Thursday, April 26, 2007

You Broke It, You Fix It.

CNN correspondent Michael Ware in an interview, asked about Iraq:

Ware agreed, but argued that winning the war was in America’s best interest: “Well, even more than that, if you just wanted to look at it purely in terms of American national interest, if U.S. troops leave now, you’re giving Iraq to Iran, a member of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil,’ and al Qaeda. That’s who will own it. And so, coming back now, I’m struck by the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill, how delusional it is. Whether you’re for this war, or against it; whether you’ve supported the way it’s been executed, or not; it doesn’t matter. You’ve broke it, you’ve got to fix it now. You can’t leave, or it’s going to come and blow back on America.” (bolding mine)

That sums up why we have to stay in Iraq. We broke it. We fix it. As Americans, we can't do otherwise.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Guernica, 70 Years On.

via Guardian.

Good story.

Some People Are Just Totally Clueless.

via Daily Mail.

Seaman Steven Batchelor, one of the UK soldiers captured and ridiculed by the Iranians for a couple of weeks, is making fun of the event in UK clubs:

Iran hostage Arthur Batchelor's admission that he cried himself to sleep after his captors likened him to Mr Bean and stole his iPod was scorned as a national embarrassment.

Yet just days after a barrage of criticism for selling his story, the 20-year-old reveals just how little he has learned from the whole debacle.

This picture shows the Operator Mechanic staging a tasteless re-enactment of his 13 days in captivity as he celebrates his home-coming in a Plymouth nightclub. He laughs as he pretends to be held at gunpoint, his ordeal - and his fellow servicemen's vitriolic response to his behaviour - seemingly a long way from his mind.

With a 'blindfold' round Batchelor's eyes, a friend points pistol-shaped fingers to the 5ft 2in serviceman's head. In another picture Batchelor, with alcohol stains on his yellow shirt, has his head held back by a toy rifle placed across his neck.

In a further shot, Batchelor wears a woman's camisole as he poses with three female clubbers.

He'd really be better off in some sort of civilian organization than in the UK military.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Angel Falls To Earth

A Blue Angel, that is.

(CNN) -- A jet flying in formation with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team crashed into a Beaufort, South Carolina, neighborhood, causing an "enormous fireball" during an air show, authorities said.

The Navy aviator was killed Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland said. The F/A-18's pilot is the only known fatality.

No one else killed, thank all the Gods.

Friday, April 20, 2007

That's a very high wall.

I found this headline on Google News last night, 20 Apr 2007 at around 2:00 a.m.

Needless to say, that's going to be a very expensive wall to build.

The Ghost Yacht

Emergency services in Australia have launched a search for the three-man crew of a yacht found drifting off the North Queensland coast.

The vessel was found with its engine running, and a table laid for dinner, but there were no signs of any people.

Rescue crews say they are puzzled by the mysterious disappearance.

"The engine was running, the computers were running, there was a laptop set up on the table which was running, the radio was working... and there was food and utensils set on the table ready to eat," said Jon Hall, a spokesman for Queensland's Emergency Management office.

"It was a bit strange," he added.

All the vessel's sails were up, although one was badly shredded, and lifejackets were still on board.

They're trying to trace it now via the GPS system.

Damn, I love stories like this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Columbian Volcano Erupting

Nevado del Huila volcano.

NEIVA, Colombia (AP) — Thousands of people were evacuated after a long-dormant volcano erupted late Tuesday and again early Wednesday, provoking avalanches and floods that swept away houses and bridges.

The Nevado del Huila volcano's eruptions were its first on record since Colombia was colonized by the Spanish 500 years ago.

There are about 10,000 people living in the area around the volcano, and about 3,500 had been evacuated, Luz Amanda Pulido, director of the national disaster office, told The Associated Press after flying over the volcano in southwest Colombia.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries.

The eruption sent an avalanche of rocks down the volcano's sides and into the Paez and Simbola rivers, causing them to flood.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Va. Tech Shooter Was An Immigrant.

So was one of the victims, an Israeli professor and Holocaust survivor who held a door against the gunman, allowing his body to serve as a shield while students behind him escaped via the windows.

Virginia Tech University Prof. Liviu Librescu, described as a family man who once did research for NASA, sacrificed his life to save his students in the shooting rampage yesterday.

"When he heard the gunfire, he blocked the entrance and got shot through the door," his daughter-in-law Ayala Schmulevich said.

"He realized he had to save the students," she said. "That was the kind of man he was."

We're a World Laughingstock, and it's Bloody Embarrassing.

The British government will be holding hearings about the conduct of the sailors and marines capture by Iran in March.

via Navy Times.

How About A Compressed Air Car?

They've been around in France for a few years now. For pootering around in town without driving a lot, they'd be a great solution to air pollution problems; for that reason, Mexico City has ordered thousands of them.

Story here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Murderous Spirit Of Charles Whitman Lives On.

via NY Times.

At least 22 people were killed today, some of them students, and about two dozen more injured during shootings at Virginia Tech, some of them in a classroom, the police said. A gunman was also shot to death, officials said.

The attack was the deadliest campus shooting in American history. According to several news agencies, the death toll continued to climb and could be as high 32.

Well, we know what the news focus for the next two weeks will be.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus May Be Gone...

...but the hucksters are just getting started.

h/t Drudge Report

Credit Where Credit Is Due.

I'm inclined to think that there should be a Pulitzer Prize for blogging, and that K.C. Johnson of Durham In Wonderland should receive one for his definitive coverage of the Duke Lacrosse rape case.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mt. Etna Erupting?

Saw a TV report showing the volcano erupting, but searches on Google and Reuters turn up no news links. Weird. The US Geological Survey/Smithsonian Volcanoes website indicates Etna activity as of March 29.

Old Toy Remembered

It's Major Matt Mason, who basically existed from 1967-1970, the best years of the Apollo space program. Matt was an astronaut, with a rubbery body and wire skeleton, รก la Gumby and Pokey, so these days would be too dangerous for kids to play with.

A couple of good websites for all things Matt Mason can be found here and here. (German language)

I had Matt, his Space Crawler and his Space Station. I also had Sgt. Storm, Matt's friend in the red spacesuit; I thought he was a Russian Cosmonaut, so I treated him as the bad guy during play.


Duke Rape Case Charges All Dismissed.

via Breitbart.

Statement from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on the Duke University lacrosse rape case.

Good afternoon, everyone.

On Jan. 13 of this year, I accepted the request of the Durham district attorney to take over three Durham cases. At the time, I promised a fresh and thorough review of the facts and a decision on the best way to proceed. I also said that we would have our eyes wide open to the evidence, but that we would have blinders on for all other distractions. We've done all of these things.

During the past 12 weeks, our lawyers and investigators have reviewed the remaining allegations of sexual assault and kidnapping that resulted from a party on March 13, 2006, in Durham, N.C.

We have carefully reviewed the evidence collected by the Durham County prosecutor's office and the Durham Police Department. We have also conducted our own interviews and evidence gathering. Our attorneys and SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) agents have interviewed numerous people who were at the party, DNA and other experts, the Durham County district attorney, Durham police officers, defense attorneys and the accusing witness on several occasions. We have reviewed statements given over the past year, photographs, records and other evidence.

The result of our review and investigation shows clearly that there is insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the charges. Today we are filing notices of dismissal for all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.

The result is that these cases are over, and no more criminal proceedings will occur.

We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.

We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their accounts of a traumatic event. However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night.

The prosecuting witness in this case responded to questions and offered information. She did want to move forward with the prosecution.

However, the contradictions in her many versions of what occurred and the conflicts between what she said occurred and other evidence, like photographs and phone records, could not be rectified.

Our investigation shows that:

The eyewitness identification procedures were faulty and unreliable. No DNA confirms the accuser's story. No other witness confirms her story. Other evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself. Next week, we'll be providing a written summary of the important factual findings and some of the specific contradictions that have led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred.

In this case, with the weight of the state behind him, the Durham district attorney pushed forward unchecked. There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado. And in the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly. Regardless of the reasons this case was pushed forward, the result was wrong. Today, we need to learn from this and keep it from happening again to anybody.

Now, we have good district attorneys in North Carolina who are both tough and fair. And we need these forceful, independent prosecutors to put criminals away and protect the public. But we also need checks and balances to protect the innocent. This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor. What has been learned here is that the internal checks on a criminal charge—sworn statements, reasonable grounds, proper suspect photo lineups, accurate and fair discovery—all are critically important.

Therefore, I propose a law that the North Carolina Supreme Court have the authority to remove a case from a prosecutor in limited circumstances. This would give the courts a new tool to deal with a prosecutor who needs to step away from a case where justice demands.

I want to thank everyone in the North Carolina Department of Justice. I want to thank our investigators, our SBI agents and especially attorneys Jim Coman and Mary Winstead for their hard work in this matter.

Looks like Mike Nifong will be the center of attention for the next 24 hours. What are his choices?

1. Grab 10k, a cheap disguise and hop in the Bronco, heading for Mexico (OJ scenario).

2. Check into rehab (celebrity scenario).

3. Engage in a totally ridiculous suicide attempt such as swallowing an entire bottle of tranquilizers, then immediately call an ambulance, which takes you to a hospital for a stomach pumping;

4. Get caught DUI after wrecking your car, then taken to a state mental hospital after waving a gun around and making racial slurs;

5. Curl into a fetal position and crawl under a couch, from whence you have to be dragged (Jim Bakker scenario).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Edwards, Obama and Hillary Withdraw From Debate.

Edwards: Fox News, dey's biasd.

Obama: Yes dey is. Cain't trust no Fox.

Hillary: vast raht wing conspeercy! Bawk!

Birthday Greetings

Author Paul Theroux, age 66. Happy Birthday, Paul, and thanks for the wonderful books.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Topsy.........And Bottomsy

via Mirror UK

FELLOW captive Faye Turney was instrumental in getting Arthur Batchelor through their terrifying 13-day kidnap ordeal, the 20-year-old said yesterday.

Arthur said his brave colleague, nicknamed Topsy, risked beatings from their cynical guards for whispering reassurances to him as he sat scared stiff and blindfolded on a boat after they were snatched at sea.

It sounds as if Batchelor is the sailor who has been described as the youngest of the Brit captives of the Iranians, the one who cried, puked and otherwise carried on like a big baby instead of an adult sailor.

Johnny Hart, Cartoonist, 1931-2007: R.I.P.

via Washington Post.

Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic strip B.C. and co-creator of The Wizard of Id, died of a stroke while working at his drawing table. He was 76.

Hart became a born-again Christian late in life and began using religious elements in B.C., causing various newspapers to drop the strip, move it from the comics page or selectively censor it.

My home newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, tried to drop the strip, saying it was "unpopular." After an outraged campaign of letter-writing and emails, the strip was reinstated. The editors tried a couple of times again to get rid of it by asking readers to vote for most popular strips, but B.C. foiled them by scoring in the top ten each time.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Volcano Erupting In Indian Ocean.

via Reuters.

SAINT-DENIS DE LA REUNION, France (Reuters) - A volcano on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion which has been spewing out lava and ash for nearly a week appeared to be calming down on Sunday, the local government said.

The Piton de la Fournaise volcano on the French island first erupted on Monday, sending lava 500 metres (more than 1,500 feet) into the air and creating spectacular clouds of steam from the sea.

I'm a sucker for volcano stories. I could probably teach a college-level course on the subject.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Jim Webb's Aide: Where Are The News Stories?

It's been more than a week since there were any news stories about Phillip Thompson, Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) aide who was arrested in possession of a pistol on Capitol grounds.

Sort of fell off all the news pages with a resounding thud, didn't it?

US Military Reviewing Procedures For Captives

via Navy Times.

Maritime security operations undertaken by U.S. naval forces will get a top-down review following Iran’s highly-publicized capture and 13-day detention of 15 British sailors and marines, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“Naturally, this kind of an event is of concern, and we have asked ... [Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace], through the commander of the Central Command and others, to examine our procedures and make sure that, first of all, that we’re playing well within the baselines, just like the British were, and that our sailors are properly protected against any similar kind of activity,” Gates said April 5 at the Pentagon.

The story relates experiences by crewmembers of the USS Pueblo under North Korean captivity and the crew of a Navy P-3 reconnaissance plane that was seized by the Chinese in 2001; in both of those cases the US sailors acted with more discipline than the Brits have in the Iranian incident.

More Details On Cruise Ship Sinking

via Tuscaloosa News.

ATHENS, Greece | When he heard the news Friday about a cruise ship that sank off a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, Tuscaloosa tour director Terry Merritt remembered the time he had on the same ship a week earlier.

He had also had a rough time on a cruise in the waters off Santorini in that ship, the Sea Diamond. He was leading a group of about 86 people from Tuscaloosa on the cruise last week.

“We scraped some of the rocks because the winds were so bad," he recalled. “The seas are so rough there; it doesn’t surprise me that this happened."

Merritt, who owns Worldwide Travel and Tours in Tuscaloosa, said that he has cruised to Santorini about a dozen times before and that the island has always been a dangerous port of call because of its shallow waters and rough winds.

“As we were coming into port [last week], I looked over the side and wondered how the ship could navigate around the rocks and not gash a hole in the ship," he said. The waters are so shallow, he said, that the cruise ship must anchor off-port and use tender boats to ferry passengers on and off the island.

The captain of his cruise had so much trouble maneuvering around the rocks that the ship, which was supposed to dock for five hours at Santorini, could only stay half an hour.

“Everybody was upset," Merritt said. “It’s been a bad situation for a long time with people not being able to get off the ship. They need to dig that port deeper and dredge it."

So we have a port that is extremely dangerous to enter, and an outsized modern cruise ship trying to maneuver into that port. Not good.

In Thursday’s wreck, nearly 1,600 people were retrieved from the sinking ship in a three-hour rescue operation, but some passengers complained of an insufficient supply of life vests, little guidance from crewmembers and being forced into a steep climb down rope ladders to safety.

“The crew members were more scared than we were," said Lizbeth Mata, 15, a native of the Dominican Republic who was vacationing with her parents and brother. Mata said some crewmembers left before the passengers: “They were yelling and screaming -- didn’t know what to do."

It's to the crew's credit that only 2 of the passengers aren't accounted for during a major sea disaster. And really, are you going to spend most of the cruise doing training drills? It's unrealistic.

Merritt said he was not surprised that the ship foundered off Santorini.

“Anywhere else in the Mediterranean, I would have been surprised," he said. “I love the island, but it’s always been a dangerous port of call."

Sounds like smaller, more maneuverable ships are necessary if you're going to operate around Santorini, or perhaps dredging operations to make the port safer.

War Dead To Be Treated With More Respect

via San Diego Union-Tribune.

Because of a father's dismay over the treatment of war dead returning to the US, a law has been passed ensuring that the remains of servicemen get the respect that they deserve.

Called the Holley Provision and sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the law requires that military dead not be transported in airplane cargo hold or treated as cargo, nor moved from the airplanes with forklifts.

I'm surprised that we were even doing this to begin with. It's a small detail, but with the extremely small number of war dead in the Iraq war compared with other US wars, better treatment should have been possible without a law. I'm sort of disappointed that the Bush administration needed prodding on this.

Friday, April 06, 2007

British Sailor Ordeal - - Update.

via CBS News.

Marine Capt. Chris Air said the 15 British sailors and marines faced an aggressive Iranian crew. "They rammed our boats, and trained their heavy machine guns, RPGs, and weapons on us. Another six boats were closing in on us. We realized our efforts to reason with these people were not making any headway, nor were we able to calm some of the individuals," Air said. "We realized that had we resisted there would have been a major fight, one we could not have won and with consequences major strategic impacts. We made a conscious decision not to engage the Iranians and do as they asked."

Did they take a vote, or something? What's with this "we?" In a situation like that, the senior officer present assumes command and makes all the decisions. Thus, it was Air's decision; his responsibility, his the rewards or the blame.

Air added: "From the outset it was very apparent that fighting back was not an option. If we had chosen to do so, many of us wouldn't be here today."

It was, of course, an option. The movie 300 shows what is possible when a small force confronts a larger one; so does the movie Zulu. Both of these movies are based on real battles; in one, the defenders died; in the other, although many died, some lived. Again, Air will have to answer to this as senior officer present.

The crewmembers insisted they were inside internationally-recognized Iraqi waters when they boarded a ship in the Persian Gulf on March 23.

Some of the British sailors held in Iran for 13 days said they were blindfolded, stripped, interrogated and pressured psychologically and emotionally during their captivity.

Exactly what did they expect?

Lt. Felix Carman said the crew was isolated and slept in stone cells on piles of blankets.


"All of us were kept in isolation. We were interrogated most nights and presented with two options. If we admitted that we'd strayed, we'd be on a plane to (Britain) pretty soon," Carman said at a news conference. "If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison."

Self-interest prevailed over patriotism, then. Didn't seem to need much persuading, did they?

I don't think they'll be stood against a wall and shot like Admiral Byng, but I don't think they'll be getting any medals for this, either.

Cruise Ship Sinks Off Santorini Island


Questions to ponder, such as:

1. Why didn't the captain of the ship run it aground rather than move to open water where there was a chance of sinking and total loss, as appears to have happened? Possible answer: Santorini is a volcanic caldera island, and may have steep-sided sloped shores rather than shallows where the ship could have been beached.

2. Is water-tight integrity of lesser importance than in previous years? What sort of damage was done to the ship that it sank less than 24 hours later? Did the crew make an effort at damage control at all?

3. Was the ship profitable to the owners? A sinking results in a total loss, obviously. Financial shenanigans the cause of the sinking? On a ship full of passengers, many of them litigious Americans, that would seem to be a bad proposition.

We'll hear more in the coming days, obviously.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

They Shot Admiral Byng, Remember.

The British sailors captured and later freed by Iran have returned to UK.

The have to undergo debriefing, etc. Already speculation is rampant on the conservative blogs about the private reception they'll get from the Navy and the UK government.

The sailors and marines didn't particularly cover themselves with glory or otherwise act in accordance with standard operating procedure for prisoners/captives. Frankly, they've been a disgrace.

It's possible that circumstances prevented them from resisting capture, e.g., rules of engagement that prohibited it, or even not giving them ammunition for their guns, which is often done in my (admittedly limited) experience.

Still, the marines and sailors should be worrying about the example that was made of Admiral Byng, who was shot for failing to fight back in the powdered wig days.

Voltaire said of Byng in his novel Candide: "In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Martian Caves

One of our Martian satellites has discovered holes on the surface of Mars, which could be the entrances to Martian cavern systems.


This is a hopeful sign. Dwelling on the surface of Mars would be difficult for a bunch of reasons: low temperatures (think Antarctica), cosmic rays, and hurricane-force wind storms.

Dwelling underground in caves/mines would probably be the best chance to colonize other planets, as any SF writer will tell you.