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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 39,665

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Dingbat Emeritus, host of the DU Spackling Group.

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Meet my 30,000(ish) new houseguests!

So, some may have noticed a note I posted last night. Pics were requested, so here's the story.

Yesterday afternoon, at what has become the neighborhood kids' "let's fool around after dinner" time, I brought my daughter out to see who was riding on what scooter, or who had inflated what leaky pool, etc. The whole neighborhood was crowded at my next-door-neighbor's house, to witness this:

Yes, it's a honeybee swarm. My neighbor had already called an exterminator, who wasn't going to make it until the next day. Mrs. Robb, of course, had other plans. I was just happily taking pictures.

The swarm was acorn-shaped, about the size of two basketballs, and was 100% bees -- on a branch about at eye level. Here's the close-up:

Anyhow, Mrs. Robb kept bees back when she was in the Peace Corps in South America. She mulled it over a bit, and finally told me we were adopting the bees. She cleared it with the neighbor (who really just wanted to get 30,000 bees a little further away from his front door!), and she found a beekeeping supply place that not only answered their phone at 8:30 on a Sunday night, but whose owner hopped in his car to go open the store so Mrs. Robb could buy a nice bee box ready-to-go.

Apparently there's some urgency to these things; when bees swarm, it's because they've ditched their old hive as being too small. They're kind of hanging out (!) while the scouts go find a new spot to set up shop. It only lasts a day or two; the bee store dude was amazed at the serendipity of someone with experience handling bees getting a swarm they could reach without a ladder right next door. It seems people spend a lot of time looking for bees.

Anyhoo. She ran out and got the box while my helper and I suited up.

OK, she didn't really help. She's 3. But she caught me in the early moments when I was still considering wearing a motorcycle helmet. Hell, I was planning to look like an astronaut, but when Mrs. Robb didn't even wear the goggles I dutifully brought her, I felt like a weenie.

So, I wore the goggles.

The plan was to walk over with the big branch loppers, and I'd cut through the branch the bees were on while Mrs. Robb held the branch itself; once I'd cut the branch, she'd just walk out of the neighbors' yard and into ours, then plop the bees into their new box. My neighbor held the flashlights -- 30 feet back.

You'll understand why I don't have any pictures of me trying to cut a branch without waking up 30,000 bees inches from my helmet-less face. But I managed it, and to my amazement (if not Mrs. Robb's), the little dudes barely budged. In fact, as I was walking ahead and opening gates and such, I snapped off a picture of my eternally-surprising-me-with-mad-skillz wife, holding the new charges right before she dropped 'em in.

Nothing sexier than a woman in a balaclava carrying a swarm of bees.

Next I took the lid off the bee box, removed a few of the vertical comb dealies to make some room, and she tapped the branch and knocked the bees in. After a bit we put the comb deals back in (sorry I don't know what they're called, it's my first day!). At first they didn't fit snugly -- there were bees underneath! Eventually the little guys worked their way down, we put on the lid, and went to bed.

And they stuck around. Here they are this morning:

Nice digs, I think. Plus they're right next to several established apple, peach and pear trees. Strawberries and raspberries, too, all of which I hope will also see the benefit of a local bee population.

I'd say "ask me anything," but I still know nothing. Tell me anything!

The problem with drones is that warfare didn't end when it was supposed to.

At least I suspect that's the feeling from a lot of folks who consider themselves "anti-drone." Sort of like being "anti-bullet," we say, but it's not quite the same. The drone represents a big failure on the part of human beings.

Consider how much more of warfare we see in our homes, through television and the internet, than we did in the days of Dresden. We're not going to see bombing runs like that any more -- because we'd see bombing runs like that on video later, and wars are fought and won in the news now as much as the battlefield.

Drones are as much a product of the 24-hour news cycle as they are a product of the technology they need to fly. That warfare did not end under the closer scrutiny of the latter part of the last century -- but rather morphed into something we could shunt away and hide from our own eyes -- suggests we've collectively decided warfare is necessary. At least, necessary enough to craft elaborate ways of deluding ourselves about the horror of it all.

That's really, I think, what bothers us about them. Not that they're somehow a worse weapon, but rather what their proliferation says about us.

Only one senior al Qaeda leader left. And what that means.

CNN's Peter Bergen chimed in this morning on the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi. His usual apologia for "W" aside, he reported this:

The news that Abu Yahya al-Libi, the No.2 leader of al Qaeda, is now confirmed to have been killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region along the border with Afghanistan further underlines that the terrorist group that launched the 9/11 attacks is now more or less out of business.

Under President Barack Obama, CIA drone strikes have killed 15 of the most important players in al Qaeda, according to a count maintained by the New America Foundation (a nonpartisan think tank where I am a director) ... As a result, according to senior U.S. counterterrorism officials, there now remains only one leader of any consequence in al Qaeda and that is Ayman al-Zawahiri...

Bergen goes on with some other nonsense, and misses the real importance of what he's gotten his Pentagon sources to confirm: senior US counterterrorism officials are now, today, and enthusiastically, playing up the importance of Abu Yahya al-Libi and sounding the death knell for al Qaeda.

Why is this a big f-ing deal?

Because it will end "indefinite detentions." Permanently.

As I've said here before, AUMF is the cornerstone of every successful legal argument surrounding indefinite detentions. The current administration is quite aware that AUMF is, for all purposes, the war against al Qaeda; Obama is actually focusing on destroying al Qaeda, which is not just foreign policy, but also domestic.

Here's why: as soon as it becomes slightly apparent that al Qaeda does not pose a meaningful, demonstrable threat, the powers granted by AUMF will be in trouble -- and the attorneys for the first post-Hamdi case of a US citizen being detained and denied a day in court will successfully poke a thousand holes in AUMF for precisely this reason.

This is why Obama fought -- with a veto threat -- for what seemed inexplicable terms in this year's defense bill, negotiating what even his strongest supporters could at best spin as a punt: setting language that would preclude Congress from passing a law that would've set up a Hamdi challenge prematurely, e.g. leaving things at best status quo.

By "prematurely," I mean this: Obama knows, as I've also said here before, he has a very, very good chance of being reelected. This means he also has a very, very good chance at getting to pick a couple of USSC seats -- with any luck, he'll get to pick those seats up before Hamdi gets a court challenge.

Because the right court could end the AUMF without the approval of Congress -- and do it while giving Congress a chance to grumble and save face about it all. No AUMF, no powers -- for Obama, or any future President.

And we'll be out of this mess.

Electricians. Machinists. Paperhandlers. Typographers. Drivers. Mechanics. Warehouse Workers.

When you think about a news source, think about the unions that represent its workers.

It's easy to remember the Newspaper Guild. But it's easy to forget union labor doesn't end at the keyboard. The best newspapers in the world are staffed hundreds of union employees. Even at the New York Times (and NYTimes.com), more than half of employees are represented by nine unions with 10 labor agreements.

Press Operators. Engravers. Mailers. Technical professionals.

The union label is not always easy to find. But it is there, and should be supported.
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