Why Now?
Saturday, April 30, 2005
  In Case You Missed It
When it comes to Office Germs, they love neat.
University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Chuck Gerba swabbed [Heather] Wright's office, looking for disease-causing germs.
"Her [computer] mouse has about a hundred times more bacteria than a toilet seat," Gerba said.
Even the office clean freak — whose desk generally was clean — had a filthy keyboard.

The most cluttered desk, on the other hand, had the least bacteria.

I always suspected that the neat-freaks were plague carriers.

Programmer prefers new role on poo patrol: “US computer programmer Steve Relles has the poop on what to do when your job is outsourced to India - make a living as a dog butler.”

Bill Gates can’t find programmers to hire because they’re all out shoveling manure after spending years learning how to program computers. Of course, Bill is too paranoid about people pirating his software to outsource; he wants to lock programmers up at night on the Redmond plantation and then void their visas when he’s done with them.

For the sake of balance, Steve Jobs is even more paranoid that Gates about secrecy.

The real techies, Wozniak at Apple and Allen at Microsoft, took their money and ran some time ago.


Friday, April 29, 2005
  What I'm Reading
The Culture Ghost has an example of the lengths to which the military recruiters will go to fulfill their quotas, which might explain the Bush attitude towards Social Security.

The Snarky Cat wants people to know: Who is really supporting our troops. Drop by to see if your Senator really thinks the troops should have armored Humvees.

Steve at The Modulator has a great use of a web cam, while Lab Kat has a good reason for banning them.

Jack at The Grumpy Forester wonders why the feeding of ducks is so important to his state legislature.

John at archy is upset by the military's amateur theatricals at Guantanamo.

Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof questions the wisdom of shutting down a school because a student was carrying a concealed burrito.

Andante of Collective Sigh shows us what her North Carolina Wolf Pack looks like.


  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

Mrs. D

Friday Cat Blogging

This child rearing is getting to be a real pain.

[Edit: Mrs. D has a single kitten about four weeks old and is taking a rest from her duties in the sun. The D stands for "Doofus" the original mackerel tabby who was a tom and a total klutz.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, April 28, 2005
Back when Blogger was really having spasms I threw out a post called Florida Update that included a note that the Florida legislature had passed a gun fighting bill. John Ellis has signed it into law.

In most states you have the right to defend your house against intruders. It is the "a man's home is his castle" concept from Common Law. Other than that special case, you are expected to withdraw from a confrontation whenever possible. This new law says you don't have to back down and you can use deadly physical force if you feel threatened.

My Dad was in the military and I have been around guns all my life. When we lived in Germany, my Dad was required to have his weapon, a fully automatic M-2 carbine, in the car at all times in case of war. When I went in the military I became a Combat Crew Member, and carried a .38 caliber revolver when I had my classified with me. When I went into law enforcement I had a .357 magnum revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun around. I later traded the .357 for a .38 caliber Colt Detective revolver when I went into investigations.

I was trained and qualified with every one of those weapons, and the M-16 when I was in the war zone. This is deadly serious business. I would average 100 rounds a month on my own maintaining my proficiency and I had to qualify at the range every 6 months.

In the Air Force the revolver was carried with 4 rounds. The chamber under the hammer and the next chamber were empty to prevent accidents, and even in the war zone, if you were inside the wire at a base you turned in your M-16 to prevent accidents.

In law enforcement there was constant training on the rules for using your weapon, and that training emphasized when you didn't use it.

Anyone reading the newspapers knows that police officers don't always make the right decision, even with all of their training, and there's no need to go into the thousands killed by military use of force that was wrong. It is a given that the military and police make mistakes and people die. With that in mind, why does it make sense to allow people with no training to make life and death decisions on the street?

I know a firearms instructor who had walked into a bar after work just as two guys came out of the rest room with what turned out to be a pellet pistol and attempted to rob the bar. The instructor emptied a Browning High Power 9mm pistol, 14 rounds at two targets 20 feet away and missed. This guy would shoot 200 rounds a day into paper at 50 yards with a total spread of 3 inches, but in a real situation he didn't hit either man. In a comment I mentioned a bank shoot-out in which another officer and robber exchanged at least 18 rounds and the only people endangered were the tellers. These were revolvers and both parties reloaded while standing within "Dodge City" range of each other.

A police officer is required to look to see where his bullets will go if he/she misses, will a civilian do this? A police officer knows that a round can travel a mile, does a civilian? It's dangerous enough with the "professionals" using weapons on the streets, do you really want to trust your neighbors, especially those that really need to go to an "anger management" refresher?

If an armed civilian gets involved in a crime, they stand an excellent chance of being killed by the police officers who respond. Undercover police officers are shot at every year by other officers at crime scenes, and some of them are killed. Merchants chasing robbers have been killed by police officers. Two people, neither a police officer, homeowner, or business owner blazing away in a parking lot are going to be gunned down by responding officers, and the shooting will be justified as the two individuals are putting bystanders in danger of death.

If someone threatens you with deadly physical force, you have always had the right of self-defense. You can't always get away and it is reasonable to defend yourself, but changing the rules so that you no longer have to even consider withdrawal, is just stupid.

Police officers and prosecutors in Florida spoke out against this bill, to no avail. People are going to die needless deaths because of this bill and police officers are going to be sued because they couldn't tell that Billy Bob was defending his honor when he started blazing away and got shot by the first officer on the scene.

During this whole mess I have been trying to find the reason for this bill: where was the anecdote of the innocent person who was harmed because this bill didn't exist? I haven't found it. This thing was bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association.

Is this the "Culture of Life" these people are always talking about?


  Casey Strikes Out Again
Nightline has an investigative report on the Ed Wilson conviction being overturned.
Former CIA officer Ed Wilson was convicted in 1983 of shipping weapons to Libya. Prosecutors presented a CIA affidavit -- later shown to be false -- claiming Wilson "was not asked or requested, directly or indirectly" to perform services for CIA.

Wilson has served 22 of a 52-year sentence for espionage for doing a job for Bill Casey's CIA which blew up, just as the Iran-Contra operation would blow up later in the Reagan presidency.

Wilson spends over two decades in a maximum-security prison because Federal prosecutors wanted promotions and Bill Casey couldn't forget all the fun he had behind the lines in World War II. The CIA operation was discovered and Wilson got tagged to take the heat.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005
  Gates Called On His Lie
In a meeting with government officials on immigration Bill Gates tried to convince people that the limits on the H1B visas need to be removed so that technology companies can hire more foreign workers. CNN reports:
"Anybody who's got good computer science training, they are not out there unemployed," Gates said. "We're just not seeing an available labor pool."

The Commerce Department undersecretary for technology, Phil Bond, cautioned Gates during his talk that unemployment among U.S. computer engineers regularly exceeds unemployment in other industries. "The politics of that are real," Bond said. Government figures showed 5.7 percent of information technology employees were out of work last year versus 5.5 percent of all workers.

Gates and other technology companies don't want to admit that they have been firing experienced IT people and replacing them with H1B foreign hires. It isn't that there are no available IT people, it that Gates and others don't want to pay a living wage and are using the foreign labor to drive down their costs.

This garbage about Americans trained and working on current generation technology can't do the job that Asian immigrants trained on old technology can do, is a cover for corporations firing experienced engineers who expect to be paid a decent salary. The government has let them get away with it and helped them with the H1B visa program.


  Discovering The Past
Keith at the Invisible Library mentioned that scientists had found a technique to read old papyrus scrolls using scanners with varying light sources, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet.

Then the Apostropher posts on what was written on the scrolls.

This was an eclectic mix of scrolls from the beginning of the first millennium CE. There are bits of classic Greek plays, Roman writings, everyday documents, and Christian works.

Of interest to the Religious Reich are copies of the Book of Revelation that record the "Number of the Beast" as 616, not 666. Well, of course, a little error like that won't make much difference, right? I mean all those people who have been avoiding 666, but accepting 616 won't be in any trouble, right? No chance that over the years of hand copying errors would have crept in, right?


  Fundamentally It's Child Abuse
John McKay at Archy has been looking at child rearing among the "Culture of Life" and reports on two methods: the rod and chemical burns that some of these people advocate for "disciplining" children.

My basic feeling is that if you would go to jail if you did this to another adult, why would anyone think it was a good idea to do it to children? Shouldn't children be treated as well as dogs and cats?

Both children and pets need discipline and training, but violence only results in fear.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005
  Call To Action
In comments Old White Lady of It's Morning Somewhere notes a call to action over the pressure in the Senate by the Religious Reich to end the filibuster.

Contact your Senators and let them know your views. Please try to be polite, Senators are sheltered, fragile creatures and are not used to being informed what total incompetent jerks they are. Remember, if you call you are talking to someone just trying to make a living, not the pompous fool they work for.


  Things You Should Know
A panel, made up generally of the people who wrote the tax laws, is looking at new ways of screwing them up has come to the conclusion that there are too many tax breaks.

Apparently hearing the testimony of people who actually fill out and file their tax returns has convinced the panel, including former Senator Connie Mack of Florida, that the income tax system is pretty complicated. It might have been a clue that the tax code is contained in a two volume set, each volume larger than the New York City telephone book, that this is a rather complex system.

For those unfamiliar with the tax code, which encompasses everyone in Congress and most of the planet, what happens is that Congress decides it wants people to spend money in a certain way, so it exempts money spent in that way from taxation.

This "social engineering" often has hilarious results. For example, a local government gives massive tax breaks to a big store to locate in its area, and discovers the big store destroys all of the existing businesses and there is no more business tax income and the government is bankrupt.

The BBC has an interesting report on revising historical views: Guide to management, the Genghis Khan way. There is a review of the rise of Genghis to power and his techniques for expanding and maintaining his empire.

It is interesting that among the basic premises of his technique was rewarding people who actually did their job well and in providing good pay to all his employees. This might explain why some people don't seem to be very successful as "empire builders" even when they supposedly have all of the "tools" normally thought necessary.


Sunday, April 24, 2005
  Reading For Your Future
As a public service I would like to offer a reading list for those who are younger and will have to survive in the world that the current administration is crafting for Americans.

A good primer for the first stage would be The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It will provide you the insight into the life style changes required as you roam the country in search of employment that is always just out of reach.

Then you should plan for the era after that with the works of Charles Dickens describing life in Victorian England. The reign of Queen Victoria with its prudish overlay to shield the basic ruthless exploitation of workers in a class system based on wealth and inheritance will come in handy, as will the description of what happens when such systems come apart found in A Tale of Two Cities.

Then you will be ready for the Mad Max movies about the effects of passing the peak oil point.

The really frightening thing is that in the future the high point of American influence might be identified as the "Disco Era".
Edited to correct the most egregious typos.


One of the best examples of why politicians shouldn't try to be military commanders is the attempt to take control of the Dardanelles in World War I. While it doesn't make it to the level of total military insanity and incompetence of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, it should have provided a warning.

Winston Churchill set this one in motion. Fans of Lawrence of Arabia are aware that Turkey was allied with Germany and Austria in World War I and the concept was to gain access to the Black Sea to assist the Russian armies and open a southeastern front.

The Turks were dug in on the high ground and had mined the strait, which reduced the ability of the naval guns to be brought to bear. When the Navy could not force its way through, the decision was made to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula and clear the Turkish fortifications with troops.

In Australia and New Zealand today is ANZAC Day as the bulk of the fighting and dying was left to troops of those nations who had been training in Egypt. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the start of the battle that killed 100,000 men for nothing.


  Busy Weekend
In and out because I'm house sitting and playing manager while my Mother is in Washington, DC.

Belated Passover greetings to my Jewish friends, and belated Saint George Day greetings to my English friends.

Saint George, who is the patron saint of England and Russia was reputed to be a great slayer of dragons, and he must have been successful, because it has certainly been quite a while since anyone has seen a dragon. There were certainly as many dragons in England as snakes in Ireland, but Saint Patrick gets a lot more respect. I put it down to peoples general failure to understand the Morris dance as an art form.

While waiting for a tenant to come by I had the TV on at my Mother's house and saw a bit of a C-SPAN show with Tim Russert interviewing Supreme Court Justices Breyer, O'Conner, and Scalia.

Justice Breyer made an interesting point about the evolution of reaction to court decisions, comparing Jackson's reaction to an 1830 decision by openly ignoring it, Eisenhower enforcing Brown v. Board of Education with troops, and the acceptance of Bush v. Gore.

Justice Scalia then starting talking about how the failure to approve Bush's nominations was a clear attack on the Courts, and I turned it off.

DeLay threatening to eliminate courts or their funding is ignored; Cornyn's claim that he could understand why people might do violence to judges and their families is ignored; calls for impeachment over Schiavo are ignored. No, for Justice Scalia the attack on the courts is coming from the refusal of Senate Democrats to automatically approve 10 judges nominated by George W. Bush.

It's sort of interesting that Justice Scalia didn't feel a need to say anything when the Republicans were blocking Bill Clinton's nominations.

Caught a bit of Henry Hyde talking about his life as the Grand Inquisitor during the Clinton years. His claim that the House voted to impeach Clinton because the Democrats were going to impeach Richard Nixon is absurd on its face.

For those who weren't there for the Watergate hearings, it was a bi-partisan group that was getting ready to issue a bill of impeachment against Richard Nixon because the evidence was rather overwhelming, including tape recordings of Nixon himself.

The people who resigned rather than participate in Nixon's cover up were Republicans. Most of the people testifying against him were Republicans. Many of the toughest questions came from Republicans.

Nixon resigned because he was enough of a politician to know that the Republicans would join the Democrats in impeaching him.

Henry Hyde is one of the most despicable, hypocritical, pseudo-religious politicians to ever serve in the House, and that takes a lot of effort given the generally less than honest history of politics in his home state. This is a guy that makes Mayor Richard J. Daley look honest.

Update: The Culture Ghost has made an amazing discovery and shares it: Breaking News.


Friday, April 22, 2005
  New Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
So we finally get a Marine as Chairman, big deal. What I want to know is why General Myers, the current Chairman gets to retire. We have people who are being forced to put their life on hold because of "Stop-Loss" orders, but generals like Myers, and Franks before him get to retire.

I guess we now know that the guys with four-stars on their shoulders aren't as important to the "war effort" as the guys who get shot at. Since they aren't as important, why don't we cut their salaries and give the money to the guys that are important?


  Being Relatively Absolute
First of all, I have no personal stake in who the Pope is, those members of my family and friends who are/were Catholics have pretty much given up on the Church, the abuse scandal alienating the few that were left.

Something I do care about is hypocrisy, and this is more of the same. All of the people who proclaim there are "absolutes", all seem to mean: absolutes regarding things that don't directly affect me so I can claim what a wonderful person I am and what a terrible person you are.

Cardinal Ratzinger made his reputation based on his "orthodoxy". No cafeteria choices for him, you just take what the Mother Church puts on your plate and you swallow it.

Roger Ailes had a post today, The Hitler Discount, in which we learn:
"When the Hitler Youth was established, my brother was forced to become a member," Cardinal Ratzinger said in an interview in 1997. "I was still too young, but later, when I entered the seminary, I also joined. But as soon as I had left the seminary, I never went to see them again. And this was difficult, because in order to be entitled to get a discount on the tuition fee, which I urgently needed, one had to prove that one was a member of the Hitler Youth."

So he wasn't "forced" to join, he joined for a tuition break. His brother was "forced" to join. He had to prove he was a member, which means everyone was not a member. There were people in his town who didn't join, and some of them were sent to camps, but the new Pope needed tuition assistance, so he joined.

Some Germans knew evil when they saw it and refused to cooperate. Others needed tuition assistance and went along so they could pursue their personal goal.

Did he believe in the goals of the Hitler Youth? I seriously doubt it. I doubt he believed in anything not associated with his personal goal. He bases his decision on the impact it made on him, not on whether it was wrong or evil, it was a means to the end. Relatively speaking it wasn't much, but absolutely speaking it was evil and wrong.

I'm really, truly, honestly, sick and tired of people who have already failed under their own standards telling me what my standards should be. The problem is I tend to be an absolutist about things: I don't believe people who have lied, and I don't accept as infallible people who have already proven themselves to be failures.


  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]


Friday Cat Blogging

I don't see food, so why are you bugging me?

[Edit: Mittens is the only survivor from last year's April kittens, which is normal.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, April 21, 2005
  New Use For Rotten Eggs
The BBC reports that scientists have put Mice in 'suspended animation'. Read it to learn how we might make it Mars.

I just want to know how anyone came up with this method. What was it, a lab joke that turned useful?


  CNN Exclusive
A CNN reporter notices: House Resources chairman "disses" key provision of energy bill.
House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-California, a key proponent of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, whispered, "This is bullshit," to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt as the two men stood listening to Rep. John Doolittle, R-California, talk about the benefits of hydrogen fuel at a crowded Capitol Hill news conference.

This would be Bush's $2 billion hydrogen fueled car project, and they passed it. Nice the way they take care of the people's tax dollars by investing in programs they really "believe" in.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005
  Little Things Mean A Lot
In his fine riff on Time magazine, Billmon made reference to a distant relative of mine who helped to get a Democrat elected President in 1884.

The extended quote was: "We are Republicans and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents are rum, Romanism and rebellion."

The Reverend Samuel Dickinson Burchard [1812-1891] was the pastor of a Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1884 when he included those remarks in a speech in support of James G. Blaine, the Republican candidate for President.

After his election, President Grover Cleveland invited the Rev. Burchard to the White House, as near as I can tell the only time such an honor was bestowed on a member of my family.

The Irish Catholics in and around New York City took offense at Rev. Burchard's remarks, especially the many veterans of Civil War, and turned out in force to vote Democratic.

The major stumbling block in trying to talk to "fundamentalists" is that they believe that anyone who does not accept their worldview wholeheartedly is an instrument of Satan. This is why normal people don't understand suicide bombers and other manifestations of fundamentalism. Nothing is beyond the pale for a "true believer".

Welcome to the world of the "Children's Crusade", the Holocaust, the "Cultural Revolution", Jonestown, Waco, 9/11, etc.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005
  Ten Years Later
Vaara at Silt honors the memory of those lost in the Oklahoma City bombing with a simple list of the names and ages of those who died. The ages make it a painful list to read.

Update: Via Rook's Rant in comments the memories of an Oklahoma City reporter.


  People Who Know How To Do It
Lion Brand Yarn gets it. Martha's poncho: An amazing yarn tells how, after customers started asking about a pattern for the poncho that Martha Stewart wore when she got out of prison, Lion Brand Yarn created the pattern and posted it on their web site for free download. They have hundreds of free downloads at their sites for customers, because they have to buy yarn to make the item.

They will sell you the pattern in printed form at retailers, but they know that the important thing is to encourage the sale of yarn. They read their e-mail and respond with a product if they sense there is a trend or interest in a product.

The concept is called responsiveness: sell people what they want to buy, rather than trying to sell them what you think they should buy.

Toyota also gets it and is selling what people want and building plants to supply it. MSNBC reports that the company is poised to overtake GM as the world's largest automaker.

The Camry is the number one selling sedan, but the real selling points are they are cheap to own and as the owner of this Toyota Avalon can attest to, strong.

GM continues to make large, unattractive cars that, as a result of poor gas mileage and repair costs, are expensive to own. With its money GM should be on the leading edge, but they trail in everything and keep trying to cut costs instead of spending money to produce what people want.

This just in: It also isn't helpful when the tailgates fall off your pickup trucks.


  They Just Don't Get It
I have been wondering how long it would take for reality to set in, but a glimmer of light is coming through as reported on MSNBC: High-tech fighter jet faces fight to fit in.

The F/A-22, Raptor, is a wonderful airplane that does great things and can knock anything else flying out of the air, but the problem is: so can the F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s that are still flying. There is nothing else around that really challenges them because at the speeds involved, it is the electronics and missiles that really win the fight.

When I first saw these things flying around [this stuff all gets tested around where I live] I thought, nice but what is its job? It's just another YF-12A.

You have probably never heard of the YF-12A, but it was an amazing aircraft: Mach 3 [2,000+ mph] and a ceiling of around 80,000 feet in the 1960's. The problem is that it was supposed to replace the F-106 as an air defense "point-interceptor". Its targets were Soviet bombers, but the Soviet strategic bomber, the TU-95, Bear, had a speed of 500mph, and a ceiling of 40,000 feet. The YF-12A was too much aircraft at too high a price for the job.

Lockheed made minor modifications and the YF-12A became the SR-71, Blackbird, a spy plane that holds a bunch of speed and altitude records for jet aircraft.

The B-1 and B-2 bombers are worthless, without a real mission, and the F/A-22 will join them as expensive "toys" that were bought without critical thought.

It's hard for people to understand, but we often shoot down enemy aircraft with missiles that cost more than the aircraft they destroy. Not terribly cost effective.


Monday, April 18, 2005
  Now They Figure It Out!
According to the latest CBS News poll results Americans disapprove of the job being done by Republican politicians.

Approval rating: Bush 44%, Congress 35%

The Republicans might want to rethink the rule changes that marginalized the minority party.


  Why Airlines Are Failing
How many people dropping by think it was a good idea for an airline to put a hold on a ticket because it was bought with a gift certificate that exceeded the cost of the ticket? [That's right, they had more money than the cost of the ticket.]

How happy would you be with an airline that failed to inform you that there was any problem at all, despite the fact that they had your home address, your e-mail address, your wired telephone number, and your cellular telephone number, and the initial transaction occurred two months before the flight date?

A hint to American business: annoying customers is not how you succeed in business.


  I Am Sick Of It
Steve Bates at Yellow Doggerel Democrat offers Democratic Values and Michael at Musing's Musings provides Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Sen. Frist! which you should read to get a feeling for the level of anger that the constant attacks by the Religious Reich and their political toadies have generated.

Where is the proof of the righteousness of the Reich's view, where are the exemplars of their Christianity, when has any of their claims been verified?

How, substantially, is Jerry Falwell's claim, endorsed by Pat Robertson, that 9/11 was G-d's punishment for the failings of American society different than Ward Churchill's claim that it was caused by American foreign policy? Don't both essentially blame the victims?

It takes an unbelievable level of gall to claim that the 4 out of 5 Americans who opposed the Schiavo intervention lack faith. This isn't about faith or patriotism; it's about lusting for power.

This is demagoguery of the lowest, basest form. They hide in the shadow of the cross and use the flag as a mantle knowing that the light of faith and reason would make manifest their corruption. They slander heroes, and exalt the craven who pretend obsequence to their distorted vision. Where is their charity, their humility, their humanity?


Sunday, April 17, 2005
  Sunday Eye Blogging


Sunday Eye Blogging

This scary picture is brought to you by a request from Rugo of Rugo's Rambling

This is what happens when you've worn glasses for decades, live in a sunny climate, and are trying not to blink when the flash goes off.

Saturday, April 16, 2005
  Some Background
By now you have seen the poster put out by the Family Research Council with the kid in the golf shirt and both hands palms up onto which someone has photoshopped an old book and a gavel that are both too small and out of proportion.

If you have missed it you can drop by Rugo's, Echidne's, or Pandagon to see the poster and join in the commentary. I would address another facet of this foolishness.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, only the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, are considered the "Word of G-d", the Torah. Everything else is the writing of men, which is compiled in another book, the Talmud, the Law.

If your claim is that the laws of the US should be based on the Judeo-Christian tradition, then you are saying that the Talmud is the basis for US courts, and nothing contained in the New Testament is applicable. The only Christian version of laws is the canon law of the Church, and that is hardly applicable to interstate commerce.

If you judge the Schiavo case on Biblical standards, then the court has judged in accordance with Biblical tradition of the wife "belonging" to the husband. The wife's family has no standing under Biblical tradition. You are admonished to honor your parents, not your in-laws.

Perhaps a learned rabbi could find a case within the Talmud, which would bear directly on this matter, but another rabbi would find a different ruling that went the other way, and, in accordance with the tradition of such things, others would join in with their own precedents.

The Bible is a guide for the individual. To be effective a religion must be believed, not forced. As Pope Gelasius I made clear in his writings in last half of the fifth century, Church and state are separate institutions with separate responsibilities. The Church is responsible for souls, while the state is responsible for bodies.

The later conflicts between the Church and the state generally arose from the state intruding on the traditional rights and prerogatives of the Church.

That some are still trying to argue this point more than 15 centuries later demonstrates how difficult it is to teach people who will not learn.


  Firefox Security Update
Firefox has released version 1.0.3 to fix some problems with Javascript security. You can click the update icon on the upper righthand corner of your browser or use this update link.

I wish they would stop trying to change the homepage when you update. You have to remove the check in the last dialog box, or reset it after the browser comes up. Well, it's free.


  Why History Is Important
When my younger brother was working in Hong Kong, my Mother went for a visit. She noted when she returned that everyone was very polite to you, unless you were Japanese. She couldn't understand why the Chinese, Philippinos, Koreans, etc. were all very rude to Japanese tourists.

I gave her a list of movies to watch and told her that not everything they contained was World War II propaganda.

The Japanese have been changing their history books again. While emphasizing their "victim status" as the only nation that had been attacked with nuclear weapons, they have been softening the actions of the Japanese forces to the level of "fraternity hazing".

You have to accept if you have interacted with Asians in their home countries that they all have some level of racism in their cultures. This can lead to some tense situations for the average American who can't pick up the differences between people from the different national groups.

The Chinese are reacting to this new textbook with anti-Japanese rallies. These rallies have government sanction or they wouldn't be occurring. The Chinese Communist Party got its real start fighting the Japanese in World War II, so this is important to Party officials.

Americans tend to move on and forget about things as a whole, but much of the world is like a few Southerners who simply won't let things lie and get on with their lives.

You should learn from history, not stew in it. Find out what really happened, accept the bad with the good, and don't start walking down the path that resulted in the bad.


  In Other News
The "Golden Arches" and Disneyland both turn 50 this year, a half century of junk food for the body and mind. I am sad to admit that I used to spend an occasional 50¢ for two hamburgers, fries, and a Coke, and rode everything in Anaheim for $5. It was a shock when gas went above a quarter a gallon.

Floridians get to shoot people, but British grannies rely on their trusty Garden Gnome to take down would be burglars.

George W. Bush wants to know why he signed a law requiring people to have passports to cross the Mexican and Canadians borders. He found out he had signed the law by looking at a newspaper.


Friday, April 15, 2005
  An Unhealthy System
Via Melanie at Just a Bump in the Beltway, Krugman on health care
In 2002, the latest year for which comparable data are available, the United States spent $5,267 on health care for each man, woman and child in the population. Of this, $2,364, or 45 percent, was government spending, mainly on Medicare and Medicaid. Canada spent $2,931 per person, of which $2,048 came from the government. France spent $2,736 per person, of which $2,080 was government spending.
Canada and France cover everyone, but taxpayers in those countries have lower costs that the US, with millions not covered and bankruptcy rates raising because of US medical bills.

Krugman writes that the US health care system spends 31% of its money on overhead, not health care. The Medicare system spends 5% of its money on overhead, so the private insurers are much worse than the 31%, given the size of Medicare. Canada spends 17%, but in dollars that's $1,632.77 per person in the US versus $498.27 per person in Canada. Over $1,100 of the difference between the US and Canadian systems is paperwork, which is not known as a cure for anything.

It should be obvious from the numbers that the US system is economically stupid. It is a commercial failure. In a truly free market it would have been put out of its misery long ago. It only continues because some people are making obscene amounts of money from the current mess.


  Extreme Catbogging


  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]

C.C. is Back

Friday Cat Blogging

What's with the silver brick?

[Edit: Crazy Cat is interested in the beep the camera makes.]

Friday Ark


Thursday, April 14, 2005
  Taxing Times
As I empty my pitiful checking account into the black hole that is the Federal budget, and while attempting to understand the logic of the "No Moronic Scion of Wealthy Parents Left Behind" act and the "Debtors Prison Reestablishment Bill", I checked in on the National Debt.

CNN reported that the National Debt Clock stops, despite trillions of dollars of red ink on September 7, 2000. At the end of the previous day the debt was $5,676,989,904,887 and dropping at $30/second.

The American Prospect reports that on April 10, 2005 the debt was $7,782,816,546,352 and increasing at $24,884/second.

If you wonder why the debt reported by the Republicans seems a lot lower, it's because they keep ignoring the amount owed to the Social Security trust fund. That's kind of like filling in a loan application and forgetting to mention your credit card debt. I wonder if Consumer Credit Counseling does countries?

[Edit: When Reagan came into office the National Debt was just under $1 trillion. Adam Felber is on their case with Over and Dun.]


  Unitarian Jihad
Listeners to A Prairie Home Companion are used to this characterization of the Unitarian Universalists, but Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle has a wonderful take on this most accepting of all religious groups.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Jackhammer of Enlightenment¹.

Get yours².

1. Unless someone objects.
2. If you want to, there's no pressure.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005
  Wednesday Cat Sniping

Cheeseheads Beware
Wednesday Cat Sniping
Yes! A Wisconsin plate on that Hummer.
[Edit: Choices have consequences.]

Update: Cat-Kill Bill 'Not Going Anywhere' - Wisconsin's governor says he doesn't want his state to be known as the place where people can legally shoot cats.

Update 2: What cat killing says about you:
As a child, sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo hunted and killed cats with a slingshot, one of the first signs of emotional problems in an otherwise "strikingly obedient child," a psychologist testified Monday.


  Tax Time
Tax Tips by Buck Wolf
If the Internal Revenue Service reflected real American values, gym membership would be a legitimate medical expense, clothing could be depreciated as it goes out of style, and your cat could be listed as a dependent.
It's that time, and I guess I'm going to have to finish them off and send my check. The joy of self-employment. Anyone want to tell me about the so-called "tax cuts" that don't seem to have changed my tax liability as a small business.


  Irwin Allen Update
According to this report from CNN, the recent seismic activity has stirred up Sumatran volcanoes. To have generated two 8+ earthquakes in a few months would indicate that there was a lot of pressure that needed to be released along that fault line.

Deadly Flu Strain Mix-up is a wonderful story of a non-terrorist related system failure that could have caused more deaths than anything cooked up in a mountain cave.

In order to be certified by the American College of Pathologists, a laboratory must pass a practical examination that is sent to the lab. The test is a number of samples that the lab must correctly identify.

The companies that ship the samples draw them from their stores based on the criteria supplied by the College.

One of the samples shipped for examination was the 1957 H2N2 influenza virus, which killed between 1 and four million people worldwide. Because it was so long ago, and the virus is not represented in the current influenza strains, most of the world's population has no immunity to the virus.

Fortunately one of the tests was sent to a Canadian lab, because Canada has already upgraded this virus to the highly dangerous level and the World Health Organization was notified. The American Centers for Disease Control is "in the process" of raising the level on the virus, but hasn't yet, so what was done was "perfectly legal".


Tuesday, April 12, 2005
  Blowing Up Property
Well, we've had them blowing up cars and mopeds in Europe, but in the US we do suitcases:

Australian Broadcasting reports US to expel Australian after bomb scare.
Wenhao Zhao, a 33-year-old Australian of Chinese descent, caused a ruckus on Monday after he stood outside the Capitol with two black suitcases and demanded to see President George W. Bush.

As X-Ray scanning showed wires in one of the suitcases, they blew up the suitcase, which destroyed the highly dangerous CD player it contained.

The US government does the detonation but Mr. Zhao gets expelled for a "bomb scare". Oh, well, War on Terra, 9/11, danger, etc.


Monday, April 11, 2005
  Sharon Cons Bush
If you read this BBC piece, Bush warns Israel over West Bank, you might think that Sharon has agreed to stop building settlements in the West Bank while Israel and the Palestinians are negotiating according to the "Road Map". The article is missing the "money quote" from Sharon.

CNN includes it in their article, Bush urges freeze on West Bank settlement.
"Regarding the unauthorized outposts, I wish to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law," said Sharon. "As such, I will fulfill my commitment to you, Mr. President, to remove unauthorized outposts. As to settlements, Israel will meet all its obligations under the road map."

Sharon is only talking about stopping and removing "unauthorized outposts", not about the new settlements his government is planning to build to cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank. Once again Bush is stiffed by Sharon, and doesn't realize it.

Sharon has plenty of trouble with Israelis at the moment. The Gaza Strip settlers and their supporters have no intention of giving up anything. Militant Jewish groups are trying to provoke a violent Palestinian reaction over Islamic holy places in Jerusalem and have threatened violence against Israeli government officials.

It is past time to re-think the $3 billion a year the US gives to Israel. You should get a minimum of respect for a tip like that.


  Irwin Allen Presents:
The late Irwin Allen was famous for cheesy "science fiction" and disaster flicks. We have a few things coming up on the horizon that would appeal to the original "master of disaster".

Global warming is just too gradual for Mr. Allen. It will eventually wipe out huge swathes of humanity, but not in a 90 minutes movie.

Melanie has been tracking a couple of possibilities for a while. The Bird flu could become a pandemic at any time, but Out of the Dark Continent comes the Marburg virus, which is even nastier with a higher mortality rate, a true plague of Biblical proportions.

Andante is concerned with The scariest terrorist of all - Mother Nature. A string of large earthquakes has been hammering the Southwest corner of the "Circle of Fire" off the coast of mainland Asia, including the 9.0 12/26/04 quake and tsunami.

I was drawn to this article explaining that A gamma ray burst could have caused the Ordovician extinction. Gamma ray bursts are caused by stars imploding, creating black holes, or by two stars colliding. It doesn't have to be a "local" incident, anywhere within 6,000 light years will do.

The theory is that a 10 second blast of gamma radiation stripped the earth of its ozone layer and ultraviolet radiation eliminated life on the land and the surface of the oceans. The deep ocean life was not affected and eventually re-populated the planet after the ozone layer recovered.

Somehow I don't think the masters of duct tape and plastic tarps are ready for any of these problems. Given that the "science advisors" of the current administration haven't mastered slood, much less fire, it would be asking too much to expect them to deal with a real threat.

Just because some real scientific research might help us understand what is going on and how to ameliorate the worst effects of these disasters, when the people in charge want disasters in the belief that they won't be affected, will get to say "I told you so", and be whisked away to heaven, the chances of that happening are minimal.

With luck there will be enough of the Unites States left to rebuild from the ashes of their stupidity. Their delusion is wearing a bit thin and could come apart at anytime.


Sunday, April 10, 2005
  Short Takes
Blogger Bloggered correction:

I was wrong in dismissing the "cookies" as the problem that brought down Blogger. It turns out that Blogger instituted a new feature allowing people to recover posts that have been "eaten". They did it by making the text of your post a "cookie" and storing it on your system. This practice confused both the browsers and the rest of Blogger's software. It interfered with the normal "cookies" that identify you to the system and you were refused access.

If you changed browsers or "tossed your cookies" you got further into the program than others, but until they removed the "recover post" software you couldn't actually post an article.

If you are still having problems, flush your "cookies".

Not that anyone is really interested, but Canada beat Scotland to win the World Championship in Curling.

Only the Scots could create a sport that only requires a rock and some old brooms. It was a great final, really...the Canadians had to overcome major obstacles...

I knew you wouldn't care [sigh].

The Children's Television Workshop has Cookie Monster eating veggies on Sesame Street! Is nothing sacred?

The New York Republican Party has started a major fund raising campaign to stop Hillary.

Huh, guys, don't you think you should find someone willing to run against her first? I don't think you can get Alan Keyes to move again. If you don't have a candidate, she, like, automatically wins.

You know, the way you're doing it makes it look like you just want money and don't actually care who wins.


  Crime and Punishment [Преступление и Наказание]
For whatever obscure reason two legal cases have become linked in my mind: the spammer and the bomber.

August J. Pollack and Billmon have opposing views on the sentence of nine years handed down to Jeremy Jaynes who was convicted of running one of the largest spamming operations on the Internet.

While I understand August's point about his view of what Jaynes did, and Billmon's thirst for revenge, I want Mr. Jaynes drawn and quartered for entirely separate reasons: equal time for equal crimes.

Jaynes made approximately $9 million per year clogging networks, servers, and nodes with messages few wanted. He lied to people and software to accomplish his goals. He cost individuals as well as corporations millions of dollars.

Many forget that in some places people pay for their connect time by the minute and some pay for e-mail storage beyond a minimum. Jaynes's incarceration and fines will not be rebated to those who had to pay to receive e-mail they did not want; it will not pay for the software purchased to reduce the e-mails he was sending; it will not pay for the wasted time of millions of individuals wading through his junk mail to find important messages.

I compare this sentence to those handed out to urban drug users who are clogging the prisons, and the impact the drug user and the spammer have had on society. Nine years, if anything, is amazingly lenient by comparison to the drug users' sentences.

The case of bomber Eric Robert Rudolph gets more complicated. Mr. Rudolf had a lot in common with Raskolnikov¹ in Dostoevski's classic novel. Both are outsiders, disassociated from their societies.

Rudolph is a terrorist in every definition of the word. His explosions weren't targeted at individuals; they were targeted at society. While some were placed at gay establishments and health clinics, the Olympic venue was terrorism in its most obvious form.

The Federal prosecutors have a cluster of reasons for offering Rudolph this deal: he told them about his stored explosives and avoided the expense of court, but underlying that is the way the Justice Department screwed up the investigation and the need to prove the case "beyond reasonable doubt".

If this had gone to trial the name "Richard Jewell" would have resurfaced. Jewell was the security guard who did his job and saved lives, but the Justice Department with the assistance of the Media converted him from a hero to a suspect.
Jewell's attorneys say that while they would like some apologies, they and Jewell want financial compensation.

"We're going to sue everyone from A to Z," said attorney L. Lin Wood Jr.

"You can't spend 60 percent of an apology," he said, referring to a client's typical share of a settlement after attorneys' fees. "This litigation is not about principle. It's about compensation for injury done."

This is the danger of targeting people instead of crimes: target the wrong person and you present the defense with the basis for "reasonable doubt".
The Feds are saying that the people who would convict Rudolph would be unlikely to give him the death penalty because of anti-abortion views. Sorry, but Paul Hill was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed for his murder of a doctor and escort. His "reasons" didn't carry much weight in the Florida Panhandle. People who oppose abortion in the South tend to be supporters of the death penalty.

The Feds did a deal because they screwed up and were happy not to lose the court case. They would have won the case in Alabama and gotten the death penalty if they had gone to trial, but that would have required things that the Bush administration is short of: courage, conviction, and competence.

1. In Russian the word raskolnik [раскольник] means dissident or outsider - truth in labeling.


Saturday, April 09, 2005
  The Republican Party versus the Judiciary
This is definitely a panblogic topic, Oliver Willis, Digby, Kevin Drum, Duncan, Echinde, and Adam Felber all have posts trying to understand this open and blatant attack on almost totally Republican judges, by the Republican Party and its supporters. These fruitcakes are attacking judges for upholding laws and customs that have stood for centuries.

In the Battle Of The Branches Andrew Cohen, a legal analyst for CBS News, ponders this strange phenomenon.

At its heart this case was always about marriage and what it means in the state of Florida. That is the underlying basis for all of the decisions made in the case. For the state to alter the outcome they would have had to invalidate the institution of marriage, which they were unwilling to do. Without a written will, the state uses a default set of assumptions when someone is incapacitated.

It's important to keep in mind that this is a direct attack on the institution of marriage under the law as well as the separate but equal status of the three branches of government.


  Book Meme:
Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof has entered the chain-meme fray and passed along the book meme to me.

You are stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?
[Note: In the novel to save the content of books people memorized one in order to pass the content on to others.]

While Basil Liddell Hart's History of the Second World War came to mind first, I think that Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace would present many of the same messages about war, and has more to say to and about people, so Война и Мир. It would be in the original language, of course.

Liddell Hart is a bit too much of a "how to" in the age of fascism that is the setting for Bradbury's book. There are things that were extremely useful when originally discovered, but that have become problems when expanded upon, like nuclear physics.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Actually Susan Sto Helit of the Discworld series has always been someone I thought would make a fascinating dinner companion. The Duchess of Sto Helit and DEATH's granddaughter: what's not to like?

What is the last book you bought?

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett as it was the last item in the list of a half dozen books. I rarely buy single books. My normal pattern is to have several available for the "bare patches" one encounters as a consultant.

What are you currently reading?

PHP and MySQL Web Development by Luke Welling and Laura Thomson because of a possible project I may be starting with others and if you don't use these skills you lose them. This was a committee choice, not personal. I would have hit O'Reilly Media's list for separate books on the same packages, as the books I own on the subjects are out of date.

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll because one of my oldest friends recommended it after being persuaded to buy it by Mr. Coll's mother, my friend's neighbor. I would recommend it if you have an interest in espionage and our current problems in the Middle East. It is not an easy read and you have to track multiple threads, but many things will become clear if you make the effort. I think it just won a Pulitzer. I should have been finished if I hadn't had to jump on the project.

Five books for your desert island cruise package.

The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, a two volume set, would cover most things, and a Euell Gibbons-style guide to local flora, as in Stalking the Wild Nuts and Berries would help supply the veggies. Protein is readily available from sea life, but vitamins and minerals are best supplied by plants.

I would finish off with two language books, a grammar and a dictionary for Arabic or Chinese, as I may as well learn another language while stranded.

Who are you going to pass this book meme baton to and why? (only three people)

Andante at Collective Sigh, a clear and incisive mind that constructs some of the best analogies I have ever read.

Jack K. at Ruminate This and Grumpy Forester a solid, grounded individual who looks at reality and actually sees it. Jack has "clear sight" and pierces the smoke and mirrors.

Rugo at Rugo's Rambling is recuperating after surgery and needs something to take her mind off of politics. She's dedicated and witty, so she should be able to deal with this in style.

There's normally a curse if you break the chain, so how about: may the next gas pump you use malfunction and fail to record the sale if you break the chain. Hey, it's a curse for someone.

Update: Andante and Rugo have finished. And Jack is now done. Thank you.


Friday, April 08, 2005
  Pooch Expatriated:
While the headline reads: Chihuahua that terrorized mail carriers freed, the article explains that the 2 kilogram canine was forced out of town as part of a settlement that had the owner paying $172 in court costs, but avoiding a fine.

The owner, Vicki Seber, described Bobo as "very small and very sneaky", in his multiple attempts to attack mail carriers.

No word yet on a movie deal, or a launch of a "Repatriate Bobo" movement.


  Blogger Bashing
Yes, it's free and you get what you pay for, but you are not offered the opportunity to buy any reliability. After you have invested months or years in writing and have your links established, it is a major pain to rip it all up and start again.

For anyone who isn't aware of it, they have a page telling you about what they have done recently called Status which provided us with the following information:
Friday, April 08, 2005
If you are experiencing problems loading Blogger.com, please try clearing the cookies in your browser.
Posted by John at 01:51

Thursday, April 07, 2005
This afternoon we pushed into production a number of performance enhancements which have improved the responsiveness of the site. Additionally, we have eliminated an automated spam problem which was negatively impacting publish success rates.

Tomorrow we will have a 15 minute outage at noon (Pacific Time) as we reconfigure some portions of the Blogger network.
Posted by Jason at 17:15

I would have really preferred not to have participated in the "performance enhancements" because that came at the expense of being unable to post all day. I'm sure anyone who did get through had great performance as the rest of us were greeted with "document has no data" Alert boxes.

How about a few bucks a month for an account that doesn't take part in the newest and greatest upgrades, but simply continues to work with the same old plodding consistency month after month.

Oh, as for clearing "cookies", I "toss my cookies" every time I shut down my browser, as I consider them a security risk, so that wasn't the real problem.


  Florida Update
Proving once again two Bushes are worse than one I present Disneyworld as government:

Gunfights at the Ocala Corral are now legal in the state of Florida. With less intelligence than is normally accorded to oysters, the legislature has decided that you are no longer required to avoid conflicts in public places, but may gun down people you feel are threatening. Of course, the law is unclear who innocent bystanders get to sue when they are injured [estates, if said bystanders are killed]; but rest assured that the beginning golfers will no longer be allowed to slow you down on the course, and cutting in line will be a thing of the past, after a few shoot outs at country clubs and supermarkets. It will add a whole new dimension to "clean up on aisle twelve".

Proving that he is no more competent as a junior Senator, than as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development [where did all the money go?], Mel Martinez admitted that the memo that indicated that Republicans could score major points for interfering in a private matter in the state of Florida was written by his legal counsel, Brian Darling.

Martinez wants you to accept that he never actually saw the memo that he accidentally handed to Senator Harkin on the Senate floor. Yeah, right. You are writing a bill of attainder, your first piece of significant legislation as a Senator in a highly charged case, and you didn't read a memo from your legal counsel.

Well, you can see why Mel was handpicked by Dubya to run for Senator, and endorsed by Rudy Guiliani. I guess citrus canker doesn't just affect plants.

The links are around [see Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof for links], but I've been doing some cleanup including trying to convince momma cats that they should not move their kittens under cars after an all night thunderstorm session with 5.94 inches of rain, hail, and fog. There will be flooding in the northern part of the county by the rivers, but we dry out quickly down here.

I tried posting this at 3:30pm [and 4:30pm, 5:30pm, 7:00pm, 8:00pm, 9:00pm] but Blogger died. Oh, well, you get what you pay for.

I checked Status and Blogger did another bloody update to improve responsiveness, apparently by accidentally blocking out a group of blogs, including mine.

They are scheduling an outage tomorrow around Noon Pacific.


  A Dangerous Debugging
According to this report on the ABC News site a Thai restaurant in Australia was totally destroyed when the owner used 36 cockroach fumigation devices to get rid of an infestation.

Apparently unaware that the devices replaced the Freon they once used as a propellant with propane, and acting under the belief that the more cans he used the better the result, the owner set off the three dozen cans without extinguishing the pilot lights on the gas appliances in the kitchen.

No one was hurt, but the restaurant was flattened.

If you use these "bug bombs", read the label. They use propane in the American versions and even if you don't exceed the recommended number of cans, the blast could take out your windows. We use them a lot in Florida for roaches and fleas.


  Friday Cat Blogging [™ Kevin Drum]


Friday Cat Blogging

Reach in here and I'll shred you.

[Edit: For whatever reason Ovinnik has decided to move her kittens under my Mother's car. You can see the gray one, the black lump is the second, but the other black kitten disappears in the shadows and fur of Mom.]

Friday Ark


Wednesday, April 06, 2005
  Not Opera!
James Wolcott expresses trepidation in his post, Stirrings, that recent events may descend to the level of [gasp] OPERA!

If you are not familiar with opera, I would offer two guides: Madeleine Kane's Guide For The Opera Impaired for a quick overview, and the novel Maskerade by Terry Pratchett for a more complete oversight of this insidious form of insanity.

I had a neighbor who fell down this rabbit hole and she started naming cats "Mimi" and "Lucia di Lammermoor", although in the later case it was quite appropriate as "Lucia" was rather mad and did have a piercing voice.

I admit that while studying Teutonic mythology I sat through the entire Ring cycle that was broadcast on PBS. I can see why Hitler used it for propaganda purposes. I used a recording of it to convince a neighbor to turn down his 90 decibel, 24/7, country music assault.

No, there must limits, even in culture wars, and opera should not even be under consideration.


  RIP Solomon Bellows July 10, 1915-April 5, 2005

Better known as the Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author: Saul Bellow. Born in Lachine, Quebec to Russian Jewish immigrants he moved down to the United States and became associated with Chicago.

Definitely one of the giants of 20th century American prose.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005
The MSM didn't fair very well when it comes to political reporting.
CNN reports that the Pulitzer for investigative reporting went to Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week [Oregon weekly] and Tom Philp of The Sacramento Bee won for editorial writing.

Well, The Wall Street Journal won for movie reviews and a report on cancer survivors.

Overall it was a pretty pathetic showing for the people with all the money and power.


  Inciting To Violence
In the bad old days when I paid for cable and actually turned on a television I would zip by C-Span and watch this idiot, later identified as one Newt Gingrich of Georgia, spewing the most amazing garbage on the floor of the House. It took a while to figure out that Gingrich was the only one there at the time, which is why his calls for someone to challenge his claims were a disingenuous.

According to Duncan Black and Kevin Drum, Senator John Cornyn [Reptile of Texas] was doing the same sort of thing on the Senate floor and was heard to opine that the recent spate of murderous attacks was an understandable reaction to the lack of accountability for judges.

I would note that in the case of the Georgia attack, it was an individual who didn't want to go to prison for rape, and the mental stability of the suspect in the death of the family of the Federal judge is in question, a factor in his losing his malpractice case. In spite of early indications that the murder of the Federal judge's mother and husband might be linked to a white supremacist group, it turned to be a matter of a disturbed individual with a personal animosity, not a political agenda.

The only people engaged in attacking the judiciary for political reasons are Republican members of Congress. I would suggest that Senator Cornyn is aware of how close to violating Federal law he is treading as he chose to make his statement on the floor of the Senate where he is protected by immunity.


  Savings Bond Rate To Be Fixed
Just to ensure that the common people don't benefit from the rising interest rates, the Treasury Department has changed the EE savings bond to a fixed rate. Previously the rates had been adjusted every 6 months, which has cost bond holders during the recent rate declines, but now that the rates are going back up, the rate will be fixed at the time of sale and not vary.

So much for the small investor in the "ownership society", especially all of the adults who bought these small denomination bonds for children to teach them thrift, or used the Payroll Savings Plan to build up some equity with a risk free investment.


Yesterday was the second anniversary of the death of Army Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith of the 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion. The event was marked by the presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor to his widow and children.

Sergeant Smith was killed in action against the Iraqi army near the Baghdad Airport. He saved American lives while firing the heavy machine gun mounted on an M113 armored personnel carrier.

He had earlier called for support from a Bradley fighting vehicle, but the Bradley had to withdraw due to heavy RPG fire from the Iraqis. The M113 and crew responded to the action but the crew was wounded after taking a mortar hit. Sergeant Smith manned the M113's machine gun to stop the Iraqi advance.

Sergeant Smith was a member of an engineering unit. His unit was assigned to build a holding area for prisoners of war. They were a construction team, not a combat team. They should have had protection by combat units, but just like Jessica Lynch's transportation unit, there weren't enough combat units available to provide protection.

If the US had used the force levels recommended by General Shinseki, the supply route used by Lynch's unit would have been protected; the area where Smith's unit was working would have been protected; there would have been troops to guard Iraqi weapons dumps, and other important sites.

Rumsfeld did not go to war with the army he had, we went with the smallest force he thought would probably win. He had years to prepare for this war, and he didn't.

Sergeant Smith deserved his honor; he went above and beyond his duty. It is tragic that those above him didn't do theirs.


  Another Planet Heard From
A few people have mentioned that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is talking about imposing restrictions on blogs. Would some kind soul explain to these people that their concept is definitely flawed for some very practical reasons.

The Board of Supervisors is limited to the geographic boundaries of the city. They have no power outside of those boundaries and extremely limited power over speech within those boundaries. They can pass all of the rules they want, but unless they can prove that the blogging takes place within the confines of San Francisco, as opposed to everywhere else, anything they do is worthless.

Many, possibly most, bloggers are anonymous, so there is no real, legal proof as to who they are or where they live. Even if you establish that the individual lives in San Francisco, how do you establish where the blogging is done? With wireless "hot spots" all over that is nearly impossible.

The whole idea is simply foolish and displays the basic ignorance of people regarding blogging and the 'Net. These people, like most public officials, think they can fix every perceived problem with another law because that's the only "tool" they have.


Monday, April 04, 2005
  April Is Poetry Month
On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines

STREETS of the roaring town,
Hush for him; hush, be still!
He comes, who was stricken down
Doing the word of our will.
Hush! Let him have his state.
Give him his soldier's crown,
The grists of trade can wait
Their grinding at the mill.
But he cannot wait for his honor, now the trumpet has been blown.
Wreathe pride now for his granite brow, lay love on his breast of stone.

Toll! Let the great bells toll
Till the clashing air is dim,
Did we wrong this parted soul?
We will make it up to him.
Toll! Let him never guess
What work we sent him to.
Laurel, laurel, yes.
He did what we bade him do.
Praise, and never a whispered hint but the fight he fought was good;
Never a word that the blood on his sword was his country's own heart's-blood.

A flag for a soldier's bier
Who dies that his land may live;
O banners, banners here,
That he doubt not nor misgive!
That he heed not from the tomb
The evil days draw near
When the nation robed in gloom
With its faithless past shall strive.
Let him never dream that his bullet's scream went wide of its island mark,
Home to the heart of his darling land where she stumbled and sinned in the dark.

William Vaughn Moody. 1869-1910

Vietnam wasn't the first war that Americans doubted or protested.

For something more modern, the lyrics to Where Have All The Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger at this National Institutes of Health page with "cheesy" musical accompaniment.

Note: April 4th is the feast day of Saint Isidore of Seville who is the Patron Saint of the Internet. This site from the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida is a bit tongue in cheek about that.


Sunday, April 03, 2005
  A Foreign View
Justin Webb, BBC Washington correspondent, writes about his perception of the US in Schiavo Case Tests America.

Mr. Webb believes we passed the test, proving that the people of the US aren't as insane as many in the outside world believe us to be.

Why should Americans care what others think? We find ourselves with a government that is spending our future, bankrupting the entire nation and making us dependent "on the kindness of strangers." If those strangers decide enough is enough, we are in real trouble and need all of the goodwill that is available.


  In Other News
This weekend Denmark celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen in the town of Odense on April 2nd, 1805.

Andersen's stories work at multiple levels, as did the writings of Jonathan Swift, being light reading, moral instruction, and political satire.

A BBC correspondent wrote: "One of Hans Christian Andersen's stories, The Wicked Prince, is about a cruel ruler who laid waste his neighboring countries by killing and plundering, and who then set out to conquer G-d with a vast flying ship, pulled by eagles, spitting machine-gun bullets.

In the end, G-d just sends a small swarm of tiny midges, one of which gets in the prince's ear, drives him mad and leaves him lashing out with his useless sword."

I believe many have reason to be familiar with another Andersen story: The Emperor's New Clothes.


Saturday, April 02, 2005
  Enquiring Minds Want To Know
According to NBC DeLay wants panel to review role of courts, which means he doesn't know enough about the laws he passes to understand what happened in the Schiavo case.

The situation is simple: The elected Republican judiciary of the state of Florida complied with the laws enacted under the elected Republican legislature and enforced by the elected Republican executive in accordance with the constitution of the state of Florida.

The majority Republican Federal judiciary at the district, circuit, and Supreme Court level also ruled in accordance with the law and the US Constitution.

Why didn't they intervene and require a feeding tube re-inserted - because Federal law and precedent sets a high standard for intervention. If Congress had acted before the feeding tube had been removed, what Congress did would have stopped the removal, but Congress acted too late and Congress left intact the standards and rules for the order to insert the feeding tube.

There was a discussion on this very point that was included in the 11th Circuit decision on 03/23/05. [pdf file] On pages 6 and 7 of their decision the court reviews the intent of the bill on the matter of an injunction and clearly establishes through an exchange between Senators Levin and Frist that the original bill directly addressed this issue, but the bill as passed left the rules for issuing an injunction unchanged.

Because Frist, DeLay, et al. are not lawyers, they missed the point that in such cases Federal courts maintain the status quo during litigation except when it is almost a forgone conclusion what the result will be. It's not the fault of the courts that the Republican leadership of Congress doesn't understand the Federal rules of procedure.

It isn't mentioned very often, but judges read and understand polls, just like politicians.


People are moving around and changing their addresses:

Moi of Bloggg is now at http://www.thomaspages.org/bloggg/
NTodd of Dohiyi Mir is at http://www.dohiyimir.org/
Dave Johnson et al. of Seeing the Forest are at http://seeingtheforest.com/
Michael at Musing's musings has starting posting at the group blog Unbossed in addition to his own blog.

The recent problems of Blogger seems to have pushed a number of people to make the leap, even some who weren't actually using Blogger.

[Edit: Michael will be posting both both at his own and the group blog.]


  The Nuclear Option
With all of the trees killed and bits tortured over filibusters you would have thought that someone might have mentioned that Senator Trent Lott [Reptile of Mississippi] has been blocking a vote on the appointment of the President's nominee for chairman of the Base Realignment And Closing Committee.

Intent on protecting all of the military facilities that former Senator John Stennis forced the Pentagon to establish in Mississippi, Lott has put a hold on the vote for the nominee.

I'm sure that as soon as Senator Frist stops watching videos and making snap diagnoses, he will go ahead with the vote over Senator Lott's objection. It would be the height of hypocrisy to hold up a vote for one Senator having declared your intent to change 200 years of custom to steamroller 44.

[Update: Michael at Unbossed has a post, The imperial presidency strikes again, explaining that Bush has used the media in mourning and Friday night black out to make recess appointments, bypassing Sentator Lott.]


  Why Bother?
The Patriot Act gave law enforcement a raft of new powers to investigate people which has caused Government wiretaps and searches to increase 75 percent. While they are executing more searches, are they doing any good?

Based on this report regarding the house that Terry Nichols lived in during 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, I think not. To have found blasting caps and other explosive related materials a decade after their original search of the premises, would tend to reduce any confidence in the ability of the FBI to conduct any effective search. If they couldn't find this stuff with an all out team, how good can they be if they are trying to conduct a surreptitious search?


Friday, April 01, 2005
  Nepotism in the Bush Administration
Jo Fish over at Democratic Veteran is annoyed by: Ahhh, Nepotism. President Bush has nominated the vice president's son-in-law, Philip J. Perry, as general counsel of the Homeland Security Department. This would be the husband of Elizabeth Cheney, who was recently appointed to a position at the State Department.

I'm wondering if it's a matter that competent people don't want to work in this administration. Phillip Perry has to be taking a pay cut as he was a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin. Normally you go from government to private industry.


  Culture Of Life
Governor Mitt Romney, of Massachusetts says he will veto a stem cell research bill that just overwhelmingly passed the state legislature. The governor said he would be "voting his conscience".

Apparently his conscience isn't ready for research that might lead to treatments for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, brain and spinal cord injuries, and other conditions recently in the news.


  New Peer-to-Peer Communications Breakthrough

Norway's Opera Software ASA has announced SoundWave, a peer-to-peer communications system.

"...SoundWave was discovered accidentally when an Opera technician said something and realized his colleague understood."

More information available here: Soundwave.


  Why Do Republicans Laugh?
An interesting report on ABC News tells us: "Rats Liked To Be Tickled".

Warning: the researchers talk about...gasp...evolution!


  Frank Perdue Dead
Frank Perdue whose advertising slogan was: "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," has died.

Among his innovations in the poultry industry:

"The company opened new plants in rural, often poor areas of the South, where labor was cheap and government regulations lax."

"In 1986, Perdue admitted to a presidential commission that he had twice unsuccessfully sought help from reputed New York crime boss Paul Castellano to put down union activities, actions he later said he regretted deeply."


  Shark Blogging
I'm not a fan of water sports as an adult, although growing up down here I spent most of every Summer in the bayou. As a result I don't talk much about the large bull sharks that people catch while fishing from the local bridges. They don't bother me, so I don't bother them. I know enough not to swim with the schools of bait fish who are usually running from sharks, so there's no problem.

But knowing that some of you do enjoy ocean swimming I though I give you a heads up about a couple of shark stories.

For those on the Left Coast, you have probably heard about the Great White Shark that has been in a tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Well it got a little large and started to show hunting behaviors, so they released it into the Pacific. Fortunately the orphan shark has grown from a length of 5 feet and a weight of 62 pounds to 6 feet, 4 inches and 162 pounds, so it should be able to "do lunch".

Down in the Right Coast, off Palm Beach, people get to watch dozens of sharks making their annual migration to the North, but a local biologist tells us that there's 'Nothing To Fear' as the sharks don't like the taste of humans. Of course, they would have to bite you to find out they don't like the taste, but they'll spit you out like Brussels sprouts...so we're told...by a scientist...who didn't address the blood in the water, feeding frenzy problem.

Have a wet, wonderful time!


  Friday Cat Blogging [TM Kevin Drum]

Feeding Frenzy

Friday Cat Blogging

Hey, stop pushing!

[Edit: These are two prides together at a feeding station. The picture was taken with a "sick" camera that has been replaced.]

Friday Ark


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