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Monday, October 31, 2005
Third Annual Blogger Costume Party
The theme this year is Firefly. Our tale begins as Captain Reynolds, his loyal first mate, and Layne try to appease a crowd of bar patrons who are mighty peeved at their refusal to join in the festivities celebrating the birthday of Misha I, emperor of the Blogger Alliance.
The ship's mechanic knows better than to pick fights with Loyal Citizens. She stays at her post aboard Serenity - and hopes that Simon remembers to bring the fresh strawberries.
Serenity takes off for the border world Persephone, in hopes of finding a cargo job through Badger, their old occasional business associate. Badger is unavailable, but his brother Possum approaches Captain Reynolds with an offer to smuggle black market beagles to the planet Sullivan.
This business has its risks. After taking the cargo, Serenity is shortly intercepted by the Alliance cruiser Dallas. Reynolds hides the beagles in empty crates left over from their previous run, a shipment of blenders, and docks with the Dallas. The captain is satisfied with the inspection, especially after receiving some complimentary football tickets and Inara's phone number.
How precisely do we pull the troops out of Iraq and at the same time protect the fragile democracy from the "insurgents" who seek to destroy it and pave the way for the rise of another autocratic regime in that nation?
Heather Bare, known to bloggers as MommaBear, has passed away. Kathy Kinsley has a memorial post, with links to others.
From March to November in 2002. MommaBear joined Andrew Ian Dodge's original Dodgeblog; see her first and last posts. That month she joined On The Third Hand - first post here. She entered her last post on June 24 this year:
Many Thanks to those who wrote or linked. You will not know just how much it means to MB to have friends rally round. It was a long tough last 4 years for PB [PoppaBear], but now MB is continuing the battle for her own life, undergoing chemo right now, with other “stuff” to come afterwards. She’s clawing and scratching her way all along this road - how else to go !!
Again, T H A N K S ! !
MommaBear was also a fellow member of the Axis of Weevil, Terry Oglesby's roster of bloggers with ancestral and/or current roots in Alabama; see the top of Possumblog for the complete list.
We will miss her.
Update: MommaBear had also posted as "Jeannie Fiona Macaulay" via several Andrew Ian Dodge projects, including his current blog Dodgeblogium - click here for his remembrance. This post gives a little dose of her sense of humor.
Because my platform would look something like this. Possibly excepting the part about bombing Syria - I'd first want to explore other options (and the full text of the War Powers Act) before figuring out how to get tougher with Assad.
A Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi email has alerted me to an outfit called Kampagne gegen den Al-Quds-Tag (Campaign Against Al-Quds Day). What is Al-Quds Day, you ask? (Emphasis added)
In 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini called for a demonstration on the last Friday of Ramadan for the "liberation" of Jerusalem (Al-Quds) and the destruction of the state of Israel. This year the Iranian government together with its radicalised Islamist supporters have called once again to demonstrate in Teheran, Lebanon, Berlin, London, Jakarta, Toronto and worldwide. The Al-Quds Day activities fuel hatred against Jews and strengthen the power of the Islamic dictatorship in Iran and its supporters worldwide. We, the signatories of this call, have different views on the Middle-East conflict, but we are united in our protest against this international day of Islamist propaganda.
Since 1995 an Al-Quds demonstration has taken place every year in Berlin; this year it will most probably take place on October 29th. In the early phase of the Al-Quds movement the slogans like "Death to Israel" were directly calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. After increasingly vocal public protests, the organisers of the Al-Quds manifestations have been trying to use more neutral slogans as a cover for their real intentions. Nevertheless the Al-Quds Day is not a "peaceful demonstration against Israel"! Instead it is the expression of pure hatred, a public manifestation of Antisemitism under the cover of criticism of the State of Israel, as well as an attack on universal values of freedom, equality and emancipation.
The Campaign is staging a counterprotest in Berlin on October 29. If you plan on being there, go visit the site for more info.
Julius Caesar You scored 42 Wisdom, 73 Tactics, 49 Guts, and 46 Ruthlessness!
Roman military and political leader. He was instrumental in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His conquest of Gallia Comata extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, introducing Roman influence into what has become modern France, an accomplishment of which direct consequences are visible to this day. In 55 BC Caesar launched the first Roman invasion of Britain. Caesar fought and won a civil war which left him undisputed master of the Roman world, and began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and heavily centralized the already faltering government of the weak Republic. Caesar's friend Marcus Brutus conspired with others to assassinate Caesar in hopes of saving the Republic. The dramatic assassination on the Ides of March was the catalyst for a second set of civil wars, which marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire under Caesar's grand-nephew and adopted son Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus. Caesar's military campaigns are known in detail from his own written Commentaries (Commentarii), and many details of his life are recorded by later historians such as Suetonius, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio.
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
Also part of the verbal marathon: A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a case involving "eminent domain."
That is a concept enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of all 50 U.S. states which allows the government to take private property for a public use, on payment of compensation.
"That just shows you," he said, "that the right to property is not absolute even in the home of capitalism."
Redistribution of land to state-backed farm cooperatives is a key element in Chavez's reforms plans for Venezuela. The opposition says land reform brings Venezuela closer to the model of Cuba, whose leader Fidel Castro is a close ally.
think it’s past time for there to be a changing of the guard in black leadership in America. People like Farrakhan, Sharpton and Jackson are no better than hustlers, bigots, and crooks. There are hundreds of black leaders who believe in improving the lives of black Americans, and America in general, but the media keeps giving time to the Axis of Irrelevancy.
At Daily Kos, Markos Zuniga responds in a rambling post. One remark deserves attention:
I have no opinion on the specifics -- I'm not African American, I don't consider it my business to tell them who should "lead" them.
I'm a white American guy, and I do consider it my business to tell blacks - and women and Iranians and soccer fans and anyone else on this planet - who should lead them. It's not like I'm forcing anyone to do anything, and telling people off is a big part of blogging. I am not so selfish as to narrow my political and social focus on what profits me. Besides, I have a stake in who leads constituencies that I don't belong to; our disparate groups interact with one another, and what genuinely increases the well-being of one group benefits them all.
Ideology is the overriding qualification for leadership. Zuniga knows this, of course; he writes of "the black movement" as a Democratic constituency, and presumes a general agreement over most issues. What is troubling is that the very existence of ethnic blocs is taken for granted, that racial separatism must always be a part of politics. Zuniga offers no vision of genuine racial integration within his party.
In preparation for a guest appearance at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, the marching band at C.D. Hylton High School had a logical and seemingly innocuous idea: play a Georgia-themed song. They decided on "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," by the Charlie Daniels Band.
But early this month, a local newspaper, the Potomac News, published a letter by a Woodbridge resident who, after having seen the C.D. Hylton Bulldawg Marching Band perform the country-western hit at a football game, wondered how a song about the devil could be played at school events, because of the separation of church and state.
Fearing bad public reaction, Hylton's longtime band director, Dennis Brown, pulled the song from the playlist. "I was just being protective of my students. I didn't want any negative publicity for C.D. Hylton High School," he said.
I don't have anything else to blog about, so I'll post a few thoughts about my latest sci-fi interest. (Warning: spoilers.)
Earth That Was. In the Firefly universe, all of humanity had left its ancestral home as Earth was "used up," relocating to a planet-rich star system where many of its planets were terraformed for human habitation. The idea that Earth's resources could dwindle by such proportions in a mere 500 years is preposterous. The Solar System itself offers many resources, including the possibility of terraforming Mars and even Venus. If dead planets can be terraformed, the same technology would be able to ameliorate any environmental damage inflicted on Earth.
And even if humanity did expand to such an extent that the Solar System couldn't support it all, there would be no reason to order a complete evacuation, (oppressive, irrational governments notwithstanding). My advice to Joss Whedon: don't attempt to explain the origins of the exodus from Earth. It would be as silly as Star Trek attempting to explain its Next Generation-era currency-free economic system.
How many star systems? There are a lot of worlds in Firefly. The film Serenity refers to one, apparently the home of core worlds Londinium, Sihnon, and Ariel. But the series mentions at least one border system: the Georgia System). Unless "system" has been redefined somewhat, humanity must have spread to several stars and not just one.
So does that mean faster-than-light travel exists? I see three possibilities:
Civilization exists in several star systems. All ships have FTL capability.
Civilization exists in several star systems. All ships (at least civilian craft) are sublight vessels, but stationary "stargates" allow passage between systems.
Civilization exists in a binary (or trinary) star system, or an exceptionally dense star cluster. The companion/neighboring star(s) are distant enough that each can have its own planetary system, and close enough that sublight travel for commercial vessels is practical.
The show's chief attraction. Not the military elites of Star Trek or the caricatures of Star Wars. Excluding a few eccentric plot twists, they're people you could actually know. A yuppie doctor. A genteel career woman. A troubled teen. Two war vets. An easygoing pilot. A working-class guy. The tomboyish girl from down the street. Their interaction is natural. Their ship looks like a real vessel that someone might own. Firefly is perhaps the least alien of sci-fi programs.
Companionship. One of the (probably unintentional) ironies of the show is the nomenclature for Inara's profession: Companion. In the English language, "companion" refers not to short-term liaisons such Inara's, but to long-term associations - such as Mal and Zoe's years as fellow soldiers and now as fellow shipmates, Zoe and Wash's marriage, and Simon and River's siblinghood. When I think of Inara the first word that pops in my head is "distant." It's not just Mal she's afraid of attaching herself to, it's the Serenity as a whole.
In a sense, she is a counterpart to Jayne. Both are drifters, attached to Serenity primarily though business arrangements, and defiant toward Mal. And both are the most alone of Serenity's nine crew and passengers.
Is he really a shepherd? One mystery that is not answered by the current film is Book's past. In the episode "Objects in Space" (my favorite), the bounty hunter says that Book isn't a cleric, but doesn't say what he supposedly really is. Previous episodes reveal a knowledge of criminal organizations and Alliance law enforcement procedures. The popular theory is that he was (or is?) a law enforcement official; that would explain his high standing with the Alliance ("Safe"). He could have since become a shepherd. Or his ecclesiastical profession could be a ruse, and his ham-handed explanation of faith to River ("Jaynestown") could be explained by his having not sufficiently researched his cover (as opposed to Whedon having not sufficiently researched religious people). River knows the real story, and she ain't telling - yet.
River. Life not originating from Earth has yet to be discovered. But Serenity has its own version of the token alien. River appears to have two paranormal abilities. First she is a telepath; she can access both short- and long-term memories of people present. She is also clairvoyant, able to see enough mechanical detail to tell when an explosion is about to occur ("Out of Gas") or even when someone is about to die if not given proper medical attention ("Ariel"). (Perhaps there is a genetic link between her psychic awareness and her child prodigy genius.) She is also a trained martial artist. Due to the experimentation on her brain, her grasp of reality wavers, and her impulse control is severely strained without medication. River Tam is the teen counselor's worst nightmare. Underneath all the trauma is a delightful, imaginative girl.
Their finest hour.Serenity's nine at their best, all from the TV series:
Mal Hired to steal an unknown cargo, double-crosses Niska when he finds out it's a medicine the locals need. ("The Train Job")
Zoe (Not shown on screen) Insists that the shuttles return to the derelict Serenity, saving Mal's life. ("Out of Gas")
Wash, Kaylee Both outwit bandits who board the Serenity - although they are separated from their respective stations aboard the ship when they do. ("Heart of Gold")
Jayne His speech before the mudders of Canton. He rejects the folk hero status that they bestowed on him, but his glimmer of decency only adds to the legend that unites and comforts them. ("Jaynestown")
Simon Sneaks River in and out of St. Lucy's Hospital to get a critical medical diagnostic. ("Ariel")
River Defeats the bounty hunter in a game of psychological warfare. ("Objects in Space")
Inara Outwits Saffron's double-crossing of Mal in the laser weapon heist. ("Trash")
Book Outwits the Alliance official pursuing an old comrade of Mal and Zoe's. ("The Message")
But it could bear a significant resemblance, if we pull out our troops in line with the wishes of al-Qaeda (emphasis added):
A captured letter shows al-Qaeda positioning itself for a United States defeat in Iraq, but struggling to curb a top leader whose campaign of beheadings and attacks on Shi'a is costing the extremist movement popular support.
The letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its chief in Iraq, lays down a grand strategy for using post-occupation Iraq as a platform for an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East, and ultimately Palestine.
"You might ask an important question," Zawahiri wrote. "What drives me to broach these matters while we are in the din of war and the challenges of killing and combat?"
"My answer is, firstly: Things may develop faster than we imagine," he said. "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam - and how they ran and left their agents - is noteworthy."
"Because of that we must be ready starting now, before events overtake us, and before we are surprised by the conspiracies of the Americans and the United Nations and their plans to fill the void behind them," he wrote.
What strikes seasoned observers of terrorism is that none of this is revolutionary news. I wasn't at all surprised to read that letter, but I was surprised to see the press treating the substance as a brand new or explosive material. The so-called four-stage plan has been common knowledge amongst jihadists and even "digested" on al-Jazeera: defeating the U.S. in Iraq, declaring the caliphate in the most extended Sunni areas in Iraq, then moving beyond that realm has been a classic plan for some time. A reader of Islamist geopolitics would understand that "extending the jihad" towards Egypt and the Mashreq (translated by Levant) - meaning Syria, Lebanon and Jordan - is the equivalent of spreading within the Sunni realm of the region. The latter move, according to earlier Salafist analysis, should culminate with a clash with the Jewish state. We're talking about the Muslim Brotherhood old song: nothing really innovative, but certainly new to our public, once translated and published.
Dogs are also considered ritually impure by Muslims. In fact, according to this ruling, it's easier to remove the ritual impurity associated with pigs than that associated with dogs.
But some dogs are less equal than others. For those of you who brought your copy of the Sahih Muslim version of the Hadith, turn to Book 004, Number 1032 (emphasis added):
Abu Dharr [one of the sahaba - companions of Mohammad] reported: The Messenger of 'Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle that covers him and in case there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, his prayer would be cut off by (passing of an) ass, woman, and black Dog. I said: O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog? He said: O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil.
This year's Nobel Peace Prize goes to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency. What does this agency do? It essentially negotiates with hostile nations with the intention to persuade them to stop their nuclear programs. Has any of those negotiations been successful? No - Iran and North Korea are going full speed ahead with their programs, and Pakistan won't grant IAEA access to nuclear black marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is currently under house arrest.
The IAEA is to would-be nuclear powers what Elmer Fudd is to Bugs Bunny.
Only two nuclear programs have folded in recent times - in Libya, which caved to US intimidation, and in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which caved to a military invasion. The IAEA didn't even know about Qadaffi's nuclear skullduggery, and ElBaradei won't even acknowledge that Iraq still had a nuke program in this decade, despite the discovery of enriched uranium and centrifuge blueprints and components. The Institute for Science and International Security has a three-part 2003 report on the gas centrifuge program - see here, here, and here. Part III summarizes the risk:
Iraq acquired, and still possesses, a remarkable amount of classified and sensitive information about gas centrifuges. It gained considerable experience in gas centrifuges and has had over a decade to ponder its weaknesses and strengths.
Iraq poses a risk in that its centrifuge information could pass to irresponsible agents or other nations, some of which may be seeking nuclear weapons. Even advanced nations would find Iraq's centrifuge information useful to their civil nuclear programs. Few countries have information about 3-meter Urenco centrifuges.
No, he didn't quite say that, but that sums up the message of Bush's speech before the National Endowment for Democracy earlier today. Doc J at RedState.org has a review, and will post a link to the transcript in comments as soon as it's available on the Internet.
On Tuesday, a reliable diplomatic source in Pyongyang told Tass that a congress of the Korean Workers' Party may be called in North Korea before the end of the year and that a successor of the country's leader would be announced at the forum. According to the diplomat, one of Kim's three sons is likely to be the successor of the supreme power in North Korea. All of them have "approximately equal chances".