If you’re looking for sights to see in North Texas, you should probably check this out:
Most spiders are solitary creatures. So the discovery of a vast web crawling with millions of spiders that is spreading across several acres of a North Texas park is causing a stir among scientists, and park visitors.
Sheets of web have encased several mature oak trees and are thick enough in places to block out the sun along a nature trail at Lake Tawakoni State Park, near this town about 50 miles east of Dallas.
The gossamer strands, slowly overtaking a lakefront peninsula, emit a fetid odor, perhaps from the dead insects entwined in the silk. The web whines with the sound of countless mosquitoes and flies trapped in its folds.
Allen Dean, a spider expert at Texas A&M University, has seen a lot of webs, but even he described this one as “rather spooky, kind of like Halloween.”
Mr. Dean and several other scientists said they had never seen a web of this size outside of the tropics, where the relatively few species of “social” spiders that build communal webs are most active.
The web may be a combined effort of social cobweb spiders. But their large communal webs generally take years to build, experts say, and this web was formed in just a few months.
Or it could be a striking example of what is known as ballooning, in which lightweight spiders throw out silk filaments to ride the air currents. Five years ago, in just that way, a mass dispersal of millions of tiny spiders covered 60 acres of clover field in British Columbia with thick webbing.
By an odd coincidence, I just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys last night – the main character is the son of a spider god.
The Shrill One has some very good thoughts on how the Bush administration and GOP’s response to Katrina is emblematic of their response to everything:
Two years ago today, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn’t the government of the world’s richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its own citizens?
What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center “still had no visible government presence,” while “corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees.”
Meanwhile, federal officials were oblivious. “We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy,” declared Michael Chertoff, the secretary for Homeland Security, on Wednesday. When asked the next day about the situation at the convention center, he dismissed the reports as “a rumor” or “someone’s anecdotal version.”
Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding, as opposed to emergency relief, has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects — an impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.
On the other hand, generous investment tax breaks, supposedly designed to spur recovery in the disaster area, have been used to build luxury condominiums near the University of Alabama’s football stadium in Tuscaloosa, 200 miles inland.
But why should we be surprised by any of this? The Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina — the mixture of neglect of those in need, obliviousness to their plight, and self-congratulation in the face of abject failure — has become standard operating procedure. These days, it’s Katrina all the time.
Consider the White House reaction to new Census data on income, poverty and health insurance. By any normal standard, this week’s report was a devastating indictment of the administration’s policies. After all, last year the administration insisted that the economy was booming — and whined that it wasn’t getting enough credit. What the data show, however, is that 2006, while a good year for the wealthy, brought only a slight decline in the poverty rate and a modest rise in median income, with most Americans still considerably worse off than they were before President Bush took office.
Most disturbing of all, the number of Americans without health insurance jumped. At this point, there are 47 million uninsured people in this country, 8.5 million more than there were in 2000. Mr. Bush may think that being uninsured is no big deal — “you just go to an emergency room” — but the reality is that if you’re uninsured every illness is a catastrophe, your own private Katrina.
Yet the White House press release on the report declared that President Bush was “pleased” with the new numbers. Heckuva job, economy!
Mr. Bush’s only concession that something might be amiss was to say that “challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans” — a statement reminiscent of Emperor Hirohito’s famous admission, in his surrender broadcast, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.” And Mr. Bush’s solution — more tax cuts, of course — has about as much relevance to the real needs of the uninsured as subsidies for luxury condos in Tuscaloosa have to the needs of New Orleans’s Ninth Ward.
The question is whether any of this will change when Mr. Bush leaves office.
There’s a powerful political faction in this country that’s determined to draw exactly the wrong lesson from the Katrina debacle — namely, that the government always fails when it attempts to help people in need, so it shouldn’t even try. “I don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system,” says Mitt Romney, as if the Bush administration’s practice of appointing incompetent cronies to key positions and refusing to hold them accountable no matter how badly they perform — did I mention that Mr. Chertoff still has his job? — were the way government always works.
And I’m not sure that faction is losing the argument. The thing about conservative governance is that it can succeed by failing: when conservative politicians mess up, they foster a cynicism about government that may actually help their cause.
Future historians will, without doubt, see Katrina as a turning point. The question is whether it will be seen as the moment when America remembered the importance of good government, or the moment when neglect and obliviousness to the needs of others became the new American way.
If the American people are not paying attention to this, or noticing that this is a Republican pattern, then the Democrats should by God be pointing it out every chance they get, as part of every single electoral campaign. “If something bad happens to you, do you want the government to handle it like it handled Katrina? Or Iraq?”
I’m looking forward to Mit Romney promising “double Katrina” on the campaign trail…
1 commentAugust 31st, 2007 at 07:20amPosted by Eli
It’s every worker’s dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don’t worry about your boss calling you on it. Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together – as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody’s keeping track.
That is essentially what goes on at I.B.M., one of the cornerstones of corporate America, where each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation. The company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when, does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority and does not let people carry days off from year to year.
Instead, for the past few years, employees at all levels have made informal arrangements with their direct supervisors, guided mainly by their ability to get their work done on time. Many people post their vacation plans on electronic calendars that colleagues can view online, and they leave word about how they can be reached in a pinch.
I really like this idea. It’d be awfully nice not to have to worry about trying to parcel out vacation days to last through the year without having any left over. And I wouldn’t really mind the requirement to stay in touch, since I tend to like to do that anyway.
Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused him of soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr. Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea “a mistake” and declaring, “I am not gay” — even as the Senate Republican leadership asked for an Ethics Committee review.
It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television.
Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congress landed him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop of scandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, both caught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.
This is the upside for any individual Republican fuckup: They can be assured that it’s only a matter of time before one of their colleagues fucks up even worse, thus pushing them out of everyone’s mind. This can only be good for Republicans.
“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”
Aaaand this would be wrong… how?
Republicans, of course, do not have an exclusive hold on scandal. As Democrats accused Republicans of engaging in a “culture of corruption” during the 2006 midterm elections, Republicans eagerly put the spotlight on Representative William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who stashed $90,000 in his freezer — ill-gotten gains, the authorities said.
I like how Stolberg rattles off this whole laundry list of Republicans In Trouble (still very partial, I might add), and then throws in one Blue Dog wanker Democrat to show that scandals are a bipartisan problem.
It is tough enough being in the minority, weighed down by the burden of the war in Iraq. Now Republicans have an even more pressing task: keeping their party from being portrayed not just as hypocritical and out of touch with the values of people they represent, but also as a laughingstock — amid headlines like “Senator’s Bathroom Bust,” which ran all Tuesday afternoon on CNN. The story also ran at the top of all the network evening newscasts on Tuesday.
Must… resist… urge… to… weep…
And now… Quote Medley!
“If we had a coach,” said John Feehery, who was press secretary to Representative J. Dennis Hastert when Mr. Hastert was the House speaker, “the coach would take us in the locker room and scream at us.”
“Exit polls show that was the No. 1 factor in depressing Republican enthusiasm,” [Tony Perkins, head of the social conservative Family Research Council] said in an interview Tuesday. “There is an expectation that leaders who espouse family values will live by those values. And while the values voters don’t demand perfection, I do believe they want leaders with integrity.”
“[Larry Craig] sounded almost as convincing as, ‘I did not have sex with that woman,’ ” said Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative and onetime Republican presidential candidate….
…[A]t the rate things are going, says Mr. Reed, the Republican strategist, it might be only a matter of time before a new scandal pushes Mr. Craig’s woes off the front page.
“I’m a little afraid to say anything, because you don’t know what happens tomorrow,” Mr. Reed said. “That Vitter thing, that’s like ancient history now.”
I will bet any amount of money that the Republicans run on a moral values platform next year. And Terror, of course, because they’ve been so diligent about that…
3 commentsAugust 29th, 2007 at 11:56amPosted by Eli
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” said Bible scholar Douglas Carter of the Massachusetts Center of Religious Truth. “Everyone knows those words from Matthew. But until now, no one grasped what that statement truly meant.”
According to Dr. Carter’s interpretation, Jesus was indicating to humankind that morality is literally food for the soul.
“The spirit needs to stay fit, just like the body,” said Dr. Carter. “If you eat too much junk food, your body gets fat. Similarly, if you sin too much, your soul will also get flabby.
“You see, Jesus chose his words carefully,” Dr. Carter went on. “He said ‘hunger and thirst.’ It’s a nutritional analogy. By being morally upright, you eat and drink righteousness, which is non-fat. By committing sin, you consume evil. And evil is very high-caloric for the soul.”
“There’s a practical reason why sinners don’t go to Heaven,” he went on. “Their souls are just too heavy. They sink through the clouds and into Hell from all that weight. It takes a certain spiritual physique to ascend to paradise. Have you ever heard of fat angels? Fat demons, certainly, but not fat angels. Those wings can only handle so much mass.”
Unfortunately, if this discovery holds true it will be unpleasant news for many Christians.
“They’re used to the idea of repentance and absolution,” said Dr. Carter. “However, if I’m correct, it will take a lot more than repenting one’s sins to get into Heaven. It will take a spiritual weight-loss regimen. Being aggressively good and cheerful, like TV weather people.
You know, if Heaven is full of TV weather people, I might just take my chances in The Other Place.
The International Association of Fire Fighters has announced that Chris Dodd will recieve their endorsement. IAFF President Harold Schaitberger says Dodd is “the man we trust to keep our country safe and families secure.” The Fire Fighters don’t know what challenges we will face in the future, but regardless of the situation, we know what kind of leadership Chris Dodd will offer.
Fire fighters bring more than just an endorsement in name – there are tangible benefits that come with this endorsement that build on our already strong grass roots organization – boots on the ground, organizational and volunteer strength.
The IAFF was crucial in helping John Kerry win the nomination in 2004. Check out this US News article on their impact in 2004, which called the IAFF “one of the [Kerry’s] most potent political allies.”
BoBo clarifies the proper role of an Attorney General for those of us who may have been confused:
Any attorney general has to represent the executive branch in power rivalries against Congress and the courts, rivalries that are built into the Constitution and preoccupy every administration. Doing this effectively requires political experience and skill.
[Successful Attorneys General] had long experience in politics and the ways of Washington. They already had the personal relationships that are the essence of governance. They didn’t have to discover how to ram policy through the system; through long practice it was second nature to them. They had developed contacts across Washington, so they could practice politics without destructive partisanship.
The exemplar for this kind of excellence – the man everybody points to as the superlative attorney general – is Edward Levi, who served under Gerald Ford. Everybody mentions that he was a highly respected legal scholar with a detached, dignified leadership style and that he brought exceptionally smart lawyers to Justice to serve with him.
But he was also an experienced manager, and he fought for executive privilege with a canniness that could not have come from scholarship alone. As Antonin Scalia pointed out in a memorial essay in the University of Chicago Law Review, Levi fought off intrusions on executive privilege from all sides. He resisted the idea of a special prosecutor assigned by the courts, believing the executive branch should have its own. He battled a Congressional committee that sought confidential Commerce Department reports. (The House had initiated contempt proceedings against the Commerce secretary).
Alrighty then, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up: The AG’s proper role is to defend the power of the executive branch against all those who would seek to exercise oversight upon it. Who knew?
One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport.
Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee. In all, the six Paws have donated a total of $200,000 to Democratic candidates since 2005, election records show.
That total ranks the house with residences in Greenwich, Conn., and Manhattan’s Upper East Side among the top addresses to donate to the Democratic presidential front-runner over the past two years, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of donations listed with the Federal Election Commission.
It isn’t obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker. The couple’s grown children have jobs ranging from account manager at a software company to “attendance liaison” at a local public high school. One is listed on campaign records as an executive at a mutual fund.
The Paws’ political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign. He has hosted or co-hosted some of her most prominent money-raising events.
People who answered the phone and the door at the Paws’ residence declined requests for comment last week. In an email last night, one of the Paws’ sons, Winkle, said he had sometimes been asked by Mr. Hsu to make contributions, and sometimes he himself had asked family members to donate. But he added: “I have been fortunate in my investments and all of my contributions have been my money.”
Mr. Hsu, in an email last night wrote: “I have NEVER asked a single favor from any politician or any charity group. If I am NOT asking favors, why do I have to cheat…I’ve asked friends and colleagues of mine to give money out of their own pockets and sometimes they have agreed.”
Okay, let me be the one to ask the obvious question:
I only had a few minutes in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum… the first time.
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SpaceShipOne, the culmination of Paul Allen’s lifelong dream of being the first private citizen to put Evel Knievel in space. I understand that the biggest technical challenge was building a big enough ramp (although lining up the 3,000 buses was tricky too).
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This is really a much better picture, but it doesn’t capture the 70s daredevil paint job.
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Some sort of early American jet fighter.
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…And the base of a flagpole in front of the museum.
Never was a big fan of checkout mags. I really discovered the WWN in… the blogosphere, namely, multi-medium.net, which does regular “Why I Love The Weekly World News” postings. I started buying the thing, reading parts of it aloud to my fella, usually hysterically. It was always fun to leave lying out on a coffee table, too.
1) If Republicans and cultural conservatives oppose gay marriage because it somehow damages The Sacred Institution Of Marriage, then what is their objection to civil unions? Is it possible that they’re not worried about the institution of marriage at all, and simply hate gay people?
2) What’s the difference between a nook and a cranny?
2 commentsAugust 27th, 2007 at 08:33pmPosted by Eli
Next to resign: Laura Bush. She’ll announce that, although she’s enjoyed her tenure as First Lady, she is stepping down so that she can spend less time with her family.
Also can someone please tell me if Cheney is still the Vice President? And whatever happened to Karen Hughes? She’s still a special envoy for State, trying to get other countries to hate us less, right? I know Condi is still around, going to golf tournaments and whatnot. But otherwise the Bush Administration seems to be evaporating before our eyes, and soon the president will be rattling around the empty hallways trying to scare up an intern for a game of Go Fish.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not announced immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.
Considering that Dubya has a strict policy of not replacing anybody unless he can find someone worse (Rumsfeld/Gates being one of the few exceptions), I shudder to think who he’ll come up with. I’ll bet money they’re not named Fitzgerald, Comey, or Iglesias, though. (Also: Is the reference to a quick turnaround code for “recess appointment”?)
But not to worry: Chuck Schumer is one the case:
Senator Schumer said that “Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who we are confident will put the rule of law above political considerations.”
No word on whether they plan to obstruct or impede a nominee who doesn’t inspire confidence. Then again, considering their performance on the Roberts and Alito nominations, this is probably a moot point…
Here’s my favorite part, though. Whoever NYT’s anonymous source is, he (or she) the King (or Queen) Of Chutzpah:
“The unfair treatment that he’s been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department,” the official said.
Yes, he’s almost as big a martyr as that nice Mr. Scooter…
Speaking of which, with Bush’s Brain and Bush’s Firewall now gone, is it possible his black heart could be next?