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Saturday, March 19, 2005

14 year old Nebraska Genius Commits Suicide

Fellow Great Plains blogger, ptg, writes about the tragic suicide of a 14 year old Nebraska genius, Brandenn Bremmer. The Lincoln Journal Star has an extensive article and links to previous articles about Brandenn in happier times.

Brandenn could read when he was 2. He was homeschooled and completed a high school degree at age 10, the youngest graduate in the program's history. Since then he has been taking college classes, particularly in music.

This is a parent's worst nightmare, and our heart and prayers go out to the Bremmer family. They have already donated Brandenn's organs to help others.

UPDATE: Plains Feeder found a "progressive" blogger who thinks it's funny to suggest Brandenn killed himself because his parents are (hypothetically) Republicans.
UPDATE2: Fixed link to Lincoln Journal Star articles.
UPDATE3: Here's a link to the Bremmer family web site.

First Amendment for a Reason

The Pledge from Patterico: If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.

You bet. There's a reason that amendment was the first one. The McCain-Feingold Act should never have been passed. It should never have been signed by the President. It should have been thrown out completely by every court that looked at it. It should be repealed.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Free the Peep-le

We believe fervently that animals should be afforded all the rights of humans, including unemployment compensation, Medicaid, and AFDC payments. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that experimenting upon or eating the flesh of any animal (with the possible exception of people who wear fur or leather) is simply wrong.

Recently, a horrific new line of animal experimentation has been opened that must be nipped in the bud:
Developmental Biology Online: Peeps: "Peeps, a sibling species to chickens and composed primarily of marshmallow, are always born as conjoined quintuplets. Some scientists have theorized that this arrangement serves as a natural protection against predators. As evidence, note that Peeps are most often consumed by predators only after they have been separated. Here, surgery is done to separate Peep siblings. (Part of a larger effort to understand the complex behavior and physiology of Peeps:"
This account of "surgery" on these conjoined-marshmallow-Americans-of-indeterminate-gender shows the barbarity of those promoting this perversion of science. The crudeness of the tools and procedures employed make clear the true motives of the "researchers." The victims are described as "volunteers," as if informed consent could be given to this speciesist assault on the basic peep family unit. What chance of survival do these poor, mutilated creatures have now that their chief protection against predators has been stripped away?

The perpetrators of these pernicious policies plainly place their personal plans for pursuing Phds above the poignant plight of the poor peeps. They hide behind high-sounding scientific jargon, cloaking themselves in the mantle of objective truth-seekers. However, further investigations into this organization confirm our suspicions that this entire "study" is little more than a pathetic excuse to torture these harmless, squshy, little darlings.

Marshmallow-based lifeforms are entitled to the same rights as carbon-based bipeds. To counter this peep-sploitation we have formed an organization called People for the Idiotic Treatment of Animals (PITA). Our first act will be to picket the Peep Research Center, as soon as we can locate it. We understand it can be found at Port 80, which is evidently on the coast.

Power to the Peeps!

Terri Schiavo

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan makes the case for action now to save Terri Schiavo from a court-ordered death sentence.

Candy Cigarettes

Originally uploaded by Abe of Lincoln.
We remember American candy cigarettes from our youth, but no doubt they are long gone now. Smoking is hyper-non-PC these days, and encouraging children to smoke has been considered a no-no for a long time.

Those old American candy cigarettes couldn't hold a candle to these French ones of today. Note the realistic packaging. What great, fake brand names: "Old Toad" and "Kamikaze." And packaging them with a toy lighter (sadly, non-functional) is sheer genius. It almost makes you want to be a kid again so you could pretend to smoke them.

"But Did He Ever Return...

No, he never returned.
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston.
He's the man who never returned."

The old Kingston Trio song played out in real life recently. This story is so strange that we wonder if it could be a hoax. At any rate, we are not making it up. We found it in Marianne, a French news weekly magazine, but there are numerous hits for it on Google, too.

A Dutch tourist, Sheridan Gregorio, was stuck in the airport in Fortaleza, Brazil, for five months. His vacation was ending, and he had spent all of his money. No problem, though, he still had his return ticket.

But there was a problem: the airport departure tax was due before he could board his flight, and he had no way to pay it. One thing led to another, and he missed his flight. His ticket was non-refundable.

There he stayed for five months, like Tom Hanks in Terminal, picking up odd jobs here and there to earn a little money. When he finally saved up enough to pay the tax, he persuaded the airline to revalidate his ticket.

Something tells us he'll have a little extra cash or a credit card on his next trip.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Libertarians Have More Fun

As Oscar Wilde said, "There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." In OpinionJournal this week Julia Gorin shines a little welcome light on America's practically-invisible, third-largest political party. There are plenty of jokes about Libertarians, which are, admittedly, funny and not altogether inaccurate. Still it's a fairly positive piece:
OpinionJournal - Extra: "Politically, the Libertarian world isn't a bad place to be. Libertarians have more credibility with the left than Republicans do, even though their conservative side is callous compared with the charitable Christian right. And they have more credibility with the right than Democrats do, despite being more godless than the left. If Republicans and Democrats are the thesis and antithesis, Libertarians are a synthesis.

Even if this party never puts a candidate into the Oval Office, its ultimate purpose may be to help the two opposing major parties view each other through more sober lenses, and thus help the country arrive at a happy, if gay, marriage."
We freely admit to voting for Libertarian Party candidates in elections past, but not last year. The Badnarik campaign landed squarely in the Blame America First camp, and we weren't going there.

Americans tend to think of politics as a one-dimensional spectrum with conservative on one side and liberal on the other. For a more complete picture of your views in the two-dimensional political space take this quiz. Who knows, you might be a closet libertarian yourself.

Bobby Fischer

This post by Van Helsing at Moonbattery comments on Bobby Fischer's pending return from Japan to face the music in the USA.
"It looks like Bobby Fischer, a genius at chess but apparently a demented fool in every other respect, is on his way home. Renouncing his American citizenship is getting him nowhere with the Japanese, who detained him after he tried to leave their country for the Philippines on a revoked US passport, according to ABC News. The Japanese intend to ship him back to the USA, where he will face charges for violating sanctions against the genocidal Yugoslav regime by playing a match there in 1992. He would prefer to go to Iceland, where he is relatively popular for putting that island on the map when he took the world title by beating Boris Spassky there in 1972."
We have a special place in our heart for the Bobby Fischer of old. We were playing tournament chess when Bobby stunned the chess world by smashing his way through a series of Soviet Bloc grandmasters and winning the world championship against Spassky. A good friend even traveled to Iceland to see several games of the match, and is probably the cause of the infamous "noisy candywrapper" incident, which nearly ended the match prematurely.

In those days the Soviets completely dominated the upper echelons of grandmaster chess (think US and basketball today). This was one of their "proofs" of the "superiority" of communism and the Socialist Man over capitalism and freedom. Fischer personally shredded that myth in front of the world, and he did it in unprecedented fashion.

To reach the championship match Fischer won several matches against other East Bloc grandmasters. Normally such matches consisted mainly of draws with one or two game wins often being sufficient to win the match. Fischer won all these matches decisively, often shutting out his opponents. He continued to play aggressively for the win even with commanding leads in the matches, and he won.

Although he played brilliantly, Fischer was always eccentric. He believed the Russians were conspiring against him, ganging up, and cheating. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you. There was substance to many of his charges.

Always enigmatic, Fischer abruptly quit playing tournament chess and vanished from view. A few years ago he reappeared in the bizarre incident in the former Yugoslavia that landed him in his current predicament.

It is sad to see what he has become. Once brilliant, he is now just batty. A Jew, he's now an anti-Semite. A once heroic figure in the battle between freedom and totalitarianism, he can no longer tell the difference between them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Taking Us For a Ride

Here in The Great American Desert mass transit means a lot to us. Our Amtrak service is our lifeline to the civilized world, and it's hard to imagine life without it. Each day the train passes through Lincoln, once in each direction. There's the convenient 1 AM departure for Denver and the popular 4 AM Zephyr for Chicago. Kansas City to the south is easily reached, beginning with an 8 hr ride due East on the Chicago train, then 4 hrs more to the southwest. Without this vital link travelers would be forced to endure a 3 hr car ride to get to KC.

There's no doubt about it around here; that proposed $52 billion of federal spending is absolutely essential. Each year, literally dozens of Lincoln passengers climb aboard one of these trains for the ride of their lives, the kind of experience only a government-run enterprise can produce.

But what about local mass transit systems? Are they as valuable as Amtrak? For a politician bringing home the local bacon, a mass transit system is a sure winner. Like motherhood and apple pie, who could be against it? P. J. O'Rourke in an hilarious piece on OpinionJournal cuts through the fog of sloppy thinking:
"There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don't do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it's far less--9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America--all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.--1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.

Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, 'There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides.' Heritage cites the Minneapolis 'Hiawatha' light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

We don't want minimum-wage workers driving BMW X-5s. That's unfair. They're already poor, and now they're enemies of the environment? So we must find a way to save mass transit--get people to ride it, be eager to pay for it, no matter what the cold-blooded free-market types at Heritage say. We must do it for the sake of future generations, for our children."
If you love O'Rourke's biting wit as much as we do, you'll want to read the rest.

Ils Sont Fous, Ces Grenouilles

The French are arresting classical musicians and tour promoters for using "foreign workers," who cost much less than French musicians. Where's the harm in that?
OpinionJournal - Leisure & Arts: "But that's not the way the musicians' unions in Germany and France see it. Mr. Mertens, of the German union, says people like Mr. Hartung are engaging in 'unfair competition' that 'jeopardizes European jobs.' According to this view, orchestra directors bringing in low-wage East European musicians to play to West European crowds are exploitative profiteers who are mistreating their workers and harming their West European counterparts at the same time. According to Mr. Mertens's view, in other words, putting on a tour in small towns that can't afford a French opera company and giving work to eager musicians from the east in the process is a lose-lose proposition.

Of all the unsavory aspects of French police going around the country busting orchestras and locking up their conductors or managers, it is the notion that it's being done to protect these innocent violin-playing lambs from Sofia that drips heaviest with irony. In common with price-fixing cartels the world 'round, France and Germany's high-priced musicians have only one interest in this affair, and that is keeping low-priced competition off the market. That this means smallish French towns get no opera, or get it only when heavy public subsidies are made available for it, concerns them not at all."

Blog Housekeeping & a Question

We switched the comments mode to popup window, as it seems to required less thrashing about than the original mode.

We also have a new picture that shows more of the inner workings of our mind.
Head Shot

The question:
We see many people on Blogger use HaloScan for their comments. Is it better, and, if so, why? (OK, two questions)

HaloScan does enable trackback, which is A Good Thing. Anything else? (Three last questions.)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Two Shots, Two Feet, Reload

How many wounds can Nebraska inflict on itself in one day? We guess the only practial limit is the amount of ammunition available. First the state offers a management job to a man with a well-know past problem. A nationwide firestorm ensues, and the offer is abruptly withdrawn.
Lincoln "LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The state of Nebraska made - and then abruptly took back - a job offer to a man convicted of murdering Dian Fossey, the American wildlife researcher whose work in Africa was the subject of the movie 'Gorillas in the Mist,'

The Health and Human Services System announced Monday that Wayne Richard McGuire had been hired as program director of a mental health office.

The offer was withdrawn, however, after The Associated Press reported McGuire was found guilty in absentia in Rwanda in the 1985 slaying of Fossey, who was hacked to death at a jungle camp in Rwanda.

McGuire returned to the United States, which does not have an extradition agreement with Rwanda, before being convicted. He is presently working for a mental health agency in Oklahoma.

'She was murdered. I was not involved,' McGuire told the AP Monday before the job was rescinded."
State officials claimed the head of the agency and other committe members were unaware of Maguire's background, although according to an earlier report the agency did know before the hiring:
Lincoln Journal Star Online: "McGuire, who most recently worked for a mental health agency in Oklahoma, told The Associated Press that his conviction did not come up during the interview process. And HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said the state agency knew of the conviction and was not troubled by it."
However, if the agency really did not know about this before the hiring, that suggests there are severe flaws in the hiring process. It was not exactly a secret:
Lincoln "HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said that when the hiring was announced at a meeting last week, an unknown person inside or outside the agency did an Internet search on McGuire and raised questions about his past to the HHS official in charge of the hiring, Richard DeLiberty.

She said DeLiberty notified members of the HHS cabinet, who ordered him to further investigate the matter.

DeLiberty interviewed people familiar with the political strife in Rwanda at the time of the murder and determined that the conviction was 'not valid,' Osterman said.

In a news release issued late Monday, the agency said it rescinded the offer because McGuire did not disclose his conviction on his application form or during his job interview."
A communication problem was cited as the reason the offer went through despite the known problems that were not a problem. Now Nebraska withdraws the offer based on McGuire not revealing things the state knew about, didn't ask about, and decided were not a problem in making the offer. Just so we're clear on that.

Meanwhile back in Oklahoma:
"Teresa Peden, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Oklahoma, where McGuire currently works, said McGuire has an excellent reputation on the job. He has worked for the organization since 2003 and had given notice that he would quit to take the Nebraska job. Peden said she has made no decision about McGuire's future employment."
So now McGuire is apparently in employment limbo.

It was foolish of McGuire to try to finesse this in the interview process, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt the veracity of the murder conviction in absentia under the Rwandan "justice system." McGuire hasn't been in hiding or using an assumed identity. There's no chance he'll be extradited to Rwanda or face any charges in the US for Fossey's death.
"Fossey, 53, was found slashed to death Dec. 27, 1985, in her remote camp on the slopes of Rwanda's Mount Visoke, a 12,175-foot dormant volcano, where she lived among endangered mountain gorillas.

McGuire, then a 34-year-old doctoral candidate from the University of Oklahoma, was Fossey's research assistant at the time of her death. He was the only other foreigner at her Karisoke Research Center. A native tracker fired months earlier by Fossey also was charged in her death. He died in a Rwandan jail.

A three-judge panel in Rwanda said that McGuire, who returned to the United States before the investigation into Fossey's murder was completed, killed her to gain access to her research on mountain gorillas."
We have no way of knowing whether or not McGuire is guilty, but under the circumstances we believe he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Thus, it was not inappropriate to offer him the job, given his other qualifications. Not making the offer could also be justified.

What's impossible to justify is what actually transpired. Either the state should have withheld the offer in the first place, or it should have been prepared for the fallout and ready to deal with it. Instead Nebraska made the offer, then cut and ran when things got rough, leaving McGuire to fend for himself with no job at all.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Churchill to Be Named Ward of the Court

A solution may be at hand in the case of Ward Churchill, the controversial Ethnic Studies professor at the University of Colorado. The once-respected university has been humiliated by Churchill's "work," which includes comparison of 9/11 victims to Nazi war criminals and accusations of plagarism. Churchill's claims to be an American Indian have also been questioned. Some have defended Churchill based on academic freedom. Others have called for his ouster. Still others have encouraged CU to keep him on the faculty as an example of the sort of loon that today's academic environment shelters.

Firing someone with tenure is a tricky business, so naturally bribery was the initial approach. However, haggling over the price has drawn the process out, with Churchill seeking $10 million and the university offering $10.

Now a novel legal theory may provide the university with a means of escape. University spokesman, Rocky Montagne, says the university plans to ask a court to declare Churchill a "ward of the court," allowing the judge to take control of his affairs. Once this is completed the judge can resign from the faculty on his behalf, ending the standoff.

It's unusual for a court to declare an adult a "ward of the court." In this case, however, Churchill's juvenile behavior provides a sound basis for revoking his status as an adult. "Looking at what he's said, written and done, it should be pretty easy to demonstrate that he's not a functioning adult," according to Montagne.

Looking beyond the current situation, the university wants to find a good home for Churchill, preferably in another state. Unfortunately, as a faux Indian, Churchill is persona non grata on the Indian reservations, and no Indian family will adopt him.

UPDATE: 3/15 Welcome Moonbattery readers. Feel free to have a look around. :-)


Does Islamophobia actually exist? It's not among the more than 500 listed by The Phobia List. They do mention Ecclesiophobia- Fear of church, Hagiophobia- Fear of saints or holy things and Judeophobia- Fear of Jews. They don't have a term for fear of Islam or Muslims, though. There isn't even a phobia for "fear of terrorism" on the list.

Perhaps this site is just not on the cutting edge. A new disorder is always an opportunity for some enterprising psychologist looking to make a name for himself in the field. Indeed a Google search with "Islamophobia" and "psychologist" does turn up a few non-crackpot hits.

Of course a phobia is by definition: "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear." So it may be awhile before Islamophobia is considered a bona fide disorder like Logizomechanophobia- Fear of computers. If you have Logizomechanophobia, you have our sympathy, but chances are you aren't reading this.

Will Lefties Target Lieberman in 2006?

Jim Geraghty of National Review Online asks the question:
This is more Beltway Buzz's turf, but I notice that liberal bloggers are talking excitedly about a potential primary challenge to Senator Joe Lieberman.

The theory is that Connecticut, a fairly liberal northeastern state, is prime territory for a further-left candidate to get a boost from the Internet-based fundraising from the grassroots. And the Dean-Kos-Boxer axis of the party would love to punish their least favorite Democrat.

Driving Lieberman from office - yeah, that's just what the Democratic party needs."
We hope not for several reasons. Lieberman is a decent, liberal senator, who has been a loyal member of the party. Of the presidential candidates the Democrats managed to dredge up last year, he was by far the best in our opinion.

If the Democrats follow the impulses of their Moonbat Faction and lurch even farther to the left, it's good news for the Republicans, at least in the short term. If all the rhetoric about GWB turning the country into a one-party state does come true, it will be due to moves like this.

It's not good news for the Republic, however, to have one of the two major parties go off the deep end. The country needs a healthy, sensible, loyal opposition, not a slash-and-burn, obstructionist, dog-in-the-manger party.