February 15, 2006

More NASA censorship comes to life

College dropout cum BushCo science guru George C. Deutsch and his minions believe that star death is unreal.
In a different example of spinning science news last month, NASA headquarters removed a reference to the future death of the sun from a press release about the discovery of comet dust around a distant star known as a white dwarf. A white dwarf, a shrunken dense cinder about the size of earth, is how our own sun is fated to spend eternity, astronomers say, about five billion years from now, once it has burned its fuel.

“We are seeing the ghost of a star that was once a lot like our sun,” said Marc Kuchner of the Goddard Space Flight Center. In a statement that was edited out of the final news release he went on to say, “I cringed when I saw the data because it probably reflects the grim but very distant future of our own planets and solar system.”

An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, "NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios.”

My fucking doorknobs.

As Dennis Overbye points out, the death of a star, not to mention the whole mainstream cycle of stellar evolution, has been accepted part and parcel of the astrophysics textbook for 50 years.

But, as he also points out, the Big Bang is right up there with evolution as a creationist/intelligent designist bugaboo.

What fucking morons.

Home abortions are safe

Won’t that just chap the Religious Right’s ass? But it’s what The Guardian says.
Women who are less than nine weeks pregnant can safely have medical abortions at home, according to the head of a government-backed pilot project.

Can we now please add “private” to “safe” and “legal”?

Green Party: Public campaign funding bill is rigged

The Green Party says HB 4694, touted for public financing of Congressional campaigns, is biased against third parties. Originally posted at Democracy in Action.

Now, the bill does a number of good things, including barring paid, professional petition-signature gatherers. (Not sure how this or other bill provisions will pass the “money is speech” SCOTUS sniffer, but that’s another story.

But, there are legitimate third-party concerns.

A 10 percent of the total vote bar for partial funding is too high; 5 percent, or even 3 percent for a dribble of partial funding, would be much better.

Now, I don’t believe the Green Party’s official claim that liberal Democrats are sponsoring this bill because of a panic over a Green insurgency. Nonetheless, it has troubling provisions, most notably this.

Section 301: Section 315 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441a) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection;

`(k) No person may make any independent expenditure with respect to an election for the office of Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress.'.

So, if you fall below 10 percent of total votes on a petition as a third-party candidate, and don’t qualify for the federal “grassroots” funding, that apparently means you can’t spend anything on the campaign? That’s what it looks like.

And I don’t blame the Greens for screaming bloody murder.

Sections 302 and 325 go too far on restricting “attack ads,” too.

Plus, it does nothing to address spiraling TV time costs with the stick of TV broadcast license review.

And, I haven’t mentioned all of the First Amendment concerns this bill raises, just a couple.

February 14, 2006

Fareed Zakaria’s Euro-dishonesty

Zakaria claims “Europe is in deep trouble.”
These days we all talk about the rise of Asia and the challenge to America, but it may well turn out that the most consequential trend of the next decade will be the economic decline of Europe.

It’s often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the E.U. has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the United States, and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German.

Sounds horrible, right? But, Zakaria conveniently omits a serious bit of information.

The EU of 2006 is NOT the EU of 1991. Half its membership has been added since then.

From Wikipedia:

Added in 1995: Austria, Finland, Sweden

Added in 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia.

That’s actually one more new member than the membership before that point.

As I e-mailed Fareed:
You nowhere mentioned that the EU of 15 years ago is NOT the EU of today. Many of the post-1990 countries of the EU are, of course, from the former Soviet bloc and came into the EU with lower standards of living.

I'm guessing that your omission was deliberate.

It’s obvious he’s comparing apples and oranges to anybody with a fifth-grade education. We’ll see if he responds.

Here’s the place to give him some e-mail.