Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Final Hours of 2003

As I sit here near Washington, DC I contemplate the few remaining hours (90 minutes or so to be nearly exact) of 2003. This has been a contentious year in many ways and I am glad to be leaving quite a bit of it behind. It was the year my father died and that loss is still hurting. More on that issue later.

My 1st prediction for the New Year: I'll be blogging just after midnight with more predictions! (Yeah, yeah... that was lame. Sue me.)

Large Explosion in Baghdad
A large explosion is reported in Baghdad during New Year's celebrations in a downtown restaurant. Not much on the story yet but I felt I should pop a link up to it so far. More details as I get them.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Healing Iraq shows some Iraqi poll results

Since you're never going to hear anything positive about the state of Iraq since Saddam's ouster from American media sources, I would like to direct your attention to Zeyad and his Healing Iraq blog where he posts some figures from surveys taken there. The results from the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies' surveys are quite interesting in that they are independently taken from Iraqis by Iraqis.

Of note: 1 in 5 respondants were women. The vast majority of the respondants were literate, educated folks. 2 out of 3 Iraqis reacted to Saddam's capture with "overwhelming joy", not the angry spite reported so frequently here.

One thing I found interesting and telling about their attitudes about Israel was noted toward the bottom. While a crushing 79% of those polled considered Saddam's invasion of Kuwait a crime rather than a justified action, an equally crushing 82% considered his attacking Israel during that action a justifiable action. The Israelis showed great restraint during the 1991 Gulf War when Scuds were coming down on their heads. If anyone was hoping for a quick solution to that issue, keep dreaming.

Cyber Blackmailing Reported

As reported by Reuters, the incidence of "cyber-blackmailing" is going up and the targets aren't just the upper echelons of the corporate world. Random employees get threatening e-mails demanding a relatively small payment or, the author says, the employee's computer will get its files wiped. Sometimes the threat goes that the attacker will put pornographic images on the targeted employee's computer, thereby threatening their jobs. People who don't know any better actually pay up only to have more e-mails come in later demanding more money.

Information systems are my chosen field, so let me offer some professional advice: don't pay. Ever. If you get these e-mails at the office or at your University, and most of them are hitting those 2 places, your files are likely backed up by the corporate LAN structure. The attacker still has to get at those files, in any case, and that means they have to penetrate the company's security systems or introduce a virus. Not impossible, but not trivial anymore, either. As for the pornographic threat...

When you get an e-mail like this, stop what you are doing immediately and notify 1) Human Resources and 2) your IS/IT department. Both of them will likely want you to forward the e-mail to them but do not do so until they ask! The IS/IT department in particular will want to examine the electronic "paper trail" but they may want to start with your e-mail box as it was when you got the mail. If HR knows you got an e-mail like this and somehow porn shows up on your system a couple of days later, they're not going to show you the door like they would if you hadn't told them.

No, honest! That 6.5 gigs of porn wasn't there last Friday! I got this e-mail, see, and they said they'd do this if I didn't....

HR will be far less likely to buy that one but if they knew about it in advance, that'd be a different story. In the final analysis most of these threats are simply that: threats and bluffs. If you pay this time, they will be back and they'll want more. Don't give them the opening they want.

Monday, December 29, 2003

OK, Bullshit

Remember this hue and cry from the Left side of the political aisle? There is no evidence - none! - that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on 9/11! Our friends in the press and the so-called "Liberal" think tanks were aghast that so many Americans had such a notion and were clearly convinced that anyone who held such a position was a dimwit and shouldn't be allowed to breed. After all, there was (and remains) no evidence of such a connection and any suspicion that there was is merely a "Conservative" conspiracy to drum up support for the actions in Iraq. Such suspicion was merely wishful thinking and the sign of weak reasoning and mental capacity. If there's no evidence of it, then believing it anyway is sheer idiocy.

Oh, but about that thing where Saddam Hussein wasn't really captured as reported, but rather that he'd been in our custody for some time and, only when the President needed a quick hit in the polls, was suddenly "produced", well that's almost a certainty. Sure, there's zero evidence of such a thing, but hey the suspicion is there and that means it's not only plausible but it's pretty likely.

Crap. Be paranoid about something like this and then look down their noses at people who think maybe there's some connection between groups that would love to kill several thousand of us in our sleep? Stuff it. I've read all kinds of blogs on the subject and absolutely none of them can offer a single piece of evidence to support such a thing. Innuendo, baseless gossip, general dislike for the administration and wild accusations are all they propose and that doesn't prove a thing. So I will simply think of them what they've thought of others who proceeded to believe other proofless items and call it a day.

What Republicans Believe?

A good friend of mine (who happens to be liberal and a "default Democrat") sent me an e-mail today titled "Something funny". It lists several items that you (allegedly) have to believe to be a Republican today. Needless to say it's not flattering to Republicans as a whole, especially as it reflects only the most ultra-conservative, reactionary viewpoints and some of those listed are wild exaggerations. Is it funny? You bet! If you're a Republican, you should read this with the sense of humor it's offered with and don't take it too personally. The people who wrote it obviously aren't Republicans. If you're not a Republican, you'll find it even easier to find humor here.

However, being a Republican myself, I feel the need to address these points one at a time and tell you what a real, card-carrying member of the GOP thinks as regards these issues. Here we go:

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today:

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

Ummmm, no. Being an addict isn't a crime. Buying, selling and/or trafficking in drugs is a crime. Don't like that? Write your congressman. Don't expect me to feel bad about thinking that these things are and should be a crime. Is being an addict a moral failing? Personally, I don't think so. Being an addict is a response to foreign chemical substances flowing through your veins. Becoming an addict at your own discretion could sure be construed as a moral failing, however. After all, you weren't forced by the drugs to take the drugs the first time so it had to be something else. I don't buy that people don't know these things are harmful to their health, not with all the information out there today. So whether it was peer pressure or being bored or whatever, the individual allows themselves to introduce harmful substances into their bodies. They lacked the will to say no. Will power can be equated to "moral fiber" and the lack of the one can be interpreted as a lack of the other. Are there exceptions? Sure. There are exceptions to every rule but you don't discount the rule because there are exceptions.

As for a certain radio host being a druggie, I think if the rotund offensive one bought, possessed, or sold drugs then he should be doing his little radio show from cell block B of the federal pen. It's no more an illness than for anyone else and his hipocracy (and that of his supporters) stinks.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

First, our intentions in Iraq weren't to uphold UN resolutions - it was because we (our government) perceived Iraq under Saddam Hussein to be a threat to the United States and her citizens. We tried it the UN way because that's what everyone screaming that we shouldn't touch Hussein wanted. We tried it. That august body proved impotently incapable of upholding their own resolutions. Our 2 long-time "allies" not only blocked our every move there, they provided intel and support to Hussein prior to the war. The one, France, came out and explicitly said they've veto any move we tried to make in the security council proving themselves completely disinterested in debating the topic. So we are handling things without them. The fact that our action upheld those resolutions against Iraq was coincidental, not causitive.

Should we get out of the UN? I don't think so. Primarily because there's no other medium like it to turn to. The UN isn't very effective and lots of it is broken but it can be fixed. We should not move to isolate ourselves completely from it. Everyone just has to recall that we are as soverign as any other country and if the UN's policies conflict with ours, we're going to ignore them.

Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

A gross simplification. Consider that there's been an awful lot of regulation placed on a number of industries during this administration and you'll see they're not just slashing regs left and right. However, to the point - I do not believe that medical use of marijuana should be considered a crime in any way. It should be treated as any other controlled medicinal substance and provided by prescription. I would like to point out that this does not mean that people should be allowed to toke up a joint while driving around the Capital Beltway. People go to medical centers for their chemotherapy, perhaps they could do this for medical weed as well. Situational, and I think the exact application should be up to doctors, not lawyers. By the same token, people who make use of this should be prevented from harming the rest of us by driving under the influence, handling heavy machinery, loan documents, credit reports and other stuff where impaired awareness would be a problem.

"Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

Again, wrong. Republicans who think it would be so great to outsource everything overseas are idiots and their political affiliation is beside the point. I'm curious where this one comes from, however, since every single Republican I've spoken with is greatly concerned about the practice and would like to find some way to slow that down or stop it entirely.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all Mankind without regulation.

Approaching this one in reverse, I can't say I understand what they're referencing with the "corporations" comment, so I can't really speak to the point. I've already mentioned that there are several new regs put in place since this administration took office, so "without regulation" is an exaggeration. As to the first part: I've said this explicitly before and I say it again here. I am 100% Pro-Choice and always have been. I trust my fellow citizens to follow the edicts of their consciences and that includes the women. I am a member of the Republican Party Coalition for Choice and am making efforts to have the GOP remove completely the "Pro-Life" plank from their platform. I am not alone and my colleagues in the RPCC definitely consider themselves Republican.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

No, no, I can't agree with this one. Jesus does not hate homosexuals.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

Clearly not. The hue and cry over the proposed cuts to veterans benefits has been loud and long at my county committee's meetings. Same with the combat pay. However, has a bill been formally introduced to do either of those things? Anyone?

Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

We've already covered drug use. I have no issues with Group sex excepting the part where I'm not getting any of it.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

Yeah, right. The only Republicans who actually believe this one are a couple of cans shy of a six-pack anyway.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Good try. The belittling came as a result of our long-time allies' reaction to our fighting terrorism, not as a method of actually fighting it. And we haven't demanded they do anything or give any money. We've asked that they chip in for the rebuilding effort. We've asked that they not hold accountable a people who have suffered under the heel of a tyrant for 3 decades for the debt charged up by said tyrant. If they were truly only interested in the good of the Iraqi people, it seems a pretty short leap to get there. Seems they partially agree based on their latest moves.

HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.

See the answer to the condoms in schools question above.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

It is socialism. That doesn't make it a bad idea, necessarily, but it's not something you can provide in a vacuum. So far the only proposals I've seen for paying for such a program has been to tax anyone making over $100K per year at 55% or disbanding the military and selling the Pentagon on eBay. Come up with a proposal that doesn't treat this like the only thing we're going to be concerned about and I'll consider it.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

The tobacco issue is an extemely old comment. No one is seriously holding to that viewpoint today, not even the tobacco companies. What they're not doing is openly admitting it since any such admission would make everyone and their brother file a lawsuit with a slam-dunk victory. As a resident of a state that had a long history of tobacco farming, I can also say that there were plenty of southern Democrats scoffing at the notion that smoking causes cancer, too. It was not and is not a uniquely Republican problem. Several of those same Democrats are taking the "global warming is bull" stance, too, when things like the Kyoto Accord are discussed because of the damage it would to do Union workers. Anyone who has given the articles on the subject a serious read knows that the issue isn't junk.

Should creationism be taught in schools? Sure - as part of a comparative religions course. Basic precepts, creation story, important religious observances and the like could be taught in a class that touches on several of the world's major religions. The point here, folks, is that you can actually talk about religion without endorsing it. To say that you can't even mention the word "God" or "Allah" or "Yayweh" without oppressing someone is simply ridiculous. Personally I think the course should be mandatory during high school, perhaps the junior year. If all of us had a bit more understanding of the other religions in the world, we might find we have more in common than not. And while some might fear that having their kids know more about other religions might harm them spiritually, it could just as easily strengthen their moral characters.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Saddam was never a good guy. Read the history and you'll see that. And where did anyone get the idea that "Reagan armed him"? Here's the facts: the Iraqi army drove Soviet-era T55, T62, T72 and T80 tanks. There's not 1 American-made tank or vehicle in the bunch. All of it came from the former Soviet Union. The Iraqi airforce flew French Dassault Mirage's and Soviet Mig's and Sukhoi's. The helicopters were Soviet Mil's and French Allouette's. None of their aircraft were made by or sold by American companies. The small arms were all French, German, and Soviet makes, not American. Ammunition, too. And their artillery wasn't of the Howitzer brand, either. So just where did "Reagan" arm him? We provided intel and training, all very true. We provided some of their anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles but no where near the majority. If anyone "armed" Saddam, then the title goes to Europe, not America.

The reason Saddam was even noticed by Reagan and America as a whole was because he was the sworn enemy of what was largely considered to be the real threat in the region: Iran. No one else had the position and the staying power to hold up against them so we did what countries have done since the concept of statemanship was formed, we backed someone who could. You may not like it but that's how it works. As happens in the world, he who was once considered an ally turned on us and stepped over a line we couldn't tolerate intrusion upon. Saddam invaded Kuwait. Our obligations to our ally Kuwait demanded that we respond and we gathered together a coalition of forces who were of the same mind. The mission was to remove Saddam's forces from Kuwait and we were successful. So he was the bad guy when former President Bush and the other members of the Coalition made war on him. To say that it was a case of "Bush's daddy" making war is revisionist history and we sure wouldn't want non-Republicans doing that, now would we?

So companies Cheney was involved with did business with Saddam. (No, I don't have the details as I write this so I don't even know that it's true. I'm willing to go with it anyway.) Pertinent question: so what? If Saddam was the nice guy foreign sovereign leader that the implication alleges, then there shouldn't be any problem doing business with him, now should there? If he wasn't, then still I ask, So what? If someone has evidence that any of that business was in violation of US law, then speak up. Do I approve? Hell, no. I'd have loved to have seen Saddam get no business from anyone, but we all know who would have suffered the most in that case. The Iraqi people already suffered with what trade restrictions existed and we are all now well aware of what happened the UN's vaunted oil-for-food program. But just because I find something personally repugnant doesn't make it illegal. Until someone comes up with what Cheney (and more specifically the companies working with him) did that was illegal, then Saddam's status of good guy/bad guy is a non-issue.

I've already touched on why we attacked Iraq. Needing a diversion from bin Laden and Al Qaeda wasn't one of the reasons and I have seen nothing to suggest seriously that it was.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an Impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

We can see written, documented proof that Bill Clinton lied (definition: knowingly telling an untruth) to a Grand Jury. His intention in telling that lie was obvious. He knew that what he was saying wasn't true, beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one seriously believes he didn't lie because even he says he did. Note that the content of the lie isn't my issue here and, according to the law, is immaterial. That fact that he lied to a grand jury is the key. That's illegal - black letter law illegal. Committing that crime is an impeachable offense, regardless of whether it was for an extramarital affair or over the color of someone's car. Now, pay attention here because this is the part the "Republican belief" above wants to slip past you.

Provide confirmable proof that George W. Bush has lied about anything. Oh, sure, he might - maybe - have repeated things given to him by intel sources that those sources knew weren't true. That's not a lie. You have to know what you're saying isn't true to be lying. The immediate retort to that is usually "well, he should have known." That's an opinion, but even if I concede that point, it's still not lying. With that concession, the best you've got is negligence and that's not an impeachable offense. And no, I'm not conceding that point, in any case. I'm still not sorry Saddam Hussein's been removed from power, especially with the hundreds of thousands that died under his regime and anyone who is is just on the wrong side of the fence.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The Constitution names neither of those things, as anyone even remotely familiar with the document will know. The powers named in the Constitution, however, specifically ban the use of race, religion, sex, politics, etc, etc, etc to discriminate against people in the use of publicly-funded facilities, but that sure doesn't stop Congress from allowing publicly-funded colleges from discriminating against white students. I don't hear the non-Republican crowd screaming too loudly about that, now do I? So if it's good enough to allow Congress to do that, quit whining about other people wanting Congress to allow or disallow things they prefer to see or not see happen.

Gay marriage: I believe that adults in this country should be allowed to marry whomever they fall in love with, gender be damned. So there. Here's a Republican who doesn't buy that particular shtick and you're going to find lots more just like me. They should be allowed all the privileges and be subject to all the responsibilities that I am as a married hetero. Just don't get in my face about it and we'll be fine. Have your wedding like anyone else - don't make a political statement out of it.

Anyone who thinks a construct like the Internet can be censored clearly does not understand how it's built. There's plenty of people on both sides of the aisle on that one. I want Republicans who think it's a good idea to lay off people who want to read things they want to. I want Democrats who only want conservative sites and sites with so-called "hate-speech" nuked from the Net to learn the true meaning of Freedom of Speech and likewise lay off. Both of ya learn more about how the Net works so you quit making fools of yourselves.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

Did Hillary's cattle trades break the law? If so, they deserve to know about it just like any other public record of a crime. I keep hearing about Bush's driving record. I'm in a connection-less house over the holidays so I can't go searching for it but I'm going to take that up when I get home and see if I can find them. If I can, I'll be e-mailing that to as many of those folks as I can who have brought this up as proof of a conspiracy.

You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.

Ashcroft's an idiot and an asshat and should be forced out of office as quickly as possible. Happy?

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

I honestly have no idea what this one's talking about so it's hard to respond.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

I've never bought the trade blockade on Cuba, especially after all this time. Clearly, the sanctions aren't producing the effect that was wanted when they were enacted. I have a better idea. Open up the trade big-time. Get all of our electonics and medicines and cars and everything else in there as fast as we can. A few Britney Spears concerts and some people who can read up on news while listening to MP3's as their microwave pizza nukes and I think we'll see some serious change over there. And if we don't, so what? Is Cuba really that big of a deal any more?

So this little "you have to believe" list is either exaggerated beyond recognition or simply wrong. But coming up with straw man arguments sure beats having to come up with rational, defensible positions of your own, so I am looking forward to seeing lots more of these as this next year progresses.

Happy Holidays to you all.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Two for Two

The jury has convicted DC sniper Malvo of all 3 counts against him making him eligible for the death penalty. Good. Now so long as we get the jury to make the recommendation. Malvo and fellow sniper John Mohammad went on a terror spree a year ago shooting 13 people and killing 10. These two felt no more compunction in killing these people than they would have plinking a couple of tin cans. They should reap the consequences of their actions and the rest of us should be made completely safe against any chance either of these 2 might do it again.

This cowardly snake's only insanity (the "defense" his lawyers put forth) was in thinking any of us would believe he wasn't in full control of his actions when he did his killing. Justice has prevailed here today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

100 Years in Flight

100 years ago today, Wilbur and Orville Wright managed what many said would never be accomplished: they flew a heavier-than-air vehicle in sustained, controlled flight. The flights weren't very long but they gave proof that it could, in fact, be done. The feat is often cited as evidence that anything is possible. So today, in memory of those boys from the bike shop, I tip my cyber-hat and say "Congrats!"

Fitting also that this week they opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. The Center is the long-awaited annex for the National Air & Space Museum and contains a huge number of aircraft and spacecraft. The space shuttle Enterprise is there along with the B-29 Enola Gay, the only known remaining WWII German jet bomber the Arado AR 234 "Blitz", a WWI bomber known as the "Cauldron G.4", and the SR-71 Blackbird.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Orson Scott Card on the War on Terror, Patriotism, and the state of Politics in general.

As a writer, you'd expect Orson Scott Card to be well-spoken on issues he chooses to write about. His opinion in the Wall Street Journal is no exception and has good material for anyone's thought processes, regardless of your stand on the issues. It's a good read.

Again the News Media does it

In yet another example of the biased reporting going on these days, this report was filed detailing how a "Pro-Saddam rally" turned violent. 750 Iraqi's in Ramadi turned out to support the captured rat bastard former President and - wonder of wonders - clashed with US Troops and Iraqi Police. Again, I ask, why the immediate reporting of such a relatively small demonstration and complete silence when well over 10 times that many marched in opposition to this man, his friends, and what they represent? And again the prime difference between the 2 stories is that 1 is negative to the Coalition and the other was not. The negative one gets shoved into the faces of the American people while the other gets quietly ignored. Anything to make our efforts over there look like the wrong move and those who have ordered it look like idiots. I'm convinced.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

No, I'm not kidding...

Not to distract anyone from the wonderful news of the day that Saddam Hussein was captured alive by Coalition forces, but I just know you all have to have a laugh here. Did you know OPEC wants assurances of aid from everyone should the world decide to go with energy sources other than oil? Yeah, sure. Right after we fund that pay-them-for-the-rest-of-their-lives program for cocaine dealers and producers should we ever shut them all down.

UpdateThey got him!

They've been wrong before, but can it be this time? CNN is reporting that US-led forces conducting a raid in Tikrit, Iraq have captured Saddam Hussein. The actual claim by the US is that we have a "high degree of confidence" that it's him. After the capture, he was taken to other Iraqi's who are familiar with him for an ID. They say it's him. He has scars that match wounds known to have been inflicted on Saddam. Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, president of the Iraqi governing council, said that DNA tests have confirmed it as well. This is "breaking news" so expect the story to change in the next few hours.

UPDATE: At a press conference, US Administrator Paul Premer and General Sanchez announced they have confirmed that they have captured Saddam Hussein. The CNN story has a picture of the man with a greying beard and longer hair. But there's no question if you look at the guy - it's him. Fortunately they had DNA testing and other methods as well. This is wonderful news, most especially for the Iraqi's who feared he might return some day.

OK, now we need to get that Iraqi Tribunal fired up and let them have at him.

Friday, December 12, 2003

More Evidence of Media Bias

As reported by Iraqi blogger Zeyad over at Healing Iraq, there was a peaceful demonstration march in Baghdad this past Wednesday, 10 December protesting the terrorist activities and attacks against both Coalition forces and Iraqi citizens. Estimates ranging from 4000 (reported by AFP) to 10000 (reported by Al-Jazeera) Iraqis participated with the march ending in front of the Palestine Hotel, "home" to reporters from all over the world. Want proof that it happened and that some reporters were there? Check this out over at Reuters. (Click on the "Read More" label at the bottom to read the story.) The march's organizers put the number of participants at 20000, by the way, and the pictures taken by Zeyad certainly don't suggest this is too high. The crowd was a mixed group of all manner of political groups, men, women, religious and secular. In short, this huge crowd of Iraqis from all walks of life and all manner of viewpoints came together to send the message that they are opposed to the Saddam loyalists, Ba'athists, and foreign fighters and their attacks. These people chanted such things as "No, No to terrorism; Yes, Yes to Peace!" Zeyad himself put it best:

The rallies today proved to be a major success. I didn't expect anything even close to this. It was probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad for months. It wasn't just against terrorism. It was against Arab media, against the interference of neighbouring countries, against dictatorships, against Wahhabism, against oppression, and of course against the Ba'ath and Saddam.

Too bad we Americans never heard anything about it.

I've checked - not 1 major American news source carried anything about these demonstrations. The march ended on the doorstep of the hotel these agencies' reporters are staying at and they carried not a single story. Reuters filed a story complete with video on the subject and they still didn't carry it! Now, you'd think 20000 Iraqi's being opposed to the people trying to kill our soldiers would be a good thing. It would be an indication that the citizens of Iraq aren't all madder than hell that we're over there. That some of them think we're doing pretty good and - did you miss it? - that they feel secure enough in their freedom already to hold such a protest in the first place. Such an act would have meant death - and I mean that literally - for these folks just 1 year ago.

Oh, but take a look at the story over at the Washington Post about this protest. The people of Hilla, Iraq want elections and they marched to have the local Governor removed. They don't want someone to be appointed, they want to elect them themselves. The story says that about 1000 Iraqi's marched on the place.

Certainly, no one who's part of a democracy can deny that would be a preferable thing. To you gentle readers, however, I'd like to point out that elections are not the point of this entry at all. Rather, it's the obvious media bias going on. Seriously, folks, they plaster a story up about 1000 people marching in Hilla, Iraq and headline it with "Demonstrators Defy U.S. Occupation With Demand for an Election" but they don't carry a word about 20000 Iraqi's marching in Baghdad? Why not? Well, there's 2 possible reasons here: 1) They didn't consider it newsworthy. Come on. The largest free demonstration to date since Saddam got the boot and that's not news? Of course it is. If 20000 people here in the US marched to have toilet paper printed up with yellow daisies instead of pink butterflies you'd be reading that in every major newspaper in the country and seeing it every 30 minutes on Headline News. Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings would report that march with oh-so-serious faces and warning of dire consequences if the town mayor didn't see a new local ordinance get passed pronto. In Iraq, the fact that 20000 people of such a wide variance of political and religious viewpoints came together in a common demonstration is simply profound. No, the reason is something else.

And that something else is this: the media didn't carry it because they didn't like what the story said about how things are going over there. If the news is about a Coalition soldier getting killed or Iraqi's angry about the US presence over there, or some Ayatollah angrily calling for immediate elections to be held then they're all over that. They like that message: the war was wrong - the rebuilding is a disaster - the US is the bad guy. That's why they don't carry the news about Coalition-friendly demonstrations and they don't breathe a word about the progress being made in the rebuilding of Iraq. They won't tell you about 50,000 public works jobs created since September over there, but they'll go to great lengths to tell you about all the guys who were quick to join up with the new Iraqi Army and then bailed when they found out they didn't like it. (Hey, do the math here - a helluva lot more guys in America aren't in the Army than are and the reason is they don't want to be.) Note that said Iraqi's were able to simply quit without disappearing in the middle of the night. Consider what would have happened to them under the previous management.

There are lots of people here who dismiss claims of "liberal bias" in the media. Note that I didn't say anything about "liberal", just bias. You call it whatever kind of bias you want, but the evidence is quite clear that it's there in spades and people purporting to be reporting the news shouldn't be doing that. They claim they aren't doing that. Sure is funny, however, that whatever the current administration does, the news stories are all about how negative it is. Never the positive, for that would hurt their message. My position is that they shouldn't have a message except in their op-ed pieces. They should report what happened, like they used to before every swinging microphone out there decided it was their job to win a Pulitzer by "taking down the man", as it were. It's clear that's all they're interested in, and they want to make sure the American people are behind them. Easy to do when they're the ones providing the information flow. How sad that it's come to this.

Face scanners at school

A new facial-scanner system in being installed in some schools in Phoenix, AZ in an attempt to prevent sexual predators and locate missing children according to this story on CNN. Civil libertarians are concerned, of course, and they should be. The system is not perfect, but it's been touted as being incredibly accurate by its proponets. By the same token, if false positives can be kept at a very manageable ratio, this could be a very valuable tool. Policy must obviously be made for this system's use before it winds up snatching someone's kid and rigorous checks and balances need to be in place.

If I'm headed to the final frontier...

I'd be a...

Intrepid
You are an Intrepid-class Scout, Starfleet's
frontline sentry. You're a bit of an enigma.
Your grace and intelligence may go unnoticed,
but people rely on you for your insight and
ability.


Which Class of Federation Starship are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

They wanted nothing to do with this, remember?

I've read a story being played far and wide where the US isn't going to allow any contracts for the Iraq rebuilding project to go to companies from countries that opposed our actions in Iraq. I think that's exactly the way it should be. And I'm a little surprised that countries like France, Germany, Russia, and Canada wouldn't know that's how it was going to be. As I recall they wanted nothing to do with the Iraq war. So be it, but they don't get to come in and make money off it, either.

The US and her allies placed a great deal at risk and continue to do so. Those same allies have provided or pledged funds for the rebuilding efforts. It is fair and proper that qualified companies hailing from those countries be the ones allowed to perform the services required.

Now, if we can just make sure that these contracts go through a balanced bidding process, I'll be quite happy with it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Iraqi Anti-Terror demonstrations slated for 10 December 2003


Ruleta.nazory.cz

This was brought to my attention over at Healing Iraq and, like him, I hope the media will actually give some air time to these demonstrations. Attention News Media: How about actually just showing the news for a switch?

Monday, December 08, 2003

Say, what?

This Item was noted in practice exam for the CISSP certification as one of the definitions given to a series of acronyms:

EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation): Infamous hacker group founded in 1990 and based in San Francisco, USA.

Now, far be it from me to correct supposedly informed security personnel, but.... huh?!?

Sunday, December 07, 2003

A Date Living in Infamy

December 7, 1941. The Japanese Empire executed a suprise attack against the US military bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, severely crippling the US Navy's presence in the Pacific. As history shows, the attack galvanized the American people. It turns out that it did, as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is alleged to have put it, awaken the sleeping giant. We all know how it turned out.

Today I remember those men and women that Sunday morning 62 years ago. I am told it was a sunny day and beautiful. (Anyone who's been to Hawaii will tell you that's almost a given!) As I look out into the sunshine this morning, I think of those people going about their business unaware that the world was about to change dramatically for everyone. For many that day, it would end. Aboard the battleship USS Arizona, over 1100 men died when the ship's magazines were hit by bombs and exploded. I salute them and all the other men and women who died that day. I salute those who survived and continued on in the face of near panic that the next sounds they'd hear would be Japanese ground troops invading. Lastly, I can only imagine what it took for families to move past the grief of the loss of a young member of their clans. If they ever did.

To you who have picked up the mantle of military service, thanks. On this day I remember all of you, too. You stand between America and her enemies and if someone's going to get shot at, it's most likely you. I don't forget that, most especially on days such as this one - those that live on in infamy.

Update: A fellow blogger mentioned to me in passing that he was disappointed that the major news outlets made no mention of this anniversary on their web sites. I was sure that wasn't the case and started to write him to say so. In order to back up my claim, I went looking around for the stories. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Washington Post, CBS - absolutely none of them have a mention of the event. CNN has a story about the US Parks Service sending a remote piloted vehicle into the Arizona in their preservation efforts, but that's it. This is the first year I can recall that the anniversary wasn't granted at least a small story in the major news outlets. The date lives in infamy, yes. How much longer in the minds of Americans, I wonder. Sad.

Update 2: CNN finally has a story about the commemoration up on their site. It's more slanted about how fewer and fewer Pearl Harbor survivors are around each year. Time will do that, yes, but what does that portend for the future of this remembrance. When the last survivor of Pearl Harbor passes on, will we cease to mark the day?

Friday, December 05, 2003

Stop on the dime

It seems that the Ronald Reagan machine in the Republican Party is aiming to put former President Reagan's mug on a monument a little closer to everyone's home. Seems they want to replace FDR's picture on the US dime with that of Reagan. While I am not completely against changes to American money or monuments to former Presidents, I think this one is going too far. The bend on the story over at WTOP is that the conservative (Reagan-worshipping) side of the GOP is 1) angry at the recent made-for-TV movie that showed the Reagans in a less-than-wonderful light and 2) want to remove the image of a Democratic icon from the money supply. I'm not sure how much to trust that the reporter here isn't editorializing in his news piece. However...

The Reaganites have certainly tried to put President Reagan on the map. Over and over and over. They've put up monuments to the man in many States and where they couldn't build one, they assimilated one. Witness the renaming of Washington National Airport in DC to Reagan National Airport. What, they felt that President Washington was undeserving? It's been the stated position of this crowd to have a monument to President Reagan in every State in the US. Did you know that President Lincoln doesn't enjoy that status? And there's 1 more reason I think all this monument-building and such is being over-done.

Reagan ain't dead yet.

In virtually every other case, the only monument raised to a former President while that President was still alive was a library. You didn't see an airport named after Kennedy until after his assassination. George Washington refused to allow monuments or even public sculptures of himself while he lived. It was immodest, in his view. And you don't see aircraft carriers running around named for Bush or Nixon or Ford, do you? But there's a USS Ronald Reagan tossing Tomcats into the air out there right now.

And what exactly is the problem with honoring President Roosevelt for his contributions? He's the only President to be elected without contested voting to four terms. He presided over this country's rise out of the Great Depression and over the large part of World War II. These contributions deserve the honor.

Perhaps the honors bestowed are enough and we can leave the money alone, eh?

Update: Even Nancy Reagan thinks this is a bad idea. Time to withdraw this one, boys.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

For those of you not on the Do-Not-Call list
Here's a lovely little "counter-script" for use when you get one of those telemarketers on the line. Have at 'em!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Bad Survey Design

Surveys are notoriously difficult to write. If a proper survey is to be conducted, the questions must be as close to absolutely neutral as possible. No hint in the wording or construction of the question can be allowed to suggest one answer over another. The answers themselves must be worded such that no opinion choice listed appears more "correct" or "preferred", at least from the perspective of the survey. It's very tough to do and that's why firms that produce them well (Gallup is an example) are paid handsomely and are very busy indeed. Surveys so constructed are very useful in determining the opinions of the respondents. If the sampling is also done well, a very accurate depiction of the opinions and trends of thought within the target population can be made.

Then there's surveys that are blatant propaganda attempts. How about this question:

Do you think U.S. Troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?

Now just how many Americans do you think you'd find who'd be willing to commit their sons & daughters and the military might of this country to the command of a general from, say, Burundi? Or France? Or Syria? This question is worded in such a way as to make a "yes" answer seem so obviously wrong and bad that it should simply be changed to "Please check 'Yes' in the square to the right." Then there's the loaded questions that ask you if you support a given person or organization's efforts to do some very positive thing, assuming in the question that the efforts of the aforementioned person is actually likely to produce that thing. Again, it's either a poorly constructed survey or a poorly concealed propaganda attempt very likely to be followed up by a request for a donation. I happen to be looking at one of those right here next to me. It's the Republican Party Census Document.

I'm a Republican. I'm all for a fiscally responsible government that keeps it's hands, eyes, ears, and other body parts out of a citizen's life to the greatest extent possible. I'm for a strong military, strong enough to make any other nation on earth so absolutely sure they'd lose an engagement with us that they won't even try. I'm a Second Amendment champion and I believe strongly in the citizens' individual right to keep and bear arms. I feel that a carry-concealed weapon law should be passed at the Federal level so I can get licensed to carry in all 50 States. I'm Pro-Choice. Uh-oh. Some die-hard Republican reading this out there had a smile on their face right up to that point. Yes, you read that right. When I said government ought to keep their noses out of a citizen's life as much as possible, I was talking about the women citizens, too. Their pregnancy, their body, their choice. Seems like such a no-brainer to me that I can't really fathom that there's a debate on the subject. Teach your kids as best you can and take care yourself so you can hopefully avoid the situation requiring you to make that choice, but if you have to make it I'd feel better that you make it than having Congressman Hastert or Senator Daschle do it for you.

I don't have a problem with gay people and if they want to show up in front of a Judge and get married, let 'em. Eight thousand gay boys can all go get married and it does precisely nothing to my marriage. My relationship with my wife and God is just fine, thank you, even if Ken and Ron tie the knot. More power to 'em.

These are the things I want the Republican National Committee to know. I want them to know how I feel, where I stand. I want them to know I'm not alone, too - that fellow Republicans feel the same way all over. So when I started to read the letter that came with this "Census", I was very pleased. I was going to get to participate in the RNC's processes. That feeling lasted all of 11 sentences. Then I ran into this little gem: Should we allow religious and charitable groups to do more in reducing poverty so that those in need get the help they need to get back on track? Or should the government be able to continue discriminating against faith-based organizations?

Excuse me? First, show me anywhere that these efforts by these groups are actually doing anything to reduce poverty. Show me the figures that say that most, or many, or some, or a few of those so helped actually got "back on track." And if they're succeeding at these things, why do we need to change anything? Need I remind my colleagues at the RNC that the separation of Church and State was explicitly addressed by the Founding Fathers? That the government of the United States was specifically precluded from funding religious organizations so that neither the government nor the church could lay claim to influence on the other? And then there's that second line that turns a merely bad question into an insulting slap in the face. Exactly what part of "I'm not giving my tax money to the Anglican Church" qualifies as discrimination? If that's not it, where is this alleged discrimination showing up? Because some Senator somewhere can't flow a couple thousand dollars to his home church in the latest Coast Guard appropriations bill we're discriminating against them?

The survey is overflowing with questions that are so vaguely worded and yet only a "yes/no/undecided" answer is allowed. Example: Should small businesses be encouraged to grow and hire more workers? Well, duh, Bubba, let me thank 'bout thet won a spell. Nope, I think we should pass a law to crush those small business owners completely out of existence by next fall. Honestly, is anyone who's not going out of their way to be an asshole going to answer anything but "yes"? And when they receive all 5527 responses back that say "yes" to that question, what exactly did that prove? What RNC policy is this supposed to be supporting? The letter doesn't say. Same thing as with Do you think that the U.S. should modernize our national defense to meet the challenges of the 21st century? Nah - catapults were good enough before, let them just stay with those. Do you agree that teaching our children to read and increasing literacy rates should be a national priority? What? And have them capable of reading all that perverted sex crap those horrible liberal commie pinko scab-faced dogs put out there? Are you mad?

So, what to do? Here's what I'm doing. First, I am NOT sending back this stupid census. Clearly they are not interested in my opinions, merely my check for "$500, $250, $100, $50, or even $25". Second, I'm writing a letter back to them advising them that their "census" was bogus. If they're interested in engaging in a real dialog on my views of the RNC's platform, they can design a real survey, not some rubber-stamp, "yes-man" waste of paper. Then I'm sending it back to them in their return envelope.

Hey. It says no postage required. What nice people.

Lingerie Bowl?

Would you pay $30 to watch an American-style football game played by teams of 7 models wearing lingerie? DaimerChrysler's Dodge unit apparently thinks you will. The event is supposed to be a pay-per-view event during the half-time of the Super Bowl and, yes, it's supposed to be a full-tackle game. Let's examine this in more detail, shall we?

Seven (presumably lovely, tall, and willowy) models will dress up in lingerie of varying styles, step out onto a "field" or whatever, and line up against 7 other models similarly attired. The quarterback steps to to the center, calls out the signals and barks the order to snap the ball. At this point, the offensive and defensive line will immediately smack together as hard as they can, 1 side trying to get the quarterback and slam her down into the ground before she can let fly with whatever pass pattern she's called. The other side is, of course, trying to prevent that from happening. The receivers are sprinting downfield along with their defensive cover trying to get into the clear so the QB can pass the ball before she's turned into a lingerie-clad patee'. Now, eventually, someone's going to have to make contact with someone else and that's going to result in an impact. Impact on a human body can, and in American-style football games usually does, produce bruising. Abbrasions. Cuts, even. There might even be the rare broken nail.

Oh. The humanity.

Yeah, yeah, it's a gimmick. I'm not entirely opposed to gimmicks, believe me. But this is just too transparent even for me. Let's just cut the bullshit, walk the girls out in their teddies and bustiers and then have them strip and jump into the pool of jello for a big-old 7-on-7 grope match for the whole of halftime.

Now that's entertainment!