Saturday, December 31, 2005

Seven, squared
I haven't been tagged for list meme in a while. I guess it was just a matter of time before someone would get me. As it works out, Mustang Bobby got me. This one is seven lists of seven. So, with Mose Allison's "Seventh Son" playing in the background, here we go:

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:
  1. Write a book
  2. See that book published
  3. Orbit the earth
  4. See Clever Wife's business become a success
  5. Hold a job that I really like
  6. Spend a season on an archaeological dig
  7. Leave the world, in some way, better than when I entered it

Seven Things I Cannot Do:
  1. Catch... anything
  2. Play a musical instrument
  3. Talk sports
  4. Walk past a construction site without looking into the hole in the ground
  5. Touch typing
  6. Finish... anything

Seven Things That Attract Me to...Blogging:
  1. I have lots of strong opinions, but I'm too shy to be a drunken pub boor
  2. It makes me write
  3. Pictures of kittens
  4. The awe and respect I get when I tell people I have a blog
  5. Hanging out (virtually) with smart people
  6. Making fun of Bill O'Reilly
  7. I get to talk about mammoths without boring my Clever Wife

Seven Things I Say Most Often (according to my Clever Wife):
  1. "Actually, it's a lot more complicated than that."
  2. "I dunno, what do you want for dinner?"
  3. "Well, this certainly sucks."
  4. "Oooooo, what a nice little cat."
  5. "To understand that, you really need to know what happened before."
  6. "So, are you ready to go?"
  7. "I really love you, Babe."

Seven Books That I Love:
  1. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  2. Against the Fall of Night - Arthur C. Clarke
  3. Land Without Justice - Milovan Djilas
  4. Man in the High Castle - Phillip K. Dick
  5. A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller, Jr.
  6. The Flashman series - George MacDonald Fraser
  7. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

Seven Movies That I Watch Over and Over Again:
  1. King Kong (1933)
  2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  3. Casablanca (1943)
  4. Sabrina (1954)
  5. The Great Escape (1963)
  6. The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  7. Blade Runner (1982)

Seven People I Want To Join In, Too:

We have a problem here. Bobby and I run in the same blog circles and this meme is spreading out by powers of seven. I've taken enough time to finish this that almost everyone I know has already answered it, or will never answer it. So, I'll offer it to the world at large. Any one who reads this, consider yourself invited. Write away.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another mammoth story
In 1979, Jack Cuozzo, a dentist from New Jersey and a creationist, took his family and a borrowed portable x-ray machine on the first of several trips to France to study the skulls of Neanderthals. The international paleo-anthropological fraternity of evolutionist Bible haters somehow found out that he was there and sent their homicidal minions to stop him. The amazing story is told in his book Buried Alive: The Startling Untold Story About Neanderthal Man.

Dr. Cuozzo has two theories to advance in his book. First, he believes that an honest examination of Neanderthal remains will show that they grew slowly and lived to great ages. They are, in fact, the generations of that followed Adam and who lived to be hundreds of years old. Adam lived 930 years, Seth lived 912 years, Enoch lived 365 years, Methuselah lived 969 years and died in the year of the flood, and his grandson Noah lived 950 years. In fact, Neanderthals aren't a separate species, that's just what you get to look like after a few hundred years. Dr. Cuozzo's other theory is that paleontologists and anthropologists know that this is true and have systematically falsified evidence in order to support evolution and cast doubt on the Bible.

While Dr. Cuozzo was traveling around Europe trying to uncover the truth about Neanderthals, he just happened to stumble across proof that men and dinosaurs lived together. Lucky for us, he's posted that entire chapter of his book on his website. Of course, a woolly mammoth features prominently in his story.

In 1982 Dr. Cuozzo and his family went back to France to look at some of the caves associated with the late Pleistocene. The famous cave art of southern France is not traditionally assumed to have been a product of Neanderthals; it is assumed to have been produced by modern humans. Anthropologists have a number of reasons for this belief; Cuozzo is sure it is a result of anti-Bible and anti-Neanderthal prejudice.

We pick up his story in Les Eyzies:
Les Eyzies is the capital of pre-history in France. In three of these caves we were escorted by tour guides, but when we entered the fourth we examined it closely without any authorities present. The first tree: Rouffignac, 14 km from Les Fyzies; Combarelles, 3 km from Les Byzies; and Font-de-Gaume, 2 km from Les Byzies, all had fees for entrance and tours of the long, selected routes in each cave. There were many public passageways in these first three caves and many that were blocked off to the public.

The standard evolutionary cave propaganda was preached by each of the tour guides in French, whether it was a walking tour or a miniature train tour. If you were a creationist, you needed a very thick skin and a lot of anti-acid medicine for your stomach when you visited these caves.


The fourth cave or "Grotte," as the French call it, was the very dark and extraordinary Bernifal. Bernifal is 5 km from Les Eyzies and required some real searching to discover its whereabouts. There were no signs in Les Eyzies or outside of town indicating where it was located.


I had previously purchased a small booklet at the Museum of Saint Germain-en-Laye which described this cave along with many others. It was a guide book which described the decorated caves "ouvertes au public" (open to the public).


In another book that I had taken with us, Ann Sieveking describes the important caves of the valley of the Petite Beune River. She says, "Eleven decorated shelters have been found in the valley of the Petite Beune, distributed on either side of the river over a distance of about seven kilometers. Only one of these, Bemifal, is a cave of major importance and it is a deep cave while the majority of the lessor sites are daylit shelters.


Another problem arose when we looked for this very important cave in the recent Michelin map of the Perigord. We had just purchased it in 1982, but it did not reveal the location of Bernifal, even though it did display all popular grottes (caves) and shelters. The little guide book from the museum was published in 1976 and Sieveking's book in 1979. Both had spoken about it in detail. It was strange that the Michelin map had completely left it out when it was of major importance. The guidebook advised bringing one's own light to see Bemifal. While it was open to the public, no light was provided for you to see the walls. I had never heard of a public cave with no lighting. It also said that the floor of the cave was very slippery and you just might fall without a "appui de la main" or cane. That, in itself, is enough to make one suspicious.


By the time we arrived in the summer of 1982 a decision was made to close Bemifal to the public. It didn't make too much sense since the caves are large tourist attractions and therefore sources of revenue. Bemifal was open at least from 1976 to 1979. So, with Bernifal not on the Michelin map, it became almost invisible. All we could conclude was that something was wrong with Bemifal and that tourists were not to be allowed inside anymore. After weighing all the previous knowledge, we became more determined to find it.

Apparently someone else thought that closing the cave was a bad idea, too. Whoever this was unofficially opened it to the public once again. This time the cave was not opened by a bureaucratic government agency, but by someone using a much more rapid method called "the axe or sledge hammer" technique, to bash in the front door. That's how we found it when we finally located the entrance.


We proceeded towards the farm house after we noticed that the only bridge across this stream was directly in front of the house. It was a small bridge which had a chain extending from one side of it to the other and a sign hanging from the middle of the chain. It read, "Passage interdite," meaning crossing was forbidden.

That's enough to give you a flavor of Cuozzo's prose. He employs more than one styly in his book. This is his travelogue/adventure story voice. It's chatty and informative. There are shadows, but they don't overwhelm the narrative. Later he employs full throated conspiratorial prose, with its shrill sarcasm and wailing sense of persecution.

Cuozzo's key points, so far, are these: The caves are controlled by a tourist industry that pushed "standard evolutionary cave propaganda." Parts of some caves are closed to the public. Although Bernifal was mentioned in older books about the region, it was not marked on the newest map. The only access to the cave was chained off and marked with a "No Trespassing" sign. Someone had attempted to block the cave with a door, but this had been vandalized. There were no lights in the cave.

The cave was cold and dangerous, so the Cuozzo family only stayed for a few minutes. Cuozzo photographed everything that he could, including a well-known drawing of a mammoth in the first chamber of the cave. As they were leaving, they met the farmer who was upset that they had entered the cave. He chased them to where their car was parked and away from his land.

Cuzzo finds all of this "interesting" and "suspicious," words which, in his use, usually mean "sinister" and "evidence of a cover-up."
One of the last things an evolutionist will ever admit or believe is that Paleolithic man or woman saw a live dinosaur. This simply will not do. According to their theories, the age of man did not begin until some 2.5-3 million year ago with his predecessors in Africa, and certainly, they believe the men who decorated this cave existed within the last 200,000 years, most likely within the last 30,000 years. Dinosaurs, on the other hand died out at least 65 million year ago. This, to them, is fact.

Every cave that we visited and every decorated cave that the public is allowed to tour will "mammal" you to death. I mean all they will show you are mammals. This doesn't mean that down some other passageway reptiles can't be found. Where they take you there are no drawings or carvings of reptiles. It's as reptiles never existed. We know that this is not true because we still have reptiles today. Snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, and tuataras are all part of our modern fauna, but conspicuously absent from cave drawings. The cave painters and engravers surely had reptiles in their age. Where were they? More specifically, we must make direct inquiry about cave evidence concerning the existence of those "terrible lizards" or dinosaurs. Are there dinosaurs depicted on cave walls?


One of the amazing things that happened inside the Bemifal Cave was that in the process of shooting pictures in all directions, I took a picture of an actual dinosaur carving. This could be the very reason why Bemifal was suddenly closed to the public when the creation movement of the seventies and eighties started to gain public acceptance. No dinosaurs ever existed with man, they said; therefore, no paintings and no carvings. The other caves must be neatly cordoned off so that no unjaundiced eye ever sees a reptile figure on a wall. We were never supposed to see this. It was mainly carved into the rock with only a little dab of paint on it, therefore not easy to see, especially with flashlights.

My photograph... actually shows a dinosaur-like creature in head-to-head combat with a mammoth. This, I believe, is the first time that this carving has ever been revealed to the public. These images were carved into the walls using some of the natural configurations of the limestone as part of the anatomy. What type of dinosaur is this?

To give Cuozzo as fair a shake as possible I'm showing his illustrations from his website. I haven't even cropped them differently that he did. This is his evidence as he presented it.

There are two great orders of dinosaurs: the Saurischia (lizard-hipped) and the Ornithischia (bird-hipped). This division is based on the structure of the pelvis (hip). We can't see the pelvic (hip) structure in this sculpture so we have to classify it by some other means.

In the Saurischian dinosaurs the teeth of the jaws are set into the margins or only in the front. In this specimen, there are what appear to be teeth along the one side towards the front part of the snout, but not much is seen in the front of the snout. Ornithischia tended to be herbivorous while the Saurischians were carnivorous. This dinosaur is in a combative stance. Carnivores tend to be combative, but some herbivores are also combative. However, only Saurischians had a hollowed area in front of the eye. We may also infer from the short upper limbs that this was a bipedal dinosaur (walked on two hind legs).

From these features it seems possible to tentatively classify this dinosaur sculpture into the suborder Theropoda. These Saurischian creatures were almost exclusively carnivorous, bipedal, with strong hind legs and small forelimbs. They supposedly flourished during the entire Mesozoic era (230 to 62 million years ago). To go any further would be pure guesswork. To say it was a Teratosauris, Allosauris. Acrocanthosauris, or such would not be possible, given the limited data. However, to be very forthright, it must be stated that this is a dinosaur, period.


Regardless of whether this sculpture was done in the Upper or Middle Paleolithic, by either Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon, Magdelaine, or Gravettian people, it was still accomplished by a human. This human either saw a dinosaur and mammoth in battle or had a portable piece of artwork that contained this piece of information and had been handed down for several generations. Because I believe that we have rather good evidence for these caves being post-flood caves and for post-flood burials in other caves, I believe that the latter is true. It was accomplished by a person who had a piece of portable art, but a human saw it happen.

One other possibility exists and that is the post-Hood existence of both dinosaurs and mammoths originating from the ark. They both could have come off together, but because of unsuitable environmental conditions the dinosaurs became extinct while the mammoth and other mammals adapted to the harsher atmospheric and terrestrial surroundings.

The kindest thing I can say is that Cuozzo is able to see a lot more detail on that cave wall than I can. To me, even in Cuozzo's drawing, the dinosaur looks like a children's hand puppet, possibly of the same genus a Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent. For that matter, his mammoth has a rather soft and lumpy look to it, too. This is not to say that I believe Bob Clampett and Stan Freberg were around during the late Paleolithic putting on puppet shows to entertain the Cro-Magnons, though we probably shouldn't exclude that theory until more evidence as to their whereabouts has been gathered.

Let's look at Cuozzo's mammoth. It's is unlike any other Paleolithic mammoth I have seen, including the one directly below it on the same cave wall. Although most cave art has an almost abstract simplicity to it, the key identifying elements of an animal are usually crystal clear. With a mammoth, the identifying element is usually the silhouette--domed head, high shoulders and sloping back. Even more than the tusks and trunk, the silhouette protruding above the brush, would be the first part of a mammoth to be seen by a person and the part used to identify the animal. Compared to other Paleolithic mammoth paintings, the silhouette of Cuozzo's is shapeless.

In addition, since the outline of his mammoth continues around the head and on to the front leg, the lack of tusks or a meaningful trunk is almost inexplicable. The only explanation must be that this contest between mammoth and dinosaur occurred before the elephant got its trunk. As Kipling explains:
IN the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk. He had only a blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot, that he could wriggle about from side to side; but he couldn't pick up things with it.

Back to Jack:
This wall paint was probably red ochre mixed with animal fat. It seems to allow the time frame of this cave to be in a Neanderthal period.

Keeping the red ochre and the dinosaur carving in mind, we must ask how does this fit in the modern scientific view of history? It really doesn't fit at all because the dinosaur eliminates approximately 62-65 million years and makes man, dinosaur, and mammoth (a mammal) contemporaries.'(4) The red ochre on the same cave walls as a dinosaur throws all the timetables off. No wonder the cave was closed.


Is it because no one has seen it, no one will admit to seeing it, or no one will dare go to see it? I think the latter two reasons are the most plausible. What we are dealing with is a monolithic structure in modern science where there is absolutely no evidence which could possibly shed some doubt on the evolutionary interpretation of life. According to them, it just doesn't exist. And if it did exist, it wouldn't be scientific. Therefore, why go see it? But she did say she had no doubt that the images were there. As I write this a number of years later, I can almost guarantee that those images don't exist anymore, or at least a padlocked steel door has replaced the broken wooden one.

If Dr. Cuozzo had bothered to check, during the fifteen years that passed between his visit to the cave and the publication of his book, he could have found out what happened to the cave and its art. If he had looked deeper and not relied on his sense of persecution to supply facts, he would have discovered why Bernifal was closed in the early eighties. Alone among the caves of Les Eyzies, Bernifal is privately owned. The farmer whose "No Trespassing" sign, fields, and demolished door Cuozzo and his family tramped over is the owner of the cave.

Today, the cave of Bernifal is open to the public four months out of the year and is included in a number of package tours of the region. The farmers who own the cave are also the tour guides. I don't know if the image of a dinosaur puppet attacking a trunkless mammoth has been carved off the wall by the evolutionist establishment or not. However, if I were to write a book making major claims based on one fifteen year-old, illegally obtained photo, I would at least try to find out.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Peggy Noonan has a special ability to recognise the woo-woo in others. We might say that it takes one to know one.
Reagan was not mystical in a sacramental sense, but he had some woo-woo in him — a sense that a higher power was at work and operative and intervening in his life and history. John Paul thought the hand of the Blessed Mother deflected the bullet that was to kill him away from arteries and nerve clusters. Reagan felt God and his angels saved his life when he was shot. What extraordinary men.

One day, forty years ago, Billy Curran and I were riding our bikes home from school. I was turned sideways talking to Billy when I ran into a parked Ford Falcon and got my front bike tire stuck beneath its rear bumper (and got my face stuck on the hot trunk of the Ford, but that's another story). The bike seemed stuck, but I kicked it until the tire became unstuck. I'm sure the baby Jesus was watching over my bike tire that day. Because of my infantile illusions, I too must have been an extraordinary man in the forth grade.
Nice to see they still have a sense of humor
Does anyone remember the "Bush is a smart guy" offensive of a few years ago?

For years Bush was well-known as shallow, uncurious, and anti-intellectual. It was an image that worked well with his populist base constituency. He was the guy you'd invite over for a barbeque, not the guy you'd hire to help your kids pass their SATs. At some point soon after 9/11, his staff had a crisis of faith and wondered if the free world really wanted an amiable idiot to lead them in a war of civilizations. They made sure he was always seen carrying a book when ever he got on or off Air Force One (it was always the same book, Jay Winik's history of the end of the Civil War, April 1865). It might have worked if they had stopped there, but while preparing his State of the Union address, Bush's handlers announced that he was seeking inspiration in an absurdly long list of philosophers, poets, and founding fathers. No one was ready to buy that one and they let the idea drop, going back to their "common man" narrative.

I was reminded of that today.
Dec 27, 2005 -- CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush is spending part of his Christmas holiday reading about the post-presidential years of Theodore Roosevelt and the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Bush was reading "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House," by Patricia O'Toole, and "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground," by Robert Kaplan while on holiday at his Texas ranch, said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.[...]

Asked whether there was any significance that Bush, who has three years left in office, was reading a book about the post-White House years of a former president, Duffy replied that Bush is a "history buff" and "avid reader."

Avid reader. Snort. Tell us another one, Trent. As always, the press failed to ask the logical follow-up question. In this case it would have been, "whose job is it to convert a 512 page book by a real historian into a twenty minute Powerpoint presentation that won't tax the attention span of the Commander-in-Chief?"

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another not credible excuse
In Crawford, Texas, where Bush is taking yet another vacation, his second-string spokesman, Trent Duffy, defended Bush's four year-old program of illegal wiretapping and spying with these words:
This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches.

How well does this fit in with their previous justifications for law-breaking?

"We only spy on bad people." He's staying consistent with that one.

"The courts and/or Congress wouldn't let us do this if we told them why." Okay there's a flaw here. Can you find it? If you said, "They won't let you spy on known commuter train, wedding, and church blower-uppers!? That doesn't make sense," you guessed right. If you followed that guess by saying, "If you know who the commuter train, wedding, and church blower-uppers are and what their phone numbers are, why don't you do something about them?" you are a pro-Saddam enemy of America and I'm glad the President is listening to your phone calls. If you said, "Damn those courts and/or Congress for not letting the President protect our Little League practices and potluck dinners from known commuter train, wedding, and church blower-uppers!!" you are a patriotic American.

This reminds me of an only vaguely related point. Two of the other market-tested justifications for Bush's illegal wiretapping and spying have been, A) the Constitution allows it by saying the President is the Commander-in-Chief during wartime, and B) only by breaking the law can the President move fast enough to save us from all of those ticking atomic bombs hidden in our major cities' better neighborhoods.

Although the architects of the Constitution were, almost to a man, fearful of tyrants and suspicious of letting any person or body have too much power, they did see a potential need for someone to act quickly and decisively in emergencies. For this reason, they put command of the military into the hands of the President. But even then they tempered this power by leaving the authority to raise, fund, and establish rules for the military in the hands of Congress. They also conditioned the actual exercise of the President's Commander-in-Chief power over military on Congress declaring war. Beyond purely military matters, they also showed that they expected the President to be responsible for quick decisions when Congress was unavailable by granting him such powers as recess appointment.

Sum up that general concept. In those days of slow travel and communication, they knew that it could take days, even weeks, to gather a quorum of Congress. They recognized that the President would need to be able to speak for the entire government and make decisions in emergencies. Bush's apologists, being fans of original intent, think they have hit the mother-load of presidential power with this concept. The courts and congress can never act fast enough to satisfy John Yoo, Ted Olsen, or Alberto Gonzales. Add to that an open-ended war on an abstract concept--a permanent state of emergency--and we have an argument for unlimited presidential power.

This power is predicated on the President being on duty when Congress is not. If the President was to leave the White House over the week-end, Christmas holiday, or for five weeks in late summer, he would be abandoning his post, he would be derelict in his duty. Aren't there penalties for abandoning your post and going AWOL during wartime? I'm just speaking hypothetically, of course. Not that this President would ever do anything like that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Viva Scrooge!
As my final evil effort to stop Christmas from coming, I have unleashed this this giant kitten on the unsuspecting inhabitants of a quaint dickensian, victorian village. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

If that fails, then I'll have no choice but to wish Bill O'Reilly a Merry Christmas and to everyone else an appropriate positive adjective for your mid-winter festival of choice.

Ho, ho, and, furthermore, ho.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Carnival of Bad History, Winter 2005 edition
Number four of Carnival of Bad History is up over at Neural Gourmet. This is the biggest and baddest Bad History yet. It has Nazis (how can you do bad history on the internet without Nazis?). It has current events. It has Ninjas. It has woolly mammoths (okay, I sent that one). It even has annoying e-mail from your in-laws. I'm still reading my way through the choice offerings, but I haven't found a bad post yet. Go visit the Neural Gourmet and check out the bad holiday smorgasborg.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A timely warning
This is a rerun of a post I wrote around this time last year. I think it's still relevant.


The men in black (MIB) entered UFO lore in 1956 in a book entitled They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. The author was one Gray Barker who had been a member of one of the first UFO groups, the rather ambitiously named International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). Though Barker's book dealt with a number of paranormal topics, the largest part of it dealt with his former boss, IFSB founder Albert Bender.

In 1953 the IFSB was about two years old with a few hundred dues paying members (called "investigators") who all received the Bureau's newsletter "Space Review." The group was doing well enough when, in October 1953, Bender stopped publication of Space Review, and dissolved the IFSB. The last issue of "Space Review" gave only this explanation.
STATEMENT OF IMPORTANCE: The mystery of the flying saucers is no longer a mystery. The source is already known, but any information about this is being withheld by order from a higher source. We would like to print the full story in Space Review, but because of the nature of the information we are very sorry that we have been advised in the negative.

According to Barker, the reason Bender had so abruptly ended the group was that three mysterious men in black had visited Bender and warned him off. But before they did, the MIBs were good enough to explain at least part of the true secret of the flying saucers. UFOs, they said, actually come from Antarctica. They have bases in both polar regions and regularly fly between them.

Enough UFO stories end with the craft departing due north or south that the Barker's version of Bender's visitors has been adopted by conspiracy theorists who believe in a decidedly terrestrial origin for saucers (Bender told a different story in his own book in 1963). My personal favorite is Atlanteans from within the hollow earth, but Nazi refugees from super-scientific bases beneath the ice caps has its devotees, too.

They are all wrong. The MIBs are the key. The mundane explanation is that they work for this government or that and are trying to hide the truth about the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs. But that could itself be disinformation. No government has the ability to do what the MIBs do.

Think for a moment about the men in black. They have appeared all over the world. They have a special interest in unidentified flying objects and protecting the polar regions. They seem to actually know what is in the minds of the people they visit. Who has the ability to manage an intelligence network like that? Who has the ability to travel everywhere at any time and even seemingly appear in two places at once? Who has a special interest in protecting the polar regions? Who knows when you are sleeping? Who knows when you are awake? Who knows if you've been good or bad?

I think you know the answer.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and watch your back.
O'Reilly wants cab drivers shot dead
It's nice of the pompous blowhard to do my job for me.
All right, "No Spin News" real quick. Transit strike hits New York City. New York says it's against the law. The transit people don't care, and da-da-da -- 33,000 transit employees, and they're gone, so everybody's walking around. There's price gouging. A friend of mine told me that his daughter had to go out to the airport, a run that would cost you 40 bucks, and then somebody wants $300 to take you out there, you know, that kind of thing. Immediately, that person should be shot dead. Did you get that, you left-wing smear sites who are listening? OK? Just pass that around -- "O'Reilly wants cab drivers shot dead" -- big headline on the left-wing website. You gotta give them something, ladies and gentlemen. [laughter] These little weasels.

Actually, it's a normal-sized headline.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why did they do it?
Perhaps the weirdest aspect of Bush's illegal NSA spying on American citizens is that he didn't have to do it. The laws on the books allow him to do legally everything he has done illegally. Specifically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) created a secret court that just to issue wiretap warrants. Over the last 25 years the FISA court has agreed to over 15,000 warrant requests and refused five. If time is of the essence--the mythical ticking bomb scenario--FISA allows the government to start the wiretaps and ask for permission up to three days after the fact. Bush's excuses about time and flexibility just don't cut it.

The NSA director when the surveillance began has offered a completely laughable explanation.
Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret- court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.

"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor.

Comic pause before the big punchline.
Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

That's right, actually thinking of good reasons to spy on people and filling out the paperwork is hard. Can't you hear Bush's voice during the presidential debates last year? "Obeying the law is hard work."

Laziness is actually more convincing that anything that Bush or Gonzales have offered up, and it's more honorable than Lott and Cornyn's "we're too scared to obey the law" defense, but I still don't think that it's the real reason.

Look at the problem: Bush had a law on that allowed him to do legally everything he has done illegally; if there was a gap in the law, he had a tame congress that would have given him anything he wanted. I think his problem is not legal or tactical, it's psychological.

Think of what we know about Bush's bubble-boy personality. Bush likes to be in charge; he likes to give orders and see people scurry about, carrying out his will. He doesn't respond well to being told "no." He doesn't share power or cooperate with others. By not using the legal means open to him, he cut the other branches of the government out of the loop. By keeping it all in the executive branch, he doesn't have to ask for cooperation or help; he can give an order and watch it obeyed.

And just in case you're inclined to ask: do I really think he's that petty? Yes. Yes, I do.
Judge Richard Posner has an opinion piece in the Washington Post today. The gist of his argument is that our government's ability to collect domestic intelligence (that is, to spy on us) has so many holes in it that Bush has to break laws and launch illegal spying programs in order to get the information he needs to keep us all safe. Two points stand out.

First, he's engaging in the same old fear mongering. His closing lines:
The terrorist menace, far from receding, grows every day. This is not only because al Qaeda likes to space its attacks, often by many years, but also because weapons of mass destruction are becoming ever more accessible to terrorist groups and individuals.

Is it even possible to have a reasoned discussion about the War on Terror and civil rights without someone on the right flapping their hands in the air and crying, "We're all gonna die!"?

Secondly, his argument has one big, gaping hole in it. The president has had over four years since 9/11 to fix these holes in our domestic intelligence system. He got his tame congress to pass a laundry list of due process waivers called the Patriot Act. He created an entire Department of Homeland Security. He's announced more than one major shake-up of the intelligence community. Yet he chose to break the law four years ago and continues to break the law. He has never even tried to fix those dangerous holes in domestic intelligence. Why?

Posner's idea of what some of those domestic intelligence gaps are is a bit creepy.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive.

Think about that for a moment. He's worried that we don't have an easy way to snoop into the homes of Americans who aren't suspected of anything. How dare those innocent people go about their lives without being watched! This actually fits in with a subtle theme of his piece. While talking about security and intelligence, he denies us any right of privacy. He even denies making that argument while he makes it.

Posner believes that the executive branch of the government should be able to collect any information on anyone and, as long as their motives are pure, we have no right to complain. Watch for other right-wing pundits to develop this theme.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bush keeps us safe
Marshall Wittman says Democrats shouldn’t make an issue out of Bush’s criminal wiretaps because he's been keeping us safe.
What we do know is that we have not suffered another attack on the Homeland since 9/11. That is a miraculous fact. And President Bush should be applauded for protecting the country rather than excoriated, to say nothing of impeachment which is on the lips of some Democrats.

I keep a special lucky charm in the car that protects us from werewolf attacks during long, lonely drives on the highway. How do I know it works? We have suffered no werewolf attacks since I put that charm in the car.

Torture, wholesale denial of due process, and illegal wiretaps by the Bush administration have kept America safe from terrorist attacks since 9/11. How do we know they work?

The really sad thing about this line of argumant is that the same people who make it will be the one's who respond to another terrorist attack by demanding more torture, denial of due process, and illegal wiretaps. Sigh.
Waving the bloody shirt
Anyone who has paid any attention to the way this administration defends itself when in trouble could have predicted what their line of defense would be for their illegal wiretapping: we did it to save American lives.
President Bush defended using government wiretaps without court authorization to monitor terrorism suspects and urged the Senate to renew the USA Patriot Act during his year-end news conference Monday.

The president said he intends to continue using secret international wiretaps to monitor activities of people in the United States suspected of having connections to al Qaeda.

"To save American lives we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks."

His supporters have already picked up the message, converted it into talking points, and begun spreading the message through talk radio, cable television talking head show, and newspaper columns.

There are actually several parts to the message. The most obvious, I've already mentioned: we did it to save American lives. In this, Bush is claiming noble and pure motivations. By declaring his intention to continue, he's striking a pose of heroic defiance: I'll climb any mountain, swim any sea, break any law, and shred any constitutional principle necessary to save American lives. By emphasizing the speed non-issue, he sets up a straw-man opponent to bash and to distract from his own culpability. The bureaucracy is the enemy of security. Nitpickers who insist on due process, legality, and constitutionality are the enemy of security. The rest of the government is the enemy of security. Only George Bush and those directly under his control can act quickly and effectively enough to save American lives.

Notice, too, that he's saving "American lives." This personalizes it. He's not saving abstract other lives; he's not saving ungrateful and undeserving foreign lives; he's saving our lives--me, you, and our loved ones. This is the vital point to understanding his propaganda. He's whipping up a sense of fear that he wants to use as a justification for law-breaking.

For decades after the Civil War, Republican politicians continued to win elections by using a tactic called "waving the bloody shirt." This refers to the cheap rhetorical emotionalism of bringing up the sacrifices of the war dead and claiming it would all have been in vain if traitorous democrats were allowed to win an election or advance a policy.

For the Bush administration, the bloody shirt is 9/11 and fear. They tell us we are in imminent danger and will ALL DIE unless we let them do whatever they want. In case we don't know what our reaction to this fear-mongering should be, we have former cheer-leader Trent Lott to tell us our lines:
I want my security first. I'll deal with all the details after that.

As early as 1759, Ben Franklin had the only possible response to Lott's craven cowardice:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Some on the left, and on the libertarian right, see this as the final straw for Bush. They find such criminal disregard for basic constitutional principles unforgivable and don't think the public will stand for it. I'm not that confident. We've yet to see whether the effectiveness of the bloody shirt has run its course. Yes, the administration has dropped its silly color-coded panic chart, and, yes, they play the fear card far less often now, but that doesn't mean one last gotcha wouldn't work. At the very least, I expect to hear about a horrible disaster that was barely averted thanks to illegal wiretaps.

More importantly, I'm not convinced that most people understand the seriousness of this. The power of warrants and restrictions on eavesdropping were both undermined with the original Patriot Act. Barely a week before this revelation, domestic surveillance by the military was received by the public with a yawn. Over the last four years, most people have come to assume that the government is snooping with little or no limitations. As is almost always the case with rights issues, most people don't see any personal relevance in it all. "The government is only harassing bad guys. I'm not a bad guy. Therefore, I have nothing to worry about."

This lack of a sense of relevance combined with Lott-style cowardice is a powerful combination and a tough one to overcome. Five years of Bush has my native pessimism running at full blast. Maybe I'm wrong this time. I hope so.

UPDATE: Sen. John Cornyn picks up Trent Lott's cowardly talking point: "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."

Russ Feingold elaborates on Ben Franklin's principle by bringing up Patrick Henry "Give me liberty or give me death."
Buying time for mammoths
I didn't finish part two of my mammoth series this weekend. Instead I went on my annual expedition to a mall looking for secular winter holiday gifts. Not much has changed in the mall since my last visit. The mall is still filled with more skinny blondes in tight jeans than I thought existed. The Bon has become Macy's. A fat white kid was trying to be a hip-hop DJ outside Nordstrom's, but the mall would only let him play easy-listening R&B, which he tried to perk up with some scratching, but his heart wasn't in it. The cable company set up a booth with big-screen teevees and comfy chairs that were filled with shell-shocked husbands and fathers. I thought that was a nice public service.

But you don't want to hear about malls. You want to hear about mammoths. Here's a nice story about mammoths.
Scientists have pieced together part of the genetic recipe of the extinct woolly mammoth.

The 5,000 DNA letters spell out the genetic code of its mitochondria, the structures in the cell that generate energy.

The research, published in the online edition of Nature, gives an insight into the elephant family tree.

It shows that the mammoth was most closely related to the Asian rather than the African elephant.

The three groups split from a common ancestor about six million years ago, with Asian elephants and mammoths diverging about half a million years later.

"We have finally resolved the phylogeny of the mammoth which has been controversial for the last 10 years," lead author Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told the BBC News website.

This doesn't mean anyone will be cloning mammoths anytime soon, but it is cool to ferret out a few more facts about who they were and where they fit in to the scheme of things. Meanwhile, I'm still writing; there will be a part two.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Looking at my statistics, I noticed that someone arrived from Google using the search terms "stores requiring happy holidays." I'm the number two response. Since I'm so high on the list, I suppose I have a responsibility to make clear my stand on this impotant issue. So to anyone worried about stores requiring their employees to say "Happy Holidays" let me say this: GROW UP YOU INSUFFERABLE CRYBABIES. Just because every downtrodden, minimum-wage worker you run into during the day isn't required to affirm the doninance of your religion does not mean you are oppressed.

There are far more important issues to worry about. Hundereds of millions go to bed hungry, cold, sick, and despairing every night. Thousands don't survive the night. The President of the United States thinks he can ignore law and the constitution and many influential people support him in this criminal delusion. Congress passed a law saying we don't have to give people a trial or even tell them why we have imprisoned them as long as they are foreigners. Polar bears and tigers will probably be extinct in forty years. An embarassing number of children don't know that Alaska is part of the United States, think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife, and can't read a rental contract or balance their checkbooks, yet hundreds of schoolboards think the most important issues they can deal with are tinkering with the words to the Pledge of Alligence and ensuring that kids get exposed to people who think ancient Israelis rode around on dinosaurs. Southern Louisiana is sinking into the ocean. Every generation of kids has more asthma and diabetes than the one before. The Vice-President and Attorney General think the executive branch should be able to order someone tortured whenever they want.

I think Jesus the carpenter would dope-slap anyone arrogant enough to think not hearing the words "Merry Christmas" is the most important issue our civilization faces.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mammoth days continue
Carl Buell is working on his proboscidean art and I'm working on my woolly mammoth essays, but just so you don't lose that mammoth fever, I thought I'd throw out a few bits to stoke the fires.

First of all, if you haven't been to Olduvai George to check out the beginning of Carl's series, you should do so now. He started Sunday with a Rhynchotherium. he promises that in about two weeks he'll work his way up to my friend, Mammuthus Primigenius.

Next, mammoth days are spreading across the internets. The once and future blogger known as the Farmer has returned. After a brief hiatus--do farmers take hiati? Maybe he went fallow for a season--he's back. And he has a classic post that mentions brilliant mammoth scholars. Go say hi, and then come back.

While we're waiting for Carl's mammoth, I thought I'd give you mine.

This is the standard woolly mammoth of the Siberian and Alaskan steppe during the late Pleistocene. It's a medium sized male. Rather than use the traditional clip-art caucasian (CAC) to indicate the size of the creature, I've added an emeperor penguin standing on a step ladder, which is just as historically probable as the CAC. We should note that during the Pleistocene there were neither emeperor penguins nor step ladders on the mammoth steppe. For that matter, there still are no emeperor penguins and a good step ladder, not 90% duct tape, is rather hard to come by there.

Carl takes the time to explain how he creates his drawings. He does his work on-screen, so whether you are an artist or a computer geek, you'll probably find his technical notes interesting. In that spirit, I thought you'd want to know how I create my "art." I used an almost dried-up, Micron-brand, disposable rapidograph and a sheet of copier paper yanked from my printer duing the three minutes it took my old Compaq computer to boot. I was only able to do this because both of the cats are sleeping on my clever wife and not sitting in front of the computer screen. I then scanned the drawing on a 99 dollar scanner and cropped it using some cheap software that came with the computer.

Art is not an elite hobby, it's available to anyone with an imagination--or a cheap pen and some copier paper.
Return of the Nazi Werewolf urban legend
In his December 13 column, published at Townhall, Thomas Sowell attempted to muster some historical arguments in support of the war in Iraq. His first argument was contemptible and his second was simply a lie. In addition, both arguments were unoriginal, nothing more than tired old talking points that have been shot down again and again. I suppose one more time won't hurt.

First, the contemptible argument.
The two-thousandth death was similarly anticipated almost impatiently in the media and then made another big splash. But does media hype make 2,000 wartime fatalities in more than two years unusual?

The Marines lost more than 5,000 men taking one island in the Pacific during a three-month period in World War II. In the Civil War, the Confederates lost 5,000 men in one battle in one day.

Yet there was Jim Lehrer on the "News Hour" last week earnestly asking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the ten Americans killed that day. It is hard to imagine anybody in any previous war asking any such question of anyone responsible for fighting a war.

We have lost more men than that in our most overwhelming and one-sided victories in previous wars. During an aerial battle over the Mariannas islands in World War II, Americans shot down hundreds of Japanese planes while losing about 30 of their own.

If the media of that era had been reporting the way the media report today, all we would have heard about would have been that more than two dozen Americans were killed that day.

The point that Sowell is trying to make through his whole column, is the well worn complaint that the evil liberal media only talk about the bad things that happen in Iraq, they never talk about the painted schools.* Political partisans are never happy with the press, but Sowell has mixed an ugly historical argument in with his routine complaint. Sowell is trying to create a favorable perspective for today's deaths by comparing them to the horrors of previous wars.

He says we shouldn't complain about the deaths of 2000 Americans today, because many times that many Americans died in a fraction of the time at Okinawa or Antietam (in respect for those historical dead, he could have at least named the battles). This line of argument is contemptible because it diminishes the deaths of those 2000. It doesn't matter whether you think they died in a noble cause or in a tragic farce, their individual lives deserve respect. Each life affected a broad circle of friends, family, and comrades. Those peoples' pain deserves respect. Sowell wants to brush those deaths off as only 2000 and not worth the fuss. Maybe he thinks he's being tough and manly, but it comes across to many of us as callous and unfeeling.

Now, the known lie.
Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.

Even after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities.

But nobody suggested that we abandon the country. Nobody was foolish enough to think that you could say in advance when you would pull out or that you should encourage your enemies by announcing a timetable.

This is the story of the Nazi "Werewolf" units. What an amazing coincidence that Sowell chose to introduce the Werewolf story with the words "[u]tter ignorance of history," because that's what he's demonstrating by bringing this up.

The Werewolf argument was first used by Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld in speeches before a VFW convention in Texas in August 2003. Rice described it this way:
There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in post-War Germany and see only the successes. But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers -- called "werewolves" -- engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them -- much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants.

Rumsfeld, as is his style, was more lurid in his details:
One group of those dead-enders was known as "werewolves." They and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces. Mayors were assassinated including the American-appointed mayor of Aachen, the first major German city to be liberated. Children as young as 10 were used as snipers, radio broadcasts, and leaflets warned Germans not to collaborate with the Allies. They plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum. Does this sound familiar?

Daniel Benjamin writing in Slate described the anecdotes as "embellish[ing] the message with what former White House speechwriters immediately recognize as a greatest-generation pander." It's a familiar rhetorical device. By mentioning the obstacles that our parents and grandparents overcame, the speaker makes us feel inadequate and challenges us to rise to their level. It works best when the challenges were real. Werewolf is fiction.

There really was something called Operation Werewolf, but it bore no resemblance to the guerilla war Rice and Rumsfeld mentioned. Many historians and editorialists, including this blog (twice), took time to debunk their lie.
Before looking at the substance of her statement notice how [Rice} frames her parallel by anachronistically transferring modern terminology into the past. The Allies have become "coalition forces." By this rule I suppose we should start referring to John Wilkes Booth as a member of the Fedayeen Jefferson Davis.


There was some resistance by German soldiers behind the lines while the fighting was still going on at the end of WWII. Among these were the famous efforts by Otto Skorzeny in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, the assassination of the collaborationist mayor of Aachen after the Americans occupied that town, and the less known efforts by Volkdeutsch leader Andreas Schmidt in Rumania against the Red Army. However, none of these were Werewolf activities in the sense that Rice and Rumsfeld mean. These were commando activities directed by Reich authorities in Berlin.

The real Operation Werewolf had a little reality and a lot of myth. The reality was a plan to train troops in guerilla tactics and sabotage, to create hidden supply depots in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, and to make Germany ungovernable for the Allied occupiers. The reality was more like an unfunded Bush social program; the supply depots never materialized and the troops were mostly Hitler Youth boys who, as soon as the command structure vanished, ditched their guns and cyanide capsules and went home. In an ugly sequel, the Soviets, who had some understanding of partisan warfare, used the Werewolf rumors as an excuse to execute German POWs while the restored national governments of continental Europe used those same rumors to justify their expulsion of 14 million ethnic Germans from Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Werewolf has lived on as a great plot device for a hundred Ludlum wannabes and not much more.

This is not a matter of interpretation where one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. There was no one there to call a terrorist, freedom fighter, or ice-cream vendor for that matter. No one.

To repeat myself, there was a limited amount of commando activity during the latter part of the war, conducted by German military troops under the command of the Nazi government. These activities ended as soon as the government surrendered. The occupation was remarkably orderly in the sense of resistance. The challenges faced by our troops were the humanitarian and economic challenge of dealing with millions of refugees and tens of millions of people living where the economic infrastructure had been completely demolished. There was no guerilla resistance in Germany. None.

Why did Sowell repeat this nonsense? Is he a willing liar, or just a lazy writer who didn't check his facts? I could unload my academic snobbery and point out that Sowell is an economist, not a historian. But even economists know their way around a library. He knows how to check facts, he chose not to. In this case, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and call him lazy. There is nothing original in his column. It's a collection of recycled Republican talking points and nothing more. Maybe that day he was in a rush to get out of the office and do some Christmas shopping.

* Now that I think about it, the conservatives never mention painting schools anymore. Does that mean we finished painting them? And if so, isn't it time to hang out the "Mission Accomplished" sign and bring our troops home?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hannity needs to do his homework
Last night Sean Hannity saw a chance to smack some liberal, elitist academics and jumped at it.
Now, you may remember this Saudi prince from the days after September 11, when Rudy Giuliani turned down his so-called gift of $10 million, because he said that the U.S. needed to, quote, “reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance towards the Palestinian cause,” unquote.

Well, Harvard and Georgetown universities are now accepting $20 million each from Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal for their Islamic studies programs. … This is a bad guy. Rudy was right to decline the money. Why would these universities take money from him?

Problem is, Hannity himself takes Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal's money every time he cashes his paycheck.
Hannity conveniently forgot to mention that his own employer, Fox News, also accepts money from Talal; he owns 5.5% of Fox News.

Monday, December 12, 2005

There's no phonics for geography
The Europeans are laughing at us again.
"Several years ago, Holland became the first country to legalize the mercy killings of adults. Now, this European nation, known for its liberal ways, has announced that in 'certain circumstances' it will also allow babies to be euthanized."

They’ve crossed over the slippery slope. Like the Netherlands.

Wow, Holland and the Netherlands. I suppose it's only a matter of time before the Dutch join their axis of evil. (Stolen from Sadly No!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Beware frozen mammoths - Part 1, warning signs
Sometimes we need warning signs to help us get through life. Some signs are provided for us. Dante tells us that the management of Hell has been good enough to put up a sign at the door that says, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." When an animal makes all of its hair stand on end, bares its teeth, exposes its claws, and makes a funny noise in its throat, nature has provided our mammal brains with the sense to realize that this means, "do not snuggle." The FDA and other regulatory agencies require the placement of various labels and international symbols on household cleansers and prescription drugs to let us know that, despite the cheerful colors and attractive packaging, these things are not candy.

Unfortunately, the powers that be don't provide warning signs for all of the perils we might face in life. We have to discover some warnings for ourselves. This is especially true for intellectual perils. Some books contain madness. Each of us must learn the warning signs of our own madness. In Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum, Casaubon and Belbo learned that mention of the Templars was the warning sign. They failed to heed their own advice and were thus doomed.

When I was in junior high, I discovered books on the esoteric, as many males of that age do. For about two years I consumed books on Atlantis, UFOs, Soviet telepathy experiments, prophecy, mental powers of the ancients, secret societies (including the Templars), government conspiracies, and Nazi occultists. One day while reading an ancient astronaut book, I realized that I seen every single piece of evidence in the book before. The same sets of evidence were routinely shuffled together as proof positive of a dozen competing theories. That was the end of my esoteric years. After that, I concentrated on reading honest science fiction.

Pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are products of a similar mindset. Both are highly mistrustful of the conventional intellectual establishment, who, they are sure, are either dogmatically resistant to certain truths or deliberately hiding those truths. In either case, these "researchers"--as they inevitably style themselves--know that they are the only possessors of the Truth and the only straight-talkers who will tell us the Truth. The first warning sign, even before any evidence appears, is the researcher comparing his suffering at the hands of the learned establishment to that of Galileo at the hands of the Church. As soon as I see "me and Galileo," I put the book back on the shelf and run for the door.

Researchers share another trait; they are compulsive recyclers. No evidence is ever discarded; it is endlessly reused to support new Truths. Researchers borrow complete sets of evidence from each other and put it into the service of new and different causes.

I call those sets of evidence "the usual suspects." Like Galileo, these are my intellectual warning signs. The first set of evidence that I discovered as a teenager was the ancient monument set. Most of you know this one. The author points with amazement at the Great Pyramid, the Valley of Mexico Pyramids, Stonehenge, the lines at Nazca, and the Easter Island heads. All of these, we are informed, are impossible for primitive people to have built. Our ancestors were too stupid to move big rocks, pile them on top of each other, carve, or line them up with any precision.

The condescension of the esoteric writers directly echoes that of amateur archaeologists during the imperial nineteenth century. Faced with the sight of "primitives" inhabiting megalithic structures--like the Shona at Great Zimbabwe--the imperial mind invented lighter-skinned ancients who built the structures (Phoenicians, in the case of Zimbabwe) only to lose them to later migrations of dark skinned savages. The racial contempt of the imperials has been replaced by a temporal contempt in the esoterics. Our ancestors were too stupid to stack rocks. They needed white guys from outer space to show them how to do it.

Lately, I've noticed that frozen mammoths are an important warning sign.

Here's how frozen mammoths fit into a few esoteric world views.
  • Noachian flood - Regardless of religion or lack thereof, everyone in the English speaking world knows this story. In 2800 BC, God ordered Noah to take one pair (or seven) of every animal and bird onto his ark. God flooded the world and killed everything that wasn't on the ark. All current terrestrial life has spread from the ark's landing place in Armenia, and all known history is the story of the human passengers of that famous boat.

    Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant according to some Ark-eologists. They are a normal tropical elephant. During the Biblical flood, the elephants left behind were all drowned. Their carcasses were carried north by the flood waters and deposited in Siberia where they froze.

  • Velikovsky - In historical times, the planets Venus and Mars ricocheted around the solar system like billiard balls. Whenever they passed by the Earth, their gravitational fields caused the disasters that are recorded in history as the Old Testament miracles (Noah's flood, the plagues of Egypt, the sun stopping in its tracks).

    Mammoths may or may not be a separate species of elephant. While disasters were happening in the Middle East, floods and freezes were happening in other parts of the world. Frozen mammoths are just one casualty of all this.

  • Hapgood's polar shift - Ice collects at the poles every year. This weight makes the Earth unstable. Every couple thousand years, the centrifugal force of the spinning Earth on this weight causes the entire crust of the Earth to slip sideways. The heavier poles move to the equator and a previously temperate region moves to the pole where it begins to collect ice.

    Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant. They are a normal tropical elephant. When the poles shifted, their tropical home was moved north and they flash-froze in mid chew.

  • Hollow Earth - The Earth is a hollow ball with openings at or near the poles. Life, similar to ours, lives on the inner surface of the sphere. A tiny sun at the center of the sphere lights this inner tropical world.

    Mammoths may or may not be a separate species of elephant. But they are a tropical animal. Periodically, one wanders too near the opening where it freezes to death, falls into the ocean, and is carried to Siberia by Arctic sea currents.

  • WEL (Welteislehre) - Even though this one had the personal endorsement of Hitler, you don't see many WEL followers anymore. The entire universe, except the Earth and the sun, is made of ice. The Earth has had many ice moons. These spiral inward. When they get close to the Earth, tidal forces draw all of the water to the equator. Giant tides, miles high, sweep around the planet. Eventually the ice moon gets so close it explodes. As ice fragments crash to Earth, the seas resume their previous positions. Mars will be our next ice moon.

    Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant. They are a normal tropical elephant. When the last ice moon broke up and the seas swept north, destroying Atlantis, thousands of elephants were killed, frozen, and swept into Siberia.

These are by no means the only theories that use frozen mammoths for proof or the only versions of these theories. Most new theories, true to the recycling principle, are combinations and variations on these themes. All of these theories--with the exception of the Hollow Earth--share the idea that frozen mammoths were all created in a single, cataclysmic event of global and geologic proportions. They all think that frozen mammoths are proof positive of truth of their narrative, and of the perfidiousness of mainstream science.

In part two of this series I'll look at the development of one theory over the years and demonstrate how the frozen mammoth came to be incorporated into their narrative. In part three I'll examine the actual evidence that frozen mammoths supposedly provide for that theory. I'm still working on securing an interview with a frozen mammoth for part four. So far, all I get to my enquiries is a chilly silence.
The mammoth and me
Woolly mammoths have always been part of my life.

At some point when I was little, someone gave me a set of plastic prehistoric animals. I don't remember getting them; I just remember them being around all through my childhood. There was a blue dimetrodon (sailbacked lizard), a brown anklyosaur (armored dinosaur), a tan smilodon (saber-toothed tiger), and a sage green woolly mammoth that I had apparently teethed on. Over the years and moves, I lost them one by one til only the mammoth remained. He still sat on my dresser when I was in college.

By then we lived in Alaska where mammoths are part of the cultural/tourist background. Placer miners in Alaska regularly unearth massive amounts of mammoth bones and ivory. Local native artists work the mammoth ivory just like they do walrus ivory. My mother has a string of ivory beads made of mammoth ivory. Some mammoth ivory is just a white as new elephant ivory, but other mammoth ivory turns brown as it ages. The layers in the ivory then stands out in contrast and it takes on a woody look. Mom's beads are a medium oak color. The darkest I've seen were like fine mahogany.

In 1986, the legistature of Alaska made the woolly mammoth the official state fossil. My friend, Mr. Whitekeys, wrote a song about it for his multi-media revue at the Fly-by-Nightclub in Spenard. Suprisingly, there aren't a lot of good songs about mammoths. I was working in a bookstore at the time, so I helped out by gathering pictures of mammoths for the slideshow that accompanies his music. At the same time, surrounded by pictures of mammoths, I learned how to draw a moderately accurate mammoth (domed head, sloping back, smallish ears, tusks curve most of the way around).

Last winter I started a longish post about the use of frozen mammoth stories in pseudoscience/pseudohistory theories. The two dozen or so mammoths that have been found with some frozen soft tissue attached have been multiplied into herds of thousands, perfectly frozen in mid-step and mid-chew with a somewhat startled expressions on their large faces. For some reason I haven't been able to pull the post together.

Carl Buell came to my rescue. Buell is a highly respected nature and science artist with a fondness for Quatrenary megafauna whose work I'd seen in places like National Geographic, though I never knew his name. He started blogging two weeks ago. I joined many others in welcoming him and mentioned that I'd like to see a mammoth picture if he had any at hand. It turns out that he has done many mammoth pictures, but sold them all to Mammoth Hot Springs and no longer owns the copyrights.

I'm not sure if I'm to blame for this, but a few days later Buell issued a promise to post a visual history of Proboscideans in North America. That would be a minimum of fifteen paintings of extinct elephants. Well, if he can take on a task like that just to amuse the blogosphere, I can whack together a few paragraphs about mammoths in Atlantis. So, there, I've said it in public. There will be no putting it off now.
Catching up on my responsibilities
I've been falling behind on some of my duties around here. Let's see what we can fix today.

We have a host for the next Carnival of Bad History. As we were rapidly approaching to the date for the winter CoBH and still lacked a host I was debating whether to give up on the whole carnival idea or resign myself to permanent hosthood. I was actually in the process of writing a post on the subject when I got a note from Coturnix saying that he had located a host volunteer. The Neural Gourmet has stepped up to the plate to, uh, punt a basket, or whatever it is you do at the plate--I never was very good at the sports metaphor thing. The next CoBH will be held on December 22. That means you have lots of time to write a post, post a post, and submit said post to The Neural Gourmet for inclusion. Have a myth you want to bust? Heard someone say something astonishingly ahistorical? Discovered a great conspiracy theory? Just want to review a bad movie? If it has anything to do with history, this is your chance.

I'll be working on the blogroll this afternoon. Not only do I need to add a few new sites and changes of address, I seem to have inadvertently deleted a few people that I shouldn't have. This is one of the reasons I keep a few back-up files of old versions of the blog template. I never know when I'm going to need to dig up some lost data.

Lately, I've been getting a little burned out on the outrage du jour style of blogging. You know the style. Every morning I look at the news and see that someone, somewhere has said something so offensively stupid that it demands a response. Most days I don't have to go further than the Fox pundits and their defense in the Global War on Christmas (GWOC). Outrage will only carry me so far. As the patron cockroach wrote, "expression is the need of my soul." I can't live by bread alone, I crave a little toast, preferably with a piece of cheese melted onto it. In writing terms, that will mean I'm going to add a few wooly mammoths to our diet of Gibsons, Limbaughs, and O'Reillys.

And it looks like it's been a few days since I last insulted Bill O'Reilly and his silly crusade to save Christmas, so "O'Reilly is a poopy-head!! Christmas delenda est."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Nude pictures of Ann Coulter
Pandagon and World of Crap both have pieces on how Blogenlust has had a huge traffic spike from people looking for pictures of Ann Coulter posing nude. I'm not exactly sure why, but every time she is in the news, a large number of people decide that they would like to see Ann Coulter nude. Blogenlust has the only picture of Ann Coulter nude in known captivity. So anyone who Googles the terms "Ann Coulter" and "nude" inevitably gets Blogenlust's blog. It's all really a joke. But, considering the number of people hunting for pictures of Ann Coulter posing nude, it is tempting to cleverly plant those search terms in hopes of getting some traffic. Fortunately, I have too much class for that. This is a serious blog.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Discontent among Christian Zionists
This bears watching.
Donald E. Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association (AFA), used the occasion of the December 5 broadcast (audio link) of AFA Report, his daily program on AFA-operated American Family Radio (AFR), to suggest that some members of the religious right would withdraw support for Israel if a prominent activist against anti-Semitism did not cease his criticism of it.

During the broadcast, Wildmon stated that Anti-Defamation League (ADL) President Abraham H. Foxman "got himself kind of in a bind" by criticizing the religious right. "[T]he strongest supporters Israel has are members of the religious right -- the people he's fighting," Wildmon said. "[T]he more he says that 'you people are destroying this country,' you know, some people are going to begin to get fed up with this and say, 'Well, all right then. If that's the way you feel, then we just won't support Israel anymore.'"

There is a lot of background that goes with this. Let's start with the players:

Abraham Foxman is the president and chief spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a venerable old Jewish advocacy group. The ADL holds an analogous position to that of the NAACP in the African-American community. There are other advocacy groups, but the ADL and the NAACP are the oldest and most sought-after when the press needs someone to speak for the whole demographic group.

According to their Web site, the American Family Association (AFA) "represents and stands for traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media—including pornography—on our society." That is to say, they are able to find pornography and a secret "homosexual agenda" even on Animal Planet. They are one of the loudest voices currently sounding the alarm over the bogus Global War on Christmas (GWOC). Their main tool is to organize mass boycotts of corporations that they feel support "immorality." They have had mixed success in their boycotts, but just last week they got Ford Motor Company to agree to stop advertising in gay magazines.

Donald Wildmon's threat over supporting Israel refers to something called Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism is one of the uglier side effects of the current premillenial craze among American Evangelicals.

Most Americans have a vague familiarity with the premillenial narrative of rapture and tribulation made famous by Hal Lindsey and Tim LeHaye. According to the premillenial reading of Biblical prophecy and apocalypse literature, several preconditions must be met. The most important of these is the reestablishment of the state of Israel within certain Biblical borders (usually similar to the empire of Solomon) and the gathering of all the world's Jews into that Israel. Because the legal borders of Israel fall short of those borders, Christian Zionists support the most extreme advocates of Israeli expansion--those who would like to ethnically cleanse the West Bank and Gaza to provide living space for European and American Jews to immigrate. Once the borders have been reestablished and the Jews gathered, the rapture happens and the count-down to the second coming of Christ begins.

The ugly side of this narrative is that the main role of the Jews in the second coming, after starting the clock, is to die in the battle of Armageddon and be condemned to hell. According to many premillenial writers, only 155,000 Jews will survive. And they will survive by converting to the right form of Christianity at the right moment. The many Christian Zionists who congratulate themselves for "supporting" Israel of the Jews, actually believe that they are sending the majority of the Jews to their deaths so that these nice Christian Zionists can meet Jesus sooner. The irony of Christian Zionist "support for Israel" is not lost Israeli politicians.

In recent years, American Christian Zionists have become a significant force in Israeli politics. They provide significant financial and propaganda support for the Likud Party. Their tourism has become a very important sector in the Israeli economy, one that no government can ignore. Christian Zionists are a powerful pro-Israel and anti-Palestine lobbying force in American politics. If Wildmon could actually deliver on his threat to end support for Israel among the American religious right, it would have a significant impact in Israel. While I don't believe Wildmon has that power, I think his threat is very revealing.

What ignited Wildmon's wrath? Foxman, as the head of an American organization has expressed concern with certain trends in American politics. Specifically in a November 3 address to the ADL, Foxman mentioned the AFA as one of the conservative religious organizations whose "goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America." Michelle Goldberg reported on this in Salon.
Throughout the last five years, as the Christian right has assumed ever greater power and prominence in America, the organized Jewish community has been remarkably quiescent. Traditionally, Jewish leaders have been among the most vigilant guardians of American secularism, seeing the separation of church and state as key to Jewish equality. But faced with an evangelical president who seemed inviolable and an alliance of convenience with the religious right over Israel, Jewish leaders didn't raise much of an outcry when billions of taxpayer dollars were diverted toward religious charities through Bush's faith-based initiative. They didn't make a fuss when the administration filled the bureaucracy with veterans of groups like the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition. As leaders of the religious right and their allies in the Republican Party trumpeted plans to "take America back," observers detected growing anxiety among ordinary American Jews, but there was little response from organized Jewry.

This month, that started to change. Two major Jewish figures -- Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism -- have taken on the religious right and, by extension, the Republican Party. By doing so, they have enraged some evangelicals and opened a fissure in the larger Jewish community. Some leaders are worried about provoking a conservative backlash and ushering in a new era of anti-Semitism. Others rejoice that someone has finally articulated what so many ordinary American Jews have been thinking. Either way, the culture wars have suddenly taken on an overtly sectarian cast.

On Nov. 3, Abraham Foxman gave a speech to an ADL meeting, calling attacks on church-state separation the "key domestic challenge to the American Jewish community and to our democratic values." "[T]oday we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized, and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before," he said. "Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us!" Among the major players in this campaign, Foxman listed Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council.


With the America that Jews have prospered in threatening to disappear, Foxman called for a meeting of Jewish leadership to plan a coordinated strategy.

One person who plans to be there is Rabbi Eric Yoffie, whose group is the largest Jewish organization in the country, representing more than 900 congregations. Two weeks after Foxman's broadside, Yoffie blasted the religious right in a sermon delivered to around 5,000 people at the Union's biannual convention in Houston. Yoffie says he hadn't coordinated with Foxman, but the two share some of the same concerns -- though Yoffie approaches the issue from a religious rather than a political perspective.

"We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the religious right is the voice of atheism," he told his audience. "We are appalled when 'people of faith' is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?"

In an earlier post (here or here), I talked about John Gibson's ugly interpretation of the idea of "tolerance" as shown in his statement that "as long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us." Gibson's version of toleration is an unpleasant burden, yet one that ennobles the bearer for doing so. The tolerator is fully aware of the disparity in power between them and the tolerated, and they approve that disparity. This form of toleration does not accept the tolerated as equals. The follow up to this attitude is that it can quickly turn to anger and violence if they feel the tolerated are not recognizing their nobility with the proper expression of gratitude. Wildmon is expressing this same type of irritable nobility.

In addition, Wildmon shares another sub-text with Gibson. Wildmon implies that Jews are not an authentic American constituency. Gibson was much more explicit in claiming that only his sect were real Americans and all others were interlopers whose presence was barely tolerated. However, Wildmon is reading from the same page page when he threatens to punish Israel for Foxman's lack of support. He is directly saying that Israel is Foxman's country, not America. Gibson and Wildmon are busily dividing the world in religious turfs. In their view, America belongs to conservative Evangelical Protestants and tolerated minorities who agree to play by their rules and say "thank you" for being allowed to exist here.

Michelle Goldberg's Salon article discussed the Jewish-American aspect of the breakdown of their alliance of convenience with the religious right. In Israel, the main beneficiary of Christian Zionism, the Likud Party, appears to be falling apart. In the States, the main beneficiary of the religious right, the Republican Party, is rapidly loosing strength. Both of these developments have the effect of causing the religious right to lose influence. Now they are lashing out.

I seriously doubt that Wildmon will call a boycott of Israel in order to punish Foxman. If he does, how many Christian Zionists will choose to delay the second coming and follow him? The balance between earthly power and yearning for the next world is a delicate one for many evangelicals. At the very least, Wildmon's threats have to be making some on the religious right very uncomfortable.

The triumphal march of the religious right is encountering some significant interruptions. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. For those of us who don't share their goals, this might be the beginning of a period of opportunity.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Reason and ridicule
I'm getting tired of Bill O'Reilly and his Fox friends with their silly Global War on Christmas (GWOC). They are a bunch of ignorant and intolerant bullies howling about imagined persecution in order to pump their ratings and sell their books. They wouldn't merit more than a brief mention on News of the Weird except for the fact that so many conservative Christians have bought into their "persecuted majority" nonsense.

The persecution narrative is a powerful tool for fundraising and voter mobilization on the right. From our perspective, that's bad enough, but it has an uglier side. A well-stoked sense of persecution leads a group to separate itself from the rest of society and develop a siege mentality. At the very least, this engenders a black-and-white us-or-them mentality that is contrary to healthy democratic functions like compromise and consensus building. A siege mentality leads people to view the world as one of hostile warring camps. Ultimately, the feelings of fear, encirclement, and hostility can transform their metaphorical war into real violence.

The War on Christmas sounds like a joke, but it is a part of something genuinely dangerous. Unfortunately, the only tools I have to counter ugly trends like this are reason and ridicule. That was the reason; here is the ridicule. December 2, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded.

Take my word for it, Bill, you bring horror into our world every time you open your mouth.
You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it.

Promises, promises. You promised to give us links on your website and then backed down. Now you're promising to put our pictures on teevee. I'd like to believe you, Bill, but you've burned us one too many times.
There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.

Bill, do you even listen to what comes out of your mouth? "Celebrate generosity, peace, and love, dammit, or I'll make you rue the day you were born!!!" How can I mock you when you parody your own self?

I'll be glad when the holiday season is over and the silly right goes back to worrying about liberal college professors.
Michael Reagan wants Howard Dean killed
In the comments on my post on about Rush Limbaugh gloating over a group of Christian pacifists taken hostage in Iraq, commenter keef criticised me for getting my Rush quotes via Media Matters for America. According to keef, "MMFA does this all the time to conservatives--they take snippets of what's said and gin up a bunch of hate." Since I'm not a paying member of Rush's fan club, I don't have access to his approved transcripts. I make do with what I can get and, unless keef can show that MMFA seriously distorted Limbaugh's meaning, I'll stand by my conclusions of his contemptability. However, even keef should approve of my sourcing for this story.

The manly right-wing news site NewsMax reports:
Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is blasting Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for declaring that the U.S. won't be able to win the war in Iraq, saying Dean ought to be "hung for treason."

"Howard Dean should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war!" Reagan told his Radio America audience on Monday.

Admittedly, the quote is out of context and I can't locate a longer transcript, even on MMFA. This single sentence could distort Reagan's meaning. He could have meant "hung for treason" in the nicest way possible. And besides, you know how these right-wing sites like to take snippets of what a conservative says and use it gin up a bunch of hate against themselves.

Yeah, that must be it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bringing the war to the enemy
Anti-Christmas forces staged a daring daytime raid deep into the home territory of the defenders of Christmas.

It started as a day like any other day on Fox News:
ANNOUNCER: Is there a Grinch taking the holly-jolly out of Christmas? Why has this holy season become a target of the liberal media? Details next on Fox News Watch.

But then the Anti-Christmas forces made their presence known...
[Media writer Neil] GABLER: Michelle Goldberg had a great article, and anybody interested in this issue -- in Salon -- ought to read it, in which she said that Henry Ford, back in 1921, declared that there was a war on Christmas. Of course, he blamed Jews. She cites the John Birch Society -- the reactionary John Birch Society -- in the 1950s saying there's a war on Christmas in 1959 by secularists.

The defenders of Christmas tried to take command of the battle field...
[News Watch host Eric] BURNS: All right. Listen, hold it. Let's not call it a war necessarily --


GABLER: No, it is being -- it is being called a war --

BURNS: It is.

GABLER: --in certain places.

BURNS: Well, let's not do it here. But let's just say, isn't it ridiculous, Jane, to want to get rid of the word "Christmas tree" and say "holiday tree." But wait -- let me just mention this before you answer. You know, a few years ago in Pittsburgh, there was an edict in one of the school districts that if you were an employee in that school district, you couldn't say "Merry Christmas" to a kid. A memo came down -- you had to say, "Happy Sparkle Season."


BURNS: Serious. Aren't we going too far?

But found themselves taking heavier fire than they expected...
HALL: Well, if you cite those examples, yes. But I think there's -- there's a real question that I have here. I mean, the last time I checked, Jesus was for tolerance. And to have -- Bill O'Reilly has made this a huge issue. He's obviously getting a lot of feedback. John Gibson has a book about it, another Fox anchor. I think this is largely a fund-raiser for Jerry Falwell to pick up on some run-amok PC. I think to talk about the corporations, as Bill O'Reilly has been doing, and what they do -- I mean, he's certainly within his rights. But I think, what are they saying? Boycott the corporations that have holiday wishes? What is the point of that?


JAMES P. PINKERTON (Newsday columnist): This story was ignored by the mainstream media for --

GABLER: Because it's not a story, and that's why it was ignored. And as I said, in 1921 this began.

[American University professor Jane] HALL: It's a fund-raiser.

GABLER: Now let's talk about the elephant in the room; let's talk about the media.

BURNS: Just a minute, Neal; if it started in 1921 --

GABLER: It's not a story.

BURNS: If I can just --

GABLER: It was a demagogic campaign.

BURNS: If I can just give three examples right now in different parts of the country --

GABLER: We're 300 million people. You know, I can give you --

BURNS: But there are -- just a minute, there are more than three examples to give --

GABLER: Three incidents of chicken pox doesn't make an epidemic.

HALL: But what is the media -- where is the media angle?

GABLER: The media angle right here -- Look, I want to talk about the media angle, because we've avoided it; it's the elephant in the room -- it's Fox News. Come on. It's O'Reilly; it's Hannity; it's Gibson. They're demagogues who realize that at Christmastime, you can -- you can --


GABLER: You rally the masses on this issue.


GABLER: They'll do it every Christmas. They did it last Christmas; they'll do it next Christmas.

BURNS: I spend this whole show sitting back most of the time. I don't think it is demagoguery to point out that there are people who are themselves being demagogues by trying to take away the worship terminology of 95 percent of Americans.

GABLER: Eric, we are at war. There's [the humanitarian crisis in] Darfur. There's an AIDS crisis. And you're worried about whether people are saying "Merry Christmas" or not?


GABLER: What world do you live in?

BURNS: Hey, Neal, it's one issue, and it's the issue that's the subject of this top -- that's the subject of this segment.

GABLER: And the media have been pumping it, and that's my point.

PINKERTON: All right.

GABLER: The media, particularly Fox media, has been pumping the hell out of this thing.

In other news in the Global War on Christmas (GWOC), Bill O'Reilly kept up his timely defense of the baby Jesus by denouncing a segment from the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that aired last year.