"A Microphone Listened for Thunder" Mood:
It's all good in the Solar System today with the successful landing of the Cassini-Huygens probe on the surface of Saturn's moon, Titan.
Titan is [...] the only moon in the solar system to retain a substantial atmosphere, one even thicker than Earth's.
The 703-pound, battery-powered Huygens probe parachuted through Titan's clouds of methane and nitrogen for two-and-a-half hours, sampling gases and capturing panoramic pictures along the way.
Huygens hit the upper atmosphere 789 miles (1,270 km) above the moon at a speed of about 13,700 mph (22,000 km/h). A series of three parachutes slowed the craft to just 15 mph (24 km/h). Chutes and special insulation protected Huygens from temperature swings and violent air currents. Strong winds -- in excess of 311 mph (500 km/h) -- buffeted the craft.
Its sensors deduced wind speed, atmospheric pressure and the conductivity of Titan's air. Methane clouds and possibly hydrocarbon rain was analyzed by an onboard gas chromatograph. A microphone listened for thunder.
The Principled Atheist, a Rectal Probe Now Playing: "One Toke over the Line" by Brewer & Shipley
As an atheist, I find the vast majority of other atheists to be obnoxious. Or maybe it's just the ones who are religiously and politically devoted to being atheists. They are, in fact, worse than politically active gay rights types because their cause is usually infused with a kind of nihilism that offends a polite society, whereas the homosexual agenda is something that's life-affirming (as well as fabulous).
Take, for example, this worm named Michael Newdow, who got his 15 minutes a few years ago during his fight to keep his precious daughter from having to hear the phrase "under God" incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance. Now this rectal probe is going for another shot at the big time with a lawsuit seeking to preclude the invocation prayer at the President's Inauguration next week.
"I am going to be standing there having this imposed on me," Newdow told the court by phone on Thursday. "They will be telling me I'm an outsider at that particular moment."
Michael Newdow, you absolutely need to go fuck yourself. You don't have a Constitutional right to not be subjected to religion. This is a pluralistic society, full of religious traditions and the people who observe them. What kind of a sterile, fucked up world do you live in when you are so intolerant of the Christian religion that you can't bear the thought of seeing others practice it?
You need to make peace with these people, dumbass. You need to be charitable ---in the best sense of that word--- and realize the power of their beliefs in their lives and in the life of this nation. It wasn't godforsaken Mohammedans or Oriental navel-gazers who founded this country's political and economic culture; it was Christians. Learn some History and know that this was no accident.
Reconstruction of the Fables
Here's a neat story at CNN.com:
A Roman statue of Atlas -- the mythical titan who carried the heavens on his shoulders -- holds clues to the long-lost work of the ancient astronomer Hipparchus, an astronomical historian said Tuesday.
The statue in question is known as the Farnese Atlas, a 7-foot tall marble work which resides in the Farnese Collection in the National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy.
What makes it important to scientists is not the titan's muscular form but the globe he supports: carved constellations adorn its surface in exactly the locations Hipparchus would have seen in his day, suggesting that the sculptor based the globe on the ancient astronomer's star catalog, which no modern eyes have seen.
I like stuff like that. Like echoes and adumbrations of unrecoverable things by which we can still know some part. Paintings only known through copies. Different colors of bricks in the walls of an old house, suggesting some now-lost window on a completely different view. It's some sort of fossil-love, baby, and it's all around us: in our etymology, in our genes, and in our faces.
People don't use enough commas. I've been using and abusing them since at least high school English class, but I've managed to winnow out most of the superfluous ones over time. The one I find missing most often is the one that belongs in what I guess is called a vocative statement where someone is being addressed. People are omitting it from its proper place before the name of the addressee. It doesn't look right and it's confusing in certain contexts.
Read this John Fund piece in the Wall Street Journal about the shenanigans in Washington state's gubernatorial election. The most interesting item I picked up from it was (emphasis mine):
Slade Gorton, a Republican former state attorney general and U.S. senator who is advising Mr. Rossi, says a court should order a revote rather than declare valid one of the two earlier vote counts that Mr. Rossi won. "No one can govern effectively under the cloud this race has created," Mr. Gorton says. He notes that state law doesn't require any showing of fraud to contest an election. "That is irrelevant to whether the election should be done over," he says. "The law is quite clear in giving a court the right to void any election where the number of illegal or mistaken votes exceeds the margin of victory, and it has done so in the past."
There it is. That's the precedent. The election of the Governor of the State of Washington ought to be voided.
Channeling Andy Rooney
You know what really annoys me? It's DUMB ASSHOLES who don't know how to back into a parking space. I guess these people are just so cool or busy that they figure they'll need to be able to just drive straight away as soon as they get in their cars to leave. Can't spare those extra seven seconds of motor coordination on your way to the mall or LaKeisha's apartment? Is that why you do it? I don't know.
It's obvious that these geniuses are either such UNSKILLED IDIOTS or such INCONSIDERATE ASSHOLES that that they either don't know how to do it cleanly or don't care if they do. My money's on "all of the above."
Did someone tell these kind of people that they are saving themselves extra work by backing into parking spaces? I wouldn't doubt such a belief in others, having probably held the same one ---for about five seconds of idle thought while sitting in a back seat somewhere when I was eight.
If you can't pull it off and keep it between the lines, you FUCKING DOLT, don't even try. Not when the failure to do so ---coupled with the indifference such people have towards correcting it--- is the difference between my having a good parking space outside my own front door and having to suffer your self-centered stupidity by parking out of my line of sight.
(Note to garage-owners in decent middle-class neighborhoods: I'll be next door to you again soon enough but, in the meantime, go fuck yourselves.)
Posted by Toby Petzold
at 9:23 PM CST
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Updated: Sunday, 9 January 2005 9:27 PM CST
Saturday, 8 January 2005
The Car Swarm People Are Voting
I think the Palestinians' polls have been open for a couple hours now. Abu Mazen is looking to ride the landslide to victory, but he's got too many cooks in the kitchen with him. If he tries to make nice with Sharon, Hamas and the other nutjobs will murder him. If he tries to do an impression of the Arafish, the IDF will send one across his bow. No assassination necessary, but a very communicative moment will suffice.
It's a meaningless election, as many of the Car Swarm People would tell you themselves, but I still hope for a big turnout. And I hope the Israelis make a big deal out of it and get Sharon to shake Mazen's hand and smile for the cameras. These people need to see that their decisions have consequences ---and not always just bad ones.
The idea is to get from the appearance of democratic rule to its actual practice. There are hopeful signs here and there. Assad may be getting the message with respect to his border with Iraq. Mubarak is wishing aloud for full participation in the vote in Iraq. And the Deadline is holding firm. I wish Sistani would come out and finally play a hand for once, but that might take the mystique off his brow. Who knows? Our men and women are doing the Lord's work each and every day. But come hell or high water, the Middle East will be changed. I say for the better ---and why not?
The Thousand-Yard Stare
Courtesy of Blackfive read this great story about a Texas boy named Herbert B. Hancock who is now credited with the longest confirmed kill shot on a terrorist in Iraq.
AR RAMADI, Iraq (Jan. 02, 2005) -- Seen through a twenty-power spot scope, terrorists scrambled to deliver another mortar round into the tube. Across the Euphrates River from a concealed rooftop, the Marine sniper breathed gently and then squeezed a few pounds of pressure to the delicate trigger of the M40A3 sniper rifle in his grasp.
The rifle's crack froze the booming Fallujah battle like a photograph. As he moved the bolt back to load another round of 7.62mm ammunition, the sniper's spotter confirmed the terrorist went down from the shot mere seconds before the next crack of the rifle dropped another.
One down and thousands to go.
"From the information we have, our chief scout sniper has the longest confirmed kill in Iraq so far," said Capt. Shayne McGinty, weapons platoon commander for "Bravo" Co. "In Fallujah there were some bad guys firing mortars at us and he took them out from more than 1,000 yards."
During the battle for the war-torn city, 1/23 Marine scout snipers demonstrated with patience, fearless initiative and wits that well-trained Marines could be some of the deadliest weapons in the world.
"You really don't have a threat here until it presents itself," said Sgt. Herbert B. Hancock, chief scout sniper, 1/23, and a 35-year-old police officer from Bryan, Texas, whose specialized training and skill helped save the lives of his fellow Marines during the battle. "In Fallujah we really didn't have that problem because it seemed like everybody was shooting at us. If they fired at us we just dropped them."
Outstanding work, gentlemen. Your country is proud of you.
Off to Kill Some Americans
Maybe in the carnage of the past few weeks ---whether in Iraq or elsewhere--- I did not make myself aware of a very important fact about the murder of our troops and contractors in Mosul a few days before Christmas. This, according to Stephen Schwartz:
ON December 21, a terrorist blew himself up in the U.S. military mess hall in Mosul, in northern Iraq. Twenty-two people were killed, including U.S. soldiers and contractors.
And now comes big news: The perpetrator was the oldest son of a diplomat from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our alleged ally in the War on Terror.
On Monday, the Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al-Awsat identified the butcher responsible: 20-year old Ahmad Sayyid Ahmad al-Ghamdi, a Saudi medical student.
The bomber acted as a member of Ansar al-Sunnah (Volunteers of Sunni Islam), one of the most violent terror groups in Iraq, and an al Qaeda ally.
The name "al-Ghamdi" should ring bells; the family is large, and three of its members were involved in the 9/11 assault.
The Saudi daily, and Western media, identified the Mosul bomber, and even said they had spoken with his father. But no one has mentioned who the father is: Sayyid al-Ghamdi, former head of the Saudi diplomatic mission in Sudan, a country ruled by an Islamist regime that once played host to Osama bin Laden himself.
Before the day is done, there shall be a reckoning all over the Muslim world. That is the one thing that will justify us.
Via The Left Coaster, here's a story about the Bush Administration paying black conservative commentator Armstrong Williams almost a quarter of a million dollars to shill for them. Specifically, Williams was paid to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on his TV show and in his newspaper columns.
Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."
That's outrageous. As Steve Soto observed:
No Armstrong, if you did it because you believe in it, you would have done it without shaking down the taxpayers for it. You did it because you are a conservative who values money above all else. Perhaps you can spout for us how many African Americans have been helped by the passage of NCLB, and why we should ignore the fraud behind this law that took place in W's Texas schools.
Despite Soto's weird implication that it's just conservatives who value money, I wholeheartedly agree with him on this. If Williams is such a great believer in the NCLB, he shouldn't require a Jesse Jackson-style retainer for his work in promoting it. It's inexcusable.
Professor Greyhawk's Got a Test for You
Be sure to go here at The Mudville Gazette and take a test from Greyhawk on your general knowledge of the Scandal of Abu Ghraib. It may be a real eye-opener for some of you shithooks.
For my money, the most important one to get right is No. 6:
The Army suppressed the story of Abu Ghraib until the 60 Minutes broadcast.
True or False
I'll help you out: it's false. But lots of anti-military Leftists are convinced it's true. Why's that? Because they've lost their minds.
Glug, Glug, Glurg...
Over at Balloon Juice, there's some trenchant analysis of why Ted Kennedy should never be the one to discuss water torture in public. As he said to Alberto Gonzales during yesterday's grandstanding (emphasis added):
KENNEDY: Well, just as an attorney, as a human being, I would have thought that if there were recommendations that were so blatantly and flagrantly over the line in terms of torture, that you might have recognized them. I mean, it certainly appears to me that water boarding, with all its descriptions about drowning someone to that kind of a point, would come awfully close to getting over the border, and that you'd be able to at least say today, There were some that were recommended or suggested on that, but I certainly wouldn't have had a part of that, as a human being.
To which our man adds:
Ted Kennedy's deep thoughts on simulated drowning- too bad Mary Jo Kopechne wasn't a suspected terrorist. With Teddy K's vice-like grip on morality, she would be enjoying her 64th year of life on this planet today. Of course, maybe he is learning- this is 'drowning someone to a point,' a sense of finesse that previously eluded Teddy Chappaquiddick.
Why don't these prick bastards understand that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to terrorists? If you were to actually take jihadis at their word, dying and suffering for the sake of Islam is a certain path to Paradise, so what do they care? If suffocating or burning these savages' nads off brings us closer to the information we need to end their terrorism, then so be it.
We are, as Gonzales had to remind South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, "nothing like our enemies." If we sink to their level, we know ourselves well enough to find the way back up.
CORRECTION: Gonzales' actual words to Graham were: "I reject your suggestion that we are becoming like our enemy. We are nothing compared to our enemy."
We're Still Waiting, Courageous Dan
The guys at the Power Line completely bitch-slap Corey Pein of the Columbia Journalism Review over his ridiculous article defending Dan Rather and the "fake, but accurate" Killian Forgeries. Read theirs first.
And, just in case you forgot what a total load of horseshit Bill Burkett's story was, John Hinderaker sums it up nicely:
[...]Pein fails to address obvious problems in the 60 Minutes story. Astonishingly, he tries to shore up Bill Burkett's credibility, quoting someone who described Burkett as "honest and forthright." This might, I suppose, carry some weight with readers who don't know that Burkett never served in the Texas Air National Guard; doesn't know President Bush from Adam; has a longstanding grievance against the Texas National Guard (Army) because of medical benefits he was denied; has suffered a series of what he describes as mental breakdowns, and suffered another mental breakdown while being interviewed by USA Today after the Memogate scandal broke; told a bizarre and obviously false story about the origin of the CBS documents--he got a call from a mystery woman named Lucy Ramirez, who told him to go to the Texas Livestock Show; he went to the show, didn't see Ms. Ramirez, but was approached by a man whom he'd never seen before; the man handed him an envelope and walked away; in the envelope were the National Guard documents; he took them home, made copies, burned the originals--of course, what a natural thing to do--and then presented the copies to CBS.
Why is it that so many people can't bring themselves to acknowledge that Rather and CBS News lied to the American people? Lied. Not accidentally misled (because they were misled), but lied. I think it's probably attributable to the trust that CBS News has built up over the decades. They have authority, even now. But in the new world of getting your ass fact-checked in real time and worldwide, that authority has unquestionably been diminished.
Courtesy of Real Clear Politics, here's a piece from yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer by David E. Johnson on the stolen governorship in Washington state.
If you don't win the election on the first count -- demand a recount and litigate until you get the result you want (or the U.S. Supreme Court says enough of this foolishness).
That has become the Democrats new mantra as seen in the past week's certification of Christine Gregoire as governor of Washington following three counts of the ballot; two of which she lost.
The third, a manual recount with dubious ballots suddenly discovered in heavily Democratic King County that were not counted previously gave her the election. Now we must stop counting ballots or contesting irregularities, cry the Democrats because they might lose again.
I'm Not Gonna Say It Now Playing: "Winter" by Tori Amos
According to terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia might have put the damper down on Islamist terrorism in that region. At least for a while.
Several hundred people were killed this past year in southern Thailand in the festering insurgency between Islamic separatists and the Thai military. And Aceh, the hardest hit area in Indonesia, is the home of GAM, a separatist group that has been waging a sporadic conflict with the Jakarta government.
It was precisely in these areas that the devastation was worst. Some of it, says Gunaratna, took a toll on the terrorist and insurgent movements, who lost both fighters and infrastructure when the waves crashed on shore.
"This is a golden opportunity for the United States," says Gunaratna.
Yes, well, we aim to please. Nothing like a massive natural disaster to bring people over to Uncle Sam's side.
Be sure to tune in to your local PBS station tonight to watch NOVA's Welcome to Mars ---a documentary recounting the past year of the fantastic Mars rovers.
NASA's twin Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have yielded volumes of new data about the red planet in the last year - the least of which involves the planet's history of water. But the rovers have also amazed their human handlers with their longevity, lasting nearly four times their initial 90-day mission despite some early glitches that popped up after landing.
Man-made robots rolling around on another planet. Does it get better than that?