Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Beneath Tombora's ashes

Traces of lost civilization believed found

Scientists have found what they believe are traces of the lost Indonesian civilization of Tambora, which was wiped out in 1815 by the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

Stop Training Iraqi Troops?

That's a headline that caught my eye. On Defense Tech, this post cites a recent article in Foreign Affairs that is precient, given the sectarian divisions fanned by the Sunni insurgency:
Stop Training Iraqi Troops?

The problem is that “Iraqization” is a Vietnam-era solution. And “the current struggle is not a Maoist 'people's war' of national liberation [like Vietnam]; it is a communal civil war with very different dynamics,” Biddle writes in an amazingly timely article for the new issue of Foreign Affairs. "Turning over the responsibility for fighting the insurgents to local forces, in particular, is likely to make matters worse."
That immediately begs the quesiton, if we can't manage to erect a viable Iraqi military, how do we get out? As bad as recent events have become, I still don't see how we can simply pull up stakes and vanish. I'm reminded of many articles about our occupation of Iraq warning that time is running out and the options are dwindling the longer we are there. What happens when there are no options?

Support the troops

Another eye opening headline from ThinkProgress:
72% of U.S. Troops Want Out of Iraq Within One Year

Dubai Ports World Boycotts Israel

The ports management deal furor had not really moved me—until now. There was always an ugly isolationist zenophobic angle to it. But this changes the picture:
Dubai Ports World Boycotts Israel

Moment of truth on Bernal Hill

The utterly foolish project to seal up the south access to Bernal Hill Park and eliminate the heavily used parking there is just about to break ground in spite of the concerted efforts of neighbors. But the fight is not over, as this passionate post on BernalSF testifies:

Moment of truth
If you think this is the end, it is not. The moment the road gets blocked, pandemonium is going to set in. We don’t have to do anything, in fact I will be out of town. You will be setting the trap yourself. We have warned you. We have told you over and over this is a terrible idea and an unbelievable waste of tax payers money. You have stubbornly refused to listen and keep clinging to your flawed process as if this is the life raft that will save you when the project goes down. Which it will.
Are you listening, Tom Amiano? We will not forget your nasty, anti-neighborhood, anti-democratic effots on your cronies' behalf. You had your chance, you've dug your grave, now you get to lie in it.

Think Progress - The Second Term Free Fall

Did I mention how much I like ThinkProgress? Presentation matters to me, and they have their HTML and CSS chops down, folks. They also cover national politics very well. Check out their recap of Bush's CBS poll woes:
The Second Term Free Fall

The latest CBS News poll puts President Bush’s job approval at 34 percent — an all-time low. Vice President Cheney is doing even worse. Only 18 percent of the public approves of the way he is doing his job.

The American public has a dismal assessment of Bush’s policies across the board:

30 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq — an all-time low.

27 percent approve of Bush’s energy policy.

32 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the economy.

5 percent of Americans are pleased with the way the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is going.

Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, “Our focus is on the important priorities of the American people.” Looks like the American people disagree.

Monday, February 27, 2006

This is it! You heard it here firstsecond

Diebold's hard-coded ticket to 1984

Nice to see a heavy hitter blog like Political Animal getting behind the Diebold e-vote scam issue. But really — why isn't this headline news everywhere?

California Approves Diebold E-Voting....:

The bugs pale next to another discovery by the panel. This is the presence of a cryptographic key written into the source code, or basic software, of every Diebold touch-screen machine in the country. The researchers called this blunder tantamount to 'a bank using the same PIN code for every ATM card they issued; if this PIN code ever became known, the exposure could be tremendous.'

Here's the punch line: The Diebold key became known in 2003, when it was published by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities. It can be found today via a Google search.
Yep. Despite the fact that the panel of experts concluded that Diebold could fix all the bugs in their machines in 'only a few hours,' the problem with the hardcoded key has been known since 1997 and the key itself has been known since 2003 — but Diebold has done nothing about it.

(Are you dying to know how to hack into a Diebold machine? Unless your local registrar has bothered to change it, here's the key: F2654hD4. And the 8-byte password used for Diebold’s voter, administrator, and ender cards is ED 0A ED 0A ED 0A ED 0A. Aren't you glad this stuff is so easily found on the internet?)

There's simply no excuse for tolerating even the perception that the voting process is so easily open to abuse. I'm no conspiracy monger, but the fact that Diebold hasn't corrected these problems despite the fact that they're obvious, widely known, and easy to fix, does nothing except provoke suspicion — well deserved or not — that they're stonewalling deliberately. I mean, why act so damn guilty unless they really are guilty?
Wayne, I'm beginning to see the light!

Listen to Eschaton

Atrios speaks the truth to the anybody-but-Bush crowd that is so willing to fawn over McCain

Right now Democrats are lining up to have their pictures taken with McCain instead of understanding that he'd be an even more dangerous president than Bush. They need to start understanding what is at stake.

Fafblog! answers "Why are we in Iraq?"

Just when the news gets so damned depressing you want to put your head in the oven, Fafblog will save you, and provide the straight dope. Frequently Asked Question

Q. Why are we in Iraq?
A. Terror! By occupying Iraq we get Iraqis to fight us there so they won’t fight us at home.
Q. We’ve cleverly lured them to where they already were, only in terrorist form!
A. Now you’re catching on!
Q. What if we can’t kill all the terrorists in Iraq?
A. Then we’ll invade somewhere else and trick ‘em into attacking us there – only this time it’ll be someplace really far away where they’ll get stuck, like the ocean or the moon!
Q. I would totally watch Operation: Lunar Justice live on CNN!
A. Wolf Blitzer in a space helmet… it writes itself!
Q. There are more terrorists now than before the war. Is the occupation causing more terror?
A. Well, nobody can say for sure if that’s a man-made terror increase. It may just be a periodic shift in the natural terror cycle.
Q. Tell me more about this “not our fault” theory – I find it oddly compelling.
A. Like weather, terror is affected by seasonal fluctuations. The jet stream carries hijackers from continent to continent; El Niño causes suicide bombers to condense in the upper atmosphere. Is this affected by human activity or just part of a natural warming trend for terror? We just don’t know!
Q. Your ideas are boldly nonconformist, yet conveniently reaffirm my desire to do nothing. I like it!
Read the whole post. He has a lot of answers to this question, one better than the next. And while you're there, enjoy The Challenge of Soup in a Post-9/11 World too.

Can Shoe Goo save my Saturn?

OK, this isn't earth-shatteringly cool, but it does give me an excuse to link to one of my new favorite blogs, LifeHacker: Shoe Goo super glue "The Cool Tools weblog points out Shoe Goo, what sounds like magical adhesive fit for repairing tennis shoes as well as your car."

Montana's Coal Cowboy knows what to do

Kos is a big fan of this guy. And I like everything I read about him too: Montana's Coal Cowboy:

While the president spent much of last week promoting energy alternatives of the future, like hybrid cars and fuels made from wood chips, the governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, says there's something we can have up and running in the next five years.

What he has in mind is using the coal, billions of tons of it, under the high plains of his home state. The governor tells correspondent Lesley Stahl he wants to use an existing process to turn that coal into a synthetic liquid fuel, or synfuel.

The plan is controversial, but Gov. Schweitzer — half Renaissance man, half rodeo cowboy — seems ready for the challenge. In fact, he sounds like he’s ready to take on the world.
China isn't sitting around, waiting for market conditions to force their hand. They're sinking $15B into coal-to-liquids fuel technology now, with output coming on-line by 2007. Current investments will generate %5 of all demand, and %10 of imports from CTL projects that are in progress.

Schweitzer is a visionary. He is getting out in front of something we desperately need to be doing now. Look for him to be a player in Dean's 50-state strategy for revitalizing the Democratic party.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kos - Local races

This really strikes a chord with me. Daily Kos: Local races

One thing I hope to encourage everyone to do is to get involved in your local races. Just about everyone has a race of major import going on in their backyard. And while it's great that we can nationalize and focus on races in places like southern Texas, it's also important to realize that local involvement is the best thing you can do to help build a 50-state Democratic Party.

So think nationally, and even act nationally when the opportunity strikes. But don't forget to act locally as well. Everyone, no matter how blue the area they live in, have a tough race somewhere nearby. Even here in ocean Blue Bay Area we have two corrupt Republican congressmen nearby (Pombo and Doolittle) as well as Ahnold to focus our local efforts.
Funny how from Koz' perspective, Pombo is a local race. I was thinking more along the lines of the BOE elections.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fitzwater - What Cheney should have done

Laura Rosen found this gem: Former White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater tells Joe Strupp

'What [Dick Cheney] should have done was call his press secretary and tell her what happened and she then would have gotten a hold of the doctor and asked him what happened. Then interview [ranch owner] Katharine Armstrong to get her side of events and then put out a statement to inform the public. They could have done all of that in about two hours on Saturday. It is beyond me why it was not done this way.''

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Climate change prediction for Cali

This scenario makes a lot of sense to me. New Climate Research Reveals Growing Risk

If the world continues to burn greenhouse gases, California may have an increased risk of winter floods and summer water shortages, even within the same year. This scenario may be more severe in future El Niño years.

New research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists shows that global warming is likely to change river flows in ways that may result in both increased flood risk and water shortages. The predictions assume atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration doubles from preindustrial levels. [...]

The research shows that this well-known scenario—in which global warming causes an increase in wintertime river flows and a reduction in spring and summer flows—is more robust than previously thought.
Then again, if the climate changes, can't they change the way they manage the reservoirs? They don't let them top off during the winter so they will have capacity to manage the spring melt. If the spring melt diminishes, they can't they just impound more water during the winter?

Gold for Darfur kids

Gott admire this kid in his moment of victory: Heart of gold to go with medal / American speedskater donates his winnings to charity for Sudanese kids

American Joey Cheek, a 26-year-old speedskater from Greensboro, N.C., used the occasion of his greatest athletic achievement to speak of things greater than personal glory and accomplishment.

He had just won the gold medal in the 500-meter sprint on Monday night at Oval Lingotto, and with it $25,000 from the United States Olympic Committee, when he announced he was giving the money away. All of it.

'I am going to be donating the entire sum that the USOC gives to me ... to an organization that Johann Olav Koss started in 1994, and I'm going to be asking all the Olympic sponsors that have given hundreds of millions of dollars if they can match my donation to a specific project.

'In the Darfur region of Sudan, tens of thousands of people have been killed; my government called it genocide. So I'll be donating money specifically to a program that helps refugees in Chad, where there are over 60,000 children who have been displaced.'

Fun with shotguns

So many really funny posts about Cheney's excellent hunting prowess and great wisdom with weapons. Where to begin? We like 'em short and to the point, so here's Atrios, with Things I've Learned Recently
Every conservative on the internet is an avid hunter and they've all been shot multiple times.

Shotguns aren't really guns, just toys. You can't really hurt people with them, only animals.

It's standard hunter etiquette to yell and scream at your fellow hunters as they're stalking their prey.

The most dangerous place to be is behind the people with the guns.

And Dick Cheney was not drunk, so stop saying that.
And if you missed the Daily Show's coverage, watch it over on Crooks and Liars: Cheney makes Stewart so happy!
Stewart was on fire tonight:

"Whittington was mistaken for a bird."

"Harry Whittington, seasoned to an inch of his life."
And if you want to run down the latest in the quickly accumulating pile of serious dirt on the incident, check out the coverage at Think Progress (where the shotgun target image comes from).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In with the new

Time for some spring cleaning here on the blog. Lighten up the place. Get rid of some of the clutter. Open up some space to stretch out and relax. Sure it's too blue right now. Sure, it's gone mainstream with the dark text on light background. But hey, gotta give up my old tired ways.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Think Progress » 10.

Think Progress » 10.


The number of State Department employees, out of 34,000, who are rated fully fluent in Arabic.
Oh – My – God

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


How can you not notice this story? Feels like rubbernecking on the freeway. What a mess.

Gotta love Fafner's take on it.

But if you want some sober, informed analysis, check out Abu Aardvark's Cartoon StupidStorm
Just a quick note on the Danish cartoons and the seemingly spiraling 'clash of civilizations' (a term much in vogue on Arab op-ed pages and talk shows these days). Briefly: this is what the word 'StupidStorm' was invented for.

If the Danish cartoons hadn't existed, al-Qaeda would have paid good money to create them. The cartoons are the ideal mobilizational issue for radical Islamists, tailor made to stoke up passions and to silence moderate voices and to cut off the possibility of dialogue. What al-Qaeda wants more than anything else is to heighten the salience of Islamic identity among the Muslims of the world and to sharpen the contradictions between that Islamic identity and 'the West.' Nothing could have served al-Qaeda's cause better, and I'm sure that bin Laden has already sent the various European publishers multiple mash notes, along with anonymous letters urging more papers to publish the cartoons. And all the Western commentators fanning the flames... well, to quote Angel, 'they fall for it every time.'
I've read a lot of blathering on this subject. Some of it appeals on a gut level. But after reading Abu Aardvark, I think he nails it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Garden of Eden?

Digby - The Eunuch Caucus

Digby channels the Rude Pundit: The Eunuch Caucus

I've been digesting this morning's hearings and I am dumbstruck by the totality of the Republicans' abdication of their duty. These men who spent years running on Madisonian principles ('The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse') now argue without any sense of irony or embarrassment that Republican Senators are nothing more than eunuchs in President Bush's political harem. They have voluntarily rendered the congress of the United States impotent to his power.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Body and Soul: Flood

Another must read from Body and Soul with a Katrina recovery update, and it is not good news: Flood

Meanwhile, the city will soon start razing homes. Local religious leaders came together yesterday to urge people to accept the fact that much of the city will never be what it was. Support for that position comes from scientists, who say that what was the Lower 9th Ward may need to be a buffer zone against future floods. It's hard to know what to make of that, particularly when Rep. Baker is talking about selling that land to developers. But no matter what, asking people to accept that what they had is gone, without offering them any way to remake their lives and their communities, is cruel.

Sadly, it doesn't look like there's a good solution to any of this. If it's true that much of the city, the poorest sections of the city, are not recoverable, the great injustice of people being swept out of their old lives seems almost inevitable. I'm going emotionally numb reading all this.
Once again, follow the link and read the whole article.

No sooner had I read her thoughtful review than I read the deadline in today's paper, Katrina Evacuees Face Hotel Deadlines Anew, "Thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who have been staying in hotels at FEMA's expense will have to pay their own way beginning Tuesday..." with more of the same in this Salon article, Homeless again in New Orleans. Oh brother.

If you want to put your money where your heart is, donate to ACORN. They are mobilizing crews to start stabilizing and rebuilding homes in low income neighborhoods. This organization has a proud history of grass roots activism for poor communities. They deserve our support. And prayers.

on a lighter note...

Here's something to make you smile:
animals of the underground.com

Feingold: Pre-1776 Mentality

This may be a few days old — ancient on the blogging timescale — but if you missed this reaction by Senator Russ Fiengold to Bush's State of the Union address, check it out: Pre-1776 Mentality

This is a gut check moment for members of Congress. Do we sacrifice our liberty? Do we bow to those who try to use security issues for political gain? Do we stand and applaud when the President places himself above the law? Or, do we say enough?

Stop the power grab, stop the politics, stop breaking the law.
Follow that link and read the whole thing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

We write letters...

I'm rarely moved to write politicians letters. But not that I have a blog, I may as well post a copy when I do, right?

There are pending plans to eliminate access to the dead end spur at the end of Bernal Heights Boulevard where most car-born visitors park their cars. Apparently there have been objections by some neighbors to late night visitors who park on the dead end. Personally, I've walked my dog up on the hill at night for years now, visiting at all hours of the night, and rarely see anyone up there. Seriously, in eight years of visiting, conservatively, twice weekly (800 visits?) I've run into maybe 50 parked cars and maybe a dozen groups in the park. The park is empty at night. And the visitors who do show are %99 problem free. A few locals drinking a beer while walking their dog have been the only times I've felt any discomfort whatsoever. The rest of the time it's kids making out.

But, because some neighbors don't like having anyone parking on the dead end near their homes, Park and Rec is poised to close off the dead end. This will displace a lot of heavily used parking and push those people onto nearby residential streets. To me, it's nuts. So when I heard of efforts to revisit the plan, along with a request to write to Supervisor Amiano, this is what I come up with:

Supervisor Amiano,

As a Bernal resident and frequent visitor to the Bernal Heights park -- and as a long time Amiano voter -- I urge you to help the community make their concerns and ideas heard concerning proposed changes to Bernal Heights Boulevard.

Please attend the community meeting to be held at the Bernal Heights Library on February 8th, 6:45pm to listen to our concerns about the pending plans to change the most heavily used access point for the park.

I have many objections to the current plan:
  • There is no significant problem with late night visitors. A few isolated incidents are no justification for scarring the park and disrupting other legitimate park usage
  • It does nothing to address late night visitors / loitering in the park
  • It will inconvenience most car driving visitors to the park
  • It will, by displacing the most heavily used parking, push visitors onto residential streets where they will negatively impact the neighborhood
What I think is less important than the fact that current plans were put in place without adequate notice and input from significant stakeholders. Please attend the meeting to listen, and please facilitate our neighbors' efforts to develop a more reasonable plan. There is no urgent need to complete this project any time soon. (I would argue there is no need for any change whatsoever.) Why not take the time to do it right?

If you're a neighbor with an opinion on this project, feel free to comment here. Or show up at a community meeting and speak up.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Live to ski

Ok, I'm obsessed. So are Sam and Hanna. What's not to love about a day like this?

Pentagon censoring a cartoonist?

For real The Pentagon has sent a chilling leeter to the WaPo over this cartoon:As AmericaBlog notes:

Hey, here's a thought. Now that the Joint Chiefs have addressed the insidious threat cartoons pose to our troops, perhaps they can move on to less pressing issues like getting them their damn body armor

US-VISIT immigration boondoggle

A coworker from Spain was just telling me about this ridiculous charade he and his family had to play when coming and going through customs. Now its on Boing Boing: US-VISIT immigration system spent $15 million per crook caught

Not only do they photograph and fingerprint everyone in his family every time they enter the country, they also subject them to utterly stupid interrogations. And not just he and his wife, but the whole family, 3 and 5 year old kids included. As if a family of four is some kind of terrorist threat! It's akin to placing babies and grandmas on the TSA watch list. Utterly moronic bureaucracy in (clueless) action.

On the other hand, he noted that other countries are just as bad. German customs in particular were singled out for following strictly regimented and foolish rules.

How comforting...