Saturday, March 12, 2005's Limitations

Some progressives are unhappy that MoveOn is taking a timid role in opposition to the Bush occupation policy in Iraq:
With a network of more than 3 million "online activists," the MoveOn leadership has decided against opposing the American occupation of Iraq. During the recent bloody months, none of MoveOn's action alerts have addressed what Americans can do to help get the U.S. military out of that country. ...A movement serious about ending U.S. military activities in Iraq could use the resolution as a way to cut through political tap dances and pressure members of Congress to take a stand. Down the road, generating grassroots support for a get-out-of-Iraq resolution has potential to clear a congressional pathway for measures cutting off funds for the war.
MoveOn is principally a liberal/progressive campaign vehicle geared to electing candidates and pressing broadly-acceptable positions. In some ways, it's like a nascent political party. Taking controversial stands is the responsibility of candidates and other leaders, not MoveOn as a whole.

Anti-war Democrats cannot yet unify regarding Iraq because it's unclear whether it would be worse to try to stabilize Iraq first before leaving, or simply leave. MoveOn isn't abdicating its role, it's just there is no broad consensus. If other leaders and organizations want to take harder stands, the more power to them, but they may be weakened as a consequence of abandoning broad consensus. Another year of Bush screwups, however, and that broad consensus may well emerge.
Mercury Rising

Hey, this really worked last night!
Space Weather News for March 11, 2005

SUNSET MERCURY: If you would like to see the planet Mercury, normally hidden by the sun, this weekend is the best time of the year to do it. When the sun sets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Mercury will shine like a bright star through the rosy glow of the western horizon. Pay special attention on Friday, March 11th, when Mercury appears beautifully close to the slender crescent Moon.
As I drove across the Yolo Causeway last night, to Davis from Sacramento to appear in DMTC's "Annie," I didn't pay much attention to the traffic. Instead, I scanned the heavens, and found dim but distinct Planet Mercury in the sky! Sweet! Only the second time (the first was last spring) I've ever seen Sun-loving Mercury! I grooved on the planets and forgot the traffic!

The show last night was OK. Almost forgot the lyrics to "Tomorrow." As the cop, almost said "This is Lieutenant Precinct of the 17th Ward," instead of vice-versa (would have been a nice Mormon touch). Kaylynn's friends all came to see the show. John Hancock was there, as was Juan Ramos. Callie Gregg was there as well!

This morning, listening to NPR's Car Talk, was that Eadie O. who called in? She was asking about buying a purple car, vintage 2000, to celebrate her new life. I've seen some purple PT Cruisers, but she was leaning towards a Mazda Miata! Click and Clack, the Tappet Bros., were egging her on.....

Friday, March 11, 2005

Time to Put TNR Out of its Misery

David Sirota's outrage regarding The New Republic's conservative direction is crystallizing my own discomfort with the publication, and pushing me to a difficult decision. I hate to cancel my subscription: I've been a subscriber since 1980 and was mostly happy with the magazine and its storied past.

I lasted through the neo-conservative heterodoxies of the 80's and 90's, because at least the neo-cons thought things through, and they had a plan. Now, with Iraq, we know how stupid and divisive their plan was, and will be again and again with Iran and Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Still, it wasn't until Peter Beinart became Chief Editor, and stabbed us all in the back with this misleading analogy between Henry Wallace (FDR's 2nd Vice-President) and filmmaker Michael Moore that my outrage began boiling:

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.
(Note to Beinart: Michael Moore is a critic, not a leader, like Wallace once was. And MoveOn is a campaign vehicle - a nascent political party - and really not an 'institution' at all.)

In addition, Martin Peretz, former principle owner and Chief Editor of TNR, is still consumed by pathetic losers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, at a time when real-life fascists are loose in the land. Peretz's grim focus on the PC-circus at Harvard has descended into simple crankery. There are bigger issues, after all!

Times have changed. Elitism in the Democratic Party has its place, but not when the elite seeks to use lazy deceit to help expel the majority of its membership.

TNR's delusions have become unendurable. It's time to cancel my subscription, or at least let it run out. If Peretz, Beinart et al. have such contempt for us, their readers, their liberal constituency, why should we reciprocate with our time and attention? After 9/11, I'm still a little mad with The Nation, however, and will have to go hunting for an appropriate home.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Second Avenue

Via Broad at Bat, life with Cloudy:


The Dollar

Has resumed its downward direction.
Having slumped to multi-month lows against its major counterparts on Wednesday, the dollar suffered another blow on Thursday after Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told parliament that, generally speaking, diversity in foreign exchange reserves was a good thing.
Meanwhile, Greenspan tried to change the subject:
"The resolution of our current account deficit and household debt burdens does not strike me as overly worrisome, but that is certainly not the case for our fiscal deficit," Greenspan said in prepared remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
From Yahoo Finance, a graph of Dollar vs. Euro:

Surewest Communications is in my neighborhood these days, providing high-speed Internet connections to people's houses, whether they need it or not.

The absence of such connections nationwide may have helped break the dot-com boom in the late 90's. Fiber optic cable was laid everywhere, but the demand wasn't there for more than a fraction of the capacity. The demand could have been generated, but only by hooking people up en masse. Government could have done that, and I'm sure Al Gore even made that part of this platform in 2000, using the New Deal's rural electrification program as a model, but the 90's were the time of microinitiatives in government, Gore didn't take office, and nothing was done. Private business, focused as ever on the bottom line, didn't step forward in time. The result - collapse!

So now the connection will be there, should I ever need it. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.

Maybe Cloudy the bunny will sharpen her teeth on the new Internet connection. In any event, I should try to get Cloudy over to the vet sometime. They are nice with rabbits over there at Midtown Animal Clinic (behind the Dairy Queen) in Davis:

"Barry was well known to ask for all sorts of extras", by Alexr, over at
Social Security Privatization - a No-Brainer for Democrats

Nevertheless, our disgraceful latter-day triangulators need to come up to speed (e.g. Lieberman, Lieberman, Lieberman):
The consensus among the capital's chattering classes holds that the Social Security debate primarily concerns the program's solvency. Therefore, the questions center around political courage, and the greatest threat is that the parties will not agree on a solution. This consensus is wrong in every particular. In truth, the debate is fundamentally ideological. It does not lend itself to compromise.

To the Washington establishment, the suggestion that conservatives essentially want to do away with Social Security is something close to a lunatic conspiracy theory. When a guest on "Meet the Press" suggested as much, Tim Russert replied incredulously, "So you're suggesting that private personal accounts are a secret plan to get rid of Social Security?"

In fact, the plan hasn't been secret very long. Conservatives always saw the program as an indefensible infringement upon freedom....And so conservatives hit upon the tactic of phasing out the program by transforming it into a system of private accounts.

...Privatizers portray Social Security as a kind of low-performing 401(k) plan. But the program was never intended as a personal retirement plan. It's a form of social insurance, designed to spread risks throughout the population. One such risk is that you get sick or hurt and can't work anymore; 11.5 percent of Social Security benefits go to disabled workers (which is another reason why retirees get a lower rate of return).

...Because workers face higher risk in the economy today, social insurance that eliminates risk makes more sense, not less. Privatized Social Security might have made some sense 40 years ago for workers who stayed at one company their whole career and retired to a guaranteed pension. Why not let them take some risks with their public pension? But it utterly fails to meet the needs of the present day.... If workers are going to take on greater risk in a more dynamic economy, a risk-free bedrock of social insurance offers the perfect complement.

To this, Bush's allies would no doubt reply that they only intend to privatize the system in part. They would leave a minimum guaranteed benefit in place, along with survivors' benefits. What they rarely acknowledge is that partial privatization is designed to lead to full privatization.

How will this work? Conservatives believe, not without reason, that private accounts will offer an invidious comparison to traditional Social Security. Workers will note that the taxes they send off to the traditional program disappear, while the money in their own accounts grows before their eyes. The private accounts will, in most cases, also appear to provide a higher rate of return. ... But the comparison will create a constituency clamoring for expansion. Conservatives once proclaimed this unabashedly. The 1983 Cato Journal paper, which advocated what it called a "Leninist Strategy" for undermining Social Security, argued, "This mechanism for demonstrating the individual gains and losses that occur under Social Security is a key step in weakening public support for our present system."

Today's privatizers offer assurances that private accounts will be strictly limited and regulated. But those promises can't easily be reconciled with one of their key selling points--namely that workers would own them....

As conservatives well understand, once a group of voters has been given a property right by Washington, they will never allow it to be taken away. The individual rights will be a ratchet, one that can be expanded but never contracted. The pressure for expansion would be especially strong during extended bull market runs.... This is why conservatives are so insistent upon establishing individual accounts. They have uncharacteristically volunteered compromises--even offering to violate their theological opposition to tax hikes--in order to insert their opening wedge. Privatizers understand full well that any concessions they make can be legislated away in the future, while private accounts cannot.

In light of all this, it should be clear how critical it is to block private accounts. And it's curious, if not outright bizarre, that so many of those who do not share the privatizers' basic hostility to Social Security nonetheless urge the Democrats to compromise with them.

Why, then, is privatizing Social Security widely seen not as a contest of diametrical philosophies but as fertile ground for compromise? (As Joe Lieberman said on CNN last Sunday, "So, at some point, we've got to stop criticizing each other and sit at the table and work out this problem.") One reason is that the culture of Washington celebrates consensus....The press has proved receptive to this line of attack. "So the Democratic position," PBS anchorman Jim Lehrer asked Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid last month, "is that there is no crisis and nothing needs to be done at all to the Social Security program right now?"

Given that his own supposed solution will make it harder to shore up Social Security, Bush's claims to be motivated by a desire to save the program are patently disingenuous. ...The only way to make sense of Bush's behavior is to understand that his professed concern for Social Security's solvency is a pretext. He wants to use this moment of maximal Republican power to put his ideological imprint on any change to the system.

Bush has tried to pressure Democrats by accusing them of putting their heads in the sand by not putting forth a detailed plan to save Social Security. Amazingly, mainstream pundits have endlessly repeated this vacuous talking point, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Bush has no detailed plan, either.

...The fear peddled by the administration that fiscal calamity will ensue if we do nothing is also groundless. What's so bad about waiting until the last minute? In 1983, Congress waited until the very eve of insolvency to act, and a very responsible bipartisan solution emerged. If we do nothing until 2042, and insolvency actually does loom then, the same thing would no doubt happen again.

...Some moderates have suggested cutting a Social Security deal that includes a tax hike. But balancing the general operating budget and saving Medicare and Medicaid will probably require tax hikes, too. These twin problems--the deficit and health care--dwarf Social Security's future insolvency.

...The key point Democrats should understand is that, while it may be tactically useful to favor an alternative to privatization, no decent alternative is going to be signed into law under this president. ...In the meantime, the crown jewel of the New Deal faces an existential threat. Defeating that threat is the task to which we must presently address ourselves.

Hanging around outside a convenience store at night, you learn things. I was struck by the popularity of "Swishers," the little cigarillos whose sales are burning up cash registers at night all over Sacramento. Turns out it's the Swisher paper that's popular: it's great as rolling paper for pot. Look in the trash can and you see where the Swisher tobacco goes.

Drug paraphernalia sales are also hot - brillo pads, aluminum foil, and something else I can't remember - but how these "dual use" items get used is beyond my shallow experience. Sales are episodic however, and depend on the arrival of 'shipments' from out-of-town.

Learn something new every day!
More Tales of Sacramento at Night

The homeless lady walked up to the convenience store shortly after midnight. Normally she brings windshield-cleaning materials with her, but her bicycle and materials had been stolen, so she was hoping instead for simple handouts. The older you get, the harder the streets: she had been out-of-action for a few days due to an ear infection.

The cops rolled up in their patrol car and told her to go home. They said that if she didn't go home, they would arrest her. So she left (but not before I managed to slip her a couple of dollars in change).

The cops probably knew more about her than I did. Nevertheless, why do the pleasant panhandlers face instant grief, while no one seems to mess with the crazies and lunatics?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The DLC Sells Its Credibility To The Credit Card Companies

What seems to be the problem? Everybody's in on the action, so it's OK, right? Everybody keeps their mouth shut, everybody gets paid! What is it about getting paid that you don't understand, you Sista-Souljah-defending liberal?

(No honor among these thieves!)
Indian Tribe Survival

There is a wonderful story on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal describing the reappearance of the Apalachee tribe - formerly of Florida and now of Louisiana - and once so formidable that mapmakers named the Appalachian Mountains after them, but completely decimated by many determined enemies over the centuries - American settlers, plantation masters, the Klan, Jim Crow laws - to the point where the tribe decided to embrace an underground existence and all-but vanish from the face of the Earth. They maintained their Catholicism, genealogies, and traditions as best they could, however, and are now trying to gain federal recognition. Their story is harrowing, however, and the once-huge tribe was almost completely destroyed over the years.

A lot of other tribes embraced secrecy to survive and thrive. Early archaeologists on the Colorado Plateau of the American Southwest speculated on the religious practices and symbolism of the Anasazi Indians, whose ancient pueblos (e.g., Chaco Canyon) they excavated. Pueblo Indians, descendants of the Anasazis, still used some of the symbolism, however. It must be frustrating to be a Southwestern archaeologist, because no matter how much you speculate, and how learned one's credentials, there are people around who know what the symbols mean - and they aren't talking!

My limited experience with Pueblo Indians in New Mexico suggests that, aside from secrecy, they have found many other ways to accomodate American society. I remember talking with several people from Acoma Pueblo (west of Albuquerque, NM) about their determination to secure economic development for themselves and their families, and I was struck by their gritty resolve. The pueblo's casino along Interstate Highway 40 embodies some of their aspirations (and if others lose as badly there as I once did, they will succeed.)

On two occasions, I went to Acoma's traditional "Sky City" for tribal dance celebrations. The impressive mesa-top village has been continuously inhabited since the 1200's at least, longer than any other site in the U.S.: the place was old even before the Spanish conquistadors arrived. I was struck at just how relaxed everything was. The young kids were learning the dances, the adults were teaching them, and everyone was enjoying themselves. There was no sense of artificial pride or of trying to preserve a threatened past - rather the atmosphere was like 'this is who we are and this is what we do.'

Survival of culture depends on moments of selfless joy in tradition. It is no surprise that the Apalachees went underground: otherwise, how could they continue with their traditions? The history of the Pueblo Indians was kinder than that of the tribes of the east, but they too have to be careful.

Best of luck to the Apalachees, and all the other tribes trying to cope with American society!
Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

The Clear Skies bill is apparently deadlocked, but the legislators seem unusually vexed about it:

The 9-9 vote on Bush's "Clear Skies" plan -- a name that Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., described as "akin to calling Frankenstein Tom Cruise" -- was expected and fell largely along party lines.
Barbara Boxer is a lot more outspoken (and funnier) these days, which is a good thing!

[The panel's chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. said] "This bill has been killed by the environmental extremists who care more about continuing the litigation-friendly status quo and making a political statement on CO2 than they do about reducing air pollution."

Siding with seven Democrats against the bill were Sens. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., and James Jeffords, I-Vt., who complained it would weaken the 1970 Clean Air Act, last amended in 1990. They also wanted limits put on carbon dioxide, the "greenhouse" gas scientists blame for global warming, which Bush opposes regulating. "It's a shame that the U.S. Congress is the last bastion of denial on climate change," Chafee said.
Not just Congress - the American people - and for that matter, almost all the people on Earth, are in denial as well.
[Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana] suggested starting from scratch for another compromise later this year, since "sometimes things have to be torn apart before they can be put back together again."
Or maybe abandoned?
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the bill was needed because "it's a sin to burn natural gas. We might want to consider a sin tax on those utilities that burn natural gas."
What the heck is Kit Bond talking about - it's a "sin" to burn clean, abundant natural gas? More like a misdemeanor - burning dirty coal is closer to a "sin" than clean natural gas. Legislators sure get hyperbolic when they are mad!
Among the most impassioned about the defeat were Sens. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Thomas Carper, D-Del., who led most of the committee's negotiations.

Voinovich said that that bill was about nothing less than keeping coal -- "our most abundant and cheapest energy source -- part of our energy future." But Carper said the bill's opponents had been stonewalled by the White House and EPA when requesting more information about it. "That's got to end," he said, raising his voice.
Coal miners vs. downwinders here. Irreconcilable foes!

To refute such charges, Inhofe had arranged six cardboard boxes piled high before him with what he said were 10,000 pages of paper -- a spectacle that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., called "that mini-Superfund site in front of your desk."
Lautenberg funny! Republicans mad, Democrats funny! They way I like them best!
Daily Weirdness

The Daily Rotten outdoes itself today:

"A Tacoma woman put a handgun to a firefighter's head and pulled the trigger several times yesterday as he tried to rescue her from a fire she'd set in her own home, authorities said. But the gun was empty because the woman had apparently already used the bullets to shoot her boyfriend to death, Tacoma police said."

"Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe said he may have been a target of an al Qaeda kidnap plot in early 2001, part of a bid by the militant network to 'culturally destabilize' the United States.

"The family of Belfast murder victim Robert McCartney have rejected an IRA offer to shoot his killers. The IRA offered to shoot those directly involved in the 33-year-old's death after a row in a bar on 30 January, and has given the family their names... Both these men have been expelled by the IRA."

"Turkey has said it is changing the names of three animals found on its territory to remove references to Kurdistan or Armenia. The environment ministry says the Latin names of the red fox, the wild sheep and the roe deer will be altered. The red fox for instance, known as Vulpes Vulpes Kurdistanica, will now be known as Vulpes Vulpes... The ministry said the old names were contrary to Turkish unity."

"As Hispanic teens shed the language of their native countries and immerse themselves in American culture, they become dramatically more sexually active, a new study shows... The study... adds evidence to the so-called healthy immigrant paradox, that Hispanics coming to the United States are healthier than second- and third-generation U.S. residents from the same countries.
What To Do With the Varsity

Beth Curda's front-page article on March 6th in the Davis Enterprise ("City solicits ideas for using Varsity") seemed a bit premature. The Varsity Theater doesn't sit hollow and empty - at least, not yet. On the other hand, there is a lot of potential to have the Varsity become a true white elephant, dark and empty and right smack in the middle of downtown Davis' business district.

The City of Davis apparently still wants the Varsity to serve as the linchpin of an active downtown culture, in accordance with the vision of the Davis City Council in the early 90's:
The city is inviting proposals for developing and managing/operating the theater "as a high-quality arts and entertainment venue," a news release stated.

...The city wants to retain the Varsity "as a unique component" of the downtown area....
What hurts is that we at DMTC felt we had fulfilled that vision for use of the Varsity Theater. What apparently troubled the City was that we weren't pulling in enough money to make the Varsity self-sustaining, particularly with its pricey lease. As the article states:
But city leaders have said for a few years the downtown building is underutilized and they are looking for new ideas.
The City now owns the Varsity, and they haven't identified a group or business able to bring in enough money to fulfill their expectations. Nevertheless proposals for new uses are due by March 31st at the City Parks and Community Services Department.

As it always has, the City needs better marketing for the Varsity, particularly post-DMTC. The City may find that no particular demand for such a facility exists, at least at the prices clients might want to pay. But they'll never know unless they try! Soliciting proposals probably isn't going to be adequate by itself. The City has to MAKE it happen, by becoming even more active in soliciting businesses, and that means committing people and resources towards that goal.
Yesterday's Congressional Election Results

Well, it looks like Chuck Pineda didn't do that good. My vote, by itself, wasn't enough to put him over the top. Guess I should have run too! Maybe next time....the campaign is the key!

Interesting how more people voted absentee than showed up at the polls, or by mail (37,333; 35,967; and 315, respectively).

Riled Newlyweds

The gay couple pictured in the recent anti-AARP ad campaign? They didn't give permission to have their likenesses used in an anti-gay political campaign and they are suing!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Connecting the Dots

OK, the U.S. has a balance of trade problem. On one hand, the minimum wage will stay the same at its current low level, but bankruptcy laws are to be tightened significantly. That means consumption is to be penalized. Not only that, Greenspan wants to tax consumption, cut Social Security benefits, and make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

So, it sounds like the way we are to solve the U.S.'s balance of trade problem is for the American middle class to stop consuming so much. Yet it's the same American middle class that is the engine for prosperity in the world. It's a chicken-and-egg dilemma, and we are going to find out what breaks first: the trade deficit, or prosperity.

Sounds like a recession - a planned recession - is coming!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Hans Bethe, RIP

Oh, this is sad. The greatest physicist of the 20th Century has passed away:

Hans Bethe, the nuclear physicist whose elegant calculations explained how stars shine and laid the foundation for development of both the atomic and hydrogen bombs, has died. He was 98. Bethe, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967, died Sunday at his home in Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University announced Monday.

A reluctant but crucial participant in the World War II effort to develop nuclear weapons, Bethe subsequently became one of the country's most passionate and persuasive proponents of disarmament. He argued that the use of such weapons would cost not only countless lives, but "liberties and human values as well."

...Bethe (pronounced Bay-ta) was the lone survivor of the remarkable group of mostly German physicists of the early 20th Century — a group that included Einstein, Dirac, Fermi and Heisenberg — that deciphered the fundamental laws of matter and energy and set the stage for the remarkable technological developments of the last half of the century."

... Given the known temperature of the core of the sun — about 20,000,000 degrees Celsius — and the proportions of carbon, hydrogen and other elements in its interior, he deduced which nuclear reactions could be responsible for its radioactive fire.

He ultimately developed a six-step cycle in which carbon and nitrogen atoms act as catalysts for the conversion of four hydrogen nuclei (protons) into one helium nucleus. The very slight mass lost in the process is converted into large amounts of energy according to Albert Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2.

Bethe later remarked with typical modesty that he found the answer by "looking through the periodic table [of elements] step by step. So you see, this was a discovery by persistence, not by brains."

One oft-told story about Bethe recounts the evening after he discovered the secrets of starlight. During a late-night stroll, his fiance, Rose — daughter of theoretical physicist Paul Ewald — remarked on how beautiful the stars looked. He responded: "Yes, darling, and I'm the only one on Earth who knows how they do it."

Bethe and his Cornell colleagues then verified five of the six steps in the laboratory; the sixth was reproduced by researchers at Cambridge University. The entire six-step cycle takes 5.4 million years to complete.

With the coming of World War II and by then a naturalized citizen, Bethe joined the war effort, first at MIT's Radiation Laboratory and later as the chief theoretical physicist for the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, N.M., even though he felt development of the bomb was morally wrong, and that the United States — and the world — would be far more secure without it."

...Bethe's solid, plow-through-the-problem approach earned him the nickname The Battleship; in contrast, his close colleague and office-mate physicist Richard Feynman became known as the Mosquito Boat because he skittered around a problem from all sides at once.Together, they were a formidable pair; the formula for calculating the efficiency of nuclear weapons became known as the Bethe-Feynman formula

...Despite his moral qualms about the bomb, Bethe considered it a necessary evil. He felt that its use in Japan was justified because many more Japanese and American lives would have been lost in an invasion of the island nation.

After the war, he became a prominent spokesman against proliferation — arguing without success that atomic bombs should be placed under strict international controls. He made countless public speeches throughout the country arguing his case.

He initially opposed Edward Teller's plans to build the hydrogen bomb, arguing that it was unnecessary. "We had enough A-bombs to kill the world," he said later. "Why add an H-bomb and kill the other half? So I said no to Teller.... I would not join him at Los Alamos."He became the spokesman for 12 physicists who opposed the project, a group which later developed the idea that the United States should publicly declare that it would not be the first to use the H-bomb "since it was not a weapon of war but a means of exterminating entire populations."

Bethe initially thought the point was moot because none of Teller's ideas for producing the bomb seemed likely to work. But in 1951, physicist Stanislaw Ulam conceived a new way to make fission bombs and Teller saw how this could be used to make a fusion bomb — using an A-bomb to trigger the H-bomb.Bethe recognized that the bomb could be built and could undoubtedly be built by the Russians as well. "If I didn't work on the bomb, somebody else would — and I had the thought that if I were around Los Alamos, I might still be a force for disarmament," he later said.

...Interestingly, after the H-bomb was made, reporters started to call Teller the father of the H-bomb," he said. "For the sake of history, I think it is more precise to say that Ulam is the father, because he provided the seed, and Teller is the mother, because he remained with the child. As for me, I guess I am the midwife."

While Bethe did not achieve many of his arms reduction goals, he believed that all scientists should take an active role in influencing public policy."Whether or not their governments respond to their advice, scientists have an obligation to speak out publicly when they feel there are dangers ahead," he wrote.

Bethe was an advisor to presidents from Truman to Clinton, and served on dozens of advisory committees When the idea of anti-ballistic missile systems became popular under President Johnson in 1967, Bethe and Garwin published an article in Scientific American arguing that such systems would add to the insecurity of the U.S. as well as the world — a position he held until his death.

Even with the best system, he wrote, there would be too many incoming targets to stop, and it would be too easy for an enemy to avoid our missiles and destroy our satellites. "Even quite feeble blows against orbiting battle stations ... could render them useless."

On Aug. 6, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Bethe called on scientists all over the world to stop working on all weapons of mass destruction, and appealed to all nuclear powers to slash arsenals to less than 100 bombs each. That way, he argued, even if political leaders went crazy, (he used Hitler as an example), at least they couldn't destroy all of civilization.

Bethe also worried that the U.S. would be seen as hypocritical for urging nuclear nonproliferation while continuing to design and build bombs, and argued that funds should go instead for improved stewardship of the weapons we already have.

Throughout his life and despite the potential distractions of his forays into the politics of arms control, Bethe continued to produce first-rate physics in an unusually wide range of disciplines. He worked on theories of metals, developed important insights into such exotica as neutron stars, and speculated how neutrinos that appeared to be missing from the sun's nuclear output could be eluding detectors because they were changing into different forms en route to Earth."

...In the 1970s, Bethe returned to his first love: astrophysics. While his earlier work explained how stars lived, he turned after his retirement to the fireworks produced when they die.

When massive stars run out of fuel, they eventually collapse under their own gravitation weight, then explode in colossal fireworks. Physicists knew most of the energy was carried away by wispy neutrinos, but the mechanism was a mystery.

Bethe's insights helped cut through complexities that had stumped much younger minds."Other people were cranking out large computer codes and reams of output, but they weren't cranking out understanding," Kolb said. "Hans came in with a pencil and paper and made more sense of what was coming out of the computer than the people who wrote the code."

His style of working never changed. "It was wonderful to watch him write a scientific paper," said Morrison. "He would write steadily, sentence after sentence, without looking anything up. When he got to a place that was hard, he'd go very slowly, but he wouldn't stop. Then he'd give those pages to a typist, and they'd be published as a book. Without any correction whatsoever. Hans didn't know about mistakes."

After his retirement in 1975, Bethe became a strong advocate for the development of peaceful nuclear power — along with drastic conservation efforts — as the only realistic short-term alternative to fossil fuels. "The country has to realize that the energy problem is terribly serious and is likely to be permanent," he wrote.

But he never lost his interest in science. At the age of 83, he apprenticed himself to Gerald E. Brown of the State University of New York at Stony Brook to learn lattice gauge theory, which predicts how nuclear matter is transformed at extremely high temperatures into a plasma of particles called quarks and gluons. "I'm interested in learning new things," Bethe explained.
Bolton for U.N. Ambassador?

What's the point of this act of contempt? Bolton hates the U.N. and the folks there hate him too. You can't persuade people whom you openly revile.
Punish Lieberman

How to deal with a traitor? Joe "Enron" Lieberman's triangulation is an old problem - Lieberman doesn't understand politics that doesn't feature triangulation of some sort. He must be disciplined. It's not a matter of centrism. Harry Reid is more centrist than Lieberman, but Reid knows when he has room for maneuver and when he doesn't. Joe doesn't, and he thinks he does.
Tomorrow is Election Day!

Before I forget, Chuck Pineda for Congress!
Disco Inferno

Schadenfreude in the Austin, Texas police department. I can see how a burdened police department might respond this way, but after the 'Great White' tragedy a couple of years ago in Rhode Island, or the recent Argentine nightclub fire in Buenos Aires, I think the police department should at least be verbally chastised. Nothing fun about incineration.
Staying in Touch

My phone service failed at the beginning of the year, and my reaction was, "what a blessed relief from the modern world and its impertinences!" It wasn't for nothing that - how does the story go? - French Impressionist painter Gauguin, on a visit back from the South Pacific, made fun of Cezanne because Cezanne jumped like a lackey when his (at the time brand-new device of the) telephone rang. My phone failed partly because they replaced the "box" down the street, and my phone was not properly wired up. Nevertheless, today it's all fixed! Hooray! And the first call I received, after two months of losing touch, was a bill collector! All hail progress!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

World's Dumbest Website?

Walt has a candidate for this dubious honor:
You remember the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, don't you? It was the place whose overthrow by that insolent brigand Garibaldi led to the so-called "unification of Italy" in 1861. Fortunately and by the Grace of God, the House of Bourbon still lives to promote the rightfulness of its claims.
What did my French History professor at UNM (Steen) say in regard to the French House of Bourbon, when they came back into power after Napoleon?: "They learned nothing and they forgot nothing."
DMTC "Annie" Review

The Davis Enterprise doesn't seem in a hurry to post this review on the Web, so I may as well (save and zoom for readability).

In the dozens of shows I've done, this is the first time I'm mentioned by name (dance people and spearcarriers like myself almost never get recognition by name, since we aren't leading characters). Davis Enterprise reviewer Bev Sykes notes:
Mark Valdez, seen early in the show as the police officer, appears later as Franklin Roosevelt and gives a believable imitation of the president.
That's praise, since the most important hurdle in recreating an easily-recognized historical figure is creating a 'believable imitation.' The reviewer's harshest comment ("could use some additional coaching") fell upon unfortunate Midas, the Golden Retriever who plays Annie's dog, Sandy. Thank goodness Midas didn't also have to create a 'believable imitation!'
Making a Statement

An unexpected shot from the Davis Enterprise of Varsity Theater City Tech James Henderson:

IN SOLIDARITY: James Henderson raises his fist in the air during a speech Thursday at lunchtime on the Davis High School Quad. Several hundred students participated in the rally, then marched from the school to Central Park in protest of this week's racist vandalism. Greg Rihl/Enterprise photo
Kim Simons Condon Memorial

On Saturday afternoon March 5th, a memorial observance was held at the B Street Theatre for designer and theatrical costumer Kim Condon. Many of Sacramento's leading theatrical personalities were on hand for the observance.

Marcus Crowder was chosen by Kim's husband Frank to host the event. Crowder spoke of the surpassing strangeness and irony of being chosen for the role. Crowder, of course, is a theatrical critic for the Sacramento Bee, and here he was, alone, on stage, in front of an audience filled with actors and actresses. It was a jiu-jitsu role reversal that Kim Condon would have relished.

After beautiful music (I missed the names of the talented duo who played), Kim's friends and family spoke movingly of her life. I had only just met her, so I didn't have a good fix on her personality, but after a while, a picture emerged of someone who loved transformations; someone who could take ordinary everday materials and create magic from them. It's no wonder that someone with such a love would end up in costume design.

There were references to interesting costumes - the 'Lobster'; the 'Dalmatian.' Martha Omiyo Kight spoke warmly of a purple taffeta dress. Kim apparently carried an Land of Lakes Indian maiden emblem with her at all times, to show the uninitiated what a few folds in the emblem could accomplish in the way of transformation. Basically, Kim was a warm, funny, high-spirited theatrical artist. At the end of the testimonials, and in honor of her life, the audience of her friends and peers offered the warmest accolade a theater person can earn: a standing ovation!

Donations can be sent to the Kim Simons Condon Memorial Costume Program scholarship fund at Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway, Sacramento, CA 95823.