February 22, 2008

What the F&%K were they thinking?!? (updated)

News emerged yesterday of a rather unsettling occurrence at Obama's rally in Dallas on Wednesday, 2/20/08. Apparently, the Secret Service decided that after an hour of checking bags and purses of those entering the arena, they would stop screening the crowd of over 17,000 for weapons. They literally took down the metal detectors at the doorways and began waving people through "without even a cursory inspection."

The Secret Service was in charge of security at the event, but Dallas police officers were present, and apparently voiced some concern about this lapse in security. It is unclear at this time whether the campaign ordered the stop in order to fill seats quickly, or if the Secret Service made the call. If the campaign did order officers to allow people inside without inspections, it can be attributed to poor judgment, valuing filled seats for the TV cameras over the security of their candidate. Yet if it was the Secret Service who decided to expose Barack Obama to potentially armed crazies hiding behind an Obama t-shirt, that is a whole different issue. The insinuations and implications could run rampant, and I don't want to accuse that agency of intentionally putting a candidate in danger, but let just say I am definitely suspicious.

Obama is far from unpopular, and public threats towards his candidacy are rare, but images of incidents in LA in 1968, and in that very city, Dallas, in 1963, are brought to mind. No one wants to see those horrors replayed, and whoever is responsible for this reprehensible lapse in security and judgment needs to take note.

Update: So the Secret Service has released a statement, courtesy of the Dallas Star-Telegram. From that article,

"There were no security lapses at that venue," said Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington. He added there was "no deviation" from the "comprehensive and layered" security plan, implemented in "very close cooperation with our law enforcement partners."
Sounds good, glad to hear ya'll had it covered. So why didn't those last few thousand folks get searched?
"We would not want, by providing those details, to have people trying to derive ways in which they could defeat the security at any particular venue," Zahren said.
Oh, yeah, thats right, I forgot the plot for a second there. "State Secrets." The Usual. Gotcha.


More After the Fold...


February 21, 2008

To the Victor goes the Spoils

(click for larger image)

Technology is increasing available to the layperson and Landsat images give a good account of what's happening in our oceans, and sadly most of it is not good. The image above is of the Gulf of Mexico in 1992. The cloudy water that you see is the direct result of commercial bottom trawlers dragging large, heavy nets across the seafloor, denuding it of all life in their quest for a few marketable fish and shrimps. Most trawling efforts capture 20 pounds of "bycatch" in the search for commercially viable fish, and in their wake leave large, suffocating clouds of mud and sediment that may take a month to settle.

Recently the impact of bottom trawling has been seen with services like Google Earth providing large amounts of Landsat images in a public forum. John Amos, president of SkyTruth in Sheperdstown, West Virginia states: "Until recently, the impact was basically hidden from view," he continued. "But new tools -- especially Internet-based image sites, like Google Earth -- allow everyone to see for themselves what's happening. In shallow waters with muddy bottoms, trawlers leave long, persistent trails of sediment in their wake."

The bigger problem is that most bottom trawling is done in deep open waters where damage to the sediment layer is invisible to satellite imaging. "Most .. trawling happens in deep waters, out of sight. But now we can more clearly envision what trawling impacts down there by looking at the sediment plumes that are shallow enough for us to see from satellites," said Les Watling, professor of zoology at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Sponges, corals, and other light dependent organisms fail to survive week long periods in the darkness and this in turn knocks out the habitat and food supply of most commercially available fish.

So what can you do to help reduce this environmental destruction? Until the industrial fishing industry proves that they are acting in a more environmentally responsible manner, you can boycott eating orange roughy, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), and all shrimps. (Keep in mind that those shrimp species that are not caught by trawling are usually farmed in shallow coastal mangroves, which also leads to tremendous, and possibly irreversible, environmental damages).

Fortunately politics are starting to listen to the scientific community and in 2005 restrictions on bottom trawling were levied in the Mediterranean Sea and in shallow water areas off the coast of Alaska. In 2006, the South Pacific Island Nations voted to stop bottom trawling in their waters, which accounts for 14% of Earth's total surface. The UN will meet later this year to decide whether to place a moratorium on the high seas, which covers 45% of Earth's surface. Lets hope they listen to the people who monitor Earth's vitals.

More After the Fold...


February 20, 2008

How Do They Know?

More After the Fold...


Prarie View A&M students march to protest voter discrimination

Check out the article at Crooks and Liars.

More After the Fold...


Traffic is growing!

So the traffic on the site is starting to pick up and I just want to encourage everyone to leave a comment, good or bad, about the site and the content. We love to get feedback and Dean and I are tired of having conversations back and forth via comments so everyone feel welcome to tell us we're doing a good job or that we're bad at this, either way we want to hear from you!

StifledMind Staff

More After the Fold...


February 19, 2008

The Internet, the Solution to Global Warming.

Did you know the internet first reared its head in 1957? Now it may have been a short-lived multitasking network, but it was the progenation of the internet. The term "internet" wasn't coined until December 1974 when it appeared in the publication of RFC 674, by fellows at Stanford University.

In 1985 the first 56 kilobit/second network was setup by the National Sciences Foundation. A full 28 years had passed before the internet had grown into a behemoth of a network capable of handling 3 colors and 20 lines of text on a page in under 2 minutes. So what does this have to do with the "solution to global warming." In practice nothing, but by further examining the mechanisms by which a technology became so intertwined into our social and economic lives could help unravel some clues to future advances within the movement for the conservation of Earth's resources.

Just imagine what people would have told you in 1957 if you claimed to be able to take a picture on your phone and instantly share it with every friend you've added into your address book (In 1995 you wouldn't have fared much better and it was a 38 year old technology!). I'm sure they would've written you off as a crazy but here I am in 2008 snapping a picture of Page as I type (good girl Page) and sending it to my Mom. Remember this was two years before The Mercury Project attempted to send a man into space.

So here we sit in 2008 and everytime I tell someone that solar, hydrothermal, insert other non-oil based energy source is going to save the Earth I get laughed at. "But solar is so inefficient," "Wind energy is a money sink," "Nuclear isn't safe (whole different can of worms that I'll cover another time)." I hear these excuses all the time but if I was in 1992 and tried to convince everyone that a website designed purely to let people upload videos would make a fortune there would have been nobody running to back me financially. I would have been told that the internet wasn't capable of those speeds and that it would take 20 years for it to be a useful technology (it would've only taken 13 years, as youtube.com appeared in 2005). But the truth is I would've been one of those few people pushing to make it happen, and putting their effort into a product for the future. Its no mystery why big business financed the early infrastructure of the internet, because they saw profits in its abilities. And they've seen the internet pushed past the capabilities they thought possible.

Scientists are begging now for money into the development of renewable resource research. A quick scan of publications shows hits such as the need for public policy and science to align to fight global warming. And just now you can see the burgeoning of the technologies that will help navigate us towards a lower impact lifestyle, such as hydrogen generated by solar power, or carbon capture for emission free cars. These are such new technologies at the birth of their existence, just like the two computers who first linked together to send a small packet of information a short distance.

Given time and incubation, just like any other challenge man has faced, innovation and perserverance can drive solutions from which there only seemed to be obstacles. These two forces can tackle this challenge we now face to our home planet. Already nations like Iceland have leveraged their politics and industry to prepare for renewable energy sources. In 2001 Iceland was producing 70% of its primary energy supply by renewable means (pdf warning). And now the country has announced that by 2050 it will completely cease the use of fossil fuels by converting transport to hydrogen (another pdf warning). And Iceland is further trying to embarrass those of us stuck in the fossil age (the stone age doesn't seem so stupid now) further by spreading their green mantra to Europe so those damn atheist socialistas can breathe easy. But this is a very small example displaying broad ranging progressive policies in the scope of Earth's immensely large population.

So what can we do in the US? Well first of all our government needs to get on the ball and spend some money on renewable energy sources. Our love affair with the oil magnates has got to come to an end. I will acknowledge that the backbone of our nation was built around oil, but at times sacrifices to the old regime must be made in order that a new regime can improve the stagnation. If you wanna be extreme this guy got freakin' 72 mpg with a Euro version Honda Civic! And he didn't change a thing to the car!

ScienceDebate2008 (blogged on stifledmind here and here) is a public initiative started by one man and a blog that has gotten endorsed by over 100 universities and science foundations that has invited the candidates to come speak publicly about their policy on the environment but also health care and technology. This is important as the last 8 years have been stifling for the progress of renewable energy sources as money is few and far between and keeps getting cut to finance an ever growing occupation in an oil rich country. The point is that there are a lot of random things you can do to start this grassroots movement, but a more important note is that the money for research is controlled by our government so we must demand action from those we elect.

Look at these energy stat projections provided by the National Academy of Sciences and realize this is a serious problem. We have affected almost every inch of our oceans save a toeprint around the poles, and once that buffer system is destroyed we will have a lot of questions to answer. Remember the next time someone tells you that a renewable technology is useless or won't ever be efficient that not so long ago me sitting here and typing to this whole audience was impossible (My Mom loves the pic of Page by the way).

Get out, get loud, and demand action! I agree that we can't abandon oil right now, to do so would be economic and political suicide. But think about the future for a minute and consider the sweeping consequences the likes of which man has never held the power to sway. With that power comes great responsibility and the charge to wield such strength towards a fair resolve. We really can impact our immediate futures either for the better or for the worse, and I think no matter who you support you should always ask that your leader exact his power toward the better.

More After the Fold...


I wonder...

Thought this was pretty appropriate for the election season, and its fucking AC/DC so turn it up and enjoy!

More After the Fold...


US Censoring Whistle Blower Website

When news come out of China engaging in some form of censorship of the internet, Americans are not usually surprised. Restriction of free speech is somewhat expected from the authoritarian Chinese government. Yet to see that type of oppression migrate to the US strikes me as far more serious and grievous concern. Even with the current administration's curtailing of speech and gutting of the Freedom of Information Act taken into account, this newest form of government censorship seems outlandish and severe.

The site wikileaks.org (I know the link doesn't work, read on), started in 2006, is devoted to providing government and corporate whistle blowers an anonymous vehicle through which they can post documentation of wrongdoing by those entities without fear of reprisal. Yet now, a Bush appointed judge in CA has ordered the site closed down. Representatives from wikileaks.org were prevented from attending when the order was issued, and the hearing itself was merely a preliminary hearing, which to my understanding, indicates that such an order may be inappropriate. This issue was raised when the website allegedly posted documents which revealed involvement in money laundering by a Caymen Islands bank, Julius Baer. Yet that bank, despite requests from wikileaks.org, refuses to even indicate which documents on the site they wish to be removed. Despite this lack of evidence, due to the willful and incriminating secrecy of the bank itself, the judge has ordered the web site shut down.

The site is still up, as they established mirrors in case this situation occurred. I think they had China, N. Korea, or Iran in mind when they set this system up, but evidently the US is more of a threat to its own 1st Amendment than those countries in the"axis of evil."

This is utterly unacceptable. In today's world of constant product recalls and gov/corp corruption, whistle blowers require more protection and empowerment, not less. Numerous. Examples. Abound. These people, who risk careers and reputations to inform the public, are one of the few available sources of information about illegal/unethical activities done by today's secretive corporations and governments. So instead of protecting the corporate interests who have, again, broken the law, shouldn't the courts, the whole government in fact, instead be attempting to protect and empower their own bosses, the American People?

Its a two-fer. Corporate corruption and governmental oppression! Makes you proud to be an American huh? Good to see our hard-earned tax dollars at work defending us from...well, the ability to defending ourselves...

More After the Fold...


Best live map of the world ever!

Ever wonder how many people died since you've been reading this? Or how many people have been born? Or maybe you just want to see the CO2 emissions of each country in real time. This map is really cool and I think everyone should check out the Breathing Earth.

More After the Fold...


Bushcorp Claims Victory, Justice & American People Thwarted

The Bush-loaded Supreme Court strikes again. Another victory for corporate interests at the expense of your civil liberties and the Constitution. Bush may be gone in a few months, but these wingnut assholes the neocons forced into the nations top court are going to be with us, fighting against the American People and the founding principles of our country, for the next 30 years or so. Just another example of the damage Bush has inflicted upon the nation.

When Lord? When will justice be done?

With Roberts and Scalia in charge, I'm not holding my breath...

More After the Fold...


50 Weird Science Tidbits & Oddities

Factoids hardly anybody knows, about pretty much anything that might turn up as subject matter in a rousing championship match of Trivial Pursuit down at the pub on Thursday night. Some of these are real crowd-pleasers sure to draw spontaneous applause, stunned gasps, and plenty of free beers from admirers.

read more | digg story

More After the Fold...


February 18, 2008

Obama plagiarizing speech?

There's been a little of a hitch on the Obama campaign trail today as a few have questioned whether he plagiarized a speech by Deval Patrick. Patrick, the Democratic Governor of Massachusetts, gave a speech titled "Just Words" on October 15, 2006 and Obama has been criticized of copying specific lines and linguistic speech patterns in his February 16, 2008 speech, "Words Matter". Here's a side by side so you can judge for yourself, truth or journalistic sensationalism?

More After the Fold...