All posts by ben

WTF are these people thinking!

Living and working in one of the reddest of the red states, I’m used to having to listen to people who have what I consider narrow world views, and odd voting habits (i.e. voting against their clear economic and personal best interests to save babies or marriage from sure destruction).  This insanity has reached proportions that I could only dream of with the nomination of Barak Obama.  I work in a major medical facility and spend a significant portion of my week killing time between cases in the surgeon’s lounge.  I usually try to ignore the TV as the only news network the hospital has on its a la carte cable package is FOX (a story for another time).  Since the Democratic and Republican conventions the conversations have been leaning political in the lounge.  I’m widely known around the hospital as one of the two or three docs who are left leaning, and I’ve already hit my head against the right wing wall until it is sore, so I don’t jump into political discussions anymore.  Being a fly on the wall is actually more interesting.  You hear the oddest things when you just sit and listen, especially if you are on the computer and act like you aren’t paying attention.  I therefore would like to present the top 5 statements I have heard that make me think “WTF are the people thinking!”

  1. Barak Obama is a Muslim.
  2. Barak Obama plan for expanding government sponsored community service actually is a disguised plan to put together a Muslim army and take over the country.
  3. Barak Obama is the Anti-Christ.
  4. Barak Obama plans to eliminate all private insurance carriers and completely socialize medicine.
  5. Any woman who criticizes Palin is a hypocrite.

Kristol is on Crack

William Kristol has as usual missed the mark again with his recent op-ed in the Times (Both Sides Now – Op-Ed –  He starts off well with

I’m now a disestablishmentarian. I’ve come to believe that, to (loosely) paraphrase Jefferson, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the wreckage of torpedoed establishments and the shards of overturned conventional wisdom. The good news is that 2008 has been a thoroughly refreshing year.

He then wanders aimlessly into the Republican talking points including

Meanwhile, the Republican Party … chose as its nominee a troublemaker who was George W. Bush’s main challenger in 2000 and his sharp critic for much of his administration. John McCain wasn’t on particularly good terms with either the G.O.P. establishment or the leaders of the conservative movement — yet he won.

and on the selection of Palin

The media establishment was horrified. Its members expressed their disapproval. Palin became more popular. They got even more frustrated.

This is the line of reasoning that the Republicans are using to push the McCain/Palin ticket.  McCain has had to turn in his “maverick” credentials when  he has done a 180 on all major policy issues on which he disagreed with Bush and the neoconservatives (tax policy, immigration, torture).

And what to say about Sarah Palin.  The more we learn about her the more she looks like W with lipstick!  Her ability to cover for her complete lack of independent knowledge about the complexity of the modern international world with cute one liners (“I won’t blink”) is eerily reminiscent of Bush.  Why do you need to understand the underlying geopolitical strata, when you can intuit what is “right” (or be told by God) and threaten anyone who disagrees with the label of “un-patriotic” for domestic foes, and unilateral military action for international ones.

I agree with Mr. Kristol that we are potentially seeing “one of America’s periodic political and cultural awakenings.”  But trying to cast McCain/Palin in that role is like, how can I say it …. , putting lipstick on a pig.

Houston decides to stare down Ike instead of leave

An AP article points out that Houston has made the decision to NOT evacuate in the face of hurricane Ike.  The spector the the botched Rita evacuaton in 2005, where 100 people lost their lives:

But three days before landfall, Rita bloomed into a Category 5 and tracked toward the city. City and Harris County officials told Houstonians to hit the road, even while the population of Galveston Island was still clogging the freeways. It was a decision that proved tragic: 110 people died during the effort, making the evacuation more deadly than the eventual Category 4 storm, which killed nine.

I hope that this decision won’t come back to haunt Houston officials.  They are really in a no win situation, as any deaths in an evacuation, or any deaths now, among people who were told not to evacuate will be blamed on them.

To compound matters, Ike will likely have a storm surge to rival or even surpass Katrina.  Top wind speed is not the best predictor of total storm damage.  Most hurrican damage is tidal surge damage not direct wind damage.  Storm surge is not product of max wind speeds, but of wind speed integrated over the total area of the storm.  Ike has tropical storm force winds, and hurricane force winds that extend out further from the storm center than Katrina did.  See this blog entry by Jeff Masters at for an excellent discussion.

The amount of water Ike has put in motion is about 50% greater than what Katrina did, and thus we can expect Ike’s storm surge damage will be similar to or greater than Katrina’s. The way we can estimate this damage potential is to compute the total energy of Ike’s surface winds (kinetic energy). To do this, we must look at how strong the winds are, and factor in the areal coverage of these winds.

Sarah Palin, oh what to think

I have been at a bit of a loss about what to think or say about the choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican’s VP nominee.  The tsunami of press coverage has covered the internet neck deep in stories, rumors, and flat craziness!  She has not been made available for media interviews as of yet, and our impressions of her were distilled from news reports and the McCain and Obama spin machines burning their midnight oil.  Her speech last night was clearly a success.  It was a very controlled introduction of her to America.  She was articulate, attractive, and delivered the attacks on Obama that the VP candidate is supposed to do fairly convincingly.  I thought Hilliary Rosen put it well on (Commentary: Sarah Palin, right and wrong –

In her acceptance speech, we saw a woman who was compelling, charming and aggressively partisan. She succeeded in demonstrating that she is a regular mom who came to government to make a difference.

She is the rock star for the far right that the Republicans needed.  But I am convinced that she is not the VP the country needs.  in the same piece Rosen succinctly puts it:

So why then do I think that Sarah Palin would be a terrible vice president? Because I also think that John McCain would be a terrible president.

We don’t need more partisan politcs, and Sarah Palin is more like Bush than McCain in this regard.  By choosing Palin, McCain has clearly stated that he has abandoned the stands that made him one of the only republicans I would consider voting for, and has lined up like a good little soldier in the partisan culture wars that enable the neo-conservative movment to establish and retain power.  The irony is that despite the calls of “protecting the unborn” and “preserving marriage,” the true agenda is one of wealth concentration and endless conflicts to protect economic interests that benefit the very most fortunate.

When will middle class American’s begin to see through this nonsense.

Storm Clouds over Wheeler

I took this image in 2003 with a 6×7 medium format camera and a 90mm lens on B&W film (can’t remeber brand off the top of my head).  This was taken from the deck of the Moutain House, a ski chalet in Taos Ski Valley.  I think it was in July, and the afternoon monsoon rains were forming over the ridge leading to Wheeler Peak.  The late afternoon sun lit up the clouds; the scene changed minute to minute.  This is the best of the 2 rolls of film I took that afternoon.

Psycopath Rainstorm

The kids and I went on a warm up hike today, riding the chair lift up from the base of the Taos Ski Valley and planned to hike down.  We were in for more than we expected.  The monsoon rains have been regular every day we have been here, but had been starting later.  No sooner than we reach the top of the lift, the clouds began building!  We quickened our pace, and even took a shortcut down Psycopath (which was difficult to ski, probably shouldn’t have tried to hike).  The sky opened up on us, and out came the rain gear!  We were going to wait it out, but the lift operators drove past and gave us a welcome, if bumpy ride home!