Friday, March 31, 2006

I nearly spit my drink over my monitor reading this--the army has announced that it is banning the use of commercial body armor:

Soldiers will no longer be allowed to wear body armor other than the protective gear issued by the military, Army officials said Thursday, the latest twist in a running battle over the equipment the Pentagon gives its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army officials told The Associated Press that the order was prompted by concerns that soldiers or their families were buying inadequate or untested commercial armor from private companies — including the popular Dragon Skin gear made by California-based Pinnacle Armor.

So you send them to war without adequate armor, the absence of which may have caused many otherwise-preventable deaths. Then when they buy their own equipment, you don't reimburse them. And when law is passed making you reimburse them, you just ban them from buying their own armor at all--and all for concern over their "safety".

Yeah, right.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Are jurors allowed to ask questions during a trial?
Antonin Scalia, that great darling of the religious right, that stalwart defender against moral decay, that conservative, religious beacon, apparently flipped off a photographer and told his critics to get sodomized--though he didn't use that euphemism. He did say it in Italian, though, so does that make it better?

No, what makes this better is that he did it in a church.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Disturbing, if true. Basically, Shiite officials allege that the American amabassador to Iraq reported that Bush told him to say that he (Bush) did not want the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, to remain prime minister.

The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting.

Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

The American Embassy confirmed Khalilzad met with al-Hakim, but hasn't said what the meeting was about.

As one might expect, this didn't go over to well with the Shia:

Haider al-Ubady, a spokesman for Mr. Jaafari, said the prime minister had heard of the ambassador's verbal message through officials in his party, and accused the Americans of trying to subvert Iraqi sovereignty and weaken the Shiite ranks.

"How can they do this?" Mr. Ubady said. "An ambassador telling a sovereign country what to do is unacceptable."

"The perception is very strong among certain Shia parties that the U.S., led by Khalilzad, is trying to unseat Jaafari," he added.

The White House, naturally, denies any such thing. I mean, who could ever suspect them of wanting to replace a foreign government that displeased them in any way? That sort of action would be completely unprecedented.
Well, that certainly makes me feel safer:

Four years after the September 11 attacks, investigators were able to easily enter the United States with enough radioactive material to make two so-called dirty bombs, according to a report on a government undercover investigation obtained on Monday.


[T]he investigators, posing as employees of a fictitious, still got past the border patrol with fake paperwork authorizing them to transport the material, the report said.

"The CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the investigators' counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess and transfer radioactive sources," the GAO said in a letter to Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of a Senate
Homeland Security subcommittee.

"We believe the amount of radioactive sources that we were able to transport into the United States during our operation would be sufficient to produce two dirty bombs, which could be used as weapons of mass disruption," the letter said.

The good news is that the radiation monitors actually worked in this case. The bad news? Apparently that doesn't matter, because they could just as easily have gotten the material shipped to Washington D.C. for them. The undercover agents bought the radioactive material by phone from a commercial supplier, who don't have to ask why the customers want it and don't have to get any approval to sell small quantities. So the moral?

"We could have purchased all of the radioactive sources used in our two undercover border crossings by making multiple purchases from different suppliers... using false identities, and had all of the radioactive sources conveniently shipped to our nation's capital," the letter said.

But wait, that's not all! Our railroad security sucks, too:

[J]ust three miles from downtown Newark and seven miles from Manhattan, ... 90-ton tanker cars full of deadly chemical gases are routinely stored and shipped.

Gates to the depot are unlocked and unguarded, allowing unimpeded access to tracks where cars loaded with deadly chlorine, ammonia or oleum gases are stored.

Along the track bed, many switching devices are unlocked, so unauthorized passers-by could redirect, and possibly derail, a train by simply pulling a lever. Security is so lax that a reporter and photographer recently spent 10 minutes driving along a rail bed beside cars holding toxic chemicals without being challenged, or even approached, by railroad employees.

And it seems Bush has done nothing despite rambling about how he's gonna prevent another attack and make us safer:

The Homeland Security Department has been reluctant to tighten regulations regarding the transportation of deadly chemicals by rail. In his speech last week, Mr. Chertoff made only passing reference to the risks of transporting the deadly cargo, and there is no indication that the department will require the kind of changes in equipment and procedures that security experts say will reduce the risk of a terrorist attack or catastrophic accident.

"Chemical transport is clearly the greatest vulnerability in the country today, and for some reason — and I'm not sure what it is — the federal government has not acted," said Richard A. Falkenrath, President Bush's former deputy homeland security adviser. "There's no legislation necessary, the government already has the authority to require stronger containers, reroute shipments, and allow the kind of tracking that would allow local police agencies to know what they have to contend with in their communities. But to date it hasn't been done."

In some cases they even hinder such actions:

[T]he [D]epartment [of Homeland Security] will not require any shift to safer technology, Mr. Chertoff said, and the chemical security bill he is now advocating is likely to prevent states from adopting any such requirement.

Why? Because apparently the years they've spent in office isn't enough time to consider the problem thoroughly enough:

Brian Doyle, a Homeland Security Department spokesman, said it wanted to complete a thorough assessment of the system before imposing any restrictions on the railways. "It's one thing to just throw money at something and say it is fixed," he said. "But you want to do it right."


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gays can't marry, but kids should be allowed to:

Kansas lawmakers are happy to tell gays they can't marry, but when it comes to 14-year-olds wanting to wed, they say government should stay out of other people's business.

The Senate took up a bill last week that sets a minimum age for marriage at 16 with parental consent. The bill was prompted by a case in which a 21-year-old Nebraska man came to Kansas to marry a 13-year-old girl pregnant with his child. Kansas currently has no minimum marriage age.

Before the Senate approved the bill, Sen. Kay O'Connor, an Olathe Republican, pushed through an amendment to allow those under 16 to marry if a judge agrees it's in their best interest. O'Connor, a supporter of last year's ban on gay marriage, said she would rather not set any minimum.

"I believe parents should make that decision, not government," she said, adding that without the amendment, "Mary and Joseph would not have been able to get married in the state of Kansas, because Mary was 14."

I'll add that the minimum age-bill did pass, so O'Connor appears to be in the minority here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Baldness is dangerous:

Aeschylus frequently travelled to Sicily, where the tyrant of Gela was a patron. In 458 BC he travelled there for the last time; according to traditional legend, Aeschylus was killed in 456 BC when an eagle (or more likely a Lammergeier), mistaking the playwright's bald crown for a stone, dropped a tortoise on his head

Moral of the story? Wear wigs. Birds see right through comb-overs.
Sportsmanship revisited:

Take the 1904 St. Louis, Missouri Summer Olympics for example. These games were only the third summer games ever held (There actually were no winter games at this time - they were added in 1924.). The original games were held in 1896 at Athens and were then followed by the 1900 Paris games.

The St. Louis games could hardly be called an international competition. Since traveling overseas from Europe was extremely expensive at the time, the competition consisted mostly of Americans and Canadians (of the 681 athletes, 525 were from the United States.). It should be pointed out, however, that the Olympics were not intended to be a competition among nations at the time - it was a competition among amateur athletes from around the world. It was the job of the amateur athlete to find his way to the games at his own expense. No one cared if you couldn't get there.


To start, if you were considered to be a minority, you had to compete in separate games. These games came under the high-sounding name of "Anthropology Days" which were held on August 12 and 13, 1904. These games were designed to face "costumed members of the uncivilized tribes" against one another. Never-to-be classic Olympic games were included - mud fighting, rock throwing, pole climbing, spear throwing, and... you get the idea...


An American gymnast named George Eyser won two gold, two silver, and one bronze medal at the games. Quite a remarkable feat when you consider the fact that he only had one real leg - the other leg was solid wood

All amusing. But the real winner that year was:

The first man to cross the finish line was Fred Lorz from New York City. Lorz had completed the race in just over three hours time. When he entered the stadium, the crowd roared with excitement. Photographs were taken of President Roosevelt's daughter Alice placing a laurel wreath over Lorz's head.

Lorz's moment in the limelight did not last very long. Just as Lorz was about to accept his medal, officials learned that Lorz had been spotted passing the halfway mark in an automobile. It seems that Lorz had been suffering from cramps, so he hitched a ride at the 9 mile point. He then rode in the vehicle for another eleven miles, at which point the car overheated and broke down. He waived at the spectators and fellow runners along the way. Lorz, now rejuvenated from his ride, chose to run the rest of the race.

Lorz claimed that he never meant to fool anyone - he just couldn't resist the praise and adulation of the roaring crowd. Lorz was immediately banned for life from any future amateur competition. This ban was lifted a year later allowing him to win the Boston Marathon (we'll assume that he was closely watched).

So, if Lorz didn't win, who did?

It was a British-born man named Thomas Hicks who ran for the American team. Hicks ran the race in 3:28:53. When he ran into the stadium the crowd was less than enthusiastic. After all, they had already cheered for a winner, even if he had been disqualified.

Of course, good little Alice Roosevelt was again ready to pose with the winner. But she couldn't. Hicks had to be carried off of the track. It seems that Hicks had begged to lie down about ten miles from the finish line. Instead, his trainers gave him an oral dose of strychnine sulfate mixed into raw egg white to keep him going. This was not enough - they had to give him several more doses, as well as brandy, along the way. By the end of the race, Hicks had to actually be supported by two of his trainers so that he could cross the finish line (essentially, he was carried over the line with his feet moving back-and-forth). Hicks was very close to death's door. It took four doctor's to get him in good enough shape just to leave the grounds, eventually falling asleep on a trolley.

Wait! That's not the end of the story! (can it get any more bizarre?)

It seems that another entrant was a Cuban postman named Felix Carvajal. Once Felix heard about the marathon, he announced that he was going to run. He had no money, so he quit his job and went into the fund raising business. He ran around the central square in Havana and jumped on a soapbox pleading for donations. He repeated this several times until he raised the necessary cash.

On his way to the race, Felix managed to lose all of his money in a crap game in New Orleans. As a result, he had to hitchhike his way to the games (not an easy thing to do in 1904). When Carvajal arrived at the games, he lacked any type of running gear. The officials were forced to postpone the start of the marathon for several minutes while he cut the sleeves off his shirt and the legs off his pants. He ran the race in lightweight street shoes.

During the race, Felix didn't seem to fatigue easily. He constantly conversed with the crowd, even running backwards at times while he spoke to them in broken English.

But wait, in keeping with the 1904 tradition it had to get worse for poor Felix:

He blew any chance of victory by getting hungry. He first ate some peaches that he stole from a race official. He then took a detour into an orchard to munch on some green apples. Big mistake - he developed stomach cramps and had to temporarily drop out of the marathon. Eventually, Felix got back in the race and managed to come in fourth place. He probably would have won if he had not gotten the munchies.

Hold it - the marathon is still not over!

The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics - two Zulu tribesman named Lentauw (real name: Len Taunyane)and Yamasani (real name: Jan Mashiani). They wore bibs 35 and 36, respectively.

The only problem was that these two tribesmen were not in town to compete in the Olympics - they were actually the sideshow! Yes, they were imported by the exposition as part of the Boer War exhibit (both were really students at Orange Free State in South Africa, but no one wanted to believe that these tribesmen could actually be educated - it would have ruined the whole image).

Lentauw finished ninth and Yamasani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Lentauw could have done better - that is if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by a large, aggressive canine!


Friday, March 24, 2006

"[I]f you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic."

Are you paying attention, Cal Thomas?

"There can be no morality without God" my ass.

Now Bush's not even going to obey the laws that he passed:

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it "a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a "signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would "impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote: "The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

I love the White House's rationale for this:

"The signing statement makes clear that the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "The president has welcomed at least seven Inspector General reports on the Patriot Act since it was first passed, and there has not been one verified abuse of civil liberties using the Patriot Act."

It'd be kinda hard to verify when you're abusing the Patriot Act when you refuse to tell anyone when and how you're using it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Curiosity... satisfied!

The best thing to happen to me this week was getting mugged.

I love it.

From a comment at filkertom's journal, I find this wonderful cartoon:

And that post of filkertom's was inspired by markbernstein, who got it from supergee, who got it from anne_jumps. This viral piece of news is also related to Senator Napoli, who said that there should be no thoughts of abortion in the case of "simple rape".

As you can imagine, this didn't go over too well:

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty," she said to me last week. "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One-third of French say they are racist:

One third of French people say they are racist, a French human rights watchdog said on Tuesday, after a survey that showed an increase from last year in the number of people who acknowledged being racist.

Some 33 percent of 1,011 people surveyed face-to-face by pollsters CSA said they were "somewhat" or "a little" racist, up 8 percentage points from last year, according to an annual report by the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights.

The poll asked the question "When it comes to you personally, would you say you are ..." followed by a list of options: somewhat racist, a bit racist, not racist, not very racist, not racist at all and don't want to say.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Marriage and the anti-gay crusaders:

[W]hy are there so many clamoring for an amendment to ban same-sex marriages when the state's highest court already has ruled on it? Perhaps they are driven by hate. The proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman is simply legislated gay-bashing in disguise. GLBT-identified persons have made great strides with respect to obtaining protection against discrimination and being comfortable publically with their sexual orientation or gender identification.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

God didn't intend for humans to engage in all these unnatural sexual acts like sodomy and fellatio and other words that Debora won't recognize and should not ever, ever look up.

No, this is how God intended sex to be:

Drosophila seminal fluid has the property of reducing the female's interest in remating, increasing her rate of egg-laying, and is also mildly toxic. Artificial selection in the lab can produce females that are resistant to the effects, and males that produce more and more potent semen to overcome their resistance, to the point where the line of "super potent" males, when crossed to unselected females, kill their partners with their ejaculations.


This one is about a rather well-known monthly event that affects a certain portion of our population, entitled

That Time of the Month

It is that time of the month once again
That time that I just detest so.
"Your body's changing," they said the first time
As if I would not ever have guessed so.

I will become very "irritable"
To use a mild euphemism.
Changing hormones will make me a real bitch
And reduce me to crude barbarism.

Worse is the patronization I face:
"It's not so bad, rest assured, miss."
That's what I hear ev'ry twenty-eight days
From some bastard who's never endured this.

Soon blood will flow and my body will bloat--
I do not know how I can cope.
This lunar cycle just could not be worse...
God it sucks when you are a lycanthrope.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Australia considers a plan to 'de-program' Islamic militants:

Police Commissioner Mick Keelty proposed the idea, saying the technique involved using respected imams or people previously connected with militant organisations to convert extremists to more moderate views.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that while "re-programming isn't the phrase I would use", the idea would be considered as it had been implemented successfully in Europe, the Middle East and Indonesia.

"Those governments have made an attempt to persuade extremists and terrorists who have been held in prison to change their point of view and to understand that it's not the Islamic way to kill, it's not the Islamic way to murder," he told reporters.


Indonesia's anti-terrorist squad now had former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) commander Nasir bin Abbas working for them and re-educating arrested JI recruits, he said.

"It's somebody they would have otherwise looked up to as a natural leader, in terms of a terrorist, and they've turned him around and used him to convert the others," Keelty said.


Keelty said he had raised the idea with the government in Australia, where 24 Muslim men are facing terrorism charges, but it would require a major policy shift and had gone no further.

"Essentially, it would be a threshold question in terms of policy as to whether we would engage in something that forces people into some sort of de-programming or de-radicalisation," he said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman opposed the plan.

"These countries the police commissioner mentions are involved in torture," O'Gorman said. "This de-programming is part of the same basket of procedures."

O'Gorman said there was no evidence to suggest that the practice, which he said was better described as "brainwashing", was effective in deterring terrorism.

Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network spokesman Waleed Kadous, however, said a voluntary scheme had merit.

"It's important to highlight that already many respected scholars in the Muslim community are informally deconstructing terrorism and condemning terrorism to their congregations already," Kadous said.

"If it's voluntary we have no objection to it, but the problem once you make it compulsory is it just won't work, because religious leaders who do so will be seen as instruments of the government and will lose credibility to those people."


Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Lesbian Becomes College Homecoming King:

Hood College is reviewing its homecoming rules after a lesbian was crowned king, a college official says.


Jones, who is openly homosexual, received 64 of 169 votes cast, the News-Post reported.


Jones tried to run last year for homecoming prince but the student committee wouldn't let her on the ballot, even though she had gathered the required number of signatures on nominating petitions.


Miller said a rule change this year abolished the petitions and required that candidates be nominated by student ballots.

Jones said she didn't even know she was nominated until she saw her name on the final ballots that were distributed Feb. 13. Those ballots had been reviewed the night before by only half of the homecoming committee members at a hurriedly scheduled meeting, the News-Post reported.

And some of the results of this? Complaints, of course. That's to be expected, though I wonder how many of the people who are complaining didn't vote at all--only 169 votes out of 2100 students?

Waves of discontent are still rippling through the 2,100-student campus in western Maryland more than two weeks after Jones was crowned at the Feb. 18 homecoming dance, the News-Post reported Monday.

"She is not a man," said Singleton Newman, a 22-year-old senior who was among the queen candidates. "It is a gender issue, and she is a woman."

Santo Provenzano, 21, who competed for king, said Jones' selection made the event seem like a joke. "It discourages guys from wanting to take part in the future," he said.

Really? Why's that?

Maybe because pansies like you don't like being beaten by girls, and especially not at something that has usually been gender-exclusive?

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

This is a wonderful page.

It allows you to download videos from YouTube, iFilm, Google Video, and more.

So now you, too, can have copies of Dynaman!

However, the files all seem to be in some .flv format. I'm not entirely sure what that is, but I do know that VLC media player will play it.
In Boise, Idaho, a group of gay activists slapped 150 stickers on bus benches, public drinking fountains downtown and at the Statehouse.

They read 'heterosexuals only'.

Unfortunately, some idiots just don't get it:

At the Statehouse, some legislative leaders disapproved not only of the way the group chose to express its message, but they also said the message itself is wrong.

"Because I think everybody has the same rights here in Idaho and we're not taking any body's rights away," said Sen. Bob Geddes, (R) Soda Spring, president pro tem of the Idaho Senate.

I can understand how people rationalize a lot of things. But how the fuck does he think that homosexuals have "the same rights" as heterosexuals or that taking away their right to marry is not, in fact, taking away their right to marry?
Way to support an independent judiciary:

A gay marriage opponent in the Maryland legislature called Tuesday for a judge to be impeached for a recent ruling in favor of gay couples in a marriage challenge.

Delegate Don Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel County, has said for weeks that he would call for the removal of Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock, who ruled in January that a law banning same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Dwyer also sponsored a failed proposal to change the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

"The public trust has been violated," Dwyer told the House when he introduced his impeachment resolution. "It is our duty, our obligation and our responsibility to hold the court accountable."

Dwyer said Murdock should be cited for misbehavior in office, willful neglect of duty and incompetence. His impeachment plan will likely meet no more success than his amendment proposal. The impeachment resolution was sent to committee with no debate, and the Maryland legislature has not impeached a judge for more than a century.

Apparently this imbecile doesn't realize that the reason judges aren't elected is so that their rulings won't be subject to popular opinion. Thankfully, he's setting the bar for impeachment at "incompetence", which plainly makes him a target.

Fortunately, some people are a bit more intelligent. Thanks to my father for sending me this--even the headline is great:

Ohio lawmaker to propose ban on GOP adoption

Yes, you read that correctly. In retaliation for a GOP-sponsored bill that would ban children from being put in adoption or foster care of a GLBT person, or someone who has a roommate who is GLBT, a Democratic senator is proposing a ban on allowing any household with a Republican in it to adopt.

To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims.

Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence" to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children, Hagan said.


Damn straight

Being really cool IS one of the perks of being a computer scientist

And I find this comic hilarious, even though it is, technically, wrong.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Now you, too, can perform abortions!

Because now you, alone, will be able to.
The thesis of this article from the Boston Globe is this: the Bush administration kept saying that Iraq had chemical weapons, and there was worry that, if cornered, Saddam would use them, possibly on his own population or his neighbors. So in the run-up to war, the administration promised the Kurds that they would be provided with protection--gas masks--in case of such an event. They never were. The author, Kevin McKiernan, posits that maybe the reason for this--instead of incompetence, carelessness, or callousness--is that we actually knew that Saddam had no WMDs and thus there was no need to hand out any gas masks.

But I found the first part of the column much more interesting:

While the White House has publicly maintained that the decision to go to war was not made until early 2003 -- and only as a last resort after the failure of both inspections and diplomacy -- I knew a full year before that Kurdish leaders were quietly tipped off to war plans just weeks after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Washington, D.C., representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controlled the eastern portion of the Kurdish region, told me early in 2002 that he and other Kurdish leaders had been summoned to the Pentagon in October 2001 to meet Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. One of the topics of conversation was the 1988 gassing of the Kurds by the Iraqi regime.

By the time of that Pentagon meeting, Kurdish diplomats had been in Washington since 1991, when a no-flight zone was established to protect Iraqi Kurds. But for those 10 years, Kurdish leaders had been denied all but low-level contacts with US government officials.

With that inside information, I began scouting abandoned Iraqi airfields in northern Iraq to look for likely landing spots for US troops and supplies. I found one near the town of Harir, a long military runway that Hussein's air force had used for refueling during the Iraq-Iran war. Sure enough, according to local witnesses, foreigners speaking English had been seen examining the landing strip in January 2002, the month before.

I then interviewed Dr. Abdullah Saeed, the director of public health for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controlled the western part of the Kurdish region. Dr. Saeed told me that several Americans -- he assumed they were CIA, but had no way of knowing -- had visited him about the same time and had promised that the Kurds would soon be supplied with antitoxins for nerve gas, face masks, and other protective gear.

So, allegedly, we were telling the Kurds about our plans to invade Iraq just after 9/11. I wonder if this could be/has been confirmed by any of the Kurdish leaders....
Gadget Lets Authors Sign Books From Afar:

Margaret Atwood has had enough of long journeys, late nights and writer's cramp. Tired of grueling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author on Sunday unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away.


"I think of this as a democratizing device," said Atwood, whose appearances draw hundreds of fans willing to stand in long lines for a word and an autograph.

"You cannot be in five countries at the same time. But you can be in five countries at the same time with the LongPen."


Atwood set up a company with Gibson and several others to produce the device, naming the firm Unotchit — pronounced "you no touch it."

They plan to lease the gadget, rather than sell it, renting it out to publishers for one-time signing events or tours. Atwood hopes publishers will use it to promote lesser-known authors and to bring author signings to small towns and small countries that usually aren't on the book tour circuit.

Publishers are intrigued by the idea. Both Bloomsbury and Atwood's other British publisher, Virago, invested in the project.

"This creates the possibility of an entirely new book-promotion event that will inject new life into the marketing of books and authors' relationship with their readers," said Bloomsbury's Newton.

Dejan Papic of Atwood's Serbian publisher, Laguna, said the device could help bring international authors — at least virtually — to his small, poor, European country.

"We are not always in a position to invite international authors and pay their costs," he said.


Atwood said the gadget had applications — from education to law — beyond the traditional book tour. It can already sign hockey sticks; Gibson and his team are working on basketballs.


Sunday, March 5, 2006

This is awesome

Japanese Device Uses Laser Plasma to Display 3D Images in the Air
An article in the Washington Post about a possibly-interesting book, "Misquoting Jesus":

The Bible simply wasn't error-free. The mistakes grew exponentially as he traced translations through the centuries. There are some 5,700 ancient Greek manuscripts that are the basis of the modern versions of the New Testament, and scholars have uncovered more than 200,000 differences in those texts.

"Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament," Ehrman summarizes.

Most of these are inconsequential errors in grammar or metaphor. But others are profound. The last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark appear to have been added to the text years later -- and these are the only verses in that book that show Christ reappearing after his death.

Another critical passage is in 1 John, which explicitly sets out the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). It is a cornerstone of Christian theology, and this is the only place where it is spelled out in the entire Bible -- but it appears to have been added to the text centuries later, by an unknown scribe.


Saturday, March 4, 2006

Um, wow.

Two Iraqi women whose family were killed by American troops were invited to the U.S. by two organizations to speak at peace events. The State Department, however, denied their visas because--get this--they don't have any family in Iraq and so might not want to return:

Two Iraqi women whose husbands and children were killed by US troops during the Iraq war have been refused entry into the United States for a speaking tour. The women were invited to the US for peace events surrounding international women's by the human rights group Global Exchange and the women's peace group CODEPINK.

In a piece of painful irony, the reason given for the rejection was that the women don't have enough family in Iraq to prove that they'll return to the country. "It's appalling that the US military killed these women's families and then the US government rejects their visas on the grounds that they have no family to return to in Iraq. These women have no desire to stay in the United States. We had a very hard time convincing them to come, but we told them how important it would be for their stories to be heard by Americans," said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of both the groups that had invited the women to the US.

The women whose visa applications were rejected are Anwar Kadhim Jawad and Vivian Salim Mati. They had to make a dangerous journey to Amman, Jordan just to apply for the visas and were told on February 4th that they'd been rejected. On February 14th, CODEPINK was informed by the US State Department that the women "failed to overcome the presumption of intending to emigrate."

In Hebrew class on Friday, we were practicing having conversations (although not very well because the teacher would usually have most of the conversation for us). Anyway, at one point one of the students is asked some question, I forget what, and his response is "I don't have any friends."

The teacher prompts the student with whom he was conversing to ask him why this was.

And I immediately thought of an answer from Transmetropolitan: "I keep eating them."

I had to stop myself from laughing, because I think I could've actually given that answer. In fact, given my limited vocabulary, I think that's about the only answer I could've given.

Friday, March 3, 2006

State bill proposes Christianity be Missouri’s official religion:

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.


The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

And here's the actual text of the resolution:

Whereas, our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation; and

Whereas, as citizens of this great nation, we the majority also wish to exercise our constitutional right to acknowledge our Creator and give thanks for the many gifts provided by Him; and

Whereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object; and

Whereas, we wish to continue the wisdom imparted in the Constitution of the United States of America by the founding fathers; and

Whereas, we as elected officials recognize that a Greater Power exists above and beyond the institutions of mankind:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.

In more news of our government being unclear what "threats" are:

It's not the first time the distillery has attracted international attention.

About two years ago, the U.S. government's Defence Threat Reduction Agency monitored the distillery's webcams for fear they were making chemical weapons.

"I kid you not. You couldn't make it up if you tried," said Reynier.

Although given what they're currently making, that may not be so far-fetched an idea as it sounds:

One of the owners of a tiny distillery on Scotland's west coast says an ancient recipe for quadruple-distilled whisky makes your knees buckle and takes your breath away.

Mark Reynier, managing director and one of four owners of Bruichladdich distillery on the island of Islay, says he got the idea to make the 92 per cent-alcohol whisky after reading a manuscript from 1695.

Oh, those ancient Scots and their fascination with imbibing WMDs!
For those of you with credit cards, be careful not to pay them back too fast, or Homeland Security will be alerted.

No, really.

The balance on [Walter and Deana Soehnge's] JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522.

And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable.

And all they did was pay down their debt. They didn't call a suspected terrorist on their cell phone. They didn't try to sneak a machine gun through customs.

They just paid a hefty chunk of their credit card balance. And they learned how frighteningly wide the net of suspicion has been cast.


They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified.


Eventually, his and his wife's money was freed up. The Soehnges were apparently found not to be promoting global terrorism under the guise of paying a credit-card bill. They never did learn how a large credit card payment can pose a security threat.

In debate over the mythical "conscience clause" that supposedly allows pharmacists not to do their job and impose their moral obligations on their customers, people have said things to the effect of "What if they decided it was unethical to treat black men? Or gays? Or Jews?"

And we inch up that slippery slope:

A small-town police chief was accused in a federal lawsuit Thursday of stopping a would-be rescuer from performing CPR on a gay heart attack victim because he assumed the ailing man had HIV and posed a health risk.


The lawsuit accuses [Police Chief Bobby] Bowman of pulling off Green's friend Billy Snead as Snead was performing chest compressions on the man. Snead was a passenger in Green's pickup when Green collapsed; Snead had managed to pull over the vehicle.

Snead said in an interview that he didn't realize at first it was Bowman giving the order and continued working on his friend. Bowman repeated his command to get away, saying that Green was HIV positive, then grabbed Snead by the shoulders and told him to sit on the curb, Snead said.

"He was a police officer so I got out the way. I assumed he would help. I didn't want to be a hindrance," Snead said. "He also told the ambulance drivers that he was HIV positive and to be careful."

Mr. Bowman is, of course, denying any such thing.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The spider Kama Sutra.

Cause male spiders need love too.

But they gotta pay.

With their lives.
You can't force a cat to do anything it doesn't want.

But it's amazing how many cats want to be stars:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Russian clown Yuri Kuklachev has a troupe of cats who do handstands, crawl along high wires and balance on balls and he says the secret to training them is realizing that you can't force cats to do anything.

"The Moscow Cats Theater" came to New York in September and did so well at a small theater in the Tribeca neighborhood that it recently moved uptown to a bigger venue near Times Square, where it is close to Broadway giants such as "The Lion King," although not the musical "Cats," which closed in 2000.

Kuklachev started working with cats more than 30 years ago after adopting a stray kitten he named Koutchka. He now has 120 cats in Moscow and has brought 26 of them to New York.

"If the cat likes to sit you can't force her to do anything else," he said, adding that several of the cats in the New York show simply sit and watch the others.

"Each cat likes to do her own trick," said Kuklachev, whose show has not been the target of animal rights protesters. "Maruska is the only one who does the handstand. I find the cat and see what they like to do and use that in the show."

Kuklachev's cats apparently like to be swung precariously around his head balanced on hoops, to be shut up in a cooking pot and to walk on their hind legs pushing a child's stroller.

"I have a cat now that loves to be in the water," he said.

Kuklachev said the breed of cat made no difference to their abilities, although Persians tended to be lazy. He adopts cats from shelters and trains the offspring of the cats he has.


Sharing his secrets over caviar and blintzes in Brighton Beach, a New York neighborhood known as Little Russia, Kuklachev said he plans to write a book about how to train cats since so many people are asking him.

Kuklachev, 56, said his cat-training method also can be applied to children.

"Parents need to watch their children to see what he or she likes to do and encourage this," he said, adding that it worked for his three children.

One child joined Kuklachev at the cat theater, one is a dancer and one is a painter who paints cats.

"If you do the same thing with your child as you do with your cat, he may not become a genius but he'll do whatever he enjoys doing," Kuklachev said.

He has had about 300 cats in his life and says every one had a different personality. Only one did not want to go on stage because she was already an adult when he got her.

Kuklachev says the show, which also includes his wife Yelena, is a hit because people everywhere love their pets. He chuckles as he recalls a friend who bought a hamster for $10 and spent $300 on surgery when it got sick.

"You're a better person when you love animals," he said.

The website is here, with many more pictures.
From Tuesday's Colbert Report, a conversation between Stephen and director of debate at Liberty University, Brett O'Donnell:

Stephen: What do you think of the debate between Job and God? Don't you think that was kind of one-sided? I mean, Job said essentially, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and God said "'Cause I say so."
Brett: Pretty much, yeah.
Stephen: Where would you have put the points there? I mean, that's not much of a cross-examination.
Brett: God always wins the debates.
Stephen: That's the problem. You cannot go toe-to-toe with the man on anything at all. Who laid the cornerstone of the universe? Not you, Colbert.

Somebody's not been reading his Talmud....

Wednesday, March 1, 2006


Or Microsoft Dance Dance Office:

Ever feel like you're not making good enough use of your feet when you're catching up on your e-mail or sorting through all those digital pictures you took on that last vacation?

Computer scientists in Microsoft 's research division have developed a colour-coded "dance pad" with buttons you can tap with your feet - or jump on - to scroll through electronic files.

It may never make it to store shelves, but then again, Microsoft spends billions every year researching far-out technologies without worrying about whether every gizmo will sell.

This week the software giant held its annual internal trade show where hundreds of researchers were showing off their work. The "Step User Interface" technology was one of the concepts available for a sneak peek.

"This is just one off-the-shelf piece of hardware we can use," A.J. Brush, the lead researcher on the project, said after demonstrating the technology. "Now we're looking at broadening, thinking about accelerometers or other things you could strap onto your feet so you really could be just sitting at your desk and kicking your email away under the desk."

Pentagon dismisses poll that says US troops want out of Iraq:

The Pentagon dismissed a poll's finding that 72 percent of US troops deployed in Iraq believe the United States should pull out of the country within a year or less.

"It shouldn't surprise anybody that a deployed soldier would rather be at home than deployed, even when they believe what they are doing is important and vital work," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

One: way to support the troops.

Two: you know what "important and vital work" they think they're doing?

Remarkably, the two justifications most frequently mentioned by the troops were those that were discredited after the invasion. Forty-one percent said stopping "Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq" was the "main reason," while another 36 percent said it was a "major reason." At the same time, 35 percent said "retaliat(ing) for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks" was the "main reason", and 50 percent called it a "major reason."

So very vital to destroy a country over hallucinations.
I'm not really clear on the issues at play here--does "freedom of religion" really mean "we can discriminate against people our god tells us to hate?

A conundrum!

Why is it okay to eat Jesus but not eat people?
Pepsiman desu yo!

I think this one is probably my favorite.

Oh, and apparently, all parts of Pepsiman are made of smelling material.
Y'know that canard about homophobes just being closeted homosexuals?

It may be true after all.