Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
"I'm sorry Mr. Schwartz," the mortician commented, "I can't allow you to be cremated with such an impressive private part! It must be saved for posterity."
So, he removed it, stuffed it into his briefcase, and took it home.
"I have something to show you won't believe," he said to his wife, opening his briefcase.
"My God!" the wife exclaimed, "Schwartz is dead!"
After considering various methods of doing away with herself, she came to the conclusion that the quickest and surest method would be to shoot herself through the heart. The trouble was, she wasn't certain about exactly where her heart was, so she phoned her doctor and asked him. He told her that her heart was located two inches below her left nipple.
So she shot herself in the left kneecap.
Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting in August. It will
look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will culminate on Aug. 27
when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth.
Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons.
The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.
Um, not so much, buddy.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
According to Marine Regimental Combat Team 6 in Camp Fallujah, Iraq, the new anti-insurgency tactics employed by Coalition forces are working, and not just a little. For example:
...The change over the past year has been amazing. Hell, even the change
since we got here in January has been noticeable. The sheiks and the tribes they
lead have thrown in their lot with us despite a constant murder and intimidation
campaign by Al Qaeda. Our approach to counterinsurgency is working and is an
illustration that given enough time, ordinary men and women -- the Iraqis we
work with every day -- will say "Enough violence is enough." They're tired of
their children dying, and of fearing for their lives just because they had the
nerve to try to keep their neighborhoods safe...
...The bottom line is that we are freaking winning out here. And the really
astonishing thing is that Coalition Forces aren't the main effort -- we're
simply an enabling factor. The Iraqi people, the moms and dads of Iraq, are the
ones who are winning this war.
How about Omar in Iraq:
...Iraqis are awakening, one very telling example can be seen in the
ongoing operation in Diyala; members of the 1920 revolution brigades, once
bitter enemies of the US military and Iraqi government are
now assisting US and Iraqi military in fighting al-Qaeda even though the
majority of the Iraqi soldiers and officers are Shia. If the change in
exclusively Sunni Anbar is good then the change in Diyala is good beyond
Charles Krauthammer adds this:
...Accordingly, Petraeus and Crocker have found a Plan B: pacify the
country region by region, principally by getting Sunnis to join the fight
This has begun to happen in Anbar and Diyala. First, because al-Qaeda are foreigners. So are we, but --
reason No. 2 -- unlike them, we are not barbarous. We don't amputate fingers for
smoking, decapitate with pleasure and kill Shiites for sport.
Third, al-Qaeda's objectives are not the Sunnis'. Al-Qaeda adherents
live for endless war and a reborn caliphate. Ultimately, they live to die. Iraqi
Sunnis are not looking for a heavenly date with 72 virgins. They are looking for
a deal, and perhaps just survival after U.S. troops are gone...
By now, you should know I am, at heart, an optimist. I welcome good news. While I still think the Iraq debacle has been, well, a debacle, we are where we are. All we can hope for is a somewhat positive outcome. For a change, that actually seems to be a possiblity.
Friday, July 20, 2007
As reported here (and a bunch of other places) the other day, Boston University scientists announced they had found an ancient, HUGE, underground lake in Darfur. This announcement brought all sorts of hope that, with abundant water, friction between Arab nomads and black farmers might be reduced, and the awful humanitarian mess in the region alleviated.
It sounded too good to be true, and it might turn out to be so.
Dr. Gachet is inolved in a UN project to drill for water further south in Darfur. No word if there's any profit motive involved for the good doctor, but one suspects there is, and that could certainly cast some doubt on his hot sports opinion regarding the BU finding.
We shall see. It sure would be nice if someone found water in the region. A reduction in competition for resources can only help.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
In Burma, a hand-picked "special assembly" has convened its final session, and expects to have a new national constitution finalized within a couple of months.
A few interesting points included in the constitution:
1. It guarantees the armed forces 25% of the seats in parliament.
2. It requires the president to have significant military experience.
3. It allows the commander of the armed forces to declare a state of emergency without government approval.
4. It outright bans the president from having a foreign spouse or children.
Number 4 is clearly intended to keep Aung San Suu Kyi, widow of an Oxford don and mother of two mixed-race boys who live in England, from ever leading the country.
Not that it matters, of course. The military is going to own Burma for the rest of my life anyway.
One other note from the Golden Land: Today is Martyr's Day, the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Suu Kyi's father, independence hero General Aung San. For the 5th consecutive year, Suu Kyi did not attend the ceremony in Rangoon, although her estranged older brother, Aung San Oo (a US resident), made an appearance.
A woman visited a psychic of some local repute. In a dark and gloomy room, gazing at the Tarot cards laid out before her, the Tarot reader delivered the bad news: "There is no easy way to say this so I'll just be blunt: Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent death this year."
Visibly shaken, the woman stared at the psychic's lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself. She simply had to know.
She met the Tarot reader's gaze, steadied her voice and asked, "Will I get away with it?"
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Four-year-old Brit Madeleine McCann has been missing for 76 days now. As you'll recall from an earlier CIT post, as well as about a billion news stories in the international press, she went missing from her family's hotel room in Portugal as her parents ate dinner within sight of the room.
The banner to the left stays there until this thing is resolved. Go check out the linked page and, maybe, donate a bit.
Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube has been sued for adultery by the husband of his secretary. No sooner was the case filed than state media produced photographs allegedly taken by a hidden camera and purporting to show Ncube undressing and having sex with an unidentified woman.
The husband, by the way, is a railroad worker. Just how likely is it that he either knows how to handle a hidden camera or has the means to pay someone who does?
Ncube is denying the charges, but also spending a lot of time talking about "forgiveness". It's a pretty good bet he did what he's accused of.
While this probably makes him a lousy Catholic priest, it does not make him wrong in his harsh criticism of Mugabe and his government. One hopes Ncube is going to keep up the pressure, but its certain his voice will be somewhat diminished.
This is just the latest example of Mugabe's crushing of dissent. Political rival Morgan Tsvangirai spent more than a year in court, defending himself against treason charges. About the same time he was acquitted, he was jumped and beaten nearly to death by what had to have been government thugs.
The meltdown in Zimbabwe continues, although, I have to admit, more slowly than I expected. I had figured the wheels would be completely off by now and there would be rampaging violence in the streets. It certainly seems like that's still in the not-too-distant future, unless someone, somewhere nuts up and does something to prevent it.
Darfur is, or course, primarily desert today, which contributes significantly to both the conflict and the problems posed for aid agencies. Competition for scarce resources, like water, leads to friction between the black farmers and the Arab nomads. And the agencies attempting to help the estimated 2 million Darfurian refugees are constrained by the need to carry water or remain close to existing sources.
This new find, which is roughly the size of Lake Erie in the US (and that is a LOT of water), could conceivably change everything in this ravaged area.
Can it really be this easy?
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In this BBC write-up of the big New Zealand vs. South Africa rugby match, I understand exactly one descriptive phrase:
Again South Africa, down to 14 players, held out and won a crucial penalty close to their line - but the decision was reversed when Albert van den Berg was adjudged to have stood on an opponent's head.
The rest is pure gibberish.
The MOST confusing game on Earth, by the way, is cricket.
However, I have no memory of an African boycott of the 1976 Summer Games. Apparently, 33 African nations did not complete in protest over the presence of the team from...New Zealand?
Yep, little New Zealand sparked major controversy. How, you ask?
The International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team was, at the same time, touring South Africa.
Apartheid South Africa had long since been thrown out of the Olympics (that happened in 1964), but even limited cultural contact with South Africa was so toxic it resulted in calls for expulsion of New Zealand, arguably the least-offensive country on Earth, just because their rugby team, which had NO affiliation with the national government or Olympic committee, was making a visit.
And, even more shocking, it blew so far under the radar that an average kid in Dallas TX wasn't even aware it was an issue.
India plans to sell military helicopters to the Burmese junta, according to a new report from Amnesty International. India has no arms embargo against the Burmese thugs, er, I mean "government", so why is this news?
The news is the helicopters, India's "Advanced Light Helicopter", are bolted together from a mishmash of Western European components. Loaded up with guns and engines from France, gearboxes from the UK, rocket launchers from Belgium, brakes from Italy, and design elements from Germany (among others), this is, by no stretch of the imagination, a solely "Indian" weapons system.
All of the above-mentioned EU countries DO have trade embargoes against the Pyinmana hoods. If that's the case, shouldn't systems using components from the EU also be embargoed? Especially since Than Shwe and his minions will likely use their new toys directly against their beaten-down populace?
Friday, July 13, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
This duel for second place at the 1979 French Grand Prix, with Villeneuve in the immortal #27 Ferrari and the underappreciated Rene Arnoux in the first of the turbocharged Renaults, made me a fan for life.
And, the saddest of many sad days in the F1 circus - the day Gilles Villenueve died in practice at the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix.
He was going to win his first championship that year - the Ferrari was the class of the field. His teammate, Didier Pironi, a MUCH less talented driver, nearly won the championship until he fell vicitm to a very similar accident later in the season.
F1 is ultra-competitive, with teams raising and spending hundreds of millions each year and generating billions in TV, merchandise, sponsorship, and ticket-sales revenue. For the past several years, Ferrari and McLaren have been the class of the show, trading wins and championships almost exclusively. The gap between the two teams is as small as its ever been this year, and a little insider info could easily be the difference.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis maintains, "..this will not end in anything that causes McLaren any embarrassment...", a non-denial-denial which appears to leave Coughlan twisting in the wind.
If found guilty, McLaren could be stripped of Constructors' or drivers' points. Right now, McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are 1-2 in the drivers' standings, and McLaren lead Ferrari by 25 points in the constructors' standings.
The southern Iraqi city of Basra is being victimized by a plague of ferocious badgers, which some residents claim have been released into the area by British troops.
The Brits, with typical stiff upper lip, have categorically denied any involvement.
The animals, which have been identified as honey badgers, are actually indigenous to the area, and may have been driven into the city by flooding to the north. It does seem, to the casual observer, that there is, in fact, no Western, anti-Islamic plot at work here.
Its also important to note that, while the University of Wisconsin does maintain a rather robust US-Iraq Web site, the folks in Madison probably didn't have anything to do with the badger infestation either.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
According to the good bishop, there's almost no fuel for anyone in the country, and people are spending their days hunting for half a loaf of bread. He goes on to call Mugabe a "megalomaniac" who "lives for power".
And what is Mugabe himself saying about the disaster-in-the-making he has wrought? Why, didn't you know? It's all a plot hatched by "the West" to remove him from power.
After becoming very frustrated with the "no haggle" attitude of one of the shopkeepers, the blonde shouted, "Maybe I'll just go out and catch my own alligator so I can get a pair of shoes at a reasonable price!"
The shopkeeper said, "By all means, be my guest. Maybe you'll luck out and catch yourself a big one!"
Determined, the blonde turned and headed for the swamps, set on catching herself an alligator.
Later in the day, the shopkeeper is driving home, when he spots the young woman standing waist deep in the water, shotgun in hand. Just then, he sees a huge 9 foot alligator swimming quickly toward her. She takes aim, kills the creature and with a great deal of effort hauls it on to the swamp bank. Lying nearby were several more of the dead creatures. The shopkeeper watches in amazement. Just then the blonde flips the alligator on its back, and frustrated, shouts out, "Damn it, this one isn't wearing any shoes either!"
Scientists have recently dug an extremely well-preserved baby mammoth out of the Siberian permafrost. The estimated-six-month-old female was discovered by a reindeer herder and is, by far, the best preserved specimen ever found by scientists.
My six-year-old son thinks elephants and (especially) mammoths are the coolest animals ever in the history of animals, so this one caught my eye.
Two things jump out of the BBC story at me:
- Scientists are seriously talking about cloning a mammoth, either by combining DNA from a find like this one with a close relative like an Asian elephant, or by straight-out cloning from the DNA from a find like this. They're talking like it's no big deal. I saw Jurassic Park. I know this is a big deal.
- Apparently, people are stumbling over mammoth carcasses all the time in Siberia. There is a booming trade in illicit mammoth ivory and body parts. I had no idea...
While I'm a little concerned about cloning and reproducing a species which died out at least 5,000 years ago, and trade in illicit body parts of any kind (man, beast, whatever) gives me the heebies big time, this is a fascinating story. I can't wait to tell my son.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The increasingly corrupt and incompetent government of the increasingly paranoid and delusional Robert Mugabe has, apparently, driven a stake into the economic meltdown by trying to reverse several years worth of increased-money-supply-driven rampant inflation (by some estimates over 9,000%) by ordering drastic price cuts and jailing managers and business owners who refused to comply.
This colossal shock to the already-free-falling economy has resulted in widespread hoarding, riots, empty shelves in stores, and approaching chaos in the cities.
It seems, tragically, almost inevitable that there will be widespread violence and starvation in Zimbabwe in the near future.
All of this could have been avoided by competent governance, as Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) is exceptionally blessed with fertile soil and abundant natural resources. Prior to Mugabe going off the deep end, Zimbabwe/Rhodesia fed most of sub-Saharan Africa.
There are lessons to be learned here. However, since there are no real strategic issues at stake in Zimbabwe, most of the world will ignore them.
Start writing your checks to Oxfam right now. I'm sure they're stocking up for what's coming.
One of Microsoft's finest techs was drafted and sent to boot camp.
At the rifle range, he was given some instruction, a rifle and bullets. He fired several shots at the target. The report came from the target area that all attempts had completely missed the target.
The tech looked at his rifle, and then at the target. He looked at the rifle again, and then at the target again. He put his finger over the end of the rifle barrel and squeezed the trigger with his other hand. The end of his finger was blown off, whereupon he yelled toward the target area: "It's leaving here just fine, the trouble must be at your end!"
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I am a Project Manager, so I'm up on all the latest buzzwords. However, I've found that the meaning of buzzwords differs from area to area. Case in point (and apologies for the language):
East Coast term
West Coast equivalent term
action item by Feb 12 for Joe
Joe's working on the problem
do it and do it now
can you sign up for this program?
do it right or you're fired
I'm confident you'll get it done
follow the spec
is there a spec?
get out of my office
let's get consensus on this one
he's a jerk
he's not signed on to our plan
he's a subordinate
he's a team player
I'll cover your ass
consider me your resource
ignore him, he's new
I'm bringing him up to speed
meet me in the parking lot
let's take that discussion offline
thanks for bringing that to my attention
punch his lights out
shut the fuck up
thank you for your input
shut up a minute
let me share this with you
that's totally incompetent
let me build on that point
we haven't started yet
we finished early
(no translation available)
how do you feel about that?
what's your problem?
I certainly understand your feelings
where's the spec?
what's a spec?
where's the schedule?
what's the game plan?
your plan sucks
let me share my feelings on this plan
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Jokes that were funny back in the late fall of 2001:
"Somebody said, 'What good will it do to kill Osama bin Laden?' I said, 'I don't know, let's find out.'" -Don Imus
"CBS News finally received anthrax in the mail. As usual, we're number three." -David Letterman
"The FBI is urging all Americans to beware of any letters or packages that have badly misspelled words. Man, this is going to be terrible news for the rap industry." -Jay Leno
"People are wondering what will happen to Afghanistan when we're finished fighting there. I'm sure there are plans to rebuild the country, and a lot of times with rebuilding comes a name change. These are some possible name changes the government has been mulling over: Halfghanistan,Pothole-istan, Jenniferanistan, Assbackwardstand, Bye-bye-Talibanistan, Ass-Kickedistan." -Jay Leno
"Do you remember the good ol' days when Congress was only unsafe if you were an intern." -David Letterman
"Things have really changed here in Hollywood. Used to be people in this town couldn't wait to get an envelope full of white powder." -Jay Leno
"More and more news coming out about this Osama bin Laden guy. He's 6'5" and has 42 children. Or, as the NBA calls him, a rookie." -Jay Leno
"The Mirror interviewed one of Osama bin Laden's sons and said bin Laden Has 42 children. That's going to happen when you sleep in a different cave every night." -Jay Leno
"Security here in New York City is still very tight. Hookers in Time Square now are demanding two forms of fake ID." -David Letterman
"President Bush has urged people to get back to normal and today Congress announced that they are accepting bribes again." -Jay Leno
"Clinton and Dole are joining forces to raise $100 million in scholarship money for the families of the victims. But you know who also deserves a pat on the back, Elizabeth Dole. Her husband is on Viagra and he's gone on the road with Bill Clinton - that is one trusting woman." -Jay Leno
"This Osama bin Laden guy, spoiled rich kid worth $300M. I have three words for this guy: Anna Nicole Smith. We send her over there, she'll get his money, he'll be dead in a week." -Jay Leno
Friday, July 06, 2007
The Washington Post publishes a yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for various words. The following were some of this year's winning entries:
- Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.
- Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
- Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
- Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
- Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent
- Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightie.
- Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
- Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavored mouthwash.
- Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
- Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
- Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
- Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.
- Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.
- Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.
- Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there.
- Pokemon (n), A Jamaican proctologist.
An un-named militant group has kidnapped the 3-year-old daughter of a Brit expat working in the oil-rich Niger delta region of Nigeria. Apparently, they have offered to swap her for her dad, local bar owner Mike Hill
So, the first question which comes to mind is, "Who on Earth kidnaps a 3-year-old?" The answer to that one is: Lots of folks in Africa, South America, and other parts of the world. The thing is, they usually kidnap locals, not Westerners. You never hear about it, because, well, it's just a bunch of wogs kidnapping each other, isn't it?
This one gets ink because its a Brit. But it's not getting a ton of coverage in the US, because the kids is only half white. Mom is a Nigerian, so it's only half as newsworthy as it might be otherwise.
Is this too cynical? Too insensitive? Are you offended by "wog" and "half white"?
Maybe so, but I submit that it's true.
Black women disappear in the US, sometimes pregnant, and it's page 17C, maybe. Pretty, white Jesse Davis goes missing and it's everywhere. We find it's her black boyfriend who snuffed her, and he had help from a black woman, and now it's Katie-bar-the-door.
Lil Kim shows up to awards shows drunk, stoned, and mostly undressed, and it's a 3/4 inch blurb in People magazine. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, or any of the other "Young Hollywood" types do the same thing, it's joke #2 in Letterman's monologue, on Entertainment pages in every paper, and mentioned on every Morning Zoo radio show in every market in America.
A Mexican woman and her two kids are killed on I-30 and it's buried in Metro Briefs. A white woman and her two kids die on the Tollway and it's front-page, lead story on News 8 HD, and there's probably a special investigation called.
Now, I will concede that not all these cases are the same, that we're not talking apples to apples in every situation. Fine.
It's still true.
I think it's stating the obvious: In Western society today, a white person is more worthy of media coverage than a person of color.
I'm not saying its good. Its deplorable. But it is what it is.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
An MSNBC article on the follow-up from this weekend's anti-terror activity in the UK got me thinking a bit about the role of the CIA and the very difficult path the agency must walk.
This weekend's events should serve as proof there is a continuing threat in the West of attacks aimed at causing mass casualties and massier-mass panic and confusion. As we've said before, the Brits have long experience with this sort of threat, longer than anyone except the Israelis. And if today's bad guys are more violent and less scrupulous than the PIRA boyos were, the general idea remains the same.
For that reason, the Brits are used to seeing troops armed with automatic weapons wandering around airport terminals, armored vehicles parked up outside public buildings, and swarms of police in raid jackets smashing down suburban doors in the middle of the night.
Americans, on the other hand, are used to seeing none of those things. In the US, cameras mounted on traffic signals to catch red-light runners bring Orwellian comparisons as rebuttal. Mention facial-recognition software or national ID cards around here, and you immediately hear how our government now resembles a South American military dictatorship.
The CIA gets hammered constantly for being the jackbooted storm troopers of the new Galactic Empire. Illegal imprisonment, illegal rendition of illegal detainees to countries which have slightly fewer qualms about using "aggressive interrogation methods", questionable information gathering techniques, and other potentially Constitution-stretching practices are all assumed and bandied about in the national media and local conversation.
But the mission at the CIA is to protect America. How does one do that in the current environment? Does taking the high road, ensuring your morals are, well, moral, following the letter of the law protect America from sworn enemies who are encumbered by none of those things? Do our security agencies have to wade into the same moral cesspool as the bad guys to effectively fight them?
Forcing an open fight with cockroaches like AQ doesn't work. If you question that, see Tora Bora, Mogadishu, and Fallujah for reference. Or, for that matter, Qana, Gaza, and other Middle East garden spots. We're never going to get these guys on the Field of Honor. From their perspective, Katyushas and Kalashnikovs don't stack up well against M1A1s, cluster munitions, and Apache helicopters.
So, the battle is in the dark, on the periphery, using stealth and surprise. And there are no rules. Civilians are fair game (hell, the preferred game - they don't shoot back). There's no front line. Airports, population centers, soft targets in general are all in play.
If that's the case, don't the "good guys" (based on perspective) have to "take the fight to the bad guys"?
Or do the "good guys", by moving into the gray area, casting aside some of their moral guidelines, sinking to the level of the enemy, do they become what they seek to destroy?
The arguments on both sides make sense to me. It's not an easy question.
Here's how it boils down for me: If (when?) the "bad guys" manage to pull off another attack which kills 3,000+ American civilians, the American people are going to want action. They aren't going to worry about civility or the high ground or What Would Jesus Do. They're going to want some heads mounted on some pikes. If that's the case, shouldn't the "good guys" do all they can (ALL they can) to prevent such an action? If they don't, won't the American people ask them why they didn't? And if morally ambiguous action is justified under those circumstances (btw, I'm not so sure it is, but go with me here), isn't it justified now?
Crisis sharpens perceptions. On Sept 12, 2001, the "bad guys" were black, we were white (and I'm not referring to skin color), so let's go git 'em. When passions cool, it's no longer so easy. To avoid more of the angst in the future, I think we have to do all we can to prevent another crisis.
Sorta makes you misty for the good old Cold War, where good and evil were clearly defined, doesn't it?
Just how does one wrap an Su-30?
But I digress...
Chavez the Commie and Ahmadinejad the ultra-right religious hard-liner would seem to be at polar opposites. But they appear to be a match made in Heaven (or Hell, depending on your perspective), despite their politics.
This seems to me to be a testament to the power of hate. Neither of these clowns has much of anything to offer their populace other than disparaging of the West. Both are stewards of their respective nations' enormous deposits of oil, yet the economies of both countries are failing. Without their ability to rouse the rabble against the Great Satan, they've both got a whole lot of nothing in their respective bag.
I can only imagine how much fun their press conferences are. Bill Maher ought to tune in to steal some material. Who knows, with help from Ahmadinejad and Chavez, even he might be funny.