July 10, 2006

Knock Knock...

from - smijer

... Who's there?

Nobody - we moved.

July 06, 2006

Skepticism is a virtue. I don't like to discourage it. So, if a person is skeptical of a scientific result - evolution for instance, or global warming, (yes, I'm looking at you, RW & Buck), I try (not always successfully) not to be too "in-your-face" when I take up for the scientific side. After all, you guys aren't bought & paid for like a couple of the global warming skeptics, or single-mindedly intent on fleecing a religious flock, like some evolution skeptics.

So, if your mechanic tells you that you need an expensive new fuel pump, then, you have a right to be skeptical. But, if every mechanic in town tells you that your fuel pump is going out, and your car is stalling out sometimes lately, it may be time to be socking away some money and maybe at least checking around at the junkyards, even if you don't plan to buy the expensive new fuel pump your mechanic says you need.

I saw An Inconvenient Truth Friday night. I'm glad the movie is out there, and I'm sorry so many people will not see it, because it will not play in their area, because they don't like the "star", they've been discouraged from seeing it by radio, tv, internet or print personalities who have poisoned the well one way or the other, or they just don't have any interest. The critics have a few fair points - the movie is rarely clear on just how certain or uncertain any particular relationship is between CO2 and any individual element of climactic change, and that makes it easy for a non-skeptical watcher to assume the worst. I mean, not smoking-gun may be a mushroom cloud type stuff... just difficult to analyze finely without having done some prior research on the issue.

The big point of the movie, and one that is made relatively well, is that there is something wrong with the fuel pump in our car, and every mechanic in town thinks so. The flaw in the analogy is that the mechanics aren't selling new fuel pumps... They are just suggesting we start looking in earnest.

I don't want to critique the movie, but I do want to offer some analysis of the various claims and arguments against global warming, where they come from, and whether they have merit. None of this will be original, either the arguments or the responses. I'm not the expert. I'm relying totally on others who have earned my trust by using a method that consistently produces useful results. The first few arguments against, I'm lifting from here, with curtsies and hat tips to my friend RW:

  • "Yeah, I heard that. Something between one and two degrees over the last hundred years, right?"

    Answer: Yes, Farenheit. A little less than a degree Celcius. It doesn't sound like much to me either, but climate scientists give several reasons why it is significant. One is that this change is a global mean, but reflects larger, faster changes at the poles, where we keep most of our ice. Another is that 9 degrees average temperature is all that separates us from the last big ice age: in other words, climate is very sensitive to very small seeming changes in global mean temperature. Another is that 1 degree over a course of 100 years is believed by most scientists to be much faster than natural, cyclical changes that have historically been encountered during this or other periods of relative climate stability. But, the biggest reason is that, at the rate greenhouse gases are being pumped into the atmosphere, every climate model predicts even bigger temperature increases to come.


  • You’d think that with the industrial revolution in the first part of the century & there being virtually zero precautions taken against emissions, and less efficient engines everywhere (taking into account the smaller number, one must factor in the lack of environmental insight at the time) that we’d have been worse a bit earlier.

    Answer: If, 100 years ago, there had been 6 & a half billion people in the world, with a very large fraction of them daily operating two automobiles, running electric air conditioning, watching electric televisions, buying mostly manufactured products from socks to breakfast cerial, disposing of and replacing those manufactured products as frequently as is the case now, and doing so with less efficient engines and zero precautions against emissions, then, yes - the problem would have been much, much worse then. But "taking into account the smaller number" means acknowledging that the the world population has tripled in the last 100 years, and that there was far less energy consumption per capita then than now.

    One of the points in Al Gore's movie was that it took until the year 1800 - ten thousand years after the advent of civilization - to reach a world population of 1 billion. It took another 125 years to add a second billion. And we've added on four and a half more billion people in the last 80 years. These are vast numbers.


  • Forgive me if I don’t take as gospel the temperature gauge readings from the year 1906, where Zeke laid down the foundations for future generations prior to taking a sh!t outside & going to a leeching”. Then again, I won’t deny that we’re warming. I dunno.

    Answer: In fact, temperature observation and recording was less precise one hundred years ago, a fact which is reflected in the greater margins of error from pre-1950 measurements used by scientists calculating temperature change. But, Zeke probably didn't have much to do with it. Neither did Albert Einstein, but it was in 1905 that he published his paper on the photoelectric effect, showing that light energy moved in discrete particles, the special theory of relativity, and used brownian motion to support the atomic model that Dalton and others had set forth a couple of decades before. A hundred years before that, Jacques Charles and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac discovered the relationship between temperature and pressure in a gas - a feat that wasn't accomplished without the ability to accurately measure temperature. The mercury thermometer was invented in 1714, and by 1900 there existed several other means of recording temperature with greater precision.

    I guess the larger point is this: no matter how skeptical you and I may be of the accuracy of 100-year-old temperature measurements, climate scientists, by nature of their profession, have had greater skeptics among them. They seem to have found a way to satisfy themselves that there is useful data to work from, and that the consensus estimates of temperature increase are accurate. I quote from here:

    Annual values are approximately accurate to +/- 0.05°C (two standard errors) for the period since 1951. They are about four times as uncertain during the 1850s, with the accuracy improving gradually between 1860 and 1950 except for temporary deteriorations during data-sparse, wartime intervals. Estimating accuracy is a far from a trivial task as the individual grid-boxes are not independent of each other and the accuracy of each grid-box time series varies through time (although the variance adjustment has reduced this influence to a large extent). The issue is discussed extensively by Folland et al. (2001a,b) and Jones et al. (1997). Both Folland et al. (2001a,b) references extend discussion to the estimate of accuracy of trends in the global and hemispheric series, including the additional uncertainties related to homogeneity corrections.

    The mechanics offer us the choice of accepting their analysis, or checking it for ourselves. We could ignore them altogether, but we may be sorry when we are waiting for the tow truck to come pick us up. One route is to check with several different mechanics. They all seem to agree it's the fuel pump. Even if they disagree on how much failure it has already experienced, or how quickly it will fail completely.


  • [...] the sun has gotten hotter.

    Answer:

    Put very simply, yes. Now this is a decent point, and possibly the best point put forward by global warming critics. Because, on the one hand, the sun has apparently grown warmer lately, and on the other hand, because the phenomenon of variation in solar irradiance, and its effects on climate are not well understood yet. There is little data - in fact, we are in much the same position now with regard to variation in solar irradiance was we were thirty years ago on greenhouse gas based climate change. So, we in fact cannot say with complete certainty that the increase in sun temperature has negligibe effects on climate. We can, however, say with fair certainty that the variation in solar activity (by itself) appears to have much less impact than greenhouse gases (by themselves), according to the data that we do have. I quote:


    The variation of solar irradiance with the 11-year sunspot cycle has been assessed with some accuracy over more than 20 years, although measurements of the magnitude of modulations of solar irradiance between solar cycles are less certain (see Chapter 6). The estimation of earlier solar irradiance fluctuations, although based on physical mechanisms, is indirect. Hence our confidence in the range of solar radiation on century time-scales is low, and confidence in the details of the time-history is even lower (Harrison and Shine, 1999; Chapter 6). Several recent reconstructions estimate that variations in solar irradiance give rise to a forcing at the Earth’s surface of about 0.6 to 0.7 Wm-2 since the Maunder Minimum and about half this over the 20th century (see Chapter 6, Figure 6.5; Hoyt and Schatten, 1993; Lean et al., 1995; Lean, 1997; Froehlich and Lean, 1998; Lockwood and Stamper, 1999). This is larger than the 0.2 Wm-2 modulation of the 11-year solar cycle measured from satellites. (Note that we discuss here the forcing at the Earth’s surface, which is smaller than that at the top of the atmosphere, due to the Earth’s geometry and albedo.) The reconstructions of Lean et al. (1995) and Hoyt and Schatten (1993), which have been used in GCM detection studies, vary in amplitude and phase. Chapter 6, Figure 6.8 shows time-series of reconstructed solar and volcanic forcing since the late 18th century. All reconstructions indicate that the direct effect of variations in solar forcing over the 20th century was about 20 to 25% of the change in forcing due to increases in the well-mixed greenhouse gases (see Chapter 6).

    Reconstructions of climate forcing in the 20th century indicate that the net natural climate forcing probably increased during the first half of the 20th century, due to a period of low volcanism coinciding with a small increase in solar forcing. Recent decades show negative natural forcing due to increasing volcanism, which overwhelms the direct effect, if real, of a small increase in solar radiation (see Chapter 6, Table 6.13).

    Recommended further reading deals with some isolated papers that hype the link between solar variation and climate change, here.

    More... much, much, much, more here (PDF) on the subject, from the 2001 IPCC report.

    So, solar forcing of global temperatures appears to be real, and appears - at this point - to be very small, but that may change. It will not change the fact, however, that our atmosphere is becoming increasingly saturated with CO2 gas and other greenhouse gases. So, yes, if you are sitting in the car with the windows rolled up, you'll get hot faster on a hotter day than on a cooler one. But that doesn't make it smart to keep them rolled up when the temperature is rising.


  • They can't predict the weather a few days ahead. How can they forecast doom & gloom over decades or centuries?

    Answer: Short answer: weather versus climate.

    An amusing hypothetical exercise-analogy here.

    Longer answer: Weather systems are non-linear systems. That means they are sensitive over time to "initial conditions" (or small changes introduced into the system, as the case may be). That's why weather is so hard to predict. It's like a stick in the hornets nest. The stick sets the hornets to flying, but it's hard to guess where the hornets will fly from where you insert the stick, at what angle, or with how much thrust. Climate systems are the cumulative effect of billions of whether changes. A weather system is a stick stuck in a hornet nest. Climate is a billion sticks and a billion hornets nests... You still can't tell where the hornets will fly, but if you know how many sticks are going into how many nests, you can get a fair idea of how safe a walk through the pasture is going to be.


  • Water Vapor traps more heat than CO2

    Answer: Yes, it does, but water vapor does not accumulate in the atmosphere at levels that create much climate change. (link)


  • I remember the '70's when the environmentalists were all warning of doom from an imminent ice age. Why should I believe them now, when they've switched from ice age to greenhouse oven?

    Answer: A few scientists did publish some important and well-publicized papers about the possibility of our interglacial period coming to an end, "before long". Newsweek and other popular outlets did hype these studies, and it didn't sound much different than some accountings of global warming we get from the popular press today. So, skepticism on this grounds is quite understandable, however wrong it may be. Real Climate has a piece about this. The central point is this:

    The state of the science at the time (say, the mid 1970's), based on reading the papers is, in summary: "...we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate..." (which is taken directly from NAS, 1975). In a bit more detail, people were aware of various forcing mechanisms - the ice age cycle; CO2 warming; aerosol cooling - but didn't know which would be dominant in the near future. By the end of the 1970's, though, it had become clear that CO2 warming would probably be dominant; that conclusion has subsequently strengthened.
    [...]
    Probably the best summary of the time was the 1975 NAS/NRC report. This is a serious sober assessment of what was known at the time, and their conclusion was that they didn't know enough to make predictions. From the "Summary of principal conclusions and recommendations", we find that they said we should:

    1. Establish National climatic research program
    2. Establish Climatic data analysis program, and new facilities, and studies of impact of climate on man
    3. Develope Climatic index monitoring program
    4. Establish Climatic modelling and applications program, and exploration of possible future climates using coupled GCMs
    5. Adoption and development of International climatic research program
    6. Development of International Palaeoclimatic data network

    Which is to say, they recommended more research, not action. Which was entirely appropriate to the state of the science at the time. In the last 30 years, of course, enormous progress has been made in the field of climate science.

    Most of this post has been about the science of 30 years ago. From the point of view of todays science, and with extra data available:

    1. The cooling trend from the 40's to the 70's now looks more like a slight interruption of an upward trend (e.g. here). It turns out that the northern hemisphere cooling was larger than the southern (consistent with the nowadays accepted interpreation that the cooling was largely caused by sulphate aerosols); at first, only NH records were available.
    2. Sulphate aerosols have not increased as much as once feared (partly through efforts to combat acid rain); CO2 forcing is greater. Indeed IPCC projections of future temperature inceases went up from the 1995 SAR to the 2001 TAR because estimates of future sulphate aerosol levels were lowered (SPM).
    3. Interpretations of future changes in the Earth's orbit have changed somewhat. It now seems likely (Loutre and Berger, Climatic Change, 46: (1-2) 61-90 2000) that the current interglacial, based purely on natural forcing, would last for an exceptionally long time: perhaps 50,000 years.

    Finally, its clear that there were concerns, perhaps quite strong, in the minds of a number of scientists of the time. And yet, the papers of the time present a clear consensus that future climate change could not be predicted with the knowledge then available. Apparently, the peer review and editing process involved in scientific publication was sufficient to provide a sober view. This episode shows the scientific press in a very good light; and a clear contrast to the lack of any such process in the popular press, then and now.


    So, scientists were very carefully avoiding real-world predictions of an ice age, they were also looking at the ice-age cycle for the first time, considering the effects of some known cooling mechanisms (and, some warming mechanisms - including greenhouse gases), and asking questions about how to model all of this to make it useful for climate prediction. And the press was blowing it out of proportion.

    Contrast that with the present day: scientific consensus is making predictions on real-world climate change (some strong, some tentative). In the movie, Al Gore mentioned this survey of 928 randomly chosen papers published between 1993 and 2003 indexed with the words "climate change", and pointed out that none of them expressed skepticism of the consensus view of climate change from human activity. And though I don't have a link to the study, he points out that a similar study from the popular press shows 53% of those articles are skeptical of the consensus scientific view. (Caveat: most of the papers did not explicitly endorse the majority view, though some did, while others implicitly endorse that view, and 25% take no discernable position. However, none from the survey sample reject it. Peiser claims to have cherry-picked found 34 papers in the same database - not part of any random sample, of course, that reject the consensus view. Peiser's critics show that he was a little over-zealous in his count.)

    The point: blame the popular press, not the scientists.


  • Global warming is a pipe dream of socialist liberals who want to tax our right to all the energy we can buy.

    Answer: With the caveat that this report was created as a worst case scenario, it is is worth noting that the Pentagon is looking at the possible fallout from global warming seriously. As is the not-so-liberal World Bank. Secretary of the treasury Paulsen is certainly no liberal. In fact, see the item above. Sure, maybe the majority of climate scientists are liberals - not all of them are. But damn near all of them support the consensus view that humans are causing global warming, and that it will have adverse and costly impacts on us soon enough to be a cause for concern today. If political ideology played into scientific conclusions so much in the first place, one would expect a divide along partisan lines among scientists. But the fact is ideology is not enough to create skepticism within the science community, though in certain rare cases big money from the oil industry can buy some.

Hell, the list can go on and on... but, I can't. I'll leave you with a couple of generic links on questions of warming controversies...
Fact vs. Myth
Global Warming Skeptic Bingo
How to talk to a global warming skeptic

Flying for a song

from - RSA

Every once in a while you come across an idea that's so simple, you have to say, "Why didn't I think of that?" The latest example is from Oren Etzioni, a professor in computer science at the University of Washington, who built a system to predict the future prices of airline tickets. Very clever, very obvious (once someone's thought of it), and (I hope) very effective.

What most impresses me is that Oren has done this kind of thing--applying computer science theory to real world problems of interest to millions of people--several times before.

Who said it?

from - Buck

I read a quote once that hit me like a diamond bullet right between the eyes. The quote said something like, “Fascism will come to America wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”. I used to think it was John T. Flynn who said it back in the late 40’s but I am not sure.

I have never been able to find that quote since so I don’t know who to attribute it to or whether or not I just dreamed it.

But by the looks of things we are getting awfully close.

July 02, 2006

Let Us Come Together,...

from - smijer

... and laugh with derision.

My thoughts while reading the above were that Malkin, Horowitz and Hinderaker are known nutcases, and not really representative of the conservative blogosphere. I was thinking of Red State, who generally avoids stories that would reveal the depths of their own paranoia - while remaining true to Right Bloghistan's world view in all other ways - would have avoided the story, or greeted it with an air of diffidence. But, reading on, I was surprised to learn that they showed their bozo face, too.

Nothing yet from Reynolds.

June 27, 2006

I'm always happy to learning something new about the art of deception with numbers. From the most recent White House press briefing, here's Tony Snow:

But, for instance, during the course of the Clinton administration, there were 110 signing statements -- I'm sorry, 105 signing statements, 110 at this point in the Bush administration.

What's interesting about this is that Tony is being just a little bit coy about what he's counting. According to the Boston Globe, Bush has challenged over 750 laws; according to Tony's count, these challenges came in the form of 110 signing statements. How does Clinton compare? His signing statements objected to 140 over his entire eight years.

Tuesday

from - smijer

Good morning.

In no particular order:


  • Dave, on Scalia, on the death penalty. Notice Scalia's words: "...the good to be derived from capital punishment — in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes — outweighs the risk of error." Notice the frame of reference - the "good" from capital punishment is perhaps more a result of simple retribution ("condign justice" according to his flowery misnomer) - than from deterrence. Its appeal to our emotional need for retribution is more important than a result that objectively improves society and protects life. Of course this result is purely illusory with relation to the death penalty - since it is a poor deterrent. Maybe that's why flowery references to our emotional impulses get the bigger role in Scalia's mind.
  • Got a call from a friend in Oregon - he had just seen and been very impressed by a documentary about this. Wanted to know if I was familiar with it. I told him that I remembered reading about it in the paper, but that I've never been to the place the locals call "Whutwull". It's neat that this is still reaching people.
  • Saturday, I listened to the audio of the Pulse Concert on my e-bay special VCD from Singapore. Maybe the 20th time listening or watching. This was the first time I noticed that, at the end of the first disc, in an instrumental number the name of which I can never think of, the long-haired guitarist who isn't Gilmour slips in a line from the Dr. Who theme song. Ha.
  • Hold 'em for Jesus. Ha.
  • Been experiencing site problems. Very befuddling - looks like a name server had the URL mixed up, but even wierder than that in some ways. I won't go into details. Anyway, that's one small part of my absence yesterday.
  • Conversion to Wordpress is sidetracked by too many other projects, but we will get there.

June 23, 2006

Eventually the U.S. will pull out of Iraq, and all the Republicans who are now accusing Democrats of favoring a "cut and run" strategy will have to perform an awkward flip-flop, saying that while it would have been cowardly to withdraw earlier, it's the honorable thing to do at whatever point we've reached.

Given the Bush administration's history, we have to think that American political considerations (rather than the reality in Iraq) will dominate the decision to withdraw from Iraq, if it happens before Bush leaves office. What are the possibilities for how the withdrawal plays out?

  1. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He takes advantage of some minor piece of good news from Iraq and makes an unexpected announcement.

  2. Political pressure builds until Bush feels he has no choice but to start drawing down troops. He makes an unexpected announcement that commanders on the ground think withdrawal is appropriate.

  3. Bush sets up a set of political, social, and security conditions. As Iraq meets these conditions, troops are withdrawn.

Now, the last option is obviously something that a responsible administration would go for. I think that the first two are much more likely, however. It took me some time to come up with an explanation for why Bush seems unwilling to be explicit about what needs to happen in Iraq for us to leave. I think it's because until that happens, he's stuck saying that we're making incremental progress. If we had conditions against which we could measure progress, it would be much harder to put a happy face on our situation, which might go on for months or years. That would have bad political ramifications, which, after all, are Bush's main concern.

Compare and contrast

from - Buck

Take a look at this one from Boortz.

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ!

A senior al-Qaeda member has been captured in Iraq! Not a freshman, sophomore or junior but a SENIOR member! The insurgency is being crushed.

Now take a look at this one.

Is the insurgency thriving after Zarqawi?

You tell me.

Baghdad is under curfew.

The only place in Iraq with any semblance of safety is the Olive Garden and we are still asked to believe that things are getting better instead of worse.

I can only hope that the current administration is assessing the situation more honestly in private than they are in public.

I looked for this early yesterday morning, but had to wait until today since Boortz posted late yesterday. Nevertheless, I knew it was coming, as soon as I saw that Rep. Hoestra had prevailed on John Negroponte to declassify "key points" of an intelligence report that echoed the findings of the 2004 Duefler report. Quoth Boortz:

Now a new report from the Pentagon sheds some light on just how many WMDs have been found, and it's a lot. We're not just talking an old Sarin shell here and there. No less than 500 chemical weapons have been found since 2003, according to a recently declassified defense department intelligence report. The weapons are of the mustard gas and Sarin nerve gas variety...nasty stuff.

So why isn't this major breaking news?

Because the WMDs are said to be manufactured before 1991....not in recent years. Therefore, the mainstream media and the Democrats don't count those. For some reason, they want WMDs made in recent years. Evidently the left likes their mustard gas just a little fresher. But that's not the point. This stuff can kill ... but to the left it's harmless.

All that matters is Saddam Hussein was lying when he said he got rid of all his WMDs. He clearly did not. Also, what do you suppose would have happened had Hussein sold some of these WMD's to Islamic terrorists? It wouldn't have been pretty. But this story will be ignored...and the leftist propaganda machine that says Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat will roll on.

Bearing in mind that the 500 munitions (read "shells") found were those buried by troops along the border with Iran during that war, degraded beyond functionality as artillery (though, yes, still chemically potent and therefore dangerous), and forgotten, and Bearing in mind that the Administration's Iraq Survey Group knew about them when issuing the finding that, "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered," and bearing in mind that Neal Boortz knows all of this, then my only question is:

Neal, why do you have to be such a liar?

June 22, 2006

Withdrawal

from - Buck

Well, this went exactly as expected.

"Withdrawal is not an option. Surrender is not a solution," declared Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who characterized Democrats as defeatists wanting to abandon Iraq before the mission is complete.

Now Richard Armitage says he believes the Iraqis will soon ask the US to leave their country.

Uh-oh. What if that newly formed Iraqi government that we are so proud of tells us to get our shit and go home.

Do you think we would? Would you think we should?

June 21, 2006

Can you have it both ways?

Is it really against the law for school board's to ban books from their schools? I thought school boards ultimately made those kinds of decisions.

The longer I live the more confused I get.

June 19, 2006

Science Video Seminars

from - smijer

Helping the smart get smarter and the dumb feel smart since 2006...
Installment number 1: Examining Natural Selection in Humans. New seminars are published every other week.

Love it or leave it

from - Buck

Well, Neal has taken the "if you don't love it, leave it" angle concerning the Dixie Chicks.

People care about patriotism, Natalie, because they love their country.....Natalie --- you have the cash. If you live in a country you can't feel patriotic about, then you can move. Many entertainers have moved overseas. You won't be the first. In the words of my pal Ken Hamblin, pick a better country.

I was reminded of the words of the song "I am a patriot"

I am a patriot And I love my county Because my country is all I know I want to be with my family The people who understand me I've got nowhere else to go

I am not a big fan of patriotism in that it is usually just another word for nationalism and I think that is was Maines is referring to. There is great confusion when people talk about loving their country. If you love your country do you automatically love it's government? Do you automatically agree with all of the policies it enforces via the loaded gun?

Rabbi Sherwin Wine once said,

There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.

The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.

This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies.

My hope is that free men and women who do not love the policies of our government will not leave the country. My hope is that they will stay and help to set it on the right course.

June 16, 2006

Ups and downs

from - RSA

Froomkin points to a Gallup survey showing that George W. Bush is apparently making Bill Clinton look better in retrospect and George H. W. Bush worse.

(Hmm, can't seem to get the table to display; oh, well, the link is above.)

What I find interesting is the Republican view of Bill Clinton, at a 30% approval. For comparison, that's 12 percentage points below Richard Nixon. Independents and Democrats have a far more positive view, of course.

A "Warm" Welcome Back

from - smijer

For our resident cynic, here.

June 15, 2006

One thing that Bush emphasizes in his speeches is that we're making progress in Iraq. This may be true, but it really depends on how we measure progress. How should we? I thought I'd try to come up with a reasonable list of concrete, quantitative measures, which would help me see if I'm too pessimistic (or even too optimistic) about the war and its eventual outcome. In my Web search, though, I ran across an article from the Weekly Standard, by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, which slightly derailed my search. Here's a sample:

We may have turned a corner in terms of security. . .

This administration did not do a particularly good job of preparing for postwar Iraq before the invasion, and it has not always made the right decisions on how to proceed politically, diplomatically, and militarily in the reconstruction of Iraq. . . But the most important thing the administration has done is to make clear, both in word and in deed, its determination to see our mission in Iraq completed.

This article was written in March, 2004, a year after the invasion and, of course, well over two years ago. It's obvious that the same people are saying the same thing about Iraq and will probably continue to do so indefinitely. Nowadays they may add, "It's slow going."

This answer has become (actually, it's always been) unsatisfactory. Are we making progress? Are we losing ground? I want the President to tell us what we should look at to understand the situation.

Numbers

from - RSA

When I read the White House press briefings, sometimes I just get mad:

Q: Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?

MR. SNOW: It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something.

I can't help thinking that someone who begins a response that way ("it's a number") has a problem with empathy. That number is the sum of individual deaths; for the guys who put the soldiers in harm's way, it should be much more than a number. (To be fair, Snow does go on to praise the soldiers in Iraq later in his answer.) And the second part of Snow's sentence ("people want something") is also tremendously dismissive. What people want, I expect, is for fewer Americans to be dying in Iraq. That's a very important "something" that shouldn't be lumped in with everything else.

A week off....

from - Buck

is followed by an off week.

It is hard trying to get back into the swing of things after a vacation. That is true every year as far as I am concerned. Things pile up on the work front and the home front and I have spent days feeling like a lost explorer in the deep, dark jungle hacking my way through with a dull machete.

I have tried to catch up on some of my blog reading and I found this classic poem by Buddy Don. It sums up the ho-hum death of Zarqawi perfectly

So many turning points have come before –
Are we marching in circles through this war?

When I heard the news of Zarqawi's death it was announced by a disc jockey blasting out tunes around a swimming pool. So many of the vacationers pumped their fists and immediately started dancing to the timeless classic "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue".

Hey Uncle Sam Put your name at the top of his list And the Statue of Liberty Started shakin' her fist And the eagle will fly Man, it's gonna be hell When you hear Mother Freedom Start ringin' her bell And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you Brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue

When I heard these words and thought of the tens of thousands who have been killed or maimed during the current debacle in the desert I could not help but wonder what there was to sing, laugh and dance about.

So I went back up to my room and spent the rest of the afternoon on the balcony staring out across the vast ocean.

That always puts things into their proper perspective.