Saturday, February 12, 2005

Very cool space pic of the day

I do like galaxy clusters.

Click here: APOD: 2005 February 13 - In the Center of the Virgo Cluster

Edgerton Decoy Show on a sunny Saturday

I spent the day driving around southeastern Wisconsin. First to the decoy show in Edgerton, which is an hour and a bit SW of Milwaukee, and a trifle down-river from Lake Koshkonong, once the greatest canvasback shooting lake in America. Mostly I saw friends and smoozed with a couple people I didn't know before, and splurged on a bowl of chili which was highly recommended by a couple decoy aficionados. Turned out to be good enuf to go back for another bowl, which at a buck a pop constituted both a screaming deal and my total expenditures for the day. No, I take back that last: the show cost two bucks to get into.

One reason I go to the show is the hope some non-collecting local will walk in with a bag full of interesting decoys for sale. A fellow did show up with a box full, one of which was quite interesting, tho as usual in rough shape. He wanted ppl to tell him what they all were worth, including ten he hadn't brought along and wouldn't allow anyone to go see, said he wouldn't sell any anyway, and struck me as a tad belligerent, so some of us lost interest. I have no idea what happened with him or them.

The canvasback drake I liked (and was the only one anyone liked) seemed to have a body modeled after a Dodge from the 1880s, but was extremely hollow, unlike Dodges, and had a very nice head. Only the metal stems remained of the glass eyes, and the paint was heavily worn and flaking, but an interesting piece. So it goes.

Then off several miles to see a friend's decoy collection, and well worth the time that was, both for the decoys and the paintings stacked like cordwood around the place. I lost track of all the Owen Gromme oils hanging on the walls, and those were a small part of the oils from various periods and places.

Then eastward to the antique malls in Delavan and Lake Geneva, both of which are worth a look-see, but produced nothing worth parting with lucre, filthy or otherwise, for. I debated a late 19th century mahogany frame with gilded fillet but I have too durn many already and not enuf to fill them with- my interest in engravings of the Pacific tapers off in the 1840s.

It was a glorious blue sky day, and with a total of four clams out of pocket, plus gas, and friends, so all in all a good Saturday in the Wilds of Wisconsin.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 11, 2005

Bloggers bag Eason Jordan

DAVID BAUDER, in an AP article:
NEW YORK (AP) - CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan quit Friday amid a furor over remarks he made in Switzerland last month about journalists killed by the U.S. military in Iraq. Jordan said he was quitting to avoid CNN being "unfairly tarnished" by the controversy.

During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum last month, Jordan said he believed that several journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq had been targeted.

He quickly backed off the remarks, explaining that he meant to distinguish between journalists killed because they were in the wrong place when a bomb fell, for example, and those killed because they were shot at by American forces who mistook them for the enemy.

"I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologize to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise," Jordan said
His explaination in para three is nonsensical: Was he trying to distinguish between accidents and accidents? Try parsing the first part of the sentence in para 4 the way President Bill would, and that is meaningless as well: of course accidental killings are without ill intent: that's what makes them accidents.

US Rep. Barney Frank, another panelist when Jordan spoke:
Rep. Frank said Eason Jordan did assert that there was deliberate targeting of journalists by the U.S. military.
Frank was outraged.

According to Michelle Malkin:
Sen. Chris Dodd's press spokesman, Marvin Fast, sent me the following brief statement:

"Senator Dodd was not on the panel but was in the audience when Mr. Jordan spoke. He – like panelists Mr. Gergen and Mr. Frank – was outraged by the comments.
Find that at:
or better yet go here for a link rich column by Malkin:

Now Jordan is a career newsman, speaking in an international forum which by the way was videoed. According to a US Senator and a US Rep, he claimed that US soldiers targetted- that is, murdered- journalists. He has presented no evidence whatsover other than some soldiers made a line-jumping journalist go to the back of a line with everyone else (yes, really). All he had to do to put this to rest if he said what he claims, was to join his fellow panelists in requesting the video be made public. As at least one blogger pointed out, that would have had the downside of making excellent TV footage if he is lying. So, why didn't he call for release if he is innocent?

Mass news media sat on this one for quite awhile. Only the Internet writers were covering it until the big guys couldn't ignore it. Score one for the pajamahadeen.

Clik on the title for Bauder's AP article.

UPDATE: You may recall that it was Eason Jordan who wrote a mea culpa for the NY Times on 11 April 2003 to tell the world that his company, CNN, had essentially acted in complicity with Saddam Hussein by not reporting the real news from Baghdad. They reported the alleged terrible results of the embargo, but refused to tell about atrocities commited by Hussein, atrocities they were quite aware of, because to report them would have meant losing access to the news...about the terrible "results" of the embargo. In his defense, CNN's reporters really would have been endangered, so one can sympathise with the call, but they could have told viewrs every time they did a story from Iraq that it was approved by the Iraqi government. Here is a link to the abstract, if you want the column you'll have to pay the Times for it.
EDITORIAL DESK April 11, 2003, Friday

The News We Kept To Ourselves

By EASON JORDAN (NYT) Op-Ed 808 words
Late Edition - Final , Section A , Page 25 , Column 2

ABSTRACT - Op-Ed article by Eason Jordan, chief news executive of CNN, says now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, world can expect to hear many gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about decades of torment; says he has tales as well, learned during 13 trips he made to Baghdad over last 12 years to lobby government to keep CNN's Baghdad bureau open and to arrange interviews with Iraqi leaders; says he saw and heard awful things that he could not report because doing so would have jeopardized lives of Iraqis, particularly those on CNN's Baghdad staff; says secret police terrorized all Iraqis working for international press services; says some vanished forever, others disppeared and then surfaced later with tales of being tortured; says one of CNN's Iraqi cameramen was abducted, beaten and horribly tortured; says he is still haunted by story of woman captured by secret police after speaking with CNN on phone; says plastic bag containing her body parts was left on doorstep of her family's home; drawing (M)

So, all you TV-ophiles out there, you know better than I: Has CNN been relentlessly telling you of all the atrocities committed by Saddam before he was overthrown? The stories CNN knew but couldn't tell? Do they rise to the level of depravity demonstrated by the Americans in the depths of Abu Graib?

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a good time line of the story along with some comments: Click here: Michelle Malkin: EASONGATE: A RETROSPECTIVE

Labels: , ,

ref: Tom Friedman (below)

Here, in a Guardian column of two years ago, is Julie Burchill, a lefty who gets it. On Leftist critics of the invasion of Iraq:
I am in favour of war against Iraq...I speak as someone who was born and raised to be anti-American...I was against the US because, whenever people sought autonomy, freedom and justice, it was against them. But that narrative is ended now and a new configuration has emerged.

The new enemies of America, and of the west in general, believe that these countries promote too much autonomy, freedom and justice. They are the opposite of socialism even more than they are the opposite of capitalism.

"Saddam Hussein may have killed hundreds of thousands of his own people - but he hasn't done anything to us! We shouldn't invade any country unless it attacks us!" I love this one, it's so mind-bogglingly selfish - and it's always wheeled out by people who call themselves "internationalists", too...On this principle, if we'd known about Hitler gassing the Jews all through the 1930s, we still shouldn't have invaded Germany; the Jews were, after all, German citizens and not our business. If you really think it's better for more people to die over decades under a tyrannical regime than for fewer people to die during a brief attack by an outside power, you're really weird and nationalistic and not any sort of socialist that I recognise...Military inaction, unless in the defence of one's own country, is the most extreme form of narcissism and nationalism; people who preach it are the exact opposite of the International Brigade
Though I disagree with lefties like Julie Burchill and Christopher Hitchens on nearly all their politics, this they understand: their world will be lot worse if we lose the Fourth World War. The people they care about will be a lot worse off, including the Iraqis. Burchill and Hitchens understand that tho they may hate capitalism, there are far worse alternatives, and the rise of Hussein's brand of secular fascism and the Islamist fascism of al Qaeda and it's allies are two of them.

Labels: , ,

Those evil 527s

Ryan Sager, who looks young enuf to be an undergrad, but is on the editorial board of the New York Post, has a Tech Central Station column up on campaign finance "reform."
"Instead of going to the parties, rich people are putting money into these 527s in the dark of night," (Trent)Lott told the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.

In other words, some of those rich people might be trying to throw out incumbents.

(John) McCain is even more blatant about the incumbent-protection angle. As The Washington Times reported last week, "McCain said lawmakers should support the bill out of self-interest, because it would prevent a rich activist from trying to defeat an incumbent by directing money into a political race through a 527 organization."

"That should alarm every federally elected member of Congress," McCain said.
Poor babies. Better to repeal all the campaign finance laws and just require publication of donors. Another thing I won't hold my breath for. But I will root for Arnold Schwartzenegger's campaign to reform redistricting in California. Lots more power to him.


Tom Friedman in the NYT

Calling All Democrats

Published: February 10, 2005

I think there is much to criticize about how the war in Iraq has been conducted, and the outcome is still uncertain. But those who suggest that the Iraqi election is just beanbag, and that all we are doing is making the war on terrorism worse as a result of Iraq, are speaking nonsense.

Here's the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq....

Democrats need to start thinking seriously about Iraq - the way Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton have...Otherwise, they will be absenting themselves from the most important foreign policy issue of our day.

Here are four things Democrats should be excited about:

What Iraq is now embarking on is the first attempt - ever - by the citizens of a multiethnic, multireligious Arab state to draw up their own social contract, their own constitution, for how they should share power and resources, protect minority rights and balance mosque and state....

There will be a lot of trial and error in the months ahead. But this is a hugely important horizontal dialogue because if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that.

But - but - if Iraqis succeed in forging a social contract in the hardest place of all, it means that democracy is actually possible anywhere in the Arab world.

Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.
I agree with Friedman. I think one can criticize the conduct of the war, even the decision to engage in it, but I am baffled by those who think removing a mass murderer and his sons- who gave every indication of being worse than their father- from power was an immoral act.

It seems as tho many of the critics think that because a psychopath was able to seize control of a national government that he has an unquestionable right to our respect as a sovereign leader. He doesn't. Period. To think otherwise is to substitute the State for God.

That may be a strange idea coming from an agnostic, but I think it is indeed the case that the last hundred years or so have seen the development of western cultures which do accord the state the same reverence which was once reserved for god.

How else to explain the frothing-at-the-mouth attacks on Bush for "attacking a sovereign nation" when that nation is being run by Saddam Hussein? Are these people next going to attack Roosevelt for doing the same to the poor, long-suffering Germans, who after all never invaded or attacked the US?

Every person on earth, every single one with the power to help the raped, the tortured, those dismembered alive, has at least a right if not an obligation, to come to the help of the victims. And if we hope to get some reward for that, all the better, because self-interest increases the chances that the victims will find rescuers.

Ignoring the dead from the Iran-Iraq War, Hussein put 300,000 in mass graves. So far as I can tell, there was no realistic hope that he or his family would be overthrown without an invasion by a major power.

I am baffled by the idea that because the war has created a lot of misery and death for non-fascist Iraqis that it is necessarily a bad thing, as tho they were all living in nothing more than a country run by moderate US Republicans.

The idea that we cannot impose democracy by force is clearly untrue: we did it in Japan, and we did it in Germany. I don't know if we can do it again in Iraq, but the result is unlikely to be a lot worse than rule by Saddam's sons. Even the Iranian mullahs haven't abused their power like the Husseins did.

Thanks to my sister for the lead.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Not Blue Velvet

It's a cool space pic of the day.

I want to go there. It reminds me of diving off the Drop-Off at Bloody Bay at Little Cayman. Except a lot colder.

Cheery news from France

The New York Times on Condi Rice's visit to Paris:
"I told her that it is my sense that public opinion in Europe, and maybe even elected officials, are ready to accept the idea that Iran may have some kind of nuclear weapons capability with some limitations," said Nicole Bacharan, an expert on the United States at the Institute of Political Studies. "She was startled. She wasn't quite aware of what she is up against."
Sounds like the US may be going it alone on this. The EU certainly isn't going to stop what they are "ready to accept." So much for the "shock," reported earlier, of realizing that Iran already has missiles capable of reach all of Europe.

If the Europeans aren't hardliners on this, should the US be? It does raise some interesting issues about the so-called rights of authoritarian regimes, and even the Europeans seem to accept that Iran has one of those. They do seem shocked that Rice called the mullahs "totalitarian," tho.

How far can we reasonably go? The mullahs are likely concerned that the US now has troops to the east, troops to the west, bases to the north, and a navy to the south. To what extent are we bound to respect the rights of a government which highly restricts political candidates' right to have their names on the ballot, which executes homosexuals, executes prostitutes, and supports terrorists abroad?

Just what are the rights of the Iranian people, versus the rights of a government which seems to be of highly questionable representitiveness? Rights aside, where are the limits of our power?

Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century

There seems to be some difference of opinion between the Board and their readers.
1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
You can probably figure which is which. Color me Philistine (is that now an unPC word?) but I know which I think would be more fun to read. Check out the whole thing, tho.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

No wonder they're endangered

Zoo tempts gay penguins to go straight

A German zoo has imported four female penguins from Sweden in an effort to tempt its gay penguins to go straight...

The four Swedish females were dispatched to the Bremerhaven Zoo in Bremen after it was found that three of the zoo's five penguin pairs were homosexual.

Keepers at the zoo ordered DNA tests to be carried out on the penguins after they had been mating for years without producing any chicks.

It was only then they realised that six of the birds were living in homosexual partnerships.
Surely someone will protest this insensitive heterosexualist attempt to break up stable and presumably content couples.

It does get ever harder tho to claim that heterosexuality is "un-natural." But what is this stereotyping of Swedish females as sexual temptresses?

FIRE blog & Larry Summers

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a new blog. It is currently heavy on the Ward Churchill affair (they believe in free speech even for idiots) but there is a link at the end to a Boston Phoenix column by Harvey Silverglate castigating Larry Summers of Harvard for turning tail and running when assailed by the PCers for his daring to ask a highly unPC question.

As far as I can get from the incredibly bad reporting I've read on the subject, he proposed three possible reasons for the dearth of woman at the top in sciences, one of which is so unacceptable that it cannot even be mentioned, much less researched.

This is apparently a topic where results must be by fiat, which attitude shows precious little confidence in results otherwise. Self demeaning if you ask me, and even if you don't. As I said on this before:
Summers, as far as I can tell from the lousy reportage on this story, never said all women are less capable than men, only that it is possible that the distribution is different, and that if that is the case, one of the possible explanations is genetic differences, and that another is family commitments which are not identical to those of men competing for the same jobs.
Apparently the test distributions really are different: men have more very high and very low achievers while women have equally high and low achievers but tend to cluster toward the middle. The causes of the different distributions appears to be debatable...or I guess they actually aren't.

(Larry Summers) could have called a national press conference and invited his detractors to debate issues of academic freedom, entrenched orthodoxies, intellectual research and inquiry, and modalities that might indeed remedy real gender discrimination in the academy. He could have freed himself and every other academic administrator from a tyranny that has turned our university presidents into captives of groupthink — nothing more than yes-men and -women and, oh yes, fundraisers. He could have restored the role of university president from that of mere administrator and fundraiser to public intellectual — defender of academic freedom and rational discourse.
Whover is in the right on this, that would have been an interesting debate. What a shame he passed up the opportunity.

Direct to the Larry Summers article in the Boston Phoenix:

See my previous comments with links at:

An update of mine on this:

Thanks to Virginia Postrel for the lead to the FIRE blog:

One bad idea begets another

From the Baltic Times:
VILNIUS - While the European Union considers legislation that would ban Nazi symbols, Lithuania’s Vytautas Landsbergis has proposed that the European Commission also outlaw symbols representing other totalitarian ideologies, particularly communism.
They may not get it, but I wonder if that will be because the big countries have a healthy dislike for Nazism, but are not all that offended by communism and it's "excesses".

It doesn't seem like the notion of free speech is anything they raise as other than a joke. Especially since the preacher in England was successfully prosecuted for saying that god has a low opinion of gays or words to some such effect. Maybe someone will try to get crucifixes banned. And six-pointed stars, of course. Don't forget all books by Ayn Rand. And Adam Smith.

Thanks to Samizdata for the lead:

No voting for the Brit ex-pats in Spain?

Interesting. It never occurred to me that ex-pats COULD vote in their country of residence, especially in local elections like the one in Majorca. Given that they can, at least in Spain, it does seem odd that they are being disenfranchised on an EU related vote.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Here's another cool space pic of the day.

Good ol' Hubble.

Landing site of alien spaceship frags, Mk II

Opportunity's heat shield on Mars, next to the impact crater. You have to use your cursor and scroll over to see the latter. This is different from the one I linked before.

Well, maybe "crater" is a bit grandios. Anyway, check out the Splat Zone before Tars Tarkas has someone clean it up.

Clik the title or: for this cool space pic of the day.

UPDATE: If you clik on the pic you'll get a higher res version which shows evidence both that Slinky was aboard and that he had a really bad day. Look just left of both of the big pieces of debris. May he rest in peace.

Also: Touching the upper left edge of the frame, in the background: is that a dead squirrel?

This must be Art.

At least its transgressive, so it must be art. Right? Maybe its Speaking Truth to Power, too. Sorta like Michael Moore, except possibly with more emphasis on the truth part.

Thanks to InstaPundit for the tip.

Artists protest different perspectives in art

In Rockland, Maine, about half a dozen "artists opposed to war protested the showing of combat paintings of Marine Sgt. Michael Fay at the Farnsworth Art Museum."
"The fact that he would come not dressed as an artist, but as a Marine is an affront," said Natasha Mayers of Whitefield. "I'm for real expression that's not paid for. This guy is paid for, he's been a Marine all his life, and this is a military point of view.
I guess art professors aren't artists either, since they are paid for. I've seen another article about his work and it seems worth seeing, whatever one's perspective on the war. Or war in general.

Fay, incidentally, supported their right to protest.

The show is "Fire and Ice: Marine Corps Combat Art from Afghanistan and Iraq."

Thanks to Best of the Web for the lead.

Who knew? Howard Dean: Pro-gun

He is the former governor of Vermont, though, once the only state to allow anyone qualified to own a gun to carry one concealed, without needing a pemit. Apparently Vermonters think the 2nd Amendment means what it says. Even some of the screamers.

The Hill, which covers Congressional news, has an article by Bob Cusack and Elizabeth Fulk:
The expected election of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee this month will strike a crippling blow to the gun-control movement, lobbyists and political observers say.

Like Dean, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is a strong supporter of gun rights.... National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Director Chris Cox said Dean, whom the NRA endorsed when he was running for governor, was taking over a party that had suffered electorally for its embrace of gun control.
Howard Dean: well to the right of the Democratic Party mainstream activists. Others have caveats tho.


Jacob Gershman at the New York Sun has an interesting article on an issue which has brewing for awhile now: allegations of extreme anti-semitism in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department at Columbia University. He covers a speech given at Columbia by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent defense attorney and supporter of Israel:
"This is the most unbalanced university that I have come across when it comes to all sides of the Middle East conflict being presented," Mr. Dershowitz told hundreds of students and a smattering of Columbia faculty members....

One Columbia scholar who attended Mr. Dershowitz's speech, Judith Jacobson, shared his opinion that Columbia faculty members have been reluctant to speak out about the controversy....

Mr. Dershowitz, she said, "is a little ungenerous about the nature of their fear." Ms. Jacobson said faculty members do not want to risk being subjected to ostracism and even jeopardizing their careers if they speak out.
If this is true, so much for academic freedom.

Thanks to for the tip.

Minnesota Decoy Show Outrage: Linguistic Update

A distinguished Western correspondent suggests that your reporter might reasonably have substituted another word for Luddite: At least equally appropriate would have been "troglodyte."

Possibly I pushed the use of the word Luddite a bit, tho the dictionary I consulted just now says in part: "broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change" but technological progress clearly requires scientific research, and our friend Host certainly expressed his lack of enthusiasm for the latter.

Another dictionary offers "opposer" and "resistor" for "Luddite", and I think this gentleman clearly qualifies on both counts.

Merriam-Webster Online does support troglodyte, however: "1 : a member of a primitive people dwelling in caves 2 : a person resembling a troglodyte (as in reclusive habits or outmoded or reactionary attitudes)". Well, the Noble Host did lure into his cave those who sought only to slake their thirst for knowledge, rather like Polyphemus luring Odysseus and his crew into his cave.

I guess our Hero and his companions were lucky to get off as easy as they did, especially given their entire lack of a sharp stick: they could have ended up in the Cyclops' soup. So I think this would be an appropriate use of the term troglodyte, especially given his in this author's opinion outmoded and notably reactionary attitudes.

Discussion is available in the Comments section.

UPDATE: Our esteemed Western correspondent writes again to suggest a new-coined term which might cover the bases: trogluddite.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 07, 2005

More of that eBay litter aerie stuff



Yet more from the same guy:

"Bullet airplane.






He has good feedback, two.