Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hockey Stick Thuggery

UPDATE: Doug has launched a vigorous attack on this post, and there is a real chance that the Pig may dine on crow on this one. To be Determined.

Not to worry that we haven't had an NHL season this year, we still have one guy willing to play the thuggish hockey bully. Joe Barton, U. S. Representative from Texas, and Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is our man.

Those who follow such things may recall some controversy over the so-called 'hockey stick' graph in climate science. Briefly, the hockey stick is a graph of world wide temperatures over the past 1000 years that looks a bit like a hockey stick, more or less flat for a long period, and bending sharply up (like the blade of a hockey stick) over the last several decades. The controversy, or rather pseudo-controversy, arises from an article by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick in an industry magazine called Energy & Environment. The magazine is not peer reviewed, and neither author is a climate scientist, but by selectively ignoring some of the data, they found that the climate 500 years ago was sufficiently uncertain that current temperatures might not actually be as hot as they were then. Never mind that the data they ignored was that most germane to the question nor that subsequently obtained data has only confirmed and reinforced the ignored data, their 'result' has been endlessly trumpeted by The Wall Street Journal, the energy industry, wingnuttery in general, and, I'm sorry to mention, our fellow blogger and habitual trumpeteer of right-wing propaganda, Lubos Motl.

Enter Joe Barton, stage right. Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf of RealClimate pick up the story .

Many readers will be aware that three scientists (two of which are contributors to this site, Michael Mann and Ray Bradley) have received letters from Representative Joe Barton (Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee specifically requesting information about their work on the 'hockey stick' papers (Mann et al (1998) and Mann et al (1999)) as well as an enormous amount of irrelevant material not connected to these studies.

Many in the scientific community would welcome any genuine interest in climate change from the committee, but the tone and content of these letters have alarmed many scientists and their professional organisations. In the words of Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Barton letters "give the impression of a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding." Other organisations and individual scientists have also expressed strong concerns:
Barton's letters look more like an attempt to intimidate that gather information. Schmidt and Rahmstorf's story includes includes links to the replies and the devastating mountain of evidence they have produced. It's too much to hope that Barton or his staffers will read it, but we can.

How to Retire in Poverty

Mary Williams Walsh has an instructive article in the the Sunday New York Times analyzing How Wall Street Wrecked United's Pension. The short version: Wall Street talked United Airlines into following the pension strategy President Bush would have us all follow with Social Security. Of course there is no danger that the perps of this particular scam will be held to account by the Administration or the Republican Congress.

While the money managers and other pension professionals who ran United's pension plan walked away from the wreck unscathed - indeed, they collected about $125 million in fees over the last five years alone, records show - the ones who will have to pick up the bill for the advisers' collective failure will be the airline's 130,000 employees and pensioners, the federal pension guarantor and probably, someday, the taxpayers.
It's easy to forget that while the stock market is a crucial component of democratic capitalism, there are always many who will try to turn it into a collossal Ponzi scheme. This is only possible if those whose job it is to regulate and maintain transparency avert their eyes and permit it. The federal Pension Guarantee Corporation, and Congress are playing that role now. Our political class has become so dependent on bribes (usually campaign contributions, but the other kind too - see e.g. Rep Cunningham) from the financial community that they fear to even look at how it makes its money.
While the federal agency tries to pinpoint its obligations, apparently no one in an official capacity is pausing to ask who the plans' outside investment professionals were, much less how they made their decisions and how they responded as the airline's fortunes faded.

"It's just a nonstarter," said Richard A. Ippolito, the pension agency's former chief economist, who is now retired. A few years ago, he recalled, a director of the federal pension agency appeared before Congress and suggested that if companies wanted to invest their pension funds in stocks, they should pay more for their pension insurance coverage.

"I could politely say that he was vilified," he said. "They basically accused him of being un-American because he was asking companies to pay for the privilege of investing in stocks. He just dropped that idea."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Betrayal and Perjury

Friday's Washington Post has an editorial that is a modest step toward making the Post a responsible paper again. The Truth About Abu Ghraib lays out the case that the Abu Ghraib abuses were indeed orchestrated from the top of the Bush administration and expecially that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller perjured himself in testimony before Congress and betrayed the soldiers that it was his duty to lead.

FOR 15 MONTHS now the Bush administration has insisted that the horrific photographs of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the result of freelance behavior by low-level personnel and had nothing to do with its policies. In this the White House has been enthusiastically supported by the Army brass, which has conducted investigations documenting hundreds of cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denies that any of its senior officers are culpable. For some time these implacable positions have been glaringly at odds with the known facts. In the past few days, those facts have grown harder to ignore.
The evidence has arisen from the investigations and from testimony at the trials of the low level enlistees designated to take the fall.
On Wednesday, the former warden of Abu Ghraib, Maj. David DiNenna, testified that the use of dogs for interrogation was recommended by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison who was dispatched by the Pentagon to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 to review the handling and interrogation of prisoners. On Tuesday, a military interrogator testified that he had been trained in using dogs by a team sent to Iraq by Gen. Miller.

In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo.
It's clear that the objectional tactics (AKA war crimes) were based on policies approved by Rumsfeld and implemented throughout the military prison camps.
The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards -- which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling -- were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller. "We understood," Maj. DiNenna testified, "that [Gen. Miller] was sent over by the secretary of defense."
The Pentagon has conducted a series of investigations which always exonerate senior officers despite producing ever expanding evidence of high level culpability. The Republican controlled Congress has covered its eyes and held its nose to avoid seeing evil.

It's unsurprising that the military has steadfastly refused to pursue Miller's apparent perjury. After all, an officer who would sell out the men he was sworn to lead to save his own skin would hardly quail at giving up his superiors if push came to shove.

St. Vitus Dance

Re: previous post. Not sure I can recommend going to Lumo's web site in good conscience. His blog seems to send my computers into some kind of spastic fit. Not sure if that's a planned feature or what.

Next: Return to our regularly scheduled political rant.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Epistle and Response

Lubos Motl has both exceeded and confounded my expectations by producing an extensive and (mostly) polite response to Lee Smolin’s article discussed below. His response is partly positive in that he seems to accept that background independence might be a good thing, but he also has plenty of objections to the “relativistic” program of Leibniz and Smolin. Unfortunately, his response demonstrates his tendency to create and demolish strawmen instead of the real arguements.

First a point of philosophy: He doesn’t like Leibniz’s principle of “the identity of the indiscernible.”

On the other hand, Leibniz's "identity of the indiscernible" - which says that the objects with the same properties must be identified - is technically wrong in all theories we've been using in the last 300 years. If two objects/states A,B are related by a global symmetry transformation, they have the same properties but they must still be considered as two distinct objects (configurations or states in the Hilbert space) - two objects that are not equal (=) - otherwise the mathematics would break down.
I have very little idea what Lubos is talking about here, but it’s not recognizable as Leibniz’s principle. In fact, a central pillar of quantum statistics, and a profound difference from the classical case, is the idea that states that differ only by the interchange of otherwise identical particles are in fact the same state. Smolin doesn’t use the phrase “global symmetry” in his paper and I don’t see how it’s relevant here.

Also, adds Prof. Motl:
Obviously, not all physicists share my viewpoint that the verifiable truth is more important than the philosophical prejudices.

I think most physicists do share that viewpoint, and the viewpoint that philosophical ideas are heuristic guides to physics, not gold standards against which we can test our theories. Nature has too often confounded our sincerest philosophical prejudices.

The Cartesian coordinates, for example, look more fundamental than the angle between a bucket, Mercury, and a Mercedes, so why shouldn't we use them?

The answer Lubos, as you know very well, is that we should use them when they work, for example on a sheet of paper, but not when they don’t, as on the surface of the Earth, say, or in curved spacetime.

Mach’s Principle

Mach’s principle is a major battleground for our protagonists. Smolin notes that General Relativity is Machian only if the spatial topology is compact, that is, finite but unbounded. Lubos ignores this distinction and launches a rambling attack claiming GR is not Machian.
But eventually, General Relativity had killed Mach's principle.

Mach's principle has not only been challenged: it became one of the weird prejudices that often leads you to wrong conclusions. Mach's principle was the main reason why so many people in the 1960s thought that the gravitational waves could not exist in GR; they thought that all such solutions always had to be pure gauge which means that they could be transformed into flat space by a coordinate transformation.
This is an example of the unfortunately frequent and invalid rhetorical technique of our author. The fact that some misguided persons misinterpreted GR and Mach’s principle to come to a false conclusion is not a valid argument against either. The real argument against Mach’s principle is that it doesn’t work when we have boundary conditions – of course we don’t know if this is true of the actual universe or not.
An attempt to revive Mach's principle means to argue that the gravitational waves do not exist.

This is simply not true.

Motl seems to be under the impression that Smolin is claiming that diffeomorphism invariance is not a gauge symmetry. Motl: “It is definitely a misunderstanding to assign the diffeomorphism invariance with a philosophically deeper role than the Yang-Mills symmetry has, for example. Both of them are local symmetries - redundancies of the description.”

In fact, Smolin explicitly recognizes this fact, and it this very redundancy of description that leads him to seek background independent, in this case gauge invariant quantization.

That's all I have time or energy for right now, but maybe more later if I have the time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Paging Tom Friedman. I actually sort of liked your column today. You use a contemporary sports analogy to argue that it might be nice to have a leader in this country. One might object that leading a country is slightly tougher than leading of team of bikers whose paychecks you control, but whatever.

Wouldn't you think that if you were president, after you'd read the umpteenth story about premier U.S. companies, like Intel and Apple, building their newest factories, and even research facilities, in China, India or Ireland, that you'd summon the top U.S. business leaders to Washington to ask them just one question: "What do we have to do so you will keep your best jobs here? Make me a list and I will not rest until I get it enacted."
Course if they said "cut my taxes," what's a Prez to do?
Oh, well, maybe we have the leaders we deserve. Maybe we just want to admire Lance Armstrong, but not be Lance Armstrong. Too much work. Maybe that's the wristband we should be wearing: Live wrong. Party on. Pay later.
Also scary is the idea that we might have the press we deserve.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Epistle to the Boetians

Fundamental physics seems to have hit a bit of a flat spot, with Quantum Gravity being the most obvious target out there and proving rather obdurate. String Theory is what Sean Carroll called the "Microsoft" of quantum gravity theories, with a death grip on many prominent university faculties, while Loop Quantum Gravity plays the role of Apple. For reasons not entirely clear to me, the dispute between the theories has taken on some of the rancor and vitriol one expects in English or Sociology departments rather than physics. Each theory has found a few eloquent public expositors, but with little of the give and take one saw in the great physics controversies of the past - over relativity, quantum mechanics, the big bang, or even Regge pole theory.

String Theory plays its Microsoft role to the hilt, rarely even deigning to admit the existence of competitors, aside from a few more or less rabid attack dogs. LQG, though, has produced a number of intelligently argued criticisms and critiques, mostly by Lee Smolin and Carlo Rovelli - two central figures in the theory's development. Unfortunately, STists never seem to address these critiques.

Smolin has now produced a sort of "Epistle to the Boetians," addressed mainly to ST types, published in "their" section of the ArXiv, arguing for the necessity of what's called background independence.

It's 46 pages long, (with hardly any equations) so I will only give a couple of excerpts
Now here is my thesis, which it is the task of this essay to support:

The reason that we do not have a fundamental formulation of string theory, from which it might be possible to resolve the challenge posed by the landscape, is that it has been so far developed as a background dependent theory. This is despite there being compelling arguments that a fundamental theory must be background independent. Whether string theory turns out to describe nature or not, there are now few alternatives but to approach the problems of unification and quantum
gravity from a background independent perspective
One of the core elements of his arguement is that only a relational, background free theory can be free of boundary conditions or other things outside the domain of the theory. This seems true to me, but every physical theory we've had to date is of this form, so maybe that's all we should expect.

A more specific technical critique
Some string theorists have also claimed that string theory does not need a background independent formulation, because the fact that string perturbation theory is, in principle, defined on many different backgrounds is sufficient. This assertion rests on exaggeration and misunderstanding. FIrst, string perturbation theory is so far only defined on stationary backgrounds that have timelike killing fields. But this is a measure zero [set, I guess] of solutions
to the Einstein equations. It is, however, difficult to believe that a consistent string perturbation theory can be defined on generic solutions to the Einstein equations because, in the absence of timelike killing fields, one cannot have spacetime supersymmetry, without which the spectrum will generally contain a tachyon.
I have only begun to digest this paper, and am not competent to comment on the key issues, but it would be nice if some STer would make a careful, reasoned, and, ideally, collegial response to Smolin. I fear hell will freeze over first.

Emptying the Ocean

The estimable Brad Delong has some good posts up, including one on the National Review's undiscovery of the statistical method and another one deconstructing yet-another-lame-oh review of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel

Emptying the ocean of stupidity is Sisyphian work, but Brad wields a bigger spoon than most.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Try to Remember

Some noise machine has lately been promoting the notion that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in not *that* conservative. I'm not sure what to think of that story, but the nominee has responded to several inquiries by saying that he has no memory of being a member of the secretive conservative legal "Federalist Society." Charles Lane reports in yesterday's Washington Post that John Robert's name appears in the society's 1997-98 leadership directory. This would be an odd type of thing to "forget."

Roberts has burnished his legal image carefully. When news organizations have reported his membership in the society, he or others speaking on his behalf have sought corrections. Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group that he had no memory of belonging. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press printed corrections.
The oddity is that his widely reported membership could hardly have hurt his nomination, but if he has lied about that membership, the case becomes much harder.
In conservative circles, membership in or association with the society has become a badge of ideological and political reliability. Roberts's membership was routinely reported by news organizations in the context of his work in two GOP administrations and legal assistance to the party during the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida.
What's up with this?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Whose War is it, Anyway?

The NYT has an important article on a growing discontent in the military. It seems that even a professional military gets tired of being the only ones asked to sacrifice. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have acquitted themselves honorably in this regard. Many Democrats who think the war unwise cravenly decline to openly oppose it. Republicans, who almost universally have backed, boasted upon and defended the war have largely been too corrupt or cowardly to insist on committment from the entire Nation.

David C. Hendrickson, a scholar on foreign policy and the presidency at Colorado College, said, "Bush understands that the support of the public for war - especially the war in Iraq - is conditioned on demanding little of the public."
Thus, much, or everything, is demanded of the professional military while the promoters of the war stay home and profit mightily from their huge tax cuts, even while the country careers toward financial, political, and moral ruin.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Our friends on the right continue to defy satire. You just can't make this kind of stuff up.

Just look at the series of photographs they chose: young John in plaid pants, young John with his boys' school pals, young John in a wrestling suit with his fellow wrestlers, John with footballers, and -- the final pic -- John smiling in an all-male wedding photograph.
Supposedly a lefty plot to make our justice nominee look gay. (Via Political Animal and a daisy chain of left-right links.)

Orotund Tones

Some oddaments in search of a theme:

The new Scientific American has an article on the cosmic microwave background claiming that the power in the low spherical harmonics is less than inflation predicts. (Is the Universe out of tune?)

Meanwhile, I have heard that the fact that the density fluctuations in the early Universe are sound-wave-like has caught the interest of the Intelligent Design crowd. From Genesis 1

2 And the earth was without form except for quantum fluctuations, and void (not counting the dilaton field); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light, or more technically, thermal radiation, subsequently redshifted by cosmic expansion to about 2.7 Kelvins.
And the voice of God was propagated as sound waves on the deep. In combination with our first item, this would seem to imply that the Lord has a rather squeaky voice.

Finally, I happened to catch Sean Carroll of Preposterous Universe and Cosmic Variance on NPR the other day, talking about the Templeton Foundation. His (evidently ungodly) orotund tones seemed spookily familiar. Is it just me or has Sean inherited Carl Sagan's voice?

Hold it just a sec Sean - could you say "billions and billions?"

Friday, July 22, 2005


Tom Friedman has an Op Ed column that starts out with a seemingly reasonable suggestion:

We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others.
It's pretty clear that such a list could itself become a war propaganda tool, but maybe the times require that. His next suggestion feels a lot slimier though:
We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism, Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists and also deserve to be exposed.
He doesn't give any examples here, but it's not a stretch to imagine that he's talking about people like Juan Cole and Robert Pape whose actual work is not excuse making but analyzing the real and imagined goals and grudges that motivate the terrorists. It's not too surprising that Friedman, who wasn't interested in the 9/11 commission report, is similarly disinterested in any real analysis of what's going on in the Muslim world. Like the bishop who refused to look though Galileo's telescope for fear of seeing something that would challenge his faith, Friedman is profoundly uninterested in anything that would challenge his world view. Friedman is one of those unusual individuals who manages, despite a wealth of experience and education, to remain utterly shallow in his thinking.

He blathers on about a "war of ideas" but can only articulate the empty pieties of Bush and friends ("freedom," "democracy"). Worse though, is his failure to understand or even mention the ideas that the enemy wields - the fear of having their land stolen, their way of life shattered, their culture despoiled, and their religion trampled.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fries with that, Mr. Justice Roberts?

David Brooks, the reliable BushMob button man, makes disgusting love to the newly nominated Supreme Court Justice in his Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times: do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
A weak start, since math is not Dave's strong suit. He never does get a count.
I love thee because this is the way government is supposed to work...

...I love thee because John G. Roberts is the face of today's governing conservatism
Jeez Dave - take it to a motel will ya. How can I line my birdcage with this sheet if I've already barfed on it?

Meanwhile, the nominee's slim paper trail is emerging. Hugh Hewitt weighs in to celebrate the Justice designate's sterling legal reasoning in the case of the 12 year-old girl busted for eating a french fry. Robert's constitutional conclusions, slightly paraphrased: "If you can't do the stir, don't do the fry."

I know I'll sleep safer knowing our Capital's Metro is a fry free zone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deep Thought II

OK, so it was kind of nasty of me to make fun of Lumo's Deep Thoughts, even if he did ask for it by bringing in all sorts of irrelevant prejudices. So it's only fair that I give any readers an opportunity to return the favor by providing my own "deep thoughts."

To be counted as "deep," I consider that an idea needs to be both non-obvious (deep in the sense of hidden) and foundational, i.e. it must unify and provide the foundation for explanation of many phenomena. I will cheat by giving very well established examples:

1) The atomic hypothesis. Feynman said that if only one scientific idea could be saved, this was the one. It was formulated by the ancient Greeks, more than two millenia before anyone could devise any ways to test it.

2) Mathematics as "the" tool for explaining nature. Pythagoras was the first, but only a little further progress occurred before Kepler.

3) The method of postulate and proof in Geometry. This third gigantic Greek idea was influential immediately. It's power has grown over the centuries.

4) Analytic geometry. Combining geometry with algebra and arithmetic created modern mathematics.

5) Solar system dynamics as explained by Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. The first and greatest scientific success story.

6) Natural selection and the Origin of Species. Makes biology and human nature explicable.

Those, I think, are the real biggies, but there are a few more almost as important.

7) Atoms in chemistry - the Greek idea finally applied to real scientific predictions and phenomena.

8) The Electromagnetic Field. Foundational to the explanation of the behavior of ordinary matter as well as relativity, quantum theory, and modern field theories of matter. Probably the most important technological development since fire.

9) Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics - two beautiful ideas now seen as one.

10) Relativity

11) Quantum Mechanics

and one to take us almost up to the 21st century.

12) Gauge Field Theories - It seems so odd that redundancy of description should prove so fundamental to our current understanding of nature. It would be nice if some smart guy like Lumo could explain this.

Their are other deep ideas of course, but these 12, and especially the first six, are the prototypical examples.

Are there deep ideas in string theory? I can think of some candidates - the Kaluza-Klein idea (which of course predates strings), supersymmetry (also independent of strings) and maybe holography. LM doubtless has better candidates.

So what about Lubos's favorite whipping boy, Loop Quantum Gravity? The idea of making the holonomies the dynamical entities might fit (of course it predates LQG), and spin foams, if real, would surely qualify.

Needless to say, none of these latter two groups of ideas can be considered deep until they prove to describe reality, and on that, the jury is still out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Rightee-Oh John!

Bush's nominee for the Supremes looks like a hard right anti-abortion guy.

...those who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.
(via Josh Marshall .)

Should be interesting. I also suspect that Bush has hopes of distracting the press from Rove's political death throes. Fat chance.

Deep Thought

Long now has the might of Lumo brooded and chafed under the leash of Harvard PC. And from that brooding anger, he has nourished his powers to deeply probe the depths of thought. Deep is his thought and deep are the lessons he has wrested from the Universe.

Deep are the eigenvectors that Google uses to classify its links, and deep are the things upon which rich people choose to spend their money. Deep is String theory and Riemann's Zeta function.

Not deep are communism, progressivism, Islam, discrete mathematics, Loop Quantum Gravity, and prime numbers.

Deeply thinks the mighty Lumo and deeply does he write:

Deep ideas are those that are unique among conceivable similar statements at comparable levels of complexity and that are able to cover a large set of particular examples (models, phenomena, metaphenomena) and explain a large number of patterns using a small number of independent assumptions and parameters, especially if the deep ideas are inevitable. Whether or not a given idea is unique among ideas that a priori look analogous, may often require hours or years of calculations. These calculations are crucial because we must choose our deep ideas not only according to the impression they make in the first 3 minutes, but also according to their ability to offer us true insights in the long term.

Monday, July 18, 2005

%&#*ing Drudge!

About one out of two times I access Drudge, his stupid site crashes my IE. What's up with that?

Yeah, Yeah, I know - don't read him - but sometimes I do want to know what the right wing trash is talking about.

What's in a Name?

Is Karl Rove's bumbling lawyer Robert Luskin any relation to Donald Luskin, the guy who plays an inept economist in the National Review and other rightwing venues?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Villain

Many Shakespeare plays have a character who is seemingly wholly twisted and sinister. The characters may be motivated by envy and hatred, but mostly they just embody evil. Karl Rove might be a good choice for that role when Shakespeare writes up the current Administration. Nicolas Lehmann's New Yorker profile The Controller: Karl Rove is working to get George Bush reelected, but he has bigger plans tells a little of his history.

Frank Rich has a nice New York Times OpEd today that lays out the fundamentals of Rove's current scandal: Follow the Uranium.
Rich reminds us not to pay any attention to the crowd behind the curtain blowing smoke and talking loudly. The story isn't really Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Joe Wilson, Matt Cooper, or even Bob Novak.

This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.
The real story is the Administration's fraudulent basis for starting a costly war. Cheney, Rice, Powell, and Rove were out there lying and distorting, but let's not forget whose liars they all were.

Hired Gun vs PR Polly

Caught a little of Ken Mehlman vs. John Podesta on MTP, and of course Mehlman's job was to keep on saying that up is down. Podesta was pretty weak about pointing this out, though. Can't the Dems find some good litigator to do a better job of presenting their case?

Mehlman had zero - zip - nada, but Tim Russert (of course) was more interested in throwing him meaningless batting practice "What would Republicans have said if this had happened in the Clinton Administration," than pursuing obvious falsehoods and Podesta rarely roused himself from him torpor enough to contradict Mehlman.

How hard can it be to find somebody who can cut up a guy whose main talent is lying glibly? And why can't the Dems find a few?

Saturday, July 16, 2005


I don't have anything special against Hillary. Based on her enemies, I should even like her, but I can't back her for President, at least not in 2008.

There is a nasty dynastic streak creeping into US politics, and I really don't approve. The first clear modern hint might have been when Nixon's daughter married Eisenhower's grandson. With the Kennedy family, the dynastic tendency was clear, but it was the Bushs who achieved the Presidential one-two. It's very clear that the third Bush is already prepping for a run. It would be a disaster for democracy in America if one of the most secretive, corrupt, and dishonest families in our political history were to take control.

Hillary is not a threat of the same magnitude, but her candidacy against Bush, or even preparatory to a later Bush run, would validate the dynastic impulse, and make it much harder to run against a Bush dynasty. There must be somebody else the Democrats can run.

Friday, July 15, 2005


The scientific basis of the origin of life is not yet understood. If the intelligent design (ID) crowd wants to stake a claim there, they have my blessing, for what it's worth (nothing). It would be nice if they made a testable prediction.

Meanwhile, scientists will continue to try to understand the biology, chemistry, and physics of the origin of life. I expect substantial progress along this line of attack in the next two decades or so.

Concerning the evolution of life since that long ago origin, ID has got nothing. All the known data on the origin and development of species are consistent with Darwinian evolution.

In the unlikely event that any IDers read this, please try to understand the second law of thermodynamics before you start citing it. A couple of good places that should provide adequate explanation are Sear's An introduction to thermodynamics, the kinetic theory of gases, and statistical mechanics or Kittel and Kroemer's Thermal Physics . Talk to me when you can do the problems.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Goebbels vs. Rove

Who is the master of The Big Lie? Stalin and Goebbels are probably still the champs, but Rove and the Republican "noise machine" are competing vigorously. Josh Marshall has some of the current details. An excerpt:

I think it's only late in the evening, when the email traffic slows and the other distractions fade, that I can really see and marvel at the collosus that is, as Brock calls it, the Republican noise machine, with its ferocity that is only surpassed by its nihilism.

Now we can see in full view what we've seen again and again in recent years, the favored tactic: terror by grand moral inversion, the lie so total and audacious that it almost knocks opponents off their feet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bad Emily

After playing nice for a few days Emily is starting to show the potential to become a real bitch.

Supremely Right

According to the New York Times, Bush Says He Might Consider Newcomers for High Court.

In fact, said Bush:

"Would I be willing to consider people who had never been a judge?" Mr. Bush said. "And the answer is, 'You bet.' "

Mr. Bush said he had had "a very good meeting" on Tuesday with Senate leaders of both parties, who had encouraged him to look beyond the federal judiciary for candidates to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"We're considering all kind of people," Mr. Bush said after a Cabinet meeting today. "Judges, non-judges. Laura gave me some good advice yesterday, which is to consider women. Which, of course I'm doing." First Lady Laura Bush said she would be pleased if... nominated to fill Justice O'Connor's seat.
We have received word that, should Chief Justice Rehnquist also leave, Karl Rove is likely to nominated for the post. He is considered a dependable conservative, but a recess appointment might be needed.

In some cases we have adopted Ken Mehlman style quotation in this piece.

Suicide Bombing II

The news this morning that the London Bombers were apparently suicide bombers of British citizenship and Pakastani descent is very bad news indeed - bad news for Britain, Europe, the US and especially for all their Muslim populations. It severely undermines the thesis outlined in my two preceeding posts and suggests that al Quaeda terrorism is indeed morphing into the religious war bin Laden has always coveted. At the minimum, this will probably cost us all some civil liberties, and for Muslims living in Europe, the ultimate threat is expulsion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Suicide Bombing

Via Kevin Drum Michael Scheuer, the former CIA analyst and author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
reviews Robert Pape's book Dying to Win : The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.

Pape and colleagues have made a study of all the suicides terrorist incidents of recent history, and the facts compelling refute the glib nonsense spouted by Bush and friends. Some excerpts from Scheuer's book review:

In scholarly and low-key prose, Pape delivers the results of his own extensive research and that done by the University of Chicago's Project on Suicide Terrorism. In so doing, Pape demolishes the relentlessly repeated assertion of the neoconservatives and Israeli politicians that Islamist suicide attacks against America and other counties are launched by undereducated, unemployed, alienated, apocalyptic fanatics who are eager to kill themselves because Americans vote, have civil liberties, and allow women to drive cars. This assertion always has been transparently false, and I have argued so in my own work on al-Qaeda. It has been, however, an assertion that is easy to protect because its authors simply dismiss their critics by calling them anti-Semites, thereby foreclosing debate. But Pape avoids contentious rhetoric and employs facts to kill the assertion, and he does so coolly and with the precision of a Marine sniper.
And, from Pape
...what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland...
If Scheuer and Pape are correct, trying to impose "democracy" and our culture on unwilling others at gunpoint is exactly the most wrongheaded strategy possible. Scheuer advocates instead
For near-term self-defense, America must kill as many of this generation of terrorists as possible while simultaneously beginning to terminate the interventionist policies and presence that motivate our present enemies ...

Monday, July 11, 2005

The War against Freedom

If you are the type to occasionally tire of our President's endless hypocritical nonsense, subject as above, you might want to check out Juan Cole's Jerusalem and Terrorism. I consider Cole an indispensable resource on all things Middle East and Muslim, doing, among other things, the work that Tom Friedman could do if he wasn't such a shit.

Sorry Tom, that just slipped out. I'm sure your study of the Flat Earth will, sometime in the future, be deservedly forgotten, allowing your more substantial works to be once again appreciated.

I strongly recommend Juan's post, which starts with

The Ariel Sharon government in Israel has announced that it will build a huge wall on someone else's land through Jerusalem, cutting off 55,000 Arabs from the city (they'll have to go through nasty Israeli checkpoints every day to get into their own city!)

However you feel about the morality of this
And, folks, this sort of thing, which the Washington Post didn't even notice, may very well get you and me killed. I think what Sharon is doing is morally and politically wrong to begin with. But I sure as hell resent the possibility that I or my family is going to get blown up because of it.
The larger point is that terrorism is not motivated by hatred of freedom, but by more specific injuries, mostly real. Most especially
...Chicago political scientist Robert Pape has shown that the vast majority of suicide bombings in the past 30 years have come in response to foreign military occupation (or what the terorists perceived as such).
Knowing your enemy, and his motives, is a first principle of warfare, not a liberal affectation. Propagating lies and nonsense, by contrast, is the first principle of tyranny.

Wishes and Fishes

I once heard that some survey had asked a bunch of people:

If you could have one superpower, either the ability to read minds or the ability to fly, which would you choose?
Now the interesting part for me was that younger people mostly chose mind reading, while older ones strongly preferred flying. I think I understand this pretty well. There is probably some good evolutionary region why young people care about what others think. Us oldsters, on the other hand, feel we pretty much know what other people are thinking, and it's just not that interesting. Gravity, on the other hand, is getting to be a bigger and bigger nuisance.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Steino delenda est!

Via Kevin Drum, the LA Times apparently has a lame-name (Current) new Sunday Op section today, featuring pieces by various nutbags of several stripes plus aspiring humorist Joel Stein's Hogwarts fans, you're stupid, stupid, stupid. Stein's column has a few mildly amusing lines:

I read 50 pages of the first "Harry Potter" book, and it seemed witty, imaginative and fast-paced...has a reading-level that is only slightly above this column.

You won't have to wait in line for "Ulysses."
Having twisted the tiger's tail, Joel might want to be a bit careful next time he goes into a bar in Knockturn Alley. Or anywhere else.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Terminal Boredom

Well I just took one of those stupid online personality diagnostics and it revealed (once again!) that I am boring. This is a pretty serious downer for me since one of my problems with most people is that they are so boring.

Boring is a grim diagnosis with not much hope of recovery. Is there psycho-surgery for being boring? I'd like to spend more time agonizing about this but that would be too boring.

What's the worst thing about being a termite?


What do people hate about termite parties?


What weighs 8000 pounds and is really boring?

An elephant telling termite jokes.

Heritage Hackery Ph.D.

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., and John Hulsman, Ph.D., have produced a bombastic bit of Heritage hackery-flackery about the London Bombings (via Kevin Drum). Their feckless posturing would actually be comical, if the subject weren't so tragic.

By striking London, al Qaeda hoped to achieve a three-pronged propaganda success. First, it planned to disrupt the Group of 8 (G-8) meeting, a symbol of the most powerful Western leaders in the world. As is already clear, that aim has failed. Second, it hopes for the ‘Spanish effect,’ to alienate the British public from its government, as was so successful in Madrid. Here, too, the terrorists are bound to fail, for they have underestimated the strength and resolve of the British people.
Given your insight into motive and plan guys, could you maybe come up with names and addresses of the perps?
...when the chips are down the U.S. and UK, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, come out shooting together.
I guess they must think they have some constituency with which this crap resonates. Oh! Never mind. Bring it on! Dead or alive! Or maybe if we ever get around to it.
Prime Minister Tony Blair is no Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
I got to give you a win on points there. If Blair is analogous with anyone, it might be with Zapatero's predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, who got tossed out after lying about who did the Madrid bombings.
...Special forces operations, strategic air strikes, and the targeted elimination of terrorist leaders must all be on the table...
Good plan - could we start with Osama bin Laden - remember him?
Make no mistake, this is an epic war between civilization and the barbaric forces that wish its destruction.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Beat those drums of bombast! Too bad everything you say is a crock of shit.
The terrorists’ fatal conceit is similar to that of the Kaiser, Hitler, and Stalin: underestimating the power and determination of the Anglo-Saxon peoples.
I think the Kaiser was Saxon, wasn't he? And Hitler was another German. I think they may have overestimated those Saxons and other Germans. What a lame-brain, preposterous analogy.

So when should we invade France? Now or wait till after the Tour?

The most notable feature of this article is its total inanity. At no point is there any realistic consideration of how this terrorism was carried out or what might be done to prevent future attacks. Just close your eyes and repeat very loudly "war of Civilization."

CapitalistImperialistPig, Ph.D.


Gauge freedom to be specific. Charles H. Lineweaver and Tamara M. Davis wrote a nice article in the March Scientific American on Misconceptions about the Big Bang. One of their unifying themes was the idea that expansion of the Universe should be seen as "expansion of space" rather than "expansion through space." This is also a theme for Brian Greene in his excellent popular book The Fabric of the Cosmos as well as for blogger and cosmologist Sean Carroll in his textbook Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity (also excellent). Nonetheless, it bothered me, and I even got into a debate on the subject on Lubos Motl's blog.

Thus I was gratified when this month's Scientific American included a letter from James Bjorken (yes, that James Bjorken) stating

...the concept of expansion of space as opposed to expansion through space is a "gauge choice" - it depends on the coordinates chosen.
One of the cardinal principles of Einstein's GR is "general covariance" - the theory is independent of the choice of coordinates. Lineweaver and Davis concede Bjorken's point but then compound their error by saying:
We could use systems [of coordinates] that abandon expanding space in favor of expansion through space, but they also abandon well-established principles, such as the homogeneity of the universe and Hubble's law.
No and No. It's true that homogeneity and Hubble's law are more conveniently described in Friedman Robertson Walker [expansion of space] coordinates, but GR is quite clear that choosing different coordinates doesn't change the physics - we really are free to choose the gauge. On the positive side, they did provide another inadvertant example of their thesis that even Astronomers (and Cosmologists) can be confused about the Big Bang.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Intelligent Design

I'm sure some will be disappointed, but I personally am somewhat relieved that the Catholic Church, in keeping with its long tradition, has come down firmly on the side of ignorance and superstition in the matter of Darwinian evolution. Cardinal Schonbrun, Archbishop of Vienna and lead author of the 1992 Catholic Catechism, explains it all in the above linked New York Times Op-Ed. He pretty forthrightly ties the ID albatross around the Church's neck as follows:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.
Perhaps this will cheer up the IDers, but it should also remind the rest of us what a backward and decadent force this institution created in imitation of the Roman Empire really is.

The Cardinal adds:
Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason ...
Like it did when it burned Bruno and imprisoned Galileo for the ridiculous claim that the Earth went around the Sun rather than vice versa. Come to think of it, though, it finally conceded Galileo had a point sometime in the middle of the Twentieth century.

I think we can think of this Op-Ed as kind of a confession that their story can't really endure against what Daniel Dennett called the "universal acid" of "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."

Militant Christianity

Out for a postprandial stroll this evening, I spotted four young people on the opposite side of the street, coming in my general direction. When they changed course to cross the street toward me, my primitive reflexes activated and I did some quick mental computation - four of them, one of me (ok, so two of them were girls); they looked youthful and muscular, I was old and fat; on the other hand, this is a safe neighborhood, I'm still big, and my hiking staff has a (dull) point.

Their apparent leader, a muscular and shirtless youth, accosted me with a greeting and a leaflet. I was invited to a Bible study group in someone's apartment; and, did I "have a personal relationship with Jesus?"

This was a bit of a tough question for me. The truth is, I only know the guy from his books, movies, and television commercials. On the other hand, whatever they claimed, I was pretty sure the same was true of each of them. My reptilian brain reviewed the arithmetic, cravenly said "Yes," and sent me on my way.

Once home, I read their leaflet:

Are things falling apart?
Well duh! Or should I say damn right?
No answers?
Well of course I have answers - I'm a blogger! Maybe not correct answers, but they didn't look like they were likely to shed much illumination on the questions that really interested me in any case.
No hope?
I'm just a dope for a thing called hope, with apologies to Mary Martin et. al.

And the free food probably wasn't that good anyway.

Gloomy thoughts of London

I don't often like Tom Friedman's NYT columns, but he has good points today. If, as seems likely, the London bombings were the work of Islamic jihadists, like those in Madrid, Bali, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, then it's every Muslim's problem as well as ours.

Every Muslim living in a Western society suddenly becomes a suspect, becomes a potential walking bomb. And when that happens, it means Western countries are going to be tempted to crack down even harder on their own Muslim populations.
Friedman's message is that every Muslim must start seeing this as his or her problem: is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult...

... the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed.
If Muslims cannot or will not control their own, then inevitably they will be controlled by measures that do great damage to our democracies as well as to Muslims. Restrictions, deprivation of civil rights, mass detentions and outright expulsion are all potential consequences.

Right now it's clear that many in the Islamic communities would rather fan the flames than man the bucket brigade, but more in a future post on why it will be difficult to stop terror even should that change.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Kevin Drum had two posts up on the London Bombings, the first a link, and the second:

A WISH....If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?
Needless to say, this was not a wish the tooth fairy could grant. Instead the right (and subsequently, the left) spewed out their furious hatred - not of the perpetrators, but of their fellow Americans. A few samples:
It's liberals like you which caused the bombings in London. Your constant clamoring about how America is losing in Iraq has only emboldened the terrorists to attack us only more because they believe they can win now...
And perhaps it was Yoda who said:
Dumbass bastards you are.

Got that low life, spineless libs?
And from the fair sex:
Some on the left felt compelled to castigate Kevin for his wish:
...Kevin is liking the money he's getting for falling in line with the mainstream voice and the recognition of being part of the media blogging world.

Why does anybody who appreciates the independence of blogging come here? Kevin is a stooge for the powers that be. Who is served by Kevin's point of view? Not anybody who is a potential victim of terrorism...
Guess what my friends, when American rages hatefully against American and liberal spews vicious bile on liberal, the terrorists have already won.

Others had more reasonable and compassionate views, but one thing I haven't seen is a thoughtful analysis of how to deal with this kind of threat.

March of Folly

Michael Sheuer, the former CIA analyst and author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror
was on NPR this morning, saying that the London transit attacks look like the result of Blair's and Bush's lies and failures to confront the true nature of al Quaeda and failure to focus on destroying it. He also warned that other countries are even more vulnerable. The threat will remain as long as our leaders continue to feed us nonsense like the idea that al Quaeda is attacking "freedom itself" and fail to even acknowledge its real motives and base of support.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Give us a hint Big Guy!

Suppose God decided to give evolutionists a subtle hint that they had been barking up the wrong tree in failing to believe the account in Genesis. What kinds of clues could he give that don't change everything we've already learned? I have a couple of ideas, but maybe others could contribute their own.

1) A new species of non-microscopic animal or plant is found which has no relation to existing species - different genetic code, different cellular mechanisms, etc.

2) Remains of modern animals are found in, say, pre-Cambrian rocks - and have pre-Cambrian radiodates.

3) A Biblical age manuscript is found in which God outlines his reasons equipping all life with the same genetic codes and systems, and creating a perfect simulacrum of evolution, i.e., why he is working so hard at fooling us.

This is hard work. It's very hard to think of possibilities that haven't been checked and rechecked.

Malice Aforethought

George Bush projects to the world the image of a slow and inarticulate dolt, though some have suggested that this superficial impression is misleading. Tony Blair is very much opposite, quick-witted and highly articulate. I suppose it's possible that this impression is equally unfounded. The Downing Street memos seem to confirm, though, that whatever their IQs, both are devious, unprincipled and dishonest.

Terry Gross had an interview on today (recorded yesterday) with Michael Smith, the reporter who broke the story of the memos. It's a good interview and I recommend it. It's clear now that Blair had been amply warned of the bad consequences of the war and the war's illegality. Nonetheless, Bush and Blair were determined to have their war, apparently for political reasons. I'm not sure how or whether Labour is likely to dump Blair, but a new Zogby poll shows that a lot of Americans think Bush should be impeached if he misled us into war, as surely he did.

In a sign of the continuing partisan division of the nation, more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment...

Among those living in the Western states, a 52% majority favors Congress using the impeachment mechanism while just 41% are opposed...
Of course it can't happen in this age of the world, and even if a bizarre alignment of the planets should allow the Democrats to regain control of the House (or both House and Senate) in 2006, there would be little chance of success. It might be nice to see his deceptions investigated though.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Fashion Show

Kevin Drum has three posts up on his Political Animal blog taking down Diane Ravitch's Wall Street Journal Op-Ed take down of "Ethnomathematics," which is apparently some new conservative bugaboo, if more or less invisible in schools. Ravitch made the mistake of actually including a couple of specifics in her piece, based on some sloppy scholarship by some Hoover Institute propagandists, and which Kevin was able to show was total crap.

This was cool, of course, but even more interesting was the discussion of education, algebra books, and math teaching that followed in the comments. One thread was the size, cost and general bloat of textbooks, even those for elementary students. Another was the ever changing fads that sweep education.

Education, in the US at least, is a fashion industry. Textbook publishers and their co-conspirators, the education colleges, are always looking for a new gimmick to make the old books (and other media) obsolete. This is actually a bad idea, but I'm not sure how to combat it, short of national education standards.

Strategic Rivals II

Brad Delong has a post up on the US China "rivalry". It contains a lot of good stuff, including examples of where accomodation worked and failed. He argues:

The most important point, however, is that both Germany's and Japan's decisions to go to war were catastrophic mistakes. They lost. Moreover, Norman Angell was right: the decision to risk war was overwhelmingly stupid. They would still have been catastrophic decisions even had Germany or Japan won: nothing Germany could have gained from victory in World War I or Japan from victory in World War II would have been worth the suffering.
Worth it to whom is always the question. For most of human existence, a major cause of premature adult death has been homicide. There is plenty of anthropological and zoological evidence that warfare is a basic instinct of humans and their close relatives, the chimpanzees.

Economics uninformed by biology and anthropology can't explain warfare. For various reasons modern warfare may be less evolutionarily advantageous than in the past, but consider one data point. In all the lands conquered by Genghis Khan, about 8 percent of the population can trace it's male ancestry directly to him or his close male relatives. Genetically speaking, he hit the jackpot - leaving about 800,000 times as many progeny today as his average contemporary. Much more recently, Ibn Saud, who conquered and unified Arabia in the last century, already has probably several thousand times as many descendants as his average contemporary.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Strategic Rivals

Alex Tabarrok has whipped himself into a froth over a recent Paul Krugman column occasioned by the Chinese bid for Unocal Krugman: Illiberal Demagogue. I've linked approvingly to his stuff in the past so it pains me to say that his post is total crap, and dishonest crap at that. His agrievement:

Paul Krugman used to be a liberal economist; no longer. His abandonment of economics has long been plain, Krugman's abandonment of liberalism was announced in yesterday's commentary on China.

What really upset me about Krugman's column is not the bizarre economics but the illiberal politics...
In support of the charge of his second sentence, he invokes this (in my opinion, totally dishonest) "Open Letter" posted by Arnold Kling.

So never mind that first slander, lets get on to what really gets Alex's panties in a knot:

In the last twenty years China's economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and nearly unspeakable deprivation. China's abandonment of communism is one of the great humanitarian events of all time. And what does Krugman have to say about this improvement in well being? (I paraphrase).

'Watch out. Now is the time to panic. Their gain is your loss.'

Where I come from, this kind of "paraphrasing" is called lying. Krugman says nothing like that - please read and decide for yourself. I do agree that China's adoption of Capitalism has had a lot of benefits, but we need to remember that China's capitalism is a totalitarian, essentially fascist, version of capitalism.

So what did Krugman really say to provoke Tabarrok's frenzy?

China, unlike Japan, really does seem to be emerging as America's strategic rival and a competitor for scarce resources...

To Tabarrok, this invokes hideous demons of mercantilism and imperialism. To me, it's a recognition of an extremely obvious fact of human existence - nations do compete for control of resources, and those that lose out, die out. He concludes with a nice sentiment from Adam Smith, advocating the advantages of all living and trading peacefully, a sentiment that I'm confident that Krugman shares with Adam, Alex, and the Pig. I'm pretty sure that Smith's sentiment did not include collaborating in your own destruction. If you are playing nice and the other guy is playing a fiercer game, guess who loses. Krugman's conclusion, which, by the way, is much more about the deficiencies of the current American government than about China:

Unocal sounds, in other words, like exactly the kind of company the Chinese government might want to control if it envisions a sort of "great game" in which major economic powers scramble for access to far-flung oil and natural gas reserves. (Buying a company is a lot cheaper, in lives and money, than invading an oil-producing country.) So the Unocal story gains extra resonance from the latest surge in oil prices.

If it were up to me, I'd block the Chinese bid for Unocal. But it would be a lot easier to take that position if the United States weren't so dependent on China right now, not just to buy our I.O.U.'s, but to help us deal with North Korea now that our military is bogged down in Iraq.

Preemptive Strike

Aaron Aardvark, a commenter on this Kevin Drum post suggests of the fingering of Rove that

This whole thing is sounding more and more like a typical Rovian preemptive strike. Rove "leaks" a story that is soon discredited. The result slops over to the whole Plame affair. Same thing he did with the Texas ANG papers.
Kevin has a new post on the Michael Isikoff Newsweek story and there's not much there there.

I think Aaron may be right. I hope not, but the fingerprints look familiar.

The Frogs go Marching

Lawrence O'Donnell at The Huffington Post (via Kevin Drum):

I revealed in yesterday's taping of the McLaughlin Group that Time magazine's emails will reveal that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source. I have known this for months but didn't want to say it at a time that would risk me getting dragged into the grand jury.

...I know Newsweek is working on an 'It's Rove!' story and will probably break it tomorrow.
If Rove really is the protectee, then Cooper and Miller should go to the slammer. That would make them part of the conspiracy. (That's an angry reaction, not a legally informed opinion).

The Duke in Stir?

It's usually not a good sign when Federal agents break the locks to search your house. So when it happens to a congressman, you might think it would be big news in DC - but not so to the Washington Post. Fortunately, Josh Marshall is all over this one. He's getting a lot of his information from this Mark Walker story (and other stories) in the North County Times, so at least part of the Fourth Estate is on the job, even if the NYT and WaPo have chosen to sit this one out.

With evidence piling up, U.S. Rep. Randy "the Dukester" Cunningham (R, San Diego) looks increasingly like he might have a long term assignment with the Federal government even if he does lose his Congressional seat. The former "top-gun" fighter pilot and business associates have drawn coordinated raids in several locations - see Josh for the rundown.