Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The Caprica Starbucks

I have to admit that I don't know what intelligent machines would do for fun, and even if you gave me a thousand years to think about it, I wouldn't be able to imagine it. (Neither could the writers for the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica). Apparently they do the exact same things out of work actors do--they work out in their apartments to loud, bad rock music and they hang out drinking half decaf vente lattes at the local coffee place. I guess I'd thought they'd just plug into a recharger like the Borg. Who is to say they wouldn't? Wouldn't sex be a bigger item, at least with the number 6s?

I did like the fact that Caprica Six has Gaius Baltar on her brain just as he has her on his, but both have a much more sure, smart and hip version of the other in their imaginations, as is appropriate. I also like it that Six is actually in love with Baltar, and I no longer doubt her.

Grace Park is very pretty and she seemed nice at last year's Starcon, but she can't really act, can she? I thought Xena was looking pretty good; I really like the new doo.

I had no idea what the submachine gun that Starbuck's main squeeze was using ineffectually, but the handgun he had (and failed to hit anything with) was a Desert Eagle in .50. It's a huge, manly weapon, but I wouldn't want to carry it down the crack of my ass. Six stashed it quickly there, but she's a cylon, so it made some sort of sense.

I've never seen a dead baby (and I hope I never do) but wouldn't the unhappy couple at least suspect something? I know Helo is not the brightest bulb in the sign, but wouldn't Sharon II at least have the thought?

With turning Caprica into the city of the human-like cylons wandering around just like, well, humans, their war against humanity is looking less like revenge for an unjustifiable slavery of different, but sentient beings and more like lebensraum for the self-styled superior beings. I know that the writers have gone to great pains to have us suspect that the cylons were somewhat justified in their genocide, by putting a lot of guilt on the survivors and questioning whether it is a good thing for humanity to survive, but I'm seeing the cylons as not just inhuman, but actually evil; and whatever the humans have to do to win from now on, I'm OK with.

Of course the two Heroes of the Cylons have crossed over and are now indistinguishable from humans. They get to stay.


Dying Down Into Background Noise

I think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales did so well on the first day of the Senate's televised investigation/hearings into the NSA program of warrantless interception of communications between a foreign suspected al Qaeda operative and someone in the United States, that there was never a second day of such hearings. So much for the High Crime and Misdemeanor of trying hard to protect the nation for foreign attack.

Yesterday, 18 Democrat Representatives (that is, less than one in ten) asked someone in the White House to appoint a special counsel (like the special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald still looking into the Plame non-crime--yea, that was a sound expenditure of time and money) to investigate the non-crime of NSA intercepts of terrorists talking to someone in the U.S.A. The White House spokesman politely declined. 18 Democrat Representatives led by the less than household name Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Not exactly the groundswell towards impeachment early MSM reporting on the NSA non-scandal would have caused us to believe was coming.


Important Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Just kidding. Today the Court will hear the case of Marshall v. Marshall regarding the issue whether Anna Nicole Smith can challenge in federal court the disposition of her husband's estate (which went elsewhere than to Anna Nicole Smith). I don't know who to root for on this one.


This Day in the History of Science

On this day in 1901, double Nobel Laureate (Chemistry 1954 and Peace 1962) Linus Pauling was born. He applied quantum mechanics to his study of chemical structures and found so much he probably deserved the Chemistry Nobel Prize for a few years running. His particular forte regarded chemical bonding. Thus, he discovered and charted the chemical underpinnings of life itself. As he grew older, he was an opponent to nuclear weapons (thus the Peace Prize) and finally a proponent of vitamin C. On this day in 1951, Pauling, with Robert Corey published a theory of protein structure, which was nearly 100% correct, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Also on this day, a Saturday in 1953, Jim Watson went early to the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, where he shuffled cardboard cutouts until he discovered the complementary pairing between the DNA protein bases, an important step in the discovery of the double helix of DNA. Of course, Watson couldn't have done any of his work had not Pauling published his discoveries in the two years before.


Thought of the Day

Let me give you one definition of ethics: It is good to maintain life and to further life; it is bad to damage and destroy life. And this ethic, profound, universal, has the significance of a religion. It is religion.

Albert Schweitzer

Monday, February 27, 2006


Squid Wars

I look back fondly on the Argentine/England War over the Falkland Islands in the Southern Atlantic nearly 25 years ago. Interesting, not too bloody--it was the first round of the inevitable war over Antarctic sovereignty which will almost certainly rage before the end of this century, as some of it was so far to the south as to be in the somewhat overlapping, pie shaped zones of control over Antarctica various nations claim. The Argentinians, I think, miscalculated Margaret Thatcher's and Queen Elizabeth II's resolve and tried to take what they called the Malvinas. If these islands were Argentine, why did the locals toast the Queen each night as the pubs closed at 11 pm with the flat, warm pond scum like stuff the British still call beer? I always used to ask that during the war to repatriate the Falklands into the Commonwealth on which the sun set decades ago. No one ever had an answer.

Seizure of a British trawler, specialized to catch the Illex Squid, by Argentine Navy boats, when the catch has fallen from 150,000 tons in 2001 to just 1,700 tons last year, has got the two old adversaries talking tough and wondering, as I am, whether the Brits have the grit to sail 10,000 miles in their tiny aircraft carriers and aluminum frigates and destroyers, the Ford Pintos of Navy vessels, and chew up again the hapless Argentine army freezing in the sheep fields. I doubt it comes to a real war (the Brits have nuclear submarines and nuclear missiles, for God's sake) but maybe if there's fighting and not overfishing, the Illex Squid can rebound.


This Day in History

On this day in 1910, Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson is born in Ishpeming, MI. He became an aeronautical engineer and, working for Lockheed, designed or contributed to the design of 40 aircraft, some of them pretty darn famous. He lead the secret aircraft design department at Lockheed called the Skunk Works. Among the planes he designed are the F-80 Shooting Star, the T-33 training jet, the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2 and SR-71 spyplanes (which are too good, apparently, to retire). He also contributed to the P-38 Lightening (A is for attack, B is for bomber, F is for fighter, and P is for pursuit) which planes were used, in conjunction with warrantless intercepts of Japanese coded communications, to shoot down the plane on which Admiral Yamamoto flew on April 18, 1943, thus changing for the worse the fortunes of the Japanese in the Pacific thereafter.


Thought of the Day

Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.


Sunday, February 26, 2006


Sunday Talking Heads Shows

E. J. Dionne, on ABC's This is Weak, is clearly outclassed by the others on the panel, even the woman I've never even heard of. He still gets in the Democrat talking points just because it's his turn.

I'm having an 'odi et amo' moment (I hate and I love) about the bombing of the mosque in Samarra just as I did about the crashing of the airplanes on 9/11/01. I hate the violence and ruthlessness and the dire results, but I admire the boldness of the plan. Blowing up the Shiite shrine was the perfect thing to bring on what we are trying so hard to stop. Bold, brilliant, focused and evil on a scale that is hard to imagine. Nothing is sacred; nothing is safe from these barbarous men, our enemy.

I'm just hanging around, however, for the global political wisdom of Richard "Gerbil" Gere, who has declared in the teaser for his segment that we may have "lost" Asia. You have to admire someone with such a Renaissance style intellect that he can excel at the intellectually rigorous craft of film acting and be a force in political analysis as well. Who needs smart guys like George Will and Fareed Zakaria? Get them off and bring on Gere. Oh, the second teaser has him talking about AIDS. Never mind. Even brain damaged children can master the difficult to embrace idea that diseases are bad, cures are good. Well done, Mr. Gere.

The segment is over and indeed Richard Gere wants us to spend money to stop the spread of AIDS in India. OK with me. Disease, bad. Got it.

Damn, Darren McGavin died. No sequel to A Christmas Story now. Only 11 American dead in Iraq last week. Let's see what happens in this next critical week.

Chris Wallace is leading with the port terminal story. I'm yawning. I wish the supporters of the deal (I'm one) would not imply that the critics of the deal are racists--that's how the left stops debate about Democrat policy concerning race in America. You can have serious concerns about the deal without hating the Arabs.

Oh God, it's Biden. Time to get some more coffee. Wallace is pushing the Arab bigotry line. I guess it's out there. Biden is like an emotional chameleon--he mirrors whatever emotion the questioner has, but poorly. Bill Clinton, I think, was the master of that.

I don't think I'll be supporting Mitt Romney for President, even though I like and admire him as a person. I see, from the poll, I'm not alone in my first thought.

Where are Brit and Moira? Krauthammer has perhaps a better intellect than Brit Hume but he's not as smooth or commanding, maybe from his spinal injury's effect on his breathing. I like Ceci Connelly OK, but she's often the mistress of the bleeding obvious.

This is the 13th anniversary of the first attack on the World Trade Center twin towers. We didn't learn much from that act.

Our state militias held out against the British in the early parts of our War for Independence. Our militias, good; Iraqi militias, bad. I don't get it. I'm willing to use armed force to protect my life and the lives of my family, even some of the cousins. I'm willing to join in an armed response to protect the national ideals from attack, although I'm 7 years too old to be a member of the statutory militia. Why can't people who believe a certain thing in a foreign nation band together to protect that ideal and not be called a menace to democracy? Well, I guess if the ideal is tyrannical, but is the Shia militia, for example, anti-democracy?

The Chris Matthews short Sunday show seems to have lost the ratings battle to Discovery Kids which this week has a child's version of Lost on. Sic transit gloria mundi.


Never Mind

With the violent reaction to the blowing up of what we call the golden mosque in Samarra slowly waning and this bit of good news, I wonder if somewhere in the back of William F. Buckley's first class mind he's not thinking: "I might have jumped the gun on that one." It's fairly often that one sees an instant pattern that in another instant is not clear at all; the problem is caused by writing something down in the interval.

We haven't lost in Iraq, and just as capitalism is a good idea to be exported, so too is the freedom of a constitutional republic.

Don't despair Mr. Fukuyama. Even the real promise of America took nearly 90 years and 600,000 American dead to correct (at least on paper) and another 100 years to decree by law. If it took us that long, do we really expect perfection in Iraq in under 5 years?

And the conventional wisdom is that the newest generation is impatient, in need of instant gratification. Yea.


Thought of the Day

De inimico non loquaris sed cogites.


Don't talk ill of your enemy; plan it.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 212 AD, Co-Emperor Geta, 22, was killed by his older brother and Co-Emperor, Caracalla, while Geta was seeking the false safety of their mother's sheltering embrace. See, I told you the sons of Septimus Severus couldn't get along. Caracalla of course became sole Emperor and ruled pretty well until he was assassinated in 217 AD. Geta and Caracalla were so-called Irish twins, having been born only 11 months apart.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Measure For Measure

Went to the second to last performance of Measure for Measure at the Stage Theater in Denver with daughter Alex. The new director of the whole theater complex, Kent Thompson, directed the play and did a good job, although I had not seen it before (or read it even in college). Mr. Thompson is supposedly from Richmond, VA and about my age so it is inconceivable to me that we do not have mutual friends. Diomedes was there with many of the women in his life. It's a good (but not a great) play. Written and first performed in 1603, it's between Hamlet and Lear in the chronology of Shakespeare's plays, the last of the comedies in the Italian style (but set in Vienna). I see it as a bridge, with a lot of the formulae from earlier plays and precursors of better ones to follow. There is the clown constable who speaks so poorly as to nearly always say the opposite of what he really means (like Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing). There is the mistaken identity so that the actual identity is speaking truth, but only we know it, as when the Duke, disguised as a friar, says 'I love the Duke as if he were myself' (as in Love's Labor Lost and Twelfth Night). And there is the return from the presumed dead with forgiveness all around (as opposed to the rigid revenge in Hamlet and Macbeth--my favorite) as in As You Like It, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest.

There were times when I lost the thread and couldn't follow what was said for a second or two. Other times I heard and understood every word (Shakespeare wrote in modern English after all) but had no idea what was being said. Still I got all the details of what was going on if I didn't get all the puns. Kinda of a weird play. What, actually, is the Duke doing? Is it a journey for enlightenment among his people or is he just playing practical jokes? Do we feel nothing but contempt for Angelo or is he to be pitied and forgiven? (I go with the former, but I know there's a layer in there which supports the latter). This version was set in late 19th C. Vienna (Klimpt paintings provided the inspiration for the decor), and the guards carried early Steyrs in holsters and probably M95 Mannlichers over their shoulders (it was dark in there) which I appreciated as the right details in arms, as they are Austrian and from the period portrayed.

The play is indeed the thing. It was pretty darn funny and, in retrospect, thought provoking.


Mandatory Emissions Testing

I almost missed breakfast with the boys this morning because of rampant bureaucracy. Let me explain. I had to get my car tested at one of the many emission testing sites along the Front Range in Colorado. I was lazy the first two weekends in February but I was ready last Saturday to get it done, but the weather interfered and it was too cold to test. OK, one last Saturday was left. Today.

So, knowing this is the last Saturday of the month (when there is a procrastinator's rush) and it would be worse due to the closure last Saturday, the station I went to, on Lipan near Evans, had three employees show up. Three by 8:15 am. There are 7 bays for testing and if all the stations are manned, that would mean 21 employees plus the employees out of sight in the offices. There were three there when I arrived.

So, fifteen minutes after opening, two bays are testing. Very. Slowly. There are about 15 cars waiting. The front station guy is making a show of hustle. He's running back and forth from an office to where the cars are. He's chatting on a cell phone (I'm hoping that he's calling for reinforcements) and by 8:30 am, two cars have been tested as I waited. That ain't so good. Another employee arrives. He's of the school of Tommy Chong grooming, but his presence allows a third bay to start testing. Very. Slowly. That's the line I queue up for.

People are giving up in disgust both in front and behind me. I like it when someone in front drives away. There is a line for four wheel drive and all wheel drive. One lady has one of these cars but she is in the wrong line. The really hustling employee tells her that she has to drive back to the end of the correct line. Her face is a mask of barely suppressed outrage.

By just before 9:00 am, my car is in the building itself and I am in a little glass lined booth where we wait. And wait. And wait. Apparently it takes a lot of typing into computers to get the testing machine ready for the car. Finally the Caucasian Tommy Chong (CTC) drives my car to where big metal rollers in the floor will measure the speed of my wheels while the car remains in place, with a sniffer on the tail pipe. After a few trips back and forth from my car to the computer terminal, CTC begins to drive my car in place. The actual testing takes 92 seconds. He drives my car to the exit side of the building. It's 9:22 am. Then one of the original three guys (I'm not sure but perhaps another one has shown up) spends 13 minutes testing my gas tank and cap, to see if they can take pressure, and obtaining from the inside office $15.00 in change for my two twenty dollar bills. By 9:35 am, one hour and 20 minutes after I lined up, I'm out of there having passed my testings usually having only 1/10th the allowable emissions. Now I can register my car.

The Rocky Mountain News mentions today their and Governor Owens' opposition to this line up and wait sort of testing and preference for detecting on the streets real pollution sources (like my friend Roger's green smoker car). I'm with them.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 52 BC, Pompeii Magnus becomes sole Consel of Rome (and no conspiracy of knives accused him of being a tyrant). Also on this day, in 138 AD, Emperor Hadrian, in a major public ceremony, adopts Antonius (Pius) as his heir to the throne.


Thought of the Day

Volusenus, perspectis regionibus quantum ei facultatis dari potuit quid ex navi egredi ad Caesarem revertitur.


Volusens returned to Caesar, having see all [of Britain] one could without daring to get off the ship.


Report on the Bloggers Bash 5.0

A week ago I went, with Sheila, to the gathering of some of the local bloggers, and real journalist Linda Seebach of the RMN. It was at the Breckenridge Brewery catty corner to Coors Field, which was an OK spot. There is a whole 'nother group of bloggers in the area who call themselves the Rocky Mountain Alliance (two of whom I met in Republican Heaven) but I doubt they were aware of the party. (The organizing powers might think of fixing that in the future). I had a good time. Ruled on the pool table (because hardly anyone else played) and lost at darts to Sheila (of the unconventional style) and Zombyboy, who seemed happy to be a winner. There was some drinking going on.

There is a hierarchy of bloggers. We had two of the first tier--Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom and Suave Steve Green of Vodkapundit-- who have families but do not seem to have a day job and blog a lot, well and are famous at least in the blogging set. Vodkapundit was the quintessential new dad, and went home fairly sober and early to his wife down for the count with a bad headcold. As soon as Goldstein's handsome family left, he veered in and out of control--leading sing-alongs of bad 80s songs, yelling at the group. It was good to hear that he loved me--right back at ya', Jeff. Those of the second tier, those with established blogs and day jobs and usually families and pretty good daily visit numbers despite the fact they write only one or two things a day, were organizing the thing and are good guys if perhaps too rigidly libertarian for my tastes. I'm in the third tier with double digit daily numbers but not famous or established but with a day job and family.

All in all a good time; good to meet and talk to other people. I hope we have a late Spring one on the roof of a LoDo drinking place.

Friday, February 24, 2006


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 303 AD, as the dust settled from the destruction by Roman soldiers of the Chapel at Nicomedia (an important Christian center of worship) the day before, Emperor Diocletain puts the last Empire wide persecution of Christians into high gear.

Let's hope the destruction of Samarra's Askariya shrine this week is not the start of a Muslim self persecution.


Thought of the Day

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting someone else to do the work.

John G. Pollard

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Paul Campos' Opinion

Paul Campos is a law professor. I believe, from reading him for several months, that he is a liberal. Here's what he wrote this week in the Rocky Mountain News with my comments in color interspersed

This is the story key word of a man without a name. For the past four years he has been a prisoner of the United States government; yet if our leaders had their way, the fact he even exists would remain unknown to anyone but themselves. That's because the best way to fight against an enemy who will not wear a uniform is to make the illegal combatant seem to disappear, if we capture them. It is a sound tactic. According to the administration, this man is a terrorist, and therefore deciding whether to imprison him indefinitely without trial is the sole and unreviewable prerogative of the president. That's correct, but we say he is a prisoner of war not a terrorist, and an illegal combatant at that (so we could execute him as we did the German spies/saboteurs (that is, soldiers who would not wear uniforms) in the ex parte Quirin case). He's not a criminal being imprisoned while charges are prepared and prosecuted. We're in a war not a series of unrelated crimes. The inability of the left to grasp this fact is becoming very tedious.
His real crime is that he was born in Afghanistan. I'll grant Professor Campos that he would probably not be in Guantanamo Bay if he had not been born in or traveled to Afghanistan. But, as I just said, this is not a matter of criminal activity but of fighting in a war. War not crime. Will anything convince the liberal elements of our society that we are in a war? This negligent act sarcasm is not the Professor's strong point caused him to be conscripted by Taliban soldiers, except for a recent article in the LA Times which obviously Mr Campos took for gospel and clearly was the basis for this ill thought out editorial, I've never seen any evidence of conscription by the Taliban--did he have his draft card with him when he was captured? but this is a strawman argument, see below who forced him to become a cook's assistant in the city of Narim. When Narim was attacked, he fled the city before surrendering to the Northern Alliance. These soldiers then turned the cook's assistant over to the American military, who imprisoned him at Guantanamo Bay. The soldiers who were drafted by the Germans during WWII and forced to fight were kept as prisoners of war after capture during that war right along with the Waffen SS zealots. There is no mental state for prisoner of war status (true believers imprisoned, unwilling draftees returned to the fight) because prisoner of war status in not a matter of committing a crime. Engaging in a legal indeed righteous war (like WWII for us and our allies) can cause you to spend time as a prisoner of war. It has to be an unwillingness to see this that keeps Mr. Campos writing silly things.
The administration takes the view that being conscripted into the Taliban as a cook's assistant makes someone a terrorist, no, they take the view that being captured while fighting against American forces and our allies makes one a prisoner of war and that fleeing from aerial bombardment constitutes "engaging in hostilities" against United States forces. Wouldn't that necessarily be so? I'm unclear what Mr. Campos thinks is engaging in hostilities. My father never fired a shot during WWII, but was often fleeing from aerial bombardment by Japanese kamikazes; I think by those acts he was engaging in hostilities against Japanese forces and he has the medals to prove it. The administration also believes that such people should have no access to lawyers or courts, right, just as the German and Japanese prisoners of war did not have access to lawyers and courts; more confusion of war with crime. I believe there is nothing that will convince Mr Campos and his ilk that we are at war and that they should be "detained" - this is a polite word for being locked in a cage kinda, some at Guantanamo have cells and some have a more communal sort of living, kinda like prisoner of war barracks- and subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques," (which is a polite phrase for torture) No, coercive interrogation techniques are short of torture. Only torture is torture and to call other, lesser things torture slanders our troops, undercuts the outrage we should feel against real torturers, and debases the suffering of real victims of torture until the end of the global war on terror, which is to say for the rest of their lives. This might be true particularly if Mr. Campos and his ilk make it so hard to conduct the war properly we are unable to win it quickly or at all.
There is nothing unusual about this nameless man's tale. Most of the 500 men being held at Guantanamo Bay can tell a similar one this also Al Jezeera's position here - or would if they hadn't been forbidden from speaking to anyone in the outside world. Which is absolutely appropriate for this sort of war. Because the Supreme Court has finally allowed lawyers to examine the allegations against these men, we now know that almost none of them are terrorists in even the loosest sense of the term, and that indeed most of them are guilty of nothing. Even if we knew this, and the only ones talking are those without Rule 602 knowledge (so I'm not prepared to use the word 'know") the repetition of the word terrorists and guilty again shows Mr. Campos has missed the point. Again, we do not accuse them of being terrorist or of having committed any crime but of taking up arms against American troops or our allies and being captured during that time or immediately thereafter.
Glimpses of this shameful story can be gotten from a report authored by Mark Denbeaux, a Seton Hall University law professor, and his son Joshua, an attorney in private practice. Thanks for the link, pal, I couldn't find this guy's or his son's report through google although there were plenty of stories in which the good professor Denbeaux was quoted. This report reveals that, according to the government's own allegations, only a handful of the prisoners at Guantanamo are supposedly al-Qaida fighters, and that only a tiny percentage were captured by U.S. forces (many were turned over to the U.S. by bounty hunters; the evidence against them consists of nothing more than the bounty hunters' accusations). This is semantical nonsense, the US government's report is about categories into which the group of prisoners belongs. Belonging to neither the Taliban or al Qaeda (as 10% did) is not the same as 'was not captured bearing arms and/or engaging in hostilities' but his intentional confusion about these different concepts is the only explanation I have for this rhetorical legerdemain by Mr. Campos These concessions are all the more stunning once one realizes that the government defines being a member of al-Qaida so loosely that prisoners who have been accused of having spoken to someone in al-Qaida can be declared members of the organization on that basis alone. Is there any support for this accusation?
Combine this with the fact that, unlike the cook's assistant, who was with the Taliban, right?--but against his will the majority of the prisoners are not charged with "engaging in hostilities," and it becomes clear that most of these men were not even Taliban conscripts, let alone terrorists. Not clear at all. And this is the case even though the report is forced to assume, how can a report assume? Back to remedial English class for the Professor because these men have been denied any access to lawyers or courts, I thought he just said that lawyers were visiting them that everything the government alleges is true. (Imagine what this "evidence" would look like if the government was actually required to prove anything). I imagine it is compelling. Mr. Campos, who wants to believe the worst against the US, based almost exclusively on the self serving, untested (by their lawyers) statements of the prisoners smuggled out though the lawyers who rush to help our enemy, imagines it is less than compelling. I decline, without better sources, to imagine the same fantasy Mr. Campos seems to revel in.
The only difference between the Gulag and Guantanamo is the scale of the crime. (There is one other difference: Stalin's efforts to keep the homeland secure were not inconvenienced by independent courts or a free press.) So Guantanamo is like the Stalinist Gulags and not like the German and Japanese Prisoner of War camps during WWII. Another false comparison and cheap shot at our troops who necessarily must be like the Soviet Gulag guards, a position Dick Durbin is already on record as agreeing with. The men who ordered this crime what crime? keeping prisoners of war? not a crime to be committed, and who are taking care to ensure that it continues to be committed, call themselves Christians. Most do; some are Jews who don't. On the Day of Judgment, will it profit them to point out that they imprisoned and tortured just a few hundred innocent men? And what account will we give of what we did or failed to do when we learned such things were being done in our name? Learned from whom? those imprisoned who have had their military tribunal about their status and failed to convince anyone with knowledge of the facts of the captures in front of them (and the ability to cross examine) they were peaceful farmers? You mean the guys who we're keeping as prisoners who probably want to go home and have every reason to lie? That's how we're supposed to learn of this? I'm willing to believe a small percentage of mistakes in any prisoner population because, as humans, we do our best but are not perfect. I do not believe Paul Campos, his unnamed sources in the LA Times, the contracts professor at Seaton Hall he mentions or his son, whose primary source of information could only be the prisoners, because I do not believe the prisoners, mainly because of the captured al Qaeda documents which instructed those captured to lie about their status and treatment, and because of the series of whopping big lies that have appeared in American newspapers about Guantanamo Bay.

The last, about Christians answering on Judgment Day, is pure drek and the worst sort of appeal only to emotions. Keeping our enemies locked up in prisoner of war camps is not illegal nor un-Christian. The alternative is to kill the prisoners (a barbaric act) or to release them to return to the fight so they can kill Americans and our allies (a stupid act which has already happened--several of those released from Guantanamo have returned to fighting against us after their release (Mr. Campos would no doubt believe that we turned them into terrorists by the allegedly criminal imprisonment and torture, rather than they were our enemies who talked their way out of proper imprisonment, but I have noticed that many on the left always choose the side which reflects most badly on America and hold the murderous enemy in a sort of Rousseau-like 'innocent savage' light).

One last time--We're at war; we're not the victims of a crime on 9/11/01.


This Day in History

A pretty good day for our military.

On this day in 1847, elements of the American Army under General Zachery Taylor (a son of Virginia) defeated a Mexican Army which outnumbered them two to one at the battle of Buena Vista. Braxton Bragg, commanding artillery, was the hero of the battle. Although there was more fighting to go (and heroic deeds by future Southern Generals Lee, Jackson and Pickett to be performed) in the Mexican War, America's most unpopular war, this was the last big battle in North Mexico, and would be followed by a war winning drive to Mexico City by forces under General Winfield Scott.

On this day in 1945, American Marines raised an American Flag on the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, twice. The first time, the battle stopped, men rose with tears in their eyes to the sight. The second time, only the photographers seemed to care but, cropped, the photo looks great. The fighting went on for weeks more and thousands of Americans and nearly all the Japanese on the island died, but the first flag raising was a moment of awe and triumph in a horrible month of untold suffering and loss.


Thought of the Day

If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.

Anatole France

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


This Day in Renaissance History

On this day in 1512, Spanish astronomer Amerigo Vespucci dies. His first name is the name of the so called New World's two continents, North and South America, because it was he and not Columbus who figured out and announced that Columbus had discovered a new continent. I wonder if it's Grimm's Law which changed Amerigo to America over time? Probably not.


Thought of the Day

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Supreme Court Breathes Life into Last Gasp

The 2000 census showed what almost all Denverites already knew, the population of the state had grown a lot and most of the new people were in cars right in front of us going slow. But we also received a new Representative to the U S House of Representatives. Whom would that representative represent? The State Legislature, barely controlled by Republicans at the time, failed to draw up a new district. It fell to a judge to do it, specifically Denver District Court Judge John Coughlin (now retired and at JAG). I began my career, such as it is, in front of John Coughlin trying to keep bonds high for prisoners way before I was a lawyer or had even passed the bar. Coughlin did a bang up job of drawing a fair district about half Democrats and half Republicans.

That, of course, is the last thing the Republicans wanted and after they gained a little strength in the next election, in 2003 they drew a better redistricting map. Lawsuits sprouted like mushrooms after heavy rains. Which plan to use? Judge drawn or Legislature drawn? But our Supreme Court held that the Coughlin's map was the one to use because you only get one bite at the apple. Yea, we Republicans said, one bite by the legislature. But the Supremes had spoken and all the federal lawsuits one by one bit the dust. But the guys behind one which was earlier dismissed won a reprieve yesterday [today] when the United States Supreme Court, by a vote of 8-1, in Keith Lance v. Gigi Dennis, 05-555, reversed the dismissal of the last suit and sent it back to the local federal court for a decision on the merits.

This suit is a somewhat weak argument that the Judge-drawn redistricting interferes with a first amendment right (to Petition the Lord with Prayer or something like that) somehow. I'm not holding my breath for the Legislature's redrawn map to be used next election.


This Day in Ancient History

On either this day or tomorrow, in 4 AD, the hoped-for-successor-to-Augustus Gaius Caesar (his grandson and adopted son) died in Limyra at the hands of the tough Parthians.


Thought of the Day

The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Monday, February 20, 2006


Counting the Gift Horses' Teeth

There's something wrong at this free site. I can't get a picture to transfer. I write a post and it won't post and then hours later, there it is. I've written two e-mails to the site but so far nothing. They must be Republicans, deep into helping yourself without reliance on others. So patience, please.

UPDATE: Seems better now, but still can't seem to get a photo going. Diomedes is having no problem.


This Day in Renaissance History

On this day in 1422 AD, Pope Martin V (1417-31) issued a Bull reminding Christians that Christianity was derived from Judaism and warned the Friars not to incite against the Jews. The Bull was withdrawn the following year alleging that the Jews of Rome attained the Bull by fraud.


Thought of the Day

Nos in vitium credula turba sumus.


Always count on people to think the worst.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Friday Movie Review (late)

Went to see the popular new French movie Cache (Hidden) with daughter Alex at the Esquire. I'm not sure she liked it. I wasn't sure as the credits rolled whether I liked it. I'd call it a thriller but, except for one 10 second scene, it had no thrills--more like the opposite of thrills. Still, it was pretty good, in a pedestrian, typically Gallic, cinema verite sort of way. And it is impenetrable. You can get an idea of what the last scene means, but it won't be the Truth. I quite liked it after it sunk in some. Here is the cool thing, The lead woman is the rapidly becoming more matronly but still very beautiful Juliett Binoche who plays a woman named Anne Laurent; her husband Georges is played by Daniel Auteuil, and they are both very good. There are two Algerians in the film, playing father and son, Maurice Benichou and Walid Afkir respectively. The director is a probably totally nuts guy named Michael Haneke. He's called an Austrian but he was born in Munchen during WWII. Here's the weird part; the director's earlier film, Code inconnu: Recit incomplet de divers voyages (Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys), also had Juliette Binoche playing Anne Laurant, who had a husband named Georges; and the same two Algerian actors playing father and son. It's like deja vu all over again.

No sex, no violence (or not much) and really no action. Kind of a psychological non-thriller, but I expected horrible things to happen as the movie progressed and it was pretty tense. Here's the question to keep in mind as the credits role. If your first thought on seeing the last scene end is the normal one, then why was the son, Pierrot so angry with his mother but relatively OK with his father? The question cannot be definitively answered. Definitely worth a look, but you could just as easily hate it. It's in French, it's 117 minutes long and it often drags. Oh, swimming pool victory scene is a big clue, I think. And is a kiss on the inside of the wrist a friendly gesture? Just asking.


British Oscars

I just watched the British Oscars on BBC America (after a repeat of my favorite What Not to Wear, with the queen bitches Trinny and Susannah (I'm kidding--they're very nice)) and mostly American films and actors won. In what was was it British other than it took place in England? They did have a category best British film and I guess all 5 British films made last year were in the running for it. The witty Stephen Fry was the host and started clever pretending to be a Public School master, but he became insufferable in his effuse praise after just a little bit. Nothing Clooney was involved with won anything big (or anything at all if memory serves). Ang Lee took best director for Brokeback Mountain. Jake Gyllenhaal won best supporting actor but Heath Ledger did not win best actor (that honor went to Philip Seymour Hoffman for pretending to be Capote). So the Brits got it ass backwards because Gyllenhaal sucked and Ledger was great. Best Actress was Reece Witherspoon but she didn't show and Christina Ricci accepted for her. I didn't even know they were friends. Best Supporting Actress was Thandie Newton for Crash. Oh, and Brokeback Mountain won best picture. Anyone care to bet against my predictions (which I'll post here) for the real Oscars in a few weeks? I didn't think so.


Telling the Tide Not to Come In

I know that this will not change people's use of the word, but we are using the word shrapnel wrong. Whenever a metal cased explosive goes off, like a grenade or a howitzer or mortar shell, and people are hit by the pieces of the metal case, the press and most people describe what hits the unfortunates as shrapnel. It is not. The precise term would be steel splinters.

In the lat 18th Century, the British needed a long range case shot (musket ball encased with
wooden discs to keep the shot from spreading too soon against rows of soldiers) in its war with France. Lt. Henry Shrapnel of the Royal Artillery developed, in 1803, a round shell filled with musket balls with a fuse and inside charge to burst and send the balls out in all directions only near the enemy troops. Over the next century, as cannons improved, the round shot became a cylinder with a conical top but still filled with musket balls. Think of a flying shotgun shell. The shot that comes out is shrapnel. Lt. Shrapnel rose to the rank of Lt. General and died March 13, 1842.

The last time his shells were used a lot was during WWI; and most notably they were fired during the barrage before the Somme offensive in July, 1916, where they were useless against the wire and German soldiers deep in their bunkers. The shells were totally obsolete by 1935.

There is a new development in some hand grenades (mainly European) to cover a thin metal shell of a grenade with plastic into which has been impregnated hundreds and hundreds of #1 buckshot size pellets. And in Israel and Iraq, the Muslim suicide bombers with vests of explosives often put nails and bolts and things around the explosive vests to make the explosion more deadly. Those two instances involve a sort of shrapnel, but not quite.


Truth That Makes One Smile

I know I'm always linking to and quoting from Canadian columninst Mark Steyn. There are reasons, he's usually well worth reading--funny and insightful--and I often agree with him. His latest column at the Chicago Sun Times, about Cheney hunting accident coverage, is here. Money quotes:

Fortunately, the Washington Post had that wise old bird David Ignatius to put it in the proper historical context: "This incident," he mused, "reminds me a bit of Sen. Edward Kennedy's delay in informing Massachusetts authorities about his role in the fatal automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969."

Hmm. Let's see. On the one hand, the guy leaves the gal at the bottom of the river struggling for breath pressed up against the window in some small air pocket while he pulls himself out of the briny, staggers home, sleeps it off and saunters in to inform the cops the following day that, oh yeah, there was some broad down there. And, on the other hand, the guy calls 911, has the other fellow taken to the hospital, lets the sheriff know promptly but neglects to fax David Gregory's make-up girl!

One can only hope others agree with Ignatius' insightful analogy, and that the reprehensible Cheney will be hounded from public life the way Kennedy was all those years ago. One would hate to think folks would just let it slide and three decades from now this Cheney guy will be sitting on some committee picking Supreme Court justices and whatnot.


This is Just Bizarre

It's turning out that foreign aircraft carriers are having more interesting careers after they are decommissioned than before. And I'm not just talking about the French carrier Clemenceau, currently retreating to France from a Greenpeace-like verbal assault. The Soviets produced just one full sized nuclear carrier, or kind of produced one, the Ulyanovsk, which was broken up after 40% completion in 1992, and several what we called, during WWII, jeep carriers, one of which was the Minsk. It was in service from 1978 to 1989 and was sold for scrap to South Korea, but ended up in China instead, where it was made into a military themed amusement park--a harmonious combination of carrier appreciation, military recreation, typical seaside lifestyle in south China and military atmosphere.

I know when I'm thinking of having a good time with the family, I'm thinking about an aging, cramped, dank Russian warship.

Despite the sunshine of promise in refitting a small carrier with Russian dancing stage shows, movie theaters, restaurants and children's rides (think more Branson than Las Vegas) the venture failed. It will be sold Monday at a bankruptcy sale perhaps for as little as $16 million. As I asked with the Clemenceau, now what?


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 197 AD, Emperor Septimus Severus defeated rival Emperor Clodius Albinus in Gaul, becoming the unchallenged ruler of the Empire over which he will reign for 18 years.


Thought of the Day

Ut sit magna, tamen certe lenta ira deorum est.


The wrath of the gods may be great, but it certainly is slow.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


How's Hollywood Doing?

According to the great site Box Office Mojo, Munich and Syriana, two very bad, expensive, agenda movies continue to do badly at the box office. Munich is 56 days out from it's premier, playing in only 546 theaters, and has made $45 million (when it had a budget of over $70 million and another third to half that advertising it). Since only about 55% of the gross box office receipts go to the studio to repay the costs of making and advertising a movie, you'd have to call this a flop (more on international box office below). Syriana ($50 million budget) is 86 days out and down to 226 theaters with $49 million made. That ain't so good. But again, you have to lavishly overspend on the budget not to make it back. Even a barking dog of a flop like Looking For Comedy in the Muslim World, 28 days out and yet to make a million, will probably do OK with DVD and TV rights sales. Brokeback Mountain, which is a good movie, is 70 days out in a creeping barrage of a marketing plan, and now in 1966 theaters. It was made for $15 million and has made domestically $68 million. It was an agenda movie but at least it was watchable. I stand by my prediction that it will win best picture at the Oscars.

The way the site lists overseas box office it's tough to get a running total, but the site says Munich has done $39.7 million overseas and Brokeback Mountain has done $33.1 million, but
I don't know if that is current. No listing for Syriana. Let's put those triumphs of foreign marketing in perspective, shall we? Howl's Moving Castle, a cartoon from Japan's Ghibli Studios, which only did $4.7 million here in America, did $224.7 million overseas. Harry Potter/Goblet of Fire has made $.8839 billion and Narnia $.6526 billion World wide.


Short TV Post

There was a lot of politics last night on Battlestar Galactica and it reminded me of some recent political thoughts here on Earth. First the TV show. There was a stowaway, a 4 months pregnant girl who wanted an abortion but because she lived with the Gemini guys (who are religious fanatics--more on that below) she couldn't get one where she lived. The Doctor on Galactica (nicknamed the Bucket), apparently the only one, Donnelly Rhodes, Dutch on Soap, suggests the girl apply for asylum and she does. The President, clearly a lefty, she says that she has always supported abortion on demand--it was a right before the cylon's attacked the second time and it will remain so. Then, for purely pragmatic reasons, she reverses course and says no abortions because in the war with the cylons, we need people not aborted fetuses (or something like that) starting right after the stowaway's abortion.

A lot of people on the left and a few even on the right (filled with libertarian overzealousness no doubt) accuse the President of saying he has unlimited power under his constitutional duties as commander in chief and he can ignore any law he wants. The President doesn't say that, but I'm focusing on the criticism. The President, and the Supreme Court in Hamdi, says that the President can use the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUFM), which allows the President to use necessary and appropriate force against al Qaeda, to do things normally incident to waging war. How far does that go? He can certainly take prisoners and hold them (that's the ruling in Hamdi). He can almost as certainly spy on the enemy without any Court's involvement. On the other hand, he can't seize a striking steel mill in order to supply the Armed Forces with the steel they need (that's the holding in the Steel Seizure case, Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer),

OK, can the President issue an Executive Order saying we're going to need men in 20 years to fight against Islamacist terrorist, so every pregnant woman has to have amniocentesis and if it's a boy in her womb, she can't have an abortion? Certainly not according to Steel Seizure. But is it really beyond the President's war powers? Should it be absolutely off limits--don't even think about it?

OK, back to Battlestar Galactica. The Gemini people are described as zealots, they are both black and white in race, they consider abortion an abomination to the Gods (the people on Battlestar Galactic are polytheistic (like the Greeks and Romans were before Christianity) while the robots are monotheists) and the stowaway daughter was the "property" of the parents. I think the writers were trying to portray the Gemini people as being like the guys down in Colorado Springs (unyielding proponents of scripture--civil rights be damned) but what is the difference really between the group as portrayed on TV and Muslims (except for the polytheism)? I see none. I don't think, however, that Focus on the Family types and nearly all Evangelicals consider their children their property. Maybe I'm being naive here.

Finally, some criticism. They're going to have to decide whether the "fleet" is Navy or Air Force. (I personally think the Navy will always be Earthbound in water (so no space Marines either) and everything out in space will be Air Force with airborne troops (even though there are naval and Marine aviators and some of the astronauts were naval and Marine officers-so it's complicated). Some of the ranks on Battlestar Galactica are Navy--Chief, Commander, and Admiral; some are Air Force--Major, Colonel; and, some are both--Lieutenant and Captain. I was willing to put up with Colonel Tigh, thinking maybe he was a liaison with the ground forces or something, but now Lee Adama starts as a Captain and then gets a promotion (we expect Commander) to Major. What? It's a small point, I know, but it's disconcerting.

And the magic machine (the FTL) that allows the the Galactica to leave normal space and zip faster than light to another part of the Galaxy has four large plumbing valves as an integral part? What, are they kidding me?


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 37 BC, General Herod begins a siege of Jerusalem at the head of a Roman army. His success will eventually make him king. In 37 BC, he is a strong supporter of Marcus Antonius, but when he is defeated by Octavian, Herod switches allegiance to Octavian, who, as Augustus, crowns Herod in Rhodes.


Thought of the Day

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

Bob Dylan in It's Alright, Ma

Friday, February 17, 2006


The Sky is Falling

The headlines are screaming--Global Warming Causing Glaciers in Greenland to Melt Quickly (or something like that). Run for your lives.

Although one of the divides between the parties is along the fault-line of global warming, the Republicans are not all knuckle-dragging cretins who wouldn't know science if you shoved it in their ears (just as not all Democrats are effete, fatuous emoters who will believe anything any scientist tells them as long as it's bad). We on the right know that it's gotten slightly warmer over the last 150 years or so and that some of the world's glaciers are in retreat (and that in the past 150 years the World's CO2 level has gone from 280 to 360 ppm, a 22% increase--while at the same time the population of the World increased from 1 billion to 6.4 billion, a 540% increase).

We also know that World CO2 levels have been much higher in the distant past (unfortunately, they were quite high during one of the worst mass extinctions in the fossil record) and even in the past 2000 years it has gotten warmer and then colder; the sea has risen and fallen; ice has formed and melted--all with no small effect on human civilizations (some have flourished--some have perished). Go back 15,000 years and it's a lot colder and a lot more of the World's water is locked up in mile deep ice sheets across the top of the North American, European and Asian Continents.

We also know that the sea level rising and falling in the past has been 80% the result of the fact that warm water takes up more space than cold water, and only 20% was the result of glaciers melting or freezing. We also know that currently 90% of the World's fresh water is locked up as ice in Antarctica (where although the Antarctic Peninsula is locally suffering some slight melting, the 7 mile deep ice sheets elsewhere in Antarctica are actually growing, as is the sea pack ice around Antarctica. So even if all the ice in Greenland melts and flows to the sea (which it won't), there will be only a tiny rise (I bet imperceptible) in the sea levels. Greenland obviously does not have the other 10% of the fresh water not in Antarctica; it has only a tiny percentage of the other 10%. That the decreased salinity, caused by fresh water ice melting, in the Northern Atlantic couldl disrupt the Gulf Stream and plunge Northern Europe into a severe deep freeze each winter is a much more interesting prospect, but it won't effect us here in the US, so who really cares?

A lot of the temperature increase is probably from better thermometers and that asphalt and concrete cities act like heat traps. Some is just as surely from increased CO2, and some may well be from the Sun burning just a bit hotter. I certainly don't know how much of the very slight global warming over the past 150 years is a result of human activity, but then again, neither does anyone else.

I do know that it's freaking cold in Denver tonight.


Run Away!

It seems just a little while ago that the PATRIOT Act was, for Democrats, the thin end of the wedge for an evil Big Brother type of government and the NSA foreign terrorist interception program was the Democrats' ticket to impeaching the President.

My, how some things can change. Yesterday, the Senate killed, at least for now, further investigation into the NSA program and cleared the way for long term renewal of the PATRIOT Act 96-3. Even Harry "We killed the PATRIOT Act" Reid (D-NV) voted against Russ Feingold's proposed changes.

I guess the Democrats are realizing how little traction they were getting with their opposition actually to trying to win the war against militant Islamicism.


Creepy Liar, Part 2

Although Lawrence O'Donnell's speculation about the Vice President's state of sobriety at the time of the accident is clearly off based as I wrote the other day, there was one thing he wrote as fact that bothered me above the other libel: Cheney refused to talk to local authorities until the next day.

As I suspected, this is a big lie. Here's the truth from the Smoking Gun (from the report of Sheriff Ramon Salinas III): Constable Medellin returned my call and said, "This in fact is an accident."...After hearing the same information from eyewitnesses and Constable Medellin, it was at this time that I decided to send my Chief Deputy first thing Sunday Morning to interview the Vice President and other witnesses.

So it was solely the decision of the Sheriff to send his Deputy the next day and Vice President Cheney did not refuse to talk to authorities until the next day. And, again as I suspected, Lawrence O'Donnell is the creepy liar he accuses others of being.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 478 BC, an annular eclipse of the Sun occurred at Sardis, in modern Turkey, while Xerxes was departing for his expedition against Greece. See Herodotus, VII, 37. Xerxes should have taken it as a sign to turn back.


Thought of the Day

A flower lady's daughter
As sweet as holy water,
Said: "I'm the school reporter;
Please teach me." I taught her.

Fripp/Sinfield in Ladies of the Road

Thursday, February 16, 2006



For some reason, I have this overwhelming desire to eat some quail. I can't shake it. Maybe they have some up at the Fort. Maybe I can satisfy the craving with some quail eggs at Genroku. Just thought I'd tell you.


Proper Declassification of Secret Documents

When several papers and websites reported on I. Lewis Libby's testimony in the Plame investigation that he was authorized in Summer, 2003 to reveal things contained in the confidential National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002 and seemed to imply that Libby and the authorizing superior were doing something wrong, I was puzzled. Well, which branch of government declares documents secret or confidential or open? Isn't it the executive branch? And didn't Libby work for the number two man in the hierarchy of the executive branch, Vice President Dick Cheney? What was the deal?

Vice President Dick Cheney recently said that he has authority to declassify the NIE. The MSM here and there seems to doubt him, but of course, Cheney is right. Here, via blogger McGuire at JustOneMinute, is the Executive Order:

EO 13292 (2003)
[1.3 (c) (3) ] "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2) of this section; or the senior agency official described in section 5.4(d) of this order, provided that official has been delegated "Top Secret" original classification authority by the agency head. (Emphasis added).

I'm learning that MSM members are ego driven big babies, but many seem to be illiterate about the American Government as well.


This Day in Renaissance History

On this day in 1514, Austrian astronomer and mathematician Georg Joachim Rheticus is born. In 1528, Rheticus' physician father, who taught him mathematics, is beheaded for being a sorcerer. Called the first of Copernicus' followers, Rheticus helps his mentor by editing De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Rheticus also publishes his own work on the heliocentric nature of the local cosmos, Narratio prima, in 1540. In mathematics, Rheticus is the first to use angles rather than arcs of a circle in trigonometric functions. Rheticus lives to the semi-ripe old age of 62 and dies in 1576.


Thought of the Day

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky.
And as I wonder where you are
I'm so lonesome I could cry.

Hank Williams

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Creepy Liar

Lawrence O'Donnell is off his meds again. Infamous for yelling "liar, creepy liar" at Swiftboat Veteran John O'Neill for several minutes (See video, if you can stand it, here), O'Donnell is the least likeable on the current slate of the McLaughlin Group (which means he is even more awful than Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift). O'Donnell was involved somehow with the recently canceled The West Wing and the failed political TV drama a few years ago with Josh Brolan, the name of which escapes me.

Always the class act, O'Donnell wrote yesterday at the Huffington Post that he suspects that Cheney was drunk when he accidentally shot the old Texas lawyer, who seems at last to be doing better, thank the Lord. O'Donnell has not a shred of proof for his charges and in fact, all the facts known through the witnesses and investigating police make O'Donnell the liar. Like he cares. Here is his strongest support:

I have never gone hunting with ultra-rich Republicans on a Saturday afternoon, but I have seen them tailgating at Ivy League football games, so it's hard for me to believe that any of their Saturday lunches are alcohol free.

He defended his libel against the Vice President today on the Hugh Hewitt show and came off a complete jerk and, well, as the creepy liar I think you will see he plainly is. The tape and transcript is at Radioblogger. Hugh Hewitt got O'Donnell to change his story several times and to say, incoherently, that he never accused Cheney of in fact being drunk, just the likelihood that Cheney was drunk. Oh, I see the difference between accusing as fact as opposed to accusing as mere likelihood. Yea, HUGE difference there. Huge.

I have been bird hunting with pretty rich Republicans around Denver and up in Wyoming and no one drank any alcohol while we were still hunting. Afterwards, well... there was a lot of drinking, and cigars. So I guess the football game tailgater experience isn't quite as reliable a predictor as O'Donnell wants us to believe.

What a jerk! I know it's wrong to hate people, but I'm making an exception for this guy.

And O'Donnell said that Cheney refused to meet with local authorities the night of the accident. I can't say I've read all the stories about the shooting aftermath, but I've read a lot and none say Cheney refused an interview. I'm hearing "creepy liar!" again, but then I always hear that in my mind when I see or hear O'Donnell.


Youth Repellent

In the midlands of England, shopkeepers are experimenting with a device called The Sonic Teenager Deterrent, but nicknamed the mosquito, to keep teens from congregating in front of their stores. The mosquito emits a high pitched wail only the young can hear. It makes the ones who can hear it uncomfortable--so they leave, but it costs over a thousand bucks. Heck, the McDonalds on the 16th Street Mall here in Denver gets the same result by playing classical music. I doubt their speaker system cost that much.

Of course, Brit teens might actually enjoy classical music, so maybe the mosquito is a sound investment over there.


Now What?

Although it was a gallant, Gallic fighting ship (just kidding) the French Aircraft Carrier Clemenceau has been retired and was on its way to the shipbreakers in India. It passed through the Suez Canal and is now in the Arabian Sea, somewhere. Now, however, the French Court has done what no enemy ever could--stopped the ship.

Apparently, it has asbestos in it or something. Who knew?

Of course, if it can't go to the shipbreakers, what to do with it? Typical French non-solution.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 44 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar refuses a crown three times at the public games of the Lupercalia, which was an annual pastoral purification celebration and major Roman festival. You think that would have shown Brutus and the other conspirators something.


Thought of the Day

Ingenita levitas et erudita vanitas.


Shallowness is natural; conceit comes with education.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


UN Redefines Torture

Although I'm not as bad as the Birchers, I think the UN has reached the same absolute irrelevance the League of Nations had in October, 1939. I'm a little less than impressed by the report about to be issued by the UN on Guantanamo Bay internment camp. It is based on 18 months of interviews of former prisoners and their families, but the UN team investigating neglected to visit the camp itself (because they would not have been allowed to interview the current prisoners, the UN team rationalized). The report apparently documents torture of people there and recommends that the camp be shut down.

The report suggests some of the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay meets the definition of torture under the UN Convention Against Torture.
This includes the force-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes and the simultaneous use of several interrogation techniques such as prolonged solitary confinement and exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light.

Feeding through nasal tubes in order to save the life of a hunger striker is torture? I'd call that humanitarian.

Prolonged solitary confinement is torture? Since when? It's a form of punishment for sure, but torture? Not a chance.

Extreme temperatures, noise and light is torture? I go through worse at the Church on industrial night (just kidding, I'm too old to go clubbing).

The trouble with redefining torture to include mere inconvenience is that it dilutes the charge of torture to insignifigance (which is fitting I guess, given the current insignificence of the UN). For the same reason, we shouldn't compare slight, temporary deprivation to what the survivors of NAZI concentration camps and the Soviet Gulags endured.

Although the report should please Andrew Sullivan.


News Stories That Never Appeared

Former Vice President John Nance Garner traveled to Berlin, Germany on November 12, 1944 and gave a speech the next day to the Berlin chapter of the National Socialists and German Worker's Party criticizing the United States Government for its arrest, trial by tribunal and execution of several German citizens. Garner said it was unconscionable that on June 27, 1942, the Federal Bureau of Investigation rounded up these eight German citizens and held them in intolerable conditions. The Germans were doing nothing more than visiting America and were guilty only of mere technical violations of visa requirements and immigration law. Certainly nothing worth execution, said Garner.

I could write more, but I hope you get the point.


This Day in Late Enlightenment History

On this day in 1779, Captain James Cook is killed by hulking big Polynesian cannibals in Hawaii. Cook, an explorer and first of the scientific navigators, who took botanist Joseph Banks with him to categorize the plants (and animals) his men discovered, was a legend among British sailors for the next century after his death. Largely forgotten today, Cook rightly deserves praise for his rigorous observations, bold sailing skills, and enlightened view of his discoveries.


Thought of the Day

So if you wake up with the sunrise
and all your dreams are still as new
and happiness is what you need so bad
Well, girl, the answer lies with you.

Led Zeppelin from What Is and What Should Never Be

Monday, February 13, 2006


Dick Cheney Shoots a Lawyer

I never liked quail, it's a lot of work for a little bit of meat which is not all that better than chicken, which it resembles a lot. I like to shoot guns but I'm not blood-thirsty and clay pigeons are just as hard and just as fun. That said, it's a quick bird that boils up into the air and flies in all sorts of vectors, reduced radius circles and gyres and your heart is pumping and you're trying to follow and lead the bird. It's tough to keep the picture of what's behind the bird in mind. Still, you are responsible for your shot and you should not shoot if the bird goes back or over where your old hunting buddies are. Cheney's fault.

At 70 yards, you can tell a guy with a shotgun to stick it where the sun don't shine. At 30 yards, you have to take care. Despite the depressing display of the Washington Press Corps today, I'm bored with this subject already.


This Day in Ancient History

This was the third and last day of the Greek new wine festival, Anthesteria, called the Chytrai for the pots of food people brought to the cemetery as offerings for the dead.

This was also the first day of the Roman festival Parentalia or All Soul's Time, a ten day observation for remembering the good dead of the Greek and Roman cultures.


Thought of the Day

People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.

Bob Dylan in Things Have Changed

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Ex-DDA Wisdom

I had lunch Friday with a group of guy lawyers all ex-Deputy District Attorneys for the Second Judicial District of Colorado. Our lunch conversation covered a host of items--crime, movies, scripture and politics. They were amazed that I had seen Brokeback Mountain and vowed never to see it, even after I told them the gay sex lasted a mere 30 seconds and you got to see a lot of Anne Hathaway's large, natural breasts. Two of them scoffed at my theory that the Heath Ledger character might not be gay. They illustrated their position with a story of their prosecution of what another ex-DDA had called just another homosexual murder. During his interrogation by police, the murderer kept referring to the victim as a faggot. The detective, knowing the victim was the murderer's lover, was puzzled and asked, "But aren't you a faggot too?" The murderer replied, "Well, I have sex with other men, if that's what you mean."

The ex-DDAs said that was their definition of what it took to be gay, having sex with a member of the same sex. (It's certainly not a bad general rule). So Heath Ledger was gay in Brokeback Mountain. I asked if all the guys in prison having sex were gay. Yes, they answered. What about a woman who has sex with another woman, did that make the women automatically gay? Well, that was different.

I find their position inconsistent.

Oh, and pacing in a movie is a measure of the effectiveness of editing; I needn't go off on a tangent about Eisenstein, montage and French New Wave theory, which is pretty much out of favor lately anyway. When a movie is well paced, the scenes last only as long as they need to. You're neither looking at your watch nor dismissing as trite what just happened on screen. The emotional impact of the action on the screen hits you full on just before the scene ends. The opening scenes of Lord of War are well paced, the last 30 minutes of Lord of the Rings (Return of the King) are not.


Hillary Clinton on Card Playing

Whichever side denounces the other for politicizing the issue is losing the argument.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA).

Hillary Clinton, in a speech last week said that Republicans are politicizing national security. Apparently channeling the strategists on the right, Clinton said the GOP election message is: "All we've got is fear and we're going to keep playing the fear card."

What card are the Democrats playing?

And I'm going to sound like a skipping CD here (notice the update to the broken record analogy), OK, we've heard your criticisms (a lot), where are the things you are for? What is the Democrat's positive agenda to fight the war radical islamicists have brought against us?

Here is part of what they said in September 2005:

We must use every tool at our disposal--including military force--to capture, kill or disrupt international terrorists who are intent on attacking our homeland and our citizens, as well as our interests in other parts of the world.

They say that, but they oppose our using every tool nearly every time. It's pointless to capture international terrorists if you can't keep them in captivity. Who is opposing the detention of known terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba? Republicans or Democrats? Who's opposing killing international terrorists intent on attacking our forces and civilian contractors in Iraq and instead immediately bugging out? Republicans or Democrats? Who is opposed to our trying to disrupt international terrorists intent on attacking our homeland by warrantless surveillance on international communications of known or merely suspected al Qaeda members? Let me put that a different way, who supports extending to al Qaeda members 4th Amendment rights so that there can be no surveillance without probable cause? Republicans or Democrats? Who bragged to applause (yet was completely wrong) that the Democrats have "killed" the PATRIOT Act (one of the major tools to disrupt attacks here)? Democrats or Republicans?

It is the Democrats' actions which speaks volumns, and when Hillary Clinton says, as she did in the same speech quoted from above, that: "I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to fighting terrorism and standing up for national homeland security," who actually believes her?


This Day in Ancient History

This was the second day of the ancient Greek festival Anthesteria, called Choes for the name of the jugs into which the new wine from the pithoi was poured and from which it was tasted. Gifts of toy pitchers and flowers are given to children.


Thought of the Day

I'm going back to Colorado,
The place I started from.
If I'd knowed how bad you'd treat me,
Honey I never would have come.

Bob Dylan in Man of Constant Sorrow

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Face Saving Cosmetic

Although it was only a few weeks ago that Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), now up to his chin in the Abramoff scandal, announced with pleasure and to applause that the Democrats had killed the PATRIOT Act, now, with only the most superficial of changes, it is about to be renewed for a long period. That's a good thing, as a noted obstructor of justice once said.

The best evidence of the American people's will is often contained in what the majority of the federal legislators will vote for (assuming the legislators know what side of the toast the butter goes on). There were a few libertarian lite Republicans who opposed renewing the PATRIOT Act without taking the library search thing out (it's out).

You can take Powerline's description and praise of the compromise for confirmation or you can take this NYT editorial, chiding the lawmakers for spinelessness in not asking for real changes to the Act, as proof.


Lawyers Killing Aussie B and S Balls

Although I've never been to a Bachelor and Spinster ball in the Australian Outback, they sound like a lot of fun. Too much fun, apparently, to survive our modern litigious times. Money quote:

The Outback's Bachelor and Spinster Balls, one of Australia's most cherished traditions and notorious for binge drinking, casual sex and dust, are at risk of dying out.

An exodus of youngsters from the bush, five years of drought, stricter alcohol laws and high insurance costs have brought about the end of many events, which are typically held in dusty paddocks near remote towns.

"B and S" balls - regulars insist that the initials stand for beer and sex - are a magnet for young stockmen, shearers and the jackaroos and jillaroos who work at sheep or cattle farms. They are a rare opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex.

What the heck is a jillaroo?


This Day in Ancient History

This was the first day of of the Anthesteria in Greece, the Festival of the New Wine, which was a three day celebration sacred to Dionysos, the god of wine (all things liquid really, including semen) and drama. On this the first day, the Pithoigia, the pithoi, the large storage jars, were unsealed. The festival was popular from middle Iron Age until about 800 BC.


Thought of the Day

Nunquam praestantibus in re publica gubernanda viris laudata est in una sententia perpetua permansio.


Sticking with what they feel has never helped government leaders.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Short TV Post

Battlestar Galactica was pretty good, about hostage taking. It was an all Czech Republic gun parade for the hostage takers. Dana Delaney (who has not aged well at all--she was so hot just 15 years ago; now she looks a little dowdy) had a CZ 83 probably in .380. Nice ladies gun. The first guy to go, the one Lee Adama got the better of, had a CZ 52 (in 7.62 x 25mm). That's the gun I have. The big lunking guy had a CZ vz61 Skorpion submachine gun (in puny little .32 ACP). The most nervous of the guys, who was killed last, had a squarish gun that I had trouble identifying. (I'll update if it's easier to see on the rerun).

Lee Adama went down from friendly fire by Starbuck (who was so butch firing two pistols in two hands independent (can't be done accurately unless you have chameleon like independent eye movement)--that's probably why she hit her friend and former lover, she was neglecting to actually aim the pistol), but the bullet missed the pulmonary artery and he didn't bleed out in the minute or two it can take in real life. When Delaney was threatening to kill Col. Tigh's wife, most in the room I was watching it in were yelling "Do it!" and "Waste the bitch!" So of course she survives. Billy didn't. Unlucky in love...dead before the end of the hour. Proof that it's a hard edged show. They'll take out a regular as soon as look at him.

The politics of the show were Israeli-like. We don't negotiate with terrorists or hostage takers (but we're willing to pretend to in order to gain an advantage so that our crack anti-terrorist squads can kill them all and save at least most of the hostages). It's a sound policy even if it seems heartless.

I don't believe the Grace Park cylon character is fracking with them (to use the show's vernacular). When is Lucy Lawless coming back?


Finally, a NYT Editorial With Which I Completely Agree

Porter Goss has a great editorial today in of all places, the New York Times. Money quote:

Exercising one's rights under this act is an appropriate and responsible way to bring questionable practices to the attention of those in Congress charged with oversight of intelligence agencies. And it works. Government employees have used statutory procedures — including internal channels at their agencies — on countless occasions to correct abuses without risk of retribution and while protecting information critical to our national defense.

On the other hand, those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic. Nor are they whistleblowers. Instead they are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk. It is unconscionable to compromise national security information and then seek protection as a whistleblower to forestall punishment.

Today America is confronting an enemy intent on brutal murder. Without the capacity to gain intelligence on terrorist organizations through clandestine sources and methods, we and our allies are left vulnerable to the horrors of homicidal fanaticism.


Libby "News"

The Washington Post has a story today that I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was authorized by the Vice President to leak classified information to the press. A lot of people (like normally smart Neal Boortz) are jumping to the conclusion that the classified information was the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA employee. Nope.

Part of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2002 was used by Libby in Summer, 2003 in conversations with the press after Joseph Wilson lied about his grand adventure in Niger. However, the 2002 NIE was declassified in July 2003, so it's difficult to see either a crime or a problem here. That little fact doesn't stop Ted Kennedy from bloviating poorly, of course.


Psychological Telltales

Back on December 18, 2005, Chris Wallace was interviewing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about a lot of things. Near the end of the interview, there was this exchange:

WALLACE: I just have to pick up on this, because you've been mentioning corruption several times here. One of the biggest scandals in Washington right now involves Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who's under investigation, and his clients.
It turns out that you received $66,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. Some of your colleagues...
REID: Chris, Chris...
WALLACE: May I ask the question?
REID: Don't try to say I received money from Abramoff.
REID: I've never met the man, don't know anything...
WALLACE: But you've received money from...
REID: Make sure that all your viewers understand-- not a penny from Abramoff. I've been on the Indian Affairs Committee my whole time in the Senate.
WALLACE: But you've received money from his firm. You've received money from some of his clients. The question I'm asking if I may get the question out, Senator. Some of your colleagues, both Republican and Democrats, have given back campaign contributions that had any taint of Abramoff to it. Are you going to do so?
REID: Well, first of all, Chris, make sure that -- again, I'll repeat, Abramoff gave me no money. His firm gave me no money. He may have worked a firm where people have given me money. But I have -- I feel totally at ease that I haven't done anything that is even close to being wrong.
And I'm going to continue doing what I've done for my entire tenure in Congress. My record --any money that I've
received --it's a federal law. You can look who gave it to me, how much, when they gave it to me, and what their occupations are.
So don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal. Don't try to give any of it to me.

It's tough to see in the cold transcript, but Reid was angry and vehement in his denial (apparently in denial in more ways than one). His outburst is an example of a form or projection (first noticed, as far as I can tell, by Shakespeare in Hamlet with Queen Gertrude's line "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."Act III, Scene 2), Reid wants to blame only the Republicans because he knows he's guilty. And how.

Now we know the extent of his involvement in Abramoff related activities, which sure does look bought and paid for. Here's the lead paragraphs of today's AP story:

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and Reid's staff had frequent contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation.
The activities -- detailed in previously unreported billing records and correspondence -- occurred over three years as Reid (D-Nev.) collected nearly $68,000 in political donations from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients.

I predicted early last month that the Abramoff story would not be the tidal wave the Democrats and MSM (same thing) were hyping several weeks ago. That a senior leader of the Democrat party is up to his neck in the scandal is part of the reason.

Reliable Howard Dean, chairman of the Democrat National Committee, has already thrown Reid to the wolves:

WALLACE: So if we find — and I just want to — we have to wrap this up. But if we find that there were some Democrats who wrote letters on behalf of some of the Indian tribes that Abramoff represented, then what do you say, sir?
DEAN: That's a big problem, and those Democrats are in trouble, and they should be in trouble.

I wish I could say that I saw today's news about the extent of Reid's involvement coming based on his inappropriate vehemence of denial, but it's only in retrospect, as usual, that the pieces fall together and show a more complete picture.


Royal Society Discovery

This story is pretty cool-- a 520 page manuscript of the minutes of the early meetings of the Royal Society, kept for 30 years (1661--1691) by scientist Robert Hooke, has been discovered in a trunk in a house in Hampshire.

This may not mean a lot to most of the few people who read this but to those who have taken the long, mostly pleasurable slog through the thousands of pages of the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, it's like hearing new gossip about old friends.

(h/t Betsy's Page)


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 60 AD, Paul is shipwrecked on Malta. Or so we have conspired to believe.


Thought of the Day

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.

W. Somerset Maugham

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Short TV Post

Samurai Champloo was really weird yesterday. The satellite TV guide said it was going to be about playing baseball (which itself was a little weird as the Japanese cartoon series is set during the Meiji restoration when baseball, started by Union Civil War General Abner Doubleday (based on the English game 'rounders') was in its infancy). But Samurai Champloo last night was instead the Halloween episode (assuming they celebrate Halloween in Japan), "The Cosmic Collisions", with undead arms falling off and springing up from graves, etc.; and it never bothered to explain a thing or show a resolution. Just weird.


This Day in Ancient History

On this day in 249 AD, St. Apollonia is martyred in Alexandria, Egypt. During the Christian Persecution by Emperor Decius (although the time line is not in perfect congruence here) she was tortured, her teeth were broken off with pliers, in an effort to get her to renounce her faith. She was given the final choice of renunciation or death by being burned alive. She demonstrated her choice by jumping into the fire. She is not surprisingly the patron saint of dentists and teeth. Her saint card shows a woman with pliers or a tooth on a chain and a burning pile of wood in the background.


Thought of the Day

A journey of a thousand miles starts with an airline ticket. Unless you're crazy.

Chad Carter.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Rocky Mountain News Misses the Point

The Rocky Mountain News is the better paper here in Denver, and most of us right thinking people think the World of the editor of the editorial page, Vince "our main man" Carroll; but just as a blind hog sometimes finds the acorn, so too does a sane, temperate editorial board sometimes miss the point entirely--like in today's editorial about FISA. I won't repeat the whole thing, just the two points where it goes wrong

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978, may be lurching toward obsolescence as an effective tool for either gathering information about terror threats or protecting Americans' privacy.

FISA is not a tool, the NSA programs are the tool. FISA is a brake on the system. It is designed to make it more difficult for NSA to do its job. You could make the point that FISA is an important brake on a broader system which some presidents have used for venal political ends and then justified with the grand title "national security" but FISA is not the engine, it's the kill switch.

In defense of the NSA program, Gonzales noted that the president has broad constitutional power to defend the nation during wartime. And when Congress gave the president the authority "to use all necessary . . . force" to pursue al-Qaida in 2001, Gonzales said, that included the ability to bypass FISA if needed.

The President, as commander in chief of our armed forces (Army and Navy in the Constitution), has the sole power to wage war. Congress can declare war, fund it , make rules for the Army etc.. but they don't choose what to do to fight it--which targets, which methods. That's exclusively the President's call. It's a good system. Too many cooks spoil the broth. There is a check and balance. If we don't like what the President is doing, we can vote him out next election. Congress cannot tie the President's hands in how to fight the war. FISA, says the appellate court which reviews FISA actions, cannot take away the Presidents' power to conduct foreign surveillance (See In re: Sealed Case Number 02:001).

So rather than try to take away the Presidents' power to wage war against al Qaeda, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUFM) passed by Congress in September, 2001, authorized the President to do exactly what the Constitution allows him to do. The AUFM is Congress declaring war on al Qaeda. FISA has a 15 day period in it, after a declaration of war, when no warrant is necessary. All who have actually read the legislative history agree that this period of time was for Congress to act to fine tune what we should be doing against the particular enemy. (Also FISA says you can't eavesdrop without a warrant unless it's authorized by another statute). The AUFM is this other statute and it is the fine tuning after war was waged against us, passed within 15 days of 9/11.

So rather than 'bypass' FISA, as the editorial mistakenly states, the President's actions, through NSA surveillance of international communications, are following FISA and the AUFM as well as carrying out the President's constitutional duties. The question even some (apparently somewhat dim) Republicans are asking about the NSA's legality seem totally unjustified. Not only are the President's actions legal, he must be taking them to do his constitutionally required duty to protect the nation from foreign attack.

Now, you can point to the AUFM, which gives the President the power to use all necessary force against al Qaeda and say, it doesn't mention anything about surveillance of international calls involving someone (not necessarily a citizen) in America. That's true. FISA is specific, you could state, shouldn't it still hold sway over the general grant of power? But to answer that question, all you have to do is look at the Hamdi case. (More than O'Connor's bad dicta that the AUFM is not a blank check--who doesn't know that?). There's nothing in the AUFM which says the President can take and hold prisoners. There was, however, a very specific statute which said you can't hold American citizens in custody basically without criminal charges. The Supreme Court said the AUFM in a sense, overwrote that statute and allowed the President to do everything normally incident to waging war (like taking prisoners and, I add, spying on the enemy).

If the NSA's terrorist surveillance program were a case of spying, for example, on Martin Luther King by the Kennedy brothers in October 1963, rather than spying on our nations' foreign enemies, then maybe we could be talking about updating FISA, but since there's no hint of abuse of power here and the President is merely carrying out his Constitutional duties as buttressed by the AUFM, there seems nothing to fix with FISA (and this whole investigation by the wrong committee in the Senate seems like a tempest in a tea pot).

The only thing we need to do now is find out who leaked the existence of this NSA program to the press and prosecute them, along with all the aiders and abettors at the New York Times.

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