Monthly Archives: January 2005

Wrong Target

Everyone is having a good time getting excited about media payola, and that's fine. (We've just learned of a third, third-rate, journalist on the secret take.) But that strikes me as almost minor compared to the larger issue of the vast sums being funneled to private PR agencies to push government projects.

How much of that money is being spent on things that clearly identify them as government propaganda (distasteful, but perhaps legal so long as it is not being used to lobby congress even indirectly — that would be quite illegal), and how much is not labeled? I don't expect most of the major media to pursue this since, to the extent it was used to by ads in the media, it pays their salaries….

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze, The Media | 1 Comment

Why Didn’t I Think of This: Under Bush Magic Accounting, US is “Bankrupt”

The Carpetbagger Report: Playing by White House rules, Bush is bankrupting the government: It's always been a ridiculous claim, but using White House definitions, the system will be “bankrupt” when liabilities outnumber assets. Social Security, in other words, will be bankrupt — in Bush's mind — because it may be unable to meet all of its obligations at some point down the road.

And, as the great Carpetbagger notes, if you define 'bankruptcy' as 'cash flow out exceeds cash flow in' or 'cash flow flow out exceeds cash flow in plus assets on hand' then the US government, GWB proprietor, is 'bankrupt'.

Posted in Econ: Social Security | 2 Comments

Limited Form of Cold Fusion Replicated in Lab

Goodbye “cold fusion” and hello “bubble fusion”.

Physical Review E has announced the publication of an article by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Purdue University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Russian Academy of Science (RAS) stating that they have replicated and extended previous experimental results that indicated the occurrence of nuclear fusion using a novel approach for plasma confinement.

This approach, called bubble fusion, and the new experimental results are being published in an extensively peer-reviewed article titled “Additional Evidence of Nuclear Emissions During Acoustic Cavitation,” which is scheduled to be posted on Physical Review E’s Web site and published in its journal this month.

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles. Moving at about the speed of sound, the internal shock waves impacted at the center of the bubbles causing very high compression and accompanying temperatures of about 100 million Kelvin.

These new data were taken with an upgraded instrumentation system that allowed data acquisition over a much longer time than was possible in the team’s previous bubble fusion experiments. According to the new data, the observed neutron emission was several orders of magnitude greater than background and had extremely high statistical accuracy. Tritium, which also is produced during the fusion reactions, was measured and the amount produced was found to be consistent with the observed neutron production rate.

Earlier test data, which were reported in Science (Vol. 295, March 2002), indicated that nuclear fusion had occurred, but these data were questioned because they were taken with less precise instrumentation.

“These extensive new experiments have replicated and extended our earlier results and hopefully answer all of the previous questions surrounding our discovery,” said Richard T. Lahey Jr., the Edward E. Hood Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer and the director of the analytical part of the joint research project.

I think this is still a long way from powering my laptop, though.

Posted in Science/Medicine | Leave a comment

Sticker Shock

Obsidian Wings: On a lighter note… notes a funny competition, and picks the winner.

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment

Why My Brother Will Never Be Part of the White House Press Corps

In his column today, my brother lists some questions he would have asked if he had been at the impromptu Bush press conference held yesterday:

Questions I Would Have Asked

Sir, there were two big developments yesterday about torture in Iraq. Newly released Army documents show that there have been many more alleged acts of brutality and abuse of Iraqis at the hands of military personnel than we knew of. And a new report from Human Rights Watch says some of Saddam's torturers are back in business under new management and that torture is again routine in Iraq. Are you outraged?

Sir, in one of the new incidents made public yesterday, a 73-year-old Iraqi woman was captured by members of the Delta Force special unit and allegedly robbed and sexually abused. One of your special assistants, whose name was redacted, apparently took an interest in the case. But like all of these newly released cases, it was closed without a conclusion. Did you know about this — or any other of the incidents made public yesterday?

Sir, let me read you a question Sen. Ted Kennedy asked Alberto Gonzales: “The FBI e-mails produced in the ACLU lawsuit include reports that detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo have suffered from the following abuses: Detainees were bound hand and foot and left in urine and feces for 18-24 hours; cigarette burns were inflicted; detainees were exposed to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods; enemas were forced on detainees. Do you believe any of these practices were or are lawful interrogation techniques or lawful detainee management?” In his written reply, Mr. Gonzales refused to rule any of those out. Will you?

Sir, you spoke in your inaugural address about bringing liberty to every corner of the globe. Do you mean like in Iraq? Are you aware that some people who don't share your world view don't consider that a good example?

Sir, why do you continue to say that Social Security will go bankrupt in 2042 when in fact even in the worst-case scenario it could still pay out 73 percent of wage-adjusted benefits? That's not bankrupt. In fact, your staffers are talking up a plan that would cut benefits even further than that. So why use the term bankrupt?

Sir, Social Security isn't really a retirement plan, it's more like an insurance plan, making sure that the elderly, the disabled, their dependents and survivors don't go destitute. Some people get a lot more out than they put in; others get a lot less; it's like insurance that way. Private accounts would be a huge change to the structure as established by FDR. What in your view is wrong with the way Social Security works now, other than the alleged financial shortfall, which private accounts don't address anyway?

Sir, when you go out into the country to make your case on Social Security “directly to the American people” will you only be meeting with and speaking to pre-screened groups of people who already agree with you? Or will you be willing to hear dissenting voices?

This is why he'll never be part of the White House Poodle Press Corps. And if by some accident he ever is there, he'll get the Helen Thomas treatment:

this was the first press conference since July 2002 that Bush has held in the cramped basement briefing room, where the press secretary normally holds court. Intervening press conferences have been held in the East Room, the Rose Garden, and in other locations.

There are assigned seats in the briefing room, and Bush started, like press secretary Scott McClellan normally does, by working his way through the first few rows, Kumar said. With one exception: “He called on everyone in the front two rows except for Helen,” Kumar said, referring to firebrand Helen Thomas, doyenne of the White House press corps, now a columnist for Hearst, and a scourge to the Bush administration.

You can chat online with Dan via washingtonpost.com in their Live Online feature tomorrow, Friday, at 1 p.m. ET.

Posted in Dan Froomkin | 3 Comments

Good Ideas in Economics, Summarized For Your Convenience

Robert's Stochastic thoughts, formerly Robert's Random Thoughts, summarizes (sends up?) the good ideas in economics as falling in one of 14 categories.

I think he's on to something here, at least if you accept, as I do, that whatever virtues may have lurked in his sociology, Marx was a very poor economist.

Posted in Econ & Money | 2 Comments

More Ugly Gitmo Allegations

JURIST : Prostitutes used in Gitmo torture, lawyer for Australian detainee says.

Posted in Guantanamo | 3 Comments