Sunday, February 25, 2007


"There simply is no such thing as a fact which is so well-established that it is immune from being denied by Bush followers. They will deny even the most documented realities."

Glenn Greenwald - here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Via dkos, John Dean on the US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"In the history of U.S. Attorney Generals, Alberto Gonzales is constantly reaching for new lows. So dubious is his testimony that he is not afforded the courtesy given most cabinet officers when appearing on Capitol Hill: Congress insists he testify under oath. Even under oath, Gonzales's purported understanding of the Constitution is historically and legally inaccurate, far beyond the bounds of partisan interpretation."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Thank you, Jesselyn Radack!

Jesselyn Radack, Thank you for standing up for our civil liberties!

Her story begins

"In 2001, I was a legal advisor in the Justice Department's Professional Responsibility Advisory Office. On December 7, I fielded a call from a criminal division attorney named John DePue. He wanted to know about the ethical propriety of interrogating "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh without a lawyer being present. DePue told me that Lindh's father had retained counsel for his son.

I advised him that Lindh should not be questionsed without his lawyer. That was on a Friday. Over the weekend, the FBI interviewed him anyway. DePue called back on Monday asking what to do now.

I advised that the interview may have to be sealed and used only for intelligence-gathering and national security purposes, not criminal prosecution."

For that, she was hounded out of her job, and worse.
Among the penalties

"Anonymous government officials branded me a "turncoat" in newspapers, placed me under criminal investigation, put me on the "no-fly" list and referred me to the state bars in which I am licensed. I got the "Guantánamo treatment lite": I was never told for what I was being criminally investigated, the bar complaint was based on a secret report to which I did not have access, and the government will neither confirm that I'm on the "no-fly" list, nor tell me how to be removed from it. The criminal case was dropped with no charges ever being brought. One of the bar complaints was dismissed, and the other is still pending after three years."


If our Bush administration officials devoted a tenth of the effort they spend on harassing Americans to catching al Qaida then there would not be a single terrorist left in the world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

NPR Puzzle

The Weekend Edition Sunday puzzle for this week is

Challenge for February 18: The object of this challenge is to develop nine different mathematical expressions that equal eight. You must use the digits 2, 7 and one other. And that other digit must be a one in the first expression, two in the next expression and so on, up to nine. You can use a digit once and only once in each expression.

You may use the four arithmetic symbols: plus, minus, times and divided by, as well as exponents and decimal points. You may use parenthesis as you need them. For example: Using the digits 2, 7 and 1 you can make the expressions 2+7-1= 8.

This week's Challenge is from Robert Waynewright in New Rochelle, N.Y.


I'm currently stuck on 2,5,7, and 2,7,7.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nerd Anthem

This following, the Bell Labs song, might appeal only to the technological types among us (that includes me).

Bell Labs has had a glorious history and one of the indictments of this age of business men and politicians will be how they've let this great institution decay. I hope it will somehow continue its illustrious history.

Health Care Costs in America

Paul Krugman cites a McKinsey & Company report on US healthcare costs in his NYT column today.

Amount of money spent in excessive adminstrative costs = $98 billion/year
(more than half accounted for by marketing and underwriting).

Amount of money paid in excess drug costs and medical device costs = $66 billion/year

Cost of providing full medical care to all of America's uninsured = $77 billion/year


Further reading:

nyceve, on dailykos.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


"No democratic process so completely failed a test of substance as America's after 9/11. No ensuing catastrophe was more consensual. "

- Roger Morris
The Rumsfeld Legacy
Part One
Part Two

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Repugnant to the core

Via TPMCafe

GOP House Leader John Boehner made the argument today that the Iraq war did not begin in Iraq or on 9/11 but rather in 1979, with the Iran taking hostages in the American embassy.

Why did he make such a asinine statement?

The answer is that the Repugnicans do not want a debate on the war in Iraq.
Also via TPMCafe, here is an excerpt of the strategy letter sent to Repugnican Congress members:

"We are writing to urge you not to debate the Democratic Iraq resolution on their terms, but rather on ours.

Democrats want to force us to focus on defending the surge, making the case that it will work and explaining why the President's new Iraq policy is different from prior efforts and therefore justified.

We urge you to instead broaden the debate to the threat posed to Americans, the world, and all "unbelievers" by radical Islamists. We would further urge you to join us in educating the American people about the views of radical Islamists and the consequences of not defeating radical Islam in Iraq.

The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose. "

So, as per the Repugnican leadership, the failure in Iraq cannot be examined, and hundreds more of American soldiers and thousands more of Iraqis must continue to be fed into the meat-grinder, because otherwise the Repugnicans will look bad.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Koide Mystery

That fundamental constituent of matter, the electron, has two elder siblings, the muon and the tau.

The electron mass is 0.510998918(44) MeV.
The muon mass is 105.6583692(94) MeV.
The tau mass is 1776.99(+29-26) MeV.

MeV is a Million electron Volts, a particle physicist's unit. For comparison's sake, the hydrogen atom has a mass of about 938.8 MeV. The numbers in brackets are the uncertainties in measurement of the mass. The numbers are taken from links on Tommaso Dorigo's article on this.

What is remarkable about these numbers is that they satisfy the Koide formula with a remarkable precision - a formula with little theoretical justification.


Given the masses of the electron and the muon, this formula predicts the mass of the tau to be
1776.968921( 158) MeV. (from Carl Brannen, linked from Dorigo's page).

How likely is this to be a numerical coincidence?

If we measure everything in terms of the tau mass, then, in the plot below, the red triangle represents the experimental situation and the green curve represents the masses of the electron and muon that would be allowed per the Koide formula. The tau, by definition, has a mass of 1. There are no theoretical constraints on the masses that I'm aware of, and the "theoretically allowed" region of masses is everything between the x-axis and the diagonal black line (and please extend the line to the point {1,1}).


Of course, I could make things look a little less spectacular by measuring everything in terms of the electron mass.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Is it the blog or is it the network?

The big liberal blogs (Atrios, DailyKos) recently did a blogroll purge. (A blogroll is the list of links to other blogs that e.g., I have to the left of my page). That lead to this beautiful rant which boths serves to draw attention, but also obscure the question - is dailykos important on its own, or is it important as a supernode in a network of progressive blogs?

A blog linked from a supernode often gets more attention than it would otherwise. More subtle is the feedback that strengthens the supernode.

We'll surely find out in some time whether the big blogs have destroyed the ecosystem that made them influential in the first place.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Senator Feingold

Senator Feingold is one of the finest, and most courageous senators we have. For example, he was the lone dissenter against the so-called Patriot Act, that has been so damaging to our civil liberties.

He needs our support for this:
How To End The War

by Russ Feingold

Our founders wisely kept the power to fund a war separate from the power to conduct a war. In their brilliant design of our system of government, Congress got the power of the purse, and the president got the power of the sword. As James Madison wrote, “Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded.”

Earlier this week, I chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to remind my colleagues in the Senate that, through the power of the purse, we have the constitutional power to end a war. At the hearing, a wide range of constitutional scholars agreed that Congress can use its power to end a military engagement.

The Constitution gives Congress the explicit power “[to] declare War,” “[t]o raise and support Armies,” “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy” and “[t]o make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” In addition, under Article I, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” These are direct quotes from the Constitution of the United States. Yet to hear some in the Administration talk, it is as if these powers were written in invisible ink. They were not. These powers are a clear and direct statement from the founders of our republic that Congress has authority to declare, to define and, ultimately, to end a war.

If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers—defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a president whose policies are weakening our nation.

There is plenty of precedent for Congress exercising its constitutional authority to stop U.S. involvement in armed conflict.

In late December 1970, Congress prohibited the use of funds for introducing United States ground combat troops into Cambodia or providing U.S. advisors to Cambodian military forces. In late June 1973, Congress set a date to cut off funds for combat activities in Southeast Asia.

More recently, President Clinton signed into law language that prohibited funding after March 31, 1994, for military operations in Somalia, with certain limited exceptions. And in 1998, Congress passed spending legislation that prevented U.S. troops from serving in Bosnia after June 30, 1998, unless the president made certain assurances.

Congress has the power to end military engagements, and there is little doubt that decisive action from the Congress is needed to end U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. Despite the results of the election, and two months of study and supposed consultation—during which experts and members of Congress from across the political spectrum argued for a new policy—the president has decided to escalate the war. When asked whether he would persist in this policy despite congressional opposition, he replied: “Frankly, that’s not their responsibility.”

Last week Vice President Cheney was asked whether the non-binding resolution passed by the Foreign Relations Committee that will soon be considered by the full Senate would deter the president from escalating the war. He replied: “It’s not going to stop us.”

In the United States of America, the people are sovereign, not the president. It is Congress’ responsibility to challenge an administration that persists in a war that is misguided and that the nation opposes. We cannot simply wring our hands and complain about the administration’s policy. We cannot just pass resolutions saying “your policy is mistaken.” And we can’t stand idly by and tell ourselves that it’s the president’s job to fix the mess he made. It’s our job to fix the mess, too, and if we don’t do so we are abdicating our responsibilities.

Yesterday, I introduced legislation that will prohibit the use of funds to continue the deployment of U.S. forces in Iraq six months after enactment. By prohibiting funds after a specific deadline, Congress can force the president to bring our forces out of Iraq and out of harm’s way.

This legislation will allow the president adequate time to redeploy our troops safely from Iraq, and it will make specific exceptions for a limited number of U.S. troops who must remain in Iraq to conduct targeted counter-terrorism and training missions and protect U.S. personnel. It will not hurt our troops in any way—they will continue receiving their equipment, training, salaries, etc. It will simply prevent the president from continuing to deploy them to Iraq. By passing this bill, we can finally focus on repairing our military and countering the full range of threats that we face around the world.

As the hearing I chaired in the Senate Judiciary Committee made clear, this legislation is fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States. Since the president is adamant about pursuing his failed policies in Iraq, Congress has the duty to stand up and use its constitutional power to stop him. If Congress doesn’t stop this war, it’s not because it doesn’t have the power. It’s because it doesn’t have the will.

Russ Feingold is a United States senator from Wisconsin.