Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Big Boom

I am not even sure what to think about this. What the Hell could you possibly need a bomb this big for? It would be 700 times larger than the 2,000 pound bombs used to blast U-Boat pens in WWII. It would be almost 100 times larger than the Daisy Cutter, generally thought to be the largest conventional weapon in the world. It would be 63 times bigger than the Amazon, the superbomb designed to blast through the most heavily reinforced underground facilities built by the Germans in WWII. It would be 33 times bigger than the titanic T-12, which was under development at the end of the war but was eventually replaced by small nuclear weapons.

I mean, jeez, how would you even GET it there? The Daisy Cutter, at a mere 7.5 tons, is already too big to fit in the bomb-bay of any bomber ever built - they have to push the stupid thing out of the back hatch of a C-130, a cargo plane. The C-130 only carries around 23 tons of cargo, so you could get, oh, about 1/30th of this baby into the cargo hold. The fearsome B-52 carries 35 tons of bombs, and itself weighs only about 92 tons, or about 13 percent of the weight of this superbomb.

So what would we do? Drive it to the target in a convoy of trucks? Drop it in pieces and ask the nice folks on the ground to assemble it for us?

I have a better idea: let's just develop a system to attract a meteor to hit enemy installations. That would show 'em good.

Afternoon Update: I guess I am not the only one whose mind boggles.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What not to wear

Good god, can't someone please give Jack Abramoff some advice on hats?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Best analysis of Ben's downfall

Jach Shafer always has been my favorite media critic, dating from his days at the Washington City Paper, and his commentary today on the collapse of Ben Domenech is insightful as always.

White Trash 2

My letter on Romenesko generated a couple of interesting responses, both well reasoned, though I do object to saying that I am "defending" the use of White Trash, which slightly misses my point. But such is life.

Monday, March 27, 2006

White Trash

Chuck Darrow of the Courier-Post in New Jersey has an interesting commentary on the casual use of the phrase "White Trash." He suggests that if we have the good taste and sensitivity to avoid ethnic slurs - from the N-word on - then we really should avoid using White Trash as well. "I truly cringe every time I hear or see "white trash" tossed around so blithely," he writes.

But I wonder. I think it may have been Cornel West who pointed out that it is essentially impossible to malign those at the top of the social and power structure with the same vicious effect as you can denigrate those at the bottom - "Honky" and "cracker" simply cannot, and never will, carry the same power to shock and horrify as their equivalent slurs on blacks, Asians, Hispanics, the disabled, or anyone else at a significant social and economic disadvantage. In fact, if anything, such a term is almost comical because it is so fundamentally empty in its attempt to undercut the dominant social class.

But I think Darrow misses an even more important semantic distinction between "White Trash" and any even remotely comparable ethnic slur. Here is a letter I dashed off to the Romenesko journalism site, which links Darrow's column today:

While it is true that "White Trash" can be taken as fighting words in my native South, I think Chuck Darrow of the Courier-Post is way off base in equating the term so closely with an ethnic slur of the same caliber as the infamous "N-word." The phrase "White Trash" suggests a class or economic distinction that, however great the implied difficulty, can be corrected by education, hard work, and, ultimately of course, money. As such, it can't possibly deliver the same pain as a word that dismisses someone as irredeemably inferior - that attacks the very humanity of the person described - no matter his economic, social or educational accomplishment. I think Chuck Darrow's outrage at the use of the phrase is both unnecessarily thin-skinned and considerably misplaced as a social and historical matter.

Am I wrong here?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

If the tinfoil hat fits, wear it

From the NY Post by way of the Drudge Report:

Sat Mar 25 2006 10:09:51 ET

A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, the NEW YORK POST reported in a frontpage splash on Saturday.

Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen "KT" McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying:

"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event.

"She wasn't joking, she was very, very serious, and she also claimed that Clinton's people were taking pictures across the street from her house in Manhattan, taking pictures from an apartment across the street from her bedroom," added the eyewitness, who is not involved in the Senate race.

Suffolk County Republican Chairman Harry Withers, who hosted the reception in East Islip, confirmed McFarland's paranoid statements.

"Yes, she said that," Withers told the POST.

McFarland spokesman William O'Reilly responded that the GOP hopeful was just kidding around with her far-fetched claims.

"It was a joke, and people laughed," O'Reilly insisted.

But three witnesses who were present said nobody in the audience cracked a smile.

"The whole room sort of went silent when she said it," one person said.

Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson denied any spying was going on.

"We at the Hillary campaign wish Ms. McFarland the best and hope she gets the rest she needs," he said.

But Wolfson couldn't resist a sharper gibe at McFarland's remarks.

"Some campaigns hand out campaign buttons; the McFarland campaign hands out tinfoil hats with antennas," he quipped.


Now, my only question for Howard Wolfson would be "What's wrong with tinfoil hats, Howard?"

Friday, March 24, 2006

Say it ain't so, Ben

Oh, jeez, please tell me this isn't true. If it is, I am deeply disappointed by my young friend Ben Domenech - he seemed too smart for this. Plagiarism is the most pernicious, self-destructive thing a journalist can do, and the real pity is that is is relatively easy to avoid. But I guess it would fit something of a pattern - it's often the young, ambitious, smart ones that go down because the pressure is too great, from others and on themselves. I think of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair and even Janet Cooke. Every journalist in one way or another is aware of the temptation, but the hyper-driven ones sometimes succumb. I just hope this isn't true, but the Daily Kos file looks pretty incriminating, as does a similar one from Salon. And this from Salon is troubling as well.

Afternoon Update: Ben resigns.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My first big "I Knew Him When"

I was a little taken aback to see this item this morning. It reminded me that age is creeping up on me.

Many years ago, when I covered Capitol Hill for the Washington Times, a young man began hanging around the press gallery. His name was Benjamin Domenech and he worked for a little known conservative magazine called Human Events. He struck me as earnest and ambitious. He carefully introduced himself to everyone he could get within hand-shake range and he seemed genuinely interested in what the older reporters had to say.

At some point, he prevailed on me to have him out for lunch. So naturally I took him to a bar on the Hill. I can't even precisely remember what we talked about, but he struck me as incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and well-educated. I figured he'd make a stir some day. Somehow, toward the end of the conversation, the subject of his age came up and he dropped the bombshell - he was all of 16. I knew he was young, but I had taken him for 20 or 21 - one of the army of earnest young college-age interns or newly minted grads that pack Washington. My complete astonishment (and his smile, which showed he was enjoying my bafflement) ensured that the kid's name was imprinted on my mind.

Somehow I lost track of him, though his name would occasionally drift through my head. So it was with a mix of surprise and, well, un-surprise, that I saw Ben has been tapped by the Washington Post to write a new conservative blog.

I won't pretend to agree with all of what Ben has to say ("Red Dawn" was a silly movie, not a conservative manifesto, Ben), and I am disappointed to see he worked with Michelle Malkin, who gives intellectual lightweights everywhere a bad name, but I can testify that Ben is a very smart, thoughtful young man and his blog may bear watching. At least he will be interesting.

Monday, March 20, 2006

But was he wearing clean underwear?

I think it is clear that the advice our mothers gave us - always wear clean underwear - is, while wise on many levels, simply inadequate to cover the many peculiar situations that we might encounter in life. Some other advice might include "don't wear a dress, makeup and earrings if you are a man who is about to be arrested" and "do not commit an act of self gratification in a crowded public library." It is certain that this man's mother somehow missed giving him this crucial advice.

Later addition: in cruising around the Smoking Gun after posting this, I discovered this mugshot, which really speaks to me. From the "Never, Ever Give Up" file, here is the way I would like to be remembered if my life goes horribly, tragically, completely to Hell.

Now what are the chances?

This evening I discover that there is in fact another Seanibus abroad in the world. And he lives in, of all places, Philadelphia. Maybe we should start a club.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Allow me to introduce myself

I finally have the actual website up and going. It's awfully heavy on resume stuff (anyone have a lucrative job for me?), but it's a website nonetheless. And now that I have all the important stuff up, I find I have only used about a third of my capacity, so I have room to throw up fun stuff, like pictures. I don't know if I ever will, but it's nice to know I can.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blame Canada.

Once in a while, you run across a really lovely bit of writing in a newspaper. This morning, John Bartlett of The Erie Times-News deserves a small, tasteful award for a great lead on what could have been a deadly dull story. Here's the full text.

By John Bartlett

For the first time since the War of 1812, many United States vessels patrolling the Great Lakes will be armed.

However, no resumption of hostilities is anticipated.

Coast Guard vessels on the Great Lakes are being equipped with machine guns capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute to defend against drug runners and terrorists, not Canadians.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How terrifying

From ABC7 in Chicago:

March 16, 2006 - Chicago police are investigating cases of suspicious activity at two Loop buildings. One of them is the Sears Tower.

Since 9-11, the Sears Tower in particular has turned up on several lists of possible targets for terrorists. ABC7 news has reported sightings of suspicious looking individuals photographing the building numerous times in the past several years. Law enforcement officials have always publicly downplayed these incidents and they attempted to do that again Thursday.

I think they call these hideously deformed creatures "tourists." Cops should be allowed to shoot on sight, I say.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wow, I have finally entered the 90s

This whole blog thing has got me all sweaty with excitement, so I decided to dabble in a website too. I have an actual, honest to God website. A first in my family. Except my brother, of course, who knows what the Hell he is doing with this stuff. Oh, and my mother, who piggybacks on my brother's site. At least I know my wife and kids don't have websites, so I am #1 somewhere at least.

So far, it amounts to less than this blog, which is to say, I have nothing exciting on it at all, 'cept a really nifty picture (taken by my wife) of my youngest son while making cupcakes.

Trust me, it's just a temporary arrangement. But I suppose for a first tentative step into web development, it's not too bad. I mean, it's got words and pictures and hyperlink-thingys and everything, just like the big boys. And they don't have any pictures of Colin.

Oh, I have this grand vision - resume, profile, serious discussion of all the wonderful things I am able to do for money (um, let's see. Write. Edit. Report. Did I mentioned write?). We'll see if I get that far. Maybe I'll just post dorky vacation photos. Or come up with a grand high concept. Did I mention I will write for money?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Twins Are Good Update

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins had a good set on KCRW. It started a little shaky, but quickly turned around and was pretty solid. Mildly interesting interview with Jenny, but no talk from the Twins. Oh well. Their time will come. And Jenny put them to slightly better use in the live set than on the record.

Sadly, I find out the show in Philly on Monday is solidly sold out. So I will miss it.

From the "painfully obvious" department

Did Alcohol Fuel Church Fire Suspects?

(CBS/AP) A group of three college students charged in connection with a string of Alabama church fires that apparently began as a prank may have been fueled by alcohol, authorities said.

Um, yah think?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Ah, how parochial is our view

Scanning news online today, I was somewhat taken aback by this headline on Google:

Future PA gov't won't include Hamas leaders from abroad

See, I naturally assumed that meant "PA" as in "Pennsylvania." And I knew we had a bunch of clowns running the state, but never had I suspected that included Palestinian militants.

Reminds me of my uncle's hilarious story of a conversation he participated in once where one person was speaking of Eugene Ionesco and the other was speaking of UNESCO. And it took an embarassing number of minutes to realize that they were talking about distinctly different things.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Twins are good

I picked up the new solo album by Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley fame - it's not bad. She's better with Rilo Kiley than on her own, though (if you don't know what I am talking about, I urge you to look into it. Great band).

But that's not the point, really. I was astounded to see two familiar faces behind Jenny Lewis on the cover - the "Watson Twins." Turns out my wife and I have been fans of these girls for years, when we first saw them as backup singers for the unjustly obscure LA band Slydell. The songwriting was a little strained at times, but every element of the band was incredibly tight. It was an astounding collection of talent. And binding it all together were the two best backup singers I have ever heard - doesn't hurt that they are attractive, not-quite-identical twins from Kentucky who appear to tower up in the six-foot-tall range.

We discovered them in maybe 2002 or 2003 when we went out on a rare date-night to the Derby for one of these five-noname-bands-on-a-bill kind of nights. The first four bands were merely OK. We were tired and little drunk - and we were paying a fortune for a babysitter - so we wanted to go home. But we decided to stay for one last song. And on comes this band that was totally hypnotic. We stayed for the whole set, and we were totally haunted by them, even though we didn't even know the name until I looked up the Derby calendar the next day. After that, we caught Slydell as often as we could. For a while, they were the house band at Tangier in Los Feliz around the corner from our house.

Unfortunately, Slydell collapsed all of a sudden for reasons I have never been able to determine, and the parts of the band drifted in different directions and the singer, known only as "B. Roam," seems to have vanished completely.

I've kept an eye on the Watsons, and they popped up once in a while here and there backing up on obscure albums, including Joe Firstman's "The War of Women." And they formed a band of their own named Blackswan, which never seems to have gone anywhere.

But now, finally they are getting some of the attention they deserve thanks to Jenny Lewis. Lewis doesn't use them as much as she should - you can hear them on the first three or four tracks, then they fade for the rest of the album - but you can hear just how tight their harmonies are.

And I'm pleased to discover that they have their own album out, featuring a couple of the old Slydell players, including the incredible guitarist who calls himself just "J. Soda", and keyboardist Aram Arslanian, who will remind you why keyboards well applied can spell the difference between a good and a great production. It's a very good album - I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Watsons handle lead-singer duty, and they still indulge in plenty of their trademark tight harmonies. Great stuff. I am particularly fond of the odd little title song "Southern Manners."

Unfortunately, the only way to get is at a show or on their website. And the shows with Jenny Lewis are selling out fast (though you can hear them on on March 10). So check out the website. You won't be sorry.

Phishing story

I always figured I was just way too cool to be taken in by one of these Phishing scams - you know the "Changes have been detected to your EBay account. Please log in and verify your information. Failure to do so will result in the suspension of your account" stuff. Then the link takes you to a side that looks totally legit and asks for your account number and password and all. I was way too hip for that.

But then yesterday I got the most devilishly clever one. If I weren't so irked, I'd rather admire the skill of it. It was in the form of an email that looked like this:

It really does look exactly like an EBay member message. And the "reply" button sends you to some kind of mirror site that does seem to log you into EBay, but I would presume in the process also helpfully copies your screename and password.

I am ashamed to say I fell for it, though I put 2 and 2 together moments later (equals 4, for the record) and was able to change my password - and passwords anywhere else where I used similar screenames or passwords. So I suppose the damage was limited, at least I hope. We'll see. And I am damned glad it was just Phishing for my EBay password (I wondered why I was suddenly buying hundreds of dollars with of antique woodworking tools and stacks of vintage porn magazines. That will be hard to explain to the wife).

But in any event, just be aware that there are some pretty slick scammers out there. And also, never, ever, assume you are too hip to fall for it.