Too Rad

I was talking with an old friend, just passing the time of day, and he asked me if I knew what had happened in the area around Chernobyl.

"No." I said, "But let me guess. It's a lush, green, paradise for wildlife."

"Ahhh, you've heard about it before."

"Nope. Just a lucky guess."

But since we actually, you know, atom-bombed Bikini and Eniwetok (boy, did we ever) and wildlife has successfully staged a comeback there (tourism too!), I had to figure a powerplant disaster would be at least as manageable.

Besides, we had just been talking about Petr Beckmann, an irascible pro-nuclear professor of engineering from, of all places, the University of Colorado at Boulder. Context is key.

Getting back to Chernobyl, Texas Tech has been sending expeditions into the exclusion zone surrounding the power plant and one of their researchers had this to say...

During recent visits to Chernobyl, we experienced numerous sightings of moose, roe deer, Russian wild boar, foxes, river otter, and rabbits within the 10-km exclusion zone. We observed none of those taxa except for a single rabbit outside the 30-km zone, although the time and extent of search in each region is comparable. The top carnivores, wolves and eagles, as well as the endangered black stork are more abundant in the 30-km zone than outside the area. Trapping of small rodents in the most radioactive area within the 10-km zone has yielded greater success rates than in uncontaminated areas. Diversity of flowers and other plants in the highly radioactive regions is impressive and equals that observed in protected habitats outside the zone.
In reality, radioactivity at the level associated with the Chernobyl meltdown does have discernible, negative impacts on plant and animal life. However, the benefit of excluding humans from this highly contaminated ecosystem appears to outweigh significantly any negative cost associated with Chornobyl radiation.

He's not kidding about those negative impacts. Check out these photos of the "Red Forest". But I practically cut my teeth on "after the bomb" horror novels. Where are all the mutants?

Clearly, our data document a vibrant ecosystem in the most radioactive areas at Chornobyl that in many ways is what we expect from a park dedicated to conservation. Less well documented are possible costs to the species living in this highly radioactive environment. Some of the small mammals living in this environment are experiencing doses from internally deposited 137cesium and 90strontium in excess of 10 rads/d and an external dose at least half that high... cannot be said that radiation is good for wildlife. Instead, the elimination of human activities such as farming, ranching, hunting and logging are the greatest benefit, and it can be said that the world's worst nuclear power plant disaster is not as destructive to wildlife populations as are normal human activities.
Even where the levels of radiation are highest, wildlife abounds. In the summertime, beautiful fields of colorful flowers mask the underlying radiation that can be detected with sophisticated Geiger counters. Scientific findings on the effects of living in the environment have been mixed, but most studies suggest that even the extraordinary amounts released by the Chernobyl accident do not negatively affect the abundance and health of native wildlife. There are no monsters at Chernobyl!
These conclusions are in agreement with extensive studies on the survivors of Hiroshima/Nagasaki that did not document an elevated mutation rate in their children. Forty years post exposure, Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors may have a slight elevation in some types of cancer. However, this increase is hundreds of times lower than the typical effects of cigarette smoking.
Make no mistake about it; too much radiation over a short time kills people, animals and plants. But too much heat or water also can kill. People die in house fires and drown in lakes...Studies show that mice exposed to a small chronic dose of radiation live longer than mice that were not exposed. This effect is referred to as hormesis.

Now, that is really interesting. Some of you may remember that story out of Taiwan last year, about the irradiated apartment dwellers?

In Taipai and other areas of Taiwan, 1700 apartment units were built using steel contaminated with Cobalt-60, exposing 10,000 occupants for 16 years to an average, according to preliminary estimates, of 4.8 rem in the first year and 33 rem in total. From national Taiwan statistics, 173 cancers and 4.5 leukemias would be expected from natural sources, and according to linear-no threshold theory, there should have been 30 additional leukemias. However a total of only five cancers and one leukemia have occurred among these people.

To be sure, there were a few jaundiced eyes in the house.

"There are several flaws in the Taiwan study," said Peter Burns, director of environmental and radiation health.[For the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.]
"A proper epidemiological study would compare the exposed population to a similar population, not the Taiwan average, as cancer rates can vary markedly in any society," Dr Burns said.
Further, "because the exposure has only recently stopped, cancer rates would be expected to increase over the next 20 to 30 years, so that a long-term follow-up is required to be sure that the rates have not increased."


I wouldn't discount his side of the argument automatically, but there have been some thought provoking findings trickling in from elsewhere.

In 1957, there was an explosion in an incredibly mismanaged radioactive waste storage facility at the U.S.S.R. Mayak nuclear weapons complex in the Eastern Urals of Siberia, causing large radiation exposures to people in nearby villages. A follow-up on 7852 of these villagers found that the rate of subsequent cancer mortality was much lower among these than among unexposed villagers.

A $10 million study was conducted of shipyard workers involved in servicing U.S. Navy nuclear-propelled ships, comparing those who were and were not occupationally exposed to radiation; the former group had exposures above 0.5cSv (0.5 rem) and average exposures of 5 cSv, while the latter group had exposures below 0.5 cSv. The cancer mortality rate for the exposed was only 85% of that for the unexposed, a difference of more than 4 standard deviations.

Stimulation of the immune system by low level radiation is being used on an experimental basis for medical treatment of non-Hodgkins lymphoma with total body and half body irradiation. This radiation was administered to one group of patients...but not to an otherwise similar “control” group, before both groups were given similar other standard treatments... In one such study, after 9 years, 50% of the control group, but only 16% of the irradiated group had died. In a 25 year old study with different standard treatment, 4-year survival was 70% for the irradiated group versus 40% for the controls. In another study in that time period with a more advanced chemotherapy, 4-year survival was 74% for the irradiated group versus 52% for the control group.

Several studies have reported that workers who inhaled plutonium, resulting in sizable radiation exposures to their lungs, have lower lung cancer mortality rates than those not so-exposed. Contrary to media-generated impressions, there is no record of cancer deaths resulting from human exposure to plutonium.

So, I guess we can conclude (tentatively) that radiation, while still horrible and damaging above a certain threshold, might not be as bad as we thought. Go enjoy an X-ray, every day. Puts me in mind of "The Road to Wellville".

I'm all for innovative medicine. But not as an early adopter. Looking back to the dawn of radiation therapy we find the sad case of...

...Eben Byers, a millionaire steel tycoon, strapping sportsman and U.S. amateur golf champion whose physician urged him to take Radithor. Byers was so convinced it gave him "zip" that he often drank a few of the 2.2-ounce bottles daily.
He consumed close to 1,400 bottles at $1.00 each between 1928 and 1930 before dying in 1932 of radium poisoning at the age of 51. By then he had not only lost his zip but most of his teeth from bone decay, his body was covered with abscesses and he weighed 92 pounds. The Wall Street Journal's headline "The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off" was essentially the death knell for such radium products.

What, no volunteers? At least try the Fiesta Ware!

posted by Justin at 11:25 PM | Comments (4)

Corrupt Every Vote?

It's party time! (Which party, you ask?)


The folks above are celebrating the introduction of a new bill called the Boxer Clinton "Count Every Vote Act of 2005." You can read the full text here.

I've read enough to not especially like it. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Make Election Day an official holiday;
  • Require states to allow same day registration as well as early voting;
  • While the act trumpets "establishing voter identification," it would do just the opposite, by prohibiting the requiring of driver's licenses, social security numbers, or proof of citizenship. Here's a portion of the text:


    In other words, states would be required take you at your word that you are who you say you are and that you're a citizen.

  • There's also provision for photo id cards to be created and issued based on "voter affidavits..."
  • States would be required to allow felons to vote.
  • There's much more -- and the language is replete with identity politics jargon.

    Sounds to me as if one of the sponsors is planning to run for president, and needs every vote she can get.

    Personally, I don't like the idea of Election Day as a holiday, or of allowing anyone to run in at any time, early, late, whenever, without proof of anything. The whole thing reeks of sentimentalized corruption, political partisanship, and above all, dumbing down the vote.

    While I dislike followers (who tend to be the dumber elements of both parties) the Democrats seem particularly beholden to enshrining and catering to voter stupidity. I think this act is another attempt to make it easier for the smarter people to tell the dumber multitudes how to vote -- along the lines of turning Election Day into a giant MSM, Make Every Vote Count, propaganda extravaganza.

    It might backfire, I guess. As John Leo (via InstaPundit) put it recently,

    We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow.
    Might some of these elites be banking on those who do wish to follow?

    posted by Eric at 10:11 PM | Comments (5)

    Last snow of puppyhood?

    The snow is coming down fast and furious; already there's a four inch accumulation.

    The new puppy, Coco, likes the snow more than Puff does.


    She was taking flying leaps in the snow, but the digital camera's delay feature makes them tough to catch.

    As you can see, it's snowing hard enough that wet spots on the lens are visible. I really didn't want to haul the camera out in the snow, but I realized that if I didn't capture the moment, there's be no photos of her as a puppy in the snow. It's late in the snow season this year, and next winter she won't be a puppy.

    (Of course now that I've said that, it'll probably snow through March, and into April!)

    posted by Eric at 04:37 PM | Comments (3)

    New arrival

    I am really tired, as I just got back from a long drive to southern Virginia to pick up the latest addition to the family.

    Her name is "Coco" (same as Puff's grandmom), and she and Puff hit it off immediately. Here they are, meeting for the the first time:

    Puff Coco.jpg

    They slept together in the car for about eight hours, so I think they're quite compatible. What with housebreaking and the rest of it, Coco ought to keep things lively around here for the next several months.

    BTW, I checked out her pedigree pretty carefully. She's a real princess. (Descended from royalty, of course.)

    posted by Eric at 11:50 PM | Comments (6)

    Saturday "armature warrior" . . .

    Finally I have finished the temporary repair of my car's damned driver's seat! The mechanism was damaged in the rear end collision and the seat was loose and sliding back and forth, without any way to adjust it or stop it from moving. I had tried wedging a propane tank behind the seat, but it still lurched back and forth when driving. The problem was that the electric motor controlling the seat was broken, and the accident broke loose the frozen position in which the seat had been before the accident. It served me fine for three years without the motor working, because it was in the right position for me. But no one can drive sitting on a sliding seat!

    So I took the seat out and began the dissection. It turned out that one of the curved magnets surrounding the armature had broken into small pieces, which shorted out the entire motor, then froze the commutator solid. When I removed the motor, pieces of broken magnet were everywhere, and it had that characteristic burnt electrical smell, which probably means the armature is fried as well.

    I called the dealer, and I was told the price of a new motor is $425.00!

    That's highway robbery, and in any case I am not about to pour my own money into fixing something which wasn't broken because of any fault of my own, so I started to wonder how on earth I might perform a temporary repair. I noticed that the armature is integral to the shaft of the whole mechanism, and is slotted at each end. When it rotates, it turns two long screw shafts which move the brackets which hold the seat above. So, I removed the cover, then using a hammer and a screwdriver, pounded out the armature from the motor housing, then carefully loosened the long screw shafts and hooked up each end of the armature shaft, so that the armature alone occupies the same position as did the motor. Then I put everything back together and reinstalled the seat.

    Here's how it looks under there:

    The seat mechanism is now very solid, neither slipping around nor frozen in place. I was able to reach in there and manually turn the armature and thereby adjust the long screw shafts. This proceeded at a snail's pace, because the gear ratio assumes a rapidly spinning electric motor. But finally, I got the seat where I want it.

    It's fine for a temporary repair, except it would take a very coordinated person about a half an hour to change the seat position.

    (Not the world's most comfy "armature" -- but it's a lot better than slipping and sliding.)

    posted by Eric at 05:48 PM | Comments (2)

    Fighting "The Time"

    Ace Pryhill must be psychic. Because, when she linked to this post I don't see how she could have known that what she's worried about facing with Uno is what I'm worrying about right now with Puff. He's 15 (very old for a large dog) has cancer, is disabled from advanced arthritis, and has outlived all his ancestors by three years.

    Ace provides this audio link: Robin Young's moving tribute to "Moe" -- a 19 year old Chihuahua:

    They should come with a warning label.

    How will I know when the time is right?

    The way I see it, Puff will know when it's . . . time.

    But the time hasn't yet come for Puff. Many owners of a dog in Puff's situation would have put him down by now, for his back legs have given out from the arthritis and advanced hip disease. (The cancer which he has may also be involved.) He's forced to drag his nearly useless back legs behind him, but his front legs and chest muscles are still quite strong. It hurts me more to watch him drag himself around than it seems to hurt him. Here he is, struggling through the snow:


    (Ironically, the snow, which he has never liked, gives his back legs some support so that he doesn't fall over as easily as when navigating hard ground.)

    On Tuesday the vet told me that he's not facing anything immediately life threatening, but they can't do much for the legs except give pain meds. But Puff's enthusiasm is amazing, and I want to help. So I have decided to order a dog wheelchair, and let him try it out. There are a number of places selling them, but Laurie at Dogs To Go has been most helpful, and they're designing and building it for what I consider a very modest price. Not only that, they're shipping it with an invoice which I don't have to pay unless I like it!

    It hasn't arrived yet, but when it does, I am sure Puff will consent to my doing wheelchair dog blogging.

    Meanwhile, we are working on a new addition to the family in the form of a puppy to keep Puff company in what will most likely be his last few months. This will ease his pain -- and mine. I don't want to find myself in the position of Ace's co-worker --

    who put her beagle BJ down over 2 years ago and she still can't bring herself to adopt a new friend.
    I'd rather have a sort of unbroken chain. Better for the heart, I think.

    posted by Eric at 07:03 PM | Comments (9)

    Transparent stinging . . .

    As most readers know, I have no rules here applying to comments, which I only delete if they are spam, or use too much foul or clearly abusive language. That does not mean that I have to read, much less answer, comments. You can say pretty much anything you want, and if you want you can even put words in my mouth, argue with the words you've placed in my mouth, and declare victory. I don't have to reply, and usually I won't bother, because I'm not blogging for comments. Still, I do reserve the right to reply if I really feel like it, and occasionally, I'll get a gem, as I did today.

    Thanks to today's comment, it's at last been officially confirmed that I am financed by the evil Republicans:

    I stand by my implication that you may be financed by the Republicans. Your refusal to adhere to the "Classical Values" to which you
    allude doesn't prove my implication, but it does raise serious questions about your motives. Also, if the Republicans supported Ralph "Lenin Lite" Nader, they would have no problems supporting any other pretender who happened to suit their interests.
    Obviously, anyone who stands by his implication is a man of strongly implied convictions. And I love it when people put words in my mouth -- especially the accusation of my "refusal to adhere to 'Classical Values.'"

    But this puts me in a quandary. While I've already admitted that the Republicans are financing this blog -- by paying me a dollar a hit (plus ten dollars for every angry leftist comment), now on top of that there's the issue of adhesion. I can't very well accuse Mr. Raging Bee of refusing to adhere to "Classical Values," can I?

    Then there's the issue of names:

    And you're still using "Jeff Gannon's" name when you quote this clearly unreliable source. How much more transparent can you get?
    I cited a blog called Jeff If that's "transparent," um, isn't it just as transparent for me to cite a commenter who might also not be using his own name? It worries me, because this same commenter accuses me of refusing to take "dual hypocrisy" seriously. Dual hypocrisy is defined as:
  • 1. allowing anyone to enter a highly sensitive and secure location using a fake name, thus bypassing long-standing security procedures while screaming about security and terrorist threats; and
  • 2. giving such latitude to a person with a gay porn past while openly pandering to anti-gay bigotry.
  • While the expressed concerns about White House security are admirable, I've seen no evidence at all that Gannon was a security threat. How is a pass holder's "gay porn past" evidence of "hypocrisy"? Is it because the president is against gay marriage? The president is against abortion too. Are press pass applicants' medical records being screened to see whether they've had abortions?

    I really think this whole Gannon flap is a lot of hot air. Nothinggate.

    Those who think it's a real "scandal" ought to think again. Especially about hypocrisy.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: One last thing: I didn't imply that there's an anti-gay witch hunt. I have stated clearly that I think there is one. Because it's directed against non-leftist gays who dare to speak up, it might not appear to be directed against all gays. But the identity politics doctrine behind it -- that if you are a homosexual you must be a socialist or a Democrat -- would relegate gay people as a whole to the status of sheep instead of free citizens able to make up their own minds. Isn't that as degrading as any other anti-gay stereotype?

    UPDATE: Via InstaPundit, I enjoyed Andrew Sullivan's take

    "The real scandal is the blatant use of homophobic rhetoric by the self-appointed Savonarolas of homo-left-wingery. It's an Animal Farm moment: the difference between a fanatic on the gay left and a fanatic on the religious right is harder and harder to discern."
    Hard to disagree with what I've been thinking for years.

    posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (4)

    Feral Peeves

    Lord only knows that the English Language, in all its magisterial glory, can be a stone bitch to deal with, but I have completely lost sympathy with its too abundant victims.

    How many times in the last year have I seen someone "pouring" over difficult subject material? Too damn many. The root word is "pore", so when you study hard, you are "poring". How hard can it be?

    Another tooth-gnasher, trying to "reign in" an unwanted trend or activity. I've seen it in freaking Newsweek, folks. THIS is journalistic accreditation in action? It should be "reining in", as with cowboys and their horsies.

    Drifting around the net, I've seen "taking hold of the reigns of power", "reins of terror", and "her reining majesty".

    Grrrr. That last sounds like a B&D club.

    Worst of the lot, in my book, is the loss of the distinction between "jibe" and "jive".

    One detective might say to another, "The facts just don't jibe, Joe." and he would be perfectly correct to do so. What he wouldn't say is "Y'know Friday, this whole thing just doesn't jive".

    You want jive? Think Barbara Billingsley translating in "Airplane". "I speak Jive."

    "Sheee-it!" equals "Golly!", remember?

    Or, more technically: Jive

    NOUN: Jazz or swing music.
    The jargon of jazz musicians and enthusiasts.

    Slang: Deceptive, nonsensical, or glib talk: "the sexist, locker-room jive of men boasting and bonding".

    VERB: jived , jiv·ing , jives

    VERB:To play or dance to jive music.

    Slang:To talk nonsense; to kid.
    To talk or chat: "You just jive in one big group, putting each other on, trying to top the last line".

    VERB: Slang

    To cajole or mislead.


    Misleading; phony.

    It's got absolutely nothing to do with "jibe". They just sound alike. Kind of.

    It's rather like confusing "cache" and "cachet".

    posted by Justin at 02:01 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBacks (1)

    Quit being miserable and start complaining!

    With all this snow, California's balmy 65 degree Februarys are looking pretty good.

    I have found that one of the least popular topics here on the East Coast is, well, hatred of the East Coast! Not that there aren't many things to love about the East Coast, but when you're transplanted from California and it snows, and you can't go anywhere without bundling up and shoveling out your driveway (and forget about running!), well, California just looks pretty darned good. But for a variety of reasons, East Coasters don't take kindly to Californians kvetching about the East Coast. (Not that I blame them; no one likes to hear their geographical and cultural surroundings put down, so I try to avoid doing that and besides, why whine and complain when you can just leave?)

    Of course, as a sounding board I do have Puff, who was born and grew up in California. Right now I think he's wondering whether his master is in full possession of his mental faculties. But he's being patient.


    Misery loves company -- and Puff and I are both pretty good at commiseration.

    posted by Eric at 08:50 AM | Comments (2)

    Opening wide and yawning for more . . .

    Assorted NeoMcCarthyites are trying to turn the Gannon non-affair into a proper anti-gay witch hunt, and it's getting downright comical. The worst aspect of this so-called scandal is that it's caused one of my favorite commenters to speculate that I'm dishonest enough to be on the Republican payroll! (I better watch out; next they'll audit my DNA to see whether any of it can be traced to Gannon.... My lips are sealed,er, zipped er, you know what I mean!)


    Various theories have been proposed.

    It's been suggested that the White House needs a major background crackdown. (Presumably directed against evil homocons.)

    On the other hand the affair has been called a big yawn, and even a nothinggate.

    Meanwhile, Jeff Goldstein has been searching tirelessy for signs of hypocrisy. (Obviously, if the White House isn't discriminating against the homos, they're total hypocrites.)

    It's deadly serious, folks, and I still blame Deep Throat!

    UPDATE: Ann Coulter is now defending gays against witch hunts! (Via Jeff Gannon.)

    MORE: Tim Graham observes that softball questions at the White House are nothing new.

    posted by Eric at 09:02 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)

    I could have just gone!

    On top of this irritating snowstorm, my car was hit -- hard -- today in a very irritating rear end collision. And there's a utilitarian moral (hmmmm.....) to the story which I don't especially like.

    After running a few errands in a local shopping center, I was on my way home approaching a fairly major T-intersection at which I intended to turn left. I got in the left hand lane, following the car in front of me, which was going pretty fast. So fast, in fact, that the driver entered the intersection after the light had already turned red. I decided not to push my luck with an already red light, so I stopped (no, I wasn't speeding and I didn't come to a screeching stop). Almost immediately I was rearended by a large van (of the size normally used to transport airport commuters). This bent and crunched my bumper and left rear quarter panel, screwed up the trunk latch mechanism so it binds when I open and close the trunk, and derailed the driver's seat mechanism so the seat slides back and forth and won't stay in place.

    All because I was a good boy and didn't run the red light! Had I been a bad boy and ran the red light, I'm sure I would have made it through, and I wouldn't be facing the bureaucratic hassle I do now. (I don't want to be driving around getting estimates, and then arguing over how much my nine year old car is worth. Plus my damned back is sore, and the last thing I want is to go to a doctor or chiropractor!)

    So what's the unpleasant utilitarian moral lesson?

    I'm wondering if sometimes it's better to just do the wrong thing. . .

    posted by Eric at 05:58 PM | Comments (4)

    Call For Papers

    If you missed Charlie Rose the other day you missed Reynolds, Sullivan, Trippi, and Wonkette. Here are one man's impressions of the TV smash hit.

    That man would be Dave at Logical Meme, who not so long ago rounded up a "Call For Papers" that had me in stitches.

    It was a choice between laughter and wretched sobbing. Here are a few choice cuts from the tenderest part of the beast...

    CFP: The Fetishists, Masochists, and Other Sexual Dissidents of Romanticism - Proposals are now being accepted for the thirteenth annual conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism, "Deviance and Defiance," to be held in Montreal, Canada, 13-17 August 2005. Special session: "The Fetishists, Masochists, and Other Sexual Dissidents of Romanticism". Papers are solicited that would broaden the notion, beyond adultery and onanism, of what was considered transgressive sexual behavior: possibilities include doll fetishism, hypnoticism and s/m, incestuous pleasures, and cross-dressing erotic encounters. In this post-Sadean but pre-Masochian era, what would or would not have been counted as sexual perversion in the public, medical, or legal eye? How do matters of sexual unorthodoxy inform notions of privacy and personal subjectivity? In what contexts were private vices regarded as socially subversive?

    Deviance and Defiance....


    CFP: Dangerous Looks and Visual Pleasure: African American Writers and Filmmakers and The Gaze - This call for papers is for a proposal panel to be held at (dis)junctions: theory reloaded at the University of California Riverside’s 12th Annual Humanities Graduate Conference on April 8-9, 2005. The gaze, writes bell hooks, provides “spaces of agency for Black people, wherein [they] can both interrogate the gaze of the Other but also look back, and at one another, naming what [they] see. The ‘gaze’ has been and is a site of resistance for colonized Black people globally.” This panel will seek to explore the diverse ways that the gaze has been depicted by African American writers and filmmakers. The dichotomy of voyeur and exhibitionist will be called into question, as well as the resulting power dynamics that these looking relations entail and cultivate...

    That one was so good it's worth another bite...

    An analysis of gazes shared between women. Queer gazes, gazes in queer spaces. The gaze as a tool of racial coding. The ways in which racial passing or female asquerade complicate looking relations. Performativity of race, gender, and class and its relation to the gaze.

    Moving on (but reluctantly!) we find this fulgurant gem...

    CFP: Utopian Gender Space Special Session (2/15/05; SCMLA, 10/27/05-10/29/05) - It's Always Greener: Utopian Gender Space - This session invites papers that explore the geography of gender in/equality and its socio-spatial implications, particularly in utopian literature.

    "particularly in utopian literature..."

    This transcends self-parody and scrapes the tender palate of raw genius.
    Read as much as you can stand. Good luck!

    I must away, posthaste. My eyes are bleeding.

    posted by Justin at 05:06 PM | Comments (4)

    Why We Loved It

    John Weidner at Random Jottings has put up a new banner photograph, and it's a beauty. I also like his new countertops. Soapstone, eh? That view from the Golden Gate bridge reminds me of all the good things San Francisco has to offer.

    Excepting Ken Layne and the thousands like him, expats from the area seem to miss it rather keenly.

    posted by Justin at 05:00 PM | Comments (1)

    Trying to Self-Correct

    Big Chief Mouse in Hand says that he is too a real Indian.

    Those white devil reporters were speaking with...oh, never mind.

    Big War Bonnet tip to LGF.

    posted by Justin at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

    Dog is great!

    I found a canine version of the Ten Commandments, which I thought I'd share.

    The 10 Commandments

    1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be very painful.

    2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.

    3. Place your trust in me-it is crucial for my well-being.

    4. Don't be angry with me for long, and don't lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment. I HAVE ONLY YOU!

    5. Talk to me. Even if I don't understand your words, I understand your voice when it's speaking to me.

    6. Be aware that however you treat me, I'll NEVER forget it.

    7. Before you hit me, remember that I have teeth that could easily crush the bones in your hand, but I choose not to bite you.

    8. Before you scold me for being me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right food, I've been out in the sun too long, or my heart may be getting old and weak.

    9. Take care of me when I get old. You , too, will grow old.

    10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, " I can't bear to watch it" or, "Let it happen in my absence." Everything is easier for ME if you are there.

    From Back Bay Kennels.

    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Authenticity is only for the authentic!

    Well, I am certainly glad to see (via InstaPundit) that Ward Churchill has finally admitted he's not Indian. He says it doesn't matter:

    Churchill did address the issue of his ethnicity, admitting that he is not Native American.

    "Is he an Indian? Do we really care?" he said, quoting those he called his "white Republican" critics.

    "Let's cut to the chase; I am not," he said.

    His pedigree is "not important," Churchill said: "The issue is the substance of what is said."

    What does "substance" mean in the context of ethnic studies? Does it mean race is no longer a question of "substance" even when ethnic studies professors claim to have the same ethnicity as the ethnic identity of their department?

    How refreshing!

    I'd still like to know about Churchill's claim of military service -- if that still matters. (As Matt Duffy points out, some people still care about false military service claims.)

    posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (5)

    Cheap shots can be expensive . . .

    A primary reason I blog is to oppose people who want to run our lives for us. Liberal activists, the MSM, and some of the louder, shriller (do I hear "triumphant"?) religious conservatives I count as among those who want to run our lives. A principle difference between the MSM, though, and religious conservatives, is that the latter need to win in order to run anything.

    So I found it depressing to see (via Glenn Reynolds) apparent confirmation of one of my depressing theories -- that religious conservatives (especially the type I've criticized for wanting the Republican Party to lose) not only think they're running the Republican Party, but feel justified in hurling insults at libertarians.

    ....triumphalism permeated the proceedings. The Republicans, having just held the presidency and consolidated power in Congress, are perhaps entitled to some gloating. But out-and-out arrogance was the order of the conference, as well, and that is what threatens to undo Republican gains in the long term.

    Arrogance toward Democrats isn't the problem -- though that was everywhere, from Ann Coulter's conservative stand-up routine (kind of a Republican version of "You might be a redneck if…" delivered to wildly cheering fans) to the popular t-shirt slogan, "What blue states? I only see red?"

    No, the arrogance that will prove problematic, ultimately, was that directed at the libertarian-leaning conservatives by the social conservatives.

    What a pity.

    They're forgetting that in a democracy, they need to win. They need to build and maintain coalitions. Such coalitions are anathema to the people who opposed Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I think they'd rather lose than see people like him win. The sort of coalition proposed by QandO would help avert this impending loss:

    ...."socially tolerant, fiscally conservative" moderates as Schwarzenegger, and Rudy Giuliani may prove unbeatable on the national stage. If we want to remain a voice within the GOP, I suspect we'll need to hitch our wagon to their coalition, while we still have some political capital. Such a coalition will require uncomfortable compromises, but I really don't see any other possible alliances.
    (And, BTW, Ramesh Ponnuru, in his dismissal of anti-government conservatives during the 1995-1996 period, in my view too quickly forgets the pivotal role played by the media spin of the Oklahoma City bombing.)

    I couldn't agree more with Glenn Reynolds' statement:

    I think that a shift toward religious conservatism is likely to cost the Republicans votes.
    Not only is it going to cost them votes, it's going to cost them big time in terms of lost energy. There are plenty of small "l" libertarians who believe in getting along with people, but once it becomes clear that there's no getting along, a sort of "screw-em!" mentality develops. Once it becomes mutual, it's too late.

    There are signs it's getting ugly, and mutually so. As Bill at INDC Journal puts it:

    I would advise all of my respected socially conservative friends and fellow bloggers to take note: a lurch towards sane national defense and fiscal policy by a charismatic Dem or three (it could happen), coupled with one too many sneering "RINO" jokes from you hard righties, and this moderate - and many like me - are gone. One day we'll simply snap, our better judgment overwhelmed by a wacky sense of humor and stewing anger, and you'll wake up to a nightmarish world where the senior senator from Mass rides into the sunset as SecState and Billary is floating doomed socialized medicine schemes out of the Oval again.
    If libertarian-minded Republicans get pissed off enough, they'll start agreeing with the Democratic position that the religious conservatives are running the show. They might not vote for the Dems, but the psychological fallout will be devastating, because the Democrats know how to capitalize on it. In my view, the key to Democratic victory in the near future will be to portray the Republican Party as in the death grip of religious conservatives.

    In this way, demoralized libertarian Republicans will help the other party even if they still vote Republican. Voter psychology works that way. The American people are centrist and tend towards libertarian conservatism. (Note that more than one-third of Bush voters favored legal abortion in one form or another.) But if they think the Republican Party has been taken over by shrill Alan Keyes types, they'll simply decide they've had enough of them for awhile, and they'll vote Democrat.

    Demoralized libertarian Republicans are therefore worse for the Republican Party than are demoralized religious conservatives. Assuming demoralized religious conservatives don't sit the election out, they make the Republican Party look more reasonable and centrist with their sulking and griping. Libertarian sulking and griping, on the other hand, makes the party look far worse in the eyes of the voters.

    Now, while I admit my bias as a small "l" libertarian, I think this boils down not to what I want, but simple arithmetic. Almost math.

    And my math tells me that pissed off libertarians hurt the Republican cause much more than pissed off religious conservatives.

    How much does it really cost not to insult people, anyway?

    posted by Eric at 07:31 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    127th Carnival

    I've been busy all morning with no time for posting.

    But the 127th Carnival of the Vanities has now been posted by PunditGuy, who does an excellent job with many posts on a wide variety of subjects.

    So go read it!

    posted by Eric at 10:29 AM

    Another crazed maverick dies
    "You ever meet Christians? You wish you could shove a pipe in their mouth. Anything to shut them up."

    -- Dr. Gene Scott

    I just learned that my favorite eccentric televangelist has died:

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gene Scott, the shaggy-haired, cigar-smoking televangelist whose eccentric religious broadcasts were beamed around the world, has died, a family spokesman said. He was 75.

    Scott died Monday after suffering a stroke, said the spokesman, Robert Emmers.

    The longtime pastor of Los Angeles University Cathedral began hosting a nightly television broadcast of Bible teaching in the mid-1970s. His University Network eventually aired a nightly talk show and Sunday morning church services on radio and television stations in about 180 countries.

    Scott's church, a Protestant congregation of more than 15,000 members, raised millions of dollars through round-the-clock Internet and satellite TV broadcasts, where he would demand of viewers: ``Get on the telephone!'' to donate.

    In some of his speeches, Scott would deliver complex lectures on Biblical languages to make points about the meaning of faith. But he also spoke on current events, sometimes lacing his sermons with profanity.

    He supported the war in Iraq. ``Iraq is a threat to the world,'' he said in a 2003 speech posted on his Web site. ``So kick the hell out of 'em, George.''

    Recognizable by his mane of white hair and scruffy beard, Scott never stuck to a conventional format in his talk show. He sometimes smoked on the show and once wore glasses with eyes pasted on them.

    Unlike other televangelists, Scott's sermons did not condemn homosexuality, abortion or other hot-topic sexual issues. He argued such issues were a personal choice.

    I always enjoyed watching Gene Scott, and I'm sorry to see him go. He wasn't popular with other televangelists, though -- mainly because they hated his refusal to condemn people for their lifestyles. The following remark pretty well sums up his philosophy:
    "I don't ask you to change when you come here," he instructs the congregation. "I take you as you are, as God takes me as I am."
    Doubtless some of his critics would go so far as to maintain that Scott wasn't a "real" Christian. (Where do they get the idea that the guy they claim to be following left them in charge of the label bearing his name?)

    posted by Eric at 11:14 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    We report, you dissect?

    Ever since I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when it was published in excerpts in Rolling Stone magazine, I've always enoyed Hunter S. Thompson's stuff. I was sorry to see him go, and I especially wish he hadn't shot himself, because already his death is being spun as another indictment of evil guns.

    And Thompson is being spun as a liberal icon.

    Never mind that the guy hated iconology, resented the Trudeau cartoon of him, and above all, wasn't easy to pigeonhole. They'll pigeonhole him anyway.

    This morning I saw a perfect example (by sports columnist Phil Sheridan) which got me off my ass enough to at least crank out a blog post. Excerpt:

    But his best work was decades behind him. That may have something to do with Thompson's decision to take his own life at age 67. Maybe it was just inevitable, given his famous love of both guns and mind-altering substances.

    And then there is this possibility: Thompson has named Ernest Hemingway as one of his own idols. Hemingway also started in newspapers, also wrote about sports. Hemingway also created a persona that became bigger and more well-known than his actual work. Hemingway also got to his 60s, his best work behind him, before shooting himself.

    Just a thought.

    Between his early, long-forgotten sports writing and his recent Web column, Thompson wrote about America. He liked to talk about the dark side of the American dream, and his work often was angered or disgusted by political corruption or hypocritical enforcement of drug laws. But the anger and disgust were fueled by more than ether, bourbon and amphetamines.

    They were fueled by a belief in the American promise.

    For those of us who believed along with him, who found the trail he blazed grown over and abandoned, there is some consolation.

    Like most true originals, Thompson was a product of his time and place. There is no chance the celeb-obsessed Rolling Stone magazine of 2005 would have published the troubled and troubling work Thompson turned in back in the early '70s.

    Imagine his coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign being dissected by faceless gotcha-bloggers.

    OK stop right there! Here's one faceless blogger who is not about to dissect Thompson or his work. The guy was a great writer, and whether he was entirely accurate in all details is beside the point. His work can speak for itself.

    And instead of dissection, why not stick to reporting? Instead of imagining Hunter Thompson's coverage of the 1972 presidential campaign being "dissected by faceless gotcha-bloggers," let's try to imagine something else.

    Like, let's imagine Hunter Thompson's thoughts about Bill Clinton even being reported (much less "dissected") by at least one MSM reporter! I've seen plenty of references to what the man said about Nixon, and I have to admit, Thompson was quite adept at spotting the human dark side. It's what I like about him, for God's sake. And I don't have to agree with him to like his writing, not do I need to dissect. For starters, I have too much respect for the deceased.

    So here's the unreported, undissected Hunter Thompson on Bill Clinton: of my greatest tactical errors in politics... I don't want to go down in history or have my son read that his father endorsed Clinton two times.

    I had no idea what a treacherous bastard he really is. I'm shocked he went so low. You'd think after grappling with Richard Nixon that you would know where the low road is, ... but Clinton's treachery is really sleazy. It's his character defects. I think Clinton will prove to be one of the great fascists of our time.

    (I remember seeing the same quote in the Washington Times in the late 1990s, which was confirmed here.)

    NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: do not dissect the above!

    Thompson's words must be left exactly as-is!

    But speaking of dissection.... in light of the recent hubbub over the precise definition of "journalist," might it be worth asking whether Thompson would have survived journalistic dissection? I refer, of course, to that very pompous term I've seen tossed about by MSM journalists lately -- "credentials":

    Thompson abilities as a writer and, more importantly, as a ruthless con man were evident early in his life. He was born July 18, 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky. As a youth, he had several run-ins with the law but was regarded as brilliant by his high school English teacher. Even then he wrote in a sardonic style and constantly attacked the status quo.

    After graduating (which he did while in a jail cell, serving a six-week sentence for robbery while the rest of his fellow graduates were receiving their diplomas), Thompson enlisted in the Air Force and graduated from Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois. In 1956, he was assigned to Eglin Air Proving Ground in Pensacola, Florida. Eglin was where he first began in the field of journalism.

    When he arrived, he discovered that the base's newspaper, the Command Courier, was looking for a sports editor. Since he didn't really fit in with armed forces "lifestyle", Thompson conned his way into the position by claiming to have a journalistic background. As Thompson wrote at the time, "The people who hired me didn't bother to check too closely on my journalistic background ... I've managed to keep them in safe ignorance for about a month now."

    As a journalist, Thompson didn't need no stinking credentials.

    And those who complain about his imaginary dissection at the hands of bloggers should remember that we're all part of the same anatomy lesson . . .


    ADDITIONAL NOTE: While you're at it, I suggest reading Jeff Soyer's thoughts on Hunter Thompson's death. And via Glenn Reynolds, be sure to read Tim Blair's tribute. And, of course, James Lileks.

    My dark side will really miss Hunter Thompson. Come to think of it, so will my light side....

    posted by Eric at 08:16 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBacks (2)

    Classical splendor unearthed!

    I should have posted these last month, but when I went to California I left behind my camera's CompactFlash memory, so only just now have I stumbled across some previously unpublished photos of what can only be called neoclassical archaeological masterpieces. The following pictures were all taken at a excellent Italian restaurant Dennis discovered. Because of its decor as well as its food, I think it should be made the official Classical Values Restaurant.

    First, some amazing murals actually painted inside the men's room.

    Here's Mural One:


    And from the opposite men's room wall, Mural Two:


    And, by the front doorway, a bust of an unidentified (and somewhat stylized) Caesar directs his gaze at those who are about to eat, as well as those who have eaten and are about to leave:


    Et tu much, Brute?

    posted by Eric at 08:52 PM | Comments (4)

    Private apparatchiks?

    I'm glad to see the issue of takings of private property for private use is finally before the U.S. Supreme Court:

    In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere around the country, public officials are increasingly moving to seize property through eminent domain. The idea is to let private developers bulldoze the property and erect upscale condos, offices and shops in hopes of infusing new life into a vacant shopping center, a neighborhood or an entire town.

    Whether that's a good thing depends on whom you ask.

    Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will wade into the debate by hearing arguments in a Connecticut case that could result in one of the most significant property-rights decisions in recent history.

    It is unclear how, or whether, the decision will affect hundreds of proposed redevelopment projects in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    But public officials and property owners from the Jersey Shore to the Main Line and beyond are watching closely because the court is likely to address a crucial question: Under what circumstances should local government have the authority to take private property and give it to a private developer?

    Property owners in this region have sharply divided opinions.

    The U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment says this about the taking of property:
    Private property shall not be taken for a public use, without just compensation.
    It beats me how "public use" has been translated into private use, and I think it's another example of how the plain language of the Constitution has been twisted beyond all meaning.

    I grew up near the suburban town of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, which has a number of commercial buildings built before and after World War I. I consider them part of Ardmore's charm. They're old, but mostly pretty, and above all, they have character. They're all are occupied with thriving, relatively upscale businesses too.

    This, however, has not stopped local bureaucrats from declaring the area "blighted" -- a move towards condemning these older buildings in favor of larger, fat-cat type private developers:

    There is one "blighted" urban neighborhood where the sophisticated shopper can still find a decent cappuccino and a $6,000 hand-tailored business suit, all without ever leaving the Main Line.

    Downtown Ardmore was declared a "blighted area" under state law on Thursday night by a unanimous vote of the Lower Merion Township Planning Commission. The move put Ardmore in a league with parts of North Philadelphia and Norristown, which critics decried as absurd.

    This is the latest twist in the saga of the Ardmore Transit Center Plan, a $140 million project to transform this aging Lancaster Avenue shopping district into an urban village centered on a new R5 train station. It is designed to reverse an exodus of businesses and create pedestrian links to the Suburban Square shopping mall next door.

    Officials eschew the word blight as an antiquated legal term, preferring to call these 10 blocks of Ardmore an "area in need of revitalization." Similar areas have been declared in Jenkintown and Norristown, as well as vast swaths of Philadelphia under Mayor Street's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative.

    "You really can't avoid the word blight ," said Lower Merion planner Angela Murray. "It's in the law. People associate it with North Philadelphia, but it's actually very broad."

    Declaring an area blighted under state urban redevelopment law gives officials a leg up in the competition for state and federal redevelopment money. It also brings increased power to seize private property by eminent domain - precisely what critics fear most.

    The township's plan for Ardmore is a package of six projects creating 90,000 square feet of retail space, 150 apartments and 670 parking spaces.

    One proposal would demolish 11 buildings in the first block of East Lancaster Avenue to make way for the "Gateway Mixed-Use Development," a $40 million retail complex and parking garage.

    Though the downtown is spotted with vacant storefronts, the targeted block has no vacancies. It is home to family-run businesses, such as the Hu-Nan Chinese restaurant and Suburban Office Supply, that have been in Ardmore for as long as 70 years. Merchants and residents blistered the microphone for four hours Thursday night.

    They did it anyway, and I think it's not only an abuse of government power, but a damned shame.

    Not that my sentimental feelings about the place where I grew up should be controlling. If the private owners of these buildings decide that they'd make more money tearing them down and putting up newer buildings, well, that's their right, and like it or not, it's called progress. But why should the government step in and decide to confiscate an older building and give it to Wal Mart? Why can't the big guys just offer a fair price to the owner?

    Constitutional violations aside, something about this process would seem to invite political chicanery, if not outright corruption. Want a good deal on a piece of property? Contribute large sums of money to the right guy's campaign, and it'll be yours for a song!

    I hope the Supremes slam-dunk this thing, but there's no way to tell . . .

    UPDATE (02/22/05): Eugene Volokh links to a revealing USAToday article on the case:

    A ruling in the New London case could have "ramifications for property owners and governments across the country," says Perry, who submitted a "friend of the court" brief for a California-based libertarian group, the Reason Foundation, that sides with Kelo.

    New ground for high court

    Governments have used eminent domain for private developments in recent years — in New York City's Times Square and at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, for example. But never has the Supreme Court, faced with an appeal from property owners, agreed to resolve the question of whether property can be transferred to private developers to boost tax revenue.

    Those backing Kelo include the NAACP and AARP, which say the social harm can outweigh the public benefits when governments take property for private economic development. The groups say government efforts to lure business and spur greater revenue can disproportionately hurt the poor, the elderly and racial minorities.

    Those backing New London include the National League of Cities and the National Conference of State Legislatures. They say cities should have wide latitude to take land to boost their economies and that money generated by redevelopment can help public agencies such as police and fire units.

    With libertarian groups and the NAACP on the same side, I'm more optimistic than I was.

    Noting that the Institute for Justice is behind the case (something an omission by USAToday failed to emphasize) Eugene Volokh also links to this more through Knight-Ridder report.

    The Institute for Justice (a great organization, BTW) has a lot more here.

    posted by Eric at 10:58 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (3)

    Uncontrolled crime wave!

    Federal crime seems to be going mainstream. Illegal cell phone jammers are selling like hotcakes:

    Unsuspecting cellphone users may find themselves saying that more often now that cellphone jammers — illegal gizmos that interfere with signals and cut off reception — are selling like hotcakes on the streets of New York.

    "I bought one online, and I love it," said one jammer owner fed up with the din of dumb conversations and rock-and-roll ringtones.

    "I use it on the bus all the time. I always zap the idiots who discuss what they want from the Chinese restaurant so that everyone can hear them. Why is that necessary?"

    He added, "I can't throw the phones out the window, so this is the next best thing."

    Online jammer seller Victor McCormack said he's made "hundreds of sales" to New Yorkers.

    "The interest has gone insane in the last few years. I get all sorts of people buying them, from priests to police officers."

    I guess if everyone's doing it, it ought not to matter that according to the FCC, it's a federal crime:

    The operation of transmitters designed to jam or block wireless communications is a violation of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended ("Act"). See 47 U.S.C. Sections 301, 302a, 333. The Act prohibits any person from willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the U.S. government. 47 U.S.C. Section 333. The manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited. 47 U.S.C. Section 302a(b). Parties in violation of these provisions may be subject to the penalties set out in 47 U.S.C. Sections 501-510. Fines for a first offense can range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the U.S. government.
    Returning to the New York Post, there hasn't been one jamming-related prosecution:
    "This is not a crime that they're going after," said Rob Bernstein, deputy editor at New York City-based Sync magazine.

    He said jammers are here, and their use is multiplying.

    "Right now, there's a growing curiosity about jammers in the United States and New York," Bernstein said. "There's no better way to shut up a loudmouth on the phone, so people definitely want them and are finding ways to get them."

    One way is at a spy shop on Third Avenue, which sells medium-sized jammers out of a back room for $1,500. The sales clerk there said he had sold jammers to a 50-year-old man who bought one to use on the Long Island Rail Road, and to restaurateurs.

    One local purchaser bought a portable jammer last year, and said he likes using it at Roosevelt Field mall on Long Island.

    "One time I followed this guy around for 20 minutes," he said. "I kept zapping him and zapping him, until finally he threw the phone on the floor. I couldn't stop laughing. It was so cool."

    Jammers were first developed to help government security forces avert eavesdropping and thwart phone-triggered bombings. But by the late 1990s they were being sold to the public.

    There are suspicions that some hotel chains employ jammers to cut down on guests' cellphone use and boost in-room phone charges.

    While there's little that can be done about a busybody in a shopping center, hotels are fixed places of operation, and they'd be vulnerable to lawsuits.

    (Personally, I'm not interested in blocking other people's calls, but if you want to get in on the crime wave, you can get a cell phone jammer here.)

    UPDATE: The outlet above also sells a portable jammer which looks like a cell phone.

    posted by Eric at 07:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    If there's one thing worse than bad reporting . . .'s good reporting!

    And the latest spin on Jeff Gannon's sins is that he was apparently too good of a reporter -- because his stories (such as his amazing prediction that War In Iraq was about to begin) were always right:

    According to my source, Gannon's insider tidbits were always on the mark. "Gannon's stuff was always golden," the producer says. My source says they kept asking themself, "how does this small news outfit get this info?"

    How indeed.

    I blame Deep Throat!

    posted by Eric at 09:41 PM | Comments (5)

    When Hooking Up Is Good For You

    From Eurekalert, an observation on May-December conjunctions...

    Any older person can attest that aging muscles don't heal like young ones. But it turns out that's not the muscle's fault. A study in the Feb. 17 issue of Nature shows that it's old blood that keeps the muscles down.
    The study, led by Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, built on previous work showing that old muscles have the capacity to repair themselves but fail to do so.
    Rando and his group studied specialized cells called satellite cells, the muscle stem cells, that dot muscle tissue. These normally lie dormant but come to the rescue in response to damaged muscle-at least they do in young mice and humans.
    In older mice the satellite cells hold the same position, but are deaf to the muscle's cry for help.
    In the Nature study, Rando and his group first attached old mice to their younger lab-mates in a way that caused the two mice to share a blood supply. They then induced muscle damage only in the older mice.
    Bathed in the presence of younger blood, the old muscles healed normally. In contrast, when old mice were connected to other old mice they healed slowly.

    Sounds like something the Soviets would do, hey? Found it at "Futurepundit" via "Fight Aging".

    As Randall Parker observes, we may be dealing with a two edged sword here.

    There is a potential bright side to this report: If blood could be made young again then possibly cells thoroughout the body in many tissue types would act young again...However, there is a less optimistic interpretation to this result: The body may have evolved to produce stem cell growth suppressor compounds as the body ages in order to suppress cell divisions that could produce cancer cells. So blood that causes old stem cells to grow and repair tissue more vigorously might increase the risk of cancer.

    Clearly, we have a long slog ahead of us before we reach the proficiency level of Dr. McCoy's saltshakers.

    Less problematically, it turns out that coffee is an agent for good, on more than one level. And I just quit last year.

    What next, cigarettes and deep fried fats?

    posted by Justin at 07:33 PM | Comments (1)

    Finding a notch and filling it?

    Via Glenn Reynolds, here's a quote I am unable to resist:

    some bloggers are just self-important ranters who seem to wake up every morning convinced that the entire Free World awaits their opinions on any subject that's popped into their heads since their last fevered post.

    -- David Shaw

    Funny, but all these years I thought the above sentiment pretty well characterized news anchors or mainstream journalists. Shaw, of course, is the latter, and I find myself wondering whether he might be projecting just a little.

    Of course, news anchors and mainstream journalists typically have larger audiences than bloggers. The "entire Free World" might not await their opinions, but I think it would naturally tend to be easier for them to become deluded and let it go to their heads than it would for most bloggers. Sure, I don't doubt that there are a few bloggers suffering from delusions of grandeur, but I think your typical daily blogger does things like check his comments, links, and the omnipresent Site Meter. I don't do as good a job as I might, but I am at least aware that if I'm lucky I'll get 1000 hits a day, and from the links and comments I have a fair idea of who might be reading.

    And much as I hate to admit it, my audience does not consist of the "entire Free World." Not even a small fraction of it. I'm glad to have the readers I have, and I try to get something posted every day in the hope of keeping all of you interested. I don't know how "fevered" my posts are; often I don't feel like posting at all, but I try to treat blogging as a daily exercise. Like doing pushups or running. I have yet to see any relationship between how I feel and how well the posts are received. Sometimes I think a post is great and no one seems to like it, while other times I'll crank out something almost as an afterthought, and it will strike a nerve.

    Were I looking for the daily shot of megalomania Mr. Shaw describes, I'd have probably done better to go to journalism school.

    What most fascinates me about Shaw's analysis is the title: "The blog squad can add another notch to its belt."

    Seriously, precisely how did bloggers (either individually or as a group) bring down Eason Jordan?

    Might it be at least worth considering whether CNN -- certainly no loyal friend of the blogosphere -- might have been delighted to have Jordan resign? What if Jordan wanted to resign anyway? Why did he seem in such a hurry? The tape hadn't even been released, and if it in fact exonerated him, that would heighten my suspicions all the more.

    Interestingly enough, Shaw himself expresses puzzlement over why CNN "caved" so quickly:

    Although the official word is that Jordan's resignation was voluntary, I have to believe that the top brass at CNN, instead of rejecting his resignation, as they should have done, gave him a not-so-gentle push toward the door to defuse the increasingly nasty controversy.

    What I don't understand is why they — and he — caved in so quickly. I wish he'd asked — begged, demanded — that the organizers of the Davos forum release the videotape of his panel. I can only assume that he said what he's accused of saying and that he doesn't want those remarks in the public domain, even if they were followed by his quick backtracking.

    Blaming the blogosphere for the decision may be what Shaw thinks the "entire Free World" needs, but I hardly think it answers the questions Shaw has asked.

    UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge thinks the MSM is trying to avoid the need for introspection by shifting blame:

    Blaming others for one's misfortunes is always easier than considering whether one's own conduct may have caused them. So I expect the MSM to go right on whining about blogs, even if those of us in the blogosphere really don't have anywhere near the amount of influence we would like to think we possess. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    It should be remembered that Eason Jordan's remarks started this uproar, most of which involved bloggers simply wanting to ascertain exactly what he said (which would have been on the tape). If attempting to verify someone's remarks causes that person to resign, then either he was culpable or the resignation occurred for reasons other than those stated.

    So why did Jordan resign, anyway? Because bloggers asked him exactly what he said? Come on!

    (I'm beginning to smell an aroma.)

    AND MORE: (More CNN monkey business, that is.) In this case, CNN appears to have violated several federal firearms laws.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, some of whose readers note that the concerns may be premature.

    Gee, maybe some bloggers should ask CNN to explain the underlying facts.

    NO! Scratch that idea!

    I mean, if someone resigns after bloggers ask questions, it would be the bloggers' fault!

    Wouldn't it?

    posted by Eric at 03:22 PM | Comments (6)

    How big can a word get?

    I'm not sure whether this post is about the power of language or the language of power. Maybe it's about the language "infrastructure" itself. (God, another weasel word I hate!)

    Anyway, there's an innocuous-sounding word floating around which, because it seems to have taken on emotional (if not quasi-religious) implications, has gained more and more power. It's now reached the point where it's become impossible to ignore.

    The word is "watershed." You can now see it appearing on road signs in a variety of places, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which lets you know when you're entering and leaving a vast place called the Chesapeake Bay "Watershed":


    I do not exaggerate when I say the Chesapeake "watershed" is a vast place. All "watersheds" are vast; in fact, the entire world's land mass consists of nothing but "watersheds":

    All land is part of the watershed for some creek, stream, river or lake.

    Some watersheds are immense; others are quite small. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is an area of 64,000 square miles and includes parts of six states (Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York) and the entire District of Columbia.

    Here's a picture of the "watershed" now trumpeted by taxpayer-funded turnpike signs:


    So, a word government bureaucrats would have us regard with quasi-religious reverence actually means, well, drainage. All land is a watershed. So why dress it up with words?

    To soften the public up for more government regulations, perhaps? Take a look at these. A wide variety of land use restrictions are being promoted over a gigantic area, even going so far as to regulate how a homeowner might fertilize his lawn. They're talking about draining, all right. Draining the taxpayers.

    Interesting discussion here.

    I've read innumerable accounts of bureaucratic regulation of land use based upon claims of the existence of various "wetlands" areas, with the constitutional justification for federal restrictions based on Maritime jurisdiction -- the theory being that "wetlands" (even ordinary swamps), constitute a "federally protected waterway."

    I'm afraid even to research whether such jurisdiction might be extended from "wetlands" to "watersheds." This EPA-proffered definition is probably typical:

    A navigable waterway is typically part of a broader aquatic ecosystem which includes tributaries to that waterway, a groundwater system, adjacent wetlands, and other waters within the watershed that affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the larger system.
    I don't like being manipulated by weasel words, and I hate it when they can't be escaped -- especially when they stare me in the face as a sort of challenge. It's tough to ignore a word which clearly means all land everywhere, and strikes me as contrived to create vast power for some.

    At the expense of almost everyone?

    I think such words suck -- especially when they try to take over the world.

    posted by Eric at 12:40 PM | Comments (2)

    Developing rock solid relationships

    While on the road I received an email update from HarkonnenDog about gay penguins. It seems their homosexuality is so entrenched that zoological attempts at conversion therapy have proved useless:

    Trying to get three gay penguin couples back on the straight and narrow, zoo officials in the northern German town of Bremerhaven hoped Swedish penguin ladies would do the trick. So far, there's been no success.

    The zoo came up with the ingenious idea of trying to convert the feathered queens by flying in some exotic birds from Scandinavia. But thus far, the boys haven't exactly been fighting for a taste of the action. On the contrary, they have shown their suitors the cold shoulder.

    "The relationships were obviously too serious," zoo director Heike Kück said of the same sex penguin couples who seem to prefer sitting on stones, which serve as a replacement for the eggs they will never be able to lay, to flapping about over the evidently superfluous seductresses.

    "Feathered queens" obviously flock together. And while it's true that a stone will never hatch, they're less work than a penguin hatchling. Plus, the meddlesome bureaucrats are bad enough already with the conversion therapy. Does anyone really think they'd leave child raising to the parents?

    I think the bureaucrats ought to let them keep the stone eggs. If they must engage in anthropormorphic antics, they could always name one of them "Pebbles."

    Years ago I had a beautiful pair of albino Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) I'd raised together in the hope they'd breed. They did the mating dance, and they even laid eggs and went through the protecting rituals. Unfortunately, the "male" never fertilized the eggs, and as it turned out, I had a lesbian couple. They were completely bonded as a pair though, and had I attempted to introduce an intruder, they'd have killed him immediately. Oscars are remarkably intelligent fish, and they bond for life. These bonds are so strong that if the fish are separated, they'll often die of depression. It killed me to have to part with the lesbian Oscars (somehow that sounds like a special award), but I found a woman who agreed never to separate them. I think that whether in animals or people, bonding is as important as (if not more important than) sexuality, with the latter flowing from the former at least as often as the other way around. It makes sense, because bonding survives even when sexuality withers away from disease or old age. It begs the question of labels.

    posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (6)

    Lower is sometimes higher . . .

    I am a total failure at avoiding snow!

    In fact, by going what I thought was out of my way to avoid snow, I ran into more snow -- and more dangerous driving conditions -- than I can remember seeing during any of my numerous drives across the country.

    The drive from California was largely uneventful, and I wasn't at all concerned about winter driving until the day before yesterday when I learned of a snowstorm from Lake Erie, which was headed for much of Western Pennsylvania, particularly the Pittsburgh and PA Turnpike area. I thought it might pass, but ominously, it was snowing in Indianapolis yesterday morning, and it just got worse. By the time I reached Dayton, Ohio, snow was piling up and the blizzard was interfering with my driving. I was not about to drive north to Columbus, and then climb the horrid mountains to the PA Turnpike on Route 70 (already the subject of ice warnings). So, it occurred to me to look at a map, and I saw that if I headed south to Cincinnati I could pick up State Route 32, aka the Appalachian Highway.

    I was much relieved by the fact that Dayton seemed to be on the edge of the snow line, and just 40 miles south it was ten degrees warmer and the snow was nonexistent to harmless.

    Obviously, I thought south equals warmth. It all comes down to latitude. This thinking seemed confirmed by the beautiful scenery and serenity of the Appalachian Highway. Almost no cars, and even fewer trucks. I highly recommend the drive. I drove through Ohio Appalachian towns of Jackson, Athens, and all the way to the West Virginia border town of Parkersburg.

    In addition to being a beautiful four lane divided highway with no traffic, Route 32 has an interesting history as an actual Indian trail:

    With several slight deviations, a one-time Indian trail is now a section of the James Rhodes Appalachian Highway. Before then, the quickest route from Jackson to Athens went via McArthur -- a difference of about 30 miles by car.

    It is no accident that the most direct route from Athens to Jackson is an Indian trail. Jackson was probably the spot most visited by Indians and early settlers in all the Ohio Valley. They came for the salt, which was very important to the early development of the United States. Before more sophisticated means were devised for extracting salt from the earth, settlers relied on deposits that had already risen to the surface. Consequently, all the routes leading to Jackson went directly to the salt springs. The settlers learned the way from the Indians, who had used the spring for countless generations.

    To this day, one can view the petroglyphs (rock carvings) made by the Indians on the cliffs behind the Jackson salt spring. In the swampy area in front of the springs, Indian artifacts have been found as deep as ten feet. They include pottery, stone tools, and bone of various animals that had been used for food.

    I didn't know about the petroglyphs and I had no time to stop.

    The goal was to avoid snow, and Route 32 was clear all the way.

    Next was Route 50 from Parkersburg to Clarksburg, West Virginia. Another beautiful drive with no problems, and via Clarksburg I could connect to Interstate 79 North to Morgantown with no problem. From there, according to my map, I'd have a "straight shot" all the way to Hagerstown, Maryland on Interstate 68.

    At no point did I suspect that this "straight shot" on a "major interstate" would take me through a snow area to rival Anchorage, Alaska!

    You think I'm kidding? Route 68 runs smack through an alpine ski area in Maryland which boasts as follows:

    The general manager of the Wisp Mountain Resort and Hotel, Rolland Palmer, said that the resort opened in the mid-1950s. "It’s the only ski resort in Maryland because we have the only mountains in Maryland," he said. "We’re at 3,000 feet. We get a couple of hundred inches of snow each winter."

    Those who promote the area like to point out that the county has the highest elevation in the state and Deep Creek Lake gets heavier annual snowfall than Anchorage, Alaska.

    And here's a snow lover, bragging about the place:
    There will be a blizzard at Wisp when it is raining only 40 miles away. Somehow Wisp gets snow, and lots of it!
    They are not kidding, folks. (And ditto for the adjoining West Virginia resorts.) I was caught in a mountain blizzard with snow turning rapidly to ice in the 24 degree weather, with near-zero visibility from heavy fog, and I just had to cross my fingers and pray that I'd make it. The car slipped and skidded uphill and downhill, and people were pulling over, exiting, and I knew if I did that I'd have been stuck overnight.

    Somehow I kept going in this white-knuckled state, and all of a sudden I ended up in Cumberland Maryland -- with shockingly clear skies and not a flake of snow. From there to Hagarstown it was almost flat and completely uneventful, and from Hagarstown I headed North on 81 to the harmless remaining stretch of the PA Turnpike.

    Route 32 is highly recommended.

    Route 68 is not -- unless you're into daredevil driving. Or skiing.


    Latitude means nothing without taking into account altitude.

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (5)

    iPod is the new Pissoir

    Daniel Henninger says out with Modernism and Post-Modernism and in with respite.

    For the sake of argument, I am willing to agree that Duchamp's urinal was the most influential artwork of the past century. If this is even close to being true, we may declare the modern art movement dead.

    Why? For one reason: It is inappropriate to the age in which we live. It is time for both Modernism and Post-Modernism to go away. The 20th century is over. We don't need it anymore. We don't want it anymore.

    I find the piece a bit heavy-handed and moralisitc (tho no mo' po mo is fine by me) but it's still worth a read.

    posted by Dennis at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

    Talk about indecent ...

    The state wants to wash your dirty little mouth out with a $500k bar of soap.

    But really, who doesn't want to make "radio more suitable for family viewing?"

    posted by Dennis at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

    Sleep theories in Indianapolis

    I'm in Indianapolis and driving fatigue is starting to set in.

    This is what it all starts to look like after awhile.....


    Road gets inside you, so that sleep is clouded by moving roads and vice versa. Nor does it help much that the cops have been banging on the door to the room next door. (Obviously, this is a wrong-side-of-the-tracks motel.) I opened the door and the cop waved me away in disgust. Obviously, I don't resemble the subject, but I need to be careful with poor Puff lest he get mistaken for a heavy and shot dead by some nervous nelly rookie cop.

    Hope they don't come back, as I wanna sleep.

    posted by Eric at 11:22 PM | Comments (4)

    Late check-in from Oklahoma City

    That last post was my first ever on-the-road-while-driving post. Literal moblogging. Not a good idea safety-wise, although the traffic jam was so bad that I managed to do it about as safely as I could eat lunch. (The hardest part was getting the SIM card out of my cell phone and into the laptop.)

    Anyway, I am now in Oklahoma City, headed into what looks like bad weather. The goal is back to Philly again.

    I'm road-fatigued and don't have much to say, but I do have a few photos.

    On Sunday I drove south from Berkeley, and visited one of my father's best friends going all the way back to their undergraduate college days. Dick is 96 years old, and not only drives, but drove me to a restaurant and treated me to lunch! Lots of reminiscing; he told me I'm the last link to the college days portion of his life (my father died in 1990, and the rest of their contemporaries are long gone.) He went to a recent high school "reunion" and learned he's the only remaining member of his class, as well as the second-oldest graduate of his school.

    Anyway, here we are:


    Any of us should be so lucky to live that long and be so sharp. Dick doesn't miss a note, and keeps his brain busy reading and doing brain exercises like the daily scrambled word game in the paper.

    And finally, for the last word on life extension, here's a picture of Puff, studiously ignoring the History Channel:


    He also ignores the Weather Channel, which is what I should be watching right now.

    UPDATE: Speaking of Puff, my blogfather Jeff has honored him with this post! Puff's days are numbered, but stuff like this keeps us both alive. (Obviously, blogging extends life!)

    posted by Eric at 11:13 PM | Comments (2)





    posted by Eric at 02:09 PM | Comments (1)

    Democracy = Terrorism

    I'm almost hesitant to do this because it seems cruel, but wade through the awkward prose of this piece on tyranny and idiocy if you've the stomach.

    It's got all the makings of an undergraduate essay: politics filtered through poets (bonus points for non-Anglo-Americans), tangential connections and sweeping generalizations, poor grasp of grammar and syntax, a fiercely leftist and delusional moral message ... I thought I was reading Judith Butler for a minute there.

    But there really is an odd sort of delight in watching Syed Fattahul Alim clomp along from his patron poets fighting tyranny and fascism with all their attendant idiocy to this:

    Of late tyranny has changed its form and so also has idiocy. Tyranny is now dished out in democratic garb, while idiocy through a new brand of terrorism. And what is the dominant discourse of power? It is the discourse of democratic universal market-globalisation, which is bent on bulldozing the entire world into a global monoculture of conformity.

    Democracy is the new tyranny! Freedom is oppression! C'mon, guys! It's just not their way.

    That's not a new idea to the left, which for years has thought (in its subtly racist way) that democracy is merely a 'western' notion not to 'imposed' on people who are much more entertaining in colorful rags and exotic brands of dictatorship.

    But we have finally found in Mr. Alim the poet of our age who might speak out eloquently against democracy and terrorism which are, afterall, virtually the same (remember: democracy = oppression now):

    Cruelty or oppression and idiocy are nothing but different sides of the same coin.

    Now, I probably shouldn't be so critical of the piece. Afterall, it does appear in the Financial Express of Bangladesh. According to its About Us page,

    The Financial Express and its team are applauded by all.

    I certainly wouldn't want to make liars of them. I too hope "there will be knowledge-based society."

    posted by Dennis at 12:06 PM | Comments (10)

    Listen to the children
    ... when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees.

    Ah, the value of a non-classical education.

    posted by Dennis at 10:56 AM | Comments (9)

    Bloggers and hackers and chat rooms, oh my!

    Here's Rumsfeld on the changing realities of 21st century warfare:

    "Bloggers and hackers and chat rooms!" Rumsfeld exclaimed Saturday during a question-and-answer session with defense and security officials and experts from around the world. "E-mails and cell phones with global reach!"

    "It alters how you have to behave... it adds a level of complexity" to warfare in the 21st century.

    . . .

    "We have to recognize that this global war on terror is the first war in history that's being conducted in a world dominated by a particular set of new realities," Rumsfeld said, also listing 24-hour cable television news networks and a US Congress "that's nearly always in session" as factors that fundamentally alter global security concerns.

    "It's more a matter of culture and attitude than it is of technologies and platforms," Rumsfeld said.

    There's also the obligatory smear without link or reference ("Rumsfeld's critics -- and they are many, even within his Republican Party in the United States -- charge that ..."). But this is still the way Old Media is done, even when filtered through new media.

    posted by Dennis at 09:37 AM | Comments (3)

    Seeing Red by the Red Sea

    This is something you'd expect to read of the Religious Right on the Onion:

    Saudi Arabia's morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St Valentine's lovers in the strict Muslim kingdom.

    The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14.

    Florists say the move is part of an annual campaign by the committee -- whose members are known as "mutawwaeen" or volunteers -- to prevent Saudis marking a festival they believe flouts their austere doctrine of "Wahhabi" Islam.

    "They pass by two or three times a day to check we don't have any red flowers," said a Pakistani florist in Riyadh's smart Sulaimaniya district. "Look, no red. I've taken them all out," he said pointing to a dazzling floral collection covering every color of the rainbow except one.

    Different strokes (of the lash) for different folks?

    posted by Dennis at 09:23 AM | Comments (2)

    Almost on the road again . . .

    Posting has been light and will continue to be light for the next few days.

    Today I finished up an enormous amount of work on the house here and I am long overdue to return to the East Coast. But first I need to make a couple of stops in Southern California.

    Will try to post when I can.

    With any luck, Justin will bail out the blog!

    posted by Eric at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

    Will the tarnish even show?

    Via InstaPundit, I see that Eason Jordan has resigned.

    Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy.
    Tarnished? Considering that Jordan's predecessor Richard Kaplan was fired after another heinously anti-military story, I don't think Jordan needs to worry.

    What's tarnish on top of tarnish?


    posted by Eric at 09:43 PM | Comments (3)

    Who gets a pass?

    I want to take a closer look at Scott McClellan's extensively reported comments. His question is a good one: what is a journalist?

    In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide, to try to pick and choose who is a journalist. It gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room.
    If the president signs a bill related to labor, doubtless representatives of union and trade journals biased on the side of labor will be given White House passes. There are innumerable special-interest journals and publications, relating to countless political, academic, scientific, industrial, military, and other fields of interest, and I'm sure that whenever one of their favorite topics is on the White House agenda, they're appropriately "credentialed." Bloggers were credentialed at both the Republican and Democratic conventions.

    Journalists, it seems to me, are people who write journals. The First Amendment does not require them to be certified, licensed or tested, and I could imagine that even a child writing essays for "My Weekly Reader" might properly be issued a White House pass under the right circumstances.

    What I'd like to know is which of the following better qualifies for a White House pass:

  • a liberal journalist who hurls baseless accusations that U.S. troops targeted journalists in Iraq
  • a conservative journalist who dared to ask the president questions which liberal counterparts deemed excessively "soft," who was discovered to own "suggestively named" web sites
  • Is one more "biased" than the other?

    Which is more professional: asking soft questions or making up stories which slander the military in wartime?

    As to the ownership of suggestively named web sites, unless it relates to bias, why should journalists be disqualified for such a thing?

    Try as I might, I can't think of a reason why. (But I find myself imagining the outcry had conservatives "outed" a liberal journalist for the same thing.)

    UPDATE: If I'm reading him correctly, Atrios is upset because Guckert had not been writing under his real name.

    Not sure why that would matter to Atrios....

    posted by Eric at 12:51 PM | Comments (10)

    I lived

    According to a recent medical study, broken hearts can kill:

    Confirming the wisdom of the poets and philosophers, doctors say the sudden death of a loved one really can cause a broken heart.

    In fact, they have dubbed the condition "broken heart syndrome."

    In a study published just in time for Valentine's Day, doctors reported how a tragic or shocking event can stun the heart and produce classic heart attack-like symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath and fluid in the lungs.

    Unlike a heart attack, the condition is reversible.

    Death, of course, is not reversible. Successive AIDS deaths (of my best friend, ex lover, nearly all of my extended circle of tenants in apartment buildings I had owned with lovers) caught up with me, and the whole thing finally came to a head in 1993. Foreclosures, bankruptcy, business failure, and a constant, all-encompassing desire to die.

    It is no understatement to say that 1993 is a year for the most part I don't remember. It's horrifying to see proof that I was alive in the form of written documents, notes, photographs taken of me, and even art -- none of which evoke any memories whatsoever. I decided that year that I didn't want to live any more, but because I still had the responsibility of taking care of a lover who hadn't died yet, I'd wait for him to die before killing myself. Meanwhile, I drank all the time, except when I would sleep. On awakening, though, I needed a couple of shots of vodka with Rose's Lime Juice--just to wake up. (Not that I wanted to wake up, but it would just unfortunately happen.)

    One of my best friends came to see me around Christmas of 1993, and concluded that I was "gone." He was right. I was gone; and I was tired of waiting. (I have a fuzzy memory of seeing him that Christmas, but that's it.)

    Anyway, the above article reminded me of 1993. It's a painful subject, even now.

    But yes, the doctors are right about the broken heart condition being reversible -- even in extreme cases like mine.

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (3)

    Natural Curiosity

    Just how long can a whale live? And how does one find out?
    You can't just saw one in half and count the rings. That would be wrong.

    I suppose you could get all scientific-like and measure chemical changes in the eye, or something.

    Or, you could try and date the beast by the hundred and twenty year old ivory and stone harpoon tips buried in its blubber.

    As Reason at "Fight Aging" remarks, it's "Fascinating stuff"...

    In studies that could rewrite biology textbooks and establish whales as the longest-lived mammals on Earth, scientists in Alaska and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla have estimated the ages of three bowhead whales killed by Inupiat Eskimos in northern Alaska at 135 to 172 years. At the time it was killed, a fourth bowhead whale was believed to be a stunning 211 years old, the researchers concluded.

    And no less fascinating is where he found the Wheesht! Faith and the Saints preserve us!

    Excerpt follows...

    Bowhead whales have been shown to be over two hundred years old by independent dating methods: amino acid racemization in the eye lens, and old stone harpoon heads embedded in the whales. A good introductory article on Bowhead lifespan is archived at:
    Bowheads are big mammals. In fact they’re really big; they’re the third most massive of the whales. This makes their longevity extremely significant. All multicellular species have the problem of controlling cancer. The chance of a cell mutating into a cancer is proportional to the number of cells times the lifespan of the organism. So humans have more than a hundred thousand times the cancer-control capacity of a mouse. (And mice are really lousy cancer lab animals.) But Bowheads have to have a thousand times better cancer control than humans (five hundred times our weight times twice the lifespan). In the Bowhead, Nature has already proved that a body can be built that is a thousand times less susceptible to cancer than ours. An organism the size of a human being, using some Bowhead genes, might be able to live longer than recorded history.

    I think this calls for a Whale Genome Project, stat. Those big boys won't be around forever y'know.

    I have to admit I'm a bit floored by all this. Toothed whales have real class, but baleen whales? I've always regarded them as the moral equivalent of cows.

    Gigantic, yodeling, seafaring cows, with no legs, but cows nonetheless.

    And now this. It keeps a man humble.

    posted by Justin at 07:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    The Limits Of Rapport

    Rand Simberg asks an interesting question.

    Would Bill Clinton have survived the blogosphere?

    Well now, Bill had a certain, shall we say, rapport with the MSM. But as Mr. Simberg helpfully points out, Kerry had it too...

    Despite Evan Thomas' estimate that MSM support was worth fifteen points in the election, the MSM failed in their efforts to drag the rotting carcass of the Kerry presidential campaign across the goal line last November (in part, I suspect, because of the huge blowback from some of their more egregious attempts to do so, including Rathergate in particular).
    I actually still think that it's possible that they got their fifteen percent, which means that had the media played it straight down the line (e.g., actually investigating the Swift Boat controversy, and demanding that Kerry sign the Form 180 before the election, instead of afterward), it would have been a true fifty-state Bush blowout....

    Surely not California or Massachusetts? But still, I think he's on the right track.
    You should read the whole thing, but if you're link averse, here are a few more paragraphs.

    How much of the spin in Whitewater, Filegate (who hired Craig Livingstone?), the Travel Office firings (a serious abuse of power), the Foster "suicide note" (indeed, the mystery of his "suicide" altogether), the Ron Brown death, the Indonesian connection, the Chinese campaign donations, et al would have been chewed up and spit out by a vigorously masticating network of highly read blogs?
    As it was, the major news outlets were simply White House stenographers, and the only place one could get an alternative viewpoint was from so-called right-wing publications, like the Washington Times and Insight Magazine, and the Pittsburgh paper where Chris Ruddy worked. So rather than having access to all the facts in these scandals, and thoughtful analysis and dissection of the White House spin, the public, absurdly, actually believed that the media was picking on Bill Clinton when it was in fact his greatest enabler.

    There was also right wing radio of course, but in support of Mr. Simberg's argument, that was a medium with limitations the blogosphere lacks. It was temporally circumscribed, and very much driven by immediacy. If you missed a show in 1996, it was no easy thing to get a tape or transcript. Nor were internet radio archives widely available.

    Blogs have archives, and staying power, and can be accessed at the reader's convenience. Best of all, blogs don't need advertising revenue to stay on the air.

    It would be very interesting to go back and analyze the myriad wrongdoings of the Clinton administration, of which it was only held to account for a few (and even then, with the equivalent of a quickly forgotten slap on the wrist), and try to imagine how the blogosphere (indeed, specific blogs, such as Hugh Hewitt, Instapundit, Powerline, or even a pre-911 Roger Simon (after all, there were some Democrats who got fed up with Bill Clinton, and the breezy acceptance (and spinning denial) of his corruption, such as Pat Caddell, and David Schippers), et al) might have prevented the master politician from being elected once, let alone twice. Could their voices have made a difference?

    I guess we'll all find out.

    posted by Justin at 06:34 PM | Comments (4)

    Less than a shilling . . .

    Is Glenn Reynolds shilling for Phil Bredesen (by writing favorably about him in the Wall Street Journal)?

    Under the circumstances, I hope so. Consider the following from the National Review's Jim Geraghty:

    Phil Bredesen is a Democrat who has won in the South, obviously. By 2008, will Democrats be seriously seeking a member of their party who has demonstrated an ability to win in a red state? Of course, he faces reelection in 2006.

    Would any Democrat be devious enough to help Hillary by running a primary challenge against him?

    I'd say Bredesen needs all the shillings he can get!

    (It might not be a shilling, or even a farthing, but it's my two cents worth.)

    posted by Eric at 01:13 PM | Comments (2)

    Old Memories

    A brief post on bilious young fogey has led me to Vietpundit. This post in particular struck a nerve.

    John Moore, in an email to me, wrote that "It is amazing to me that you don't harbor resentment of the US, because we betrayed you, costing your family horribly." Old Patriot, in a comment below, said that "As a Vietnam veteran, I'm always embarrassed when I meet a Vietnamese -- we (the United States) failed your nation and your people so badly." It breaks my heart to hear such sentiments. Please, please, do not feel like that. How can I possibly harbor resentment toward America when she has produced good and honorable men such as those two? And America did not betray South Vietnam; some Americans did. Millions of Americans served in a noble cause to save South Vietnam, including more than 58,000 who made the ultimate sacrifice. How can we Vietnamese ever repay those debts?
    Not only that, America gave millions of Vietnamese refugees and immigrants a second life, literally. As I mentioned before, I came here as a penniless refugee, but now have a good job, a nice house, and most important of all, I have complete freedom. I now live a typical middle-class life. A rather ordinary life. Except that it's not ordinary at all. It's a miracle, thanks to America. I, like countless other Vietnamese, hit the jackpot in the lottery of life. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people perished in the South China Sea for a chance at the "simple" life that I have.

    I'm genuinely touched. My father spent a year in Vietnam, before things got really bad. It was a fairly mundane assignment, not very dangerous at all, but he met lots of people there, and he liked them.

    He told me that the Vietnamese he knew deserved much better than they got. "We let a lot of people down." He will enjoy reading this.

    posted by Justin at 10:20 PM | Comments (3)


    Glenn Reynolds has taken a bit of abuse from time to time regarding his fascination with nanotech. And not just from Mark Modzelewski. I've read comments on other blogs indicating that some of his most loyal readers find that aspect of his interests, well, unreadable. The more fools they. Some of the things that drew me to his blog in the first place were his interests in nanotech, stem cell research, and mocking Leon Kass.

    Had enough of nanotech? Too bad. Too much is never enough, and if you agree with me you should check out "Soft Machines", an excellent nanotechnology blog run by Richard Jones, a physics professor at the University of Sheffield.

    Dr. Jones is not a Drexlerian, but he is fair and open minded, which is worth a lot. If you have no interest in diamondoid synthesis, you should probably stop right here...

    Will it be possible to make functional machines and devices that operate on the level of single molecules?
    Yes. As pointed out by Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation, Nature, in cell biology, gives us many examples of sophisticated machines that operate on the nanoscale to synthesise new molecules with great precision, to process information and to convert energy...
    Do the proposals set out in Drexler’s book Nanosystems offer the only way to achieve such a radical nanotechnology?
    Obviously not, since cell biology constitutes one radical nanotechnology that is quite different in its design principles to the scaled-down mechanical engineering that underlies Drexler’s vision of “molecular nanotechnology"... Undoubtedly other approaches to radical nanotechnology that have not yet been conceived could work too.
    Does Nanosystems contain obvious errors that can quickly be shown to invalidate it?
    No. It’s a carefully written book that reflects well the state of science in relevant fields at the time of writing. Drexler’s proposals for radical nanotechnology do not obviously break physical laws. There are difficulties, many cases, Drexler used the best tools available at the time of writing...Since then, though, nanoscale science has considerably advanced and in some places the picture needs to be revised...many proposals in Nanosystems are not fully worked out, and many vital components and mechanisms remain at the level of “black boxes".
    How easy will it be to implement the vision of diamondoid-based nanotechnology outlined in Nanosystems?
    The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology writes “A fabricator within a decade is plausible— maybe even sooner". I think this timeline would be highly implausible even if all the underlying science was under control, and all that remained was the development of the technology. But the necessary science is very far from being understood...
    Will the advantages of the diamondoid-based nanotechnology outlined in Nanosystems be so great as to make it worth persisting to overcome these difficulties, whatever the cost?
    This depends what you want to use the technology for. Much of the emphasis from proponents of MNT is on using the technology to manufacture artefacts. But arguably the impacts of nanotechnology will be much more important and far-reaching in areas like information processing, energy storage and transduction, and medicine, where the benefits of diamond as a structural material will be much less relevant...
    If the diamondoid-based nanotechnology proposed in Nanosystems proves to be impossible or impractical to implement, does that mean that nanotechnology will have only marginal impacts on the economy and society?
    Not necessarily...Even if Drexler is wrong, nanotechnology will have far-reaching impacts...

    Full disclosure. I cherrypicked the above quotes and trimmed to fit. Doubtless, you'll want to dive right in and read the whole thing, bypassing my gatekeeper's agenda. Feel free. If you've gotten this far, you will probably also enjoy this and this. I regret to say, some pdf is present.

    posted by Justin at 07:33 PM | Comments (6)

    Say it's not McCarthyism!

    Here's another reminder (via InstaPundit) that gay conservatives will not be tolerated.

    A White House Press Correspondent named Jeff Gannon has been forced to resign because lefty bloggers discovered he was gay and outed him. While I don't approve of outing, this just shows that if you have (or have ever had) the slightest homosexual inclinations, you can forget about ever being in the closet if you have the slightest interest in public life.

    Ipod blogger Charlie Quidnunc notes the irony

    So much for Mr. Gannon. Who will step up next to face the liberal press corp and the scorched earth militant lefty bloggers? Any other brave blogging souls on the right willing to put up with the intense media and blogospheric scrutiny and ask for a press pass? Daily Kos would love to rip you a new one.
    I suppose if someone who refused to be shamed -- like Pym Fortuyn -- came along, Daily Kos would have trouble ripping him a new one.

    What is to be done with those who will not be shamed?

    This whole affair is puzzling to me. What's in a "press credential," anyway? According to this organization (link here) it ought to mean having to answer detailed questions about one's background. Homosexuality aside, I'm wondering about this sudden need to do background checks on people who might ask the president a question. Are they only investigating conservatives?

    Or have they all been subjected to this same level of scrutiny?

    I sure hope no one is calling for official licensing -- or blogs may be next!

    MORE: Brainster's Blog doesn't think this has anything to do with "exposing hypocrisy":

    What it's really about? The liberals like to claim that it's hypocrisy, but you know how that goes; if you're a liberal gay journalist people would be horrified at the notion of "outing" you to the world like this, but if you're a conservative gay journalist it's quite alright. This is not about gay or straight, this is about liberal or conservative.

    And who are they fired up about being gay? No offense to Mr Gannon, but he's a nobody. Hey, so am I for that matter. So if you're a little guy, and you're gay, and you're conservative... well, according to the tolerant left, you're fair game. And not only that, but worthy of being swarmed by the biggest bloggers on the left for signs of homosexuality.

    (Via InstaPundit)

    No more closets? not even for the little guys?


    Witch-hunts for gay conservatives? Background checks looking for smear material?

    I'd say it's a case of too much Joe McCarthy on the brain . . .

    UPDATE: Reflecting on his predicament, Jeff Gannon himself poses a rather interesting question:

    The story isn't me, the story is that it doesn't seem that there is room for a single conservative in the White House press corps.
    Good question. (I'm assuming he doesn't mean "single" in the marital sense, of course . . .)

    UPDATE: GayPatriot asks why the background of an underling like Gannon is considered more newsworthy than Eason Jordan's maligning of troops in wartime.

    UPDATE: While the facts involving "credentialing" are a bit confusing, it appears that Gannon was never issued a full "hard pass" White House credential, but had to obtain a "daily pass," because his employer (Talon News) was unable to first obtain the requisite Capitol Hill pass:

    Gannon's credibility was first called into question last spring by The Standing Committee of Correspondents, a group of congressional reporters who oversee press credential distribution on Capitol Hill. Julie Davis, a reporter at The Sun of Baltimore and a member of that committee, said Gannon approached the group in April 2004 seeking a Capitol Hill credential for Talon News, but he was refused.

    "We asked for evidence that they were an independent news organization," Davis told E&P. "That they were not connected to a political organization, and they could not provide that, so we denied them their credential." She also said Talon News could not prove it carried paid advertising or paid circulation, two other criteria for approval.

    Because Talon did not receive a congressional press credential, it was unable to obtain a White House "hard pass," the permanent press credential that allows White House reporters regular access, Davis said. Instead, she said, Gannon has had to get a daily press credential, which is much easier to get but must be issued each day.

    The White House Press Office has not responded to several requests for information on Gannon's credential status or why he is given daily press passes.

    When asked about being denied a Capitol Hill credential, Gannon told E&P, "I understand their criteria, and I can see where their questions weren't fully answered. But I think their rules do not reflect the reality of a changing media."

    At this point I'm not sure I know what the rules are, much less what they "reflect."

    MORE: Some of the leftist blogs (like this) have devoted enormous energy to what strikes me as a rather boring sex scandal (if it's even that). Beats me what the fuss is about. If the guy is gay, so what? Stated concerns about "potential male prostitution" (based on web site names like seem strained, unconvincing, and a tad sanctimonious. Are these liberal bloggers really as shocked as they pretend? It reminds me of Jimmy Swaggart's act.

    As to the charge of hypocrisy. . . Please. Spare me.

    UPDATE (02/10/05): Power Line's John Hinderaker of Power Line doesn't see what the fuss is about any more than I do:

    I still don't get it. Gannon has been attacked for not being a "real" journalist--as compared to whom, Helen Thomas? He called himself a "voice of the new media" on his web site, and it seems passing strange to me for bloggers to suggest that only journalism school graduates are qualified to ask questions at press briefings. As far as I can tell, the only thing that distinguished Gannon from the other reporters is that he is a partisan conservative, whereas they are nearly all partisan liberals.
    Interesting that the only people complaining about the man's apparent homosexuality seem to be on the left....

    UPDATE (02/11/05): Drudge now links to the same quote from Scott McClellan which Power Line linked yesterday:

    "[Gannon/Guckert], like anyone else, showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly and so he was cleared two years ago to receive daily passes just like many others are," McClellan said. "In this day and age, when you have a changing media, it's not an easy issue to decide, to try to pick and choose who is a journalist. It gets into the issue of advocacy journalism. Where do you draw the line? There are a number of people who cross that line in the briefing room."

    He said he had been was unaware of Guckert's affiliation with any sexually suggestive domain addresses.

    Since when is there an "official" definition of "journalist?"

    (Surely they're not thinking of licensing. . . )

    posted by Eric at 05:37 PM | Comments (3)

    Art of Anti-war Anti-art?

    It never ceases to amaze me how many times the same idea will strike more than one person, and now I see that the same principle applies to photography.

    I've previously mentioned that anti-Bush sentiment reaches psychotic proportions around here, and yesterday I happened upon one particularly despicable "political" sign pasted onto a mural on San Francisco's Market Street. (Sorry about the quality, but all I had was my cell phone.)


    Now I see that someone has already photographed and posted the same sign. It's obviously been there for some time, because the newspaper background is eroding away. But it's definitely the same sign, as the cracking and paint are identical to the mural.

    Somewhere in my unconscious, this must have resonated with my thoughts about the control and defense of "art." What's the art here? The mural? Or the "political" sign on the mural? Is is defacing art to deface the defacement?

    (Perhaps someone should replace the word "BUSH" with the word "ART.")

    posted by Eric at 04:06 PM | Comments (1)

    The whole world wuvs you now!

    I see that the film "Team America" has finally upset North Korea's Kim Jong-Il:

    The caricature of North Korea's "Dear Leader", Kim Jong-Il, in the film, "Team America: World Police," is striking a discordant note among North Korean officials, and probably their supreme leader himself, despite his well-known love for private viewings of foreign movies.

    Word from Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is that the North Korean embassy there is asking the government to ban the film, the creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame.

    The Czech Foreign Ministry, however, said the North Koreans had been rebuffed in their effort to undermine the Czech Republic's post-Communist era freedom. The film shows marionettes attempting to stop Kim Jong-Il from destroying cities around the globe.

    A Czech newspaper, Lidove Noviny, reports that a North Korean diplomat complained that the film "harms the image of our country." He was even quoted as saying, "Such behavior is not part of our country's political culture."

    I enjoyed the film, and actually, I don't think any other film has come quite as close to making the "wonewee" Kim Jong-Il lovable. (Or would that be "wuvvable?")

    Isn't he cute?


    So why is he compwaining?

    posted by Eric at 03:28 PM | Comments (3)

    Lead us not into temptation . . .

    Have meddlesome humans started an Exodus movement for gay penguins?

    Or is it a sexodus movement?

    I don't know what to call it, but via Glenn Reynolds' link to this Reason article, I found yet another wicked attempt by mad scientists to interfere with nature:

    A German zoo has imported four female penguins from Sweden in an effort to tempt its gay penguins to go straight.

    The four Swedish females were dispatched to the Bremerhaven Zoo in Bremen after it was found that three of the zoo's five penguin pairs were homosexual.

    Keepers at the zoo ordered DNA tests to be carried out on the penguins after they had been mating for years without producing any chicks.

    It was only then they realised that six of the birds were living in homosexual partnerships.

    Director Heike Kueck said that the zoo hoped to see some baby penguins in the coming months.

    She said that the birds had been mating for years and one couple even adopted a stone that they protected like an egg.

    Kueck said that the project has the support of the European Endangered Species Programme because the penguins, which are native to South America, are an endangered species.

    A biologist will be on hand to monitor the experiment.

    But introducing the Bremerhaven penguins to their new Swedish friends may not be as successful as hoped after earlier experiments revealed great difficulties in separating homosexual couples.

    While gay penguins (as well as reparative therapy for homosexuality) are not new topics in this blog, I'm wondering why there's no hue and cry about this blatant anthropomorphic interventionism.

    Aren't these Euroscientists mocking the laws of nature and of nature's god?

    What would Leon Kass say?

    UPDATE: It's probably worth pointing out that in my previous post on the subject, I neglected to provide a link to Bruce Bagemihl's Biological Exuberance. From the Amazon description:

    Bagemihl begins with an overview of same-sex activity in animals, carefully defining courtship patterns, affectionate behaviors, sexual techniques, mating and pair-bonding, and same-sex parenting. He firmly dispels the prevailing notion that homosexuality is uniquely human and only occurs in "unnatural" circumstances. As far as the nature-versus-nurture argument--it's obviously both, he concludes. An overview of biologists' discomfort with their own observations of animal homosexuality over 200 years would be truly hilarious if it didn't reflect a tendency of humans (and only humans) to respond with aggression and hostility to same-sex behavior in our own species. In fact, Bagemihl reports, scientists have sometimes been afraid to report their observations for fear of recrimination from a hidebound (and homophobic) academia.
    It's published by Stonewall Inn Editions. Damn! I'd been hoping it would be a Penguin Classic.....

    posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (7)

    A Wily 125th Carnival

    The 125th Carnival of the Vanities is now posted at Coyote Blog.

    Warren Meyer (who got his blog name from Wile E. Coyote) does a great job of editing the posts, and they're grouped by category -- making it easier to find the ones to your liking.

    So go read them.

    posted by Eric at 11:21 AM

    Defense adds wealth --even to junk!

    The other day I described the Albany Waterfront Park as "uncontrolled" and "undefended". There's a certain innocence in uncontrolled and undefended things, but in light of General MacArthur's maxim that "undefended wealth" is the most frequent cause of war, I'm now wondering about the relationship between control and defense.

    In one sense, to defend is to control, for how can one defend anything unless one exerts control over it? Especially considering that an attack on a thing (or a person) is a more odious form of control than its defense, an attack -- by provoking a defense -- tends to necessarily render whatever is attacked subject to more controls than before the attack. This is true regardless of whether the attack is successful, for if the defense succeeds, the defender has exerted control which is likely to stay in place, if for no other reason to prevent more attacks.

    Thus, I see a certain innocence in something which has never been defended, as the defense defines and limits it.

    Returning to the example of anarchic art in the Albany park, people are now organizing to get rid of it -- because it's not "official" art, and it's made by freelance artists from discarded construction rubble and other contents of the landfill. These attackers (mostly government bureaucrats) want what they call "art" (always in quotations) removed.

    Obviously, this leads people on the other side to defend the art (or whatever you might call it). But to defend it is to define it, and to define it is to limit it. Which is why I'd prefer it not be defended, nor attacked. I wish they'd just let it live in its anarchic, naturally broken state. Otherwise, some committee of bureaucrats will be formed, rules for protection and creation of art established, and the whole thing turned into a politically correct mess.

    What this has to do with blogging I am not sure. I am sure that I don't like rules. No one can make me follow rules here. And there are no enforceable rules that I know of.

    Not so far, at least!

    Sure, MSM types are quick to claim bloggers are "biased," but there aren't any rules against bias. I guess some have argued that bias should be disclosed, but I think that bias is disclosed by the writer by his own arguments and opinions.

    Art (and writing is a form of art) is inherently biased. And so what? It has a point of view. People who don't like it can ignore it, criticize it, or create their own. They can even attack it or try to smash it. (In the case of the blogosphere, this can take the form of DDOS attacks.) But they can't sic the government on blogs; not in this country.

    Nor can they take away the raw materials, like old news.

    Bloggers weren't around in 1997 when Eason Jordan's predecessor Richard Kaplan presided over CNN's disgraceful "Operation Tailwind" anti-military smear. This enabled Kaplan to be "fired," replaced by Jordan, and kicked upstairs to the presidency of MSNBC without much reaction in the infant blogosphere. CNN can't do that now, and their pattern of attacks on the U.S.military is being exposed as it never could have before.

    All they can do is stonewall and I guess if that fails, attack the bloggers. But there are too many bloggers, and the attacks strengthen them.

    Can the blogosphere possibly be seen as a form of undefended wealth? Possibly, but I think it's too spread out.

    Art on landfill junk is more vulnerable than the blogosphere because the land and the junk are owned by the government. The blogosphere is owned by no one, and the junk supplying their media is free and largely incapable of regulation.

    Blogging about junk is giving me the junk blues. . .

    Try regulating this!


    And if that doesn't work, at least force somebody to defend it!

    posted by Eric at 09:14 PM | Comments (3)

    Be glad you can't hear me!

    Probably because it's so much warmer than the East Coast, I've been working outside without wearing warm enough clothes, so I caught something (so, it seems, has everyone else around here) and now I'm stuck with a disabling cough. While there are cough "remedies" like Dextromethorphan, the symptoms are worse than the disease.

    Anyway, what Glenn Reynolds said about the flu applies to me right now:

    hacking, coughing and looking miserable.

    It's February.

    Yuck! But I'm glad I'm still in California for the next few days.

    And my experience tells me that Februarys never last . . .

    posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (3)

    More murder is less!

    Bill Barnes, described as the principal architect (via Jeff Soyer) of the proposed ordinance to ban handguns in San Francisco, is a man destined to go far in politics. Consider this dazzling display of statistical talent in his discussion of the District of Columbia gun ban in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

    Meaningful gun reform is one part of making communities safer. New investments in education, community development, and jobs are also needed to provide real alternatives to violence. Nevertheless, fewer handguns in the flow of commerce will make it more difficult to obtain one. A community conversation about the violence caused by handguns will lift our city up, as neighbors talk to one another about strategies to increase the peace in our neighborhoods.

    More than 20 years ago, the District of Columbia enacted a similar handgun ban and is on its way to a 20-year low of homicides. Yet Republicans in Washington are working to repeal the law. (Emphasis supplied.)

    Once you get past the "community conversation," be sure to read and parse what follows very carefully, and keep a close eye on the moving number "20." Note the clever way "20-year low" (which is not there yet, but is "on its way') follows "more than 20 years ago." That's the sort of manipulation that experienced store owners (conned one time too many into refunding too much change) would spot, but I'm afraid most Bay Areans -- especially those who agree with the gun ban -- missed it.

    While I'm sure very few of San Francisco's gullible read this blog, I do think it's fair to point out that "more than 20-years ago" means 1976! (That's almost thirty years ago!)

    What Mr. Barnes does not tell you is that the murder rate had been dropping before the ban. And in the time period since the ban, the District's murder rate and robbery rate have gone up, and, with the exception of one year, remained consistently higher:

    ....with a murder rate of 46 per 100,000 people in 2002, the District easily holds the title of the U.S. murder capital among cities with over 500,000 people. This was not even close to being the case prior to the ban.

    Crime rose significantly after the gun ban went into effect. In the five years before Washington's ban in 1976, the murder rate fell from 37 to 27 per 100,000. In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose back up to 35. During this same time, robberies fell from 1,514 to 1,003 per 100,000 and then rose by over 63 percent, up to 1,635. The five-year trends are not some aberration. In fact, while murder rates have varied over time, during the almost 30 years since the ban, the murder rate has only once fallen below what it was in 1976.

    So actually, DC gun ban statistics are a persuasive argument against the San Francisco ordinance; not the other way around. (As recently as 2002, Washington earned the title of "the Nation's Murder Capital.")

    I have to admit, Barnes has balls. Not every political strategist can turn an argument against something into an argument for it.

    Of course, as Michael Bellesiles proved, it works better if you simply falsify the data.

    Perhaps Mr. Barnes should go into History.

    posted by Eric at 03:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (3)

    Award winning depravity?

    Would I buy a used car from this man?


    That's Eason Jordan, the guy whose World Economic Forum remarks (that U.S. troops targeted journalists in Iraq) have generated a feeding frenzy in the blogosphere. Not only were his remarks unsubstantiated, but as of today, CNN is stonewalling the blogosphere by refusing to release them. Eventually, they'll have no choice, as stonewalling only heightens the sense of guilt.

    After all these years, you'd think they'd have learned the most important political maxim to come along in the last four decades: the coverup is worse than the crime!

    But then, perhaps it should be remembered that coverup is a trademark of Eason. From Austin Bay:

    CNN has a corporate skeleton rattling in its closet, and the skeleton involves Jordan. It also involves a deal with a local ruling class—in this case, Saddam Hussein and his pals.

    This is no allegation. Jordan wrote an essay for the NY Times admitting his network regularly withheld information about Saddam’s evil regime– because that’s what it took to keep the bureau open. (Here’s a link to the abstract of Jordans’ The News We Kept to Ourselves which ran in the NY Times on April 11, 2003. The abstract doesn’t do justice to the depravity of Jordan’s op-ed.)

    I suspect we do not have all the facts on the CNN-Saddam deal, and in my view another major news organization should have investigated CNN’s admission. (If one did and I missed it, email me with a link.) Perhaps one of Baghdad’s new newspapers will take on that challenge, which would be deliciously ironic.

    (Link via La Shawn Barber, who has plenty more.)

    By any standard, Jordan's deliberate withholding of information about Saddam Hussein constitutes depravity. But obviously, there were no consequences to it. Media coverups are old news.

    Not only I am not surprised that Jordan would do it again, I'd have been surprised if he hadn't. But that's why the blogosphere is such a dire threat. For decades, the media has been immune to the coverup rule --and bad reporting, false reporting, and non-reporting have all been allowed to go unchallenged.

    They forget that bloggers don't forget. Bloggers are doing to the old media what the old media once thought it had the exclusive right to do: checking the facts and (as the expression goes) "speaking truth to power."

    CNN must hate the fact that thanks to the Internet, its reporting offenses can be Googled, listed and enumerated -- long after the general public (with its short political memory) can be assumed to have forgotten.

    Or long after a disgraced reporter has moved up to another position at another network!

    Here's a typical example, culled at random. (I don't have to do this, and there are many more, but this will do.)

    Former CNN President Richard Kaplan has been named president of MSNBC, NBC News' 24-hour cable channel. Kaplan replaces Erik Sorenson, who has been general manager of MSNBC since August 1998. ... Kaplan was most recently a senior vice president at ABC News. But from 1997 to 2000, Kaplan served as president of Atlanta-based CNN-US and was responsible for all news and programming at the flagship network of the CNN News Group. He was fired in 2000 after the network's reporting on "Operation Tailwind," a 1998 program charging that U.S. troops gassed dissidents and children in Laos during the Vietnam War, was discredited. He has also been criticized for his relationship with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Prior to his most recent tenure at ABC News, Kaplan was a teaching fellow at the Shorenstein Center of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He currently serves as an adjunct Fellow and continues to consult and lecture at the Shorenstein Center and is a professor at the University of Illinois. Kaplan has received numerous awards for his work, including 34 Emmy Awards, four Oversees Press Club Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, two George Polk Awards, four Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards and 12 Headliner Awards.

    (Via Sandhill Trek.)

    Notice the usual distinguished awards?

    Can we expect any less for Mr. Jordan?

    AFTERTHOUGHT: It's probably worth pointing out that Richard Kaplan was Eason Jordan's predecessor. Coincidence, of course. (Unless one imputes order to such games of musical chairs....)

    UPDATE (02/11/05): The Eason Jordan story can no longer be ignored, and here's a good account of why. (In the old days, CNN's stonewalling might have worked.)

    As I've said many times, Watergate would have been very different had the blogosphere existed.

    posted by Eric at 03:35 PM | Comments (3)

    More local color

    A couple of more photos taken at my local beach, the Albany Waterfront Park.

    Here's tonight's sunset:


    And here's some art in the ruins:


    So far, it remains wild, uncontrolled, undefended.

    posted by Eric at 01:38 AM | Comments (2)

    Avoiding Sunday aimlessness . . .

    Speaking of triangulation, this morning I went to the shooting range with a group of friends. My shooting skills are always in need of improvement, and I felt especially inaccurate today, because I was firing a .380 Walther PPK/S, a concealable semi-automatic pistol with a nasty little kick (from which my hand is still sore). At 25 yards, I was at first lucky to hit the target at all, but after some adjusting and refamiliarization fire with the little monster, I improved -- to the point of actually getting one shot into the bullseye.

    Here I am, being humbled by the target:


    And here's a group shot with my friends (one of whom brought along an incredibly cool Civil War style black powder revolver).


    What? You thought I was gonna stay home and watch the Superbowl?

    posted by Eric at 05:14 PM | Comments (11)

    Out-triangulating Dick Morris?

    According to John Leo, the likely 2008 Democratic presidential nominee is religious, wants to seal the borders, and now speaks in favor of abstinence.

    (Ask Michael Moore about makeovers.)

    The bottom line, of course, is whatever it takes to win. Socialism with a human face is still socialism, though.

    posted by Eric at 03:54 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (1)

    Narrow minded, naturally

    Here's another example of what happens when environmentalists run cities: perfectly good roads are deliberately ruined:

    Many astounded Berkeley residents pleaded with City Council members Tuesday, asking them not to interfere with Marin Avenue, slated for reconfiguration of lanes in Albany and proposed for the same in Berkeley. But an equal number applauded the city for attempting to make a safer and quieter street out of this four-lane roadway.

    After listening to more than 40 residents speak their minds, the city put off the decision until next week. But the hearing raised issues ranging from credibility of studies that spawned it to the rights of Marin Street residents.

    The street, which feeds directly into I-80 and stretches all the way to Grizzly Peak Boulevard atop the Berkeley hills, serves the double purpose of a major traffic artery and a residential street. Facing the city is a decision whether to reconfigure the Berkeley section of Marin Avenue from four lanes to three, one of which would be designated as a turn lane only. The reconfiguration would include bicycle lanes in both directions.

    Speaking in favor of the project were many Marin area residents who wanted a safer street to live on: to walk their children to school, to cross the street, and to bicycle down. Against the project were neighbors who feared an overflow of traffic into their neighborhoods and hills residents who wanted to retain good freeway access and did not want the city to tamper with a street that worked well for them.

    "Are we going to turn all four-lane streets into two-lane streets?" asked Berkeley hills resident Paul Winsberg. "The reason I bought a house in the hills was because there was good access on a major artery."

    Yeah, well you should have thought about environmentalists in government before you bought the house in these here hills, buddy! If they had their way, they'd tear down your house and route a creek through it. Narrowing streets is only a first step!

    But for now, the meme is that streets are for people, not for cars! And bicycles are people! Cars aren't! Cars consume oil, which is bad, and they contribute to war! Long term, the question really becomes, should streets exist at all?

    Steven Malcolm Anderson wondered in a comment why I bother to write about idiotic environmentalism. I guess it's because they have the podium, and for some reason they're always allowed the moral authority by default -- which allows them to win by a process of shaming others. I happen to think that if there is such a thing as morality, the environmentalists the ones who are immoral, and profoundly so. They oppose human progess in the name of a contradiction, for we are as much a part of "the environment" as Bambi, botulism, asbestos, or lead. Their sanctimonious bilge about "nature" makes about as much sense to me as the moralistic invocations of "nature" and "nature's god" to condemn men for "unnatural" orgasms. It's equally magical, mystical and Puritanical.

    Such people want to rule the world, of course, so they use nonsense logic and ill-defined terminology to do it.

    Naturally (for lack of a better word), the City of Berkeley is run by them:

    Presently, bicycle activists run Berkeley's Transportation Commission, known around City Hall as the Bicycle Commission. The bicycle recreational lobby, which sees itself as a church of ecological salvation and its fanatic disciples as superheroes in Spandex, seeks a flexing of its muscles, not paths needed by civilized bicyclists. These zealots see road constrictions not as safety measures taken in the interest of pedestrians, but as means to get large numbers of motor vehicles, eventually all of such, off all the rights of way they feel are their inheritance in this, as they perceive it, post-private-automobile era. The Internet is filled with the fantasies of these vastly overspoken, underwheeled ideological blokes who, in most of their power plays, are not seeking safety, not even their own. They fantasize that choking traffic will cause a significant number of commuters to switch to public transportation or... you guessed it ... bicycles! Give me a brake (but no derailleur)!

    One source of funds for this game is grant money from clean-air-seeking organizations such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), a source Albany has tapped for implementing their initial phase of the Marin project. The BAAQMD bit on the road dieting line a few years ago, when Oakland was to change its portion of Telegraph Avenue from four to two lanes. But the bikers had overstated, in their grant application, the number of transportation-mode switchers, and the grant was withdrawn. May Albany's present grant likewise be reconsidered.

    Reconsidered? Dream on. Might as well ask Donald Wildmon or Robert Knight to "reconsider" their opposition to homos.

    Anyway, the road will be narrowed.

    In the name of morality!

    As for the traffic and congestion, those who despoil nature have no right to complain!

    MORE: Bear in mind that bad ideas start here.

    posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (7)

    Dances with Ritalin

    I don't know why, but this story makes me glad I'm not a little boy in school:

    The children first listened to a story about a pair of birds, the ill-fated Hector and his mate, Helen, residents of the Lake Merritt watershed. It was a classic Greek tragedy -- Hector got tangled up with carelessly discarded fishing line and perished.

    The class then used felt-tip pens to write their thoughts on little shirts and dresses from the Goodwill Store.

    And then the dancing began. Picking a cloth partner, the children fluttered four at a time as Bulitt recited their written words in a sing-song manner, which was repeated by the kids who were not dancing:

    "Dear Hec-tor," sang Bulitt.

    "Dear Hec-tor," echoed the class.

    "I'm sor-ry."

    "I'm sor-ry."

    "That you got stuck in the fish-ing line."

    "That you got stuck in the fish-ing line."

    "When you died."

    "When you died."

    "From, Ja-cob."

    "From, Ja-cob."

    The class, initially shy, warmed up quickly and soon nearly everyone was vying for a chance to do a shirt dance.

    Inspired by nature

    Bulitt has been doing interpretive dance for 25 years, and has always been inspired by nature and birds in particular. She performed a dance called "Under the Wing" at Lake Merritt last September for Coastal Cleanup Day.

    She received a civic arts grant from Berkeley in association with that city's Shoreline Bird Center, and has done the same performance she did at Montclair Elementary, called "Sharing the Watershed and Honoring Birds," at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito, Grant Elementary in Richmond and the preschool at Berkeley Montessori. The goal is to teach kids about the importance of the watershed and its inhabitants. All parts of the class have a meaning.

    "To children, the notion of the shirt or dress is like feathers," Bulitt said. "Clothes hold memories, and they can write something down and leave it behind for the birds."

    A classic Greek tragedy? (Where's Dennis when I need him?)

    Anyway, in my local Berkeley Gazette, there's a picture of the artist flapping about in front of the kids -- and a boy in the picture does not appear terribly interested in "environmental performing art."

    No wonder they have to resort to Ritalin!

    I guess I should be glad I don't have kids. Otherwise, I might have to spend my time Googling for stories about "Hector" and "Helen" at Lake Merritt. I found an actual account of the tragedy:

    ....two white pelicans, Hector and Helen, and seven other half-growns, were brought to the refuge from Pyramid Lake courtesy of the Fish and Wildlife Department. The two were picked to remain at the lake through a partial pinioning that kept them from full flight. Although the others eventually flew away, H & H remained behind to delight thousands of people through the years with photographic beauty and comical antics...a noble sacrifice that they seemingly enjoyed. They were fed three pounds of smelt every day, plus scooping up some lake herring on the side, too! Hector became tangled in a rope and drowned in the mid-1980's, but Helen lived on alone for ten years, escorting wild visiting white pelicans around the lake, and she was often courted by a white mute swan that mysteriously appeared off and on.
    Captive bird tangled on a rope, huh?

    So what's with the the "fish-ing line" line?

    I don't know, but the artist also dances with trout. (The latter was a performance for "Culvert Action II" -- a precursor to an ongoing (if economically chaotic) program to "daylight" a creek which runs through downtown Berkeley.)

    Daylighting creeks is a deadly serious business (and I don't think hunting and fishing is on the agenda).

    According to U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, it's only a first step:

    "We have to have in place an imagination based on intimate knowledge and love of the places where we live, so that we can push programs forward rather than just react to environmental despoiling for the rest of our days. It can begin in small and symbolic ways, like the day-lighting of Strawberry Creek in Berkeley. To open up the fact that we live on a watershed, that where we live is really a drainage from the Contra Costa Hills into the Bay -- and that we've lost that connection -- can be solved with imagination. Imagine our streams flowing freely again, with the egrets and the herons working their way up the creeks through the city, fishing for minnows and sticklebacks. With this imagination we can restore the ecological cycles of this place, reminding us daily of the larger issues involved in preservation and restoration, the healing of the planet.

    "What the WATERSHED Festival offers the community is the opportunity to come together and begin to teach ourselves and our children to pay attention in fundamental and different ways with poetry and art."

    Hey, I'm paying attention, and I didn't need Ritalin.

    But I'm not a little boy. As I've said before, boys prefer toy guns. And I think they'd rather go fishing for trout than dancing with them.

    Under the circumstances, who wouldn't need Ritalin?

    posted by Eric at 09:38 PM | Comments (6)

    En boca cerrada, no entran moscas . . .

    I hate it when I have nothing to say!

    But via InstaPundit, I found a story about a former teacher -- which has overclocked my mental CPU's internal clock:

    And today, the cold, gray Wednesday after the November election, there is this: the school's recently deposed dean, sitting in a Castro coffee shop, offering a postmodern sociosexual justification for using the word "bitch."

    "As a gay man, in the Castro in San Francisco, and camp such as it is, we refer to ourselves in very gendered terms," says Tomás Almaguer, who spent 4 1/2 years as dean before resigning this past fall amid accusations that he created a hostile work environment within the college. "You might notice that my e-mail address is 'tomasa' -- it's a play. Have I ever referred to myself and my friends as bitches? All the time! I've been referred to as Queen Bitch of the Universe! Megabitch! That's one of my identities."

    Almaguer, 56 years old, is a thin man with short white hair and a fastidious mustache. Soft-spoken and tentative one moment, animated and effusive the next, he has an academic's tendency, in the face of a scandal, to retreat into cautious generality -- an individual, for example, becomes a sexless, anonymous "they" -- lest he wind up in someone else's lawsuit. As described by his constituents at the College of Ethnic Studies, he is either a monster or a titan -- either a sexist and possible racist who played favorites, called a lecturer a "bitch," and only further calcified the rifts in the college; or a visionary who whipped a flabby program into shape. "It's this Rashomon thing," says Jim Okutsu, the associate dean and a friend and supporter of Almaguer. "There's not one story that fits."

    "The truth and context," Almaguer goes on, "are the first things to evaporate from any retelling of the situation. I've been accused of using the b-word. I've been accused of using the n-word, only to have that be proven a total, total, total lie. There's nothing I've not been accused of having uttered. So when the PC patrol comes in and tries to paint me as this woman-hating, gay, macho Latino, it makes me sick. It's repugnant to me. ... If the truth were known, and what the politics were, and what the lay of the land was, and what I had done, and what people wanted to revert back to, it would be a very different story. It may sound like some arrogant, elitist, woman-hating gay man from the Midwest comes in and runs roughshod, but it's repugnant. It's really ugly."

    There's a lot more, and I'm stymied because I have nothing to say. And that's not because "the truth and context" have "evaporated." It's just that I respect people's privacy, and I was one of Tomás Almaguer's students in the 1970s.

    I also managed Berkeley's only gay, um, "health club."

    Mayan Health Club: Also known as the Mayan Health Temple, later became the Steamworks in Berkeley. Long after it was the Steamworks, they kept the pseudo ruins look to the place with the pilars, statuary, etc.
    Tomás Almaguer was a radical Chicano firebrand in those days -- when "teaching" all too often consisted of things like calling for the assassination of Richard Nixon.

    Definitely not "gay."

    Times change. And while I never betray confidences, considering the article, I think I can venture that I'm not surprised -- without revealing anything of a confidential nature.


    posted by Eric at 02:39 PM | Comments (8)

    A delightful new Case file . . .

    As most readers of Classical Values know, Justin Case is, er, reclusive. This means that, among other things, Justin refuses to allow me to publish any photographs of him in this blog. It's an unwritten rule, but it's one I dare not violate under penalty of getting, like, REALLY bad vibes directed at me from Justin.

    However, there's no rule preventing me from uploading photos of Justin's mom -- referred to affectionately by Justin as "Ma Case."

    Justin and I drove all the way up to....

    but no! I can't say where -- I'm not allowed to give away locations either!

    Anyway, we drove there, wherever it was, and visited Justin's mom at the convalescent hospital where she resides. She was in great spirits, and her mind is as sharp as ever, as I think the photo shows:


    She even asked us to bring Puff inside (which the staff cheerfully allowed). Here he is, checking her out (and vice versa):


    They'd met years before, but it's tough to say whether Puff really remembered her in this different setting. (Dogs remember places first, then people, but there's no way for me to really ask Puff exactly who he remembers. For his age and size, he's the canine equivalent of 100 now -- for which I thank daily dishes of brocolli.)

    While Puff proved quite a hit with the other residents and the staff, putting him on the hospital bed seemed like bad form, so I hoisted him up so Justin could snap a shot of the three of us!


    Notice the way Justin cleverly made Puff look away, while darkening my eyes? Obviously, he didn't want anyone catching a glimpse of him in our corneal reflections!

    UPDATE: While being careful not to demonstrate an excess of enthusiasm for this post, Justin has nonetheless supplied the following photograph of his mom, taken in December, 1944. (On the back, it says, "Age 20.")


    By any standard, that's class.

    posted by Eric at 01:03 AM | Comments (2)

    War against civil rights -- in San Francisco!

    The battle over San Francisco's proposed handgun ban (discussed infra) is heating up, and the Pink Pistols are taking the lead in opposing it.

    The right to own guns may be even more important than the right to marry, Thomas said during the monthly shooting practice organized by the gay gun group the Pink Pistols.

    "I want to be liberated as a gay man, but I'm not willing to give up the rights I have," he said. "If they can take that away from you, what more can they do?"

    As the debate over the handgun ban proposal sharpens, the Pink Pistols, a national group with 38 chapters, is determinedly stepping into the fray. Organizers have posted their hearty objections to the proposed law on the group's Web site -- along with contact information for the five supervisors who voted for the ban -- and are weighing whether to join a lawsuit challenging the ordinance that the National Rifle Association is expected to file, said spokeswoman Gwen Patton.

    Gay men and lesbians are at risk of becoming hate crime victims, the group's philosophy goes, and therefore community members should learn how to protect themselves -- with firearms.

    "We believe that first you need to stay alive, then you need to educate," Patton said.

    The Pink Pistols are likely to play a critical role in the developing San Francisco fight, said Chuck Michel, a spokesman for the California Rifle and Pistol Association and a lawyer for the National Rifle Association. "They have a great deal of legitimacy because they recognize they are at great odds of becoming victims because of their sexual preference. ... I think people will understand that they should not be deprived of their rights."

    Things have come a long way since the Gay Guns float in 1982.

    But some things never change, and it appears that despite its moral pose, San Francisco is highly intolerant of certain lifestyles:

    "President Bush is trying to write prejudice into the Constitution, and the liberals are trying to do the same thing," Thomas said. "Our city's supervisors supporting this just freaks me out. Now I would not vote for any of them ever again. I felt like they were for our civil rights, and now I realize they aren't."

    For his part, Boyer, a Democrat, has a complicated theory about how the left's stand on guns is hurting progressive politics and the fight for gay rights. Many people in the middle of the country are neutral about same-sex marriage, he said, but refuse to vote for politicians who favor gay rights if they are also against gun rights.

    Representatives of the California Rifle and Pistol Association and the NRA said they have an easy alliance with the Pink Pistols.

    "Sexual preference is not an issue. Neither is their race. Neither is their sex," Michel said. "They (the California Rifle and Pistol Association) are a single-issue advocacy group and as far as they're concerned, anyone who agrees with them on that issue is a friend."

    In fact, around the country -- including in the Bay Area -- the Pink Pistols tend to get a better response from firearms supporters than from homosexuals, Patton said. Thomas said he rarely talks about owning a gun because of the attitudes toward guns here.

    "People will freak out on you," he said.

    Hoplophobic panic, no doubt!

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to InstaPundit readers -- especially all who care about civil rights in San Francisco! (Of course, I still remember when crushing of civil rights was John Ashcroft's job. . .)

    MORE: All readers (especially new readers) who are interested in the issue of gay gun owners can find much more in-depth coverage at Alphecca -- by Jeff Soyer, the blogosphere's original "gay gun nut." Jeff's recent Weekly Check on the Bias offers an intriguing look inside the mental machinations of San Francisco gun grabbers.

    posted by Eric at 12:51 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBacks (2)

    Fight toxic tort spam!

    If there's one thing more idiotic than comment spam, it's trackback spam. Why on earth anyone would do this I don't know. I have long suspected that much of the spamming has no business purpose (for what blog reader would actually click on a spam link and buy the product?) but is generated to satisfy the deeper psychological urges of the spammer. I've been getting hundreds of trackback spams, and I finally configured MT-Blacklist to delete them.

    Most of them link to sites which sell nothing! And last night I was spammed by a purported "personal injury lawyer" whose URL is dead -- and whose spam originated in San Nicolas de los Garzas, Mexico. Here's what the idiotic spam says:

    URL: [omitted lest the asshole derive any feeling of satisfaction from his blog pollution]

    Title: -

    Weblog: Personal Injury Lawyer

    Personal injury attorneys and lawyers typically represent clients (plaintiffs)
    who have been injured either financially or physically due to the fault of

    A personal injury lawyer? That hurts!

    Bush is right about the need for tort reform.....

    posted by Eric at 12:19 PM | Comments (4)

    Carnival 124

    Be sure to check out this week's Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Ken Sain, who, in addition to being a fine blogger, is News Editor for the Washington Blade.

    42 posts -- arranged into segments, each of which is introduced by a quote from Edward Abbey.

    Nice graphics too!

    (And I'm glad Ken liked Mark's essay.)

    posted by Eric at 10:10 PM

    Outsourcing The Moon

    The U.S. space effort is changing course...maybe.

    From an editorial at Hobbyspace:

    The President signed off on a new national space transportation policy at the end of last year [summary available here, J.C.], and there's a lot to like in it. It formally gets rid of the mid-nineties division of labor that gave NASA a monopoly on reusable rocket development (which NASA proceeded to expensively botch) while confining DOD to expendables...It also mandates NASA develop new capabilities only where its needs can't be met by capabilities already in use in the defense or commercial sectors...
    It says the US government "must provide sufficient and stable funding for acquisition of US space transportation capabilities in order to create a climate in which a robust space transportation industrial and technology base can flourish", and cites fundamental transformation of capabilities and capitalizing on the entrepreneurial spirit of the US private sector in that context, which implies that at least some share of the funding should go to the innovative startups.
    Have we died and gone to heaven? Well, no, not exactly...But this policy allows for and by implication encourages a lot of smaller efforts, defense and commercial, outside the old-space megalith project complex. Mammals scurrying around under the dinosaurs' feet, if you will. And it does tell the dinosaurs NOT to go out of their way to step on the new arrivals...

    Well, all that sounds encouraging. Government attempts to capitalize on entrepreneurial spirit are popping up all over the place.

    If all goes well, we might see entities other than Boeing and Lockheed elbow their way to a place at the trough. That came out sounding harsher than I intended. I meant that smaller, more innovative firms now have more of a shot at grabbing some federal funding, allowing them to build some real, working hardware. The contenders are already jockeying for position. Let's check out a few.

    First, t/space: Transformational Space Corp:

    Competitive, markets-based space exploration
    Transformational Space Corp. is designing for NASA a lunar exploration architecture and Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) for affordable Moon expeditions.

    t/Space has gathered innovators dedicated to rapid prototyping of low-cost space vehicles, such as Gary Hudson and Bevin McKinney of AirLaunch LLC (creating a breakthrough low-cost launch vehicle for the Defense Dept.)and David Gump, former president of commercial space pioneer LunaCorp. Companies contributing to the t/Space effort include Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites.
    The t/Space architecture being developed for NASA assigns all Earth-to-orbit services to the commercial sector. People, cargo and propellants for Moon expeditions will be delivered to low Earth orbit (LEO) by any company or nation with Earth-to-orbit capabilities.
    Space-based CEVs will take on these payloads in LEO, and transit to the Moon accompanied by CEV-derived propellant tankers. After tanker refueling, CEVs will descend to the lunar surface, deliver their passengers and cargo, and return directly to LEO.

    Warms the heart, doesn't it? I was a child of the 50's, and always feel a nagging frustration at how bloody LONG this is taking. I guess Gemini and Apollo spoiled me. The customary rocket pictures can be found here and here.

    Next up, Lunar Transportation Systems:

    Most of the concepts for lunar transportation architecture that are being considered today by NASA and the aerospace industry are based on decades of study of early spaceflight concepts. In our view these architectures are not an acceptable solution for a new lunar transportation system that will be required to support emerging lunar activities at reasonable cost. Genuine innovation is needed to achieve the goals of affordability and sustainability called for by the President.
    LTS is developing a new lunar architecture concept that, we believe, is better suited for a state-of-the-art lunar transportation system. This architecture is characterized by modularity and extreme flexibility leading to reduced development cost and better evolvability. A hard look at this architecture will show that it enables NASA to meet its strategic objectives, including sending small payloads to the lunar surface in a few short years, sending larger payloads to the lunar surface in succeeding years, and sending crews to the Moon and back to the Earth by the middle of the next decade.

    These rocket guys have such honeyed tongues. Good graphics departments, too. At age ten, I would drool over such stuff for hours. Hey, is that a tractor beam?

    Sad to say, in the rocket business there's often a yawning gulf between the art department's visualizations and an actual, working vehicle. Our next contender, "Space Exploration Technologies" may not have lunar ambitions (yet), but they DO have something the others don't. Real hardware. Which will be ready to launch within months.

    SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of access to space ultimately by a factor of ten. The company officially began operations in June 2002 and is located in the heart of the aerospace industry in Southern California.
    Our first two launch vehicle models, named Falcon I and Falcon V, are mostly reusable rockets capable of placing approximately 670 kg or 6,020 kg, respectively, into low Earth orbit. Falcon V is also capable of taking spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit and escape velocity, and is unique in being the only American rocket with true engine out reliability.

    The tenfold price reduction is for later. They hope to slash the price to LEO by two thirds, right out the gate. Their mantra? Reliability. In their own words....

    Why do we believe Falcon is a high reliability design?
    The vast majority of launch vehicle failures in the past two decades can be attributed to three causes: engine, stage separation and, to a much lesser degree, avionics failures. An analysis of launch failure history between 1980 and 1999 by Aerospace Corporation showed that 91% of known failures can be attributed to those subsystems.
    Engine Reliability
    It was with this in mind that we designed Falcon I to have the minimum number of engines. As a result, there is only one engine per stage and only one stage separation event – the minimum pragmatically possible number.
    In the case of Falcon V, there are five first stage engines, but the vehicle is capable of sustaining an engine failure at any point in flight and still successfully completing its mission. This actually results in an even higher level of reliability than a single engine stage. The SpaceX five engine architecture is an improved version of that employed by the Saturn V Moon rocket, which had a flawless flight record despite losing an engine on two of its missions.
    Another notable point is the SpaceX hold-before-release system – a capability required by commercial airplanes, but rarely seen on launch vehicles. After first stage engine start, the Falcon is held down and not released for flight until all propulsion and vehicle systems are confirmed to be operating normally. An automatic safe shut-down and unloading of propellant occurs if any off nominal conditions are detected.
    Stage Separation Reliability
    Here Falcon takes advantage of simplicity by having two stages and therefore only one stage separation event – the minimum practical number. There are never any strap-on boosters, which have been the root cause of many launch vehicle failures. Moreover, the stage separation bolts are all dual initiated, fully space qualified and have a zero failure track record in prior launch vehicles.
    Avionics Reliability
    Falcon V will have triple redundant flight computers and inertial navigation, with a GPS overlay for additional orbit insertion accuracy. We have gone the extra mile in building a first class avionics system to provide small and medium class satellites with the same avionics quality enjoyed by multi-billion dollar large satellites.

    I'm not in the pay of SpaceX, honest, but I can't help getting a little of that old sense of wonder, looking at what they've accomplished. Cheap access to space is vital, not just to America, but to the world. NASA has had decades to get their act together, but persist in acting like what they are, a gigantic, spendthrift bureaucracy. It follows that we should applaud efforts to circumvent business as usual.

    You may remember those wonderful old Heinlein "juvenile" novels. They were improbably good, and reading the following catapulted me right back into the mindset they fostered. I'm thinking of the first chapters of "Have Spacesuit-Will Travel" in particular.

    First Stage
    The primary structure is made of a space grade aluminum alloy in a patent pending, graduated monocoque, common bulkhead, flight pressure stabilized architecture developed by SpaceX. The design is a blend between a fully pressure stabilized design, such as Atlas II, and a heavier isogrid design, such as Delta II. As a result, we have been able to capture the mass efficiency of pressure stabilization, but avoid the ground handling difficulties of a structure unable to support its own weight.
    Second Stage
    The tank structure is made of aluminum-lithium, an alloy possessing the highest strength to weight ratio of any aluminum and currently used by the Space Shuttle External Tank. Although we intend to continue researching alternatives in the long term, for this particular application it has the lowest total system mass for any material we have examined, including liquid oxygen compatible super-alloys and composites.
    The tanks are precision machined from thick plate with integral flanges and ports, minimizing the number of welds necessary. The major circumferential welds are all done by an automated welding machine, reducing the potential for error and ensuring consistent quality.

    Perhaps that's more than you really wanted to know about modern boosters. A little human interest might be just the thing to provide some balance. Without further ado, we segue to an interview with Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal and founder of SpaceX...

    Hobbyspace: Can you think of any example where "standard practice" in the design and construction of launch vehicles is blatantly more expensive than the way you guys did it with the Falcon?
    Musk: It's hard for me to comment definitively on "standard practice", as I have never worked for another aerospace company. However, based on stories I've heard, some of them sound like a Dilbert cartoon in real life. My approach is simply to seek out very talented people, ensure that the environment at SpaceX is as motivating & enjoyable as possible and establish clear & measurable objectives.
    I think it is a mistake to hire huge numbers of people to get a complicated job done. Numbers will never compensate for talent in getting the right answer (two people who don't know something are no better than one), will tend to slow down progress and will make the task incredibly expensive. Also, a lot of aerospace senior managers seem to be really disassociated from and unable to do hard core engineering. I think that is a mistake and results in cloudy judgment on important technical issues -- they can't tell if something is really good or not, so they just do what everyone else does, assuming it to be the safe bet.

    A second interview takes a stab at a more personal perspective. It's shorter too...

    Native of: South Africa.
    Left home: At age 17 to go to Kingston, Ontario, where he enrolled in Queen's University, "The Harvard of The North." Got by on part-time and summer jobs.
    The reason: Avoid compulsory service in South Africa's apartheid army, fascist in his mind. But, "I'm very much pro-military when it is in the service of good."
    Goal at the time: Come to the U.S. "It is where great things are possible. I am nauseatingly pro-American."

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We need this technology, or something even better, and we need it yesterday.

    "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A. Heinlein

    posted by Justin at 07:23 PM | Comments (2)

    End of the hot tub era . . .

    Anyone who remembers the heyday of California's hot tub era will need no reminders about the types of activities which used to transpire in them.

    The deck to my house had a hot tub which went in sometime in the 60s or 70s (no one knows when), and this house was known for some wild parties during that period. Various guests over the years included Dr. Timothy Leary (famed LSD guru) and Edith Massey (best known as John Waters' "Egg Lady"). If called as a witness, I could personally testify about some of the things that went on, but I refuse to do so on various grounds.

    Anyway, the hot tub had not been used since the mid-90s, and today I decided that it had to go. I figured, why not treat my readers to a last, fleeting, glimpse.

    Here it is lying on the ground:


    And here's a view from inside the house:


    A tub this big, of course, cannot be carried uphill, so the tub met its doom at the hands of the saw!

    The cutting begins:


    Finally, the tub is in two pieces:


    And then it was off to the dump!


    (An inglorious end, I'm afraid..... considering that Tim Leary soaked here!)

    posted by Eric at 07:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Tough Voyaging

    From the often fascinating blog of A.E. Brain comes this absorbing account of a collision at sea. How did I miss this? If you do nothing else, follow the link and scroll down to THE PICTURE. It's amazing they made it home.

    Here are some excerpts from his later update.

    1. A usually-sealed access hatch was open just half an hour before the collision - a hatch that led directly to the damaged area. At 500 ft, if it had been open, the boat would have been lost. The "shellback" initiation is a traditional ceremony dating back to when Noah was a boy.
    2. The torpedo tubes on the left side of the ship (they're not in the nose) are wrecked. The outer doors are missing, the inner doors jammed, and the whole apparatus knocked out of alignment. The Main Ballast Tank valves are wrecked (F..d up beyond all recognition, not just wrecked, but totally smashed), the Main Ballast Tanks themselves have large leaks, the very-expensive spherical-array sonar at the bow is smashed, and the boat is so badly damaged it may be decomissioned - a write-off.
    3. The torpedos tubes are wrecked (again), and if they'd been so badly damaged as to crack the pressure hull (which they penetrate), the situation would have been dire.
    4. The Mk48/ADCAP torpedos carried by these boats contain a monopropellant called Otto fuel. Another name for monopropellant is "explosive", it burns without needing a source of oxygen. It burns rapidly too, one got dropped during loading a number of years ago, and a building 100 metres away was severely damaged by the resultant explosion. Anyway, the torpedos in the torpedo tubes were badly damaged, but not enough to cause a leak of this highly dangerous fuel. Had the US Navy used the same propellant as torpedos in the Russian Submarine "Kursk"... the outcome would have been similar to the Kursk's fate. Except that the San Francisco was already at 500 ft (the depth the Kursk finally came to rest), and it was another 5000 ft to the ocean bottom. She would have been lost with all hands.

    For a first hand account, read the whole thing. Sample follows:

    To All, I thought that I would put out a note since a lot of you have been calling and writing to find out how things are and if I'm OK and what happened. If you hadn't heard, my boat hit a uncharted submerged sea mount at the highest speed we can go at about 500ft below the surface. There were about 30 of us that were seriously hurt and unfortunately one of my shipmates didn't make it...
    I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie the Matrix where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4 hours later)...

    For military men, Kipling has never lost his appeal. In this case, "We Have Fed Our Sea" comes to mind.

    posted by Justin at 10:01 PM | Comments (2)

    State of the Confederacy?

    I'm delighted to see that Justin is busily working his way to another triple violation of "Wolcott's Rule®," for I find myself inspired to do the same thing.

    That's because a couple of posts from Glenn Reynolds have reminded me of older-but-still-timely posts which have been gathering archival dust. From today's InstaPundit:

    .....[M]any people in the South see the flag as an emblem of regional pride, rather than as an endorsement of Confederate ideology. That's certainly true, and after getting that email I noticed the bumpersticker pictured at right, which certainly doesn't seem to embody much in the way of nostalgia for the Old South.

    That said, I'm not a big fan -- though no one who displays Communist paraphernalia, however allegedly ironic the display, has any room to criticize the badges of an obsolete and murderous regime -- and it's not the sort of thing I'd endorse. But the point of my post was the absurdity, and worse, of neo-secessionist thinking, and the oddity that some of the more lunatic fringes of allegedly libertarian thought are so enamored of the Confederacy. Whatever you say about the Confederate States of America, it was no libertarian paradise.

    Indeed it wasn't! And here's the bumpersticker:


    Yup, I'd say that's definitely tinged with a libertarian fringe. . .

    Which leads to my Wolcott violation of the day. Forgive me, Father Wolcott, but I feel obliged to quote from my post titled "Southern Communism Ain't Libertarian!"

    ...I want the world to know that Southern Communism was invented by me and a good friend many years ago. We hold the patent on the idea.
    God, am I a pompous ass or what? Wolcott® was right!

    Not only did I just requote a quote echoing what I said decades ago, but now I'll again echo the thoughts of the co-inventor of Southern Communism® (another guy I wish would start a blog):

    When I mentioned Southern Communism a few days ago I gave only the most superficial definition of it in reply to Dean Esmay's comment. (My apologies for the delay, but I had to contact the expert!)

    Here's more, straight from the source:

    Southern Communism was a theory propounded by a little known ne'er-do-well cousin of Jefferson Davis, a Courtney Carrington Davis. As was the custom of the aristocracy, he spent much of his days drinking whiskey and reading European writers, and had happened upon Marx and Engels after the War. The idea of total egalitarianism repulsed him, but such was his rage against the domination of the North and the federal government that he imagined a class rebellion which would install a "dictatorship of the common man," which excluded "coloreds, white trash, papists, Jews, and others of heathen religions." Like many of his class, he was insulated from social realities, and saw the downfall of the South as the result of trying to imitate the democratic system of the North. But he also realized that there could be no rebellion if only the aristocracy were to benefit, hence the compromise with, and the transparent appeal to, the "common man." Deluded as he was, he believed that the aristocracy would control this new form of government (the specifics of which appear nowhere in his writings), and that it would "wither away, leaving every man in his proper station." It is evident that,
    in addition to being the black sheep of the family, he was also not very imaginative and his theory basically consisted of "cutting and pasting" his own delusions into the writings of Marx and Engels.
    I don't have a URL, as this was sent to me in an email from my friend who first used the term many years ago -- and startled me when he referred to me as a "Southern Communist."

    I will have my readers know that:

  • a) I am not from the South, but I might be called an occasional "fellow traveler" because I have traveled there extensively; and
  • b) I am not now, but have in the past been a Communist.
  • The more I think about this, the more I wonder whether "Southern Communism" might have been borrowed by Huey P. Long.

    It only gets worse, folks.

    Brace yourself, Wolcott; I'm barely warmed up!

    In a follow-up post, I carried my decades-old Southern experiment further, into the realm of today's multicultural Rainbow, and my tendency to conjure up grotesque compromises:

    ....[S]ince everyone hates compromisers, and since I have gotten so many hits from the very gracious Dean Esmay, I have decided to have fun satirizing compromise, while simultaneously compromising satire -- something never before attempted!


    Confederate Rainbow!

    The Battle Rainbow?

    An idea whose time has come, or an inflammatory idea?

    Some people want to burn the Confederate Flag. Others want to burn the Rainbow Flag.

    Politically correct, or politically incorrect?

    I think that's enough pompous regurgitation for today -- and for Mr. Wolcott (who I think would look dashing in a Confederate uniform....)

    Hurrah, hurrah! For Southern Communism, hurrah! Hurrah for the Rainbow Flag of Multicultural stars! (Sung to the tune of the "Bonnie Blue Flag," of course....)

    Once again, an idea whose time has, er, come!

    Multicultural secessionists unite! Raise high the banner of the Confederate Rainbow! Marching together, we can defeat the hypocritical crowing by misogynists and homophobes!


    posted by Eric at 04:26 PM | Comments (6)

    Up with Steven!

    Here's a newsflash for all Classical Values readers.

    Jeff Soyer (my blogfather, Alphecca) links to the following quote from our esteemed frequent commenter Steven Malcolm Anderson:

    Liberals: Feed their pets organic foods. Watch Dick Cavett. Try to see the other guy's point of view while being mugged. Bicycle. Say, "Peace!". Take up yoga. Support non-profit TV. Have tried pot. Secretly wish William F. Buckley was a Liberal. Secretly wish David Susskind wasn't. Walk around nude in front of the children. Know the name of their Congressman. Sign petitions. Are cremated. Get psychoanalyzed. Distrust Nixon. Subscribe to "Consumer Reports". Grind their own coffee. Make it a habit to call Negroes "Blacks". Hate being called "Leftists".
    As Jeff further notes, "Read it all, and all of the posts. Steven is one of the more interesting folks in the blogosphere." (I love understatement!)

    And I'm glad to see Up With Beauty on a roll. I enjoyed Steven's discussion of George Lakoff, who's long attributed the differences between liberals and conservatives to child raising. (My inner child can beat up your honor student, Lakoff!)

    Keep Beauty Up, Steven!

    posted by Eric at 03:43 PM | Comments (6)

    Local election coverage

    I am happy to report that I finally finished my MCLE hours, which gives me a little more time than I've had the past few days. I feel a bit guilty that I wasn't able to post anything about the Iraq election, but I'm glad the MSM have egg on their face.

    I can't wait to see what the local leftist press does with the bad news. Especially the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

    Want a sneak peek at their immediate preelection coverage? I didn't think so. Well, their latest issue features a report from Dahr Jamail (a "special correspondent for Flashpoints and reports for the BBC, Democracy Now!, and numerous other stations around the globe."), and it's appropriately titled "Destroying Babylon Forget the elections – Iraq is falling apart:

    As I'm preparing for my day this morning and making coffee, the Green Zone is mortared. Just like yesterday. And the day before that. And ... well, you get the idea.

    Of course, these are only the highlights of the violence. Stories of the new "freedom" being enjoyed by Iraqis abound in daily life as well.

    Abu Talat's wife works in a bank, and she told him many of the banks in Baghdad are paying their employees in advance for the next two weeks for fear of bank robberies during the "elections."

    Most of the day has found our cell phones without a signal. Recently the Iraqi "government" announced that in order to provide security for the polls Jan. 30, cell and satellite phones will be cut and the use of cars will be limited the day before, of, and after the "elections."

    I say "elections" because the Higher Commission for Elections announced that it won't be releasing the names of the candidates prior to the "elections." With 4 of Iraq's 18 governorates unable to participate in them, an estimated 90 percent of the Sunni population not voting, a sizable amount of the Shiites boycotting, and a very large percentage of Iraqis unwilling to vote because of the horrendous security situation, calling them elections seems a bit of a stretch.

    Dahr Jamail has a blog, and it hasn't been updated since January 28. (Sheesh! And I thought I was behind!)

    But what will they say? I'm just dying to know. Considering the ominous reports that some 70% of Iraqis voted, it won't be a pretty picture.

    How dare these sellout Iraqis vote in such numbers? And right before Bush's State of the Union address?

    (Obviously, it's more Bush election fraud.)

    UPDATE: While he's not in San Francisco, at least one anti-Bush columnist is asking whether Bush might have been right all along:

    What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

    It's hard to swallow, isn't it?

    Americans cross own barrier

    If you fit the previously stated profile, I know you're fighting the idea, because I am, too. And if you were with the president from the start, I've already got your blood boiling.

    For those who've been in the same boat with me, we don't need to concede the point just yet. There's a long way to go. But I think we have to face the possibility.

    I won't say that it had never occurred to me previously, but it's never gone through my mind as strongly as when I watched the television coverage from Iraq that showed long lines of people risking their lives by turning out to vote, honest looks of joy on so many of their faces.

    Some CNN guest expert was opining Monday that the Iraqi people crossed a psychological barrier by voting and getting a taste of free choice (setting aside the argument that they only did so under orders from their religious leaders).

    I think it's possible that some of the American people will have crossed a psychological barrier as well.

    Yes it is possible. But in the San Francisco area, there's more than a "psychological barrier" to be overcome. Anti-Bush rage around here borders on the psychotic, and most people would look in both directions (and maybe close all doors and windows) before allowing for the possibility that Bush might have been right.

    posted by Eric at 01:26 AM | Comments (1)

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