Saturday, March 31, 2007

Smart kid

Last night on the way to a Lenten fish fry at the church, NPR aired a story about Australian Guatanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks. When the reporter pointed out that Hicks is barred by his plea agreement from claiming he was mistreated, my 13-year-old son said, "Nice. 'Oh no, sir, everything was just fine down there. No problems at all.' Sounds like we beat him up then blackmailed him."

Does kind of sound like that, doesn't it?

After all, as Atrios points out, a nine month sentence seems awful light for someone who's "darn dangerous."

Friday, March 30, 2007

Good for the First Mate

"Captain" Ed Morrisey's wife seems to have gotten through her kidney transplant well.

Best wishes to the Morrisey family.

Piss fobiscum.

And the prize is ....



A photo of a .22 caliber rifle bullet passing through four pieces of colored chalk.


Four people tried to answer the question on how to trigger the strobe when taking bullet photos. As a thank-you, I've sent the hi-res version of this photo to two of them (Bryan and Fargus). If the other two (J. and El Tiberon) will send me their email addresses I will get it off to them as well.

This afternoon, a colleague and I took the photo above. We were inspired (in part) by a photo a group of my students took about 4 years ago.

I rather like this top image -- the bands of color show in the debris around the chalk, the details of the larger chunks of yellow chalk, and smaller chunks of blue chalk are distinct (at least in the hi-res version). The cracks across the chalks are quite clear, and we see that the yellow is beginning to move an appreciable distance while the blue barely knows that it has been hit.

If I were to do it over, I might use the same colors as in this bottom one, but play with the timing some (i.e., the placement of the bullet relative to the chalk as the strobe fires).


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More conservative wisdom

Crotchety, conservative ogler of 15-year-olds John Derbyshire has had it up to here with cell phones.
And what do people say into their cell phones? They tell each other where they are and what they're doing, that's what. I rode in a shuttle from La Guardia parking lot to the terminal next to a middle-aged woman with a cell phone. She dialed up. "Hey! Just thought I'd give you a call. ... I'm in the shuttle, going to the terminal. ... Right. ... OK, see you in a few days. Bye!" Then she dialed someone else and told her the same thing. I've been having visions of the rest of this woman's day. "Hi! I'm in the departure lounge..." "Hey! How's it going? I just got on the plane..." "Whassup? I got caught short—I'm in the bathroom voiding my bowels..." Is this what the human race has come to?
Well, he's got a point, of course, but it's a point he has undermined with the rest of his addition to the "fart-in", which is, in fact, mostly about telling people where he is and what he's doing. It begins:
OK, landed in Pittsburgh, a city I was never in before. Nice hotel room, looking right across a fine steel bridge to Pirates Stadium.
Fascinating stuff, John.

The news of irony's death, it appears, has been greatly exaggerated.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The wisdom of Allahpundit

Thank God the genius bloggers of the right are around to explain to us how things work in Iraq. On Iraq, Allahpundit looks at the uptick in violence and helps us sort it all out.
Splinter groups would be bad if the splinters are more fanatic than Sadr, but obviously not so bad if they’re less so.
Ah. It's all so clear now.

Why do Republicans Christianists continue to ignore Jesus?

Update: the article mislabeled North Carolina Congressman Mike McIntyre as a Republican, so I've changed the original title. Checking further, it seems about 10 percent of the group's Advisory Board are Democrats. They're just as wrong about this as the Republicans.

In today's news:
(T)he West Front of the Capitol took on the atmosphere of a down-home revival Wednesday, as roughly 40 members participated in a “call to prayer for America.”

But before they could recognize the power of prayer and ask Americans to pray for their country five minutes per week, members and spectators alike had to clear off the steps as Capitol Police inspected an unattended suspicious package.

Undeterred, they relocated to the West Lawn, where the regularly scheduled revival continued, sans amplification. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., assumed the duty of flag bearer.

Shouting to be heard, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, referred to the “enormous power in prayer.”

He asked “those will join with us to agree to pray for five minutes per week for our country. As these few become thousands, we will build a spiritual prayer wall around America 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Mike McIntyre, RD-N.C., then encouraged the crowd to visit PrayerCaucus.org and sign up for a five-minute block of time to pray for the country.
That's right. Republicans have gone out on the steps of the Capitol to pray and set up a web site for you to publicly declare your promise to pray. All this, despite Christ's specific admonition against such things:
(W)hen thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. -Matthew 6:5-6
Of course we all know it's really an e-mail net for fundraising, which makes it all even worse.

Update: By the way, in case you haven't heard, the 9/11 attacks were the modern equivalent of the burning bush. So sayeth Michael Savage.

Oh my

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A US Attorney who isn't getting fired

His name is Kenneth Wainstein, and he's the USA for the District of Columbia. He was an interim appointment of George Bush's, confirmed by the Senate after he brought charges against major tax cheat Walter Anderson, who, according to the DOJ, skipped out on over $200 Million in taxes.

But Kenny--who, again, has never had his job threatened--seems to have made a little boo-boo.
Apparently, the fuck-up could be Jeff Taylor's, one of the recent add-ons to the US Attorney position, who was put in place by Gonzales without confirmation. Love to see who really screwed this up. Either way, it's another mess for which Gonzales is ultimately responsible.
Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.

Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn't order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department's binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.

Friedman said he could have worked around that problem by ordering Anderson to repay the money as part of his probation. But prosecutors omitted any discussion of probation -- a common element of plea deals -- from Anderson's paperwork.

Only idiots fight over silly movies

Victor Davis Hanson asks, "Why the liberal furor over 300?"

I ask, "What the hell is he talking about?"

I know Hanson predicted there would be such a furor before the event, but I've seen little in the way of ranting on the part of liberals about the film. Hell, I saw the movie and I loved it. I thought it was beautifully done--despite obvious flaws in the script--and well worth the money I spent. In the end, I enjoyed it because it's not only an adaptation of a comic book it is a comic book--complete with silly poses, ridiculously outsized characters and a take on the topic so historically flawed it's laughable. It's about as serious and historically accurate as Lone Ranger serials and anyone attempting to draw parallels between the movie and reality might as well try to draw deep political meaning from this morning's Beetle Bailey strip.

Hanson and his conservative brethren, it seems, desperately want to fight about fantasy because, here in the full-color real world, Americans are fleeing their party and policies in droves.

Update: Bush continues to argue using fantasyland facts.

Doan "totally paranoid"

Listening into the live webcast of the GSA hearings just now, the camera was down, but the audio was still up and you could here GSA Administrator Lurita Doan griping about the investigation and telling one of her people to take her glass, cause she doesn't want "them to have my fingerprints. They've got me totally paranoid!"

Hilarious.

(If someone somewhere is recording this, please let me know.)

Update: I was right. John and company over at Crooks and Liars will have the video up tomorrow, but have done me a solid by allowing me to post a link to their video. (It's a Windows Media File.)

Have I mentioned their having a fund drive over there?

Update: To hear Doan's craziness, go to the link above, and, sliding the slider to slightly over halfway, you'll see the committee take a break to go vote on the House floor. The camera will cut to a shot of the seal, and soon after, you'll get to hear Doan told how to talk by some unnamed guy, hear her turn to some poor cameraman and say "Honestly, don't y'all have enough pictures?" and a little bit after that, she says it, plain as day: "Take my water. And my glass. I don't want them to have my fingerprints, they've got me totally paranoid."

I expect Crooks and Liars will have it up soon, but I'm lacking either the right skill or the right software.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tangent

Regarding the question of favorite quotes from contemporary fiction, here's a bit from Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist:
You are standing on a train platform. A fear of missing the train, a slavery to time, has provided ten minutes before the train leaves. There is so much you have never said to your companion and so little time to articulate it. The years have accreted around the simple words and there would have been ample time to speak them had not the years intervened and secreted them. The conductor paces up and down the platform and wonders why you do not speak. You are a blight on his platform and timetable. Speak, find the words, the train is warming towards departure.
Apex Hides the Hurt is next on my list.

Everything's cool in the mind of a gangsta

Shorter Jim Webb:
Now all I gotta say to you
Wannabe, gonnabe, pussy-eatin cocksuckin prankstas
When the shit jumps off what the fuck you gonna do
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta
Update: Apparently, Fox News thinks that Webb aide is now required to watch himself very closely:
Webb's executive assistant was released on his own reconnaissance after he pleaded not guilty to charges of carrying a pistol without a license and possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition. Thompson spent the night in a D.C. jail after U.S. Capitol Police determined Monday that he did not have a license to carry a gun in Washington, D.C., where only law enforcement officials are allowed to carry handguns.
Idiots. Here's the word you're looking for (h/t Taylor Marsh).

McCain's stroll through Baghdad

Will history say this is the statement that effectively ended John McCain's presidential run?

Americans still can't handle the truth about Afghanistan

At least not on the newsstand. That's what Time editors seem to think.

Monday, March 26, 2007

It's a dance-off!

Bush's cronies screw up everything, Episode #144

(Update below)

There is nothing--absolutely nothing--George W. Bush can do properly, but I was told that wasn't going to be a problem. I remember before the 2000 election when I was ranting about the man's apparent cluelessness to everyone I knew, my Republican friends would say, "Sure, he's not the brightest guy, but he surrounds himself with geniuses." This was, you'll remember a talking point of the Bush apologists and a trap into which even America's best and brightest pundits sometimes slipped. Bush's vast supply of stupid couldn't hurt us, I was told, because someone would always be there to hold his sweaty little hand.

I was also told that Bush was going to bring a business mindset to governance. I used to point out that his own experiences in business didn't make me feel any better about that statement. With all the money he could ask for to toss into his ventures, Bush couldn't get a business into the black. I, like many others, was concerned.

And I was right to be. From Iraq to Katrina, the Plame Scandal to the recent political manipulation of America's legal system, Bush has shown that he's a terrible, embarrassingly awful leader--just as his résumé suggested he would be--and, more importantly, he's shown that those who predicted America would be protected from his intellectual failings by a buffer zone of genius were not only wrong, but believed exactly the opposite of the truth. Yes, Bush has failed again and again, but in every single failure you can dig down and find, at its core, a terrible human resources decision: Bremer, Brownie, Miers, Tomlinson, Gonzales, Small.

Who's Small, you ask?

Lawrence M. Small, if you haven't been paying attention, was Bush's choice* selected by the Smithsonian Board of Regents at the end of Clinton's term to head the Smithsonian. As the Washington Post points out today, he's become yet another scandalous hire forced to step down because of greed and incompetence.
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small, the banker who took over the world's largest museum complex seven years ago, has resigned under pressure following revelations regarding his housing allowance and office and travel expenditures...

In recent weeks questions about Small's leadership and his personal expenditures had created a crisis at the Smithsonian. Small, 65, had been sharply criticized by members of Congress and his pay and expense accounts have been subjected to scrutiny by the Smithsonian inspector general. Last week, two separate committees were appointed by the regents to look into management operations at the Smithsonian, which includes 18 museums and research facilities as well as the National Zoo.
How could this have happened? Surely all Americans would want the best leadership for the Smithsonian, right? It is, after all, one of America's historical crown jewels and even the corrupt incompetents leading the Republican party and manning the ramparts of Leibercrattia wouldn't want it to fall into disrepair.

I'm sure they don't. But, in the past 20 years, Republicans--and some DLC Democrats--have come to believe in Corporate Pixie Dust. They believe, without any evidence to demonstrate the validity of their belief, that corporations are magical entities which always run smoothly and are led by the smartest goshdarned people in the whole wide world. Lawrence Small is just another example of the failure of that belief. A business-type in a job held throughout history by academics, Small promised--just like his benefactors--promised to bring to his public position the mindset of businessman. As WaPo puts it:
Small, the first Smithsonian secretary who was not a scientist or an academic, brought a corporate mentality to an institution that long resembled a university campus. The result was a culture clash, with Small pushing to rename facilities after wealthy donors, for example. That offended longtime Smithsonian researchers who thought he was compromising the institution's values.
The problem is this: Tattooed around the heart of every true Republican moneyman are the words of Adam Smith, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." And, for many of those on the right, those words are sacrosanct. They believe that nothing should get in the way of one's self-interest: Neither laws nor the well-being of one's fellow man. This kind of mindset, oddly enough, seems incompatible with an organization like, say, the entire United States government, which is dedicated not to self-interest, but to the desire to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..." While there are plenty of "I"s in those phrases, they basically amount to the creation of the American "team" and we've all been told a million times how many "I"s that word has.

Not only is the business degree fetishism of pro-corporate Republicans (and Dems) antithetical to the very idea of government, it's just simply bad management. The stories soldiers tell about the incompetence of contractors (many of whom admit being hired a couple of days after faxing their résumés to KBR or other companies) would be hilarious if you didn't think about the fact the average American's taxes only cover a small portion of a single, unqualified employee's six-figure income. Or that they don't pay taxes on the first $80K. And corporate lobbyists have gotten Congress to blow massive amounts of government money every year on studies which try to compare the efficiency of government employees against the efficiency of what corporations say they can do. Of course, when the company comes back and demands more money, it usually gets it and, in some cases, contracted companies who've created specific products for government can simply refuse to renew the contract, take the (for example) software they created on government time public and deny the government use of the software or database upon which it operates because the contract's dead, creating massive headaches for the government employees left behind to create entirely new ways of doing business from scratch.

There is a lot of talk about how Bush's reign has damaged the long-term political viability of the Republican party. I can't say whether or not that's true. I will say this, though: Americans who are truly interested in the long-term viability of our republic should make it clear to their friends and neighbors that the Bush administration has fully tested whether contractors and corporate lackeys can run government better than the mythically cold, unfeeling government bureaucrat. What we got were hundreds of small-scale government versions of Enron, Tyco and Worldcom; self-interest running rampant with no oversight from the former Republican-led Congress.

So, while it's good to see Congress finally chipping away at the crust surrounding the Bushies warm, gooey center of corruption, it's important to make clear that this isn't simply a rogue, incompetent administration. This is a rogue, incompetent administration which is, nevertheless, following the exact recipes Republicans have written over the last thirty years. Americans need to understand that, in one sense, Bush hasn't failed. He implemented core Republican principles and they failed. And they always will.

I've always thought that this was an important distinction to make, but, with the Lawrence M. Small mini-scandal unfolding, it makes it even more necessary to pull America away from these dangerous ideas. I'd been worrying, you see, about the effects of Republican policies on the future of our country, but now I see that they might even be able to fuck up our past.

Update: Kos makes a similar point.

Update: Regarding the correction below, Cernig says Small is still a Republican problem.
Small is a staunch Republican. He owes his appointment to Chief Justice William Renquist, who as chair of the Board of regents at the Smithsonian appointed him as secretary even though he had no obvious qualifications for the job. Over the years he has donated to George Bush, Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Rick Santorum and Americans for a Republican Majority, among others. None are exactly strong supporters of evolutionary theory, preferring the pseudo-science of "Intelligent Design". So it isn't surprising that Small presided over the decision to show the ID propoganda movie "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" at America's premier scientific museum.


* In the initial post, I had erred in writing that Small was appointed by Bush because I read a date wrong. Far from proving my argument wrong, this shows, in fact, how ingrained the Corporate Pixie Dust belief has become in our society. It remains a major part of the problem with, as I mentioned, the DLC Democrats. In fact, the law which requires that portions of government agencies' jobs be put up for bid and scanned for efficiency every few years was signed by Bill Clinton in 1997. Again, I apologize for the error, but this only reinforces my point about the need to show that it's not just the current Republicans which are flawed, but the ideology which says government can do no right and corporations can do no wrong. Much thanks to doginfollow who helped point out my error in the comments.

Thanks for the lessons, Politico!

I sure am glad all those big-time journalists came along to show us filthy hippy bloggers how real internet journalism's done. I had no idea it involved being wrong all the time. I have so much to learn. Is that what "transcend(ing) the organization" means?

How to trigger a strobe for photographing bullets

We trigger the strobe by sound, as Bryan suggested. In particular, for a supersonic bullet, we use the sound of the shockwave that accompanies any supersonic object. This shockwave is also known as a "sonic boom".





Part (d) of this figure is a shadowgraph showing (in sillouette) a supersonic bullet, the V-shaped shockwave of the round, and the report from the exploding gunpowder (the circles emanating from the muzzle).

If we place a microphone just below the line of flight of the bullet, the microphone will "hear" the shockwave, generating an electrical signal that can be used to trigger the strobe. The bullet will only be an inch or so down range from the mike when the strobe fires.

Notice that if we don't like the position of the bullet in the photo -- say, the bullet is 2 inches further down range than we like -- we simply reposition the mike. In this example, pulling the mike 2 inches up range will ensure that the bullet is in the right spot for the next photo.

If round is subsonic (like the paintball), then it always lags behind the sound of the weapon firing (the report). In this case, the mike must be well down range from the target, and small variations in the projectile's speed from one shot to the next are more of a problem.

In the comments, El Tiberon asks what he won. If El Tiberon, Fargus, and J. will send me an email address (send it to my hotmail.com account, where my user name is "jimbales") I'll send you a hi-res bullet photo. Bryan, I've got your email address already. (It may be the end of the week before I can send it.)

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A test case for the Army

Many of you may have already seen reports concerning Sgt. Marcia Ramode, a US Army recruiter. Sgt Ramode contacted Corey Andrew, someone she considered a likely candidate to recruit. Upon learning that he is gay, she engaged in a 3-day-long email exchange with him which included some fairly nasty homophobic statements on her part -- emails sent from her Army email account.

Evidently, at least one conservative blogger has tried to minimize her statements by asserting "In typical feckless Liberal fashion, [Mr. Andrew] started a silly flame war and now he wants to turn it around and be some whinny victim hounded by gay oppression."

Unlike Mr. Riehl, I would expect an NCO in our Army to have enough self-control to not be provoked into a flame war.

So, Terry, now that you've had hours back from your trip, could you (in your copious free time) describe the process set forth in the Army's rules and regulations to handle such situations?

(On the other hand, if you are madly catching up from time off, feel free to take a pass on this!)

Update from Terry: How this will actually be handled is anyone's guess, but I'd bet that the very first thing that will happen is Ramode will be immediately removed from recruiting duty and be stuck shuffling papers until she can be discharged or put back in her primary field of service.

If I were her supervisor, however, I'd recommend Non-Judicial Punishment with the intent of knocking her down to a specialist at the very least. She's given up her right to be a leader when she makes these sorts of comments, since she's failed to comply with the very basic list in the Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks (Skill Level 2) that demand leaders not make "racial or sexual comments and/or gestures...national origin or religious comments/jokes/slurs...(or) assumptions about their cultural background, race, religion, or beliefs." I'd also want to start checking into her previous dealings with military members of different races by interviewing the soldiers with whom she had worked before, to see if there's a pattern here.

And you've hit the nail exactly on the head, Jim. If one of my sergeants couldn't handle being baited in e-mail by someone who is (in my view, justifiably) pissed about governmental policies, then how could I trust that person in a truly nerve-wracking position--like sitting shotgun in a humvee in a war zone?

There are options for counseling, but a commander might simply suggest she's damaged any possibility for becoming a true leader and boot her. If her record's exemplary, who knows? There are about a million ways the Uniform Code of Military Justice could be used to kick her out, though (Article 92 is particularly applicable), because her comments do not lend themselves to creating an atmosphere of "good order and discipline."

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Let 'em off the hook, Jim

Well, I'm back, refreshed but sore from hiking around in the Smokies. I want to give a shout out to the excellent baristas at the Dripolator Cafe in Black Mountain, NC, and let them know that the shirt I was wearing can be purchased here. Also, if you make it to Asheville, you have to eat downtown at Salsa's. You just do. This isn't some big secret or anything, since the locals all know how great it is, but should you be whizzing by on the interstate, it's worth the short trip into town to get a meal sure to impress any foodie.

Jim has apparently been keeping you all in suspense about how to time a strobe properly and, honestly, I'm dying to know myself, so I hope he'll let us all in on the secret now. (Though I feel I must point out that amateur high speed photographers probably shouldn't be shooting guns in their garage strobe labs.)

I'll be getting back up to speed on all the happenings over the next few days--I was shocked, for example, to find out that Bush is planning on denying funding to troops in the field by vetoing a funding bill--and Jim's visit seems to have gone over well, so I've asked him to feel free to post here when the mood strikes him.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Traitors don't get to question my patriotism

... opens Bill Maher, while seated in front of an image of Bush and Cheney. Then it gets even better.

Check it out.

(Thank you, Attaturk, for posting the clip.)

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Why even the most partisan Republican should be unhappy over the US Attorney firings

Bryan, over at Why Now? may have said it best:

"People like William Jefferson [D-LA] are going to get off because of this. Many corruption probes are going to be lost based on the actions of the Justice Department rather than the evidence. People who should be in jail are going to be free to plunder because everything is political in this administration." (Emphasis mine)

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How to take a photo of a bullet



In this photo of a paintball passing through a light bulb, the paintball entered from the right, and was at the filament as the photo was taken.

The shell of the paintball is already shattered. We see the blob of paint through the frosted surface of the bulb.

Daniel Pressl, a graduate student at MIT, and I took this photo.

The band of yellow material at the base is modeling clay.

In the comments to Howdy! I gave the following methodology for how we take a bullet photo:

1) We set up the card and line up the rifle (by bore sighting) so that the bullet will hit the card.

2) Then we turn out the lights ...

3) ... and open the shutter of the camera.
(Since the room is dark the film/imager is not exposed.)

4) We fire the rifle.

5) A few milliseconds later, as the bullet is cutting the card, the strobe fires, lighting the target for a half microsecond, after which the room is dark again.

6) We close the shutter and turn on the room lights to set up for the next shot.

Here is a question for you.

In step 5), how do we get the strobe to go off just when the bullet is in the right place? (Update: Answer here.)

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Observations from the 6-Year-Old



I was dropping my son off at his kindergarten the other day. While I went to talk with his teacher, he sat at his table drawing cars and airplanes on a piece of paper.

When I came back, he looked up at me and said
"Papa, in real life, things don't have lines around them."

I must admit that I had no idea that such deep thoughts were going on inside his mind! Being the good academic, and doting father, I proceeded to brag about my boy to all and sundry at work.

Upon hearing the tale, one old friend had the zen-like response,
"Ah yes. That is why it is so important to color within the lines. For there are no lines."

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"The Decider"



I have a colleague who teaches a class on failures in engineering. He is considering writing a text, and wants to open with the problems that arise when you have a single person acting as "the decider" -- that is, one person, whom everyone else on the project reports to, who does not directly answer to anyone else, and who makes the key decisions on the design and implementation of the project.

His first example would be the 1844 explosion of a cannon (called "The Peacemaker") on the USS Princeton The gun's designer, Captain Robert F. Stockton, was also in charge of its manufacture, testing, and installation. He even supplemented US Navy funding with money from his family. The gun was installed on the newly built USS Princeton, commanded by -- surprise -- Captain Stockton, so he was now in charge of its operation as well.

Stockton's gun was inherently flawed, such that someone experienced in the art of gun design would have caught the error. But Stockton was not such a "someone." Had the gun undergone extensive testing, it would have failed then, before entering service. But Stockton had limited the number of test firings.

On February 28, 1844, President Tyler, his Cabinet, and 200 guests boarded the USS Princeton for a pleasure cruise and trial of the gun. The Peacemaker fired its charge (40 pounds of gunpowder and a 228-pound iron ball) without incident twice. The third time the gun was fired it exploded, killing six, including the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of State.

Had there been an independent check at some point in the process, the error may have been caught. Had someone else been commanding the vessel, that someone might have recognized the potential failure and not allowed the weapon to be fired. Instead, Stockton was the unary "decider" who followed his gut when what he really needed sound advice and detached oversight.

Stockton, who had absolute control over the gun project from its inception to fatal explosion, was absolved of all blame. He may have been "the decider," but, honest, it wasn't his fault!

My colleague said that this title for Chapter One, "The Decider," just popped into his head while reading the news from Iraq. He's seeking a non-engineering example for the chapter as well. Say, something from the political areana, such as ..... Watergate.

Or were you thinking of something else?

(Image source: Wikipedia)

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Howdy!

Update below

Jim here,

Terry was kind enough to leave me a key to the place while he is off for a well-deserved break with Mrs. Nitpicker. He also was kind enough to protect my anonymity, which I had asked of him some time ago when I originally sent him the photo in the preceding post.

Since then -- without mentioning it to Terry -- I've outed myself to the blogosphere as Dr. Jim Bales, an Instructor at MIT who teaches the subject Strobe Project Lab and the Assistant Director of MIT's Edgerton Center. So, thank you Terry for your consideration of my earlier request for anonymity!

Why be anonymous? I read and comment almost exclusively on political blogs, and my abortive attempt at a blog was political. However, the subject I teach is quite apolitical. I believe that it is important that any students in my subject feel that I keep my political views separate from the content -- and grading -- of the class.

Sadly, I can't post more now, as duty calls me. There may not be more content until later tonight. However, here, for your amusement, is another bullet photo.



Update: Answers to some questions that have arisen:
Is that a grape
Yes it is, or, was.

What is the blue stuff holding it up
A piece of modeling clay I had on hand.

What was the firearm?
A .22 caliber target rifle, borrowed from MIT's rifle team.

Did you use a special camera?
It was a Nikon D200 digital camera, but much simpler cameras can work.

Did you use a special flash unit?
Yes. It was taken with "Spot," a flash unit made by Prism Science Works. The strobe turns on and then off again in less than 1/2,000,00 sec.

Yes, one two-millionth of a second.

As such devices go, it is quite inexpensive (within the reach of a professional photographer or a sufficiently dedicated amateur.)

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Tag

It's been over two years since my wife and I have had a chance to take a vacation. In that time, I completed a tour in Afghanistan, finished college and left the military behind. Mrs. Nitpicker finished her second degree and joined the military. We moved. Stuff happened. It's been nuts.

This morning, we'll heading north to spend a few days in the woods near Asheville, NC. I will be blissfully incommunicado, so I've invited my good friend and frequent commenter "Jim" (and wouldn't you like to know if that's his real name) to sit in here and keep you up to date for a few days. Jim, you may remember, is the clever mug who sent me this picture below. It's real, trust me. He later sent me the bullet-split card, which is now framed and mounted above my desk.















I hope you all will come by and show Jim some love while he's here.

Good apple

Atrios points us to Mark Smith, who called Iraq War vets who oppose the war "bad apples." I think it's incumbent upon Smith, who's rightfully very proud of being a "four-sport athlete in high school" to get himself to the nearest recruiting station and show those dipshits what "good apples" look like. He received his law degree from NYU in 1995, which, I'm guessing, he began right after graduating from college. That would make him roughly 38 and, lucky for him, the Army takes recruits up to 42 years of age.

It seems only fair that Mark demonstrates how it's done if he's going to criticize those who've been there.

"Collateral damage"

Nice.
Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions.

[snip]

"We have a crisis where there doesn't need to be one, and now Democrats have an issue where they can open up the subpoena floodgates," said an exasperated Republican aide. "Once these investigations start, there always ends up being a lot of messy collateral damage." (Emphasis Nitpicker's)
In other words, let's throw this sumbitch overboard before the Democrats find some more dirt on our congresscritters. Good to know there's more to be found.

For the love of God, don't watch Glenn Beck

On the right, you'll see an ad for Glenn Beck's special "War Porn: Isn't the War Going Well?" (or whatever it's called). I have pretty much the same ad policy as Atrios, in that I'll take anyone's money, but I'll be pissed if any readers of this blog actually see that ad and watch a show hosted by a racist, misogynist, idiotic perv.

Thanks for tossing me a few bucks, though, Glenn.

You bastard.

Kudos to Bonnie Erbe

Whenever I try to discuss the US Attorney firings with my Republican friends, I get the "Clinton did it too!" defense, which leaves me having to back up and explain why it's normal for presidents taking office to clean house, but odd when a president kicks out a bunch of people in the middle of a term. And it stinks even more when the firings seem motivated by the desire to kill an investigation into a scandal. The problem is, this usually occurs a few minutes into a contentious conversation and, by then, my dander's up and the trotting out of the Clinton's EEEeeevilll "defense" leaves me sputtering and pissy.

So I want to give U.S. News & World Report's Bonnie Erbe praise for her succinct explanation of the difference between what Clinton did and what the Bushies have done.
Conservative bloggers are trying to portray mainstream media as liberally biased in reporting on this topic for failing to point out that "President Clinton ... fired all the U.S. attorneys upon assuming office." It is routine for an incoming president, whether Democrat or Republican, to clean house, not just in the Justice Department but in all federal agencies upon assuming office. It's even routine when one Republican president takes over from another Republican, as was the case when Bush 41 took over from Reagan. What is not routine is to order large-scale firings in the middle of the same administration.

This is an important clarification that has not received widespread attention. (Emphasis Nitpicker's)
I think I'll write those three sentences down in my Moleskine and the next time this discussion comes up, maybe the script will help me keep the cursing to a minimum.

Erbe's post is also notable for the first traditional media mention of Alberto Gonzales's new nickname, "The Walking Cadaver."

Update: See also this statement from WaPo's Dan Eggen to Deborah Howell.
Bush also got rid of all but one U.S. attorney in 2001, and in both of those cases it was at the beginning of a change in party power, which seems fairly obvious and routine. The issue here is doing a mass firing in the middle of a term, which leads to appearance problems and which is viewed by many as an intrusion on the independence of prosecutors. No one, including the Department of Justice, can cite a time in recent decades when it has happened before.
That's solid, but then Howell goes on to suggest that familial relationships don't have to be disclosed, even when one family member writes an op-ed publicly supporting another. Will they remember that when the most popular president of the last 40 years writes a column supporting some lady named Hillary Clinton?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gamblers

Imagine you go to the casino with a buddy of yours. The guy has bad luck, but it's just bad enough that he wins a little and loses a little, always ending up a little bit worse than when he came. Worst of all, every time he seems about to admit defeat, he gets a big win--not enough of a win, mind you, to make up for all of his losses, but big enough to keep the desire to gamble stoked. This will end badly.

I bring up this hypothetical because it reminds me of the global warming deniers who crow every time snow falls somewhere, thinking that it's the big win, the blizzard that will prove them right.

Honestly, I wish it were true, but it isn't.
THE Earth has just experienced its warmest December-February since records began 128 years ago, adding fire to global warming concerns.

A US government agency reported a record warm January worldwide pushed average temperatures to 0.72C above normal for the 20th Century.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was the highest average temperature for the period since records began in 1880.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Time for popcorn!

Fun fights on the horizon:
  • According to Robert "Douchebag for Liberty" Novak, Tom DeLay will attack his fellow Republicans in his new memoir. Apparently, DeLay lays into Bush, Hastert, Gingrich, Armey and then, despite his own criminal actions DeLay writes "Beware the man drunk with ambition." The book should be read with a towel in one's lap, in order to catch the irony dripping from the pages.

  • Christian conservatives will soon be fighting George W. Bush and Kenneth Starr over a weird First Amendment case out of Alaska. What makes this even weirder yet is that the right wing Christian groups will be fighting alongside the ACLU. What did students to start such a fight? They held up a sign in front of their school promoting BONG HITS 4 JESUS as the Olympic torch was carried past.

  • Right wing weirdo (and grade A moron) Nate Tabor wrote a nasty column attacking Rudy Giuliani as not conservative enough. Fine. What he didn't mention is that he's a paid operative for Duncan Hunter who, by a strange coincidence, happens to be running for president as the conservative's conservative. I think it's funny, but Hunter and Tabor won't be laughing when someone on the right publicly points that out.
Good stuff.

Here's a news flash for you

According to Zogby, the Republican hive mind still refuses to accept reality.
While 97% of Republicans surveyed said the media are liberal, two-thirds of political independents feel the same, but fewer than one in four independents (23%) said they saw a conservative bias. Democrats, while much more likely to perceive a conservative bias than other groups, were not nearly as sure the media was against them as were the Republicans. While Republicans were unified in their perception of a left-wing media, just two-thirds of Democrats were certain the media skewed right – and 17% said the bias favored the left.
Of course, once you get past what people think to what the data actually shows, well, then you get a whole different picture of the playing field, don't you?

Dance, Foxholes, Dance!

In the light of Fox News scrambling to maintain the thinnest veneer of "balance" after Democrats refused to lend them respectability, I thought it might be time to point out something I witnessed first hand as a public affairs sergeant in Afghanistan. I call it the "Fox News Two Step."

You see, because my position was apolitical, very few of the journalists knew of my personal political leanings. I was, to them, just the guy who would get them on flights (and sometimes travel with them) to distant forward operating bases. When I wasn't in the field covering my own stories, I served as sort of a liaison between journalists and field units, getting writers, photographers and broadcasters on the ground to write about the war and answering their questions when they called. In other words, about half my job was to be a info source and/or travel agent for journalists.

On more than one occasion, I worked with Fox News producers and reporters. Once, in Herat, I saw one of the Foxholes approached by a couple of soldiers. One of the soldiers said he was glad they could finally talk to a "conservative" reporter. The reporter laughed and said, "Someone's got to balance out the liberals." But, later, I ran into that same reporter in Bagram. He wanted an interview with some soldiers and, when I grabbed one at random to ask if he wanted to talk to Fox News, the soldier--an Army captain--said he didn't, because, as a Democrat, he wasn't a fan of the network's politics. The reporter, shaken up, said that was ridiculous. The network had no politics, but only told the truth. "Whatever," said the captain and walked off. The reporter, after a few beats narrowed his eyes at the soldier's back and quietly hissed, motherfucker.

Just before Thanksgiving, 2004, a Fox News producer with whom I'd worked a number of times in Kabul and Bagram showed up on Bagram Air Field to shoot what military PA people call "Hi Moms"--the little snippets of video of service members saying "I'm Corporal Bill Jones from Paducah, Kentucky and I want to say 'Happy Thanksgiving' to my wife, Sheila and my parents Don and Lorraine in Louisville." I was confused about why he would be doing this. My unit--and every PA unit--shot hundreds of these every year for holidays, the Super Bowl, the Army/Navy game, etc., and provided them free of charge to all who asked for them. When I asked the producer why he had come, he said he'd had the same question when he was told that he should know better. It was "part of (his) contract," he said, to get on his knees "and give Bush a blowjob" every month or so.

I don't think it's necessary to rat these guys' names out--though they're written in my notebook alongside where I scrawled what they said--because one of them I thought was a pretty good guy, but these are just two of the instances of clear bias on the part of Fox. Many of the questions they asked seemed designed to lead to soundbites declaring everything in Afghanistan just wonderful, while other reporters seemed to want to tell a story well and thoroughly--CBS's Lara Logan, CNN's Ryan Chilcote and Newsweek's Tim McGirk deserve special attention. (Only once did I meet a reporter with a clearly anti-US, anti-military bias: Carmela Baranowska, who treated US bases like free hotels, ate up more than her share of MREs, once washed her dainties with the Marines' limited drinking water at a FOB and then, when she was finally kicked off the bases for being useless, disappeared. After we scrambled the OHSHIT scouts to track her down, she popped back up on the radar, complete with a convenient and completely bullshit story about Marines terrorizing Afghans. I can't and won't go into all the reasons her career-enhancing documentary is ridiculous, but you'll just have to trust me on this.)

I guess the reason I got to see a behind the scenes performance of the "Fox News Two Step" was because I took my job seriously. I knew Americans weren't above reproach in Afghanistan, but I also saw that 99 percent of service members really wanted to help people. I believe in the military, in service and I believed in what we were doing in the country (though some of the choices made by Karzai and Khalilzad still make me want to perform an autolobotomy by banging my head against a wall). Because I was so obviously a cheerleader for soldiers, I suppose the Fox reporters just assumed I was a pro-Bush guy.

But my experience is just another version of what you can see on Fox every day, ratcheted up to the nth degree. When Fox's anchors accuse Democrats of rooting for terrorists or Bill O'Reilly rails against "Secular-Progressives"--wink, wink--but the network's spokespeople still claim to be balanced when their Republicanism shows, you're seeing the FN Two Step on a level only a tiny bit subtler than the admission of proverbially fellating George W. Bush.

(Although the fact that the network has recently kicked off two awful, awful right wing "comedy" shows seems to be giving the trick away, no?)

Since everyone with half a brain and basic cable knows that Fox is a Republican house organ, why do they even do this dance at all? Matt Stoller found some evidence today suggesting that, despite Fox's high ratings, it might not pay that well to cater to the old and crotchety demographic. If it became too obvious what they were doing, the median age of O'Reilly Factor viewers might slip all the way up to dead. The Democratic refusal to hold a debate on Fox is not only smart in the short term--a fact proven by the results of the last Fox-hosted Democratic debate--but will, in the long term, also serve as another nail in the coffin of Fox's credibility. And, since the network is a proven enemy of the Democratic party (and the truth), that's a good thing.

So anyone who wants to see Democrats do well or simply cares about seeing candidates involved in an honest debate about the issues should be happy the Dems dropped Fox as a host. The national party should ignore anyone who acts like it was a bad idea. And those sounds of outrage you hear from the Fox studios? Those are just the cries of increasingly irrelevant blowhards, scared for their paychecks and two-stepping as loudly as they can.

Update: As should be clear to you by now, I did not say that "Fox News reporters in Afghanistan think American soldiers there are 'motherfuckers.'" I said that a Fox reporter called a soldier a motherfucker. Truth be told, I've called a few soldiers that myself (and at least a few of them were--and are--my dear friends). The word isn't the issue. What is important here is that I, and, I'm sure, other PA types, got glimpses behind the "fair and balanced" curtain to see the withered Roger Ailes pulling pro-Republican levers. Not everyone gets that chance.

Coulter convinces others to let their hate flags fly

If it's true that colleges hire more liberals than conservatives, I think Mike Adams, author of Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor, pretty much proves why that might be a good policy. Here are his suggestions for Ann Coulter to get over her current publicity stumble:
1. Start a website called “Global War on Fags” today.

2. Begin writing essays calling for the cleansing and purification of society via the mass murder of homosexuals.

3. Distribute videos on the website showing the actual murders of homosexuals.

4. Circulate instructions on how to bomb gay bath houses in San Francisco.

5. Circulate a “battle dispatch” to give people specific information on America’s most notorious bath houses.

6. Apply for a job at Kent State University.
And that's supposed to be comedy. I think.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What does the phrase "no longer" mean, mister?

Idiot Ian at Hot Air doesn't get the basic meaning of words.
In his commentary on last night’s “60 Minutes,” Andy “Negro is a perfectly good word” Rooney said that today’s military is like the military during World War II, which was made of “losers” who did not complete high school.
Unfortunately for Ian, that's not what Andy says and it's posted right there under his declaration for all to see.
ROONEY: I hated everything about Army life. I hated the Field Artillery regiment I was assigned to. Most of the guys in it were high school dropouts and the Army wasn’t using the term “moral waiver,” yet but a lot of them would have needed it.

They had joined before the draft so they had already been promoted to being corporals or sergeants and they were in charge of the rest of us.

In 1942 we were at war with Germany and it wasn’t long before drafted college students and high school graduates dominated our military. It changed the United States Army for the better and in two years made it the best fighting force there has ever been. The Army and Navy were no longer made up of losers.
You see, Rooney is actually saying that the war made the Army better, but Ian still can't figure that out.
He was comparing the “reduced standards” during World War II to those accepted in today’s military, standards that are still above every other service, and in a military that leads the world in management, theory, tactics, training and capability.
Again, Rooney is saying the exact opposite of what Ian alleges. Rooney doesn't claim that WWII lowered standards. He says it raised them.

Ian even implies that Rooney called all soldiers "losers," which just isn't the case. Lucky for Ian, the average Hot Air reader is too dumb to see the truth, too. From comments:
Those “losers” protect Mr. Rooney to say what he wants, whenever he feels like it, even if it makes him sound like an old fool. - Entelechy on March 12, 2007 at 5:01 PM

Stuff like this makes me appreciate Stalin who said: Only the grave straightens the hunched back. Has anybody a better Rx for such as Rooney? -dhimwit on March 12, 2007 at 8:05 PM

The US military of WWII and the US military of today are vastly different. Back then, a judge might give a thief a choice of jail or enlisting. Not now.

Andy Rooney himself is unlikely to have gotten into the military today, considering that he was a member of the Communist Party, as he confesses in his autobiography, “My War.” He still looks like an old rumpled Marxist. - Tantor on March 12, 2007 at 9:59 PM
These people just don't pay attention, do they?
BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Two 19-year-olds facing probation and community service or even jail time in the shooting of a steer considered a family pet took advantage of another option offered by the judge - joining the Navy.

Blah blah blah, sir

Will all due respect to Gen. Pace, no one cares that he thinks homosexuality is "immoral." He might think that sex outside of wedlock, condom use, skipping church and masturbation are immoral, too, but there's no rule against it and it's his job to carry out the policies set forth by the legislature and the orders of those appointed over him. Since he can't give a mission-based reason for keeping gays in the closet footlocker, citing instead his own "upbringing" and beliefs, he can and should be ignored on this issue.

The "Murder God" and his followers

Ace of Spades, whining over this little New York Times nonstory about Hollywood using environmental themes in upcoming movies, writes today:
Can anyone think of real world villains who are at this very moment killing innocent people and conspiring to kill thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, more, all due to the vicious notion that psychopathic mass-slaughter is commanded unto them by their Murder God?
Sure. World's full of them and when their history is written you usually find that they were supported by guys who write shit like this.
Okay, let me not be so coy and cute. I am just about ready to give my blessing to a genocidal nuclear strike on the majority of the Muslim world, and I suspect many of my countrymen are similarly itchy-fingered.

One more. One more fucking mass-murder. Go for it, boys. Give us the excuse. Some of us suspect it's inevitable and the only way to finally get it through your primative heads that we will no longer put up with being murdered by savage animals, but we need the moral pretext. We need the hot anger of fresh provocation.

So do it. If you are incapable of sharing the earth peacefully, then we will have to absent you from it. And when the nuclear fire rains down on you, you can cry out to your God and ask him "What have we possibly done to deserve this?"
Begging for your fellow citizens to be killed so that you can fulfill your bloodlust beneath a veneer of morality? The Murder God is pleased.

Tell me again how you're better than a terrorist sympathizer, Ace.

Easiest human resources job on the planet

Marty Peretz describes The New Republic hiring practices.
Try, try very hard not to hire anybody who isn't smarter than (me), and wiser.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Roger Ailes: Hero of diversity!

An excerpt from Roger Ailes speech, accepting an award from the very people he despises.
The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike. Because then one wrong turn can cause an entire news division to implode. We must respect and encourage diversity of thought and speech in the newsroom.
I actually agree with this, but let's see how Ailes puts this concept into practice with a sampling of excerpts from his own anchors and contributors.
Bill O'Reilly: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, I've been telling you for more than a year now that some on the far left want the USA to lose the war in Iraq. And not do very well in the war on terror.

John Gibson: Why does the left-wing media want us to lose (the war in Iraq)?

Bill O'Reilly: (T)he American media is not helping anyone by oversimplifying the situation and rooting for the USA to lose in Iraq. And that is what some media people are doing.

Ann Coulter (on Fox News): I'm getting a little tired of even having to discuss what the Democrats are chitchatting about. They want us to lose in Iraq. That will help them. They're in the position of the Mujahedeen. They will acquire more power if America is defeated in Iraq.

Bill O'Reilly: There are people who want us to lose in Iraq. And they're the far left loons who put their ideology above the welfare of the country. But for those of us who want an aggressive war on terror, in the beginning this looked like an OK strategy, and now it's turned out to be a semi-disaster.

John Gibson: Once again, the lefties are seen cheering terrorist victories and seem to be pulling for the wrong side.

Bill O'Reilly: I think the mainstream press is afraid. But the fringe far-left is, I think, rooting for the terrorists.

Sean Hannity: And now we've got George Bush, who's put his whole presidency on the line to defend this country after we were attacked on 9/11, versus the nine modern day Democratic appeasers. It's really just history in the making.

Bill O'Reilly: These pinheads running around going, "Get out of Iraq now," don't know what they're talking about. These are the same people before Hitler invaded in World War II that were saying, "Ah, he's not such a bad guy." They don't get it.

John Gibson: If Democrats who hate Bush and who hate the war in Iraq win, the insurgents win. I'm sorry but it's true. America will set a date to get out and Jihad will have carried the day.

Sean Hannity: Also coming up tonight: if the Democrats win -- if they win in November, is it a victory for the terrorists? Some people are saying that.
Diversity of thought, Fox style.

A sad day

Nearly 49 years ago, Edward R. Murrow was the keynote speaker at the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention. In his speech, he challenged networks to avoid sensationalizing the news, to pay less attention to advertisers and to defend the noble calling of journalism.
My memory also goes back to the time when the fear of a slight reduction in business did not result in an immediate cutback in bodies in the news and public affairs department, at a time when network profits had just reached an all-time high. We would all agree, I think, that whether on a station or a network, the stapling machine is a poor substitute for a newsroom typewriter.

One of the minor tragedies of television news and information is that the networks will not even defend their vital interests. When my employer, CBS, through a combination of enterprise and good luck, did an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the President uttered a few ill-chosen, uninformed words on the subject, and the network practically apologized. This produced a rarity. Many newspapers defended the CBS right to produce the program and commended it for initiative. But the other networks remained silent.

[snip]

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once said, "No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch." I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won't be, but it could. Let us not shoot the wrong piano player. Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their networks. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market.

And this brings us to the nub of the question. In one sense it rather revolves around the phrase heard frequently along Madison Avenue: The Corporate Image. I am not precisely sure what this phrase means, but I would imagine that it reflects a desire on the part of the corporations who pay the advertising bills to have the public image, or believe that they are not merely bodies with no souls, panting in pursuit of elusive dollars. They would like us to believe that they can distinguish between the public good and the private or corporate gain.
Tonight, the RTNDA proved those exhortations either fell on deaf ears or have been forgotten. Its members even rubbed Murrow's ghost's nose in his assurance that "the titular heads of the networks (don't) control what appears on their networks." They gave their First Amendment Award to Roger Ailes. Ailes, as the head of both Fox News and Fox Television, is the epitome of what Murrow called television's desire to provide "escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live." The RTNDA seems most interested, however, in the fact that Roger Ailes--whose network has made hay by attacking the profession of journalism and whose boss has admitted that the network "tried" to shape views of the Iraq war and "supported the Bush policy"--has made Fox News "the ratings leader among cable news channels."

Sick.

If you pray...

Put in a good word for Steve Gilliard.

One of the delightful and horrible things about these tubes we call the internets is that I've met and conversed with some amazing people, but never truly shared the pleasure of their company. Steve is someone I've only dealt with online, but, still, I feel very connected to. If he doesn't get better soon, he'll force me to kick his ass.

We love you, man. Get well.

Right wingers join in the fight for equality

Hey, I've been looking at the Cpl. Matt Sanchez story from the wrong perspective. Since the right wing bloggers know that Sanchez "has engaged in...a homosexual act or acts," but aren't calling for his expulsion from the military, I think we can assume they no longer support the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Awesome! Welcome to the party, people!

Time to change marketing companies

If you happen to have business with the firm where professional victim Matt Sanchez happens to be a partner, I'd suggest thinking about a move. Sanchez won award at CPAC recently because, as far as I can tell, someone called him stupid. Turns out the Marine Reservist is gay, or, at least, acted in gay porn films under the names like Pierre LaBranche and Rod Majors. In his whiny, awful article in Salon today (and the unedited version on Michelle Malkin's site), Sanchez shows that he's not the brightest of conservative lights.

Remember, a spotlight was shone on CPAC's event this year because Ann Coulter called someone a "faggot." Yet Sanchez--a marketing professional--acts suprised that some see as newsworthy CPAC recognizing a gay man (and former porn star) at that same event.

Coulter and others defended the use of the anti-gay slur, saying it just meant girlie-man or wussy. But Sanchez, a Marine, proved that very definition wrong.

If one of the partners of your marketing firm is shocked by the reporting of this information, it's time to get some new people on your firm's side.

Update: Malkin, who initially wrote that CPAC "should do more extensive background research before handing out an honor with Jeane Kirkpatrick's name on it," has now decided that liberals are "hate-filled" because someone "outed" his "gay porn past." For the record, "outing" is a term traditionally reserved for times when someone uncovers a secret life someone else has been carefully hiding. It's hard to argue that Sanchez was "outed" when you can go buy reminders of his past for $29.95 at Randy Bottom's House of Video.

Update: As ever, Sifu Tweety was way ahead of me on this.

Memories of me, 2003

As long as we're doing this, here's the most succinct example of what I was adding to the discourse in 2003.
It's All My Decision"

(Sung by George W. Bush to the tune of "That Old-time Religion")

We're gonna get that Saddam Hussein.
Karl Rove says that he's insane.
Showed me big trucks from a spy plane.
That's good enough for me.

Chorus:
It's all my decision.
It's all my decision.
It's all my decision.
And that's good enough for me.

We'll try not to hurt their people,
though their "uprising" was darn feeble
(and I ain't seen one damn steeple)
And that's good enough for me.

Chorus

Al-Qaida is connected
and I hope that proof's collected,
'cause bombs get Dick "erected,"
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

If they're weapons, Saddam's sought 'em.
Colin Powell says that he's got 'em.
Says Rumsfeld: "Hell, I brought 'em!"
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

Chirac, I think he hates me,
misunderestimates me,
but Tony Blair fellates me,
and that's good enough for me.

Chorus

Yes, Britain's "report" was a copy
and our intel has been sloppy,
but he tried to kill my Poppy.
That's good enough for me.

Chorus

So, if you need more explanation,
Ashcroft's got you a new location,
Cause you're an enemy of the nation,
Now sing along with me.

Chorus (All):
It's all your decision,
It's all your decision,
There'll be no more divison,
If you force... us... we'll... a-...greeeeeee!
Sad, but true.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Um, no

It would be great if Ari Emanuel and Rick Lippin were right about Cheney stepping down, but it just simply won't happen. Cheney is not only the megalomaniac who searched the nation for the perfect Vice Presidential candidate and found himself, he's also the ultimate dead-ender, holed up in his house of cards like a gangster in a 1930s movie, shooting out the window, screaming, "You won't take me alive coppers!" Leaving is failure to Cheney, both in Iraq and in Washington. I wish the old bastard would go away, but, as Atrios says, na ga ha pen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What hath George wrought?

"There used to be only one Saddam. Now there are a thousand..."
-The quote of the day, from Aso Amin, a former Kurdish peshmerga soldier who fled from Saddam's in Iraq to Germany in 1997 and is being asked to return home now that Saddam's gone and the country's all better now.

Monday, March 05, 2007

To the rescue: Rich Lowry, Brecht Girl

Ann Coulter comes out and spews the word "faggot" all over a premier conservative event. They lap it up and Rich Lowry tells John Gibson lefties aren't being fair to point out how scummy she is.
She meant it as a joke, and obviously the way that the Democrats and the press are using it is entirely opportunistic and ridiculous.
Of course, last October Lowry acted like he was too stupid to figure out that John Kerry wouldn't insult American troops and spun his "botched joke" for all it was worth.
Now, it is entirely plausible that Kerry was trying to make a joke about President Bush, for two reasons. One, typically of the humorless Kerry, it wouldn't have been funny. Two, typically of the arrogant Kerry, it would have reversed the usual convention, wherein politicians tell jokes at their own expense in their opening remarks. (Someone needs to take Kerry aside and tell him, "It's the hauteur, stupid.")

But Kerry's statement was also plausibly interpreted by people of good faith as a slam against the military. After all, he never mentioned the name Bush.
Kerry had, in fact, mentioned the name Bush in the sentence just before his oft-spun joke, saying that he'd just been to Texas, where Bush used to live, though now he lives "in a state of denial." Then bam! the botched joke. Even the hyperpartisan former Republican congressman Dick Armey had to admit that "John Kerry's right...He's saying, 'Look, I was not maligning the troops. I was maligning the president of the United States.'"

Lowry went on to say that the press is highlighting Coulter's statement
because the press would prefer to talk about Ann Coulter and portray Ann's remark in that instance as typical of all conservatives...
Unfortunately for Rich, his co-guest on Gibson's show, Young America's Foundation spokesman Jason Mattera, pointed out that Ann was giving conservatives in attendance exactly what they wanted, and in the process, smears John Edwards himself.
In fact, I would like to also point out she was basically calling John Edwards a wuss, that he was a girlie-man, and that if he were elected president he would probably embolden Al Qaeda to attack us. He's not a real man. And many at CPAC held that sentiment. I mean, it's grassroots -- many -- I want to point this out, too. There were thousands of college students there, and she knows how to -- communication 101 principle -- she knows how to communicate a message to an audience, especially to college students, and she got rousing -- rousing applause and rousing standing ovations throughout the event.
Let me first say that Mattera may want to be careful. I've known several gay men who were far from wusses and we all know that Mattera only fights "the battle for ideas" (which, I believe, involves a lot of slapping and crying on his part).

Also, Mattera has been berated by a blog operated by Lowry's own magazine for being someone obsessed by the Coulteresque slander laughingly referred to as "activism" to the point they "use it as a crutch, a stand-in for discriminating, tasteful debates."

So, while Rich Lowry tries to act as if Republicans are above the shit that Coulter slings, anyone with eyes to see has to notice Mattera practically begging for more name calling. If I thought Rich believed that his party was being maligned, I might feel bad for him, since he's so obviously ensconced in a party filled with people so myopically in love with their own hatred that crazyiness simply springs from their mouths and they are surprised--SHOCKED!--when people have the temerity to label it as hate.

Remember, Lowry is willingly defending someone whom he either fired or who quit his magazine in a bitchy huff after she wrote the infamous column saying we should "invade (Muslim) countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." During the debacle, Coulter even called Lowry and the other National Reviewers "girly-boys," saying they lacked spines and, I'm willing to bet, probably called Lowry, Goldberg, et al., "faggots" among her coarser friends.

But Lowry himself is willing to advocate actions unimaginable to decent Americans, and didn't even require a war to do so. Way back in December, 2000, Lowry told an audience at the Ashbrook Center about an observation of Bertolt Brecht's, he heard via Steve Forbes.
He said in East Germany under the Communists, when the government lost and election, the government didn’t change, the people changed. You know, they’d chase people out and exile them from the country, they’d arrest them, they’d beat them, they’d shoot them. That’s obviously a terrible thing, but there’s something to be said for that kind of thinking. I think conservatives need to think in that way when it comes to the American electorate.
Tough talk. Tough disgusting talk.

And that's why nothing Ann Coulter could do or say could get her excommunicated from right wing punditry. If they went after Coulter for her comments, they'd have to go after Sean "Barack Obama is a cult member" Hannity. They'd have to get rid of Glenn "Show me your tits" Beck. Eliminating from the public discourse conservatives who'd made racist, misogynistic and elminationist comments would leave few pundits standing on the right. If you really wanted to clean house and get rid of the liars, too, then the Republican noise machine would sound like nothing more than crickets and the wind. Right wingers like Lowry cannot kick Coulter out of their hive, as her absence on its edge would leave a hole where the sunlight could get in, allowing observers to see inside and note that there are few on the right who are not infected by a similar angry hate to one degree or another.

Dear conservative bloggers

If you are pushing a petition purporting to "make a stand for political civility," it might not be a good idea to use Rush Limbaugh as an example because he said "words mean things."

Some of the words Limbaugh used include:
  • Telling a black caller to "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."

  • At a time when we our country was looking for allies in the Muslim world, Limbaugh showed his civility by saying, "We had an attack in Weird-zakistan or whatever -- one of these Zakstan places. Uzbekistan, yes, whatever it is. They're all Weird-zakistan to me, but -- How many Zakistans are there over there? Seems like a new one pops up every day."

  • When Strom Thurmond said a gay soldier was "not normal," Limbaugh said, "He's not encumbered by being politically correct.... If you want to know what America used to be--and a lot of people wish it still were--then you listen to Strom Thurmond."

  • Like Ann Coulter, he ridiculed families of 9/11 victims, saying "Some of these families I think are auditioning for co-host of The Today Show."

  • And, if words mean things, one must wonder how Limbaugh's statement that "(I)f people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up" fits in with his own admitted illegal use of Oxycontin.
So, yeah, words mean things and, if you mean what you say, that "offensive language–and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it–is intolerable," then you're going to have to denounce Rush Limbaugh as well.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Shucks

Must...not...take...the bait...

David Brooks fishes for some of that sweet, juicy outrage-based attention.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Push the button marked conservative!

Mitt's message:
There's nothing a Republican flip-flopper can't do if he really doesn't know whether he believes in anything or not.
With apologies to Python.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Congratulations, George!

There's been something nagging at me for some time now, something I'd failed to do and, today, when I read about Ann Coulter's latest comments regarding Edwards, it dawned on me. I had failed to update Bush's VP countdown.

Lefties like me are always bashing Bush for failing to meet his goals like rebuilding New Orleans, catching bin Laden, helping the middle class, etc., so, in the interest of fairness, I really should give him credit when he achieves a milestone and he met this one some months back.

Good job, Mr. President! Only two left! I know you can do it.






















A clarification: It's been suggested that I intended to imply--by comparing George Bush's tendency to publicly dress up in costumes and the flagrantly, flamingly gay Village People--that George W. Bush is gay. Heavens to Betsy, what a silly idea! I just thought Edwards...2004 VP candidate...VP...Village People...Oh yeah!

You people!

Just because George likes to run around in the butchest of butchy outfits, to publicly tell other men how beautiful and pretty they are or hug and smooch them doesn't mean that he's trying to cover up his deep-seated need for some hot man-on-man action. Nor would I suggest that some of what we know as the Bush bluster is part of an attempt to cover up for homosexual tendencies his party affiliation won't let him show.

I'll even go further. I also won't suggest that Bush's dressing up (and even, possibly, his attack on Iraq) are an attempt to demonstrate to a cold and callous, Oedipally-admired mother that, despite the fact he either A) went AWOL from his Guard unit or B) just gave up on being a pilot to join a postal unit, he's just as manly and tough as his war hero father.

That would be silly of me.

Update: I have been informed by an anonymous commenter that Jay Leno made a similar statement long before me:
"Democrats are very upset that President Bush flew onto that aircraft carrier dressed as a fighter pilot. They said it was just a campaign stunt. But I don't know. Before that he visited that Boeing plant and put on a construction hat. And then he went to his ranch and put on a cowboy hat. Then last week he met with cops and put on a motorcycle hat. I think he's trying to join the Village People." —Jay Leno
I admit I don't watch Leno or Letterman or even Conan anymore, preferring the Daily Show, Colbert and sleep, so I give Leno credit for beating me to the punch on this. This does beg the question, though: Is there a Bush-as-cop photo out there somewhere? Is Bush's mission to dress as a Village Person already 83% complete?!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Larry Flynt, please call your office

There's someone who, I'm pretty sure, would like to sell you something.

After all, this is right up your alley.