Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Newsweek, 1975: The coming ice age

This is hardly new, as I believe I heard Rush Limbaugh talking about it a year or two ago while I was driving from one business appointment to another, but it is so damn good that I think it is time for a flashback. In 1975, Newsweek ran this article on the coming ice age and the catastrophic consequences for humanity as the globe cooled. Read it and compare it to the things the "experts" say about global warming today. It's a great article for a chuckle.

Political natural selection

Captain's Quarters takes a look at an interesting theory-that birth rates and abortions favor a "conservative evolution." The theory, along with the ones he quotes, is intriguing as an intellectual exercise, but it neglects one big thing: Free will. Kids break with their parents' political affiliations all the time. Political lines redraw themselves over time. Ideas live on and pick up new proponents, proponents whose families may have rejected it. When it comes to the world of political philosophies, I'd much rather have strong ideas on my side than Darwin.

Children protest Danish toons

The AP gives us two issues for the price of one today in this article on a children’s protest in Pakistan and EU discussions on the Muhammad cartoons. First, the protest:

About 5,000 children chanting "Hang those who insulted the prophet" rallied in Pakistan's largest city on Tuesday in the latest protest in the Islamic nation against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The children, ages 8 to 12, burned a coffin draped in U.S., Israeli and Danish flags at a traffic intersection in the port city of Karachi as police in riot gear looked on.

The political is not a natural voice for children of that age frame, even in a hard bitten nation like Pakistan. The protest was organized by a large Islamic group in Pakistan, and it shows that the West’s conflicts with the Islamic world are going to last a while, perhaps a generation or more. The next generation is still having its little minds poisoned against the West, and that is tough to overcome without big strides in the economies of Islamic nations, increased freedoms, and reforms of their education systems.

The second item of interest is this by Pakistani opposition politician Liakat Baluch:

Baluch also said a "line should be drawn" between freedom of expression — the justification newspapers gave for reproducing the drawings, which Muslims consider blasphemous — and actions that offend cultural sensitivities.

"A freedom of expression that destroys world peace is against basic human rights," he said.

Baluch is trying to make the Danish cartoons akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater, as though they (the cartoons) were so inflammatory that the Muslim world could not help but explode in violence. While that analogy makes sense to some, it is both disingenuous and inaccurate. The Danish cartoons were much more like loudly dropping an F-bomb in said crowded theater. It is going to offend some, and it is probably not a good idea. But it doesn’t give everyone else in the theater the right to lose their minds and started breaking seats, punching people, and setting things on fire.

Reality immitates satire

Back in 1990-1991, there was a lot of un-p.c. anti-Saddam humor going around, much of it via faxes (ah the pre-email era). One theme of these that I remember well were various uses for camels as weapons. If I live to 100, I never thought I'd actually see it. Today the Christian Science Monitor shows it to us: The Camel Rocket Launcher.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Chasing the Hindu floaty thing

The title for this post has nothing to do with this post, but is instead is an example of how I will be titling long posts in the future so I can capture the attention of the ADD afflicted Aaron & Belle. I apologize to my non-ADD readers, but I'm trying to reach out here. If I can figure out how to get an animated gif file of shiny keys into my post titles, I'll be doing that, too.

Credit where credit is due

It turns out that Germany may have helped us a little more during the invasion of Iraq than they let on:
German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which was passed on to U.S. commanders a month before the 2003 invasion, The New York Times reported.
Thanks for possibly saving a few of our soldiers' lives, Germany.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Random thought

The Vagina Monologues somehow became a well known work. Would anyone have ever purchased the Vas Deferens Monologues had it been written? How much outrage would feminists have if men celebrated their vas deferens, performing The Vas Deferens Monologues on college campuses each year? Which begs the question, if your vas deferens could talk, what would it say?

Ah, who am I kidding. What guy can say vas deferens or epididymis without giggling? Not this guy.

Happiness is...

...having your furnace crap out on you, working on it for two hours, and having it start working again even though you have no idea what was wrong with it or what you did to get it working again.

I'll be having a local HVAC company come look at it, anyway, but it is nice knowing that the visit will be on my terms and according to my schedule, not the furnace's.

World War II news reels at Google video

I'm a huge geek for old news reels, especially World War II news reels. Google Video is working on digitizing the film at the National Archives, and among those films are some old news reels from United News. I'm especially fond of the news reel dealing with Iwo Jima. I haven't given Google Video much thought or attention thus far, but as more video from the National Archives comes online, I'll be spending more time over there.

The annals of Delilah Cat

Our cat Delilah is trying to become human. First off, she figured out how to open and close some of the doors in the house (round door knobs still elude her mastery). Last year she decided that the bed in guestroom was hers, so she only sleeps in two places now: next to me on my recliner while I blog or in the center of the guest bed. About three months ago she began to realize that humans don't sleep on top of the covers, so she began to sleep underneath a pillow. It was around that time that she felt she needed to have privacy when she slept and began closing the bedroon door behind her. Tonight she finally perfected human sleep. Despite the fact that the lovely Mrs. Jib makes a bed so tightly that a drill seargent would weep at the sight, the cat managed to get under the covers. She now sleeps in bed just like a human.

I patiently await the day she learns how to get a job and earn her own way around here.

Jiblog PSA: Tax tips

If you haven't done your taxes yet (and, like me, you are actually foolish enough to do them yourself), it may pay to check out this at Market Watch. They list the lines on 1040's that cause people the most problems.

More about Iraq's WMD

Not a lot in this Investor's Business Daily editorial is new. They discuss the Saddam tapes, WMD & Russia, how WMD were transported to Syria and Lebanon-all things that have been out there for a while but which haven't been widely covered. Just the same, this editorial is exceptionally well written and comprehensive. It also combines the varied evidence of WMD with why Iraqi WMD's scared so many of us:
"What was most disturbing," said John Tierney, the ex- FBI agent who translated the tapes, "was the fact that the individuals briefing Saddam were totally unknown to the U.N. Special Commission (or UNSCOM, the group set up to look into Iraq's WMD programs)."

Perhaps most chillingly, the tapes record Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz talking about how easy it would be to set off a WMD in Washington. The comments come shortly after Saddam muses about using "proxies" in a terror attack.
It must be a leisurely existence to be a war opponent and to wipe away these concerns as though they didn't even exist.

HuffPo gets even more disturbing

What...the...f---?! This is the most disturbing post I've seen yet at the Huffington Post. Go look at it, read the child's bio, then come back here.

Read it yet? Okay, some thoughts then.

1. No third grader has the analytical skills to come up with that on their own. It requires a parent or a teacher to indoctrinate them.

2. Whatever parent or teacher took the time to indoctrinate a child with that kind of thought is disturbed in their own right. The kid is in 3rd grade for God's sake! Let him have a childhood. He'll have enough time worry about this kind of crap in his life, he doesn't need adults to push him a long. A 3rd graders biggest concern should be whether his favorite cartoon will be a repeat today.

3. What kind of sick puke is so disturbed as to put this up at one of the more visited blogs out there? Is the drawing of a third grader supposed make some sort of logical argument that eludes adults?

Wretched. Simply wretched.

Darren McGavin, 1922-2006

Darren McGavin passed away yesterday. McGavin would probably not even register on my radar if not for his performance in one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, A Christmas Story. McGavin was perfect for the role of the gruff but loving father. Life is a fra-gee-lay thing. Rest in peace, Darren McGavin.

March 8th an important day, Packer fans

Packer fans, March 8th is fast approaching, and that is important. On that day a little over a week from now, the Packers will owe Brett Favre a $3 million roster bonus. Last year Brett announced he was returning on the day the roster bonus was due to be paid. Expect Brett's decision to come in the next 9 days. It is possible that the two sides can agree to push off that payment date on that bonus, but I'm not sure that it will be a good sign if they do.

Do Clinton's opinion on Danish cartoons hint at his future plans?

At the Corner, Andrew Stuttaford scolds Bill Clinton for saying this in Pakistan:
I strongly disagreed with both the creation and the publication of cartoons that were considered blasphemous to devout Muslims around the world because they depicted the Prophet.
I agree with Stuttaford's opinion that Clinton is wrong, but I think he is taking too short a view on it. Stuttaford seems to treat Clinton's words as Clinton's beliefs. We all know that isn't the fact. Clinton uses his words to further whatever agenda he may have, regardless of his beliefs, and it has long been rumored that Clinton would like to become Secretary General of the United Nations. I view every Clinton trip abroad as a campaign visit. In my opinion, Bill Clinton is biding his time until he can get an opportunity to be Secretary General, and every time he goes abroad it is to ingratiate himself with the locals. Unlike Al Gore, who seems to have lost his mind and spews forth his anger when in foreign lands, Bill Clinton is schmoozing the populace in hopes of future benefit for himself.

Church pasties catch the eye

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has an article today on the popularity of pasties as a fundraiser for churches in Minnesota's Lake Country and Iron regions. Pasties, for the uninitiated such as myself, are light pie crusts that filled with beef, pork, and vegetables. Thankfully, the author explains that in the second paragraph, but one can't help but wonder if the churches aren't using slightly deceptive advertising practices by putting up signs that read, "Come and taste our pasties-$4 each!"

For those confused by this post, I refer you to Dictionary.com.

Blondes will have more fun...until the year 2202

The Times of London has an interesting article on how blondes quickly multiplied in Northern Europe 11,000 years ago. The quirkiest fact was at the very end of the story, though:
A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.
I hope that blond is a male, because if it is a female, she is going to end up being chased by about a billion young males. And what a nightmare it would be to be her dad as a thousand dates show up a night. A dad can only intimidate so many would be suitors at a time.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don Knotts, 1924-2006

Thanks for the memories and entertainment, Don. May a fully loaded six shooter await you in the next life.

Friday, February 24, 2006

In the year 2038, if man is still alive...

Remember 1999, when we all figured out that the year 2000 was going to mess with computers? Everyone thought that the world would come screaching to a halt and planes would fall out of the sky, so a full out blitz was called to fix the problem. Something tells me that we humans are social procrastinators. After all, the year 2000 problem was known about in advance, but we still waited to the last minute. It looks like we'll be panicking again in 2037:
The problem affects programs that use the POSIX time representation, which represents time as the number of seconds (ignoring leap seconds) since January 1, 1970. This representation is standard in Unix-like operating systems and also affects software written for most other operating systems because of the broad deployment of C. On most 32-bit systems, the time_t data type used to store this second count is a signed 32-bit integer. The latest time that can be represented in this format, following the POSIX standard, is 03:14:08 on Tuesday, January 19, 2038. Times beyond this moment will "wrap around" and be represented internally as a negative number, and cause programs to fail, since they will see these times not as being in 2038 but rather in 1970 or 1901, depending on the implementation
I say we get on top of this one and begin the hysteria now.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

'24' popular at the Whitehouse

I got a kick out of this at U.S. News:
There's a new rule inside the White House for fans of Fox's hit 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland: Don't talk about the latest episode for a week, until the next one airs. The reason: Working hours at the White House are so bad that dozens of 24fans TiVo it for the weekend and don't want to know what happened before watching. After one episode, our insider says she overheard staffers telling Chief of Staff Andy Card about how the 24 character who plays his role hanged himself. "They totally ruined that for me."

Sasha Cohen beat herself

The lovely Mrs. Jib and I are watching the the Olympics tonight, and we were taken aback by the diference in Sasha Cohen's demeanor from Tuesday to today. As Mrs. Jib said, and I quote, "she looked like she had the world by the balls Tuesday and like she was having so much fun." Tonight she looked defeated before she even began.

Sometimes in sports, athletes develop mental blocks. Cohen seems to have a mental block about succeeding when she could be in the driver's seat. It is unfortunate, because she really is fun to watch when she is on like she was Tuesday night. Cohen's eyes are incredibly descriptive, and Tuesday night you could watch her eyes and tell that she was going to skate an incredible program. Tonight you could read her eyes before the program and tell that it just wasn't going to be her night.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Iraq mosque bombing: Bigger than the port story

I've been watching the Iraq mosque bombing story all day but I haven't commented on it-shame on me. This story is much more important than the port story. "Civil war" is being tossed around a lot both in the media and blogs. While we need to be a wary of the possibility that this could spark civil war in Iraq, I think those making the assertions of it are stretching things a little bit...for the moment, anyway. This was an old, revered shrine and its bombing certainly is further degrading Shi'ite-Sunni relations, but to start screaming civil war is a little premature. A lot will depend on the Iraqi government. If Iraqis believe that their government makes a strong effort to punish those behind the bombing, I think this will pass. If the government's response is weak and vacillating, then this could be the beginning of an ugly downward spiral for Iraq. The more important story in the short term will be the Iraqi government's response and how all Iraqi's respond to it.

See? Civil war was over doing it.

Explaining port management

There are a number of good sources of information on the net right now that explain how ports work and/or are managed. Some of them are a little too detailed for the layman, though. Slate's "The Explainer" has the best, most easily read description of port management that I've seen yet.

It's coming straight for us!

Look out down in Florida. The goats have gone wild.
A Jacksonville man says he was attacked by a goat, but its owner says the animal was just playing.

Richard Butler told authorities he was getting out of his car when a goat charged at him. He grabbed the animal by the horns and wrestled it to the ground.

Butler wasn't injured.After about five minutes, Butler says he let go and started running but the animal charged at him. He told police he shot the goat, injuring it but not killing it.
First, he wrestled the damn thing for 5 minutes? Was Dueling Banjos playing in the background? Second, at least Butler was a kind hearted goat fighter, choosing wing the goat rather than kill it.

The Taser shotgun

Well, it won't really be a shotgun per se, but Taser is developing a new stun gun that will use a shotgun shell to allow police to incapcitate a subject at 1oo feet as opposed to the current 25. It doesn't sound like it will be fun to get hit with one of these, either.
Taser President Tom Smith said company engineers were still working on how the shell will latch on to suspects but said the shells will have the same incapacitating effect as traditional Tasers because they will use the same electrical wave form.
I'm waiting for the day when they come out with a shell that stops in mid-air, a cartoon rabbit pops out and beats the subject with a bat, and then gets hit with an electrical jolt.

Bush Administration bitten in the butt by Ports deal

Well, this is going to weaken President Bush's efforts to scuttle Congress's effort to kill the UAE ports sale.
President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction, which has triggered a major political backlash among both Republicans and Democrats.
In and of itself, this doesn't bother me much because President's have administrations for a reason-to delegate this kind of work. It is natural that he is not going to be aware of some things until they reach his desk. Still, someone made a big error in thinking this deal was business as usual. The President's staff shoulf have made him aware of this in advance so they could be out ahead of any controversy. This news further weakens his ability to keep the deal in place.

Of course, an alternate reading on this could be that his administration just gave him a back door to get out of his comments from yesterday.


I can't say I've ever really had insomnia before. I've gone through stretches where I don't sleep well, but never insomnia. I think I may have it now. Over the past 40 hours, I've had 3 hours of sleep but I haven't been tired once. I tried to nap after work and I came very close to dosing off when the phone rang. I thought that was just as well, as it would make me more sleepy tonight. Not a chance. I'm wide freaking awake. At least Caddy Shack is on TV. So I have that going for me, which is nice.

Why the port deal will fail

The port deal will fail. If the President vetoes anything, he will be overridden. My sense is that most of us who are okay with this deal still do not strongly favor it. The President cannot rely on his supporters on this to help him overcome the overwhelming opposition. While I don't think the transaction is much of a threat to our security, I still follow a better safe than sorry philosophy. I'll support the President on this deal, but if Congress successfully tosses it out, it is no skin off my nose. I'm sure that there is a logic to all of this, but even I'll admit that from a purely political standpoint, the President and his staff were incredibly tone deaf on this. The nation is skeptical of and nervous about anything from the Middle East that could jeopardize our security. This was bound to be incredibly unpopular unless they managed to slip it under the media's, bloggers', and public's noses. They didn't.

Baldwin apologizes

Damn, mark me down as shocked. Alec Baldwin, hot off the HuffPo wire:
I want to apologize to all of the readers of this blog for referring to Vice President Cheney as a terrorist. I suppose that, in the post-9/11 world, one would be hard-pressed to refer to anyone other than a militant Arab fundamentalist who hijacks a plane and pilots it into a building somewhere on our shores or a Palestinian who bears a bomb into a cafe in Israel as a terrorist.
Don't get me wrong, he's still a clown, but you can still get a good laugh from a clown. For instance, his next paragraph made me chuckle:
How about something more measured, then? How about...a lying, thieving Oil Whore.
Oil whore? First thing I thought of was Heidi Fleiss for some reason. But anyway, okay, Alec. You don't have to move to Winnipeg. You can stay here to make your movies.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The port deal

I have the best intentions of writing on the ports hubbab again today, but things have gotten just a wee bit too hysterical for my blood. Passions are just a little too high right now to do anything but join in the choir, and my position would leave me out of key, I'm afraid. Yes, the UAE has its problems, there is no denying that, but there isn't a country in the Middle East that doesn't. When you start lining up your friends in the Middle East, though, they have to be near the head of the line. They also stand to lose an awful lot if they were to screw this up. I don't think the UAE would risk bilions in investment and billions more in economic damage by trying to help terrorists. On top of that, Customs and the Coast Guard both play a big part in port security, and would continue to do so under this deal.

With events in the Middle East lately, from Iran's nuclear program to the riots, I understand why some people are inclined to oppose this, but the passion really does need to dialed back a bit. Emotion is over ruling logic for some, and we need a more clear headed conversation right now.

How do you know something is a bad idea?

When Jimmy Carter supports you on it, then you know it is a bad idea. Unfortunately for President Bush, Carter has his back on the deal that gives control to 6 U.S. ports to a U.A.E. company.
But he got a boost Monday from an unlikely source, frequent critic and former president Jimmy Carter, who downplayed fears that the deal poses a risk.

''The overall threat to the United States and security, I don't think it exists,'' Carter said on CNN's The Situation Room. ``I'm sure the president's done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat.''

I'm with Kevin in thinking that this is really not that big of a deal, but Carter's support of Bush is making me wonder if I need to re-think that. Carter has a talent for choosing the wrong side of an issue to be on.

Stop already! My head hurts.

What the?! I never knew this, but apparently we are going to hell in a hand basket because of La Nina. Or wait, maybe El Nino. What, no, I guess it is La Nina.

I find climatologists as reliable as snake oil doctors. What they seem to be saying is that the only years all goes well is when everything is average. The problem is "average" years are probably less common than extreme years. Climatology also looks like a science that is more affected by personal political beliefs than most other sciences.

Now I'll sit back and wait for my weather and math geek readers to pounce on me for this post.

Last name frequency

Here's one of those fun little links that everybody needs at their blog from time to time. Ever wonder how common or rare your last name is? Enter it in at this surname site and the site will give you a map that shows your last name's frequency by state. Mine is pretty dang rare.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More context on the Jyllands-Posten cartoons

The Washington Post has an Op-Ed today from the editor who commissioned the cartoons of Muhammed that have been the excuse for riots across the Muslim world. Everything in this story is about context, and Flemming Rose offers more context as to why they published the cartoons to begin with. If you have not read the editorial yet, consider it a must read. Rose outlines the self-censoring environment in Europe which the cartoons were designed to examine.

Malkin Banned in the UAE

Michelle Malkin's blog is banned in the United Arab Emirates. How cool is that? That should be a goal of every blog, to be banned in at least a half dozen countries that do not look kindly on freedom of speech. On the one hand, it means that you can no longer reach the open minds in that country, which is disappointing, but on the other hand it means that you were probably doing something right in the first place.

Having President's George Washington's Birthday off

I am one of a very small number of non-government employees who get President's George Washington's Birthday off. So what does one do with a Monday in February off of work? Well, this guy watches Full Metal Jacket and catches up on the Cheddar Chats that Jenna and Aaron create.

I think Jenna and Aaron should have kept the sign off from the February 2nd Cheddar Chat.

Granting one wish

In the tape released in January, Osama bin Laden vowed to never be taken alive.
"I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death, I don't want to die humiliated or deceived," bin Laden said, in the 11-minute, 26-second tape.
If his wish is to never be taken alive, then perhaps the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Marines can get together and grant it to him.

Martian tornados prolong rovers' lives

Remember when the Mars rovers first landed? They were only expect to last a few months, but they've gone on to last two years without a major loss in battery power. Why the extra lasting power? Tornados.
But even with thousands of dust devils blowing around, most scientists thought that the chance of actually imaging one was very small. At first, excitement bubbled when Spirit's camera imaged a distant white streak that might have been a passing dust devil. How fortuitous! Then another came by, even closer. In the end, engineers were taking panoramic shots of the plains of Gusev Crater, watching as many as three dust devils ramble by at a time. Yes, the rovers had found themselves in the midst of a veritable dust devil party. And it gradually began to dawn on the Earth-bound rover operators what was happening: wind from the passing dust devils was blowing away any dust that had accumulated on the solar panels, giving the rovers a new lease on life with each passage.
So let me get this straight. We spent all this money to learn that Mars is Oklahoma?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Heavy snow delays the Winter Olympics

Somehow, some way, ya just know that this is the fault of global warming.

A silly thought on the cartoon wars

Word on the strip is that there was a major riot in Orlando today. Bugs Bunny lead a group of Warner Brothers cartoons in a demonstration against Disney's blasphemous use of computer generated graphic cartoons in Pixar films. Reports are that a mob that included notables such as Elmer Fudd, Wile E. Coyote, the Roadrunner, and Daffy Duck participated in burning down the Magic Kingdom, calling for a new fiefdom led by Michigan J. Frog. Disney Guards, typically unarmed, fought back with ACME weapons confiscated from protestors. 6 were killed in the protest, including famed WB toons such as Pinky, the Brain, and Foghorn Leghorn.

There are early signs that outrage may have actually been started by Sylvester the Cat. Sylvester distributed the computer generated images of Pixar characters, along with computerized images of Porky Pig and Yosemite Sam in an intinate position, Tweety Bird painting white stripes on Pepe LePew, and Speedy Gonzales sneaking through a fence at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Across the West, stores are pulling Pixar films and publications are refusing to show images of Shrek, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody out of sensitivity towards the WB-ias.

It is also reported that unrest is developing in the comic books and funny pages of major newspapers. There are concerns that Peanuts gang may be protesting in Minneapolis on Monday. Some publications and politicians are also angry that the blogosphere may be further inflaming the cartoon world by showing the offending cartoons on their websites.


Remembering a legend and cultural icon

The year was 1984 or 1985. It was an early summer Sunday afternoon, and I was laying on my parents' couch, sick with something that had given me a fever. The only thing interesting on TV was a NASCAR race. I had watched NASCAR before, but never closely. I didn't even know who any of the drivers were. So I went about picking out a favorite driver with the logic of a little kid. The car I chose was yellow and blue, just like the colors of my favorite baseball team, the Brewers. The car was sponsored by Wrangler Jeans, the brand of blue jeans my parents bought for me. And the car's driver, Dale Earnhardt, had the same first name as my father. So I watched a race intently for the first time, and my newly minted favorite driver won. I was hooked as a Dale Earnhardt fan from that moment forward.

When I first became an Earnhardt and NASCAR fan back in those days in the mid 1980's, I desperately wanted a Matchbox car of my favorite driver, but they were very hard to come by. A couple of years later I received as a Christmas gift what would be a prized possession-a Dale Earnhardt remote control car. Fast forward to 2001. I was working in retail management at that time, and NASCAR was huge. It seemed the drivers were on every item imaginable, from die cast cars to shirts to playing cards, and we stocked it all. People would figure out when trucks would come into the store and then they'd be their the next morning to get first crack at the new die casts that arrived. In 15 plus years, NASCAR had gone from a southern sport broadcast on WTBS and ESPN to a national past time, and much of that was built on the back of a driver who was now in the twilight of his career: Dale Earnhardt.

Five years ago today, I was closing the store. I was irritated because it was the third straight year that I had to miss the Daytona 500 because of work. I snuck into the break room to catch the last three laps of the race. It was some of the most exciting racing I had seen in a while. I watched as Earnhardt held off two lines of traffic as his son and his employee pulled away and raced towards the finish line, and I watched as his car wiggled and the veered into the wall. The crash did not look all that serious, but I had a bad feeling about it and remembered thinking as Darrel Waltrip cheered on his brother and the camera followed Michael's car, "they are going to be sorry for that exuberance if Earnhardt got killed." I then left the break room to go about my work.

Sometime after 6 o'clock, my front end supervisor that night approached me and said, "did you hear Dale Earnhardt died?" I was a bit shocked because even though I had a bad feeling about that accident, it was not comprehensible that the Intimidator could have died in a race. After helping her with whatever it was that she needed, I went to the back of the store where our electronics department was, and I turned all of the TV's over to ESPN News to see what was going on. Over the next 10 minutes, on of the stranger nights I've experienced began to play out. You see, within 10 minutes of me turning on ESPN News, the news of Dale Earnhardt's death had spread around the store and about 25 to 30 people had gathered around the televisions. I left the group and walked the store. There was not a customer to be had anywhere in the store except around those televisions.

Within 30 to 45 minutes, everything that we had one the floor with Earnhardt's face, name, or number was gone. Sunday nights were typically very quiet in our store, but on this Sunday night we were like Grand Central Station. I worked at pushing out every Earnhardt product we had from the backroom to the sales floor. By 8 pm, we were sold out of everything, from the smallest of key chains to the largest of die cast cars. Some people thought they were making an investment they could sell on eBay, but most came in because they had to have something of Earnhardt's that night, something physical that they could hold and relate to.

Until that point, I had still thought of NASCAR as a minor sport and Dale Earnhardt as a minor celebrity, even though he and the sport were favorites of mine. Even though I was in a racing town, I underestimated how big NASCAR had become and how big a part of the culture Dale Earnhardt had become, especially in rural areas, blue collar areas, and small towns. I did not think I would ever see a sports celebrity's death receive such a reaction, especially a race car driver. In a way, though, Dale Earnhardt and his life symbolized the American Dream for a lot of people. Here is a guy who didn't do well in school, who scuffled about in his younger years, and who was not a polished public figure. Still, with hard work he became the most successful person in his sport and he became bigger than that sport. In his later years he tried to rectify some of his mistakes from his younger years. A lot of people identified with that, respected it, idolized it, and wanted to emulate it. That is a sign of a life well lived for a guy from North Carolina who just wanted to race cars. He touched the lives of many people who never met him, and 5 years after his death still does.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Conference: St. Louis, Sacramento the next New Orleans

We Americans do a lot of things better than the rest of the world. One of those things is hand wringing and worrying:
St. Louis and Sacramento, California, may be the next two U.S. flooding disasters waiting to happen, with rivers prone to overflow and insufficient levees protecting developments that never should have been allowed, experts said on Saturday.

U.S. officials have not absorbed the lessons of Hurricane Katrina, in which floodwaters breached levees and inundated most of New Orleans, relying on outdated models to forecast risks to low-lying areas and allowing development in places that have been under 10 feet of water as recently as 1993.

First off, while those two cities are at risk of significant flooding, the danger is no where near as extreme as the danger to New Orleans. Secondly, people always flock to areas that have some sort of inherent natural danger. They do this because they view the advantages of the area as outweighing the risks, and most times they are right.

The best thing you can do is make people fully aware that by developing homes and businesses in floodplains, they are at high risk of total economic disaster and the government will not bail them out if that occurs. Insurance companies already refuse to sell flood insurance to high risk areas. If people know with absolute certainity that there will be no government bail out, either, then these areas will not be developed. Who is going to risk everything in a flood prone area without a safety net?

General information on The Great Flood of 1993 which affected the Missouri and Mississippi River basins and thus St. Louis.

Time for a new thermometer

I decided to get a Powerball ticket this afternoon (sorry Kevin, but $3 is an acceptable cost for me to have an infinitesimal chance at $360 million). I walked outside and immediately my face began to sting from the cold. I looked at my thermometer, and this is what it read:
If it were 48 degrees out right now, I'd be sitting on my deck and blogging with shorts on. It ain't, though. In fact, this is what the bank down the street from me said:
That's fahrenheit, not celsius.

For those you not in the great white north who are wondering how cold four degrees is, do this. Open your refrigerator and grab a beer. Open the beer. Take a drink. Now put your head in your freezer for a half an hour. 4 degrees is colder than that.

Thank goodness Alec Baldwin took up acting

Alec Baldwin went to George Washington University for 3 years, studying Political Science until being lured away by his love for acting. After his little ditty at the HuffPo on Friday, I think we can all be glad Baldwin never fulfilled his degree requirements and took on a career in the political realm. I give you the last paragraph of his post:
Cheney is a terrorist. He terrorizes our enemies abroad and innocent citizens here at home indiscriminately. Who ever thought Harry Whittington would be the answer to America's prayers. Finally, someone who might get that lying, thieving Cheney into a courtroom to answer some direct questions.
First off, what is Baldwin still doing here in the United States? Didn't he promise us he'd leave if we elected George Bush five plus years ago? But seriously, he is either disingenuous, unhitched from reality, or enormously stupid to think Cheney is a terrorist. When Dick Cheney straps a suicide vest on and kills women and children indiscriminately or flies an airplane into a building, then I will apologize to Baldwin. Until then I am going to continue in my belief that Alec Baldwin is the King of Fools in Hollywood.

Spartacus moment for world publications?

Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune's "Change of Subject" blog has an interesting thought worth mulling over. With a $1 million dollar bounty being placed on the head of a/any of the cartoonists who drew the controversial political cartoons in the Dutch newspaper Jyllands-Posten, is it time that publications of the West have their "I am Spartacus" moment?
Is the announcement Friday of a million dollar bounty on the head of any cartoonist who drew one of the images of the prophet Muhammad an "I am Spartacus!" moment for publications worldwide?
The idea being, well, you know. Unity. Solidarity. Defiance. You can't push us around by picking on just one of us.

So does this grotesque, million-dollar offer mean we should all just apologize more loudly, promise we'll work harder next time to be sure no one dares violate Islamic taboos when expressing himself, and hope these dozen-odd artists can stay in hiding while appeasement works its magic?
I'm willing to stand up to this bullying of a free press, but to put it into Zorn's context, my standing up would be like a midget in Spartacus's forces saying "no, I am Spartacus!" It would be a symbolic gesture more than anything. Those who can do the most, and who risk the most, are the publications and the editorial cartoonists of Western publications. Will they have the courage to stand up both for their own and themselves, or is CYA so endemic in the Western press today that anyone can bully them around?

We are learning a lot about the Western media right now, and they are not impressing many of us. They are willing to lob volleys at people who really are of no threat to them, like George W. Bush, but to those who would just as soon silence them permanently they have very little to say.

Bruce Willis criticizes Oprah

Bruce Willis has criticized Oprah Winfrey because, as he sees it, she "sucker punched" author James Frey when she had him on her show and grilled him for deceiving her and her viewers with the lies in his "nonfiction" book. Willis is dead wrong on this one. Oprah did the right thing in this case. I had to laugh at this Willis quote, though:
“Oprah, you had Bill Clinton on your show,” Bruce said. “Do you remember? Give this guy a break. His publisher put the memoir thing on there.”
It is funny to see one celebrity tar and feather another one with Bill Clinton.

Willis, apparently sensing that he had stepped over a line, also had this to say:
But Bruce also told us: “I admire Oprah Winfrey, she does a great job. I have great respect for what she does for people all over the world and I think her book club is so important.”
You can tell that, with that statement, he realized that he had just gone off on OPRAH. You don't piss off the Oprah. Expect to see Willis with his lips firmly attached to Oprah's behind for years to come.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Snow day

It was a weird day all around. I was sent home early because of snow for the first time since I was in high school. The snow that fell early in the day was wet yet powdery, something that my mind still doesn't grasp. I had to shovel twice, and the second load was a lot heavier than the first so my back feels like jelly now. Here are some pictures from around the house.

Your intrepid blogger, snow thug.

The surface of the moon? Nah, just my deck in black and white.

And such are our lives-large foot prints that fade with the winds of time.

Here I go a shoveling, a shoveling...

If I don't have a heart attack. I'll be back to moan about my experience in a little while.


Yes, it is the simple and the bizarre things that entertain me.  Right now we are having a thundersnowstorm, and I am highly entertained.



Ways I enjoy waking up:
1. Later in the morning
2. To a gentle thundershower
3. With breakfast in bed.

Ways I hate waking up:
1. To an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night
2. Waking up sick.
3. Early to shovel 4 inches of snow with the full knowledge that there are 6-11 inches more of it on the way yet.

I am going to be a cranky blogger today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lightning up close

This is one hell of a cool picture. I'm quite sure that the photographer's undershorts got about 5 pounds heavier when he took it.

The Saddam tapes

I'm reserving my judgement on the Saddam tapes ABC possesses until they release them. My biggest fear is that this turns out to be as fruitful as Geraldo's opening of Al Capone's vault. Things look promising, though:
At one point Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and the man who was in charge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction efforts can be heard on the tapes, speaking openly about hiding information from the U.N.

"We did not reveal all that we have," Kamel says in the meeting. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct." Shortly after this meeting, in August 1995, Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan, and Iraq was forced to admit that it had concealed its biological weapons program. (Kamel returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was killed in a firefight with Iraqi security forces.)

Tempering any optomism is this quote from an aide to John Negroponte:

"Intelligence community analysts from the CIA, and the DIA reviewed the translations and found that while fascinating from a historical perspective the tapes do not reveal anything that changes their post war analysis of Iraq's weapons programs nor do they change the findings contained in the comprehensive Iraq Survey group report," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
We shall soon see.

What is the best way to weather a snow storm?

With a margarita or two. I'm enjoying my relaxation now before the snow removal stage begins tomorrow.

Back to the pre 9/11 stupidity of politics

Vice President Dick Cheney should publicly explain his shooting of a Texas lawyer in a hunting accident, top congressional Democrats said on Wednesday after a White House meeting that included Cheney.
Really, what is there to explain? The story seems pretty clear. Do Democrats think that the American people are so dense that they can't figure this story out without Cheney telling it to them himself? Not that I oppose this. I think Cheney actually comes across as likeable when people see him speak.

As if that weren't a dumb enough call by the Democrats, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have more.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the top-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, emerged from a breakfast meeting with President George W. Bush and Cheney to say the vice president needed to come forward.

"I guess I'm kind of old-fashioned," Reid said. "He hasn't had a press conference in three and a half years."

Said Pelosi: "Open government demands that the vice president come clean with what happened ... There's probably a very simple answer to it, but we have to break this habit of the administration, of closed government without the openness that is healthy to a democracy."

They said they did not tell Cheney to his face that he should come forward and that the vice president said little during the breakfast.

The guy is Vice President. Vice Presidents only get face time with the media when Presidents are using them to push an agenda or to campaign. While Cheney is involved a little more in this administration than most V.P.s, their primary job is to sit down and shut up unless the President needs to utilize them or, God forbid, they are called on to serve as President.

And of course they didn't tell him that to his face. That would take conviction and a big pair of brass ones.

Cheney will talk with Brit Hume on FOX. I'm sure the Washington press corp will now be infuriated that Cheney chose Fox to talk with.

California driving

I couldn't agree more with this from Jonah Goldberg:
Driving my swank rented Toyota from LAX to Pomona (yes, yes, yes: Stupid me for not flying into Ontario airport), I grew increasingly baffled how you can spend so much time on those freeways. Traffic in DC is bad. But there's something depraved about LA.
My first time in LA, I had to drive from a lunch appointment in El Segundo (just south of LAX) to a 3 pm meeting in Pomona (east of LA). I had enough time to make the drive, but I was still stunned to find myself in a traffic jam...at 1:30 in the afternoon. California drivers have to be masochists.

A little somethin'-somethin' for the weather geeks

The National Weather Service office in Sullivan, WI, has a handy visual guide to identifying summer severe weather. The guide is meant for storm spotters primarily, but it is handy for anyone in Wisconsin. Sometimes those storm clouds look scary, but they aren't all that serious. Other times you don't even realize that you are looking at a significant severe weather event that is bearing down on you. Their guide helps even non-weather geeks identify characteristics of storms in their area.

One last Cheney joke

At least he didn't go Quayle hunting.

Chicago Bleg

The lovely Mrs. Jib and I are going to be spending some time in Chicago in a couple of months. We are going to be spending the bulk of our time in the River North/Theater District areas. Does anyone have any good suggestions for restaurants in that area? It looks like there are a number of good steak houses and italian restaurants in that area, and I'm having trouble deciding which ones we will choose.

When the news media withholds the heart of a story

Newspapers and TV stations across the United States and Europe have refused to publish/broadcast the cartoons which are at the heart of the current riots in the Muslim world, and there has been a lot of discussion on the correctness of these decisions. Most supporters of their decision cite the fact that these cartoons offend Muslims as a good enough reason. Well, that was a good enough reason last October when the story was merely that a Dutch newspaper published them as a test of free speech. Now that parts of the world have exploded in violence, it is no longer a good enough reason. The cartoons are the story now, and it is impossible for consumers of the news to come to any kind of conclusion when the media refuses to show the pictures that sparked the violence.

Let me work in a very rough analogy here. Let's say that tomorrow a picture surfaced that showed Jack Abramhof and President Bush shaking hands and smiling as Abramhof handed the president a check. That picture would be the heart of the story, and the news media would have no choice but show it in order to fully tell the story. It is the same here. The public cannot get the full picture of the cartoon riots without seeing the pictures. To me, the news media forfeits its right to talk about their high journalistic ideals if they refuse to fully report an important story to its customers. You can avoid publicizing images when they are incidental or merely supportive of a story. For example, pictures of coffins are incidental to a news story on military casualities but not the story. You can present the story without the photos but not lose any context. That is not the case with the Danish cartoons. There is no context for the public if they can't see the cartoons.

Personally, I think the media is just doing more to drive people to alternative news sources on the internet. I have very little sympathy for them when they complain about low circulation, viewership, or ad sales because they are doing it to themselves. Any moderately inquisitive person who hears this story on the news is going to want to know exactly what the hubub is about by seeing the cartoons for themselves. If the news media refuses to give them that context, they are naturally going to turn to sources that do.

The Cartoon Wars envelope fast food

Sometimes the world is absolutely absurd. We are in one one of those phases right now. To wit:
Thousands of protesters rampaged through two cities Tuesday, storming into a diplomatic district and torching Western businesses and a provincial assembly in Pakistan's worst violence against the Prophet Muhammad drawings, officials said. At least two people were killed and 11 injured.

Security forces fired into the air as they struggled to contain the unrest in the eastern city of Lahore, where protesters burned down four buildings housing a hotel, two banks, a KFC restaurant and the office of a Norwegian cell phone company, Telenor.

U.S. and British embassy staffers were confined to their compounds until police dispersed the protesters, some of whom chanted, "Death to America!"

Apparently, Colonel Sanders is also holy to Muslims, and caricaturized images of him are blasphemous. Check out the pictures at Malkin's website, linked to above. It appears that they blame Ronald McDonald for offending their tender sensibilities. The un-burkahed Miss Piggy in American Pizza Hut commercials also must have been too much.

As for me, I'm so incensed by the destruction of these symbols of capitalism that I'm going to go to a BP gas station and burn it down. So what if I actually like buying gas at that station. I'm pissed, it's my right. (/Sharp sarcasm).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The nature of blogging, bloggers

Publishing 2.0 has an interesting thought:
If there are more people blogging, but no increase in the number of people reading blogs, maybe blog readership has actually been siphoned off by blog writing. I know that the time I spend writing this post is time I might otherwise spend reading other blogs.
Which makes me wonder — how much of blog writing and blog reading is a completely closed system, both self-referential and self-absorbed?
Completely closed? No, but it is still a pretty tight circle of those "in the know" about blogs. I know plenty of people who wouldn't know what the hell a blog is if it weren't for the fact that I'm a blogger and the topic has come up in our conversations. Blogs also tend to be a bit "niche" in nature. For example, there are a lot of blogs that focus primarily on politics. A lot of Americans just aren't interested enough in politics to go searching out those blogs. It's the same thing with the blog diaries that are popular with kids and college students. The media will almost always have an advantage there, because they typically provide a larger diversity of topics for their readers/viewers/listeners than blogs do. There is also the sheer number of blogs that acts as an impediment to bringing in new readers in mass quantities. If the average Joe wants news, they know the newspapers, TV and radio stations available to them. Even large blogs like Instapundit aren't household names, though, and there is no entry portal for people to go to in order to jump into blog reading. The average guy on the street doesn't usually know where to start when it comes to reading blogs for news or op/ed.

I've always held the opinion that blogs have an outsized influence for their readership numbers, and appropriately so. The best ones develop an audience because they are entertaining and intelligent. They draw readers from those who deal in the same marketplace of ideas as they do, which means blogs influence the influencers of public opinion. Will blogs one day reach mass audiences? Yes, and some are already approaching that, but I suspect the culture and the structure of blogging will change before that becomes common. Some will applaud when that day comes, but even then there will be something to be said for having a highly targeted, high quality readership, even if total unique visitors for a site are lower.

60 year old U.S. government assessment of Islamic world

I'm a history geek, so I get a little more excited about these things than others, but this is something I think most will find interesting. Daniel Pipes brings us the story of a 60 year old formerly classified assessment of the Islamic world that turned out to be pretty accurate. You can read Pipes article here and the now unclassified file here. The PDF of the assessment is large, but it is well worth the wait.


Last week I wrote about the possible re-awakening of the giant that is Europe. This has been a big week or so for analysis of Europe. I think Anne Applebaum and Fareed Zakaria could be consider skeptics of the "awakened giant" idea. Even Victor Davis Hanson, on whom I based the post, could be considered only apprehensive. All three are recommended reading, though.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Honored to be among the "pioneers"

Jessica McBride has an excellent guide to blogging, including a guide to Wisconsin blogs. I must say it is an honor to be mentioned with Sean, Kevin, Patrick, and Tom as one of Wisconsin's Pioneer blogs. I think I'm the greenhorn of the group, so I'm hoping the other 4 don't feel the need to haze me before they accept me.

Jiblog on Slate

Interesting. Jiblog was quoted on Slate today and, stylistically, I hate the sentence they chose to quote. Just the same, welcome Slate readers.

UN peacekeepers open fire in Haiti

Who knew the Barney Fifes of the UN were actually issued ammunition?
U.N. peacekeepers opened fire Monday on protesters, killing at least one and wounding four, witnesses said, as flaming roadblocks paralyzed this city and protesters stormed into a hotel where election officials have been announcing results of presidential elections.

Associated Press journalists saw the body of a man in the street in the Tabarre neighborhood, a T-shirt bearing the image of popular candidate Rene Preval soaked in blood. Witnesses said Jordanian U.N. peacekeepers opened fire on them, killing two and wounding four. The body of the second victim was not at the scene.

"We were peacefully protesting when the U.N. started shooting. There were a lot of shots. Everybody ran," said Walrick Michel, 22, one of the pro-Preval protesters. U.N. spokesman David Wimhurst denied in a phone interview that peacekeepers opened fire.

While I have my doubts that this was the peaceful protest that Michel claims it to have been, it certainly wouldn't surprise me. UN peacekeepers never really seem to know when is and isn't the appropriate time to use their firepower.

Al Gore pulls an Al Gore

A lot of bloggers are worked up right now by this little Al Gore speech in Saudi Arabia. Personally, there is very little about Al Gore that gets me worked up anymore. His lunacy speaks for itself. So I'm just going to take this speech and tuck it away in the little rhetorical armory that I'm building up. Should Gore decide against better wisdom that he wants to take another shot at the Presidency, it will be my pleasure to bring it back up then, and often. Until then, I'll just chalk it up as the rantings of an angry man who lost all political and common sense about 5 plus years ago.

Gov't: Some Katrina aid wasted

Government aid that gets wasted? Pshaw!
In its rush to provide Katrina disaster aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasted millions of dollars and overpaid for hotel rooms, including $438-a-day lodging in New York City, government investigators said Monday.

Two reports released by the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security Department's office of inspector general detail a series of accounting flaws, fraud or mismanagement in their initial review of how $85 billion in federal aid is being spent.

The two audits found that up to 900,000 of the 2.5 million applicants who received aid under FEMA's emergency cash assistance program — which included the $2,000 debit cards given to evacuees — were based on duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers, or false addresses and names.

This should surprise no one. First off, anytime government money is involved, there will be waste. There not as much personal accountability when you are doling out money that is not yours or your organizations, and which seems to grow on trees. Second, there are always those that will game the system. Third, the environment was ripe for gaming the system. There was a lot of money being made available and the critical response to the Government's handling of things meant that people were probably more likely to get the benefit of the doubt or slip through when they should not have gotten anything.

Filtering more money through private organizations may have decreased the amount of waste, but it still would have been there. Such is life with a government that tries to have all the solutions. I don't like it and neither should you, but as long as we put up with it, this is what we are going to get.

Quote of the Week

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the one in which it was passed." ---Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Props to triathletes

I've got to tip my hat to Nick at The World According to Nick and all triathletes like him. He is participating in several this year. My idea of a triathlon is mowing my lawn, then playing softball, and then drinking beer. I plan to participate in about 16 Jibathlons this year.

Lutheran guilt

Lutheran guilt is nowhere near as famous as Catholic guilt, but it does exist. For example, I feel a little bit guilty about the Cheney-Burr chuckle I had below at the expense of some poor 78 year old man with bird shot buried in his hide. The guilt isn't so bad that I'm going to remove the post, though. Maybe that's why Lutheran guilt isn't as famous as other religious guilts.

Anybody up for some laughs at the expense of the Swedes?

Cheney accidentally shoots hunting buddy

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a hunting buddy this weekend during a hunting outing in Texas. Hmm. It is all making sense now. Halliburton. Aaron Burr. Both were Vice Presidents. Both shot men while in office. That means Dick Cheney is Aaron Burr reincarnated.

All former Secretaries of the Treasury are advised to avoid duels with Vice President Cheney.

Be careful where you send those text messages

This is good advice.
Britons texting St Valentine's Day love messages next Tuesday should be careful they don't send them to the wrong person.

A poll of 3,000 mobile phone users that found 40 percent will be texting rather than sending cards and that one in four have misdirected a provocative text or photo.
Heh. It pays to watch where you send those emails, too.

Political cartoons just keep getting bolder

And this is but one example. It lacks subtlety, but I think the idea is to pound you over the noggin with the message. Wow.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Is Khatami still allowed into Iran?

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had some interesting things to say Friday at a conference on Islam:
The Islamic world is fed up with violence and extremism in the name of religion and is ready for an era of progressive, democratic Muslim governments, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Friday.

Khatami said current conflicts between the West and Islam have created a situation that "can only see ever-escalating violence, whether in the form of war and occupation and repression, or in the form of terror and destruction."

"After about two centuries of dispute between tradition and modernity in the world of Islam (there is) a high level of mental preparation for the acceptance of a major transformation in the mind and lives of Muslims," Khatami said in a speech at an international conference on Islam and the West.

I can't imagine current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejab will be terribly excited to hear about that.

South Dakota is jumping the gun

South Dakota appears to be well on its way to banning abortion:
After about an hour of impassioned debate, South Dakota's House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that seeks to ban most abortions in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, passed with a 57-22 vote. A similar bill in 2004 passed the House 54-14.

Supporters of the bill hope it will draw other states into passing similar measures in an attempt to get the Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Hunt said several other states are considering like-minded bills.

New members on the Supreme Court and the prospects of another vacancy within the next two years make now the right time for an abortion ban, Hunt said.
If I were an aging Supreme Court justice that thought Roe was a correct ruling, I'd do everything in my power to stay on the bench long enough for a Democrat President to be in place to name my replacement, even if I had been considering retirement. I can't help but wonder if South Dakota's actions help insure that Bush doesn't get another Supreme Court nomination.

New Winter Olympics sports

Slate takes a look at the NBC claim that this year's Winter Olympic team is the best ever, and they come up with four reasons why it won't be. The fourth reason, that we "Invent sports that no one else cares about," got me thinking about some Wisconsin winter sports that we should push for the inclusion in future Winter Olympics. Without further adieu, here are my proposed new sports.

1. Ice prancing. Each contestant gets 2 two minute periods wearing hard soled dress shoes on an extra slick ice surface. In the first period, contestants are graded on a fast paced program in which their ability to remaining standing is judged. Judges look for technical moves such as the double-triple arm flail, the one leg master balance, and the forward lunge & catch. In the second period, the contestant's program is judged on their artisitic eating of ice. A complex computer scoring system looks at the technical aspects of bruising one's face without causing permanent brain damage. The scores are then combined, with the the highest three scores taking a place on the medal stand.

2. Wind chill sprint. This one is pretty straight forward. Contestants are outfitted in attire that is half as warm as it should be for the weather conditions. They then race each other from a large, warm shelter to another smaller one that only holds three people. The three who make it into the small shelter are the medalists. This Olympic game awards speed and raw brute strength, as participants are allowed to brawl at the entrance to the small shelter.

3. The closing time crawl. This game is popular with American college students. Contestants begin at a pub outside of the Olympic village. At the pub they drink for 6 consecutive hours. Then at closing time the race back to their rooms at the Olympic village begins. Again, all contestants are wearing clothes that are not warm enough for winter conditions. The real trick to this game comes in the fact that all contestants must urinate in the yards of at least two locals on their way back to the village. All contestants who are caught are immediately out of the race. The men's version of this game tends to be very fast paced, while the women's version revolves around strategy.

4. The teflon saucer. Over the years, high speed down hill sports have become entirely too safe. This sport would honor the crazed-but-handy American dads who have tried to build the fastest sledding experience possible for their children. Each participant uses a titanium saucer style sled that is coated with teflon and which only makes one square centimeter of contact with the sledding surface. The course is a 70 degree, ice covered hill that is dotted with evergreen trees. This is a timed race, so the fastest to the finishline wins. Time penalties are assessed for losing conciousness, dying, soiling one's underpants, and crying.

Blizzard of '06, or Thanks Col. Ollie!

If you've been anywhere near a news source this weekend, then you know that the Northeast is getting around 12 inches of snow this weekend. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my former co-blogger Col. Ollie. You see, I believe he is the reason we haven't gotten a snow like this in Wisconsin this winter.

Early on in the winter, we received a number of solid snowfalls in our area. Ollie and I both are tried and true snow shovelers, but the regular snowfalls were wearing on us. Col. Ollie broke down and bought a snow blower, while Mrs. Jib and I started a snow blower fund. Well, since Ollie bought that snow blower, temperatures have been above normal and there has only been one snowfall of any significance, and our money is still in our pockets. So Col. Ollie, thanks for spending the money that insured we would not get a major snowfall here in Wisconsin this winter.

Frist backs away from Bush

I enjoyed this opening to Robert Novak's latest column:
In recent national television appearances, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist backed away from unequivocal support of President Bush in what Republican insiders viewed as preparation for a 2008 presidential run.
Frist has not exactly been Mr. Reliable himself, and I think a lot of conservatives started backing away from him months ago. If he thinks he still has a shot at the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination (and Novak does not imply that this is what Frist's move is about), I think he is deluding himself.

Tax season

Blech. Today is tax calculation day in the Jib household, and I'm halfway through it. There was a time where I didn't mind doing my taxes because it was a cinch. I called up a telephone number, input my numbers, and I was done (ahh, Telefile). Then I got married, bought a house, etc., etc. Last year I swore I was taking my taxes to a pro this year, but there must be a chemical in my blood that makes me forget about the pain of the previous year's tax calculations. So far, things are going better than last year, but I'm not holding out hope that I won't come upon some pain in the ass bugaboo before all is said and done.

Jack Shafer brings 'A' game

Slate columnist Jack Shafer is a guy that I just can't figure out. Sometimes I really like his stuff, other times I loathe the guy. His latest at Slate has a couple of gems, though.
Plagued as he is with elephantiasis of the ego, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly relishes attacks from the New York Times or any other A-list media.
Heh. Nice imagery. Then there is this, in reference to Nicholas Kristoff:
Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers.

New record for dumbest HuffPo post ever

There have been some truly dumb posts at the HuffPo, but this one takes the cake because it is not only dumb, but for an attempt at humor, not very funny. I am dumber for having read it, so I am going to proceed to drink beer until I kill those brain cells inflicted with the memory of it.

The Olympics are gas guzzling energy whores

And they are defilers of Mother Nature. Evil bastards.

I knew this story would get written, but I was surprised that I had to go looking for it to make sure.
The WWF called the 5-meter (16-foot) high Olympic flame, which will be lit at the opening ceremony on Friday evening and burn until the end of the Games on February 26, "a kind of mockery, a monument to waste".

The flame, which will flicker atop a 57-meter (187-foot) high torch, will burn some 3 million cubic meters (105 million cubic feet) of gas during the Games -- enough to supply a town of 3,500 people for an entire year, it said.

Look, we are all concerned about energy supplies, but the Olympic Games are supposed to represent some of the finer traits of mankind. In that effort, I think we can justify wasting some gas on a very important symbol.

Revisiting the Cartoon Wars

I've been reading a lot on the cartoon wars, and I've noticed something interesting. Many of the same bloggers who supported the Harriet Miers nomination are also uncomfortable with the publishing of the cartoons or the discussion of them by right leaning blogs. The two things are unrelated, but there has to be some commonality that has these bloggers thinking alike. I'm not sure exactly what it is. It may be the fact that Hugh Hewitt is the most influential voice to all of these bloggers.

Speaking of that. Hewitt et al are very uncomfortable about a number of things surrounding the controversy. The one that irks me the most is the always thinly veiled assertion that those of us who are speaking on this topic are hungry for greater war with the Islamic world. That's not true. I don't think any of us have a hunger for war. In fact, four plus years of war tends to fatigue a person towards it. We are very concerned, though. Western culture and Islamic culture are compatible only when there is give and take on both sides. Western culture is adaptable to this give and take, as there are already built in safe guards in most nations to protect religious belief. Islamic culture can be adaptable, too, if the practitioner of the faith allows for it. I've worked with Muslim immigrants over the years, and I've watched them slowly adapt to this culture. The problem in this cartoon situation is the conversation is being dominated by Muslims that not only refuse to adapt, they expect the world to completely bend to their will, with force being their first choice to bring this subservience about. Think about it. Many of us knew about these cartoons months ago, but we either did not discuss them or we only made note of it. It wasn't until the more radical portion of the Islamic world threatened and carried out violence in an effort to silence controversial speech that we stood up for the right of the Danish newspaper to publish them.

Mr. Hewitt and those who share his opinions on this may think that bloggers who support the Danish paper are war hungry, racist, or whatever other ignorant vice they choose. Unfortunately, their ability to take the high ground is completely dependent upon others taking a firm stand against the erosion of free speech.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Thank you to my couple of well wishers the other day when I noted I was under the weather. I'm feeling much better now, even though I'm swamped (hence the title). Busy though I am, the brain is working on 8 cylinders, so I'll be much more active again.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Marriage material?

Offered up without comment.
One Oklahoma woman might get cold feet if she comes to New York and tries to hail a cab. But Betty Bell will have to do just that if she's going to whistle.

Bell has the unique ability to whistle with her toes in her mouth.
Okay, maybe one comment. Do her boyfriends risk a case of athlete's mouth?

Newest Japanese fad a killer

Japanese fads and crazes seem to be constantly blowing across the Pacific to catch on here in the U.S. Hopefully this one doesn't:
The number of Japanese killing themselves in groups after meeting through the Internet -- strangers afraid to die alone -- soared to a record 91 last year, nearly double that of 2004, police said on Thursday.

The deadly pacts pose a grim challenge for officials struggling to deal with Japan's high suicide rate, one of the worst among industrialised nations.
I guess once a craze like Pokemon runs its course, there just isn't much to live for anymore.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Under the weather

I am not feeling very well today, which is disappointing because I had a nice block of time available to me for blogging tonight. I'm working on grinding a couple of posts out, but if I can't get them to make sense, then I'll be back tomorrow when my head isn't as cloudy.

Blog coasting

Tonight I visited a national blog that I used to read very regularly but which I visit very infrequently now. I was very disappointed. This blog, which used to provide some very interesting commentary, has been coasting. Most posts now are of the link sharing type, which means the posts are one or two brief sentences which pass the reader along to an interesting article or post somewhere else. The blog is completely uninteresting now, but somehow it still averages 800 visitors a day. I guess it just goes to show that even in blogging, if you develop a good brand, even if your product suffers, you can still do better than some of your smaller, less well known competitors with a better product. At least until your brand equity hits such a low that you can't drag it out of the gutters.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mini ice age coming?

Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.

The coldest period will occur 15 to 20 years after a major solar output decline between 2035 and 2045, Abdusamatov said.

There are many more viable climate change theories out there than just global warming. Too much focus on popular global warming theories could stand to leave us unprepared for something like a mini ice age.

What's your's is their's

The Treasury Department is saying that making President Bush's tax cuts permamanent will cost the government billions of dollars. It is helpful to remember that whenever a government official says that keeping a tax cut is going to cost government billions of dollars, what they are really saying is that they prefer that government take billions of dollars more out of the pockets of the American people. This isn't an original thought, but it is one that should be repeated every single time someone in the government makes this claim, because they'll tax you into the poor house if you let them.

Why McCain could win in '08

John McCain is not a favorite of many conservatives, this one included. Everyone once in a while he does something that you have to begrudgingly like, though, and this letter to Senator Obama is one of them. Come 2007 & 2008, he is going to be doing more of this, I guarentee it. He should know by now that he needs to play to conservatives better than he did in 2000 in order to win the nomination. He is too skilled a politician not to know it. Combine that with the fact that he'll be the only experienced Presidential candidate in the primaries, and he could become a strong favorite to win the nomination, I'm afraid.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Cartoon Wars

If someone had written a novel with a chapter that had the world getting enflamed over political cartoons, nobody would buy it because it would be too absurd to believe. But the truth keeps getting stranger and stranger:
IRAN'S largest selling newspaper announced today it was holding a contest on cartoons of the Holocaust in response to the publishing in European papers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. "It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," said Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper - which is published by Teheran's conservative municipality.

He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

I am quite certain that these cartoons are going to be grotesque, but at least they (Hamshahri) aren't advocating violence or censorship. Maybe some will even learn the difference between denouncing something and lighting embassies on fire.

Is Europe this era's 'Sleeping Giant'

Victor Davis Hansen has an excellent piece up at Real Clear Politics on a Europe that is awakening to the threat of radical Islam. I recommend the entire article, but it was this portion that got me thinking.
So is Europe now finally at the front or will they retreat Madrid-like in the face of the inevitable second round of terrorist bombings and threats to come?

Americans are not confident, but we should remember at least one simple fact: Europe is the embryo of the entire Western military tradition. The new European Union encompasses a population greater than the United States and spans a continent larger than our own territory. It has a greater gross domestic product than that of America and could, in theory, field military forces as disciplined and as well equipped as our own.

It is not the capability but the will power of the Europeans that has been missing in this war so far. But while pundits argue over whether the European demographic crisis, lack of faith, stalled economy, or multiculturalism are at the root of the continent’s impotence, we should never forget that if aroused and pushed, a rearmed and powerful Europe could still be at the side of the United States in joint efforts against the jihadists. And should we ever see a true alliance of such Western powers, the war against the fascists of the Middle East would be simply over in short order.

At first I thought VDH was being a little too pie in the sky with this piece, but then a 'what if' hit me. What if, as Europe gradually takes seriously the threat radical Islam poses to it, terrorists partake in a 9-11 style attack somewhere in Europe? Would that shock the continent into action the way Pearl Harbor shocked the original sleeping giant, the U.S., into action in 1941? I don't know the answer to that question. In some ways I find Europe as too lost a cause to think it possible, but at the same time isn't it human nature to fight back if punched far enough into a corner? Could the European giant awaken without having its nose bloodied? A lot of questions that I think we'd all prefer not to have to learn the answer to, but it is possible that one day we will.

Super Bowl ads

As I mentioned previously, I went to a Super Bowl party tonight. At the party, the ads were as big of a draw as the game was, and I think the general consensus was that the ads were a let down this year. The lame Burger King ad early on seem to set the tone for the entire night. There were only two times that the party laughed in unison. The first came during the Fed-Ex commercial where the newly fired caveman walked out of the cave-office and kicked a small dinosaur, only to be stepped on by a larger dinosaur. The other winner at this party was the Bud commercial where the sheep streaked at the clydesdale football game. Beyond that, there was a general disappointment with the quality of the ads this year. Yeah, there were ads that were cute, but there was little in the way of timeless ads that create a never ending return on investment for the companies that bought them.

The other 'Bowl'

Mixed into the popular photos at Yahoo's most popular page tonight are photos of Sunday night's other Bowl, the pay-per-view Lingerie Bowl. Whatever your opinions of the Lingerie Bowl are, I must say that in the still photos, those ladies look like football players. I did not see the game, which I believe was broadcast around the time of halftime for the Super Bowl, so the football may have actually been atrocious. Based on the photos alone, though, some of those women look to be more fundamentally sound football players than several guys on the current Packer roster.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl prediction

I'm off to a Super Bowl party pretty soon, so I'll sign off for a few hours with this prediction. The Steelers will win Super Bowl XL 31-27.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Come and smell our dairy air

Many years ago now, when here in Wisconsin we turned our backs on our old cheese yellow liscense plates in favor of today's white plates, the state held a contest for a slogan on the plates. One of my favorites was always, "Come and smell our dairy air." The play on words was funny, but today the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shows us how accurate that phrase really is.
Talk about economic clusters: We claim firms that describe themselves as the country's largest producer of toilets (Kohler Co., in Kohler) and the world's largest maker of toilet seats (Bemis Manufacturing Co., in Sheboygan Falls), not to mention the world's thickest concentration of makers of toilet paper (in the Fox Valley). To finish the job, we've got Glade. Each year, S.C. Johnson & Son's Sturtevant factory turns out millions of cans of the nation's top-selling air freshener.

The Super Bowl itself testifies to our dominance: Kohler supplied the 880 toilets and 370 urinals at Detroit's Ford Field. Georgia-Pacific, which runs two mills in Green Bay and is the country's biggest producer of away-from-home toilet paper, furnished the tissue.

"Wisconsin does seem to have a pretty large share of the bathroom market, from the plumbing to the toilet paper," said Patrick Schillinger, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council. "It's not bumper-sticker type of material, so that distinction might go less noticed than other flashier industries."

Wisconsin. America's Potty Land.

Losing control

If there is a culture war right now, it is between Western and Islamic values.
Thousands of Syrians enraged by caricatures of Islam's revered prophet torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday - the most violent in days of furious protests by Muslims in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

In Gaza, Palestinians marched through the streets, storming European buildings and burning German and Danish flags. Protesters smashed the windows of the German cultural center and threw stones at the European Commission building, police said.

Iraqis rallying by the hundreds demanded an apology from the European Union, and the leader of the Palestinian group Hamas called the cartoons "an unforgivable insult" that merited punishment by death.

Pakistan summoned the envoys of nine Western countries in protest, and even Europeans took to the streets in Denmark and Britain to voice their anger.

I think the Islamic world is much more aware of the clash of values than the West-or less willingly ignorant of it. Ignoring it won't make it go away, though.

Even as politically correct as some areas of the West have become, free speech is still a cherished idea, placed on a pedestal. Westerners have developed a thick skin to that which can be considered blasphemous, even the faithful. Yes, blasphemous images may anger religious Westerners, but free speech is so culturally ingrained that violence is a taboo response to such things. In the Islamic world, the only values that matter are those of the Koran, and there is no such taboo against violence. The two cultures are not easily compatible, and we are going to see more and more of this. If we really do cherish our Western values, we are going to have no choice but to stand up for them.

Further Reading
Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush has some very sensible words on this topic in an update to this post. I will make a clarifying statement in regards to the post above. The fact that our two cultures are colliding does not mean that one or the other must go. We (the West) does risk fading out in the face of this collision if we do not stand up for our values. It is not an either or (Islamic v. Western values) proposition, but it will be if we give up our values for accomodation.

Christopher Hitchens
Hugh Hewitt
Michelle Malkin
Marquette Warrior
Right Wing News
Captain's Quarters

Final Word
On the surface, this all seems silly-so much being made of some bad cartoons. It is a very important battleground of ideas, though, and needs to be taken seriously as such.