SocraticGadfly: 11/26/06 - 12/3/06

December 02, 2006

Contrary to popular opinion about Macs …

Despite the new Mac TV commercial claims to be all young and hip, it AIN'T SO, says a research company:
“Age may just be a number, but for the Mac market, it’s a fact of life according to Metafacts. A recent report from the market research firm says that nearly half of Apple’s customers are 55 or older.”

Metafacts says 46 percent of Mac users are 55 or older, compared to just 25 percent of PC users.

Read on, Mac fanatics. (If you need to, please feel free to put on your bifocals first.)

Despite Mac corporate denials, the study makes sense to me. Macs got picked up on early by aging hippie/creative types, or along those lines, for two reasons.

One, they were easy for non-geeks to use before Windows 3.1 came along with the first user interface to come close to what Apple was offering.

Two, it was a rebellion against “The Man,” specifically the IBM Man in the navy suit. Of course, Bill Gates doesn’t fit that description, and, while he may have “borrowed” a lot from Apple, hasn’t Steve Jobs, with Apple’s OS X “borrowed” a lot from Unix? (Something you won’t hear Mac users mention in anything close to the same breath as rants about “that thief Bill Gates.”)

Well, Windoze may not have fully closed the gap with the Mac OS, and the delay in release and rumblings about Windows’ Vista OS may be indicating that right now, the gap is going to remain static. Nonetheless, to compare something like apples to apples, the gap between Windows XP and Mas OS 10.1 is a lot less than Windows 3.1/Mac OS 7.

December 01, 2006

Left-lane lopers should be shot …

And buried next to people driving with pets on their laps

I drove down to and back from Waco today. The “left lane lopers” (a Phoenix-area term I’m trying to popularize here) on I-35 are ridiculous. And, a couple of them, at least, were driving with pets on their laps; I saw a couple of other dogs in front passenger seats.

Locks finally being rekeyed at high school … maybe

I heard that at least some of the unsecure doors at Lancaster High were supposed to be rekeyed earlier this week … but that got put off. Stay tuned. But it looks like maybe a publicly squeaky wheel will get at least a modicum of grease.

Yes, some people don’t want to talk about the housing slump

So says Steve Brown.. Would that include people like Larry Lewis and Jim Landon? Sorry, folks, but reality is reality.

And the teachers keep leaving Lancaster schools; last one out, turn out the admin bldg lights!

I guess the Lancaster Middle School band has probably peaked on its talent and student participation numbers.

Supposedly it’s close to career suicide, or at least something in the neighborhood, for a teacher to “walk” at the middle of the school year. I’m sure it’s even worse to do so without even waiting for the semester break.

And, with teachers going (back) to Dallas… that doesn’t sound good, either.

Just think if we had annexed Wilmer-Hutchins and then tried to keep all their schools open.

ExxonMobil: Buying off high school science teachers on global warming

The pornographic XX doesn’t want high school science teachers to be well equipped when it comes to climate science. Or, at least, it has a national group of high school science teachers worried enough about its money to engage in self-censorship.

The National Science Teachers’ Association recently rejected an offer of 50,000 free copies of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the popular film on global warming by erstwhile presidential candidate Al Gore.


Because accepting them might hurt fundraising.

And who’s a major fundraisee for this group?

Three guesses to figure out Double-X marks the spot.

Stop slouching AND stop sitting upright!

That’s the latest medical research word if you want to avoid back problems in the modern Western white-collar environment.

Instead, researchers say, you should sit neither slouched forward over your computer keyboard nor 90-degree ramrod straight. Rather, the position putting the least stress on your back is to lean back a full 45 degrees further and sit at a 135-degree angle.

Of course, you’re going to have to roll your chair a lot further forward to reach your keyboard then ― AND find a lot more room for your legs.

Deny felonious Congressmen a pension?

That’s what Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and other groups want Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include in any new Congressional ethics bill.

And I’m hip to that.

A president can lose his or her pension should the Senate vote to convict in an impeachment trial. (The president cannot be criminally tried while in office.) That’s one of the reasons Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.

So, why shouldn’t Members of Congress, who can be criminally tried, be subject to similar penalty? No good reason for them not to be.

Deny felonious Congressmen a pension?

That’s what Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and other groups want Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include in any new Congressional ethics bill.

And I’m hip to that.

A president can lose his or her pension should the Senate vote to convict in an impeachment trial. (The president cannot be criminally tried while in office.) That’s one of the reasons Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.

So, why shouldn’t Members of Congress, who can be criminally tried, be subject to similar penalty? No good reason for them not to be.

It’s a global warming initiative; of course Bush opposes it

James Connaughton, chairman of the Orwellian-focused White House Council on Environmental Quality, says President Bushopposes tighter emissions on jetliners. He then comes up with moronic ideas of why it’s both wrong and ineffectual.

He claims it’s wrong for trade reasons. Unless the World Trade Organization is either doing heavy drugs or bribed by the Bush Administration, it’s simply not going to buy that argument if it’s ever officially lodged.

He claims it’s ineffectual, especially versus a voluntary partnership to relieve congestion. Well, in case Mr. C hasn’t read the trends, air travel is supposed to do nothing but go up in the future, at least until Peak Oil, should its downslope be steep enough, provides a corrective.

November 29, 2006

Pakistan foreign minister says: Cut a deal with Taliban

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri has told various NATO foreign ministers they ought to look atcutting a deal with the Taliban, a deal that includes dumping Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Needless to say, the NATO folks were stunned by this before objecting vociferously. But, really, should they have been stunned? Various elements in the Pakistani government and military have been “gaming” the Afghanistan war for quite some time now; this is just an early Pakistani move to try to jump the process to the endgame stage.

And, no, we shouldn’t do this. But, it shows how much we need to reassess how Afghanistan is fought, and how much we should — or should not — be working with Pakistan.

Terror finance executive order struck down by judge

Federal jurist finds it gives Bush too much unfettered executive power

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins on Nov. 7struck down most of a Sept. 23, 2001 executive order by President George W. Bush.

The Center for Constitutional Rights brought suit against the executive order, arguing that it essentially allowed the president to create financial blacklists without any congressional or other oversight, and thus left unrestrained presidential power to produce guilt by association.

“This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists, an authority president Bush then used to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to impose guilt by association,” said David Cole of the Washington-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

“The court’s decision confirms that even in fighting terror, unchecked executive authority and trampling on fundamental freedoms is not a permissible option.”

Key to the ruling, Collins also struck down a provision in which Bush had authorized the secretary of the treasury to designate anyone who “assists, sponsors or provides services to” or is “otherwise associated with” a designated group.

Collins, who struck down parts of the Patriot Act in a case several years ago, was initially inclined to rule in favor of the administration, as indicated in tentative findings in July. But she changed her mind after further filings.

She did let one part of the order stand. That would penalize people who provide services to groups the government designates as terrorist organizations, including the humanitarian aid and rights training proposed by a Tamil and a Kurdish group that were among the actual plaintiffs represented by CCR.

I’m not enough of a shadetree lawyer, let alone a constitutional one, to know how firm of legal footing this ruling ― which will of course be appealed ― has. But, the ruling is on the table, and once again, an imperial power grab by the president has duly been slapped down.

I do know that Collins’ letting stand the “services” part of the executive order seems illogical. CCR has already promised it will appeal that.

November 28, 2006

More on just how bad global warming could be

A University of Colorado professor says we need to do reverse sequestration ― actually removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere ― to have any hope of slowing down global warming. And, even then, he’s just talking about slowing it down, not stopping it.

Tom Yulsman, co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, provides the details of research by himself and various climate modelers:
Modeling by Tom Wigley (at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder) shows that even if Kyoto were fully implemented, including by the U.S., and all countries met their goals out to the year 2100, the impact on climate change would be minimal. So Kyoto is not nearly enough. At best, it’s a first step. …

(Jim White says): “The bad news is that climate change is on its way. And the really bad news is that you can’t stop it. It’s like a freight train. … So for the next 50 years or so, the Earth is going to warm up. … In the last few years it has become very apparent to me that simply not emitting greenhouse gases won’t work. The point of no return for climate change has passed.”

(White) says … not only will we have to remove carbon dioxide from flue gases, become much more efficient, use biofuels, switch to solar energy, etc., but we will also have to remove carbon dioxide that we’ve already put into the atmosphere.

Jim is a level-headed, serious scientist who is not prone to over-dramatization. So when someone like him says we should think about ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere — a kind of super sequestration — then you know we’ve got a problem.

Jim joins Tom Wigley in advocating what some might regard as radical and fuzzy-headed responses. Wigley, a respected climate modeler, recently suggested that we consider adding aerosols to the atmosphere to block incoming solar radiation as a way to combat global warming. (Talk about risking unintended consequences!) I took this as an indication of the seriousness with which he views the situation. … There is an array of responses we could consider, including some that might have seemed crazy just a year or so ago.

When a climatologist talks about deliberately seeding the sky with aerosols (aerosols from pollution, such as particulate pollutants from power plants, diesel engines, etc.) have been demonstrated in climate modeling to have kept our current global warming from being even worse than it is) you know this is serious.

Victories for the West Nov. 7

As one of my favorite magazines, High Country News, points out, in January, with the swearing in of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, for the first time ever, Westerners will lead both houses of Congress.

But the election has many cautions.

Montana Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, so heavily touted as presidential material by liberal and self-focused blogger Markos Zuniga, shows himself to be more and more an anti-environmentalist in many ways.

However, Schweitzer should beware. If a House committee chairman like arch-antienvironmentalist Dick Pombo could be beaten by a groundswell movement, Schweitzer could be unseated in a primary race.

11-degree global warming? Try 15 degrees

That is the prediction of British scientist James Lovelock, the man who devised the “Gaia” hypothesis that our planet acts like a massive single organism in maintaining thermal and other forms of homeostasis as much as possible.

Here’s his take on what’s coming down the pike, via an analogy:
Lovelock said temperature rises of up to 8C were already built in and while efforts to curb it were morally commendable, they were wasted.

"”t is a bit like if your kidneys fail you can go on dialysis — and who would refuse dialysis if death is the alternative. We should think of it in that context,} he said.

And here’s why he doesn’t think we can turn the ship around in time:
Lovelock said the United States, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions, wrongly believed there was a technological solution, while booming economies China and India were out of control.

China is building a coal-fired power station a week to feed rampant demand, and India's economy is likewise surging.

If either suddenly decided to stop their carbon-fuelled development to lift their billions of people out of poverty they would face a revolution, yet if they continued, rising CO2 and temperatures would kill off plants and produce famine, he said.

“If climate change goes on course ... I can’t see China being able to produce enough food by the middle of the century to support its people. They will have to move somewhere and Siberia is empty and it will be warmer then,” he said.

I’m not as apocalyptic as him, or as James Kunstler is about Peak Oil.

Nonetheless, if Lovelock is a quarter of the way correct, it’s a matter of serious concern. If he and Kunstler are both a quarter of the way correct, their scenarios could play off each other enough to in fact be apocalyptic.

That, in turn, might encourage people to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Problem is, if such merriment involves the use of carbon-generated energy sources, it actually hastens that very apocalypse.

Euros obstruct CIA rendering probe; gee, wonder why?

The European Parliament reports member nations are obstructing a probe into their parts in the
CIA rendering of alleged terror suspects.

Here’s why:
The report said Nicolo Pollari, a former head of Italy's SISMI intelligence agency, “concealed the truth” when he told European Parliament lawmakers in March that Italian agents played no part in the CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric.

On the contrary, SISMI officials played an active role in the abduction of Abu Omar, and it was “very probable” that the Italian government knew of the operation, it said.

The government of Silvio Berlusconi, in power at the time, repeatedly denied any knowledge. His successor Romano Prodi last week replaced Pollari, who faces possible indictment over the Abu Omar affair but denies any wrongdoing.

Don’t expect most European countries, whether “old” or “new” Europe, to not suddenly get more cooperative.

Live by the Patrick Fitzgerald sword, die by it?

Fitz, the Valerie Plame leak/coverup special prosecutor, now officially has the
Supreme Court imprimatur to go through reporters’ phone records to try to trace protected anonymous sources.

The snarky might rejoice in Judy Miller being in hot water again, but is this really that serious, or not?

I think it’s of concern, but not earth-shattering.

First, if you’re a source, use a pay phone. After the Jim McDermnott cell-phone recording issue of several years ago, a smart source already should NOT have been using a cell phone rather than a land line; ditto for a reporter.

And, Big Media has no rights more absolute than other businesses; ditto for reporters vs. other people.

At least one new House Democrat not only drinks, but brews, the neocon Kool-Aid

New Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Chris Carney still believes in
al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein connections. He does believe that, on a 0-10 scale with o representing no connection and 10 representing operational control, he puts the degree of connection at “2 1/2.”

Of course, working under Doug Feith at the Pentagon, he may be soft-pedaling things, too.

For example, sounding like a true-blue neoconservative believer, he wants to “stay the course” in Iraq, or more, and probably dodge the issue of personal responsibility.

“Let’s win the war first, then maybe look at how we got into it,” Carney said, arguing against Democrats, now in the majority, opening a new investigation of pre-war intelligence snafus or stovepiping.

Sounds to me Carney doesn’t want to get his own stovepiping exposed to the light of Congressional day.

It’s new folks like this that mean the general public shouldn’t expect too much out of this Congress.

Again, another reason to vote Green where available.

CO2 output accelerates; will push global warming higher

The Global Carbon Project says the rate of increase of annual global carbon dioxide output has more than doubled
more than doubled since the start of the new millennium, from 1 percent pre-2000 to more than 2.5 percent per year.

Here’s why:
“There has been a change in the trend regarding fossil fuel intensity, which is basically the amount of carbon you need to burn for a given unit of wealth,” explained Corinne Le Quere, a Global Carbon Project member who holds posts at the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey.

“From about 1970 the intensity decreased — we became more efficient at using energy — but we've been getting slightly worse since the year 2000,” she told the BBC News website.

“The other trend is that as oil becomes more expensive, we're seeing a switch from oil burning to charcoal which is more polluting in terms of carbon.”

High-end temperature-change predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict as much as an 11-degree rise in average global temperatures by end of this century, at the high end of models.

Given the information above, it seems certain we will hit the high end.

And for people my age, or roughly so, who want to slough this off to the future — that increase will probably be 4 degrees by 2040, when you and I are quite likely to be alive and kicking.

This is NOT a problem to pass on to the future.