"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Missing Link Found

It's a misnomer that there is such a thing as a single missing link. Any gap in the fossil record is a missing link, and there are lots of them. Here, though, is an important find that places a new species at the bottom of the primate family tree.

This is one cool website, too.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Down With Newspeak

While Peggy Noonan doesn't reference Orwell in her excellent piece at the Wall Street Journal, she very well could have. Noonan is noticing the increasing use of arcane and bizarre government-invented phraseology to explain important policies to the American people. As she points out, it has the effect of making the average citizen tune out the static and ignore something, like health-care reform, that could very well change his or her life. It's dangerous and anti-democratic. Here's the end of Noonan's column:

Do members of the administration speak obscurely because they can't help themselves, or do they speak the way they speak because they really aren't all that keen to have people understand them? Maybe they calculate that lack of clarity ensures maximum ability to maneuver. But maybe they should think less about maneuvering. They're not helping the prevailing sense of national anxiety by speaking in a special lingo all their own. After all, it's not their health-care system they're reforming, it is America's. It would be nice if America were allowed to know what exactly the plan is, and how it would work, and who would pay, and how.

As for the Republicans, the administration is giving them an opening. There could be gain in becoming the party that speaks with concrete honesty, and in a known human language, on the great issues of the day. The GOP could become the party that doesn't make you translate, and doesn't leave you giving up. I wonder if the party right now, for all the battering it's experienced the past few years, is still quick enough to see an opening like this.

Mmmmmmm!!!! Tasty!!

Looks like the human race started off on the right foot (or hand, or rib), competition-wise. French anthropologists think they may have solved the mystery of what caused humans to survive while Neanderthals died out. Apparently, Neanderthal tastes like chicken. From the UK's Daily Mail Online:

The mysterious disappearance of Neanderthals about 30,000 years ago has baffled scientists for centuries.

But now, according to a leading fossil expert, it seems the race may have met a rather grisly end. They were eaten by our ancestors, the modern humans.

The basis for the claim is the markings on a Neanderthal jawbone found in Les Rois, south-west France during a study conducted by the Journal of Anthropological Sciences.

The cuts to the bone are similar to those left on those of deer and other animals butchered by humans in the Stone Age. It is believed that the flesh was eaten by humans and the teeth used to make a necklace.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally, A Sensible Bill

I HATE snakes. So, i was happy to read this coming from the North Carolina General Assembly. From the News and Observer's Under the Dome blog:

The Senate approved a bill to regulate snakes.

Sen. Ed Jones sponsored the bill at the request of herpetologists to increase the penalties for pet owners who negligently release venomous snakes.

Senate Bill 307 would make it a Class I misdemeanor to improperly transport, let loose or otherwise expose the public to a creatures such as an African Rock Python, a Burmese Python or a Green Anaconda.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand wondered if the bill was tough enough.

"Is that sufficient penalty for turning a cobra loose on an innocent population?" he asked Jones.

Jones, a Halifax County Democrat, said that owners would have objected to tougher standards.

Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, then asked a more personal question.

"If we get a cobra loose in Fayetteville, will you come down there and catch it?" he asked.

"Only if it looks like a worm," Jones replied.

The bill passed 46-0 and now heads to the House.

Mom Cried "Wolf" In Son's Arrest

My previous post about Ashton Lundeby's arrest under the Patriot turns out to be very flawed. Not only was Ashton charged under long-standing law, he has had access to council and appeared before a judge several times. Mrs. Lundeby, Ashton's Mom, claimed her son was taken into custody under the patriot Act and denied his Constitutional rights. This is not the case.

There is a good Fox News article about the case here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Patriot Act Problems

The USA Patriot Act has been used in North Carolina to hold a 16 year-old boy in federal prison without legal representation or habeus corpus. From WRAL News:

Sixteen-year-old Ashton Lundeby's bedroom in his mother's Granville County home is nothing, if not patriotic. Images of American flags are everywhere – on the bed, on the floor, on the wall.

But according to the United States government, the tenth-grade home-schooler is being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15.

Around 10 p.m. on March 5, Lundeby said, armed FBI agents along with three local law enforcement officers stormed her home looking for her son. They handcuffed him and presented her with a search warrant.

Ashton now sits in a juvenile facility in South Bend, Ind. His mother has had little access to him since his arrest. She has gone to her state representatives as well as attorneys, seeking assistance, but, she said, there is nothing she can do.

No one should be surprised that it has come to this. When a government is given power over individuals, it uses it. Always. The Patriot Act was passed in the days after the 9/11 terror attacks and very little heed was given to the damage it did to our Constitutional rights.

I found the saddest part of this story to be this comment from Mrs. Lundeby:

"Never in my worst nightmare did I ever think that it would be my own government that I would have to protect my children from," Lundeby said. "This is the United States, and I feel like I live in a third world country now."

Mrs. Lundeby, all governments are necessary evils, even our own. You should have been taught this in school, but your government runs those. Sorry you had to find this out in such a hard way, but maybe your story will awaken some more people. Let's hope.

This not the first time Americans have faced these problems, and our forefathers told us how to fix them:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

The crew of a ship trying to journey from England to the top of the Greenland ice cap on a non-carbon emitting boat had to be rescued by an oil tanker. From the BBC:

An expedition team which set sail from Plymouth on a 5,000-mile carbon emission-free trip to Greenland have been rescued by an oil tanker.

The team, which left Mount Batten Marina in Plymouth on 19 April in a boat named the Fleur, aimed to rely on sail, solar and man power on a 580-mile (933km/h) journey to and from the highest point of the Greenland ice cap.

The expedition was followed by up to 40 schools across the UK to promote climate change awareness.

But atrocious weather dogged their journey after 27 April, culminating with the rescue on 1 May after the boat was temporarily capsized three times by the wind.

In one incident Mr Stoddart hit his head and the wind generator and solar panels were ripped from the yacht.

This is proof that there is a God and He's got a sense of humor.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tracking Stimulus Money in North Carolina

The North Carolina Capitol Monitor has a useful chart available on their web site showing what stimulus money has been spent in our state, on what, and who was awarded the contract for work. Helpfully, the site also notes potential conflicts of interest by detailing political contributions from those awarded the contracts.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

NC State Employees Furloughed

It's easy to say, "Well, you got what you voted for" to the thousands of North Carolina state employees that face a one half percent annual pay cut to be taken over the next two months, but it wouldn't be helpful.

Yes, state employees are one of the most reliable voting blocks for North Carolina Democrats. And yes, the state has been run by those same Democrats for many years, resulting in the situation we find ourselves in today. The large surpluses the state was running just a few years ago were spent rather than saved and now that the economy in both the state and the nation as a whole has taken a downturn, there isn't enough money coming into the state's coffers to pay for the promises made during the boom times.

That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but is it realistic to think that had the Republicans controlled the legislature and/or the governorship they'd have done anything differently? I'd like to say differently, but i think not.

The State of North Carolina, as well as most of the several states and the nation as a whole, has taken on more than it has any realistic chance of paying for, much less doing well.

There are 216 distinct units of North Carolina government listed on the state's web site, and that doesn't include any "boards or commissions" or any of the state colleges or universities. I probably should have counted them, as they both need to be funded, but I wanted to point out the massive responsibilities that the state has taken on for itself. The listings include everything form the absolutely necessary, like the highway patrol and courts, to the ridiculous, like the Bingo Division of the Department of Crime and Public Safety.

If North Carolina, and the United States of America for that matter, wants to survive as a place where individuals can realize their dreams and potentials, it must take a long look at the proper role of government.