March 28, 2003
Blueprint For Intestinal Bacteria
Science Blog reports that a research group and Washington U. has completed sequencing the genome of one of the most prevelent bacteria in the human gut. The leader of the team, Jeffery Gordon M.D. notes (if you are a clean freak, or squeemish, do not read the following) that the adult human body, is composed of 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. I really hope that's a misquote.
Do They Love Us or Hate Us?
Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping points out that hating Saddam isn't the same as loving America. The question of the moment isn't whether the Iraqi's love us or hate us (or fear us), the question is will they tolerate us and help us. And certainly no feeling will be universal; some will hate us and some will love us. All we need is most to work with us.
The news media seems to think the war in Iraq is going badly. I can just see these guys write a post-mortem of the 1972 Miami Dolphins: Despite Coach Shula's claims of a perfect season, we can report that opponents completed passes, gained yards, first downs, and even scored on the Dolphins while the Dolphin offense struggled at times, failing to put points on the board with every possession. As far as I can tell, the campaign against Iraq is going very well. Coalition ground forces have seemingly advanced at will, stopped only by the weather; what's described as fierce opposition has managed to inflict few casualties and is best described as a nuisance. Some seem surprised that vehicles still need gas, guns still need bullets, and soldiers still need to sleep now and then. Despite fears before hand, the war has neither widened -- no rising of the Arab street, no terrorist attacks, not even a tape from Osama -- nor has Iraq used WMD yet. Yes, the coalition has made mistakes, mistakes that have cost lives, mistakes that will prolong the campaign, but then this too should not be surprising.
Part of the problem is that since neither we nor the media know what the plan is/was, we cannot accurately asses how we are doing relative to the plan. Some seem to think the plan was to drive to Baghdad and be welcomed as heros. Somehow, I doubt that was the plan. It looks to me that the plan was to get to Baghdad by fighting as little as possible in the south and have the decisive battle occur there. As an Iraqi in Nasiriya, scene of heavy fighting, said, "You want to overthrow Saddam Husseinís regime? Go to Baghdad. What are you doing here?"
So I think the coalition needs to press ahead to Baghdad. Waiting around for reinforcements and getting bogged down taking every town in the south are diversions. Strike the Republican Guard units while they are still outside Baghdad. Infiltrate the 101 into Baghdad before Iraqi units retreat into it. Keep the pressure on; keep the initiative, adjust to Saddam's countermoves but don't lose sight of the overall picture and objective. Knock his TV and radio broadcasts from the airwaves and replace them with our own. Attack every aspect of Saddam's regime that you can while you advance to destroy him.
March 27, 2003
Ave Atque Vale, DPM
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan passed away yesterday. Would that all senators had his intellegence, passion, ethics, and sense of public service. A true giant, his passing diminishes our great country.
Apparently, Centcom isn't naming the ballistic missiles fired into Kuwait, leading to confusion about whether they are Scuds are not. In response to a question asking if Iraq was launching Scuds, the briefer responded that they had fired 10 (OK, I don't remember the exact number) ballistic missiles into Kuwait, some of which had travelled more than 150 km. He then moved on to the next question. It is left for the media to understand that 150 km represents the limit on allowable range for Iraqi ballistic missiles; IOW, it doesn't matter what you call them, Iraq had and used missiles in violation of UN limits. I hope that clears it up.
A Couple Of Know Nothings
Derek Low at Lagniappe has a pretty good description about the overall picture of the Iraq campaign: the signal to noise is pretty low, and nobody (that's talking, anyway) has any idea of what's going on. But that doesn't stop him (or me) from checking the news all day.
Liberation Theology, The Vatican, and Iraq
Jeff Jarvis over on Buzzmachine picks up a thread from a Spanish blog about liberation theology and the Vatican's stance on the Iraq campaign. Seamus Murphy SJ argues that liberation theology would be in favor of the Iraq campaign. Food for thought.
Are Dictators Cracking Down?
Robert Musil wonders how you can tell whether or not dictators have taken the opportunity of the campaign against Saddam to crack down on their dissidents. Don't dictators do it all the time? Do dictators care whether we notice or not? Good questions.
Okay, that's the name of a great blog by local boy Tim (boy in this case is just an expression). He covers the philosophical inconsistancies of the left, a topic sparked by a comment by yours truly (philosophical inconsistancies of the right are left as an excercise for the reader); a BBC correspondent furious at the bias of his organization (maybe he's a dedicatedLilek's reader); and he asks the important question, Do Iraqi's hate their government? He notes that some peace protesters here hate their's with far less repression (last time I checked, we haven't hanged anyone for waving to enemy troops like they did in Iraq.
March 26, 2003
Media Coverage Of The War
I've been relying on the internet during the day and the cable news networks at night. I think having reporters embedded in the units has worked out great - in fact my biggest complaint about the coverage by the cable people is that they spend too much time with all their military retirees and not enough with their embedded reporters. I think context is important, but a little goes a long way. And if these guys really do know what's going on, they sure as heck aren't going to broadcast it where the Iraqi's can pick it up. So its great to have somebody talk in generalities over a map, but you could do that 10 minutes out of an hour and have it covered.
I've also found myself watching MSNBC the most. I can't put my finger on it, but they just seem to have the best coverage. Britt Hume on Fox is the best when he's on, but he still only comes on for an hour in the evening, and then it's all downhill from there.
I happened to catch the morning Centcom briefing this morning on the radio. It's amazing how little info they give out -- and rightly so. Some reporter asked this morning for them to describe what the war plan was, or at least how many thrusts were being made into Iraq, and how many at Baghdad, since the Iraqi's already know this. Well, maybe they do, and maybe they don't. Why run the risk? The press seems to act like they're not entirely sure that the military only shows the best LGB video. C'mon guys, of course Centcom only shows the best.
Is it possible for the media organizations to send people who have done some homework? Some guy this morning was asking if they kept video of all the precision strikes, and when could he get his hands on it? They put this video dog and pony on every war, couldn't you have thought to confer with the military before the war as to what kind of video you could get and when, and what had happened to it after other wars? They have public affairs officers for just that sort of thing. And while you're at it, wouldn't it have been nice to know what kinds of weapons we use, whether their guidance system does make a record, what the classification of that record is, and so forth, instead of asking what for what percentage of the strikes are such videos available? Do you honestly think the military keeps track of that number in the middle of a war? If you can't look at the video, and tell immediately whether it's from the designator of a LGB, from the seeker of an IIR weapon, or from a JDAM, you shouldn't be at that conference, let alone asking questions. OK, that last sentance was a trick - there is no video record for JDAM since it's an INS/GPS weapon.
It appears that Iraqi troops in Basra are fighting with civilians in the town. The British have already used their artillery to take out Iraqi mortars used against civilians, and are talking about heading into the city to help. Good I say, and the sooner the better. I understand they don't want to rush pell mell into the city, but want to take the time needed to gather intellegence and plan the mission. In 1991 we stood by when this happened; we shouldn't make that same mistake again.
A Good Guy
I comment a lot (time permitting) over at Archpundit. While we disagree on a lot of subjects, I think we have intellegent discussion, not a serial contradiction with insult as happens too often on the web. So if you're looking for more of me, or even better, a different view than mine, head over and check it out.
On A Lighter Note
Amidst all the war talk and worry, life goes on. The daffodils are blooming, the pears are budding, and somebody came here searching for Donny Osmond Armpit. Google is a powerful tool, allowing anyone to track down specific information on the internet; sometimes though, that power can simply be abused and this is a classic case. For the love of pete, why would anybody in their right mind do that? If whoever ran that search is reading, get help. And hurry.
March 25, 2003
The biggest question is: are we winning? In my opinion, our offensive has been nothing short of amazing. A look at a map showing the ground covered so far compared to Kuwait, which was the operational theater in Desert Storm reveals how much bolder and how much faster this advance has been. So far, only 3 reinforced divisions (3rd Infantry, 1st Marine, 1st Armored (UK) ) plus unknown number of special forces have been committed to the attack. The 101st is apparently zooming along getting into position but not in the fight, the 82nd is mostly in Kuwait but transfering to the north to open a new front, and the 4th Infantry is back in the states waiting for its equipment to make it to Kuwait -- originally it was to open a northern front via turkey. And in, what, five days those forces have driven through Iraq to the gates of Baghdad, and only today have they been slowed down by a sandstorm.
Have the Iraqi's not been surrenduring? This is hard to tell, but the number in our custody (3,000 is what I last heard) is misleading. We don't want POWs. Kuwait won't admit them, so we'd be stuck handling them. So as our forces move north, not only have they bypassed enemy units not occupying strategic locations, they've also left Iraqi soldiers waving white flags along side the road. We'd rather they deserted, which they have apparently been doing in large numbers. Not that many Iraqi units have fought, and seemingly most of those have been either Republican Guard units or irregulars. By and large, most of the regular Iraqi army has decided to sit this one out. So what we have has been a few engagements in the south, and the start of the attack on the Republican Guard units around Baghdad.
Hasn't all the news been discouraging? Actually, I think it's been very encouraging. Our forces have gone farther faster than any other army ever has, and casualties have been light -- on both sides. There have been no terrorist attacks in the US (yet). There have been no WMD attacks against forces in theater (yet). The Arab street has demonstrated, but not "risen". The Iraqi forces have been very passive - no significant counterattacks, and the "ambush" on the supply convoy was a blocking force - they weren't out hunting along the supply route. We've lost more aircraft to accidents and malfunctions than enemy fire, and it looks to me that that Apache helicopter was not shot down: there wasn't a scratch on it -- the Iraqi camerman certainly would have highlighted any battle damage to show how they shot it down -- and all its weapons were unexpended. And even now its not clear that Saddam is alive and well; Centcom is apparently claiming that he was seriously wounded in the bunker attack, and his taped performances haven't done much to contradict.
Are the Iraqi's friendly or unfriendly? No doubt there is a mixture of both. But there are already reports that people in Basra are rebelling and the British 1st division is going to their aid. The real question is will the people cooperate, and so far the jury is still out.
Aren't Generals warning about heavy casualties and risky battle plans? Yes, the plan has risks, but battle is risky. History shows that safe plans usually kill far more people and achieve far less in the long run than audacious ones. Yes, many generals wanted more troops. But that means more demands on supply; a more inviting target as they massed in Kuwait; and an irresistable urge to fight more battle, which would result in more dead. Yes, the coalition supply line is exposed, but so far the Iraqi's haven't made move to cut it off. And perhaps we're hoping that Iraqi units expose themselves to do just that. Units in the open are far more easily attacked than those hunkered down in civilian areas. The point of the plan seems to be to get to Baghdad as quickly as possible and fight the decisive battle of the war there.
Has Iraq fired scuds? Have coalition troops found scuds? The problem is that at the lower eschelons (and perhaps the higher ones, too), scud refers to any ballistic missile. Scuds are banned but Frogs, another ballistic missile, aren't. And at the start of the war, there were reports that Iraq was shooting anti-ship missiles into Kuwait. I'm just going to wait for the report at the end of the war to figure this one out.
March 24, 2003
And He's One Of The Good Ones.
I enjoy Gregg Easterbrook's writing, especially in his Page 2 Column for ESPN. For The New Republic, he's a jack of all trades, like all journalists, writing on any and every subject. The problem isn't just his, but endemic to journalism. His columns are a worthwhile read, but often contain errors. For instance, his article about tanks has a few mistakes while the overall sentiment is correct. For instance, he talks about the vulnerability of tanks in the urban environment. But where he talks about infantry walking behind tanks (he must have watched Patton), the technique that evolved in WWII for America was to keep tanks behind the infantry in cities, and use them as direct fire artillery. In other words, when the infantry ran into a problem, the tank would move up just enough to hit building where then enemy was holed up and blast away with high explosive rounds.
And when he gets to the difference between and the Abrams, a tank, and the Bradley, an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV - a term which, along with Infantry Carrying Vehicle (ICV), has replaced the term Armoured Personel Carrier (APC) because of the increased capability), he claims the Bradley is called a Fighting Vehicle in a huh? moment, but is really a baby tank. Talk about your huh? moments. He notes the lack of the cannon used by tanks in a Bradley, but somehow fails to notice the crew compartment. The Bradley is designed to transport an infantry squad, if not in comfort, at least in a leathal package. And then he says the Marines now have a Bradley Junior in the LAV. Well, they had them in Desert Storm, and the Stryker vehicle is also the LAV-III. Given the controversy around the Stryker in the military, you'd figure he'd know that.
And that's just his most recent piece. Earlier one's also contain mistakes. That's the problem with even smart media people. They make enough mistakes you never know how much you can rely on them.
Clausewitz On War
The events of the weekend are a clear demonstration of Clausewitz's concept of friction: helicopters crash due to mechanical failure, a British Tornado is shot down by mistake, a supply convoy makes wrong turn is cut to pieces and American soldiers captured by Iraqi forces in place.
"A general in time of war is constantly bombarded by reports both true and false; by errors arising from fear or negligence or hastiness; by disobedience born of right or wrong interpretations, of ill will, of a proper or mistaken sense of duty, of laziness, or of exhaustion; and by accidents that nobody could have foreseen. In short, he is exposed to countless impressions, most of them disturbing, few of them encouraging."
What was the proper response in Clausewitz's view?
"Perseverance in the chosen course is the essential counter-weight, provided that no compelling reasons intervene to the contrary. Moreover, there is hardly a worthwhile enterprise in war whose execution does not call for infinite effort, trouble, and privation; and as man under pressure tends to give in to physical and intellectual weakness, only great strength of will can lead to the objective. It is steadfastness that will earn the admiration of the world and of posterity."
Keep the pressure on; the enemy suffers from friction too.
With modern media, it's not just the general who suffers from countelss disturbing, discouraging impressions. We at home will suffer even more, as we have neither the experience or as reliable source of information as our generals. We don't see the whole picture, nor do we even know what our battle plans are.
And in the Iraqi case, it may well be worse because the Iraqi leaders (and people) may well have an even more distored view of the battle. One could dismiss Iraqi claims of victories as propaganda, but they may accurately reflect the view from the top because fearful subordinates provide a rosy picture to higher ups to save their skin in the short term. Consequently, orders will be out of synch with reality and rather than coordinated action, a series of disorganized responses more easily dealt with will occur.
Friends In The News
I talked with a high school buddy about putting in a patio in my back yard Saturday night. Somehow, our talk turned to the war. In his youth, he was pretty liberal. On the phone, he was pretty conservative. I mentioned a planned peace protest outside the JDAM plant the next day. He wanted to go to a pro-war rally. I said I didn't know of any. So in today's paper, imagine my surprise when he's interviewed at a pro-war rally:
Among those who took part in the rally downtown were Dan and Besty O'Halloran of Rock Hill and their two small children. They had planned to take a family hike but came upon the rally downtown and decided to take part.
Dan O'Halloran, 43, said he wanted his children to see their parents "doing the right thing."
"I just felt very disgusted with seeing all the anti-Bush and anti-American demonstrations," he said. "The war is hard enough to explain (to children). That there are people who have such deep feelings against their country is even harder to explain."
Mesoptamian Campaign Strategy
The strategy behind this war is much different than our strategy in Desert Storm. In some ways, Desert Storm is analogous to the German offensive of 1914: Long prepared, carefully timed and orchestrated it was a sweeping right hook designed to cutoff opposing forces from their home base. This time, our strategy is much different, although I'm going to surprisingly use the same war for my analogy; this time the tactics of the German Stormtroopers of 1918 are writ large as our strategy. The Stormtroopers liked to attack at night with short but fierce artillery preparation, made maximum use of infiltration, bypassed enemy strongpoints and tried to move as quickly as possible into the enemies rear to decisively defeat and destroy his command and control.
The German blitzkreig of WWII was result the adoption of technology to provide greater mobility and firepower to these same tactics in order to break out from static defenses and force the enemy to retreat or be destroyed. In place of a WWI three trench system, Iraq is one huge defense in depth. Our strategy here seems to be to bypass strongpoints in the Iraqi south so that the decisive battle is fought in the Iraqi rear (around Bagdad) with the goal of destroying the Iraqi regime's hold over the country. Once that is accomplished, the rest of the country can be dealt with piecemeal. Capture what you have to, leave the rest to follow on forces.
American planners could have opted for a slow grinding offensive with its main thrust north between the Tigris and Euphrates, with extensive aerial preparation, clearly delineated lines, and maximum use of firepower. But that would have meant that not only would most of the Iraqi army have been engaged, a great deal of the populated part of Iraq would have been devastated in the fighting, and a long war. While the plan adopted has its risks, it also has its rewards.
The Academy Awards
The lowpoint of the proceedings had to be Michael Moore winning the award for best documentary; the highpoint had to be Michael Moore being booed offstage and Steve Martin making a joke about him. Parade magazine reported that Richard Gere wasn't nominated for his role in Chicago because some members of the Academy didn't want to listen to his politics -- the problem is that Richard has been known to decry China's occupation of Tibet (Richard is a Buddhist). C'mon Richard, get with the program: America is the problem in the world today, and the Republicans are the problem with America.
Chicago won big. I managed to get a couple of spare minutes together the other week and saw it. Outstanding singing and dancing, but the movie is completely cynical and lacks even one character that provokes a reaction more friendly than disgust. The Pianist also won big, which goes to show that the academy doesn't hold drugging 13 years old and then having sex with them against you. They've moved on. I was disapointed that the Two Towers didn't garner more awards, but I really its better to make a ton of money and not win an award than to lose a ton and win big.
March 21, 2003
The guy on the tape is Saddam, according to the CIA.
The Agonist is blogging up a storm on the war.
The Washington Post has all their embedded journalist stories in one spot.
Based on reactions around the blogosphere, Shock and Awe is living up to its name. Let's hope it has the desired effect on the Iraqi military.
Will there be a response from Saddam to today's events? I hope not.
March 20, 2003
Sun Tzu, Anyone?
It seems that all the news dispatches talk about are the Marines in Kuwait. The Marines are firing arty into Iraq. The Marines are taking incoming scuds. The Marines are entering Iraq. What about the mechanized and armored units over there? How about the 101 Airmobile? I have the feeling that while the Marines are knocking on the front door, everybody else is going around to the back door. Or in terms of Sun Tzu, the Marines are the ordinary force, and everybody else is the extraordinary force.
If you're interested in this sort of thing, the Navy maintains a site full of info on their systems: Navy Fact File.
The Airforce calls their info Fact Sheets.
Really, those are the best sources of info; the independents grab their info from those sources plus paste and cut from DOD and contractor press releases.
Well Begun Is Half Done
The campaign against Saddam started with a direct attack on him. A broadcast of somebody claiming to be Saddam (who knows, maybe he even was Saddam, although he looked more like his half-brother) got on Iraqi TV to reassure his people that he had survived. Time will tell.
I hope the campaign is over quickly - the sooner it is over, the fewer casualties all around (Iraqi soldiers and civilians, American soldiers and possibly civilians). My daughter mentioned I didn't look happy this morning. While I fully support the campaign, I'm not happy about war. Oh, I'll be elated when it's over, and happy for all of us, but not now.
The news media is in overdrive. I happened to hit a couple of big media web sites, and headed to their descriptions of weapons. Given all the time leading up to the war, you'd think they'd do a better job. CNN's descriptions were extremely brief. CBS had a great picture but unidentified picture of SLAM ER and no description; while their descriptions were lengthy they seemed to be cut and paste jobs of numerous press releases giving rise to problems of verb tense and out of date information. ABC did a better job and even managed to describe SLAM ER.
The guys on Fox's morning show assured us that the people operating that camera providing a view of Baghdad were perfectly safe - I think he has more faith in the precision of our armament than even our armed forces do.
There are lots of rumors swirling around; my favorite was yesterday's claim that Tariq Azziz had either been killed or defected. It soon went the way of the report on 911 that a bomb had blown up at the State Department. That's what I love about the media - always insisting they are accurate and don't put anything on until it's verified, yet unable to ever separate the wheat from the chaff on a breaking story, and rarely bothering to correct their old mistakes more than once. If you make the mistake of not watching/listening, the only way to tell what was accurate and what wasn't is that they eventually stop repeating the inaccurate. Unfortunately, there is a lag while you try to figure out if the information is no longer operable, or they just haven't gotten around to repeating it yet.
I'm, I'm, I'm So Confused
Al Gore has joined the Apple Board of Directors. I'm a fan of Apple (although I try to be an unobnoxious one). I am not a fan of Al Gore. I guess Steve Jobs gave him a pity seat; Al, you're never going to Disneyland, you loser, but you can be on the Apple board.
Irish Proverb 4
Both your friend and your enemy think you will never die
March 18, 2003
The Song Remains The Same
WARNING: HINDSIGHT WILL BE APPLIED
We are on the verge of war - it's coming, the only question is it tomorrow or the day after. How did we get here? Well, certainly mistakes have been made. But let's go all the way back to the end of the Gulf War. At the time, I supported Bush I decision to narrowly interpret the UN mandate and sign a ceasefire with Saddam. Even with hindsight, that may have been the best decision, but it certainly could have been the wrong decision. But where Bush I really failed was that while the war was well planned and carried out, the ceasefire wasn't given much thought. And the real problem started when we demanded that Saddam disarm, but did nothing when he didn't, and encouraged revolt against him, but did nothing when it occured. IMHO, that was where we made our biggest mistake. We should have declared Saddam in violation of the ceasefire, and helped the rebels. But we were fearful of what came next, the possible breakup of Iraq, and the possibility of neighboring countries taking advantage of civil war in Iraq. But at that point, a minimal investment of force would have paid huge dividends.
Having survived the Mother of All Battles, Saddam began to try to rearm and end UN sanctions. And so began the endless patrols of the no fly zones, the inspection process, the salami tactics. Richard Hottelet wrote a great summation in the Christian Science Monitor in 1998:
"So far, Saddam Hussein is ahead on points. It is possible, increasingly even likely, that he will win this round. He has stood up to American saber rattling because, it would appear, he does not believe it.
Now Saddam has some things going for him. The US does not want to attack, but to get the inspectors of UNSCOM, the UN Special Commission, back to work through diplomatic means. Washington's supporters feel the same way, while Russia, France, China, and most Arab states oppose the use of force altogether.
The US is legally entitled to go it alone and might still do so, but it will not get UN Security Council endorsement unless Saddam wildly overplays his hand. Last November, the council voted to bring him into line by imposing new travel restrictions. But those have been quietly forgotten. And today the talk is not capitulation but compromise.
Another of Saddam's trump cards is the knowledge that even his enemies need him. This was clear in 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and in 1991 during and after Desert Storm. In successive resolutions, the Security Council affirmed Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity. While Saddam's demise or removal was devoutly wished, nothing was done. No one interfered when his troops crushed an uprising in the southern provinces.
Saddam has the advantage of winning if he does not lose; the US loses if it does not win. But what is winning? Thus far, Saddam has had the initiative. The US has "won" a number of confrontations since 1991, sending missiles into Baghdad, bombing radar sites, and rushing warships, planes, troops, and equipment to the Gulf. All of it at enormous expense.
Each time, Saddam has backed down, as he wants to appear to do now, but never entirely. Over the years he never stopped testing his limits. His international support and room for maneuver have grown. The man who invaded Kuwait and burned its oil fields, and whose biological and chemical weapons are meant at least to terrorize his Arab neighbors, now enjoys Arab backing. Meanwhile, the US is accused of a double standard: punishing Saddam for violating his obligation to disarm while making common cause with Israel, which ignores UN resolutions on southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights, and land for peace.
The picture is full of paradox. Economic sanctions intended to confine Saddam are a leaky sieve. He has smuggled out billions of dollars worth of oil to buy luxury goods and forbidden technology while building himself and his cronies palaces. Most of the Iraqi people have been reduced to such piteous poverty that the UN is now more than doubling its humanitarian aid.
Once again, Saddam appears to be calling the tune. He could end the crisis in a moment by acknowledging UNSCOM's right to inspect any sites it deems suspicious. But clearly he has something else in mind.
His ultimate purpose is to end sanctions, sell his oil, and regain a free hand. To do this, he must move in stages. First, he may head off the possible crunch by enveloping it in a fog of diplomacy, partial offers, human intercessions, and obfuscation. Salami tactics would slice away UNSCOM's legitimacy and authority. The US could veto any proposal in the Security Council to terminate restrictions or call off the monitoring and verification UNSCOM is empowered to conduct.
But, over time, Saddam's money could crumble sanctions, and the US would hardly fill the Gulf with carrier battle groups every time he tweaked Washington's nose. There comes a time when attack is politically out.
The prospect is not bright. Sweden's Rolf Ekeus, former head of UNSCOM, had it right five years ago: "With the cash, the suppliers, and the skills," he said, " [Iraq] will be able to reestablish all the weapons. It may grow up like mushrooms after the rain."
Bill Clinton and Tom Dashcle understood this in 1998, which is why Tom voted for a use of force resolution (which he voted against in 1990 and 2002) and Bill bombed in 1998. I don't know that the country would have supported Clinton invading Iraq in 1998 - 9/11 truly caused a state change in this country. So Clinton did what Bush I did -- bloodied Saddam's nose and hoped that the sharks would be attracted by the blood -- with equal success. So now Bush II has decided that a change in policy will result in a change in outcome, and the US stands on the brink of invasion in an attempt to address the root cause of our problems with Iraq, namely Saddam Hussein himself.
The suprising thing isn't that France, China, and Russia don't support the use of force - they haven't since the end of the Gulf War, and were very reluctant even then -- but that they voted for resolution 1441. But we see now that that was a tactical maneuver, and not a strategic change. Nope, they voted for it for one reason - delay. By agreeing to it while having no intention of ever seeing it enforced, they trapped the United States into following their timetable, their interminable delays, strung along by the merest hints of cooperation by Saddam.
War is an ugly thing. But there comes a time when diplomacy is uglier, and we have reached that point. Saddam will never cooperate. If he wanted to, he would have sometime during the past 12 years. Perhaps a credible threat of force would have worked, but the French, Russians and Chinese have seen to it that the threat of force could be gotten around through non-concession concessions. At this point, we have become the parent scolding the child - if you do that again, you'll be sorry - but never taking action. So either we agree to a policy that we know won't work, has no hope of working and continue the charade of inspection, and will only embolden every other tyrant to acquire weapons of mass destruction, which will embolden every terrorist to strike the impotent America, and will consign the Iraqi people to ever more torture, rape, and death; or we invade Iraq and depose Saddam, killing innocents along with way, and worrying other nations about our power. So President Bush has chosen the lesser of two evils, and war will come to Iraq.
Somebody found my blog the other day by searching for Tropico Wicker Ceiling Fan. And the amazing thing is (no, not that they mispelled Tropical and wound up here), but I'm the only result on Google or Yahoo when you search for those four words. I'm the only webpage in the known universe with those four words together.
PS yes, they do make wicker ceiling fans.
Myopia Is Hereditary
Now I have another thing to blame my parents for - my nearsightedness. Although my mother was barely nearsighted, my father not at all until late in life (as he would put it "I'm near sighted on my distant vision and farsighted on my near vision"), I'm very nearsighted, and my brother had better than average vision. According to researchers at Ohio State University, your chance of developing myopia (nearsightedness) increases if your parents have it. They also found that myopic children spend more time reading for pleasure and score higher in a test of basic reading and language skills. I've sat in meetings of engineers and counted how many wore glasses (plus how many were white and male), and many's the time I've been in meetings where we all were white males wearing glasses or contacts.
March 17, 2003
A Little Perspective
All the war talk got you down? Well, consider this. Robert Caldwell at Dartmouth University has proposed the death of the universe 20 billion years from now in The Big Rip. The Big Rip is so named because something is causing the universe to expand, and if the effect were to accelerate, it would eventually rip apart not only galaxies, but matter itself. So now cosmologists have three models of the end of the Universe - The Big Rip, the Big Crunch, and the Cold, Dark. Cosmologists are really a happy, jolly bunch of people, aren't they? So I hope this gives you a little perspective on your problems.
Still worried? If the fate of the universe is a little abstratct consider the Earth itself is going to boil away in just five billion years. Happy now?
Go Ahead, Make My Day
The UN asked Iraq to disarm, but Iraq did nothing. So the United States put a gun to Iraq's head and said "disarm punk". Iraq made the minimun concessions to keep the trigger from being pulled. And when the US said not good enough, France via the UN said we won't let you pull the trigger. So the US has now put the gun to the UN's head and said "If that's the way you want to play it, you first, then Iraq."
A Striking Concept?
Innovation in bowling from O'Fallon IL, of all places. I've actually been to O'Fallon a bunch of times, but I've never bowled there. Well, that changes here, now. Now that Fat Cats Bowl has opened, and is providing free internet access at the lane. And not just internet access, no, they also provide a web cam so you can show the hottie a few lanes down just how hot you are. And if you think this is a great business model, the owner (Ron Schantz) is willing to franchise it. So you provide the 6 million dollars, and Ron will provide the plans.
March 15, 2003
International Eat An Animal For PETA Day
The people at PETA are all for the treatment of animals as if they were people. You may agree with this, and that's fine. But when it comes to the morality of eating animals, let's examine the question: is it more moral to eat plants or animals? I assert it's more moral to eat animals than plants. While it is undeniable that animals are more like us, and we don't eat other people, such an analogy isn't the whole story. When we compare plants and animals, we find that plants are pacifists - they do not take life to survive. Animals, on the other hand, are killers. We must kill and eat to survive. Clearly, the only moral eating pattern is to eat only other killer animals, condemned by their very own nature, and spare those harmless plants. When I eat my steak and salad, I can take pride in the justice I'm bringing to the mass murdering cow, while I must suffer the agonies of conscience over the poor lettuce that did nothing to deserve its fate.
BTW, blame or congratulate Meryl Yourish for the idea of IEAAFPD.
One More Pearl Of Wisdom In A Faux Strand
Another entertainer shot her mouth off overseas - a Dixie Chick said at a concert in London "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Why do entertainers feel the need to be critical of the US when they are overseas? Certainly I'm not questioning their right, I'm just questioning their manners. If you think truly think that Natalie, why don't you say that in concert in Houston or Dallas, Austin or San Antonio? If you're an American, and you want to be critical, say it here, to our face. Don't keep silent here and then try to be ingratiating abroad. I have to admit though, that I'm far more incensed over what the the chicks did to Landslide (has there been a worse cover in the history of covers, OK, outside of celebrities like Shatner), than any political remarks the chicks have made.
I'll Cease My Wondering Now
Thursday I wondered if climate changes had caused the collapse of civilizations in the past and hey presto! Konrad A. Hughen, a real scientist, comes forward the next day with the claim that the Mayans were done in by a century long dry trend from roughly 700 AD to 800 AD. And if that isn't enough to make you sit up and take notice, notice the dates. Yep, the Canadian prairie had a distinct dry period starting in 700 AD - the very same time as the Yucatan. Abrupt global climate change, prior to the age of industrialization? Alert Hans Blix!
Thanks to Juan Gato for the heads up (I'd say link, but I linked to a source I liked better).
Another Intestinal Post
In my never ending quest to keep you, my beloved reader, informed on the latest intestinal developments, I link you to another article in Science Blog about intestinal biochemistry. Intrepid researchers right here in River City have discovered just what the heck the molecule MR1 does. Apparently, mucosal-associated invariant t cells (MAIT cells for short and the squeemish) somehow rely on intestinal bacteria and MR1 to keep your gut infection free, a thankless but vital job. The research team has also set its sights higher, to the lungs, to see if MR1 is on the job there, too.
Adult Stem Cells Might Cure Diabetes
The Journal of Clinical Investigation published the results ofan experiment using bone marrow stem cells to produce insulin. These cells, transplanted from a male mouse to female mouse, actually produced insulin and behaved like normal pancreatic beta cells. This was a significant experiment, and shows the possibilities in using adult stem cells.
Science Blog reports that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that exposure to men's perspiration can brighten women's moods, reduce tension and increase relaxation, and also has a direct effect on the release of luteinizing hormone, which affects the length and timing of the menstrual cycle. I knew it was powerful stuff, especially when the male volunteers hadn't used deodorant in four weeks, but I wouldn't have predicted that it would make a woman's day. In fact, based on my own experience, I would have predicted the opposite effect.
If you watched Survivor last night, you would have observed this effect in action; when Shawna's tribe was all female, she layed around moaning all day that she was miserable and no one cared (the all female tribe was, if anything, distinctly less nurturing than the all male tribe). As soon as a trio of sweaty men entered camp, armpits uncovered, she perked right up and has been all smiles ever since.
I have to admit, instead of my humdrum existance making bombs fly, I wish I could get paid for devising weird science experiments (let's daub male sweat under womens' noses and see how they react) and then carrying them out. I guess I have experimenter's envy.
A Flaming Good Time
Last night my Cub Scout pack graduated our second year webelos. For the Arrow of Light award, they had to pass the burning neckerchief test. I have to say, the boys loved the flaming neckerchief and it was easy to do. Mix equal parts water and acetone, build a simple stand to hold and present the neckerchief, add scouting candle to ignite and stand back. We also shot flaming arrows for the finale - sparklers attached to the nose of the arrow also put on a great display. Every year the boys claim the cubs got to shoot them last year; every year the Cub Master explains no, the Boy Scouts shot the arrows. For the webelos crossing over to boyscouts, I removed their webelos slide and neckerchief, then they had to cross a bridge over smoking dry ice, give the cub scout salute to me, give the boy scout salute to their new scout master who put the boy scout neckerchief and slide on them, and viola, now they're Boy Scouts.
As part of the Arrow of Light award, the parents present their son with a real arrow keepsake they've painted with all the badges, arrow points, and pins they've earned. I had a hard time finding actual wooden arrows, as most stores only carry carbon or aluminum ones. But the people at Midwest Archery Outfitters made the arrows up special, with blue and gold fletching, and were the nicest people to deal with. So for all your archery needs, I have to heartily endorse Midwest Archery Outfitters.
It's Not the Stress, It's the Strain
OK, a little engineering humor. Stress is the applied force, and strain is the resulting deformation. So it isn't the stress that gets you, it's your strain that's harmful. In the category that a little is good, a lot is bad, put stress according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. They claim that stress responses can make people more susceptible to infection, constricted arteries, weakened muscles and thinner bones, as well as a greater tendency to a spare tire around the abdomen due to increased insulin levels. I can say from my own experience when I'm feeling the strain I'm more susceptible to illness, my cholesteral levels go up, and I put on weight. The problem is, I generally don't have any control over the stress - I can only work on feeling less of the strain.
March 13, 2003
Mother Nature Has A Mind Of Her Own
A Canadian study of drought in the Canadian and Northern US prairie indicates rapid changes in climate in 700 AD. The same researcher's previous work indicated a periodic shift about every 1200 years. They note that similar shifts would pose a challange for society today. Which makes me wonder - sometimes civilizations seem to collapse. Could sudden climate shifts, to much harsher conditions, be the culprit behind some of them? For instance, in 1000 AD there was a flourishing society across the river from St. Louis, cleverly called the Mississippians that up and disappeared. Could it have been the climate? Will we ever know? Anyway, the idea that climate is stable is flat out contradicted by the evidence. It changes, and often abruptly.
I hate to admit it, but it's a plain fact: I like musicals. Stage musicals, movie musicals, it doesn't matter. When I get two spare moments together, I want to see Chicago with my wife. I loved Moulin Rouge. I was once a season ticket holder to the Muny and Stages (before kids). Heck, I even liked Cop Rock, Steve Bochco's only flop. I like the way people just broke out in song as naturally as breathing. I'd like to just break out in song at the drop of a hat myself, but only control myself because I'm such a poor singer. My infirmity hides my eccentricity. I only sing in church, where people have to be nice, or alone in my car, where people don't hear.
But wait, there's more. I've started to listen to show tunes at work. I bought my wife both soundtracks for Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and I've taken to listening to the Donny Osmond version over headphones at work. Usually I follow it with Joe Satriani's Dancing with the Alien or Yes's Tales from Topographical Oceans to reassure myself of my manhood. But I definitely have more fun listening to Joseph. If you see me buying Showboat on either DVD or CD, then please, please, start the intervention.
Waiting Is The Hardest Part
I think most of us are anxious as war appears imminent. The whole constellation of awful possibilities is enough to give anyone pause. The fact that in a way we're all on the front lines (some of are more frontal than others, of course) is something new. Assymetrical warfare is the fancy term for attacking the soft underbelly rather than the armor plate of an enemy, and for those of in the United States, that means that while we are truly grateful to our fighting men and women who will be directly in harms way, we have to worry about attacks on us as we go about our daily lives. If Saddam decides to take out the JDAM factory, I may go with it. Anthrax and small pox are no respecters of person. Even people who live in East Podunk feel a threat, if not to themselves, then loved ones or fellow Americans. Even those of us who expect a quick and painless military operation with little if any terrorist counter-attacks still worry about the possibilities.
The fear, uncertainty, and doubt of the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 have returned, and while only a shadow of its former selve, it is still potent. But I remember back to my birthday in October 2001, which my wife and I celebrated with a visit to a local winery. The weather was outstanding, the fall colors were beautiful, the company was convivial: the day was a perfect antidote to the worry. So I plan to ignore the counsel of my fears, and to continue to boldly go and do those things that make life worth living.
March 11, 2003
The Missouri state legislature is considering concealed carry of firearms. Four years ago, we had a referendum (Prop B) that was narrowly defeated -- with huge polarization between rural and suburban/urban. So the Post-Dispatch has weighed in on the subject, and as always while they foresquare against the idea of the average citizen carrying a firearm. I used to be with them on this subject, but I was convinced more than four years ago when I used to participate in the Post's forums that gun control is a dead end.
"Missourians have had this duel before. In 1999, 52 percent of Missouri voters - led by urban residents and suburban Republican women - said no to concealed weapons. That should have settled the matter."
OK, so one vote is good for all time? Let's just keep the current Missouri governor and legislature, the current US President and Congress then. People can't change their minds -- not when it's the outcome we like, anyway.
"Ms. Hanaway is right about the different climate. But she's too smart to think that a citizen packing heat is going to plug a terrorist. It's preposterous for a lawmaker to imply that a concealed-carry law would have made Americans safer on Sept. 11, or now. New York was among states with a concealed-carry law on the books in 2001."
Well, four planes were hijacked that day. That represents the failure of the professionals, all the people who were supposed to keep us safe from that. Of those four, the passengers on three followed the professional advice - don't resist. Those planes killed three thousand people. In the fourth plane, there was enough time for the passangers to consider the professional advice in light of events, and decide instead to resist. Those passengers, a cross section of America, without training, deputizing, or offical sanction, saved the lives of many others and foiled the hijackers intent. So let's not scoff at the efforts of the unwashed masses, they can make a difference.
"The bill would allow concealed weapons in churches, with proper approval, and child care centers but not in casinos, bars, prisons, sports arenas and police stations. And, yes, lawmakers in Jefferson City would be allowed to carry weapons in the House and Senate chambers."
Yeah. Is there a point to this sentance beyond trying to scare people?
"In theory, felons, mentally unstable people and others convicted of misdemeanors involving a crime of violence wouldn't get permits. In practice, some would. Sheriff departments issuing the permits would have no way of flagging the mentally ill and other violent people who had no contact with the criminal justice system. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California, concedes that this is a flaw, but insists the bill will protect people.
Do you really want to put concealed, loaded pistols in the hands of violent, unstable people who elude background checks? The Senate and the governor should say no, even if it takes a filibuster or a veto to uphold the will of the voters."
At last we are to the meat of it. Allowing concealed carry would NOT put loaded pistols into the hands of violent, unstable people. This bill allows the law abiding to carry a pistol if they so desire. Crooks, the mentally ill, violent and unstable people can already pack heat now if they want. If a law against murder with far greater penalties and social oppobrium doesn't deter someone from murder (or rape, armed robbery, etc), adding a law against concealed carry sure as heck won't. That's the fundamental problem with gun control: It tries to restrain people with a noodle who aren't restrainable by a steel chain.
Another common objection is that otherwise minor kerfuffles would escalate into deadly encounters with concealed carry. The majority of states allow concealed carry, and it hasn't turned them into shooting galleries. Why would Missouri be any different?
And finally, to me the right to self defense is the most fundamental, superceding all others. And allowing concealed carry allows people a choice in how they care to excercise that right. It doesn't preclude dogs, pepper spray, martial arts training, luck, or any other method. If you hate guns, fine. You don't have to carry. By why impose your morality on others?
Bush Apologized To Karzai for US Senate Treatment
The Washington Post is reporting that George Bush called Afgan President Karzai to apologize for the way the Senate treated him. Apparently Karzai was miffed that instead of a private get together, the Senate Foreign Relations committee gave him the full hearing treatment. While I somehow managed to miss Karzai's appearance, I have seen other hearings and generally I wish the person in the dock with give the Senators what for. The Senators resort to the Potter trick - they sit way up high behind a big impressive desk, and the interrogated get a little chair behind a table. The Senators like to thunder and fulminate, bully and intimidate, ask questions that are really speaches, and what ticks me off the most, they don't bother to listen when it's another Senator's turn. So the person has to answer the same stupid stuff over and over, in a display of uncommon discourtesy.
It has to weigh on Karzai, and Afganistan as a whole, that they are clients of the United States. For the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to put him through the ringer like that only reinforces the notion. Should Karzai be accountable? Sure, but would the Senate treat Jacques Chirac in the same manner? No, they'd be respectful, and polite, face-to-face anyway, as it should be. Once again, foreign affairs takes a back seat to domestic politics.
I still remember the Monty Python skit where the middle aged wifed joked "I'm against all this sex on the television - it hurts my back too much." Well, violence on the TV is no laughing matter. Researchers claim that watching violent TV as a child leads to more aggressive behavior in adults. I have to say I'm always skeptical of studies like this, but at least when they start talking about people being twice as likely to commit aggressive acts they pass the significance threshold.
Two Shuttle Maps of America
Science Daily reports on a pair of maps made with the Shuttle's Radar. You can even see a huge impact crater in the Yucatan. Way cool.
March 8, 2003
First Day Of Spring
I don't care what the calender says, today is the first day of spring. My crocus have burst into glorious bloom, and there was even a honeybee busy gathering pollen. I hope this means the honeybees are finally making a comeback against the mites that almost wiped them out. It feels like spring -- warm and sunny with the wind roaring through the leafless trees. This morning we were out delivering Girl Scout cookies. After selling them in the depths of winter, and an especially cold and snowy winter, I was happy to get to visit the neighbors in a short sleave shirt. Days like today make winter worthwile.
March 7, 2003
Wild Thinking Department
War with Iraq is inevitable at this point. Hussein isn't going to disarm, and Bush isn't going to back down. There are lots of people out there who think we're going after the wrong country, and no I don't mean North Korea. Most of the people who bring up North Korea do so to discredit an attack on Iraq, and aren't seriously suggesting an attack on North Korea. No, I'm refering to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's supplied the money and people, and the Egyptians supplied the brains for 9/11 in their view.
There's a big problem in attacking Saudi directly - they hold Mecca. If you're worried about the Islamic street, infidels in Mecca is the biggest possible provocation of the street. So America directly attacking and occupying Saudi Arabia might cause far more unrest than Iraq. As I've said before, Iraq holds the central position in the Middle East - hold Iraq and you border Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. There is no better place to lean on the bad boys (and support what passes for good boys in those parts) of the area than Iraq. And if America needs to change regime's in Saudi Arabia, bases in Iraq, and Iraqi (or Jordanian) troops to occupy Mecca would come in very handy. Now I'm not saying that's a plan, but I have to think it's occured to the Pentagon and the Saudi equivalent that a US backed post-Saddam Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia is sufficiently doable that you'd never actually have to do it.
March 6, 2003
Big Year For Hollywood
2002 was a banner year for Hollywood, with the number of admissions rising to record levels and a gross take of 9.5 billion dollars (I have to stop using the 6 billion I used to quote). Spiderman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding were the top five grossers. Guess what, none of the top 20 films were rated R. I like a good grownup movie, but Hollywood has a hard time making good grownup movies.
The attendence figures don't add up for me -- 99 percent of the movie going public is over the age of 12. All those family movies and nobody under 12 -- are the Fruit of the Murphy Loins the only two kids under 12 going to movies? And the 17% who are 50 and over -- they all go to rush hour shows in St. Louis in my experience. Since half the audience is under 30, I don't feel so bad about all the movies I have no interest in seeing -- they weren't made for me.
When my wife and I honeymooned in the Canadian Rockies, along with thousands of Japanese couples, we had a great time. Not only did I fall in love with the mountains (hey, I was already in love with the wife), but I also fell in love with Canadian money because it had different colors for the different denominations. You could tell with just a glance what a bill was worth. I thought to myself, what a great idea! Now, at last, we here in the states will be joining the rest of civilized society by adding color to the money. I'm sure the fuddyduddies will complain, but it won't take get long to get used to. It really is better than all one color.
March 5, 2003
Lest We Forget
Most people seem to have forgotten what happened during the last UN - European attempt to contain a tyrant. In a word, failure and mass murder. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence (with encouragement from France) from Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia tried to keep both regions from leaving, and war broke out. After ten days of fighting against Slovenia with little success, Yugoslavia gave up on Slovenia and concentrated on Croatia.
Croatia had a significant Serb minority who felt if Croatia could leave Yugoslavia, why couldn't the serbs leave Croatia? The UN imposed an arms embargo on the region to try to end the war, and not surprisingly it had no effect other than preserving Yugoslavia's military advantage, and led to President Clinton aiding gun runners in violation of the UN resolution. In 1992 Bosnia also declared its independence, and it too was engulfed in ethnic war. The Serb minority, backed by Yugoslavia (which was now pretty much Serbia) was successful against the Bosnian army and began what is now called ethnic cleansing. UN peacekeepers from European countries were dispatched to Croatia and Bosnia to try and enforce the many ceasefire agreements.
In 1993 "safe areas" or safe havens were declared (ultimately six towns) by the UN and peacekeepers assigned to them. The serbs made preparations to take Srebrenica, and the Bosnian army complied with the UN resolution and turned over their heavy weapons near the city. The military commander on the scene, British General Rupert Smith, wanted more men, more airstrikes - more backbone. The military commander at the UN, French General Benoit Jeanvier, wanted to limit the risk to the peacekeepers. As the serbs probed the UN willingness to fight around Srebrenica, they finally provoked an airstrike when they actually attacked UN peacekeepers. The Serbs responded to the airstrike by taking peacekeepers as hostages throughout the region and then chained them as human shields at military installations. General Smith was ordered to get approval from the UN Secretary General before ordering more airstrikes, and General Jeanvier himself began negotiations with the Serbs. Reportedly, the two side reached an understanding - the peacekeepers would be released in return for no more airstrikes. After that, the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica stood by while the Serbs entered the city, separated the men from the women, and then massacred over 7,000 men and boys.
The massacres took place in July of 1995, after four years of UN handwringing and resolutions over the wars. Over 200,000 people were killed in Bosnia alone, thousands more in Croatia (I'm probably understating the real death toll). Starting on August 30, 1995, the United States led a bombing campaign against Serb forces, and on November 1 the leaders of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia travelled to the United States to negotiate the Dayton Accord. In just over two months, the United states put an end to the war that had dragged on with no end in sight. The United States sent in peacekeepers who have kept the peace, unlike the unending string of ceasefires prior to their arrival.
The UN coupled with the Europeans compiled a dismal record of toothless resolutions, appeasement of mass murderers, and utter failure. So spare me any claims of the importance of Europe or the UN. On their own, they couldn't stop a two-bit tyrant like Milosevich on their doorstep. In Iraq, they've decided to get in bed with a tyrant - selling arms to a murderous despot and selling his oil to pay for them. What tyrant have they ever felled without US support? Those may be unpalatable facts, but facts they are.
March 4, 2003
Too Much Information?
I'm glad they caught the Al Qaeda mastermind in Pakistan. What I don't get is all the information the press is reporting about it -- and I assume the info is being provided by our own government. If you honestly think this guy knows who, what, and where, wouldn't you like to keep his capture quiet until you can pick up the people he knows about? You have to figure the publicity is going to be like turning the lights on cockroaches - there's a whole lot of scurrying going on right now. And by letting on that computers and documents were also seized, every Al Qaeda operative has to figure they've been compromised - they can't rely on Mr. Mohammed's not talking. I suppose it could be that the disruption, uncertainty, and fear caused by the announcement outweighed the possibility of capturing more operatives; it could be that our intellegance agencies figured Al Qaeda knew and could inform it's people anyway even if there were no public report; and maybe it was felt that a public report would cause a burst in bottom up message traffic as operatives checked in with higher ups that would be more enlightning than a burst of top down if the higher ups were informing the troops. And of course, we can't be told why the info was released or it would defeat the purpose of releasing it.
I, along with the Fruit of the Murphy Loins, got my hair cut last night. I've reached that age where not only do they trim the stuff on my head, but they cut back the thicket sprouting from my ears and even clipped the rogues trying to escape from my eyebrows. My son once looked in my ears and remarked "now I know why you can't hear, all that hair blocks the sound." Hey kid, can you guess why I get short of breath easily?
I have to add male hair to the list of evolutionary puzzles along with menstruation and painful childbirth. As I get older, hair grows best where I need it least. Long after I've passed on my genes, it sprouts in new places that certainly provide me no survival advantages, only embarrassment. It's changing from virile to pelt and has adopted the Star Trek motto: To explore strange new patches of skin ... to seek out new places and new growth ... to boldly go where no hair has gone before. And please, "it hides the wrinkles" isn't an answer to the puzzle.
I Am An Insignificant Microbe
At least, in the Blogoshere Ecosystem. Given the focus this blog has put on intestinal bacteria, and it's important and beneficial role in the human gut (another subject I'm over acquainted with), that's not all bad. Still, I aspire to be a significant microbe, so I have my work cut out for me.
Link via that playful primate, Charles Austin.
March 3, 2003
China Plans For Moon Landing
The China Youth Daily is reporting that China is planning on landing on the moon, first robots and then astronauts. They haven't put an astronaut into space yet, but at least they're making bold (even if they lack innovation) plans. Maybe a good old fashioned space race will spur our program on. Anyway, good luck China.
Will Wonders Ever Cease?
This morning what greeted my eyes but a James Lileks column on the op-ed page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch (yes, the link takes you to something called StlToday, which is the Post's attempt to be a St. Louis Portal). The Post is continuing its efforts to move up from a fourth-rate paper to a third rate paper (where they'd be joining the NYT, incidentally).