Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Things Haven't Changed Much in Italy Since Galileo's Time

Galileo was sentenced to life in prison in 1633 (later commuted to house arrest), and his books banned, for writing that the earth revolves around the sun and is not the center of the universe.

Italian government officials have accused the country's top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.
A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.
"It has a medieval flavor to it -- like witches are being put on trial," the stunned spokesman told FoxNews.com.
Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.
Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully. 
"Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake," reads a statement posted on the USGS website. "They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future."
John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, agreed that earthquake forecasting is simply impossible.
"We're not able to predict earthquakes very well at all," he told LiveScience.
"One problem is, we don't know how much stress it takes to break a fault," Vidale told the site. "Second we still don't know how much stress is down there. All we can do is measure how the ground is deforming."
Not knowing either of these factors makes it pretty tough to figure out when stresses will get to the point of a rupture, and an earth-shaking quake, LiveScience explained.
Why press manslaughter charges against seismologists who failed to predict an earthquake?

I submit that it is because once you acknowledge that unknowable variables make it impossible to predict an earthquake right under your feet tomorrow afternoon, you must acknowledge that unknowable variables make it impossible to predict average worldwide temperatures fifty years from now.

Of course, science is in the business of creating hypotheses, making predictions based on those hypotheses, and seeing how the predictions pan out. So seismology isn't really a science, is it?

Not so fast. Seismologists do make predictions; they're pretty good at predicting when a volcano will erupt* and where the greatest danger zone will be when it does.** The science of predicting earthquakes is not nearly so far advanced, which is why seismologists don't try - they admit they don't have a working hypothesis for predicting earthquakes. Global warming "scientists," on the other hand, make predictions that don't pan out, and instead of discarding the failed hypothesis, retrofit their observations to agree with it. First they predict global warming will cause the end of snowfall, and when you get record snowfalls (they're still skiing in Colorado this June and will still be skiing in Utah into July), they claim global warming is the cause of record snowfalls. "Our theory is true, no matter what the data show!" It's not a case of the evidence being wrong if it doesn't support global warming; all evidence supports global warming, even when it directly contradicts the other evidence that supports global warming.

Ayn Rand may not have been a scientist, but she spoke truly and well when she said, "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

* Thursday, July 28, at 4:37 am
** Send me $15 million and I'll tell you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Boycott Limbaugh's Advertisers, Part Deux

So just a couple of weeks after I purposely got Mother's Day flowers from a company that advertises on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, I see this:
A Boston-based company that provides computer hard-drive backup services is setting up a customer support center in Maine's second largest city with plans to have more than 150 employees by the end of the year.
Carbonite Inc. announced Tuesday that it is leasing about 20,000 square feet of space in Lewiston.
CEO David Friend said the company is moving its customer support jobs from India to Maine. He said he was drawn to Maine by its work force, its broadband infrastructure and support he's received from government officials.
Carbonite expects to employ up to 50 people by the end of the summer and 250 by the end of 2012.
Carbonite is a regular advertiser on Limbaugh's program. Sean Hannity's too.

Okay, so you're a good little progressive leftist liberal who supports good progressive leftist liberal causes. You're thinking you really need to back up your hard drive because you have all kinds of important stuff on there. Do you:
  1. Go to Carbonite's website and sign up, gritting your teeth because their advertising helps Limbaugh pay his bills?
  2. Continue your boycott of Carbonite, gritting your teeth because they're a company that's actually creating jobs in America?
It's a pretty simple choice, really. It all boils down to one question: Do you hate Rush Limbaugh so much that you'll punish his sponsors even at the cost of Americans jobs?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Share the Road, My Ass

Okay, I get the "Ride Your Bike to Work Day" thing. I really do. And I understand that bicyclists have just as much right to use the road as drivers.

But "share the road" doesn't mean "hog the road." A pair of bicyclists doing 12 mph in the middle of winding, one-lane MacArthur Boulevard - where the speed limit is 40, where there is little opportunity to pass (solid double yellow line), and where there is a beautifully-maintained, sparsely-used  bike path running parallel to the road - aren't on the road because that's the best place for them to be. They're doing it because they're allowed to, and everyone else can go screw themselves.

Yeah, I'm talking to you, dipshit

You too, jerkwad.

Okay, bicyclists, if you're not going to use your bike trails, then next time you want one built with my tax money, expect me to raise unholy hell.

Maybe I'll start driving on your bike trail. Hey, share the road, right?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Think We'll Be Drilling for More Oil Any Time Soon?

President Obama, until recently, maintained that oil companies have plenty of capacity onshore and offshore. So there's no need to sell new leases while a bunch of current leases aren't producing anything.

Then he read the polls and figured it was time to fool your local newspapers again:
Amid growing public unhappiness over gas prices, President Barack Obama is directing his administration to ramp up U.S. oil production by extending existing leases in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska’s coast and holding more frequent lease sales in a federal petroleum reserve in Alaska....
Answering the call of Republicans and Democrats from Gulf Coast states, Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address that he would extend all Gulf leases that were affected by a temporary moratorium on drilling imposed after last year’s BP oil spill. That would give companies additional time to begin drilling.
The administration had been granting extensions case by case, but senior administration officials said the Interior Department would institute a blanket one-year extension.
New safety requirements put in place since the BP spill also have delayed drilling in Alaska, so Obama said he would extend lease terms there for a year as well. An oil lease typically runs 10 years.
Lease sales in the western and central Gulf of Mexico that were postponed last year will be held by the middle of next year, the same time period required by the House. A sale off the Virginia coast still would not happen until 2017 at the earliest. But Obama said he would speed up environmental reviews so that seismic studies to determine how much oil and gas lies off the Atlantic Coast can begin.
To further expedite drilling off the Alaskan coast, where such plans by Shell Oil Co. have been delayed by an air pollution permit, Obama said he would create an interagency task force to coordinate the necessary approvals. He also will hold annual lease sales in the vast National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope...
Woo-hoo! Drill, baby, drill!

Um, not so fast.

Just because the government permits you to look for oil on land you've leased doesn't mean you can just stick a derrick in the ground at any random point and start sucking up millions of barrels of light sweet crude. Oil isn't spread equally beneath the ground, or somehow pre-deposited to the plots the government decides to lease to the oil companies. Before an oil company can drill, it must conduct seismic and geological tests to find the oil. This requires time and money - lots of money.

Let's just say the tests of a field show there's oil that can be economically recovered. That means the lease owner can get to work and start drilling, right?


A lot of those supposedly "idle" leases spend years waiting on environmental and other permitting reviews or lawsuits. The industry pays the government for leases that may or may not be valuable at auction, and it then pays royalties on any oil that is eventually produced.

Have a look at the story I linked to at the top of this page. There's all kinds of stuff in there about selling leases to the oil companies. But there's not one single word about speeding up the permitting process.

In any case, why should President Obama be upset that those stupid old oil companies aren't drilling on land they've leased? Seems to me that someone as green as he claims to be would just love to lease land out in the knowledge that the renters aren't going to destroy the earth by digging holes in it. Isn't that every landlord's dream—to have a tenant who pays rent and never moves in?

Now, this past week, the (Republican-controlled) House of Representatives voted to speed up the permitting process. If you still think the Obama administration wants to drill for more oil, click here to see what it thinks of speeding up the permitting process. Then tell me you really believe the (Democrat-controlled) Senate will pass that permitting bill.

You are not going to see any new drilling any time soon.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More Hate From Right-Wing Talk Radio

Where would we be without taxpayer-supported public radio? Well, just ask the people whose Tuscaloosa, Alabama homes were destroyed by tornadoes a couple of weeks ago:
The tornado that tore through here late last month left 41 dead and 12 still missing. Whole neighborhoods now resemble bombed-out postwar Tokyo or Berlin. But this devastation is only part of the story. Tuscaloosa is now the scene of an inspiring volunteer relief effort taking place without the guidance of any central planner...
Other than churches, much of the strength of Tuscaloosa's extensive mutual aid comes from an unlikely source: right wing talk radio. The four Tuscaloosa Clear Channel stations have pre-empted their normal fare of Rush, Hannity and top 40 songs to serve as a relief clearinghouse through simulcasts. Gigi South, the local market manager for Tuscaloosa Clear Channel, says that it was her decision to begin the simulcasts.
It was hard to do otherwise. Employees saw demolished neighborhoods outside their windows and the desperate calls for help came in almost immediately. Because many residents lost power and were unable charge cell phones, battery-operated and car radios often became their only form of communication.
These stations have only 12 full-time employees among them, but they've have had a vast impact. The on-air jocks have taken on grueling shifts, sometimes working 10 hours straight.

The goal of the simulcasts is simple: Connect givers and victims and allow them to exchange information. According to Ms. South, "this whole thing has been about connecting listener to listener. They are the ones doing this. We're just the conduit."

Ms. South is being modest. In many cases, people have dropped off goods—sometimes dozens of cooked meals—at the station's door. The on-air jocks have rushed them to those in need. The higher-ups at Clear Channel have fully supported the local initiative to pre-empt normal programming and have provided generators and engineers to keep the stations on the air round the clock.

In a typical pattern, someone calls in to express a need for a particular area or group. Fifteen minutes later, the same listener relates that 10 people showed up and offered their services. Churches and other groups often call in to specify a shortage of particular goods, such as bug spray and suntan lotion for volunteers, and an excess of others, such as diapers. This allows givers to tailor their donations. Wal-Mart and other businesses call in to offer free prescriptions, charging stations for cell phones, and trucks to remove debris upon request.

In one particularly moving case, a worn-out relief coordinator for an outlying trailer park broadcast a desperate appeal. She had been cooking meals for several undocumented Hispanics living in tents who were afraid to go to the authorities. She was heartbroken because she wanted to visit her mother in Mississippi who had suffered a stroke, but she feared leaving her neighbors unaided.

Within minutes, two nurses, translators, and other volunteers were on the scene. The simulcast now includes brief Spanish language announcements. And listeners, even if they are normally angered about illegal immigration, show no hesitation in lending a hand in such cases.

Although Tuscaloosa Clear Channel normally caters to a white, conservative audience, grateful listeners often make tearful calls from predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods like Alberta that bore the brunt of the tornado. No other radio or television stations in the community, public or private, have come close to matching this effort.
Next time your liberal friends tell you that right-wing talk radio is full of racist haters, point them here. And then ask them to comment on the last sentence above: No other radio or television stations in the community, public or private, have come close to matching this effort.

What would we do without taxpayer-supported public radio? Ask the people of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Monday, May 2, 2011

While We're Celebrating the Death of the Worst Man In The World...

With the success of the mission to turn Osama bin Laden into crab food, President Obama at least momentarily yields the title of Worst President Ever back to Jimmy Carter.

Carter, meanwhile, solidifies his standing as Worst Ex-President Ever by blaming the U.S. for starvation in North Korea:
"There are human rights issues that relate to the policies of the North Korean government, which I don't think any of us on the outside can change," Mr. Carter said. "But one of the most important human rights is to have food to eat. For the South Koreans and the Americans and others to deliberately withhold food aid to the North Korean people because of political or military issues not related is really a human rights violation."
I'm waiting for the United Nations Human Rights Council to pass a resolution condemning the U.S. Maybe Jimmy can write up the draft for them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Jed Clampett Time Travel Theory

Here's what would happen today if a poor mountaineer who could barely keep his family fed struck oil, courtesy of Place it on Lucky Dan:
While hunting, Jed strikes oil on his worthless swamp land. Assuming he has a permit for the firearm, was hunting in season and there are no issues with Fish and Game, before the oil company can purchase the land and cut Jed a check, the EPA must first examine the property damage caused by the spill. Penniless, Jed can't possibly afford the legal battle and isn't allowed to sell the oil to pay the outrageous fines. Attorneys for an oil company interesting in the property agree to represent him in what turns out to be a 15-year court battle. Forced to cap the well until the case is resolved, Jed battles a steady stream of lawsuits from environmental groups, one of which discovers a rare strain of mosquito larva roughly 500 feet from the first proposed derrick site. The property is zoned as a "protected watershed and sensitive wildlife habitat" and the case is dismissed before it reaches the Supreme Court.