Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Help, if you can... (Bumped to top)

In spite of being long gone, the damage from Hurrican Katrina continues as more of New Orlean's levee system fails and water continues to rise in the city. Latest estimates put 80% of the city under water with recovery thought to involve literally months to get the water out of the streets. If you can, please consider donating to the American Red Cross to assist their efforts. Anything you can give will help, believe me.

In some of my e-mails, I've heard some occasional comments about the Red Cross and I need to remind everyone that the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross are 2 very different agencies. The IRC is based in Europe and has been a largely anti-American voice in the world. The American Red Cross is very much neither. Please, if you can...

Update: I am reminded of the fine work of the Catholic Charities as well and I'd like to put in a word for them here. Donate to this organization if you can.

Sisyphus slips on a rock?

I have been a regular reader of New Sisyphus since he was brought to wider attention during the asian tsunami crisis and I have found his insights to be quite valuable. This remains true today even after circumstances forced his withdrawl from the Foreign Service in the DoS. The move from overseas back to the Pacific Northwest here in the US caused his blog to go dark for a while but he's started up again and I'm checking in every couple of days.

His post yesterday offers, again, valuable insight into the current war on terror. I might not agree with everything he's said, but it's still valuable. Right up to the part where he's asking questions about where the President is going in his plan to win the war. I'm with him on some of those questions, but he lost me here:

::::::::Question: Our troops are short translators? Why haven’t we drafted the thousands of recent new loyal Americans from Arabic-speaking nations who have recently legally immigrated and, in doing so, registered with the Selective Service and agreed to bear arms if called upon?

Every single time I hear someone talk about the draft, I listen carefully to the men and women already in the service to see what these people have to say about it. What they have to say has not wavered an inch in 4 years: they don't want the draft. I've heard that from the Secretary of Defense, from the Joint Chiefs, from Generals in the field, from Colonels, Sergeants, and line grunts. Absolutely no one currently in uniform - that I've heard from, anyway - has supported a draft for any reason. I would submit that if it's not a good idea to force someone to take up a rifle, dive into a foxhole, and count on them to cover the behinds of their "brothers in arms" that it's equally not a good idea to count on those same folks to properly translate for non-arabic-speaking troops. What would be the motivation of a man who spent years scraping together enough cash and official permissions to finally immigrate to the US who then gets carted off to boot camp, put in uniform, and shipped back to where he spent years trying to get away from to accurately translate the words of some sheik he couldn't care less about? The term "fragging" didn't get coined in a vaccuum - the practice has actually occured. While it's happened in the MidEast here in the recent past, the practice was far more common in Vietnam. Why was that? Because the troops who engaged in this behavior were draftees who had no connection with the officers commanding them and had no motivation to be in the conflict at all.

This is the path we want to follow in Iraq and elsewhere? I don't think it's a good idea, not at all. Now, if the Pentagon wants to start marketing the hell out of the message that such new immigrants would discover real advantages and opportunities in performing this service for their new country, that's a different matter. Make those new immigrants want to join up and translate and they'll do it well. Force them into uniform and they won't. I can't imagine any serviceman who'd want to trust his life to such conscription.

Help, if you can Updated

In spite of being long gone, the damage from Hurrican Katrina continues as more of New Orlean's levee system fails and water continues to rise in the city. Latest estimates put 80% of the city under water with recovery thought to involve literally months to get the water out of the streets. If you can, please consider donating to the American Red Cross to assist their efforts. Anything you can give will help, believe me.

In some of my e-mails, I've heard some occasional comments about the Red Cross and I need to remind everyone that the American Red Cross and the International Red Cross are 2 very different agencies. The IRC is based in Europe and has been a largely anti-American voice in the world. The American Red Cross is very much neither. Please, if you can...

Update: I am reminded of the fine work of the Catholic Charities as well and I'd like to put in a word for them here. Donate to this organization if you can.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Chrenkoff reports: Good news from Iraq

That Arthur Chrenkoff continues to post what has amounted to the defacto balancing report about the situation in Iraq isn't surprising. What is surprising is that he can still come up with such huge volumes of information that speaks to the greater truth behind what's going on over there that our news media simply continues to ignore. From the very first paragraph of this, his 34th post in the series:

::::::::Maj. Joe Leahy, is a civil engineer with the 20th Engineer Brigade of the Army National Guard. He has been stationed at Camp Victory, outside of Baghdad, since November 2004 - enough time to get frustrated:

"We all know it's a dangerous place. But the thing that I want people to understand is that they only see those one or two instances in the country that are negative. You don't really hear about the 100 things that have gone good,"

says Maj Leahy. "One thing we've got to understand is that it's not going to happen tomorrow, but we are doing something that's getting better everyday."

Maj Leahy's good-bad ratio might be debatable, but enough servicemen and women, as well as their families and friends back home, not to mention general public, were getting frustrated lately with the media coverage of Iraq to cause some limited, though still welcome, soul-searching among major media outlets. Whether the coverage will improve as a result remains to be seen, so in the meantime, here are the last two weeks' worth of stories, at least some of them you might have missed.

As Jack Kelly from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has said, these posts are huge and that's the largest of the crying shames that can be mentioned about it. That what is being ignored over there can create such a large listing. In any case, if you're interested in knowing the whole story, go give him a read.

Updated: Off the wire? Captain's Quarters, Irish Pennants, Power Line, and Instapundit

How fascinating: when trying to get to Power Line, Captain's Quarters, Instapundit and Irish Pennants this morning, I can't get their URL's to resolve at all. Those are some fairly heavy hitters in the blogosphere. Wonder what's up?

Update: Being a professional network engineer, I can't help but attempt to troubleshoot an issue like this when it presents itself. Here's the symptoms:

  1. DNS is resolving for other web sites and they are browsable. Conclusion: DNS service here is not off-line.

  2. DNS for the sites listed will resolve addresses intermittently. The IP address seems to change. Conclusion: the DNS record for the site(s) is in flux.

  3. Browsing to the IP address given will sometimes yield a page that simply says "test" but other times will result in page from "" saying no web page is configured at the address.

  4. The whois listings for the sites in question all show the DNS is handled by the same company:

Pretty clearly, the company handling the DNS for these sites lost the records somehow and that loss is being propagated throughout the Net. Someone's aware of the issue, hence the changing DNS records and "test" page displays. There may be other issues at the site actually housing the web pages but I can't conclude that directly from the evidence I'm able to grab. In any case, I'm sending e-mails to the admin contacts of the 4 sites in question. If I get a reply, I'll post it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Mark Steyn, Capt. Ed on the Iraqi Constitution

In any democracy, unanimous votes are pretty rare. When you have a collection of people coming from different backgrounds and possessing different goals and ideals, it's nearly inevitable that any topic will produce someone opposed to the action being considered. The larger the group, the greater the likelihood is. So it is with the Iraqi draft Constitution which was sent to the National Assembly this week sans consenus thanks in large part to the Sunni contingent of the committee. My thoughts upon hearing this were that while it would certainly have been nice to bring a compromise to the table that everyone could get behind, that's not a requirement in a democracy. The committee did the best they could and produced a document that it - taken as a whole - thought served the Iraqi people best. Mark Steyn's commentary in this morning's Washington Times addresses a number of topics, including the never-say-success coverage of the process in the media. He gets to the point of the matter, as well:

::::::::If you had been asked in 2003 to devise an ideal constitution for Iraq's very non-ideal circumstances, it would look something like this: a highly decentralized federation that accepts the reality Iraq is a Muslim nation but reserves political power for elected legislators -- and divides the oil revenue fairly.

And if it doesn't work? Well, that's what the Sunni are twitchy about. If Ba'athist dead-enders and imported Islamonuts from Saudi and Syria want to make Iraq ungovernable, the country will dissolve into a democratic Kurdistan, a democratic Shiastan, and a moribund Sunni squat in the middle. And, in the grander scheme, that wouldn't be so terrible either.

In Iraq right now the glass is about two-thirds full. Those two thirds will not be drained down to Sunni Triangle levels of despair.

Captain Ed over at Captain's Quarters also brings up the fact that the Sunni group in the committee was 1) allowed on-board after boycotting the elections in January, and in greater numbers than their population would normally have in representation, and 2) that both the Shia and the Kurds allowed compromises into the Constitution in an effort to meet the Sunni halfway. The Sunni merely took that inch and demanded a yard:

::::::::The Kurds and Shiites attempted to compromise with the Sunnis, even going as far as an offer to reinstate the Ba'ath Party, minus any support for Saddam and his propaganda. They offered to postpone any motions for federalism, keeping the concept but not exercising it until the next Assembly could get elected, save for the Kurds' hard-fought autonomy. In return, the Sunnis submitted a new list of demands in the final hours, demonstrating their bad faith and determination to sink any agreement that did not restore them to power.::::::::

The latest thing, however, is mentioned by Ed a few paragraphs later:

::::::::On the other hand, the Guardian reports that the Sunnis have asked other Arab nations to step in and block the draft from going to the voters, along with the UN and other international organizations. That end-run around democracy will not please their fellow Iraqis in the Kurdish and Shi'ite territories. The Kurds especially will resent Arab League interference, especially since they've run their own democracy in the north for over a decade while the Arab League tried to force the Coalition to leave Iraq to Saddam during the entire time since Gulf War I.::::::::

Considering that those "other Arab nations" have either staunchly refused to send any assistance to Iraq to date or have been involved in allowing foreign terrorists into Iraq to attack Coalition forces and Iraqi citizens alike, it would appear those nations have little if any standing to block anything. And the UN's penchant for heading for the hills the second things get tough doesn't give them a whole lot of leverage, either.

Frankly, this process is proceeding exactly as it should. The 3 major groups - none of which has the power alone to lord it over the others - are engaged in politics and are making their decisions by the rule of law and the practice of democracy. Beats torture chambers and rape rooms any day. Media reports to the contrary, the Iraqis are, so far, handling this well. Let's see what happens in October when the Assembly meets.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Indiana Judge overruled on banning parents from teaching religion to their son

Back in the end of May I wrote about a judge in Marion Co., IN who ruled that the parents of a boy were no allowed to teach their son about their religion - Wicca - in their own homes. I considered the ruling to be a hugely blatant violation of the parents' rights and a cut-and-dried violation of the Constitution. Along with many, many others, I called for the ruling to be overturned. I was going over my archives tonight looking for an article I'd written on something else, came across that article I wrote and decided to check for an update. There it is, on 18 August:

::::::::An Indianapolis father can share his Wiccan beliefs and rituals with his 10-year-old son, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday in a unanimous decision upholding parents' rights to share their religion with their children.

The court declared that a Marion County judge erred in approving a divorce decree last year that also directed the man and his ex-wife to shelter their son from "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."
Judge Patricia A. Riley, writing on behalf of the three-judge appeals court panel in a decision released Wednesday, said trial courts can limit parents' authority if it's necessary to prevent endangerment to a child's physical health or significant impairment of the child's emotional health.

However, there was no evidence of endangerment in this case, the judges ruled. They struck part of paragraph 10 from the decree but let the rest of the divorce stand, signaling the end of the legal battle.

The original judge, Bradford, has now said he agrees with the ruling. He was never against anyone's religion, he says, he was just concerned that some of the Wiccan rituals might have endangered the boy's health. He changed his mind after a review of the court records and found that his concerns were unfounded.

(Insert wretching sounds here.) So, Judge, you fully admit that you made a ruling that was clearly prohibited in the US Constitution on the basis of information you had failed to become familiar with prior to making the ruling. Oh, very nice. Very professional. I know I'd feel all kinds of confident if I had to appear in your courtroom, sir. I note he avoids actually explaining just what in the hell his concern was. That's likely because he was relying on horribly biased crap instead of actual information on the topic. I'm extremely glad the appeals court did what was plainly the right thing but this Judge Bradford needs to be given a pink slip and shown the way out of the Courthouse on a permanent basis.

Gun ban ends but crime drops

I guess I'm going to have to start reading the Dallas Morning News on a regular basis. This op-ed was published there way back on 10 July, 2005 and I heard not word 1 about it until I saw it in hardcopy this evening. The crux of the article? That 9 months after the so-called "assault weapon" ban was allowed to sunset, the FBI's crime statistics failed to show the massive bloodletting the gun-control lobby was predicting would occur should the ban be lifted. It's not even that benign for those gun-banners: crime actually dropped. The op-ed was based on reporting by CNS editor Susan Jones:

::::::::Nine months after the Clinton-era "assault weapons ban" expired, the FBI has released crime statistics showing a drop in homicides in 2004 -- the first such drop since 1999. The FBI report said all types of violent crime declined last year, and cities with more than a million people showed the largest drops in violent crime.

When the Clinton ban on certain semiautomatic weapons expired last September, gun control groups warned that violent crime would escalate, including violence against children.

Ooops, that wasn't supposed to happen, was it? Well, did you know that there are 7 States that have their own assault weapon ban? So maybe their crime reductions made the increases in other States look better? John Lott's op-ed in the Dallas Morning News goes into more detail:

::::::::Last week, the FBI announced that the number of murders nationwide fell by 3.6 percent last year, the first drop since 1999. The trend was consistent; murders kept on declining after the assault weapons ban ended.

Even more interesting, the seven states that have their own assault weapons bans saw a smaller drop in murders than the 43 states without such laws, suggesting that doing away with the ban actually reduced crime. (States with bans averaged a 2.4 percent decline in murders; in three states with bans, the number of murders rose. States without bans saw murders fall by more than 4 percent.)

And the drop was not just limited to murder. Overall, violent crime also declined last year, according to the FBI, and the complete statistics carry another surprise for gun control advocates. Guns are used in murder and robbery more frequently than in rapes and aggravated assaults, but after the assault weapons ban ended, the number of murders and robberies fell more than the number of rapes and aggravated assaults.

It's instructive to remember just how passionately the media hyped the dangers of "sunsetting" the ban. Associated Press headlines warned, "Gun shops and police officers brace for end of assault weapons ban." It was part of the presidential campaign: "Kerry blasts lapse of assault weapons ban." An Internet search turned up more than 560 news stories in the first two weeks of September that expressed fear about ending the ban. Yet the news that murder and other violent crime declined last year produced just one brief paragraph in an insider political newsletter, the "Hotline."

You can call it a sucker bet that had the figures been reversed - had the crime figures increased - you'd have heard about this in every paper in the nation, on all the news networks, and they'd still be grousing about it up on Capitol Hill. Even had figured dropped, but by more in those 7 States with the ban than in the 43 that don't, there would have been political hay made. But that's not what happened. The story being pushed by the gun-control lobby of the left was that crime would absolutely, positively increase. It didn't. That's news. But the MSM won't carry any such thing because it doesn't fit into the liberal narrative they're pushing. Unsurprising, but still disappointing.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Journalism 101: verify your facts

From LGF, this wonderful little tale of a college newspaper that published stories for a year and a half on the tribulations of a little girl whose only living parent, her father, was sent overseas to fight in Iraq leaving her in the care of family friends. Human interest stories and letters about the impact of such events on the life of an adorable little girl getting dealt a lousy hand in life. The stories are read tear-jerkers that came to a culmination 2 weeks ago when the staff of the paper was advised that her father had been killed in Iraq.

The only problem: every word of the story was a lie.

The Daily Egyptian is the paper of the Southern Illinois University and the tale has 1 inescapable conclusion. The reporters, editors, and faculty supervisors accepted the story of hardship and the woes that followed at face value and never once in over a year took the time to verify the facts. That's not reporting, kids, that's stenography. That's taking notes in a class. That's transcribing. The front page of the DE at least calls it like it is:

::::::::We had been duped.

Not only was he not in the military, we could not verify he existed at all. Suddenly, everything about this story was in question.

Over the course of a year and a half, we published news stories, columns and letters to the editor about Dan Kennings and his daughter Kodee. All of them were rich in real human emotion, and all provided moving details in the life of a young girl trying to live her life without her parents. They portrayed a precocious child, fiercely proud of her father's military service.

Each one of these stories, columns and letters contained an essential inaccuracy -- but when we published them we believed them to be true.

How could this happen?

We blew it.

There is no pleasant way to put it. We didn't check the facts carefully. We believed what we were told without verifying. We weren't as skeptical as we are supposed to be.

The question is not a matter of whether the facts were checked before the story was published. That question has been answered definitively. The question is why were the facts not checked? As Charles at LGF put it, they weren't checked because the reporters, editors, and faculty supervisors wanted the story to be true, so they allowed themselves to believe it. Yes, indeed: they blew it. But can you blame them? These papers are the breeding grounds for tomorrow's WaPo, NYT, and LAT reporters, but they are also students. They learn from the people who are working already at those institutions and, it should be pointed out, from the people who taught those reporters. CBS goes to air with a story based around forged documents because they wanted them to be real. Eason Jordan and Linda Foley both make accusations that US soldiers are deliberately targeting journalists with no facts to support them because the wanted the stories to be real.

In these cases and dozens like them the journalists compounded the error of "we blew it" by publishing those stories. That act turned unsupported allegations into the truth for millions of Americans who have no ability to check the facts of the story and are relying on the media to give them the facts - the real facts - and all of them, as well. The DE got burned and it's going to take a while to recover from it. Their readership cycles past them in 4 years, however, so high-school seniors this year will come to SIU next year without the taint of this story in their heads. The DE will be able to come across as completely trustworthy and all will be well on campus. The reporters at the DE, however, will cycle out of school and into the media where it will be you and I, as adults, that will need to deal with them. Will they truly learn the lesson that's been taught here or will they become the Dan Rathers and Mary Mapes's and Eason Jordans and Linda Foleys of the next generation? Here's hoping this one hurt enough to leave a mark.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Italian Red Cross chooses sides, hides insurgents

So, the Italian Red Cross, an agency claiming protection on the battlefield and passage in war zones past our protective perimeters due to the fact that they are a neutral force has admitted to providing assistance and cover to our enemies. I wonder how many times those 4 terrorists the Italians helped have set up Coalition forces to be attacked? How many soldiers have they been responsible for killing? How many Iraqis are dead today because these Italians used the neutrality of the Red Cross to hide our enemies and sneak them past our lines?

How many Red Cross workers in the future will be detained or fired upon because these Italians have shown us that the Red Cross cannot be trusted? Sure, the International Red Cross says the Italians are a separate Red Cross outfit and do not answer to the IRC. But how are our soldiers to know that this particular van with a Red Cross on it is the IRC and that van with a Red Cross on it is the Italians unless they stop every one?

Spare me the story about having done it to get kidnappers to release hostages. The only thing that did - aside from allowing terrorists to circumvent our security measures - was show the kidnappers that kidnapping is an effective tool.

In exchange for a rock-solid vow by the new Italian Red Cross director to never, never, never engage in such actions again, I'll be willing to give them a second chance. They can thank this guy for my attitude and know that I'm thinking of him, not these sleazeball Red Cross jerks, when I think of Italians. His courage and fortitude has bought them a pass. Don't screw it up.

Debate with obstinancy

This morning's Washington Times has an op-ed from Terry Michael, director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism. (He's also a former Democratic National Committee press secretary and teaches journalism at George Washington University.) Reading it reminds me of my wife's grandfather whom I had the honor of knowing well enough that he felt completely comfortable speaking his mind around me. For the record, that didn't take much, but you get the idea. Old Pappap had his ideas pretty well set and, for the most part, that was OK since they were his opinions. On occassion, however...

Like the time he was telling me about his 1st plane trip and he got to fly on what was then a brand-new Boeing 767. The 767 is a large plane, a true widebody. She's big, heavy, and she's got long legs for those coast-to-coast and international flights. Pappap said he was amazed to find out, as they came in for a landing, that those planes could hover. "Hover?" I said. After making sure that he did, indeed, mean hover (as in: hold a relatively static position in mid-air), I assured him that they could not. At the time, I was working in the airline industry and aviation in general fascinated me. I am quite familiar with the forces of flight and I can assure all of you that barring an attempted flight into the teeth of the winds put off by a category 5 hurricane, the 767 cannot hover.

Pappap was having none of that. He absolutely refused to accept that the plane he was flying on didn't hover. Now, I know what he was talking about. On landing, sometimes a pilot will throttle back pretty hard and the plane will decelerate quickly with all the flaps and slats hanging out. With vision and balance issues as bad as Pappap's were, it's not hard to see where he'd think the plane had stopped cold in the middle of the sky. While I understand his confusion, the fact of the matter is that his plane did not come to such a stop and hover. There was no telling him any of that. He'd formed an opinion and nothing was going to change it.

That's exactly the feeling I have in reading Michael's op-ed this morning. Now, perhaps he's not a blog reader. That's the only way I can find justification for his allegation that the media is working hand-in-glove with the administration to deny a voice to anyone who suggests we should just get out of Iraq now. Like when Pappap adamantly stated to me that his plane had gone into a hover, the absurdity of this allegation defies an immediate response. The endless reporting of Ted Kennedy and his comrades in the Senate and the incessant coverage of anyone who has something bad to say about President Bush over his prosecution of this war should be so extremely well-known to anyone even remotely paying attention to the news it's hard to credit any notion other than that Micheal is purposely ignoring the facts. I'm glad to see that he doesn't consider the freak show going on down in Crawford as "debate" but he misses the point that what he's seeing is considered as reasonably advancing your position by quite a bit of the loudest of the Left. Still, in his words:

::::::::In fact, the Crawford protest is the opposite of reasoned debate; it's a sideshow of verbal combatants yelling past each other. For average citizens to be presented with meaningful alternatives to the current war policy, we must have legitimate, fully engaged discourse, with intelligent voices coming to competing conclusions. ::::::::

"Meaningful alternatives." He's already spoken about the media's complicity in silencing people who purport that cutting and running is a "meaningful alternative" to the current policy, so I'm concluding that's the alternative he's talking about. He goes on to lament how the Democrats in Congress are also complicit with the administration in performing "Amish-style shunning of those who advocate immediately ending the war." He talks about how such people are painted with the "worst" label one can apply in DC: "not serious." Well, what else would he have it called when someone makes a suggestion that can't be taken... well... seriously? Micheal clearly doesn't consider it a rational possibility that anyone would take that stance, so it must be a conspiracy. He goes on:

::::::::But how can mainstream journalism now be excused for quarantining stop-it-now voices from outside official Washington, after justification for the war has shifted from: 1) eliminating weapons of mass destruction, which didn't exist; 2) getting rid of a brutal dictator, who was a secularist thug, not an associate of Osama bin Laden; 3) spreading democracy, in a Hatfield-McCoy style tribal culture, heavily influenced by politicized religious fanatics whose world view never made it past the 8th century, let alone the Enlightenment, and who want theocracy, not liberty; 4) fighting Islamic terrorists, who need the United States in Iraq, not out, as their bete noir for recruiting more terrorists.::::::::

We've gone over this. And over. And over. It's a wonderful little halucination people like Micheal have built for themselves, that the reasons for the war have shifted like the desert sands. It's just not true, but his recitation here shows some fascinating ignorance of the facts as well as arrogant condescension toward the Iraqi people as a whole. He repeats the mantra that Al Qaeda and Iraq were completely disconnected when we know for a fact they were not. He leans on the smokescreen that Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11 - a claim the President never made once - to generalize that there was no connection at all. The Senate Commission investigating the actions in Iraq have made no such conclusion and there has been ample evidence that Saddam's government absolutely hopped in bed with terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. The current investigation into the data from the Army's Able Danger program shows that the meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and members of the Iraqi intelligence service might have occured after all. I'm holding off judgement on that one but it's no longer even a slam-dunk that Iraq had no involvement in 9/11, either. I've gone over the WMD issue before. It's been gone over so often now (as well as the whole "Bush lied' myth) that anyone implying the claim - which he's doing in point 1, there - can't be considered serious. (Couldn't resist.)

Skip over point 3, we'll come back to that one. Again we have a leftist claiming that terrorism is being created as a result of fighting it. He's telling us that if only the US were out of Iraq, there'd be no terrorists wanting to kill Americans at all. So how to explain 9/11? Oh, and the USS Cole. Oh, and the African embassies. Oh, and the World Trade Center in 1993. The US wasn't in Iraq at the time, so how, how, how could there have possibly been terrorists recruited? Hmmm. Here's that ignorance of the facts I was talking about. Willful ignorance? Perhaps.

Remember point 3, right? Have a good look, folks. You don't find condescending, racist attitudes espoused by the Left quite so openly every day. Translation: The Iraq invasion was a mistake and we should pull out immediately because those Arabic hillbilly's just aren't advanced enough to understand democracy, poor backwards creatures that they are. I mean, it'd be like trying to make democracy work among the tribal warlords of Afghanistan, for crying out loud.

Oh. Wait.

Terry Micheal wants a debate but he brings nothing new to the table. Repeating the same tired arguments that have carried no weight of truth before does not make for a debate. He's no better than the Crawford crowd he looks down his nose at. He just happens to direct his own think-tank, that's all. We who support the war and do not support pulling out have listened to the arguments and we understand them just fine. They're just not compelling. You can't debate with obstinancy and that's why no one's wanting to debate with Terry Micheal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pat Robertson's an idiot: stop the presses...

It comes as no shock to anyone who knows me that I don't think very highly of the televangelist crowd into which I place Pat Robertson, among others. Quite a bit of what they say, or rather how they say it comes across as idiocy to me so I don't spend a lot of mental processor cycles on their pronouncements. Robertson's latest comments calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez are just the latest bits of drivel I've come to know and ignore from his ilk. Of course, he made for a neon-lit, barn-sized target for the Left, so of course every media outlet in America is carrying it.

Pat Robertson is a TV personality and far and away not one of the leading ones. So he mouthed off about "taking out" one of the remaining communist tyrants in the world. So what? We have people on both coasts and parts of Europe calling for the assassination of our President. I'm not supposed to get in an uproar about that (wouldn't dream of questioning those folks' patriotism, after all) but I'm supposed to wring my hands over someone making a similar comment about a real, live totalitarian ruler absolutely guilty of real, live atrocities? Don't hold your breath.

Pat Robertson does not represent Christians as a whole, nor Republicans, nor any significant block on the Right. Even among those he might represent, I think you'll find the average Christian not advocating foreign relations by assassination.

To play into my "he's an idiot" judgement, he's now trying to say he was "misinterpreted." He says he didn't actually say "assassinate." He actually said "take him out," which can be interpretted all sorts of ways. Way to go all Dick Durbin on us, Pat. As though he's completely unaware that the term "take him out" has equated with "kill" in our common vernacular for decades. Unfortunately, we can simply roll the tape on the 700 Club show from Monday night and hear, in his own voice, Pat using the term "assassinate" loud and clear.

Sorry to both Pat's supporters and to the Left gleefully pointing to this incident with both hands, but this is just some clown with access to a microphone and a cable channel spouting off, not a leader of the GOP and the Right expounding on policy. Way too much effort going into a non-incident for my tastes.

Candidate Hagel?

Michelle Malkin links in to a rumor that Chuck Hagel is thinking about a Presidential run in 2008. She notes:


Details at Ankle Biting Pundits.

Can't muster up anything more than one-syllable reactions to the prospect of "President Hagel:"

Ick. Ugh. Gag.


Illegal Immigration finally getting GOP's attention

By that title, I mean the GOP's leadership and elected/appointed officials. Certainly, there's been plenty of attention to the topic down here in the trenches. I've not been quiet on my particular feelings about the subject, either, most specifically about the enforcement efforts of the laws we already have on the books. The Washington Times is carrying 2 front-page stories on the matter this morning, however, which tells me that it's breaking into the MSM's radar.

First up is a story about Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff speaking up about the problems of illegal immigration and relating what steps the Department is planning to take.

::::::::The Department of Homeland Security, responding to a state of emergency declared last week by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano because of illegal immigration, says it wants to help Arizona combat alien smuggling, ease related prison overcrowding and train state police officers.

"We are moving forward quickly and aggressively to fashion a comprehensive plan with real solutions," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the governor in a letter delivered Monday. He said the agency wants to "build a partnership with Arizona."

Mr. Chertoff said yesterday that his agency was examining how best to tighten U.S. borders while catching, detaining and deporting illegal aliens already in the country. The review is expected in the next several weeks.

Yes, a review isn't exactly what I'd call a stunningly new approach to the issue, but it's movement and it's public which are 2 things that have been seriously lacking to date. Chertoff spoke about his agency's already having mapped out where the next set of surveillance gear and border improvements are going to go and that another 350 border patrol agents have been assigned to New Mexico. These are part of 500 new agents that are supposed to be on station by the end of September. That's a start, I guess. Like many others, I'm curious about what's taken so long to get it going.

Following in the footsteps of Arizona and New Mexico, officials here in Virginia are pressuring VA Governor Mark Warner to declare a state of emergency here over our own illegal immigrant situation. I'm having trouble arguing against such an action. With the increasing evidence of linkage between the illegal population and gangs such as MS13 here, I'm thinking a bit more direct action is being called for.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Teen pregnancies falling? Not in Northern Ohio

Saw a small blurb over on Hugh Hewitt's about a high school where 65 of 490 female students are pregnant. Doing the math, we come up with a figure of 13.27%, way above the rate reported by the same paper of the surrounding areas: 7%. This would be just a brief aside for me, personally, except that I have family there. With young girls. In Canton and in the specific school district. I think whatever sex ed courses they're using there, it's the wrong one.

French accuse Lance Armstrong of doping

Typical of the French these days that they can't let someone else win without making wild accusations. I wonder if they've been attending that Democratic seminar series?

Back in town

Just got back from a trade show. This time, I was one of the zoo animals in a booth showing products instead of attending to see everyone else's stuff. My legs are killing me. In any case, I'm back and (hopefully) ready to go.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Roberts Files: Equal Opportunity in Education

As I previously stated, I got a link to one of the documents released by the Reagan Library on matters handled by then-attorney John Roberts. This particular issue deals with equal opportunity in education. If one were to think that Roberts' opinions on equality are contained within, however, I'm afraid one would be disappointed. I'm not a lawyer, you see, I'm a network engineer by profession. The concept of logic has always fascinated me and, as with network engineering, logic allows assumptions only in very narrow circumstances. John Roberts was a lawyer working on the White House's legal team. His job was to advise the Counsel to the President as regards the legal standing of whatever matter was before him with the basis of that decision being the policies already articulated by the administration. Roberts worked to make sure that the statements made by the administration fell within the scope of the law as written at the time, not to direct the Administration's policies. So the material he wrote was based upon the Administration's policies which may or may not have been in agreement with his own. To think that he completely agreed with every statement he was asked to provide advice on is an assumption, and an unsupported one at that.

I make this caveat to get this idea across: a lawyer does not always espouse the position he is required, by his job, to advance. What one can say about Roberts' writing, in this specific instance, is that he sought to make certain that any statement made by the President was supported by the written law. That - is - all one can rightly conclude.

Now, let's turn to the matter at hand. In April, 1984, then-Vice Chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights Morris Abram wrote to President Ronald Reagan concerning a statement made by the Department of Education. The DoE was threatening to withhold federal funding from the University of Georgia (Abram's alma mater) under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 over the use by the U of G of a "Regent's Test" as a requirement for graduation. The Regent's Test measured basic reading and writing ability and required that anyone who was to graduate from U of G read and write at a 10th grade level. The DoE considered such a test to have "an adverse effect... on the graduation of black students", cited by Abram from a letter to Georgia's Governor Joe Frank Harris from the Department in mid-1983. By April, 1984, the DoE and the University had apparently reached a loggerhead on the issue and the DoE made the withholding threat known. Our friends at the New York Times published a story in late March, 1984, and that story is what prompted Abram to write the President.

Abram was adamant that such a withholding and another suggestion by the DoE - that scholarship set-asides for black students be offered by the University - flew in the face of the Administration's stated policies regarding equality of opportunity in education. Abram believed that discrimination could not be addressed racially preferential policies and programs. He stood firm that such suggestions stood in opposition to both the Administration's and the Department of Justice's stance on the matter and called upon the President to reverse this decision to withhold by then-Secretary of Education Bell.

The President wished to respond and the letter drafted for that response was run past the legal team at the White House for their comments. The original draft was submitted by Craig Fuller and passed to the legal team by Richard Darman, Assistant to the President. Enter John Roberts. Roberts reviewed the draft letter and made a number of suggestions. The draft contained a number of references to the President being "assured by" and having "contacted" Secretary Bell. Roberts determined that the Secretary and the President had not actually spoken to each other on the matter directly and suggested language changes to avoid the impression that they had. Where the draft letter had the President saying that Bell "has assured me", Roberts suggested a change to use the word "advises." There are several other places in the letter with similar wording and Roberts makes similar suggestions. His only purpose there was to keep someone from later claiming that the President said he'd spoken with Bell when he had not. Fair enough.

He also noted a comment in the draft where the DoE was reported to "no longer object" to the Regent's Test at U of G and suggests that the wording implies that the DoE's position had changed as a result of Abram's letter. The fact was that the DoE had already changed their position prior to the letter and Roberts wanted to change the wording to make that clear. His suggestion was to change the phrase to "does not object". Again, this is a matter of clarification and avoidance of an implication.

The most interesting part of his participation dealt with the draft's wording when addressing the President's stance on the matter at hand - that is, the U of G's remedial programs surrounding the Regent's Test. The original draft contained these lines:

::::::::My Administration's policy concerning this or any other academic test or standard is clear: America's students deserve and must have both increasingly rigorous academic standards and an equal opportunity to acquire the skills required to meet them. I am informed by Secretary Bell that officials at the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights have alleged that opportunities to take the remedial courses at Georgia's traditionally black college campuses are not equal to those provided at its traditionally white campuses. If true -- and the Department officials must, of course, prove this allegation -- such a denial of equal opportunity to individuals will need to be corrected. So long as I am President, however, you can be assured that all allegations of discrimination will need to be fairly proven, and that the Federal government will not interfere with the use of any academic test or standard based on differences in the pass-fail rates or any other "results test."::::::::

Roberts found those last two sentences to be indicative of the President's judgement that the DoE was wrong, a stance Roberts believed the President was not actually taking. He suggested toning it down. Quoting from Roberts' memo:

::::::::Finally, in my view -- a view hotly and angrily disputed by Micheal Horowitz -- the last two sentences of the second paragraph are too hostile in tone to the allegation of discrimination. As I see it, anyone reading those sentences would get the impression that the President does not believe for a minute that Education can prove that the University of Georgia discriminated in the provision of remedial programs. I would moderate the two sentences to read: "If true, such a denial of equal opportunity to individuals will need to be corrected. So long as I am President, however, the Federal government will not interfere with the use of any academic test of standard based on differences in pass-fail rates or any other 'results test.'" This suggested revision makes the point without overkill.::::::::

The remainder of the file consists of memos back and forth between Roberts and Fielding, and between Fielding and Darman on whether those changes had been made in subsequent drafts before being sent to the President for his signature. The crux of this particular situation is that Roberts sought to clarify the truth of the matter and to avoid implications that something had happened when it did not. The President hadn't actually spoken to Secretary Bell, so Roberts wanted to avoid language suggesting he had. The President hadn't advanced a position on the merits of the DoE's allegation against the U of G and, again, Roberts sought to make sure the language of the letter didn't imply the President had done any such thing.

Roberts' actions and words in this situation really have nothing to do with equal opportunity, in education or anywhere else. He is concerned with and focused completely upon the truth of the matter being discussed and with cutting away language loaded with meaning that the truth did not support. I see his actions here as being in the finest tradition of pursuit of the truth. This cannot be a bad thing in a judge or a Justice, yes?

Adopt a box today!

At Hugh Hewitt's suggestion, I wrote to the Generalissimo over at Radio Blogger to get assigned a paper released from the Reagan library as part of the documents related to John Roberts. My assignment is from Box 23 on a matter of Equal Opportunity in Education. I've just pulled the document and I'm reading up on it now, so I'll have my analysis posted soon. Thanks!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Reid has a mild stroke

I see the report where Senate minority leader Reid has suffered a mild stroke. I certainly hope he's OK and I wish him well for a full recovery. It sounds like he thinks he's all right and that's a good thing.

Lions on the prairie? Speaking of bad ideas...

I read this story yesterday about a plan to bring several African species to live on the plains here in the United States. I think it's a categorically stupid idea. Here's another story today that highlights just one of the reasons why.

US Customs systems compromised by a virus

Touching on 3 issues near and dear to my heart comes this story on the US Customs Service's computer systems being shut down due to a virus:

::::::::A virus caused the U.S. Customs computer system used to process passengers arriving on international flights to shut down for several hours Thursday, leaving long lines of impatient travelers, officials said.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the virus impacted computer systems at a number of airports, including those in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Laredo, Texas.

The worst delays appeared to be at Miami International Airport, where as many as 2,000 people waited to clear immigration, airport spokesman Marc Henderson said.

At New York's airports, customs officials processed passengers by hand during the shutdown. In Los Angeles, they used backup computer systems to keep passengers moving.

The computer problem originated in database systems located in Virginia and lasted from around 6 p.m. until about 11:30 p.m., said Zachary Mann, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in southern Florida.

"Unfortunately with technology you have periods where things happen," he said.

Oh, sure. These things happen. Multi-billion dollar government systems housing critical-to-national-security information are completely exposed to viral infection, get compromised, and go completely off-line for hours at a stretch all the time. As a professional network designer and engineer, let me say right now: bullshit. I have personally designed and implemented networks and systems where this kind of event is not only planned for, it's expected. Both in policy and design they are redundant and protected from being completely compromised. The term "mission critical" has a meaning beyond looking great on a marketing slick - it means that the information system in question does not simply go down. Ever. It is never not available because if it is, the "mission" fails. That's what "mission critical" means. My apologies, but I think that if a system going dark translates into a couple of thousand people not being able to move in our transit system, then the system qualifies as being mission critical. That such a system can be designed in such a way that it's 1) even exposed to a virus at all and 2) not redundant so as to provide capability even in the event of a compromise like this is just unbelievable to me, personally. Sounds we need a design review over there, and fast.

The ends justify the means...

...but only when something else justifies the ends. In the aftermath of the 7/7 and 7/21 attacks in the UK subway or underground, the news came that the police there had shot to death a man who made all the wrong moves. He ran from police. He jumped a turnstile. He was wearing a heavy padded coat in July. And he ignored the repeated orders of police to stop and surrender. Faced with a seconds-to-live choice, the bobbies made the call and opened fire. Tragically, the man wasn't a bomber but an immigrant who was on his way to work. A very sad story, but unavoidable given the facts as stated by the police.

Only, it now appears they were lying. Have a look at the UK Telegraph story I've linked and look closely at the picture of the body of Jean Charles de Meneze. (Work-safe, so go ahead.) Even in the tiny, little thumbnail photo on that page does that even remotely resemble a "heavy padded coat?" My eyes are about 75% as good as they were 15 years ago and I can still clearly see that it's a denim jacket - hardly the kind of clothing that would be out of place for a man who grew up in a hot, humid climate now living in a place like London, England. The bobbies couldn't have known that, of course, but it's far more likely than a parka in Washington, DC.

If that were all, I'd still side with the bobbies. Hell, if the guy'd been wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and running shorts and acted the way he did, I'd side with the bobbies. Only, he didn't act like they say he did.

:::::::: Documents and photographs leaked to ITV News also confirmed that Mr de Menezes did not run from the police, as had been reported, had used his Tube pass to enter the station, rather than vault the barrier, and had taken a seat on the train before being grabbed by an officer.

He was wearing a light denim jacket and not as previously reported a padded coat which could have concealed explosives.

Now wait a minute. He did not "jump the gate", he walked through after using his pass? He then did not run toward the platform, ignoring the orders of police to stop? No, he walked to the train and took a seat before being physically grabbed by an officer. The bobbies actually had grappled with this guy and then shot him 7 times in the head? They shot him even though he was considered sufficiently controllable to approach and physically detain. This is nowhere near how this incident was reported and it occurred 3 weeks ago. I know an investigation is in progress, but they sure had no trouble dumping the originally reported details to the press in less than 3 weeks, what's the problem here?

Whether it's actually a cover-up or not is immaterial. It looks like one and that's the impression that's going to be left with everyone. The actions of these officers and the subsequent acts of their superiors will do nothing but damage the war effort. Through sloppy police work and poor management they've handed a major political and propaganda coup to the terrorists, they've weakened or destroyed the public's confidence in homeland security, and - oh, yes - they've killed a man. An innocent man who was just trying to get to work that day.

The ends may, in fact, justify the means. Using this as policy however, demands a zero-fault performance in the process used. That's not what we're seeing here and these mistakes are going to cost dearly in the months to come.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Something interesting this way comes...

Been light on the blogging lately for a very good reason. Something is happening here in my personal life that's taking a great deal of my time, so bear with me. It's good, trust me. (And no, the wife's not pregnant again.) More to come, soon.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Another case of Mad How disease

You know, you honestly can't even make this stuff up. In the face of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed under the orders of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says that women will be worse off under an elected democracy than under Saddam's murderous regime.

::::::::Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman who was the hero of his party's anti-war wing before his gaffe-prone 2004 presidential candidacy crashed and burned in Iowa, still doesn't think the Iraqis are better off with dictator Saddam Hussein out of power and in prison.

Appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" yesterday, the fiery former Vermont governor said, "It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq."

Feel free to read the transcript yourself right here. (PDF format) A man who would make such a claim is either completely unhinged, completely ignorant of the topic he's expounding on, a blithering idiot, or far more concerned with saying anything he needs to, true or bald-faced lie, to try to tear down the President. Anyone who believes Mad How's comments on this are desperately seeking any reason they can to cling to their hatred of George Bush and that's all there is to it. I feel sorry for my friends and colleagues who claim membership in the Democratic party with this guy at the helm. It's going to play well over in the cesspool at Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground but it looks very, very bad to people who are still thinking folks instead of spitting hate-mongers. Good luck, fella's.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

DC bomb hoax Updated!

A device made to look like a bomb was disabled this afternoon after being discovered at the Mayflower hotel in downtown DC. Bomb squad personnel used a water cannon to disable the device. No one is reported injured although 300 people were evacuated here.

I can find no reason whatsoever to place such a device in such a place unless you're looking to run an experiment on how the authorities reacted to it and how fast. I firmly believe this was a "dry run" or a scouting mission designed to show the bomb-makers how, when, how fast, and where law enforcement and first responder teams took action in response to a bomb threat. That's both good and bad, folks. Bad because it allowed them to observe the operation and determine where weak spot are as well as how and where the teams deployed. It might be good because the lesson they may have learned today was that the plan they had in mind - to do this kind of bombing for real - isn't workable. The response of the teams this afternoon might already be serving as a deterrent.

The unfortunate part is we'll likely never know. We can only prepare and be ready to act when called upon.

Update: This is now being reported as a screw-up with a training device. CNN has a report that says the device was accidentally left at the Mayflower by a member of the Secret Service. The device is a training unit designed to assist agents in developing their skills at detection. Looks like it was designed well because it looked like a real bomb. I am extremely glad there was another explanation to this. I would like to suggest that the Secret Service keep better track of their toys, but my relief over it being a simple mistake makes me want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Chem weapons factory found in Iraq Updated

Now before anyone's dander gets all up, there's been no suggestion that this factory was there before Saddam was removed from power. That's still a possibility, but I can't really give the idea much credit. A raid of the location just north of Mosul turned up 11 precursors to chemical weapons and gear necessary to produce the weapons for deployment.

::::::::U.S. troops raiding a warehouse in the northern city of Mosul uncovered a suspected chemical weapons factory containing 1,500 gallons of chemicals believed destined for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians, military officials said Saturday.

Monday's early morning raid found 11 precursor agents, "some of them quite dangerous by themselves," a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, said in Baghdad.

Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," partly because the chemicals would be difficult to keep from spreading over a wide area, he said.

Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

This material isn't stuff procured at the nearest home improvement center or garnered from the kitchens of everyday Iraqis. This shows some support from some other nation and I've got a pretty good idea of which one. Syria's not it. Look eastward. Whoever's backing these bastards has pretty clearly decided that the average Iraqi isn't the kind of muslim they're fighting the horrible, nasty crusaders for and equally clearly doesn't care how many of them die alongside of our forces. I hope the rest of the Arab wor'd paying attention.

Update: I've been advised in an e-mail that I should take a stong look at a map and reconsider my suggestion about which country these chemicals came through. That's a fair request and I have. (You can, too: here.) Mosul's in the north west of Iraq which would make it a lot closer to Syria than Iran. Given the problem of transporting this stuff all the way across northern Iraq (that's through Kurdish territory, isn't it?) I have to agree that the stuff likely came in from Syria. Fair enough. We've already got plenty of reasons to turn our eyes that way in any case.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

NH Judge to cops: you can't enforce immigration laws

I must admit that I occasionally seek to use nuance in my language. However, I find it hard to reconcile that a group of people that we refer to as "law enforcement" are being told that they have no authority to enforce the law. In New Hampshire Judge L. Phillips Runyon III has ruled that cops who detained illegal aliens could not charge "criminal trespass" because "The criminal trespass charges against the defendants are unconstitutional attempts to regulate in the area of enforcement of immigration violations[.]"

I fail to find anywhere in the Constitution (and please leave me a comment if you can find one) where local law enforcement officals are precluded from enforcing the laws of this country. The judge sees it differently, obviously. I am suspicious, however, that there's something else going on in this decision.

::::::::The judge said the series of penalties the federal government imposes for immigration violations are so complete that Congress meant to leave no room for states in immigration enforcement. ::::::::

So the fact that Congress writes law that's tightly fit (for once, and in his opinion) is sufficient to tell state and local police that they can't enforce that law? That makes no sense whatsoever, unless you're ticked off at Congress about something already. And in case anyone's wondering if I'm accusing the judge of letting his personal feelings on unrelated matters cloud his judgement, rest assured: I am. His statements don't make sense otherwise.

So, once again, we have local police who identified illegal aliens within our borders and detained them with every intention of applying our nation's laws and they are told they have overstepped their bounds. Once again, the illegals are released after the cops' fine work. I would like Judge Runyon to explain a couple of things. First, I thought it was a matter for all US citizens to uphold our laws. Why are the police - you know, the guys we pay to actually enforce laws - now precluded from doing so? Second, why should local law enforcement now involve themselves with any matter that might touch on a federal law, knowing that all their hard work on the matter can be flushed down the nearest sewer with the stroke of his pen?

I certainly hope the residents of the towns under Runyon's jurisdiction feel safer now that their judge has told the police to back off these criminals when they see them. Clearly, Congress needs to pass immigrations laws that are a little more "complete" so even judges in small towns can figure out that they're intended to be enforced.

Friday, August 12, 2005

OK, we can bring the troops home now...

...from South Korea.

::::::::The government said yesterday that it favored allowing North Korea to have a peaceful nuclear energy program, opening a yawning policy gulf between South Korea and the United States.

"Our position is that North Korea has a general right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes such as for agriculture, hospitals, and electricity-generating," Chung Dong-young, Seoul's unification minister and National Security Council chairman, said in an interview with online news site Daum Media. "We have a different view to the United States."

Our position might be different due to the North Koreans' insistence that they are going to use any nuclear program they have to make weapons out of them. However, far be it from me to suggest that we take a position that puts us as odds with the perspectives of 2 neighbors, neither of whom share a border with us. Since South Korea believes that it is secure enough to be unconcerned about the North's nuclear ambitions, I think it's pretty clear that they don't need several tens of thousands of American troops patrolling their border with North Korea. I would propose that we bring the majority of those troops home and, since they're already used to the mission, have them start patrolling our borders here. Our Border Patrol has been seriously undermanned for years and the constant refrain from them is that they don't have the manpower necessary to secure our borders. I believe that and I think we have the resources to do something about it. I think I read somewhere that the Border Patrol has less than 2000 agents on the southern border between us and Mexico. If we took just 10,000 soldiers from South Korea and put them to work securing America's borders as they have South Korea's, that act alone would more than triple the available manpower along the borders and that's assuming we split those 10,000 two ways. Bring home 20,000 troops and you can put 10,000 more bodies on each of our borders. Regular patrols in that kind of force will most definitely reduce the flow of illegal aliens penetrating our borders, and no one's got a problem with that, do they?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Attention Lefties: When sending hatemail to conservatives, don't send it from your work address

Well, this one hits home with me both from a political and a techie perspective. Michelle Malkin has posted her thoughts on the antics of Cindy Sheean, the woman holed up outside Bush's ranch wanting to ask the President why he killed her son. Malkin wrote the linked piece and got this lovely little gem in her e-mail:

::::::::X-Originating-IP: []
From: "Mitchell, Patrick"
To: "''"
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2005 11:41:22 -0400
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2657.72)

YOU STINK you nasty C*NT! Eat Shit and DIE b*tch!!

(Text-bleeps mine, I'm afraid.) Well, this is just brilliant on a whole series of levels. First, note the "From" address. That's the company name there just in front of the ".com" and - get this - it's a law firm. Second, the user's name and user ID are clearly shown. And just to add another nail in the coffin, the IP address of the originating station is shown up there at the top. Techies like myself will recognize all manner of things you can do with that piece of information, not the least of which is confirm the point of origin as being in the company's assigned block. And no, it wasn't spoofed. The clown who thought this was a good idea to send it from his work location has found that - imagine this - sending this kind of hateful bile is against company e-mail policy and it can, indeed, be tracked internally. The unemployment roles for California were up by 1 after his bosses were advised of the e-mail, incidentally.

Use the Yahoo or Hotmail web interface, kids. It's worth the trouble.

'Able Danger' ignored?

This story is just coming out and the ramifications of it are astounding. The 9/11 Commission, charged with examining all the details about what was known and when in an effort to isolate the failures in our intel apparatus that didn't catch the 9/11 terrorists, apparently ignored information about an Army data-mining program that identified Mohammad Atta and other hijackers in its report. If true, this is a staggering discovery and it was most certainly relevant to the issue of what went wrong and what worked ahead of that terrible day. I can find absolutely no plausible reason to conclude that an intelligence program that successfully identified Atta as a threat was of no consequence to their investigation.

This story is just running too damn fast for me to keep up with so I'm going to direct you all to a few places I check on regularly for information about this. If someone has another site they'd like to recommend, please do. If someone has a beef with my recommendations, back up your issue and show me that they're inappropriate. If you can, I'll rescind the recommendation.

Check out:

More as I get them.

Chrenkoff still in the fight

I mentioned earlier that Art Chrenkoff will be retiring soon from the blogosphere. He's headed out, but he's not there yet. He's got the latest roundup of all the news from Afghanistan that's unfit to print in US media owing to the positive nature of the stuff. Be aware of the whole picture, not just what the NYT and CBS want to tell you. Grab a drink and have a read.

Fedex abusing DMCA - just as predicted

OK, it's been a LONG time since I wrote anything about the DMCA, so now's a good time for a brief refresher:

::::::::On October 12, 1998, the U.S. Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, ending many months of turbulent negotiations regarding its provisions. Two weeks later, on October 28th, President Clinton signed the Act into law.

The Act is designed to implement the treaties signed in December 1996 at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Geneva conference, but also contains additional provisions addressing related matters.

As was the case with the 'No Electronic Theft' Act (1997), the bill was originally supported by the software and entertainment industries, and opposed by scientists, librarians, and academics.

Highlights Generally:

  • Makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software.

  • Outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

  • Does permit the cracking of copyright protection devices, however, to conduct encryption research, assess product interoperability, and test computer security systems.

  • Provides exemptions from anti-circumvention provisions for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions under certain circumstances.

  • In general, limits Internet service providers from copyright infringement liability for simply transmitting information over the Internet.

  • Service providers, however, are expected to remove material from users' web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement.

  • Limits liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education -- when they serve as online service providers and under certain circumstances -- for copyright infringement by faculty members or graduate students.

  • Requires that "webcasters" pay licensing fees to record companies.

  • Requires that the Register of Copyrights, after consultation with relevant parties, submit to Congress recommendations regarding how to promote distance education through digital technologies while "maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of users."

  • States explicitly that "[n]othing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use..."

(Thanks to the UCLA for that write-up.) OK, the DMCA was put through Congress by content owners and developers looking to protect their investments. Their actions brought on the ire of the denizens of cyberspace for a variety of reasons. The principle issue that most of the heavy wire-heads have with the DMCA is that so much of the content is created specifically for users of Windows systems and this precludes the use by those folks who choose not to use a Microsoft product. Making it illegal to even attempt to circumvent copy protection methods means that these users cannot find ways to port the content into a usable form. Often, (as is the case with some music CD's) the copy protection will even prevent the use of the content on specific machines not approved for use. Some folks believe that when they buy a $15 CD of 12 tracks of music, they should be allowed to play that CD on whatever bloody device they choose. I happen to be one of those people but I'm not as rabid about the DMCA as others I've read.

One of the problems that was predicted when the DMCA was passed was that companies would abuse the law to force users to not post images, information, and reviews about their products if what was said or shown didn't meet with the companies' approval. This, of course, was poo-poohed loudly at the time.

I give you Fedex, who is, at this very moment, citing the DMCA as their justification to demand the removal of a web site put up by a man who furnished his apartment with stuff he made out of Fedex shipping boxes. The web site has pictures of the stuff he's made and Fedex is saying that it violates their copyright and, therefore, the DMCA. The man's lawyers are saying it's not a matter of copyright, but trademark infringement and that means the DMCA doesn't apply.

Fedex is giving themselves a black eye (and clamping a vice-grip on their own genitalia, by the way) in pursuing this kind of thing. Had they not waved the DMCA around, the site likely wouldn't have attracted much attention, and certainly not that of the tech web site titan Slashdot. My advice to Fedex: quietly withdraw the complaint and let it slide off into the sunset.

Back in the saddle

Well, it's been a hugely busy week and I haven't had the chance to blog like I like to. Hopefully this crunch is over with and I'll be able to start posting again regularly. Starting tonite. If you've been checking, thank you for checking back. I appreciate it. And now, we return you to your regular schedule...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Arrest in UNSCAM (OFF)

Well, there's no denying it now. The UN program designed to help the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein - a program widely touted by the international Left - was as corrupt as the day is long. And it wasn't just the little guys way out in the field, either.

::::::::One of the targets of the Oil-for-Food investigation, Alexander Yakovlev, on Monday pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering charges for taking bribes during his work at the United Nations.

Yakovlev also admitted to soliciting a bribe under the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, making him the first U.N. official to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal-tainted program for Iraq.

Yakovlev was stripped of his diplomatic immunity earlier Monday by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and taken into custody by federal authorities.

The fascinating part is how fast he copped a plea. Now, let's just see how long it takes before Kofi Annan to suddenly require a plane trip to Brazil for some important conference.

Peter Jennings dead at 67

ABC's primary anchor, Peter Jennings, has died. He was 67. His battle with lung cancer had been in the public eye for a few months and Sunday saw the end to that. Cancer is a bad stretch of road and I'd wish it on no one. My sympathies and prayers go out to Jennings' family. Hopefully, they'll be allowed the dignity and space to grieve as families must.

Godspeed, Mr. Jennings.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Physics should have been mandatory at his school

OK, pop quiz: I hand you a baseball and ask you to toss it through the air as far as you can with 1 arm. (Left or right, whichever you choose. Whichever one is the strong one.) Next, I hand you a 16-pound bowling ball and ask you to toss it with the same arm in the same direction. All else being equal, which one goes further?

If you said that the lighter baseball would likely go further, give yourself a gold star. Gravity and air friction being equal, a given amount of force will generally move a lighter object further. (Sure, there are plenty of exceptions, but that's the general rule.) So explain to me how an allegedly knowledgeable on-air TV personality with years of experience with the military makes this kind of bonehead statement:

::::::::The marines, apparently, were riding in a LAV or similar armored fighting vehicle:

"The explosion flipped the 31-ton troop carrier over and caused it to burst into flames. It was not immediately clear how many of the marines had died from the explosion or from the flames. "

That's right. The explosion flipped a 31-ton APC.

And what is Wolf Blitzer's argument? That the military didn't provide good vehicles in the Al Anbar Province. And that -- and I quote verbatim, -- "an up-armored Humvee would have stood a better chance."

Do the math. If the explosion flipped vehicle weight 31 tons (plus another ton and a half or so of marines and gear), then what are the survivability chances of a 4-ton uparmored Humvee?

I'll tell you:

Anything left of the Humvee would have been parked in Syria, dumbass.

Blitzer was on the air with a retired general who had, not seconds before, explained that the IED that did this damage was a shaped charge that likely would have killed the crew in a Bradly or an M1 Abrams tank. I can assure you, if the M1 can't keep you alive from such a bomb, a Humvee ain't gonna do it, either. It's been long enough, Blitzer. You should know better by now.

Chrenkoff is moving up and moving out

Arthur Chrenkoff has been a favorite blogger of mine for a long time. I've linked to dozens of his articles, most notably the "Good News" series of articles he's collected about the underreported or simply ignored positive stories and news of progress from Afghanistan and Iraq. In spite of accusations of being nothing but a cheerleader and a constant source of irritation to those who cannot bear to think that we might be doing some good over there after all, he has continued to provide an invaluable service in presenting that often claimed yet hugely lacking quality in our MSM: balance.

Fortunately for Chrenkoff, he's been offered a promotion in his field and a chance to advance professionally. Unfortunately, that advance comes with a price. He's going to be unable to continue writing in his blog. Here in the next few weeks, Chrenkoff's priceless blog will be going dark. He says he's received a large number of comments and posts about him since announcing it, even some nice ones from his idealogical opponents. He deserves them, one and all.

I've never met him and (living where we both do) I doubt I will. It seems unlikely that we'll even hold a conversation. For all that, I'd like to tip my cyber-hat in his direction and put up a standing offer of a beer should he ever venture out here near Washington, DC. You'll be missed, sir, and I wish you very, very well.

Russian submariners rescued

Britannia proves once again that she's still a sovereign of the seas. A British remote-piloted submersible has managed to cut loose the cables that had snared a Russian bathyscathe allowing them to return to the surface after being trapped over 600 feet down for 2 days. I have to hand it to the Russian Defense Minister for putting this episode into just the right light:

::::::::Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who went to Kamchatka to supervise the operation, praised the international efforts.

"We have seen in deeds, not in words, what the brotherhood of the sea means."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Prototype viruses to Microsoft's newest OS found

Microsoft released the beta version of their new operating system, Microsoft Vista, about a week ago. The ZDNet is reporting that 5 proof-of-concept viruses have been published that attack Vista's command-line tool called Monad.

::::::::Five proof-of-concept viruses that target Monad, the next version of Microsoft's command prompt, were included in a recently published virus writing magazine, according to Mikko Hyppönen, the director of antivirus research at F-Secure.

Monad is a command line interface and scripting language that is similar to Unix shells such as BASH, but is based on object-oriented programming and the .Net framework. It was initially expected in Vista, but Microsoft hinted a couple of months ago that it may not be ready for initial versions of the Vista client or server. However, Microsoft has confirmed that Monad will be included in Exchange 12, the next version of the company's collaboration server due in the second half of 2006.

The proof-of-concept viruses, along with detailed explanations of how they work, were included in a magazine that was published on the Web over the last week. The viruses' only action is to infect other shell scripts on the host's operating system. They would cause little harm in the wild, but would be relatively easy to modify using the information from the article, said Hyppönen in a blog posting on Thursday.

He warned that if Microsoft ships Monad with Vista and it is enabled by default this could lead to an "outbreak of scripting viruses". Microsoft may choose to ship the tool as an add-on or disable it by default to reduce the risk, he added.

Well, that didn't take long. I find it hard to fathom how a company can be saying that security is their first concern in putting out new software and leave holes in a new product big enough and obvious enough to be exploited in a week. I know this is a beta version, but let's get serious. A company with the purchasing power of Microsoft can surely afford to hire people who have the skills (excuse me, "skilz") necessary to write viruses like these. Those people - assuming MS has, in fact, hired some - should be allowed first crack at the beta software before MS puts it out to the public so they can find the exploits and have the fixed. Who among us will now view MS Vista as a trustworthy system? Good thing they've got a year to fix things, I guess.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Alabama leads the charge against eminent domain abuse

The first state-wide legislation aimed at fixing the gaping hole torn in the Constitutional protections of property rights has passed in Alabama.

::::::::Republican Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill that was passed unanimously by a special session of the Alabama Legislature, which would prohibit governments from using their eminent-domain authority to take privately owned properties for the purpose of turning them over to retail, industrial, office or residential developers.

Calling the high court's June 23 ruling "misguided" and a "threat to all property owners," Mr. Riley said, "A property rights revolt is sweeping the nation, and Alabama is leading it."

The backlash against the judicial ruling has not received much attention in the national press, although legislative leaders in more than two dozen states have proposed statutes and/or state constitutional amendments to restrict local governments' eminent-domain powers.

Besides Alabama, legislation to ban or restrict the use of eminent domain for private development has been introduced in 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.

Legislators have announced plans to introduce eminent-domain bills in seven more states: Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin, and lawmakers in Colorado, Georgia and Virginia plan to act on previously introduced bills.

Excellent work, Alabama. Now we just need the rest of the Union to do what the Justices writing for the Kelo majority couldn't understand English well enough to accomplish and re-assert the property rights protections the Founders thought they had made completely plain. I'm looking forward to announcing the passage of similar legislation here in Virginia.

Big Ad

This funny one sent to me by a family member - it's a big ad! (Work safe unless you don't like beer commercials.)

I love those Aussies!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Air France aircraft slildes off runway, bursts into flames - no deaths

Someone was looking out for the passengers and crew of an Air France aircraft the slid off the runway in Canada yesterday and then burst into flames. Having worked in the commercial aviation field, I was briefed in nauseating detail about the effects of a fire on an aircraft and what one could expect if a fire broke out in that environment. That 309 persons could get out of that kind of situation all alive is nothing short of miraculous. The aircraft was an Airbus A340, a four-engine commercial jet relatively common in use in European nations for long-haul flights.

Obviously, an investigation needs to commence to figure out what happened that the jet crashed at all. The work of the crew in getting everyone out, however, needs to be studied and written up in a new textbook on how cabin evacuations should be performed. Bravo to that crew! They did the job right in the worst-case scenario.

Eminent domain proceeding against Little Italy in San Diego

Relying on the Supreme Court decision in Kelo, the city of San Diego has decided to oust the business holders in San Diego's Little Italy. There are several items in San Diego's eminent domain queue as noted at the Castle Coalition. In the particular story I link to above, the issue surrounds Alsco, a linen and laundry company. The business employs 150 people and provides services to an estimated 3000 businesses in the area. A developer wants to build condos and some shops on the block Alsco is sitting on and has options to buy the other 3 plots that, together with Alsco, make up the block. They want the area declared "blighted" and Alsco to be forced to cough up the land.

The comment made in a story by a Union-Tribune writer by the developer's spokeman tells the crux of the tale:

::::::::CLB Partners has sought, without success, to buy the Alsco land since 2000, developer Patrick Rhamey said. He described his company's communication with Alsco staff as courteous, but indecisive and frustrating.

"Prior to this, there has been no movement," he told redevelopment officials last week. "CCDC's [Centre City Development Corp.] involvement can really help us."

"The stick, the fire to create a sense of urgency for Alsco to take action is the threat of eminent domain," Rhamey said.

Emphasis mine. There it is, ladies & gentlemen. The use of eminent domain here is not seen as being done for a public use. It's a negotiation tool. It's extortion made legal because it's a government agency doing it with the blessing of a wrong-headed Supreme Court majority who clearly can't understand explicit language in the Constitution. The developer has been unable to buy the property on its own so it wants to bring in muscle to force the property owner to sign on the dotted line, and that is the only concern here. Public use be damned. This is exactly the kind of thing the dissenting judges warned about in the Kelo case and its happening right on schedule.

UK Police policy hard on the toes

For our next example of political correctness and bending over backwards for the muslim community, I take you now to this report in the UK Sun (pointed out by The Moderate Voice.) According to the report, the police are being told they must remove their shoes prior to entering a muslim's home they are in the process of raiding. This, apparently, to show respect for person the police suspect of doing something that warrants their smashing the front door in to arrest.

So, the police need helmets to protect their heads, gloves to protect their hands, shoulder boards and vests to protect their torsos, and greaves to protect their knees and shins. Then, after all that, they must remove their shoes and engage in a forced incursion into a building. They go to all these lengths to protect themselves from injury and are then told they must remove the 1 article of protective gear that every citizen of the kingdom wears daily for protection of a fairly easy-to-injure body part. This makes sense?

The idiot who came up with these rules should be required to join in the next 30 days' worth of police raids and be in the vanguard of the incursion without his or her shoes on. After stomping on glass, nails, and debris from smashed doors and windows, let's see how their take is on whether the shoes should be a required part of the whole body armor thing.


Big Island brush fire

I was unaware that the big island of Hawaii was seeing conditions conducive to brush fires, but there's apparently a big one going on over there. When I hear "fire" and Hawaii in the same breath, I tend to think "volcano" but there's no suggestion in the story that lava had anything to do with it. The part about this that we mainlanders tend to forget is that there's only so much room on an island to back up away from a fire with. Here's hoping they get it under control soon.

Schmidt wins OH special election

My father-in-law was in town throughout much of last week and the weekend. He's a staunch Democrat and a well-read, fairly thoughtful kind of guy, so I enjoy discussing our given stances on things. He's far from the kind that toes his party line on every issue and so am I. We actually agree on a number of things and that tends to even out the things we disagree on. One of the topics of conversation was the Ohio special election wherein GOP candidate Jean Schmidt was running for Congress opposed by Paul Hackett for the Democrats. What made this an interesting race was Hackett's status as an Iraq War vet and his loud denunciation of President Bush's strategies and commentary on the war. He drew an awful lot of attention in his use of campaign ads featuring President Bush apparently endorsing him (Bush didn't, by the way.)

Well, the election's over and Schmidt won. I'm certain that there's going to be a whole lot of talking-head time on the tube going over her margin of victory, which was closer than her predecessor's races over his 12 years in office. I hope the returning Iraq war vets who are going to run for office as Republicans get the same amount of press.

Congrats, Representative Schmidt. Good luck in there.