Thursday, July 28, 2005

Nuke Saturn

The Cassini/Huygens spacecraft has found weird space sounds that emanated from Saturn via radio waves. It's sped up, and the frequencies compressed, but damn that sh*t is spooky. We must strike first before Saturnians spread their creepy hell music any further.

From Thighs Wide Shut, sort of

Amen My Liberal Brother

Unrepentant liberal Rogers Cadenhead and Philadelphia blogger Richard Blair are among many who wonder why the only missing women we see on CNN are white and attractive. Frankly I'd rather national news stations ignore lurid crime stories altogether, but if we're going to be subjected to round-the-clock stories about missing women, a rotation system is only fair.

Do It Do It Do It Do It

"Veteran wire reporter Helen Thomas is vowing to 'kill herself' if Dick Cheney announces he is running for president." - D.C. Newspaper "Hill"

I dare you, you nasty, biased old bag. You'd be doing the world a favor.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Gerard at American Digest has found the underwater sound of death.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Final Beam-Up

Montgomery Scott
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
James Doohan has died at the age of 85 of pneumonia and Alzheimer's. I'm a Star Trek fan (the original series, don't care for any of the subsequent versions) and a Scotty fan, but didn't know his name on the show was Montgomery Scott. I did know he landed with fellow Canadians on Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and was hit six times by a machine gun that night, which must have been an awful end to a very long day. I also knew that he wasn't a fan of William Shatner, which I understand although I dig Shatner myself.

But until I watched the documentary "Trekkies" a week ago, I didn't know that he enjoyed Star Trek conventions, and that he believed that the "best thing I ever did" was to reach out to a suicidal Trekkie at a convention and encourage her to not give up by demanding that she join him at subsequent conventions, which she later told him saved her life. We'll miss you Jimmy.

UPDATE: Cool ode to Scotty at Ace's.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Precious Pigs

Precious Pigs
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
Sweet little love hogs on the couch waiting for Mommy to return. The weird part is they're pretty competitive about affection and generally don't lay in a pile like this, but it's rainy out and a little chilly inside.

Rove/Plame: Yet Another Embarrassment the Left Can't Afford

Other than the schadenfreude aspect of how disastrously it's going for rabid lefties, I find the whole thing supremely uninteresting, and as the story gets fleshed out, it's becoming clear that the failure of the left's dream witch hunt is just another indication that many liberals in this country are pathetically self-destructive. You know you're getting your ass kicked when you resort to questions like "If Rove was so innocent why didn't the White House clear his name earlier?" Like so many similar questions the left asks about this administration, the answer is "because they've got better things to do." It would be ridiculous not to have learned from the Clinton administration's failure to get anywhere by responding to questions about real or imagined questions.

Mark Steyn couldn't care less. But in the process of not giving a crap, he manages to make more sense than just about anyone else about this fake "scandal" we're being beaten over the head with:

This controversy began, you'll recall, because Wilson objected to a line in the president's State of the Union speech that British intelligence had discovered that Iraq had been trying to acquire ''yellowcake'' -- i.e., weaponized uranium -- from Africa. This assertion made Bush, in Wilson's incisive analysis, a ''liar'' and Cheney a ''lying sonofabitch.''

In fact, the only lying sonafabitch turned out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the earth except Wilson, the White House press corps and the crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don't take my word for it; it's the conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler's report in the United Kingdom, MI6, French intelligence, other European services -- and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson's own briefing to them. Why Yellowcake Joe then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what he'd been told by senior figures from Major Wanke's regime in Niger is known only to him.

And as the Jacko and Scott Peterson trials distract the press from more important things, so does Rove/Plame:

Here's the thing: They're still pulling body parts from London's Tube tunnels. Too far away for you? No local angle? OK, how about this? Magdy el-Nashar. He's a 33-year old Egyptian arrested Friday morning in Cairo, and thought to be what they call a "little emir" -- i.e., the head honcho in the local terrorist cell, the one who fires up the suicide bombers. Until his timely disappearance, he was a biochemist studying at Leeds University and it's in his apartment the London bombs were made. Previously he was at North Carolina State University.

So this time round he blew up London rather than Washington. Next time, who knows? Who cares? Here's another fellow you don't read much about in America: Kamel Bourgass. He had a plan to unleash ricin in London. Fortunately, the cops got wind of that one and three months ago he was convicted and jailed. Just suppose, instead of the British police raiding Bourgass' apartment but missing el-Nashar's, it had been the other way around, and ricin had been released in aerosol form on the Tube.

Kamel Bourgass and Magdy el-Nashar are real people, not phantoms conjured by those lyin' sonsofbitches Bush and Cheney. And to those who say, "but that's why Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror," sorry, it doesn't work like that. It's not either/or; it's a string of connections: unlimited Saudi money, Westernized Islamist fanatics, supportive terrorist states, proliferating nuclear technology. One day it all comes together and there goes the neighborhood. Here's another story you may have missed this week:

"Iran will resume uranium enrichment if the European Union does not recognize its right to do so, two Iranian nuclear negotiators said in an interview published Tuesday."

Got that? If you don't let us go nuclear, we'll go nuclear. Negotiate that, John Kerry. As with Bourgass and el-Nashar, Hossein Moussavian and Cyrus Nasseri are real Iranian negotiators, not merely the deranged war fantasies of Bush and Cheney.

The British suicide bombers and the Iranian nuke demands are genuine crises. The Valerie Plame game is a pseudo-crisis. If you want to talk about Niger or CIA reform, fine. But if you seriously think the only important aspect of a politically motivated narcissist kook's drive-thru intelligence mission to a critical part of the world is the precise sequence of events by which some White House guy came to mention the kook's wife to some reporter, then you've departed the real world and you're frolicking on the wilder shores of Planet Zongo.

I hope liberals and the press (assuming they can be differentiated) realize this story is a waste of time, and an embarrassing one for them. Enough of this nonsense, there's a war to be won.

Not Being Part of the Solution

Rogers Cadenhead links to a Weekly Standard column about "why the rise of the left-wing blogosphere has been bad for the Democratic Party." Here's why:

Also, the level of discourse on the Daily Kos and other prominent liberal blogs is not something that would be attractive to the majority of the American public. The writings are often obscene and usually relentlessly hostile and negative. Crude personal attacks, whether aimed at right-wing bloggers or politicians, are the order of the day.

A typical example came on July 4 in response to a humorous piece by the internet satirist "Iowahawk", which purported to be written by Abu Masab Al- Zarqawi and was titled, "Stop Questioning My Patriotism." This relatively benign and (and extremely funny) essay elicited the following response from regular Kos contributor "Armando:" "F*cking pricks. You goosestepping McCarthyites. Now go cry to momma. You yellow-bellied elephants."

Unfortunately for the Democratic party, its members don't get that even a blog as popular as the Daily Kos doesn't reach enough people to constitute a major constituency. For example:

THE DICK DURBIN FIASCO of a few weeks ago provides a wonderful case in point. As is well known, on June 14 Senator Durbin compared the conditions at the Guantanamo detention center to what one could have seen in Nazi Germany or a Stalin-run gulag or while receiving the tender mercies of Pol Pot.

Durbin's comments made him an instant hero in the left-wing blogosphere where hyperbolic Bush-bashing is always received warmly. Steve Gilliard, a Daily Kos alumnus, penned a lengthy defense of Durbin in which he reminded the senator's critics that climate control was the preferred interrogation technique for the Luftwaffe. Moulitsas called the ensuing controversy a "moronic Right Wing smear attack" and proclaimed, "I stand with Durbin. Proudly."

Durbin's attempt to curry favor with the left-wing worked. Temporarily, at least. But one shouldn't require the counsel of David Gergen or Michael Barone to realize that outside the alternative worlds of the blogs, comparing America's military to Nazis, Stalin, and the Khmer Rouge is a political loser.

After some attempts to include lefty bloggers in the damage control process, Durbin's people finally realized that the support of Daily Kos readers isn't enough to make up for alienating the rest of the American people:

Yet later that day, Durbin offered an overwrought apology from the Senate floor, his commitment to his former POW constituent having apparently evanesced with remarkable rapidity. Shortly thereafter, Durbin learned that the left-wing blogosphere was not won over by his charm offensive and that liberal bloggers far prefer substance (in this case, determined and unflinching opposition to the Bush war effort) to touching the hem of a senator's garment.

For many of the bloggers who had supported Durbin through his ordeal, his apology occasioned a spasm of characteristically potty-mouthed outrage. Steve Gilliard suggested that Durbin "go f*ck himself"; on the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas concurred, observing that he agreed with Gilliard and added that "Durbin f*cked up."

Rogers disagrees with the column, but I don't. Viewing those who disagree with you politically as evil or stupid is no way to convince them you're right. And taking it personally that you're in the minority is the road to fanaticism.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Vietnam Memories

Vietnam Memories
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
I like this photoshopped picture from a contest called "Subtle Differences." Very touching.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

More Good Stuff from the Bald One

Another great post from Baldilocks, this one on African poverty. Read it, learn it, love it.

You Go, Bald Girl

Baldilocks, who frankly doesn't look all that bald these days, makes an excellent point about liberal frothing about Karl Rove and Valerie Plame. Even if we ignore the fact that someone who drives to work at Langley every day isn't doing much to hide their affiliation with the CIA, there's some question as to whether Plame had covert status under the National Security Act definition of a covert agent.

Personally I find this a sad excuse for a witch hunt. Rove's been kicking liberal ass so long they'd do anything to pin something like this on him. Kind of sad, really.

If You See This Overhead, Run

Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
Cool collection of weird clouds here. Looks like War of the Worlds action, and I'm pretty sure it would make me poop my pants. From Boingboing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Good Lord Kids Today are Nuts

And this isn't even the worst example of how nuts they have become. Frankly I'm far more distressed by the hypersexualization of very young children, which I blame on the internet.

When I was in high school, you could get porn, but you had to make an effort. You actually had to go somewhere and be ashamed to be seen buying it, or send money somewhere and wait a month or more, or go to a disgusting theater and be surrounded by creepy guys in trench coats. And it wasn't even that dirty most of the time. Now unbelievably graphic porn is practically shoved down your throat in spam emails, and if you actually go looking for it on the internet you can see absolutely anything you've ever thought of, and a lot you haven't.

Porn used to be far from mainstream. Back in the bad old days of 20 years ago, there were maybe 10 genuinely attractive porn chicks, most of whom did only standard sex acts. Even girl/girl stuff was rare for those 10 women, and no way did they engage in watersports, S&M, or anything else outside the mainstream. Now you can see some of the most beautiful women in the world being peed on (and worse), doing gangbangs, and other stuff I won't even mention here. All of which has the effect of legitimizing sex acts that a short time ago were out of the question even for professional sex workers.

I think kids see a lot of stuff on the internet that makes them think sex is no big deal. Girls Gone Wild doesn't even raise an eyebrow any more, and when Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson are willing to have their sex tapes distributed for a cut of the profits, kids believe there's nothing shameful or harmful about public sex. As a man whose wife is carrying a little girl in her belly right now, that scares the sh*t out of me. How much more extreme will adolescent behavior be 15 years from now?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pure Genius

Boingboing links to a clever and hilarious online comic book that crosses Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Apocalypse Now. Charlie Bucket's older and deeply disturbed and has to make a run up the chocolate river to cash in Willy Wonka's golden ticket with the help of a drugged-out Veruca Salt. Wish I'd thought of it . . .

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Doonesbury Sucks

I used to be a fan, but for decades now it's been unreadably unfunny, and more often offensively stupid. Varifrank agrees, and expands:

Your generation sure has come a long way, Gary. And from the deepest part of my 'Generation Next' heart, I wish you'd all just keep moving right along. Your generation lived in the soft pocket that the generation before provided for your generation, and yet you hated them for it. The parents of your generation, the generation that survived the triplet horrors of the Great Depression, the struggle against fascism and finally the Soviets was your definition of evil, not the horrible things they fought against. They left behind a world that you could live in that was beyond anything they could have imagined. Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of expression, and inside of a single generation you went and wrapped the whole thing around a telephone pole like a drunken teenager behind the wheel of a Maserati.

Amen. There's more, and I don't agree with every single bit of it, but the general theme is solid.

Live 8 Cuts

I didn't see any of it when it was on, but here's a collection of song clips from the different venues. You can't go wrong by avoiding anything titled "Interstitial" and as usual, most of the artists sound a lot worse live than they do on CD. Stevie Wonder is an exception to that, of course, and strangely Jet looks like they bathed for the show. Will wonders never cease?

Also, A-Ha is still around, and they look less grizzled and weatherbeaten than Velvet Revolver. Link from Lifehacker.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Going Huge in China

This looks like fun, an attempt by pro skater Danny Way to jump the Great Wall of China on a skateboard tomorrrow at around 7:30 p.m. central. Danny is famous for his Megaramp stunts and dropping in onto a vert ramp from a helicopter, and has prepared for years for something like this.

I met Danny briefly in Dallas 16 years ago, or maybe a little more. At the time he was a young teen and had already been a pro for some time, and what struck me about him was that he was very short and had already had a number of serious skate injuries. Vertical ramp skating puts an enormous amount of stress on the body, and I wondered at the time if that hadn't contributed to his lack of height. He's grown some since then, and now he's going for Even Knievel-type stardom with a huge stunt that could kill him. He may well break the skateboard speed record during the roll-in, and no matter what happens it should be great fun to watch, assuming he doesn't die. Good luck, Danny.

How to Lose a Fight

Handy advice about getting your ass kicked:

First of all, let’s cut the bullsh*t. Getting f%cked up really bad isn’t that bad. Thanks to the anesthetizing tendencies of adrenaline it’s not even that painful. It’s more a pain in the ass than anything. You know as soon as that nose bone cartilage snaps you are looking at a long and boring 12-hour wait in the emergency room. When someone says, “I am going to f%cking kill you,” think of it more as “I am going to audit you,” because all he’s really doing is adding a huge mundane thing to deal with into your next 24 hours. The truth is, the three-week-long pain of regretting that you pussied out is a hell of a lot worse than the dull nonpain of getting in a fight, so there’s no need to be scared. And hey, if you’re that calm you might even win.

More fights are lost from the biophysical functioning of stress-induced fatigue than they are from inferior technique. In other words, relax. Exhale. Like you would for a bicycle crash or an anal rape. If you can fight with as much brio after five minutes (an eternity in fight time) as you can after 20 seconds, you will probably win.

I can't say I've had that many fights since high school, but all of this guy's advice rings true with me. And it's funny. From Double Viking.

Red Plumeria

Red Plumeria
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
My wife bought a small green stick at the local Lowe's a couple of years ago and planted it in a huge clay pot. It's now seven feet tall and putting out gorgeous, fragrant red flowers. They remind me of my childhood, since my father was stationed in Hawaii for three years when I was between five and eight years old, which I remember very fondly. Interesting note: we lived at the military base at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, where my father, his sister and my paternal grandparents (grandpa was also an Army officer) were living on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler AFB and other Hawaiian targets.

Picture by my wife Deirdre.

Real Vs. Imaginary Help

On the topic of African aid problems, Max Boot has written a fine column on that very topic:

By any measure, the U.S. is extraordinarily generous, and President Bush is making us more generous still. He has already tripled development aid to Africa and plans to double it again. But for the anti-poverty campaigners it's not enough. It never is. Their animating idea is the same one that was behind Lyndon Johnson's Great Society: Massive transfers of wealth can eradicate poverty. It didn't work in the U.S., and it has even less chance of working abroad.

In the last 50 years, $2.3 trillion has been spent to help poor countries. Yet Africans' income and life expectancy have gone down, not up, during that period, while South Korea, Singapore and other Asian nations that received little if any assistance have moved from African-level poverty to European-level prosperity thanks to their superior economic policies.

Economists who have studied aid projects have found numerous reasons for the failures. In many instances, money was siphoned off by corrupt officials. Even when funds did reach the intended beneficiaries, the money often distorted local markets for goods and labor, creating inflation that drove local businesses out of business.

Only one major research paper in recent years has found any positive correlation between foreign aid and economic growth, and that only in countries "with good fiscal, monetary and trade policies," which excludes much of Africa. Most experts think even that conclusion is too optimistic.

There's much more, all worth reading. This is a simple concept, but for some reason it's beyond comprehension for any number of artists and social commenters. That's too bad.

Link from Instapundit.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Hitch on 7/7

And it's good, as usual. His subhead "Don't Blame Iraq for the Bombings" seems particularly sensible. And the fact that George Galloway is using the attacks as a political wedge on the very day should surprise no one. Nor should the fact that Daily Kos readers agree with him but think anyone who calls him a tactless opportunist is an even more tactless opportunist for doing so. If you're still having trouble telling the good guys from the bad guys at this point in the game, you're a sad excuse for a human being.

Will and Patsy

Patsy and Will
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
My nephew William and my little sister Patricia, at our annual July 4th family reunion in the Texas Hill Country. Patsy lives in LA and works for a consulting company, and is completely awesome in every way. Also she doesn't appear hate me for torturing her during most of our childhood and then pretending not to know her (like the self-involved butthole I was) in high school, which is very nice of her. And it was kind of ridiculous of me when you consider she's much cooler than I am. Anyone who double majors in electrical and biomedical engineering at Duke University is a rock star, baby.

I do however deny responsibility for the presence of a sewing needle in her back, which was found during an X-ray some years ago. I did attach a needle to the nose of a balsa wood airplane and throw it at her once, but that stuck in her arm and she pulled it out fairly immediately. I'm guessing the one in her back was put there during a Duke basketball game, probably by some disappointed UNC fan. I didn't do it, I swear.

So Much for Astrology

Birthdays yesterday: George W. Bush and the Dalai Lama. I know, there's more to Astrology than date of birth, but still.

Helping by Not Helping

From Wizbang, a fascinating interview in Der Spiegel with Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati titled "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!" offers some counterintuitive advice (often the best kind, in my experience) on how to improve African poverty:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

Read the whole thing, it's one of the best things I've read this year. My wife and I watched an HBO movie called "The Girl in the Café" last night, and it began as a love story between two painfully shy UK residents, which for some reason seemed kind of interesting. Then it turned preachy: the man turned out to be a British government minister about to attend the G8 conference, the woman a recently released prisoner from Scotland (I'm guessing from her accent). He brings her to the conference where she regurgitates African infant mortality statistics he's related to her to the British PM at a state dinner (during his pre-dinner toast, no less) and attempts to guilt those present into "greatness," by which she means they should solve African poverty and hunger right then and there instead of indulging in "business as usual."

She's ejected, he's forced to resign, but in the end their brief and vaguely creepy love (he's old enough to be her grandfather) is the lone casualty because lo and behold, her words hit the mark and first the man's boss and then the PM resolve to not let future generations say they let such barbarity continue on their watches. Which is all very nice to say, but rather more difficult to do. And had I been a real government minister at the G8 and been harangued by some dilettante who understood neither the difficulty of the task nor the fact that I had devoted my adult life to working on that very thing in a way that actually got results, I probably would have slapped the silly bitch.

It seems cruel, but Mr. Shikwati keenly understands the basic principles of African poverty, and who's being part of the problem, and who's not. All the good intentions and donations in the world won't make your neighbor raise his kids right, much less make an entire country or continent take care of its childrean. Didn't Live Aid and the Boxing Day Tsunami teach us anything about the effectiveness of throwing money at complex problems?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Circumcision: the Best Defense?

This is a weird story, for a number of reasons:

French and South African AIDS researchers have called an early halt to a study of adult male circumcision to reduce HIV infection after initial results reportedly showed that men who had the procedure dramatically lowered their risk of contracting the virus.

The study's preliminary results, disclosed Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal, showed that circumcision reduced the risk of contracting HIV by 70 percent -- a level of protection far better than the 30 percent risk reduction set as a target for an AIDS vaccine.

According to the newspaper account, the study under way in Orange Farm township, South Africa, was stopped because the results were so favorable. It was deemed unethical to continue the trial after an early peek at data showed that the uncircumcised men were so much more likely to become infected.

Why do scientific ethics trump a potentially life-saving discovery? Especially if it's not true that circumcision reduces the risk of AIDS transmission. People could be unnecessarily having their peepees trimmed. And if it is true, these people are going to have some splainin' to do.

I enjoy the Penn & Teller show Bullshit although it is often sloppy and incomplete, and one of their most disappointing shows yet was the one about circumcision. Although they made a decent case that it's a pretty nasty thing to do to a child fresh from the womb (they played audio of a baby screaming during a circumcision, which can best be described as heartbreaking), but I didn't find the "you'll get more sensation with an intact foreskin" argument terribly persuasive. If print and internet ads are any indication, lack of sensitivity isn't the problem for most men, and sex is as much mental as anything else. And the anti-circumcision activists seemed like exactly the kind of people Bullshit would usually take apart and ridicule, especially the one who sued his mother's OB and made a pile of cash, and is now encouraging circumcised men to attach weights to the skin on their penises to stretch a new foreskin out of nowhere. Creepy.

Here is a pro-circumcision site for comparison to the NOCIRC link above. Not sure if any of it is true, but if the AIDS story is true, that pretty much trumps all other considerations.

UPDATE: Right after I finished this post, I read this on the anti-anti circumcision site I posted at the end:

Allegation 7: Circumcision is to blame for many social and psychological problems in adult males.

I'm generally reluctant to attribute people's problems to childhood events, and frankly I'm not at all sure that experiencing large amounts of short-term pain early in life isn't a good thing since it teaches your body how to manage such pain. What do you think?