Saturday, April 7, 2007

Late to the party

but it was poetry time:

Everybody wants to go to bed
with everybody else, they're
lined up for blocks, so I'll
go to bed with you. They won't
miss us.

Have you ever had a witch bloom like a highway
on your mouth?
and turn your breathing to her fancy?
 like a little car with blue headlights
passing forever in a dream?


For Valerie

All girls should have a poem
written for them even if
we have to turn this God-damn world
upside down to do it.

New Mexico
March 16, 1969
Richard Brautigan, from "Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt".

Because I'm not poetic.

Almost a burning bush

This would have been too ironic:

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free
world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?"

Saved by a Ford CEO. Well, I guess you get what you pay for.

OK, so the challenge is to build a hydrogen/hybrid vehicle so simple that even a shrub man can use it.

Added: Thanks, Demeur, I should have included the photo. I never liked Fords, and now they've prevented "President Pelosi" for now.

Rethuglican fundraising

Over at Grouchy's place,, RS Janes has put up a wonderful post on the Rethug '08 candidates fundraising. With lines like this:
Maybe lightning will strike and videos of Hillary skinny-dipping with Snoop
Dogg, Obama at a Klan rally, or Edwards beating up homeless orphans will
surface. (Maybe Rove will photo-shop them for The Internets.)

Wish I had the inspiration to write stuff like that.


A tarantula on the way to Verde hot springs.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Remember the anthrax letters?

Cernig put up a post over at NewsHog questioning the credibility of ABC news, and used the case of the Anthrax letters as an example. Basically, there were repeated attempts to tie the anthrax spores to Iraq. This was absolutely false.
Capitol Hill Anthrax Matches Army's Stocks
5 Labs Can Trace Spores to Ft. Detrick
by Rick Weiss and Susan Schmidt
Genetic fingerprinting studies indicate that the anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill are identical to stocks of the deadly bacteria maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980, according to scientists familiar with the most recent tests.

Although many laboratories possess the Ames strain of anthrax involved in this fall's bioterrorist attacks, only five laboratories so far have been found to have spores with perfect
genetic matches to those in the Senate letters, the scientists said. And all those labs can trace back their samples to a single U.S. military source: the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md.

"That means the original source [of the terrorist material] had to have been USAMRIID," said one of the scientists.

I have a bit of inside knowledge about the case because I worked at Northern Arizona University at the time. NAU is the base for the lab of Dr. Paul Keim, who's one of the worlds top anthrax researchers. Because I was one of many who had access to that lab, I was interviewed by the FBI as part of the investigation. The interview was somewhat surreal, with the FBI repeatedly asking about "middle eastern males" who might have gained access to the lab (which by the way didn't have anywhere near the quantities used in the attack). I was asked multiple times if I'd seen any suspicious activity by "middle eastern males", and it really bothered me that the FBI had ruled out any American suspects.
The genetic fingerprinting finding was made by a research team led by geneticist Paul Keim at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, which has been comparing the Ames strain bacteria found in the Senate letters to other Ames strain samples retrieved from nature and from various university and government laboratories.

It seems the most logical suspect had to have inside access to Fort Detrick, and more specifically to the bioweapons lab. In short, it was an inside job. I'm not saying a government sanctioned hit, but whoever mailed the letters to two top democratic senators worked for the facility.
added: Blogger is giving me a headache on changing font sizes.

Why is this news today?

Today's news: Saddam had no ties to al-Qaeda, according to declassified pentagon report.

Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and
two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

VP reasserts al-Qaeda links to Saddam.
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney repeated his assertions of al-Qaida
links to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq on Thursday as the Defense Department released a
report citing more evidence that the prewar government did not cooperate with
the terrorist group.

Aaargh! THERE WAS NO LINK! That was clearly proven in 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq.
Look, I knew this was pure BS back then. I have a long memory. When Iraq invaded Kuwait back in 1991, Osama offered to take Saddam out with his Mujihadeen fighters from Afghanistan. Bin Laden issued several fatwas that called for the assassination of Saddam as a "false muslim". There simply was no way that Bin Laden would co-operate with the hated secularist Saddam regime. There was no way that Saddam would work with someone who was trying to kill him.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

This Thing of Ours.....

....will soon be coming to and end.

On Sunday, April 8th, HBO will begin airing the first of the final nine episodes of The Sopranos - a show that everyone has at least heard of, if not seen portions.

You know, there's a guy, a made guy I know of, from way back in the Golden Age, before RICO, before we was all worried about rats gettin' pinched and breaking the code of silence (the Omerta); back when a boss, his underboss, his consigliere and his captains - the whole administration - ran their families and crews with an iron fist, but always fairly and evenly (aside from the occasional hit).

This guy I know, started out as an associate to those in the waste management business, essentially by lending his talents through various business and legal manipulations, into running, legally, a shylock business for several outfits in the mob, before becoming fully mobbed up himself.

He started out as a simple soldier, but he was a aggressive cugine, and the garbage business was in a growth spurt at the time, so as soon as the books were open, he became a confirmed wiseguy and borgata member. Still running the books he effectively controlled the entire New York and Jersey shy business, and bagan extended his reach further up and down the coast.

This was incredibly difficult to accomplish, and on some of his occasional shake-downs, if the guy couldn't come through with the vig, he might have to "mock execute" him to scare the bejesus out of him, especially if the juice he was owed was worth several Gs. However, he was such a good listener and his reasoning was so solid that I know of only once, where he had to go heavy and actually clip somebody. Unfortunately, he used it as a message job on the guy's wife, giving her one "through the eye", in order to let other players know who was really in charge. The carnage was so rough that no effective spring cleaning could be done, and the heat was so hot that he had to lam up for awhile. But he eventually came back in.

Over time, he kept taxing the same clientel as he had previously, getting his points and paying tribute to his don, and he soon moved up to become a capo with a trophy wife, several goomahs on the side (one with a vicious crank habit). But that was OK, because business was still good and he was pulling in several hundred large a year, which was great money at the time.

Unfortunately for him, this was the early sixties, and the Feds, under Kennedy, were deperately trying to pursue mobsters as hard as possible, both for legal reasons and to disavow the alleged Kennedy-mob link. Through various nefarious CIA adventures, they managed to catch my
friend laundering millions of dollars and he got several years of time in the pen. While there, even though he was well taken care of, he still had to whack a few of the other inmates. Once there was a prison gang war which erupted, with all sides going to the mattresses for a week before the guards could restore order. Because my friend was suspected of being a ringleader in that war he got a few more added years.

After he got out, the Feds were on him twice as hard as ever. They tried everything, even offering him a seat in the Program, but he never gave in. He knew that if he did, he'd get a message "through the mouth". Besides, the new bosses ate alone and he and the family realized that he'd probably not be comfortable with the new ways of doing things.

So now? He does some consulting, light security stuff, things of that nature. Oh, and he visits the bakery every morning for his favorite snack - a sack full of piping hot donuts - which exactly matches his name - Vinny Sackadonuts.

OK, that was fun, trying to write a story using all the slang mob terms ( There's an even more comprehensive list here:, but, good god, I ain't got that kinda time.

Anyways, even though I don't have a television (so no HBO) I'm looking forward to this next season. The Sopranos has been one of the best shows ever to make it onto television. Consistently well-written, wickedly funny, the machinations of one group of NJ mobsters and their families made for some of the best boob-tube time ever. And while I'm one to advocate watching as little television as possible, if I were King of the Forest, I'd teach the course in schools nationwide.

The Sopranos show is just that good.

Centcom: Bin Laden video coming

Central Command (centcom) is reporting that Bin Laden will be putting out a new video. How convenient.

Al-Sahab Expected To Release New Bin Ladin

Terrorism: Al-Sahab Reportedly To Release New Bin
Ladin Video Message

On 4 April, a jihadist website carried the
following posting:

"After a long absence by the shaykh of mujahidin,
whom we have missed as well as his speeches, some news is being leaked
indicating that Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, God protect and preserve him and make
him a thorn in the throat of the enemies, will make an appearance. The news
indicates that Al-Sahab Media Establishment, which specializes in
publishing Al-Qa'ida leaders' speeches, has recently finished producing a video
featuring Bin Ladin's speech to the entire Islamic nation. "

Furthermore, the poster of this note maintains
that the speech includes several messages to the "mujahidin" in Iraq, the
Palestinian People on " the capitulation choice which HAMAS gave in to," the
Riyadh Arab summit, the "fears" of America and its allies of the establishment
of the Islamic Caliphate state in Iraq, and the "good tidings of victory in Iraq
and Afghanistan."

My only question is: why the hell is he still roaming around making videos?

Beer and Politics

At my favorite microbrewery we have a lot of political discussions and while this may sound arrogant, we're a pretty astute group. I'm not sure if micro's draw a more well informed crowd than regular bars, but the "mog" sure seems to. The regulars are predominantly liberal, but there are enough conservatives to keep the debate lively.
Recently, there's been a great deal of talk about the '08 candidates. While I've heard a variety of preferences and reasons for them, one thing is clear: the beltway pundits don't know us or how we view the candidates. The myriad views I hear are much more nuanced than what I hear and see from the media.
On the liberal side there's no consensus on any one candidate, but a general view that Obama or Edwards would be better than Clinton. Richardson is generally viewed as someone who would be a good president but unlikely to be elected.
There seems to be a real malaise on the conservative side (I should add that the conservative I know are disgusted with Shrub, albeit for different reasons than I am). None of the Repub candidates seems to have any real support, but I've heard a lot of "anyone but McCain" talk. We're in Arizona so this should be his turf, but amongst the conservatives that I know he's lost credibility.
There's still a lot of time before the first primary(s), but I'm curious as to how this compares with political conversation elsewhere. How are people talking about the election where you are?
And readers, if you find yourself in Flagstaff, AZ, stop by the Mogollon, and join in the discussion.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


After two serious posts, I must do something lighter.

So here's a mossy vug at Travertine Falls in the Grand Canyon. What would you like to see next?

More on diplomacy

Reading some serious stuff on foreign policy and public opinion, this study shows the American public is smarter than I sometimes give them credit for.
This desire for diplomacy is particularly apparent in public attitudes on the spread of nuclear weapons. As far as the vast majority of Americans are concerned, military force is "off the table" in dealing with Iran's nuclear program and its possible meddling in Iraq. There's also been a
sharp drop in public confidence in military force as a tool for dealing with other countries developing weapons of mass destruction—even though controlling the spread of nuclear weapons is the public's top policy priority and one of its major fears.

The public anxiety on our foreign policy is wee founded. We're failing in more than just Iraq.
Certainly the public's anguish and frustration over Iraq is a driving force in this questioning of U.S. policy. Multiple national surveys demonstrate attitudes on the war have turned sharply negative. But it would be a mistake to believe that public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war is confined to just the conduct of the war itself. The public's anxiety spills over into the
entire range of challenges facing the United States in a dangerous world, leading them to question fundamental premises and to give the government poor grades on multiple fronts.

Here's a chart on the public's view on Iran.

Note that "Public Agenda" is part of "Foreign Affairs", one of the most comprehensive venues for policy debates for decades. I routinely read the magazine back in the pre-internet days, and the online magazine is a great resource.

The Middle East muddle

I have a long standing interest in the middle east, both in history and current events. While I'm certainly not an expert (see Juan Cole for that), I consider myself fairly well informed. A lot of interesting events are happening over the past few days.
Pelosi in Syria, including a "peace message" from Isreal:

"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a
road to peace," Pelosi told reporters after her talks with Assad.

Pelosi said she and her delegation "expressed our concern about Syria's
connections to Hezbollah and Hamas" and discussed the issue of militant fights
slipping across the Syrian border into Iraq.

"These are important issues not only in the fight against terrorism but important priorities for us for peace in the Middle East," she said.

She said she brought a message to Assad from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria. Assad gave assurances that "he's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel," Pelosi said. She later left Syria, heading for Saudi Arabia, the next leg of a Mideast tour.

Iran to free hosttages:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the release of 15 captive British
soldiers and sailors Wednesday in what he called an Easter gift to the British

"On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) ... and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people — with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial — forgave those 15," he said, referring to the Muslim prophet's birthday on March 30 and the Easter holiday.

Saudi frustration with Bush:

Saudi Arabia is trying to bring Syria back to the negotiating table (along with Lebanon and Israel), and is seeking some kind of understanding with Iran - a few days ago President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an important visit to Riyadh .
The Saudi influence even extends to Pakistan (old connections that have existed
since the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan), and it has a huge moderating influence on the decisions of OPEC.

The biggest frustration of the Saudis, however, is named George W. Bush. Despite old ties between the Bush family and the Saudis, King Abdullah feels that he hasn't been listened to on any vital question of recent times - especially the invasion of Iraq. And worse: not even his warnings were taken into account. The King spoke freely and in full during a blunt speech full of acid criticism of the Americans - amongst them, that the occupation of Iraq is illegal.

Most curiously, in part the Israeli diplomats fully agree with the Saudis. "The
Iranians should build a monument in honor of Bush, due to the gifts that Iran
has received due to American policy in the Middle East"

The last is from Munaeems blog, which I recently found. Well worth reading for his perpective as a Pakistani, he's become one of my daily reads.

While it's unclear how this will all sort out, I see some positive signs that maybe cooler heads will prevail over the administrations idiotic lust for war. If anyone can prevent a war with Iran, the whole world will be better off. The Iraq debacle will be with us for decades, no matter when the troops are withdrawn. But maybe diplomacy will minimize the damage. We can at least give it a try.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Will Durst

With the start of baseball season and the presidential exhibition season, Will Durst writes a very amusing column "Presidential spring training". For the baseball/politics junkies who stop by (I know who both of you are), go read:
selected parts:

With no sitting President or Vice President running for the first time in 80 years, the '08 field promises to be more crowded than a trainer's table after the first day of wind sprints for pitchers and Molinas. Besides, this is America. Where any Dominican can become a
shortstop, and any American can become President, although when they coined that
phrase, I'm not sure they had George Bush in mind.


50 to 1. Delaware Senator Joe Biden. Back on disabled list with persistent foot in mouth disease. A little too comfortable flossing with own shoelaces.


8,000,000 to 1. Former Ohio Senator Dennis Kucinich. Could lose Iowa straw poll to the straw.


15 to 1. Fred Thompson. Warming up in the bullpen, if needed to relieve. Of course America would never accept an actor as President. Oh.

Added: Dang it, Gordon over at "The Alternate Brain" beat me to this.

Pelosi going to Syria

This could be quite interesting. Shrub's people are blasting Pelosi for talking with Syria, but not the rethug congress critters who are doing the same. The Isreali's endorse the talks, the wingnuts scream their usual nonsense, and in the end Nancy takes a sensible approach to the talks.

BEIRUT (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday she had "no
illusions but great hope" for her talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad this week which she said would focus on the fight against terrorism.

"When we go there we'll be talking about the overarching issue of the fight against terrorism and the role that Syria can play to help or to hinder ...," Pelosi told reporters after talks with Lebanese majority leader Saad al-Hariri.

"We think it's a good idea to establish the facts, to hopefully build some confidence between us," she said. "We have no illusions but great hope."

Madame Speaker, I salute you. A calm, logical, and realistic dialogue with Syria may not work. But it sure has a much better chance than the administrations petulant rhetoric.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Just Dropped In To See What Condition...

...My Hurricane Condition is In.

The following is the NOAA Hurricane Center's December 2006 predictions for the 2007 hurricane season. I bring this up, because the NHC (National Hurricane Center) will release its first report for the ongoing 2007 season tomorrow, Tuesday 03 April 2007, and I'll be very interested to see any variances between what they thought in December versus today.

Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)
8 December 2006 Forecast for 2007

Named Storms (NS) (9.6) 14

Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1) 70

Hurricanes (H) (5.9) 7

Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5) 35

Intense Hurricanes (IH) (2.3) 3

Intense Hurricane Days (IHD) (5.0) 8

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.1) 130

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%) 140

Now, my predictions for the 2006 season were higher than all of these, although I admit that I disregarded the 1950-1995 results almost entirely and based it on 1996-2004 values. Which, I'll cheerfully admit, probably skewed the hell out of my results. Of course, I was sort of angling for a worst case scenario, so I had 21 named storms, 100 named storm days, 11 hurricanes, roughly 50 hurricane days, and 7 intense hurricanes . Ah, thank you Excel for warping my methodology beyond all reason.

What really caught my eye, though, was this paragraph (emphasis mine):

Our initial 6-11 month early December seasonal hurricane forecast scheme (Gray et al. 1992) demonstrated hindcast skill for the period of 1950-1990 but did not give skillful results when utilized on a real-time basis for forecasts between 1995-2001. This was due to the discontinuation of the strong relationships we had earlier found between West African rainfall and the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) with Atlantic basin major hurricane activity 6-11 months in the future. We did not expect these relationships that had worked so well for 41 years to stop working from 1995 onward.

Ummmmm, global warming anyone? Could that just maybe, possibly, thrown a teensy, weensy wobble into your predictive capabilities since 1995? That was, what, only 12 years ago, right? A-and we all know global warming's just a crock o' shite, correct?

Must be all those butterflies flapping their wings in China, I guess.

Meanwhile, the lousy (and by lousy, I mean ferocious) '97-'98 hurricane seasons showed an average raised Atlantic water basin temperature of 2.3 degrees (Celsius, I believe); inital predictions for 2007 gauge a probable average raise of 1.7 degrees.

I guess it's the 0.6 degrees of separation that'll determine the hurricane season this year.

Iraq and McCain

I rarely join in the "blog topic of the day", but I read Juan Cole's comments and felt they should be highlighted.
McCain put on the "things are better" show with 100 soldiers and a group of helicopters guarding him. Yeah, I guess that's safe.
This grandstanding trip that John McCain took to Baghdad on Sunday is another
occasion for propaganda to shore up his falling poll numbers in his presidential
campaign. He said, "Things are better and there are encouraging signs. I've been here . . . many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport, never have I been able go out into the city as I was today."

He said that only three days after the US embassy issued an order that personnel are to wear 'personal protective equipment' when moving between buildings inside the Green Zone! He said it the day two suicide belt bombs were found inside the
Green Zone. So he could ride in an armored car in from the airport. That's the
big achievement? What about when he gets to the Green Zone? Then he has to put
on PPE to go to the cafeteria.

Look, I lived in the midst of a civil war in the late 1970s in Beirut. I know exactly what it looks and smells like. The inexperienced often assume that when a guerrilla war or a civil war is going on, life grinds to a standstill. Not so. People go shopping for food. They drive where they need to go as long as they don't hear that there is a firefight in that area. They go to work if they still have work. Life goes on. It is just
that, unexpectedly, a mortar shell might land near you. Or the person ahead of
you in line outside the bakery might fall dead, victim of a sniper's bullet. The bazaars are bustling some days (all the moreso because it is good to stock up on supplies the days when the violence isn't so bad). So nothing that John McCain saw in Baghdad on Sunday meant a damn thing. Not a goddamn thing.

It makes my blood boil.

Mr. Cole is THE source to go to for accurate reporting on Iraq. Iraq is not getting better, people.

A positive step

Today's Supreme Court ruling on its opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordering the federal government to look at regulating greenhouse gasses, is a positive step. While I harbor no illusions about this administrations willingness to make any substantial effort on global warming, they've lost one excuse for doing nothing.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ordered the federal government on Monday to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a rebuke to Bush administration policy on global warming.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

stolen without comment

Stolen from Gordon at The Alternate Brain, who has a good 4/1 story for you.

Another river pic

Taken by one of the other folk on the trip. That's me with the oars.

A quick note on the pet food contamination

I don't have a dog or cat, so I haven't been too focused on the pet food contamination scandal (see monkeyfister for all the details). Atrocia eats rats. Fat, live rats. But I got to thinking, isn't this just what we should expect in the wake of rethuglican deregulation? The e.coli outbreaks have proven that this administration doesn't care about peoples safety, so why would they care about pets?
What really does make me nervous about all the FDA cutbacks is food safety. Safety regulations cut into corporate profits, dontcha know. I would like my tax dollars to ensure that what I buy at the grocery store is safe to eat. Is that unreasonable?
I guess that in the era of shrub, I'll have to trust that our corporate overlords won't kill too many of us, as that would be bad for business.
My sympathies to all who's pets have been effected by this.

Boat Day

Aah, it's a beautiful spring Sunday. Today, I'm doing a boat tuneup in preparation for my trip at the end of the month.
I haven't said anything about my old raft before. "The Great Pumpkin" is an 18' Green River bucket boat. She's over 30 years old. I got her four years ago, at a steal of a price.
The "Pumpkin" is about as heavy a raft as you can get, and can be a real workout to row when fully loaded. The annual tuneup consists of inflating, searching for any new leaks that may have emerged over the winter, patching where needed, and cleaning. Thankfully, Zymurgian has offered to help with this as moving the old boat is at least a 2 man job. In return, I'm letting Zymurgian row some of the rapids on the upcoming trip (he's been a passenger before, but this will be his first time as a boatman). Because the "Pumpkin" is such a heavy boat it's also very stable, so it's a good boat to learn on.
Here's to a happy boat.