March 31, 2006

Through the Omphaloscope

You know, I can't, or won't, state a definition of sine qua non in the header, because I'm afraid I'd lose more than two-thirds of my mealy share of hits if the search engines that girdle the earth stopped sending people touring machine generated images this way.

DOWNDATE: It's a damn good thing I amuse the hell out of myself with this stuff, since apparently no one else knows what I'm talking about.

Posted by Charles Austin at 06:12 PM | Comments (3)

Balanced Views

Sometimes, I get the idea that most of the speed dial numbers on every AP reporter's phone are for "activists":

Plans for a Pentagon-led experiment that involves detonating 700 tons of explosives in the desert drew criticism from state leaders and a disarmament activist.

... [blah, blah blah] ...

Disarmament activist Pete Litster said tests at the site violate international law. Litster, executive director of the Shundahai Network, said the site belongs to the Western Shoshone Indian tribe.

Why is it so difficult to get folks to understand that this constitutes editorializing in what is ostensibly a news story? There is no news here, just a transcribed press release from someone with a constituency of, well, himself and, apparently, AP reporters.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Like Stan Once Said, "Dude, What the F*** Is Wrong With German People?"

I'm sure the German Defence Minister and every member of Germany's Higher Court are smarter and more educated than I. But here is a good example why, as I get older, I become ever less impressed with academic credentials:

Germany's defence minister said in remarks to be published Saturday he would only order the shooting down of an aircraft in a 9/11-style suicide attack if all the people on board were 'terrorists.'

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung's statement comes after Germany's highest court this year overturned a law allowing hijacked airliners to be shot down to prevent them being used as in the 2001 attacks on the United States.

Judges said Germany's Basic Law did not allow the military to aid police in this manner and that passengers in plane being shot down would have their constitutionally guaranteed right-to-life violated.

Becuase, you know, this is only a police matter. Sometimes it seems as though the countries of the EU take the "Kick Me" signs off their backs only to correct the spelling to "Kill Me" and make sure it is properly aligned when reattached for maximum visibility.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

Police Brutality

In response to the Capitol Police issuing an arrest warrant for Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) after she person-handled one of its officers, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said:

"I would not make a big deal of this."

Representatives McKinney and Pelosi then launched into a duet with their unique interpretation of Jonathon Edwards' (Ed: Hmm.., where have I heard that name before?) Sunshine:

Sunshine go away today
I don't feel much like dancing
Some man's gone, he's tried to run my life
Don't know what he's asking

He tells me I'd better get in line
Can't hear what he's saying
When I grow up I'm going to make it mine
But these aren't dues I been paying

How much does it cost, I'll buy it
The time is all we've lost, I'll try it
But he can't even run his own life
I'll be damned if he'll run mine, Sunshine

Sunshine go away today
I don't feel much like dancing
Some man's gone he's tried to run my life
Don't know what he's asking

Working starts to make me wonder where
The fruits of what I do are going
He says in love and war all is fair
But he's got cards he ain't showing

Sunshine come on back another day
I promise you I'll be singing
This old world, she's gonna turn around
Brand new bells'll be ringing

DOWNDATE: The hits just keep on coming:

A lawyer for Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the Georgia congresswoman who had an altercation with a Capitol Police officer, says she was "just a victim of being in Congress while black."

And here I thought her crime was being in Congress while committing a felonious assault on a police. Everyone understands that she just accused the Capitol Police of institutionalized racism, right? If Democrats have any sense of decency remaining they will disown this woman immediately and throw her out of their party. Then maybe we'll talk about their talking points, er, I mean their plan for national security.

But wait, there's more:

Actor, Danny Glover was expected to appear at an early-evening news conference Friday with McKinney at Howard University.That gave Republicans material to keep the criticism flowing. "Rep. McKinney appearing with the star of 'Lethal Weapon'? Not exactly the message you want to be sending," said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Personally, I always think of Danny Glover as Albert in The Color Purple whenever he gets a little self-righteous and preachy.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

A Serious Pet Peeve

Consider the following:

The Government is to give schools an extra £2m to improve the teaching of geography.

The campaign will be launched tonight by the former Monty Python star Michael Palin, whose travel documentaries have reinvigorated the television genre. He will highlight the importance of geography in tackling issues such as global warming, telling his audience: "If we don't understand geography, we can't properly understand the past, present or future of our planet."

The move follows a report from Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, which found that geography was the worst-taught subject in primary schools. The Government's exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, has further warned that the subject is in a "vicious circle of decline" in secondary schools. As a result, a generation of young people are not being properly educated about vital global issues, government education advisers say.

Figures show that GCSE entries in the subject have slumped by a third since 1996, and A-level take-up by about a quarter. In addition, about 25 per cent of lessons in secondary schools are taken by teachers not trained in the subject.

The number of pupils studying geography dwindled after it stopped being a compulsory subject on the school timetable for those over the age of 14. A similar fate has befallen modern foreign languages.

I don't care much about the manufactured pseudo-crisis in geography education in the UK, Michael Palin's idiosyncratic obsesions, or even the dearth of, say, Swedish speakers in Great Britain, but that last paragraph does highlight something that apparently a significant percentage of the adult population seems to keep misunderstanding, with catastrophic long term implications.

Multiple choice test: When it comes to what a teenager needs to study and learn to get on with the rest of their life, who knows better:

A. The teenager and his/her circle of teenage friends with their vast collective store of knowledge, accumulated experience, and perspective gathered from, in some cases, literally weeks of carrying the load of responsibility for themselves and others.
B. Adults


Now, I'm not claiming that adults always know the best answer, or even a good answer to all the decisions that a teenager has to make, but why should anyone be surprised that teenagers aren't exactly interested in the same things that someone who has been around the block more than a few times has learned the hard way may be important -- especially if learning these subjects is difficult, unpopular, takes effort, or has a payoff that can only be realized years from now.

Grrrrr... but if there is anything that troubles me even more, pedagogically speaking, well, see if you can guess what it is from the following excerpt of the same story:

Rita Gardner, director of the Royal Geographical Society, said: "It is the only subject in the curriculum which can get to grips with issues like climate change, rises in the sea levels and vital national and global issues. There is an awful lot of good geography teaching in schools, but quite a high proportion of geography lessons are taught by non-specialist teachers in secondary schools.

She added that one reason for its decline was the fact that the geography curriculum had not been updated since the 1980s, when the national curriculum was first introduced in schools.

As a result of today's package, devised by Mrs Gardner and David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, - both of whom have now been appointed as advisers to the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly - schools will be sent videos of celebrities visiting different parts of the world in a bid to make lessons more interesting.

And no, I'm not thinking of Ms. Gardner's problems with getting a grip, proselytizing pseudoscience, pandering to the existing workforce (their present apparent failures leading to this crisis notwithstanding), over-reliance on certifications, or her truly imaginative belief in vast changes in world geography since the 1980s as the root cause of of the crisis in geographic tutelage. Heck, I'm not even thinking here about the inherent inanity of appealing to, ugh, celebrities as authority figures (Ed: But will they be properly certified?). What I object to most is the idea that it is necessary to stoop to entertaining the kids to get them to learn.

If I have to choose between my kids disliking school but learning, or loving school but being total dunderheads who believe it is most important that they have fun and feel good about themselves, well, you know which of the choices of this false dichotomy I'm going to make. But anyway, I think you know what I mean.

Grrrrr... grrrrr...

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)

Me Neither

Anyone else think this means that we won't have to listen to any more whinging from the Angry Left that this administration refuses to admit it has ever made a mistake?

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.

Some might regard thousands of errors as not too bad overall given the sheer number of decisions that have had to be made over the last three years, but those whose measuring sticks were forged in Utopia aren't going to start bowing to relative measures now. My guess is that this quote will be used in the articles of impeachment for President Bush drafted in January by the 110th Congress of the United States.

As in the universe itself, the farther one looks out on our body politic, the faster we appear to be receding from each other.

DOWNDATE: Surely some too clever by half pundit on the Angry Left has already remarked, "Yeah, exactly 2,327 mistakes so far."

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

Thanks for Not Sharing

You really have to wonder at what goes through the heads of some folks:

Legendary performer LIZA MINNELLI has declared she is through with sex and just wants to find a partner who is kind and has some integrity.

Have you tried Hollywood? Oh, you have. I hear artists are sensitive, how about one of them? Been there, done that, you say. Hmmm... how about a Broadway performer? Oh my. How about the Upper East Side? Be my guest, you say? Well, I am out of suggestions, so best of luck.

Posted by Charles Austin at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2006

The Rooftops My Friend, Are Blowin' in the Wind

Glenda is not the good cyclone from the East.

Stay safe down under.

Posted by Charles Austin at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

Hey, I Can See Right Through Their Thobes

It's time for another Caption Contest (#7).


A veiled Jordanian woman uses a special filter to view a partial eclipse of the sun in the Jordanian capital of Amman March 29, 2006. (Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

Contest will last until Tuesday.

Posted by Charles Austin at 07:46 PM | Comments (7)

A Pack, Not a Herd

Professor Reynolds has a virtual copyright on this phrase and the philosophical approach implied by the phrase certainly ties in well with many of the other memes he promotes, but I wonder if part of its popularity isn't caused by the aural and linguistic alignment of the presumed good and bad choices to the major political parties in this country. The word pack conjures up homonymic allusions to the G.O.P.'s pachyderm, while the word herd does define a large gathering of donkeys.

Note: While you may find a Google reference to a group of donkeys being called a pace of asses, this is not correct. Any group of equines is called a herd.

Posted by Charles Austin at 07:31 PM | Comments (0)

Ford Has a Worser Idea

Don't get cocky, geezer:

HARRISON FORD hates the internet, because it means anyone can spread malicious gossip about him.

Yeah, not just anyone should be able to spread malicious gossip -- only trained professionals.

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)


Apparently, the secret to minimizing my work in judging caption contest entries is to pick a difficult picture and immediately bury the post under about 28 inches of blog.


McGeehee, in a nod to the great vaudeville acts of yore came in with the best caption, the worst caption, the mean caption, the median caption and the mode caption, i.e., the only caption:

"Ah, Grasshopper -- you have been breaking bricks and rocks with your bare hands since before you could walk. Surely you can do this as well?"

"Master, I don't mind you calling me Grasshopper, but please don't call me Shirley."

Dosvidanya, my Georgian friend!

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

Stockholm, Eurabia Syndrome

Jill Carroll is free. This is a good thing. On the other hand, her statements concerning her captors indicate that she needs some counselling:

"I was treated well, but I don't know why I was kidnapped,"

In the words of long past his broadcast by date Dick Enberg, oh my.

DOWNDATE: Apparently, Ms. Carroll has repudiated not just her statements in captivity, but those in the interview conducted just afterwards from which my excerpt was taken. I tried to be somewhat reserved in my criticism, and i hope it came across that way. Even if it were Stockholm Syndrome, this is a fairly well understood psychological phenomenon to which otherwise reasonable people can fall prey to. I wish her well.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:46 PM | Comments (0)

Mohamed's Radio-active

With apologies to the shade of Warren Zevon for that title, Mohamed ElBaradei says:

"My message to Iran: the international community is getting impatient and you need to respond by arming me with information," he said.

Does anybody else think this is a remarkably poor choice of verbs for a diplomat trying to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons? Then again, perhaps Mohamed believes his job is to do battle on behalf of Iran? Further on, Mohamed ElBaradei says:

"There is no military solution to this situation. It's inconceivable."

He keeps using that word. But I do not think it means what he thinks it means. Meanwhile, on planet Earth:

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the international community still aimed to find a diplomatic solution to the stand-off.

Think about it, diplomacy is essentially only useful in negotiating terms of surrender at some level. Since Iran won't back down to this petty tomfoolery, I suppose the usual suspects are going to volunteer to maintain the illusion of process and progress in negotiations. Put yourself in Iran's shoes, what's the downside to prevaricating, obfuscating and carrying on with uranium enrichment at a double quick time pace?

Russia and China firmly oppose any sanctions, let alone force, and insisted on removing language in the U.N. statement that they feared could lead down that path.

Got that? No sanctions. Period. And for heavens sake, no force. The only tool left in the arsenal of, ahem, democracy, is the sternly worded warning.

Cardinal Biggles, fetch the comfy chair!

DOWNDATE: A deadline, er, I mean, a line in the ever shifting diplomatic sands has been drawn, however lightly, letting Iran know that the UN means, uh, business:

The U.N. Security Council gave Iran 30 days to clear up suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and key members turned their focus on what to do if Iran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment and allow more intrusive inspections.

As noted earlier, there's plenty of room on the table. It's certainly uncontaminated by what's been left on it.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

Again, How Do You Parody the Absurd?

Driving home from work tonight, listening to News and Notes with Ed Gordon(sans Ed Gordon) on NPR, I heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson refer in complete seriousness to ..., wait for it ..., New Orleans-Americans.

Tha Balkanization of America is complete.

I am curious though, listening to the dueling banjoes of the viability of an election in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, what happens if New Orleans voting percentages rise with all the special efforts going on to get out the vote in New Orleans? What exactly would it be appropriate to infer from that?

Posted by Charles Austin at 08:58 PM | Comments (2)

And We All Know How Much Mr. Bonds Insists Upon Following the Law

Hey, at least he isn't denying it:

Barry Bonds' lawyers say they will ask a judge today to confiscate all profits from a new book alleging that the Giants slugger used steroids, arguing that the book was based on illegally obtained grand jury transcripts.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

Mani is the Mortal Foe of Nuance

Hard to believe this woman was actually Secretary of State:

THE BUSH administration's newly unveiled National Security Strategy might well be subtitled "The Irony of Iran." Three years after the invasion of Iraq and the invention of the phrase "axis of evil," the administration now highlights the threat posed by Iran — whose radical government has been vastly strengthened by the invasion of Iraq. This is more tragedy than strategy, and it reflects the Manichean approach this administration has taken to the world.

And then Ms. Albright shows just how much more superior nuance is to Manichean dichotomies:

For years, the president has acted as if Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's followers and Iran's mullahs were parts of the same problem. Yet, in the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq and Iran fought a brutal war. In the 1990s, Al Qaeda's allies murdered a group of Iranian diplomats. For years, Osama bin Laden ridiculed Hussein, who persecuted Sunni and Shiite religious leaders alike. When Al Qaeda struck the U.S. on 9/11, Iran condemned the attacks and later participated constructively in talks on Afghanistan. The top leaders in the new Iraq — chosen in elections that George W. Bush called "a magic moment in the history of liberty" — are friends of Iran. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bush may have thought he was striking a blow for good over evil, but the forces unleashed were considerably more complex.

The administration is now divided between those who understand this complexity and those who do not.

Never mind.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:21 PM | Comments (2)

UNbelievable (Well, Not Really)

Just in case anyone was holding out hope that the UN would be able to effectively deal with Iran's desire to acquire nuclear weapons:

Russia provided intelligence to Iraq's government in the opening days of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, including information that fed Iraqi suspicions that the main U.S. invasion force coming from Kuwait was actually a diversion, a Pentagon report released on Friday stated. The report said an April 2, 2003, document from the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs to President Saddam Hussein stated that Russian intelligence had reported information on American troops plans to the Iraqis through the Russian ambassador. The intelligence, the document stated, was that the American forces were moving to cut off Baghdad from the south, east and north, that U.S. bombing would concentrate on Baghdad and that the assault on Baghdad would not begin before around April 15.

Just for the record, Pootie-Poot suckie-sucks. But, good luck with that whole "we are the world" thing, Secretary Rice:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a veiled warning Thursday to holdouts in a diplomatic impasse at the United Nations over Iran's disputed nuclear program. "There can't be any stalling," Rice said in response to a question about U.S. efforts to get Russia and China to sign on to a strongly worded rebuke to Tehran. Russia and China have refused to back a U.N. Security Council statement proposed by Britain, France and the United States demanding Iran suspend uranium enrichment.

To abuse a tired aphorism, the friend of my enemy is not my friend.

DOWNDATE: It just occurred to me that if the Russians did give our battle plan to Saddam Hussein just before we liberated Iraq, it only makes our quick success in routing Saddam's forces there look all that more impressive.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2006

And In Really Important News...

Maybe they should have taken the opportunity to hold a quick vote to kick France out of the EU:

French President Jacques Chirac stormed out of the first session of a European summit today to snub a French businessman who switched into English to make an appeal for steps to boost economic competitiveness.

Chirac pulled France's foreign and finance ministers out of the session when French native Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, head of the European Union industry federation, launched into English, a French official told journalists in Brussels.

It really is tough to parody the absurd.

Posted by Charles Austin at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

Is It Coincidence that "Sheen, Ha" Is An Anagram of Sheehan?

It boggles the mind that anyone should care what Charlie Sheen thinks, non sequitur though that may be:

Charlie Sheen, following in the footsteps of his politically outspoken father, Martin Sheen, has joined the chorus of conspiracy theorists who don’t believe the official version of events surrounding 9/11.

The estranged husband of Denise Richards, who is better known for his affinity for prostitutes and gambling than his Homeland Security credentials, told the GCN Radio Network he doesn’t buy the government’s explanation that “19 amateurs with box cutters (took) over four commercial airliners and (hit) 75 percent of their targets.”

Jeez, just imagine how much better they could have done if they were professionals!

The “Two and a Half Men” star, who was shooting his former sitcom “Spin City” the morning the World Trade Center towers fell, said he was immediately suspicious about the official reason given for the buildings’ collapse. After watching in horror as the South Tower was hit, he said to his brother, “call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?”

Ok, you're insane.

The father of two also questioned whether a plane actually hit the Pentagon and how President George Bush was able to see the first plane hit the north tower, when no live footage of that incident was carried.

“I guess one of the perks of being president is that you get access to TV channels that don’t exist in the known universe,” the actor-turned-pseudo-intellect quipped.

“It is up to us to reveal the truth,” Sheen asserted. “We owe it to everybody’s life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened.”

And Charlie has plenty of experience under the covers to get to the bottoms of, well, something.

Posted by Charles Austin at 06:07 PM | Comments (2)

Now That's Progress!

It only took 10 days to sink in:

Commentator Arianna Huffington apologized to readers for a blog posted on her Web site on March 13 that was attributed to actor George Clooney but was actually a compilation of his views.

Huffington acknowledged on her Web site Saturday that she was "blinded" to the issue of assembling a blog in which the source of the material wasn't clear, as was the case with Clooney.

"I now realize that I made a big mistake in posting a blog without clearly identifying that the material in it didn't originate as a blog post, but was pieced together from previous interviews," she wrote. "I'm sorry I didn't see this earlier."

But then again, like Oscar Wilde once said, "the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." And the AP humbly complies.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:55 PM | Comments (1)

No Further Comment Necessary

Muslim scholars in cartoon talks

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:52 PM | Comments (1)

Lex Luthor Showed Us the Way

We can profit from the rising sea level by buying the new beachfront property now without having to set off a nuclear device in the San Andreas fault:

The rumblings of global warming are echoing across Greenland. Groups of scientists studying ancient climate, tweaking computer models of future climate and even listening to earthquakes add to the evidence that global warming is melting polar ice, according to a series of papers in this week's issue of the journal Science. At the current rate of rising temperatures, by the year 2100 Arctic summers could be as warm as they were 130,000 years ago.

You know, 130,000 years ago, the last time Americans were raping the planet and indiscrimnately burning fossil fuels that were going to run out in 30 years years and ..., oh, never mind.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:51 PM | Comments (2)

Simple Math

Airbus is running a tightly scripted demo:

Airbus plans a major certification test on Sunday for its A380, evacuating hundreds of people from the world's biggest passenger jet in just 90 seconds.

The drill will be carried out in darkness in a hangar at the Airbus plant in the north German city of Hamburg, using employees and volunteers selected from 11,000 applicants.

The test is standard procedure in airline production and is vital for the A380 to be certified to carry passengers.

The plane is designed to carry a maximum of 850 passengers and 20 crew, but the largest number of seats planned for initial delivery of the aircraft is 650.

Airbus intends to use the maximum number in Sunday's exercise during which the volunteers will have to escape through half of the plane's 16 doors and slide down emergency chutes to the ground eight metres below.

'We have been preparing for this test with a team of 12 since December 2004 and are confident that everything will go according to plan,' says Hans-Georg Schrader, the man in charge of the operation.

Each volunteer will get a free meal and 60 euros (72 dollars) for the test, which will be recorded on video from nearly 40 different camera angles and overseen by officials of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Ok, let's do the simple math. To achieve its certification, 870 people are going to exit this aircraft from only 8 exits in 90 seconds -- in darkness. So, completely disregarding the difficulties associated with a real disaster that might require abandoning an aircraft -- the injured, the screaming, the panic, etc. -- we will posit ideal conditions and assume that one trained, motivated, and well fed exiter is going to successfully exit the aircraft from each available exit every 0.82758 seconds for 90 seconds.

Good luck.

For cabin attendants overseeing a real-life evacuation it is important to remain calm while getting passengers out of the aircraft as quickly as possible.

If, for example, one of the wings is on fire the doors have to remain sealed on that side of the aircraft and the passengers directed to other exits.

They make it all sound so easy. But who really thinks the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aren't going to certify this aircraft to fly passengers even if they cannot accomplish the impossible? After all:

Singapore Airlines is expected to take delivery of the first two aircraft at the end of this year.

Odds are they didn't buy them to taxi passengers from one terminal to another, even if they are more efficient than the people movers at Dulles.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:43 PM | Comments (1)

She Learnt at the Master's Knee

I am a little depressed because I think that Hillary Clinton is probably going to be the 44th President of the United States. The only glimmer of relief I have is the schadenfreude I know will come when Democrats suddenly discover, too late, that she is willing to sacrifice them for her own success.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:21 PM | Comments (1)

What's Good for the Goose

On the one hand, I do actually agree that this bill isn't law because it does not pass procedural muster:

House Democrats want President Bush to say whether he knew of what they call a "fundamental constitutional problem" with the $39 billion deficit reduction package he signed last month.

A letter to Bush, signed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman of California and released Thursday, is the latest challenge to a bill that was passed in slightly different forms by the House and Senate before it was sent to Bush.

"A bill is not law unless the same version is passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by the president," top Democrats wrote to Bush. He signed it on Feb. 8.

To believe otherwise is inconsistent with my previous statements and beliefs concerning the citizenry's ability to follow basic, simple voting rules and procedures if they want their votes to count. On the other hand(s):

1. I know that there isn't a single Congressman or Congresswoman who has even read every bill they have voted on, so it is kind of funny to me that this is one of the battles they choose to fight. But let's be honest, this isn't about a procedural slip up that they really want to rectify, it's about the federal government spending more money! Or at least the Democrat's ability to demagogue up the works again if they can.

2. FWIW, I would be more than a little surprised if this really is the first time such a procedural slip has occurred.

3. Knowing that Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman are on one side of the discussion is an extremely good inverted predictor of what is right.

4. It is just so like the current Democratic leadership (and previous ones who focused so much on controlling legal authorities) to insist on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. though both remain critically important.

5. Finally, resorting to "What did the president know and when did he know it?", reflects such a desperate nostalgia for the good old days of Watergate as to, let's see, how did John Green put it ..., oh yes ..., make me puke.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

"La La La La La La La La ..."

That sound you hear from the next cubicle is just a moonbat with his fingers stuck in his ears:

A newly released pre-war Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995 after approval by Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden asked that Iraq broadcast the lectures of Suleiman al Ouda, a radical Saudi preacher, and suggested "carrying out joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. According to the document, Saddam's presidency was informed of the details of the meeting on March 4, 1995 and Saddam agreed to dedicate a program for them on the radio. The document states that further "development of the relationship and cooperation between the two parties to be left according to what's open (in the future) based on dialogue and agreement on other ways of cooperation." The Sudanese were informed about the agreement to dedicate the program on the radio.

The report then states that "Saudi opposition figure" bin Laden had to leave Sudan in July 1996 after it was accused of harboring terrorists. It says information indicated he was in Afghanistan. "The relationship with him is still through the Sudanese. We're currently working on activating this relationship through a new channel in light of his current location," it states.

(Editor's Note: This document is handwritten and has no official seal. Although contacts between bin Laden and the Iraqis have been reported in the 9/11 Commission report and elsewhere, (e.g. the 9/11 report states "Bin Ladn himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995) this document indicates the contacts were approved personally by Saddam Hussein.

It also indicates the discussions were substantive, in particular that bin Laden was proposing an operational relationship, and that the Iraqis were, at a minimum, interested in exploring a potential relationship and prepared to show good faith by broadcasting the speeches of al Ouda, the radical cleric who was also a bin Laden mentor.

The document does not establish that the two parties did in fact enter into an operational relationship. Given that the document claims bin Laden was proposing to the Iraqis that they conduct "joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia, it is interesting to note that eight months after the meeting — on November 13, 1995 — terrorists attacked Saudi National Guard Headquarters in Riyadh, killing 5 U.S. military advisors. The militants later confessed on Saudi TV to having been trained by Osama bin Laden.)

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:35 PM | Comments (1)

With Apologies to Monty Python

Drudge: See! Big Media hates Bush! You automatically gainsay anything the President does.
ABC: No, we don't.
Drudge: Yes, you do!
ABC: No, we don't.
Drudge: Yes, you do!
ABC: No, we don't.
Drudge: Yes, you do! John Green slipped up and admitted it on your corporate e-mail system.
ABC: He could have been hating Bush on his own time.
ABC: And stop questioning our patriotism by stifling our dissent!

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:30 PM | Comments (1)

Adventures in Headline Writing

Aid workers freed in Iraq

I have a problem with that headline. It seems to me that the verb "freed" implies that their kidnappers let them go. I think the verb "rescued" is much more appropriate here. In fact, I think Reuters agrees with me since the first sentence of this story reads:

British-led forces rescued three Christian peace activists from captivity on Thursday after finding them tied up in a house in western Baghdad, two weeks after their American colleague was tortured and killed.

Too bad Tom Fox wasn't "freed" a few weeks ago.

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2006

Zen and the Art of Crumbling Empire Maintenance

After a few weeks hiatus, it's time for another Caption Contest (#6).


Go ahead, give Pootie-Poot your worst.

DOWNDATE: Is it just me or does Putin remind anyone else of Dave Foley's succubus on The Kids in the Hall?

Posted by Charles Austin at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

Global Warming Landmarks

Tim Blair asked folks to name some of the new World Heritage sites the U.N. might designate The Day After Tomorrow. Alas, since I cannot leave a comment there, I'll leave them here:

The North Pool
Disneyisland or Key North (formerly known as Orlando)
The Appalachian Barrier Islands
Land's End (formerly known as Exeter)
Turtle Sea (formerly known as Turtle Bay)
The White Seamount of Dover
La Petite Tetons (La Petitons?)
Half Half Dome (Quarter Dome?)
The Hawaiian Island
Loch Arizona

And I can't wait for the film version of the the overly sensitive climatologist who fell asleep after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and woke to find it only 998 feet above the new sea level : The Man Who Climbed Up a Mountain But Came Down a Hill.

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

More Evidence That It Really Is Hard Out Here for a Pimp

Geico has committed the unforgiveable sin of noting that some people and professions are inherently more trustworthy than others:

A leading U.S. consumer group Monday accused Geico Corp. (BRK) of using consumers' education backgrounds and occupations as criteria in setting auto insurance rates, resulting in discrimination against minorities and lower-income people. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) charged that the No. 4 U.S. auto insurer, has adopted rating methods and underwriting guidelines in 44 states that directly tie rates to education and occupation.

Of course, suggesting that you can shop at another insurance carrier is perhaps asking too much of someone who is already discrimated against because of the education and occupation.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

I Have To Highlight This Poll

Because I think I was interviewed by a Zogby zombie about two months ago to help generate the results:

Mexicans see Americans as racist, dishonest and exploitative, while Americans see Mexicans as hardworking and think they are more tolerant than Americans.

A new survey of attitudes the two countries hold toward each other showed the border is more than a geographic divide, but also a fissure in public opinions of the two nations and what their citizens think of each other.

The poll, taken by New York-based Zogby International and the Centro de Investigacion para el Desarrollo AC in Mexico City, found that 62 percent of Mexicans surveyed said the United States is more wealthy than Mexico because "it exploits others' wealth." Only 22 percent said it was because the United States is "a free country where people have plenty of opportunity to work."

Among Americans, 78 percent saw Mexicans as hardworking, and 44 percent saw them as tolerant. Among Mexicans, just 26 percent saw Americans as hardworking, 16 percent saw them as honest and 73 percent said Americans are racist.

"Mexicans think Americans are neither hard workers nor honest," the report's authors wrote. "They see them as racist, intolerant and moderately law-abiding."

The challenge of being lazy, dishonest, racist and intolerant, though moderately law-abiding was not further discussed.

I think I must have been a real outlier as the questions came and I was offered only multiple choice answers that were neither mutually exclusive nor comprehensive of the set of answers I had in response. At one point I was asked how many Canadian provinces and Mexican states I could name. She cut me off at around 10 of the Canadian provinces and 8 of the Mexican states, stating that very few of the respondents could name three of either. The fact that I am generally well informed, though conservative, and very much in favor of increased legal immigration also seemed to make me something of an oddball, if I interpreted her comments correctly

But the real reason I am writing abou this now is that the Zogby zombie asked me if I would be willing to participate in more surveys, presumably because my answers were sufficiently idiosyncratic enough that they could be manipulated with the appropriate phrasing of questions in the future. Alas, despite assurances that I would be hearing from them very soon, no further communication has taken place. So my ability to provide a lonely data point of logical sanity in these seriously bogus polls appears to have been lost.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:36 PM | Comments (2)

Dog Bites Man

It never ceases to amaze me at what passes for research these days:

Long-term heavy users of marijuana perform significantly worse on tests of mental agility and physical dexterity than short-term users or nonusers, even when they have abstained from smoking for more than 24 hours, new research shows.

Apparently there must be some new strains of pot that invalidated all the previous, ahem, research.

Even after controlling for I.Q., other drug use, age, sex, depression and other variables, long-term users scored significantly lower than control group members and shorter-term users on tests of verbal fluency, memory and coordination.

Let me guess, more federal funding is now needed. Or maybe we should adopt the Canadian method of dealing with alcoholics and just give the stoners all the weed they need - for the children, of course.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

Never Say, "Never Again"

Even now, some people refuse to defend themselves:

Outside the kosher grocery shops and grey apartment blocks of Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, a softly spoken teacher at a local Jewish school was discussing whether Jews in France should carry guns to defend themselves. "Everyone is worried about anti-semitic attacks and people don't have faith in the police to protect them. Some have spoken to me about carrying arms. But what would I gain from carrying a pistol? Absolutely nothing," Michael Amer said.

Read the rest of the article for a long list of recent anti-Semitic crimes in France, and then marvel yet again at a culture that has conditioned men to be sheep led to the slaughter.

Posted by Charles Austin at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

Abraham Lincoln Once Said...

"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

I bring this up because of Austria's suicidal march to the gallows:

Last week three Muslim conscripts of the Austrian army refused to salute the Austrian flag because this was incompatible with their faith. The Austrian paper Die Presse (18 March) reported that three soldiers of the Maria Theresia barracks, where most of the 1,000 Muslim soldiers serve, refused to salute the flag at a parade and instead turned their backs on it. The soldiers were not disciplined. However, an imam was summoned to issue a fatwa stating that Muslims are allowed to salute the Austrian flag.

Austrian Army officers have complained that Muslim conscripts – about 3,5% of the Austrian armed forces – are unable to do most jobs because they have permission to pray 5 times a day, no matter what job they are performing at the time. Some who attend Friday Prayers stay away for the rest of the day.

Following the incident the Austrian defense minister Günther Platter announced that the army will engage imams as permanent chaplains in order to mediate future conflicts. Die Presse suggests that it would be better to follow the example of the Austrian police and appoint Muslim officers to command Muslim recruits.

I would have thought Europe wouldn't goosestep their way so easily to institutionalized Balkanization. I can only imagine the Austrian Army recruiting posters: "An Army of Some of These, and Some of Those, and a Few of Them..."

Posted by Charles Austin at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

What Happens On the Day Kim Jong-Il Wakes Up...

And suddenly discovers that we are taking him at his word?

North Korea suggested Tuesday it had the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack on the United States, according to the North's official news agency.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.

"As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike," the spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States."

I really like this next part, though:

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on the reports.

It reminds me of something I read sometime back, though I cannot remember the specifics. France had just done something French in the colonies and an aide asked the British PM if he was going to send a message, and he replied, "No, I've sent the Marines," or something to that effect.

Posted by Charles Austin at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

In Answer to Those of You Not From the Greater St. Louis Area...

Yes, it is necessary to remind Democratic Party operatives that it is illegal to buy votes:

Democratic leaders in one Illinois county have begun making very clear what other politicians might consider obvious: Party money should not be used to buy votes.

The Democratic Party in St. Clair County has sent out reminders to precinct committeemen that party money can't be used to influence votes.

The refresher course on democracy follows the June convictions of five East St. Louis politicians for vote buying. Prosecutors said they had helped distribute more than $70,000 received by city Democratic precinct committeemen just before the 2004 election from the county Democratic organization.

The committeemen were recently sent a one-page letter from St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Robert Sprague saying that money from the county committee should be used only to pay to help get the vote out.

Precinct leaders should "keep a record of all expenses" and "under no circumstances" use party money to pay for votes, the letter says.

Strangely enough, this AP story hasn't made it into the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But I do like the headline the Arizona Republic put on this story:

Ill. Democrats promise not to buy votes

Because we all know how much faith we can put into promises by politicians.

Posted by Charles Austin at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

If Only He Were President...

Mr. Kerry said:

"This president has the worst job performance record in 50 years."


U.S. college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001, with business, computer, engineering, education and health care grads in highest demand, a report by an employment consulting firm showed on Monday. "We are approaching full employment and some employers are already dreaming up perks to attract the best talent," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

This kind of reminds me of the old story about when we were 25, how we looked at our parents and were amazed at how much they had learned in the last 7 years.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Adventures in Headline Writing

Scandal shakes public radio

Actually, that should be:

Scandal shakes public radio, again

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

Michael Moore Should Be Happy

Mother Nature seems to be focusing on states that voted for Bush, and countries that agreed with him about Saddam Hussein.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

Reading, Writing, and Watching TV

I couldn't care less whether Katie stays or goes, but this caught my eye:

TV shows are delicate enterprises that can fall apart after only the slightest tremor, and "Today" is no exception. Last spring, its ratings suddenly started to plummet, and ABC's "Good Morning America" came within just 45,000 viewers of beating it. NBC said the show had grown sloppy and brought in new management. "Imagine the trouble that Katie leaving could cause," says Bob Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television.

Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television. Keep that in mind next time you read that tuition costs are rising by another 8% next year.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

Going Down, Er, I Mean, Rejected

Perhaps they no longer need to see it to recognize it:

The Supreme Court turned back an appeal on Monday from a photographer who claimed a federal decency law violated her free-speech rights to post pictures of sadomasochistic sexual behavior on the Web.

Posted by Charles Austin at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

Sell the Fizzle

Not the flakes:

Anti-war protesters in SLC, elsewhere lament apathy

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

You Want to Know Why the U.N. Isn't Doing Anything About the Genocide in Darfur?

Maybe it's because the U.N. thinks the human race can use a little culling:

Humans are responsible for the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs and must make unprecedented extra efforts to reach a goal of slowing losses by 2010, a U.N. report said on Monday.

Posted by Charles Austin at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2006

It's Effective...

But you can only do it once:

Before cops threw the book at him, Jakub Fik threw something unusual at them -- his penis. Fik, 33, cut off his own penis during a Northwest Side rampage Wednesday morning. When confronted by police, Fik hurled several knives and his severed organ at the officers, police said.

Or twice:

Dr. Greg Bales, associate professor of urology at the University of Chicago, said severed penises are uncommon but surgery usually works. "As long as the penis is placed on ice and reattached within a few hours, the success is usually pretty good," Bales said.

Posted by Charles Austin at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

Not Counting My Chickens Yet...

But how is one of the lowest scoring, most deliberate offenses in the country (Air Force) going to score 42 points in the second half against one of the best defenses in the country (Illinois)? Then again, that assumes Illinois will match its first half output. I never get cocky about rooting for Illinois in the tournament. While the comeback against Arizona gives teams well behind hope forever, I was in the third row across from the Illiinois bench when Illinois lost to Austin Peay.

P.S. Anybody seen Billy Packer lately? Does anyone else get the idea that Billy "the committee should look at performance over the last five years" Packer is frightened by change? What exactly would be the rationale for that, other than guaranteeing Duke a #1 seed in perpetuity?

P.P.S. And I see Chevrolet has joined the Duke/Vitale/ESPN/Amex recruiting team.

DOWNDATE: Well, Air Force got 41, but they needed 51. Now I can watch another Big 10 team (Indiana), a game 5-12 matchup between Texas A&M and Syracuse, or a blowout featuring Duke. Naturally, CBS believes the good people of St. Louis cannot get enough of Duke.

Posted by Charles Austin at 09:41 PM | Comments (2)

March 14, 2006

Mama Always Said...

Stupid is as stupid does.


Any politician who would put up a sign like this and allow themselves to be photographed with it probably is, well, dangerously incompetent.

DOWNDATE: Gratuitous bastardized Steely Dan lyric:

It's a special lack of grace,
I can see it in your face.
I can see by what you carry
That you come from Michigan.

Posted by Charles Austin at 10:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2006

I Was Wrong

I didn't really think I could think less of the NCAA than I already did. Hmm..., guess they didn't like Illinois appealing their politically correct tyranny.

Jeff Sagarin thinks Illinois is the seventh best team in the country. The NCAA selection committee thinks Illinois should travel to San Diego and face two teams from the West for the right to play Connecticut in eleven days. Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini are seeded behind North Carolina and Tennessee. Unbelievable. Having a better record in a better conference apparently means nothing in either case. Nor does beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill, apparently. Oh, and then for good measure, they threw Michigan State in this region as well. That's three of last year's Final Four in this region. Too bad Louisville didn't qualify this year, eh? Thanks guys.

I would worry more, but the talking heads on CBS and ESPN are both putting Connecticut through to the Final Four without question. It does seem strange to hear that Illinois is in the easiest bracket, albeit for someone else. At least Illiinois doesn't have to go through Arizona and Kansas again this year. Sweet.

For good measure the NCAA really screwed Missouri State, where my wife's step-brother teaches. This is the highest rated RPI team in history to not be selected for the tournament since it went to 64 teams. For those of you who haven't known me for a while I have a scar on my forehead somewhat akin to Harry Potter's -- and it's on fire again right now.

Anyone else think it's time for Billy Packer to retire?

Looking forward to next week. Brackets published in the next couple of days.

Posted by Charles Austin at 07:29 PM | Comments (3)