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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, March 31, 2005
N. Korea Demands U.S. Apology
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea is waiting for the United States to apologize for calling it an "outpost of tyranny" before the communist state will return to nuclear talks, a senior official said, as the North announced Friday it will convene a rubber-stamp parliament expected to endorse its boycott of the talks.
Oh, come on! Apologize for calling the NorKs an outpost of tyranny? Why? Whatever happened to "Sticks and stones and aircraft carrier groups and stealth fighter-bombers may break my bones, but names can never hurt me?" Can we take it back and instead assert that Kim Jong Il is an unhinged megalomaniac with funny hair? Would the NorKs accept that?

Hang on, Bean. Take a big breath. Read more of the article…
Still, Pyongyang is waiting for the United States apologize over U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeling the North one of the world's "outposts of tyranny." Rice has refused to apologize…
Way to go, Condy!
"In order to reopen the talks, there should be the right justification and conditions," South Korea's Yonhap News Agency quoted Han as saying. "That is a clear apology from the U.S. for the outpost of tyranny remarks."

Han said the North's statement Thursday was meant to highlight Pyongyang's view that the latest crisis stems from a perceived U.S. nuclear threat. Washington has said it has withdrawn all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.
That's right, but we have them on submarines, and how far do you suppose our nearest submarine is from Pyongyang? Well, I don't know either, but I bet it's close enough so that the time between Bush deciding there shouldn't be a Pyongyang anymore and his wish coming true is less than 45 minutes. And Kim Jong Il wants an apology? He should want a one-way ticket to Paris.

In the interests of international harmony, I'll try to help by whipping something up. If the administration approves, they have my permission to use it without giving me credit.
The Beloved Leader
Mr. Kim Jong Il
Pyongyang, North Korea

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dear Mr. Il,

I am writing to apologize for calling your country an outpost of tyrrany.

I meant outhouse.


Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D.
Secretary of State
United States of America
Aaahahaaaa! I slay me!
Palestinian Civil War Watch
Gunmen Fire at Abbas' Headquarters

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian militants fired Wednesday at Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank headquarters while he was in the compound, but he was not injured, security officials said.

Later, the 15 gunmen — who said they belong to an armed group linked to the ruling Fatah movement — went on a shooting rampage throughout the city of Ramallah, damaging several restaurants and forcing shops to close, witnesses and officials said.
A lot of observers (including Dennis Prager) have long said that for peace to occur between Israel and the Palestinians, there would have to be a Palestinian civil war. Perhaps we're seeing the beginning of this.

Hat tip: LGF.
As ordered by Oven.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Sometimes Soccer Isn’t Just Soccer
Michael Leeden in NRO compares two recent soccer games and shows how deeply soccer fans reflect politics.

In Tehran, rioting breaks out after a victory in a match over Japan, but the MSM misses that the rioting is directed at demonstrating opposition to the current regime.

In Israel, the home team tied Ireland 1 to 1 and harmony and good will reigned.
Never before had an Arab saved the Israeli national team. The savior was Suwan Abbas, who scored the tying goal [1-1] in the first minute of penalty time in the game against Ireland. Abbas is the captain of Sakhnin, the only mixed [Arab and Jewish] team in the Israel championship.

"Yes, it was very moving to hear forty thousand people chant my name. The goal" — said Suwan, called an "Israeli hero" on the front page of the daily Yedioth Aharonoth — "is dedicated to everyone in Israel. Enough with all this talk about Jews and Arabs, we are a single people..."
Read all of Leeden's article by clicking on the title.

Check out more coverage of the Israel / Ireland game (with some nice pictures) which brought many happy Irish tourists to Israel and injected some welcomed money into Israel's still-recovering tourism industry at Shai's blog: A Very Irish Purim.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Welcome to Kerckhoff Coffeehouse! May I Take Your Order?
Well, we've been here for just over five months now, and we've attracted a teeny but loyal following, for which we're grateful. A few folks even comment regularly.

I thought it would be a good time to hear from you all and find out if there's anything in particular you'd like us to post about. If you've been here for a while you already know what catches our fancy. We post a lot about politics and foreign affairs, and we analyze events from a generally crazy-right-wing / neocon / Republican / Libertarian point of view. But we certainly post on lots of other things: movies, books, puzzles, family life, and, of course, Godby.

Is there something you'd like more of? Less of? Would you like some kind of regular feature? Weekend Wildlife? Trotskyite Tuesdays?

We can't promise we'll do it, but I promise we'll think about it.
Zoster Disaster (or Tingles From Shingles)
Yesterday I got a little red patch on the small of my back, just to the right of my spine. It was very tender, like a pimple that’s deep under the surface. As the day went on, I kept expecting a pimple to pop up, but the little patch stayed red and got more and more tender. It developed what doctors call hyperesthesia, which is abnormally increased sensation, so that the brush of my shirt across my back became unpleasantly noticeable. That’s when I started suspecting shingles, or what us doctor types call herpes zoster. It has nothing to do with herpes virus; it’s caused by the virus that causes chicken pox. Today, more painful red patches appeared. Having better judgment than to treat myself, I actually saw my doctor who agreed with the diagnosis of shingles and prescribed an antiviral medicine. It usually resolves completely after a few days, but in the meantime, it hurts like hell.

Even a casual glance at today’s headlines demonstrate that there a lot of people much worse off than me, but my few minutes on the other side of the patient gown was a good reminder of the pain and the worrisome uncertainty involved in being sick.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
The history of the world features many important people – men and women whose actions have had profound impact on their society. The greatest of these are the heroes. More than famous, more than popular, and more than talented, the heroes are sublimely virtuous. They illumine the world with their acts of kindness, or courage, or self-sacrifice. Some heroes have one shining moment. Some have a lifetime of shining moments. All have touched many hearts. I admit I'm a softy. I am easily stirred by the example set by my heroes.

Jackie Robinson is a hero. Nomad wrote a post in his honor on February 24. Frankly, I don’t think that post got the attention it deserved.

Mother Teresa is also a hero. The remainder of this post is dedicated to her.

Mother Teresa cared for the poorest of the poor. She provided food and medicine to outcasts. She gave love and comfort to pariahs in their dying moments. She did these things for almost 50 years. God provided the motive. She once said, "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord Himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"

Agnes Bojaxhiu was born on August 26, 1910, in what is now Macedonia. In 1928, she joined a community of nuns in Ireland. The following year she was sent to India. In 1931, she took the name Sister Teresa and moved to Calcutta to teach history and geography at a Catholic high school for rich girls. Teresa enjoyed her work, but she was unsettled by the widespread poverty, starvation, and disease that existed just outside the school walls. In 1946, Teresa heard God's call to do something about it.

Now the story gets interesting. In 1948, Teresa exchanged the comfort of the convent for a hovel and her nun’s habit for a plain white sari. Her first mission was to teach poor children how to read. Soon thereafter she began to help the poor and sick in the children’s families. Then she began to help poor and sick people in general.

News of Teresa’s work spread and many young women volunteered to join her as Missionaries of Charity. In 1952, they opened a home for the dying. In 1953, they opened their first orphanage. In 1956, they created the first of many mobile medical clinics. In 1957, they opened a care center for lepers. In 1979 Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize. She received the prize “in the name of the hungry, the naked, the homeless, of the crippled, of the blind, of the lepers, of all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared-for throughout society…”

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997.
Another Stilted Poll
I was reading this opinion piece by Eleanor Clift, in which she spends her space making the argument that the various political factions in our country "have misread the Schiavo case," when I encountered this silly poll which must have been provided in order to butress Ms. Clift's case.

"Should Terri Schiavo have the right to die" reads the poll. The answers are "Yes", "No", "I don't know".

Of course, Terri should have the "right to die" if she so chooses. Any of us should. MSNBC will no doubt use the results of a 3D world version of this poll (presuming one exists) to make the claim that Americans side with Michael Schiavo. The extremism of the "Religious Right" will likely be invoked, as MSNBC attempts to convey just how out-of-step with society-at-large those who support Terri Schiavo's parents are... but I'm on a tangent now.

Obviously, to anyone who has been following Terri's plight, this isn't at all about Terri's right to die, and answering "yes" in no way indicates that you support Michael Schiavo. This case is primarily about whether or not Terri would have wished to die given her situation. A more legitimate question for the poll would be "Should Michael Schiavo be the sole arbiter of Terri's will?"

Other questions that would more accurately delve to the issues of this case might be:

--Is food and water delivered through a tube extraordinry medical intervention, or is it basic care?

--Is allowing a person to die through dehydration an acceptable practice?

--Should one person be given sole say in determining whether or not a patient should be allowed to die, where other family members are available, and in disagreement?

--Should appelate courts review evidenciary matters?

Schiavo Discussion Thread
Another Glimpse Over the Slope
CBS News Dutch Euthanize Sick Newborns
Michael Schiavo Denies Terri Communion
Breaking on Fox News... Apparently, Mr. Schiavo had a change of heart, and has allowed Terri to receive the Sacrament. It was the right thing to do.

Schiavo’s parents denied permission to give communion

Any illusions being harbored that Michael Schiavo is a hero in this tragedy should be completely vaporized by this dispicable act. Receiving Communion is the most sacred act in Christianity. To deny Terri this most basic of rights on the holiest day of the Christian year confirms for me that Michael Schiavo is not simply misguided, but is a rotten, horrible person. To accurately express the amount of contempt I have for this thug would require expletives I'm not going to use in this space.

Schiavo Discussion Thread
Only YOU have the power to Save Toby!
Given the events of the past week, this is beyond inappropriate. Nevertheless, my warped side compels me to post it...

Savetoby.com | Only YOU have the power to Save Toby!
Saturday, March 26, 2005
More Favored Than the Birds

En route to the Moon in Verne's sequel, Round the Moon (1870), the French adventurer Michel Ardan asked his traveling companions, "Why cannot we walk outside like the meteor? Why cannot we launch into space through the scuttle? What enjoyment it would be to feel oneself thus suspended in ether, more favored than the birds who must use their wings to keep themselves up!"
Click on the picture for a beautiful high resolution version and information about the shuttle mission in which it was taken. Click the post title for some historical background on the development of untethered spacewalks.

Thanks to Redsugar Muse for pointing me to the picture.
(Here is a previous post about another awe inspiring space picture.)
Friday, March 25, 2005
What Are You Listening To?

I’m in my office catching up on paperwork waiting for my first patient, and I popped “Upstairs at Eric’s” by Yaz into the CD drive. I haven’t listened to it in a long time. Then I noticed that it was released in 1982 and almost fell out of my chair. Yikes, I’m getting old! And I’m listening to music that’s over half my age. Of course in 1982 I was in high school and was too tied to traditional rock (Rush, Styx, Police) to listen to Yaz, but I listened to it in college, which is still 15 years ago. Excuse me while I put my dentures back in.

So, what are you listening to?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Happy Purim!
We would like to extend our wishes for a very happy Purim to our Jewish readers.

For the next day or so we're serving hamantaschen and beer.

We know many will miss the photo of the Lebanese protester, but all good things must come to an end.
Freedom March Continues
Yahoo! News - Kyrgyzstan Gov't Collapses After Protest

A Kyrgyz man shouts anti-President Askar Akayev slogans as he and other opposition protesters rally in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Thursday, March 24, 2005. Protesters stormed the government and presidential compound in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, entering the building after clashing with riot police who had surrounded it during a large oppositon rally and march. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Fast Followup: How well does that work?! Two tanktops, two countries separated by thousands of miles, two entirely different builds...

... and on our blog's front page, the gentleman from Kyrgyzstan seems to salute the young lady of Lebanon across the cultural, geographical and cosmic gap, as she flashes a smile of comradery in response. 2 entirely distinct individuals... united in their quest for freedom.. and by the accident of a post on a blog half a world away.
British Medical Journal: New technique helps to assess vegetative state
British Medical Journal: New technique helps to assess vegetative state

"In 1996 a study showed that after assessment with SMART 43% of the patients who had been admitted to the brain injury unit and believed to be in a vegetative state had been wrongly diagnosed (BMJ 1996; 313:13-6)."

Authors: Wilson SL. Gill-Thwaites H.

Institution: University of Glasgow, Department of Psychological Medicine,
Gartnavel Royal Hospital, UK. email: s.l.wilson@clinmed.gla.ac.uk

Title: "Early indication of emergence from vegetative state derived from
assessments with the SMART--a preliminary report."

Updated to add Further reading:

You'll obviously need access to the journals to read the full articles.

Published in: Brain Injury. 14(4):319-31, 2000 Apr.

"An explanatory analysis of data from serial assessments of 30 patients with a
diagnosis of vegetative state (persistent vegetative state) was carried out.
The data were gathered using the Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Test. It was found that those who emerged later could be differentiated
mathematically from those who did not emerge, using largest recovery score
data from the SMART. This research supports previous..."


Authors: Wilson SL. Gill-Thwaites H.

Institution: University of Glasgow, Department of Psychological Medicine,
Gartnavel Royal Hospital, UK.

Title: "Early indication of emergence from vegetative state derived from
assessments with the SMART--a preliminary report."

Published in: Brain Injury. 14(4):319-31, 2000 Apr.

"An explanatory analysis of data from serial assessments of 30 patients with a
diagnosis of vegetative state (persistent vegetative state) was carried out.
The data were gathered using the Sensory Modality Assessment and Rehabilitation Test. It was found that those who emerged later could be differentiated
mathematically from those who did not emerge, using largest recovery score
data from the SMART. This research supports previous..."


"Our preliminary results suggest that SPECT can improve both the knowledge of a patient's neurological conditions and management in comparison to the use of only CT scan." (SPECT, like PET, is a nuclear-imaging technique.)

Authors: Facco E. Munari M. Behr AU. Baratto BF. Zucchetta P. Bui F. Cesaro S.
Giron GP.

Institution: Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, University of
Padua, Italy.

Title: Assessment of brain perfusion in coma and comparison between SPECT and
CT scan data: preliminary report."

Published in: Neurological Research. 20 Suppl 1:S40-3, 1998.

"In this study we submitted 24 comatose patients (Glasgow Coma Score <8)
to Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPECT) during the clinical course of
coma to verify its utility and the relationship between SPECT and CT scan data. SPECT allowed us to recognize different regional flow patterns, such as
absolute or relative hyperemia or oligoemia, which could not be checked with
other means, thus improving patient's management. Apart from cerebral
ischemia, there was no relationship between lesions on CT-scan and flow pattern. Our preliminary results suggest that SPECT can improve both the
knowledge of patient's neurological conditions and management in comparison to
the use of only CT scan."
Bill Bennett on Shiavo
Interview with John Gibson

"I just don't think there's a big question here. There may be a big legal question. I don't think there's a big moral question."
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Krauthammer on Schiavo
Between Travesty and Tragedy (washingtonpost.com)

Krauthammer reasons it out pretty well. Most of what he says reflects my own thinking. Some excerpts:

The problem is that although your spouse probably knows you best, there is no guarantee that he will not confuse his wishes with yours. Terri's spouse presents complications. He has a girlfriend, and has two kids with her. He clearly wants to marry again. And a living Terri stands in the way.


Let's be clear about her condition. She is not dead. If she were brain-dead, we would be talking about harvesting her organs. She is a living, breathing human being. Some people have called her a vegetable. Apart from the term being disgusting, how do they know? How can we be sure of the complete absence of any consciousness, any awareness, any anything "inside" this person?


The husband maintains that there is no one home. (But then again he has another home, making his judgment somewhat suspect.) The husband has not allowed a lot of medical testing in the past few years. I have tried to find out what her neurological condition actually is. But the evidence is sketchy, old and conflicting. The Florida court found that most of her cerebral cortex is gone. But "most" does not mean all. There may be some cortex functioning. The severely retarded or brain-damaged can have some consciousness. And we do not go around euthanizing the minimally conscious in the back wards of mental hospitals on the grounds that their lives are not worth living.


There is no good outcome to this case. Except perhaps if Florida and the other states were to amend their laws and resolve conflicts among loved ones differently -- by granting authority not necessarily to the spouse but to whatever first-degree relative (even if in the minority) chooses life and is committed to support it. Call it Terri's law. It would help prevent our having to choose in the future between travesty and tragedy.


You've got two things going on here. You've got the right and the wrong of it. You've got the legal end of it. Unfortunately, (as Dilbert and Psychotoddler have pointed out), the legal system doesn't support what's right in this circumstance. Absent her known wishes and without a conclusive diagnosis, allowing Terri to die of starvation is/was wrong. At this point, the law provides no remedy to this wrong, and the nation watches as a severely handicapped woman's life is ended, and her devoted parents are restricted from being by her side. Krauthammer is right that the best that can probably come of this is a change in the way the law resolves these conflicts in the future.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Movie Review – Hitch
Not long after having kids, ball-and-chain and I realized that we needed date night. Date night was a planned scheduled evening when we got a baby sitter and went out of the house for the evening, sometimes just dinner, sometimes a movie, sometimes both -- nothing fancy, just an opportunity to have a grown-up conversation without shrieking children around. It turns out that once we had reproduced, it was very easy to go for months without being able to discuss anything except the kids. It also turns out that women need conversation, and that they develop a certainty that something is horribly amiss if they haven't had a good talk in a while. It's a similar feeling to what men have if their meal is delayed by an hour or two. So for many years, every Tuesday night in the Bean home was date night, and it was good. Then, fourteen months ago when we had our littlest Bean, date night was temporarily suspended.

Until tonight. We finally managed to reorganize our lives enough to get out for the evening, a fairly major achievement.

We saw Hitch. It's a very sweet romantic comedy. It has something for everyone, lots of laughs, lots of physical comedy, and lots of heart.

Get a babysitter, and see it with the person you should be spending more time with.
Bernie and Elton
I'm sitting here listening to Elton John singing "Benny and the Jets", and it occurs to me: Does anybody know what the hell Bernie Taupin's writing about in any of Elton's songs? I mean, okay, I get the fact that Elton saw Marilyn "as something more than sexual". He's gay after all. I wonder if he could say the same thing about Carrie Grant. But, seriously, "Rocket Man... Burnin' out a fuse up here alone"? What is that?

Maybe it's the way Elton sings. I dare any one of you to sing an Elton song front to back without stumbling across a set of lyrics somewhere in the song that you've just never been able to decipher. Who hasn't been driving along an empty highway, deleriously singing along with "Yellow Brick Road" and arrived at the chorus as follows:

"Good-bye yellow brick road, with the dak thaough tatyity haow." What the heck is he singing there? And, then you get to the words you do understand and he's talking about owls and huntin' toads. Do you honestly expect me to believe Elton's ever hunted horny black taoads?

From "This Song's Got No Title"
"And each day I learn just a little bit more
I don't know why but I do know what for
If we're all goin' somewhere, let's get there soon
boy this song's got no title just words and a tune."

They could be the words to every song, and I wouldn't know any better or worse.

So, yeah, I love the music. I sing as many words as I can. But as I progress through my thirties, I think it's time to confess that, despite the passion of my private accompaniment, I haven't got the foggiest notion what I've been singing about all these years.

Monday, March 21, 2005
Princeton Bioethicist on Terri Schiavo
Robert P. George on Terri Schiavo on National Review:

Thought provoking interview touching on some of the moral, ethical and governance issues associated with Terri Schiavo's plight.


"It is pointless to ask whether Terri Schiavo had somehow formed a conditional intention to have herself starved to death if eventually she found herself in a brain-damaged condition. What's really going on here — and I don't think we can afford to kid ourselves about this — is that Terri's husband has decided that hers is a life not worth having. In his opinion, her continued existence is nothing but a burden — a burden to herself, to him, to society. He has presumed to decide that his wife is better off dead.

Even if we were to credit Michael Schiavo's account of his conversation with Terri before her injury — which I am not inclined to do — it is a mistake to assume that people can make decisions in advance about whether to have themselves starved to death if they eventually find themselves disabled. That's why living wills have proven to be so often unreliable. One does not know how one will actually feel, or how one will feel about one's life and the prospect of death, or whether one will retain a desire to live despite a mental or physical disability, when one is not actually in that condition and when one is envisaging it from the perspective of more or less robust health.

Consider the case of a beautiful young woman — an actress or fashion model perhaps — who is severely burned in a fire. Prior to actually finding herself in such a condition, she might have supposed — and even said, if the subject had come up in a conversation — that she would rather be dead than live with her face grotesquely disfigured. But no one would be surprised if in the actual event she did not try to kill herself by starvation or some other means, and did not want to die.
In any event, it is clear that the only reason for Michael Schiavo's decision is that he considers Terri's quality of life to be so poor that he wants her to be dead. He claims that she would want that too, which I don't grant, but even if he's right about that, we should treat her like anyone else who wants to commit suicide. We rescue, we care. We affirm the inherent value of the life of every human being. Our governing principle should be always to care, never to kill."


"The other thing that Congress is being accused of is interfering in a family decision. Now look: Terri Schiavo has been abandoned by her husband. Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful to Terri "in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, 'til death do us part." But he has not been faithful; he has not forsaken all others. He has set himself up in a marriage in all-but-name with someone else, a woman with whom he already has two children. He has disrespected Terri and, indeed, forsaken her. Now he is seeking to bring about her death by starvation. Notice something wrong with this picture? Terri's parents and siblings, by contrast, have never abandoned her. They are prepared to shoulder all the burdens, including the financial burdens, of caring for her. They want to provide the therapy that many medical people who have observed Terri, whether at the bedside or by videotape, believe can help her. No one expects a full recovery, but it may be possible for her to make genuine progress. That possibility will be foreclosed, however, if she is killed by deliberate starvation before it can begin."
Is anyone else as delighted as I am to see Hootie's return to prominence in Burger King's latest commercial for their Tendercrisp Bacon Chedder Ranch sandwich? The sweet rolling melody of the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch song has recently replaced the more playful "Woo hoo woo hoo hoo" from the Vonage ads as my favorite ad-song.

Kudos to Burger King for their second big score of the past 12 months. Hootie's appearance for the TCBCR, (accompanied by several very appealing female performers), follows hot on the heels of their landmark underground Subservient Chicken campaign, and has them poised for their second Nomad Award in as many years. It also marks Hootie's biggest success since "I Only Wanna Be with You".

Lyrics to the "Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch song":
"When my belly starts a-rumblin', and I'm jonesin' for a treat.
I close my eyes for a big surprise, the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch.

I love the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch,
the breasts they grow on trees.
And streams of bacon ranch dressing,
flow right up to your knees.

Tumbleweeds of bacon,
and cheddar paves the streets.

Folks don't hate ya cause ya got the juice,
there's a train of ladies comin' with a nice caboose.
Never get in trouble, never need an excuse,
the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch.

I love the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch
no one tells ya to behave.
Your wildest fantasies come true,
Dallas cheerleaders give you shaves.

Red onions make you laugh instead,
and french fries grow like weeds.

Ya get to veg all day,
all the lotto tickets pay.
The king who wants you to have it your way,
that's the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch."

Lyrics to "Woo hoo woo hoo hoo"

Woo hoo woo hoo hoo....yeah
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo

Oh, yeah

Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo
Woo hoo woo hoo hoo

Note to Darius Rucker:
Dear Hootie. If you didn't want to be called Hootie, you shouldn't have named the band "Hootie and the Blowfish".

To the kosher among us:
The song will have to suffice without the meal. I'll let you know if the sandwich is any good. :-)
Movie Review -- The Incredibles

ball-and-chain bought our kids the double DVD of Pixar’s The Incredibles. They’ve all watched it many times, but I only saw it for the first time last weekend.

ball-and-chain and I think it’s Pixar’s best film, though ball-and-chain thinks Finding Nemo is very close. The characters are engrossing and likeable. I especially liked Holly Hunter as the voice of Helen Parr, former superhero and now stay at home mom (just like ball-and-chain!). The story is full of exciting action, laughs, and a few very sweet touching moments. The animation, as you’ve come to expect from Pixar, is eyes-popping-out-of-your-skull incredible.

The frosting on this delicious movie is the moral. The message of the movie is the celebration of individual greatness, and a warning of what is lost when a society values equality over excellence. I’m not joking! How did this movie get made in Hollywood? This is easily the movie with the politically most conservative soul in many years. Not convinced? The second DVD has a lot of bonus features including commentary and scenes that never got past the storyboard stage. The initial opening scene was going to feature Helen Parr making an impassioned speech about the fact that she gave up fighting evil because raising children is more important. My eyes welled up; it was incredible.
7 out of 10 doctors say remove the tube
How many of these docs read blogs?

Here's the full survey.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
The Belmont Club : Is the Iraqi Insurgency Dying?
The Belmont Club : Is the Iraqi Insurgency Dying?

Updated to add: I posted this last night with half my attention on the television, so I never got around to adding... I've followed the casualty rate since the invasion at this site:

It's probably compiled by some left-wing types, but if so, it conceals its political motives to such a degree that it works as a non-biased source of casualty figures. Freedom has a cost. Knowing that cost is not a bad thing.

Since April, 2004, the two deadliest months have been, (as you would expect), November (our election month) and January (their election month).

Since the election at the end of January, there has been a significant downtick in American and Coalition casualties. February showed the lowest avg. fatalities since July (2.14 per day). To date March has been substantially lower than that, at 1.33 per day. At this pace, March would have the lowest casualty rate in over a year.

Also worthy of mentioning are the daily totals for March. Prior to the elections, it was a rare day when there wasn't at least one US fatality. Since the 4th of March, there have been 8 such days (out of 17). There have been 14 Coalition fatalities during this period (12 in hostile action). So, the trend for March is continuing downward as the month has progressed.

This is all significant, although by no means conclusive. It is entirely possible that the enemy has simply retreated temporarily in order to regroup, replan and renew their offensive at a later date.

On the other hand, with the Iraqi elections demonstrating a resounding defeat for the enemy in Iraqi public opinion, the Coalition military efforts in Fallujah and elsewhere, and the increasing potency of the Iraqi defense and police forces, it is tempting to believe that the downtrend is an indication that the "tipping point" has been reached. As Belmont Club states, the next couple months will ultimately demonstrate whether or not it has.
Terri Schiavo Timeline
Schiavo Resources: Timeline

This timeline comes from the University of Miami Ethics Programs, and appears to be both comprehensive, and without obvious agenda. Note also the multitude of links to court filings, including some medical findings.

My first question is why it takes Michael Schiavo 8 years to sue to have Terri's feeding tube removed. Did it take him that long to remember Terri's wishes?

Also, what impact, if any, did his engagement to Jodi Centzone in 1995, and their bearing of two children have on his 1998 change of heart? Why does Michael refuse to dissolve his marriage to Terri, in light of his nearly 10 year engagement and for-all-intents-and-purposes marriage to Jodi Centzone? How was he able to maintain status as Terri's guardian 3 years after getting engaged to another woman, in order to sue to have Terri's feeding tube removed? Is there not an obvious conflict of interest here?

Updated: The attorney who filed this court document offers a favorable interpretation of the timing of Michael Schiavo's decision to allow Terri to "die naturally", which he apparently first did in 1994, shortly after the decision in his malpractice suit, when he signed a DNR and refused treatment on Terri's behalf for a urinary infection.

According to the attorney,

"It had taken Michael more than three years to accommodate this reality and he was beginning to accept the idea of allowing Theresa to die naturally rather than remain in the non-cognitive, vegitative state. It took Michael a long time to consider the prospect of getting on with his life."

While this reads as plausible, I continue to have issues with it. The timing of the decision coming so close on the heels of the malpractice suit decision seems conspicuous, despite the attorney's claim that "there is no evidence in the record of the trust administration documents of any mismanagement of Theresa's estate, and the records on this matter are excellently maintained."

With 3/4 of a million dollars designated for Terri's care, I can't help but wonder (I don't know) where that money would be destined to go in the eventuality of a cessation in the need for Terri's care.

What also strikes me is that the decision-making (at least according to this sympathetic attorney's account of it) seems to be centered on Michael's ability to get on with his own life, and not on a willful seeing-out of Terri's final wishes. According to Rev. Robert Johansen's NRO article, the expert doctor testifying on Michael Shiavo's behalf was able to come to his conclusion of a PVS diagnosis during less than a day's contact with the patient. So, if Michael were truly following out Terri's last wishes in the manner of the loving husband, would he not have been obligated (on her behalf) to come to a decision more rapidly than the 4 to 8 years that it seems to have taken him.

Update 2: I'm feeling the need to add that it isn't my intention to smear Michael Schiavo... although I'm sure it might read like that. I don't know the man, I know that what he's gone through has to have been hell, and I have no idea how he's come to the decisions and actions he has.

Still, I feel it is entirely legitimate to raise questions about his motivations. Michael Schiavo is aggressively pursuing his wife's death. He is doing so against the most desperate pleas of the man and woman who created her. He's telling us that we must accept his word (at the exclusion of her parents', and dissenting opinions from doctors) as to Terri's last wishes and medical condition, despite his own lengthy delay in seeking to carry those alleged wishes out, and despite an apparent lack of thoroughness in the diagnostic process.

As a society, I think we're entitled to... even obligated to pursue the truth to the best of our society's ability in cases of life and death such as this; certainly where potential conflicts of interest seem to exist. Mr. Schiavo may be acting out of sincere devotion to Terri's wishes, and it is entirely possible that his delay in seeking the removal of her feeding tube was the result of understandable grief and confusion. If this is the case, I hope he understands why people like me feel motivated to doubt, and that he forgives me those doubts.
Starving for a Fair Diagnosis
Rev. Robert Johansen on Terri Schiavo on National Review Online

I've provided quite a few excerpts here. I urge you to read the entire article however. (nod to Galley Slaves)


Last week, Pinellas County Circuit Court judge George Greer issued a steady stream of rulings denying almost every motion the Schindlers raised. He denied some of them summarily, without hearing arguments or evidence. Among the motions Judge Greer denied was a request for new testing and examination of Terri by independent and qualified specialists. David Gibbs, attorney for the Schindlers, submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals contending that Terri’s condition should be reevaluated. About 15 of these affidavits are from board-certified neurologists. Some of these doctors also say that Terri could benefit from therapy. Judge Greer was unmoved.


I have spent the past ten days recruiting and interviewing neurologists who are willing to come forward and offer affidavits or declarations concerning new testing and examinations for Terri. In addition to the 15 neurologists’ affidavits Gibbs had in time to present in court, I have commitments from over 30 others who are willing to testify that Terri should have new and additional testing, and new examinations by unbiased neurologists. Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terri’s diagnosis of PVS. All of these neurologists are board-certified; a number of them are fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Neurology; several are professors of neurology at major medical schools.


But before that, one needs to know a little about Cranford’s (the doctor whose testimony has served as the backbone for Michael Schiavo's case) background and perspective: Dr. Ronald Cranford is one of the most outspoken advocates of the “right to die” movement and of physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. today.

In published articles, including a 1997 op-ed in the Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune, he has advocated the starvation of Alzheimer’s patients. He has described PVS patients as indistinguishable from other forms of animal life. He has said that PVS patients and others with brain impairment lack personhood and should have no constitutional rights.


So, did Dr. Cranford, or any of the doctors testifying for Michael Schiavo, spend months evaluating Terri? No. To be fair, none of the doctors appearing for the Schindlers spent months with Terri either. But it is hardly coincidental that the doctors who spent the most time with Terri came to the conclusion that she is not PVS. The doctors brought in by the Schindlers spent approximately 14 hours examining Terri over more than two weeks; their conclusion was that Terri is not PVS, and that she may benefit from therapy.

In marked contrast, Dr. Cranford examined Terri on one occasion, for approximately 45 minutes. Another doctor for Michael Schiavo, Dr. Peter Bambikidis of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, examined Terri for about half an hour. When Dr. Bell learned of the cursory nature of these exams, he said: “You can’t do this. To make a diagnosis of PVS based on one examination is fallacious.”


Given the difficulty of diagnosing PVS, the high rate of error, the obvious bias of the doctor whose judgment forms the basis of the judge’s ruling that Terri is PVS, and the growing outcry from the neurological community, how is it that Judge Greer’s ruling has been sustained? The answer is that in our legal system, once a judge has ruled on a matter of fact, it is very difficult to revisit such a ruling. The lawyers’ rule of thumb is that trial courts hear and rule on questions of fact, and appellate courts rule on questions of law; it’s unusual for an appellate court to overturn a lower court’s ruling because of an issue of fact.

We've had a lively discussion of the Terri Schiavo case here. I think the issues are these:

Specific to Terri Schiavo

--What is her true medical state?
--What were her actual wishes?
--How have ulterior motives played a role in Michael Schiavo's decision making regarding his wife's condition?

More generally

--Which types of care should be considered obligatory and which should be considered optional? (The difference between someone who can chew and swallow versus someone whose nourishment must come via a tube)

--Who should have legal authority to make decisions for a person, when her actual wishes aren't known, and how can we be reasonably sure that the person entrusted with making life and death decisions is acting on behalf of the patient and not in his own selfish interest?

--What is the morality of denying somebody food and water, when it is easily able to be provided? For purposes of discussion, I think we can remove the physical suffering debate here, as I don't think that the pain, or lack thereof really has a bearing on the morality/ethics/cruelty/humanity of the action.

So, generally, the fundamental question I keep returning to: Is it okay to starve someone to death based on secondhand information about her wishes from a person who may or may not be acting in her behalf? The answer I keep coming up with is no. More specifically, with respect to Terri Schiavo, after reading the article in the National Review linked to in this post, I'm even more adamant. We don't know her wishes. We don't know the sincerity of her husband's motives. And, it sounds like we can't even be sure of her medical condition.
The McCain-Feingold Insurrection
Nomad has posted before on the McCain-Feingold bill which has received much attention from bloggers recently since it has been interpreted by the Federal Election Commission to limit political speech on blogs that link to a candidate's website. One blogger has started the revolt -- a blog called The McCain-Feingold Insurrection. Count us in.

You Can Have Them When You Pry Them
From Our Cold, Dead Hands.
Hat tip: Redsugar Muse
Saturday, March 19, 2005
...til they see what I've done with the place.

Complete Detachment
Yahoo! News - Activists Protest Iraq War on Anniversary

Have these people missed the past couple months? The millions of brave Iraqis risking their lives to vote, the steady drumbeat of news about positive changes for freedom and democracy throughout the region?

The litany of dogmatic observances borders on mental illness:


"This is a war of aggression," said Ed McManus, 54, a Marin County resident who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. "Bush has admitted by his actions and his deeds that he is a war criminal."


"The best thing we can do is get out, and get out as fast as we can," said Ron Betts, 58, a disabled Vietnam veteran.


"I think people realize the tide is turning" and that to protest isn't seen as unpatriotic.


About 300 demonstrators also gathered in front of the New Mexico National Guard Armory in Albuquerque, some holding signs saying, "Bush's lies kill" and "You can't be pro-life and pro-war."


One wonders if these people realize the Red Sox finally won the Series. Or does the "Curse of the Bambino" linger over them like bad weather?

Edited to add the following note from Doc. Bean that was too good to bury in the comments section...

These people are still refighting Vietnam, and they think that they're still protesting against Johnson and Nixon. The good news is that the protest crowds are smaller this year than last and much smaller than 2 years ago before our invasion started.What too frequently goes unsaid is how incredibly well things have gone.

In two years and at the cost of 1,500 American lives, many allied lives, and a gazillion dollars we've achieved the following:

* Saddam Hussein is cooling his mustache in a jail cell awaiting trial. (A corollary of this fact is that Palestinians aren't getting paid to blow up Israelis, and Kuwait isn't looking out over the border to see if Iraqi tanks are rolling their way.)

* As of February 28 only 11 of the 55 most wanted 'deck of cards' bad guys were at large. That's a lot of Baathists dead or in custody.

* Iraq has a democratically elected parliament that is committed to crafting a constitution that gives every Iraqi a voice in Iraq's future. That makes it likely to become [cue extremely dramatic music] the world's first Arab democracy.

* The US has ginormous military bases (which we're not leaving anytime soon, no matter how many protests there are) in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries that border Iran. Convenient, no?

* Neighboring regimes are understanding that Bush means what he says and that he commands the most able military on the planet. They are also unlearning the Vietnam lesson. They realize that the American public is willing to shoulder great loss and great sacrifice as long as we trust our leader and think that the goals are worth it. Benefits are already accruing in Libya (giving up WMD), Egypt (multi-candidate presidential “elections”), the Palestinian territories (a realization that Israel isn’t going away, and an election for PA President), Israel (heard any major coverage of protests against the security fence recently?) and Beirut.

The world is being transformed. The nutty fringe will never get it.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Peering over the slippery slope -- Holland
Euthanasia . . . or a 'Dutch treat' - The Washington Times: Commentary - December 26, 2004


The Groningen Protocol, as it is known, would permit doctors to euthanize patients who, according to the opinion of these "doctors" and other medical "experts," lack "free will." This category of unfortunate individuals would include newborn babies, persons in irreversible comas and persons with severe mental retardation.
Groningen's guidelines, however, involve the actual medical homicide of individuals who can't protest or defend themselves. I have no doubt that if the Groningen Protocol becomes official, parents who don't want to contend with raising a disabled child will have their baby or young child euthanized, even if the baby has a fighting chance at a meaningful life. Likewise, family members who fear the burden of coping with a disabled or comatose loved one will seek his or her involuntary euthanasia out of their own self-interest.
Medical ethics has to be one of the most maddeningly complex fields of endeavor on the planet. The mental agility needed to contend with some of these issues is considerable. There is, however, one basic starting point for any ethical inquiry in medicine; one which, though not actually in the Hippocratic Oath, encapsulates its message. It is: "above all, do no harm." In other words, life of any quality is sacred in itself, and throughout the morass of ethical issues that arise in the practice of medicine and healing, the alpha and omega of everything should be the preserving of life.
You've gotta see this picture.
only in israel...
Yahoo! News - Brain-Damaged Woman's Feeding Tube Removed
Yahoo! News - Brain-Damaged Woman's Feeding Tube Removed:

"It is expected that it will take one to two weeks for Schiavo, 41, to die"

At least convicted murderers have the right to be killed humanely.

Edited to include this excerpt from the court's decision:

"No matter who her guardian is, the guardian is required to obey the court order, because the court, not the guardian, has determined that the decision that Mrs. Schiavo herself would make.”

When the courts begin making these determinations for the individual, we've crossed over a dangerous threshold.
Cops Grill Sex Offender in Lunsford Case
I haven't read the article yet, but it seems like a totally reasonable punishment.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
How Lisa Came to Israel
Lisa was born 37 years ago in Canada, but a few years ago moved to Israel and now blogs from Tel Aviv. Her blog "on the face" is a very well written collection of her reflections on life in a beautiful, hectic, and frequently anxiety-provoking place. Recently, she began a series called "How Lisa Came to Israel" which recollects her life between 2000 and 2002 when she moved to Israel just as the intifada exploded. It's terrific reading and a good reminder that the headlines we read from half a globe away are about real people who are trying to construct ordinary lives in extraordinary places.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
"It's funny. Why not?" or "Down the Hobbit Hole"
I've crossed over.

During some earlier email correspondence with Oven, Oven responded to a comment of mine with, "It's funny. Why not?" It sounded like something I'd seen in a bad English translation of a bad Japanese video game once, so I Googled.

Hot in pursuit of a form in a white wastecoat, down the hobbit hole I plunged. Long time I fell, and he fell with me. Then we plunged into the deep water and all was dark.... We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted... where past meets future, where hobbits and vulcans cohabitate, where Leonard Nimoy sings psychadelic odes to hobbits... on video.

Takes a couple minutes to downoad. You'll need Quicktime. Resistance is futile.

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins
An Israeli calls for divestment from Israel
In The Nation, of course.

How's this for a non-sequitir:

"Since the Israeli government is flagrantly disobeying the [International Court of Justice] decision [ruling against the anti-terror wall], international law mandates the use of sanctions to force Israel to comply with UN resolutions and human rights treaties."
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The Happiest Place on Earth? Not!
So, in January we packed up the Bean daughters and took off for an overnight stay at the Happiest Place on Earth. We were armed with Grandma, a babysitter, and two-for-one tickets to both Disneyland® and Disney’s California Adventure™. Our plan was to spend one day at Disneyland, sleep at a hotel and spend the next day at California Adventure. We were overly optimistic.

One day at Disneyland was enough for our little party. We were exhausted. Never mind. We’d return to California Adventure at a later date.

Fast forward three months... We take the kids out of school, line up Grandma and Grandpa and take off for a fun day at California Adventure. We purchase one extra ticket (the oldest Bean child did not attend the previous trip) and got in line with our tickets. At the front of the line, when we handed in our tickets, we were told that these weren’t the tickets but the ticket stubs. The tickets, which we had handed in at Disneyland months before, should have been saved. The tickets, I should note, had two parts that were separated when we first went to the park. We assumed that one ticket was for Disneyland and one was for California Adventure. We were wrong. Noone at Disneyland that day told us to keep these tickets to get into the second park. In fact, when we got home, we simply threw them away. “So, Grandma asks, is there anyone we can talk to?” The ticket-taker suggests that we speak to guest services.

We approach the friendly man in the dorky vest and relate our problem. He is sympathetic but also vaguely condescending. We ask what to do; he suggests we talk to guests services. I say “Isn’t this guest services?” He says, “No this is guest relations.” You’ve got to be kidding me!!! But, we drag ourselves off to guest services and tell the story again. This time we were offered a refund on the recently purchased ticket and parking. The children dissolve into tears. Grandma suggests that we take the crying children over to the desk and throw ourselves on their mercy. Maybe they’ll give us some sort of discount. Again, no luck. This time they offered us stickers. Stickers! We have no shame. We took the stickers.

At first, I thought “It is our fault; they don’t owe us anything.” However, on the ride home it occurred to me that if they sell two for one tickets in the first place they can’t be losing money on half-price tickets. Furthermore, the guest services kiosk is the same as the group ticket sales kiosk so they routinely offer discounts to large groups and still manage to eke out a living. Then I started to get mad. This is supposed to be the happiest place on earth and here I was with two crying children and they can’t even offer us a 20% discount! The other part that makes me mad is the underlying assumption that we were trying to cheat them. You could see it on their faces. It looked like they were thinking “Boy if I only had a nickel for every family that loaded up the kids, purchased a ticket for $43.00 and then tried to pretend that they didn’t understand the two for one ticket, to sneak into California Adventure, I would be a rich woman.” Bottom line, we drove home and saw Robots. Funny movie. Still, I’m pissed.
The American Enterprise: In the Middle East, a New World
The American Enterprise: In the Middle East, a New World

Just an excellent piece on the emerging realities in the Middle East, the principles that brought them about, and the future. Some excerpts:

Everyday Americans also proved sturdier than our chattering class. They stayed with the fight long enough for some hard facts to emerge. Now some very good news is obvious to all who have eyes: We are not facing a popular revolt in Iraq. Average Arabs are not on the side of terrorists and Islamic radicals. America's venture to defang the Middle East is neither the cynical and selfish oil grab that the lunatic Left have claimed, nor a dreamy and doomed Don Quixote crusade as some conservative grumps insisted.

So here, at last, come the soldiers of the "me too" brigade. Even the French have joined in. They're sending one man (yes, one) to help train Iraqi security forces. And he's welcome. Victory is magnanimous.


Thankfully, the election finally exposed the falsity of claims that Iraqis were unwilling participants in America's liberation of their country. It can no longer be denied that the vast majority of Iraqis oppose the terrorists. Our Eeyores have now shifted their worries, however, to the idea that Iraqis are likely to repeat the Iranian nightmare and veer into mullah-ridden theocracy.

Not likely. It isn't just that Iraqis have the benefit of knowing what a mess the clerics produced in Iran. It isn't just that Iraq's Kurds would put the brakes on any such attempt. It isn't just the repeated assurances by leading Shiites that they have no intention of imposing Islamic law on the country, and want to encompass all of Iraq's many peoples in the government they will lead. What is perhaps most soothing is seeing who exactly the Shiites are pushing forth as their representatives. The parliamentarians backed by Ayatollah Sistani include many Western-educated professionals, scientists,representatives of all ethnic and religious groups, and diverse points of view, even former communists and ex-monarchists. Most strikingly, one out of every three nominees is female--an utterly un-Khomeini-ish statement.


Of course the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all that has followed in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, didn't just happen. They required enormous acts of American will. Anyone who thinks these breakthroughs would have occurred under a Commander in Chief less bold and stubborn than George W. Bush is mad.

The fresh hope now pulsing through the Middle East is not the result of diplomacy, or U.N. programs, or foreign aid, or expanded trade, or carrots offered by Europeans, or multilateral negotiations, or visits from Sean Penn. It is the fruit of fierce U.S. military strength, real toughness on the part of the middle American public, and a tremendous hardness in the person of our President and his staff.

As I write this, amidst a beautiful March blizzard, I am gulping tea from a mug emblazoned with the shield of one of the U.S. military units I spent time with in Iraq, the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marines. Their motto reads: "MAKE PEACE, OR DIE." Since 9/11, that is exactly the offer we've extended to thousands of terrorists and a handful of governments. And it has worked. Sometimes America's message needs to be just that simple.


Today's snobs are just the latest in a long train of doubters of ordinary citizens. Almost 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln battled such men while campaigning for the Senate. In a speech that has been wonderfully preserved in handwritten form, with Lincoln's spoken emphases underlined by him in ink (and replicated in the extract below) the first Republican President said this:

"Most governments have been based, practically, on the denial of the equal rights of men...Ours began by affirming those rights.
They said some men are too ignorant and vicious to share in government. Possibly so, said we; and by your system, you would always keep them ignorant and vicious.
We proposed to give all a chance; and we expected the weak to grow stronger, the ignorant wiser, and all better, and happier together."

That's a pointed endorsement of the power of democratic self-responsibility to elevate both individuals and societies. And it's as relevant to today's Middle East as it was to slaveholding America.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Freedom is on the March, Part IV
Up to One Million Lebanese Protesters Mark Hariri Killing

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators chanted "Freedom, sovereignty, independence," and waved a sea of Lebanese flags in Beirut on Monday, the biggest anti-Syrian protest yet in the opposition's duel of street rallies with supporters of the Damascus-backed government.

Crowds of Druse, Christians and Sunni Muslims flooded Martyrs' Square and spilled over into nearby streets — responding to an opposition call to turn out for the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
It looks like the new colors of liberty are red and white. You have to realize that Lebanese citizens taking to the streets are a little different than us Americans going to a rally to sing "We Shall Overcome". They know that they're taking on Hezbollah, about which we've already posted much. They have something to lose.
Monday's protest easily surpassed a pro-government rally of hundreds of thousands of people last week by the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah. That show of strength forced the opposition to try to regain its momentum.
I offer this last picture strictly as a benefit to Nomad, so that he may compare those struggling for freedom in Kuwait and in Lebanon.

A Lebanese opposition protester rides above the crowd during a Beirut demonstration.
We Appreciate Your Patience
Commenting is working, but very slowly. Just click on things only once, go back to something else (like work) and come back to the window in a few minutes. Sorry.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Kerckhoff Coffeehouse Menu
(See the first comment for an explanation.)

Hot Cocoa
Silly Stories

Bumper Sticker Overload 2/03/05 by Ralphie
What Is It? 1/31/05 by Doctor Bean
Not Itsy-Bitsy Spider 1/03/05 by Doctor Bean
Jaffa Desperation 10/27/04 by Nomad

The best out of the Oven

One Book List 2/18/05
Real Alchemy 2/09/05
Maldives... the sunny side of life 12/27/04
Black Pearls 12/20/04
In Memoriam 12/13/04
World Cultures 12/08/04
Insurgents on the Run in Fallujah 11/09/04


Napoleon Dynamite 3/12/05 by Doctor Bean
Hotel Rwanda 2/25/05 by Ralphie
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 2/16/05 by Doctor Bean
Shaun of the Dead 1/20/05 by Ralphie
Spanglish 12/23/04 by Doctor Bean
Tora, Tora, Tora 11/21/04 by Doctor Bean
Rooting for Animals to Kill Humans
Just thought this little excerpt from a "Guardian" critique of Crocodile Hunter-type shows was illustrative of the priorities of the animal rights crowd.

And all the time you're willing that snake to have a pop (well, I am). Go on boy, get him. Happily, two of them do. First a little desert sidewinding adder gets a nip on him. Then, better still, a snouted cobra bites him on the hand.

"I've been bitten, guys," he yells to his crew. Well, it's not surprising, you clot. I would have bitten you if you'd been harassing me like that. I just wish that the snouted cobra had managed to get a little more venom into him. Or, better still, that the black mamba had had a go. That would have taught him.

FYI, the black mamba is the deadliest snake in Africa.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Movie Review -- Napoleon Dynamite
Ball-and-chain and I watched it tonight. It's a very funny story about a high school geek with a bizarre family trying to find a date for the dance and help his friend run for student body president. It's the first feature length directing and writing project of Jared Hess, and there's not a single actor in the cast you'll recognize, though the performances are quite good.

We liked it. By the way, make sure to keep watching past the credits.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Castro Gives Rice Cookers to Women
A hat tip to my mother-in-law for pointing me to this story which is so sad, it's funny.
HAVANA: President Fidel Castro has given Cuban women some good news on International Women's Day: rice cookers are coming to every household.

In a five-hour 45-minute speech to cheering women on Tuesday night, the Cuban leader announced 100,000 pressure cookers and rice cookers would be available each month at subsidized prices.

"Those of you who like rice cookers, raise your hands," Castro said to applause from hundreds of women. The 78-year-old leader spent two hours talking about the merits of pressure cookers.
A five hour speech! Isn't that all you need to know about Cuba? Can anyone in a free society give a five hour speech? Good Lord, that's longer than my Rabbi talks. The only way to give a speech that long is in a country in which the audience is sure that they won't have a job if they leave early.
Blogger Pees In Your Coffee
It's been a frustrating couple of days in the bloggosphere, dear readers. Commenting has been working only sporadically, and Blogger in general is working slowly when it's working at all. Think of it as a Salmonella outbreak in your favorite Coffeehouse. We hope to be able to take your orders again soon.
Party of Hell
National Review Online interviews Barbara Newman, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and co-author of Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil. Here are some of the questions. Read the interview for the answers.
NRO: How have U.S. immigration policies and practices helped Hezbollah?
NRO: What should every American know about Hezbollah?
NRO: Is Hezbollah more of a threat to Americans than al Qaeda at this point?
Scans resolve mystery over King Tut's death
Great - now can we get to the bottom of how he got to Babylonia from Arizona?

Oh, and also, these guys are soooooo cursed.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part V
Is it good or bad when my world view becomes the subject matter in humorist columns?

First, The Borowitz Report, Feb 9:
Most Direct Route, President Says

Under pressure to detail an exit strategy for Iraq, President George W. Bush said at a White House briefing today that he would not designate an exact timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops but added, “The fastest way to bring the troops home would be through Iran.”

After reporters audibly gasped, the president explained that bringing the troops home through Iran would be “the most direct route” and produced driving directions from Mapquest to back up his claim.
Next, The Onion, March 9:
Bush Announces Iraq Exit Strategy: 'We'll go Through Iran'
"I'm pleased to announce that the Department of Defense and I have formulated a plan for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq," Bush announced Monday morning. "We'll just go through Iran."
According to White House officials, coalition air units will leave forward air bases in Iraq and transport munitions to undisclosed locations in Iran. After 72 to 96 hours of aerial-bomb retreats, armored-cavalry units will retreat across the Zagros mountains in tanks, armored personnel carriers, and strike helicopters. The balance of the 120,000 troops will exit into the oil-rich borderlands around the Shatt-al-Arab region within 30 days.
Waste some time during lunch. Read both.
Hat tip: Opinion Journal, Best of the Web

Previous posts relating to Iran:
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part IV 3/07/05
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part III 2/08/05
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part II 2/02/05
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran 1/21/05
Mullah Pet 12/15/4
Iran Dug Tunnel for Military Nuclear Work 12/15/4
Pic of the Day 11/4/04
'Bush Rage' Driver Charged in Florida
TAMPA, Fla. — A man apparently enraged by a Bush-Cheney sticker on a woman's sport utility vehicle chased her for miles and tried to run her off the road while holding up an anti-Bush sign, police said.

"He told our officers that he just got mad at her, so he went after her," said police spokesman Joe Durkin.
Dude! Chill out! That's no way to win the next election.

I really don't remember any election in my lifetime generating so much anger.
Police said that as Winkler chased the woman's vehicle, he held up a small sign that read: "Never Forget Bush's Illegal War Murdered Thousands in Iraq."
Huh. Really? I'm no legal expert, so I'm not sure how international law handles the Iraq war, or if international law has any jurisdiction over anything, but I'm positive that Florida law forbids chasing people in a car and trying to run them off the road. In fact, that might make a good sign. "Remember, I might get arrested if I drive like a nut."
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
You're Still Here?

Tonight is Dan Rather's last broadcast as CBS News anchor. According to RatherBiased, a site devoted to following his career long before memogate, tonight's broadcast will feature a flattering retrospective of his career.

His reporting has been unencumbered by facts as far back as Vietnam, and his agenda has always been liberal. (Don't take my word for it, sites like RatherBiased document the details well.) I'm delighted to see him go, and even happier that the blogosphere played so prominently in the memogate scandal.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
New Décor
We decided to make this place look more like a coffeehouse. We hope you like it.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part IV
I bet you thought with the recent action in Syria, I would say that Syria was our next target. Patience, dear reader. We’ll get to Syria. But Iran is going to be a huge problem much sooner.

Here’s the latest. Twice in as many days Iran releases admissions of what we already knew.

Iran: Nuke Program Developed in Secret and

Iran Admits Nuclear Facility Is Underground

No foolin’, Fardad?

My analysis: The bad news – Why is Iran telling us now that they developed their nuclear program secretly? They know we know, but why should they advertise the fact? Is it just bravado, or are they confident that they will be able to deter us with a working weapon so soon, that it doesn’t matter if we know?

The good news – The second article reports that an important facility is under a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Earlier rumors suggested that some facilities were in hardened bunkers under population centers. This is much better. A facility in the boonies means we won’t have to kill lots of Iranian citizens. The fact that it’s under a mountain doesn’t seem particularly worrisome. If a tactical nuke can’t destroy the facility, then conventional smart bombs can certainly destroy every entrance, ventilation shaft, or piece of plumbing going into or out of it. It may not ruin the facility, but it would seal it off. It may not kill all inside, but it would make them wonder how long they can survive on their stores of canned humus.
Previous posts relating to Iran:
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part III 2/08/05
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran, Part II 2/02/05
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran 1/21/05
Mullah Pet 12/15/4
Iran Dug Tunnel for Military Nuclear Work 12/15/4
Pic of the Day 11/4/04
Freedom is on the March, part III: Suffragette City

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Around 500 Kuwaiti activists, mostly women, have demonstrated outside parliament to demand female suffrage amidst tensions in the Gulf Arab state over a government drive to grant women political rights.

"Our democracy will only be complete with women," said a placard written in Arabic. "We are not less, you are not more. We need a balance, open the door," said one written in English.
I’m waiting to hear American feminists applaud.
Via LGF.
Mauled man tried to 'reason' with chimps during attack, wife says
Repeat after me:

Chimps are not people. Chimps are not people. Chimps are not people.
Iraqi Kurd goes to Israel for heart operation
Yeah, Israel is the bad guy in the middle east.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
A Family Outing in the Gutter
Today, our oldest Bean-child was invited to hang out at a friend’s house, so we only had the three girls to contend with parent. So we decided it was a perfect day for a Bean family outing and packed the girls in the SUV and went to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade. For those of you unfamiliar with Los Angeles hangouts, the Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian outdoor mall with stores and restaurants and outdoor performers and milling crowds.

The outing developed its seedy theme before we even got there. Santa Monica has very lenient laws regarding bums homeless persons and beggars panhandlers, which, along with its balmy weather makes it an ideal destination for those with no housing, occupation, or personal hygiene. Just as we crossed the border into Santa Monica, our eyes were assailed by the sight of a bum homeless man with pants at half-mast. No shirt, either. Too late, I remembered our last trip to the promenade and how I promised myself I would not return until Santa Monica tightened up its policy on vagabonds miscreants hobos transients soap-and-water-challenged loiterers. Once we got there and started strolling around we were amazed by the diversity of hair styles, piercings, tattoos, and alternatives to bathing. Some of the street performers were interesting, most were profoundly creepy – all the innocence of Michael Jackson without any of the talent. There was a table where a man was selling a broad selection of peace, anti-war, anti-Bush, and various Trotskyite pins and stickers. My favorite was “Buck Fush”. Genius!
Six year-old: “Mommy, what does that mean?”
“Well, he’s kind of using a naughty word and making a pun on it because he’s trying to tell us that he hates the President.”
“Our President? Why would someone hate our President?”
“Well, some people think that a lot of things that the President is doing are wrong. But we like the President, and because it’s a free country, everyone can say whatever they think of the President, and we’re not allowed to drive our SUV into his table.”
There are plenty of nice shops and restaurants, but the bathrooms were covered with graffiti and gave our three year-old second thoughts about having to go potty. (“I meant I wanted to go potty at home.”) It is certainly the kind of scene that we enjoyed more in our college days, but now it just seems aggressively family-hostile. It could simply be that we’re looking at it through older parental eyes, but I think the street scene is much worse than when we went to college. I blame Bush and corporate greed.

From now on, we’re going to The Grove.

Co-authored by ball-and-chain and Doctor Bean
Freedom is on the March, part II

March 6: Thousands of pro-Taiwan supporters march to denounce Beijing's plan to pass anti-secession legislation. (AP photo)

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan — More than 15,000 protesters marched in Taiwan on Sunday, denouncing China's planned anti-secession law and pledging to fight what they claim is Beijing's attempt to force this self-ruled, democratic island to unify with the mainland.

The procession through the southern city of Kaohsiung, a major seaport, came a day after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed never to permit formal independence for Taiwan as he opened a parliamentary session that is to enact an anti-secession law aimed at the island.
From Ukraine, to Iraq, to Lebanon, to Taiwan, millions of people have taken to the street demanding what our Founding Fathers stated were inalienable rights. The sight is heartening. China can't be happy to see this. Obviously Taiwan is much smaller and couldn't defend itself against the mainland if Beijing decided to retake it. The Taiwanese protesters are demonstrating courage and determination. Since they know that China is not to be trusted and that Taiwan's own military is too small to stop them, where do you suppose their faith in independence rests? Do they think France will intervene to ask China to sign a non-aggression treaty with Taiwan? Is their faith in a flotilla of UN peacekeepers in the Taiwan Strait? I don’t think so.

March on, little sister. America's got your back.
Friday, March 04, 2005
What have the Americans ever done for us? Liberated 50 million people...
An excellent piece from the London Times:

What have the Americans ever done for us? Liberated 50 million people...

Nomad here... Okay, fine. Another article of vindication. I've been yodeling the same tune now for the past several days:



Throw in the usual caveats... tough times surely ahead, the bad guys ain't finished, setbacks, yada yada yada. Folks, it's working. And faster than pretty much any of us thought.

For 3 years now, I've been defending a policy to my liberal, and even my semi-conservative libertarian friends and relatives with more or less the following rationale. The best way to DEFEAT (not stave off) the Islamofascist terror that threatens our national security, and was behind the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, is to change the fundamental dynamics in the region that spawns this philosophy and violence. That bringing freedom and democracy to a region where cruelty, oppression, poverty and hopelessness were the rule, would eradicate the premises which caused young men (and sometimes women) to believe that mass murder was a preferable alternative to the lives they knew.

I proudly proclaimed myself NEOCON while my friends shuddered at the utterance.

In response, I heard a variety of pooh poohs: "imperialism", "it's all about oil", "you're naive", "it'll never work", "Arabs aren't culturally receptive to democracy", "Arabs aren't ready for democracy", "there was no immediate threat", "give the sanctions time", "give the inspections time", "warmonger", "where are the WMD", "Bush = Hitler", "wrong war, wrong time, wrong place", "HALIBURTON!" etc. etc.

So, forgive me my little indulgence now that events seem to be confirming the rightiousness of the endeavor. President Bush, Tony Blair, and guys like Jose Maria Aznar undertook this task at great risk, and against a wave of anti-American sentiment in Old Europe and across the globe. Their doing so demonstrated great courage of conviction, grounded in a philosophy that believes in individual freedom not only as the greatest motivator for peace available to us, but as the right moral ideal towards which to strive.

As events continue to unfold, I will continue to shout from the rooftops:


Another Leftist Considers that "Bush may have had it right"
The Iraq effect? Bush may have had it right | csmonitor.com

Daniel Schorr, long a posterchild for the NPR left, conceding that Bush (and we neocons) might have had it right in Iraq is yet another pig taking flight. We now have almost enough airborn pork to make up a a squadron.

"During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that "a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region."

He may have had it right."

Blame Canada
This story is now about a week old, but it's too funny not to mention.

With the entire world realizing that either going along with, or at least making some accommodation to, the American (i.e. Bush's) vision is a very good idea, who decides last week that they're better off going it alone? Canada! They are no longer in our missile defense agreement and want us to ask permission before entering their airspace to defend either us or them. Tee hee hee. If NORAD spots a Chinese ICBM coming over the arctic circle, Canada (ba haaa haa) wants us to call them (eee hee) before shooting missiles or flying planes through their airspace. BWAaaaahaaaaahaaaa! Oh, my. Yeah. We'll be sure to do that. Or, you'll what? Hurl maple syrup at us?
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Arab Leaders Urge Syria to Leave Lebanon
This might be our second flying pig sighting of the day. We are truly living in interesting times. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are demanding that Syria leave Lebanon.

Abdullah told Assad the kingdom insists on the full withdrawal of all Syria's 15,000 troops and intelligence forces from Lebanon and wants it to start "soon," the Saudi official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
What the heck is going on here? There must be some serious arm twisting going on behind the scenes.

Remember when the anti-war crowd said that going against world opinion would weaken our position and inflame Arab opinion against us? Remember the Kerry campaign hand-wringing about frayed alliances and needing to repair relationships? How's that going? It seems the old cowboy knows how to make friends and influence people after all.
McCain-Feingold and Bloggers
A couple distressing posts relating to the McCain-Feingold assault on free speech which I ran across while orbiting the blogosphere today

From Captain's Quarters:
McCain-Feingold May Shut Down CQ

And Polipundit:
Freedom Abroad, Tyranny at Home

I've always felt semi-comfortable that the Supreme Court would protect us from such overt assaults on our most fundamental liberties. In this case, it failed miserably. There is reason to be fearful.

There is also reason for action. Both Ed and Polipundit urge readers to contact their representatives and senators to urge action. I urge you to do the same:

The House
The Senate
Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | The war's silver lining
Et tu Guardian?

Holy Mackerel! Even the Guardian... the British fishwrap that launched a reader campaign sending letters to Ohioans urging them to vote for John (Do You Know Who I Am) Kerry... is acknowledging the positive effects of the war in Iraq. Could American liberals be next? Was that a pig that just soared by my office window?


Even so, it cannot be escaped: the US-led invasion of Iraq has changed the calculus in the region. The Lebanese protesters are surely emboldened by the knowledge that Syria is under heavy pressure, with US and France united in demanding its withdrawal. That pressure carries an extra sting if Damascus feels that the latest diplomatic signals - including Tony Blair's remark yesterday that Syria had had its "chance" but failed to take it and Condoleezza Rice's declaration that the country was "out of step with where the region is going" - translate crudely as "You're next".


This leaves opponents of the Iraq war in a tricky position, even if the PM is not about to rub our faces in the fact. Not only did we set our face against a military adventure which seems, even if indirectly, to have triggered a series of potentially welcome side effects; we also stood against the wider world-view that George Bush represented. What should we say now?

First, we ought to admit that the dark cloud of the Iraq war may have carried a silver lining. We can still argue that the war was wrong-headed, illegal, deceitful and too costly of human lives - and that its most important gain, the removal of Saddam, could have been achieved by other means. But we should be big enough to concede that it could yet have at least one good outcome.

Second, we have to say that the call for freedom throughout the Arab and Muslim world is a sound and just one - even if it is a Bush slogan and arguably code for the installation of malleable regimes. Put starkly, we cannot let ourselves fall into the trap of opposing democracy in the Middle East simply because Bush and Blair are calling for it. Sometimes your enemy's enemy is not your friend.
Yossi Klein Halevi on the Gaza Withdrawal
The always excellent Halevi reports on the Israeli army, Gaza withdrawal, and religious reaction.
Manhattan restaurant hosts nudist night
Hey, that's not a sausage!!!!!

Here's a sample:

" 'It's exciting to be in a restaurant nude,' said George Keyes, 65, a retired junior high school English teacher."

Hopefully not too exciting, Georgie.

And that's not even the scariest line. Warning: not for the queasy or easily-shocked.
What the iPod was meant for.
Always wanted to learn Daf Yomi*? Always wanted an iPod?

Time to kill two birds with one stone.

*A structured daily schedule of Talmud study
U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq Top 1,500
All media outlets are covering this grim milestone, but are covering it with no perspective. In all previous major military conflicts this number of casualties would be seen at the end of a very bad day or week. I did some quick searching through the Department of Defense statistics for U.S. Military war casualties. In the Korean War 23,615 American troops were killed in action. Many more died of their wounds or were captured and presumed dead. In Vietnam that number was 40,934. We’ve posted before about the number of American casualties in single battles of WWII. Victor Davis Hanson writes frequently about the radical transformation we are witnessing in warfare. Never before has a country of this size been conquered so quickly and with so little bloodshed (on both sides). Obviously this is no comfort to the 1,500 grieving families, but their sacrifice is transforming the world even now.

And it's about half the number murdered on 9/11.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
No Justice for BTK Victims
I usually don't pay much attention to whatever the sensational trial of the week happens to be, but the BTK killer case is way more hideous and bizarre than the weirdest crime fiction: the double life, the ritualized murders, the messages to police and the media as if he was either taunting them or wanting to be caught… Just as one example in what must be hundreds of horrifying details, ball-and-chain heard a radio report today about a man who thirty years ago, at the age of 5, let the killer into his house where he then murdered his parents and left the boy alive. Thirty years later the man is an alcoholic and drug addict, and I can understand why.

The last paragraph in this article escalates the injustice and horror even higher.
It appears unlikely Rader will face the death penalty. He has yet to be charged with a slaying that occurred after 1994, when Kansas passed its capital punishment law. Additionally, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional in December over a provision on how juries weigh evidence for and against execution.
So no matter how many lives he’s snuffed out, and how many others he’s ruined, he gets to live out his days. What an insult to the victims.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
More oppressed muslims getting uppity
This time in - gasp - Saudi Arabia
Telegraph | Opinion | The Arabs' Berlin Wall has crumbled
Telegraph | Opinion | The Arabs' Berlin Wall has crumbled


"Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."

Four-time Egyptian election winner - and with 90 per cent of the vote! - President Mubarak announced that next polling day he wouldn't mind an opponent. Ordering his stenographer to change the constitution to permit the first multi-choice presidential elections in Egyptian history, His Excellency said the country would benefit from "more freedom and democracy". The state-run TV network hailed the president's speech as a "historical decision in the nation's 7,000-year-old march toward democracy". After 7,000 years on the march, they're barely out of the parking lot, so Mubarak's move is, as they say, a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.

And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes.""


"Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30. Don't take my word for it, listen to Walid Jumblatt, big-time Lebanese Druze leader and a man of impeccable anti-American credentials: "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Berlin Wall has fallen.""

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