July 31, 2008

With Friends Like These

Glenn Greenwald today has more detail on how the traditional media is following Karl Rove's playbook to trash Obama. For a group of people madly in love with Obama, they sure have a funny way of showing it. Maybe they're playing hard to get?

Oh, and Greenwald is also amused that Republicans who are planning on attending the Olympics in China are very upset over the fact that they will be spied upon without their consent. I mean, what kind of country ignores basic freedoms to spy on everyone without anything resembling due process?

Oh, wait.

Posted by Observer at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2008

Busy...

It has been a busy week. Last week of summer classes, Justin leaves for college next Wednesday, and M*chelle's surgery that was supposed to be last week when things were relatively calm got pushed into this week. She got five pounds worth of boobs removed today, part of a long-planned effort to relieve her back pain, and she'll still probably be a size C or D.

The common narrative I see running around as people in the traditional media look for ways to appear "balanced" as Obama keeps running a seemingly flawless campaign while Grampa McCain just sounds silly: apparently, the media is supposedly Obama's big fan club now. I'm sorry, but I don't buy that crap. McCain never gets questioned on basic stuff. He claims Obama is "presumptuous" as a Senator and presidential candidate to visit foreign heads of state or the troops or what have you. Not only is it traditional for Obama to do something like this, McCain himself did it last month!

Oh, and don't get me started on the whole Keating Five thing with McCain. Let's investigate Hillary Clinton's cattle futures deal until the end of the time, but Cindy McCain making millions in a 1500% profit on a land deal with Charles Keating, a founding father of the Savings and Loan debacle who had John McCain on his payroll? Nah, not worth the bother. Old news, you know. Old news.

The next few months is going to be an endless barrage of claims that the traditional media is very liberal and pro-Obama. If you believe that after reading half of the documentation I've posted here in 5+ years, then there's nothing I can do for you. You deserve the media you get.

Posted by Observer at 09:39 PM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2008

Russia?

When I hear stories about the primary qualification for government jobs being loyalty instead of competence, I immediately think of the USSR and the Cold War.

You wingnuts who support the Bush administration must be so proud to outdo the Russians at something new.

Posted by Observer at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2008

The New Phone Book's Here!

Tomorrow, we're switching to a new cell phone provider, likely Verizon, which seems to have the best coverage around here and Consumer Reports also really likes them more than the other guys. If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them. We only use our phones for talking, and the kids are getting phones for texting. Not interested in web surfing or email or what have you, at least not at this point.

Posted by Observer at 09:09 PM | Comments (1)

Get Out the Rye Bread...

Dave Niehaus is now in Cooperstown. Bravo!

Posted by Observer at 09:08 PM | Comments (1)

July 25, 2008

Batty

Usually, wingnuts don't need any help from us liberals. They just embarrass themselves so easily:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.

Yeah, when I think of great heroes with fortitude and moral courage, I think of the guy who sat in a classroom and read "My Pet Goat" to a bunch of kids for several minutes while America was under attack. I think of the guy who said "Bring 'em on!" while sitting comfortably in America and our troops sat in the target zones. I think of the guy who couldn't be bothered to even show up to his champagne unit responsbility while his contemporaries were living through Vietnam.

Yeah, sure, whatever.

Posted by Observer at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

Sources

Wingnuts are unhappy. I know, what else is new?

This time, they're unhappy because the horrible, awful ultra-super-duper socialist-liberal anti-American mainstream media are putting a "cone of silence" around the hotly reported story of John Edwards having an affair and a child with some woman. The source? The Enquirer.

Okay, great, I will join the chorus. Let's all get on the "credible Enquirer" bandwagon. The next story I would like the evil mainstream media to pick up, also reported diligently by the Enquirer, is Bush's Booze Crisis.

How about it, wingnuts? Oh, and there are plenty more good ones to get into after that.

Posted by Observer at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2008

Ophiuchus

The next constellation I'd like to talk about is Ophiuchus the serpent holder. Ophiuchus is found at its most easily visible during the summer months, about 45 degrees above the Southern horizon, and he splits the constellation Serpens into two parts, holding the serpent with both hands. I'll cover Serpens next on the list since these two constellations are so closely linked. Ophiuchus is positioned on the sky between the two halves of Serpens, but it also borders Scorpius and Sagittarius.

From an astrological standpoint, it is a wonder that Ophiuchus isn't included in the standard zodiac since the Sun does spend a fair amount of time in this constellation, more so than when it briefly passes through Scorpius. Since Ptolemy first codified the constellations over 2000 years ago, Ophiuchus has straddled the ecliptic, and in the present day, the Sun is in Ophiuchus from November 30 through December 17. Apparently, this inconvenience is ignored by astrologers, who divide the sky into 12 equal sections, each 30 degrees wide.

The mythology of Ophiuchus is a mixed bag. Originally, this constellation represented the healer Asclepius, who learned so much that he was not only able to heal the living, but also raise the dead and make people immortal. This was too much for the gods, so they struck him down, but in honor of his achievements placed him in the sky holding the body of a dead snake which he had used to heal one of his patients. Snakes are still used as a symbol of healing because they shed their skin occasionally and are "reborn". The constellation has also been known as Serpentinarius (snake charmer), another healer noted for his skill in curing snake bites.

For the bright stars here, I'll start with Alpha Ophiuchi, Rasalhague. This one is a bit tough to find, but it is the brightest (2nd magnitude) star in its little region of the sky. If you can find the summer triangle (Vega, Altair and Deneb), Rasalhague holds a mirror image position compared to Deneb on the opposite side of the line connecting Vega and Altair. The name translates to the head of the serpent charmer, Ras al Hawwa. It is a Sirius-like star, about 50 light years away, and Burnham notes that it shares the same motion as the Ursa Major moving group, which seems to just about surround us.

About eight degrees South and a little bit East is Beta Ophiuchi, Cebalrai, which means "the shepherd's dog", originating from a different asterism (a pasture) that was once in this part of the sky. It is an orange giant, a bit more massive and much more advanced in its evolution compared to our Sun. It is also very close on the sky to a nice little star cluster known as IC 4665, about a degree to the Northeast. The left hand of Ophichus is represented by two stars, Yed Prior (front of the hand) and Yed Posterior (back of the hand). Though close together in the sky, these two stars are not physically connected as Yed Prior is almost twice as far away from us. Both stars are giants.

While going through some of these bright stars, it may strike you that so many of them just happen to be giants or in an unusually rare stage in their evolution. After all, stars spend 90% of their lives on the main sequence, so why aren't 90% of the stars we see in the night sky main sequence stars? This is a selection effect, actually. If you want a truly representative sample of stars, you must select them based on some property than does not affect their intrinsic qualities. For example, if you pick only stars above a certain minimum brightness threshold (i.e. stars visible to the naked eye), these stars are going to either be very close to us, intrinsically very bright, or both.

Just because a star is close to us, this doesn't make it unusual. If we were to create a sample of the nearest 10,000 stars or so, that would be perfectly fine. Probably about 90% of them would be main sequence stars. But we are studying a sample of the visible stars, which means we tend to be biased toward stars that are intrinsically very bright. Since each star tends to have its own little quirks, we tend to study stars on a statistical basis, looking for broad patterns when we can, rather than just focusing on one star and assuming it represents all similar stars. When we study stars like this, we must take care not to fool ourselves, so we must select our sample carefully if it is to be truly representative.

Going from Yed Prior through Yed Posterior and down along that line toward the southeast, we run into the 3rd magnitude star Zeta Ophiuchi. This is a rare, hot main sequence O-class star, among the more massive stars in the sky (20 solar masses, though not very large because it hasn't exhausted its core hydrogen fuel and begun expanding yet, it is only about eight times the size of the Sun). Under normal circumstances at a distance of about 460 light years, it would appear at least as bright as 1st magnitude, but it is shrouded in a thick dust cloud that knocks its light down by two magnitudes (about a factor of 7).

Zeta Ophiuchi lights up this surrounding dust cloud, exciting the Hydrogen and inducing it to emit one of its most common emission lines, the red Balmer-alpha line at 656.3 nm. Zeta also has a very high space velocity, having recently been ejected from a binary companion that went supernova and is now a neutron star in the nearby Scorpius-Centaurus Association shooting off in the opposite direction.

Next in line is Sabik, a (barely) 2nd magnitude star, actually the combined light of two A-class (Sirius-like) stars that are both 3rd magnitude but only an arcsecond or less apart, depending upon where they are relative to one another as they orbit. Last but not least among the significant stars in this constellation is the famous Rho Ophiuchi, which isn't so famous for its qualities but instead for the way this beautiful binary system lights up the dusty surrounding nebula, just a couple of degrees north of the bright star Antares in Scorpius. You can see reflection and emission of several different colors in this nebula, and there is a nice cluster nearby as well, making for famous photographs.

Before covering a couple of historic novae in Ophiuchus, I would like to spend some time talking about the 2nd closest star to our Sun, Barnard's Star. This 10th magnitude star is very tough to find without good finder charts. Kaler provides a chart that shows the star near the tip of one of the horns of a very small, faint asterism known as Poniatowski's Bull, a V-shaped feature of five separate 4th or 5th magnitude stars. You can find this by following a line from Rasalhague (Alpha Ophiuchi) almost due South about 10 degrees to Cebalrai (Beta Ophiuchi) and then a few degrees south of east for about 3 degrees to the V-shape that opens toward the direction north-northeast.

This star was discovered by astronomer E. E. Barnard in 1916, who noted its very high proper motion. The star moves about 10 arcseconds per year, which doesn't seem like much, but it takes only about 200 years to move an angular distance equivalent to the full moon in the sky. The actual space velocity of Barnard's Star is not remarkable. There are several other stars moving much more quickly (usually ejected from explosive systems or multiple-star systems), but the angular motion across the sky is greatly magnified by the fact that this star is so close to the Sun. From our perspective, it is only about 10th magnitude, but if we were able to somehow survive on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, looking back at our Sun, it would be a very bright star, about the equivalent of Pollux in Gemini, in the eastern part of the constellation Monoceros.

You can see an animation of its proper motion here. For a while back in the 1960's, it was thought that Barnard's Star had an orbiting planetary companion. This discovery was due to apparent wobbles in its proper motion through space, but closer observations later disproved this idea. For now, we have not detected the telltale wobble that would indicate the presence of a planet, either a transverse wobble or a Doppler wobble along our line of sight, but our measurements are somewhat crude compared with the kind of precise and systematic observations scheduled for the near future by satellites.

Barnard's star *does* appear to wobble through space if you take a series of photographs over the course of a year, but that's due to its parallax. As Earth orbits the Sun, from our perspective, Barnard's star seems to shift back and forth relative to the background stars. We correct for this, of course, before analyzing motion for possible planetary companions.
Barnard's Star has a component of its velocity in our direction, and in about 10,000 years, it will have the distinction of being the closest star to our Sun, at a distance of about 3.8 light years, holding that record briefly before receding away from us. It will be a bit brighter then, too, but only about a magnitude of 8.5.

The first of the variable stars in this constellation is RS Ophiuchi, a rare recurrent nova, and even more remarkable in that it reaches a brightness visible to the naked eye during its outburst. This is a binary system consisting of a red giant dumping mass onto its white dwarf companion, and the system is about 5000 light years away with a quiescent magnitude of 12.5. During outbursts (most recently in 2006 and historically spaced apart by about 20 years since first seen in 1898), it reaches a magnitude of somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5, and most recently it was studied in some detail by satellite observatories.

What happens in these systems is that Hydrogen from the envelope of the red giant accumulates on the white dwarf, lost from the red giant due to its overextended, expanding nature. As the Hydrogen accumulates, its temperature and density rise until it reaches a point where fusion can take place. Once fusion ignites, its like lighting a match in a building with a leaky gas pipe. BOOM! The system will brighten by as much as a factor of 500 or so in a very short time thanks to the bright, expanding debris cloud. Right around maximum, the star appears very red thanks to emission from all of the excited Hydrogen that has been blown off the white dwarf. Because this star is relatively bright and easy to find and because it has such a bright maximum, it is one of the most carefully monitored stars in the sky, with observers looking for a sign of a new outburst or clues as to its behavior before and after.

The other object now sort of classifies as a star and a deep sky object: it is the remnant of the famous 1604 event known as Kepler's Supernova and also known as V843 Ophiuchi or SN 1604). On October 9, 1604, there was an interesting conjunction in the sky of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn near Ophiuchus. Kepler wasn't the discoverer, but he was notified of the discovery and studied it intently until it faded from view in early 1606. It originally reached a peak magnitude comparable to Jupiter in opposition and slowly faded with a light curve most closely resembling a Type I supernova (originating from a white dwarf rather than a massive core-collapse star), similar to Tycho's supernova in 1572. Today, it appears in this nice Hubble photo as a wispy expanding remnant about 13,000 light years distant. No supernova explosion has occurred in the Milky Way since Kepler's.

Now for some of the deep sky objects in the constellation Ophichus. I'll start with what is generally considered to be one of the nicest NGC objects easily visible to a small telescope, the 5th magnitude small cluster known as NGC 6633. This cluster of about 30 blue stars around 1000 light years distant is roughly the same angular size as the full moon and can be found about five degrees South of the midpoint of a line connecting Rasalhague and Altair, one of the three stars of the summer triangle. Moving north to south through the constellation, the next stop is IC 4665, a little open cluster very close to Beta Ophiuchus on the sky, as seen in this image. It is similar to NGC 6633 but about 4 magnitudes fainter (400 light years more distant and obscured by interstellar dust) and a little more loosely bound (twice the angular size).

Next are four globular clusters in the torso of Ophichus, starting seven degrees due South of Beta Oph. The globular cluster here is known as Messier 14. This is one of a swarm of clusters circling about the center of our galaxy (located in the direction of nearby Sagittarius), 8th magnitude and about 30,000 light years distant. The diameter of this cluster is only about 3 arcminutes, 10 times smaller than the relatively sparse NGC 6633. There are easily 100,000 stars in this tiny little region of the sky, shining with a combined luminosity about 400,000 times that of our Sun. With 10-inch or smaller telescopes, this resembles a fuzzy blob like an elliptical galaxy. The individual stars in the outer reaches of the cluster are extremely difficult to pick out without a professional research-grade telescope.

About 3 degrees Southwest of Messier 14 is NGC 6366, seen here very close in the sky to a non-descript 5th magnitude star which outshines the integrated light from the cluster by a factor of about 40. This cluster is closer to us, only about 12,000 light years away, but with far fewer stars than any of the three bright Messier clusters in this part of Ophichus. The next stop is Messier 10, about 10 degrees due West from Messier 14 and a degree or so South. Somewhat fainter than Messier 14, it is nonetheless one of the finer clusters in the sky, seen in this brilliant colorful image.

The last cluster in this part of the sky is about 3 degrees to the Northwest, and that's Messier 12, very similar in size and distance to Messier 10. In recent research on this cluster, astronomers have discovered that its population of low mass stars is underdeveloped. This probably means that a lot of the low mass starts were stripped the last time this cluster swung through the bulge of the Milky Way, much closer to the center than it is now. Indeed, deep images show that the center of this cluster is far less crowded than most other clusters, and it has apparently left these stars behind in a lengthy tidal tail stretching along its orbital path.

The next object to see is about three degrees south by southwest of Zeta Ophiuchi, and that is the globular cluster Messier 107, a relatively open globular cluster at a distance of about 21000 light years. In photos, you can see a few relatively dark regions near the center. This is an 8th magnitude object anywhere from 3 to 15 arcminutes in diameter depending upon your light gathering power, not the best globular in this part of the sky but certainly a different look.

Moving further south, about 3 degrees Southeast of Sabik (which recall is at the end of the line from Yed Prior to Zeta to Sabik), is the globular cluster Messier 9, another 8th magnitude object a little under 26000 light years away. Like most such Messier objects, this was originally discovered by Charles Messier, who classified it as a nebula, then a couple of decades later with a much better telescope, William Herschel was able to resolve some of the stars in the outskirts and therefore properly classify it as a cluster. In photos, you can tell there is an obscuring dust cloud, the edge of which is nearly along the line of sight to this cluster. Look to the lower left of this image and note how the star counts are much less. Such obscuration can make accurate distance determination very difficult.

Further south, near the southern border of the constellation, we find the last two Messier objects, the first being about 10 degrees due South from Sabik and 8 degrees East from Antares in the constellation Scorpius, and that is Messier 19, a 7th magnitude globular about 28000 light years distant. This one is unusual in that it is the most oblate known globular, somewhat elliptical in shape, perhaps the result of a more disturbed formation or history.

Three degrees due South is our last object, the globular cluster Messier 62, a 6th magnitude cluster about 22000 light years away. All of these clusters are rather close in the sky to the galactic bulge and orbiting around it quickly as they are currently passing close in their elliptical orbits about the galactic center. Like Messier 19, this one is slightly deformed in shape, perhaps the result of tidal forces from the galactic center. This is one of the closest clusters to the galactic center, so that's no surprise.

Posted by Observer at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

Fading

Thanks to the Twins and the White Sox (and the Red Sox for allowing the Angels to sweep them) for taking consecutive series from the Rangers. With any luck, management will soon realize we have no chance to catch the Angels so we won't do anything stupid like trade away young, cheap players to rent a veteran who is likely not much better than what we've already got (unless he's a starting pitcher). Oakland was smarter than us and has been selling off stuff for a few weeks now despite being closer to the Angels than we were.

Locally, fans celebrated when we briefly crept into second place a couple of days ago, but it's small wonder when Oakland has given away their pitching. Oh sure, we'll go out there now and maybe take two out of three from them or even sweep them, but they've already given up on the season. I hope THEY sweep US, then nobody will be clamoring for trade deadline deals and in fact, we might be able to get rid of some of our older guys to further develop the farm system. Anyone want Padilla?

Posted by Observer at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2008

Lapdogs

Everyone understands the purpose and existence of Fox News. They don't try to hide their purpose too much. What sucks is when ostensibly "mainstream" media outlets, like the Associated Press, end up being Republican lapdogs.

I really liked the last part of the article about how the AP reporter bemoans the fact that everyone mistakenly thinks Al Gore invented the internet, and then Media Matters digs up a few quotes by the reporter from pre-election 2000 about how, ha ha, Al Gore thinks he invented the Internet. Don't these people understand about Nexis and Google searches?

Posted by Observer at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

Capitalism!

In America, capitalism apparently means "privatize the profits, socialize the losses." This time, the losses by corporations are going to be picked up by us taxpayers to the tune of about $25 billion. I wonder if the corporate taxes paid by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the years have added up to anywhere close to a few billion. Surely someone out there has done that math, but I haven't been able to find it.

I guess the good news is that this figure is only a few percent of the cost of the Iraq war so far.

Posted by Observer at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2008

Clumsy

Following a link from the Great Orange Satan, I watched an interview the Today Show did this morning with John McCain here. I'm sure wingnuts will be howling over the fact that this was a very biased interview against McCain, and in this case, I would agree with them. All the interviewer is doing here is bringing up "gotcha" stuff (like why hasn't he attended any subcommittee hearings on Afghanistan in two years, but leaving out the context that going to hearings isn't the most effective way to get informed).

It came off as clumsy and needlessly aggressive, and I know if I saw the same person doing it to Obama, I'd be just as pissed. So much talking head journalism boils down to gotcha stuff, trying to ask the question that will back the candidate into a corner. It has to be incredibly frustrating for the candidate to face such mindless hostility, and all the poise in the world will be meaningless if the candidate slips for just a minute and fires back.

Bill Clinton has probably done 1000 interviews in the past year, but the one everyone remembers, the one that gets played over and over, is the one where he confronted the Fox interviewer and got mad at him. I can't believe that doesn't happen more often. And such interviews lead to the candidate just filibustering or repeating talking points mindlessly. It's just so irritating to watch, which I guess is why I don't watch TV news.

It would be like trying to watch a baseball game. I enjoy the game and am interested, but I get so pissed off at poor ball/strike calls that it is too distracting. I would rather just listen on the radio. One nice thing about Randi Rhodes is that she isn't just mindlessly aggressive. She bends over backwards to state both sides of a case, and she admits when she is wrong about something. I don't always agree, but at least it is thought provoking and informative.

Posted by Observer at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2008

Don't Tase Me, Bro!

I'm catching up on my Randi Rhodes podcasts, and I just heard about this crazy thing she linked on her message board. Every day, she posts a series of links relevant to the topics she will discuss on the show, and she frequently refers to this as "homework" for the listeners. It's nice that she provides background links for this time you want to find out more or see the video she's talking about, etc.

Anyway, this story from the Washington Times is about a new ID bracelet that the Department of Homeland Security is interested in. Basically, this would be a new security measure on flights. When a passenger checks in, they get this ID bracelet. With the bracelet, whoever is in charge of security can track the person via GPS, link a person with their luggage to make sure it is on the same flight (like that's going to keep luggage from going to the wrong airport ... come on) and best of all, administer a taser-like shock to the passenger when the crew feels it necessary!

I'm sure Americans will be lining up in droves to give the snotty flight attendants the power to tase them. Oh yes, please, put that bracelet on my child! I'm sure there's NO WAY he'll accidentally suffer from a shock that will incapacitate him for several minutes but certainly under no circumstances would ever be lethal. Ha ha! What fun!

Remember, this is a Republican political appointee and a Republican executive branch that is pursuing this idea. I'm sure all you wingnuts out there will wear your "Bush bracelets" proudly when you fly, right?

Posted by Observer at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2008

Define "Liberal"

If you asked me before I read this, I would've told you that if a candidate took a position that gays should be allowed to openly serve in the military, that position could fairly be called very liberal. Such a stand would put any candidate or commentator firmly in the liberal part of the spectrum.

But now I find that:

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said homosexuals who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for gays to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

A majority of Republicans are okay with this? Wow, I would have put the percentage closer to 20-30% at best.

So if 75% of Americans agree with something, then isn't that mainstream rather than one side or the other? Is that really a "liberal" position, still? I'm pretty sure that if Obama came out and gave a speech with this message, he would be branded directly and indirectly as an extremist. Do you see any pundits (aside from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC) who have stated such a view or any major newspaper columnists?

That number is about the same percentage of people that want out of Iraq ASAP, and yet anyone who brings up that view (same question as above, what major pundit on TV is openly supporting this view aside from Maddow or maybe Olbermann?) is branded an extremist. Michael Moore made a similar point in one of his books, that that things considered "liberal" by the traditional media are usually things supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. Here are some of his numbers:

57% - Abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

86% - Agree with the goals of the civil rights movement.

80% - Agree that it is important for colleges to be racially diverse.

83% - Agree with the goals of the environmental movement.

73% - Want a mandatory background check before buying a gun.

80% - Think health insurance should be provided equally to everyone.

62% - Think fewer nonviolent offenders should be imprisoned.

85% - Support equal opportunity in the workplace for gays and lesbians.

So how do Republicans get elected? Why is it even close? In my opinion, this is largely the fault of the traditional media, which conveys and supports their message of fear, and purposefully muddying the waters on issues like Iraq, health care or the environment so that people just adopt a "pox on both houses" attitude, figuring both parties are equally bad.

Posted by Observer at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

Sargent Again

I just love the way he draws:

Posted by Observer at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2008

Two Steps Back

Although some Obama supporters will be pissed off about stuff like this, I think it will be fine. Former Hillary supporters in the primary are talking with the McCain camp to see if they can find a reason to support McCain over Obama. Maybe they're just mad about Obama winning, I don't know.

But I think if McCain makes any overtures to Hillary supporters in the area of women's rights and so forth, he may gain some of their votes. But for every former Hillary vote he gains, he's going to lose two or more wingnut votes. They already think McCain is too liberal, and if stories like this, with McCain explicitly reaching out to Hillary fans, get big publicity, that's just more incentive for the right wing trolls to stay home on election day and/or not send money to McCain in return for golf balls or caviar or whatever they're handing out these days.

Posted by Observer at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2008

Torquemada in Chief

From Ben Sargent

Posted by Observer at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2008

Oh Please Oh Please Oh Please

Few things make me smile more than the thought of (mostly) Republican billionaires trying to cheat on their taxes and getting busted. Those assholes sure like to wave the flag in everyone's face and talk about America and capitalism and God, but when it comes time to actually pay their share for the good of the country, they can't be bothered to pitch in like all the little people. Oh please let Tom Hicks be one of the busted.

Oh, but if they need to fork over some cash to the Bush Library in exchange for some VIP access, then hey, no problem, how much do you need? After all, we want to make sure the president knows we're "serious".

Posted by Observer at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2008

YouTube

Michelle has been doing all the heavy lifting with the video camera lately, and she posted a bunch of stuff to her directory on YouTube if you want to see what the kids are up to. C*dy's failing grades in various classes have led to a loss of all electronic and TV privileges which has endured on and off for about two years now, and since he doesn't play soccer any more (no pass, no play, is the rule of this house), he's taken to skateboarding for hours per day. He's gotten pretty good at it.

Ben is getting more understandable every day, and he's very cute with his "gasses" on. As Ben starts to develop his wants and needs, Daniel is feeling the pressure on his toys because they both like the same stuff. I'm starting to think that when J*stin leaves for college in two weeks, we will let C*dy have J*stin's room and then separate the two little ones, giving them each some toys that are for their room only. Daniel needs a haven that is all his own, and he doesn't really like the upstairs game room for that purpose since one of the older kids is usually in there playing games or watching TV.

Posted by Observer at 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2008

Welfare

If the single mother hasn't gotten herself employed full-time within x number of months, why, we need to kick her off of welfare! She's a slacker, screwing the public out of easily a couple of hundred dollars every month! Who cares about child care or health care for her or her kid, just get her off the public dole. She shouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place! We collectively should not have to pay a lifetime for her stupid decision, right?

But if a bank or lending institution has made stupid decisions and needs a couple of hundred BILLION dollars, then by God, that's something the wise men of Washington can agree on! Let's get those investment banks the help they sorely need to get them through this awful crisis.

The real question is whether any of the wingnuts who are so fucking bitter about the idea of welfare for poor people of any kind will so much as raise a peep about corporations continuing to loot the treasury of the United States. Are we going to hear Rush complaining about some bailed-out investment banker still riding around in a chauffeur-driven limo and eating lunch at the five-star steakhouse? Will there be angry letter writers complaining that they don't exactly see investment bankers withdrawing their country club memberships while the taxpayers foot the bill for their mistakes?

Of course not. This is important to the economy that we save these banks, they'll say. It's funny how we can all pull together and recognize the social costs of corporations melting down, but nobody seems to give a fuck about the social costs of families melting down. I guess families don't have the powerful lobbyists and rich corporate sponsored talk radio hosts to help Congress and the voters understand their problems.

Posted by Observer at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2008

Feedback Loop

I liked the comment Avedon pulled from a guest posting over at Atrios:

Conservatives blame all problems on liberals, so when their (conservatives') policies make a situation worse, their response is to blame the deterioration on liberals and try to implement even dumber versions of their policies.

It's a perfect feedback loop for conservatives they implement policies, the policies fail, they blame liberals and implement even dumber policies, the policies fail even worse, they blame liberals even more, etc.

The end result of global warming will be Rush Limbaugh on a Colorado mountain peak surrounded by oceans blaming the entire situation on Al Gore.

Posted by Observer at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2008

11-10

Long game last night, 4.5 hours. Game time temperature was 98 degrees or so. By 1130, it had cooled off to a much more comfortable 87. I went through two gigantic stadium cups full of ice. We came back from a 10-4 deficit caused when "seasoned veteran" (because he's had 12 starts) Scott Feldman walked or hit a million batters. God, it is so frustrating to watch our pitchers walk everyone when the Angels just don't hit that well and have NO business scoring 10 runs on us.

After we tied it in the bottom of the 7th, no more runs were scored until about two hours later in the top of the 11th on a bloop single. We had 20 hits, but at least five of our outs were extremely hard hit line drives that went straight at an infielder (causing double plays on more than one occasion), and none of the hits were really the kinds of bloops that the Angels were getting. I guess this is their year because they are getting all kinds of luck, and the stats show that with their runs scored vs runs against, they should be closer to a .500 team.

I don't see how we can make a run at them with our rookie pitching, even if they go .500 the rest of the way. We've got too many guys who just blow themselves up one start out of three.

Posted by Observer at 07:24 AM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2008

Let's Go Rangers

Wow, it's hard to believe, but the Rangers are playing exciting, meaningful baseball games in July. They took two one-run games from the first place Angels in the last two days to close the gap to 6.5 games, this last one with a Josh Hamilton walk-off 2-run homer with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth.

That was cool.

It's amazing the Rangers are playing so well, now four games over .500, with some incredibly iffy pitching. The only starter this year who came with the team out of spring training who has been halfway good has been Padilla. Millwood was supposed to be on the ball this year after basically screwing around last year, playing a lot of golf, not working out enough, getting hurt a lot, and just generally not giving a crap. Well, he isn't much better this year. The rest of our pitching has been a mix of kids brought up from AA or AAA to make spot starts or take over a spot lost to injury or a case of The Sucks.

All three nights against the Angels so far, we've had to start people who have never started a game in the majors before, I believe, or maybe had one start or a relief appearance somewhere. And we're 2-1 in those three games. Same deal tomorrow. The Angels throw an established 3-4 ERA, big inning guy with a 10-4 record or something at us night after night and we throw random AA rookie who just threw a 2-hit shutout in Podunk City last week.

The trick is the offense. For once, we have an offense that can take advantage of the hitting friendly ballpark, and we're scoring way above average in runs. In the past several seasons, the supposedly fearsome Ranger offense has just plain sucked. At or below the league average in runs scored despite having a huge advantage hitting in the ballpark in half their games.

Josh Hamilton is the most fun to watch. Every at-bat is a must-see, just because he's such an interesting story. If you haven't already heard it, you'll hear all about him in the All-Star game, where he is a starting outfielder. But Milton Bradley is hitting just about as well, and Ian Kinsler has been amazing leading off.

Maybe Ranger management will finally freaking get it. This is what happens to the offense when your #1 and #2 guys get on base 40% of the time instead of 28-30% of the time, and this is what happens when you are willing to take a damned walk to extend an inning. I'm going tomorrow night with Justin, and we'll meet other family there. I bought seats two weeks ago, hoping this would be a meaningful game, and now I imagine it will be hard to come by such good seats for a while if the Rangers keep playing like this.

Here is Eric Nadel's home run call from the radio broadcast. Not quite as good as Dave Niehaus' "rye bread and mustard" call, but not too shabby.

Posted by Observer at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2008

Laughable

The New York Times is now giving out blowjobs in print to the likes of Rush Limbaugh. This, after the eulogies to "Republican stalwart" Jesse Helms, who was really just a politically incorrect scamp who tweaked the liberal establishment, don't you know. Oh, and any criticism of John McCain means you are dishonoring his service to our country and questioning his integrity, and that is WAY out of bounds. We don't allow criticism of our veterans (with special one-time-only exception for *insert any Democrat's name here, replacing John Kerry*).

But, hey, don't forget how darned liberal the media is! After all, I read a study one time that said a lot of reporters are Democrats, and they control what goes into the paper, not the wingnut managing editors or wealthy Republican owners.

Right?

Speaking of one-time exceptions, anyone remember how the Republicans on the Supreme Court selected Bush to be president based on a one time exception to their overall philosophy? Or how we don't start wars pre-emptively except for this one time special exception because Saddam is such a monstrous threat to blow us all up? Or how we don't get our right to privacy because of this one time special exception involving a Republican president and fear of terrorists?

Anyone think Republicans will sit idly by while President Obama gets to eavesdrop on anyone he wants without a warrant, without a record of who he is eavesdropping on? That's at the heart of this FISA thing in the Senate. Bush can and has gotten any warrant he's asked for from the secret FISA court, even retroactively when he was in a hurry, so why ask for the ability to skip the FISA court? SO THERE WON'T BE A RECORD OF WHOSE PHONE WAS TAPPED.

And a majority of Congress are ready to say "ok, sounds good". Unreal.

Posted by Observer at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2008

Guitar Boy

I found out the other day while shopping with the older boys that C*dy has gotten pretty good at Guitar Hero, playing over at his friend's house. He really, really wants that game, but he's really, really in debt from accidentally smashing the van tail light while skateboarding. I told him he had his chance at Xmas, I hinted around at it to see if he'd want it, and he looked at me like I was crazy. This is a kid who has shown a lot of interest in learning to play a guitar but doesn't have enough fun playing, loves video games, has great hand-eye coordination, doesn't have enough games for the Wii. I thought it would be a perfect fit, but he blew it, and now he'll probably have to wait until Xmas to get another shot at it.

It's tough for us to play much Wii around here, so I haven't invested in games for us yet. The Wii stays upstairs with the kids, but we can't have little 2-year-old Ben upstairs without watching him like a hawk because he's really determined to kill himself falling down the staircase. But if the Wii is downstairs, that takes up the only TV, and it is rare that I get any quality time on the TV to catch up on the Daily Show on the DVR or anything else I might record. God forbid we try to watch a movie on the main TV unless the kids are in bed.

Maybe once Ben is okay with the stairs, I might venture upstairs and start playing some. For now, I'm still happy with Diablo II or Heroes V or the occasional round of play money poker. For whatever reason, I just suck at cash games now, and I can't figure out why ... I think I'm playing exactly how I played when I built my bankroll up from $40 to over $300, but that is all but evaporated now. No WAY am I going to put any more money into poker when I can scrape up cash from my play money chips or the occasional bonus offer, especially when I am at a loss to explain how my bankroll shrank so much in the first place.

Posted by Observer at 10:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2008

Eye Doctor

I need some new glasses since I'm having a little trouble with one eye and my current glasses are pretty beat up, plus I want a different style. So I went around on Thursday to various places attached to eyewear stores, and I couldn't get a walk-in or even a same-day appointment to save my life. Best I could get was a guy attached to the Costco here (which is where I was going to buy the glasses anyway ... very cheap and nice frames!) who seemed a little weird but gave me a 2pm appointment today.

I arrived at 2pm, and this office is about a 10x20 room with a wall and a door cutting it in half into two 10x10 rooms. I walk in the front door, and no one else is there. This guy doesn't have a receptionist, apparently, because there was none there on Thursday either, no computer or appointment book in sight. Anyway, from the back, I hear, "I'll be right out!"

So I wait a few minutes, and the optometrist cracks open the door and peeks out. "You must be here for the 2pm appointment? Ok, I'll be right with you."

25 minutes pass, and it is now 2:30.

He had given me a brief little form to fill out that took about 30 seconds ("no" to all possible optical problems and weirdness). He took that from me and led me back into his little room. No computers back here either, just a room with various bits of optical equipment that I've seen before. What the hell was he doing in here for the last half hour? There is no one else here!

Oh well, I sit down in the chair with the eye-puff test and some other test, and that takes about 15 minutes, then I sit down in the chair with the eyepieces and other fancy stuff.

20 minutes pass.

What is he doing during this time? I don't know. His back is to me, and he is writing something on a little section of desk that is cleared of equipment. He seems to be looking back and forth, double-checking something, writing some more, etc. He makes small talk a couple of times for a total of maybe 30 seconds. During the 20 minutes, someone comes in, and he calls out, "I'll be right out!"

It was a woman who needed contacts. He spoke with her from the doorway for a couple of minutes, assured her she could be seen right after me and it would take 20 more minutes with me and then about 45 with her. So according to him, at 2:50, he promised her I would be done by 3:10. My original appointment, which I expected to last for 15 minutes, was at 2pm.

After several more tests, more than I've ever gotten at any eye doctor, we finally finished at just after 3:30, and I got my prescription. I never got to see what he wrote down, just the prescription. When I asked what took so long, he said he was just being careful and making sure not to miss anything. He said it is no surprise it is time for bifocals for me since I'm 40. Lovely, now I'll have some no-line bifocals. Should be interesting, but Costco takes about 2 weeks, so I have some time to wait...

Posted by Observer at 11:45 PM | Comments (3)

July 04, 2008

Fireworks

Our almost-five-year-old, Daniel, is very excited about the fireworks tonight. I can't believe it is only a month before Justin leaves for college. So much to do before he leaves. We're going to start with a last father-son baseball game next week.

Posted by Observer at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

Farewell

Have fun in hell, Jesse. I feel sorry for all the normal people in North Carolina who have to endure the legacy of this small-minded, perverted bigot. The "liberal media" will spend the weekend lionizing this guy and mention in passing the fact that he was "controversial".

If we had an actual liberal media, the headlines would read "Former senator, ignorant racist Republican, dead."

Posted by Observer at 12:00 PM | Comments (1)

July 03, 2008

Happy Meal

Hey, now I don't feel so guilty about letting the kids get the occasional bag of fries from McDonald's. Any corporation that pisses off the wingnut can't be all bad.

Posted by Observer at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

What We're Up Against...

... is a traditional media intent on worshipping McCain as a bipartisan, straight-talking, war hero maverick who will bravely defend us from all the terrorists. That's the narrative, and any story that remotely fits it will get prominent treatment.

Stories that detract from it, like evidence that he supports pretty much everything Bush has done, or evidence of flip-flopping on various issues (he's held opposing views on just about every major issue except abortion) will be noted for the record in passing on page A26 and not mentioned at all on the teevee.

Thanks again, "liberal" media!

Posted by Observer at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

Hercules

Travelling high through the zenith on summer evenings is the constellation Hercules, a constellation so old that even the Greeks in their day couldn't really remember how it originated, so we have a series of educated guesses. On the one hand, the figure was Engonasin, a kneeling figure, but Eratosthenes later linked this figure with Draco and so the legend of Hercules slaying the dragon guarding the golden apples came into being in the sky.

The mythological story of Hercules has a few different versions, so I'm only giving you one of the most well-known. Zeus fathered a child on the mortal woman Alcmene, and he laid the infant at the breast of his wife, the goddess Hera, while Hera slept so that having drunk the milk of a goddess, Hercules became immortal. Hera vowed revenge, promising to make the life of Hercules horrible, and she did. Ultimately, the Oracle at Delphi directed Hercules, whose name was originally Alcides but changed now to mean 'glory of Hera,' to serve the king of Mycenae for 12 years, and that king gave Hercules a series of 10 tasks or labors to perform.

When Hercules successfully completed the tasks, the king wasn't satisfied and gave him two more. Among the tasks were stories I've talked about in many other constellations, including Hydra, Corvus, Crater, Cancer, Leo and Draco. Though it is the fifth largest constellation in the sky, it is one of the harder constellations to spot since it has no stars of 2nd magnitude or brighter. It is most easily found by spotting the four-star trapezoid shape known as the keystone, 20 degrees or so West of the bright summer triangle star Vega and about a third of the way along a line to the bright star Arcturus.

Though the major stars of the constellation Hercules are somewhat faint, there are plenty of interesting targets there. I'll use the keystone of Hercules as a guide to help find the stars. The stars designated alpha through delta are all found South of the keystone. Beta and Delta make up the southernmost two stars in the crooked hourglass that I usually look for when looking for Hercules. Delta Her (Sarin) is 12 degrees due south of Pi Herculis, which makes up the northeastern (upper left if you are facing South) star in the keystone, and Alpha Herculis (Ras Algethi) is another 10 degrees due South of that.

Ras Algethi translates as the head of the kneeling one, but it isn't clear where this name comes from for Hercules. Perhaps he was kneeling while stringing his bow. Or he may have been kneeling in prayer during a famous battle, a prayer his father Zeus answered in helping Hercules to win the battle. Ras Algethi is one of the largest red supergiants visible to us from the Earth, at a distance of about 380 light years, and it is usually about 2nd magnitude, though its brightness varies between a magnitude of 1.5 and 2.5 with a period of 128 days. This star also has a 5th magnitude companion, itself a binary of sun-like main sequence stars, and the companion(s) are close enough that they are enveloped by a shell of material being lost from Ras Algethi, a common trait among highly evolved supergiant stars.

Beta Herculis (Kornephoros, which means club bearer) is about as far West of Delta Her as Ras Algethi is South, and so the three stars make up a rough equilateral triangle of roughly equal brightness. In some traditions, this star is known as Rutilicus, perhaps a translation of a different kind of weapon sometimes carried by Hercules. This is a yellow giant star about half as distant as Ras Algethi, the closest easily visible analogue on the sky being Capella in the constellation Auriga, part of the Winter Triangle. Gamma Herculis, another yellow giant, is not properly named and is found a few degrees Southwest of Kornephoros and about a magnitude fainter.

Delta Herculis (Sarin) has a location I mentioned just above, and it is an unremarkable multiple, with several stars very close to the line of sight but only two of them connected physically. The main pair of stars are two bright main sequence stars a mere 0.06 arcseconds apart and orbiting one another with a period of less than a year at a distance from Earth of about 80 light years.

Now for the stars in the keystone of the constellation Hercules, starting in the Northeast corner, closest to Vega, with Pi Herculis. This is a 3rd magnitude K-class (orange) giant star about 300 light years away. As is typical with most giant stars we see, this star is a few times more massive than our Sun and large enough that it would almost engulf the orbit of Mercury if it were placed in the middle of our own solar system. In the northeast corner is Eta Herculis, an unremarkable (barely) 3rd magnitude double star that is best known as a finder star on the way to locating the famous globular cluster Messier 13.

Passing through M13 on the way to the Southeast corner, we find Zeta Herculis, a 3rd magnitude subgiant star with an orbiting companion. Kaler notes that this star shares a common proper motion with many other stars in the sky, making it the brightest star in a moving group similar to what we've seen elsewhere in some of the stars of Ursa Major. Most of the stars in this group are near the South Pole. Though Zeta is far from these stars in the sky, it is moving very quickly along our line of sight in the same direction. This is a moving group that is probably surrounding us.

Finally in the southwest corner, we have Epsilon Herculis, a very closely separated binary system consisting of two bluish main sequence stars about 2.5 solar masses each. This one is so close that we call it a spectroscopic binary. That means it is only detectable because of the Doppler shifting of the spectral line groups of each star moving independently over time, splitting and merging as the stars orbit a common center of mass and move along or across our line of sight.

To finish off the significant stars in the constellation Hercules, I'd like to talk about a pair of famous and archetypical variable stars. Both of them are in a little patch of sky about 7-10 degrees North and 1-3 degrees West of the bright star Vega, in the Northeast corner of Hercules. Both stars are cataclysmic variables, which are binaries in which one star is a white dwarf and the other a red giant losing mass to the white dwarf. As these stars orbit around one another, their light curves vary somewhat due to our changing perspective as different parts of the system are obscured or revealed.

Occasionally, though, these systems undergo cataclysmic outbursts when big lumps of matter from the unstable accretion disk dump onto the white dwarf, sometimes igniting the Hydrogen on the surface of the white dwarf in a brief outburst of fusion. So they are a type of nova, and there are many different subclasses. The two stars I want to discuss today are magnetic CV's, which mean the white dwarf has a moderate (DQ Her) or intense (AM Her) magnetic field. AM Her is the prototype of the strongly magnetic CV's.

Normally, when matter falls off of a red giant en route to accretion onto a white dwarf, its angular momentum spirals it out into a disk. When AM Her stars, the magnetic field is so strong on the white dwarf that the matter stream simply falls directly onto the magnetic poles of the white dwarf. The magnetic field is so strong that the binary system is tidally locked, so there are fewer degrees of freedom here compared to a normal accreting binary, but still lots of high-energy radiation and variability due to instability in the matter stream. The magnetic fields we are talking about here are many millions of times Earth's field.

DQ Her stars have a weaker magnetic field, and so a little bit of a disk can form but then gets disrupted close in to the white dwarf. Also, the stars are not synchronized. Both kinds of stars flicker constantly thanks to the instabilities in the matter accretion process, and the light that comes from the stars is strongly affected by the magnetism present, making it a neat little laboratory for a study of basic Physics. Of course, these systems are also supernova candidates. As the white dwarf accretes matter over time, it heats up, and some ultimately cross a temperature/density limit that causes explosive fusion throughout the star, like lighting a match in a room full of natural gas. The Type I supernova that results is one of the brightest objects in the known Universe, at least for a brief time.

Now the deep sky objects in the constellation Hercules, and any such discussion must begin with the famous Hercules Globular Cluster, also known as Messier 13. This is one of the rare Messier objects visible to the naked eye under ideal conditions at magnitude 5.8 (the limit is around 6.0). It is about 25000 light years away from the Earth, and it is located on the boundary of the keystone, about one third of the distance from Eta (Northeast corner) and Zeta (Southeast corner).

In a small telescope, this hazy globe of light appears to be about 10 arcminutes in diameter, one third that of the full moon, but the true extent is easily doubled with a larger telescope. Burnham quotes Mary Proctor's 1924 book about the heavens: "It is the finest of all the clusters in the northern skies, and is just visible to the unaided eye on a dark night. ... By means of photography, it has been possible to obtain a close-up view, as it were, of what may be termed literally a ball composed of thousands of suns, with outlying streamers curving outward as though wafted by a celestial breeze. ... The cluster is a mass of glittering starlight."

The actual star count is difficult to determine due to the very dense nature of the core, but it is surely well over a million stars. The cluster is one of the oldest in the galaxy, with an age roughly equal to the oldest objects ever observed at around 12 billion years. Though the center seems dense from our perspective, a little scaling experiment is suggested by Burnham. If we take the dense central core of the cluster and assume a million stars in the innermost regions, this is equivalent to taking a million grains of sand about 0.03 inch in diameter and sprinkling them throughout a spherical volume of space about 300 miles in diameter. Even here most stars are separated from their nearest companion by a mile or more, and this is one of the densest regions in the galaxy!

Of course, the view from one of these stars would be amazing. Imagine thousands of stars in the sky with brightnesses somewhere between that of Venus and the full moon. Inhabitants of the cluster would be hard-pressed to see beyond the local neighborhood due to the immense sky brightness and would have no idea of the galaxy or indeed the rest of the Universe that exists outside of the cluster. There is some very interesting raw material for speculative fiction authors, with one of the best being Asimov's famous novella "Nightfall", about a planet continually bathed in light from surrounding stars experiencing a brief time of darkness.

The less famous globular cluster in this part of the sky is Messier 92, about seven degrees due North from Pi Herculis (the Northwest corner of the keystone). This is a little less bright and a little bit less extended than Messier 13 but still a very nice target for a small telescope, which can easily resolve some of the hundreds of stars in the outer fringes of the cluster. Messier 92 is a little bit younger than M13 and a little bit further away. Like M13, it has very few variable stars, which has hindered our distance determination efforts (variable stars are the most commonly used and most reliable standard candles for distant clusters).

Some of the better images on the web clearly show the red giants in this cluster standing out against the general background. Since both M13 and M92 are quite old, it is worthwhile to look at this age determination since it is cosmologically significant. For a few decades, our best guesses as to the ages of these clusters came from an analysis of the red giants. We look for the least massive red giant in the cluster, and we work on the assumption that it has just left the main sequence. We know that stellar main sequence lifetimes depend on their masses, so by determining the mass of these newly minted red giants, we could then use their lifetimes as a lower limit on the age of the cluster (we assume all the stars in the cluster formed at roughly the same time).

Well, these ages were upwards of 16 billion years in some estimates, which contradicted was cosmologists were telling us (around 10-12 billion years). Since that time, cosmological age estimates have increased due to analysis of galaxy motions and the cosmic background. At the same time, new distance estimates to these clusters have come about thanks to the Hipparcos parallax measuring satellite. The result is the clusters are further away and therefore brighter than we thought. That increases our mass estimates of the red giants, which in turn reduces their lifetime and thus the age of the cluster, bringing them into good agreement. The other globular in Hercules, NGC 6229, is much further away and smaller than the two Messier objects.

Also present in Hercules is NGC 6210, about halfway between Sarin and Kornephoros in the southern half of Hercules. This little planetary nebula vaguely resembles a turtle as you can see here in this image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. Though it is about 9th magnitude, it is pretty small and hard to see much detail with a small telescope. The other planetary nebula here is way down in the Southeast corner of the constellation. If you follow a line from Pi to Epsilon (the Western half of the keystone) about three times further than the separation between these two stars, you'll wind up very close to IC 4593, also imaged here with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Posted by Observer at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2008

The Victim Card

It took me a couple of days, but now I finally remember why the Wesley Clark comments about McCain are such a big deal. He was on a Sunday show, and the moderator was asking him about Obama's lack of experience vs McCain's, etc. The transcript of the exchange is here:

SCHIEFFER: Well, you -- you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote -- and these are your words -- "untested and untried." And I must say, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years -- how can you say that John McCain is untested and untried, General?

CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy-making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it" --

SCHIEFFER: Well --

CLARK: -- "publicly?" He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well -- well, General, maybe he --

CLARK: So --

SCHIEFFER: Could I just interrupt you? If --

CLARK: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean --

CLARK: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

SCHIEFFER: Really?

That last comment by Clark is apparently a really big deal, and I understand why now: it has been a long time since the wingnut crowd has had a chance to play the victim card. It's hard to do when your candidate is trying to sell himself as being a tough, strong war hero who scares the terrorists. I mean, to whine about someone else criticizing you comes off as weak, so it's a fine line.

Fortunately for McCain, the traditional media is giving lots of opportunities for wingnuts to cry about how awful and mean those nasty Democrats are. It's really pathetic. I mean, what Clark said is fundamentally right. It isn't an insult. It's just a simple fact.

And after some of the things Republicans have said about Democratic war heroes, like John Kerry, it boggles the mind that they would be genuinely offended. I mean, seriously, this is the party of the purple heart band-aid at the 2004 convention, the Swift-Boat party, and now criticism of someone's war record is verboten? What a sad joke.

Even worse, the joke is on America if it works.

Posted by Observer at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)