Sunday, December 28, 2008

0 for December

A guy on the radio said that the last time a team went 8-3 and didn't make the playoffs was 1982.

Well, the Bucs went 9-3, and then 0 for December, giving up 17 unanswered points to a Raider team that had nothing to play for.

Is Jon Gruden coming back? I wonder if the defense, without Monte Kiffen to play for next year, laid down the last three games to get Gruden fired?

Go Iggles!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Drive from Tampa to Jersey...

...on me alone.
Liposuctioning unwanted blubber out of pampered Los Angelenos may not seem like a dream job, but it has its perks. Free fuel is one of them.

For a time, Beverly Hills doctor Craig Alan Bittner turned the fat he removed from patients into biodiesel that fueled his Ford SUV and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator.

Love handles can power a car? Frighteningly, yes. Fat--whether animal or vegetable--contains triglycerides that can be extracted and turned into diesel. Poultry companies such as Tyson are looking into powering their trucks on chicken schmaltz, and biofuel start-ups such as Nova Biosource are mixing beef tallow and pig lard with more palatable sources such as soybean oil. Mike Shook of Agri Process Innovations, a builder of biodiesel plants, says this year's batch of U.S. biodiesel was likely more than half animal-derived since the price of soybeans soared.
Just think, the answer to our energy woes could be hanging right over my belt.

Beef tallow, pig lard & me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers,
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.

The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.

God's glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
Wisdom's born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.

And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;

While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men's golden jars.

-Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow

Do I look like Santa like this?  Huh, Dad?  Huh? Huh? Huh?
snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow...

Little Decalon is going to Hawaii!

Seven-year old Decalon told his teacher that he was going to Hawaii!

Little Decalon goes to Hawaii every February. That's because his daddy is Buccaneer eternal Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks.

I know little Decalon's teacher. She is a wonderful Christian lady. Fly, what is it about those schoolteachers?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

College Baseball signings in New York State.

One name pops out.
The Bethlehem trio of Mike Fish, Sean Quinlan and Randy Bowers will all play Division I baseball after signing today with Siena, Niagara University and Canisius College, respectively.
The name that stands out is Randy Bowers of Bethlehem High near Albany, NY. He's a right hand pitcher with a fastball in the low 90's and a curve around 75 and he enters Canisius in the fall of 2009. He was also starting QB; huis last game he threw for 370 yds with 4 TDs and 3 picks (He's Brett Farve).

Did I mention that he is also my nephew? So, starting in the spring of 2010, you may see a post or two about young Randy Jr.'s exploits in Division 1 ball.

I remember when he was little, he looked EXACTLY like his father. It was a little Twight-Zonish, as if my brother had turned back into a toddler. Even today he looks just like his father at 17.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Christmas Survey

cross-posted in the comments of Tracey's post. Go there and play along!

1. Opening presents: Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
... a little of both. Christmas Eve when i visit the folks on my Dad's side of the family, and the rest the next morning at Ladybug's folks.

2. What do you do with all the paper as it’s being ripped from presents? What about the ribbon?
... we save the neat ribbon and any gift bags; we toss the rest as we go.

3. Do you take turns opening presents or is it a free-for-all?
... more turn-based than real-time.

4. Does someone act like Santa, passing out presents?
... usually.

5. Do you play Christmas music in the background whilst opening presents?
... there's Christmas music most of the time: meals, presents, etc. etc.

6. I have just given you a gift of socks. Tell me what you say to make me believe you like them, you really like them.
... actually, I probably DO really like them. I never seem to have enough socks and I hate it when my feet feel cold.

7. Do you like egg nog?
... very much.

8. Are there any other kinds of nogs that you’re aware of? If not, why not just call egg nog “nog” if it’s the only nog there is?
... actually, I think "nog" is the modifier, not the noun; there aren't different types of nog, there are different types of egg product: egg nog, egg cream, etc. Then again, my wife makes a nog punch which is maybe 25% nog, and 75% other fun things like kahlua and ice cream and coffee.

9. Are there any pre-dinner drinks or snacks available at your house on Christmas and, if so, what are they?
... they are endless. We Italians graze before we sit down for the actual meal. The items depend on who's cooking and what sounds interesting while we're planning.

10. What do you wear for Christmas dinner? If you wear elastic pants and admit it, please know I admire you deeply and may very well fall in love with you. Please do not panic.
... we tend to dress decently; not quite church best but it's an occasion and there's usually lots of relatives to look nice for. Breakfast on Christmas morning is our slouch-around shlubby-looking time.

11. If you’re not hosting the dinner, do you assist in the pre-dinner prep?
... sure do. Everyone volunteers to bring a dish.

12. If so, have you ever considered starting to play with the nearest child immediately upon your arrival at said Christmas dinner, causing him or her to REQUIRE your delightful company up until the very moment dinner is served thereby making it impossible for you to leave the little angel’s side and assist in the kitchen lest a loud, unsightly tantrum ensue? I’m just sayin’ is all. I myself would not do this, oh no, but I would not judge you should you decide to give it a whirl.
... we've got a dearth of adorable children in the family right now - the youngest of any of the cousins is 15. In a few years this may be a viable strategy.

13. What’s for Christmas dinner? Along that same vein, what time should I be there?
... to which course do you refer? There's usually some atnipasta and other hors dourves, some digestion, then a turkey, and more digestion, there's usually a lasagna or some other pasta (Italians, remember?), and then yet more digestion and probably a nap, and then pastries and coffee. Basically, show up any time after noon and you will need a wheelbarrow to get back to your car.

14. Do you have a kiddie table and will I be forced to sit there?
... see above. Even if we did, no, we would make room for you with the rest of us, and force you to talk about grownup stuff for about three minutes - or until someone quoted "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," whichever came first.

15. Who is tipsy at your Christmas dinner, besides me, of course?
... we're not inclined to the tipsy; at least, not through tasty beverage. I am pretty much permanently tipsy through natural causes, and especially at holidays.

16. Is there something that is tradition at your Christmas dinner that you cannot stand or simply do not understand?
... nothing comes to mind.

17. Turkey: White meat or dark meat?
... dark, thanks!

8. Turducken: I know what it is. I need to know why it is. Please enlighten.
... Infinitely Recursive Poultry. If anyone could answer this I'm sure a shadowy government conspiracy would chase them across the snow-covered streets, with thrills, twists, and a truly cockamamie plot device; tragically killing the wise older mentor and a couple of wassailers, before finally indulging in a pointless set-piece in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center, in which we discover the shocking, shocking truth about Frank Perdue's secret island experiments, funded by Butterball and Aflac.

19. Cranberry sauce: yea or nay?
... yea.

20. What happens after dinner? Napping? Sqaubbling? Frolf?
... is 'frolf' a hobbit or a Muppet?

21. What’s for dessert?
... Italian bakery goods, pies, and snitched leftover turkey scraps while no-one's lookin'.

22. What’s the best Christmas dessert, in your opinion?
... I'm on record as favoring my Mom's creme puffs, which were a holiday staple all the years we were kids. I may break out the old recipe this year and restart the tradition.

23. Now that it’s dessert, who is snockered? You can tell me.
... I can't. Remember that shadowy conspiracy? There's enough left for a sequel to The Turducken Code. It's called The Snockered Syndrome. We've got Denzel Washington and Charlize Theron. THIS Christmas, it's PERSONAL.

24. How many pieces/helpings of dessert do you have? Just know that whatever number you tell me, I will double it in my head to get closer to the truth, ‘mkay, Peaches?
... mmmm, peaches...

25. Will Christmas carols be sung loudly and off-key, ad nauseum, until baby Jesus cries?
... we do this at our parish a few days before Christmas. I don't know if Baby Jesus cries, but I usually do.

26. Will you be forced to pose for photos at some point by someone making their giddy artistic vision your immediate personal burden?
... well, reverse it - I'm the giddy artistic one, and everyone else just wants me to put the blergin' camera DOWN already for crying out loud.

27. Finally … Christmas day exit strategy: What’s yours?
... exit strategy? Usually we just peter out and sleep for a while.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Keanu, get yer stinkin' paws off my Bebop, you durned dirty hack!

On the bright side, it IS a 20th Century Fox production, so my fan-fic Star Wars/Bebop crossover is a greenlight, baby. And before you laugh at THAT, consider that my story is likely to be far superior to anything the Kee-Ann-U is likely to do with the original.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm a Cool Kid Now!

I am going to take a crack at this. Stuff I’ve done is in bold, in italics is yet to be done. Many of these accomplished items are thanks to long all-expenses-paid vacations courtesy of Uncle Sam.

This is the longest post I’ve ever done. Feel free to break it up. Fly.

Start my own blog. I started a blog, but really couldn’t keep up with it. The Nightfly was kind enough to invite me to participate in this one.
Slept under the stars. As kids we used to camp out in the woods behind my house. More recently I would abstain from the tent during our church’s men’s campout. In Florida, one can sleep under the stars in January.
Played in band. Does my church’s worship team count? Long ago, I jumped up on stage and sang “House of the Rising Sun” with some band of Air Force enlisted. It was totally impromptu on my part. I don’t remember much in the way of details. I drank a lot of Wild Turkey that day.
Visited Hawaii. On my way to a temporary assignment to Christchurch NZ back in November 1978. The Navy had a boat tour of Pearl Harbor. The boat carried 200 people; besides me, the two GIs with me and the two sailors driving the boat the rest were Japanese tourists.
Watched a meteor shower. I will be a gazillion years old when Halley’s Comet comes back.
Given more than I could afford to charity. I have given to the point where I was forced to not be irresponsible with what I had left.
Been to Disneyland/world. First went to Disney World soon after it opened when I was 14 years. Of course it’s now 80 miles down the road so I’ve made a few more trips. My one trip to Disneyland was when I was 18.
Held a praying mantis.
Sung a solo. A few times in church. And an intoxicated version of House of the Rising Sun.
Bungee jumped.
Visited Paris. I was stationed at Rhein Main AB near Frankfurt. Paris is not that far of a drive.
Watched lightning at sea. I was in the Air Force, not the Navy.
Taught myself an art from scratch. I’m supposed to be learning to play guitar.
Adopted a child.
Had food poisoning. Does throwing up while drunk count?
Grown my own vegetables. My younger brother used to grow a special kind of vegetable that he didn’t want to talk about.
Seen the Mona Lisa. On my trip to Paris. In that museum whose name I can’t spell. It was on the wall in a case full of an inert gas.
Slept on an overnight train. New Brunswick, NJ to Tampa FL on Amtrak.
Had been in a pillow fight. Though I’ve never been in a blanket party.
Hitchhiked. A long time ago. Would never do it today. Would never pick anyone up. Have you seen the sexual predator list for the Tampa area?
Taken a sick day when not ill. This was tough in the Air Force because when you called in sick you actually had to go to the clinic. In civilian life I was like the Fly.
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping.
The idea of fish having access to my nether regions never appealed to me.
Run a marathon. A 5K when I was young and skinny. Once I passed my Air Force fitness test while drunk.
Ridden in a gondola in Venice. I’ve never ridden in a gondola anywhere.
Seen a total eclipse. Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun. But mama, that's where the fun is.
Watched a sunrise or sunset.
Hit a home run. Are you kidding?
Been on a cruise. Since 1993, the military has had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – I’m sorry, I thought you meant that kind of cruise.
Seen Niagra Falls in person.
Visiting the birthplace of my ancestors. I wouldn’t know where that was.
Seen an Amish community.
Taught myself a new language. I can thank Frau Fineberg and Absegami High School for the German I know.
Had enough money to be truly satisfied. "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” Deuteronomy 8:3
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Gone rock climbing.
On the same day I hit a home run.
Seen Michelangelo’s David. Someone’s been to Italy, and it wasn’t me.
Sung karaoke. And I’m good. I sing every Sunday, so I’m used to doing it in front of people. Of course the crowd on Sunday morning is more sober.
Seen Old Faithful erupt. When I was 18 I took a trip across the country with two other guys.
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. I've treated the homeless, if fast food joints qualify.
Visited Africa. On my way to not visiting Italy.
Walked on a beach by moonlight.
Been transported in a ambulance. The day before Easter this year. Cost me $464.
Had my portrait painted.
Gone deep sea fishing. When I was stationed in Homestead FL. The mixture of open water and Southern Comfort. Let’s just say I provided my own chum.
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
Been to the top pf the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A little scary because it sways in the wind at the top.
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
Kissed in the rain.
Played in the mud.
Gone to a drive-in theater
. Mom and Dad took us to see Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.
Been in a movie.
Visited the Great Wall of China.
Taken a martial arts class
Visited Russia
. I know some Russians. Does that count?
Served in a soup kitchen. Donated but never served.
Sold Cub/Girl Scout cookies/candies. Though I love Thin Mints.
Gone whale watching.
Gotten flowers for no reason.
Unlike the Fly, I am not blessed with a wonderful bride.
Donated blood. Used to all the time until GIs who served in Europe in the 1980s were rejected. I may have mad cow disease from eating Brit beef in the chow hall.
Gone sky diving. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane?
Visited a Nazi concentration camp. I spent three years in Germany. Why didn’t I do this?
Bounced a check. I don’t have overdraft protection. I average once per year.
Flown in a helicopter. You will shriek like Ned Flanders, Fly.
Saved a favorite childhood toy. I do have a plaque I won for an essay when I was 10.
Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
Eaten caviar.
Pieced a quilt.
Stood in Times Square. Long ago, when it was a naughty place
Toured the Everglades.
Been fired from a job.
I’m assuming laid off doesn’t count.
Seen the changing of the guard in London
Broken a bone. In my foot. No biggy.
Been on a speeding motorcycle. Honda CX500 back in 1983 in Florida. The bike could go over 95mph, but not with me on it.
Seen the Grand Canyon in person. On the same trip as Old Faithful and Disneyland.
Published a book.
Visited the Vatican
. Again with Italy.
Bought a brand new car.
Walked in Jerusalem.
I haven’t even walked in Memphis.
Had my picture in the paper.
Read the entire Bible. About five times. Of course the Fly has more books to read.
Visited the White House. When my Dad was in the Navy, he worked in JFK’s White House as an air traffic controller. Never saw Marilyn Monroe.
Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
Had chickenpox.
Saved someone’s life.
Sat on a jury.
I was called for jury duty, but was never chosen
Met someone famous. I met Peter Frampton’s bass player, Stanley Sheldon, in a bar in Christchurch NZ around Thanksgiving 1978.
Joined a book club.
Lost a loved one. Like the Fly, too many, too soon.
Had a baby.
Seen the Alamo in person. Town pass during boot camp
Swam in the Great Salt Lake. On the same trip as Old Faithful and Disneyland.
Been involved in a lawsuit. My employer was sued in small claims court. We won.
Owned a cell phone. Company issued.
Been stung by a bee.
Ridden an elephant
. At Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa.
Read all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. But I saw the movies.
Visited the Taj Mahal. Does the one in Atlantic City count?
Performed in a dance recital. Are you kidding?
Been on horseback while the horse jumped over something.
Won an athletic competition.
Again, are you kidding?
Gotten a straight-A report card. As a lower-gradeschooler
Prayed to Zeus. I have knelt to pray to the porcelain deity.
Watched news coverage, rapt, to see what was going to happen. Like the Fly. During 9/11. I haven’t watched the 6:30 network news in 15 years. Nowadays when something’s going on I “rush” to my radio at noon.
Gotten lost in a building over 500 years old. Been in such a building, but never lost.
Kissed someone milliseconds before bells started to ring.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So the answer is "yes"

And the question is, "If a guy writes a post about a priest and Santa Claus, and nobody likes it, does it make a sound?"

It makes (as of this morning) 99 sounds, as half the world has begun to chime in. In brief - a visiting priest takes Santa as his homily. From the post I gather that he was trying for a "Yes, Virginia" sort of Frank Church moment, because he concludes that Santa is real - and we see him when people are generous to each other. The debate over the propriety of the priest talking about Santa in a church half-filled with kids who may still believe in him turned quickly on the point that there is, in fact, no Santa Claus. And things (as you can see) are quickly getting rough.

At the risk of repeating myself as if I matter.... this seems to me a situation for charity for differences and not a mighty theological debate of import. Turning Santa's reality into a referendum on lying is a good way to miss the forest for the trees. It's also a good way to get me to waver on my initial reaction, which was to lighten up a little on the young guy who forwarded the somewhat over-zealous position that telling kids about Santa was UTTERLY WRONG.

OK, not waver per se; but I do wish to clarify, because to me the charity on this should run both ways. I still think that Christopher Michael, the zealous Santa-debunker, deserves some charity from those who regard it all as a gentle and harmless game of childhood... only based on the comments since my initial request, I am forced to add that Christopher ought to show a similar charity to those folks, that seems lacking in his forceful denunciations.

In so many cases people insist that a true difference of kind ought to be treated as a difference in degree: for example, that we believers ought to have equal regard for the disbelief of others as we do for our own faith. This is patent nonsense. We are told to love others as we do ourselves, not necessarily what they say or do. There's no reason why I ought to respect equally the theory that Jesus is the Son of God, and the theory that faith in Him is a psychological illness. There's no reason to give brutality the same respect as kindness or lies the same respect as the truth.

This is not that case. Because we have so many other cases where we have to defend truth against grave error, we tend to vault to the ramparts the second any sort of difference comes up instead of stopping to think a moment. Is it a grave matter (such as abortion) or merely incidental (such as St. Paul's example of eating and drinking)? The second category is far the larger, and because of our backwards culture, we tend to miss that - we're too busy trying to keep folks from emptying out the first category entirely, to the point where we make everything too important. To me, Santa falls under the far larger second category.

I am impressed with the restraint of the rest of the CMR commenters, who have not once brought up "Miracle on 34th Street" during the entire discussion of whether or not to tell kids there's really a Santa Claus. Forgive me, but I'm going to go ahead and bring it up right now to illustrate what I'm trying to say - only with a little twist. To me, the point isn't Fred's debate with Doris, but Santa's debate with little Susan, the schoolgirl iconoclast. For her St. Nick is "a nice old man with a beard, like my mama said," and she tells him that doesn't play with the other kids. They're just silly to her. One says that he's a tiger or an elephant and then asks what animal she is. "I'm a little girl," she sniffs.

Of course, you know the rest. Santa gets her to pretend that she's a monkey, and soon she's engrossed in the game. His point is that of course everyone knows she's not an animal, it's just a fun game for the imagination - a tool that can take you to all sorts of wonderous places.

That, to me, is the point about Santa claus. Contrary to Christopher Michael's assertion, nobody wants kids to believe that St. Nicholas of Smyrna has, upon his death, become a creature who literally flies across the entire face of the Earth over one 24-hour period, delivering presents to all good children. (Ironically, as a saint he's in a better position than ever to actually succeed in such a task.) When kids stop believing it, parents don't normally protest. So, why tell them that when it's not the literal truth? For the same reason that Edmund Gwynn teaches Natalie Wood how to be a monkey. It's for the fun and the wonder of it all.

I grant Christopher's statement that the actual virgin birth of Jesus is more wonderful still; that should go without saying. I just don't think that one necessarily banishes the other. Before one gets iconoclastic about Santa, remember that the birth of Jesus is also a mythic truth. One of the reasons why the iconoclasts are always glumly debunking Jesus is that they only see that side of His story, the mythic side, and miss that it is also the literal truth. I would likewise hate to see anyone make the opposite error, and insist on literal truth to the exclusion of the mythological tone of it. When Man fell, we lost our integrity - and in that fall many things were broken, including the union of myth and fact. I am convinced that God knows we need both things - to cling to truth with our minds as a fact AND to cling to it in our imaginations as a myth - and when He came to set all things right, that breach was one of the things He healed. His life story is the factual myth, and it addresses us as complete creatures, not merely as minds or souls.

To my thinking, it is thus a mistake to so cling to one side of understanding that we lose the other. One is perfectly welcome to concentrate only on the life story of St. Nicholas, bishop of Smyrna, and dismiss as folderol the myth of old Kris Kringle. But one should also be perfectly welcome to indulge the myth of Santa rocketing around the world in a reindeer-drawn sleigh and a sack of toys. Certainly I think that those who chose one way shouldn't be looked down upon by the others.

In fact, I don't particularly mind that Christopher Michael thinks it all stuff and nonsense... only that he thinks that nobody else should have their fun either. I understand that he thinks it's a danger to the soul - but I don't agree with him in the least. Children play. I disagree with his contention that kids should have a sense of wonder about Christ instead, because in Christian homes I've never seen one offered as a substitute for the other... the kids get to have both. It's not that the childhood wonder is misplaced, but that it is so abundant that it cannot be confined. Even fairly normal kids find magic in all manner of commonplace things. They refuse to step on colored squares on a supermarket floor because they're made of lava, or ride their beds on the high seas in search of adventure. Kids believe in Santa for the same reason that they can't dribble a ball in the driveway without counting "3... 2.... 1!" and then launching a shot at the buzzer. No kid ever pretended to work a walk in the third inning of a May matinee; every last one of them has had about a thousand at-bats with the bases loaded and two outs in the World Series. When December rolls around they see the whole world adorn itself, prepare feasts, and build up to a great celebration; their family puts up a tree and a nativity, and (in the observant families) they say Advent prayers and hear about the coming birth of Jesus in church. Then, upon waking one morning they find presents underneath their tree. That moment is magic. The whole Santa story fits in very well with such a wonder as to get gifts simply because it is someone else's Birthday, even if the kids are old enough to know who did all the buying and wrapping. If all goes well they are taught to do the buying and wrapping themselves; not to replace the wonder, but to take part in it.

update, 12/17 - turns out that commenter Haus Frau DID toss in a quote, and I missed it. Drat. But thanks to all for a lively discussion on the original thread, and to the CMR folks for linking this in their "Creative Minority Reader" section. And welcome to the Hive, all newcomers!

Thank You, Donovan McNabb!

For the Bucs to make the playoffs, it may come down to the sixth tiebreaker between the Falcons and the Bucs.
Which could bring them to the sixth tiebreaker: the crapshoot known as strength of schedule.

In this case, you add up the records of all your opponents, wins or losses. Since 14 of their opponents are common and since Seattle and St. Louis would have the same record in this scenario, then it would come down to the difference between Tampa Bay playing Dallas and Atlanta playing Philadelphia.

Again, this tiebreaker presupposes Dallas is 11-5. And the best record the Eagles could have is 10-5-1. So that means the Bucs would win the tiebreaker against Atlanta because of Philadelphia's 13-13 game against the Bengals, the NFL's first tie in six years.
Of course this assumes the Bucs don't tank in their last two home games. It's a bit of a soap opera here. We have a perfectly capable receiver (Joey Galloway) who was inexplicably inactivated on Sunday. And I hope that Coach Gruden is more faithful to his wife than he is to his quarterback.

Not to mention that the great wizard of defense, Monte the Pewter, will be off to the U of Tennessee to join his kid at season's end.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Here's what I don't get

It is clear from what transcripts we have of Hot Rod on the phone that the Obama camp rejected his attempts to sell them Obama's old Senate seat.

Then why is Obama being evasive? Why is Rahm Emanuel silent? How come some Obama flunky doesn't just come out and say, "Hot Rod wanted this, that and the other thing and I told him to get bent."

If there is evidence of Obama wrongdoing I don't see it. Why cover up a non-crime? Are they afraid that Fitzgerald might Scooter Libby them; nail someone in a process crime tangentially relate to the case?

Or is Obama afraid that the world would discover that his lordship is stained with sin like the rest of us?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yeah, so now I think of it

...I should have been water-coolering "Fringe" from the get-go. There just seems to be no time lately.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where Chain Emails Die

I have never forwarded a chain email. When I check my inbox I dread the Fwd: in the subject line. And the obligatory request to send it to 10 people in my address book.

Well, it ain't gonna happen. I know it means that I won't get that special blessing, and I don't love Jesus or support the troops.

But anyone sending a chain email to me will be sending that poor thing to its death.

I don't want to lose my mind

Two Obama stories were in the St. Pete Times this week. One is the Supremes refusing to hear the Obama birth certificate case. The other is the sordid tale of Illinois Governor "Hot Rod" Soon-to-go-to-jail-ovich.

I am curious about the outcome of each (my guess is that someone from Obama's team talked to Hot Rod but didn't bite on the bribe, my other guess is that Obama's going to let these birth certificate folks get as whipped up as possible and then will release his long form birth certficate stating that he was born in Hawaii).

But I digress. While I am curious as to the outcome of each of these cases, I don't want to lose my mind. For eight years I've seen people foam out the mouth with Bush Derangement Syndrome over the war on Islamic terror. I will jump ugly on Obama when the time comes, but I don't want to be obsessed with finding the scandal that will bring down his socialist dictatorship.

Here's an example: I have been asked to join the resistance. Join the resistance? Have we become Nazi-occupied France? Am I being enlisted into the Underground?

Re: Hod Rod. He is quite the pottymouth.

Whoops! Obama met with Hot Rod Nov 5.

I am losing my mind.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Boss, I can't make it in today..

...I'm gay.
Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to "call in gay" Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it's wise to encourage skipping work given the nation's economic distress.

Organizers of "Day Without a Gay" - scheduled to coincide with International Human Rights Day and modeled after similar work stoppages by Latino immigrants - also are encouraging people to perform volunteer work and refrain from spending money.
Maybe I'm feeling particularly insensitive today, but I think this is hilarious. The guy who dreamt this up is "Sean Hetherington, a West Hollywood comedian and personal trainer". Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I remember when the illegals did this last year. In Tampa we have many - there are several hundred living about a quarter mile east of where I write these words. Last year all I noticed was less traffic.

When cops do this it's called the blue flu. Would this be called the lavender cold?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Do hamsters travel in elephants?

Very early on Thursday morning, our little guy found out.

He actually woke us up on Wednesday night, a bit after midnight, squeaking. The Nibbler rarely did that. He was quiet in his happiness. He ran on his wheel, and dug around in his tunnels, and popped up whenever we came over to visit with him. Some dwarf hamsters are leery of handling, but he enjoyed running back and forth from hand to hand, and up and down arms. He would try to climb the outside of his wheel whenever we fed him - and especially his "Ratatouille" branded treats, shaped like little crunchy croissants. And he would take naps by propping himself up on his hanches and closing his eyes like a furry blue-gray Buddha. When we finally got a house instead of an apartment, we were able to put him in his ball and let him tool around the entire living room.

He would get "ball time" most often when we cleaned out the habitat. I can't tell if he was happy about the ball or just anxious that I was dismantling and reassembling his home, but he'd pop right up when I closed the little door between his main box and the tunnels. But yesterday morning, when I shut the door and took the tunnels away, he didn't budge. I dumped the old bedding and re-stuffed the two end boxes and I still didn't see him when I went back, and I knew. I tapped the box just to make sure, but he didn't come out of the cardboard tube he liked to sleep in. Sure enough, he was gone, and not for very long. He just looked asleep, and a little thinner maybe than usual. I also found a lot of uneaten food... My guess is, he had not felt well enough to eat, so he was just hoarding without actually eating at all, and we never knew it.

We buried our little guy in the yard, in his cardboard tube. Having no headstone on hand, and not thinking all too clearly, I grabbed what was already on hand and put it up as a tribute to the Nibbler - but in retrospect, I think that the message has a bit of an edge that I did not intend at all.

Yet another great move in my career of brilliance.
I'll fix it when I can. He was a terrific little critter and deserves better.

There's a minor debate among believers regarding pets and whether they gain any sort of eternal life. For what it's worth, I like CS Lewis' take on it, expressed best in the chapter in The Great Divorce where Sarah Smith comes into view, attended by a veritable crowd of such critters, even strays she found. The spirit of George MacDonald explains that the love of the saint has called them, love enough to wake all the dead things of the world to life, because it springs directly from Love Himself. And it makes sense to me. People usually treat pets like they were more than just animals; in fact, God treats us like more than we really are, thus helping us become what He means us to be. I think that the process may well carry along the chain, from us to the things we have loved on earth.

So little guy, may all your tunnels end in piles of croissants, until next time.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All the cool kids are doing it!

It's a list of stuff, see, and you bold the stuff you've done, right, and then whoa, some people are adding little explanations and stuff and...

No - that's OK. I've just slapped myself for that opening. It would have been easier to delete the opening, now that I think of it, and not write any of this as if we were talking and I couldn't just undo it all, with nobody the wiser. I'm leaving it because it's more fun to let you poor innocent folks witness my mental malfunctions. Bold is stuff I've done, italics is stuff I haven't.

Started my own blog - who do they think is doing this meme? Should I run to the mimeograph and run off copies to hand out?
Slept under the stars - childhood camp-outs at friends' houses
Played in a band - a bad idea on several levels
Visited Hawaii
Watched a meteor shower - no. In fact, it brings up a personal sadness: I also missed Halley's Comet the last time it came by. I could possibly catch it on its next pass, but I would be 88 years old.
Given more than I can afford to charity - sadly, no.
Been to Disneyland/world - yes, but I was a toddler and can't remember it. There are photos, however.
Climbed a mountain - it sounds cool, but no.
Held a praying mantis
Sung a solo - almost. I had a speaking but non-singing role in a middle-school musical revue.
Bungee jumped
Visited Paris - I have never been further west than Cleveland, unless one counts Tampa, which is further west by latitude. (Quick trivia - which US city is due north of the westernmost point in South America? Answer below!)
Watched lightning at sea - I've never been all that far east, either, so no.
Taught myself an art from scratch - kinda. I have never been formally coached, so everything I know about goalkeeping I either read or just picked up through trial and error.
Adopted a child
Had food poisoning - ugh. Bad Thai. I hadn't been that sick since I was nine and I ate two pounds of chocolate at one sitting. (Boy was THAT a stupid idea.)
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - when I visited people weren't allowed to go the entire way up, so no. But it's incredibly impressive up close.
Grown my own vegetables - this was a big thing for my Italian great-grandparents (and I suspect for many others folks' relatives from the Old Country). They had such an incredible garden. Like many of my generation I lack the patience for this noble hobby.
Seen the Mona Lisa in France - nor anywhere else. I'm gonna flunk all the foreign stuff.
Slept on an overnight train - never been on an overnight train. The ride from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale was kind of long but it was daytime.
Had a pillow fight - I've lost many. I'm the France of pillow fighting.
Taken a sick day when not ill - in fairness, I have also dragged myself in when I ought to have been in bed; once, with bronchitis. My boss at the time called my mother to drive me straight to the doctor because she heard me breathing from the other side of a loud, busy kitchen.
Built a snow fort
Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping
Run a marathon - even when I was in shape, I couldn't go more than a mile or two. Top runners can reel off all 26 miles at an average pace of five minutes per mile. It's basically running flat out for the length of an entire movie. Holy crap.
Ridden in a gondola in Venice - I would fear for my safety by drowning or pole-inflicted harm.
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset
Hit a home run - during intramurals at Rutgers one year. It was so corny you'll think I'm fibbing, but it's true: I hit a full-count pitch down the rightfield line and legged out an inside-the-park grand slam. Sadly, it wasn't the last inning and we would up losing the game anyway.
Been on a cruise - friends who have say I should get with the program. At least the dangers of pole-related injuries would go down.
Seen Niagara Falls in person - the closest has been a wonderful old jigsaw puzzle my Grandma used to own. She also had one of the Space Needle in Seattle. Putting them together on her dining room table is one of my earlier memories.
Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - that would be completely awesome. Maybe I should cruise there?
Seen an Amish community - Lancaster County, PA. Sadly, some of that "genuine Amish" stuff you see when you visit is complete bunk, and you have to wander a bit.
Taught myself a new language - I hardly remember any of the Spanish I learned in school, and haven't ever taken one of those Berlitz or Rosetta Stone deals... we'll say no.
Had enough money to be truly satisfied - eh, the more you have, the more you need. Satisfaction has to come first, and then the answer will always be yes. Fortunately I've never had enough money to forget that lesson.
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - what's with all the Italy and France stuff? Is this Jacques Cousteau's meme? "Have you ever piloted a bathysphere at 1000 meters while narrating?"
Gone rock climbing - nope, only hiking over rocky terrain.
Seen Michelangelo's David - friends of ours have a David refridgerator magnet with add-on clothes. Seeing the David in jeans, purple T-shirt, and a ball cap is quite fun. Since this wasn't specified I'm counting it!
Sung karaoke - yes. Let us never speak of it again.
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - only in cartoons... and then it's usually called "Old Fateful" and the villian is about to be launched into low orbit, to the amusement of our wisecracking hero.
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visited Africa - no, I missed the rains out in Africa. I'm gonna take some time to do the things we never dared.
Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance - not as a patient, but I was in an accident as a boy where my Mom needed to take the ride, and I came along.
Had my portrait painted - I suspect that this is one of those things that sounds cooler than it really is. (Mildly-related trivia: in later MASH episodes all of the cast sit for portraits by Colonel Potter, which are later seen hanging in his office. According to, Harry Morgan actually painted them.)
Gone deep sea fishing - "These gentle giants of the deep feed only on the smallest plankton and algae. Their only natural predator.... is Man."
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - nope. Not even as a refridgerator magnet.
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - as compared to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Vermont? (more Mildly-related Trivia - Monsieur Eiffel also designed the Statue of Liberty. I haven't been to the top of anything he's ever built.)
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - snorkeling, once. Apparently I did poorly because it seemed impossible to suck down enough air through that tube once I was under the water.
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud - played FOOTBALL in the mud. Hells yeah.
Gone to a drive-in theater - yes! We saw Hooper with Burt Reynolds.
Been in a movie - I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie - and that I was the STAR of the movie. This really blew my mind!
Visited the Great Wall of China - ok, for the travel stuff, let's just cool it. "Have you ever done a close flyby of the Sea of Tranquility?"
Taken a martial arts class - almost. My martial-arts buddy was into Philipino two-stick fighting for a while and tried to teach me the basics so he could practice the forms with a partner.
Visited Russia - "Have you ever done an emergency saucer separation at warp speed?"
Served at a soup kitchen
Sold Cub/Girl Scout Candies/Cookies - I added the "Cub" part. And the candy part. It's apparently a gentleman's agreement: the ladies sell the cookies, and then the guys sell the hard stuff. I once sold 630 candy bars at a buck a pop to win an Atari 2600. It was a proud moment.
Gone whale watching - I've never even seen "Free Willy."
Gotten flowers for no reason - I've gotten them for my Ladybug.
Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving - I try not to leave any working airplane until it's landed and parked.
Visited a Nazi concentration camp
Bounced a check - only once. Nowadays I have emergency overdraft, or this would be a far worse record.
Flown in a helicopter - one of my hockey friends has his solo copter license, and he's offered to take us up. To my knowledge none of us has accepted. You know, it's your basic manly-man tough guys who shriek like Miss Muffet at the thought of sputtering around in a plastic eggshell held aloft only so far as the laws of physics aren't paying attention.
Saved a favorite childhood toy - I've saved very little from my childhood, sadly, and am making up for it by hoarding every scrap of flotsam now.
Visited the Lincoln Memorial - nope.
Eaten caviar - Ewwww! No!
Pieced a quilt
Stood in Times Square
Toured the Everglades - no. I have skipped the swamps on my every visit. Which reminds me - the answer to the above trivia question? Miami is due north of the westernmost point of South America.
Been fired from a job - I've bailed on a couple of horrid ones, but haven't ever been sacked.
Seen the Changing of the Guard in London - why, yes. IN MY TARDIS. Stop making me feel like the bumkin I am!
Broken a bone - surprisingly no. I've chipped a tooth, and once I dislocated a pinky that has healed crookedly, but I've never broken a bone.
Been on a speeding motorcycle - holy crap. This is why I won't go up for that helicopter ride. At least here I didn't have to worry about the bike suddenly plunging a thousand feet.
Seen the Grand Canyon in person - this one stings.
Published a book - another near-miss. I had a parody poem published in a student literary magazine, way back in the day.
Visited the Vatican - Nope. Nor have I seen the Pope in person on any of his trips.
Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem - "Here in the Holy Land, the ancient ways are still practiced... only in a modern fashion." How is this guy still seeing all this from a bathysphere?
Had my picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible - I always bog down in Numbers and Deuteronomy, but I've read a good bit of the rest.
Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox - great, I finally get back into the bold, and it's for this. What's more, I had them when I was 20. Those were an ugly few weeks. I actually left school because I missed too much time to get caught up.
Saved someone's life
Sat on a jury - amazingly, I've never been called.
Met someone famous - I've met people who've subsequently become known: Dawn Eden is probably the best example. My near-misses are funnier, such as the time I watched as seemingly every clerk in Borders came up to breathlessly ask if they could help a shortish, scruffy, jeans-and-work-booted guy who already lugging a stack of material a foot high. "What's with these people bugging this guy?" I asked my Ladybug. "Besides, he looks kind of suspicious to me." She just gaped. "Um... that's BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN." Oh.
Joined a book club
Lost a loved one - too many already.
Had a baby
Seen the Alamo in person - neither the actual Alamo nor any film representation.
Swam in the Great Salt Lake - What the hell kind of meme is this anyway? Is it really way up on people's to-do lists in life to swim the Great Salt Lake? Is this the bathing equivalent of playing Augusta National or running the bulls at Pamplona? "I've climbed the highest mountain on every continent - now to swim the seven lakes! Superior, Huron, Erie, Salt, Tahoe..."
Been involved in a law suit - nothing more than bailiff at mock trial competitions.
Owned a cell phone - yes, but right now it's lost and hasn't been replaced yet.
Been stung by a bee - right on my kneecap when I was six.
Ridden an elephant
Read all three volumes of the Lord of the Rings
Visited the Taj Mahal - I'm pretty sure that ol' Meme Cousteau here hasn't done half this either. For the travel questions he's just listing all the things sitting in snow globes on his bookshelf.
Performed in a dance recital - I could barely dance at my own wedding without pulling something.
Been on horseback while the horse jumped over something - down in Busch Gardens in Tampa, I got to see the Clydesdales up close. It's astounding that something that large can move around so gracefully.
Won an athletic competition - some deck hockey tournaments.
Gotten a straight-A report card - nope. I did get all A's in one subject for a whole year, but never a 4.0 for a single term.
Prayed to Zeus - "Help! Jesus! God! Buddha! Somebody! Zeus! Anybody! Satan! You owe me!" (Yeah, from Futurama. The quote's not exact.)
Watched news coverage, rapt, to see what was going to happen - a few times. Unfortunately, 9/11 was the most recent. I really didn't glue myself to the TV for the recent election.
Gotten lost in a building more than 500 years old - so after listing several old old buildings and structures ol' Meme decides to just lump in all the rest of them, just to make the remaining less-traveled among us feel utterly pathetic; to say nothing of the grand old structures. "OK, it's the Taj, the Great Wall, the Leaning Tower... and then, eh, the Tower of London and the Hagia Sophia and all the rest of it can just be 'all of the above.' " Nice.
Kissed somebody milliseconds before bells started to ring - of course, at a wedding it's often that one has to rush across the room to kiss one's best beloved because of ringing bells (or clinking glass or whatever). I don't think I've ever done that in the other order, however.

You want in, jump in!

Oh yeah, and it gets better

Mark Shea has gotten wind of the post the CMR folks put up and isn't pleased about the dinging. His comments come well down in the thread, following some that are not at all complimentary of the administration. And you know, fine and good - President Bush isn't cast in alabaster and he could have done a better job in a lot of areas. But is it too much to ask that criticism of the man's policies be at least somewhat accurate?

("Ex-Shea reader," comment 26 in this thread, does an excellent job demolishing one of the goofball theories Shea shares in his post - a theory that is both implausible and complete hearsay. Well done.)

For example, Shea's own initial reply to the CMR post starts thus:
The thing I find most amazing about the reactions of so many is that nobody seems to really care about the fact that we already know that the Administration has tortured people, including innocent people, approved methods which have resulted in the murder of prisoners, and shielded the murderers from prosecution.

Emphasis his, and - really? (I'll leave out the grammar snarks. Life's short and there are many.)

First, you have to accept that waterboarding is, in fact, torture. Certainly it's very unpleasant to be tricked into thinking one is drowning, and Chris Hitchens volunteered to undergo it in order to make up his mind about it. Kudos to Hitchens for his moxie, but it is, objectively speaking, a muddled idea. For one thing, one facing the treatment is not the most objective source - not unreliable, but also not objective. For another, volunteering to suffer the process for the purpose of argument is itself highly suggestive - if this were something that would permanently impair or maim the subject, no one would thus step forward simply to try to prove a point. This suggest that the practice may not be the complete atrocity some have termed it.

But, even if one thinks it barbaric, it is still a far cry from the brutalities exhibited by other captors. "Less evil" does not equal "good" of course, but it is still less evil - thus not a moral equivalent as Shea seems to hold. The Marines may make you physically and mentally uncomfortable, but even something like waterboarding is simply not the same as being fed to a woodchipper, gang rape, burnings, mutilations, and starvation. It may be a difference of degree rather than kind but it still a difference, so I can't agree with Shea that somehow Guantanamo makes the US morally equivalent to al Qaeda or Hamas, and the President a war criminal.

Then there's the statement Shea quotes from the Washington Post, a former interrogator stating that the muhajadeen flocked to Iraq because of the outrages of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

We've already dealt with Gitmo, but Abu Ghraib is beyond a stretch. Abu Ghraib was not US policy - in fact, it was run in defiance of that policy. Far from shielding the perpetrators, the Army has ol' Lynddie making little rocks out of big rocks in Club Fed. How again is this a war crime? If our enemies want to trump it up as one, similar to the nonexistent "Jenin massacre," and use it to motivate them to carry the fight to us, well... we can't help that, unless we close Abu Ghraib. As it turns out, we did, and still had four more years of fighting. This really weakens the argument Shea is holding forth.

Compare any such scandal to the recent "military" operation in Mumbai in which hotels and other civilian centers were the objectives - and not to be captured, but simply to be ravaged by commandos who were intent only on as much death and mayhem as they could conduct before they were killed. War always kills innocents, and is always a last resort to be dreaded, but there's a big difference in a side that is always trying to strike more precisely (thus safeguarding innocent people) vs. one that holds that there is no such thing as an innocent civilian, therefore day-care centers, hospitals, schools, and office buildings are all fair game.

When something goes completely sideways and innocent people die, our side considers it a failure; theirs considers it a job well done. There is no moral equivalence to be drawn here. One may as well arrest surgeons for armed assault when they conduct surgery.

These differences in tactics arise from a difference in overall strategy - the final aims of the operation. For a bunch of alleged war criminals conquering Iraq for its oil, the US is pathetically bad at its job. We've built their infrastructure up to better than pre-war conditions, helped establish a democratic and legitimate government recognized by all three ethnic groups of Iraqis, quelled a civil war, saved countless thousands of lives, and are planning to pick up and leave now that the job is done. Where's the colonial governor? Where are the forced-labor camps and secret police? It's an odd oppressor that invades a country to close those things down, not set them up; and then gives the country back to its citizens upon finishing.

Go further down. That overall strategy arises from the fundamental difference in the two sides. However corny it sounds to certain people, there is a huge and bedrock difference between the West and the Islamic world - we value our liberties. We consider them rights given by God. We strive to expand them, and accept no chains save those of legitimate responsibility and service. The USA in particular was founded on the principles of religious and economic freedoms. Islam was founded on subjugation to the will of Allah as expressed through the prophet. How is this possibly equivalent? By your fruits shall you know them - and the US, for all its flaws, has borne far greater good fruit in the world. It is no exaggeration to say that the US has been a positive force for billions of people, in thousands of ways, and especially in the past century, when great anti-Christian ideologies rose in vast power across Asia and Europe. Even now that struggle has not yet passed, and another such ideology has made itself a great power and is striking at the West.

The US doesn't seek the complete subjugation of foreign nations and the destruction of their faiths. The Islamists do. It is in fact the whole reason they became Islamists. They aren't shy about proclaiming death to America, nor about putting to the sword everyone who dares disobey the word of the prophet, in deed or even thought. One may legitimately argue that our resistance to their aims does, in fact, cause them to attack us more violently - but that's only because they need to in order to advance their aims. Western Europe is already half-conquered with barely a shot fired, precisely because they are not fighting back the way the US, Eastern Europe, Australia, and a few others are. Will their subjugation be less bitter because they rolled over and went meekly to it? Will they somehow be less enslaved?

From the halls of Montezuma... the shores of Somali.

Pirates chased and shot at a U.S. cruise liner with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by international warships, a maritime official said Tuesday.

The liner, carrying 656 international passengers and 399 crew members, was sailing through the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden on Sunday when it encountered six bandits in two speedboats, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

Luckily they were able to outrun the pirates. We're not talking about charming rogues who sing light opera.

International warships patrol the area and have created a security corridor in the region under a U.S.-led initiative, but the attacks have not abated.

In about 100 attacks on ships off the Somali coast this year, 40 vessels have been hijacked, Choong said. Fourteen remain in the hands of pirates along with more than 250 crew members.

That is a lot of scratch. Nuance would say that there's not much else for Somalis to do to survive, considering that the place has been a hellhole for something like twenty years. Then again, who is arming and supplying these folks? Who put up the seed money, so to speak, to outfit these bandits? Who provided the job training? It takes a certain skill set to successfully hijack a sailing vessel... weapons training, subduing the crew (who may well be armed), guarding the catch, setting up the ransom... This isn't a trade one can just wander into. I'm also wondering how a group of folks just decides to try piracy as a career. If the USA slid into anarchy, I'm sure there would be a subset of people working as highway robbers and such, but that doesn't require nautical training, specialized gear, tons of fuel, boats, ports, etc. And there would be just as many people who would organize into small city-states and run them by law.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesman Vasyl Kyrylych said Monday that negotiations with Somali pirates holding the cargo ship MV Faina are nearly completed, the Interfax news agency reported.

A spokesman for the Faina's owner said Sunday that the Somali pirates had agreed on a ransom for the ship and it could be released within days.

I'd file this under "bad ideas." Perhaps - possibly kinda maybe - I could understand a case where refusing to pay up would be worse, such as pirates claiming workable nuclear cargo that could be sold to enemies and used for mass murder... but even there, you could argue that it would only teach the bandits what cargo is actually worth risking life and limb for. For the most part I think these folks need stomping, not haggling, because paying up only gets you more of what you paid for. The only negotiation should be over how fast they surrender.

Of course, this is MSNBC, so the really intriguing factoid is down at the very bottom of the article.

Somali prime minister Nur Hassan Hussein said Tuesday that his country has been torn apart by 18 years of civil war and cannot stop piracy alone.

"This needs a tremendous effort," Hussein told The Associated Press. He has appealed for international troops, as his government's Ethiopian allies have said they would pull out their forces by the end of the year.

Ethiopia, the region's military powerhouse, has been integral in boosting the government. But Islamic insurgents have now seized control of all of southern Somalia except for the capital and the parliamentary seat of Baidoa.

Yeah, emphasis mine. It's the final sentence of the whole piece: after ads, links to related articles, two slideshows, a video, and a quiz. (And by the way - titling the quiz "Arrr, matey!" is in very poor taste considering the subject matter. Just saying, is all. Stay classy, MSNBC!)

We can't be everywhere all at once, but I think it would be prudent for the West to consider answering this appeal. This situation highlights something about the War on Terror that has caused much scoffing on the Left. The argument boils down to, "Iraq never did anything to us, why do we need to fight them?" Somalia isn't doing anything to anyone either, but letting them crumble into anarchy at the hands of Islamists has led to a situation where a lot of people are now suffering, not least of whom are the Somalis. This isn't really a private affair. Those responsible for these outrages on the high seas are only able to do so because of what has been done to Somalia - if the insurgents in question aren't actively arming, training, and supplying them. This is another front in the war currently being waged against the civilized peoples of the world, by people who are the avowed enemies of liberty. They are quite plain about how they would run things.

Those who carp about the cruel patriarchy of Christianity however many centuries ago have a unique opportunity here - instead of exaggerating and hyperbolizing the past, or claiming that the present is just as bad right where they live, they can lift their eyes past their noses for a moment and see people who really are worse than their worst accusations. They can speak out against those who make even the most outlandish lies against Christendom seem like tame euphemisms. There really ARE people who enslave women, butcher infidels and unbelievers, police speech and thought, pillage the land, and put to the sword all manner of "deviants." They're proud of it and brag about how good they are at it. None of them are currently President of the United States.

(Update - it took five minutes to find an example of what I've just described - from MARK SHEA of all people. Hat tip to the Creative Minority Report.)

(Just as an aside - 400 crew for 656 passengers? That works out to roughly 25 crew to serve every 41 people. No wonder it's so expensive.)