Sunday, July 31, 2005

New Energy Bill Worse than Doing Nothing

The new energy bill passed by the house is counterproductive in a couple of ways.

  1. It provides $2.7 billion in tax breaks to encourage domestic oil production. That might sound good, but the effect will be to hasten the time when there is no more oil to be had in the US. Wouldn't it be better to have some domestic oil in reserve for an emergency instead of using it all on gas-guzzling SUVs today?

  2. It requires refiners to use 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol annually, double the current production, by 2012. Why is that counter-productive? Because making ethanol takes more energy than is produced when you burn a whopping amount. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Cornell and Berkely:

    • Corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy to produce than can be extracted from it (as ethanol)

    • Switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced

    • Wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

    The study didn't make biodiesel look any better: In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:

    • soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and

    • sunflower plants requires 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

  3. There are tax credits for buying gas-electric hybrid cars, but (1) these cars are selling as fast as they can be manufactured, without any subsidy, and (2) the newest, and hottest-selling hybrid cars offer no fuel-saving advantage over existing gasoline engines. Instead, these new cars spend increased efficiency on increased power, not better mileage.

Permalink 12:51 PM

Bush Job Approval at 44%

via Atrios

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds a decline in George W. Bush's job approval rating. After standing at 49% approval in the prior two CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls conducted this month, now just 44% of Americans say they approve of Bush, a new low mark for the president.

What I find depressing about this is that Bush is a lame duck. He's not going to be running for reelection. So it's not clear that there will be any repercussions for his low approval ratings. There are plenty of people out there (John Cole, Andrew Sullivan, to name two) who are deeply dissatisfied with Bush, but who still believe in conservativism and still believe that the Republicans are the standard-bearers for conservativism.

It's not enough for the public to wake up to the fact that Bush is horrible. They need to realize that Bush is bad because the Republican Party has gone bad.
Permalink 11:32 AM

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Quote Of The Day

“It's a little bit like biblical Pharisees, you know, who basically are always trying to undermine Jesus Christ"--Orrin Hatch, chief pharisee during the Clinton administration, referring to his successors' criticisms of John Roberts.

Well, I guess he should know.
Permalink 9:45 PM

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Frist Proposes Giving Terrorists More Power in US

Thursday, July 14-- Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R, TN) offered an amendment to a counter-terrorism bill that would actually give terrorists a direct say in US security matters. Specifically, the Frist amendment would give terrorists the authority to strip the security clearance of any US officeholder who makes a statement that is "based on an FBI agent's comments" merely by using the statement in a propaganda release. Of course, the effect of such legislation would simply be that no one with a security clearance could ever discuss any FBI findings--or even offhand comments by FBI agents--without immediately being stripped of his or her clearance by some terrorist somewhere in the world. FBI agents themselves could not make any public statements without losing their security clearances and presumably their jobs. The measure was supported by 33 Republican Senators.

Frist offered the amendment in retaliation for--and to protect Karl Rove from--Democrat's efforts to have Rove's security clearance revoked, after Rove blew the cover of a covert CIA officer. No more needs to be said about the motives of Republicans than this: their leader in the Senate, along with 60% of all US Republican Senators, tried to hand enormous power to terrorists, and effectively destroy the FBI--America's premier counter-terrorism agency.
Permalink 8:08 PM

Friday, July 15, 2005

Leaks Botched Anti-Terrorism Efforts?

via Atrios and AMERICAblog

According to ABC news, the recent terrorist attack on London was the culmination of an Al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in Pakistan. The plot was discovered by analyzing the laptop of a captured Al Qaeda leader, Naeem Noor Khan. It was believed at the time that the plot had been thwarted, but (as events this year show) that was not the case.

Here's the twist that is described on AMERICAblog: After his capture, Khan started working for us, as a mole within Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, his cover was blown when the Bush administration announced a heightened terror alert level announced the week of the Democratic Convention. The explanation that the Bush administration gave for the alert led journalists to Khan.

Assuming that AMERICAblog's John Aravosis has his facts (and causality) straight, the slip may have botched the efforts to prevent the London attack. If true, then blowing Valerie Plame's cover wasn't the only (or even the most serious) example of the Bush administration's carelessness with sensitive information.
Permalink 12:33 AM

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Doom and Gloom about Fossil Fuels

Thinking about it for a long time, I've come to a pessimistic conclusion about fossil fuels. I don't think it matters that their use causes global warming. I don't think it matters that global warming will wreak havoc with weather patterns, with sea levels, with food production, etc. The fact is, humans are going to continue to use fossil fuels until every bit of it is turned into carbon dioxide. Every last eyedropper full of petroleum, every last chunk of coal, every last milliliter of natural gas. Our demand for energy pretty much guarantees that it'll all be gone someday---and I'm guessing that it will be not too far-off, within my lifetime.

So what then? I'm optimistic enough to think that the human race will survive, and will find some fuel source (solar, nuclear, geothermal, who knows) that will allow some of us to continue technological society. However, it seems to me almost inevitable that there will be disruption to civilization to dwarf World War II. There will not be a single nation, a single industry, a single family anywhere in the world that is left unaffected.
Permalink 11:41 PM

There and Back Again (Translating Star Wars)

Apparently, it is possible to get boot-legged English-language DVDs of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith that were created in the following manner:
  1. Somebody (illegally) copied the original movie and dubbed it into Chinese.

  2. Somebody else took the Chinese version and translated the dialogue back into English to create English subtitles.
The translation process seemed a little error-prone. Here are some sample results:
  • [Opening title (the scroll at the beginning is mistranslated even though the words are right there on the screen)]: "Star War: The backstroke of the west."

  • [Chancellor Palpatine (warning Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi about Count Dooku)]: "You two careful. He is a big."

  • [Obi Wan Kenobi (reassuring the Chancellor)]: "Mr. Speaker, we are for the big."

  • [Count Dooku (talking tough)] "You are a sacrifice article that I cut up rough now."
Check out the rest with screenshots from
Permalink 4:10 PM