Saturday, March 30, 2002

The I P Pu club

I have written about dirty bombs at least twice before, and now here comes Steven Den Beste with that and more. It's terrific, check it out.

Some years back I had a Smithsonian magazine with an interesting article by Jeff Wheelwright, which had some interesting info on plutonium (Pu). I have looked in vain for links to this, but if you want to round up the article to see if I did it justice, have a ball.

Anyway, a large part of the concern about the health hazards of Pu was stirred up by the govt itself. Not because it was so dangerous, but because it was so expensive. Authorities didn't want anyone to steal it, so they played it up as incredibly dangerous.

But accidents will happen, and some men ingested Pu during the Manhattan Project. Several of them were still living into the 1990's, and still had detectable amounts of Pu in their urine half a century after their accidents. Collectively they're a very small sample, but in fact the group has lived well past life expectancies. I don't know if any of them are still around nowadays, and I spent some time looking on the web.

No, you don't want to put Pu on your wheaties, but as SDB noted, the stuff is way overrated. And when toxicity tests were performed on rats, testing was significantly complicated by the fact that Pu is extremely dense - it was hard to get it airborne so that the rats could inhale it, and rat's noses aren't all that high above the ground.

Here's what the feds say about Pu toxicity.

UPDATE: for a less sanguine view, see this.

Cartoons at war

Have you ever seen any newspapers dating back to World War II? The caricatures of Germans and Japanese are, uh, not in keeping with modern standards.

Even Dr. Seuss got into the act. His cartoons of Hitler are a riot.

Will the forces of PC deny us the Osama bin Laden cartoons we so richly deserve? At least we have this, this, and this.

Just as I type this "The Best of Bob and Tom" is playing on KSHE. They just sang a classic with lyrics from World War II and the music from the "Colonel Bogey March" ("Bridge over the River Kwai"). It goes something like "Hitler has only got one ball, Goering's are rather awfully small, Himmler is somewhat similar, and Goebbels has no balls at all".

I didn't learn that in history class.

Speedy Gonzales, RIP

The Cartoon Network hath decreed that Speedy Gonzales is unacceptable for TV. That's funny - one of the cartoons in the series won an Academy Award in 1956.

Who's next? I just happened to flip channels and saw Quick Draw McGraw with his sidekick Baba Looey. Uh oh, Baba Looey has a stereotypical Mexican accent. I wasn't much of a "Qveekstraw" fan anyway, although I nearly brained a relative once playing "El Kabong".

Oh well, it was just another Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Hanna-Barbera did some terrific work, but most of it was before they formed their company.

I understand that Popeye is having a hard time nowadays too - too politically incorrect. Could it have been titles like "You're a Sap, Mr. Jap"?
In what some critics have called the most racist cartoon ever made, Popeye single-handedly defeats a Japanese submarine manned by "slant-eyed, buck toothed, yellow skinned Japansies" as Popeye calls them. It's 'V' for victory during World War II as the soundtrack blurts out the snappy theme song. The final scene has the sinking enemy submarine going down the drain with the sound effect of a toilet flushing! Lots of racial stereotypes in this cartoon and you'll soon see why this one doesn't get shown on TV. Still a great cartoon, though, if you can handle the stereotypes.
Maybe generations to come will see protests against Marvin the Martian.

Precious moments

See Hawspipe's picture of the week.

Friday, March 29, 2002


Megan McArdle and Patrick Ruffini have excellent posts about a miscarriage of justice and what would happen if it were redressed.

The expression "pro-choice" has to be one of the most disingenuous expressions in the language. Or maybe death penalty advocates (like me) have it all wrong, and should repackage their position as "pro-justice". At least the latter would be more accurate.


I understand that there is such a thing, namely, the ability to spot gays reliably. I've concluded that I totally lack it.

Well, I'm pretty sure about one guy. It wasn't the way he looked, or the way he dressed, or any of those speech patterns, stances or mannerisms we see parodied by comedians. No, I think it was the way he ran his hand across my derriere.

Alright, I dealt with that successfully and the person in question left without incident. He'd been standing pretty close but there were innocent explanations for that (to me anyway, being a small town kid new to the big city at the time). But I had absolutely no idea it was coming, and it took a while to realize that it was no accident and he wasn't after my wallet - the expression on my face must have been priceless.

So who needs gaydar, anyway? Apparently all of us. Because there are laws that require special treatment for gays, like with women, minorities, handicapped, et al.

No matter what you think of the propriety of such legislation, you have to acknowledge that being gay is not like the other classifications. The first three usually are readily identifiable and as such they are readily afflicted with group-based discrimination, and if they aren't readily identifiable they probably aren't suffering from discrimination. The former is not true of gays - how can you discriminate against them if you don't even know who they are?

And you can document the other conditions, but not homosexuality. Does it show on your driver's license? Is there a special tag for your car? (bad joke goes here).

But hey, I'm open minded. Maybe somebody out there has written "Gaydar for Dummies" or can otherwise explain this to me.

Seriously, do we have any business writing laws that depend on a classification that is so indeterminate? Or should we require people to declare this status explicitly on publicly available legal documents so that the law can be administered fairly and consistently?

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Do states have the right to secede?

Here's Walter Williams' take.


From John McCaslin's column:
"During the filming of [Prince of Tides], Barbra Streisand apparently didn't endear herself to the locals.

"She rented one of the historic homes and promptly erected a 10-foot-high black fence, to deter the curious. Then, according to my carriage driver, around (6 a.m.) one morning she was awakened by the sounds of jets flying overhead from the nearby Marine air station (this being during the Gulf War).

"According to my guide ... Streisand then complained by phone to the local commanding officer and told him she didn't want it to happen again. He reportedly responded, 'I'll see what I can do about it.' The next morning the jets roared over at 5 a.m."
I'm no Barbra Streisand fan - I believe her mouth should be taped shut at all times when she isn't singing. But this, uh, exceeds my expectations.

Nuts to them

Warning - the following violates the Geneva Convention, human bodies and generally accepted standards of taste and subject matter.

Thanks to Tim Blair for this
If anyone doubts the ardor of grass-roots support for the anti-American militancy in southern Afghanistan, Kandahar's cemetery for al-Qaeda fighters bears unequivocal testimony. Hundreds of mourners have descended on the graveyard from as far away as Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and Uruzgan province. What began as daily homages have grown into all-night vigils. Men, women and children sleep by the graves. Devotees recite the Koran throughout the night. The paralyzed, ill and blind flock to the site seeking miracle cures, which many claim to receive. Men mumble, repeating scripture until they fall into a trance, swaying and convulsing, talking in tongues. "Do not speak English here," says a Talib accompanying a TIME correspondent. "They will kill you the instant they know you are a foreigner. These people are so angry."
Hmm. Maybe we can take advantage of this. After all, there are those who believe that powdered rhino horn or other exotic animal parts will have Viagra-like effects, resulting in near-extinction for the relevant critters. For instance:
In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup (to boost virility) goes for $320
The people cited in the article already believe that al-Qaeda corpses offer miracle cures, and we sure could use their extinction.

On seeing this, the following swiftly occurred to me. I modestly propose that the bodies of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Fatah and the other goon squads are a vital source of pharmaceutical products that are no less effective than the rhino horns. If we spread this idea we can spur the Afghan economy while ridding the world of bad elements. 2 out of 3 ain't bad, and we'll never know until we try.

Like begets like, you know. Let's spare the tigers and use these creeps' genitals instead. After all, they supposedly don't like the ladies so much - it's not like they'll miss anything.

And it also makes sense that you capture the life force. Therefore you must be remove them while the "donor" is alive and conscious. It might even be appropriate to cook them in situ.

Of course people in the relevant areas often are very poor. So the harvesting process must not require elaborate instruments or anaesthetics. I would encourage the use of dull instruments and rocks, or perhaps torsion.

Alright, that's excessive enough. But really, I've had enough of these SOBs, and every day I have fewer and fewer qualms about what to do with them and those who harbor them. Maybe Pershing had it right.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Randy Ayn

If I remember right, Dagny slept with Sebastian, Hank and John. I can't remember if she ever did Ragnar or anybody else (surely not Eddie!). I know some of you know the answer - fire away!

See, there's even a little something for the soap-opera crowd in "Atlas Shrugged". But you'll work for it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

With friends like these...

So the French fouled things up again, apparently.

Is that the real reason why they want a role in Afghanistan?

Meanwhile maybe the journalist will get some leads on who killed Daniel Pearl...

FoxNews article on nuclear security

More on that Fox News article with the Markey comments noted elsewhere.

The article says "Twenty-one U.S. nuclear reactors are located within 5 miles of an airport, but 96 percent of all U.S. reactors weren't designed to withstand a crash from even a small airplane." This may be strictly true in that threats from airplanes may not be addressed specifically in the plants' Updated Final Safety Analysis Reports. But they do have measures for "missile protection" - buildings serving a containment function will address such problems as trees airborne by tornadoes. In general US commercial nuclear power plants are very strong and heavy and generally not desirable targets.

If you've seen any of the innumerable links to pictures of the plane that flew into the Pentagon, well, the plane didn't go in far and it disintegrated to the extent that some cranks even claim the crash never happened. Try that with a nuclear power plant containment building and you're talking something even more solid, and without windows or other such weak spots.

Another cut from the article: "It took the NRC almost 6 months after Sept. 11 to require enhanced security at nuclear reactors, and has yet to begin a permanent revision of security regulations following the terrorist attacks." Here is a government-centric attitude for you. Progress apparently depends not on what the plant operators do, but on what regulations are issued. If I were a plant manager I wouldn't wait for the regulators to get on board if I thought my plant had a problem. Commercial nuclear power plants are major assets, so you can bet that everybody all the way up to the board wants to protect them.

Finally we get this: Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists (a bland name for an old antinuker group), said existing NRC-required background checks are "somewhat limited": "I've worked in over 20 plants in the 17 years I was in the industry. Had I wanted to sabotage the plant, it wouldn't have been that difficult to do so," he said.

Well, yeah, I could have too, along with about anybody else in a position of trust with access and technical knowledge. If the fact that some individuals are trusted that means that security is inadequate then it simply can't ever be adequate, and the same logic goes for about anything else you care to mention. I mentioned my own experiences with background checks in another post, and although I won't argue semantics I wouldn't have described it as "somewhat limited".

Don't hesitate to leave comments or email (see the Feedback link on the right) if you have specific questions. Or you can check out some of the permalinks on the lower right, such as the terrific Nuclear Tourist site or the Canadian Nuclear FAQ.

Markey malarkey

Fox News fails us with this story

A few years back I was in my home town walking into a public place when a guy grabbed me out of the blue. I grew up across the street from him but hadn't seen him in years. Then he asked me how I liked it at the nuclear power plant I was working at at the time.

I hadn't mentioned it, so how did he know to ask?

Because I had had to pass another security clearance, which as I understand it had been performed by the FBI. Part of the process was that I would give references, but I don't recall ever using his name. But the investigators always found him, so he always knew when I moved on.

What else did I have to do? Well, I gave addresses dating back 10 years and got fingerprinted. I took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and other "crazy tests". I was subjected to random drug testing, and could also be tested upon any suspicions by my supervision. I rapidly learned onsite that other than violating radiological control measures, the quickest way to get canned was to mess with security. These standards have probably tightened since I was investigated that time about 10 years ago.

It might well be that some Al-Qaeda terrorists would pass this level of clearance, but I doubt it. But that didn't stop Democrat Rep. Ed Markey from stating that "terrorists may now be employed at nuclear reactors in the United States, just as terrorists enrolled in flight schools in the US". Or at his office, for that matter.

You need to know two things about Markey - he has never had anything good to say about nuclear power plants, and he wants to federalize their security (after the rousing success at our airports).

He goes on to say "As long as they have no criminal record in this country, Al Qaeda operatives are not required to pass any security check intended to find and expose terrorist links". Interesting phrasing. Perhaps finding terrorist links takes a more substantial investigation than the ones I was subjected to. But I suspect that the "intended to find and expose terrorist links" clause is designed to let him dump on security without quite lying. After all, we don't much care about the motivation of someone disposed to foul up a nuclear power plant - we just want to make sure they can't do it.

Then comes this: "There is no security in place to protect from attack by aircraft,". This, from a guy who bitches about how much nuclear power plants cost. You'll note that he doesn't have any proposals for how this ought to be done. More on this in another item.

Now this:"no security in place around [nuclear] waste product." Sorry, but this is simply wrong, at least at the 4 plants where I worked onsite. But if he doesn't like it, there's an extensively investigated facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada where the waste can be stored *very* securely in a place that's already godforsaken. Funny - Markey doesn't like that either. He doesn't want answers, he wants issues.

Understand that talking about security publicly is dirty pool in any case, because one very important aspect of a security system is to keep its features secret. You don't
want to let attackers study it for vulnerabilities. Markey in essence is using the same strategy Bill Clinton used against Ken Starr.

More to follow under another heading.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Bellicose Women, the Next Generation

From Campus Nonsense, about "Buy Your Girl a Gun Day".

Fun, fun, fun...

What follows is disgusting and maybe over the top. You were warned.

I've always been particularly and morbidly interested in Richard Speck, because I was a grade school kid in the Chicago media market when he made his name. Keep an eye on A&E and maybe you'll catch their "American Justice" segment on him.

What's so special about Speck? His killings? Aw shucks, by Chicago standards he's a piker compared to Murder Castle, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and killer clown John Wayne Gacy. If he hadn't missed the 9th student nurse (who managed to hide under a bed despite being bound), he might have been able to get by with his night of brutal rape-sodomization-murders. As it was, he was caught and sentenced to death.

Then the Supreme Court decided that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Speck wound up getting life in prison.

From the earlier Speck link:
On May 1996, Bill Curtis, news anchor at CBS in Chicago, received a videotape. The video, shot in Statesville Correctional Institute, showed a bizarre, boastful Speck with women’s breasts–obviously from some hormone treatment–wearing blue silk panties and having sex with an inmate. Before the sexual exploit, he casually tells an off camera interviewer about the murders.
When asked why he killed the women he said, "It just wasn’t their night." He was asked how he felt about the killings, "Like I always feel. Had no feelings." He added he did not feel sorry. Throughout the video, he ingested and smoked drugs with bravado. At one point he said, "If they only knew how much fun I was having, they’d turn me loose." He described in detail how it felt to strangle someone "’s not like TV.... It takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength
Some excerpts from this tape are shown on the American Justice episode. Among other things, you can see him with a huge wad of cash doing lines of cocaine.

You have to understand that that tape was made inside a maximum security prison. Incidentally, the Illinois Department of Corrections is often known as the Department of Corruption.

So what will happen to Andrea Yates? Will she have fun in prison too?

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Playing chicken?

Green groups have picked up any number of obnoxious left-wing habits, but this is one of the worst - they always want someone else to pick up the tab.

In this case the utility was expected to bend over and pick up the tab for a $4,000,000 fish lift. They opt to remove the dam instead because it will cost about half as much. So now locals are protesting about removing the dam, and with good reason.
Fletcher, who has a home on the banks of the Sebasticook River in Winslow, has cited the Kennebec Coalition as an environmental group that wishes to see dams removed so that the Sebasticook River could return to its original free-flowing state.

Kennebec Coalition spokeswoman Laura Rose Day has denied that charge. Day said the Kennebec Coalition wants to see the goals of sea-run fish passage achieved and has no objections to the installation of a fish lift to accomplish this goal.
Does Ms. Day also deny this? Does it help that the owner of the dam is based hundreds of miles away?

If the fish lift is worth $4,000,000 fine - let the green groups raise the money for it. Surely they could put out a mailing and tap the Ted Turners and usual-suspect Hollywood stars.

Or is it more important to spend the money on a new headquarters building for the Democrats, so they can continue the fight for campaign finance reform?

How much do you want to bet that the Kennebec Coalition won't raise any money to help pay for the lift?

On the other hand, other locals are putting forward legislation to chip in $1,000,000 toward the fish lift. It's still much less than the cost, and it distributes the cost across all Maine taxpayers, but it sure beats the Kennebec Coalition's contribution. (Of course if all of Maine benefits, why shouldn't all of Maine pay?)

Tips are always welcome. Click on the Feedback link on the right side to send me email (I reserve the right to publish it, especially if you're nasty), or you can post comments on the link below.

Was it worth it?

Channel surfing can be dangerous. A while back I saw something (it must have been MTV) where the MC was trying to get some girls to kiss a severed pig's head in front of a large crowd. I wasn't really paying much attention, but I thought one of them eventually did it for about $100.

What would you do for five bucks while stone cold sober? Would that happen to include, say, stripsearching 3rd graders?

I understand that the district has a policy against this. I suppose that's really proactive of them, but really, I wouldn't think you'd need a policy.

Now it looks like the ACLU may be getting involved. I wonder if they'd feel the same way if the kids were undressed in a sex ed class.

Aside: I got on Yahoo to look for a news link. I typed something like "stripsearch elementary kids" in the text box and submitted it, and it came back empty. Then I realized that I had entered that under job search..... Honest, Your Honor, the boxes are close together!