Archive for December 4th, 2006
The Ohio Friend is fond of Mencken. Here’s a reason why:
Here the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head, and is thrown willy-nilly into a meager and exclusive aristocracy.
I’m told Vintage Mencken is a good starting point.
With December 7 approaching, this little article is pertinent:
Every year as December 7 approaches we hear and read that eight battleships were sunk at Pearl Harbor. That is even repeated in a 2001 article by HNN staff on the HNN website debunking movie myths about Pearl Harbor.
It didn’t happen.
Eight battleships were there. Two were “lost in action,” the Navy’s term for damage that permanently destroys a ship’s usefulness. None were “sunk,” which means disappearing below the sea surface (the most obvious but not the only way to become lost in action). Pearl Harbor is shallow, with only a few feet of water separating the battleship’s bottoms from the harbor bottom. No capital ship could disappear below the waves in a shallow harbor.
Here is what happened to each of the eight battleships during and after the attack: Pennsylvania was in dry dock when the attack began and suffered only superficial damage caused when a destroyer in the same dry dock exploded. (Sinking a capital ship in dry dock is physically impossible, even if the dry dock is flooded.) Maryland was also lightly damaged. Both ships were seaworthy later that month. Tennessee suffered more damage, but was seaworthy early in 1942. California and West Virginia were torpedoed and settled onto the bottom of the harbor, their main decks well above water. If they had suffered the same damage at sea, they would have been sunk, but the shallowness of the harbor saved them — illustrating the foolishness of attacking ships in port. Both were repaired, with many improvements, and went to sea again. Nevada was the only battleship in motion during the attack. Her crew ran her aground to prevent sinking. Oklahoma capsized, and the forward magazine of Arizona exploded. These are the two battleships that actually were lost in action. Visitors to the Arizona memorial see nothing above water, but that is because the Navy removed the ship’s superstructures, guns and turrets, which would otherwise be mostly above water today.
The six surviving battleships fought in decisive battles later in the war. On D-Day, Nevada shelled German emplacements behind the Normandy beaches, with devastating effect. The other five survivors shelled many Japanese-held Pacific islands before the Marines and Army landed on the beaches. When the U.S. invaded the Philippines, the Japanese sent three naval forces to ambush American troop ships. One of them, with two Japanese battleships, came up the Surigao Strait, where West Virginia, Tennessee, California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (all allegedly had been “sunk” three years earlier at Pearl Harbor) were on shore-shelling duty, together with Mississippi. After U.S. destroyers sank one of the Japanese battleships with torpedoes, the U.S. battleships sank the other one with gunfire. This was only time in history that U.S. battleships ever crossed an enemy’s “T” — the maneuver for which battleships were originally designed and built. And it was the last time that any battleships of any navy fired on each other in battle.
Despite initial appearances, the attack on Pearl Harbor was an abject strategic failure. The Japanese attacked a fleet in port, where it is hard to cause permanent loss of a capital ship and where repair facilities are already nearby. They attacked obsolete ships and in so doing taught the U.S. Navy from the very beginning to rely on aircraft carriers rather than battleships. The Japanese attacked without any guarantee that the most valuable U.S. ships — the carriers — would be present, and all the U.S. carriers were safely elsewhere on December 7. At Midway six months later, those same American carriers sank two-thirds of the Japanese carrier fleet, inflicting a wound from which the Japanese navy never recovered. And the Japanese ignored the unglamorous target that truly would have crippled the U.S. Navy for perhaps a year or more: the oil tanks next to Pearl Harbor. Without the ability to refuel at Pearl, the U.S. Navy would have had to retreat to San Diego, San Francisco Bay, and Puget Sound.
Frugal Cuisine. Add it to your Google Reader subscriptions.
Sandy Sturges has died. At least she lived to see the DVD collection of Sturges films be issued. From the LA Times:
Anne Margaret “Sandy” Sturges, who used the unfinished manuscript of an autobiography by her late husband, film auteur Preston Sturges, as the basis for the book “Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges,” has died. She was 79.
Sandy Sturges died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan Beach. The cause was cancer, her son Tom Sturges said.
Decades after her husband died of a heart attack in 1959, Sturges edited together excerpts from his letters and diaries and combined them with his incomplete manuscript to create “a charming better-late-than-never autobiography,” Kenneth Turan wrote in a review for The Times. “If you want a sense of the man, if you want to hear the beguiling voice … this book succeeds where all the others have come up short,” Turan wrote.
Sandy Sturges was in her early 20s and her husband in his 50s when they married in 1951. The ceremony took place on the stage in the Players restaurant, a popular dinner and theater spot in Hollywood that he owned. It was his fourth marriage, her second.
He was past the height of his fame as the writer and director of such ingenious romantic comedies as “The Lady Eve” in 1941 and “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” in 1944. He turned his attention to his new family.
The couple had two children — Preston Jr., born in 1953, and Thomas, born two years later — and spent long periods in Europe before Preston Sturges died.
Sandy Sturges once recalled the unlikely details of their meeting. She was walking past his restaurant on her way home from work and noticed that the neon sign outside was shooting sparks. Read the rest of this entry »
Most now know how to eat sushi, but I have to admit that I learned some new things in this video.
Read this whole article. Lots of good links. From the article:
When high school science teacher Ray Janke bought a home in Chicopee, Mass., he decided to see how much he could save on his electric bill.
He exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents, put switches and surge protectors on his electronic equipment to reduce the “phantom load” – the trickle consumption even when electronic equipment is off – and bought energy-efficient appliances.
Two things happened: He saw a two-thirds reduction in his electric bill, and he found himself under audit by Mass Electric. The company thought he’d tampered with his meter. “They couldn’t believe I was using so little,” he says.
Mr. Janke had hit on what experts say is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective place to reduce one’s energy consumption: home.
Moving closer to public transportation or riding a bike instead of driving is not an option for many, but changing incandescent bulbs for fluorescent and buying more efficient appliances is not only possible, it quickly pays for itself with savings.
In the end, not-very-glamorous changes like these as well as obsessively sealing and insulating your home will save more than, in the words of one expert, “greenie weenie” additions like green roofs and solar panels. Twenty-two percent of all energy in the United States is used for residential purposes. (Transportation accounts for 28 percent.) And although residences consume only about two-fifths of this as electricity, because electrical generation is inherently inefficient, it accounts for 71 percent of household emissions. A home’s electrical use may be responsible for more CO2 emissions than the two cars in the driveway. Ultimately, changes made at home may be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
The future apparently holds less-snowy winters, earlier springs, and hotter summers because of human-produced greenhouse gases, scientists say. Accumulating evidence supports climate scientists’ gloomy forecasts. Five of the hottest years measured since modern record keeping began a century ago occurred in the past decade, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Last year, the year of Katrina and Rita, set records for hurricane activity.
“If you love your children, replace your lights,” says Joseph Lstiburek, principal engineer of Building Science, a Boston-based consulting company that specializes in building technology.
I use unique passwords with no pattern for any log-in that’s important (e.g., has monetary implications). I get mine from Roboform Pro‘s password generator. Since Roboform also remembers the password and fills it in as needed, I don’t mind that the passwords are impossible to remember. Now a Lifehacker commenter points to this site that generates secure passwords for you. Use it only for good.
Read Glenn Greenwald’s post on Jose Padilla’s imprisonment. The beginning:
I’ve honestly run out of adjectives to use when discussing the Bush administration’s treatment of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. Last month, I wrote about the torture — there is no other accurate word for it — to which Padilla alleges, quite credibly, he was subjected over the 3 1/2 years of his lawless detention. Today, The New York Times describes the apparently jarring video showing a completely dehumanized Padilla being transported from his black hole to a dentist visit. The article includes an assessment from a psychologist describing how Padilla’s humanity has basically been extinguished by his treatment.
Digby says everything that needs to be said about how depraved this specific behavior is. And any decent human being can see that for themselves. It is as self-evident as anything can be. So I want to make a few additional observations about this revelation:
There is at least one more important matter that reporters with too little memory ought to know about before they cover the hearings for Robert Gates, the nominee for Defense Secretary: He almost cost us the end of the cold war. That may be a bit of hyperbole, but it’s not far wrong. Gates, for years the CIA’s top Soviet analyst and a longtime friend, ally and national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, was absolutely and almost catastrophically wrong about the strength and the coming collapse of the Soviet Union.
Indeed, he was so wrong in failing to see what any visitor to Moscow might have seen–the decay and weaknesses of the Soviet state–that the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, of New York, half-seriously suggested the abolition of the CIA and its covert operations. Only Jim Mann, in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, has recalled Gates’s role in failing to see the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mann, now a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins, was a reporter who covered these matters (as I did) at Gates’s confirmation hearings as CIA director in 1991.
More than just failing to see the collapse, Gates used his positions, as assistant to the director of the CIA and later Deputy Director for Intelligence, to manipulate data to his beliefs.
In 1987 Gates failed to win confirmation as CIA director, partly because of his role in the Iran-Contra affair. He had been involved as well in secretly feeding intelligence to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Gates then was close to Vice-president Bush, who was a former CIA director. And the two of them were hard-liners, playing cold war games and consistently overestimating the military and economic strength of the Soviet Union, as Moynihan and subsequent events showed. Incidentally, they were subsequently joined in this by a rising Soviet expert on the National Security Council staff, Condoleezza Rice.
But in Ronald Reagan’s second term, which became devoted to arms reduction, his soul mate, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told Reagan he could do business with the the up and coming Soviet Leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. I was with Reagan when he went to Moscow in 1988. After several earlier meetings leading up to the Moscow visit, Reagan stood in Red Square and told us that the evil empire era was over. Reagan, in his last year as president, demonstrated his capacity to grow and change his mind. But vacationing back in Kennebunkport, I learned later, the Vice-president, who had been listening to Gates and his old CIA friends, thought Reagan a naive “old fool” who was wrong about Gorbachev and the Soviet threat.
Indeed, the following year, when Bush became president, he called for a lengthy reassessment of policy towards the Soviet Union. And his spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, reflecting the president’s views, called Gorbachev a “drugstore cowboy.” Thatcher, who had told Reagan that Gorbachev was an authentic reformer, joined with most of Europe in calling on Bush to match the overtures Gorbachev was making on arms control. Only under this pressure and with nudging by Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who became convinced of Gorbachev’s sincerity and the Soviet Union’s internal problems, did Bush agree to reciprocate on arms control.
Gates was confirmed as Bush’s CIA director in 1991, but not before bruising and open confirmation hearings in which former agency analysts testified under oath and in public for the first time, accusing Gates of deliberately skewing intelligence to fit his prejudices, while discouraging dissent. That’s been a familiar pattern lately, and it would be worth asking about.
The Pat Tillman case is well known, but more cases come to light. Case in point, reported by Greg Mitchell:
In the past five weeks for this column, I have been spotlighting cases of misreporting of American deaths in Iraq or among veterans of that war here at home. Over and over, the press — and parents and spouses — have been lied to about how young Americans in the military have died. Now another case, this one involving Jess Buryj, a soldier from Canton, Ohio, who (it turns out) died in a friendly fire incident — shot in the back — has gained some attention.
The U.S. military has tried to blame Polish soldiers for his death, but a soldier who served with Buryj told his parents an American G.I. was actually at fault. Buryj’s father was so shaken by the alleged cover that he came to question whether the body they buried was even their son’s.
The Associated Press had announced the death of the soldier back in March 2004, asserting that he had died “while heroically trying to stop an attack on an Army checkpoint.” Of course, they are at the mercy of the military for any information.
“Jesse Buryj, 21, of Canton, fired more than 400 rounds at a dump truck trying to crash the checkpoint near Karbala,” AP related. “He shot the driver of the truck, which then crashed into the Humvee in which he was riding, an Army sergeant told his mother, Peggy Buryj, on Wednesday morning.”
The official U.S. casualty report said that Buryj had died of “a back injury” caused by “hostile enemy activity.” Actually, the dump truck was filled with dirt or sand, not explosives, and was driven by civilians who had no weapons.
Buryj had a new wife named Amber. On one of the “fallen heroes” message boards on the Web, she wrote: “I want to thank all of you for your lovely comments. I would also like to just tell you all Jesse was an absolutely amazing man, of which no one could ever compare. A wonderful husband, son, brother, soldier,and friend to so many! I love you forever and always Jesse.”
But later his mother would write at the same site: “I am Peggy Buryj, the mother of Jesse. My son was promoted to Specialist the day he died. My son died as the result of friendly fire.” The death certificate now called it “homicide.”
Yet even after his mother learned of the shot in the back, the lies continued.
Yesterday, Josh White in the Washington Post reported that U.S. Army officials destroyed critical evidence that could have determined who shot and killed Buryj, “one of several problems with the friendly-fire inquiry that may permanently shroud Buryj’s death in mystery, according to an Army inspector general’s review.”
The inquiry, which produced a 47-page document recently delivered to the dead man’s parents, “found that criminal investigators destroyed bullet fragments, agents failed to collect ballistic evidence from weapons at the checkpoint, medical personnel made incorrect notations on Buryj’s records and military officials knew his death was a friendly-fire case months before they officially notified his family,” White writes.
“As a result, Buryj’s family buried him believing he was killed when his vehicle was rammed by a dump truck. They did not learn that he was shot by friendly forces until nine months after his death, and a lack of physical evidence means it is nearly impossible to know what happened that night.”
Investigators ruled that the Poles “probably” fired the fatal shot, but the Poles strongly deny it. The final report notes that the original investigators were well aware of international sensitivities involving countries among the coalition of the willing. This could explain why they wanted to hide the friendly fire angle at the outset.
Back in January, Peggy Buryj told White: “If they can lie to Pat Tillman’s family, what do you think they’re going to do to Ma and Pop in Middle America here?”
I blogged earlier about my loss of a molar and the likely treatment: drilling a hole in my jaw, putting a titanium implant there, and ultimately a crown on top of the implant. Being without the tooth (corresponding to the front implant on the bottom in the photo at the link) hasn’t been too bad. It’s far enough back that it doesn’t affect my smile, and I can chew fine.
So, naturally, I was thinking about skipping the whole (expensive) implant + crown thing. But then today I found that isn’t feasible because of tooth drift: the tooth behind would start to turn on its side, into the empty spot, and the tooth above would start to extend because there’s no opposing tooth, and—ultimately—you have lots of problems.
:sigh: The problem is pain and expense. The former I don’t mind—fortunately, I live in the age of anesthetics—but the latter will hurt. Not sure that dental insurance will cover this.
Perhaps the many legends of the Middle East about a great flood that covered the earth (Noah is one example, but the Sumerians had such a myth as, I think, did other people) had their origin in a great tsunami in the Mediterranean:
A massive tsunami smashed Mediterranean shores some 8,000 years ago when a giant chunk of volcano fell into the sea, researchers say.
Waves up to 165 feet (50 meters) high swept the eastern Mediterranean, triggered by a landslide on Mount Etna on the island of Sicily, according to the new study (see Italy map).
The research team says the natural disaster likely destroyed ancient communities, with a series of killer waves hitting the eastern Mediterranean coastline from Italy to Egypt.
Italian researchers based their findings on geological clues and evidence of a hastily abandoned Stone Age fishing settlement in Israel.
Maria Teresa Pareschi and colleagues at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa estimated the tsunami’s strength by modeling the impact of the landslide from Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe.
The team’s calculation, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, shows that 6 cubic miles (25 cubic kilometers) of mountainside collapsed into the sea, generating giant waves that reached coasts as far away as the Middle East and North Africa.
The waves would have reached heights of about 165 feet (50 meters) off southern Italy, the team says, with a sea surge reaching 43 feet (13 meters) swamping parts of Greece and Libya.
Smaller waves hitting coasts farther away would also have had devastating power, according to Pareschi, who led the study.
“A tsunami wave height of a few meters can penetrate deeply inland,” she said.
The team estimates the tsunami would have hit a maximum speed of around 450 miles an hour (725 kilometers an hour), taking a little over three and a half hours to reach what are now Israel and Egypt.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco industry lobbyist, won a long battle in court to withdraw all funding for Mississippi’s highly successful anti-smoking program, and last week the last dollar ran out.
“This is truly a case of one man, a longtime tobacco industry lobbyist, using his power to destroy a program that was reducing tobacco use among Mississippi’s kids,” said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national nonprofit organization.
In a report to be issued Wednesday, the group documents what it calls Barbour’s “relentless attack” on what it said was the nation’s most successful anti-smoking program.
Barbour complained that the program received its funding directly from the courts and that it needed legislative approval, according to Myers. When the legislature passed a bill to continue the funding, Barbour vetoed it and went back to the courts to withdraw all remaining monies from the program.
Myers says he believes Barbour’s motive was to protect his longtime clients in the tobacco industry. Barbour served as a lobbyist for tobacco clients from 1998 to 2002. His firm, Barbour, Griffin, & Rogers, was paid a total of $3.8 million by the tobacco companies, according to reports obtained by the United States Senate Office of Public Records.
Myers says Barbour’s attack on the anti-smoking program is an “outrage” given the program’s strong record of success in preventing teens and children from smoking.
Between 1999 and 2004, the program reduced smoking by 48 percent among public middle school students (from 23 percent to 12 percent) and by 32 percent among public high school students (from 32.5 percent to 22.1 percent), according to Sharon Garrison, Communications Director for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the organization that runs the program.
Barbour’s office has said that his actions had nothing to do with his former lobbying clients’ interests. According to his office, Barbour vetoed the legislation that passed to continue the program’s funding because of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi’s lack of accountability.
“The Partnership couldn’t produce an audit that showed item by item, line by line, how the money was spent,” said Barbour’s spokesman.
Garrison says her organization’s audits are made public every year. “These accusations are untrue and unfair.”
Barbour has proposed a “Healthy Kids” Initiative, which would allocate the $20 million to expand the school nurse program, maintain anti-tobacco education and advertising, expand cancer research and fight against drugs.
It turns out that Bush asked Webb the question about Webb’s son in full knowledge that the boy had just escaped death:
In this diary, friendlyjaime speculated as to the possibility that perhaps Bush actually knew of Jim Webb’s son’s close brush with death shortly before their White House meeting. Although we all detest and hold Bush in the greatest contempt, I think such speculation went even beyond the realm of believability for most of us, the thought that this President could be so crude and uncivil as to strut the power of his office and demand that Jim Webb tell him how things were going with his son while in full knowledge that his son had almost died.
Well, tonight I attended a party honoring volunteers in the Hunter Mill District of Fairfax County, VA who had helped — in a very big way — to bring about Webb’s upset victory and thus garner control of the Senate. I had the opportunity to chat with Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va 8th district) in private before he publicly addressed the group. I recounted how proud I was of Webb’s actions in front of Bush, and recounted the speculation on whether Bush could possibly have known about the incident with Webb’s son. He said, without hesitation:
“Not only did Bush know about it, he was specifically briefed on the incident before meeting with Webb, and was cautioned to be extra sensitive in speaking with Webb about his son.”
Just to make sure, I said: “Wow, I guess not too many people know about this,” and he said: “That’s right they don’t, but I know it’s true, and there are lots of things people don’t know about that would surprise them”
So there we are folks. The right wing columnists of the ilk of George Will call Webb a “boor,” uncivil, etc., while in reality, it is their hero, George W. Bush, who is now revealed to be the boorest of the boors, the lowest of the lows, the crudest of the crude. I hope he gets his due punishment in hell, or the International Court of Justice in The Hague, whichever comes first.
Ah, the Man with the Iron Mustache is leaving the international arena — but not before attempting a thoroughly embarrassing and wholly unsympathetic maneuver.
Less than two weeks before the White House announced his resignation, Ambassador John Bolton’s U.N. mission blocked an effort to celebrate the end of slavery in our hemisphere.
Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. As far as anniversaries go, it seems like a good one to recognize, doesn’t it? It should not be a real bone of contention to say that one is against slavery; and, upon hearing of the anniversary of its abolition in one region, to acknowledge that as a good thing; to recognize the cost of the practice in the millions of lives uprooted and forced into extreme suffering; and to celebrate the efforts which ended the horrific practice.
To do so, a number of Caribbean countries got together to propose a commemorative resolution before the United Nations.
Guess who refused to sign? That’s right: Ambassador John Bolton’s United States.
In a letter, the Bolton-led U.S. mission to the UN explained their objection to two words (the U.S. preferred “the emphasis” to “emphasizing”) in the document. (You can read the document here.) After a couple dozen U.S. congresspeople kicked up a fuss — most of them members of the Congressional Black Caucus — the U.S. mission reportedly backed down, and consented to sign the document without their preferred language, according to sources close to the process.
The U.S. mission did not return my call on the matter.
An article in The Psychologist explores how metaphors of the mind in fiction and poetry reflect the current psychological theories:
Like any science, psychology depends on making links from the known to the unknown. Throughout the history of psychology, metaphors have proved an invaluable way of gaining purchase on the unobservables of human cognition. Indeed, a history of metaphors of mind might look very much like a history of psychology. In this article, I look at how psychologists’ mind-metaphors overlap with, and diverge from, those used by other writers, and ask what we might gain from a closer examination of the metaphors that guide us.
In less than 45 years, the current estimates are that the US wheat-producing areas will be too hot to grow wheat effectively, and Canada will be the new breadbasket. The map at the link is stunning.
And what about corn and soybeans? Where will they be grown?
As an elderly pedantic sort of guy, I occasionally have my little rants about, say, how to pronounce a word correctly. “Basil” (the herb), for example, is correctly pronounced the same as “Basil” (the actor): short “a”, not long “a”. But “status” does have a long “a” (and not a short “a”), as does “data” (first “a” being long). And “shallot”, the multi-bulbed onion-like vegetable, has the accent on the second syllable, as in The Lady of Shallot. “Claret” is pronounced with the “t”: it’s an English word, not French.
And now I’ve found an on-line pronunciation guide that is right on all of these (though it does offer as a second (inferior) option an incorrect pronunciation of “data”). Terrific. Check it out—and learn the correct pronunciations. It sounds so educated.