Saturday, November 10, 2007

CNN and Reality

Here is what Pelosi actually said:
"I know that Congress has low approval ratings. I don't approve of Congress because we haven't done anything to end, we haven't been effective in ending the war in Iraq."
Here is what CNN reports:
"I know that Congress has low approval ratings. I don't approve of Congress because we haven't done anything."

Will We Win the War of Ideas? Can We?

Robert Satloff has an op-ed today in the Washington Post. It's important but I doubt many people will read it because the topic is just not on our radar. It's about how to Win the War of Ideas.

Satloff points out that there is a bigger war going on that is really being ignored.
...we are, more accurately, engaged in what can be considered a fourth war, against the spread of the ideology of radical Islamism. In this war, the battlefields are the many cities, towns and villages where extremists seek to impose their absolutist view of sharia-based rule.
What is being done to win this "war". The answer, not much. We seem to be winning the "war on terror" militarily but there is no end in sight as long as we continue to breed more terrorists with our war "strategy". Satloff suggest trying to win friends in the muslim world is the wrong strategy.
Rather than expend effort on winning Muslim friendship for America, our engagement with Muslim publics -- what we call "public diplomacy" -- should focus on identifying, nurturing and supporting anti-Islamist Muslims, from secular liberals to pious believers, who fear the encroachment of radical Islamists and are willing to make a stand.

Naturally, this strategy calls for us to "meddle" in the politics of other nations. Something American citizens really hate when it is suggested that other countries might be meddling in our political affairs.

This strategy would involve overt and covert ways to assist anti-Islamist political parties, nongovernmental organizations, trade unions, media outlets, women's groups, educational institutions and youth movements as they compete with the radicals. It calls for marshaling government resources -- our embassies, aid bureaucracies, international broadcasting units and intelligence agencies, as well as our commercial, educational and civic relationships -- to give anti-Islamists the moral, political, financial, technological and material support they need.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be many other options. It's a fight between secularists and religious, some call them radical religious islamists. It's difficult enough to try to change the minds of the religious right in the USA and it will be no different trying to do the same in muslim nations.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Cool Helmet

Prototype helmet mounted display system for F-35 pilots. Very cool and scary.

Patriotic Police Chain-Email

It came late but it finally came. The chain-email about unpatriotic Obama sent to me by a relative (from Florida of course). First, the email is not only cowardly because it's anonymous but it's also a complete lie.
"He refused to not only put his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance, but refused to say the in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief? "
They were not saying the pledge but rather listening to the National Anthem. Now it may be correct protocol to place ones hand over ones heart during the playing of the National Anthem, but I've been to a ton of sports events and rarely ever see anyone do that. It's bad enough that you have to listen to that strained tune. Now "God Save the Queen"....there's an anthem.

Second of all...I don't care if you don't place your hand over your heart during the anthem or the pledge. I don't care if you wear a flag pin on your lapel. And I really don't care if you end your stupid speech with "God bless America". Enough with symbolism. So what do I care about?

I care that you swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then actually uphold it. I care that you have well thought out and reasoned policy positions on health, education, economics, social security, immigration, foreign policy etc. I care that you use our military with caution and only when necessary to defend the USA. I care that you appoint serious, intelligent, experienced people to offices in the government and then listen to what they have to say. I care that you are willing to listen to the best scientific minds even if what they have to say doesn't fit with your agenda. I care that you care whether people in other countries around the world respect the USA.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

St. Regis Cafe, Paul Smith's College, NY

Call me crazy for pointing out this secret, but it's just too juicy to keep. What happens when you get a restaurant with no overhead, no salaries, no benefits etc. You get the St. Regis Cafe at Paul Smith's College run by the Hotel and Restaurant Management students. You want cheap but classy? We are talking formal servers, cloth napkins and for dinner cloth table cloths. The Cafe overlooks beautiful St. Regis Lake.

How about lunch with nothing on the menu over $3.25 (including beverage). Today I had a real nice pan-fried Atlantic salmon patty served open-faced on a toasted sourdough round with caper aioli and lettuce chiffonade vinaigrette for 3 bucks (beverage included). My dining partner (my mother, I'm a good son) had the "Plat du jour" - sweet and sour pork with a side of rice also for 3 bucks. Total bill at the end of lunch - $6.00. Other lunch choices included Romaine Heart Salad - romaine hearts with oil-cured olives, albacore tuna, and garlic croutons topped with shaved pecorino and served with a lemon-oregano vinaigrette ($2.75). Or, roasted top sirloin sandwich served with an onion mustard relish and grilled peppers on a toasted Kaiser roll (3.25).

We will be going to dinner there tomorrow night. On the menu, nothing cost more than $7.50. I'm looking at the Grilled Hand-cut New York strip steak served with fried potatoes, grilled tomatoes and a garlic parsley hollandaise for $7.50 or maybe the Braised duck legs cooked with Kalamata olives, raisins and capers served atop
semolina gnocchi rounds for $6.75. How about the Chicken breast, hand breaded in panko and cinnamon, pan–fried with a tomato tarragon coulis, baby spinach and potato puree for $6.50?

The Cafe serves lunch on Tue - Fri from 11 AM til 1:30 PM. Dinner is Tue - Fri from 5 PM til 8 PM. (during PSC academic calender)

Paul Smith's Visitor Interpretive Center

Pictures of the bog taken from the 900 ft long boardwalk across the bog.

This isn't the bog, it's a picture of the pond.

Cheney Impeachment Debacle

A privileged resolution to impeach VP Dick Cheney was offered on the floor of the House of Representatives by Rep. Dennis Kucinich a couple of days ago. It had 22 co-sponsors. The Democrats were out strategized by Republicans when the Republican House members all started voting to debate the resolution immediately. It would have been the shortest impeachment debate in the history of Congress.

Originally I thought that not debating the resolution immediately was a mistake. After reading more and thinking about it, I've changed my mind. Actually it would have been unfair to discuss such a resolution immediately. It would have looked like a "kangaroo court". The accused has rights (as Tom Cruise said of Jack Nicholson).

Things may be looking up a bit. The resolution was sent to the Judiciary Committee and now, according to committee member Rep. Stephen Cohen, it seems hearings might even be scheduled.

With this Congress, it is very unlikely that Cheney will ever be impeached because the leadership doesn't want it to happen. Although if anyone ever deserved to be impeached it is Richard Cheney.

You can read more about HR 333 here.

Bush, the CDC and Climate Change

What specifically did G.W. Bush want CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding to hide from Congress in her testimony about climate change? Here is some of it:
Scientific evidence supports the view that the earth’s climate is changing. A broad array of organizations (federal, state, local, multilateral, faith-based, private and nongovernmental) is working to address climate change. Despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed. CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern.
Some of the impacts on health that we will see might include: direct effects of heat, air-polution related effects, increased allergies, water and food-born diseases, vector and zoonotic diseases, food and water scarcity, mental health problems and impacts on chronic diseases. Dr. Gerberding was ready to provide Congress with specifics on each of those problems but Pres. Bush said no.

Bush also didn't want you to know that "sophisticated models to predict climate and heat exist". You can read the entire testimony, complete with redacted portions, here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How's the Fence Coming Along Minutemen?

The Minuteman Border Fence sort of reminds me of this Family Guy episode where Stewie questions Brian about the novel he has been working on.

It seems the "high tech" Israeli style security fence the Minutemen want to build on the USA - Mexico border isn't all that has been promised.

In fact, in Cochise County, AZ it's a 5 strand barbed wire fence.
The fence was described on the Minuteman Web site as 14 feet high, with security cameras and sensors, topped with razor wire and flanked by ditches to stop vehicles. Simcox referred to it as an "Israeli-style" fence, similar to the barrier Israel has erected to keep Palestinians from crossing from the West Bank.

The Minutemen are raising donations to build the fence? How much have they raised? Where is the money going? Certainly not to an Israeli style security fence in Cochise County, AZ.

Saranac Lake - First Snow Big Does

About an inch of snow in my yard this morning although other areas are reporting up to 3 inches. It's the first significant snowfall of the year.

Earlier in the day my yard was visited by some huge whitetail does. These animals look like they are ready for winter.

Eating Donuts Creates Donut Hole in BMI?

So now overweight is not so bad as long as you are not obese.
The most surprising finding was that being overweight but not obese was associated only with excess mortality from diabetes and kidney disease -- not from cancer or heart disease. Moreover, the researchers found an apparent protective effect against all other causes of death, such as tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and injuries. An association between excess weight and nearly 16,000 deaths from diabetes and kidney disease was overshadowed by a reduction of as many as 133,000 deaths from all other deaths unrelated to cancer or heart disease. Even moderately obese people appeared less likely to die of those causes.

Overweight is defined as those with a body mass index of between 25 and 30. Over BMI 30 and you are obese and that is not good.

But if your BMI is between 25 - 30 that might not be so bad. According to a recent study you are more likely to suffer from diabetes and kidney disease but you are less likely to suffer from a number of other diseases.

UPDATE: I just heard a news report on these results. As usual news reporters cannot take the time to go the extra step of trying to understand what is reported in the literature. The news reported that if you are up to 25 lbs overweight you may suffer from fewer diseases as you get older but not if you more than 30 lbs overweight.

Obviously confusing the BMI ratios of 25-30 and >30 which are relationships between height and weight. The actual formula is as follows:

BMI = (weight in pounds X 703)
height in inches²

Here is the weight status table:

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 - 24.9 Normal
25 - 29.9 Overweight
>30 Obese

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Let's Make Fun of Sen. Schumer and His Fashion Design Bill

Senator Kennedy's anti-torture bill (S.1943) has no co-sponsors, not even Sen. Chuck Schumer who thinks the bill needs to be passed so that Judge Mukasey can determine if torture is illegal or not.

Senator Schumer has an important bill of his own before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's S.1957, an act to provide protection for fashion design. Oh yes, this is not a joke. Schumer is worried more about protecting fashion design than he is protecting humans from being tortured. I bet the Fashion Design Protection Bill will not be vetoed by Bush.

Sen. Kennedy's Anti-Torture Bill

The bill is S.1943 and the full text can be found here. Here is what it prohibits:
(b) Prohibited Actions- The treatment or techniques of interrogation prohibited under subsection (a) include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) Forcing an individual to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner.

(2) Placing a hood or sack over the head of an individual, or using or placing duct tape over the eyes of an individual.

(3) Applying a beating, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain to an individual.

(4) Subjecting an individual to the procedure known as `waterboarding'.

(5) Subjecting an individual to threats or attack from a military working dog.

(6) Inducing hypothermia or heat injury in an individual.

(7) Conducting a mock execution of an individual.

(8) Depriving an individual of necessary food, water, or medical care.

I'm sure Bush can find many other intensive techniques to use other than the ones listed above.

The bill was introduced on August 2nd by Sen. Kennedy (with no co-sponsors) and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. This could take awhile because the Senate Judiciary Committee has many, many bills to consider such as the Methamphetamine Kingpin Elimination Act, the High Tech Worker Relief Act, the Text a Tip Act, and the Design Piracy Protection Act to name just a few. Then the bill needs to be scheduled for debate, voted on in the Senate, voted on in the House, and signed by the President. That shouldn't take too long to happen, except maybe for the people that are currently being tortured.

Mukasey Confirmed

Judge Michael "I don't know if torture is illegal" Mukasey has been confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 11-8 vote. We can all thank Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Diane Feinstein for our new attorney general.

Sen. Patrick Leahy makes a point:
Mukasey’s assurances on torture that won over Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer was disingenuous, according to Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

“Unsaid, of course, is the fact that any such prohibition would have to be enacted over the veto of this president,” said Leahy.

If torture continues to be used by the USA it will be thanks to Sen. Schumer and Sen. Feinstein.

The White House is Deeply Disappointed

The White House is deeply disappointed in constitutional freedoms being restricted in the name of fighting terrorism.
Q Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.

Of course they are talking about the freedoms of the people in Pakistan, not the freedoms of citizens of the USA. In the USA you have to give up a few freedoms in order to stay free.

Parasitic Twin

There is a condition called ischiopagus where a person can be born with multiple arms and legs. It happens when rather than fully developed conjoined twins being formed, one of the twins does not develop. Thus the multiple legs and arms on a single torso.

There is currently such a case in India. A potentially conjoined twin stopped developing in the womb leaving a little girl with multiple arms and legs.

From the x-ray you can see where the undeveloped twin is joined at the pelvis. The little girl is named after the Hindu goddess Lakshmi who had four arms. Lakshmi is going to undergo a 40 hour surgury in attempt to remove the extra limbs. The operation will utilize 30 surgeons undergoing 8 hr. shifts and is estimated to cost about 100,000 pounds. The very high risk surgury is explained here.

The cute little girl looks very happy in the pictures of her and her family. I wish them all the best.

Schumer and "A Vote for Justice"

Sen. Chuck Schumer has an op-ed in todays NYT explaining his support for Judge Mukasey to be our next Attorney General of the USA.
Should we reject Judge Mukasey, President Bush has said he would install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the extreme ideology of Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington.
We've already lived through the terms of two "unaccountable" AG's, John Ashcroft and Al Gonzales. We can make it through another 15 months with another "unaccountable" AG. Besides, there are zero assurances that Judge Mukasey will be accountable just because he says he will. Gonzales made you think he would be accountable too. He lied to Congress. By the way, how is that sopoena to bring Gonzales before the committee coming along?
Judge Mukasey’s refusal to state that waterboarding is illegal was unsatisfactory to me and many other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But Congress is now considering — and I hope we will soon pass — a law that would explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. And I am confident that Judge Mukasey would enforce that law.

So Sen. Ted Kennedy sponsored an anti-torture amendment in 2006 and you supported it. Now there is a similar bill in this Congress. I guess that law isn't on the books is it? Otherwise Judge Mukasey would be able to render an opinion whether waterboarding is illegal or not. There are already numerous treaties, laws and regulations concerning torture. What about those?
On Friday, he personally made clear to me that if the law were in place, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it — not even under some theory of inherent authority granted by Article II of the Constitution, as Vice President Cheney might argue.
Pres. Bush has a habit of ignoring laws he doesn't like. He loves signing statements that exempt him from following laws passed by Congress. An anti-torture bill has next to zero chance of ever being passed in this Congress. And, if somehow it does get passed, I predict that Bush would veto it.

Even without the proposed law in place, Judge Mukasey would be more likely than a caretaker attorney general to find on his own that waterboarding and other techniques are illegal. Indeed, his written answers to our questions have demonstrated more openness to ending the practices we abhor than either of this president’s previous attorney general nominees have had.

Whoop-de-do! Judge Mukasey will be more likely than a caretaker AG to find on his own that waterboarding is illegal. Sen. Schumer, have you heard that the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale? Remember that old Bush saying about "fool me once".....?

Sen. Schumer was an early supporter of the nomination of Judge Mukasey for AG. I felt the same way. But that was before Judge Mukasey said he didn't know if waterboarding was illegal. I changed my mind, Sen. Schumer won't.

I understand and respect my colleagues who believe that Judge Mukasey’s view on torture should trump all other considerations. For the Senate to make a bold declaration about torture and waterboarding by rejecting him is appealing. But if we block Judge Mukasey’s nomination and then learn in six months that waterboarding has continued unabated, that victory will seem much less valuable.

What if Judge Mukasey is confirmed as Ag and torture continues? Well, at least maybe we will get a "depoliticized Justice Department". A "depoliticized" government department in the Bush administration. Yes, when hell freezes over.

Here's what I think. Sen. Schumer was an early supporter of Judge Mukasey and now Schumer can't admit he was wrong.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Have's and the Been Had's

Very funny.

Waterboarding, Waterboarding, Waterboarding

EVERYTHING you didn't want to know about waterboarding can be found at

What is waterboarding?

How to waterboard.

Is waterboarding torture?

Poor States More Religious

Here is a plot of income vs "religiosity" by State kindly provided by Prof. Andrew Gelman at a Columbia University statistics website. "Religiosity" is measured on a -2 to +2 scale by amount of church attendence. States that voted for Bush are in red and those that voted for Kerry in Blue. Prof. Gelman rightly doesn't draw any conclusions from the data.

It' actually more likely that the correlation is between level of education (rather than religion) and income. Or, maybe not.

Are 'Mericans Outraged Mr. Bush?

President Bush has been relatively quiet about whether Americans are outraged about the political situation in Pakistan.
General Musharraf suspended the Constitution, fired the judges of the Supreme Court, closed the transmission of privately owned television news channels and curbed the broadcasts of international broadcasters. Parliamentary elections scheduled for next January have been delayed for up to a year.

More here.
Despite U.S. expectations it is unlikely that Musharraf will use his new powers to step up a military offensive in the north. His first concern is political survival. More likely are a flurry of truces and shaky peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban that will leave them in place.
Unlike your (our) "outrage" over Burma, there doesn't seem to be much "outrage" over Pakistan. Pakistan is our ally in the war on terror, continues to receive military aid from the USA and has about 50 nuclear weapons. Is there any reason for Americans to be outraged over Pakistan? Are you as concerned about democracy in Pakistan as your are about democracy in Burma?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NY Voters Please Vote Yes for Raquette Lake

The tiny village of Raquette Lake, NY, located in the Adirondack State Park, has a drinking water problem and they need to build a new well. Why don't they drill one you ask? They can't drill a new well without approval of the voters of NY State. A vote is required by the NY State Constitution. So the 500 or so residents of Raquette Lake cannot get clean drinking water without the voters of NYS permission.

Residents of Raquette Lake want to trade 12 acres of forest for 1 acre of state-owned "forever wild" land where they will build their badly needed village water supply. This proposal has the support of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as well as the NY Times. I doubt that many residents of the Adirondacks have much problem with voting yes as well. Even the environmentalist should be happy because NY State will gain an extra 11 acres of park property.

So voters of NY State please vote YES on Tuesday Nov. 6th, to give Raquette Lake residents a clean water supply.

Read more about Raquette Lake here.

UPDATE: The Constitutional amendment was approved by NYS voters.