Letters from Afghanistan: installment #5

Replying to questions, why the Marshall Plan doesn’t work, and local democracy in Jawzareen

by Connor O’Steen

First off I’d like to thank you all for your thoughtful and encouraging comments on my previous installments. The first four were published while I was in Bamyan, so I haven’t had a chance to see them or the feedback until now. I admit that I had some initial worries about publishing on a blog: it’s an intimidating idea to publish copy that will subsequently be dragged across the Internet, perhaps to be eviscerated by packs of battle-hardened commentators. I think it reflects well on Scholars and Rogues that trolling is notably muted, here, and it’s convinced me that writing these letters is absolutely worthwhile. Continue reading

Bush judge rules for Congress

Today has been a good day for Congress in its efforts to reimpose some limits on Presidential power. Judge John D. Bates, a 2001 Bush appointee to the Washington D.C. United States District Court, ruled today that presidential advisers and aides must appear before Congress when issued a subpoena. Congress sued the Administration in District Court to force former White House counsel Harriet Miers and current White House chief of staff Josh Bolten to appear before Congress as required by a Congressional subpoena that was ignored. Continue reading

Conversion rates in science writing

by Djerrid

Here’s a math word problem that will give you painful flashbacks to the 7th grade:

According to Canada.com, a proton moving at 99.9999991% of the speed of light has the energy of seven mosquitoes.

Also according to that site, three-hundred trillion protons moving at that speed has the energy of a 200 tonne train running at 200 kph.

Using this information, how many mosquitoes would it take to push a one kilogram ball to a speed of one kilometer per hour?

Science reporters for news outlets have an interesting job; some of the smartest people in the world have dedicated a lifetime of work to the most complex phenomena this universe has to offer and these reporters have to distill it down to a few hundred words at an 8th grade reading level. Continue reading

WordsDay—Review: What Happened? by Scott McClellan

In 1999, Scott McClellan accepted a job working for Texas Governor George W. Bush, who was getting ready to make a run for the White House. McClellan was an idealistic thirty-year-old Republican loyalist attracted to Bush’s candidacy because of the governor’s “compassionate Conservatism” and his charisma.

By July 2003, McClellan was a member of the Bush inner circle and was promoted to White House press secretary.

In April 2005, McClellan was gone, disillusioned and disappointed in an administration he said had gone terribly off-course. “What happened?” he wondered. Continue reading

Moron.com: your destiny is… um, destining

By Ann Ivins

In the spotlight: upcoming legislative opportunity

Job Summary: Republican Senior Senator from Alaska (well, not originally from Alaska, but who’s keeping track?)

Principal Responsibilities: represent and defend the interests of the citizens of the Great State of Alaska, particularly those who own and operate logging companies, oil rigs, natural gas pipelines, nuclear waste repositories, highway construction companies and salmon fisheries.

Qualifications: Strong dedication to traditional Republican family values, including gay-bashing and sharing kickbacks with the kids. Continue reading

The Scrogue's Guide to Denver and the DNC: beer and brewpubs

Colorado has, over the past 15 years or so, established itself as a genuine microbrew mecca, and just about every place you walk into either makes their own or is serving up something produced by one of our many local breweries. We host the Great American Beer Festival every fall, and while we tip our caps to all the great micros in other places around the country, most of us around here are convinced that Denver is the best city for beer in the country.

Before I dive in, let me offer a caveat. I love beer and have tasted just about everything I’m going to mention below (and a lot more), but I have my blind spots. I’m all about the malts and aside from wheats in the warm months I rarely drink anything lighter than an amber. If you’re a hophead or love things like blondes and pilsners, I’m not an ideal source of wisdom. So, a couple suggestions. First, ask the bartender and request a taster when you see something that looks to have potential. Second, we recommend you investigate what Beer Advocate has to say. They have reviews for just about every beer in the world and those reviewers are serious brews connoisseurs.

Now, pull up a stool. Continue reading

Bad bridges? Still far too few fixes

In the coming week, I’m going to drive about 1,200 miles through four states. During that journey, I’ll cross bridges over several significant rivers, including the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. The bridges I’ll cross are older than I am — and I’m no spring chicken.

I’ll drive over — and under — numerous highway overpasses. Most of them, too, will be older than I am. Since Aug. 1, 2007, I’m more aware of wondering about the condition of those bridges and overpasses that carry me to and from here and there. Are they safe?

A year ago, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds more.

Politicians everywhere immediately called for (harrumph, harrumph) the inspection of and repairs to the nation’s thousands and thousands of deteriorating bridges.

One year later, how much has been accomplished to allay travelers’ fears of another bridge collapse? Diddley squat.
Continue reading

The Scrogue's Guide to Denver and the DNC: steak!

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting a series of recommendations about things to do and places to visit, dine and get likkered up for DNC visitors to Denver, which is home to a number of S&R writers. The Scrogues Guide is not intended as a comprehensive list – frankly, there’s way too much to see and do in Denver for us to cover it all. Instead, think of it as a series of insider recommendations from the locals. If you’re coming in for the festivities and we haven’t written about something you’d like to do, let us know – we do take requests. Up first: steak houses!

Denver has long struggled against a reputation as a cow town. However, one thing you can always count on in a cow town is a good steak. Continue reading

TunesDay: everybody sounds better on the record….

The way that the vast majority of people experience pop music (unfortunately – and btw, you should get your lazy asses out to see live music 3-4 times a month at the minimum – that way you can find good local artists and support them and quit complaining about the crappy stuff the major music industry outlets shove at you – which reminds me, still digging that American Idol compilation CD you impulse bought?) is via recordings. Continue reading

IG report: Bush's GOP hires among immigration judges

by Amaury Nora

Today, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility just released a report on the improper hiring practices by Monica Goodling, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) White House Liaison and Senior Counsel to the Attorney General. According to the report, Goodling broke federal law by discriminating against job applicants on account of their political views.

Our investigation found that Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and Department policy. With regard to requests from interim U.S. Attorneys to hire [assisant U.S. attorneys], we determined that in two instances Goodling considered the candidate’s political or ideological affiliations when she assessed the request. For example, in one instance when the interim U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia sought approval from Goodling to hire an AUSA for a vacant position, Goodling responded that the candidate gave her pause because judging from his résumé he appeared to be a “liberal Democrat.” Continue reading

Our latest tragic shooting: who's to blame?

Another church shooting, this time in Knoxville. By now you’ve probably read the accounts and know that the shooter, Jim Adkisson, was motivated by, among other things, an apparent hatred of “liberals.”

Before diving too much deeper, there are a couple things we can probably safely say about Adkisson. First, these weren’t the actions of a rational man. Rational people don’t wade into crowds of people attempting to kill as many as possible.

So whatever else may have been at play, and no doubt the causes were many and complex, let’s be clear that we’re dealing with a disturbed individual. Continue reading

S&R @ the DNC: Come see us at Lime

We mentioned earlier that Scholars & Rogues is one of 124 blogs that have been credentialed to cover the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver. We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement with our good friends at Lime – they’ll be our official home during the DNC.

If you’re new to Denver, Lime is one of the best places in town. Situated in the heart of Larimer Square, they feature some of the best upbeat Mexican cuisine in a city that’s known for its Mexican; the bar serves up the best mojito I’ve ever tasted; the patio is an ideal spot to relax with friends; and the bar/lounge scene is positively thumping later in the evening. Their second location, a few blocks south in the Governor’s Park neighborhood, is pretty happening, too. Continue reading

Letters from Afghanistan: installment #4

Afghanistan, Ghowr Province: an opium village

[Ed. note: Connor O'Steen writes of going to an opium village in Afghanistan's Ghowr province to do the necessary research to admit Nasim to the orphanage in Chaghcharan.]

First the roads. They were dirt the entire way and I was expecting this, but I had also figured that they would have been purposefully made, smoothed over even to facilitate the transfer of people from point A to point B. Silly me. The roads were the natural result of cars following the same path over and over. We drove in the ruts that had been imprinted by heavier trucks and, from time to time, our car’s tires scraped against the sides of the ruts, bouncing us from side to side. At first I imagined it was like being on a particularly cloying rollercoaster. Then I imagined it was like being inside a pinata. Then I stopped imagining things. Continue reading

What to do — blow myself up or study engineering at Caltech?

Sometimes the answer to a problem isn’t as hard as we think it is. In fact, it may be downright easy. But something in our makeup prevents us from either seeing or pursuing the answer. We continue to tread the more arduous path and, in the process, not only perpetuate, but compound the problem.

In a Washington Monthly article, “How many of you want to study in America?,” Kenneth Ballen reports on the extensive polling that his organization, Terror Free Tomorrow, has done around the world. First, he describes a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia with young Muslims in apparent thrall to bin Laden. Though they didn’t give him credit for 9/ll, which, Ballen writes, they felt was the work of “the CIA and the Israeli intelligence service — how else to explain the fact that there were no Jews in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed?” Continue reading

Nota Bene #33

Got hot links if you want ‘em!

Jonathan Martin of Politico writes: “Liberal media has traditionally been upstream media, generating information and putting it into circulation. Conservative media is downstream, it’s the second bite at the apple.”

Has a way been finally found to explain the FISA bill to the public? Glenn Greenwald of Salon quotes an ad attacking a Pennsylvanian congressmen who voted yea on it: “Chris Carney is surrendering to Bush and Cheney the same un-American spying powers they have in Russia and communist China.” We have a winner! Continue reading

'Free' speech at Beijing Olympics decidedly costly

When the Beijing Olympics begin Aug. 8, the ability to speak publicly will depend on what you say — or what you pay.

The Olympics Games have always been one of the largest possible megaphones for espousing a cause — either political or commercial. Terrorists have used it. Athletes have used it. Host nations have used it. And certainly, sellers of goods and services have used it. Be it boycott, black power or big business, the Olympics offers maximum volume for any message.

This year the early gold medal of the Politicize-the-Games Sweepstakes has gone to the Free Tibet sloganeers, although their gamesmanship was hardly challenged. The Olympic torch relay made an exceptionally easy — and highly visible through media — target for protesters. Much of the pre-Games press has focused on how well or poorly host nation China will bury pro-Tibet protests or encourage pro-China, home-team support.

But there’s far more at issue regarding speech in Beijing than proclamations for or against Tibet.
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New Wilderness Society poll is political, not statistical

If you have a pulse, you’ve probably been asked to answer questions for a poll or six this season. Most polls I’ve been asked to participate in have been political polls, but with oil prices high, there have been poll commissioned by the GOP, the Democratic Party, and various third parties, each of which is hoping that the polls will support their particular political position.

Unfortunately, one of the polls I came across recently is one that I’d really, really like to believe in. But the poll results themselves are all but meaningless. Specifically, a Wilderness Society poll produced by Belden Russonello & Stewart, purports to show that the American public isn’t buying into the GOP lies that drilling on the outer continental shelf, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and mining for oil shale in 2018 will lower prices today. Unfortunately, the language of the poll questions is sufficiently biased that the poll is nearly useless for anything but manipulating the media into spouting bogus statistics in an attempt to counter other bogus statistics.

Let’s look at the questions in detail. Continue reading

Backward compatibility in energy technology

If you’ve ever worked for a manufacturing or software development company, you’re probably familiar with the concept of backward compatibility. The basic idea is that any new product needs to be able to utilize the old product’s hardware and/or software so that development costs are kept down and so that current customers can migrate to your new product more easily. Most people are most familiar with this idea from their experience with Microsoft Office products – when you upgrade Word from on version to another, you don’t have to re-write all your documents – the new version can open and manipulate the old version just as easily as it can a newly created document.

But while backward compatibility is a laudable goal for any product, there inevitably comes a point when a company’s old hardware or software is so out of date that the only thing to do is develop an entirely new approach that’s smaller, faster, lower power, more features, and tuned for the new markets of today rather than the markets of 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. It’s one of the hardest decisions a company ever has to make, because it carries with it a great deal of monetary risk, especially if the company can’t come up with a handy conversion tool like the one that Microsoft Word 2007 uses to convert older 2003-format .doc files into XML-formatted documents. But sometimes abandoning the old in favor of the new is absolutely necessary. Continue reading

Letters from Afghanistan: installment #3

Nasim’s story:  making and unmaking terrorists

by Connor O’Steen

It turns out the road between [location excised] and [location excised] is currently held by the Taliban, so until NATO clears things up I’ll be here. Seeing how that’s the case, and I now have some extra time on my hands, I might as well tell you some more about what I’ve seen.

Nasim showed up on our doorstep early in the morning, and when asked what he needed, said that he had been told by some of the other children of Chaghcharan that we ran an orphanage. His face was bruised and slightly purplish, both of his eyes were swollen and there were dark rings underneath.

Continue reading

Ted Stevens doesn't understand the Internet

by Josh Nelson

Not exactly breaking news, I know. His campaign manager, Mike Tibbles, sent an attack email to supporters the other day which indicates exactly how clueless they are.

Just last quarter, the mayor raised more than $37,000 from just one liberal Lower 48 Internet campaign known as ActBlue (the 1,500 out-of-state donors he gained through this site amounted to a third of the “grassroots” support he received last quarter).

I hope you will help us in ensuring that Outsiders don’t buy a Senate seat in Alaska.

Fortunately, his opponent, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, has Matt Browner-Hamlin working to keep the Stevens campaign honest. Here is a snip of the epic smackdown, but be sure to read it in full as well.

Continue reading