Thursday, April 19, 2007

Um, okay

Mike Dunford's wife is serving Iraq right now. Earlier today he received this e-mail from the Family Readiness Group for his wife's unit. I'm glad to see that they have their priorities straight.
The Acting Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff, Army have emphasized that Army Families are a key component of our readiness. Army Families shoulder a great burden of sacrifice, supporting their Soldier and often enduring long periods of separation from their loved ones. Top notch care and support of Army Families demonstrate our sincere appreciation and gratitude for their many contributions, and allow our Soldiers to fully concentrate on the fight and focus on their duties. Effective immediately, the word "Families" will be capitalized in all Army correspondence. Please ensure wide dissemination of this change. Thanks for your continued efforts to do all you can to provide steadfast support to our Army Families.

I'm just doing my patriotic best to help with the wide dissemination. Then my head will explode.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mammoth sale

A beautiful, nearly complete woolly mammoth skeleton was sold today in Paris.
The skeleton of a 15,000-year-old Siberian mammoth was snapped up at auction in Paris on Monday for over one-and-a-half times the estimated price.

Dubbed "The President", the 3.8-metre-high tusked mammoth was sold for 260,000 euros ($352,331) to an unknown bidder by Christie's in Paris, compared to a 150,000-180,000 euros guide price.

I was planning on bidding but realized I didn't have anywhere to put it.

Where have these people been for the last 40 years?

Former Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson told Jewish activists Monday that making money is "part of the Jewish tradition," and something that he applauded.


Thompson later apologized for the comments that had caused a stir in the audience, saying that he had meant it as a compliment, and had only wanted to highlight the "accomplishments" of the Jewish religion.

Death in Virginia

I'm watching the story of the Virginia Tech story develop. When I went online about an hour ago, the CNN story mentioned one dead, seventeen injured, and a gunman in custody, while the breaking news bar at the top of the page said twenty dead. I assumed some editor had misread injured for killed and created the breaking news headline. CBS had the same mismatch of headline and story. By the time I got to ABC, they had updated the story and to read at least twenty dead including the gunman. Currently, ABC is saying twenty-five were killed and twenty-one wounded, with more dead expected. The count of wounded is different from the earlier count of injured, which included those hurt in the panic. All of the news reports appear to be based on the same AP feed, which itself is based on the campus information office and onsite reports from the student paper.

By the end of the day, the confused reports will be sorted out and we will find that around fifty people were killed or wounded and a couple dozen more will have been treated for lesser injuries during the panic. It's already being called the worst shooting incident in modern American history. All of the interested groups are already scrambling to take advantage of this tragedy. Blaming fingers will be pointed at pop music, lack of prayer in schools, video games, too much stress, teaching of evolution in schools, abortion's "culture of death," bad movies, and perhaps even overly easy access to guns. Gun groups will claim that this tragedy might have been averted if the teachers had been armed and willing to kill their students. The NRA will launch a major fundraising effort because "the liberals will use this as an excuse to take away our guns."

Nothing will really change.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Populist elitists

We really must play buzz-word bingo more often with Pat Buchanan. In his column today he manages to create such a powerfully oxymoronic construction that it would clear the card and be awarded an automatic bingo in any game.

The subject is his good friend Don Imus. Buchanan sputters with outrage through a full column of incoherent and badly assembled talking points. He says that the remarks of Imus and Bernie McGurkin about the Rutgers women's basketball team were indefensible, and then proceeds to defend them. If black rappers get to use those words, how come racist white guys can't? How come no one is apologizing to the Duke lacrosse team? Al Sharpton was wrong about Tawana Brawley. What about the First Amendment?* Then he drops this masterpiece:
Imus threw himself on the mercy of the court of elite opinion – and that court, pandering to the mob, lynched him. Yet, for all his sins, he was a better man than the lot of them rejoicing at the foot of the cottonwood tree.

Got that? It was those elitists giving the people what they wanted. Or maybe it was those populists who think they know better than everybody else. Unless by "mob" he means the Mafia, that paragraph makes no sense at all.

As an old master panderer to momentary public hysteria and agitator of lynch mobs, Buchanan should be ashamed of himself. But then, he should be ashamed just for being Pat Buchanan. That's never stopped him.

* In order: Rappers who call women "hos" are jerks and many people call them on it. People are apologizing to the Duke lacrosse team. What does Tawana Brawley have to do with anything? The First Amendment has nothing to do with who a corporation chooses to fire or not fire.

Kentucky fried Tyrannosaurus

The big news in science this week is that we can add Tyrannosaurus rex to that list of animals that taste like chicken. A team at North Carolina State University used some very sophisticated techniques to extract and purify some proteins found in the femur of a 68-million-year-old T. rex excavated in Montana a few years ago. Comparing the protein sequences to living species, the team found they most resembled chicken, though some sequences also resembled frogs and salamanders.

The protein sequences extracted were collagen peptides (protein fragments made up of multiple amino acids) and nowhere not DNA or complex genetic materials. We will not be cloning T. rexes to sic on our neighbors anytime soon.

The team had previously used the technique on a 200,000-year-old and, while working on the T. rex, also extracted proteins from a 600,000-year-old mastodon. There was no mention in the report as to whether the mammoth or mastodon taste like chicken.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We don't need a war czar

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the White House wants to outsource the management of their wars to an unelected political appointee, a "war czar."
The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation.

At least three retired four-star generals approached by the White House in recent weeks have declined to be considered for the position, the sources said, underscoring the administration's difficulty in enlisting its top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare that have taxed the United States and its military.


The White House has not publicly disclosed its interest in creating the position, hoping to find someone President Bush can anoint and announce for the post all at once. Officials said they are still considering options for how to reorganize the White House's management of the two conflicts. If they cannot find a person suited for the sort of specially empowered office they envision, they said, they may have to retain the current structure.

It sounds to me like Bush and Cheney are looking for a fall guy for their failed policies. No wonder there are no takers. Meanwhile, Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) points out that that quaint document, the Constitution, already has a "war czar" position.
Someone needs to tell Steve Hadley that position is filled, it's the Commander in Chief, unless the decider's become the delegator.

I'm always a bit appalled when an administration issues the call to create a "czar" position. The czars (or tsars) of Russia were bloody autocrats, unhindered by any checks, balances, or accountability. This is more than me being overly sensitive to other people's historical ignorance. Even if they don't know the details of imperial Russian history, the people who issue these calls do know what a king is and they are calling for a king.

The call for a czar reveals a profound underlying distrust of, or distaste for, democracy. A czar is inevitably viewed as someone who will cut through "the red tape" or the "the bureaucracy" and "get things done." That fact that "the red tape" or the "the bureaucracy" are the necessary procedures of democracy is sidestepped by portraying the issue at hand as an emergency requiring extraordinary methods. Emergency is the age-old path to dictatorship. If anyone stands up for democracy in the face of emergency engendered panic, they are demonized as not serious about the severity of the crisis, womanly cowards, and possible traitors to the cause du jour. Those who would throw away democracy at the first whiff of fear portray themselves as determined and manly, willing to "do what's necessary."

Just say no to czars, and tell George Bush to do the damn job we're paying him to do.

Kurt Vonnegut

Bloggers are a truly nerdy lot. I'm sure you've heard that Kurt Vonnegut just died. As might be predicted, bloggers have responded with an outpouring of reminisces about early exposures to science fiction and social satire and are practically competing to see who can insert the nerdiest in-jokes into their obituaries (current leader: RPM of Evolgen for titling his obit "He's With the Tralfamadorians Now"). The memories and nerdiness are generating a sort of bittersweet joy around what would normally be a rather morose exercise. Joy at someone's death is usually reserved for the most disgusting sorts of dictators and predators. That the death of someone loved and admired should bring joy is an irony that I think Vonnegut would have appreciated.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Built to last

Here's a nice story about a new archaeological find in Greece. It's on the island of Kefalonia, which is on the west side of Greece facing the heel of the Italian boot.
Archaeologists on a Greek island have discovered a large Roman-era tomb containing gold jewelry, pottery and bronze offerings, officials said Wednesday.


The complex, measuring 8 by 6 meters (26 by 20 feet), had been missed by grave-robbers, the announcement said.

Archaeologists found gold earrings and rings, gold leaves that may have been attached to ceremonial clothing, as well as glass and clay pots, bronze artifacts decorated with masks, a bronze lock and copper coins.

The vaulted grave, a house-shaped structure, had a small stone door that still works perfectly -- turning on stone pivots.

I'm not sure why they sound surprised at that last bit. Don't these people watch movies? Stone doors in ancient tombs always open easily. I think it's a law. It doesn't matter if the door is Roman, Egyptian, Aztec, or Atlantean; all you need is the sacred brooch, which functions as a key, and the door opens automatically. You don't even need WD-40.

I have a theory about these locks and hinges that don't corrode or even get clogged with dust over thousands of years. They were actually the cause of the collapse of ancient civilization. Once they had perfected small mechanical things like this and installed them in their tombs, along with fiendish death traps, they couldn't get any repeat business and their economy collapsed. Fortunately, we've perfected built-in obsolescence, so our civilization will last forever (or until the giant squid discover fire).

We already knew that

There's not much to say about this, except that it confirms what we already knew about President Bush: He's a dishonest weasel with utter contempt for the democratic process and a petulant child who will do anything to get his way.
President Bush named Republican fundraiser Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Wednesday, using a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress where Democrats had derailed Fox's nomination.

Democrats had denounced Fox for his 2004 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group's TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a major factor in the Massachusetts Democrat's losing the election.

Recognizing Fox did not have the votes to obtain Senate confirmation, Bush withdrew the nomination last month. On Wednesday, with Congress out of town for a spring break, the president used his power to make recess appointments to put Fox in the job without Senate confirmation.

Maybe the reason people are so interested in stories about Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, and that crowd is that they show a level of maturity that is far beyond that of the leader of the free world. It's refreshing to watch comparative grownups for a change.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mustang Bobby has the shakes

Our blogging buddy Mustang Bobby has just joined on as a regular writer at Shakesville the new and improved home of Shakespeare’s Sister (who you may remember as a foul-mouthed, anti-Catholic whose writing personally offends John Edwards). This puts him on the same page with some of the best bloggers in the liberal blogosphere. This also means Bobby is a regular blogger at something like thirty blogs. Rarely a week goes by that he doesn't annouce that he's accepted an invitation to join another prestigious group blog. Soon, he will be posting on every blog in Left Blogistan. I am insanely jealous. No one his age should be allowed to have that much energy.

Anyway, go over to his new place, or his old place and wish him the best.

Let's all feel sorry for Glenn beck

On today's edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program, the eponymous host went on an extended whine about how rough his life is.
I mean, I was talking about it with my family yesterday. I said, "I'm tired of being the least popular person in the world." I said look at our family. We're Americans. Nobody likes Americans. We're Americans, so the world hates us. But then inside of America, we love America -- and that's becoming more and more unpopular. So, we're not popular with Americans.


The majority of humans don't like whites. I mean, I just can't win. You can't win. And why is it? Because if you are a white human that loves America and happens to be a Christian, forget about it, Jack. You are the only one that doesn't have a political action committee for you.

By you "can't win" he means he gets to have his own daily, nationally broadcast radio show (The Glenn Beck Program); his own daily, nationally broadcast television show (CNN's Glenn Beck); and he gets to appear on another daily, nationally broadcast television show (ABC's Good Morning America and he gets paid by all three to spew his hateful opinions to an audience of millions. The poor sap just can't catch a break. It brings a tear to my eye.

All the poor boy wants is to have a political action committee for white, Christian Americans and, as we all know, that is against the law in America. That's why Jerry Falwell was never allowed to have a political action committee, which he might have called the Moral Majority. That's why James Dobson was never allowed to have a political action committee, which he might have called the Family Research Council. That's why Pat Robertson was never allowed to have a political action committee, which he might have called the Christian Coalition. That's why Phyllis Schlafly was never allowed to have a political action committee, which she might have called the Eagle Forum. Poor white, Christian Americans just can't win. It must be rough being such a tiny, trod upon minority.

Just for the record, Beck forgot to mention that he's a rich, heterosexual, male and nobody likes them either. Maybe that will be the subject of tomorrow's self-indulgent whine.