Mister Pterodactyl
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Richard Clarke was on the Jon Stewart Show today.

Heavy sigh. I'm sure the man is largely telling the truth. I'm sure the Bush administration came into office obsessing over Iraq and giving higher priority to many other issues, including pie-in-the-sky stuff like SDI (hey, a pun!). And yes, he did mention SDI. Nevertheless, the Bush crew was giving the same attention to terrorism that their predecessors did: very little. We're all guilty.
Lots of discussion over at Amanda’s regarding this: Descendants of slaves filed a $1 billion lawsuit Monday against U.S. and British corporations [including Lloyd's of London, FleetBoston and R.J. Reynolds], accusing them of profiting by committing genocide against their ancestors. I’ve considered this issue before, and the question I always get stuck on is: what reparations? What would be enough?

Reparations have two uses. One, they’re punitive, giving pain to the offender in proportion (theoretically) to the pain caused. Two, they’re ameliorative, having an effect counter to the offense in order to remove ongoing damage to the victim. Punitive reparations seem out of place; the notion that whites in this country continue to benefit from a competitive advantage, even today, is plausible to me, but the fact that no now-living person is directly culpable for the crime makes ‘punishment’ irrelevant. Ameliorative reparations are also problematic. Affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws fall into this category, but it is difficult to tell how effective they are. The question is: what other measures could be taken that have a realistic chance of improving the lot of underprivileged minorities?

If you accept that American blacks are still suffering the effects of slavery (and subsequent racism), it’s clear that monetary reparations will not suffice. There is no (realistic) amount of money that could be paid that would offset the damage incurred. This lawsuit, therefore, has other aims. It is intended for one of three possible reasons: it may be a punitive measure against companies that gained past profits from slavery, or it may be a ruse to bring attention to the issue. More likely, though, is that it’s a plea for a collective apology. There is, again, no amount of money that can settle the bill; the payment of reparations could however represent an admission of guilt in the matter. Symbolic, true, but as it’s unlikely that the plaintiffs expect to actually heal the rift, I believe this is their real goal.

Good idea? Not sure. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Monday, March 29, 2004
Gotta link this. Bravo.

And this. Write your congressman.

Credit Ratingprofs, where I found the links.
I just got my copy of this week's Economist. And here I thought last week's cover was grim.

I'm experiencing slowdown in the essay production. In the meantime I had meant to follow up on this post (warning: link doesn't work the way you'd think, scroll down to March 04 at the bottom). So:

Pterosaurs: Kingdom Animalia; Phylum Chordata; Subphylum Vertebrata; Superclass Tetrapoda (four-legged animals); Class Reptilia or Diapsida – the latter includes all the reptiles (except turtles) and birds; Subclass Archosaur - this group includes dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, birds, etc; Order Pterosauria - flying reptiles.
There are two suborders of pterosauria. Rhamphorhynchoids ("prow beaks") - early pterosaurs that appeared during the Triassic period and went extinct at the end of the Jurassic, that had long tails, short necks, and long, narrow wings. These were the first flying vertebrates. Examples include dimorphodon, Rhamphorhynchus, and Sordes. Pterodactyl, or pterodactyloid (“wing finger”) first appeared in late Jurassic and died out in the K-T extinction 65 million years ago. A few types of pterodactyl:

pterodactylus: 20-30 inch wingspan, lived on lakeshores during the late Jurassic.
dungaripterus: 10 foot wingspan, lived during the early Cretaceous, had a bony crest along it’s snout and long, narrow curved jaws.
pteranodon: 6 ft long, 25 ft wingspan, late Cretaceous.
quetzalcoatlus: 40 ft wingspan, body weight 110 lbs, late Cretaceous.

Pterodactyls were lightly built with hollow bones, long necks & skulls, small bodies, large brains, and good eyesight; some had short tails, some had bony head crests (which may have been a rudder or a sex characteristic), some had fur. Their wings stretched from the elongated fourth finger to the top of the legs. Though all pterodactyls could fly under their own power, the largest ones probably were aided in flight by updrafts and winds. They were carnivorous. Some had bristle-like teeth, some had no teeth; they ate fish, mollusks, crabs, plankton, insects, and sometimes dead land animals.

The first discovery of a pterodactyl fossil was in Bavaria by Cosmos Alessandro Collini, 1784.

Saturday, March 27, 2004
A couple follow-ups:

First, some time ago I had a theory about the character Adam Knight on the TV show Smallville. Fortunately I didn't say exactly what my theory was, because I was completely wrong.
The theory? Let's just say I heard a rumor that a young Bruce Wayne would be making an appearance in the future.

Second, never did hear back from Cal Thomas. Sissy.

Third, much more recently I discovered, courtesy Bravenet.com, that I was third on Google's list of sites referencing 'planet sidna.' Forget that. Now I'm first. Glee.
Now I have to find out how those search engines work (FYI, last I checked I was third on AOL's engine, and tenth on another one I've never heard of). You'd think there'd be news sites up there, and I've seen posts about it on many other blogs. How did I get on there? Moreover, none of the other top 10 even seem to be about the new "planet."
Friday, March 26, 2004
Yesterday’s news on the 9-11 hearings focused more on specific failures in the intel chain, notably the disconnect both among various agencies and between analysts and politicians. I was going to leave this alone, but I saw Al Franken on the Jon Stewart Show last night and he kind of pissed me off (so does the entire media atmosphere brought on by the Clarke book, though thankfully that seems to be dying down). So, Once More With Feeling: I believed, as Bush and Clinton believed, that the only feasible response to terror attacks was the surgical retaliation strike, and that the rest was best left as a law enforcement matter. I believed this because I, and they, didn’t realize the magnitude of the threat. Had that been known, it would have been clear that a much more aggressive policy was needed. If Bush is to be faulted in hindsight for not doing more than he did, then Clinton must also be faulted. I am to blame as well, as is every other person in America who was not clamoring for bin Laden’s head.

One thing post 9-11 investigations have made me aware of is the extent of the aforementioned disconnect. If law enforcement is going to be effective, it needs timely and accurate information which, in this case, only the intel agencies could have provided. Furthermore political officeholders have to remember that their subordinates are in place for a reason; ignoring experts and sticking to preconceived ideas (and thus favored policies) is not just a recipe for failure, it is failure. However, the determination of Bush’s opponents to make it his failure alone indicates both desperation and intellectual bankruptcy on their part. If they can’t do better, nothing good will come out of all this.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Furthermore: go to Google.com and type in 'planet sidna.' I'm the third link.
I've altered my links section. These are blogs that I check out regularly. A couple notes:

Instapundit, obvious. Rantingprofs perhaps lesser known but one I really enjoy.

Den Beste is not strictly-speaking a newsblogger, but he is the kind of writer I aspire to be. I've had hours and hours of reading enjoyment bopping around his archives. As an example, try this outstanding essay on Iraq's interim constitution. I really should think of a different category for him.

'Friendly blogs' are bloggers that I've been reading and communicating with. I'm playing around with the name. Any ideas?

Finally, if you'd like me to list you too, just let me know. As long as you're not recruiting for the KKK or, y'know, setting puppies on fire or things like that, I'll add you.

The first paragraph of the Washington Post story on the 9-11 commission (run in my local paper):
“The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks issued a stinging condemnation Tuesday of the U.S. government's failed hunt for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network, finding that both the Clinton and Bush administrations focused too heavily on diplomacy that didn't work and were reluctant to consider aggressive military action.” [Emphasis mine]
Secretaries of State and Defense for the current and former administrations testified yesterday. The main thrust of the questioning, according to the article and what little I saw on CNN, dealt with efforts to eliminate Osama bin Laden prior to 9-11. The main points made, gleaned by me from the article (grain of salt warning), on why OBL wasn’t captured or killed:

1. The difficulty of learning his location with sufficient certainty, and of launching an attack quickly enough to catch him before he moved;
2. The probability of civilians or foreign dignitaries being hurt or killed in the attack;
3. Skepticism about how much his removal would affect al Queda overall;
4. The probability that the American public would disapprove.

[In 1998 Clinton sent cruise missiles into Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings, and Baghdad for Saddam’s obstructionism over the inspections. I remember hearing that the President was just trying to distract attention away from the Lewinsky scandal. Imagine how much worse had we actually mounted an operation in a foreign country to hunt bin Laden down.]

Add to these the fact that, before 9-11, we collectively didn’t see the urgency. I personally believed that the strategy of (mostly symbolic) retaliatory attacks coupled with law-enforcement efforts was the best way, really the only way, the problem could be handled. Invading another country seemed virtually inconceivable. It was only after 9-11 that I recognized the danger. Mea culpa.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Last year an event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham, which would have included Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon as speakers, was canceled by baseball Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey. The inference was Petroskey didn’t want to be associated with (or perhaps, was angry about) comments that Robbins and Sarandon had made criticizing President Bush and the impending war in Iraq. Among other things, Robbins had this to say: "A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent through the White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown. If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications.” The speech in which he said that is peppered with examples of people being ‘intimidated’ by pro-Bush forces. I’ve written before about this kind of more-victimized-than-thou paranoia.

If one person decides not to associate or do business with another based on a difference of opinion, that is not censorship. If a group of people organizes a boycott to protest the policies of an organization, it isn’t censorship. In each case the person or people are exercising their own rights, not denying someone else’s. Likewise if a person refrains from voicing strong opinions for fear of losing business opportunities, he has not been censored; he’s decided for himself that the business is more important.

Suppose I decide to stop patronizing a local business because the owner is a vocal advocate of a cause I oppose (I’d have to oppose it pretty strongly). It’s true that I’m punishing him (in a small way), but I haven’t forced him to hide or change his opinion, I’ve just allowed myself to make an economic choice for a non-economic reason. To suggest that I’m attempting to censor him is a backhanded way of criticizing me for that. In effect, it’s saying that only one of us can act on our beliefs; if I act according to mine then I’m trying to keep him from doing the same.

Disagreement is not censorship. Even if you and I disagree on some issue to the point of loathing, even if we refuse to have anything to do with each other and loudly condemn one another at the slightest chance, we aren’t trying to censor each other. We can’t, because censorship implies authority. Take the hypothetical merchant above: I can refuse to deal with him, I can avoid him, I can publicly denounce him (I can even be rude about it), but I can’t make him stop (i.e. censor him) because I don’t have authority over him. Finally, authority implies power, and in this case having the power to censor includes having the (Constitutional) right to do so. No right, no power; no power, no authority; no authority, no censorship.

You might say that the cases Robbins cites are censorship through intimidation, thus bypassing the rights requirement. I can’t disprove that, but I need a lot more than a few stories and implications before I’ll believe it. Until that happens my response is “get a backbone.”

I’m bringing all this up because of a recent column by Kathleen Parker. Same deal as the Cal Thomas column: go here, then use the long series of pulldown menus and click on 'commentators,' 'conservative,' 'columns,' ‘kathleen parker,' and '03-20-2004.'
“…anyone opposed to ‘anything-goes’ is supposed to feel ridiculous. If you're offended by hearing graphic descriptions of sexual acts while station surfing during carpool, you're a ‘hand-wringing right-winger.’ If you prefer not to be subjected to others' infatuation with their own libidos - or Janet Jackson's fondness for her own mammaries - then you're a uptight church lady with ‘issues.’
“Of course you could be a grown-up, but in a nation culturally locked in perpetual adolescence, that's a dubious and increasingly alien distinction.
“[George] Carlin's invoking of ‘religious superstition’ as the reason people object to certain words is a clever way of making any objection seem like the silly protestations of unsophisticated, sexually repressed people.”
One more quote: “As long as the airwaves remain in the public domain, the public has a right through its government to stifle the profane rants and juvenile outbursts of (the ranters and outbursters).”

Parker just about crosses into I’m-a-victim territory, but not quite (though I may be succumbing to a little ideological bias here). Generally, I go with the ‘if you don’t like it, just turn it off’ rule. The argument that one should not have to be subjected to accidental exposure to such things isn’t totally out of line, but one can’t live in an open society and expect never to encounter unwanted or offensive material. Better just to brush it off and move on. I do think, though, that the purveyors of such material ought to be conscious of public opinion, and not insist that they be free from criticism, as Carlin does.

In the first case, Robbins is complaining about an atmosphere of censorship preventing free expression of ideas. In the second, Parker argues that some things do not belong in open discourse. They’re talking about entirely different types of speech, but there’s a correlation: where’s the line between freedom of speech and freedom from speech?

Consider the freedom of religion clause. On one hand, we’re all free to observe our religious beliefs and to talk about them openly. On the other, we don’t want to have someone else’s beliefs shoved in our faces. Recent cases like the 9th Circuit Court’s decision on the Pledge of Allegiance and the Alabama courthouse/Decalogue flap illustrate the fault line. Likewise, the claims of freedom of speech made by Carlin and Howard Stern run counter to the desires of Parker and others not to be subjected to foul language or sex talk, and Robbins and Sarandon want to voice their opinions without being criticized for them.

This post is in grave danger of having no point. Certainly I want to be able to talk about my religious views and political opinions and I want to allow others to do so. I don’t want to be accosted by people insisting that I listen and agree with them, or to innocently turn on the television and see something that offends me. Truthfully, I’m not easily offended. I’ll shut down a religious (or political) proselytizer in a blink, and I’ll turn off a program rather than complain about it, but other people are more thin-skinned.
At what point does the one freedom cross the line and violate the second? Where should that line be? How thin-skinned is too thin?

It’s the core question underneath a lot of the topics in public debate today: majority-rule democracy vs. the right of the minority to live as they choose. [And in Robbins/forces of darkness and Parker/Stern, which is the majority and which the minority?]

Kind of like going to the bookstore and finding out it’s closed, isn’t it? After all that, no answers.

Monday, March 22, 2004
One more thing: Instapundit's first post following his hiatus (and thank god he's back, huh?) was this link to James Lileks. I know, it's ridiculous for me to link it now that the Granddaddy has, but I need to point it out. It's about the recent war protests, and has a photo of one of the protesters that absolutely defies belief. See for yourself.

Bold and italics. You know it's big.

UPDATE: that particular traitor, er, protester was in San Francisco. FYI.
Here’s what I’m wondering. While hanging around the ‘sphere, I’ve encountered a handful of people who don’t intend to vote this November (you know who you are), who are apathetic or unhappy with the choices, who feel it’s a ‘lesser of two evils’ or no-difference choice. I’m not going to criticize; I felt the same way last time around. This time, though, I do care. So: if you’re not planning to vote, if you hate all the candidates or just don’t care, how can I get you to just show up and vote for my guy? I mean it; this is really important to me this year. If there’s anything I can do to convince you, just let me know.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Well, I've got a couple essays in the pipeline, but I've had a headcold all week and it's hard to concentrate when your head's about to explode.
Since I installed the hitcounter, I see that people are actually reading this thing (and don't you people have lives?), so while I pull myself together here's a couple other blogs I've been visiting.

First, Amanda writes about interesting things, and she's got some lively discussions going on in her comments section. Been a gold mine of new ideas lately. Meanwhile there's Old Whig, with a pretty eclectic mix of topics (which I haven't worked my way through yet; see head-exploding comment above). Finally, Jonathan Ichikawa, who tends to almost-but-not-quite over my head. I love that arcane stuff.

Philosophers all. My kind of people.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
I've added comments, trackback and a hit counter. Decided to keep the original template (for now, at least) and tinker with it myself. I'm only pointing it out because the changes don't appear until I post.

Mister Pterodactyl: evolving. Get it?
Addendum to that last post: in retrospect, 'a whole lot more respectable' seems a little silly. Who isn't?
Monday, March 15, 2004
News roundup. I've had Fox News on all day.

This anchor (?) has been trying hard to get someone to say that the election in Spain is a victory for al Queda. Really hard. To me, the idea that Spanish voters turned to the Socialist party as a reaction to the bombings, to the apparent retaliation by terrorists for Aznar's support of the U.S. in Iraq, was unfathomable. Impossible. And yet,

"The war they got us into, against our will, cost so much," said Alex Rierasanz, a 24-year-old student walking a Madrid street after midnight, waving a red and white flag of the victorious Socialist Party. "We saw that Thursday morning. They lost because their lies angered the people, and got many more out to vote against them."

Exit polls and reports in Spanish media indicated that Rierasanz was a typical voter.


Many still were [demonstrating] when Aznar showed up to vote, shouting that he should feel ashamed for promoting a war the people didn't want and that had now brought death home.

Turnout was unusually heavy, with 63% of registered voters, compared with 55% in 2000.


"I wasn't planning to vote, but I am here today because the Popular Party is responsible for murders here and in Iraq," said Ernesto Sanchez-Gey, 48, who voted in Barcelona.

I can't believe it. The discussion on Instapundit is extensive.

On a lighter note, "Kerry declines to name leaders who back him." Hey John, I know who one of them is, and if the others aren't a whole lot more respectable you might want to shut up about it. Actually, suggesting that voters should vote for you because of foreign opinion is pretty stupid on it's face, isn't it?

Finally, a tenth planet. Tentatively named 'Sidna' after an Inuit goddess, red in color and either half or twice the size of Pluto, possibly with its own moon. Also composed of 50/50 rock and ice. Heads up: Pluto isn't a planet. It's a big piece of frozen crap that got caught in our sun's gravity; thus the odd makeup and eccentric orbit (I subscribe to the idea that a 'planet' is something that developed with the solar system; anything else is space junk). Sidna is most likely an exotic piece of the Kuiper belt.
Nice try though. Incidentally, everybody knows that the tenth planet is supposed to be named Vulcan.

Friday, March 12, 2004
Got a letter from an Alert Reader (I'm stealing a Dave Barry bit) about my Cal Thomas post. Here's an excerpt:

“The core Christian values have not and do not change. Human beings sometimes, as you've pointed out, distort the Bible's teachings to further their own ends, whether out of greed, ignorance, stupidity, whatever. A crooked lawyer or politician can distort the law to further his own ends, too. That doesn't disqualify the law, it just means people are imperfect and prone to do bad things.”

This is approximately what I expect to hear from Thomas (and I haven't written to him yet, although I did get his email from a public relations person at TMS. I'm sending him a letter that'll be an amalgamation of my previous post and this one).

Mr. Thomas accuses me of having no ethical values because I have no standard on which to base them. It is true that I don’t have a single infallible source to rely on; what I do have are two fundamental principles from which I can extrapolate ethical rules.

The first is sometimes called the Categorical Imperative, the Golden Rule, enlightened self-interest, etc. I behave the way I want everybody to behave, treat people the way I want to be treated. If I am rude to the people around me or steal from them, then I’m de facto admitting that it’s okay for someone else to do the same to me.

The second is the Social Contract. To wit: in order to live together, we’re gonna need some rules. Any group of more than one person is going to have them, stated or unstated. The larger the group, the more rules it needs, and anyone who wants to be part of the group (and enjoy the benefits thereof) has to abide by them.

This account is necessarily imperfect (libraries of books have been written on the subject of ethics), and the ethical system I’m describing is incomplete (they always are). It’s true that individuals are left to make decisions for themselves – there is no absolute authority to turn to. It’s also true that people often err in their decision-making or purposely disregard these principles. However I am convinced that if one could always apply the principles in a consistent and rational manner, one would always behave in a blameless way. Further, as technology advances and society evolves, new moral questions appear. To answer them an ethical system has to be able to grow as well.

The same things are evident in Thomas’s system, though he seems unaware of them. Actions and attitudes that were accepted in the past aren’t accepted today. Christianity changed, it grew, it evolved, whatever, along with society. Why, if the ‘standard’ is so absolute, should this happen? Because that standard is still subject to interpretation. Just as important, it’s susceptible to misinterpretation, ignorance, or defiance. There’s no eternal, all-knowing arbiter handing down pronouncements whenever something new comes up; we hapless, fallible mortals have to choose, based on our religious writings/teachings/doctrines, between right and wrong.

Not to forget, he claimed in his column that supporters of gay marriage are trying to impose their (subjective) will in the matter, thus defying the (objective) standard imposed by his religion. But what’s the difference between his system and mine if both depend on mortal actors, and how can Thomas claim that his is superior?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function...

Just wanted to see if I could get that song stuck in somebody else's head...
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Just when I think I'm out, they drag me back in!

I don't know why the gay marriage issue is such a big deal to me. I don't know why it's so grating to me to hear someone insist on religious values as the basis for all morality (though I have some ideas on that one). I was going to leave this whole thing alone; I've done enough on this topic and was starting to repeat myself. Then I read Cal Thomas's column in yesterday's paper.

(I can't link to it directly, but if you want to give your mouse hand a workout, go here, then use the long series of pulldown menus and click on 'commentators,' 'conservative,' 'columns,' 'cal thomas,' and '03-01-2004.')

Here, then, is my open letter to Cal Thomas. I'll send it to him, if only I can find an email address.

Mr. Thomas,
In your column, “Fairness isn’t the issue,” which ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 8th, you call proponents of gay marriage “sentimentalist(s), trying to persuade me to a point of view based on your feelings about the subject and not rooted in the fear of God or some other unchanging earthly standard.“ About that standard you write, “At least we heterosexuals have a reference that is thousands of years old. What's theirs? And how do we know it won't change tomorrow?”
The Christian church has in the past been responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem witch burnings. Forced conversions were once common. God’s law was used to justify American slavery and decades of discrimination. I’m not a Christian but I’m sure modern Christians agree that those things were wrong. The question, therefore, is: have the standards changed, and if not, what happened?

I’m not trotting out these much-used examples just to get under your skin. I’m offering them as evidence that Christian values are not as eternal or unchanging as you claim. Many things once condoned or encouraged by the church no longer are. Can you clarify, please?

This is not merely to criticize. I’m genuinely interested to hear your answer.

Further: “if you tell me you do not believe in God and then say to me that I should brake for animals, or pay women equally, or help the poor, on what basis are you making such an appeal?” I do have a basis. I do have a “standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justice, charity, kindness, compassion and fidelity.” Call it the Social Contract or the Categorical Imperative or whatever you want. The difference between yours and mine is twofold. You believe yours to be cast in stone, unchanging, while I know that mine is capable of evolving to deal with new, unforeseen situations. You can explain yours with a single three-letter word. Mine takes a bit longer.

Mister Pterodactyl

P.S. If I manage to contact him directly, I will use my real name.
Monday, March 08, 2004
'...gets his ass kicked for two hours...' Mean spirited?

This blog is turning into a long performance art piece. I need a new topic.

Is Kim Jong-Il dead yet?
If humans evolved from monkeys...why are there still monkeys?

Just when I think they couldn't come up with something I care even less about - Kobe, Martha, Michael, Janet, the latest stupid reality show, the Sopranos, etc. - the news has been full of this Jesus movie for weeks. At least they've stopped trotting out priests (to talk about what a riveting religious experience it was to watch this guy get his ass kicked for two hours) and rabbis (to explain how watching Jews egg on the Romans is hurting everyone's self-esteem), but now they're busy examining all the money the thing is making.

How come nobody thought of calling it "The cash-in of the Christ"? Come on!

If you're wondering what the headline has to do with any of that, short answer: nothing. I'm on a new book about extraterrestrial life; following a lengthy discussion of how life evolved on Earth, it's now trying to explain how life might have gotten started in the first place (short answer: nobody knows). Also, Slate has a three-part article about how the universe will eventually end (short answer: nobody knows). Recommended reading.

P.S. Martha, good luck with all that. Hey, at least you don't have to worry about dropping the soap.
Friday, March 05, 2004
I'm plagiarizing Instapundit:

First, North Korea Likes John Kerry!

"Pyongyang seems to hope victory for the Democratic candidate on November 2 would lead to a softening in US policy towards the country's nuclear weapons programme."

Not to blame Kerry, but for crying out loud...

Second, a quote from "Civilization and it's Enemies" by Lee Harris:

"Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe. . . . They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the Enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish.

They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the Enemy. And that, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the Enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't done enough for -- yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something that we could correct.

And this means that that our first task is that we must try to grasp what the concept of the Enemy really means.

The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason -- it is his reason, and not ours."

I really like this, so I've copied the whole quote. There's a lot of good discussion at Instapundit. Go here.

I've been catching up on my newsmagazines. A couple weeks ago, the Economist had a piece (read it here) about why dogs are man's best friend.
Brian Hare of Harvard ran an experiment in which dogs and chimps (supposedly one of the more intelligent animals) had to find a treat under one of two cups. With no interference, both animals found it with 50% accuracy, as might be expected. But when the researcher cued the subject by tapping the correct cup, staring at it, or just tugged an ear, the dog almost always got it right while the chimp showed very little improvement. He ran the experiment with wolves and with an undomesticated breed of dog from New Guinea and got the same results: the domesticated dogs were better.

The experiment was meant to show that dogs are good at reading the behavior of humans, and that's why we like them so much. Here's my question: why didn't he try it with cats? (answer: because the cats would just wander off to lie in the sun.)
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Class is in session.
During the Paleozoic era (570 – 245 million years ago), life evolved from simple bacteria and algae to invertebrates, vertebrates (primitive fish), the first air-breathing animal (a scorpion), more advanced sea creatures (i.e. sharks), spiders, dragonflies, amphibians, and early reptiles.

It was followed by the Mesozoic era (240 – 65 million years ago), also known as the Age of Reptiles. The Mesozoic is divided into three periods:
In the Triassic period (240 – 205 m.y.a.), small dinosaurs, icthyosaurs, and early mammals appeared, as did the pterosaur, an early relative.
In the Jurassic (205 – 138 m.y.a.), one finds the brontosaurus, tyrannosaurus, stegosaur, plesiosaur, early crocodiles, many insects and shellfish, and the first pterodactyls with wingspan about 4 ft (1.2 m).
In the Cretaceous (138 - 65 m.y.a.) in addition to the earlier dinosaurs came horned dinosaurs, the first snakes lizards and crabs, and early marsupials and placental mammals. Pterodactyls grew much larger, some fossils found in Texas measuring 50 ft (15.5 m) wingspans.

In the early part of the Cenozoic era, the large reptiles mysteriously vanished and the Age of Mammals began.

Word origin: early 19th century from Greek pteron (wing) and daktulos (finger).

Just, y'know, FYI.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Well, no shit.

In its final years in power, Saddam Hussein's government systematically extracted billions of dollars in kickbacks from companies doing business with Iraq, funneling most of the illicit funds through a network of foreign bank accounts in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Also, this guy's got a point.

Like the writer, I am in favor of 'civil unions,' and find the idea of a constitutional amendment on marriage abhorrent, and agree with the point (which doesn't actually appear until the end of the piece) that opposition to those things is not intrinsically "divisive." However don't forget that the role of the courts is to interpret existing law. The task of judges who were elected or appointed by elected officials is to decide what is or is not legal, according to the Constitution. That's why I detest the term 'activist judge.'

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