Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Unforgivable and unforgotten

"'I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' '"
-- Jerry Falwell, Sep 11, 2001

Thanks, Jerry. We need to hear this sort of thing from the Wadical White Wing from time to time just to get our bearings.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Iran quake -- what to do

In light of the enormity of the devastation and tens of thousands who have died

1. Sent $$ to

2. wrote gov't to support relief effort

Monday, December 29, 2003

Who needs a draft?

Not when you can extend enlistments indefinitely ...

'Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Eagle, an expert on enemy targeting, served 20 years in the military -- 10 years of active duty in the Air Force, another 10 in the West Virginia National Guard. Then he decided enough was enough. He owned a promising new aircraft-maintenance business, and it needed his attention. His retirement date was set for last February.

Staff Sgt. Justin Fontaine, a generator mechanic, enrolled in the Massachusetts National Guard out of high school and served nearly nine years. In preparation for his exit date last March, he turned in his field gear -- his rucksack and web belt, his uniforms and canteen.

Staff Sgt. Peter G. Costas, an interrogator in an intelligence unit, joined the Army Reserve in 1991, extended his enlistment in 1999 and then re-upped for three years in 2000. Costas, a U.S. Border Patrol officer in Texas, was due to retire from the reserves in last May.

According to their contracts, expectations and desires, all three soldiers should have been civilians by now. But Fontaine and Costas are currently serving in Iraq, and Eagle has just been deployed. On their Army paychecks, the expiration date of their military service is now listed sometime after 2030 -- the payroll computer's way of saying, 'Who knows?'

The three are among thousands of soldiers forbidden to leave military service under the Army's 'stop-loss' orders, intended to stanch the seepage of troops, through retirement and discharge, from a military stretched thin by its burgeoning overseas missions.' "

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Would everyone else prefer Fox simply drop the 'fair and balanced'

mantra and go with a straightforward 'we use liberals for target practice'?

TIM'S TV LIST / Dramatic list for family viewing

1. "Gilmore Girls." WB. Yes, oddly enough it did pop up on our previous "falling from grace" drama list. And if it is in the midst of a down year, that doesn't diminish the fact that "GG" has, in the past, been far and away the smartest, most assured, funny and moving family drama on television.

Lauren Graham plays the mom as lovingly confused as to the road map of child rearing -- which should make all parents feel better. Her daughter turned out great but the thorny issues with her own parents remain. Modern and complicated, mature and hip, it pulls off the near impossible -- making all three generations interesting.

2. "Joan of Arcadia." CBS. The trick that "Joan" manages so well is luring a young audience to a network (and, by association, a show) that screams, "My parents watch that." But the dynamics here are sound. Two parents with their own issues to sort out, three kids with varying degrees of pressing age-appropriate problems (not to mention that one talks to God regularly). All told, something for everyone, the point of this list.

3. "American Dreams." NBC. Maybe too obviously PC for some people as it tracks the hot-button issues of one seemingly close-knit but internally fractious family through turbulent decades. But the history lessons here are as entertaining as the more straightforward family-familiar plotlines. Nobody said using a family as a metaphor for post-Kennedy America was going to be easy. It's a big task and despite low ratings, fans are passionate for this series.

4. "Everwood." WB. OK, so the dead mom conceit is overused, but Treat Williams as a formerly too-busy-for-his-family neurosurgeon is great, as is Gregory Smith as his moody son -- typical of the WB's ability to mesh adults and teens successfully. The series can at times fall into a bag of saccharine, but it's a hit among the youth demographic while still remaining compelling for adults. A lot of readers have said this series has launched discussions in their homes; given the closed-mouth nature of most teens, that's really saying something.

5. "Smallville." WB. It's the Superman saga updated and given the WB sheen, but it's also a home run with the target audience. Like any series based on a superhero, there are dramatic flights of fancy that you just have to go with -- this ain't gritty reality. But more often than not the storytelling is solid and the outcome entertaining. Part of the parental responsibility, of course, is actually sitting down and doing the watching. You could do a whole lot worse than this, no question.

6. "Judging Amy." CBS. It's been around awhile, it's no longer fresh, possibly never hip and is often lost among each season's new crop. But this is still a fine family show, and Tyne Daly is about as real as you can get when it comes to characterization. Plus, it's Amy Brenneman, for God's sake. Wait, is it wrong to lovingly gaze at another TV wife/mom? This is so confusing. Anyway, maybe not your first choice but a solid show.

7. "The O.C." Fox. Granted, not for the really young. You'd hate to have to constantly explain the sexual urges, or more dangerously, the bitchiness and money lust. But still, this season's surprise hit pairs teen interest with parental interest. The acting is solid on both levels (Peter Gallagher and Adam Brody in particular) and there's enough soapy theatrics to keep everyone glued for their own specific reason. Hey, not every family show has to be "7th Heaven."

8. "7th Heaven." WB. Have you noticed a trend here? Yes, congratulations to the WB for landing four of eight shows on this list. "7th Heaven" was essentially the one that woke up the WB to an interesting fact -- while young teen girls were always the target and hipness was always the hook, staid,

faintly religious "7th Heaven" became the real hit. Family shows, it turned out, weren't such a bad idea. You could still get the youth by going through the parents. Lots of practice is probably why there are so many series here --

deservedly. It must be said, however, that "7th Heaven" has pretty much covered every family storyline imaginable and is getting long in the tooth

TIM'S TV LIST / 39 reasons not to kill the tube

TIM'S TV LIST / 39 reasons not to kill the tube: "Forget about great. Never mind best this and best that. What this country wants most from its television watching experience is entertainment - if it's mindless, that's just a bonus. We are a weary, work-hard people. The Nielsens have historically borne out this fact: Difficult, smart and literate TV offerings are fine for the 5 percent of the people who've got that kind of brain power left at the end of the day. The Great Masses -- they'll take a groin thwack on 'America's Funniest Home Videos' over Bill Moyers pretty much any day of the week.
In that mindset, and because there's just no stopping our 'List Week Hootenanny,' here then the 39 most entertaining things on TV. And, of course, a couple of other lists. It's like a sickness: We can't stop.

1. "24." Fox. Didn't make our best dramas list because, let's face it, there's too much suspended belief here, too much ridiculous nonsense, too much Kim Bauer. But still, this is the ultimate plate-spinner drama. All adrenaline.

Wouldn't miss one ludicrous episode.

2. "Alias." ABC. A complete and utterly confusing piece of fluff. Which means, it's awesome in its own don't-take-it-seriously crusade. Jennifer Garner dressed to kill and kicking much bad-guy ass. What's not to like?

3. "SportsCenter." ESPN. The best highlights show on the planet. All day, every day.

4. "Survivor." CBS. Most reality shows could have made this list, given the American insatiability for them. But this franchise consistently delivers and is one of the best shot and edited series on TV.

5. "The Daily Show." Comedy Central. Jon Stewart is quite possibly the funniest man alive. Required viewing.

6. "MXC: Most Extreme Elimination Challenge." Spike TV. You'd think the carnage would get old. But it never does.

7. "The Sopranos." A serious drama? Sure. Everybody waits breathlessly for this series like Jesus is going to reappear in the second act.

8. Pretty much any reality-based clip-show Fox airs. Honestly, "World's Worst Fill in the Blank" always makes you watch, no matter how inane or morally offensive. Just admit it.

9. "The Office." BBC America. OK, look. It's not for everybody. But there are only 12 episodes, not counting the forthcoming Christmas specials. This is something you rejoice in anytime you see it.

10. David Letterman. CBS. Never disappointing, always different. And now he's a dad and evolving yet again as we watch.

11. "The Simpsons." Fox. Fifteen years of genius. Period.

12. "Cops." Fox. Don't get all high-brow. You know it's fun. All these years and people still take off running. Have they learned nothing? Oh, well, it's better for us when they do.

13. "Late Night With Conan O'Brien.'' NBC. It's hard to believe he's been around 10 years. There's been so much brilliance in the decade, but in particular we are all indebted to him for giving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog exposure.

14. Anything on Nick At Nite. It's like comfort food.

15. "The PowerPuff Girls." Cartoon Network. Just the soundtrack gets our blood pumping, but the cleverness knows no bounds and it never gets old.

16. "Monday Night Football." ABC. A staple. One of the great ideas in all of television.

17. The History Channel. From the hangover-curing Hitler documentaries to the rest of the stuff you'd think would bore the tears out of you, but doesn't.

18. NASCAR. Dismiss it if you want, but people are insane for it. Plus, there's crashes. Not that anyone is supposed to like them.

19. "South Park." Comedy Central. Little cartoon cut-out kids swearing. Cartman alone has made life easier. This show proves we live in a great country.

20. "NFL Countdown/Primetime." ESPN. A gift to sports fans. Tremendous information.

21. "Monster Garage." Discovery Channel. Guys tearing up metal and creating art. It started a wave of industrial rampaging on TV.

22. "Spongebob Squarepants." Nickelodeon. There's no real educational component and for some people, no real allure. But for others, this is cartoon crack.

23. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Bravo. Overexposed? Sure. But with the country relentlessly fascinated with makeover shows, this one at least makes you smile instead of wince.

24. BET videos. Pretty much self-explanatory. And if MTV actually played videos, it might have been considered.

25. Almost anything MTV/VH1 does. That's not an endorsement, just fact. From "The Real World" to "Newlyweds" and on down the list, these channels tap into and feed our surface joys, our fixation on eye candy.

26. Jimmy Kimmel. Not everybody's guy. But a guy's guy, and a real emerging talent in late night.

27. "Pardon the Interruption." ESPN. It all works. From the yelling to the timer to the masks to the attention-deficit topic list. Makes time fly.

28. "Maternity Ward." TLC. A lot of non-fiction stuff from the Discovery brand networks could have been here. But this series is compelling and extremely well done.

29. Great commercials. Yep, advertising. Sometimes the best thing in any given TV hour. A current fave: The Miller Lite ad where people topple like dominoes. Inventive and funny.

30. "So Graham Norton." BBC America. A great late-night host. He's got a lightning wit and cutting sarcasm, all sheathed in a heart that kids.

31. "Primetime Glick." Comedy Central. Stupid and addictive, one of the best running sight gags in some time.

32. "Hardball With Chris Matthews." MSNBC. Yes, he yells and cuts off his guests and, well, yells. But he's smart and damn entertaining.

33. "American Chopper." Discovery Channel. Family discord, choppers, tough guys, yelling, strange comedy, cool bikes. Another winning formula.

34. The Outdoor Life Network. It's not often that you can watch fishing on TV. And the Tour de France.

35. "Adult Swim." Cartoon Network. Stupendous: Cater cartoons to adults who don't want to grow up. Weird and hilarious little treasures.

36. "The O'Reilly Factor." Fox. Liberals loathe him. Conservatives bow to him. He provokes everyone. Apparently he's doing something right and should get some credit for knowing how the TV game is played.

37. The Food Network. Hours can slip away, even if you can't cook and you're just hungry. But really, this is all about personalities.

38. The Travel Channel. Perhaps the single most bizarre lineup of shows on any cable channel. Zero focus, but loads of fun.

39. Foreign channels. From telenovelas to mind-bending Chinese soaps, sometimes you get sucked in for long chunks of time, never understanding a word. Now that's entertainment.

TIM'S TV LIST / And now for a little laughter

And now for a little laughter

Tim Goodman Tuesday, November 18, 2003


It's like a lollapalooza of lists here. It's like ... "High Fidelity. " Yes, very funny. We got that already. That's fine. Today's all about funny. Or not funny. Or qualified funny. It's all covered.

Odd, the astute among you may point out, but after bloviating on about how great the dramas are on TV, yesterday you only came up with seven. And, lo,

Mr. The Sitcom Is Dead, there's now a list of 13 comedies. How do you reconcile that?

Easy. We don't. We make lists.


The same rules apply throughout the week. The series are ranked in order. Shows on these lists must be alive. No canceled gems. Of course, a show can be imported. Which is new enough to us. We're easy.

1. "The Simpsons." Fox. First, let's dispense with all the talk about when "The Simpsons" was at its best, at the zenith of its broad, gregarious pop cultural assassinations and reimagining of the American dysfunctional family through cartoons. Yes, some years are better than others. But this is a Hall of Fame entry without an asterisk. "The Simpsons" is the ur-comedy, pre- and post-list cool. It's unmalignable. Let's make this as clear as possible: "The Simpsons" is the greatest television series ever made.

2. "The Office." BBC America. David Brent may be the best comedic invention since Kramer. Or Homer. Maybe better. Given that comedy is so subjective and achieved through so many forms (slapstick, irony, rote punch lines, etc.), there are many species on this list. But "The Office" succeeds where others fear to tread -- without clearly defined ideas of humor, without obvious one-liners and without the safety net of the laugh track. This British workplace mockumentary is utterly brilliant, from its very first step onward. Ricky Gervais is a comic genius, period. If you never saw this, or don't get BBC America, the first-season DVD is out. Wait no longer.

Deep breath. And pause. OK, let's move on.

3. "Curb Your Enthusiasm." HBO. What is it about unpleasant people that is so funny? Maybe the reactions of the normal people around them? Maybe their sheer audacity? Whatever. Larry David has essentially taken Unpleasantville by force and now runs it as his personal fiefdom. But this is an act, right? Yes. Don't hate the messenger. What ignites this series is the dangerously risky but superbly executed notion that if you make viewers squirm and then ratchet it up higher, hilarity ensues. Much of this series is improvisation. But all of it is daring. You can hate Larry David if you want to, but how can you, through the laughter?

4. "Arrested Development." Fox. Every year Fox gives the network television world a really great comedy. This year this is that comedy. Of course, every year it kills that comedy almost without fail. Word is, Fox is going for patience with this one. Lovely news. "Arrested Development" tweaks the conventional sitcom formula and dares the audience to laugh without being prodded. This series is subtle, bizarre and understated. Now start watching it.

5. "Scrubs." NBC. Without question, this is the most underrated and least appreciated comedy on network television. By now, "Scrubs" should have a handful of Emmys in all the important categories, but doesn't. Where the bloom is off many of its stablemates, "Scrubs" remains vibrant and stupid. A nice combination. Also, one day John McGinley will get the Emmy (and the attention) he deserves for his tour-de-force weekly performance.

6. "King of the Hill." Fox. In the vernacular of the series, this show ain't right. And that's what makes it so special. Hank Hill is an American icon. Also, for what it's worth, this is an exceptionally good family series. Mostly it's just sweet and slightly off kilter.

7. "Malcolm in the Middle." Fox. Nestling ever so close to "Scrubs" in the underappreciated department, Malcolm deserves not only a wider audience but also a lot more respect. Physical humor collides with charming silliness, and the two leads, Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston, are relentless in their malleable-faced pursuit of laughs.

8. "Sex and the City.'' HBO. But is it a sitcom? Yes. Even if it knows that "dramedy" is a more accurate fit, the series prefers to be a comedy. The attraction to "Sex and the City'' is the utter lack of punch lines, of course, as Sarah Jessica Parker and company maneuver through the mine fields of dating and life as fabulous women in a fabulous city. Maybe not a gut-buster, but funny in that knowing way of the world.

9. "Friends." NBC. It's always love-hate. Always. But this is the final year, and looking away from egregious transgressions of sitcom policy is the kind thing to do. And you know what -- the last two seasons have been very funny. In a bleak landscape, this show has always been there for you.

10. "South Park." Comedy Central. It's terrible to be the best show on the planet for such a short, short time. Once the hype and controversy and uniqueness faded, something happened. "South Park" didn't die. It remained clever, vital, even. It got more prickly and dangerous, and even though it's still considered yesterday's "it show," this thing is damn funny more often than not.

11. "Will & Grace." NBC. Like any successful sitcom, this show fell in love with its own cleverness and took some time to rebuild the damage. But the scathing one-liners and snarkiness remain.

12. "Wanda at Large." Fox. So nobody's watching it. So Wanda Sykes was unfunny and annoying at the Emmys. Doesn't matter. The content is still there. It's still angry and funny and different. If you've seen nothing of her but her Emmy appearances or limited "Curb Your Enthusiasm" appearances, you might not know that Sykes is hilarious. She's a wicked stand-up. The more that comes out, the better the show. Fox needs to move this to a safer home.

13. "Frasier." No, really. It's the last season, and it's making a comeback. A big one. There were many safe, predictable "Frasier" seasons and the inevitable detours into Whocaresville. But this will always be a classic sitcom. It bows out this year in style.

Friday, December 19, 2003

On this anniversary of the impeachment, let's not forget the accusers

Gingrich, who managed to blow the top off the hypocrisy index by beating that impeachment drum while boinking his own intern for six years, and his successor, Bob Livingston, whose peccadilloes promptly burst out of HIS closet.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

If W weren't such an inarticulate boob ...

In an interview Tuesday night with President Bush, ABC correspondent Diane Sawyer asked why the administration stated as a "hard fact" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had such weapons when it appears now he only had the intent to acquire them.
"So what's the difference?" Bush responded. "The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

-- from The Washington Post 11/18

If he weren't such an inarticulate boob he could have made a better case, like these guys...

'One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.' (1)

'If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.' (2)

'Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.' (3)

'He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.' (4)

'[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.' (5)

'Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.' (6)

'Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.' (7)

1. President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998.
2. President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998.
3. Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998.
4. Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998
5. Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.
6. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.
7. Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

In case you were in any doubt about Hamas

Hamas is not fighting for Pal independence and has no interest in any lasting peace. It's committed to the destruction of the state of Israel. Period.

'By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian militants Wednesday rebuffed fresh overtures from Egyptian mediators to halt all attacks against Israelis as part of a proposed cease-fire aimed at reviving a U.S.-backed 'road map' to peace.


Palestinian officials said the Egyptians had pledges from the United States that it would pressure its ally Israel to pull back from Palestinian cities in return for a complete truce by groups that have led a suicide-bombing campaign.

But senior Islamic Jihad official Mohammed al-Hindi said the faction was opposed to the proposals after a second day of talks in Gaza with the Egyptians, who failed to secure a cease-fire at talks in Cairo earlier this month.

'The position of Islamic Jihad is clear and it has remained unchanged,' al-Hindi said. Islamic Jihad and the militant Islamic group Hamas, which has staked out a similar stance, are both committed to the destruction of the state of Israel.'

Delusional leftists are incapable of assimilating this but the rest of you might want to take note. "

Friday, December 12, 2003

Somebody over there sees the big pic

'Having realized, at last, that islands of happiness and prosperity cannot exist unharmed in a sea of misery and depravation, the U.S. and her allies, have decided to eradicate the roots of evil. And the roots of evil are precisely this misery and squalor. It is not a war against a race or a religion; it is a war on backwardness and stagnation; a war to bring prosperity, freedom and progress, thereby freeing people from poverty, despotism and degeneration and hence ending hatred, hostility and alienation which are the true sources of danger and terrorism against the rich and prosperous. This is simple enough reasoning and derives its strength and force from its very simplicity. I said it before; it makes sense, great sense. If this was mere talk and wishfull thinking, many have said it, and thought it. But when it comes to actually taking action, making sacrifices, wading through murky waters, facing the monsters and vermin of the marshland waste deep in treacherous waters, it becomes a grand and historic enterprise, and deserves respect and admiration; as long as the intention remains pure.'

If only that picture were seen as clearly here. "

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Anything Into Oil

Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year
By Brad Lemley
Photography by Tony Law
DISCOVER Vol. 24 No. 05 | May 2003

Gory refuse, from a Butterball Turkey plant in Carthage, Missouri, will no longer go to waste. Each day 200 tons of turkey offal will be carted to the first industrial-scale thermal depolymerization plant, recently completed in an adjacent lot, and be transformed into various useful products, including 600 barrels of light oil.

In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change almost anything into oil.
"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first industrial-size installation in Missouri. "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming."
Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds too good to be true.
"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who has assembled a team of scientists, former government leaders, and deep-pocketed investors to develop and sell what he calls the thermal depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.
Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.
"The potential is unbelievable," says Michael Roberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. "You're not only cleaning up waste; you're talking about distributed generation of oil all over the world."
"This is not an incremental change. This is a big, new step," agrees Alf Andreassen, a venture capitalist with the Paladin Capital Group and a former Bell Laboratories director.
The offal-derived oil, is chemically almost identical to a number two fuel oil used to heat homes.

Andreassen and others anticipate that a large chunk of the world's agricultural, industrial, and municipal waste may someday go into thermal depolymerization machines scattered all over the globe. If the process works as well as its creators claim, not only would most toxic waste problems become history, so would imported oil. Just converting all the U.S. agricultural waste into oil and gas would yield the energy equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil annually. In 2001 the United States imported 4.2 billion barrels of oil. Referring to U.S. dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East, R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and an adviser to Changing World Technologies, says, "This technology offers a beginning of a way away from this."
But first things first. Today, here at the plant at Philadelphia's Naval Business Center, the experimental feedstock is turkey processing-plant waste: feathers, bones, skin, blood, fat, guts. A forklift dumps 1,400 pounds of the nasty stuff into the machine's first stage, a 350-horsepower grinder that masticates it into gray brown slurry. From there it flows into a series of tanks and pipes, which hum and hiss as they heat, digest, and break down the mixture. Two hours later, a white-jacketed technician turns a spigot. Out pours a honey-colored fluid, steaming a bit in the cold warehouse as it fills a glass beaker.
It really is a lovely oil.
"The longest carbon chains are C-18 or so," says Appel, admiring the liquid. "That's a very light oil. It is essentially the same as a mix of half fuel oil, half gasoline."
Private investors, who have chipped in $40 million to develop the process, aren't the only ones who are impressed. The federal government has granted more than $12 million to push the work along. "We will be able to make oil for $8 to $12 a barrel," says Paul Baskis, the inventor of the process. "We are going to be able to switch to a carbohydrate economy."

Making oil and gas from hydrocarbon-based waste is a trick that Earth mastered long ago. Most crude oil comes from one-celled plants and animals that die, settle to ocean floors, decompose, and are mashed by sliding tectonic plates, a process geologists call subduction. Under pressure and heat, the dead creatures' long chains of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon-bearing molecules, known as polymers, decompose into short-chain petroleum hydrocarbons. However, Earth takes its own sweet time doing this—generally thousands or millions of years—because subterranean heat and pressure changes are chaotic. Thermal depolymerization machines turbocharge the process by precisely raising heat and pressure to levels that break the feedstock's long molecular bonds.
Many scientists have tried to convert organic solids to liquid fuel using waste products before, but their efforts have been notoriously inefficient. "The problem with most of these methods was that they tried to do the transformation in one step—superheat the material to drive off the water and simultaneously break down the molecules," says Appel. That leads to profligate energy use and makes it possible for hazardous substances to pollute the finished product. Very wet waste—and much of the world's waste is wet—is particularly difficult to process efficiently because driving off the water requires so much energy. Usually, the Btu content in the resulting oil or gas barely exceeds the amount needed to make the stuff.
That's the challenge that Baskis, a microbiologist and inventor who lives in Rantoul, Illinois, confronted in the late 1980s. He says he "had a flash" of insight about how to improve the basic ideas behind another inventor's waste-reforming process. "The prototype I saw produced a heavy, burned oil," recalls Baskis. "I drew up an improvement and filed the first patents." He spent the early 1990s wooing investors and, in 1996, met Appel, a former commodities trader. "I saw what this could be and took over the patents," says Appel, who formed a partnership with the Gas Technology Institute and had a demonstration plant up and running by 1999.
Thermal depolymerization, Appel says, has proved to be 85 percent energy efficient for complex feedstocks, such as turkey offal: "That means for every 100 Btus in the feedstock, we use only 15 Btus to run the process." He contends the efficiency is even better for relatively dry raw materials, such as plastics.
So how does it work? In the cold Philadelphia warehouse, Appel waves a long arm at the apparatus, which looks surprisingly low tech: a tangle of pressure vessels, pipes, valves, and heat exchangers terminating in storage tanks. It resembles the oil refineries that stretch to the horizon on either side of the New Jersey Turnpike, and in part, that's exactly what it is.
Appel strides to a silver gray pressure tank that is 20 feet long, three feet wide, heavily insulated, and wrapped with electric heating coils. He raps on its side. "The chief difference in our process is that we make water a friend rather than an enemy," he says. "The other processes all tried to drive out water. We drive it in, inside this tank, with heat and pressure. We super-hydrate the material." Thus temperatures and pressures need only be modest, because water helps to convey heat into the feedstock. "We're talking about temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of about 600 pounds for most organic material—not at all extreme or energy intensive. And the cooking times are pretty short, usually about 15 minutes."
Once the organic soup is heated and partially depolymerized in the reactor vessel, phase two begins. "We quickly drop the slurry to a lower pressure," says Appel, pointing at a branching series of pipes. The rapid depressurization releases about 90 percent of the slurry's free water. Dehydration via depressurization is far cheaper in terms of energy consumed than is heating and boiling off the water, particularly because no heat is wasted. "We send the flashed-off water back up there," Appel says, pointing to a pipe that leads to the beginning of the process, "to heat the incoming stream."
At this stage, the minerals—in turkey waste, they come mostly from bones—settle out and are shunted to storage tanks. Rich in calcium and magnesium, the dried brown powder "is a perfect balanced fertilizer," Appel says.
The remaining concentrated organic soup gushes into a second-stage reactor similar to the coke ovens used to refine oil into gasoline. "This technology is as old as the hills," says Appel, grinning broadly. The reactor heats the soup to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit to further break apart long molecular chains. Next, in vertical distillation columns, hot vapor flows up, condenses, and flows out from different levels: gases from the top of the column, light oils from the upper middle, heavier oils from the middle, water from the lower middle, and powdered carbon—used to manufacture tires, filters, and printer toners—from the bottom. "Gas is expensive to transport, so we use it on-site in the plant to heat the process," Appel says. The oil, minerals, and carbon are sold to the highest bidders.
Depending on the feedstock and the cooking and coking times, the process can be tweaked to make other specialty chemicals that may be even more profitable than oil. Turkey offal, for example, can be used to produce fatty acids for soap, tires, paints, and lubricants. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC—the stuff of house siding, wallpapers, and plastic pipes—yields hydrochloric acid, a relatively benign and industrially valuable chemical used to make cleaners and solvents. "That's what's so great about making water a friend," says Appel. "The hydrogen in water combines with the chlorine in PVC to make it safe. If you burn PVC [in a municipal-waste incinerator], you get dioxin—very toxic."
Brian Appel, CEO of Changing World Technologies, strolls through a thermal depolymerization plant in Philadelphia. Experiments at the pilot facility revealed that the process is scalable—plants can sprawl over acres and handle 4,000 tons of waste a day or be "small enough to go on the back of a flatbed truck" and handle just one ton daily, says Appel.

The technicians here have spent three years feeding different kinds of waste into their machinery to formulate recipes. In a little trailer next to the plant, Appel picks up a handful of one-gallon plastic bags sent by a potential customer in Japan. The first is full of ground-up appliances, each piece no larger than a pea. "Put a computer and a refrigerator into a grinder, and that's what you get," he says, shaking the bag. "It's PVC, wood, fiberglass, metal, just a mess of different things. This process handles mixed waste beautifully." Next to the ground-up appliances is a plastic bucket of municipal sewage. Appel pops the lid and instantly regrets it. "Whew," he says. "That is nasty."
Experimentation revealed that different waste streams require different cooking and coking times and yield different finished products. "It's a two-step process, and you do more in step one or step two depending on what you are processing," Terry Adams says. "With the turkey guts, you do the lion's share in the first stage. With mixed plastics, most of the breakdown happens in the second stage." The oil-to-mineral ratios vary too. Plastic bottles, for example, yield copious amounts of oil, while tires yield more minerals and other solids. So far, says Adams, "nothing hazardous comes out from any feedstock we try."
"The only thing this process can't handle is nuclear waste," Appel says. "If it contains carbon, we can do it." Г 
This Philadelphia pilot plant can handle only seven tons of waste a day, but 1,054 miles to the west, in Carthage, Missouri, about 100 yards from one of ConAgra Foods' massive Butterball Turkey plants, sits the company's first commercial-scale thermal depolymerization plant. The $20 million facility, scheduled to go online any day, is expected to digest more than 200 tons of turkey-processing waste every 24 hours.

The north side of Carthage smells like Thanksgiving all the time. At the Butterball plant, workers slaughter, pluck, parcook, and package 30,000 turkeys each workday, filling the air with the distinctive tang of boiling bird. A factory tour reveals the grisly realities of large-scale poultry processing. Inside, an endless chain of hanging carcasses clanks past knife-wielding laborers who slash away. Outside, a tanker truck idles, full to the top with fresh turkey blood. For many years, ConAgra Foods has trucked the plant's waste—feathers, organs, and other nonusable parts—to a rendering facility where it was ground and dried to make animal feed, fertilizer, and other chemical products. But bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, can spread among cattle from recycled feed, and although no similar disease has been found in poultry, regulators are becoming skittish about feeding animals to animals. In Europe the practice is illegal for all livestock. Since 1997, the United States has prohibited the feeding of most recycled animal waste to cattle. Ultimately, the specter of European-style mad-cow regulations may kick-start the acceptance of thermal depolymerization. "In Europe, there are mountains of bones piling up," says Alf Andreassen. "When recycling waste into feed stops in this country, it will change everything."
Because depolymerization takes apart materials at the molecular level, Appel says, it is "the perfect process for destroying pathogens." On a wet afternoon in Carthage, he smiles at the new plant—an artless assemblage of gray and dun-colored buildings—as if it were his favorite child. "This plant will make 10 tons of gas per day, which will go back into the system to make heat to power the system," he says. "It will make 21,000 gallons of water, which will be clean enough to discharge into a municipal sewage system. Pathological vectors will be completely gone. It will make 11 tons of minerals and 600 barrels of oil, high-quality stuff, the same specs as a number two heating oil." He shakes his head almost as if he can't believe it. "It's amazing. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't even consider us waste handlers. We are actually manufacturers—that's what our permit says. This process changes the whole industrial equation. Waste goes from a cost to a profit."
He watches as burly men in coveralls weld and grind the complex loops of piping. A group of 15 investors and corporate advisers, including Howard Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, stroll among the sparks and hissing torches, listening to a tour led by plant manager Don Sanders. A veteran of the refinery business, Sanders emphasizes that once the pressurized water is flashed off, "the process is similar to oil refining. The equipment, the procedures, the safety factors, the maintenance—it's all proven technology."
And it will be profitable, promises Appel. "We've done so much testing in Philadelphia, we already know the costs," he says. "This is our first-out plant, and we estimate we'll make oil at $15 a barrel. In three to five years, we'll drop that to $10, the same as a medium-size oil exploration and production company. And it will get cheaper from there."
"We've got a lot of confidence in this," Buffett says. "I represent ConAgra's investment. We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't anticipate success." Buffett isn't alone. Appel has lined up federal grant money to help build demonstration plants to process chicken offal and manure in Alabama and crop residuals and grease in Nevada. Also in the works are plants to process turkey waste and manure in Colorado and pork and cheese waste in Italy. He says the first generation of depolymerization centers will be up and running in 2005. By then it should be clear whether the technology is as miraculous as its backers claim.

Chemistry, not alchemy, turns (A) turkey offal—guts, skin, bones, fat, blood, and feathers—into a variety of useful products. After the first-stage heat-and-pressure reaction, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates break down into (B) carboxylic oil, which is composed of fatty acids, carbohydrates, and amino acids. The second-stage reaction strips off the fatty acids' carboxyl group (a carbon atom, two oxygen atoms, and a hydrogen atom) and breaks the remaining hydrocarbon chains into smaller fragments, yielding (C) a light oil. This oil can be used as is, or further distilled (using a larger version of the bench-top distiller in the background) into lighter fuels such as (D) naphtha, (E) gasoline, and (F) kerosene. The process also yields (G) fertilizer-grade minerals derived mostly from bones and (H) industrially useful carbon black.
Garbage In, Oil Out

Feedstock is funneled into a grinder and mixed with water to create a slurry that is pumped into the first-stage reactor, where heat and pressure partially break apart long molecular chains. The resulting organic soup flows into a flash vessel where pressure drops dramatically, liberating some of the water, which returns back upstream to preheat the flow into the first-stage reactor. In the second-stage reactor, the remaining organic material is subjected to more intense heat, continuing the breakup of molecular chains. The resulting hot vapor then goes into vertical distillation tanks, which separate it into gases, light oils, heavy oils, water, and solid carbon. The gases are burned on-site to make heat to power the process, and the water, which is pathogen free, goes to a municipal waste plant. The oils and carbon are deposited in storage tanks, ready for sale.
— Brad Lemley

A Boon to Oil and Coal Companies

One might expect fossil-fuel companies to fight thermal depolymerization. If the process can make oil out of waste, why would anyone bother to get it out of the ground? But switching to an energy economy based entirely on reformed waste will be a long process, requiring the construction of thousands of thermal depolymerization plants. In the meantime, thermal depolymerization can make the petroleum industry itself cleaner and more profitable, says John Riordan, president and CEO of the Gas Technology Institute, an industry research organization. Experiments at the Philadelphia thermal depolymerization plant have converted heavy crude oil, shale, and tar sands into light oils, gases, and graphite-type carbon. "When you refine petroleum, you end up with a heavy solid-waste product that's a big problem," Riordan says. "This technology will convert these waste materials into natural gas, oil, and carbon. It will fit right into the existing infrastructure."
Appel says a modified version of thermal depolymerization could be used to inject steam into underground tar-sand deposits and then refine them into light oils at the surface, making this abundant, difficult-to-access resource far more available. But the coal industry may become thermal depolymerization's biggest fossil-fuel beneficiary. "We can clean up coal dramatically," says Appel. So far, experiments show the process can extract sulfur, mercury, naphtha, and olefins—all salable commodities—from coal, making it burn hotter and cleaner. Pretreating with thermal depolymerization also makes coal more friable, so less energy is needed to crush it before combustion in electricity-generating plants.
— B.L.
Can Thermal Depolymerization Slow Global Warming?

If the thermal depolymerization process WORKS AS Claimed, it will clean up waste and generate new sources of energy. But its backers contend it could also stem global warming, which sounds iffy. After all, burning oil creates global warming, doesn't it?
Carbon is the major chemical constituent of most organic matter—plants take it in; animals eat plants, die, and decompose; and plants take it back in, ad infinitum. Since the industrial revolution, human beings burning fossil fuels have boosted concentrations of atmospheric carbon more than 30 percent, disrupting the ancient cycle. According to global-warming theory, as carbon in the form of carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, it traps solar radiation, which warms the atmosphere—and, some say, disrupts the planet's ecosystems.
But if there were a global shift to thermal depolymerization technologies, belowground carbon would remain there. The accoutrements of the civilized world—domestic animals and plants, buildings, artificial objects of all kinds—would then be regarded as temporary carbon sinks. At the end of their useful lives, they would be converted in thermal depolymerization machines into short-chain fuels, fertilizers, and industrial raw materials, ready for plants or people to convert them back into long chains again. So the only carbon used would be that which already existed above the surface; it could no longer dangerously accumulate in the atmosphere. "Suddenly, the whole built world just becomes a temporary carbon sink," says Paul Baskis, inventor of the thermal depolymerization process. "We would be honoring the balance of nature."
— B.L.

To learn more about the thermal depolymerization process, visit Changing World Technologies' Web site:

A primer on the natural carbon cycle can be found

Solution to the Gay Marriage Conundrum

"I do have a better idea --
The government should only recognize civil unions for legal purposes and leave it to the clergy to sanctify marriages. "

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Ubersite - part one in the series of Things I Hate: "Party Poppers"

Ubersite - part one in the series of Things I Hate: "Party Poppers": "these things were designed by some diabolical, be-monocled little nazi, dreampt up in the few moments when he wasnt injecting jews eyes with blue dye or some other equally evil task. one final, bitter, spiteful stab at a world that cast his beloved third reich down. i just know that that evil little piece of shit is limping around argentina with a horrible little grimace of satisfaction on his disfigured little face, giddy with the knowledge, that someone, somewhere is being tormented by his creation. he rubs his soft, surgeons hands over one another like shaved mice and grins with glee. i can almost hear his insane chuckling.

one day im gonna hunt that little fuck down. "

What every Republican knows

What every Republican knows:
(1) the good things that happen during Democrat administrations are because the GOP laid the foundation,
(2) the good things that happen during GOP administrations are because the GOP is correcting the mistakes of previous Democrats,
(3) the bad things that happen during Democrat administrations are their own fault, of course, and
(4) the bad things that happen during GOP administrations are because the previous Democrat administration screwed up.

Yeah, we gotta let a Democrat in every so often to blame all the bad stuff on.

What the anti-war crowd doesn't want to hear...

Politics - World - s.f. bayarea forums - craigslist: " Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana and a leader of moderates in the Senate, responded to questions last week on the war in Iraq and a memo detailing links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden sent to the committee in late October by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith and later excerpted in these pages.

'Even if there's only a 10 percent chance that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would cooperate, the question is whether that's an acceptable level of risk,' Bayh told me. 'My answer to that would be an unequivocal 'no.' We need to be much more pro-active on eliminating threats before they're imminent.'

Asked about the growing evidence of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, Bayh said: 'The relationship seemed to have its roots in mutual exploitation. Saddam Hussein used terrorism for his own ends, and Osama bin Laden used a nation-state for the things that only a nation-state can provide. Some of the intelligence is strong, and some of it is murky. But that's the nature of intelligence on a relationship like this--lots of it is going to be speculation and conjecture. Following 9/11, we await certainty at our peril.' "

So will the anti-war crowd in all honesty say they would be just as upset if Gore were running the show and had invaded Iraq without a clear UN mandate?

NB: Bayh's dad was no dummy, either.

Read 'em and weep.

Interesting fact: Incumbent presidents running for reelection who
faced no significant opposition on the party's New Hampshire ballot
have never been defeated for a second term as President.

Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, won the primary with 98.9%, after
facing no serious opposition.

Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, won the primary with 95.3%, after facing
no serious opposition.

Richard M. Nixon in 1972, won the primary with 89.3%, after facing
no serious opposition.

Gerald R. Ford in 1976, won the primary with 49.4%, after facing
serious opposition from Ronald Reagan.

Jimmy Carter in 1980, won the primary with 47.1%, after facing
serious opposition from Ted Kennedy.

Ronald Reagan in 1984, won the primary with 86.1%, after facing no
serious opposition.

George H. W. Bush in 1992, won the primary with 53.2%, after facing
serious opposition from Patrick Buchanan.

Bill Clinton in 1996, won the primary with 84.4%, after facing no
serious opposition.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Fired for insulting bin Laden

WorldNetDaily: Worker fired for insulting bin Laden: "A British prison fired an officer who allegedly insulted terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Colin Rose, 53, is appealing to an employment tribunal in Norwich, England, to get his job back, reports the London Telegraph.
Officials at Blundeston Prison in Lowestoft, England, told Rose he had to go because, although he was unaware of it, three Muslims visiting the prison at the time might have heard his remarks about the al-Qaida leader, the paper said. "

...we wouldn't want to hurt those terrorist-huggers' feelings, now would we?