Archive for December, 2005

Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2005

Monday, December 26th, 2005

From the fine people of come The top cryptozoology stories of 2005. By all means go there for the details, but here’s the summary:

  1. The Rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
  2. Filming of the First Live Giant Squid
  3. New Homo floresiensis Discoveries
  4. New Animal Discovered in Borneo
  5. First Cryptozoology and Art Symposium at Bates College
  6. Bobby Clarke’s Manitoba Bigfoot Video
  7. Bigfoot Bounty
  8. Mystery Photos of Cryptid Felids and Fish
  9. Disney Yeti Expedition
  10. The Laotian Rock Rat is Discovered at a Meat Market

BASE + Bungie Jumping Insanity

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

This is definitely on a par with that item I previously linked to, with the helmet-cam footage of bike messengers racing through Baltimore traffic with pit stops where they chugged 40 oz. bottles of malt liquor. I mean, for some people, it’s not dangerous enough to bungie jump, or even to BASE jump. They have to do a bungie jump while doing a BASE jump. Definitely crazy. Anyway, via MetaCafe: Insane video.

The John Jones ‘Intelligent Design’ Ruling

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

I meant to link to this last Tuesday, when it was actually news, but failed to do so, dammit. Anyway, I’m linking to it now. From the WaPo: Judge rules against ‘intelligent design’.

You can also get the full text of Judge John Jones’ ruling in the Dover (Pa.) school district case: TAMMY KITZMILLER, et al., v. DOVER AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants. MEMORANDUM OPINION (312 KB PDF file).

My favorite part:

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.


Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

One of my main motivations in originally setting up this web site was to have a place not only for highlighting glaring falsehoods, but also for recognizing the brave and forthright expression of truth. Judge Jones (a lifelong Republican appointed to the bench by George W. Bush, heh), by ruling as he did, definitely qualifies for recognition. Podcast 8

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

Continued apologies for the light posting schedule. In the meantime, you can listen to Podcast 8, including breathtaking inanity on:

  • The masturbatory nature of weblogging and podcasting.
  • The time I got bonked on the head as a teenager racing on my dad’s sailboat.
  • My pleasure at reading Judge John Jones’ ruling in the Dover school board case.
  • Similar pleasure at recent good news regarding the defeat of Bush initiatives in the Senate.
  • A brief meteorological digression.
  • A fantasy of mine involving Helen Thomas (now there’s some must-listen podcasting).
  • A Malibu surf report.

iPod Insights

Monday, December 19th, 2005

Okay, how about something light-hearted yet maybe a little personally revealing, on a general level. If music perferences can help define a person in some small way, then let’s try a little experiment. Since iPods and other various portable MP3 players are becoming more and more prevalent in our society these days, I challenge the readership at to post the last 12 songs that they have listened to on shuffle mode.

Here’s my list:

Catch Me – Monte Montgomery
Evil Woman – Electric Light Orchestra
Different Air – Living In a Box
Atchafalaya – Virginia Coalition
One of the Millions – XTC
Instant Karma – John Lennon
Beautiful World – Colin Hay
Private Conversation – Lyle Lovett
Driving Home – Cheryl Wheeler
Spotlights – Let Go
Get Set – Taxiride
Dazz – Brick

Your turn……

More Good Philosoraptor Material

Monday, December 19th, 2005

There’s a point where reality gets so absurd that it subverts any possible effort to parody it. I’m not sure what the people at The Onion are going to do with this. In the meantime, Philosoraptor has a nice treatment of the latest insanity: Still more irrelevant and dishonest rationalizations for the wiretaps:

The short version:

Q: Isn’t this illegal?

A: We have to move FAST to stop the terrorists!

Q: But can’t you get retroactive warrants?

A: Yes, but we have to move faster than that! The president’s approach allows him to actually act so quickly that he travels backward in time to thwart the enemies of freedom!

Q: Since the president has non-zero mass doesn’t that violate the laws of physics?

A: The president was granted the authority to violate the laws of physics by the authorization to invade Afghanistan.

Q: Doesn’t that not make any f*cking sense whatsoever?

A: We cannot discuss any aspect of this or any other matter because it will compromise national security.

A Simple Choice

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Glenn Greenwald has the dirt on a right-wing blogger named Al Maviva who deliberately misquoted the law in order to make a dishonest case that what Bush did in authorizing warrantless wiretaps was not illegal: Purposely misquoting FISA to defend the Bush Administration. It’s kind of involved, but worth a read.

On a related note, I liked this part of Bush’s Saturday radio address:

Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

I thought it was a cool statement, because by changing one key phrase, it could serve as a perfectly apt criticism of another, quite different, act:

Yesterday the identity of Valerie Plame was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

See how that works?

In doing my best to think objectively about this latest outrage, I find myself reaching a new appreciation of what Bush has been doing. And I actually (I mean actually actually; I’m not being snarky here) think Bush has a pretty strong argument re: the whole Patriot Act renewal, illegal wiretapping of US citizens, torture as an instrument of government policy, and so on.

Bush’s argument basically comes down to this: It’s a dangerous world out there, with really nasty terrorists who want to do really, really nasty things to us. And it’s Bush’s job to protect us from that. And Bush is arguing, quite explicitly, that he needs these extra-legal powers in order to do that job.

His position is that in this modern era of terrorism, we simply can no longer afford the rule of law, separation of powers, civil liberties, and any sort of limits on the power of the president. And he’s right about that — but with one important caveat. With George W. Bush as president, we can’t afford all those things. Because the fact of the matter is, he’s proven that he is incapable of defending the country against large-scale terrorist attacks while constrained by traditional limitations on presidential power.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t necessarily the case that no one could protect us while also protecting the Constitution. In fact, international terrorism has been around for a while, and every president before George Bush seemed to be doing a pretty decent job of keeping large-scale attacks from happening on US soil. It’s just George W. Bush who’s turned out to be an abysmal failure in that regard.

We clearly must protect ourselves against large-scale terrorist attacks. That’s not negotiable. So we have a simple choice before us: We can choose to retain George W. Bush as president. Or we can choose to retain the rule of law, separation of powers, and civil liberties as national attributes.

We just can’t have both. Podcast 7

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

My apologies for the dearth of posting lately. I’ve recently switched from consulting to an actual job (gasp!), and that, plus a lengthy daily commute, have been cutting into my available obsession time.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good, though; that lengthy commute means I have plenty of time for rambling, extemporaneous podcasts. Case in point: podcast 7.

Featured ranting in this podcast includes:

  • More about my new job, and the commute.
  • Willliam’s eighth birthday, and the differences between him and Julia.
  • The execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, and the death penalty, generally.
  • State-sanctioned torture by the US as an indicator of George Bush’s stunted moral development.


US Iraq War Dead for November

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for November. There were a total of 84 US fatalities during the month. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which many have charged is inherently misleading; see disclaimer below).

The data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 33 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until some three and a half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above. The starting point for the Vietnam graphs is the death that was identified (years later) by Lyndon Johnson as being the first of the war.

These graphs do not address the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Philosoraptor (Again) on Bush’s 16 Words

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Philosoraptor proves once again why it’s vitally important to keep a few dope-smoking philosophers around: The Niger uranium fiction and how the French tried to warn us about it [Oh, and why Bush’s “sixteen words” were not even “technically correct”… again].

Anyway, once again: ‘Learned’ is a “success term.” You can’t assert of S that he has learned that p if your best evidence indicates that he’s made a mistake. (In fact, you can’t even assert it if your best evidence is equivocal and forces you to suspend judgment on the matter.) In such cases all you can assert is something like S has come to believe that p.

The situation is analogous to the case of knowledge claims. If my best evidence indicates that p is false I can’t honestly assert that you know that p, but only that you believe that p. If my evidence indicates that p is false (or even that we can’t tell whether or not p is true), but I know that Smith has (so far as I can tell) mistakenly come to believe that p, but I tell you that Smith knows or has learned that p, then I am deceiving you.

And that’s what Bush did.

The Nation on Torture

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

More reading for those whose outrage-o-meter isn’t pegged yet. From a special edition of The Nation:

All highly recommended.

Dickerson on the Latest Fraudlent RNC Web Ad

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

Interesting dissection of the latest cheap Republican political ad: The grinch who doctored photos – The RNC’s fraudulent new ad. From Slate’s John Dickerson.

Hadley Fails to Answer the Question

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

From Crooks and Liars: Hadley defends Cheney’s “last throes” statement.

Pretty good stuff. Bush’s national security advisor simply puts his fingers in his ears and says “no no no no no no…” in response to Chris Wallace’s asking him to admit that Cheney may have made a mistake when he said back in May that the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes.”

So, what do you say we put grownups back in charge of the country?

Weisberg’s ‘Beyond Spin’

Monday, December 12th, 2005

It’s a little thin on the meat of the argument, but I’m pretty much hard-wired to approve of the subject matter. From Slate’s Jacob Weisberg: Beyond Spin – The propaganda presidency of George W. Bush.

A frequent complaint about the Clinton administration was that it tried too hard to “spin” everything in its own favor. Clinton’s spin doctors had a variety of individual styles but shared a grating habit of relentlessly coloring the news to support their side in any argument. George Stephanopoulos, with whom the technique was closely identified, once defined spin as “a hope dressed up as an observation.” In practice, Clinton-era spinning meant that officials seldom conceded the obvious or acknowledged losing, failing, or being wrong about anything.

George W. Bush arrived in Washington avowing an end to all that. He promised he would never parse, shade, or play nice with the truth the way that Clinton had. But if Bush has shunned spinning, it has been in favor of something far more insidious. If the Clintonites were inveterate spinners, the Bushies have proved themselves to be thoroughgoing propagandists.

Napster’s Striptease Commercial

Friday, December 9th, 2005

I don’t want to like this, since it’s pretty much on a par with the scantily-clad-woman-on-the-mechanical-bull Carl’s Jr. ad. But it does have a certain… punch. Anyway, the not-really-very-safe-for-work (depending on where you work) Napster striptease commercial: Get the whole thing.

Best Buy Prez: Um, Sorry for the Bait and Switch. No Hard Feelings, Eh?

Friday, December 9th, 2005

From Best Buy President Brian Dunn, via Xbox Circle: Best Buy president apologizes for Xbox 360 launch.

I’m writing to apologize.

While all of us at Best Buy were thrilled to be part of the recent launch of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game system – one of the most anticipated events in the history of electronic gaming – the launch did not go as we had hoped. We sold out of Xbox 360s nationwide in less than two hours, and most of our stores did an outstanding job of serving our gaming customers. I’d like to thank the majority of our employees, who provided a terrific experience for customers at the launch date. However, our promotional activities in certain cases failed to follow company guidelines. As a result, some of our valued gaming customers had an experience in our stores that was inconsistent with what you’ve come to expect from us, as a leader in the consumer electronics industry.

Specifically, customers in some Best Buy stores were told that they were required to buy additional Xbox accessories or services if they wanted one of the sought-after Xbox 360 consoles, even though we advertised the Xbox 360 console alone. I want to be very clear that Best Buy does not condone pressuring customers to purchase items they may not want or that may not fit their lifestyle. In fact, these behaviors are in direct conflict with our desire to serve customers’ needs better than anyone else, and our values of honesty and integrity.

More on Best Buy’s values of honesty and integrity from Hiro/Aaron’s Best Buy receipt check page (and the links diverging therefrom).

The Bush Team’s War on Words

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

This one was kind of fun. Go to bugmenot for a login, and check out T. A. Frank’s piece from The New Republic: Breakfast at epiphanies for a madcap romp through Team Bush’s troubled relationship with their own previous statements.

Definitely recommended.

Karen Karbo’s Goodbye, Moon

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

This op-ed piece by Karen Karbo from the NY Times was kind of cute, at least for someone who has read Goodnight Moon to his kids as many times as I have: Goodbye, moon.

Rauch: Bush’s Iraq Endgame Will Mirror Nixon’s in Vietnam

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Jonathon Rauch has a very interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post about how the end of the Iraq war may follow the same trajectory as the end of Vietnam — only faster: All over but the pullback.

“I think we’ve reached a point where news from Iraq itself is not likely to reverse the trajectory,” says Scott Rasmussen, the president of Rasmussen Reports. By contrast, “troops coming home is a new dynamic. And that is what will change poll numbers.” Indeed, a combination of returning U.S. forces and lower oil prices come November, Rasmussen says, would be “Democrats’ nightmare.”

And so, any day now, the president’s political advisers will likely go to him and say something like this:

“Mr. President, if U.S. forces are not clearly on their way out of Iraq by about June 30, we will face a bloodbath in the midterm elections, and the Republicans will lose the House or the Senate or both. On the other hand, if U.S. forces are coming home, you will have cut the legs out from under the Democrats. They will have no choice but to support your drawdown or call for an even faster one. Either way, they would be in no position to blame you for any subsequent setbacks over there. Right now, you have nothing to say on Iraq that makes sense to the public. Once the troops start coming home, it will be the other side that has nothing to say.”

Which will Bush choose?

I wonder.

From the beginning, Bush has fought the “War on Terror” with an eye to domestic politics. Foreign policy for Bush has simply been a tool of Karl Rove’s Machiavellian schemes for getting and holding domestic power. And Bush (and Rove) have succeeded spectacularly — as long as you’re only looking at the domestic political picture. That someone like Bush could succeed in taking the White House not once but twice — and the second time in the wake of the disaster of his indifferent attitude toward the threat represented by al Qaeda during his first nine months in office — is close to miraculous.

But while Bush’s manipulation of domestic politics has been a stunning success, his actual policies have been stunning failures. And while I’m grateful that the erosion of public support for the war is finally catching up with him, I see no reason to think that a politics-driving precipitous withdrawal will work out any better, in terms of its consequences, than did the politics-driven precipitous invasion.

Sullivan on Torture

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

I can find nothing to disagree with in this heart-breakingly good essay by Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic: The abolition of torture.

For the most part, it’s a passionate argument against Charles Krauthammer’s recent piece in The Weekly Standard, in which Krauthammer said that torture by the US government should be legalized. But along the way there’s a lot of really good stuff that gets right to the heart of what’s been driving me nuts lately.

There was this bit:

What you see in the relationship between torturer and tortured is the absolute darkness of totalitarianism. You see one individual granted the most complete power he can ever hold over another. Not just confinement of his mobility–the abolition of his very agency. Torture uses a person’s body to remove from his own control his conscience, his thoughts, his faith, his selfhood. The CIA’s definition of “waterboarding”–recently leaked to ABC News–describes that process in plain English: “The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.” The ABC report then noted, “According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the waterboarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said Al Qaeda’s toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two and a half minutes before begging to confess.”

And this bit:

The entire point of the war on terrorism, according to the president, is to advance freedom and democracy in the Arab world. In Iraq, we had a chance not just to tell but to show the Iraqi people how a democracy acts. And, tragically, in one critical respect, we failed. That failure undoubtedly contributed to the increased legitimacy of the insurgency and illegitimacy of the occupation, and it made collaboration between informed Sunnis and U.S. forces far less likely. What minuscule intelligence we might have plausibly gained from torturing and abusing detainees is vastly outweighed by the intelligence we have forfeited by alienating many otherwise sympathetic Iraqis and Afghans, by deepening the divide between the democracies, and by sullying the West’s reputation in the Middle East. Ask yourself: Why does Al Qaeda tell its detainees to claim torture regardless of what happens to them in U.S. custody? Because Al Qaeda knows that one of America’s greatest weapons in this war is its reputation as a repository of freedom and decency. Our policy of permissible torture has handed Al Qaeda this weapon–to use against us. It is not just a moral tragedy. It is a pragmatic disaster. Why compound these crimes and errors by subsequently legalizing them, as Krauthammer (explicitly) and the president (implicitly) are proposing?

And finally, from Sullivan’s powerful conclusion:

The war on terrorism is, after all, a religious war in many senses. It is a war to defend the separation of church and state as critical to the existence of freedom, including religious freedom. It is a war to persuade the silent majority of Muslims that the West offers a better way–more decency, freedom, and humanity than the autocracies they live under and the totalitarian theocracies waiting in the wings. By endorsing torture–on anyone, anywhere, for any reason–we help obliterate the very values we are trying to promote. You can see this contradiction in Krauthammer’s own words: We are “morally compelled” to commit “a terrible and monstrous thing.” We are obliged to destroy the village in order to save it. We have to extinguish the most basic principle that defines America in order to save America.

No, we don’t. In order to retain fundamental American values, we have to banish from the United States the totalitarian impulse that is integral to every act of torture. We have to ensure that the virus of tyranny is never given an opening to infect the Constitution and replicate into something that corrupts as deeply as it wounds. We should mark the words of Ian Fishback, one of the heroes of this war: “Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is ‘America.'” If we legalize torture, even under constrained conditions, we will have given up a large part of the idea that is America. We will have lost the war before we have given ourselves the chance to win it.

The Bush administration, consciously or not, seeks the destruction of America. It seeks to succeed where al Qaeda failed on 9/11. Bush’s stunted moral development, his hard-partying fratboy’s approach to right and wrong, in combination with his willingness to surround himself by and take the advice of people who are downright evil (like Dick Cheney) or stupid (like Donald Rumsfeld) or hearts-aflutter infatuated with him (like Condoleeza Rice), have led us to this place.

But America is bigger than George Bush’s limited imagination. It’s Captain Fishback’s America. It’s my America. It’s your America. It’s worth fighting for.