Monday, April 30, 2007

4 Huskers Selected in NFL Draft


The St. Louis Rams looked to former Blackshirt Adam Carriker to solidify their defensive line Saturday, drafting the 6'6 290 lb DE with their first round pick with the thirteenth selection in the NFL draft. The Rams have announced plans on moving Carriker inside to tackle, seeking a run stuffer for their 4-3 defensive unit. It was the highest draft pick from the Huskers since the Rams drafted Grant Wistrom #6 in 1998.

Also on Saturday, in one of the draft's biggest surprises, junior RB Brandon Jackson went with the 63rd selection to Green Bay in the second round. He was the fifth RB selected, and the highest a Husker offensive player was selected since 2002's Tony Funoti, who also went in the second to the Detroit Lions, and the highest a Husker RB had been selected since Lawrence Phillips was selected sixth in 1996. BJax looks good to get playing time in the Pack's version of the West Coast offense with his combination of running and pass catching ability, either as the featured back or a third down specialist.

Saturday also saw walk-on LB Stew Bradley selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round with the 87th pick. Bradley figures to work as an ouside backer or possibly pass rushing defensive end with that club's 3-4 defensive scheme. Early Sunday, DE Jay Moore was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 104th pick in the fourth round. Moore also figures to play either OLB or DE in the Niners 3-4 scheme. Nebraska was one of only seven schools with four picks that early in the draft.

There were also 4 former Huskers signed to free agent deals; Husker signal caller Zac Taylor and TE Matt Herian both landed deals with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, and I'd like to hope both can land roster spots this fall. Husker defensive linemen Barry Cryer signed with San Diego, and Ola Dagunduro signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Good luck to all of them with their NFL career aspirations.

Luskin on Dobbs

The blogfather, Don Luskin, speaks at NRO, and does his usual excellent work at eviscerating the work of bad economists, this time CNN empty talking head Lou Dobbs.

"With his nightly harangues on CNN and through his books, Lou Dobbs has become the public face of today’s dangerous movement toward economic isolationism. That movement has become all the more dangerous since the Democratic party took control of Congress. Beholden to Big Labor, the Democrats have no choice but to cater to that powerful lobby’s fears of a dynamic globalized American economy.Last month, when Dobbs testified before Congress, it was not just a case of preaching to the choir, or even the blind leading the stupid. It was vivid proof of Goethe’s famous dictum, “Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.” "

Dobbs testified that 6 million US jobs had been lost due to outsourcing and free trade, but Don correctly points out that the unemployment rate is at a historically low 4.4%, with only 6.7 million people looking for work; so if we were to listen to Dobbs and enact protectionist trade policies, there would only be 700 k people out of work, and unemployment would be under .5 %, the lowest in recorded history? Don't think so, Lou. Strike one.

Dobbs went on to decry the trade deficit, stating is has doubled during the Bush adminstration, and that the deficit has been "a drag on growth in 18 of 24 quarters", yet he ignores that during the Clinton years, the deficit increased sevenfold, and it was "a drag on growth" in 25 of 32 quarters, if you can call US consumers buying German beer, Danish cheese, and Candian timber "a drag on growth". But if I'm forced to exclude these products from my purchases, would I necessarily buy substitute American products instead, buy something else, or stick it in the bank? Not terribly clear to me, Lou, strike two.

Lou goes on to make the common fallacy comparing salaries & wages from the long ago past with those of today - ignoring the benefit costs to current business like health care. Total compensation is the correct measure today, and is far higher than any year preceding 1967, and right around average for the years after that date. He also claimed corporate profits is a higher share of national income than ever, but Don relates to us it has actually been higher in 17 years since 1950. Dobbs also claims that we have experienced our first investment earnings deficit on record (he never explains why this is a bad thing) - and Don points out the US Commerce Department says not so fast, US firms earned $57 billion more than all foreign firms did in the US.

Strike three and you're out, Lou. How can this guy keep his job peddling such nonsense? Oh, wait, he works at CNN.

Tax Freedom Day

via Doug Bandow @ The American Spectator.

Congratulations, Americans! The average US citizen has now accomplished their most substantive civic function and paid their taxes for 2007. We can now all be good little citizens and go on living the rest of our lives now. Thank you, Uncle Sugar.

"This year the average American will spend 79 days working to pay Uncle Sam. That's longer than for any other purpose -- housing and household operations only take 62 days. Next runs health care at 52 days.State and local levies come next, accounting for 41 days. In contrast, food and transportation each only run 30 days. Recreation hits 22 days, while clothes take just 13 days.At the federal level the various payroll levies are almost as burdensome as the income tax, running 29 and 33 days, respectively. (Many low-income Americans no longer pay any income taxes; most wage earners making less than $100,000 pay more in payroll taxes.) At the state level, sales and property taxes (13 and 12 days) outrange income taxes (10 days). The federal corporate income tax makes Americans work another 12 days; estate, gift, and other levies fall far behind."

Tax Freedom day has appeared later and later in the year over the course of time. In finally hit in the month of February during the height of WWI in 1918. It slipped into March during The Great Depression, first in 1933 and for good in 1937. It went into April during the early in 1943 as America geared up for WWII, recovered in the post war years, then slipped back during the Korean conflict and the Cold War. In took until 1998 to reach May, slipped back into April due to recent tax cuts, but appears poised to go into May and stay for good next year, due those self-same tax cuts being due to expire in 2010, and with the substantial increase in Federal spending, up 45% during the Bush administration, up 27% in real terms. Ouch.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Message from the Military for Sen. Reid


Col. Oliver North has gotten some messages from the troops in the field and back home for chief idiot and Senate majority Leader Harry "the war is lost" Reid.

"One e-mail from Ramadi, Iraq observed: "Good thing this guy Reid wasn't around in 1940 when Winston Churchill promised the people of Great Britain nothing but 'blood, toil, tears and sweat.'" Another, a Guardsman who recently returned from Mesopotamia with a Purple Heart, noted that Reid has become "Al Qaeda's most powerful ally." A Marine corporal I last saw along the banks of the Tigris River -- now a Mississippi State University student -- asked me, "Do those people who think we've lost this war have any idea what things will be like if we really do lose?" It's an important question that none of the potentates on the Potomac who just voted to withdraw U.S. troops appear willing to address."

Ollie also notes he doesn't believe the American people will reward the Democrats for losing the war with enhanced Congressional majorities. I don't either. The consequences of withdrawal now would be diasasterous. If we give the surge enough time to work, the political situation on the ground will begin to come together, and the Iraqi government will be able to start controlling the situation more and more on its own without our help. I have always maintained that this situation is similiar to the one we faced after WW2, when we faced a shattered continent in Europe and our commitment in terms of blood, tears and time will have to be nearly the same.

Pat Toomey on Social Security

via NRO.

Social Security is going broke, and our fine friends in DC aren't doing anything about it. By 2017, the system will start paying out more than it takes in. What about the Trust Fund, you ask? Worth less than the paper it's written on, nothing but an accounting gimmic, stating my right hand owes my left hand several trillion dollars.

We have four options - three of which I don't like, being raise taxes, lower benefits, or increase government borrowing. The other?

"Let’s take a hypothetical 25-year-old male earning $32,000 a year with average wage growth. Under the current system, he will receive $2,780 per month when he retires, or a measly -0.72 percent return on his contributions (according to the handy calculations of the Heritage Foundation). Now imagine that our hypothetical worker invests the retirement portion of his payroll taxes in a bundle of stocks and bonds, earning a modest 4.9 percent return. When he retires at the ripe age of 67, he will have an account with his name on it worth $1.1 million, or $9,546 per month, ready to be spent on that cabin in the mountains he always wanted.So the debate over Social Security comes down to one simple question: Would you rather have $2,780 a month in your retirement or $9,546 a month?"

So instead of the government taking my money and giving me basically nothing in return, I could be investing it myself and getting three times the benefits. I just wish our lords in DC would let me sign up for this new plan. They sure don't participate in the old one like the rest of us all do today, I note.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Husker Round Table from Spring Game

Several Husker bloggers (Big Red Network, Corn Nation, Husker Guy, Double ExtraPoint, HiPlains Drifter, Husker Mike, and perhaps more) have gotten together for Round Table Husker discussions, but unfortunately (perhaps wisely, it may turn out) haven't asked me to participate yet.

Obviously an oversight on their part, because my Husker knowledge runs DEEP, grasshoppers.

No matter, I'll just answer them questions now, since I'm good like that, having my own blog and all. They can apologize (profusely) later for the oversight.

Or I'll host my own damn golf tournament and not invite them. Take that, you rascally Husker bloggers!

Here are the questions they've asked coming out of the spring game.

1. Keller or Ganz. Pick one, then give three reasons.

Love Joey Ganz's work ethic and knowledge of the O, but I'll take the big league arm, big league experience and big league attitude - Sam yells at the wideouts when the drop his passses.

2. The most impressive guy at the Spring Game.

The bartender at Barry's?
Didn't see the "game" (overhyped set piece scrimmages don't thrill me) but understand Nicks and Suh were both pretty much studly looking and terrorizing the Whites at every turn. Which is as it should be.

3. If you were the Athletic Director, what would you do with the proceeds?

Host a charity golf tournament and only invite my real friends - all one of them.

4. Do 54,000 people show up at Nebraska's Spring Game because there is really nothing else to do in Nebraska OR because we're more in love with our Huskers than anyone else is with their team.

Both, unless you really enjoy watching the corn growing or the cows wandering the western prairie. Although I heard Bama drew 90,000 + to see Nick Saban, which is pretty impressive, unless you take into account the cotton crop was destroyed by flooding this year.

5. When you heard or saw Marlon Lucky was injured, your first thought was?

First thought - Crap, there goes our 2007 running game.

Then it was "Why on God's green earth was he in so late in the "game", Coach C?"

Then is was "converted safety leads Big 12 in rushing - film at 11."
Ok, it's a long shot, but possible if the roadgraders do their duty.

6. Were you at all concerned by the fairly modest rushing performance overall by the Red team or is that a sign there's some depth on the defensive front seven?

Given it was against the Yellow shirts in a scrimmage designed to make the new QB's look good, no, not concerned, and it just might be that the depth in the D-line is better than might be discerned at first glance.

7. Callahan called the receiving corps the strength of the team.Would you tend to agree with that or would you choose another aspect(e.g. linebackers)

Depth at wideout is likely better given the injury history of the LB corps, but I think the strength of the team had better become the LBs (if it isn't) as they may have to carry the entire defense, unless my note above becomes reality and the line all turn into the Peter brothers' and Trev Alberts clones. Which given the advancements in medical science, is surely just around the corner, insuring a championship talent Husker defense in perpetuity.

Remember, clones are cool, just ask anyone on Star Trek.

Terrestrial type Planet Found!

via - we live in exciting times folks.

Planet hunters from the European Southern Observatory have discovered a planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, 20 1/2 light years from our system, that is about 1 1/2 times the size of the Earth, and only five times the mass. The biggest news is it is in the star's habitable zone, with an estimated temperature between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius - meaning it could contain liquid water as well. Planet forming theory would indicate the planet would be either a rocky terrestrial type or possibly a watery ocean world. The planet orbits very close to its parent star, a year there would last only 13 days, but the dimmness of the red dwarf sun puts its habitable area much closer than our sun's..

”The goal is to find life on a planet like the Earth around a star like the Sun. This is a step in that direction,” said study leader Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland. “Each time you go one step forward you are very happy...Udry said there was a fair amount of time between the calculation of Gliese 581 C’s size and the realization it was within its star’s habitable zone. “That came at the end,” Udry said."

The star has had two examinations by the SETI institute already, but this new find bumps it up to the top of the list for a closer examination, probably by the new Allen Telescope Array slated to go online this summer. The team also discovered two other planets in the system, one a "hot Jupiter" of about 15 Earth masses orbiting the star every 5 days discovered two years ago, the other an eight Earth mass planet orbiting the star every 84 days but lying outside the star's habitable zone. The implications of the find are that there are indeed many potential planets out there that could harbor alien life forms.

Finding the Klingons and Vulcans is getting much, much closer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shields Up!

via Astrobiology Magazine.

One of the potential problems with human space travel or the human habitation of other bodies like the Moon or Mars is the danger to biological tissues caused by solar radiation. The Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field protect all living creatures on the planet from such radiation, but to date there have been no good solutions. The Apollo missions were simply lucky that there wasn't any major outburst of solar activity during the missions, such exposure could have caused acute radiation illness or even death. The ISS has a special heavily shielded room for such occurances, but the cost of putting such a payload into an interplanetary or lunar expedition would be prohibitive, and you simply couldn't operate a craft from such a room for the extended time frames such a mission would require. Even lower exposure over an extended time period can have serious consequences. A potential answer might be in creating an artificial magnetic field around a spacecraft, ala Star Trek.

"Now scientists at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire plan to mimic nature. They will build a miniature magnetosphere in a laboratory to see if a deflector shield can be used to protect humans living on space craft and in bases on the Moon or Mars.In order to work, an artificial mini-magnetosphere on a space craft will need to utilise many cutting edge technologies, such as superconductors and the magnetic confinement techniques used in nuclear fusion."

The idea is that a superconducting ring would be built in the spacecraft hull and generate a magnetic field that would surround the ship, and hopefully deflect enough radiation to insure the saftey of the human crew.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Warming Facts

via Sally Pipes at NRO.

Unfortunately for the smelly hippy eco-doomster crowd, things appear a bit cheerier than you might believe after seeing Professor Gore's movie, or reading convoluted legal reasoning from the nation's highest court. The rate of growth in carbon emissions is slowing in the US, the rate dropping to less than half what it was in the 1990s. Methane emissions, (23 times the greenhouse effect of carbon) are actually declining. Worldwide, methane emissions have declined almost 13% from 1990, and the 4 million ton reduction is about the same as a 90 million ton carbon reduction.

In addition, as the developing world grows their economies, their rate of deforestation drops and reverses itself. No nation with a per capita income over $4600 has negative rate of forest stock growth. In particular, China has added over 20 million hectares of forest between 2000 and 2005. Of course, trees take in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Worldwide, the net rate of forst loss is declining as well.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bering Straight Tunnel?

The Washington Times is reporting that the Russians are planning a tunnel under the Bering Straight, connecting Alaska and Siberia at a cost of some $10-12 billion. Apparently, this resurrects a plan first proposed by Czar Nicholas II before World War I.

"A planned 3,700-mile transportation corridor from Siberia into the United States will feed into the tunnel, which at 64 miles will be more than twice as long as the underwater section of the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France, according to the plan. The tunnel would run in three sections to link the two islands in the Bering Strait between Russia and the United States."

The tunnel would have a high speed rail link, energy pipelines, power and communications lines, and a highway linking the two continents. Two huge tidal hydroelectric plants are planned as part of the project, both with a capacity of up to 10 gigawatts. The proposed rail network would carry as much as 100 million tons of cargo from the Russian Far East to Canada and the US. The entire TKM- Worldlink project will cost $65 billion and take between 10 to 15 years to complete. The proposal is for private investors to own over half the project, with the other half possibly involving the two governments. Japan, China and South Korea have all expressed some interest in the project as well.

Interesting to see if this can get off the ground, the implications could be enormous, as well as the engineering challenges this area of the world presents. Greater cooperation and trade between the nations involved could be a gigantic boon to the development and the economies of the Far East.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Carbon Dioxide Conversion Idea

via ScienceDaily. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this, but decided to close out the day with something a bit more positive.

Two researchers at the U of Cal-San Diego have developed a solar powered device that splits carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. CO is used in several industrial processes and could be an alternative energy source itself, being capable of being converted into a liquid fuel source. While the device currently needs additional energy inputs to complete the process, the technique show a great deal of promise.

"The device designed by Kubiak and Sathrum to split carbon dioxide utilizes a semiconductor and two thin layers of catalysts. It splits carbon dioxide to generate carbon monoxide and oxygen in a three-step process. The first step is the capture of solar energy photons by the semiconductor. The second step is the conversion of optical energy into electrical energy by the semiconductor. The third step is the deployment of electrical energy to the catalysts. The catalysts convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide on one side of the device and to oxygen on the other side. Because electrons are passed around in these reactions, a special type of catalyst that can convert electrical energy to chemical energy is required Researchers in Kubiak’s laboratory have created a large molecule with three nickel atoms at its heart that has proven to be an effective catalyst for this process. "

The crimp in the current process researched is the use of silicon as the semiconductive material. Silicon, which absorbs infrared light, has been used in the past experiments due to the substance's properties being well understood, but the energy provided by the electrons jumping to higher energy bands in the second step of the process isn't enough right now to complete the molecule splitting process, but only around half that needed. It is thought that the use of another semiconductive material, gallium-phosphide, might turn the trick. It has twice the electron band energy potential of silicon and is able to absorb light from the more energetic visible light spectrum, which the researchers believe could solve the dilemna.

What will they think of next?

Unarmed and Vulnerable

A letter to the Roanoke, VA newspaper from VA Tech grad student Bradford Wiles, in all its elegant simplicity. (HT: Joe's Crabby Shack)

"On Aug. 21 at about 9:20 a.m., my graduate-level class was evacuated from the Squires Student Center. We were interrupted in class and not informed of anything other than the following words: "You need to get out of the building."

Upon exiting the classroom, we were met at the doors leading outside by two armor-clad policemen with fully automatic weapons, plus their side arms. Once outside, there were several more officers with either fully automatic rifles and pump shotguns, and policemen running down the street, pistols drawn.

It was at this time that I realized that I had no viable means of protecting myself.
Please realize that I am licensed to carry a concealed handgun in the commonwealth of Virginia, and do so on a regular basis. However, because I am a Virginia Tech student, I am prohibited from carrying at school because of Virginia Tech's student policy, which makes possession of a handgun an expellable offense, but not a prosecutable crime.

I had entrusted my safety, and the safety of others to the police. In light of this, there are a few things I wish to point out.

First, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police.
Second, I considered bringing my gun with me to campus, but did not due to the obvious risk of losing my graduate career, which is ridiculous because had I been shot and killed, there would have been no graduate career for me anyway.

Third, and most important, I am trained and able to carry a concealed handgun almost anywhere in Virginia and other states that have reciprocity with Virginia, but cannot carry where I spend more time than anywhere else because, somehow, I become a threat to others when I cross from the town of Blacksburg onto Virginia Tech's campus.

Of all of the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head that morning, the most overwhelming one was of helplessness.

That feeling of helplessness has been difficult to reconcile because I knew I would have been safer with a proper means to defend myself.

I would also like to point out that when I mentioned to a professor that I would feel safer with my gun, this is what she said to me, "I would feel safer if you had your gun."

The policy that forbids students who are legally licensed to carry in Virginia needs to be changed.

I am qualified and capable of carrying a concealed handgun and urge you to work with me to allow my most basic right of self-defense, and eliminate my entrusting my safety and the safety of my classmates to the government.

This incident makes it clear that it is time that Virginia Tech and the commonwealth of Virginia let me take responsibility for my safety."

I think I have to go with the young man from the Commonwealth of Virginia on this one.

Washington Nationals Tribute to Virginia Tech

I saw this on Baseball Tonight last night but nearly forgot it until reminded (HT:Outside the Beltway) The Washington Nationals baseball franchise all wore Virginia Tech caps last night to show solidarity and support for the school after the tragic loss of over 30 students to a disturbed student gunman.

"The idea sprang from an e-mail that Nationals fan Dave Lanham sent to team president Stan Kasten. Lanham, a resident of Calvert County, suggested that the team don the hats in tribute. Kasten liked the thought but didn't see the e-mail until after his afternoon meetings.
With about 90 minutes before first pitch, Harolyn Cardozo, executive assistant to General Manager Jim Bowden, was on the phone calling sporting goods stores. She dialed the number to the Sports Authority's store in Alexandria, and when she heard a voice, she had one simple demand: "Give me the smartest guy in the store who can get something done fast."
Paul Schneider, a department manager, soon was scouring the store for Hokies hats. Cardozo asked for 40 of them and they needed to be at the stadium before the Nats took the field. Schneider found about 20 on the rack and discovered a box full in a storeroom. He talked his managers into donating the 38 hats of various styles, then jumped in his car to cross the Wilson Bridge and weave through rush-hour traffic to get to RFK.
Fifteen minutes before the first pitch, Major League Baseball gave the team approval. Schneider arrived at the stadium during the first inning, and the caps made it to the Nationals' dugout in time for the team to take the field with them for the second inning."

Outstanding idea and coordination between the club, the store, its manager and MLB. Several of the player's caps have been donated to the university, and Nats OF Chris Snelling has donated his to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Immigration Issues

Russian born Candian citizen Ilya Shapiro writes at TCS Daily of the trials and tribulations of people wanting H1-B visas to the US. An H1-B visa allows a foreign citizen working in particular high skilled professional occupations to work for a US employer for a period of three years, renewable once.

"The problem is that there aren't enough of these visas: Congress limits the number of H-1Bs that can be granted each year, and that magic number has been set at 65,000 for four years now. Before that, and in response to the technology boom of the late '90s, Congress temporarily raised the H-1B cap to 195,000. But that expansion expired in 2004, and the cap has been reached earlier and earlier each year since.

In 2005, that meant August. Last year, it was May 26. This year, the cap was reached on... April 2 -- the very first day you could file. Yes, by that Monday afternoon, USCIS had received over 150,000 H-1B applications. Officials quickly announced that it would randomly select 65,000 petitions from all those it had received April 2 and April 3."

So, Congress limits the number of high skilled workers with jobs waiting for them, but won't build a fence or crack down on employers who hire unskilled foreigners here illegally. Worse yet, the people that DO get H1-B's have to leave the US after six years no matter what - unless they happen to marry an American citizen. Being Candian, Shapiro does get one break - due to NAFTA, the number of H1-Bs available to Canadians is uncapped, but last only one year. None of the Immigration Reform bills now before Congress touch upon this issue whatsoever.

Brilliant, isn't it? As Shapiro says, it's like some sort of bad April Fool's Day joke - one that we cna't stop repeating.

Shuttle Launch Schedule Revamped for 2007


NASA announces a new shuttle launch schedule given the postponement of the March Atlantis mission to June 8 due to hail damage to the external fuel tank insulation. The STS-117 mission continues the ISS construction work on an 11 day mission to delivery additional new solar arrays for the station. The shuttle Endeavor will then fly STS-118 sometime shortly after August 9, delivering a new starboard station truss.

The next mission, STS-120, will then fly around Oct.20 on Discovery, rather than utilize Atlantis as originally planned. The October mission will bring the Harmony connector node to the ISS, which will allow the planned European and Japanese laboratory modules to be connected to the station. Atlantis will then close out the year's launches with the delivery of the European Columbus lab module in a proposed December 6 launch.

The first two 2008 launches have also been scheduled, the first being a Feb. 14 Endeavor mission, STS-123, to deliver the Candian-built robotic arm addition and the first of the three segments for the Japanese constructed Kibo lab module. The second segment of the module will fly April 24 aboard Discovery on STS-124, along with another robotic arm for the Kibo module.

Exciting times we live in. Hopefully the remainder of the year goes as planned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Natural Gas for Your Car?

via Livescience.

New technological breakthrough allows a smaller tank to be used for methane powered vehicles. Current use is usually confined to large mass transit vehicles that have sufficent space for a large fuel tank. Growing up, a friend of mine's Dad had a large methane powered cargo van. The tank on it took up an area equivalent to a row of seats. Methane molecules don't compress well, so methane storage tanks are usually under pretty high pressure. The new technology utilizes an interesting resource to allow a storage method under lower pressures.

"The goal of Pfeiffer’s research was to develop a way to hold the natural gas at lower pressures, which would shrink tank sizes. To do this, Pfeiffer developed a way to transform corncob waste into carbon briquettes that act like a sponge to suck up and store natural gas at higher densities.
Tiny pores in the corncobs store the natural gas “in a way which makes the methane molecules very happy to be close to each other,” said Pfeifer. To transform the corncobs into briquettes, they are heated in the absence of air, essentially turning them into charcoal. Meanwhile, a chemical process “drills” extremely tiny holes and tunnels in the briquettes that can exert strong forces to hold the methane in place."

Obviously, corncobs are a pretty common resource, particularly in the Midewestern US. Other attempts to create such briquettes have focused on other agricultural products like coconuts and olive pits, but none have created the storage capacity that the corncobs have. The new tank stores methane at one-seventh the pressure and it is far smaller than a conventional natural gas tank, one which could easily fit inside a passenger vehicle. It should be noted that while methane burns more cleanly that gasoline, it has a far larger greenhouse effect when released into the atmosphere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Senator Thune on Potential Tax Increases

McQ over at QandO points out the impact of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, which it appears that the Democrats are proposing. The highlights (or if you're like me, I'd say they are the low lights)

"The marriage penalty returns. Average impact? About $1,360 per married couple.

The standard deduction ($3,300) will be cut to zero for some depending on their income.

If you're a senior living on dividend income, your tax is going to go from 15% to 39.6%.
And if you also are living on some capital gain income, that tax goes from 15% to 20%.

20 million more families will be forced on the Alternative Minimum Tax.

If you use the credit for Child and Dependent Care, that is being slashed by 31%.

The Child Tax Credit is being cut from $1,000 to $500 (these, btw, are credits many of our lower ranking military use).

Then there's the Tax Rate Schedule.The 10% bracket, that used by many low income families, is gone. Now, at a minimum, everyone is in the next tax bracket. And that bracket goes from 25% to 28%. The 28% bracket rises to 31%, the 33% bracket goes to 36% and those in the present 35% bracket see their taxes increased to 39.6%."

Thune and his staff computes that the average SD family will see a tax increase of $2,596. Ouch.
And this is what the majority party wants for you and me and everyone in the country.

New Fred Thompson Interview

via Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard.

Hayes spent four hours talking with Thompson, and comes away impressed with the former Senator's honesty and authenticity.

"On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours. And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn't been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field. "

Hayes gives a pretty thorough biography of Thompson, his background and how he become both political operative and actor. He also relates the way he ran his Tennessee Senate campaign from the back of his red pickup truck after almost quitting the race, uncomfortable with the stilted campaign his handlers were trying to impose on him. Thompson won the race with 61% of the vote, running on the issues of ethics reform and federalism. His belief in federalism is so strong he once was the lone Senate vote against a measure he believed should be left to the states. Hayes also mentions that the interview was unusual in many ways from the normal political interview.

"As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn't seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answers he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously. Many of his answers would drive a poll-watching political consultant nuts. My suspicions were confirmed when Thompson asked at one point if he could have a transcript of our interview. "I found myself talking on some subjects that I haven't really thought that much about," he explained. "Oh, so this is what I think, huh?"

Another item of note is that Thompson would not comment on other potential candidates of either party, except regarding his friend John McCain, and that only to say that he told McCain before going on to Fox News to indicate that he was thinking of running. Thompson supported McCain's 2000 presidential run. The interview closes with a note about the personal issues involved in campaigning and how difficult it can be for a candidate and his family, but Thompsons seems at ease with it.

"It's not pleasant, but it's not that important anymore because you're straight with your family, you have a level of understanding and knowledge about your family, and they with you, and with the man upstairs, and that's that. You know, ain't really much past that. And it kind of frees you up in a way."

Another note is that supporter and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has all but announced that Thompson is running, one of the reasons for last week's revalation about Thompson's medical condition of non-Hodgekin's lymphoma, which is not life threatening and easily treatable, according to the good Dr. Frist.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bill's Back

Internet essayist Bill Whittle is back at his blog, Eject!Eject!Eject. This time around he takes on the convoluted logic (or lack thereof) presented by crazy conspiracy theorists. Read the whole thing (like always, he goes on at some length, but it's definitely worth it) at the link above when you have some time on your hands.

"But if I didn’t have that sense of identity rooted in my own small achievements, I wonder how likely it would have been for me to grab onto that sense of sudden empowerment, of being an initiate in some arcane club of hidden wisdom. I wonder what might have happened to me if being the Holder of Secret Knowledge had been my only source of self-esteem…the one redeeming landmark in a life of isolation and failure. Indeed, I wonder what power such a worldview would have over me if I could believe that behind the scenes lurked vast and unknowable dark forces – forces that could topple a president and perhaps even explain why a person of my deep, vast and bountiful talents was not doing a whole lot better in life?"

Another spectacular takedown, and he notes a worrisome penchant for people to belief this sort of tripe as well, and thanks Hollywood for the popular indoctrination.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Federal Debt Trends

The Skeptical Optimist has a new chart out showing the Federal tax receipt trends versus the Federal spending trends over the last 12 months. The 12 month deficit is $203.7 billion, which sounds like a big number, unless you take into account that it is only 1.4% of GDP.

Over the same period, Federal Tax Receipts are up 10.6%, and federal spending is up 4.4%, so if the trends continue, the Federal budget would move into balance in August of 2008, just in time for the election. Steve thinks it unlikely, however, due to a dampening of corporate tax receipts (around 15% of tax receipts right now) in particular. He thinks it more likely that the budget balance will be achieved in early 2009.

I'll note for the record he thinks deficits are a good thing, if kept within a certain range as a percentage of GDP; I would agree with him if I thought the deficit funds were or would be spent on worthwhile pursuits (particularly security related stuff), which I do not believe happens in most cases. I do agree the deficit spending is not the bogeyman most people make it out to be.

I'm a firm believer that the less money the government takes from me, the better off we all are as a nation and accomplishing excellent things like growing the economy make everyone better off - and on that score (a growing economy is a good thing) Steve and I are in perfect agreement.

Husker Spring Game Televised

NFL Network will carry the Husker Spring game (tape-delayed) at 8 pm central time.

Greg Sharpe, Husker legend Matt Davidson and Coach Callahan will call the game in the booth.
OC Shawn Watson and Receivers Coach Ted Gilmore will call the plays. Both Sam Keller and Joe Ganz will QB for the Red team, with Beau Davis and Patrick Witt leading the White squad.

The projected offensive starter at Left Guard, Andy Christensen, will be held out due to a foot injury. Redshirt Frosh Kevin Williams will get the start for the Red team in his place. Frosh RB Marcus Mendoza may be held out as well due to injury. Word also has it that Tierre Green and juco transfer Larry Asante will get the starts for the Red team at the safety spots over Ricky Thenarse and Ben Eisenhart, who will work with the White secondary. With the injury to CB Zac Bowman, Anthony West has been moved back to CB from safety and will likely play on the White squad. It will also be interesting to see who gets to carry the rock with with all the injuries at running back, I imagine Marlon Lucky goes for the Reds and Major Culbert for the White with Cody Glenn possibly getting totes on both sides if he's available.

Technical Hurdles Overcome for New Space Telescopes

via ScienceDaily. Big day for astronomy posts I guess.

With a relatively simply method, two researchers have overcome the technical hurdles necessary to directly image exoplanets with the soon to launch Terrestrial Planet Finder mission next year.

"two researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have shown that a fairly simple coronagraph - an instrument used to "mask" a star's glare - paired with an adjustable mirror, could enable a space telescope to image a distant planet 10 billion times fainter than its central star."

These two items, with the aid of computer processing, overcome the twin difficulties of light diffraction and scattering that hinders a telescope pointed at a neighboring star from seeing anything in orbit around it. So far, no one has discovered a star whose planetary organization is like that of our own system, but the application of this technique with the new generation of space imaging satellites planned might allow us to look more closely at neighboring stars and perhaps find just such a system.

New Twist In Alien Search


A new twist in where we might go looking for those Vulcans and Klingons. Past searches of other solar systems have focused on Sun like G sequence stars, but scientists now think that M sequence stars might also be good candidates for harboring other life and alien civilizations. Rationale? M class stars can live far longer than G class stars - over ten times longer, in fact, and M class stars are the most common stellar type in the universe.

“M stars are the most accessible, yet challenging, targets for habitable zone terrestrial planet searches,” says journal Editor-in-Chief, Sherry L. Cady, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at Portland State University. “The potential for M Star habitable zone planets to evolve biospheres and retain them are but two of the many reasons to include M stars in the search for evidence of life beyond the confines of Earth.”

Current discoveries of exoplanets around G type stars haven't been terribly promising, many have so called "hot Jupiters" near the star that would either limit or eliminate the formation of terrestrial type planets from forming around the star. With the long life expectancy of M type stars (100 billion years) the possibility of life developing at some point over that period would have to be pretty high for any planet in such a star's habitable zone.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Water Discovered on Extrasolar Planet!


HD209458b, the first planet ever to be directly observed in orbit around another star, and also the first known to have observable quantities of atmospheric oxygen and carbon, has also given up another secret: water also exists in the planet's atmosphere. While the planet is a hot Jupiter orbiting close to its parent star and thus likely without lifeforms, the discovery of water is profound. Lowell Observatory's Travis Barman made the discovery by re-anlayzing Hubble data.

"Using a combination of previously published Hubble Space Telescope measurements and new theoretical models, Barman found strong evidence for water absorption in the atmosphere of the extrasolar planet HD209458b. Barman took advantage of the fact that HD209458b is a so-called “transiting planet,” meaning it passes directly in front of its star as seen from Earth. It transits every three-and-a-half days. When this happens, water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere causes the planet to appear slightly larger in the infrared part of the starlight than in the visible portion."

The implications, of course, are profound. If water is readily available throughout the galaxy, there ought to be any number of habitable planets, perhaps as many as billions, and theoretically, Klingons and Vulcans existing somewhere out there to go visit. Too cool.

Early Corn Found in Mexico

The earliest evidence of domesticated corn has been found in Mexico - from 7300 years ago, 1200 years earlier than thought.

"Professor Mary Pohl conducted an analysis of sediments in the Gulf Coast of Tabasco, Mexico, and concluded that people were planting crops in the "New World" of the Americas around 5,300 B.C....."This research expands our knowledge on the transition to agriculture in Mesoamerica," Pohl said. "These are significant new findings that fill out knowledge of the patterns of early farming. It expands on research that demonstrates that maize spread quickly from its hearth of domestication in southwest Mexico to southeast Mexico and other tropical areas in the New World including Panama and South America."

Naturally the shift from nomadism to agriculture helped to establish the sophisticated Mezoamerican civilizations in the New World, such as the Olmec civilization that predates the better known Mayans and Aztecs conquered by the Spanish. Pohl has found evidence that farmers began to cultivate their crops along coastal areas where they also had access to fish stocks. These early finds in Tabasco challenge the idea that corn was developed in semi-arid areas in the central Mexican highlands.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Baseball AL East Preview

Enough politicians, on to more amusing and entertaining things - like the national pasttime. Anyhow on to the most important division in the Major Leagues, starting again in the south, with..

The team named after the animal that killed Steve Irwin has once again gathered a bunch of kids to play a men's game - however, unlike past years, these kids have some talent. Led by LF Carl Crawford, RF Delmon Young, CF Elijah Dukes, DH Rocco Baldelli, and 2B BJ Upton and Japnese import 3B Akinori Iwamura, these guys can do some damage. Former Metropolitan Scott Kazmir leads the staff, along with Edwin Jackson and Casey Fossum. Jae Seo and James Shields round out the rotation, with Al Reyes closing. While they're still a ways away, I think they are likely to be a little better this year, but still around 90 losses.

Moving north to the Birds, this team has begun, finally, to learn its lesson and stop paying small fortunes to washup veterans and develop some internal talent. The pitching in particular is starting to round into form. The staff is led by promising Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrerra, who both could be aces soon. Adam Loewen and veterans Jared Wright (reunited with former Brave pitching coach Leo Mazzone) and Steve Trachsel round out the rotation. Chris Ray continues to quietly yet brilliantly close. The Birds carry some heavy duty sticks as well, with SS Miguel Tejada, LF Jay Gibbons, 1B Aubrey Huff, and RF Nick Markakis all capable of putting up some good power numbers, and CF Corey Patterson and 2B Brian Roberts capable of running and hitting. These guys could make some noise this year, I juust wish they would get a better class of owner.

On to the most famous and successful team in the history of the game, the Bronx Bombers of New York City. The team is loaded with talent once again, aiming for another Eastern division title. RF is manned by former Phil All-Star and Home Run Derby winner Bobby Abreu, one of my favorite players, alongside former evil one Johnny Damon (glad he's come over to the side of light and goodness) and LF is ably handled by Japanese superstar Hideki (Godzilla) Matsui. Around the horn we have the game's highest paid player at 3B and 2005 AL MVP, Alex Rodriguez, along side team captain, All-Star SS Derek Jeter (should have been 2006 AL MVP). On the other half of the infield is another batting title contender, young 2B Robinson Cano, and at 1B we have slick fielding Doug Mientkiewicz with former AL MVP Jason Giambi at DH. All-Star Jorge Posada handles the catching. The team's staff is led by veteran All-Stars Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, along with former Fish Carl Pavano, Japanese newcomer Kei Igawa. Darrell Rasner fills in temporarily until 19 game winner Chien-Ming Wang returns from a hammy pull. Future ace Phillip Hughes waits in the wings at AAA Columbus, and Mr. Dependable, Mariano Rivera continues to close with the nastiest cutter in the game after setup work from strong-armed Kyle Farnsworth and sidewinding southpaw Mike Myers. The crazy thing about this year is the payroll went down, at least to start the season. There is speculation that a certain Rocket from Texas may return to the Bronx sometime next month as well.

Moving up the coast to the Evil Ones, the Beantowners should be almost, but not quite, good enough. They also deal in rather weighty lumber as well, with DH David Ortiz and LF Manny Ramirez leading the charge, along with C and team captian Jason Varitek, newcomer JD Drew (if he can stay healthy), and 3B Mike Lowell. What I see as the tema strength this year is the starting pitching, which starts off with one of my favorite guys, outspoken Curt Schilling. Japanese ace Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka also has filthy stuff, along with former Fish Josh Beckett. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield provides a nasty change of pace, and Julian Tavarez rounds out the rotation for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was tough as nails in his first year in the role last year. These guys are good, maybe better than any team not in NY. It'll be another challenging year for the good guys.

Moving on, the lone Candian team remaining in the game would have a decent shot in any other division, but probably not in this one. They have former AL Cy winner Roy Halladay at the top of the staff, another former Fish and potential ace in AJ Burnett, along with Gustavo Chavin, Josh Towers and import Tomo Ohka in the rotation setting the stage for power-armed southpaw BJ Ryan. These guys can also rake it as well, with LF Vernon Wells, RF Alex Rios, DH Frank Thomas, and 3b Troy Glaus all capable of going yard often. LF Reed Johson and 1B Lyle Overbay supply more of a contact gap style hitting. I don't see a lot of base path burners on this team, so it'll be more of a Moneyball get on base and knock'em in approach, but they have a nice mix of talent, thye could be trouble.

Well, it's hard not to go with tradition and assume the Yanks take it all this year, but they've been disturbingly absent from Series victory for quite a while now. If Rocket returns, they definitely have enough of the other pieces, although without him it'll be damn tough. The Evil Ones and the rest of the division are pretty good and seem to be getting better, and the Central is loaded for bear and storied franchises as well. Anything can (and far too often does) happen in a short series. Fearless forcast is A's, Twinkies, Tiggers and Yanks in the playoffs, and the Yanks taking the Series, but it's likely wishful thinking. Hopefully I look like a genius in October.

Fred's Take on Iran

Having given some time to Duncan, now it's Fred's turn.

Fred Thompson, fresh off some guest columns over at NRO, now has started posting over at Redstate.

Interesting stuff. I think he understands the stakes better than most.

"There is hope, though. The Iranian people are not an anti-Western horde. They're an educated and freedom-loving people for the most part, and reformers there have been begging us for support and sanctions that would weaken the ruling theocracy. Instead, they've just seen the Iranian dictatorship successfully bully the West into impotent submission. This is not a good thing.

We need to understand this and use every means at our disposal, starting with serious and painful international sanctions, to prevent Iran's rulers from becoming the nuclear-armed blackmailers they want to be. Unfortunately, we are hearing demands that we abandon the people of the Middle East who have stood up to Islamo-fascism because they believed us when we said we would support them.

If we retreat precipitously, the price for that betrayal will be paid first in blood and freedom by the Iranian people, the Kurds, the Afghanis, the secular Lebanese, the moderates in Pakistan and the Iraqis themselves. And America's word may never be trusted again."

I'll also note on the heels of Pelosi's trip to Syria, comes news that Bill Richardson, the one Democrat I can stand, is visiting North Korea. UGHH.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Duncan Hunter in his own words. (HT: IMAO)

I like the idea (shamelessly stolen from the above) of a Thompson-Hunter ticket. It would piss off both the terrorists and the liberals no end. The gnashing of the teeth. The hair pulling. people projectile vomiting in the streets. It would be awsome.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Baseball Preview - AL Central

On to the boys in the AL Central starting down south in KC -

The boys in the blue unis (and their fans) have suffered a long time - and it's not going to get much better this year, but the club may finally be moving in the right direction with the continued development of their farm system. Minor Leaguer of the Year (and fellow Husker alum) Alex Gordon takes over at 3B, moving another talented young bat, Mark Tehan, over to RF, along side CF David DeJesus and LF Emil Brown. Another young bat lies with 1B Ryan Shealy, and Mike Sweeney is again the DH. The only regular position player you have probably even heard of is 2B Mark Grudzielanek, and that's just because of his unusual name and the fact he used to play for the Dodgers, although the club has Reggie Sanders on the bench as probable trade bait. The team spent $55 million bringing former Team Starbucks SP Gil Meche in to lead the staff. The rest of the rotation is NL cast-offs Odalis Perez and Brandon Duckworth, homegrown (and hopefully future ace) Zach Greinke, and no-name Jorge De La Rosa. Octavio Dotel was signed to close but has already hit the DL, leaving former Injun David Riske finishing games. I see 90-100 losses, but they might be a little better than that shortly with the talent in the farm system.

The White Stockings, 2005 WS champs, are looking for the magic of that year to return. Power sticks reside in 1B Paul Konerko, DH Jim Thome, LF Jermaine Dye, and 3B Joe Crede. Speed is provided with LF Scott Podsednik, 2B Tadihito Iguchi, and SS Juan Uribe. The club also boasts a deep bench with 1B/OF Darin Erstad and IF Alex Cintron, both former starters for their old clubs, letting manager Ozzie Guillen get to play matchups. The staff has some great arms, notably Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, John Garland and Javier Vazquez, with newcomer southpaw John Danks rounding out the starters. Bobby Jenks shuts things down in the ninth while former KC closer Mike McDougal set up. This team looks pretty good, but the division is pretty formidable.

Moving east along Lake Erie, the Injuns have a bunch of young talents in the batter's box as well. C Victor Martininez, 1B Casey Blake, and CF Grady Sizemore, along with DH Travis (Pronk) Hafner and newcomer Trot Nixon, allow the club to mash, while 2B Josh Barfield provides some wheels at the top of the lineup. The rotation is fairly solid, with ace CC Sabathia, Jake Westerbrook, crafty vet Paul Byrd, and newcomer Jeremy Sowers, but prize lefty Cliff Lee starts the season on the DL, so it's likely that bullpen sinkerballer Jason Davis will fill in. Former Little Bear Joe Borowski closes things out for the team. The team can hit, the pitching is pretty good, but they may not have enough, particularly given its poor defensive play and weak bullpen. Still, there is enough talent here to be pretty competitive, but it's a damn tough division.

Moving on to out nation's northern border, the defending AL champ Tiggers plan to repeat the feat in '07, when manager Jimmy Leyland's outfit snuck up on a lot of people. No way this year, and while the club has mostly stayed pat, they did add a huge bat: Gary Sheffield. A number of other fellas on the club can swing the wood as well - vets like C Ivan Rodriguez, RF Mags Ordonez and 1B Sean Casey, along with younger guys like SS Carlos Guillen, and LF Craig Monroe. However, the strength of this club is in the rotation, with young starters Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Mike Moroth and Nate Robertson. The outfit will use Chad Durbin to fill in while the Gambler, Kenny Rogers, recovers from injury. Todd Jones closes for now, keeping the seat warm for fireballer Joel Zumaya.

Traveling further north to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, the Twinkies also believe that they have the stuff to take the division as well. This club also has some talented young batters, including AL MVP Justin Morneau and C Joe Mauer, along with veterans Rondell White and long time Twink and multi-Gold Glover Torii Hunter. Former CY winner Johan Santana leads a revamped staff, with Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva and recent acquisitions Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson rounding out the rotation. Uber closer Joe Nathan shuts things down in the ninth.

Another tough call to make in this division, with probably four teams in contention. While I really like the way Jimmy Leyland runs his clubs, it's hard to root against the boys in Lakeland, who have some of the most talented guys in the league on their roster . The Stockings could also certainly take the pennant as well. Injuns might be on the outside looking in, but if the pitching, particularly in the pen, ever develops they'll also be dangerous. KC is at least a year or two away, and that's if everything goes perfect for them like it did for the Tiggers last year.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Baseball AL West Preview

Moving on to more pleasant topics, such as the boys of summer in the AL West. We'll cross up and start in the North this time.

In Seattle, team Starbucks has a very nice park with all the amenities. They have some hitters, too, starting with CF Ichiro Suzuki, fellow Japanese import C Kenji Johjima, 1B Richie Sexton, 3B Adrian Beltre, LF Raul Ibanez, and new DH Jose Vidro. The staff look servicable, with Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez making up the rotation. These guys can get the job done but nothing to get too excited about except perhaps Felix, who had 12 k's in the opener. JJ Putz continues to close for the club.

Moving down the coast to the Moneyballers (appropriately enough, attired in green unis), they just hope letting go the Big Three (Zito, Hudson, & Mulder) doesn't come back to haunt them someday, but it seems to be working out for now. The also hope SP Rich Harden stays healthy. He should lead a solid rotation with Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Joe Kennedy, and the injured (but returning soon) Estoban Loiza (Chad Gaudin fill in). Former UT star Huston Street is solid at the end of games. The offense needs big stick Eric Chavez to return to form, along with good seasons from 1B Nick Swisher, new DH/C Mike Piazza, LF Shannon Stewart and CF Milton Bradley. Whether or not they get all that is anyone's guess, but they seem to perform second half miracles every year, so keep a keen eye on this team.

Further south is the Team with a Really Long Name and it has been force to go with a lot of youth to complement uber RF Vlad Guerrero and longtime vet LF Garret Anderson - namely 1B Casey Kotchman, 2B Howie Kendrick, and 3B Maicer Izturis, and how the kids go might be how the team goes. Closer Fransisco Rodriguez is lights out, and Scott Shields is also solid in the eighth. John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santanna eagerly await the return of ace Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver from the DL, and the club would love to see CF Chone Figgins, 3B Dallas McPherson, and LF Juan Rivera back from injury as well. This team looks like a MASH unit today, but the pitchers appear almost back and Figgins is likely back before Memorial Day. Whether or not they are still in the hunt by then is hard to say.

Far from the coast, the Lone Star Republic's best team boasts a lot of sticks, most notably in the IF with 1B Mark Teixera, SS Michale Young, 3B Hank Blalock and young 2B Ian Kinsler. The team signed Sammy Sosa as DH this winter, which could look like a great move if he can stay both healthy and effective. Kevin Millwood and Vincent Padilla provide at least a serviceable fron end to the rotation, although it drops off after that considerably. Akinori Otsuka gets the saves unless injury plagued Eric Gagne returns to greatness.

This is a strange division to forecast due to alot of impact injuries. On paper, Team Starbucks looks the best mostly due to their current health status, and unless either of the teams from Cali gets healthy, they could wind up running away with it. But if either Cali team get to full strength, it could make it an entertaining summer out West. The team in green seems to close the season with a bang most years, so if they are hanging around at the break, it should be real interesting. The men with badges should be at least competitive as long as the staff holds together, and if their longshot pickups work out, they could make it fun as well. So the whole enchilda may wind up being decided late in the fall - the way it should be.

Dems ban war terms through wishful legislation

Apparently our fine majority in Congress don't like the term "War on Terrorism" so much that they've just decided they won't use it in legislation any longer - without consulting the other side of thre aisle, it might be added. And the Washington Times raps their knuckles on it in no uncertain terms - HARD (via RCP).

"This is yet another sign that the Democrats are going hard-left on national-security issues generally and not just on Iraq -- in this instance, trying to airbrush away the very war on terrorism from our most basic defense legislation. This is also hypocrisy, simple and rank -- the sort that causes us to question motives."

The Times notes that the Dem. Armed Service Committee Chair, Ike Skelton of Missouri, uses the term when it suits his purposes - such as a 9/11 commemoration speech, or when criticizing the administration about Iraq. But now, however...I guess we'll just have to see. The Times also asks us to consider, for a moment, what it means to have not only the issues of terrorism, but the very term, and its global implications, "swept under the rug" in Orewellian rightthink.

"Consider the implications for a moment, though. If there is no real war against terrorism pitting civilized peoples against Islamist militants, then even Sen. John Kerry's vision of a war on terror which is "not primarily a military operation" can be viewed as unduly hawkish. It would mean that the attacks of the last decade, from Bali to Beslan to Madrid to Manhattan, can be regarded as disparate, unrelated events. Because al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups no longer have a hierarchical structure, any al Qaeda-inspired violence by the many hundreds of thousands of Islamist militants worldwide can also be regarded as disparate and unrelated. This is the intellectual path to subordination to Islamist terrorism, the problem defined away in semantics and doublespeak. It must be resisted."

We'll have to see if anyone is paying attention. Along with this, and the "defense" bill sure to be vetoed, I have almost no faith in the Congress.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Baseball Preview - NL

Completing my take on the National League, with the East. Starting down south in FL and working my way up the coast.

The Fish went through another of the periodic firesales a couple years back, but have been surprisingly competitive nonetheless. Lots of talent here, led by big bat 3B Miguel Cabrera, 2B Dan Uggla, and speedy SS Hanley Ramirez. They have some arms as well, with engaging lefty Dontrelle Willis, Scott Olsen, and Ricky Nolasco leading the rotation and recently acquired Jorge Julio now closing. If some additional young talents develop, like 1b Mike Jacobs and LF Josh Willingham, they could surprise. Now if they could only get a new owner...

The Tomahawk people suffered their first non division title last year in fifteen years, and made some winter moves that should allow them to challenge their rival teams in the East. The Jones boys, Andrew and Larry, continue to carry the team offensively, although young C Brian McCann could wind up being the next Javy Lopez. A number of youthful bats complement, among them 1B Scott Thorman (supposed to be so good they let go Adam LaRouche to the Bucs for lefty RP Mike Gonzalez) as well as OF Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Langerhans. John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Mark Redman lead the rotation with Mike Hampton trying to recover from a rib muscle injury. The big moves have been in the bullpen, with Bob Wickman closing, and Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano setting up.

On to the nations capital, where the Nats surprised everyone last year by actually being competitive. Probably won't happen this year, however. The youth movement is spearheaded by 3B Ryan Zimmerman, who has quickly become the franchise's poster boy. The biggest sticks on the club power wise is likely former Cincy OF Austin Kearns, along with 1B Dmitri Young, who steps in for former Yank Nick Johnson, recovering form a broken leg. John Patterson is the staff "ace" and you've never heard of anyone else on the staff (OK, maybe former Cubbie Jerome Williams -if you watch WGN) with the exception of closer Chad Cordero, who is likely to be trade bait at the deadline this summer. On the plus side, the team is getting a new stadium and the uniforms look pretty cool. On the minus side, they will almost certainly lose more than 100 games, if not 110 or more.

Moving on to the City of Brotherly Love, the Phils feel pretty good with returning NL MVP Ryan Howard at 1B. SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Chase Utley, and LF Pat Burrell are proven impact players, and the club thinks CF Aaron Rowand and RF Shane Victorino might become so as well. Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton and crafty old lefty Jamie Moyer are on staff, along with injured Freddy Garcia and also injured John Lieber, so one if likely to be traded for anything the club needs at the break if they can get healthy. Tom Gordon continues close, probably keeping the seat warm for closer in waiting Ryan Madsen.

In the Big Apple, the second best team in the city enjoyed a long overdue takedown of the fellas in Georgia last year, but think they should have made the series last year and will go for it again. These guys have a ton of sticks, with 3B Dave Wright, SS Jose Reyes, 1B Carlos Delgado, and CF Carlos Beltran being among the best at their respective positions in the game. Other notables include OFs Shawn Green and Felipe Alou's little boy Moises (now 40 years young), C Paul LoDuca, and 2B Jose Valentin can also go deep. Tom Glavine leads the staff, with El Duke and Oliver Perez in the rotation as well, awaiting the return of Pedro. Closer Billy Wagner is lights out, with Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis setting up.

Stupid as they are, the Metropolitans should take the division - meaning they probably won't. I see the Phils doing the deed this year (finally) with their superior (and deep) staff making the difference, with the Braves and the Fish being somewhat competitive as well.

Fearless predictions: East - Phils, Central - Cubbies, West - Dbacks, WC - Cards. Mets go home early, and the best team in NY laughs thorugh October and the off-season. (OK, might be some wishful thinking here, but hey, it's a fearless prediction).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Baseball Preview - NL

As promised, another look at baseball's National League, this time the Central, starting down south.

The Stros are also one of "my" teams, one I've always liked since the JR Richard/Nolan Ryan/Jose Cruz days. The team lacked offense last year, despite playing in a great hitter's park, so they went out and signed thunderous bat Carlos Lee to go along with homegrown Lance Berkman. The team also hopes and prays for a more substantial season from 3B Morgan Ensberg, and continued production from graying Craig Biggio. Young OFs Luke Scott and Jason Lane also need to develop. Unfortunately, that may not be enough, for they also lost Andy Pettite and his good buddy the Rocket from their staff, replaced by Woody Williams and Jason Jennnings, who aren't terrible, but nowhere near the caliber of the former (and current) Pinstripers. Trauma head case Brad Lidge returns to close (possibly) unless he can't handle the pressure, then setup man Dan Wheeler inherits.

Up in St. Looey, my granddad's favorite team, the Redbirds, celebrate their first World Series victory since the days of Whitey Herzog and the Oz. The Cards have some serious sticks in the lineup, led by Mr. Universe, Albert Pujols, as well as 3B Scott Rolen and CF Jim Edmonds, and young LF Chris Duncan. Preston Wilson also joins the OF cast while Juan Encarnacion recovers from wrist surgery. Former twenty game winner Chris Carpenter leads the retooled staff, with with Kip Wells, Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper filling out the rotation awaiting the return of Mark Mulder. Jason Isringhausen still closes out games.

Moving up river to Cincy, the sudden emergance of Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo finally give the staff some solidity, although Eric Milton is on the DL to start the season, along with closer Eddie Guardado. Mike Stanton apparently picks up the finishing duty. Adam Dunn carries a healthy stick (2 HRs on Opening Day vs Cubbies) along with oft-injured Junior Griffey and 3B Edwin Encarnacion. Fleet Ryan Freel finally gets a permanent position in CF.

Moving further up the Ohio, the Bucs are in another pickle - the season has started. With one of the best parks in the majors, you'd think the once proud franchise could eventually right the ship, but no evidence for such yet exists, althought the offense should be better with LF Jason Bay, RF Xavier Nady, 1B Adam LaRoche, and SS Jack Wilson carrying decent sticks. The issue again is the staff, with enigmatic Zach Day the ace and the only other name you've ever heard of (maybe) Tony Armas. Solomon Torres get the chance to close for a full season, with the departure of Mike Gonzalez to Atlanta.

Onward to the Windy City, where the Tribune company spent a ton of cash over the winter in preparation to selling the team to billionaire Sam Zell, hiring Lou Pinella as manager and bringing in the top free agent on the market, 40-40 man fonzi Soriano. The team will certainly bomb away, with Soriano, 1B Derick Lee, 3B Aramis Ramirez, RF Jacque Jones and LF platoon men Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton all very capable of breaking glass outside Wrigley. A retooled staff is led by Carlos Zambrano, with Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill and Wade Miller rounding out the starters, at least until Mark Prior get straight down in Iowa City. Kerry Wood starts the season on the DL, but could return to challenge for closer Ryan Dempster's spot. Cubbie fans think this could be the year the curse dies, and on paper, it appears it could happen.

Up north, the Brew Crew looks like it could challenge as well, with a heavy dose of lumber and the return of their ace from injury. CF Bill Hall, 1B Prince Fielder, C Johnny Estrada and the LF Geoff Jenkins/Kevin Mench platoon will definitely hit. The staff is led by Big Ben Sheets, who appears healthy this spring and threw a nifty two hit gem yesterday against the evil Dodgers. Chris Capuano, Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas and former Card Jeff Suppan will deal the rawhide, with former Ranger Fransisco Cordero finishing.

The Cubs look like the team to beat in the Central, although St. Louis is still very dangerous and some diasaster always seems to occur to break the Cub fans' hearts. Milwaukee should stick around as well, they have their most talented team in years. Houston has some problems, and so does Cincy, but no one stinks like Pitsburgh in the NL except perhaps DC.

Legislative Fiat and Gas Mileage

Great article over at the American Spectator by Eric Peters on a new legislative attempt to increase fuel standards. The shameful part is that this time it is two Republicans. The targets this time are trucks and SUVs - and they want these vehicles to raise the average mileage from around 22 mpg to 35. In addition to being technically challenging (if not impossible) Peters points out that many vehicles already exist that achieve that goal - and that some people prefer
something else.

"The thing is, not everyone values fuel economy uber alles. Many buyers need (or want) a larger, more powerful vehicle, and are willing to pay a little (or even a lot) more at the pump for the privilege. Why should Washington meddle? And how does it benefit anyone for legislators to dictate to automakers that they shall design their cars in accordance with what bureaucrats and politicians think is right and proper -- vs. what the buyers are willing to exchange their hard-earned dollars for?"

Some people, of course, just don't like pickups and SUVs - hate them, in fact, to the point of trying to prevent anyone from owning and driving such a vehicle. You simply can't get around the laws of physics, however; if you want to own a vehicle that can tow a ton of cargo, it's got to use more energy, and you already pay more to purchase such vehicles and to operate them. So why make them even more expensive by setting arbitrary mileage targets and crippling the American auto industry as well? As Peters also notes, the "conservation" argument doesn't wash due to the fact that people drive more as the milage increases - it makes no difference in the greater scheme of things if 2 hours of driving an SUV burns X gallons of fuel or 5 hours of driving a smaller passenger vehicle burns X gallons. The other argument against setting such targets is safety drops; a lighter vehicle is inherently more dangerous for people when said vehicle is involved in a collision.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Baseball Preview - NL

With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of pitchers and catchers, which is one of the great joys of my life. The season started Sunday night when the World Champion Cardinals met the stupid Metropolitans. Why MLB & ESPN would both schedule and televise a great and entertaining team like the Cards with a bunch of ugly no talent buffoons like the Mets makes me question both organizations sanity, but at least the rest of the teams start the today. Unfortunately the buffoons won.

Since we're talking about the inferior circuit anyway, I'll do a quick rundown of the NL, starting out on the Left Coast.

San Fran signed one of my favorite pitchers, Baron von Zito, after losing former stud ace, Jason Schmidt to the evil Dodgers. The big issue with the Giants is that they continue to remain in the geriatric ward, with all their everyday players in the 30s, if not older. They do have some live young arms in the staff, however, like Mike Cain and Noah Lowry. I've been a fan of the franchise, but this team isn't terribly good, however, they live the the NL West, which is always competitive - in the sense that all the teams aren't real good.

Moving south to the ugly Dodgers, they have a lot of nice pieces, particularly in the staff, led by the Schmidtinator (if he can stay healthy), Derick Lowe, Brad Penny, and the Randy (the Wolfman) Wolf. They are kinda long in the tooth as well, with Nomah, Jeff Kent, and Looey Gonzalez being the most recognizable names, along with speed merchants Juan Pierre and Raffy Furcal. The guy I like the most on this team is C Russ Martin, a total throwback kid who wants to play everyday.

Moving on toward the border, the SD Priests also emphasize pitching, with 40 plusses Greg Maddux and David Wells, along with young talents Jake Peavy and Chris Young and Clay Hensley. 1B Adrain Gonzalex and SS Khalil Greene appear to be the real deal, and the team is looking for bounce back season from the Giles brothers, Brian and Marcus, to provide runs, which might be a problem. I like another young C here, Josh Bard, as well. Trev Hoffman still closes games here, which helps the team a lot.

The young AZ Diamondbacks look to the past while integrating the future as well, with the return of the Big Unit to town. Unfortunately, he starts the season on the DL. The staff also boasts NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez. Jose Valverde has been given the closer job again, the team hopes he can finally stay healthy. What I like most about this team is the young position players, such SS Steve Drew, 1B Connor Jackson, and slick fielding Gold Glover Orlando Hudson. If the kids start to develop some sticks and Unit returns, I like this team, assuming Jose can close games out for the club.

Going north across the mountains, the Rocks are starting to look like a real team, but probably are going into the season, as always, sorely lacking in quality arms. A number of fellas can rake, notalby 3B Garret Adkins, OF Matt Holliday, and OF Brian Hawpe, along with franchise player Todd Helton, who can still wield the stick a fair piece. Closer Brian Fuentes is pretty solid, and Aaron Cook anchors the no-name staff.

Everyone is talking up the Dodgers and Padres in this division, but I think the D-backs could surprise a lot of people. I don't expect the Giants could unless they stay perfectly healthy, but stranger things have happened.

Unfunded Liabilities

Over TCS, John Tamny exmaines the US government's scary "unfunded liabilites" - that is Social Security, Medicare, etc. entitlement spending -the number is pretty scary, $53 trillion. However, he sounds a lot like Steve over at the Skeptical Optimist. they both think as long as the economy continues to grow substantially, we'll probably be OK.

"If markets felt the U.S. were truly "bankrupt," and incapable of meeting its debt requirements, yields, particularly on the long end of the Treasury curve, would be very high as a reflection of uncertainty over our future ability to pay back what we owe. And 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds are a particularly good market measure of our debt-paying capacity considering how many Americans are expected to retire within that timeframe. Presently, the yield on 30-year Treasuries is 4.75 percent, a number lower than the short-term rate set by the Fed, along with U.S. Treasury yields on the shorter end of the yield curve. That the yield is so low suggests great confidence on the part of markets that debt fears are overdone."

He also points out that the US Treasury rate was 15.2% in 1982, which IS truly a frightening number, but one we managed to live through thanks to Reagan and his Fed chief Paul Volcker wringing inflation out of the US economy and growing the economy through tax cuts. In effect, tha market indicators today are telling us that the US economy's ability to create and generate wealth and economic growth are likely to do so to the extent that these government budget issues are quite probably going to be dealt with with some degree of success in the future. So we've got that going for us, at least.

Fighters and Bombers

Interesting article from Slate's Gregg Easterbrook, via RCP. He argues that the US Airforce's fighter development plans are coming at the possible expense of much more effective, and low risk, bombers forces.

"unexpected technical breakthroughs resulted in extremely accurate munitions that can be dropped from high altitude by bombers, at less cost and risk than using low-flying fighters."

He may have a point. We're spending billions of dollars ($320 to be precise) to develop new fighter aircraft when our existing fighters rule the sky. Much of the tasking for these fighters is to deliver precision munitions - which can now be delivered easier by high altitude bombers at little risk to pilots and crew due to satellite and GPS technology. 80% of the bomb tonnage dropped of Afghanistan came from high level bombers. Why would we want to deliver bombs using expensive, high risk fighter planes? Politics.

"The fix is in with key congressional committees, and the pork has been elaborately scheduled for division among constituents and congressional districts. The aerospace contracting lobby does not want any change in the copious money flow now authorized for new fighters."

Of course, the USAF is full of old fighter jocks, who like the idea of spending their budget on fancy high tech fighters as well. Easterbrook does ignore one salient fact: that while our bomber fleet is old, and the numbers are declining, they can still do the job, and have been, so spending money on new planes may not really be necessary right away, and we do have a couple of relatively recent models (late 70s, early 80s) in service, the B-1 and B-2, along with the gracefully ancient B-52. A lot of our fighter models date from that era as well, and all of these planes have been constantly refreshed wiht new avionics technology as it comes available. But a new bomber capability might be more cost effective way of achieving the USAF's ground support and interdiction missions than the pricey new fighters. Interesting point, to say the least.