31 August 2008

Perhaps God misunderstood WHICH convention

... seems like the good Christian folks at Focus on the Family were praying for rain to disrupt a big political convention. Just not the one that is being disrupted.

Is it just me, or is this campaign snake-bit?


Palin - the GOP's VP

It is rare that I am nonplussed by a political development - infuriated or amused maybe, but not often speechless. Have to admit the selection of Sarah Palin for VP by John McCain left me saying ... HUH? Even now I am not sure how this will cut with the public, but it sure looks like a mistake. Carmen is a bit more ....uh... direct. As Cubans sometimes are.

FWIW: here is a link to a blog called Fabius Maximus*. Though it is liberal, I found it on Instapundit, which I believe leans conservative. Its chief virtue is that it amasses some straightforward facts about Palin's career with some links. Whatever your perspective then I think this site is a good place to start for material about the governor.

Since I know very little about Alaska, except for the obvious fact that it was settled by Russians, complete with Orthodox churches**, I was delighted to find an Alaskan blog written by an Obama supporter who is a bit acerbic, shall we say, about McCain's choice. Still, it's a voice from Alaska and worth taking a look at. I assume there are lots of pro-Palin blogs out there by people who know her.

Or you can just cut to the chase and go over to National Review Online for totally uncritical acceptance of this candidate. And, a bit surprisingly, some brutally honest critiques of the choice.

Later I'll talk about some Alaskans I have known.

*I'm a sucker for Latin titles and names. oh. you noticed.
** we have just hired an expert on the Russian fur trade in the Bering Strait. Knows all about this stuff. I will call him Dr Ryan.

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Overdue library books?

Are you one of those people who check books out and keep them... forever. Yeah, me too, but I have a contact on the inside of the local library who takes care of my fines if you know what I mean. And a good thing too. Librarians are getting a little hard nosed out there.

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29 August 2008

About that McCain Camp Health Care Plan

... the one I linked to in the last post, where a McCain adviser claims we all have health care because we can just go to the emergency room and the gov will pay for it. Well, the McCainites say he is NOT an adviser. Or, maybe he is, but they just don't agree with him. Or something.


But we're a nation of whiners so what can I say?

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28 August 2008

Cure for the Health Care Problem.

McCain adviser has simple, sure fire solution to health care. Next time you or your family need care, give it a try.

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Peggy Noonan's Convention

From today WSJ, two highlights without comment:

By the way, the best line of the convention so far? Ted Strickland of Ohio, when he echoed the 1988 Democratic convention joke about George H.W. Bush, that he was born on third and thought he hit a triple. Strickland said of George W. Bush that he was born on third and then stole second. It didn't get much attention in any of the commentary, but it's all people were talking about in the bars of Denver that night.

I'll end with Ted Kennedy's speech. It was a small masterpiece of generosity. Not only that he showed up, not only that he spoke, but that with every right to speak of himself and his career, with every right to speak about his family and his memories and the lessons he's learned and the great things he's seen, with all the right to dwell on those things he produced: a speech about Barack Obama. Telling America to vote for him. How classy was that? Very.

Sharp commentary, though I think she is wrong about Michelle O.

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25 August 2008

New Political Terms

I love new terms and vocabulary. One of the reasons I have enjoyed the Gene Wolfe tetralogy of the Urth of the New Sun. I was charmed to discover a new political phrase: to practice political hygiene. So we are not going to throw the bums out anymore, we are going to "practice political hygiene." We can add it to the pile of "swift boating" one's opponents and other useful terms.

Here's a new one from Josh Marshall. "Riding the tire swing," referring to reporters who are a bit too cozy with one or another candidate. Here's his post:

Riding the Tire Swing

Over the next week I think we're going to hear a lot of whining from the McCain campaign about how the press is so enamored of Barack Obama, all evidence to the contrary. So if and when you're at risk of actually buying that nonsense I commend to you again, this McCain campaign produced video of the press barbecue at the Sedona estate ...

--Josh Marshall

of course this is very unfair. Very. No reporter would let something so minor as a warm, close, partying relationship with a candidate and his family influence their reporting. I know this because they tell us so all the time.
Update: I have been thinking about this for awhile. I think I had assumed that professional ethics for journalists would have precluded this type of socializing, but I guess not. Perhaps it is considered an acceptable practice to get the story. But it still takes me a bit aback. Sometimes I am naive.

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24 August 2008

Driving and fuel

Off and on I have made comments on my blogs about how I have adjusted my driving in order to improve gas mileage. It's not hard to do actually, the way most of us drive. Now I find this advice from a Republican governor we all know and love.

Now if he would just ditch the Hummer, buy a Tesla electric, and bus to work it would be even better. Any news yet on ditching article II, section 1 of the Constitution?


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POV of Politics

Wonder how our never ending presidential campaigns play out in foreign lands? Here is a bit from the article in Dawn, Pakistan's largest English language newspaper, about the selection of Joe Biden as Obama's VP. Notice the subtle shades of difference in what the writer thinks is important from what an American news writer might say:
Masood Haider adds from New York: Sen. Biden is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s policy of extending support to military regime in Pakistan under former president Pervez Musharraf. Recently, he had cautioned the Bush administration against taking any steps that could be interpreted as propping up the former army chief.

Biden is spearheading a piece of legislation for tripling Pakistan’s economic assistance to $15 billion payable in 10 years. He is known as one of the foremost supporters of democratic forces in Pakistan.

“The political future of (former) president Musharraf is a matter to be decided by the Pakistani people, through normal constitutional channels. Washington should not do anything that appears as thwarting their will,” Biden has said.

In recent years, Biden has twice travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and to Iraq eight times.
And it concludes:
In 2006, he said: “In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

During his bid for the nomination last year, Biden criticised Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. “Both Hillary and Barack didn’t get it right,” Biden said, when they had their “little spat” on whether a president could order a unilateral attack on terrorists in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

And he criticised Obama and former Sen. John Edwards for “playing the populism card, the idea that rich are bad, poor are good, the nobility of America lies in the poor. I think that’s a losing general election argument; I think it’s a losing argument, period.” He argued: “The rich are as patriotic as the poor, if you ask of them.”

I wonder how big the Pakistani/American vote is here.

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Obama in Russian

Fun but pointless info:

I was looking through google news and clicked on the page for Russian newspapers, all written in Russian with the Cyrillic alphabet. It was an entire web page crammed with words that I could not make heads or tails of, until I saw this:

Барак Обама

Except for the p=r factor, I could read it in Russian.

Quick - alert the McCain campaign: I see great potential here for an attack ad.


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Microsoft Vista updates its image

Problem is, it tries to update it by hiring Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian most popular in the 90s. That would be in the last century. In any case, even if you love Seinfeld he won't be able to do anything to make Vista work any better or any worse. (I've got him beat there: I can definitely get Vista to perform worse). I still won't care much for it because every time I boot up I get a strange message that Vista is blocking some startup programs, every now and then it gives me a pop up alert that the Windows store program is not working right, every time I try to view a PDF it tells me that Adobe does not play well with Microsoft, etc.

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks Vista may not be all its cracked up to be if this little article from PC Magazine is any indicator.

Its time to call in Clovis the Computer Cad, though it will cost us a good home-cooked meal. Undergrads can be bought for so little these days.


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It seems as if we have had extreme politics dinning into our ears for months now. And over two more months to go. Sometimes I just feel like this .

I love Opus. I think that all of us have an inner Opus in their makeup.

though I am curious as to why his name means "work" in Latin.


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23 August 2008

"Green Eggs and Ham" as seen by...

... someone who does computer programming for fun. "Green Eggs and Ham" is a favorite of many of us as the first book read to us. Come to think of it, after reading Jack's hilarious review this may explain a lot about the politics (and other peculiarities) of the baby boom generation. Here's a taste of the review's plot summary:

  • The attention-seeking antagonist asks the protagonist if he likes the dish named in the title, Green Eggs and Ham. With a bizarre contraption he thrusts it into the poor man's face.
  • If you know anything about eggs and ham, then you know that the only way to make them green is (a) to inject artifical dyes, which may very well be unhealthy for you, or at the very least are often made from the byproducts of coal tar and other foul substances, or (b) to let it sit in the open air until it contains enough bacteria to qualify as a biological weapon, proving (and not for the last time in this book) that in the Seussian world government regulators are like policemen; they're never around when you really need them.

  • Appalled though he is by the sick moral of this twisted little tale of moldy eggs and ham, our dear reviewer continues to read it to his two year old. Why? Because she likes it! Those of you with experience dealing with two year olds will understand. Sometimes you have to pander.

    Sadly, he concludes with a poignant plea for help in locating more suitable reading material for the under-five set:
    What I need is to acquire an abridged, illustrated edition of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, preferably in rhyme. Anyone know where I can score a copy? I cannot seem to find any in the children's book section.

    Can anyone help him out?

    next time we have a department meeting to discuss the new curriculum maybe I can use my doodle time to block out a version of Crime and Punishment. Uhhh, but then I'd have to read it first.


    22 August 2008

    Memory, the cross, and the role of Jesus

    Andrew Sullivan has a thoughtful post on the 'cross in the sand' story that is exercising more comment than it ought. Memory is a totally plastic thing. Anyone in their sixth decade is aware of its impermanence - there are days when I have trouble recalling names of people I have known for years. What we are not always aware of is how easily our memories change. What we are absolutely certain is a concrete fact, we saw it happen, we know we did, we are certain. Then we look at an old photo, or see an old film, or read our diary, or talk to an old friend - and suddenly realize we had it all wrong. Worse, we allow our memories to change from outside pressures we are not even aware of.

    So hyperventilating about whether or not McCain's cross in the sand story actually happened is one thing, thinking he consciously invented it to deceive us something else. What I find more interesting here is Sullivan's attempt to trace the development of this theme, starting with Solzhenitsyn, retold by Billy Graham in 1975:

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn was over here recently, remember? And he toured around the country. And he told a little story that everybody ought to hear, if you didn’t hear it. He said when he was in that prison for so long there came one time, and one time only, when he thought of suicide. He said he was not allowed ever to speak to his cell-mate. For weeks on end, they could not speak to each other. And he said that his cell-mate saw him growing weaker and weaker and more depressed and more discouraged all the time. And he said his cell-mate took a little stick and in the sand, or the dirt, in the cell, he drew a picture of the Cross. And Solzhenitsyn said, “At that moment, the whole purpose of my existence dawned upon me. Because,” he said, “I realized that Jesus Christ shed His blood for me on that Cross.” And he said, “That gave me the courage to live through my imprisonment.

    Fascinating, as is a similar story quoted from a witness in the Sudan in 2002. But would someone from an Orthodox Christian phrase the role of Jesus as Saviour quite this way? This is a genuine question by the way: I am at a loss and it is an interesting question from an historical point of view.

    Anyway, always remember that there is a big difference between truth and mere accuracy.

    Thank God no one fact checks the anecdotes I add to my lectures. And with that, I am off to wrestle of few syllabi into shape for the new semester. ugh.


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    Gas prices: Coolest map ever

    Depressed by the fact that gas costs about $3.75 a gal? This little map showing you how much it costs elsewhere will show you that by world standards the American oil companies are practically giving it away! [thanks, once again, to Andrew Sullivan for the link].

    I can't understand why the oil companies (and the Republican party) haven't used this in their ads.

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    21 August 2008

    Modern archaeology and the underground

    Underneath Leavenworth, Kansas, is a separate little city, complete with a street, windows, and doored storefronts. The TV reporter suggests it had something to do with the Underground Railroad, which makes no sense. A commentator on Aol.com gives a more likely explanation: out on the frontier, as a rip-roaring cowtown attempted to become safe for a proper middle class, saloons, brothels and other vice businesses literally went underground. The decent folk could walk around topside, being proud of their decent little town, while down below all hell was carryin' on.

    What do you think?

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    Amazon Kindle update

    Still haven't bought one, though the price has gone down a bit. I am still interested but think I can wait a bit to see if the technology/price improves. Nevertheless, despite legions of cynics and naysayers, the Kindle e-book reader looks like it is a great success. [thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link]

    And if you are into self-publishing, you can publish yourself in the Kindle format and your effort is sold like any other Amazon product.

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    18 August 2008

    Vikings! The true story

    Well, I am back from that steaming hellhole to our south, just a few steps ahead of the hurricane. Now, at least for a few days, I will be all tied up with school work. But I have discovered a wonderful explanation of the Viking invasions, right here.

    It's as convincing as anything else I can think of.

    next week, by special request from Mr Sobrino, Viking kitties!


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    11 August 2008

    A brief hiatus due to technical difficulties

    Carmen and I made it to that unnamed port city to our south. Once we got in we found out we have no internet access this trip. So... Will start posting again in about a week. For the moment I will type up posts on my little NEO and then send them all out the next time I can get on the Internet. At the moment we are with the Sobrinos, using Joey's laptop.



    07 August 2008

    Anthrax: the big question

    Now that Ivins, accused of the anthrax killings, is dead, it seems likely (though not yet proven) that the killer died with him. The FBI seems bound and determined that the case die with him as well. We'll see about that.

    But whether or not he is the murderer, this continues to be a question, one that bothers me no end: How could a man with so many mental health alarm bells going off all around him still maintain his security clearance? Is there anyone else out there with the same magnitude of mental distress working in biological warfare labs? Atomic energy labs? Like, atomic warheads?

    I know. Now I am being paranoid. The FBI and the DHS are keeping careful tabs on all this. What could go wrong?

    There. I feel better already. Don't you?


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    The Politics of Paris

    Paris Hilton is busy turning herself into the third rail of presidential politics. First her mother, a solid Repub who has maxed out her contributions to the party and its standard bearer, took great (and public) umbrage at having her child used as a political prop by the McCain camp as if there were something wrong with being Paris*.

    Then Paris herself made her own political ad**, touting herself as making more sense than either candidate. The scary part: she did.

    She also slipped the 'old-as-dirt' blade into McC's ribs in a way that can't be laid at Obama's door. Even Jim Manzi over on National Review Unhinged was able to see the humor of it.

    UPDATE: this one by Kathleen Parker is even more pointed.
    It's funny, clever, and on the nose — in a good way. Love it.

    * I know, I know. As if.
    ** No link. I am philosophically opposed to that sort of stuff. Carmen insists.
    I was going to call this post "We'll always have Paris," but thought that was a bit trite - and obvious. I don't mind being trite but....


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    Weird little car companies

    Yep. The Big Three of Detroit ... and getting littler and weirder every quarter. Too many bad decisions and too much bad luck. Though as the slogan goes, winners make their own luck. Today's Wall Street Journal has the bad news written by the rag's Detroit bureau chief. He thinks a bail out would be a bad bad thing. Also thinks, for unstated reasons, that Obama would most likely provide such a bailout. Unstated is the assumption that McCain wouldn't. Then he proceeds to show that the Chrysler bailout actually netted the American taxpayers $400 million!

    Here's a brief take on the scale of the disaster:
    In 1991, General Motors posted a then-amazing, full-year loss of $4.45 billion, and 10 months later CEO Robert Stempel was out. Last week, GM reported a $15.5 billion loss for just one quarter, and GM's board this week reaffirmed its support for CEO Rick Wagoner. GM's loss easily eclipsed the quarterly loss of $8.7 billion announced by Ford just a week earlier. As for Chrysler, pick a number. The company is owned by private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, and thus its results aren't public.

    OTOH, the author thinks that Ford is doing a better job of turning around than GM but that Chrysler will be bought by someone. Again.

    On the other other hand, if GM can pull off its much vaunted (and criticized) Volt plug-in hybrid on schedule before the end of 2010, GM may make it.

    The American automobile business. Showing why American CEOs are the best compensated in the history of the planet. Worth every penny, for entertainment value at the very least.


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    05 August 2008

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    He is dead now and will always be one of those odd figures who with nothing much behind him at all may have swayed history. I'll leave that for history to reveal that truth, or not. For now, simply because it is one of my favorite ballads, here is a long, positively epic, song about Solzhenitsyn's experience in World War II. He was certainly no Russian everyman: in fact in some ways this song simply stands for the Russian nation. And I think he would have liked this song too, though for complex reasons of deep seated civilizational love (I don't say nationalism because that is too pale a word for what Solzhenitsyn talked about). In any case, I love both songs, so here they are.

    And a little anecdote. I used to work in a history department where Michael J., one of the grads, was a veteran of the gulag just like Solzhenitsyn. Michael spent 15 years there, from age 15 to age 30. He came of age there and told me once that his nation, his homeland, was the gulag. Like Solzhenitsyn he ended up at the Hoover Institute where he worked on his own history of the Soviet gulag.

    I asked him once if he didn't think that Solzhenitsyn has already done it, what with his three vol. Gulag Archipelago, each at over 1000 pages.

    He thought about it for a few seconds.

    "Too superficial."

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    Hitler sings!

    Mussolini speechless with adoration. Not since "The Producers" has he had a hit like this: "Movin' on Up!" It is now official - one can do anything, absolutely anything, with a computer and some clever splicing and dicing.

    And a bit creepy. Now that I have watched it again, the lyrics catch the essential banality of Hitler's speech and it's self-congratulatory appeal.

    it also shows the rock star like attraction of genuine evil better than anything since ol' Nick himself became a rock star in the original "Bedazzled". Alert Muldur and Scully.


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    X-Files dud: It's about faith?

    I never got into the X-Files when it was all the rage. And I have not watched the movie, which apparently bombed at the box-office because no one really understood what it was about. Here is an article about it in The Guardian claiming it is about faith. And the Guardian being the Guardian, they don't much like it.*

    Once his TV series and its associated activities had come to an end, Carter [the creator of the series] took five years out. He went surfing, learned to fly and climbed mountains. In addition, he says, he came "closer to faith". He seems to have returned to the X-Files destined to reinvent the franchise for a new age in the light of his own epiphany, consciously or otherwise.

    In his film, the message is laid on with what at first seems like excessive and unpersuasive zeal. The wintry Virginia landscape is as unforgivingly frozen as our own faithless world. In enforced retirement, Mulder clings stubbornly to his belief that there are more things in heaven and earth than Horatio dreams of. This leads him to endorse the apparently psychic visions of a paedophile priest, who in turn trusts in God's forgiveness. Scully is the sceptic on all of these counts, but puts her faith in untried medical treatments (she's now a doctor) and the God of the Roman Catholics.

    Interesting. If true.

    *remember Toynbee's anti-Christian review of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"?

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    Anthrax: some new considerations

    Richard Spertzel, head of the biological-weapons section of Unscom from 1994-99, categorically denies that Ivins could possibly be the lone perpetrator of the anthrax killings in today's Wall Street Journal. You should read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:

    I believe this is another mistake in the investigation.

    Let's start with the anthrax in the letters to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The spores could not have been produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where Ivins worked, without many other people being aware of it. Furthermore, the equipment to make such a product does not exist at the institute.


    The FBI spent between 12 and 18 months trying "to reverse engineer" (make a replica of) the anthrax in the letters sent to Messrs. Daschle and Leahy without success, according to FBI news releases. So why should federal investigators or the news media or the American public believe that a lone scientist would be able to do so?

    Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com also raises some more doubts. So we have one from a major conservative paper and one from a liberal e-journal.

    As my little friend Mickey says when he drops something, "Uh-oooooh!" So what really is going on with this case?

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    04 August 2008

    More weird stuff

    On the anthrax case that is. There is obviously other weird stuff out there. But Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com does some real reporting (as opposed to simply bloviating like I and most bloggers do) by discovering that the ONLY source of Ivins homicidal behavior and threats comes from his social worker (NOT a therapist and certainly not a psychiatrist) is somewhat problematical herself.

    Here is the core of it:
    So much of the public reporting about Ivins has been devoted to depicting him as a highly unstable psychotic who had been issuing extremely violent threats and who had a violent past. But that depiction has been based almost exclusively on the uncorroborated claims of Jean Carol Duley, a social worker (not a psychiatrist or psychologist) who, as recently as last year, was apparently still in college at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Duley's scrawled handwritten complaint against Ivins, seeking a Protective Order, has served as the basis for much of the reporting regarding Ivins' mental state, yet it is hardly the model of a competent or authoritative professional. Quite the opposite. Duley herself has a history that, at the very least, raises questions about her credibility. She has a rather lengthy involvement with the courts in Frederick, including two very recent convictions for driving under the influence -- one from 2007 and one from 2006 -- as well as a complaint filed against her for battery by her ex-husband.

    If you go back and reread all the news stories, they ALL base their depiction of Ivins supposed pathology on a hand scribbled note by Duley. It is a thin thread indeed. I was a bit suspicious myself, having seen enough historical research reporting received wisdom that is based on one highly unconvincing source (in fact, I can show you several places in my book where I do exactly that!)

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    Anthrax: still weird

    I am following the anthrax killer case with great interest because it is fascinating, important, and frightening. I am also trying to keep an absolutely open mind about Ivins and everything else. Yet it is, at this early stage, difficult to have a lot of confidence in how the FBI has handled the case going back to the very beginning. Now Andrew Sullivan has a post based on a NYT's article that pushes towards a type of conspiracy theory.

    Meanwhile The Washington Post has an article essentially wondering why Ivins kept his top level security clearance right through the final days of the investigation.

    Very strange, as one of my readers said.

    simple incompetence is usually Ockham's solution. I'm partial to it myself.


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    03 August 2008

    WWII: A History Lesson

    Pat Buchanan is the most paleo of the paleo-cons. Yet I can remember when he was everywhere on TV - before he managed to write himself right out of the Repub party, which was a neat trick. Now he has written a book about World War II. It's basic thesis seems to be that Churchill was a fool for forcing Hitler to fight the war, kill the Jews and invade Russia. We would have been a lot better off if we had stayed out of it because the Soviets were worse than the Nazis and Russia was the only power that "won" the war.

    Debatable. In fact so much so that National Review has put up a series of video interviews of Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens (talk about an odd couple) ripping the book's thesis to shreds. It's great fun.


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    The Night Sky

    When I was fourteen, just before I moved away from Northern Virginia, I went by bus with a group of Boyscouts out to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was an eye-opener in many ways. The first time I saw, in fact felt literally in the seat of my pants, just how big our country is. I had never seen territory like New Mexico. I remember the evening sunsets best, with mesas looming up against the fading colors. I saw my first Hispanics, and I fell in love with the culture of the old west.

    One night in the Sangre de Cristo mountains a park ranger, an astronomer, took us all out to set quietly on the mountain slope. While he explained the stars as best he could, we looked up at a night sky that was very nearly clear of all man made light pollution. Even coming from a farm I had never seen anything like it.

    So this post quoted on Andrew Sullivan's page really meant something to me.

    In his book "Nightwatch," the well-known Canadian astronomer Terrence Dickinson comments that in the aftermath of the predawn 1994 Northridge, California earthquake, electrical power was knocked out over a wide area. Tens of thousands of people in southern California rushed out of their homes looked up and perhaps for the first time in their lives saw a dark, starry sky. In the days and weeks that followed, radio stations and observatories in the Los Angeles area received countless numbers of phone calls from concerned people who wondered whether the sudden brightening of the stars and the appearance of an eerie silvery cloud (the Milky Way) might have caused the quake.

    "Such reaction," notes Dickinson, "can come only from people who have never seen the night sky away from city light

    The other thing that sticks in my mind after all these years is the astronomer's accent: it was an American accent alright, but unlike any I'd ever heard before.


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    As for Liddy Dole

    As I said, it's personal. When our putative nephew Mickey was adopted in Vietnam the embassy there, after the adoption was completed, refused to let him come to America. Their explanations about why were unconvincing. And that is being polite about it. 26 families were left in this limbo for months. It cost little Mickey's family thousands of dollars, they stayed in Vietnam for months, then in Ireland for months, and in general it was a traumatic experience for everyone. Especially his big sister, Máeráed. Here the summary of it on Sententiae. There is also a link there to the other blog where I posted a lot more info about it.

    Liddy Dole's office wouldn't even respond when the family asked for help.

    Aside from the fact that only her accent indicates she is actually from North Carolina, and that even Republican friends think she has been worthless as a representative of NC, I have no use for her. Other than that I have nothing against her for the simple reason that she has had no visible impact in her 'home' state one way or the other.


    If Ford is in so much trouble....

    Well, already aol.com has a news story suggesting we will be paying $3 a gal for gas pretty soon. No, not because of offshore drilling, or perp walking a few oil speculators or any of that. Good ol' supply and demand. As in ... demand is dropping.

    Anyway, I am sure that when demand picks up again prices will rise ... probably sometime around, oh, at a guess, the end of November. In any case, our auto companies are suffering. Ford in particular seems to have no game plan to deal with the fuel shortage, while GM is hurling itself full steam ahead on a plug-in hybrid, the Volt.

    So what does Ford plan to do? No word, as far as I know, though they might consider importing something like this.

    Oh wait. That IS a Ford. Wonder why we won't see it over here?

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    Anthrax: weirder and weirder

    And now a bit frightening. Ivins' social worker (?) now claims that Ivins was a psychopath:
    "As far back as the year 2000, the respondent has actually attempted to murder several other people, either through poisoning ... He is a revenge killer. When he feels that he's been slighted or has had — especially toward women — he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings," Duley [the social worker] said.

    I still don't know what to think of this. If the guy was that much of a threat, you would think that his co-workers, friends and family would have noticed something, and that does not seem to be what they are saying. Quite the contrary. You would also think that the FBI in the course of one of the most intense investigations in its history might have picked up on it sooner. Say, after five years instead of seven.

    So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, since the FBI doesn't want to talk about it, this case is going to be tried in the media. I don't think it will be pretty and worse, don't think it is going to produce a definitive conclusion. We may never know for sure.

    On an even scarier note, I heard on the news (don't remember the source) that Ivins was supposedly going to talk with the FBI about a plea bargain. A plea bargain about what? Accomplices? Or simply a full confession in return for life without parole?


    02 August 2008

    McCain, Obama, and Patriotism

    Someone asked about the allegation that McCain has questioned Obama's partiotism. Well, in my view, yes.

    And it is not just me. Here is a quote from Bob Herbert writing in the New York Times. You should read the whole thing since it gets the views of both me and Carmen letter perfect on several aspects of the campaign. Here is the part about patriotism.

    “For four days, Senator John McCain and his allies have accused Senator Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.”

    Evidence? John McCain needs no evidence. His campaign is about trashing the opposition, Karl Rove-style. Not satisfied with calling his opponent’s patriotism into question, Mr. McCain added what amounted to a charge of treason, insisting that Senator Obama would actually prefer that the United States lose a war if that would mean that he — Senator Obama — would not have to lose an election.

    But it could just be us I suppose. And yes, I do view the latter accusation as tantamount to calling Obama a traitor.

    Here's another take on the same subject from pretty much the same source: The New York Times.

    Though I suppose we could take it as simply politics as usual, the other side is just as bad, they all do it, it works, etc.


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    Update on Anthrax

    Jack raises some interesting points. From memory, I recall the reason for thinking it had to come from the US was the spores were identified as the Ames strain which was developed in an American lab. Now the FBI claims to have technology that can link the strain used in the killings directly to Ivins office, to his very desk in fact. But like all new technology, this can probably be contested.

    But I see that all the newspapers have new info so we will see. But for the moment we both agree that this is strange, very, very strange.

    The kind of weirdness conspiracy nuts love, unfortunately.

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    Irony and WSJ

    The Wall Street Journal. I have never credited it with having quite the fine sense of irony that it displays in publishing this opinion piece. No comment. You either get it or you don't. But I do believe that Turkey is waging a genuine War on Terror.

    Once I wrote it I realized that I love the headline for this post.


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    The Repubs strike back!

    Not to be outdone by Obama and the Demos in reaching today's youth the Repubs have put together an exciting CD collection (that will also be podcast!) of Repub golden oldies. How golden and how oldy? A former Repub speech writer in the Wall Street Journal explains:
    Open it up and you are treated to photos of Warren G. Harding staring into the horn of a crank phonograph, Herbert Hoover listening to a wireless, and a glum-looking Calvin Coolidge simply glowering at a camera. In an accompanying letter, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan writes that the CD includes "riffs by Dr. Russell Kirk," as well as "the pounding rhythm section of the Austrian School of Economics."

    Warren G Harding: the second most corrupt admin we've ever had. Herbert Hoover: the guy who calmly watched the nation slide into the Great Depression. What role models! On the other hand, I like Silent Cal: so many good anecdotes.


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    An Obamacon is....

    Decades ago I remember the clever and insightful joke that a conservative was a liberal who had just been mugged.

    Apparently an Obamacon is now a conservative who has just been laid off. On Salon.com anyway, where there is an ongoing series of posts on why conservatives should vote for Obama. Here is the explanation:
    I work in the insurance industry in downtown Boston. People are staying off the roads in droves thanks to high energy prices and our business is down 40 percent from last year. Since my company has not chosen to diversify its geographic base and since I'm the newest employee in my department and both single and childless, I'm out of a job.

    There is, of course, more to it than that, at least in this case. The writer goes on:

    John McCain's idiotic attacks on Obama's patriotism, taken together with his reversals of his previous (and admirable) positions on major issues (the Bush tax cuts, offshore drilling, etc.) and his willingness to associate with pond scum like Karl Rove and Company, have pushed me out of his camp. The John McCain of eight years ago is no more. The so called "Maverick" is an establishment tool who, if elected, will owe plenty of favors to the kind of corporatists and party hacks -- the defense industry, the oil companies, shitheads like King Karl -- who've helped make such a mess of things in the last seven and a half years.

    We, the Republican Party, are not worthy and do not deserve another four years. Under President Bush we've betrayed every principle we've stood for as a national party -- fiscal responsibility and discipline, limited government and a foreign policy guided by realism and coalition building.

    I don't know how widespread this feeling is (the writer may be simply a plant for all I know), but it echoes what my young Repub consultant friend thinks. Well, if he and his pal can't bring themselves to vote for Obama, the LEAST they can do is vote against Liddy Dole!

    yes, it's personal. How could you tell?


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    Exxon Mobil update

    Interesting take on offshore drilling and Exxon over on Salon.com. It tries to explain why Exxon, with record breaking profits, is desperate for offshore drilling. It seems their ability to pump oil has been decreasing all around the globe (ie Congress is not to blame - it's a worldwide problem).
    Offshore drilling will have only a trivial influence on the price of gas and will not decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil one whit. Only a massive reduction in demand and the development of alternative sources of energy will achieve such a promised land. But even just the prospects of increased production could do wonders for the share price of Exxon, should the oil company get some new leases.

    Exxon's executives must currently be tearing their hair out at their inability to increase production when the price of oil is at an all-time high. Because, as the events of the past few weeks have demonstrated, when the price of oil gets high enough, demand destruction follows, and the price inevitably drops. And suddenly, $11 billion in quarterly profits is ancient history.

    From that point on the post becomes an ugly rant against the energy policy of the Bush admin and I certainly wouldn't want to be a party to that.

    it's too easy, for one thing.


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    The news yesterday that Bruce Ivins, a top researcher at a government lab, was about to be indicted as the post-9/11 anthrax killer and had forestalled this by committing suicide is very disturbing on several levels. Not that it was a researcher in a government lab. That has been almost a certainty since a few months after the last death from anthrax. But consider: there could not have been in the whole world more than 50 people with access to that particular strain of anthrax with the knowledge to use it. In fact, I would guess that it couldn't be much more than 30. And it took the FBI SEVEN YEARS to build a case? After publicly naming someone else at the same lab as a "person of interest." And having to pay nearly $6 million to the poor guy as a result. Taxpayers' money, as they say (thanks, John Ashcroft).

    And are we even sure that they have the right guy? Not by a long sight yet.

    And there is the curious case of ABC's reporting of the incident back when it helped build up support for the invasion of Iraq. Supposedly four separate sources told them that government laboratory tests (the same lab Ivins worked at) had proven that the anthrax came from Iraq. The only problem is, it wasn't true. Now only folks at ABC know who those four 'sources' were. ABC though is keeping very quiet about who these four people were.

    Despite the fact they broke security in a time of national emergency, lied, and, oh well, helped start a war we didn't need to fight.

    And then there is the question: if the reports of Ivins "homicidal threats" going back to grad school, which admittedly aren't backed up at the moment by much at all, prove to be true, how did Ivins receive the top security clearance he would have needed to do the work we know he did? Wouldn't this have been handled by the FBI too?

    Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com has the most disturbing take on the story yet. He seems to be hinting at a government conspiracy of the type so often imagined implausibly by Hollywood.

    I wish I disbelieved it a little harder than I do.

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