Monday, March 19, 2007

What I Did Over the Weekend

Connecticut Opposes the War Rally, Saturday, 17 March 2007.
Old State House, Hartford, CT:

Part 1...

...and Part 2:

It was, in a word, cool:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More pix here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Way back when I started this blog, I mentioned (and stated in my profile) that I was into model rocketry. Well, I've been on a bit of a break from rocketry, but one of my goals for this year is to get back into the hobby. Soooo... I'll likely be adding some rocketry sites to my blogroll, and posting on rocketry topics, including my projects.

As an icebreaker, here's my "music video" iMovie from the 2004 National Finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge:

Cosponsored by the Aerospace Industry Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry (NAR), TARC is an annual contest intended to get students excited about careers in aerospace. It's also a heck of a lot of fun. I volunteered for the range crew in 2004 and 2005 (I couldn't make it last year), and I'm going back in May of this year. Maybe I'll bring back another movie.

And Now for Something Completely... Irrational

Pi Day... or should I say π Day?... is almost over. What's that? You've never heard of π Day? Neither had I until I read Alan Boyle's CosmicLog science blog for today.

Strictly speaking, you should celebrate π Day at exactly 1 minute before 2:00 (am or pm will do, unless you're on a 24-hour clock).

3/14 1:59

Get it?

Do check out the link to CosmicLog; in addition to linking the official Pi Day site, there are a plethora of interesting π-related links to dig through. One I found especially interesting was this one (though linking it from a π Day post rather gives away the puzzle).

Anyone want to help me organize a π-mile run next year (see #5 here)?

Unanimous Consent To Revise and Extend?

Yesterday's riff on the Nixonian resonances of Alberto Gonzales' statements about the political purge of U.S. Attorneys was a quick blast that barely scratched the surface. This probably won't get much deeper, but I can't let the subject go so easily. This is not just about the current scandal; it's about an administration that has consistently put its own interests above those of the nation and the people. It's about the unitary executive and the intimidation of U.S. citizens in the service of not only a so-called New American Century but a permanent Republican majority. It's about rewarding friendscronies and punishing political enemies and, in this case apparently, about turning the nation's "legal department" into a personal political dirty tricks unit the likes of which we haven't seen since Tricky Dick climbed aboard that helicopter.

In the stories and discussion over the last few days, much has been made over the fact that U.S. Attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the president." Well, a West Wing fan like me can't help but have a soft spot for that phraseology...
"At the end of another episode, the young staffers sipped beer on the stoop of a D.C. brownstone and marveled at the honor of working in the White House. One by one they repeated, with hushed reverence, their swearing-in pledge: 'I serve at the pleasure of the president.'"
...and I do understand that when the people vote for the president, they are, in part, voting for the people they expect him to appoint. Any president must, of course, have the ability to bring in his (or, someday, her) "own people." But staffing up at the beginning of an administration or a term with people dedicated to supporting administation policies is a whole 'nother kettle of horses of another color from purging your "own people" either because you want to open up resume' buffing slots for unqualified cronies (the marginally least awful of the various reasons suggested) or because they've prosecuted members of your own party or because they've (in your view) failed to prosecute members of the opposition party vigorously enough.

I'm not naive: I know that the executive branch is political, and that even the position of U.S. Attorney is a political one. Using the tools of office to vigorously pursue the policies on which he campaigned is not only a president's right; it is his duty. But there's a difference between pursuing legitimate policies and turning the nation's law enforcement agencies into political enforcers for the party in (executive) power. So far, the president has been happy to let Gonzales and Sen. Pete Domenici (who, along with Rep. Heather Wilson, made pressuring phone calls to former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias regarding prosecutions of Democrats) take the heat for the purge scandal, and FBI Director Robert Mueller has taken responsibility for the Patriot Act abuse (not that the Patriot Act itself isn't abuse), but anyone who doesn't believe this stuff is coming right from the White House just hasn't been paying attention for the last 6 years.

20 January 2009 can't some soon enough!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Testing, Testing... Is This On?

"Mistakes were made" was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' comment today on the brewing scandal over the "Justice" Department's apparently political purge of U.S. Attorneys. If you're of a certain age, that particular passive-voice clause can't help but evoke chilling memories of the Nixon administration; it's a tactic straight out of their playbook.

Of course, you didn't need to wait to hear Gonzales to know that Bush is the new Nixon: The president himself sounded the same note in his January speech on the Iraq surge, and the U.S. Attorney purge is just one more piece of evidence -- on top of the Plame case, the NSA spying, FBI abuses under the Patriot Act... Hell, the Patriot Act itself -- that this president and his minions have no shame when it comes to using the instrumentalities of government to reward cronies, punish enemies, and spank those insufficiently vigilant in the pursuit of the administration's political aims.

Nixon famously said "when the president does it that means that it is not illegal," and no president since -- maybe not all the presidents since, combined -- has done as much to convert that bit of arrogance into actual policy than George W. Bush.

I wonder if those Nixon-era tape recorders are still in the Oval Office? But no... surely W has his own Rose Mary Woods.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Shake It Like a Polaroid, Scooter!

Just a little happy dance to celebrate a tiny shred of justice being done:

How Many Years Does This Teacher Get?

Well, middle school was never like this when I was a student! (h/t to the Education Wonks via Pharyngula)

My mind immediately flashed to the Julie Amero case when I read this story of 10 Indiana sixth-graders watching as two of their classmates performed a live sex show ("completed the act of intercourse," in the quaint language of a "disturbed resident" who reported the case to a local TV station) while their teacher was in the room!

If Amero's students were so terrifyingly endangered by a mere glimpse of digital porn that their unfortunate teacher is guilty of multiple felony counts, surely this teacher is ticketed for lethal injection, right? Well, not so much: Apparently "Warren Township School Police were not aware of the incident and say no report was made even though the children were recommended for expulsion." Hmmm... expel the preteens, but as for the teacher... no harm, no foul, I suppose. No need to even bother the cops with a report. Move along, folks; nothing to see here.

Mind you, I'm not after the teacher's scalp: Apparently the students conspired to hide this illicit activity, and the teacher took action as soon as he (or she; the news story studiously avoids "outing" the teacher's identity in any way) discovered something inappropriate was going on. But what kind of upside-down, inside-out world is it when Amero sits branded a sex offender and waiting to learn how much time she'll spend in prison while this teacher is happily making up next week's lesson plans?