Dumbass Testifies Before Congress

Embarrasses Physicists Everywhere

Thanks to EarthFirst.com for pointing out this testimony before Congress. This guy is Princeton physicist William Happer (physicists know sooo much about the climate, right?), the same spud that chairs the Board of Directors of the George C. Marshall Institute. The Marshall Institute is funded ‘partially’ by Exxon and American Standard…

All I can say is that this asshole must have no soul. He certainly doesn’t appear to worry about whether he does or not. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

From Treehugger.com:

Are we not yet past the point where the “A List” of climate change experts parading before Congress includes people with such fantastic ideas and foolish outlooks? Apparently not. And that’s a good thing.

Get that fellow up on the Hill a bunch more times. Play him on prime time news, over and over. Get him on the David Letterman Show talking about how lovely things were back in the Pleistocene. (I’m pretty sure he said “Pleistocene;” even thought that does not match up at all with the 80 million years ago answer he provided to Senator Boxer regarding the time to which he referred. Is that what you heard?)

I am Jon, and yes, I have been called a dinosaur.

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Wake Up, Freak Out – Then Get A Grip

Tipping Points

Watch this really well-made and insightful video for a great explanation of what we’re really up against when it comes to Climate Change. Click the arrows to go full screen.

Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

What Is The Sound Of No Hands Clapping?

This isn’t just about the polar bears any more… as a matter of fact, it never really was.

It’s about our survival.

The earth will be here, regardless of what we do.

The question is this: If the earth is still here, does it really matter to any of us if we aren’t here to enjoy it?

I am Jon. Get a grip.

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Thanks to Worldchanging… see for yourself. Click the link and go there.


A simulated event in the CMS detector, featuri...Image via WikipediaStrong Interaction

What is an atom? Electrons orbiting a nucleus. The nucleus is made of protons and neutrons. The protons and neutrons are a made from a class of particles called quarks. There are 6 different types of quarks, and they are always found in groups of 3 in normal matter. With very few exceptions, normal matter in the universe is made up of 2 of these types(the up and the down) and electrons.

The other 4 types of quarks are special cases. They can generally only exist in very controlled(such as the LHC) or very extreme(such as the big bang) conditions. Colliding the nuclei of relatively heavy lead protons at nearly the speed of light, scientists hope to release some of these quarks from the bonds imposed by the Strong Force of physics. If successful, some of the other quarks may be revealed to the ALICE detectors.

The video below, from the ALICE site, does a great job of explaining the ideas behind the experiment:



ALICE Postponed

The ALICE experiments were originally scheduled to start in October 2008, but a coolant malfunction in one section of the 27-mile ring caused the tests to be postponed until the spring of 2009.

I am Jon. I’ll write more about this over the next few months, addressing other experiments and the fears that
the ALICE experiment may create dangerous black holes and other exotic physical aberrations, which some fear could destroy the earth.

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10 Quick Facts about the LHC

GENEVA - JUNE 16:  A model of the Large Hadron...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Due to a coolant malfunction, the first collisions in the LHC have been postponed until the spring of 2009.

Spock’s Eyebrow

The human race seems rather fascinated by the LHC today. This morning, the 1st beams focused around the 27km facility were called an unqualified success. Over the next several weeks preparations will be made to produce the 1st collisions, scheduled for October.

Researching for future pieces about the individual experiments planned for the LHC, I’ve come across some interesting, even fascinating details about the whole LHC program. Much of this stuff won’t fit easily into those future articles, so I’m just posting a huge blockquote here as background info. You can read more interesting stuff over at the CERN website. As you’re reading through these, don’t be surprised if you raise your eyebrow and mutter to yourself, “Fascinating…”

“10 Fascinating Facts About The LHC

Fact 1: When the 27-km long circular tunnel was excavated, between Lake
Geneva and the Jura mountain range, the two ends met up to within 1 cm.

Fact 2: Each of the 6400 superconducting filaments of niobium–titanium
in the cable produced for the LHC is about 0.007 mm thick, about 10 times
thinner than a normal human hair. If you added all the filaments together
they would stretch to the Sun and back five times with enough left over for
a few trips to the Moon.

Fact 3: All protons accelerated at CERN are obtained from standard hydro-
gen. Although proton beams at the LHC are very intense, only 2 nanograms
of hydrogen(*) are accelerated each day. Therefore, it would take the LHC
about 1 million years to accelerate 1 gram of hydrogen.

Fact 4: The central part of the LHC will be the world’s largest fridge. At a
temperature colder than deep outer space, it will contain iron, steel and the
all important superconducting coils.

Fact 5: The pressure in the beam pipes of the LHC will be about ten times
lower than on the Moon. This is an ultrahigh vacuum.

Fact 6: Protons at full energy in the LHC will be traveling at 0.999999991
times the speed of light. Each proton will go round the 27 km ring more than
11 000 times a second.

Fact 7: At full energy, each of the two proton beams in the LHC will have a
total energy equivalent to a 400 t train (like the French TGV) traveling at
150 km/h. This is enough energy to melt 500 kg of copper.

Fact 8: The Sun never sets on the ATLAS collaboration. Scientists working on
the experiment come from every continent in the world, except Antarctica.

Fact 9: The CMS magnet system contains about 10 000 t of iron, which is
more iron than in the Eiffel Tower.

Fact 10:The data recorded by each of the big experiments at the LHC will
be enough to ill around 100 000 DVDs every year.

(*)the total mass of protons is calculated at rest”

There’s lots more fascinating stuff to be found over at the CERN website. Some of it I’ll be writing about here @ Wordout over the next month or so, but like it says at the top of this page, it’s best when viewed with your own two eyes.

So use that link up there and head on over to CERN. Their site is great for everyone, regardless of your education, age or location. I’ve been bounding around in there for days now, and I am still finding great little jewels of knowledge and fun.

I am, and ever will be, just Jon.

Want more about the LHC? Check out LHC Live – 1st Beam A Success or CERN LHC Goes Live

LHC Live – 1st Beam A Success

GENEVA - JUNE 16:  A photon source is seen in ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Beam On

The first beam has successfully been focused around the LHC. The test occured this morning at around 3:30 am Eastern(US) time. Following is the press release from the CERN site:

First beam in the LHC – accelerating science

Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN1 was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning. This historic event marks a key moment in the transition from over two decades of preparation to a new era of scientific discovery.

“It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans, “we can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.”

Starting up a major new particle accelerator takes much more than flipping a switch. Thousands of individual elements have to work in harmony, timings have to be synchronized to under a billionth of a second, and beams finer than a human hair have to be brought into head-on collision. Today’s success puts a tick next to the first of those steps, and over the next few weeks, as the LHC’s operators gain experience and confidence with the new machine, the machine’s acceleration systems will be brought into play, and the beams will be brought into collision to allow the research programme to begin.

Once colliding beams have been established, there will be a period of measurement and calibration for the LHC’s four major experiments, and new results could start to appear in around a year. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton’s description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain the mechanism that generates mass. Experiments at the LHC will provide the answer. LHC experiments will also try to probe the mysterious dark matter of the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 5% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. They will investigate the reason for nature’s preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time.

“The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “its research programme has the potential to change our view of the Universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that’s as old as mankind itself.”

Tributes have been coming in from laboratories around the world that have contributed to today’s success.

“The completion of the LHC marks the start of a revolution in particle physics,” said Pier Oddone, Director of the US Fermilab. “We commend CERN and its member countries for creating the foundation for many nations to come together in this magnificent enterprise. We appreciate the support that DOE and NSF have provided throughout the LHC’s construction. We in the US are proud to have contributed to the accelerator and detectors at the LHC, together with thousands of colleagues around the world with whom we share this quest.”

“I congratulate you on the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider,” said Atsuto Suzuki, Director of Japan’s KEK laboratory, “This is a historical moment.”

“It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience for us,” said Vinod C. Sahni, Director of India’s Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, “I extend our best wishes to CERN for a productive run with the LHC machine in the years to come.”

“As some might say: ‘One short trip for a proton, but one giant leap for mankind!’ TRIUMF, and indeed all of Canada, is delighted to bear witness to this amazing feat,” said Nigel S. Lockyer, Director of Canada’s TRIUMF laboratory. “Everyone has been involved but CERN is to be especially congratulated for bringing the world together to embark on such an incredible adventure.”

In a visit to CERN shortly before the LHC’s start-up United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said: “I am very honored to visit CERN, an invaluable scientific institution and a shining example what international community can achieve through joint efforts and contribution. I convey my deepest admiration to all the scientists and wish them all the success for their research for peaceful development of scientific progress.”

1 CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

The earlier piece, published yesterday, about the LHC going live is already proving to be the most popular page ever @ Wordout, exceeding all but one previous post in the 1st 4 hours of the day. Evidently there are many folks out there who, like me, are curious about particle physics…

I am Jon, thinking about riding a wave that never collapses.

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CERN LHC Goes Live

A simulated event in the CMS detector of the L...Image via Wikipedia
The Standard Model

On Wednesday, the European Organization for Nuclear Research will inject high energy beams of particles into the Large Hadron Collider(LHC). Located underground on the French-Swiss border, the CERN facility is the most advanced particle research laboratory on the planet.

Physicists hope their experiments using the LHC will help them fill in missing pieces of the Standard Model, which currently requires the assumption of certain as-yet unobserved particles and processes. In particular, the long sought-after Higgs Bosun should become apparent (artist’s conception pictured at right). Finding proof for its existence is crucial to the current understanding of our universe. The Standard Model just doesn’t work without it.

Simply put, the Higgs Bosun is required if anything in the universe is to have mass. Without it, nothing would have mass. Without mass, no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no us. It’s easy to see why it’s been called the ‘God Particle’. Without it, or something that takes its place, nothing that does exist could exist. At least, according to our current understanding of the universe.

Should You Worry?

If you google LHC or CERN right now you should have no problem finding numerous blogs and articles predicting end-of-the-world scenarios as the result of the planned experiments. It seems everybody who took a physics class in high school has an opinion on the matter. Many of their fears revolve around the idea that a black hole will be created, which will swallow the earth. Looking around the CERN website, I came across these two quotes. You can click them to read them in their original context:

Whatever the LHC will do, Nature has already done many times over during the lifetime of the Earth and other astronomical bodies. The LSAG report has been reviewed and endorsed by CERN’s Scientific Policy Committee, a group of external scientists that advises CERN’s governing body, its Council.

The LHC safety review has shown that the LHC is perfectly safe,” said Jos Engelen, CERN’s Chief Scientific Officer, “it points out that Nature has already conducted the equivalent of about a hundred thousand LHC experimental programmes on Earth – and the planet still exists.

Though black holes seem to capture most folks’ attention, there are some other side-effects that have been addressed. For instance, the creation of things like cosmic rays, magnetic monopoles, strangelets and vacuum bubbles could prove to be interesting, if they occur. They sure make for some interesting reading, in any case. But the likelihood that any of these things could be a danger to the earth or any regular guy or girl on the street is practically zero.

Watch It Live Online

As can be expected of the most advanced physics lab on the planet, they’re making much use of the internet. Part of that includes the CERN Webcast Service, with 4 channels of video. Check it out for the schedule of live events. I watched a bit of it – it reminded me of NASA TV, which is pretty cool, when you think about it.

NASA deals with the infinite universe around us, and CERN deals with the infinitely small universe that makes us. NASA has opened us up to wonders we never expected but secretly dreamed of. Like the ice on Mars, the volcanos on Io, the galaxies of the earliest universe. CERN’s LHC project may introduce us to fantastic breakthroughs of the same magnitude.

Imagine finding extra dimensions of space, particles of dark matter, or just watching a recreation of the conditions in the universe, less than a second after it was created. These are some of the things more than 1000 scientists are hoping for.

But it most likely won’t happen Wednesday. All these things, the hopeful and the fearful, depend on collisions of the particles. The first collisions are scheduled to occur in October. Wednesday claims its fame by being the first day they will direct a beam around the circumference of the collider. (So even if the world is going to end because of this thing, it won’t happen Wednesday.)

The Experiments

There are six main experiments the LHC is designed to perform. Each of them are international collaborations, bringing together scientists from institutes all over the world. Each experiment focuses on answers to questions about the Higgs bosun, looking for extra dimensions, or why only about 4% of the universe is made of matter, to name a few. (which makes the rest… what?)

Over the next several weeks I’ll publish some pieces getting into more detail with each of these experiments. We’ll see why the collider had to be built mostly underground, why it had to be so large, and why what these guys are doing is so important. So, until then…

I am Jon, and I’m just a little bit hyped.

UPDATE 10 SEP 2008: The LHC Goes Live – 1st Beam A Success. Click the link to read the press release.

The Perseids or Whatever Happened to Swift-Tuttle?

This picture is of the Alpha-Monocerotid meteo...Image via WikipediaGood Reason To Wake Early

The Perseid meteor shower has been going on for nearly a month. As Earth passes through the remnants of the comet Swift-Tuttle’s tail the number of visible meteors increases until tomorrow morning, when the number should peak at around 60 per hour early Tuesday morning. For the northern hemisphere, this is about the best natural light show of the year.

The full moon should set around 1:30 am in most parts of the US, so the best viewing should be between then and the ‘official’ peak, expected around 7am on the east coast. Binoculars are optional, but unnecessary. Warm clothing might be appreciated, as we’re going through this unnatural cold-spell this week.

You should be able to see the streaking bits of comet-tail from just about anywhere in the US, but the darker the surrounding area, the better the viewing will be. If you can’t leave the city, just try to make it up to a rooftop somewhere. Many of the ‘shooting stars’ are so bright you can see them through the ambient city light.

I always look forward to the Perseids showers. The streaks from the meteors can be almost any color you can imagine, from yellows to greens to blues and reds. Of course, most are the usual bright white, but that just makes the unusual colors of the others that much more impressive.

I am Jon, with my eyes to the sky.


Exxon Gets A Nod From The High Court

Nod Nod, Wink Wink

Justice David SouterAssociate Justice David Souter of the US Supreme CourtWhat An Ass-in-nine decision.Image via Wikipedia

The US Supreme Court gave Exxon another 2 billion dollars today. By a 5-3 vote, they decided to overturn the overturned ruling which itself was an overturned ruling of the original amount awarded by a federal jury in Alaska. I know that’s hard to read, and harder to understand. Let me clarify.

In 1989 the supertanker Valdez ran aground in the Prince William Sound, Alaska. The captain was admittedly drunk when the catastrophe occurred. Roughly 11 million gallons of oil was spilled, spreading to cover about 1200 miles of coastline. To give you a rough idea, thats about how far it is to drive from Miami to New York. That’s alot of coastline.

In 1994, a federal jury awarded $5 billion in punitive damages. After that, a federal judge reduced the amount to $4.5 billion, and after that an appeals court reduced the amount to $2.5 billion, just half the original amount. Since then, Exxon appealed to the Supreme Court, which today reduced the punitive damages to $507.5 million, the amount they said equaled ‘compensatory’ damages. This amount will now be shared between the roughly 33,000 people and organizations affected by the disaster.

From the article at Reuters:

In the majority opinion, Justice David Souter concluded the $2.5 billion in punitive damages was excessive under federal maritime law, and should be cut to the amount of actual harm.

Hundreds of thousands of birds and thousands of marine animals were killed due to the oil spill. Fisheries were closed, some never to re-open. In the words of Tim Joyce, mayor of Cordova (where much of the fishing fleet is located): ‘Instead of taking a large corporation to the woodshed, they just gave them a slap on the wrist… A lot of people had their whole lives ruined because of this.’

Supreme Court Farts In Our General Direction

Exxon Mobil, arguably the largest company in the US, had argued that punitive damages were not only excessive, but unwarranted due to the federal clean water laws. Even though the high court verbally disagreed with that argument, they ruled that the punitive damages were too large, and based the award on compensation rather than punishment. Having read the decision, I can only say that once again our government speaks from every orifice it possesses, including the one that is usually reserved for excreting waste material from our bodies.

Assuming that each of the roughly 33,000 recipients gets an equal amount, the award amounts to about $15,000 each. Though it was not explicitly stated in the decision, the compensatory damages to the wildlife which used to abound in the Sound was determined to be zero. The compensatory damages to the coastline was determined to be zero. Only humans and human organizations had any value at all in the high court’s ruling. And as you can see from the amount, humans didn’t count for much.

Exxon profits are up 17% in the 1st quarter of 2008.
So it will take just under 10 hours to pay it off.

Exxon already has a well-deserved bad reputation. Their profits last year soared to an astounding record of over $40 billion. (When the talking heads on TV try to tell you that ‘speculation’ or ‘OPEC’ is the reason for high gas prices, remember to follow the money. Follow it all the way to Exxon.)

And Now, For Something Completely Sane

The 3 justices who seemed to actually bend in favor of Justice would have upheld the $2.5 billion award. Justices Ginsburg and Stevens believe that the US Congress should set the limits by law and the courts should simply interpret those laws. Justice Breyer, however, pulled no punches. Quoting Breyer, from the dissenting view(warning – big PDF file):

“The jury could reasonably have believed that Exxon knowingly allowed a relapsed alcoholic repeatedly to pilot a vessel filled with millions of gallons of oil through waters that provided the livelihood for the many plaintiffs in this case. Given that conduct, it was only a matter of time before a crash and spill like this occurred. And as JUSTICE GINSBURG points out, the damage easily could have been much worse.

The jury thought that the facts here justified punitive damages of $5 billion. … The District Court agreed. It “engaged in an exacting review” of that award “not once or twice, but three times, with a more penetrating inquiry each time,” the case having twice been remanded for reconsideration in light of Supreme Court due process cases that the District Court had not previously had a chance to consider…

… And each time it concluded “that a $5 billion award was justified by the facts of this case,” based in large part on the fact that “Exxon’s conduct was highly reprehensible,” and it reduced the award (slightly) only when the Court of Appeals specifically demanded that it do so. … When the Court of Appeals finally took matters into its own hands, it concluded that the facts justified an award of $2.5 billion. ….

It specifically noted the “egregious” nature of Exxon’s conduct…. And, apparently for that reason, it believed that the facts of the case “justifie[d] a considerably higher ratio” than the 1:1 ratio we had applied in our most recent due process case and that the Court adopts here… I can find no reasoned basis to disagree with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that this is a special case, justifying an exception from strict application of the majority’s numerical rule.”

And that is exactly why the original award was so high. The original federal court found it reasonable to believe that Exxon was aware of the captain’s alcoholism and did nothing to prevent this highly likely accident. The Valdez accident is the largest single oil spill ever in the USA. It could have been prevented. The original federal court found that Exxon was culpable due to ‘reprehensible’ negligence, both before and after the accident. The punitive damages were awarded based on that finding, as a punishment as well as a deterrant against any future corporate irresponsibility.

Now the stoned high court has playfully patted Exxon on its big fat bottom and sent it home to its usual games. Corporate responsibility is just a thing you might read about in textbooks, but it surely isn’t required, expected or rewarded in this country. And governmental integrity?

Forget about it.



I am Jon. Welcome to the New World Order.


Want to know more about it? Wordout highly recommends Scholars and Rogues

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Obama’s HR6304 Statement – A Dozen Red Flags

I am Jon, and I will vote for the best candidate on November 4th. If it seems I disagree with Senator Obama here, if it seems that I am ‘against’ him, let me make it clear that of the two major candidates, I don’t consider McCain to be a viable choice. I may be against some of Obama’s policy, but I am not against the man.

Obama has shown an incredible ability to learn his way into better choices, better decisions, throughout this whole campaign. In energy, finance and security, his statements have become more comprehensive as the race has continued.

He seems not to be afraid of learning.

I will be voting for the best man November 4th: Barack Obama.

Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), rebounds the ball during a basketball game with U.S. military service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa during his visit at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, on Aug. 31, 2006. Sen. Obama is touring Kenya, Djibouti and flood-damaged areas of Ethiopia. The CJTF-HOA works to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect Coalition interests in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritea, Djibouti and Yemen through humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and civic action programs. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric A. Clement) (Released) (Released to Public)Obama: Just The Same Old Games?
Image via Wikipedia

Obama Releases “Statement” on HR6304

If I were Barack, I’d be worried. If I were a Barack supporter, I’d be embarrassed. I am an American, and I am disgusted. This bill, HR6304, which was passed Friday in the House, is a big thing. Naturally, mainstream media is giving it lip service. Not surprisingly, the political blog-world is going nuts over it, mostly focusing now on Barack Obama’s plans to endorse the bill bull. I’ve been searching online to find an official statement from Obama, but I can’t find it.

What I did find I traced back to Glenn Greenwald. From what I can gather, it’s believed around the web to be the authentic words of Barack Obama, sent to Glenn as a response to a post he published last week with the title “A Letter to the Next President of the United States“. Well, at least I found something. Regular readers know I am stickler for going to the source. It bothers me that I can’t point directly at Obama and say to you: “Go here to read what he says.”

I have to wonder why Obama doesn’t have an ‘official’ statement at his website. I am simply amazed that instead, he chose to reply via email to a blog post. I don’t mean to imply that Glenn doesn’t deserve an answer to his open letter. I do mean to state that the rest of us deserve just as official an answer. We deserve to be able to go to Obama’s website and find out where he stands on important issues. I spent nearly 4 hours researching online, looking for an ‘official’ Obama statement. Obama, you have already started wasting my time.

Here is the response in its entirety (I’ve BOLDED some parts which I will address individually below):

Statement of Senator Barack Obama on FISA Compromise

“Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

“That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

“After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act.

“Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

“It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.”

1. compromise legislation

This is not a compromise. It is a total caving in to what the administration asked for, and even more. All the administration wanted was immunity for the telecoms and themselves, and the ability to keep using the so-called FISA court setup under the 1978 bill. HR6304 abolishes that and says that the district court will now review the process, under the direction of the Executive Branch(The President).

By compromise, you are referring to the additional Domestic Spending which the Democrats attached to the bill FUNDING THE WAR IN IRAQ, wherein the Democrats also gave the Bushies the billions they asked for in exchange for some paltry millions of dollars, to be used as proof in the current election that the Democrats care about us. Bullshit compromise, if you ask me. If you care about us, protect us; protect the Constitution.

2. illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over

The illegality of it will be over. According to the provisions in this bill, the program of warrantless surveillance will be expanded greatly. But you’re right, the lack of a warrant will not be a legal issue any longer.

3. restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes

This is a misdirection of facts. In fact, FISA was alive and well, as were the “existing’ statutes. To imply that they are being restored, when in fact, they are not, is at best a misdirection of facts. At worst, it’s a barefaced lie. Under the existing law, all the President has to do is get a warrant. All a warrant requires is probable cause. HR6304 does away with that. There’s no requirement for anything more than a statement saying they want to do whatever it is they want to do, simply because they want to do it. No reason why required. In that manner, this bill completely destroys the existing statutes.

4. re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future

This is pure dishonesty on the senator’s part. In fact, the revisions contained in HR6304 completely abolish any judicial oversight. The provisions of the bill say that if the President says that he(she) thinks an action is needed, then the court must agree and not investigate further. The court is not even allowed to ask for an explanation of why. The court simply has to do whatever it is told.

5. grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses

Okay, Barack, here’s your chance to show America what you really are. Remember back in October of last year? You’re not elected yet, so I’m sure you haven’t developed the memory loss that comes with being in the Executive Branch. Let me quote your campaign:

“To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.”

If you do this on Monday, on the floor of the Senate, you will prove to all of US that you can be trusted to follow through on what you say. You will convince us that you are not another Bush. Do otherwise, and you will prove that you are not to be trusted. Fail here and you prove that you are a liar who will say anything to us to be elected. Anything to gain power.

6. thorough review by the Inspectors General

The Inspectors General are a part of the Executive Branch, reporting directly to the President. Giving the President the authority to review the President’s actions is not a real review by anyone’s standards.

7. accountability going forward

Once again, real accountability would disclose details, at least to the judges reviewing the actions. Oh, that’s right, they aren’t allowed to review anything at all unless the President says so. So I guess the President is accountable to …. the President!

8. grassroots movement of Americans

This is just bullshit. Barack, show me a grassroots movement to grant immunity to the telecoms. Barack, show me a grassroots movement to allow warrantless searches and seizures. Barack, show me a grassroots movement to allow the President to be the Supreme Authority on what is legal in this country. You, sir, are a liar.

9. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay

This sounds alarmingly similar to what GW Bush has said for the past 7 years. We have ALWAYS faced legitimate threats, the greatest of which caused our founding fathers to set up this crazy system of government… one which pits 3 different branches against each other so as to prevent one branch, one man, from attaining too much power. The most legitimate threat we face today, Mr. Obama, is from within our own government. The Executive Branch is trying to usurp all the power. As a member of the Legislative Branch, this should make you wary. Unless you really think you can win.

10. firm pledge that as President

Dude, you’ve already made a firm pledge as a Senator! Uphold the Constitution of The United States Of America! If you fail on that pledge, why should we expect you to do any better as President? Especially since you, alone, are in a position to turn this around. You don’t think so? You think you can’t fight the good fight on our behalf? You think you need to be a part of that machine to win?

You underestimate us, Mr. Obama. We are the American Republic. We are The People. If we choose you, no amount of money or might will stand in our way. All you have to do is: Be One Of Us.

11. any additional steps I deem necessary

This is not all that comforting to read. GW Bush did whatever he deemed necessary as well. Hey, doesn’t this bill give the President the power to do whatever he deems necessary anyway? Yeah, it does… whatever he wants with no fear of any real judicial review. The ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card which is called HR6304 says that all you would have to do is say you ‘deemed it necessary’ and that would be that. It’s not comforting to know that you already have decided that you WILL use this bill to do exactly what it gives the President the power to do. Anything you want.



Are you supporting Obama’s bid to become President? Why? Most likely, it’s because you’re really fed up with the way the Bushies have been running things. Maybe, like me, you think the Bushies are all criminals. Be certain of this: HR6304 will make everything they have done Perfectly Legal. And not only that, but it gives the Executive Branch, the President, the power to literally DO ANYTHING THEY WANT. This bill, once it becomes law, will completely abolish the protections from our own government that we have enjoyed for more than 2 centuries. No judge will be able to protect you. No law will supersede this one.

Don’t think that such a high-level thing will not affect you. The Executive branch includes a bunch of politicians and civil servants in Washington. It also includes all of our military. It also includes your local police force and sheriff’s department. The executive branch is that branch which ENFORCES the laws. This law gives them the power, at the top, to decide what is law. Don’t misunderstand me, I respect my local police force. I have friends in blue and friends in brown, and I respect them and am glad that they are out there trying to protect me. But they are not judges. Their bosses are not judges, and neither are their bosses all the way up to the President himself. None of them are qualified to judge, and the ones I know will tell you so themselves.

Probably the only thing that can stop this bill now is a filibuster on the floor of the Senate. Obama promised us all last year that he would do this for us, if it ever came to that. Well, it has come to that. It’s time to see what kind of people come from Illinois. He wants to lead this country. Let’s see him lead his party first. The Democrats control the Senate. Surely their selected leader, the man they want us to vote into office in November, can organize a filibuster against a bill which does so much to destroy the very foundation of our nation.

A long time ago, a man from Illinois changed the course of our future. He stood up for the values laid out plainly in our Constitution. He went against the prevailing sentiment in Washington – and our country, each individual one of us, is greater because of that. If Obama has the integrity that he’s spent millions selling to us, he will do what he said he would do and filibuster this bill. It won’t be the popular thing to do on the hill on Monday, but it will be the right thing.



I am Jon, waiting for Monday’s filibuster.


Average Stay

Chances are you’ll be here at Wordout between 2 and 4 minutes. That’s the range of average stays for about 90% of readers here. The average stay here on earth is between 30,000 and 40,000 days for most of us. That’s up from just 7,000 days (2,000 years ago). So far, it’s taken about 8 seconds to read this paragraph.

Zero Day

Armageddon loomingImage by nimboo via FlickrThat’s what we call a web exploit that we don’t have any defenses against. Zero Day means we have to act fast, take chances, patch things up as best we can as fast as we can so we don’t lose it all. Zero Day means we’re out of time. We don’t even have that 8 seconds you spent on the 1st paragraph, or the 10 you spent on this one.

We Are They

Like it says at the top of this page, 350 is the limit. We’re already over the limit. It’s a Zero Day scenario, folks. We don’t have time to come up with an elegant solution to this problem. We can’t afford to sit here thinking, they will fix it. We are that They. We have to act now.

There Is A Way

Give me just another 97 seconds. Power begins with knowledge. Watch the video.




I am Jon. 350 is the limit. Tell people.


Zemanta Pixie

Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope

This is gonna be so cool on a 52inch widescreen monitor.

Available Spring 2008 as a free download is the greatest thing Microsoft has done since the 80s. Below you’ll see the video showing Roy Gould, from the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, introducing Microsoft’s WorldWideTelescope in front of a live audience. The whole thing lasts about 7 minutes. If you don’t have that long, check out just the 1st couple of minutes. That’s all I was going to devote to it to begin with, but I couldn’t help watching all of it (Except the BMW thing at the end… out of my range).

Roy Gould Introduces WorldWideTelescope

From the FAQ at WorldWideTelescope.org

WorldWide Telescope is an observatory on your desktop, allowing you to see the sky in a way you have never seen before; individual exploration, multi-wavelength views, stars and planets within context to each other, zoom in/out, and a capability for anyone to create and share a tour of the universe.

The Visual Experience Engine delivers seamless panning zooming around the night sky.

WWT delivers seamless integration of science:-relevant information including multi-wavelength, multiple telescope distributed image and data sets, and one-click contextual access to distributed Web information and data sources.

Imagine that. I’ve always wanted to be able to tie in hundreds of telescopes, capable of capturing multiple wavelengths and enhanced with the ability to find cross-referenced information on nearly anything I could find in the sky…

I am Jon, and I am just going to love this.

Thanks to GeeksAreSexy, Ted.com and Microsoft.


Dude, Where’s Your Fridge?


Isn’t life grand, here in 21st century America? For most of us, it’s a wonderland of technology. We’ve got our internets, our Tivo’s, our superhighways, air conditioning in the summer and automatic heat for the winter. Truthfully, we have it made in lots of ways.

So when a friend of mine, whom I haven’t seen in awhile, walks into my kitchen, it’s a natural question to ask. “Where’s your fridge?” It’s at the office, I tell him. Along with the microwave and the other things you’d expect to find in my kitchen. I don’t use these things at my home. It has very little to do with money, and very much to do with the future. My childrens’ future, and their childrens’ and theirs.

Just Hippie Schlock?

I’m a holdover from the 60s or the 70s, I can never tell which. Back then, I started reading about conservation, renewable resources, all that stuff that now is mainstream and at the forefront of our consciousness. I could see back then that this was not just more hippie schlock, but was indeed real. I made a deal with myself to do something about it, even if it was a small thing I did.

So when I moved into my office a few years ago, I decided that the fridge should be there, along with everything else in the kitchen. If it wouldn’t fit into to break room at the office, I gave it away. Why the office, instead of my home? There are several reasons. I’m single. I work all the time, which usually puts me at the office. I don’t date (much). If you actually see me in the flesh, it’s probably going to be at the office. So the amenities should be there, and not here(I’m writing this at home).

This does have an impact on my lifestyle, assuming my life has style. I eat out every meal. I don’t go to the grocery store, ever. Toiletries and such are bought in one of 2 bi-annual trips to the local “dollar store” where I buy a dozen toothbrushes, 48 rolls of tissue, about a gallon of shampoo and maybe 20 bars of soap, among other things. I am not a “good” consumer. Shopping is alien to me. (Makes Christmas kinda hard.)

The Cost Factor

So with all that eating out, I must be spending massively on food, right? Not really. The cost of food in the house is more than just the cost of the food. There is the electricity to store the food in the fridge, the cost of cooking the food, the cost of cleaning up the cooking, the cost of dishes, pots and pans… the list could go on. I have none of those costs here at home. A small container of dishwashing soap lasts me over a year. I need it because, although I am willing to give up my food-at-home, I really want my coffee. So I do have a coffee maker in the house.

And what’s my monthly food budget? I spend around 500 dollars a month to put chewables in my mouth. That’s actually a bit less than I spent when I cooked at home. Adding in the savings on electricity, water and the drudgery of washing things up, I think I’m looking at a profit.

Not For Everybody

Now, if I was married, or had kids at home or a roommate, I probably wouldn’t be able to live this way. I can do this alone, but I’m not sure it would be accepted as a way of life for anyone else. I’m certain it would be unjust for me to expect anyone else to accept it. So this lifestyle may not be for you, or anyone you know.

Then again, if you’re single, work alot, are not trying to impress anyone with all the stuff you’ve got, maybe you should think about it. Done well, this can save quite a bit of money and time. Of course, you’ll have to be ready for the inevitable question, and the strange looks, and the reputation for being, well… weird.

Does It Make A Difference?

If it doesn’t make a difference, then it’s just pointless. Looking around the net, you can find alot of sites that will calculate your “carbon footprint” and compare it to averages for your state or country. In checking mine, I found that my footprint is less than half of the average for North Carolina, and about a quarter the average in California.

This is a lousy estimate, in my opinion. For one thing, this site didn’t bother asking me how many computers I have running at any given time. That answer alone would bump me right up there with the worst of them. My TV may never be on, but I have at least one PC running all the time, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time. So my household output of about 5 metric tons of CO2/year is not quite accurate. Add to that at least another 5 metric tons due to the office. That gives me about 10 tons of carbon output per year. That’s about what the average household in NC produces. But if you add in the computers, the amount explodes. My impact seems to be quite small.

But at least it is something. I’m toying with the idea of closing the office and moving everything into my house. It will be a tight fit. I’ll lose the “move-around” room I have, and will have to deal with customers in my private space. But it will eliminate about half of my real carbon footprint. I think that’s important.

What do you think? Do you know your carbon footprint and how it compares to the rest of the world? How about your computer, do you know it’s footprint? Do you think all this talk about footprints is just hogwash? Let me know, I’m curious.

I am Jon, and I’m thinking about bringing the fridge home.


Milkomeda – Galactic Mergers Getting Personal

The Milky Way Meets Andromeda

Yeah, you thought this was gonna be some serious ripping on huge corporate mergers, didn’t you?

Well, surprise! Thanks to Wordout’s time traveling superpowers, I instead present you with this short, 1 minute video, showing the eventual merger of the Milky Way with our nearest neighbor in the universe, Andromeda. Not to worry, there’s still somewhere around 4 or 5 billion years before we get there. But it sure is beautiful, from this far away…

What’s that? You wanted more? Well, do you have more than a minute but less than, say… seven? Check out this (Quicktime) movie, complete with a really nice soundtrack and multiple perspectives, courtesy of the University of Toronto, Canada. You’ll have to click and go there… Snap Shots doesn’t support Quicktime files yet. But it’s worth it, if you have the time.


I am Jon, and I’m heading over to Galaxy Zoo to find some real galactic mergers!

this post edited for punctuation and spelling

Just 20 Reasons You Should Go To Galaxy Zoo

The Recap
Some of you guys who have been following Wordout for awhile will remember Galaxy Zoo from a piece I did about a year ago. For the rest of you, who may not have heard of Galaxy Zoo, let me recap.
Galaxy Zoo is an internet project with the stated aim of classifying a million new galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Computers would do an unacceptable job at classifying galaxies, mainly because each is so unique. That’s why they’re recruiting anyone and everyone to help out. From the Galaxy Zoo Homepage:

“The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful. To rescue these interesting systems which have a story to tell, we need you.”

So there you have it. Computers can’t do it. They need us humans. Isn’t it nice to be needed?

Some Of The Most Beautiful and Bizarre Things You Will Ever See In 20,000 Words Or Less

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, well, then here is the motherload. Just look at this sample of pictures they want you to sift through! And they say they have a million of them! These are just a few that I found while classifying, and a few I found over at the old Galaxy Zoo Blog. Even though that blog is now defunct, there are still lots of photos there to be gawked at. If you like these, head over there for more eye candy.

Or better yet, head on over to Galaxy Zoo and check out the million or so treasures, just waiting there, to be discovered by you! Like the man says:

The universe, with its majestic star-cities, is indeed a wonderful place. – Sir Patrick Moore

Without further ado, I present just 20 reasons you should go there. Click on a thumbnail to view the full sized picture.

Image 10Image 9Image 8Image 7Image 1Image 5Image 6Image 2Image 0Image 12Image 20Image 19Image 18Image 17Image 16Image 15Image 3Image 4Image 11Image 14

I am Jon, and I’m wondering. What are you still waiting for?

(photos courtesy of Galaxy Zoo 2007 and copyright by Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

Funding for the SDSS and SDSS-II has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Japanese Monbukagakusho, the Max Planck Society, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The SDSS Web Site is http://www.sdss.org/.

The SDSS is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions. The Participating Institutions are the American Museum of Natural History, Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, University of Basel, University of Cambridge, Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, Drexel University, Fermilab, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Japan Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, the Korean Scientist Group, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (LAMOST), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), New Mexico State University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the United States Naval Observatory, and the University of Washington.

Coming Soon

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