Friday, December 31, 2004

Clare Short Is A Bloody Moron

Clare Short is a former UK official. She has made plain her belief that the United Nations should have been the sole decision-maker with regard to any action in Iraq. She has been strangely silent about the UN's role in the "Oil-For-Food" scam that directed millions of relief dollars away from the people that needed the support and into the pockets of a murderous tyrant, his minions, the UN Secretary-General's son, the UN official tasked with oversight of the program, and nations that would later seek to become obstacles to every attempt to apply the consequences of the UN resolutions they themselves had voted for. And to follow that performance up, she's holding this crook-infested organization up as the planet's most moral authority:

::::::::“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.

“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.

It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”

Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.

She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with.

“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.

(Emphasis mine.) To make a statement like that, you have got to be completely blind - willfully or due to delusion - to the actions and inactions this body has taken in the last 2 years. Hell, why not go back as far as Bosnia? Let's just all recall the events of the so-called "UN Safe Zone" of Srebrenica. Briefly put, the UN guaranteed the safety of Bosnian muslims by creating an enclave in Srebrenica and declaring it a weapons-free zone. The Bosnians who entered surrendered their weapons to the UN forces - Dutch peacekeepers - who were providing security. Tens of thousands of Bosnians were there under the watchful eye of a force of 600 lightly armed Dutch. (Note: you read that right - the UN provided a whole 600 troops, lightly armed.) The enclave was laid to siege in May by Serbs who began shelling the place in early July. The Bosnian muslim fighters asked for their weapons back but the UN refused. The UN commander on site then requested close air support. Two days later, the UN commanding general, one General Janiver, finally agreed to the request after initially refusing. The planes were launched but told to abort the attack after the shelling stopped. The Serbs were supposed to vacate the area by 6:00 am the following morning or face air attack.

At 9:00 am the following morning, the colonel in command of the enclave was informed by the UN that his request for air support had been submitted on the wrong form. The wrong form. They required the request to be re-submitted - who the hell asks a battlefield commander to submit a written request for air support in the first place, let alone on a specific friggin' form?!? - but the aircraft had to return to a base in Italy to refuel since they'd been airborne since 6:00 am.

Make a note of that: the aircraft were on station to provide air support at 6:00 am as originally planned but were required to stay in a holding pattern for 3 hours because the UN didn't get the request on their precious specific form.

The planes returned at 2:30 pm - 8 and one-half hours later than planned - and dropped 2 bombs on Serb positions. Two. 8.5 hours, tens of thousands of civilians depending on them for their very lives against a foe that had already busted UN enclave borders, 600 of their own people being laid to siege and they authorize two...freakin'...bombs. Of course by that time several of those "peacekeepers" were now hostages and the Serbs holding them forced the UN to withdraw. The Serbs then came in, separated out all the men between 12 and 77 from the women and children - who were placed on buses and shipped out of the area - and then summarily executed those men and boys. 7,000 of them. The UN did nothing. US forces committed to the area began operations to counter the Serbs. Not being complete idiots, they agreed to leave certain specific areas and the area began to stabilize. I say began because we still have forces over there keeping the peace that the UN was wholy incapable of doing.

This is the outfit Ms. Short would have you believe is "the only body that has the moral authority" to handle the relief efforts. And I haven't even touched on the UN's "relief efforts" underway in Africa. Let the UN run the show in southeast Asia and you might just have Sumatran and Sri Lankan women forced to prostitute themselves for bread and water. Ms. Short's assertions that the UN can not only be trusted to participate in this effort but should, by right, lead it is one of the most singly moronic statements I've heard all year. And in 2004, that's saying something. Ms. Short should stick to complaining about topless models in British newspapers and leave the important issues of the day to professionals who can grasp reality.

CW News Corrects Story From Vatican Newspaper

I mentioned in my earlier post about the Vatican's newspaper story regarding aid Israel was offering to Sri Lanka that I'd write again if anything new arose. It has. Catholic World News puts up a story correcting their earlier work saying that previous piece was based on a "crucial error in translation".

:::::::: Vatican, Dec. 30 ( - The following is a corrected version of a story that appeared on earlier this week, in which a crucial error in translation caused a serious misinterpretation of the news. CWNews apologizes for the error.

Vatican, Dec. 28 ( - The Vatican newspaper has denounced a decision by Sri Lanka to reject emergency aid offered by the Israeli government. Sri Lanka declined the Israeli aid because it would have been furnished by a military team.

Calling for "a radical and dramatic change of perspective" among people "too often preoccupied with making war," L'Osservatore Romano chastised the government of the stricken Asian nation for putting unnecessary restrictions on an Israeli offer to furnish medical help.

The Vatican paper observed that in what "should be a time for unconditional solidarity," some world leaders seem incapable of escaping a "small-minded approach that restricts their horizons." The suffering caused by the tsunami has created "a mass of deaths, across borders," L'Osservatore observed. The fact that the devastation swept across different societies, cultures, and nations should help to reinforce the universal perspective, the paper suggested.

That's some error. To convert (by mistake) a complaint about Israel declining to provide aid to Sri Lanka over into a scolding of Sri Lanka for declining the offer is a pretty large change in journalistic direction. Perhaps the Catholic World News needs to find someone that speaks better Italian. Of course I'd love to show you the original article, but CWN has pulled the article from public access. You try not to see that as a conspiracy, but....

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami Relief Fund Climbing

I took note last night of the link at collecting donations for the Red Cross. When I read about it, the total figure collected was somewhere around $200,000. By the time I wrote about it in my earlier post, it was up over $500,000. I just checked again: $1,686,997.62. It says 30,790 of us have given. That averages out to $54.79 each. If you haven't given - and if you can - please consider doing so.

Jerry Orbach Dead At 69

Amid the news of the past few days, I almost missed this note. Jerry Orbach was likely best known as the actor playing Lenny Briscoe on NBC's Law & Order. He died Tuesday night from prostate cancer. "Law & Order" is one of my favorite shows and Orbach's character my hands-down favorite on the series. This wasn't his only gig in show biz, however:

::::::::On Broadway, the Bronx-born Orbach starred in hit musicals including "Carnival," "Promises, Promises" (for which he won a Tony Award), "Chicago" and "42nd Street."

Among his film appearances were roles in "Dirty Dancing," "Prince of the City" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

A true entertainer. So long, Jerry. We'll miss you.

Not So Fast, Mr. Pope

For the 2nd time in less than a month, the leadership of my Church has managed to piss me off. This time, they've shot their collective mouth off about disaster aid being sent into the area devestated by the tsunamis, in particular to Sri Lanka. The Vatican newspaper editorial accused Israel of declining the request for aid. The only problem is that Israel did no such thing. In point of fact, they had a cargo plane on the tarmac, loaded with 80 tons of supplies and had 120 emergency responders ready to lift off to Sri Lanka. When the Sri Lankan officials heard of this, they requested the Israelis stand down and abort the mission.

In the ensuing discussion that followed, it first appeared that Sri Lanka was refusing the aid entirely. Sri Lanka clarified that they would accept the supplies and also a smaller, 50-member medical team. Exactly why they didn't want the original group of responders isn't clear, but I suspect that some of those were security personnel and Sri Lanka didn't want that kind of presence.

The point is all of this was known before the Vatican's editorial was published. I'm hoping there's some reasonable explanation for this but it seems, at best, to be sloppy researching. At worst, willful bias. I await further word from Rome.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Ohio Recount Complete: Bush Wins Ohio

The recount requested by Greens and Libertarians for the Ohio election results has confirmed that President Bush won the State of Ohio by over 118,000 votes. The State's Electoral College votes have already been cast earlier this month with all 20 casting for Bush. With Ohio now confirmed, the election is over.

::::::::TOLEDO, Ohio - Election officials finished the presidential recount in Ohio on Tuesday, with the final tally shaving about 300 votes off President Bush (news - web sites)'s six-figure margin of victory in the state that gave him a second term.

The recount shows Bush winning Ohio by 118,457 votes over John Kerry (news - web sites), according to unofficial results provided to The Associated Press by the 88 counties. Lucas County, home to Toledo, was the last to finish counting.

Officals from the 2 parties who requested the recount and from the Kerry campaign all said they just wanted to make sure every valid vote was counted. Right. Interesting that they took no such interest in States where Kerry won by far shorter margins. While the situation is now a closed matter, there's this little item to think about:

:::::::: The Green and Libertarian party presidential candidates asked for the recount and raised the $113,600 required under state law for the process.

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell has estimated that the recount will end up costing taxpayers $1.5 million.

The fee for a recount is - get this - $10 per precinct to be counted. Ten bucks. You don't even need the accountants to know that hauling in election boards to perform this task costs more than that, by a longshot. So now the taxpayers of Ohio, who are already not in the best shape financially, get to cover the $1.38 million in costs that the laughably low recount fee didn't handle. Wonder how many teachers and firefighters that would've paid for?

Enough, already. It's time to accept the results and get on with some important work. If election validity and making sure that "every valid vote cast is counted" is your particular passion, that's great. Do something about it. Suggest real proposals to fix what ails the system and be prepared to work at it. And don't just complain about it around the water cooler, write your reps and let them know you've got ideas. Maybe they don't listen as well as they could, but if you never write them to let them know, whose fault is it that they don't do what you want?

Tsunami Coverage Updated

Like most of the people on the planet, I have watched in rather helpless sadness the reports of the tsnamis hitting the shores of 10 or so Southeast Asian countries. I have friends here with family in India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. My sympathies have gone to them all as they strive to find out what has happened to members of their families. So many others in the blogosphere have been providing better coverage of the news than I could hope to, so let me direct you there.

Powerline and The Belmont Club are providing several items on their pages. I'll let you scroll down their sites to find them all rather than link to a specific story. There's also several amateur videos beginning to come in. Jordan Golson has at least 3 of them and more will be coming in.

If anything specific comes up, I'll provide update. Consider giving support, if you can, via the Red Cross or some other relief agency you prefer.

Update: - I see that USAID has a list of relief organizations working the area. You can also donate to the Red Cross via by clicking here.

Combined Arms

Most of the techie community is aware of and reads regularly the entries posted on Slashdot. Good stuff over there, specifically related to the technology front. They have a humongous readership and something interesting happens when someone gets a mention in one of their posts. It's called The Slashdot Effect.

::::::::Slashdot consists of submitted articles and a self-moderated discussion on each story. In response to the stories, large masses of readers simultaneously rush to view referenced sites. The ensuing flood of page requests, known as a slashdotting, often exceeds the ability of the site to respond in a timely manner, rendering the site slashdotted and, for many visitors, unavailable for a time, occasionally exceeding the site's bandwidth limitations or causing servers to slow down. "Slashdotted" is sometimes abbreviated as "/.ed."::::::::

Just as the tech community is familiar with Slashdot, the blogosphere is quite familiar with Glenn Reynolds of the Instapundit blog. Getting a mention on his site results in what the blogosphere has dubbed an Instalanche.

::::::::Because of its popularity, an Instapundit link to another site can cause the traffic of that site to spike. Such an increase is often referred to as an "instalanche", an Instapundit avalanche.::::::::

Picture for a moment, then, what happens when a story gets covered by both Slashdot and Instapundit. I give you the story of 2004 MN4, a chunk of rock almost a half-kilometer wide zipping along through space and which, for a brief period, concern existed that it might just whack into the Earth. (Newest figures show that's not gonna happen this time.) I can only imagine the heat put off by the routers and web servers of the NASA site as the bone-jarring thunder of an Instalanche enhanced and surrounded by the seething electrical nimbus of the Slashdot Effect came crashing down on their circuits. Gads... Glad I'm not the administrator.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Broadband, Sweet Broadband...

Ahhhhhhh, the relief. The laptop completes bootup and establishes the link to the household wireless, reporting a good link at 36 Mb. Interesting, but the real statistic is the speed report of the link that router is sitting on: 512K up/ 720K down. Blogs appear in their entirety within seconds of the request. The e-mail application reports all messages downloaded - even after being away from home for a week - in less than 7 seconds. Both the O/S, anti-virus, and the spyware killer software download updates simultaneously while I click from 1 web page to the other, not even noticing the drag on the bandwidth.

Broadband. Ain't nuthin' like it.

What? Beg Pardon? Who - me? Of course not. I can quit this high-speed linkup at any time. I'm in complete control. Honest. Really.

Doctor's note: subject left eye twitch, reported in last update, increased 60% during this post. Continued observation recommended.

I Recall...

Today was my father's birthday. He'd have been 70 today, quite the milestone. I called Mom today, as my siblings did, just to let her know I was thinking of her... and of him. It was a long drive back from the Ohio valley to northern Virginia and that kind of thing leaves you lots of time to think. And recall.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all in the blogosphere. It's a light posting day for both the obvious reason that I'm spending time with family today rather than scanning the news and the less obvious but equally weighing reason that blogging on a dial-up is a drag. Here's hoping you and your families are celebrating in happiness.

Special prayers to our military members stationed away from home. We've got a candle in the window for you and wish you speedy success in your mission.

Friday, December 24, 2004

'Tis The Night Before Christmas

Well, my young one is to bed now. Just a quick note to all to have a Merry Christmas and prayers for a better year ahead.

...And to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Changing The Minds Of Those That Hate Us

Greetings again from the land of the dial-up. Pardon the low level of linking in my posts this week - I don't have the leisure of staying on-line to search for them. Perhaps I can update these entries when I get a reliable broadband link somewhere.

I watched 60 Minutes last night with my in-laws here. There were several stories on and the usual short editorial piece by Andy Rooney. Andy's commentary dealt with the "fact" that the war has been a complete loss and that we needed to stop putting money into it in favor of spending it to "change the minds" of the nearly 100% of foreigners who hate, despise, and revile Americans. Rooney overstates his case on how hated we are around the globe. Make no mistake, there are lots of folks who do, but there are plenty who view us favorably or - this keeps getting missed - don't care about us 1 way or the other. Polls on the matter are some of his premises, however, not his conclusion. The conclusion (unspoken here) is that we can attain the goal of security for ourselves without resort to military force at all. That we can keep people from attempting us harm by changing their minds about... well, about the fact that they want to do us harm. With that conclusion now serving as a premise, he adds the unspoken premise that attaining any goal with military force is the bad option and should be avoided at all costs and arrives at the conclusion, spoken, that we should therefore spend our resources not on military actions but on methods to change the minds of those that wish us harm.

Assume for the moment that we're going to accept that conclusion completely. The first step in proceeding with such a plan is to determine why "they" wish to harm us. After all, you can't very well change their minds if you don't know 1) where their minds are now and 2) why their minds are where they are. Have they given us any hints? Sure they have. The most outspoken of the people that want us dead have had all manner of reasons. Our filthy infidel feet are standing on ground they claim as their own. Our filthy infidel friends, the Israelis, aren't evaporating into thin air and leaving all their lands to the Palestinians. (Better they not actually evaporate, but rather suffer an incredibly painful withering disease that disolves them, screaming, into piles of cash. But hey, why quibble?) Our filthy infidel manufactured products are showing up in their marketplaces, forcing their pristine peoples to buy them and listen to music, watch TV, and wear clothes that don't look like they were produced in the 16th century. Finally, our filthy infidel lifestyles are being paraded around showing women who can expect to vote, hold property, not be raped and killed at a moment's notice, and people in general who can follow whatever religious path they choose without fear.

That's the real issue here. The fact of the matter is that if their people really believed that radios, TV's, and CD players were hugely bad, they wouldn't buy them. And they don't really care that Americans are on the ground in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region so long as those Americans are spending money and helping them build better oil production facilities. They might also hate the Israelis, but it appears that they don't really believe that killing Americans will change the Israelis one bit. Ah, but that part about the lifestyle... The imams and mullahs have made it quite clear in their writings and fatwahs what they think about our freedom of religion and the freedoms our women citizens enjoy here. Lightly ignored by our media is their viewpoint and reaction to homosexuals of all stripes - they want them killed. Their tolerance of abuse of children - and I refer primarily to sexual abuse of girls - is also documented but not portayed in our media very prominently. We stand in opposition to their stance on these matters, not just culturally but by law. There are those of our society who don't, of course, but these represent the minority and their actions are not protected by law or society in general. For these people that wish us harm, these views are considered the norm. They are considered correct and are endorsed by their religious authorities.

So I ask you: which of your religious beliefs can an avowed opponent convince you to give up or overlook?

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Good Word From Iraq

Chrenkoff is on the case again with his 17th installment of news from Iraq that our mainstream media has decided we mostly don't need to know. As always, recommended. I'm reading it as I have time and will update later.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Holiday Travel & Holiday Wishes

Well, we made it to the northern tundras of Ohio and, as of Sunday afternoon, they're living up to the name. The dry temperature was about 15 degrees F (if the old thermometer is still working right) and the wind chill made it... well, it was a damn sight colder than that. Nothing like up in North Dakota, where I hear it hit close to -30 with the wind chill or Wisconsin where some places were -15 but still cold enough for this 15-year resident of Virginia. What is considered a light flurry has left about 1.5 - 2 inches of snow on the ground here today with more projected to fall later tonight and early tomorrow. That kind of forecast would be sending my neighbors in Virginia into a panic and have them calling out the National Guard. To say nothing of the projected 12-13 inches falling in Cleveland right now. (Better them than me...)

I have been reading on a variety of my favorite blogs about the attempts in many circles to remove the concept of Christ from Christmas and, indeed, Christmas from the holiday vocabulary at all. I've been paying attention to the greetings offered me by the various people I meet, specifically those in the stores as I shop and those in the public service sector. Seems they're right: hardly anyone has said "Merry Christmas" to me this year, mostly substituting "Happy Holidays" instead. I'm not sure I buy the ACLU conspiracy theories, however. Now, there's no denying the continous efforts of the ACLU to remove any and all references to Christianity from public life. I am interested in hearing if they've been as diligent in their efforts to keep all manner of Jewish or Muslim references from being mentioned in public settings as well, but that's the price of blogging off-line: I can't go check. To the point, however, I think it's more a matter of the kind of lives we lead these days that's seeing the change in greetings.

Once upon a time, 2 holidays separated by a week were far enough apart that one didn't begin talking about the second until the first was past. Within my lifetime, I've seen the beginning of Christmas decorations and shopping move ever earlier in the year. As a boy I remember quite well that you absolutely, positively did not see a Christmas tree go up until the day after thanksgiving at the earliest. Not putting up trees and wreaths until 2 weeks before Christmas was as common an event as putting them up earlier. This year I went to the local Mall and saw JC Penney's had Christmas signs and decor up the week before Halloween. Halloween! Passing up Thanksgiving was a few years ago, but to reach over a month further back into the year and get past Halloween? What's next, Fireworks and Christmas trees displayed on the Mall in DC in July?

So when I hear someone wishing me "Happy Holidays" these days, it's not jut Christmas they're talking about. They've included New Years in on the deal and, more often these days, Thanksgiving as well. I'm serious. I got a "Happy Holidays" from a clerk in a store this year and we both knew she was referring to everything between then and the end of the year. Conspiracy? No. Laziness? Oh yeah. It's way too much effort to remember that we're approaching Thanksgiving and say "Happy Thanksgiving." Then to recall that the day after it's "Merry Christmas" until December 26th. Then "Happy New Year." Just a quick "Happy Holidays" covers all those bases and you don't even have to look at the calendar.

I do honestly believe there are people working very hard to suppress any public affirmation of spirituality that references a specific religion. (Christianity, mostly, but since the vast majority of America is Christian, that's the one you're likely going to hear the most about.) But I don't think the rank-and-file of store clerks and managers are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. I think they're just not taking the time. The best way to get them to notice it is to notice it ourselves. I've made a point of wishing people I meet "Merry Christmas" and some have responded in kind. And that's fine with me.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Overture

It's that time of year once more and that means I'm on the road in a dial-up zone. It's a Holiday Blogging Schedule for me. If you're traveling this year, be safe and arrive whole and hale.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Was It Really Close?

I have more than a few liberal friends and colleagues out here and I get along with all of them for the most part. The election this year has actually strained some of the relationships, I'm sad to say. I keep getting the impression that they're expecting me to pull out a huge crucifix from my jacket and repeatedly beat the nearest gay person over the head with it. While that topic of conversation has already been explored, the one that finally got out of my mouth this week was the insistant claim from one of these folks that the President's second term isn't really going to be legitimate because the results were so close.

Now I've been putting up with that one for over a month and I finally turned to him and asked him to explain himself. The defining factor in winning an election being that you get more votes than anyone else running, how can the winner's presidency be illegitimate even though he won the election? His reply to me was that the vote had been so razor-close that Bush - and anyone who supported him - should recognize that for almost every person who voted for him, there's one who voted against him. After all, it was "51 to 49" in the end. (His words.)

Well, let's address something right away: According to the results posted from the popular vote counts, there were 118,304,480 votes cast between Bush, Kerry and Nader. Bush took 60,608,582 (51.2%), Kerry took 57,288,974 (48.4%), and Nader took 406,924 (0.3%). So even if you're going to use the simple, rounded percentages, it's "51 to 48", not 49. But I have a problem with using the percentages like this at all to describe how close the vote was. My friend is using the numbers and saying it's so close as though we're talking about 100 people. Now if we're talking about 100 people and only 3 need to change their minds, then that's close. How many individuals need to move from supporting 1 candidate to another in this case? Three. Not terribly difficult to see 3 people change their minds.

But we're not talking about 100 people. We're talking about 118 million people. That's a bit over 3.3 million voters, half of whom would need to have changed their minds and that's not close. The percentages are what's misleading about the closeness of the race. Want an example of what I mean? Thow a dart at a target. Let's say you're aiming dead center of the bullseye but throw it just 3% to the side of your intended target. If you're standing 20 feet away, that 3% means you strike 7.2 inches to the side of the center target. At 200 feet, that's 72 inches , or 6 feet. Still 3%, but now you've not only missed a regulation target, you'd have skipped over the one directly beside it, too. Ask someone from NASA or anyone involved in long-distance navigation what they think about a 3% difference in their intended course versus their actual course. The Cassini probe left from Earth to Saturn. A 3% off-course condition even assuming a straight line at the closest approach between these two planets, would cause you to be off by 406,020,000 km on arrival. That's over 3 times the diameter of Saturn. That ain't close.

The problem comes when you use the percentages alone as a guage. As I said, it's misleading.

Now the argument my friend hasn't used - and one that would be far more compelling - is that you'd only need half of the difference in Ohio to do the same job, about 60,000 voters. While that's still no small deal to convince that many people, it's a great deal more possible than converting 1.6 million voters . But if this is your approach, why are we not calling any of Kerry's State wins into question? Oregon, for example, where there was only 67,000 vote difference. You'd only have needed to change 34,000 voters' minds. Or Hawaii, showing a difference of 47,000. You'd only need 24,000 voters. How about Wisconsin where there was only an 11,000 voter difference? Only 6000 needed to go for Bush over Kerry to change that State. Or New Hampshire, where the difference was just under 10,000? Curiously absent in any debate on the topic are these "squeakers" for Kerry.

The bottom line is that voters of all stripes are independently thinking items, not random beans for the counting. Talk about the closeness of the matter as a method of determining how to govern is a non-issue in any case. The men ran on platforms to do certain things and work toward certain ends. That the winner seems willing to stick to his word on the subject and do what he claimed he'd do should be something to be encouraged of all our political electee's.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Good bye, Sarge...

Sgt. Hook has been on my must-read list for months, since before he deployed to Afghanistan. His reports on the ground there were an invaluable source in an area where - shall we say - you're not hearing much from these days on the nightly news. (Amazing how that happened since the elections and President Karzai's inauguration, isn't it?) Hook returned home recently after having been "kicked upstairs". His promotion to Sgt. Major Hook resulted in the unforseen event that his unit in Afghanistan didn't have a slot for his position any more. That, and as Hook was to find out, his training of his subordinates had produced a crop of up-and-coming Sergeants that needed a shot at being "Top." So, ahead of schedule, he returned to his home on the Paradise of the Pacific, Hawaii.

I noted over on Smash's site that Hook had decided to call it quits with the blog. To say I was stunned didn't cover the emotion at all. Following the link Smash left, I posted a comment asking him to reconsider.

It appears now I was too late.

I hope he reconsiders and returns. His was a valued perspective and his departure is felt by a larger number than he knows. Until then, aloha, Sgt. Hook.

Via: Smash, Blackfive

Monday, December 13, 2004

Good News From Afghanistan - Updated!

Chrenkoff comes through again with more good news. This time it's Afghanistan where there are stories of a new democracy you're likely not going to hear from the MSM. Yes, indeed, that Afghanistan. I'll comment more after I've read it.

Update: I just had to highlight this section of Chrenkoff's post for the benefit of certain of my family members who read this. Check out where this guy's going to school! (Ha!) this truly inspirational story from "USA Today"'s Walter Shaprio:

"On a reporting trip to Afghanistan in December 2001, six weeks after the Taliban was routed, I met Jawad Sepehri Joya at a Red Cross rehabilitation facility in Kabul. Although he was just 16 and confined to a wheelchair because of polio, Jawad was not a patient. Instead, he was working at his part-time job programming computers for the Red Cross. And in near flawless English, this young man - who had never attended any school, who had been illiterate until 1998 and who had never left Kabul - earnestly confided that he wanted to go to college in America."

Jawad is now attending Earlham college in Indiana on full scholarship.

What Martial Law Looks Like

Damn few of us in the US really know what it's like to live in a totalitarian country with martial law in place. Chrenkoff does. 23 years ago today, he was there.

Unofficial Support From The Highest Officials

Imagine for a moment that there was a high-level government operative who, during his tenure, watched over the various departments of the government as they systematically oppressed, kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed his own fellow citizens. All this while, this operative serves as his government's Chief Spin Officer to the rest of the world, hiding those acts from foreign eyes. When the government is toppled and the truth of all this comes out, the operative is embraced by the highest levels of one of the world's largest religions, a religion that preaches against oppression, kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder. Can you say, "WTF?" (And no, I don't mean "World Taekwondo Federation.")

Well, imagine no further. This one's real.

I'm having trouble putting into coherent words my feelings on the subject of the top echelons of the Catholic Church - my church! - dedicating their resources to helping Tariq Aziz in his war crimes trial. No, check that. They're using my resources to help this cretin. This man who no doubt thinks it's witty and clever to assert, "I never killed anybody by any direct act." Very nice dodge, Mr. Aziz. Of course not - you and the others in Saddam's circle had a lot of other people kill your victims without sullying your own hands. That doesn't make you any less culpable for the acts. If your Christian soul was so pious as you pretend to be, you'd have used one of the several dozen international trips you went on to try to impress the world that the Hussein government was such the granters of paradise to bug the hell out and come clean about what was going on in there.

But no, you didn't do that. And now you have the temerity to ask the Vatican to assist in your defense. That's not the part that angers me here the most, not by a long shot. It's the answer you got to those queries from the Vatican. They said, "sure!"

This is a huge breach of the trust of millions of Catholics around the world. Trust that the Church doesn't side with thugs, no matter how well dressed or what church they happen to attend on Sundays. Trust that they won't let someone slide on the lame excuse that their fingerprints aren't actually on the knives they ordered into use. How am I and my fellow Catholics to trust in these men after all they've put us through this year, and now this?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"French/American Community" Seeks Class Action Lawsuit Against Restaurant

I caught wind of this over at LGF and followed the links to the story. In brief, this group of lawyers appears to be representing someone who claims to be the "french/american community" and is seeking additional participants for the case. Obviously, if they get more people sign up, they have a better chance of getting a judge to allow a class-action suit. (And that means more money for the lawyers in question.) The pertinent information listed on the page linked above, in its entirety, is:

::::::::As a result of a recent series of racist television commercials by Carl's Junior, the French/American community, with the support of the French Consulate, is in the process of organizing a class action lawsuit.

The French/American community is deeply saddened and dismayed by the fact that a United States corporation has chosen to denigrate, humiliate, insult and injure the reputation of French/Americans in order to sell it's product, which is essentially, a sandwich.

The French "bashing" (in the commercials, a voiceover refers to the French as chickens and cowards) is based on historical events and unfairly depicts people of French origin in a truly unsavory manner. The actions of Carl's Junior in these commercials are blatantly racist and a violation of the intent of the United States Constitution's First Amendment regarding the use of Free Speech.

The French/American community, which consists primarily of American citizens and French citizens legally living in the United States, believes that Carl's Junior is trying to unfairly exploit the French government's nonsupport of Coalition forces, spearheaded by the Unites States government, in the recent, and ongoing, Iraq conflict. The French/American community consists of many patriotic American citizens, and non-citizens, who supported, and continue to support, President Bush's actions in Iraq.

Law-abiding and proud French/American community, are seeking to hold Carl's Junior accountable for the malicious, and injurious, action that serves as the foundation for it's discriminatory commercials.

If you feel you qualify for damages or remedies that might be awarded in this class action please fill out the form below.

Just so you're also well informed, here's a link to that contains a reference to this lawsuit and also the text of the Carl's Junior commercial. That commercial reads:

::::::::* At the Waterloo, the French surrendered.
* In the Franco-Prussian War, the French surrendered.
* In World War 2, well, the French surrendered.
* Don't be a big chicken. Eat one

OK, all caught up? The reason they want class-action status is simple: proving that a specific individual has been harmed by this commercial is so unlikely as to be functionally impossible. They need to broaden the scope to include a nebulous "segment of the population" so they don't have to actually prove anyone was harmed here. And the specific issue they're talking about? The speech in the commercial is racist.

Beg pardon? Racist? Since when has "french" been a race? "French" is a nationality, not a race. You can have members of a number of races all sharing the same nationality. It's completely valid and unremarkable to have an asian who's french, a black who's english, and a white who's Canadian. I can change all those race/nationality pairings around any way I like and they'd still be valid. Racism deals with something a person has no control over and cannot change. Being french is neither of those things.

The implication of the commercial is quite clear, of course. Also quite clear is the undisputed fact that all of the first three statements are factually true. While the 4th is an implication that's a wide generalization, it's also an opinion and those are quite protected by the Constitution. The only blatant quality about them is that they're uncomfortable to some group of people claiming french descent or allegiance. That's not good enough for the government to censor them.

Yale's Idea Of Building A Better PC

Saw this link to an opinion piece on IBM's decision to sell off its PC business and how to go about making a better PC. Being a network engineer and all-round computer geek myself, I was immediately interested and clicked on the link over at Power Line to read it.

Suffice it say, I'm underwhelmed.

Professor David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale and senior fellow at Scientific Computing Associates in New Haven, by which credentials I assumed he would have superior insights into PC architecture, design, and usage. His piece begins with a lament that the decision by IBM to sell off its PC division reflects a conclusion on the part of IBM that PC's are a mature technology (read that: no where to go) that have become a commodity item "like toothpicks or telephones..." True enough, I think, but he believes that rather than sell the unit off, IBM needed to innovate in order to sell their PC's at the higher prices they needed. That's a fair perspective. So what's his idea for innovation?

::::::::Like many people, I have several PCs in my life - and I constantly need to ask such ridiculous questions as, "Where did I leave the latest version of that file? By what clumsy method should I move it from where it is to where it's needed?" Such questions are like asking "Where did I leave the starter crank for my Huppmobile?" If you have to ask, your (formerly) hot-shot machine is ready for the folk-art museum.

IBM might have done well selling PCs with built-in "transparent information sharing." As soon as you connected such a machine to the Internet, all your electronic documents would immediately be available--no matter where you created or last worked on them. If all your computers had transparent information-sharing, you could start composing an e-mail at work, touch it up during your drive home (using a--theoretical--in-car, audio-interface IBM PC) and finish it up on a laptop in your backyard. Lots of businesses and people would have shelled out for such PCs.

Many old and decrepit PCs would be replaced tomorrow if bringing new PCs up to speed weren't such a colossal nuisance. IBM PCs with transparent information-sharing would have made that problem disappear. Connect a new machine to the Internet and all your electronic information would have materialized automatically.

I got to right there and, literally sitting at my own PC with my mouth hanging open, had to think, "Is this guy insane or just an idiot?" With all the incredibly well documented hacking and viral attacks going on out there on the Internet, this guy's idea for making a better PC is to have the thing fling open the doors on all your files and make everything available the second it connects to the Net? Earth to Professor Gelernter: it's been done. It was called "sharing" on the Windows O/S and it was the problem, not the promise. When always-on broadband connections started up, the people who first got them (who weren't also network engineers or techno-weenies) got their collective butts handed to them. Hackers, crackers, script-kiddies, and just the occasional sightseer went scanning for open PC's and when they found them, they exploited them. It was a disaster, not a neato feature. And the scans are going on right now, as we speak. Would you like to see what this looks like? One of my clients has an office in the hinterlands of Ohio. They don't run any services out of there, meaning there's no web pages to browse, no file servers to pull data from, or anything else that would cause people to even notice them, let alone try to make a connection. Here's a log for the last 8 days:

.Dec 4 08:46:03: list 10 denied
.Dec 4 10:23:09: list 10 denied
.Dec 4 13:49:39: list 10 denied
.Dec 4 22:43:24: list 10 denied
.Dec 5 12:57:37: list 10 denied
.Dec 5 14:53:04: list 10 denied
.Dec 5 19:59:37: list 10 denied
.Dec 5 20:04:36: list 10 denied
.Dec 6 07:05:10: list 10 denied
.Dec 6 18:34:33: list 10 denied
.Dec 6 21:43:04: list 10 denied
.Dec 7 00:52:35: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 06:27:40: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 07:06:27: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 07:46:50: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 08:11:51: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 09:46:33: list 10 denied
.Dec 8 09:51:55: list 10 denied
.Dec 9 07:03:03: list 10 denied
.Dec 10 15:47:05: list 10 denied
.Dec 10 17:53:00: list 10 denied
.Dec 11 02:52:28: list 10 denied
.Dec 11 05:22:41: list 10 denied
.Dec 11 07:15:03: list 10 denied
.Dec 11 09:05:45: list 10 denied
.Dec 12 05:20:00: list 10 denied

What you're seeing is an attempt by someone to connect to my client's systems - that's what a scan is - and failing. And this is just 1 site that no one should be trying to connect with in any case. If you're running a log on your broadband connection, I'm betting you'd be seeing much the same. This is the environment the good professor is suggesting you open your checkbook, tax returns, and legal documentation up into.

He talks about e-mail and visual displays:

::::::::Many computer users are overwhelmed by e-mail. Whenever you start work on a computer, you ought to find a one-page e-mail summary ready and waiting. It would tell you at a glance (even if you haven't touched a computer in weeks) which new e-mails look important, which look like junk, and which have been acknowledged but not yet answered. (To acknowledge an e-mail is to send a one-line "I got it" message.) IBM might have offered a PC with "e-mail summary" built-in, along with a new key--press it and you cause the current message to be acknowledged; the computer updates its reminder list accordingly. Warning: This is not an e-mail cure. But it would help manage the pain.

There are dozens more possibilities. Why should anyone waste time throwing out e-mail (or any electronic document) when data storage is dirt cheap? Why are we wedded to a windows-menus-mouse interface that is flat, as if it were stuck to the back of the screen, when computers are easily powerful enough to turn the screen into a viewport that lets us "peer through it" into an imaginary 3-D landscape? (Information can be more clearly and effectively arranged in a 3-D space than on a restricted flat surface.) Large-screen and projection technology is cheaper all the time; why aren't large-screen computers (and living-room computers) a growing (high profit!) segment of the industry? Why doesn't every computer I use show me the exact same desktop, with the same layout of the same icons?--or (at any rate) the same picture, no matter what interface I use? I could go on.

It sounds like the professor has less of a problem with the PC as a device and more with the operating system software because virtually all of his gripes here are dealing with a function the PC performs, not some kind of gizmo it doesn't have. As to his e-mail issues, I have to say that my Mozilla Thunderbird already offers e-mail sorting and junk-mail identification. The software has to learn what junk looks like, however, and I get the impression he thinks he shouldn't have to go through that process. The one new feature he discusses - the new "acknowledge" feature - already exists. It's called a receipt. Of course, the sender has to ask for it when the message is sent, but what's he really asking for here? Instead of sending an e-mail and getting a reply with the information you requested, he suggests you'd rather get two e-mails and only 1 will contain the requested info. Yeah, that's just what I need - more e-mail in my inbox.

Follow that thought up with that crack about why anyone would throw out e-mail when storage is so cheap. Spoken like a true member of academia who need only make a call to the University IT department to magically have larger hard drives installed. Pardon me, professor, but the rest of us have to pay for our hardware ourselves. Is he really suggesting that I not bother to clean out the several dozen spams and Nigerian 419 fraud messages I get a week? Adding hardware devices to a PC isn't the magical tap-tap of a keypad and away we go! event implied.

I've heard more insightful commentary on the state of personal computing from my father-in-law who's a 64 years old, never-went-to-college, retired forge operator than what I read here. Disappointing, to say the least. Hope he's better in class.

WaPo's "How-To" On Starting A Blog

Here's an interesting story from the Washington Post on starting a blog. Good points in here including posting often, proper linking and trackback, and getting involved in other blogs to network socially. One of my favorite bloggers, Bill at INDCJournal is quoted.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Charity

It's been said that beggars can't be choosers. Meaning that if you're asking for a handout, you generally aren't in a position to make moral judgements of the people deciding to give you something for nothing. Tell that to the Statesville Housing Complex in Statesville, NC. Seems that a local "adult nightclub" (yeah, yeah - read that: strip joint) last year donated upwards of 500 gifts to be given to the children living in the public housing project. This year, the complex declined to accept gifts from the club. They got some calls about the picture in the paper last year showing the club bringing the toys in via stretch limo and decided they had enough donations this year that they could refuse the club's offer.

The community now thinks the complex is being a bit harsh for the holidays. Even the pastor at the local Baptist church thinks it's ok for the club to be charitable. I hope the housing complex isn't too surprised next year when they run a bit short.

10-year-old Arrested For Bringing Scissors To School

And now, from the brain-dead-school-officials department, there's this.

:::::::: A 10-year-old girl was placed in handcuffs and taken to a police station because she took a pair of scissors to her elementary school.

School district officials said the fourth-grade student did not threaten anyone with the 8-inch shears, but violated a rule that considers scissors to be potential weapons.

Administrators said they were following state law when they called police Thursday, and police said they were following department rules when they handcuffed Porsche Brown (search) and took her away in a patrol wagon.

Police officers decided the girl hadn't committed a crime and let her go.

However, school officials suspended her for five days. Administrators will decide at a hearing whether she may return to class, or be expelled to a special disciplinary school.

Ludicrous. And the education system wonders why the public thinks they suck at their jobs. I'll hold back a bit of my contempt until I can find out what state law these administrators were supposed to have been following that sees a little girl doing a perp walk because she's got a piece of standard office desk gear with her. If the law reads like they're implying it does, someone in the PA legislature needs to do a little tune-up amendment.

Playing on the same field and the cost of admission.

I've been warned repeatedly to avoid a cross-blog debate, but I can't engage in real dialog with people who hold different views if I never respond to the direct questions and comments those folks have. I feel it's clear that we desperately need some meaningful dialog these days, so I'm diving in.

You'll need some background here. The blog in question is Bob James: A View from the Left and here's some full disclosure - he's my brother. Feel free to disregard that fact because its largely irrelvant to our political views and discourse. Just thought you should know. In any case, the entry that started this whole thing is here, regarding President Karzai's inauguration. The specific bit of the entry that prompted my comment was this:

::::::::I can't help but wonder, though, why this story isn't playing itself out in Iraq? And please, don't bother blaming the media. The facts remain that there are bombings and shootings and kidnappings and murders by the dozens, every day. Yes there are good stories coming out of Iraq, too. New schools, more cars on the roads (this is good??), weapons caches destroyed. But how many new schools does it take to erase Fallujah? Afghanistan never saw this kind of post-war period. It behooves us to ask why, and not be satisfied with the pat answer that "Al Quaeda" is to blame for everything. If you're going to be honest at all you have to acknowledge that there have been mishandlings and bad planning at the highest levels of the US government. Mistakes. The fact that no one in this administration can admit to any disgusts me.::::::::

My comment was:

::::::::Short answer: Iraq isn't Afghanistan. Perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist forces didn't put up a fight in Afghanistan because they didn't have the right assets, or underestimated US resolve and capability. Perhaps seeing the success there has made them more desperate to stop the change of another country in their region to a more democratic society. Perhaps Iraq's superior infrastructure simply allows more attacks. Maybe all the above.

I'm unsure what you want out of the administration. If President Bush came out and said "Yes, we mishandled certain aspects of the war and had some bad planning" that would satisfy you? If I'm going to be honest at all, here, I have to say I suspect you and others who oppose the administration are pressing for him to say the war as a whole was a mistake. Am I correct?

The comments section of his blog (and mine, by the way) enforces a 1000-character limit which is far too short to mount any kind of significant reply. That's one of the reasons I don't tend to engage in long discussions in the comments here. (That's not usually a problem - I don't get a whole lot of comments, anyway.) So, rather than reply in the comments section, a new blog was written to address my comment. You'll find that one here. What you'll find is an affirmative answer: he - and, by extension, a large group of other folks who oppose this administration - would absolutely not be satisfied with President Bush saying "Yes, we mishandled certain aspects of the war and..." etc. And yes, they do want him to stand up and say the war as a whole is a mistake. (Give them the shot at rubbing the genie's lamp and I'm sure they'd like to follow that up with his immediate and public resignation and surrender to the Hague so he can plead guilty to war crimes while also admitting publicly that he stole both elections and there's only 10 people who voted for him anyway. But admitting he's a filthy liar who waged illegal war will suffice.) This being a busy week, I didn't have time to put together a blog here responding to his response and I intended to do that this weekend. Knowing that this is the blogosphere and linking to original info is key, I was going to set aside some significant time to put the links together to challenge his assertion in the so-called "logical" method, meaning sticking to the "rules" of argumentation. For those of you not educated in the matter, here's the prime directive:

If the form of the argument is valid, and the premises are true, you must accept the conclusion if you wish to be rational on the topic.

The classic categorical syllogism goes like this: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal. Those first 2 parts are the premises and the last one is the conclusion. The form of the argument is valid (the category "men" is completed contained in the category "mortal", so any member of "men" is also a member of "mortal" - completely valid) and the premises are true (Socrates is a man and all men are mortal). That means, if you wish to be rational, you must accept the conclusion that Socrates is mortal. Painless, yes? Opposing any argument comes down to either successfully questioning the form of the argument or the truth of the premises. If any of the premises are false, then the conclusion isn't.... well, conclusive. No amount of wishing makes it so and if the argument isn't conclusive, it's not irrational to not be convinced.

So what does this have to do with this blog? Well, I was going to address the basic concept of "Bush lied." This is the heart and soul of the argument that the war was and remains a mistake; that Bush knew that Iraq posed no threat. And what did he lie about? Why, the WMD, of course, which we haven't found in Iraq to date. In quantities, they mean, since we've clearly found chemical weapons there and places where - it appears - they were being produced. I had plans to cite the intelligence agencies of Britain, Australia, Russia, France, Germany, etc., etc., etc., who saw the intel we did and also concluded that Saddam had WMD. He clearly did have them, used them in war and on his own citizens, and didn't have scrupples about subsidizing terrorist activities. I thought to question the veracity of the premise that Bush lied and, if they couldn't prove it, demonstrate that their conclusions that flowed from that premise would remain inconclusive. In reading commentary on that recent post, I was treated to more of the same and, frankly, it discouraged me from even discussing further. After leaving a note of my own, I decided to press on anyway and only then noticed what was in the comment by the blog's author himself. Have a look:

::::::::Actually, Bush could say, "Yeah, maybe I did lie. Prove it." And there's nothing we could do. You can't impeach without proof of wrongdoing, and he's just going to lock all the files from his presidency away for the next 76 years after he gets out of office. He'll be long dead before we can tell what really happened, much less make him pay for it. By then, the GOP will hold a shocked hand to its collective breast and gasp, "We had no idea!"::::::::

Did you catch it? No, not the part about how everyone in the GOP is either so stone-cold stupid that we can't recognize when we're being duped or so blatantly evil that we're part of the cover up. It's the part where the admission comes up that they have no proof that the President lied. Read that again. They know there's no evidence that the President lied about anything. None. And they know it. (Crying out "conspiracy" and pointing to yet more unsubstantiated "files" that are getting locked away - they say - isn't proof that there's any evidence there, either.) Doesn't get in the way of their declaring it factual anyway and then proceeding to use unsubstantiated accusations as premises for further conclusion, mind you. Square that with rational argumentation, if you can. Here's a hint: you can't. Which means they're not interested in convincing people not already convinced. And that, ladies & gentlemen, is the end of the show.

Incidentally, I am confident that if someone showed up at the workplace of all these folks who say Bush lied and can't prove it and accused those same people of lying about their job, those folks would want the accusers to prove it. If those accusers didn't have any proof, they'd be invited to take a hike at the very least.

So, nothing the President can say except that the war as a whole is a mistake and that he lied and is a very, very bad man will satisfy them. The President doesn't believe the war was a mistake and therefore won't say so. So why bother to talk about any mistakes at all? What good would it do to say that certain aspects of the war have been mishandled when - by their own admission - that's not "good enough"? If that's not good enough, why say it? They complain that the President "can't admit" to the mistakes. Considering that they wouldn't care, why should he?

I guess that's the end of my involvement in the argument. I don't like to waste my time and if rational argument technique isn't going to be at least slightly adhered to, that's what it would be. Until someone can come up with a speck of a shred of evidence that Bush knew emphatically that what he was saying wasn't so, then he didn't lie about it. Feel free to drop me a note if that changes.

Friday, December 10, 2004

MoveOn to Dems: We Bought You, We Own You

I noticed this little story this morning depicting the mode of political thought MoveOn's working these days:

::::::::WASHINGTON - Liberal powerhouse MoveOn has a message for the "professional election losers" who run the Democratic Party: "We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back."::::::::

Yep, that's right. MoveOn's claiming ownership of the party because they bought it. I'm sure that they're not happy with the DNC (and why would they be?) and they'd like to see some change. But to come out and openly say they expect it because they bought the party so they own the party?

:::::::: A scathing e-mail from the head of MoveOn's political action committee to the group's supporters on Thursday targets outgoing Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) chairman Terry McAuliffe as a tool of corporate donors who alienated both traditional and progressive Democrats.

"For years, the party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base," said the e-mail from MoveOn PAC's Eli Pariser. "But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Under McAuliffe's leadership, the message said, the party coddled the same corporate donors that fund Republicans to bring in money at the expense of vision and integrity.

"In the last year, grass-roots contributors like us gave more than $300 million to the Kerry campaign and the DNC, and proved that the party doesn't need corporate cash to be competitive," the message continued. "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."

Well, it's certainly not my fight, but I rather thought that a political party was a group of individual citizens unifed toward a set of common goals. Those people sure aren't for sale, so just what, exactly, was being bought? Good luck, fella's, and let us know how it turns out.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

On The Support Of Iraqis Updated

As my blog read-list has grown, I find that there are some blogs I don't make it to on a daily basis, regardless of my intent. I have been a reader of 2 of the Iraqi blogs since nearly their inception, one is Healing Iraq and the other is Iraq the Model. In reading the latter's latest post, I was a bit concerned, frankly, about something he wrote:

::::::::Speacking of the sides of the blogosphere, I wanted to say that I only knew about the left side of the blogosphere months after we started. I thought that the right side was the whole thing, as in the beginning I thought we were just posting our thoughts 'into the darkness' and get lots of visitors without having any idea were they come from except Iraqi blogs. Later we found about the major blogs such as Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Buzz Machine, LGF, Tim Blair, Roger Simon, Right Wing news…Etc and for long months I thought these were the only major bloggers! I didn't know because these were the sites linking to us and from were we get lots of visitors and when I used to go to their sites I would find a somewhat similar list. It turned out to be that the other side top bloggers rarely if ever mentioned us or other Iraqi blogs except for the very anti-American ones. I realized lately that the blogosphere was divided into two major parts with very few bridges.

When I started looking at the 'enemy' I found out that most of them were not that horrible! They disagree with us and our friends and supporters on the right side but they feel no shame in reporting good things that can actually show their points of view as being not valid. Then I looked back at our blog index after getting many remarks like "just look at to whom these guys link! Instapundit and Chief Wiggles!" and, "Can you believe an Arab Muslim would link to LGF?? With their extreme anti-Arab, anti-Muslim tone!" and I was thinking, "Why not!? What's wrong with that? They support Iraq in her struggle! And how can they be anti- Arab if they support us?!"

It was really confusing to me in the beginning that liberals would not support the change in Iraq (remember we were isolated so we didn't know much about that) even though they were against Bush, as it's over now and any humanist should (in my mind) support democracy and peace in Iraq. Besides, I've always considered myself a liberal! On the other side, I had a bad impression that many of the people on the right were fanatics and racist! How much did we learn in this year!

Anyway, I still consider myself a liberal (a conservative one) and I intend to add some of the moderate liberal blogs to our sidebar, but of course I would never change my mind about our friends and supporters, and I don't care what people label them as. I judge people by their stand.
Thanks a lot to all those who voted for us and I hope we can meet your expectations.

I always knew left-wing blogs attacked those of us on the right. I didn't think their condemnation extended to the new Iraqi bloggers. That's a shame. Omar brings up a valid question, however, in wondering where the liberal support for their efforts is. I understand they don't like Bush - you can't help but get that message loud and clear - but it's done now and the Iraqis could really use our help. At the very least, they don't need the scorn. I feel bad for them for having to read that kind of sentiment, regardless of how inevitable it might have been, that's all.

Update: Man, no sooner than I post this do I go to check on another of my favorites, and find him talking about this very same thing, too. Arthur Chrenkoff, the Pole-turned-Aussie has some valuable insights.

I Think He's Got It...

I was directed to an article over at Matt Yglesias's site this morning that I think hits a point pretty well.

::::::::Even if you don't think the "war on terror" should be a big deal, there's no denying that, in the eyes of the voters, it is a big deal, so Democrats need to say something about it. A lot of people on the left seem to have decided that the Cold War was exceptional and that the elections of 1992-2000 represent the norm and, therefore, national security will drop off the agenda soon enough. This seems clearly wrong.::::::::

Several of Matthew's commenters seem a bit up in arms about what Matthew's saying, here, which pretty much proves his point. Several of them point out that John Kerry did, in fact, say things about national security. To this I counter: yes, but he didn't say anything convincing. Sure, he said he'd never look for a permission slip to defend our interests and he'd never give veto power to the UN over our decisions. I just didn't find him credible. Others have a problem with the use of the term "national security" to start with, claiming it's just a euphemism for "ass-kicking", or some such. These people act as though we just tossed a dart at a map and said, "Oh, let's go beat up on Afghanistan today. And tomorrow it'll be.... thwak.... Iraq!" Ridiculous. If we were just going around whacking anyone we wanted to, why not Syria? Or Iran? Or North Korea? Or Canada, even?

We had information that we checked, both ourselves and against intelligence agencies in several other countries, that indicated significant threats from the 2 places we've landed on in the last 3 years. Given that we did not want to wait for another attack here, or attempt to defend against an enemy who deliberately targets civilians - offices and schools - the only rational choice is to remove the threat where it stands. It stood protected by the Afghan pseudo-government, the Taliban, and it stood supported by Iraq. The prosecution of the war under the Bush Administration clearly hasn't been perfect. When has such a thing ever been perfect? But it was seen by the majority of American citizens as the preferred course among those available and that's why the elections went as they did.

What the Democrats said, assuming you think they said much of anything, about national security and the war on terror was not convincing and it wasn't enough. Matthew's take is that until they change that, it's not going to be pretty at the polls. I concur.

Hat tip: Smash

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Pause To Remember...

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of American was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.", Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It was 63 years ago today that America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. The action hurt us badly, and also focused our strengths and resolve. I read somewhere recently that a survivor of that attack had been invited, as in years past, to speak at a local school of that day. He noticed lately that "people just don't seem to care. Maybe it was too long ago."

It was a long time ago, to be sure. I honestly believe that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom and vigilance is not maintained when you forget the lessons of the past. So I remember that attack on this day. I remember my visits to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl, the tribute to the fallen and a reminder that even in paradise you keep your eyes open.

We have our enemies today as they had then. We've had the sneak attack by enemies with far less honor than those that flew their planes over the waters of Pearl those many years ago. Today I recall the lessons learned by those young men and women that Sunday morning on Oahu. I will honor them by never forgetting and remaining vigilant.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Latest Good News From Iraq Updated

Chrenkoff has the latest report up on Good News From Iraq, and it's a huge one again. This is the 16th installment and contains much you won't find our media reporting. Go have a read. Chrenkoff writes a spot-on conclusion to his piece:

::::::::It would be dangerous and very unwise to ignore or downplay all the bad things happening in Iraq right now; but it would be equally dangerous if without hearing other voices and other stories from inside the country we were to give up and walk away, leaving Iraqis alone to try to secure their future. The bombs are deadly, but the perception that in Iraq today there is nothing else but the bombs could prove even deadlier in the long run - for the Iraqis, the Middle East, and the West. ::::::::


Update: In my haste to post the link, I forgot to highlight this starting set of remarks which I, again, find dead on the money.

::::::::It takes a lot to get a man of God annoyed and Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, is a very frustrated man these dyas: "It is not all death and destruction," says the Archbishop. "Much is positive in Iraq today... Universities are operating, schools are open, people go out onto the streets normally... Where there's a kidnapping or a homicide the news gets out immediately, and this causes fear among the people... Those who commit such violence are resisting against Iraqis who want to build their country."

It's not just the terrorists who, according to His Eminence, are creating problems for Iraq: "[January] will be a starting point for a new Iraq... [Yet] Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation... Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity... Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose. Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?"

The Moral To The Story...

I like this one.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Ohio News Reporters Aren't Finding Fraud

It's been a month since the elections and the Secretary of State for Ohio is due to release the certified vote tally for Ohio on December 7. All this means, of course, is that the Democratic supporters and other opposition to President Bush are moving their allegations of voting fraud from the left-wing blogs into the courtrooms. The accusations are many, but any evidence of wrongdoing appears to be, well, rather thin. And that's putting it politely. Now comes news that the Ohio newspapers have been looking into the allegations as they come up and - guess what? - they're not finding any fraud.

::::::::Those who believe that something's rotten in the state of Ohio, that it mishandled the Nov. 2 election, shouldn't hold their breath waiting for a revelation from the state's major papers that might call into question President Bush's victory.

While most of the top dailies there say they are following, if not probing, each accusation, many coming from liberal blogs, none of the editors who spoke to E&P this week find the allegations highly convincing or plan to devote major resources to them.

"We have been chasing them down as they come up, and a lot of them are so groundless," said Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. "We are finding that there were some legitimate counting errors and glitches in the computer system. But they were found and we have found no evidence of conspiracies or anything showing that the outcome would have been any different."

He's not alone. Ben Marrison, editor of The Columbus Dispatch, says, "We have written a lot about it, but we have found very little evidence that anything has happened in the election that didn't happen in every other [Ohio] election. Every rock we have turned over, we've found nothing." The only item of contention his paper found was that there were too few voting machines at polling places, but, he add, that was in both Republican and Democratic precincts. Poor planning, perhaps, but equally applied. The Cincinnati Post, AP's Ohio division, and the Blade in Toronto all report the same thing. No fraud, no indication of anything that will change the result of the vote significantly from Bush's 136,000 vote win. Lest anyone think that it's just the Republican or ring-wing side of the aisle that's saying that, it should be noted that the Steve Rosenthal, Ohio president of America Coming Together (ACT), which performed a herculean effort in getting out the Democratic vote and which was allied with both the Kerry campaign and, has concluded that the Democrats lost Ohio. His editorial in the Washington Post this morning, titled "OK. We lost Ohio. The question is, why?" makes his feelings on the matter clear. What's his take on "moral values" being what won the election for Bush? According to the post election survey conducted by ACT:

:::::::: The reason Kerry lost the election had much more to do with the war in Iraq and terrorism than the political ground war in Ohio. Terrorism trumped other issues at the polls -- including moral values -- and anxious voters tended to side with Bush.

  • By 54 percent to 41 percent, voters decided that Americans are now safer from terrorist threats than four years ago, national exit polls said.

  • By 55 percent to 42 percent, voters accepted Bush's view that Iraq is a part of the war on terrorism. By 51 percent to 45 percent, they still approved of the decision to go to war (though a majority expressed concerns about how the war is going).

  • Just 40 percent said they trusted Kerry to do a good job handling the war on terrorism, compared with 58 percent who felt that way about the president.

The Bush campaign was able to persuade some voters who supported Gore in 2000 to turn to Bush in 2004 on the issues of terrorism, strength and leadership. Bush bested Kerry among those who voted in 2000 by five percentage points -- Bush bested Gore in 2000 by three points.

The other major factor was our side's failure to win the economic debate. Despite an economy that was not delivering for many working people in Ohio, the exit poll results show that voters in Ohio did not see Kerry providing a clear alternative. Just 45 percent expressed confidence that Kerry could handle the economy, compared with Bush's 49 percent.

The GOP put on a strong mobilization effort, but that's not what tipped the Ohio election. They did not turn Gore voters into Bush voters by offering a ride to the polls. Instead, it was skillful exploitation of public concern over terrorism by the Bush team -- coupled with Democrats' inability to draw clear, powerful contrasts on the economy and health care -- that pushed Bush over the finish line.

And that's pretty much what I've been saying. I must state that Rosenthal's survey accurately captures the reasons I voted the way I did. I'm glad to see someone in the media publishing it.

Liberal Bloggers Cheating And Bragging About It Updated

The blogger Wizbang is running the 2004 Weblog Awards, a completely unofficial thing where the only prize is the honor and accolades of peers. It's a totally unscientific thing meant only for fun. It didn't take long for one of the most infamous of left-wing blogs to hose it up and cheat. Posted over at the Daily Kos is the program script one of his loyal readers put up to stuff the ballot box and put Kos up over the top. You might recall Kos. He's the guy who wrote that the 4 Americans who were killed and had their bodies multilated and hung up on a bridge at Fallujah earlier this year pretty much deserved what they got and, so far as he was concerned, "screw 'em". Kos has also been a big voice and forum-provider to a number those screaming that the elections this year were defrauded. Of course, their claim has no evidence. This claim has the proof by their own hand. And feel free to keep reading if you check the link - they're proud of it.

Kos' readership is huge, make no mistake. But wide circulation doesn't make for a stellar publication and that rule applies to blogs, too. Uncontent and clearly not confident that his readers think he's the best, they have to cheat to win. Fortunately, Wizbang spotted the issue and - I'm sure Kos will appreciate the irony - there's a recount in progress with the system log being the arbiter. The script writer may be patting himself on the back for being so clever as to write a script to circumvent some non-existant security measures. However, all those votes are sent in via TCP/IP, genius. That means they have a source address. How tough do you think it is to write a script to discard all but 1 vote coming from the same IP address? Allow me to assure you: not tough at all. All this clown has done has proven themselves to be the cheating folks many of us had already concluded they are. That they're proud of it is just icing on the cake.

Screw 'em.

Hat tip: LGF

Update: Seems Kevin over at Wizbang was already prepared for this kind of event and had procedures in place to allow for the fraudlent votes to be culled. Nicely done. I noted that after the cheating was discovered, some of the conservative blog readers thought to fight fire with fire and set up scripts of their own to try to balance the scales. While I can understand their arguments just fine, I don't agree that that was the proper approach at all. To engage in the cheating themselves did nothing but spread the blame around. Kevin notes that one of those scripters repented and actually spoke with him to assist in creating the parse rule to pull the votes from the system log. If it's the one I'm thinking of, you can see the admission in the comments section of Kevin's post, written by a reader going by "dude". Not sure which of the blogs he was scripting for and it really doesn't matter. They caused a lot of work for a fellow blogger and that's just not right.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Army-Navy Game Updated

Just popped past the Army-Navy game on CBS. 3rd quarter, 7:25 to go, things ain't looking good for the Army's cadets. Currently 28-7 Navy. BlackFive and 2Slick... I feel for ya, guys.

Update: Didn't get any better, judging from the stories this morning.
Navy beats Army 42-13. Congrats to Smash, by the way!

Representative's Aide Responsible For Tax Return Provision

A story in the Washington Post (yes, yes, registration required) sheds some light on that issue with who put a provision in the Omnibus Spending Bill that allowed members of the Appropriations Committees and their staff to walk in and see a private citizen's tax returns. Without further ado:

:::::::: A mid-level House aide said yesterday that he was the one who, during last month's drafting of a huge spending bill, added a provision that could give staffers on the House and Senate appropriations committees broad access to Americans' tax returns.

Richard E. Efford, a 19-year veteran of the House Appropriations Committee, said he did not inform any elected official before inserting the provision and advised his immediate boss, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. (R-Okla.), only after it was too late to make changes. He said other House and Senate appropriations staffers in both parties were aware of the provision, however, and believed it gave them needed authority to enter facilities of the Internal Revenue Service to inspect how taxpayer funds were being used.

Mr. Efford is reportedly "dumbfounded" by the resulting uproar. Seems he ran into an issue in overseeing the budget of the IRS - something his office does for his boss, Rep. Istook - over performing on-site inspections to validate the IRS's requested increases. The IRS, he says, told him he couldn't do that since he might walk in and "glance at" a taxpayer's return up on a screen. That's a privacy no-no and, well, the IRS is nothing if not concerned about your privacy.

Brief thought: these same people get security clearances to allow them to view details of the latest top-secret weapons programs in order to oversee budgets, but they can't glance at a screen with some random person's tax return? So long as they can't order up a specific person's return, I'd say we need to discuss whether that's an issue.

The story continues:

:::::::: IRS officials suggested that he seek authorization from the House Ways and Means Committee, whose chairman has a right under the tax code to designate staffers to examine returns and files for the purpose of assessing the effectiveness of tax law.

"I thought, why should Appropriations Committee staff have to go beg another committee for the right to review how appropriated funds were being used," Efford said.

The matter, he said, was discussed with other committee staffers this fall. Efford said a Democratic staffer told him he had had a similar problem getting access to the IRS facilities. As a result, Efford said, he wrote language that would amend the tax code to give him and other Appropriations staffers the same inspection rights as Ways and Means personnel.

Sources said that idea was discarded because of concerns about turf conflicts with Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), the powerful and sometimes irascible Ways and Means chairman. Efford said he then asked the IRS to produce a provision that would satisfy the service's concerns.

With only one or two words changed, said Efford, that was that language that went into the spending bill. It was broad. It set aside existing privacy protections and gave the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees power to designate staffers who would have "access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein."

This is the crux of the action and the source of the "uproar" Mr. Efford is so dumbfounded by. Well, let me clear some of that up for Mr. Efford. First, you're not an elected official, pal. That means you run any additions to bills being presented to Congress past your boss, every stinking time, period - end of story. No exceptions! None! And if timing is a problem, as you kept saying in the story, then you bloody well didn't get started early enough, now did you?! You had all friggin' year, Efford, how long does it take to get your ass in gear and start thinking about it? Apply that to the rest of your buddies on the Staff, too - they're equally responsible for that. I don't care how tired or overworked you were, the concept of a staffer of the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee including language in bill that he didn't bother to notify the Chairman of that grants himself powers to bypass privacy restrictions looks like, sounds like, and smells like a conflict of interest. The fact that the language was run past the Agency you're trying to oversee - thereby allowing that Agency to tailor the rules by which it will be held accountable! - only makes it worse! You're allowing them to abdicate their responsibility to safeguard the taxpayers' privacy rights and blame it on a law you altered for the purpose. What your Democratic counterpart (who, conveniently, isn't named in the story) said after reading it should have been a real clue:

::::::::The blunt language did raise a concern from a Senate Democratic staffer who suggested in an e-mail: "I wonder if you want to say something . . . clarifying that this is just to allow observation of facilities. A naive reading can leave the impression that certain staffers can go look at their brother-in-law's tax return for grins."::::::::

Funny how everybody who read that same language came to exactly the same conclusion. And a quick thank you to the unnamed Democratic staffer, by the way, for adding "naive" to the list of things we poor, stupid citizens are guilty of being. Nice to be held in such high regard these days.

The fix for this is really simple. Under no circumstances should language be added to a bill being submitted to Congress by any staffer that is not proofread and approved by the Congressional member they work for. Any further such screw-ups will be the responsibility of the elected official those staffers work for. Citizens don't get to choose who the staffers are and we can't vote them out if they hose things up. We can hold the elected reps to account, however, and they should be made to accept that responsibility.

Hook Is Home

For those of you who missed it, I'd like to re-report that Sgt. Hook has returned home from Afghanistan. Hook is - actually, was - the First Sergeant of a Hawaii-based Army chopper unit whose job it was to give the "air" and "mobile" to "air-mobile" Army units operating over in the 'Stan. His eyes on the ground over there were an invaluable asset to those of us who want to stay informed about the real happenings overseas.

Hook's entries offered a great personal perspective into the Afghan operations over the course of the last 8 months which included, if you'll recall, the highly successful, first-ever, elections there. Hook was also the founder of Operation Shoe Fly which provided shoes to Afghani kids of all sizes over there. His blog is a great read and I recommend it. Perhaps the best entries are the ones where he details how he did this or that or speaks on his travel to and from. His latest is on his waiting for a flight to Germany. Sounds like a common experience, based on what I've been told by returning members of the military in this area!

::::::::Stepping into the plywood passenger terminal, I dropped the duffel at my feet with a “clunk” and sat down on one of the dozen couches that were lined dress right dress in rows of three facing a large screen television airing the Armed Forces Network to help those of us waiting to catch a flight outof the Stan pass the time. There was no travel agent to book my ticket out of the desert, so I silently hoped that a good dose of patience and a lot of AFN would be enough to keep my sanity as I waited to begin the first leg of my long journey home. A large white dry-erase board hung on the wall next to the televeision screen with the schedule of outgoing flights hand written in blue ink. Noticing that I was in luck, only two hours until the next scheduled flight to Germany, I settled in for the wait. It wasn’t long until the announcement was made for “those passengers wishing to travel to Germany to please report to the manifest window with a copy of their orders.” I obediently reported to the manifest window with a copy of my orders in my hand.

We were notified that the flight had been cancelled and that there were no seats available on the following one, but there was a flight with some thirty open seats scheduled in about eleven hours. I sat back down and waited noticing on the mission board that a red line had been drawn through the listed flight I had anticipated being on. What the hell, eleven hours really isn’t that long of a time compared to eight months. Sgt Hook out.

As he says, the Army goes rolling along. To Hook and his family, I'm glad you've returned to America. That you returned to the Pearl of the Pacific is only better. Mahalo, Hook, and Aloha!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Denver's Mayor Brings Back Christmas

As reported around the blogosphere (I first noted it over at Michelle Malkin's), the mayor of Denver had made a decision to remove the lighted "Merry Christmas" display at the City/County hall and replace it with the more generic "Happy Holidays." The decision didn't go over too well with the residents of that city and the mayor has since rescinded it.

:::::::: DENVER — Seeking to avoid an emotionally charged battle, Mayor John Hickenlooper has reversed a decision to remove the lighted phrase "Merry Christmas" from the holiday display on the roof of the City and County Building.

Hickenlooper said his office was flooded with complaints after saying he would remove the message next year and replace it with the inclusive "Happy Holidays."

"I didn't even think twice about it, and it's perhaps my inexperience as an elected official," said Hickenlooper, who took office in summer 2003. "To have it veer off in this other direction, where so many people felt being deprived of this tradition, was certainly not what we intended. It was so far from any of my intentions that it's easy for me to apologize."

That's not the only item bringing conflict to Denver this season. The annual Christmas parade in town has been morphed over the past few years into the "Parade of Lights", apparently called so to avoid associating a Christmas parade with... well... Christmas. (Christ, specifically.) The parade organizers refused to allow a float entered that would have had a Christmas theme and featured singers performing traditional Christmas carols. Their decision is standing, it appears. My advice to those who think this is wrong: don't go to the parade. If enough people don't go, maybe they'll get the message.