Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tuesday Linkfest!

Very cool:

NASA unveiled plans yesterday to set up a small and ultimately self-sustaining settlement of astronauts at the south pole of the moon sometime around 2020 -- the first step in an ambitious plan to resume manned exploration of the solar system.

The long-awaited proposal envisions initial stays of a week by four-person crews, followed by gradually longer visits until power and other supplies are in place to make a permanent presence possible by 2024.

The effort was presented as an unprecedented mission to learn about the moon and places beyond, as well as an integral part of a long-range plan to send astronauts to Mars. The moon settlement would ultimately be a way station for space travelers headed onward, and would provide not only a haven but also hydrogen and oxygen mined from the lunar surface to make water and rocket fuel.

Senate gets wind of "media hype" re: global warming...
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hold a full committee hearing tomorrow on "Climate Change and the Media."
"Senator Inhofe believes that poorly conceived policy decisions will result from the media's nonstop hyping of 'extreme scenarios' and dire climate predictions," said committee Communications Director Marc Morano. "This hearing will serve to advance the interests of sound science and encourage rational policy decisions."
Iraq to command own forces by spring:
Iraq's government will have command of its own armed forces by the middle of next year, a US general has said, revealing details of a deal between the US president and the Iraqi prime minister.

US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said Tuesday Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President George W. Bush had agreed on an "accelerated timetable" for Iraq to take charge of its own security.

"We would expect to see the entire country having reached Iraqi provincial control by the fall of next year," Caldwell told reporters in Baghdad.

Read the rest.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wash your hands...

...or else!

A bloody brawl erupted outside a tavern after one customer thought another failed to wash his hands after using the bathroom, according to police.

One man was hospitalized with stab wounds. Another was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

According to a police report, the fight broke out Thursday after Eric Jennings Kisiah, 27, became upset about a customer's apparent hygiene failure at the Tumbleweeds Sports Bar.

Witnesses told police Kisiah confronted the customer and two of his friends, calling them names, telling them they were dirty and threatening to "slash their throats."
My mom was right...the hygene police really do exist!

Read the rest.

Sigh..

People really make me sad sometimes:

Two men who say they were insulted by actor-comedian Michael Richards during his racist rant at a comedy club want a personal apology and maybe some money, their lawyer said Friday.
So what is it that they really want? He went on national television and apologized repeatedly, admitted his wrong.
But Allred complained Friday that he "has not apologized to his victims directly, face to face, man to man."

Allred, speaking by phone from Colorado, said Richards should meet McBride and Doss in front of a retired judge to "acknowledge his behavior and to apologize to them" and allow the judge to decide on monetary compensation.
He didn't really insult them face to face, man to man either. What is the difference? Ah, of course. It doesn't matter if its face to face...it matters if its in front of a judge! A light begins to dawn...

Lawyers and their ilk are a blight on our society. They get fat off of the culture of victimhood while true victims are ignored.

Tell me, someone -- why should Kramer have to pay money for speaking his mind? I'm speaking both philosophically and legally of course; either way, there's no room for wiggling. In this country, your opinion on all matters is protected. I wish, sometimes, that I was a judge, so cases like this could be thrown out and the plaintiffs held in contempt of court for lack of basic understanding of the rule of law which governs our society.

**Disclaimer*** Before anyone berates me about not criticizing Richards for what he says, please note that one man's problem is not my problem. I don't agree with what he said (as far as I know; I haven't seen the tape) but I refuse to side with idiotic folks who are looking for a reason to be offended. Surely, surely it is no worse than any one of countless Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, or Dave Chapelle skits.

Read the rest.

Religion of Peace...?

These guys really know how to play nice:

Revenge-seeking militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers and burned them alive with kerosene in a savage new twist to the brutality shaking the Iraqi capital a day after suspected Sunni insurgents killed 215 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district.
I wonder if that country will ever rise above the religious instability it inflicts upon itself. I suppose that decades of brainwashing is a hard thing to lose.

Read the rest.

Christendom takes one

After years of giving in, bending over backwards, and otherwise prostrating itself for the sake of political correctness, Christianity finally cries foul, says "Enough!" and asserts itself -- with predictable results:

British Airways backed down over its ban on workers wearing the cross after a hurricane of criticism.

Airline chief Willie Walsh ordered a rethink of the rule that barred check-in worker Nadia Eweida from wearing a tiny cross at work.

The airline had faced four days of angry condemnation from an overwhelming alliance of Cabinet ministers, 100 MPs, 20 Church of England bishops and, finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Rowan Williams called its stance 'deeply offensive' and threatened to sell the Church of England's £6.6million holding of BA shares.

The voice of reason rings true, later --

Critics pointed out that the airline let her Muslim and Sikh colleagues at Heathrow wear religious symbols headscarves and turbans– on the grounds that it would be impractical to hide them under uniforms.

Dr Sentamu described BA's policy as 'nonsense'. He said the airline's reasoning would appear to allow a 3ft long cross, which could not be hidden, but not one like Miss Eweida's, the size of a 5p piece.

He said last night: 'The national carrier, which carries the crosses of St George, St Andew and St David across the world, reminding them of our country's Christian heritage, has arrived at the right decision.'

It makes me wish that folks would understand that no state religion doesn't mean that all non-Christian religions get preferential treatment for being minorities. Ah well, one of the benefits of a parliamentary monarchy I suppose.

Read the rest.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Lately

I've been kind of busy lately and I've found that I don't really enjoy blogging so much any more. Its not that I don't read the news still, but more that when I do read things they don't interest me enough to provoke a comment.

Updates will probably still happen, just on a less regular basis.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oops!

Tehran did an uh-oh:

International Atomic Energy Agency experts have found unexplained plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in Iran and have asked Tehran for details, a report from the U.N. watchdog said Tuesday.

The report, prepared for next week’s meeting of the 35-nation IAEA, also faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the agency’s attempts to investigate suspicious aspects of Iran’s nuclear program that have led to fears it might be interested in developing nuclear arms.
According to Wiki, Plutonium is used for (surprise!) weapons and extremely long-term batteries, such as those used on satellites. Its not a byproduct of any so-called peaceful uranium enrichment. The one exception to this rule is MOX fuel, which is a mixture of uranium and plutonium and is a way to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium via power generation.

"With the wisdom and resistance of the nation, today our position has stabilized," Ahmadinejad said before the report was released. "I'm very hopeful that we will be able to hold the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year," the hard-line president said at a news conference.

Iran's current calendar year ends on March 20.

Well. We have a date. Now its the waiting game, since no one in the world besides the US has the balls to do anything about it.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sigh and Double Sigh

The fence-that-never-was never will be, and a Vatican cardinal says dumb stuff:

The incoming U.S. Congress will review the law mandating 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and may seek to scrap the plan altogether.

He said that the high technology Secure Border Initiative, or SBI Net -- essentially a set of monitors, cameras and other integrated surveillance systems to monitor the border -- was a viable alternative.

"We might do away with it, or look at (integrating it into) SBI Net," he said, "A virtual fence rather than a real one."

Emphasis mine. I think its the most telling sentence in the whole piece. We're trading a real fence for a not-real fence.

Explain this to me, please. A man walks across the border, and is filmed. How, then, are we to stop him, considering that our border patrol agents are prohibited by law from pursuing known criminals and have no legal recourse to stop infiltrators or would-be illegal immigrants? (See this).

Next on the list of things that make me sad:
A senior Vatican cardinal on Tuesday condemned the building of walls between countries to keep out immigrants and said Washington's plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border was part of an "inhuman program".

Cardinal Renato Martino made his comments at a news conference presenting Pope Benedict's message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in which the Pope called for more laws to help immigrants integrate.

"Speaking of borders, I must unfortunately say that in a world that greeted the fall of the Berlin Wall with joy, new walls are being built between neighborhood and neighborhood, city and city, nation and nation," said Martino, head of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace.

This sort of rhetoric is so worn out. If he's truly for Justice and Peace he should encourage people to follow the law, not break it. The fence-that-never-was wasn't a preventative measure, it was reactionary. We didn't even think of putting up a fence until it became painfully obvious that this was a serious issue.

Also, the fence-that-never-was is again compared to the Berlin Wall, which is becoming something of a trend among global leaders who should keep their mouths shut about our country's sovereign policies.

My response to Cardinal Martino will be the same as my response to Gorbachev:
We're not building an iron curtain here. No country in its right mind has a totally open border with completely ineffective police / laws and is serious about security. The border with Mexico is a magnet for drug and human trafficking, illegal immigration, and likely terrorism.

The Berlin wall was the East keeping the West out for fear of losing people to the freedom of democracy. It was just another means of Soviet corruption. This wall is a wall of defense, aimed to protect us from the dangers of a non-cooperative neighbor and a global terrorist threat. The difference between the two is significant.
Finally, a little research on Cardinal Martino reveals this lovely gem of illogic:

On November 6 2006 he said after the death sentence had been passed on Saddam Hussein that "punishing a crime with another crime – which is what killing for vindication is – would mean that we are still at the point of demanding an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".

To quote from Matthew 5 directly
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
This is directly and completely referring to personal practices, not practices on the judge or legal level. Christ is not reversing the concept; He is correcting a verse that had been taken out of context to condone personal vengeance. After all, Christ and God are but two aspects of the same Being. How could they disagree?

The original reference that Christ quotes, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth" comes from Exodus 21:24, Lev. 24:20, and Deut. 19:21. All are rephrasing of the same aspect of Mosaic Law - and every single one is referring to the "law of retaliation," which limits punishment to fit the crime on a legal level. So, if anything, Cardinal Martino is using his bully pulpit to denounce the Old Testament. You'd think someone who spent his life studying the Bible would know better than to abuse a passage of scripture so thoroughly.

He goes on The List of Stupid People Who Say Stupid Things, right up there with Murtha for Iraq-related comments and Al Gore for global warming climate change..

Read the rest.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A big mess

The middle east is heating up -- new players, same game:

According to the Iranian media Monday, Iranian President Mahoud Ahmadinejad declared that Israel was destined to ‘disappearance and destruction’ at a council meeting with Iranian ministers.

“The western powers created the Zionist regime in order to expand their control of the area. This regime massacres Palestinians everyday, but since this regime is against nature, we will soon witness its disappearance and destruction,” Ahmadinejad said.
Can you really blow off a guy who says stuff like that? Apparently, you can't:
Israel will not accept a nuclear Iran, visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told US television, but while not ruling out military action, said he hoped diplomacy would dissuade Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program.

"We will not tolerate the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran," Olmert told NBC television's "Today Show" program, ahead of talks with President George W. Bush on Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Asked whether his country was considering a preemptive strike targeting Tehran's nuclear facilities, Olmert answered: "I hope we don't have to reach that stage."
I love the last bit -- in short, the answer to the question was a clear "yes".

Read the rest.

China's chest thumping

China is doing a little chest-thumping:

A Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected, The Washington Times has learned.
The surprise encounter highlights China's continuing efforts to prepare for a future conflict with the U.S., despite Pentagon efforts to try to boost relations with Beijing's communist-ruled military.
I'm not particularly afraid, but this doesn't exactly please me. I'll go ahead and tally this up with the rest of the world, including Iran and North Korea, realizing that we're not the ultimate power any more.

Unfortunately, the era of peace that followed World War II wasn't because anyone learned any lessons or anything cute like that. The people who were willing to wage war were simply unable to do so. The world economy has now recovered enough that people are eying each other's farms again, rather than tending to their own.

Perhaps I've been reading too much WWII history, but some of the politics and circumstances are starting to look awfully similar to the 1930s to me....

Read the rest.

And so it begins...

Sen. Levin (D - MI) is starting up the cut'n'run policy the Dems have promised us:

"First order of business is to change the direction of Iraq policy," said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is expected to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress.

Democrats will press President George W. Bush's administration to tell the Iraqi government that U.S. presence was "not open-ended, and that, as a matter of fact, we need to begin a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq in four to six months," Levin said on ABC's "This Week" program.

I do find it interesting, though, that they don't even want the phased retreat to even begin for another four to six months. Why that time period? Judging from the conditions over there, I wonder if that will actually be a good time to leave? There's been little in the news about Iraq -- its been peculiarly quiet, even for election season. I guarantee if something bad had happened the media would have been all over it, viewing it as another weapon to hit the GOP with.

I really would like to have access to the inside scoop over there. As I've said before, I'm not too sure that a phased withdrawal is all that far off (in August I predicted the possibility arising as early as November -- perhaps I was a mite optimistic).

Read the rest.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lamont: Whipped

Lieberman put the hurt on Lamont -- 48-39 style:

Sen. Joe Lieberman made a triumphant return from political limbo Tuesday, riding his independent candidacy to victory over Ned Lamont three months after the anti-war businessman toppled him in the Democratic primary.

Lieberman said he was "tested like never before" in the long, bitter campaign.

"But we never gave up, did we?" he declared to cheering supporters gathered at a downtown Hartford hotel.

Lieberman's victory as an independent comes three months after a stunning loss in the Democratic primary that put his 18-year Senate career in peril. Lamont, a wealthy businessman and political unknown, upset Lieberman in August in a contest widely seen as a referendum on Iraq and a sharp rebuke of Lieberman's pro-war views.

I'm just glad we didn't get a prominent cut-and-run supporter into the house. Speaking of elections, this isn't a particularly surprising outcome. Given the latest political atmosphere and the onus of being the majority party, Republicans really didn't do all that badly.

So, let's see what the Democrats have in store -- they're going to foolishly up the minimum wage (see The Throes of Poverty), and "fully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Have we heard anything else out of the majority of this party? Casey told Santorum he'd sponsor legislation making senators work harder. A few have promised to get to the bottom of the treasonous and corrupt nature of the Bush administration.

We'll see what they do. And in the next election, we can point at their record and politely snicker.

My prediction? Status quo baby. Spending rises as fast (or faster) as the previous congress, and a similar amount of corruption will exist. Count on it.

Read the rest.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good News and Bad

Good News:

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Saddam Hussein to the gallows for crimes against humanity, closing a quarter-century-old chapter of violent suppression in this land of long memories, deep grudges and sectarian slaughter.

The former Iraqi dictator and six subordinates were convicted and sentenced for the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town after an attempt on his life there.
I don't understand why the accusations come that say this will spark a civil war. As far as I remember, the folks in Iraq hate Saddam. I watched them on the day we first hit Baghdad, dancing for joy in the streets. Does anyone in their right mind want things to go back to the way they were before that day?

Bad news:
The European Union urged Iraq on Sunday not to carry out the death sentence passed on Iraq's former leader Saddam Hussein after his conviction for crimes against humanity. "The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either," Finland, current holder of the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.
This shows you how seriously EU (or at least, Finland's president) takes Iraq. They don't view them as a sovereign nation fit to govern their own affairs. I don't recall the EU ever telling us not to drop a bad guy from our society -- and we haven't had someone who so clearly deserved a short drop and a sudden stop in a long time.

What do they propose we do with him? Let him sit in jail for a bit until some Shi'ite terrorist nut breaks him out so he can gas more Kurds? Let him continue to breathe when it is terribly clear that every breath is a waste of perfectly good oxygen?

I don't remember anyone in the EU being particularly evenhanded when it came to the Nuremberg trials.

Read the rest.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Oh, Texas...

So according to this, now folks can go online and watch illegals streaming across the border:

Texas has started broadcasting live images of the U.S. border on the Internet in a security program that asks the public to report signs of illegal immigration or drug crimes.
A test Web site went live Thursday at texasborderwatch.com with views from eight cameras and ways for viewers to e-mail reports of suspicious activity. Previously, the images had only been available to law enforcement and landowners where the cameras are located.
But we already know that to try and arrest an illegal means you're fighting the system and you'll likely wind up in jail. Mixed signals abound!

This program is going to fall flat on its foolish face because it has no teeth.

Read the rest.

Spectre

Whee -- UN, reap what you sow!

THE SPECTRE of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.
The UNSC's inaction on the farce that is Iran's nuclear enrichment program is allowing the rest of the Arab world to jump on the bandwagon. When will the appeasers learn you simply can't appease tyrants, terrorists and the like?

Read the rest.

Scientific dishonesty

Scientists police their own when talking about fishing:

Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades. If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
Not so, says another scientist...

But other scientists question that forecast.

"It's just mind-boggling stupid," said Ray Hilborn, a University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

"I'm worried about some areas of the world — like Africa — but other areas of the world have figured out how to do effective fishery management."

For example, most of the harvests in the North Pacific off Alaska — where most Seattle fleets fish — are not in sharp decline.

His common sense is a breath of fresh air. You can't make extrapolations over the whole globe based on local variations. When will these "scientists" learn basic principles such as that?

I find it interesting that the headline for the second article is that the study draws skeptics, even though the first story was just published yesterday. Some newspaper went out to find the dissenting opinion. Why won't anyone in the media hold some of these loons to what they say and go get one of the thousands of respected climatologists who can show you evidence that global warming climate change isn't anthropogenic to rebut the idioitic statements made all the time about global warming climate change?

Read the rest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry: I don't know how to apologize

This is the equivalent of saying "I'm sorry your face ran into my fist":

"I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended," he said in a written statement.

What, exactly, did he say (if you live under a rock)?

"You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.

"If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Let's look at what an apology is, shall we?

a‧pol‧o‧gy  /əˈpɒlədʒi/
–noun, plural -gies.
1. a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another

He's not regretting his actions, he's regretting the consequences of his actions. That is not the same thing.

Update: Hoo-ya y'Armay had this to say...

Read the rest.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I guess we'll see

Both sides are set to prove the other a liar:

House Majority Leader:

Rob, if we mobilize all of our resources and mobilize our voters to the polls on Election Day, we’re going to do just fine. There’s no question we have a very difficult political environment. First, we knew this when George Bush was re-elected in ’04—that the midterm election for the President’s party during the sixth year of that presidency, the average loss for the last 150 years is 41 seats. We knew history was working against us. And so, we’ve worked hard.

But I really do believe, as I get around the country, there are some open seats where we’ve got some difficulty. We’ve got a couple incumbents who are in trouble for various reasons, who are in very difficult races. But beyond that, there are a lot of races where we’re slightly ahead or we’re slightly behind. And this is where mobilizing our voters over the next eight days—making sure that they vote—will put us in a solid position.
Schumer:
The chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign expressed confidence Sunday his party can win a Senate majority in the Nov. 7 elections, calling the vote "more and more a referendum on George Bush."

"We're right on the edge. Every week things get better and better," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "With the exception of one candidate, no other Republican candidate uses a four-letter word - B-U-S-H. They're running away from him."
Hurricane or April Shower? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

My prediction? Republicans maintain control of congress. Is that the best solution? Probably. Am I excited about the corruption that's become evident and the utter lack of cooperation or fiscal restraint? Not particularly.

But Pelosi? Dems in control of congress? Can you say pull-out-of-Iraq-faster-than-you-can-blink? Say what you will about the situation over there, or how we got there -- to leave now would be like Saigon all over only worse.

Read the rest.

Brilliant!

This is genius. This technology is promising in so many ways for so many people:

British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant.

The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Described as a 'Eureka moment' by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.

Note that there are no dead babies involved here. Michael J. Fox, thy name is disingenuity. Stem cells =/= embryonic stem cells. Learn the difference!

Read the rest.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It'll never be built

I suspect its lip service, but at least it got signed:

President Bush signed a bill Thursday authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to give Republican candidates a pre-election platform for asserting they're tough on illegal immigration.

"Unfortunately the United States has not been in complete control of its borders for decades and therefore illegal immigration has been on the rise," Bush said at a signing ceremony.

"We have a responsibility to enforce our laws," he said. "We have a responsibility to secure our borders. We take this responsibility serious."

He called the fence bill "an important step in our nation's efforts to secure our borders."

Good fences make good neighbors.

Read the rest.

Waffle!

Hillary has succumbed to the allure of vote getting when it comes to non-marriage marriage:

She also suggested that language she used when she first ran for the Senate in 2000 explaining her opposition to marriage equality based on the institution's moral, religious, and traditional foundations had not reflected the "many long conversations" she's had since with "friends" and others, and that her advocacy on LGBT issues "has certainly evolved."
Those "friends" we undoubtedly campaign advisors. How come nobody calls her on this?

News flash - 59 year old people typically don't change their minds on issues like this. Certainly not over the course of five years. Give me a break.

Read the rest.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Al Gore...sigh...

The man is making a fool of himself. I really hope someone (like me) is around to dredge up silly things like this that he's said over the years when people finally wake up to the sham that is anthropogenic global warming.

"Did he say that?" interrupted Gore, whose film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," grossed $23.7 million. "He's not sure it's caused by humans?"
advertising

"He's not convinced that it's caused by human beings," responded Nickels.

"C'mon! And this man is a United States congressman?" asked Gore. "You know, 15 percent of people believe the moon landing was staged on some movie lot and a somewhat smaller number still believe the Earth is flat. They get together on Saturday night and party with the global-warming deniers."
That kind of elitist attitude is plain sickening. Not only does he have the gall to ridicule someone over something that the jury is still most definitely out on, but he does it in the most condescending way possible.

I, for one, am not willing to let Al Gore decide any sort of scientific fact for me, invention of the internet notwithstanding.

One of these days folks are going to be hearing predictions of global cooling and the evils of ethanol or biodiesel...and then you can remember. You heard it here first.

Read the rest.

Heh

Whatever your political alignment, this is funny:

"If their electoral predictions are as reliable as their economic predictions, Nov. 7th is going to be a good day for the Republicans."
See below:
Dow Closes for Record High 3 Days Straight

Read the rest.

Odd

Stuff like this makes you wonder doesn't it?

Two Israeli warplanes were involved in an armed incident with a German ship patrolling Lebanon's waters as part of the UN force in the Arab country, the German military told AFP.

A spokesman for the command of the German mission in Lebanon said it was investigating the incident which took place on Monday.

According to Thursday's edition of the Tagesspiegel newspaper, two Israeli F-16 warplanes fired shots as well as anti-missile defence flares while flying low over the German vessel.
I don't understand the motivation on either side. Why would Israel fire shots at a German ship? Why would the Germans lie?

The only possibility I can think of is that the Israelis felt that the German ship was facilitating some sort of weapons transfer into Lebanon. I still think thats pretty unlikely.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ignorance Journal

Sorry for the long absence. I went to the Texas A&M / Okie State away game this weekend and have been catching up on my studying since! (We won in overtime to spoil their homecoming -- Whoop!).

Ignorance journal time.

Read more.

I have two topics this week to write about (makeup time). Empathy and Communication. This is fortunate, as both I believe are closely tied together and can build upon each other.

I'll start with what I know. Empathy is "feeling for" someone's situation. I think this is a must-have in terms of leadership skills. After all, how can you lead someone when you don't understand where they're coming from?

However, there's more to it than the surface. How far is too far? How much is it necessary to feel for someone? Is it also important to sympathize? I would think that you'd be best off understanding, but not condining. Empathy, also, corresponds with positives as well. Does it follow that if you merely empathize but don't sympathize for negative actions on your follower's part, that you must also do so for their positive actions? This follows with leadership and emotional detachment; I think you have to temper both highs and lows with a detached interest that never takes the focus of where you're at and where you're going.

Will people view you as weak if you empathize with every situation? Are there times when you ought not to show empathy for others? After all, we all have different situations and backgrounds. When you presume to empathize, is it possible you belittle the situations of others, be it highs or lows?


Communication is also an important part of empathy. I believe it likely does no good if you are empathetic but don't communicate that to your followers. Communication is a big one because it ties in every aspect of leadership. Its the foundation that the rest is built on. How can you improve your communication? I've found in the Corps that often times folks simply misunderstand what you're saying -- specifically if you're saying something they don't want to hear. I don't know the best way of convincing someone they're wrong; I suspect that the best course is to convince them they agree with you and did all along. How is that accomplished? Is empathy a part of that? I wonder how much of communication is merely based on pre-conceived notions? How much of a conversation is decided before the first word is spoken? Based on that, is it better to try to "guide" conversations? How much does manipulation play a role in good leadership?

Too many questions, not enough answers. But I'm learning.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Principal against FUN

Man, I sure am glad I was a kid back when we still had cap guns, tree climbing, backyard homerum derby and...tag?

Tag is now out during recess at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro.

So is touch football and any other unsupervised "chasing" games that are deemed to pose the risk of injury as well as liability to the school.

"It's a time when accidents can happen," said Principal Gaylene Heppe, in her second year at the helm of Willett.

Heppe included the new rule as part of a standardized set of playground rules that were not in play upon her arrival.

In doing so, she joined in a growing movement against traditional games played by young children in school gymnasiums and playgrounds. A few years ago, school administrators in the area, as well as around the country, took aim at dodgeball, saying it was an exclusionary and dangerous game. Modified versions now include softer balls and ways for children to re-enter the action.
In other news, every single high school sports program in the area is expecting significant losses in player ability in the upcoming years. No wonder Massachusetts isn't a football powerhouse.

Read the rest.

DJIA > 12000

The DJIA popped above 12,000 briefly this morning but dipped just below. Its amazing what a little bit of relief from oil prices can do to an economy.


Read the rest.

Intellectual dishonesty

I'm not sure what else to call Gorbachev's statements other than intellectual dishonesty. In a recent interview, he said this:

"You remember President Reagan standing in Berlin and saying, 'This wall should be torn down,'" said the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "Now the United States seems to be building almost the Wall of China between itself and this other nation with which it has been associated for many decades and has had cooperation and interaction with.

"I think what is really needed are ideas and proposals about how to improve that cooperation and work out all of those issues regarding immigration flows. I don't think the U.S. is so weak and so much lacks confidence as not to be able to find a different solution.
I don't think he can honestly believe what he's saying. We're not building an iron curtain here. No country in its right mind has a totally open border with completely ineffective police / laws and is serious about security. The border with Mexico is a magnet for drug and human trafficking, illegal immigration, and likely terrorism.

The Berlin wall was the East keeping the West out for fear of losing people to the freedom of democracy. It was just another means of Soviet corruption. This wall is a wall of defense, aimed to protect us from the dangers of a non-cooperative neighbor and a global terrorist threat. The difference between the two is significant.

Read the rest.

Sad story, funny comment

This is just really messed up, sick and sad. I'm not sure words can cover it:

A suicide note in the pocket of a man who jumped off the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel late Tuesday led police to the grisly scene of his girlfriend’s murder, where they found her charred head in a pot on the stove, her legs and feet baked in the oven and the rest of her dismembered body in trash bag in the refrigerator, according to police and the couple’s landlord.
The man, Zackery Bowen, a tall man in his mid 20s with long blond hair, claimed in the note to have killed his girlfriend, Adrian “Addie” Hall, on Oct. 5, according to police. Hall was also in her mid 20s.
In the five-page note, Bowen claimed he strangled Hall in the bathtub, then dismembered her body before taking it in pieces to the kitchen, police said. An autopsy conducted today shows that Hall was in fact manually strangled, police said. It also appears that Hall’s body was cut up after she died, police said.
However, I did get a kick out of this:
“He may have in retrospect seemed a little troubled,” Watermeier said in an interview early Wednesday morning, shortly after he led investigators to the gruesome scene inside the apartment.
Ya think?

Read the rest.

Hillary: Liar.

I saw that news agencies picked this up, but no one came out and reported what it really is:

Years after alternative media pointed out the virtual impossibility, Sen. Hillary Clinton finally has admitted she was not named for the famous conqueror of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary.

The New York Times, which repeated the claim as fact in a story just one week ago, reported Sen. Clinton's campaign issued a correction yesterday.

"It was a sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add," said spokeswoman Jennifer Hanley.
I'm sorry, but this is lying, plain and simple. And unfortunately for Clinton and her spokeswoman, most American people aren't infatuated with the concept espoused here -- namely, that the ends justify the means.

I sincerely doubt that her mother ever told her anything of the sort. The fact that Hillary would push off her own dishonesty onto her mother is pretty low indeed.

Read the rest.

Spooning back the tide

The first lawsuit for illegal video sharing on the internet has been filed. Somehow I just don't see this ever really being successful though:

Universal Music, the world’s largest record company, has launched the established media industry’s first legal action against user-generated internet sites in the wake of its distribution deal last week with YouTube, the most popular video-sharing website.

In separate lawsuits, Universal alleged that Grouper.com – recently acquired by Sony Pictures Entertainment – and Bolt.com had built up traffic by encouraging users to share music videos from its artists without their permission. In one incident, it claimed a video for the Mariah Carey song “Shake it Off” was viewed more than 50,000 times on Grouper without the company’s permission.

Expect this to be the first of many.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Take that, China

I say Wal-Mart is great for America:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is bidding about $1 billion for a chain of 100 hypermarkets in China in a deal that could vault it ahead of competitors to become the country’s biggest food and department store network, reports said Tuesday.

Wal-Mart plans to buy the hypermarkets from Trust-Mart, a Taiwanese company, The Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the transaction.

The Financial Times, citing people close to the negotiations, said Wal-Mart had emerged as the leading bidder for the chain but said no agreement had been reached. The New York Times reported that Wal-Mart expects to close the purchase by the end of the year, but still needs government approval.

The Chinese aren't going to take us over; Wal-Mart is.

Read the rest.

Lookout for fireworks

The diplomatic talk-talk coming from North Korea is getting rather nasty:

The U.N. sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear test are a declaration of war, and the country will "deal merciless blows" if the nation's sovereignty is violated, the North's central government said Tuesday in its first response to the U.N. measures.

The North wants "peace but is not afraid of war," the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
We'll see. As posturing goes, this is rather blunt...but I personally doubt its much more than talk.

Read the rest.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Air America: Bankrupt

Looks like Air America doesn't have a people's mandate:

Air America Radio filed for bankruptcy reorganization Friday, in the latest patch of turbulence to befall the liberal talk radio network that launched two years ago headlined by the comedian and author Al Franken.

The network will continue to operate with funding from its investor group, led by RealNetworks Inc. CEO Robert Glaser, who owns 36.7 percent of the company, and two other former board members.

Read the rest.

Matt's Blog: Why does Habeas Corpus hate America?

Matt made a good post, and I wrote a good response (if I do say so myself).

Link: Why Does Habeas Corpus Hate America?

Check it out!

Read the rest.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

GCC Update!

Global warming climate change update!

A Westerly flow of unseasonably cold air circulating around a very intense storm up over Lake Superior will continue to pour into western New York tonight. This cold air crossing the 60 degree waters of Lake Erie will continue to produce bands of intense lake effect precipitation.
New research suggests that 2.5 million year climate change cycles are to blame for the rise and fall of mammalian species:
If rodents in Spain are any guide, periodic changes in Earth’s orbit may account for the apparent regularity with which new species of mammals emerge and then go extinct, scientists are reporting today.

It so happens, the paleontologists say, that variations in the course Earth travels around the Sun and in the tilt of its axis are associated with episodes of global cooling. Their new research on the fossil record shows that the cyclical pattern of these phenomena corresponds to species turnover in rodents and probably other mammal groups as well.
Clearly the rodents die when they pollute themselves into extinction. I mean, all this climate change is anthropogenic, right?

Read the rest.

Russia, China oppose sanctions

I didn't make the prediction on here, but I did to a friend in real life. He suggested that China was "worried" about North Korea. I replied to wait to see what they voted for on the UNSC, and that I doubted they'd want to do anything. Turns out I was right:

Russia and China on Thursday opposed tough sanctions the U.S. wants to impose against North Korea this week for its claimed nuclear test, saying they want more time to work out a more moderate response to Pyongyang's nuclear brinkmanship.

The United States and Japan, which has already imposed tough unilateral sanctions on the North to protest the reported test Monday, had initially hoped for a U.N. Security Council vote on Thursday. But if Washington wants to get China and Russia - the two council nations closest to Pyongyang - on board, a vote could be delayed until early next week.

China, the North's closest ally, opposes any mention of the U.N. Charter's Chapter 7, which authorizes punishments including economic sanctions, naval blockades and military actions. China and Russia want to see sanctions focus primarily on reining in North Korea's nuclear and weapons programs.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Saw Varsity's horns off...

Bevo XIII is dead. Long live 13Ev0. (For those who don't know...link):

Bevo XIII, the longest-tenured mascot in Texas Longhorns history, has gone to the big ranch in the sky.
Whoop.

PS - what the heck?
According to the Silver Spurs, the Longhorns mascot "represents courage, fighting ability, nerve, lust of combat, efficiency in deadly encounters and the holy spirit of 'Never Say Die.'"
Its a steer people. That means it has no testicles. Steers represent animals that eat a lot, poo a lot, run as little as possible, sleep quite frequently, and are sexually frustrated/ inactive.

"Efficiency in deadly encounters"...sheesh. Efficiency of feeding predators, maybe.

Read the rest.

Smutty science makes good politics

As usual, poor science makes for good politics:

A controversial new study contends nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died because of the war, suggesting a far higher death toll than other estimates.
Read more.

This is total and complete bunk. If anyone in the media had any kind of honesty they'd not run it. The entire article is devoted to explaining why the study is ridiculous; if thats the case, why print it?

In the new study, researchers attempt to calculate how many more Iraqis have died since March 2003 than one would expect without the war. Their conclusion, based on interviews of households and not a body count, is that about 600,000 died from violence, mostly gunfire. They also found a small increase in deaths from other causes like heart disease and cancer.

An accurate count of Iraqi deaths has been difficult to obtain, but one respected group puts its rough estimate at closer to 50,000. And at least one expert was skeptical of the new findings.

"They're almost certainly way too high," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election.

Exactly. Most people won't bother reading the article. They'll hear or read the headline, or perhaps the first few lines, and the 650,000 number will stick. Just to put it into perspective, the Blitz' intentional targeting of civilians in World War II only produced 67,800 casualties. The Germans suffered roughly 1,840,000 civilian casualties, largely due to British night bombing and terror tactics used against them. This fellow from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health would have you believe that Iraq has suffered similarly. Get the shovel!

And how did they do the study? Why, the most reliable method, similarly employed in investigating the mysteriously vanished Haditha massacre -- they asked some people:

Speaking of the new study, Burnham said the estimate was much higher than others because it was derived from a house-to-house survey rather than approaches that depend on body counts or media reports.

For Burnham's study, researchers gathered data from a sample of 1,849 Iraqi households with a total of 12,801 residents from late May to early July. That sample was used to extrapolate the total figure. The estimate deals with deaths up to July.

The survey participants attributed about 31 percent of violent deaths to coalition forces.

I did the number crunching so you don't have to -- they interviewed 12,800 out of 26,074,906 (Iraq's total population). Thats 0.0491%, rounded up. Whatever result they got, they multiplied by a factor of roughly 2030 to arrive at an "extrapolated result". Based on my brilliant mathematical manipulation, this would mean that in order to have 650,000 deaths, each person surveyed would have had to attest to 320 deaths! I don't think I even know that many people.

Not only would these folks have you "take their word for it," they'd also expect you to swallow that coalition forces, also known as the Good Guys in this situation, have killed over 217,000 civilians.

As always, you believe what you want. But don't let some faux "study" sucker you into trading your intelligence in without first putting it up to some scrutiny.

Read the rest.

Nuclear Jitters

Japan is (understandably) pretty antsy over the whole NK nuke thing:

Read it.

A strong earthquake in northern Japan on Wednesday may have led the Tokyo government to suspect that North Korea had conducted a second nuclear test.

In Washington, White House spokesman Blair Jones said U.S. officials had not detected any evidence of additional North Korea testing.

"Japanese officials are now saying that this occurrence may be related to an earthquake in northern Japan," Jones said.

The earthquake came at a time when the Japanese government and other countries in Asia were jittery about reports that North Korea planned a second nuclear test.
This whole thing is a mess. We don't even know if they actually had a successful nuclear device:
Was North Korea's nuclear device a partial dud? That is one of several theories that Western experts say might explain the apparent low explosive force of the communist nation's first declared nuclear test.

Other suppositions are that North Korea deliberately chose a small device to save its limited stocks of bomb-making plutonium or that it somehow muffled the shockwaves from the underground blast to make it appear smaller than it was.

Even if North Korea got helpful pointers from nuclear-capable Pakistan, as many experts suspect, the technology of efficiently splitting atoms to make a controlled explosion is still tricky for novices to master. For North Korean scientists, working largely in isolation, that could be especially true.

"The devil is in the details," said French nuclear proliferation expert Bruno Tertrais. "It's like cooking. The fact that you have the recipe does not make you a chef."

One explanation could be that the device - if nuclear - fizzled rather than truly banged, with the plutonium only partially detonating, he said. Or, the device's timing may have been slightly off, creating a weaker chain reaction with less explosive force than planned.

But because of the intense secrecy that shrouds North Korea, it may never be known exactly how large an explosion it was hoping for and, therefore, whether the test was successful, as it claimed.

"I think they got a partial result," said Philip Coyle, a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, a think tank in Washington.

"For them it was enough ... to say that it was a success. It helps them to claim that they are a nuclear power, and that the world should take them seriously, which is what they want. But I wouldn't be surprised if after several months they don't try again."

Read the rest.

Wierd

Not a headline you see every day -- 4 senior physicians arrested for illegal experiments on elderly patients:

A report by a Health Ministry inquiry committee, whose findings were revealed in Haaretz, found that illegal and unethical experiments were conducted over several years, in a systematic manner, on thousands of elderly patients. At least one patient is suspected of having died as a direct result of one of the experiments. In addition, 12 patients died either during or shortly after one of the experiments, but the incident was not reported to the Health Ministry or investigated, in contravention of the law.
This is actually pretty sick -- they published the results:
At least four doctors at Hartzfeld and Kaplan became known as geriatrics experts on the basis of research allegedly based on illegal experiments. Some doctors submitted articles to medical journals in Israel and abroad on the basis of the experiments, which appear to have provided a foundation for their professional and academic advancement.

Read the rest.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Linchpin to a scandal

The whole Foley issue really has become quite silly. People all over the place are trying to spin this to their advantage, but there really are some facts you ought to know before you go rushing off to make your judgement in the matter.

Read it all.

Also, for the record, that WaPo article is chock-full of half-truths and implied falsehoods. Reread it after reading this.

1.) Foley was caught sending emails that would, to me, seem to be oddball but benign. Read them yourself, if you like (these are verbatim, typos aren't mine):
E-mail 1:

Glad your home safe and sound...we don't go back into session until Sept 5...si it's a nice long break...I am back in Florida now...its nice here...been raining today...it shounds like you will have some fun over the next few weeks...how old are you now?

E-mail 2:

I just emailed will...hes such a nice guy...acts much older than his age...and hes in really great shape...i am just finished fiding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym...whats school like for you this year?

E-mail 3:

I am in North Carolina...and it was 100in New Orleans...wow that's really hot...well do you miss DC...its raining here but 68 degrees so who can argue..did you have fun at your conference...what do you want for your birthday coming up...what stuff do you like to do

E-mail 4:

How are you weathering the hurricane...are you safe...send me a pic of you as well...

2.) Republican leaders did not know about the sexually explicit IMs or online advances when they recommended for him to take counseling. Those emails were all the evidence they had, as reported here:

House leaders have said they knew about e-mails they considered "overly friendly" in late 2005 and early 2006 but were unaware of sexually explicit instant messages allegedly sent from Foley to other pages until they were reported last week.

and here:

Law enforcement officials said then that the e-mails did not provide enough evidence of a possible crime to warrant a full investigation. In the e-mails, Foley praises the physical attributes of one page and asks another teenager for his picture.

In subsequent days, unidentified Justice and FBI officials told reporters that the e-mails provided by CREW were heavily redacted and that the group refused to provide unedited versions to the FBI. One law enforcement official -- speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation -- also told The Washington Post the FBI believed that CREW may have received the e-mails as early as April and that the group refused to tell the FBI how they were obtained.

3.) Who are we really protecting by all this frenzy? For the most part, the victims want to be left alone, remain anonymous, and fade away:
The family of a Louisiana teenager who reported "sick" e-mails from former Rep. Mark Foley called their son a hero Thursday and said they want reporters to go away.

The family's statement calls the e-mails "ambiguous" and expresses support for Alexander.

Saying the family wishes to remain anonymous, the statement adds that the former page is "becoming a victim due to harassment by some of the media.
4.) Foley did not (as far as I can tell) have any physical contact with any of these young men. I say young men, because none of these pages were children. Referring to them as "boys" is really quite dishonest by reporters. So he is not
  • A pedophile
  • A child molester
  • A rapist
He does obviously have some issues, and he does need to sort them out. Please note that I am not defending his actions. But call it like it is! This is the failure of one man, not a political party. It is not deserving of this type of frenzy. So you tell me - is this really righteous action on anyone's part? Or is it (dare I say) political?

Dafydd at Big Lizards is really covering this well:

Is this a defense for Foley? Not at all... it's a defense for Dennis Hastert, John Boehner, Tom Reynolds, and John Shimkus, along with "every Republican member of Congress." You know, those who were "disgraced" by the actions of Mark Foley; just as every Republican is presumably disgraced by Jack Abramoff (and every doctor in America is disgraced by the actions of Jack Kevorkian).

Do we really need supposed conservatives buying into the liberal, even socialist idea that individuals are defined, not by their own behavior, but merely as being part of a group? Are all blacks disgraced by the antics of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Are all Moslems guilty of the suicide bombings of jihadists? And are all Jews defined by Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron?

And is Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, "disgraced" by the actions of his fellow journalists at the St. Petersburg Times, the Miami Herald, and even Fox News?

Meanwhile, Florida newspapers — who were leaked copies of the e-mail with the Louisiana boy last year — defended their decision not to run stories. Both The St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald were given copies of the e-mail, as were other news organizations, including Fox News.

"Our decision at the time was ... that because the language was not sexually explicit and was subject to interpretation, from innocuous to 'sick,' as the page characterized it, to be cautious," said Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Herald. "Given the potentially devastating impact that a false suggestion of pedophilia could have on anyone, not to mention a congressman known to be gay, and lacking any corroborating information, we chose not to do a story."

Why should we listen to a disgraced journalist like Blankley? Sure, he himself never knew anything about those e-mails; but other journalists did, and he's a journalist too. He shares their disgrace.

And yes, the journalists who did see the e-mails said they were so open to interpretation that they could not conclude there was any "there" there... not even enough to run a story or contact the authorities. But if that is a defense for the journalists -- isn't it equally a defense for the other members of Congress, who saw nothing more (and in many cases substantially less) than the reporters saw?

Read the rest.

Scary

Apex, North Carolina is evacuated today because of a plume from a chemical fire that went the wrong way:

Shifting winds forced Apex officials to expand an evacuation area early Friday to protect residents from a chemical gas plume that continued to spread from an industrial fire that has raged since late Thursday.
Read the rest.
Town Manager Bruce Radford said a leak at the EQ North Carolina plant on Investment Boulevard sent several large plumes of chlorine gas into the air around 9 p.m. Thursday. A large fire broke out at the plant afterward, sending flames more than 100 feet into the night sky and setting off multiple explosions.

Apex and Wake County officials declared a state of emergency early Friday and evacuated about 16,000 people -- half of of Apex -- within hours.

At 6 a.m., Radford said the chemical plume produced by the plant fire had been spotted by the Eva Perry Library, near the intersection of U.S. 64 and Lake Pine Road. Hundreds of homes in the Sterling Buckingham subdivision were to be evacuated, and the residents sent to a shelter at Green Hope High School, he said.
My prayers go out for everyone in that town. I hope nobody gets hurt.

Some guy was quoted as saying this is the worst possible hazardous material incident. It is bad, but I respectfully disagree. Hydrofluoric acid, a chemical used in many industries including oil refining on a large scale, is pretty much the worst possible chemical in the world to have running amuck. While chlorine will kill you and cause surface burns as it forms hydrochloric acid on your skin, HF will pretty much eat through you right down to the bone, as nothing will stop it until it reacts with the calcium in your bones. Either way, scary stuff.

The article kind of turns into a smear piece towards the end, with the reporter basically instigating:
EQ's Web site states that the company serves "R&D facilities, educational institutions, manufacturing companies, government agencies, hospital and medical facilities."

State environmental officials fined EQ $32,000 in March for failing to minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous-waste materials or implement a contingency plan for a possible release.

Town officials were unaware of the fine and would be discussing the matter with state officials, Weatherly said.

"It certainly would have been prudent for us to have been aware," he said.

In August 2005, a large explosion and fire rocked an EQ plant near Detroit. More than 1,000 nearby residents were evacuated.
I don't see why this is relevant to the story. All something like that does is make a whole lot of people really mad and hurt that business. If they managed to evacuate 16,000 people, it would appear to me that they rectified any inadequacies with regard to contingency plans.

Hate to tell you, WRAL, but when you're dealing with those kind of chemicals, accidents are literally inevitable. I'm sure that town knew EQ was there and gladly took the tax revenue it generated. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Read the rest.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

As it turns out...

All Iraqis are not bad, and most of them just want peace:

As tribal leaders from Iraq's troubled Al Anbar province met last week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, pledging their support to clean out Al Qaeda insurgents, it soon became clear that they were as good as their word.

That day, at a mosque in the town of Ramadi, armed tribesmen seized four men — two Iraqis and two non-Iraqi Arabs — whom the tribesmen believed to be Al Qaeda fighters. The men pleaded for their lives, "for the sake of Islam, and for the sake of the prophet," according to a man who witnessed the incident during group prayers.

Their bodies were found a few hours later in a dumpster.
Read it.

The only way that peace will be brought to Iraq will be through the Iraqi people, which is something that the Bush administration has been saying for a long time. The only way strife will end in that country is if the citizens demand it -- and start to be a proactive force in the solution.

From reading this, it seems like many Iraqis are ready to take that step.
"We are not just targeting Al Qaeda, but terrorists in general, because people miss real stability and freedom," Hakkam said.
Additionally, I think that students of history should perk their ears up and listen to whats being said by the rival factions in Iraq. They just might find some striking similarities:
The list of 15 demands that the tribal leaders put forward included canceling all plans to divide the country into federated regions, proclaiming Iraq as an Arab nation, an equitable distribution of oil income, the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and the release of all Iraqi "political" prisoners.

The first item on that list conflicts with a top priority of several of Maliki's fellow Shiite leaders. The Kurds also favor dividing Iraq into federated regions, and they have objected to demands to label Iraq an Arab country. The division of oil revenue is also a point of contention for all of Iraq's warring groups.
These issues are not so different than those put forward in the constitutional convention held in Philadelphia. The articles of confederation loosely held together 13 states, all of which had militias (armies) and 11 of which had navies. During this time, Pennsylvania declared war on Connecticut, many states began printing their own money, and most states had a state religion (Quakers in Pennsylvania, Church of England in Virginia, Catholicism in Maryland, etc.).

The largest topics of debate were, predictably, religion, representation, trade, and tax. Is there really any difference between our history and the history being written in Iraq now?

Read the rest.

Court allows NSA wiretapping program to continue

The 6th circuit court of appeals unanimously granted a stay on the wiretapping program, allowing it to continue while the appeal process goes through:

The Bush administration can continue its warrantless surveillance program while it appeals a judge's ruling that the program is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The president has said the program is needed in the war on terrorism; opponents argue it oversteps constitutional boundaries on free speech, privacy and executive powers.

The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave little explanation for the decision. In the three-paragraph ruling, judges said that they balanced the likelihood an appeal would succeed, the potential damage to both sides and the public interest.

The ruling itself is fairly straightforward and is likely a hint at what the outcome of this case will be. It essentially says that the stay will only granted if
  1. the applicant has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits
  2. the applicant will be irreparably injured if denied the stay
  3. the other parties will not suffer substantial harm if the stay is granted
  4. the public interest will be served with a stay

The only commentary the panel provided, other than the Approved stamp, was this:

After careful review, we conclude that the standard has been met in this case.

Which means the applicant (the US Dept. of Justice) will likely win the appeal, the US will suffer substiantial and irreparable injury if denied the stay, the plaintiff will not, and the public interest will be served by the program continuing.

In this case, I think the brevity of the ruling speaks quite loudly.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dow at new high

DJIA finally making new highs:

The Dow Jones industrial average finally reached new heights Tuesday, extending Wall Street's seven-year recovery with a record closing level after climbing into uncharted territory in trading earlier in the day.

The index of 30 blue chip stocks ended the session at 11,727.34, according to preliminary calculations, wiping out the previous record of 11,722.98.

Read the rest.

Google will sift the truth

Kerry-style politicians beware: Google is watching you.

Imagine being able to check instantly whether or not statements made by politicians were correct. That is the sort of service Google Inc. boss Eric Schmidt believes the Internet will offer within five years.

Politicians have yet to appreciate the impact of the online world, which will also affect the outcome of elections, Schmidt said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday.

He predicted that "truth predictor" software would, within five years, "hold politicians to account." People would be able to use programs to check seemingly factual statements against historical data to see to see if they were correct.

"One of my messages to them (politicians) is to think about having every one of your voters online all the time, then inputting 'is this true or false.' We (at Google) are not in charge of truth but we might be able to give a probability," he told the newspaper.

The chairman and chief executive of the world's most popular Internet search engine was speaking during a visit to Britain this week, where he met British Prime Minister Tony Blair and spoke at the opposition Conservative Party's annual conference.

"Many of the politicians don't actually understand the phenomenon of the Internet very well," Schmidt told the Financial Times. "It's partly because of their age ... often what they learn about the Internet they learn from their staffs and their children."
The information superhighway is growing into its name. This is just one aspect of how it impacts our lives, and will continue to do so in ever-increasing ways.

Read the rest.

Internet shapes politics

Mark Halperin and John F. Harris think that Kerry lost the 2004 election due to the Freak Show Media or FSM(not kidding -- the WaPo actually published this). They are very clear on their political stance, that is, that Bush wasn't really the dynamic behind his own win, and that poor Kerry was smeared:

Al Gore and John Kerry had never been close, despite the many years they served together in Washington. Now they shared a special bond. Both had been beaten by a man they believed to be less articulate, less capable, less experienced, less virtuous, less worthy, and less intelligent than they. Both had been preparing for the presidency since they were young men, spurred not just by ambition, but by colleagues, friends, and mentors who for a generation had been anticipating their eventual candidacies. Gore and Kerry long had stood out as quintessential strivers, even among fellow senators. Now they looked up through the rain at a man whom almost no one had regarded as presidential material until a couple of years before he got the job. Neither Gore nor Kerry seemed to grasp the reasons for what both considered a cruel hoax of history.


Read it.


And

If this were a book about all the reasons John Kerry lost the 2004 election, it would be too heavy to hold. John Kerry was beaten by John Kerry, who never overcame the limitations of his diffident personality. He was beaten by George W. Bush, who was by far the savvier politician. Deep thinkers might say Kerry was beaten by history, since Democrats for nearly forty years had been at a stark disadvantage when national security was the dominant issue in voters' minds. Here is another nominee for who beat John Forbes Kerry: Matthew Drudge.

The whole article is rather interesting because it outlines when and where the pivotal shots were taken, how the effected the campaign, and where they came from. But the main point, the contention of the entire article, is inherently flawed. This article basically asserts that the "Old Media" is being tragically displaced by the "New Media" who can post whatever they want, without editors, without thought to what they're doing.

However, this entire assumption is flat-out wrong. For one, most of the incidents that the article cites turn out to be true! When the FSM reported something, it was correct, or corrected (the one incident where Drudge reported incorrect information in his exclusive, he actually posted a top-headilne retraction). Compare this to Adnan Hajj or Dan Rather. Smokegate and Rathergate don't exactly trumpet the cause of responsible, edited journalism.

Other than that, the article is a sob-story about how the RNC and Bush/Rove unfairly manipulated the FSM to beat Kerry.

A candidate who runs principally on his or her biography is acutely vulnerable to the accusation that this biography is embellished. Such a candidate, in other words, is a fat target for the Freak Show. One signature of Freak Show politics is a fixation on personality and alleged hypocrisy. Another is the ease with which shrewd political operatives can manipulate the Freak Show's attention to hijack the public image of an opponent.

Unfortunately, the only reason Kerry or anyone else is open for accusations that they are embellishing is if they are actually doing so. As shown in the FSM, the truth is ferreted out. When literally millions of people are examining evidence thoroughly the result is similar to an iterative approach to a problem. The first solutions may not be correct, but the refining process will greatly improve the answer with each pass. Every article the blogosphere re-publishes is refined by the editing pin of thousands.

Would the real John Kerry please stand up? Of course, both versions of his life had truth to them. Whenever Kerry's self-image tried to stand up, it was knocked over by a Freak Show interpretation. Every positive element of Kerry's existence was neutralized or turned into a weakness. Every vulnerability was maximized. By the end, this proud man was lying on the bloodied ice like a freshly clubbed harp seal.

Boo hoo, Kerry. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The biggest problem with this article is that the authors assume the FSM is a bunch of pajama wearing (like me right now!), drooling, knuckle-scraping buffoons with keyboards who will believe and repeat anything and everything Matt Drudge reports. However, this claim is countered by this paragraph:

Bush certainly had his own Freak Show moments. The September 2004 controversy over whether he had evaded his commitments to the Texas Air National Guard was an example. That story, however, promoted by the Old Media warhorse CBS News, promptly was demolished by New Media critics. And though Bush survived it, the episode illustrated that he, too, had a life of competing narratives. According to some, he was a man born to privilege but with a common touch, whose life had been infused with new purpose once he embraced religious faith. This faith was the core of a presidency that had led the nation through the worst attacks on native soil in American history and was keeping the country safe in a dangerous new era.

There was another narrative, too. Bush was a daddy's boy and a lifelong mediocrity who was comically unprepared for the presidency and was elevated to the office by a Republican-weighted Supreme Court. With hawkish surrogates making the decisions, Bush had blundered into a disastrous war and had led the nation to the brink of catastrophe. As in 2000, the country in 2004 divided almost perfectly down the middle over which version of George W. Bush they found more plausible.

How about this -- the reason the second image only gained traction around the Kos Kidz and the MoveOn nuts is because its untrue?

People may be manipulated, but if you lie to them for too long they will find out, especially in this day and age.

I submit that Kerry lost the election because he had a lot of dirt to be dug up. That, and he was a hypocrite of the worst sort, a traitor, a liar, and a downright fool when it came to politics. The truth hurts, but don't blame the messenger.

Read the rest.

Ignorance Journal #3

Another journal entry. This week's topic, fraternization and friendship's impact on morale.

Read it

It is clearly apparent that there are times when it is inappropriate to be friends with your subordinates. At the same time, leaders must be affable and approachable in order to maintain both good morale and good communication. I think there's a certain art to it, and I've only seen it well done a few times. I don't really know how to describe it, but good leaders seem to be involved but not active, participating but not show-stealing. I don't know what this quality is really defined as. Its not aloofness, because that conveys a sense of haughtiness that I don't want to imply. It definitely has to do with the fact that the person in charge needs to be able to break contact immediately if necessary to deal with any situations that may come up. If they are the pivotal character in their current activity, this would cause problems.

I don't know a good way to properly define this sort of behavior in a generalized way. This makes it difficult to explain both to myself and others. I suspect that there is something of an art to it, as good leaders often do things without really being able to explain why.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Misunderestimated

Dafydd over at Big Lizards has a great post up called Misunderestimated:

It's a truism -- pounded into our noggins morning, noon, and night -- that we continually underestimate our Islamist enemies. We think that we'll defeat them in a few months, we think they'll give up, we think they'll just go away. And of course, we're continually frustrated by their utter refusal to conform to our foolish stereotypes.

But you know what? The jihadis relentlessly misunderestimate us, the West... and they underestimate us far more egregiously and foolishly than we do them.

Seriously...

Never thought about it?

Go read it!

Read the rest.

Good News

Bill Crawford at National Review Online has a great article about good news in Iraq. There's so much promising info here its staggering unsurprising the MSM hasn't picked up on it:

Read it.

  • Prime Minister al-Maliki continues to tour the country in efforts at securing some sort of reconciliation, and won an important victory last week when 25 of the 31 tribes in Anbar province agreed to join in the fight against foreign terrorists and Iraqi insurgents.
  • More than 1500 figures representing civil societies are taking part in the national reconciliation conference held by the supreme authority for national reconciliation and dialogue.
  • A series of television ads paid for by Kurdish in Iraq thank America for removing Saddam
  • During an interview on CNN, General Abizaid said that Iraqi troops are becoming more capable every day
  • Iraqi security forces now number more than 300,000, and almost 70 percent of Iraqi battalions have the lead for security in their area of control
  • Iraqi security forces are now in control of Dhi Qar province
  • Thanks to assistance from local residents, Marines captured a high-level insurgent leader during a raid in Saqlawiyah. Residents in the area couldn’t be happier to have the Marines there
  • In Mosul, a top al Qaeda terrorist was arrested, and two terrorists died when they blew themselves up after being surrounded by Coalition forces. They will not be missed.
  • The spiritual leader of an Iraqi terrorist group was arrested by Iraqi police in Baghdad. The cleric was responsible for issuing fatwas, or religious edicts, approving of the killing civilians. The group he heads is thought to be responsible for more than 1,000 murders.
  • Iraqi soldiers prevented a car bomb attack, discovering a vehicle with 2,000 pounds of explosives, and disarming it before it could be set-off.
  • A Norwegian oil firm is now extracting oil from two wells in Kirkuk. Some Iraqi geologists believe the wells could produce 1.5 million barrels a day; however, the two wells are currently producing only 10,000 bpd.
  • Thanks to crop-spraying to eradicate the dubas bug, Iraqi farmers in Diyala harvested one of the most successful date crops in the last few years. They gathered in Baqubah to celebrate
The list literally goes on and on. He also mentions something relatively unrelated but nevertheless noteworthy:

The Foreign Military Studies Office recently released translations of documents from the Iraqi archives, and one of the more interesting documents details a meeting between al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Iraqi agents. The document, dated 9/15/01, reads in part:

The Afghani Consul Ahmad Dahstani (the information on the denotation paper number (2)) had mentioned in front of him with the followings:

1. Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban Group in Afghanistan were in touch with the Iraqis and that group of the Talibans and Osama Bin Laden had visited Iraq.
2. The United States of America has evidence that the Iraqi government and Osama Bin Laden’s group expressed cooperation among themselves in bombing targets in American.
3. In case Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban were proven to have been involved in carrying out these terrorist operations, it could be possible that the United Stated will attack both Iraq and Afghanistan.
4. The Afghani consul heard about the connection between the Iraqis and the Osama Bin Laden group during his stay in Iran.
5. Upon what has been presented we suggest writing to the Intention Committee with the above information.

Anyone who tries to tell you that Iraq and Saddam weren't neck deep in terrorist ties is misinformed. This is straight from the horses mouth, and it isn't the first evidence of its kind, nor the first time this has been noticed.

Read the rest.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gov't restricts freedom

I don't really like this:

US President George W. Bush this week is expected to sign a bill making it harder to place bets on the Internet, a practice which already is illegal in the United States. Bush was expected to act quickly after Congress approved the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act making it illegal for financial institutions and credit card companies to process payments to settle Internet bets. It also created stiff penalties for online wagers.
I don't see why its congress' business to regulate how folks spend their money at all. If a guy wants to gamble his house away, he should be allowed the freedom to do so, however stupid. Its his house, remember?

I suspect the only reason anyone in government cares about online gambling is because its just so hard for them to get their cut. Anything they can't get their little patty-paws on is inherently bad, don't you know?

"Gambling can be highly addictive, especially when its done over an unregulated (read: not controlled by us) environment such as the Internet" he said this year.

"If Congress had not acted, gamblers would soon be able to place bets not just from home computers, but from their cell phones while they drive home from work or their Blackberries as they wait in line at the movies," Leach said.

Egad! The horror! The downright blasphemy!

"Never has it been so easy to lose so much money so quickly at such a young age. The casino is in effect brought to the home, office and college dorm.

Young people have been wasting money on various things since the beginning of time. Before computers there were poker games. The rough kids shot dice in back alleys or (gasp) in the school bathroom.
"Everyone loses if this industry continues its remarkable growth trends," Leach said.
Honestly, I don't think anyone who is willing to go on the record saying something that idiotic should be allowed to talk, much less hold public office.

Read the rest.

Chavez a little crazy

Ok, a little crazy is an understatement:

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he has received warnings from within the White House that the Bush administration is plotting to assassinate him or topple his left-leaning government.

Citing what he said were warnings from an alleged White House informant, Chavez told thousands of supporters at a campaign rally that President Bush has ordered him to be killed before he leaves office in 2008.

Bush "has said that before he goes, Hugo Chavez shouldn't be the president of Venezuela," Chavez told the crowd. "The president of the United States has said it, especially in recent days. What he doesn't know is that I have friends in the White House."
What I don't really get, though, is that the article never quotes Chavez as saying that Bush ordered his assassination. I the direct quote above hints at some kind of removal but not really assassination. Is Chavez really so mild that the AP needs to put words in his mouth?

I bet Bush has said it. I bet he laughed when he said it too. I'd be perfectly fine with our president going on the record to say that Chavez "shouldn't be the president of Venezuela," because he's nothing more than a failed revolutionary and two-bit dictator. Folks like that ought not to be in charge of countries.

Read the rest.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Misleading title, sad information

This article media hit-job (snicker) has some interesting implications:

The average retail price of gasoline nationwide is now 2.38 dollars per gallon (3.8 liters), the lowest since March 2006. Oil prices, meanwhile, have fallen by more than 20 percent since July, when prices topped 78 dollars a barrel.

The Automobile Association of America (AAA), said a gallon of gas one year ago cost 2.80 dollars, while in early September 2005, average gas prices were 3.06 dollars per gallon.

Bush seems to be a major beneficiary of the lighter public mood -- whether or not cheaper gas is the cause.

In a Los Angeles Times poll last week, his approval rating rose from 41 percent in late June to 44 percent.

Conversely, some of Bush's worst poll numbers came in May and June, hovering in the low 30s -- at the very time when gas prices were peaking.

Analyst Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service told the USA Today newspaper last week that gas prices will drop an additional 10 to 20 cents a gallon by Election Day -- offering further cheer to Bush and fellow Republicans.
Yadda yadda, repeating ourselves, Bush's approval linked to gas prices. Ok, that's been covered. Next? Time for the AP to repeat conspiracy theories! And the really sad thing? That makes up the bulk of the article. Its a stealth job, slipped in there in front of the real news. Its not even mentioned in the headline, which reads "Falling US gas prices boost Bush poll numbers".

Read it.
Some Americans are suspicious that recent steep declines in gasoline prices might be the result of political manipulation, since the savings at the gas pump come just weeks before critical midterm US elections.

Earlier this year, news of record oil profits led many US consumers to believe that energy companies had deliberately kept prices artificially high to improve their bottom line.

Now gas prices have fallen for several consecutive weeks, and recent polls show that consumers have a new suspicion -- that the price break is meant to give a boost to a US president and Republican Congress who had fallen out of favor with voters.
So what's the article really about? I mean, they devote at least as much time to the conspiracy nutters as they do to official "point" of the article. I was prepared to write off the whole thing as a fairly typical AP reporting-on-the-fringe as if it were mainstream, until I read this:
A USA Today/Gallup poll last week found that 42 percent of the roughly 1,000 adults surveyed across the United States believed President George W. Bush's administration had "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this falls elections."
Then I wanted to cry. Granted, this doesn't mean that 42 percent of Americans believe that -- just 420. But the fact that they even got that many to agree with that statement completely backs up my contentions that folks in this country just don't understand economics. I'd love to try to have those 420 people explain to me, with any kind of backup, just how a president would go about fixing gas prices short of an executive order (thanks Nixon).

I'll be prepared for some spluttering, a few "ExxonMobil," "price gouging," and at least one "obscene profit".

Read the rest.