Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I just had the notion of getting a tattoo of Tattoo, and all the "Who's on First"-type conversations that might ensue from explaining it.
Fair is fair.

Monday, February 27, 2006

*thwacks forehead*

I don't know how long the recent Sluggy Freelance storyline has been going on, but I only noticed now that the probe-happy aliens are named after the people on the A-Team.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Best product description ever.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's conclusive: there is no scientific "controversy" over evolution as regards intelligent design.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Number one threat: bears.

Lydia Angyiou's kids sure won't be giving her much trouble any more now that they've seen her wrestle a 700-pound polar bear.

Ms. Angyiou lives in Ivujivik, a village of 300 people on the shore of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec. One Wednesday evening earlier this month, Ms. Angyiou was walking near the village community centre with her two sons when a group of children playing street hockey nearby started shouting and pointing frantically. Ms. Angyiou, 41, turned around and saw a polar bear sizing up her seven-year-old son.

She told the children to run and raced around to get between the bear and her son. Then she started kicking and punching the animal, according to police reports. In a flash, the bear swatted her in the face and she fell on her back. With the bear on top of her, Ms. Angyiou began kicking her legs in a bicycle motion. She was swatted once more and rolled over, but the bear moved toward her again.

Siqualuk Ainalik heard the commotion and came rushing over. Seeing Ms. Angyiou wrestling with the bear, he ran to his brother's home, grabbed a rifle and headed back to the street. He fired a few warning shots. The sound diverted the bear's attention from Ms. Angyiou just long enough for him to aim and fire again. According to police, Mr. Ainalik fired four shots into the bear before it finally died.

With the help of some neighbours, Ms. Angyiou made it to the home of Nelson Conn, a constable with the Kativik Regional Police Force.

"She came in in a panic," Mr. Conn recalled in an interview yesterday. "She was obviously in shock. She was saying 'Bear. Bear.' I just took her over to our nursing station and I asked where and if the bear was dead. She said 'Yes.' "

Remarkably, Ms. Angyiou suffered only a couple of scratches and a black eye. She and the local police have been fielding calls from across Canada ever since the incident was first reported last week in the Nunatsiaq News. Ms. Angyiou, who doesn't have a telephone, could not be reached yesterday.

Meanwhile villagers are still marvelling at her courage and there is talk of nominating her for a bravery medal awarded by the Governor-General. "I've been here 24 years and I've never seen this before," said Larry Hubert, a regional captain with the police force who arrived on the scene just after the bear was shot. "For sure, she saved the kids' lives."

Mr. Hubert has known Ms. Angyiou for 15 years and he can't believe she took on a bear. He said the bear measured eight feet (2.4 metres) in length and weighed at least 700 pounds (318 kilograms).

Ms. Angyiou "is about five-foot nothing and 90 pounds on a wet day," Mr. Hubert said with a laugh. "She's pretty quiet. I'm surprised she went and did this. But I guess when your back is up against the wall, I guess we come up with super-human strength."

Ivujivik is Quebec's northernmost community, situated on a peninsula where the Hudson Bay meets the Hudson Strait. While polar bears roam the giant ice packs that float just off shore, Mr. Hubert said it's rare for them to wander into the village. He said he believes the bear that tangled with Ms. Angyiou became disoriented and was not looking for food.

"She's lucky the bear wasn't hungry," he said. "If the bear was hungry, she would have been eaten pretty quickly."

Kevin Ramsay-Turgeon, another local police officer, said villagers might spot a bear near town once a year. But no one can recall a bear getting close enough to hurt anyone.

Polar bear attacks anywhere are rare. About two years ago a research student was pushed to the ground by a polar bear in Wapusk National Park, which runs along the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Man. A colleague managed to scare the bear off by hitting it with a piece of wood. It was the first bear incident in more than 20 years in the park. The last fatal mauling in that area occurred in 1983.

However, officials in Russia have had to shoot three aggressive polar bears so far this year, according to the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund. One bear killed a 15-year old girl in a remote village in the region of Chukotka, which is across the Bering Strait from Alaska. The organization said in a statement that "decreasing ice cover, caused by global warming, is the reason for such behaviour" because it has disrupted the bear's feeding patterns.

For Mr. Conn, the bear attack in Ivujivik was a wild welcome to the area. Originally from Ottawa, he has been in the village only about four months. "I never thought I'd see something like that," he said. "But I guess we are in [the bear's] territory, so it's something to be expected."

Arizona is apparently considering legislation to allow students to "opt out of required reading assignments they consider personally offensive or pornographic."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

For homework in Hebrew, we had to write a short note "to the teacher explaining why we weren't in class last week." In class today, while we were doing a worksheet, the TA was reading through our answers and burst out laughing when she read mine. Eventually she had me read it out loud to the class and translate it.

This is the part I read in class:


I'm very sorry I didn't come to class last week, but you bore me. I thought, "If I'm going to sleep, I want to do it in my room and not in class."

If science were taught like this, we'd all want to be brain surgeons.

But instead, science is taught like this.
In the evangelical never-ending war to make our children idiots, people have been challenging the International Baccalaureate programs at high schools because it is "un-American" and "un-Christian".


I believe that the suspension of the International Baccalaureate program at Upper St. Clair High School is the correct one to take. Usually, school boards don't take actions to eliminate programs such as this. I am relieved to see that the USC School Board had the courage to eliminate this controversial program from the school curriculum.

My feelings are that these types of "international" programs are nothing more than left-wing attempts to bash the United States, our morals, religious freedoms and foreign policy. Most of these types of programs are teaching socialism, or worse, communism, to our youth, as well as overboard environmentalism principles.

I think our youth should learn more about their own nation (the United States) first and foremost. Too many high school students know very little about our nation and its history. As the saying goes, "those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them". I couldn't care less as to what the rest of the world thinks of our country.

That is how I feel.

Richard Clark, Washington, Pa.


As a resident of the district and a parent of a former IB student, I cannot be HAPPIER that the district decided to terminate the program. It promotes Marxist, extreme environmental thinking. While it may not be anti-Judeo-Christian, the program surely does not promote traditional Judeo-Christian values.

Academically speaking, the program is also weak when compared with the standard USC programs. In the IB program the students are expected to teach themselves. While self-taught curriculum may be fine for advanced high school students, it is completely inappropriate at the middle school level. This is particularly so when one considers that USC employs many of the most skilled (and highest paid) educators in the state.

Russell White, Upper Saint Clair


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


[Edit] Now with picture!


Monday, February 20, 2006

This is how the Department of Homeland Security wants to protect us from terrorists:

Two uniformed men strolled into the main room of the Little Falls library in Bethesda one day last week and demanded the attention of all patrons using the computers. Then they made their announcement: The viewing of Internet pornography was forbidden.

The men looked stern and wore baseball caps emblazoned with the words "Homeland Security." The bizarre scene unfolded Feb. 9, leaving some residents confused and forcing county officials to explain how employees assigned to protect county buildings against terrorists came to see it as their job to police the viewing of pornography.

If you recall, some of the idiocy vomited forth to attack John Kerry was that he would turn over the defense of our country to fur'ners, in all its inane and emetic forms.

So guess what the Bush administration has done?

Sold port security to a foreign company, said company being based in the United Arab Emirates.

Wonder if the right-wing hacks are going to bitch about Bush selling our security to 'damned ragheads'.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Wolff and Byrd in: the Life Partner of Frankenstein

I think it turned out okay.

I remember, before Peter Jackson's movies had come out, my brother told me, with great excitement, that Shelob was going to be in them--she had not been cut out.

With some amount of embarassment, I had to ask to be reminded who Shelob was. It had been a while since I'd read the books, and there are many names I don't easily remember.

He described her as the spider demon who was so evil that when Gollum saw her he fell down in worship.

I remembered her from that point on.

Now, I know that her name is probably pronounced shee'lob for the same reason you pronounce She-Ra or She-Hulk--she's a she-lob, "lob" apparently being a word for spider. But I've always pronounced it sheh-lob'. So when I heard Loreena McKennitt's rendition of the Tennyson poem The Lady of Shalott... well, you probably see where I'm going with this.

Loreena McKennitt lyrics here.
Both versions of the Tennyson poem here.

Apologies to Tennyson's estate for the damage all that spinning is surely doing to his grave.

I know it probably doesn't scan perfectly, and I'm sure it's a cop-out to rhyme "Ungol" with "Ungol", but... I'm pleased anyway. Feedback appreciated--nay, demanded!

Her Ladyship Shelob

The city of Minas Morgul,
Conquered and ruled by the Nazgûl,
Is now under the Dark Lord's rule
And only a hero or fool
     Would dare to sneak past her mob.
And up above lies Cirith Ungol,
Through which no man has yet emerged whole.
For none can pass through Torech Ungol,
     The lair of great Shelob.

There she sits by night and day,
Weaving webs of color gray,
And devouring all she may
Of those who tread near where she lay,
     Near the lair of dark Shelob.
Ungoliant's last offspring,
She wishes to eat everything
'Til Ephel Dúath is crumbling
     Beneath glutted Shelob.

Sauron knows that she lurks there,
Beyond the Straight and Winding Stairs.
She drags his soldiers to her lair,
But he has Orcs enough to spare
     To feed his cat, Shelob.
An evil thing in form of cob,
Her belly does in hunger throb.
But she's half-sick of eating Gob,
     Her ladyship Shelob.

She knows a creature drawing near--
He's worshipped her for forty years.
And as of now it would appear
That he's bringing sweeter meat here
     To the lair of great Shelob.
He wants again the ring he lost,
So he'll feed its bearer to his boss
And recover it from the dross
     Of her Ladyship Shelob.

Two small creatures, frail and weak,
Blindly following her Sneak
(Who's suffering a bout of pique)
Enter a black tunnel filled with reek,
     Enter the lair of dark Shelob.
Through the cave and into view,
The hobbits come in: one and two!
She wants a meal and thinks they'll do,
     Her ladyship Shelob.

A poison hiss that bids them ill
Alerts them to what in here dwells.
And Frodo, as if in a spell,
Holds the phial of Galadriel
     Before the great Shelob.
This old and strong power of night
Yields now and turns away in flight
From the Star of Eärendil's light,
     Too bright for dark Shelob.

Now they run and she gives chase,
The mother of Mirkwood's spider race.
Neither hobbit can match her pace
So Frodo falls onto his face,
     A victim of Shelob.
With venom in his master's veins,
The son of Hamfast flies insane
And soon shall be her only bane,
     Her ladyship Shelob.

She has a Sting, now so has he;
And with it smites her mightily.
She seeks to crush him 'neath her belly
But on his sword impaleth she,
     Her ladyship Shelob.
Samwise, worker of the tilth,
Spits at her "Now come, you filth!"
She crawls away to save her health,
     Her ladyship Shelob.

Samwise continues to harass,
With both blade and elvish star-glass,
And not in any era past
Has she such dreadful pain amassed,
     Her ladyship Shelob.
Though Samwise beat this monster fell,
Whether she died or yet grew well
Both poem and tale do not tell,
     The fate of great Shelob.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Frodo/Sam is my OTP

I just noticed this passage at the beginning of chapter 10 of book 5 of the Lord of the Rings:

On the near side of [Frodo] lay, gleaming on the ground, his elven-blade, where it had fallen useless from his grasp. Sam did not wait to wonder what was to be done, or whether he was brave, or loyal, or filled with rage. He sprang forward with a yell, and seized his master's sword in his left hand. Then he charged. No onslaught more fierce was ever seen in the savage world of beasts; where some desperate small creature armed with little teeth alone, will spring upon a tower of horn and hide that stands above its fallen mate.

Tolkien compared Sam and Frodo to an animal and its mate. If that's not slash-y, I don't know what is.


I'd say scans_daily has corrupted me, but then I remember that I did this.

On the plus side, at least now I know that Sam is left-handed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Damn those activist judges!

Well, shit.

Reading through this article, though, I notice that the decision was based on completely flouting the precedent set by Loving v. Virginia

The gay couples had claimed that the state's marriage law violated their constitutional rights to equal protection, privacy and due process.

The court disagreed in a 5-0 ruling and sided with state lawyers, who earlier had argued the state law did not allow for gay marriage.

"We find merit in the (state's) assertion that this case is not simply about the right to marry the person of one's choice, but represents a significant expansion into new territory which is, in reality, a redefinition of marriage," Justice John Lahtinen wrote for the Albany court.

The justices said any rewrite of the definition of marriage should come from the Legislature.

"While such a change of a basic element of the institution may eventually find favor with the Legislature, we are not persuaded that the Due Process Clause requires a judicial redefinition of marriage," Lahtinen wrote.

This is idiotic. The common definition of marriage is irrelevant and the legal definition of marriage is still subject to the constitution. If it's discriminatory, and it most certainly is, the court should rule so, as the Loving court said:

While the state court is no doubt correct in asserting that marriage is a social relation subject to the State's police power, Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888), the State does not contend in its argument before this Court that its powers to regulate marriage are unlimited notwithstanding the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor could it do so in light of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923), and Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535 (1942).

The powers of the legislature to regulate marriage are not unlimited when they come in direct conflict with the constitution.

However, the court decided that it wasn't biased:

The court also rejected claims that the marriage law exhibited gender bias; the court said the law applied equally to men and women.

You could only claim this if you ignore everything the Supreme Court said to the contrary nearly 40 years ago:

[T]he State argues that the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause, as illuminated by the statements of the Framers, is only that state penal laws containing an interracial element [388 U.S. 1, 8] as part of the definition of the offense must apply equally to whites and Negroes in the sense that members of each race are punished to the same degree. Thus, the State contends that, because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.


[W]e reject the notion that the mere "equal application" of a statute containing racial classifications is enough to remove the classifications from the Fourteenth Amendment's proscription of all invidious racial discriminations.... The mere fact of equal application does not mean that our analysis of these statutes should follow the approach we have taken in cases involving no racial discrimination where the Equal Protection Clause has been arrayed against a statute discriminating between the kinds of advertising which may be displayed on trucks in New York City, Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York, 336 U.S. 106 (1949), or an exemption in Ohio's ad valorem tax for merchandise owned by a nonresident in a storage warehouse, Allied Stores of Ohio, [388 U.S. 1, 9] Inc. v. Bowers, 358 U.S. 522 (1959). In these cases, involving distinctions not drawn according to race, the Court has merely asked whether there is any rational foundation for the discriminations, and has deferred to the wisdom of the state legislatures. In the case at bar, however, we deal with statutes containing racial classifications, and the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.


The State finds support for its "equal application" theory in the decision of the Court in Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883). In that case, the Court upheld a conviction under an Alabama statute forbidding adultery or fornication between a white person and a Negro which imposed a greater penalty than that of a statute proscribing similar conduct by members of the same race. The Court reasoned that the statute could not be said to discriminate against Negroes because the punishment for each participant in the offense was the same. However, as recently as the 1964 Term, in rejecting the reasoning of that case, we stated "Pace represents a limited view of the Equal Protection Clause which has not withstood analysis in the subsequent decisions of this Court." McLaughlin v. Florida, supra, at 188. As we there demonstrated, the Equal Protection Clause requires the consideration of whether the classifications drawn by any statute constitute an arbitrary and invidious discrimination.

I admit that all these quotes deal specifically with race and not sex discrimination. However, the justices were referring to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads only:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Nothing there says that this applies only to discrimination against race; indeed, sex/gender are suspect classes just as are race. Sex is subject only to intermediate scrutiny instead of strict scrutiny, but that hardly matters in this case. The court didn't bother to decide whether there was any reason for this discrimination--they simply decided, contrary to any reason--that there wasn't any.

Gah. Pisses me off.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

For those of you not in the know, Andreas Katsulas, the actor who played G'Kar in Babylon 5, died two days ago.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Yet-Another-Pagan-Holiday-Usurped-By-Christianity, y'all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Via filkertom I find these two lengthy posts written by one Glenn Greenwald detailing how "conservatism" is, in a wild abandonment of all traditionally conservative values, now used to mean "loyalty to Bush"--and "liberalism", by extension, is simply "disloyaly to Bush". Worth a read, if you're into that.

And if you're not, well... um... look!


It's funny because it's true

Just fired off another letter to the Exponent in reply to this abomination:

I suppose it is fitting that feeble protests like Mr. Twardowski's (February 13) are the best defense that Purdue Pete can muster. Pete is emblematic of deceit, and what have we in this fellow's letter but irrelevancies, straw men, and brazen claims of telepathy? He, like Mr. Yoder before him (February 9), would have you believe, my friends, that he is privy to what facts I know and do not know.

I know why we are called "boilermakers", good sir. Because, dismayed that our skill was not enough to provide victory, two coaches unscrupulously conscripted brawny outsiders for the sole purpose of winning football games. Rightly incensed by this dearth of morals, we were attacked as a team of "Sluggers, Cornfield Sailors, Haymakers, and Boilermakers" (http://www.purdue.edu/usp/purdue_pride/history.shtml#boilermakers), and adopted this in a sick notion of pride. You say that "Pete is representative of that time"? Let him, then! Let him represent this blight on our past, let him be the emblem of our shame, our turpitude! And let him stand for the university itself, if you will.

I, meanwhile, in my love of this institution, wish to have it represented by a far nobler creature than this macrocephalic marketing gimmick. The pudu is truly one of God's most honorable creatures--they do not cheat, they do not resort to whatever dirty tricks may enable them to win. I say to you, good fellows, adopt the pudu as the symbol, not of a blackened past, but of a bright future! Join him to help our university regain its moral standing by aiding endangered species such as he!

And always remember, my friends: you cannot spell "Purdue" without "Pudu".

Yeah, that's open-minded:

AUSTRALIA could become a Muslim nation within 50 years because "we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence", a Government backbencher says.

The former minister Danna Vale is one of five Coalition women proposing an amendment to the private member's bill that seeks to remove ministerial veto over abortion drugs such as RU486. At a news conference called by the five yesterday, she said it was important politicians considered the ramifications "for the community and the nation we become in the future".

"I have read … comments by a certain imam from the Lakemba Mosque [who] actually said that Australia is going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years' time," said Mrs Vale, MP for the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.

"I didn't believe him at the time. But … look at the birthrates and you look at the fact that we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions every year … You multiply that by 50 years. That's 5 million potential Australians we won't have here."


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Just got this Yahoo! Alert Breaking News e-mail:

WASHINGTON (AP) Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a hunting trip in Texas.


Friday, February 10, 2006

The revolution is being televised!

Or at least blogged about.
It has come to light that:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Why is this important? Well, they tell us:

The new disclosure that Libby has claimed that the vice president and others in the White House had authorized him to release information to make the case to go to war, and later to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence, is significant for several reasons. First, it significantly adds to a mounting body of information that Cheney played a central and personal role in directing efforts to counter claims by Wilson and other administration critics that the Bush administration had misused intelligence information to go to war with Iraq.

Second, it raises additional questions about Libby's motives in concealing his role in leaking Plame's name to the press, if he was in fact more broadly authorized by Cheney and others to rebut former Ambassador Wilson's charges. The federal grand jury indictment of Libby alleges that he had lied to the FBI and the federal grand jury by claiming that when he provided information to reporters about Plame's CIA employment, he was only passing along what he understood to be unverified gossip that he had heard from other journalists.

Instead, the indictment charges that Libby had in fact learned of Plame's CIA status from at least four government officials, Cheney among them, and from classified documents. Indeed, much of Libby's earliest and most detailed information regarding Plame's CIA employment came directly from the vice president, according to information in Libby's grand jury indictment. "On or about June 12, 2003," the indictment stated, "Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."

Libby testified that Cheney told him about Plame "in an off sort of, curiosity sort of, fashion," according to other information recently unsealed in federal court. Not long after that date, Libby, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and a third administration official began to tell reporters that Plame had worked at the CIA, and that she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger.

Finally, the new information indicates that Libby is likely to pursue a defense during his trial that he was broadly "authorized" by Cheney and other "superiors" to defend the Bush administration in making the case to go to war. Libby does not, however, appear to be claiming that he was acting specifically on Cheney's behalf in disclosing information about Plame to the press.


Thursday, February 9, 2006

So, the NSA wiretap brouhaha. Not only is it illegal and immoral, but also incompetent and ineffectual, according to Insight Magazine:

The Bush administration's surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda.

U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.

"They have been way ahead of us in communications security," a law enforcement source said. "At most, we have caught some riff-raff. But the heavies remain free and we believe some of them are in the United States."


The law enforcement sources said the intelligence community has identified several al Qaeda agents believed to be in the United States. But the sources said the agents have not been found because of insufficient intelligence and even poor analysis.

The assertions by the law enforcement sources dispute President Bush's claim that the government surveillance program has significantly helped in the fight against terrorism.


Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union confirm that the FBI has monitored and infiltrated a range of Muslim and Arab groups, including the Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

But despite the huge amount of raw material gathered under the legislation, the FBI has not captured one major al Qaeda operative in the United States. Instead, federal authorities have been allowed to use non-terrorist material obtained through the surveillance program for investigation and prosecution.

Also, President Bush has been saying that they've only been listening in on international calls made to al Qaeda members. Which is--guess what?--a lie:

The president said the program, which goes beyond the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, limits eavesdropping to international phone calls.

The sources provided guidelines to how the administration has employed the surveillance program. They said the National Security Agency in cooperation with the FBI was allowed to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of any American believed to be in contact with a person abroad suspected of being linked to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

At that point, the sources said, all of the communications of that American would be monitored, including calls made to others in the United States.

Big surprise....

They just don't stop....

I read this post at Pharyngula today, which leads me to this website:

The Geocentrism Challenge

CAI will write a check for $1,000 to the first person who can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. (If you lose, then we ask that you make a donation to the apostolate of CAI). Obviously, we at CAI don't think anyone CAN prove it, and thus we can offer such a generous reward. In fact, we may up the ante in the near future.

So let's recap. We have people who, for religious reasons, deny: evolution, the age of the earth, the Big Bang, the common-descent theory of languages, and heliocentrism.

Science is the discipline of deduction from observation--we take measurements, perform experiments, make predictions, and come up with a theory that tries to unify all the knowledge we have at the time. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the mentality that will make people believe in what some book says rather than what our own senses tell us. If the Bible told us that yellow is actually blue, would they believe that?

Oh. Never mind.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

And George Deutsch has already resigned.

That was quick.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

If this is what "supporting the troops" means (along with yellow ribbon bumper stickers, of course), what on earth would be the actions of someone who doesn't support the troops? Trying to bring them home from Iraq so they don't get killed anymore?

...oh, right.

And in more "the Bush administration are hypocritical jackasses" news, there's this information:

  • A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone on "the battlefield in Afghanistan" (as Bush asserted) while "trying to kill American forces" (as McClellan claimed).

  • Fewer than 20 percent of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been Qaeda members.

  • Many scores, and perhaps hundreds, of the detainees were not even Taliban foot soldiers, let alone Qaeda terrorists. They were innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.

  • The majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability.

"These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms ... but they were there to kill."
-- President Bush, June 20, 2005

"These detainees are dangerous enemy combatants....They were picked
up on the battlefield, fighting American forces, trying to kill
American forces."

-- White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 21, 2005

"The people that are there are people we picked up on the
battlefield, primarily in Afghanistan. They're terrorists. They're bomb
makers. They're facilitators of terror. They're members of Al Qaeda and
the Taliban....We've let go those that we've deemed not to be a
continuing threat. But the 520-some that are there now are serious,
deadly threats to the United States."

-- Vice President Cheney, June 23, 2005

"These are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield.
They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9/11 hijacker."

-- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, June 27, 2005

These quotes are representative of countless assertions by
administration officials over the past four years that all -- or the
vast majority -- of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are Qaeda
terrorists or Taliban fighters captured on "the battlefield."

administration's unspoken logic appears to be: Better to ruin the lives
of 10 innocent men than to let one who might be a terrorist go free.

The assertions have been false. And
those quoted above came long after the evidence of their falsity should
have been manifest to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their subordinates.

This is not to deny that many of the 500-odd men now held at
Guantanamo and some of the 256 others already released (including 76 to
the custody of their home countries) were captured on Afghan
battlefields or were terrorists, or both. Nor is it to deny the
difficulty of knowing with confidence which detainees could safely be
released. Indeed, several released detainees have ended up rejoining
Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

But reporter Corine Hegland's exhaustively researched cover story

in this issue -- studded with probative details and human stories that
every serious student of the war against terror should read -- provides
powerful evidence confirming what many of us have suspected for years:

  • A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men
    now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone
    on "the battlefield in Afghanistan" (as Bush asserted) while "trying to kill American forces" (as McClellan claimed).

  • Fewer than 20 percent of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been Qaeda members.

  • Many scores, and perhaps hundreds, of the detainees were
    not even Taliban foot soldiers, let alone Qaeda terrorists. They were
    innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the
    Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.

  • The majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather
    handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by
    villagers of highly doubtful reliability.

    These locals had strong incentives to tar as terrorists any and all
    Arabs they could get their hands on as the Arabs fled war-torn
    Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002 -- including noncombatant teachers
    and humanitarian workers. And the Bush administration has apparently
    made very little effort to corroborate the plausible claims of
    innocence detailed by many of the men who were handed over.

    The administration has also disclosed very little about who the
    Guantanamo detainees are, excepting 1) redacted transcripts of 314
    detainees' hearings before Guantanamo's nonjudicial "Combatant Status
    Review Tribunals" or CSRTs; and 2) somewhat more-detailed responses to
    the federal court petitions filed by lawyers for 132 of these 314 men.

    My estimates above are based largely on extrapolation from
    Hegland's analysis of these 132 federal court files. They appear to be
    reasonably representative of the men still at Guantanamo; certainly,
    the government has given no indication that its evidence is any weaker
    in these 132 cases than in the other 370 or so.

    It is, therefore, quite remarkable to learn (from Hegland) that
    well over half (75) of the 132 are not even accused of fighting the
    United States or its allies on any battlefield in post-9/11 Afghanistan
    or anywhere else.

    Indeed, only 35 percent of them (more precisely, of the 115
    whose court files specify the locus of capture) were seized in
    Afghanistan; 55 percent were picked up by Pakistanis in Pakistan.

    The government's case for continuing to detain most of these 75
    nonbattlefield captives is that other people of doubtful reliability
    have said they were associated with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, often in
    very indirect ways.

    The tribunal hearings, based largely on such
    guilt-by-association logic, have been travesties of unfairness. The
    detainees are presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence --
    without help from lawyers and without being permitted to know the
    details and sources of the evidence against them. This evidence is
    almost entirely hearsay from people without firsthand knowledge and
    statements from other detainees desperate to satisfy their brutally
    coercive interrogators. One file says, "Admitted to knowing Osama bin Laden,"
    based on an interrogation in which the detainee -- while being pressed
    to "admit" this, despite his denials -- finally said in disgust, "OK, I
    knew him; whatever you want."

    Hegland focuses on a self-described teacher of the Koran from
    Yemen who was arrested by Pakistanis at the age of 17 while fleeing the
    Afghan war and was later flown to Guantanamo. The only real evidence
    against him, wrote his nonlawyer "personal representative" (an Army
    lieutenant colonel), was a proven liar's claim to have seen the Yemeni
    -- long before 9/11 -- with an AK-47 at bin Laden's private airport in

    This, plus something said by one Mohamed al-Kahtani
    while being driven mad by his tormenters (see below), was evidence
    enough for the tribunal to brand the Yemeni an enemy combatant.

    It's difficult to know how many of the 750 men taken to
    Guantanamo were dangerous to Americans when they arrived, let alone how
    many of the innocent detainees among them may have acquired a lust for
    American blood from years of being jailed, humiliated, and brutalized
    by Americans. The administration's unspoken logic appears to be: Better
    to ruin the lives of 10 innocent men than to let one who might be a
    terrorist go free.

    This logic would be understandable if the end of protecting
    American lives justified any and all means, including the wrecking of
    many more innocent non-American lives. So, too, would be the torture
    (or near-torture) in late 2002 of the above-mentioned al-Kahtani, after
    fingerprints had shown him to be the would-be "20th hijacker" turned
    away by a suspicious immigration agent a few weeks before 9/11.

    Al-Kahtani was interrogated for 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of
    54 days; he had water dripped on his head and was blasted with cold
    air-conditioning and loud music to keep him awake; his beard and head
    were shaved; he was forced to wear a bra and panties and to dance with
    a male jailer; he was hooded; he was menaced with a dog, told to bark
    like one and led around on a leash; he was pumped full of intravenous
    fluids and forced to urinate on himself; he was straddled by a female
    interrogator and stripped naked; and more -- all under a list of
    interrogation methods personally approved by Rumsfeld.

    Al-Kahtani may well have had valuable information. But it
    appears that many other detainees who had no information -- because
    they had no involvement in or knowledge of terrorism -- have been put
    through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes,
    use of forced positions" in a systematic effort to break their wills
    that is "tantamount to torture," the International Committee of the Red
    Cross complained in a confidential report to the government, excerpts
    of which The New York Times obtained in November 2004.

    The Pentagon responded then that Guantanamo was an oasis of "humane" treatment.

    Last July, the Pentagon elaborated in a report of an investigation into
    complaints by FBI agents of abusive interrogation methods. Many of
    these methods -- such as shackling detainees to the floor for hours in
    painful positions, keeping them shivering cold during interrogations,
    grilling them for 16 hours nonstop, waking them up by moving them every
    few hours, using loud music and strobe lights -- had been officially
    approved as "humane," the Pentagon report explained.

    Bush has also pledged that the Guantanamo detainees are treated
    "humanely." At the same time, he has stressed, "I know for certain ...
    that these are bad people" -- all of them, he has implied.

    If the president believes either of these assertions, he is a fool. If he does not, choose your own word for him.

  •
    Hey. Remember George Deutsch, the wet-behind-the-ears journalism major trying to tell NASA what real science is?

    Seems he didn't even graduate from college.
    So I was reading Google's Terms of Service, and found this:

    Without limiting the foregoing, under no circumstances shall Google or its licensors be held liable for any delay or failure in performance resulting directly or indirectly from acts of nature, forces, or causes beyond its reasonable control, including, without limitation, Internet failures, computer equipment failures, telecommunication equipment failures, other equipment failures, electrical power failures, strikes, labor disputes, riots, insurrections, civil disturbances, shortages of labor or materials, fires, floods, storms, explosions, acts of God, war, governmental actions, orders of domestic or foreign courts or tribunals, non-performance of third parties, or loss of or fluctuations in heat, light, or air conditioning.

    I know it actually makes sense to include all those possibilities, but it still amuses me.

    First, Purdue! Tomorrow, the world!


    Unfortunately, they cut out the first paragraph. The full letter I sent began like this:

    Friends, Professors Keeney and Sasyk, countrymen, lend me your ears! For too long have we suffered the disfigured visage of Purdue Pete as our mascot. He must be toppled. What we need as a mascot is this:

    And I'm in the School of Science, not Technology.

    But still!

    Monday, February 6, 2006

    So since it was revealed that the Bush administration has been breaking the law by ordering the NSA to use wiretaps without a warrant, right-wingers have kvetched that revealing this was a terrible leak that damaged national security. They've whined that those who were upset over outing Valerie Plame (remember that?)--a group of people that, naturally, does not include them--ought to be even more outraged at this. They've said that the whistle-blowers are traitors and ought to be thrown in jail. What they've never said is how this leak in any damaged national security. It should be pretty obvious to anyone, al Qaeda included, that their phones were at risk of being tapped. So what did this revelation tell them that would in any way help them attack the U.S.?

    Alberto Gonzales finally answered that today:

    I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.

    But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.

    The only appropriate reaction comes from Digby:

    The oceans no longer protect us. The terrorists are coming over any minute to kill us all in our beds. They are a ruthless enemy who hide in caves until they suddenly decide to strike without mercy. But they have an achilles heel. They are all suffering from serious memory problems. Unless they see it in the paper they forget that we are tapping telephones. Then they slap themselves in the forehead and say "Oh no! I've been calling my friend Mohammed in LA planning that awesome terrorist attack and like, totally fergot that the infidels are listening in. Fuck. Man, Zawahiri is gonna to be so pissed."


    Sunday, February 5, 2006

    So scientists have long been mocking creationists with ideas of Intelligent Falling, Wrathful Dispersion, etc. We didn't really expect them to start going after language, gravity, or, say, the Big Bang, even though all those are just "theories".

    Then a 24-year-old journalism major was given a job with P.R. over at NASA by the Bush administration.

    And he insisted that all mention of the Big Bang be followed by the word "theory", claiming

    The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.”

    Sigh. And people are billing this administration as 'pro-science' now?

    Best. Movie. Ever.

    Brokeback to the Future

    Saturday, February 4, 2006

    More links!

    Kidnapping foreign visitors: an Islamic perspective

    FAQ: Intelligent Design, Designer, Irreducibly Complexity and Irreducibly Complex

    Designed by God

    Friday, February 3, 2006

    Link dump!

    From The Guardian Unlimited we learn that:

    • PM backed invasion despite illegality warnings

    • Plan to disguise US jets as UN planes

    • Bush: postwar violence unlikely

    Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

    A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.


    Mr Bush told the Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

    According to Atlanta Progressive News, 17 US Representatives "have signed on to H. Res 635--supporting a probe looking into the grounds for impeaching Bush". But as they're all Democrats, they'll be ignored.

    Intelligence experts allegedly agree with what I've said before: we're not targeted for our freedoms, but for our policies.

    Bush is, of course, used to lying. Apparently he didn't mean a word of his state of the union speech, except perhaps for his ban on animal-human hybrids. I laughed for several minutes when I read that comment.

    And in that vein, we have some neat scientific experiments, including DNA testing of Sasquatch fur and inventing a spacecraft that bleeds.

    Space can be an unforgiving environment for elderly satellites, with temperature extremes, tiny rocks and other hazards threatening to breach spacecraft hulls.

    But future spacecraft may be able to extend their mission lifetimes by borrowing a human trait to heal minor nicks and scratches.

    "The analogy is the human body," said Ian Bond, of England's University of Bristol, in an interview with SPACE.com. "Think about cutting yourself. There, capillary action will draw blood out to block the cut."

    Bond and his colleague developed a similar system, but replacing blood with resin and veins with tiny glass tubes, to fill in cracks or small holes in satellite "skin" as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) program to study technology for self-healing spacecraft. By closing small cracks or micrometeorite punctures themselves, satellites could stave off more serious structural problems the initial damage may lead to, researchers said.

    "We were surprised at how well it worked," said Bond, a senior lecturer in �of the year-long study. "We're trying to develop an autonomous system...so you don't have to initiate the healing process for a spacecraft."

    Cracking down on cracks

    In their experiment, Bond and his colleagues packed a gooey, resinous adhesive and a hardening agent inside tiny, hollow tubes embedded in a composite material commonly used in spacecraft hardware.

    "We have hollow fibers in structure which are then breached, and the resin bleeds out into the damage," Bond said. "It's quite viscous."

    The adhesive resin flows through a 40-micron wide space inside the glass fibers, Bond said, adding that other fibers filled with hardening agent are intermixed among their resin-full counterparts to cure and close a crack or hole. One micron is one-millionth of a meter. For comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns thick.

    The method successfully sealed breaches in material across a wide range of temperatures, from -148 degrees to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (-100 degrees to 100 degrees Celsius), in a vacuum chamber, Bond said. It also sealed cracks within about 90 minutes, about the time it takes a spacecraft to complete one full orbit around the Earth, he added.

    "It's really useful for cracks of small holes, that sort of thing," Bond said. "If there's like a big hole there, we wouldn't be able to repair it."

    Fibers or microcapsules

    Lining a spacecraft's skin with a wound-sealing resin is not the only way to ward off stress maintain hull integrity.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are seeding composite materials with tiny capsules of healing agent and hardening catalyst to test their self-repairing properties.

    "There are certainly applications in microelectronics, as well as with materials that suffer from thermal or mechanical fatigue," said Scott White, who heads the Autonomic Healing Research project at the university. "One of the problems with composites is that, if there's internal damage, it's hard for us to see it."

    Adhesive-laden microcapsules or fibers could fill in microcracks or gaps between layers of a composite material that separate over time due to age or delamination, he added.

    White's lab can fabricate microcapsules ranging in diameters from 100 microns down to the sub-micron level.

    Vascular mimicry

    Both microcapsules and hollow fibers suffer from a limited supply of healing agent. Once the microcapsules or resin fibers near a damage site are exhausted, the healing process stops regardless of whether it's complete, the researchers said.

    "What we have now, it's a one-shot system," Bond said.

    Both teams are working to develop transport systems that would shift healing agents through a material. The next step for the fiber-based method is the development of a pumping setup akin to the human body's vascular system that could circulate healing agent throughout a spacecraft to ensure a constant supply, Bond said.

    Meanwhile, White and his colleagues - a group that includes Bond - are studying the potential of building channels directly into a material, where microcapsules could flow from a central reservoir.

    "We're on the first rung of the ladder," Bond said, adding that the system could one day evolve beyond unmanned satellites to help astronauts safeguard their vessels against small hull breaches. "For manned spacecraft...it could mitigate things like [extra] spacewalks."


    Thursday, February 2, 2006

    I'd read about the Regal Horned Lizard's defense mechanism before, but I'd never seen it in action.

    It's... not quite how I imagined.

    Wednesday, February 1, 2006

    I happened to run across this comment, and decided that the image must be shared:

    Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy

    David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, believes the real worry is whether or not chimeras will be put to uses that are problematic, risky, or dangerous.

    For example, an experiment that would raise concerns, he said, is genetically engineering mice to produce human sperm and eggs, then doing in vitro fertilization to produce a child whose parents are a pair of mice.

    "Raise concerns"? My only concern would be, on a scale of 1 to 10, how awesome would that be?