Saturday, December 30, 2006


"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant." - remark attributed to Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku

Whether or not Yamamoto actually said this is a moot point now. What matters is that it is germane to this post about the repercussions of our judicial murder of Saddam Hussein.

Yes, the death penalty is referred to as judicial murder, so get used to the term.

And what happened in the gallows room at Baghdad was not justice, I'm afraid. One of the commenters over at Steve Gilliard's News Blog put his finger right on it - this was a lynching, nothing more nor less.

EVERYONE knew what the outcome of this would be - Saddam would die, pure and simple.

Now he's dead, and will be buried beside his sons on his tribe's territory near Tikrit. But what happens now?

To give you a hint, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said about three years ago that if we killed Saddam it would "open the gates of Hell."

Lasciate ogni' speranza, voi ch'intrate.

Okay, We Won.

In what might possibly be the worst miscarriage of justice since the Rosenbergs or Sacco and Vanzetti the Iraqi Puppet Government last night hanged Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (about 6:05 AM Baghdad time). US news media showed the announcement along with video of Iraqi-Americans dancing in the streets in Dearborn, Michigan.

Make no mistake - we are being blamed for Saddam's death. It would have been far better if the troops who found him had killed him on the spot or dropped a grenade down that "spider hole." It would have saved us the trouble that we are going to be in now.

The remnant Ba'ath Party and probably a lot of the Sunni minority in Iraq will immediately blame us, and some bombs have gone off. Expect more.

The number of Americans dead this month has reached 106.

Expect more.

Okay, we won - we killed Saddam.

Now what?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pity Party

I was perusing the Washington Post (something I am wont to do, as I am a bit masochistic) when this article smacked me in the eyes:

Bush's New Look on Iraq: Weary

Oh, fucking "Wahhhh!"

Let's have a pity party for the President. Iraq's stressing him out and he looks tired.


Now, I'll be the first one to admit that the post of President has a great deal of stress attached to it, and people in the job age rapidly. But to act all sympathetic about what is essentially a self-inflicted wound (Georgie, you really DIDN'T have to invade Iraq, despite what Cheney told you) is quite beyond the pale.

Bush says he sleeps well at night - how he can sleep at night without seeing the faces of those his war has killed is beyond me (but fits in well with several theories that say he's either narcissistic or a sociopath).

I would join the Pity Party, but I don't have an iPod small enough to play "Hearts and Roses" for him. All I have is the iPod Angstrom, which is exactly 6 hydrogen atoms wide. The controls for it take up most of a large room, but you get great sound quality.

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr (Leslie Lynch King), 1913-2006

You really had to pity Gerald Ford when he took over the Vice President's position after Spiro Agnew was run out of office like a poison troll. Here he was, a successful and respected member of the House for many years and he gets tapped to bring a bit of luster to the floundering Nixon Administration.

Imagine his shock when Nixon resigned and left him the job, the first President of our age to get the post without being elected.

Talk about your baggage.

Add to all that the national hemorrhage that was Watergate and the tragedy of Vietnam. Ford presided over both of those, along with an economy that sliding deep into the crapper as the inevitable bills came due from our military adventures.

Ford did his best, it must be admitted.

So let the Holy Choir Invisible (recently given a healthy shot of rhythm with its addition of James Brown to its ranks - be fair, Tupac wasn't cutting it) strike up the University of Michigan fight song.

Rest in peace, Jerry.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Christmas Parable

Yep, here we are, folks, December 25th. Hmm, what holiday are we celebrating today?

Could it be the Feast of the Unconquered Sun, the Mithraic holy day that marks the lengthening of the days after the winter solstice with lots of food and paryting? Or the old Roman Saturnalia, that commemorates the fabled Golden Age by parying and getting blind drunk? Or could it be the birth of Jesus?

If you picked "c," you haven't been paying attention.

Back in the day (along about 200 AD or so), the Catholic Church had a problem. People were embracing Christianity, sure, but they were still hanging onto the old pagan festivals and gods. What to do? Well, the answer was if you can't beat 'em, assimilate 'em.

Sort of a Borg Approach to Theology.

So a lot of minor gods were identified with saints (Castor and Pollux with Sts. Cosmas and Dismas, for example), and a lot of pagan festivals were also taken into Christianity. One of those was Christmas. See, a lot of Biblical scholars feel that Jesus was born in the spring, not in the middle of winter - all it takes is a deft hand with the calendar.

Unfortunately, everyone still regarded the 25th as the time to party, drink heavily and hand out gifts, and that fine old tradition continued until the end of the English Civil War. England was now in the grip of the Puritans, a radical sect of Protestant Christianity that was very fundamentalist. These people were horrified that folks would have a party to celebrate a birth, even if it was the birth of Jesus. And a fundamentalist can't abide anyone having fun if he can help it.

So the Puritans banned Christmas.

You heard me.

And that ban stayed in place until the Restoration of the English monarchy, and stayed in place in the Plimoth and Massachusetts Bay colonies for several years afterward. Seems that despite all the efforts of Christians to put a damper on Christmas, people still liked a good party.

So, drink up, eat until you're full, and party hearty!

It's Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Present We'd Like to See

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Sweet Sound of Exploding Heads

This is from CNN:

Virgin Komodo dragon is expecting

POSTED: 1:25 p.m. EST, December 20, 2006

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Flora, a pregnant Komodo dragon living in a British zoo, is expecting eight babies in what scientists said on Wednesday could be a Christmas virgin birth. Flora has never mated, or even mixed, with a male dragon, and fertilized all the eggs herself, a process culminating in parthenogenesis, or virgin birth. Other lizards do this, but scientists only recently found that Komodo dragons do too.

"Nobody in their wildest dreams expected this. But you have a female dragon on her own. She produces a clutch of eggs and those eggs turn out to be fertile. It is nature finding a way," Kevin Buley of Chester Zoo in England said in an interview.

He said the incubating eggs could hatch around Christmas.

Parthenogenesis has occurred in other lizard species, but Buley and his team said this was the first time it has been shown in Komodo dragons -- the world's largest lizards.

Scientists at Liverpool University in northern England discovered Flora had had no male help after doing genetic tests on three eggs that collapsed after being put in an incubator. The tests on the embryos and on Flora, her sister and other dragons confirmed that Komodo dragons can reproduce through self-fertilization. "Those genetic tests confirmed absolutely that Flora was both the mother and the father of the embryos. It completely blew us away because it (parthenogenesis) has never been seen in such a large species," Buley explained.

A Komodo dragon at London Zoo gave birth earlier this year after being separated from males for more than two years. Scientists thought she had been able to store sperm from her earlier encounter with a male but, after hearing about Flora's eggs, researchers conducted tests which showed her eggs were also produced without male help.

"You have two institutions within a few short months of each other having a previously unheard of event. It is really quite unprecedented," said Buley.

The scientists, reporting the discovery in the science journal Nature, said it could help them understand how reptiles colonize new areas. A female dragon could, for instance, swim to another island and establish a new colony on her own.

"The genetics of self-fertilization in lizards means that all her hatchlings would have to be male. These would grow up to mate with their own mother and therefore, within one generation, there would potentially be a population able to reproduce normally on the new island," Buley added.

The sound of exploding heads from the Fundamentalist side of the Intelligence Divide is sweet music to my ears. So, for Christmas we'll have a Virgin Flora to go along with the Virgin Mary.

The Fun of Christmas Shopping

I was traipsing around the mall this afternoon, heading for my next target, when I looked up and saw I was approaching a kiosk. There was an earnest young man there, about his 20s or so, holding a squeeze tube of some kind of cream. He held the tube toward me and asked, "Would you like to try - ?"

"No," I said, in as positive a mode of voice as possible (without raising the volume to Public Nuisance).

As I walked by he asked, "Sir, may I ask you a question?"

Now who could pass up that challenge?

Not me. So I stopped and faced him.

He asked, "Do you take care of your nails?"

Silly boy. I leaned in toward him and replied, "Let me put it to you this way: I can rip your throat out with them right now." I capped this statement with a small, tight smile.

He blinked and his eyes grew wide as he looked toward his partner at the kiosk (who wasn't paying attention), and I slipped away. As I walked off, I thought to myself that he won't be so quick to accost strangers in the mall anymore, Christmas or not.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A New Sun Rising?

It certainly seems that way, according to this item from CNN.

In a nutshell, Japan has changed two elements of its 1947 pacifist Constitution, elevating its derfense forces to a full Ministry and changing its education law to allow schools to start teaching patriotism.

Now, there are some reasonable answers to this behavior - Japan is justifiably perturbed about North Korea's missiles and the fact that Li'l Kim set off a pony nuke back in October (500 tons - feh! I could do better), and teaching young people to have more pride in their nation might offset what is seen as amoral materialism.

But what will The Neighbors think?

Japan has never apologized or even acknowledged the solid historical facts that their armies ravaged their way across Korea, China, bits of Russia, and a large chunk of Southeast Asia. And that includes Australia, where a few people might still recall that the Japanese bombed the northern city of Darwin. They have not apologized or acknowledged the 1937 Rape of Nanjing, where (at a conservative estimate) 350,000 civilians were killed. And let's not get started on such things as biological and chemical weapons experiments on civilians in China, or the treatment of Allied POWs.

So you can probably forgive Japan's neighbors if they view these moves with a slight frisson of dread. Thousands of ghosts can have a heavy influence on the living.

Friday, December 15, 2006

News to Make You Go, "Hmm..."

This little snippet showed up in Science News, a hideous saga about a hungry hunter and a Seven-Legged Deer.

Yes, you heard it right.


A Belgian TV station caused a veritable furor, a literal donnybrook by broadcasting that the Flemish legislature had voted to secede from the Kingdom, and that the Belgian Royal Family had fled the country for exile. It was only a half hour later that the station apologized, said it was a hoax, and reported that the "news" was to illustrate the need to discuss the future of the country.

Now, I won't go into the various ethnic, religious and social pressures in Belgium (that have gone on since the shotgun wedding that founded the nation in 1832), but it seems that everyone is agreed on one point - this was extremely poor taste.


It seems that Florida can get nothing right, from elections to executions. A lethal injection took 34 minutes to kill a condemned murderer, and the outgoing Governor (Dubya's allegedly smarter brother) has signed a moratorium on further executions until further notice. You think maybe they'll actually read the stats that show that places with no death penalty have a LOWER murder rate than places that do commit judicial murder?

Our Beloved Leader Generalissimo and Bringer of the Pax Americana Upon Undeserving Brown-skinned People Whether They Want it or Not (You know who!) has decided on what he's going to do in Iraq.
He's going to wait.
And actually LISTEN to people (of course, how can we tell he's listening? He just smiles, and nods his head, and giggles) who think they can find an answer.
And he'll tell us what he plans to do - after the New Year.
Meanwhile, more American soldiers will die in Operation Bleeding Wound.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

This Just In!

Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is STILL DEAD!!

Yep, that's right - the Old Butcher died at 91 today, surrounded by his grieving family. Or maybe they just sighed in relief that the ogre finally kicked the bucket so they can get their paws on the legacy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Few Ruminations (and Weird News Roundup)

Today, 65 years ago, the United States suffered the loss of most of its Pacific Fleet, along with 2500 American lives. The act, a sneak attack that some people had actually seen coming years earlier, gave the US that one last shove that put us into war with Japan. Ironically, the one international pact Hitler's Germany honored to the letter was his commitment to declare war on the US if Japan went to war with America.

A lot of people liked to draw parallels between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 - but there are crucial differences:

1. The Japanese Empire was not a small group of religious fanatics led by a malevolent charismatic; it was an established nation with a large population driven to war as a means of acquiring raw materials and Lebensraum.

2. Most (if not all) of the 2500 casualties at Pearl Harbor were military. Most of the casualties on 9/11 were civilians.

3. From 7 December 1941 to 2 September 1945, the United States and its allied coalition destroyed not one, but three empires (Germany, Japan and Italy). From 11 September 2001 to 7 December 2006 - longer than our entire formal involvement in the Second World War - we have not beaten the Taliban, we have not secured Afghanistan, and we have not secured Iraq. Former Vice President Al Gore characterized this as the worst foreign policy mistake in American history (it probably is - I haven't checked).

4. At the end of the Second World War, America was the moral arbiter of the world and the strongest military machine in history. At this point in the "War on Terror," we have seen our moral standing swept away by torture and detention without trial, and many nations look on us as being worse than al Qaeda. To quote Walt Kelly's Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Now, for News of the Weird:
A woman was put off a plane for lighting matches to mask the stench of her flatulence. What's next? Ejecting someone for farting to cover up their halitosis?
An elderly man died of heart failure while on a flight from London to New York. He got a seat upgrade from Business to First Class. Think about it.