fretting over bugs and weeds that can only be found in Montana's national parks. The conclusion is inescapable:
[S]uch policies will “essentially sequester large swaths of private property from all use for years.”
Which would be bad enough. But the more serious problem is that they are guided by "a fundamentally unbalanced view of the proper relationship between man and nature." These policies emanate from some topsy-turvy dreamworld in which human avarice is constrained by intangibles like humility, and science, and law, and...and a sense of personal responsibility, instead of being allowed to trample everything in its path.

And for what? Here's a perfect example of how we're coddling these dime-a-dozen parasites, instead of forcing 'em to shift for themselves as God intended.
Last summer, Bureau of Land Management officials lifted environmental restrictions designed to protect one variety of sage grouse — aka “prairie chickens” — from seeing or hearing oil or natural gas wells. But, as The Examiner then predicted, environmentalists have since sued, seeking federal court orders directing reclassification of other prairie chicken varieties as endangered species.
"Sage grouse," indeed. This reminds me of the ginned-up controversy surrounding the "marbled murrelet," which despite its five-dollar name is basically nothing more than a common seagull.

Besides, if I have to hear a garbage truck every week at 6 AM, why the hell shouldn't a chicken have to hear the occasional oil well? If they don't like it, let them roost behind the moon, as the old song says.

Though these objections to conservation are unanswerable, they may seem somewhat abstract to people who are busy working, and shopping, and watching TV, and disrupting town-hall healthcare meetings in order to protect Granny and Grampy from liberal-fascist Selektion.

How will protecting useless, redundant species ruin your life, you ask? Get a load of this:
Environmental law that puts more emphasis on forever preserving the current condition of nature also shortchanges America’s ability to provide housing for a growing population. As Hewitt explains, “The proposed Clean Water Restoration Act would vastly expand federal control with private property and greatly complicate and increase the cost of bringing new homes to the market.”

Since housing is a key engine of employment and economic growth, hobbling this essential industry doesn’t just deny people shelter, it also prevents the creation of millions of needed new jobs.
It's infuriating, isn't it? The nation could be in the midst of a well-nigh unstoppable housing boom at this very moment, if it weren't for the sage grouse's interference with oil and gas leasing, and the little-known weeds and bugs that are cluttering up Montana's national parks.
These are just some of the reasons America needs a new national discussion of which is more important, the needs of the sage grouse or those of the people with whom such creatures share the natural world.
Sounds reasonable to me. Strictly in the interests of balance, and fairness, and equity, and impartiality, and stuff like that, I say the decision should be made by people who stand to benefit financially from throwing ESA protections out the window.

Because the plain fact is, we've been ruled by the sage grouse for far too long. It's time we cast its hateful yoke from our shoulders, and started the great work of catering to human needs. As Frederick Douglass said, in a remarkably similar situation, "There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven who does not know that slavery is wrong for him."

(Photo by Jeff Brouws.)

An Impressive Form of Creativity

A new study published in a journal called Sociological Inquiry points out that people sometimes have a vested interest in believing things that aren't true, and that such beliefs can be very persistent.

As an example, the authors bring up "the strength and resilience of the belief among many Americans that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11."

So far, so painfully obvious. But suddenly, things take a bizarre turn:

Although this belief influenced the 2004 election, they claim it did not result from pro-Bush propaganda, but from an urgent need by many Americans to seek justification for a war already in progress.
A war launched by whom? With what official justification? In order to protect what Great Nation from which Doomsday Weapons hoarded by what Brutal Dictator, who was clearly in league with which Cave-Dwelling Evildoers?

Who knows? Who cares? The important thing is, it's time to dissolve the people, and elect another.
The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.
The absence of supporting evidence, that is, other than the personal guarantee of leaders who presented themselves as super-patriots and imitators of Christ, and an army of politicians and media figures who treated skepticism of those leaders as frivolity at best and treason at worst.

There's no denying that people tend to believe whatever makes them happy. But it's a bit high-handed to treat the Bush Administration's propaganda campaign as largely irrelevant to the formation of precisely those opinions that it sought to form at all costs. The phrase "blaming the victims" springs to mind, just for starters.
While numerous scholars have blamed a campaign of false information and innuendo from the Bush administration, this study argues that the primary cause of misperception in the 9/11-Saddam Hussein case was not the presence or absence of accurate data but a respondent's desire to believe in particular kinds of information.
Granting the pitfalls of causality -- and the fact that Nature her Selfe is out of Tune; and Sicke of Tumult and Disorder -- I think that when you're searching for primary causes, it makes sense to start from as early a point as possible. For instance, if you're trying to understand why someone believes that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, it makes sense to take note of when, where, why, and by whom that theory was first advanced, instead of treating it as some spontaneous phantasmatic response of the collective unconscious to the cold hard fact of war. Especially since the connection was suggested before the war.
"People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war," he says.
The war, you see, was simply "a current reality":
"They wanted to believe in the link," he says, "because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters' ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good [!!!] or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity."
At the risk of revealing my unfitness for civilized debate, and tarnishing the heretofore stainless reputation of the radical-left blogosphere, I have to say this is absolute fucking nonsense.

While it may be foolish or pre-critical to trust that an American president wouldn't lie to you about a matter of life and death, it's not necessarily an "elaborate rationalization." Nor is it "an impressive form of creativity" to accept their lies as facts. And while the need to persist in believing these things despite years of evidence to the contrary may indeed require elaborate rationalizations, I'd balk at calling them creative, as opposed to reflexive.

The extent to which these beliefs were accepted had a great deal to do with the authority of their sources, and the government's ability to set the terms of debate (while shrugging off substantive criticism as the effete ressentiment of a terrorist-coddling elite). The Bush Administration gave the public factually incorrect information, obviously. But what's more important is that it gave them a philosophically satisfying vantage point from which to assess and reject opposing arguments, while insisting that the failure to reject them would be literally fatal.

As far as I can tell, Hoffman et al ignore the incredible effort that was made to delegitimize critics on the basis of identity politics, schoolyard taunts, and guilt by fever-dream association, and to represent basic standards for evidence and logic as some sort of Franco-Islamic imposition on the common man. Thanks to this effort, rejecting skepticism was not just psychologically comforting, but also became an act of national defense on a par with patrolling the mean streets of Fallujah, or torturing a detainee with a nail gun.

To treat this campaign as somehow less important than its results is an act of ideological willfulness that rivals any of the behavior this paper describes.
"We refer to this as 'inferred justification,'" says Hoffman "because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.
And for some reason, they settled on the very same justification that the Bush Administration advanced before invading Iraq, by means of "false information and innuendo." What are the odds?

Since I'm nothing if not fair-minded, I'll let the author have the last word:
"The argument here is that people get deeply attached to their beliefs," Hoffman says.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Nudibranch (and Flatworm) Blogging

Friday Hope Hitler Blogging

A totalitarian project that floods farms in order to provide wetlands for shorebirds recalls the worst excesses of Nazi Germany:

After three years, early results suggest that the project is working: Fifteen shorebird species have returned to the restored wetlands.

So far, three participating farmers have been happy with the experiment, including Hedlin, who said that he has not suffered financially.
Environmentalists have taken a page out of the Nazi playbook in order to protect the Gunnison sage grouse.
A western Colorado county and a coalition of national and regional environmental organizations have agreed to settle a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenging an April 2006 decision not to list the highly imperiled Gunnison sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. The agreement, which was filed yesterday U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., requires the agency to prepare a new listing decision by June 30, 2010. The agency determined in March that its April 18, 2006 denial of Endangered Species Act protection to Gunnison sage grouse was tainted by interference by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald and other Bush administration officials.
Can euthanizing the elderly be far behind?

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. If you doubt this, consider the lack of outcry attending this dictatorial scheme to "manage" Arctic fisheries for the benefit of the Global Elite:
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke approved a plan to prohibit the expansion of commercial fishing in federal Arctic waters until researchers gather sufficient information on fish and the Arctic marine environment to try to prevent adverse impacts of commercial harvesting activity on the ecosystem.
"Green" stormtroopers who are fully committed to the Culture of Death will (probably) use white slave labor to turn the nation's big-box retailers into arugula farms:
The asphalt parking lot would become an outdoor farm by layering soil and compost inside of containers placed directly on the lot, while solar trees spread throughout the fields generate power and pump it back into the grid. The roof of the big box store would partially be replaced with glass to create a greenhouse. After picking your produce, you could take it directly to an in-house chef who would prepare you a meal, or take it home with you. Imagine the gains the local food movement would face if Wal-Mart took a look at this idea and retrofitted their stores!
Just as the Nazis "recycled" the gold fillings and hair of their victims, fanatical Obamabots hope to use recycled city wastewater at a potential death camp in the Mojave desert:
Four thousand acres of private land in the Mojave desert are slated to become the site of an ambitious new concentrating solar power (CSP) plant: Hualapai Valley Solar (HVS). Named one of the Top 100 US Strategic Infrastructure Projects by CG/LA Infrastructure LLC, HVS is expected to produce 340MW of electricity, provide hundreds of new jobs and attract new business to the local area. There's only one problem — water....

In a bold move to keep the project alive, the nearby city of Kingman, Ariz. has agreed to explore the possibility of providing treated city wastewater to help power and cool the project's steam turbines. Kingman will explore the feasibility of delivering "treated effluent" from its Hilltop Wastewater Treatment Plant to the HVS site. Preliminary estimates show that the city could provide more than half of the water that HVS will require.
The US came a step closer to FASCISM this week, as a group of "veterans" announced their support for the Democrat Party's Nazi-like depopulation scheme:
With the oil industry pushing its "Energy Citizen" rallies into the national spotlight, a group of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come together to fight the pro-oil thrust. They've formed a coalition called Operation Free. Their message? That it's time for Americans to free themselves from dependence on fossil fuels--especially foreign oil. And it's time to pass a climate bill....

Part of the group's power comes from its members' ability to draw first hand accounts of how dependence on foreign oil presents a national security risk. These men have been to Iraq and Afghanistan, after all--they've lived the risks of securing foreign oil supply for American use.
For those who still believe in the foundational values of this country, time is running out. As this frightening report demonstrates, we are exactly almost exactly where Germany was in 1934:
The latest Electric Power Monthly Report released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows net U.S. electrical generation from renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, and wind) reached an all-time high in May of 2009, comprising 13% of the total electrical generation for the month.
The forces of Islamofascism, emboldened by the presence of an African-born Muslim firebrand in the White House, are attempting to seize control of our educational system:
The Human Development Fund-Pakistan Association of Greater Seattle Girls High School has an almost comically long name, barely able to fit on the newly painted sign that stands below the school on the side of a switchback mountain road.

But the founders felt it was important to give credit to this unique international collaboration, one that began with a devastating natural disaster four years ago and resulted in connecting Seattle to the troubled world of girls' education in Pakistan. Money raised in the Seattle area by Pakistani-Americans built and supports this unique school perched high in the mountains of Kashmir.
In a ruling that Hitler would've applauded, an Oklahoma judge has made abortion mandatory:
An Oklahoma judge on Tuesday overturned a state law that required women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and a doctor's description of the fetus....

Her ruling also overturned provisions in the law that allowed doctors and other healthcare providers to refuse to take part in an abortion for moral or religious reasons, required certain signs to be placed in clinics where abortions are performed, and prohibited wrongful-life lawsuits arguing that a disabled child would have been better off aborted.
The prison guard is the Jew of Liberal Fascism:
A spirited group of protesters gathered outside New York Gov. David Paterson's office in midtown Manhattan today elicited the governor's promise to sign legislation that would prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women during labor and after delivery.
Could "climate-benefit districts" be newspeak for "concentration camps"?
Portland isn’t the only city scaling up its green-building practices. Seattle is hatching a plan for “climate benefit districts,” which would integrate energy and public transportation solutions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in a given neighborhood. In China, an “Eco Block” prototype is planned for the city of Qingdao. The design includes multiple residential towers and townhouses and calls for reusing all of the community’s water, recycling 80 percent of its waste and reducing energy demand by 40 percent.
Did I mention that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? 'Cause they are. Take Houston, for instance, which is trying to increase "walkability" around rail lines.
City officials in Houston have unanimously approved zoning and policy changes that will encourage walkable development around the city's expanding light rail network.

Among other changes, sidewalks in transit areas will now have a minimum width of 6 feet, 2 feet wider than current standards.
You have nothing to fear,'re simply going to be "transported" very efficiently to the nearest "climate-benefit district." For your own protection, of course!

Furthermore, a new device currently being used in Africa recycles plastic waste into plastic sheeting:
A team from IDDS (Amit Gandhi from the US, and Mark Driordan from the UK) decided to create a way to add value to waste plastic by using a low-cost process to transform it into something useful: plastic sheets. From these sheets can be made a number of other products. On display they had shoes, bags, pencil cases and folders.
What will happen, in our Brave New World, to people who don't want to spend all their time gathering plastic trash and pressing it into sheets? I think we all know the answer to that question.

As if all that weren't worrisome enough, this week has also seen a revival of Hiterlian aesthetics. Feral Houses revels in the Death of the West. Roadside Art of the Northern Plains is (possibly) a haunt of jaded sophisticates who sneer at the common people of this land, and mock their humble aspirations, just like the Nazis would've done if they'd worshipped Obama instead of Hitler. And Earth Morphologies is (probably) an expression of smug secular-humanist eco-fascism, or something worse.

Images from genetic research (an abiding interest of the Nazis). Bright Tales and Funny Pictures? Hardly. Distinctly un-American photos by Paolo Ventura. Collecting Fanta bottlecaps is just one of the simple pleasures we'll be denied if Liberal Fascism triumphs. Meanwhile, People with Masks promotes the sort of occultist enviro-paganism that inspired Hitler. As thus:

Behold: there are signs and wonders warning us of our descent into social democratic fascism. Will we heed them in time to save this church from being destroyed by the forces of fascist democratic socialism?

I believe there's still time to save our country, and that's why I ask that you watch this shocking TRUE video, and forward it to at least 20 other concerned patriots.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Nudibranch Blogging

Friday Hope Blogging

Taiwan may allow women to get abortions without spousal or parental consent:

The legislature’s Organic Laws and Statutes Bureau recently completed a study suggesting that lawmakers amend the Genetic Health Act to allow married women to choose abortion without having to seek consent from their spouses.

As women have autonomy over their body, they should have the right to decide whether to have children, the report said.
A court has ruled that a pro-gay student group at a Florida high school must be allowed to meet.
U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams issued a permanent injunction Friday that the district can’t make the group change its name or interfere with its ability to “advocate for tolerance, respect and equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

Adams also ordered that the district can not retaliate against any students or school staff involved in the legal action or with the group.
The City of Anchorage, AK has passed an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the bill have come up with a clever rejoinder:
Opponents of the bill, who wore red, had argued that gay people are not discriminated against.
Lest you think that lying outrageously while dressing in red doesn't comprise an intellectually forceful argument, be advised that there's also some concern that "MTF transgendered people would then be able to use women’s restrooms," instead of relieving themselves in a dumpster, or an abandoned car, as befits the untermenschen.

The Forest Service has thinking twice about turning wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon into a giant sandbox for ORV enthusiasts:
The Kaibab National Forest will reanalyze an off-road vehicle plan that would have allowed nearly unfettered off-road vehicle access that threatened archeological sites, watershed conditions, and wildlife habitat and would have continued the spread of invasive species.
The first solar thermal tower in the United States is now operational:
The solar thermal plant, which uses mirrors that track the sun’s rays in order to concentrate it onto two receivers that sit atop two 160 foot towers, will provide solar power to utility Southern California Edison (SCE), but the Sierra SunTower is independent of the deal announced last year with SCE for 245 MW also in the Antelope Valley region.
An NRDC report suggests that Michigan could meet future power needs through a combination of renewable energy and efficiency measures.
The report, A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan, was written by Synapse Energy Economic for NRDC and shows that simply making energy efficiency improvements to offset fossil fuel usage the state could save $3 billion over the next 20 years. Fully developing the state's renewable energy potential of 27,000 GWh of power from renewable energy could make up the gap, the report also said.
Apparently, we might start working on restoring the Everglades, one of these days:
Water managers and the White House signed a crucial contract Thursday that promises a much-needed infusion of federal dollars for the Everglades.

The agreement ends years of dispute over splitting up a ballooning restoration bill, which is expected to top $22 billion, and clears the way to quickly - and finally - begin long-stalled construction work.
Salmon have returned to the Seine:
Salmon are returning to the Seine after an absence of almost a century as water in the river that runs through Paris has become cleaner in recent years, French scientists said.

Once numerous in the river, Atlantic salmon disappeared from the Seine in the early 20th century, partly due to pollution from Paris sewers.
As astonishing as it may seem, conservation efforts have helped the humpback whale:
Once decimated by commercial whaling, populations of humpback whales have grown following protection of the species. Prior to commercial whaling, scientists estimate, humpback-whale numbers exceeded 125,000; whaling may have reduced the population by as much as 90 percent. In the North Pacific, humpback whale numbers may be up from a low of 1,400 whales in 1966 to 20,000 now. Despite increasing numbers in the Atlantic and Pacific, humpback whale populations are still vulnerable and remain below their historic numbers. Direct threats to the species include entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, offshore oil development, and military sonar.
Scientists have discovered a compound that selectively targets cancer stem cells:
The cancer stem cells that drive tumor growth and resist chemotherapies and radiation treatments that kill other cancer cells aren't invincible after all. Researchers reporting online on August 13th in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, have discovered the first compound that targets those cancer stem cells directly.

"It wasn't clear it would be possible to find compounds that selectively kill cancer stem cells," said Piyush Gupta of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Broad Institute. "We've shown it can be done."
In other news, bitters cards, octopus toy paintings, and children's books from Iran, all via Plep. Also, Soviet perfumes and drained oceans.

The Antarctic Film Festival. Perspectiva Corporum Regularium. People with veils. And via Coudal, a collection of bubble gum wrappers, which includes this alarming image:

Brilliant Noise. Photos by Bart Michiels. One-minute holidays. And photos by Olaf Otto Becker.

I realize that this installment is bit shorter than usual (assuming the word "usual" can be applied to my labors here, at this point). But's a cartoon!

(Photo at top: "This image of Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at more of a sideways angle than earlier orbital images of this crater. The camera pointing was 22 degrees east of straight down, yielding a view comparable to looking at the landscape out an airplane window. East is at the top. The most interesting exposures of geological strata are in the steep walls of the crater, difficult to see from straight overhead. Especially prominent in this oblique view is a bright band near the top of the crater wall. Colors have been enhanced to make subtle differences more visible."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Alright. Let's see if I remember how to do this.

A proposal to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates has gone down in flames:

Congress overwhelmingly defeated (by a vote of 247 – 183) the Pence amendment to H.R. 3293, the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill. The amendment, if passed, would have denied family planning services to millions of women, men and teens by restricting Title X federal family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers.
In Wisconsin, same-sex couples are enjoying their newfound status as slightly less oppressed semi-citizens:
Today is the first day Wisconsin same-sex couples can legally register as domestic partners. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed legislation creating domestic partnerships in the state. According to The Advocate, the partnerships grant property, inheritance, and visitation rights to domestic partners.
RU486 has been approved for use in Italy, prompting complaints from an angry old man man in a funny hat:
Italy's drug regulation agency has approved the use of the abortion pill RU486, also known as mifepristone, prompting protests from the Vatican.

The Italian Pharmaceuticals Agency (AIFA) ruled late on Thursday that the drug would not be sold in pharmacies and only be administered by doctors.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the Roadless Rule:
The decision puts an end to the Bush administration’s efforts to open these last great natural areas to development. Today’s ruling protects the majority of national forest roadless areas in the country.
Hark to their cold inexorable logic:
The court repeated its earlier finding that “there can be no doubt that the 58.5 million acres subject to the Roadless Rule, if implemented, would have greater protection if the Roadless Rule stands.”
Seems reasonable to me!

New research offers more evidence that fish populations can recover, if they're allowed to:
The two-year study, publish in the journal Science, found that efforts to reduce overfishing are beginning to succeed in five of the ten large marine ecosystems examined, suggesting that "sound management can contribute to the rebuilding of fisheries."
Researchers have allegedly managed to convert textile waste into compost:
Indian researchers Vinod Gard, Renuka Gupta and Priya Kaushik of the Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology have found a particular species of earthworm to be productive in converting the huge volumes of solid sludge produced by the textiles industry into compost.
A bald songbird has been discovered in Laos:
"It's always exciting to discover a new species, but this one is especially unique because it is the only bald songbird in Asia," said Colin Poole, director of Asia programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society. "The discovery also underscores how much there is still to learn from wild places around the world."
Photo credit: Iain Woxvold/University of Melbourne

This is interesting:
Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are testing a new innovative approach to safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

"By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity," predicts PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. "If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source." A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation's overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.
Better late than never, I guess.

Speaking of which, the lost Roman city of Altinum has turned up at last (it's always in the last place you look):
The team of researchers, led by Andrea Ninfo, mapped the city in detail using aerial photography. They also used pictures taken in conjunction with a variety of infra-red filters. During a particularly dry period in the summer of 2007, when plants were stressed and more stonework appeared, the outlines of buildings in the ancient city became more visible. "Everything is just as it was. When we saw the picture we couldn't believe it," Italian archaeologist and co-author of the paper Alessandro Fontana, told Times of London.
Heavens, is that really the time? I'd better speed things along.

One hundred years hence, via Plep. A typology of yogurt containers. The voluptuous horrors of the trottoir roulant. A life-sized whale, sort of. And Thompson Speedway, 1940.

Twenty-five objects devoured by sand. A collection of Arab cinema posters. More and better (and ambulatory) posters at DIVEDCO. And Historia Naturalis Palmarum may feature the best botanical art ever.

Under the Southern Cross. A Catawba River Narrative. A survey of extreme limnoterrestrial microhabitats (the kind men like). In related news, classic insect test objects for the microscope. And the work of An Unknown Street Photographer in Paris, 1896, which I hereby dedicate to a certain aetheric inamorata.

Last but not least, this little masterpiece of retro-futurism:

And so to bed.

(Photo at top: An image from the world's largest cave, which was recently found in Vietnam.)