Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lake Placid

The lake you see in the middle of the village of Lake Placid is not Lake Placid, it's Mirror Lake. Lake Placid is a five mile long lake that is not easily seen from the village. Well, I guess you can go to the state boat launch. Better views of the lake require a short hike. These pictures were taken from the Lakeshore trail on the peninsula.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Free Ride for Republicans to Attack the Military

Some pretty angry, strong opinions being expressed here.

Washington Post "fact checker" here.

Friday Rabbit Blogging

Fanning Flames for More War - Syria Nuclear Facility Attacked by Israel

No knows what was bombed in the Israeli attack on Syria on Sept. 6th because everyone, Syria, Israel, G.W. Bush have been keeping their lips sealed. This isn't stopping speculation that Israel attacked a Syrian nuclear facility that was provided by North Korea. Yes sir, another Middle Eastern country on their way to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Charles Krauthammer acknowledges that no one knows exactly what happened in Syria. But that doesn't stop him from speculating on what did happen.
Circumstantial evidence points to this being an attack on some nuclear facility provided by North Korea.
Krauthammer points out that:
Second, there are ominous implications for the Middle East. Syria has long had chemical weapons -- on Monday, Jane's Defence Weekly reported on an accident that killed dozens of Syrians and Iranians loading a nerve-gas warhead onto a Syrian missile -- but Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Syria.
So Syrians are so incompetent that they can't load warheads on a missle but they are capable of producing a nuclear weapon?

Is Syria working on obtaining a nuclear weapon? I'm not ready to take the word of the liars in the White House or the incompetent US intelligence agencies.

I'm with George Bush on this one. Fool me can't get fooled again.

Bush and Maliki - Two Peas in a Pod

Sorry, I couldn't resist posting this photo. It's from the cover story, by Patrick Graham, in the Canadian magazine MACLEANS. The title of the article is How George Bush became the new Saddam. Graham comments on how the Maliki government in Iraq has the same political goals of G.W. Bush and Karl Rove's vision for the Republican party in the USA.
Maliki has been accused of running an “ethno-sectarian” government, but accusing him of running a pro-Shia government is like accusing Bush of running a pro-Republican administration. Like Karl Rove, who hoped to make the Republican party supreme, Maliki seems to want to set up Shia-dominated rule that will control Iraq for generations. And like Rove, he focuses on his base, with little regard for any other point of view unless the U.S. pressures him (even then he pouts and makes vague threats about looking for other allies—by which he obviously means Iran).
Who would have ever thought that a government madeup of the majority Shia would want to concentrate power in the hands of the Shia?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

FOX Broadcasting Censors the Word God Damn - Sometimes

FOX News - Fair and Balanced (god-damned liars).

Congress Moves On to More Important Business

Republicans have successfully blocked bills/amendments that would 1)restore the Constitutional right of Habeas corpus; 2)give voting representation to the citizens of the District of Columbia; 3)allow our troops at least as much time at home as is spent in war zones. Good job Republicans, now you can get on to much more important matters.

How about the resolution condemning the Petraeus ad by that is scheduled for vote today? That's much more important than anything of the above three bills.

Ok, I agree that the ad went too far and was definitely counterproductive. So go for your resolution. But wait. Maybe someone should amend your resolution. How about those ads that criticized war veteran John Kerry in 2004 and Max Cleland in 2002? Sen. Barbera Boxer asks if we can condemn those ads at the same time. So yeah, I'd support a resolution condemning all of those ads.

UPDATE: Boxer amendment fails 51-46. It's ok for nasty, untrue ads about Kerry and Cleland, afterall, they're Democrat military men. Republican filibuster succeeds again. Resolution against wins the day 72-25. The United States is saved from the evil

Money for War in the Middle East - No Problem

If war is going to spread throughout the Middle East it won't be for a lack of military aid from the USA.

The United States framed its commitment last month to more than 60 billion dollars in weapons sales to the Middle East as a measure against Iran. The packaging is intended to blunt Arab objections to an aid boost to Israel, and to win congressional support for military aid to Arab countries.
Is there any concern that someday we might be fighting the very countries that we have supplied with weapons (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan maybe). And for every advanced weapon we sell to these middle east allies, Israel get even more advanced weapons to counteract them.

Saudi Arabia gets $20 billion worth of weapons.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was more blunt in his criticism of the Saudis.

He said the United States had permitted the Saudis to "get off the hook" on failure to counter terrorism. "They have to prove they are not in a secret coalition with terrorists" to harm Americans, Rohrabacher said.

And what about the sale of $5 billion worth of advanced F-16 fighters to our ally Pakistan? Are there any concerns about Pakistan transfering US technology to other "third parties"? Has Pakistan ever done anything like that in the past? I wonder how our ally India feels about that? It's not like we need to be concerned about these two nuclear weapon armed countries.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Bush administration put as much effort into diplomacy in the Middle East?

Rep. McHugh Should Meet With Constituents

Todays editorial in the Plattsburgh Press Republican asks that Rep. McHugh (R-NY20) meet with his constituents.
Obviously, a Republican member of Congress, tied politically and, presumably, ideologically to the policies of President Bush would not find a showdown with dovish constituents something to be eagerly awaited.
It's sort of a "suck-up" type of editorial as far as "seatwarmer" Rep. McHugh is concerned. Why does Mr. McHugh even need to be in Washington? He could just tell Pres. Bush that the McHugh vote is always in support of the President.

Paul Smith's Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) Protecting Our Country Against Religion

Rep. Peter King, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Comm., thinks there are too many mosques in the USA. This is the kind of talk that is hurting the image of the USA in the Middle East. Heck of a job, Rep. King.

Webb Amendment to Rest Troops Filibustered

Senate republicans are more loyal to Pres. Bush than they are to our troops. Fifty-six senators vote for the amendment. A majority of the Senate agrees that the troops need more time at home. Unfortunately, republicans disagree.

Harry Reid says:
“In blocking this bipartisan bill, Republicans have once again demonstrated that they are more committed to protecting the President than protecting our troops. They have shown they will allow President Bush’s flawed war strategy to continue to strain our military rather than allow the availability of troops to dictate our operations. And they believe it is in our national security interest to push our brave troops and their families beyond their breaking point.

Hagel, R-Neb., said the White House also "has been very effective at making this a loyalty test for the Republican Party."

Oh yeah. Republicans also don't want to give representation to those damn black people in the District of Columbia.

Habeas Corpus Vote Fails

Forty-six Republican senators have voted against restoring the constitutional right of Habeas Corpus in the USA.
The amendment was sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Senator Arlen Specter, who voted for the legislation that the amendment attempts to reverse, and Senator Chris Dodd, who blasted today's vote. "Each of us in the Senate faced a decision either to cast a vote in favor of helping to restore America's reputation in the world, or to help dig deeper the hole of utter disrespect for the rule of law that the Bush Administration has created. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues chose the latter," he said.
These forty-six Senators have either a) not read the Constitution of the USA; b) think the USA is being invaded; c) think there is a rebellion in the USA; d) hate America.

I sure would love to hear some conservative opinion on why our right of Habeas Corpus should be suspended.

Adirondack Autumn

Field in Gabriels, NY

Heron Pond, Paul Smith's, NY

Whiteface Mt. from Donnelly's Corner

How Did the US Middle Class Arise?

Paul Krugman of the NYT has a blog now. Today he talks about the rise and fall of the middle class in the USA.

Music for a FACS Facility

There is a lot of sitting around waiting for things to happen in a FACS facilities so you often hear lots of out of the mainstream music blaring out of the speakers. Good times.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Iraq Civilian Deaths - Petraeus vs Pentagon

Nope, no cooking of the books here. You would have thought that Gen. Petraeus and the Pentagon would have gotten together with their Iraq Civilian Death figures. But that doesn't appear to be the case. More here at democracyarsenal.

Is There a Right to Free Speech in the USA?

A University of Florida student gets tasered by police for refusing to give up the microphone at a John Kerry event. From the video it looks like the police were ready to go after the guy.

In the meantime Kerry is saying "That's all right, let me answer his question". What is really bothersome is the way the crowd is just sitting there applauding the police.

I know it's legal in Florida to shoot someone if they act agressively towards you, but I didn't realize you could taser someone for acting like a jerk.

Read about the tased student Andrew Meyer here at Attytood.

Lake Placid, NY - Part 2

Lake Placid, NY - Part 1

Why Did Israel Attack Syria Last Week?

There is not a whole lot in the news about the Israeli attack on Syria last week except that it happened. The Times Online claims it is all about destroying a secret "nuclear cache" of N. Korean supplied material. The Washington Post agrees.

Andrew Sullivan comments on the attack and provides a few links about what is not known about the attacks. Here is a link to an Israeli opinion.

Personally, I think this is another 'smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud' moment.

Mt. Baker Leaf Color Changes

Sept 24

Sept 24 Sunset

Sept. 17

Mt. Baker at sunset (Sept 17).

Role of Evolution in Morality

Is it moral to throw a switch that diverts a train that is going to hit five people even though throwing that switch will mean the death of a single person?

Is it moral to throw a person in front of a train to save five people in the trains path?

What does evolution have to do with morality?

Those are questions asked in an article in todays Science Times. Most people would answer yes to the first question, yet no to the second question. Why?

Testing people’s reactions to situations like that of a hungry family that cooked and ate its pet dog after it had become roadkill, he explored the phenomenon of moral dumbfounding — when people feel strongly that something is wrong but cannot explain why.

Dumbfounding led him to view morality as driven by two separate mental systems, one ancient and one modern, though the mind is scarcely aware of the difference. The ancient system, which he calls moral intuition, is based on the emotion-laden moral behaviors that evolved before the development of language. The modern system — he calls it moral judgment — came after language, when people became able to articulate why something was right or wrong.
Moral intuition consists of decisions that take place instantaneously, "from the gut" while moral judgement comes later as an attempt to rationalize the decision.

A role for religion is even discussed, but again from a natural selection aspect.
Dr. Haidt believes that religion has played an important role in human evolution by strengthening and extending the cohesion provided by the moral systems. “If we didn’t have religious minds we would not have stepped through the transition to groupishness,” he said. “We’d still be just small bands roving around.”

Religious behavior may be the result of natural selection, in his view, shaped at a time when early human groups were competing with one another. “Those who found ways to bind themselves together were more successful,” he said.
Even morality of members of liberal and conservative political parties are discussed. Although I disagree with his findings as does Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University. Dr. de Waal writes:
“For me, the moral system is one that resolves the tension between individual and group interests in a way that seems best for the most members of the group, hence promotes a give and take,” Dr. de Waal said.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adm. Fallon Denies Animosity with Gen. Petraeus

Reported in the Army Times today.
Fallon was clearly irked by the stories about his supposed disagreements with Petraeus over the pace of that withdrawal and all-around disdain for the Army general published in outlets ranging from The Washington Post to various blogs. One story cited an unnamed senior official who said “bad relations” between Fallon and Petraeus was the “understatement of the century.” Another quoted Pentagon sources as saying Fallon openly derided Petraeus during their first meeting last March after Fallon took the CentCom reins.

The latter story particularly galled Fallon, who called it “scurrilous,” adding that the characterizations of a dysfunctional relationship with Petraeus are “just absurd.”
I assume a libel lawsuit will be made against IPS and Gareth Porter.

Habeas Corpus Restoration Act

Go here to sign your support for the act.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

On Sept. 19th. I hate to be a killjoy but I really don't care for ITLPD.

Oseetah Lake - Another Short Hike in Saranac Lake

You can see Oseetah Lake (called Miller Pond by the locals) even if you don't have a boat. The trail that leads to the lake begins at the parking lot where the railroad tracks cross the road just outside of Saranac Lake before you get to Ray Brook. Where the vegetable stands are in the summer. The trail is wide, flat and root free and takes you through a majestic pine forest. The walk in to the lake takes about 15 min. Caution, there are several trails in these woods, but stay on the wide main trail and you will make it to Oseetah Lake in no time. Buy some fresh vegetables before you drive away.

Blackwater Inc., Mercenaries and Iraq

Read more about Blackwater and the 48,000 civilian mercenaries in Iraq here.
Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest "force" in Iraq. At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report. These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What's more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.
Blackwater, Inc. license to operate in Iraq has been suspended by the Iraqi government.

Who Died in Iraq Yesterday? Blackwater, Inc.

From the Iraq Body Count website. Sixty four dead civilians on Sunday Sept. 16, 2007.
Baghdad: American security contractors shoot dead 9 Iraqi civilians, Nisoor Square; car bomb kills 5, Mansour; roadside bombs kill 3, Zayuna, Mamoun, Harthiya; mortars kill 2, near Shaab stadium; gunmen kill members of Municipality of Bayaa and Municipality of Doura; 12 bodies.

Tuz Khurmato: suicide bomber kills 8 at cafe.

Muqdadiya: gunmen attack two villages and kill 14, including 3 children.

Baquba: 6-year-old boy killed by sniper fire.

Diwaniya: 12-year-old son and elderly father of Mahdi army leader killed during US/Iraqi raid on their house.

Hilla: bodies of traffic policeman and his 16-year-old son found tortured.

So far this month, an average of 2.35 soldiers are being killed each day. So far 3781 American soldiers killed. How is that for a "small price to pay"?

For the next 9 months of the continued surge we can expect 635 American deaths and an expenditure of $300/day. Heck of a job George.

What Works in Medicine?

Hillary Clinton is releasing her comprehensive health care proposal today. It appears that she is doing all she can to make it not look like another "big government" proposal. For instance, she preserves a role for large private health insurance companies.

One proposal, would create a public-private institute to evaluate and compare drugs, devices and medical treatments. We used to have a government agency that did this. It was called the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). It no longer exists thanks to Republican Newt Gingrich.

The fact of the matter is that we really don't know as much as we should about which medical treatments are most effective for a given problem. Shannon Brownlee at Washington Monthly has a great article about this problem. The article is mostly about treatment for lower back pain which is why the AHCPR was originally mandated.

One new "unproven" medical treatment is the use of robotic surgery. I was completely unaware of the advances in robotic surgery until recently. For example, removal of the prostate gland can be done using several methods. The current favored method at our local hospital is the use of microwave therapy.

But robotic surgery makes sense to me, and it would be my choice if ever needed. The daVinci surgical system seems to have many advantages over even laparoscopic techniques. In the case of prostate surgery, nerve damage during surgery can result in impotence. The daVinci system provides increased visualization, precision, and dexterity. It has the added advantage of the possibility of someday being used remotely.

Newly trained up and coming surgeons have been brought up playing video games. The use of robotic surgery should come naturally to them.

H.R. 2826 - Please Love the Constitution

The United States of America is a republic that operates under the rule of law. Article 1. section 9, paragraph 2 of our Constitution states: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. This has not stopped G.W. Bush from suspending this fundamental right.

H.R. 2826 Amends the federal judicial code to allow an alien detained by the United States as an enemy combatant to apply for a writ of habeas corpus, including an application challenging transfer, or bring an action solely for prospective injunctive relief against transfer, except for an alien in a zone of active combat involving U.S. Armed Forces.
Limits the review of prosecutions, trials, or judgments of a military commission to that provided by the Code of Military Justice or by a habeas corpus proceeding.

Conservatives are infamous for wrapping themselves in the Flag. Let's see if they can wrap themselves in the Constitution for a change.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Adm. Fallon - Gen. Petraeus Discord?

Did Adm. Fallon actually call Gen. Petraeus as "ass kissing little chickenshit"? The Washington Post reported the following a week ago:
The profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq only exacerbated the schism between the two men.

"Bad relations?" said a senior civilian official with a laugh. "That's the understatement of the century. . . . If you think Armageddon was a riot, that's one way of looking at it."
Armageddon, that sounds like maybe some pretty tough words were thrown around. Since Adm. Fallon is Gen. Petraeus's boss, I'm assuming most of the word throwing around was done by Adm. Fallon.

On the other hand the "ass kissing little chickenshit" was reported by Gareth Porter in the Inter Press Service News Agency. This is not considered to be the mainstream news media. Although it confuses me that conservatives want to hear this from the MSM considering how much they distrust the MSM.

In any case it was reported by IPS a week ago and has now been repeated across the internets to the tune of about 87,300 google hits. Will we hear a denial from Adm. Fallon that the incident never happened? Are Adm. Fallon and Gen. Petraeus actually best buds?

John McCain Misrepresents Gen. Jones

McCain may have known Gen. Jones for thirty years, but that doesn't stop him from lying about what he said.

Michael Mukasey for Attorney General?

It's being reported (and here for conservatives) that Pres. Bush may nominate Michael Mukasey for Attorney General. Mukasey is a hard line conservative but believes in the rule of law. Mukasey is a retired former U.S. Southern district judge from New York. Judge Mukasey has one thing going against him however. Conservatives have some problems with him.

Here is the main reason conservatives will be wary of confirming Judge Mukasey as AG:
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., previously recommended Mukasey for a Supreme Court vacancy.
That's not to say that Mukasey will be an easy confirmation by Democrats either. I'm pretty sure he will be asked some tough questions.

UPDATE: As expected, the conservatives are beginning to whine.

We Have No Commander in Chief

Thomas L. Friedman, he of the infamous "Friedman Unit", writes today that we have no Commander in Chief.
The sad thing for the American people is that we have no commander in chief anymore, framing our real situation and options. The president’s description on Thursday of the stakes in Iraq was delusional.
He goes on:
We also do not have a commander in chief weighing the costs of staying in Iraq indefinitely against America’s other interests at home and abroad. When General Petraeus honestly averred that he could not say whether pursuing the surge in Iraq would make America safer, he underscored how much the war there has become disconnected from every conceivable worthy goal — democratization of Iraq or spreading progressive governance in the Arab-Muslim world — and is now just about itself and abstractions of “winning” or “not failing.”
Remember, this is from a guy that has been asking for "six more months" in Iraq for several years.

It's hard to disagree with Friedman in this case. Gen. Petraeus was used by Pres. Bush almost as badly as by Probably worse. Bush is hiding behind Gen. Petraeus rather than fulfilling his role as Commander in Chief. Bush would likely say he is only taking the advice of his general. But we know what happens to generals that do not give Bush the type of advice that Bush wants to hear.