Billmon beat me to the punchline

My punchline for this was going to be "Watergategate." Oh well.

Since we're talking about it already, I really don't see what the big deal is. I just assumed that the economy of D.C. was largely based on prositution for powerful people. Just like you don't go into shoe-making to get rich, I figured the reason for long term incumbancies had to be the hos.

It don't stop

Fifty-seven people were arrested at a sit-in at New York University yesterday as part of an effort to pressure the university to grant its graduate teaching and research assistants union recognition.

Graduate students and union supporters were arrested an hour after the Graduate Students Organizing Committee announced that a majority of graduate teaching assistants had signed a petition saying they wanted the group to be their union. |link|

Addendum: I note that one of people arrested was Cary Nelson, new president of AAUP. I happen to know that there are a metric crapload of tulips growing in his yard in Champaign, Illinois. I know this because I, along with about half a dozen other starving grad students, earned some much needed pocket change last Fall by planting bulb after bulb after bulb. Which is all by way of saying that Cary Nelson knows a thing or two about exploited grad labor.

Friday dumb game blogging, better than legos edition

Four Second Fury

nb. also better than scaphism.


Good news

...a research team reports that a candidate Marburg vaccine given to monkeys shortly after infection fully protected them from the virus. The findings offer hope that public health workers and others in contact with Marburg victims could be similarly protected.

Like its cousin the Ebola virus, the Marburg virus causes symptoms that start off with fever and chills and often end with severe weight loss, massive internal bleeding, shock, multiorgan failure, and death. |Science Now|

Marburg/Ebola currently sits in position number six on my list of top ten ways that I don't want to die.


Also kicking my ass

Zep Tepi from Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Trio.

But that's no surprise.

By the by, if you're bored on a Wednesday night you can keep yourself pretty amused with google and the words 'zep' and 'tepi'. For example:
Within the void called Time and Space there are those who move from reality to reality creating the programs in which souls experience. They move through the place known as Zero Point - where matter and antimatter merge to create new realities. It is the place where positive and negative collide to destroy matter and recreate new.

It is a place of awakening and a place of forgetfulness. It is the beginning and the end of all and everything. It is the home of the creational forces, those who bend and shape realities through sound, light and color. Zep=Z=Zipper-Effect - closing of opening - movement through space time - DNA is a polymer - encoded DNA.

Zep Tepi is Genesis. Zep means Time. Tepi means First. Together they are the First Time or the Golden Age [Alchemy] where the gods moved through the Void and created our reality. |link|

Tired of spinning in it, Thomas Jefferson seeks revenge from beyond the grave

Neal tossed this out as an aside, but it was news to me:
Koretz is the sponsor of the California initiative to impeach the president and vice president. It's inspired in part by his digust [sic] with the current regime and in part by similar legislation drafted by Karen Yarbrough of the Illinois General Assembly. Both items take advantage of Section 603 of Thomas Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which "allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature."

In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, "Hell yeah, bitches."
What would they impeach Bush for? All the right stuff, it appears:

• Violating provisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony;
• Violating provisions of the Geneva Convention by authorizing torture;
• Holding American citizens without due process;
• Initiating an illegal war against Iraq, resulting in loss of life and diminished security; and
• Leaking classified information and exposing a covert operative -- Valerie Plame -- as means of silencing his critics.

When you read that list how does your stomach not turn? It's not like the abovementioned talking points are still being disputed; Bush has defended his wiretapping, torture and war and recent allegations have all but proven that the authorization to leak Plame's identity came from the president himself. If these charges were levied against anyone else they'd stand in front of the International Criminal Court for war crimes charges.

Quotes are from The Simon, where the writer goes on to point out how curiously silent the media is on this topic. It seems like a great story, even if the angle of the story is "those wacky state Democrats." Where's the love, FOX?

How did this happen?

I'm sitting here listening to a k.d. lang album and it's kicking my ass.


It's a greatest hits collection drawn from the work she did from 1984-93, excepting 1992's Ingenue which is the only k.d. lang record I'd actually listened to before and which I hate, hate, hate.

Anyhoo, if you like countrified punk or punkified country or Hank Williams or Loretta Lynn, you'd probably like this stuff.



[neologism introduced by French physiologist Charles Richet in the early 20th century, taken from New Latin 'xeno', strange, foreign + Greek 'glossa', tongue]

The ability to speak in an unknown and unlearned foreign language.


[New Latin from Greek 'glossa', tongue + Greek 'lalein', to babble]

Profuse and often emotionally charged speech that mimics coherent speech but is usually unintelligible to the listener and that is uttered in some states of religious ecstasy and in some schizophrenic states.


Stop the Madness!

(Via Exploding Aardvark)


I can tell you from personal experience that I-69 north of Indianapolis is littered with signs advertising Fairmount, IN as the hometown of both James Dean and Garfield. It is not clear (from the signs) whether the two are in any way related.

Addendum: Oh my God. I was googling to find a picture I came across earlier (of a man in a Garfield costume driving a replica of the car James Dean drove to his death) when I came across this:
Garfield is coming to Grant County next month. Nine cat statues will be placed around the county in an effort to attract visitors and boost the area's economy.

"Hopefully it will get people who come to Grant County for different reasons, to stay a day extra to just go around and visit the Garfield statues," said Pete Beck, project organizer.

Statues of the local feline will be decorated to showcases unique aspects of the community. The first statue will debut in Fairmount with a James Dean theme in May. |Newslink Indiana|

Hell yes that emphasis is added.

Double plus addendum: You just can't make this stuff up.

Fairmount - James Dean Garfield - May 2006
Sweetser - College-bound Garfield - June 2006
Marion - Health and Fitness Garfield - July 2006
Van Buren - Tribute to the Popcorn Capital Garfield - Fall 2006

But, but, but

In the annals of Yglesias apostasy, embracing what Mark Schmitt has called The New Parliamentarianism hardly rates. And besides, he's got at least one strong argument.
Mark's right that moves to make it easier to pass liberal initiatives also make it easier to pass conservative ones. Where I think he goes wrong, is that in the absence of barriers to legislation, liberal initiatives are harder to repeal than conservative ones. This is where the difference will be made. If the country ever enacts a single-payer health care system, it will never be repealed. Similarly, a universal pre-school program is never going to be eliminated. That's the case no matter how easy we make it to pass new laws. Tax cuts or whatever will also become easier to enact, but they'll become symmetrically easier to repeal. In part, this sort of comes down to having faith in your ideas. Good programs, programs that are actually worth enacting, should be pretty hard to repeal even if we reduce the barriers to legislating.
|Yglesias: The Movement Marches On|

Fair enough.

But a tight focus on legislative outcomes makes it possible to overlook what is surely the most salient feature of the GOP's unilateral parliamenization of the Federal government. Namely that one party control of the apparatus of our government hamstrings any attempt to investigate abuses and reign in corruption.

More funny sentences

"Michelle Malkin has launched a new conservative internet video site called Hot Air."

I suspect that, just like Right Noise changed their name to "Right Angle," Malkin will eventually yield to the overwhelming ridicule and change the name of the site.

(found at RCP)


Tipping Point for Apple?

The Motley Fool asks if Apple has reached a tipping point with its market penetration.

Business Week also seems taken with the number of first time Mac purchasers and Apple's recent rise in revenue.

Has Steve Jobs finally figured out how to market his product to the masses?

Meanwhile, Apple's recent addition of Boot Camp...will only help close the deal with other potential switchers. In case you missed it, Boot Camp is a feature that allows Apple computers with chips from Intel (INTC) to boot to a hard-disk partition running Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows operating system. If there are any lingering doubts in the minds of many using Windows now who are intrigued by the Mac, Boot Camp will go a long way toward erasing them.|BusinessWeek|

Friday dumb game blogging, fiery furnaces of Hell edition

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. |Revelation 9: 1-3|

There is only one escape. Quickly, let us mount the Wheels of Salvation!



I was checking out our referrer logs a few minutes ago and I see that we got a hit today from someone searching for the string 'papercut on eyeball pain relief'.

This entry from our archives was Google's #5 result for that search.

Stupid is as stupid does

You remember when all the right-wingers went even crazier and "boycotted" the Dixie Chicks, a band whose works they may or may not have thought about purchasing in the first place, because of the aforementioned Chicks being publicly ashamed of our President?

Well, if that was stupid--and it was stupid, really, really stupid--then what are we to think of liberals who say that we need to buy the new Dixie Chicks album for the same reason? Let's ask Atrios and John Amato:
I don't know how many C&L readers have bought the CD, but it's important to back up all our artists that have the courage to speak out when they knew there would be a backlash against them.

I haven't heard the album, but, um, what if it really sucked?

Google knows

It's Miro's birthday.


Wow. Just.... wow

"It’s hard to say anything bad about Karl Rove."

That's the first line of this post over at Right Noise Right Angle.

But the line between sex and what-have-you is pretty blurry...

Good sleepers can do anything they want in bed. But those with insomnia are advised to use their beds only for sleeping and sex. No watching television, reading, knitting or what-have-you. The bed should be associated with sleep. |link|

Presumably there's a Pavlovian mechanism to explain how having sex in bed works to associate the bed with sleep. But why wouldn't something similar happen with knitting?


Next time I'll just wait for Yglesias

Because he says it better than I have in my many attempts:
Overall, the Eustonites seem terribly worried that citizens of democratic countries are more concerned about their own governments' abuses than they are about the abuses committed by other states. There's been a lot of this sentiment kicking around the world ever since 9/11 and it's genuinely bizarre. Both the American and Iranian governments torture people. But as an American, there's very little I can do about Iranian policy. I can write blog posts condemning it, which will accomplish nothing except bolster my own sense of self-righteousness. As regards American policy, I can vote for candidates who are likely to halt or limit the torturing, and I can attempt to persuade my fellow citizens to do the same. Is it so crazy to focus on the latter more than the former?



also cesura
[Latin 'caesura', a cutting, from 'caesus', past participle of 'caedere', to cut off]

A pause in a line of verse dictated by sense or natural speech rhythm rather than by metrics.
2. A pause or interruption, as in conversation.
3. In Latin and Greek prosody, a break in a line caused by the ending of a word within a foot, especially when this coincides with a sense division.
4. In music, a pause or breathing at a point of rhythmic division in a melody.


Roller Derby: The Patriarchy responds

Twisty Faster knows nothing about the roller derby. Perhaps if she could (for a moment) share the clear view of the world that is inherently afforded to card-carrying members of the Patriarchy--by virtue of our genitalia if not actual progeny--she might "get it," but clearly for reasons that are probably unrelated to her patriarchy-blaming, she does not.

Twisty is also suffering the disadvantage of having been exposed to truly second-rate derby: I humbly suggest that before writing another screed against this remarkable cultural phenomenon, our gentleman farmer should spend at least one evening watching a version that adheres more closely to the archetypical ideal of the sport, and right now the only example is Austin's other league, the Lonestar Rollergirls.

Let me break down why the Roller Derby is completely unsuited to the purposes of my beloved Patriarchy:

Roller Derby as Sport

The Patriarchy demands rules in our sporting events! How can one get excited about a three-point differential in the final minutes of a "bout" if a new interpretation of how a pillow fight affects the score can wipe out more than three points in ways that even leave the mustachioed announcers at a loss? For crying out loud.

To be fair to Twisty, the fine women of the Lonestar Rollergirls are attempting to make the rules more consistent, and more comprehensible to brains structured by the Y chromosome. Is this selling out to patriarchal forces? The Patriarchy would like to think so. But it is also possible that this is all an elaborate ruse to separate the Patriarchy from our Washingtons.

The Patriarchy demands statistics! For reasons directly relating to their lack of male presence in the sport, these rollergirls are unable to keep track of important facts such as the total number of penalties per game. One can allege anything about this team having better jammers, or that team having sucky blocking, but without hard numbers which can be wielded like rhetorical daggers while drinking beer and eating the flesh of the lesser beasts on the Lord's day, the Patriarchy finds any such claims unpersuasive.

On the other hand, let me just say that the athleticism of recent banked-track matches has reached levels that would impress any red-blooded male. The Patriarchy is pleased.

Roller Derby as Sexual Oppression of Women

This is where Roller Derby is truly and astoundingly failing the Patriarchy. As Twisty claims to be an advanced Patriarchy-blamer, surely she understands that sexual attraction is not useful to the Patriarchy in all it's myriad forms. For the nefarious purposes of the Patriarchy, sexual attraction--and the devices, symbols, and engines thereof--must be strictly controlled by the Patriarchy.

The patriarchy wants to tell you what is sexy. The patriarchy has a vested interest in making sure that everyone agrees that certain body types, certain hair styles, certain items of clothing are sexy and that all divergence from these types, styles, or items will render a woman repulsive.

The Roller Derby opposes the Patriarchy on this very point. These Roller Girls are not all (or even most) of the Kate Moss-esque body type that we in the Patriarchy have been so vigorously pimping. How dare they adorn their various body types with the schoolgirl fetish outfits that we have so assiduously promoted as sexy over the years? The Patriarchy is confused! How dare these women promote the idea that big, small, wide, thin, bruised or, unbemished, that all of that can be sexy? How dare they suggest that confidence, competence, and a positive attitude are alluring? This is a real danger to our Patriarchal hegemony. At the roller derby, I myself have seen some males succumb to these brutish persuasions.

Not to worry, not to worry. I'm sure Twisty will agree with this: The Patriarchy always wins, so eventually we'll be able to co-opt this dangerous aberrance, and replace these real women with something a bit more controllable: I'm thinking the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders on skates. Guys, is that doable?

And statistics

Yes, yes, I'm sure that there's a lot to be learned from this article, but what jumped out at me was some information contained in the accompanying graphic.

According to the graphic, the majority of America's white evangelicals are traditionalists, which is to say that they have "orthodox beliefs" and display "little interest in adapting" those beliefs in response to modernity. This group is fairly large, comprising 12.6 of the population.

Here's what got me. Seventy percent of traditionalists are Republicans, whereas seventy-seven percent believe that, "the world will end in a battle at Armageddon between Jesus and the Antichrist."

So among the Republican Party's core consituency, apocalyptic eschatology is viewed as moderately more plausible than is the party's political platform. I don't think I have the blogiterary chops to convey how hilarious I think that is, but I pretty much fell out of my chair when I came across it in the paper.

Dumb joke blogging, Easter edition

Q: What did Judas say to Jesus as he was leaving the last supper?

A: Have a nice weekend!


Must we kill the Iranians too?

Zwichenzug recently asked what are the right questions to be asking about the invasion of Iran and suggested that the Dem's need to have their talking points in order to deal with a proposal to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

What I thought was more interesting was Z's implication that the Bush administration goes to war for domestic reasons (like public support of racist wars) rather than for geopolitical reasons.

One rationale for the invasion of Iraq and the pending invasion of Iran is that the US has been forced to strike down anyone offering to sell oil for Euros. For instance, Krassimir Petrov declares that the economic superiority of the US is supported by petrodollars and that Iran's request for payment of oil in Euros threatens the American empire.

If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. It also dictated that oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren’t strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.

The man that actually did demand Euro for his oil was Saddam Hussein in 2000...Bush’s Shock-and-Awe in Iraq was not about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, about defending human rights, about spreading democracy, or even about seizing oil fields; it was about defending the dollar, ergo the American Empire. It was about setting an example that anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars would be likewise punished.

Many have criticized Bush for staging the war in Iraq in order to seize Iraqi oil fields. However, those critics can’t explain why Bush would want to seize those fields—he could simply print dollars for nothing and use them to get all the oil in the world that he needs. He must have had some other reason to invade Iraq. |Energy Bulletin|

F. William Engdahl makes a strong argument that this viewpoint is simply mistaken because dollars are not backed up by oil, but rather by armies and nuclear weapons.

As Michael Hudson explains in his brilliant and too-little-studied work Super Imperialism, the perverse genius of the US global dollar hegemony was the realization, in the months after August 1971, that US power under a fiat dollar system was directly tied to the creation of dollar debt. The US debt and the trade deficit were not the "problem", they realized. They were the "solution".

The US could print endless quantities of dollars to pay for foreign imports of Toyotas, Hondas, BMWs or other goods in a system in which the trading partners of the United States, holding paper dollars for their exports, feared a dollar collapse enough to continue to support the dollar by buying US Treasury bonds and bills. In fact in the 30 years since abandoning gold exchange for paper dollars, the US dollars in reserve have risen by a whopping 2,500%, and the amount grows at double-digit rates today.

This system continued into the 1980s and 1990s unchallenged. US policy was one of crisis management coupled with skillful and coordinated projection of US military power. Japan in the 1980s, fearful of antagonizing its US nuclear-umbrella provider, bought endless volumes of US Treasury debt even though it lost a king's ransom in the process. It was a political, not an investment, decision....A full challenge to the domination of the US dollar as the world central-bank reserve currency entails a de facto declaration of war on the "full-spectrum dominance" of the United States today. The mighty members of the European Central Bank Council well know this. The heads of state of every EU country know this. The Chinese leadership as well as the Japanese and Indians know this. So does Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Until some combination of those Eurasian powers congeal in a cohesive challenge to the unbridled domination of the United States as sole superpower, there will be no euro or yen or even Chinese yuan challenging the role of the dollar. The issue is of enormous importance, as it is vital to understand the true dynamics bringing the world to the brink of possible nuclear catastrophe today. |AsiaTimes|

I find the latter analysis by Engdahl more persuasive, but not more reassuring. Even if Iran cannot destroy the American imperial system by demanding payment in Euros, they are certainly not garnering any favor in Washington.

And Engdahl's analysis is explicit that the use of military force is what really props up our position as the world's largest resource glutton...at least until the oil runs out.

Vanguard of the rolletariat

"Mom...I wish I had been born a girl."

"Why's that, Birdy?"

"Because then I could grow up and be a ROLLER girl!"

|Dru Blood|

Sunbeams will soon smile through

It's a beautiful morning here in southeast Michigan. I woke up before my alarm sounded and while I still lay in bed I could hear the calls of at least four kinds of birds weaving together like some kind of avant garde jazz fusion. I went down to the porch to pick up the paper and saw that the tulips my landlord planted last fall have bloomed, so now there are rows of bright red blossoms to compliment the yellow daffodils and purple gladioli.

I decided to take a walk.

About a block from my house I passed the remnants of a frat party. Trash and cigarette butts were strewn around the lawn and the porch was ringed with cups half full of last night's abandoned beer. You could smell the stink two houses away. As I watched a homeless man scavenged and lit a cigarette butt and then went up on to the porch and began methodically gulping down the stale beer.

I decided that I needed some coffee.

won't get fooled again

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement. |The Washington Post|

The scope of the lying from Ken Mehlman's RNC on this immigration stuff really almost defies belief. I'm genuinely curious if any talking heads are going to call them on it. We'll be bringing you a bit more info on this shortly. But basically you have a bill that a Republican chairman introduced and one that was passed overwhelmingly by Republicans. Now the GOP is trying to find a way out from under their screw-up which they're afraid is going to damage them grievously at the polls among Latinos. So they're saying the Democrats are for making illegal aliens felons when they were the ones against making it even a misdemeanor. |Josh Marshall|

There was a Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was lonely for him, so he devised a plan to get a little company. He rushed down towards the village calling out "Wolf, Wolf," and the villagers came out to meet him. This pleased the boy so much that a few days after he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. Shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest. The boy cried out "Wolf, Wolf," still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again lying, and nobody came to his aid. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy's flock.


Friday dumb game blogging, Easter weekend/Passover edition

I looked for a game that involved either crucifixion or lamb's blood, but all I found was Flying Spaghetti Monster The Game.


Grap up your gram

Can't. Stop. Self. Must. Blog. Virgin. Story.
In fact, I live in an apartment in which seven of nine people are virgins. And we are a happy bunch for the most part. Nothing is wrong with us - well, you know, nothing major. We're all a little weird. One of us doesn't like cheese. Another farts frequently. Another writes biographies of cross-country runners he's never met. But we're all happy. And we're all seniors. And we're all virgins. So I'm not completely alone. |link|

one two three

The guy in the middle is me and what I'm doing, other than rousing the rabble, is teaching the folks a new chant.

This post, by the way, is only sort of about the chant and it's really not about the protest pictured above, but if you're curious about the protest the story is here.

Anyway, the chant that I was teaching (with contextual modifications, of course) goes like this:

One, we are the union
Two, we have a contract
Three, a little bit louder now
We are LEO

It doesn't come across on the page, but done correctly it has a fantastic rhythym. The trick is that when you repeat the chant the opening 'one' becomes part of the last line and is shouted really, really loudly.

Maybe you have to be there.

The first time I encountered that chant, the words were:

One, we are the union
Two, we need a contract
Three, a little bit louder now
We are GSOC

That was five months ago in New York during the first week of GSOC's strike for recognition at NYU. You know what? They're still on strike. Five months. It's tough for me to even wrap my head around that.

I don't blog about the GSOC strike much anymore because, really, what is there to say? The strikers are employees and as such they ought to have the right to form a union. The NLRB took away that right and NYU chose to withdraw recognition from the union. And so there was a strike. And there still is. And there's no end in sight.

Please donate to the strike fund.

Asking the right questions

So far the blogtopia sinister discussion of the cowboy in chief's incipient Iran war plan has focused on the disastrous strategic consequences of launching a new war. Almost lost in all of this is the fact that, whatever they say, Republican strategists are more concerned with the domestic political implications of war than they are with the geopolitical consequences.[1] So the right sort of questions to be asking aren't about how the Bush Administration expects bombing Iran to accomplish American strategic goals but are rather about how the Bush Administration expects bombing Iran to affect the midterm elections in November.

Blogging over at This Modern World, Greg Saunders has begun asking the right questions.
Seriously, how would Democrats respond to a use of force resolution against Iran? The obvious answer would be to oppose it on the grounds that the Bush Administration has already shown itself to be dishonest and incompetent with Iraq, but do the Democrats in D.C. have the guts to vote against a war resolution, especially when it concerns a country that, in contrast to Saddam Hussein’s caginess, is openly flaunting its nuclear technology? Considering that it was a Democratic Senate that gave Bush the authorization to invade Iraq in 2002, I have my doubts about whether the current slate would be willing to risk looking weak on national security in order to do the right thing. |link|

(emphasis added)

1 Do you think it's even remotely possible that when G. W. says, "...global war on terra" he really means a global war on Terra and is reveling in the irony of saying straight out that he's waging war on the planet?


That sickening thud

Good lord, it's like a bad dream. Follow the link for Josh Marshall scaring you to death, but here's the headline he's reacting to:

"Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says"

Emulating Superman's laser eye beams

In the middle of a fairly mundane article about new defense programs using lasers, I found this paragraph, which lays out some of the other military applications besides countering ICBM's.

I really think the threat from ICBM's is receding and that the Return on Investment (ROI) of the Strategic Defense Initiative and its progeny is difficult to justify. But these other applications sound interesting.

The Zeus is actually a solid-state laser developed by the Army to heat up mines, to be able to clear minefields at a distance. In fact, the Zeus was deployed to Afghanistan, and several hundred mines were cleared by the use of this tactical weapon.

There is another [laser weapon] called the THEL, or the Tactical High Energy Laser, that was developed for the Army, and this laser had actually shot down Katyusha rockets in White Sands Missile Range, and after over 30 Katyusha rockets were shot down, they decided to see if they could also shoot down mortars and artillery shells, and they were successful on that. |C|Net|

If this technology turns out to be workable, it could significantly alter the effectiveness, if not the very nature, of counter-insurgency operations.

Mortars have been a highly effective infantry tool for almost a century. The Viet Cong and the Iraqi insurgency use mortars to great effect. Typically a mortar crew lobs three shells and then moves, making it impossible to get a fix on their position or return fire.

But if we could shoot down mortar and artillery rounds in flight...that would be damned impressive.

And if energy weapons can blow up mines underground then couldn't energy weapons detonate or deactivate improvised explosive devices?

The article also talks about the Active Denial System, but the anti-artillery application is much more impressive to me.

Snacks anyone?

OFFICIAL NAME OF SNACK: Tootsie Roll Twin Bar Pack

PRICE: $.60

WEIGHT: 2 oz.

SNACK LOOKS LIKE: Two long doodies rolled in plastic.

From THE OFFICIAL SNACK REPORT, home of the definitive tootsie roll dossier.

Deep breaths

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.

The crisis is not one of nuclear enrichment, a low-level attainment that does not necessarily lead to having a bomb. Even if Iran had a bomb, it is hard to see how they could be more dangerous than Communist China, which has lots of such bombs, and whose Walmart stores are a clever ruse to wipe out the middle class American family through funneling in cheaply made Chinese goods.

| Informed Comment |


Somehow nearly two weeks have passed since our last discussion of my absurd philosophical views. Shameful. Luckily, I've come across something I wrote last summer which (I think) does a better job of explaining my position. If you look closely, there's even a little bit of an argument in there.

The major stumbling block you're running into here, I think, is that you are tempted by the view that we can't really be committed by our evaluative judgments unless those judgments somehow match up to the way things really are (in some robust sense). The problem is that ethics seems to be like aesthetics (but not, allegedly, like science) in that there's no 'way things really are' for our judgments to match up to, and yet we want to say that we ought to be committed to our ethical judgments.

...one way to handle this difficulty is to deny that there is any domain in which we can know that our judgments match up to 'the way things really are', at least not in any robust sense. Less ambitiously, one might argue that there is no domain in which our commitment actually depends on knowing that our judgments match up to 'the way things really are.' Instead, commitment is legitimate just in case a judgment survives the application of the appropriate evaluative norms.

The difficult question here is saying which evaluative norms are legitimate. So, for example, someone might object to what I said above about cosmology by asking why we should accept our contemporary cosmological practice rather than that of, say, Ptolemy. The beginning of the answer is to notice that we have no reason to suppose that Ptolemy would resist a heliocentric model of the solar system were he given access to contemporary astronomical information. In fact, we think that a fully informed Ptolemy ought to change his views. The point here is that the mere existence of a practice which differs from the one we accept doesn't constitute a threat to our practice. In order for there to be a threat, the competing practice must generate some kind of problem for us. Ptolemy's cosmology doesn't generate a problem for contemporary practice for the simple reason that contemporary practice developed, in part, as a response to shortcomings in the ptolemaic system.

The lesson here is that our commitment to an empirical belief doesn't require a demonstration that the empirical belief somehow corresponds to the way things are, robustly construed. It requires just that the belief be licensed by the appropriate norms and that we have no good reasons to reject those norms. Moreover, if empirical commitments can be explained in this way, then it would seem perverse to require something stronger for ethical and aesthetic commitments.

That's it. The post it's taken from is here.

Zwichenzug culture watch, space opera edition

Pinpricks of light within the swarm signified smaller armaments detonating, and very occasionally Antoinette saw the hard red or green line of a laser precursor beam, caught in outgassing air or propellant from one or other of the ships. Absently cursing her mind's ability to focus on the most trivial of things at the wrong time, she realized that this was a detail they always got wrong in the holo-dramas, where laser beams were invisible, the sinister element of invisibility adding to the drama. But a real close-range space battle was a far messier affair, with gas clouds and chaff shards erupting all over the place, ready to reflect and disperse any beam weapon.

From Redemption Ark, by Alastair Reynolds, p. 648.


Berlusconi Gone-a-roni?

It's not all counted, and it's too close for comfort, but it looks like Berlusconi may be out. I want to gloat, but Berlusconi-haters, be warned: This bastard is going to be the most powerful person in Italy for years to come, even if he's ousted from the government. Berlusconi-haters, rejoice! If he can be outed, democracy is real in Italy.

Little help?

Today's edition of This Modern World (go read it) has an image of Tom DeLay on a cross with the letters D-T-K-R written on a sign hung above his head. There's no doubt in my mind but that Tom Tomorrow has abbreviated some hilarious phrase there, but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is. I mean, chances are it's not Developmental Tasks for Kindergarten Readiness. Sometimes these sorts of questions get answered over at Mr. Tomorrow's blog, and I'm keeping an eye out, but in the meantime, y'all got any ideas?

For myself, I'm hoping it's not 'DeLay, Tom King of Republicans', since that would be kind of boring.

Our xenophobia has been greatly exaggerated

Marc Cooper:
Today, once again there's still only a hundred or so Minutemen back out on the line, playing with walkie-talkies and fingering their sidearms. Meanwhile, a couple of million others are out --peacefully -- today in dozens of American cities clamoring for a policy that might actually begin to match our reality.


Speaking of the new war

Another passage from Hersch's article has me confused.
A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror expressed a similar view. “This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war,” he said. The danger, he said, was that “it also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability.” A military conflict that destabilized the region could also increase the risk of terror: “Hezbollah comes into play,” the adviser said, referring to the terror group that is considered one of the world’s most successful, and which is now a Lebanese political party with strong ties to Iran. “And here comes Al Qaeda.”

The link between Hezbollah and Iran I get, but last I checked, fundamentalists Sunnis comprised Al Qaeda, Iran was a Shiite theocracy, and fundamentalist Sunnis viewed Shiites as irredeemable heretics. Now, I'm no expert on this mess, so maybe I'm wrong to think that this particluar senior Pentagon advisor on the war on terror is strikingly uninformed about one of the basic divisions within Islam, but if I am then I'd sure appreciate it if some helpful commenter would set me up with some knowledge.

'q' is for quagmire, 'n' is for nukes

This week's exciting new pastime in blogtopia sinister is trying to figure out what's the scariest thing in Sy Hersh's new article. My vote goes to this:
He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

The best case scenario[1] is that this is all bluster. The administration isn't seriously considering using nukes against Iran, but is making the threat in an attempt to bluff Iran into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

Suppose the bluff works. Then the U.S. will have succeeded in selling the idea that it is willing to engage in pre-emptive preventative nuclear first-strikes against uppity muslim nations. See victory, pyrrhic.

The worst case, obviously, is a whole lot worse.

1 There's some noise on the right to the effect that Hersch is over-hyping what really only amounts to due-dillegence type contingency planning, and that may turn out to be the line that the administration decides to sell here at home. If true, this might indicate a better scenario than the best one I laid out. There is, however, this from earlier in Hersch's article:
Some operations, apparently aimed in part at intimidating Iran, are already under way. American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending maneuvers known as “over the shoulder” bombing—since last summer, the former official said, within range of Iranian coastal radars.

Will the Playstation 3 destroy Sony?

Reflecting on a recent interview with Sony's European VP, Brent Kirkwood of Bona Fide Reviews provides some compelling reasons why Sony might be slitting its own throat with the expected price point for the PS3.


"Records of the Period are fragmented however"

From A Day at the Mall.

(Via Exploding Aardvark)

Friday dumb game blogging, vernal edition

An early spring.

Bonus: Disaster Discovery.

A question about this immigration reform

So, I'm sure the answer is out there, but I am so gawdawful busy I didn't devote more than a few minutes to finding it. And a few minutes wasn't enough:

Do employers have to pay legal-immigrant workers the minimum wage?

It seems like the answer has to be "no," or this plan wouldn't get through the Republican-controlled Senate, right?


Cogent, reasoned discussion




They attended a reception Sunday night in Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles, but only their staffs and those in Rice's traveling press pool knew they were leaving that night on a secret mission to Baghdad. Straw slipped onto Rice's plane through the back entrance, away from the glare of television cameras.

On the overnight flight to Baghdad, Rice offered her guest the bed in her personal cabin. Straw awoke in horror to learn the secretary of state had slept on the floor in the aisle outside the cabin. |CNN|

It should be noted that there is, as a general rule, nothing impolite about accepting a woman's invitation to sleep in her bed.


Hey, scandal monkey hive mind!

Tom DeLay's resignation reminds me that all good scandals have good names. Credit Mobilier. The Conway Cabal. The Dreyfus Affair. Watergate. So far though, none of the scandals facing the Republican cleptocracy have memorable labels.

I've been wracking my brain to come up with something, but so far all I've got are two ideas. They are:
  • The Bush Presidency
  • The Republican Party

Those scandal names work on a purely descriptive level, but they just don't soar, darn it. The floor is open for suggestions.



A traditional notion that is obstinately held despite being unreasonable.

They really, really wanted a driver's license

RIYADH (Reuters) - Tired of being second to men in conservative Saudi Arabia, five women decided if you can't beat them, join them.
Women in Saudi Arabia, which adopts an austere interpretation of Islam are not allowed to drive or even go to public places unaccompanied by a male relative.
An interior ministry official told the Watan such cases are examined by religious authorities, and sometimes by psychologists, but those who undergo sex change are never arrested.
| yahoo news |


The news today is that Tom DeLay will resign from the House in June. Seeing that kind of disarray in the GOP stirs the Democratic partisan in my breast. So much so that I feel compelled to contribute to the latest circular firing squad.

Over at Tiberius and Gaius Speaking, Patrick Smith makes some good points about the structural problems facing the Democrats. I agree with most of what he writes and you should, as they say, read the whole post. But even though my nitpicking hat is scratchy like sack cloth, I can't help but take issue with this:
The improvements that are needed are almost entirely independent of the netroots vs establishment debate, yet we have all this sound and fury signifying nothing. There is an air of unreality of these discussions, like if you heard people debating how many life preservers there need to be on each lifeboat on the Titanic when you don't have enough lifeboats.
|What ought the netroots be doing?|

A legitimate criticism of the netroots crowd -- and Dean's Iowa disaster amply demonstrated this -- is that they don't really have any idea how to do the practical work of organizing and mobilizing voters. "Write a blogpost and they will come," sometimes seems like the best those folks have, and it sucks.

On the other hand, the establishment doesn't have much of a clue either. The great insight of the netroots folks is that the party can't win by running away from it's base. You can know everything in the world about voter lists, canvassing, and persuadables but as long as the party insists on tacking right at the first sign of Republican hot air it isn't going to be able to recruit volunteers to do the work of building a structure on the ground.


What might have been

Via Something Awful, here's just one of the things we could have done with the money we have spent on Iraq:
298,412,466 Sony Wega 23" LCD HDTVs

That number may not seem to clarify the issue, but it is an HDTV for every single person in the United States of America. Man, woman, child. Old or young. Everybody gets an HDTV from Sony courtesy of the government. Even better, the actual cost of doing this is only about 235 billion, leaving another 15 billion to actually ship the things all over the country and probably enough on top of that to buy a DVD player for everyone. Not a good DVD player, but like one of those Acer DVD players you can get out of the soda machine at Wal*Mart. The kind of DVD player that you have to put the DVD in sideways and it always defaults to having French subtitles.

Too bad the Democrats were too busy falling over each other to be the first in line to vote for the Iraq war. They really could have pitched this one to the people. "Guys, look, we could go get misguided revenge and blow up Iraq…or…we have this beautiful 23 inch crystal-clear Sony HDTV for each and every American citizen." The thing is, this is probably going to cost another 250 billion, so why don't the Democrats pitch this to the American people now? "We'll bring the troops home and hey, everybody gets a TV!"
eXTReMe Tracker