June 9, 2008 · Posted in Everything Else  

The cool thing about being a reverend as well as a scientist is that I can still enjoy this article from the BBC: Hints of ‘time before Big Bang’

See, the scientist in me keeps me from forgetting the rules of science, including the big one right at the top, which says, “If you can’t test your hypothesis, it’s not science.” The bulk of cosmology is conjecture and extrapolation, which is to say, mythology. If your conjecture and extrapolation lends itself to being supported or disproved by later observation, it’s a step closer to science. If your conjecture produces a list of things to look for that would support it or disprove it, then it may in fact be a legitimate hypothesis and is most probably actually science—or as close as you can get without a lab.

The part of cosmology that makes it difficult to be a science is the fact that it doesn’t readily fit into a lab yet. You can’t attempt to produce effects on a cosmological scale under controlled conditions.

And if you discover a way to do so, please don’t do it in my backyard. Or in the galaxy where I keep all my stuff.

Where the reverend part fits in is that I do enjoy mythology. There is a kind of logic that applies to it. There are tests for internal consistency. You can completely evaluate the worth of a myth in terms of the axioms it posits, applied to itself.

But you can’t really test a myth for anything other than consistency. That’s basically the same thing we do with science, except we use equipment.

The story they present here is a pretty one, one of universes giving quiet, surreptitious birth to children universes, and somehow they tie this into the here-to-fore inexplicable arrow of time. (You should read it and any supporting material [which seems, on the surface, to leave out the possibility that the cosmic background radiation might appear to be asymmetric with respect to us because we’ve surfed a bit down the face of the wave, as it were] and see if you can make out what they’re saying.)

That’s not surprising. Myths are constructed to make us more comfortable with the unknown. Which currently includes entropy (the way we can tell the past from the future) and gravity and the reason the universe appears to be expanding. It would be comforting if we could tie up all of those into one neat and elegant story—comforting like God Himself is comforting—but it’s still nothing but a story, a myth, until we can use the story to make predictions and then test those predictions with controlled observations.


June 7, 2008 · Posted in Everything Else  

U.S. could lose billions in oil royalties

Oil rigs in Culver City, Calif.

Bob Moon: Big oil stands to make billions of dollars in windfall profits from the royalty concessions it gets from the federal government — read that “the American taxpayers.” That’s the bottom line of a report released today by the Government Accountability Office.

During the 1990’s Congress gave oil companies a pass on royalty payments in order to encourage deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and many in Congress regret it.

If you missed it, that’s Big Oil, whose had record profits quarter after quarter and year after year, weaseling out of paying what amounts to taxes on mineral rights for sucking the oil out of the ground on public lands. To put it another way, that’s YOUR oil and MY oil they’re pulling out of the ground and selling back to us.

Just so you know.

Indicted Saudi Gets $80 Million US Contract

Gaith Pharaon

The US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department. The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush’s first business venture, Arbusto Energy.

Isn’t that … fantastic. At this rate, Pharaon has a good chance of bankrolling a decent defense should the FBI actually ever get the chance to pick him up.

It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Mobile tags leave a trail of slime


Kudos to London’s Slinkachu, who’s taking full credit for these.


June 6, 2008 · Posted in Everything Else  
Javan rhino -- in yer face
Sylvania Lightbulb Ad

Papers, please.

This has already happened in my own neighborhood. Randomly stopped by a cop who checked my ID and asked why I was in the neighborhood. Pulled over to be told I had a flickery tail-light and also asked why I was in the neighborhood. Followed through my neighborhood by a cop who tailgated me at maybe half a car-length for the entire duration until I pulled into my driveway. Because obviously if I’m a white guy in a black neighborhood, I’m there to buy drugs. Has nothing to do with having bought the last $100,000 house inside the I-285 perimeter before the market bubble.

That’s not as formal as they’re setting up to do it in DC. But, hey, they’ve been doing this in the nicer neighborhoods in South Florida for fifty years.


June 4, 2008 · Posted in Everything Else  

More reporting from Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor at The Guardian:

Prison ships, torture claims, and missing detainees

Vessels used: USS Bataan Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, 257m x 32m. Carries 3,200 people. Took part in activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Holds a 600-bed hospital; USS Peleliu Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship, 250m x 32.5m. Carries 2,805 people. Was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, on August 22 2003, and took part in activities in south Iraq and Persian Gulf; USNS Stockham Used to provide support for the US Marine Corps.
Other ships that have been stationed at or near Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which warrant investigation regarding possible secret detention facilities, are, according to Reprieve:
USNS Watson, Watkins, Sister, Charlton, Pomeroy, Red Cloud, Soderman, and Dahl; MV PFC William B Baugh, Alex Bonnyman, Franklin J Phillips, Louis J Huage Jr, and James Anderson Jr

Complaint over British role in extraordinary rendition

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star US general who is professor of international security studies at West Point military academy, has twice spoken publicly about the use of Diego Garcia to detain suspects. In May 2004, he said: “We’re probably holding around 3,000 people, you know, Bagram airfield, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo, 16 camps throughout Iraq.” He repeated the claim in December last year.

Up to seventeen ships going in and out of Diego Garcia. Somewhere on the order of ten thousand US Naval and Marine troops who know more than a few details and are keeping quiet.

This is for, you know, my own records. Since everyone who used to care about this kind of thing is completely numb now and turns their face away so as to be able to get through the day without screaming.


June 4, 2008 · Posted in Everything Else  

You know, I’m really looking forward to seeing mention of this in the US press.

US accused of holding terror suspects on prison ships

USS Peleliu accompanied by an amphibious launch

A nifty highlight from an awesome article:

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights.

“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

Emphasis my own.

While looking for previous mentions, I found the following:

This document from British Parliamentary files offering supporting evidence of an island called Diego Garcia (of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean) which was “cleansed” of existing population and converted to a British military base that has been, since 2001, critical in the US’s “extraordinary rendition” program dated mid October, 2007

Mentions of interviews in this book by Andy Worthington wherein it said interviewees mention their nightmare stays onboard US Navy prison ships

The Reprieve site, responsible for much of the ongoing investigation

From that study, according to The Guardian:

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.

At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were “disappeared” to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.

Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time.

80,000 “through the system”. System. Through the system guaranteed by our constitution to include, even for non-citizens, due process of law? Perhaps this is some other system. Like a sewage system.

Do me a favor. If you just happen to casually bump into your US Rep or maybe a Senator, perhaps you should suggest they introduce some legislation to make those who have sworn to uphold our constitution, particularly those who have taken an oath of office and/or daily don a military uniform, actually uphold our goddamn constitution, perhaps on pain of having their citizenship revoked.

It’s my firm opinion that Americans, both at home and abroad, especially those who have sworn oaths to do so, should be responsible for following the supreme law of the land and seeing that it applies to those under their responsibility or in their care. We can afford no exceptions.



Happy fuckin’ Monday.


June 2, 2008 · Posted in reviews  

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