Monday, September 29, 2008

Olmert: Israel must hand back land for peace with Palestinians and Syria

Via Guardian.

Outgoing PM says in newspaper interview there will be no deals without withdrawing from 'almost all' land captured in 1967 war

The outgoing prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, has said his country will have to withdraw from "almost all" the land it captured in the 1967 war and divide Jerusalem in order to agree long-awaited peace deals with the Palestinians and Syria.

His comments, which were unusually far-reaching for an Israeli leader, came in an interview with an Israeli newspaper ahead of the Jewish new year and days after his resignation. He remains in his post in a caretaker capacity and is thought unlikely to be able to follow through with any of the proposals he has made.

In the long interview with two senior political columnists at the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Olmert talked about peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians and continued to maintain his innocence over a series of high-profile corruption investigations that in the end pushed him to step down.

His most striking words came on the Palestinian issue. "We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories," Olmert said. "We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace."

Israel wants to keep some of the main settlement blocs in the West Bank, but in return for any occupied land Israel keeps the Palestinians want a land swap for territory of equal size and quality within Israel. If a peace deal is ever struck, that land swap would probably include a corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank.

At another point, Olmert said: "In the end, we will have to withdraw from the lion's share of the territories, and for the territories we leave in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the State of Israel at a ratio that is more or less 1:1."

Olmert said the withdrawal would have to include parts of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. "Whoever wants to hold on to all of the city's territory will have to bring 270,000 Arabs inside the fences of sovereign Israel. It won't work," he said. The prospect of dividing Jerusalem remains hugely contentious within Israel, although few believe a peace deal could work without a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

On Syria, he said his government began secret talks in February last year and said he believed that Israel would have to give up the Golan Heights in return for Syria breaking its relationship with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Olmert admitted his comments were rare. "What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me. The time has come to say these things." He seemed to admit his thinking in the past had been mistaken, particularly on his previous belief that Jerusalem should remain wholly inside Israel. "I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth," he said.

Olmert has taken a similar tone in several speeches since resigning, although he went further in this interview than before.

He has been in office since early 2006 and although peace talks have been under way with the Syrians and, for the past year, the Palestinians, there has been no concrete progress. Instead, Jewish settlements have continued to expand in the West Bank and the number of roadblocks and checkpoints has increased. Olmert has put off talks on the future of Jerusalem and adamantly refused to allow any Palestinian refugees to return to what is now Israel, even though both are core issues to be negotiated in peace talks.

Rather than being remembered for peace negotiations, Olmert is more likely to be remembered as an unpopular prime minister who was strongly criticised for his handling of the war in Lebanon in 2006 and who faced a long series of embarrassing corruption investigations - although no charges have yet been brought.

The two journalists who interviewed Olmert, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, wrote that his goal was to leave a legacy, defend his conduct and perhaps pave the way for a return to political office in the future. "He places on the doorstep of his successor a foreign policy doctrine, the likes of which has never been spoken by an incumbent prime minister," they wrote.

They said it was legacy that might make life harder for Tzipi Livni, who replaced Olmert as the head of the ruling Kadima party and is now trying to form a coalition government that would make her prime minister. She would be called on to either back or reject Olmert's proposals and, as Barnea and Shiffer noted, "there is no diplomatic fog in this interview that she can hide behind".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I'm in love with Naomi Klein...

NaomiNo, not really. Well, maybe just a little bit. Let me put it this way: I felt a tingle, definitely.

As any respectable 'Leftist' I had to read some of Naomi's stuff. Not all of it. Some of it. Much I liked, other stuff I found far-fetched and sometimes seriously OTT. But when I see another one of these typically impeccably groomed US military industrial complex types from this neocon finkfank or other proclaim everything is now fine in Iraq, I find myself all of a sudden agreeing wholeheartedly with Naomi Klein and cohorts. And grabbing my copy of "The Schock Doctrine"...

But that's not the reason for my heart's slight flutter. Saturday night I watched her being interviewed by Riz Khan (it was just before Larry King's interview with Ahmedinejad). Never quite before stopped to think what she looked like. Well, she's cute, disarmingly so. I'd have definitely fancied her if she was my classmate. Or the girl next door...

And my marriage is safe because Naomi is already married, to that cheeky chappy from Aljazeera's Inside USA, Avi Lewis. Naomi, if things go wrong between you and Avi, I'm here. We can talk. Have a cupper. And I'm not Jewish but I'm better looking than Avi, so there...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Econo-comic relief with Red State Update...

Put your hands together for the inimitable Jackie Broyles and Dunlap, on the pending economic bail out:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain's debate ploy

Michael Tomasky - Guardian America

A move so unserious, contemptible and cynical that it's hard to imagine how they even thought of it

Since John McCain so desperately and obviously wanted to change the subject, permit me to begin by not taking the bait and not changing the subject.

Wednesday was the worst day of the campaign for McCain. The revelations about Rick Davis' firm doing lobbying work for Freddie Mac had the potential, and still may have the potential, to cost Davis his job. Certainly the story had the potential to eat up a lot of cable television time over the next two days. Over the long term, and most importantly, the story has the power, if used properly by the Democrats, to dissolve any morsel of credibility McCain had on the subject of dealing with the current fiscal crisis.

So keep that straight. The cable coverage of McCain's ridiculous gambit about suspending his campaign and delaying Friday night's debate is not making that link explicit, because that's just not the sort of thing television does except when it really slaps them in the face, like when Bill Clinton bombed Sudan the night the House of Representatives voted the impeachment articles.

But I can guarantee you, if you think the McCain brain trust wasn't manically trying to conjure up a way to wriggle out of the Davis mess and hand the media a new story to yak about, then I have a non-bridge in Alaska to non-sell you.

This was also the day when the Washington Post and ABC released a poll showing McCain nine points behind Barack Obama. On Hardball, Chris Matthews is, to his credit, making this connection: that McCain is changing the subject because he's dropping in the polls. In fact the desperation of McCain's move makes one think that maybe his own internal polls show a gloomier picture still.

What a joke. What an unserious and contemptible joke. And so typically dishonest. Now that Obama has spoken, we know that it was Obama who called McCain, first suggesting that the two issue a bipartisan joint statement on the crisis. This obviously got McCain and Steve Schmidt thinking. Hey, maybe we can put country first here and … oops, scratch that. Since we're in such a tight spot today anyway, maybe we can put naked politics first here and go public, steal his thunder, act like we were the white hats who came up with the idea. Yeah! And while we're at it, let's take it a step further. Let's don the sack cloth of piety and insist that we feel this is so important we even think the debate should be suspended.

Think about the kind of mind that's required to even think up something like this. I could never think up something like this. Most average people, of whatever political persuasion, could never do it. Some pundits are talking about desperation and Hail Mary passes and so on, but that doesn't really begin to describe the deviousness at work here.

This is like a man who gets caught cheating on his wife and then, with his back against the wall and with confrontation looming, goes out and intentionally wrecks the car, contriving to break a few ribs and get rushed to the hospital, all to delay the inevitable conflict and in the cynical knowledge that, in front of the doctors and until the wounds are bound, the wife will be forced to offer sympathy. Males are messed up creatures, but believe me, only a rather small percentage of us is really capable of thinking this connivingly.

Will it work? I don't think so. Granted, 98% of Americans don't know about the Rick Davis story, and probably around 90% don't know about the Washington Post poll. So some people may buy it. But I don't believe most will. It just looks too sneaky. Even if one doesn't smell desperation, the odor of weirdness is all over the move.

And it looks unpresidential. Obama came out and looked presidential. Presidents need to be able to handle two problems at once, he said. Now is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from us. We both have big planes. They can get us from Washington to Mississippi pretty quickly if need be. His press conference offered, in fact, a good look at how he would be as president. He seeks non-confrontation. But he slips his points in steadily and coolly. Pretty smooth performance.

And he seems to be winning. Perhaps inevitably, one polling outfit did a snap poll on all this. Results?

Hold the debate as scheduled: 50%

Hold it but focus on the economy not foreign policy: 36%.
Postpone: 10%.

Suspend campaigns: 14%
Continue campaign: 31%
Re-focus campaign: 48%


The commission on presidential debates stated shortly after Obama spoke that the debate will go on. If the commission says it and Obama says it, it will go on, I suspect. But we have yet to see which chess piece McCain moves next. Who can imagine that? Think of the most cynical thing you can think of, then double it.

Comic relief: Letterman lampoons McPalin's suspension:

Abraham Lincoln ran for re-election while leading the Union troops in the civil war. Franklin Roosevelt ran for re-election in the midst of terrible depression in 1936, a far worse economic crisis than we have right now, and in 1944 while prosecuting the second world war.

If John McCain can't debate while thinking about the country's economy, then he's even more ill-equipped to hold the job than I think he is. But of course he is capable of doing both. His proposal is not serious. It is just a rancidly political act. That he goes before cameras and tries to pass it off as nonpolitical, hoping that people will buy it, is what makes it contemptible.

When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, he devoted a speech to improving the lot of children in New York state. He declared "The decade of the child." When, after a year or two, it became clear that somehow child poverty rates had stayed more or less the same, a joke began circulating around Albany: but he didn't mean this decade.

We've reached a similar point today, but far worse, because Cuomo's intentions were at least decent. John McCain's intentions have to do with nothing loftier than the next news cycle. He is the man who said country first. He just didn't mean this country.

Monday, September 22, 2008

McCain: Make Health Care more like Banking

From Michael Tomasky (Guardian America)

According Tomasky, this should bury McCain. But it won't...
And with this, the election should be over

It won't be, because we have to talk about lipstick and pigs and probably Jeremiah Wright one more time, but it sure should be over after people learn about this one.

It comes via Paul Krugman, or actually a reader of Krugman's, who alerted him to these passages McCain had written in an obscure actuarial journal about market-based health reform:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Oops! Blast those early deadlines! Haven't we all written something for monthlies or quarterlies that was, as we say in our trade, "overtaken by events."

Overtaken by events, in the sense that he'd like to have those words back. But nevertheless expressive of what the McCain campaign actually believes. Make healthcare more like banking. If Obama and the DNC aren't all over this immediately, it's malpractice.

It's an interesting little snippet but it'll hardly put a dent in McCain's current following. Not because of lipstick. Or pigs. Or Wright. Or Islam. But because of this: why people vote Republican...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Makes People Vote Republican?

...the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label "elitist." But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

Amazingly, after eight years of one of the worst presidencies in a long, long time, the lowest approval rates of a Republican president since Nixon, American Democrats still face potential defeat in the '08 election. Their chances at winning, subtleties brushed aside for simplicity's sake, are roughly only 50/50. If they really were to lose then that would be a case of 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory', if I've ever seen one.

JONATHAN HAIDT is Associate Professor in the Social Psychology area of the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia and has researched the burning question: "why don't Democrats get 'it'?"

Well, I'm not usually a great fan of 'psychological research' (which is rarely up to par with its harder counterparts in the natural sciences) but Haidth's essay impressed me mucho.

For one, I recognise in Haidt's conclusions the sort of brick walls I often experience when trying to discuss political or social issues with so may of my respectable conservative (here not necessarily intended in the political sense of the word) friends and acquaintances.

The essay in question is long and detailed (even though it only represents a summary conclusion of Haidt's work - see at the bottom of this post how you can personally contribute to his research) and I will only reprint a few highlights of this highly interesting text. The full version can be found here.


What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.


I began to study morality and culture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. A then-prevalent definition of the moral domain, from the Berkeley psychologist Elliot Turiel, said that morality refers to "prescriptive judgments of justice, rights, and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other." But if morality is about how we treat each other, then why did so many ancient texts devote so much space to rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? There is no rational or health-related way to explain these laws. (Why are grasshoppers kosher but most locusts are not?) The emotion of disgust seemed to me like a more promising explanatory principle. The book of Leviticus makes a lot more sense when you think of ancient lawgivers first sorting everything into two categories: "disgusts me" (gay male sex, menstruation, pigs, swarming insects) and "disgusts me less" (gay female sex, urination, cows, grasshoppers ).

For my dissertation research, I made up stories about people who did things that were disgusting or disrespectful yet perfectly harmless. For example, what do you think about a woman who can't find any rags in her house so she cuts up an old American flag and uses the pieces to clean her toilet, in private? Or how about a family whose dog is killed by a car, so they dismember the body and cook it for dinner? I read these stories to 180 young adults and 180 eleven-year-old children, half from higher social classes and half from lower, in the USA and in Brazil. I found that most of the people I interviewed said that the actions in these stories were morally wrong, even when nobody was harmed. Only one group—college students at Penn—consistently exemplified Turiel's definition of morality and overrode their own feelings of disgust to say that harmless acts were not wrong. (A few even praised the efficiency of recycling the flag and the dog).

This research led me to two conclusions. First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. I often had to correct people when they said things like "it's wrong because… um…eating dog meat would make you sick" or "it's wrong to use the flag because… um… the rags might clog the toilet." These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume's dictum that reason is "the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them." This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.


First, imagine society as a social contract invented for our mutual benefit. All individuals are equal, and all should be left as free as possible to move, develop talents, and form relationships as they please. The patron saint of a contractual society is John Stuart Mill, who wrote (in On Liberty) that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill's vision appeals to many liberals and libertarians; a Millian society at its best would be a peaceful, open, and creative place where diverse individuals respect each other's rights and band together voluntarily (as in Obama's calls for "unity") to help those in need or to change the laws for the common good.

Psychologists have done extensive research on the moral mechanisms that are presupposed in a Millian society, and there are two that appear to be partly innate. First, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to suffering and harm, particularly violent harm, and so nearly all cultures have norms or laws to protect individuals and to encourage care for the most vulnerable. Second, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to issues of fairness and reciprocity, which often expand into notions of rights and justice. Philosophical efforts to justify liberal democracies and egalitarian social contracts invariably rely heavily on intuitions about fairness and reciprocity.

But now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other's selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free-riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that "Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him." A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.

Continue reading.

Test your morality:

Find out where you are on the moral spectrum by contributing to Jonathan Haidt's research. Take part in various quizzes regarding your morality.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Darwin said...

In the US, no scientific paradigm is more misunderstood, misrepresented and distorted than Evolutionary Biology (EB), often simplistically and disparagingly referred to as "Darwinism", "evolutionism" or even more confusingly, "evolution". It's no small wonder then that Charles Darwin, seen as the "chief Darwinian miscreant", suffers also the brunt of lies and distortions that serve the noisy Creationist movement's agenda.

So, for any lurking creationists out there, here are some things the man really said/wrote:

From Timesonline
So, in the interests, of rescuing him from the no-man’s-land in which he has become trapped, here are 10 Darwin quotations, from his later years, which you are unlikely to hear from the mouths of either creationists or atheists in 2009.

1. “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.” (Autobiography)

2. “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

3. “I hardly see how religion & science can be kept as distinct as [Edward Pusey] desires… But I most wholly agree… that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness.” (Letter to J. Brodie Innes, November 27 1878)

4. “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

5. “I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879)

6. “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.” (Letter to Frederick McDermott, November 24 1880)

7. [In conversation with the atheist Edward Aveling, 1881] “Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?” (Edward Aveling, The religious views of Charles Darwin, 1883)

8. “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Letter to Graham William, July 3 1881)

9. "My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design." (Letter to Joseph Hooker, July 12 1870)

10. “I can never make up my mind how far an inward conviction that there must be some Creator or First Cause is really trustworthy evidence.” (Letter to Francis Abbot, September 6 1871)

But despite the author's laudable intent of clarifying Darwin's positions, all is not well with this piece which contains at least one grossly contentious description of the relation between Evolutionary Biology, Darwin and atheism/agnosticism:
In the other trench lie the militant Godless who – bizarrely – wholly agree with the creationists. Darwinism, they proclaim, does indeed undermine religious belief and a good thing too. Darwin is their icon and they frantically genuflect before his image, in a way brilliantly parodied by the satirical magazine The Onion.

Nick Spencer is director of studies at the public theology think-tank Theos but clearly hasn't studied that part of the creationist kerfuffle all that well or is promoting his own little agenda.

No serious atheist or agnostic believes that "Darwinism does indeed undermine religious belief", let alone engages in "frantically genuflect[ing] before his image". Evolutionary Biology, as a by-product, does indeed disprove a literal interpretation of Genesis (the Young Earth) but otherwise makes no pronouncements about the existence/non-existence of god or gods. The First Cause Problem makes dismissing a creating entity altogether more difficult even though the overwhelming evidence of EB points to the fact that man (and the entire biological kingdom) were not created by an acting entity (deity).

But mankind's hopeless addiction to reductionism, Manicheism and thirst for bipolar explanations does lead to a certain fraction of atheists defending EB with quasi-religious zeal.

The above quotes were found in a linked article embedded in this Times article, titled Anglicans back Darwin over 'noisy' creationists, hat tip to Bacon Eating Atheist Jew.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Smearing the Smearers? Palin's lies...

After Sarah Palin's far from brilliant performance when "grilled" (poached, more like) by Granddad Gibson (or as one Conservative pundit put it: "leftwing assclown Charlie Gibson" - subtlety isn't these people's strong suit) I went to check the blogosphere for reactions, using Google's in-house Blog Search tool. These reactions didn't beat about the bush (no pun intended): many of Palin's answers impressed almost no one. On the Con side a few, few and far between, perceived a leftwing plot in action with the Bush doctrine question being the point of ambush. Well, my 13 year old daughter, cruelly subjected by me to too much American network news, knows roughly what the Bush doctrine is, but Sarah was left with a mouth full of (admittedly almost perfect) teeth for a tangible moment. Later she showed she knew how NATO works (no kudos) but appeared to fail to understand that that grand organisation in the service of one of the noblest post-WW II concepts isn't about to plunge head over heels into conflict (and potential nuclear Armageddon) with Mother Russia over Georgia.

But that's not the object of my post. Rather than read post after post tearing into Palin's poor first interview, I stumbled on another post with a far more intriguing title: The Categorical Lies of Sarah Palin, Categorically Arranged and I warmly recommend anyone to read it and make up their own minds. The author(s?) categorises Palin's own alleged lies and distortions (her PaLIEtics, so to speak. Am I coining a phrase yet?) in three categories: the Wasilla years, the Governor years and the current era: the running mate weeks. For most people, independently verifying these allegations is practically impossible and so it's possible that much of what is being asserted could be dismissed as one long counter-smear. Certainly the writer lays in hard: here's a little taster:
Retracing the story of Sarah Palin’s career is like traveling through a carnival funhouse of smoke and mirrors. No sooner do you think you’ve finally rounded the corner on Palin’s gallery of clever distortions, dirty tricks and lies, than you’re confronted with another, then another and another, until you realize you’ve traveled an entire catacomb of lies, smoke and mirrors.

But not so fast: there are at least two assertions that can indeed be verified easily by just about anyone. And they are entirely correct. Here they are:
LIE: Palin’s words on Obama: “The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars.”

TRUTH: You’d not have to listen to many Obama speeches to know this is patently false. Payroll taxes will decrease for 95% of Americans (an inverse arrangement to the Bush-McCain plan) netting an after-tax increase of income by 5% (averaging approx. $2,000 annally) by 2012 for Americans earning under $250,000 annually. This is according to the Tax Policy Center, a think-tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. Income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes will be raised for the wealthiest, including individuals and business making over $250,000 annually. Obama will provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum wage workers, with higher credits for larger families. Again, Obama’s plan benefits 95% of Americans, unlike the Bush-McCain plan, which gives disproportianate favor to the wealthiest Americans, which comprise approx. 5% of the population.

LIE: (and a particularly vile lie, at that, which Margaret Talex of the McClatchy Report called ‘a deliberately misleading accusation’ and ‘a deliberate low blow’ —>). A recent McCain-Palin ad claims that Obama supported legislation to provide sex education to kindergartners.

TRUTH: The legislation for sex education for grades K-12 already existed in Illinois regarding STD and pregnancy prevention. Obama voted to allow local school boards to teach ‘age-appropriate’ sex education, geared toward educating children ages K-12 on how to recognize inappropriate behaviors, as a measure to protect them from sexual predators. One need not dig too deeply into the headlines to see that pedophilia is a sad reality in our society. It is ridiculous and patently sick to insinuate that Obama approved laws to teach young children about the birds and the bees. As one blogger noted, the McCain ad’s claim that Obama approves sex-ed for tots will nonetheless be effective, as the media continue to repeat the McCain-Palin smear, without bothering to dispute it with the outrage it should be disputed. It’s a lose-lose proposition for politicians like Obama, as it takes a lot more words to defend against such outrageous lies than it takes to wage them. The defense is never as powerful as the accusation, and can never quite be disproved in the court of the media. That’s the beauty of a smear campaign. Of course, McCain, Palin, Rove and Co. already know this.

But make up your own minds. Read it. Here. And if it's all just a smear she'll be able to refute it, right? Right...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin

Despite all the furore around McCain's bizarre choice of running mate, the hypocritical accusations of leftist smears (hypocritical if one considers the sort of slime that's been pumped out almost non-stop regarding Barack Obama for months on end) that are now preventing the Dems to talk policies, there remains at least one important and legitimate concern regarding her nomination. Rarely before has the prospect of a VP becoming president before the end of term of the presidency been so real, due to McCain's ripe age. Simply put, as the chances of the Reps holding on to the White House are very roughly 50/50, the probability of a natural presidential demise and ascendancy of the veep to the throne has almost never been higher than in this race.

The US and in particular potential McCain voters, really needs to ask itself, rather than concentrate on fawning over this "populist hockey mom", whether they really want this largely unknown quantity to be president. It's ironic that presidential candidates go through a grueling vetting process of highly intense and very prolonged scrutiny, often (like McCain) having to stand for a party's presidential candidacy nomination twice, that in Sarah Palin we have someone about which we know almost nothing. Apart from a few well crafted speeches, written on her behalf, there's almost nothing we know about the kind of president she would actually make. That in itself points to the fact that McCain took a rather desperate gamble, one that might actually pay off, yet bring about many unintended consequences.

Matt Damon has his own take on it:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Discovery Machine: LHC

Scientific American

A Machine of Superlatives

LHCTo break into the new territory that is the tera­scale, the LHC’s basic parameters outdo those of previous colliders in almost every respect. It starts by producing proton beams of far higher energies than ever before. Its nearly 7,000 magnets, chilled by liquid helium to less than two kelvins to make them superconducting, will steer and focus two beams of protons traveling within a millionth of a percent of the speed of light. Each proton will have about 7 TeV of energy—7,000 times as much energy as a proton at rest has embodied in its mass, courtesy of Einstein’s E = mc2. That is about seven times the energy of the reigning record holder, the Tevatron collider at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. Equally important, the machine is designed to produce beams with 40 times the intensity, or luminosity, of the Tevatron’s beams. When it is fully loaded and at maximum energy, all the circulating particles will carry energy roughly equal to the kinetic energy of about 900 cars traveling at 100 kilometers per hour, or enough to heat the water for nearly 2,000 liters of coffee.

The protons will travel in nearly 3,000 bunches, spaced all around the 27-kilometer circumference of the collider. Each bunch of up to 100 billion protons will be the size of a needle, just a few centimeters long and squeezed down to 16 microns in diameter (about the same as the thinnest of human hairs) at the collision points. At four locations around the ring, these needles will pass through one another, producing more than 600 million particle collisions every second. The collisions, or events, as physicists call them, actually will occur between particles that make up the protons—quarks and gluons. The most cataclysmic of the smashups will release about a seventh of the energy available in the parent protons, or about 2 TeV. (For the same reason, the Tevatron falls short of exploring tera­scale physics by about a factor of five, despite the 1-TeV energy of its protons and antiprotons.)

The kinetic energy of 900 cars traveling at 100 km per hour... 2,000 liters of coffee... It might not sound even all that much to some (even though those who can't imagine a car crash involving 900 cars traveling at 100 km/h need shooting or getting a life, a wife and a hobby) but it becomes even more mind-boggling when the incredibly small amount of mass involved in these experiments is actually considered.

Lemmesee, the total amount of protons involved is 3,000 bunches times 100 billion protons per bunch or 3 1014 protons (3 followed by 14 zeros).

Each proton has a mind bogglingly small mass of 1.7 10-27 (zero, decimal point, followed by 26 zeroes and 17) kg, so the total mass is 5.1 10-13 (zero, decimal point, followed by 12 zeroes and 51) kg. That's 0.000,000,51 milligram (mg) to you and me...

By accelerating these particles to almost the speed of light their rest-mass increases phenomenally and in collisions of particles traveling in opposite directions conditions are created of incredibly high energy density and temperature (much, much higher than the core of our sun) that approach the conditions that existed in the fire ball of the first millli milli milli seconds of the Big Bang.

Do you get it now?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Red State Update: Sarah Palin

Our friends in the Conservative base appraise luvvely Guv Palin:

H/T to Cookie.

And a bit of bonus comedy to keep y'all smilin': probably the best Daily Show clip ever, in which Karl Rove appears just a liiiitttlle divided on the experience issue, pinhead Bill O'Lielly shows teenage pregnancy only matters when you're Brittanny Spears' sister and that other lyin', cheatin' sack of shit Bill Morris has something thing to say 'bout Hillary. Oh, and then there's Pfotenhauer weighing in too... Watch and enjoy/cringe (delete as appropriate).