Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back to Bullpen for Papelbon

Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon is going back to the bullpen to resume the closer role he filled so well last season. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jonathan Papelbon's conversion from closer to starter didn't last long. Papelbon is heading back to Boston's bullpen to fill a major void, though he isn't doing it because an injury to Mike Timlin left the Red Sox without a closer.

"I haven't been sleeping well because there's been that feeling deep down in my heart that I wanted to close," Papelbon said after the Phillies and Red Sox played to a 4-4 tie in 10 innings on Thursday.

Papelbon is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he had 35 saves and an 0.92 ERA. But he was shut down with a month to go because of shoulder problems, and the Red Sox had planned to use him in the rotation to keep him on a more regular schedule.

The Red Sox needed a reliable closer because the 41-year-old Timlin has a strained side muscle and isn't going to be ready to start the season.

Papelbon made the decision to tell manager Terry Francona how he felt about returning to his closer's role earlier this week after consulting with his family and speaking to catcher Jason Varitek.

"He's unique," Francona said. "He's at the top of the list of relievers in baseball. He impacts the game like no other. I'm thrilled we have a young guy that feels enthusiastic about doing a job."

Papelbon allowed one run and two hits in three innings against Philadelphia. Karim Garcia's RBI single in the seventh off Papelbon tied the game at 4.

Julian Tavarez will take over as Boston's fifth starter behind an impressive staff that includes Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield.

Papelbon opened last season with 20 consecutive saves after taking over for injured closer Keith Foulke. The 26-year-old right-hander blew six of his last 21 chances, and missed the final month with a shoulder injury. Overall, Papelbon's rookie year was one for the ages.

Among pitchers who threw more than 50 innings, his ERA was the eighth lowest in major league history and his .167 opponents batting average tied him for the major league record Pedro Martinez set in 2000, when the former Boston ace won the Cy Young Award.

Papelbon's injury led the club to switch him back to the starting rotation because the routine of having to be prepared to pitch every day — and being in games two or three consecutive nights — might have caused some stress. Papelbon pitched almost exclusively as a starter in the minors, but worked out of the bullpen at Mississippi State and was selected as a closer in the fourth round of the 2003 amateur entry draft.

Papelbon pitched 68 1-3 innings in 59 appearances last year. He was 4-2 with 75 strikeouts and only 13 walks.

I think this is probably a good move. The guys the Sox either already had on hand (Tavarez, Manny Delcarmen), or brought aboard through off-season transactions (Joel Piniero) haven't been terrible, but they haven't been dominant. Not that such things matter a hell of a lot in spring training. In 2004, Keith Foulke had an absolutely BRUTAL spring training. I think he gave up something like 467 hits and 258 runs in 13 innings in Fort Meyers (not really). But, once the real season began, Foulke was golden, and was a major part of the 2004 WORLD SERIES CHAMPION RED SOX!

Papelbon would have made a fine starter, of that I am sure. But when you see what he did closing games last season, you'd be a fool to mess with that type of success. Will he again have a sub one ERA? Probably not. Hell, betting on consistent pitching is a fool's game. But if we are discussing probabilities, the notion that Papelbon could throw another 70 innings in 60-65 games with a strikeout per inning and 30-35 saves is not out of the question. I'm just glad the Sox braintrust didn't wait until mid-May after ten blown saves to act.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Calvert "Larry "Bud" Melman" DeForest Dead at 85

Today brings the sad news that Calvert DeForest, who played Larry "Bud" Melman on Late Night with David Letterman has died at age 85. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

NEW YORK - Calvert DeForest, the white-haired, bespectacled nebbish who gained cult status as the oddball Larry "Bud" Melman on David Letterman's late night television shows, has died after a long illness. The Brooklyn-born DeForest, who was 85, died Monday at a hospital on Long Island, Letterman's "Late Show" announced Wednesday.

He made dozens of appearances on Letterman's shows from 1982 through 2002, handling a variety of twisted duties: dueting with Sonny Bono on "I Got You, Babe," doing a Mary Tyler Moore impression during a visit to Minneapolis, handing out hot towels to arrivals at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

"Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself — a genuine, modest and nice man," Letterman said in a statement. "To our staff and to our viewers, he was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him."

The gnomish DeForest was working as a file clerk at a drug rehabilitation center when show producers, who had seen him in a New York University student's film, came calling.

He was the first face to greet viewers when Letterman's NBC show debuted on Feb. 1, 1982, offering a parody of the prologue to the Boris Karloff film "Frankenstein." "It was the greatest thing that had happened in my life," he once said of his first Letterman appearance.

DeForest, or Melman, was an unintentional comedic genius. His awkwardness was hilarious and charming, and Letterman was smart enough to simply get out of the way and let the magic happen. The appearances as Dave's on -site correspondent at various events was comedy gold. You couldn't have planned a character like that and gotten away with it, it simply would have been too contrived. But DeForest, a true non-professional entertainer, somehow made it work just by being himself. Here's to you Calvert/Larry!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

San Francisco Giants Ballpark to go Solar. Lefty O'Doul Retrospective.

The home of the San Francisco Giants will soon be powered by solar energy. Yahoo News Reuters excerpt:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will install a solar energy system at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, believed to be the first solar power plant at a major league baseball park.

The utility, a unit of San Francisco-based PG&E Corp., will place 590 solar panels at the park to produce 123 kilowatts of electricity, enough energy to light up a new scoreboard or power about 25 homes, PG&E said on Tuesday.

The system will be ready in time for baseball's All-Star game on July 10 at AT&T Park.

As long as we are doing something new, why not rename the stadium to something more fitting the rich baseball tradition of this fine city. Please join me and my good friend Miss Templeton in urging the powers that be to change the name of this ballpark to Lefty O'Doul Stadium. O'Doul was a lifetime .349 hitter in the majors in 970 games with the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Phillies, Dodgers. He won NL batting crowns in 1929 with a .398 mark for the Phillies with a league record 254 hits (tied with Bill Terry who matched him the following season for the Giants) and in 1932 with a .368 for the Dodgers.

O'Doul also had a fine career in the Pacific Coast League, in which he excelled as a player and manager. Lefty hit .354 in 1,068 games for San Francisco, Hollywood, Salt Lake City and Vancouver (for whom he hit a pinch-triple in 1956 at the age of 59). Playing the long PCL schedules (between 180 and 200 games a season) he led that league in the following categories:

  • Hits with 309 for Salt Lake City in 1925 and again with 278 for Hollywood in 1927.
  • Triples in 1925 with 17.
  • Runs scored with 164 in 1927.
  • Total bases with 428 in 1927.
In addition to his hitting prowess, O'Doul was also a long-time manager in the PCL. He managed the San Francisco Seals from 1935-1951, the San Diego Padres from 1952-54 and Oakland Oaks in 1955. He stayed with that club when they moved to Vancouver in 1956. His career managerial record was 2008-1890 for a .515 winning percentage. He managed the Seals to first-place finishes in 1935 and 1946, and the Padres in 1954. O'Doul is also credited with having been a top ambassador of the game to Japan.

In addition, Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge has been a San Francisco landmark since its opening in 1958. What more reason do we need to rename the place where the Giants play?

Special thanks to the invaluable The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling for help in compiling O'Doul's numbers.

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Bush Ups Ante in Attorney Firing Fiasco. Will Dems Call His Bluff?

Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy has challenged Democrats in the attorney firing fiasco. He is betting that they are still the gutless wonders that cringed throughout his first term, and that they will not issue subpoenas to get the answers to this mess. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - A defiant President Bush warned Democrats Tuesday to accept his offer to have top aides testify about the firings of federal prosecutors only privately and not under oath or risk a constitutional showdown from which he would not back down.

Democrats' response to his proposal was swift and firm: They said they would start authorizing subpoenas as soon as Wednesday for the White House aides.

"Testimony should be on the record and under oath. That's the formula for true accountability," said Patrick Leahy
, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bush, in a late-afternoon statement at the White House, said, "We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants. ... I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse."

He added that federal prosecutors work for him and it is natural to consider replacing them. "There is no indication that anybody did anything improper," the president said.

Bullshit. Bush wants the deck stacked in his favor AGAIN. This won't be a rerun of his hideous 9-11 "testimony", during which time he sat on Unka Dick Cheney's lap while never having to be placed under oath. Not this time. It's too late for "reasonable proposals".

Bush gave his embattled attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, a boost during an early morning call and ended the day with a public statement repeating it. "He's got support with me," Bush said.

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to strip Gonzales of his authority to fill U.S. attorney vacancies without Senate confirmation. Democrats contend the Justice Department and White House purged eight federal prosecutors, some of whom were leading political corruption investigations, after a change in the Patriot Act gave Gonzales the new authority.

Several Democrats, including presidential hopefuls Hillary Rodham Clinton
, Barrack Obama, Joe Biden and John Edwards, have called for Gonzales' ouster or resignation. So have a handful of Republican lawmakers.

More and more voices are being heard to call for the head of AG Abu-G. I don't believe for one moment that Gonzales is safe. If the subpoenas come, there is a chance that Rove may be called to testify, and that will almost surely cost Gonzales his job. The Democrats have already taken the necessary action to make Gonzo accountable to them with regard to filling future attorney slots. But that may be a moot point, as the man seems to be living on borrowed time. Let's hope the final tick of that clock sounds sooner rather than later.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Former White House Official Defends Fudging Global Warming Reports

A former White House official today defended his fudging of the numbers in global warming reports so that the mis-administration could say "What global warming?" Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - A former White House official accused of improperly editing reports on global warming defended his editing changes Monday, saying they reflected views in a 2001 report by the National Academy of Sciences.

House Democrats said the 181 changes made in three climate reports reflected a consistent attempt to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding the science of climate change and undercut the broad conclusions that man-made emissions are warming the earth.

Philip Cooney, former chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged at a House hearing that some of the changes he made were "to align these communications with the administration's stated policy" on climate change.

Said "stated policy on climate change " being the stubborn, incorrect position that global warming is not happening.

The extent of Cooney's editing of government climate reports first surfaced in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, left the White House to work at Exxon Mobil Corp.

Gee, there's a surprise. A former oil industry lobbyist tweaked the environmental report findings to show data that bolstered the White House's boneheaded position. Where is Claude Rains when we really need him?

"My concern is that there was a concerted White House effort to inject uncertainty into the climate debate," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

Cooney's appearance before Waxman's committee Monday was the first time he has spoken publicly, or was extensively questioned, about the issue. Cooney said that many of the changes he made to the reports — such as uncertainty about the regional impact of climate change and limits on climate modeling — reflected findings of a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report on climate.

Waxman's committee also heard from James Hansen, director of NASA's
Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the country's leading climate scientists, who said the White House repeatedly tried to control what government scientists say to the public and media about climate change.

"Interference with communications of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career," said Hansen, who was one of the first to raise concerns about climate change in the 1980s.
Hansen's battles with NASA and White House public affairs officials are not new and resulted in an easing of NASA's policies toward scientists talking to the media about their work.

Hansen said that in 2005 he was told by a 24-year-old NASA public affairs official he could not take part in an interview with National Public Radio on orders from senior NASA public affairs officials. Instead, three other NASA officials were offered for the interview.

The young press officer, George Deutsch, now 26, sat next to Hansen at the witness table Monday and told the committee he had simply been "relaying" the views of higher-ups at NASA that Hansen was not to participate in the interview.

Rep. Darrell Issa
, R-Calif., suggested that Hansen was not being muzzled at all and that there is nothing wrong with government scientists being subject to some limits in what they say.

"It doesn't ring true," said Hansen. "It's not the American way. And it's not constitutional."

Issa is a douchebag. And Hansen is right. It's NOT the American way, and it's NOT constitutional.

I'd bet that Issa would have been more than willing to lift Hansen's muzzle if he was going to spout some batshit craziness about trees causing more pollution than factories the way Saint Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt once did. But is anyone really surprised at this? These bastards have been pulling stunts like this since they stole their way into power back in 2001, and nobody has had the balls to call them on anything. Maybe Waxman can slap a scare into these goons, but it is more likely that we will continue to get more of the same treatment until January 20, 2009, which simply cannot get here fast enough.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Comedy Stylings of Robert Novak - Dissecting Tom Delay Edition

Now on exhibit is a piece by Robert Novak (aka the man who should also be walking the plank in the Valerie Plame identity exposure incident), courtesy of the Washington Post in which he describes Tom Delay's new book, "No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight". The article explores some of Delay's problems with Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy hissownself. Excerpt:

DeLay is an angry man after being driven from the leadership, from Congress and, so far, from public life by "a concerted effort to destroy me legally, financially and personally" through a 2005 indictment in Texas. DeLay's response to Democratic District Attorney Ronnie Earle is familiar. What is unusual are his claims that "pre-existing tensions I had with Gingrich and Armey" partially explain their role in kicking DeLay out of the leadership.

DeLay admits that the Republican leaders empowered by the 1994 elections -- comprising himself as majority whip, Gingrich as speaker and Armey as majority leader -- "were not a cohesive team, and this hindered our ability to change the nation." He puts most blame "at Newt Gingrich's door."

In describing Gingrich as an "ineffective Speaker," DeLay writes: "He knew nothing about running meetings and nothing about driving an agenda." He adds: "Nearly every other day he had a new agenda, a new direction he wanted us to take. It was impossible to follow him."

DeLay also declares that "our leadership was in no moral shape to press" for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Writing well before Gingrich's admission for the first time last week, DeLay asserts: "It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis."

Well, DeLay was right about the first sentence of that last paragraph. Too bad he and the other scumbags who rode the impeachment horse until it was foaming at the mouth, with blood streaming from its nostrils didn't realize that at the time they were playing God. DeLay, Gingrich, Livingston and the rest of those hypocrites should be ashamed of themselves for having subjected the nation to that travesty.

DeLay refers to Armey as "so blinded by ambition as to be useless to the cause" and a "poor leader" who had "few fresh ideas." He adds that Armey "resented anyone he thought might get in the way of his becoming speaker of the House. Beware the man drunk with ambition." He pleads innocence in his version of the failed 1997 coup attempt against Gingrich and accuses Armey, after realizing that he would not succeed Gingrich, of telling the speaker that DeLay was plotting against him: "He had lied to cover his ambitions, betraying both his movement and his fellow leaders."

Does the phrase "the pot calling the kettle black" have any meaning here? I guess not when DeLay is the one blinded by ambition...

DeLay, who was forced to step down as part of a politically motivated prosecution, is angry that Republicans, pressured by Democrats and the news media, retreated from a party rule that an indicted House Republican need not resign from the leadership. Gingrich and Armey (both out of Congress) opposed the rule. More significantly, to DeLay's dismay, so did Hastert, his former lieutenant.

The memoir ends DeLay's reticence in criticizing President Bush. Deriding Bush's self-identification as "a compassionate conservative," DeLay asserts that "he has expanded government to suit his purpose, especially in the area of education. He may be compassionate, but he is certainly no conservative in the classic sense." He also charges that Bush has failed to stress the role of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq, adding, "typically . . . no one at the White House was listening" to his advice.

Wah, wah, wah...I didn't fail conservativism, conservativism failed me... What a crock of excrement. And Tom, don't cry about the fact that Preznit FSF wasn't listening to you, he didn't listen to anyone once what passes for his mind was made up.

Anyway, here is some of Novak's summation:

Notwithstanding Flake's criticism, DeLay was the most conservative congressional leader I have witnessed in 50 years covering Capitol Hill. I rate him with Lyndon B. Johnson as a dominant legislator. But his revelation that GOP leaders did not constitute a band of brothers helps explain why 12 years of control produced much less than was anticipated.

There is no information about how many martinis Novak had imbibed when he typed this nonsense. I find it interesting that Novak, in his zeal to praise DeLay the legislator, compared DeLay to Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat. And Bob, the reason that "12 years of control produced much less than was anticipated" was because those in control were a gang of crooked bastards who wanted to run the country as if it was a feudal kingdom, with the citizenry as their serfs.

There's more, but it's turning my mind to Lime Jello. Read the whole article, and be thankful that Tom DeLay is, for the time being anyway, out of our lives. Too bad the same cannot be said for Robert Novak...

Leahy on US Attorney Firings: "I Want Subpoenas!"

In a refreshing change, a leading Democrat is showing some fighting spirit. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is all but demanding that people like Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and a host of other Bush insiders be subpoenaed to testify about their roles in the mass firing of US attorneys. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday he intends to subpoena White House officials involved in ousting federal prosecutors and is dismissing anything short of their testimony in public.

The Bush White House was expected to announce early this week whether it will let political strategist Karl Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and other officials testify or will seek to assert executive privilege in preventing their appearance.

Of course these assholes will assert executive privilege. That's why Leahy is calling for subpoenas. And it is why EVERY Democrat, and every sensible Republican should be doing likewise.

The chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy
, D-Vt., last week delayed a vote on the subpoenas until Thursday as the president's counsel, Fred Fielding, sought to negotiate terms. But on Sunday, Leahy said he had not met Fielding nor was he particularly open to any compromises, such as a private briefing by the administration officials.

"I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this," Leahy said. "I do not believe in this, we'll have a private briefing for you where we'll tell you everything, and they don't."

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter
, the top Republican on the committee, said he had a long talk with Fielding on Friday and was reserving judgment. Specter said he would like to see Rove and Miers' open testimony because there were numerous precedents for it. "I want to see exactly what the White House response is," Specter said. "Maybe the White House will come back and say, 'We'll permit them to be interviewed and we'll give them all the records.'"

Yeah, and maybe Jessica Alba will become Mrs. Listerplus, or maybe the Red Sox will sign me to play center field for the upcoming season. Arlen, stop kidding us. Remember, we're still angry at you about that Magic Bullet bullshit you foisted on us so many years ago. Thanks, but don't try to help now.

At issue is the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, dismissals that Democrats say were politically motivated. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales initially had asserted the firings were performance-related and denied the White House played a role.

But e-mails released last week between the Justice Department and the White House contradicted that assertion and led to a public apology from Gonzales over the handling of the matter. The e-mails showed that Rove, as early as Jan. 6, 2005, questioned whether the U.S. attorneys should all be replaced at the start of Bush's second term, and to some degree worked with Miers and former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson to get some prosecutors dismissed.

Several Democrats and a few Republicans, including Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire, have called for Gonzales to resign, saying he had lost the support and confidence of Congress and the nation. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate Judiciary Committee had a deal with Sampson, Gonzales' former chief of staff, for him to testify voluntarily.

Sampson, who resigned last week, released a statement making clear that senior Justice officials were aware that the department and the White House "had been discussing the subject since the election" of 2004. Gonzales has said he was kept in the dark about the communications.

Really? The chief law enforcement officer of the United States was kept in the dark about this? Ordinarily I'd call "bullshit" on this assertion, but having seen the sloppy way this mis-administration conducts its affairs, this may be true. Aw, who am I kidding? Bullshit!

"The stories keep changing from so many people," Schumer said. "A good lawyer will tell you when the witnesses keep changing their stories, they're usually not telling the truth and they have something to hide."

Gee Chuck, ya think? Thanks for playing Mr. Stater of the Obvious...

Bud Cummins of Arkansas, one of the fired U.S. attorneys, said Gonzales should step down if it is proved that he was involved in the firings.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, cautioned against a "political witch hunt" and said Democrats "think Karl Rove is lurking behind every bush in Washington." But he said Gonzales needs to get his story straight — quickly.

Hey John, maybe Democrats think that because Karl Rove, in fact, DOES lurk behind every bush in Washington. And please, don't start that crap about political witch hunts when your party has led the way in that category.

Anyway, I'm glad to see some fire in Leahy. We already know that Bush will not let these people testify on their own, so the subpoena is a necessary measure to get these thugs to talk, so it is good to see Leahy realize this and begin to call for the appropriate actions.

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Kuiper Belt Detective Work

The Kuiper Belt, a group of smaller, rocky bodies that orbit the Sun past the orbit of Neptune, is providing more clues as to what lurks at the edge of the Solar System--and the dynamics of how these bodies interact. Yahoo News AFP excerpt:

PARIS (AFP) - Astronomers have pieced together the remnants of a mighty collision that smashed apart a planet-sized rock in the Kuiper Belt, on the far-flung fringes of the Solar System.

First identified in the 1950s by Dutch-US skygazer Gerard Kuiper, the disk-shaped belt is believed to be populated by tens of thousands of icy bodies, encircling the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune.

A team led by Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) took a close look at the belt's third largest object, 2003 EL61. Nicknamed "Santa" because the team spotted it at Christmas-time, 2003 EL61 is a grey rock so big that it is a contender for the new category of a Solar System "dwarf planet."

Brown describes Santa as "one of the strangest objects in the Solar System," likening its shape to a cigar or an American football that has too little air in it and been stepped on. Flanked by two moonlets, 2003 EL61 measures some 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) across, tumbling over and over at a prodigious rate and pursuing a weird egg-shaped orbit inclined at nearly 30 degrees to the plane at which almost all of the Solar System's objects travel.

Brown's team found five other rocks, measuring between 10 and 400 kilometers (six and 250 miles) across, that they believe were smashed away from 2003 EL61 in the distant past. The cluster shares the same colour and the light they reflect has a signature that suggests they are covered with surface water ice. The paper is published on Thursday in the weekly British journal Nature.

The Kuiper Belt and the asteroid belt, which is located in the gap between Mars and Jupiter, are believed to be rubble left over from the building of the Solar System.

Astronomers have already identified 35 "collisional families" -- clusters formed when their parent rock is whacked -- in the asteroid belt. But this is the first time something similar has been spotted in the Kuiper Belt, and the discovery could shed light on the dynamics that shaped the early Solar System and the surface of Kuiper Belt objects themselves.

Brown is one of the leading authorities on the Kuiper Belt, a region also inhabited by Pluto. His discovery of a big Kuiper Belt object, 2003 UB303 (since renamed 2003 Eris), sparked a fierce debate about the status of planets, leading to Pluto's relegation last year to the status of "dwarf planet" by International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The Kuiper Belt is proving to be a mysterious and fascinating region of the Solar System. Moon-sized objects have been detected at orbits that are highly inclined away from the plane of most of the major planets--a major reason they have evaded detection until recently. It appears we now have reasons to pursue these objects in unexpected areas of the sky, but there are nowhere near enough professional telescopes pointing to these regions. I suspect that the amateur community will step up and eventually make some contributions in this area.

Another resource is one that has been already completed--the recent sky surveys by Hipparcos come to mind. There are thousands of images that can be reviewed and compared to those of previous surveys to see if anything has moved. It appears that Mr. Brown and his team are making some nice progress with this research.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Large Ice Deposits Found on Mars!

Before I launch into today's story, let me tell you that about 15 inches of snow fell in my area yesterday and last night, a mere TWO DAYS after we had 71 degree temps in my part of the Bay State. The snow removal is complete, and I am back at the keyboard to bring you a story that is HUGE in its implications. Large deposits of ice have been detected at Mars' south pole. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A spacecraft orbiting Mars has scanned huge deposits of water ice at its south pole so plentiful they would blanket the planet in 36 feet of water if they were liquid, scientists said on Thursday.

The scientists used a joint NASA-Italian Space Agency radar instrument on the European Space Agency Mars Express spacecraft to gauge the thickness and volume of ice deposits at the Martian south pole covering an area larger than Texas.

The deposits, up to 2.3 miles thick, are under a polar cap of white frozen carbon dioxide and water, and appear to be composed of at least 90 percent frozen water, with dust mixed in, according to findings published in the journal Science.

Scientists have known that water exists in frozen form at the Martian poles, but this research produced the most accurate measurements of just how much there is. They are eager to learn about the history of water on Mars because water is fundamental to the question of whether the planet has ever harbored microbial or some other life. Liquid water is a necessity for life as we know it. Characteristics like channels on the Martian surface strongly suggest the planet once was very wet, a contrast to its present arid, dusty condition.

Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who led the study, said the same techniques are being used to examine similar ice deposits at the Martian north pole. Radar observations made in late 2005 and early 2006 provided the data on the south pole, and similar observations were taken of the north pole in the past several months, Plaut said.

While images taken by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft made public in December suggested the presence of a small amount of liquid water on the surface, researchers are baffled about the fate of most of the water. The polar deposits contain most of the known water on Mars.

Plaut said the amount of water in the Martian past may have been the equivalent of a global layer hundreds of meters deep, while the polar deposits represent a layer of perhaps tens of meters. "We have this continuing question facing us in studies of Mars, which is: where did all the water go?" Plaut said. "Even if you took the water in these two (polar) ice caps and added it all up, it's still not nearly enough to do all of the work that we've seen that the water has done across the surface of Mars in its history."

Plaut said it appears perhaps 10 percent of the water that once existed on Mars is now trapped in these polar deposits. Other water may exist below the planet's surface or perhaps some was lost into space through the atmosphere, Plaut said.

This is terrific news. It is likely that there is more water on Mars than what has been detected with this finding, and this team will likely find it. The discovery assigns more certainty to the equation that is human colonization of Mars. Now we just have to get our shit together and make the missions happen.

The other equation is that water is a key ingredient for life. Now that a lot more water (though still not very much) has been found than was believed to be present on the Martian surface, and in the soil, it makes one wonder if there could be a hardy form of life on the Red Planet. Such a life form would have to be able to survive an environment with cold temperatures, low atmospheric pressure, an atmosphere that to us would be deadly (mostly Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide) and extremely dry conditions. But the presence of water automatically means that Oxygen is also present in the water, so who knows?

But, another interesting question remains: How the hell DID Mars lose most of its water? There are all sorts of theories, some are practical, others are a little more far-fetched. Plaut is correct when he points to the geological features of Mars that point to these features having been created by erosion combined with the presence of water. That question will be a lot harder to answer.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn Dead at 80

Bowie Kuhn, former Major League Baseball commissioner from 1969-1984 has died at the age of 80. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Bowie Kuhn, who saw baseball become a business of free agents making multimillion-dollar salaries during 15 tumultuous years as commissioner, died Thursday. He was 80. Kuhn died at St. Luke's Hospital following a short illness, his spokesman Bob Wirz said.

When Kuhn took over as commissioner from William Eckert on Feb. 4, 1969, baseball just had completed its final season as a tradition-bound 20-team sport, one with no playoffs, a reserve clause and an average salary of about $19,000.

Kuhn battled the rise of the NFL and a combative players' union that besieged him with lawsuits, grievances and work stoppages. Yet it was also a time of record attendance and revenue and a huge expansion of the sport's television presence.

Along with his bumpy reign came a string of controversial decisions. When Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth's career record in 1974, Kuhn was not in the stands. And he banned Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle from associating with their former teams because of liaisons with gambling casinos.

These were three idiotic decisions Kuhn made. Especially since he ordered the Braves to play Aaron in the opening road series of the 1974 season, which could have seen Aaron break the home run record away from Atlanta. Banning Mays and Mantle was just stupid. It's not like they were gamblers like Pete Rose.

By the time Peter Ueberroth succeeded Kuhn on Oct. 1, 1984, the major leagues had 26 teams in four divisions, a designated hitter in the American League, the first night World Series
games, color-splashed uniforms, free agency and an average salary of nearly $330,000.

"I want it to be remembered that I was commissioner during a time of tremendous growth in the popularity of the game," Kuhn said, "and that it was a time in which no one could question the integrity of the game."

Part of that growth was the fact that both leagues expanded in 1969 to Seattle, Montreal, Kansas City and San Diego. Sure, KC had had a team before, but they moved to Oakland. Montreal was where Jackie Robinson first played integrated professional baseball, and both Seattle and San Diego had been long-time Pacific Coast League cities. Kuhn gets no credit for this. Nor does he get credit for the further expansion of the American League in 1977 into Toronto and Seattle (the Mariners--the Pilots left in 1970 when future commissioner Bud Selig moved them to Milwaukee to become the Brewers).

It was also a time of memorable feuds. Kuhn did battle with ornery owners like Charlie Finley, Ted Turner, George Steinbrenner and Ray Kroc. Finley once went so far as calling Kuhn "the village idiot."

His downfall came after he presided over a 50-day strike that split the 1981 season in half. A prim and proper lawyer who stood ramrod erect, Kuhn was regarded by some as a stuffed shirt.

Born in Takoma Park, Md., on Oct. 28, 1926, Kuhn grew up in Washington, D.C., as a fan of the original Washington Senators — yet he allowed the expansion Senators to leave after the 1971 season and become the Texas Rangers
. He graduated from Princeton in 1947 and received his law degree in 1950 from Virginia.

After school, he joined the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, which represented the National League. In 1966, he represented the Milwaukee Braves in their legal battle with the city over a move to Atlanta and gained the respect of the league's owners.

He eventually lost that respect through repeated confrontations with many of those owners, who kept him from getting involved in negotiations during the 1981 strike. Kuhn suspended Steinbrenner in 1974 for two years — later shortened to 15 months — for his guilty plea regarding illegal campaign contributions to President Nixon's re-election campaign. He then suspended Turner, the Braves owner, in 1976 for tampering with the contract of Gary Matthews.

In 1976, he voided the attempt by Finley's Oakland Athletics
to sell Vida Blue, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers for a combined price of $3.5 million, saying the deals weren't in the best interests of baseball.

He fined Kroc, the San Diego Padres
owner, $100,000 in 1979 for saying he wanted to sign Joe Morgan of the Reds and Graig Nettles of the Yankees.

During Kuhn's years as commissioner, attendance in the major leagues grew from 23 million in 1968 to 44.6 million in 1982. In 1983, baseball signed a $1.2 billion television contract that would earn each team $7 million a year for six seasons, then an astonishing sum.
It was clear by now that baseball was transforming itself from a sport to a business, with revenue rising from $163 million in 1975 to $624 million in 1984.

Again, that is due to the fact that the American and National Leagues expanded into half a dozen new markets, not because of anything he did.

"You can't be commissioner for 14 years and not change, for better or for worse. I hope I've changed for the better," he said. "I'm more philosophical about our problems. Initially, I used to become more upset. Now, I take problems for granted as being part of the office."

While business boomed on his watch, players wanted their cut. Curt Flood sued to gain free agency, but lost his U.S. Supreme Court
case in 1972. In 1975, the union finally ended the reserve clause, which bound players to their teams forever, winning an arbitration case filed on behalf of Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith. Baseball hasn't been the same since.

On the field, Kuhn injected himself into Aaron's chase for Ruth's home-run record by ordering Braves manager Eddie Mathews to play Aaron in 1974's season-opening series at Cincinnati. Aaron entered with 713 homers, one shy of Ruth's mark.

See? I told you so! Then, he had the nerve not to show up for Aaron's historic home run.

A year later, Finley led a group that attempted to oust Kuhn as his first term ended. "That was an ambush," Kuhn said. "I was blindsided. I didn't see it coming, and I wasn't prepared."

But with the support of Los Angeles Dodgers
owner Walter O'Malley, Kuhn managed to gain re-election. By 1982, a year after the strike — baseball's fifth work stoppage under Kuhn — owners were ready for change. At a Nov. 1 meeting at a Chicago airport hotel, AL owners voted 11-3 to give Kuhn another term, but the NL vote was 7-5, short of the 75 percent needed.

He is survived by wife, Luisa Kuhn; son Stephen Kuhn; daughter Alex Bower; and stepsons Paul Degener and George Degener.

Did Kuhn help the game? No, not really. Did he hurt it? Again, no he did not. As Jim Bouton wrote in the classic Ball Four, Kuhn was an owners guy in the labor negotiations of the late 1960s when the players union hired Marvin Miller. Miller , and the players, emerged the winners over time, and Kuhn did his best to control the growth of salaries, which was really what the feud with Finley was all about. But the tide had already started to turn, and Kuhn was left holding the bag as the big-money free agent era began.

Some of my comments may appear harsh, and to a degree they are. Kuhn was a lawyer who worked for the league's owners. He tried to keep salaries down. His feud with Finley was legendary, and shows that free market principles do not completely control the game. Kuhn was slow to respond to baseball's changing economic profile, and he was punished for it by the owners. The owners then hired Ueberroth, a marketing guy, to guide the game. After him, the late Bart Giammatti and Fay Vincent attempted to run things, but Vincent, like Kuhn, was ambushed by the owners, who were now feeling a sense of entitlement. That led us to where we are now with Bud Selig. Sometimes I wonder if we would be better off with a Kuhn-type commissioner. I think he would do a better job of standing up to bullies like Steinbrenner. Can you imagine Selig suspending King George the way Kuhn did? Nah. Me neither.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sununu Calls For Gonzales Dismissal

Senator John Sununu (R-New Hampshire) is the first Congressional Republican to come out and say that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should either resign, or be fired. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire on Wednesday became the first Republican in Congress to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' dismissal, hours after President Bush expressed confidence in his embattled Cabinet officer.

Gonzales has been fending off Democratic demands for his firing in the wake of disclosures surrounding the ousters of eight U.S. attorneys — dismissals Democrats have characterized as a politically motivated purge. Support from many Republicans had been muted, but there was no outright GOP call for his dismissal until now.

"I think the president should replace him," Sununu said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think the attorney general should be fired."

Thank you Senator Sununu! I already respect you more than your father!

Bush, at a news conference in Mexico, told reporters when asked about the controversy: "Mistakes were made. And I'm frankly not happy about them."

But the president expressed confidence in Gonzales, a longtime friend, and defended the firings. "What Al did and what the Justice Department did was appropriate," he said.

What was "mishandled," Bush said, was the Justice Department's release of some but not all details of how the firings were carried out.

So it wasn't the action that was wrong, but the way the action was handled that was wrong? Oy...

The developments unfolded as presidential aides labored to protect White House political director Karl Rove and former counsel Harriet Miers from congressional subpoenas.

The White House dispatched presidential counsel Fred Fielding to Capitol Hill to negotiate the terms of any testimony by White House aides in an institutional tug of war reminiscent of the Watergate and the Iran
-Contra scandals.

Sununu said the firings of the prosecutors, together with a report last Friday by the Justice Department's inspector general criticizing the administration's use of secret national security letters to obtain personal records in terrorism probes, shattered his confidence in Gonzales.

"We need to have a strong, credible attorney general that has the confidence of Congress and the American people," said Sununu, who faces a tough re-election campaign next year. "Alberto Gonzales can't fill that role."

The White House response was curt. "We're disappointed, obviously," said White House spokesman Tony Snow. A Justice Department spokeswoman refused to comment on Sununu's remarks.

Some of the dismissed prosecutors complained at hearings last week that lawmakers tried to influence political corruption investigations. Several also said there had been Justice Department attempts to intimidate them. E-mails between the Justice Department and the White House, released Tuesday, contradicted the administration's earlier contention that Bush's aides had only limited involvement in the firings.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
, D-Nev., predicted Wednesday that Gonzales would soon be out. "I think he is gone. I don't think he'll last long," Reid said in an interview with Nevada reporters. Asked how long, Reid responded: "Days."

Pssst...Harry! You wanna make SURE that Gonzales is gone in "days"? KEEP THE HEAT TURNED UP ON THE S.O.B.! That, and don't back down again when Dick Cheney growls at you!

Fielding, the White House counsel negotiating with lawmakers over possible administration testimony, is a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan administrations. He was hired by Bush this year to handle just these kinds of demands by the Democratic-controlled Congress.

It was unclear whether Bush would grant Democratic requests for his own aides to tell their stories under oath. For his part, Gonzales, in a brief hallway interview with reporters, said he intended to cooperate where his aides are concerned.

The House and Senate Judiciary committees have invited Rove, Miers and her deputy, William K. Kelley, to testify voluntarily about their roles in the firings. Gonzales has pledged to allow five of his aides involved in the dismissals to testify. As insurance, the Senate panel is expected to consider subpoenas for the whole group on Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters after the meeting with Fielding that the counsel promised a yes-or-no answer by Friday. "He said it was his goal to get us both the documents and the witnesses that we seek to question," Schumer said. The White House was expected to issue some conditions, but Fielding "said his intention was not to stonewall," Schumer added.

Still, I'd keep those subpoenas within easy reach if I were you Chuck. Just sayin'...

U.S. attorneys are the federal government's prosecutors and serve at the pleasure of the president. They can be hired or fired for any reason, or none at all. However, when the White House dismissed eight federal prosecutors without explanation, Democrats accused the administration of trying to make way for political allies under a new Patriot Act provision that permits the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.

The fired prosecutors are: Carol Lam and Kevin Ryan of California, Bud Cummins of Arkansas, Paul Charlton of Arizona, John McKay of Washington state, Daniel Bogden of Nevada, David Iglesias of New Mexico and Margaret Chiara of Michigan.

Gonzales and the White House denied the charges of a political purge and said they intended to submit the names of the replacements for confirmation. They initially said the White House had only limited involvement in the firings. But e-mails released by the agency this week made clear that the firings were the result of a two-year campaign to purge the ranks of U.S. attorneys for various reasons, including chafing at the administration's crime-fighting priorities.

The e-mail exchanges between Gonzales' chief of staff and Miers and Kelley made clear the White House was deeply involved in the plan. Miers, at that time White House counsel, at one point suggested firing all 93 U.S. attorneys. That idea was rebuffed by Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' top aide. Rove is mentioned in several of the e-mails as key to the process. Kelley gave the green light for the firings in another e-mail, saying the White House offices of legislative affairs, political affairs and communications had signed off on it.

Sampson resigned on Tuesday. Mike Battle, who oversaw the U.S. attorneys, announced his resignation last week in a departure the agency said had been long planned.

Bush, and Gonzales a day earlier, used a phrase made famous in previous scandals — "Mistakes were made" — and pledged to set things right with Congress.

Appearing Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show, Gonzales said he had a "general knowledge" of Sampson's conversations with Miers about the prosecutors, but said, "I was obviously not aware of all communications."

Thank goodness for Senator Sununu's words. Now, if a few more high-placed Republicans like Chuck Hagel would do likewise we might get rid of this skunk. Nah. Bush doesn't care what anyone thinks. Still, it is hard to know which Bush AG was worse, Ashcroft or Gonzales. I suppose the game becomes a sort of "chicken - egg" study exercise. Without Ashcroft having done the early administration hit jobs on our liberties, Gonzales wouldn't be where he is now (well, this mess, plus his love of torture), so you can see that it is truly a tough call as to which one was the biggest monster.

I've carefully avoided commentary on this story, but enough is too much, or whatever that old, soiled chestnut is. "Mistakes were made", yadda yadda yadda... Are we even surprised anymore at what these thugs are doing to our way of life? That holy Republican mantra "mistakes were made" just never gets old for these assholes. Can we afford to wait until January 20,2009 when this shit keeps happening? Whatever happened to accountability? It sure came up during the Clinton impeachment hearings and the Whitewater nonsense. This phony, pitiful excuse of a president has done more damage to this country through his arrogant, ignorant bumbling than any number of terrorists could have ever hoped to have inflicted upon us. This is just the latest atrocity. I'm sure we'll see something equally as rotten soon enough...

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Happy PI Day!

Today is pi day. For those unaware, the following Yahoo News AP wire excerpt will show, in minute detail what is happening due to this mysterious number on this day...

This is a story about love. About inscrutable complexity and remarkable simplicity, about the promise of forever. It is about obsession and devotion, and grand gestures and 4,000-word love letters.

It is about a curious group of people with an almost religious zeal for a mind-numbing string of numbers. Actually one number, made up of a chain that is known — so far — to be more than one trillion digits long. They are the acolytes of the church of pi.

And once a year many of them gather to talk about pi, rhapsodize about it, eat pi-themed foods (actual pie, sure, but so much more), have pi recitation contests and, just maybe, feel a little less sheepish about their unusual passion. That day falls on Wednesday this year: March 14. Or 3.14. Obviously.

See? It all coheres...

The question is why, of course. And if you ask the fans of pi why, a startling number of them will come back with the same question: "Why climb Mount Everest
?" Because it's there.

But then they start talking about some very simple ideas. Like the beauty of a number that seems to go on forever and yet has no discernible pattern to it. Or about the valor of the memorization gymnastics, challenging oneself always to know more.

This is how Akira Haraguchi, a 60-year-old mental health counselor in Japan, puts it: "What I am aiming at is not just memorizing figures. I am thrilled by seeking a story in pi." He said this one day last fall after accurately reciting pi to 100,000 decimal places. It took him 16 hours. He does not hold the Guinness world record, only because he has not submitted the required documentation to Guinness. But he has his story. (Incidentally, the world record belongs to Chao Lu, a Chinese chemistry student, who rattled off 67,890 digits over 24 hours in 2005. It took 26 video tapes to submit to Guinness.)

A brief math refresher: Pi a simple concept, the relationship between a circle's circumference and diameter: Multiply the diameter by pi — 3.14159, to use a crude approximation that would make many of the people in this story blanch — and you get the circumference.

Supercomputers have computed pi to more than a trillion decimal places, looking always for a pattern to unlock its mystery. And for centuries the number has fascinated mathematicians.

More than a trillion decimal places?!? Damnation Vincent, but that is some crazy cipherin'! But wait! There's more...

There are logical gathering places for people like this, and one of them is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where, on March 14, students have been known to wish each other — out loud — a happy Pi Day.

The school plays a role in encouraging this: In the past it has tried to mail its acceptance letters on March 14. (It didn't work out this year. And last year, when an MIT official wrote on an admissions blog that it probably wouldn't work out then either, he was greeted with disappointment. "Pi Day seems so romantic," one prospective student wrote.

There's a popular chant, an MIT rallying cry, that includes "3.14159." (It rhymes with "Cosine, secant, tangent, sine!" And Bryan Owens, an MIT senior, says the ability to recite pi is a sort of bragging right, a coin of the realm.

"It's like how much money you have," he says. "But you never win. You always find somebody who knows it to more digits than you do. I think the basic idea is we like to celebrate things, kind of celebrate who we are."

And that is why, like the Irish on St. Patrick's Day or Italians on Columbus Day, this Wednesday, 3-14, in many cases at 1:59 p.m., pi enthusiasts will have their moment in the sun.

At the Exploratorium in San Francisco, there will be pies to eat, people wearing pi jewelry, more beads — color-coded by digit — added to the pi string. And the celebrants will gather at a sort of pi shrine, a brass plaque engraved with pi's first 100 digits.

Okay, I think we get the idea. So maybe it's not on a par with James Joyce impersonators running around the parks, pubs and streets of Dublin on Bloomsday (June 16th, the date Joyce chose for his classic novel Ulysses), but it's not too shabby. And who knows?!? Maybe one of these people will one day unlock the mystery of this fantastic number.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hydrocarbon Seas Found on Titan

The Cassini probe, which has been surveying Saturn's largest moon Titan, has spotted what appear to be large, liquid bodies of hyrdrocarbons as large as lakes and small seas. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

LOS ANGELES - Scientists for the first time have discovered what appear to be sea-size bodies of liquid on the surface of Saturn's largest moon, including one about as big as the Caspian Sea on Earth.

The discovery by the international Cassini spacecraft was welcomed by researchers, who have long theorized that Titan possessed hydrocarbon seas because of methane and other organic compounds in its thick, largely nitrogen atmosphere. Until now, Cassini had only spotted clusters of small lakes on the planet-size moon.

Researchers using visual and radar imaging uncovered evidence of at least two seas on Titan's hazy north pole. Cassini's camera last month imaged a large, irregular feature stretching 680 miles long with a surface area similar to the landlocked Caspian Sea. Its radar instrument swept over the feature's northern tip and determined it likely contains liquid methane or ethane because of its smooth appearance. However, scientists don't know whether the entire area is filled with liquid.

The spacecraft also discerned another body one-fifth the size of Titan's "Caspian Sea." With a surface area of about 46,000 square miles, it is larger than Lakes Superior and Ontario combined, scientists said.

Results were presented Tuesday at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Titan is one of the few objects in the outer solar system that possesses a significant atmosphere and scientists have long puzzled over its source. Methane is a flammable gas on Earth but liquid on Titan because of the moon's intense atmospheric pressure and cold.

The discovery raises questions about why hydrocarbon pools are concentrated at Titan's poles, said Carolyn Porco, a Cassini imaging scientist from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. It also gives researchers confidence that a feature the size of Lake Ontario spied on the moon's south pole two years ago may also be liquid-filled, she said.

In 2005, Cassini launched a probe that parachuted to the surface of Titan where it found evidence of an active world with liquid methane rain and a landscape of ridges, peaks and features formed by erosion. Cassini, on a mission to study the ringed planet and its many moons, is a project of NASA,
the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The spacecraft is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Cassini has been, and will continue to be an unqualified success. It has shown that this moon, which is nearly as large as Mars, is a dynamic world that has many surprises and promises. With every new finding, Titan's value as a potential base of operations for the outer Solar System grows. Now it is up to us to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity Titan continues to present.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Possible Prehistoric Indian Enclosure Uncovered in Indiana

Just to avoid signing off in an angry mood, I give you this story about a possible prehistoric enclosure that may have been built by Indians about 2,000 years ago. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

YORKTOWN, Ind. - A circular formation discovered in a wooded area next to a highway slated for widening is likely some sort of an earthen enclosure built by prehistoric Indians, Ball State University archaeologists say. Workers with the Delaware County Office of Geographic Information System found the earthen structure more than a year ago while studying contours on a large topographical map.

The circular formation on a wooded tract near Indiana 32 between Muncie and Yorktown was recently brought to the attention of the Indiana Department of Transportation, which plans to widen that segment of the highway to four or five lanes.

The 150-foot diameter feature was likely constructed by excavating a circular ditch around a space archaeologists call a central platform, said Ball State archaeologist Don Cochran. He said the structure is believed to be the work of prehistoric, Woodland Indians, although the property's owner has not permitted an examination of the site to determine its true origins.

Cochran said that aside from Mounds State Park, most of east-central Indiana's 300-plus known mounds and enclosures built by the Hopewell-Adena people about 2,000 years ago have been completely or partially destroyed by agriculture, development and artifact hunters. "It's absolutely critical we keep this one. This is one we don't know anything about," Cochran, who's the director of archaeological research at Ball State, told The Star Press.

Kyle Johnson, the county's GIS coordinator, and co-workers found the formation as they were reviewing a topographical map and noticed a near perfect circle. Johnson contacted the owner of the land, who agreed to meet GIS staff at the site more than a year ago. "It was like a big, round ditch," he recalled. "The owner didn't know anything about it. We went to Ball State, which seemed interested, but the owner wouldn't let them check it out."
Since then, the owner has sold the property to a new owner, who Cochran said has not given Ball State officials access to the land.

He said the structure is so prominent it shows up dramatically on Google Earth and resembles the aboriginal enclosures that are within Mounds State Park near Anderson.

Beth McCord, Ball State's assistant director of archaeological research, said it was surprising such a large suspected archaeological site was overlooked near a busy highway. If the site turns out to be an ancient Indian enclosure, she said it would be very rare example of its kind to have survived into modern times.

During my 2000 trip to Ireland, I took an afternoon to tour the famous megalithic sites Knowth and Newgrange (see photo). In addition to these giant mounds, there were dozens of other smaller ones in the surrounding fields. The guide told us that an average of three or four new ones are accidentally uncovered every year. It is amazing how much antiquity lies beneath our feet.

McCord said such earthen enclosures were probably gathering places for American Indians for ceremonies, dances and feasts during particular religious events, such as the winter solstice.

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It is a damned shame we don't have a more comprehensive history of the people who lived in this country long before Europeans settled. Thanks to people like the good folks at Ancient American, we are getting a bigger and better picture of what life was like thousands of years ago on this continent.

...And Dems Reply by Caving In...AGAIN!!!

The Democrats are once again pretending to be a powerless minority, as they caved on a measure to reduce additional funding for Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's Continuing Deadly Adventure. Vice Preznit Cheney should take the credit for this latest in a long series of surrenders. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Nancy, are you an idiot? Do you really think this madman is going to ask you for anything after you've already given in to him AGAIN???

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel
had argued for the change in strategy.

The developments occurred as Democrats pointed toward an initial test vote in the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday on the overall bill, which would require the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, if not earlier. The measure provides nearly $100 billion to pay for fighting in two wars, and includes more money than the president requested for operations in Afghanistan
and what Democrats called training and equipment shortages.

The White House has issued a veto threat against the bill, and Vice President Dick Cheney
attacked its supporters in a speech, declaring they "are telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out."

House GOP Leader John Boehner
of Ohio issued a statement that said Democrats shouldn't count on any help passing their legislation. "Republicans will continue to stand united in this debate, and will oppose efforts by Democrats to undermine the ability of General Petraeus and our troops to achieve victory in the Global War on Terror," he said.

As noted in the previous post, the troops are being undermined quite effectively by their own so-called champions, so the Democrats should grow some goddamned spine and tell that shithead Boehner that THEY DON'T NEED HELP FROM THE REPUBLICANS! Unfortunately the Democrats still need to be reminded that THEY ARE THE FUCKING MAJORITY! WAKE THE HELL UP AND ACT LIKE IT!!!

Top Democrats had a different perspective. Pelosi issued a written statement that said the vice president's remarks prove that "the administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops and more treasure from the American people."

So why the hell did you cave in again? Do you expect a miracle?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
, D-Nev., said in a statement that America was less safe today because of the war. The president "must change course, and it's time for the Senate to demand he do it," he added.

Too bad you didn't follow through on that Harry. And just when I thought you were waking up...

The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Bush did not launch an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

Rep. Shelley Berkley
, D-Nev., said in an interview there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state. "It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman
of New York.

Berkley and Ackerman are correct. You don't plead with a bully to stop picking fights, you FIGHT BACK! I'm so sick of having to type stuff like this every week. Maybe Pelosi and Reid should stand aside and let Berkley and Ackerman take over. At least they sound like they have some fight in them.

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Cheney Screams at Dems...

Vice Preznit, "Deadeye" Dick Cheney is, once again, accusing anyone who disagrees with his and Preznit Flight Suit Fantasy's idiotic war plans, but especially Democrats, of being disloyal, and "against the troops". Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

WASHINGTON - Anti-war lawmakers in Congress are undermining U.S. troops in Iraq by trying to limit President Bush's spending requests for military operations, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday.

Gee Dick, I think a stronger case could be made that YOU and your cabal are doing a much better job of "undermining U.S. troops" by not giving them adequate equipment, having no legitimate plans, and by screwing them sideways when they come home as casualties of this disaster, or do I have to remind you of what is going on at Walter Reed Army Medical Center? Help is on the way my narrow white arse...

His remarks came as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scheduled a Wednesday test vote on a resolution that calls for combat troops to leave Iraq by March 2008. Also this week, a House committee will consider legislation that would fully fund the administration's $100 billion request for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan yet demand that troops leave Iraq by the end of August 2008 and possibly the end of 2007.

With those showdowns nearing, Cheney tried to put Democrats on the defensive. "When members speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines and other arbitrary measures, they are telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out," Cheney said in a speech to the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee. "When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called 'slow bleed,' they are not supporting the troops, they are undermining them," he said.

Again Dick, where is the plan for victory? If you'd shown any inclination that you and the gang of thugs that are running this meat grinder at even the tiniest clue as to what you were doing, then maybe things would be different. But, since you insist on throwing more lives away, it falls to Congress to correct your mistakes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
, D-Calif., said Cheney's remarks prove "the administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops and more treasure from the American people." Reid, D-Nev., said America was less safe today because of the war. The president "must change course, and it's time for the Senate to demand he do it," Reid said.

Cheney said the House's nonbinding vote against troop increases in Iraq last month was an example of "twisted logic" and "not a proud episode in the history of the United States Congress." Cheney added, "Very soon, both houses will have to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill to provide emergency funding to the troops, and I sincerely hope that this time, the discussion this time will be about winning in Iraq."

He predicted "disaster" and "chaos" in the Middle East with either al-Qaida or Iran
emerging dominant from a bloody sectarian battle and compromising regional security if U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq before their mission is completed.

Of particular concern, he said, would be a powerful and possibly nuclear-armed Iran, criticizing as inconsistent some lawmakers who are pressing for tougher action on Iran but opposing Bush's Iraq plan.

"It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and Israel's best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened," Cheney said.

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There is nothing inconsistent about this. Under the Shah, the U.S. accepted dozens of Iranian students to M.I.T. back in the 70s to learn about NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY as part of a program to get Iran to use this energy while selling their huge oil reserves to the rest of the world. Part of that deal was that the graduates would return to Iran to work in their atomic energy industry. When the Shah was toppled and replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini, most of the students who were still here chose to remain here. Those already in Iran were trapped. Now you want to blame Harry Reid for a mistake made under President Nixon's watch? YOU sir are being inconsistent. Why the hell don't you go to Dubai along with the rest of Halliburton to serve your real masters directly and leave us alone to clean up the mess you've made.