Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans: Move it or Lose it (again)

Mark Kleiman prints a letter from reader Mike O'Hare:

Does it make sense to inhabit, for example, the New Orleans basin at all? Actually, it might; it would be interesting to see whether the net value created there since the 18th century outweighed the losses we've just witnessed. But even if it made sense to hang on until Katrina, it might not make sense to try again. Transhipment from ocean-going to river vessels is not nearly as important, in a world with railroads and highways, as it used to be, and the Gulf Coast has natural harbors much less liable to being drowned for months in a storm.

* Is it a national responsibility to maintain the levees and flood controls in Louisiana, or is that a cost-benefit decision that people who have chosen to live there should make with their own funds? Mark's post links to a story deploring federal government failure to fix the levees. But might that "failure" have been exactly the right federal decision?

* Does anyone who chooses to live anywhere have a claim on everyone else's purse to make his choice as safe as living in a less risky location, or is this a blatant case of moral hazard? [Full disclosure: I am writing this very near the northern California fault that is most likely to slip next. I live in a wood house with lots of hardware that will probably hold it together at that time, but may not, and I pay a fortune for earthquake insurance with a whopping deductible and copayment. When we have the Big One, anyone catching me expecting the government to buy me a new house is invited to humiliate me with this essay in any way possible, and I readily admit that the decision to live here at all may well be completely loony by the standards of reasonable people.]

* Does this flood management engineering make sense anyway? Confining the Mississippi is well known to increase flood risk in the long run, as is true for any large river flowing through flat land. In Louisiana, it has devastated the coastal wetlands that used to lie between the Gulf and New Orleans and that would reduce the intensity of a storm surge, never mind the other catastrophic though slow consequences of wetland destruction.

There needs to be extensive soul-searching and discussion about this before money is spent.

The last word goes to Marc Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans:

"We've lost our city," said Marc Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans, now serving as president of the National Urban League. "I fear it's potentially like Pompeii."

America Castrated

In the next weeks it will become evident that the scale of the hurricane disaster will lead to economic disruption on a very large scale. With deficits soaring and Americans less convinced than ever that Chimpy's war is a good idea, American adventurism is liable to come to a sudden end.

It's apparently true that the Chimp also diverted millions from New Orleans levee projects to his favcrite chimera, "homeland security." While millions was wasted, the true dangers to America - hurricanes, earthquakes, tsumamis, tornadoes - were pushed aside as unimportant. Well, nature has a way of biting humanity in the ass, and Katrina has created havoc on a scale bin Laden cannot even dream about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No Money for Rebuilding

One thing is brutally obvious from Katrina: New Orleans must never be rebuilt. It would be throwing good money after bad to rebuild a city that is below sea level, and bringing in enough fill to raise the area and jack up the buildings to match would be insanely expensive, particularly when the next killer hurricane could hit next year - or next week - and is inevitable in the long run. Better to bulldoze, cart off the wreckage, and return it to nature.

And the police and National Guard need to start shooting. Now. Before it gets completely out of control and thousands more die in the bloody, mindless violence of starving, thirsty people.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jenna and Not Jenna

Mark Kleiman asks a pertinent question:

When is the last time in American history that:

1) the United States was engaged in a prolonged war involving substantial casualties (not, e.g., the Gulf War or the Grenada campaign); and

2) the President had a child or children eligible by age and sex to serve; and

3) the President's child or children did not serve?

It seems to me that GWB wants the political advantages of being a "wartime President" without accepting any of the correlative burdens.

Indeed. In World War One, all of TR's children went (although he was not, note, the wartime president); one of them gave his life. The survivors went again in World War II, where one of them was awarded the Medal of Honor and died in harness. Several of FDR's sons served in World War II. Lincoln's son Robert served in the Civil War. One of Nixon's sons-in-law served in Vietnam.

And still no sign of Jenna and Not Jenna at their local recruiting center.

Drowning in a Bathtub

Dear Leader speaks about the hurricane disaster:

"I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes," said Bush in Arizona, where he was giving an address on Medicare. "When the storm passes, the federal government has assets and resources that will be deployed to help you. In the meantime, America will pray."

Say what? Come on, Dubya, it's social darwinism, baby! Let those redstate freeloaders fend for themselves! It's time to drown government in a bathtub, remember?

Hurricane Liveblogging

Brendan Loy is liveblogging here, and has a bunch of related links too.

Any Bets?

How long before Dubya and the Repugs introduce a bill called something like the "Hurricane Relief Act of 2005" to bail out the insurance companies who are going to be slammed by the destruction caused by hurricane Katrina? After all, capitalist businessmen are the first to screech "Socialism!" when government spending might help the public, and the first to suck the government teat when they can steal the taxpayers blind.

Friday, August 26, 2005

General Clark: How to Get Out

Retired General Wesley Clark continues polishing his presidential hopes with an op-ed in the Washington Post today. General Clark concisely details what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to get the hell out of Dodge. It's a good talking point for the Democratic Party and an anodyne to the "pull out now!" nonsense that will do nothing but saddle us with the blame for the "stab in the back."

From the outset of the U.S. post-invasion efforts, we needed a three-pronged strategy: diplomatic, political and military. Iraq sits geographically on the fault line between Shiite and Sunni Islam; for the mission to succeed we will have to be the catalyst for regional cooperation, not regional conflict.

Unfortunately, the administration didn't see the need for a diplomatic track, and its scattershot diplomacy in the region -- threats, grandiose pronouncements and truncated communications -- has been ill-advised and counterproductive. The U.S. diplomatic failure has magnified the difficulties facing the political and military elements of strategy by contributing to the increasing infiltration of jihadists and the surprising resiliency of the insurgency.

On the political track, aiming for a legitimate, democratic Iraqi government was essential, but the United States was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action. A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces. Months went by without a U.S. ambassador in Iraq, and today political development among the Iraqis is hampered by the lack not only of security but also of a stable infrastructure program that can reliably deliver gas, electricity and jobs.

Meanwhile, on the military track, security on the ground remains poor at best. U.S. armed forces still haven't received resources, restructuring and guidance adequate for the magnitude of the task. Only in June, over two years into the mission of training Iraqi forces, did the president announce such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units and training Iraqi ministries to conduct antiterrorist operations. But there is nothing new about any of this; it is the same nation-building doctrine that we used in Vietnam. Where are the thousands of trained linguists? Where are the flexible, well-
resourced, military-led infrastructure development programs to win "hearts and minds?" Where are the smart operations and adequate numbers of forces -- U.S., coalition or Iraqi -- to strengthen control over the borders?

With each passing month the difficulties are compounded and the chances for a successful outcome are reduced. Urgent modification of the strategy is required before it is too late to do anything other than simply withdraw our forces.

Required reading.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

True Bush Space Plan: Destroy NASA

After all, every time they launch the shuttle, pictures come back showing that the earth is round, which is deeply scary to the legions of fundies who voted for Dear Leader. Even Keith Cowing at NASA Watch, who has penned one and is penning another screed supporting Dubya's "Vision" is starting to wake up:

Multiple sources point to a delay in the rollout of Mike Griffin's new exploration architecture. It won't be rolled out in early September. It would seem that multiple offices in the executive branch simply do not agree on key elements of what Griffin wants to do - and have serious problems with certain aspects - finances being the most important point of disagreement.

An anonymous NASA engineer who wrote to NASA Watch had this to say, and it has the ring of truth:

"In the June Midterm Briefing from the so-called "60 Day Study" -- now pushing 120 days -- there is a statement of projected budget shortfalls. Insofar as I can recall, the briefing expressed the opinion that to fly the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in 2010 or 2011, NASA will need about another $9 Billion from 2007 to 2010 or 2011.

With the caveat that there is no way yet to evaluate these budget projections (although the learned bias is to assume that such numbers are magically derived), here is what the briefing said:

The briefing appeared to assume that the ENTIRE Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) budget of about $3.6 Billion/year would become available to build CEV over that period. (This approach implies that the ENTIRE Exploration Program, including all other forms of exploration and supporting it such as Life Science and Physical Science from the old Code U would go into replacing the Space Shuttle).

[TIRADE HERE AGAINST FOOLISHLY AND SHORTSIGHTEDLY DESTROYING NASA'S UNIQUE CAPABILITIES THAT -- WHEN WE INEVITABLY NEED THEM -- WILL COST MUCH MORE TO REPLACE THAN TO MAINTAIN].

The shortfall of $9 Billion would come on top of that baseline, indicating a need for approximately $2 Billion more per year. These increased costs should not come as a surprise to anybody. There is no free lunch, even in government programs. Developing, building, testing, and safely operating a new space transportation system will cost the taxpayers about five or six weeks of the war in Iraq on top of the existing (if misdirected) NASA funds.

The more eye-opening budget projection concerned the human return to the moon on a nominal date of 2018. The ESAS assumed a two person crew, two day on the lunar surface sprint mission -- essentially Apollo Redux -- except over thirteen years instead of the eight that the Apollo Program lasted. The briefing stated that from 2012 to 2018, NASA will need at least another $46 Billion (~28 weeks of the Iraq War), which comes close to $7 Billion more per year. $7 B is nearly half of NASA's baseline annual budget of $16 B. How likely is Congress to give NASA or any other federal agency a 50% increase over baseline in 2012? Well, perhaps the USA will be out of Iraq by then . . .

So, these recollections may help to explain the difficulties OMB is facing when they confront the budget reality. Stated simply, NASA cannot safely develop CEV, return to the Moon, "and do the other things before this decade is out" on the cheap."

NASA's valuable aeronautics and life sciences research is already being gutted. No new money is forthcoming, although NASA administrator Mike Griffin is reportedly going to ask for a $5.5 billion add-on to NASA's 2006-2010 budgets. The moon program described above is ludicrous, a gigantic waste of time and money (if you're going to go back, for God's sake spend more than 2 days and send more than 2 guys).

The simple fact is that none of this is going to happen. Bush will use the cost and his endless war as excuses to shut NASA down. He may not do it so baldly as that, but the end result will be the same. After all, there's not enough pork in NASA, evidently, to enrich him and his friends.

Originalism, eh?

It's funny but true that all of the raving conservative "orginalists" out there, who believe that the Constitution is unchangable and uninterpretable, never talk about how the Constitution does not allow for an Imperial President like their own beloved Chimpy. Interesting.

He's Sorry All Right

America's home-grown version of Mullah Omar, Pat Robertson, at first tried to claim that he didn't use the "A" word:

“I didn’t say 'assassination.’ I said our special forces should ’take him out,”’ Robertson said on his show. “’Take him out’ could be a number of things including kidnapping.”

Trouble is, he did use the "A" word:

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

"Take him out" may mean a couple things - I, mind you, don't think it does - but "assassinate" has exactly one definition. Thou shalt not kill, unless one calls it an assassination, apparently. Robertson, dear pal of dictators everywhere, then choked out this excuse for an apology:

“Is it right to call for assassination?” Robertson said. “No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.”

Of course Chavez' paranoia is probably based in reality. God knows what Robertson's excuse is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

And Jesus Said, Whacketh Your Enemies!

Oh wait, Jesus didn't say that. He instructed followers to turn the other cheek. Guess Pat Robertson got that out of the mysterious Gospel According to Tony Soprano:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a “terrific danger” to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on “The 700 Club” it was the United States’ duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a “launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

The ugly lunacy of this has to be read to be believed. Robertson, always a pal to bloody dictators, now wants a democratically elected leader, albeit a troublesome one, murdered by our own government.

Someday the chickens will come home to roost, Pat. Won't be pretty.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Storm Chasing on Mars!

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers continue to putter about the surface of Mars well over a year past their expected lifetimes. Spirit has arrived at the top of Husband Hill and took a great picture of a good-sized Martian dust devil here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Crossing the Line

Now and then I fiddle with my blogroll, adding and removing. Now I'm taking off Democratic Veteran. Why? This remarkably stinking post:

Ratzi the Nazi and his alleged desertion. Amazing how he managed to avoid all those Flying Squads that rounded and summarily executed anybody deserting from anything in Nazi Germany, isn't it?

More Ratzi Piety hoping that everyone will look beyond the fact that he's every bit the Nazi he was the day he took his oath to Der Fuhrer as a young man. If he'd met John Paul II when they were both young men during the war, only 50% of them would have survived the meeting.

So Jo would have us believe that every German in the Wehrmacht was a Nazi. Every German boy in the Hitlerjugend was a Nazi. I suppose every girl in the BDM would then be a Nazi as well. And of course Ratzinger's desertion must be fake. Sure, Jo, there were indeed SS squads running around hanging deserters. They also didn't catch nearly all of the men who deserted. A response to a comment gave Jo the opportunity to go ever farther around the bend:

Yeah, Bean. The Hitler Youth were just a bunch of misunderstood choirboys. While it's true that membership was mandatory after 1938, it's also true that there was not a large history (that I have been able to find) of HY deserting. Ratzinger's politics still ally him philosophicaly with fascist elements in his church and he is not considered by even many Catholics to be "progressive" at all, especially at a time when the church is facing dwindling membership, trouble in recruiting priests and is embroiled in scandals which he still denies being the church's fault.

Of course Jo is a non-Christian who evidently believes that the cardinals should have elected a priestess of Astarte to the post. Ignorance and Catholic-bashing should have no place on the left. To disagree with Benedict is one thing. To suggest he lied about his military service and rant about him being a "fascist" and claim that he would have killed the future John Paul II had he met him during the war just reeks. Sorry.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"Christian" Web Site

This is a remarkably bizarre site.

Another Kos Straw Poll

Once again Kos has put forth another straw poll on the 2008 Democratic nominee and for the third time Wes Clark is running away with it.

Moron Spotted

I was visiting my dad at OSU hospital yesterday when I spotted yet another charming contribution to American life: a large red plastic scrotum attached to the trailer hitch of a 4x4 pickup. Ha ha, how clever. I hope idiot boy feels sufficiently masculine every time he fills his guzzler with $2.70 a gallon gas.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Taft

It's a good thing that pathetic simp Bob Taft is going to be charged with some actual crimes, but sad that George Voinovich - a much dirtier Ohio governor - is now in the US Senate.

American Dream: Dead

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley asked the question, is the American Dream still alive? His findings: no. We have become a social darwinist society of winners and losers, with little interchange between the two classes.

In a low-ceilinged eating hall, maybe 100 men sat side by side along trestle tables.

They had queued up since five, registered in case there was any work, then ate while security guards watched over them in case there was trouble.

In Europe or just across the border in Canada, they would get social security, but this was America, where society is starkly divided into winners and losers.

Weirdly - and I have always found this weird too - Hawksley finds little resentment amongst those relegated to the dregs:

Strangely, though, there seemed to be little resentment or blame of government. American culture is about self-reliance and the individual fighting a way through.

"The American dream," said one of the men, his eyes dartingly alive, his nose so skewed it must have been broken many times in different fights.

"I guess you are talking about a home, wife, children and all that."

"Do you have it?" I said.

"No. No. I don't. I had my opportunities, but I lost."

Just up the road in a small print shop, a fit, thoughtful former air force officer, Bobby Ray Forbes, was slotting calendars into envelopes.

His life collapsed when his marriage went wrong. He had ended up on the street, but recently had managed to get a job and keep it.

"Oh sure, I have had the house, picket fence, two cars," he said.

"But I put myself in a position where the government could take control. Right now I am happy just being back in control. You see, what a lot of people do not know is that the key is not getting the American dream. It is holding onto it."

In Europe, the government is entwined with a lot of what we do, yet in America, I felt a sentiment that the more say the government has over you, the more you carry a sense of failure.

Which of course is what we could call the "Republican Dream," their weird concept of modern humans being like mountain men, making their own rules, making their own success, sneering at the distant government. The results are pretty similar to the American frontier or medieval Europe: the superpredators won, everyone else became a peasant (a pretty good illustration of the "Ownership Society:" the rich own everything, including you).

All in all, the American dream, that if you work hard and persevere you too can become rich or at least comfortable is dead. Really, except for a brief period after World War II, it was always a dream for most people.

"Why do you want to live here and not in Europe?" I asked a young woman from Ethiopia, who tipped back her Seattle Mariners baseball cap and looked at me as if I were completely mad.

"Europe," she said disdainfully.

"What do they ever hope for in Europe? Here they have a law that you can dream to be happy."

It would be easy to laugh at that woman if the whole thing was not so sad and unnecessary.

Monday, August 15, 2005

This Isn't What We Went to War For

Actually, God knows what we went to war for. But I can tell you straight, an Islamic Republic isn't it:

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
...
But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq's future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women's rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.

"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."

Wonderful! Interestingly, last Wednesday, I wrote this:

Thanks to Bush's stupid war, we are rapidly creating a second Shiite dictatorship in the Middle East, one which will rapidly ally itself with Iran, itself in the process of creating a nuclear capability. Will America remember whose fault this all was when the bomb goes off in Washington or New York? Yes, the conservative hero, George W. Bush. This is what your children are dying for.

Americans are dying to create another enemy state in the middle east. What a truly noble cause that is.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Recommended Read

storiesinamerica over at Daily Kos has a great interview from a woman who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's very, very much worth reading. A little taste of what Jerrie Morales told storiesinamerica:

I homeschooled my kids to teach them about government and the Founding Fathers and the tribes. I want them to see the truth and think outside the box. Don't ever look at anything as black and white because it never is. My kids were coming home from school saying, 'I'm a Democrat,' 'I'm a Republican,' 'I'm a liberal.' I said, 'You can't be a Republican or a Democrat. You have to be an American.' Don't say you're a Republican until you can find ten things wrong with your party and ten things wrong with Democrats. The Republicans here were trying to pull the churches apart because a lot of Christians are Democrats.

Worth your time.

One Morning in September

The New York Times has audio excerpts from the newly released 9/11 FDNY dispatch tapes available on their site here. Complete audio here. Oral histories from the firefighters here. Story here. A treasure trove of first-hand accounts from the worst day in the history of our nation.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why We Need a Draft

The latest issue of Vanity Fair includes a hard-hitting article about the problems with military recruiting that I highly recommend everyone read. Military recruiters are killing themselves - literally - to get people to join. And what kind of people? One recruiter in the article estimates that 80% of his recruits are "fraudulent," i.e. they should not be permitted to join the military because of drug abuse, medical conditions, etc. It's horrific to remember the problems the military had with drugs during the Vietnam era and then read how recruiters advise drug-using kids to fool the tests. Another problem is that many of the kids now joining just aren't suitable for a 21st century military. They're uniformly from deprived backgrounds with a wide array of problems. Think Abu Ghraib and the nitwits forming human pyramids with prisoners. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out another problem:

Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, 26, a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh, went to the home of a high school student who had expressed interest in joining the Marine Reserve to talk to his parents.

It was a large home in a well-to-do suburb north of the city. Two American flags adorned the yard. The prospect's mom greeted him wearing an American flag T-shirt.

"I want you to know we support you," she gushed.

Rivera soon reached the limits of her support.

"Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people," she told him.

"Our kind of people." Job One for a draft would be getting the kids of the suburbanites who enthusiastically vote for the Repugs and are spectator-warmongers into the military. My guess is that Chimpy would lose a lot of support right away if the little darlings of the SUV set suddenly found themselves wearing fashionable desert BDUs instead of Abercrombie & Fitch. In any case, risks should be more widely distributed to the classes that profit from our oligarchy instead of being limited to the classes that have not.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shutting Down NASA?

A lot of NASA employees have suspected from Day One that the Chimp's "Vision for Space Exploration" is a code word for "Shut NASA Down." It was suspected that with the 2010 retirement of the shuttle orbiters and the proposed 2015 introduction of the "Crew Exploration Vehicle", the interval and probable delays in the CEV would enable the space program to be pretty neatly shut down. "Hey, we don't have a shuttle and the CEV is late and we're not allowed anymore to buy flights from the Russians...." The arrival of Dr. Michael Griffin to replace the egregious bean counter Sean O'Keefe was taken by many as a hopeful sign, but it appears that he's just another Bushite shill getting ready to padlock the doors at the Cape and Houston:

It seems to me that "Hurricane Griffin" has not just affected the bioastronautics & microgravity community.

Let's see: Kepler- cut back/ delayed. Discovery 11- acquisition cancelled. Discovery 12- indefinite hold on the AO. MTO- pushed back. Juno- slow start. MSL- possibly delayed until '11. James Webb- slowed down. All this; and there's more to come, no doubt.

One begins to wonder if Griffin isn't just a friendly face brought in to shut NASA down.

Lots of comments over at NASA Watch. A lot of scientists are worried that science is about to vanish at NASA. This cannot be allowed, although it fits in perfectly with the "Intelligent Design/Flat Earth" brigade currently in charge in Washington....

Iran Next?

A lot of people are upset that the US apparently has a plan for bombing Iran back into the Stone Age. Such a plan probably does exist; it hasn't been that long since the US maintained war plans in the event of conflict with Great Britain. Those plans have probably recently been updated. The fact is, the Iranians are not exactly covering themselves with glory right now, by restarting their nuclear ambitions and merrily shipping bombs to their pals in Iraq:

A senior British official disclosed yesterday details of the incident two weeks ago when a group crossing from Iran was intercepted near Maysan, which is in the British controlled sector of Iraq. Iraqi security forces opened fire and the smugglers fled back to Iran leaving their cache of timers, detonators and other bomb-making equipment.
...
Iran has a vested interest in maintaining a degree of instability in Iraq to ensure the US and Britain leave but it does not want anarchy threatening its own security. Events in Iraq are going in the direction Tehran would have wished with its Shia co-religionists dominant and an increased Islamisation in the British sector.

Iran can exert influence through the many prominent Iraqis who were exiled in Tehran and via the Badr brigades, the Iraqi Shia militia that was based in Iran.

The British claim the Badr brigades have been disbanded but although they have swapped their uniforms for Iraqi police or army gear many of the men retain their original allegiances.

I don't know that I'd be terrifically upset by a strong, harsh correction involving destruction of Iranian nuclear sites and military targets. It's really overdue. Other lefties need to think this through too. Iran is not our friend, and they are the major obstacle in pacifying Iraq. A nuclear Iran allied with a Shiite Iraq would be a big-league problem. Best maybe to nip this in the bud. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Democracy in Iraq

Yes, the Iraqis really are ready for democracy, just like the Chimp says. As long, of course, as it's "democracy" at gunpoint:

Armed men entered Baghdad's municipal building during a blinding dust storm on Monday, deposed the city's mayor and installed a member of Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia.

The deposed mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, who was not in his offices at the time, recounted the events in a telephone interview on Tuesday and called the move a municipal coup d'état. He added that he had gone into hiding for fear of his life.

"This is the new Iraq," said Mr. Tamimi, a secular engineer with no party affiliation. "They use force to achieve their goal."

The group that ousted him insisted that it had the authority to assume control of Iraq's capital city and that Mr. Tamimi was in no danger. The man the group installed, Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, known as Sciri.

Thanks to Bush's stupid war, we are rapidly creating a second Shiite dictatorship in the Middle East, one which will rapidly ally itself with Iran, itself in the process of creating a nuclear capability. Will America remember whose fault this all was when the bomb goes off in Washington or New York? Yes, the conservative hero, George W. Bush. This is what your children are dying for.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Safe!

The Russian Priz submarine popped to the surface under its own power after being freed from entanglements by a Royal Navy Scorpio ROV. The seven men aboard are safe.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who went to Kamchatka to supervise the operation, praised the international efforts.

“We have seen in deeds, not in words, what the brotherhood of the sea means.”

Hopefully the Russian Navy will find the means to obtain some ROVs of its own for future use.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Who Would Have Thought?

Who on earth would have thought, sixty years ago today, that a Japanese astronaut would now be in space aboard an American spacecraft?

Royal Navy Working to Free Russian Sub

According to the BBC, a Royal Navy Scorpio ROV is working to cut nets free from the propellor of the stranded Russian minisub:

A British undersea robot has now made contact with the vessel at the accident site, off the Kamchatka peninsula.

The Scorpio craft is attempting to cut the mini submarine free of the debris pinning it to the seabed.

A US crew is also on its way to the site, as oxygen supplies on board on the Russian sub reportedly run low.

A spokesman for the British team said that the Scorpio had already begun to sever the nets trapping the mini-sub.

"We are in the water and are now working around the sub, cutting a bundle of nets strung tightly around the arc of the propulsion section," Roger Chapman told the BBC's World Tonight programme.

The Russian Priz submersible - itself a rescue vehicle - was on a training exercise when it got snagged and trapped underwater on Thursday.

Mr Chapman said freeing the mini-sub could allow it to travel back up to air level.

"Once the debris is clear, if the crew are able to operate their equipment, they can do a controlled ascent," he said.

The question is, of course, if the seven men trapped on the Russian sub can hold out.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Those in Peril on the Sea

The Russians learned a hard lesson from the sinking of the Kursk, and this time when a Russian sub is in trouble, they've asked for help. Units of the US Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Japanese Navy are rushing to aid:

The stricken submersible, normally used for underwater rescue operations, was taking part in a military exercise when its propeller became entangled in the net on Thursday.

Officials said there was "technical communication" with the sailors, but no voice contact. None is believed to be hurt.

The vessel is too deep to allow the sailors to swim to the surface on their own, and another submersible is needed to release them.

The US Navy rescue crew should be departing shortly:

A high-level overnight meeting of Naval officials in Hawaii decided to send a contingent of 30 U.S. sailors and two unmanned rescue vehicles called Super Scorpios to the Pacific waters, U.S. Navy sources told CNN.

The sailors and the rescue vehicles will be loaded onto an Air Force C-5 and will be departing from the San Diego North Island Naval Station. Departure will be as soon as 10:45 a.m. PT (1745 GMT) on Friday.

The crew and the vehicles will then be taken to a Russian surface ship, from which the crew will drop the Super Scorpios over the side.

They will try to untangle the mini-sub from the fishing nets, the Navy sources said.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Out CIA Agent: OK. Swear on TV: Suspended

Incredibly, CNN has suspended Robert Novak not for "outing" CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and possibly condemning those she had contact with overseas to prison or worse, but for getting titterpated on Inside Politics. Cripes, how juvenile.

Carville and Novak were both trying to speak while they were handicapping the GOP candidacy of Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

“Let me just finish, James, please,” Novak continued. “I know you hate to hear me, but you have to.”

Carville, addressing the camera, said: “He’s got to show these right wingers that he’s got a backbone, you know. It’s why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show ’em that you’re tough.”

“Well, I think that’s bull---- and I hate that,” Novak replied. “Just let it go.”

As moderator Henry stepped in to ask Carville a question, Novak walked off the set.

It's been suggested that Novak staged the walk off because he was going to be asked about the Plame case. If that's so, CNN's decision is somewhat more understandable.

A Helpful Reminder

storiesinamerica has posted a useful diary over at Daily Kos with some quotes from our stalwart Repug heroes about the war in Bosnia and how they Supported the Preznit or Else at that time. A sample:

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
---Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Useful ammo indeed.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Stab in the Back

It's getting obvious that the Bushies are preparing to bail out of Iraq sometime next year. It's just as obvious that things there are going to end very, very badly, with a Shia theocratic dictatorship in charge. What Democrats need to start thinking about and thinking about now is how to prepare for "stab in the back" claims by the Repugs that it's our fault their Excellent Adventure didn't turn out so well.

It worked for Hitler in the twenties and thirties; it can work for the Repugs if we allow them to tar us with the same brush. I'm not sure what to do about it, but we need to start considering it. Now.

Not Worth the Life of One of Them

Iraq is not worth the life of one American Marine, soldier, airman, or sailor. Not one.

Fourteen more died today, for nothing.

Prez Nit Wit on the Line

I sure would love to know what the astronauts said amongst themselves after Caligula's grandstanding phone call to them yesterday. Prez Nit Wit concluded: "Thanks for taking my phone call. Now get back to work."

HA HA! How funny. How easy for a man about to take his traditional month long vacation to say to people who are risking their lives. Wonderful.

Ass.

Any Landing You Can Walk Away From

People running around claiming it's a "miracle" that all 309 people aboard Air France Flight 358 survived are overreacting. The airplane, on its second landing attempt in very bad weather, went off the end of the runway at a fairly low speed and ran down into a gully; the important thing is that it didn't hit anything solid enough to cause mass casualties or so much damage that fires were immediate and extensive. Although the Airbus A340 burned out after the accident, becoming the first hull loss for the type (Update: I've read elsewhere that this is the third hull loss for the A340, but the first in passenger service), there was sufficient time for everyone onboard to make a reasonably orderly evacuation. It's a testament not to a "miracle," but to the fact that modern airliners are well built and their crews trained for emergencies.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Stupid Lefties

Anyone who believes Alexander Cockburn deserve what they get, I suppose. He's now claiming that the US "lost" three nuclear weapons during Desert Storm (?!) and that the "highly enriched uranium" in the warheads has been salvaged and gone into the international arms market. Cockburn apparently is way too stupid to know that nuclear warheads are not made of "highly enriched uranium" (some of the early ones were, but not any more), they are in fact made with plutonium.

All of this is in another wingnut diary at Kos. Groan. When you consider how good a site that consistently is, the occasional tinfoil hat wearer really stands out. Thanks for making the rest of us look like idiots, dude.

Space Scavenger Hunt

It's wacky but true that the space station crew have been prowling through Discovery making up a wish list of stuff they want to scavenge before the orbiter departs. Since the shuttle is going to be grounded for a time, the station crew is going to town:

We've had our eyes on the light fixtures in the 'MPLM,'" one engineer told MSNBC.com on condition of anonymity, in a reference to the Italian-built Raffaello multipurpose logistics module that was brought to the station aboard Discovery.

There are at least half a dozen fixtures that could be removed once the Raffaello module is loaded with Earth-bound cargo and garbage. The equipment would be compatible with lighting fixtures inside the station's U.S. segment that have been burning out at an alarming rate — often leaving some parts of the station too dark for detailed work.

"When we asked for them before, we were told the crew wouldn't have time to disconnect them," the engineer said. But an extra docked day would provide more than enough manpower for this and other scavenging.

Everything from spare rolls of duct tape (the repair aid preferred by astronauts) to tools, cameras, laptops, consumables (such as food and batteries) and even spare clothing are being considered for this space scavenger hunt. The shuttle is already scheduled to give a slight boost to the station's orbit, and analysts are looking at ways to wring a little more push from the shuttle's fuel tanks.

"We've asked the team to go off and look at additional water transfer," Hale explained, referring to a spare water bag or two now reserved for shuttle use. "We're doing some extra nitrogen transfer," he added.

"Here, give me that light bulb - and hey, that's a nice shirt!"

I'm concerned that NASA's improved debris spotting capability has inspired a kind of debris hysteria at the agency. Gap fillers have always been a minor problem, but better imagery has NASA worried and astronaut Stephen Robinson will be sent out attached to the space station's robotic arm to either yank a couple of protruding gap fillers free or trim then back. The protruding fillers can cause high heating to areas behind them due to the disturbance they cause in the boundary layer over the vehicle during reentry. All we can hope is that Robinson, who has indeed trained extensively for just such a task, can perform his work without accidentally causing more damage than he's trying to fix.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Getting the Problem Fixed

New NASA administrator Michael Griffin has promised that the problems with the shuttle's external tank will be fixed before another vehicle flies. Happily, this may not take long, as the PAL ramps have been looked at before and some ideas for fixes already advanced. In the April 26, 2004 version of NASA's own RTF Implementation report:

PAL Ramps Status

Because the PAL ramps (figure 3.2-1-12) have an excellent flight history, NASA’s baseline approach for RTF is to develop sufficient certification data to accept the debris risk of the existing design. This will be accomplished by evaluating the available verification data and augmenting it with additional tests, analyses, and/or inspections. This will include dissecting several existing PAL ramps to understand the void sizes produced by the existing PAL ramp TPS process. If NASA is unable to obtain sufficient data to recertify the existing PAL ramps, the Agency will remove the PAL ramp and replace it with an improved-process manual spray application. In addition, an automated PAL ramp spray is being evaluated for Phase 2 activities.

Concept design activities are in work to eliminate the PAL ramps as part of the Phase 2 activity. Redesign options include eliminating the PAL ramps altogether, implementing smaller mini-ramps, or incorporating a cable tray aero block fence on either the leading or trailing edge of the tray. NASA conducted subscale wind tunnel testing of the candidates that indicated a good potential for eliminating the foam PAL ramps. Additional wind tunnel tests are planned for this spring and summer.

In other words, they have some grip on this problem and presumably the Tiger team Griffin has put in charge will be able to quickly implement a solution. One thing's for sure, I doubt we'll see any more pre-Columbia ETs, if any more are knocking around in the system, fly.

Europe Tolerates Too Much

The Europeans pride themselves on being more tolerant and understanding than Americans, but in fact they are allowing poison to fester in their societies, the poison that has led to rampant Muslim-inspired anti-Semitism in France, has led to murderous transit bombings in the UK, and that glorious Muslim tradition, "honor killings," in Germany:

A Turkish author whose husband deprived her of food has condemned forced marriages as Germany debates whether to ban them.
Serap Cileli spoke out against the "crazy tolerance of society" in Germany, where 45 women have been stabbed, shot or drowned in so-called honour killings since 1996.

Cileli, who moved to Germany when she was eight, says journalists and politicians have turned a blind eye to the issue.

Her reprimand comes in the run-up to a government decision about criminalising forced marriages in Germany, after a recommendation from the upper house of parliament on July 8 that the practice be banned.

Governments can only do so much. Moderate Muslims must take the lead on these issues; reform must largely come from within.