December 13, 2009 archive

On The Futility Of War, Part One, Or, Snow Becomes A Lethal Weapon

We have another one of those “amazing history” stories for you today-and this one’s a real doozy.

We’re going to spend the better part of four years in the Italian Alps (or, to be more accurate, what was intended to be the Italian Alps), and by the time we’re done, nearly 400,000 soldiers will have been killed-and 60,000 of those will have died as a result of avalanches that were set by one side or the other.

In the middle of the story: a mountaineer and soldier who was so highly regarded that even those who fought against him accorded him the highest honors they could muster, creating a legend that lives on to this very day.

And even though a young Captain Erwin Rommel fought in these battles…it’s not him.

Oh, by the way: did I mention that there are also some handy object lessons for anyone who might be thinking about fighting a war in Afghanistan?

Well, there are, Gentle Reader, so follow along, and let’s all learn something today.

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with World and U.S. News.  54 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Shocked golf world, sponsors ponder life without Tiger


Sun Dec 13, 6:17 am ET

ORLANDO, Florida (AFP) – Tiger Woods faced more fallout from his sex scandal Sunday as stunned rivals said they looked forward to his return after an indefinite break in his golfing career and corporate sponsors pondered their future cooperation with the billionaire athlete.

Woods announced Friday he was taking a hiatus from professional golf and admitted he had cheated on wife Elin after reports that 10 women had claimed to have had sexual relationships with the 14-time major champion.

“It’s a shock. It was most definitely a shock to everybody to hear what has been going on,” third-ranked US golfer Steve Stricker said. “Hopefully he gets it straight. Staying away is a great thing to get his family life in order.”

Shocked, shocked I tell you.

Should Wall Street Speculators, have to pay their Fair Share? w Poll

H.R. 1068
, the Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street’s Bailout Act.

Wall Street Transaction Tax Proposed by Democrats

Ryan J. Donmoyer

Dec. 3, 2009 (Bloomberg) — A group of congressional Democrats proposed taxing large transactions in stocks and derivatives, an idea that has received a cool reception from the Obama administration. […]

.25 Percent for Stocks

The measure would be based on legislation DeFazio proposed in the House that would apply a tax of 0.25 percent or 25 basis points to stock transactions in excess of $100,000, and a levy of 0.02 percent or 2 basis points on derivatives including futures, options, swaps and credit default swaps.

Harkin and DeFazio said the proposed new levy is backed by more than 200 economists, the AFL-CIO labor union federation and business leaders including Warren Buffett and Vanguard Group Inc. founder John C. Bogle, now president of Bogle Financial Markets Research.…

Meet The Second Lady

This morning on the CBS “Sunday Morning” show they had a real good story and interview, only about a ten minute segment, with the Second Lady of the Land, Dr Jill Biden.

Second Lady of the Land

Watch CBS News Videos Online

But you can just call her Jill. Rita Braver goes on the road and gets candid with Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

Open Mouth


To solve the climate change problem, end the class divide

In honor of the diary queue which is going on now on Orange, I’ve decided to put this diary together, perhaps too quickly.  Its thesis is this: if we are to find an effective solution for the climate change situation, we will have to end the division of humanity into social classes.  This won’t take overnight; but its main impediment at present is a lack of unity across social classes, and that can be resolved.

(Crossposted at Orange)

Contest: This Essay Needs A Title

Something a little more creative than “Caption This Essay” which was the best that I could think up would be good.

If you’re any good at thinking up the best the you can think up please do your best to think of the best title you can think up, and leave it in a comment below if you want ponies. Ponies are good, so I’m told.

Rec’s are even better.

There is no prize, btw. Except just ponies that you’ll get a huge ego boost from and get to walk around feeling deservedly smug and superior for awhile.

There are no rules either.

And that’s only rule number 1. Rule number 2 is you must follow all the rules or the local gang of purity trolls will make your life hell for 5 seconds. So it’s good to follow the rules.

Rule number 3 is that I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about here, and neither do you by now, and if you think you do then you’re probably as delusional as me and you probably really need to read Schizophrenia and You instead of this stupid essay:

Barky Obama

He died for our sins

For those who can master it, it’s a fine way to see the world. You get secret messages from the radio, TV, and most movies. You know God personally (so you don’t need Jesus as a go-between). The best ones can maintain their powers despite medication. Did you ever wonder about the existence of ghosts and angels and demons? Somebody had to have seen them, right? Now you know.

It begins for some when the trees start telling you their names. The flowers sing an inane little song like a children’s song that threatens to drone on indefinitely. There is another world, and it may contain well-organized squirrels. That famous karate guy doesn’t exist in the other world. But there’s plenty of paranoia to go around.

Gratuitous Image: And he went ‘WAP!’ with a bat on the head of the baby puppy after it had looked at him with those big adorable eyes.

Just because you think there’s a conspiracy or someone’s out to get you doesn’t mean it’s not true. But there are peculiar psychic fields around hospitals that keep conspirators and murderers out for the most part. The maintenance of this field is the reason you’re not supposed to use cell phones in the wards themselves. Why don’t people figure this out? Because unlike in the movies, murderers and conspirators are stupid.

You would think that the ability to see angels, demons, and ghosts would give you special powers. Well, it doesn’t. You can’t usually talk to them. I prefer the plants. They speak clearly and use small words so the slower ones among us can follow. Unfortunately, most people aren’t even listening.

And that’s the overarching problem of the human condition in 2009 as I see it.

Most people not only aren’t even even listening, but most people weren’t even even listening, and I keep running into this problem where I don’t have any idea (again) what the hell I’m talking about.

And if you think you do then you’re in for a nasty shock, because so far this has been the best part of this title-less essay.

It’s get much worse on the flip.

TONIGHT: Geminid Meteor Shower


The Geminids

Tonight is the Geminid meteor shower.  And it could be a remarkable event.

National Geographic reports:

Late tonight is the peak of the year’s most prolific annual cosmic fireworks show-the Geminid meteor shower.

The meteor shower has been growing in intensity in recent decades and should be an even better holiday treat than usual this year, since it’s falling in a nearly moonless week. snip…

the Geminid show should feature as many as 140 shooting stars per hour between Sunday evening and Monday morning.

The Geminids are slow meteors that create beautiful long arcs across the sky-many lasting a second or two.

Favoring observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the Geminids are expected to be most frequent within two hours of 1:10 a.m. ET in the wee hours of Monday.

The shower’s radiant-the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate-is the constellation Gemini, which rises above the eastern horizon after 9 p.m. local time.

Astronomers recommend observers head outside between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time.

To make this work, you need eteors and a clear sky.  Here’s the weather map for 1 am in the US (ET):


This doesn’t look great for New England and Eastern New York.  But it’s also not bad enough to give up the ghost.  Not yet.  Maybe things will clear.  And you’ll notice that there are large areas of the US where viewing should be perfect, a cold, clear night.



simulposted at The Dream Antilles

There Was No Centennial for Indian Territory

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


“Brand new state, Brand new state, gonna treat you great!

Gonna give you barley, carrots and pertaters,

Pasture fer the cattle, Spinach and Termayters!

Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom,

Plen’y of air and plen’y of room,

Plen’y of room to swing a rope!

Plen’y of heart and plen’y of hope!


“The whole management of Indians has been abnormal . . . Everything is controlled by arbitrary laws and regulations, and not by moral, social, or economic principles.”

Lighting Fires in Michigan: Cigarette Ban

Let me preface this for all of those who know I am a smoker: I hate that I am addicted. I hate that I love to light one up. It is likely killing me. My Friday night foray into a small Clubhouse Bar made my eyes sting with it. With no ventilation, it sucks. I went and asked the Members to crack the door. I was sitting with non-smokers, not smoking with them. I get it.

This is only common sense. You don’t make a bonfire indoors. Good ventilation should be code.

I make a concerted effort not to let my house reek with it, with plants everywhere, windows cracked in the dead of winter; and smoke outside or away if a non-smoker is present in my home. I get that it smells, I get that it is an irritant when too thick.

It was bad enough, when a month ago, we ended up with fucking BAKING SODA in our cigarettes, a Fire Safety designation that started in California, that spread like, uhhh, wildfire. The extra poison they added to all the OTHER poisons they add to them have made my lungs incredibly worse. They taste horrible.

Tobacco itself isn’t that bad, so why the fuck do they not make it ILLEGAL TO ADD ALL THE CARCINOGENS TO IT in the first place? Why is it legal to make, sell and addict people to it, then make it ILLEGAL to use a product they intentionally made UNHEALTHY?

Instead of regulating back to paper and leaf only, we get this.

So now, they have banned smoking in any public place, any place that employs even one person, including private clubs, including inside trucks used as employment, including outdoor extensions of any such businesses.

People here are PISSED, and this is not the land of tofu and sprouts, this is the land of raw meat and whiskey… hard assed factory rats that don’t abide being told what to do. Think Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino.”

“Get off my lawn!”

Docudharma Times Sunday December 13

Sunday’s Headlines:

Interest Rates Are Low, but Banks Balk at Refinancing

20 Years Of The Simpsons

Terrorist recruiters leverage the Web

Lost dream restored to Japanese American family

China puts Charter 08 founder Liu Xiaobo on path to 15 years in prison

Insurgent infiltrators terrorise Kabul’s ruling class

Fancy a pissoir? Relics of Paris streets – from urinals to the Eiffel Tower steps – go on sale

‘Ceausescu’s children’ still paying the price of disastrous social policies

Iran Avows Willingness to Swap Some Uranium

WMD not point of Iraq war, Tony Blair says

Mugabe re-elected Zanu-PF party leader for five more years

Mexico’s drug cartels siphon liquid gold

Obama’s method of consensus building

He watched her, his chin in his hand. All right, he said. This is the best I can do.

He straightened out his leg and reached into his pocket and drew out a few coins and took one and held it up. He turned it. For her to see the justice of it. He held it between his thumb and forefinger and weighed it and he flipped it spinning in the air and caught it and slapped it down on his wrist. Call it, he said.

She looked at him, at his outheld wrist. What? She said.

Call it.

I wont do it.

Yes you will. Call it

God would not want me to do that.

Of course he would. You should try to save yourself. Call it. This is your last chance.

Heads, she said.

He lifted his hand away. The coin was tails.

I’m sorry.

She didnt answer.

Maybe it’s for the best.

She looked away. You make it like it was the coin. But you’re the one.

It could have gone either way.

The coin didnt have no say. It was just you.

Perhaps. But look at it my way. I got here the same way the coin did.

She sat sobbing softly. She didnt answer.

For things at a common destination there is a common path. Not always easy to see. But there.

Everything I ever thought has turned out different, she said. There aint the least part of my life I could of guessed. Not this, not none of it.

I know.

You wouldnt of let me off noway.

I had no say in the matter. Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no belief in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A person’s path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning.

She sat sobbing. She shook her head.

Yet even though I could have told you how all of this would end I thought it not too much to ask that you have a final glimpse of hope in the world to lift your heart before the shroud drops, the darkness. Do you see?

Oh God, she said. Oh God.

I’m sorry.

She looked at him a final time. You dont have to, she said. You dont. You dont.

He shook his head. You’re asking that I make myself vulnerable and that I can never do. I have only one way to live. It doesnt allow for special cases. A coin toss perhaps. In this case to small purpose. Most people dont believe that there can be such a person. You can see what a problem that must be for them. How to prevail over that which you refuse to acknowledge the existence of. Do you understand? When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end. You can say that things could have turned out differently. That they could have been some other way. But what does that mean? They are not some other way. They are this way. You’re asking that I second say the world. Do you see?

Yes, she said, sobbing. I do. I truly do.

Good, he said. That’s good. Then he shot her.

To be fair to Anton Chigur, he actually flipped the coin, but I couldn’t otherwise resist the parallel.

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