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CATEGORY: Politics

Alright, trolls. You’ve been bugging me for weeks to say something negative about President Bush and now you’re going to get your wish.

Somewhere in the archives is a post I did on blogger that will echo many of the same things I’m going to take the President to task for today. And scattered throughout other posts are various criticisms of the President’s profligate spending, his myopia on stem cell research, a general unhappiness with his catering to the fundamentalist wing of the Republican party, and a host of other minor annoyances that would prove to any fair person (liberals excluded) that I’ve got plenty to be upset about when it comes to the President’s policies.

Other center-right secularists like Bill Ardolino, Jeff Goldstein, John Cole, and Glenn Anderson have expressed similar dissatisfaction with the President. And while all of those worthies have said in the last month or so that they’re near the “tipping point” in their support for Bush, I’m not that close to joining them. Why?

I look at John Kerry, think of the alternative, and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s George Bush as President and not a man who would have entered office with a mandate to end the war.

That being said, George Bush has made a number of mistakes during his Presidency. Here, in my opinion, are just a few:


That’s a question I asked during the first week this site was open. At that time, the terrorists were just beginning to step up their bombing campaign and the hell hounds in the media were baying at the President’s military strategy. My criticism, however, went back to early 2003 when it became clear that war with Iraq was a necessary adjunct to the war on terror.

My criticism had to do with the President’s entire approach to the coming conflict. I said at the time “it didn’t feel like we were going to war,” that the President didn’t step up to the plate and ask the American people to sacrifice anything, that indeed any sacrificing to be done would be borne by the armed forces and their families.

I realize now that the “cakewalk” theme was in vogue at the White House and the President didn’t think it necessary. But by May of 2004 when it became clear that the terrorists weren’t going away anytime soon, the President could have rallied the American people by abandoning much of his domestic agenda, slashing the budget, perhaps even (gasp! Here’s a novel idea)...) raising taxes to pay for the war.

It’s a good thing Bush didn’t listen to me. He would have been slaughtered in the November election.

That being said, I still feel the burden of this war is falling disproportionately on the military and their families. I think the President should have put everything else on the backburner in order to win this war. If that meant abandoning social security reform, so be it. What we have in Washington is too much “business as usual.” What we need is a sense of urgency. At the moment, we have North Korea and Iran on the horizon. Either one of those problems could lead to some kind of crisis that would involve the military. And with 125,000 of our best troops tied up in Iraq, this severely limits our options.

The President’s failure to rally the people and instead, depend on the 50% of us who couldn’t stomach the idea of Kerry’s wishy-washy internationalist approach to the conflict was the biggest mistake of his Presidency. He could have done better.


I admire the President’s sense of loyalty toward Secretary Rumsfeld but while he was throwing Colin Powell overboard he should have made it a clean sweep and dumped his defense secretary as well.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like Secretary Rumsfeld. He’s very smart. He’s got some capital ideas for altering our force structure to bring it in line with the realities of a post cold war world. And by and large, he was responsible for the war plan in Iraq that vanquished that army lickety-split. But he’s got to go. The reason? I’ll give you two words.

Abu Ghraib.

I’m with John Cole on this one. Someone has got to take ultimate responsibility for that fiasco as well as other abuse allegations that will soon come to light as the FBI, the Army, and other investigative bodies finish their probes into what appears to be isolated instances of torture and even death. I totally reject the moonbat argument that this torture was planned and carried out by the Administration, But that doesn’t lessen the responsibility of the civilian commander for these atrocities. There has also been a troubling lack of responsibility taken by commanders in the field, although ultimately this too would fall under the jurisdiction of the Secretary. He could have recommended the removal of any general officer under which these incidents of torture occurred. The fact that he didn’t shows a lack of understanding of how much real damage these incidents have done to use abroad.

This isn’t the way things used to be. Government officials used to take responsibility for screw-ups by resigning. The moonbats aren’t going to like this but you can trace this new attitude directly to President Bush’s predecessor.

Janet Reno may have been the most disastrous Attorney General in history. Not too many of her predecessors could have been charged with negligence that lead to the death of so many at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Either one of those disasters should have resulted in her immediate dismissal. As it is, the cover-ups involved in the incident at Waco (see the Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Waco: Rules of Engagement) should have perhaps landed her in jail. Instead, Clinton kept her on despite the fact that her incompetence resulted in people being killed.

Reno wasn’t the only Clinton cabinet official who could have been sacked. Ron Brown, Henry Cisneros, the odd Justice Department official, the occasional White House staffer – any of these transgressors would have been fired in a minute by a Carter, a Reagan, or even one so loyal as a Bush #41. The fact that they weren’t set a precedent that’s being followed by the President hanging on to Rumsfeld.


The Constitution grants the executive very few expressed powers. That’s why it’s been called both the strongest and weakest office in government. Strong Presidents are those who’ve taken the Congress by the scruff of the neck and wrung what they want out of them. They do this with the Presidential veto.

The very threat of a veto is usually enough for Congress to bend to a President’s will. In fact, Bush threatened to use the veto 40 times during his first term. And yet, he became the first President in 175 years not to use the veto during a term in office.

What gives? It’s not like he didn’t have the opportunity. Take any highway bill ever passed by Congress. Now there’s a likely candidate. How about agricultural subsidies? Ditto. If the President’s intent is not to undercut Congressional Republicans, he’s doing the opposite. He’s acting like the wife of an alcoholic who pours her husband into bed every night after finding him passed out on the front porch. He’s an enabler of profligate, wasteful, and unnecessary spending.

It would be quite another thing if the President was trying to reform entitlement programs. He’s not. Instead, the biggest entitlement program in a generation, his prescription drug bill, has saddled the nation’s taxpayers with a half a trillion dollar albatross that didn’t please anyone.

Now it appears that his first use of the most potent weapon in his arsenal will be to kill research into embryonic stem cells (see The Maryhunters comment in this post for an excellent explanation of this issue). While I admire his adherence to principles, the fact that this is the issue that has engaged his interest to the point where he feels it necessary to veto a bill desired by a majority of the Congress and the people is a little troubling.


This appears to be changing a little in that the President’s has given two prime time press conferences in he last two months. Facing the press is, I’m sure, a distasteful task. But it’s also a duty. Kind of like having to eat your vegetables before the chocolate mousse. It’s something that has to be done but the rewards for doing it are satisfying.

A President’s give and take with the press shows the people he’s on top of the issues that are important to them. Who knows? Maybe regular press conferences will bring your approval ratings up a bit.


I understand why this wasn’t possible during the campaign. What the press and the left wanted wasn’t so much an admission you did something wrong. They wanted you to admit you were wrong about Iraq. They wanted to wallow in your humiliation like pigs in mud. They are beyond reprehensible.

That being said, maybe if you admitted you were wrong about something else. Anything else. Like picking the wrong place settings for that dinner with Chirac. Or you underestimated the insurgency in Iraq. Anything. The way it stands now, it doesn’t look so much like you’re not giving your political foes ammunition to use against you as it appears to be arrogance.

Maybe you can take John Kennedy’s advice. Bobby Kennedy was worried about press reaction to his being named Attorney General. Kennedy joked that the way they’d announce it would be the President would wait until the middle of the night, go outside of the White House, and whisper “it’s Bobby” and then run back in.

Sounds like a plan.

There…I’ve given all my special trolls and DU moonbats who are regular visitors to the House exactly what they wanted. Now, anytime any of you loons accuse me of being myopic about Bush, all I have to do is link to this post and you’ll shut up faster than Michael Moore at an Overeaters Anonymous convention.

Now can I go back to being a partisan political hack?

By: Rick Moran at 1:20 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)

CATEGORY: War on Terror

The New York Times article on the Army’s investigation into the “mishandling” of the Koran proves that when the media tries to insert a little perspective, a story can actually be factually correct as well as free from overt bias.

WASHINGTON, May 26 – An American military inquiry has uncovered five instances in which guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba mishandled the Koran, but found “no credible evidence” to substantiate claims that it was ever flushed down a toilet, the chief of the investigation said on Thursday.

All but one of the five incidents appear to have taken place before January 2003. In three cases, the mishandling of the Koran appears to have been deliberate, and in two it was accidental or unintentional, the commander said, adding that four cases involved guards, and one an interrogator. Two service members have been punished for their conduct, one recently.

It’s all there, right up front with no spin and no editorializing. In the first two paragraphs we get the who, what, when, and where that’s usually missing from articles about military abuse stories. The fact that the perpetrators of the deliberate mishandling of the Koran have already been disciplined is also right up front where it should be,

And the article also handles the retraction of the Koran in the toilet scam by the inmate in question:

General Hood said his investigators asked the detainee whether he personally had seen any incidents of Koran abuse, “and he allowed as how he hadn’t, but he had heard guards – that guards at some other point in time had done this.”

The general said he could offer no explanation for any contradiction between the detainee’s statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in July 2002 and the interview conducted by his team on May 14.

Speculation by the reporter, Mr. Shanker, is kept to a minimum.

I wonder if the Times coverage of this issue could have been affected by the Newsweek story? Ya Think?


Michelle Malkin points to the same story in the Washington Post and what happens to the meaning of a story when context is lost:

In this morning’s coverage of Koran abuse allegations at Gitmo, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Boston Globe, Reuters, and Associated Press all mention in their lead paragraph that the Pentagon found no credible evidence that a guard flushed the Koran down a toilet. The Washington Post, on the other hand, does not bother to mention the Koran-flushing incident until its fourth paragraph and does not note until the thirteenth paragraph that the detainee who made that allegation has retracted it.

Follow the link to Michelle’s site for the Post story and then read the Times story. This is a textbook example of how bias can color the perception of a story by the reader.

By: Rick Moran at 6:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

Auto Insurance linked with Auto Insurance
discount pravachol linked with discount pravachol
Ravings of John C. A. Bambenek linked with Bonfire of the Vanities #100
Stop The ACLU linked with The ACLU Rides to the Defense of Killer Terrorists

This week’s Watchers Vote featured so many good posts I had a hard time trying to decide who to vote for.

Dr. Sanity was channeling John Lennon in an uproarious spoof of “Imagine:”

Imagine there’s no Jihad
It’s easy if you try
No more suicide bombers
Who plan for you to die
Imagine every nation
with all their people free…

Imagine no Osama,
It isn’t hard to do,
And no Zarqawi
(He discovered he’s a Jew!)
Imagine all those mullahs,
buried under ground…


The Glittering Eye continues to blog on intellectual property rights, this time what the WTO is doing about the problem:

In practice the situation is quite different with at least three competing groups: Europe and the United States (who have well-developed traditions of intellectual property law, bodies of law, and enforcement), a group of dissenters led by Brazil and India and including a number of South American and Asian countries who are pushing for recognition of national origin as a source of rights in the intellectual property law of biotechnology (who don’t have similar traditions, bodies, or enforcement, possibly motivated by memories of past exploitation), and the African countries who want no part of much of the bloody thing (probably with similar motivations). We’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming years

And I’m sure Dave will keep us updated.

Wallo World has a must read post about a new Mark Cuban venture that not only sounds like a fantastic idea, but could revolutionize the movie biz. Wouldn’t it be great if, on the same day a movie premiered in theaters, you could also watch it on TV or rent the DVD at your favorite video rental store?

The theory behind 2929 goes like this: Over the past few years, Mr. Cuban and Mr. Wagner have acquired or built HDNet Films, which funds smaller budget movies, Magnolia Pictures for distribution, Landmark Theaters for exhibiting, and HDNet and HDNet Movies for cable broadcast. Consumers with access to those cable networks will be able to see a film at home on the day it comes out. Or they can see it in the theater or, once details are worked out, simply buy the DVD. By closing the window between when a movie is released and when it becomes available on DVD - usually about four months – 2929 will save on marketing by not having to advertise twice.

Sue and I talked about this yesterday. We had just seen Revenge of the Sith and we both thought that even if it was on TV the same day, we’d definitely go to a theater and gladly plunk down the $6 to watch it there. But what about a light comedy like The Longest Yard? We both agreed having the option of watching it on pay per view would be fantastic. We both agreed that big-budget action movies like Sith would probably still be worth seeing in a theater. But having the other options would be a dream come true.

I think this would also change the way movies are made and marketed. After a while, it will be pretty clear which movies will do well in theaters and which will do better in the so-called aftermarket of TV and video. Producers and directors will tailor some films for the smaller screen while others will realize their full impact on the big screens in theaters. And as the article Bill links to indicates, marketing costs for movies would be reduced dramatically. Theater prices may actually stabilize or (God forbid!) go down.

All in all a great deal for the consumer.

Finishing second in the council category was Little Red Blog’s piece on Linda Foley’s outrageous remarks entitled “Neither First nor Last:”

As for the Little Red Blog’s view, it’s simple. Foley lives in an alternate reality. In her reality, saying the U.S. military targets journalist doesn’t mean that members of the service, the troops, target journalist. With 100 different ways to say that the U.S. military purposefully and willfully targets journalist, Foley manages to believe that the military isn’t the troops. In her reality their comes a point when a member of the armed forces, formerly known as a troop, becomes part and parcel of the “U.S. military” and is no longer worth supporting.

Spot on.

And the winning post was this gem from Gates of Vienna on some very strange and troubling goings on in Spain regarding the investigation into the 3/11 bombing of the train station:

We’re spiraling downward here in this stranger-than-fiction recount. Carmen Toro alledgedly supplied explosives for the bombings. And in Mr. Toro’s personal phonebook was the cellphone number for the chief of Tedax (the above mentioned Spanish bomb squad). When the investigating judge called the number, it turned out that a member of the bomb squad answered the phone. Creepy, no?

Creepy, yes. And begs the question asked eloquently by Dymphna:

Calling the MSM, calling the MSM. Hello? Anyone there?

In the non Council category, Citizen Smash revisits a massacre:

The building hasn’t been used in several years, so before we can move in we have a lot of cleaning and repairing to do. Everyone pitches in – soldiers and sailors, officers and enlisted work side-by-side to clean up over a decade’s worth of dust, grime, and general neglect. But despite all the activity, the hallways remain strangely quiet.

A yeoman is on her knees, scrubbing a particularly difficult stain in the stairwell. She decides to break the uncomfortable silence with a little bit of small talk. “Whoever worked in this building before sure was lazy,” she sighs. “Who would spill a whole pot of coffee on the stairs, and not clean it up?”

Everyone stops working, and stares at her.

“What?” she asks, looking around. “What did I say?”

“That’s not coffee,” one of her co-workers whispers.

“It’s not? What is it?”


Read the entire thing. Very moving. Very powerful.

There is much more “bloggy goodness” (love that Glenn, sounds delicious!) at the Watcher’s website And if you wish to particpate in the weekly Watcher’s vote, go here for instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 5:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

CATEGORY: Blogging

John Cole was kind enough to respond to my sometimes overheated diatribe accusing him of unfair criticism of Hugh Hewitt and other conservative bloggers. And while I won’t pick apart Mr. Cole’s defense on a line-by-line basis, I’d like to respond to one point he made regarding a treason accusation.

I want to make it clear that I had no intention of accusing John Cole of treason. The problem, as I see now, is poor paragraph construction. In other words, lousy writing.

And in his desire to do what he thinks is best for our military, it appears to me that Cole has unconsciously adopted some of the themes and talking points used by people who actually do hate the military, who lovingly dote on each and every casualty, who oppose the military’s efforts in recruiting and retention, and who by word, by thought, and by deed seek to have the United States military defeated on the field of battle.

We used to call this treason. In this day and age, these sentiments get you invited to the best cocktail parties, has the MSM hang on your every word, and procures the lickspittle a book contract. And these are the people espousing these sentiments who agree with Mr. Cole?

John Cole served this country for many years in the military. His love for the institution and for our country comes through loud and clear on many an article Mr. Cole has written about the war. He was, I believe, one of the first bloggers to take the Pentagon to task for the lack of armour on vehicles. If I in any way impugned his honor, I apologize.

That being said, I was trying to point out that while John may be animated by a spirit of patriotism, the themes and talking points he has used to bash conservativest are similar to those used by people who are driven by ideology, by hate and loathing of the President, and yes, by hatred of the United States of America, to attack our war effort and undermine the US armed forces in the process.

These people are dead serious. They are well funded, extremely well organized, have attractive, articulate spokespeople, and are determined to succeed. They attack recruiting efforts for the military on campus and even on city streets in front of recruting offices. They seek to destroy the morale of active duty military personnel by encouraging them to go absent without leave. They facilitate the escape of deserters.

The actions I’ve documented above are, by any rational definition, treasonous. We are in a war for our survival. To have private citizens deliberately trying to undermine the morale of the military in time of war cannot be excused. I’m sorry that my clumsy writing didn’t make absolutely clear that Mr. Cole’s motives are different from those who seek, for whatever reason, to undermine our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One more note…Jay Rosen links to my article and says that I’m accusing Mr. Cole of “defecting” from the conservative side. Looking back through the piece, I see this:

After all, I look at his defection as temporary, a momentary fever brought about by a confluence of events that have disturbed many, including myself. And although it was never his intention, Mr. Cole’s attacks have resonated on the left side of the Shadow Media and given conservative critics plenty of unnecessary ammunition.

I think I make it pretty clear there that my half-jestful reference to “defection” was not a serious accusation. Chalk it up to more bad writing.

Besides, the liberals would never have you, John. You usually make too much sense.

By: Rick Moran at 3:41 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

CATEGORY: History, Science

It must have seemed like all the furies had been unleashed to torment an already agonized world. The year 1918 saw not only the continuation of the senseless slaughter of World War I, but also the outbreak of an influenza pandemic that killed up to 40 million people worldwide. Scenes that would have been reminiscent of what happened during the Black Death in Europe during the middle ages were occuring daily as thousands of victims, many already weakened by the effects on diet as a result of the war, succumbed to the onslaught.

This is what was occuring in the United States:

The effect of the influenza epidemic was so severe that the average life span in the US was depressed by 10 years. The influenza virus had a profound virulence, with a mortality rate at 2.5% compared to the previous influenza epidemics, which were less than 0.1%. The death rate for 15 to 34-year-olds of influenza and pneumonia were 20 times higher in 1918 than in previous years (Taubenberger). People were struck with illness on the street and died rapid deaths. One anectode shared of 1918 was of four women playing bridge together late into the night. Overnight, three of the women died from influenza (Hoagg). Others told stories of people on their way to work suddenly developing the flu and dying within hours (Henig). One physician writes that patients with seemingly ordinary influenza would rapidly “develop the most viscous type of pneumonia that has ever been seen” and later when cyanosis appeared in the patients, “it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate,” (Grist, 1979). Another physician recalls that the influenza patients “died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their nose and mouth,” (Starr, 1976). The physicians of the time were helpless against this powerful agent of influenza.

Could this horrifying spectacle be repeated?

The answer is yes, it’s possible. The culprit this time is Avian or Bird Flu. According to the Centers for Disease control. the chances for a Bird Flu pandemic are small – but not impossible.

The H5N1 virus (Bird Flu) does not usually infect humans. In 1997, however, the first case of spread from a bird to a human was seen during an outbreak of bird flu in poultry in Hong Kong. The virus caused severe respiratory illness in 18 people, 6 of whom died. Since that time, there have been other cases of H5N1 infection among humans. Most recently, human cases of H5N1 infection have occurred in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia during large H5N1 outbreaks in poultry. The death rate for these reported cases has been about 50 percent. Most of these cases occurred from contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces; however, it is thought that a few cases of human-to-human spread of H5N1 have occurred.

So far, spread of H5N1 virus from person to person has been rare and spread has not continued beyond one person. However, because all influenza viruses have the ability to change, scientists are concerned that the H5N1 virus could one day be able to infect humans and spread easily from one person to another. Because these viruses do not commonly infect humans, there is little or no immune protection against them in the human population. If the H5N1 virus were able to infect people and spread easily from person to person, an “influenza pandemic” (worldwide outbreak of disease) could begin. No one can predict when a pandemic might occur. However, experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 situation in Asia very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily and widely from person to person

The problem is that flu viruses have a nasty habit of mutating. The reason they mutate is as old as life on the planet; microbes do whatever gives them the upper hand in the fight for species survival. In Jared Diamond’s fascinating Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, the author lays out a natural history of infectious disease and how those diseases made the jump from animals to humans. Diseases like Measles (cattle), flu (pigs and ducks), Pertussis or whooping cough (pigs and dogs), and smallpox (cattle), made the successful leap in early farming societies because people lived in such close proximity to both the animals and their waste products. Microbes discovered (quite by accident) that humans were just as good a place to reproduce as animals.

Only recently has Bird Flu made the jump from birds to humans. Are we seeing the beginning of a new infectious disease? Here’s the CDC’s take:

Influenza viruses have eight separate gene segments. The segmented genome allows viruses from different species to mix and create a new influenza A virus if viruses from two different species infect the same person or animal. For example, if a pig were infected with a human influenza virus and an avian influenza virus at the same time, the viruses could reassort and produce a new virus that had most of the genes from the human virus, but a hemagglutinin and/or neuraminidase from the avian virus. The resulting new virus might then be able to infect humans and spread from person to person, but it would have surface proteins (hemagglutinin and/or neuraminidase) not previously seen in influenza viruses that infect humans.

This type of major change in the influenza A viruses is known as antigenic shift. Antigenic shift results when a new influenza A subtype to which most people have little or no immune protection infects humans. If this new virus causes illness in people and can be transmitted easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic can occur.

It also is possible that the process of reassortment could occur in a human. For example, a person could be infected with avian influenza and a human strain of influenza at the same time. These viruses could reassort to create a new virus that had a hemagglutinin from the avian virus and other genes from the human virus. Theoretically, influenza A viruses with a hemagglutinin against which humans have little or no immunity that have reassorted with a human influenza virus are more likely to result in sustained human-to-human transmission and pandemic influenza. Thus, careful evaluation of influenza viruses recovered from humans who are infected with avian influenza is very important to identify reassortment if it occurs.

This is what’s giving the folks at CDC nightmares. If Bird Flu were to mutate into a strain that could easily be spread by casual contact among humans, it could wreak havoc on the world’s population and the economy. Why the economy? Here’s a look into a possible future where a Bird Flu pandemic is already a reality in the United States. It’s from a mythical blogger: (Hat Tip: Instapundit)

The United States is battened down before the storm. The government has outlawed all gatherings in public places. In past pandemics that never worked. But epidemiologists say that if we do it early on, it might slow the spread. Modelling also suggests that closing schools and universities is especially important as teenagers and young adults are among the worst hit. We just need to stop them from hanging out elsewhere. Stay at home, is the message blaring from every TV screen.

On CNN it’s now round-the-clock coverage, with a red ‘Pandemic’ banner running across the bottom of the screen. “We’re in the twenty-first century, and they’re telling us about how to wash our hands properly, and practise ‘respiratory etiquette’,” exclaims Jonathan. “Why aren’t there drugs? And I can’t believe there’s no vaccine. This can’t be happening in America.”

Can you imagine the effects on the economy if the government banned public gatherings? Malls would have to shut down. Millions of people would lose their jobs. Tens of thousands of businesses would go under. And that’s just the malls. What about air travel? What about the hospitality, travel, and tourism industries?

The ripple effects would plunge the world into the deepest depression since the 1930’s. We’d be a decade recovering.

Just as a side note, this same scenario would play out if we came under a serious biological terrorist attack. And you might have been wondering what would be so serious about a biological as opposed to nuclear attack by terrorists?

I leave you with with a post from our mythical blogger from the future at the heighth of the pandemic here in the United States:

I watch the scenes of a society descending into chaos from the relative security of my mother’s isolated home. Red tail lights snake to the horizon as people pour out of the cities. Half the doctors haven’t turned up for work; many are either ill, or caring for loved ones.

Who should get the few mechanical respirators that can mean the difference between life and death? The youngest, or those with the best chances of pulling through? “Our leadership must be prepared to make calculated decisions that will force raw prioritization of life-saving resources,” explains a colonel on CNN.

Be afraid? Maybe not. But when Drudge has those stories on Bird Flu I’m going to read each and every one from now on.

By: Rick Moran at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

Watcher of Weasels linked with The Coalition of the Willing
The Glittering Eye linked with The Council has spoken!
Watcher of Weasels linked with The Council Has Spoken!
Watcher of Weasels linked with Submitted for Your Approval

Kossaks are crowing. The Post is pontificating. And the DU dummkopfs are dripping sarcasm.

Just another day of reporting on the Gulag for the MSM and their dingbat allies on the left:

In the latest disclosure, declassified FBI reports showed that detainees at the U.S. naval prison in Cuba told FBI and military interrogators on a number of occasions as early as April 2002 three months after the first prisoners arrived at the makeshift prison that guards abused them and desecrated the Quran.

“Their behavior is bad,” one detainee is quoted as saying of his guards during an interrogation by an FBI special agent on July 22, 2002. “About five months ago the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Quran in the toilet.”

Lawrence Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Wednesday that U.S. military officials at Guantanamo Bay had recently found a separate record of the same allegation by the same detainee, and he was re-interviewed on May 14. “He did not corroborate his own allegation,” Di Rita said.

I like Bill Ardolino’s take on this:

In Related, Breaking News:

The entire Death Row population at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana testified that “the food is terrible and I’m 110% innocent. I swear. Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a smoke, would you?”

What’s that you say? How can you make light of these allegations?

Easy. When someone who wants to chop my head off tells me that he’s being abused and put upon by the US military and, after an investigation, the FBI says the guy is lying through his teeth, I tend to believe the people who don’t want to chop my head off.

This rationale seems to escape those who are all to willing to believe murderous thugs trained in the fine art of media manipulation rather than their own government. While I’ve said many times, I have absolutely no doubt that there was desecration of the Koran and that some allegations of physical torture and even death are true, can we please get our facts straight before we, like you know, hand our enemies a propaganda bonanza on a silver platter? Is this really too much to ask?

What’s the real news from the FBI report? Let’s go to a real journalist, Michelle Malkin:

It should be obvious to anyone who so much as glances at the documents being cited that the FBI was reporting the statements of detainees rather than endorsing or validating those allegations. Immediately before describing the Koran-in-the-toilet allegation, the FBI notes the detainee’s statement that “God tells Muslims to do a jihad against non-Muslims.” Does Kos expect us to believe the FBI is endorsing that statement too?

Careful, Michelle. You may not want to know the answer to that.

One detainee who claimed to have been “beaten, spit upon and treated worse than a dog” could not provide a single detail pertaining to mistreatment by U.S. military personnel. Another detainee claimed that guards were physically abusive and told detainees that U.S. soldiers were having sex with the detainees’ mothers. Yet this detainee said he had neither seen any physical abuse nor heard these comments from the guards. Other detainees who complained about abuse of the Koran admitted they had never personally witnessed any such abuse, but one said he had heard that non-Muslim soldiers touched the Koran when searching it for contraband.

This is what passes for front page news at the Washington Post. These are no better than lies, rumors, and exaggerations designed to feed the frenzy of the MSM about the mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo. Is the FBI report news? Of course it is. The fact that it was obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by the ACLU is also news. After all, anything the ACLU does is news to that segment of the media that believes every iota of information – even false allegations made by terrorists – should be splashed all over the front pages of one of America’s premier dailies.

Can you see the ACLU and the FOIA during World War II? They probably would have been agitating for the release of “Operation Overlord,” the D-Day invasion plans.

I wonder what the ACLU would have said about our plan to shell the bejeebies out of the French villages on the coastline of Normandy?


LawShawn Barber has similar thoughts to what I said here:

Watch and listen today as the libs try to turn this FBI report, which merely repeats Newsweek’s claim, into a “See, it’s true!” moment. Americans may or may not have flushed a Koran, but I’m certainly not taking a detainee’s word for it, especially one who also said this:

“God tells Muslims to do a jihad against non-Muslims.”

By: Rick Moran at 11:09 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

CATEGORY: Blogging

John Cole of Balloon Juice is on a tear. In the last 6 days he’s excoriated Hugh Hewitt, raked Senate Republicans over the coals, hyperventilated over right-wing bloggers, ripped LaShawn Barber a new one, and generally ranted, raved, frothed, flaked, and fulminated against what he sees as misplaced loyalty to the military and shilling for the Bush Administration by conservative pundits in the Shadow Media.

On the seventh day, I hope he takes a break.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Cole is passionate. The biggest reason I began reading him was his logical and inspiring defense of the war in Iraq. His arguments, laced with the occasional expletive, are marvelously syllogistic and thought provoking. He was and is great fun to read.

Lately though, reading Mr. Cole has been like having a root canal without a local. And while Cole doesn’t know me from Adam, his bill of particulars against conservatives have hit me where it hurts. I’m sure this was his intention, although not in a personal, blog-to-blog way. In that spirit, I’ll try to address Mr. Cole’s ideas while not attacking him personally. After all, I look at his defection as temporary, a momentary fever brought about by a confluence of events that have disturbed many, including myself. And although it was never his intention, Mr. Cole’s attacks have resonated on the left side of the Shadow Media and given conservative critics plenty of unnecessary ammunition. Contrarily, after doing a cursory Technorati search, I find precious little in the way of conservative response to Mr. Cole’s self described rants. Hence, the reason for this post.

It all started with this post on the Newsweek imbroglio and the response of conservative media critics to the story about the Koran flushing and subsequent riots:

Apparently in the myopic worldview of Mr. Hewitt, reading and reporting the just-released documents the Army itself created is both ‘anti-military’ and ‘re-hashing’ an old story. Let’s not focus on the fact that few, if any, have been punished for these transgressions. Let’s not focus on credible reports that these incidents continue to occur. Instead, if Hewitt is to have his way, we should all focus on the ‘anti-military’ stance of the media.

What is particularly disturbing is how he and others have artificially conflated the Newsweek error and the NY Times story. This is no accident, but an act of intentional and outright propaganda. The Newsweek story may have been inaccurate, but the NY Times story was not. To read Hugh, you would think both were inconsequential and simply the result of a media hostile to the military. “Nothing here- just the military-hating mainstream media.”

First, I hardly think it “myopic” on anyone’s part to criticize the fact that the New York Times was reporting on charges of abuse that have been made and reported on in the past. It’s all a matter of context. While Mr. Cole is correct in pointing out that the Times was quoting from the military’s own investigation of the abuse, what he fails to mention is that the story itself doesn’t say that until about the 20th paragraph. Shouldn’t that fact have been the lead? Why a 5000 word front page story on incidents that have been reported on in the past? Mr. Hewitt was pointing out that the context of this story was deliberately misleading. Hard to argue with that.

Next, Mr. Cole accuses Mr. Hewitt of propagating “outright propaganda.” Cole may disagree with the substance of Hewitt’s arguments but one would need to be a psychic to glean motives from Hewitt’s statements. In short, Cole ends up accusing Hewitt of exactly the same thing he himself is guilty.

Next, Mr. Cole practices a little myopia of his own:

A free, open, and unrestricted press, to include one not cowed by idiotic calls for de facto censorship, is a vital component of a healthy democracy. While I concede and have written at great length that many in the press have all too often painted the picture that everything in Iraq is a failure, or tried to portray everything in Afghanistan as ruinous, I draw the line at bullying the press into refusing to cover stories of abuse, torture, and murder- which appears to be what Hugh and his supporters want.

I would like balanced stories about the progress we are making as well as our shortcomings and the failures. The wise path to media balance is not the suppression of our failures, but the promotion of our successes as well as the acknowledgment of our shortcomings. If we, as a public, are unaware of what is wrong, we and our representatives and leaders can not make the appropriate corrections. To admit errors in judgment in order to correct the mistakes made is reasonable, rational, and wise. To demand a loyalty test of the media, requiring that they cover up our shortcomings and mistakes, is petty, demagogic, and a recipe for disaster.

This is a great exposition on the importance of freedom of the press. It’s also hopelessly romantic and idealized baloney. In a perfect world, Mr. Cole’s statements would be applauded for their nobility and purity of purpose. But John, we’re not in Kansas anymore. It isn’t that the media is publishing these stories or even the fact that most of them are probably true. I’ve written on several occasions that I have no doubt the Koran flushing story (or something similar) is probably true. The question is again, one of context. The people responsible for shaping opinion in the Arab world could give a good goddamn about whether the allegations have been investigated by our military or not. They’re not giving us brownie points and patting us on the back for being good world citizens and cleaning our own house. They are using the stories of abuse – stories Mr. Cole points out proudly that have been investigated or are being investigated by our own military – to impede, obstruct, and otherwise hinder our efforts to win the war and bring democracy to the benighted 10th century peasants who are so easily led and misled by their holy men and holy warriors.

Am I saying the press shouldn’t report some stories of abuse? Absolutely. Unless a particular incident can be confirmed independently or is gleaned from the military’s own investigation of abuses at camps around the world, why publish what amounts to a rumor? Should a different reportorial standard be in place to report these abuses than news organs have for reporting criminal activity at a private corporation? This should be the gold standard to follow, not the Newsweek single sourced rumormongering that despite Mr. Cole’s protestations, was indeed the proximate cause of rioting that killed 17 people. To say otherwise would be like saying it wasn’t Germany that started World War II but rather the Polish response to violations of their frontier by the Wehrmacht. It may be technically correct but hardly the point.

Mr. Cole then takes flight with a little hubris of his own:

As I noted earlier, the foreign press is going to cover these issues, and attempts to hide the truth by attacking the media are doomed to fail, so I am at a loss as to what this approach may be attributed to other than partisan domestic political considerations. Acknowledging there is rot in the military is painful and inconvenient. That might entail the admission that we are not a perfect society, but merely a good society. That might require admitting that we have made mistakes, which, in and of itself, requires a level of maturity many in my party have not yet, and in some cases, appear unwilling, to attain. Rather than working on our problems, some choose to instead pretend nothing is wrong, or, in the case of Mr. Hewitt, scold those who refuse to play along.

Nowhere in Mr. Hewitt’s post or in anything written by a conservative blogger has there ever been a hint, a suggestion, a whiff that analyzing media motives in reporting abuse is an attempt to “hide the truth.” (Note: See LaShawn Barber’s defense of her statement regarding the Newsweek story that Mr. Cole attack’s here) Mr. Cole is accusing Mr. Hewitt and, by extension me, of being dishonest. I resent it. I’m sure Mr. Hewitt resents it. And anyone who cares about this entire issue should resent the spurious charges made by Mr. Cole that somehow our concerns are related to “partisan political considerations.” Is it a fact that the left is using Abu Ghraib and other abuse stories to skewer the Bush Administration and try to undermine the war effort? The question answers itself. Demanding that the press treat this issue more carefully by getting their fact straight is hardly cause for accusing bloggers of wanting to hide the truth. How about a little context? How about a little fairness? Evidently, Mr. Cole believes this is too much to ask of our poor, put upon media because by asking this we’re practicing “de-facto censorship.” Rot!

Finally, in an impassioned peroration, Mr. Cole ignores the facts of life and, by logical extension accuses bloggers who disagree with him of unwittingly aiding and abetting the enemy:

Maybe it would be best to ask the soldiers. Would they rather labor in harm’s way with the rest of the world suspecting the worst of them, or would they rather there be a clear and open prosecution of those who ARE the worst of them? Which do you think they would prefer? Which approach makes their lives more dangerous and more difficult? Whose approach to this problem is going to create more IED’s, suicide attacks, and bombings?

To suggest that we do otherwise and to try to bully the media into ignoring these abuses does the administration no good, does our servicemen no good, does America no good, and leads me to believe that Hugh Hewitt and those like him are nothing more than our own right-wing versions of Michael Moore.

Again, no one I’ve read on the right has called for not prosecuting criminal abuse. Why does Mr. Cole persist in this outrageous exaggeration of press criticism – criticism he calls “bullying.” This is nuts. How can the proverbial 98 pound weakling “bully” the 400 pound gorilla? Let’s get our David and Goliath identification right or at least put the matchup in some kind of perspective, shall we?

And being told that my criticism of the press will create “more IED’s, suicide attacks, and bombings” really sticks in my craw. This is the argument used by the left about our entire war on terror – that we’re creating more terrorists by our policies. The idea that the fanatics need any excuse at all to kill us is absurd as is the idea that some mythical “openness” on our part will change some hearts and minds. There is nothing we can do short of surrender, giving an abject apology for all the real and imagined sins we’ve committed, and a humiliating retreat of both our military and our policies to affect a change in the H & M department. And that’s a price I’m not willing to pay.

Neither is Mr. Cole, I’m sure. And in his desire to do what he thinks is best for our military, it appears to me that Cole has unconsciously adopted some of the themes and talking points used by people who actually do hate the military, who lovingly dote on each and every casualty, who oppose the military’s efforts in recruiting and retention, and who by word, by thought, and by deed seek to have the United States military defeated on the field of battle.

We used to call this treason. In this day and age, these sentiments get you invited to the best cocktail parties, has the MSM hang on your every word, and procures the lickspittle a book contract. And these are the people espousing these sentiments who agree with Mr. Cole?

For Cole, it hasn’t just been the Newsweek story. He’s taken conservative bloggers to task for landing so hard on Senate Republicans for the judicial compromise:

I am bashing them for making the option necessary by refusing to play by the rules we lived with for years, and I am outraged that the idiots, upon hearing a reasonable compromise has been achieved, still want to pursue the nuclear option. They don’t have to go nuclear, BUT THEY STILL F**KING WANT TO.

Worse than that, they want the heads of the seven Senators who dared to go against the will of the wingnuts. Because, in the world of idiots, those seats are guaranteed seats for Republicans. Lincoln Chaffee- why, he owes Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council his job.

It is all or nothing for these assholes. You are with us or against us. There can be no middle-ground. We must have complete power, complete control, or we just blow up the fucking system and remake it our way, because, after all, we won an election by 2% of the vote

“Refusing to play by the rules…” Which rule is that? The one that says the minority party that got slaughtered in a Senatorial election has the right to dictate to the Chief Executive which judges he can choose? What’s the point in having an election then?

Elections are about power – the acquisition and exercise thereof. If we had a parliamentary system with many different parties making up a coalition, then Mr. Cole would be making some sense. Instead, Cole takes the position that because the Democrats are yammering about not being able to choose judges – a constitutional privilege clearly reserved for the Chief Executive – that somehow the Republicans (and by extension the “idiots” who support the constitutional option) are a bunch of power mad, precedent-breaking morons hell bent on controlling everything.(See this article that quotes Hillary Clinton saying exactly the same thing).

Just as an aside, I lived and worked in Washington during the 1970’s and 1980’s when the Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress by huge majorities and saw the exercise of power that left Republicans out in the cold on every national issue. Only when Reagan took office (and Republicans captured the Senate) was there a shift. But that didn’t stop the Democrats from practicing a little power politics of their own in the House of Representatives by severely limiting Republican committee membership and the like.

What conservative bloggers are mad at is that the entire exercise was drawn out over months when competent leadership could have resolved the issue almost immediately after the Senate convened in January. Bill Frist is a disaster as leader. And the Republicans who took part in the compromise are a clear cut example of Frists’s incompetence. The caucus was ready in January to take this step. The fact that all this compromise does is delay the use of the nuclear option has escaped Mr. Cole’s attention. There are three judges who will not get an up or down vote. So Republicans will be forced to change the rules or have the President withdraw the nominees and have the Democrats dictate to him what judges would be acceptable.

Great choice, huh.

Mr. Cole’s recent rants were, as usual, mostly logical and extremely well written. I only wish he would have stayed his poison pen long enough to realize that, in the end, we’re on the same side. Emotionalism is fine as long as it doesn’t allow one to take flights of fancy regarding the motives of people with which you disagree.

In short, Mr. Cole, it’s time to chill. Kick back, open a brew, and dream of the Steelers Victory parade next year. Please no more gratuitous slaps at people who look upon you as a friendly in a media populated by snakes.


Dean Esmay also has some criticism for Mr. Cole:

Meantime, John Cole says that those of us who are mad at the media should take it all back. Sorry John, none for me. The people in the war-coverage press appear to run a broad spectrum: from those who are not on America’s side to those who outright want us to fail. That impression did not occur in a vacuum. As much as some people would like to believe that impression is all the fault of the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, the truth is that the talk radio people are the symptom—not the disease.


And Mr. Cole wonders why we criticize the press when they “try to get it right?”

This is a combat unit. They have a gym, and a place to eat. Yet, a consequence of these media releases is that they allow the press to appear omnipresent on the battlefield, when in fact they usually stay close to the Green Zone in Baghdad. Reporters in places like Miami or Flagstaff also scan the stream of media releases on official military information websites. They can report “news just into our station” as if they had a live feed. Satellite communication has made this speed and sleight of hand possible.

Maybe if they tried harder?

By: Rick Moran at 8:29 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (18)

Dean's World linked with Why The Press Is So Bad On War Coverage
Balloon Juice linked with A Response to Rick
Restless Mania linked with Early Friday Gatling Blog
CATEGORY: Science, Space


The House has passed a bill dramatically increasing the parameters of stem cell research:

The House yesterday passed a bill to ease restrictions on human-embryonic-stem-cell research, but it did not gain enough votes to overcome a promised presidential veto.

The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Michael N. Castle, Delaware Republican, and Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat, calls for nearly 400,000 human embryos currently in cold storage to be used for experimentation.

First of all, let’s try to maintain a little perspective here. For that, I think we should listen to a scientist. Here are The Maryhunter’s thought’s from his brand-new blog, TMH Bacon Bits:

This topic has ignited passions on both sides. Some scientists and activists believe that embryonic stem cells hold tremendous promise for cures of everything from spinal cord injury and related paralysis to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson. Others believe that embryonic stem cell research is akin to murder, since in order to harvest human embryonic stem cells, one must destroy a living human embryo. The ES-cell proponents counter with the ethical argument that it is wrong, even immoral, to prevent potential medical breakthroughs by squelching federally-funded research on human embryos that would be discarded anyway — and they parade out senile dementia and paralysis victims to plead their case. The other side then parries by suggesting that, through this logic, we should also do research on death-row inmates, since they too are slated for destruction. Then they introduce us to children who were born as the result of the adoption and implantation of unwanted IVF-clinic embryos that were otherwise slated for destruction.

The media battle, however, is clearly being won by the embryonic stem cell forces, despite the fact that this is the more ethically problematic research route that to date has few if any successes to report. This contrasts dramatically with research on adult stem cells, which has resulted in numerous exciting medical breakthroughs. Sadly, popular debate tends toward the newer, flashier research that promises a new world of medicine lying just around the corner.

Embryonic stem cells could turn into a scientific bonanza. The problem as TMH points out in his article is that no one knows what the potential is. By dramatically expanding research, it should become clear just what advances are possible and which are pipe dreams.

President Bush plans to veto this legislation, a course of action I strongly disagree with. I can understand the pro-life stance and admire the thinking behind it. But government cannot legislate science. Government cannot say that “life begins at conception” because there’s not one shred of scientific proof that this is so. What government can and should do is protect life once it is viable outside the womb. This is why I strongly oppose abortion rights activists on a variety of issues including partial birth abortion and unlimited second trimester abortions.

Embryos slated for destruction can in no rational way be construed as life. I hope the President can be dissuaded from vetoing this important legislation.


A new study of DNA suggests North America was originally settled by just a few dozen people who crossed a land bridge from Asia during the last Ice Age.

About 14,000 years ago, humans crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia to North America, most experts agree. But just how many intrepid explorers were involved has not been known.

Previous DNA analyses of the New World’s founding looked at just one gene and assumed populations sizes have been constant over time. The new study looked at nine genomic regions to account for variations in single genes, and it assumed that sizes of founding populations change over time. The method favored actual genetic data over estimates used in previous calculations

As few as 70 humans made the trek from Siberia to North America.

The study suggests the peopling of America took place 12,000-14,000 years ago despite recent evidence that shows a much earlier date. Some archaeological sites have suggested that humans may have been here as early as 20,000-22,000 years ago. The evidence is controversial and given this genetic study, will have more problems in trying to sway scientific opinion. In addition, this fascinating theory regarding Europeans coming to America also took a hit. The geneticists found no evidence of Caucasian diaspora from Europe.


From The New Editor:

After a storied, 28-year odyssey, NASA’s venerable Voyager 1 spacecraft appears to have reached the edge of the solar system, a turbulent zone of near-nothingness where the solar wind begins to give way to interstellar space in a cosmic cataclysm known as “termination shock,” scientists said yesterday.

“This is an historic step in Voyager’s race,” said California Institute of Technology physicist Edward C. Stone, the mission’s chief scientist since Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched in the summer of 1977. “We have a totally new region of space to explore, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Studying this region of space may be in jeopardy because Congress is thinking of slashing the $4.2 million dollar appropriation that covers Voyager’s explorations.

Don’t worry though, we can always launch another space probe toward the outer reaches of the solar system. Of course, it will only take 30 years or so to reach the point that Voyager is now. And such a mission in today’s dollars would cost a couple of billion dollars. So, we can spend $4.2 million today or a couple of billion tomorrow.

Your government at work.


Advances in x-ray astronomy are resolving some enduring mysteries about black holes, scientists say. Black holes are places in space where the force of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.

In recent years scientists have learned to find black holes by sweeping the skies with space-based telescopes equipped with x-ray “vision.” X-rays are a high-energy form of light that is invisible to the human eye.

“As [matter] falls down into the black hole, it will heat up, and it gets so hot it emits x-rays,” explained Edward Morgan, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.

Morgan is an instrument scientist for NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer satellite. Launched in 1995, the satellite allows scientists to study black holes and other objects such as neutron stars.

There are two kinds of black holes. Your garden variety black hole results when a sun approximately 10 times as massive as our own star, approaches the end of its life. As it runs out of hydrogen to burn, it first starts to expand, gradually reaching a size perhaps three times larger than it was during its lifetime. Then, as it runs out of fuel made up of other elements in the periodic table it starts to contract rapidly until its weight becomes so massive that it actually collapses in on itself and disappears from normal space. It’s size is very small – smaller than the earth. But any celestial body unlucky enough to be caught in its gravity well ends up as food for this gravitational monster. As it “eats,” it gives off massive amounts of x-rays that are visible to the space-based x-ray telescopes that we’ve launched in the last decade.

The second type of black hole lies at the center of galaxies and is called a “supermassive black hole.” These beasts consume massive amounts of stellar debris and an interesting correlation has been found between the growth of these monsters and the growth of their home galaxy.


The Commissar has some thoughts on “The Elite Control of Scientific Dialog” and how some ideas have a hard time making it into the mainstream of scientific thought. He takes the serendipitous case of William Alvarez, the physicist who first came up with the theory that dinosaurs may have been wiped out by an asteroid:

In 1980, a physicist named Walter Alvarez observed a surprising layer of iridium laid down about 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs went extinct. From that, he hypothesized that a huge asteroid had collided with the earth, triggering a global catastrophe and causing the mass extinction. The scientific community, including paleontologists and geologists, was very dubious. Here was a physicist intruding on THEIR turf! ...

What happened? Did Alvarez take his ideas to the Kansas Board of Education? Did he wage a PR campaign? Did he sponsor state referenda to push his point of view? Did he demand that high school geology textbooks carry stickers highlighting his views? Did he gnash his teeth publicly and demand to “teach the controversy?”

No. He, and other scientists, both those who agreed with him and those who vehemently disagreed, examined the facts, ran more tests, looked again at old data, etc. They literally dug into the earth, all over the globe, down to the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (the so-called K-T layer) to determine how much iridium was there.

The results, as they say, are history. The impact theory for the dinosaur extinction is generally accepted as true.

Parallels with the evolutionists vs. “Intelligent” Design wingnuts? Read the whole thing.


Finally, how about “The Top 10 Ways to Destroy the Earth.” I’ m especially intrigued by #7:

You will need: a light bulb

Method: This is a fun one. Contemporary scientific theories tell us that what we may see as vacuum is only vacuum on average, and actually thriving with vast amounts of particles and antiparticles constantly appearing and then annihilating each other. It also suggests that the volume of space enclosed by a light bulb contains enough vacuum energy to boil every ocean in the world. Therefore, vacuum energy could prove to be the most abundant energy source of any kind. Which is where you come in. All you need to do is figure out how to extract this energy and harness it in some kind of power plant – this can easily be done without arousing too much suspicion – then surreptitiously allow the reaction to run out of control. The resulting release of energy would easily be enough to annihilate all of planet Earth and probably the Sun too.

Slightly possible.

Please don’t try this at home.

By: Rick Moran at 5:34 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)

swissreplica0 linked with very best idea make rules time!
NIF linked with Sultan of the Black Forest

Watching what promises to be the last Star Wars movie turned into something of an emotional experience for me. When the first film in the series came out in 1977, I was in the business trying to make a living as an actor. Now actors are a notoriously jaded lot and it’s considered to be uncool to get too excited about anything, least of all someone else’s work. So, when I entered the theater to see this movie everyone was talking about (it was about a week after it premiered) I was fully prepared to be unimpressed.

Even though it was a Wednesday night, the theater was packed. The only place to sit was all the way down front in the first row. As my friends and I craned out necks upward, the first scene unfolded and took my breath away. The huge, Corillion Class Imperial Cruiser felt like it was directly over my head and the sound (70MM 6 Track later updated to Dolby) beat against my chest and made my entire body tingle.

The music score by John Williams was like something out of one of the epic films of the 1950’s. And the special visual effects, considered primitive by today’s standards, were imaginative and awe-inspiring. In short, I came out of that movie with a feeling that I had seen the future of film making.

Being out of the business so long, I can now take a more critical look at the movies and judge them from the only standpoint that should matter – as a storytelling experience.

Human beings have been telling stories to each other since the dawn of civilization. It’s been a way to impart universal truths in a memorable fashion. Simply talking about the grand themes of good versus evil or love and hate, life and death has never been enough. These themes resonate with people on a more personal level if the magic of storytelling is involved. From Homer, to Shakespeare, to George Lucas, there is a direct line of storytelling that illustrates themes that unite humanity no matter what culture you’re from.

This is not to compare Lucas to Shakespeare in talent. It is simply to point out that both men tell good stories about things that are important, things that matter.

Revenge of the Sith is a great movie. It’s not just good. It’s not just entertaining. Sith will go down in history as one of the finest examples of storytelling in the history of the American cinema.

And if it doesn’t, it should.

If that sounds a little gushy, please forgive me. After all, there is plenty in the movie to be critical about. Hayden Christiansen, brave lad, still cannot act his way out of a paper bag. Ditto Natalie Portman who at least is fine looking window dressing. And Ewan McGregor’s forced wisecrack’s and stilted banter with Anakin was distracting to say the least. I thought General Grievous was a little over the top and one dimensional to boot. And the general criticism of all Lucas movies – a too cute reliance on special effects – was on display for all to see.

All this being said, Lucas made a great film, perhaps in spite of himself. And the reason is that the primary focus of the film centered on Anakin Skywalker’s descent into darkness.

This aspect of the film could very easily have been mishandled. There is a very fine line between tragedy and melodrama. The difference is in the character’s awareness of his journey into despair. I once saw Arthur Miller’s classic American tragedy Death of a Salesman performed by a Polish Theater Company back when Poland was a communist country. Miller’s play is about the descent of Willy Loman into darkness, despair, and finally suicide and was very popular in communist countries because it ostensibly showed the evils of capitalism.

The production was laughably bad. Not because the actor’s weren’t good. It’s because the actor who played Willy Loman played up the melodramatic aspects of his character’s descent rather than the underlying subtext that gives the play its emotional power. Willy Loman goes to his death without a clue why his wife left him, his sons hate him, and why he’s a failure at his job. The sin of overarching pride dooms Loman, not the capitalist system. To play it otherwise is to invite laughter.

Similarly, Anakin’s seduction is possible only because of both his pride and fear. Anakin’s feelings of superiority are massaged expertly by Palpatine who inculcates a sense of destiny in his young charge that feeds his ego and confirms his own abilities – abilities that go unrecognized by Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council. Palpatine doesn’t cast a spell on young Skywalker. He uses the material at hand, aspects of Anakin’s personality already present to first intrigue, then confuse, and finally lure the young man to his side with the promise of freedom from fear.

With Sith, there was the real potential for disaster. If not handled just right, Anakin’s journey to the dark side could have been comical or worse, painful to watch. Instead, Lucas navigated the dangerous shoals and brought both Anakin and the audience safely through. And I consider this aspect of the movie to be a singular achievement in the history of American cinema.

Lucas couldn’t have pulled it off without the assistance of veteran character actor Ian McDiarmid whose Palpatine was played with a pitch perfect sense of seductive evil. It would have been easy to draw Palpatine with stick figure simplicity. But the depth of the Sith Lord’s evil resonated perfectly with themes familiar to theatergoers. The snake in the garden who offers Anakin a bite of the apple, the easy lie, the blurring of the line between good and evil so that evil actually appears good all work to undermine Anakin’s fragile sense of self, tied up both in his identity as a Jedi and his fear that he will lose everyone he loves.

And let’s not forget Padme’s role in all of this. An idealistic Senator who, too late, recognizes her husband’s transformation despite the signs being there since Attack of the Clones, Padme’s selfishness and single minded belief in the purity of Anakin’s motives blinds her to both Palpatine’s manipulation of her lover and his eventual crossing over to the dark side. Padme goes to her death a tragic character who never understood why the purity and absoluteness of her love couldn’t save Anakin. Love may conquer all – except when love is hoarded, not shared. Padme’s belief that by finally taking Anakin away to a place where he would be safe from harm shows how shortsighted she was. Anakin would never be able to protect himself from his own fear.

One note on the physical manifestation of the evil infecting both Anakin and Palpatine. The disfigurement of both was a master stroke by Lucas, hearkening back to the morality plays if the middle ages (and more recently Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) that showed the fall of Adam in a series of vignette’s where Adam gets progressively older and uglier, a result of his listening to the serpent in the garden and a consequence of his pride and disobedience of God. Chaucer also dealt with the ugliness of evil as his devil characters almost always had some kind of physical deformity that made them particularly repulsive. It’s no accident that the more revealed Palpatine’s alter ego Darth Siddius became, the less we saw of the harmless, white haired Chancellor and more the ugly Sith Lord. It’s one of the advantages of cinema over other art forms in that it shows image as substance.

So Anakin’s journey – a journey everyone in the audience knows the destination – couldn’t have been handled better. It wasn’t so much the acting that carried it off as it was the utilization by Lucas of universal themes that storytellers have been thrilling audiences with for at least 3000 years. And with some deft writing and some good turns by Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine, the story of Darth Vader, one of the great villains in American cinema, comes full circle.

I know that many will disagree with my interpretation. Or perhaps fault me for not pointing out the superficial political statements that Lucas evidently tried to incorporate into the movie. Either way, I understand where you’re coming from, after having read so many negative reviews from conservatives on the web and elsewhere. Be that as it may, there are things more important than politics. Lucas has made an American masterpiece, a modern American morality play that will live as long as the themes he so masterfully illuminated mean something to all of us.

By: Rick Moran at 12:17 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)


Bird Dog at the excellent blog Maggies Farm is looking for some help from bloggers:

A Call for Information from the Blog-World

We would like to collect information on the political activities and political agendas of innocent-appearing non-profit organizations.

Evidently some of those non-profits have hidden or semi-hidden agendas. Read the post and give the folks at that eclectic and well written blog some help!

By: Rick Moran at 1:48 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

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