Hogan's Alley

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Chocolate Jesus Controversy

I don't particularly get upset when people who fashion themselves artists take great pleasure in poking a sharp stick in the eyes of people they hate and call it "art". It is part of whatever anger issues they have not resolved with their parents and I take it as such. Additionally, I firmly believe in free speech and the freedom of expression. I also think that religion, given its basis in faith and not fact, must accept that it will be the target of non-believers. It is part of the deal.

But Michelle Malkin does, I think, make a good point. What would the MSM, who generally refused to reprint the infamous Danish cartoons on the grounds that they were offensive to Muslims, do if another "artist" crafted a chocolate Muhammad during Ramadan? It does seem clear that they certainly wouldn't publish photographs of the thing. After all, they did refuse to show the offending cartoons.

This raises the question: are the MSM afraid of offending religious groups across the board, or only afraid of offending religious groups that have a history of violent reactions when offended?

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Flickr Foto Of The Day

Stand Tall Stand Proud!
Originally uploaded by Melissa_A.
What a beautiful animal! It is rare to see such a close view of a bald eagle. This one was taken at the Fort Worth Zoo.


Rosie O'Donnell Is An Idiot

I'm sorry, but there is just no other way to say it. Since joining the View, Ms. O'Donnell has made her bones by instigating feuds with other "celebrities". She has also used this forum to angrily trumpet her ill thought out views of all matters political and social. Her targets in the political arena seem to include anyone to the right of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Her latest explosion of bile has been aimed at what she sees as clear evidence of a conspiracy to take down at least the building known as World Trade Center 7 on 9/11/01. As you will see in the clip, her only real opposition from the View panel comes from the blonde genius in red, I'm sorry I don't know her name. That bright light is apparently the only person left in the world who believes that Saddam may have had some connection to 9/11, allowing Rosie to beat her over the head with that straw man of an argument.

In response to Rosie's claim that, apparently based on her extensive knowledge of physics, the steel in the building couldn't have" melted" and that the building had to have been demolished by explosives, Popular Mechanics has put up a response on its website. As they point out, and as is clearly visible in the photo above, the truth is that it is difficult to understand how any building that close to the towers survived.

( In the photo, the large building to the left of the frame is WTC Tower 1 and the smaller, slightly brownish building at the upper center of the frame is WTC 7. Not visible behind WTC 1 and to the left of WTC 7 is the Verizon building. As photos linked to by PM show it was damaged but survived, showing the structural superiority of older building techniques. On a personal note, my sister was working in the Verizon building on the morning of 9/11 and was able to evacuate and clear out of the area before the buildings came down. This perhaps accounts for why I take this issue seriously and personally.)

Here is the core of the PM argument, based on studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST):

1. Initial reports from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) misunderstood the amount of damage the 47-floor WTC7 sustained from the debris of the falling North Tower—because in early photographs, WTC7 was obscured by smoke and debris.

Towers 1 and 7 were approximately 300 ft. apart, and pictures like the ones here and here offer a clear visual of how small that distance is for structures that large. After further studies, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) told PM that debris from the 110-floor North Tower hit WTC7 with the force of a volcanic eruption. Nearly a quarter of the building was carved away over the bottom 10 stories on its south face, and significant damage was visible up to the 18th floor (see p. 24 of this report).

The unusual design of WTC7 is also crucial to the discussion, in that key columns supported extreme loads—as much as 2000 sq. ft. of floor area for each floor—as the building straddled an electrical substation. “What our preliminary analysis has shown is that if you take out just one column on one of the lower floors,” NIST lead investigator Shyam Sunder told PM, “it could cause a vertical progression of collapse so that the entire section comes down.” The tower wasn’t hit by a plane, but it was severely wounded by the collapse of the North Tower. Which is when the fires started.

2. The North and South Towers of the World Trade Center weren’t knocked down by planes—they both stood for more than a half-hour after the impacts. But the crashes destroyed support columns and ignited infernos that ultimately weakened—not melted—the steel structures until the towers could no longer support their own weights (NIST offers a primer here). Ms. O’Donnell fundamentally misstates the case with her use of the word “melting”: Evidence currently points to WTC7 also collapsing because fires weakened its ravaged steel structure.

Tower 7 housed the city’s emergency command center, so there were a number of fuel tanks located throughout the building—including two 6000-gal. tanks in the basement that fed some generators in the building by pressurized lines. “Our working hypothesis is that this pressurized line was supplying fuel [to the fire] for a long period of time,” according to Sunder. Steel melts at about 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit—but it loses strength at temperatures as low as 400 F. When temperatures break 1000 degrees F, steel loses nearly 50 percent of its strength. It is unknown what temperatures were reached inside WTC7, but fires in the building raged for seven hours before the collapse.

The other key point that must be made is, of course, that in order for WTC 7 to be imploded by explosives at precisely the right time, after or during the collapse of the Twin Towers, those who set the explosives must have known of the timing of the plans by Mohamed Atta and company. Thus whoever Ms. O'Donnell believes responsible was a conspirator in the collapse of the towers and thus responsible for the deaths of 3000 souls as well.

Given the tenor of much of Ms. O'Donnell's rants, I have no doubt that she believes it was committed by the US government under the direction of G. Bush and D. Chenney. So far she has lacked the guts to say what she truly believes, as stupid as it is.

I can't wait to see the "professors" from Harvard or Yale Rosie will recruit to support her "argument". Maybe they will be able to prove some of her other key beliefs, such as the faking of the moon landing, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the JFK conspiracy. Those would be the only kind of experts who would support Rosie. I wager that she will in fact only be able to get the clowns who have been proclaiming his 9/11 conspiracy theory far and wide, no pun intended. I won't link to them, find them yourself, contributions gratefully accepted, not that I'm implying that the motivation for their existence.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

Originally uploaded by nicolas valentin.
What an amazing angle of view. And it was taken with "only" a Kodak point and shoot 5 megapixel camera.


Lost - Goofing On The Fans, And We Love It

This week's episode of Lost, "Expose" (imagine and accent egout over the final e), was a treat. Of course it was an aside to the main plot exposition of the show, but so what. It was fun, and was done with the usual high style of the series.

The focus was on two characters viewers didn't meet until this season, Paolo and Nikki, above. Speculation on the web forums is discussing the possibility that this pair were, in fact, not on Flight 815 when it crashed and are further evidence of some kind of time anomaly. I prefer to believe that they were there all along among the background Losties and that the producers only decided to hire these particular actors at the end of last season. To their credit the Lost creators did go back and reshoot scenes from season one and two in order to add the actors, even bringing back two now deceased characters/actors in the process.


The episode unfolds like a murder mystery of the film noir era. Both Nikki and Paolo are found, apparently dead. Dear Hurley is the lead detective on the case, calculating the possible causes of death and trying to preserve the evidence of wrongdoing. The "crime" is solved when we learn that the Nikki "killed" Paolo, and accidentally herself, with poison spiders.

In the end, the show is really an hommage to Edgar Alan Poe and other writers who have scared the be'jesus out of us with the theme of premature burial. For the spider bites did not kill them, only paralyzed them for and eight hour period. Now dangling before us for resolution is the question of Nikki and Paolo's future, if any. Are they to be left for dead and finally buried, or will one or both of them be found or manage to claw their way out of their newly filled grave?

Add that to the list of Lost mysteries, large and small, to be solved. And, while you're at it, put that in your Sherlock Holmes meerschaum pipe and smoke it.

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Must Ecology Now Be Taken On Faith?

It would appear that the NY Times, along with many other publications, no longer has any intention of providing any data whatsoever to support the claims of scientists who report evidence of human interference and damage to the world's ecosystem. Now that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its latest summary report, and all debate on the existence of global warming and that human behaviors are its primary cause has been declared irrational, the Times seems to see no need to trouble its readers with any more confusing facts.

The latest example is found in their report today of an article in Science, (brief summary only, full article available for a price), that asserts that overfishing of North Atlantic great shark populations has led to an overabundance of smaller fish, which in turn has led to the depletion of the bay scallop population on the East Coast of the US.

Not once in the Times' piece is any data at all provided to support these claims. Readers are left to ponder on their own such questions as: how much has shark fishing increased over the last several decades; how much has this population of sharks decreased; how many more smaller scallop predators are there now; and lastly, just how depleted is the bay scallop population. One assumes that such data is at the heart of the Science article, but that is only a guess for us nonsubscribers. Apparently the Times didn't what to bother our pretty little heads with such detail. The issue is now a matter of received truth, to be taken on faith.

While I understand that most scientists, especially ecologists, are only one notch below the Saints of the Catholic Church and the Pope himself in terms of their reliability and infallibility, I, for one, stubbornly cling to the quaint desire to have the available facts at hand when I am being asked to accept new information, even about ecology.

Shame on the Times.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Katie Couric, The Audio

Listen for yourself to the spectacle of Katie Couric on 60 Minutes peppering John and Elizabeth Edwards with essentially the same question over and over, with only slight variations. The Edwards' answers have been removed. Only Katie's questions remain.

Note the constant reference to "some people" and "some" and "they", without a single citation of anyone other than Katie and her producers who have such questions or disagreements with the Edwards' very personal choice at this awful time in their lives.

In review, it is enormously mature of the Edwards to not to have reached across the table and smacked Ms. Couric. This is nothing more than a desperate clawing at straws by a celebrity whose ratings are taking a dive.

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Flickr Foto Of The Day

Lock on Blue
Originally uploaded by ridgwax.
Nice observation of the small details.


The Bravery Of Elizabeth Edwards - But Who Are The Critics?

The determination to continue with her and her family's life at full bore is the sanest and healthiest thing Elizabeth Edwards could do in the face of a cancer diagnosis that is not promising of a long life. It is highly unlikely that I would ever vote for her husband, but I admire enormously the couple's intent to live the life they have chosen for whatever time remains to them.

It must be said that each of us must make our own adaptations to such terrible news. No one is entitled to criticize anyone's response, even if they choose to withdraw into the cocoon of family and friends. Criticism is only valid in one instance. That is when a parent refuses sound medical treatment for a child and pursues only non-traditional or even bizarre cures, exposing the child to unnecessary dangers.

Which brings us to the way this story is being covered on the TV networks. Each iteration of the story on the major networks and the cable news channels includes the statement that the Edwards are being criticized for their decision. Where are these critics? Where are their quoted criticisms? They are never provided. The only visible critic of the Edwards would seem to be Katie Couric, whose questioning of the couple on 60 Minutes last night sometimes took a tone more appropriate to child molesters or mafia dons. And that was coming from a woman whose late husband's battle with colon cancer, while she continued her busy career, was the frequent stuff of morning television.

The fact is that there are no serious critics of the Edwards' decision to carry on. What we are again witnessing is the lazy journalism of people focused on trying to inject controversy into every event they report in the belief that it improves their ratings.

It may. Viewers not paying close attention may cluck their tongues and take satisfaction in their belief that they are not so callous as those unnamed critics. For the rest of us, it only reconfirms our view of much of journalism as sloppy, imprecise and venal.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flickr Foto Of The Day

In Tune!
Originally uploaded by ohsleepless1.
The visual art of the Fender guitar and a short depth of field.


The Justice Department Document Dump, Oh The Horror!

Now that the Justice Department has released some 3000 pages of emails and other documents relating to the dismissal of the "Talking Points Eight", the House committee staff has scanned all the documents and put them up on the House website so that their minions on the web can pore over them, thus saving the staff having to bother. The staff can focus on crafting rationales to keep this silliness alive.

Well, lets look over at the webroot sites that started this ruckus. Josh Marshall and Paul Keil have pooled their resources at the TPMmuckraker site. Please take a look at several hours of investigation so far. What you will see is that nothing sinister has so far surfaced. The readers are excited to see the inner workings of the Dark Empire and seem to be frothing at the mouth.

What is missing is any evidence of a wide effort to fire any and all US Attorneys who were conducting investigations or prosecutions that were politically frowned on. What was does see is continuing evidence of government agency bureaucrats trying to respond to the demands of specific members of the legislature. Such demands and responses are a daily part of the life of government operatives at every level of government.

Let's wait two or three days, when Sen. Leahy has issued his subpoenas for White House staff to look back and see if there is yet any shred of evidence of wrongdoing in these documents or anywhere else. The proof of the insignificance of this matter is that it has not yet merited the required "_____gate" designation.

Added: Andrew Sullivan calls the effort at TPMmuckraker the future of journalism. He could be correct. I hope not. It will only continue and exacerbate the "got'cha politics" into which we have evolved since the time of Watergate. What this approach means is that vigorous argument over policy is now irrelevant. Winning is not about convincing the electorate that your side has the better policies. The assumption is that you are right and the other side is hopelessly and vilely wrong and that no amount of discussion will persuade them of your view. Screw political argument, let's just try to beat their brains in my any means necessary, with the object of fooling enough voters into pulling the lever for our side.

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The Psychotic Environmentalist

Those of us who take a moderate, science and logic driven approach to the future of the environment occasionally wonder about the fury that seems to drive the true believers in the need to radically punish human behavior that contributes to global warming. We now have a striking example of just how twisted and disconnected from reality such obsessions can become.

In Germany two cubs were born to a former East German circus bear. One of them, named Knut by zookeepers, were rejected by their mother and left to die. The criminal zookeepers had the unmitigated gall to begin to feed and care for the baby polar bear, who is pictured here.

Such care for the bear is clearly unnatural. In the wild the bear would either be cared for by its mother or it would die in the still-frigid environment in the northern polar zones. According to the German environmental police keeping this bear alive, thereby making him familiar with humans is the greatest crime conceivable.

You can't make this stuff up. Here are the quotes from the environmental experts:

“Hand-feeding is not appropriate to the species and is a grave violation of the animal protection laws,” said Frank Albrecht, an animal rights campaigner. “Legally speaking, the zoo should kill the baby bear. Otherwise it is condemning the bear to a dysfunctional life and that too is a breach of the law.”

The director of Aachen zoo, Wolfram Ludwig, also believes the Berliners made the wrong decision in saving Knut: “It is not correct to bottle-feed a small polar bear. He will always be fixated on his keeper and will never grow to be a proper polar bear.” Knut, he argues, should have been killed when Tosca rejected him. “One should have had the courage to kill him much earlier.”

These people are advocating the killing of this baby bear and asserting that the environmental laws of Germany require it. Let's remember this is not a sick or suffering animal. Euthanasia is being suggested as the best solution to save this animal from a fate worse than death, that is, any life not lived as a purely natural polar bear. Do these people take the same view, one wonders, regarding disabled human children who require extensive "unnatural" care in order to survive?

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Should Gonzales Be Fired? No Support Found In Poll

Following up on the issue of the fired eight US Attorneys, Newsweek has released its weekly poll which includes the first measurement of public reaction to the calls for the resignation or dismissal of A.G. Gonzales over this brouhaha.

Although the headlines about the poll on the MSNBC website declare that the poll found "weak support for Gonzales," the numbers themselves tell another tale.

The Newsweek site shows the results, in question number 12, as:

35% - Gonzales should resign
32% - Gonzales should not resign
33% - Don't know

Since the margin of error in this poll is +/- 4%, the fairest thing that can be said about current public opinion is that it is massively undecided and split.

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Flickr Foto Of The Day

B-boys body parts #1
Originally uploaded by Laurent Filoche.
I hope the kid wasn't break dancing. That would hurt on this rough surface.


Lost - Now We're Cooking With Gas

Lost is really sailing now. "Par Avion", last week's episode moved the plot along at high speed and confirmed previous suspicions.

The back story featured Clair and revealed that her father was Christian Shepard, Jack's father. That revelation, along with Mikhail's extensive knowledge of Kate, Sayid and Locke, seems to assure that our Losties were all some how manipulated into being on Flight 815.

Mikhail also revealed that some, and only some, of the survivors were on a list of those capable of understanding the Others perspective and activities. We were also showed Jack apparently happily tossing a football around with the Other, Tom. Is this an indication that he is on that famous list?

As for John Locke, as I said last week, he is clearly following his own agenda. In fact, he seemed to be perfectly willing to kill Mikhail to avoid him revealing that Locke could not walk before crashing on the Island. Next week's Locke-centric episode promises to reveal much about John Locke and his former paralysis. Just how far will Locke be willing to go in order to protect his own objectives?

Lastly, I love the constant hints at the underlying philosophy of the show. In this episode we see Sawyer reading Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead". What role will that novel's main character, Howard Roark, and his and Rand's insistence that the artist must follow only his own instincts, regardless of the wishes of others. Is there a connection with the thought of the seventeenth century British philosopher John Locke?

In this regard, check out the most interesting Lost Blog I have so far seen. Powell's, the famous San Francisco book store maintains the sight on which J. Wood issues his weekly ruminations. Here is a sample from this weeks note:

What we get, then, with the introduction of figures like Rand, Bakunin, Locke, Rousseau, (Hobbes and Marx implied), Hume, Burke, and others, are possible paths for social organization that the Lostaways may take, and we're slowly getting glimpses of the path the Others took. Furthermore, there's a weird mirror-twinning aspect that's occurring with the audience, as we convene and discuss ideas in various virtual social settings — in blogs like this, in forums, in wikis like Lostpedia, in podcasts, and in watching the show itself. Each has its own virtues; some foreground the individual voice, some the collective voice, others and interaction between the individual and collective. We're living lost right along with the characters.

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I'm Done With American Idol

I've had it with American Idol. It is unwatchable television and even more horrid music. I no longer intend to force myself to listen to bad or mediocre singers in order to see if one of the 2 - 4 people who can perform make it to the end. Call me in two months. Then I'll pay attention again, unless the good singers are all gone by then, which is possible.

If anything, I am now inclined to vote for Sanjaya every week. At least that way the show can be held up to the ridicule it deserves.

My last comment on the show is about the worst singer to appear on the stage last week, Diana Ross. Anyone who was not fooled by her high-priced hair and costume, which were beautiful, as was she, and who actually listened to her sing had to be appalled.

To use the usual phrases heard from the judges, she was "pitchy" throughout the song and she went up on the lyrics several times. Her voice, especially on the higher notes, was not much more than a shriek. Her saving grace was that she has been doing this thing for so long that she knows how to sell a performance, even when it is a poor one. As for the judges, those upholders of quality in music apparently shut their ears and rose as one to give Ms. Ross a standing ovation. What fools. They are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank.

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Firing US Attorneys - Sound And Fury Signifying What?

So far I have avoided writing about the developing "scandal" surrounding the firing of eight US Attorneys. I simply couldn't believe that this matter would have any legs. After all, US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. Every President has the right to have the Justice Department make its choices as to the use of resources and the focus of its efforts according to his or her political view. That is what elections are, in part, about. Further, when Billary came into office, like most recent Presidents of both parties, they fired 93 US Attorneys sight unseen.

Why then the ruckus over this event? If you scratch the stories in the MSM and read the blogs screaming the loudest you quickly learn that, aside from their delight in any opportunity to hammer the Bush administration, there is the whiff of a suspicion that at least one, and possibly two of the US Attorneys were discharged for either too lenient pursuit of charges against Democratic operatives or too aggressive pursuit of Republicans.

So far, there is not a shred of proof of any such behavior. In todays NY Times there is an extensive review of the case of David Iglesias, the former US Attorney in New Mexico. What this investigative report reveals...alert the rest of the media pack...is that politicians and their operatives sought to influence the behavior of the government in a way that would favor their party's interests. That is as universal and time honored a behavior as exists in American politics. There is nothing new or criminal in any of these revelations.

In fact, this report seems to show that Attorney General Gonzales ignored the pleadings of Sen. Pete Domenici. Here is the time line presented as a graphic in the Times' piece:

(Check this link of the image is not readable.)

Look particularly at the following dates:

Sept. 2005, Domenici calls Gonzales about the matter. Gonzales does nothing.

Jan. 31, 2006, Domenici calls Gonzales again. Gonzales does nothing.

April 2006, Domenici again calls Gonzales. Again, Gonzales does nothing.

October 26 or 27, 2006, Domenici gives up trying to get something done through Gonzales and calls Iglesias directly.

November 15, 2006, Iglesias' name is released on a list of US Attorneys to be fired. How his name got on that list is not known, although Harriet Miers' deputy logically assumes that Domenici will be happy, and presumably will stop harassing the White House about this matter.

Up to this point in time, the prime target of the press and the blogs has been Gonzales. The report by the Times would seem to demonstrate that there is no available evidence that Gonzales was involved directly in the decision.

The other perspective that is relevant to this discussion is the pursuit of political targets by other US Attorneys. I live in the NY media market. Here, in the Southern District of New York, the US Attorney's office is pursuing corruption in the Republican led City of Yonkers, where supoenas have been issued. Last year the same office opened an investigation into an alleged conspiracy between former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and former nominee for to head the Department of Homeland Security, Bernie Kerik, to bug Pirro's husband's boat seeking evidence of his philandering. Pirro's eventually dropped out of the race for NY Attorney General and her political future and that of the NY Republican party were destroyed by revelations about this investigation. The US Attorney for NY's name did not appear on the hit list of USA's to be fired. I am willing to wager that there are dozens of other political investigations ongoing throughout the country, given the dishonesty of the political class. How many districts have such prosecutions under way? Why where none of these other USA's fired? Was it only because Domenici made such a pain in the ass of himself? That certainly seems likely.

The truth is that the goal of all this noise has nothing to do with some great principle about how the independence of the Justice Department is to be maintained inside a highly charged political environment. This is simply this year's example of got'cha politics. The hoped for Fitzmas gift of Rove or Chenney's head on a platter has not panned out. This is just round two.

It is also true that the Bush Administration, no surprise here, has mishandled this affair from the get go. Instead of simply quickly demanding the full story from the involved players and then putting that full story out to the public, the White House and Justice Department have performed like the equivalent of the Keystone Cops. They have changed the story at least two or three times so far.

Like all other such efforts in our sorry time, Whitewatergate, Blowjobgate, etc., this effort will result in no substantive charges or reforms. What its advocates hope for is the investigation itself. For it is the slow drip of daily reports that gives the impression that some serious misdeed has been committed. More important than the predictable degradation in the public's regard for the Administration, (and by the way, could it possibly go any lower?) there will be the all important testimony under oath before Congressional committees. The jackals surrounding the current episode, in this version they happen to be Democrats, hope and pray for some fool (God wouldn't it be great if Bush pulled a Clinton on this one?) to tell a lie under oath. That will produce the evidence necessary for the appointment of another Special Prosecutor, or the redirection of Fitzgerald's dwindling efforts. That in turn will provide the background of alleged scandal the party out of power can flog as another reason for electing them right through to the 2008 election.

The clearest evidence of this is the presence of New York's Sen. Schumer, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Election Committee, at the head of the pack.

The only policy reform likely to eventually emerge from our sad political process of the last three decades is for us to bite the bullet and institutionalize the office of Special Prosecutor as a standing fourth branch of our government. Think how much easy material would be available every day for the media to churn. And think of the joy over at the Jon Stewart, Leno, Letterman and Co. The fact that we are slowly murdering a once great nation's political institutions is of no concern to any of the current players.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

An Inconvenient Article

The NY Times has had the temerity to publish a piece in tomorrow's paper (thanks to Drudge) that quotes scientists who publicly worry about the absolutism of Al Gore's claims in "An Inconvenient Truth", his Academy Award winning documentary.

Personally, I think that there is a notable level of warming going on, and that human behavior, along with other factors are responsible. Gore and his crowd of sycophants are far too eager to blame humanity, or more specifically evil corporations, for the entire problem. In fact, the interplay and timing of the causes and outcomes is much less well understood that Gore would have us believe.

I think at some level he knows this, but has concluded that scaring people is the best way to lead us in the correct path. I think there is an old Tennessee joke about having to hit a mule in the head with a two by four in order to get his attention. The problem is that, unlike mules, people sometimes get annoyed when they are treated as stupid by their so-called betters.

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Micromanaging The War

The Democrats in Congress, driven inexorably by the polls, are slowly but unsurely, wending their way toward passage of a horrid bill. This legislation, which will surely be vetoed by Bush, calls for the meeting of specific benchmarks by the Iraqi government, specific training and equipment requirements meant solely to slow the rotation of new troops. The bill also demands the withdrawal of American troops by 2008, presumably so the next, possibly Democratic, President will not have to actually make any decisions about Iraq that might come back to haunt the Dems if terrorists conclude that our withdrawal is an open invitation to attack us again.

In an editorial today, the LA Times decries their tinkering:

This is not to say that Congress has no constitutional leverage — only that it should exercise it responsibly. In a sense, both Bush and the more ardent opponents of the war are right. If a majority in Congress truly believes that the war is not in the national interest, then lawmakers should have the courage of their convictions and vote to stop funding U.S. involvement. They could cut the final checks in six months or so to give Bush time to manage the withdrawal. Or lawmakers could, as some Senate Democrats are proposing, revoke the authority that Congress gave Bush in 2002 to use force against Iraq.

But if Congress accepts Bush's argument that there is still hope, however faint, that the U.S. military can be effective in quelling the sectarian violence, that U.S. economic aid can yet bring about an improvement in Iraqi lives that won't be bombed away and that American diplomatic power can be harnessed to pressure Shiites and Sunnis to make peace — if Congress accepts this, then lawmakers have a duty to let the president try this "surge and leverage" strategy.

By interfering with the discretion of the commander in chief and military leaders in order to fulfill domestic political needs, Congress undermines whatever prospects remain of a successful outcome. It's absurd for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to try to micromanage the conflict, and the evolution of Iraqi society, with arbitrary timetables and benchmarks.

The irony of the current Democratic stance is that it fails to acknowledge the significant changes and corrections taken by the administration. Rumsfeld is thankfully gone. Gen. Petraeus is now in charge in Iraq and has planned this surge with a different set of tactics than were used by his predecessors. Although there are some hopeful signs, it is still too early to know if his approach will work. If Congress didn't believe his plan could work, why the hell did they confirm him almost unanimously? It is now as if Democrats are hoping for the worst possible news out of Iraq. If success seems to be growing they will look increasingly foolish. Are they now rooting for chaos?

As the Times notes, it is as if the Congress in early 1863 suddenly demanded an end to the Civil War soon after President Lincoln finally bit the bullet and fired the ineffective Gen. McClellan and replaced him with U.S. Grant. If Petraeus is good, then let him do his job, for at least long enough for a fair judgment about the probable outcome of his approach to controlling the sectarian violence in Baghdad.

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Flickr Photo Of The Day

Chelsea Embankment
Originally uploaded by Hugh Gage.
Ah, London with spring coming on.


Four Weeks To The Return Of The Sopranos

Here's a new review of those characters who have perished to date on The Sopranos. (Spoiler warning if you haven't seen the prior years' episodes.)

The final nine episodes of the series begin showing on April 8.

The YouTubing Of Hillary Begins

Andrew Sullivan posts a YouTube video today that is based on the famous Apple Computer 1984-style ad. The ad is by an anonymous Obama supporter a brings out what is frightening in Hillaryspeak.

One interesting and fun point about the video: notice that the hammer throwing rebel now is decked out with the obligatory iPod. MP3 players were certainly not available back in the days of the first Macs. Their near universality today leads me to feel that they would have been better placed on the countless automatons raptly, if besottedly, listening to Hillary's speech.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Flickr Photo Of The Day

A last tribute to Winter?


Is Baghdad Buying In To The New US Strategy?

Even as the Democrats in the US Congress continue to press their efforts to choke off the efforts of Gen. Petraeus to suppress violence and stimulate civil growth in Iraq's central city, there are hopeful signs that some in that crippled capital are wanting very much to have it succeed.

Damian Cave reports in the Times that local Shiite officials in Sadr City of east Baghdad are pressing the process forward with all deliberate speed. Key quote:

“We should have an amusement park,” said Mr. Daraji, one of two elected mayors in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad where American and Iraqi troops have been peacefully clearing homes since Sunday. “We want to rehabilitate the area so that families can have fun.”

In an interview at his office, Mr. Daraji said the amusement park was one of several projects that community leaders were pushing American officials to finance in negotiations about how to handle the Shiite Mahdi Army, a militia that has controlled the neighborhood for years.

A concentrated makeover of Sadr City, he said, would support the plan’s goals in two important ways: by giving young Mahdi militants jobs as an alternative to lives of violence and by providing residents with proof of the government’s ability to improve their daily lives.

Mr. Daraji’s requests, however, also reflect a broader effort by Iraqi leaders to dart past “clear and hold” to the more lucrative phase of the new security plan known as “build.”

Even as bombings and killings here continue, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has labeled the plan a success. His Shiite-led government has allotted $10 billion this year for reconstruction throughout the country, and, with billions more expected from the United States, Iraqi leaders at all levels are scrambling for a say in how the windfall might be spent.

They are also pressing for veto power over contracts, blaming an unwieldy American system of subcontracting that was impossible to police for the loss or theft of billions in reconstruction dollars since the war began.

Iraqi figures, political veterans and up and comers are seeking an advisory role.

American Idol - The Final Twelve Includes Sanjaya, God Help Us

The good news about last night's results show was that Sundance and Antonella are gone. The Vote for the Worst movement will now have to seek other bad singers to champion (read Sanjaya).

The bad news was that Sabrina Sloan was cut while Hadley Scarnato survived. This was a clear injustice. The other terrible news was that the most horrible singer in the competition, Sanjaya, is still with us. I can only believe that for certain young girls Sanjaya's fey, smiling presentation represents the kind of non-threatening sexuality that entices them.

I hope that now that the annual contest has entered the final stretch that adults, whose ears haven't been corrupted by hours of over-produced dance music, will make up a growing portion of the voting audience.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Syracuse Basketball, A Wholely Owned Subsidiary of Nike, Inc.?

For the Big East tournament, Syracuse's Basketball team appeared in new uniforms by Nike that feature a tight jersey over what seem to be even larger than usual baggy shorts. Is this change aimed at improving the team's ability to move freely or to enhance the in kind income generated by Jim Boeheim's enterprise?

Lost Returns With A Bang, But Don't Trust John Locke

As if making up for last week's dismal episode, Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindeloff wrote a pip of an outing for last night. Titled "Press 7 7", the show featured the discovery of "eyepatch man", seen in one of the final episodes from last season. He turns out to be Mikhail Bakunin, who claims, at first, to be the last member of the Dharma Initiative, living under a truce with the "Hostiles" who inhabited the island long before the arrival of Dharma.

Bakunin, who suggestively bears the name of the founding philosopher of anarchism, later says he is lying, but only about being with Dharma. I seems clear that Bakunin's "Hostiles" are those known to us as the "Others". Subsequently, it develops that also hiding in Bakunin's Flame Station is the Other known as Mrs. Klugh, who we previously met as the Other officer in charge of sending Hurley back to the beach with a message and turning Walt over to Michael after he obeyed her directive to kill Ana Lucia and bring Jack, Kate and Sawyer to the Others.

I turns out she speaks fluent Russian and urges Bakunin to kill her, and probably himself. He shoots her in the heart, but is overpowered before he can shoot himself. Are the Others an outpost of Soviet era Russia?

As for John Locke, in this episode he manages to blow up the Flame Station and its contents. All through the episode the writers seem to be laying out a subtext of Locke's untrustworthiness. He is late to cock his pistol when he is supposed to be "covering" Sayid; he stops Kate from immediately intervening to protect Sayid; when Mikhail fights with Sayid and Kate Locke doesn't appear to help until the fight is over; he leaves off guarding Mikhail to go play computer chess and to discover what will happen when he wins a game against the computer, allowing Mikhail to free himself. Let us not forget that this is the man who imploded the Swan hatch and set off the "purple sky" event.

All through this episode Locke is portrayed as a man with his own agenda. The Island cured his paralysis. He loves the Island and seems to be wanting to protect it's secrets from our, and the Losties, view. On the other hand, it is Locke who deciphered Mr. Eko's staff as directing him to go to 305 degrees on the compass to discover the Flame Station. Is he our guide or is he manipulating us to follow his unspoken plan for us.

In case you, dear reader, are not yet addicted to Lost, you will note the total identification of your humble servant with the show's characters. It is a symptom of Lost disease. As further evidence of the total immersion of viewers in the world of the series, take a look at this blog. Here, the day after the show airs, crucial screen captures are published along with translations of the written and spoken Russian in this episode. Incredible and, as Locke says in this episode, uniquely wonderful.

American Idol - Only Two Matter

I can't imagine anyone watching Idol last night who could not be struck by the superiority of Melinda Dillon and Lakisha Jones. They are so far superior to all the other competitors that it is certain they will be the final two contestants. The only remaining question is which contestants will survive with them until the end.

I have to believe the audience will keep several men in the game for a while. For me, Blake Lewis, Chris Sligh and Chris Richardson are the deserving ones. Blake, especially, will be fun to watch as the season progresses through the shows with themed song choices.

Who should go tonight? Sanjaya and Sundance, for sure. They are the bottom of the barrel and have been for some time. Is tonight the night when the votes of the cynics are outweighed by viewers with ears? We'll see.

Among the women, Antonella is still the bottom. She will only survive if those voting for the worst still prevail. Following her in underwhelming me was Haley. I never heard the song she chose, but it was terrible, period. Forget whether it fit her singing style, it didn't, but it was just an awful song. Added to the fact that it didn't show off her broadway-style voice, I am afraid she has doomed herself.

Flickr Photo Of The Day

Originally uploaded by S3rgio.
A view of the Alhambra Palace, Granada Spain.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Flickr Photo Of The Day

One Night in Anza Borrego
Originally uploaded by wmchu.
A beautiful twilight photo not cheapened by use of Photoshop's HDR option.


Tom Cruise Leads United Artists, But Where?

After Sumner Redstone, owner of Paramount, said he fired Tom Cruise last year and Cruise's people claimed the parting was mutual, some too soon predicted the beginning of the end for Cruise's career. As the very wealthy and famous are know to do however, Cruise has ended on his feet and now holds control, along with his business partner, Paula Wagner, of the historic studio called United Artists.

United Artists was famously founded by D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1920. A more famous set of stockholders has never existed, before or since.

The future test for Cruise will be the skill with which he exercises his new found power. Will United Artists produce films to be proud of, or will Cruise's devotion to Scientology lead him to generate a set of horrid efforts to reproduce the vast fiction and non-fiction drivel of Scientology's founding Commodore, the dreaded L. Ron Hubbard (photo)? As anyone who has paid to see John Travolta's version of Hubbard's sci-fi nonsense, "Battlefield Earth" can testify, the results can be awful.

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Women's Big East Basketball Showdown

In the Times today there is a article highlighting the freshman star of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team, Tina Charles. Charles has become a major contributor to the team's success in her first year.

Last year, Charles' Christ the King High School from Queens won the NY State High School Championship. They played against a team, Murray Bergtraum High from Brooklyn, that featured the other consensus leading player in the country, Epiphany Prince. I had the pleasure of seeing that game in Glens Falls, NY.

These were clearly the two leading seniors coming out of high school last year. Both were heavily recruited and UConn's Gino Auriemma offered both girls a spot on his team. Charles accepted, but Prince elected to attend Rutgers, traditionally a much lower ranked program, where Vivian Stringer is the coach. Both young women have progressed markedly since their final high school game. Charles has assumed control of the middle of UConn's team. Prince has been helped to drop her formerly sluggish, three point dominated game in favor of a more active role as the two guard and good effort on defense.

Tonight, on ESPN, both teams play in the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament. If form holds and both win, tomorrow will bring a rematch of that high school tournament final of last year. I think we will witness a more advanced and self-confident player on the UConn side. Surely it stands a chance to be one of the best women's games this season.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Meeting Across the River

From "Born to Run", Springsteen's great album. I don't love the film, but the song truly does lend itself to a visual interpretation of the story it tells.

Flickr Photo Of The Day

The Moon during total eclipse
Originally uploaded by martin97uk.
This shot of yesterday's eclipse was taken with just a 300mm lens.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Flickr Photo Of The Day

Originally uploaded by abhraaich.
Hindu Monk, face covered in ash.


Mr. Gates Does The Right Thing

Given the total mishandling of the Walter Reed affair over the last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stepped up to the plate late yesterday and not only fired the Army Secretary, Francis Harvey, but he also reversed the appointment of the defender of the status quo, Lt. Gen. Kiley.

Here's the heart of the Times' report this morning:

“I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation,” Mr. Gates told reporters. “Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems.”

A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates had demanded Mr. Harvey’s resignation because he was displeased that Mr. Harvey on Thursday, in dismissing the commander of Walter Reed, temporarily named Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley to take command. General Kiley, the Army’s top medical officer, had earlier appeared to play down the problems at Walter Reed, where he was in command until 2004.

Mr. Gates’s aggressiveness in addressing the problem has surprised many Pentagon officials who are still getting used to his style more than two months into his service.

Ordered by Mr. Gates to get an acceptable new commander in place by the end of the day, the Army announced late Friday that Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, a veteran Army doctor and the brother of the current Army chief of staff, would take over command at Walter Reed.

Gen. Schoomaker's efforts at Walter Reed will have to be watched closely, but he does possess an extensive background that holds some promise.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Hillary Hunters Ponder Forty Year Old Wellesley Thesis

The silly season in presidential politics is upon us. MSNBC has published its "uncovering" of Hillary Clinton's 1965 senior thesis at Wellesley. The thesis is a paper on the then "sexy" community organizer, Saul Alinsky. Anyone paying attention to American politics at that time came across Alinsky and many of us were intrigued by his frank disavowal of almost everything held sacred by all the political orthodoxies of both left and right.

I know I was. Does that post-adolescent interest label me forever a radical or am I capable, as is Hillary, of evolving one's view of the American political process. MSNBC would have us believe that this ancient paper will be the basis of another "Swiftboat" campaign by the right. How foolish.

Alinsky was essentially an organizer of the disgruntled in Chicago, for which Federal funds were available at the time. He made a nice living running those community organizations and from lecture fees, an irony that was not lost on him. He died 35 years ago in 1972.

In an interview in Playboy before his death, he laid out the core of his philosophy. Talking about the vast middle class of the time he said:

Right now they're frozen, festering in apathy, leading what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation:" They're oppressed by taxation and inflation, poisoned by pollution, terrorized by urban crime, frightened by the new youth culture, baffled by the computerized world around them. They've worked all their lives to get their own little house in the suburbs, their color TV, their two cars, and now the good life seems to have turned to ashes in their mouths. Their personal lives are generally unfulfilling, their jobs unsatisfying, they've succumbed to tranquilizers and pep pills, they drown their anxieties in alcohol, they feel trapped in longterm endurance marriages or escape into guilt-ridden divorces. They're losing their kids and they're losing their dreams. They're alienated, depersonalized, without any feeling of participation in the political process, and they feel rejected and hopeless. Their utopia of status and security has become a tacky-tacky suburb, their split-levels have sprouted prison bars and their disillusionment is becoming terminal.

He continued:

The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change. We'll give them a way to participate in the democratic process, a way to exercise their rights as citizens and strike back at the establishment that oppresses them, instead of giving in to apathy. We'll start with specific issues -- taxes, jobs, consumer problems, pollution -- and from there move on to the larger issues: pollution in the Pentagon and the Congress and the board rooms of the megacorporations. Once you organize people, they'll keep advancing from issue to issue toward the ultimate objective: people power. We'll not only give them a cause, we'll make life goddamn exciting for them again -- life instead of existence. We'll turn them on.

"Rub raw the sores of discontent" was the core phrase of Alinsky's organizing technique. He had some success on the local level in his home town, but was never able to expand his approach into a national movement.

But don't the above quotes sound very much like a blueprint for the "progressive" movement of the current day? The problem with Alinsky's view is and was that the American people hold on relentlessly to the dream. No matter what their disappointments, the majority continue to believe that life in America will allow them to obtain a level of happiness, material and otherwise, that leads to a contented life. Discontented radical leaders of any age will never grasp the fact that their own dissatisfactions are not shared by their fellow citizens in any sizable number.

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What A Moron

Ann Coulter, publicity junkie extraordinaire, has decided that her finest policy attack on Democrat John Edwards is to slur him as being gay. Hurling the silly, not to mention hurtful, pejorative faggot.

This is the kind of stupidity that all too often passes as political argument on both the left and right. A pox on both their houses.


Another One Bites The Dust

The horror stories from Walter Reed Army Hospital have cost yet another bureaucrat his job. Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey has resigned, although sources tell the AP that he was pushed by Defense Secretary Gates.

Gates needs to own a righteous anger over this issue and continue to act accordingly.

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Health Care: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

The headline in the NY Times proclaims, "Most Support U.S. Support of Health Care". But if you look at the pdf document that details the findings the story is not so clear.

At the bottom of page 15 of the details are the following questions:

"27. Do you think the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans, or isn’t this the responsibility of the federal government?"

In the current weeks survey 64% think the government should guarantee health insurance for all. 27% think it is not the Federal government's responsibility and 9% did not respond.

The very next question asks:

"28. IF ANSWERED “SHOULD GUARANTEE”, ASK: What if that meant that the cost of your own health insurance would go up? Then, do you think the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans, or not?"

If their own health insurance costs would go up only 48% continue to support Federal guarantees.

Later, on page 16 the survey asks:

"31. Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can't lose no matter what?"

Answering this question, 60% say they are willing to pay higher taxes; 34% are not willing and 6% don't know or have no answer.

The next question provides a little more clarity:

"32. IF ANSWERED “WILLING” TO Q31, ASK: Would you be willing or not willing to pay $500 a year more in taxes so that all Americans have health insurance they can't lose, no matter what?"

Here we find that only 49% of the original 60% remain willing to shell out $500 in taxes to support their notion of universal health equality.

So, instead of a story that asserts "most" Americans are in favor of guaranteed health insurance for all, it really depends on how much it will cost. It turns out that only a minority (48% and 49%) are willing to dip into their own pockets to support the uninsured.

In health insurance, as in all government policies, the devil is in the details. The problem facing advocates of any form of universal insurance, single payer, private payers, whatever, is that the costs are so high. Once the details of any given plan are fleshed out, people realize that the only remaining advocates that will truly matter are the health provider organizations. Those groups will be the only ones with any real power over the future of the program and their interest lies only in maintaining the extraordinary costs of their drugs or services. Anyone who has been hospitalized knows how outrageous those costs are.

The drumbeat marching us forward toward the glories of universal health care are sounding. My prediction is that it is highly likely to end in Hillary Redux, a repeat of the health care efforts of the early Clinton years.

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Flickr Photo Of The Day

Originally uploaded by andrewlee1967.
Well worth seeing in its full-size version. Click on the photo and then on the "all sizes" link.


Imus Calls For Court Martial Of General Kiley

If you want to see and example of Lt. Gen. Kiley's insufferable handling of the breaking scandal at Walter Reed Army Hospital, take a look at the tape played by Don Imus.

I know, Imus is carrying on, as is his wont, and can barely contain his anger about this issue. In this case the righteous indignation of our "Katherine Hepburn in a cowboy hat" is the appropriate response.

Walter Reed, Firing of Weightman Apparently Solves Nothing

I took yesterday's news about the discharge of Gen. Weightman at Walter Reed as a hopeful sign that serious change was on the horizon at the sorry outpatient facilities at that institution. Today's editorial in the Washington Post points out that Weightman's replacement will be the same man who ran the place for two years before Weightman's meager six month tenure.

The Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley is that man. When the current story broke it was Kiley who pooh-poohed the story, minimizing it as insignificant in the face of all the good medical care provided there. It was he who ran the place for two years while it was overwhelmed by the numbers of soldiers returning injured from Iraq since the explosion in sectarian fighting following the destruction of the Golden Mosque in 2004. According to Sen Lieberman on this morning's Imus in the Morning Show, the facility used to handle 100 patients at a time and is now having to manage 600, without appropriate increases in the staffing or the facilities.

Putting him in charge is a guarantee that nothing substantive will change there.

Today, Bush has announced he will appoint a "bipartisan commission" to review and correct the problems at Walter Reed. This follows on Defense Sec. Robert Gates' announcement of a similar commission last week. We can hope that this is a sincere effort, but the proof will be in the names of those who are appointed, their speed in conducting their study and the forthrightness of their recommendations.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

American Idol - Cynicism Likely To Keep The Worst With Us For A While

Now that the final 10 males and females have performed it is clear that the worst perfomers continue to include the newly controversial Antonella Barba. Sundance Head finally found a piece of himself this week and gave a decent performance in the only style he appears capable of mastering. Tony Bennett week will be a hoot if he is still around. Excruciatingly bad this week was Sanjaya Malakar, he of the very weak voice and enormously cute smile.

But fear not, dear reader, the cynicism of Americans knows no bounds. According to the vote predicting DialIdol site, both are very safe. Likely to take the fall are: Haley Scarnato, Leslie Hunt, Stephanie Edwards or Gina Glocksen among the women; and A.J. Tabaldo, Chris Richardson, Nicholas Pedro or Brandon Rogers among the men.

None of these probable losers are undeserving of the appellation. There never was any possibility that any of these folks would prevail as the ultimate winner. It will take weeks for the field to be cut down to a size at which only the worst singer each week will be eliminated.

My admiration for Melinda Dillon continues. She is so mature and comfortable a singer that she seems to be in a different league than the others. Among the men, Blake Lewis was newly impressive singing a Jamiroquai song with, as Randy said, a high degree of difficulty. He was able to make the song his own with some scat singing, a quick touch of beat boxing, and an onstage comfort that bespeaks professionalism.

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Here's A Global Warming Story You Won't See Widely Reported

The National Geographic is reporting NASA evidence that the ice caps on Mars are shrinking, just like those on earth. A Russian scientist, Habibullo Abdussamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg, concludes that this is evidence that the warming trend documented on earth, and now on Mars, is due to "long term changes in the sun's irradiance".

This, of course, might throw a wrench into the steamroller of belief that the sins of man are causing global warming and that righteous penance and reform of our ways is the path of the holy. We can't have this. For Christ's sake, we just canonized Al Gore as saint-in-charge of establishing eco-morality on the planet.


Flickr Photo Of The Day

* Colours of Life *
Originally uploaded by Yusff.
Called, "Colours of Live" by the photographer, creative use of Photoshop helps the colorful dress of the bathers pop against the sepia-toned background.


Walter Reed Chief Fired, Hooray

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the commander of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command has been removed by the Sec. of the Army, Francis J. Harvey.

Let us hope that the next person appointed will be able to shake up the bureaucracy in the Army's medical establishment. A number other officers at Reed need to leave as well. While the medical care provided there is top notch, numbers of recent reports make it clear that the non-medical conduct of that facility, which no doubt evolved during years of peace time, is totally unacceptable in caring for the thousands of young people wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They need to be treated like the heroes they are.

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George Soros Owns $62 Million Worth Of...Sit Down Before You Read On...Haliburton!

George Soros, scourge of the fascist right, well-heeled hero of the American Progressive movement, is apparently very capable of separating his political views and activities from what he does to keep his extensive fortune growing.

In his latest financial move, Soros has purchased 2 million shares of Halliburton, valued at over $62 million. Among the self-described progressives, especially those in the netroots, there is no more criminal capital enterprise on the earth than Halliburton, whose former CEO, VP Chenney, is arguably the most hated person in the power elite.

Andrew Sullivan speculates that the netroots will explode. I'm betting that they are such practical political animals that they will see the value in forgiving Mr. Soros his fiscal sin.

Lost, "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead", and I Wished I Was

I love Lost. I've seen countless posts in various forums by people expressing their dislike of episodes. I have never agreed with any of them. Every episode contained enough of interest to keep me enjoying the show. But tonight's episode was deadly.

The Hurley flashback , although slightly interesting for the appearance of Cheech Marin, told us nothing new. It has been drummed into our heads for two years now that Hurley believed, and had reason to believe, that he has been cursed since he won the lottery. Now we can chalk up another incident of that type.

The pseudo-psychologists want us to believe that Hurley is fat because his father, who fed him candy, later abandoned him. Not convincing.

Back on the island, Hurley discovers the VW Microbus. He fixates on it and, we are expected to believe, gets it jump started with gasoline that is god knows how old. Will this be anything than a toy for Hurley and have anything to do with the future twists of the plot? I doubt it.

The only movement of the plot tonight was Kate and Sawyer's return to the group and Kate's attempt to enlistment Rouseau in her search for the Others' home base. Kate may have just figured out that the girl Alex is probably Rouseau's daughter, but we've known that for a year and a half.

It is like the producers decided to run in place for sweeps week. After all, people tune in to a given episode based on their interest in preceding episodes, not based on their expectations for the new episode. I'm beginning to think that episodes written with no involvement by Cuse, Lindeloff and Abrams are considered less important by them and are likely to be so.

The only good news is that Cuse and Lindeloff wrote next week's episode, "Enter 77".