Happy New Year
Tomorrow for me; Polar Bear Swimming in the ocean (it just snowed yesterday!) and hashing this afternoon! Hope your day is just as super!
The point is that evolution in general is an extremely slow process. When two mice breed, the offspring is a mouse. When that offspring breeds, its offspring is a mouse. When that offspring breeds... And the process continues. Point mutations do not change this fact in any significant way over the short haul.On the other hand, we know that evolution can move extremely quickly to create a new species. One example of the speed of evolution involves the progress mammals have made. You have probably heard that, about 65 million years ago, all of the dinosaurs died out quite suddenly. One theory for this massive extinction is an asteroid strike. For dinosaurs, the day of the asteroid strike was a bad one, but for mammals it was a good day. The disappearance of the dinosaurs cleared the playing field of most predators. Mammals began to thrive and differentiate.
Could life arise spontaneously? If you read How Cells Work, you can see that even a primitive cell like an E. coli bacteria -- one of the simplest life forms in existence today -- is amazingly complex.
Fifteen years ago, not long after the release of "Playing God in Yellowstone," his seminal work on environmentalism's philosophical underpinnings, I asked philosopher and environmentalist Alston Chase what he thought about this situation. I leave you to ponder his answer: "Environmentalism increasingly reflects urban perspectives. As people move to cities, they become infatuated with fantasies about land untouched by humans. This demographic shift is revealed through ongoing debates about endangered species, grazing, water rights, private property, mining and logging. And it is partly a healthy trend. But this urbanization of environmental values also signals the loss of a rural way of life and the disappearance of hands-on experience with nature. So the irony: As popular concern for preservation increases, public understanding about how to achieve it declines."
Labels: cult of liberalism
USS STETHEM (DDG 63) is the first U.S. Navy warship named to honor the life and service of Steelworker Second Class (DV) Robert Dean Stethem, USN (1961-1985). Petty Officer Stethem entered the Navy on May 4, 1981. He attended recruit training in Great Lakes, Illinois, and was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Sixty-two, homeported at Gulfport, Mississippi. In October 1984, he was assigned to Underwater Construction Team One at Little Creek, Virginia.
Petty Officer Stethem was a victim of the terrorist hijacking of Trans World Airlines Flight 847 on June 14, 1985. He was returning home from an assignment in Nea Makri, Greece, when the terrorists seized and ordered the aircraft to Beirut, Lebanon. Petty Officer Stethem was singled out from the passengers as a U.S. Navy Sailor and killed when terrorist demands were not met. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1985 and the Bronze Star in 1986.
Petty Officer Stethem’s family has a long and proud Naval history. Both of Petty Officer Stethem’s parents served in the U.S. Navy as well as civil service posts. His father, Richard, served for twenty-six years retiring as a Senior Chief Petty Officer. Petty Officer Stethem’s mother, Patricia, was a Storekeeper before leaving the Navy to raise a family. Petty Officer Stethem’s brother Patrick was a Steelworker Second Class before leaving active duty and his other brother, Kenneth, served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years retiring as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate and Navy SEAL.
"Germany has quietly released a Hizbollah member jailed for life for the murder of a U.S. Navy diver, apparently disregarding Washington's wish to extradite him, diplomats and German officials said on Tuesday," Reuters reports from Berlin:I would've stopped at "Nothing but contempt for European elites." Damn Jerry!
"He served his term," Eva Schmierer, a spokeswoman for Germany's justice ministry, told a news conference.
Sources in Berlin and Beirut said earlier that Mohammad Ali Hammadi, convicted of killing Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem in Beirut during the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight and sentenced to life in prison, was flown back to Lebanon last week.
If he was sentenced to life in prison, how can be released after having "served his term," unless he is in a box? This is one reason we have nothing but contempt for European elites' opposition to the death penalty. At least when someone is executed, he really has served his term.
The lush villas had survived the October storm unscathed but Mr. Fugate was agitated. He thought he had outmaneuvered federal emergency officials to take control of the relief effort, but now discovered that federal agents had been on the island, without his knowledge, conducting their own review. "Unbelievable," he fumed. "Washington managed to sneak in some spies after all."
The Bush administration says Katrina showed that some states can't deal with large-scale disasters. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, wants to intervene in response efforts and is pressing local officials to vet their emergency plans. It's also looking to equip locally based federal employees with cameras and communications gear to provide Washington with real-time disaster information.
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who heads U.S. Northern Command, a newly created military body overseeing homeland defense, has told lawmakers that active-duty forces should be given complete authority for responding to catastrophic disasters. President Bush has already suggested that the military be ready to quarantine cities and states in the event of a flu pandemic.
Local officials, from small-town sheriffs to big-state governors, say Louisiana's problems during Katrina were the exception, not the rule. They say the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon are over-reaching and that a federal takeover of relief work will make matters worse. The head of the Washington state National Guard, Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Lowenberg, suggested in emails to colleagues that Adm. Keating's suggestion amounted to a "policy of domestic regime change."
Days before Wilma churned through his state, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appeared before Congress alongside the governors of Texas and Arizona. "I can say with certainty that federalizing emergency response to catastrophic events would be a disaster as bad as Hurricane Katrina," he told lawmakers. "If you federalize, all the innovation, creativity and knowledge at the local level would subside."
Florida may be the best-equipped state to handle disasters because of its experience tackling the big storms that have battered it regularly since 1992. Hurricane Wilma was the sixth major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 storm season and the third to reach Category 5 status. At its peak on Oct. 19, Wilma was the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.
Gaining currency at the highest levels of the Pentagon is the idea that during a catastrophic event - either natural or terrorist - the Department of Defense should replace the Department of Homeland Security as the agency in charge of the federal response.
In many ways, the notion is limited, affecting only how the federal government deploys its own resources. Yet in a nation founded on a distrust of military control, any suggestion of giving the armed forces greater authority on American soil faces centuries-old skepticism. Moreover, it comes at a time when governors are already feeling besieged by an administration that, they feel, is too eager to wrest power from them.
Mr. Fugate has created a response system to prepare Florida for everything from tornadoes to terrorists. The state coordinates purchasing of supplies, for example, so that emergency services can work together. Even fire-hose connections are the same from Key West to Panama City. New York, by contrast, has at least six different hose connections, meaning Albany firefighters can't use their equipment in Manhattan without an adaptor.
Mr. Fugate had his first run-in with Homeland Security at around that time, just before Rita passed over the Florida Keys en route to Texas. During a video conference, he says top Homeland Security officials pressed him for trivial details about his evacuation plans and demanded explanations for his every action.
According to Mr. Fugate and other officials present, he lost his cool. "I told them in no uncertain terms that I had moved more people during last year's hurricanes than had ever been moved before, and that I would be happy to sit there answering their stupid questions, but that I had a job to do."
State emergency coordinators dubbed Washington's constant requests for information "reindeer games," a reference to the 2000 movie with that title in which the phrase described a pointless exercise. Mr. Fugate kept a set of costume antlers in his office and in the run-up to Wilma he recalls holding them in his lap before one video conference call. Gov. Bush asked him what they were for. "In case they ask me stupid questions," he says he replied.
With Wilma, Washington wasn't asking questions -- it wanted control. On Oct. 18, Lt. General Robert T. Clark, commander of the Fifth Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, called the head of Florida's National Guard and said he wanted to start flying in equipment to establish a Joint Task Force Command, federal and state officials confirm.
The National Guard chief, Air Force General Douglas Burnett, says in a later interview that he was taken aback. "Did we need a three-star general from Texas to come to direct our response? No, we did not," he says.
Gov. Bush called Mr. Chertoff to complain. According to a senior federal official who overheard the call, Gov. Bush told the Homeland Security secretary that the federal government's unilateral actions were "insulting" to him personally, Mr. Fugate and all Florida citizens. Mr. Bush's spokeswoman and Homeland Security officials says they won't discuss details of the call.
The turning point took place at the daily video conference call on the morning of Oct. 20. Present were officials from Northcom, Homeland Security, FEMA, a handful of other agencies and the White House. Then, Mr. Fugate pulled off the equivalent of a boardroom coup.
Without warning federal officials, he announced the creation of "Wilma Command" to oversee the response. It was done according to the rules of Homeland Security's own National Incident Management System, or NIMS, mandated by President Bush after 9/11 to ensure that all levels of government worked from the same playbook. Its bedrock principle: one incident, one commander, no matter how many agencies send help.
It's a relatively new process that few state emergency officials have mastered. But Mr. Fugate knew what to do. He said the Wilma Command team would include himself, Gen. Burnett and Justin DeMello, the head of FEMA in Florida who was close with state officials. Then Mr. Fugate reached off camera and pulled Mr. Bush into the frame. "I'd now like to introduce the Incident Commander," he said, "The governor of Florida."
"Craig had outmaneuvered them and they knew it," recalls Mr. DeMello, the local FEMA representative. "There was nothing for them to say as under the NIMS they are required to support the incident commander." Mr. Fugate took the 300 satellite telephones Homeland Security had sent for its reporting teams and gave them to local emergency workers.
Homeland Security officials continued lobbying Florida to allow Mr. Chertoff to name a Coast Official Guard as the "Principal Federal Officer." But by Oct. 23, a day before landfall, they had given up. Northcom never activated the Fifth Army.
Labels: cult of liberalism
“I’ve done everything I can, but I still feel I have blood on my hands,” Bigelow said of the ongoing war in Iraq.
Through her online store, Bigelow sells magnets the size of business cards with a pro-pot messages.
“We don’t need to be in a war for oil because we have industrial hemp,” Bigelow said. “If you look into all the little things that hemp can do, you’ll understand. We wouldn’t be killing people for oil.”
Labels: cult of liberalism
Research on the psychology of radical activists helps us to understand this mismatch between Chomsky's ideas and his personal style. In the 1970s, Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter administered Thematic Apperception Tests to a large sample of "new left" radicals (Roots of Radicalism, 1982). They found that activists were characterized by weakened self-esteem, injured narcissism and paranoid tendencies. They were preoccupied with power and attracted to radical ideologies that offered clear and unambiguous answers to their questions. All of these traits can be found in the work of Chomsky and other anti-imperialist intellectuals.
The unwillingness to offer alternatives reveals a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. If they offered their own policy ideas they would be vulnerable to criticism. They would run the risk that their ideas would fail, or would not seem persuasive to others. This is especially difficult for anti-capitalists after the fall of the Soviet Union. It has also been difficult in the war against terrorism because Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are such unsympathetic figures. Psychologically, it is easier to blame America for not finding a solution than it is to put one's own ideas on the line.This here is lazy blogging from a guy who spent all day Christmas/maternity/baby shopping, so do with that what you will. I liked the quotes and wanted to post them too. Believe it or not, I do have original thoughts I wanted to pixelate.
Labels: cult of liberalism
A SKIPPER claims that an American warship fired four warning shots across the bow of his boat after he strayed into its safety zone.
Greig Milligan, the skipper of the small cargo boat, was making a delivery to the Hebridean island of Canna when he encountered the USS Klakring. He then received the first of 10 verbal warnings telling him that the vessel’s space was being invaded and to move away or the ship would open fire.
A former Royal Navy officer, Mike Critchley, who now runs Warship World magazine, said: “These exercises are very well publicised. Short of knocking on this man’s door I doubt anything else could’ve been done to inform him.”
tor·ture [ táwrchur ] transitive verb
1. inflict pain on somebody: to inflict extreme pain or physical punishment on somebody
2. cause somebody anguish: to cause somebody mental or physical anguish
"This headache is torturing me."
3. distort something: to twist or distort something into an unnatural form
1. inflicting of pain: infliction of severe physical pain on somebody, e.g. as punishment or to persuade somebody to confess or recant something
2. methods of inflicting pain: the methods used to inflict physical pain on people
3. anguish: mental or physical anguish
What a great day, I mean, for being awake since oh-dark-thirty. It got me thinking about sleep deprivation, however. I've been feeling a bit sleep-deprived lately, but I think it's because I haven't been sleeping well. I have puposely gone nearly 48 hours without sleep before, but the exhaustion was just caving in on me.
To finish off the day today, we were priviledged to get to talk with Commander Porter A. Halyburton USN, RET (who incidentally is the first cousin of the man for whom my next ship is named) . Professor Halyburton related to us some of his experiences in North Vietnamese POW prisons as they pertain to leadership topics. My jaw was open the whole time. If you ever have the opportunity to discuss with a veteran his or her experiences, I highly recommend you do so. You will never look at your own life the same way again. I'll come back to Prof. Halyburton in a minute.
I have heard a lot of discussion about the McCain Amendment to the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, here and there in news, and interestingly, my own experiences have coincided neatly with current events again. President Bush has apparently accepted Sen. McCain’s torture policy as stated in SA 1977.
I attempted to find the text of SA 1977, but alas, the Library of Congress tries my patience. Have at it, if you will. I broke down and Googled it. It's not particularly descriptive, nor is most of the related information I can find. I think that alone may possibly be dangerous, for it allows the definition of "torture" to be stretched. By lawyers, I mean. Prosecuting servicemen for doing their jobs.
If anybody can define torture, it is John S. McCain. I've read his book "Faith of my Fathers" (which is absolutely terrific, by the way). McCain suspected he did not receive the worst of the abuse due to his value as a bargaining chip, but he was often trussed up, with his biceps tied together and left all night. Prof. Halyburton called it "the pretzel" and I have heard the method related before. By all accounts, it is excruciating (link goes to a museum simulation of the technique... not very gruesome-looking, but I thought I'd better warn you).
McCain wants no person in United States custody to be "subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation" and discusses his interpretation of that on the U.S. Senate website. He says the Army Field Manual, which states that "use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government." The Field Manual
...recognizes that torture and cruel treatment are ineffective methods, because they induce prisoners to say what their interrogators want to hear, even if it is not true, while bringing discredit upon the United States. It is consistent with our laws and, most importantly, our values. Let us not forget that al-Qaeda sought not just to destroy American lives on September 11, but American values – our way of life and all we cherish.
Fair enough, right? This is a lot of what I got out of Prof. Halyburton's discussion, because the POWs in Vietnam could be broken, but they were as resistant as they possibly could be and did whatever they could to foil the North Vietnamese efforts to use them for intelligence gathering and propaganda. The North Vietnamese eventually learned that physical torture was indeed ineffective.
Some of the more aggressive approaches listed in the Field Manual include throwing things and shouting. Take a look at those and then go watch Law and Order, it's essentially the same thing. You can frighten people, but it doesn't really specify how, aside from the restrictions listed above. On April 28, 2005, Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Army would be revising the manual. The revised manual would have spelled out more clearly which interrogation techniques were prohibited.
Prof. Halyburton opposes the use of torture in interrogation for exactly the reasons stated above; it's cruel and inhumane and contrary to the principles of the United States of America. However, he said, it is how torture is defined that is the problem. The "threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant" treatment part of the Field Manual (recently revised to more clearly define what is and is not "acceptable") is the part that both he and I have a problem with.
Sleep deprivation is not torture. Sensory deprivation is not torture. Firing a weapon near someone's head, degradation, embarrassment, name-calling, flushing Korans down the toilet (if it ever happened, which it hasn't) - these things are not torture. The definition of torture as mandated by the Bush Administration under pressure from a vocal minority is far too broad to allow interrogatiors to be effective in their duties. The UN Convention Against Torture defines it as "
any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Torture is what the Viet Cong did to our POWs during the Vietnam War. Torture is not just any pain, but extreme pain. War is not pretty. Normal people who see what war is like should rightly be appalled. Jesse Ventura said, "War isn’t civilized. War is failure. It’s the ultimate result of a breakdown in public policy, and soldiers are the machines that handle that breakdown. In warfare, you’re taught to do whatever you have to, to stay alive. Can you imagine bringing that mind-set into a party?" Getting information out of fanatics who will blow themselves up to kill other people are likely going to take a little more working over than Detective Stabler gives your average TV child molester.
Torture is what is being done to people who are kidnapped by terrorists overseas and beheaded on camera. They, like the Vietnamese understand that they don't have to win against the US. They only have to not lose, using our own free press to wear us down. How's that for torture? They, like the North Vietnamese, don't care what the Geneva Convention says and feel no obligation to abide by it. Anti-war types seem to only want to stop torture or other oppression when the effort is convenient for them (for example, when they think the US is doing it, as opposed to when they ignore China, Chad, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Rwanda, Somalia, Nepal, the former Iraq regime or Cambodia doing it).
Over-generalizing torture, is like the overuse of words like "terrorist", "nazi" or "hero"; it dilutes the meaning of the word. I believe one can't possibly comprehend torture unless you've experienced it; I know I can't. You have no idea what your limits are and what you can endure.
"Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Victor Frankel
[Quote from above item that raised my interest.]
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi voters faced tight security measures Thursday as they cast ballots in a historic parliamentary election the U.S. hopes will build democracy and lay the groundwork for American troops to withdraw.
A large explosion was heard in downtown Baghdad within minutes of the polls opening and sirens could be heard inside the heavily fortified Green Zone that houses the Iraqi government and the U.S. and British embassies.
Police said the explosion apparently was caused by a mortar landing near the heavily fortified Green Zone. No injuries were reported, but the blast underscored the security concerns despite a promise by Sunni insurgent groups not to attack the polls.
Labels: cult of liberalism
You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna get myself a 1967 Cadillac El Dorado convertible, hot pink with whaleskin hub caps and all leather cow interior and big brown baby seal eyes for headlights, yeah! And I'm gonna drive around in that baby at 115mph getting one mile per gallon, sucking down quarter pounder cheese burgers from McDonald's in the old-fashioned non-biodegradable styrofoam containers and when I'm done sucking down those grease ball burgers, I'm gonna wipe my mouth with the American flag and then I'm gonna toss the styrofoam container right out the side and there ain't a God damned thing anybody can do about it. You know why? Because we got the bombs, that's why.- Denis Leary, No Cure for Cancer.
Two words. Nuclear [F'in (Sorry, Denis)] weapons, okay?! Russia, Germany, Romania - they can have all the Democracy they want. They can have a big democracy cake-walk right through the middle of Tiananmen square and it won't make a lick of difference because we've got the bombs, okay?!
Labels: interesting times
As early as 1896 scientists suggested that burning fossil fuels might change the composition of the atmosphere and that an increase in global average temperature might result. The first part of this hypothesis was confirmed in 1957, when researchers working in the global research program called the International Geophysical Year sampled the atmosphere from the top of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa. Their instruments indicated that carbon dioxide concentration was indeed rising. Since then, the composition of the atmosphere has been carefully tracked. The data collected show undeniably that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing.
Conservatives argued -- and still do -- that the move to cleaner energy sources and tougher fuel efficiency standards would cost jobs and weaken the economy, he said.
In fact, cleaner technology "would strengthen, not weaken our economy," said Clinton, "... In America, there's no telling how many jobs we could create."
Scientists who question the global warming trend point to three puzzling differences between the predictions of the global warming models and the actual behavior of the climate. First, the warming trend stopped for three decades in the middle of the 20th century; there was even some cooling before the climb resumed in the 1970s. Second, the total amount of warming during the 20th century was only about half what computer models predicted. Third, the troposphere, the lower region of the atmosphere, did not warm as fast as the models forecast. However, global warming proponents believe that two of the three discrepancies have now been explained.The article goes on to provide possible explainations for the first two (although far from conclusive) and scratch its head over the third. I, for one, remain skeptical and I'm continuing to research the issue. I'd like to see some kind of unbiased, non-politically charged or motivated data that shows a positive statistical correlation between human activity and climate change. Is that too much to ask?
Labels: cult of liberalism
Like the ambitious policies of Truman and Reagan, our statecraft will succeed not simply because it is optimistic and idealistic but also because it is premised on sound strategic logic and a proper understanding of the new realities we face.
So this is the long range mission in the war on terror:
*one, make sure the right side wins the war of ideas within the Islamic world;
*two, build up diversified economies and civil society;
*and, three, end the empire of oil.
We have to pay greater attention to how our words and deeds are understood in the Middle East, because our good intentions are doubted by the very people the terrorists seek to turn against us.
For all the grating negativity, it needs to be said in Mr. Kerry’s defense that it takes a certain amount of gumption to keep going on in the public arena after a defeat, rather than retreating to the comfort of one of his mansions or to the Kennedy School of Government or the land of American Express commercials or Viagra ads a la Michael Dukakis or Robert Dole.
And it needs to be said, too, that Mr. Kerry is hardly the worst that his party has to offer. Rather than deriding the growth of democracy in Iraq, he said yesterday that he thinks the upcoming election there “is going to be a momentous event, an important event.” He said a total American withdrawal in Iraq in the next month or two would “endanger our interests,” and he said that if it were up to him, there would still be tens of thousands American troops in Iraq a year from now.
Mr. Kerry concluded his speech with an appeal to President Bush “to put a little more Harry Truman in his foreign policy.” Mr. Kerry, in an allusion to Mr. Bush, said that Truman was “another president who prided himself on simple virtues and unshakable resolve.”
Mr.Kerry praised Truman for presiding over “the greatest era of bipartisan, multi-lateral foreign policy our country or the world has ever seen.” Well, that is one thing he is known for, and that is what Mr. Kerry seemed to be speaking of when he asked Mr. Bush to be more like Truman. But Truman is also known for ordering the use of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And for leading America into a Cold War that lasted two generations. Mr. Kerry didn’t mention either of those aspects of Truman’s legacy.
The more Mr. Kerry droned on earnestly, the more convinced this listener became that it is George W. Bush, not John F. Kerry, who is Truman material. President Bush may not be winning any popularity contests at the moment, but he won the election, and there is nothing like sitting and listening to Mr. Kerry talk for an hour to remind Americans why.
Labels: cult of liberalism