Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam sightings

This is interesting.

In a most bizarre stories ever heard, some people in Baghdad are claiming that they are seeing Saddam’s ghost in Baghdad public areas. Sources say, this may be a plot by the Baathists to keep Saddam ‘alive’ among the Sunni communities.

Some claim he is seen in restaurants, markets and so on. It is possible many Saddam look-alikes are now more prominent and people are mistaking these look-alikes as possible Saddam. It is also possible that Saddam was such a threat that people just cannot believe he is dead and not coming back.

Saddam Hussein, the new Elvis.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Gerald Ford was not a conservative

Please keep that nugget in the back of your mind in the coming week as his well deserved tributes are played on the news. I've heard him referred to as a conservative a couple of times. He most certainly was not, and I suspect the ill informed individuals who call him one are doing so in yet another effort to try to paint present day conservatives as having drifted to the 'hard right'.

Focus, please

I'm watching coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution, and I'm struck by how unfocused the conversations are and how many talking heads want to tie this back into the situation on the ground and how it will not help matters. Of course Saddam's death plays no major role in the situation on the ground. That's not the point here, people. This is about justice for his bloody crimes. The situation on the ground is quite seperate. The fatalism I'm hearing is making me ill. If you're going to talk about Saddam's execution, talk about his execution and quit confusing the issue by crying about how bad things have become in Iraq. And frankly, I don't trust any General that comes on TV and repeatedly says "we can't." With attitudes like that, of course we won't. Give me the Generals that say, "we will," because they mean what they say and they find ways to accomplish their objectives, even if they face setbacks and less than favorable turns of events. Give me a nation that has the courage to say "we will" and put the effort into getting it done.

End of the media driven bird flu scare?

Let's hope so.

British scientists are on the verge of producing a revolutionary flu vaccine that works against all major types of the disease.

Described as the 'holy grail' of flu vaccines, it would protect against all strains of influenza A - the virus behind both bird flu and the nastiest outbreaks of winter flu.

If this vaccine works as anticipated, I predict that the media will rediscover their abject terror over ebola in record time.

Justice is done

Saddam Hussein has been executed.

The death penalty can easily be misused for repression. Saddam's regime was exhibit 'A'. However, there are some crimes that are so heinous, so offensive to human life, that the way justice can truly be done is by taking the offender's life. Today Saddam Hussein was held accountable to his victims and justice was done.

President Ford's embargoed comments on Iraq

I'm more than a little disappointed by the late President Ford:

Former President Gerald R. Ford questioned the Bush administration's rationale for the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq in interviews he granted on condition they not be released until after his death.

In his embargoed July 2004 interview with The Washington Post, Ford said the Iraq war was not justified, the Post reported Wednesday night.

I'm not disappointed because of the nature of his opinion; I'm disappointed because he chose to embargo these comments until after his death. If he believed that, then he should have come right out and said so at the time so we could ask follow up questions on his thoughts. Instead he released these comments at a time where it is impossible to question him and difficult to even criticize the comments. It was almost cowardly. And any argument that he was too old and tired to respond to the comments doesn't cut it with me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All by himself...

John Kerry looks like the unpopular kid during lunch period at your local high school.

Despite a blogosphere wide assumption that Kerry was shunned by troops in that photo, the reality is the empty table was by design.

The joke's on the old media

Last night I was watching the Milwaukee news on WTMJ, and they kept teasing at a new rap song about keeping Midwest Airlines locally owned. I waited, expecting to see something of moderate production value by someone in the local music scene. I was disappointed, even with my very low expectations. It turned out this new new rap video was a terrible little rap cut on a cheap video camera by two people who had probably never rapped before in their life, even to practice this song they were taping. It was clearly a YouTube or Google video deal. For some reason WTMJ decided this was worthy of showing a clip of on air.

The joke is clearly on the 'old media'. The rap WTMJ showed was barely deserving of a few hits on whatever video site it was on. Not all new media material is deserving of a wide audience. Just because a certain piece of content exists in the internet does not mean it is worthwhile. WTMJ didn't seem to 'get' that key aspect of the new media yet. Yes, user driven content does create a lot of interesting new view points, but the key is only the cream rises to the top.

Fred Dooley, the blogger candidate

Fred Dooley at Real Debate Wisconsin is running for Alderman in Racine, Wisconsin. From my standpoint, well outside of Racine, his campaign is going to be an interesting study of blogging and politics. Most politicians, especially at the local levels, have the luxury of adapting some of their positions to that of their electorate. A blogger does not necessarily have that luxury, having written in very certain terms on many topics.

Good luck, Fred!

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006

I heard the news of President Ford's passing last night when it first broke. Tried as I might to come up with a post worthy of Ford, I just couldn't do it. Ford's tenure in office was short in time and notable accomplishments. If anything, President Ford had to carry the responsibilities of the office without the trappings of the 'glory' of the office. And when you look at Ford's biography, perhaps that made him the right man in the right place at the right time. The nation had just exited a most tumultuous ten year period. Ford presided over the nation's exit from Vietnam and the end of the Watergate scandal, and in a way soothed the country through it. He made the right decision in pardoning Nixon, both for the country at the time and for posterity (can you imagine the precedent a Watergate trial would have created?). President Ford did a yeoman's work while in the Oval Office, and for that he will be remembered fondly. Rest in peace, President Ford.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Old school propaganda

This feels like it came straight out of Moscow, circa 1983:

A Spanish surgeon who has just examined Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Tuesday he is making a good recovery from intestinal surgery, does not have cancer, and could return to governing his country.

Castro's disappearance from the public eye after emergency surgery for intestinal bleeding in July sparked frenzied speculation about his state of health but surgeon Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido said the communist leader was in good condition.

This counterintuitive propaganda is something the Soviet regimes and their satellite states perfected. It is absurd, which is what makes it amusing. Expect an announcement in the coming weeks/months that the Comrade has developed a bad cold. He'll catch his death, so to speak.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to all

Posting will be non-existant today and tomorrow. I wish everyone a very merry and safe Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas time in Wisconsin

Nothing says "Christmas in Wisconsin" like a thunderstorm with heavy down pours, pea-sized hail, and lots of lightning. I just drove through a storm like that, and the rain was so heavy that the "Rustic Road" that I was driving on was pretty much flooded.

I can't wait to go to northwestern Wisconsin for a couple of days. At least we will have a white Christmas there. Hopefully.

Unpleasant Packers victory

I've been around for much of the night. I really wanted to blog, but I was watching the 9-7 Packer victory over the Minnesota Vikings. You really don't want to read what I would have blogged if the language I spewed forth in my living room was any indicator of what I'd have written. The picture below (source) is what I looked like for much of the second half.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rain, rain, go away

Well, the plan today for the lovely Mrs. Jib and I was to go to a small town about an hour and a half away, walk around, and do some shopping. Unfortunately, it is raining. So instead we're going to go to an outlet mall 20 minutes away, walk around, and do some shopping. It makes sense somehow, but I haven't figure out how yet.

Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck.

Ugh. This takes the cake in terms of 'user generated content' (this link is safe for work, but the link there may not be). The photo that is the star of this story comes from Time's "Person of the Year," folks. Just remember that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jiblog presents: Most Annoying, Overused Word of 2006

And the winner is (drumroll, please):

1. a noisy dispute or quarrel; commotion.

This word, which is primarily used by the Brits, can be found in what seems like every third headline originating from the U.K. On any given day, you will stumble upon row at Reuters, the BBC, and any number of British newspaper websites. For 2007, Jiblog asks that the major British media and new organizations purchase their headline writers a thesaurus.

Like you haven't thought about doing it

Inflatable snowmen, Santas, snow globes, and the like are my least favorite Christmas decoration innovation. Because of that, I'm actually sympathetic to these idiots.

Two Christmas grinches were arrested Monday, accused of stabbing a 12-foot-tall inflatable Frosty the snowman with a screwdriver. The Hamilton County Sheriff's office said two 18-year-olds were charged with criminal damaging, and the investigation continues to snowball.

The assault on Frosty was caught on tape when homeowner Matt Williquette set up a motion-sensitive video camera in a tree in his yard because the snowman had fallen victim to two earlier attacks.

You know how pets will occasionally get agitated by something they have no reason to fear or be angry with? I'm kind of like that with these inflatable decorations. I fear I may start barking uncontrollably when driving past them one day. These guys are vandals and they deserve whatever punishment they get. But in some small but illegal way they did us a favor.

I guess I'm as snobby as the New York Times.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iran elections: It's the economy, stupid

Ol' Mahmoud did not see favorable results from Iran's local elections.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suffered a significant setback in nationwide elections held on Friday for municipal councils and a key supervisory body, with voters evidently rebuking him for failing to deliver on promises to improve the economy.

Although results from the councils were still coming in on Monday, the tally so far indicated that candidates from the reformist and pragmatic conservative camps — the two main groups opposing the populist, hard-line president — emerged stronger from the vote. Presidential allies took a drubbing in important cities.

Municipal elections reflect the voters’ feelings on basic concerns like growing unemployment and the slumping real estate market, according to analysts inside Iran and overseas. Domestic problems eclipse the more notorious issues to which the president has drawn international attention, like developing nuclear technology or questioning the Holocaust.

Iran's economic problems are our best hope of applying pressure on them. Diplomacy means nothing to them. Let's hope that there are enough forward thinkers in Washington to sieze upon this. It isn't a silver bullet for the problems Iran is causing across the Middle East and the world, but it is a damn good starting place.

Dog days of blogging

Am I the only one who is in a blogging lull right now? With Christmas just around the corner, life is particularly busy. A lot of the news is pretty mundane in the big picture. Politics, well talking politics is a partially useless endeavor. Things will not really get interesting on the political front until the new session of Congress. Talking '08 presidential politics is more than a little pointless. Potential candidates will gain, lose, and gain momentum again, all before the party races even begin to mean anything. A lot of talk right now is for talking's sake alone.

Not that I'm complaining. These lulls help recharge the batteries. Sometime in January things will start to fire back up again. Politics will have meaning. The world will change a little more and we'll need to re-engage it, sometimes with new ideas, sometimes with old. I think it is best to relax right now, enjoy the company of family and friends, and be ready to come back out blogging en force after the New Year. Now is the time for the fun writing, the quirky posts, and the nostalgic looks at the holiday season. We'll be back confronting reality soon enough.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I decline the award

A certain national magazine chooses a person each year that they feel had a large influence on the country or the world. This year they've copped out. I'm not going to promote their award issue by name, and the choice was so lame that I'm declining my sliver of the award. And before you think I'm arrogant for thinking that my declining of my share of the award carries any significance, I assure you that I know that my gesture is meaningless. It is as meaningless as their silly choice.

50 Christmas factoids

The Mirror has an interesting feature today entitled 50 Things Yule Never Know About Xmas. The 50 items are certainly interesting and, indeed, you probably don't know most of them. So sit down with your pig's head, or just nibble on the tree this Christmas, but make sure you have an even number of people at your Christmas table lest someone die.

Tiger Stadium for sale...

...but you can't buy it.

On Monday, Tiger Stadium, perhaps for the final time, will be open to visitors.

But not just anybody is invited. Only representatives of companies readying bids to remove and auction parts of the old ballpark at Michigan and Trumbull will be allowed inside for a look.

There is a group that wants to preserve the stadium. I'm sympathetic towards them, but I was past that stadium years ago when the Tigers still played there, and it looked rough then. Still, I think the day is coming when someone will propose a way to preserve the facade of these historic old ballparks while turning the inside of the stadium into something economically viable.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ten reasons 2006 could be the year without Santa

10. Santa's reindeer having been gorging at the North Pole's new Taco Bell. EPA worried about emissions.
9. Santa has been treating himself to the Olive Garden after mall visits in Indiana. EPA worried about unlawful dumping in American chimneys.
8. The local Elves Union #1225 was on strike much of the year. Their demands? More sugar and better health benefits.
7. Santa is a Canadian citizen. As such, he's been waiting 8 months for a quadruple bypass.
6. Santa's new sleigh is subject to a recall by Toyota.
5. After Santa found elf briefs under the bed last Christmas, he doesn't want to let Mrs. Clause out of his sight.
4. Rudolph tore a hamstring while kicking a field goal during the filming of a Budweiser Super Bowl commerical. Will be out 4 to 6 weeks.
3. U.S. Congress concerned about outsourcing of U.S. toy production to North Pole. May slap punative tariffs on Santa to protect U.S. toy industry.
2. Santa is still waiting in line at a Best Buy Day after Thanksgiving sale.
1. Santa fears violence at many homes because even he couldn't get Playstation 3's this year.

End of an era for amateur radio

The FCC has decided to drop the morse code requirement for amateur radio licenses.

In an historic move, the FCC has acted to drop the Morse code requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The Commission today adopted, but hasn't yet released, the long-awaited Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket 05-235, the "Morse code" proceeding. Also today, the FCC adopted an Order on Reconsideration in WT Docket 04-140 -- the "omnibus" proceeding -- modifying the Amateur Radio rules in response to an ARRL request to accommodate automatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in the wake of rule changes that became effective today at 12:01 AM Eastern Time.

I have heard from people involved in amateur radio that the number of operators has been decreasing in the internet era. If so, I'd have to guess that would be the reason that the FCC is dropping morse code requirements. In doing so, they are really dropping one of the biggest barriers to amateur radio participation. I held an amateur radio license for 10 years before I let expire without renewal in 2000. The hardest part for me in getting that license was becoming proficient enough in morse code. At the same time, the morse code communications were also the most charming part of amateur radio.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Value of the instability, an outside resource

Diane West has a column today which is entitled, "(Sectarian) war is the answer." She seems to partially dismiss the scenario I laid out below, but does take a look at another angle of the instability that I did not include, namely the possibility that regional sectarian war centered in Iraq may give the West some "breathing room."

Some thoughts on using Middle East instability

Earlier this week I asked whether there could be any strategic value to instability in the Middle East. There were no takers on the question, so I am going to try to expand on that idea a little bit here.

First, the instability in Iraq is not optimal for our purposes. However, the instability that does exist there at least opens up some some opportunities to reduce the instability. First off, the instability in Iraq has the Saudis a little antsy, correct? They are threatening to support the Iraqi Sunni if we bail. Since it is a realistic possibility that we might bail, why not use that as leverage? Tell the Saudis this: We'll stick around and continue to work on stabilizing Iraq, but you, Saudi Arabia, need to do something for us. If you keep pumping as much oil as you can, regardless of whatever limits OPEC sets, other OPEC oil producers will follow your lead. This will press oil prices lower. Were not talking $12 a barrel prices here, but still significant decreases. The one country that can probably least afford to see oil prices drop is Iran. That would play into the next step-instability that benefits us and Iraq.

Iran's economy has been bad and the Iranian government is very dependent on oil revenues. Lower oil prices will exacerbate that. Now Iran has been giving off the appearance of strength through all of its bluster the past year, but internally Iran is not as strong as it appears. First and most importantly, Ayatollah Khamenei is quite ill and it is unlikely he will live another year. There is likely a behind the scenes power struggle going on in Iran right now for the right to be his successor. Secondly, there has been discontent nationwide over the economy. Ahmadinejad's promises on the economy and relief were part of what got him his position. Third, students in Iran have been restless. Fourth, there are ethnic minorities in Iran, too, and there has been enough discontent amongst them that there are some areas of Iran that Ahmadinejad has not visited yet despite a promise to visit all parts of the country. None of those things alone are enough to cause Iran much trouble. If their economy gets much worse, though, all of those problems intensify and start to play off of each other a little. If you can get the Saudis to go along with the oil plan and prices do depress, even to $45 or $50 a barrel, then you put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Iranian economy at a time when they are also trying to invest funds in their nuclear program. With that much instability internally in Iran, their focus is going to have to turn inward in an attempt to maintain control over their own internal security. That will hopefully at least lessen the hand they are playing in both Iraq via the Shi'ite militias and also Lebanon via Hezbollah. That would give us an opening to stabilize Iraq at the very least and hopefully give Lebanon the chance to steel itself against Hezbollah. With any luck, things even get a little out of hand in Iran, which would leave Syria on an island, which would give us our greatest chance of prying them away from Iran.

So what I am saying in a slightly rambling manner is why not use Iraqi instability in a way that can create instability in Iran? Iran is the major outside problem for Iraqi stability. If we can force Iran to turn inward to deal with serious domestic problems, then we lessen the amount they can encourage the insurgency in Iraq and, by extension, the amount that Syria can do. It doesn't solve the age old conflict between Sunni's and Shi'ites, but without Iran stirring the pot as much, it makes the friction between the two more manageable.

Is this plan perfect? No. Afterall, I just cobbled it together with some thoughts I've been mulling over. And if we did something like this, we'd certainly need other prongs of action to shore up Iraq. There is enough to it though that I think we can use Middle East instability to our advantage if we play our cards right. The problem with playing with instability is that you can end up with unintended consequences. Unfortunately, instability is the name of the game right now, and I'm beginning to think we need to start playing it ourselves.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Helping Leo help the planet

Earlier this week Leonardo DiCaprio posted the following question at Yahoo! Answers:

What are some simple steps or creative ideas that people can take at home and work to combat global warming?

In a statement, Titanic Leo said this about his question:

"We can all be environmentalists," DiCaprio, 32, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Creating communities online that are interested in discussing and embracing smart, simple and serious solutions reminds us we can all take action in our own homes and where we work."

I have been motivated by Leo's question, so I am going to share three things that I think we all can do to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce global warming, and live in warm, fuzzy harmony with our environment.

1. We should all stop or greatly reduce our use of private planes. Yes, I know this is hard. So many of us would rather go to that interview in New York or to that vacation in Africa on our private planes. It is nerve wracking to fly commercial with all of the riff-raff. But by taking commercial flights, we can all save on wasted jet fuel used to just fly ourselves to and fro across the globe. We Americans are so inconsiderate that way.

2. We all love a little glamour in our lives once in a while. I for one am going to sacrifice for the planet, though. Next time the lovely Mrs. Jib and I go out on the town, we are not going to rent that stretch limo unless we can pack it tighter than a clown car. That's a lot of gas to transport around just two or four people. Instead, the next time we go to an awards event for work, we're going to take the bus.

3. Don't buy that second mansion! This one is tough for all of us. I know that when I want to get away for a while, I like to go to my mansion in the Northwoods where I can relax with all of the comforts of home. Unfortunately, that mansion still has big energy requirements the 360 days out the year when I'm not there. Instead do what I plan to do. Turn that second mansion into a hippy co-op. They'll appreciate having a roof, they are incredible at not using much energy (especially wash water), and what little energy they do use will get split amongst the 100 of them or so that live there. Oh, I'm not going to give up on my retreat. I'm going to buy a 1 room cabin that was built by the Conservation Corps. It doesn't have electricity or running water, but who needs that?

These are just three things that I think we all can do to help the environment, whether you are Joe Blow or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight

If you have clear skies where you are tonight, it might pay to bundle up and head outside. The Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight. The Geminids are reliable and if you can get away from big cities lights, you'll likely enjoy a sky show. Earlier this week I saw one meteor that slowly streaked across the sky in an eery green hue. If meteor showers are your thing, then enjoy the show.

Stow away that inner vulture

News broke this afternoon that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson might have had a stroke. Vultures started coming out of the woodwork to discuss a possible Democrat loss of the Senate if he should be incapacitated or die. Well, everyone can put away their inner vulture, because it looks like Johnson did not have a stroke, even though the cause of his illness has not been determined.

Talk of the Senate balance came from all directions-left, center, right, and the media. It has been a little unseemly to watch people discuss what could happen in the event that Johnson could not continue in the Senate without even knowing if his condition were serious yet. This is one incident where Democrats have every right to get their rhetorical rifles out in order to start shooting at all the vultures.

What if? War on Terror edition

A very good friend of mine was in the area tonight to do a little Christmas shopping, so I went out to have a beer with him after he was done. Our conversation drifted to something we've never really discussed even though we've known each other for ten years: Our experiences on 9-11. That conversation then drifted to military service. After 9-11, he was pretty fresh out of college, and I was a couple of years out but in career limbo. We discussed how close we both were to enlisting and how, with just a bit of a push, we would have. I can't help but wonder where we would be if the Bush administration and Congress had put this nation on a full war footing right away after 9-11 and had fully taken the fight to all of our enemies. I know there are many others like he and I who would have answered the call for our service if it just would have been made.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is there strategic value to the current Middle East instability?

I have been thinking on this topic for a couple of weeks now but I haven't fully developed my thoughts to the point where I'm ready to write a full post yet. I find the question very intriguing, though. What are your thoughts?

Nukes: The anti-global warming device

Get your gas guzzler out of storage, turn up your furnace, and save the cows, folks, because a regional nuclear war will solve that vexing problem of global warming.

Some of the scientists who first advanced the controversial "nuclear winter" theory more than two decades ago have come up with another bleak forecast: Even a regional nuclear war would devastate the environment.

Using modern climate and population models, researchers estimated that a small-scale nuclear conflict between two warring nations would cause 3 million to 17 million immediate casualties and lead to a marked cooldown of the planet that could lead to crop failures and further misery.

As dire as the predictions seem, they fall short of nuclear winter. That theory says that smoke and dust from an atomic war between the superpowers would blot out the sun, plunge the Earth into the deep freeze and cause mass starvation, wiping out 90 percent of the Earth's population, or billions of people.

Let me get this straight...if there is a small nuclear war somewhere on the planet, the planet will get cooler? And in this day of global warming hyperventilation, that's bad? So if I am to understand this correctly, the globe must always stay the same temperature, year after year after year. Yeah, that's likely.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Food for thought on Iranian nukes

I was reading through various columnists today when I came across the column "Jews Wake Up!" by Caroline Glick. This paragraph got me thinking.

Since it is possible to destroy Israel with just one bomb, the Americans should be asking themselves what Iran needs all those other bombs for. There are senior military sources in the US who have been warning the administration to take into consideration that the day that Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear bomb, 10 cities in the US and Europe are liable to also be attacked with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, no one is listening to these voices today.

I'm not concerned with the point of Glick's column, just the significance of this one paragraph. From a strategic standpoint, Iran nuking Israel and Israel alone would be an act of pure national suicide. Given the Ahmadinejad's public statements the past year, it would be fair to say that he does not fear the destruction of Iran if it furthers the cause of Shia Islam and that of the 12th Imam. Still, even I don't think he is that crazy. An attack on Israel would invite a nuclear response against Iran by Israel's allies, but what if Iran could forestall that counterattack? How do you do that? By creating chaos in Israel's nuclear allies by attacking their cities while attacking Israel. Chances are Iran would still be obliterated, but now there is that small chance that Iran might actually be able to sue for peace without being anhilated. Either way, in Ahmadinejad's mind, Iran gets its victory over Israel and furthers the cause of Islam and the 12th Imam. In one situation, Iran is destoyed and it's martyrdom is a call to arms for like-minded Muslims. In the other situation, Iran declares total victory over the West and survives.

How likely is this scenario? Well, it would certainly be tough for Iran to pull off. If they acquire missiles capable of hitting Europe and the United States, the counter-attack would be on its way before the Iranian missiles hit the ground. If they tried to smuggle nukes into Europe or the U.S., the odds are in favor of at least one weapon being discovered in time for the others to be rooted out.

The big point here is this: When it comes to Iran and nuclear weapons, I think a lot of people in Europe and the United States are disinterested because Iran's preoccupation with Israel makes them feel safe from Iranian nukes. But nobody should feel safe. If Iran is predisposed to a first nuclear strike against Israel, then it only makes sense for them to deliver nuclear terror into the nations capable of retribution as well. It would be their only outside chance of surviving.

Cows a leading cause of global warming

I love this story, I really do.

Purists may find it hard to find faults with the holy cow, but for hard nosed scientists, they are the single largest contributors to the malady of global warming. A recent study has revealed that cow flatulence is to a great extent responsible for global warming and the green house effect. British researchers have found that bovine emissions account for about one million tonnes or roughly 36 percent of the UK's methane emissions, and cows contribute the vast majority of it.

I want the EPA to crack down on bovine emissions. I want to see them force farmers to grow reformulated grass for the cows to graze on. I want a requirement that forces cows to be fitted with cowtalytic converters. I want to see them require breeders to re-engineer cows so they include EGR devices.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

American Dad

I was just watching the intro to "American Dad" on Fox, and, after watching since the show debuted, I was finally struck by something odd. The show portrays the CIA as being ultra-masculine and right wing in a ridicules way. I think one could say that the CIA is anything but ultra-masculine and right wing, though. It is more bureaucratic (i.e. genderless) and leftist than anything. It can be ridiculous, though.

Watchdog Fort Atkinson

I am, above everything else, a national blogger. That is where I feel most comfortable in offering my opinion. I feel pretty comfortable at the state level as well, but when it gets to the local I feel completely out of my element. My roots are in another place and I am a transplant here, and I've never developed the connections and involved myself deeply in the local goings-on. That is exactly opposite of the way I should be but that's the way it is.

That's why I have so much respect for people who really get into the local issues. There is a new blog out there that is focusing in on my city, Fort Atkinson. I hope that 'Ellis Wyatt' finds enough material to work with to keep churning out posts at Watchdog Fort Atkinson. I enjoyed his second post at the site, "One Headline You Will Never See" (Fort Atkinson City Council Solves Global Warming). Good luck, Ellis. I'll be reading.

Weekend Video: Peace on Earth

When I was a kid, TBS played a lot of Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies cartoons. I was never much of a Disney kid, but I loved Looney Tunes. Every year at Christmas time they would devote part of a Saturday afternoon to Christmas cartoons. I'd tune in for Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters, but this cartoon came to be one of my favorites.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Terror plot at Rockford mall thwarted

A lone kook who converted to Islam was arrested for plotting a terror attack against a mall in Rockford, Illinois.

A Muslim convert who talked about his desire to wage jihad against civilians was charged Friday in a plot to set off hand grenades at a shopping mall at the height of the Christmas rush, authorities said.

Investigators said Derrick Shareef, 22, an American citizen from Rockford, was acting alone and never actually obtained any grenades. He was arrested Wednesday when he met with an undercover agent in a parking lot to trade a set of stereo speakers for four hand grenades and a gun, authorities said.

"He fixed on a day of December 22nd on Friday ... because it was the Friday before Christmas and thought that would be the highest concentration of shoppers that he could kill and injure," said Robert Grant, the agent in charge of the Chicago FBI Office.

This is, for me, a little scarier than some other threats. First, that mall is an hour down the road from me and I've shopped there a handful of times. Second, I am going to be off on December 22nd, and who knows if fate would have found me at the CherryVale Mall in search of last minute Christmas gifts that day. Although I've been loathe to give voice to the idea, I think Sean's terror assessment is correct. This kind of thing is much more frightening to most Americans because everyone is vulnerable to it.

To those obsessed with the "mistakes" in Iraq...

...I give you Victor Davis Hanson:
I haven’t engaged much in the parlor game of identifying mistakes in the occupation, because none of them (and there were many) reached a magnitude of those in World War II (e.g., daylight bombing without fighter escort in 1942-3, intelligence failures about the hedgerows, surprise at the Bulge, etc) or Korea (surprise at the Yalu). Nor were any fatal to our cause, despite the ‘disbanding’ of the army, Abu Ghraib, etc. If there were any serious blunders, they concerned the sense of hesitation that gave our enemies confidence—the sudden departure of Gen. Franks, the pullback from first Fallujah, the reprieve given Sadr, etc. In other words, once we were in a war, whatever public downside there was to using too much force was far outweighed by losing our sense of control and power, and ceding momentum to the terrorists. So we can learn from that, and begin again cracking down hard on the insurgents before calling for more troops.

The hegemon who isn't

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been considered a hegemon, the one global superpower. That may be technically correct, but it is not completely accurate. We made little effort to fill the void left by the collapse of Soviet communism. Instead we continued along on our merry way, oblivious to the ways in which the resulting world was changing around us.

While circumstance made us a hegemon, we've never played the part, regardless of what anti-American protestors might say. What has developed over the past ten to fifteen years is a huge sucking power vacuum in opposition to us, right in that place the Soviet Union used to occupy. Today we are watching parts of the world test their mettle as a global power counter-balances to us. This can be seen in Europe, in Russia and China, in Iran and the Middle East, and also in an ideology, Radical Islam. These global power wannabes do not conflict often with one another, but they do conflict frequently with us because we are the benchmark by which their power will be measured.

It is too late for us to fill that power vacuum left by both the Soviet fall and our reluctance for more power, not that we ever really wanted to fill it ourselves, anyway. We would be well advised to understand that things are going to remain quite unstable until some nation(s) or ideology does fill that power vacuum opposite us, though.

Iraq a regional, not civil, war

We hear of civil war in Iraq constantly. It really isn't. It is a regional war with neighboring governments and private citizens stoking the fire. Take this story, for example:

Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.

Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.

Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.

Is it concerning that private Saudi citizens are supporting the minority Iraqi Sunni? Yes, a little bit, but not as concerning as the state support that the majority Shi'ites are likely getting from Iran and Syria. It is chic for the media to try to point out Saudi faults, but organizations like the AP really should be focusing harder on the involvement of Iran and Syria in the mess that is Iraq. Saudis fear a bloodbath for their Sunni cousins in Iraq at the hands of Shi'ites that are supported by Iran, so I don't see them (the Saudis) as the root of the problem.

One book that I never though got the attention it deserved earlier on in the war was The Secret History of the Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky. I remember driving from New Jersey to Philadelphia one day in 2004 and listening to the book discussed on the radio. Since I had some time before my flight out of Philly, I stopped in a bookstore and became engrossed by it. I had no way of vouching for the facts in the book, but Bodansky painted a very clear picture of a war where the Russians were less than helpful and the Iranians were elbow deep in the events in Iraq. That was over two years ago, and I suspect it has only gotten worse with the Iranians.

Good Packer memories

With the Packers and 49ers lining up to butt heads this weekend, Chris takes a look at the Packers' 1995 playoff game against the Niners and I take a look at the 1996 Monday Night Football game against them over at The Wisconsin Sports Bar. Head over, conjure up the pleasant memories, and try to forget this abysmal season for a few minutes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


FDR's Address to Congress, December 8th, 1941

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

About that report

Is it wrong that the Iraq Study Group released their report today and I have absolutely no desire to read it? I feel like I already have the gist of what the thing says thanks to the leaks and the pre-publication buzz the ISG created for itself. I might read it in the next couple of days. I may never read it. Who knows? All I know is this: I am willing to entertain a wide diversity of 'solutions' for Iraq, but one thing I am not willing to entertain is negotiating with Syria and Iran over Iraq. Knowing that the report generally favors such an approach almost completely eliminates its value in my eyes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lethal Wiipon

When the Nintendo Wii first came out, I was more than a little surprised that controller did not have a some sort of a knob on it, much like a baseball bat does to help hitters maintain a grip. Now Nintendo is issuing a statement on Wii controller safety.

Nintendo Co. Ltd. has some cautionary advice for players of its Wii video game console: when waving the controller, use the wrist strap, keep your palms dry and, whatever you do, don't let go.

The Wii has been pitched as a cheap alternative to pricier machines from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp., but some gamers complain they are facing unexpected costs after losing their grip on the console's remote control and smashing their televisions and other appliances.

I know a knob is not attractive and stylish, but they had to have seen this coming.

(Disclosure: I'm actually not all that interested in this story, but I was excited about making the Wiipon Wii pun in the title).

A useful Iraq history lesson

Terence Jeffrey has a column today that provides a nice, short, basic recent history on Iraq, Iran, the Shi'ia, and the Sunnis. I do not necessarily agree with his ultimate conclusion, but the background information he provides is both interesting and not commonly known by most Americans. If you want to understand things just a little bit better, I recommend reading it.

No good deed goes unpunished

It is usually embarassing enough to, umm, flatulate publicly. It must be downright mortifying to be kicked off an airplane for it, and then have your story splashed across the national news.

An American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning after a passenger lit a match to disguise the scent of flatulence, authorities said.
The FBI questioned a passenger who admitted she struck the matches in an attempt to conceal a "body odor," Lowrance said. She had an unspecified medical condition, authorities said.

In all fairness, lighting the match was very bad idea, even if it was considerate. I've flown next to people who I wish would have lit a match, but it would tend to rile up the other passengers. In the post 9-11 world, we share in one anothers' farts, kind of like in marriage.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why Barack Obama will not be President

Sean touches on the reason, but I'll boil it down to one sentence. The reason Barack Obama will not be President is because he is an Illinois politician, and there ain't been an honest Illinois politician since Lincoln.

Semi-annual Jiblog/Google funny

If you've had a blog for a little while, you know that you'll occasionally get Google search hits that are amusing. For me right now, that search string is 'twas the night before finals, last kegstand.' Jiblog is, for now, number 1.

To the moon!

I have advocated an ambitious space program that focuses on the moon and on Mars several times in the past few years. It's nice to see a plan has finally been announced that seems to be capturing people's imaginations.

Unveiling the agency's bold plan for a return to the moon, NASA said it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts land there.

It is a sweeping departure from the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and represents a new phase of space exploration after space shuttles are retired in 2010.

My only complaint is the long time frame for this project. I'd have much preferred to see NASA challenged to do this in a shorter (but still safe) time frame.

Random thought

Instead of printing reports in book form, the government should start printing reports like the upcoming ISG report on Charmin. A little money will still be made off of it and the reports will finally be on the quality of paper that they deserve.

What went wrong in Iraq?

What went wrong in Iraq? For weeks now I've been reading columns and articles and blog posts on what went wrong in Iraq. You know what? I don't care what went wrong in Iraq. A little reflection can be useful in assessing where you are and where you need to go, but this country has gone into full out self flagellation mode. What went wrong in Iraq is no longer the important question. The important question now is 'How do we proceed from here?' As long as we hang our heads and continue to look back on things we can no longer do anything about, though, the less likely it is we'll answer that more important question. Unfortunately, it takes less intellectual effort and less courage to look back and dissect recent history than it does to look forward and develop a vision and chart a course. Because of that, I suspect we will continue to wallow in the 'what went wrong' question and continue to get nowhere with Iraq.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Founding Fathers address the press

Philadelphia- The spirits of America's Founding Fathers called a remarkable and unprecedented press conference today to discuss an issue that has been disturbing their peace in the ever after.

Gathering with reporters at Independence Hall, the animated Founders opened the press conference with a statement by Benjamin Franklin.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we gather with you today to make one request upon all Americans: Please stop trying to divine our opinions as if we were modern Americans. We do not have access to television where we are, and frankly, what we've seen in our return scares the hell out of us. You've made some remarkable advances, but we don't understand them. Because we don't understand them, we don't understand your present society. Why, just one day last week my soul was hit with 10,000 statements that claimed the founders would not approve of warrantless wire taps. I turned to Sam (Adams) and said, 'I don't know what they are doing down there, but if there is good ale in those wires, I don't see a reason why they would need a warrant to tap them.' (Laughter) Then old Sam said 'You devil, Ben. There wasn't a female in our day you wouldn't tap.' (More laughter). Anyway, we beseech you to stop divining our opinions. It is seriously disturbing our ever after. We hope that our fellow countrymen have carried on the principals that we believed in, but this is your country now. You have to make what we bequeathed you work or have the courage to start anew."

The first 12 questions from reporters went to Thomas Jefferson, all asking about his relationship with Sally Hemmings. Jefferson, clearly frustrated, angrily told the reporters, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Hemmings," before vaporizing.

When asked his opinion about the Iraq War, President Washington reacted in a stunned fashion and posed a question back to reporters.

"What is wrong with this America? What kind of stewards have you been of this nation? We would never have gone to war over a rack back in my day. And who exactly did we fight over a rack?"

The breakdown in communication between reporters and the Founders continued when one reporter asked about Guantanamo and President Adams made a derogatory slur when asking whether Guantamo was the Native American that Chester A. Arthur kept complaining about.

At that point, a frustrated Franklin called an abrupt end to the press conference and the Founders dissipated into a mist while reporters continued screaming questions. Most reporters present expect the approval ratings of President Washington, President Jefferson, and President Adams to drop after this performance.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Snow sucks...

...but at least I have a snowblower. I had a Christmas party today and I had to push three people out of their parking stalls. No too long ago that wouldn't have been a big deal, but I am horribly out of shape these days. I am whooped, but I am thankful that I now have a snowblower to help clean up. Granted, it didn't save me very much time but it did help me save a lot of energy while I cleaned up tonight.

Snowpocolypse 2006

That is what 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee is jokingly calling the winter storm Southeastern Wisconsin this morning. It isn't close to the worst I've ever seen, but I have to give this storm its props. I got up very early to see how much snow we had, thinking I was going to have to do a little pre-work snow clearing to do. I looked outside and could still see the tops of the blades of grass sticking out, and that was my signal that I should go back to bed. By the time I went to work a couple of hours later, we had four or five inches of snow on the ground. That is a healthy snowfall rate. It looks like the ol' (err, new) Ariens snowblower is going to get a workout later today.