Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't trust headlines

"Retired US general denies seeing torture pictures" - AP Article headline

"WASHINGTON (AFP) – A retired US Army general has denied reports that he has seen the pictures of prisoner abuse in Iraq that President Barack Obama is fighting to keep secret." - first line of same article.

See the difference? The headline makes it appear that General Taguba has not seen photos of torture or rape in his investigations. What does the General have to say about this?

"These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." - Gen. Taguba

The Telegraph article claimed these photos were part of the ACLU suit, and that Bush, and now Obama, want to suppress them. But the only incorrect part of that statement is that the "hundreds of images [Taguba] reviewed as an investigator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison" are not part of this particular lawsuit. But if so, where are these pictures? What has been done in response to them?

Apparently Taguba has not seen the particular 44 photos at issue. If that's true, why not? He was in charge of investigating the abuse.

A US General confirmed he's seen photos of US military personnel raping detainees. That much is clear. If rape photos didn't exist, why doesn't the administration simply say so, instead of highlighting the Telegraph's other errors?

I like accuracy as much as, and probably more than the next guy. But whether these photos are subject to the ACLU lawsuit or not is far less important than the fact that there are photos of our military personnel raping detainees.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

New Pics

I'm pretty happy with my D90. You can click the pictures for larger samples.

Taken with my 80-200mm. I got a great deal on it.

This was taken with my 35mm 1.8. It's a great lens for this kind of stuff. If you have a NikonD SLR that cost less than $2,000, you should have one of these.

Same thing.

This was taken with my Tamron 90mm 2.8 Macro. It works well for portraits...

...and closeups.

Tamron 90mm, again.

I really appreciate a good analogy

"Over the past few months, the government has literally blasted the economy with trillions of new dollars conjured from the ether. The fact that this “stimulus” has blown some air back into our deflating consumer-based bubble economy, and given a boost to an oversold stock market, is hardly evidence that the problems have been solved. It is simply an illusion, and not a very good one at that. By throwing money at the problem, all the government is creating is inflation. Although this can often look like growth, it is no more capable of creating wealth than a hall of mirrors is capable of creating people." - Peter Schiff, via

Friday, May 29, 2009

Will Sean Hannity Agree to Be Raped for Charity?

See here if you didn't get that.

I read an absolutely horrifying article about detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib a couple days ago. The Telegraph article has the following quote:

"At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube."

The Pentagon issued a statement the next day, reprinted from this Reuters article:

"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," [Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman] told reporters. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article." [emphasis added] White House spokesman Robert Gibbs added, "I think if you do an even moderate Google search you're not going to find many of these newspapers and truth within, say, 25 words of each other... ."

After parsing the language, these aren't exactly strongly worded denials. The White House says that the photos "in question" are those subject to the ACLU's pending lawsuit. They claim these photos in particular do not depict rape. However, it does not establish, or even claim that US soldiers and/or contractors did not rape anyone. It doesn't even confirm that no photos/videos of such conduct exist. In fact, it appears that they do, or at least did at one point.

"In an interview with the New Yorker magazine published in 2007, [Major General Antonio] Taguba [the officer in charge of the Abu Ghraib investigation] was quoted as saying that he saw a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee." - Reuters Article

Where is that video? I'm pretty sure that hasn't been released. And where is the rapist? If there's video footage of a soldier committing a rape, I sure as hell hope they prosecuted him. If they have, why hasn't anyone heard about it?

While they can nitpick over whether the specific photos subject to the lawsuit show rape, it seems pretty clear that photos and videos of such incidents exist, and that these things did happen.

We can argue over whether waterboarding is torture, but I don't know many people who support rape. Then again, Sean Hannity might refer to it as Extreme Double-Dog Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

But where is the money coming from?

"Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Chrysler intervention proved that the consequences of inaction are too great to ignore.

'The only reason that pensions and health care and the jobs have been protected is because the Obama administration was willing to come in with significant financing," she said. "Assuming GM goes into bankruptcy, the same will be true.'"

It sucks that GM and Chysler employees would lose their jobs, but why should everyone else have to pay for it? Lately, money's been growing on trees, but that doesn't mean it's free.

Things are looking up for the good guys

"The chart above shows that Apple has made steady gains since 2003 in the percentage of incoming UVA freshman who own a Mac. The latest year (2008) shows that 37% of incoming students owned a Mac while the percentage owning a Windows computer had shrunk to 62% from a peak of 96% in 2001." - MacRumors (reporting on Daring Fireball article)

Jack Bauer is a Terrorist

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. (It's of the Khmer Rouge doing it)

"[I]nformation obtained under duress is incredibly unreliable, which is why it is not admissible in a court of law. Legally valid information is freely given by someone of sound mind and body. Someone in excruciating pain, or brought close to death by some horrific procedure is not in any state of mind to give reliable information, and certainly no actions should be taken solely based upon it.

For these reasons, it is illegal in the United States and illegal under Geneva Conventions. Simulated drowning, or water boarding, was not considered an exception to these laws when it was used by the Japanese against US soldiers in World War II. In fact, we hanged Japanese officers for war crimes in 1945 for water boarding. Its status as torture has already been decided by our own courts under this precedent. To look the other way now, when Americans do it, is the very definition of hypocrisy." - Ron Paul


I think he might be onto something.

Monday, May 25, 2009

If ethanol gasoline is such a great idea...

...why do we have to spend $5 billion in subsidies every year to keep it afloat?*

"Sadly, when a truly bad idea is exposed today, Washington's answer is to double-down on the bet, mandate more of the same, and make the problem worse." -BusinessWeek article

Yup. That explains ethanol, and so much more. It's a pretty versatile quote.

*This doesn't figure in the higher cost of foods which contain corn, and/or which used to contain sugar. HFCS is a very similar scam.

I predict he's wrong...

"Where we engage in [government ownership banks and auto companies] is with extreme reluctance and only because we think it's the necessary way to help reduce the risk of greater damage to businesses, to the basic fabric of the American economy," Geithner told The Post.

"And I say where we do it, we'll do it only temporarily, try to make sure we get out as quickly as we can." AP Article via Yahoo!

Considering the government's track record of fixing problems, and then moving on, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lotawata Creek

Good place to eat, if you find yourself in Fairview Heights, IL.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, May 18, 2009

A matter of perspective

Reported as fact:

"History shows the dangers of calling the end of economic downturns too soon.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this mistake in 1936 when, believing the Depression largely over, he sought to pare back public spending and to balance the federal budget. It torpedoed a fragile recovery and pushed the economy back under water in 1937.

Japanese leaders made a similar mistake in the 1990s when they prematurely — and temporarily — withdrew government stimulus spending, helping to prolong Japan's recession to one that lasted a full decade." - AP Article

This is not a fact. It's an opinion. One with which I disagree.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

She seems happy

Here's a quick video I took with my D90. Video isn't ideal on it, but it works well for the 2 minute or less clips I take of Gretchen. The quality is great, but the lack of autofocus makes it tough for some things. The only other real gripe is the wobble effect. I'll have to get something different by the time she's running around playing sports, but I'm sure I'll have a new camera by then anyway.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Mothers Day

A little something for our moms.

My little girl

Gretchen has been sleeping through the night since the first three weeks or so. From what I gather, this means we're pretty lucky. She woke up around 4:00 a.m. last night, but then again she went to bed around 9:00 p.m. She slept another three and a half hours after getting a new diaper and having a bottle. She usually goes down around 9:30 or so and wakes up around 6:30, right when we're getting up anyway.

In some ways, I'm looking forward to seeing her grow up. It will be really nice to be able to talk with her, play with her, and teach her to do things. Then again, she'll only be like this for a very short time. We'll have to make sure we enjoy things as they're happening.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Homework Assignment

You should read this, but I realize most of you probably won't, for a variety of reasons.

You can get a good summary of it by reading this, instead. It's highly worth your while.

Wanna know why Bernie Madoff didn't get caught sooner?

He was regulated by government bureaucrats, like this one.

The ear of the beholder

Headline from Bloomberg, via Yahoo!:
"Obama Seeks to Halve Defense Spending Growth by 2010"

This sounds good, right? It makes it sound like we've got a president who's ready to cut back on excessive military spending.

Let me restate that for you:
"Obama Seeks to Halve Defense Spending Growth by 2010"

Did you catch it that time? This merely means that Obama plans to increase military spending next year by 2%, adjusted for inflation, as opposed to the average 4% annual increases that occurred under Bush.

Let's put it another way:

"Obama's proposed defense budget is higher than it ever was under Bush, even while he was fighting two wars on the other side of the planet."

That doesn't sound so good now, does it? When you figure that the number in Bush's last year was a 73% increase over what we spent in 2000, it looks even worse.

If a runaway train headed for a cliff starts accelerating at 5 MPH instead of the 10 MPH at which it was once accelerating, it's still going off the cliff, and will be going faster when it does than at any previous point.

This is not progress. Military spending is still going up, not down. It's just not going up as fast as it did under Bush. That's not an achievment, if you ask me.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

And I used to think $17,000,000,000 was a lot of money...

WASHINGTON (AFP) – "President Barack Obama Thursday showcased his bumper 3.44-trillion-dollar budget, but facing record deficits, vowed to cut "stunning" waste by slicing 121 programs worth 17 billion dollars."

$17 billion seems like a lot, until you compare it to the budget. How about a visual aid:

Let's compare just the added expenses to the cuts:
The budget increase is 20 times the amount of the cuts. This is like taking one step forward, and 20 back. Or killing 20 people to save one life, and then patting yourself on the back for the life you saved. While that example seems ridiculous, the Federal Government's done it before. But in the case of the 1976 swine flu vaccinations, the results were statistically even worse. The vaccine killed 25 people compared to the one person who died from the flu.

Don't forget that this budget increase comes on top of top of the largest Federal budget in history. But then again, that could be said every year.

EDIT: I had a request to put this in pie chart format. Here it goes:*

*For some reason, I couldn't get Google Docs Spreadsheet program to change the word "Other" to "Proposed Budget Cuts". And for the record, this isn't a joke. I wanted to use a pie chart originally, but it was so small in comparison it didn't show up. I used the bar graph instead, so people wouldn't get confused.