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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


How cool is this? A giant centipede crawls up a cave wall, leans out, grabs a bat in mid-air and eats him! As the great Woody Allen once remarked, "To me, nature is like a giant restaurant: big plants eating little plants, big animals eating little ones".

i am superman...

I too took the superhero survey which A.W. View blogged about. Here's my results:

You are Superman

Green Lantern
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
The Flash
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

still delusional

Ben Stein writes a column that, among other things, stands up for the poor, beleagured bureaucrat:
I really hate the way conservatives trash bureaucrats. Most bureaucrats that I know work hard, don't get paid a lot, and try to do their jobs as well as they can.
Boo hoo! As it turns out, bureaucrats are paid well, have almost automatic promotions up to a certain level, incredible job security and great benefits.

Spotted via Hit & Run.

i was hoping for green lantern

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

killing iraqi children, and stating the obvious

Jacob Hornberger gets right to the point in a piece called Killing Iraqi Children on LRC today.
In a short editorial, the Detroit News asked an interesting question:

“Some war critics are suggesting Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should have been arrested and prosecuted rather than bombed into oblivion. Why expose American troops to the danger of an arrest, when bombs work so well?”

Here’s one possible answer: In order not to send a five-year-old Iraqi girl into oblivion with the same 500-pound bombs that sent al-Zarqawi into oblivion.

Of course, I don’t know whether the Detroit News editorial board, if pressed, would say that the death of that little Iraqi girl was “worth it.” Maybe the board wasn’t even aware that that little girl had been killed by the bombs that killed Zarqawi when it published its editorial. But I do know one thing: killing Iraqi children and other such “collateral damage” has long been acceptable and even “worth it” to U.S. officials as part of their long-time foreign policy toward Iraq.
Read the whole article, which forcefully and effectively states the obvious.

Why bother stating the obvious? Because it needs to be said, that's why. Unfortunately, most Americans don't give two shits about innocent Iraqis, children or otherwise, so we need to constantly state the brutal facts about the ramifications of our reckless and immoral foreign adventures to "spread democracy". Everytime our warmongering countrymen brag about some "victory" in the war on terror, we need to remind them of the costs in blood and treasure.

Another good quote from the piece:
Suppose an armed robber enters a person’s home and the owner’s neighbor comes over to help him. The homeowner and his neighbor fire at the robber who fires back, killing both the homeowner and his neighbor.

Can the robber claim self-defense? No, because he had no right to be in the home in the first place. The intruder is guilty of murder, both morally and legally, because he doesn’t have the right to be where he is when he shoots the homeowner and his friend.

The situation is no different in Iraq because U.S. soldiers don’t have any right to be there...
I'm pissed off more and more every day about what's being done in our country's name, and after reading a column like this one by Hornberger it's hard not to get totally depressed and angry at the same time. What would be far, far worse, however, would be if there were no Hornbergers nor all the other heroic writers publishing such columns that state the obvious. If we ever reach that point, then all hope is lost for our country.

Friday, June 16, 2006

it's the oil, stupid

Greg Palast has a new book out, which I have not read, called Armed Madhouse. It covers many topics, but among other things it apparently purports that the war in Iraq was fought chiefly over oil. William Norman Grigg offers some comments in this post.
...Palast, in his new book Armed Madhouse, offers a pretty plausible answer to this question: Why did the US invade Iraq?

Short answer: It's the oil, stupid – and the point is not to sell it, but to control it.

This may seem like taking the long way around to an obvious conclusion, but Palast finds what I'd consider to be formidable – if not incontestable – support for his conclusions in pre-war reports about Iraq issued by the CFR.

In December 2000, while Bush and Gore were both trying to cheat their way to victory in the protracted presidential election, the CFR and the Houston-based James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University convened a Joint Task Force on Petroleum.

The final report of that body, produced with “the generous support of Khalid al-Turki” of Saudi Arabia, and published in April 2001, concluded that “Iraq has become a key `swing' producer [of petroleum], posing a difficult situation for the US government.... Saddam is a `destabilizing influence ... to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East.”

Therefore, concluded the CFR report, the US “should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.”

That report – according to Palast, who cites individuals who participated in its composition -- “was handed directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney met secretly with CFR task force members and other energy industry comrades to go over the maps of Iraq's oil fields. That, apparently, sealed it.”...
I've always believed that oil may have played a major role in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but I never thought that could be the only reason; for example, there's the neocon dream of a "democratized" Middle East, support for Israel (whether the current war actually supports them is debatable), the excuse to crack down on civil liberties and increase the power of the federal governemnt (especially the executive branch), and the general benefits that any war offers the military/industrial complex. Since there's been no discernable connection between Iraq and 9/11, I've never believed the official line that it was part of any real "war on terror". But I'm intrigued enough from this new information supporting the oil angle that I may have to check out Armed Madhouse.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

oh no!! the arctic sea level is...falling?

BBC News reports today:
Arctic sea level has been falling by a little over 2mm a year - a movement that sets the region against the global trend of rising waters.

A Dutch-UK team made the discovery after analysing radar altimetry data gathered by Europe's ERS-2 satellite...
The article is rather long and speculates on possible explanations. The take-home lesson I get out of this is that there is just not enough scientific evidence about long-term ocean levels either rising or falling to support any sort of global-warming panic response.

a modern art mishap

Now this is quite funny. I wonder how many visitors oohed and ahed over this display.
LONDON (Reuters) - One of Britain's most prestigious art galleries put a block of slate on display, topped by a small piece of wood, in the mistaken belief it was a work of art.

The Royal Academy included the chunk of stone and the small bone-shaped wooden stick in its summer exhibition in London.

But the slate was actually a plinth -- a slab on which a pedestal is placed -- and the stick was designed to prop up a sculpture. The sculpture itself -- of a human head -- was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

i don't think greenpeace is gonna like this...

According to this article at The Age:
In the face of sluggish demand for whale meat, the Fisheries Agency in Japan is behind a newly formed wholesaler established to boost whale meat consumption as stocks derived from scientific whaling rise.

However, the move is touching off criticism that the government is trying to fuel consumption, and comes prior to an International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference to be held in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis for five days from Friday, when scientific whaling will be one of the agenda items.
In the article, freelance journalist Junko Sakuma is quoted as saying:
"It's strange to find the government using taxpayers' money to urge people to eat whale meat by insisting there is a surplus of whales caught using taxes."
Interesting point. However, I wonder how many whales there might be if commercial whaling hadn't been banned by the worlds' governments. Is there a more private-property based solution that would encourage whalers to farm for the long term which would encourage sustainable whale populations? Such a tactic has apparently worked well with elephants in Africa.

Monday, June 12, 2006

a fathers' day statement

Michael Berg, father of beheaded American contractor in Iraq Nick Berg, has a few things to say over on LRC today, and he says it well.
...My son Nick was an independent contractor, not associated with Halliburton, Bechtel, Lockheed-Martin, or the U.S. military. Nick was murdered in retaliation for the atrocities committed at the Abu Ghraib prison: murders, rapes, and torture of Iraqi citizens. Though Donald Rumsfeld says he took responsibility for those atrocities, no consequences were felt by him, but they were by my son and everyone who loved him. George Bush ordered Alberto Gonzalez to rewrite definitions of torture essentially ordering these sins, and he did so with impunity. This is not the way it’s supposed to be either.

Nick was arrested by George Bush’s military without reason and then illegally detained for thirteen days. While he was in custody, the revelations of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal became public. These revelations ignited the resistance in Iraq and made it impossible for Nick to get home alive. When Nick did arrive home, it was to the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, a base from which I and all other loved ones of the invisible deceased are barred. This is not the way it’s supposed to be either....

a black preacher, nat hentoff, and an unanswered question

Nat Hentoff from his column today:
...The boy's spontaneous insistence on the primacy of life also reminded me of a powerful pro-life speaker and writer who, many years ago, helped me become a pro-lifer. He was a preacher, a black preacher. He said: "There are those who argue that the right to privacy is of a higher order than the right to life.

"That," he continued, "was the premise of slavery. You could not protest the existence or treatment of slaves on the plantation because that was private and therefore out of your right to be concerned." This passionate reverend used to warn: "Don't let the pro-choicers convince you that a fetus isn't a human being. That's how the whites dehumanized us... The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify what they wanted to do and not even feel they'd done anything wrong."

That preacher was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Later, he decided to run for the presidency, and it was a credible campaign that many found inspiring in its focus on what still had to be done on civil rights. But Mr. Jackson had by now become "pro-choice," much to the appreciation of most of those in the liberal base.

The last time I saw Mr. Jackson was years later, on a train from Washington to New York. I told him of a man nominated, but not yet confirmed, to a seat on a federal circuit court of appeals. This candidate was a strong supporter of capital punishment which both Mr. Jackson and I oppose, since it involves the irreversible taking of a human life by the state.

I asked Mr. Jackson if he would hold a press conference in Washington, criticizing the nomination, and he said he would. The reverend was true to his word; the press conference took place; but that nominee was confirmed to the federal circuit court. However, I appreciated Mr. Jackson's effort.

On that train, I also told Mr. Jackson that I'd been quoting in articles and in talks with various groups from his compelling pro-life statements. I asked him if he'd had any second thoughts on his reversal of those views.

Usually quick to respond to any challenge that he is not consistent in his positions, Mr. Jackson paused, and seemed somewhat disquieted at my question. Then he said to me, "I'll get back to you on that." I still patiently await what he has to say...

Friday, June 09, 2006

the golden era of nanotechnology

Fascinating article by Ray Kurzweil here at Science & Theology News. Excerpt:
The most interesting application of computerized nanobots will be to interact with our biological neurons. We’ve already shown the feasibility of using electronics and biological neurons to interact non-invasively. We could have billions of nanobots inside the capillaries of our brains, non-invasively, widely distributed, expanding human intelligence, or providing full immersion virtual reality encompassing all of the senses from within the nervous system. Right now we have a hundred trillion connections. Although there’s a certain amount of plasticity, biological intelligence is essentially fixed. Nonbiological intelligence is growing exponentially; the crossover point will be in the 2020s. When we get to the 2030s and 2040s, it will be the nonbiological portion of our civilization that will be predominant. But it will still be an expression of human civilization.

Every time we have technological gains we make gains in life expectancy. Sanitation was a big gain, antibiotics was another. We’re now in the beginning phases of this biotechnology revolution. We’re exploring, understanding and gaining the tools to reprogram the information processes underlying biology; and that will result in another big gain in life expectancy. So, if you watch your health today, the old-fashioned way, you can actually live to see the remarkable 21st century.

dancing bull zinfandel 2003

In my ongoing quest to sample and review the entire lower-priced zinfandel space, I tried a bottle of Dancing Bull Zinfandel, 2003 vintage (Rancho Zabaco, California).

From the label:
At Rancho Zabaco, we pride ourselves on producing award-winning Zinfandels crafted with grapes from top vineyards in California. Our Dancing Bull Zinfandel is no exception. WInemaker Eric Cinnamon chose Zinfandel grapes predominately drawn from vineyards in the up and coming Lodi appellation to create our Dancing Bull Zinfandel. The wine is bright, zesty and bursting with flavors of black chery and raspberry.
Dancing Bull Zinfandel - Playfully Zinful
This zin has a dark, ruby appearance. A disappointingly weak nose, but has a medium-bodied taste and mouthfeel. Smooth. Good, long finish. I believe the "zesty and bursting with flavors" line is a bit of an overstatement, though. At $8/bottle, I probably won't buy this again, with better $6 and $7 zins readily available, but it is certainly an enjoyable zin.

Note: Some time in the near future I plan to start a wine blog or web site, at which point I will copy these reviews over there and stop posting wine-related stuff over here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

the annual foreign-aid ripoff

That's the title of this piece by Ron Paul at LRC. It's a couple of days old, but I just got around to reading it and it's good. Here's an excerpt, but read the whole thing.
Why is foreign aid so bad? Isn’t it our obligation to help those less fortunate? What is not mentioned by proponents of foreign aid is that it very seldom gets to those who need it most. Foreign aid is the transfer of US dollars from the treasury of the United States to the governments of foreign countries. It is money that goes to help foreign elites, who in turn spend much of it on contracts with US corporations. This means US tax dollars ultimately go to well-connected US corporations operating overseas.

good news about john stossel

Apparently, he's against the war:
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the conservative Fraser Institute think tank yesterday, Stossel made it clear his politics don't quite fall within the traditional left or right wing spectrum.

He takes no issue with gay marriage, for example, while he says sending troops to Iraq "wasn't a good idea."
I love Stossel's stuff, but I rarely see him report on foreign policy and never on war itself. I think he'd do an awesome job if he could just let loose with an hour long TV special of libertarian critiques of war. All those conservatives who love him now will have their heads explode!

Spotted on Liberty & Power.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

as i predicted...

What I predicted in my post yesterday...
Of course, as soon as the first pictures are sold, they're going to be all over the internet, but Brad and Angelina are so far removed from the real world that that probably hasn't crossed their minds.
...has already come to pass, as reported in this BBC News article.
Hello! magazine is taking legal action to stop websites publishing a leaked picture of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with their newborn daughter Shiloh.

The photo "has been obtained totally illegally," said the magazine's features editor, Juliette Herd...

...The publishers say they have yet to discover the source of the leak.

"It's a complete mystery," said Ms Herd. "And we are very concerned at this breach of copyright".
Gosh, how could that have ever happened!? Who wouldda thunk it!?

Monday, June 05, 2006

buy brangelina's baby pictures! fight infant mortality!

From this article:
A week after her birth was announced to a waiting world, the infant daughter of Hollywood power couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, is already trading her instant celebrity for charity dollars.

The first pictures of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt -- following a top secret photo shoot at the couple's fortress hideaway in Namibia -- are to be licensed worldwide by Getty Images, with all the profits going to charity, the photo agency said.

"The photo shoot took place over the weekend, but I can't give you any more details about that," Getty spokeswoman Deb Trevino said Monday, adding that exclusive deals had already been worked out with a number of publications....

...It was not immediately clear which charities might benefit from Shiloh's first baby photos but, in a joint statement, Pitt and Jolie highlighted the high rate of child mortality in poor nations.

"While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that two million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives," the statement said.

"These mothers and children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority," it added.
Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Governments can solve any problem! All they have to is tax, spend, and solve, solve, solve! Works every time!

In actual fact, the only way the government can save people is to get the hell out of the way and disappear.

And really, how full of yourselves do you have to be to actually sell pictures of your newborn daughter? And how empty does someone's life have to be to actually buy such a thing? And I know they say the proceeds will go to charity, but they don't say which one. I guess we'll just have to trust that it will be a worthy one, perhaps an organization that will lobby governments everywhere to solve infant mortality!

Of course, as soon as the first pictures are sold, they're going to be all over the internet, but Brad and Angelina are so far removed from the real world that that probably hasn't crossed their minds.

Seriously, I'm glad they both care about third world children, and I'm sure they're sincere in wanting to help them. I also believe that both Pitt and Jolie are good actors (I actually liked Tomb Raider). But come on, you're not going to save anybody by acting like an idiot.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

did you see the sunrise?

I've been purchasing and viewing the DVD releases of each Magnum, P.I. season in order. This is a show that I never watched during its original run, but got hooked on during its rerun syndication. So far I've completed the first two seasons, and I've just started the third (there are eight seasons in total).

The first episode of Season 3 is a two-parter called "Did you see the sunrise?". This is one of my favorite episodes. SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the episode but intend to some day, you may want to stop reading here.

I won't review every detail of the plot, except to say that it involves mind controlled assasination attempts and an evil KGB dude named Ivan. If you've seen the episode, you know that in end, Magnum blows away Ivan in cold blood (which is not to say that he didn't deserve it). Ivan, who is about to board a plane out of Oahu, is intercepted in his limo by Magnum, who leads him into a secluded wooded area. You see, even though the military knows he's responsible for a recent assasination attempt on a Japanese prince (via a mind-controlled T.C., foiled by Magnum and Rick at the last minute), as well as many previous assasinations (even including Anwar Sadat, according to the story), the military decides to let him leave the country as a free man for political reasons. This is not good enough for Magnum.

After being lead into the woods, Ivan tells Magnum that he knows him well, and knows that Magnum won't be able to shoot him. If he were running towards him with a gun, maybe, but not unarmed. But Magnum can't forget that Ivan is responsible for the death of his friend Mac MacReynolds, who died in Magnum's Ferrari when a car bomb, placed by Ivan and intended for Magnum, exploded with MacReynolds in it instead. MacReynolds had suggested to Magnum and his date that they drive up to a lookout to watch the sunrise. Just then he started the car in order to pick up Magnum and his ladyfriend, and the bomb goes off.

So after Ivan's lecture on how Magnum could never kill him like this, Magnum asks Ivan if he saw the sunrise that day. He answers "yes, it was beautiful. Why?"
We then see Magnum turn around and fire, with the camera freeze framing the blast from his gun (we never see Ivan go down).

The thing is, it's not clear Magnum acted morally or not, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did. The problem I have is that this is still legally a murder, and as such, it seems like Magnum would have a tough time getting away with it. Is he going to leave Ivan's body just laying there? Will they trace the ammo to Magnum's gun? The limo was stopped with the help of Rick, who pretended to have car trouble while blocking the limo's path. Won't the limo driver talk to the police about this, and won't Magnum then be tied to Rick and thus to the disappearance of Ivan? It just seems too ridiculous that Magnum would expect to get away with this. Other than that, it's a very entertaining and thought-provoking episode.


I just finished watching the very excellent documentary, Aftermath. Covering four wars that occurred in the twentieth century, the movie takes no sides and merely documents some of the horrible costs of war, some occurring many decades after the conflict is over.

The most amazing aftermath is the one first up, World War I. I had no idea that approximately 140 Frenchmen labor every year to find and dispose of unexploded ordinance from "The War to End all Wars". People die every year from these "blasts from the past" and as recently as the early nineties, dozens of farmers were killed in a single year from running over these remnants with their farm equipment. The sheer tonnage collected and destroyed every year is all the more astonishing when one realizes that at the current rate, it will take 700 years to clean up "The Great War" in just one country.

The second segment is on World War I and centers around a man in modern day Russia who has taken it upon himself to dig up old battlefields from the struggle to take Stalingrad. It's gruesome to watch him pull skulls out of the ground from a seemingly innocent field. On the other hand, it's heartening to see him interact with some old veterans of the German army, who are providing some funding to him in the hopes of locating the remains of lost friends.

Next up is Vietnam and the weakest of the segments in my opinion. It focuses exclusively on the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used for ten years during the Vietnam War. The footage of severely deformed children is gut-wrenching, but I'm skeptical that a single compound, dioxin, could cause such a wide variety of problems. I really don't know enough to judge, but the tendency of environmentalists to exagerate the dangers of every single artificial chemical has left me wary of such claims.

Last up is Bosnia. This is basically a repeat of the World War I segment, again showing the dangers that can linger decades after the shelling has stopped.

Over all, I give it a big thumbs up.

zins $10 and under

I know this isn't a wine blog, but I've been on a quest to find good, low-priced Zinfandels lately so I thought I'd talk about it, both the good and the bad. I really like Zinfandels. They are California's own, strong and spicy, not unlike a Shiraz. Growing up I made many Zinfandels with my father in our basement, so they are part of my own history too. I don't like spending a lot on wine, except occasionally, so I'm always trying to find that low-priced everyday drinking wine. I'll talk about two Zins in this post, but there will be more to come.

First up: C.K. Mondavi Wildcreek Canyon Zinfandel, Vintage 2003, $5 at Trader Joe's. Basically, this is not a good wine at all. To quote (from memory, perhaps inaccurately) Eric Idle from the Monty Python sketch about Australian table wines (off the Matching Tie and Handkerchief album, if you care): "This is not a wine for drinking, but a wine for lying down and avoiding." It really tastes...just plain...bad. It's not a weak wine, it just seems off. I won't be buying it again.

Next up: Old Moon {Old Vine} Zinfandel, 2005, $6 at Trader Joe's. This is an excellent find! One of my current favorites (and I'm savoring a glass right now). It does taste like a young wine, as you'd expect for a wine that's only 7 or 8 months old, but it is full-bodied and fruity. I don't know if it will age or not, but I may keep a few bottles around for a couple of years and see what happens. Apprarently TJs has been selling this wine for years, and I found some reviews of the 2003 vintage that were quite positive. Since I've only just discovered it with the 2005 vintage, I can't say how it compares to earlier years.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

i forgot that slaughtering civilians is wrong

This WaPo article tells us that as a result of the Haditha investigation, where 24 civilians including women and children were allegedly slaughtered by U.S. forces, troops will now be required to undergo "core values" training.
Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, today ordered that all U.S. and allied troops in Iraq undergo new "core values" training in how to operate professionally and humanely. Not only will leaders discuss how to treat civilians under the rules of engagement, but small units also will be ordered to go through training scenarios to gauge their understanding of those rules.
I can picture the training now:

"Okay soldiers, listen up! Listen up! You know how we used to be OK with slaughtering women and children? Well, that's out now. From now on, NO civilian slaughter, and I don't wanna catch any of you ladies bitching about it either. Got that soldiers?"

"Sir Yes Sir!"