Saturday, April 30, 2005

A sea change

As some of you may know the drug war is one of the societal conditions that gets a lot of my attention.

Addiction or Self Medication?
Genetic Discrimination
Cannabinoids - the Key to many Pains?
Big Mac - heroin attack

What I have noted lately is a sea change in some attitudes. When I started writing two or three years ago the idea that long term PTSD was in part genetic was not well accepted. If you read my latest post on the subject -
A test for PTSD - you will see if you follow the links that the genetic component of PTSD is now an established fact without caveats. This is progress.

As time goes on the connection to drug use will become equally obvious.

Bush as part of his plan to slim government is defunding some of the drug war programs that do not appear to work.

Walters has initiated policy changes and management reforms that have rankled his staff and an array of interested stakeholders. The president's budget proposal for next year, which significantly reduces funding for drug assistance to state and local governments, has produced howls of protest from the officials who run these programs -- and from the members of Congress who represent them.

The Rand think tank has issued a report suggesting that the nation's drug policies are badly misdirected. And a small group of current and former ONDCP employees complain that Walters has run off the office's most experienced senior staff. The agency reported to Congress last year that most of the 17 senior career employees of the Office of Demand Reduction had resigned, retired, or been transferred since 2001, including three employees, with more than 20 years of combined experience in the drug czar's office, who retired on one day in August 2003.

The focal point for recent criticism of the drug czar's office has been the president's proposal to cut the budget for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program by more than half and move the program to the Justice Department.
I wonder if the boys at the top of the drug war have gotten the word about the direction of brain research re: drug use.

This could be the beginning of the demise of our whole drug control apparatus.

About time.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Got Votes?

Bill Frist says he wants to end the filibuster of judicial nominations. Bill says he has the votes to do it. He isn't acting like he has the votes to do it. An article from the American Prospect points this out:

Here we are at another prescribed deadline for Bill Frist's detonation of the “nuclear option” to end judicial filibusters. And here we are, watching that deadline get postponed once more.

Early last week, everyone in the know seemed sure that the majority leader would pull the trigger in the last days before the Senate begins its weeklong recess on April 29. But by yesterday, April 25, Frist aides had put out word that nuclear action would not, in fact, occur this week, so lawmakers can focus their energies on the highway bill and on conference reports for the Iraq War supplemental and the budget.
He is sure acting like he doesn't have the votes. Which is something I pointed out a week ago. Well it seems the Republicans have started putting their fingers in the wind. Which way is the wind blowing?
There are three reasons why the showdown keeps receding into the horizon.

First, the political fight doesn’t look to be a winner for the GOP. The party’s most recent internal polling shows 37 percent supporting the parliamentary move, with 51 percent opposed. (The latest Washington Post/CNN poll puts approval at 26 percent.) Hopes that the Democrats might hurt themselves in the polls by waging unpopular retaliatory actions seem like wishful thinking, particularly considering what looks to be the minority’s actual planned response -- nothing like an immediate, total shutdown of the Senate but, rather, a gradually escalating series of parliamentary tactics meant to impede Republicans’ legislative momentum over a course of months, combined with an effort to force votes on the Democrats’ top agenda items.
Want to find out what the last two reasons are? Read the article. Bottom line. The Republicans don't have the votes even with a 55 to 45 majority. From my take on things I'd say this was the political high water mark for Republicans for at least four years and perhaps longer.

They shoulda listened to me.


Rights from the Ceator, Laws from Men

I was just reading part of a speech Al Gore gave about the recent intrusion of religious zealots into the laws of our country. He makes a very good point:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident," our founders declared. "That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..."

But while our rights come from God, as our founders added, "governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed."

So, unlike our inalienable rights, our laws are human creations that derive their moral authority from our consent to their enactment-informed consent given freely within our deliberative processes of self-government.
Sounds pretty good to me. When did Al get his marbles back?

I'm not sure he is ready to handle the war but he sure as hell has got an ear to the mood of the country.

Men making laws can be wrong even when acting in what they believe is the spirit of God. Say didn't I mention that the Republicans could learn a lot from alcohol prohibition? I believe I did.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Against Choice and Accountability

I'm reading Eduwonk and came across this gem about No Child Left Behind (NCLB)from our Democrat friends:

The NEA strategy which is basically anti-accountability in terms of NCLB (yes, yes, they support the goals, everyone supports the goals...) and anti-choice overall, even including public school choice and charters, puts Democrats in the position of essentially championing a role for public schools that doesn't focus on either student learning (especially for disadvantaged students) or parental preference. Politically this leaves the field pretty wide open for Republicans but intellectually it leaves Democrats in a position of championing public education more or less as a day care or jobs program rather than an educational project. Over time, that's not a good place to be politically or substantively. There are certainly legitimate arguments against choice in all its forms and also against accountability both in theory and practice today.
Against choice, against accountability.

I think that about sums up the problems of our Democrat friends.

Why NCLB can't work

The problem is in the homes not the schools.

Says Bill Cosby and a few others:

In January, almost 2,000 people jammed the auditorium at Wayne County Community College in Detroit in order to hear Bill Cosby yell at them—there’s really no other way to put it—for being bad parents. That was after a crowd had already filled a hall in Newark. And another in Springfield, Massachusetts. And another in Milwaukee. And yet another in Atlanta.
So Bill says black folks need to be better parents. Good. But in what way? Where are the errors being made?
So why have we been able to make so little headway in improving the life chances of poor black children? One reason towers over all others, and it’s the one Cosby was alluding to, however crudely, in his town-hall meetings: poor black parents rear their children very differently from the way middle-class parents do, and even by the time the kids are four years old, the results are extremely hard to change.
We know this. The fact is not in dispute. It is uncomfortable. So what are the differences?
....poor parents raise their kids differently, because they see being parents differently. They are not simply middle-class parents manqué; they have their own culture of child rearing, and—not to mince words—that culture is a recipe for more poverty. Without addressing that fact head-on, not much will ever change.

Social scientists have long been aware of an immense gap in the way poor parents and middle-class parents, whatever their color, treat their children, including during the earliest years of life. On the most obvious level, middle-class parents read more to their kids, and they use a larger vocabulary, than poor parents do. They have more books and educational materials in the house; according to Inequality at the Starting Gate, the average white child entering kindergarten in 1998 had 93 books, while the average black child had fewer than half that number.
Now perhaps some of this difference is related to poverty? Perhaps money will fix the problem. Sorry. The problem is not a difference in books or educational toys. It is a difference in culture.
But poor parents differ in ways that are less predictably the consequences of poverty or the lack of high school diplomas. Researchers find that low-income parents are more likely to spank or hit their children. They talk less to their kids and are more likely to give commands or prohibitions when they do talk: “Put that fork down!” rather than the more soccer-mommish, “Why don’t you give me that fork so that you don’t get hurt?” In general, middle-class parents speak in ways designed to elicit responses from their children, pointing out objects they should notice and asking lots of questions: “That’s a horse. What does a horsie say?” (or that middle-class mantra, “What’s the magic word?”). Middle-class mothers also give more positive feedback: “That’s right! Neigh! What a smart girl!” Poor parents do little of this.

The difference between middle-class and low-income child rearing has been captured at its starkest—and most unsettling—by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley in their 1995 book Meaningful Differences. As War on Poverty foot soldiers with a special interest in language development, Hart and Risley were troubled by the mediocre results of the curriculum they had helped design at the Turner House Preschool in a poor black Kansas City neighborhood. Comparing their subjects with those at a lab school for the children of University of Kansas professors, Hart and Risley found to their dismay that not only did the university kids know more words than the Turner kids, but they learned faster. The gap between upper- and lower-income kids, they concluded, “seemed unalterable by intervention by the time the children were 4 years old.”
The problem can't be fixed in school. It has to be fixed by changing the culture. This will not be easy. For instance, how do you get parents with no experience of being talked to to talk to their kids even when the kids are too young to carry on a conversation? And it is not just talk. The parents must increse their vocabulary. Studies have been done.
Trying to understand why, their team set out to observe parents and children in their homes doing the things they ordinarily did—hanging out, talking, eating dinner, watching television. The results were mind-boggling: in the first years of life, the average number of words heard per hour was 2,150 for professors’ kids, 1,250 for working-class children, and 620 for children in welfare families.

But the problem went further. Welfare parents in the study didn’t just talk less; their talk was meaner and more distracted.
This is going to be tough. It is not a matter of money. It is about telling (or at least instructing) parents on the proper way to raise children. Not exactly a government function in America.

The article goes on to talk about "the Mission":
In middle-class families, the child’s development—emotional, social, and (these days, above all) cognitive—takes center stage. It is the family’s raison d’être, its state religion. It’s the reason for that Mozart or Rafi tape in the morning and that bedtime story at night, for finding out all you can about a teacher in the fall and for Little League in the spring, for all the books, crib mobiles, trips to the museum, and limits on TV. It’s the reason, even, for careful family planning; fewer children, properly spaced, allow parents to focus ample attention on each one. Just about everything that defines middle-class parenting—talking to a child, asking questions, reasoning rather than spanking—consciously aims at education or child development. In The Family in the Modern Age, sociologist Brigitte Berger traces how the nuclear family arose in large measure to provide the environment for the “family’s great educational mission.”

The Mission, as we’ll call it, was not a plot against women. It was the answer to a problem newly introduced by modern life: how do you shape children into citizens in a democratic polity and self-disciplined, self-reliant, skilled workers in a complex economy? It didn’t take all that much solicitude to prepare kids to survive in traditional, agricultural societies. That’s not the case when it comes to training them to prosper in an individualistic, commercial, self-governing republic. “[I]n no other family system do children play a more central role than in that of the conventional nuclear family,” Berger writes.
In any case no school program of testing is going to fix this.

Demming says that you can't test your way into quality at low cost if you don't use the results of the tests to change the process. You do not want to keep fixing problems down stream caused by an upstream defect in the process.

Now how we change this is a question I can't answer. But I can tell you this. NCLB is not the answer.

Clues for the Republicans

Alan Keyes did worse than Bush in Illinois by a vote of 27% for Keyes to 45% of the vote for Bush. In addition about 130,000 Republicans voted none of the above in the Senate race by not voting for either candidate.

The Republican Party in California is/was a dismal failure in California until Arnie did an end run around the party.

Medical Marijuana did better than Bush in Montana by 62% for pot, 59% for Bush.

I added Test all things. Hold fast to that which is true. to my side bar a few days ago. Doubt is my hero. Which is why I tend to be a small government libertarian.

Andrew Sullivan[registration required] who has become rational again now that the election is over has a great piece on the value of doubt in current politics. You should read it.

The bottom line here as I have said before: "a coalition is ruled by its weakest member".

The Republicans I think have made the #1 mistake of those who feel comfortable with power. They have stopped listening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Joking About Killing the President

It says here that some one on NPR was joking about killing the President.

It says that such jokes are illegal.

It says the Secret Service is investigating.

So if I jokingly threaten my next door neighbor no problem.

But the President?

Maybe it is McCain-Feingold.

Hat tip LGF

Grand Rounds

I'm listed in this weeks Grand Rounds for my piece on a blood test for PTSD.

If medicine and medical stories (the diary of an ambulance crewman for instance) are of interest give Dr. Tony a visit.

Culture Wars

Which is more important to America?

Fighting culture wars or repairing Social Security?

The Republicans have decided to expend their political capital on the culture wars.

I'm not so sure this is a good idea.


The Republicans had a choice - Social Security reform or a culture war.

They have chosen a culture war.

In the end they will get neither.

Monday, April 25, 2005

America is going to the heathens

Instapundit has some thoughts on whether America is becoming a theocracy. I think that question can be answered by going to the horse's mouth. Joyce Meyer Ministries.

It is a well-documented fact that the percentage of Bible-believing Christians has been steadily decreasing from generation to generation. While 35 percent of the baby boomers hold to core Biblical beliefs, that number drops to only 4 percent of “millennials” (those twenty-four years and younger).
So what should be the loyal opposition's attitude towards this fact? Stop complaining. All you have to do is wait them out.

The Bolton Nomination to the UN

We are talking here of appointing an ambassador to a gang of thieves, rapists, child pornographers, murders, and some plain insensitive folks.

According to the anti-Bolton folks' description of his talents I'd say his qualifications were perfect for the job.

Kick ass. Don't bother taking names.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Energy Supplies - Good News

Good news on the enery front. The Chinese are planning to increase their energy supplies by building an oil pipeline. In Canada.

Canada is going into the oil sands business in a big way. With China.

CALGARY -- China is looking for deals of any kind or size in Canada's oil sands, a senior Sinopec executive says, and the world's most populous country might pull off a "much bigger" move than this week's small, $150-million investment.

"We are looking for profitable projects," which could include everything from minority stakes to full ownership of oil sands projects, said Hou Hongbin, a vice-president of a unit of government-controlled China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec).
Verrrry interesting.

However, that is not all China is up to.
Yesterday, pipeline company Enbridge Inc. announced a preliminary deal with PetroChina Co. Ltd. for half the supply on the proposed $2.5-billion Gateway line, which is supposed to move 400,000 barrels of oil sands crude to the West Coast for export. Chinese companies have made inquiries about the oil sands for several years and last year visited Alberta with a long list of detailed questions, leading to months of speculation about what sort of moves the giant and increasingly powerful country would make. Enbridge's connection with China had been widely expected.

Mr. Hou said securing oil supplies for his energy-hungry country is China's chief goal. "The more sources of import, the more safe" those supplies are, Mr. Hou said. He added that prices for assets in North America are "slightly high," but the continent's political stability and strong rule-of-law are "one of the most important factors for [China's] investment decisions."
North American stability. A very important factor in China's investment decisions. Rule of law is important. You know. I wonder if this is filtering up to top managemt in China.

Well what are the Chinese really up to? There may be an answer here:
Tuesday’s deal makes CNOOC the first mainland China firm to gain a stake in the industry after visits by Chinese government and oil officials to Alberta over the past year.

“These skills may help facilitate the exploitation of oil sand and shale in China,” CNOOC Chairman Fu Chengyu said in a statement.
So this is a technology buy disguised as a production/transport buy. Very Clever.
Privately owned MEG owns a 100 percent working interest in oil sand leases on 32,900 acres in Alberta, Canada. The holdings are estimated to hold 4 billion barrels of bitumen, a kind of tar, that can be processed to produce about 2 billion barrels of crude oil, CNOOC said.

Current high crude oil prices have prompted Chinese oil companies to consider alternative sources of oil to help meet surging demand.

"Lower operating costs and higher recoveries resulting from recent advances in technologies have made many similar projects economically viable," Yang Hua, CNOOC's chief financial officer, said in a statement.

CNOOC's chairman and chief executive officer, Fu Chengyu, said the skills learned in Alberta would be useful in exploiting oil sand and shale in China.

According to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, China's two major onshore producers, China Petrochemical Corp. and PetroChina are also negotiating purchases of oil sands assets in Alberta.
Now I wonder who they are buying from. I have a guess. Who said the future of envirnmentalism was China? I think it was Maurice Strong.

Doesn't Strong have connections with oil interests in Canada and France?

In a word.


Well any way. The good news is that one of the largest oil resources in the world - oil sands - is now being developed.

We are not running out of oil.

Update: 23:51z 25 April 2005

I found this interesting article on the technology and politics of Canada's tar sands.
CALGARY -- Chinese demand for the Alberta oil sands -- the second largest reserve of crude on the planet -- puts the United States in the difficult position of balancing its commitment to open markets with its desire for secure supplies of energy, says Alberta's new envoy to Washington.

"That's exactly what the U.S. is wrestling with," said Murray Smith, the former Alberta energy minister who begins work as the province's representative in the U.S. capital next week. The question, which has been pondered quietly for several years, is likely to burst into the spotlight in 2005.

Enbridge Inc. is pushing ahead with a plan to build a $2.5-billion pipeline from Edmonton to the British Columbia coast, saying that the majority of the oil will probably head to China and that a Chinese company may take a 49-per-cent ownership stake in the line.

The line would carry about 20 per cent of the oil sands' projected daily production in 2010 of two million barrels. At present, oil sands production is about one million barrels, with very little of it going to Asia.
We know oil is fungible. Any new source relieves pressure on demand. And that is precisely what a U.S. Expert says:
"There would be some concerns [for the United States]," said Robert Ebel, head of energy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, citing the possibility of having to pay more for foreign oil than it would have to pay to get it from Canada. "But, all in all, it would benefit the world market as a whole."

Canada is the No. 1 exporter of crude oil and petroleum products to the United States, which is the world's biggest importer and consumes a quarter of the planet's daily production. China recently became the No. 2 importer, moving past Japan. In 2003, Canada produced 2.39 million barrels of crude a day, exporting almost two-thirds of that -- 1.55-million barrels -- to the United States.

Mr. Ebel said that while Chinese competition for a safe source of U.S. oil isn't great news, the fact that China is diversifying its own supply is important, potentially making the global oil market more stable.

"It's not necessarily a surprise that [China] would knock on Canada's door and take a long look at the oil sands," Mr. Ebel said. "Should we be concerned that some of that oil goes east instead of south? Probably not."
Ah, but there may be a fly in the ointment. First the good news:
The oil sands -- whose reserves of 174 billion barrels rank No. 2 in the world behind Saudi Arabia's -- have the attention of the White House. In 2001, U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney's National Energy Policy report said "their continued development can be a pillar of sustained North American energy and economic security."

But Canada needs new markets, a government agency here says. In a 158-page report in May on the challenges and opportunities in the oil sands, the National Energy Board said the United States historically has absorbed any additional production of crude oil from Canada. But it concluded that "additional markets will be required to keep pace with oil sands expansion."

China doesn't have much refining capacity for the heavy oil such as that produced from the oil sands, but has significant plans to build new refineries.
So where is the bad news? America hasn't built a new refinery in 30 years. In fact our refining capacity over that time has declined by about 2 million barrels a day. In addition our multiple blends of gasoline make it harder to match supply and demand. You can't ship blends designed for one region to another. Environmental regulations don't you know.

And new refineries? Well they cost a lot more due to environmental regulations and getting all the permits required is not easy. Here is some interesting climate change info along with this report:
The industry forecasts 8 to 10 new refineries will be needed to keep up with demand; each refinery is estimated to cost $2.5 billion and take seven years to complete.

Even if companies wanted to build a new refinery, the environmental burden is huge and the costs are overwhelming. Approval of a new refinery could require as many as 800 different permits and NPRA says environmental regulatory costs over the past decade reached $47 billion.

The lack of slack and flexibility is resulting in exaggerated seasonal shortages and price volatility, putting our energy supply, economy and national security are at risk, says IBD. [Investor's Business Daily]

Passover Blog

In honor of Passover I'm just going to post a link and a quote.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Germans attempted a retreat, but their path was cut. German dead soon littered the street. The remainder tried to find cover in the neighbouring stores and house entrances, but this shelter proved insufficient. The "glorious" SS, therefore, called tanks into action under the cover of which the remaining men of two companies were to commence a "victorious" retreat. But even the tanks seemed to be affected by the Germans' bad luck. The first was burned out by one of our incendiary bottles, the rest did not approach our positions. The fate of the Germans caught in the Mita Street-Zamenhofa Street trap was settled. Not a single German left this area alive. The following battle groups took part in the fighting here: Gruzalc's (Bund); Merdek's (Hashomer); Hochberg's (Bund); Berek's (Dror); Pawel's (PPR).

Simultaneously, fights were going on at the intersection of Nalewki and Gesia Streets. Two battle groups kept the Germans from entering the ghetto area at this point. The fighting lasted more than seven hours. The Germans found some mattresses and used them as cover, but the partisans' well-aimed fire forced them to several successive withdrawals. German blood flooded the street. German ambulances continuously transported their wounded to the small square near the Community buildings. Here the wounded lay in rows on the sidewalk awaiting their turn to be admitted to the hospital. At the corner of Gesia Street a German air liaison observation post signalled the partisans' positions and the required bombing targets to the planes. But from the air as well as on the ground the partisans appeared to be invincible. The Gesia Street-Nalewki Street battle ended in the complete withdrawal of the Germans.

At the same time heavy fighting raged at Muranowski Square. Here the Germans attacked from all directions. The cornered partisans defended themselves bitterly and succeeded, by truly superhuman efforts, in repulsing the attacks. Two German machine-guns and a quantity of other weapons were captured. A German tank was burned, the second tank of the day.

At 2 p.m., not a single live German remained in the ghetto area. It was the ZOB's first complete victory over the Germans. The remaining hours of the day passed in "complete quiet", i.e. with the exception of artillery fire (the guns were in positions at Krasinski Square) and several bombings from the air.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Republicans Will Keep Filibuster

I was thinking out loud over at Roger Simon's about the "real" meaning of the delay in Bolton's nomination. I came to the conclusion it was political.

Here is what I had to say:

The Blue State Republicans need some quiet from the Religous right. I think this has nothing to do with Bolton.

The question is do the Republicans want to keep their coalition together or not? That is what Voinovich is trying to get across.

The President is not going to get a series of hard right religious judges. He will get right moderates. From his own party.

Which is why they are going to back off from changing the cloture rule. With a 60 vote rule they can blame the Democrats. With a 50 vote rule they will have no one to blame but themselves.
I think what the Republicans are finding out is that they do not have 50 votes within their party for hard right judges.

They will cover this by saying "tradition, blah, blah, blah,....." and "suppose the Democrats regain a majority, blah, blah, blah,.....". The real reason of course is that there are no more political parties. There are political coalitions with party names.

The Republicans are learning a hard fact:

Coalitions are ruled by their weakest members.

Bottom line: the filibuster will remain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fuel Cell Membrane Advance

Ever since the Gemeni Program Teflon has been the material of choice for the membrane in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells. PolyFuel has a better idea. A hydrocarbon membrane. This new membrane material is compatible with current assembly processes (heat sealing) used with the Teflon membranes. Here is what PolyFuel has to say about their new membrane material:

Perfluorinated membranes based upon the Teflon® polymer were first developed for the Gemini space program in the 1960’s. Notwithstanding their success in that program, and in spite of over 40 years of additional experimentation with perfluorinated membranes, practical levels of fuel-cell performance have never been attained. Many knowledgeable observers believe that perfluorinated membranes will never be commercially viable for widespread, consumer use. Although these membranes worked in outer space, many believe that they will ultimately be unsuccessful — in our laptops, cell phones, and automobiles — here on earth.

Creating alternative membranes is an extremely challenging process, and in the ensuing decades, such efforts have met with little success. Recently, however, PolyFuel has developed a unique capability to directly engineer the nano-architectures and the chemical characteristics of a membrane based upon system-level requirements that has not only led to the rapid development of scores of new membranes — but ones which have exhibited breakthroughs in performance. Such “engineered membranes” are the future of fuel cells.

PolyFuel’s membranes — based upon hydrocarbon polymers, rather than perfluorinated, are considered to be best-in-class for both portable direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) — designed for portable electronic devices such as laptops, PDAs or cell phones — and for hydrogen fuel cells — designed to power automotive vehicles.
Interesting. But that is not all. This represents a nanotechnology advance as well.

Obstructionists in the Senate

Well no sooner do I put up a bit about Republican Judges opposing the Republican program but I find out that a Republican Senator is blocking Bush's nominee for UN Ambasador, John Bolton.

The committee agreed to postpone the vote until next month after Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich said he was not yet prepared to vote for Bolton.
It looks to me like there may be a revolt of the RINOs brewing. I wonder what will happen in the House.

It may not be just Democrats who are holding the Republicans back.

I keep telling them that the fanatics may control the party, but they do not control the coalition. There seem to be defections.

It amazes me that the party can be so politically stupid.

Oh, wait. I forgot. It IS the stupid party.

Oh. Well.

An End to Judiciary Independence?

Good Ole' Boy Tom DeLay has stepped in it again. He is paving the way for a Democrat Revolution. You would almost think he is tired of the Republic. So what did he do now?

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's work from the bench has been ``incredibly outrageous,'' his latest salvo at the federal judiciary in the weeks following the courts' refusal to stop Terri Schiavo's death.

DeLay also labeled a lot of the courts' Republican appointees as ``judicial activists,'' a term applied by conservatives to judges they dislike for not following what they call strict interpretations of the Constitution.
So he is not just unhappy with the Democrat appointments to the court but some of the Republican Justices don't please him either.

Well that should tell you something. And it is obvious. You can't trust Republicans. But that is only the warm up there is more.
The House has no power over which judges are given lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

However, DeLay has called repeatedly for the House to find a way to hold the federal judiciary accountable for its decisions. ``The judiciary has become so activist and so isolated from the American people that it's our job to do that,'' he said.

One way would be for the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the clause in the Constitution that says ``judges can serve as long as they serve with good behavior,'' he said. ``We want to define what good behavior means. And that's where you have to start.''
So there you have it. Congress gets to second guess every judicial decision. Not by passing laws, which is their job, but by intimidating judges by threats of removal from office.

In other words GOB (Good Ole' Boy) Tom wants an end to Republican Government. Evidently he would prefer an inquisition.

I have never seen a party work harder to loose the next election.

Perhaps it is time that DeLay stepped down. He is becoming a liability.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Whispers in DeLay's Ear?

Tom DeLay has spoken at the NRA convention. Here is a bit of what he had to say:

"We certainly don't have to agree with those who seek to deny us our 2nd Amendment rights, but we do have to remember that while our opponents' policy initiatives may be bad, that doesn't mean our opponents are bad people."
Do you suppose that some one has shown him the results of the current phase of the culture wars and it is not positive for the Republican Party?

He seems to have toned down his "they hate baby Jesus" rhetoric.

We shall see how long it lasts.

I still remember Alan "Jesus hates Democrats" Keyes in Illinois. And the long running stupidity of the Republican Party in California until Arnie was able to do an end run around them.

It won't take long to find out if this change of heart was tactical or strategic.

Welcome Roger Simon readers.

Bill Gates Islam

It has been reported that Bill has fenced in Islam. However he has provided gates for exit and entry. No need to be disturbed.

If you feel fenced in there is a way out: use Bill's gates. There is also the possibility of windows if the gates do not work. Other wise Jim Morrison has given us doors. Use them.

hat tip Gates of Vienna

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Dragnet: Operation FALCON

Operation FALCON was a concerted effort on the part of State and Federal Governments to round up 10,340 fugitives who may have comitted serious crimes but were still at large.

The serious crimes include murder, rape or sexual assault, gang membership, armed robbery, and kidnapping.

So let us see if we can break this down.

162 murder suspects,
553 rape or sexual assault suspects and
154 gang members
638 suspected of armed robbery
68 kidnapping suspects were detained
1,555 total

That leaves 8,785 unaccounted for, about 85% of the total.

What do you want to bet that most of those are wanted on drug charges?

Most people do not realize how much drug prohibition has skewed law enforcement.

Update: 23:12z 14 April 2005

I did a search to find out more about operation FALCON. The only story I turned up so far was from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Well guess what? All four suspects apprehended were TADA - drug suspects. Why am I not surprised?

A test for PTSD

Researchers at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School appear to have discovered a test that can predict who will have long term problems with PTSD.

The results of the first-ever findings, published in the prestigious journal Molecular Psychiatry, describe how the researchers looked for and discovered a physiological signature in peripheral blood cells of activities that mainly take place in the brain. Their research methodology was innovative in itself. They examined thousands of possible markers at once, using the best available technology at the time.

The researchers believe that after some improvement in the testing process, it will be possible to predict the PTSD symptoms. Hadasit, the Hadassah subsidiary in charge of promoting and commercializing intellectual properties generated at Hadassah, has already patented the findings of the research and is in advanced stages of developing a commercial diagnostic kit for PTSD.

“Now that we have found the signals, we are going to concentrate on detecting the genes, to shed more light on the biological processes in our bodies that cause mental diseases, and from this – to develop ways to prevent such diseases,” said Prof. Arie Shalev, head of Hadassah's Department of Psychiatry, who led the research with Dr. Ronen Segman of the Psychiatric Laboratory at Hadassah University Hospital-Mt. Scopus. Lab work was done by Dr. Segman and Tanya Goltzer-Dubner. Prof. Nir Friedman and Noa Shefi from the Hebrew University’s Department of Computer Science did the computerized digitations of the data, and Prof. Naftali Kaminski from Sheba Hospital helped in the laboratory part of the research
This is truly amazing. As some of you may know I have done a lot of work as an amateur on PTSD and its relationship to the use of unapproved drugs (you know, pot, heroin etc.) This work essentially confirms my finding that PTSD (of the long term variety) is a two factor problem. The two factors are genetics and trauma. The trauma can include combat, child abuse, living in a war zone and any other situation that is dangerous or life threatening (like living in a drug war zone) where the individual involved feels powerless to control the situation. For instance sky diving is life threatening but is not a situation where those involved have no control.

Globes online did an interview with Prof. Arie Shalev who lead the research team.
"The problem in diagnosing PTSD is that the brain is an inaccessible organ to research," explains Shalev. "Differences can be seen between the brain of a person about to develop PTSD and the brain of a person about to recover, but the differences are small and indistinct. Nor is it possible to conduct MRI tests for everyone who comes into an emergency room. Our breakthrough would say, 'If this process affects the brain, we can certainly see evidence of it in the blood, which is much more accessible'."

Shalev and his colleague, Ronen Segman of the Psychiatric Laboratory at Hadassah University Hospital-Mt. Scopus, turned to a fairly new technology, microRA, which can simultaneously examine tens of thousands of molecules in the blood. "This system can diagnose the presence of messenger RNA (mRNA) in the blood. These are proteins that genes manufacture to signal the body to do something. We can check and see what the bodies of different types of patient are about to do," says Shalev.
Professor Shalev goes on to say that the research he has done will provide a tool for further study of the mechanisms involved in PTSD.
"Our study examined 24 people who suffered trauma and were diagnosed with shock upon arrival at hospital," says Shalev. "We found difference between their blood profile. Some patients had elevated levels of stress hormones - proteins that that block changes in the nervous system, and proteins that frequently found in the hippocampus, the area where we saw difference in MRI scans between patients who developed PTSD and those who recovered from shock.

"We hypothesized that the patients showing this blood profile were much more likely to develop PTSD. The test was able to correctly predict in ten out of eleven shock patients arriving at the emergency room whether they would show signs of PTSD four months later."

"Globes": What causes the difference between those who recover from shock and those who have trouble recovering?

Shalev: "A lot of factors cause the difference, none of which on its own can predict who will develop PTSD and who will not. Proximity to the traumatic event, prior events, psychological abandonment in childhood, a recovery environment from trauma, and biogenetic awareness are all factors investigated for which evidence has been found that they influence candidacy for PTSD. If we were to go gene by gene, we might find small differences in some genes between the group that are candidates for PTSD and the group that are not candidates. But you can get clear results with real predictive ability if you examine many molecules in the blood simultaneously."

How exactly do these hormones affect the brain to cause PTSD?

"The truth is that we don’t really know. We've hypothesized a mechanism, and I believe that by understanding the profile of proteins in the blood at the time of trauma, we can better understand the mechanisms. There are currently many theories that we might be able to support or disprove. I'm waiting for surprises."
There is more of the interview at Globes. Read the whole thing.

Canada Israel Comittee has also reported on Professor Shalev's work.
Emergency rooms are built specifically to take care of a patient's physical injuries. But what about emotional fallout due to the traumatic event that just took place - especially the delayed reaction of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Israeli researchers at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem have determined that a simple blood test might enable psychiatrists to predict if a person will develop PTSD. The test can be conducted while they're still in the emergency room, only hours after the traumatic event occurred.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe mental condition that can be severe, persistent and disabling, and occurs in a significant minority of trauma survivors beginning at the moment of the traumatic event, according to Prof. Arie Shalev, head of Hadassah's Department of Psychiatry.
Professor Shalev goes on to discuss how this breakthrough came about.
"The project was born from conversations between Dr. Segman and myself, following our previous work on the genetics of PTSD," said Shalev.

"We wondered how to improve the prediction and the understanding of this disorder from biological findings. We realized that current biological hypotheses did not yield much, and may take very long time to yield good-enough markers of PTSD - indeed of any other mental disorder. This is because any given contributing factor may only predict part of the total variance in the causation of a given disorder. Additionally, by going for one factor at a time, we might, in fact, miss the 'right' hypothesis altogether."

Using an innovative methodology, they simultaneously examined thousands of possible biomarkers using microarrays (gene chips). Microarrays, which have been used to measure the activity of thousands of genes at one time in cancer or immune cells, have given scientists "snapshots" of gene activity that lead to a better understanding of the cells and genetic machinery.

"Ronen suggested the use of micro arrays - where the team could test simultaneously thousands of hypothetical candidates - and look at gene expression in blood cells - as reflecting the central nervous system activity, at a timing that coincides with triggering and onset of the disorder," said Shalev.

"We further thought that since stress involves both the central nervous system and peripheral activation (such as higher blood pressure, higher levels of circulating hormones and change in immune factors) - the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder might indeed be biologically expressed in blood cells."
Professor Shalev talks about his breakthrough and what it means.
"Now that we have found the signals, we are going to concentrate on detecting the genes, to shed more light on the biological processes in our bodies that cause mental diseases, and from this - to develop ways to prevent such diseases," said Shalev.

He hopes the discovery will induce other researchers to investigate the connection between peripheral expression and central nervous system expression of a disease that affects the brain.

According to Shalev, the study has broken two boundaries.

"First, the idea that one must necessarily study the biology of the brain (which is impossible in humans). We suggest, instead, that one can productively study a 'signature' of central nervous system phenomena in the easily accessible peripheral blood cells," said Shalev.

"Second, we challenge the reluctance to conduct a study with generic - rather than specific hypotheses (generic = there will be a signature; specific = this gene should be expressed). In other words, we suggest, in this work that it is productive to start by throwing a wide net (the micro array - in which thousands of expressions are seen at the same time) - and than eventually go back to testing specific hypothesis on the basis of micro array findings."
Again there is more at the site. Read it.

Another site reporting on the research is The World Jewish Congress. The American magazine Psychology Today also has a report.

Deployment Link which deals with American military health issues is looking for veterans of either Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm or Vietnam War to participate in a study of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. If you fit into one of those catagories contact them. The work is being done by Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York.

Here is an article by Prof. Shalev dealing with the genetics of PTSD. It was published in 2003.

The blog Crystal Clear which is written by a psychotherapist dealing with child psychology and family issues has also discussed the research.

And finally let me point you to some of my articles on the subject of PTSD and drug use.

Addiction or Self Medication?
Genetic Discrimination
Cannabinoids - the Key to many Pains?
Big Mac - heroin attack
Capitalism, Pain and the War on Drugs
PTSD Pot Alcohol & Substance Abuse
The Problem with Drug Addicts
Fear of Marijuana

BTW thanks to the commenter SAO at Winds of Change and Joe Katzman also of Winds who brought this to my attention.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Supporting Our Enemies

It appears that drug prohibition supported world wide by the American developed and supported Single Convention Treaty On Narcotics is supporting our enemies.

Like its '90s counterparts in Afghanistan and Algeria, the Saudi terror movement depends heavily on smuggling, especially of drugs such as heroin and hashish, as a source of revenue.

Because such drugs are specifically banned under Islamic law, the terror groups have used a fatwa by their late "spiritual guide" Abdallah al-Rashoud in which he provided an "exception." His argument was simple: Hard drugs represent a form of weaponry that the true Muslim is authorized to use against the "infidel" nation; the drugs will kill young people in the "infidel" West while providing money for the Islamist groups to buy arms with which to kill more "infidels."
Now we didn't have problems with terrorists in the 1920s but we did have a lot of problems with criminals (same difference). We solved the criminal problem buy ending prohibition.

Today we have a criminal AND terrorist problem. I proposed we end it the same way we ended in 1933 the problems caused by prohibition. We ended prohibition.

Now I will admit that after ending alcohol prohibition we still were left with an alcohol problem, which basically is a medical problem. However we eliminated the criminal part of the equation. If we ended drug prohibitiion we would still have a drug problem, which basically is a medical problem. However we would be eliminating the terrorist and criminal part of the equation.

End prohibition. It worked once, it could work again.

via Instapundit

Kerry needs to do a 180

As some of you may know I was all over the place during election season. At an early election post at Roger Simon's I promised to bring up form 180 with every post I made until the election was over.

I mostly held to that promise. Form 180 became a watchword on the right. I like to think I helped.

Now it seems that Sen. Kerry has promised again to sign form 180.

Something... and Half of Something is on a mission to get Kerry to do what he promised. Sign form 180. There are links there to Sen. Kerry so you can send him an e-mail.

Here is Sen. Kerry's e-mail form should you wish to contact him for advice on American Foreign Policy or question him on Form 180. Interestinly enough he has no honorific on his form for Navy Enlisted men. His so called band of brothers. Wonder why.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Save Democracy, Impeach a Judge

We have a new group in America dedicated to getting the proper rulings out of judges. It is being reported in the Washington Post. There is also a link to the group's www site at the Daily Briefing.

You see they think too many activist judges are coming to the wrong conclusions. Except when they are not activist enough and come to the wrong conclusions. So because of the incoherence of their previous philosophy they have a new name for it:

[Phyllis] Schlafly called for passage of a quartet of bills in Congress that would remove courts' power to review religious displays, the Pledge of Allegiance, same-sex marriage and the Boy Scouts. Her speech brought a subtle change in the argument against the courts from emphasizing "activist" judges -- it was, after all, inaction by federal judges that doomed Schiavo -- to "supremacist" judges. "The Constitution is not what the Supreme Court says it is," Schlafly asserted.
Now these folks have some really good ideas. They want to eliminate the common law from American jurisprudence by eliminating precedent i.e. following previous decisions unless there is error or some very good reason not to follow those decisions. This also means the end of settled law. Now it is very hard to do business in a place where there is no settled law. What are these people thinking?
Farris said he would block judicial power by abolishing the concept of binding judicial precedents, by allowing Congress to vacate court decisions, and by impeaching judges such as Kennedy, who seems to have replaced Justice David H. Souter as the target of conservative ire. "If about 40 of them get impeached, suddenly a lot of these guys would be retiring," he said.
Well my limited understanding of human nature says if they start intimidating judges fewer will retire.

And if they want Congress to be able to vacate Court decisions they are going to have one little problem:
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
That would be in Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution. What it means is that trying to do an end run around judges is generally frowned upon. I'm sure Ann Althouse could go into much more detail.

Now ordinarily these sorts of folks are screaming that we should follow the Constitution. I guess like the left they allow for one exception: when it doesn't get them the results they want.

via Instapundit.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Smoke and Methanol #2

I originally wrote a piece called Smoke and Methanol around May of 2003 explaing why the predictions of the immanet arrival of the methanol fuel cell for portable applications was just smoke. I predicted then that the methanol fuel cell would not be an actual product until 2006.

It looks like I was a bit optimistic.

In the April 2005 edition of Electronic Products an update of the current status of Toshiba's progress was announced. So far they have a prototype of a methanol fuel cell which they hope to have in production by late 2005 or early 2006.

That does not mean they will be available to the general public then. First manufacturers must get their hands on production samples. Then they must be designed in to a product. Following that the products must be tested and approved by the various agencies including the FAA, the FCC, UL and others. Then they must go into production and get distributed along with replacement fuel cartriges.

That means the earliest they can come to market is early 2007 or as late as 2008. If everything goes according to plan.

All this for a product which was announced as coming soon in the year 2000.

Getting a product to market is never as easy as it seems.

In addition we still know nothing about the cost structure of these new devices. They may be an energy hit and an economic failure. Only time will tell.

Energy Panics

We have been having energy panics for as long as I can remember. We have yet to come to a point where the market if allowed to react to prices couldn't adjust.

Well I'm over at Winds of Change, where they are discussing tide power. The article they point to is discussing what a great thing it will be by 'n by. One commenter wails that he thinks millionaires are wasting their money on rides in space when they could be funding wave power. This point of view has a number of faults, however, in the comments section there (reprinted here) I deal with the technical aspects.


The way to get millionaire capitalists to invest in any kind of power is to show an above average rate of return. Preferably in a year or less.

Of course with all the environmental regulatory hurdles they have to go through plus government permission for use of a section of the coastal ocean you have a number of barriers to progress with wave energy.

Fairly applied regulations slow every thing down. Not just the bad guys.

My guess is that the money is going into wind because the payback is good and well established. In addition a wind plant can be put up in six months and the electrical grid need not be extended (at least for on shore wind).

There may be maintenance factors as well.

Every time I come here I find a number of folks untutored in energy, mechanics, science, control theory, production, logistics, etc. hoping for a miracle cure. It is as much fun as listening to flat earthers. Amusing occasionally. Boring for long stretches.

The major energy systems of 40 years hence are already in significant production.

That would be wind (1,000s of Megawatts per year [peak] installed every year) and solar voltaic (10s of Megawatts per year [peak] installed every year).

In the automotive sector it would be the gas/electric hybrid. (something like 1/2 million or a million will get made this year.)

Every thing else is experimental.

There is no magic cure. Progress as usual will be slow and steady. The best we can do is nudge it in the right direction. There is a lot of inertia in any industrial system.

If we had the magic cure tomorrow it would still take 40 years to build out. Even if the magic cure produced free energy it would still take 5 to 10 years. That would be design and test time. Time to ramp up production. Time to teach people how to install it. etc.

Take wind:

The first major installations (Tehachapi in CA I think) happened 25 or 30 years ago and were not very cost effective. It has taken that long for the size to get up to the range where wind power can compete with coal and nukes.

Photo voltaics have been in the pipe line longer but are not yet economical for large installations due to the slower rate of cost decline. Still it will be a factor. Just not as big as wind for quite some time (perhaps as long as 100 years).

Pretty much we have to make do with what we got and work for incremental improvements.

BTW if we convert to renewables in 100 years that still leaves us with 400 years of coal. Probably 100 years of oil (I think that point will be controversial) and several hundred years worth of nuclear power (I know, I know - the plutonium).

Plenty of time to make the changes (already in progress).

Don't panic. Unless of course you enjoy that sort of thing. Personally I worried about these sorts of problems 45 years ago. I became an engineer. I have operated nuke plants. I have studied wind. I first used solar voltaics in 1962. I have designed aircraft electrical system.

Quit complaing and get educated.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The New Rockford Mayor

Is Larry Morrissey.

My son was one of his campaign managers.

I think this will be very good for Rockford.

Rockford Elections

The polls closed and so far (7:13PM local time) no results are reported.

It will be interesting to see if change agent Morrissey will defeat (I got the money) Scott.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Desmarais Volcker Power

It is looking more and more like the Volcker Committee report is going to be a white wash.

There are two major conflicts of interest in Mr. Volcker's resume.

#1. He was a major supporter of the UN. Probably got paid for it too. from: Friends of Saddam

When Volcker was appointed to head the Oil-for-Food investigation in April 2004, it was not widely known to the general public, the world’s media, or the U.S. Congress that he was at the time a director of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) and the Business Council for the United Nations. Mr. Volcker is listed as a director in the 2003-2004 UNA-USA annual report,[3] as well as the annual reports for 2001-2002 and 2000-2001.[4]The UNA-USA’s partner organization, the Business Council for the United Nations (BCUN), works to “advance the common interests of the U.N. and business in a more prosperous and peaceful world.” One of its chief underwriters was BNP Paribas, the French bank that held the escrow account for Oil-for-Food funds.[9] BNP donated more than $100,000 to UNA-USA and BCUN in 2002 to 2003.[10] BNP’s role in the Oil-for-Food scandal is currently being investigated by the House International Relations Committee,[11] as well as by the Volcker Committee.
#2. He worked for Paul Desmarais through a company called Power. Mark Steyn comments on a piece of this here: Steyn on Desmarais.
most Canadians don’t know Paul Desmarais at all. You could stop the first thousand people walking down Yonge Street and I’ll bet no one would know who he is. But the few who do know him know him as the kingmaker behind Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien and Martin. Jean Chrétien’s daughter is married to Paul Desmarais’s son. Paul Martin was an employee of M. Desmarais’s Power Corp., and his Canada Steamship Lines was originally a subsidiary of Power Corp. that M. Desmarais put Mr. Martin in charge of. In other words, Paul Martin’s public identity--successful self-made businessman, not just a career pol, knows how to meet payroll, etc.--is entirely derived from the patronage of M. Desmarais.
Now here is a bit on the relationship of Volcker to Power from: Myopic Zeal.
Potential conflict of interest number one for Volcker is the fact he held a seat on Power Corporation’s international advisory board.

Wealthy Canadian businessman and Power Corporation founder, Paul Desmarais Sr. is a major shareholder and director in TotalFinaElf, the largest oil corporation in France, which has held tens of billions of dollars in contracts with the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein
Interestingly enough Desmarais may be implicated in the current Liberal Party scandal being discussed at Captains's Quarters.

From a 2003 report at: PaulMartinTime.
This past weekend, in a supreme display of the influence he has accumulated in his 52 years as an operator in the business world, Desmarais summoned dozens of notables from business, politics and entertainment to his newly completed $40-million (estimated) spread in Quebec’s spectacular Charlevoix region. The guest list was kept extremely hush-hush — another testament to Desmarais’s power. The above-mentioned names were only rumored, but no matter, any one of them would fit comfortably into Desmarais’ wide circle of friends from around the world.

That circle includes the three longest-serving prime ministers of the last 35 years, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien. Chretien’s daughter France married Andre, one of Desmarais’s two sons, making that circle a little tighter than others. Desmarais’s right-hand man at Power Corp. is John Rae, a long-time Chretien advisor and the man who ran two of the three election campaigns that brought Liberals majority governments since 1993.

Desmarais is also on pretty close terms with the prime minister-in-waiting, Paul Martin, who, after all, employed him at Power Corp. for many years. In 1981 he sold to Martin Power’s shipping line, Canada Steamship Lines, which Martin grew into the largest shipper of its kind in the world before entering politics. (Martin last month transferred ownership of CSL to his three sons to free himself for the Liberal leadership campaign which ends in November.)
And here is some interesting stuff on Power Corp. from the Key Monk.
the Fox News story wasn’t prompted by an announcement from Power of some billion-dollar takeover or the appointment of a new senior executive. It was something altogether different: the revelation that the man handpicked by the UN secretary general last April to probe the UN’s scandalized Oil-for-Food program, Paul Volcker, had not disclosed to the UN that he was a paid adviser to Power Corp., a story which had originally been broken by a small, independent Toronto newspaper, the Canada Free Press. Why did the highest-rated cable channel in the U.S. care? Because the more that Americans came to know about Oil-for-Food, which has been called the largest corruption scandal in history, the more the name of this little-known Montreal firm kept popping up. And the more links that seemed to emerge between Power Corp. and individuals or organizations involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal, the more Fox News and other news outlets sniffing around this story began to ask questions about who, exactly, this Power Corp. is. And, they wanted to know, what, if anything, did Power have to do with a scandal in which companies around the world took bribes to help a murderous dictator scam billions of dollars in humanitarian aid out of the UN while his people suffered and starved?