Iran’s Arabic News Network Shows Second Hostage Video

Posted 30 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Britain, Iran, Middle East

Obviously under duress,” indeed — the video is very depressing to watch. I’m still baffled that so few have noted that the broadcasts show on Iran’s Arabic-language network (see my prior post on the matter here). Is there something going on that I’m not aware of? Is Arabic the only non-Farsi international news channel they have?

Actual (horribly depressing) video here:

Iran’s Intentionally Incendiary Actions

Posted 29 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Britain, Iran, Middle East

The Iranian seizure of 15 British soldiers a few days ago has received tons of press, but I noticed today an interesting tidbit buried way down in an LA Times article:

“Iran’s state-run Arabic language Alalam TV aired images of the detainees…” (emphasis added)

Wait, hold up. Less than one percent of Iranians speak Arabic; more speak Luri and Balochi, neither of which I’d even heard of until today. This is an important point, even though the latest New York Times and Washinton Post stories don’t mention it.

Broadcasting video of Western prisoners on an Arabic-language network would seem to be a very clear sign that Iran is posturing for the Arab world — specifically, Iraq. Whether to gain regional support, to discredit the occupation forces in Iraq, or to distract from pressure over its nuclear program, I can’t tell, but their intended audience is obvious.

Couple this with reports that Iran is refusing offers of mediation, making excuses about its original claims, and blocking diplomatic access to the prisoners, and we have a very tense situation indeed. There’s really only one hopeful bit of news so far — Turkey is working furiously to head off a crisis, over the fear it will be drawn into a NATO-Iran conflict.

Here’s the actual video:

Boxer Bitchslaps Inhofe

Posted 22 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Al Gore, Funny Sh*t, Idiots, Republicans, Science

BitchslapDuring Gore’s testimony yesterday, James Inhofe (R-Republic of Asshattery) was barely letting him get a word in edgewise, then:

“Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) finally intervened. ‘Would you agree to let the Vice President answer your questions?’ Inhofe said Gore could respond when he was done talking, but Boxer wouldn’t have it: ‘No, that isn’t the rule. You’re not making the rules. You used to when you did this. Elections have consequences. So I make the rules.'”

UPDATE: Want to know why Inhofe is so vehement in his opposition? Check out his major contributors, compiled by Rp over at Daily Kos here. (via Firedoglake) Hint: Greenpeace doesn’t make the list.

Previously: Republicans on Science = “LaLaLa I Can’t Hear You”

Republicans on Science = “LaLaLa I Can’t Hear You”

Posted 21 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Bush, Idiocracy, Idiots, Republicans, Scientists

mrburns.pngA couple revelations have come out recently about the disdain for actual, rigorous science amongst Republicans — both in Congress and in the Administration.

First, Monday’s hearing at the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, examining “Political Interference with Climate Science.” According to Chris Mooney, a longtime watcher of the Republican war on science, the “revelations were whizzing by” at a dizzying pace. He even seems to think (though he buries the point somewhat in his HuffPo piece) that there was a smoking gun of sorts: internal emails showing NASA tried to block its most famous climate scientist, James Hansen, from performing an interview with NPR.

Quick on the heels of this hearing — and the mountain of damning evidence it produced — is an equally scathing account of how Republican members were appointed to Pelosi’s bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. House Republican Leader John Boehner seems to have turned down anyone who had familiarity with the science of climate change (like the first research physicist to serve in Congress) or even those who simply wouldn’t tell him they thought humans weren’t causing climate change.

Now, ok, the science of climate change is complex. Really big, fiendishly difficult stuff. And we all know those elected to Congress tend to have big egos. But can they really think that they, lacking any scientific training and probably not even having read any of the (thousands of) relevant studies, could possibly know more about climate change than, say, the (hundreds of) highly respected scientists that make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? And if these Congressmen don’t really think they know better, they’re playing the worst kind of politics with their constituents’ lives and livelihoods.

Today should be even more interesting, as Al Gore testifies in front of, among others, noted climate change antagonist skeptic, James Inhofe.

American Idol: Lulu and Some British Guy

Posted 21 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: American Idol, Music, Singing

My summary, in snap judgments:

Blake: Good, with moves, but not nearly as good as in Paula’s mind.
Phil: Going home; still odd-looking but with a remarkably good upper register.
Jordin: Whoa. Diva. Love her.
Lakisha: Underwhelming tonight. And boy, did she look uncomfortable in those diamonds.
Chris Richardson: Whoa, pretty. And hey, he sang on pitch (mostly).
Chris Sligh: Hate. Him.
Melinda: Her vibrato is overpowering and distracting. I don’t even remember the words of the song. Girl can sang though.
Haley: Surprisingly good. And those LEGS. She works out.

The others were apparently forgettable, since I had to look them up:

Sanjaya: Wait, is he still here? Seriously? And Simon, the little girl cried for everyone.
Gina: Verging on a train wreck the entire song — I was actually uncomfortable listening. But she looked the part.
Stephanie: I kind of think she’s a bitch, but I didn’t see her performance. Tivo crapped out.

And, for those looking for the song listings:

Haley: “Tell Him”
Chris Richardson: “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”
Stephanie: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”
Blake: “Time of the Season”
Lakisha: “Diamonds Are Forever”
Phil: “Tobacco Road”
Jordin: “I (Who Have Nothing)”
Sanjaya: “You Really Got Me”
Gina: “Paint it Black”
Chris Sligh: “She’s Not There”
Melinda: “As Long as He Needs Me”

Even Culture Warriors Like Fancy Pastries

Posted 19 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Bill O'Reilly, Hateful Pundits, Pastries

Bill O’Reilly not only likes them, they absolutely must be baked fresh. Just for him. Such a sweetheart, that Bill.

(From April Winchell, via LA Observed)

Why Do Russian Scientists Suck?

Posted 18 March 2007 by Demosthememe
Categories: Americans, China, Russians, Scientists, Useless Ideas

Russian gas shoes actionFriday’s International Herald Tribune has a really interesting article: “Russia Unable to Tap Science for Profit.” The Russian edition of Popular Mechanics has chronicled the story of Viktor Gordeyev, the inventor of a gasoline-powered boot that supposedly lets users run (on the stilt-like platforms pictured) about 20 kilometers (12 miles) per hour. From IHT:

“Now, they [the boots] have been held up as a symbol of both Russia’s deep and rich scientific traditions and the country’s utter inability to convert that talent into useful — and commercial — merchandise, except in the weapons business. The Russian edition of Popular Mechanics magazine argued that the unsuccessful attempt to commercialize the shoes is a symbol of this country’s failure to tap its considerable scientific talent for profitable business ideas.”

First of all, 12 mph is not very fast. Volunteers in one study at Harvard were able to run at least 27 mph, and the average person walks at around 2-3 mph.

Second, the piece got me to thinking about why Russia and its scientists are so different from those elsewhere. A comparison with America comes to mind immediately: open vs. closed societies, democracy vs. historic experience with communism, free market vs. state meddling. All of these strike me as too facile, though, especially given the comparison with the success of Chinese scientists who also operate in an imperfectly democratic, relatively closed society. Part of the explanation, as IHT notes, is likely the importance (read: money) each government spends on encouraging science:

“The Chinese government, for example, allocated $20 billion to its Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2006, compared with a subsidy of $1.1 billion in Russia, according to Aleksandr Nekipelov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Science.”

I wish I knew more about the differences between the scientific communities in Russia and China, but an intriguing thought occurs to me. China has spent years serving as a low-cost manufacturing center for richer, more developed buyers across the world, especially in Europe and North America. Russia, on the other hand, has produced goods mostly for domestic consumption (with notable exceptions), while exporting mostly natural resources (especially oil right now). Putting on gas shoes

Could it be that Chinese scientists’ experience with the goods that sell best in the West — the ones we wanted a lot of — has given them better judgment about how to differentiate between marketable products and junk? I was particularly struck by the Russian military’s decision to snap up the boots — without any inkling of what they might be used for — and keep them classified for 20 years. I can’t picture this ever happening in China — perhaps China’s experience as the West’s assembly line for so many years was beneficial in ways neither side anticipated.

(Pictures are from IT-blog.)


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