Monday, February 20, 2006


Arabs to Operate 6 major U.S. Ports

Some members of Congress seem to think there is a security risk in letting an Arab country run our ports. This overlooks a number a mitigating factors. First, the country is the United Arab Emirates, a loose federation of seven emirs, tribal heads that run the place, not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Sure, the 9-11 hijackers entered the U.S. via the U.A.E., as did much of the funds supporting their operation, but everything in the area goes through Dubai. Only two of the hijackers were actually from there.

Second, the Emirs are not directly involved. They own Dubai Ports World, the company authorized to take over the ports, which is buying a British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O) to actually run the ports. And P&O already runs some U.S. operations, so you see, we already have a foreign government (British) involved in our port operations. Note that Dubai has never invaded the U.S., or burned the White House. In fact, P&O runs over 100 ports worldwide, including many in England, so the English will have their ports run by the Arabs also, clearly spreading the risk.

Even more important, the purchase of P&O by the Arabs has been approved by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). All the cabinet secretaries are represented, even Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security. If you can't trust Homeland Security, who can you trust? PLUS, and get this, the panel has done due diligence, and, as Chertoff told ABC's "This Week":
"We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint".

Mr. Chertoff was naturally unable to elucidate, since the information is classified, just like the due diligence, which was secret too. So you already have a good bit of security.

The DP web site is clearly friendly, and besides detail views and virtual tours of the Jebel Ali and Port Rahid ports (above left), even has a kids zone. Unfortunately no detail maps of U.S. ports have yet been added, but with the detail you can click down to, will be very handy when they are.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


McCain Pork is NOT Earmark

Senator John McCain is the nemesis of pork barrel spending, particularly of the earmark kind. It is clear that his bill to direct $2 million annually for 5 years to the University of Arizona to establish a center honoring the late Chief Justice Rehnquist is not an earmark. This is because it wasn't snuck into a bill about something else at the last minute. The taxpayer should note that it is a free standing bill. Mr. McCain's general counsel, Pablo Chavez, confirms "It doesn't have the marks of an earmark.

Besides that, the bill makes it clear that "the public would be well served by a more robust body of scholarship and broader education" about federalism and judicial independence. The school could spend the $2 million a year to have forums for academic discussion, which up to now has apparently not been robust. If you think that is a lot of coffee and donuts, you just don't understand center necessities. You have to provide stipends for politicians and judicial leaders to address the issues of independence, and these forums have to be in a decent place. You want them to have to rely on lobbyists to provide all this?

Unfortunately I was unable to find a porker without an earmark, so just ignore that left ear.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Political Appointees Dowse Global Warming at NASA

Top political appointees at NASA are operating well within established precedent in suppressing news on glaciers, climate, air polution, and other earth sciences. In 2004 the NASA archives show nearly 50 news releases regarding scientific findings that run contrary to administration policy. There has been much progress in 2005, as there are only about 12 examples of blasphemy. Religious authorities, in this case the Bush administration, have always had to be careful about the release of scientific findings that conflict with established beliefs or policies, particularly if the findings run the risk of upsetting the hoi polloi. Now-a-days a lot of them vote, but even in Galileo's time letting out too much information could be dangerous. Remember when Leo was insisting that the planets moved, threatening to turn everyone into atheists? See the November 14, 2005 post.

All the complaining now is just an example of how, if you let up even a little, the underlings get out of control. The new administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Michael D. Griffin, just two weeks ago called for "scientific openness" at the agency and the response? Researchers and public affairs workers are openly complaining about how political appointees have altered or suppressed news releases on scientific findings. Well, not openly exactly, as they say they are afraid of losing their jobs if they give their names.

You know what kind of stuff these scientists are trying to put out about global warming. The ice cap melting, polar bears dying, New York, Washington DC and Boston inundated by rising sea levels, all of that. When you hear things like that you can become very upset about the polar bears. That is why releases have to use the term "climate change". An email message from NASA headquarters in July prohibited the use of the term "global warming" in a presentation. "It is standard practice to use the phrase "climate change" the email said.

The administration has a strong scientific basis for its efforts: (Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV) What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. {10} Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. So when you get down to it, who needs all this upset?

When the authorities were discussing a possible revision with Galileo, they brought out instruments of torture, just to kind of show Leo how they worked. At least today we do not condone torture, so in some important ways there has been progress.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Not In My Flood Plain, Buddy

Regular readers will remember all those hotel room extensions Howey the New York Lawyer convinced Judge Woody to grant. See the detail on the January 14 post. We figured that the hotel residents had it made until February 27 (or maybe forever), since all they had to do is call FEMA for a number, after which they were good until they got a mobile home or an apartment. Turns out that 12,000 FEMA was paying for never called, so the money for those stopped flowing to the hotels February 7. Howey went to court again, but this time the judge didn't go along. Seems like we ought to be able to tell if 12,000 families were wandering around on the street, but so far very few reports.

There is more work to do for Howey and Judge Woody, so we hope they are not discouraged. There is the mobile home vs. travel trailer issue. FEMA purchased 25,000 mobile homes that ran about $34,000 each, and about 100,000 travel trailers, a bargain at $10,000. We couldn't quite get the math straight on our February 9 post because we hadn't focused on the difference. One main difference is that FEMA policy prohibits installing mobile homes in a flood prone area. I think you can see how that could create a problem in this situation. Anyway, only 2,700 of the mobile homes have been installed, and the rest are stored, apparently in a flood plain. Richard L. Skinner ("Skinny"), the Homeland Security Inspector General, told a Senate panel that many would have to be sold as surplus, stored for some future disaster (that didn't involve flooding, one assumes), or given to some other federal agency. Asked for their value as surplus, he responded "It's certainly not going to be very high, given the way they were being stored at a spot where some are sinking into the mud. Some of the trailers that we inspected are actually warping, have lost wheels, and some have been cannibalized, parts taken out, and we don't even know where the parts are right now. So their value is going to decrease tremendously."

The situation is a lot better on the 100,000 travel trailers, of which 72,000 have been installed. Apparently you can install these in a flood prone area, because in case of a flood you just hitch up and move. The highways were a little crowded in the Katrina evacuation, so you might want to allow a few extra days, but other than that, it seems pretty clever. FEMA is ordering more travel trailers, so these will be just in time to replace the 28,000 currently in storage, that is, if Judge Woody will order those distributed to evacuees. One caution, Judge. It would be better if you didn't make people call in for a number.


Fog of Hunt Hits Press Corps

The Vice President shot a lawyer and the whole press corps is up in arms about who knew what and when did they know it and why was the scoop given to the local press instead of all those reporters hunting for stories at the White House. The shooting took place just as the hunting was getting good Saturday evening. That is when the quail settle back into a field for a drink and the evening. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times got it Sunday morning but it wasn't until the Monday morning press conference that the big reporters got it. The complaining was such that the White House press office even had to put out an email Monday afternoon entitled "Response to a Question from the Briefing" that began "Q: So when did the president definitively know that the vice president had shot somebody?". This shows that Katrina has sunk in. There won't have to be Congressional hearings this time.

Then there are the jokes: "Cheney bags lawyer" and "according to the best intelligence available there were quail hidden in the bush". And opinions from Ambassador Pamela about who was at fault. All this is poppycock. To understand these events you need a grasp of history, law, custom and ballistics. As usual, this blog will pull all this together.

When the vice president shot somebody in 1804, Thomas Jefferson didn't make any announcement. Aaron Burr left town, but soon came back when there wasn't any fuss. Nor was there a bunch of discussion of who was at fault, even though it was clearly Dr. Charles D. Cooper (no relation, I think)who published the insult that led to everyone getting their back up. Likewise Hamilton, who was also armed, elected to waste his shot.

As for the law in Texas, regardless of what you hear, it is illegal to shoot lawyers. Except in self defense, of course. And you don't have to retreat first, like you do in those sissy states. Cheney will be fined $7, but that is for a related offense. Cheney did not have a quail stamp, which is a crime if it involves firearms. Sure it came up because of the lawyer shooting, but that doesn't make it the proximate cause of the fine.

The customs that govern bird hunting are also clear. If you are 30 yards behind a fellow hunter and an alleged quail flies up between you, and you see the other hunter rotate to bring his firearm to bear on you, you are supposed to yell "SHEEEEIT!!" and hit the dirt. This lawyer waited until after the shot to do both. Likewise the ballistics in this case are impressive. The VEEP was using a 28 gauge Perazzi that shoots about 250 pellets. He had that Perazzi choked down to where it threw a 12 inch pattern at 30 yards (as you can see on the lawyer). You have to be an excellent shot to hope to hit any quail with such a pattern. So on top of it all, the VEEP was for giving all a sporting chance.

Back to what did he know and when did he know it, it was revealed Tuesday that someone in the hunting party called the Situation Room shortly after the shooting, said there was an accident, but did not reveal that the VP was himself the shooter. They say they don't know who called, but I don't have the number for the Situation Room, do you? Anyway, the staff there told Andrew Card, the chief of staff, who told the president, but again no identification of the shooter. Fortunately, after Card told Karl Rove, Karl became curious about it, and called the ranch's owner, who stool pigeoned. So the president knew about 8pm Saturday. So what was he supposed to do? Call FEMA?

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Discovery Casts Serious Doubt on I.D. and SPM

Regular readers know the mission of this blog is to give you news analysis not available from big media, always with the Big Tent approach, accepting all beliefs and viewpoints. However, a fact has surfaced that casts serious doubt on the main tenants of both Intelligent Design and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and we are obligated to report this, even if we lose readers.

No, it is not the hippopotamus. He might not be what you would design, but he looks cute enough to other hippos, and if you think about it, that is all that matters. It comes from an article in this week's Science Times about leeches. It turns out that there is a species of leech that lives only on the rear end of a hippo. "Say what?" you say. "Gowan Withcha" you say. No, it is true. Now if you will just suspend disbelief for a moment, you will see that this is really an outstanding arrangement. The hippo is in and out of the water all the time, and no one, believe me, no one, is going to bother you. Oh sure, if you see another hippo noticing how cute your hippo is, you might want to drop off for a while, but always in life you have to know when to hold em and when to fold em.

But back to the point. This leech's living arrangement. Now the I.D folks have to ask themselves, "who would have thought of that?"

Friday, February 10, 2006


Chinese Problem - Extinction of Dinosaurs

Remember how fascinating dinosaurs were when you were a kid? And the names, which we all memorized, were great. Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus. And it was pretty easy, as all were sauruses, which means "lizard". The dino was the scary part, unless you were afraid of lizards, like a girl, and means "fearfully great". [Sir Richard Owen, 1842]. Oh sure, there were a few "dons" in there, and the triceratops, but you could tell that from the picture, teeth and so on. And your parents encouraged it all, because you were learning Latin and Greek, and might turn out to be a doctor, or at least a pharmacist. Even worst case, a lawyer.

And that was before dinosaurs had feathers, which is enough to make you take down the bird feeder. Yes, all this stuff that passes for "progress" isn't so great. So now Chinese and American scientists have unearthed what they call the granddaddy of all tyrannosaurs, a primitive crested dinosaur that lived 160 million years ago. There is a lot of speculation about the evolutionary track on down to T. Rex, a 100 million years later.

That is all well and good, and it is nice to see us getting along with the Chinese, but that brings us to the big problem. What do you think this fellow's name is? Granddaddisaurus? No chance. Of course Saurolophus, meaning "crested lizard" was taken already, and would have been hard anyway (lizard in the front), but "Guanlong wucaii"? Come on, how is a kid supposed to handle that? The Guanlong part means "crowned dragon", apparently what they have in China instead of lizards. The "wucaii", the species part, refers, hold on to your hat, to the rich colors of the Junggar Basin, the discovery site. Actually, the discovery was made in 2002, so it took a while to get up the courage to announce it, as they did yesterday in the journal Nature.

There is speculation as to what the crest on this fellow's head is for, which the scientists said was a thin as a tortilla and only 2 1/2 inches high. Shows how long these guys have been out in the wucaii. Everybody knows that sort of thing is to make you sexy. Apparently it should have been higher, as he is extinct, as will be dinosaur fascination if they keep going on like this.

Editors Note: For those of you that believe the world is only 5,000 years old, and that these fossils were just faked for the sake of appearances, note that you still have to have to have something to call this stuff. In fact, naming the fakes is even more important when they are planted as part of a plan rather than just randomly occuring due to some haphazard genetic thing. This wucaii business just flies in the face of planning.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Earwax Gene Key to Why Cowboys Smelled Worse than Indians

Researchers have found the gene that controls whether you have wet or dry earwax. It turns out that almost all the people Europe and Africa have the wet type, while dry is universal amoung the Han Chinese and Koreans. Both types seem to keep the bugs and dust out of your ears, so you might wonder why it was obviously such a big deal, either in individual survival (selection) or in design by aliens (selection). Lo and behold, the researchers found that earwax type and armpit odor are correlated (none with snot or other disgusting secretions was noted), with the dry earwax types sweating less, so you can connect the dots. In cold climates you do better if you don't sweat, particularly because you are indoors more with other people. Those northern folks also have smaller nostrils, a complimentary trait that may be from one of the other three genes on that particular stretch of DNA.

From earlier postings (January 7) you know that Indians migrated across the Bering Stait with their domestic cats from Siberia, so it should come as no surprise that they all have dry earwax too. Igloo, wigwam, it is all pretty close quarters.

As you probably guessed, the gene is the ATP binding casette C11 gene, a good name to remember in any argument over hygiene.


Global Warming a Hoax?

Michael Crichton's new book, "State of Fear", has won the prestigious annual journalism award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. The book dismisses global warming as an imaginary threat which some scientists are using to their own ends. This premise has the support of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, who calls global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

The communications director of the association conceded that the book was fiction, but noted that "it has the absolute ring of truth".

Followup: A new book relates that in a visit to the White House, Mr Crichton found that Mr. Bush had "avidly read" his book and was in near total agreement. The White House said this created a false impression of the President's views, noting that in several speeches he had acknowledged the need to confront global warming, while questioning the degree to which humans contribute to it.

While it will be difficult to "confront" the global warming not attributable to humans, we can help by cutting down more of those long suspected polluters, forests, and of course, there is always beano for the cows. Makes you wonder just how much polar bears, with that seal diet, are contributing to their own problem.


FEMA - Now the Trailers are Trailing.

You can see why President Bush prefers to use private enterprise whereever possible. After Katrina FEMA contracted for about $2.5 billion worth of trailers, and in just 6 months over 100,000 have been built and delivered, to FEMA that is. FEMA has managed to fill about half of the 135,000 requests for a free trailer, and thinks it has about 19,000 in holding areas. That doesn't quite add up, but it is certainly close enough for government work.

The problem is that local authorities have something to say about where the trailers go. The original idea was to build FEMAvilles, filling huge tracts of vacant land with extended trailer parks. The opposition of locals and would be residents was totally unexpected. Some people seem to want to put the trailers in their yard, next to their damaged house. Full disclosure, that is where I plan to put mine, if I ever get it. But then you run into those local regulations about electricity, sewers, and so on. You can't just stick one there to sleep in you know.

So think of what would have happened if the government had simply told suppliers that it would pay for any free trailers the suppliers could give away and get installed somewhere.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


If "12th Man" Illegal, What About the "Terrible Towel"?

The Seahawks fly the number 12, representing the 12th man, which is apparently the whole set of fans in the stands. This is based upon the proposition that thousands of people shouting is equivalent to one man doing something. Unfortunately for audience participation, it turns out the Aggies of Texas Agricultural and Military School have a trademark on the phrase "12th Man" and have secured a temporary restraining order in a Texas court prohibiting the Seahawks from saying "12th Man".

The Aggie tradition is somewhat different from the Seattle one, to wit, thousands of people standing rather than thousands of people shouting. To them, the 12th man was E. King Gill, who was called from the stands and suited up to be ready if the team ran out of players. They didn't, so he didn't play, but everyone appreciated the gesture. Nowadays, everyone stands in case they need to be called down to suit up, and, of course, it includes the females, as required by Title IX.

The Seahawks flag, which is still flying from the Space Needle, has only the number 12 on it, and no "man" (see Title IX), and not even any "th". That didn't help them in the Texas court. But inexplicably, the Aggies have not attacked Pittsburgh's "terrible towel". Their tradition includes waving a 12th Man Towel. If you can't say "12" denuded of th and man, you sure can't wave a towel just by substituting "terrible" for "12th man". Can you?

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