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Keeping Track of it All

    The Enron trial. Alito filibuster. Iraq. Abramoff. The president's about to give another acceptance speech. Oscar nominations tomorrow! Oh, and is there a football game next Sunday? Steel vs. Software? There's just a lot to keep track of. You know the ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times."

   The new issue of The Atlantic has an introductory essay, marking the magazine's 150th anniversary, that notes the magazine has always believed that there is a lot out there beyond the breaking news. ("One of our early contributors, Henry David Thoreau, noting the impact of the telegraph, warned that soon we would be hearing minute-by-minute updates on Princess Adelaide's whooping cough.") The magazine editors note that nobody ever complains, "I'm not getting my news fast enough!" But they "do complain that the foam of headlines ... conceals vast shoals of reality."

   In a media-saturated world, we can get easily distracted by the small stuff. We may spend so much time worrying that we're in trouble that we don't notice that we're actually doomed.

    Yesterday's scary story on the Tipping Point in climate change, by Juliet Eilperin, formed a nice package with the story in The Times about attempts at NASA to keep James Hansen from talking about policy. Here's Eilperin:

    "When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.

    'They're trying to control what's getting out to the public,' Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. 'They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble'."

   I don't know what the truth is about climate change, but since my tax dollars are paying Hansen's salary, and he's one of the world's experts on the subject, I'd like to hear his thoughts. The president's science adviser says we're spending $2 billion a year studying climate change. Does that include the resources spent trying to keep Hansen from speaking his mind?

    Meanwhile a report on WTOP this morning noted that the world's oil producers are going full throttle, round the clock, pumping 80 million barrels a day. The world's demand for oil is insatiable and growing. And gosh, what a year for Exxon-Mobil. Its 2005 profit: $36.13 billion.

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 30, 2006; 1:10 PM ET
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Next: Coretta Scott King


Six degrees of separation--go talk to this guy, he's right in your backyard:

Jonathan Pershing is currently the Director of the Climate, Energy and Pollution Program at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., having joined the Institute at the beginning of September 2003.

Prior to that, he was Head of the Energy and Environment Division at the International Energy Agency in Paris. His responsibilities there included the co-ordination of all Agency work on all energy-related environment issues. In this capacity, he served as the IEA
representative to the ongoing negotiations at the UN Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Sustainable Development sessions, and undertook extensive analysis in these key areas of energy policy.

Prior to his IEA tenure, Dr. Pershing served in the US Department of State, where he was both Deputy Director and Science Advisor for the Office of Global Change. He was one of the US negotiators for the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its 1997 Kyoto Protocol. He was actively involved in domestic policy, responsible for developing the initial US program on joint implementation, and the US Report on Climate Change Policies submitted to the United Nations Convention. He also worked on the UN Conference on Environment and Development.

From 1981-1985, he worked in Alaska for ARCO Exploration Company as an oil geologist, and for a small mining company exploring for gold, silver, platinum and base metals. He received his PhD in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Minnesota, and undergraduate training at the City University of New York and the University of London. He has written and lectured extensively on issues related to climate change, international negotiations and environmental policy and has served as a Review Editor for the IPCC TAR.

"We are beginning to see more research on adaptation strategies in response to climate change," said Jonathan Pershing, a climate impacts analyst with the World Resources Institute. Pershing was speaking during a side event sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change at the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) 10th Conference of the Parties (COP-10). Pershing noted that up until now most climate policy research focused on ways to mitigate climate change impacts--that is, devising schemes aimed at lowering projected increases in the Earth's average temperature, usually by cutting back the use of fossil fuels. Pershing suggested that politicians have promoted research on mitigation strategies as a way to avoid admitting to the public that climate change impacts are or will soon be occurring.

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon: That was an Excellent post in the "Daddy Carbucks" Boodle, by the way.

This is for Mo and Linda: A story about "In-N-Out Burger," the best burger chain in the West, now mired in - guess what - litigation.

One quote I found (as a transplanted Californian) a little ironic: "In-N-Out is one of those iconic Southern California cuisines," he said. "Every city loves to have something that is uniquely its. The problem with globalization is that you wake up in Munich and you think you're in Milwaukee. In-N-Out is unique because it's from someplace. You'd hate to see some jerk from Indiana take it over."

Posted by: CowTown | January 30, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

That part of Eilperin's story caught my attention, too.

"'They're trying to control what's getting out to the public,' Hansen said..."



Posted by: bc | January 30, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I just picked up "The Tipping Point" at my local mega-bookstore. I wonder if this is the next metaphor to be abused beyond recognition. It sure has a high Q-rating right now. The phrase "tipping point" gets over 18,000 Google-Blog hits.

I haven't read it yet since I am only reading novels in January. I will get to my non-fiction backlog in a few days.

If you read a novel in January, you may be a NaJuReMoNoMo winner too. Check it out:

Posted by: yellojkt | January 30, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm a late comer to the read more novels, sorry I had other priorities, one of which was to finish Joel's latest, which I really enjoyed. So I was of to the bookstore on Friday and picked up Patricia Smiley's latest in paper back: "False Profits". So far so good. A nice plot development in the second chapter already (28 pages in). I'm really liking the main character Tucker Sinclair. On my noon walk I found myself thinking who would play her in the movie. Ha

Posted by: omnigood | January 30, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm officially declaring this February to be my read more novel's month since I was otherwise occupied for the majority of January. I know, it's a short month, but two things in my defense:

1) I actually started on the 27th.

Posted by: omnigood | January 30, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse


2) I read novels faster than non-fiction.

So there.

Posted by: omnigood | January 30, 2006 2:21 PM | Report abuse

And CNN states Bin Laden's flunkie called GWB a 'loser'.

Hell? Meet handbasket. Handbasket? Meet Hell.

Posted by: amo | January 30, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Just up to breathe for a moment --

Wendy Wasserstein died -- what a shock. . .I remember reading an article about her in the New Yorker many years ago, in which she said that she always, always listened to other people talking, whether it was in an elevator, walking down the street, in the subway, in restaurants, just to listen to the words and the expressions. She would, more often than not, put these very overheard words and expressions into her plays. What a loss this is.

Going back under. Nice to have been with you for this fleeting moment.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 30, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure Zawahiri's a flunkie, amo--there's considerable speculation that he's the brains of the operation.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 30, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I think of Zawahiri as Al Qaeda's Cheney.

Posted by: omnigood | January 30, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"They're trying to control what gets out to the public"

brings to this horse lover's mind... Lasix. Race horses are run so hard that the tiny blood vessels in their lungs rupture due to the stress sustained during such extreme physical exertion. As they rupture under the stress, the horse's air passages become clogged with blood. Obviously, this causes difficulty in breathing which causes difficulty in running. Because in times past, the public became distressed when they saw foamy blood shooting out the horse's nostrils, and threatened not to attend horse race events, track vets prescribed Lasix. This causes the blood to clot. The horses still bleed, but the public doesn't see it and the cruelty is allowed to continue. Just thought I'd mention it.

Posted by: Nani | January 30, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I just read Juliet Eilperin's article. Notice that the terms of debate have changed dramatically. Marburger (who is a real scientist, even though he also is a political hack) clearly accepts that climate change is real, and there were no words expressing skepticism about the source of the climate change. It's us, guys. The Administration is now trying to argue that we (as a nation, and as a species) shouldn't do anything until it's proven that climate change is a bad thing. This actually is remarkably close to admitting that there is a problem. Let's just make that last step, guys, so we can start to make some real progress.

Note for the media conspiracy theorists: One could argue that Marburger's words were carefully edited to eliminate statements such as "there is no evidence that human actions are responsible for any climate change, which isn't real, anyway." I find that highly unlikely, since (a) this is the Washington Post, one of the nation's finest newspapers, you know; and (b) if he had said that, it would have strengthened the article's substance, about the apparent attempt to silence or mute James Hansen. So it would have been to Eilerpin's, and the Post's, advantage to report it if Marburger claimed humans are not responsible for climate change.

Hansen is a scientist whose work I've been drawing from in discussions here in the Boodle, based on a talk I saw him deliver in December. While he is a climate-modeling guy, he has chosen to make his principal arguments about global warming based on comparisons with chemical and physical conditions deduced from the climatic record of the past million years. That is, the only invocation of theory is that "the Earth will respond to environmental conditions in pretty much the same way it has on every other occasion that we know of." In this instance, climate-modeling serves the purpose of trying to understand WHY certain conditions and events go together; it has nothing to do with the empirical determination that they DO go together.

Some things the article failed to mention: Hansen is not just any NASA scientist. He is the head of GISS, the Goddard Institute for Sape Studies, organizationally a part of Goddard Space Flight Center and practically a part of Columbia University. As such, the Administration may try to shush him, but it would be suicide to actually try to shut him up. Also, he's an older guy, in his late 50's -- old enough that a colorful firing wouldn't really hurt him, young enough that he could parlay it into a second career and raise his voice even louder.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I base my estimate of his age purely on what he looks like. I'm probably very wrong.

Peculiar trivia: You have probably all seen the business that operates downstairs from the GISS offices in New York. I am told (I haven't been there), that it is the diner frequented by the characters of Seinfeld.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I was being purely facetious. I must check my sarcasmeter; it appears to be on the fritz.

Posted by: amo | January 30, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Once again, on the global warming issue, I would like to take an opportunity to say that it's something of a smoke and mirrors issue. Arguing about global warming is like arguing about whether cigarettes cause cancer. There are a lot of variables, reasonable people may disagree, and so on. But even if cigarettes don't cause cancer, that doesn't make it a good idea to smoke them! You know you're getting short of breath, and your clothes smell bad and your kids cough when you come into the room. Industrial and automobile pollutants are bad and need to be minimized. We won't be able to prove global warming until it's too late! It will be enough if we just do what we know to be right, protect the planet from our urge to excess.

Posted by: Reader | January 30, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Reader for getting back to the global warming issue--which is what Achenbach's post was about. There is not a subject people skim over more quickly under they assumption they already understand than this one. I fail to understand how people can select their opinion on the issue of climate change based on other partisan beliefs-- this is true not just in the US but everywhere. This isn't a question of sides. It's a question of the whole d*mn world, and all other conflicts are a moot point without a world. No conflict, religious or ideological, about how mankind SHOULD be has any relevance without mankind, which is precisely what is at stake--whatever the timeline.

Posted by: nomes | January 30, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Reader - that's an excellent point. The Dems need to find another way - go back to the old words, like: pollution, smog, soot, air quality index, etc. The Reps really can't say: we OPPOSE clean air.

But first the Dems need to find some real leaders who are able to the country "back on track".

Posted by: ot | January 30, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it. This Kit has been up for, like, 2-3 hours so far, yet not a single cranky humbug has weighed in with the opinion that it's all a load of specious "liberal" science. And a media conspiracy. I'm not disappointed, but I'm surprised. Surely it's not that easy to win such an argument -- just muster a few unassailable facts, throw in a blatant attempt at a feeble cover-up, and there's no more dispute. Are the web's cranks feeling under the weather? (as it were)

Get well soon, guys!

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone read Michael Crichton's 'State of Fear'? I mentioned this in another kit, but I just finished that book and he challenges the idea that global warming will change climate in any substantial way...although he does state that he doesn't believe that means we shouldn't be trying to take care of the environment and pay attention to any changes.

From what I can tell, there was something about higher temps in urban areas, but basically in the rural areas the temperatures on average have actually gone down, not up.

He does cite sources, which I have not yet reviewed personally, and I thought it was an interesting postulation.


Posted by: amo | January 30, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

We (the US) may have started the problem with our car-culture, but no matter what we, as a country, do now to curb our enthusiasm for the combustion engine, it is only a drop in the bucket.

As China's economy continues to grow, the potential number of vehicles on the road will far exceed the US's, and the exhaust will be far more polluting than is allowed here. Ditto for India. Ever been to Mexico City?

How can we force others to comply with our clean air standards (such as they are...)?

Posted by: Pixel | January 30, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Pixel, we don't have to force anyone to comply with our clean-air standards. What we need to do is to pioneer the technologies that make it possible to live more cleanly and efficiently while maintaining the enviable standard of living that causes everyone else to want to join us in the high-technology club. It can be done, but it takes investment. Dinky little third-world nations can't afford to create these technologies, they're too busy trying to become electrified in the first place so that they can get the other benefits of a technological society. They may be able to afford to buy better technologies, or it may be to our benefit to simply give away such technologies. We've already been there, we've already done that -- there's no reason that they all need to pass through the same pollution-heavy history that we experienced, if we can sell them, or give them, or teach them how to make, better technologies in the first place. Other countries, for instance, have opted out of our history of telephone land-lines going everywhere and elected instead to concentrate on cell phones, thereby saving the costs (and ugliness) of extensive physcial infrastructure.

You are certainly not correct about our changes being a drop in the bucket. We still use something like 20% of the world's oil, if I recall correctly. Not the majority, of course, but a substantial fraction.

Most importantly -- there is absolutely no way that we can urge others to do anything beneficial towards global warming, pollution, and climate change, if we are terrified of change in our own country. They look at us and say "if it's good enough for you, why are you trying to hold us back?" We are the richest, most technologically advanced, most technologically capable nation on Earth. Let's use those strengths and lead the way to do things better, instead of waiting for rescue from our own disaster.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the big oil companies with their billions in profit will be able to enjoy their billions along with their shareholders, if the world as we know it goes to hell in a handbasket, courtesy of global warming?

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 30, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

amo, I would keep in mind that Michael Crichton is a private citizen. He has more financial resources than most, but he would not have the intellectual preparation, the technical resources, or the professional contacts to compete with the expertise and abilities of a mid-career graduate student in meteorology and climatology. His professional training is as a physician. That implies that he has basic physics, moderate inorganic chemistry, some organic chemistry, and a good grasp of biology. I expect that he has had the time to read a lot more, if he likes. He would not be professionally competent in any of those specific subfields, however, without active practice in the field as it is professionally conducted. He has as much standing as anyone to evaluate the data and reports available to him, but his judgemants are not significantly more valid than those of your own doctor or dentist, or anyone else with peripheral scientific knowledge.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The baseline of all anaysis should be the Boy Scout principle of leaving things better than you found them. All factory river intakes should be downstream of the discharge. Power plant executives should be forced to live downwind.

There is no inherent "right" to pollute. Up to now the regulatory methodolgy has been haphazard limits. We need to make the reporting of all emmissions mandatory and then once we understand the scope and range of the chemicals we are putting into the environment we can act and control based on rational limits.

Sustainability is a hot buzzword, but it's a great concept when properly understood and applied.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 30, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Science Tim and Joel, a science question for you. I read earlier today on Yahoo (so I am not really sure about how valid this is) about some frozen methane under the ocean floor. Is this true? The article said they were thinking about studying the feasability of use as an energy source.

Are they kidding?

Posted by: dr | January 30, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Hi dr,

Yes, there is the possibility of methane (CH4) clathrates sitting on the ocean floor, or buried in the sediments -- water ice with methane molecules trapped in the gaps of the crystal lattice. Some deposits have been found, there is a question as to how much may be down there and how would you safely harvest it without triggering a sudden release of methane that might damage your retrieval effort (i.e., asphyxiate people, kill ocean life, detonate your platform). There also is some concern as to yet another great big unknown about climate change -- a change in the surface-to-sea floor circulation of water could change the conditions under which the clathrates are stable. If you warm the deep ocean slightly, maybe there would be a huge release of methane into the atmosphere, increasing quantities of that greenhouse gas, and causing further warming and methane releases. Or, not. Like I said, it's a great big unknown.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

This kit and boodle, with its talk of tipping points, has returned Kansas lyrics (and violin) to my brain decades after last listening to it:

How the point of no return?

Posted by: silvertongue | January 30, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, thanks for all the insight again today. We don't get the naysayers unless posts the blog on the home page -- otherwise it's just the usual crowd at the saloon. On Marburger, fyi, I consider him an honest broker of science in an adminstration that is run by people who may not have much interest in anything scientific. I would think that's a hard job, being a science adviser. I was curious about his quotes in the story and maybe should ask Juliet for more info -- does Marburger think it's too soon to take dramatic action because we don't know for sure how calamitous climate change might be? Or was he just stating a fairly neutral fact, that it's hard to know exactly what's going to happen? All science involves uncertainty and so uncertainty is no reason to do nothing. If we wait until all the questions are answered, we could be toast. Literally.

Posted by: Achenbach | January 30, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Hani - Lasix is actually a powerful diuretic. It causes the horse (or human - it's prescribed to people too) to increase urination and lose a lot of fluid, including fluids in the lungs. It also actually reduces the weight of the horse a bit, through fluid loss of course.

Trivia: The name Lasix comes from "Lasts six hours."

Posted by: PeterK | January 30, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I was about suspicious about the claim that Lasix helps blood to clot. I'm a heart patient, and am taking both Plavix to PREVENT clotting, as well as Lasix (chemical name: furosemide). So it better NOT help it clot, or I'm in trouble.

In my case each pill lasts about four to five hours. And when it kicks in (about every 25 minutes), I can run about eight furlongs to get to the bathroom in time that would challenge Sea Biscuit and Secretariat. What I can't figure out is this weird craving I have for Quaker oats and Mr. Ed re-runs.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 30, 2006 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon - Because a horse is a horse, of course, of course.

Posted by: Bayou Self | January 30, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Sciece Tim writes:

[Hansen] he's an older guy, in his late 50's -- old enough that a colorful firing wouldn't really hurt him, young enough that he could parlay it into a second career and raise his voice even louder.

From this weekend's NYT:
Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Sorry, Tim, for the correction. But Hansen's age jumped out at me when I first read the article on Saturday night, late. So that makes Hansen about five years older than you surmise.

And the Goddard "link" came to mind immediately, you know what I mean.

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Sciece

Sheesh! Been doing too much reading about the Woodward story--to which I'm loosely connected six ways to Sunday.

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Scc: Woodward

I quit!

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I take the second drug in mudge's comment, the one beginning with "L"name brand, and "f" generic brand, along with another blood pressure medication, donovan, or the "d" word, and sometimes I have terrific headaches. I wonder if this is a connection to those drugs? I don't take the second drug, L, everyday, only when my hands are swollen.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 30, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Come back, Loomis, come back!!!

(yes, I do think LindaLoo is somewhat reminiscient of Shane. NO, not THAT way.)

SciTim, don't forget Creighton's deep, insightful understanding of nanotechnology... *gag*

And JA, I've interviewed Marburger, and I'm sure he has to partition his brain between the science and the politics.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 30, 2006 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Douglas Adams once described a home appliance called the "Electric Monk"
whose function was to believe the many thing we are required to believe.
This is fine as far as it goes. I suggest that what is really needed
is a device whose function is to worry about all the Very Bad Things
about which we, as individuals, are powerless to do much about. Things like global
warming, avian flu, asteroids, gas prices, and male pattern baldness.
We could call this device "Mr. Angst."

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 30, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Typepad clearly hates me. First it zaps me into the future 8 hours, now it mangles my post. (Although perhaps it is just showing good taste.) By the way, I am told by our techies that my "posting to the future" has something to do with being behind the mother-of-all-firewalls at work. So now I just post from home. Probably safer that way for many reasons. And TBG, good luck with your time-travelling! But I would suggest going backwards.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 30, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Crichton

WITH several examples for me to notice...


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 30, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Back to global warming. Just to let you know what we are up against. Today I heard a fairly senior person make the following argument: Average temperatures are going up because we are including more tropical cities in the sample space than we used to.
Oh how I wish I were joking.

Posted by: RD Padouk | January 30, 2006 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, the drug which sends you spiffy to the biffy so to speak could certainly be part of the cause of the headaches. As one doctor put it, when your fluid balance is upset, your brain stem is resting on your spinal column. Since the drug lowers your body fluid...

But Cassandra, go to your doctor to be sure. I am only a private idiot who once spoke to a doctor, not a medical professional.

Using this knowledge I have successfully changed the night after headaches to the night after unfit-fuzzies.

Thanks Science Tim. I can see it now. Who is going to film the first science fiction movie using a recovered methane explosion as the plot device?

Posted by: dr | January 30, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

When listening to a PBS program about President Abraham Lincoln and his frequent melancholy, I first heard author Gore Vidal mouth the words about our current war on terrorism being about as meaningless as the war on dandruff.

Apparently, Vidal likes the analogy enough to have used it on more than one occasion:

CP: You wrote at the end of a 2002 essay that so-called inalienable rights, once alienated, are often lost forever. Can you describe what's changed about America during the Bush years that represent permanent, or at least long-term, legacies that will survive Bush?

Vidal: Well, the Congress has ceded--which it cannot do--but it has ceded its power to declare war. That is written in the Constitution. It's the most important thing in the Constitution, ultimately. And having ceded that to the Executive Branch, he can declare war whenever he finds terrorism. Now, terrorism is a wonderful invention because it doesn't mean anything. It's an abstract noun. You can't have a war against an abstract noun it's like having a war against dandruff. It's meaningless.

Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution
by Steve Perry
Cover Story - March 23, 2005
City Pages Media, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 7:42 PM | Report abuse

SCC, meaning that I am not a medical professional. Maybe I've been having one of those unfit-fuzzy days even without the benefit of alcoholic beverage.

Posted by: dr | January 30, 2006 7:44 PM | Report abuse

why not make gasoline $3 dollars a gallon and bank the extra to fix infrastructure and fund research....

it is a non-renewable product that exerts a negative influence on the environment...

metro to leesburg for washingtonians.

why not actually give the car manufacturers are reason to plan to adjust to a coming crisis now....

30 thousand autoworkers lost their jobs permanently in the last two weeks.....added to the service sector....the big SUV's lost their popularity....any one thinking about how to save those jobs or is that your to pay for seems more like the lawmakers abdicating responsibility for legislating thoughtfully.....that's 30,000 blue collar middle class one in DC/Maryland/Virgina-fairfax area knows what that means...they don't experience it.

Posted by: I guess my question would be.... | January 30, 2006 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry about going back in time, RD.

With Alito as an SCJ (And just in time for the State of the Union Address. Coincidence? - Ha!), the Administration's National Retrograde Temporal Maneuver program will be able to kick in to high gear.

*Cue theme music for "Star Dreck: the Last Generation"*

"Navigator, set time coordinates for minus 40 years!"

"Aye, Cap'n Dick!"

"Mr. Rove, is the machinery in order?"

"There are some minor complications, but nothing that will prevent The Maneuver, sir. We are ready."

"Councellor Bush, is the Nation ready?"

"I have prepared them to the best of mah abil-, er, abbyl- uh, the best I can, Cap'n Dick. They trust me, because I am such a likeable and honest guy."

"Uh, right. Thank you, Councellor.
Lt. Rummy, are the defensive systems ready?"

"Ready for anything the past can throw at us, sir."

"Of course, Lieutenant. By the way, I think you look great in that red shirt."

"Dr. Condi, we are ready for The Maneuver up here. Please be ready to respond to emergency situations anywhere on the planet. It's going to get dicey when they realize when we're going. I mean, what time we're going to, oh - you know what I mean."

"The Sick Bay team is ready, Captian Dick."

"I knew you would be, Doctor.
Mr. Gonzales - are our people in place?"

"We're just getting the last one in place now, sir. With DeLay out of action, it's been a little more difficult, but we'll be ready momentarily."

"Well done, Mr. Gonzales.
All right, people, we've got a lot of promises to keep, so let's hoist the sails, set the rigging, and get ready to go back to Ouranus!"

"Our heads are plotted and laid in, sir!"


*set goes dark*

(muffled) "I fink we're here."

(muffled) "Mr. Bush, is it dark where you are?"

- Fin-


Posted by: bc | January 30, 2006 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Very nice, bc ... but shouldn't Condi have said, "Dammit, Dick, I'm a secretary of state, not a figure skater!"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | January 30, 2006 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Oscar nominations, and movies, and the Achenblog archives (we weren't? oh well.)

This time last year, Joel was hyping Chris Buckley, who wrote a novel called "Thank You for Smoking"--I just saw a trailer for the movie and it looks pretty funny.

Posted by: Reader | January 30, 2006 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Up for tomorrow's NYT:

At Burial Site, Teeth Tell Tale of Slavery

While remodeling the central plaza in Campeche, a Mexican port city that dates back to colonial times, a construction crew stumbled on the ruins of an old church and its burial grounds. Researchers who were called in discovered the skeletal remains of at least 180 people, and four of those studied so far bear telling chemical traces that are in effect birth certificates.

The particular mix of strontium in the teeth of the four, the researchers concluded, showed that they were born and spent their early years in West Africa. Some of their teeth were filed and chipped to sharp edges in a decorative practice characteristic of Africa.

Because other evidence indicated that the cemetery was in use starting around 1550, the archaeologists believe they have found the earliest remains of African slaves brought to the New World.

(Cassandra: These may be the earliest remains, but not the earliest slaves. Columbus carried sugar cane to the Caribbean not in 1492, but in a subsequent voyage. The slave trade followed very soon afterward. [I see this is mentioned later in the article. See Mintz's book on the history of sugar.] African slaves were used to cultivate sugar a few centuries earlier in the southern Mediterranean.

As for the NYT article, interesting, the practice of chipping away parts of their teeth and the ease with which this practice allows researchers to ID them. Our historical record via calcium and bones.)

Posted by: Loomis | January 30, 2006 9:03 PM | Report abuse

dr at 4:42 asked about methane under the ocean floor, and fyi, a friend send me a link that contained this info from New Scientist:

"THE world's largest frozen peat bog is melting. An area stretching for a million square kilometres across the permafrost of western Siberia is turning into a mass of shallow lakes as the ground melts..(this) could unleash billions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere...the entire western Siberian sub-Arctic region has begun to melt, and this "has all happened in the last three or four years". ... Kirpotin suspects that some unknown critical threshold has been crossed, triggering the melting...

There's more on the subject (pretty scary stuff) here:

and check out this video of arctic ice:

Posted by: Achenbach | January 30, 2006 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Yah, I saw that Siberian peat bog story in NS as well.

That arctic ice video's a bit alarming at the end there. I imagine a video of the Antarctic would look similar.


Posted by: bc | January 30, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Heh, that figure skater line's funny 'mudge.


Posted by: bc | January 30, 2006 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Okay, Achenbach, I'm going out on a limb here -- I'm doing a Family Science Night at the National Air and Space Museum this Thursday, for students and parents from some school (they haven't told me which, yet). Not just anybody can come, but I s'pose a guy from the Post could get in. If you come, please don't tell me until after I do my bit. I'd get the willies.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I'll be talking about comets. I have to update my talk with new stuff from Deep Impact and Stardust.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 30, 2006 10:44 PM | Report abuse

but they all either died or ran away....he tried to use the natives and then decided that slaves from the africas could be used instead.

Posted by: Didn't Columbus try to conscript the indians that lived on the islands... | January 30, 2006 10:59 PM | Report abuse

If its Tuesday it must be Global Warming rant and rave day... Exhaust from cars in China and India...Oh No!!!

If you guys really want to clear the air....Put a lid on this BLOG....


Posted by: The Lonemule | January 30, 2006 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what JA would think about this...

Posted by: ot | January 31, 2006 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Nani: Did you see the L-Mule's Freudian slip-up in the previous boodle?


Posted by: ot | January 31, 2006 3:14 AM | Report abuse

It is important, Joel, to amplify Hansen's statements - he certainly knows what he is talking about, but ending your piece with mentioning record profits of oil companies is a bit misleading - sounds like oil companies are in conspiracy to shut Hansen up for the sake of reaping those profits. But, I suspect that my pension will be paid by those profits, and I expect ExxonMobil to try to maximize it and the profits of oil companies are not greater than of other industries percentwise.

Posted by: Pavel | January 31, 2006 5:46 AM | Report abuse

With earth's population approaching 6.5 billion, more than the total of all past human life according to demographers; and given the biogenic theory of fossil fuels and a warming planet, it is likely that today's civilized humans are tomorrow's crude oil. That gives new meaning to the word "recycle" without having to resort to fictional soylent green. Ain't nature grand.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 31, 2006 5:59 AM | Report abuse warming being something of a
"over the horizon" kind of looming change
for we humans it likely will not get any
scale of engagement or encounter that will
succeed...the thrust of western economic
interests for the last two hundred years
has pivoted on economic colonization,the
exploitation of resources and by all means
seen as expedient wealth creation...
...the degradation of the planets ecologies
...those of forests,surface waters,coastal
areas...the destruction of habitat for
fish and wildlife...the heedless plundering
associated with mining practices...where
is the heads up leadership on these?
...seeing the evidence as is readily there
to SEE with rainforest destruction,or the
effects of careless mining or the results
of coastal areas careless intrusion what
do humans do?
global warming is a abstract view, therein
lies the greatest danger...
...the last 200 years of human economic
quest and warmaking have brought us to
the cliffedge...more people,less to go will take some over the horizon
leadership of true width and depth to turn
mans quest for planet submission to one
of planet trucial preservation...

Posted by: an american in siam... | January 31, 2006 7:02 AM | Report abuse

As global warming approaches the point of no return it should stimulate both the impetus to colonize places like Ogle-Blg with a human DNA soup and the genetic engineering of a thermal resistant, CO2 or methane breathing, homo sapien subspecie (superspecie, ubermensch?). Oh, brave new world.

Posted by: Shiloh | January 31, 2006 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the information on the drugs, dr, and thank you, Loomis, for the information on the first slaves from Africa. I've read somewhere that most African-Americans are from descendents that came from West Africa, Ghana,etc. Sometimes it is just too hard to read information relating to slavery, it ties me up so for days. Thanks anyway, Loomis.

Posted by: Cassandra S | January 31, 2006 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Another icon gone...CNN is reporting that Coretta Scott King died in her sleep.

Posted by: slyness | January 31, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

The story I read (late 1980s) about Lasix and race horses was titled "Run For Your Life" but I've been unable to locate it or the author on google. According to the story, race horses are routinely raced despite illness and injury. Drugs, including but not limited to Lasix mask the injuries and keep the horses running. Bleeding is just one injury suffered by these animals.

I realize that the topic is (was) global warning and attempts to keep the public in the dark, but there are many issues that are hidden from us and cruelty to animals is one of them. Especially horse racing because it is a huge industry that brings in millions of dollars.

Posted by: Nani | January 31, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse

So, shall we all gather here 'bout 9 p.m. (EST, of course) for a SOTU discussion?

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 31, 2006 8:36 AM | Report abuse

And/or here, too:

10:30 p.m. Analysis: Kaiser on State of the Union Address--Online Chat

Washington Post Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser provides instant analysis following the President's State of the Union address and the Democratic response.

Posted by: Loomis | January 31, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

An odd juxtaposition; Alito's swaearing in as SCJ, POTUS' State of the Union address, and Coretta Scott King's passing.



Posted by: bc | January 31, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

SCC "swearing".


Hey ScienceTim, I sure hope you can make it to the BPH next week. I'd like to hear about that presentation...


Posted by: bc | January 31, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

bc--somehow, your post flashed me back to yesterday's "hell in a handbasket" phrase...

Posted by: Reader | January 31, 2006 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I've posted this before, but feel it's appropriate again:

........Dust Mote

the world is spinning.
with ozone thinning.
..the speed is to fast long can we last.
today is tomorrow's yesterday!

Cheshire cat is grinning.
In this race who's winning.
..remember the past.
..the present never lasts.
is yesterdays tomorrow today?

........Dust Mote...
if we save the whales and destroy
the earth, won't the whales die anyways.

Posted by: omni | January 31, 2006 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Pavel, I didn't to mean to sound like Trotsky with the oil-profits line -- heck, I drove to work yesterday so any griping I have about our oil addiction is slightly hypocritical. I put in the bit about the 30-something billion in profit in a single year just as a way of noting that we are ravenous for oil at the very same time that burning fossil fuels seems to be something that is causing a global environmental problem.

ScienceTim, good luck Thursday! You'll be great.

FYI, I have posted a kit on Mrs. King. I have another one prepared in draft mode on SOTU and will post later this morning, but wanted to give Mrs. King her moment before I start making snarky Bush jokes.

Posted by: Achenbach | January 31, 2006 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Science Tim, I want your vision for the future to be reality, don't get me wrong. I know the US uses a huge percentage of natural resources and that we produce more waste than anyone has a right to. I'm glad that the EPA has had some success in getting us to burn cleaner gas and emit fewer pollutants. We have a long way to go, but we've made progress.

Having lived in and visited developing nations doesn't give me much hope that they won't go through the polluting stages. They want what we've got and what we've got consumes an enormous amount of resources. I'm not sure I understand your comment about "dinky little third world nations." Neither China nor India fit that description.

Anyway, I'm not here to argue. Rather, I'm just not optimistic that 6.5 billion consumers will get the message before it's too late.

Posted by: Pixel | January 31, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Hey Pixel,

By "dinky third world nations" I meant places like Kiribati, Vanuatu, Madagascar. Places that are facing the brunt of the environmental problems, but that lack the resources to do anything significant about it. China and India have the resources, but one gets the impression that they just don't give a darn. China, at least, has proven that over and over.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 31, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Three of the smaller islands that make up Kiribati (formerly Gilbert Islands) have already been submerged and coconut palms are disappearing on others because of salination. It is only a matter of time before this S. Pacific nation disappears under the rising sea. Relocation of its 100,000 mol residents is the government's concern - recognizing they can't stop global warming and the tide. Tarawa, its capital island, will be familiar to some as a WWII battle site.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 31, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"...I didn't to mean to sound like Trotsky with the oil-profits line..."

Joel, all you did was MENTION the oil companies' profits. I appreciate the link and when I read the article I was really appalled. First because the oil companies PROFITED from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, which caused an immeasurable amount of material loss and human suffering. There is something wrong with an economic system that allows that. (Regulation is a time-honored and necessary part of the capitalist system. Remember Standard Oil?)And second, because there is no public outcry. And now, because you merely mentioned the article, you're being called to task and apologizing? Please.

Posted by: Reader | January 31, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

"the foam of headlines...conceals vast shoals of reality." In addition, the weird, the stupid and the coarse; the idiot culture has become the ideal culture. Journalism has deteriorated into gossip, sensationalism and manufactured controversy. Even if the truth of global warming was available (uncensored) to the media, would the media print it or air it. It's doubtful unless, of course, people were dropping dead in the streets by the thousands. Wait awhile.

Posted by: felicity smith | January 31, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

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