Archive for February, 2006
26 Feb 2006

I’m With General Stark

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John Hinderaker at Power Line discusses a recent variation on New Hampshire’s perennial conflict between liberal immigrant flatlanders who hate the Granite State’s noble motto and die hard Yankee aborigines who absolutely love it.

I’m with the natives. I’ve always wished I could find an excuse to move to, or even just get a vacation place in, New Hampshire, so I could register my cars there, and use those plates. Years ago, I was discussing this notion with one of my hippy friends from college days, who replied: “Now, if you could just get New Hampshire DEALER plates…”

26 Feb 2006

Jurassic Beaver

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The discovery of a new fossil in China, Castorocauda lutrasimilis, demonstrates that mammals appeared early, and in larger forms, than previously believed, living at the same time as dinosaurs.

The San Francisco Chronicle story reports:

The remarkable fossil bones of a fur-covered, swimming mammal that lived in the age of the dinosaurs 164 million years ago have been discovered in China, raising a wave of excitement among scientists whose timetable for mammalian evolution has just been pushed back by 100 million years.

The animal appears to have been more than a foot long and weighed nearly 2 pounds, with a tail remarkably like a beaver and seal-like teeth clearly adapted for catching and eating fish, its discoverers say…

..The furry mammal was found in a rich fossil bed in Inner Mongolia’s Ningcheng county, about 160 miles northeast of Beijing. Its nearly complete skeleton was extracted from a rock layer along with the bones of small, two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs, primitive winged reptiles and the abundant remains of long-extinct crustaceans.

The rocks encasing the fossil skeleton bore the clear imprint of the dense hairs that had covered its body when it died in the mud and the horny scales that covered its flattened tail, the scientists said. They named their animal Castorocauda lutrasimilis and said it must have resembled a modern river otter or the “duck-billed” platypus of Australia.

William Clemens, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and a former director of the Museum of Paleontology there, said the discovery provides “really good evidence” that the animal was both a swimmer and a fish-eater.

26 Feb 2006

Political Beliefs Assessment Test

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Are you an Archconservative, Leftwing Wacko, Antigovernment Libertine or a Commie Sympathizer?

test

25 Feb 2006

WFB

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An editorial by William F. Buckley, Jr., who turned 80 last November, appeared yesterday in which the author declared that the “American objective in Iraq has failed” and that there should be an “acknowledgement of defeat.” It is very sad that these sorts of embarassing statements were published, and those of us who have long been associated with Mr. Buckley in the conservative movement are terribly sorry to learn of his condition in this way. Our best wishes to Mr. Buckley and his family.

25 Feb 2006

Marvelling at French Design

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interior of 1936-1939 Panhard & Levassor Dynamic

Steve Bodio takes up the discussion of the wondrous eccentricity of French design begun by Donald (at 2Blowhards) focussing on the 1930s Panhard Dynamic, a French automobile featuring a central driver’s position and curved (“Panoramique”) windows, and turns to the subject of the Darne double-barreled shotgun with its remarkable sliding breech.

25 Feb 2006

New Cartoon

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Described as circulating on the Internet by Le Devoir, a French Québécoise paper.

“A believer wounded by the unbelievers. An unbeliever wounded by the believers.”

It’s by Delize, and probably appeared in Le Monde or France Soir. The same Delize did the earlier “Relax, Mohammed” cartoon in France Soir.

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Hat tip to Matthias Storme.

25 Feb 2006

Universities Enforcing Sharia in Chicago

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At the University of Illinois:

CHICAGO—The editor in chief of a student-led newspaper serving the University of Illinois has been suspended after printing cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad that, when published in Europe, enraged Muslims and led to violent protests in the Middle East and Asia.

Editor in chief Acton Gorton and his opinion editor, Chuck Prochaska, were relieved of their duties at The Daily Illini on Tuesday while a task force investigates the internal decision-making and communication that led to the publishing of the cartoons, according to a statement by the newspaper’s publisher and general manager, Mary Cory.

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At University of Chicago:

Inside Hoover House, a scurrilous joking note about the Prophet Muhammad was taped to a dorm room door. A Muslim resident was outraged. It was the kind of incident that could have sparked serious trouble.

But a deputy dean at the University of Chicago says the culprit defused the situation by writing a note of apology.

“While his desire to make a statement was not intended to be directed at any one individual, that he had demonstrated insensitivity,” said Deputy Dean Cheryl Gutman.

The head of the University of Chicago’s Muslim Student Association says it was apparently an act of stupidity, not blind hatred.

“I think an apology is very important, just to say that he didn’t mean what he was doing, and like I said, it was an act of ignorance,” said Mohammed Hasan…

..Since the apology was made, and the Muslim student accepted it, the university chose not to punish or evict the other young man. The University of Chicago considers the incident closed.

Or is it?

Details remain unclear as to whether disciplinary action will be taken against a Hoover House resident who posted a homemade sketch of the Muslim prophet Muhammad on the door of his suite two weeks ago.

Accompanied by the caption “Mo’ Mohammed, Mo’ Problems,” the drawing prompted strong reactions from Muslim students on campus and, more recently, attracted the attention of free speech advocates.

Katie Callow-Wright, director of undergraduate student housing, said that although details on the status of the case could not be discussed, the process of addressing such complaints involves a series of discussions and careful review.

“When a resident reports an incident or concern to their resident staff or the Housing Office, the resident staff gather information by talking with students and, if necessary, other staff to understand all of the facts of the situation,” she said. “This is an informal process, and can sometimes entail several individual meetings or conversations.”

Callow-Wright added that the appropriate Resident Heads (RHs) would hold individual meetings with the student who allegedly violated community standards.

“Depending upon the situation, a meeting with a student or students might then take place in the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing,” she said.

Hat tip to Brian Hughes.

24 Feb 2006

Nahuatl — The Language of the Aztecs

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Today’s Wall Street Journal features a story on Jonathan Amith, an American anthropologist who is recording, and attempting to preserve, Nahuatl, the language of the pre-Colombian Aztec Empire.

Word by word, Mr. Amith is creating an extensive archive of Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs at the time of the 16th century Spanish conquest and now the first language of 1.5 million Mexican Indians. He records fables and personal histories, collects plants and insects, and keeps up a nonstop patter with locals, searching for information to add to a Web site he is building that is part dictionary, part encyclopedia and part storybook.

His goal is both daring and quixotic: to preserve Nahuatl so that native speakers don’t discard their language as they turn to Spanish, which they need to compete in contemporary Mexico…

..Nahuatl strings together prefixes, word roots and suffixes, sometimes into very long words. One 18-syllable Nahuatl word used in towns near Cuernavaca is translated “you honorable people might have come along banging your noses so as to make them bleed, but in fact you didn’t,” according to SIL International, a religiously oriented linguistics group that is translating the Old Testament into Nahuatl. Others are simpler: the Nahuatl words chicolatl and tomatl gave English “chocolate” and “tomato.”

Mr. Amith recruited computational linguists to devise software to separate Nahuatl words into their component parts, which is vital for looking them up on his Web site.

How to Use the Nahuatl Dictionary

The web-site is password protected. The Journal supplies: USERNAME: oapan — PASSWORD: nahuatl

24 Feb 2006

East Anglian DNA Sought for Research Project

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The BBC reports:

300 volunteers to donate DNA to trace the ancestors of modern-day East Anglians.

The team at the University of East Anglia wants volunteers who were born in the same place as their parents and four grandparents.

As part of the People of the British Isles project they want to trace the influence of invaders from the Celts and Romans to the Angles and Saxons.

Volunteers from Norfolk or Suffolk will be asked to give a small blood sample.

The DNA will be extracted from the sample and used by geneticists to build the Norfolk and Suffolk part of the map.

The only criteria are that volunteers must be over 18 and born in the same part of East Anglia as their parents and all four of their grandparents.

Researchers at the university’s School of Medicine hope a genetic map of the UK will improve understanding the causes and prevalence of inherited diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

24 Feb 2006

Blood on the Carpet

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Amusingly violent ad for Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks.

24 Feb 2006

John Derbyshire Reflects on Coverage of Cheney’s Accident

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John Derbyshire discusses how press coverage of the Cheney hunting accident demonstrates the devastating impact of  suburbanization and economic change.

One of the more thoughtful takes on the Dick Cheney “Quailgate” incident was offered by The Economist. They looked at hunting from the class angle:

The proportion of the population that goes hunting has been shrinking for the past 20 years. The number of hunters fell by 7% in the decade ending in 2001; the number of small-game hunters fell by 29% …. The biggest decline in hunters is taking place among the working class — among the “Deer Hunter” crowd in the small towns of the north-east, the rednecks of the South, and the cowboys of the West.

Well, we all know what the cowboys of the West are up to nowadays, thanks to Brokeback Mountain and Willie Nelson. To judge from some recent public grumbling by Mike Helton, the president of NASCAR… well, let the man say it himself: “We believe strongly that the old Southeastern redneck heritage that we had is no longer in existence.” Northeastern deer hunters can still be found, but as The Economist’s numbers show, they are slowly fading away.

As an English small-town boy, I feel no surprise at hearing that hunting has a class aspect to it. I am old enough to recall seeing adult males from my street, railroad and brewery workers mostly, walking along in the direction of the local rookery with shotguns under their arms, with the intent to get some free game-pie fillings for their families. Meanwhile the local gentry would be gathering outside a nearby village pub, mounted and liveried, to enjoy a stirrup cup before setting out across the fields after some unlucky Reynard.

It all seems long ago and far away now. Those shotgun-bearing neighbors would not make it out of their front gates today before being clubbed to the ground by Tony Blair’s Compassion Police. The scarlet-clad upholders of England’s ancient fox-hunting tradition can similarly expect to be dragged from their mounts and kicked senseless by enforcers of Tony’s caring, classless society. (Supposing said enforcers can spare the time from more urgent crime-fighting tasks — handcuffing and booking perpetrators of anti-Muslim “hate speech,” for example.)

Here in the USA, the decline of hunting, or rather the transformation of hunting from a thing that working-class guys do in their spare time to one that fat old millionaires do to network and assert their status, has not been imposed from above by parliamentary virtuecrats, as in England, but has seeped up from beneath, driven by changes in habits, attitudes, and opinions about what constitutes a good life. It is in fact just one aspect of a much larger phenomenon, one that has yet to be properly documented: the decline of the American working class…

..I remember being a ten-year-old myself, spending hours watching my next-door neighbor, a butcher by trade but an amateur cabinet-maker by inclination, manipulating his saws, planes, chisels, and spokeshaves. My kids won’t even know what a spokeshave is, and won’t care. My neighbor was a keen gardener, too, and also a war veteran. There was nothing much unusual in 1955 about an ordinary working man of little education knowing the arts of soldiering, gardening, butchering, and cabinet-making. I suppose this man’s grandchildren occupy themselves with watching TV, day trading on their computers, and working out their income taxes. I suppose my kids will do likewise. Perhaps they will be happy, but it looks to me like lotus eating — a flight from humanity, from the basics of human existence.

An economist would of course pooh-pooh my doubts. Look (he would say), here’s how it goes. Once upon a time we were farmers. We ploughed fields, made wagons, shod horses, tended livestock, and had five or six kids per family. Then we were factory workers, putting things together, making and using machines, figuring out electrical circuits, having two or three kids. Now the world runs on information, so we’re all “symbol manipulators”, trading commodity futures, parsing laws, persuading each other to buy things made abroad, and having zero to one kids per family. That’s how it is. The world changes. Get over it.

Probably the economists have a point. Probably there are ineluctable forces at work here. Perhaps, as proponents of the “singularity” hypothesis, argue, human nature is about to be transformed by us human beings ourselves on a scale vastly greater than anything that stumbling, bumbling old Ma Nature has been able to accomplish this past 50,000 years, so that worries about us losing touch with our humanity will soon come to seem quaint, or perhaps just incomprehensible. Probably all that one can say about these developments is that one likes them, or not. All right. Put me down as a “not.”

Hat tip to Steve Bodio.

23 Feb 2006

The Kafkaesque Libby Case

Clarice Feldman is superb as always, and delivers a thoroughly devastating critique of Fitzgerald’s case. A must read.

A comparison illustrates the fatal flaw. Fitzgerald could not convict Scooter Libby for lying about what he had for lunch a year ago, if the investigation in which he made that statement had no relationship to his lunch that day. For exactly the same reason, he cannot win a conviction of Libby for lying to prosecutors while they are in effect on a fishing expedition, rather than pursuing evidence of an actual crime…

The details are a bit complex, so the antique media have not lavished much attention on the flawed nature of the prosecution. For most of them, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff is far from a sympathetic figure, and they relish his indictment as symbolic of The Larger Truth — the imagined corruption of the Bush administration…

..I think it apparent that it is Fitzgerald who tried to throw sand in our eyes.

I doubt that he will be able to pull off this trick a second time in Court. Simply, Fitzgerald could not find a violation of the only relevant law because the necessary predicates for its application did not exist. And, even assuming for the sake of argument that the factual assertions he made in the indictment of Libby are true, they could not have impeded his inquiry, for it was always about conduct manifestly not covered by any federal criminal statute.

How can someone impede the due process of justice when the inquiry itself is a make-believe one? That is the key question in the Libby case. For it is clear that there was only one statute available to deal with the Plame situation; the facts of the case never fit it; and it was an error to proceed with a full bore investigation and grand jury when the prosecution knew or—with prudent inquiry- should have known that.

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Meanwhile Byron York at National Review Online reports that Libby’s lawyers have delivered a potentially fatal brief challenging the constitutionality of Fitzgerald’s appointment.

Fitzgerald’s authority comes from a December 30, 2003 letter from Deputy Attorney General James Comey in which Comey — after the recusal of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft — “delegated to Mr. Fitzgerald all the authority of the Attorney General with respect to the Department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a Central Intelligence Agency employee’s identity.” In that letter, Comey told Fitzgerald, “I direct you to exercise that authority as Special Counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the Department.”

Libby’s motion to dismiss argues that that is a unique, and constitutionally unsupportable, grant of power:

Acting without any direction or supervision, Mr. Fitzgerald alone decides where the interests of the United States lie in an investigation that involves national security, the First Amendment, and important political questions. He alone decides which individuals to subject to investigation, what evidence will be obtained or not obtained, and whether or not continued investigation and prosecution are warranted. He is subject to no oversight and has no obligation to comply with Department of Justice policies and regulations that constrain the exercise of law enforcement powers in all other federal cases. Furthermore, he has unilateral authority to expand his jurisdiction and the power to say when, if ever, his office should be terminated. It was limitations on those powers that led the Supreme Court to uphold the independent counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act. It is the absence of such controls that violates the Appointments Clause in this case.

Motion of I. Lewis Libby to Dismiss.

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