Dispatches From The Abyss

Does that title suck or what? Todays first item in the mosylikelysoontoberenamedcolumn Dispatches From The Abyss; I need a new name for this column.

I grew up reading Herb Caen… One of the all-time great newspaper columnists, though I am obviously prejudiced. How can I resist trying out a column format now that I have a place where we can write anything we want? Herb was known as the father of three dot journalism….

Those who know my style(s) can see his influence there. Though I tend to use the three dots differently…I like the rhythm they give. I have no idea where all the exclamations points come from…except the desire to see peoples heads esplode when I use way too many exclamation points. But to me they signal a rising upbeat tone at the end of a sentence…and I like that!!!

One of the many fascinating things to me about writing is thinking about and trying to figure out how other people perceive/read what I write. Are they hearing the voice I am trying to project inside their head the way I am trying to project it? Is that why people seem to like my writing? Or are they hearing it in a completely different tone and tenor and emphasis etc. than I am trying to convey and I am just lucky enough to be misinterpreted well?

We will never really know, because I don’t think that can be communicated. So anyways…I am going to occasionally write a column…like this. But I need a good name. You can suggest one if you want…that works sometimes. There is a sports writer in SF (Nevious?) who has a weekend column called Cheap Shots, Deep Thoughts and Bon Mots (or something close). I want to steal that, but that would be wrong!

In this column of random buhdyisms there will occasionally also be Meat.

But not today.

Today all I have are thoughts on what a beautiful planet we live on. Everywhere I have ever been the Earth itself has been pretty amazing. Even in spite of everything Humankind has done to make it as ugly as possible. Recently Hurricane Henriette blew through this part of Baja and dumped the  best gift a desert can get….which leads to….A Sade Break!!!

It’s 75Km from my little town down to Cabo, with the ocean on the right. All the way down, an explosion of life….a cacaphony of verdancy all around….relatively speaking. In Hawaii, there was Too Much Life. The jungle overgrew everything, rot and mold was everywhere. Mosquitos. Loud frogs singing at night…..A volcano. Life, activity, unceasing dynamism.

Moving from there to a very desert environment in my first stop in Mexico was…well I am not sure what it was! Saying it was different or a contrast just doesn’t do it justice. The desert there wasn’t even what we tend to think of as desert from the movies, rolling Sahara dunes. There is plenty of life there. But it is not as busy. You can’t HEAR things growing. The silence was amazingly refreshing. I loved HI, but I think I am more of a type that resonates to the stillness of the desert.

My new town is Lifey-er. Still desert sagebrush, but a flowing stream as well that feeds the palm trees and makes things green and a little moist.It is a noticeably cooler here as well., the sun doesn’t seem as unrelenting or as fierce, a really, really nice compromise. I’ll try to remember to take the camera next time and get some pics before everything dries out again. The desert after a rain is my new standard of earthly beauty. At least until I move again! Like I say, I have never seen a part of the earth that wasn’t somehow…in its own unique way beautiful.

Have you?

Other people have bad hair days, I have bad satellite days. (it helps not having much hair!) Today is one of them and I am running at WELL below dial-up speeds. Hopefully it will clear up later, but for now it will take me a lllllllllllooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggg time to respond to comments. I have been trying to do some research on the costs of the war and on what kind of coverage the STRIKE! is getting, but I am pulling my hair out at the sloooooowness of it. Which of course, helps avoid bad hair days!

Todays Abyss Report: Still there, still yawning.

I sure do wish the Democrats would stop poking it with sticks and could somehow get the Armageddonist Republicants to stop throwing things at it and taunting it.

On the sad anniversary of “More and Better Democrats”

The slogan “More and Better Democrats” has taken firm root of late in blogospherical political culture.  After Darcy Burner recently adopted it for last month’s fundraising appeal to mark Bush’s visit to her district to plump for her opponent, I decided to do some wordsleuthing to derive its original usage.  This has all been DKos-Search-and-Google-based work, so of course it’s not definitive — and I’d welcome any corrections — but I found it interesting for reasons that will become obvious.

The phrase has been attributed to Darcy and to Howie Klein, but most often (and, as it turns out, with fair reason) to Atrios.

Today is the second anniversary of the first utterance of the phrase in the progressive blogosphere and the first anniversary of its first use as a political slogan.  Within three hours after its appearing on Eschaton, it was stolen and used repeatedly and self-consciously on this site as a rallying cry.  The perp, I was surprised to discover, was me, one year ago today.

So that means that I really /can/ explain its original usage: it was coined out of despair and grief.  That’s because today is not /solely/ the anniversary of “More and Better Democrats.”  Read on.


Note: This diary is not associated with any candidate or campaign.  Also: in this essay “here” and “this site” = Daily Kos, from which this is crossposted.  I’m too lazy to rewrite it.

I like the phrase “More and Better Democrats” so much — the way it pithily conveys the jaded view that neither “more” nor “better” alone is enough, but also the hope that that both of them together might be — that I decided to do some serious research into its online history and origins.  (I found no reference to any offline history beyond what you find here.)  My methods were four DailyKos searches — one comment search, from 5-2 years ago, which (conducted earlier this week) shows nothing; one, from 2 years to 6 months ago, which shows 17 results; the same comment search since then; a full story and diary search — and a series of Google searches, both a general one and advanced searches focusing on the major progressive blogs.

What I found is that the history of the phrase over the last year is one born of pain.  It leads directly to one of the most persistent and fraught debates that we have in the progressive blogosphere.  En route, tracing its journey, I found some nice diversions, some familiar disputes, and at the very end — so you should read all the way through — a surprise twist.  Most of this research was done some months ago; I’ve been saving this diary for today’s anniversary.

(2) The first stop on this journey brings a special delight.  The second-ever use I found of the phrase in a sentence came from Meteor Blades, posted on this site in his own diary on September 28, 2005, two years ago today.  (He quoted it himself in a post on April 10, 2006, and did so again on January 25, 2007.)  It’s a long post, so I’ve truncated it, but it’s of evergreen importance — on the question of the usefulness of political marches, rallies, and the like (DKos was a different place two years ago) — so I urge you to take a detour and go read the whole thing:

Fer cryin’ out loud, can we stop this … (4.00 / 7)

…my approach is the only approach and anybody who disagrees is a be-beaded, patchouli-drenched retread stuck in the ’60s bullshit?

Protest marches have their purposes. And they didn’t start in the 1960s. Ever hear of the suffragists?

Even so, they weren’t the end-all, be-all of the antiwar movement of the 1960s. Contrary to what so many here seem to believe (apparently because they have accepted the media-distorted images of the movement) – 99% of what we antiwarriors did in the Vietnam era was NOT organize marches and rallies.

As I have argued since the 1960s, and continuously since I began participating at Daily Kos three years ago, and as I did in my Sunday Diary and TocqueDeville’s about the October 24 march, local organizing and locally based opposition is key to our success, whether that’s electing prednisone 500 20mg more (and better) Democrats or stopping various policies, including the PNAC-inspired foreign policy of this grotesque Administration.

(3) The third-ever usage, and the first time I find the phrase used to articulate a goal, was on March 25, 2006.  In “The Blogfather,” a blog for /Cape Cod Today/, a commenter pseudonamed “hi hank” had this to say:

We need cheap brand viagra from canada pharmacy more and better Democrats on Cape Cod. Enough with the self-serving Republicians that hide between the printed word (and their friends in the press). Start a blog. Spread democracy.

Well said, hi hank, whoever you are.

(4) The fourth-ever usage was on this site, in a March 31, 2006 comment by Mooncat, posted in a diary by some troublemaker named Kagro X entitled “We don’t have the numbers.” (read it by following the comment) that argued that we Democrats didn’t have the votes to do anything we wanted anyway, so we might as well shoot for the moon and impeach.  Mooncat’s response:

You are right, of course. (0 / 0)

My goal is to get buy lasix 40 mg more (and better) Democrats in office.  It is entirely possible that the folks who have been involved for years are pretty content to meet every couple of months, throw a big party once a year, and do some phone banking for a few weeks every other year.  Not much hope in that case until they die, retire, or get voted out.

Another possibility (and this is the one I’m rooting for) is that the old timers also want to get more Democrats elected, but they are just too tired to entertain any ideas that sound like more work.  In this case, involving more people would improve the situation and this 50 state canvas seems like a good way to find at least a few more people who would be activists.

(5) The fifth-ever usage — and the one that I think eventually led to the phrase catching on — was by Atrios.  Because it comes in a one-line response to excerpts from a candidate’s speech that form the brunt of the post, I feel justified in quoting the whole thing, from one year ago today, 2:08 p.m. EDT.

cialis on line purchase Patrick Murphy Speaks


We need to be absolutely clear, to the world and to our professional soldiers, that the United States of America does not condone torture, and does not conduct torture. Period. Not only is it not right morally, but strategically, as a military professional, it’s wrong. When you look back at our nation’s history, when you look back at Desert Storm back in the early 90’s, when we had tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of them in the first few days of the campaign rose with the white flag of surrender. Why did they do that, ladies and gentlemen? They surrendered because they knew when captured by the Americans we would treat them humanely. We would treat them appropriately, and we would follow the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

When I sat and taught the rules of engagement, and I was the law enforcement officer in my combat brigade, my soldiers knew, our paratroopers knew, that they were professional soldiers, that we have army values. Those Army values cannot be breached. Those same Army values that I taught to the 600 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members, the new Iraqi Army, to make sure that they too understood that we are a part of a profession. That we are to act appropriately. That we are to follow the law of war. Because it is a profession, and it’s a profession that we take very seriously. And for those members to talk tough, from the White House or wherever, to try and blur the lines, it’s hurting our own soldiers. It’s hurting our military profession.

All we can do is try to elect levitra fast delivery more and better Democrats.

-Atrios 14:08

You may now start to recall what happened a year ago today.

To lighten the mood for a moment, this was not Atrios’s first use of the “more and better X” formulation.  For example, in this discussion of intellectual property law from March 28, 2005:

Now, I’m all for innovators and artists being able to profit from their works, but the ability to do so is a means to an end, not the end itself. The end itself is supposed to be a benefit to consumers in the form of more new gadgets and here more and better chick lit. If the IP system stifles innovation and creativity, rather than fostering it, then it’s time for a change.

(6) The sixth-ever usage I found through Google was first time I found it employed as the bare slogan it has become.  It was used on September 28, 2006 — one year ago today, coincidentally one year to the day after Meteor Blades’s first use of it.  I had evidently read Atrios’s post, the phrase struck a chord, and I flat-out stole it, using it three times in one diary and twice in commenting on a story.  (It also appeared once in response to me.)

I’m going to copy the diary in which the comment appeared, by stephdray, in full as a way to mark this first anniversary of the Senate’s passing the Military Commissions Act, washing away the legal consequences of the Bush Administration’s embrace of torture by a vote of 65-34.  (House approval followed the next day, but everyone knew that the pivotal battle was in the Senate.)

Just Spoke with Harry Reid’s Office on Torture–No Filibuster

Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 01:17:35 PM PDT

I just got off the phone with a staffer in Harry Reid’s office who sounded like he was about ten minutes away from a date with a bottle and a bunch of sleeping pills.

A funny thing happens to me when I’m furious beyond all comprehension.  I actually get deadly calm and quiet.  I was that way on the phone. 

I asked what the status of the military commissions bill was, and what Senator Reid was going to do about it.  Here’s what the man said.

He told me that they were still trying to add amendments to this bill, to fix the problems with regard to Habeas Corpus, Torture, and the Geneva Conventions.  He told me that Senator Reid was vehemently opposed to the bill as written.  That he was poised to vote against it.

I asked if there was a chance of a filibuster.

The staffer let out a long sigh.  “We can’t,” he said, explaining some complicated stuff about unanimous consent and amendments.  Essentially, it boiled down to the fact that the Democrats thought they would have the numbers to pass amendments to fix this bill, so due to Senate rules, the filibuster is now not possible. 

The gist of the conversation was that they believed they had the votes for the Amendments but it sounds as if someone got punked.

I asked “Why didn’t you filibuster this bill instead?”

He told me flat out, that Harry Reid could not find the votes for a filibuster of this bill.  Then he told me that the habeas corpus and torture issues were poison, but there were large parts of the bill that “needed” to be passed and that’s why there weren’t the votes for a filibuster.

I asked him, “It needed to be passed at this cost?”

He sighed again.  And it was not a condescending sigh.  It was a sigh of utter defeat.  As I went on to lecture him about how this was the big issue, this was everything, this was the constitution, the moral question of our age, he did not argue. 

When I told him that history was going to look back on this day unkindly, and that Harry Reid especially would not look good, he didn’t argue with that either.  And it wasn’t a matter of disloyalty, I think.  It seemed to me that Mr. Reid’s office may be well aware that this is a very dark day.

He essentially said, “We tried.”

He told me that if we could take back the Senate, he could guarantee this wouldn’t be happening.  That they just needed the numbers.  I decided not to pour salt into the wound by explaining that if the Democratic caucus held together, they would have the numbers.

I haven’t processed what all this means yet.

Septic Tank, stephdray, and I then had this discussion (tag lines and recommenders omitted):

Oh, well (17+ / 0-)

Hey, they only let us down on torture. That and Roberts. And Scalito. And the MBNA Protection Act. Win some, lose some. Heh. That’s politics, right?

But hey, let’s have some happy fundraising talk! And how ’bout those generic ballots? Woo!

I’m looking at a picture of my son, and for the first time, wondering what the hell I was thinking bringing such a sweet creature into such a bleak fucking world. Thanks, Harry.

God, my eye tic is back. My blood pressure’s going through the roof. Why do I take this stuff so seriously? I mean, it’s only torture.

by Septic Tank on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 01:24:22 PM PDT

brand viagra online australia pharmacy More and better Democrats (1+ / 0-)

and maybe a diuretic.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:00:46 PM PDT

I’m not click more and better democrats angry (2+ / 0-)

I’m not a dime’s worth of difference goodbye cruel world angry.

by Septic Tank on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:10:35 PM PDT

It’s more than a dime. (2+ / 0-)

It’s just not as different as we hoped or believed.

It’s the reality, and we have to work with it.  It’s a very bitter pill to swallow, but that little bit of difference, if it makes a difference to people who are suffering… you gotta go with every difference you can find.

I’m no less bitter than you.  I have just moved on to the triage phase.

Stephanie Dray

by stephdray on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:38:04 PM PDT

Then do say goodbye (5+ / 0-)

I appreciate why you’re angry — I’m as angry as you are — but if you’re not going to be part of the solution than you don’t belong on this site.

80% of House Democrats voted against torture.  What, 5% of Republicans did?  If you don’t see a dime’s worth of difference, you’re not worth my conversation time.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:38:21 PM PDT

Things continued in the same vein from there (click comment times to go to posts and get context):

Fewer than 41 Democratic Senators agreed with you (3+ / 0-)

http://1viagraonline.com More and better Democratic Senators is what we need.  This was lost in the Democratic caucus, and the swing votes there may well have been reading the public in their states right.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:02:01 PM PDT

after ejaculation viagra More and better Democrats (4+ / 0-)

Let’s say that 75% of Democrats would filibuster this.

In that case, we needed to have 55 of them.

You and I don’t disagree there.

Although bear in mind that if we had 51, Reid would have made sure that this bill had never come out of committee.

Reality-based, folks, reality-based.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:05:03 PM PDT

The next two threads were from this story, “History will not absolve us,” by mcjoan:

so fuck ’em all (5+ / 0-)

I’m serious.  fuck the Democrats.  why should I keep going broke for every election, keep humping my back to spread their message?  They won’t even fight the fights when they have the 100% right of it.

Republicans didn;t steal America – Democrats handed it away.  So fuck ’em.  I’m gonna go watch some reality tv.

by fromer on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 01:42:32 PM PDT

Stop giving Karl Rove an erection (0 / 0)

Yes, Democrats are only an 80% good party and that wasn’t enough this time.  We need

more and better Democrats

.  You’re adding whipped cream on the Republican’s pie when you say you’ll stop fighting.  Instead, keep a long memory and fight harder.

51 Democrats and this bill would never have come out of commitee.  Remember that.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 02:18:57 PM PDT

I feel your pain (0 / 0)

But when you stop trying to elect more and better Democrats, you’re no longer part of this community.  I hope that in time the outrages of Republican control of Congress will bring you back.

by Major Danby on Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 03:02:12 PM PDT

It was not, I think, my finest moment here, and certainly not my most friendly.  I can tell you exactly what I was thinking then.  I was royally pissed off that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats had been outmanuevered, and more pissed than that at the eleven Democrats who voted for the bill.  I was also, given my position on a Senate campaign, looking at non-public polls that showed how well we were likely to do in 2006 so long as nothing came along to knock us off track — and here was something knocking us off track not five weeks before the election.  This would be a double victory for Republicans: enact a repugnant policy /and/ drive away the Democratic base; it increased the likelihood that they would hold the Senate.

(You’ll see echoes of this debate in our recent discussions, I know.)

If this diary has a thesis, it’s hidden right here in the balance of this section:

I see support for the morivating principle of “More and Better Democrats” as being a lot like the commitment to freedom of speech: it is most important when it is hardest to justify.

It’s /easy/ to support free speech when things are going your way, when nothing offensive is being said, etc.  Most people can do it, across the political spectrum.  It’s easy to profess because it’s meaningless, it’s ineffectual, it’s cheap words.  What matters is how much you support free speech when it’s hard, when it means being confronted with something offensive.  That’s when you find out whether or not you’re really a supporter.  (We’ve seen a lot of people fail that test this week with Ahmedinejad.)

The difficulty of supporting the principle of “More and Better Democrats” when the Democrats we have can’t muster a filibuster on the Military Commissions Act, or when they get rooked on FISA, or when they cave in on funding Iraq, is a lot like the difficulty of supporting free speech when Ahmedinejad comes to Columbia, or when the Nazis march on Skokie.  That is when free speech is most in danger; that is when you just have to take a breath, buckle down, and /do/ it.

It’s important to believe it then — to believe that when we get tackled we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work — because it is at that exact moment when support for the principle is in greatest danger.  It’s when people are screwing us over, acting like the “Republicrat Party,” that we have to tell them that there is nothing they can do to keep us from making sure that, ultimately, we will not only have enough Democrats to keep the other side out of power, but enough good Democrats to enact our own agenda.

In Mozambique’s drive for political independence from South Africa, the slogan was was “A Luta Continua” (“the struggle continues.”)  In the Spanish Civil War, it was “¡No pasarán! (they shall not pass)”  Of course, often they /do/ pass, and the struggle often continues for decades or more.  But the battle cry — for us, “More and Better Democrats,” meaning “we will keep on doing what we are doing until we defeat you” — sustains the movement.  Yes, it involves a willful suspension of disbelief, it involves the prospect of complicity with those who fail us.  But those, I submit, are better than ironic detachment or self-immolation, because in our world /there is nowhere else to go/.  We need more and more people on our side.  Better and better ones.

Back to the history.

(7) After September 28, 2006, the phrase wasn’t used on this site (or anywhere else I could find) for almost five months, until this exchange between me and Buzzer (whose tag line, “Le ciel est bleu, l’enfer est rouge.” is one of my favorites), which began by my responding to a post by a poster who thought that the Congress that had prepared to impeach Nixon had been Republican-controlled.

No. Not even close. (0 / 0)
It was a Democratic-controlled Congress, almost as entrenched as they get.

The problem is that — as is the case now — there is a conservative majority in Congress once you add the Blue Dogs to most Republicans.  That is what limits the ability of Pelosi and Murtha (who is otherwise himself a conservative) to maneuver.

The answer: work towards a more liberal population, election laws that downplay the importance of money, and elect more and better Democrats.  Until we’re there, try to get there.

by Major Danby on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 04:08:13 PM PDT

Are you saying that conservatives… (1+ / 0-)

  …don’t care if the troops have their proper training and equipment? I’m not talking about conservative leaders, who of course don’t give a crap; I’m talking about conservative voters.

  The Murtha plan should be ridiculoulsly easy to sell to CONSERVATIVES. It’s about fighting this war the RIGHT way, after all.

  The fact that the blue dogs aren’t even trying to promote Murtha’s plan doesn’t speak well for their worth as lawmakers. Or as humans.

by Buzzer on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 04:23:27 PM PDT

They tend to be sheep (0 / 0)

and they tend to latch on to any defensive psychological justification just so they can avoid dealing with contradictions of the sort you raise.

Yes, the plan should be easy to sell to conservative votes — at least honest ones.  But they will soak up lies and distortions to keep them from reaching logical conclusions like a thirsty desert soaks up rain.

Nevertheless, I strongly favor the Murtha plan.

by Major Danby on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 05:17:26 PM PDT

  I would think… (0 / 0)

  …that a “conservative” Congressional district that would elect a Democrat — ANY Democrat — would be more rational and less wingnutty than the kind of “conservative” district that would vote knee-jerk Republican. 

  So I’d think the voters in those districts are fairly likely to listen to reason. They’ve already made one big mental leap by voting for the Democrat to begin with.

  I just think it’s ridiculous that the blue-dogs are throwing up their hands and not even TRYING to sell Murtha’s plan. Especially given how unpopular the war is. That’s just insulting to our troops.

  The Democrats have a serious messaging problem. The Democrats had a serious messaging problem ten years ago. The Democrats haven’t done diddly to fix that.

  I’m beginning to think it’s willful. In their hearts, this war is an enormous source of pleasure to them, and they don’t want it to end.

by Buzzer on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 05:28:45 PM PDT

  I don’t buy that last part at all (0 / 0)

The problem is that a majority of the Representatives are still conservative, which makes it hard to pass bills that aren’t.  The Democratic leadership wants to stop this war despite any political gain they might get from its continuation.  They would like the next President not to inherit a broken military and foreign policy.

by Major Danby on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 05:49:07 PM PDT

  Well, like you mentioned… (0 / 0)

  …Murtha’s pretty conservative himself.

  And like I said, Murtha’s bill is inherently “conservative” in nature.

  And yet the “conservative” blue dogs would rather keep our troops in danger.

  I’m having an increasingly hard time defending the Democratic Party against charges that they “don’t support the troops”. And their rejection of the resolutely pro-troop Murtha plan is one of the reasons why.

by Buzzer on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 05:54:31 PM PDT

  /Who’s/ rejection? (0 / 0)

I think you’re painting with too broad of a brush.

by Major Danby on Tue Feb 27, 2007 at 06:30:02 PM PDT

Around this time, the phrase slowly started to catch on.  On DKos alone, redrelic17 used it the next day; jenniferpoole four times over the following two weeks (read this!), me again on March 14 and April 23, and then it was used six times in May, seven in June, twelve in July, almost sixty in August, a hundred times so far in September.  I wish I could take credit for its popularization, but prior to Darcy’s adoption of the slogan that credit clearly belongs to Atrios, who used it on February 18, March 4, April 8, and May 20.  Back here, the next use in a diary after Meteor Blades’s initial coinage was in a diary of mine on May 27, 2007; the first front page use (of 9 so far) was in a Meteor Blades story on June 20, 2007.  It has been used here 52 times here in the past two weeks.  Howie Klein shows 47 hits on “Down With Tyranny” and firedoglake 51, mostly since August.  Google shows almost 8000 hits.  (That’s versus five, if you’re curious, for “More and better Republicans,” one of which actually speaks of the Irish fighters circa 1916.)  But relatively few of them evoke the spite and sorrow that attended the birth of this slogan a year ago today.

I don’t know what the phrase now means to others.  To some critics, it apparently sounds like an empty goal, “success for the sake of success,” or some such.  To me, it’s a statement of grim determination: /we will keep working until we have the political representation that we need/.  The Democratic Party is a tool of change — not always a good one, but for as long as I’ve been alive and as far as the eye can see, the best one.  And the challenge for activists is /always/ whether — in times of greatest frustration such as the Senate approval of the Military Commissions Act one year ago today — we snap that tool in half and discard it, or wheether we try to increase its power and our control over it.

I promised you a twist at the end.  As you’ll see below, we’re not the only ones who ask this sort of question.

(1) I’ve left for the end the first use I could find of the phrase “more and better Democrats,” which is what led me to specify that Meteor Blades’s phrase was the first use in the /progressive/ blogosphere.  The phrase comes from an obscure (four posts in September, no comments) conservative warblogger named Richard Bennett, who used it in an August 2002 post excoriating a Republican pundit, Bill Quick, for his dire response to the flailing and failing California Gubernatorial campaign of Bill Simon against Gray Davis.

Here was what Bill Quick had said, based on his frustration with the Republican Party, back before the “product launch” of the Iraq War:

absent a drastic turnaround in the focus and actions of the Bush administration, I will register my displeasure this fall by voting a straight Democratic ticket at the national level, and I urge others to register their protest in any similar way that will result in a clear message being sent to our leaders: If you fail in your sworn duty to defend the US constitution and, implicitly, the American people from obvious threats like Saddam Hussein and the Islamofascist Saudi regime, you will be thrown out of power and out of office.

Richard Bennett responded:

Cute, isn’t it? He’s upset with Bush, and to show his displeasure he wants to sell the country down the river in an election where Bush’s name isn’t even on the ballot. The only real discussion of alternatives in the Middle East comes from the Republican Party, and Quick proposes silencing them. The plan’s idiotic, and it follows a series of other “Quick fixes” that have the net result of electing Democrats. Given that his main issue is abortion, the fervor to elect more and better Democrats doesn’t make any sense.

Let me ask you — which quote above from our political opponents did you enjoy reading more?

We stand on the other side of the looking glass from Richard Bennett in August 2002.  We stand at the other end — or at least we wish it were the end — of a disastrous war.  We stand at the other end of the ideological spectrum, joined in our frustration at the failures of our own leaders to do what we know they must, one year to the day after one of the greatest betrayals of our beliefs and our Constitution.

We can be the mirror-image of Bill Quick, if we choose.  But when I read his commentary outlining his plans, it made me happy.  I don’t want our own mirror-images to be happy with what we write.

Or, we can be the mirror-image of Richard Bennett, and say:

“The fervor to do anything less than electing more and better Democrats doesn’t make any sense.

So, a happy sad anniversary to us all.  We return to work with the tools and tasks at hand in our historical moment.

For the anti-Fascists fighting Franco, the tool was military: “¡No pasarán!”

For the Portuguese-speaking nations of southern Africa, the tool was enduring resistance: “A Luta Continua.”

And for those of us living in the most powerful country in the world, the tool without which all ohter tools mean nothing is electoral: “More and Better Democrats.”

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Still Photos from Edgewood Arsenal: Human Experimentation Seen Up Close

Crossposted from Invictus

Thanks to tigana for the link to this online resource regarding the U.S. Army’s decades-long experimentation of biological and chemical agents on human subjects. The site has a number of documentary photographs from the testing at Edgewood itself. The photos include both animal and human exerimentation. They are shocking in their display of cold, clinical, Nazi-like science. I recommend following up by reading the link to the Senate hearings included below. I will have much more to say on this subject in the near future.

Between 1955 and 1975, the U.S. Army used 7,000 enlisted soldiers as human guinea pigs for experiments involving a wide array of biological and chemical warfare agents.

These tests were conducted jointly by the U.S. Army Intelligence Board and the Chemical Warfare Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal’s research facility in Maryland. Approximately 3,500 of these soldiers were given doses of powerful mind-altering psychochemicals, including LSD, PCP, and BZ. These “volunteer” test subjects were not told which drugs they were given, and were not fully informed of the extreme physical and psychological effects these drugs would have on them.

The images presented here are stills from documentary footage of these experiments filmed by the U.S. Army. To learn more, read the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on covert military testing of human subjects; see also the excellent A&E Investigative Reports documentary “Bad Trip to Edgewood.”

For more on the history of the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments, see the Wikipedia article, which I had a hand in assembling:

The Edgewood Arsenal experiments (also known as Project 112) are said to be related to or part of CIA mind control programs after World War II, like MKULTRA…. The experiments were performed at the Edgewood Arsenal, northeast of Baltimore, Maryland, and involved the use of neurological agents and heavy hallucinogens like LSD, THC, and BZ, in addition to biological and chemical agents…. In the mid-1970s, in the wake of many health claims made from exposure to such agents, including psychotropic and hallucinogenic drugs administered in later experiments, Congress began investigations of misuse of such experiments, and inadequate informed consent given by the soldiers and civilians involved.

The Edgewood experiments took place from approximately 1952-1974 at the Bio Medical Laboratory, which is now known as the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense. The volunteer would spend the weekend on-site. They would perform tests and procedures (math, navigation, following orders, memory and interview) while sober. The volunteer would then be dosed by a scientist and perform the same tests. These tests occurred in the building/hospital under the care of doctors and nurses. At times the tests would be taken outside to study the effects while in the field. For example the volunteer would have to guard a check point while under the influence to see what effects certain drugs had on the patient.

A pamphlet produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Effects from Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons (Oct. 2003), discusses the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments in some detail.

This post is dedicated to the victims of white phosphorus at Fallujah.

Whistle Blowing Primer

Today I am selling my laptop if the prospective buyer actually buys. 

Everything else I own is in storage and it is all for sale.  I haven’t found buyers for it, and none of it has any real value. 

But it’s what’s left after whistle blowing and experiencing years of retaliation. 

I use it to sell in order to pay for places to stay, as I am homeless, permanently jobless and have no ability to compete for jobs playing by your rules. 

What is retaliation? 

To me, it has included an active threat of death, being shot at, experiencing extreme isolation, ostracism, shunning, defamation, stalking, theft, and fraud.  The least of it has been promises that I will never work again.

I am only sharing this here because progressives so easily and loudly proclaim the duty of people to whistle blow.  I don’t believe there is any real understanding of the dangerousness of that act, nor of the consequences which rain down on the person who does try to speak truth to power.

Whistleblowers have been likened to bees: a whistleblowing employee has only one sting to use, and using it may well lead to career suicide. In a survey of 87 American whistleblowers from both public service and private industry all but one experienced retaliation, with those employed longer experiencing more. Whistleblowers face economic and emotional deprivation, victimisation, and personal abuse and they receive little help from statutory authorities.

  Better off dead is not an exaggeration of the fate of whistle blowers.  There is no charity or respite for us.  Most of us die early deaths, from the research that is done. 

How could we not? 

The typical whistleblower’s health is very poor. In a survey I did in 1993, reported in the British Medical Journal (1), 29 of the 35 subjects had an average of 3.6 symptoms at the time of the survey. Though high, this was less than the average of 5.3 at the time they blew the whistle. The most common were difficulty sleeping, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and feelings of guilt and unworthiness. They also suffered from nervous diarrhoea, trouble breathing, stomach problems, loss of appetite, loss of weight, high blood pressure, palpitations, hair loss, grinding teeth, nightmares, headaches, tiredness, weeping, tremor, urinary frequency, ‘stress’, and ‘loss of trust’. Fifteen subjects (i.e. over half of those with symptoms) were now on medication they had not been on before blowing the whistle – for depression, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure.

The reason for this poor state of health is clear. They had suffered intense victimization at work, being made redundant, demoted, dismissed, or pressured to resign; their position was abolished, or they were transferred. While still in the workplace they were isolated, physically and personally; were given impossible tasks to perform, menial work, or no work at all; were subjected to constant scrutiny and verbal abuse, forced to see psychiatrists, threatened with defamation actions and disciplinary actions; were constantly criticised, fined, subjected to internal inquiries, adverse reports; and received death and other threats. The most common outcome was to resign because of ill health caused by the victimization. The treatment they receive appears to be standard, and is described in more detail, for example, by Bill de Maria in his large survey of Queensland whistleblowers. (2)

As a result of what happened they also suffered severe financial loss. Only eight of the 35 subjects had not suffered any loss of income; in twelve cases their income was reduced by over 75%. They faced large medical, other, and particularly legal costs, and in over half the cases their estimated total financial loss was in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Families disappear.  Wherever we go, people literally turn their backs, or they attack.  Friends – who are those phantoms?  We are sitting ducks just because we played by the rules which are also in place to kill us and our knowledge.  Trust which is stripped from us will never return.  We are less than human. 

The very ethical framework which caused us to speak truth to power over the recognition of authority figures to direct unethical and illegal behavior causes us to be seen as – in the terms you use frequently – nuts and wacko. 

In my own case, even though I kept as much evidence as possible, no one was interested in receiving it and doing anything with it.  So I acted ethically in a true vacuum. That’s the norm. 

There are few, if any, parties who are interested in acting on whistle blowers’ findings because to even acknowledge what is truth is dangerous. 

So I leave you with just an inkling of what happens when someone is even being encouraged to whistle blow with many more “protections” than I had (none). 

And a warning:  unless you are willing to stand up and with whistle blowers, you have no right to ask anyone to sacrifice his or her life for you. Because that’s exactly what it is – certain lethality.

That doesn’t mean spouting attaboys and way to go’s on blogs.  That means giving them jobs, sheltering them, supporting their legal expenses, and protecting them from physical and emotional harm.  It means not abandoning them after they have been used for their information and discarded not unlike rotting fruit. 

There is no effective whistle-blower protection system, and there needs to be.

Those with power – sometimes that’s legal power, political power and firepower – real weaponry, and deep pockets and resources are brought to bear – to oppress by any means available – those few of us who truly stand alone.  Here’s just a very tiny taste (pdf) of what whistle-blowing is like.  And Waxman’s admonishments to the contrary, there are no real protections for whistle-blowers.  We are on our own.  We have no lobby group, no movement, no supporters.  We have no one and less than nothing.  Remember that the next time you cockily and breezily demand whistle-blowing.

Remember – someday, it will be you.

The Honorable Howard J. Krongard
Inspector General
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street
NW Washington, DC 20520 

Dear Mr. Krongard: I am writing to you about an exceptionally serious matter: reports that your senior staff has threatened officials that you could fire them if they cooperate with the Committee’s investigation into your conduct. 

On September 18, 2007,I wrote to you requesting your assistance with an Oversight Committee investigation into your actions as State Department Inspector General. In that letter, I described allegations from seven officials in your office that you interfered with on-going investigations in order to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.
I requested various documents related to the investigation, and I informed you that Committee staff would be conducting interviews of several officials in your office. 

Two of the individuals who came forward were John A. DeDona, the former Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, and Ralph McNamara, the former Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations. They told my staff that they had resigned after you repeatedly halted or impeded investigations undertaken by their office. The other individuals who contacted my staff asked that their identities not be revealed because they feared that you would retaliate against them.

Today, I am writing to express my grave concern with the tactics your office has reportedly used in response to my request. This week, several current employees in your office – including two who have agreed to go on the record – informed the Committee that your senior staff attempted to coerce them not to cooperate with the Committee’s inquiry and threatened their jobs and careers. 

The two officials who agreed to go on the record about the threats are Special Agent Ron Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Rubendall. Both currently work in the investigations division of your office. Both are career federal investigators. Just last week, you referred to Special Agent Militana as “one of my best investigators” in a statement you released. 

In addition to describing the threats he received, Special Agent Militana kept contemporaneous notes of these interchanges, which he has now shared with my staff. 

Special Agent Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall report that on September 25,2007, one week after I sent my letter, your congressional affairs liaison and an attomey in the Counsel’s office approached them about the Committee’s invitation to be interviewed. They were taken into the office of the Deputy Inspector General, where your congressional liaison told Special Agent Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall that they wanted to discuss their upcoming interviews. 

At this point, according to Special Agent Militana, your congressional liaison told them they could suffer retaliation based on their cooperation with the Committee’s investigation. 

According to Special Agent Militana, she stated: The majority are not friends. The minority staff has been helpful. They advise that you should never do a voluntary interview in a million years.

When Special Agent Militana questioned her statement, the congressional liaison told him: “You have no protection against reprisal. You have no whistleblower protections. Howard could retaliate and you would have no recourse.”

The attorney informed Special Agent Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall that although they might have some civil service protections against termination, he concurred with the congressional liaison. Special Agent Militana said that when he pressed the issue, the congressional liaison stated: “Howard can fire you. It would affect your ability to get another job.”

Special Agent Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall stated that at the end of this session, they felt angry that such threats were being used against them. Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall informed my staff that as career investigators who deal with whistleblowers, they were shocked by the brazenness of these tactics. 

They ultimately concluded that this activity was inappropriate and should be reported to the Committee.

Special Agent Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall are not the only current employees to raise these concerns. Other employees have also reported that the congressional liaison and the attomey told them that if they appear before the Committee, you could take unspecified legal actions against them based on their statements.

I Statementfrom Støte Deportmenl.IG, Associated Press (Sept. 18,2007). 

I am appalled by these reports. As an Inspector General, you hold a position of special trust within the federal government. Your office is supposed to be an example of how to protect whistleblowers, not an example of how to persecute them. It is unclear whether you directed your senior staff to engage in these activities or whether they took matters into their own hands.  In either case, the threats against Special Agent Militana, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall, and others are reprehensible. 

You should be aware – and you should advise your staff – that Congress has passed civil and criminal prohibitions against threatening and tampering with witnesses, retaliating against whistleblowers, and providing false information to Congress.  If Special Agent Militana’s and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rubendall’s accounts are true, some or all of these provisions may be implicated. 

The Committee will not tolerate any intimidation of potential witnesses. 
I direct you to instruct your staff, including your congressional affairs liaison and attorneys, to suspend all communications (other than those necessary to collect responsive documents) with employees the Committee is planning to interview. I also wam you against any further efforts to intimidate witnesses or prevent truthful communications with Congress.

If you have any questions about this matter, you should contact me personally. 


Henry A. Waxman Chairman

cc: Tom Davis Ranking Minority Member 

Stt, t.g.l8 U.S.C. $ 1505 (“Whoever corruptly, or by threats of force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstruct, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law … or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress – Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years .. . or both”); 23 U.S.C. ç 2302 (“Any employee who has the authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall not, with respect to such authority … take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action with respect to any employee or applicant for employment because of a disclosure of information by an employee or applicant which the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety”).

Pony Party, bereft of alliteration.

And I’m not feeling at all wordy today. Must be a weekend coming up.

Let’s see if this will embed: 

Well, it’s not showing up in my preview, so how ’bout a picture? I can do those:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

And here’s something that’s Friday Noon appropriate:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Let’s see if I can embed something else:

A bunch of my youtube links have been taken down — here’s something that might be good. I can’t tell because the driver I let Windows update install has broken my sound. Gotta go fix that. So tell me if this sucks:

Oh, and here’s another one, just because:

Jim Webb Does Not Get It . . .

Green Greenwald wrote:

At the beginning of this year, when the Democrats took over Congress, it would have been unthinkable — truly — to imagine the Congress expressly authorizing the use of military force against Iran. It was always certainly a strong possibility that the administration would find a way to provoke a war with Iran and then argue that they need no further authorization on the ground that the current Iraq AUMF implicitly authorizes them to defend our mission by attacking Iran.

Stranger in a Strange Land wrote that Jim Webb gets it:

I share Jim Webb’s concern that, given the opportunity, Dick Cheney will not hesitate to use the vote on yesterday’s amendment as part of his justification to attack Iran should that opportunity come to pass.

The opportunity, as Greenwald points out, is the continuing Iraq Debacle. And Jim Webb will not do what must be done, not fund the Iraq Debacle. Which means Jim Webb does NOT get it. No Democrat in Congress can truly claim to be doing all they can to end the Iraq Debacle and to prevent an Iran Debacle if they continue to support Bush’s war by funding it. Webb is supporting the Iraq Debacle as he votes to continue to fund it. More.

The Presidential candidates in the Senate on funding Bush’s Iraq Debacle:

Senator Chris Dodd:

. . . Congress has an obligation here. . . . The Constitution gives the Congress of the United States a unique power, and that is the power of the purse. As long as we continue drafting these lengthy resolutions and amendments here, talking about timelines and dates, we're not getting to the fundamental power that exists in the Congress. And that is to terminate the funding of this effort here, give us a new direction.

Senator Barack Obama:

I hope and will work diligently in the Senate to bring an end to this war before I take office. And I think that it is very important at this stage, understanding how badly the president's strategy has failed, that we not vote for funding without some timetable for this war.

Senator Hillary Clinton:

I have voted against funding this war, and I will vote against funding this war as long as it takes.

Senator Joe Biden:

MR. RUSSERT:  If, in fact, the president does not accept a firm withdrawal date, will you vote to cut off funding?

SEN. BIDEN:  . . . I will vote, as long as there’s a single troop in there that we are taking out or maintaining, either way I will vote for the money necessary to protect them, period.

Joe Biden can not stand up to George Bush and the Republicans. He will not vote to end the war. He can not be the Democratic nominee.

And as long as he takes the Biden position, Jim Webb most assuredly does NOT get it.

Drunk, Drugged & Disorderly in Alabama with “W”

” We probably kept the state liquor store in business.”

  ~Devere McLennan, GWB drinkin’ buddy

I don’t blame them. I was stationed in Alabama after returning from Vietnam in 1970 and about the only entertainment I could find was getting wasted and going to wrasslin’ on Friday night at The Peanut Center in Dothan.  I did get to meet Andre The Giant down at the shopping center. That was cool.

I lived in a large pre-Civil War home in the hills outside Fort Rucker with a varying number of returning vets and girlfriends.  Ahhh…good times.  I won’t mention the name of the town as I believe Charlie the Town Cop still has a warrant for me. He often stopped by while we sat on the porch to show us the stack of warrants he had prepared for us “if he needed them”. He never used them, but he could have at any given time and hauled our asses in for a variety of reasons.

None of our grandparents were Prescott Bush you see.

“George had one story he told a lot, and the story was about how he was always getting picked up by the police in New Haven during his time at Yale, and how they would always let him go when they found out his grandfather was Prescott Bush. When he told this story, George would always laugh as if it was the funniest joke.

~Murphy Archibald, co-campaign worker in Alabama.

We kept our noses as clean as possible and Charlie the Cop left us alone.  It was a nice old house; 6 bedrooms (each with a fireplace), high vaulted ceilings with chandeliers ,antique furniture and art from the 1800’s.  We took great care in protecting this house and the contents.We respected the local family that had rented it to us. The rent was $65 per month for the entire house, totally furnished including linens and tableware.

But in Montgomery in 1972, in the home of an elderly lady that was confined to a nursing home a young tenant was behaving badly…

…the house, “was a total wreck.” A chandelier was badly damaged, there were holes in the wall and the place was full of empty liquor bottles. “The cleaning bill alone was $900, which was no small thing in 1972.”
  “The bedding had to be hauled out into the street,” says Jackson Stell, a friend of Pryor Smith (nephew of the landlord). “Pryor said there must have been no sheets on the bed, the mattress was so horribly soiled.”

The tenant was none other than our fearless leader, W.
The homeowners sent 2 repair bills to young W. They were ignored.

I guess he must have been away at a National Guard meeting.
(although none of his co-workers recall that he ever mention the National Guard.)

They do recall this however…

Many of those who came into close contact with Bush say he liked to drink beer and Jim Beam whiskey, and to eat fist-fulls of peanuts, and Executive burgers, at the Cloverdale Grill. They also say he liked to sneak out back for a joint of marijuana or into the head for a line of cocaine.

OMG, Bush started using cocaine in Alabama?  No, some say he  brought the habit with him from Texas

Now-prominent, established Texas figures in the military, arts, business and political worlds, some of them Republicans and Bush supporters, talk about Bush’s alleged use of marijuana and cocaine based on what they say they have heard from trusted friends. One middle-aged woman whose general veracity could be confirmed told me that she met Bush in 1968 at Hemisfair 68, a fair in San Antonio, at which he tried to pick her up and offered her a white powder he was inhaling. She was then a teenager; Bush would have just graduated from Yale and have been starting the National Guard then. “He was getting really aggressive with me,” she said. “I told him I’d call a policeman, and he laughed, and asked who would believe me.”

I remember 1968, it was the year I was drafted. Bummer. I hoped worried that the Army would discover that I had experimented with certain substances and would give me the boot.  Instead they gave me 2 boots and sent me to boot camp.  It seems the military didn’t require drug screens for flight personnel until 1972.

In 1971 Bush took his annual physical exam in May. It’s reasonable to conclude that he would also take his 1972 physical in the same month. Yet according to official Guard documents, Bush “cleared the base” on May 15 without doing so. Fellow Guard members uniformly agree that Bush should and could have easily taken the exam with unit doctors at Ellington Air Force Base before leaving town.

(From the Killian memos…On May 4, 1972, Bush was ordered to report for his physical by May 14–one day before he took off.)

Yep, he took off. Quite to the surprise of his friends because W. had never mentioned he was going to Alabama. Folks were just as surprised in ‘bama when he showed up.

But the timing of Bush’s decision to leave and his departure–about the same time that he failed to take a mandatory annual physical exam–indicate that the two may have been related.

Campaign staff members say they knew nothing of Bush’s interest in participating until days before he arrived in Montgomery. Indeed, not one of numerous Bush friends from those days even recalls Bush talking about going to Alabama at any point before he took off.

His NG unit was surprised also when he didn’t show up…ever

Recalls Memphian Mintz, now 62: “I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with.” But, says Mintz, that “somebody” — better known to the world now as the president of the United States — never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in 1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can remember.
“And I was looking for him,”

W. must have been really busy with his campaign work in Alabama…

Bush regularly didn’t show until noon or later, and then would leave four or five hours after that. He’d spend most of those few hours in his office with the door closed. When he did talk to the staff – and he made the rounds each day as soon as he came in before he locked himself away – his conversation was often disconcerting. “I found it so strange that in that position – in a United States Senate campaign – this guy who was twenty-six years old would come in and good-naturedly talk about how plastered he had gotten the night before. It was usually in the context of saying, ‘I’m sorry to be coming in so late, but last night I really knocked them back.’ He was very comfortable about talking about how drunk he got.”

By late September it became obvious that Bush was performing his job so badly that changes had to be made.


Geez Louise, he can’t fly a plane (failed 2 attempts to land a simulator), gets shit canned at his campaign job, trashes some feeble old lady’s apartment in a drug fueled alcohol binge and becomes President and Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation on earth.

Charlie The Cop would have busted this dipstick in an Alabama Heartbeat.

What are you reading?

Over at big Orange, I regularly (Friday mornings) post a diary called What Are You Reading?

I’m gonna try it out, over here, as well.  Perhaps here, with the smaller more (ahem) select audience, and with diaries spending more time up on the lists, we can get into more in-depth discussion.  OTOH, perhaps it will work just like at daily Kos. OTOOH, maybe it will sink like a stone.

Use the comments to tell us what you are reading

If you like to trade books, there’s [Book Mooch www.bookmoch.com]

John Adams by David McCullough.  An excellent book about a fascinating man.  The more I read about this era, the more I am impressed by the fathers, but the less I understand the Jefferson cult.  I like Adams more.

Classification and Regression Trees by Leo Breiman et al.  The seminal work on a fascinating statistical methodology.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett  – a new Discworld novel!  Enough said!  And, if it isn’t enough, then you need to start reading Pratchett!

The Indian Clerk – by David Leavitt.  Absolutely wonderful.  A novel, a history, a math book.  A primer on sexual mores in the era of WWI in Britain.  A love story (several).  And a dual biography of two fascinating people: GH Hardy and Ramanujan. 
I can’t recommend it highly enough.

How Mathematicians Think by William Byers.  Fascinating ideas about ambiguity, paradox, and math.

Causality by Judea Pearl.  Fascinating but deep.

Intro to Probability Theory by Hoel, Port, and Stone.  A good text.

The Elements of Statistical Learning by Trevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani.  An in-depth look at a wide range of statistical techniques.  Beautifully produced.

[poll id=”



Pony Party, the Help Desk(s)

this vid purports to have been made in response to the ‘medieval help desk’ vid below…
poetry help desk…

there are a lot of versions of this one available on youtube, but the texts are basically the same.  there are versions with larger-print subtitles if you’d prefer, but the resolution isnt as good, so there’s that….
medieval help desk…..

saving the best for last, imo…though ill admit it’s exponentially funnier if youve seen the movie…
star wars help desk…

Please don’t feed the ponies!!

Without further ado, the floor is yours….


The Morning News

The Morning News is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Myanmar troops kill 9 more protesters
Associated Press
24 minutes ago

YANGON, Myanmar – Soldiers with automatic rifles fired into crowds of anti-government demonstrators Thursday, killing at least nine people in the bloodiest day in more than a month of protests demanding an end to military rule.

Bloody sandals lay scattered on some streets as protesters fled shouting “Give us freedom, give us freedom!”

On the second day of a brutal crackdown, truckloads of troops in riot gear also raided Buddhist monasteries on the outskirts of Yangon, beating and arresting dozens of monks, witnesses and Western diplomats said. Japan protested the killing of a Japanese photographer.

2 Gates expects to approve Army expansion
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
2 hours, 15 minutes ago

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he’s inclined to approve an Army proposal to spend nearly $3 billion extra over the next four years to accelerate an expansion of its force. Army Secretary Pete Geren said speeding up the growth of the force, stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would mean recruiting faster and increasing the number of soldiers who re-enlist.

“I’m probably going to recommend they go ahead and give it a try,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. Appearing with Gates was Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is retiring on Monday after 40 years in the Marine Corps.

The defense secretary cautioned that he would not accept any accelerated expansion of the Army that would lead the Army to lower its recruiting standards, including levels of education required.

3 Congress sends kids health care to Bush
By Donna Smith, Reuters
Thu Sep 27, 9:54 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Setting up a veto showdown with President George W. Bush, the U.S. Congress on Thursday approved legislation to expand a popular children’s health care program and pay for it with higher taxes on tobacco products.

The Senate solidly backed the bipartisan bill on a vote of 67-29. Bush has vowed to veto it and the Democratic-led Congress lacks the votes to override him. The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week approved the bill on a 265-159 vote, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

“The president will veto this bill because it directs scarce funding to higher incomes at the expense of poor families,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement after the Senate vote.

4 U.S. lets key terrorism suspects request lawyers: report
2 hours, 28 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fourteen “high-value” terrorism suspects who were transferred last year to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, from secret CIA prisons have been given legal forms to request lawyers, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The move could allow the prisoners, including the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to join other detainees in challenging their status as enemy combatants in a U.S. appellate court, the report said.

The prisoners have not had access to lawyers during their year at Guantanamo Bay or while they were held at the secret CIA sites abroad, the newspaper said.

5 Pakistan court to rule on Musharraf’s fate
by Danny Kemp, AFP
42 minutes ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court is expected to decide on Friday whether President Pervez Musharraf can run for re-election in a ruling with far-reaching consequences for the nuclear-armed nation.

The court heard final arguments on opposition petitions that say Musharraf, a key US ally who led a coup eight years ago, is ineligible to contest the presidential election on October 6 while he is still army chief.

The embattled Musharraf has been at loggerheads with the Supreme Court since his botched attempt in March to remove the country’s Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, a move that sparked mass protests.

6 Bush under the microscope at Washington climate talks
by Richard Ingham, AFP
56 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President George W. Bush was to make a rare sortie into the climate-change arena on Friday, making a closely-watched speech at his forum gathering the world’s 16 biggest greenhouse-gas polluters.

After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday made the most strongly-worded statement on climate change in his administration’s history, Bush was to be scrutinised for any sign that he would follow this rhetoric with policy change.

“I think that we all want to hear (from Bush) a very strong commitment to tackle climate change, not just through voluntary action or vague references… but quantifiable measures, verifiable results,” Mexico’s delegate to the talks, Fernando Tudela, told journalists.

7 Bush’s fiscal legacy: bigger debt
By Peter Grier, The Christian Science Monitor
Thu Sep 27, 5:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON – Whatever happens over the next 16 months, President Bush will leave office having presided over one of the fastest accumulations of government debt in the history of the United States.

During his time in office, federal debt held by the public – Washington’s equivalent of a credit-card balance – will have increased by more than 50 percent, to about $5.5 trillion. Uncle Sam will be paying interest on that sum for years to come.

Much of that borrowed money paid for military expenses after the 9/11 attacks – spending unanticipated when Mr. Bush took office. Measured against the size of the US economy, the public debt isn’t far outside historical norms.

8 The conservatives are restless. Enter Newt Gingrich (maybe).
By Ariel Sabar, The Christian Science Monitor
Thu Sep 27, 5:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON – Newt Gingrich has shilly-shallied over a presidential bid for more than a year. In May, the former Republican House speaker said that his candidacy was a “great possibility.” In June, he put the chances at “4-to-1 odds” against.

So when Mr. Gingrich told a Fox News program Sunday that he would “feel a responsibility to run” if his aides could rustle up $30 million in campaign pledges in October, the questions only sharpened: Is he serious about running for the Republican nomination or just drawing attention to his newest cause as the party’s gadfly in chief?

His latest rumblings come a few days before the launch Thursday of Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future, a nationwide series of workshops spotlighting his ideas on immigration, healthcare, and a raft of other issues.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Recommended

9 Report faults Blackwater over notorious Fallujah deaths
1 hour, 1 minute ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US security contractor Blackwater sent personnel to Fallujah in 2004 without proper support on a mission that ended with their deaths and sparked a US military assault on the Iraqi city, a Congress panel said Thursday.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released its report as the embattled firm is under investigation into the September 16 killing of 10 Iraqis in Baghdad.

In the Fallujah incident, four Blackwater USA employees were killed by an angry mob which mutilated their bodies and hung them from a bridge on March 31, 2004, images that were broadcast worldwide.

10 Japan seeks truth about photographer’s death
1 hour, 46 minutes ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will decide whether to suspend humanitarian aid to Myanmar after investigating the killing of a Japanese photographer during anti-government protests, the chief cabinet secretary said on Friday.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that 50-year-old photographer Kenji Nagai was shot dead in Yangon. Pictures smuggled out of the country showed him taking photos with a small camera even as he lay dying on a street.

“We will urge the Myanmar government to find out the truth about his death,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference. “At this stage we have not decided to suspend grant aid.”

11 Minnesota says Sprint duped customers
By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 27, 3:59 PM ET

ST. PAUL – Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Sprint Nextel Corp. Thursday, accusing the wireless carrier of extending customers’ contracts without their informed consent.

Swanson said she had received hundreds of complaints from Minnesota residents, including some who said they were threatened with a $200 cancellation fee for trying to get out of contracts they thought had expired.

“The company has used hidden trip wires to trap unwary consumers into lengthy contracts simply because they made small changes in their plan,” Swanson said.

12 NASA rover reaches first stop in crater
By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer
2 hours, 29 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES – NASA’s rover Opportunity has reached its first stop inside a huge Martian crater and was poised Thursday to carry out the first science experiments.

Ground controllers planned to send commands late in the day to the six-wheel robot to examine bright rock layers arranged like a bathtub ring within Victoria Crater. Results on how the rover fared were expected Friday, said John Callas, the rover project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Mission managers wanted to delay the science operations because of a power outage at one of the international network of antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft. But they changed their minds after they secured another antenna.

From Yahoo News Most Popular, Most Viewed

13 New study challenges timeline of oxygen
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
Thu Sep 27, 4:17 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Oxygen, key to life on Earth today, began to appear on the planet millions of years earlier than scientists had thought, new research indicates.

An analysis of a deep rock core from Australia indicates the presence of at least some oxygen 50 million to 100 million years before the great change when the life-giving element began rising to today’s levels, according to two papers appearing in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

Previously, the earliest indications of oxygen had been from between 2.3 billion and 2.4 billion years ago when the “Great Oxidation Event” occurred.

From Yahoo News World

14 Soldier tells of shooting unarmed Iraqi
By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 27, 4:31 PM ET

BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier cried Thursday as he told a court-martial that his staff sergeant ordered him to shoot an unarmed Iraqi. He said the sergeant then laughed and told the trooper to finish the job as the dying man convulsed on the ground.

The military reported, meanwhile, that it had opened an investigation into the deaths of five women and four children this week in a village where American forces had carried out ground and air assaults.

Both incidents took place in a region south of the capital known as the triangle of death, a Sunni-dominated area that has seen some of the war’s heaviest fighting and most gruesome deaths.

15 New Japan PM Fukuda apologizes over fund reports
2 hours, 1 minute ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s new prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, apologized on Friday but denied wrongdoing after a newspaper reported that his office had altered the names of political support groups on receipts for donations, Kyodo news agency said.

Fukuda, 71, was chosen prime minister this week to succeed Shinzo Abe, who quit suddenly after a year in office marred by scandals over political funds and gaffes among his ministers that contributed to a July election rout.

“This was bad paperwork. As the person ultimately responsible, I feel deeply ashamed,” Kyodo news agency quoted Fukuda as telling reporters. But he added that the changes were not done to make gains nor were they illegal.

16 New efforts to free Red Cross workers in Afghanistan
45 minutes ago

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AFP) – Negotiators were in touch Friday with the captors of four Red Cross workers, two of them foreigners, who were held in Afghanistan during a mission to free a German kidnapped by the Taliban.

Contact had been made with the group that seized the men on Wednesday in the province of Wardak, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Kabul, and military action had been ruled out to free the men, an Afghan official told AFP.

“The Red Cross office advised us not use any military action for the safety of the kidnapped people and the issue must be solved via mediation through tribal elders,” said the governor of Sayed Abad district, Anayatullah Mangal.

17 Blackwater blamed for deaths of reporter, 3 guards
By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
Thu Sep 27, 5:47 PM ET

BAGHDAD – The Blackwater incidents cited by Iraq’s Interior Ministry as reason for the security firm to be barred from operating in Iraq include the deaths of four people with ties to Iraq’s government-funded television network.

The first of those was the Feb. 2 shooting death of Suhad Shakir , a reporter with the Al Atyaf channel, as she was driving to work. She died outside the Foreign Ministry near the Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work.

Five days later, three Iraqi security guards were gunned down inside the fortified compound that houses the government-funded Iraqi Media Network, which is also known as Iraqiya.

18 As U.S. officials touted progress, Blackwater guards killed 16
By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
Thu Sep 27, 5:59 PM ET

BAGHDAD – On Sept. 9 , the day before Army Gen. David Petraeus , the U.S. military commander in Iraq , and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Congress that things were getting better, Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein came to Baghdad for the day.

A clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, she was in the capital to drop off and pick up paperwork at the central office near busy al Khilani Square, not far from the fortified Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work. U.S. officials often pass through the square in heavily guarded convoys on their way to other parts of Baghdad .

As Hussein walked out of the customs building, an embassy convoy of sport-utility vehicles drove through the intersection. Blackwater security guards, charged with protecting the diplomats, yelled at construction workers at an unfinished building to move back. Instead, the workers threw rocks. The guards, witnesses said, responded with gunfire, spraying the intersection with bullets.

19 Report: Blackwater skimped on security before Fallujah ambush
By Joseph Neff and Jay Price, McClatchy Newspapers
Thu Sep 27, 6:42 PM ET

Democrats in Congress released a scathing report Thursday on the 2004 massacre of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah , charging that the company rushed unprepared into a sloppy mission, skimped on security to save money and stonewalled when Congress tried to investigate.

The report ratchets up the pressure on Blackwater, already under intense scrutiny for a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Baghdad that left 11 Iraqis dead.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who’s seldom seen in public, is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose majority staff issued Thursday’s report. The committee, led by Henry Waxman , a California Democrat, will likely grill Prince about the Fallujah and Baghdad incidents and the company’s effect on the war in Iraq.

Yeah, yeah, a repeat.  But I thought you might like the full McClatchy take, because Blackwater was just about all they covered in World News.

20 Ukraine Votes: Old Cast, New Lineup?
1 hour, 58 minutes ago

Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election captured the world’s attention with its dramatic contest between a Moscow ally and opposition forces that eventually took to the streets in the peaceful “Orange Revolution” to claim the victory their candidate won at the polls. By contrast, this Sunday’s Verkhovna Rada legislative election seems like an endless soap opera with the same tired cast of characters struggling to keep the audience awake.

Already by March 2006, it was clear that the Orange Revolution had began to turn sour, when the Party of the Regions (PR) led by Victor Yanukovych – the Moscow ally who had lost the presidential race to Yushchenko – won a 32% plurality of the votes in the legislative election. The BYUT party of Yuliya Tymoshenko, erstwhile flamboyant princess of the Orange Revolution who had been fired as premier by Yushchenko six months earlier, finished second. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine (OU) barely made the third place.

Political paralysis followed as the squabbling Orange leaders failed to mend their fences, leaving Yanukovych to build a legislative majority coalition to elect him premier. As Orange deputies defected en masse to the Yanukovych-led coalition, it threatened to grow powerful enough to marginalize the President. Yuschenko responded by dissolving the legislature and calling a new election.

From Yahoo News U.S. News

21 V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame
By MARK THOMPSON, Time Magazine
Thu Sep 27, 1:10 PM ET

It’s hard to imagine an American weapons program so fraught with problems that Dick Cheney would try repeatedly to cancel it – hard, that is, until you get to know the Osprey. As Defense Secretary under George H.W. Bush, Cheney tried four times to kill the Marine Corps’s ungainly tilt-rotor aircraft. Four times he failed. Cheney found the arguments for the combat troop carrier unpersuasive and its problems irredeemable. “Given the risk we face from a military standpoint, given the areas where we think the priorities ought to be, the V?22 is not at the top of the list,” he told a Senate committee in 1989. “It came out at the bottom of the list, and for that reason, I decided to terminate it.” But the Osprey proved impossible to kill, thanks to lawmakers who rescued it from Cheney’s ax time and again because of the home-district money that came with it – and to the irresistible notion that American engineers had found a way to improve on another great aviation breakthrough, the helicopter.

Now the aircraft that flies like an airplane but takes off and lands like a chopper is about to make its combat debut in Iraq. It has been a long, strange trip: the V?22 has been 25 years in development, more than twice as long as the Apollo program that put men on the moon. V?22 crashes have claimed the lives of 30 men – 10 times the lunar program’s toll – all before the plane has seen combat. The Pentagon has put $20 billion into the Osprey and expects to spend an additional $35 billion before the program is finished. In exchange, the Marines, Navy and Air Force will get 458 aircraft, averaging $119 million per copy.

The saga of the V-22 – the battles over its future on Capitol Hill, a performance record that is spotty at best, a long determined quest by the Marines to get what they wanted – demonstrates how Washington works (or, rather, doesn’t). It exposes the compromises that are made when narrow interests collide with common sense. It is a tale that shows how the system fails at its most significant task, by placing in jeopardy those we count on to protect us. For even at a stratospheric price, the V-22 is going into combat shorthanded. As a result of decisions the Marine Corps made over the past decade, the aircraft lacks a heavy-duty, forward-mounted machine gun to lay down suppressing fire against forces that will surely try to shoot it down. And if the plane’s two engines are disabled by enemy fire or mechanical trouble while it’s hovering, the V?22 lacks a helicopter’s ability to coast roughly to the ground – something that often saved lives in Vietnam. In 2002 the Marines abandoned the requirement that the planes be capable of autorotating (as the maneuver is called), with unpowered but spinning helicopter blades slowly letting the aircraft land safely. That decision, a top Pentagon aviation consultant wrote in a confidential 2003 report obtained by Time, is “unconscionable” for a wartime aircraft. “When everything goes wrong, as it often does in a combat environment,” he said, “autorotation is all a helicopter pilot has to save his and his passengers’ lives.”

This is kind of disappointing to me because OV-22s (the navalized version) turns Gator navy ships (like the Tarawa and the Wasp) into fearsome ASW\/ASu platforms in Harpoon Classic.  Not like I’d like the new version for Christmas or anything (sigh).

22 Bush: A Born-Again Conservative?
Thu Sep 27, 2:45 PM ET

President George W. Bush spent Monday morning cautioning a group of young CEOs about excessive spending. It was clear that his statement was primarily aimed at Congress – a warning that he is serious about vetoing Democratic plans to add $22 billion to next year’s budget for education, health and veterans’ programs. But Bush’s fighting words aren’t just about the current battle over spending – they are as much about his efforts to shape his legacy as a committed fiscal conservative, all prior evidence to the contrary.

“Some in Congress will tell you that $22 billion is not a lot of money. As business leaders, you know better,” Bush said at the Washington event. “The only way to pay for such a large spending increase is to raise taxes on the American people.”

The fight over appropriations is just one of two big confrontations brewing between the White House and the Democrat-controlled Congress. This week both chambers are expected to pass bipartisan legislation to expand state health care programs for children (known as SCHIP) – a move Bush labels as the first step toward socialized medicine. He says he’ll veto that bill as well.

From Yahoo News Politics

23 GOP hopefuls assailed for debate absence
By BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press Writer
48 minutes ago

BALTIMORE – Republican presidential candidates discussed the importance of reaching out to people of color during a minority issues debate Thursday night and criticized the leading four GOP contenders for skipping it.

“I think this is a disgrace that they are not here,” said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback. “I think it’s a disgrace to our country. I think it’s bad for our party, and I don’t think it’s good for our future.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he was “embarrassed for our party, and I’m embarrassed for those who didn’t come.”

24 McCain criticizes foes on foreign policy
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 27, 8:04 PM ET

NEW YORK – John McCain argued Thursday that the United States would be safer with him as president than if his leading Republican rivals were commander in chief as he seized on newfound opportunities to revive his weakened candidacy.

Once left for dead politically, McCain is sharply drawing distinctions between himself and his top GOP opponents as he seeks to capitalize on polls showing an extremely fluid race and a campaign flush enough to run ads in early voting New Hampshire.

“We don’t have time or opportunity for on-the-job training, and the other candidates for president I don’t believe have the qualifications that I do to hit the ground running and immediately address these serious challenges,” the four-term Arizona senator and Vietnam veteran told reporters following a speech on the military.

25 Thompson unaware of death penalty cases
By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 27, 8:51 PM ET

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said Thursday he was unaware that a federal judge had ruled last week that lethal injection procedures in his home state were unconstitutional.

Thompson also told reporters he was unaware that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed this week to consider a Kentucky case about whether lethal injection violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Thompson’s support for the death penalty was a major part of his campaign platform when he first ran for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee in 1994. Asked for his response to the recent Tennessee and Kentucky cases, Thompson responded, “I hadn’t heard that. I didn’t know.”

26 Iraq still waiting for security meeting after Blackwater deaths
24 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – A US-Iraqi commission to provide oversight of private security contractors in Iraq was still to meet on Friday almost a fortnight after an American firm was accused of killing 10 Iraqis by mistake.

Blackwater USA, which says its men were legitimately responding to an ambush while protecting a US State Department convoy during the September 16 incident in Baghdad, is now facing further charges of wrongdoing from the US Congress.

A Congressional panel in Washington said Blackwater had sent personnel to Fallujah in 2004 without proper support on a mission that culminated in their deaths and sparked a brutal US military assault on the Iraqi city.

From Yahoo News Business

27 New-home sales tumble to 7-year low
By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
Thu Sep 27, 6:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON – New-homes sales tumbled in August to the lowest level in seven years, a stark sign that the credit crunch is aggravating an already painful housing slump.

Sales of new homes dropped 8.3 percent in August from July, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, driving down sales to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 795,000. That was the lowest level since June 2000.

“This is just hideous,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

28 KB Home: Housing market slump to last
By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer
Thu Sep 27, 6:48 PM ET

LOS ANGELES – KB Home, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, swung to a loss Thursday, citing a deep deterioration in the housing market and warning the sales slump will likely extend into next year.

KB’s financial results were released the same day the Commerce Department reported new home sales in August fell 8.3 percent from the previous month to the lowest level in seven years.

“We expect housing industry conditions to continue to worsen through the end of the year and into 2008,” said Jeffrey Mezger, KB’s president and chief executive officer.

29 GM deal with union meets resistance in rank-and-file workers
by Joseph Szczesny, AFP
Thu Sep 27, 11:17 PM ET

DETROIT, United States (AFP) – A landmark deal which could help the Big Three US automakers narrow their labor cost gap with Asian competitors faced opposition Thursday among the union’s rank-and-file workers ahead of a crucial ratification vote expected next week.

Leaders of the United Auto Workers union expressed confidence that they would receive the votes necessary to approve a contract negotiated with General Motors Wednesday after a two-day strike.

But three former UAW executive board members have spoken out against the contract and group of union dissidents is waging an Internet campaign urging members to vote against the plan to transfer the administration of retiree health care benefits to the union.

From Yahoo News Science

30 Scientists cull DNA from extinct mammoth
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
Thu Sep 27, 9:19 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Attacking several tons of woolly mammoth with stone-tipped spears must have taken extraordinary courage – and ancient people left paintings to prove they did it. Now, scientists are approaching mammoths in a different way, extracting DNA from their dense coats in an effort to learn more about them.

Mammoths are extinct, of course. No one knows if the cause was climate change, hungry Neanderthals or something else – but they left behind remains, often frozen in the tundra. Attempts have been made to sequence their DNA from frozen animals, but that can be complicated by contamination.

Researchers report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, however, that mammoth hair seems to be an excellent source of well-preserved DNA.

31 Radio burst from space mystifies astronomers
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters
Thu Sep 27, 5:20 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Astronomers who stumbled upon a powerful burst of radio waves said on Thursday they had never seen anything like it before, and it could offer a new way to search for colliding stars or dying black holes.

They were searching for pulsars — a type of rotating compacted neutron star that sends out rhythmic pulses of radiation — when they spotted the giant radio signal.

It was extremely brief but very strong, and appears to have come from about 3 billion light-years away — a light-year being the distance light travels in a year, or about 6 trillion miles.

From Yahoo News Opinion

32 Private ‘Rambos’ in Iraq warrant greater scrutiny
USA Today
Fri Sep 28, 12:22 AM ET

Last Christmas Eve, an American working for the private Blackwater security company in Iraq allegedly got into a drunken argument – and shot the guard of the Iraqi vice president dead. The American was hustled out of the country. No charges were filed.

Unusual? Not really. The United States employs tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq, including about 30,000 armed security guards. They are all but immune from prosecution. Blackwater personnel, who guard U.S. diplomats and others, are among the most visible and, by many accounts, obnoxious, with a tendency to wave guns as if in a Rambo movie.

The Christmas Eve shooting is one of many events that inform an Iraqi government threat – rescinded for now – to bar Blackwater from Iraq. The immediate reason is that Blackwater guards killed at least 11 people in a Baghdad neighborhood Sept. 16. The facts are in dispute, but the point is that this showdown has been a long time coming.

From Yahoo News Entertainment

Too brief to quote, but-

Stones will keep rolling if fans keep rocking: Jagger
Fri Sep 28, 1:30 AM ET

The Police enthral Barcelona on sole Spanish gig
Thu Sep 27, 5:24 PM ET

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

State of the Onion XIV

Art Link


Each time
a class of people
is defined
humanity is divided
hewed like an old log

Just like that log
destruction occurs
at the point
where the axe strikes

But the damage done
to the people
in the path of the cut
is much more serious
than the harm done
to some old wood

Race cuts like a saber
through individuals
of mixed ancestry
Can you feel their pain?

How feels the slice
of the katana
of ethnicity
to someone
whose grandparents
hail from four different cultures?

Blood spurts
from the laceration
of the gender scimitar
through those
not exactly
men or women
I live
on the edge
of that blade

–Robyn Elaine Serven
–March 30, 2006

I know you have talent.  What sometimes is forgotten is that being practical is a talent.  I have a paucity for that sort of talent in many situations, though it turns out that I’m a pretty darn good cook.  🙂 

Let your talent bloom.  You can share it here.  Encourage others to let it bloom inside them as well.

Won’t you share your words or art, your sounds or visions, your thoughts scientific or philosophic, the comedy or tragedy of your days, the stories of doing and making?  And be excellent to one another!

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