Sunday, April 30, 2006

I can now say that peanut butter on your hamburger is a... unique dining experience.
Night of the Crumpet
Stephen Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents' dinner last night, and was brilliant as usual. A video of the latter portion of his speech is available on-line--the portion with Helen Thomas is absolutely hilarious.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

US admits Iraq is terror 'cause':

THREE years after its invasion of Iraq the US Administration acknowledged yesterday that the war has become "a cause" for Islamic extremists worldwide and there is a risk of the country becoming a safe haven for terrorists hoping to launch fresh attacks on America.

And we welcome the State Department into the club of people who already knew that.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pentagon hacker says he was hunting UFOs:

To the United States, he is a seriously dangerous man who put the nation's security at risk by committing "the biggest military computer hack of all time".

But Briton Gary McKinnon says he is just an ordinary computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens and UFOs exist.


"My main thing was wanting to find out about UFOs and suppressed technology," he said insisting his intention was not to cause damage. "I wanted to ... find out stuff the government wouldn't tell you about."


He said he came across a group called the "Disclosure Project", which had expert testimonies from senior figures who said technology obtained from extra-terrestrials did exist.

One NASA scientist had reported that the Johnson Space Centre had a facility where UFOs were airbrushed out of high-resolution satellite images. So, he hacked in.

"I saw what I'm convinced was some kind of satellite or spacecraft but it was manufactured by no means I have ever seen before - there were no rivets, no seams, it was like one flawless piece of material. And that was above the Earth."

While all this is of slight interest, and I'd love it if he could provide something more substantial than his word, something else in the article is much more relevant:

A decade later, McKinnon, armed with information gleaned from the book, The Hacker's Handbook, began his snooping.

During 2000-01 from his home in Hornsey, north London, and using a computer with just a limited 56K dial-up modem, he turned his sights on the American government and military.


He said it was easy, despite being only a rank amateur. Using the hacking name "Solo", he discovered that many US top-security systems were using an insecure Microsoft Windows program and had no password protection at all.

So, tell us again how much safer Bush made us after September 11?
Songbirds may be able to learn grammar:

Starlings learned to differentiate between a regular birdsong "sentence" and one containing a clause or another sentence of warbling, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature. It took University of California at San Diego psychology researcher Tim Gentner a month and about 15,000 training attempts, with food as a reward, to get the birds to recognize the most basic of grammar in their own bird language.

Yet what they learned may shake up the field of linguistics.

While many animals can roar, sing, grunt or otherwise make noise, linguists have contended for years that the key to distinguishing language skills goes back to our elementary school teachers and basic grammar. Sentences that contain an explanatory clause are something that humans can recognize, but not animals, researchers figured.


Special Debora post

I think it was during my third semester at college, my schedule seemed to intersect with another person. I'd be walking home and pass her, and remember her because she looked like Debora. She was Indian, and about the right height and body type, which are rather superficial similarities but enough to make me notice her.

So one day when I was walking home from classes I noticed her standing still in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at something. Following her gaze, I saw she was looking at a squirrel foraging nearby, so I of course paused--squirrels always have the right of way. After a few moments, this Deboraish person bent her knees, dipping herself in the sort of sudden, abrupt motion one would make when pretending to lunge at someone. The squirrel, of course, bolted, and she smiled, and I thought to myself "This person certainly seems Deboraish!"
"Family values" apparently includes death threats:

Police are investigating a death threat made against a Minnesota state senator who voted against a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.

The letter addressed to Sen. Satveer Chaudhary contained a picture of Chaudhary with a bullet hole drawn on it. The picture was attached to a newspaper ad run by a group promoting the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Of course, it's not Jamaica, but not for lack of want, I'm sure.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Randy Thomas of Exodus International, an organization dedicated to telling gays that they can become straight, and therefore deserve no rights at all, recently defended Jerry Falwell's outing of Tinky Winky. In so doing, he gave us an interesting definition of homophobia:

Homophobia is not some off the cuff comment about Tinky Winky. Homophobia is what you see happening in Iran.

So, to be clear, it's not homophobia if you hate gays and try to deprive them of their rights.

But if you don't allow Christians to impose their values on you and do whatever they want in the name of "religious freedom", that's anti-Christian bigotry and religious persecution.
President Hu Jintao of China visited the United States recently, and a woman, Wenyi Wang, disrupted an event by shouting at President Bush "Stop the killing and the torture!"

And for this she may be charged with "intimidating or disrupting foreign officials."
From Pharyngula, what if right-wingers had the same views on gun rights as they do on sex?
More people insisting on mass slaughter to prove their manliness:

I swear to God that's what people are saying to me. And these are intelligent people, wealthy people. They are very depressed by the weakness that America is showing to these psychotics in the Muslim world. They say, "Oh, there's a billion of them." I said, "So, kill 100 million of them, then there'll be 900 million of them." I mean, would you rather die -- would you rather us die than them?

Of course, it's not just the ragheads that it's fashionable to advocate beating and murdering--it's the fags, too:

Gay bashing has taken many forms over the decades. During and after World War II, it was considered common sport for military guys to let themselves be picked up by a faggot in a bar in Los Angeles or San Francisco. The one who was picked up would pretend to go along for the ride, only to turn around and beat up or rob the homo who picked him up, leaving him without wallet and sometimes teeth.

All that has changed, of course, largely due to American laws that are being spread around the world. Gay bashing is now a no-no. Slurs against homos, a no-no. And beating a person over the head for flagrant public behavior that once was considered criminal misconduct is a no-no.

This is a sorry case and we hope the police find the attackers. But it is made much worse when silly homosexuals use their power in the New York media to trash a friendly island for a one of a kind incident. The homosexual community should be ashamed.

So apparently the gays are the new rape victims--"it's their own fault", "they were asking for it".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"This is a car. It's been specially chosen to be destroyed because it's old, it's white, but more importantly, because it's French."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I've thought this for a while now, but it certainly seems that the motive behind the whole Iraq debacle was nothing but a desire to show that we're the biggest kids on the playground.

Clive: The scene is--"At the Butcher's". Okay, at the butcher's.
Caroline: What have you got for me? Sunday rolls?
Steve: Well. I wouldn't normally suggest this, but some really, really nice sausages. We got really big ones, you could just have one. It's the same size as a joint of beef.
Caroline: *gasp*
Steve: Except it's a sausage.
Caroline: I'd love to have a look at a great big sausage like that.
Steve: Want me to slap it on the counter for you?
Caroline: Do you know, I wish you would?
[tender music plays]
Caroline: That's the most beautiful sausage I've ever seen.
Steve: This sausage was passed down by my father. And his father's father before him. Dunno what happened to the one in the middle.
Caroline: Oh! It's wonderful. I love it.
Steve: Maybe you should cherish that sausage.
Caroline: When I eat it I'll... I'll think of you.
Steve: Would you like some dripping to go with that?
Caroline: Don't worry, I'm doing me own.


Caroline: That'll never go out, will it?


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Report says Rumsfeld allowed Guantanamo abuse:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed an "abusive and degrading" interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee in 2002, the online magazine Salon reported on Friday, citing an Army document.


Rumsfeld spoke regularly to Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a key figure in the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, during the interrogation of Mohammed al-Kahtani, a Saudi suspected to have been an intended September 11 hijacker, the Salon report said.

Kahtani received "degrading and abusive" treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved, Salon said, quoting the 391-page report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Over 54 days in late 2002, soldiers forced Kahtani to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, accused him of being a homosexual, forced him to wear women's underwear and made him perform "dog tricks" on a leash, the Salon report said.

Salon cited Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, an Army investigator, as saying in a sworn statement to the inspector general that "The secretary of defense is personally involved in the interrogation of one person."

Schmidt is quoted as saying under oath that he concluded Rumsfeld did not specifically order the interrogation methods used on Kahtani, but that his approval of broad policies permitted abuses to take place.

The Salon article referenced is on-line here; non-subscribers can sit through a brief advertisement to read the full article. A brief quote:

On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld approved 16 harsher interrogation strategies for use against Kahtani, including the use of forced nudity, stress positions and the removal of religious items. In public statements, however, Rumsfeld has maintained that none of the policies at Guantánamo led to "inhumane" treatment of detainees.

Oh, and the administration's response to all this? The document obtained under the FOIA is a "lie" and "fiction".

Friday, April 14, 2006

Apparently there was some talk of Iran being capable of producing nuclear weapons in sixteen days:

Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.

Iran will move to "industrial scale" uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

"Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days," Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

Which is true. They could make a nuclear weapon in 16 days--some thirteen years from now:

The problem is that Iran only has 164 centrifuges in operation today. Rademaker was responding to a question about how quickly Iran could produce a nuclear weapon once it reached industrial scale capacity. As we learn much later down in the Bloomberg piece, experts estimate it would take more than 13 years to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon using just those 164 centrifuges.

There is no mention of how long it would take for Iran to construct and bring online the 54,000 centrifuges needed to build a nuke in sixteen days, though Bloomberg does report that Iran "plans to construct 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz next year" (The NY Times differs by reporting that Iran will begin "operating the first of 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz by late 2006").


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Smell-o-vision comes to the big screen:

Japanese cinema audiences will soon be able to enjoy a completely different sensory experience.

A new service from a major telecommunications company, NTT Communications Corp, will synchronise seven different smells to parts of the movie The New World, starring Colin Farrell.


Cinemas will be able to download from the internet different scent sequences for other films, Suzaki said.

The company began a similar service for homes in Japan last year. Owners of the $US620 home version can download different programs to emit smells to accompany a horoscope reading or work as aromatherapy.

Owners must keep refilling the machine with fragrant liquids. NTT Communications would not disclose how many machines it has sold.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The "War on Christians" condensed
Given the buzz about the Bush administration's plans to nuke Iran, I thought it would be a good time to repost this:

Let me offer up one small datum which may completely change the equation for you. According to the CIA, Iran is at least five years away from a nuclear weapon.

Five years. Assuming that the CIA has any credibility whatsoever left, its five years. Five years, is time for diplomacy to accomplish a hell of a lot.


The Bush administration rebuffs every Iranian overture and does its best to instigate a cold war. Afghanistan is invaded, and suddenly, the Iranians are looking at American troops and allies on their eastern border. Then Iraq is invaded, and its American troops and allies on their western border. Then bases and treaties in Uzbekistan and whoops, there's more American troops and allies on the northern border. The Persian Gulf is filled with American warships and carrier fleets.

Wow, the Iranians are surrounded. And the tough talk is constant. Iran is part of the 'Axis of Evil', the Americans tell each other 'Bagdad, hmmph, real men go to Tehran.' Essentially, America has been threatening military action against Iran for the last five years, and has surrounded the country on every side with troops, bases and allies.

American aircraft invade Iranian airspace regularly. American special forces undertake operations inside Iran. Americans regularly accuse Iranians of interference in Iraq. Dick Cheney pontificates about Israel bombing Iran *after he has just handed over to Israel the long range bombers and bunker busting bombs* required to do the job.

Meanwhile, the United States undertakes economic warfare against Iran, interfering with its business dealings with third party countries, trying to scuttle a pipeline deal with India, and it goes on and on. The hysteria about the Iranians nuclear program is just more of the same.

Now how in God's Bloody Name do you think the Iranians are going to respond to that.


So, having pursued a psychotically aggressive course, you've backed Iran into a corner, and engineered a regime which refuses to back further.

And *you* are the victims in all this? *You* are the ones under threat? It's *self defense*????

And of course, you goofily believe that you can just bomb or nuke Iran with impunity?

[Edit] It's not even five years, actually. It's ten.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another scarlet letter
Florida council member says oath is unconstitutional

When I first saw that headline in my e-mail, I thought it was about a legislator taking the stand that the pledge of allegiance was unconstitutional because it contained the words "under God" in it. Turns out, not. A newly-elected village council member in Tequesta, Florida, is refusing to utter the oath of office because it would make him declare allegiance to the presidency:

A newly elected village council member is suing the municipality to have the oath of office declared unconstitutional because it supports the federal government, something he says he does not do.

Basil E. Dalack, 76, an appellate lawyer, also wants the words "and government" removed from the section that reads, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and of the state of Florida." The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court.

The oath violates the Constitution by placing a restraint on Dalack's right to free speech and denies him, without due process, occupancy of his elective office, the lawsuit states.

Dalack said if he reads the oath, he would be a blind supporter of the war in Iraq and of the Bush administration and he would have "the blood of all those Iraqi and American kids on my hands."

I think somebody's confusing government with officeholders.
La Queen Sucia eloquently addresses some points on the immigration debate.

While Antonio Banderas addresses some different points.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Vermont Democrats Back Bush Impeachment:

Leaders of the state Democratic Party voted Saturday to urge Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.

The vote makes Vermont's Democratic Party committee the fifth to do so, following New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, party officials in Vermont said.

Committee member Margaret Lucenti said the president had misled the country into war, conducted illegal electronic spying on Americans and violated international torture treaties.

"I would hope that any one of these infractions would bring the administration down," she said. "We need to restore accountability in our federal government."

The Republican response, as usual, was to lambast them as being "extreme".

Tha' mov'n pic-cha sho' is fantastic, massah!

So, as I was searching for a video clip of Firebird Suite from Fantasia 2000, I happened across these three clips from the original Fantasia--and I do mean the original. They were apparently edited out in the 1969 release, and if you watch them it's not terribly hard to figure out why. But as some are on dial-up and can't watch the videos from YouTube (they're also available for download here, near the bottom of the page; a total of 7 MB for all three clips), I've captured a screenshot for you:

A larger version is in black-and-white here.

This little servile negro centaur, Sunflower by name, is an obvious mish-mash of various stereotypes of blacks, including ones about watermelons:

(image taken from a Fantasia cut-out book)

It's not hard to figure out why they edited her out, although the way in which they do so is apparently rather awkward--they just zoom in on parts of the scene without her. The person who writes about that complains that it's distracting, although when I watched Fantasia I never noticed... but I was quite a bit younger the last time I saw it.

I'm not sure whether they should have kept her in, or even if they had the original version so that they could have restored her at this point. I understand that, being from 1940, this movie was just a product of its times; and I know that if they had restored her it could've potentially opened them up to lawsuits and protests (it is alleged that they scuttled plans to re-release Song of the South because Maya Angelou threatened to protest if they did, but I haven't seen this verified by any reliable source). I just find the contrast of Disney's completely family-friendly, G-rated image with its history rather amusing--probably why I bought The Uncensored Mouse.* I also find the billing of the DVD as the "original uncut version" ironic. Although I suppose they could say that it was "edited", even "censored", but not "cut" because all the scenes are still there, so it might not technically be false advertising.

*Speaking of Disney's history, I just found out that Der Führer's Face is now available on DVD, along with other Disney WW2 propaganda, which is what they actually call it.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Forensic Vagina Specialist

Proving, once again, that fundamentalists care more about a glob of cells than a living woman:

Rachel Maddow: So if a woman is going to be--if there's some medical scenario in which a woman will actually die if she tries to carry a child to term... legally she has to die, so the fetus can live?

Jack Hitt: Um, well, technically that would... that would appear to be true.


JH: An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg comes down the fallopian tube and gets stuck. It grows there, and will, uh, y'know, will not give birth. It will explode. The fallopian tube will burst. And, uh, then you'll have, y'know, a massive internal bleed. When that happens, the mother's life is at serious risk.

RM: Yeah.

JH: Um, in El Salvador, because the constitutional amendment protects the fetus from the very moment of conception, I spoke to a hospital director who explained to me their ectopic, um... policy was to bring an ectopic pregnancy--uh, pregnant woman into the hospital, and monitor the fetus until the rupture occurred.

RM: Wow.

JH: Then they would operate.

RM: Knowing that the rupture will occur, they have to wait until that happens, putting that woman in that kind of danger?

JH: Right. They have to, they have to maintain the fetal life until it naturally dies.

RM: Wow.

JH: So either the fetus has to die in the fallopian tube, or the tube bursts, and then of course you have a very dangerous medical procedure you have to undertake.

This was an interview with Jack Hitt, who's written "Pro-Life Nation", which will be the cover story for this Sunday's New York Times Magazine about El Salvador. Since 1998, all forms of abortion have been illegal, and there was a constitutional amendment to protect a fetus from the moment of conception since 1999.

Wonderful role model South Dakota has. the way, the "forensic vagina specialist" apparently is an actual job in El Salvador. If a woman is suspected of having an abortion, the government can get what amounts to a search warrant for her vagina, and have a state-sponsored "forensic gynecologist" come and "examine the scene of the crime".

Thursday, April 6, 2006

I came across this awesome article showing how quantum mechanics are apparently connected to the series of prime numbers. Nothing overly technical--in fact, I'd prefer if the author had gone into more detail--but a fascinating read nonetheless.
Lost Gospel Revealed; Says Jesus Asked Judas to Betray Him:

Biblical accounts suggest that Jesus foresaw and allowed Judas's betrayal.

As told in the New Testament Gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus for "30 pieces of silver," identifying him with a kiss in front of Roman soldiers. Later the guilt-ridden Judas returns the bribe and commits suicide, according to the Bible.

The Gospel of Judas, however, gives a very different account.

The text begins by announcing that it is the "secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week, three days before he celebrated Passover."

It goes on to describe Judas as Jesus' closest friend, someone who understands Christ's true message and is singled out for special status among Jesus' disciples.

In the key passage Jesus tells Judas, "'you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.'"

Kasser, the translation-project leader, offers an interpretation: "Jesus says it is necessary for someone to free him finally from his human body, and he prefers that this liberation be done by a friend rather than by an enemy.

"So he asks Judas, who is his friend, to sell him out, to betray him. It's treason to the general public, but between Jesus and Judas it's not treachery."

So I guess that makes Judas the Reed Richards to Jesus's Sentry?

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

I am amused.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

I found this article somewhat interesting--Planned Mother Teresa statue irks Albania Muslims:

Muslims in Albania's northern city of Shkoder are opposing plans to erect a statue to Mother Teresa, the ethnic Albanian Catholic nun in line for elevation to sainthood by the Vatican.


Seventy percent of the population are liberal Muslims, the rest are Christian Orthodox and Catholic.

But Muslim groups in Shkoder rejected the local council plan for a Teresa statue, saying it "would offend the feelings of Muslims."


Shkoder's Muslims recently protested against crosses being erected on prominent hilltops.

"These acts jeopardise tolerance. Frankly, we're trying hard to maintain religious harmony," said deputy mufti Arben Halluni.

"These acts jeopardise tolerance"? How can they jeopardise something which you apparently lack?

Oh, and this was sent to me by my dad--Kennel owner won't sell puppy to lesbian:

A Swedish court has imposed a 20,000 kronor ($2,600) fine on a woman kennel owner who refused to sell a puppy to a lesbian.

The kennel owner, who was not identified, had initially been willing to sell the woman a puppy but changed her mind when she found out the woman was living with a lesbian partner, according to Sweden's discrimination ombudsman, a government watchdog who filed the lawsuit.

I kinda wish that they had a quote from the owner explaining the reasoning, for lack of a better word, behind this choice.