Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Latest news from the peculiar field of very-high-energy gamma ray astronomy. The Milagro observatory looks a lot like a neutrino detector, and not at all like a conventional telescope. Alas, going for a swim in the thing is probably considered bad form.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, get ready to finally say goodbye to analog TV broadcasts. Seems the feds need analog broadcasters to go off the air, so they can auction off those precious airwaves. Which is essential, because Congress is already spending the projected proceeds.

Say, I have a great idea. If the overriding goal here is to maximize revenue (and to plug holes in the Federal budget), naturally you'll want to put the whole spectrum under the FCC, and charge users appropriately. Visible wavelengths are an obvious choice, since people have used them for communication for, well, quite some time now. And up until now, visible-wavelength users been freeloading off the hardworking US taxpayer. What's worse, anyone can walk into just about any store in the nation and buy a lightbulb without a simple background check, or even showing any form of ID at all! Foreigners and terrorists may be exploiting this gap in our defenses even as we speak.

As an added bonus, by placing visible light within Uncle Sam's benevolent grasp, basically everything falls under Federal broadcasting decency guidelines. Suppose your neighbor is building a fence, bashes his thumb, and utters a couple of the Seven Dirty Words. If you can see his lips move, he's broadcasting, and you can call the FCC on him. The steep fines for this sort of thing may seem a bit harsh, but remember: We're protecting the children!

Speaking of "protecting the children", here's a sickening bit of rhetoric from that same budget bill debate.

"As the Bible teaches us, to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship, to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "Let us vote no on this budget as an act of worship and for America's children."

If you ever wanted to know why Democrats keep losing elections, this is a great illustration. So long as you let the R's frame the debate, and you adopt all their sleazy rhetorical tics as your own, and you go along shouting "Me too!" all the time, you'll always come in second. You can never out-fundie the fundies, no matter how hard you try. The current strategy consists of just being a cheap and tacky imitation of the other party, with all the same ideas, give or take 5 percent. And then acting all bewildered when they don't go up in the polls when GWB's numbers drop. Feh.

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