Saturday, December 31, 2005

Iraq the Model reports

Mohammed at Iraq the Model is providing ground-level reporting of the current situation in Iraq's politics and Baghdad's energy crunch for Pajamas Media:

::::::::In what‘s supposed to be a “waiting day” in Iraq since it’s Friday, events and developments just kept surfacing and vacation day was just as eventful as any other day of the week.

Baghdad now is suffering from a power siege that began after workers in one of Iraq’s largest refineries-the Baiji oil refinery-came under threats from terrorists who said they’d kill tanker drivers who transport oil products to the rest of the country. The oil ministry responded by shutting down the refinery as a measure to avoid loss in lives. This caused Baghdad to suffer from yet a new fuel and electricity shortage because the refinery supplies many power plants in the country. The electricity outages are most severe in the western part of Baghdad where residents are getting a little more than 6 hours/day.

In a related development, Ahmed al-Chalabi has been asked to run the oil ministry after the minister Mohammed Bahr al-Iloom was forced to take a whole month off!

If you're not checking in with Mohammed for updates regularly you're doing yourself a disservice. Same with Pajamas Media. You can think of them as "open source news reporting" in that they highlight stories and opinion from a hugely wide array of sources. But I digress.

I'm not sure why the response by the Iraqis to terrorist threats is to shut down their major refinery rather than deploy their existing security forces or, as a final resort, to ask for Coalition assistance. We've certainly been providing convoy assistance elsewhere. Of course, the terrorist actions aren't going to win them any friends in Baghdad or in Iraq as a whole. Perhaps the Iraqi government's take on the matter is to let the terrorists reap the consequences of their threats. As with Mohammed, I await developments.

Please also take a moment there on the post from Iraq the Model to read the political situation update that takes up the bottom 2/3rds of the post. Things there are a lot more complex than the media is painting things and it's critical for us to know that as we make our own judgements.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

6th Circuit rules against ACLU in Ten Commandments display case

Why am I unsurprised that the news of a ruling severely castigating the ACLU's arguments in a case they brought to require the removal of a Ten Commandments display failed to get much in the way of airtime? On 21 December the 6th Circuit Federal Appellate court ruled against the ACLU and specifically stating that the US Constitution does not require nor does it erect a wall of separation between church and state. The Louisville, KY Courier-Journal has the story:

::::::::A federal appeals court has upheld a display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents in the Mercer County, Ky., courthouse.

The judge who wrote the opinion blasted the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the display, in language that echoed the type of criticism often directed at the organization.

Judge Richard Suhrheinrich's ruling said the ACLU brought "tiresome" arguments about the "wall of separation" between church and state, and it said the organization does not represent a "reasonable person."

The decision was issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. It upheld a lower-court decision that allowed Mercer County to continue displaying the Ten Commandments along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other documents.

All of the items were posted at the same time in 2001.

You can read the ruling itself here. (PDF format.)

The second a court rules against such a display it's front-page news and live-action reporting interrupting all other programming. A court second only to the US Supreme Court rules the other way and... nothing. Go ahead and try yourself. I looked for the story on CNN, the Washington Post, New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, and even the BBC. Nothing. This news is over a week old and aside from the local papers carrying local stories this event got completely ignored in spite of being binding for all of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan. That's a pretty big area to be so casually dismissed by our media watchdogs.

Could it be that the press just can't bring itself to report the bad news for its ally, the ACLU?

Hat Tip: Captain's Quarters

(Linked at Mudville Gazette)

Rasmussen Reports on public opinion re: NSA wiretapping

Seems Americans aren't as vein-poppingly outraged at the notion of the President ordering this nation's intel agencies to gather intel as the media and certain left-wing organizations would have us all believe. As reported by the Rasmussen polls, 64% of Americans believe the NSA should be allowed to intercept calls between suspected terrorists in foreign countries and individuals in the United States. Just 23% disagreed. Feel free to read the brief yourself.

There's a lot more to this than just what's reflected in the numbers. Since the story was published by the NY Times the press and particular Democratic political figures have been literally running around screaming about it. As I and others have mentioned, the story being told isn't an informative transmittal of the facts of the situation, but rather an incredibly biased set of hit-pieces selectively omitting important facts. The media hasn't been shy about re-telling the story, either, so what does it say that 64% of Americans don't buy their line about what a problem this is? Could it be, perhaps, that people are going to alternative sources? Or, perhaps, that they've just learned not to trust what the media is telling them? The survey reported a significant majority of the respondents (68%) are following the story "somewhat or very closely" so it's not a matter of not listening to the media's take on things.

They're listening, they're just not persuaded.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Kwanzaa education

Like most people, it seems, my knowledge of what Kwanzaa is really made of was remarkably shallow. I knew the holiday was a new construct, not an age-old observance, but that was really all. Up to about 10-15 years ago, I hardly saw it mentioned. One day I was in a Hallmark shop and noticed the full 2 racks of Kwanzaa cards next to the Christmas ones. That was about as far as I took it in spite of knowing what I knew.

Seems what I knew was just scratching the surface. If you're finding yourself unable to answer the basic question of the origin of Kwanzaa, you'll be well served with these two bloggers' contributions. LaShawn Barber goes over an earlier post on the subject and Mary Katharine Ham tells of her attempts to tell the whole truth.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Excellent news

Years ago I was dancing at my wedding reception. My young niece came running out onto the floor, twirled her dress for me and asked for a dance. I was only too happy to provide and I swept her up to take a turn around the floor. She was about 3 or 4 years old at the time. The photographer recognized a moment to be immortalized and did his stuff with great dispatch. It's one of my favorite pictures in the album.

Today she came into my parent's house to celebrate Christmas with us bringing her boyfriend of a few years in tow. He's a great guy and my family thinks the world of him. They had just returned from a trip to New York city.

She didn't even have her coat off before my sister and my wife zeroed in on the ring on her left hand.

She's getting married and as I kissed her cheek and shook his hand in congrats, she made a point of telling me I had a dance waiting for me at the reception. I'll be there to collect, bank on it. Our family has had our share of tears at this time of year. I'm happy to balance those books a bit and count a new man in the family as part of our blessings. So far, I think he's gonna fit right in.

Congrats, Megan and Darren! Here's to a wondrous wedding and a long and happy life to follow.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Here's to joy for each of you. Here, also, is to absent friends on this joyous day.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

FBI air monitoring program the latest on the media hit-list

Sound the alarm! The FBI (a.k.a. jackbooted thugs of the oppressive Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy&trade heading up the fascist government controlled by the Rethuglicans and Chimpy McHalliBusHitler) is engaged in monitoring for the presense of nuclear material in the United States! These gleeful crushers of Constitutional Rights have the audacity, the temerity, the unmitigated gall to monitor the air in public places! Release the ACLU!

That's the impression the media's trying to leave you with, in any case, with stories like this one headlined, "FBI Monitored Without Warrants."

A classified radiation monitoring program, conducted without warrants, has targeted private U.S. property in an effort to prevent an Al Qaeda attack, federal law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

While declining to provide details including the number of cities and sites monitored, the officials said the air monitoring took place since the Sept. 11 attacks and from publicly accessible areas — which they said made warrants and court orders unnecessary.

After 9/11 the FBI was hauled up to Capitol Hill and flayed on national television for days for failing to catch the terrorists and "connect the dots." Well, one "connects the dots" by gathering information about where you expect the "dots" to be. This is a fact covered over by the media in their attempt to write their "gotcha" stories and hold the Administration up as the source of all the problems. Now they've fixated on the "warrantless" activities of our government's law enforcement and intel services, as though every action those agencies take needs a warrant. This program is a perfect example of the media's pursuit of a non-story to ridiculous ends in an effort to make the Bush administration look bad. The FBI did this "air monitoring" without a warrant. So what? The monitoring was done from public spaces. Unless CAIR or the ACLU are suggesting that the air in a public space belonged to the residents of the various monitored sites what would a warrant be required for?

While we're on the subject of discussing this program, may I ask who the hell leaked the existance of this classified program to the media - again - and why the media isn't screaming for that person's head? The monitoring is clearly a national security issue and revealing so much as its presence offers valuable info to the terrorists. It absolutely aids the enemies of this country and I don't get the thought process of anyone who doesn't see that. Add these leakers to the names of the ones who leaked the NSA's program and let the investigations and prosecutions for mishandling classified data begin.

The NSA wiretap order and program: is it legal?

I've mentioned when commenting on the NSA wiretapping program that an initial caveat is that I'm no lawyer. Well, John Hindraker at Power Line is a lawyer and has done a very detailed analysis of the legality of that program. Bottom line: it's legal. It's also not the 1st time a President has done exactly this sort of thing and used the same justifications. You owe it to yourself to take a few moments and read it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Democrats block a resolution condemning Iranian President's remarks

Let's hear it for the Democrats who apparently can't fight down the bile in their throats regarding Republicans long enough to stand against someone suggesting that Israel be wiped off the map. Check out Captain's Quarters for the details.

Controlled draw-down commences

I note in the news today that Secretary Rumsfeld has announced that authorization to reduce troops levels has been granted. The announcement didn't have a specific number but the story says Pentagon sources are placing the number at about 7000. I realize that the anti-Bush crowd will be cynical about it ("it's just a political ploy") or gloating ("we forced his hand") but the fact is that it's good news and a sign of real progress. As the President has said, as the Iraqis stand up, we can stand down.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Media still not telling the NSA story straight

OK, so I've heard no less than 6 reports by 6 different news agencies today and every single one of them is lying through their teeth. In each and every case they state that the President ordered the NSA to wiretap American citizens here in the US.

That. Is. Not. True.

Love it or hate it, the NSA order was most definitely dealing with international calls, not domestic ones. The order did, apparently, stipulate that the wiretap was to proceed even if 1 end was in the US, but it absolutely did not cover wiretapping 2 Americans in, say, Boston. The media are deliberately misrepresenting the facts. We need an honest, informed debate on this and the media is failing in their alleged duty miserably.

Sgt. Stokely: Just because...

Here's a letter to Mudville Gazette (the Greyhawks) from the father of a soldier killed in the line of duty. You really need to read it.

Rest in peace, Sgt. Stokely.

Monday, December 19, 2005

He said what?

Honest to God, you just can't make this stuff up. Faced with the prospect of having the authorization for drilling in the ANWR come to the floor for a vote by the Senate - the task for which the Senate was formed, I might add - Senate minority leader Harry Reid is hopping mad. His comment?

:::::::: "We've become like the House of Commons. Whoever has the most votes wins. It hasn't worked that way in 216 years," he said.::::::::

Excuse me?

The concept of "whoever has the most vote wins" is called democracy and, last I checked, was the operating principle of the House and the Senate and the American electorate at large. What does it say that the leader of the Democrats in the Senate doesn't know this and/or thinks it's a bad way to run the country? I would argue loudly that the Senate "hasn't worked that way in 216 years" and point to each and every Senate vote on every bill that has come to the floor. It has worked that way - at least up to the point where Senators started invoking parliamentary tricks to make it so the minority is able to manhandle the majority as it's been done for the past several years. Perhaps Harry Reid has gotten so used to bitch-slapping the majority around that he thinks that's the way it's supposed to work.

He needs to be re-educated on the matter and I'm fine with Bill Frist using this issue to do it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Torture's shadow or a torture shadow-puppet?

The Washington Post Outlook section today featured a headline article from Vladimir Bukovsky, a resident of Cambridge, England and a man who spent 12 years in Soviet Prison. Like John McCain, he knows what torture is, having experienced it firsthand.

I am left bewildered, then, at his article that appears to confirm a belief that the United States condones of - approves of, even - torture in the interrogation of prisoners in the war on terror. The article, titled "Torture's Long Shadow", accepts as a proven conclusion that the US is OK with torture in the face of virtually every government agency saying we are not. The issue isn't whether the US condones of torture, it's what the US considers torture vs. what Mr. Bukovsky considers torture. Again, given his familiarity with real torture I'm amazed that he would consider the treatment given to the detainees at Gitmo and elsewhere to be tortuous.

Oh, and a personal note right up front. Mr. Burkovsky might consider it a clever literary device to refer to his readers as "comrade" but it's obvious he's trying to place anyone reading his stuff who might feel differently than he into the same category as the Soviet NKVD guards he writes of. Not a method noted for its success in persuading people. For the record, I reject the label and Mr. Burkovsky may direct it to his mirror if he likes.

The article tries on several occasions to equate treatment below that granted to lawful citizens of free democracies as torture. That's the whole problem with this debate, and he summed it up nicely in this paragraph:

::::::::As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the "Chekist's handshake" so widely practiced under Stalin -- a firm squeeze of the victim's palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?::::::::

So, the part of the world who uses a bed to sleep on at night is "torturing" the significant part of the world's population that sleeps on the floor every night for their entire lives? I've slept on the ground under the stars personally. Was I tortured? Hardly. When my wife and I moved out here near DC *cough* years ago we slept on a hardwood floor for 3 nights running. Not the most pleasant experience but not torture, either.

And, excuse me, dental care? The reports of the Taliban and Saudi fighters captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan indicate that the dental care we provided for them was the first such any of them had received in their entire lives. And now withholding that is somehow torture? I'd wager a guess that most people on the planet have no access to what we'd refer to as dental care at all. That's not torture, that's called "life". To hold that up as an example of torture cheapens the term and insults those who have endured the real thing. People like, well, Mr. Burkovsky.

Of course, the United States has not withheld such care. Not that the article would leave you with that impression. Nor have they forced tubes up the noses of the captives, as Mr. Burkovsky describes, causing serious damage in the procedure. As for the sleep deprivation he speaks of, comparing what might have been done at Gitmo to the 10-days-with-no-sleep-at-all procedure used by Stalin's soldiers in the 1930's is ludicrous. It'd be laughable if the effect of such an accusation weren't so serious.

What it boils down to is this: While Mr. Burkovsky feels that any amount of "cruel, inhumane, or degrading (CID)" treatment is torture, there's a lot of us who simply disagree with his scope. It's the "D" part that causes me trouble. Cruel or inhuman treatment isn't condoned here and I stand side by side with Mr. Burkovsky on this. There's no room for electric shocks to the genitals or beating the soles of a person's feet with iron bars. To say nothing, of course, of feeding a person through an industrial shredder with his children looking on. But tossing the flag of an enemy over a man's shoulders or handling a book in a manner that man might not appreciate, or allowing a woman to be seen in attire he might not approve of isn't torture. The insistence that it is by those Mr. Burkovsky appears to sympathize with is what's causing the breakdown in this debate. Articles like his where America is accused of approving torture in the face of strong denials and where the "D" part of CID seems to get the most outrage don't help.

There's a difference between immigration and illegal entry

Once again I'm treated to a headline at a news outlet that purports to be objective that shows a fine disdain for the facts and a clear bias. The Washington Post (yeah, yeah, I know) has an article headlined, "Analysts: Crackdown Won't Halt Immigration" with dire predictions that the recently passed immigration reform legislation won't do anything.

First, and primarily: the bill is not intended to halt immigration. The bill does nothing to the current levels of immigration or the process by which immigrants may legally enter this country. And that's my pet peeve about this whole debate: the open-borders bunch are talking about illegal aliens busting our borders, evading our customs officials, and generally breaking our laws from the word go and calling that immigration. They place these criminals - and that's what they are from the moment they decide to break our laws about illegal entry - on the same level and in the same category as law-abiding foreign nationals who get in line and follow the rules. That's grossly unfair to the people who adhere to the law and it's an insult to every single one of them. These enablers should be ashamed of themselves, assuming they actually have any such capacity to begin with.

The argument, as always, is that illegals are a critical component of our economy and that they "do jobs Americans won't do." Bullshit. They do jobs Americans won't do at 16 hours a day for $1.50 an hour with no benefits. They do jobs Americans won't do while the employer evades income and business taxes and social security payments because they don't declare the worker. They do jobs Americans won't do in the conditions the employer allows because adhering to safety standards might cut a profit margin from 20 to 18%.

I, personally, know Americans who clean houses and do janitorial work with no problem whatsoever. I know, personally, Americans who put in 60-70 hours a week loading trucks or washing trailers or walking a security beat or tarring roofs, pumping gas, laying asphalt - commercially, not for governments - and doing landscaping. You name the job that "Americans won't do", folks, and I'll bet you we can find one who does that very job in less than a day.

"Well, yes, but if the employers have to pay what Americans want then many of them will go out of business or pass higher costs to the consumers. The horror!"

I'd imagine there's all kinds of businesses who could cut their costs, stay in business, and offer cheaper prices if they'd just break the law to do so. All that pesky environmental regulation costs a lot of money to comply with. Think of the savings if we'd just break a few of those laws. And those product-safety laws? Man, if General Motors could just skip compliance with a few dozen of those they could keep those 30,000 employees humming along. Think that would help the economy?

Yes, it is the same thing. The employers who offer jobs to illegals are breaking the law to pay less money and therefore 1) stay in business and 2) keep their profits. Part of that recently passed legislation deals specifically with cracking down on such employers. Another part raises the level of the crime of illegal entry to a felony. That, in turn, permits local law enforcement to get serious about illegals when they're caught. The concept of "catch and release" has been the reality long enough and it needs to be changed. This legislation does that.

Until the open-borders people and others who don't support securing our borders get it right that there's a difference between immigration (which is legal) and illegal entry (which is not) this debate isn't going to go anywhere. If they're serious about wanting to change things, then they need to be honest about the problem first.

Colin Powell: "deeply disappointed" in intel community

Mark in Mexico has a great post on a BBC interview with Colin Powell. The money shot?

:::::::: While admitting that he had been bypassed on occasion by some of the White House hawks and that some discussions with Donald Rumsfeld "were not pleasant", Powell came nowhere close to the position taken by his former chief-of-staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Wilkerson essentially accused the White House hawks, Cheney and Rumsfeld of running a "cabal" to wrest control of foreign policy away from the State Department.

Powell's position seems to be that everybody, from Bush and himself on down, got bad information from the CIA and then acted upon it. As far as our continued presence in Iraq, Powell was 100% supportive of the Bush administration:

As they say, read it all for it is good.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

House approves immigration reform bill, Mexico angered

The House passed legislation on immigration reform this week that tightens border control and makes it harder for undocumented workers to get jobs here in the US. Michelle Malkin is, as usual, on top of this story. She quotes this story on the legislation in describing what was passed:

::::::::The vote was 239-182, with opposition coming from Democrats and some Republicans upset by the exclusion of the guest worker issue and other Republicans wanting tougher border control measures...

... The House bill would beef up border security with the help of local law enforcement and military technology, impose tougher penalties for smuggling and re-entry, and end the "catch and release" policy for illegal non-Mexicans. It makes drunken driving convictions a deportable offense.

The bill makes unlawful presence in the United States, currently a civil offense, a felony. An amendment to reduce the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor was defeated, with many Democrats voting against the proposal in protest over subjecting people who have overstayed their visas to any criminal charges.

The House also voted 273-148 to end the diversity visa lottery program that's open to countries that send few immigrations to the United States. Opponents said it was susceptible to fraud and could be a way for terrorists to enter the country.

Mexico is upset over the law. They and other open-borders supporters keep coming back to the accusation of "criminalizing migration" and the like. No one is talking about criminalizing immigration. We're talking about requiring people who want to come here to do so in accordance with our laws. That means you don't sneak past border guards. You don't cut open a fence in the dead of night and run through. You don't give false information to Customs when you come in. You register, as the law requires, and you obey our laws. Plain. Simple. Do that and you'll be fine.

Don't do that and you're an illegal, period. Illegals have no right to expect a job here, to expect to stay here and to hell with playing by the rules. As for Mexico, they sure don't apply the same kind of friendly, "oh, sure you can come on in and stay here even if you don't come legally" attitude with their southern border. Seems a bit hypocritical to suggest we ought to.

Also approved this week was the completion of a security fence in southern California completing a security cordon there and closing down some well-known border crossings. Mexico, again, became outraged. I would like to ask how a fence in the middle of the desert would adversely affect a Mexican national who walks up to our Customs and Immigration stations at the legal border crossings to enter the US? Such a person wouldn't even know the fence was there, let alone be affected by it. The only people that fence poses a problem to are the ones trying to enter the country illegally. And those people aren't owed an explanation, let alone a vote in whether the fence goes up or not.

As I keep saying, I have no issue with legal immigration. I work with lots of legal immigrants myself and they're fine people. I'm proud to stand with them and I encourage those who seek to become citizens. One guy I know thinks he'll be up for naturalization by mid-2006 and he gets the biggest grin on his face when he says that. It's been a long road for him and his family but they followed the law. That's what immigration is, not jumping the border or smuggling people across in the back of a truck. If Mexico is serious about wanting to be part of a bilateral solution, then make damn sure their citizens don't try to sneak under the fence.

UCLA PolySci Prof finds media bias very real

A study done by Tim Groseclose of the political science department at UCLA has found that the media has an objectively observable leftward bias. Reported by UCLA's own newsroom, the professor has co-authored a paper on the subject that has been accepted by the Quarterly Journal of Economics and is to be published there in an upcoming edition.

::::::::While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co-author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

This comes as no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention to the media's language and their inclusiveness/exclusiveness of certain topics. This study has the benefit of being objective and using a methodology that is already in use to determine the political leanings of politicians.

::::::::Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker's support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where "100" is the most liberal and "0" is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low-population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants — most of them college students — to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo's method assigned both a similar ADA score.

The result of using this kind of method is obvious. If the result is dismissed as meaningless then the results of the ADA's other numerical indicators must be equally meaningless. If the ADA's numbers are to be considered objective, then this study's results are also objective.

One of the first questions out of my mouth on studies like this is to ask who paid for the study. Professors Groseclose and Milyo must have seen me coming:

::::::::The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias — or the appearance of same — in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.

"No matter the results, we feared our findings would've been suspect if we'd received support from any group that could be perceived as right- or left-leaning, so we consciously decided to fund this project only with our own salaries and research funds that our own universities provided," Groseclose said.

Good call, Prof, and an ironclad answer. It's hard to accuse UCLA professors of having a right-wing bias in the first place and that's especially true when they accepted no money from either political groups or media. The paper itself (PDF format) is a fascinating read with tables at the end showing the various scores of the media outlets mentioned, etc. The math in the methodology section will stretch anyone not familiar with statistics and the like but it the analysis is a breeze to read and there are lots of highlit examples in the text.

One note I'd like to make about an item that was given prominent play in the report: Is the Drudge Report really left-leaning? I can hear the scoffs already from both sides of the 'sphere but it's really an obvious finding if you don't lose sight of what the Drudge report actually is. It is not, as has been mentioned before, a blog. It's an aggregation of news items that either slip through the media cracks or don't get the air time they might otherwise. Because of this fact - that Drudge is essentially highlighting news reported by "regular" news agencies - it stands to reason that it's going to show up left-leaning when any analysis is done. If the stories being aggregated there are left-leaning, then the aggregator is going to come up left leaning. No real surprise.

Anyway, good work from this UCLA-led team. And congrats for getting published.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

NSA story not being related completely

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the intelligence agency charged with the security of telecom and computing, to put an incredibly simplistic spin on it. They are the agency performing radio and telecom intercepts and they've got the best crypto people in the country. It is their charter to keep us informed, from an intel perspective, when the information being sought is on a cell phone call or in an encrypted file on a computer system. Like the CIA, they are not chartered to perform those duties in investigations against US Citizens in this country. That duty falls to the FBI. That's not to say the NSA never did such intercepts here in the States but they did them at the request of the FBI where the Bureau found the NSA's capabilities more applicable to the task. For such operations, warrants were always required. For international communications, however, warrants are not required and such intercepts are what you call, "intelligence gathering."

The NY Times article that caused the ruckus yesterday announces that the Bush administration signed over authority to the NSA to perform intercepts on Americans and forgo the warrants that had always been required. Or, at least, that's what the lead says. Keep reading. (And thanks to Captain's Quarters for pulling out the details in a convoluted story.) Turns out that the 2002 order does no such thing. What it does do is define "international communication" as communication where 1 end of the comm isn't in the United States. This is being made out to be such a huge deal and a radical shift in definition, but I must agrue that it's nothing we all don't assume.

Pick up your phone and dial someone in Chicago. Is that an international call? Not if you live in the United States. That's completely domestic. Now, make a call from the same place to someone in London. International communication? You betcha, and the phone company's certainly going to charge you like it is. Buried in the Times' story is the admission that the 1st example (the domestic-to-domestic call) still requires a warrant and the administration has made no moves whatsoever to change that.

:::::::: Since 2002, the agency has been conducting some warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States who are linked, even if indirectly, to suspected terrorists through the chain of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to several officials who know of the operation. Under the special program, the agency monitors their international communications, the officials said. The agency, for example, can target phone calls from someone in New York to someone in Afghanistan.

Warrants are still required for eavesdropping on entirely domestic-to-domestic communications, those officials say, meaning that calls from that New Yorker to someone in California could not be monitored without first going to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Of course, you need to read down several paragraphs to get that far.

With all the ballyhoo about Valerie Plame, however, I have to wonder if the same Democratic Senators and Congressmen are going to be howling for investigations and resignations among the people who leaked this info to the press. I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BBC: "This is stability, at last"

Holy crap, did I just read that right? The BBC is saying these elections show Iraq has stability? Now if we can just get the Democrats to believe it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Updated Now that's what attempted election fraud looks like Updated: Bogus

Iraqi border patrol agents have siezed a tanker truck from Iran that was carrying thousands of forged ballots for tomorrow's elections. The driver of the truck has (allegedly) advised Iraqi authorities that 3 other such trucks were to cross into Iraq at different places along the border.

Under normal circumstances, I'd be asking if the Iranian government was nuts to pull something like this, but that's a question that's already been answered.

Hat Tip: LGF

Update: Well, that'll teach me. I usually like to see a couple of source points on a story before I fire off an entry but this one, frankly, passed the "smell" test owing to the recent lunacies of the Iranian President. This time, that wasn't enough. Or, at least, it appears not to be:

::::::::The head of Iraq's border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday's elections.

"This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq's borders.

"I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters.

Iraq's frontiers are closed for the period of the election.

"I contacted all the border crossing points and there was no report of any such incident," Khafaji said.

The NY Times, which is the source I quoted for this story (an unusual event, to be sure), used a single and anonymous source for this report which should have been a dead giveaway to me. My bad for pumping this rumor into the sphere. Consider this one retracted and you'll hear more about it, if anything, when I do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Project to map cancer's genetic structure presented

A project to map out the genetic intricacies of cancer has been unveiled with the government putting $100 million in funding into it.

::::::::t's an audacious project — the technology to even try it wasn't available just a few years ago.

And it comes at a crucial time: Half of U.S. men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetimes, and cases are poised to jump as the baby boomer population begins hitting 60 next year.

The Cancer Genome Atlas will "tackle the cancer problem like it's never been tackled before," said Dr. Francis Collins, genetics chief at the National Institutes of Health.

This is a good step. In network engineering, you can't know how to proceed unless you know what the problem is. That it's also true for cancer treatment might be the largest understatement of the year. I applaud this effort and look forward to its progress.

Yon's photography honored by Time

Michael Yon has a dispatch up about one of his pictures being honored by Time as a top photo of the year. This is the image of Major Beiger cradling the mortally wounded Iraqi girl, Farah, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in May 2005. This was the incident where the scumbag trailed members of the Deuce Four with his car bomb and waited until children had gathered around the US Humvees before plowing into them. Beiger scooped the girl up rather than wait for the medics to come to him and tried to get her to the medical teams in time. He failed. It is one of the most poigniant images of the war.

Congrats, Michael. You earned it.

VoIP getting more press

Voice over IP (VoIP) is the application of carrying voice communication over a network, specifically one using TCP/IP, the protocol suite used on the Internet. That's a very simplistic definition, of course, but the bottom line is that your calls aren't carried over the regular "phone lines", (referred to as the "public switched telephone network" or PSTN) but rather over networks. There are significant advantages and disadvantages to the practice but it's a safe bet to say it's the wave of the future of voice telephony.

Microsoft has teamed up with MCI to offer VoIP calling for home users, a report that hit the news today. In the same report reference is made to Yahoo! starting up a similar service. Of course, Vonage and 8x8 were already in the marketplace. For those interested only in calling other VoIP users, there's the free software Skype that allows PC-to-PC calling at no charge. I helped set up a user whose son is in Iraq with the software and she can talk to him every time he's on-line at no more cost than what they're paying for the Internet connection.

One of our local cable companies, Comcast, is starting to offer VoIP to its subscribers as well.

I personally use Skype at my home and I'm surprised and pleased with the performance. We have a residential DSL that usually has at least 2 computers on-line at a time and the calls sound quite clear. Distance doesn't appear to be an issue with calls down the street and calls to Ohio sounding about the same. Of course, the call quality is subject to the health of the part of the Internet we're traveling through at the time, but it's been a minor annoyance when it's happened. One note for those who are considering it: check with the provider about what happens should your power fail or the DSL/Cable go down. How can you make calls and get them to be very specific on the matter.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Time/ABC poll shows Dem's reported numbers are bogus

Round and about the Democrats' camps there's been a lot of air time dedicated to a poll that showed 80% of Iraqis wanted the American forces out of Iraq yesterday if not sooner. The most recent polling for Time/ABC shows that those numbers are simply not representative of reality. And it shows a lot more information than just that.

::::::::An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, includes some remarkable results: Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.

Surprisingly, given the insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, more than six in 10 Iraqis feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, up sharply from just 40 percent in a poll in June 2004. And 61 percent say local security is good — up from 49 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004.

Nonetheless, nationally, security is seen as the most pressing problem by far; 57 percent identify it as the country's top priority. Economic improvements are helping the public mood.

Average household incomes have soared by 60 percent in the last 20 months (to $263 a month), 70 percent of Iraqis rate their own economic situation positively, and consumer goods are sweeping the country. In early 2004, 6 percent of Iraqi households had cell phones; now it's 62 percent. Ownership of satellite dishes has nearly tripled, and many more families now own air conditioners (58 percent, up from 44 percent), cars, washing machines and kitchen appliances.

The poll also cites improving political signs as well, with 70%+ numbers of those expressing approval of the constitution there, confidence in their government, and a desire for Iraq to remain a unifed country.

There are negative indicators in the poll results, too, as you'd expect. One of the items listed as a negative but, given the "sky is falling" approach of Democrats lately, appears to be a positive now is that 26% of those polled say American and Coalition forces should leave now. There's a long road between 26% and the 80% being cited by Democrats. In fact, if you add that 26% to the group who thinks we should leave after these elections, you still only get 45%. The remainder of those polled think we should leave after the security situation has been stabilized, or after their own security forces are fully trained and equipped. Which, if you've been listening, is exactly what President Bush has been saying we're going to do for the past 2 years. Looks like Joe Liberman was right on the matter.

There's some curious numbers in those negative indicators, though, and as someone who recently went through a statistics class I am wondering at what the factors are in them. The poll indicates that while 70% of those polled say they are personally much better off and headed in the right direction, only 44% say the same about the country as a whole. Fifty-two percent (52%) say the country is doing badly. Now, if 70% of the population in Iraq is better off (by their own admission) how can the country as a whole be doing so much worse? The Occam's Razor answer to that is that their perception of their own circumstances is formed by their own experiences while their perception of the circumstances of the country as a whole is formed by the information they get from the news media. In the case of the average Iraqi, these days, that means satellite TV services such as CNN International, the BBC, and Al Jazeera. Those services haven't been painting the situation in Iraq any better in their broadcasts in Iraq than they have in their broadcasts here. Given the take on how Iraq's doing from the American public, I can understand why the Iraqi public is saying he country is doing badly while they, themselves, are doing great.

It's also curious to see such a large number listed for Iraqis who think it was wrong for US-led Coalition forces to invade in 2003. So, they're much better off personally since the invasion, but it was wrong to invade. Does that make any sense? When you see numbers like that, you have to wonder how the questions were worded. The poll's fieldwork was done by Oxford Research International which is a firm that generally does pretty well but that result doesn't appear rational at all. If I were the recipient of that data, I'd have to ask to see the actual questions and figure out if they imparted an answer bias in their wording. You'd hope that was screened before the poll was taken.

The last item I saw listed in the "negative" section that made me smile was the assertion that "nearly half" of Iraqis would like to see US forces "leave soon." No kidding? "Nearly" half? Well, folks, get in line behind the "nearly all" Americans that would like to see the same thing. Virtually no one I've spoken to wants the US to maintain a presence there in Iraq forever. Now, if the Iraqis want to offer us the chance to put an airbase in there or take up a pier or two for a naval base that would be one thing. I see no issue with that that doesn't exist for American military bases in Germany, Poland, Italy, Japan, or anywhere else. But no one here wants our forces to be deployed as a security force in Iraq on an extended basis as they have been. We have been making very steady progress in that direction for some time now and we stand literally on the brink of success in assisting the Iraqis to become a sustaining democracy. As the President has been saying for some time now we'll stand down when that happens.

Hat Tip: Captain's Quarters.

And so it begins... Again.

The Iraqi polls are open this morning to accept the votes of patients, soldiers, and prisoners in the 3rd elections held in that country in the past 18 months. This one is to elect a Parliament under the auspices of the approved Iraqi constitution, the first such Parliament in Iraq's history. It is a huge, momentous occasion and an undeniable sign of the progress and hope in Iraq.

Unless, of course, you're the AP. Then you'll write a story that gives as little credit as possible for the event and bring out every possible negative you can in order to counterbalance what ought to be a purely good news story.

We shall see, now, whether Al Qaeda takes the advice of the Sunni insurgents and stands down for the elections. They might. Of course, it might also be because they lack the strength to take much action any more. Let's watch this one carefully.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Southwest flight: thrust reversers delayed deployment?

Some reports are coming in that federal investigators have found that the thrust reversers on Southwest flight 1248 that crashed in Chicago did not immediately deploy. While they state that they haven't determined if such a delay played a part in the crash it would be, if true, a serious problem. Modern jets land at a pretty good clip. They have to because if the plane slows too much on approach, it simple drops out of the sky. The minimum speed to maintain flight on many of these aircraft is over 125 miles per hour. Doing the math, that's about 2 miles per every 60 seconds and on a runway the size of Midway's longest one, that gives the crew about 30 seconds before running right off the end. The physics of that dynamic with a loaded aircraft simply do not allow the plane to stop by itself in that space.

Planes, of course, have brakes on their tires and those can do quite a bit in bringing the aircraft to a halt. They can't do it alone, however, and trying to do so can wind up setting the brakes on fire. Then, of course, there's the problem with the conditions on that particular day. Locking up your wheels on a surface that has compacted snow and ice is a bad idea every one of us who drives a car is well familiar with.

Thrust reversers were invented and installed on jet aircraft as the planes got bigger as a way to slow the plane down and get a larger aircraft into a given airport's runway. Whether they're clamshell types or "cascades", the job is the same: to direct the jet's thrust forward and cut the plane's forward momentum. The pilot has considerable control over how much and how long the thrust is applied and they can actually drop from pretty large planes into some relatively small runways. Midway's, for example, are plenty long enough for normal operation and have been just fine for literally thousands and thousands of flights. The reversers must, however, work and work on command.

If this finding pans out, the obvious question will be what kept them from deploying? Was it that the pilots simply didn't activate them in time? Did they try to activate them and they simply didn't work? If that's the case, what kept them from working? Was it the conditions (meaning: did ice form somewhere that blocked the deployment)? Was it mechanical? Was there an electrical/software problem? Assuming we get the answers to all that, was there any reasonable way that the crew could have registered the problem in time to simply retract the reversers, hit the gas and take back off again? Going around for another approach would have been inconvenient, to be sure, but it beats the alternative. (Note: I am asking if there was a reasonable chance of that. It's possible that the problem simply appeared with no time left to touch-and-go.)

Again, I'm waiting for the findings. Will advise.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Southwest crash in Chicago will take time to resolve

Years ago I worked in the airline industry and met lots of folks in aviation security and safety. One day I had a chance to speak to a real, live NTSB invesigator on his way to some incident somewhere. I recall his saying to me that he found those initial explanations for a crash useful. He said he could almost guarantee himself that whatever reason was up on the TV in the first few hours after the crash wasn't going to be the real reason. So, he told me, he got to start with a 1-reason-down head start.

The Southwest Airlines crash at Midway Airport in Chicago this week is no different than others in that 1) TV reporters were speculating on the reason for the crash within minutes and 2) it's going to take a while to figure out all the details. I'm patient in situations like these. I want the pro's to figure out what really went wrong so we can go about putting solutions in place to really fix the problem. I'll stay tuned and in touch...

Iraqis turn over Al Qaeda leader

Very encouraging news.

::::::::Iraqi citizens turned over a high-ranking Al Qaeda member known as "the Butcher" to U.S. forces in Ramadi Friday a military statement said.

Amir Khalaf Fanus was No. 3 on the 28th Infantry Division's High Value Individual list for Ramadi, wanted for murder and kidnapping in connection with his affiliation with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

This is the highest ranking member of Al Qaeda turned over by Iraqi civilians, and it happens just days before their parliamentary elections on the 15th. Read carefully what this event tells us: the average Iraqi is no longer intimidated by Al Qaeda and understands very well that the such men are terrorists, not freedom fighters. They have seen a better way to live and understand that terrorists like Fanus are obstacles, not heroes. There's been an awful lot of chaff tossed into the air by people desperately trying to pull a defeat out of the Iraq war claiming that the Iraqis aren't doing anything to help themselves. They are, and people who take the effort to get the real story from the people who are actually there know it very well. This time, their deep involvement can't be dismissed.

We're winning the war and things are improving, make no mistake.

Open letter to Gov. Barbour of MS re: Cory Maye case

Via Instapundit I'd like to link to Silent Running and an open letter to Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi over the Cory Maye case. If you haven't heard already, here's the meat of the situation taken from the letter:

:::::::: Certain facts about the case are not in dispute. Prior to the events of December 26, 2001, Mr. Maye had no criminal record. On December 26, 2001, Cory Maye shot a police officer carrying out a search warrant. However, the warrant being served was not for Mr. Maye, nor for his residence. The execution of the warrant involved a ‘no-knock’ entry, late at night. Mr. Maye relinquished his weapon, and ceased resisting when it became obvious that the people that burst into his home were law enforcement officers.

Subsequently, Mr. Maye was charged with capital murder, for killing a police officer in the line of duty. A trial was held in Prentiss Mississippi, a jury convicted Mr. Maye, and sentenced him to death.

Although that description seems pretty cut and dried, there are a number of issues about this case that raise profound concerns about Mr. Maye’s conviction, and most certainly, the imposition of the death penalty. These issues raise the question of why Mr. Maye was even indicted and charged to begin with. These issues create the sense that the entire situation is one of a terrible tragedy (the death of the police officer), grossly compounded by a heinous miscarriage of justice.

According to the particulars of the case, Maye was asleep in his house which was 1 side of a duplex. The police were executing a warrant on the other side of the duplex. The police got confused, apparently, as to which door was which and did a no-knock entry on Maye's home. The officers burst in the door, startling awake Maye who had his 18-month-old daughter there in the room with him. Faced with a heavily armed man who had busted down the door and who did not identify himself, Maye opened fire with his own weapon and killed the officer.

The letter is a good one and I suggest you read it. The fact the Maye was even indicted, let alone convicted and then sentenced to death, is astounding. I'm curious to know where all the Hollywood types are who are loudly advocating for the release of Tookie, who absolutely murdered at least 4 people in 2 separate incidents. Shouldn't they be all over this one? Why is it that I'm only seeing a lot of coverage on this over here on the right-hand side of the 'sphere?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Coulter cuts short speech at UConn

The oh-so-tolerant lefties on the campus at UConn apparently can't bear the thought of someone with a different perspective having their freedom of speech. Ann Coulter had to cut short a speech there and turn it into a question-and-answer period due to the people booing and jeering. I'm no fan of Ann Coulter. She appears to get off on the aggitation she creates and exacerbates rather than being interested in debate. Still, is it too much to ask to be allowed to speak, especially when you've been invited to come and do so?

I just shake my head at people who claim to be so tolerant who can't handle someone speaking their minds on a topic. That and the clueless moron - is it any wonder that they're a journalism and social welfare major? - that claims that what Ann Coulter says is "hate speech." Clearly this person doesn't know what the term means. For someone who's considering a career in journalism, that's a worrying, if not unexpected, sign.

Afghans approve of their freedom

It's been 4 years since the US-led coalition booted the Taliban. Before that action, there were those - on the left, no less - that considered the Afghani people incapable of democracy. I recall clearly the comments that as soon as we took the Taliban out that the tribal wars would start and Afghanistan would fracture into a merciless bloodbath. Didn't happen that way. And the Afghani's are quite pleased with that, according to an ABC poll. (Thanks to BarcePundit.)

An ABC News poll in Afghanistan -- the first national survey there sponsored by a news organization -- underscores those challenges in a unique portrait of the lives of ordinary Afghans. Poverty is deep, medical care and other basic services lacking, and infrastructure minimal. Nearly six in 10 have no electricity in their homes, and just 3 percent have it around the clock. Seven in 10 Afghan adults have no more than an elementary education; half have no schooling whatsoever. Half have household incomes under $500 a year.

Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably.

Hopefully those in the US calling for a massive withdrawal will learn from the Afghani's on this one.

Democrats' Dean is the one who's lying

This morning I watched a spot on CNN where Howard Dean was being interviewed. This time he's trying to defend his comments yesterday that we can't win the Iraq War and, in so doing, pulled out the same tired lie the Democrats have been screaming loud and long to anyone who'll listen. Here's the lead from the AP story on it:

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Thursday his assertion that the United States cannot win the war in Iraq was reported "a little out of context," saying Democrats believe a new U.S. strategy is needed to succeed there.

Seeking to clarify a statement in a Texas radio interview that Republicans harshly assailed and some Democrats questioned, Dean said, "They kind of cherry-picked that one the same way the president cherry-picked the intelligence going into Iraq."

Dean was questioned on CNN about an interview he gave Monday to radio station WOAI in San Antonio. "The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," the former Vermont governor and unsuccessful 2004 presidential candidate said.

A "little out of context." Read that quote again and answer me this: what context could possibly take the statement that, "[t]he idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong" and make it inaccurate to say Dean claims we can't win the war in Iraq? In fact, the context of the discussion, which was absolutely dealing with the Iraqi operations, makes it more accurate to make that translation, not less so. Dean, knowing this, decided to pull out the old "Bush lied!" lie himself in an effort to distort and confuse. As I have said on many, many occasions there has been no less than 3 investigations (2 American, 1 British) that found the White House and President Bush did no such thing as "cherry pick" intel. The Democrats in office now had access to the same intel and drew the same conclusions. Several other countries had access to the same intel and they came to the same conclusion. They all considered the same set of information available to the President and arrived at the same result. If they want to have it granted that Bush lied, then so did all of those people. Not a rational conclusion.

Dean and others have picked the timing of their comments quite well for maximum political effect and to hell with what it does to our troops in the field. To hell with what it does to the people of Iraq who are working so hard to have the same freedoms we enjoy. And to hell with our allies in the Coalition. That's unpatriotic and to hell with them if they've got a problem with being called that. The label fits. Now they can wear it with pride.

The race is on...

The weather forecast for home is for snow starting this evening, so I am here at the airport early on that wonderful status called "standby." Oughta be fun. At least there's a wireless internet in the area that's operating wide open in the clear. (heh heh)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Federal Air Marshall fires on, kills man claiming to have a bomb. Update

By now everyone's heard: a man claiming to have a bomb was killed by a Federal Air Marshall (FAM) in Miami today. The man was apparently frantic and failed to obey the air marshall when he was told to get on the ground. Rep. John Mica of Florida called it "an unfortunate incident."

It is that, indeed. Even more so if the information that he was bipolar and off his meds is true. Unfortunate. But completely correct, justified, and necessary. The fact that he was off his meds is immaterial to the notion that he had a bomb. The 2 are not exclusive of each other and the FAM had no choice in his action if he was to protect the flight as is his duty. From the sounds of things, he had no choice but to open fire. I foresee a lot of calls for an investigation and there will be some who blame the FAMs, the FAA, and (of course) George Bush for it. Those people are just not thinking clearly and any of them who do blame others don't need to be anywhere near the authority positions for security.

Update: Didn't take the AP long to cherry pick 2 passengers who "didn't hear" this man threaten that he had a bomb. They pulled 2 people with no special training out of a crowd of folks who just wanted to get on the plane and go and put them up side-by-side with highly trained officers who are staying alert for this kind of situation. These 2 groups are not equivalent in terms of their credibility to stay focused in an event like this and yet the AP is suggesting exactly that in this story.

A lesson in bragging

So, my first company off-site meeting is drawing to a close tomorrow. As the DC area was recovering from the first significant snowfall of the season, I was boarding a plane to Orlando, FL. In the few days preceding the trip, I checked the prevailing weather - which had been uniformly in the mid- to upper-70's with sunshine - and promptly did what most anyone in the situation would at least be tempted to do. Meaning, I called various members of my family and not-so-subtly bragged about being in sunny Florida while they got to stay in frigid Ohio / Kentucky / Indiana / Wisconsin.

Upon my arrival it couldn't have been nicer. Temperature in the mid-70's with sunshine and the resort our conference was held at was gorgeous. I ate a late lunch by the poolside and enjoyed the warm breezes. At sunset, some of my co-workers and I sat outside by the lake on the premises drinking a beer and watching the sun set. The chill in the air after the sun went down was the 1st warning. The temp did not exceed 67° all day and, after our meetings, it began to rain. The forecast for tomorrow is a high of 64% with a cold set of thunderstorms heading right for us.

And that's the lesson in bragging: Don't do it.

Saddam working overtime to divert attention

I note that Saddam had another outburst today regarding his trial. He's shown nothing but contempt for the court and now he thinks he can halt the trial by refusing to show up. Sort of like his lawyers did when they walked out. The court showed some iron in their spine that day by starting to appoint other lawyers. They need to show some now with Saddam. I recommend 2 approaches.

  1. Let him stay in his cell. If Saddam doesn't want to be present for his own trial, so be it. The rulings of the court will be no less valid for his not being there.

  2. Clap him in irons and drag his ass into the courtroom, literally. Feel free to use duct tape on his mouth to cover the verbal outbursts, if needed, but chain his butt to his chair and then proceed.

I'm not even above combining the 2 in inverse order. Have him drug into court in chains and then, after telling him that the court decides when and where he's to appear, not him, take him back to his cell and let him rot. Make sure Saddam and his lawyers understand that the process will be repeated every day Saddam chooses to remain in contempt. Just my 2 cents...

(I note Ed Morrissey over at Captain's Quarters feels similarly.)

A date which will live in infamy

December 7. It was 64 years ago today that forces from Imperial Japan attacked the US military bases at Pearl Harbor and other locations on the isle of Oahu, Hawaii. The attack was stunning in its success and its failure. It caught the Americans completely by surprise even when there were signs of the attack that people actually noticed in advance. It completely missed the carriers that Yamamoto knew were critical to the overall success of the war. Over 2000 people died that day, half of those on 1 ship: the USS Arizona. Think about that: over 1100 servicemen died that morning on that 1 ship, let alone the pilots who tried to take off, the gunners on the anti-aircraft positions... everywhere.

Since 9/11 I have made a special effort to remember those men and women on this day to make sure FDR's comment lives true. This day needs to live in infamy to remind us all that peace isn't free and liberty requires eternal vigilance. To the honored dead of that day: Godspeed. To the survivors I offer my humble salute and pledge to remember what you went through.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Returning to flight

I'm airborne as I write this and it occurs to me that it's been well over a year since I've flown anywhere. My wife and I used to fly often to return to my parents' home on holidays and the like. The addition of a baby to my family put the brakes on that and 9/11 hammered that decision in place with big honking spikes. Getting a family with a baby on board a plane at a crowded airport was challenging enough before the additional security was enacted in the wake of the September 11 attacks. There are an awful lot of things needed by traveling babies that the TSA might get nervous about. We settled on making trips by car split up between 2 days. All in all, not that big of a problem

At the same time, my business trips tapered off. The dot-bomb had happened and the economy got hit by 9/11 in a one-two punch so businesses of all types had to start cutting back. Travel was considered a serious luxury as opposed to a requirement, especially in the tech field that's my career. In the years between 9/11 and now, I've actually flown twice on business, where before that I was doing 5-6 trips a year, all by plane.

This morning's flight has started well and we took off into a crisp blue sky with just a few clouds. The bright sunshine outside belied the temperatures which were hanging around 30 when I left the house. The snowfall last night has placed the roads and other boundaries in high contrast making the farmland we headed out over even more of a patchwork than usual. The captain just announced a moment ago that we've reached our cruising altitude of 32,000 feet and we're way, way above any clouds in the area. The sky is that impossible blue I remember so well, the kind you only get once you've risen above the ground haze.

It's another hour and 20 minutes or so to Florida, yet another amazement. The vacations we took there when I was a kid growing up in Indiana took us 2 days on the road. And to think I overheard someone at the gate moaning about how long it'll take to get there. I'd blow it off to youth but the old geezer looked like he was 10 years older than I am. Impatience, it appears, is not the provenance of the young.

One item I wasn't prepared for was the change in cabin service. It now appears that flights occuring during lunch time don't net you a meal any more. You can buy one on the plane for $5, cash, paid to the flight attendant. I realize that the meals airlines served back in the coach class (steerage section?) were never anything to write home about but I know from working behind the airlines' scenes how much those lunches actually cost the company. To hold back on them now when ticket prices still tip $250-$300 for some of the flights lasting 2 hours seems a bit tight fisted. That many of the airlines have gone this route and still can't stay out of bankruptcy makes you wonder where all the money is going. Fuel, to be sure. But perhaps some of the people working there are making more money than they ought? It's not the flight attendants, the gate agents, or the people working the reservation phones, that's for sure. The rest of them I'll leave to someone else to vouch for.

I do enjoy flying, however. I never get tired of the view or the feeling of flight. One of these days, I'll scrape together enough money for those pilot lessons I've been promising to myself. To slip the surly bonds of earth.... one of these days.

Airport blogging

We'll have to see when I can get connected to post this, but I figure I can "offline" blog. This post is a compendium of the items I run into during my travel today. First up: airport security.

The security at airports is something I take very, very seriously and I don't generally begrudge the TSA anything. This item of note is not a complaint so much as an observation. In choosing my attire to fly today, I had the opportunity to either go with the jeans and tennis shoe deal or with a more business casual approach. I've had all kinds of issue with my dress shoes, specifically with the metal spars in them. So, I figured, tennis shoes would be just the tickets to come thru with a minimum of trouble. Turns out to be not so. They needed to swab my shoes and run the swabs through an analysis for chemical signatures. So much for trying to avoid anything that might give the TSA heartburn.

I'm flying out of Dulles International this morning. They've got 2 midfield terminals with lots of shops and food joints. As I entered the terminal the 1st shop I saw was called "Americana". These shops sell political merchandise, ranging from posters showing all the Presidents to FBI/CIA labeled attire and political advocacy stuff. At 2 large tables flanking the entrance, there was a huge amount of shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers all lamenting the Presidency of George Bush. Bumper stickers with Van Gogh's "The Scream" hijacked to say, "Bush Again?", shirts proclaiming the wearer wasn't to blame - he voted for Kerry, and the like are all displayed there. Nowhere on either table was there a shirt, button, sticker, or book in any way complimentary to the President. I went into the store and found a table with merchandise with "Hail to the Chief" on it, but no mention of the President's name. Moving further inside, I finally found one section of a shelf, about 3 feet wide or so, with shirts and hats emblazoned "W." On closer examination, however, even this space wasn't set aside. The aforementioned "Scream" bumper stickers were there along with books praising Hillary Clinton and snickering at "Bushisms."

I don't know, frankly, what the meaning is of all this. Could be that more anti-Bush people feel the need to trumpet their position and Bush supporters don't. Perhaps this group has driven sales and, following the way of profit, the store puts the selling stuff out there. Could be that the anti-Bush stuff simply isn't moving and the "W" shirts are. They might have put the anti-Bush stuff out front in an effort to bring a sale that's not been forthcoming otherwise. Could be that the management of this store is showing his partisan roots. Just an item of note.

I note that Tom DeLay's in the news, with the headlines and emphasis being slanted in fairly predictable manners. The Washington Post and Washington Times offer the most visible indicator in this area, with the Post being sure to call the DeLay judge's ruling to dismiss the conspiracy charge against DeLay as a setback for the Congressman. The Times calls it what it is: a victory. This was the only charge that resulted from 6 months of investigation and it looked unbelievably weak the second it surfaced. That's why Ronnie Earle, the prosecutor pursuing this case, ran to a second grand jury to secure additional indictments. And when that failed, he ran to a 3rd grand jury without advising that jury there had already been a second one that failed to indict.

The Post and others are painting this as a setback because the judge let stand the indictment that resulted from that little late-night run, that of money-laundering. But they ignore the precedence of the causality in this situation. The motion to find prosecutorial misconduct on the part of Ronnie Earle is still standing and, if such misconduct is found to exist, will erase any idictment flowing from that 3rd grand jury. That motion is still being decided, so it's dead wrong to say that the money-laundering charges will take DeLay to trial. That's not stopping CNN from saying just that, however, so we'll have to see where this motion goes.

I just caught the report about the suicide bombers killing 36 (at latest count) at an Iraqi police academy. I have nothing further at this point but I'll post whatever I find out.

Light blogging alert

As I look out the windows this morning at the scene of 2-4 inches of snow on the ground with expectations of temperatures not rising above 37° or so, I must regretfully advise you all that I'm headed out of town on a business trip. To Florida. I hear the wind chill down there's something like 72° . Oh. The humanity.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Why women live longer

A picture that's worth a thousand words:

And there you have it.

If you missed the report from Senator Joe Liberman regarding his 4th trip to post-war Iraq, you could be forgiven. While the media has focused all its efforts in elevating to near-sainthood Rep. Joe Murtha who advocated an immediate pullout from Iraq, Liberman's comments were studiously ignored. Have a look at this post over on Power Line for the reason why. Funny, I never viewed Liberman as a neocon. I guess when you're as far left as the media's management is, true liberals look like neocons.

Saddam's lawyers walk out

Fine. If the lawyers choose to not abide by the laws enacted by an elected legislature in Iraq then let the courts appoint public defenders (or whatever they're called there) to Saddam and the other defendants whose lawyers left and proceed. They and Ramsey Clark can just watch it on TV.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Still stuck on Vietnam

In this morning's Washington Post - which I continue to subscribe to more for the Sunday Ads section than for the content of the paper - there's an article by Jonathon Rauch wherein he opines on the coming pullout of troops from Iraq. How does he know this? Why, because Nixon did it in Vietnam after public opinion shifted and Bush will do the same. In an article where Rauch himself says plainly that Iraq is no Vietnam and Bush is no Nixon, he casually dismisses this concept and says that Bush will act in the same manner anyway whether Bush is currently aware of it or not. And, in true conspiracy fashion, he even implies that Bush already knows he's going to.

Of course, the lynchpin to all this is the plunging support for the war in the general public, a fact he cites polling numbers to substantiate. It makes me wonder when he wrote this article, however, because the news of the week is that the polling numbers are improving for the President and support of the war, not dropping. Rather than having more and more people saying we should simply withdraw now, the polls are indicating that people think politicians who suggest this are wrong and are hurting our efforts in Iraq and elsewhere. Support for the troops - and I mean real support, both for them and their mission as opposed to hollow supporting words backed by calling the troops Nazis and the like - is on the rise. In spite of the media's efforts to paint the situation as a quagmire (their favored word until recently) the American people recognize that the situation over there is vastly improved and getting better every day.

Which, of course, brings us back to Rauch's argument and his equation of this war with Vietnam. What he carefully steps around is the reason for the drop in public support to begin with. The American public gets fed information by a media with their own narrative to tell. That last comment works equally well for both Vietnam and Iraq. The fact that the media engaged in advocacy reporting in Vietnam is historical fact now. Reporters didn't report what was happening so much as what they wanted people to see. Without the internet or some other method of communicating with soldiers who were actually in the field there was no way to bring the kind of scrutiny to the reporting process as the media was so proud of bringing to the war effort there. They could and did paint the results of any engagement any way they wanted to and it was almost uniformly bad for the military and the administration of the time. The example of the Tet Offensive is just the glaring and ultimate instance of a media more interested in actually shaping the news of the day (and bringing down a President they didn't like) rather than reporting the facts.

So it is today with Iraq. Never mind the successful battles, the 14 of 18 provinces in Iraq with no violence considered worth reporting by the media, the monstrous improvement in the lives of the citizens there and the fact that these people are truly as engaged in democracy as we are. Five years ago a father such as myself who had a daughter entering womanhood had a genuine, real fear that she was going to get nabbed off the street not by some psycho crook but by the government goons employed by the nation's leader's sons. Speaking out against the government in any way almost assured a very violent and messy death not just for the speaker but his family as well. It was really, honestly a fascist totalitarian state. And here we are, a bit over 3 years after the US-led Coalition invaded and literally none of those worries exist. A man can speak his mind and vote his conscience and so can his wife. Polls in Iraq (taken by Iraqis from Iraqis, I might add) show that 2/3rds of them consider themselves much better off today than they were under Hussein and over 80% of them are confident their lives will be even better a year from now. That kind of news doesn't get reported by the majors at all. Let 1 terrorist fire an RPG round at a US outpost over there - whether it hits or not - and you can't find a front page in any major city in the US that doesn't have that in the headlines. When all you report is the terrorist successes and the body count and you leave out any news of US successes and the context of what they're doing it's not hard to understand why people don't support the war. Rauch is all too happy to write about lack of public support forcing the President's hand but he misses the larger issue of the American peole being basically led to that action by a hostile media.

Fortunately, it would appear President Bush doesn't base his actions on the media's reports of polling numbers where national security is concerned. He knows the correct strategy to win against an enemy that doesn't want to negotiate and he's not going to leave our new friends in the region in the lurch like America did in Vietnam.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Navy beats Army, 42-23; Navy first to 50 wins

Well... (ahem) condolences to Blackfive and Sgt. Hook and congrats to Smash. Navy has beaten Army 49-23 in a truly monumental competition. Both teams had 49 wins against the other along with 7 ties between them in a rivalry literally lasting over a century. Today's game was the tiebreaker and it looks like the midshipmen have carried the day.

You know what? As a civilian, I think I'm going to walk casually and quietly over to the exit and step outta this one. G'nite everyone!

Victor Davis Hanson on a moral war

VDH has yet another great essay up, this time talking about the moral war:

::::::::Of course, the White House, as is true in all wars, has made mistakes, but only one critical lapse — and it is not the Herculean effort to establish a consensual government at the nexus of the Middle East in less than three years after removing Saddam Hussein. The administration’s lapse, rather, has come in its failure to present the entire war effort in its proper moral context.

We took no oil — the price in fact skyrocketed after we invaded Iraq. We did not do Israel’s bidding; in fact, it left Gaza after we went into Iraq and elections followed on the West Bank. We did not want perpetual hegemony — in fact, we got out of Saudi Arabia, used the minimum amount of troops possible, and will leave Iraq anytime its consensual government so decrees. And we did not expropriate Arab resources, but, in fact, poured billions of dollars into Iraq to jumpstart its new consensual government in the greatest foreign aid infusion of the age.

In short, every day the American people should have been reminded of, and congratulated on, their country’s singular idealism, its tireless effort to reject the cynical realism of the past, and its near lone effort to make terrible sacrifices to offer the dispossessed Shia and Kurds something better than the exploitation and near genocide of the past — and how all that alone will enhance the long-term security of the United States.

That goal was what the U.S. military ended up so brilliantly fighting for — and what the American public rarely heard. The moral onus should have always been on the critics of the war. They should have been forced to explain why it was wrong to remove a fascist mass murderer, why it was wrong to stay rather than letting the country sink into Lebanon-like chaos, and why it was wrong not to abandon brave women, Kurds, and Shia who only wished for the chance of freedom.

Alas, that message we rarely heard until only recently, and the result has energized amoral leftists, who now pose as moralists by either misrepresenting the cause of the war, undermining the effort of soldiers in the field, or patronizing Iraqis as not yet civilized enough for their own consensual government.

The rest is equally good. Have a read.

Friday, December 02, 2005

AP article on .50 cal rifle debunked but still making the rounds

I first saw this AP article in a newspaper in Alliance, OH over the Thanksgiving weekend. It's a piece on a .50 caliber rifle made by a company called Barrett. Let's get the disclaimer out of the way right now: I've never fired one of these rifles, don't own one, and I'm not employed by Barrett or any other part of the firearms industry. There. Now, let's proceed.

The article is basically a hysterical regurgitation of anti-gun propaganda and you need look no further than the 1st line to know that this is true.

::::::::When U.S. Soldiers need to penetrate a tank's armor from a mile away, they count on a weapon that evolved from the garage tinkering of a former wedding photographer.::::::::

I knew this article was going to be pure trash the second I got done with that. Why? Because there hasn't been a tank made since the middle of World War II whose armor could be penetrated by a .50 cal at any range, even as close as 5 feet let alone a mile. Every single tank in use today, from the 50's-era Soviet T-34 right up to the big kahuna herself, the M1A2 Abrams, will shurg off a .50 round fired at it with barely a scratch on the finish and anyone who has done even the smallest amount of research knows that. Oh, but it gets better.

The article goes on to very authoritatively warn that this kind of weapon is the terrorist's choice because it will also drill holes in railroad tanker cars filled with chemicals and - get this - will also bring down commercial jets with ease. And these weapons are as common as wallflowers since, according to the article, you can buy one of these with a lot less regulation and hassle than a handgun.

The latter comment is just completely bogus. The background check requirements are exactly the same for a Barrett as it is for a handgun, to the last form that needs to be filled out. It is no easier to do, period. Again, anyone who simply asks will know this. The former comment about the railroad cars suffers the same issue as the "tank buster" piece of fantasy. Over at The Fifty Caliber Institute, Micheal Marks posts a rebuttal (PDF format) where you can read all about what a railroad industry expert has to say on the matter:

::::::::French goes on to include the obligatory assertion that a .50 cal. rifle can shoot through a chemical railcar – a toned down version of the nearhysterical claim of VPC mouthpiece and Virginia politician Jim Moran, who stated that the rifle could knock a railcar off its tracks. French chooses to attribute this to “critics of the rifle” (translation – “I have no idea who said it”) when instead he might have spoken with someone like Tom Darymple, Senior Vice President of Engineering for the prestigious Trinity Rail Group, which designs and manufactures many of the chemical railcars running today.

When asked about the alleged threat of .50cal. rifles to his railcars, Mr. Darymple said that they have long tested their cars against almost every form of firearms, to include .50 BMG and larger. When asked what happens when a .50 hits one of his tanks, he said with a shrug, “It bounces off.” He went on to point out that railcars are designed to survive the force of derailing, and collision with other railcars at travel speeds. By comparison, the impact of a bullet – any bullet – is like a mosquito bite.

As for the commercial jet comment, I don't need to rely on anyone's expertise, here. I worked in the airline industry myself and I'm well familiar with the passenger aircraft in service today. The physics involved in shooting down a commercial jet with a rifle hit are simply too involved to be a credible threat. At the range suggested (a mile) being off-aim by a mere 2° results in a miss by about 180 feet. While that could still impact a jet the size of a 747 or so, the average mid-range jet like a 737 isn't even 180 feet long. If you were trying to hit the cockpit and missed by that margin even along the long axis of the aircraft you'd still shoot the air almost 50 feet behind the aircraft's tail. And that all assumes you've lead the plane properly in the shot in the first place.

Aside from hitting the pilot with the shot, there's actually very few places you could strike the aircraft to make it tumble out of the sky. Even a direct shot to the engine would, at best, cause the engine to cease operation. It's so extremely unlikely that you'd hit anything capable of even causing a fire, let alone an explosion. The fuel tanks are all self-sealing and jet fuel is surprisingly difficult to get to explode. Hitting one of the hydraulic systems might make controlling the aircraft difficult, but every passenger aircraft flying in the US today has backup systems. Ditto for the electrical systems. Ditto for the pressure systems. The most likely event - once you get past the near impossibility of even hitting the plane with the shot to begin with - is that you'd likely punch a hole through the passenger compartment. Now before anyone screams, "explosive decompression!", let me remind everyone that the maximum effective range we're talking about is a mile. That's 5280 feet. Even assuming you're shooting at a plane flying at that altitude (directly over your head, no less) it's well under the altitude required for an explosive decomp event. An aircraft needs to be over 15,000 feet for that to happen. I've personally been in a small plane at 14,000 and while I was on an air mask to avoid hypoxia and my ears popped a lot, the pressure at that altitude wasn't dangerous to me. A plane popping a leak at 5000 feet wouldn't even notice a pressure drop.

The article makes it sound as though every Al Qaeda team has one or two of these rifles with them at all times. The FBI, CIA, DIA, TSA, Homeland Security Department and Centcom have come up with precisely zero incidents where a terror group used one of these rifles. It weighs 38 pounds, for God's sake, and absolutely requires a bipod mount for the shooter to even hold up the barrel. It's not a snub nose or a sawed-off, either. This sucker's a long gun and that means it's not easily concealed. This is clearly not the weapon of choice for crime and terrorism and it never has been.

The real bitch about articles like this is that even when the article contains so many factual errors that even the AP has to issue a correction, and even though the author of the article had to lie through her teeth to the company in question, it still gets distribution. As I said, I saw this article this past Sunday in a newspaper and it was carried by newpapers across the country. How many of those papers will carry the AP's correction? How many will provide the necessary rebuttal information to allow the readers of the first article to make a well-informed decision about the topic? Did you notice where I linked the actual article from? It's over at These guys ran the article and sent out e-mail notifications to their subscribers today, almost a week after it 1st ran in print. And they didn't include the corrections. How many other web sites will do the same?