Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are charging that the current head, Dr. Julie Gerberding, has “driven away the agency’s best scientists while embittering many of its 7,000 employees.” Senior scientists “now spend roughly a third of their time on administrative tasks that previously took up no more than 10 percent” and lack the independence to “investigate possible harm from vaccines.” (The site CDC Chatter offers daily complaints by agency employees.)
Like everyone else, I sometimes wonder what conservatives are going to think about the Bush administration’s headline executive power grabs when it’s castrating harpy Hillary Clinton or Muslim black nationalist Barack Obama who’s got the power to arbitrarily detain people, torture them, etc. In that context, you need to give some props to stuff like this:
Bush waited pretty late into his lame duck period to pull this particular stunt, so it seems this is mostly a favor to his successor. He wants John McCain, Clinton, or Obama to be in a position to commit widespread abuses and not just hog all the glory for himself.
Arriving Sunday at the Baghdad airport, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “descended the stairs of his presidential jet smiling and waving.” After being “greeted with hugs and kisses by top Iraqi officials,” Ahmamdinejad proceeded by motorcade to the home of Iraqi president Jalal Talibani, where the two men exchanged kisses on cheeks before “walking together down a red carpet to review an honour guard as a military band played the two national anthems.”
The pomp and ceremony surrounding Ahmadinejad’s two-day trip stood in stark contrast to the highly secretive visits of President Bush, which are never announced in advance, and have never lasted more than a few hours.
Ahmadinejad’s visit also laid bare the divisions which continue to stymie political progress in Iraq. While he was embraced by Shiites and Kurdish leaders, Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi did not meet with Ahmadinejad, and no Sunni politicians were present at the welcome ceremonies. Hundreds of Sunnis demonstrated against the Iranian president in Fallujah. Here’s what Sunni leaders had to say:
- Sunni cleric Abdul Kareem al-Samarai announced during a Friday sermon “I have a message to the Arab leaders, where are you? Where are your ambassadors?” While several Arab states have missions in Iraq, none have sent permanent ambassadors.
- Salman Abdullah Al-Hamad, another Sunni tribal leader, also expressed outrage. “How can we tolerate this? [...] Today we live under the regime of the clerics. The Iranian revolution has been exported to Iraq.”
Sunni tribal groups have been credited with helping to reduce violence, but they have expressed deepening dissatisfaction with what they see as the Baghdad government’s unwillingness to work with them. American officials have tried to present the Awakenings phenomenon as a revolt against al Qaeda, but many Sunni militiamen “say they joined partly to get support from the Americans so they can prepare to resist Iranian efforts to dominate Iraq.”
NASA’s James Hansen has weighed in to
expose the recent nonsense that has appeared in the blogosphere, to the effect that recent cooling has wiped out global warming of the past century, and the Earth may be headed into an ice age. On the contrary, these misleaders have foolishly (or devilishly) fixated on a natural fluctuation that will soon disappear.
As Hansen explains:
Weather fluctuations or ‘noise’ have a noticeable effect even on monthly-mean global-mean temperature, especially in Northern Hemisphere winter. Weather has little effect on global-mean temperature averaged over several months or more. The primary cause of variations on time scales from a few months to a few years is ocean dynamics, especially the Southern Oscillation (El Nino — La Nina cycle), although an occasional large volcano can have a cooling effect that lasts a few years. The 10-11 year cycle of solar irradiance has a just barely detectable effect on global temperature, no more than about 0.1°C, much less noticeable than El Nino/La Nina fluctuations.
So what happened this winter?
The past year (2007) witnessed a transition from a weak El Nino to a strong La Nina (the latter is perhaps beginning to moderate already, as the ocean waters near Peru are beginning to warm). January 2007 was the warmest January in the period of instrumental data in the GISS analysis, while, as shown in Figure 1, October 2007 was # 5 warmest, November 2007 was #8 warmest, December 2007 was #8 warmest, and January 2008 was #40 warmest. Undoubtedly, the cooling trend through the year was due to the strengthening La Nina, and the unusual coolness in January was aided by a winter weather fluctuation.
Small long-term temperature changes have vastly more consequence than large short-term temperature changes:
The large short-term temperature fluctuations have no bearing on the global warming matter or the impacts of global warming…. A global warming much smaller than weather fluctuations has the potential for dramatic effects, e.g., by setting in motion future large sea level change, species extinction, and various other impacts.
His final point goes to the heart of a common misconception among many people:
Cold weather does raise an interesting point, though. People who do not like cold weather, and might have welcomed the idea that Minnesota may become more like Missouri or Massachusetts like Virginia, must give up that notion, unless they wish ill for a large fraction of the planet’s inhabitants, both human and other creatures. We are going to have to figure out a way to keep climate zones pretty much where they are now (winters will continue to happen, as always). It is possible that we can still do that — just barely. But I digress — that will be in our next paper, almost finished.
I’ll post that as soon as he does.
Gilbert Arenas cleared for practice but no schedule for returning to playing. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he won’t have lost a step when he does get back.
The U.S. Army’s chief of Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. William S. Wallace, claims that lower recruitment standards have not affected the quality of America’s troops. His remarks came in a Feb. 28 speech to the Association of the U.S. Army and in an interview with the Army Times.
The Army routinely gives waivers to recruits whose medical conditions or criminal records would otherwise prohibit their service. In recent years, the waiver rate has more than doubled, up to 21 percent in 2007. Wallace said of the waivers:
As long as it’s measured and as long as it’s under control and as long as it’s reasonable and seen as giving a young kid a second chance, then I think it’s a reasonable thing to do.
In FY 07, Wallace said that the Army accepted 9,935 recruits guilty of misdemeanors and 598 convicted felons. Another 1,492 had a history of drug and alcohol use. Wallace said, “I know that those who have received waivers have had no higher incidence of misconduct or indiscipline once they’re in the military than those who have been allowed in without waivers.”
But misconduct and indiscipline are not the only potential problems. The National Priorities Project revealed that the percentage of recruits with high-school diplomas has dropped to its lowest rate in more than a quarter century. The percentage of “high-quality” recruits — high-school graduates who score in the top 50 percent on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) — has dropped from 61 percent in 2004 to 45 percent in 2007.
According to a Rand report, “high-quality” recruits perform better on the battlefield and complete their missions more often, for everyone from tank gunners to communications specialists. Having fewer “high-quality” recruits not only hurts military performance, it also costs money.
Remember that Wallace is also the official who, shortly, after the invasion of Iraq, offered this explanation for why Saddam Hussein did not defend himself with WMDs:
One theory is that we moved so fast that they couldn’t get their hands on it to employ it… because they were so clever in disguising that and burying it so deep, that they themselves had a problem getting to them.
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Today, President Bush thanked Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who until recently served as the No. 2 commander in Iraq, for his service in Iraq. In attempting to apply the phrase “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” Bush offered this nonsensical praise for Odierno:
I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who were trying to defeat us in Iraq.
On his radio show today, conservative talker Glenn Beck compared the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute’s global warming skeptics conference in New York City this week to “the second coming of Jesus.” Claiming that “the press just won’t cover” the conference, Beck declared that “tonight we’re covering it as if it’s the second coming of Jesus.” Listen to it:
Despite Beck’s claims that “the press won’t cover” the conference, Fox News trumpeted it this morning.
Barack Obama picks up the crucial Gray’s Papaya endorsement in Hillary Clinton’s hometown (it’s a great place to get a cheap hot-dog when it’s late at night and you’re drunk/high and in high school . . . under other circumstances your results may vary). The proprietor turns out to have a pretty typical “wine track” endorsement record, including Bill Bradley during the 2000 cycle.
UPDATE: That photo’s by Flickr user Doobybrain used under a Creative Commons license. And, yes, ketchup on hot dogs is an abomination.
Last week, President Bush sharply attacked Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) argument that the president “should never fear to negotiate” with its adversaries. Bush (hypocritically) alleged such diplomacy legitimizes “tyrants,” such as those leading Iran and Cuba:
It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity. … Well, talking to him is embracing. Excuse me. Let me use another word — you’re right, “embrace” is like big hug, right?
Just days later, Iraq engaged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in one-on-one talks, despite the “acrimonious history between Iran and Iraq,” fighting a bloody war just twenty years ago.
In fact, Ahmadinejad was cheerily embraced in Iraq, “greeted with hugs and kisses by top Iraqi officials.” Iraqi President Jalal Talabani “smiled broadly” at Ahmadinejad, clasping hands and walking down a red carpet together.
Discussing the talks beforehand, Bush said, “The message [from Iraq] needs to be: ‘Quit sending in sophisticated equipment that’s killing our citizens.’” Nevertheless, Bush ally Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to have rejected this demand, in fact praising Iran’s “helpful” position:
At a news conference with Ahmadinejad, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq seemed to defy American hopes that he would criticize Iran for meddling inside Iraq. “I think that the level of trust is very high,” Maliki said. “And I say frankly that the position Iran has taken recently was very helpful in bringing back security and stability.”
Bush has slammed Obama for wanting to engage Iran, but he has not leveled similar criticism at al-Maliki for “sitting down at the table” and “having pictures taken” with a “tyrant.”