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Archive for January 23rd, 2007

Webb’s response to the SOTU

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Here’s the text of James Webb’s address:

Good evening.

I’m Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown – an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.

It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President’s message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans.

Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes.

There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy – how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy – how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 6:33 pm

Sterilize kitchen sponges in microwave

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Kitchen sponges harbor many bacteria. Here’s what to do:

Two minutes in a microwave oven can sterilise most household sponges, US researchers report.

A team of engineering researchers at the University of Florida found that 2 minutes of microwaving on full power killed or inactivated more than 99% of bacteria, viruses or parasites, as well as spores, on a kitchen sponge.

“People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave,” says Gabriel Bitton, a professor of environmental engineering who led the study.

Writing in the Journal of Environmental Health, Bitton and colleagues say they soaked sponges and scrubbing pads in raw wastewater containing faecal bacteria such as Escherichia coli, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores.

Then they used a common household microwave oven to heat the sponges. It took 4-10 minutes to kill all the spores but everything else was killed after 2 minutes, they say.

Spores of the food spoilage organism Bacillus cereus were the hardest to destroy.

“The microwave is a very powerful and an inexpensive tool for sterilisation,” says Bitton, who specialises in studying wastewater microbiology.

He says it’s the heat, rather than the microwave radiation, that probably kills the pathogens.

And because the microwave works by exciting water molecules, it’s better to microwave wet rather than dry sponges.

UPDATE AND WARNING: See this story.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Scooter vs. Karl

with 2 comments


Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 3:57 pm

Excellent article on the human hand in climate change

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Read the whole thing, which begins:

The human hand in climate change
by Kerry Emanuel

Two strands of environmental philosophy run through the course of human history. The first holds that the natural state of the universe is one of infinite stability, with an unchanging earth anchoring the predictable revolutions of the sun, moon, and stars. Every scientific revolution that challenged this notion, from Copernicus’ heliocentricity to Hubble’s expanding universe, from Wegener’s continental drift to Heisenberg’s uncertainty and Lorenz’s macroscopic chaos, met with fierce resistance from religious, political, and even scientific hegemonies.

The second strand also sees the natural state of the universe as a stable one but holds that it has become destabilized through human actions. The great floods are usually portrayed in religious traditions as attempts by a god or gods to cleanse the earth of human corruption. Deviations from cosmic predictability, such as meteors and comets, were more often viewed as omens than as natural phenomena. In Greek mythology, the scorching heat of Africa and the burnt skin of its inhabitants were attributed to Phaeton, an offspring of the sun god Helios, who, having lost a wager to his son, was obliged to allow him to drive the sun chariot across the sky. In this primal environmental catastrophe, Phaeton lost control and fried the earth, killing himself in the process.

These two fundamental ideas have permeated many cultures through much of history. They strongly influence views of climate change to the present day.

The myth of natural stability

In 1837, Louis Agassiz provoked public outcry and scholarly ridicule when he proposed that many puzzles of the geologic record, such as peculiar scratch marks on rocks, and boulders far removed from their bedrock sources, could be explained by the advance and retreat of huge sheets of ice. This event marked the beginning of a remarkable endeavor, today known as paleoclimatology, which uses physical and chemical evidence from the geological record to deduce changes in the earth’s climate over time. This undertaking has produced among the most profound yet least celebrated scientific advances of our era. We now have exquisitely detailed knowledge of how climate has varied over the last few million years and, with progressively less detail and more uncertainty, how it has changed going back in time to the age of the oldest rocks on our 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

For those who take comfort in stability, there is little consolation in this record. Within the past three million years or so, our climate has swung between mild states, similar to today’s and lasting from ten to 20 thousand years, and periods of 100,000 years or so in which giant ice sheets, in some places several miles thick, covered northern continents. Even more unsettling than the existence of these cycles is the suddenness with which the climate can apparently change, especially as it recovers from glacial eras.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Environment, Science

Bush the “Decider”: the psychology of incompetent decisions

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From Truthout:

Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions
By John P. Briggs, MD, and J.P. Briggs II, PhD

President George W. Bush prides himself on “making tough decisions.” But many are sensing something seriously troubling, even psychologically unbalanced, about the president as a decision-maker. They are right.

Because of a psychological dynamic swirling around deeply hidden feelings of inadequacy, the president has been driven to make increasingly incompetent and risky decisions. This dynamic makes the psychological stakes for him now unimaginably high. The words “success” and “failure” have seized his rhetoric like metaphors for his psyche’s survival.

The president’s swirling dynamic lies “hidden in plain sight” in his personal history. From the time he was a boy until his religious awakening in his early 40s, Bush had every reason to feel he was a failure. His continued, almost obsessive, attempts through the years to emulate his father, obtain his approval, and escape from his influence are extensively recorded.

His biography is peppered with remarks and behavior that allude to this inner struggle. In an exuberant moment during his second campaign for Texas governor, Bush told a reporter, “It’s hard to believe, but … I don’t have time to worry about being George Bush’s son. Maybe it’s a result of being confident. I’m not sure how the psychoanalysts will analyze it, but I’m not worried about it. I’m really not. I’m a free guy.”

A psychoanalyst would note that he is revealing here that he has been worrying about being his father’s son quite a lot.

Resentment naturally contaminated Bush’s efforts to prove himself to his father and receive his father’s approval. The contradictory mix showed up in his compulsion to re-fight his father’s war against Iraq, but this time winning the duel some thought his father failed to win with Saddam. He could at once emulate his father, show his contempt for him, and redeem him. But beneath this son-father struggle lies a far more significant issue for Bush – a question about his own competence, adequacy and autonomy as a human being.

We have seen this inner question surface repeatedly, and we have largely conspired with him to deny it.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 2:53 pm

Bush and his energy promises

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Tonight Bush is expected to play one of his old favorites: promises about energy research. Here’s a recap:

Tonight, one year after claiming that America is addicted to oil, “President Bush is expected to renew concerns about energy security in his State of the Union address.”

Earlier this month, National Economic Council chairman Al Hubbard predicted “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” ABC News reports that Bush may “call for Americans to cut consumption of gasoline by 20 percent in 10 years.”

Throughout his presidency, Bush has used the State of the Union to talk about energy independence. Think Progress has put together a video of Bush’s past promises.

The facts don’t match the rhetoric:

– In September 2006, 70 percent of oil consumed in the United States came from foreign sources, up from 58 percent in 2000.

– U.S. dependence on OPEC nations for oil imports “has risen to its highest level in 15 years.”

– Despite promises at his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush’s 2007 budget actually proposed to spend less on energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy resources in inflation-adjusted dollars than was appropriated in fiscal year 2001 — $1.176 billion in nominal dollars in both 2001 and 2007.

President Bush should make the goal of energy independence more than just an applause line.


State of the Union, 1/29/2002: “Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.”

State of the Union, 1/28/2003: “Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. … Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined.”

State of the Union, 1/20/2004: “Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run — so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.”

State of the Union, 2/2/2005: “To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. … I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.”

State of the Union, 1/31/2006: “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil. …. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.”

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 12:21 pm

Fitzgerald is going to draw blood

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And it’s already started:

Wow. This just from MSNBC news alert:

WASHINGTON — Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald used his opening statement in the CIA leak trial Tuesday to allege that Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff lied about Cheney’s early involvement in the disclosure of a spy’s identity.Fitzgerald said Cheney told his chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, in 2003 that the wife of Iraq critic and former ambassador Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA, and that Libby spread that information to reporters. When that information got out, it triggered a federal investigation.

“But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did,” Fitzgerald said, “he made up a story.”

Fitzgerald also alleged that Libby in September 2003 “wiped out” a Cheney note just before Libby’s first FBI interview when he said he learned about Wilson and his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame, from reporters, not the vice president.

It was not clear if Fitzgerald meant that an attempt was made to destroy the note or that Libby had forgotten about it. In any case, the note was recovered and is part of the evidence.

During last year’s State of the Union address, President Bush had newly confirmed Supreme Court Associate Justice Sam Alito smiling in the front row. Alito’s presence was an ornament showing that Bush was back and had shaken off Democratic party resistance.

Tonight, Cheney won’t be an ornament of success — but rather a ball and chain dragging him down and reminding Americans about Iraq, the Valerie Plame affair, cherry-picking of intelligence, and official duplicity and corruption.

Wow. Patrick Fitzgerald is back.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2007 at 12:16 pm

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