Thursday, April 17, 2003

Links between Iraq and terrorism

Courtesy of Sean LaFreniere

Oh shut up

Did anyone see Bull Durham? In it Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins screwed each other senseless. And judging from recent remarks, neither have recovered to this day. I don't have time for an exhaustive list, but you can have a taste below.

Recently Sarandon's suffered this. Too bad for her - she would have received a hefty fee for promoting volunteerism.

More recently it's Robbins' turn, complaining of a "chill wind" even as he threatens harm to a reporter for writing about his family here (courtesy of Hawspipe, who seems to think that paying work takes precedence over blogging).

Rodney King, your 15 minutes are up

Acidman talks about Rodney King's latest adventure, driving his SUV into a house at 100 MPH.

Which reminds me of a line I heard a few years ago from George Wallace after another RK misadventure. That time King drove into a wall. Wallace said something like "That wall was white - it hit him".

I can't find a cite for this one either, but I recall that a few years ago the leader of a suburban Chicago chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers was killed sleeping in her bed when a drunk driver came crashing through her house.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003


The May 2003 Discover magazine also discusses Melungeons.

Say what? Actually, it's a who:
It comes as no surprise that Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, and Abraham Lincoln may be among their kin, yet the members of this tribe have never fitted properly into American racial categories. Depending on the census taker or tax man, they were classified as white, "free persons of color", or mulatto, often drifting across the color line as they moved from county to county....There are perhaps as many as 200,000 Melungeons in the United States today, all descended from a mysterious colony of olive-skinned people who lived for centuries in the foothills of the Appalachians. Some say the Melungeons can be traced back to Portuguese sailors, shipwrecked in the 16th century, or to colonial-era Turkish silk workers. Others point to Gypsies, to Sir Francis Drake's lost colony of Roanoke, or to the ancient Phoenicians. It's not even clear where the word Melungeon comes from: it might be derived from the French word mélange or even a corruption of an Arabic or Turkish term for "cursed souls".
The article goes on to discuss attempts to research Melungeon heritage using DNA methods. This is a big deal because of the racial ambiguity - historically they have been been known to be taken to court for attempting to vote, or hanged for marrying white women.

One can see why Melungeons would have issues with racism, but then others aren't so sure they want to find their true ancestry. One researcher says he got a death threat from a Melungeon "repelled by the possibility of having African-American blood".

The article also mentions other groups similarly "isolated" genetically, such as Louisiana's Red Bones or the South Carolina Brass Ankles. Much more can be found here.

Turkey - our next oil source?

Who needs Iraq and the rest of the Middle East when we can get oil from Turkey?

No, not that one. The kind you eat for Thanksgiving.

If you haven't heard of Brian Appel, CEO of Changing World Technologies, maybe it's time you did. The most recent (May 2003) Discover magazine describes the company's thermal depolymerization process (TDP) as follows:
The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high quality oil, clean burning gas and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.

Unlike other solid-to-liquid--fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.

Private investors, who have chipped in $40 million to develop the process, aren't the only ones who are impressed. The federal government has granted more then $12 million to push the work along. "We will be able to make oil for $8 to $12 a barrel," says Paul Baskis, the inventor of the process. "We are going to be able to switch to a carbohydrate economy"
A few other points:
  • They can get about 100 units of energy in the feedstock at a cost of only about 15 units of heat input.
  • "The EPA doesn't even consider us waste handlers. We are actually manufacturers - that's what our permit says".
  • The process is scalable - plants can be sized to handle between a ton and 4000 tons of waste per day.
Pie in the sky? There's a full-scale plant here in Missouri, at Carthage outside a turkey processing plant. Each day 200 tons of turkey offal will be transformed into products such as 600 barrels of light oil. Lest you should miss the point, there's a big picture of the input with the article.

If you're at all interested in energy technologies, you can't miss this article. As this is written there is no link to the full article, but maybe it will show up after the next issue is released.

Monday, April 14, 2003

General Tommy Franks Can't Wait to Retire

From Scrappleface.

Ex-Presidents Carter and Clinton, take heed.

Lileks vs. electricity

Right here.

People have some strange ideas about electricity. I have an uncle that is convinced it is out to get him. He'll change light bulbs, plug things in and flip switches, but don't let him see any bare wires. And he would have been amazed at the Animal Planet show I saw yesterday in which a dog flipped a light switch with his mouth.

Alright, getting zapped by electricity isn't much fun. I literally stuck my finger in a lightsocket once in my preteens. I concluded that I had learned everything I needed to know from that experience and thus didn't need to repeat it. Likewise it only took one self-administered zapping with a cattle prod to impress me. But early on I noticed the strange sensation you get when you put your tongue across a 9V battery, and it's still a quick and dirty way to see if it still has any life.

If you're careful you can work 120V circuits "hot", but I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. If you're careless when hooking up phone wires it's possible to get 48VDC, which will get your attention. Lesser voltages are no big deal though.

Once at work I was inspecting one of my systems when I got bit when I touched the metal sheath around some calcium silicate insulation and something that was grounded at the same time. A minute or so later I got bit again in a different spot the same way. It felt a bit weaker than a phone zapping, so I told our electricians about it and told them I'd felt about 40V.

To the amusement of the electricians, I was within a volt or two. It turned out that some heat tracing wires (installed to keep pipes warm and thus keep solids from coming out of solution) had been damaged by the metal around the insulation, and this metal was not grounded. That is, until I touched it while I was grounded. I'm lucky the damage wasn't closer to the hot end of the wire.

Enough thrills and chills for one day - my post about grounding and electrical codes will have to wait until later. Try not to get electrocuted in the meantime.

SARS catchall

No sooner do I mention Arthur Silber and Steven Den Beste a few posts below and I find myself citing them both.

Arthur Silber points out the dangers of govt censorship as it applies to the Chinese SARS outbreak here. In the comments someone points to SDB here about an interesting and IMO plausible theory about China as the incubator of influenza.

My two cents is for an article in NRO I almost blogged a couple of weeks ago when it first came out:
Not very long ago — within the past five years, let's say — an American businessman of my acquaintance, a leading figure in the health-care field, was approached by an authoritative official of the Chinese government with a truly fabulous offer. How would the American like to set up a nationwide network of clinics, under his own name and with clear American identification? He would provide the medicine, the staff, the doctors, the technology. The Chinese would provide the money, the land, the labor force to build the clinics, and guarantee a substantial profit for at least a decade.

The American was impressed; who wouldn't be? And of course he was curious. Why were they being so generous?

The answer helps understand why it took so long for the Chinese to fess up to the existence of the new Viral pneumonia. The Chinese official put it this way: "we are having a terrible time getting people to see doctors, even for routine physical checkups. And this is because of an event that took place back in the late 1940s, following Mao's revolution. At that time, the government promised to eradicate venereal disease in China. And it did. Everyone was forced to undergo an examination by a certified doctor. And anyone with venereal disease was executed. Ever since, most Chinese stayed far away from medical doctors."

So the current regime, which would like to improve the health of the population, thought that it might be possible to get the people to a doctor if that doctor were clearly separate from the government. Indeed, as far removed from Chinese officialdom as one could imagine: an American doctor in an American clinic that guaranteed utter privacy.
From which Ledeen suggests:
I'm not so sure that the authorities were keeping the information from the people. It may well be that the people were keeping it from the authorities.
I for one have a hard time seeing our govt ever doing anything as radical as Mao's Chinese allegedly did. But I notice that a lot of people who push govt involvement in health care seem to have issues with John Ashcroft. Alright liberals - would you like Ashcroft or any other terrifying "Christian right-wingers" to have access to your health care records?

Then again, what is to be done to control epidemics? Should we apply the same standards we did with AIDS, in which the risk of stigmatizing people was given more weight than concerns for general public health?

Somebody gets it

An Egyptian, a Pakistani and some Kuwaitis discuss the US and Iraq.

Keep the UN out of Iraq

Years ago mathematician Pierre Fermat left an interesting theorem written in the margin of one of his books. He said he had discovered a wonderful proof which the margin was too small to contain. It turns out he was right.

With that in mind, and not having the time or inclination to write a Steven Den Beste or Arthur Silber length item needed to back it up, I simply offer my conclusions about UN involvement in Iraq below.

The UN should have nothing to do with reestablishing a new govt in Iraq.


1. We see what types of govt the UN approves of. Typically socialist or dictatorial, and corrupt.

2. We see what types of policies the UN approves of.

3. A viable govt cannot be created with such policies.

4. If the UN is involved, such a nonviable govt will be created anyway. And it will fail.

5. The UN wants it to fail, lest its success should encourage further such liberations at the expense of the despots who have such disproportionate influence there now.

6. Said failure will be blamed on the US no matter what we do.

Just what is the UN bringing to the party?

Credibility? Forget it.

Money? Only if they get more of it from the US, and this will increase the relative power of an organization that has shown itself antithetical to US interests constantly.

Competence and experience? Don't make me laugh.

Integrity? Ditto.

The UN is about providing sinecures for international bureaucrats who have delusions of grandeur. Its continued existence is of value only as an example of what we could expect from world government.