Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Even headless flies took flight...

... when researchers stimulated the correct neurons."

Using the lasers to stimulate specific brain cells, researchers say they were able to make the flies jump, walk, flap their wings and fly.

Now, if we could just learn how to make politicians so obedient.

Check it out in The New York Times.

UPDATE: I wonder if this is what the French were trying to do during the Terror? They got as far as removing the heads from their political flies. They just lacked the lasers.

Tired of getting groped by strangers?

Try airport-friendly clothing. It's metal-free. Belts, bras, money clips, and shoes. James H. Burnett III has the story of a whole new market niche being filled, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Of course, it would be nice if the pols would trouble to keep terrorists from crossing the border with Mexico. Apparently well over a million ppl a year are getting across illegally, including Pakistanis, Afghans, and Arabs. Apparently none of them are a threat.

Thinking of guns...

...last nite I went to see Woodie Allens's new movie, "Melinda and Melinda." It is the story of a woman (Melinda) as two different playwrights would tell it: one as a comedy, the other as a tragedy. I enjoyed the movie, tho one of the characters was pure neurotic-Woodie-Allen formula. That's a shame: this was the same character Allen himself plays in his movies, and it has gotten more than a bit tiresome- he has descended into self-parody in an otherwise good film.

Back to guns: One of the characters confesses that she murdered her husband and went to prison. In describing the lead up she says that she drove to another state and bought a handgun and a box of "bullets" from a dealer . No questions asked, she says. So simple for murderers to get handguns, no laws broken.

Well, bad news, Woodie: She and the dealer committed felonies. A private citizen cannot buy a handgun in another state and take delivery there. She would have had to have the dealer transfer it to a dealer in her home state. She could then have picked it up from the second dealer- after complying with her own state's laws. So, both she and her dealer would have been committing a felony. No questions asked? That's another felony, Woody. Dealers are required by federal law to not only "ask questions," they are required to ask them on paper and get the answers on that paper, and to keep that paper for federal inspection. Failure to do so is a federal crime. Lying on that form is a federal crime.

I have no particular reason to think Woodie Allen deliberately misrepresented gun laws. I think he is ignorant and doesn't care to become informed because he knows he is right. He was just taking a casual political swipe at an issue about which all right thinking New Yorkers have assumptions at variance with reality.

Perhaps, to be fair and since this character was not portrayed as a real person but as a playwright's interpretation of a real person, we are to believe that Allen deliberately characterized the playwright as ignorant. But I doubt it.

Anyway, it was a passing moment in an otherwise decent movie, self-parody aside.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Cool Space Pic of the Day

Anyway, I think its cool.

Scary news from Angola: Marburg virus

Sharon LaFraniere and Denise Grady report in the New York Times:
LUANDA, Angola, April 8 - The death toll in Angola from an epidemic caused by an Ebola-like virus rose to 174 Friday...

International health officials said the epidemic, already the largest outbreak of Marburg virus ever recorded, showed no signs of abating...

Health officials said some Angolans are hiding sick relatives out of fear that they will die if taken to the hospitals, thereby increasing the chance the disease will spread. There is no cure or vaccine for the highly contagious virus. Victims suffer a high fever, diarrhea, vomiting and severe bleeding from bodily orifices and usually die within a week. UPDATE: THE PREVIOUS TWO SENTENCES SEEM TO HAVE BEEN COPIED FROM WIKIPEDIA AND THEY ARE WRONG: Click here: Dinocrat » Note to the New York Times: Don’t use Wikipedia as an authoritative source

The initial outbreak appears to have spread through a pediatric ward...More than 60 percent of the victims so far have been children.

One health official in Uige said that more than a dozen health care workers have perished...
It must take incredible courage for them to stay on the job.

Just in case you've forgotten Jane Smiley...

...and the Democrats' love for reasoned debate,try refreshing your memory with this, which came up in an e-conversation today. It isn't just that she is an arrogant, anti-American, Christian-bashing, classist snob, but that she apparently isn't even aware of her bigotry. What I find particularly disturbing is the lack of criticism of it from the Dems.

That really is bad news because it suggests that we have moved too far toward a period in which there is little serious political debate. Name-calling from both the Right and the Left is normal enuf, but for a number of years now it seems to have become the dominant feature of our politics. That's a bad situation.

The Outdated Second Amendment

Paul L. Whiteley Sr., in a letter to the New York Times:
America's gun addiction and an outdated Second Amendment are moving us more and more each day toward "culture of death" dominance....

The unbridled power of the National Rifle Association to lobby goes unchecked...
Such odd ideas. In-school child murders are at a 40 year low, even tho gun ownership has risen dramatically. (There are more multiple victim in-school killing nowadays, but the overall numbers are way down. We hear about all the killings now, so we are more aware than in the 1950s.) Murders in general, at record lows since the 1960s.

Most murders are directly related to banned recreational substances, as they were during alcohol Prohibition, but those murders are blamed on inanimate objects rather than on our state and national policies of Prohibition.

And contempt for citizens lobbying their representatives. Would Mr. Whitely write so contemptuously of Green Peace or National Audubon Society or National Organization for Women for lobbying their legislators? Would he "bridle" those citizens' right to lobby?

As for the 2nd being outmoded, when and where in America have we seen pogroms? Genocide? Precisely among those ppl who were denied their right to own weapons. Blacks: lynched where white people's laws prevented them from owning guns. Disarmed union organizers: Murdered. Civil rights workers: murdered. No, the 2nd Amendment is still at work. Imperfectly, but better than being a Kurd in Saddam's Iraq.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Brenda Starr

PENNGROVE, Calif. (AP) -- Dale Messick, whose long-running comic strip ``Brenda Starr, Reporter'' gave her entry into the male world of the funny pages, has died at age 98....

As World War II raged Brenda did her part, parachuting into action -- every red hair in place....

``I used to get letters from girl reporters saying that their lives were nowhere near as exciting as Brenda's,'' Messick told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1986. ``I told them that if I made Brenda's life like theirs, nobody would read it.''

Innovation in NPR Fundraising:

They tried sending out renewal notices. Apparently Milwaukee's WUWM got radical, and it worked:
WUWM’s fall donations were 73 percent higher without a pledge drive than in last year’s same period — with a nine-day on-air drive. The station also increased renewals by 296 percent and saw a slight upward bump in underwriting income.

In addition, its new member-targeted spring drive, completed last week, brought in enough first-time donors — 13 percent more than the previous year’s drive—to raise hopes that the station can nix the fall drive this year as well.
Well, good for them.

Thanks again to ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News

Texans and Art

For all you with a consuming interest in everything Texas, the state's art museums got a very favorable write-up by Richard Dorment in the Telegraph. He likes both the buildings and their contents.

He does seem to have low opinions of Charlie Russell's and Frederick Remington's stuff at the Amon Carter Museum, tho: "(ghastly) wild west paintings and sculptures." Philistine. And lest one be overawed with all the tony-ness:
Finally, I have to say how much fun Texas is. For all their sophistication don't suppose for a moment that these cities are all about high culture. In Fort Worth, my visit to Billy Bob's, The World's Largest Honky Tonk, and my guided tour of the sublime Cowgirl Museum by beautiful former singer with the Dixie Chicks, Laura Lynch Tull, were two of the highlights of an unforgettable week.
Thanks to ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

This is depressing...

...but worth reading. Olivier Guitta reports in the Weekly Standard on rising anti-Frenchism. This time it is in France, and it seems to be quite violent. Hard to tell how widespread it really is, but the issue has been getting a fair bit of coverage around the Web for some time now. To the extent the concerns are fairly reported there is a lot for the Gaulish to worry about, especially the Gaulish Jews who account for 62% of the victims, but only 1% of the population. Click here: Mugged by la Réalité

Thanks to for the lead.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I had a good little post here...

...but the durn Blogger ate it.

The world will just have to do without, much like the contents of the Library at Alexandria.

Democrats for a Republican Hegemony

This analysis may not get the Dems as much success at the voting booths as they'd like, and it seems to be a prety popular one. Marc Cooper in The Atlantic reviews George Lakoff's "Don't Think Like an Elephant":
Lakoff makes it simple to assume this smug, self-aggrandizing posture, arguing that "the two different views of the nation" -- conservative versus progressive -- reflect two basic kinds of American families. Those who vote conservative, he says, are proponents of authoritarian "strict-father families," which emphasize self-interest, greed, and competitiveness. These are families that "are against nurturance and care," favor corporal punishment, and have a propensity to follow the teachings of the Christian-right ideologue James Dobson. Progressives, meanwhile, reflect a "gender-neutral [and] nurturant parent model," which values "freedom," "opportunity," and "community building," and which protects its children against crime, drugs, "cars without seat belts," smoking, and "poisonous additives in food," while adhering to the teachings of the Dali Lama. Yes, there are many conflicted people in the middle, the so-called "biconceptuals," who are a meld of the two family types, Lakoff says. And they, like the uniconceptual daddy worshippers, must be persuaded to let their better, more liberal angels dominate.

Couldn't be simpler, then: redneck, chain-smoking, baby-slapping Christers desperately in need of some gender-free nurturing and political counseling by organic-gardening enthusiasts from Berkeley.
THAT should bring 'em to the polls in droves.

There seems to be a faction of Democrats and their sympathizers who need to attribute their Republican rivals' political beliefs to deep-seated emotional flaws. They came out of the woodwork during Reagan's presidency: Reagan's belief in freedom from government, of individual responsibility, and of standing up to the Soviets was widely touted by Dems as products of his having grown up in a disfunctional family, with an alcoholic father. The suggestion was that to explain was to dismiss. Of course the Republicans aren't a lot different- just listen to some of them denouncing their un-favorite Dems.

Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for the tip.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Mullahs for Islamic Values

Michael laden, writing in National Review Online, suggests the Iranian mullahs are guilty of torture, including rape, and murder:
Two summers ago, a middle-aged Iranian-Canadian journalist named Zahra Kazemi was arrested in Tehran while taking photographs of regime hoodlums beating up young people who were demonstrating for freedom. A few days later she turned up dead in a local military hospital. The regime...insisted that she had fallen in her prison cell and died of injuries to her head, denied that anyone had beaten her, and hastily buried her without any proper autopsy.

...Dr. Shahram Azam, a medical doctor who has just been granted asylum in Canada, has presented a firsthand account of the terrible death of Zara Kazemi. He says he examined Kazemi in a military hospital in Tehran on June 26, 2003. He says he found horrific injuries to her entire body that demonstrated torture and rape. By the time he examined her- an examination limited by the Islamic republic's sexist restrictions that made it illegal for a male doctor to look at her genital area- Kazemi was unconscious and her body was covered with bruises. According to Dr. Azam, she had a skull fracture, two broken fingers, missing fingernails, a crushed big toe, a smashed nose, deep scratches on her neck, and evidence of flogging...

"I could see this was caused by torture," Azam told Canadian journalists. He added that the nurse who examined Kazemi's genitals told him of "brutal damage."
Must have been quite a fall. Rape, tho seems out of character for Islamic fundamentalists. Or is it? I just don't know anymore. The more I read, the less I believe that someone trying to be a reasonably informed layman can tell the truth from propaganda, especially when propaganda is embellished truth.

In this case, Ladeen's column segues into stories of Iranian women in the international sexual slavery trade- something which may have nothing to do with the mullahs, and which I suspect is actively opposed by them. So, how to evaluate his information on Zahra Kazemi? She is dead, and the mullahs won't allow independent accounting for her death. A refugee claims torture and murder. Was rape hyperbola? Perhaps. Would that make her death much easier or the mullahs less culpable? Probably not.

Canadian Politicians and free speech: Ne'er the twain shall meet.

No civilized government can tolerate revelations of scandals involving politicians. Just ask Bobby Mugabe. Hmmm...I wonder if I can be prosecuted for linking to this. Guess I'd better stay out of Canada.

Stealing classified documents...

...from the National Archives and then cutting them up, and lying about it, is good for a chuckle if you are a Democrat:
"For all those who know and love him, it's easy to see how this would happen," one former White House colleague told The Washington Post at the time.

As for Bill Clinton himself, he couldn't stop chuckling over the whole thing.

"That's Sandy for you," he said at a Denver book signing last summer. "We were all laughing about it on the way over here."
That's Bill for you.

Some people are seriously suggesting that former President Bill take over Kofi Annan's job at the UN. I guess one upside for Bill would be all those UN "Peacekeepers" who run illicit sex rings. I haven't figured out yet what the upside would be for either the US or the rest of the world.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Irresponsible drivers and their...

Not a pro-gun article in the NYTimes, but...

...surpisingly even handed. Kate Zernike writes:
Paul Bucher, the district attorney for the Wisconsin county where a man opened fire in a church service last month, killing seven people and himself, has one answer to the deadly mass shootings around the country in recent weeks: more guns.

"The problems aren't the guns, it's the guns in the wrong hands," said Mr. Bucher.... "We need to put more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Whether having that would have changed what happened is all speculation, but it would level the playing field. If the person you're fighting has a gun and all you have is your fists, you lose."

Across the country, efforts to expand or establish laws allowing concealed handguns have been fueled by the horrifying shootings in the last month - of the family of a federal judge in Chicago, at the church service in Wisconsin, at courthouses in Atlanta and Tyler, Tex., and the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.

In Texas and Illinois, the shootings prompted new legislation to allow judges and prosecutors to be armed....

Thirty-five states now require the authorities to issue permits for concealed handguns to most applicants as long as they do not have criminal records, and two, Alaska and Vermont, allow concealed weapons without a permit. Eleven others allow the local authorities discretion in issuing so-called concealed carry permits....

"The state doesn't have money to provide security," said Judge Daniel L. Schmidt of the Illinois Appellate Court in the Third District. "Do I want to carry it every day? Probably not. But it would be nice to know I could carry one if something came up."
Shootings are provoking calls for less gun-control? And the Times isn't attacking the idea in a news article? Amazing.

Thanks to -

Blogger diversity

Apparently some quarters believe there isn't enuf of it, sex and race-wise, amongst the most popular bloggers. Heather Mac Donald has a few opinions which will likely rile the righteous. Especially if the righteous believe in giving commands to everyone else.