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:: Saturday, July 12, 2003 ::

More on seizures and cops

I found out a bit more about my Friday morning. Bear in mind that, after a seizure, you're not exactly yourself. I'm pretty much in "zombie-mode" for half an hour or more. I'll obey direct commands, more or less, but I'm incoherent and not really conscious. And I never have any memories of that time.

I got a call from my mother. She's considering going down to the police station and suggesting, as both a diagnostician and having raised a child with seizure disorder, that the police train their officers in how to deal with it.

She explained to me that the police officer was the first on the scene, and that he was treating me as potentially dangerous. That, I have no problem with. He didn't know why I had seizures, and despite my wife's claims that I have seizure disorder, for all he knew this was the back end of a drug overdose. Which means I could be unpredictably and violent.

However, the problem wasn't his undue caution, nor the fact that his behavior at that point might have sent a less competent and collected wife into hysterics.

The problem was that he spent a good deal of time, after the EMTs arrived, complaining that I had been "belligerent and uncooperative". Which is also true enough. I wasn't cooperating, because I wasn't conscious and I was somewhat belligerent. At least gripey and unhappy about people ordering me around.

Not that I remember any of this.

Regardless, however, the police officer should have been prepared. The EMTs certainly showed no surprise (my behavior is fairly normal for the situation). Offhand, I worry what will happen if that officer encounters another epileptic. There was a potential for escalation in an already tense situation, and one where the person most in need of help is least able to defend himself. Or herself.

Regardless, I'm trying to decide whether to go forward with a complaint. Well, not exactly a complaint. The officer's behavior was, by all accounts, just fine. More like a "recommendation for specific training".
:: Morat 10:25 AM :: ::

Stiff and Sore

My neck is killing me. Don't get me wrong, the muscle relaxers I was given helped a lot. So did the 12 hours of sleep. But my neck is still sore and stiff.

I'm not really sure how much blogging I'll do today. I'll probably post a few things this afternoon.
:: Morat 8:51 AM :: ::

:: Friday, July 11, 2003 ::

More on Tenet

Tenet's statement is a curious one. Having thought about it a bit more, I'd like to put forth one interesting idea.

By virtue of releasing this statement, Tenet has, in fact, personally selected the White House excuse for this error. His statement places, in an on-the-record quote from a named official, the "official" excuse. It, in fact, assumes some of the facts the White House would rather not have around.

The very existence of the statement more or less implies that the White House and the CIA were all well informed that the Nigerian documents were false. By giving this statement, Tenet removes any wiggle room for the administration.

This is the story they have to stick with now. "We trusted the British". Any further change to the story would be laughable. The White House would be forced to not only explain why the last story was wrong, but why the CIA went on record admitting it was correct.

So Bush is stuck with the "We trusted the British" explanation. Which means his favorite tactic for scandal, constantly changing the subject or explanation, is no longer nearly as effective.

Ultimately, Tenet is in an even stronger position to hurt the White House than he was before. All he needs to do is leak information showing that the CIA had fully informed the White House that the British intelligence was shaky, at best, and contradicted by other (more trustworthy) information.

Will Tenet do it? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is not lost on Rove, or Cheney and Rice for that matter, that Tenet has selected their excuse for them, and has massively narrowed their range of options.

Where will it go from here? I don't know. But the next few weeks will tell.
:: Morat 7:27 PM :: ::

Tenet Falling

CNN.com - Text of CIA Director George Tenet's statement - Jul. 11, 2003
From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct -- i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.
I find myself pretty shocked to see Tenet taking the fall like this. I also find it very suspicious. I would suggest watching the news carefully this weekend and next week. I don't think we've heard the end of this. After all, what Tenet said is undoubtedly true in one sense, and could be viewed as a loyal protection of the President.

However, and I think this goes beyond the usual political parsing of words, Tenet's statement doesn't fully take Bush off the hook he's on.

After all, Tenet's statement merely states that "The CIA looked at it, and did conclude (at the time) that the British were saying this". However, that's not the point. The British may have been saying it, but the White House was fully aware that the CIA thought it was bogus, and that even the British were very doubtful it was true.

I find myself unable to guess whether Tenet is taking the fall, or whether Tenet is issuing a "non-denial" denial...the sort designed to appear cooperative while "anonymous CIA officials" continue to twist the knife.

My gut says this story isn't finished yet, but....I freely admit this is outside the limits of my experience. Still, I really don't think this is over yet.

UPDATE: The more I think about it, the more the subtext of this reads "We knew it was wrong, and they knew it was wrong, and we didn't fight it hard enough. Will the media pick up on this? I don't know. I think there's blood in the water, but Bush had led a charmed life, when it comes to the press.

I'm not sure Tenet is done here. I think he made this admission, to keep his job, but that doesn't mean he's done with the quiet, "anonymous CIA sources" war. There are quotes out, as late as the last two days, that are almost certainly either Tenet or directly authorized to Tenet, attacking the White House and defending the CIA. We'll see if I'm right over the next week. If I am, we'll see more "anonymous government" and "anonymous CIA" comments filtering out over the next week.
:: Morat 5:46 PM :: ::

Seizure disorder

Blogging might be light today. I have epilepsy, albeit a particularly mild form of it. (According to my neurologist, nocturnal seizures, the only sort I have, are the adult equivalent of petit mal seizures. If you're going to have seizure disorder, it's the one to have).

Anyways, I recently switched medications because I had noted some side effects to the drug I was on. The process of switching medications (indeed, any fiddling of the dosage) apparently makes you a bit more prone to seizures than normal. I didn't help that I hadn't been as diligent about taking it as I should have been.

So, the practical upshot of my laziness regarding my medication is that I spent the morning dealing with paramedics. To top it off, my mother came over (and saw my horrible messy house, which I was hoping to avoid until I cleaned it).

Even better, the first person to show up was a police officer, who informed my wife she had an open warrant, and that if it wasn't for the nature of his visit, he'd have to take her in. So, all things considered:
  • I have a massively painful crick in my neck.
  • I missed work.
  • My mother saw my rather messy house. It was her first visit.
  • I had to shell out almost 400 bucks to fix my wife's ticket. (She's got it before we got married and I, at least, had forgotten about it)


Not the best morning. But, could be worse...


Note: I had to leave before I finished this post, then took a long nap when I got home. So, as you can guess, I went to the doctor already, and I have some lovely muscle relaxers. I figured I'd post this and maybe catch up on news.
:: Morat 5:38 PM :: ::

:: Thursday, July 10, 2003 ::

Democrats v. Republicans: The Economy

Meridith over at PLA had a nice post about Presidents and the economy:
While I do not disagree with Jane’s larger point that it is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from small data sets, what is striking about the job growth data is how clean it is. Job growth was higher under every Democratic President than under any of the seven Republican Presidents.
...
Thus, the probability that every Democrat would outrank every Republican by operation of mere chance is the product of each of those six chances. If my math is correct, the probability of every Democrat outranking every Republican through random chance is about 0.05% or about a 1 in 2,000 underdog. It is not impossible but it is very unlikely that random chance caused the rankings
...
Jane’s larger point is that there is a weak link between presidential policies and any one measure of economic performance and, therefore, we should be very careful not to place too much emphasis on any one data set. Jane is surely correct on that point.

After I became interested in the issue of economic performance by the political party of the president, I looked at unemployment, inflation, GDP growth, overall federal spending and federal non-defense spending, budget deficits, and increases in federal non-defense employees. Others have looked at stock market returns.

The performance under Democratic presidents was superior to the performance under Republicans in each of those measures.

Perhaps all of those measures are flawed in some way or subject to external forces. Perhaps Republican economic theory and performance is not accurately captured by any of those sets of data. If so, there must be some measure of economic performance that puts Republican Presidents in a favorable light. Any ideas on what that measure might be?
I've got to echo the question. If the GOP is so superior, surely we can find some measure, somewhere, that shows it? Right?
:: Morat 12:22 PM :: ::

'One in 10' Iraqi treasures looted

'One in 10' Iraqi treasures looted
At least one in ten of the objects in Iraq's national museum are missing, its director has said.
Dr Nawalaal Mutawalli told a press conference at the British Museum in London that some 13,000 objects had gone missing from the Baghdad institution's storage room in the days following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Mobs of looters attacked the building, leaving a trail of devastation after US-led forces seized the Iraqi capital in April.
Dr Mutawalli said museum staff had only searched through part of the storage room, so the picture could still be much worse.
In addition, 47 pieces had been taken from its exhibition room - with seven described as 'very important masterpieces'.
"Just some guy with a vase". And "fortunes of war". And I'm waiting, in fact, for certain bloggers who crowed very loudly about this (and we all know who you are) being nothing, and how it was blown out of proportion by the "anti-war, liberal media" and it was just 33 artifacts lost to eat the very large pile of crow in front of them.

Take a hint boys. Be gracious when you think you are right, and that others are wrong. Even to your enemies. Because what comes around, goes around. And bragging about how right you were just makes the fall a hell of a lot harder.

On the other hand, I'll be surprised if many of the loudest gloaters bothers to even link to this story, or one of the number of others released in the last few weeks. Why should they? If thieves stole David, the Mona Lisa, La Prima Vera and a few other important art works, and about 13,000 lesser known works from the Louve, the Uffizi and the Academy....well, it's hardly worth getting excited about, right?
:: Morat 11:15 AM :: ::

Dean and Health Care

Joe Rospars over at Not Geniuses made a very interesting point about health care. He relates a conversation he had with a man in Paris, who had always wanted to start his own business.
The one thing keeping him from starting his own business: health insurance. The high cost and shifting availability of health insurance is the single biggest factor why he, and presumably many others, cannot become an entrepreneur.
Universal, affordable health care that can never be taken away would promote small business. And sure enough, Dr. Dean is on the case. His plan will support small business by 'letting them buy into the federal employee look-alike program at reasonable rates.'
The Dean plan is business-friendly. Besides allowing more people to live the American dream by starting their own business, it creates less than a tenth of the new business costs to employers of all kinds than the Gephardt plan.
That had never really occurred to me, and it should have. After all, my wife worked as a secretary for a number of years, because the health care benefits were far superior to what she could get as a teacher.

It wasn't until we were married, and she could use my health care, did she feel able to switch to the job she's always wanted. If someone like my wife (and even me) would turn down a job we'd love in favor of one we'd hate, but that had good health care, I can only imagine how big an issue health care is to someone wanting to cut the net and start his own business.
:: Morat 10:44 AM :: ::

Abolish the FEC

Abolish the FEC
The lead sponsors of the nation's new campaign finance law have a new goal: abolishing the federal agency responsible for enforcing it.
Lawmakers including Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold were announcing legislation Thursday that would replace the Federal Election Commission with a new agency.
About bloody time. I suggest that, whatever the final format, it be something for more professional. 12 year terms, focus on the law rather than party politics... Much like the Federal Reserve, in fact. The American public deserves a truly impartial and effective FEC. One not beholden, in any way, to any party or politician.
:: Morat 10:13 AM :: ::

Uranium Lies

Bush Skirts Queries on Iraq Nuclear Allegation
Bartlett said the passage was included in drafts of the speech for at least 10 days before Bush delivered it. Bartlett said he knew of no objections to including the charge or debate over the wording.
'We wouldn't lead with something that we thought could be refuted,' Bartlett said. 'There was no debate or questions with regard to that line when it was signed off on. This was not a last-minute addition.
...
A senior administration official said that numerous officials at the CIA had the chance to object to the line about Hussein's quest for uranium. "If [CIA Director George J.] Tenet had called up and said, 'Take it out,' we would have taken it out," the official said. "When it was signed off on at highest level, it was not brought into question by those who would know or those who were tasked to know at the agency."
And the White House bats the ball back at the CIA and the State Department.

Of course, I think that's a pretty bad strategy. After all, Tenet's just going to dispute it (and the CIA will undoubtedly leak documents to support him), and the American public trusts Powell far more than Bush.

I'm not sure Bush could offer either Tenet or Powell enough to take this fall for him. Expect yet another blurb in the next 24 hours indicating that the White House was informed. As Wilson noted, there should be no less than four documents in the White House regarding his report. I'm willing to bet the CIA has several itself, detailing whom the conclusion was sent to and when.

Sooner or later, when the stakes are high enough, one of them is going to magically appear in a reporters hands.
:: Morat 9:40 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, July 09, 2003 ::

Not so true...

Looks like the article I blogged about here wasn't true. In Capital Hill Blue today, Doug Thompson admits he was conned by this guy...and has been for a long time.

I'm rather glad that I was skeptical, since that did save me a lot of crow eating. (Those "if this is true" and "Assuming this is true" qualifiers do come in handy some time). Something about the story just rang....too good. Life is rarely that neat, you know?

Anyways, I do want to applaud Doug Thompson. Getting a retraction out within a day or so, and taking his lumps like that....it can't have been easy. Reporters aren't perfect people. But being willing to admit errors, even huge ones, gets them closer...
:: Morat 5:38 PM :: ::

More on Diebold Machines

The more I think about it (and if you want slightly more technical information, check out the comments on this post at Atrios) the more I start to agree with some of the comments.

I'm not sure I can believe that this is merely the result of incompetence. I've gone my whole life believing in the "Never ascribe to malice what you can blame on incompetence" cliche, but this...this goes way too fire.

If creating products this sloppy was habitual for Diebold, they'd be out of business. This is truly awful. The security holes, vulnerabilities, and general completely wide-open nature of this cannot be anything but deliberate.

I can't help but wonder if Diebold wanted such an easy to manipulate system. After all, it offers plausible deniability if fraud is actually detected. You know how hackers are....always messing around. No one reputable would have tampered with the election results. It must have been a hacker...

This needs to be picked up by the mainstream media. Even if this really is just sheer incompetence, it's incompetence that could allow voter fraud on a level unprecedented in American politics. As such, Diebold's sheer sloppiness (or malice. Whichever) represents a dangerous threat to the stability of American government.


:: Morat 11:24 AM :: ::

Thinking It Through 7-09-03

Tom Spencer, on the Nigerian story, remarks
Regardless, don't blow off what happened yesterday. The White House armor has cracked -- and their admission that W lied in a presidential address is a major development. And they acknowledged how big a deal it was when they admitted it in such a chickenshit and evasive fashion -- by releasing a statement from the White House after the president had left for Africa.
I tend to agree with him. The strength of the Bush administration has always been it's manner of garnering positive coverage. Unlike Clinton (the so-called Teflon President, because nothing stuck to him), Bush never had to be Teflon. He never came under fire.

And the utility of being able to prevent scandal, poor decisions, bad business deals, or any of the usual detritus that clings to public figures, from actually impacting him can't be overstated. But that method is a huge gamble. And the stakes are far, far higher...

There are two ways, politically, to deal with scandals. Embrace the inevitable, show your cards, and let the chips fall is one. Stonewalling is the other.

Not since Nixon has anyone really tried to stonewall. Ever since Watergate (before, really), nothing has aroused suspicion more than refusing to come clean. Clinton tended to fold immediately, disclose more or less fully, and then let his overeager (and hyperbolic accusers) make fools of themselves.

Bush, on the other hand, is politically incapable of coming clean. His entire public persona, his entire political operation, is geared the other way. From the day he took office (before, really. He was like that in Texas too), Bush has dealt with potential scandal by ignoring it, counter-attacking his accusers, and changing the subject.

And it's been pretty successful so far. Modern politics, after all, is built on the "gotcha" principle. You find something naughty, you get it published, the politician comes clean and takes a hit to their re-elect numbers. If it's bad enough, they resign or get ousted in the next election.

Those were the post-Nixon rules. And they were the rules because Nixon showed that covering it up hurt far more, in the long run. It led to a suspicious press, a suspicious public, and absolutely no credibility. Admit error, and apologize, and you lost some credibility and some political capital, yes. But stonewall? The longer it went on, the higher the stakes....

Bush isn't going to admit error. He's not going to admit lying. He has no choice. He's stonewalled, he's lied, too long. The political price is far, far higher now than it was. And it keeps climbing.

So he's going to point fingers. He's going to start pushing forward scapegoats (starting with Tenet was a bad idea). George Bush is playing for very high stakes.

The problem is, if he loses, if any of the scandal's he's stonewalling breaks loose, then his credibility is gone. Not tarnished. Not injured. GONE.

And Bush's entire image, his entire public persona, is built on his perceived credibility.
:: Morat 11:10 AM :: ::

Excerpts From Bush's News Conference in South Africa

Excerpts From Bush's News Conference in South Africa. As Lambert said over at Eschaton, who needs commentary? Bush's own words speak for themselves.

No wonder he has Ari speak for him. The ducking and weaving there is pretty obvious, and the bad logic.....it's not even hidden. Come on, Bush! I have standards when it comes to duplicitous politicians.

At least make Cheney your Grand Vizier. Those guys are always evil and clever.
:: Morat 10:19 AM :: ::

Wrestling for the Truth of 9/11

Wrestling for the Truth of 9/11
The Bush administration, long allergic to the idea of investigating the government's failure to prevent the Sept. 11 terror attacks, is now doing its best to bury the national commission that was created to review Washington's conduct. That was made plain yesterday in a muted way by Thomas Kean, the former New Jersey governor, and Lee Hamilton, the former congressman, who are directing the inquiry. When these seasoned, mild-mannered men start complaining that the administration is trying to intimidate the commission, the country had better take notice.
In a status report on its work, the commission said various agencies — particularly the Pentagon and the Justice Department — were blocking requests for vital information and resources. Acting more like the Soviet Kremlin than the American government, the administration has insisted that monitors from various agencies attend debriefings of key officials by investigators. Mr. Kean is quite correct in objecting to this as a thinly veiled attempt at intimidation. Meanwhile, the clock is running for the commission to complete a full report to the nation by next May.
Too polite to use the word 'stonewalling,' the bipartisan commission nevertheless warned the nation that thus far the administration had 'underestimated the scale of the commission's work and the full breadth of support required.
Why is it that the New York Times is only now getting outraged about something I've been bitching about for months?

It's not like I have entire pools of reporters, experts, and sources to call upon.
:: Morat 10:15 AM :: ::

Evolution Versus Creationism, Take One Million

New force in the fray on state's textbooks
The institute picks each icon apart. For example, it cites problems with a 1953 experiment that produced organic molecules from a mixture of primordial gases. It also claims that fossil evidence of a sudden explosion of life during the Cambrian era (about 500 million years ago) poses a mystery that evolution can't solve. It argues that drawings of vertebrate embryos are regularly misrepresented and that photos of moths on tree trunks in England, a classic example of the workings of natural selection, were staged.
Bassett Maguire, a biology professor at the University of Texas, says there is truth to the institute's claims. The moths were staged, the embryos exaggerated. But Maguire says the examples don't matter as much as the concepts they teach, which he says are still valid. The icons represent flawed but nevertheless historic moments in science, and the concepts they illustrate have since been heaped with supporting evidence, Maguire said.
Oh for the love of Pete....

Just to let you know: Yes, my high school science textbook had Haeckel's drawings in it. In fact, directly underneath it was a blurb about how the drawings were altered by Haeckel. Further, the section it was in rather quickly pointed out Haeckel's original error (embryos don't mimic ancestral adult forms, but ancestral embryonic forms).

As for the peppered moths, they weren't in my textbook. However, while the moths were posed (ever tried to get a nice shot of a bunch of moths on a tree) they were posed were they frequently landed...on trees. My science textbook had lovely pictures of people dropping rocks, and used that to demonstrate why the Earth orbited the sun, and no one complained because the "dropping rocks picture of gravity" was staged....

As for the Miller experiment, you'd think biochemistry and abiogenesis research stopped in 1955....

Intelligent design remains Creationism in sheeps' clothing. It's marginally more intelligently done than the average YEC claim, but repeats the same pattern of distortion, quote-mining, and deception that characterizes YEC Creationism.

If it quacks like a duck....(Thanks to Demagogue for the link).
:: Morat 9:58 AM :: ::

Voting Machine Incompetence

I blogged on this article about Diebold's voting setup yesterday. I didn't really put any commentary, at the time, because the flaws and problems seemed pretty obvious.

On the other hand, not everyone is a software engineer.

There are two main problems with Diebold's setup.
  • It uses Microsoft Access. This isn't a slam at Microsoft. I've got nothing against them. However, Access is not intended to be used like this. It's designed for small-scale use by individuals and small businesses. NOT large-scale, highly secure vote recording. Using Access in this situation is like trying to tow a broken-down RV with a Volkswagen Beetle.

  • The database design is truly horrid. It appears to have been done by people utterly unfamiliar with database design. The use of multiple databases practically invites error, and the design is, at best, hugely redundant and error-prone.
This is a serious issue. It's obvious, by glancing at it, that whomever designed this setup was not a database expert, or more than passingly familiar with database design. Any marginally competent programmer, with maybe two college classes in database design, would have created a far better system.

Votes on a Diebold machine (both touch screen and optical) are being tabulated on a poorly-designed system, running on an insufficiently powerful and secure database.

It's a horrible design. It's as if Diebold went out of their way to create a system that was not only prone to machine errors and software errors, but wanted one that was easy to deliberately manipulate as well.

If this system were a car, it'd have 5 wheels, three of which didn't turn. It'd weigh more than an Excursion, have a 1 cylinder engine, and be liable to explode if you turn on the radio.
:: Morat 9:35 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 ::

The EPA and Clear Skies

I asked a friend of mine with some experience at the EPA to explain exactly what's going on with the Bush Administration, the Clear Skies plan, and the accusations currently flying around about various environmental proposals. My friend responded:

Basically, the Clean Air Act (CAA) currently regulates SO2, NOx and mercury emissions from power plants (SO2 is the main culprit in acid rain, and NOx is a precursor to smog. Mercury--well is toxic.) through a system known as "cap and trade". This establishes a set level of emissions that will be allowed (the cap), allocates those allowances to each facility (usually through some method that looks at historical and resent-day emissions) and then the facilities have to figure out how to reduce their emissions to the number of allowances they have. If they can reduce below their allowed level, they can sell their extra allowances to a company that can't meet their requirement (the "trade"). A facility can also save
their extra allowances and use them (or sell them) at a later time. These allowances are traded openly, anyone can buy them, and there are companies that operate as brokers for the allowance market (Cantor Fitzgerald for one). Their is some criticism of this method because while it does reduce emissions, it could allow for situations where particular plants meet all their requirements by buying allowances, so you could have pockets that are still really dirty. (there's also certain limitations on the trading, particularly in the North East quarter of the country because of agreements with Canada on acid rain and among the states because of where the wind blows different emissions). The current CAA has certain dates by which certain levels of emissions cuts must be made for each of the pollutants. Mercury isn't currently regulated, but has a deadline for a cap to be established.

When Clear Skies was first publicized (Feb 14, 2002) a lot of environmental groups began to attack it because while it would lower SO2 and NOx emissions significantly from what they are today, if the future provisions in the CAA went into effect as scheduled and were duly enforced, then the existing CAA regulations would result in lower emissions than Clear Skies. Clear Skies also revisits the mercury issue, but pushes the deadline for beginning to regulate it back by several years. Also, Clear Skies does nothing to address CO2 emissions from power plants, instead there is a simultaneous announcement about reducing greenhouse gas "intensity" (emissions per unit of GDP) by 18% (or about the same amount that has been happening naturally for the last 30 or 40 years as processes improve and become more efficient) though voluntary initiatives (which we've been using for the last 10 years to no avail).

So, Clear Skies sits around a while, and various senators start formulating their own multi-pollutant bills (sometimes known as 3P or 4P legislation with CO2 as the 4th P). The two that get the most attention are the Jeffords bill and the Carper bill. (Jeffords was getting attention for a while but I haven't heard anything on it in a long time) Both of those bills include CO2. McCain/Lieberman also put together a greenhouse gas trading bill and ask the EPA to conduct an analysis of their bill. This is pretty routine, the EPA gets asked for these analyses all the time and are happy to provide them. Meanwhile the EPA is, of course, doing an analysis of Clear Skies showing how great it is.

So, the request comes in for McCain/Lieberman analysis and the EPA does nothing. No analysis. No acknowledgement of the request. Not refusal to do the analysis. They just ignore it. This is incredibly bizarre procedure for a request from the Hill. I honestly can't remember what exactly happened with this, although I think the EPA eventually gave them something.

Carper (and a few others) request an analysis of their bill. The EPA provides them with some cost comparisons (their's is marginally higher but it's almost negligible) and raw data. No analysis of the data, just raw data. This is also odd.

In early July, someone leaks a copy of the analysis that was done of the Carper bill. Amazingly enough, it turns out that not only does adding CO2 barely increase the costs compared to Clear Skies, the Carper bill is also estimated to save about 50% more lives.

The next day, EPA releases a new analysis of the Clear Skies act (partly due to having better Census data and partly because they decided to use different assumptions). Amazingly these new assumptions boost the health benefits of Clear Skies. Of course, people are quick to figure out that the same assumptions would also boost the health benefits of the Carper bill.

The administration's spin on it seems to be that Clear Skies considers energy security and disruptions to the energy supply (ie, price spikes if people switch to natural gas which is cleaner than coal). Of course, the analysis of the Carper bill shows no more fuel switching than the Clear Skies analysis does, so that's somewhat debatable.

There have been a lot of accusations of censorship and hiding information which, from what I've heard, I think are reasonably credible. Given my experience trying to get climate stuff published, it's not surprising to me that other groups are getting pressured to keep a lid on things. It's a weird line, because technically the EPA doesn't really have an obligation to provide the analyses, it's just always been something we've done. So, if the EPA decides not to do something they're not obligated to do, is it wrong? I think it's problematic because it's becoming a systematic refusal to do these things, or to do a minimalist job on them.

On the political side of Clear Skies, the White House has made it very clear that they're going to get it through. Industry has been rather split on the issue. There are groups that hate it because it's new regulation and they seem to be living in a world where they think they could get around the existing rules by the time their new deadlines would come into effect. There are groups that love it because it's weak and doesn't make them do anything about CO2. There are groups that hate it because they're low CO2 emitters so they would have benefited from CO2 regulations. Finally, there are industry groups who hate it because they know regulations on CO2 are coming eventually and they want regulatory certainty on it now instead so they can keep all the issues in mind when they're making renovations and upgrades.

The senate environmental and public works committee has said they're probably not going to get to the bill until September, which may be too late to get it passed. There are also a number of people on the committee who favor including CO2 (like Jeffords) so the committee may struggle to get it through. There was a hearing on it today, but there won't be anything back about that for a while.

In the house, 138 reps sent a letter today bashing the mercury portion of Clear Skies and calling for it to be strengthened. This included 14 republicans, and that essentially means that they will have to sway some dems to vote for it to get it past the house.

Some links:

Comparison between CAA and Clear Skies
Comparison between various 3P/4P proposals

:: Morat 2:19 PM :: ::

Teaching in Texas

My wife (an absolutely wonderful woman) is a teacher. Or rather, will be a teacher once she's certified. I'm honestly not sure if it's a quirk of the Texas education system, or whether it's a common occurrence, but because she didn't move immediately into teaching upon receipt of her degree, but instead spent a few years working a job with better health care (let's not get into the lousy nature of benefits in Texas), she has to go through this certification process.

That consists, as far as I can tell, of her having to cover, rapidly, the same ground she went over in depth in college. So she's taking classes all the time this summer, and has to take some this fall and spring. But the upshot is she can start teaching this fall. All of this, of course, for the second time. She was lucky in that she got to avoid taking some of the classes, so it's not as bad as it could be.

Of course, to do that, she had to quit her job to take the classes in the first place.

The point of this post is to say that she just had a great interview with a local school she'd love to teach at, in a position she really wants (fifth grade math). BUT, until the results of some testing come in (another three to four weeks), she can't be hired.

So here's hoping no other applicant, already in possession of said certification, shows up in the next three weeks. Or that the principal of that school decides to hold it for her anyways.
:: Morat 2:00 PM :: ::

Scoop: Inside A U.S. Election Vote Counting Program

Scoop: Inside A U.S. Election Vote Counting Program Anyone with any interest, whatsoever, in electronic voting (or indeed, in legitimate voting at all) should read this. Right now. It's a very nice demonstration on how easy it is to change, without a trace, totals under Diebold's electronic voting system.

It's a crooked politicians dream....you don't need hundreds of people and complex scams. All you need are a few people in the right place, and you can change the vote totals worry free.
:: Morat 12:16 PM :: ::

Eating Their Own

Now it's Republicans quarreling as right wing targets moderates
Stephen Moore and his die-hard conservative allies are taking lots of hits these days. They're reviled as 'cannibals.' They're accused of 'eating their own.' They're 'fratricidal purists.' Their tactics are 'stupid.'
And that's just what fellow Republicans say about them.
The GOP reigns in Washington, but not always harmoniously. There are fissures at the moment - purists vs. pragmatists, conservatives vs. moderates - and the name-calling has gotten so bad, you would think they were auditioning for Jerry Springer.
Basically, the purists are not satisfied with the Republican triumph. They see enemies in their own ranks. They want to purge the GOP of 'Benedict Arnolds' and 'Franco-Republicans' who seem insufficiently zealous about cutting taxes. (In conservative eyes, the French are wimps about Iraq.) And the purists want to cleanse the party of its few remaining Northeastern moderate lawmakers.
I think this fits in nicely with my theory on the GOP push for redistricting. As long as the purists insist on knocking off "appeasers" and "Franco-Republicans" in the primaries, the GOP is going to be slowly hemorrhaging seats. Whether it's switching parties, or losing popular incumbents to radicals who don't stand a chance, this is Not Good for the Republicans.

And I'm not the only one seeing the writing on the wall. As I mentioned before, Tom DeLay and Karl Rove see it too. Sooner or later, Bush isn't going to be able to avoid a hard choice. For example, if Massachusetts ends up with civil unions, Bush is going to be forced into a corner. Either come out swinging against gays in general (which seems to be how he truly feels), and keep his radical base at the expense of the middle, or dodge the issue and lose the radical base....to very little change in opinion from the middle.


:: Morat 12:07 PM :: ::

Explosive if true...more Uranium lies.

White House admits Bush lied about Iraqi nukes
An intelligence consultant who was present at two White House briefings where the uranium report was discussed confirmed that the President was told the intelligence was questionable and that his national security advisors urged him not to include the claim in his State of the Union address.
'The report had already been discredited,' said Terrance J. Wilkinson, a CIA advisor present at two White House briefings. 'This point was clearly made when the President was in the room during at least two of the briefings.'
Bush's response was anger, Wilkinson said.
'He said that if the current operatives working for the CIA couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could,' Wilkinson said. 'He said he knew the story was true and so would the world after American troops secured the country.'
John pointed this out in comments. I tend to agree with him that the smaller news sources don't have as much credibility, but named sources do make up the slack.

Wilkinson might be the CIA's return strike. As I mentioned awhile back (too lazy too look it up and link to it), every time Bush tries to pin this on the CIA, they're going to leak like a sieve. No one is willing to take the fall for the White House on this one. Certainly not George Tenet.

If this is the CIA's "informal" response, I expect it to hit major news sources soon. And if it's true, I can't think of anything that would hurt Bush more. And rightfully so.
:: Morat 11:49 AM :: ::

Truth, Lies and Nigerian Uranium

Bush Claim on Iraq Had Flawed Origin, White House Says
But even then, White House officials made no effort to correct the president's remarks. Indeed, as recently as a few weeks ago they were arguing that Mr. Bush had quite deliberately avoided mentioning Niger, and noted that he had spoken more generally about efforts to obtain 'yellowcake,' the substance from which uranium is extracted, from African nations.
Tonight's statement, though, calls even those reports into question. In interviews in recent days, a number of administration officials have conceded that Mr. Bush never should have made the claims, given the weakness of the case. One senior official said that the uranium purchases were 'only one small part' of a broader effort to reconstitute the nuclear program, and that Mr. Bush probably should have dwelled on others.
White House officials would not say, however, how the statement was approved. They have suggested that the Central Intelligence Agency approved the wording, though the C.I.A. has said none of its senior leaders had reviewed it. Other key members of the administration said the information was discounted early on, and that by the time the president delivered the State of the Union address, there were widespread questions about the quality of the intelligence.
'We only found that out later,' said one official involved in the speech.
Nice of the White House officials to wait on the retraction until Bush was on a plane en route to Africa.

I'm particularly amused by how they're only at the "Yeah, it was wrong, and in hindsight we shouldn't have used it" stage. With Wilson's op-ed, the rest of us are at the "Well, it's obvious that you knew at the time, which means you have some explaining to do, young man!" stage.

I'm not so sure his trip to Africa is going to be long enough to dodge this. At the very least, serious questions are being raised about Bush and Cheney's knowledge at the time.

And there's only two possible answers to that question, none of them politically acceptable. Either Bush and Cheney knew, in which case they deliberately lied to the American public about a threat to national security, or they didn't know....which means the White House is run by, and staffed by, utter incompetents.

Which would you prefer? A President that lies to start a war, or a President so incompetent that his staff doesn't bother to inform him that he's parroting utter nonsense that will, eventually, bite him on Ye Olde Presidential Buttocks.

It's a lovely stick for Democrats to beat Bush on the head with, assuming they get their act together. It's hard to claim superiority in National Security when it's become obvious you're either a liar on that subject, or you trust liars and fools on the subject.

:: Morat 10:46 AM :: ::

Cheney's Little Energy Secrets

Appeals court rejects Bush administration's effort to block lawsuit delving into Cheney energy task force
A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected the Bush administration's bid to stop a lawsuit that seeks to delve into the energy industry's ties to Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.
In a 2-1 ruling, the court said administration officials must turn over some information about the task force or list specific documents that they intend to withhold from the proceedings.
I'm quite thrilled with this. Then again, I'm a firm believer in open government...for Democratic Presidents and Republican ones. If Kenneth Star can rifle around in Clinton's bedroom looking for files (or whatever the story is), surely Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club can learn who Cheney met with when formulating energy policy for the entire nation.

Of course, as a confirmed skeptic, I'm looking to see them declare it covered under executive privilege as soon as they're forced to turn it over, thus starting the whole chain of lawsuits over again.

Wake up, America! Aren't you a bit curious to see what they're hiding? Energy task forces, secret trials, secret detentions, secret prisoners, secret evidence, secret courts, and even secret failures on 9/11.

Why all the secrecy? I think it's time to let sunlight in...
:: Morat 10:33 AM :: ::

White House Backs Off Claim on Iraqi Buy

White House Backs Off Claim on Iraqi Buy (washingtonpost.com)
The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time yesterday that President Bush should not have alleged in his State of the Union address in January that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.
I'm glad Bush changed the tone in Washington. I remember the Bad Old Days when lying to Congress and the American public used to get you impeached, even when it was about a purely private event. Why, if this was 1994, Bush would be begging for mercy on the Senate floor...

Oh, and if he was a Democrat of course.
:: Morat 9:50 AM :: ::

:: Monday, July 07, 2003 ::

5000th Visitor

I just had my 5000th visitor. It's only been about 5 weeks since I had my 1000th, so I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by!

And, as per usual, if you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know.

:: Morat 5:11 PM :: ::

En Guardian!

En Guardian!:
It struck me first that—even given the Guardian’s campus chic-ness—the U.S. has never been less receptive to the European point of view than it is now. By any measure, to be successful in the U.S. news business is to be staunch, patriotic, defensive. It’s Fox or bust. And it struck me even more forcefully that beyond the difficulties of liberalness, the prospects for literate media—the Guardian being a writer’s paper—were, as everybody knew, nil.
Then, during the next break in the conference, Rusbridger took me across the street to his office and showed me the prototype for the new American Guardian. Its tentative form is as a weekly magazine, quite unlike any other weekly magazine that has been started in the U.S. in the past generation. Not only is it about politics (Rusbridger is looking to launch in the winter to cover the presidential-primary season), but the magazine—meant to be 60 percent derived from the Guardian itself, with the rest to come from American contributors—has a great deal of text unbroken by design elements. This is almost an extreme notion. Quite the antithesis of what virtually every publishing professional would tell you is the key to popular and profitable publishing—having less to read, not more. Even with the Guardian’s signature sans-serif face, it looks like an old-fashioned magazine. Polemical. Written. Excessive. Contentious. Even long-winded.
I have only two thoughts. Can I get it in Texas? Where do I sign up? (Thanks to Daily Kos for pointing this little tidbit out)
:: Morat 3:45 PM :: ::

Texas Redistricting

Angry Bear has an excellent synopsis of Texas' 2000 redistricting. If you're following the current battle, this is a "must-read", as it gives some much needed background.

And no, the GOP doesn't look any better with the history in place. If anything, they look worse.
:: Morat 3:39 PM :: ::

Why Bush Fails

Appoint the Best to Iraq, Not the Best-Connected:
Burkle was asked to serve as Haveman's deputy, but he declined. He worked in Iraq with the disaster-relief team until the end of May, then returned to academia. He was reluctant to speak about his recall, but he said he had been assured that his performance was not the issue. He acknowledged that he was told he had been replaced because the White House wanted all senior positions in Iraq to be filled with loyal Republicans who could be trusted to carry out administration policy. Burkle, though a political appointee when he was at AID, has no formal ties to the Republican Party.
Yet another reason (as if there weren't enough) why Bush's programs fail, time and time again.

The fundamentalist, unquestioning nature of Bush's ideology demands that everyone he appoint be loyal to his ideology first, competent second.

Don't get me wrong. Bush didn't surround himself with "yes-men". He surrounded himself with fellow believers, who surrounded themselves with the same. It's not a case of people not being able to question or disagree with policy, it's a case of everyone believing that the policy is unquestionably correct.

Fundamentalist politics is here. And it's failing spectacularly.
:: Morat 3:07 PM :: ::

Michael Savage Fired

MSNBC Fires Savage:
MSNBC on Monday fired Michael Savage for anti-gay comments.
The popular radio talk show host who did a weekend TV show for the cable channel referred to an unidentified caller to his show Saturday as a 'sodomite' and said he should 'get AIDS and die.'
'His comments were extremely inappropriate and the decision was an easy one,' MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said.
And this was unexpected?

Still good news, but it exposes a real current of idiocy in MSNBC, at least. Mike Savage was popular, amongst a segment of the population, for being an offensive bigot. His whole career was built on offensive bigotry. Why would he stop now? (Link via Eschaton)
:: Morat 2:59 PM :: ::

I hate being right...

Another three American soldiers were killed in Iraq today. I take no particular pleasure in predicting this. In fact, I'd have been truly happy to have to eat my words.

There's nothing I would have liked better, even at the cost of Bush getting a second term, than seeing Iraq undergo a swift transition to self rule and a better life for Iraqis in general.

The problem was that I knew it wasn't going to happen. Everyone knew it wasn't going to happen. Everyone except those wedded to a specific and unquestionable ideology that said otherwise. The Bush Administration has shown itself, over the last three years, to be unable to shake it's rigid ideology, even in the face of it's abject failure.

Half of America thought they were electing the first CEO President. They couldn't have been more wrong. What they elected was the first fundamentalist President, in the worst sense of the word. We elected a President, and an administration, that prefers ideology over fact. An Administration and a President with unshakeable faith in their own righteousness. An Administration and a President that cannot admit error, cannot change tactics, cannot adjust to failure.

Bush will ride Iraq into the ground. Because he, and those he surrounds himself with, are unable to belief that they were wrong. Being wrong is for other people. Bush knows the Truth, with a capital T.

So our soldiers die, and our economy falls, and things get worse and worse. Because our President, because our Administration, is utterly incapable of believing they could ever be wrong, about anything.
:: Morat 1:02 PM :: ::

:: Sunday, July 06, 2003 ::

Houston Battle of the Bands

I just got back from hearing my brother's band perform. I'd never actually heard them before, although he's had a band for years. My family had only heard them once before (about four years ago, a different band with a similar feel).

I was really surprised. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect him or his band to suck. I know the people involved, and they're all smart, talented people...and not the sort to fool themselves about their abilities. They wouldn't have been up there on that stage without talent and a decent sound.

I was surprised by how good they sounded, and even more so by how much I liked one of their songs (Bitter Girl). My brother and I have a lot in common, but musically, he's generally been a bit...wider ranging...than I am.

Besides, this is my brother. You know, the guy I grew up with. I'd heard him play guitar before, but rarely more than just playing around.

So this was the first time I got to see him handle his guitar seriously. To hear songs he wrote (not covers!), to see him create music.

It was pretty damn awesome, is what it was. Besides my brother, they've got a very talented guitar player, a good bass player, and a good drummer. Solid talent all the way around. Of course, I'm a bit biased.....

Heck, they even got the bar staff dancing to one song. Given that these guys hear local bands all the time in their job, they're probably a bit jaded on local talent.

Anyways, it was one of the early rounds of a Battle of the Bands contest, and they won their group (well, tied!), so they're moving on. His friend's band is playing next week (a band called Ice-9) and my brother's will be playing soon.

I'll post links to both bands, and the contest, as soon as I can pry them from my brother's hands.

The guy has talent, creative talent, and that is truly wonderful. I'm proud of him. And, once this is all over and he has free time again, you'll also find him pretty funny. I'm trying to rope him into doing Savage commentary. He's a bit of a masochist, and loves to get pissed off by listening to Mike Savage.
:: Morat 7:16 PM :: ::

The Holidays

Well, I had an excellent holiday. I spent the time with my grandparents, my aunt, my cousins and my wife and son.

We set off fireworks (my 6 1/2 year old son is still on smoke bombs and the more long-fused fountains and such), mostly ground stuff since we didn't have too terribly a clear area. My cousins enjoyed themselves (the oldest is only 18) with firecrackers, we went swimming, and I got to hear some of the more interesting stories about my family.

The sort of thing you don't care about until you end up with a wife and kid of your own, and then suddenly not only do you understand why Grandma is always telling that story, but you have a yearning to hear more.

Besides, it always embarrasses Dad to ask him about some of the trouble he and his father-in-law got into. Hustling pool hustlers indeed.

But what more do you really want out of a holiday? A loving family, good food and good fun seems to be what makes life worth living.



:: Morat 7:03 PM :: ::

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