Thursday, January 12, 2006

US Military Pondered Creation Of "Gay Bomb;" Beaten To The Punch By "George Micheal"

From the BBC:

The US military investigated building a "gay bomb", which would make enemy soldiers "sexually irresistible" to each other, government papers say....

...The US defence department considered various non-lethal chemicals meant to disrupt enemy discipline and morale.

The 1994 plans were for a six-year project costing $7.5m, but they were never pursued...

The plan for a so-called "love bomb" envisaged an aphrodisiac chemical that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among troops, causing what the military called a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale.

Scientists also reportedly considered a "sting me/attack me" chemical weapon to attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats towards enemy troops....

Wow. Just...wow. I love the idea of our nation commanding armies of angry rats and wasps. "Come to me, jungle friends! Pour your limitless rage upon mine enemies!"

The original article has all sorts of other terrific, rejected ideas. Go read about about our speculative efforts at mass-induced halitosis and admire the imagination of America.

Fluorescent Pigs Give Hope To Those Who Lose Their Ham At Night

From the BBC:

Scientists in Taiwan say they have bred three pigs that glow in the dark.

They claim that while other researchers have bred partly fluorescent pigs, theirs are the only pigs in the world which are green through and through.

Taiwan is not claiming a world first. Others have bred partially fluorescent pigs before. But the researchers insist the three pigs they have produced are better.

The scientists will use the transgenic pigs to study human disease. Because the pig's genetic material is green, it is easy to spot.

This is a wonderfully strange world that we live in.

Consider the Wallace

Why is a primitive, inarticulate form of suffering less urgent or uncomfortable for the person who's helping to inflict it by paying for the food it results in? I'm not trying to give you a PETA-like screed here - at least I don't think so. I'm trying, rather, to work out and articulate some of the troubling questions that arise amid all the laughter and salutation and community pride of the Maine Lobster Festival. The truth is that if you, the festival attendee, permit yourself to think that lobsters can suffer and would rather not, the MLF begins to take on the aspect of something like a Roman circus or medieval torture-fest.

Does that comparison seem a bit much? If so, exactly why? Or what about this one: Is it possible that future generations will regard our present agribusiness and eating practices in much the same way we now view Nero's entertainments or Mengele's experiments? My own initial reaction is that such a comparison is hysterical, extreme - and yet the reason it seems extreme to me appears to be that I believe animals are less morally important than human beings (a lot less important); and when it comes to defending such a belief, even to myself, I have to acknowledge that (a) I have an obvious selfish interest in this belief, since I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and (b) I haven't succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient.

-David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"

I recieved "Consider the Lobster," a book of Wallace's non-fiction essays, for Christmas this year and I loved it. There are hysterical, thoughtful, deeply weird ruminations on everything from the state of American politics (as Wallace jumps aboard the McCain bus), to the porn industry (as he visits the Adult Video News awards in Las Vegas), to the titular Lobster-considering.

I've posted a small excerpt from Wallace's original, longer piece (for Fair Use reasons as well as reasons of brevity) because it made me think about the torture debate in our country. Mostly, though, I'm posting it because it does what good writing should do - make you think. I can't eat Lobster myself. But I do eat chicken - an animal that's "Debeaked" before being killed. This process is exactly what it sounds like: the ripping off of the beak without anesthetic so that chickens who've been grouped in numbers that tend to drive them insane wn't peck each other to death. That knowledge has kept me outside of KFC for years now, and frequenting Whole Foods and Stew Leonard's, where I know the animals were - at the very least - treated decently before being slaughtered to sustain me.

Here's a link to buying Wallace's book. It's worth picking up, and like his earlier essay collection "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," it's cuttingly well-observed, funny, and provocative.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Justice Sunday III: Return of the Revenge of the Justice Strikes Back

Justice Sunday III: Liberty And Justice For All (but gay people) has come and gone, but the memories remain. Who could forget Dr. Alveda King's passionate invocation of Thomas Jefferson?

In June of 1776, a 33-year-old man by the name of Thomas Jefferson spent almost two weeks in this building, well-known as the declaration house, where he wrote our nation's declaration of independence...Clearly from the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the historic declaration of independence there is not only a recognition but a reliance upon God. 229 years later we have federal courts that have actually sated it's against the law for children to say the pledge of allegiance....Jefferson said can the liberty of a nation be secure if we remove the only firm basis.

According to Thomas Jefferson, what is the only firm basis of national liberty.

He said it's a conviction in the mind of people that these liberties are the gift of God and that they're not to be violated.

He said, indeed, I tremble for my country.
-Dr. Alveda King

And who could forget Jefferson quietly clearing his throat and offering the following (Jefferson looking surprisingly good for having been dead a while)?

The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

-Thomas Jefferson

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.

-Thomas Jefferson

And then there was Herbert Hoover Lusk, Jr., who stirringly railed against discrimination:

There is discrimination against the people of God, and as I look at this thing, it almost appears that we ought to just wave the white flag.


And then righteously engages in it:

I am one who supports the original intent of God almighty to have a husband and a wife --

But nothing quite captured the tone of the day better than Lusk's most "energetic" statement:

My friends, you know this and know this well.
Don't fool with the church because the church has buried many a critic, and all the critics that we have not buried, we're making funeral arrangements for them!
-Herbert Hoover Lusk, Jr.

Yes, the Christian religion. Kicking righteous ass since A.D.

You can read the whole transcript HERE. Count the number of times Judge Alito is namechecked, and drink one shot for each.

Monkeys Throwing Poop

I read it in the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 - President Bush issued an unusually stark warning to Democrats today about how to conduct the debate on Iraq as midterm elections approach, declaring that Americans know the difference "between honest critics" and those "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people."

...In some of his most combative language yet directed as his critics, Mr. Bush said Americans should insist on a debate "that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries."

..."There is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate and it's even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas," he said without specifically naming his critics.


Well, now, that's all well and good, Mr. President, but who defines "responsible" debate? You? Me (and the bottle makes three tonight)?

The DNC got all pissy n' bristle-y in a response:

The Bush Administration's attack, distract and distort tactics reflect a Nixonian paranoia that is un-American. It's shameful that once again the Bush Administration resorted to attacking the patriotism of fellow Americans rather than answering legitimate questions surrounding the President's failures in Iraq. Personal attacks won't change the fact that hundreds of fatalities in Iraq could have been avoided if only our troops had the equipment they asked for....Democrats welcome and will continue to push for the open and honest debate that is fundamental to our democracy and the liberties we hold dear.


Ignoring the shamefully inflationary rhetoric ("Nixonian paranoia"? Give me a break.), it's hard to disagree with this part: It's shameful that once again the Bush Administration resorted to attacking the patriotism of fellow Americans rather than answering legitimate questions surrounding the President's failures in Iraq.

Amen. Argue alllll you want about whether or not we should be in Iraq, but don't attempt to dress up questions about the safety of our troops (where is that body armor, anyway?) or about the way in which the post-war planning was handled (where is that electricity, anyway?) as un-patriotic. I support my troops. That doesn't just mean that I slap a magnet on the bumper of my car. It means that I'd like more of them to survive this.

Earth to politicians: Stop screeching and throwing your own poop at each other. It's inarguably fascinating, but it smells bad and it looks disgusting. If either of you gave a damn about the troops, you'd quit yer jibber-jabber and go buy some humvee armor.

Codemorse: Now With Weird, Unintended Fetishism!

Thanks to codemorse friend and fellow blogger Oerwinde, I now have Statcounter on my site, which allows me a more in-depth look at who's visiting these not-so-hallowed halls.

This is very cool, and very informative. It's also, apparently, going to be a little bit disturbing. According to one search engine, plugging "son f---ing mother in a cartoon" (I can't bring myself to type out that word in this context) yields my "Munich" review.

So, welcome to Codemorse all you incestuous freaks. Enjoy the commentary, but keep your decidedly-icky inner thoughts to yourself.

Common-Sense Conservatives

From the National Review:

The GOP now craves such bipartisan cover in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Republicans trumpet every Democratic connection to Abramoff in the hope that something resonates.
But this is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.
Republicans must take the scandal seriously and work to clean up in its wake. The first step was the permanent ouster of Tom DeLay as House Republican majority leader, a recognition that he is unfit to lead as long as he is underneath the Abramoff cloud. The behavior of the right in this matter contrasts sharply with the left's lickspittle loyalty to Bill Clinton, whose maintenance in power many liberals put above any of their principles.

Big ups to Rich Lowry, who cuts through all of the hand-wringing and finger-pointing to say what should be said. Bravo, Mr. Lowry. This is the sort of honest, principled admission that I respect. The Abramoff scandal is, in essence, a Republican scandal. This does not mean that only Republicans pull dirty deals. Democrats are not above this sort of pathetic, criminal action.

But where I come from, you call a spade a spade. And attempting to spread the blame, so to speak, in all matters Abramoff is disingenuous.

I will, however, disagree with Lowry's point about Democrats and Clinton. The Clinton scandal was about morals. It was about condemning a man for his private failings - failings which arguably left his job unaffected. The Abramoff scandal is not about morals at days-end. It's about financial and political corruption. Even if you think that what Clinton did was immoral and unbefitting the President (an unusual stance, considering the vast swath of politicians who fuck around on their wives), it's pretty much apples-and-oranges.

The U.S. Is Great Satan! Now, Give Me My Blankie!

From Newsweek:

"I don't want to be on the list. I want to fly and see my grandma."
-Edward Allen, 4, after a Continental Airlines agent refused to let the preschooler board a plane because his name matched one on a government terrorist watch list. He was eventually allowed to board after his mother intervened.

The People's Terrible Choices

So, my lovely lady and I were channel-surfing last night - skipping back and forth between terrible television programs - when we came upon The People's Choice Awards.

More specifically the "Favorite Female Movie Star" category.

The nominees? Sandra Bullock in "Crash" (she's very good, but in the movie for, oh, fifteen minutes - tops), Angelina Jolie in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (Jolie's a smokin', purrin', murderin' sex kitten in the film, but the movie's a mindless wash), and Nicole Kidman in "Bewitched" (the single worst movie I saw this year).

That's a bizarre grouping, and I think it says a lot about "The People's" view of women on film. None of the women nominated are "older" actresses, two out of the three films in the mix were average to godawful (and there are many, many people who'd argue that "Crash" is just as bad in a different way - just not me), and the roles which these women had were, well, limited shall we say.

Of course, none of the other categories made much more sense (ie: "Favorite 'Funny' Male Stars Adam Sandler, Will Smith and Chris Rock - what the hell is that all about?).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Uh-Oh

From BBC News:

Iran has removed international seals from a nuclear facility and will begin research there in the coming hours.

The move ends a two-year suspension of research, and could result in Tehran being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions....

...Western countries fear Iran's nuclear programme could be used to make atomic bombs, but Tehran denies such a goal.

It says the project is for the peaceful production of energy only.


So, here's the thing, as I see it. Of course we're right to be immediately suspicious and concerned. Nuclear power of any sort is dangerous, and Iran is not our friend.


But, Nuclear power is also one of the future's viable energy sources. I distrust it, myself, even simply "the peaceful production of energy." But we use it, and we're probably not giving it up anytime soon.

So, since Iran's signed the Non-Proliferation treaty, and has stated a peaceful intent, what exactly do we do about this? So many people have expressed frustration with UN sanctions, though they appear to work fairly well, and our impatience with UN weapons inspectors (despite their having been shown to be absolutely correct about the lack of WMD's in Iraq) that I can't see America's government simply allowing the UN to impose its sanctions and sit back to see what happens.

On the other hand, there are practical and ethical reasons to do just that, at least until some more information can be gathered. Our military is stretched thin as it is, and any sort of intervention in Iran could prove disastrous to the continuing struggle for stability in Iraq. There's also the issue of whether the world should get itself involved in a preemptory fashion. If Iran really is researching energy alternatives, shouldn't they be able to? As "enlightened," Western countries, shouldn't we encourage growth as long as that growth does not pose a grave threat to our safety and security?

I don't know enough about Iran or this situation to necessarily answer those questions. But all signs have pointed toward a desire to continue and expand the "War on Terror," and this seems like the perfect sort of activity to start the wardrumming.

Thoughts?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Beagle Boys Raid The Money Bin

From The Hindu:
Washington: The real cost to America of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist and a Harvard budget expert.

I can't even conceptualize that much money.

(D to the K-O-S, muthafunka)

Twice The Lostiness

Up-and-coming entertainment site Collider.com has a nice scoop for those of us who regard "Lost" with quasi-religious devotion:

ABC has just announced that when Lost returns on January 18th, they will be airing back-to-back new episodes from 8 to 10pm.

Oh, sweet, sweet television. All those pigeon sacrifices before your glowing altar were not in vain.

And in connection with this post, I may have some fun news to announce in the near future should all pieces fall into their figurative places. Stay tuned.

Musings On Cathode-Induced Madness

I've never fallen in love with a television show before.

Sure, I've liked a few. "Lost" immediately comes to mind. As does the X-Files, which was a constant college companion. But both of those shows, good as they are/were, were just television shows. Entertaining, incredibly well-built shows, but just television shows. I own the "Lost" first season boxset and I've watched its episodes exactly once through since they originally aired. Despite an interest-level that compelled me into the theaters for its feature film debut, I don't own any old X-Files episodes, and I really don't plan to.

I sort of like this about myself. But thanks to "Firefly," I have what amounts to a ridiculous obsession with a television show that was cancelled midway through its first season. God help me, I think I understand Trekkies now.

Not that I run around dressed up like a "Browncoat" (a strangely virulent, near-off-putting group of individuals whose love for the show veers between charming and scary) or anything like that. I'm not that guy. Apparently, however, I am a guy who rewatches the fistful of collected episodes like a twitching junkie with a big-ass monkey on his back. It's disconcerting.

Not even the very, very satisfying feature film "Serenity" can knock that unruly ape offa my shoulders. It should be enough - "Serenity" puts a cap on the show's primary storyline and offers dramatic, satisfying resolutions to each character's well-drawn story arcs - but it ain't.

So Empire's new interview with Mssr. Whedon, creator of "Firefly/Serenity" (along with some show about a Vampire Slayer. Also one about an Angel that isn't doing much Touching of anyone) gives me absurdly sad amounts of hope for the continuing future of the show that I fell so freakin' hard for.

From Empire:

"A sequel's unlikely," Whedon told Empire with a note of clear regret, "but it's amazing what permutations of something can happen." But if not a theatrical encore, that leaves... yes, you guessed it, a possible return to the smaller screen. "As long as I was able to service the characters with integrity and had enough money so that I wasn't hampered, then I would love to return Serenity to TV. I love that universe; it continues and those characters live on. There could be a series, there could be a miniseries, there could be all sorts of things. I'm not ruling anything out. I'll let it simmer for a while and see if anyone calls."

Someone call the man, stat. I need more. And I'm not alone. "Firefly" has been at the top of Amazon's sales rankings for months now, and the film, while lining no one's pockets in gold bullion, is at the top of a surprising number of critics' "Best of 2005" lists. With DVD sales now a monetary force eclipsing Box Office revenue and helping to revive the cancelled "Family Guy," my own version of Cathode-Crack deserves another shot. And another. Now excuse me while I beat myself for sounding like such an utter, uber-nerd.