Friday, January 6, 2006

Science Friday

Chalk this one up to the "who knew?" department: urban coyotes are thriving.

The major findings include:

* Coyotes are helping to curb the booming Canada goose population in urban areas by eating the eggs. Coyotes can clean out several goose nests in one night, but don’t actually eat all the eggs, Gehrt explained. Rather, they usually carry the eggs away from the nest and bury them, saving them for later, Gehrt said.

* Coyotes prefer to hunt alone, but often form packs to defend territories. Gehrt estimates that half of urban coyotes live in packs consisting of five to six adults and their pups born that year. These packs establish territories of about five to 10 square miles – a fraction of the area that a rural coyote pack would cover. Thus, the population densities in the urban area are usually three to six times higher than rural populations. Urban coyotes that don’t hunt in packs can cover ranges of 50 square miles or more, often in just a night. “The first solitary coyote we tracked covered five adjacent cities in a single night,” Gehrt said.

* Urban coyotes survive far longer than their rural cousins. A coyote living in urban Chicago has a 60-percent chance of surviving for one year, while a rural coyote has a 30 percent chance of living for another year.

Friday reading

Worth a read: Coturnix of Science and Politics has some thoughts on the two-party system, and why the typical Dem practice of triangulation is doomed to repeated failure:
But it is absolutely impossible to cleave a Right-wing group and get it to ever even consider voting for Democrats. It just does not cross their minds. If they are very unhappy with the way the GOP leadership is behaving at any particular time in history (as they should be right now), they are much more likely to not show up at the polls, or to give a protest-vote to a third party (e.g, the Constitution Party or Libertarians) , then to vote for a Democrat.

[...]

Thus, a political strategy should completely ignore the core members of the opposing ideology - they are unattainable. One needs to focus on those that can be won over - the independents, the apathetic, the new young voters, and the disgusted core that may rebel and go Green (btw, there is not such thing as a 'moderate'). All four of those groups can be won over only by exciting bold ideas that are true to the core liberal ideology. Triangulation aka 'tacking to the right' is boring and wins nobody over, while alienating the base. Bad idea.
On a related note, Shakespeare's Sister has some words for Dems who try to ignore or diss progressives. The shorter version of a good post: "without us, you're nothing."

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Blogging around

Found John Carroll's satirical piece on our new "streamlined" form of government via Under the Same Sun.

We also learn a very simple way to get on the "no fly list": write a book critical of Bu$hCo. Your tax dollars at work.

Oklahoma GLB News

First, a victory for a lesbian couple:
The Judicial Appeals Tribunal of the Cherokee Nation, the highest Cherokee court, has rejected an attempt by several tribal council members to invalidate the marriage of a Cherokee lesbian couple.

The Court held that the council members, who are the legislative branch of the Cherokee Nation, had no standing to seek a court order invalidating the marriage of Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley because the council members could not show that they were individually harmed or affected by the marriage.

The Court rejected the council members’ argument that permitting the marriage to stand would injure “the reputation” of the Cherokee Nation.

"We are relieved by the Court’s ruling,” Reynolds said on Wednesday. “Dawn and I are private people, and we simply wish to live our lives in peace and quiet, just as other married couples are permitted to do."

Nerdified Link
And a homophobe gets his just deserts:

An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a male plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said.

Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

He has also spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle."

Nerdified Link


Hat tip to No Capital.

Thursday thought piece

Check out an interview with Charles C. Mann, regarding his recent book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus - Part 1 and Part 2.

Hat tip to Tim of Democratic Left Infoasis.

Quotable: The Politics of Fear vs. Trust

"There are only two kinds of politics. They are not radical and reactionary, or conservative and liberal. Or even Democrat and Republican. There are only the politics of fear and the politics of trust.

"One says: You are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you.

"The other says: The world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men. ...(C)ast your vote for trust ...in the ancient traditions of this home for freedom...."

Nerdified Link

Congratulations

You are visitor 50,000.

Quotable - Howard Zinn

There is a persistent argument against such a possibility, which I have heard from people on all parts of the political spectrum: We will never do away with war because it comes out of human nature. The most compelling counter to that claim is in history: We don’t find people spontaneously rushing to make war on others. What we find, rather, is that governments must make the most strenuous efforts to mobilize populations for war. They must entice soldiers with promises of money, education, must hold out to young people whose chances in life look very poor that here is an opportunity to attain respect and status. And if those enticements don’t work, governments must use coercion: They must conscript young people, force them into military service, threaten them with prison if they do not comply.

Nerdified Link
Hat tip to onegoodmove.

Footnote to "The culture of corruption within the Beltway"

Apparently the aptly described Abramoff-GOP "cesspool of corruption" also includes diverting funds to terrorists. Alas, since the terrorists in question are ones making the lives of Palestinians miserable, little outrage will be expressed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

From the "Truth is Stranger than Fiction" Department:

"There will still be some who believe that they can affect the political outcome of Iraq through violent means."

- George Bush, the "Commander-in-Chief" of the armed forces which invaded Iraq and overthrew its leadership through somewhat less than peaceful means, and whose 150,000 troops and airplanes continue to accomplish their political (and economic) aims through violent means.
Hat tip to Left I on the News.

The "Left Behind" Mindset

Thanks to Madman in the Marketplace, I've been turned on to a blogger named Joe Bageant, whom I'll be reading fairly readily, I suspect. His piece on the cultural phenomenon represented by the best-selling series of religious fundamentalist apocalypse porn is a must-read. Some things that caught my attention:
Fetishizing of the End Times as a spectacular gore-fest visited upon on the unbelievers is nothing new. But the sheer number of people gleefully enjoying the spectacle of their own blackest magical thinking made manifest by mass media is new. Or at least the media aspect is new. It reinforces the major appeal of these beliefs, the appeal being (to restate the obvious) that they get to pass judgment on everyone who disagrees with them, and then watch God kick the living snot out of them. It doesn’t get any better than that.

All my life I have seen these people and there are no more or less of them proportionately than before. It is simply that, A) they have built their own massive media, and B) educated middle class folks are noticing them now because they vote and a major political party is willing to violate the church-state boundary to get their votes. They have always been out here and always in about the same percentages. Think about that. It took me a while to accept it too. But George W. Bush learned the significance of this while campaigning for his daddy back when he was supposed to be at his National Guard meetings. Part of his job was to bring in the fundie Christian vote for Poppy. Come George’s turn to play poker for the presidency in that quadrennial rich man’s game we call elections, Sparky knew what cards to play. The effete John Kerry had not a clue. Still doesn’t. Neither did you. Right? Don’t feel bad. I even knew the great unwashed tribes of the faithful were out here, wrote spooky and panicked articles about it before the elections and still underestimated the capability of the death obsessed Christian right.
He has this to say about the author, LaHaye:
Scratch LaHaye and you’ll find an honest-to-god surviving John Bircher. In the 1960s when LaHaye was a young up-and-coming Baptist preacher fresh out of Bob Jones University, he lectured on behalf of Republican Robert Welch’s John Birch Society. We are talking about a man who believed Dwight Eisenhower was an agent of the Communist Party taking orders from his brother, Milt Eisenhower. Along the way LaHaye extended his paranoid list of villains to include secular humanists who "are Satan’s agents hiding behind the Constitution." And the only way to destroy them is to destroy their cover.
Note: I added a hyperlink to a description of the John Birch Society to give you some more context regarding LaHaye's mindset, and added emphasis to some passages of interest.

The culture of corruption within the Beltway

is primarily a GOP culture. See also Abramoff: The House That Jack Built.

Wednesday reading

Henry A. Giroux's The New Authoritarianism in the United States. In that article, Giroux lays out four threats to democracy in America: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, efforts by the right-wing to decimate the educational system, and militarism. Professor Giroux also reminds the reader of the role that educators need to play to counter the authoritarian tide. Needless to say, we've got our work cut out for us.

A scene we'd like to see



Click the pic to go to the Impeach Project.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Food for thought

First read this by Paul Craig Roberts. Then read this. Think carefully about the road down which our nation travels.

Symbolic

Our concern about our Constitutional rights:


King George: Destroyer of our Constitutional Republic:



Hat tip to Madman in the Marketplace who said of the top image:
I tried to think about a single image for this past year. How to sum up Katrina, government spying on American citizens, the suspension of civil liberties in the name of an eternal war on a tactic ... what single image could sum all of that up? How to tie together scandals, government and corporate, growing inequality racially and socially and educationally?

No one in this country cares enough to burn the flag, either out of respectful retirement as provided for in the Code, or in protest of the policies pursued in its name. We neglect our flags as we neglect the highest ideals of our nation, as we passively hand it over to greedy corporations and the politicians who would sell us ALL out for a seat at the lucrative table.

So, that's my pick up there at the top for an image to remember the year 2005 by. Neglected, fluttering in the wind, fading in the sun, colors running in the hurricane-driven rain.

Monday, January 2, 2006

One more tropical storm for the road

I guess I missed this one, as we were traveling back from our Christmas vacation on Tropical Storm Zeta:
MIAMI — Tropical Storm Zeta moved slowly westward over the central Atlantic today and was expected to weaken, forecasters said.
The 27th and last named storm of the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, Zeta had top sustained winds near 50 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said Zeta was not expected to become a hurricane or threaten land.
[...]
The storm developed Friday, nearly a month after the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended. It tied a record for the latest-developing storm since record-keeping began in 1851.
The 2005 exhausted the list of 21 proper names for hurricanes, forcing forecasters to use the Greek alphabet to name storms for the first time.
Among the Greek-named storms was the first, Tropical Storm Alpha, which formed Oct. 22, and Hurricane Epsilon, which last month became only the fifth hurricane to form in December in the 154 years of record-keeping.
2005 was another unusually warm year. I gather that 2006 is picking up where the previous year left off. Needless to say, the effects are more prominent in the extreme northern and southern latitudes toward the poles. However, let's face it, even in my little corner of the planet I've noticed something. In the short term, I don't complain much about temperatures in the 50s and 60s here in the high plains, if for no other reason than that I can keep the natural gas bill down to something manageable. It's the long term I wonder about. One thing, since I moved to the central US winters seem to be shorter, punctuated with a few extreme events rather than sustained cold. We've also been going through another dry spell in my area after starting last year on the wet side. Since June it's been bone dry. As I was driving the family back home, we noticed one of the convenience stores in a nearby town had an advisory posted on its door warning against any activity that might spark brush fires, like the ones that have plagued people in downstate Texas and Oklahoma.

I've also made some observations from my travels. One of the most salient is that the forest surrounding Flagstaff doesn't appear quite as green as it did back in the mid 1980s - or even as my wife commented back when we drove through there together in 1995 on our way to Missouri. I can't help but wonder how long those stands of evergreens will last in that area. In the short term, I found little to warrant complaint: the drive this year was remarkably easy. We could have left the winter coats and tire chains at home and been perfectly okay. It's the long term that has me wondering.

Gaze into the crystal ball

From Juan Cole's predictions:
9. New Orleans will for the most part not be rebuilt and will increasingly be eclipsed by Baton Rouge. Louisiana as a result will become a solid Red State. The Republican Party has no particular reason to rebuild a predominantly African-American city that reliably voted Democrat, just as its leader, George W. Bush, apparently had no particular reason to implement relief work there with any urgency or efficiency after the flood. Most of the $25 billion in reconstruction aid promised by the Federal government will never arrive.

10. The United States will continue to lose global political influence because its government is running large deficits and going ever deeper into debt. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower routinely used the threat of calling in loans from war-devastated Europe to get his way. He threatened UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden with loan cancellations if the latter did not get back out of the Suez in late 1956. He threatened DeGaulle with loan cancellations if the latter didn't get France out of rebellious Algeria before it went Communist. Nowadays the US is a massive debtor nation, and has lost that kind of leverage with all but the poorest and most beaten-down countries. The US nuclear arsenal is relatively useless because it cannot actually be used, and the US military is bogged down in Iraq. America remains a superpower for the third and fourth worlds, but is often a helpless, pitiful giant as far as places like Western Europe and China are concerned.
The rest of the predictions make for an interesting read as well. While forecasting is certainly something to take with a grain or two of salt, one can look at past trends to make some educated guesses as to what is likely to transpire. As for New Orleans, Kanye West was right last September. The latent and not-so-latent white supremacist vibe that permeates the Republican party is too far dominant to actually let a largely African-American community rebuild and flourish - let's face it: the Klan is possibly more popular with American Blacks than the GOP, hence the party's leaders and cronies have barely lifted so much as a finger (and even then only to flip NOLA residents the bird).

This nation is overextended. The bank is broken. The military is broken. Superficially, things may look hunky dory. Don't be fooled. The bill will come due, sooner or later. In the meantime, with the exception of America's corporate media, King George will continue to be mocked by the rest of the world, perhaps even more vigorously than last year.

Just when you thought blogtopia was safe

I return. The trip back was fairly uneventful - or at least as uneventful as is humanly possible when transporting three small kids in a compact car halfway across country. The weather in Southern California was generally good during our stay. We missed out on the soaking that the west coast is now getting. Got to catch up with a couple old friends, which is always a good thing - and bought a few tie-dye shirts from one of those friends.

My son and I saw dolphins swimming along the coast of Laguna Beach late last week, which was quite a sight. I tried to get a couple snapshots - will need to actually look at them on the computer screen to know if I succeeded in getting anything other than some great coastal sunset pix (I know, boo-hoo). Might eventually get around to posting a few pix as time permits.

As expected, we got exposed to just a bit too much FauxNews - got my dose of Official Soviet GOP propaganda for the year. Found out my nephew is turning into a jazzer, so I treated him to a cd for Christmas, and made a few suggestions for building his own jazz library.

Impeach