11. April 2006 · Comments Off on Prodi Wins · Categories: Politics, World

Well, Italian politics has proven to be as fractious as ever, with Romano Prodi’s broad-based coalition declaring victory, on a margin of only 25,000 votes. Berlusconi is contesting the election.

Of course, the American left will attempt to make hay over this, calling Prodi’s promised immediate withdrawl of Italy’s 2600 troops from Iraq as a condemnation of the Bush doctrine. I see it as more an admission of Italy’s inability to fund overseas military adventures. For all his right-wing bluster, Berlusconi has failed to liberalize Italy’s stagnant statist economy.

10. April 2006 · Comments Off on Currently Watching 04/10/06: · Categories: Technology, That's Entertainment!

Tron (1982), on the SciFi channel. Considering how lame this show was branded, when it was made, it is amazing how well it’s held up. Actually, it seems far more prescient today than it did then. Singularity, anyone?

Update: How interesting that they followed this up with The Twilight Zone: A World Of Difference (1960).

09. April 2006 · Comments Off on Entertainment Trivia For 04/09/06 · Categories: Fun and Games, That's Entertainment!

OK, here’s one in honor of Hef’s 80th birthday:

She was Playboy magazine’s first cover girl. For this, she made $____ .

09. April 2006 · Comments Off on Culture Of Corruption: At Least We Are Better Than France · Categories: World

Transparency International tracks government corruption around the world. Thier Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks more than 150 countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys. Here’s their 2005 CPI
More »

08. April 2006 · Comments Off on Controlling Grackles The Natural Way · Categories: General, Science!

I don’t give much thought to grackles; as I mentioned last summer, they aren’t a big problem here:

Here in California, we thankfully experience these loud, annoying birds only occasionally. But, when they move in, they seem to displace about every other bird in the area – save for the equally aggressive seagulls, and the hawks, which likely find them rather tasty.

But then there was Sgt. Mom’s post from a couple of days ago, comparing Jackson Pollock’s trash to multi-colored grackle poop. And I just saw a short blurb on Fox News Channel about using trained hunting falcons to control “sparrows and crows” at the Kremlin:

Falconers at the Kremlin

They’ve been doing this for quite some time; check this 1987 Discover article, which focuses on bioacoustics, but also mentions their use of falcons. So I thought, “hey, they should be doing that back east.” And, indeed, they are:

FORT WORTH – Jeff Cattoor found what he was looking for after midnight Friday morning at the northern edge of downtown Fort Worth: Hundreds of grackles squawking and making their customary mess of the sidewalk from the trees around Chase Bank.

Perched on Cattoor’s right hand, Blackjack, a chestnut-colored hawk with inch and half long talons, watched silently.

Then suddenly…WOOSH.

With a startling flap of his wings, Blackjack darted into the trees, followed quickly by a cloud of grackles exploding from the branches.

Too late. Blackjack quickly has a large male grackle pinned to the sidewalk, already dead.

“Once he goes, it doesn’t take him long,” Cattoor said, walking quickly to take the dead bird before Blackjack eats him and fills up. “He knows what he’s doing.”

Cattoor and Blackjack are part of No Grackle Left Behind, the latest effort to rid downtown Fort Worth of pesky, noisy grackles.

So Sgt. Mom, perhaps you might suggest this to the SA city council? Oh, and btw, a lot of people believe hawks prey on housepets, this generally isn’t true.

07. April 2006 · Comments Off on Calling All Car Guys · Categories: General, Technology

If you aren’t already checking out Mark Tapscott’s Carnival of Cars every week, check out his new one now. It’s getting better every week – there’s even a link to this post by your’s truly. 🙂

07. April 2006 · Comments Off on This Is Worth Watching · Categories: History, That's Entertainment!

I’m currently watching Bible Battles, on the History Channel, which treats the OT books dealing with the rise of the Israelites (Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, etc.) as military treatise. It first aired last December.

Whatever your religious convictions, this is well worth a watch. While it seems to rely upon only a few expert sources, it doesn’t go too far from Biblical legend – the greatest departure likely being another possible debunk of the absurd and embattled notion that Joshua blew his horn, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

06. April 2006 · Comments Off on Albeit Disgusting, I Guess This Had To Be · Categories: That's Entertainment!

Guys Gone Wild

But, isn’t the $18-26 price more than the Girls Gone Wild videos?

05. April 2006 · Comments Off on Entertainment Trivia For 04/04/06 · Categories: Fun and Games, That's Entertainment!

This recurring co-star on King of the Hill also co-starred in this film, with Pat Boone and Ann-Margret.

Extra Credit: Before assuming the “signature role” for which we know him/her today, what character was our star famous for?

Hint: As reader Bill correctly guessed, it isn’t Willie Nelson. Nor is it Ann Richards, or even Chuck Mangione. But our star is, by far, the biggest ever on KotH.

Congratz! to reader Bill!

I would have thought that, after our own dear Mary (A Proud Veteran) got the REALLY obscure 1962 José Ferrer remake of the 1945 Walter Lang classic, the rest would be a cinch. But I guess not…

Well, unlike the original, which, like the 1932 Philip Duffield Stong book upon which it was based, is set in Iowa, the 1962 remake is set in Texas. Hummmm… “Texas State Fair”… Does that ring some bells? What is the first thing one sees upon entering the Texas State Fair?

Still blank? Well, of course, it’s Big Tex!

Big Tex 2002

As for the “Extra Credit” part, I didn’t even know it myself, until I uncovered the reference above. But it seems, in a former life, Big Tex was Santa Claus!

Extra-Extra Credit! (After admonishing me that Big Tex isn’t the VERY first thing one sees upon entering) Reader homebru asks, what other major motion picture features the Texas State Fair?

Extra-Extra Credit Answer: I guessed it! *happy dance* (see comments)

04. April 2006 · Comments Off on New AF Combat Uniform · Categories: Military

My apologies to reader Yeff, who sent this link to me a few days ago. I promised I would blog on it, and now I’m making good.

Man, this seems like a good thing to me – if just for the pockets.

In my day, standard issue was the 100% cotton fatigues that dated to at least Korea – likely WWII.

A lot of guys went to Sears or J.C. Penny, and got the high priced, perm-press, cotton-poly fatigues they had, with the zipper-flys. This all seemed like non-sense to me: Gawd-damned, you are just going to rummage around in a computer cabinet – who cares if your pant leg holds a crease?

I digged the dudes that had come back from ‘Nam, with their jungle issue.

No, I wanted camo jungle fatigues – really bad. They were so cool. I especially liked the cargo pockets. But my NCOIC said I couldn’t wear them. But he would have let me wear jungle boots – if I went and bought them myself. But, by the time I found some in my size, I had my chance for an early-out. The rest is history.

Anyway, the new AF combat uniform looks really cool – check it out.

01. April 2006 · Comments Off on Iran Tests Stealth Missile · Categories: Iran

This from AP:

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran successfully test-fired a missile that can avoid radar and hit several targets simultaneously using multiple warheads, the military said Friday.

Gen. Hossein Salami, the air force chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, did not specify the missile’s range, saying it depends on the weight of its warheads.

As I said before, the time to strike is now.

Update: (4:03PM PDT) This just in from Monsters and Critics:

Tehran – Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Sunday that an underwater missile was successfully tested during a naval manoeuvre in the Persian Gulf, state news agency IRNA reported.

Deputy commander of the navy forces of the IRGC, General Ali Fadavi, said the missile could hit a target with a maximum speed of 100 metres per second.

No further details were disclosed.

The Russians already have this. I’ve been following this technology for a while. I’ll post more about it, and our countermeasures development, later.

Update 2: (9:10AM PDT 04/04/06) The Russian torpedo (which the Iranians most likely bought, rather than develop their own), is called the Shkval-E. They’ve been hocking these things since 2000. They have been in development since the late ’60s.

There are no (unclassified) countermeasures for this weapon. But I would think that, could we get a fix on one, a Phalanx gun might have some limited effectiveness against it, as it is made to also engage surface-skimming airborne missiles.

However, the Shkval has a rather short 7.5km range, and it would be difficult for an aggressor host vessel to get inside a CVBG’s defense perimeter. While considered very quiet, the Iranian’s five1 Russian-built Kilo class diesel/electric subs are considered easy prey for the US’s Los Angeles or Seawolf classes – to say nothing of the Virginia.

Even so, during the Falklands War, the Argentine San Luis, a German Type 209/1200 submarine, managed to elude 15 British frigates, as well as the antisubmarine forces of two small carriers. The San Luis maneuvered into torpedo range of the British fleet, and launched three torpedoes, although all three shots were unsuccessful. And, if Saddam Hussein had bought six modern diesel/electric subs, prior to invading Kuwait, “and positioned three of them on either side of the Strait of Hormuz, that would have complicated matters,” according to U.S. Vice Admiral James Williams. “One diesel sub can make a great difference to how you drive your ships.” But note that, even if only running it’s motors for station-keeping, a diesel/electric sub can’t remain below snorkel depth for very long.

Incidentally, our own counterpart to the Shkval, being developed through the Office of Naval Research, is called the High-Speed (Supercavitating) Undersea Weapon.

You all know about cavitation; it is the same process by which bubbles develop along the inner skin of a pot, just before it’s about to boil, and the froth which emerges in a ship’s propeller trail, despite the fact it’s totally underwater.

1) The most Iranian subs I can confirm currently are three Kilo class, Project 877EKM, purchased between 1992-97. This can be verified from The Illustrated Directory of Submarines of the World (2002) by David E. Miller (ISBN 1-84065-375-2). However, I have later, unconfirmed reports of one or two more subs (likely Kilo class, and perhaps of the quieter “Project 636“). The authoritative civilian reference here would, of course, be Jane’s. But it’s a subscription thing, and my local library can reference only as recently as 2003. Any help out there?

01. April 2006 · Comments Off on McKinney’s Lawyer Calls For Criminal Investigation · Categories: My Head Hurts, Politics

Well, contrary to form, and like a good politician, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D. – GA) is speaking in measured and rational terms. However, her attorney is calling for a criminal investigation of the officer involved in this ID check kerfuffle. This is totally over the top, and another sideshow to distract the public from the dysfunctional Congress. A tempest in a teapot, which unfortunately won’t go away, just because of who is stirring the pot.

I mean, she didn’t have her lapel pin on. And, while the capitol police should ideally have been able to recognize her, the woman does have a lot of different “looks”. I mean, if you’ve seen a few pictures of Condi Rice, or Hillary Clinton, or Liddy Dole, you would be able to pick them out of a crowd without a problem – not so with McKinney. We have to give the officer some benefit of the doubt.

Further, she has a documented history as a hot-head, who has been in other altercations in the past. And this just proves it out. She didn’t get molested or beat with a club; this is, at worst, an incident that should have been taken care of quietly and administratively. McKinney’s people are blowing it way out of proportion.

I tell you what, Brits – you give us Red Ken, we’ll give you McKinney. That’s how bad she is.

01. April 2006 · Comments Off on Oh, This Is Soooo Cool! · Categories: Military, Technology

The Military Channel has a new show, GI Factory, about our military equipment contractors. Tonight, on episode 2, they are at the General Dynamics plant in Lima Ohio, where they refurb M1s – cool!

Update: Oh man, I wouldn’t wan’t this guy’s job! In the second half of the show, they visit the Beretta USA plant where they make the M9. At the end of the line, they have the government “lot test”. They take 3 pistols at random off the line, and fire 5000 rounds through them (they didn’t say if that was total, or each). But it’s just some guy (with another taking notes) who slaps a magazine in, sticks the muzzle in a hole in a hopper, pops off all 15 rounds, and then slaps another in, and repeats. Jeeze, I don’t care if it is just a little 9mm – 8 hours of that has got to be hell on your wrist. They’ve got to be rotating, and/or taking some extended “cleaning breaks” every couple of hundred rounds, or something. Why don’t they have a fixture to do this?

31. March 2006 · Comments Off on Entertainment Trivia For 03/27/06 · Categories: Fun and Games, That's Entertainment!

I haven’t done any soap opera trivia yet, so here’s a two-parter for you soap fans:

First, what was the tie-in between Dallas and Knots Landing? And second, what was Dallas’ incest angle?

The Answer! Well, perhaps it’s a tribute to the intelligence of our readers (or a condemnation of mine), but it seems we have NO soap fans here. Anyway, if there was any interest in this question at all, I might do some research, and make sure I have the exact seasons. But, as it stands, I’ll just go on memory, and we can inter this matter in the shallow grave where it belongs:

In Dallas, season 2, we were introduced to Jock Ewing’s “other” son, “Gary”, who happened to be the hitherto mysterious father of niece “Lucy”, who had been living at the Southfork Ranch from episode 1. Gary married “Val”, and moved to Knots Landing AKA “The Cul-de-Sac”, a hard-against-the-coast suburban community of Los Angeles – most likely in Rancho Pales Verdes, Pacific Palisades, or Malibu, and flagrant decadence ensues. (Sound familiar, Desperate Housewives fans?)

Well anyway, in Dallas season 1, Lucy had an affair with senior ranch hand, “Ray Krebbs”. But, around about season eight, we learned that Ray was actually Jock’s bastard son, a half-brother to J.R., Bobby and Gary.

However, it is popularly believed that this was just a matter of the writers losing track of the story arc. Either that, or they drew back, in response to popular revulsion. In any event, the incest angle between Lucy and Ray was never dealt with

Update: “With some embarrassment,” reader Quintus informs us that it was actually season four when it was revealed that Ray was Jock’s son (see comments).

31. March 2006 · Comments Off on The Harsh Reality Of Nature · Categories: General

I just saw a short clip on The Science Channel, where a pride of lions were feasting on a zebra – ripping out chunks, and the zebra was still thrashing around.

Oh, it’s dinner time on the east coast – bon appetit. 🙂

31. March 2006 · Comments Off on Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses… · Categories: General, Politics

Timmer’s “upside-down, and subject, American flag” pic, and more, can be found here. As I stated here, I understand what the protesters are trying to say; but I find the way they have framed their argument incredibly stupid.

Particular among their faux pas is the “stolen land” argument. And, although any Californian student of our history can’t help but be ashamed at the way our forebears wrested the land from the old grantholders, to use that argument, our Mexican-American cousins would have to also concede that the land was previously “stolen” from the Native Americans. (Admittedly, most Mexicans, and even moreso, Mexican-Americans, have a high percentage of “native blood.” But that almost exclusively is from other tribes, further to the south.)

In this comment, I made light of Timmer’s making the same case I am covering here, by mentioning the Israelis. But that’s only humorous because the idea of “their ancestral homeland” has currency with so many of the same people who would deny this land to those who have come before us. Indeed, the Israelites “stole” the land from the Canaanites, who moved northward, crossbred with the “Sea People” (most likely Minoans), became the Phoenicians, and became the most powerful empire of the transition from the Bronze to Iron Ages (not to mention great friends and trading partners with the Israelites). Now, many of their progeny are “Palestinians”, and living in far greater squalor than their “Israeli-Arab” cousins. Crying over lost land, like any embrace of victimhood, gets one nowhere.

And I grow weary of idiotarians, like Kathy McKee, saying that Mexico is the “5th richest” economy in the world [she’s wrong about that, it’s between the floundering France, and California (even without California, the US is still #1)], and they “should take care of their own.” Well, applying that standard, we would have excluded the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Ashkenazi Jews… . What those “student protestors” should be saying is that immigrants are the embodiment of the American Dream. They should chant loud and clear the words of Emma Lazarus:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

The “answer” to the illegal immigration problem is simple: Increase quotas to reasonable levels (or eliminate them entirely), and eliminate the obviously racist and xenophobically inspired red tape for Mexicans, and others from “those” nations, to come to the US (even as visitors).

Oh, and as for “amnesty”, once one admits that the law, as it stands, is an ass, it becomes much easier to swallow.

30. March 2006 · Comments Off on The Day I’ll Burn The Flag · Categories: Ain't That America?, Politics, Rant

Looking back on Timmer’s post, Oh No They Didn’t: I see there are two issues at play here. The main issue is, of course, illegal immigration. And then there is the matter of the “student protests,” which, while they might make for great cable news footage, are little more than side shows.

To refresh your memory, Timmer’s post was centered upon an American flag being flown beneath a Mexican flag, and upside-down. By my own measure, while I find that incredibly stupid, I am not offended. However clumsily stated, I think I get their point.

And I think it was our Brit. reader, Al, that commented something like “it’s just a bloody piece of cloth.”

I’ve had this conversation with several Brit. friends in the past, I think I’ve got a handle on it. And here’s one key place where we Americans differ from our cousins across the pond. To the Brits, the Union Jack just represents the nation – it’s little more than a corporate logo. And this is true for the people of most nations of the world. But the Stars and Stripes is different for Americans Just as the United States is different from any other major nation of the world. That flag doesn’t represent a King on a throne, or 545 pompous egocentric blowhards in Washington D.C., a collective of the population, or even a really big chunk of real estate.

No, it represents something quite different: it’s an ideal, a set of principles, and a dream for a higher order of existence for all mankind. And many, many Americans believe (quite justifiably, IMO) that the ideal, and this nation, were divinely inspired. And, to them, the Stars and Stripes are as the Koran is to a Muslim.

But then, there are those (like these student protesters), who choose to denigrate or desecrate the Stars and Stripes. I will hazard a guess that few of them are saying they have lost faith in the ideal. What they are saying is that they think the actualization has fallen far short of the ideal. Pity we don’t have a flag for the government of the United States. POTUS has a flag, but Congress doesn’t – neither does the Supreme Court. We should have a flag for the federal government – wipe your ass with that one – you’ll likely get a cheering section.

But there are those in Congress, as well as various and sundry Statehouses, who are as fanatic about the Stars and Stripes as some Muslims are about the Koran. However, here is the paradox which certifies the Stars and Stripes’ divine nature: unlike the Koran, EVERYTHING that the Stars and Stripes represents is embodied in the individual’s right to do with it as they please – no matter how offensive it might be to some, or even all.

So, the day I burn the Stars and Stripes, will be the day a flag desecration amendment to the Constitution is ratified – hopefully, I will do it on the steps of Congress. Because that’s the day when the ideal will have been lost, and the Stars and Stripes becomes worthless.

30. March 2006 · Comments Off on More Shadow Boxing At The UN · Categories: GWOT, Iran

Well, Iran got a good finger-wagging from the UNSC yesterday:

NEW YORK — The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution yesterday giving Iran 30 days to suspend its uranium-enrichment program, but gave no hint of punishment if Tehran fails to comply.

After succeeding in having Iran’s nuclear program put before the Security Council, the United States and its European allies spent three weeks negotiating a watered-down resolution to meet the demands of Russia and China that it contain no justification for sanctions or use of force.

While yesterday’s resolution is toothless, all 15 members of the Security Council clearly rejected Iran’s assertion that it has the right to enrich uranium without interference from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said it is now up to the Iranian government to demonstrate that it will abide by the requirements of the IAEA, which must report back to the Security Council in 30 days.

This is absurd! Does anyone think that playing these games improves the US’ stature in the world? Would Andrew Jackson or Teddy Roosevelt put up with this shit?

We did the same gawd-damn thing with Iraq. France and Russia objected then, just as Russia and China are objecting now: for purely short-sighted commercial reasons. (And they say America is only interested in the next quarter’s P&L statement.) This sort of mind-set amongst the permanent members makes the UNSC patently dysfunctional.

But yet, we play the damn game. And, just as Saddam got all his WMD staged for a quick exodus to Syria when he knew the UN negotiations were in their terminal phase, Iran will enrich all the uranium they can, until they know the Rubicon has been crossed, and then they will pack everything for shipment to Syria, Africa, or one of the ex-Soviet ‘stans – and perhaps provide any product they have to al-Qaeda.

We may not have the capability to stage another invasion. (I think we do, but it would first require pulling out of places we have little or no business being in any more – like Okinawa, South Korea, Germany and England.) But we still have a quite formidable military option. We should strike now, and strike hard. As Ann Coulter recommends, not just at their nuclear installations, but their entire industrial capacity. And at the same time, we should be prepared to funnel massive assistance to any nascent contra organizations.

And forget “nation building”. That was kind of essential with Iraq, as leaving a power vacuum would have been irresistible to Syria or Iran. But we won’t have that problem with Iran; who’s going to invade: Russia? Pakistan? Georgia?

The 800 lb. gorilla is, of course, the disruption in the world’s oil supply. But, if that proves to be truly prohibitive, the oil fields are distributed over only a small portion of the nation – mostly along the Persian Gulf, and to a lesser extent, the Caspian Basin – we can easily effect a limited occupation over these regions.

Of course, the moonbats will go on the march. “No blood for oil,” they will cry out. It’s about time we stop shadow dancing with them as well. When not enough oil on the world market means hospitals in the third world go dark, and innocent children die, HELL YES, that oil is worth a little blood.

30. March 2006 · Comments Off on OK, This Beats It · Categories: Site News, Stupidity

I’ve gotten emails from a couple of readers about this before. But now it’s happened to me:

Sorry, you’ve banned from commenting on this blog.

Either your comment content was found to contain spam, or
your IP address (or a subnet of your IP address) has spammed this blog before.

If you think you got this page in error, your entered name might be too short.

Strike count: 5

Banned from commenting on my own g-damn blog – if that don’t beat all! LOL

Update: Well, I just did some interesting gymnastics to get this comment to post. (enter dummy comment, log out/in as “admin”, edit comment – replacing dummy with intended content). There’s something about that comment (and it’s not the word “shit”) that the system doesn’t like. Any ideas?

29. March 2006 · Comments Off on “Army Of Davids” Theory Jumps The Shark · Categories: Technology, That's Entertainment!

In most cases, I have been a supporter of Glenn Reynolds’ Army of Davids theory. But, in this TCS Daily article, he has simply taken it too far.

Having done some stand-up comedy, I know something of this. C’mon Glenn: The Lazy Muncie video you site names several (not necessarily comedy) “luminaries” who hail from there. Drew Carey is from Cleveland, Roseanne Barr is from Salt Lake City, Jeff Foxworthy is from Atlanta and Johnny Carson was from Norfolk, Nebraska. All cut their teeth in local clubs before making it big. This has been true from the days of burlesque, and likely before.

In the world of comedy, the Internet is another channel of distribution, not a revolution. In a way, it may be counter-productive, as it will allow everyone with some talent, but no refinement, to “perform” for a relatively elite audience, without the instant critique which comes from “killing” or “bombing”. Again, Lazy Muncie is a great example of this; it shows lots of promise, but really is neither extremely funny, or seminal. But, as long just about every town and hamlet across the nation has a little club with an open mike night, flyover country will still be the great crucible of American comedy.

Update: After doing some background on on our two Lazy Muncie protagonists, Kerby Heyborne and Chris Cox (not to be confused with our new SEC Chairman), disabuses one of any conception of it as some sort of “Cinderella story”. Muncie native Cox has been making his way up the writer/producer ladder here in SoCal for about 11 years. Heyborne is newer to SoCal, but spent years busting his chops on the “Mormon Theater” circuit in Utah. In neither case can you call Lazy Muncie their “big break”, as they both are part of Fox’s new sit-com Free Ride (Cox as Supervising Producer, Heyborne in the part of “Dillon”).

28. March 2006 · Comments Off on New SuperCuts Commercial · Categories: Memoir, Military, That's Entertainment!

ROTFL A new SuperCuts commercial typifies their competitors with this haircutting automoton saying (in a mechanical voice) “how about a number 2… number 2… number 2…” This has got to be a crack-up, at least to guys who served in my day. The “number 2”, named for the clipper guard they put on just before they shear you like a sheep, leaves you with about as much hair as a “Pinger”, right out of Basic.

28. March 2006 · Comments Off on Red Ken Vs. US Embassy · Categories: General

In a matter strangely reminiscent of Rudy Guiliani’s UN diplomat parking ticket kerfuffle, it seems the US Embassy to Great Britain has refused to pay London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingstone’s congestion fee (about $14/car) on cars entering the city center.

Our embassy is framing the argument as a tax matter, and claim they are exempt under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. I would agree with this. But I wonder, how many of the estimated 100 cars/day at the embassy are actually conducting the US’s business, and how many are just the private vehicles of staffers commuting to work?

But this quote from Livingstone really jumps the shark:

When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge.

Man, this guy is an idiot.

Update: It seems this has been going on for decades, and is far broader based. Here’s an article from last year, saying NYC also want’s property taxes for embassy buildings not directly related to the diplomatic mission. And here’s a World Bank paper (PDF), from 1995 about (among other things) African nations which wanted fees for diplomatic vehicles.

28. March 2006 · Comments Off on The White House Shakeup Begins · Categories: Politics

This just in: White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has just tendered his resignation. He is to be replaced by be replaced by Budget Director, and former Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolten.

Expect further shuffling of the deck in the near future. A legion of GOP leaders and pundits have been calling for this for months. It has also been rumored that Card has been quite unhappy in his position, and bucking for the job as head of Treasury.

28. March 2006 · Comments Off on FEC: Hands Off Blogs · Categories: Media Matters Not, Politics

We won:

In a unanimous vote yesterday, the Federal Election Commission left unregulated almost all political activity on the Internet except for paid political advertisements. Campaigns buying such ads will have to use money raised under the limits of current federal campaign law.

Perhaps most important, the commission effectively granted media exemptions to bloggers and other activists using the Web to allow them to praise and criticize politicians, just as newspapers can, without fear of federal interference.

27. March 2006 · Comments Off on If You Are Not Watching Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King · Categories: That's Entertainment!

…On the SciFi channel, what could you be thinking? Thusfar, it’s been pretty excellent TV.

Update: Our Brit readers will know this by Sword of Xanten. And here’s the IMdB rundown. The reviews are quite mixed. I think a lot of it has to do with some reviewers holding it up to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, as this was obviously done for a fraction of LotR’s budget.

27. March 2006 · Comments Off on Responsible Parenting Or Eugenics? · Categories: Politics, Science!, Technology

Philip Chaston at Samizdata blogs on a new IVF clinic in Britain, offering genetic screening for congenital diseases:

The £5 million centre will bring pioneering embryo screening techniques for the creation of “saviour siblings” to Britain.

In addition, it will offer testing for up to 100 inherited gene disorders such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis.

Embryos found to be carrying rogue genes will be discarded and only “healthy” embryos implanted into their mothers.

Controversially, doctors at the centre have already obtained the first British licence to treat a couple with an inherited form of bowel cancer in the hope that their baby will never develop the disease. The centre is to be opened by the private Care at the Park IVF Clinic in Nottingham within three months.

But campaigners last night said it represents a further step by the IVF industry on the slippery slope towards eugenics and parents being able to choose characteristics for their children such as blue eyes or blond hair.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “Paying £5 million for a state-of-the-art centre in order to eliminate more embryos with disabilities sounds like aggressive eugenics. We need to develop real cures for genetic diseases, not kill the carriers.”

This may seem a bit odd to us here in the US, where such procedures have been relatively commonplace for years. For all the talk of the antediluvian nature of America’s “Religious Right”, the medical regulatory environment in Britain is far more restrictive.

Eugenics is a term with a lot of emotional impact, due to its association with Nazi Germany and genocide. But the key difference here is the absence of state coercion. Indeed, to the clear thinking and amoral individual, this liberal eugenics lacks the ethical pitfalls of the lamentable chapter in human history. As I see it, only the hardcore Life Begins at Conception crowd could have objection to this. But they have a Luddite objection to IVF procedures in the first place, so nothing new there.

As well, the article uses the term designer babies quite liberally. To me – and I believe I’m in the majority, at least here in the US – genetic selection doesn’t imply design. A real designer baby would be one which has had its genome actually altered to achieve the desired (normal, exceptional or even superhuman) traits. We have a little ways to go with our science before we are there.

27. March 2006 · Comments Off on Automotive Technology Marches On · Categories: Technology

Glenn Reynolds seems to have been in a motorhead mood yesterday. First, he links to this Autoblog post, about the new prototype Mazda hydrogen/gasoline RX-8, then to this this Jay Leno article in Popular Mechanics. The Leno article, coincidentally, features a pic of Jay with the lovely original Mazda Cosmo.

But I believe Autoblog’s Chris Paukert is a bit misleading, when he says the RX-8s are “street legal.” I don’t know about the specifics of Japanese law. But here in California, factory prototypes (to say nothing of alternative fuel vehicles) enjoy legal loopholes that don’t apply to the cars they might sell to rank-and-file drivers. So Glenn, you might have a VERY long wait for your test drive. That is, unless you can exploit your “celebrity” status. 😉

But BMW is still way ahead of Mazda in hydrogen combustion technology. The reader should note here that, in either case, these are quite different than the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, as, rather than electric motors (and the fuel cell, of course), they use a more-or-less conventional internal combustion engine.

Some commenters on the Autoblog post lumped the Mazda in with the likes of the Toyota Prius, calling it a “hybrid”; when the term is used in that context, it is a misnomer. But “hybrid” can be applied to a lot of different technologies, and it can be quite confusing to the layperson. The Prius is an electric/internal combustion motive system hybrid. The Mazda is a hydrogen/gasoline fuel system hybrid.

I find it difficult to get too very excited about any of this. Popular hybrids, such as the Prius, do deliver better mileage than their conventional counterparts, but not that great. This is particularly true if one adopts a more intelligent urban driving style than the constant accelerate/brake cycle common to most Americans. And, as for hydrogen, any way you get it requires so much more energy than gasoline, or any other fossil fuel, that it simply is not economical. As well, when deriving hydrogen from the hydrocarbons in fossil fuels (the more economical alternative, as compared to electrolysis of water), the point of airborne emissions is simply moved from the automobile itself to the chemical plant, which, in the case of the Honda Home Energy Station (which reforms natural gas), is in the same chunk of atmosphere as the automobile it fuels.

Of course, hydrogen vehicle fuel, derived by simple, Very High Temperature, or perhaps even plasma-phase electrolysis (PDF), using clean and abundant nuclear power, is the natural end point of it all – once all the fossil fuel is gone (and we realize the actual environmental impact of biofuels). But, for the moment, the Earth’s proven reserves of petroleum keep going up and up. And, while it’s far more expensive to extract and refine bituminous sand and shale oil than light sweet crude, the total well-to-wheel cost is still far below that of hydrogen.

Than there is the matter of complexity, and that’s where Jay comes in. In his PopMech article, he laments the fact that owner’s manuals never say anything about basic and emergency maintenance anymore. Well, while I can’t help a bit of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days” myself, we all must realize that we can never go home again. Cars are becoming more complex, and hybrid technology, ANY hybrid technology, promises only to accelerate that trend.

This brings us back to BMW. The hybrid systems in cars available to us today achieve most of their economy by recapturing the kinetic energy of the moving vehicle during deceleration. As such, there is nothing to be gained in steady cruising. In an earlier post, I made the mistake of stating that contemporary gasoline internal combustion engines were over 98% efficient, without stating that I was writing merely of the combustion of the gasoline itself, and was corrected by at least one reader. About two-thirds of that energy is lost to waste heat, about evenly split between the exhaust (part of which can be recovered by a turbocharger), and the cooling system. To recover more of that waste energy, BMW has developed a steam hybrid system:

BMW TurboSteamer

The TurboSteamer has two separate components: a high-temperature loop [red] heated by the exhaust system and a low-temperature loop [blue] heated by engine coolant. The circuits follow different paths but feed power into the same place. In the high-temperature loop, an electric pump circulates distilled water. First stop: a steam generator that vaporizes the water. A superheater further heats the steam to above 1,000?F. From there, steam spins a piston-driven expander, which powers a belt drive that helps turn the crankshaft. Then, the steam hits a condenser, which cools it back down to a liquid state.

The low-temperature loop—which assists the high-temperature loop—works similarly but uses ethanol because it turns into steam at just 173?. Its pump drives the ethanol through a steam generator heated by engine coolant (the ethanol actually helps cool the engine) and then into a second steam generator that it shares with the primary circuit. Steam exits at about 300? and flows into its own expander, which adds power via a belt drive to that of the high-temperature expander. On exiting, the ethanol flows through the car’s radiator, which cools it back down to liquid.

Wow, three different systems, and none of it user serviceable. Jay must be delighted. 🙂