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Archive for September, 2007

New pseudoscience: glow scams

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

I wonder when we’ll see the first ‘spiritual light’ scam? Implant a small LED under the skin, develop a patter for the marks, and a new scam is born. There are many options for powering and switching the light.

And one of these folks will come across fluorescent dyes. Apply to skin, add in a black light (in normal daylight it wouldn’t be noticeable) and you get a hint of a glow.

Movie physics

Friday, September 14th, 2007

I saw the beginning of the movie “Cellular”. Kim Basinger gets kidnapped, taken to a house, and tossed on the floor–on a conveniently placed rug. The kidnapper then gets a big sledge hammer and swings at an old-style Bell phone. Phones are important in this movie, huh? The unbelievable thing is that the phone shatters into smithereens! A Bell phone come apart like that? Not in this universe!

A few minutes later, the director decides we didn’t just see the phone shatter. It turns out it was only slightly wounded and Kim makes a call. Now that’s a Bell phone!

US occupation of Iraq, 2007

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I figure it’s worth summing up the Iraq occupation, now 4 1/2 years in.

In 2006 the Bush administration’s plan was to train up the Iraqi Army and police force, and for the the US to “stand down as they stand up”. US troops would come home as the Iraqis took over. This plan was a complete failure, and even today there is no region turned over to Iraqi forces. In fact there are no more trained Iraqi units today than at the beginning of 2006.

As the Iraq occupation dragged on with a steady bleed of death and destruction the Bush administration’s “stay the course” plan grew harder to defend politically. A bipartisan commission headed by Republican fixer James Baker was put together to provide political cover for a change in the administration’s Iraq policy. The Iraq Study Group report at the end of 2006 recommended beginning a pull out from Iraq, offering a basket of withdrawal options to the President. Bush rejected them all, instead escalating the war with his “Surge” plan. The military brass almost all opposed the escalation, so Bush had to dig around hard before getting General Petraeus to head the new offensive.

The “Surge” was 20% increase in troops originally planned to last for six months. The primary goal of the “Surge” was to secure and pacify Baghdad and give the Iraq political parties a chance to come to a permanent agreement. The small increase in troops hasn’t had a noticeable effect on the violence in Iraq and there has been no political progress. If anything, the Iraqi national government has continued to fragment. The “Surge” assessment was pushed from six months to nine months (this week), and now the Bush administration plans to continue it until the end of the year, or next spring, or perhaps next summer. US troop levels in Iraq will go down in 2008–units ending long deployments start timing out then and their are no units available to replace them.

It’s clear that Bush plans to maintain the occupation of Iraq through the end of his presidency. So the Iraq occupation will continue, costing $3 billion and the lives of 14 US soldiers each week. The Republicans view leaving as losing so they won’t leave Iraq. If the “Surge” had either worked or was admitted to be a failure our troops could start withdrawing, so instead the administration finds small signs of progress and declares the occupation of Iraq will continue. The optimistic military and conservative think tank plans I’ve seen floated describe the US exiting Iraq in 5, 10, or even 20 years if progress continues. The majority of Dems support ending the occupation of Iraq, but with their thin majority in Congress they haven’t been able to force an end. The Republicans in Congress all support Bush. This creeping disaster will continue for the foreseeable future.

Iraq is a wreck. The little reconstruction that was done (1-3% of total US spending on the war) is falling apart. The best estimates have over a million Iraqis dead due to the invasion and civil war–4% of the population. Nearly 10% of Iraqis have fled the country, and about another 10% have fled their homes but are still in Iraq.

If that isn’t bad enough, it is possible things will get much worse. A faction in the Bush administration is pushing for a war with Iran. VP Cheney and the neoconservatives are pushing for an attack on Iran. They are the source of the war mongering stories about Iran that have been running in the newspapers this summer.