Archive for September, 2010
26 Sep 2010

Helicopter Hotdogging Gets Pilots Grounded

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AOLNews reports that the Navy (which had to pay for some repairs) was less appreciative than millions of viewers on the Internet of those helicopter pilots’ daring and legerdemain. The helicopters were Sikorsky MH-60R Multi-Mission aka “Romeos.”

Two Navy pilots from San Diego have been grounded after their helicopters dipped into Lake Tahoe last week. The Sept. 13 incident was caught on a dramatic video, which shows the two choppers hovering just above the water. At one point, one of the $33 million aircraft seems to lose control and flip over into the lake, but the pilot manages to bring it back up out of the water.

Both helicopters droped into the lake because they did not have enough power to stay in their hovering positions. …

The helicopters were on their way back to the air station in San Diego after an air show in Sacramento. They were headed to Lemoore Naval Air Station south of Fresno for refueling when the incident occurred.

Afterward, the helicopters had to land at Lake Tahoe airport for repairs. The incident caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the choppers.

26 Sep 2010

Peregrine Falcon & Goshawk’s View

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Miniature video cameras strapped to the back of the two hawks give humans an opportunity to experience from a firsthand perspective the speed of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the manueverability in woodlands of the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis).

25 Sep 2010

Achieving Objectivity in Harvard Yard

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Mitchell Heisman

In October of 1903, a 23-year-old prodigy who had recently finished his first book and who was widely regarded as a genius, Otto Weininger rented a room in the house in Vienna where Ludwig van Beethoven died 76 years earlier, and shot himself in the heart.

Weininger, a prodigy who had received his doctorate at an unusually young age, wrote a book, titled Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character) arriving at extremely troubling conclusions. Weininger believed that human beings and human culture and society inevitably contain a mixture of positive, active, productive, moral, and logical (male, Christian) traits and impulses as well as their passive, unproductive, amoral, and sensual (female and Jewish) opposites.

Weininger was of Jewish descent and afflicted with homosexual inclinations and was in despair over the decline of modern Western civilization due to ascendancy of the female/Jewish impulses he deplored, so acting in consistency with his philosophical conclusions, Weininger took his own life.

Last Saturday, Mitchell Heisman, a 35-year-old psychology graduate from the University of Albany, shot himself in the head in front of Memorial Church in the Harvard Yard within the sight of a campus tour. Heisman had been residing nearby in Somerville, Massachusetts, supporting himself on a legacy from his father and by working in some Boston area bookshops, while pursuing his own studies and working on a (so far unpublished) book.

Mitchell Heisman published on the Internet a 1905-page suicide note in which he explains his actions as an experiment in nihilism undertaken in search of objectivity. Heisman, like Weininger of Jewish descent, is critical of liberal democracy, egalitarianism, materialism, modernism, and Jewish ethical opposition to “biological realism and the eugenic evolution of biological life.”

The suicide note pdf is fascinating document displaying considerable learning and evidencing a sharp sense of humor and originality of thought.

The most rigorous objectivity implies indifference to the consequence of objectivity, i.e. whether the consequences of objectivity yield life or death for the observer. In other words, the elimination of subjectivity demands indifference to self-preservation when self-preservation conflicts with objectivity. The attempt at rigorous objectivity could potentially counter the interests of self-preservation or even amount to rational self-destruction. The most total objectivity appears to lead to the most total self-negation. Objectivity towards biological factors is objectivity towards life factors. Indifference to life factors leads to indifference between the choices of life and death. To approach objectivity with respect to self-interest ultimately leads to indifference to whether one is alive or dead.

The dead are most indifferent; the least interested; the least biased; the least prejudiced one way or the other. What is closest to total indifference is to be dead. If an observer hypothesizes death then, from that perspective, the observer has no vested interests in life and thus possible grounds for the most objective view. The more an observer is reduced to nothing, the more the observer is no longer a factor, the more the observer might set the conditions for the most rigorous objectivity.

It is likely that most people will not even consider the veracity of this correlation between death and objectivity even if they understand it intellectually because most will consciously or unconsciously choose to place the interests of self-preservation over the interests of objectivity. In other words, to even consider the validity of this view assumes that one is willing and able to even consider prioritizing objectivity over one’s own self-preservation. Since it not safe to simply assume this on an individual level, let alone a social level, relatively few are willing and able to seriously address this issue (and majority consensus can be expected to dismiss the issue). In short, for most people, including most “scientists”, overcoming self-preservation is not ultimately a subject for rational debate and objective discussion.

Maximizing objectivity can be incompatible with maximizing subjective interests. In some situations, anything less than death is compromise. The choice between objectivity and self-preservation may lead one to a Stoic’s choice between life and death.

Whereas the humanities cannot be what they are without human subjectivities, the inhumanities, or hard sciences, require the subjective element be removed as much as possible as sources of error. Objectivity leads towards the elimination of subjectivity, i.e. the elimination of one’s “humanity”. A value free science has no basis on which to value human things over non-human things and thus no basis to value life over death or vice versa. Social science will become equal to the standards of physical science when social scientists overcome the subjective preference for the life of humanity over the death of humanity.

To attempt to resolve the contradiction of myself as a scientist and a human being on the side of science leads towards viewing myself as a material object. While this contradiction may be impossible to resolve, the closest approximation of reconciliation may consist of the state of death. In death, the teleologically-inclining biases of human subjectivity that hinder one from viewing one’s self as a material object are eliminated.

I cannot fully reconcile my understanding of the world with my existence in it. There is a conflict between the value of objectivity and the facts of my life. This experiment is designed to demonstrate a point of incompatibility between “truth” and “life”. In this experiment I hypothesize that the private separation of facts and values, when disclosed to the wider social world, creates a conflict of interest between the value of sociobiological objectivity and the “facts” of my sociobiological existence such that it leads to a voluntary and rational completion of this work in an act of self-destruction. …

How far would one be willing to go in pursuit of scientific objectivity? Objectivity and survival are least compatible when objectivity becomes a means of life, subordinate to life as opposed to life subordinated to objectivity. If the greatest objectivity implicates confronting the most subjective biases, this implicates confronting those truths that most conflict with the subjective will to live. By simply changing my values from life values to death values, and setting my trajectory for rational biological self-destruction, I am able to liberate myself from many of the biases that dominate the horizons of most people’s lives. By valuing certain scientific observations because they are destructive to my life, I am removing self-preservation factors that hinder objectivity. This is how I am in a position to hypothesize my own death.

So if objectivity is not justified as end, then objectivity can be a means of rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life. Rational self-destruction through the overcoming of the bias towards life, in turn, can be a means of achieving objectivity. And this means: To will death as a means of willing truth and to will truth as a means of willing death. …

Why am I doing this? Ah, yes, now I remember the punchline: I’ll try anything once!

There is nothing to take seriously!

I have not had time yet to read the whole thing, so I’m not completely sure just what I think of all of the late Mr. Heisman’s opinions, but I am intrigued enough to have resolved to read all of it. I’ve even downloaded and saved a copy.

My guess, at this point, is that his book is probably well worth publishing.

HuffPo story

Harvard Crimson


New York Post

24 Sep 2010

Cubbing With Rappahannock

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Karen’s photoessay on our visit with the Rappahannock Hunt on September 11th is now up.

The Rappahannock hounds are Crossbreds. Now recognized as a separate category at hound shows, the Crossbred Hound, a mixture of American and English foxhounds, was created by Ben Hardaway, Master of Georgia’s Midland Hunt, in response to the arrival of White-tailed deer in his country in the 1960s. Hardaway’s July hounds went off on a deer, and they were eating the same deer when he finally caught up with them days later. To create a deer-proof foxhound, Hardaway searched the British Isles for more docile, deer-resistant strains of foxhound which he subsequently successfully blended with classic American hound lines, finally added a soupçon of Penn Marydel to add just a little extra cry. Hardaway’s breeding program was so successful that the Crossbred category is usually the best represented at current hound shows.

Several of the Rappahannock hounds were long-haired, a trait evidencing Welsh hound ancestry.

That Saturday morning the Rappahannock hounds seemed even more filled with energy and high-spirits than hound packs typically are in general, which is saying a lot. It seemed to be snowing hounds as the pack, released from their trailer, ran, rolled, and frolicked, dashing in circles around the huntsman.

The morning’s cubbing was overlooked by a Bald Eagle who sat perched and watching with obvious interest from a dead tree by a local stream, which I think must have been the Thornton River.

24 Sep 2010

Dahlia Lithwick Finds Worries About Constitutionality Simply “Weird”

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Canadian-born Dahlia Lithwick is Slate’s jurisprudential authority and commentator on Supreme Court decisions. Her response to a recent statement by Christine O’Donnell demonstrates both Lithwick’s lack of regard for Constitutional fidelity and her general unfamiliarity with its text.

It is understandable, I suppose, that someone who grew up in Canada might be a little vague on the fine points of the American Constitution and legal system, but it does seem ironic to say the least that she could graduate from Yale and Stanford Law School and be unacquainted with Marbury vs. Madision.

It is often observed that our establishment media characteristically features a perspective differing radically from the viewpoint of most ordinary Americans. It just might be that the prominent contributions of so many not-genuinely-assimilated foreign-born journalists to the commentary of the American establishment plays a significant role in moving the consensus of the elect away from the American mainstream toward the left.

I have been fascinated by Christine O’Donnell’s constitutional worldview since her debate with her opponent Chris Coons last week. O’Donnell explained that “when I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.” How weird is that, I thought. Isn’t it a court’s job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional? And isn’t that sort of provided for in, well, the Constitution?

Hat tip to Adam Freedman.

23 Sep 2010

What Are Those Dark Spots On That Dam?

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Look closer.

These photographs are being widely distributed on the Internet, with the caprids misidentified as Bighorn sheep.

The location is actually Lake Cingino, a reservoir created by adding a dam and enlarging a small lake in the Valley of Antrona in the Italian Alps.

The animals on the dam are -chamois- Alpine Ibex, Capra ibex, who apparently frequent the dam face in search of salts that accumulate on the rocks of the dam.

Maurizio Piazzai has a couple more photos of -chamois- Alpine Ibex on the Lake Cingino dam here.



I had originally misidentified the animals on the dam as chamois, believing that the range of the Alpine Ibex in Italy was still limited to Gran Paradiso National Park. The absence in available photos of any full-horned rams faciliated my misidentification.

This factsheet shows that the current range of Alpine Ibex definitely includes the Valle Antrona.

Thanks to John Burchard for the correction.

23 Sep 2010

KFC Explores New Advertising Venue

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USA Today reports:

Women on college campuses are being paid $500 each to hand out coupons while wearing fitted sweatpants with “Double Down” in large letters across their rear ends.

The promo comes as KFC is in the doldrums domestically. The world’s largest chicken chain’s U.S. same-store sales fell 7% in the second quarter. Nearly all its growth now is in international expansion.

Last week, the chain confessed that more than six in 10 Americans ages 18 to 25 — the chain’s key demographic — couldn’t identify who Colonel Sanders was in the KFC logo.

Now, it’s turning to cute women parading around campus with “Double Down” emblazoned across their fannies.

The nation’s largest women’s group doesn’t like it one bit. “It’s so obnoxious to once again be using women’s bodies to sell fundamentally unhealthy products,” says Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. What’s more, she says, KFC has forgotten something important: Women make more than half the decisions about what to eat for dinner.

But KFC marketing chief John Cywinski says it’s an effective way to catch the attention of young men — KFC’s key customers and the biggest fans of Double Down.

As of Tuesday afternoon, KFC had received no complaints about the campaign, KFC spokesman Rick Maynard says. “We’ve taken a page out of the book of some apparel companies and sororities who have promoted in this way for years,” Maynard says.

The program began last week at Spalding University in downtown Louisville. The chain plans to expand it to at least three more campuses. The additional schools and the women there will be picked via a Facebook promotion.

Over at Michelle Malkin, Doug Powers reflected on the controversy.

Naturally, the people whose only offers to use their butts as billboards come from Goodyear are taking offense.

23 Sep 2010

GOP’s Pledge to America


Every important political platform document needs a picture of a cowboy

CBS summary:


– Stop job-killing tax hikes

– Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income

– Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit

– Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.

Cutting Spending:

– Repeal and Replace health care

– Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)

– Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward

– Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Reforming Congress:

– Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority

– Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote


– Provide resources to troops

– Fund missile defense

– Enforce sanctions in Iran

Full text pdf (as I write this, I’m waiting for 17 minutes of download to finish)


A lot of people, including most prominently Don Surber, Erik Erikson, think it is too damned long, too platitudinous, and not what it should be.

Doug Ross offered a superior, and far more concise, alternative version:

We pledge that every action we take will be gauged by the answer to a single question: Does it show fidelity to the Constitution, our highest law?

With that as our guide, we solemnly pledge the following as our first actions:

• We will repeal the Democrat health care bill and, if vetoed by the President, will de-fund every aspect of that bill until such time as the American people have input into a sensible health care reform process.
• We will slash the size of the federal government bureaucracies (Commerce, Education, Energy, the EPA, Labor, etc.) by 20% in 2011 with a goal of reducing each by 50% over the next three years, thereby saving hundreds of billions of dollars.
• We will secure the border with physical fencing suitable to repel drug smugglers, human smugglers, and terrorists, while encouraging legal immigration and enforcement of the law.
• We will confront the entitlement crisis — Social Security and Medicare — by preserving benefits for those who depend upon them and moving to privatized options for younger workers. Anything less condemns future generations to mountains of debt and economic catastrophe.
• We will strengthen our armed forces, space and missile defense programs to retain our unparalleled superpower status.
• We will begin the process of paying down our debts, spending within our means every year.
• We will ban public sector unions, which exist solely to wage war against the taxpayers who fund their operations.

Put simply: we intend to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Faith, Family, and the Founding. That is our creed.

And for your support and with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.


The Pledge finally downloaded.

I must say that I find it difficult to believe that the guys who produced this bloviating document, loaded down with pretentious, trite, and irrelevant photographs (the Statue of Liberty! Mount Rushmore! even a cowboy) and padded with quotations from people like Ronald Reagan and Bob McDonnell who actually had something to say, are really going to reduce the size of anything.

Reducing this Pledge to specifics and essentials would have been a better start.

22 Sep 2010

“Take Away the Crowds, and Obama Gets Noticeably Smaller”

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Ulsterman interviewed a Washington insider and former advisor to the Obama election campaign and transition team, who provided a behind-the-scenes picture of the great man, as seen from close up. The reality seems to be very different from the image created by the MSM.

Obama loved to campaign. He clearly didn’t like the work of being President though, and that attitude was felt by the entire White House staff within weeks after the inauguration. Obama the tireless, hard working candidate became a very tepid personality to us. And the few news stories that did come out against him were the only things he seemed to care about. He absolutely obsesses over Fox News. For being so successful, Barack Obama is incredibly thin-skinned. He takes everything very personally. …

’ll tell you this – if you want to see President Obama get excited about a conversation, turn it to sports. That gets him interested. You start talking about Congress, or some policy, and he just kinda turns off. It’s really very strange. I mean, we were all led to believe that this guy was some kind of intellectual giant, right? Ivy League and all that. Well, that is not what I saw. Barack Obama doesn’t have a whole lot of intellectual curiosity. When he is off script, he is what I call a real “slow talker”. Lots of ummms, and lots of time in between answers where you can almost see the little wheel in his head turning very slowly. I am not going to say the president is a dumb man, because he is not, but yeah, there was a definite letdown when you actually hear him talking without the script. …

I am not going to call him stupid. He just doesn’t strike me as particularly smart. Bill Clinton is a smart guy – he would run intellectual circles around Barack Obama. And Bill Clinton loved the politics of being president. Obama seems to think he shouldn’t have to be bothered, which has created a considerable amount of conflict among his staff. …

When you take away the crowds, Obama gets noticeably smaller. He shrinks up inside of himself. He just doesn’t seem to have the confidence to do the job of President, and it’s getting worse and worse. Case in point – just a few days before I left, I saw first hand the President of the United States yelling at a member of his staff. He was yelling like a spoiled child. And then he pouted for several moments after. I wish I was kidding, or exaggerating, but I am not. The President of the United States threw a temper tantrum. The jobs reports are always setting him off, and he is getting increasingly conspiratorial over the unemployment numbers. I never heard it myself, but was told that Obama thinks the banking system is out to get him now. That they and the big industries are making him pay for trying to regulate them more. That is the frame of mind the President is in these days. And you know what? Maybe he is right, who knows?

Hat tip to Dinocrat via the Barrister.

22 Sep 2010

Democrats Can’t Run on their Record, And Can’t Run Away From It


Liberal William Galston, in New Republic, sums up the democrats’ electoral problem.

They have, according to Galston, “an impressive record of accomplishment,” but the American people do not like what they’ve accomplished.

There’s an old joke in advertising circles that goes like this: A big firm gets an account to launch a new brand of dog food. It’s an all-hands-on-deck operation, with people working flat-out on logos, slogans, music, endorsements, product placement, and ads suited to every medium. Launch day comes, and everything goes perfectly. But after a couple of weeks, sales are miserable, and it becomes clear that the campaign is tanking.

The entire firm gathers in the big conference room for a gloomy post-mortem. Each element of the launch is second-guessed, and recriminations are flying. Finally, a junior writer in a seat against the wall timidly raises his hand and ventures his opinion: “Maybe the dogs didn’t like it.” …

In a survey out last week, Gallup finds that of five major pieces of legislation, only financial regulatory reform enjoys majority support. …

The bottom line: the majority can neither run on its record nor run away from it. Its only hope is to convince the American people that giving power to an opposition party in its angriest and least moderate mood would only make things worse.


Die Lösung
Bertolt Brecht

Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni
Ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbands
In der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen
Auf denen zu lesen war, daß das Volk
Das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe
Und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit
Zurückerobern könne. Wäre es da
Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
Löste das Volk auf und
Wählte ein anderes?

The Solution
Bertolt Brecht

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

21 Sep 2010

Poll Finds 58% of Moderate Muslims Oppose the Ground Zero Mosque

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Fouad Ajami, a Shiite Muslim and a professor at Johns Hopkins, in the Wall Street Journal, quotes a survey by Elaph, the London Arabic electronic daily news publication, which found that 58% of respondents to its poll opposed the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque and cites a better Islamic precedent.

There is a great Arab and Islamic tale. It happened in the early years of Islam, but it speaks to this controversy. It took place in A.D. 638, the time of Islam’s triumphs.

The second successor to the Prophet, the Caliph Omar—to orthodox Muslims the most revered of the four Guided Caliphs for the great conquests that took place during his reign—had come to Jerusalem to accept the city’s surrender. Patriarch Sophronius, the city’s chief magistrate, is by his side for the ceremony of surrender. Prayer time comes for Omar while the patriarch is showing him the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The conqueror asks where he could spread out his prayer rug. Sophronius tells him that he could stay where he was. Omar refuses, because his followers, he said, might then claim for Islam the holy shrine of the Christians. Omar stepped outside for his prayer.

We don’t always assert all the “rights” that we can get away with. The faith is honored when the faith bends to necessity and discretion.

21 Sep 2010

Mourning in America

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Citizens for the Republic, a conservative political action committee, has released a parody of the famous Ronald Reagan 1984 campaign commercial “Morning in America” just for Obama.


The original 1984 version. Quite a contrast between those times and ours today.

Via the New York Times.

21 Sep 2010

Go Directly to Serfdom Without Driving Farther Down Any Road

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In order to avoid a modest percentage of income tax underpayments, Britain’s equivalent of the IRS has come up with a startling new proposal which would de facto make every wage earner in Britain an employee of the state.


The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.

If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

“The next step could be to use (real-time) information as the basis for centralizing the calculation and deduction of tax,” HMRC said in a July discussion paper.

HMRC described the plan as “radical” as it would be a huge change from the current system that has been largely unchanged for 66 years.

Even though the centralized deductions proposal would provide much-needed oversight, there are some major concerns, George Bull, head of Tax at Baker Tilly, told

“If HMRC has direct access to employees’ bank accounts and makes a mistake, people are going to feel very exposed and vulnerable,” Bull said.

And the chance of widespread mistakes could be high, according to Bull. HMRC does not have a good track record of handling large computer systems and has suffered high-profile errors with data, he said.

The system would be massive in terms of data management, larger than a recent attempt to centralize the National Health Service’s data, which was later scrapped, Bull said.

If there’s a mistake and the HMRC collects too much money, the difficulty of getting it back could be high with repayments of tax taking weeks or months, he said.

“There has to be some very clear understanding of how quickly repayments were made if there was a mistake,” Bull said.

21 Sep 2010

“I’m Exhausted of Defending You”

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Barack Obama experienced publicly one of those handwriting-on-the-wall moments when he encountered Velma R. Hart, AMVETS Chief Financial Officer, at a Town Hall meeting in Washington.

“I’m one of your middle class Americans. And quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for,” Hart told President Obama at a town hall.

Hat tip to Real Clear Politics.

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