ATHF is the Bomb

Here is the reason why the T was so slow this morning.

"Davis said police 'are going to fully investigate this and get to the bottom of it.'"



Information vs Image: Political Pressure and Science

Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Government Accountability Project (GAP) released a detailed Report regarding political pressure in the scientific study of climate change. This report, entitled "Atmosphere of Pressure", targets politicians and federal forces alike who have (and continue to) impede the study and communication of scientific research on global warning and other major climate changes. This report was highlighted in today's House Oversight Committee hearing, citing some of the following information:

In the report's survey of 1,600 scientists, 279 of which responded:

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from a variety of communications. "

"Forty-three percent of respondents reported they had perceived or personally experienced changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings."

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work."

"Twenty-five percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings."

"Fifty-eight percent stated that they had personally experienced one or more incidents of interference over the past five years. The number of incidents totaled at least 435"

(Excerpts courtesy of GAP)

Here's a quote from within the report from an anonymous scientist in the USDA:

"Policy should be based on sound science; results of science should not be diluted or... adjusted to justify policy. This particular Administration has gone beyond reasonable boundaries, on this issue. To be in denial on climate change is a crime against the Nation."

The report also contains in-depth interviews with 40 climate scientists and government officials. These interviews pinpoint a major source of political pressure emanating from within the Bush administration. The report refers to this as "...a large pattern of attacks on scientific integrity". The report goes on to list recommendations for ensuring that scientific freedoms and integrity are maintained, calling on Congress to guarantee a federally employed scientist's right to express their findings in private to colleagues and associates. It also states that scientists should assume a greater role in allocation of federal funding and have the final say regarding their own publications, establishing a so-called "Right of last review".

The Report itself goes into far more depth on all of these issues. It's a tremendously important read and I suggest everyone take a look.


Hagel: What McCain is supposed to be?

This is worth watching in full. I don't agree with a lot of Hagel's bread and butter issues, but I admire his willingness to stand up to the administration, something he has done long before most Republicans started abandoning ship.


Jimmy Carter: Smears, Not Debate

When it comes to Jimmy Carter's new book, seen above, or Walt and Mearsheimer's Israeli Lobby paper, one wonders what supporters of Israel have to fear. There is not a single United States senator unsympathetic to their cause. Israel is militarily a very powerful nation, able to withstand attacks and respond with great force. Support for Israel by the US is as strong now as it has ever been. Can a simple discussion about the needs of both sides to make concessions shake any of that?

The instant and relentless attacks on both these works serves only to prove that dissent is being discouraged. Making a counterargument is one thing. Charging Jimmy Carter, of all people, with anti-Semitism is quite another. It's a brutal line of attack which raises entirely new questions about the nature of those so willing to smear a man for looking beyond the black and white myths so present in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Is all the recent Jim Webb love going to go unchecked?

The National Review isn't going to let that happen.


The MPAA: Going Further?

There is a really interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about the MPAA's rating system for movies, seen above, and how it is largely ignored by parents with small children.

As a frequent filmgoer and somewhat of a cinephile, this is a definite trend I have noticed even in the past few years. Like many of the parents quoted in the piece, I have been disturbed at the seemingly increasing level of younger and younger children being brought to R rated movies by their parents. Just a few months ago, I saw Borat, a film with graphic sexual content and a profoundly racist main character, and was astonished to find a couple had brought two young boys that couldn't have been older than ten.

Now, I understood what Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen were doing and the point they were making with the character of Borat. A ten year old will not. Borat is mentioned in the article as well, and one of the mothers quoted claims in her defense that she explained and contextualized the film after letting her young sons see it. Perhaps, but are preteen children really going to be able to grasp the irony? Are they going to really comprehend, even after being told, that Cohen's character is making a point about global antisemitism and intolerant trends here in the US? I'm skeptical.

That said, what can really be done? There are really only two options: educate families more on the content of the movies, which is the benign approach the MPAA seems to be taking, or make more movies NC-17, which really does prevent anyone under that age from entering the theatre. There is a certain level of personal responsibility here. If the parents are going to bring their kids along, there is no way to stop them, nor should there be. In my mind, there's nothing wrong with increasing awareness about what exactly is in the films to make them R. But it has to stop there. I thought I would never, ever say this, but kudos to the MPAA and CARA for recognizing this trend but not overstepping their bounds in addressing it.

Now how about dealing with those damn cell phones in the theatre?

Absolute Hogwash!

From CNN: Cheney: Talk of blunders in Iraq is 'hogwash'

In a certain sense, I think it must be liberating to hold office and never have to run for re-election again. Cheney has no intention of running for anything after he leaves the White House in shame (and I doubt he could even be re-elected to his old spot as a Congressman from Wyoming), so what does he care? He's free to be as arrogant, hostile, and divorced from reality as he wants.

It is scary, however, when you consider how powerful the Vice President was in the first five or so years, especially in crafting the failed Iraq strategy. To be contemptous of the facts and politically impotent is one thing, but this man is second perhaps only to Rumsfeld in being responsible for what we see in Iraq today.

First there was "last throes" and now this (and plenty where those came from). I can't tell if he just doesn't give a damn what he says or if he really thinks no one is listening. Well, it's on the record, Mr. Cheney. You might not be running again, but historians are paying close attention.

The State of the Union (Follow Up)

Click here for video and transcript of last night's speech courtesy of C-Span.

So last night at around 9pm I plopped down on my couch with remote in hand and switched it to any network loosely affiliated with the news. I was curious to see how a new speechwriter and an all too apparent loss of popularity would affect the typically all-too-predictable Bush State of the Union rhetoric.

What I witnessed was a more somber Bush for sure, quite possibly aware that his words would not garner much applause. Perhaps he feared the majority of Democrats before him, or was worried that his segments regarding immigration would get him a few boo's from within his own party, or maybe he simply felt uncomfortable about being framed by a woman (Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House). Whatever the case, the approx 49 minute speech gave the American people little new to chew on.

The all too familiar statements regarding the War on Terror were there, though they felt a bit later than usual. The same "We cannot lose in Iraq" mentality that we've all come to know and love/hate. Earlier on, however, we got a piece of presidential humor:

"Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching."

I've yet to run into anyone who thinks earmarks are a good thing. It was nice to hear mention of a specific reform that may actually be within this administrations grasp. Hopefully we'll see some action taken on this one. Other bits I actually liked included the energy reform blurbs, one of which also felt specific:

"Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years."

Normally I'd be skeptical, but with the Democrats (being traditionally the more environmentally sound party) in Congress, I suppose anything is possible. Then again, it's not the first time we've heard Bush talk about energy efficiency, and little within the public sector has really affected the private movement towards energy efficient vehicles. Time will tell.

Aside from that it was certainly nice to see the president reaffirm his immigration beliefs and make a statement I absolutely agree with:

"Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program."

Securing the border without reforming our current legal immigration system would be xenophobic and historically backwards in terms of American principles. I'm glad to see Bush go so blatantly against more socially conservative members of his party on this one.

My only truly major and unexpected disappointment was the unfortunate glossing over of Darfur. It got a grand totally of 2-3 seconds of airtime. It may be true that Bush has been one of the most proactive world leaders regarding Darfur, but there's so much more he could be doing, starting with raising public awareness. He should've used this opportunity to reaffirm to the American people the true nature of the conflict and the horrors of life in the Sudan.

With that, I leave you with Jim Webb's well articulated Democratic rebuttal. I found it to be world's better than any I've seen out of the Democratic party over the past six years.


Goodbye to a Legendary Patsy

A farewell to Howard Hunt.

Just don't call him a Watergate burglar; he prefers the term "Watergate conspirator."

Hunt was also involved in organizing the burglary of the office of the psychiatrist treating defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers.

Hunt argued before his death that he had "paid his debt to society" after leading a scandalous life, which also included organizing the failed Bay of Pigs operation and rumors of his involvement in Kennedy's assassination.

Bush: Lame Duck, or Just Lame?

On the eve of President Bush's State of the Union address, it seems the country is buzzing about what's new in Washington. However, instead of focusing tonight on what the president may offer Americans, many are spending their time speculating on who will replace him, and whether he can actually get anything accomplished by 2008.

This is not without merit, as Bush's approval ratings dip even lower-only 34 percent of Americans approve of the way he is doing his job-and former supporters find themselves doubting Bush's plans or becoming critics of his policies.

A recent cnn
.com article questions whether the President even has control of his own administration as of late, or if he has literally become a lame duck president with almost two years left in his second term.

In a poll taken by CNN earlier this month, 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq. This figure alone is enough to prove that Bush is struggling to maintain control of his own nation; according to presidential historian Robert Dallek, "War kills reform ... it undermines the president's ability to get anything done in domestic affairs."

It is hard for Americans to put faith in Bush to help solve domestic problems when he has spent the past six years focusing on fighting abroad. War kills reform.

It will become even more apparent that Bush is slowly losing control of his own administration as former friends and supporters seeking re-election in 2008 carefully weigh their options: stay the course and continue to back an unpopular president, or become a critic and risk losing supporters for becoming too moderate?

Presidential hopefuls are even more skeptical to create strong ties to Bush. The next few months will prove to be nothing more than a popularity contest as many declare candidacy, many revoke candidacy, and many are criticized for their laughable bids. With up to ten possible candidates seeking party bids on each side, the primaries are likely to become the Political Prom, with who will be chosen as King (or Queen) up for grabs.

With less than 30 minutes to go until the 2007 State of the Union address, it is important to recognize that what Bush says tonight may matter much less than what will be said in 2009, two years after his supposed "lame duck" term ends.

Or, more significantly, who will be saying it.

Academy Awards

The Academy Award nominations have been announced.

It's ironic that the award ceremony dedicated to recognizing creative achievement is so uncreative. We're a long ways away from 1969, when the daring, edgy (and X-rated!) Midnight Cowboy was not only nominated for Best Picture, but won.

Not all the films nominated for major awards are poorly made or executed by any means. But, by and large, they're safe studio movies with stars. Fresh, independent, or experimental movies are typically given a token nomination for screenplay or one of the direction slots (as with David Lynch for Mulholland Drive in 2001 and Paul Greengrass's powerful United 93 this year).

The fact that Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed, both enjoyable but somewhat formulaic movies, got nominations for Best Picture while the haunting, unforgettable Children of Men was snubbed would be a mystery, but knowing the Oscars, it's hardly a surprise.

Religious blog debate

There is an interesting argument being had between two bloggers right now over religion. The first is antitheist Sam Harris, a well-known critic not only of religious fundamentalism, but more controversially, of religious moderation. The second is Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic and a fiscally conservative Catholic.

I frequently read both of these men and it's great to see them spar over an issue that is all too pervasive in our lives, culture and politics, yet still isn't discussed enough: faith.


It's That Time of Year Again

That's right kiddos, it's State of the Union time, and I'm certain every blogger on the net is salivating with just as much anticipation as the major networks. Personally I'm interested to see how Bush will fare knowing that he's dealing with a 34% approval rating (according to a CNN poll).

Things to watch out for this time around include a proposed plan to "make health insurance taxable income and give families a deduction on the first $15,000 in health insurance costs ($7,500 for singles)" according to Tony Snow, and a most exciting rumor involving a complete policy change regarding global warming and climate changing emissions standards. This rumor is backed up by the pleading statements of many CEOs of major ultility companies (10 to be precise). Lord knows if there's one group Bush will listen to, it's CEOs... I hope everyone tunes in tomorrow night and be sure to look for a follow up post.