Obligatory College Football thread

Because the readers demand it.

Go Mountaineers!

*** Update ***

Not college, but the Steelers just knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs for the second time this year. BWAHAHAHA.

Sure, it was a disappointing season for the Steelers, and I worry about Cowher leaving, but a quick message to the Bengals fans out there:


Happy New Year

Just thought I would take a moment and wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope you enjoy yourselves as you sit back and relax after what has been an eventful year.

And it has been eventful- the chaos in Iraq, the tumult of the election year, as well as al lthe domestic political squabbles that we have endured. And there have been some positive developments mixed in with all the other events- Rick Santorum, Katherine Harris, Cynthia McKinney, and George Allen are all out of politics. Saddam Hussein is dead. Don Rumsfeld is retired. All of those are good things of varying importance.

And how can I forget the Steelers winning the Super Bowl and the Mountaineers winning big against Georgia!

As I get older, I realize that every year, even the bad ones, were good years. I am lucky. Employed, in good health, my family is happy and well, my friends are all doing well, and I have a lot of things to look forward to this coming year.

Additionally, this website is still moving along nicely. Having Tim aboard has really rounded things out (although not so much with my turn against the GOP as of late), we have a good thing going (for the most part) in the comments (I wish there were emore right-wing voices), and hopefully Tom will be able to post more. And despite the dire predictions about possible fealty to my new corporate overlords at Pajamas Media, I have never felt freer(sp?) to write what I want, and I appreciate the fact that they have never ONCE approached me to change a post or push something I was uninterested in. Say what you want about PJ- they are a good company to work for and my relationship with them has been fine.

At any rate, best of luck with the New Year, don’t drink and drive, and don’t forget to eat your pork and sauerkraut tomorrow for good luck.

Saddam Dead

Saddam has been executed:

Saddam Hussein, the dictator who led Iraq through three decades of brutality, war and bombast before American forces chased him from his capital city and captured him in a filthy pit near his hometown, was hanged just before dawn Saturday during the morning call to prayer.

The final stages for Mr. Hussein, 69, came with terrible swiftness after he lost the appeal, five days ago, of his death sentence for the killings of 148 men and boys in the northern town of Dujail in 1982. He had received the sentence less than two months before from a special court set up to judge his reign as the almost unchallenged dictator of Iraq.

His execution at 6:10 a.m. was announced on state-run Iraqiya television. Witnesses said 14 Iraqi officials attended the hanging, at the former military intelligence building in northern Baghdad, now part of an American base. Those in the room said that Mr. Hussein was dressed entirely in black and carrying a Koran and that he was compliant as the noose was draped around his neck.

It is now just a matter of time before the pictures and videos are splashed over the airwaves, and currently the execution porn is in full effect on the cable news networks. While justice was served with the death of Saddam, it is hard to not feel like this is little more than revenge, in some regards. Perhaps it was the issuance of a Saddam invented red card to the condemned that really set the tone.

Contrary to what some may think from my previous post, I will shed no tears for Saddam. If ever there was a deserving candidate for execution, it was Hussein. I just oppose the death penalty on principle, and find it to be barbaric and wrong- even if the legal system allows it and others believe it accomplishes something. My opposition to the death penalty is not based upon my love for those who have earned it, but to the practice of execution in and of itself. That really shouldn’t be as difficult to understand as some of you have made it.

At any rate, I hope the end of Hussein will bring some calm to the region, as some calm and a cessation of violence is desparately needed. CNN is reporting that there are pockets of celebratory gunfire. I don’t know if that is accurate, or if their reporters just heard the gunfire that killed two more of our soldiers today.

*** Update ***

I guess I still haven’t made myself clear, although there is the good possibility I don’t really have a very clear position:

Surfing the ‘net today in the aftermath of the Saddam hanging I see the usual suspects decrying the the dictator’s execution in the predictable manners (Hello, Robert Scheer). What interests me more are the objections of capital punishment purists, because I can sympathize with their position. But I think their orthodox views are misguided in this instance. They may even have been blinded by a form of narcissism, by wanting to be considered “good.”

I almost always oppose capital punishment for the usual moral and practical reasons…

I dont think it is a form of narcissism- I just oppose the death penalty on principle (principles I have discussed numerous times). I see no purpose to it in general, and in this specific case, the way it was meted out, in such an inflammatory manner replete with the death card created by Hussein himself during his days of murder, it seems even less useful.

So, no matter who is to be executed, I generally do not support it. In this case, I loathed the convicted, which may be leading to some of the confusion regarding my position. I really don’t care if Saddam ever had another breath, and it is very difficult to oppose the death penalty for someone like him. I am in a hard place at the moment- I would have a difficult time getting worked up if Shia mobs had sprung Saddam out of jail and hanged him themselves, so it is difficult for me to object to Saddam’s execution. Again, with Saddam, I feel much like I did with the execution of Tookie Williams:

I have a lot of reasons why I dislike and oppose the death penalty, and not one of them has to do with a concern for the fate of guilty men. I dislike the death penalty because it is irreversible, it is arbitrary, it is seemingly enforced in a haphazard manner, it seems to be more about race and class than guilt, it does not seem to prevent crime, and because I see no need to have a system that could kill one innocent man when we could keep them all imprisoned and avoid that risk.

Like I said- my opposition to the death penalty is not based on guilty men dying, and that is what Tookie Williams is. He probably had a hand in far more than just the four murders for which he will be executed, is responsible for who knows how many deaths and how much violence with the formation of the Crips (and some believe he was involved with them well after his incarceration), and I really feel little to no sympathy for him.

Regardless, my objection to the death penalty is not based on a case by case basis- if that were so, I would not object to the death penalty, just the death penalty for some. Perhaps that is a purism of sorts. At any rate, it makes sense to me- I have managed to work out any internal contradictions satisfactorily enough that I can state that I loatehd Hussein, will not miss him, think the world is a better place off without him, but I can still despise the manner by which he was dispatched. I can also understand the arguments made for executing scum like Hussein- I just don’t think it is necessary. I hope that makes sense.

New Year Open Thread

Expect me to be too remote and/or inebriated to blog productively for the next few days, so unless somebody reminds John to write something this will be your primary outlet for expression for awhile. Well, this and the outside world. Also scan the dozens of excellent blogs in our sidebar if things get stir crazy.

Let’s get an early start on my new year’s resolutions. Let’s see, this year I solemnly pledge to…graduate! Hear that, anonymous PhD advisor? I’m out by December. Oy, I’d better have that committee meeting that I’ve put off for a year.

Use this thread for your resolutions, year end fave roundups or whatever.

Random Internet Fun

I have no idea how long it will stay there, but for map-o-philes the ad box for Windows Live that sometimes appears in our ad bar is kind of cool. Yesterday I was curious to see how much of California they had loaded into that little ad so I scrolled the window halfway up Canada’s Pacific coast before I got bored and gave up. I guess they can put the entire planet into one of those.

Today I scrolled it over to Area 51, which feels like kind of an accomplishment to do freehand in that little window. Think you can do it? Post any other map fun, or call me a dork, in the comments.


The ad appears to be gone and I can’t get it back by reloading. Oh well, here is the service they were advertising. It isn’t as cool as the ad was because the ad let you seamlessly navigate by moving the mouse to the margin of the box and then it scrolled for as long as you left it there. The service itself is a PDF-style grab-and-drag, which is choppier and kills the feeling of doing a low-orbit flyover. Oh well. When I said ‘random’ I really meant it…

George Deutsch Lives

Surprising maybe one catatonic person in outer Mongolia, political appointees won’t let the Park Service tell visitors the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. Apparently this controversial science known as geology conflicts with the unerring truth as-it-is-written in the Koran Bible.

Awhile back rightwingers reacted with outrage that I would paint George Deutsch, the anti-big bang jihadist at NASA, as an example of how the president staffs our government. Sadly, these retards truly are everywhere. Some are merely making life difficult for park rangers and confusing tourists. But like hungry squirrels released in a bomb silo others have found a way to screw up things that matter. I have only read portions of Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City (thanks to all of you who bought out the first printing) but I have seen enough to understand that our crucial early months of occupation ran on the same mix of naivete, inexperience and blind loyalty tests that fueled the appointment of underage nincompoops like Deutsch at NASA. If rebuilding Iraq is not too important to put experience before blind partisan loyalty then it is really, really hard to think of something that would make the cut.

Good luck to the next president in weeding out the George Deutsches and convincing professionals to come back. In the meantime we get to enjoy two more years of bright-eyed, ideologically pure squirrels in the wiring.


Lots and lots of squirrels. via comments.

***Update 2***

The press release is bogus, according to this article in Skeptic magazine. Guess neither I nor they were skeptical enough the first time.

I Think We’re A Clone Now

Unsurprisingly the FDA has backed the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals. I can sort of understand the anti-technological reflex that would convince some people to be skeptical about this. God knows how many books, films, comic books and daytime soaps have found deeply disturbing uses for the act of replacing an adult’s DNA into a fertilized egg. But as a scientist who works in a related field the idea seems pretty unremarkable.

Some have argued that clones start with ‘adult’ DNA that shortens their lifespan and might cause other problems. This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. Each of our chromosomes is capped at both ends with protective telomeres which get smaller as we age, which means that clones may begin life with older, shorter telomeres. Even if true the worst I could imagine is that we would get ‘old’ steaks from young cows. Other problems might involve the drugs involved in bringing a cloned animal to term, but that would involve an entirely different approval process.

The real problem has less to do with safety than with common sense. First, if you have a herd of clones any virus that finds the weak point in one animal will have the run of the herd. Diversity protects against disease, and the less you have the better your chances of losing the whole lot. There is also the factor of how much you would pay for a cloned steak. Taking the per-animal costs into account a cloned t-bone ought to come out somewhere in the range of a used Audi. The process is getting more reasonable all the time, but in our lifetimes animal cloning will never be foodstuff cheap. Cloning probably won’t play that large a role in our foodstream but insofar as it does I have a hard time coming up with a reason why we should be worried about it.

A more interesting opinion is not the FDA’s but that of the NTRA. A competitive thoroughbred owner could easily fit cloning into his or her budget. Jersey Rules shut the door for now and given the primacy of breeders in the sport you have to figure that it will stay that way. Still, in that arena anyway cloning is or will soon be more an issue of policy than of practicality. Maybe it sounds clinical and a touch creepy, but the circusgoer in me wouldn’t mind seeing Secretariat, Man O’War, War Admiral, Seabiscuit and Smarty Jones lined up for a lap or two around the track.