Now Cough

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Out and About

Mother Visits Every...

I guess we'll have to change the pneumonic for remembering the order of the planets from the Sun:

Mother visits every Monday just stays until noon period ... 2003 UB313. Yup, it appears there is a new planet beyond Pluto. A few things worth noting:

  • Is it just me, or has this been waaay underplayed? I mean, a NEW planet for goodness sake. That, from initial observations is larger than Pluto.

  • What is a planet anyway? This one was discovered in Kuiper Belt, a heavily populated area beyond what we normally think off as the solar system where minor planets, asteroids and such buzz around in big chunks like bees. This one seems different from the small fries: its orbit is clearly around the sun, it is a relatively large mass but it is not within the existing flat orbital plane of the other planets. This planet orbits at a reported 44-degree angle ABOVE the traditional orbital plane.

  • This is far out there. 2003 UB313 ranges from 97 AU (astronomical units) to 36 AU from the Sun. An AU is a standard measurement equal to how far Earth is from the Sun--about 93,000,000 miles. So, at its apogee it is 9017-million miles from the Sun; at perigee 3346-million miles.

  • 2003 UB313 orbits the Sun every 560 years.

    Is it Safe

    I wouldn't want to be on the space shuttle now in orbit, even in good circumstances. But now with rising concerns about the safety of the launch because something fell off the big orange rocket booster, you have to wonder if NASA really knows what it is doing.

    Last Tuesday morning, NASA's contention that it had produced the safest fuel tank in shuttle history was shattered two minutes into the flight of the Discovery. Two spacewalking astronauts tested repair techniques yesterday.

    The 0.9-pound piece of foam that fell from the PAL ramp on liftoff, which could have led to another catastrophe if it had ripped away a minute sooner, forced the immediate suspension of future shuttle flights until the problem could be resolved.
    -- Misjudgments Led to Latest Fuel Tank Woes for Space Shuttle The New York Times, Sat. July 30 (reg. required)

    But are the astronauts are less safe than the rest of us on planet Earth? Maybe I would prefer to be in orbit now, rather than England. Frankly, the whole things scares the bejesus out of me. I am impressed with the police investigations, rounding up the bombers, etc.

    George Bush and company have hit the bees nest of extremists in the Middle East and now all of us will get stung. Not smart.

  • Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    Fog of Words


    We don't know if [Judith Miller] will be the only one who suffers consequences from this investigation.
    -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on The Lehrer News Hour, July 26, 2005, commenting on the investigation into the CIA leaks.


    It took more than a year but the PRX web site has been redesigned, re-tooled, upgraded and sped up. Check it out at

    Quoting Now

    The NYT cheapens itself by quoting me. But I am glad Open Source is getting some deserved attention.

    From A Radio Program Turns to a Blog to Cull Ideas

    "I think they're taking a really bold step," Mr. Barth said. Because of the program's interactive component, its benchmark of success might be less the number of stations that ultimately carry the program and more the online presence Open Source establishes."

    Full NYT article (registration required)

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    It's Hard to Play by the Rules When There Are No Rules

    Lying? OK. Convicted? Not OK

    Finally the president has made clear what the standards are within his 'values' White House.

    Yeah, I know he said that merely leaking the name or identity of a CIA agent would get a WH staffer fired. Maybe the reporters who captured that unequivocal statement on video missed the nuance-thing.

    Because now the president says a WH staffer must be convicted for that person to lose their job in l'affaire Plame.

    If I get this right, now the standard has been lowered to something pretty basic. Not just breaking the law, or doing something unethical, or something that reflects poorly on the behavior of the administration. the standard is you have to get convicted.

    Maybe Michael Jackson and Robert Blake can be counselors to the president.

    As cranky old Bob Dole used to say, "Where's the outrage?" Hmm, where is Bob Dole these days? I guess his outrage is only for Democrats.

    Judy, Judy, Judy..

    Judith Miller is still in jail. Karl Rove is still out of jail.

    Brit Bombing

    I had an interesting discussion with Kelley Griffin at Colorado Public Radio last weekend about the terrorist bombing story. She contends, and to some extent she is correct, that it was overplayed on the day it happened. "It doesn't make sense to have continuous news coverage when there is nothing new to report." Good point. We both agreed this was definitely a significant story. Despite some silly observations by a London columnist today, the fact is Britain was targeted for a terrorist attack precisely because it has been an in-step ally of the US in the invasion of Iraq.

    Could we all have been better served by some pull-back, some reflection during the course of that day? News holes, especially 24/7 news holes, need filling.

    CNN, MSNBC, Fox--a pox on your houses.

    Robert Novak

    CNN endorsed him strongly today. Then again CNN is part of the Time Inc empire, the same company that sold out its reporter Matt Cooper and handed over his notes to a federal prosecutor.

    Big media. This time I think the ranters are onto something.

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Let the Games Begin

    From yesterday's White House press briefing:

    MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days.

    Q You haven't even scratched the surface.

    Q It hasn't started.


    At times like these, presidents should pay for their press secretaries out of their own pockets. Why should taxpayers support stonewalling?

    Let's just keep in mind that is isn't just Judith Miller in jail. Rappper L'il Kim is behind bars, too. Where's the justice?

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Feds-1, Free Press-0

    What Now, Norman?

    Well, well, well.

    Even though TIME Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine sold out his journalists and surrendered reporter Matt Cooper's notes to a federal prosecutor, that prosecutor -- Patrick Fitzgerald -- said today he still wants Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller behind bars.

    And forget home detention.

    So now the feds are roaming through notes from confidential sources Cooper pledged to protect. AND Cooper faces jail time.

    If the president wanted to force whoever leaked the information about Valeria Plame to the press---and by some reports there were at least two people who leaked---he could.

    But, Bush has not. He doesn't give a shit.

    It's a Gas

    Hot Air

    The G8 summit takes place this week in Scotland and what to do about global warming and greenhouse gases will be on the agenda.

    Sadly, based on this transcript in the Guardian of an interview from Tonight with Trevor McDonald with President Bush, the result is a foregone conclusion:

    TONIGHT: The subject of climate change is one of the subjects on the G8 agenda. Now, the majority of the world's leading scientists now agree that climate change is a reality. Do you agree with their conclusion?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe it is a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with. And that's why my government is dealing with it. We spent I think over $20 billion since I've been the president to not only research the issue of greenhouse gases, but to develop technologies that will enable us to diversify away from fossil fuels. And I look forward to discussing this agenda with not only the G8 leaders, but also with the leaders of developing countries, countries like India and China.

    TONIGHT: Do you accept that climate change is man-made, sir?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: To a certain extent it is, obviously. I mean, if fossil fuels create greenhouse gases, we're burning fossil fuel, as is a lot of other countries. You know, look, there was a debate over Kyoto, and I made the decision - as did a lot of other people in this country, by the way - that the Kyoto treaty didn't suit our needs. In other words, the Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt.

    And so my hope is - and I think the hope of Tony Blair is - to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil.... To that end, we're investing in a lot of hydrogen - research on hydrogen-powered automobiles. I believe we'll be able to burn coal without emitting any greenhouse gases, zero emissions plant.

    And so, therefore, we've got to spend money and share technology as to how to move forward.

    TONIGHT: But Mr President, if I may, the predictions about global warming - and I hear what you say - are very dire. The UK's chief scientist says that it probably poses a bigger threat than global terrorism. Isn't it, therefore, irresponsible for you to say, as you've done, that you walked away from Kyoto and you won't order cuts in carbon dioxide emissions because it would damage America's economy?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: I walked away from Kyoto because it would damage America's economy, you bet. It would have destroyed our economy. It was a lousy deal for the American economy. I felt there was a better way. And that's why --

    TONIGHT [interrupting]: But is that putting American industrial economic interests above the global interests of the environment?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I think you can do both. See, I think you can grow your economy and at the same time do a better job of harnessing greenhouse gases. That's exactly what I intend to talk to our partners about. I don't think you can expect any American leader to wreck the economy, nor as an ally and a friend of America and a trading partner of America should you want us to wreck our economy.

    On the other hand, what you would want us to do is to use our investment capacity, as well as our research capacity to come up with new ways to power our economy, new ways to energise our economy. And that's precisely what we're doing, and I look forward to sharing those ideas.

    Secondly, the Kyoto treaty wouldn't work unless all nations were involved. And as you know, many of the developing nations weren't involved in Kyoto. So some of the discussions we're going to have at the G8, thanks to Tony Blair's leadership, is to work with India and China as to how to share technology with them, so that we can all work together to clean up the environment, and at the same time have sustained economic growth.

    TONIGHT: They are expecting, many countries are expecting international legal binding agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Can they expect your support in doing that?

    PRESIDENT BUSH: If this looks like Kyoto, the answer is no. On the other hand, if people want to come together and share technologies and develop technologies and jointly spend - and spend money on research and development, just like the United States is, to help us diversify away from fossil fuels, [I am] more than willing to discuss it.

    I know we need more nuclear power in order - nuclear power, after all, is not dependent on fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. I believe we're going to be able to have coal-fired plants that have zero emissions. We need to work on carbon sequestration technologies. I mean, there's a lot we can do together and achieve the objective, which a lot of people want, which is the reduction of greenhouse gases, and at the same time, have viable economic growth.

    TONIGHT: And because, sir, America remains the biggest polluter.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: America is the largest investor in the technologies necessary to be able to say to people, 'You can grow your economy so people's standard of living can improve, and at the same time be good stewards of the environment'.

    TONIGHT: But pollution in this country has increased amazingly since 1992.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: That is a totally inaccurate statement.

    TONIGHT: It's a UN figure.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I just beg to differ with every figure you've got. The environment has - the quality of the environment has improved, in spite of the fact that we've grown our economy.

    Sunday, July 03, 2005


    How Appropriate

    Tomorrow is the 4th of July and the irony shouldn't be lost on anyone that by the end of this week two reporters could be going to jail because there is no federal law protecting reporters who pledge to keep their word to anonymous sources. One of their publisher's has chosen profit over journalistic principle.

    The other, more serious irony is that we are in an undeclared war that a sitting president knowingly sold to the public again and again on allegations and charges he knew to be false. So far more than 1,700 Americans have died because of that lie.

    Instead of high-fiving over Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton maybe we should cheer Willliam Randolph Hearst.

    I for one will never buy a TIME magazine again. And I urge all of you to boycott any of the publications from Time, Inc. No journalist in their employ is safe from being sold out by their corporate bosses. In a statement and crocodile tears from editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstein, TIME has turned over reporter Matt Cooper's notes to the Special Counsel investigating who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press. Here's the TIME statement. in all of its patriotic smarm. This excerpt:

    Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.

    Here's how David Halberstam described Time Warner in The New York Times:

    "It is a strange company and it is a different company now, and it is really part of an entertainment complex. The journalism part is smaller and smaller. There is a great question out there: is this a journalistic company or an entertainment company?"

    Does this have to do more with bizness than journalism? I'll let you answer that based on this quote from Pearlstine in the Washington Post:

    "Matt believed he'd granted confidence to his sources and ought to protect that. I respect his position, but as editor-in-chief, I have an institutional view of how a journalism organization ought to behave"

    Uh huh. Here's the difference between a president and a reporter: the reporter should be allowed to suffer the consequences of violating the law which, in my opinion, is a wrong law that violates the protection of Freedom of the Press. [July 5 update from the Columbia Journalism Review] And, it should be up to Matt Cooper if he wants to go to jail to a) protect his sources and b) protect all the other reporters at Time, Inc. from similar fates.

    But by Wednesday we might see both him and NYTimes reporter Judith Miller behind bars. She never even wrote about the Plame affair, and Cooper only did after columnist Robert Novak who broke the story!

    And what of Mr. Novak? Well, he isn't talking--and he shouldn't reveal his sources. But, has he been subpoenaed by the Special Counsel? Has he appeared before the grand jury? Has he said anything in support of Cooper and Miller and this ridiculous prosecution? Don't know. Don't know. Hardly.

    Is Novak, a conservative, getting a bit of a free pass from the special counsel? Heaven forbid that a columnist who has consistently supported the Bush administration and the war in Iraq might be construed to be benefiting from his politics.

    It is appalling that Novak, who actually got the leak about Plame and then first wrote about it, is getting off scott free AND not being a more vocal supporter of his colleagues who are protecting his right to protect sources.

    Anyone got "lives, fortunes and their sacred honor' they are willing to sacrifice for democracy? Nope, I didn't think so.

    Happy 4th of July.


    President Bush. This past week at Fort Bragg (or is it braggadocio?). Speech about Iraq. Again. Misleading. Tying the war to 9/11 even though there IS no link between Iraq and the terrorist attacks. Distortion. All of it.

    We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve. We're fighting against men with blind hatred -- and armed with lethal weapons -- who are capable of any atrocity. They wear no uniform; they respect no laws of warfare or morality. They take innocent lives to create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat, and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins.

    And people voted for this clown?