Integrity Scores on Supreme Court

Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgWhatever else may be said about the Supreme Court’s current term, which ends in about a month, it will be remembered as the time when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice, and used it.

What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics. She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.” – Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, speaking of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome of the abortion case last month to the fact of the court’s changed membership.

The oral dissent has not been, until now, Ginsburg’s style. She has gone years without delivering one, and never before in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms.

Said Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, a sociologist and longtime friend,

“She has always been regarded as sort of a white-glove person, and she’s achieved a lot that way.

Now she is seeing that basic issues she’s fought so hard for are in jeopardy…

International Herald Tribune

A nebulous mixture of doubt

The scientific method is based on what I prefer to call the inquiring mindset … a nebulous mixture of doubt, questioning, observation, experiment and, above all, curiosity, which small children possess in spades. – Sir Harry Kroto

Cost of modern rule

Anti-smoking overhead has pushed Britain into spending nine times as much as all smoking related diseases. [link]

No US figures found.

Automatic treasure hunting

John Corney with treasure hunting robotA Roomba with a metal detector.

“We’ve seen the robots that mow your lawn, save your life, hit on your girlfriend, make you an omelet, dispense Kleenex, even make abstract artwork–but where are the robots that help make you filthy rich?” [CNet’s craves via RobotGossip]

A remote controlled metal detector built by a Wiltshire man could revolutionise the art of treasure hunting. Resembling something from the TV show Robot Wars, the invention, devised by John Corney, of Corsley Heath, can climb over footballs and has an on-board camera to show its controller where it is going.

“…far better than a hand held detector because it goes at a steady speed and just generally detects more efficiently.”

Mr Corney has found hundreds of old coins and medieval artifacts with his robot. ‘John Corney Invents Treasure Hunting Robot’, Wiltshire Times via make.

Food costs less than feed

High corn prices, double in one year, are already pressuring the animal feed sector to search for lower cost ingredients. Here are two ‘early innovations’.

1.) Trail Mix hog feed
Growing demand for corn-based ethanol has pushed up the price of corn, Mr. Smith’s main feed, to near-record levels. Searching for alternatives, Alfred Smith’s hogs eat trail mix…

“…they usually shun the Brazil nuts.

“Pigs can be picky eaters,” Mr. Smith says, scooping a handful of banana chips, yogurt-covered raisins, dried papaya and cashews from one of the 12 one-ton boxes in his shed.

Generally, he says, “they like the sweet stuff.” [WSJ subscription]

2.) Party Mix cattle feed
Dwight Hess, a cattle feedlot operator in Marietta, Pa., is located in the heart of snack country, near Hershey and Herr Foods Inc., a maker of potato chips, pretzels and snack mixes.

His cattle ration consists of about 17% “candy meal,” a blend of chocolate bars and large chunks of chocolate; 3% of what he calls “party mix,” a blend of popcorn, pretzels, potato chips and cheese curls; 8% corn gluten; and the remainder corn and barley he grows.

He says these byproducts save him about 10% on feed costs. Still, it costs him about 65 cents to put a pound on a steer, up from 42 cents last year. [serious eats]

Curious little pigCurious new ingredients?
Candy and condiments in animal feed isn’t necessarily alarming.

Compounders of feed formula often use a variety of ingredients from excess farm production. Factory food processor and restaurant wastes have also been integrated for years and years.

We should be watchful.
Desparate to reduce costs, some players may try increasingly unusual approaches in our food system where oversight is very often (ideologically) under-funded and under-regulated.

A national policy to make a new fuel market came quickly, without social, educational or research adjustment. As food crops and animal feed are diverted to producing fuel, distortion in our food supply chain is rapid.

Did we think about the affects of fuel policy changes before heralding ethanol as another global security announcement?

Wood is the first biofuel

Wood for cooking and heating is the number one biofuel worldwide;

  • the largest use of wood in India & China
  • largest use of wood harvested in Cambodia.
  • largest use of wood is fuel for cooking in Ghana
  • 97 percent of all wood used in Tanzania
  • The largest use of wood in Brazil is for wood fires

Carrying firewood through the city16 developing countries in South and Southeast Asia use most of their wood supply predominantly for cooking and heat.

The UN says that using wood as fuel is expected to increase in line with population growth. Rising demand for fuelwood and charcoal is causing a halo of deforestation around many cities, towns, and roads. [report]

Grievances are in the news almost daily when commercial firms reduce local wood by harvesting forests for global industrial or consumer uses.

But wood as a fuel is not an important cause of deforestation, because forests are not the sole source of firewood: About two thirds of the world’s firewood is collected outside the forest. (link)

Woodlands, roadside and open yards are alternative sources for collecting fuelwood; residues from logging, wood industries, and tree plantations; wood recovered from construction waste; and waste packaging….

Emerging ideas
“People are very poor and could not possibly afford to buy a normal manufactured solar cooker. There are no stores that sell them because there is no market for them. So it will be necessary to make them. These are cardboard and waste foil.”

“It would be difficult to convince women that “The cooker may take a time to cook, but think of the time you would save by not having to walk so far and so often to bring firewood.

And a cooker may cost you money you think you cannot afford, but consider asking your man to give up drinking beer for a week or two.”

They would laugh and would not be convinced. And the man would growl, “It’s traditional for women to fetch wood. That’s not my problem!” Museum of Technology Mozambique

Western states need a fuel crop

camelina - false flaxCamelina, a plant that flourished in Europe about 3,500 years ago, could become a major source of biodiesel, and is now planted – if not harvested – on millions of acres of marginal farmland from eastern Washington state to North Dakota. Camelina can grow in arid conditions and can produce more oil from its seeds for a lower price

Targeted Growth, a Seattle biotech firm that’s working to increase camelina yields “radically.” The company hopes to produce enough seed – about one-third the size of sesame seeds – to plant 1 million acres of camelina by 2009. [story]

Steven Guy, a professor at the University of Idaho and a crop-management specialist, was quoted as saying, “This is the most exciting crop I have seen in my 30 some years in this field.” [archived 5/30]

Montana farmer John Sheldon said he believes camelina will be a huge boon for Montana agriculture. “I can easily see getting 1,000 pounds per acre.” {with a 3/64th inch screen on the combine!)

This fuel yields chart compares a long list of crops. Useable in our current fleet, corn produces about 18 gallons per acre of alcohol for fuel blending with gasoline. Rapeseed biodiesel output is as high as 127 gallons. The easier to grow, lower input camelina produces 62 gallons per acre.

Pacific states, most significantly California, have strict sulfur emission regulations. However, sulfur acts as a lubricant in diesel engines, so something has to take its place. This is why some states require a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel produces significantly fewer sulfur emissions and still lubricates diesel engines. Western states pay $3 a gallon for soybean biodiesel.

About 85 percent of the biodiesel in the United States comes from soybeans grown largely in the Midwest and costly to ship west.

Almost ten years ago I was promoting Proctor & Gamble soybean biodiesel, the nation’s largest vendor at the time. Extensive presentations to urban transit systems such as AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit were designed to start moving our nation’s fuel matrix toward a diversified domestic production.

Radical tilt promotes division

The media overwhelmingly displays conservatives as the voice of religion.

Among the study’s key findings at Media Matters:

  • Combining newspapers and television, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed in news stories 2.8 times as often as were progressive religious leaders.

  • On television news — the three major television networks, the three major cable new channels, and PBS — conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed almost 3.8 times as often as progressive leaders.
  • In major newspapers, conservative religious leaders were quoted, mentioned, or interviewed 2.7 times as often as progressive leaders.

“Real” human cadaver exhibits

von Hagens' plastic cadaverPlastination, invented by Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977, is a vacuum process whereby the body’s water and fat are replaced with reactive plastics that are initially pliable and then harden when cured with light, heat or gas.

All tissue structures are retained. Unlike plastic models, plastinated specimens are intricate, REAL displays of human anatomy – to the microscopic level. It takes an average of 1,500 hours to transform a cadaver.

BIODUR Products sells special polymers and equipment for plastination. There are now more than 400 plastination laboratories in 40 countries around the world.

Bodyworlds manages travelling exhibits of more than 20 whole-body plastinates.

Tickets seem to sell out in every city….

Affection has mass

A good-looking man approached 120 women in a night club over a period of three weeks, and asked them to dance. It was in the name of science – the man was an assistant to the psychologist Nicolas Guegen. Remarkably, of the 60 women who he touched lightly on the arm, 65 per cent agreed to a dance, compared with just 43 per cent of the 60 women who he asked without making any physical contact.

BPS Research Digest: The power of a light touch on the arm

…when men make this light touch on the women’s arms, they are perceived as more dominant which is an attractive trait associated with status.

Morocco sirocco

Morocco sandstormA wall of sand as high as 3,000 feet.

In the spring, from March to May. The season lasts for 50 days; each a few days in duration.

Called sirocco in Morocco, qibli in Libya, cheheli in the northern Sahara, irifi along the coast and ouahdy in the central Sahara, the storms of North Africa each have a special personality.

a little bit more here

Inventors’ Hall of Fame winner

Enertia building during winterThere is no logical reason to use a drop of fuel, or a watt of energy, to heat or cool any home or building attached to the Earth.

Just below the surface, within reach of the average basement, is an infinite reservoir of heat that never drops below 50° F.

Link to post on my construction blog.

Link to Michael Sykes’ “Enertia” building system that trap solar energy to produce homes that heat and cool themselves.

Awake R Us

Anybody put caffeine in cooking oil yet?

We can call it

“We’re Oil Awake”
“Cookin’ Caffeine”
“The BetterBuzz Diet”
“Gourmet a’ Go-Go”

Going green got your goat?

Goat powered scooterSimply harness and clip your goat into the frame and off you go.

The human is in total control of the speed and direction of the scooter because the animal is harnessed inside of the frame and subject to its steering and braking force. This simplifies ‘choices’ and reduces the level of “training” required.

With just a few outings pulling the scooter the animal quickly learns when to feel the braking and which direction to turn by again “feeling” the side pull on the harness. No downward loads are applied.

Animal and Dog Scooters

Gas prices are policy failures

The surge in oil prices is being driven by political factors and there is no need for additional crude supplies, Saudi Arabia’s assistant oil minister said.

‘We have always said, and OPEC has always committed itself to keep the market well-supplied and balanced. Never has this market been (more) balanced with crude than today,’ said Prince Abdul Aziz, who is assistant oil minister for petroleum affairs.

While there was no need for additional crude supplies, there is a problem with refining capacity. He was referring to what Saudi officials say is a need to invest in expanding refining capacity in consumer countries. Thomson Financial

To stimulate a bit of thinking about oil players instead of merely blaming Arabs, what’s at least 13% of British Petroleum’s reserves — nudging BP ahead of Shell, to become the No 2 behind Exxon Mobil? Russia.

Groovy wheels, man

The day is known for its ability to evoke power through the thunderous collective rumble of thousands of motorcycles rolling through downtown Washington.
Washington Post
By Chris L. Jenkins.
Record Turnout Marks Rolling Thunder Ride’s 20th Anniversary

More vets better bikes and boots, more from home and Apple Pie and Al Amode sitting solid As Swans are Songs in ponds these Days and Life or Not ran grief or grave knelt deeper than the beaming heart as sky brings blue then brighter than righter and onerous maston to wheel to steel to Next is Never Far Away driven taut coming home calm Parks are children Not Alone teaching awe turning air heaving crisping cracking racing to its cloudy nest when hurried pain cross patient hope until storms stop, war remains.

Alberto Gonzales’ staff of zeal

Since 2001, 150 fundamentalist graduates of Pat Robertson’s Regent University have worked in the Bush Administration.

Moyers points out, unlike almost all other media outlets, that one of Pat Robertson’s graduates has been in the headlines.

One such political aspirant, former Justice Department official, Monica Goodling, has recently helped to thrust her alma mater into the spotlight, due to her alleged involvement in the firings of as many as ten federal prosecutors.

She resigned from her position in the Justice Department in April, and has said she would assert her fifth amendment rights, rather than testify before Congress. “May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America.”

Regent University produces “Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world.” Bill Moyers says, “I am not that sangiune about Pat Robertson’s missionary efforts; Regent’s University hopes to be the Loyola of fundamentalism.”

1 in 3 Believe Bible is Literal
Editor and Publisher, ‘America’s Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry’, reports from Gallup poll figures that about one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word.

Belief in the literal word of the Bible is strongest among those whose schooling stopped with high school and declines steadily with educational level, with only 20% of college graduates holding that view and 11% of those with an advanced degree. [via Thomas Aikenhead Society]

“He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect of Church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

United we are useful

reCAPTCHA exampleA novel and important use for our fingers has appeared at reCAPTCHA.

Shaun Inman posted about how we can help digitize books by solving scanned words that stump computers. It’s easy. By using reCAPTCHA where we use ordinary verification, the word we type is the word we correct in the book scan.

Divided we conspire

Dick Cheney wants a new war.

Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney’s national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush’s tack towards Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an “end run strategy” around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney’s team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran’s nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf — which just became significantly larger — as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war. [The Washington Note]

Computer game ‘airathon’

An airline in England specializing in family holiday deals has installed touch-screen gaming systems on the seat backs of its long-haul flights. Ain’t that a kick in the back?

Digital probing while sitting in line
My ticket is wrong, the wrong airline

Media R Us

Howard Beal of Network“We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true. But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube. You eat like the tube. You even think like the tube. In God’s name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion.” Howard Beale

Spending more but getting less

Twenty percent of children don’t get immunized.


This is a signature to mark our era; a report to the future that we are confused about how to be together.

Our failure to deliver hope and health to children is astounding.

The Chicago Tribune examines the 2008 candidates more thoroughly than other sources, though probably also panders to party machinery. A recent report on Hillary Clinton’s revival of new policies for our nation’s health tells that she has already introduced legislation to expand health care coverage to all children.

Like too many sectors of today’s America, there is a tremendous supply of money that fails to reach the street.

Costs are out of control: premiums have almost doubled since 2000; the nation spends 16 percent of its gross domestic product on health care; 30 percent of the cost increase is related to the doubling of obesity among adults during the last two decades; and the nation’s administrative costs are the highest in the world.

Clinton stumped, “If we spend so much, why does the World Health Organization rank the United States 31st in life expectancy and 40th in child mortality, worse than Cuba and Croatia?”

The insurance industry used major media to mock Hillary Clinton fifteen years ago, making her healthcare efforts seem complex and unworkable, and as the article states, “a laughingstock in some quarters”. Who’s laughing? Mothers and fathers and families at risk for tuberculosis, whooping cough, mumps?

As president, Clinton said, she would focus on prevention, keeping people well rather than treating them later when they are sick and the cost of treatment is more expensive.

“Under my reforms, all Americans will have access to comprehensive preventive care, which will save money in the long run.” She would require all insurers who participate.

“The whole point of insurance, lest we forget, is to spread risk across a group of enrollees,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons that the administrative costs of Medicare are so much lower—because they are actually insuring everyone.”

The Tribune signs off by saying, “Political candidates often cite ‘eliminating waste’ as a way to produce a windfall, but it is unclear how much money could actually be saved.”

I’ll end this post saying it’s not about saving money, it’s about where money goes. It’s time for us to control our cash by demanding service for spending. It’s time for the ship of state to sink a few yachts.