Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mmmm, Basalt

Politics has been a thoroughly depressing subject of late. Here are some pictures of some rocks...

These are pictures of some bits of columnar basalt surrounded by breccia basalt that I saw while at Cape Perpetua a couple of weeks ago. This first one shows the contrast pretty nicely:
Image credit: All photos by Cujo359
[click on the images to enlarge]

Believe it or not, that's all the same basic kind of rock, made out of the same basic materials. The only difference is that the columnar basalt, the stuff that's more obviously crystallized, cooled more slowly than the breccia that surrounds it.

As Lockwood DeWitt, who was our geological spirit guide on this journey, put it yesterday:
Others have also pointed out that columns are not necessarily "columns," i.e. up and down. Here are some horizonal columns in a basaltic dike cutting through basaltic breccia. Again, the consistent theme is that the fractures form perpendicular to the surface of cooling. This was from Cape Perpetua[.]

Columns: Variations on a Meme
[I added that embedded link to the picture Lockwood is referring to in the text.]

Here's a picture of more columnar basalt from that beach, which shows a little better how differently the two types of rock have weathered:

[I should note that both of these pictures are panoramas stitched together from two or more pictures. If you notice a discontinuity that doesn't make sense, it's possible that's the reason.]

This stuff was all over the place at Cape Perpetua. At first, I assumed that the rocks with the different colors and structures must be layers of different kinds of rocks. My companions set me straight on this, and I soon noted that these dikes were everywhere, going in many different directions, so it was most unlikely they were different layers of rock. But then, as I've mentioned before, I'm not a geologist.

I don't feel bad. There were more than a few times when Lockwood and Dana, my traveling companions who are both enthusiastic rock hounds, weren't sure what the heck they were looking at.

One of the things that amazes me about such geology is how much small differences in the rate of cooling can affect the appearance and the properties of rocks. I took physics and materials science courses in college, yet the more I learn about geology the more I'm reminded that understanding how something happened is often a matter of figuring out which physical and chemical processes are the predominate ones in a situation.

This is something I've written in the past regarding various 9/11 conspiracy theories. You can be very knowledgeable about basic physical sciences, and yet look at a pile of rocks or a pile of broken construction materials and still have no idea what it all means. There's considerable context to learn before assuming that there's no other rational explanation to what you're looking at than the first one that pops into your head.

Thanks to Lockwood and Dana Hunter for trying to educate me about this stuff. It may not have looked it, but every once in a while that effort had an effect.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oregon Sundown

A week ago, this is what late afternoon looked like at Cape Perpetua, in Oregon:
Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

This is what sunset looked like near Newport, Oregon an hour or so later:

It doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Science Reading

A ran across a couple of interesting science articles this morning, and in lieu of providing anything from the increasingly depressing world of politics, thought I'd share them.

The first is an article on mammography, which starts out with this great quote:

If there’s one aspect of science-based medicine (SBM) that makes it hard, particularly for practitioners, it’s SBM’s continual requirement that we adjust what we do based on new information from science and clinical trials. It’s not easy for patients, either. To lay people, SBM’s greatest strength, its continual improvement and evolution as new evidence becomes available, can appear to be inconsistency, and that seeming inconsistency is all too often an opening for quackery. Even when there isn’t an opening for quackery, it can cause a lot of confusion; some physicians are often resistant to changing their practice. It’s not for nothing that there’s an old joke in medical circles that no outdated medical practice completely dies until a new generation of physicians comes up through the ranks and the older physicians who believe in the practice either retire or die. There’s some truth in that. As I’ve said before, SBM is messy. In particular, the process of applying new science as the data become available to a problem that’s already as complicated as screening asymptomatic people for a disease in order to intervene earlier and, hopefully, save lives can be fraught with confusion and difficulties.

The Mammography Wars Heat Up Again
It's a great quote, because if there's one common misunderstanding among the rest of us about what's wrong with mainstream medicine, it's that they're always changing their minds about things. The fact is, that's the reason it is as good as it is. One of the most reliable spotting features of quackery is that it doesn't change its ideas over time. New knowledge, and greater experience with existing technology change what we humans know about how to practice medicine.

Medicine and engineering are both consumers of science. When new chemicals are discovered, or new concepts in physics, engineers inevitably take interest. One of the interesting things about how the World Trade Center towers fell is that the method used to insulate the girders that softened and failed was abandoned years ago. We don't do things the same way we did them in the 1960s in any field of engineering, nor should we.

It's the same with medicine.

One of the reasons most people don't understand this, I suspect, is that science and technology journalism is done so badly by mainstream news organizations. The second article lampoons the way in which such articles are typically written in a witty essay at The Guardian:
This paragraph will provide more comments from the author restating their beliefs about the research by basically repeating the same stuff they said in the earlier quotes but with slightly different words. They won't address any of the criticisms above because I only had time to send out one round of e-mails.

This Is A News Website Article About A Scientific Paper
It gets much of it right - quoting whack jobs for balance, quoting people who don't know anything about the subject on the ethics of it, and the often irrelevant or useless background information, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Plus, it has a great photo of a triceratops blocking the view of a spiral galaxy. Replace each paragraph and image with a similar one that's somewhat relevant to your topic, and you'll have a science article ready for publication in our most prestigious news media.

Check them out.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Photo(s)

One of the stops on my road trip last week was Cape Perpetua, on the Oregon coast. It's a fascinating place, because it's a spot where an old volcanic flow ended up hitting some form of water (I believe it was the water it's in now, the Pacific Ocean, but I'm not a geologist).

These pictures are from one interesting bit of that area, the Devil's Churn. Why is it called the Devil's Churn? Let's look at it from atop the little hill to the south:
Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

That's a view of the mouth of the Churn. It's a bit distorted, as I had to paste three rather widely spaced pictures together into a panorama to be able to show that much of it. Still, you get the idea. It's formed out of a cut in the volcanic rock (basalt mostly, I'm told) that was laid down there a few million years ago.

I suppose if it had been named by Twentieth Century explorers instead of explorers from the 19th Century, it might have been called the "Devil's Wash Cycle", because all those waves from the ocean end up crashing this way and that on the steep walls of this cut in the rock remind me an awful lot of what the clothes in a washing machine look like while they're being agitated:

Here's a picture of the mouth of the Churn from ground level:

As people familiar with the ocean shore will note, we caught this beach at low tide. For those who aren't familiar, note that the soil is worn away from the rocks to a level much higher than the water is at the moment. That's one way to tell.

Here's a photo of the middle part of the Churn:

And here's the inland end of it:

I'm not sure why this particular bit of rock was cut away so much more than the surrounding basalt. It might be that there was some softer form of rock here, or it could have been softer basalt that was worn away. Basalt varies considerably in how crystallized it is, and how hard, so it seems possible. But then, as I may have mentioned, I'm not a geologist.

As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them, and have a good Sunday. By the way, if anyone who knows what he (or she) is talking about wants to make a correction or clarification, please feel free to comment.

Something That Actually Is Important...

At least, if you're a veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns who was retained in the service by means of the "stop-loss" process, this is potentially important. Phoenix Woman explains at FireDogLake:
The 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act established Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP), providing $500 for each month/partial month served in stop loss status from September 11, 2001 through September 30, 2009. Being in "stop loss" status meant that the affected troop could not leave active service when his or her tour of duty ended. This typically extended tours of duty by several months for each troop affected.

Stop-Loss Vets: Apply NOW for Your Stop-Loss Money!
If you're a veteran to whom this applies and hadn't heard about this, I suggest visiting that link for more information, including the contact information for your branch of service.

UPDATE: This is something Earthbound Misfit noted that I didn't - the deadline to apply is October 21, 2010.

Hugely Important Thought For The Day

Conversations I have at restaurants:

“Coke or Pepsi”
“Does it matter?”
“It does to some people.”

If you warn me that you might give me either Coke or Pepsi, I can generally tell the difference, but if you just give me one and say it’s the other, it’s likely that I won’t notice.

Such is the nature of our political choices these days.

Who Could Be Next?

A clever bit from Talking Points Memo
Biden recently brought under Sharia Law with terrorist fistbump ...

They Got to Biden
It's getting harder to lampoon our political discourse, but thankfully people still dare to try.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mr. Wonderful Spurned Us Again

There is so much about Greg Sargent's account of a conference call between the Obama Administration's spokesperson David Axelrod and some progressive bloggers that epitomizes the relationship between Democratic Party leaders and progressives these days:
"You want us to help you, the first thing I would suggest is enough of the hippie punching," Madrak added. "We're the girl you'll take under the bleachers but you won't be seen with in the light of day."

Axelrod didn't engage on "hippie punching," but he said he agreed with the blogger. "To the extent that we shouldn't get involved in intramural skirmishing, I couldn't agree more," Axelrod said. "We just can't afford that. There are big things at stake here."

Madrak replied that Axelrod was missing the point -- that the criticism of the left made it tougher for bloggers like herself to motivate the base. "Don't make our jobs harder," she said.

"Right back at'cha. Right back at'cha," Axelrod replied, a bit testily, an apparent reference to blogospheric criticism of the administration.

Liberal Blogger Directly Confronts David Axelrod, Accuses White House Of "Hippie Punching"
You know, this lament just screams out for some sappy country music. Cue the Dixie Chicks:

There, that's better.

The first rather obvious conclusion is that the Obama Administration clearly is not really interested in communicating with progressives. Of course, many have realized this for a long time. Any communication has been about what progressives can do for the Obama Administration, not the other way around. In that context, Axelrod's response was clearly more of the same.

The second is that the Obama Administration clearly doesn't expect criticism from its friends. That's not what real friendship is, because friends never agree on everything, for one thing, and it's sometimes the role of a friend to give someone the bad news about what he's done to himself. The Obama Administration doesn't want progressives to be their friends. They want us to be their bitches.

Which brings us to the final point - how interesting Madrak's metaphor of the girl who lets herself be taken under the bleachers is in this context. That sort of thing strikes me as OK, as long as it's clearly understood that it's a quickie and that's all it's going to be (though the expression "no glove, no love" comes to mind.) But when Mr. Wonderful comes around later asking to borrow $50, and oh, yeah, maybe he can squeeze you into his schedule next week while the Homecoming Queen is out of town, then you have a decision to make. You can either say "Sure baby, whatever you want", or you can tell the asshole that if he wants $50 then he can mow your lawn for the next few weeks, and don't forget to trim around the roses. People with their self-respect intact tend toward the latter response.

And therein lies the progressives' problem. No one at that conference call stood up and said "if you want our help, you will accomplish ..", and then went on to listing some things that Obama promised to do during the campaign but hasn't yet lifted a finger on. They just acted like they wanted to please, but didn't quite think they were up to the job.

Which, I suppose, is among the reasons they're all on the A list of bloggers and I can't average 100 visits a day. Clearly, I don't understand how that big time political stuff works.

When progressives have enough self-respect to tell Mr. Wonderful to do something useful or take his act elsewhere, progressives will finally have real power. At this rate, I think that day will come about the same time that Satan is bobsledding to the office.

Yes, I've written this before, lots of times. It's pretty clear that none of those A listers has been paying attention. So, I'll make this simple, because they clearly are really busy people: If you're not willing to stand up for yourself, then you're not going to get jack from people like Barack Obama.

So, try to fit a little bit of self-respect into your schedule.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Wonk The Vote had a good idea, too: If you don’t want to be punched, don’t vote for a hippie-puncher. It's like the old joke goes "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that."

Sometimes, life really is pretty simple.

UPDATE 2 (Sep. 26): Susie Madrak left a response over at the FireDogLake diary version of this article.

What it leads me to say is that I should have made clear that it's at least good that someone was willing to speak up there, and Susie was, I suspect, the only one who did. Note the sentence reads "No one at that conference call stood up and said...", not that it was Ms. Madrak's fault for not being more clear. This is a general problem, not one of a specific blogger. Unfortunately, we tend to get caught up in personalities, particularly when those personalities have done something difficult, and then see those actions criticized. In this case, that wasn't my intention. I thought that was clear, but apparently to at least some folks it wasn't.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Colbert Testimony

Yesterday, Stephen Colbert testified to Congress on the conditions migrant workers in this country face. Here's a video of his opening statement:

Taylor Marsh may have put the appearance most succinctly:
Stephen Colbert went to Congress to get attention focused on migrant workers. But he did something else, too. He made a mockery of the Legislative Branch, which so deserved this brilliant comedian’s derision for the feckless institution it has become.

Stephen Colbert: ‘I like talking about people who don’t have any power.’
To me, "feckless" and "congressional" are almost synonyms these days. That line Taylor quoted in her title is one of the most notable ones in Colbert's testimony while being questioned by Rep. Judy Chu (CA-32).

During questioning, one representative asked if Colbert had made a count of illegal aliens while he worked at a farm in New York. Colbert responded, according to ABC News:
Asked by the panel's ranking Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas, how many workers had joined him during his day on the New York farm, Colbert replied, "I didn't take a count. I'm not good at math." When Smith asked how many of them were illegal, Colbert replied, "I didn't ask them for their papers, although I had a strong urge to."

Stephen Colbert Takes On Congress, Sarcastically Argues for Farm Workers
A better answer, though, might have been a line that he'd used in earlier testimony "We have two signs at our border. One says 'No Trespassing'. The other says 'Help Wanted'." To me, that's been the crux of the immigration issue for decades, and none of the congressmen harumphing about "illegals" has ever really acknowledged that if there wasn't a demand for this type of labor, then they wouldn't be coming here.

For a brief time in my youth, I did farm work. I can tell you it's a tough way to make a living, and I doubt I could even do it now, at least not for very long. It's physically demanding, and even when the farmers provide decent equipment and make sure to provide sufficient rest breaks and water, it's still arduous work. One of the reasons that immigrant workers are preferred, though, is that their employers can get away with not providing a proper work environment, as this speech by Rep. Chu shows:

She told the story of a migrant worker who died from a preventable case of heat stroke, and how the farmer didn't even call an ambulance. He was fifty-three, one year younger than I am now.

Doing physical labor in uncomfortable positions in 100-plus degree (Fahrenheit) weather for days on end is a tough life. Anyone who thinks otherwise has never done it.

Stephen Colbert has done a public service to bring that to peoples' attention. As David Dayen notes, it's more than "serious" journalists have done for a long time.

Maybe Later

This is how I feel today:

funny pictures of dogs with captions
Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

Reading and writing about politics sure can be depressing.

Fortunately, Eli was feeling more energetic today. It's as though the Democrats want to lose the election. Think I'm kidding, read the Jane Hamsher article that inspired Eli:
The question is, why did Van Hollen [lie to Democratic congressmen about the results of polling on health care]? Why did Pelosi and Hoyer and Reid and those who are supposed to care about Democratic majorities in Congress do that? Because you can not convince me that they did not know better. They absolutely did. Nobody is that stupid. They would have had polling data showing Democrats circling the drain on health care for months by that time.

But as Budoff-Brown writes, no “serious” establishment Democrat wanted to speak the truth until Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post shortly before the final vote “warning the party had deluded itself into thinking that Americans wanted the bill. And as a result, they wrote, Democrats ran the risk of ‘unmitigated disaster’ in November.”

Why Did the DCCC Lie To Their Members About Health Care?
That link is one that I added, which shows some polling data following the special election for Senator Ted Kennedy's Senate seat last January. It's indicative of the sort of data Jane was referring to. One of the reasons I do that is to illustrate this next point: It's hard for me to believe that those congressmen didn't know their own districts or states well enough to know the risks they were taking voting for the health care bill as written by Baucus, Wellpoint, and the Obama Administration.

Congressmen often do their own polls. Even when they don't, they have town meetings and other ways of communicating with the public. They had to know that the individual mandate, in particular, was something that most Americans were dead set against. That was true on both ends of the political spectrum. Yet they went ahead and did this anyway, despite what I, and anyone else with the least bit of sense (see Cadell and Schoen), told them.

Instead, they accused us of trying to enable the Republicans.

Do you think re-electing the kind of people who were this spineless, stupid, or thoughtless that they've gone along with all this foolishness would somehow stem the tide of crazy out there? Those people will do nothing but step out of the way and let it happen.

Expecting them to take a stand is as silly as expecting me to fetch a ball right now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fuck Ed Rendell

Via Blue Texan, I found this video of Pennsylvania Governer Ed Rendell on the Rachel Maddow show yesterday:

Yes, the man says, get over it and vote for us. If you don't vote for us, you'll have Michelle Bachmann calling for investigations into Barack Obama and Daryl Issa will be "The Chairman". Other than calling progressives and others who have finally had enough of these clowns childish morons for not voting for them, I didn't hear a single point that would make anyone want to vote Democratic this fall.

I could once again point out the long list of the things that Democrats have failed to do, despite those being the things they promised to do if elected, and despite being the things we sent them there to do, but none of the people who resort to this sort of argument are going to bother to look. That's half the problem - the one group of people who actually will respond to this sort of stupid argument are progressives. I'm not going to any longer.

You see, I lived through the Bush Administration, and I remember what happened. If I don't, I can look at what I wrote for the first two years of this blog. Then, after Bush was out of office, I lived through another two years of the Bush Administration. Do you know why that is? It's because nothing of any importance changed. No recitation of a pathetic laundry list of things that are superficially different from what the Republicans have passed is going to change that. I've written about what hasn't changed, and what's changed for the worst. If you want to know what that is, just click on the keywords "economy", "Barack Obama", "Democrats", and "progressives", and start reading.

It's particularly instructive to remember that, to me, Ed Rendell is The Prince Of Fail for how he has allowed services in his state to dwindle rather than tax the rich some more. They have an income tax there, he could have found a way to do it. He hasn't done a thing for the poor and middle class in his state that would risk any of his political power. He has lots of company in that regard, but as far as I'm concerned, most of what's wrong with the Obama Administration's handling of the economy and its priorities is mirrored in Rendell's handling of Pennsylvania.

Here's what Ed Rendell, and every other pathetic little fuckwad who came up with this same argument fails to acknowledge - I'm not refusing to vote for Democratic incumbents because I'm having a tantrum. I'd vote for those clowns if I thought it would actually make the country better, despite what their thoughtless actions have cost me and just about everyone else I know. The problem is, it won't. The reason I won't vote for them is because they refuse to acknowledge the mistakes they've made, and they refuse to try to correct them. Instead, they insult their base. Frankly, I'm tired of trying to reason with them or their enablers.

So, fuck Ed Rendell right in his fat, atrophied ass, and fuck anyone who thinks like him, too. It's going to take a lot more than calling folks like me childish little ingrates for me to change my mind. In fact, what will change my mind is the one thing you'll never see from the arrogant bastards the Democrats send out to be their spokesmen these days. That something is an honest acknowledgement of how much they've fucked up in the last two years, and some honest effort at trying to change that.

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Thanks to a trip to Astronomy Picture Of The Day, I was reminded that today is the fall equinox. Well, I suppose you could say it happened yesterday in North America, as it was at about 3AM Greenwich Time. Naturally enough, APOD celebrated with this picture of the Sun:
Caption: Today, the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south at 03:09 Universal Time. Known as an equinox, this astronomical event marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the south. Equinox means equal night. With the Sun on the celestial equator, Earth dwellers will experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Of course, in the north the days continue to grow shorter, the Sun marching lower in the sky as winter approaches. To celebrate the equinox, consider this view of the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light from the Sun staring Solar Dynamics Observatory. Recorded yesterday, the false-color image shows emission from highly ionized iron atoms. Loops and arcs trace the glowing plasma suspended in magnetic fields above solar active regions.

Image credit: NASA / Goddard / SDO AIA Team

Clicking on the image credit link will take you to the original page, which has links to further explanations, and a link to the full sized image. Clicking on the image in this article will take you to the medium-sized version of the image I downloaded.

Happy Equinox.

When You See A Sign Like This ...

Caption: This is a road sign I saw quite a few of in Oregon. In fact, I'd say we saw too many of them.

Image credit: Cujo359

This blog isn't meant to be autobiographical. To the extent that it's about what I write, or what I want to vent about, it's about me, but it's not in any other respect. Which, I suspect, is one of its charms.

For that reason, I'm going to leave a lot of detail out of this story. It's about something that occurred during my most recent trip, and I'll just leave it at that and get to the point: Signs like the one in this picture are something you should take seriously.

Yes, many of them seem to demand that you drive at a ridiculously slow speed around those turns or obstacles they're warning you about. I'm not terribly skilled as a driver, and my vehicle isn't all that maneuverable anyway, but I can usually go through them much faster than the speed they're suggesting.

But that's not why the people who put those signs there choose those speeds.

Things don't always go well when you're driving. Even if you're trying to pay attention, and avoid obvious distractions like playing with the radio or talking on a cell phone, there are still lots of things that can distract you. There are also lots of things that you can't foresee as well around a sharp corner as you can on a straightaway. Some chipmunk, dog, or moose might suddenly decide to jump into your path for no reason. A car going the opposite way could get into trouble. An oil slick or an icy patch could be there, just out of sight until it's too late to slow down.

It's much harder to slow down or stop on a curve and stay on the road. You're much better off slowing down before you get to the curve, and accelerating out of it. Even on a set of curves you think you know, there could be trouble lurking there that doesn't usually appear, and if you have to slow down or stop from an excessive speed, it's quite possible that you won't.

I've had countless arguments over this sort of thing with people who think their driving skills can keep them out of these sorts of jams. It's almost useless to argue with them, and sadly, I've largely given up trying. Thanks to this recent incident, though, I'm seriously revisiting the idea of not riding with people who take such chances and don't listen. Coming close to being injured in an accident will do that. You see, I'm far more afraid of spending days, or the rest of my life, in serious pain from being in an accident than I am of just dying. I'm also more afraid of being permanently disabled.

That's something you should think about when you round that next curve too fast - car accidents are far more likely to screw up your life than they are to kill you.

Here's the bottom line - even if you're as good at driving as you think you are, you're not that good all the time, and you're not that good in every situation. So slow down and give yourself time to react to the thing you didn't expect to happen or the thing you weren't prepared for.

If you're foolish enough not to believe this, there's probably nothing I can do to change your mind. Still, maybe you'll be just smart enough to listen to your passengers' objections or note that they look like they're about to get carsick, and slow down.

And, as usual, I'll be very happy not to be given the opportunity to tell you that I told you so.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quote Of The Day

Glenn Greenwald, on the emphasis on "civility" in political discourse:

Political debates are inherently acrimonious -- much of the rhetoric during the time of the American Founding, as well as throughout the 19th Century, easily competes with, if not exceeds, what we have now in terms of noxiousness and extremity -- but far more important than tone, in my view, is content. For instance, Bill Kristol, a repeated guest on The Daily Show, is invariably polite on television, yet uses his soft-spoken demeanor to propagate repellent, destructive ideas. The same is true for war criminal John Yoo, who also appeared, with great politeness, on The Daily Show. Moreover, some acts are so destructive and wrong that they merit extreme condemnation (such as Bush's war crimes). I don't think anyone disputes that our discourse would benefit if it were more substantive and rational, but it's usually the ideas themselves -- not the tone used to express them -- that are the culprits.

The Perils Of False Equivalence

I've expressed variations of this view at one time or another, but this puts the matter succinctly. In fact, I distrust people who never seem to be passionate about anything. I don't expect emotion, particularly the overwrought sort one often sees on local television news programs after some disaster or lurid crime, but many of the ideas politicians discuss are important. Whether they're discussing going to war, how much to fund emergency services, or how to fund medical services, people will live or die based on those decisions. Even more seemingly trivial issues, like funding space exploration, can have mortal consequences. People can't always discuss issues calmly when they or someone they care about is affected by them, nor should we expect them to.

I certainly agree that our political discourse could be elevated, but that's much more a criticism of the content than of the tone. Quite frankly, that's as much the fault of citizens who don't want to be bothered with substantive issues. But there are also times when the most reasonable thing is to be obstreperous or rude, because while what is said to or about you might be spoken or written in a seemingly reasonable tone, that doesn't make it reasonable.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Photos: A Real Arch Suspension Bridge

A few weeks ago I wrote about one of the larger arch bridges on the continent:
Image credit: Cujo359

As I mentioned, I wondered at the time if it could have been an arch suspension bridge (perhaps more commonly referred to as a through arch bridge), but it later proved to be simply an arch bridge, the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge. It was only a matter of time, though, before I actually did find one.

And here it is:
Image credit: Dana Hunter (used by permission)

It's a foot bridge in Bothell, Washington, over the Sammamish River:
Image credit: Dana Hunter (used by permission)

Wait a second, you're probably wondering, where is the suspension coming from? Well, just as a bridge that has cables isn't necessarily a suspension bridge, a bridge without them isn't necessarily not a suspension bridge.

Recall that an arch is a structure whose pieces are forced together by gravity. Of course, there are other forces acting on a bridge besides its weight, like wind and earthquakes. The "suspension" part of an arch suspension bridge is how the weight of the bridge's deck is supported. Typically, that's done with suspension cables, as in a regular suspension bridge. Instead of being suspended from large cables strung over towers, though, an arch suspension bridge's deck is suspended from the arch.

That's why the arch pieces need to be tied together with some form of fasteners like the plates and bolts in this picture:
Image credit: Dana Hunter (used by permission), with notations by Cujo359

This is the top of the bridge, showing the arch, the wooden beams, and the plates that hold them in place. Note the plate that is labeled "plate" has four bolts in it to hold the vertical beam in place, as does the plate on the outside of the arch (see the first photo of this bridge). The vertical beams aren't holding up the arch; they're actually in tension. They're what this bridge is suspended by. Clever, huh?

Why choose an arch suspension design for this sort of bridge, rather than a suspension bridge? One reason might be that it's simpler to put together. One of the unique things about a suspension bridge is that it needs large, heavy anchors at each end for the main cables. A cable stayed suspension bridge can avoid that difficulty, but looks to me like it would be tricky, too. This is the footing of the arch suspension bridge:
Image credit: Dana Hunter (used by permission)

Just simple chunk of concrete with a couple bolts in it. In fact, they're usually termed "abutments" in this type of bridge. That's a far cry from the sort of anchor a suspension bridge requires.

So, that's an arch suspension bridge, albeit a much smaller one than I thought we'd found in Nevada last year, and one not using cables for suspension. Another interesting thing about this bridge is that it appears to be a standard design, rather than one that's just done for one spot. It's a foot bridge, and it could probably support light vehicles, so it's clearly not something that needs to be designed for each application. While researching this type of bridge I ran across this photo at a site that sells these sorts of things:
Image credit: Enwood Structures

While the bridge we saw doesn't look like one of their designs, I'm sure there are other companies that do this sort of thing.

Wonder if they sell kits?

What I'll Be Doing Soon

For the next few days, I'll be doing things like this:

funny pictures of dogs with captions
Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

and, apparently, looking at rocks, volcanoes, beaches, rocks, fish, rocks, the road, and did I mention rocks?

Meanwhile, there will be a rare event here in a little while, a new Sunday Photos article. If that's not enough, then there are all those folks in the blogroll. Heck, I get most of my material from them, anyway.

See you in a few days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Someome Needs Better Optics

Caption: The 24-inch Clarke telescope at the Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Maybe our President and his new pals should get one of these so they can find out what the little people are doing.

Image credit: Cujo359

President Barack Obama was quoted as having said this Thursday night at an "event" in Connecticut:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particularly derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.)

Mike Allen's Playbook: Sept. 17, 2010

Yes, I know who I am, jackass. I'm one of the many people in this country who can't afford to go to an "event" like this one, as described by the Hartford Courant:

The White House released the transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks at the home of Richard and Ellen Richman, who live in the exclusive Conyers Farm development in Greenwich's famed "back country'' neighborhood.

Conyers Farm is the 1,500-acre gated community where Republican Linda McMahon also lives. Her opponent, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, attended the dinner with the President at a 20-acre estate that was not far from McMahon's home.

President Obama's Remarks At Greenwich Fundraiser At Conyers Farm, Where GOP's Linda McMahon Lives

The Greenwich Time adds another little detail:

The location of the Democratic National Committee dinner with the president was the estate of Richard and Ellen Schapps Richman, Richard Richman runs The Richman Group of Companies, a Greenwich-based real estate, investment banking, construction, mortgage banking, and asset and property management conglomerate that touts itself on its website as one of the nation's 10 largest residential property owners. Ellen Schapps Richman is an active philanthropist and adjunct professor of marketing at Pace University's Lubin School of Business, according to her biography on the United Way of Greenwich website.

Guests shelled out more than $30,000 per plate for the exclusive evening with the president.

Faces in the crowd at Conyers Farm Obama dinner

Isn't that special? The President goes to the home of one of the richest people in America, whose holdings include portions of the investment and financial industries that have distinguished themselves recently to the tune of $20 trillion in government-backed bailouts, to talk about how silly the little people can be.

Jane Hamsher makes the case that Obama's whiny outburst ignores the fact that he promised to do exactly what he did not do, provide what he called "a public option" to buy insurance from the government instead of from folks like Mr. Richman. Glenn Greenwald makes the case that the idea that Obama has done lots of wonderfully progressive stuff is, to put it charitably, utterly absurd. I've made the case that he's failed at plenty besides the health care reform issue, in lambasting his running mate. I'll save myself the trouble of doing that again.

There are a couple of points, though, that really bother me. First, Obama's remarks here completely ignore that almost none of us have complained merely because there wasn't a public option. We complained that the bill as passed simply made things worse for many Americans, and did nothing to fix the costs of health care. In short, it was not health care reform. And all that after a year long kabuki play that ended up with the very bill Obama negotiated in secret with the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical care industries with no input from consumer groups.

Obama, in short, was talking utter nonsense. We aren't pouting because there's no public option like the one he based his health care proposal on during the Presidential campaign. We're angry because he managed to make things worse. That's not the thing that's most annoying about this, though. After all, he's lied about this all along. Why would he stop now?

Here's the part that's really annoying. Not only did Obama stoop to using a strawman version of the argument against the health care reform that he negotiated with the interests that were doing the most to make our health care as expensive and inaccessible as possible, and not only did he ignore his promise to provide the very thing he called us stupid for expecting, but he did it in front of people who paid $30,000 to hear him say this.

Sure, they got dinner with that, too, but face it - it probably wasn't substantially better than something you could pick up for $3.00 at your local grocery store's freezer section. That $30,000 is more than a lot of people in this country make in a year. No one earning minimum wage earns that much in a year, unless they're getting lots of overtime. Very few of the official sixteen-plus percent of the population who are currently either under- or unemployed are earning that much. Yet these people paid that much for a dinner and a lousy comedy act.

None of those people, either Obama or the people attending, have any worries about being able to afford health care if they can afford to shell out that kind of money. Yet the President and the smug rich folks in his audience think we're all kinds of stupid or childish for expecting that he would keep his promise to make things better, and not make them worse instead.

We're the ones dying at the rate of 25,000 or more a year thanks to a health care system that he resolutely refused to fix. Yet that condescending little jackass thinks it's funny we're unhappy with that fact.

There's a bit of slang political bloggers sometimes use, "optics", which means "how does this look?" In this case, I think the optics of a President joking about the foolishness of the people who needed his help and didn't get it being upset about that, in front of the people who have benefited the most from his actions the last couple of years, don't look all that good.

Even on a strictly political level, this has to rank among the stupidest things this man has done since taking office.

It's amazing to me that anyone still respects him.

UPDATE: Over at FireDogLake, diarist Niland comments on the high-risk pools that were set up by the health care "reform" bill:

I had high hopes for this, as my Mother is a 61 year old widow who has low income but is too young for Medicare and who we (my brother and I) have been paying $1,000+/mo for Anthem Blue Cross individual market insurance for the last three years to keep her insured. I thought the new high risk plan was going to be standardized with a 4-1 age ratio and also “affordable” for people who cannot get affordable coverage in the individual market. I looked up the rates for California where she lives, and her premium will be $799/mo with no subsidy under the new plan . Meanwhile, the premium for a child under 15 is $142/mo…how is that 4-1? How is that even remotely affordable?

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — Out of Reach

If I had a dollar for every time some uninformed fool told me that I didn't know this stuff was going to be worthless, I'd be able to buy my insurance with the proceeds, and I could buy Niland's mother's, too. Not that it would do me any good, but given that their foolishness helped get us this piece of crap system, I'd much rather waste those jackasses' money than my own.

UPDATE (Sep. 22): I just noticed the typo in the article's title today. In my defense, I was away from the Internet for the past few days, or I might have picked up on it sooner. Anyway, the current spelling appeals to my sense of humor for some reason, so it stays as is.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rosette Nebula

Just because I can, a recent picture from NASA's Image Of The Day gallery:
Caption: Located about 5,000 light years from Earth, this composite image shows the Rosette star formation region. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored red and outlined by a white line. The X-rays reveal hundreds of young stars in the central cluster and fainter clusters on either side. Optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (purple, orange, green and blue) show large areas of gas and dust, including giant pillars that remain behind after intense radiation from massive stars has eroded the more diffuse gas.

A recent Chandra study of the cluster on the right side of the image, named NGC 2237, provides the first probe of the low-mass stars in this satellite cluster. Previously only 36 young stars had been discovered in NGC 2237, but the Chandra work has increased this sample to about 160 stars. The presence of several X-ray emitting stars around the pillars and the detection of an outflow -- commonly associated with very young stars -- originating from a dark area of the optical image indicates that star formation is continuing in NGC 2237. By combining these results with earlier studies, scientists conclude that the central cluster formed first, followed by expansion of the nebula, which triggered the formation of the two neighboring clusters, including NGC 2237.

Image Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Wang et al), Optical (DSS & NOAO/AURA/NSF/KPNO 0.9-m/T. Rector et al)

Click to enlarge to the full size I can keep on my image server.

The light we're seeing from this nebula today started out its journey when Babylon was just getting started. Nearly all of our history has happened since. I've said it before, but if you need to believe in some deity to be awed by this universe, you don't know very much about it.

(Original size image)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pucker Up, Joe

Caption: It may be lazy and ungrateful, but it's also cute and furry. Joe Biden and his boss can kiss it whenever they want.

Image credit: The Dawg Blog by Dawgdad (Click to see the whole picture - it's cute.)

There are some great things about not having cable. One of them is that you get to miss seeing Joe Biden telling all the people the Democrats in DC have screwed in the last eighteen months to get off their lazy asses and support the Democrats.

Gregg Levine filled me in this morning:

Vice President Joe Biden made room in his busy schedule Wednesday to appear on “The Rachel Maddow Show” to address the much-reported enthusiasm gap between fired-up Tea-publicans and a disappointed Democratic base. How do I know that was his reason? He said so:

What I’m doing. . . one of the reasons I wanna be on your show is to tell the progressives out there, you know, get in gear, man. First of all, there’s a great deal at stake.

No duh. Really? Progressives are the ones that need to be reminded that there’s a great deal at stake?
Actually, Mr. Vice President, you didn’t mention a single thing that your administration or this Democratically controlled 111th Congress has gotten done. You are just telling progressives out there that they “better get energized,” that they “get in gear,” that they “should not stay home” come November.

Why? Because. . . because. . . Pete Sessions!

Biden Scolds Dem Voters for Enthusiasm Gap; Tells Progressives to “Get in Gear”

Yes, because apparently we haven't been begging these same clowns who are now calling us lazy to actually differentiate themselves by their actions from their predecessors, to little or no effect. Apparently, they haven't been throwing us from the sleigh one by one, hoping they'll have enough supporters left come election time. Apparently, we didn't warn them about all this, repeatedly.

Levine, a former advertising consultant, makes some great points about why products fail to catch on with consumers. Sometimes, it's the attitude of the product's sellers that is the problem. They'll berate the consumer for not being able to understand how great the product is. Which is true enough, at times. The problem is that berating them does no good, because afterward they still won't know why the product is good, and they'll be annoyed at the people berating them.

My professional background gives me another insight. I spent more time than I care to remember testing software and computer systems that other people designed. Those other people, when confronted with the fact that their product didn't work, would sometimes berate the testers, saying that they didn't know how to use it, didn't use it the way it was supposed to be used, etc. When, as often happened, the product was released despite objections, and the customer told us it sucked for the same reason that the testers had, I cannot recall one time when those people admitted that maybe they should have listened more carefully. I think I'd remember that, too, because it would have been an extraordinary moment.

Most of us don't work in advertising, and most of us haven't tested products for a living, but nearly all of us have encountered this situation in some form. Perhaps it was a friend or family member who tells us we're crazy cheapskates not to buy whatever bits of Amway garbage he's selling. Perhaps it's a boss who blames the failure of his brilliant plan for corporate domination on his lazy, no good employees. The scenarios may differ, but the blame being cast on us for these peoples' lack of attention to reality and unwillingness to listen is a constant through all of them.
Caption: This is a picture of our economy. We're the red line, which many economists are lazy and ungrateful enough to think is a bad thing.

Image credit: Calculated Risk

The Democrats in DC have been a colossal failure. They have failed utterly at a long list of issues. That's the problem. Gays can't say "Oh, they didn't give us a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but at least they're doing everything in their power to save the jobs of gay servicemembers." People worried about the financial sector can't say "Yes, TARP and the Fed bailouts were a problem, but we have meaningful financial reform." People who wanted real health care reform can't tell themselves that it won't matter so much once the economy gets moving again. People who want the government to return to the rule of law can't tell themselves that the government is being ruled by people who follow their principles, and that someday we can hope for better. Unions can't tell themselves that it doesn't matter quite so much that the economy isn't getting better, because at least they have a card check system. People who want us to get out of Iraq can't tell themselves that at least we're not further enmeshed in Afghanistan.

What's worse, none of the people concerned about those issues can look at the others and say "They haven't taken care of this, but they've made progress with those things."

Caption: Pollster's composite of Right Direction/Wrong Track polls. Self-identified progressives and liberals make up roughly 25 percent of the population. Looks to me like someone else is unhappy besides us. Do you think maybe this is the Democrats' real problem?

Image credit: Snapshot of today's Pollster page

The only time that Vice President Biden, President Obama, and all their sycophantic enablers talk to us is when they tell us to get off our lazy, ungrateful butts and support them. They can call us lazy and ungrateful all they want, but we aren't the ones who failed at these things. We voted for them, wrote the letters, made the calls, signed the petitions. At the end of the day, we did our jobs, which was to get them into office and tell them what needed to change. They didn't provide that change. That's the bottom line.

The DC Democrats have failed utterly at everything they were sent there to do. They'd be much better served admitting they were wrong, and trying to do better. Going by past experience, I don't think that's going to happen. Berating us for not seeing the genius of the product is beyond pointless and absurd - it's counterproductive.

We know their product sucks. We're living in it.

Afterword: Taylor Marsh adds this thought:

We haven’t even gotten to the serial political messaging malpractice of Obama’s White House, which is the worst I’ve ever seen. Biden proved it again last night, though at least he didn’t blame movement progressives. He simply is the latest to insult the people Dems need in November, saying basically that the Democratic base has no other alternative, so Wake up and save our ass.

I honestly don’t know how Ms. Maddow controlled herself from offering a rejoinder the likes of which would have deservedly blown Mr. Biden’s hair askew. Something like, “Mr. Vice President, surely you understand that Democrats in 2008 didn’t elect a majority and Barack Obama in order to compromise with Republicans, something Bush never did with less.”

VP Joe Biden: ‘Get in gear, man. … You better get energized.’

[italics from original]

That's another part of this that is so annoying - the pathetic excuses about how so little could be done, because there just weren't enough of the right people running things. The people running things are the ones these guys supported. And as Taylor observes, they had a lot more going for them than George W. Bush did.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Stupid Web Page

Caption: The "legacy" version of Five Thirty-Eight. Nowadays, you land there, start to read, and then kawoosh!, you're on Planet Sulzberger.

Image credit: Screenshot of a Five Thirty-Eight page by Cujo359

As readers may or may not be aware, the site Five Thirty-Eight was recently moved to new digs at The New York Times. That's all well and good; there is such a thing as progress, after all, and such a thing as getting paid for all the work you do. At least, I've heard that happens sometimes. So I don't blame the 538 crew for moving on.

However, that doesn't stop me from being annoyed at the condition they've left the old site in. Try to go to a link at the old site, say this one. See what happens? After a delay that's just long enough to fool you into thinking it's worth starting to read the article, it takes you to the front page of the NYT site. Not to the version of that article that's on the new site.

That's just what happened to me when I followed a link from this article I finally had to save the page to my hard disk, edit out the refresh command, and then load it from there.

What moron thought that was a good idea? It's so stupid that Five Thirty-Eight now deserves its own special mention as a Stupid Web Page. Congratulations.

Numerology Thingy Of The Day

Actually, I just thought this was cool, five 5's all in a a row:

Of course, it's from this site's Sitemeter, which doesn't display cool numbers very often. I'm sure FireDogLake or Daily Kos could just reset their site meter after breakfast and they'd have a number like this by lunch, but some of have to wait, ahem, a little longer.

I can't wait until I get to open another fortune cookie.

Worthwhile Political Reading

Charles Pierce's new column at Esquire is about Christine O'Donnell, the former anti-masturbation spokesmodel who won the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Delaware yesterday despite what I can only describe as a profound disconnect with reality. His concluding paragraph is:

She is what politics produces when we abandon self-government for self-gratification. And that's the real obvious irony in her victory on Tuesday night, and the only thing about it that truly matters. Christine O'Donnell's campaign is a successful exercise in angry, misfit masturbation, with as little to do with the deadly problems this country faces as some guy wanking in the balcony of a grindhouse has to do with Romeo and Juliet.

Can We Calm Down About Delaware's Tea Party Already?

I'd contend that it has even less. At least sex drive has some relationship to romance. Ms. O'Donnell's candidacy and fixing the problems in this country are about as orthogonal a pair of concepts as you can get.

(h/t Watertiger, without whom I never would have noticed this, I'm sure.)

What Americans Are Proud Of

From Robert Reich's column yesterday about the Republicans threatening to shut down government again if they don't get more tea and crumpets or whatever it is they're on about:

Americans may be cynical about government but we’re proud of our system of governance. And we don’t want it to be used as a political pawn in partisan power games. That’s what Republicans forget time and again. They dislike government so much they don’t see the difference between government as a bureaucracy and democratic governance as a cherished system.

The Republican Threat to Shut Down the Federal Government

As I've observed before, assertions about what the American people believe or want is more likely to be about what the person making the assertion believes or wants. It seems to be true here, too.

Now, that paragraph I quoted certainly describes my attitude. That's not the point here. The point is, what do most Americans really think? It sure is funny how not just Republicans, but Democrats lately, seem to be able to get away with ignoring or outright insulting the idea that the people who run our government do it on our behalf, not for the purpose of enriching themselves or getting re-elected.

Yet that's where we are.

It's hard to believe that so many of us respect the idea of our government when the people we elect seem to have no concept of the idea.

If anyone can provide proof that this is the attitude of the American people, it would sure be appreciated.

What Anomalous Data Can Teach Us

Last week I wrote that it would be foolish to assume the bump in favor of Democrats in last week's Gallup generic congressional ballot meant anything. Sure enough, here's this week's Gallup poll, which the Democrats don't seem to be ballyhooing quite as much:

Registered-voter preferences for Congress since the beginning of August have averaged 48% for Republican candidates and 43% for Democratic candidates, identical to this week's results. While there have been a few instances in recent months when the Republicans were not ahead to at least some degree -- including in mid-July, when the Democrats were up by six percentage points, and last week, when the parties were tied at 46% -- the broad picture has generally been positive for the Republicans.

Generic Ballot Splits 48% for GOP, 43% for Dems

That's Gallup for "Last week was an anomaly. You weren't silly enough to believe it, were you?" Still, it seems that plenty of people were. Here's this week's graph:
Image credit: Gallup poll graph converted to PNG format by Cujo359
[click on charts to enlarge]

So, last week's result was the anomaly, and the previous week's record-setting Republican advantage was just a bit exaggerated. Go figure.

That high pitched sound you hear is Democratic politicians whistling past the graveyard.

Speaking of silliness, as I wrote in the update to last week's poll article, I made a rather silly mistake. The numbers I pulled from Rasmussen for their generic congressional ballot were all in reverse chronological order, i.e,, newest data point first. That made the graph reversed, too, and made me misinterpret.

Since then, I've played a little with the spreadsheet, and now it generates a graph similar to the Gallup chart, including the time span and color selection:
Image credit: Plot by Cujo359 from Rasmussen data

The spread in Rasmussen's data is now 9 percent in favor of the GOP, down from 12 percent last week.

What the combination of these two polls suggests is that there was a spike in the Republican's popularity two weeks ago, and that it may have abated a little. There's certainly reason to think that when you look at how Republicans have been behaving recently. I've made the point often enough that they're the only ones standing in the way of their controlling the House next year. They've given me no reason to think they still can't accomplish the miracle of losing to these Democrats.

Still, the Democrats are in big trouble. Both charts show enough variation to suggest that they still could lose in record-setting numbers to Republicans this fall. The enthusiasm gap is as big as ever, and the Democrats haven't done anything to close it besides trying to makes us more frightened of Republicans than we are of them.

There are some lessons we should learn from this:

  • Don't believe politicians when they're talking about polls.

  • Don't believe the people who support those politicians when they're talking about the polls.

  • When discussing any information like this, one of the most important things to ask is: What's normal? What is the normal variation in poll data from one time to the next? What change is evident in the long term? All of these things are important for knowing what a change in a given data point is likely to mean.

  • The chart is not the data. It's a way of making sense of the data. Understand what it's saying.

  • Mistakes are opportunities to learn something.

  • In the end, it's really up to you to use your own skepticism about everything you read, because even people who don't have an axe to grind can be wrong.

As many bloggers do, I try to always document where I obtained data from polls, and to explain any assumptions, guesses, and methods I use to draw conclusions from it. That's how it should be, and if there's something that isn't clear from that conclusion, then it's OK to ask, or to be skeptical. In fact, I really expect the latter.

Quote Of The Day

Yves Smith making the seemingly obvious observation about our banking system:

[T]he reality is that banks can no longer meaningfully be called private enterprises, yet no one in the media will challenge this fiction. And pointing out in a more direct manner that banks should not be considered capitalist ventures would also penetrate the dubious defenses of their need for lavish pay. Why should government-backed businesses run hedge funds or engage in high risk trading, or for that matter, be permitted to offer lucrative products that are valuable because they allow customers to engage in questionable activities, like regulatory arbitrage? The sort of markets that serve a public purpose should be reasonably efficient and transparent, which implies low margins for intermediaries.

Why Do We Keep Indulging the Fiction That Banks Are Private Enterprises?

Actually, it's not just the press, near as I can tell. They're certainly not willing to discuss the obvious conclusion that an industry that has to be propped up by the government so it doesn't take down the economy when it does something as fabulously stupid as it's done the last couple of decades isn't an industry subject to market forces in any meaningful way. You can add Serious Politicians (and Pundits), Famous Economists, and pretty much anyone else you're likely to see on a TV screen to that list. This is another bit of analysis we seem to be leaving to the Jon Stewarts of the world.

Our major banks are private enterprises to about the same degree that I'm a rabid St. Bernard - as in that's what I call myself, because it's better than some of the alternatives.

Frankly, the best thing we could do with this industry right now is nationalize it, at least in the short term. Either break it up and then let it run as a real market, or make it a government service. Either would be way better than the current system.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Does This Say About Us, Pt. 3

Let's decide the South Dakota At Large U.S. Representative race based on which of the two candidates is cuter. Here they are:

Hey, does it really make a difference? Either way, South Dakota will be looking pretty good on the House floor.

Before someone accuses me of trivializing this race, let me explain that it's too late for that. Consider this quote from Talking Points Memo today:

State Rep. Kristi Noem (R) recently emerged from a GOP primary and was looking like a strong candidate until the local press unearthed her bad driving record with multiple speeding violations.

TPM's Top 10 House Races To Watch

In case you're wondering, Noem's the brunette.

Seriously, could there be any more trivial way of determining the outcome of a House race? The lady has lousy driving habits. So what? What's her legislative record? What special interests does she have a special relationship with? These are the things I'd be wondering about.

Yet TPM's assumption appears to be founded in reality. Here's a quote from a local paper:

[T]he longer the speeding issue lives in public discussion, the worse it is for Noem, said Joel Rosenthal, a former state Republican Party chairman from Sioux Falls.

“I think her momentum has been stopped by this,” Rosenthal said. “I think we’ve got a really tight race now.”

It isn’t just the news stories of Noem’s driving record over the past 21 years that have kept the issue alive, Rosenthal said. It’s also the fight-back response from Noem supporters, who provided state records showing that Herseth Sandlin’s father, former state Sen. Lars Herseth, had a string of 17 speeding tickets himself.

Noem Apologizes For Traffic Citations

I guess this is one case where the family with the higher score loses.

As for how I want this race to go, this one's a tough call. The blonde's cuter, but with that driving record I bet the brunette would be more fun at parties.

Yes, I've hammered this theme to death already, but when you look at how we choose our leaders, it should be no surprise what we end up with.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quote Of The Day

Caption: No doubt many people think this image of Jesus head-butting the Koran is offensive. That's too bad, because it's really rather funny.

Image credit: Screenshot of this YouTube video by Cujo359

George W. blogging about the idea of how much we should respect beliefs that don't make any sense to us:

I still believe the most profound question is; “Can we all just get along?” In historical times our failure resulted in endless slaughter, but our methods have “improved” to where we can’t afford NOT to get along anymore.

I can’t believe that some kind of mutual agreement to tiptoe around and not offend each other is even practical in the short term, let alone a long-term solution. Progress happens when the bad ideas of the past begin to look ridiculous, and that’s never easy or inoffensive. Trying to respect the un-respectable postpones that moment almost indefinitely.

Exploring Offensive Symbolic Expression

It's a profound essay, and well worth a read. I've touched on this subject in the past, but I've never brought up the idea that there are some compelling reasons to learn to get along. As time goes on, our ability to kill each other and destroy will become greater, whether it's with biological weapons, nuclear weapons, or autonomous weapons. With that enhanced ability to destroy comes the danger that we will destroy ourselves or bomb ourselves back to the stone age over some trivial difference of opinion.

We need to learn that others have the right to destroy symbols we think of as sacred, and that we don't have the right to kill or injure them in response. Whether it's destroying a Koran, a a communion wafer, or a flag, the right to destroy one's own property in protest must be sacrosanct. That's because an idea that one person finds sacred could be as abjectly stupid as an idea no one thinks is sacred.

As I've pointed out before, it's the ideas that don't have a basis in reality that are usually the dangerous ones. There are plenty of such ideas that people are willing to kill or injure anyone who questions.

Another Thought For 9/12

Another thought for 9/12, to someone I don't speak to often enough:

funny dog pictures-Say, you look familiar...
Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

I was prepared to spend some time looking for the perfect birthday wishes, and this one was at the top of the stack. Call it lolendipity.

No, on second thought, please don't.

Happy Birthday.