January 2004 Archives

Light blogging through the weekend

I am taking two days off from work and heading up north to deal with frozen pipes and buying a tractor. Blogging will be light today and will resume Sunday evening. Dave

QOTD - Quote of the Day

"God made the 20th Century to teach us that the notion that things work better when experts plan them is a fallacy. It's a pity that a hundred-million or so had to die to illustrate the lesson. But now we got it. Right?" - John Weidner
I would love to see this... From the Washington Post comes the story of artist Vladimir Arkhipov and his collection: bq. Handmade Versions Of Soviet History An Artist Shows Off Makeshift Objects People Used to Cope With Shortages bq. MOSCOW -- For as long as Vladimir Arkhipov could remember, he lived surrounded by his father's homemade contraptions: blinking Christmas tree lights, when there weren't any to be bought back in the 1960s, and a jury-rigged radio receiver, so the family could huddle in the kitchen and listen to the forbidden Voice of America. bq. There was even a television antenna made out of unwanted forks that were purchased only because his grandmother was at the store, the Soviet Union was collapsing and there was nothing else for sale. bq. But it took Arkhipov decades to realize that his father's ingenious solutions were in fact invaluable artifacts of Soviet culture, the private side of life in a country where consumer shortage was an everyday state of affairs. His revelation came a decade ago, when he went to a friend's dacha and found himself hanging his coat on a hook carefully fashioned from an old, bristleless toothbrush. bq. He saw the strange, humble object -- and recognized a genre. bq. Today, he is Russia's leading -- and, as far he knows, only -- collector of these unique inventions, with more than 1,000, ranging from a homemade tractor to a tiny bathtub plug made from a boot heel. Each one is a small essay in adaptation. And more: bq. At 42, the engineer-turned-artist works full time on his unusual form of social anthropology, collecting not only the objects themselves but also interviews with their creators. His book, "Born Out of Necessity," has just been published with a grant from the Ford Foundation; he exhibits his finds in Russia and wherever he is invited in Western Europe but has not found a single museum in Russia willing to help gather what he calls "living history." bq. It is not just individual quirks but political realities that his objects document, Arkhipov said. He connects his collection directly to the individual Russian experience in an oppressive state. In such a place, he argues, "each person who can make something with his hands prefers to make something small and concrete rather than uniting with others to change their lives. Everyone still struggles with their own problems alone." bq. In Soviet times, the centrally planned economy begat chronic shortages and perpetual consumer angst -- a situation where a missing spare part could become a crisis for a factory and individual needs never registered in the deep recesses of the bureaucracy. With no obvious way to change the system, individual Soviets did what they could to live within it, and at-home inventors created a thousand items missing from the stores. And more: bq. Take the tiny device known as a "conman" that Arkhipov pulled from one of the dusty bins in his studio. It is, in effect, a homemade plug, meant to convert a light-bulb socket into an electrical outlet. "Everything," Arkhipov said, "is related to the history of the country." bq. After the destruction of World War II, there were chronic power shortages. In villages, electrical outlets were forbidden and people were allowed just one light bulb per house, to be turned on a few hours a day. Dictator Joseph Stalin even decreed jail terms for installing banned outlets, Arkhipov said, "but still people needed electrical sockets." The article closes with: bq. Arkhipov said he is sure that sooner or later Russia will stop producing objects that reflect its communist past. Maybe then, Arkhipov said with a laugh, he will go ahead and create his own handmade "utopia" -- living entirely with the creations he has collected. bq. After all, he said: "I already have a handmade refrigerator, a washing machine, a telephone, different kinds of furniture. A handmade paraglider, a boat, a car, a tractor. . . . Toys you can play with, instruments, tools, a hammer, a drill, a screwdriver. Everything one needs to live with." I really hope that this exhibit tours the US.

Charter Schools

Seattle blogger Stefan Sharkansky is more into the current debate on Charter Schools than I am but this caught my eye. This is from the Braden Files and talks about a Charter School in Marlborough, MA that is not built on the traditional model. bq. The Soviets ordered them to leave most everything behind. When Julia Sigalovsky fled the Soviet Union in 1989 she took only her husband, their son, Linda the collie, six suitcases, $400, and a titanium-strength foundation in math and physics. The latter proved to be her most valuable asset as she navigated refugee camps and multiple career changes to establish herself in Massachusetts. bq. Moscow School No. 2, she realized, gave her the tools to become a geochemist, then an MIT ceramics process researcher, then the founder of her own environmental engineering firm. Two years ago, while trying to find a rigorous kindergarten for her second son, she thought: What if she created a school where children received the training she did? What if they studied a subject not just for one year, but for five or six? (Emphasis mine) The Braden Files link to an article in Boston.Com that details some of the protests and support that this school has received. bq. Many critics are put off by the rigor of the academy's curriculum, saying it would not truly be a public school because many children, including those with special education needs, could never keep up. The charter school would skim the cream, Boniface said, leaving the underperformers. "If you drain the top kids, your ability to be at or above the state average is diminished," she said. bq. Sigalovsky's concept is founded on some basic principals: that children should, and can, grasp theoretical knowledge before learning examples. That schools should teach physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, and biology not just once in four years, but every year. That history should not be divided by country, but should survey the modern world. That literature should parallel the history courses and should focus on periods and movements instead of countries. That geography is not tangential, but an integral part of understanding world history. Maybe there should be schools for exceptional children. The idea of sticking with one subject for more than one or two terms is wonderful - instead of dealing with a whole bunch of "dash-studies", deal with the basics and really get a good grounding. This is not for everyone, not all smart people will benefit from this style of pedagogy and by no means should this become the model for every school, but there are people who will flourish in this environment and they should not be denied... As for Seattle (and Washington State) Charter Schools, WA is one of ten states that do not allow them. There are issues pro and con - plus, there is the issue of where are the parents - kids should not spend 4PM to 10PM in front of the GameBoy or TV, schooling demands input from the parents as well.

James Brown mugshot

James Brown was arrested today on a domestic violence charge after allegedly pushing his wife to the floor during an argument at the couple's South Carolina home. The Smoking Gun has a copy of his mugshot and it makes Nick Nolte's mugshot look like Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy...

Clinton's Internet Legacy

This is classic... From CNN/Technology: bq. Clinton's gift to Internet age: only 2 e-mails The archives of the Bill Clinton presidential library will contain 39,999,998 e-mails by the former president's staff and two by the man himself. bq. "The only two he sent," Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton Presidential Foundation, which is raising money for the library, said on Monday. bq. One of them may not actually qualify for electronic communication because it was a test to see if the commander in chief knew how to push the button on an e-mail. bq. Former Ohio Sen. John Glenn has the distinction of being the first American to orbit the Earth and the only person to receive an e-mail written by Clinton when he was in office. bq. The e-mail was sent with the help of Clinton staffers to the space shuttle while it was in orbit and Glenn was a part of the crew. It praised Glenn for his return to space after almost 40 years. Wiping tears of laughter from my eyes... I know some people who do not use email and there is the apocryphal story of the boss who had his secretary print out the email for him to notate and give back to the secretary for reply but still...

Please Sir May I Have a Linker?

| 1 Comment
Excellent rant by Joel Spolsky on the latest Microsoft VisualStudio.NET and it's curious omission... bq. For some reason, Microsoft's brilliant and cutting-edge .NET development environment left out one crucial tool... a tool that has been common in software development environments since, oh, about 1950, and taken so much for granted that it's incredibly strange that nobody noticed that .NET doesn't really have one. bq. The tool in question? A linker. Here's what a linker does. It combines the compiled version of your program with the compiled versions of all the library functions that your program uses. Then, it removes any library functions that your program does not use. Finally, it produces a single executable binary program which people can run on their computers. bq. Instead, .NET has this idea of a "runtime" ... a big 22 MB steaming heap of code that is linked dynamically and which everybody has to have on their computers before they can use .NET applications. And more - he talked a bit about installing a small application on three different machines at his office and having to take a couple hours doing it. He put a copy of the movie Office Space on and the movie finished before he was done. Here he is talking about his companies product and how potential customers can download a free demo version of it: bq. Almost all of our users download a free trial version before buying the product. The download is around 9 MB and has no additional requirements. Almost none of these users has the .NET runtime yet. bq. If we asked our trial users, usually small organizations and home users, to go through a movie-length installation hell just to try our app, I think we'd probably lose 95% of them. These are not customers yet, they're prospects, and I can't afford to give up 95% of my prospects just to use a nicer development environment. bq. "But Joel," people say, "eventually enough people will have the runtime and this problem will go away." bq. I thought that too, then I realized that every six or twelve months Microsoft ships a new version of the runtime, and the gradually increasing number of people that have it deflates again to zero. And I'll be damned if I'm going to struggle to test my app on three different versions of the runtime just so I can get the benefit of the 1.2% of the installed base that has one of the three. bq. I just want to link everything I need in a single static EXE that runs without any installation prerequisites. I don't mind if it's a bit bigger. All I would need is the functions that I actually use, the byte code interpreter, and little bit of runtime stuff. I don't need the entire C# compiler which is a part of the runtime. I promise CityDesk doesn't need to compile any C# source code. I don't need all 22 MB. What I need is probably five or six MB, at most. Very true - I almost consider MS C 5.0 to be the crown jewel of compliers. I am not a fan of C++, I don't do big projects and the feature set of C++ is not needed. Every version since 5.0 has had more bloat, larger EXE's for the same source code and slower performance. It is true that there is a greater feature set and if one was working with a number of other programmers on a large project, upgrading would make a lot of sense. Still, for small utilities and hacks, simple is better.

The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business

From the Business 2.0 website comes their fourth annual list of the 100 dumbest moves in Business: Some samples: bq. In September, retail chain Urban Outfitters begins peddling Ghettopoly, a Monopoly knockoff. The top hat, shoe, and car are replaced with a machine gun, marijuana leaf, basketball, and rock of crack cocaine. Reacting to protests, Urban Outfitters pulls the game from its stores. And another: bq. After years of bombarding Web surfers with annoying pop-up ads, wireless camera maker X10 files for bankruptcy in October, listing debts of more than $10 million. Among the parties stiffed: AOL, Google, Yahoo, and AdvertisementBanners.com, which won $4 million in a lawsuit against X10 shortly before the bankruptcy filing. Some good ones there...

Bush Offers to Let Kerry Rule '2nd America'

From the humor website Scrappleface: bq. Responding to accusations that he has divided the nation, President George Bush today offered to allow Democrat presidential candidate John F. Kerry to rule "the second America." bq. "I'm not a selfish man," said Mr. Bush. "I'll be president of the people who think America is great, who defend freedom and work to defeat tyrants, who value traditional marriage and life, who believe God is both loving and righteous, who trust the 'invisible hand' of capitalism and who protect the Constitution. Mr. Kerry can be president for all the rest." bq. Under the terms of the plan, Mr. Kerry would be called 'President of America Deux' (America II), and would report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Heh...

The Internet is Shit

No really - it says so right here Actually quite the thoughtful rant...

Left v/s Right

Great dialogue by Paul Berman in the latest Dissent Magazine: bq. A Friendly Drink in a Time of War A friend leaned across a bar and said, "You call the war in Iraq an antifascist war. You even call it a left-wing war-a war of liberation. That language of yours! And yet, on the left, not too many people agree with you." bq. "Not true!" I said. "Apart from X, Y, and Z, whose left-wing names you know very well, what do you think of Adam Michnik in Poland? And doesn't Vaclav Havel count for something in your eyes? These are among the heroes of our time. Anyway, who is fighting in Iraq right now? The coalition is led by a Texas right-winger, which is a pity; but, in the second rank, by the prime minister of Britain, who is a socialist, sort of; and, in the third rank, by the president of Poland-a Communist! An ex-Communist, anyway. One Texas right-winger and two Europeans who are more or less on the left. Anyway, these categories, right and left, are disintegrating by the minute. And who do you regard as the leader of the worldwide left? Jacques Chirac?-a conservative, I hate to tell you." And more: bq. "And yet," I insisted, "if good-hearted people like you would only open your left-wing eyes, you would see clearly enough that the Baath Party is very nearly a classic fascist movement, and so is the radical Islamist movement, in a somewhat different fashion-two strands of a single impulse, which happens to be Europe's fascist and totalitarian legacy to the modern Muslim world. If only people like you would wake up, you would see that war against the radical Islamist and Baathist movements, in Afghanistan exactly as in Iraq, is war against fascism." I grew still more heated. bq. "What a tragedy that you don't see this! It's a tragedy for the Afghanis and the Iraqis, who need more help than they are receiving. A tragedy for the genuine liberals all over the Muslim world! A tragedy for the American soldiers, the British, the Poles and every one else who has gone to Iraq lately, the nongovernmental organization volunteers and the occupying forces from abroad, who have to struggle on bitterly against the worst kind of nihilists, and have been getting damn little support or even moral solidarity from people who describe themselves as antifascists in the world's richest and fattest neighborhoods. bq. "What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced in a very useful way, and Bush's many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced." The whole thing is wonderful - Paul makes six points that the left is blind to. Almost like Martin Luther's theses on the church door - a wake-up call for what it means to be left...

Bot Spot

Nice website that focuses on Bots - short little applications that do one task well. Various categories: bq. Metasearch bots, Newsgroup search bots, Shop bots, Auction bots, Stock bots, Web monitoring bots, News bots, Personal assistants, File sharing bots, Download managers, Referencing bots, Site management bots, Pop-up killer bots, Privacy bots, Build a Bot, Logic bots,

New Nikon products

From DP Review comes a slew of new products from Nikon. (warning -- serious drool factor) Nikon D70, six megapixels, $1000 digital SLR Nikon Coolpix 8700, 8 mp, 8x zoom AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED Nikon Speedlight SB-600 And these last two items which really catch my eye: Nikon CoolWalker MSV-01 bq. The CoolWalker MSV-01 has a 2.5" TFT LCD monitor, rubberized body finish, a Compact Flash Type I/II slot (other media supported via CF adapters), 30 GB hard disk, Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface, Audio/Video output plus supplied IR remote control, is powered by a Lithium Polymer battery and has PictBridge direct printing support. The CoolWalker MSV-01 measures 130 x 81 x 35 mm (5.1 x 3.2 x 1.4 in) and weighs just 350 g (12.3 oz). The CoolWalker supports JPEG, TIFF and NEF (Nikon RAW from digital cameras) as well as the playback of audio and video clips (Motion JPEG). Nikon PictureProject bq. Nikon today announced PictureProject a new application set to replace NikonView for new Nikon digital cameras. The new software supports automatic transfer of images from the camera as soon as it is connected, a new single window management system, quick browsing, searching and keyword attachment. "Beginning this spring, it will be included with newly released Nikon digital cameras, not merely as a complimentary offering, but as a powerful tool that adds value and enjoyment to digital photography. Signaling Nikon's intention to expand and further strengthen its software portfolio with add-on tools and higher-function products to come, PictureProject is about to change the digital photography experience." Cool stuff!

Drug company merger - French job security

Very interesting essay in Derek Lowe's Pipeline regarding the merger of two European Pharmaceutical companies and the job layoffs that result from any merger: bq. I wanted to mention another thing about Sanofi-Synthelabo's bid for Aventis. I hope that the French government keeps in mind, as they promote this deal, that one of the main consequences of such mergers is loss of jobs. Guys, that's the point. Associate directors of regional marketing, VPs for regulatory affairs - these people have to be thrown over the side, or the numbers just don't make sense. bq. In the nastier mergers, that crowd on the aft deck gets even thicker, and features R&D staff from the newly redundant therapeutic areas. Ideally, you'd want to hang on to those people (after all, this big new company is going to be doing more research, right?), but sometimes they get tossed. And that's not even taking into account many of the good ones who leave during the chaos for better (and, one hopes, more stable) new jobs - for now, I'll concentrate on involuntary departures. bq. Here's the question: where is this new French company going to cut jobs? Surely not in France! The unions there are famously fierce, for one thing, and it's hard to see how Chirac's government could be pushing so hard for something that will lead to thousands of its constituents being fired. France's unemployment is high enough already, thanks. So where? He then gives a couple of options and makes an interesting observation which doesn't bode well for either company... Heh...

Rebellion brewing in Saudi Arabia?

Hat tip to Instapundit. From The Straits Times comes this story: bq. Rebellion brewing in Saudi city Assassinations in Sakaka, power base of a branch of the royal family, reflect nationwide anger against the monarchy. bq. The tiny city of Sakaka in the remote al-Jouf province that borders Iraq may seem an unlikely setting for the beginning of a revolution against the ruling al-Saud family. bq. But one does not have to spend too long here to realise that this is what is happening. And more: bq. And there are also, everyone agrees, new social problems in al-Jouf, of the kind that is now plaguing this once crime-free Islamic state. bq. Archaeological sites, defaced by the graffiti of the alienated, are also littered with the evidence of widespread drug abuse. And more: bq. They say it stems from the fact that al-Jouf is the historic power base of the al-Sudairy branch of the royal family, which includes King Fahd and his six full brothers. bq. Known as the Sudairy Seven, they include Prince Naif, the Interior Minister, Prince Sultan, the Defence Minister, and Prince Salman, the Governor of Riyadh. bq. They make all the important economic and political decisions in Saudi Arabia, with the King's favourite son, Abdul Aziz, standing in increasingly for his father. And more: bq. The families and tribes here are exploiting the vulnerability of a perhaps fatally weakened Saudi ruling family to reassert their territorial claims over those of the al-Sudairy. bq. As many as 60 per cent of Saudis identify strongly with a tribe. bq. Since the increased instability following last year's bombings in Riyadh on May 12 and Nov 8, the ruling family has been eager to show that it has the full support of the tribal sheikhs. bq. But al-Jouf shows what everyone knows: that tribes will switch their 'allegiance' as soon as it is convenient. Interesting - the Wahabbists have ruled for seventy years but maybe it is time for a change...

Iraq oil - Saddam's gift to foreign 'helpers'

The Arab newspaper Al-Mada (blogged here) published a list from Baath documents outlining all of the people who helped Saddam's regieme during the time of U.N. sanctions. Saddam rewarded them with money from Oil shipments (which were supposed to be used in the Oil for Food program). The French newspaper LeMonde has this list. Running it through Google to translate into English, here it is: bq. For France, not less than eleven names are published with the quantity of oil barrels which were allocated to them. bq. 12 million barrels would in particular have been allocated to Charles Pasqua, four other Mr. Kaspereit and three with Mr. M�rim�e while Patrick Maugein would have profited from 25 million barrels. And oil sells for about $30/barrel so this is not pocket change... And more: bq. George Galloway, former Labour deputy with the Communes, appears in good place in the list. bq. In this very long list appears also Khaled, the son of Egyptian president Nasser, the son of the Syrian Minister for defense, the son of the president of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, the girl of the president Indon�sien Sukarno, Megawati, today Prime Minister, the Russian orthodoxe church and the Russian Communist Party. bq. The Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Jirinovski, it, particularly are also well parceled out (79,2 million barrels). Swiss companies, Italian nationals, Jordanian deputies, Egyptian politicians, the Popular Front of release of Palestine (FPLP), the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are quoted. The list is not exhaustive. bq. Among the quoted countries appear inter alia: South Africa, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Bahre�n, Bielorussia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cyprus, Spain, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, the Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen and Yugoslavia. And of course, what would a scandal be without the French Oil Company Total Fina Elf or in this case, a subsidiary Elf Aquitaine... bq. A list, already, in the Elf business bq. The revelations of newspaper Al-Mada point out a precedent, appeared in the Elf business. A list of 44 paid - of which some appeared under code names - of international Elf Aquitaine (EAI), the Swiss subsidiary company of the oil group, had been addressed anonymously to French justice, at the end of 1997. In addition to the mistress of Roland Dumas, Christine Deviers-Joncour, political personalities, close to Charles Pasqua and Fran�ois Mitterrand, were suspected there to have profited from fictitious employment, which would have been exempted by Alfred Sirven, director of the "general affairs" of the group. Now why am I not surprised. George Galloway as a particularly nasty bit of work. For a good chuckle, check out the Guestbook feature on his personal website. Some of the comments are fantastic.

Hutton probe - on Tony Blair

A bit more from The Guardian -- the findings on Tony Blair "sexing up" the WMD dossier: bq. Lord Hutton picked up Tony Blair's battered reputation today and wiped it clean, clearing him of the two main charges that have arisen from his inquiry. He found the prime minister innocent of presenting an intelligence dossier to parliament on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which had been "sexed-up" by his personal staff, particularly his communication director Alastair Campbell. He found him innocent of authoring a strategy to leak weapons inspector David Kelly's name to the media as part of the government's battle with the BBC. bq. On the WMD dossier, he concluded that BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's allegation that it was known that the 45-minutes claim was wrong before the government decided to put it in the dossier was "unfounded". He also judged that Gilligan's claim that the dossier had been "sexed-up" was also "unfounded as it would have been understood... to mean that the dossier had been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable, which was not the case". bq. Lord Hutton stated that Mr Campbell made it clear to the chairman of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), John Scarlett, who was charged with drafting the document, that "nothing should be stated in the dossier with which the intelligence community were not entirely happy". He found that it was not "improper for Mr Scarlett and the JIC to take into account suggestions as to drafting made by No 10 Downing Street", as the dossier was to be presented to parliament and the public. And more: bq. "It was reasonable for the government to take the view that, even if it sought to keep confidential the fact that Dr Kelly had come forward, the controversy surrounding Mr Gilligan's broadcasts was so great and the level of media interest was so intense that Dr Kelly's name as Mr Gilligan's source was bound to become known to the public and that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret." bq. He found that though Mr Blair was instrumental in the decision to issue a statement he was not involving in "any consideration" of drawing up question and answer material ordering government press officer to confirm Dr Kelly's name if it is put to them. Way to go Tony! And again, the head of the BBC just resigned.

Hutton probe - BBC slammed

From The Guardian: bq. BBC targeted as Hutton clears Blair Lord Hutton, speaking at the high court, in central London, reads the findings of his report. bq. Lord Hutton today gave full backing to the government's conduct in the David Kelly affair, but accused the BBC of "defective" editorial management. In a one and three-quarter hour summary of his findings, delivered at the high court, the judge ran through the sequence of events that began with the writing of the September 2002 dossier and ended with Dr Kelly's suicide. bq. The prime minister, Tony Blair, has called for those who had impugned his integrity and that of the government to withdraw their allegations. bq. By contrast, the BBC's robust defence of itself in the face of government complaints over the story came in for heavy criticism. bq. The law lord said the corporation's management had failed to appreciate that BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's notes did not support the most serious of his allegations. And more: bq. Lord Hutton accused Alastair Campbell of "raising the temperature" of the row by the tone of his complaints. But he added that the governors should have recognised that their legitimate desire to protect the BBC's independence was not incompatible with investigating those complaints. Whooo! The BBC had a whiff of a story, ran it and one of the key people (David Kelley) in the story killed themselves because of the allegations. The Hutton inquiry was determined to get to the bottom of this and it looks like they did... This just in - I checked Google News and it seems the Chairman of the BBC has just resigned... This report from Reuters/UK: bq. The chairman of the BBC has resigned after the Hutton inquiry lambasted some of the publicly funded broadcaster's reporting on the build-up to the war in Iraq, says BBC News 24. bq. The inquiry by Lord Hutton into the suicide of Iraq weapons expert David Kelly had singled out journalist Andrew Gilligan, the BBC's management and its supervisory board of governors for criticism. BBC News 24 said Chairman Gavyn Davies had stepped down. Wow!

Only Democrats Need Apply

Local Seattle blogger Jim Miller talks about the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans -- he was listening to a talk show on KUOW and comparing it to one on KTZZ bq. Only Democrats Need Apply: Why this difference between leftists and conservatives? I am not entirely sure. Part of it may be the stereotype, that those on the left think the right evil, while those on the right think the left foolish. Most of us feel less obligation to talk with people who have evil ideas than with people who have foolish ideas. Another reason may be the ideological isolation of those on the left. It would be easy for Scher to avoid those with different ideas; it would be impossible for Medved to do the same. bq. Finally, here's some unsolicited advice for the program manager at KUOW. About a year ago, the Seattle Times, realizing it was out of touch with much of its audience, directed its reporters to visit a church, just for the experience. KUOW staffers might benefit from similar exposure to moderates, Republicans, and even conservatives. Perhaps such exposure might even lead them, in time, to drop what is, in effect, a political test for employment at the station.

More fnu in Hawai'i...

From the Honolulu Advertiser again: bq. Crack in wheat silo prompts evacuation A large crack in a 100-foot Hawaiian Flour Mill silo that contained 1,250 tons of wheat forced the evacuation of businesses surrounding the Nimitz Highway mill yesterday. bq. The crack and bulge in the concrete silo were discovered early yesterday morning. The mill is near Pier 24 and is surrounded by many businesses, including Earl Scheib auto painting and DHX Dependable Hawaiian Express movers. And more: bq. Esquirion Crail, a grain operator, said he had never seen such a large crack in a silo in the 40 years that he has been with the company. He was overseeing the transfer of the wheat from the bulging silo to another tank last night, a process that he said could take nearly two days. bq. "I don't think the thing would come down because it's all steel bars in there," Crail said. "I think it would just crack open, and the thing would come gushing out. There's going to be a lot of mess out here. That's all. But I think they wanted to get everyone out for safety." Great name - Esquirion Crail - like some character out of a Washington Irving novel (or Poe). Anyway, he is probably right - there is a huge amount of rebar (reinforcing rod) in the walls of any poured concrete structure. The only issue would be if the crack started out small and water got in sufficient to cause corrosion but if that was the case, you would see rust stains coming out from the cracks and since rusted steel expands, the covering concrete would spall off. Still, that is going to be expensive to repair...

OK ok ok ok ok ok...

323.4 for this

Cool business idea - MP3

Very cool business idea - you contact them. They send you packing materials for your CD audio disks. You ship the disks to them, they RIP them and ship the disks back to you with either DVD disks or a hard disk filled with MP3 files of your music. The service is RipDigital - costs about one dollar per disk which is reasonable considering the time it takes to do this on home equipment. They got their start doing this for radio stations, DJ's and other entertainment customers.

MyDoom / Novarg worm

Writeup in eWeek about the new email worm. My workplace was hit pretty hard by it yesterday with two people opening attachments without updating their anti-virus definitions... Wrote an email to all that was a bit excoriating... Anyway, the interesting part of this worm is not the infectious part but what infected systems start doing on February 1st: bq. But the real danger could lie in MyDoom's "time bomb" set to trigger a denial of service attack next month against the SCO Group Inc.'s Web site, experts say. bq. More alarming than the minor delays are the possible interruptions yet to come, Taylor said. Because MyDoom currently is an e-mail worm that requires a user to open an attachment in order for it to propagate, its overall effect on Internet performance has been limited. bq. But the worm's next planned attack�to harness the multitude of computers it has infected to trigger a DOS attack on SCO's Web site starting on Feb. 1�could hit the Internet's overall performance because of the massive amount of traffic it could generate, Taylor said. The article has some additional links at the bottom of the page that go to more information.

Guy meets princess online, marries same

Sweet story from Norwegian site TV2TORGET: bq. Norwegian met African princess on the Internet Norwegian Sveinung Hobberstad sat in the little town of Varhaug in Rogaland and chatted with Sylvia from Ghana. Little did he know that he was falling in love with a real princess. bq. This real life fairytale started when the father of two got an e-mail from an African woman named Sylvia. She had found him on the Internet, and she wanted to get to know him better. bq. �We became good friends and started a relationship after a while,� said Hobberstad in an interview with TV 2 at the news Monday night. After having chatted for a year, he travelled to Ghana this summer to marry his Sylvia, but at this time Hobberstad still had no idea of Sylvia�s royal background and the world that awaited him. In March, he will become crowned as king. bq. �When I chatted she asked if I knew if she was a queen,� Hobberstad explained. �I answered that of course she was my princess and didn�t think more about it.� bq. However, there was more behind the statement than he could ever imagine. bq. �I guess I won the heart of Ghana�s most wanted woman,� he said to TV 2. bq. Sylvia, who is the queen of one of the regions in the African country Ghana, has moved with the husband to J�ren, where she is going to live an anonymous and relax life with her Norwegian prince charming. bq. �In Norway, she can be herself,� Hobberstad said. �There are not many who know that she is a queen and what all this is about.� Awwwwww....

Twister in Hawai'i

Freak weather on O'ahu - from the Honolulu Advertiser: bq. A weather phenomenon rare in Hawai'i showed up and touched down in Central O'ahu yesterday afternoon when a tornado the length of four football fields kicked up red dirt and scattered rocks for four furious minutes. bq. An Air Force officer witnessed and photographed a tornado taking shape and then touching down in a pineapple field near Kunia Road in Central O'ahu yesterday. Other residents also saw funnel clouds spiraling over the area. And more: bq. The National Weather Service said it received one unconfirmed report of a tornado touching down in Central O'ahu yesterday and reports of almost a dozen funnel clouds forming in the same area.

Jack Parr - RIP

Not a good week for Television Personalities... From eOnline: bq. Late-night icon Jack Paar, the onetime Tonight Show host who blazed the way for Carson, Letterman and Leno before quitting at the top of his game, died Tuesday at age 85. And more: bq. The legendary entertainer, who introduced the sofa-and-desk format to late-night television, hosted NBC's Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962, serving as the bridge between original host Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. And more: bq. Paar helped pioneer the current format of late-night shows, inspiring the likes of Carson, David Letterman and Jay Leno and spawning countless imitators. The show soon became wildly successful, but not without its hitches. bq. A straight shooter (and edgy for his era) whose trademark phrase was "I kid you not," Paar was a controversy magnet, drawing ire for taking the show on the road and broadcasting from Cuba and the Great Wall in China. Famous for his long-running feuds with newspaper columnists and rivals like Ed Sullivan, Paar once stormed off mid-show after the network censored a joke using the term "water closet." Paar returned after a four-week absence, opening with, "As I was saying before being interrupted..."

PC modification taken a bit too far...

From Overclockers: bq. I got a shiny new Apple G5 for Christmas. I loved the case, but I�m no Mac user. So I.... bq. Get a brand new dual processor G5, then Rip out everything, Cut out the back of the case so I can use a PC motherboard, and Install an Athlon motherboard. Sheesh! Taking a $2,800 computer and using only the case...

Libya Nuclear Components Arrive in U.S.

As blogged here, Libya is shipping the components of its nuclear program to Oak Ridge. The first planeload (55,000 pounds) arrived today. From a news report in Yahoo/AP: bq. An American plane carrying components of Libya's nuclear weapons and missile programs arrived Tuesday in the United States as Moammar Gadhafi follows through on a pledge to dismantle the program. bq. The plane landed at McGhee Tyson airport outside Knoxville, Tenn., carrying about 55,000 pounds of equipment, including stock to enrich uranium, centrifuge parts and guidance sets for long-range missiles, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. bq. The equipment likely will be evaluated at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee. The "most sensitive documentation" associated with Libya's nuclear program arrived by plane last week, McClellan said. bq. Also, the spokesman announced that Libya had begun destroying chemical munitions. bq. Gadhafi, trying to break out of diplomatic isolation and seeking a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions, promised last Dec. 19 to end development of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. bq. "The world can see that Col. Gadhafi is keeping his commitment," McClellan said. Very very cool...

Last moments of the Space Shuttle Columbia

Very good report on the disintegration and crash of the Space Shuttle. This is an excerpt of a much larger book. Flight Director Paul Hill has a telling quote: bq. "The most complicated machine ever built got knocked out of the sky by a pound and a half of foam. I don't know how any of us could have seen that coming. The message that sends me is, we are walking the razor's edge. This is a dangerous business and it does not take much to knock you off."

Iraqi Oil Bribes

From Little Green Footballs comes a link to this Yahoo/Reuters news item: bq. Iraq to Probe Alleged Saddam Oil Bribes Iraq plans to investigate allegations that dozens of officials and businessmen worldwide illegally received oil in exchange for supporting former leader Saddam Hussein, officials said Tuesday. bq. Their statements came after al-Mada, an independent Baghdad newspaper, published a list it said was based on oil ministry documents showing 46 individuals, companies and organizations from inside and outside Iraq who were given millions of barrels of oil. And more: bq. The list includes members of Arab ruling families, religious organizations, politicians and political parties from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria, France and other countries. bq. Organizations named include the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Communist Party, India's Congress Party and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And more: bq. Despite U.N. sanctions, Iraq was allowed to sell oil from 1996-2003 under an agreement with the United Nations stipulating that proceeds from the oil sales be used to buy food, medicine and basic supplies. bq. But bankers say some international companies selling goods to Iraq may have paid commissions to Iraqi officials that were deposited in Arab banks in exchange for winning contracts under the oil for food deal. bq. Oil traders say Iraq also smuggled oil through southern ports not monitored by the United Nations and through a pipeline running to Syria. bq. Damascus says the pipeline was only operating for testing purposes. bq. "Saddam had no problem giving oil to whoever he wanted," said one Iraqi trader who did business with the former government. We all know how open and well administered the Oil-for-Food program was... This sort of stuff is the tip of the iceberg - Saddam's government was very good at recordskeeping and these documents have now been found, collated and translated. There will either be public revelations of the contents such as this one or there will be private use of them for diplomatic gain such as James Baker's efforts to get Old Europe to forgive the Iraqi the billions in debt that Saddam built up during his dictatorship.

MIDI Audio Sequencing software

Ran into this company (Anvil Studio) and they seem to have a cool product. Their free version is a full-featured MIDI sequencer with very limited (single channel, 60 second) audio recording. You can upgrade for $19 to eight channel with time limited by disk space. I downloaded it and will be trying it next week sometime - I'll post an update. I do use Cakewalk Sonar and CoolEdit Pro (before it got bought out) but am still looking for something simpler. Just MIDI sequencing and a little bit of audio recording would be perfect...

10 Tons of Beer Rescued

There was a news item last week (didn't blog it - was up north) regarding a delivery truck in Siberia, a River and its cargo: Ten Tons of Beer The Russian army volunteered to rescue it and succeeded. The Moscow Times has the report: bq. After cooling off in a watery grave for more than three weeks, 10 tons of beer have been rescued from beneath the ice of a Siberian river with the help of a T-72 tank, Emergency Situations Ministry troops and six divers. Its fridge, a KamAZ truck, was not so lucky. bq. One diver was injured in the operation Tuesday, but the beer is good enough to be sold, if at a discount, said the beer's producer, Omsk-based Rosor, which is perhaps best known for its Sibirskaya Korona label. bq. The beer ended up beneath the ice of the Irtysh River in the Omsk region after the truck delivering it sank while crossing a southern passage over the river just a few days before New Year's. bq. The KamAZ truck, whose manufacturer won the Paris-Dakar race through the African desert just a week ago, apparently found the going tougher in Siberia's freezing temperatures. bq. The driver and a passenger managed to escape as the ice gave way, but the vehicle and the beer sank to cold storage, where it remained for the next 24 days. bq. Authorities quickly decided to raise the truck from the riverbed over fears that it could block shipping. bq. "It could have created an emergency when spring comes and we need to transport fuel, gravel, sand and coal to Kazakhstan," Pavel Shokin, the deputy head of Omsk's emergency department, said on NTV television. Yeah - that's the story. A CRISIS if the shipping is blocked. It's only ten tons of beer, let's pull it out of the river. Heh...
While surfing through National Review Online this evening (for the David Frum column and other stuff), I ran into this Guest Comment by Jim Copland about Presidential Candidate John Edwards and his interesting history as a medical-malpractice lawyer and one who was not afraid of Junk Science (Using it in Court that is)... bq. For Edwards's ability to connect with everyday people was honed by courtroom success; while Kerry amassed his fortune the old-fashioned way, by marrying �ber-wealthy heiress Teresa Heinz, Edwards won his estimated net worth of $12 to $60 million through a series of successful personal-injury lawsuits. bq. The untold story of Edwards's candidacy is that Edwards may have built his fortune in part by relying on the very sort of "junk science" medical-malpractice lawsuits that have created a health-care crisis in no fewer than 19 states. Some of Edwards's biggest wins � including a jury verdict of $6.5 million (reduced to $2.75 million on appeal) and a settlement of a reported $5 million � came from cases suing doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies over infant cerebral palsy allegedly due to botched deliveries. bq. Yet as my Manhattan Institute colleague Walter Olson has documented in the Wall Street Journal and on his website overlawyered.com, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a comprehensive study released last year, determined that delivery problems were not to blame for cerebral palsy in the "vast majority" of cases. Cerebral palsy is instead typically caused by factors beyond the doctor's control, such as maternal thyroid problems, genetic abnormalities, or prenatal infection. The ACOG report was peer reviewed and endorsed by, among others, the Centers for Disease Control and the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation. And the reason for the other candidates not to cry foul is this: bq. Presumably, Edwards's rivals have been loath to attack his unsavory accumulation of wealth at least in part because of their fear of � and ultimate dependence on � cash contributions from the litigation industry. Plaintiffs' attorneys, whom we dubbed "Trial Lawyers, Inc." in a report on the industry last fall, have poured funds into the coffers of their political allies to gain unprecedented influence at the national and state levels. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America routinely ranks among the top five donors to federal campaigns; in the last full political cycle, ATLA was the largest PAC contributor to the Democratic party. bq. ATLA's PAC contributions are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Trial Lawyers, Inc.'s political influence. Through individual and soft-money contributions, as well as PAC donations, the lawsuit industry has surpassed all others in political giving in every electoral cycle since 1990. All told, the litigation industry has contributed a half billion to federal campaigns since 1990. Some of this money of course came from defense firms who split their contributions between the parties. But the largest givers have consistently been plaintiffs' firms; in the last political cycle, each of the seven firms giving over $1 million to federal campaigns was a plaintiffs' firm, and each gave at least 99 percent of their money to Democrats. Of course, the people who pay these settlements are ultimately the businesses that hire us - the higher insurance premiums are passed onto the workers as lower wages and lesser-featured insurance packages. Overlawered is a great resource (here) GrokLaw is another good one (here)

UN Track Record in Kosovo

From Tech Central Station: bq. Iraq's Future vs. The UN's Track Record In the five years since the NATO intervention in Kosovo, the devastated former Yugoslav province has lost the attention of global media and political leaders. This is dismaying for its residents, who have grown to depend on the world powers to assist them in finding their way, but is also unfortunate in that policy failures in Kosovo offer many lessons for the future of Iraq. bq. How is that possible? Kosovo is less than a tenth the size of Iraq in population, is located in Europe, and is not an Arab country. Still, the two localities have certain elements in common. Both are majority-Muslim, with extremely heterodox forms of Islam prevalent in the countryside. Kosovar Albanians include many adherents of the obscure and controversial Bektashi Sufi order, which is deeply influenced by Shia Islam, the sect comprising a majority in Iraq. bq. But more importantly, Kosovo has now spent a considerable period of time under the supervision of the United Nations, which governs it through a structure known as UNMIK -- the UN Mission in Kosovo. It increasingly appears that the UN will also take over a major share in ruling from Baghdad. And more: bq. In Kosovo, UN-administered privatization is at a standstill. Notwithstanding recent gestures toward its formal achievement, there is widespread conviction that it has failed. In the week of January 21, the territory's prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, was reported to have exchanged "harsh words" with UN administrator-in-chief Harri Holkeri, at a meeting where a Kosovo labor leader threatened a general strike. And more: bq. Of course, in Iraq the stakes are much higher. Kosovo has no oil or gas resources, and among other consequences of UN mismanagement, its elderly and broken-down power plants function so badly that, in the depths of winter, local residents go for days and weeks without heat and light. ("The international community" has its own powerful generators.) bq. Kosovar Albanians are threatening to go on strike. Think of Iraq as ten times more volatile than Kosovo and you have an idea just how bad UN biases against efficient privatization could make Baghdad look. And remember, in Kosovo Serbs and Albanians fight each other, but don't attack NATO. We all know how that differs from Iraq. The U.N. does not want efficient privatization. The U.N. is at heart a communist organization preaching top-down, high-tax government by the elite for the proles who do not know better... I do like some of the child organizations that are under the 'wing' of the U.N. - some of them actually do good work. My issue is with the primary governing body and the Security Council.

David Frum - take two

I had an earlier entry about author David Frum today (here), he also writes a column for National Review -- this week he is writing about the New Hampshire primaries: bq. Thunder on the Right �A Concerned Bloc of Republicans Wonders Whether Bush is Conservative Enough.� That was the headline on the New York Times� report on this year�s Conservative Political Action Conference � and the story that followed was an acute piece of journalism. I�m in the middle of my second book tour in the space of twelve months. I�ve been traveling from one talk-radio station to another, listening both to the callers and the hosts, when the mikes are on and when the mikes are off. Twelve months ago, the support for President Bush among conservatives was rock-solid: I mean, Reagan 1984 solid. Today, that support is still more solid than not � but just enough softer that if I were a Bush political adviser, I�d be concerned. bq. Conservatives dislike the prescription drug bill and the spending boom. But the policy that they most passionately dislike is the Bush immigration plan. It arises everywhere � California of course, but throughout the rest of the country too. bq. Is immigration enough to stop conservatives from supporting George Bush? Probably not. But it is enough to make the ground under his feet just slightly less solid than it was or should be. And there may be odd things ahead in this election year. The Democrats seem, wisely, to have decided that Howard Dean offered them a one-way ticket to disaster. On the other hand, Dean proved that there is a large and dedicated block of voters in this country militantly opposed to the terror war and wide open to passionate anti-Bush appeals. Where will they go if the Democrats nominate a conventional liberal like John Edwards or John Kerry? bq. Here�s one thought: If Dean is forced out of the race, it is looking increasingly likely that Ralph Nader will run. And one of the striking things about Nader�s personal evolution over the past four years is that he has shifted from being a dogmatic sort of leftist to an increasingly ruthless and unprincipled demagogue. On Bill Maher�s program Friday, I heard Nader denounce George Bush for deficit spending. Ralph Nader! Is it conceivable that Nader could attempt to use the immigration issue? It seems unlikely � and yet � and yet I think George Bush would be wise to pay very careful attention to the discontents of his conservative base over the next 11 months. The immigration issue is a thorny one - Victor Davis Hanson wrote a good essay about that (blogged here) -- his opinions on this are especially valid since he is a fifth-generation grape farmer in the Central Valley of California - he is somewhat close to this issue...

Dumb Criminal

From Yahoo Online: bq. Newfoundland man pulls out marijuana during police traffic stop bq. A Newfoundland man is facing a drug charge following a routine traffic stop on Saturday night. RCMP pulled over a vehicle driving with a burned-out headlight and noticed the smell of alcohol when they approached the vehicle. Asked about the smell, the 51-year-old driver insisted he had not been drinking due to medications he was taking. As apparent proof, the driver pulled out two pill cases from his jacket pocket. bq. Unfortunately for him, one of the pill cases contained four grams of marijuana. bq. The drugs were seized and the driver has been charged with possession of marijuana as well as the traffic violation. Memo to self: Keep the prescription stuff separate from the non-prescription stuff if you get my drift...

Europe. Quite Important

From the BBC News bq. This is the low-key slogan for "Europe Year" in the Netherlands, which begins in March, four months before the start of the Dutch EU presidency in July. bq. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told BBC News Online it would not be the motto of the Dutch presidency itself. bq. "This campaign will be for parts of Dutch society who are not well-briefed on Europe," she said. bq. She added that the slogan, "Europe. Quite Important" ("Europa. Best Belangrijk"), and the rest of the campaign would have a "big kick-off" in a few weeks. And more: bq. "The aim is to get Dutch people interested in what is is going on in Europe, and to make them think whether it is good for them in their daily life. They should make up their own mind," the spokeswoman said. Anyone else think this is positively Orwellian... let me quote part of the article: "This campaign will be for parts of Dutch society who are not well-briefed on Europe" Holland occupies an area (land and water) of 41,526 sq km. This is about twice the size of the US State of New Jersey. France is 547,030 sq km. or more than 13 times bigger. How could Holland NOT be well briefed on Europe? On the other hand, most drugs are legal there so this might explain a lot...

Our friends the Europeans...

From EuroSoc comes this story: bq. Painting The Town Red For China PARIS: The Chinese president is in town today and the French are desperately sucking up to their new friend. In the light of peace-loving French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin's plea that the EU should lift its arms embargo on China, perhaps it is time to revisit an article on EU-China relations EURSOC published last year. bq. In an article in October entitled Friends like these we noted that Europe's left cannot contain its excitement that China may one day reach economic and military parity with the United States. The prospect that America could be challenged by an aggressive competitor across the Pacific has some anti-Americans wetting themselves with anticipation. They then continue to say that: bq. The ban on arms sales to China dates to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when China's armed forces shot numerous democracy protestors and later imprisoned many more. And more: bq. Fifteen years after the atrocity, France welcomes the Chinese president Hu Jintao to Paris. To celebrate China's ruling party, the Eiffel Tower was bathed in red light - a symbolic gesture of support that should not be lost on the Tiananmen Square survivors and their families. Eurosoc is a blog that I am watching now on a regular basis - consistently good news and accurate reporting.

Global Warming - Gulf Stream

From the U.K. Independent comes a alarming tale of Global Warming Cooling and a big scary headline: bq. Global warming will plunge Britain into new ice age 'within decades' Britain is likely to be plunged into an ice age within our lifetime by global warming, new research suggests. And more: bq. Similar events in pre-history are known to have caused sudden "flips" of the climate, bringing ice ages to northern Europe within a few decades. The development - described as "the largest and most dramatic oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments", by the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which led the research - threatens to turn off the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe's weather mild. bq. If that happens, Britain and northern Europe are expected to switch abruptly to the climate of Labrador - which is on the same latitude - bringing a nightmare scenario where farmland turns to tundra and winter temperatures drop below -20C. The much-heralded cold snap predicted for the coming week would seem balmy by comparison. And more: bq. Robert Gagosian, the director of Woods Hole, considered one of the world's leading oceanographic institutes, said: "We may be approaching a threshold that would shut down [the Gulf Stream] and cause abrupt climate changes. bq. "Even as the earth as a whole continues to warm gradually, large regions may experience a precipitous and disruptive shift into colder climates." The scientists, who studied the composition of the waters of the Atlantic from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego, found that they have become "very much" saltier in the tropics and subtropics and "very much" fresher towards the poles over the past 50 years. bq. This is alarming because the Gulf Stream is driven by cold, very salty water sinking in the North Atlantic. This pulls warm surface waters northwards, forming the current. And more: bq. When the Gulf Stream abruptly turned off about 12,700 years ago, it brought about a 1,300-year cold period, known as the Younger Dryas. This froze Britain in continuous permafrost, drove summer temperatures down to 10C and winter ones to -20C, and brought icebergs as far south as Portugal. Europe could not sustain anything like its present population. Droughts struck across the globe, including in Asia, Africa and the American west, as the disruption of the Gulf Stream affected currents worldwide. bq. Some scientists say that this is the "worst-case scenario" and that the cooling may be less dramatic, with the world's climate "flickering" between colder and warmer states for several decades. But they add that, in practice, this would be almost as catastrophic for agriculture and civilization. But if you look at information pertaining to the Younger Dryas, it was caused by melt-water from the glaciers in North America after the previous ice age. This torrent of fresh water flowed into the Atlantic and fresh water being lighter, pushed the denser water down effectively blocking the Gulf Stream flow. This is not what is happening now and I think a more moderate outcome is likely. The earth is undergoing a warming trend as we come out of the Little Ice Age and to assign any Human input to this climate change is pure hubris. Medieval Warm Period -- 800 to 1400 Little Ice Age -- 1400 to 1900

More on Grizzly Bear recovery

Jen sent me a link to the site for more information on the The North Cascades Grizzly Bear Outreach Project that I blogged about last week. The link for their main site is here The link for a map is here This is in our backyard (literally) and is very cool. There is seldom any interaction between humans and these Bears - only if humans are stupid or the bears are injured or diseased or their food sources are crashing. Restoring the natural balance to this area is fantastic!

Dumb Citizen - part two

Powerball winner Jack Whittaker (blogged here) is back in the news again with this story from S.F. Gate: bq. The man who won the largest single lottery jackpot in U.S. history is in trouble again. bq. Jack Whittaker, who hit the $314.9 million Powerball jackpot on Christmas 2002, was charged Sunday with drunk driving -- just weeks after being charged with trying to assault a bar manager. bq. Whittaker said he was on his way Sunday afternoon to Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming when he pulled off of Interstate 64 because of the treacherous weather. bq. "I'm nowhere near intoxicated," Whittaker told a local television station as police escorted him into court. bq. But West Virginia State Police Trooper B.R Morris said in a criminal complaint that Whittaker registered a .190 blood alcohol level and failed three field sobriety tests. Someone is having a little bit too much fun. Shall we start a dead-pool to guess when he will burn through the remaining winnings? I'm betting less than two years.

Interview with David Frum

Last week, John Hawkins interviewed economist Thomas Sowell and asked him ten questions (blogged here) This week, he talks with David Frum - co-author with Richard Perle of the new book: "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror": Here are some excerpts from the interview: bq. David Frum: The idea that overthrowing Saddam Hussein sprung out of the minds of a few people in Washington forgets an awful lot of history. In the 2000 election, both candidates spoke openly about the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Al Gore was actually more emphatic on the topic than George Bush was. In 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Just to show how conspiratorial they were, they put it in the Congressional record. In 1995, the CIA tried to organize a coup against Saddam Hussein and it failed. The coup was secret, but it has been written about in 5 or 6 books that I know of. In 1991, representatives of President George H. W. Bush went on the radio and urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. So America's policy on Saddam has been consistent. What we have been arguing about for years are the methods. First, we tried to encourage a rebellion in Iraq, that didn't work. Then we tried coups, that didn't work. Then in 1998, we tried funding Iraqi opposition. That might have worked, but the money never actually got appropriated. Then, ultimately we tried direct military power. The idea that Saddam should go has been the policy of the United States since 1991. And more: bq. John Hawkins: What do you say to people who believe that terrorist groups with global reach like Hizbollah aren't a threat to us? bq. David Frum: Hizbollah killed hundreds of Americans in the 1980s and in 1994 blew up the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires which was the deadliest foreign terrorist attack in this hemisphere until 9/11. But, also since it was sponsored by Iran, it was a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. We waged a forty year cold war against Castro for less than that. bq. John Hawkins: Here's another question along those same lines: What do you say to people who claim that containment was working with Iraq and that we should stick with containment in dealing with other terrorist supporting states? bq. David Frum: In the case of Iraq, containment was visibly crumbling. The Iraqis had successfully forced the inspectors out of Iraq in 1998 and the sanctions were crumbling. The Iraqis did agree to readmit the inspectors in 2002, but that was clearly going to be true only so long as there were American troops on their borders. Realism tells you that this policy had no future. Many of the most prominent people who advocate containment had been in the nineties advocating the undoing of sanctions. So they're advocating a policy that they themselves wanted to see the end of. And more: bq. John Hawkins: Well let me ask, like you say, it's not likely that we're going to see a Democratic Palestine form in the near future. I don't see the (Palestinian government) shutting down Hamas (anytime soon) either. So how do you think we should handle this over the next few years since we're not going to see the conditions for a Democratic state form (there)? bq. David Frum: Over the very short run, over the next few months, we have to make the Palestinians aware of what is available to them under the right circumstances. "Here's what you can have if you decide you want it". I think President Bush has done exactly the right thing. bq. John Hawkins: So should we stand off and let the Israelis wall them off and wait for conditions to get right there? bq. David Frum: The United States does have to make sure that Israel does not use excessive methods. There are people in the Israeli government who would use excessive methods and the United States government has an interest in curbing them. Just recently, the Israelis announced the route of the wall would change. I assume that's a response to American pressure. bq. The most important thing that the United States can do is to just reiterate that the Palestinians could have a guarantee of a state within 18-24 months, tomorrow, if they want it, and here's what they must do. Just reiterate that and make it clear that it's the Palestinians choice, they can have what they want, but they have to meet certain conditions. Read the whole thing - it's good...

Loquacious Parrot

From BBC News: bq. Parrot's oratory stuns scientists The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short. bq. The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour. And more: bq. He uses words in context, with past, present and future tenses, and is often inventive. bq. One N'kisi-ism was "flied" for "flew", and another "pretty smell medicine" to describe the aromatherapy oils used by his owner, an artist based in New York. bq. When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?" Fascinating. Jen and I have dogs and communication between them and us is non-verbal but very real.

Someone Is Stealing Avocados

Avocado thieves in Southern California - from the NY Times (registration required): bq. VALLEY CENTER, Calif. � The thieves come in the dead of night, after it rains and the hillsides are empty, or during a full moon. They disappear into jungly thickets on steep, remote hillsides, stepping carefully through the groves to avoid crunching leaves before doing their dirty work. They operate stealthily, without clippers, amassing warty, thick-skinned booty by the hundreds. bq. Allen Luce, a retired beekeeper, suspected the worst recently when he spied an unfamiliar red pickup truck parked beside the lush canopies of his neighbors' thousand-acre avocado grove. "At a dollar or more a pound, it adds up pretty fast," he said, speaking of the Hope diamond of these parts: the avocado. bq. They call it green gold. bq. "When the Super Bowl comes, there is going to be thievery," Mr. Luce said. "People want guacamole." And more: bq. California is no stranger to agricultural theft. In an eight-county area of the Central Valley last year, for instance, an estimated $8.4 million worth of pesticides, sprinkler equipment, diesel fuel, tractors and other farm property was reported stolen, including $100,000 worth of gnarled walnut burls, prized for furniture, which had been yanked out of the ground with chains and pickup trucks. bq. But nowhere is agricultural theft taken more seriously than in San Diego and Ventura Counties, which together grow 68 percent of the nation's avocados and where at this time of year the grove roads are literally paved with guacamole from vehicles squashing fallen fruit. And more: bq. "It's a tough type of investigation," said Clyde Kodadek, a lieutenant in the Fallbrook substation, one of several county sheriffs' stations where "guac cops" track avocado thieves, a mission that includes periodic undercover investigations with code names like Operation Green Gold. bq. "It's like identity theft," Lieutenant Kodadek said. "The problem is, when God made avocados, he didn't put serial numbers on them." And more: bq. Fed up with thievery, some growers, like Richard Price, a retired firefighter, are taking an aggressive stance. Most nights between the waxing and waning moon, Mr. Price stakes out his 6 acres of avocados and 14 acres of cut flowers with night-vision goggles, accompanied by Mugsy, his 130-pound Rottweiler. After thieves stole flowers from him recently, Mr. Price, who could become the Charles Bronson of guacamole, planted his hillsides with long-thorned finger cactus � "enough to completely engulf the valley," he said. bq. Other nights, he keeps a decoy camper parked with the lights on near the entrance to the grove, where some $30,000 to 40,000 worth of avocados await harvesting. His baby cactuses glint menacingly in the moonlight. bq. "You nurture something, water it, deal with all its problems, and right when it's perfect and ready for picking, someone in a truck with no overhead comes along and takes it," Mr. Price said. "I'm going to make life real difficult for them. I just really resent being stolen from."

Ping-Pong Ball Avalanche

Take 320,000 pingpong balls and one Japanese Ski Jump. Put them together and you have this website

Repeat of a Classic: Spotting the Losers

From Ralph Peters comes the classic short text for Politicians wanting to deal on the world stage: "Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States" bq. When you leave the classroom or office and go into the world, you see at first its richness and confusions, the variety and tumult. Then, if you keep moving and do not quit looking, commonalties begin to emerge. National success is eccentric. But national failure is programmed and predictable. Spotting the future losers among the world's states becomes so easy it loses its entertainment value. bq. In this world of multiple and simultaneous revolutions--in technology, information, social organization, biology, economics, and convenience--the rules of international competition have changed. There is a global marketplace and, increasingly, a global economy. While there is no global culture yet, American popular culture is increasingly available and wickedly appealing--and there are no international competitors in the field, only struggling local systems. Where the United States does not make the rules of international play, it shapes them by its absence. bq. The invisible hand of the market has become an informal but uncompromising lawgiver. Globalization demands conformity to the practices of the global leaders, especially to those of the United States. If you do not conform--or innovate--you lose. If you try to quit the game, you lose even more profoundly. The rules of international competition, whether in the economic, cultural, or conventional military fields, grow ever more homogeneous. No government can afford practices that retard development. Yet such practices are often so deeply embedded in tradition, custom, and belief that the state cannot jettison them. That which provides the greatest psychological comfort to members of foreign cultures is often that which renders them noncompetitive against America's explosive creativity--our self-reinforcing dynamism fostered by law, efficiency, openness, flexibility, market discipline, and social mobility. bq. Traditional indicators of noncompetitive performance still apply: corruption (the most seductive activity humans can consummate while clothed); the absence of sound, equitably enforced laws; civil strife; or government attempts to overmanage a national economy. As change has internationalized and accelerated, however, new predictive tools have emerged. They are as simple as they are fundamental, and they are rooted in culture. The greater the degree to which a state--or an entire civilization--succumbs to these "seven deadly sins" of collective behavior, the more likely that entity is to fail to progress or even to maintain its position in the struggle for a share of the world's wealth and power. Whether analyzing military capabilities, cultural viability, or economic potential, these seven factors offer a quick study of the likely performance of a state, region, or population group in the coming century. He goes on to list the seven factors and to offer a paragraph or two on dealing with them... Good stuff - it was originally published in 1998 but is still timeless and classic.

Welding Helmets (with and attitude)

I blogged earlier about a Hammer. Here is a company that sells very cool Welding Helmets Herd to describe - just check them out. Prices are decent too for what they are offering. Heh...

Kofi the Clueless

I know that I come down hard on the United Nations but their track record over the last few decades has been abysmal for anything but meetings, resolutions and the lack of will to act. Here is the latest from Kofi Annan as reported by Yahoo/Reuters: bq. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Sunday he would decide in the next day or so if he would send a mission to Iraq to study the feasibility of holding early elections. bq. "I would expect to make a decision in the next day or so," Annan told Swedish television in an interview, a day before he is to speak at an international conference on preventing genocide in Stockholm. bq. He said he had been asked to send such a team at a meeting last Monday with the U.S. governor of Iraq Paul Bremer and Governing Council President Adnan Pachachi. bq. The team's job would be to determine if elections could be organized between now and the end of June so a provisional national assembly and government could be chosen in time for the June 30 transfer of political power to Iraqis. And more: bq. "We have not been asked to play a role yet. But if we were asked, I'm sure that we are capable of playing a role. We have a vast experience in this," Annan said. (emphasis mine) He starts off by saying that he is intending to decide if he would send a mission to Iraq. He then says that he had been asked to send such a team at a meeting last Monday with the U.S. governor of Iraq Paul Bremer and Governing Council President Adnan Pachachi. He then says that "We have not been asked to play a role yet". What is it Kofi - are you in or not... Sounds like you are trying to justify your presence there but nobody is committing to giving you anything to do beyond make speeches and hold meetings... And more: bq. Instead, the secretary-general probably would link the departure of the team to a U.N. security assessment in Iraq, required since the attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on August 19 that killed 22 people. Which could have been prevented if the U.N. had listened to the coalition forces and used coalition security instead of their own choices of ex-Baath party forces. They didn't listen to people who knew the situation and they paid the price. They admitted this in a report (see below for update) but this report has not been mentioned since... Do not blame the coalition forces for your own stupidity Kofi. bq. SHI'ITE CLERIC WANTS FULL-SCALE ELECTION bq. Iraq's most powerful Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, wants a full-scale election, which would likely favor Shi'ites, who make up an estimated 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people. This is one guy - he is powerful but he is only one person with an agenda and someone who sees himself in a position to carve out a nice little empire. This is not the wish of the Iraqi people, this is the wish of one person and his hangers on. Do not give in!!! UPDATE: I tried to find this report at the UN website and there are references to a memorial service, to the putting-together of a panel to look into the bomb blast but I do not seem to find the report there anymore. The USA State Department has a review of it here: bq. The U.N. security management system failed in its mission to provide adequate security to U.N. staff in Iraq, a special panel investigating the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad reported October 22. And more: bq. The panel concluded that the current U.N. security management system is "dysfunctional" and said that "it provides little guarantee of security to U.N. staff in Iraq or other high risk environments and needs to be reformed." bq. It also concluded that the breaches in U.N. security rules and procedures in the field and at U.N. headquarters in New York are so serious that a separate and independent audit process should be undertaken. Personal accountability in the security system should be paramount, it said. bq. The failure of U.N. management and staff to comply with standard security regulations and directions left the U.N. open and vulnerable to the attack, the report said. And more: bq. The panel said that the security challenge in crises zones requires the highest level of professionalism and expertise from security management, and the current system is not able to provide such expertise. Any new system should have a clear chain of command, an audit trail, extensive information management capabilities, a clear division of labor and coordination, and adequate financing, it said. bq. Resolution 1511, adopted by the Security Council on October 16, gives the United Nations a greater role in assisting Iraq in the political process and other areas such as human rights, humanitarian aid, and development projects. However, since the bombing the U.N. has been maintaining a skeletal staff of about 36 international personnel in the country and the secretary general has said that he will not increase staff until security circumstances improve. Heeeyyy - let's just pass a resolution saying that we are rulers of the Universe. Yeah - that has a catchy ring to it... Hubris anyone? The 'Gaul' of these people.
From Yahoo/AP comes this story: bq. A flood of new revelations about grisly medical experiments on Jews during World War II show there probably were thousands more victims than had been previously thought, an expert said Sunday. bq. So far, 1,778 Jewish victims of Nazi medical experiments from 33 countries have responded to Jewish groups dispersing money from Holocaust settlements recently reached through lawsuits filed in U.S. courts. bq. Their stories -- shocking even to those familiar with what was already known -- should prompt a re-examination of the magnitude of experimentation done by Dr. Josef Mengele and his Nazi cohorts, said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Conference on Jewish Materials Claims Against Germany. And the same evil is walking the face of this earth today. In different form, yes but the stench is unmistakable...

The Theory of Everything

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Hat tip to the Marginal Revolution for this link to a 60-page paper by Lee Smolin on the T.O.E. The Synopsis: bq. An assessment is offered of the progress that the major approaches to quantum gravity have made towards the goal of constructing a complete and satisfactory theory. The emphasis is on loop quantum gravity and string theory, although other approaches are discussed, including dynamical triangulation models (euclidean and lorentzian) regge calculus models, causal sets, twistor theory, non-commutative geometry and models based on analogies to condensed matter systems. We proceed by listing the questions the theories are expected to be able to answer. We then compile two lists: the first details the actual results so far achieved in each theory, while the second lists conjectures which remain open. By comparing them we can evaluate how far each theory has progressed, and what must still be done before each theory can be considered a satisfactory quantum theory of gravity. We find there has been impressive recent progress on several fronts. At the same time, important issues about loop quantum gravity are so far unresolved, as are key conjectures of string theory. However, there is a reasonable expectation that experimental tests of lorentz invariance at Planck scales may in the near future make it possible to rule out one or more candidate quantum theories of gravity.

New Mid-East Peace Plan?

From Haaretz Daily comes a report of a Saudi brokered peace proposal: bq. According to a new peace initiative being prepared by Arab states, Israel will negotiate a peace agreement with all the Arab states, and not just with the Palestinians, and Arab states would absorb Palestinian refugees. bq. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa reported Saturday that the initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, would include "declarations of peace agreements between all Arab states," which will bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. The states would declare a normalization in their ties with Israel, including the appointment of ambassadors. bq. The Arab states will demand that Israel withdraw to its borders prior to the June 1967 war, in other words, to leave the Palestinian territories and withdraw from the Golan Heights. And more: bq. According to the plan, some two million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state that would be established. More than two million others would be absorbed by other Arab states, and will be compensated for the suffering they had endured. bq. The Arab countries would open their gates to the refugees on the condition that their number won't exceed 10 percent of the existing population. bq. Under the deal, Iraq will also accept Palestinian refugees. Israel will not be required to absorb any Palestinian refugees. bq. The new Arab initiative, led by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, was presented last week at the U.S. State Department. It would be brought for approval at a summit of Arab League leaders to be held in Tunisia in March. Israel retreating to the 1967 borders will be a sticking point for them. A history refresher - Israel was hit with a surprise attack by combined forces from Egypt, Jordan and Syria. They defeated them in six days, pushing their boarders out, unifying the city of Jerusalem. Israel worked with the U.N. on a peace plan.

New Musicians Union

Rock legends Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno plan to launch on Monday a musicians' union to help artists stand their ground in the digital age. From the BBC News: bq. The union will be called Mudda, short for "magnificent union of digitally downloading artists". bq. "The digital environment will change the way music is made, and here artists need a voice", Peter Gabriel told BBC News Online at the World Economic Forum in Davos. bq. In the age of digital downloads musicians and the music industry have had to find a way of giving consumers what they want while securing revenue streams. bq. "Some think that we want to cut out parts of the music business, but that's not the case," Gabriel said. He said musicians needed the record industry, because they were "good at making music and not necessarily good at marketing". But musicians should not be the slaves of record companies either, he said. bq. "We need a model partnership where every artist should have a controlling influence in the whole production process - if they want it." There are a few of these starting up - it will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years. The music companies have always screwed over their smaller acts - these people seldom make any money. The times they are a' changin...

Sir Bill

She is handing them out like candy these days... The Telegraph has a report that Bill Gates is due to be Knighted.

Need some replacement Muffler Bearings?

How about a bottle of Blinker Fluid. Get these and much more at the online automotive supplier KaleCo Auto

Second Mars Rover lands sucessfully!

The Second Mars Rover (Opertunity) landed this morning on the other side of Mars from Spirit. It is already sending back images. The JPL website has more info. Very cool!

NAMM Oddities

Every new year, the National Association of Music Merchants hosts a big trade show. It's the place where new music technology gets rolled out and put on display. There are some unusual items out there - this web page is a collection of them...
Capt. Kangaroo passed on the other day (blogged here). In 2000, he gave a speech to a Vermont NEA convention and had some amazing things to say about education and such... (link here): We now think of children's television characters as two-dimensional cartoon 'puppets' but the people that a lot of us grew up with were much much more. Jen and I were talking the other night about how Capt. Kangaroo had raised about four generations of children. The TeleTubbies are totally pass� after three years, new "kid-TV" characters are coming and going like gangbusters - for what reason - maybe they do not have traction, staying power... bq. This is one of the most important meetings held in the State of Vermont this year. It of great importance because gathered here are the legions who are in the forefront of an institution called "public education" in this Green Mountain State and that institution, public education, is under attack in this state and this nation as it has rarely been in the one-hundred fifty years since a noble idea became a glorious institution. bq. Even those who spend every day on the ramparts of public education often forget what a unique institution America has to protect and serve the nation. It was not always so. When our nation was being founded and its lofty ideals set to writing, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the author of those radical notions, proposed another radical notion in his native Virginia. Thomas Jefferson proposed to the Virginia state legislature the notion that children be given an education at the expense of taxpayers. It was a truly off the wall idea and got nowhere, but sixty years later in New England, in Massachusetts, Horace Mann advanced the idea of the "common school", a place where children would be educated at taxpayer expense and, concurrently, Henry Barnard was advancing a similar idea in neighboring Connecticut. The idea caught on and public education, much the same as we know it today, was born and spread across the new land, educating immigrants and the children of immigrants, teaching children of many cultures the lessons of the new democratic culture, arming generation after generation with basics in reading and math, in agriculture and technology. Even at the post secondary level, New England was nurturing the development of knowledge dissemination when Vermont�s own, Justin Smith Morrill, authored the land grant college act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln. New England had given birth to a noble idea, the concept that knowledge strengthened a nation, solidifying its culture and furnishing it with great minds and developed its collective intellect to succeed as no other nation has ever succeeded. From the industrial revolution to modem dot. com technology, this nation owes its prosperity to the institution of public education. bq. In a very real sense it is public education, the education of all its citizens, which has set this nation apart and engendered undreamed of economic prosperity and great social advances. Public education is the rock upon which this nation and its greatness has been built. Upon this rock we shall build our nation. bq. It has not been a perfect experiment; for many years many children received a separate and inherently unequal education. But the mainstream of public education educated a citizenry about the unfairness of this and, thus, the needed corrections have come from the educated product of public education. We remain an imperfect institution but there is none like it existent anywhere else on this earth. As we have for a century and a half, we are moving in the right direction. bq. Somewhat in the middle of this experiment in public education, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry Adams wrote those enduring words: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." bq. These are such simply stated words, and yet, through the years, I have dwelled upon the concept of extending circles of influence, as with a pebble in a still pond, emanating from a skilled teacher and reaching to worlds the teacher is unaware of, but in the beginning is the teacher and eternity is influenced by his ideas as those ideas are passed on and on and on, beyond light, beyond years, beyond light years. What a noble and awesome power you have, a power beyond the reach of virtually every other calling. bq. Therefore, this is a meeting of great importance, not only because we carry on the cause of public education and, make no mistake, you are in the forefront of our public education system. It is an important meeting because public education is under attack as it rarely has been in the past. Because of judicial rulings, with which most of us agree, we in Vermont have radically altered the way we educate our children and the way in which we pay for that education. The resulting legislative and executive solutions, Act 60, have caused acrimony and divisions among our well-meaning people. These divisions have eroded the enthusiastic support Vermont public schools have traditionally enjoyed. Two years of Act 60 have seen improvements, a shrinking of the initial perceived inequities, but some mending needs yet to be done, particularly in capital improvement budgets. These questions are being addressed and, with patience and good will, our people shall once again be enthusiastic supporters of our excellent public school system. bq. More ominous threats can be seen in other states and in the platforms of some national candidates. We have floating around the spurious notion that the remedy for public school improvement lies in the abandoning of the system, giving taxpayer money to private, selective institutions to educate our children, children who should be educated in the public school system. These private schools are, by nature, selective; we will take this student but we will not take that student, picking and choosing, with taxpayer money, money that is taken from, directly from the public school system. Imagine your school turning away a child because, for whatever reason, you wished to reject him. bq. Public schools are, arguably, the most democratic of this nations democratic institutions; we serve everybody, that�s everybody. If we have challenges in our schools, and most of us believe we do, the solution lies in directly addressing those challenges, the solution is not in depriving public schools of the resources to do so and shunting public funds to private, selective institutions. bq. Those threats inside and outside this state are real and that is why this is such a critical meeting. You are in the forefront every day and you wield great influence politically and socially in this state. Organize to defend the noble institution of public education. bq. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops ...... bq. With your leadership you influence more than children. You influence, by example and by persuasion, the people we need to preserve our public schools. Use your influence and use it well. bq. You may have noted in my biography that I have served in various capacities in education from school board member to college trustee. In many ways, my experience from my school board days enables me to understand what is happening in your district in troubled times... bq. ...The span of my professional life matches almost exactly the life span of television. I first saw a television picture as a twelve year old at the New York World�s Fair in 1939. Like everybody else in the audience at that RCA exhibit I considered it pretty heady stuff, I mean the sheer magic of pictures traveling through the air. Why, America had spent the previous decade growing accustomed to voices, radio voices traveling by air, the voices of Jack Benny, Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy, Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon. Pictures? Well, now, that was a miracle. Of course television did not come to the American living room for almost another decade, the trio of Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini sapped all of our industrial energies as we fought fascism, we were focused on more urgent concerns. bq. Of course even though the technology was available it took a few years for the marketing geniuses to hype television enough to get people to buy the very expensive sets and place them in the American living room. That marketing success is quite a story in itself. bq. I feel somewhat avuncular about television because, as I said, I did not grow up with the medium, in fact I helped with the birthing, way back when, before Uncle Milty even, and Sid the Caesar and the "great one," himself, Jackie Gleason. I am in my fifty-third year as an actor, producer, writer. Fifty-two years. Wow! I am so old I am close to being venerable. I have done somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty thousand television shows. Some of them were even done in Mister Roger�s Neighborhood. bq. I had just returned from the Marine Corps and was back at my old job at NBC-NBC radio, where I was a page working my way through college on my way to law school. You see, I intended to become a lawyer not an actor, but many years later I�m not sure there�s that much difference between the two professions. bq. Back then, in 1947, there were less than 100,000 television sets in the entire nation and most of them were in saloons and bar rooms. There were only a dozen or so television stations on the air. No, television was far from a presence in American homes. Behind my page desk at NBC radio was the office of a genial early-morning radio host who played records, no tape or CD�s back then, and played the piano. NBC had a parent company, RCA, which was in the business of manufacturing and, hopefully, selling television sets. At about this time, some marketing genius figured out that the way to sell television sets was to give people something to watch on those television sets! What an unbridled display of raw genius. bq. These geniuses approached Bob Smith, the radio host, and proposed that he do a television program for children. Even then they knew that by appealing to children they could reach the pocketbooks of adults. It was hoped that this strategy would induce substantial numbers of adults to purchase their very own television complete with that giant five inch tube. bq. Bob Smith sought the help of the professionals, the radio actors, but was met with laughter. They were making very big money in radio on soap operas, drama and comedy shows. Television? Why there was no money paid to actors there, they didn�t even have a union. I suppose in desperation, Bob turned to the page on his doorstep and asked if I would help. Of course, I would help. Why look at the numbers. NBC paid me forty dollars a week, the GI bill added twelve dollars, and, now, this radio host was going to tip me five dollars for helping him out, five dollars for each and every show! "Why," said to myself, counting on my fingers, "I�ll be rich!" bq. The part that I played on that show, which became Howdy Doody, was that of a clown. I honked a horn, squirted a seltzer bottler and twenty years later became a question in a board game, Trivial Pursuit. bq. The character, of course, was Clarabell, a part I created and played for five years until 1952 when I decided it was time to move on, to take advantage of the opportunities television presented for informing and educating young people while not losing sight of the important task of entertaining them. You see, I had become a parent and my perspective had changed. Parenthood will do that sort of thing. bq. Meantime, television did grow up, at least economically. The one-two punch of Howdy Doody and Milton Berle moved television out of the bar room and into the living room. Networks of stations spanned the nation, connected by telephone lines and thirty million television sets had found their way into homes... bq. Much has changed in the nation and certainly much has changed here in the years since I began in television, since television itself began. The family, most of all, has changed. Our attitude toward marriage and divorce has changed. Thanks to these changes and because of teen pregnancy almost half our children live in single parent families. Few us live close to where we were born. The blue highways have been succeeded by the interstates criss-crossing the nation getting us there, anywhere, fast. Jet planes move us coast to coast and in-between in minutes and hours, not days, The inner cities have faced decay, farmland is now theme parks and shopping malls and suburban sprawl. bq. This changed environment has done little to augment the efforts of families to nurture. Even parents who are dedicated to positive nurturing find it often to be a daunting task. Despite our rhetoric, we are not a very family-friendly society. Politicians kiss babies and proclaim their devotion to families prior to elections and then, once that ritual is over, go back to the business of politics. Children are not the business of politics and why should they be? Have you ever met a child who switched his vote or lobbied Congress or was successful in pleading a cause with a state legislator? Ever met a child who was a large contributor to a political action committee? Politicians know there is no money in child causes, there are no votes to tally in such fields. People with gray hair, like me, we are the ones who scare the daylights out of politicians. We seniors were once this nation�s principal underclass until we let them know in Washington, in state capitals, in city halls, that we were not going to take it anymore. We leaned out of windows and elsewhere to shout our message, "we are not going to take it anymore!" Politicos listened because we have the power to change lives, the lives of politicians, change their lifestyle, to take away their office, their power and to send them back home. Kids have no such power, the power of the franchise, and are largely ignored. For almost thirty years children have been this nation�s principal underclass. Shame on us! Shame on the land of opportunity. bq. Over twenty percent, almost a quarter of our kids live in this land of plenty, the land of thriving business and industry, the land of booming stock markets, the land of consumer confidence, the land of plenty and promise, over twenty per cent of our kids live in poverty. Are we nuts? Are we ready to take such a resource and toss away one in every five kids, are they our throw-aways? And we wonder about Littleton and Oregon and Kentucky. Many of the complex answers sought to those tragedies lies in the attitude of this nation that is ready to throw away one out of every five of our children. bq. Poverty breeds desperation and stress and frustration and anger. Many of our kids who are abused in homes are abused because of conditions rooted in poverty. Oh, abuse occurs in more affluent surroundings but poverty is a prime breeder of abuse. Capital gains legislation does not help kids in poverty. Nothing wrong with capital gains legislation but ladies and gentlemen of the Congress and the legislatures, keep your eye on the kids. They are potentially our greatest capital gain... bq. ...Perhaps the greatest prevention for many conditions assailing children comes from a strong school program. School is the common denominator, every child has one. I speak of a school which is academically strong but also has been given the resources to identify and treat children in need. That means, among other things, classroom size that enables a teacher to know her students, a teacher who is trained in identifying children with special needs and having the resources within the school to pass such children on for special attention. I know it places a heavy responsibility on teachers, but such a program saves lives, quite literally. bq. A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops ....... bq. When I was fifteen years old, I lost my mother. I was devastated. In months I went from a happy teen to a morose pessimist. My grades dropped off the cliff. From a very fine and interested student I fell to a 'C' average and was just hanging on. I had an adviser, an English teacher, Gertrude Farley. Miss Farley observed my decline, she knew the tragedy I had suffered. She began working on me with the tenaciousness of a terrier. Miss Farley would not let go; she was not going to lose me. She didn�t. Thanks to Gertrude Farley, sent to me from heaven, I came out of my tailspin. Anything I have accomplished in my lifetime I owe to Gertrude Farley. bq. A teacher affects eternity. Gertrude Farley never knew where her influence stopped. bq. Each and every one of you has that enormous power at your fingertips. It is for you to remember that power that you hold every morning passing through the portals of your school. It is our job, the rest of us in this state and in this nation, to see that you are able to use that power, that you shall be able to affect eternity. Go forth and teach ye all children.

Two 1960 flight records still stand...

Flight Record #1) - The Highest Parachute Jump Flight Record #2) - Breaking the Sound Barrier without a craft (and living to tell about it) From the Braden Files comes a link to an interview with a 75-year-old geezer: bq. Joe Kittinger is not a household aviation name like Neil Armstrong or Chuck Yeager. But what he did for the U.S. space program is comparable. bq. On Aug. 16, 1960, as research for the then-fledgling U.S. space program, Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger rode a helium balloon to the edge of space, 102,800 feet above the earth, a feat in itself. Then, wearing just a thin pressure suit and breathing supplemental oxygen, he leaned over the cramped confines of his gondola and jumped--into the 110-degree-below-zero, near-vacuum of space. Within seconds his body accelerated to 714mph in the thin air, breaking the sound barrier. After free-falling for more than four and a half minutes, slowed finally by friction from the heavier air below, he felt his parachute open at 14,000 feet, and he coasted gently down to the New Mexico desert floor. bq. Kittinger's feat showed scientists that astronauts could survive the harshness of space with just a pressure suit and that man could eject from aircraft at extreme altitudes and survive. Upon Kittinger's return to base, a congratulatory telegram was waiting from the Mercury Seven astronauts--including Alan Shepard and John Glenn. bq. More than four decades later Kittinger's two world records--the highest parachute jump, and the only man to break the sound barrier without a craft and live--still stand. We decided to visit the retired colonel and Aviation Hall of Famer, now 75, at his home in Altamonte Springs, Florida, to recall his historic jump. The interview is wonderful - Joe Kittinger has the Right Stuff

New entry to the Blogroll

Dr. David Yeagley has a website called Bad Eagle. The home page is here His weblog is here From his site: bq. Bad Eagle.com is the first website for American Indian Patriots, and the only voice of conservative American Indian thought. bq. Dr. David A. Yeagley, direct descendent of the Comanche warrior Bad Eagle (1839-1906), is the first conservative American Indian in the American media. bq. Through Bad Eagle.com all conservative Indians are invited to join their voices in honor of Indian warriors in the cause of American Patriotism.

Crap happens...

While we are on the subject of historical children's television shows, we bring some bad news: Robbers Allegedly Steal Romper Room Host's Magic Mirror From NBC News: bq. The former hostess of the Los Angeles version of "Romper Room" was mugged last week -- and she wants her mirror back. bq. Mary Ann King, who hosted the popular children's show from 1966 to 1976, was mugged near the Hometown Buffet, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported Thursday. bq. King suffered a broken arm and a punctured lung, the paper said. bq. The assailants got away with King's "magic mirror," which delighted kids of all ages on the show, which ran from 1954 to the late 1980s. bq. "I used my magic mirror on every show for 10 years," King said. "Now, anytime I make a speech everyone wants me to bring out my magic mirror and say 'Hi' to them, their children and their grandchildren." bq. Known on the show as "Miss Mary Ann," King would hold up the mirror -- actually an empty mirror frame -- each day and say "I see Mary and Tom and Jeff and all you boys and girls out there." bq. Millions of kids across the country watched the show religiously just to hear Miss Mary Ann mention their name as one of the kids she sees. bq. After the Dec. 17 attack, King was still trying to make sense of it all. bq. "Like I always said on the television show, do be a good bee and don't be a bad bee," she said. "I guess I ran into a nest of bad bees."

Lies, Myths and Downright Stupidity

Fun collection of ten myths regarding modern life. These have been colelcted and documented by reporter John Stossel for ABC News: bq. Myth No. 10 � Getting Cold Can Give You a Cold Myth No. 9 � We Have Less Free Time Than We Used To Myth No. 8 � American Families Need Two Incomes Myth No. 7 � Money Can Buy Happiness Myth No. 6 � Republicans Shrink the Government Myth No. 5 � The Rich Don't Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes Spoiler Alert - Myth No. 1 is missing... Pfuiii Still, the remaining nine myths are explained and references are given.

Nigeria 419 email scams

From the International Herald Tribune comes a message from Nigeria's Finance Minister, delivered at the Davos conferences: bq. Fed up with e-mail scams purportedly from Nigeria, the country's government will soon announce new plans to trap and prosecute cybercriminals. bq. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's finance minister, said she had led planning for a campaign against e-mail fraud that will enlist law enforcement officials and include a global advertising campaign to warn potential victims. bq. "As Nigeria's minister of finance, I am extremely angry at these people who conduct fraud by e-mail," Ngozi said in an interview at the World Economic Forum. "We will no longer allow them ruin our country's reputation." But she has more to say: bq. For all her anger at those behind the scheme, however, Ngozi said she had little sympathy for the victims. "Those responding are driven by simple greed to join a criminal activity," Ngozi said. "Most of the letters offer access to money supposedly stolen from the Nigerian government." bq. In addition to readily joining a criminal undertaking, Ngozi said anyone responding to the ads lacked common sense to an extent that astounds most Nigerians. bq. "In Nigeria, we are always amazed that anyone could be so stupid as to respond to such an offer," Ngozi said. "People do not deserve to lose their money, but you do have to be extremely greedy and stupid to respond." bq. In addition to the financial credibility of such transactions, bad grammar should be a quick tip-off to potential victims, she added. "These messages are written in such poor English with bad spelling," Ngozi said. "Don't they realize that Nigeria was a British colony and anyone with an education speaks perfect English?" Wired magazine had an article a number of months ago saying that the 419 scams were actually funding the growth of internet caf�s in Nigeria. For more 419 fun, there have been a group of people running reverse scams -- scamming the scammers. The victims are not the only greedy ones and some of the emails going back and forth between the scammer and the pigeon are wonderful...

The Other John Kerry (Vietnam Vet)

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From Dog Snot Diaries comes a link to a wonderful site: Vietnam Veterans against John Kerry bq. On the campaign trail, White House wannabe Sen. John Forbes Kerry regularly mentions his Vietnam War combat experience, during which he received three purple hearts, the Silver Star and Bronze Star. However, the Massachusetts Democrat doesn't like to talk much about how he received the awards or the time after he returned home when he was rubbing shoulders with Hanoi Jane Fonda as a much-celebrated organizer for one of America's most radical pro-communist groups. bq. Kerry's betrayal of American prisoners of war, his blatant disrespect for Vietnam veterans and the military, his support for communist Vietnam and his waffling over the issue of use of force in Iraq proves he cannot be relied on to protect the best interests of the United States. bq. Although Kerry voted to support military intervention in Iraq he is now claiming that he only approved the threat of force by the United States. The Constitution for the United States of America declares: "The President shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." bq. Read the following and decide for yourself if you trust this man to be our Commander-in-Chief. Interesting time-line complete with pictures... We all change as we grow but it seems that Kerry, as we look at his politics and now his history, seems to have always "played the game". He does not stake out some moral ground but follows the weather-vane of public thought, shifting from one point to another.
Downright Spooky - this is from National Security Blog: bq. U.S. and Texas law enforcement agencies are investigating the shooting of a security guard outside an ammonia terminal on the Texas Gulf Coast, a law enforcement official said on Saturday. bq. A security guard at the BASF Corp. ammonia terminal in Freeport, Texas, 60 miles south of Houston, was shot late on Friday by a man in a pickup truck parked outside the terminal's fence and within sight of a multistory ammonia tank, said Henrietta Gonzalez, chief of the Freeport Police Department. bq. ...The guard spotted the pickup truck while making his rounds outside the terminal's grounds. When confronted, the truck driver, whom the guard described as having a heavy Middle Eastern accent, said he was taking pictures of the lights of the ammonia terminal and adjacent port, Gonzalez said. Ammonia is nasty stuff - this is 100% pure anhydrous, not the dilute stuff you buy for cleaning... Get a good whiff of this and your eyeballs will shrivel up to the size of raisins. It pulls water out of things like you would not believe. They also link to a FOX News report: bq. A security guard at a BASF Corp. (search) chemical plant was shot in the shoulder Saturday after he approached a suspicious truck and talked to a man who said he had been taking pictures, authorities said. And more: bq. The guard told police the gunman was a man of Middle Eastern descent with bushy hair and a mustache. The man was driving a white pickup with tinted windows and a black stripe. I'm a photographer and if I wanted to take photos of an industrial plant at night, I would contact the plant's security office several weeks in advance to obtain permission. Taking pictures of an ammonia tank and then shooting a guard do not sound like normal activity to me... (department of understatement)

Pakistan Nuclear revelations

Another hat-tip to L.G.F., this one is for this link to a Yahoo/AP story covering President Pervez Musharraf's talks in Davos Switzerland this last week. In these talks, he has been outlining (coming clean) with details of Pakistan's secret nuclear development program. From the article: bq. Pervez Musharraf, who endured two assassination attempts in the past month, told The Associated Press that "as long as the military of Pakistan remains, nothing can go wrong." bq. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Musharraf also revealed details of how the development of Pakistan's secret nuclear program gave wide latitude to scientists, possibly allowing them to sell nuclear secrets "for personal gain." bq. The president told reporters that Pakistan is investigating the possibility that government officials knew about leaks of technology abroad. Agents also are checking bank accounts of nine scientists and administrators detained on suspicion of selling information to Iran and elsewhere, an Interior Minister in Pakistan said Saturday. bq. "We will sort out everyone who is involved," Musharraf said. And more: bq. For years Pakistan rejected reports that its scientists might have been involved in proliferation and provided technology to North Korea, Iran, Libya and Iraq. bq. The country started hedging in December, however, and Musharraf said investigations began after Iran disclosed to the U.N. inspection agency the names of people who provided them with nuclear technology and they included Pakistani scientists. bq. "I accept that," he said, adding that he would like to see European countries and scientists investigated for their involvement, as well. And more: bq. "There are European countries involved in the refining and producing. It is high-class metallurgy. Where is it available? In Europe. So why is no one talking about it?" he said. (Emphasis mine) Just like the French Sparrow missiles and the Russian Kornet Anti-Tank missiles that we found in Iraq - manufactured after the UN Arms embargo was fully in place - yet another reason why Old Europe has been less than helpful in the last two years.

Libya Nuclear Components Said Headed for U.S.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs for this link to a Yahoo/Reuters story: bq. Acting swiftly to ensure Libya's pledge to give up nuclear weapons is implemented, the Bush administration may bring to the United States as early as next week centrifuges and nuclear material at the heart of Tripoli's program, senior U.S. officials say. bq. Documents and drawings from the Libyan program arrived in Washington on Friday. Centrifuges, uranium hexafluoride and other nuclear-related equipment "are in the next round, probably next week," one official told Reuters. This is excellent news - if this transaction were being handled by the UN or the IAEA, they would still be having meetings well into 2005 with the stuff just sitting there. bq. Most, if not all, of the nuclear components will go to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Energy (news - web sites)'s largest science and energy laboratory. This is good - not only is it a secure site, it also has some excellent labs. We will be taking each piece apart down to the atomic level so we can identify countries of origin, their level of technologies and who else might be trying to assemble a bomb. And more: bq. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged on Dec. 19 to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in a surprise deal with old adversaries Washington and London. As I said before, his son is very pro-West, educated and is in line to take over when Muammar retires. Each of them see the writing on the wall and see that it is better to align themselves with the economic powerhouse of the West instead of the medieval backwater of Fundamentalist Islamic society. bq. But a dispute erupted between the Americans and the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the U.N. watchdog that usually has the job of overseeing dismantling of weapons of mass destruction programs -- over the IAEA role in Libya. bq. Last Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed Elbaradei said he had agreed with U.S. and British officials that his agency would verify Libya's dismantling by U.S. and British experts. Would you like some cheese to go with that whine... The UN and Old Europe still do not get it - their day has passed. bq. But U.S. officials insisted the IAEA role will be secondary. "The IAEA can come and watch while we're doing it and say, 'yes indeed (the weapons-related items) were moved from Tripoli to the United States,"' one U.S. official said. bq. "But this is our agreement with the Libyans -- and we're going to implement it," he said. Absolutely - to whom did Gaddafi go when he decided to realign his country? To some place effective. Excellent news - good to see this happening on a timely basis.
From Yahoo Reuters: bq. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) warned in an interview published on Saturday a barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank threatened the two-state solution at the heart of the U.S.-backed peace road map. bq. Arafat's comments came as the United States, the main peace broker in the Middle East, signaled its efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have reached a stalemate. bq. "Time is running out for a two-state solution," Britain's The Guardian newspaper quoted Arafat as saying in an interview from his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, where Israeli forces have penned him down over the past two years. bq. Israel has threatened a unilateral separation along the line of the wall snaking through the West Bank that it says is being built to keep out suicide bombers. Palestinians call it a bid to annex or fragment occupied land and have said they could respond by demanding a single bi-national state. Like duuuhhh... The Palestine Arabs never wanted a two-state solution, ever. They want the dissolution of Israel and they will settle for nothing else. In English, they will talk and talk and say how they would love a two-state solution if only Israel would come around to their viewpoint. If you visit some of the sites that translate the Arabic sermons, speeches, news articles, you will find a completely different viewpoint - one firmly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish state of Israel. The League of Nations and subsequently the U.N. offered them large chunks of land for their own state and they refused. For a long time they were sponsored by the Soviet Union in order to help destabilize the area and keep the US presence to a minimum. Now with the Soviet Union and Communism gone away, the Palestinian Arabs are turning to other states for funding their terror.

Skydiving record set

From Yahoo News: bq. 672 Skydivers Set Mass Free-Fall Record bq. BANGKOK, Thailand - In a world record for a mass jump, 672 skydivers from 42 countries leaped from six aircraft over the Thai capital on Saturday, organizers said. At least three jumpers were injured upon landing. bq. The previous mark of 588 skydivers was set in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in 2000, according an organizer of the event, Herman Landsman, and the Guinness World Records Web site. And more: bq. The divers leapt out of six C-130 military transport planes at 7,000 feet. Several landed in trees and one hit the roof of a university building. Talk about a coordinated effort - wonder how long it took to plan that jump.

Nuclear news from Pakistan

More news coming from Pakistan regarding their nuclear support of terrorist nations. From Yahoo News: bq. Pakistani investigators have concluded that at least two of the country's top nuclear scientists -- including Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb -- provided unauthorized technical assistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program in the late 1980s, according to senior Pakistani officials. bq. The scientists allegedly provided the help under a secret agreement between Pakistan and Iran that was supposed to be limited to the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology, the officials said on condition of anonymity. bq. The findings pose a political dilemma for Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president. Islamic hard-liners have rallied to the defense of the scientists, who are regarded as national heroes, and have accused the government of pursuing the investigations to gain favor with the Bush administration. Very cool that this is coming out - the efforts of the coalition forces in Iraq are bearing fruit as other nations decide to opt-out of terrorism...

French Corruption

A well researched article in Prospect Magazine regarding the corruption in high-levels in France and the people who track it down... bq. The business of uncovering corruption is not for the faint-hearted. In France, Eva Joly, the country's best known magistrate, lived under 24-hour police protection for six years: six years spent in the knowledge that someone out there was being paid to track her and, given the opportunity, kill her. Joly didn't investigate Colombian drug barons or mafia networks - her work took place in a country which is one of the world's most civilized. She was investigating corruption among French politicians, lawyers and company directors. bq. Corruption is usually a crime of the elite, of those with access to money and power. Since the mid-1980s, France has been intermittently convulsed by scandals which have crept ever higher up the country's social ladder. Those tainted by, if not convicted of, corruption have included Jacques Chirac, Alain Jupp�, Roland Dumas and (godfather of them all) Fran�ois Mitterrand. These are people who are educated in the same schools, and are bound by common values and ideas. They also, according to sociologist Pierre Lascoumes, share a conviction that they are above the law. Those who have actually been sent to prison for corruption (Bernard Tapie, Lo�k le Floch-Prigent, Alfred Sirven) may have been government ministers or company directors, but they did not belong to that charmed circle of the French elite. It follows that those who fight corruption are usually outside the elite, and Eva Joly was the epitome of the outsider in the fight against French corruption. And more: bq. Most Frenchmen recognize that corruption begins at local level. "I've never offered a single envelope to get a contract," says a builder, quoted in the magazine Capital. "But free swimming pools, oh yes, I've made those. Dozens of them." And bathrooms, even whole houses - this one for a mayor, that one for a local official. It's almost impossible for a builder to land a major contract without greasing a few palms. Similar things happen in many countries, but France has 36,777 mayors - powerful and untrained. The classic scenario is a small-town mayor needing money for his re-election campaign. He goes to a local builder and they dream up a fictitious building project for which the builder invoices the mayor. The mayor draws that money out of the municipal coffers and uses it to pay for his campaign. The builder is rewarded with a real project after the election. bq. In France, someone convicted of embezzlement or bribery is not ostracized by his compatriots. Following the disclosures about Socialist party financing, the treasurer, Henri Emmanuelli, was sent to prison. That in no way hindered him from being re-elected to parliament when he was released. Indeed, since bribery is considered essential for lubricating a deal, corruption-busting magistrates can find themselves accused of harming French business interests. They are also accused of swelling the National Front - Le Pen's party claims that the "true France" is squeaky clean and laps up voters disillusioned by what they read of corruption in other parties. And we think Enron and Haliburton was a scandal. Those guys are the rankest of amateurs...

Rover back online

The problems with the Mars Rover have been traced to some bad Flash RAM and a work-around is in place. From the SpaceFlight Now website - scroll down to 2150 GMT for the rest of the story. Kinda hard to reach out and to a [CTRL]+[ALT]+[DEL] on this puppy. It's amazing the sorts of configuration changes they can do remotely.

A pets diary

From the Unix Dude bq. EXCERPTS FROM A DOG'S DAILY DIARY 8:00 am - OH BOY! DOG FOOD! MY FAVORITE! 9:30 am - OH BOY! A CAR RIDE! MY FAVORITE! 9:40 am - OH BOY! A WALK! MY FAVORITE! 10:30 am - OH BOY! A CAR RIDE! MY FAVORITE! 11:30 am - OH BOY! DOG FOOD! MY FAVORITE! 12:00 pm - OH BOY! THE KIDS! MY FAVORITE! 1:00 pm - OH BOY! THE YARD! MY FAVORITE! 4:00 pm - OH BOY! THE KIDS! MY FAVORITE! 5:00 pm - OH BOY! DOG FOOD! MY FAVORITE! 5:30 pm - OH BOY! MUM! MY FAVORITE! 6:00 pm - OH BOY! PLAYING BALL! MY FAVORITE! 6:30 pm - OH BOY! SLEEPING IN MASTER'S BED! MY FAVORITE! bq. EXCERPTS FROM A CAT'S DAILY DIARY Day 183: bq. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant. Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair, must try this on their bed. bq. Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was. Hmmm, not working according to plan. bq. There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the food. More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage. I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The bird on the other hand has got to be an informant, and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room, his safety is assured. But I can wait. It is only a matter of time. We have both - this is so true...

Ohh, nooo!!!

Mr. Bill is back again -- from the RedNova news site: bq. Mr. Bill tapped to help save LA swamps. bq. Mr. Bill, the "Saturday Night Live" clay character from the 1970s whose misadventures usually left him squished, will be part of a campaign aimed at teaching people - especially children - how Louisiana is losing its coastal marshes and swamps. bq. "I wish I had a quick three-word synopsis for it other than maybe Mr. Bill says 'Ohh, nooo!!! - the coastal erosion,'" said Walter Williams, Mr. Bill's creator and a native of New Orleans. bq. The campaign will be launched next summer with Mr. Bill and a gang of "Estuarians" - Salty the Shrimp, Eddy the Eagle, and others - talking about the shrinking coast. bq. "Our hope is to draw worldwide attention thanks to Mr. Bill," said Valsin Marmillion, a campaign consultant for "America's Wetland," an initiative kicked off last year by Gov. Mike Foster to drum up national support for the problem. bq. What's been lost is mind-boggling: Since 1930 more than 1,900 square miles of marsh - Louisiana's "trembling prairie" - no longer exist. That's an area roughly the size of Delaware. And the loss of land continues at about 30 square miles a year. This is actually very cool -- coastlines change. The idea of reversing the change is pure hubris but the idea of dealing with it and living with it and being aware of it is critical in learning to live with our planet.

Health Care in Old Europe

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From BBC World News comes a cautionary tale of the Health Care system in France -- it is available for everyone but the money is running out... bq. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals have taken to the streets of Paris to protest against government plans to cut back on a health service which has a projected overspend this year of eight billion pounds. Note - this is about $14 Million US Dollars (UPDATE: Rob over at SemiSkimmed brought to my attention that the number is $14 Billion, not $14 Million - his comment "A sum best said while raising the little finger to the corner of the mouth in Dr Evil style") bq. The other day, an American friend, recently returned to live again in Paris, e-mailed from her sick bed. bq. "This is why I like France," she wrote. "I have bronchitis and the doctor has just been to see me in my own home. bq. "He stayed long enough to examine me thoroughly and carefully, prescribe some drugs, drink two vodkas, eat pistachios by the fistful, and then chat about his days as a young doctor on an ashram in India. And all paid for by the state!" bq. The abundance and generosity of its health service has turned France into a nation of hypochondriacs. bq. It consumes far more drugs than any other nation in Europe, and they are almost always the expensive patented kind rather than the cheaper generic alternatives. bq. French pharmacists have never had it so good. And now they fear their government is going to ruin it. bq. On Thursday, the government is publishing a report called Hospital 2007. bq. "You know what that is about do you not?" one well known accident and emergency specialist said. bq. "Anything marked 2007 is about the next presidential election and Jacques Chirac. Our health system is being sacrificed to political dogma." And more: bq. In France you can go straight to a specialist without being referred to a general practitioner first. bq. If the specialist conducts expensive tests and then says there is nothing wrong with you that a good night's sleep will not cure, you can go to another specialist who will conduct the same tests a second time without knowing that you have already had them. bq. It is not unusual for people to go for a third, fourth or fifth opinion until they find a specialist who will give them some pills. And more: bq. The GPs have proposed the introduction of a single internet dossier for each patient, so that the GP can call it up and see whether the patient has already been treated. But it will take years to introduce, he said, and the patients will not like it. And more: bq. It is the World Health Organisation (WHO) that ranks the French system as the best in the world. And more: bq. But there is a problem. Eight billion pounds worth of problem. That is this year's projected overspend on health alone. bq. The reason is clear and will have to be confronted in the end. It is demographic. bq. People are living longer, calling on health resources more frequently, and for longer, and all the while a smaller and smaller proportion of the actual population is working and paying taxes to fund it. bq. The last time a French government tried to confront this reality - in 1995 - and introduce structural reforms, there was a popular explosion.

Robotics Links

Been surfing a bit tonight and ran into some interesting Robotics resources bq. Vendors: Acroname Robot MarketPlace bq. Website: nBot - a 2-wheel balancing robot This puppy predates Segway, very cool technology...

The President's Ribs

From the Whitehouse web site. Four minutes of dialog between President Bush and members of the Press Pool... bq. Remarks by the President to the Press Pool Nothin' Fancy Cafe Roswell, New Mexico bq. 11:25 A.M. MST bq. THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs. bq. Q Mr. President, how are you? bq. THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs. bq. Q What would you like? bq. THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like. bq. Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure. bq. THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat? bq. Q Right behind you, whatever you order. bq. THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib? bq. Q But Mr. President -- bq. THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food? bq. Q Yes. bq. THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like? bq. Q Ribs. bq. THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs. bq. Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir? bq. THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something? bq. Q An answer. bq. Q Can we buy some questions? bq. THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money. bq. Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election? bq. THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally. bq. END 11:29 A.M. MST

The Postmodernism Generator

This link will generate a short Postmodern essay complete with citations. Don't like it? Hit the refresh button (F5 on your PC) and a new one will be generated in a few seconds. This is closely related to a previous blog entry here and much more seriously here (which features this link to an article on Critical Realism) There is also this must-read paper by Dr. Alan Sokal published in the prestigious journal "Social Text"

Interview with Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is an economist and has some very direct and interesting ideas on the US economy, taxation, national debt and poverty. John Hawkins asked him ten questions - the interview is an interesting one to say the least... Here are the first five: bq. John Hawkins: Do you believe a flat tax would help produce more economic growth than the progressive tax system that we currently have? If so, can you explain why? bq. Thomas Sowell: A flat tax would not penalize additional efforts at an increasingly higher rate. This would reduce the discouragements to such efforts and to the taking of risks. bq. John Hawkins: Could you explain why rent control is a bad idea? bq. Thomas Sowell: Like all forms of price control, rent control leads to a simultaneous increase in the amount demanded and a reduction in the amount supplied. The resulting shortage then means that landlords need not spend as much money maintaining rented premises, because there are more applicants than apartments, thus leading to a faster deterioration over time. Meanwhile, fewer replacements -- sometimes none -- are built because of low or non-existent profits. This scenario has been played out in countries around the world -- in Australia, Sweden, France, England, the United States, for example. bq. John Hawkins: Do you think a Balanced Budget Amendment or some other sort of legislation that forces government to control spending will be necessary to get the budget deficit under control long-term? If so, would you recommend a Balanced Budget Amendment or something else? bq. Thomas Sowell: Balanced budget requirements seem more likely to produce accounting ingenuity than genuinely balanced budgets. The real goal should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising tax rates to cover ever rising spending. For this, the only policy that seems promising is "eternal vigilance," the price we must pay for freedom in general. bq. John Hawkins: Can you explain why protectionist tariffs on let's say steel or textiles actually end up costing America more jobs than they save? bq. Thomas Sowell: The number of jobs in the steel is exceeded many times over in industries making steel products, from automobiles to oil rigs, refrigerators, locomotives, etc., etc. Tariffs that save jobs in the steel industry mean higher steel prices, which in turn means fewer sales of American steel products around the world and losses of far more jobs than are saved. bq. John Hawkins: One thing you've said that I found intriguing was that,"if you gave every poor person enough money to stop being poor, that would cost a fraction of what our welfare state programs and bureaucracies cost". Do you have any numbers on that and in your opinion, even if that's not a good idea, would it be a better idea than what we're doing currently? bq. Thomas Sowell: Professor Walter Williams of George Mason University has done the calculations of the cost of raising every poor person above the poverty level by directly giving them money and found it to be a fraction of the cost of the numerous programs ostensibly aimed at helping the poor. For more of Thomas Sowell's writings, check out here for his syndicated columns and links to his six books.

New entries to the Blogroll

Adding four new blogs to the blogroll - these are places that I check every day. Mysanthropist - fun stuff / odd perspective on life Grafyte - tech notes from a Seattle graphic artist and computer wrangler Healing Iraq - blog from a Baghdad Dentist - good insights into Iraqi life SemiSkinned - A sporadic Chronicle of things of interest

Naked Rambler finishes his walk...

From Sky News bq. A man trying to walk naked from Land's End to John O'Groats has reached the end of his arduous journey. bq. Stephen Gough, 44, reached John O'Groats shortly after 3pm, after a near 900-mile walk which he began in June. bq. Over the course of his journey Mr Gough has been arrested numerous times, made several court appearances and served two jail sentences. bq. Mr Gough undertook his walk as a human rights protest, in order to celebrate the naked human form, and to try to convince the public to stop being "paranoid" about the naked body. bq. Speaking just short of John O'Groats Mr Gough said it would take time to change people's minds, but said he hoped the campaign would be successful. bq. Mr Gough has become famous among residents the entire length of the UK during his journey. bq. He has spent his time walking, often in near freezing temperatures, wearing only socks, walking boots, his hat and his rucksack. John O'Groats is the northernmost point of the U.K., Land's End is the southernmost.

Steven Hawking abuse story - update

I did not blog about it when it first surfaced a few days ago because something did not ring true. There was a news story that someone was assaulting Steven Hawking and that it might be an instance of M�nchhausen by Proxy. In today's News Telegraph: bq. The scientist Stephen Hawking has rejected claims that he is the victim of abuse and dismissed media reports about his personal life as "completely false". bq. The physicist, the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, said he was "profoundly disappointed" by the circulation of "inaccurate information". bq. Detectives are speaking to nurses who have cared for Prof Hawking, 62, following allegations that he had been assaulted and abused. They also hope to speak to the scientist and his second wife Elaine, 53. To see what Dr. Hawking does in his spare time, check out this site His MP3 downloads are available here featuring such hits as "E=mc Hawking", "The Mighty Stephen Hawking", and his Hip Hop classic "F*ck the Creationists"

Free After Rebate

A website that does nothing but list items and sales that are... well... Free (after you get the rebate) You pay your money, pay also for shipping and in 6-8 weeks get the rebate check back. (rotsa ruck) Some of the deals look pretty good - Phones, 32MB USB quickdrive, 802.11b PCMCIA cards. I have had mixed luck with rebates - be sure to use actual letters, not email and save photocopies of the receipts and UPC code stickers, etc... If you hound them, they eventually pay up.

So you thought that irksome language was dead?

From The Economist comes a tale of a dead language and reports of its death being exagerated... bq. Totium orbium lingua (A world language) bq. Latin was, after all, the original world language�and not just up to the moment the Vandals carbonised Rome, but long afterwards. In early 16th-century Europe rulers and ambassadors still corresponded in Latin, forming thereby a common cultural web that brought Europe closer together than at any time since. Ordinary people, too, still used Latin as the warp and weft of their prayers, and carried Latin primers round with them. Despite the inexorable advance of the vernacular, Latin was alive and routine among the literate. bq. Deep into the next two centuries, too, it remained the preferred language of philosophy and science. This was not just because it crossed borders, but because it kept an antique purity. While mongrel English found its words encumbered with changing meanings, Latin preserved a precision that scientists increasingly needed. The deeper Isaac Newton went into formulations of physical laws, the more he wrote his notes in Latin, the closest approach in words to the utter directness of mathematical symbols. bq. Modern-day champions of Latin make a special point of both these qualities: universality and purity. No matter that Latin, in the last decades of its heyday, was as dog-eared and scatty as any other well-used language, and that the Latin of the street (or, for that matter, the walls) often ignored the rules. This is still a language of striking conciseness and clarity, with the added bonus of a sort of timeless abstraction. To read a news story in Latin is to set it sub specie aeternitatis indeed, its importance or triteness brightly exposed by the translucence of the words. A list of common Latin phrases can be found here

How to Digitize Eight Million Books

Fascinating article about how Stanford University set about to digitize the books in its library: bq. About two and a half years ago, a good friend by the name of Christopher Warnock, the CEO and founder of Ebrary.com, an e-book distributor, came to talk to me when we were digitizing some Stanford University Press books on Latin America. He said, "You have to meet a couple of guys about a pretty interesting robot." They were Ivo Iossiger and Danick Bionda, founders of 4Digital Books, which is based in Switzerland. They showed me a video of their robot scanner. I immediately realized that if we could achieve the speeds they were talking about with their robot, we would have a breakthrough in how fast and how consistently we could digitize our materials. bq. When you're turning pages by hand, you can do maybe 150 to 200 pages per hour. It's slow. But the robot can easily do 600 to 1,200 pages per hour without damaging the books. And it's rigorously consistent -- the page is always flat, the image is always good, and software conversion allows you to index the text so you can search it. bq. But it's not just the scanning robot that's needed. There are the servers, the software, the network, the storage. Right now, it is an investment that can only be made by a big place like Stanford that already has a lot of this capacity in place. Even for us, though, a big issue is the large scale required to deal with our collection. With eight million volumes, if we were to digitize everything, we would end up with about a petabyte and a half of data. A petabyte is 10 to the 15th power. Managing the metadata for each individual bibliographic entity and each volume, the coding that allows you to search in a book, or in a collection of books associated by various parameters -- classification, subject heading, author, publisher, place of publication and so forth -- is another petabyte and a half. We're talking about gargantuan-sized memories and massively parallel supercomputers to whiz through this stuff. Not many institutions in this country have that kind of capacity. Maybe it will require a national effort to really do this. WOW! They have some photos of the robot as well a description of how it works. The company that makes the robot (4Digital) has their website here

Excellent First-Aid supplier

Chinook Medical Gear is a comprehensive online source for all sorts of First-Aid and Medical supplies and equipment. Their website is here

Victor Davis Hanson

Once again, it's Friday and time for another excellent essay by Victor Davis Hanson bq. Better or Worse? Should we believe the gloom of the Democrats? bq. Thematic in the Democratic primary campaign is that the United States is worse off now than it was before the invasion of Iraq. The harangues from some of the candidates have been quite unbelievable: Saddam Hussein's capture did little to improve our security; we cannot prejudge bin Laden's guilt; we are less safe than ever before and hated to boot; and so on. bq. The proposed alternatives from those who either once voted for or supported the war are equally surreal. We should have just indicted and arrested Saddam Hussein (via the FBI or Interpol?); or withdrawn from Iraq at the end of the year (Vietnam-style with helicopters on the embassy roof?); or allowed the U.N. to take over (along the lines of its 1993-99 triumph in the Balkans?); or involved the Europeans (who announce they may send troops in the future after the U.S. has won both the war and peace � and oil concessions need to be re-allotted). bq. Elder statesmen like Ted Kennedy and Al Gore are perhaps even more strident in their calumny. They swear the Iraq campaign was "cooked up" in Texas and that it ranks among the "worst" foreign policy disasters in American history. Indeed, poor former Vice President Gore has transmogrified in just a few months from a senior statesman who once took apart Ross Perot on live television into a caricature of a hand-waving, out-of-control Perot himself. Senator Kennedy's fuming is simply more Chomskyite than Democratic. bq. And what has happened to General Clark? His once judicious observations of two years ago have become unhinged, and now make Curtis Le May seem circumspect by comparison. Democrats wanted a sober George Marshall on the campaign trail; instead Americans are beginning to witness an embittered, conspiracy-obsessed Maj. General Smedley Butler come alive � endorsed by the slander-spouting Michael Moore instead of respected peers like General Schwarzkopf.

Up to Snuff...

At dinner last evening, the phrase "Up to Snuff" came to discussion and no-one knew the origin. This web page has it.

The McDonald's Diet...

From the New York Post: bq. Last February, Morgan Spurlock decided to become a gastronomical guinea pig. His mission: To eat three meals a day for 30 days at McDonald's and document the impact on his health. bq. Scores of cheeseburgers, hundreds of fries and dozens of chocolate shakes later, the formerly strapping 6-foot-2 New Yorker - who started out at a healthy 185 pounds - had packed on 25 pounds. bq. But his supersized shape was the least of his problems. bq. Within a few days of beginning his drive-through diet, Spurlock, 33, was vomiting out the window of his car, and doctors who examined him were shocked at how rapidly Spurlock's entire body deteriorated. bq. "It was really crazy - my body basically fell apart over the course of 30 days," Spurlock told The Post. bq. His liver became toxic, his cholesterol shot up from a low 165 to 230, his libido flagged and he suffered headaches and depression. bq. Spurlock charted his journey from fit to flab in a tongue-in-cheek documentary, which he has taken to the Sundance Film Festival with the hopes of getting a distribution deal. bq. "Super Size Me" explores the obesity epidemic that plagues America today - a sort of "Bowling for Columbine" for fast food. No snarky comment needed...

Television's Captain Kangaroo Dies At 76

bq. Bob Keeshan, who gently entertained and educated generations of children as television's walrus-mustachioed Captain Kangaroo, died Friday at 76. bq. Keeshan died of a long illness, his family said in a statement. bq. Keeshan's "Captain Kangaroo" premiered on CBS in 1955 and ran for 30 years before moving to public television for six more. It was wildly popular among children and won six Emmy Awards, three Gabriels and three Peabody Awards.

"Meanwhile, back in North Korea..."

From Strategy Page comes this look at North Korea and comparing it with Saddam's Oil-for-food program: bq. Saddam Hussein�s regime thrived on the UN�s corrupted Oil For Food program. A tour of Saddam�s Baghdad digs led former CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks to quip the scam amounted to little more than "oil for palaces." The UN hasn�t begun to account for the stolen billions pumped into Baathist bank accounts and the toney coffers of European luxury goods suppliers. Oil For Food kept Saddam and his killers living like Hollywood stars while Shia children starved. bq. A similar evil game of elite ritz amidst mass starvation continues in east Asia, except a wag might call North Korea�s shakedown "Food For Fallout." While Kim Jong Il�s strange little Stalinist clique trumpets the development of nuclear weapons, 2.7 million of its citizens face imminent starvation. Last week the World Food Program cut food aid to North Korea because of a lack of foreign donations. bq. The second round of multi-lateral "six-nation" negotiations intended to remove North Korea�s nuclear fangs as well as resolve what is the world�s worst humanitarian crisis begins next month. North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US are engaged in an dangerous diplomatic waltz. The only certainties surrounding the negotiations are Japanese and South Korean fear, increasing Chinese and American frustration, and North Korean brinkmanship. bq. North Korea�s stone-broke police state is a sad reminder of the Soviet Union�s Cold War legacy of guns, guns, and more guns but damn little butter. In the early 1980s the USSR attempted nuclear blackmail in Europe by deploying mobile ballistic missiles. The goal was to crack NATO. The political blackmail bid failed when the Reagan Administration countered by deploying American theater ballistic and cruise missiles to Europe. NATO didn�t crack and the Cold War�s endgame began in earnest. The failure of the Soviet hardliners� bullyboy strategy gave modernizers (like Mikhail Gorbachev) a chance. Their glasnost and perestroika policies recognized Communism�s grotesque failure to provide butter. bq. They couldn�t reform Communism or save the USSR. However, the Cold War ended with a whimper, not a nuclear bang. South Korea had hoped for a similar break in the North Korean regime, but if there�s a modernizer in Pyongyang he�s in prison or awaiting execution. Kim Jong-Il is running an extortion racket. His North Korean totalitarian police state is a totalitarian crime state. Various criminal enterprises insure its Communist elites have plenty to eat. In 2003, Australia seized a North Korean freighter packed with heroin. The ship sported expanded fuel tanks for long-distance operations. The bust proved smuggling smack is a North Korean state policy, providing cash for Kim�s caviar. bq. Nuclear weapons, of course, are Kim�s big stick. The scam goes like this: Pay us off and we won't make bombs. That was the deal Pyongyang offered the Clinton administration in 1994. The United States hoped that meeting North Korea's basic energy and food requirements would ultimately reduce belligerency. However, North Korea made bombs anyway. North Korea calls its latest negotiating gambit "the order of simultaneous action." Pyongyang will "renounce nuclear intentions" if Washington resumes food aid. The US must also provide "written security assurances." This is still "pay us, then we behave." Steven DenBeste wrote about the need to have many nations negotiating with North Korea - his articles are here, here and here. He has a lot more to say - searching his website for North Korea results in 82 hits...

Interesting article regarding China's military

From Brookes News comes this sobering article: bq. China's military and Sun Tzu: What every American should know bq. The Chinese military is extremely nationalistic in the worst possible way. There seems to be little doubt that China sees Asia and the Pacific region as its own special sphere of influence, an interest threatened by a powerful American presence. bq. This is common knowledge in the intelligence community. For example, Al Santoli, an analyst at the American Foreign Policy Council, went public with it several years ago. Clinton was even briefed on the Chinese military's ambitions and nationalistic fervor � and a fat lot of good it did. bq. As one insider sighed: "He doesn't seem to care." And this is why he allowed so much advanced technology with powerful military applications to casually pass into Chinese hands. Imagine the tragic consequences for Britain if Chamberlain had allowed its radar technology to be sold to Nazi Germany so he could fatten his political war-chest. And yet, that is exactly what Clinton did. And more (they were talking about Germany's 1930's military activities with Russia): bq. Strip this sorry story to the bare bones and we find a similar tale unfolded under the Clinton administration. The administration's attitude toward Beijing is strikingly similar to that of Moscow's toward Berlin up to June 22, 1941. It too was a one-way street, with the ironic exception of tank design. bq. The Germans learned all they needed to know about the Red Army and its capability. That knowledge almost lost Europe to Nazi barbarism. But the Clinton kindergarten rabble, stuck in its '60s time warp, was unable to comprehend any of this. To their mentality, there is no history, there is only the moment � nothing else counts. This is why it found nothing wrong with selling out to the Chinese military, of making arrangements that endangered national security. Not covered in this article is the Clinton administration allowing China to have control over the Port facilities of the Panama Canal by awarding the HongKong company "Hutchison Whampoa" a 25-year contract for Port Operations at both ends of the Canal. Plus, I bet if Haliburton had won the contract, the left would be up in arms... And more: bq. About 2,500 years ago, SunTzu wrote what is probably the world's oldest military manual. Every Chinese officer has studied it. He began with the statement: "The art of war is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin." This is what the likes of Bismarck and Seeckt thought and it is what the Chinese military think for no militaristic state can think otherwise. This is what he said of leaders: "The general (commander in chief) is the bulwark of the state. If the bulwark is complete at all points, the state will be strong. If the bulwark is defective, the state will be weak." bq. Just try comparing Clinton, or any of the current crop of presidential wannabes, with Truman or Eisenhower. The next quote was definitely written for Democrats: "By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army, he causes restlessness among the troops." Considering how China is eying the vibrant economy of Taiwan, this is a good article to be reading and thinking about... Who we elect this next time around will lay the foundation for America's presence in the world for a long long time.

Election 2004 Projections

This website makes a running prediction of which state will carry which political party. Red is Republican, Blue is Democrat. Check it out here (grin)

Poll backs grizzly recovery

From the Bellingham Herald comes this wonderful story: bq. A majority of residents who live east of Highway 9 in Whatcom and Skagit counties support efforts to increase the grizzly bear populations in the North Cascades, according to a telephone survey sponsored by the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project. bq. Fifty-two percent of 508 residents in the region said they were highly supportive of increasing grizzly bear populations and 24 percent expressed moderate support. bq. And 33 percent of residents said they would be even more supportive if additional grizzlies were moved into the North Cascades from other areas, according to the survey results. bq. Those results were a surprise, especially since efforts at reintroduction of other species in Western states have met tremendous resistance from nearby residents, said Jim Davis, co-director of the project. bq. "There were anecdotal stories that say people don't mind the bears, they mind the government and when they start bringing in bears," Davis said. bq. There are currently no plans by the U.S. government to move grizzlies into the North Cascades from other areas. But the Canadian government has proposed adding five grizzlies each year for five years into the Manning Park area, just north of Ross Lake in Whatcom County. bq. Highway 9 borders the 9,500 square miles, including all of North Cascades National Park, that's been deemed a "recovery" area for the grizzly bear when they were listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List in 1975. Only 10 percent of the area is privately owned. I had mentioned before that Jen and I recently purchased some land in this area. We were up last weekend and were serenaded one evening by several families of coyotes. Living close to the wilderness reminds you of how we fit into the grand scheme of things. Cities like Los Angeles and New York are the aberrations, not the norm.

Lab challenges usual theory on mad cow...

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer: bq. At the eastern edge of the Bitterroot Mountains, a craggy range of peaks that defines the border between Idaho and Montana, is a lab full of skeptics who don't hold with the majority scientific consensus on mad cow disease. bq. They are world-class researchers on these kinds of diseases, categorically called "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" -- or TSEs. bq. Some of these diseases have been recognized for a long time, but they captured wide public attention only when it appeared -- first in Britain -- that the disease could get passed on to people who eat beef from a cow with this type of brain infection, which eats holes in the brain. And more: bq. Most of the scientists here at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, accept that this kind of "cross-species" transfer of a TSE can, on rare occasions, take place. They were some of the first to show it, in fact, in experimental animals. bq. But try to make any other simple statement of fact about mad cow or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CJD, and you will encounter a stubborn refusal to let you move even one step beyond the evidence. bq. "These diseases are real, fundamental scientific mysteries," said Dr. Byron Caughey, a biochemist searching for drug compounds to combat TSEs. "We don't really know how they work. ... We only know enough to say they're weird." And more: bq. The diseases are weird because a misshapen protein appears to spread the infection by causing other proteins in the brain to warp as well. Other kinds of infections, by viruses or bacteria, require transfer of genetic material. Proteins don't do that. bq. And the scientific inquiry is made more complicated by the fact that this infectious protein process has never been successfully demonstrated in the many laboratory attempts to prove it. bq. Evidence for the infectious protein theory has been indirect, based mostly on the injection of infected brain tissue into laboratory animals watched for later signs of disease. bq. "All these diseases are diagnosed based on the presence of these abnormal proteins" in the brain, said Dr. Susan Priola, another Rocky Mountain Labs scientist working on developing vaccines against TSEs. bq. It is still possible, Priola said, that these bad proteins are a product of viral or bacterial infection -- possibly the real cause of mad cow, scrapie or other TSEs. Although it is possible to fight an infectious disease without knowing its ultimate cause, she said, generally it's a good idea to find the primary infectious agent. bq. "Everybody says no virus or bacteria has ever been found, but really nobody is looking for it anymore," Priola said. "It's difficult to get funding for such a project." This is a complex issue - it has gotten a lot of publicity despite the fact that nobody died from vCJD last year but yet 555 people contracted Hepatitis A and three people died from eating Green Onions. Standard CJD is scary but it is not related to Mad Cow - it affects older people and has a very rapid onset. vCJD which has an anecdotal connection to Mad Cow affects much younger people and has a slow onset.

Endoscope technology

Very cool advance in Endoscope technology (these are the flexible tubes of optical fibers or lenses that allow you to view inside spaces that are not otherwise accessible - Endoscopes are used for surgery and for inspecting inside machinery) Some researchers in Australia have come up with a design that uses a single optical fiber. From an article in the New Scientist magazine: bq. A new endoscope, made of a single optical fiber just half a millimeter wide, could one day help doctors avoid obstructions during cochlear implant surgery. The implants are designed to restore hearing to deaf patients but cannot always be fitted because of unexpected obstructions in the inner ear. The endoscope could also be used to peer inside other narrow structures such as blood vessels. And more: bq. So a team of photonics experts led by Martijn van Eijkelenborg of the Australian Photonics Cooperative Research Centre at the University of Sydney turned to "holey fibers", a technology that could provide critical connectors in the optical computers of the future.

Death Stick Hammers

A new tool company is making a line of hammers with an attitude. Here is their website. I love the comment: bq. "Unlike the company's founder the hammer is well balanced."

Thermal Silver

When one installs a CPU into a motherboard, a heat sink is a necessary item. With today's technologies and processing speeds, a chip the size of your thumbnail can dissipate the same heat as a 60 Watt light-bulb. This heat has to go somewhere or the chip will melt... The connection between the large finned aluminum or copper block that is the heat sink and the small ceramic square that is the CPU is facilitated by some heat-sink-grease. Recently, the use of metallic silver in this grease has become a popular thing - silver being extra-ordinarily heat conductive. Unfortunately, some of the "silver" greases have little or no metallic silver in them. Overclockers.com has an excellent review of the top brands: bq. I decided to test Arctic Silver 5, Arctic Silver 3, OCZ Ultra II Premium Silver Compound, and CompUSA Silver Thermal Grease. This test was not conducted to test performance, but rather to determine if these compounds have Silver as an ingredient. bq. All Testing was done twice, once on a jeweler's acid free 'Black stone', and the test was repeated on paper. The testing solution was Nitric acid and Muriatic acid that was pre-mixed professionally. bq. The tests produced some very disturbing results: bq. OCZ Ultra II Premium Silver compound and the CompUSA Silver Thermal Grease has ZERO silver in it. And more: bq. Arctic Silver 3 and Arctic Silver 5 were also tested and both produced a blood red color, indicating 90% - 100% purity of Silver in both Arctic Silver 3 and Arctic Silver 5. Arctic Silver's claim of, "Contains 99.9% pure silver" by my testing is accurate and of the compounds tested, only Arctic Silver products produced results showing that Silver is in fact present. Arctic Silver is what I have always used and it works really well - just a small amount - grain of rice spread over the entire surface as thin as possible.

Saudis 'kidnap reformist prince'

Interesting news from the BBC One of the more liberal Saudi Princes commented on how reform would be a good idea. This Prince (Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdel-Aziz - a grandson of Saudi Arabia's first king) was attending a conference in Davos Switzerland and: bq. Prince Sultan bin Turki bin Abdel-Aziz says he was lured to a meeting in Geneva, where he was drugged before being flown back to the desert kingdom. bq. The prince says he is currently under house arrest in the capital, Riyadh. bq. The claims come at an awkward time for the ruling family, amid growing internal calls for change. And more: bq. Speaking to the BBC from his home in Riyadh - where he says he is in poor health and under house arrest - he described what happened in June, when, he says, two Saudi ministers lured him to a meeting in Geneva. bq. Five masked men came in and kidnapped and drugged him. bq. When he regained consciousness he discovered he had been transported back to Saudi Arabia, where he spent several weeks in hospital. bq. Public rifts in the Saudi ruling family are relatively rare - but the prince's branch of the family has been in trouble before. bq. His father, Prince Turki bin Abdel-Aziz - a brother of the country's ailing monarch, King Fahd - moved to Cairo after a falling-out with senior princes. bq. His son's allegations come at an awkward time for the ruling House of Saud, as it attempts to crush Islamic militants thought to be linked to al-Qaeda - and to meet growing demands for political and economic reform. To quote the last paragraph: " allegations come at an awkward time for the ruling House of Saud, as it attempts to crush Islamic militants thought to be linked to al-Qaeda - and to meet growing demands for political and economic reform " OK - so they are trying to introduce reform but then they kidnap one of their own because this person talks publicly about reform? Someone is not serious and someone is in for a very big surprise. If the Royals were serious about bringing their country into the modern world, if the Royals were serious about caring for their citizens, they could still do all of this and still maintain the trappings of power they now have - the people would be grateful for the openness, caring and progress. As it stands now, people are seeing what is happening in other places, craving some of this. Also, there is enough discontent that the al-Qaeda cult can gain foothold. What does that say about the government...

Night of the long knives at Kodak

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Eastman Kodak announced today that it was cutting up to 15,000 jobs as it shifts away from the shrinking film market. DP Review quotes a Reuters press release: bq. Eastman Kodak Co. Thursday said it would cut as many as 15,000 jobs and take charges of up to $1.7 billion over the next three years as it works through a painful shift toward digital products and away from the waning film market. bq. The photography company, whose shares soared to their highest level in seven months in early trading, also announced an 83 percent decline in fourth-quarter net income. However, excluding one-time charges, the profit beat Wall Street views. bq. "Previous administrations have had problems with carrying out plans, but this is the first time that there is a level of seriousness that merits attention," said Chris Carosa, whose firm advises the Bullfinch Western New York Series Fund. bq. However, after an investors meeting in New York, some analysts were more guarded. With Kodak set to write off so many costs -- including up to $400 million this year -- before its transformation ends in 2006, they say it will be hard to accurately judge Kodak's performance. The have already laid off 22,000 people - it's work force has gone from 86,000 in 1998 down to 64,000 in 2003. In perspective, Microsoft has about 50,000 people working at it's Redmond, WA location and it's 4th quarter income for 2003 was $10.15 Billion Kodak's was $19 Million for the same 4th quarter. Microsoft stock prices here Kodak stock prices here

It's this waaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyy

From CNN: bq. Britain's biggest-selling hiking magazine apologized Wednesday after its latest issue contained a route that would lead climbers off the edge of a cliff on Britain's tallest peak. bq. The February edition of Trail magazine gives advice to walkers caught in bad weather on Ben Nevis in Scotland about how to make a safe descent. bq. But the magazine's directions would instead lead readers off the north face of the 4,406-feet (1,322-meter) mountain, which is notorious for its changeable weather and has claimed the lives of several climbers. bq. Guy Procter, the editor of Trail, acknowledged the magazine had inadvertently erased the first of two crucial bearings needed to get off the summit. He said that happened during the editing process. bq. "I'm quite gutted at this mistake because we print up to 200 of these routes a year, and this is the first time we've got it wrong," said Procter. bq. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland issued an alert on its Web site about the mistake. bq. "Getting off Ben Nevis is probably one of the most infamous navigational tasks in the British Isles," said council spokesman Roger Wild. Describing the mistake in the magazine, he said, "Anyone following that route in poor visibility and with snow cover could easily have walked straight off the edge." Ben Nevis webcams are available here DOH! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (splat)
There has been a lot of reporting on how the Mars Rover is having communications problems. The cause may be as simple as weather. From the Australian newspaper The Age comes the story of a thunderstorm and a tracking station. bq. A thunderstorm near Canberra has upset the schedule for NASA's Mars rover Spirit, disrupting communications at the Tidbinbilla tracking station. bq. The ACT's wild Wednesday weather was reported around the world yesterday as NASA was forced to give its six-wheeled explorer a rest on its 18th day on the red planet. bq. Tidbinbilla is one of three stations in NASA's Deep Space Network. The others are in Spain and California. The stations are spaced so that constant communication with spacecraft is maintained as Earth rotates. bq. It was Tidbinbilla's turn to talk to the rover on Wednesday from 9.15pm to 9.45pm, when NASA was sending its daily instructions. The storm weakened the signal, which takes nearly 10 minutes to travel the 170 million kilometres to Mars. bq. "There was lightning, there was rain and thunderstorm in Canberra . . . the signal strength was not able to be received by the rover; we were not able to transmit the command to the rover," said Mars rover mission manager Jennifer Trosper. "The rover continues to run on yesterday's master sequence. So not a lot of science was done today." There is a wonderful movie which came out in 2000 called The Dish. It is the story of one of these radio telescopes and its use during the Apollo Moon Landing. Delightful film - hard do describe - IMDB puts it as a 'regional comedy' but it has a lot of science in there too. Worth renting if you are looking for something fun.

Building a Mini-Edgerton for $40

You probably have seen the stop-motion photos of bullets passing through apples, playing cards, light bulbs, etc... taken by 'Doc.' Edgerton at MIT. The equipment needed to take these photos is dificult to use, requires very high voltages and is (if bought commercially) quite expensive. Some students at MIT have been having some great results with less than $40 worth of parts, some scrounging and a bucket full of ingenuity. Their results can be seen here Doc. would have approved!

U.S. Mulling Hizbullah strikes...

From DefenseTech: bq. Could the U.S. be planning covert attacks against terrorists in Lebanon? Jane's Intelligence Digest (subscription only) thinks so: bq. US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld is considering plans to expand the global war on terrorism with multi-pronged attacks against suspected militant bases in countries such as Lebanon and Somalia... bq. Sending US troops into lawless Somalia would not be new, nor is it likely to cause serious diplomatic waves. Covert US forces have periodically infiltrated the country over the past two years in order to conduct surveillance and even snatch [Al Qaeda] suspects... bq. However, sending US special forces into Lebanon - and in particular an area like the Bekaa Valley (which is virtually Syrian territory) and where the bulk of Damascus' military forces in Lebanon are deployed - would be an entirely different matter. Deployment of US forces in the area would almost certainly involve a confrontation with Syrian troops. bq. That may well prove to be the objective, since the Bush administration is currently stepping up pressure on the Damascus regime in a bid to force it to cut off all support for radical Palestinian groups which have been targeting Israel during the three-year-old intifada. Washington also wants Syria to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon, a virtual satellite since Syria moved in with tacit US support in 1990 as part of a strategy to end Lebanon's civil war. bq. The US administration has long considered Damascus as a prime candidate for 'regime-change' (along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and possibly even Saudi Arabia). Syria, once a powerhouse of Arab radicalism that could not be ignored, has been seriously weakened, both militarily and politically. Washington may feel that the time is coming to oust Bashir Al-Assad and the ruling generals. Targeting Syria via Lebanon, the only concrete political influence Damascus has to show following decades of radical diplomacy, could prove to be a means to that end... bq. Moreover, since the 11 September 2001 attacks, Washington has been keen to prove that Hizbullah has a global reach, and is thus a legitimate target for its war on terrorism. Thus far, US intelligence services have been unable to produce compelling evidence supporting this claim. So instead of launching military strikes, the Bush administration has sought to weaken Hizbullah by putting pressure on Iran, the movement's ideological mentor, and on Syria, which has used the Shia militants as what amounts to a proxy force against Israel over the last 20 years... bq. Washington's own focus on Hizbullah has intensified amid claims that the movement has links with Al-Qaeda (even though Hizbullah is staunchly Shia, while Al-Qaeda's religious ideology stems from the puritanical Wahhabite sect of Sunni Islam). Whether there is any actual operational alliance between Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda remains highly questionable This is very good news. There have been credible reports that the truck convoys seen traveling from Iraq to the Beka'a valley in the weeks prior to the Coalition (covered here) were carrying Saddam's WMDs and that these were buried to discourage discovery. There is also the information (covered here and here) about how various fundamentalist nations are building components of nuclear devices and then shipping them to countries who wish to assemble them. This way, a country such as Malaysia can build centrifuges and can ship them to terrorist sponsors such as (in this case) Libya. It is only our continued presence there that can get the attention of the leaders of these countries and persuade them not to sponsor terrorist groups. Not to give them a place to hide.

New Hampshire - HOUSE BILL 1342-FN-A-LOCAL

Now this is an odd bit of legislation: bq. HOUSE BILL 1342-FN-A-LOCAL AN ACT establishing a new system of coinage for the state. SPONSORS: Rep. McElroy, Hills 61; Rep. Ingbretson, Graf 13; Rep. Itse, Rock 80 bq. 1 Purpose. The United States Congress has relinquished its responsibilities that were delegated to it by New Hampshire and the other sovereign states. These delegated responsibilities are recorded in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution. The responsibilities the Federal government has relinquished are those of minting money and setting the value thereof. Currently the United States Congress has relinquished its minting responsibility by having delegated this responsibility to a foreign controlled power. Therefore, in this legislation New Hampshire is taking back its sovereign right to mint and set the value of our money to ensure that our money is lawful and is compliant with our constitutions. Other states are considering this same course of action. bq. 2 State Coin Mint. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary: bq. I. The State of New Hampshire shall mint and introduce into circulation gold and silver coins of the State of New Hampshire in the face amount of $50,000,000. The coins shall contain one ounce of fine gold or silver, must be alloyed to 90 percent fineness and must bear the great seal of the state of New Hampshire on one side and the words "Contains One Troy Ounce Fine Gold" or "Contains One Troy Ounce Fine Silver", as applicable; "New Hampshire Legal Tender"; the year of issue and "In God We Trust" on the other side. On the edge of the gold coins will be the raised image of New Hampshire and on the edge of the silver coins will be raised lines. The raised edges aid in stopping the practice of coin shaving. The raised images also facilitate blind people being able to determine the coin denomination in their hands. The coins so minted shall be legal money for all debts, public and private, in New Hampshire and as agreed to with other states and countries. bq. II. Except as otherwise provided in this section, when the coins authorized by paragraph I are received by the state treasury, they must be put into circulation immediately. The coins must not be held as a reserve except as the New Hampshire general court otherwise directs. bq. III. If the number of coins subject to the control of the state treasurer diminishes to 500,000, the state of New Hampshire shall mint additional money in accordance with paragraph I, in the face amount of $50,000,000, unless the total face value of the coins already minted is $500,000,000, in which case the state of New Hampshire shall mint no further money without prior approval of the New Hampshire general court. bq. IV. If the New Hampshire general court representing the residents of New Hampshire, with all the other states, determines that the Congress of the United States is once again fulfilling its constitutional obligation to legally, lawfully, and appropriately, as defined by the United States Constitution, following acceptable economic practices, coin money directly and not by delegation to some other group or organization like the Federal Reserve, the Congress shall, once again, be required to meet the following monetary requirements before New Hampshire will again give up its right to coin money and return it conditionally to the Congress: bq. (a) Require the Federal Reserve to exchange all the Federal Reserve Notes in circulation with gold or silver equivalents; bq. (b) Retire all of the Federal Reserve notes; and bq. (c) Retire all the United States national debt accumulated in the Federal Reserve books because of the nefarious interest the country is charged by the Federal Reserve for the fraudulent and questionable extortion practices as measured by every economic measure. bq. 3 Effective Date. This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage. ???

Victor Davis Hanson

Once again, Victor Davis Hanson weighs in with some excellent commentary. This time it's about George W. Bush's State of the Union speech and comparing it with the Presidential Election of 1864: bq. The Election of 1864 Advantage: Commander-in-chief. bq. The standing ovation for the chairman of the interim Iraqi Governing Council, the systematic refutation of all the tired canards � "unilateralism," "preemption," and "hubris" � praise and admiration for Afghans, the peroration about the historic times we are in and the promise to press on, all this was Trumanesque, delivered in Tuesday night's State of the Union Address with spirit and without apology. Even Mr. Bush's sterner maxims � "They declared war on the United States � and war is what they got" � were more majestic than haughty. No apologies, no going back, no regrets, no boasting. bq. In reaction, the tortured expressions of a Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton were testament to the strength of his message, and the accompanying fear that the president's words could only have a powerful effect in reminding Americans that they should be proud of their sacrifice and idealism as they see the war and its aftermath through. All this was a sad contrast to this week's senseless furor of Howard Dean, the weird convolutions of Wesley Clark, and the empty platitudes of John Kerry. We are learning that this bunch appears either frantic or puerile precisely because they still don't grasp that by any historical standard the American military's record in Afghanistan and Iraq has been phenomenal, and the Sisyphean task of implanting democracy amid autocracy the moral act of our age. All this Mr. Bush articulated more than well � and rightly so for without him it would all in fact have been impossible. Read the whole thing...
From Newsday.com (Associated Press): bq. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait signaled they would forgive some of the billions of dollars owed to them by Iraq as President Bush's envoy pressed Arab nations to reduce Iraq's debt. bq. But both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait said they would only reach debt reduction deals with a sovereign Iraqi government. Neither country said how much debt they would forgive. Still this is a start and we are and have always been planning to have a sovereign Iraqi government in place by mid-2004. bq. In Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met with former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and told him the kingdom was willing to reduce the debt. bq. But he said Saudi Arabia would do so only once there is a "legitimate, elected Iraqi government" and only if "Saudi companies are allowed to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq," Saudi officials said on condition of anonymity. Ahhh - that wouldn't be the Bin Laden Construction Company now would it? The irony would be a bit much. bq. Baker is traveling around the world on behalf of Bush to appeal for Iraqi debt forgiveness, which Washington wants in order to give a boost to the country's recovery efforts after the toppling of Saddam's regime. Iraq owes about $40 billion to the so-called Paris Club of major creditor nations and $80 billion to Arab governments. And this debt of $40B was to be paid off with Oil - to the creditors - Total Fina Elf (France) and Lukoil (Russia). And these countries were among the most vocal in their efforts to block the Coalition from going into Iraq. So it was about the Oil after all... bq. Kuwait "will seek with other countries to achieve an effective reduction in the Iraqi debts this year, on condition (it) would be approved by (Iraq's) constitutional institutions," the Kuwaiti state news agency quoted Sheik Sabah as saying. bq. The Gulf nation of Qatar said it would forgive most of the $4 billion Iraq owes it and "will consider forgiving all the debts at an appropriate time," a Foreign Minisitry official said, quoted by the official Qatar News Agency said. bq. The Emirates told Baker on Tuesday it was willing to forgive most of Iraq's $3.8 billion debt. A number of European and Asian Countries have made similar concessions. This is very cool - James Baker is the right person at the right place. Good job!

Death of the Cork

Odd little website dedicated to the Wine Cork and it's demise (pictures of the funeral are available for viewing). This actually makes a lot of sense since good corks are expensive and cheap corks leave the wine susceptible to all sorts of contamination if the bottle is not stored properly. A good cork can cost as much as $1.00, cheap corks are still in the 30-40 cent range and when you consider that the bottle costs about a 70 cents to a buck (including label), this adds up... The cost to manufacture the wine is actually cheaper to the vineyard than the cost of the bottle and cork.

Dumb Citizen

Not a dumb criminal, more of a sitting duck... From the New York Post comes the story of Jack Whittaker who made U.S. history as the richest undivided lottery jackpot winner when he won Powerball in December 2002. He won $314.9 million, but opted to collect $113 million as a lump-sum payment. From the article: bq. Jack Whittaker may be worth untold millions, but there's one problem the Powerball king's cash can't solve: How to stop getting ripped off. bq. Cops in West Virginia say a thief shattered a window on Whittaker's locked sports utility vehicle outside his home and made off with a bank bag containing $100,000 in cash. And more: bq. In August, a strip-club manager and his girlfriend were charged with drugging Whittaker and stealing a briefcase containing more than $500,000. And more: bq. And while he really doesn't have a worry in the world, the 56-year-old contractor who lives in the tiny rural town of Scott Depot has become a sitting duck for crooks. Let's see - Mapquest puts Scott Depot right here Heeeeyyyy dude - remember me??? Memo to Jack - start carrying a credit card - ix-nay on the ash-kay...

The Roadmap to Peace

From Little Green Footballs comes this story: bq. The latest report on Palestinian Arab Violations of Roadmap contains an eye-opening statistic: bq. During the first 38 weeks since the Road Map was issued, there have been a total of at least 954 Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks or attempted attacks, in which 140 people were murdered and 743 wounded. (Emphasis mine) From the report linked: bq. On June 24, 2002, President Bush set forth the conditions that the Palestinian Arabs must fulfill in order to merit U.S. support for the creation of a Palestinian Arab state. Among the major obligations are that the Palestinian Arabs must "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure," "end incitement," "elect new leaders not compromised by terror," and unequivocally embrace democracy and free market economics. None of those conditions were fulfilled. And more: bq. The PA's official "Palestine Media Center" reported on January 15, 2004 that PA Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath said the PA "is capable to stop all anti-Israeli attacks provided the Israelis reciprocate in kind." In fact, the Road Map requires the PA to stop all attacks regardless of Israeli "reciprocation." Despite that requirement, attacks continued: The article is fairly long, citing detail by detail, week by week but it is damning to those who look at terrorism as a few isolated events.

Nuclear weapons and terrorism - UPDATE

Update from yesterday's entry comes more from The Belmont Club: bq. A Dutch parliamentary inquiry is being conducted into the transfer of uranium enrichment technology from the Dutch company Urenco to Pakistani A-bomb developer Abdul Qadeer Khan, who worked for the firm in the 1970s. bq. Evidence of Pakistan's possible role in transferring centrifuge technology emerged last summer when inspectors from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency uncovered an extensive enrichment program in Iran based on Urenco's designs. After several inspections and protracted negotiations with the agency, Iran conceded in November that it had received centrifuge drawings and components from several middlemen, including Pakistanis, according to diplomats.Pakistan drew suspicion again last month after Libya announced that it was abandoning its development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and opened its doors to inspectors from the United States, Britain and the IAEA. Diplomats said in recent interviews that IAEA inspectors had been shown two types of centrifuge equipment in Libya. They said the equipment was clearly based on the designs of the Dutch unit of Urenco and its German affiliate. bq. All kinds of squirmy things are being found under rocks the Bush administration has kicked over, which in the opinion of the peace lobby amount to nothing, but which on the contrary, exceed the worst stated fears: a virtual WMD manufacturing industry. Don't worry boys, there are no raptors in the cave. Just several thousand harmless-looking striped eggs. More from the Salt Lake Tribune article linked to above: bq. Two government ministers in the Netherlands acknowledged Monday that highly sensitive nuclear technology developed by a Dutch company may have been transferred to Libya and North Korea along with Iran and Pakistan. bq. The disclosure in Parliament in Amsterdam marked the first public confirmation of assertions that centrifuge technology for enriching uranium apparently found its way to Libya and North Korea. And one more: bq. After several inspections and protracted negotiations with the agency, Iran conceded in November that it had received centrifuge drawings and components from several middlemen, including Pakistanis, according to diplomats.Pakistan drew suspicion again last month after Libya announced that it was abandoning its development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and opened its doors to inspectors from the United States, Britain and the IAEA.

The EU is waking up

Hat tip Instapundit Glen links to a story in the U.K Financial Times regarding the EU 'failure' to overtake the US as the world's leading economy by 2010. From the Times: bq. The Commission's spring report, the focal point of the March European Union economic summit, sets out in stark terms the reasons for the widening economic gap between Europe and the US. bq. It cites Europe's low investment, low productivity, weak public finances and low employment rates as among the many reasons for its sluggish performance. bq. The draft report, to be published by the Commission today, warns that without substantial improvements "the Union cannot catch up on the United States, as our per capita GDP is 72 per cent of our American partner's". bq. It was four years ago in Lisbon that EU leaders, enthralled by the technology boom, proclaimed their intention to overhaul the US as the world's "most competitive, knowledge-based economy" by 2010. Yeah... Right... And more: bq. The report blames low overall European productivity on a lack of investment and poor use of information technology, and warns that China and India are becoming key competitors. bq. Europe's low employment rate, especially among workers aged over 55, is described as "worrying indeed", while it is deemed unlikely that the EU will meet its employment rate target of 67 per cent by 2005. bq. "At the same time, several strategic measures to increase our competitiveness have not got off the ground because of a lack of political will," the report says. Always meetings and reports in Old Europe, seldom action and results...

Weinberg's "Golden Lessons"

Thoughtful article in Derek Lowe's In the Pipeline blog regarding Science and people starting out in Scientific careers. bq. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg had a piece back in the Nov. 27 Nature (p. 389) offering advice to people just starting their scientific careers. It's useful stuff, and the lessons aren't just for beginners, either. bq. His first of "Four Golden Lessons" is No one knows everything, and you don't have to. (This came from his early paralysis at not knowing the whole field of physics.) That one gets more true every year, as the pile of scientific knowledge increases. bq. Weinberg's second lesson is aim for rough water. Try to work in a field where things are contentious and unsettled - "go for the messes." There's still room for creativity there, as opposed to the more worked-out fields. bq. His third lesson is forgive yourself for wasting time. He classifies that as "probably the hardest to take" of his lessons. This is a consequence of the go-for-the-messes advice, and will be most applicable to those that have followed it. What he means is that it can be very hard to know if you're working on something that's even solvable, or if you're working on the right problem at all. bq. Weinberg's final lesson is learn something about the history of science. The least important reason to do that, he says, is that it might help out your research. To use his example, without knowing the historical record, you might come to believe that Thomas Kuhn or Karl Popper really understood how science works. But the larger reason is that an appreciation for history puts your work in perspective. Weinberg believes, as I do, that science is one of the highest activities of civilization, and that we should be proud of our parts in it. A real discovery can live longer, and with greater impact, than almost any other human work. Wonderful words and not just applicable to Science...

Why digital cameras = better photographers

From BBC News comes a great introductory article on why Digital Cameras turn out better pictures than film cameras especially for beginning photographers. I switched from film (old Nikon F2 system) to digital (Nikon D1X) last year and would not go back. The immediate feedback, the freedom from cost of film, the versatility of post-exposure color balance and exposure adjustment (using the RAW file format), plus the convenience of working in a digital darkroom as opposed to a wet lab make the choice overwhelming. I have a few gripes - the camera is not as mechanically solid as my old Nikon F2's, I dropped it about 18" onto the sidewalk and it required about $1K in repair. Still, the current crop of film bodies (F5) have the same issues so this is more an issue of complexity than shoddy manufacture. Anyway, on the the BBC article: bq. Digital cameras don't only eliminate the cost and hassle of film processing, they should help do away with bad holiday snaps and see us all become better photographers. And more: bq. Having retrieved your photos from the chemist, you dart into a damp shop doorway and hurriedly rifle through the prints one by one, hoping to magically rekindle memories of a recent holiday. bq. And what do you get instead? A disappointing crop of pictures which bear little resemblance to the mental snap shots you filed away at the time. Exposure problems, poor focussing, bad composition, flash flare and "red eye" are the most common problems experienced by amateur snappers. And more: bq. While some professionals still swear by the quality of film over digital, the new format is taking over. As more and more holiday-makers pack a digital camera in their suitcase, disappointing pictures should become a thing of the past. They go on to give some examples. Good article for someone interested in getting a digital camera but not too sure what the differences are beyond the "numbers"...

China's economic growth and green elitists

Wonderful article in Brookes News regarding the views of 'Environmentalists' towards China's efforts at modernization. The article is by Peter Zhang: bq. Some Westerners, specially those with a distinct greenish hue, just cannot abide the thought of China raising its living standards to Western levels. They claim that Chinese growth will accelerate deforestation, degrade the environment and deplete natural resources. These are the same people who claim "people are a plague", when they really mean there are too many yellow, brown and black people for comfort � their comfort. And more: bq. To us, the greatest pollution problem facing China is mass poverty. When rich Western environmentalists like Clive Hamilton, director of the Australia Institute, and their fellow travelers in the media urge Third-World peasants to forgo the benefits of growth that these Westerners take for granted, they are actually trying to impose sacrifices on those who can least afford make to them. And I find that despicable. bq. Countries that have not accumulated enough capital to raise most of their peoples above the subsistence level have not sufficient capital for abundant clean water, or modern sanitation. To try and impose Western level environmental standards on them, for instance, is an act of green callousness masquerading as environmental concern. And more: bq. Most Westerners do not realize that their own societies went through a similar phase of heavy pollution during their nineteenth-century "take off" phase. I have to thank my economics editor for being good enough to draw my attention to Chateaubriand's impression of London as he approached it from Blackheath in 1822: bq. "...I saw before me the immense skullcap of smoke which covers the city of London. Plunging into the gulf of black mist, as if into one of the mouths of Tartarus, and crossing the whole town, whose streets I recognized, I arrived at the [French] embassy in Portland Place". Peter's article also has links to two other articles at the bottom of the page. These are worth looking into as well: Article #1) Growth, greens and living standards by Gerard Jackson Article #2) Green economic blueprint is a recipe for tyranny also by Gerard Jackson

Book Review being reviewed by author

David Frum and Richard Perle wrote a well-received book called: "An End to Evil, How to Win the War on Terror" It was reviewed by Michiko Kakutani of the NY (no bias here!) Times. Frum proceeded to read the review and write his comments in his column in the National Review. From the NY Times: bq. The title of this new book by David Frum and Richard Perle, "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror," says it all. It captures the authors' absolutist, Manichaean language and worldview; their cocky know-it-all tone; their swaggering insinuation that they know "how to win the war on terror" and that readers, the Bush administration and the rest of the world had better listen to them. Frum's comments: bq. Richard Perle & I take some pride in having done our bit to make Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times choke on her biscuit yesterday morning. When she reviewed THE RIGHT MAN last year, she complained � as much in sadness as in anger � that I had not lived up to the high standards set by my earlier work. (Her enthusiasm for the earlier work inexplicably went unexpressed at the time.) bq. This time there was no pretense of regret, but only inarticulate howling rage. There was no argument in the review, only a series of gesticulations: �Can you believe they said this? And THIS? And THIS??!!! Well we did say it, and we do believe it. bq. The greatest scholar of the Islamic world, Bernard Lewis, has brilliantly explained the roots of Muslim rage. He traces that rage to the failure of Muslim societies to adapt to the modern world. The people of these societies remember that they were once rich and powerful and important. Now they lag far behind � and they do not understand why. Rather than look inward at their own faults and failings, they have sought scapegoats in the world beyond their borders. bq. Can�t one see something similar at work in the mind of Michiko Kakutani? The brand of liberalism championed by her newspaper was once all-powerful in American cultural life. Over the past decade, that power has ebbed away � and since 9/11, the ebb has become a flood. The New York Times no longer decides what Americans will read and what Americans will think about what they read. Rather than look inward, they blame talk radio and the Internet and Fox TV. And when this ferocious reservoir of accumulated resentment encounters a new and contradictory idea � well it just boils over. (Emphasis mine) Frum and Perle have hit the nail on the head here - both with their insight into the origins of 'Muslim rage' and to the frustrated braying of the left. The Muslims need to integrate their society into this century and the citizens need to get some control over their government. The people who rule the Muslim nations are corrupt and venal for all of their protestations of sanctity and purity. They live in wealth while their citizens starve. The left felt they had a moral high-ground during the 60's and the Vietnam war. Many in the left were intrigued by writings from the Soviet and Chinese Communists. When that whole house of cards fell apart fifteen years ago, revealing itself for what it was -- a brutal corrupt murder machine (over 100,000,000 people killed) they have turned into a bunch of philosophically homeless Cassandras, warning against anything that catches their eye. Environmentalism, the USA's Imperialism, the Oiiilllll... the Jeeewwwssss... This time in our world, we need clear thinking and people who are unafraid to act. This is the time for action, not diplomacy because we have seen during the eight years of the Clinton administration that treating terrorism with diplomacy only begets more terrorism. Nobody wants to destroy the culture of the Muslims. We need to help them over the threshold and welcome them into this century as a full member of the human race.

Code RED for Mental Health officials

From Iowahawk comes a call for Mental Health practitioners in several states to be on the ready: bq. 'Code Red' for Mental Health Officials in NH and SC and OK and AZ and ND and NM! And CA and TX and NY! And SD and OR and WA and MI! And Washington, DC! YEAERGHHH! bq. Acting on "increased background chatter from unspecified intelligence assets," a multistate mental health task force has issued a Code Red alert for "New Hampshire, South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico! And California and Texas and New York! And South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan! And then Washington, D.C.! Yeaerghhh!" bq. Elliot Fajerstein, Director of the National Association of State Nutjob Control Officers, said that officials in affected states should be "vigilant and well stocked with tranquilizer darts and CO2 cartridges, and also megaphone collars." bq. Fajerstein also requested cooperation from the public, asking citizens in the targeted state list to be alert for "suspicious eye and vein bulges, demented happy screaming, and random fist pumping." One is reminded of the Steve Balmer "Dance Monkeyboy" video which is floating around the net...

EU Funds disappear

From Little Green Footballs comes the link to a story in This London Newspaper: bq. A TEAM of inspectors from OLAF, the European Union fraud office, is this week arriving in Jerusalem to investigate whether EU funds have been misdirected by the Palestinians. bq. The European fraud-busters come at a time when allegations are mounting of corruption in the Palestinian Authority. bq. Palestinian officials and employees of pressure groups in the West Bank and Gaza are accused of having systematically diverted foreign aid over recent years. bq. But the outcome of the OLAF investigation is by no means certain. bq. That's because European Union officials, orchestrated by EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, have repeatedly ignored the signs that millions of euros of taxpayers' money may be ending up in the wrong Palestinian pockets. bq. In the hope of strengthening ties with Yasser Arafat and the Arab world, EU leaders have proved remarkably reluctant to find out exactly how their aid money is spent. And more: bq. The EU has placed customs tariffs on Israeli goods produced in West Bank settlements. EU aid to Israel is not allowed to be used in the occupied territories. The time may have come for the EU to apply similar sanctions to the Palestinians. bq. Yasser Arafat is suspected of having been paying the salaries of terrorists from the e10m in monthly EU budget support for his civil service. bq. Patten's claims that the EU funds were minutely supervised by the IMF have been disputed by the IMF official responsible, Salaam Fayyad, now Palestinian finance minister. bq. An IMF report concluded that $900m was 'diverted' from the PA budget up to 2000. And more: bq. Former Palestinian cabinet minister Abdel Fattah Hamayel admits paying $40,000 per month 'living expenses' to those Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades gunmen not already employed by the Palestinian security forces. And more: bq. LAST week, lawyer Khader Shekirat was arrested by Palestinian police after the EU accused him of stealing $2m from LAW - the EU-funded Palestinian human rights group which he headed. And more: bq. Recently, the Palestinian NGO Network flatly refused to sign a pledge, requested by the American aid body USAID, that they will not 'provide material support or resources to any individual or entity that advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in or has engaged in terrorist activity'. And finally, a voice of reason: bq. The EU should consider a similar pledge - combined with concrete action - from the Palestinian NGOs and the Palestinian Authority government.

Nuclear weapons and terrorism

Very very excellent insight from Wretchard over at the Belmont Club. This one made me sit back in my seat and think for a while... He starts off citing an article in the Guardian: bq. The purchase of full centrifuges, either assembled or in parts, marks a radical departure in what is on offer on the black market, sources said. While it is not yet clear where Col Gadafy obtained the centrifuge systems, at least 1,000 machines, believed to have been made in Malaysia, were seized last October by the Italian authorities on a German ship bound for Libya. And more: bq. Knowledgeable sources said the centrifuges on board were "made-to-order" in Malaysia for Libya, based on designs directly or indirectly from Pakistan. Wretchard makes the following analysis: bq. Here, then is the question that Jeffrey Record's War College Paper (PDF file) fails to address when he argues that terrorism and rogue statehood are separable phenomena. If a group of nations or terrorist groups in combination, disperse the tasks of WMD manufacture and weapons delivery among themselves, then not a single one will technically constitute a "clear and present danger". Just as Malaysia, which "only" manufactures centrifuge parts is guilty of nothing, then surely a group of nations which together provide the componentry, funding or training facilities for a terrorist-assembled bomb should not be held to account if New York is destroyed. Every effort by an American administration to crack down on a rogue state, will by definition be legally unjustified, because there was no "actual" WMD capability. Only if the danger as a whole is apprehended can the threat be foreseen. Only if addressed as a whole can it be prevented. Much of the criticism directed against Operation Iraqi Freedom arose from the observation that few Iraqi chemical weapons were found in a ready-use state. This is taken as proof that the threat was inflated, or even concocted. Until one realizes that the discovery of componentry, rather than finished goods, means things are rather worse, not better. First, the existing nonproliferation treaties were not designed to deal with the distributed design, manufacture and use of WMDs. The data from Libya shows how the Islamic countries have worked around the limitations of the treaties. Second, they underscore the limits of the IAEA inspection process, which cannot ascribe a sinister intent to the manufacture of parts in isolation from those which they are intended to match in other countries. Third, it means the one terrible premise of the Three Conjectures is very to near to attainment: He then closes with this: bq. The Eye of the Enemy is no longer moving. He has come. I do hope that whomever is in the White House come next election will have the courage and insight to continue to place pressure on the terrorists.

6 of one / half-dozen of the other...

Hat tip Opinion Journal Interesting comment - a lot of people are dogpiling on President Bush for using a recess appointment to elevate Judge Charles Pickering to the appellate bench. (The appointment was blocked by a Democratic Filibuster even though 54 Senators had voted in favor of his appointment) The NY Times had an editorial excoriating Bush for this tactic. bq. President Bush has used the only avenue remaining to him to install Charles Pickering Sr. of Mississippi on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals: a recess appointment, which avoids the confirmation process. That recess appointments are a perfectly legal device used by other presidents in the past does not make this appointment any more palatable. Mr. Pickering is absolutely the wrong choice for one of the nation's most sensitive courts. It is curious to note that the NY Times also had an editorial in January 2001 praising President Clinton for doing the very same thing. bq. By appointing Roger Gregory to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit while Congress is in recess, President Clinton rightly moved to address two related problems � the shameful failure to integrate that appeals court and the refusal by Congress to consider judicial nominees with reasonable dispatch. Bias? Oh No Sir - We are the Media and we report fairly and without bias.

Light blogging today

Work and stuff - I'll resume this evening. Dave

One of our Blogroll has moved

Q and O has moved from blogspot (yech!!!) over to it's own spiffy domain running Movable Type (yeah!!!) Follow them over to here and wish them good luck in their new digs.

New release of AIDA32

If anyone out there is looking for a good program to inspect a computer and determine what applications are installed, what physical characteristics it has (RAM, Disks and space, CPU, etc...), you will know that there are a lot of fairly expensive programs that purport to do this. One of the best ones I have found is called AIDA32 and it's free! Personal users do not need to register, you can download and go. Commercial users do need to register but registration is free as well. They just released version 3.90 so their website is a bit busy but check back in a few days and you will be happy. The program is written by Tamas Miklos from Hungary.

Iowa roundup

The Command Post is doing an excellent job of keeping track of what's happening in Iowa this evening. For those unfamiliar with this site, it's a collaborative weblog started when the war in Iraq was starting. It has since branched out into various segments, War on Terror, Editorials, Iraq, etc... Worth visiting on a regular basis.


Great link from Instapundit. Glen links to an article in The Weekly Standard on "Nine reasons why we never sent our Special Operations Forces after al Qaeda before 9/11. " Pretty damning stuff - here are a couple of quotes from the article: bq. One president after another has invested resources to hone lethal "special mission units" for offensive--that is, preemptive--counterterrorism strikes, with the result that these units are the best of their kind in the world. While their activities are highly classified, two of them--the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Team 6--have become the stuff of novels and movies. bq. Prior to 9/11, these units were never used even once to hunt down terrorists who had taken American lives. Putting the units to their intended use proved impossible--even after al Qaeda bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, bombed two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, and nearly sank the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. As a result of these and other attacks, operations were planned to capture or kill the ultimate perpetrators, Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, but each time the missions were blocked. A plethora of self-imposed constraints--I call them showstoppers--kept the counterterrorism units on the shelf. And more: bq. By early November, I had the go-ahead for the study. Our question had acquired urgency: Why, even as al Qaeda attacked and killed Americans at home and abroad, were our elite counterterrorism units not used to hit back and prevent further attacks? That was, after all, their very purpose, laid out in the official document "Special Operations in Peace and War" (1996). To find the answer, I interviewed civilian and military officials, serving and retired, at the center of U.S. counterterrorism policy and operational planning in the late 1980s and 1990s. bq. They included senior members of the National Security Council's Counterterrorism and Security Group, the interagency focal point for counterterrorism policy. In the Pentagon, I interviewed the top leaders of the offices with counterterrorism responsibility, as well as second-tier professionals, and their military counterparts in the Joint Staff. Finally, the U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for planning and carrying out counterterrorism strikes, and I interviewed senior commanders who served there during the 1990s. bq. Some were willing to speak on the record. Others requested anonymity, which I honored, in order to put before the top leadership of the Pentagon the detailed report from which this article is drawn. My findings were conveyed to the highest levels of the Department of Defense in January 2003. He then goes into the nine reasons why the US Special Forces weren't let loose to combat terrorism: bq. #1. Terrorism as Crime During the second half of the 1980s, terrorism came to be defined by the U.S. government as a crime, and terrorists as criminals to be prosecuted. bq. #2. Not a Clear and Present Danger or War Since terrorism had been classified as crime, few Pentagon officials were willing to call it a clear and present danger to the United States--much less grounds for war. Any attempt to describe terrorism in those terms ran into a stone wall. bq. #3. The Somalia Syndrome In the first year of his presidency, Bill Clinton suffered a foreign policy debacle. The "Fire Fight from Hell," Newsweek called it. The Los Angeles Times described it as culminating in "dozens of cheering, dancing Somalis dragging the body of a U.S. soldier through the city's streets." bq. #4. No Legal Authority August 1998 was a watershed for the White House. The embassy bombings led to the reexamination of preemptive military options. ... A gap exists, they believe, between DOD's capability for clandestine operations and its authority under the United States Code. And the list goes on... Interesting reading. It is not the fault of the people who are now on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fault lies firmly in the laps of the State Department and the higher REMF's of the military. It will be very interesting to see if anything shakes loose from this article. UPDATE: Donald Sensing weighs in with some good commentary: bq. At the end of the day, though, the fault wends it way diffusely through many agencies and individuals until all the diffusion coalesces in the Oval Office. If Clinton believed the danger was as real as Schultz indicates he did, then he surely was obligated to do more than merely sign presidential findings. Firm orders to execute missions, not merely plan them, never came from his pen. They should have, even if he had to fire some people to make it happen. bq. Why wasn't anyone fired? Because the will to follow through was lacking in the only man who absolutely had to have it, the president of the United States. (Emphasis mine)

List of Maritime Links

The canonical list of maritime links - something here for everyone -- from Captains to model builders, this has (just about) everything...

Clinton's speech in Saudi Arabia

Found this over at Little Green Footballs bq. Speaking in Saudi Arabia, Bill Clinton rhapsodized Mohammed as a sort of Arab Henry Ford, and said that if cars had been around 1400 years ago (stay with me here), not only would Mohammed have made the desert kingdom the first automobile producing nation on earth, he would have even let the women drive! Charles links to a World Net Daily news article that gives more details of the speech: bq. Clinton urged the Muslim kingdom, which follows the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, to not resist the "tide of change" in the world and seek ways of broadening political participation "without compromising your faith and culture," Reuters reported. And more: bq. Clinton suggested Saudi Arabia could redirect aid channeled through religious charities tied to terrorism and use it for humanitarian projects such as providing drinking war in poor Islamic nations. I'll believe that when it happens... Braying ninny!

The beginnings of AutoDesk 3D Studio

Interesting article on the beginnings of one of the key 3D Computer Graphics programs out there - 3D Studio. It started out in a hobby magazine dedicated to the Atari ST Personal Computer... Fascinating bit of computer history!

This is cute...

From Moore-Watch comes a link to the Bush Conspiracy Generator. Now I know why the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it's because: bq. George W. Bush had Michael Jackson arrested so that Rush Limbaugh, the Jews, big corporations, oil companies, and Republicans could upset welfare recipients. And furthermore: bq. George W. Bush has not captured Osama bin Laden so that white men could oppress The French. Makes perfect sense to me... (Heh!)
Ran into this one today. Some fun stories and believe me, you really really DO want to tip these people... Website is here They do a bunch of features such as a Story of the Month Fun reading. I worked in restaurants when I first moved to Seattle and met some really wonderful people. Some of the customers are amazing though...

News from Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is an interesting and tragic example of government gone bad. The current president Robert Mugabe nationalized all the farms, kicked the white owners off their land and proceeded to install not farmers but political cronies. (the locals call them cell-phone farmers) The upshot is that Zimbabwe which used to be a major exporter of food and had a vibrant economy is now on the U.N. dole, begging for foreign aid for 'development' and now imports the bulk of its food. Any funds for 'development' go into the pockets of Mugabe &co... I just ran into a website called Southern Cross which focuses on South Africa but also covers the rest of that continent. Two links of interest here: bq. Both the M&G and the SA Sunday Times are running a SAPA article about the positive effects that Zimbabwean farmers who've moved to Mozambique have had on that country. Apparently 100 or so Zim farmers have moved to the Manica province of Mozambique, creating over 4000 jobs in the process. bq. Interestingly, the article claims that all land in Mozambique belongs to the state and thus the farmers are having to lease the land. This seems a rather precarious basis upon which to establish a commercial farm although, given the vagaries of 'private' property in Zimbabwe, perhaps not a bad thing. Each article outlines how about 100 displaced white farmers have leased land in Mozambique, started farms growing staples like maize and cash crops like cotton and tobacco. Good for the economy... Taking a look at the CIA World Fact Book for 2002 (latest figures) we can see that the Gross Domestic Product for Zimbabwe is -13% but for Mozambique is +7.7%. The unemployment rate is telling too. Z is 70%, M is 21%. And yet the U.N still supports Mugabe and props up his dictatorship.

Winston Churchill's Parrot

is still alive at 104 and still cursing the Nazis. From the U.K. Mirror: bq. SHE WAS at Winston Churchill's side during Britain's darkest hour. And now Charlie the parrot is 104 years old...and still cursing the Nazis. bq. Her favourite sayings were "F*** Hitler" and "F*** the Nazis". And even today, 39 years after the great man's death, she can still be coaxed into repeating them with that unmistakable Churchillian inflection. bq. Many an admiral or peer of the realm was shocked by the tirade from the bird's cage during crisis meetings with the PM. bq. But it always brought a smile to the war leader's face. bq. Churchill bought Charlie - giving him a boy's name despite the fact she was female - in 1937. bq. She took pride of place in a bizarre menagerie of pets including lambs, pigs, cattle, swans and, at one point, a leopard. bq. He immediately began to teach her to swear - particularly in company - and she is keeping up the tradition today. bq. The blue and gold macaw is believed to be Britain's oldest bird. bq. The title was previously thought to belong to 80-year-old Cokky the cockatoo. bq. But it can be proved Charlie is at least 104 and was born in the 19th century.

Oil for Food money - where is it?

Roger L. Simon is continuing to look into the case of the missing Oil-For-Food funds that were administered by the U.N. with absolutely zero public accounting and were given to the Baath party government of Saddam Hussein and promptly disappeared instead of going to help the people of his country. Stocks of food and medical supplies were found when Coalition forces entered Baghdad - stored in warehouses specifically reserved for Baath party members. Anyway, Roger says: bq. Both The Washington Times and the invaluable Proche-Orient.info (alas only in French--someone should be translating them regularly) are reporting today on a letter received by Syrian dissident Nizar Nayouf. Proche-Orient's reportage is much more extensive, including a great deal of information on possible WMDs in Syria, but since this is an English-language site, I will focus on the Washington Times' article. According to the WaTimes, bq. Syria's Central Bank and the Medina Bank in Lebanon are holding at least $2 billion in cash, as well as gold bullion and platinum, that was smuggled out of Iraq, according to a letter written on the stationery of the Syrian army's intelligence department. bq. While none of this is as yet corroborated, the letter is quite specific. The WaTimes goes on, bq. Mr. Nayouf, a journalist and democracy activist who was released from a Syrian prison in May 2001, said past information provided by the same person had proved reliable. The letter names two members of the Lebanese parliament as go-betweens. One of them is Emil Lahoud, son of the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon. The second is Talal Arsilan, a member of the minority Druze ethnic group. A third go-between is listed as Karim Bakr Adouni, who is described as head of the al Qata'ib Party. The letter says the go-betweens met with three top Syrian security chiefs before they left on their secret trip to Baghdad. bq. Of course, as we all know... bq. Saddam is believed to have stashed vast sums of money around the world, including funds that he and close associates siphoned from the United Nations' oil-for-food program beginning in 1996. bq. This missing money has been a special hobbyhorse of this blog. Didn't the people in charge of funding this program realize that Saddam was a dictator and a mega-thief? Surely they did--unless they were certifiably insane or had IQs of 75. Then what happened? As one who grew up in New York, staring, as a little kid in awe, wonder and hope at the United Nations building, I find it especially abhorrent that this supposedly idealistic international organization has turned into a charnel house of corruption. Look at it this way--if two billion dollars were siphoned off from the US Treasury and ended up in the hands of the Mafia, wouldn't there be an investigation? You're damn right there would be. And the perpetrators, if found, would wind up where they belong. In jail. This has been going on for some time too - it was interesting, after the fall of Baghdad, the Coalition forces wanted to end the sanctions against Iraq so that the Iraqi people could start to rebuild. The three nations who offered resistance were those same three who were in charge of administering the Oil For Food program (France Germany Russia). Didn't want to give up a nice source of laundered moneys...

Victor Davis Hanson

Does this guy ever sleep??? Sheesh! Anyway, found another wonderful essay of his in today's Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal section (no registration needed for this site!) Here he is talking about Bush's proposed immigration plan: bq. President Bush's recent proposal to grant legal status to thousands of Mexican citizens currently working in the U.S. under illegal auspices seems at first glance to be a good start--splitting the difference between open and closed borders, and between amnesty and deportation. Politically it was a wise move on the eve of a Mexican state visit to grant some concessions to Vicente Fox. After all, the president of Mexico cannot ignore the $12 billion in worker remittances sent his way--and he can either encourage or discourage millions more of his citizens to head north in lieu of needed radical reform at home. bq. Yet the proposed legislation, even if it should pass in Congress, will create more problems than it might solve--the fate of all such piecemeal legal solutions to systematic problems of illegality. Once the U.S. government--not to mention the Republican Party--commits its good name and legal capital to regulate, rather than end, the current chaos, a number of contradictions will arise that will only make things either more embarrassing or, in fact, worse. bq. First, what about the hundreds of thousands of workers who either cannot or will not participate? Will illegal immigrants outside the program be stopped at the border, requiring more guards or an extensive wall? Or once here, are they now to be deported without their requisite papers? Will we see a return of the old green immigration vans, the "Migra" patrols of my youth that used to scour central California to pick up illegal residents for immediate transit back to Mexico? Are we to establish two alternate universes: some employers who bring in workers legally, and others who follow the old non-system of paying largely cash wages to workers who show up at the local lumberyard parking lot or hotel lobby? He covers some well-thought-out points and concludes with this: bq. Instead of squabbling over piecemeal legislation in an election year, rolling amnesties or a return of braceros, we might as well bite the bullet and reconsider an immigration policy that worked well enough for some 200 years for people from all over the world. Reasonable advocates can set a realistic figure for legal immigration from Mexico. Then we must enforce our border controls; consider a one-time citizenship process for current residents who have been here for two or three decades; apply stiff employer sanctions; deport those who now break the law--and return to social and cultural protocols that promote national unity through assimilation and integration. bq. In the short term, under such difficult reform, we of the American Southwest might pay more for our food, hotel rooms and construction. Yet eventually we will save far more through reduced entitlements, the growing empowerment of our own entry-level workers (many of them recent and legal immigrants from Mexico), and the easing of social and legal problems associated with some eight million to 12 million illegal residents. bq. More importantly still, our laws would recover their sanctity. Without massive illegal immigration, Americans would rediscover their fondness for measured legal immigration. At a time of war, our borders would be more secure. And we could regain solace, knowing that we are no longer overlords importing modern helots to do the jobs that we, in our affluence and leisure, now deem beneath us. It should be noted that Mr. Hanson, in addition to all of his work, is a fifth-generation grape grower in California's Central Valley (Fresno) and would be very familiar with the issues surrounding Mexican immigrants.

U.S., U.K. Reach Deal With IAEA on Libya

From Yahoo/AP comes some good news: bq. The U.N. atomic watchdog agency will verify the scope and content of Libya's nuclear program, and U.S. and British experts will remove suspect materials from the North African country under an agreement reached Monday. bq. The agreement � hammered out by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton and William Ehrman, a top British disarmament expert � appeared to settle a dispute over who should be in charge of scrapping Tripoli's weapons programs. bq. The United States had pressed to supervise the process and destroy any materials capable of being used in a weapon, while the IAEA had contended it should have sole responsibility for the mission. And more: bq. The IAEA has said Libya was nowhere near producing a weapon, while Washington and London contended it was further along than the agency realizes. Somehow, I would put my money on the US and UK for accurate analysis... bq. ElBaradei called the meeting "very constructive," adding: "I think it went very well. So how does crow taste - like chicken??? bq. Libya recently ratified the nuclear test ban treaty and next month will become a party to the convention prohibiting chemical weapons. Once it gets sufficient support worldwide to enter into force, the test ban treaty bans any nuclear weapon test explosion in any environment. Very cool for Libya - Gadhafi's son is pro-west and educated. It will be interesting to see where that country is in 20 years...

Links to clocks and timepieces

Found via Metafilter is this canonical list of links about timekeeping, clocks, etc... Check it out...

Cool weather website - Mt. Washington, NH

Mount Washington in New Hampshire is home of some of the absolutely worst weather in the continental USA. High winds, cold temperatures. You name it, it's got it (with the exception of Death Valley's heat and dryness) Here is a link to a blog written by meteorologists who live on the summit. Here is a link to the main Mt. Washington Observatory website. And yes, in summer months, you can drive to the summit. There is a gorgeous lodge there which was used in the filming of the Steven King movie - The Shining.

Crime, cocaine, and marijuana

Great analysis by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution about why the drop in violent crime over the last ten years or so. bq. Serious and violent crimes dropped more than forty percent during the 1990s, more than can be explained by demographic shifts. One reason for the crime drop has been the shrinking trade in crack cocaine, here is one account and a more detailed treatment. For whatever reasons, crack has turned out to be a one-generation drug. As crack fell in popularity, crime rates have fallen in turn. Interesting ideas - goodbye to bad stuff.

Europe's Brain Drain

Interesting entry in Instapundit Glen links to an article in Time Magazine titled: How To Plug Europe's Brain Drain From the Time article: bq. When Valerio Dorrello looks around his lab, he sees a miniature European Union. As the afternoon sun streams in, the Italian postdoctoral fellow stands at his sink, changing solutions for one of his experiments. A Spanish colleague, Virginia Amador, pours a gel between glass plates, while a German researcher named Tarig Bashir works on a computer nearby. Their primary investigator, Michele Pagano, is Italian. Two other postdocs are Italian, too, while two more are French. There's such a jumble of languages in the group, which is doing cancer research, that its members have talked about putting up a keyword chart by the telephone with basic phrases in all their languages, "so anyone can say, 'He's not here' in Italian if my mom calls," says Dorrello, punctuating his Neapolitan-accented staccato with laughs. "We're going to make it with flags and everything." bq. What's not so funny for European policymakers is that this lab isn't in Brussels or Paris or any other E.U. capital. It's at the New York University (N.Y.U.) School of Medicine. All over the U.S., such research facilities are teeming with bright, young Europeans, lured by America's generous funding, better facilities and meritocratic culture. "In Italy," says Dorrello, "I'd be earning maybe �900 a month." At N.Y.U., he gets nearly three times that. "The U.S. is a place where you can do very good science, and if you're a scientist, you try to go to the best place," says Pagano, who likens researcher migration to football transfers. "In soccer, if you're great, another team can buy you." Science is the same, and the big buyer is the U.S.: in 2000, the U.S. spent �287 billion on research and development, �121 billion more than the E.U. No wonder the U.S. has 78% more high-tech patents per capita than Europe, which is especially weak in the IT and biotech sectors. Time continues talking about Europe's promises: bq. Three years ago, E.U. leaders vowed to make the union "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010. But one of the most worrying signs of their failure is the continued drain of Europe's best and brightest scientific brains, who finish their degrees and pursue careers in the U.S. Some 400,000 European science and technology graduates now live in the U.S. and thousands more leave each year. A survey released in November by the European Commission found that only 13% of European science professionals working abroad currently intend to return home. And the realities: bq. Is it really so bad? Europe does have world-class research centers, such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, where the World Wide Web was invented, and the Heidelberg-based European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), where 1995 Nobel laureates Eric Wieschaus and Christiane N�sslein-Volhard did their fruit-fly genome research. But complaints like those of Claude All�gre, the former French Education Minister who heads the Paris VII geochemical lab, are all too common. He decries France's anachronistic "Soviet" system, in which control is centralized and researchers must run a bureaucratic obstacle course, whether to buy expensive equipment or order basic office supplies. "I'm planning on moving to the U.S. indefinitely because I want to continue my research," says All�gre. "I can't do so in the current conditions." There is a big change that needs to happen there - not only in R&D and Science but politically and economically as well... We are seeing the economic gap between Old Europe and New Europe growing wider and wider with each passing month.

Musical Instrument Drool Factor

This puppy was shown at the latest CES - whether is shows up at the upcoming NAMM will be interesting. Check it out here No mention of price but it's an open system, uses COTS hardware (commercial off-the-shelf) And gosh it's purdy... (drool)

Microsoft v/s Mike Rowe (soft)

C'mon now guys... A 17-year-old Canadian (Mike Rowe) decided to set up a website for his part-time design business and since he worked with computers a lot, he thought that the name MikeRoweSoft would be fun. In Mike's words: bq. I received an email from Smart & Biggar, Microsoft's Canadian lawyers, informing me that I have been committing copyright infringement against Microsoft. They told me that I must transfer my domain name over to Microsoft as soon as possible. I was baffled by this email, yet thought it was funny at the same time. Microsoft was going after a 17 year olds part time business that he put a lot of time into just because it has the same phonetic sound as their company. bq. I responded to this email saying that I was not ready to give up my domain name since I had put so much time and effort into establishing my name, getting my business cards out and posting my services on the Internet. If I were to give up my domain, I would lose all the time and effort I had put into it. I requested that they offer me a settlement of some sort to help with me losing my business. A few days later I received an email back from them telling me that they would give me all of my out-of-pocket expenses for the domain name, which came to be $10USD. I was surprised that they would offer such a little amount of money to persuade me to hand my domain over to Microsoft. In response to this recent email, I sent one back to them describing how much work I have put into my business and that the domain was worth at least $10000. They refused to give me anything more than $10USD so I proceeded to ignore their most recent email. I didn't hear anything from them after their last email. bq. Yesterday, January 14, I received a package from the lawyers' office FedEx Priority Overnight. Inside I found a book over an inch thick with a 25 page letter explaining to me that I had all along had the intention to sell my domain name to Microsoft for a large cash settlement. This is not the case, I never thought my name would cause Microsoft to take this course of action against me. I just thought it was a good name for my small part-time business. In this letter it explains that Microsoft's customers could get confused between my page and theirs, which doesn't make any sense since Microsoft doesn't design websites. They do, however, sell a program called Microsoft FrontPage, which they say can cause some confusion between me making websites for my customers and them selling a program to make websites to their customers. I think it is just another example of a huge corporation just trying to intimidate a small business person (and only a 17 year old student at that) to get anything they want by using lawyers and threats. It reminds me of the Starbucks thing against the little coffee shop in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Sheesh!!!

Edward Burtynsky -- photography

This guy is amazing. It is hard to describe his work - he shoots subjects that many of us would consider unpalatable -- toxic waste, large construction projects, demolition and such but his eye is amazing and the end result is something of beauty. Check him out here (home page) and here and also, Google turns up 2,900 hits

Al Gore speech in NY, Jan. 15th

We all know that Al Gore delivered a speech in NY City on January 15th and one of the key diatribes was Global Warming. We also know that January 15th was a record cold day for NY City -- indeed, much of the Atlantic coast suffered the coldest day in some years. Seattle blogger Michael Gersh takes Gore's speech apart and gives a link to other people taking it apart as well. He also gives a link to the text of the speech so you can do your own fact checking. (Google is your friend!)

Corruption in France

I was going to present the long article but when I came back from Mt. Baker, David Frum at National Review had done an excellent job of summarizing it in four short paragraphs. Here is David Frum's article: bq. How corrupt is France? It is often said that one reason that Jacques Chirac ran for re-election as president in 2002 was to preserve his immunity from prosecution. But the full awfulness of the situation -- the way in which bribery and the theft of public funds pervades French life -- is not well understood in the United States. For a vivid introduction to the problem, see the extremely interesting cover story in the current issue of Britain�s Prospect magazine. bq. The story details the doomed attempted of one magistrate to get to the bottom of a series of scandals involving hundreds of millions of dollars looted from public companies and diverted to political parties and private individuals - Francois Mitterand's national system of kickbacks on local construction projects - and formal and informal state controls on the media to suppress coverage of the scandal. bq. It ought to be more widely understood in the United States how much European corruption -- and French corruption in particular -- damages the trans-Atlantic relationship. Kickbacks and bribes play an especially large role in Europe's trade with the Middle East. Much of the European loathing for those Americans who want to change the Middle East is pretty directly traceable to the fear that change in the region will threaten the livelihood of powerful Europeans and the funding of European political parties. bq. European corruption influences European press coverage of the United States as well. European journalists obsess over "neocons" in American politics precisely because they know that in their societies, the important political decisions are made by concealed, sinister, self-interested forces - and they find it hard to imagine that American politics could be different. Meanwhile, American journalists cover Europe like some wire service circa 1952: with a charmingly naive faith that everything actually is just the way it seems on the surface, and that the spoken words of European politicians actually give some insight into their real motives. Because US politics are so transparent and responsive, the American media is genuinely flummoxed by societies in which shadowy conspiracies really do exist. Here is the article I was looking at and which Frum refers to
From Moore-Watch comes an interesting little bit of investigative reporting... Michael Moore says he is very politically active and he says he is rich (here is a quote published in the Arcata Eye) bq. I'm a millionaire, I'm a multi-millionaire. I'm filthy rich. You know why I'm a multi-millionaire? 'Cause multi-millions like what I do. That's pretty good, isn't it? There's millions that believe in what I do. Pretty cool, huh? OK - so where does Mickey stand on political contributions? There is a website called Opensecrets.org which tracks political contributions. (The data is public domain anyway, these people have done a wonderful job indexing it.) A search on Michael Moore living in NY State turns up 13 hits. The only Filmmaker gave a grand total of $1,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton in April of 2000. Note too that the search was for the time from 2000 through 2004. Way to go Mikey - put your money where your mouth is...

Build an Ideal American!

Bill Whittle is on a roll - usually he does these incredible, long and thoughtful essays but he is branching out into new territory and doing a good job of it. His current path is an Operations Manual for someone interested in Building an Ideal American. The entries are chronological so you will need to read #1 here first and then go and read #2 here You can then check his main website for new entries. Again, very good stuff - he is coming out with a book and has been doing beta versions of a lecture series - if this guy comes to Seattle or Bellingham, I will be there to hear him.

Light blogging this weekend

Again, light blogging over the weekend - we will be at our 'country property' where I will be repairing a couple of busted pipes and we will both be recovering from a bad cold. (not flu though!) So you don't go through withdrawal, check out some of the other fine sites in my blogroll on the right side of your screen. Blogging will resume Sunday evening or Monday. Dave

Rapid Formation of Peat Bogs

From National Science Foundation comes a Russian/USA study of Peat Bogs. (Hat tip to Crumb Trail) From NSF: bq. Massive Siberian peat bogs, widely known as the permanently frozen home of untold kilometers of moss and uncountable hordes of mosquitoes, also are huge repositories for gases that are thought to play an important role in the Earth's climate balance, according to newly published research by a team of U.S. and Russian scientists in the Jan. 16 edition of the journal Science. Those gases, carbon dioxide and methane, are known to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, but the enormous amounts of the gases contained in the bogs haven't previously been accounted for in climate-change models. (Emphasis mine) bq. The new research, said Laurence Smith, an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and a primary author on the paper, could help to refine those materials. Smith's work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. bq. A key finding of the research, unrelated to modern climate change, is that the bogs themselves came into being suddenly about 11,500 to 9,000 years ago-much earlier than previously thought - and expanded very rapidly to fill the niche they now occupy. Their appearance coincides with an abrupt and well- documented spike in the amount of atmospheric methane recorded in ancient climate records. The finding counters previously held views that the bogs were largely unchanged-and unchanging-over millennia. The rapid appearance of the bogs provides strong evidence that this is not the case. (Emphasis mine again) From Crumb Trail: bq. The more we learn the less we know since so much of what we thought we knew was wrong. I find this comforting, a demonstration of the rich harvests still awaiting diligent searchers and an increasingly credible account of natural systems to replace the crude cartoon versions we have thus far. Ecosystems are not created or destroyed - they are supple and fluid and shift as the global climate changes over the years. The fact that the bogs came into existence much earlier than previously thought and there genesis was much faster points to a sudden change in climate at that time. Must have been those pesky Hominid ancestors of ours. After all, 15K BC puts us at the Lascaux Cave Paintings, 10K BC puts us at Neolithic culture - the bow and arrow, the first agricultural villages, domestication of Dog and Reindeer and the earliest Pottery. They were burning too much fuel and didn't have a sense of deep ecology that is needed to preserve the environment and they... they... suffered a Global Bog Event! See??? Now let me change my computer model to show this more clearly and we can write a paper for the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference. Last December it was in Milan - mmmmm Christmas in Italy, I could use a nice trip... Bunch of twits

George Bush and Paul O'Neil

From Roger L. Simon comes a link to a wonderful takedown of Paul O'Neil written by Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate online magazine. Roger closes his short entry (here) with the pithy comment: bq. The only solid punch he lands on President Bush is unintentional: What kind of idiot would hire this idiot as secretary of the treasury? Anyway, on to Michael Kinsley's article: bq. Blind, Deaf, and Lame No one listened to Paul O'Neill. Here's why. bq. Describing his time as treasury secretary, O'Neill sounds, of course, like Capt. Renault. But the character in Casablanca was a cynic who knew perfectly well that there was gambling going on in Rick's cafe. O'Neill seems genuinely surprised to discover that Bush actually does intend to cut taxes (as he promised repeatedly in his campaign); that the administration wants "regime change" in Iraq (as did the previous administration and almost everyone else in the world�the question was what to do about it); that the president would, on balance, prefer to be re-elected; and so on. Not a single weapon of mass destruction was wheeled into his office during his entire two-year tenure. And more: bq. Speaking of blindsided, howzabout that killer quote describing Bush in Cabinet meetings as being "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people"? O'Neill says this is "the only way I can describe it," and I fear that may be the case. It's vivid, and it certainly sounds insulting enough. But what on Earth does it mean? According to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, it means Bush is "disengaged." The Washington Post story began, "President Bush showed little interest in policy discussions in his first two years in the White House, leading Cabinet meetings 'like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.' �" bq. I'm sorry, but how is being uninterested in policy like being a blind man in a roomful of deaf people? Are blind people uninterested in policy? Or, more accurately, do blind people become less interested in policy when they find themselves in a room with deaf people? Does a blind man surrounded by deaf people talking policy issues think: "Oh, hell. These folks are going to go on and on and on about the problems of deaf people. Who needs that? I've got problems of my own." Is that O'Neill's point? And even if there is something about a room full of deaf people that makes a blind man disengage from policy issues, what does this have to do with President Bush and his Cabinet? bq. As described by Paul O'Neill, life inside the Bush administration is like life itself (according to Macbeth): "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Directory of 3,160 RSS feeds

sorted by topic -- here Hat tip to Brian Weaver at Grafyte They have software available to for content aggregation, news reading, etc... For RSS readers, my fave is FeedDemon by Nick Bradbury. Nick also writes TopStyle (an excellent CSS editor) and was the original author of HomeSite (HTML editor) now bundled with Macromedia. Good stuff all!

Mudslide Condos torn down

Of interest to people from Seattle, demolition on the three leaning condominiums was finally started today after seven years of legal wrangling... They were previously valued at about $1 Mil. each but were severely damaged in a 1997 mudslide. The owners feel the the City of Seattle was responsible - having cleared the engineering drawings for the buildings as well as being responsible for the maintenance of storm drains and water runoffs. To quote an article from KOMO-TV's website here bq. Ever since a mudslide damaged them 7 years ago, the condo owners have been in limbo with the city. But finally this week, the city condemned the condos and the owners wasted little time in bringing out the wrecking crew. bq. Before the 1997 mudslide, the properties were worth about $1 million each. Once the condos are cleared, the land will likely only be worth $250,000 for each parcel. bq. It's a financial fiasco to go along with shattered plans. bq. "We planned to retire here someday," said condo owner Penny Fukui. "We worked hard, we saved our money and bought this home brand new, and intended to live here for the rest of our lives." bq. For the last seven years, the owners have been paying the mortgages and property taxes on the condo. Penny's been living in an apartment and another condo owner, Bob Ferguson, has been bouncing around before finally buying a house a short time ago. bq. And to top it off, the three owners have to shoulder the cost of the demolition -- $55,000 total. So split three ways means a little over $18,000 a piece. Not a good day for these poor people...

Commentary on Bush visit to MLK Gravesite

From the Michael Medved fan website here (he is a talk-show host) comes this short comment about the protest over George Bush's visit to Martin Luther King's Gravesite on the anniversary of his birth: bq. Pres. Bush visited Atlanta, GA to pay respects to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the invitation of his widow. I read the transcripts of his speech. He honored Rev. Dr. King's memory. I thought it very humble. bq. But, of course not everyone felt that way: bq. "Bush was not invited," said Lance Grimes, 55, a black social worker who lives in Decatur, Ga., and was part of the demonstration at The King Center. "It is a desecration for him to lay a wreath at the tomb of Dr. King. He is diametrically opposed to everything Dr. King stood for. With all due respect, Coretta Scott King is making a tactical mistake." bq. "Not invited." With all due respect (none), who the heck asked YOU, Grimes? bq. For the first time in our history, the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State are African-American. Not to mention the Secretary of Education. In their appointments, Pres. Bush was not attempting to gratify a part of his constituency, or to win political points, or even to create diversity in his cabinet; he chose the best people for the job-- immeasurably crucial and important ones at that. He judged them by the content of their character and ability. Race was immaterial. Affirmative action was not a factor. bq. If this makes Pres. Bush, as Grimes says, "diametrically opposed to everything Dr. King stood for," what would it say about him if he had made his decision solely on the basis of race? bq. I think if Grimes thinks the president's visit to honor MLK is a "desecration," then the Georgia social worker is the one who is diametrically opposed to Dr. King's beliefs. He should be ashamed of himself. bq. Notice how the Left is fond of calling the GOP moralizers? That's because they're so morally blind. Couldn't have said it better myself!

Google Blog

This is not related commercially to Google -- it's more of a fan blog. Lots of neat insider info, tips and new features. Check it out here

Palestinian people polled re: corruption

From AMAN - The Coalition for Accountability Integrity in Palestine comes the results of a poll. (Hat tip Shark Blog) The results of the poll are here - they surveyed a random sample of 1315 Palestinian adults, 18 years and older, from the Gaza Strip (494), and the West Bank including East Jerusalem (821). Margin of error, (�3%),. The Program of Statistical Package for Social Sciences �SPSS� was used in processing and analyzing the data bq. How seriously do you believe corruption affects different spheres of life in Palestine? Very significantly -- 56.6% bq. The political life Very significantly -- 67.5% bq. The culture and values in society Very significantly -- 65.0% bq. The business environment Very significantly -- 67.6% These people are not stupid. It is the leaders, the decrepit creations of the Soviet Communist Cold-War Machine that need to step down, enjoy their position as 8th wealthiest person in the world (paging Mr. Arafat) and let their citizens move from the 10th century to the present...

Hate crimes come home to roost...

A couple of disturbing events at Garfield High School - from KOMO-TV: bq. The alleged target was a drama teacher, and the suspects are some of her students. bq. When Carol Ross got to her classroom last November, she found: "a ferret with a nail through its head hanging from our storage loft." Just to the left of the ferret, swastikas were drawn on the wall. Two weeks later, she found a black noose hanging from the wall. bq. Though the incidents happened a while back, those with the NAACP and the American Jewish Committee held a news conference Friday timed with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to condemn the acts of hate. bq. "The school of Garfield High was violated," said Rick Harkavy with the American Jewish Committee. "So it's appropriate that this weekend, we educate ourselves not only on what happened, but we understand that the legacy of Dr. King says in our community, such acts of hate should not be tolerated." Sure you can say that it's "just kids letting off some steam" and "they don't really mean anything - they were just kidding" but still - these acts are not cool and the children who did this should be found and brought to light. Where are their parents? Do these kids go home to an empty house each afternoon and jack into an unsupervised internet and play games instead of doing their homework? Sheesh!

Victor Davis Hanson

It is Friday and once again, time for another essay from Victor Davis Hanson here It is hard to excerpt a 'money quote' since this one is all money quotes - here are a few lines though: bq. Our Primordial World Pride and Envy are what make this war go 'round. bq. Following September 11, our therapeutic industry � the campuses, the media, the intelligentsia, and many on the political Left � almost immediately sprung into action to insist that such hideous terrorist acts were symptomatic of wide-scale poverty and oppression in the Middle East, much of it caused by the United States. And more: bq. We are puzzled, too, at the fury of the "old" Europeans. We think, somehow, that such sophisticated Westerners have surely transcended Middle Eastern tribal chauvinism, and must have other legitimate grounds for their strange new religion of anti-Americanism... And more: bq. The old truth that resurfaced was that the United States destroyed the Spanish empire in 1898, and was pivotal in derailing the Prussian imperial dream in 1918 and in annihilating the Third Reich. It inherited by default much of the role of the British dominion, did nothing in Suez, Algeria, or Southeast Asia to rescue the tottering French Empire, and almost alone bankrupted and dismantled the Soviet imperium. In other words, past notions of European grandeur are no more � and somewhere in that equation of ruin were the mongrel, tasteless Americans, who are now at it again, ending rather easily the fascistic cabals of Milosevic, Mullah Omar, and Saddam Hussein. And more: bq. As Mr. Bush has grasped, every time we have humiliated our enemies we have gained respect and won security. By the same token, on each occasion we have shown deference to a Mr. Karzai, the Iraqi interim government, and our Eastern European friends, we have helped to create security and stability. Apart from the model of our forefathers who crushed and then lifted up the Germans and Japanese, we could find no better guide in this war than William Tecumseh Sherman and Abraham Lincoln � in that order. The former would remind us that our enemies traffic in pride and thus first must be disabused of it through defeat and humiliation. The latter (who turned Sherman and Grant lose) would maintain that we are a forgiving sort, who prefer restored rather than beaten people as our friends. Excellent stuff. He has a number of books out, some history, some collections of essays. I would recommend any of them.

More thoughts from The Belmont Club

Wretchard amplifies a bit of what he was talking about yesterday (Belmont Club and blogged here) when a reader of his writes in to ask: "how do you think we could have achieved a relatively quick victory before we grow to resemble our enemies?" The reply is only a few paragraphs long but very nicely thought out. There is a moment of pure Indiana Jones Zen at the end: bq. And the short answer is: by finding the key pressure point. One would have thought that during World War 2, the key vulnerabilities of militaristic Japan and Nazi Germany would have been obvious. But it wasn't. In the first two years of the Pacific War, the USN used all its submarines to chase fleet units of the Imperial Japanese Navy, with poor results. It was not until about mid-1943 that the Admirals figured out that that submarines were better employed attacking Japanese commerce -- that is, the ships which brought fuel, nitrates, food and mineral ores to Japan. The results were dramatic. By late 1944, the IJN could hardly sortie, nor its pilots train from lack of fuel. By 1945, Japan was starving. The carrier task forces were the media stars of the Pacific War, but it was the commerce raiding submarines that won it. bq. In Europe, the USAAF at first concentrated its bombardment on targets like railway junctions, ball bearings plants, aircraft manufacturing. But Nazi industrial production was hardly affected. It just went up and up. Until one day, some USAAF planner figured out that hitting oil production was the key to stopping the Nazi war machine. In due course, the Nazi armies were immobilized. bq. What, one might ask, does such ancient history have to do with the Global War on Terror? Everything. To date, we've used our military assets to hit out at Al Qaeda terrorists, safe houses, training camps, etc. just like the USN submarines used to chase Japanese destroyers, carriers and cruisers. One day we will realize that it is the infrastructure of terror we must hit: the madrassas, the Saudi funding, the jihadi websites. The Japanese knew World War 2 was as good as lost when they didn't have enough fuel to train their pilots. Someday, the Islamists will know that the jig is up when they can't pay the rent for their factories of hate, the ones they style religious schools, and can't offer any money for impoverished suicide moms to trade their lives for a few thousand dollars. bq. One day. But that day isn't here yet. Until then, we will trade eye-gouges, half-nelsons, drop kicks and the whole panoply of dirty wrassling tactics with Islamic Islamists, until, in a moment of clarity, we say what the hell, draw our pistols and shoot them in the nuts. Saudi Arabia delenda est. Emphasis mine.

Asher Kelty, backpack innovator, dies at 84

Fromt eh Seattle Times bq. Asher "Dick" Kelty, whose innovative aluminum external-framed backpacks with waist straps revolutionized backpacking in the 1950s, has died. He was 84. Mr. Kelty, who had congestive heart failure, died Monday at his home in Glendale, said his wife of 57 years, Nena. bq. For more than 50 years, the Kelty name has been synonymous with backpacks and backpacking. bq. A one-time cottage industry launched in the Keltys' two-bedroom home in Glendale in 1952, Kelty Packs earned a reputation as the Cadillac of backpacks. bq. From heavy and cumbersome wood frames and canvas bags, Mr. Kelty went to a lightweight aluminum frame contoured to the human body and a nylon bag. He also padded the shoulder straps and added upright partitions inside the bag. His "hold-open frame," which was threaded through the top of the bag, allowed easy access. bq. But most significantly, Mr. Kelty added the waist strap, which took the weight of the pack off the shoulders and redistributed it to the hips. bq. "By taking the weight off the hiker's shoulders and putting it on the hips, he took the misery out of the sport. He made it enjoyable for people to go backpacking," Nick Clinch, an explorer for National Geographic magazine, told Nena Kelty in "Backpacking the Kelty Way," the book she co-wrote with Steve Bogain in 2000.

A Modest Proposal

A great editorial by Charles Krauthammer in today's Washington Post regarding Bush's announcement of the new plan for space. (Hat tip Instpundit) bq. Four years ago, I wrote an article ("On to Mars," the Weekly Standard, Jan. 31, 2000) advocating phasing out the space shuttle, abandoning the space station, establishing a moon base and then eventually going on to Mars. It was greeted with yawns by those who noticed it at all. bq. Even my friends excused my fondness for the moon as the kind of eccentricity one expects from a guy who has an interest in prime numbers and once drove to New York to see a chess match. bq. Well, things have gotten worse. This week, when the president of the United States proposed to phase out the space shuttle, phase down the space station, establish a moon base and then eventually go on to Mars, he was met not with yawns, but with ridicule. And more: bq. As for the Kennedy stuff, the Bush proposal has less to do with a vision of man's destiny than with a totally dysfunctional government agency. NASA gave us the glory of Apollo, then spent the next three decades twirling around in space in low Earth orbit studying zero-G nausea. bq. It's crazy, and it might have gone on forever had it not been for the Columbia tragedy. Columbia made painfully clear what some of us have been saying for years: It is not only pointless to continue orbiting endlessly around the Earth; it is ridiculously expensive and indefensibly risky. bq. The president's proposal is a reasonable, measured reconfiguration of the manned space program. True, he could not go all the way. Binding agreements with other countries made it impossible for him to scrap the space station -- a financial sinkhole whose only purpose is its own existence. But he is for phasing it down and for retiring the shuttle within six years. bq. That frees up huge amounts of NASA money to do what is useful and exciting: going to other worlds. For this generation, the only alternative to wandering about in low Earth orbit -- other than the Luddite alternative of giving up manned flight completely -- is to return to the moon. And this time, stay there. bq. Establishing the first human habitation on a celestial body would not just allow for extraordinarily interesting science (from geology to astronomy) and be the locus for extraterrestrial manufacture. It would be -- those without an ounce of romance in their souls are advised to skip the rest of this sentence -- the most glorious human adventure since the Age of Exploration five centuries ago. Great stuff! The budget isn't out of line either - Bush's proposal is to sideline the big-ticket items while laying in the infrastructure needed to support such a program (tracking stations, bases, support systems, etc...) If we cut down on the space shuttle (a money pit if there ever was one) and back out of the ISS (money pit II), we will have enough funding for a Lunar base and maned Mars exploration with little problem. Plus, the spin-offs - people under 30 are too young to realize the immense benefits that came to everyone from the Apollo program - science, medicine, remote sensing,weather prediction, materials science, electronics (and miniaturization), the list goes on and on. Imagine what a program like this could do for today's slashdot crowd!

Geo. W. Bush and the Press

Interesting article in the Jan. 15th New Yorker magazine regarding Geo. W. Bush and how protesters are segregated off to an area far removed from the general public and press. The story itself is not available online but a Question and Answer session with the author is here. The author (Ken Auletta) maintains a website here but the article isn't there either... (grumble) The New Yorker article is called "Fortress Bush; How the White House keeps the Press under control". It is worth reading - the online Q&A cited earlier gives some insights into Bush's relations with the press but I have a couple points to quibble with... bq. DANIEL CAPPELLO: All Presidents complain about the press. How is the Bush White House different? bq. KEN AULETTA: In two ways. They are more disciplined. They reject an assumption embraced by most reporters: that we are neutral and represent the public interest. Rather, they see the press as just another special interest. No shit Sherlock... Just take a look at the reporting coming out of the Middle-East during the run-up for the war, during the war and after it. The embedded reporters actually got to see what the Coalition forces were dealing with while the 'celebrity' reporters hung out in the bar at the Palestine hotel in Baghdad paying their Baathist minders $100/day baksheesh to be allowed to use their own satellite dishes to transmit vetted stories back to the American media. And more: bq. DANIEL CAPPELLO: Members of the Bush Administration complain that the media are too liberal, and too biased. Do they have a point? bq. KEN AULETTA: Sometimes. Although the press�s surveys of the Washington press corps are less scientific than many conservative critics say they are, privately many White House reporters concede that they are probably somewhat more liberal than the majority of American voters. Thank you for that ray of insight and honesty! Let's see - the President has a greater than 60% approval rating throughout the the U.S.A. and yet the media is quick to pounce on any story that portrays Bush as a less than capable leader. Hey, whatever sells newspapers... And finally, this howler: bq. DANIEL CAPPELLO: One of the more striking quotes in your piece is from Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, who told you that he doesn't believe the press has a �check-and-balance function.� But should it, in a democratic society? bq. KEN AULETTA: Yes. One of the reasons we have such extraordinary freedoms under the First Amendment is that the Founding Fathers understood the need for checks and balances�three coequal branches of government and, eventually, a Fourth Estate: the press. We don�t have a parliamentary system, so the press, which has access to public officials, has to ask questions. Ken - show me exactly in the Constitution where the press is to be considered a Fourth Estate. The First Amendment deals with personal rights. The Preamble starts off like this: "We the People of the United States... " We the People Ken, Got that? It is not the job of the media to be The People, it's us - the people you are peddling your biased stories to and I am telling you that I find fault with your bias and do not like it. Ken - I will quote part of your answer back to you again: bq. One of the reasons we have such extraordinary freedoms under the First Amendment is that the Founding Fathers understood the need for checks and balances�three coequal branches of government and, eventually, a Fourth Estate: the press. Here is the entire text of the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The press has freedom. The press in the U.S.A. has a hell of a lot more freedom than the press in Cuba or China or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe or France for that matter (read this and then this). But -- there is no place in the First Amendment that states that the press has the power to become a Fourth Estate and to regulate the actions of the government. The press has the power to inform and entertain "We the People", but it is ultimately "We the People" who decide who to vote for (another social nicety missing in a lot of other countries) and which newspaper to buy.

Latest terrorist bombing - more

From The Belmont Club comes an excellent take on Ahmed Yassin and the mother of two infants who chose to blow herself up. Wretchard writes: bq. The March Toward Total War One more unspoken taboo, the prohibition on female suicide bombers, has been broken by Hamas. bq. The United States has also changed its behavior in the course of the struggle. Whether conducting house to house searches in the Sunni triangle, demolishing the mansions of Ba'ath bigwigs, cordoning off whole towns like Tikrit, requiring the biometric measurement of foreigners entering the United States, intercepting commercial airliners with fighter aircraft -- it's not your dad's America. All the accepted limits on combatant behavior are gradually changing as the Global War on Terror enters its third year. bq. This gradual brutalization has happened before. During the first Christmas of the Great War, British and German soldiers fraternized in the frontline trenches before bloodshed hardened them and prevented its recurrence. Winston Churchill refused to send RAF bombers against Berlin in 1940. By 1944 he was firebombing Dresden. By the fourth year of war, some USN submarine captains were sinking Japanese lifeboats. Both the Boeing B-17 and B-29 were designed as precision daylight bombers, intended as "smart weapons" that would destroy enemy strength without causing collateral damage. By end of the war, the B-29 had been modified from their original mission into an area attacks, burning out every major Japanese city with firebombs and, in the end, delivering the atomic bomb. bq. There is an old military maxim which holds that if a war is prolonged enough, the two sides will come to resemble each other. It is a recognition that a prolonged, indecisive struggle is often more brutal than victory. Thanks to the 'peace lobby', victory is now an evil, a triumphalistic phenomenon, to be avoided at all costs. In its stead, they will require the alternative: the slow and growing encrustation of human soul, until, in the fullness of time, it resembles their own. Emphasis mine -- this is so true. The 'peace lobby' is blind to what they are doing, they fail to see that their actions are dragging our efforts down as well. The constant media bias gives the terrorists hope -- the eight years of waffling during the previous democratic administration taught them that with a little bit of terror here and there, the American troops would be pulled back and diplomatic efforts would be re-started. This is exactly the wrong thing to be doing with this culture. It is not by any means 'politically correct' to be talking like this but one must at times speak truth to power only this time, it is the hard truth of reality talking to the top-down bureaucratic, nanny-state power-hungry creatures of the new Left. It gives joy that they are such a minority in this nation but their shrill outcries seem to gather the media's attention. I would like to suggest something to them. It is demonstrably proven that your efforts towards 'peace' are prolonging our work in the Middle East. If you truly want peace; if you look deeply into your heart and see that true peace is what you are desiring, then how can your morally continue your protests when, again, it is prolonging the conflict? Sit down and shut up and let us do the work. Thank you!

Latest Terrorist bombing in Israel

From Little Green Footballs: bq. The �spiritual leader� of Hamas, a wheelchair-bound locus of festering evil named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, personally gave his blessing to female suicide bomber Reem al-Rayashi: To look at a picture of this person, one is reminded of Sauruman. CNN did a brief article on Hamas in 2002 - his picture is at the top. Evil evil people to be fostering that sort of brainwashing of their citizens -- all for personal jollies and material gain (these people preach poverty but they themselves are rich having skimmed off all sorts of "relief" and "aid" money) Anyway, the LGF entry points to an article in The Jerusalem Post (free registration required) as follows: bq. According to Channel 2, Reem Salah al-Rayashi, 21, the mother of two small children, approached Hamas several times with the request to be a suicide bomber. bq. "She practically begged," an Arab affairs reporter told Channel 2. bq. The Hamas leadership repeatedly spurned her requests, until Yassin himself intervened. Hamas has previously resisted the use of female suicide bombings on ideological grounds. However, when Hamas operatives brought a plan to bomb the Erez crossing into the joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zone, the Hamas leadership put ideology aside and adopted the plan most likely to succeed. bq. Sheikh Yassin then personally gave his blessing for al-Rayashi to be used as a bomber, and issued a decree (a few hours after Wednesday's attack) to the effect that "Jihad was the duty of men and women." bq. "For the first time, Hamas used a female fighter and not a male fighter," Yassin told reporters. "It is a new development in resistance against the enemy.... Resistance will escalate against this enemy until they leave our land and homeland." It is interesting that if you look into the 'training' used by these terrorists, you will see a lot of similarities to cult behaviors - separating the inductee from their friends, teach them a new language and pattern of thought, tell them continually that their family and friends are trying to hurt them... Checking the website of a noted Cult expert (Rick Ross), we see that indeed, he has an entire page dedicated to various Islamic Fundamental groups and techniques... The next ten years will be rough for everyone involved but if we keep our resolve to combat the terror, if we keep our compassion and realize that these people have been lied to by corrupt leaders, everybody will win.

Dumb Criminal (sort of)

This happened across the mountains in Spokane: bq. Three men streaking through the warmth of a Denny's restaurant were chilled and chagrined when they spotted a thief driving away in their getaway car, their clothing inside. bq. Naked in the 20-degree weather, the three young men huddled behind cars in an adjacent parking lot until police arrived. bq. "I don't think they were hiding. I think they were just concealing themselves," police spokesman Dick Cottam said. bq. The trio, wearing only shoes and hats, entered the restaurant in north Spokane at about 5 a.m. Wednesday. They left their car running outside so they could make a quick exit. bq. But a man eating inside the restaurant saw the running vehicle and stole it, along with the streakers' clothes, Cottam said. bq. The streakers watched through the windows as their car drove away, Cottam said. They ran outside but could not catch it. DOH!

Nuclear fusion row going critical

From New Scientist magazine: bq. The debate over whether to build the world's biggest nuclear fusion facility in France or Japan is going critical. The European Union says it could pull out of the international project and build its own, if the project goes to Japan. But the US has firmly backed Japan as its preferred site. bq. The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project aims to lay the groundwork for the eventual use of nuclear fusion as an inexhaustible and environmentally friendly energy source. The French and Japanese sites are the only contenders left from a list that also included sites in Canada and Spain. bq. "Of course it would be extremely expensive [to go it alone], but the EU could find the money," EU Research Commission spokesman Fabbio Fabbi told New Scientist. And more: bq. One possible solution might be to divide the project up between the countries, with planning and design done at one site and the actual experiment at another. "I think that's the hope in terms of breaking the stalemate," says Parker. He adds that researchers in different countries have collaborated effectively since 1986 on planning ITER. Arrrrggghhh - politics... The key to renewable energy and they are playing politics with it... I don't believe in the small-scale fusion reports - cold fusion and also the Farnsworth Fusor - I do not doubt that energy and neutrons are released but sufficient energy to overcome the cost of operation? Naaa...

A Generic Rap Song

From a student at Princeton comes The Generic Rap Song complete with merchandise (er. bling bling) and downloadable music and video. Pretty funny actually!

Fun website

Fun website here You can find out stuff like: bq. How much toothpaste is there in a tube? How much is inside an acre? How much is inside a Sharpie? (page #1) How much is inside a Sharpie? (page #2) As well as such pranks as: bq. Frozen Shaving Cream And Incredible Creations And much much more... Don't delay now!

Soviet Venus expeditions

Fascinating archive of pictures and information about the Soviet expeditions to Venus in the 60's through the 80's Hat tip to Brian at Grafyte Blog

The Internet Woo-Woo Credo

How to be an Internet Woo--Woo in 41 easy steps... bq. #1) - Never look for the simplest, most obvious cause of something. Refrain from mentioning Occam's Razor (it's your nemesis). bq. #2) - Always favor the conspiracy angle over the boring angle. Mundane explanations (like saying that Roswell was a balloon) are for dullards and government drones. If you want to sleep with that curvaceous new-age chick, don't tell her you think astrology is bogus! (Non woo-woos may benefit from that advice temporarily). bq. #3) - Don't accept mainstream science unless it's something you've believed in for years (like gravity). bq. #4) - Try to answer as few direct questions as possible. Always obfuscate and try to sound learned. Mimic Richard Hoagland's style and you'll go far. bq. #5) - Use "what if" scenarios to change the subject whenever possible. If you linger on one topic too long you may be asked to provide annoying things like "proof." Don't let that happen! Consult a creationist if you need practice with subject-changing. And there are 36 more at the website. Enjoy!


Kim DuToit wrote about this on November 4th - I blogged it here and provided a link to his article here Now, Terrence O. Moore at the Clairmont Institute is presenting a similar view of the situation in an essay titled Wimps and Barbarians -- The Sons of Murphy Brown. Says Terrence: bq. For more than a decade I have been in a position to see young men in the making. As a Marine, college professor, and now principal of a K-12 charter school, I have deliberately tried to figure out whether the nation through its most important institutions of moral instruction�its families and schools�is turning boys into responsible young men. Young women, always the natural judges of the male character, say emphatically "No." In my experience, many young women are upset, but not about an elusive Prince Charming or even the shortage of "cute guys" around. Rather, they have very specific complaints against how they have been treated in shopping malls or on college campuses by immature and uncouth males, and even more pointed complaints against their boyfriends or other male acquaintances who fail to protect them. At times, they appear desperately hopeless. They say matter-of-factly that the males around them do not know how to act like either men or gentlemen. It appears to them that, except for a few lucky members of their sex, most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of "acting like men," or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid. bq. The young men, for their part, are not a little embarrassed when they hear these charges but can't wholly deny them. Indeed, when asked the simple question, "When have you ever been taught what it means to be a man?" they are typically speechless and somewhat ashamed. He goes on to talk about barbarians: bq. Today's barbarians are not hard to find. Like the barbarians of old, the new ones wander about in great packs. You can recognize them by their dress, their speech, their amusements, their manners, and their treatment of women. You will know them right away by their distinctive headgear. They wear baseball caps everywhere they go and in every situation: in class, at the table, indoors, outdoors, while taking a test, while watching a movie, while on a date. They wear these caps frontward, backward, and sideways. They will wear them in church and with suits, if ever a barbarian puts on a suit. Part security blanket, part good-luck charm, these distinctive head coverings unite each barbarian with the rest of the vast barbaric horde. And to talk about wimps: bq. If barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besides thumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order. In the well-ordered soul, as C.S. Lewis put it, "the head rules the belly through the chest." In the souls of today's barbarians, clearly thumos has allied itself with the unbridled appetites, and reason has been thrown out the window. He goes on: A close look at the culture in which boys are raised reveals not only that they are no longer encouraged to become vigorous and responsible men, but also that practically every factor affecting their development is profoundly hostile to the ideals and practices of traditional manhood and the painstaking steps necessary to attain it. The demanding regime of physical and moral instruction that used to turn boys into men and the larger cultural forces that supported that instruction have been systematically dismantled by a culture that ostensibly enables all individuals but in reality disables men. "It's too easy!" complained John the Savage of the overly efficient, overly sexual, overly youthful, overly fun Brave New World. That dehumanizing tyranny of pleasure, described by Aldous Huxley, resembles the world of easy effort and easy virtue that entices adolescent males today to indulge in their appetites at the expense of their nobler longings and passions. Wonderful writing - Kim DuToit is a bit more direct and to the point but Moore covers a bit wider turf and goes into a bit more analytical detail on why.

Victor Davis Hanson

Another of his excellent essays here bq. 'Bomb Texas' The psychological roots of anti-Americanism. bq. With this past autumn's discussion in Washington over what to do about Iraq there arrived also the season of protests. They were everywhere. In the national newspapers, Common Cause published a full-page letter, backed by "7,000 signatories," demanding (as if it had been outlawed) a "full and open debate" before any American action against Iraq. More radical cries emanated from Not in Our Name, a nationwide "project" spearheaded by Noam Chomsky and affiliates, which likewise ran full-page advertisements in the major papers decrying America's "war without limit," organized "Days of Resistance" in New York and elsewhere, and in general made known its feeling that the United States rather than Iraq poses the real threat to world peace. At one late-October march in Washington, there were signs proclaiming "I Love Iraq, Bomb Texas," and depicting President Bush wearing a Hitler mustache and giving the Nazi salute. bq. In the dock with America was, of course, Israel: On university campuses, demands circulated to disinvest from companies doing business with that "apartheid state"--on the premise, one supposes, that a democratic society with an elected government and a civilian-controlled military is demonic in a way that an autocratic cabal sponsoring the suicide-murder of civilians is not. bq. Writers, actors, and athletes revealed their habitual self-absorption. The novelist Philip Roth complained that the United States since September 11 had been indulging itself in "an orgy of national narcissism," although he also conceded, reclaiming his title as the reigning emperor of aesthetic narcissism, that immediately after the fall of the Twin Towers New York "had become interesting again because it was a town in crisis"--a fleeting, final benefit to connoisseurs of literature from the death of thousands. bq. Barbra Streisand, identifying Saddam Hussein as the dictator of Iran, faxed misspelled and incoherent but characteristically perfervid memos to Congressmen, while Ed Asner, of sitcom fame, threatened publicly to "lose his soul" if we went into Iraq. The Hollywood bad boy Sean Penn, not previously known for harboring a pacifistic streak, demanded that the president cease his bellicosity for the sake of Penn's children. Traveling abroad, the actress Jessica Lange pertly announced: "It makes me feel ashamed to come from the United States--it is humiliating." And the jet-setting tennis celebrity Martina Navratilova, who fled here to escape communist repression and has earned millions from corporate sponsors, castigated the repressive atmosphere of her adopted homeland, a country whose behavior is based "solely on how much money will come out of it." bq. And so forth. Harbingers of this sort of derision were, of course, on view a year ago, in the period right after September 11 and well into the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus Michael Moore, currently making the rounds plugging his movie "Bowling for Columbine" and a sympathizer of Not in Our Name, bemoaned the 9/11 terrorists' lack of discrimination in their choice of target: "If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who did not vote for him!" Norman Mailer, engagingly comparing the Twin Towers to "two huge buck teeth," pronounced their ruins "more beautiful" than the buildings themselves. And more: bq. Some general truths emerge from any survey of anti-American invective in the context of the present world conflict. First, in each major event since September 11, proponents of the idea of American iniquity and Cassandras of a richly deserved American doom have proved consistently wrong. Warnings in late September 2001 about the perils of Afghanistan--the peaks, the ice, the warring factions, Ramadan, jihad, and our fated rendezvous with the graveyard of mighty armies gone before us--faded by early November in the face of rapid and overwhelming American victory. Subsequent predictions of "millions" of Afghan children left naked and starving in the snow turned out to be equally fanciful, as did the threat of atomic annihilation from across the border in Kashmir. bq. No sooner had that theater cooled, however, than we were being hectored with the supposed criminality of our ally Ariel Sharon. Cries of "Jeningrad" followed, to die down only with the publication of Palestinian Authority archives exposing systematic thievery, corruption and PA-sanctioned slaughter. During the occasional hiatus from gloomy prognostications about the Arab-Israeli conflict, we were kept informed of the new cold war that was slated to erupt on account of our cancellation of the anti-ballistic-missile treaty with the defunct Soviet Union; of catastrophic global warming, caused by us and triggering floods in Germany; and always of the folly of our proposed intervention in Iraq. And more: bq. Is there a consistent theme here? We are talking, largely though not exclusively, about a phenomenon of the aging left of the Vietnam era and of its various progeny and heirs; and once upon a time, indeed, the anti-American reflex could be linked with some rigor to the influence of Marxism. True, that particular religion, at least in its pristine form, is just about gone from the picture these days. Some of its fumes, though, still linger in the doctrines of radical egalitarianism espoused by postmodern relativists and multiculturalists and by now instilled, in suitably diluted and presentable form, in several generations of college and high-school students. Hence, for example, the regular put-down of George W. Bush as a "Manichean"--for could anything be more self-evidently retrograde than a view of our present conflict as a war of good versus evil, or anything more simplistic than relying on such "universal" arbiters of human behavior as freedom, pluralism, and religious tolerance? Eschewing any reference to truths of this kind, adherents of postmodernist relativism assess morality instead by the sole criterion of power: Those without it deserve the ethical high ground by virtue of their very status as underdogs; those with it, at least if they are Westerners, and especially if they are Americans, are ipso facto oppressors. Israel could give over the entire West Bank, suffer 10,000 dead from suicide bombers, and apologize formally for its existence, and it would still be despised by American and European intellectuals for being what it is--Western, prosperous, confident, and successful amid a sea of abject self-induced failure. bq. One is bound to point out that as a way of organizing reality, this deterministic view of the world suffers from certain fatal defects, primarily an easy susceptibility to self-contradiction. Thus, a roguish Augusto Pinochet, who executed thousands in the name of "law and order" in Chile, is regarded as an incarnation of the devil purely by dint of his purportedly close association with the United States, while a roguish and anti-American Castro, who butchered tens of thousands in the name of "social justice" in Cuba, is courted by congressmen and ex-presidents even as Hollywood celebrities festooned with AIDS ribbons sedulously ignore the thousands of HIV-positive Cubans languishing in his camps. Kofi Annan gushes, Chamberlain-like, of Saddam Hussein, "He's a man I can do business with," while the ghosts of thousands slain by the Iraqi tyrant, many of them at his own hand, flutter nearby; for this, the soft-spoken internationalist is lionized. bq. Few have exploited the contradictions of this amoral morality as deftly as Jimmy Carter, who can parlay with some of the world's most odious dictators and still garner praise for "reaching out" to the disadvantaged and the oppressed. As president, Mr. Carter evidently was incapable of doing much of anything at all when tens of thousands of Ethiopians were being butchered; but as chief executive emeritus, he has managed to abet the criminal regime of North Korea in its determination to fabricate nuclear bombs and lately, having been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for peace, has brazenly attempted to thwart a sitting president's efforts to save the world from the Iraqi madman. He nails it. I have only excerpted about 20% of the full article so it is a bit of a read but it's a rewarding one if you want to understand more of where today's US Left and Liberals are coming from.

Dennis Miller is back on TV again

From the N.Y. Times (free registration required): bq. Dennis Miller, the liberal-turned-conservative comedian and defender of President Bush and the war in Iraq, is less than two weeks away from being the host of a new talk show on CNBC. For him it can't come soon enough. bq. "People say I've slid to the right," Mr. Miller said in his office at the NBC Studios in Burbank, speaking in his rat-a-tat-tat style. "Well, can you blame me? One of the biggest malfeasances of the left right now is the mislabeling of Hitler. Quit saying this guy is Hitler," he said, referring to Mr. Bush. "Hitler is Hitler. That's the quintessential evil in the history of the universe, and we're throwing it around on MoveOn.org to win a contest. That's grotesque to me." bq. "Did you see the Democratic debate the other night?" he asked. "To me Dennis Kucinich's politics are more scrambled than Rod Steiger's dream journal. And Clark? He's a wizard in many ways, but when I hear him speak, it's almost like he's slumming. There's a mensch discrepancy there. At least John Edwards, who to me is a reasonably shallow guy, at least he can dog-paddle around in that park and not look out of place." bq. Mr. Miller's rapid-fire monologues and obscure, even weird cultural references -- Rod Steiger's dream journal? -- have made him one of television's most visible comedians over the last two decades. He was a regular on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" from 1985 to 1991; had an Emmy Award-winning weekly series on HBO, "Dennis Miller Live," in the 1990's; worked as a film and television actor; was a commentator for two seasons on ABC's "Monday Night Football"; and most recently was an essayist for Fox News. bq. Mr. Miller's metamorphosis from iconoclastic liberal to free-wheeling conservative -- which he partly attributes to the Sept. 11 attacks -- has not only made this 50-year-old comedian an esteemed figure on the Fox network. It has also made California Republicans, who have triumphed with a movie star in the governor's mansion, look to Mr. Miller as a possible opponent to Senator Barbara Boxer, the liberal Democrat who is up for re-election this year. (Mr. Miller supported Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor and performed last summer at California fund-raisers for President Bush.) YAYYYY!!!

Antidote for move-on.org

Dar-al-Harb has a perfect antidote for the whole Move-on.org Bush=Hitler silliness Take a look at it here

Hip Hop Hooray!

Wonderful comment from Roger L. Simon's blog. His comment with the link follows: bq. As a former Civil Rights Worker (sixties division), I have always had a sentimental place in my heart for the Black-Jewish Alliance, which has fallen on rocky shoals in recent years. But as the song goes, "everything old is new again." And in this case the song is rap and comes from Hip Hop King Russell Simmons who is urging "African-Americans to join forces with Jews, to fight anti-Semitism in Europe and the U.S." bq. Way to go, Russell, and back to you! (Now if we could only resurrect Zoot Sims to sit in with Miles...) The link is to the following story: bq. Hip-hop star joins anti-Semitism fight bq. In a ground-breaking article to be published soon, hip-hop legend Russell Simmons will urge African-Americans to join forces with Jews, to fight anti-Semitism in Europe and the U.S. bq. Jews and blacks have a long history of collaboration to advance social reform, especially during the civil rights struggle. bq. Simmons article was co-written with Rabbi Marc Schneier to mark this year's observances of Martin Luther King Day in America. The hip hop mogul and the rabbi have in the past worked together to improve Jewish-African American relations. bq. The new article is ground-breaking for being the first time an African American figure of Simmons' stature in popular culture has issued a denunciation of resurgent anti-Semitism. The article will be published this weekend in newspapers which reach Jewish and black readers across the U.S. bq. If Martin Luther King were alive today, the authors write, he would protest against the new wave of anti-Semitism. Nor would Martin Luther King keep quiet about the "moral laryngitis" of political leaders who fail to speak out against hatred of Jews. Excellent stuff!!!
In the current New Yorker magazine is an excellent article by Lawrence Wright who goes to work for a major Saudi newspaper. It's not online so you will need to track down a copy of the magazine (January 2, 2004 issue) Well worth reading though - good insights into the Saudi culture. UPDATE: The text of this article is now available on Lawrence Wright's personal website here. Plus, there is an interesting article by John Derbyshire in National Review: bq. Sometimes I find myself reading something idly, something I did not particularly seek out for purposes of enlightenment, something I read just to while away some time in a doctor's waiting room or suchlike, yet which turns my mind to the main issue. This happened the other day. The item I was reading was Lawrence Wright's fine long New Yorker piece about his experiences in Saudi Arabia. bq. Wright had been hired by the English-language Saudi Gazette to train young Saudi reporters. He spent several weeks in Saudi Arabia early in 2003, a period which overlapped with the start of the Iraq war. In this New Yorker piece (it is in the January 5 issue) he tells of his experiences inside the Saudi press, and passes comments on the talk, attitudes, and beliefs of urban Saudis. bq. Some of what he says is familiar to us by now. The Saudis are resentful of America. Many of them hate us, and those who do not hate us do not love us. They are addicted to wildly improbable conspiracy theories, mainly involving Jews. None of them is capable of imagining much in the way of human motivation, certainly not at the national level, beyond money and blood-lust. Wright: "One of the relentless themes of the Saudi media was that the twin objects of American power were oil and murder." They are spoiled rotten by their oil wealth, and incapable of doing any kind of real work, all of which is done by foreigners. (Recall P. J. O'Rourke's report from the 1991 Gulf War about Western journalists in Saudi Arabia running a book on who could be the first to spot a Saudi lifting anything heavier than his billfold.) Derbyshire goes on to say: bq. When you read about the Arabs � I have been reading a great deal this past couple of years, though I continue to think that David Pryce-Jones The Closed Circle is the best general introduction to the topic � you build up a picture of how comprehensive is the failure of their societies in the modern age. They are not merely political failures: they are military, economic, cultural, and social failures, too. In these respects, they are no threat to us. bq. Their very failure, though, and the massive inferiority complex it leaves them with, gives rise to a threat of sorts, as of course we found out on 9/11. To get a good analogy for the scale of that threat, carry out the following thought experiment. Finally, someone sent Steven DenBeste a link to the Derbyshire article in NRO and he has weighed in with some thoughts and also quoting an earlier essay of his own: Steven: bq. I have always contended that the primary reason "why they hate us" is because they are utter failures who are lashing out at us because our success casts their failure in stark contrast. In September of 2002, I wrote: bq. The nations and the peoples within the zone of our enemy's culture are complete failures. Their economies are disasters. They make no contribution to the advance of science or engineering. They make no contribution to art or culture. They have no important diplomatic power. They are not respected. Most of their people are impoverished and miserable and filled with resentment, and those who are not impoverished are living a lie. bq. They hate us. They hate us because our culture is everything theirs is not. Our culture is vibrant and fecund; our economies are successful. Our achievements are magnificent. Our engineering and science are advancing at breathtaking speed. Our people are fat and happy (relatively speaking). We are influential, we are powerful, we are wealthy. "We" are the western democracies, but in particular "we" are the United States, which is the most successful of the western democracies by a long margin. America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, economically and technologically and militarily and even culturally. ... bq. We're everything that they think they should be, everything they once were, and by our power and success we throw their modern failure into stark contrast, especially because we've gotten to where we are by doing everything their religion says is wrong. We've deeply sinned, and yet we've won. They are forced to compare their own accomplishments to ours because we are the standard of success, and in every important way they come up badly short. In most of the contests it's not just that our score is higher, it's that their score is zero. bq. They have nothing whatever they can point to that can save face and preserve their egos. In every practical objective way we are better than they are, and they know it. Pretty harsh but also pretty accurate - even they realize that. If one of their Royalty needs heart surgery - they go to a US or European hospital... DenBeste continues, pointing to this; bq. In 2002, an Arab study group working under the auspices of the UN published a comprehensive report about the state of the Arab world, and found many very disturbing things. One of the most disturbing was this: about half of Arab teenagers wanted to emigrate. bq. When you read that overall evaluation of every element of their society and culture and the way their nations are run, it's not really very surprising; in objective terms, things ain't good. bq. And their failure is so pervasive, and so long-standing, and so dramatic, that it has led to a cultural inferiority complex, a complete loss of self-confidence. Memories of past greatness centuries ago only makes the shame of modern failure worse. Wright says that one of the arguments made against the theory that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis was to say that Saudis weren't actually capable of doing such a thing � not, mind, because they were too high-minded or moral, but because it was beyond their abilities. He concludes with the following including a well deserved blast at the "multiculturalism" so prevalent in todays academic and leftist thought: bq. Studying other cultures is good. Learning about them, and from them, is good. Automatically dismissing them as inferior simply because they are alien is stupid. bq. But such study must be open-eyed and honest. One must be able to recognize that which is valuable in others, but also that which is destructive. Discrimination against "the other" is stupid, but indiscriminate glorification approaching worship is even more stupid, and in the current world it can get you killed. bq. The Arabs are failures in the modern world. Their problem is their culture. Their culture, and in particular the extreme manifestations of Islam and the temporal power it has gained, is what makes them fail. And they do know they are failures, and they do hate it, and one of the big reasons they attack us is because we are successful. bq. It is neither racism nor insanity to say these things; it is a cold and rational appraisal of the situation. If we refuse to recognize these factors in planning our response to the 9/11 attacks, we're bound to act in ways which are unlikely to help and which have a good chance of making the situation worse. bq. The most extreme form of multiculturalist sensitivity and compassion is a luxury we can no longer afford. The potential price in blood, ours and theirs, is much too high. This is an emotionally charged and complex issue but the basic truths are out there for everyone to see. We need to realize that this is the 'root cause' (to steal a meme) and the only way to stamp it out is to help this culture get back on it's feet and to disconnect them from the cycle of fanaticism and it's accompanying culture of death. This isn't going to go away without some proactive action on our parts...

Muslim cleric sentenced by Spanish Court

From BBC World News: bq. A Muslim cleric who wrote a book that advised men how to beat up their wives without leaving incriminating marks has been sentenced by a Spanish court. bq. Mohamed Kamal Mustafa was given 15 months in jail, which he will not serve as Spanish law suspends sentences of under two years for first offences. bq. Mustafa's book, Women in Islam, sparked outrage among women's groups when it was published three years ago. bq. In his defence, the imam said he was interpreting passages from the Koran. And more: bq. In his book, Mustafa wrote that in disciplining a disobedient wife: "The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body." Sheesh...

War in Iraq - a German viewpoint

From a German/English weblog Davids Medienkritik (scroll down for the English translation) comes a great story from Iraq. The Blog links to a news item in Berliner Morganpost called: bq. Freedoms, Money and Cheap Cars bq. ...His brother is talking to his cousin in Germany on the cell phone. Cell phones were banned under Saddam and families with relatives abroad were viewed with suspicion as a rule. � The brother earns 100 dollars a month, four times the average salary under Saddam. He works as a proof reader at one of the around 150 new, independent newspapers in Iraq in which everything can be written and said, other than calls to violence. � bq. From now on no more visits from the State Security trying to pressure the son to join the Fedayeen Saddam or threatening imprisonment if one didn�t betray what the neighbor was saying. And on top of it all: two more cousins are free who were locked up by Saddam for reasons that they and their families still can�t figure out. bq. In the courtyard of the house stands a gleaming Opel Astra station-wagon. Used and from Germany. It cost 2500 dollars, a lot for the family, everyone contributed to come up with the money. But the car is likely cheaper than anywhere else on the planet. The Americans have eliminated all taxes and import customs for eight months, more than a half million cars have rolled into the country since the war ended. Under Saddam it was a strictly regulated matter and to get a car one needed a lot of money along with good connections. (Emphasis mine) Great idea to jump-start the economy! And more: bq. ...There is enough to eat, even for those who don�t earn money. Flour, rice, oil, salt, sugar, tea and similar basic foodstuffs are always supplied. bq. The awakening Iraqi himself ran a furniture business before his deep sleep. His wife and grown son managed it in his absence. Business is booming especially with no taxes to pay. Office furniture is currently in high demand as new companies are being established all over. The family is debating whether to start a new business since there are modest loans from the occupational authority for those seeking to start a small business. bq. All in all enough money is left over to buy a computer. � �Internet� is the new magic word, he who doesn�t have it wants it, and that was naturally also completely unthinkable under Saddam. In Baghdad the internet cafes are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms. Even in distant small towns you find some. The Iraqis are fast learners and since the old telephone central station is silent (the station is still not completely repaired,) many have an email address. The article closes with this: bq. I have seen recordings of how the Fedayeen were trained. Small children would be executed in front of them to harden their hearts. Dogs would be set on old people and criminals with the same purpose. Saddam paid them good money, which is why they served Saddam. ... bq. The only people who are against the Americans now are those who were rich before. Now they know that they can�t sit at home and get wealthy. They will have to work and they don�t like it. They lost the power and authority. It is very dangerous. ... bq. What would I say to the American people? You have to be proud of your sons. You have to be proud of your army. They are fighters for freedom. The good news is starting to filter out finally. Interesting times...

Al Gore versus the Environment

From here: bq. Mark your calendar! This Thursday, January 15th, former Vice President Al Gore will deliver a major address attacking the Bush administration's environmental record and its policies on global warming. The event will be broadcast live at www.MoveOn.org. From here bq. Thursday. Mostly cloudy with snow ending in the morning. Windy and colder. Total snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Highs around 18. North winds 20 to 30 mph. Wind chill values as low as 5 below. Heh...
This is an essay in the current issue of Granta (hat tip: Instapundit) bq. 'I set off for Egypt convinced that, unlike America, there was no corruption and hypocrisy in the Arab Muslim world and that it bore no responsibility for its own appalling condition. I wanted only to be an expatriate novelist, a dissident, and to enjoy the celebrity of being a convert in a Muslim country.' Murad Kalam on how the reality he found was very different. bq. During the six months leading up to the Iraq war, I was living in Cairo. And more: bq. As a Muslim in Amercia I was already used to being treated with ignorance and suspicion and now I was increasingly sickened by the prospect of a reckless but inevitable war in Iraq. Of course, I was impossibly naive: the Middle East existed for me, like all things Islamic, in a sort of exotic orientalist ether of veiled women, the Ka�ba and the Virgins of Paradise. I set off for Egypt convinced that, unlike America, there was no corruption and hypocrisy in the Arab Muslim world and that it bore no responsibility for its own appalling condition. People told me that Egypt was, like its Muslim neighbours, a ruthless dictatorship, but until I lived there I refused to admit this to myself. I wanted only to be an expatriate novelist, a dissident, and to enjoy the celebrity of being a convert in a Muslim country. bq. For a week I managed to persist in the happy belief that I was not living in a brutal police state. As I took a wild, honking Peugeot taxi along the Nile my driver would laugh and curse at the campaign posters of the Egyptian president, displayed at every block, which bore the absurd slogan MUBAREK: YES! YES! I took no notice as I stared wide-eyed through my window at a horizon of needle-shaped minarets suspended in the Cairo smog. And more: bq. My mood began to shift. On the Internet I followed the case of Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian advocate of democracy, who was locked away in a dusty Cairo prison for criticizing the government. I began to notice at every street corner the groups of scowling Egyptian soldiers in black berets, shouldering worn Kalashnikovs. bq. Across the street from my flat in downtown Cairo, I smoked shisha and drank coffee every day with all my new Egyptian friends at the Caf� Riche; it was famous as an old haunt of Saddam Hussein during his days as a student at Cairo University. My Egyptian friends refused to believe me when I told them the war would come early next year. The French or the UN would stop the war, they promised, even when this seemed hopeless. But my friends who were mostly tour operators�self-described street hustlers who modelled themselves after American rappers�seemed not to care about the problems which seemed so obvious to me: the coming war, the declining Egyptian pound, the crowded, overpopulated streets, the incompetence of the government at everything but putting down dissent. The war would come or it would not. Only Allah knew. The police were brutal, the ministers stole the people�s money, everyone, doctor, lawyer, bowab, imam, bureaucrat would rob you the moment you turned your back. Of course, nothing in Cairo quite worked. But what could they do? And more: bq. I went to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj. When I tried to confirm my ticket to Mecca, the fully veiled Egyptian woman at the Egypt Air counter charged me a non-existent �confirmation tax��her attempt to swindle me occurring just moments after the noon call to prayer. I wondered why she bothered to wear a headscarf at all. bq. In Mecca, I found the same mixture of confusion, oppression and apathy I thought I had left behind in Egypt. But as in Egypt, nothing worked, even at the blessed hajj, for we were visitors not to an Islamic state but to yet another cynical Arab kleptocracy which only pretended to adhere to the true ideals of Islam. bq. The Saudis couldn�t even organize the hajj safely. Each day, as I performed the rituals of the hajj, I was part of massed crowds of Muslims from all over the world: Turks and Pakistanis, Nigerians, Malaysians, Arabs. We would shamble forward without order or seeming direction, endangering lives as we knocked over women, the lame and the elderly in our hurry to get from one ritual to the next. Once, in a street so filled with pilgrims that I could not take one step forward, I was forced to jump into the back of a truck to avoid being killed in a stampede. And more: bq. The mutawan, the dreaded Saudi religious police who enforce the rigid observance of Wahhabi Islam, patrolled the streets, beating or arresting anyone they caught missing a prayer; it was impossible ever to know if the native Meccans prayed out of genuine piety or to avoid a whipping. And more: bq. I fled home the next week, leaving all my illusions of the Arab world in my Cairo flat. I couldn�t wait to be in America again. On the long flight home, I promised myself I would never accept anything less than full democracy for my fellow Muslims in the Arab world or apologize for the tyranny that now masquerades as Islam. bq. Yet, for all the hypocrisy and suffering I witnessed during my time in Egypt, it was impossible to ignore the sincerity of the poor and righteous and the depth of the belief of Muslims and Copts alike. I studied Islam with a village sheikh from Giza; I watched shop owners feed strangers during the nights of Ramadan; the local beggars, men who should have lost all hope, prayed each day without fail on tattered sheets of cardboard. It is only because of these expressions of true spirituality that I never lost my faith. bq. Even now, I can remember the dread in the faces of my Egyptian friends at what would become of their lives. Could it be, that the fascism which once bubbled up in Europe has now invaded the Middle East and that in our time, all hope for the true Islamic values of freedom, modernity and equality in the Muslim world lies not in the East, but in the West? Emphasis mine - this is an interesting question... You never hear moderate Muslims denouncing the radicals and terrorists. Simple reason really, they value their lives and those of their friends and family. What if true reform were to come from Muslims living in the West exporting the leadership and influence once the Mad Mullah's have been toppled as they will be...

Dang! My image is shot...

From CNN/Technology bq. The typical Internet user -- far from being a geek -- shuns television and actively socializes with friends, a study on surfing habits said on Wednesday. bq. The findings of the first World Internet Project report present an image of the average Netizen that contrasts with the stereotype of the loner "geek" who spends hours of his free time on the Internet and rarely engages with the real world. bq. Instead, the typical Internet user is an avid reader of books and spends more time engaged in social activities than the non-user, it says. And, television viewing is down among some Internet users by as much as five hours per week compared with Net abstainers, the study added. bq. "Use of the Internet is reducing television viewing around the world while having little impact on positive aspects of social life," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, the California university that organized the project. Blew my cover for sure...

MSFT Services for UNIX now free.

According to Geek.com, Microsoft has now stopped charging for their Services for UNIX package (used to be $99) From their website: bq. Regardless of your personal opinions of Microsoft or its products, there are a few points about this topic that demand attention. bq. First, from a business perspective this move is a great idea. Making a migration and interoperability product free makes much more sense than selling it. Costless testing, evaluation, and full utilization is valuable to finance-stressed I.T. departments, and there is a good probability that those companies will end up purchasing products from Microsoft to make their changes even better. This is especially true of companies that are trying to switch from proprietary hardware UNIX systems. Those companies are more likely to actually purchase products than a company that is just working on interoperability ideas. bq. Second, the fact that SFU has won an award from LinuxWorld says quite a bit about its quality. I know of no Linux group that would bestow such a title on a Microsoft product without first contemplating the alternative of chopping off a limb. Cool deal!!!

Military spending

Interesting article in DefenseTech regarding military spenidng... The role of the US has shifted from an out-and-out big-bucks Cold War planning over to small theater / anti-terror one but we are still spending the big bucks and show no sign of rolling back... From the website: bq. COLD WAR TOYS EAT UP PENTAGON BUCKS For the last two years -- and for the foreseeable future -- the U.S. troops have become into terrorist-hunters, peace-keepers, fighters of messy, dirty little wars. bq. But the Pentagon is still spending its money like it's about to duke it out with the Russians in eastern Europe, Army Times alleges. Noah then quotes the Army Times article mentioned: bq. While American infantrymen hunt guerrillas in the back alleys of Iraq and Special Forces foot soldiers track terrorists in Afghanistan and Indonesia, the Pentagon is spending billions on supersonic jets like the new F/A-22 Raptor, which moves too fast to identify ground targets... bq. As Thomas White, former secretary of the Army, observed, 'None of the big programs have been perturbed, and we continue to pour money into them..." bq. In the Pentagon budget, three of every four dollars are spent on precisely the same things as in August 2001, according to a study by former Pentagon budget analyst Chuck Spinney... bq. Much of that money is for fixed manpower costs, but the weapons-buying accounts are heavily skewed toward high-tech and high-cost weapons systems, Spinney and other analysts said. bq. These include $3 billion for F-18 Super Hornet attack fighters, $3.5 billion for F/A-22 air superiority fighters and $4.4 billion toward development of another high-performance airplane, the Joint Strike Fighter. bq. Congress wrote a $100 million check for the Air Force to study a potential new bomber, money for which the Pentagon didn�t ask. bq. Also in the budget: $1.5 billion for a Virginia-class attack submarine designed to hunt 1980s-era Soviet missile subs, $3.2 billion for three new Navy destroyers and $1.2 billion to begin buying parts for a new aircraft carrier. There is a prevailing attitude in military, scientific and academic spending that if you do not spend all of your annual allocation of money, the administrators of that money will think that you were able to make do with less and they will only award you the lesser amount next year. Add to this the tendency of middle-level management to stake out as much 'turf' as possible for their domain. It will be interesting to see if anyone has the gumption to tackle this head-on. Probably not during an election year but who knows...

Fresh v/s Farmed Salmon

There was a report published in the January 8th issue of Science Magazine (subscription required) TOXICOLOGY: Salmon Survey Stokes Debate About Farmed Fish which stated that Farmed Salmon had much higher levels of 14 toxins, all rated as likely to cause cancer in humans by US authorities, including dioxins and PCBs. A good debunking of this report can be found at Spiked bq. The Daily Mail ran a photo of a salmon under the heading 'What's in your dinner?', listing PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, chemicals, radioactive waste and malachite green (4). Environmental groups, of course, had a field day. 'I would not feed farmed salmon to my cat', said Don Staniford, a spokesman for the Salmon Farm Protest Group (whoever that might be) (5). Members of the public were wheeled out to proclaim that they would no longer feed salmon to their kids, and news reports issued grim warnings about falling salmon sales and supermarkets slashing prices in desperation. bq. Almost as swiftly, industry and the UK health authorities moved to counter the panic. 'The levels of dioxins and PCBs found in this study are in line with those that have previously been found by the FSA and are within up to date safety levels set by the World Health Organisation and the European Commission', stated the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on 9 January. 'This study does not raise any new food safety concerns. This applies to all the salmon: farmed as well as wild, Scottish as well as imported.' (6) The FSA stuck to its standard advice that people should eat two portions of fish per week. The article is well documented. The issue here is that technology marches on and what used to be an exotic lab technique is now becoming cheap and commonplace. It used to be that detecting the presence of a few molecules of XYZZY in a sample was big science requiring big and expensive machines and trained operators. Now, this sort of analysis can be done with equipment about the size of a portable sewing machine and operated by a button-monkey (ie: untrained lab rat - see "Grad Student"). The values found in farmed fish are higher than for wild fish but the farmed fish values are still so far below the minimum FDA values that there is really no point.

Past coming back to haunt Howard Dean

Dr. Howard Dean has very specific ideas about Foreign Policy that are quite different from President Bush. Howard feels that our unilateral invasion of Iraq was a bad thing and that we should have worked more with the United Nations to resolve the issue. With a hat tip to Instapundit comes several links to previous H. Dean texts. I'm thinking specifically of this July 19, 1995 letter to then-President Clinton where Dr. Dean says: bq. After long and careful thought, and after several years of watching the gross atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs, I have reluctantly concluded that the efforts of the United Nations and NATO in Bosnia are a complete failure. bq. I think your policy up to this date has been absolutely correct. We must give, and have given, this policy with our allies and with the United Nations every opportunity to work. It is evident, however, that the cost in human lives in allowing this policy to continue is too great. In addition, and perhaps more importantly for the United States, we are now in a position of ignoring, as many did in the 1940s, one of the worst crimes committed in history. If we ignore these behaviors, no matter where they occur, our moral fiber as a people becomes weakened. As the Catholic Church and others lost credibility during the Holocaust for not speaking out, so will the United States lose credibility and our people lose confidence in themselves as moral beings if the United States does not take action. bq. Since it is clearly no longer possible to take action in conjunction with NATO and the United Nations, I have reluctantly concluded that we must take unilateral action. Dr. Dean concludes with: bq. I understand the risks of this policy and their implications for the NATO Alliance and the future success of the United Nations. Surely, however, as you watch and read about the huge amount of unwarranted human suffering, particularly of children, you would agree that our current course must now be changed. bq. I urge you to make these changes as soon as possible, and I look forward to supporting your policy fully to the best of my ability. The letter can be viewed in full at the USA Today website here

Satellite mapping - getting better all the time

From the Goodard Space Flight Center with a hat tip to Crumb Trail: bq. Satellites and computers are getting so good, that now they can help study human activity on scales as local as ones own neighborhood, and may answer questions concerning how local conditions affect global processes, like water and energy cycles. And more: bq. Until recently, scientists could not model detailed, local interactions between land and atmosphere on the global scale because satellites did not provide a close enough view of Earth, and computers were too limited. But with cheaper high-performance computers, and with satellite technologies like the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on the Terra and Aqua satellites, scientists are working to predict energy and water cycles for the entire globe at a scale of 1 kilometer (km) (.6 miles). That means computer models can now supply information about processes that occur locally, like within neighborhoods where people live, for example. The global LIS has been implemented at 5 km (3.1 miles) resolution and will be implemented at 1 km resolution in February, 2004. And more: bq. The LIS case study offers an example of the future of climate-related computer models, where models will incorporate the land-atmosphere processes created by local land surfaces. By including local energy and water cycles in computer models, people will be able to apply predictions to climate and weather, agricultural forecasting, water resource management, hazard mitigation and more. This is amazing technology - with a 1KM resolution, we can see the results of people's interactions with the environment. Get your neighbors to plant a couple trees on their parking strips? See the cooling effect in a few years. I'm taking bets on whether the global warming people will embrace this new technology for their cause... ??? Hello???


Some wonderful people out there... The pro-Democratic group moveon.org hosted an awards ceremony in Manhattan Monday 12th. A number of performers came to talk and present awards to people who submitted their Bush in 30 Seconds commercials. (This is the organization that posted three commercials comparing Bush to Hitler - these were quickly redacted but were posted on the Republican National Committee website for a few weeks) Some of the language of the presenters is abysmal... Matt Drudge has a partial transcript on his website here From Margaret Cho: bq. "Despite all of this stupid bullsh-- that the Republican National Committee, or whatever the f--- they call them, that they were saying that they're all angry about how two of these ads were comparing Bush to Hitler? I mean, out of thousands of submissions, they find two. They're like fu--ing looking for Hitler in a haystack. You now? I mean, George Bush is not Hitler. He would be if he fu--ing applied himself." big, extended applause) "I mean he just isn't." bq. "I think this last year has just pr oven how stupid Republicans are." (big applause) It gets worse... And these are the people who want to run our country. Who feel that they have what it takes to proactivly work on the world stage...

The Humanity... (sob)

I always thought the Dutch were more open to various life-styles but this heinous bit of legislation is just... too... much... From Sky News: bq. FIGHTING THE NEW ENEMY bq. Normally liberal Holland has come down hard on a new enemy - white socks. bq. Bosses at the Dutch Finance Ministry have labelled the garments, popular in the 1980s, against the "limits of decent dress behaviour". bq. Officials working in the department were also expected to wear dark blue or grey suits in order to give an air of "reliability and professionalism". bq. A spokeswoman warned: "People are expected to dress in accordance with their function." bq. In a country famed for its relaxed attitudes towards drugs and sex, the new hardline stance on the humble white sock has taken some inhabitants by surprise. bq. One fan of the accessory stormed: "White socks are neat and smart, why should they be picked on. bq. "I can think of nothing nicer than a bright, shiny pair to set off a black pair of shoes and trousers or a stone-washed pair of light, blue jeans." Shudder

Paul O'Neill

I have been wanting to write about this person for a few days but couldn't wrap my brain around what I wanted to say. Fortunately, James Taranto at the Wall Street Opinion Journal took the words right out of my mouth here: bq. Remember Paul O'Neill? Neither did we, but he was President Bush's first Treasury secretary. Gently shown the door a little over a year ago, O'Neill has resurfaced, having collaborated on a new book, "The Price of Loyalty," by erstwhile Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind. O'Neill is now a critic, sort of, of the Bush administration, and for about 36 hours--between the time "60 Minutes" aired Sunday and the time "Today" aired today--he was a hero of the Angry Left, driving former Enron adviser Paul Krugman into a frenzy of excitement. bq. Krugman credits O'Neill with showing "courage" by "giving us an invaluable, scathing insider's picture of the Bush administration." Among other things, O'Neill reveals that President Bush wanted to cut taxes. But didn't he make some mention of that in the 2000 campaign? "Most startling of all," Krugman writes, "Donald Rumsfeld pushed the idea of regime change in Iraq as a way to transform the Middle East at a National Security Council meeting in February 2001." Yadda. yadda. yadda... 15 minutes and all that good stuff... James goes on here: bq. It's cute, too, how last week the Angry Left was denouncing the Bush administration for having "no plan" for Iraq, and now the complaint is that it did have a plan. And more: bq. This underscores why the Democrats are in such deep trouble. So effectively have they convinced themselves of an absurdly overwrought case against President Bush that they've forgotten you can't beat an incumbent without a plausible challenger--and thus they seem likely to end up with Howard Dean, or maybe Wesley Clark. But we'd better stop there; we don't want to ruin the story by telling you how it ends. The other thing is that it wasn't Bush who had the first concrete plan for regime change in Iraq. That honor belongs to our president Clinton who signed his own plan into power a full three years before Bush came to office. As reported in the Wall Street Journal: bq. According to Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, "The 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act was passed by an unanimous Senate and a near-unanimous House," after which Mr. Clinton certified it as the law of the land with his signature. And more: bq. According to a report in Newsweek just three months ago, after Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, "the U.S. government convened a conference with the [Iraqi National Congress] and other opposition groups in London to discuss 'regime change.'" bq. In January 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright even appointed a special representative for transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, who reportedly had "a mandate to coordinate opposition to Saddam." bq. Said Albright at the time: "He will be assisted by a team that will include both a military and a political adviser with extensive on-the-ground experience in the region. ... With the aid of Frank Ricciardone and his team, we will persist in helping the Iraqi people re-integrate themselves into the world community by freeing themselves from a leader they do not want, do not deserve and never chose." bq. Two months later, the Clinton administration's plans for a post-Saddam Iraq were already well under way, with State Department spokesman Jamie Rubin explaining to reporters: "What we're trying to do ... is strengthen an Iraqi opposition movement that can lay out solid plans for the post-Saddam recovery in all sectors of national life." And we will hear a correction from the left saying that it wasn't a Bush plot after all??? (crickets) I'm waiting...

Al Franken web site

The Al Franken web site can be found here. Note the URL - www.LyingLiar.com - it fits wonderfully since although his shtick is calling people liars, taking a bit of time to Fact Check Franken's own allegations turns up such a web of lies and deceit that one almost feels sorry for the poor guy - I mean it's like shooting fish in a barrel... Some of the links are to place-holders (this is a new website after all) but other sections go through a page by page rebuttal of Franken's book as well as various interviews he has participated in. Fun stuff!

Crime in Eugene, OR

From Stefan Sharkansky's blog comes a link to this story in the Corvallis Gazette-Times: bq. Lane County residents who report burglaries, car thefts, identity theft, vandalism or other property crimes have a very slim chance of ever seeing an arrest in their cases. bq. The sheriff's office has eliminated both its positions dedicated to investigating property crime after one detective left to be a civilian volunteer in Bosnia to train police there. bq. There's no money for hiring a replacement for Detective Tim Roos, police services Capt. Bret Freeman said, and there may be even less money in the future if county officials go ahead with $4.6 million in planned cuts in the coming year. bq. "It's not that we don't want to help people," Freeman said. "It's that we cannot help people." bq. Victims are lucky if a deputy even shows up to take a report these days. Instead, they're often instructed to download a report form from the county's Web site and mail it in, or they can request a form be mailed to them, Freeman said. bq. Patrol deputies who have time between emergency calls try to follow up as much as they can, but with an average of two deputies and one sergeant patrolling 4,618 square miles of unincorporated land, there's not a lot of opportunity for investigation, the captain said. This sort of thing is happening all the time - people demanding tax cuts but not realizing that with less revenue, the various public services are not going to be able to provide the same level of support... We get this a lot in Seattle with local (actually, he lives in a different city entirely) tax hero Tim Eyeman. Granted, there is a lot of overhead and inefficiency in a lot of the governmental offices but still, to cut basic services as these is abysmal.

Interesting developments in Iran

From Roger L. Simon and Instapundit come this story: bq. A Plan for the peaceful removal of the Islamic Regime of Iran will be announced during a live program broadcast on many Iranian satellite TV and Radio stations. The program starts at 10 AM PST from NITV studios in Los Angeles and will last for 6 hours, including a fundraising segment to support the plan. Other media who have confirmed the live broadcast of this program include Pars TV, Radio Sedaye Iran, Radio Yaran, Radio Sedaye Emrooz, Rangarang TV, Apadana TV, and Lahzeh TV. bq. I have no idea what they have in mind, but this sounds intriguing. Don't know if it will be in English, but a free Internet broadcast will be here. Reminder: this is for Sunday. More info is available from Blog Iran This is wonderful - a good example of the domino effect. The people in Iraq are now feeling comfortable expressing their views. They know that the old dictator is gone gone gone and we (the Coalition Forces) are not planning to install a new dictator. The scent of democracy is in the air and other countries are smelling it and craving some for themselves... I wish them all joy from my heart!

Washington State voting on-line database

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Very cool new website here... You can use this to track Bills by number or keyword. You can also see how your Washington state senator or representative voted on any issue.

Cold bloggin

I am coming down with something and am doped up with Sudafed and other wonderful stuff. My brain is mush as a result so blogging will be light today. More tomorrow. Dave

Two Novell items of interest

First item --- Here is a collection of the correspondance between Novell and SCO regarding the use of Unix and Linux Second Item --- Novell completed the purchase of SuSE and now owns the company. Both of these items bode very well for Novell and Linux.

More in Immigration

Another though-provoking article on immigration, this time from the JunkYard Blog: B. Preston quotes from this article in the City Journal bq. Let's absorb some of its statistics: bq. In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens. bq. A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia, the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County. The gang has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico. bq. The leadership of the Columbia Lil� Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.�s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002, says former assistant U.S. attorney Luis Li. Francisco Martinez, a Mexican Mafia member and an illegal alien, controlled the gang from prison, while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation. bq. Now that we're on the same page, let's re-read this passage again: bq. Of the incalculable changes in American politics, demographics, and culture that the continuing surge of migrants is causing, one of the most profound is the breakdown of the distinction between legal and illegal entry. Everywhere, illegal aliens receive free public education and free medical care at taxpayer expense; 13 states offer them driver�s licenses. States everywhere have been pushed to grant illegal aliens college scholarships and reduced in-state tuition. One hundred banks, over 800 law-enforcement agencies, and dozens of cities accept an identification card created by Mexico to credentialize illegal Mexican aliens in the U.S. The Bush administration has given its blessing to this matricula consular card, over the strong protest of the FBI, which warns that the gaping security loopholes that the card creates make it a boon to money launderers, immigrant smugglers, and terrorists. Border authorities have already caught an Iranian man sneaking across the border this year, Mexican matricula card in hand. bq. Now read that last sentence again: bq. Border authorities have already caught an Iranian man sneaking across the border this year, Mexican matricula card in hand. bq. I'm sure he was just coming here to pick Georgia peaches. Very good points - this is a complex issue.

Embryonic Journey

Amazing series of Scanning Electron Micrographs of embryonic development. These things transcend science and are worthwhile for their beauty as well.

Cool NASA site

Tie in to the Mars Rover here bq. Scientists Need Your Help! bq. Mars scientists are asking students from around the world to help them understand the red planet. Send in a rock collected by you or your classroom from your region of the world, and we will use a special tool like the one on the rover to tell you what it's made of. Then everyone can compare their rocks to the ones found on Mars. bq. We'll post a picture of your rock on the web, and give you a report on what kind of rock it is. We'll also send you an official certificate and Mars sticker for your contribution. bq. Your rock will be kept in a special collection where scientists from around the world can come to study them. This would be so cool for a science class to do and to see it published on a NASA site... Spark someone's interest in science for sure! (emphasis mine)

Dumb Criminal

From the Florida TV station WFTV bq. Woman Gets Arrested After Dialing Wrong Number To Buy Crack bq. PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- A woman seeking to buy crack cocaine called the wrong numbers, but still tried to buy the drug from people she had mistakenly called, police said. bq. Tara Jo Curtis, 29, was arrested Saturday at the No Name Lounge and released Sunday from the Bay County Jail under a $10,000 bond. bq. Someone reported the wrong number calls and investigators arranged a controlled sale of fake crack, police said. bq. An undercover officer sold Curtis a couple of grams of imitation cocaine for $100 and during the transaction she asked if he had a small sample and something she could use to test it, according to a police report. DOH!
I blogged about this already here Denis Boyles in the National Review's excellent EuroPress Review goes into a lot more depth than the Yahoo/AP news item I ran into. Story here: bq. Springtime in Paris, 2003. Pretend you're a French journalist during the opening weeks of the war in Iraq. Every day, your paper, like all the papers in France, blossoms with the grim news of American and British defeats, sorry stories of a quagmire the size of Vietnam, rising hatred of Americans by the Iraqis, the heroic struggle of the Arab leader -- who, after all, is an old friend and business partner of France. But then, suddenly, Baghdad falls, no armies are lost in the sand, the war has been fought, leaving only the peace to be won. Could it be a miracle? bq. Well, France is a secular state, so no. But it's not a scoop, either, since most people -- other than the French, the Germans, and those who relied on the BBC -- understood with clarity exactly what was happening in Iraq. If you're Alain Hertoghe, a French-educated Belgian and a 17-year veteran of La Croix, France's prestigious Catholic daily, and you spend your days reading the AP and AFP wires and comparing the news there with the news you see in print, you realize the story isn't the victory of the Coalition in Iraq, but the defeat of the press in Paris. The war the French press had been fighting was lost, ambushed by reality. bq. Hertoghe suddenly realized a serious wrong was being done by his paper and others. He told me one particular news item pushed him over the line -- an editorial cartoon in Le Monde, claiming Bush's actions in Iraq had racist motivations. "It was very wrong. To us in France, it reminded us of Le Pen." It had been preceded by many others, including this one from the day before showing America's murderous arrogance. "I had already seen this happen in Afghanistan," he said. "It was the same then. I couldn't believe it was happening again the same way." Hertoghe saw his story, so he wrote a book about it. And that's when his problems started. bq. Hertoghe, 44, is the former deputy editor of the online version of La Croix. His book, La guerre � outrances: Comment la presse nous a d�sinform�s sur l'Irak (roughly, and more pointedly, "All-out war: How the press lied to us about Iraq"), was published by Calmann Levy, France's oldest publishing house, with impeccable timing last October, just as several other introspective books critical of France were flourishing on the best-seller lists and stimulating debate among the yakking-classes. But there was one little thing different about Hertoghe's book. It wasn't critical of France. It was critical of the French press. bq. Specifically, it was critical of the misleading and incompetent reporting that appeared not only in his own paper, but also in Le Figaro, Le Monde, Lib�ration, and Ouest-France, the largest regional newspaper, during the first few weeks of the war in Iraq. Hertoghe's book appeared in bookstores around the country and he waited for the debate to begin. And more: bq. The icy treatment has surprised Hertoghe. "I was excited that I would be challenged on whether my book was fair," he said, "because I knew I had been fair. I hoped for a debate. But instead...." Instead, just before Christmas, Hertoghe was confronted by his editor, Bruno Frappat. He was told by Frappat that he had "committed an act of treason" and fired. bq. So a veteran journalist, a chap who had covered the first Gulf war, who had crisscrossed America covering the 2000 election, and who wrote refreshing, somewhat iconoclastic pieces, such as this one, on a regular basis for a newspaper that prided itself on what Hertoghe called "the kind of tradition of freedom of thought that exists among Catholics" had been first silenced for pointing out incompetency in his own profession and then fired. I excerpeted only a bit from the article -- worth reading to get an insight into the mentality of the French ( and Old European) Ruling Class.

Nuke Power as a cure for Global Warming???

Well that headline has to sit gently in the hearts of most rabid Environmentalists now doesn't it... This is the result of an extensive study from MIT (a link to it is here) which says basically that the end-to-end costs to operate a reactor are higher than for conventional fuels but if we start doing silly things like regulating CO2 output, then the costs might be very similar. (Hat tip to Mysanthropyst) When I said end-to-end, I meant taking care of the environmental issues of mining all the way through to core decommissioning and spent fuel reprocessing and disposal. On my own personal note, the only real gripe I have about Nuclear energy is that each and every plant in the US is a different design. Some of them use similar components but the overall layout and configuration of each plant is different. The US Navy and several other nations nuclear plants use a different model. They have a small collection of plants of varying sizes and if they need twice the power, they just build two plants. There is a very strong engineering benefit. If I worked at a plant and was having a problem with a specific pump leaking a little bit, I would call it in. If that same pump had a problem of small leaks at other sites, the entire series of pump would be re-engineered and replaced with a better design. This is called failure-mode analysis and works great for keeping surprises down to a minimum. The waste is an issue - the stuff is long lived and deadly but, it is also very very small compared to the toxic stack waste from a commercial coal-burning electrical plant, even an efficient one. We are talking differences in volume of more than a million to one. You will have long-lived radioactive waste to deal with but it will be relatively small quantities. The majority of stuff that we are having to find a home for today is all the junk left over from the Manhattan Project, not the 30-years accumulation of power plant waste. Something to consider...


Really hard to describe - this guy is a computer artist/genious animator/cinamatographier and funny as hell. Drink warning - do not have any fluids in your mouth while viewing this site - I will not be responsible for any keyboard/display damage... Like Jim Carrey only actually funny...

Machinery Found at Spirit Landing Site

From the website of Left Coast Conservative comes a wonderful link to Mr. Richard C. Hoagland's website here Hey Richard - it's called Basalt and it does stuff like this and this and this as it cools... The last photo is of a large Basalt cliff in Iceland with Basalt rubble at the bottom. Imagine how much fun Herr Docktor Hoagland could have with this photo. Finding all sorts of faeces ...er... faces, machines, metal boxes, etc...

Protect your pets NOW!!!

Get this exclusive offer now - only available on eBay here A perfect companion to this site here Heh...

Seventh Annual The Wacky Warning Label Contest

From Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch Some of the winners: bq. GRAND PRIZE The $500 grand prize for the wackiest label was awarded to Robert Brocone of Euclid, Ohio for a warning he found on a bottle of drain cleaner which says: "If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product." Brocone also wins a copy of the book, "The Death of Common Sense," by Philip K. Howard, chairman of the legal reform group, Common Good. Also: bq. A five-inch fishing lure which sports three steel hooks and cautions users that it is, "Harmful if swallowed". bq. A smoke detector which warns: "Do not use the Silence Feature in emergency situations. It will not extinguish a fire." Heh...

Bush's Immigration policy

Interesting commentary in the Christian Science Monitor regarding Bush's proposed new Immigration policy: bq. More votes for Bush than help for immigrants bq. Last week, President Bush stepped forward and announced "We should have immigration laws that work and make us proud." He proposed a new program and struck a mighty blow - for his own reelection chances. bq. The president outlined a plan that would offer illegal immigrants the opportunity to obtain legal status as temporary workers in jobs that "American citizens are not filling." The three-year worker visas they received would not grant them amnesty, he said, but would ensure for them wage and worker protections, and at least it would give them a shot at, though no promise of, attaining real residency that would allow them to stay here permanently And more: bq. As politics, it's hard to argue with the plan. It's simple, direct, and is couched in the kind of feel-good rhetoric Americans generally love. "America is a stronger and better nation because of the hard work and the faith and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants," he said at the rollout last week. Cue "America the Beautiful." bq. As a policy, however, the initiative is a muddled mess. Trying to walk a tightrope between Republicans who rail against illegal immigration and Democrats who would like to see some sort of amnesty, it ends up doing at best nothing and at worst real damage. And more: bq. Of course, considering the opposition that the plan will face from both Democrats and Republicans, none of this may matter too much, but that doesn't mean it is inconsequential. It's a look into the mind of this White House, the latest in a line of policies covering everything from the economy to education - a poorly planned approach with hugely problematic implications for the future. The last paragraph alludes to how the bill will have to pass both House and Senate where it will emerge as something quite different. "Those who love sausage and the law should never watch either being made." (Otto von Bismarck)

The WMD Road to Damascus

Interesting report from Little Green Footballs Throughout the Iraq war, there had always been an undercurrent of rumor that the WMDs had been trucked into the Beka'a Valley and buried. There were supposedly cases of Coalition forces observing truck convoys driving there before the start of the invasion but since we had not launched our efforts at that time, the only thing they could do was sit and watch. Here is what Charles has to say: bq. Since shortly before the Iraq War, we�ve been hearing reports that Iraq smuggled their weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Today at National Review Jim Geraghty writes about an exiled Syrian journalist who claims to have very specific knowledge about these smuggling operations: The WMD Road to Damascus. Quoting from Jim Geraghty's article: bq. One of the most troubling and intriguing theories has been the idea that Hussein smuggled them to Syria or some other nation before the war began. Now Nizar Nayyouf, an exiled Syrian journalist now living in Paris, claims to have contact with a Syrian military intelligence official who is confirming that theory. I am quoting more from Geraghty's article: bq. Speaking to the British television station ITN Friday, Nayyouf said that his source says he knows three sites where Iraq's WMDs are kept. bq. "It has been confirmed that the Iraqi weapons which were smuggled into Syria through the intermediary of Colonel Zu Alhima Shalish are now located in three different places," the Syrian source reportedly wrote in Arabic to Nayyouf. "The first of these places is a tunnel on the mountain slope near the village of Baida, which is situated two kilometers from Misyaf. This place is under the jurisdiction of Department 489, which deals with coded messages and documents." Back to Charles' site, some of the readers comments are interesting (one of the things which make this a site to check daily - the readers are generally very well informed and are free to post links of their own): bq. John Loftus was on Fox yesterday a.m. Remember when they were finding all those tankers that tested for traces of various very bad things - but had obviously also had gasoline in them? Loftus said they think the nasty stuff was trucked to Syria, offloaded, filled with gasoline and brought back. Nice little trick. Again, a lot of this could be what is called "The Fog of War" and we will not know anything until the WMDs are in Coalition or Iraqui hands... Still - it offers a very good and plausible explanation of what happened...

Intel, IBM backing fund to defend Linux users

From Forbes bq. Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. are contributing to a new fund to defend Linux users against copyright infringement suits threatened by SCO Group Inc., the Wall Street Journal said on Monday. bq. Open Source Development Labs, a non-profit industry consortium based in Beaverton, Ore. which is creating the fund, said it has so far received pledges of $3 million, and hopes to raise $10 million, according to the paper. Who is SCO: bq. Lindon, Utah-based SCO is suing IBM and trying to extract royalties from other Linux users, claiming the operating system is based on Unix intellectual property that it owns. bq. SCO said in December it sent letters to thousands of Unix license holders requiring them to certify that they are not illegally using Unix software in their use of Linux. SCO is basically a company with no tangible value. It is trying to stake a claim that parts of Linux incorporate source code from SCO's version of Unix. Since Linux is so popular, updated frequently (see popular), open source (see popular), available for free download (see popular), runs on the widest range of hardware old and new (see popular), etc... SCO's market share has dropped into the toilet and the management is looking for a way to raise the value of the company. They are being successful! Take a look at the stock prices. Damn - wish I had gotten in on some of that! Don't buy in now though - they are at the end of their run and at some point, this house of cards will collapse and the stock will be worth its real value. The problem of the lawsuits remains though and it is wonderful that IBM and Intel have stepped up to the plate and offered some real cash to defend against these SLAPP suits.

More Global Warming

Those irresponsible Vikings! Probably used cars without catalytic converters and spewed out all kinds of CO2... -- sorry -- A history of the Viking settlements in Greenland here bq. Some people call it the Farm under the Sand, others Greenland's Pompeii. Dating to the mid-fourteenth century, it was once the site of a Viking colony founded along the island's grassy southwestern coast that stretches in a fjord-indented ribbon between the glaciers and the sea. Archaeologists Jette Arneborg of the Danish National Museum, Joel Berglund of the Greenland National Museum, and Claus Andreasen of Greenland University could not have guessed what would be revealed when they excavated the ruins of the five-room, stone-and-turf house in the early 1990s. bq. As the archaeologists dug through the permafrost and removed the windblown glacial sand that filled the rooms, they found fragments of looms and cloth. Scattered about were other household belongings, including an iron knife, whetstones, soapstone vessels, and a double-edged comb. Whoever lived here departed so hurriedly that they left behind iron and caribou antler arrows, weapons needed for survival in this harsh country, medieval Europe's farthest frontier. What drove the occupants away? Where did they go? And more: bq. Under the leadership of the red-faced, red-bearded Erik (who had given the island its attractive name, the better to lure settlers there), the colonists developed a little Europe of their own just a few hundred miles from North America, a full 500 years before Columbus set foot on the continent. They established dairy and sheep farms throughout the unglaciated areas of the south and built churches, a monastery, a nunnery, and a cathedral boasting an imported bronze bell and greenish tinted glass windows. bq. The Greenlanders prospered. From the number of farms in both colonies, whose 400 or so stone ruins still dot the landscape, archaeologists guess that the population may have risen to a peak of about 5,000. Trading with Norway, under whose rule they eventually came, the Greenlanders exchanged live falcons, polar bear skins, narwahl tusks, and walrus ivory and hides for timber, iron, tools, and other essentials, as well luxuries such as raisins, nuts, and wine. But why did the colony decline -- Norse invaders were one reason, Climate was another Read on: bq. Greenland's climate began to change as well; the summers grew shorter and progressively cooler, limiting the time cattle could be kept outdoors and increasing the need for winter fodder. During the worst years, when rains would have been heaviest, the hay crop would barely have been adequate to see the penned animals through the coldest days. Over the decades the drop in temperature seems to have had an effect on the design of the Greenlanders' houses. Originally conceived as single-roomed structures, like the great hall at Brattahlid, they were divided into smaller spaces for warmth, and then into warrens of interconnected chambers, with the cows kept close by so the owners might benefit from the animals' body heat. Not only an historical record but archaeological as well -- the structures of the houses changed to better deal with the shift of climate. The Colonization started in 986 and the last colonists were found in the 1540's. The climate changes on this planet and there is little or nothing that we can do about it.

Global Warming in the comics

Cute cartoon in the last Sunday paper. Wizard of Id with the King being interviewed about Global Warming. Read it here Makes in interesting point though...

Illegals -- the political 'untouchables'

Great editorial by Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times bq. It goes down so well that Gov. Howard Dean's started using it, too. And why not? It's beautifully coded imagery: Whether you came here as slave owner or slave, standing in line and filling in the paperwork or through the express check-in, everyone's an immigrant, and all the rest is fine print... bq. Like so much Media-Democrat conventional wisdom, its uselessness or harmfulness as practically applied is less important than the fact that it advertises your niceness. So, for Democratic presidential candidates, being a moral poseur is the default position on immigration. After all, to be concerned about immigration is, as they see it, to be a racist. And he zeroes in for the money quote: bq. ...And I guess the answer is this: There are supposedly up to 10 million illegals living and working in America. It's not politically possible for a civilized nation forcibly to deport a population three times as big as Ireland's. bq. So which of the remaining options is the least worst? To leave a population 20 times bigger than that of Dean's Vermont living in the shadows, knowing that those shadows provide cover for all sorts of murky activities -- from fake IDs for terrorists to election fraud. Or to shrug ''They're here, they're clear, get used to it,'' and ensnare them, like lawful citizens, within the coils of the bureaucracy. But then he goes on to say: bq. The president has opted for the latter option. A pragmatic conservative could support that, but only if the move was accompanied by a determination to address the ''root cause'': the inertia and incompetence of America's immigration bureaucracy. But there's no indication in the president's remarks that he's prepared to get serious about that. America takes in roughly a million legal immigrants and half-a-million illegals each year. Even routine visa and green card application take years to process: two, five, 10 years. Not because the feds are spending two, five or 10 years doing unusually thorough background checks, but just because that's how long it takes to shuffle the paperwork. Imagine a branch of ''60-Minute Photo'' that takes 60 minutes to develop the photos but three months to move them from the front counter to the lab at the back and another eight months to move them from the lab back to the counter. Right now, the system has a backlog just shy of 5 million. Drop another few million from the Undocumented American community in their laps, and lawful immigrants can add another half-decade and a couple more circles of hell to their own applications. And wraps up with: bq. The world's most powerful nation has an illegal immigration problem because it has a legal immigration problem. Transferring millions of people from the unofficial shadow network to the arthritic bureaucracy that allowed the problem to get this big is unlikely to solve it. Interesting thoughts -- this is a hard issue and one that will not go away for any president. Dealing with it now is much better than dealing with it down the road - we just had eight years of that and look where we are now...

A springtime offensive in Iraq

An interesting article in Phil Carters Intel Dump bq. The New York Times reports today on the "logistical ballet" that will take place over the next several months in Iraq, as 125,000 soldiers rotate home and 110,000 soldiers rotate into Iraq to replace them. There will be overlap between the two sets of units. Primarily, such overlap is intended to let the new units learn from the old ones, such that the new units will not hit the ground blind and without a clue. The overlap is also intended to make the logistical effort easier. Ostensibly, we can use the same ships that take new units over there to bring the old units home. (Doing it in reverse would require 2 round trips, a very expensive proposition.) But there's something else -- something much more operational in nature -- and Eric Schmitt alludes to it in his article: bq. During this rotation, about 110,000 fresh troops will flow into Iraq to replace 125,000 who have been there for about a year. The first 200 returning soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division arrived home this week in Fort Campbell, Ky. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were also heading home, to Fort Bragg, N.C. bq. At the peak period of overlapping forces, commanders will be able to capitalize on having as many as 200,000 troops in Iraq. But the rotation also poses new risks as American officials say they fully expect guerrillas to try to exploit the transition to new, less experienced troops. bq. "The shifting focus of their attacks is relentless," said Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the senior Army officer here overseeing the troop rotation. "But this will not be a period of vulnerability." bq. Analysis: I'm not the first to key in on this fact. Several of my colleagues at JOForum, including Mark Lewis and Michael Noonan, noticed it before I did. But I think it deserves mention again, because it's an issue that has not been reported by the major media in any depth. Could this spike in U.S. troop strength be intended to facilitate a spring offensive against the Iraqi insurgency? bq. The answer is probably yes, with a couple of reservations. To date, we still have not imposed the kind of police presence we had in either Bosnia or Kosovo in Iraq -- we just haven't had the troops on the ground to put that kind of per-capita manpower on the street. There are some areas of Iraq, such as Samarra and elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle, where even reporters dare not go these days. I conceptualize these areas like South Central L.A. -- bad areas in need of substantial patrolling in order to make them safe. Having an extra 100,000 troops on the ground will enable us to do the kind of security operations we've always wanted to do, and to focus large amounts of manpower on discrete areas in order to destroy any nascent insurgencies in those locations. bq. While I don't think we're going to see a full-scale, high-intensity offensive this spring, I do think we will see a redoubled "law enforcement"/"order maintenance" (hat tip to my undergraduate thesis adviser James Q. Wilson and his Broken Windows thesis) offensive in Iraq. The task/purpose will be to conduct security patrols of the country in order to pacify those areas which have remained unruly since the regime's demise in April 2003. The intended goal will be to facilitate the transfer of power to the infant Iraqi Governing Council in June/July, and to increasingly hand more of the security mission over to the Iraqis. The article gives a bunch of links and cites other sources - excellent and interesting writing

Support for insurgents waning in volatile city

From Instapundit comes a link to this story in the Salt Lake Tribune: bq. FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The explosion Friday rocked the dusty blue bus, sending tattooed tribeswomen to the floor in a swirl of fringed scarves and screams. bq. They were leaving town for a shopping trip to Baghdad, about 35 miles east, when insurgents apparently bombed a nearby American military checkpoint. None of the women was injured, but the blast destroyed the last vestige of their support for the guerrillas who make Fallujah the most consistently troublesome city for the U.S.-led coalition. bq. "Now you see how it feels, how we have to jump and duck when we hear explosions," Samia Abdullah, a 45-year-old Fallujah resident, told a Knight Ridder reporter on the bus. "Day and night, we are afraid, and we are tired of it. I can no longer feel proud of the resistance. They have made these bombings our everyday life." and the money quote: bq. "I'm against the resistance now, and I'm not afraid to say it," said Mahmoud Ali, 25, who was tending a roadside soda stand. "I can bring you a dozen friends who say the same thing. I wish the attacks would stop. It's affecting our whole stability, our whole life." Indeed! Slowly and slowly, these people are getting the idea that they have control over their destiny - that one dictator has not been replaced by another and that demcracy will be forthcoming.


Go to the website of Amazon.com You have the option in the upper left to enter a search request. Search for " old fart " and click on Go.

Dumb Criminal

From the Longmont, CO Daily Times - scroll down, it's the last article on the page: bq. A call about a large party early Saturday morning netted 10 summonses for underage drinking, the arrests of two adults, and the discovery of what police are called an �elaborate marijuana cultivation operation.� bq. Joshua Greg Young, 31, of Longmont was arrested Saturday on suspicion of six counts of contributing the the delinquency of a minor, and the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana � all felony counts. Let's see -- these people are running a marijuana growing operation in their house and they decide to throw a party and invite a whole bunch of under 21 people to share in the boozing and smoking... DOH!

George Washington's Beer

On a beer roll here... From N.P.R. comes a copy of George Washington's Beer recipe: bq. Ever wonder what the Founding Fathers drank? Using recipes favored by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Yards, a Philadelphia-based brewer, is recreating their beers of choice and offering them for sale in six-packs. Rachel Buchman of member station WHYY reports. Read Washington's recipe for beer. bq. George Washington's Beer Recipe bq. To Make Small Beer: bq. Take a large siffer full of bran hops to your taste-boil these 3 hours. Then strain our 30 gall[o]n into a cooler put in 3 gall[o]n molasses while the beer is scalding hot or rather draw the molasses into the cooler. Strain the beer on it while boiling hot, let this stand till it is little more than blood warm. Then put in a quart of ye[a]st if the weather is very cold cover it over with a blank[et] let it work in the cask-Leave the bung open till it is almost done working-Bottle it that day week it was brewed." Couple of nits... I don't know what a siffer is - got to be a unit of measurement. Anyway, you would not want to boil this for three hours - it needs to be steeped at various temperatures so that the enzymes occurring naturally in the barley or bran will be activated and will convert the starch in the seeds to sugar. These enzymes can be denatured (broken) if heated to boiling and starch doesn't ferment. What was probably the case is that they used Decoction-Brewing. The art of measuring temperature is a very very recent one and accurate thermometers did not exist in Washington's day. What a brewer did was to boil water in a smaller container and then pour it into a larger container that was already filled with grain and room-temperature water. If you kept the ratio of the two containers to a proper one, the introduction of the boiling water would raise the overall temperature to the point where the enzymes activated. You would then hold this pot for three hours before continuing. Everything else looks great. The couple gallons of molasses would give it a bunch more alcohol without too much cost. The article said that this would be about 11% - that is actually about as high as you can get without resorting to specialty yeasts - a standard Saccharomyces cerevisiae will die off around 10% to 12%. Maybe try this at home someday...

Beer Caves

From the Bloomsburg, PA Press Enterprise comes a story about Beer Caves. bq. Borough council wants to tear down the old "beer caves," a link to the days when beer was brewed here, and sell the property to a developer. bq. The caves are a series of tunnels dug into a hillside by Steeb Street, behind the site of the current Danville Ambulance Garage. They date back to the early 1900s, when Henry Voelcker Sr. used them as cold storage for beer made at a brewery there. and more: bq. When Prohibition put a damper on the beer business in 1921, Voelcker manufactured pants hangers and rug beaters, and he grew mushrooms in the beer caves. He also started the Coca-Cola Bottling Works in Danville, the account says. Heh! I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and there were several breweries there. One of them, Iron City, had their lagering tanks dug into a hillside in back of the brewery. An enterprising person who lived on the top of that hillside was drilling for a new water well and (according to his statement in the newspaper article at the time) "Struck Beer!" It wasn't until the tanks were drained for a periodic maintenance inspection that the errant pipe was discovered.
Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution points out a well reasoned rebuttal to the "scare quotes" being issued from Chris Thomas at the University of Leeds, UK. published in Nature. Tyler points to an article by Gregg Easterbrook here bq. NONSENSE IS IN NO DANGER OF EXTINCTION: Species loss is indisputably a problem--it's among the few environmental issues where trends are negative, and among the few that really worries me--but the Nature study on the subject, being widely promoted in today's press, is a monument to nonsense. "WARMING MAY THREATEN 37% OF SPECIES BY 2050," The Washington Post says on page one this morning. Well, a lot of things "may" happen. Let's break down the nonsense in this study point by point. bq. First, though appearing in a prestigious science journal, this study, led by Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds, is nothing but computer modeling. No actual extinctions caused by global warming are established, nor is any confirmed relationship demonstrated between global warming and species loss. ... The study is entirely a computer simulation, and as anyone familiar with this art knows, computer models can be trained to produce any desired result. bq. Computer models are also notorious for becoming more unreliable the farther out they project, as estimates get multiplied by estimates, and then the result is treated as specific. This is a 50-year projection, and everything beyond the first few years should be treated as meaningless statistically, given that tiny alterations in initial assumptions can lead to huge swings at the end of a 50-year simulation. Nature is a refereed journal, but it appears that all the peer-reviewers did was check to make sure the results presented corresponded to what happened when the computer models were run. There does not appear to have been any peer-review of whether the underlying assumptions make sense. bq. This is especially true in light of the third problem with this study, namely, that past episodes of global warming have not produced the mass-extinction that the Thomas computer models project. Global average temperatures have risen one degree Fahrenheit in the past century--a reason I accept most global-warming theory--without any significant effect on species. Several frog species including the Costa Rican golden toad (there are hundreds of frog species) may have been rendered extinct by climate change in the past century, but that's not even in the general zone of the kind of impact this study projects. bq. Estimates of global warming vary quite widely, as they too are driven by computer model, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most-cited source of global-warming projections, now expects somewhere around three to six degrees Fahrenheit of warming by 2100. (IPCC estimates are all over the map; set that aside for the moment.) Assuming that happens--many estimates are lower--we'd expect one or two degrees of warming by 2050. European temperatures rose naturally by one or two degrees at the end of the "Little Ice Age" of the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries. This rise did not cause a mass extinction in the region; in fact, it appears to have caused few or no extinctions. Why would the same level of temperature increase suddenly trigger a mass extinction now? Emphasis mine Iain Murray at Tech Central Station weighs in with the following: bq. There are several reasons this claim should be laughed out of the court of public opinion. First, the research doesn't say what the researchers themselves claim. They have extrapolated to all species a model that looked at only 1,103 species in certain areas (243 of those species were South African proteaceae, a family of evergreen shrubs and trees). For one thing, we don't know how many species there are -- estimates vary from 2 million to 80 million -- and have only documented 1.6 million. However, assuming the 14 million figure widely used in the press reports is anywhere near accurate, the sample size is a mere 0.008 percent of the total species population of the planet, with certain species vastly over-represented (there are only 1,000 species of proteaceae on the planet). All the researchers have demonstrated is that, if their model is correct, certain species in certain habitats will run a risk of extinction. Extrapolating to the entire planet from this small, unrepresentative sample is simply invalid. So when the lead researcher told the Washington Post, "We're not talking about the occasional extinction -- we're talking about 1.25 million species. It's a massive number," he was guilty at the very least of over-enthusiasm, if not outright exaggeration. bq. This problem would be devastating enough for the claims, if it wasn't the case that the model on which the calculations are made is itself suspect. It relies on the 'species-area relationship,' the idea that smaller areas support fewer species. A researcher at the evocatively-titled Golden Toad Laboratory for Conservation in Puentoarenas, Costa Rica, writing a commentary on the study for Nature, called this "one of ecology's few ironclad laws." The trouble is that there are many exceptions to this supposedly ironclad law. The wholesale deforestation of the Eastern United States, for example, seems only to have caused the extinction of one species of bird. While in Puerto Rico, the island's loss of 99 percent of its forest cover caused the loss of 7 out of 60 species, but after the deforestation the number of bird species on the island actually increased to 97. The species-area relationship (plotted as a linear function in 1859) seems to be a poor model on which to base extinction rates. He continues with the following wonderful commentary: bq. What about the link to global warming? The researchers assume that global warming will reduce habitat. Yet this isn't the case. The earth is not shrinking. The reduction of one area of habitat does not mean that it is replaced by void. Other habitats expand. And so far, all the evidence we have points not to desertification or other changes to less hospitable climates as a result of global warming. Instead, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere seems to have led to a six percent increase in the amount of vegetation on the earth. The Amazon rain forests accounted for 42 percent of the growth. To model only reductions in habitats and not expansions accounted for by global warming stacks the deck. The researchers created a model that dictated that global warming will cause extinctions. Surprise, surprise! When they ran the model that's exactly the result they got. Sure, the earth is warming up - it's warming up from a couple hundred years of being cooler than normal. To say that humans caused this and can cure this is hubris of the worst order... Junk science.


From Bizzare Science comes a link to an interesting article by Ross Clark regarding Globophobia: bq. Following America's decision to lift tariffs on imported steel, one might have expected the European Union to have made a gesture towards free trade. Yet the European Union has just voted to continue a five-year-long moratorium on the import of genetically modified maize from the United States. The stated purpose of the moratorium was to allow the EU to carry out safety tests on the maize. These tests were duly carried out. Last year the EU scientific committee on food concluded that one particular brand of maize, Bt11 sweet maize, developed by the Anglo-Swiss conglomerate Syngenta, is 'as safe for human food use as its conventional counterparts'. But the EU regulatory committee, which has the final say on imports, voted to keep the moratorium all the same. Those voting against were France, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Austria. bq. One of Austria's reasons for disregarding the advice of EU scientists was that no toxicological tests have been carried out on the maize plants in their entirety. This is absurd: nobody eats the leaves and roots of a maize plant. If foodstuffs were to be rejected as unfit for human consumption on the grounds that part of the plant was inedible, it would mean the end of potatoes, artichokes and all fruit grown on trees. bq. No conventional foods ever will be rejected by an EU regulatory committee, however, for the simple reason that there exists no procedure for testing them, even if they are novel to European consumers. Peanuts and kiwi fruit have been allowed to become part of the European diet over the past half century in spite of the fact that both cause potentially fatal allergies in susceptible individuals. Had they been GM foods, the allergies would almost certainly have been picked up in safety tests and the foods banned from distribution. Far from shunning GM foods on the grounds of safety, a logical consumer would eat nothing but. Emphasis mine - it is amazing to see the narrow-mindedness of some of these bureaucrats who simply do not see the hypocrisy in their actions...

Bill Whittle

Absent from my Blogroll has been Mr. Bill Whittle. This has been remedied and I would suggest that you go there now and read his latest - The Sleep of the Jacksonians (and what to do about it)... (don't worry, I'll keep this window open for you) He writes incredible essays - this one is more of a short notice of a longer work but it's worth reading in its entirety. Other works (plan on spending as much as an hour on each one - he is worse than DenBeste (in a good way!)): Honor (Dec. 22, 2002) here Freedom (Dec. 22,2002) here Empire (Dec. 27, 2002) here Celebrity Jan. 20, 2003) here War (Jan 26, 2003) here Courage (Feb. 15, 2003) here Confidence (Feb. 23, 2003) here History (March 29, 2003) here Victory (April 27, 2003) here Magic (June 7, 2003) here Trinity (part 1) July 4th, 2003) here Trinity (part 2) July 4th, 2003 here Responsibility (Aug. 20, 2003) here Power (Oct. 1, 2003) here The initial series of essays were from materials he had written for other sources - this explains the first output. He usually does one of these every couple months and they are very much worth waiting for. He also updates his blog with any news or events he finds interesting so it's worth checking every week or so... Welcome back Bill!!!

Marijuana grow operation busted

Oops... From the Canadian Globe and Mail: bq. Barrie, Ont. � Over 100 police officers converged on a former Molson brewery site Saturday, exposing what they say is the largest marijuana grow operation in Ontario history. bq. Ten people were arrested and officers hunted for others possibly hiding in the massive three-storey building. bq. "The building is very elaborate," said Ontario Provincial Police Supt. Bill Crate. "There's concerns about booby traps, there's concerns about hydro and the way that its set up." bq. Thousands and thousands of marijuana plants, being cultivated with sophisticated watering and chemical grow devices, are believed to be on the site � an 11,250-square-metre building located in an industrial area. This is particularly interesting because as published here in February of 2003: Adirondack Pure Springs Mt. Water Co., Inc. (OTC BB:APSW) is being talked about here (excerpted from a longer article): bq. Oakley concludes, "I understand that APSW has executed a letter of intent to acquire (and retrofit) the former Molson Brewery in Barrie, Ontario. It's a 375,000 square foot plant on about 40 acres--(which will be) one of the top such facilities in North America (when complete) .... & is negotiating with several other major (significant companies in the beverage, nutrition, and healthcare industries, as well as major retailers and) distributors. ... What got my interest is the recognition of a trend that's at an early stage, & that I feel will grow at a fast pace in the next several years." APSW makes some of those "high tech" bottled waters: bq. He added: "One of APSW's first enhanced beverages is called MaxO2 Oxygenated Natural Water" You have to be smoking something to buy into the idea of Oxygenated Bottled Water having any therapeutic action at all... Very simple - there are two ways to go: #1) - the Oxygen is introduced as a gas in the water. The gas gets absorbed when the water is consumed and you get a benefit of more O2 in your bloodstream #2) - the Oxygen is added as a chemical component to the water molecule and gets released when the water is digested. The release then provides the therapeutic benefit. #1) - bunk #2) - bunk #1) - if the Oxygen was introduced as a gas and if it was absorbed by the body and transferred to the bloodstream, we would die whenever we consumed a carbonated beverage. The quantity of Carbon Dioxide (a waste product of our breathing) in a 12Oz (335mL) can of soda pop would asphyxiate a normal human if it found its was into their bloodstream. #2) - there is a perfect example of what happens when you add Oxygen as a chemical component to the water molecule - this happens when you go from H2O to H2O2. H2O2 is known as Hydrogen Peroxide and is a very powerful oxidant. Dilute solutions of it are used as bleach. Anyway, it's interesting to read about this and speculate if the pot growing operation was in some part related to this pie-in-the-sky "techno" water company...

Light Blogging Saturday

We will be up at our property near Mt. Baker tonight and tomorrow so blogging will be light. The region got a very sudden and very nasty cold snap and one of the outbuildings has running water (small bath and kitchenette). I my be doing plumbing all day tomorrow - that and mopping...

Watchmaker With Time to Lose

Very very cool article from Jet Propulsion Labs about one aspect of the Mars Rover team... bq. Rover controllers have to monitor Spirit (and soon, Opportunity) all the time; this doesn't just mean 24 hours a day " it means 24 hours, 39 minutes a day. The martian day is longer than Earth's, but this minimal variance can amount to physical and mental fatigue. Every day, team members are reporting to work 39 minutes later than the previous day. and more: bq. Townsend and her co-worker Scott Doudrick, a systems engineer on the project, set out to find a solution for this otherwordly problem. The pair began to ask watchmakers to tackle the challenge but each one turned them away, saying that it couldn't be done unless they placed a large order (10,000 plus) for quartz-controlled watches; they insisted that attempting to convert mechanical watches was not possible. and more: bq. A man who found his passion at the age of eight, an underling to his father, now guides his own young apprentice, nine-year-old son, David. Clearly enamored of his father, David relayed his own novice clock-making prowess and declared that he would one day take over the store. When he does inherit the business, he will have benefited from his father's finely honed skills, acquired under master watch and clockmakers in Switzerland and Germany. bq. Garo acknowledged that the Mars watch request is the strangest he has ever received. It took him about two months to design, fine-tune and streamline the process that would keep the watch on Mars time. bq. "Since I was a young child I've put my heart into making very precise time pieces, now I was being asked to create a watch that was slow on purpose " it was going to be a challenge if it was even possible," Garo said. "I spent more than $1,000 trying to figure this out " damaging watches, trying different parts, just searching for a way." and more: bq. Garo watched with million of others as mission control described Spirit's near-perfect landing. But his connection to the mission was personal. bq. "I felt proud; I got goosebumps," he said. "I saw that some of them had two watches on and I thought, one of them was mine! I was proud as an American that it landed and secondly that my watches will be used." bq. Used, indeed, by a team of scientists and engineers who looked to a truly old world craft for a solution to a very modern problem. And like the rover team, that faced countless challenges and criticism, Garo gets to say, "I told you so" to those who said it couldn't be done. It's stories like this that really point out the difference between America and New Europe and other countries -- specifically Old Europe and the Middle East. We don't take no for an answer and we get stuff done... An image of the watch face is here


Found this link on Metafiler A guy in Sweden has built a motorcycle of fairly large proportions. Check it out here
A pair of websites that track health inspections in restaurants in King County. This one (here) shows those places that failed inspection in the last seven days. This one (here) can be used to look up a restaurant's history of inspections.

more on Global Warming

This is from Melanie Phillips web-site here bq. The British government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, has said that global warming is a more serious threat to the world than terrorism. His remarks are utter balderdash from start to finish and illustrate the truly lamentable decline of science into ideological propaganda. bq. Sir David says the Bush administration should not dismiss global warming because: 1) the ten hottest years on record started in 1991 2) sea levels are rising 3) ice caps are melting and 4) the 'causal link' between man-made emissions and global warming is well established. bq. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. There is no such evidence. The whole thing is a global scam. There is no firm evidence that warming is happening; even if it is, it is most likely to have natural, not man-made causes; carbon dioxide, supposedly the culprit, makes up such a tiny fraction of the atmosphere that even if it were to quadruple, the effect on climate would be negligible; and just about every one of the eco-doomster stories that curdle our blood every five minutes is either speculative, ahistorical or scientifically illiterate. She goes on to quote Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT (I am excerpting her quote) bq. 'Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than it was a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the earth (one of many, the most important being water vapor and clouds). bq. 'But--and I cannot stress this enough--we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions. bq. 'One reason for this uncertainty is that, as the report states, the climate is always changing; change is the norm. Two centuries ago, much of the Northern Hemisphere was emerging from a little ice age. A millennium ago, during the Middle Ages, the same region was in a warm period. Thirty years ago, we were concerned with global cooling. She then quotes from Professor Philip Stott's article in the April 2 2001 Wall Street Journal: bq. '"Global warming" was invented in 1988, when it replaced two earlier myths of an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of a nuclear winter. The new myth was seen to encapsulate a whole range of other myths and attitudes that had developed in the 1960s and 1970s, including "limits to growth," sustainability, neo-Malthusian fears of a population time bomb, pollution, anticorporate anti-Americanism, and an Al Gore-like analysis of human greed disturbing the ecological harmony and balance of the earth. bq. 'Initially, in Europe, the new myth was embraced by both right and left. The right was concerned with breaking the power of traditional trade unions, such as the coal miners -- the labor force behind a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions -- and promoting the development of nuclear power. Britain's Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research was established at the personal instigation of none other than Margaret Thatcher. bq. 'The left, by contrast, was obsessed with population growth, industrialization, the car, development and globalization. Today, the narrative of global warming has evolved into an emblematic issue for authoritarian greens, who employ a form of language that has been characterized by the physicist P.H. Borcherds as "the hysterical subjunctive." And it is this grammatical imperative that is now dominating the European media when they complain about Mr. Bush, the U.S., and their willful denial of the true faith.' Well put! Again, the earth is warming but to think that this is a result of human activity is hubris at best and junk science at worst...

Amazon.com Friday sale

Every Friday, Amazon.com hosts a sale of around 100+ items - some are good deals, some less so and some are loss-leaders. Check it out here

Rapid climate change

From Bizzare Science comes this link to a story in Physics Today: bq. How fast can our planet's climate change? Too slowly for humans to notice, according to the firm belief of most scientists through much of the 20th century. Any shift of weather patterns, even the Dust Bowl droughts that devastated the Great Plains in the 1930s, was seen as a temporary local excursion. To be sure, the entire world climate could change radically: The ice ages proved that. But common sense held that such transformations could only creep in over tens of thousands of years. bq. During the early 1970s, most climate experts came to agree that interglacial periods tended to end more abruptly than had been supposed. Many concluded that the current warm period could end in a rapid cooling, possibly even within the next few hundred years. Bryson, Stephen Schneider, and a few others took this new concern to the public. They insisted that the climate we had experienced in the past century or so, mild and equable, was not the only sort of climate the planet knew. For all anyone could say, the next decade might start a plunge into a cataclysmic freeze, drought, or other change unprecedented in recent memory, although not without precedent in the archaeological and geological record. That's right - 35 years ago, the enviros were screaming their heads off about the upcoming ice age and how human activity was sure to be causing it... bq. The 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pronouncing the official consensus of the world's governments and their climate experts, reported that a shutdown in the coming century was "unlikely" but "cannot be ruled out." If such a shutdown did occur, it would change climates all around the North Atlantic--a dangerous cooling brought on by global warming. bq. Now that the ice had been broken, so to speak, most experts were prepared to consider that rapid climate change--huge and global change--could come at any time. "The abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet," wrote the NAS committee in its 2002 report, "and climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes. Hence, ... climate surprises are to be expected."1 Despite the profound implications of this new viewpoint, hardly anyone rose to dispute it. and more: bq. The actual history shows that even the best scientific data are never that definitive. People can see only what they find believable. Over the decades, many scientists who looked at tree rings, varves, ice layers, and such had held evidence of decade-scale climate shifts before their eyes. They easily dismissed it. There were plausible reasons to dismiss global calamity as nothing but a crackpot fantasy. Sometimes the scientists' assumptions were actually built into their procedures: When pollen specialists routinely analyzed their clay cores in 10-cm slices, they could not possibly see changes that took place within a centimeter's worth of layers. If the conventional beliefs had been the same in 1993 as in 1953--that significant climate change always takes many thousands of years--the short-term fluctuations in ice cores would have been passed over as meaningless noise. Climate is a complex issue and there is a lot that we do not know. One thing we do know is that we are leaving a cool period and heading towards a period of warming. The key thing is that this warming is not in any way a result of the activity of humans on this planet. The warming started well before we kicked out significant amounts of CO2 and the current warming trend follows several cycles of warming and cooling that have been well documented from Medieval times. Global warming as defined by the Kyoto protocols is junk science and needs to be nipped in the bud.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette come this story of a fifth-grade show and tell by Dr. Michael Horowitz on the human body. What Dr. Horowitz brought in was a cadaver arm which he opened up to show nerves and other parts. I would have thought this was very cool when I was in fifth grade but some of the students there didn't. Couple of throw-ups, one fainting and some leaving the room. bq. Horowitz appeared surprised by the complaints yesterday and said that he has visited the school in previous years bearing cadaver eyes, ears and a brain. The body parts are donated to the University of Pittsburgh medical school for research purposes, he said. bq. Berzonski said the fifth-graders recently finished a study of how body systems interrelate -- nerves, bones, skin and other organs. She also said that when Horowitz lifted the skin on the cadaver arm to show the children what lay underneath, "there was no blood." bq. "My son left the room; he was quite traumatized," said one father, who didn't want his name used fearing "reprisal." The boy's mother was at the school to help with the Dr. Seuss program, he said. "She said he was as white as a ghost." bq. Berzonski said the children were told on Monday and again on Tuesday that the class would feature a cadaver arm, and that they could leave the classroom at any time if they wished. However, no notes were sent home to parents before the event, Berzonski acknowledged. Quite traumatized indeed - bunch 'o wusses... (the parents I mean)

Victor Davis Hanson

It;'s Friday and time for another essay by V.D.H. bq. The Same Old Thing bq. One of the strangest developments of the ongoing presidential campaign has been the creation of a new national mythology: The United States is alienating the world, losing the friendship of the Europeans, needlessly offending the Arabs, and generally embarking on a radically new foreign policy of preemption and hegemony. Would that "unilateralism," Bush's drawl and Christianity, or Halliburton contracts were the cause of our problems � then we could fawn over the U.N., send Jimmy Carter once more around the world, have our president learn to drop his accent, and publicly chastise oil companies, and, presto, be liked! But unfortunately the current tension is far deeper than media strategies and insufficient "consultation" � and in fact goes back at last three decades. bq. Thirty years ago, during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, most of the Europeans of the NATO alliance refused over-flight rights to the United States. We had only hours in which to aid Israel from a multifaceted surprise attack and were desperately ferrying tons of supplies to save it from literal extinction. In contrast, many of these same allies allowed the Soviet Union � the supposed common enemy from which thousands of Americans were based in Europe to protect Europeans � to fly over NATO airspace to ensure the Syrians sufficient material to launch and sustain their surprise attack on the Golan. and more: bq. The Dominique de Villepin of that age was the globe-trotting Michel Jobert, Pompidou's foreign minister. Shortly after the war he visited all the radical Arab capitals to ensure French oil supplies and weapons sales. He capped off his trip in Baghdad to lend support for Arab rejectionism � in hopes of sending a message to the United States by sabotaging American peace efforts to end the hostilities. Indeed, Villepin's present-day chauvinism is simply rehashed Jobert, down to the whining about being a victim of superpower insensitivity, decrying unilateralism, and calling for a new muscular European unity under the cultural aegis of France. bq. We worry about the recent eruptions of Arab anti-Semitism, but shouldn't be surprised since that is the old stuff of the Islamic Middle East. Gamal Nasser, for example, once brought in 80 former Wehrmacht officers under Col. General Wilhelm Frambecher to refashion his army into something like Hitler's finest. Apparently he thought German officers would know best how to finish off the Jews who escaped the Holocaust. bq. Are we upset that the Palestinian Authority had something to do, either explicitly or by laxity, with the recent killing of American attaches who were seeking to interview Palestinian students on the West Bank? But again, what else is new? Thirty years ago, Yasser Arafat's thugs murdered two U.S. diplomats in Khartoum. bq. What explains the depressing similarity to years past, when the Soviet Union � the ostensible troublemaker that supplied the Middle East with terror training, weapons, and state-run police states � is now gone? Well, after Communism's demise, Europe chose to disarm and thus is even weaker than before � and, for that reason, still angry at not exercising global influence in a world dominated by the United States. The French still stew over faded and unrecoverable past glories, but now cannot even use their nuclear force to triangulate with another superpower. Meanwhile the Germans are still troubled that their population and economic clout for some reason do not win commensurate world status given their checkered past. In response, more of the same tired retreats into historical revisionism, rather than principled support for democracy and freedom, more often provide salve for German self-inflicted wounds. Read the whole thing - he is on a roll this week!

Exercise not effective in weight control

An interesting report from Tech Central Station regarding the efficacy of exercise for weight control. Hat tip to Kim DuToit. bq. To combat the obesity epidemic our government wants us to get into shape. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's Shape Up America! has been updated with Shape Up & Drop 10� and Surgeon General David Satcher's 10,000 Steps Program. A multitude of other compulsory exercise programs targeting fat have also been instituted by major employers, schools and healthcare providers. bq. The shared goal of these exercise initiatives is weight loss. The underlying belief is that being "in shape" means being thin and no one would be fat if everyone exercised. For consumers, the take home message is that the whole point of exercise is to be thin. In fact, we're admonished everyday to exercise to lose weight. bq. Trouble is, exercise - as necessary as it is for us -- won't make us thin. bq. "I think fitness and medical professionals are doing a disservice to their clients when they position exercise as a way to lose weight," said Jennifer Portnick, personal trainer and certified aerobic exercise instructor at Feeling Good Fitness in the Bay area. "Becoming active may or may not result in a change in weight." bq. But few of us realize that the most significant body of research shows exercise doesn't appreciably change body weights at all. and more: bq. Recognizing that many of the studies finding beneficial weight loss due to exercise were not well controlled, researchers at the University of Texas conducted the Heritage Family Study. Led by Jack H. Wilmore, Ph.D., they put over 500 men and women on a 20-week endurance training program. While concluding that exercise can induce favorable changes, the study admitted they're of "limited biological significance." Yet the researchers speculated that increasing the intensity and duration of exercise would "likely have a major effect on body-composition and fat distribution." (As we'll see, that hopeful prediction didn't prove out.) bq. Just how "limited" were the weight loss benefits of exercise? Men lost 0.4 kg and women a mere 0.1 kg! Other research, such as the meta-analysis done by researchers at the University of Vermont, has consistently found women lose less fat and weight than men, an understandably important biological attribute for preserving fertility and the survival of the species. "In a recent study conducted in our laboratory," wrote Wilmore, "previously sedentary, moderately overweight women placed on an intense, 6-month, resistance-training program actually gained total mass and fat mass, even though they were instructed to maintain the same diet and activity pattern that they had before starting the study." bq. Yes, many studies have found women actually gain weight and body fat with exercise. In another study in which obese women did 6 months of aerobic exercise 4 to 5 times a week, one-third of them gained as much as 15 pounds of body fat, with the average of the gainers being 8 pounds. That's body FAT, not weight, emphasized Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and author of Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health (Gurze Books, 2002). "Just to make it clear that the weight gain was not muscle, as fitness buffs might assert. Thus a true skeptic might ask whether "exercise" has contributed to the obesity epidemic!!" What works is based on basic thermodynamics - you will burn 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day. Eat less. Exercise is great for other things - this is not saying that we should cut exercise from our lives but, we should not expect it to contribute to weight loss - the only thing that can do that is a dietary modification.

New plant hormone

From the Crumb Trail weblog comes a story of a new hormone which seems to govern plant immune response. The original article is here in BioMedNet (free registration required) bq. Researchers in the US have found what appears to be a pivotal protein in the plant immune response. It's a discovery that could further the development of disease-resistant plants, they say. bq. The plant hormone salicylic acid (SA), from which aspirin is derived, plays a key role in the signaling pathway via which plants respond to infection. Levels of the hormone increase when plants are attacked by certain pathogens. Until now, scientists were unsure what happened next. Now, two researchers at Cornell University's Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) in Ithaca, New York, claim to have taken a major step towards the answer. bq. Besides being an environmentally friendly way to fight pests, enhancing the natural immune response of plants might be more effective than using pesticides. With pesticides, explained Klessig, there is "enormous selection pressure for pathogens to mutate." Thus, he says, it is only a matter of time before pests become resistant to current pesticides. Plant geneticists can already move specific disease-resistance genes from one plant to another. But again, pests can readily adapt to one such change at a time. It would be more difficult for a pathogen to evolve resistance to plants' innate immunity, Klessig notes, which involves a whole "arsenal" of defenses. This will be fun for the environmentalists to try to grok - a use of Genetic Modification that makes a plant's resistance to disease more environmentally friendly. I can smell the wood smoke from their poor brains now...
from Slashdot - the article is here bq. "Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right." -- Donald Norman bq. This is the story of one computer professional's explorations in the world of postmodern literary criticism. I'm a working software engineer, not a student nor an academic nor a person with any real background in the humanities. Consequently, I've approached the whole subject with a somewhat different frame of mind than perhaps people in the field are accustomed to. Being a vulgar engineer I'm allowed to break a lot of the rules that people in the humanities usually have to play by, since nobody expects an engineer to be literate. Ha. Anyway, here is my tale. bq. It started when my colleague Randy Farmer and I presented a paper at the Second International Conference on Cyberspace, held in Santa Cruz, California in April, 1991. Like the first conference, at which we also presented a paper, it was an aggressively interdisciplinary gathering, drawing from fields as diverse as computer science, literary criticism, engineering, history, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and political science. About the only relevant field that seemed to lack strong representation was economics (an important gap but one which we don't have room to get into here). It was in turn stimulating, aggravating, fascinating and infuriating, a breathtaking intellectual roller coaster ride unlike anything else I've recently encountered in my professional life. My last serious brush with the humanities in an academic context had been in college, ten years earlier. The humanities appear to have experienced a considerable amount of evolution (or perhaps more accurately, genetic drift) since then. bq. Randy and I were scheduled to speak on the second day of the conference. This was fortunate because it gave us the opportunity to recalibrate our presentation based on the first day's proceedings, during which we discovered that we had grossly mischaracterized the audience by assuming that it would be like the crowd from the first conference. I spent most of that first day furiously scribbling notes. People kept saying the most remarkable things using the most remarkable language, which I found I needed to put down in writing because the words would disappear from my brain within seconds if I didn't. Are you familiar with the experience of having memories of your dreams fade within a few minutes of waking? It was like that, and I think for much the same reason. Dreams have a logic and structure all their own, falling apart into unmemorable pieces that make no sense when subjected to the scrutiny of the conscious mind. So it was with many of the academics who got up to speak. The things they said were largely incomprehensible. There was much talk about deconstruction and signifiers and arguments about whether cyberspace was or was not "narrative". There was much quotation from Baudrillard, Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Saussure, and the like, every single word of which was impenetrable. I'd never before had the experience of being quite this baffled by things other people were saying. I've attended lectures on quantum physics, group theory, cardiology, and contract law, all fields about which I know nothing and all of which have their own specialized jargon and notational conventions. None of those lectures were as opaque as anything these academics said. But I captured on my notepad an astonishing collection of phrases and a sense of the overall tone of the event. The whole essay is a hoot - it's been around for a while but it timeless really... Fun stuff!

Treasury breaks word on e-mail anonymity

Interesting (and not good) story from News.Com bq. The U.S. Treasury Department plans to publish nearly 10,000 e-mail addresses on the Web, violating its privacy promise to Americans who used e-mail to comment on a government proceeding. bq. In March 2003, the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) asked for e-mail comments about a proposal that could raise the price of malt beverages like Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice. At the time, the department said that the text of comments would be made public--but assured people that e-mail addresses, home addresses and other personal information of individuals would be removed first. bq. "For the convenience of the public, we will...post comments received in response to this notice on the TTB Web site," the initial notice said. "All comments posted on our Web site will show the name of the commenter, but will not show street addresses, telephone numbers, or e-mail addresses." The TTB is the successor to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, portions of which are now part of the Department of Homeland Security. bq. As news of the proposed regulations circulated around malt beverage aficionados online, word-of-mouth took over and comments started flooding in to nprm@ttb.gov. By October, the Treasury Department had received about 9,900 e-mail messages, plus 4,800 comments sent through the U.S. mail or fax--and decided it could no longer keep its promise. bq. "The unusually large number of comments received...has made it difficult to remove all street addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses from the comments for posting on our Internet Web site in a timely manner," the Treasury Department said in a follow-up notice, published last month in the Federal Register. "Therefore, to ensure that the public has Internet access to the thousands of comments received...at the earliest practicable time, we will post comments received on that notice on our Web site in full, including any street addresses, telephone numbers, or e-mail addresses contained in the comments." Email harvesters are gonna have a field day - expect more spam from your friends in Government - we are here to help you! Bleagh...

Why They Are The Way They Are

From Roger L. Simon's web-site comes a great commentary on a subset of academia and their actions at a conference... bq. My wife Sheryl sent me--we email each other from adjoining offices--this Boston Globe report on political dissent at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association--the yearly "meetup" (in modern parlance) of college and university literature teachers. Apparently there wasn't much of it, dissent that is, at least from the pro-war side. bq. "In more than a dozen sessions on war-related topics, not a single speaker or audience member expressed support for the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The sneering air quotes were flying as speaker after speaker talked of "so-called terrorism," "the so-called homeland," "the so-called election of George Bush," and so forth." He goes on to say: bq. Why am I not surprised at this monolithic point of view in academia, which should be the bastion of free expression? [Who would be?--ed.] The University Class is one of the most rigid in America in its thinking. The interesting question is why. One of the answers is obvious. The Boomers who have inherited the universities, and are cocooned in a sinecure not dissimilar to civil service, have hardly any outside pressure to reconsider or even question their values (except for today's students, many of whom, apparently, are getting sick of them). At a conference like the MLA, whose primary raison d'etre is job search, the pressure to conform is compounded. Attendees with pro-war views would naturally be reluctant to express themselves for fear of losing out in the marketplace. I know I'd keep my mouth shut in such an atmosphere. I already know not to broadcast my pro-war views when going to a meeting in Hollywood. (It works. So far--touch wood--there isn't "coverage" for blogs!) Emphasis mine... The reference to Hollywood is because Roger is a screenwriter as well as a novelist.

In world's hot spots, forward steps

In today's Christian Science Monitor is an article outlining all the positive things that are happening in direct response to US and coalition pressure being brought to bear on terrorists. (hat tip to Instapundit for the link) bq. From Pakistan to Sudan to North Korea, problems may be starting to yield to economic imperatives and global pressure. bq. Promising developments are suddenly marking the global landscape: between nuclear powers India and Pakistan; in Sudan, where rebels this week reached an agreement with southern rebels that could end Africa's longest civil war; in Libya, which recently announced it would give up its unconventional weapons programs to reenter the community of nations; in US-Iranian relations, with Iran agreeing to international inspection of nuclear sites; and even in North Korea, which this week offered to freeze its nuclear programs. bq. While foreign-policy experts generally remain cautious about linking these events too closely or about assigning them a common catalyst, they do see some common threads: bq. Economic imperatives. Libya and Sudan, both hobbled by US economic sanctions for promotion of international terrorism, are anxious to clear the way for foreign investment, particularly of US companies in their oil sectors. Iran, which bowed to European Union pressure for inspections, wished to avoid prospective international sanctions. And Pakistan is desperate for improved economic relations with both India and the US. bq. Religious terrorism. Many of the countries that are party to one of the "good news" developments have either sponsored or tolerated ambiguous relationships with Islamic extremists, but are now reassessing those ties bq. The focus that the US and the world community has put on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction since Sept. 11 has, at the least, forced countries with nuclear programs and unconventional weapons goals to weigh the costs of those pursuits. and much more - a good read...

Measuring Liberal Bias In Academia

Found this link on the Mysanthropyst's web-site - they point to the Spartacus web-site and this story... bq. Thanks to the Federal Elections Commission's database of individual political contributions over $200, however, it is possible to fairly easily measure the distribution of staff and faculty political contributions at major universities. and more: bq. Professors and staff at the three big Ivy League universities (or the "Big 3") made a total of 455 individually reported political donations during the first nine months of 2003 for a total of $362,867. Fully 85% of the donations and 86% of the money went to Democratic candidates, party organizations or affiliated PACs, versus 11% of donations to Republicans accounting for 12% of the cash. (nonpartisan groups like occupational PACs (e.g. the American Hospital Association PAC with 3 donations) or ideologically neutral groups like the Human Rights Campaign PAC (1 donation) which split their donations between Republican and Democratic candidates accounted for 4% of the contributions and 2% of the funding.) The pie-chart that accompanies the entry makes it very very clear... Bias? We don't have no steenkin' bias. We are superior intellectuals.

Friends foil Olympia man's home

From The Olympian bq. A lone book titled "Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends" was untouched. bq. But nearly everything else in Chris Kirk's downtown Olympia apartment was encased in aluminum foil when he returned home Monday night from a trip to Los Angeles. bq. The walls, ceiling, cabinets and everything in between now shimmer with a metallic glow, thanks to a prank by Kirk's longtime friend, Olympia native Luke Trerice. bq. Trerice, a 26-year-old known among his friends for his off-the-wall schemes, stayed in the apartment while Kirk was away. bq. "He's known for large-scale strangeness," said Kirk, who is 33. "He warned me that he would be able to touch my stuff, but it didn't sound so bad." bq. Trerice, who lives in Las Vegas, and a small group of friends draped the apartment with about 4,000 square feet of aluminum foil, which cost about $100. Now when can I get that guy to house sit for a couple people I know... (evil grin)

Holocausts of Communism Test

An on-line web test from Bryan Caplan. Makes for interesting reading - 40 questions and some of the answers will surprise you. Communism is not a good form of government in any of it's myriad implementations.


From The Crumb Trail: bq. In late December Philip Stott posted about vernalization, mentioned here. While farmers have always known about vernalization no one knew how it worked in detail. Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered a mechanism. bq. The researchers report that the VIN3 gene is expressed only after plants have been exposed to conditions effective for vernalization, suggesting that the VIN3 gene functions as an alarm clock rousing biennial plants to bloom. bq. But how do plants know they've been exposed to the right temperature for the right amount of time? "This is an intriguing question," says Sung. "Without a nervous system, plants must have a mechanism by which they can remember they have been through the winter season." Although plants don't have a brain like humans do, they do have cellular machinery that appears to remember cold exposure, according to the new research. bq. The Wisconsin scientists show that the expression of VIN3, which occurs after exposure to cold, initiates a series of changes in one of the flower-suppressing genes. Specifically, VIN3 activation permanently modifies the structure of histones, a group of proteins over which DNA is wrapped. These changes block the flower-suppressing gene, switching the plant from a fixed state where it won't flower to a fixed state where it can flower. and more: bq. "This new molecular understanding could provide information to help design tools to manipulate flowering," the biochemistry professor says. For example, agronomists could engineer biennial crops that lack VIN3 and never flower, potentially increasing yield. But as Amasino clarifies, he's in the business of basic science - it's up to others to use the information. Very cool...

The Dual Layer DVD+R is Here

From Gadgetopia: bq. Verbatim has announced that "it is on schedule to deliver industry's first Double-Layer DVD+R (DVD+R DL) discs". The first 8.5 GB DVD+R9 media should ship this spring and will be 2.4x speed discs according to Verbatim. bq. The first recording layer of the Verbatim DVD+R DL disc is semi-transparent, providing enough reflectivity for writing/reading data on the first layer, yet transmitting enough laser power to read/write on the second layer by refocusing the laser. Cool - these will not work with the current crop of DVD+R recorders but considering that each disk will offer 8.5GB of storage space, this is a powerful inducement to change... I do a lot of digital photography and for off-line storage of images, DVD is the only way to go.

Blogging - a hive mind

From The Belmont Club comes an interesting thought - the blogosphere as a hive mind. Something that Steven DenBeste talked about here DenBeste: bq. With the development of the internet it becomes possible for arbitrarily large groups of people who are geographically distributed to spontaneously form hive-minds and to communicate with one another at speeds and latencies approaching those which previously only had been possible in direct teamwork. The internet largely solves the scaling problem involved in direct teamwork, and totally eliminates the effects of geographic distribution of participants. In the "global village" of the internet, everything is right next door. Wretchard: bq. Enter Glenn Reynolds and the Iraqi blogger Zayed. Zayed reported the story of abusive behavior by American soldiers perpetrated upon a man called Zaydun, which Reynolds linked to and which soon became a meme across the blogosphere, touching upon people like Darren Kaplan, Roger Simon and probably a host of others that the link-spiders haven't found yet. Zayed soon found himself in touch with Chief Wiggles, who is both a blogger and a man of some authority in Iraq. Although I must say that Zaydun's complaint doesn't seem very convincing on its face, it is now going to be investigated and should be investigated in the interests of simple justice. Zayed reports that the complaint was initially laughed off by an unnamed American official but the whole situation turned around once the blogosphere got cranked up. All in the space of 24 hours. This is a classic demonstration of Den Beste's description of a hive-mind to which I will add but one thing. bq. The hive-mind, which never "exhibits intelligence at a level that approaches the actual intelligence of the individual units which are part of it" can seamlessly segue into single man's efforts. The matter left the hive-mind and entered Chief Wiggle's at some point where it regained the full power of a human being's intelligence. At some point the matter may re-enter the blogosphere as news: whether the soldiers were guilty or not; what really happened that night; as commentary: people will draw all kinds of encouraging or dire conclusions from this; or as experience: something that will lurk in the recollections of the 100,000 odd people who read Reynolds, Kaplan, Simon, Wiggles and Zayed everyday. And the world will never be the same again.

Queria comes clean

From the Shark blog comes this story about the Palestinian Prime Minister and Palestine's real political goal: bq. Palestinian "Prime Minister" Ahmed Queria finally admits that the Palestinians' only real goal is to nullify Israel's existence: Palestinian PM says two-state solution in danger bq. There is nothing new in the demand for a "bi-national" state. And it would "bi-national" only in the sense of permitting the minority of Jews who are not slaughtered and who do not flee to live as second-class citizens. bq. Any Palestinian acceptance of a "two state solution", which only emerged in the Oslo period, was only ever a fraudulent tactical ploy. A ploy to buy time, win international support and weaken Israel in order to continue the armed struggle, which, as the Palestine National Charter says, is "only way to liberate Palestine". And whatever lip-service was given to a "two state solution" was always contingent upon a "right of return" to both of those states. Arafat's rejection of Barak's 2000 offer for an independent Palestinian state should have proven to everyone the hollowness of his commitment to "two states", but the international community of dupes gave him another pass. bq. Qureia's desperation in abandoning the "two state solution" only proves that Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan is a smart move. Let Qureia whine and moan, and then try to declare war on Israel from the other side of the fence. These people need to get their heads out of the sand, get rid of Arafat and start getting their collective butts in gear. Civilization is rapidly passing them by. Arafat is a corrupt tool of the old Soviet cold-war in that region. They wanted instability there so the USA or Israel would not develop a strong presence/threat. Now that the Soviets are gone and Russia is struggling with problems of her own, these creations are staggering around like dinosaurs hurting innocent people...

New DVD Player With Wireless-G Media Link

From Yahoo/Finance: bq. Linksys today announced a new wireless multimedia product called the Linksys DVD Player with Wireless-G Media Link (WMLD54G) which includes a high-end progressive scan DVD player and the capability to wirelessly distribute digital video, music, and pictures stored on a PC to view and play on a TV and/or stereo system. Basically, this looks and acts like a 'standard' DVD player but you can also use your computer to host and to send media to it - you can play DVDs or you can play MPEG and DivX video, MP3 and WMA audio, Digital photos (JPG, GIF, etc...) and Internet streaming protocols. This is the first of it's kind - a digital all-in-one media center without having to string together a bunch of boxes and protocols... Very cool!

Small hard drive from Toshiba

From DP Review comes the story of a new ultra-miniature hard disk from Toshiba: bq. Toshiba Corporation today announced development of 0.85-inch hard disk drive (HDD), the first hard drive to deliver multi-gigabyte data storage to a sub-one-inch form factor. Toshiba expects to start sampling the new drive in summer 2004 and to start mass production in autumn 2004, at an initial monthly production capacity of two to three hundred thousand units. Capacity is two to four GB making it ideal for Digital Video as well as still photography. Cool stuff!

Kim DuToit rant on freedom to protest

A very excellent rant from Kim DuToit regarding the segregation of political protestors: bq. When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up "free speech zones" or "protest zones" where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event. bq. When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us." bq. The local police, at the Secret Service�s behest, set up a "designated free-speech zone" on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush�s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president�s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, "As far as I�m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind." Kim's comments are classic: bq. "Protest zones"???? Here's the money quote out of the article: bq. "As far as I�m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone." bq. Precisely. Now let me tell you why this nonsense sets my teeth on edge. He goes on to issue the following Public Statement: bq. If I feel strongly enough about the actions of any government body that I feel the need to make a public protestation of my opposition, I'll do so. I won't ask permission, and I won't protest where you say I should, nor will I allow you to dictate what I may or may not say. I will protest as I've always done -- peaceably -- so if you wish to prevent me from doing this, do not even think about using violence against me. I may have allowed myself to be arrested once before, but I won't do that again. bq. I represent no physical threat to anyone, no matter how bitterly I may disagree with them, so whatever I say (or write) is about as far as it goes. I'll exercise my First Amendment rights as I do all my Constitutional rights -- responsibly -- and under these circumstances, I bitterly resent any and all attempts by government or its agents to infringe them. bq. However, be aware that if I've faced down the loathsome apartheid goons before, I'm sure as hell not going to be afraid of or intimidated by you, either. I don't care about all your silly reasons for trying to abridge my right to speak, or to assemble peaceably. If I feel that strongly, I will demonstrate my opposition, and there's not a single fucking thing you can do about it. That's my own, personal line in the sand, and it's called the First Amendment. Step over it at your own peril. bq. And a pox on your "free speech zones". Well said!

Seatbelts in Humvees

From Iraq Now comes an interesting point (the author is a USA member of the coalition forces currently in Iraq) bq. Ok: I�m calling �Bullshit.� bq. Here�s an article about how 20,000 servicemen and women have been killed in accidents since 1980, while only 1,000 have been killed in combat. bq. Unfortunately, the article does not break out the number of soldiers killed in military vehicles; the 20,000 includes all the idiots in Germany who wrap their rented Mercedes Benzes around lightpoles on the autobahn after zu viele Bieren auf Der Stadt. bq. But believe me�the Pentagon has safety Nazis on the payroll who keep statistics to the nth degree. They can break this stuff out for you if you press them. bq. Nevertheless, 20,000 deaths in 23 years, and 575 deaths in just the last year alone, is a staggering number. bq. Here�s how to prevent some of them from happening in the future: The author goes on: bq. ... And it noted that Smith was not wearing his seat belt and that neither he nor Delk had their helmets on as ordered, though it acknowledged that wearing one would not have prevented Smith's death. bq. And therein lies my B.S. call. bq. Here�s a little experiment for some enterprising reporter: Go to the nearest Humvee and sit down in any of the seats. Put the seatbelt on. bq. Seatbelt works. Good seatbelt. bq. Now put on a flak vest and loadbearing vest. Throw in a protective mask for good measure. If you can get it to buckle, see if you can move and scan your sector. See if you can aim your weapon to the sides of the vehicle. bq. In short, see if the seatbelt passes the reality test. bq. It doesn�t. bq. The way the article reads, the accident report seems to be blaming the troops for not wearing the seatbelts. Now, maybe a seatbelt would have saved Smith�s life, and maybe not. But the blame for the seatbelt does not belong on Smith. Nor does it belong on the NCO in charge of the vehicle at the time. bq. The fact is that the stock seatbelts on the humvee are fine for garrison, but in the field, they�re useless for anything except providing political cover for the leadership that sent him out there with it. bq. �Oh, we�re not responsible. The soldier wasn�t wearing his seatbelt. In violation of policy, and all that, see?� bq. The reality is this: It�s either wear the flak jacket, or wear the seatbelt. It's articles like this really point out the difference between reading 'facts' on a sheet of paper and actually being there.

Legislation you may have missed...

From Insight magazine (their main web page is here): bq. Clean Diamond Trade Act (HR 1584): This law implements further measures to combat the trade in conflict diamonds, the proceeds of which often are used to finance and further military and rebel groups engaged in wars in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that as many as 3.7 million people have died during these wars. bq. Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003 (HR 1770): provides benefits and other compensation to eligible individuals with injuries resulting from administration of smallpox countermeasures. bq. American Dream Downpayment Act (S 811): supports certain housing proposals in the fiscal 2003 budget for the federal government, including the downpayment-assistance initiative under the HOME Investment Partnership Act. As much as $200 million in grants would be provided to assist homebuyers with downpayment and closing costs. Some interesting and wonderful laws... A bunch more on the website.

Dumb Criminal

From Yahoo/Reuters: bq. German police say they have arrested a would-be vampire robber ready to scare bank staff with his false Dracula teeth. bq. The man, also wearing a woollen hat and sunglasses, pulled out what looked like a gun and pointed it at passing police officers who had asked him to stop as he approached a bank. bq. "The two officers managed to overpower him and found it was a toy weapon," police in the northern city of Bremen said in a statement on Thursday. "The suspect lost his plastic teeth in the scuffle. He was extremely drunk." Memo to self - when planning my next bank job, be sober and loose the teeth. Heh...
Very cool - from Space.com website: bq. Scientists have used an orbiting Mars craft to photograph robotic landers that have been sitting dormant on the surface of the red planet since their missions ended. bq. Using a newly developed trick, the researchers imaged Mars Pathfinder, which in 1997 thrilled earthlings with its photographs and the wandering science exploits of its Sojourner rover. Pathfinder appears as a dark dot near a rock that scientists named Yogi during the mission. bq. The Viking 1 lander from 1976 is also visible, as a bright dot in a separate image. bq. The photographs were made with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS). Normally it can resolve features only down to about 3 feet (1 meter) per pixel, not good enough to discern a typical landing craft from its surroundings. bq. The new technique involves "pitching the spacecraft at a rate faster than the spacecraft moves in its orbit around Mars," said scientists at Malin Space Science Systems, which operates the orbiter's camera. The resolution of images -- across one dimension of the photograph only -- is improved to about 20 inches (50 centimeters) per pixel. bq. The method, called image motion compensation, was developed during 2003 with the goal of photographing the Mars Spirit rover, which landed earlier this month, and its twin, Opportunity, slated to arrive later in January. Very cool application of technology.

Herbal medicine boom threatens plants

Interesting article from New Scientist magazine: bq. The multimillion-pound boom in herbal medicine is threatening to wipe out up to a fifth of the plant species on which it depends, wrecking their natural habitats and jeopardising the health of millions of people in developing countries. And yet the herbal medicines industry has been accused of doing nothing about it. bq. Most people around the globe use herbal medicine for everyday healthcare, with as many as 80 per cent relying on it in some countries. But two-thirds of the 50,000 medicinal plants in use are still harvested from the wild, and research to be published later in 2004 suggests that between 4000 and 10,000 of them may now be endangered. bq. A study by Alan Hamilton, a plant specialist from the global environment network WWF, will point out that the market for herbal remedies in North America and Europe has been expanding by about 10 per cent a year for the last decade and the world market is now thought to be worth at least �11 billion. Many of the plants are harvested by poor communities in India and China whose livelihoods will suffer if the plants die out. This is actually quite serious as pointed out in the article - it goes on to list several species and what has happened with them. It also mentions that there is a proposal to create a mark indicating that specific crops have been sustainable harvested or grown.

Light blogging this morning

Work is intruding on my blogging... I"ll post some things around lunchtime. Dave
Steven DenBeste has been a bit quiet for the last couple of days and now I know why... This is an amazing bit of research, documentation and writing and a complete and utter dope-slap to the heads of most practicing academics on this planet. PhD - Piled Higher and Deeper indeed... I cannot begin to excerpt this since it is tightly written and well referenced. Go there yourself and read and read and read... This is actually part two of a four parter (part one here) Like I said - wonderful stuff!

One of Ours

A profile of one of the Soldiers working over in Iraq. From the Defense Department Defend America website here. bq. During the second search, the soldier spotted a grenade hidden behind the visor on the driver�s side. The soldier shouted, "Grenade!" bq. "I immediately got man down on the ground, face down, and I remember pressing his face into a sandbag", Nicholson said. bq. She continued to hold him down until other soldiers came over and zip-cuffed the man. bq. The man then claimed he had the grenade because he was going to turn it in to the U.S. soldiers. But they did not believe that story, because he had not mentioned it, or indicated anything like that, until after the soldiers had found the grenade and after he had been subdued and was handcuffed with the plastic zip-strips. bq. "I really don�t remember exactly how I got him on the ground, but it was practically instantaneous", she said, blushing. "I don�t remember the details of putting him down. I just remember, suddenly, I had him down on the ground with his face pressed into a sandbag and I kept holding him there." bq. She said the man then started crying and someone said he might have been embarrassed because it was a shame for a man in Iraq to get beat up by a woman. bq. She later recalled that she had done some wrestling at Beatty High School in Beatty, Nev., and that experience, plus her Army training, gave her the right stuff to subdue the Iraqi man. Nicholson, 5�6� and 120 pounds, said she had wrestled against boys in high school, because the boys and girls were not separated for wrestling, so, throwing a man down was nothing new to her. bq. Asked the size of the Iraqi man, she said, "He was about my height, but heavier. I would say he was a little out of shape." bq. Asked if she had grown up as a tomboy, Nicholson said, "No, I was even a cheerleader for a little while. I guess I kind of grew up out in the middle of nowhere", she said, "and I just always had to do whatever needed to be done." It's people like this that are doing the real work - not the nattering nabobs.

Turkey and Gravy Soda - take two...

As mentioned earlier (here), the Jones Soda Company created a seasonal beverage, a soda that tasted like Turkey and Gravey... It turned out to be so popular, they sold out. Info here Gobble gobble...

Fun with Farm Animals

These folks are legit and these products are widely used. Still, taken out of context, this is a bit odd. Here Heh...

Rumsfeld rocks!

This story from The Hill bq. Time magazine contacted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying that it wanted to name him for their �Person of the Year�. Rummy's reply: Rumsfeld told guests at a holiday party that in this year of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military deserved the honor more than he did, which is why Army Sgts. Marquette Whiteside and Ronald Buxton and Spc. Billie Grimes turned up on Time�s Dec. 29 cover.

MAC v/s PC for media - benchmarks

Last year, Rob Galbraith did an excellent comparison between a state of the art PC and MAC using real-world tasks such as image editing, file conversion, etc... can found out that a single CPU PC ran rings around a dual CPU MAC. That story is here He is back again with four new systems and his benchmarks conclude: bq. For Mac users, this report is a lot less gloomy than the January 2003 version. The greater computational horsepower of the G5 Power Macs allows them to complete all of the tests in this report much faster than the G4 machines they replace. bq. Mac OS X 10.3 plays a role here too. For the first time since we began measuring card-to-computer transfer rates, the Mac is able to match or exceed the throughput of a computer running Windows. For years, the Mac operating system's ho-hum code for handling FAT-formatted removable media - including CompactFlash cards - has meant comparatively pokey transfer rates, even on the fastest Mac computers. The all-new FAT plumbing in OS X 10.3 finally puts an end to the slowness. bq. Software developers also appear to be heeding the call from Mac users for better RAW file processing performance on their chosen platform. For example, the Photoshop Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, C1 Pro and MacBibble all take advantage of the dual processors in Mac computers that are so-equipped. The result is processing times for MacBibble and Photoshop Camera Raw on the Mac that are competitive with a fast dual-processor PC. In fact, MacBibble handily outpaces Bibble for Windows in batch conversion of Nikon D1X NEFs. bq. But the Mac isn't out of the woods yet. The PC is still quicker at a variety of batch processing tasks in Photoshop. Nikon users wedded to Capture will find a top-flight PC is not only a lot quicker than a Mac at opening, saving and batch processing NEF files, it also feels more responsive when stepping through basic operations such as changing WB or zooming. Even on a G5, Nikon Capture still acts a bit like it's stuck in molasses. and more: bq. And this is comparing desktop machines. Though we haven't published specific performance numbers for laptops in this report, we did run a Mac Powerbook and a Dell laptop through a subset of the same tests. The 15-inch Powerbook G4, powered by a G4/1.25GHz processor, was thumped in every test by a Dell Inspiron 8500 and its P4-M processor running at 2.6GHz. Until Apple is able to stuff a G5 processor inside one of its sexy Powerbook cases, portable Macs are likely to remain noticeably slower than their PC counterparts.
Turns out that there was credible information regarding radioactive materials. Only it wasn't terror related and it turned out to be someone's precioussssssssssss... From the Washington Post bq. On Dec. 29 in Las Vegas, the searchers got their first and only radiation "spike," at a rented storage facility near downtown. The finding sent a jolt of tension through the nation's security apparatus; the White House was notified. The experts rechecked the reading with a more precise machine that told them that inside the cinderblock storage unit was radium, a radioactive material used in medical equipment and on watch dials. bq. As rare snow fell on the city that early morning, FBI agents secured the industrial neighborhood around the site, and a small army of agents and scientists converged on the business. Soon the renter of the storage closet in question, a homeless man, happened on the odd scene and asked the officers not to cut his padlock. He supplied the key. bq. The scientists sent in a robot to snag a duffel bag in which the man had been storing a cigar-size radium pellet -- which is used to treat uterine cancer -- since he found the shiny stainless-steel object three years before. Not knowing what the object was, he had wrapped it in his nighttime pillow.

Commentary on Cuba

Interesting comment on Arthur Miller's recent visit to Cuba in the Marginal Revolution blog: bq. Arthur Miller fails the test bq. On his recent visit to Cuba a group of writers practically begs Arthur Miller for help, for words of support, for some protection against their oppressive government and Miller is stumped. He's so enthralled with Castro and his "fantastic shrimp" and "spectacular pork" that he is clueless to their plight. Morality does not require that we risk our lives, as some Cuban writers do, to speak truth to power but it does require that we honor those who do. What then to think of someone who laughs off their plight while enjoying wine with their oppressor? Arthur needs to get his head out of the clouds and back into reality...

Flags on Mars (two)

The Mars Lander carried on it two flags - the USA flag of course but one other as well. The landing site has been named 'Columbia Memorial Station' in honor of the space shuttle that came apart on re-entry and since one of the crew was from Israel, there is also the Israeli flag. On Mars. Look at it here. The full image can be found here.

Cox and Forkum

Is good today - check it out here

Some great quotes

Been surfing the Federalist website and signed up to their mailing list - was sent some great quotes this morning: bq. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." --George Washington bq. "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments." --Frederick the Great bq. "There is mercy which is weakness, and even treason against the common good." --George Eliot bq. "Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than the feeling that they represent 'the people.' Nothing, as a rule, is further from the truth." --Paul Johnson bq. "The best portion of a good man's life is the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." --William Wordsworth bq. "A ship in harbor is safe -- but that is not what ships are for." --John A. Shedd bq. "Sometimes the best way to convince someone he is wrong is to let him have his way." --Red O'Donnell bq. "I'm a member of no organized party. I'm a Democrat." --Will Rogers

Interesting Pres. Bush story

This one was found on Betsy's Page and is from Breakpoint Prison Fellowship -- an institution founded by Charles Colson. I'm printing the article in its entirety since it's fairly short and really shows what kind of people we have in the White House and what kind of media reporting we have in this country. bq. Angel Tree, our Prison Fellowship program for prisoners� children, is one of the great unheralded volunteer outreaches in America. Over the Christmas holidays these past few weeks, approximately 100,000 volunteers delivered Angel Tree gifts to more than 525,000 children of inmates. bq. You didn�t read about this in the newspapers, nor would I expect that you should. It�s not really that newsworthy that Christians help people in need. But there are two of our volunteers, who delivered forty presents, that I think you should have read about but didn�t. For reasons best known to themselves, the media ignored the fact that two of the volunteers were President and Mrs. George Bush. And they delivered gifts to forty inner-city kids in a church basement three days before Christmas. bq. President and Mrs. Bush arrived at three-o�clock, Monday, December 22, at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, presidents don�t move anywhere without a great deal of fuss. The police were out, the roads blocked, and Secret Service were roaming around the church. And when the president arrived, he was accompanied not only by his own team, but also by a pool of reporters, forty or so members of the press. For ten minutes they popped their flashbulbs, scribbled their notes, and then were ushered out. bq. I remember from my days with President Nixon what photo opportunities are: Get the picture and leave. So I thought the Bushes would shortly depart, but they didn�t. They stayed long after the cameras were gone to greet every child, to have their picture taken with them, their mothers, and their grandmothers, to talk with them, and to ask questions. Though the press didn�t report it, I noticed that both the president and Mrs. Bush talked to the Hispanic children in Spanish. bq. Just before the president left, I introduced him to Al Lawrence, a member of our staff. I told the president that I had met Al more than twenty years ago in a prison. Jesus had got hold of Al�s life, and he�s been working for us ever since. Then I told the president that Al�s son was now a freshman at Yale. At that point the president stopped, exclaimed, �We�re both Yale parents,� and threw his arms around Al Lawrence�an African-American ex-offender being embraced by the president of the United States in a church basement. The ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross. bq. I tell you this story because it�s a wonderful Christmas story, and you probably haven�t heard it. With all those reporters who crowded into that basement, the visit resulted in almost universal media silence. bq. I suppose there are many explanations for this, but I�ll offer mine. The president is a Christian who really cares for �the least of these,� who does this not for photo ops, but because he�s genuine. That is something that his detractors in the media simply can�t handle. Conservatives caring for the poor? Never. It dashes the stereotypes. bq. But surely Christians ought to be rejoicing that the most powerful man in the world and his wife, a couple of days before Christmas, had a wonderful visit with the most powerless people in our society. bq. After all, that echoes the Christmas message, doesn�t it? The most powerful came to be with the least powerful to give us hope. Wonderful!

Dumb Criminal

From the Chicago Sun-Times: bq. A South Side man who mailed letters threatening to kill schoolchildren unwittingly revealed his identity when he licked the envelope flaps to seal them, authorities said Monday. bq. DNA taken from saliva on three envelopes matched the DNA of Milo L. Farris, a registered sex offender whose genetic profile was in a State Police database, officials said. bq. The threatening letters were mailed in September to at least seven schools in the Roseland and West Pullman neighborhoods on the Far South Side, police said. and more: bq. "I sent several threats to other schools in this area," the letter said. "But only one child from one of these schools will die!" bq. The author claimed he was 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, that he had killed a prostitute and a young man, and was "possessed by a demon." By contrast, prison records listed Farris as being 345 pounds and 6 feet tall. Needs a looong vacation on the state's dime... Where the sun don't shine...

New Blog on the blogroll

Just got turned onto a new blog - this is one from a soldier in Iraq and he pulls no punches. Excellent writing and really good insights. Parent page is here A wonderful example is here: bq. It�s like all those polls that show that people overall have a negative opinion of Congress. But somehow everyone likes their own congressman. And he keeps getting elected. bq. But in nearly a year overseas, we�ve only had a few reporters bother �embedding� with us for longer than one or two patrols. Almost all of them swing by, hang out long enough to get a snarky quote and snap a photo or two, and then can�t wait to leave here so they can get back to their cushy Baghdad hotel and martinis in the Green Zone by nightfall. bq. Only a few have deigned to spend a few nights with us (hey, I have spare cots!), and actually get to know their beats down at the foxhole level. They�re not here for the �Dear John� letters. They�re not here when we make friends in the community. They�re not here when we graduate a new class of police trainees. They�re not sharing chow. They aren�t here when we remodel a school, or install a new Internet system in the mayor�s office building. They don�t hang around with the troops for the mortar attacks that come after dark. They treat us like frat boys treat fat chicks: They say they respect us, but they won�t be sharing our beds. bq. But they�ll come along in a crisis, when everyone around them is spooked and pissed off and maybe someone�s friend just got shot up, and they�ll wonder, �How come troops act like they don�t know us?� bq. Who loses? Everyone. The reporter doesn�t get access. The public doesn�t get an effective watchdog press. And the soldier gets to try to implement the collective political will of a very shakily informed citizenry. bq. Here�s an ugly truth: the cultural gap between the professional soldier and the professional journalist is huge. Reporters�the ones from outlets big enough to send people out here�are blue-staters. Uniformly college-educated blue-staters. Soldiers are cultural red-staters. America�s soldiers defend Jeffersonian democracy; They are not college-educated Jeffersonian small �d� democrats. Yes, they generally support the First Amendment, but don�t spend a lot of time thinking about it. They prefer the Second, and will argue it for hours. bq. Their cultural preferences are projected thus: The most prominent supporters of the First Amendment, i.e., the ACLU, when they are considered at all, are viewed at best with an exasperated indulgence; at worst with venomous antipathy. But everyone knows who the NRA is, and copies of American Rifleman are easy to find. bq. Journalists who do their homework�who know their beats well, and who take the time to get to know U.S. troops�and just as importantly, BE known by them, who are there to cover and illuminate the news rather than allow their egos to become the news (are you reading this, Geraldo?) are going to get great access, and they�re going to come up with super stories. Like Ernie Pyle and John Huston did before them, and like lots of embedded reporters (most of whom have long since gone home) have in this war. bq. But if reporters�AMERICAN reporters�need to rely on commanders to lean on their troops to provide access for them, then they ought to have done enough navel-gazing about their own profession by now to ask themselves why. bq. I�ll bust my ass to ensure journalists get access. I�ve already made some decisions that were not popular at the time to ensure they get access to stories. But mutual respect a two-way street. bq. The journalist profession has a P.R. problem of its own out here. bq. It�s time for reporters to accept some responsibility for it. The emphasis on blue-staters and red-staters comes from from a USA Today map outlining the popular vote by county for the 2000 Presidential election. Check it out here UPDATE: Another bit of trivia with the Red America / Blue America can be found here... It seems that the 2000 statistics for Murder Rates per 100,000 population are the following: Blue Counties (voted for Gore in 2002) 11 Murders per 100,000 people Red Counties (voted for Bush in 2002) 2 Murders per 100,000 people.


From The Braden Files bq. The Ten Commandments display was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building. And, there was a good reason for the move. You can't post Thou Shalt Not Steal, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery, and Thou Shall Not Lie, in a building full of lawyers and Politicians without creating a hostile work environment. Heh...

We have come to banish darkness

Wonderful story in the Miami Herald about the celebration of Hanukkah in a very unlikely place - one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. bq. "Banu hoshekh legharesh" -- We have come to banish darkness. Thus begins a famous Hanukkah song, and no phrase better encapsulates the holiday's deeper meanings. This year, as a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq, several colleagues and I lit a Hanukkah lamp and uttered those words in a place that had never before heard them: the former presidential palace of Saddam Hussein, in the capital city of a new and free Iraq. bq. One is hard-pressed to imagine a holiday whose themes are more resonant with the events unfolding here: a spectacular military victory, the defeat of a despot, the resanctification of what had been desecrated. Truly, the banishment of darkness. and more: bq. This Hanukkah in Baghdad, in a large and lavish building, the gentle glow of a Hanukkah lamp shimmered throughout a cavernous room. One of the objects caught in its radiance is a gilded chair that used to serve as the tyrant's throne, and the palace in which it sits used to be the capital building of his reign of terror. Today, the chair is empty, and the palace houses the apparatus of Iraqi reconstruction. bq. As my colleagues and I remember the Maccabee bravery of yesteryear and the resanctification of the Temple, we pray also for the brave and indefatigable people of Iraq, who day by day are rekindling their flames of hope and resanctifying their great land. They are banishing the darkness, and we wish them Godspeed. Wonderful!
From MooreWatch comes a horrible story about Michael Moore's thoughts on American Small Business. This comes from a newspaper article covering a speech he gave at Humboldt State University March 5, 2002. bq. �Small businesspeople are rednecks that suppress the town' bq. You know in my town the small businesses that everyone wanted to protect? They were the people that supported all the right-wing groups. They were the Republicans in the town, they were in the Kiwanis, the Chamber of Commerce - people that kept the town all white. The small hardware salesman, the small clothing store salespersons, Jesse the Barber who signed his name three different times on three different petitions to recall me from the school board. Fuck all these small businesses - fuck 'em all! Bring in the chains. The small businesspeople are the rednecks that run the town and suppress the people. Fuck 'em all. That's how I feel." Lee, the author of MooreWatch did a little proactive fact checking and found that in the USA, small business are responsible for the following: bq. So, how important are small businesses to the US economy?
  • Represent more than 99.7 percent of all employers. bq.
  • Employ more than half of all private sector employees bq.
  • Pay 44.5 percent of total U.S. private payroll. bq.
  • Generate 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually. bq.
  • Create more than 50 percent of nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP). bq.
  • Supplied 22.8 percent of the total value of federal prime contracts (about $50 billion) in FY 2001. bq.
  • Produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms. These patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited. bq.
  • Are employers of 39 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers ) . bq.
  • Are 53 percent home-based and 3 percent franchises. bq.
  • Made up 97 percent of all identified exporters and produced 29 percent of the known export value in FY 2001.
bq. Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census; Advocacy-funded research by Joel Popkin and Company (Research Summary #211); Federal Procurement Data System; Advocacy-funded research by CHI Research, Inc. (Research Summary #225); Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey; U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration.

Libya seeks peace with Israel

Another great find by the people at Little Green Footballs Here is the original article which says: bq. The head of the Foreign Ministry's diplomatic team, Ron Prosor, met in Paris some two weeks ago with Libyan diplomats, in order to establish a channel of communications with Tripoli. The meeting was coordinated with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mossad chief Meir Dagan. bq. A high-ranking Israeli delegation is expected to visit Libya with the aim of reaching a mutual understanding on the signing of a peace agreement, Kuwaiti newspaper A-Siyasa, quoted on the Al Bawaba website, reported Tuesday. bq. Meanwhile, in comments published Tuesday, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was quoted as saying he is ready to compensate Libyan Jews whose properties were confiscated. He also said he is prepared to allow Libyans to travel to Israel, according to Arab press reports. bq. According to Al Bawaba, the delegation, comprised of officials from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and the Mossad, will visit Tripoli toward the end of this month, with the aim of discussing the end of a formal state of hostility between Libya and Israel, and building normal ties between both countries. bq. European diplomatic sources said Monday that senior Libyan and Israeli officials met in Vienna last Friday in the presence of an American diplomat from the Vienna embassy, and agreed to send an Israeli delegation in the new year. and more: bq. The sources told the newspaper that Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam, and the head of intelligence, Moussa Kousa, have met Israeli officials more than once in Geneva and London during August and November with the help of Qatar's mediation. Comment #98 from reader BJW sums it up very nicely: bq. Gaddafi is getting old. His son is very pro-western. They both know what side they want to be on in order for them both to remain in power. It sure as hell isn't the axis of evil side. bq. Gaddafi also sees Iraq becoming the cultural and economic powerhouse of the middle east in the next 25 years. He does not want to fall too far behind. At least his son does not. This is purely a case of money talks and bulls*&t walks. I refer back to the classic Cox and Forkum cartoon here (now available on Tee-shirt here)

Bam earthquake - Mullah's refusing outside aid

Good article in National Review about the Iran earthquake and the reaction of the local citizens to the relief workers and the mullahs. bq. The Bam earthquake showed the Western world at its best (rescuers, doctors, money, medicine, and food poured into Iran) and the mullahcracy at its worst (no national leader dared set foot in the disaster zone for four days, and then only when the army and assorted thugs could protect the mullahs against the rage of the locals). When some Americans prepared to leave, they were begged to remain. The Iranians feel safer with us than with their own tyrants. and more: bq. Look again at the scenes in Bam. The destruction of that once fabulously beautiful city is a symbol of what the regime has done to Iran, once a wealthy and prosperous and creative country. Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country's leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation's walls. Look at the damning human-rights reports. Read the harsh condemnation of the mullahs' relentless censorship from Reporters sans Fronti�res," which calls Iran the world's greatest predator of free press. And listen to the cries of the Bam survivors as they ask why this had to happen, why no help arrived until long after the disaster struck, and why the mullahs preferred to see thousands of them die, rather than accept humanitarian assistance from the Jews.

New Media players

Two new developments on the Personal Media Player front... Today's Seattle PI had a writeup on a new product line being developed with Microsoft and companies including Samsung Electronics, ViewSonic Corp., iRiver International and Creative Technology. These will be units with 20 to 40 GB hard drives and a decent size LCD screen and will be able to display Video, play music and show still images. The article claims that a unit with a 40 GB hard disk will be able to store 175 hours of video, 10,000 songs or 100,000 pictures using Windows Media file formats. Price is expected to be in the $400 to $700 range depending on feature set. On the other hand, Epson is releasing a product that just does photos (no video or music) and just has a 10GB hard disk. It is selling for $599. The only plus I can see is that it is designed for the digital photographer in that it can view several different camera file formats and has a built-in CF card reader. A review of this is at the excellent DP Review website here and Epson's own description can be found here My guess is that the Epson will be eclipsed - it's too expensive for people wanting a simple digital wallet and if someone needs high-quality viewing, they will carry a notebook with them since they will also want high-quality editing and image adjustment (Photoshop). Considering the file size of modern digital cameras, the 10GB drive is just too small for anything more than a weekend trip.

Amputee soldier denied access to club

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From the Des Moines Register: bq. Abby Jackson, wife of Spc. Robert "B.J." Jackson, 22, who lost his legs in an explosion last August while serving with the Iowa Army National Guard in Iraq, says her husband was denied access to an upscale nightclub in Clive on Friday night because his shoes weren't fancy enough. bq. "Both of us told (an employee) that those were the only shoes he can wear with his prosthetic legs," Abby Jackson said Saturday. "I even told them he lost them in Iraq." bq. But Tom Baldwin, owner of Crush, 2249 N.W. 86th St., says the couple did not explain to his bouncers that Jackson has to wear his tennis shoes with his prosthetic legs. The club, which calls itself a "casually swank joint," prohibits tennis shoes and hooded sweat shirts, Baldwin said. and more: bq. Jackson was wearing a pair of black suede Nike tennis shoes, specially inclined to fit his prosthetics. "They're actually pretty dressy," Abby Jackson said. "He wanted to pick a pair of shoes that he could wear with everything." bq. "It was very insulting," said Brandon Beveridge, a close childhood friend of Jackson's who, along with his wife, Stephanie, was out with the couple. "B.J. pulled up his pants to show them; I remember seeing the steel," he said. and more: bq. The Jacksons said they have no desire to return to Crush. DOH! Probably a couple other people in the Des Moines area will also feel disinclined to return to Crush... I can see doing a dress code but the people at the door need to be non-stupid (these goons probably voted Democratic in the last election...)

John Perry Barlow has a blog!!!

One of the more interesting characters to come around in the last thirty years or so - he just started his own blog here and talks about getting linked by a conservative blog (Instapundit) and then finding a lot of right-wing comments on his website here His reaction: bq. Since I'm such a Blogosphere newbie, I had not heard of Glenn before, but a lot of other people have. Reynolds has a numerous and devoted following, several platoons of whom turned up here following his Instapundit post about my exchange with Misanthropyst. What has followed is worth reading, despite its considerable length. (It's currently almost 28,000 words.) bq. I originally started this blog with the intention of giving my friends a place to gather and respond to BarlowSpams, as well as attending to other matters of local community interest. I didn't really expect that I'd be getting thousands of hits a day from strangers who were neither friends nor even terribly likely to become friends. But I'm delighted it's turning out this way. This sort of discussion, conducted properly, is the very foundation of democracy. bq. So far, I'm impressed with the level of civility I find in these 126 comments, despite profoundly differing political views and cultures. There are occasional gouts of self-righteous napalm blasting from both sides, and the Third Reich has been mentioned more than once, but people are generally acting like rational adults. bq. I hope this exchange is as useful to its participants as it is to me. Lately I have found myself too easily seduced into a belief that no one who is neither crazy nor dim-witted nor TV-psychotic nor pretending to be asleep could actually support the policies of the Bush Administration. But the Bush supporters who have arrived here are, with a few exceptions, intelligent, articulate, and more courteous in debate than many of my own cohort. This discussion is a great reminder - as if I should need one - that the other side deserves to be taken as seriously as I would have them take me. Compare this reaction to the nit-wit 'guest column' in today's Seattle PI from Neal Starkman: Here he is talking about the high popularity of G.W. Bush and the overall approval for the Coalition presence in Iraq: bq. It's the "Stupid factor," the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright. bq. It's not merely that some people are insufficiently intelligent to grasp the nuances of foreign policy, of constitutional law, of macroeconomics or of the variegated interplay of humans and the environment. These aren't the people I'm referring to. The people I'm referring to cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect. They're perplexed by issues comprising more than two sides. They don't have the wherewithal to expand the sources of their information. And above all -- far above all -- they don't think. bq. You know these people; they're all around you (they're not you, else you would not be reading this article this far). They're the ones who keep the puerile shows on TV, who appear as regular recipients of the Darwin Awards, who raise our insurance rates by doing dumb things, who generally make life much more miserable for all of us than it ought to be. Sad to say, they comprise a substantial minority -- perhaps even a majority -- of the populace. One is intelligent, one is a braying ninny. Hey Starkman -- if you are so smart, why isn't your party in power now. (meditate on this for four more years)

Trips to Iraq reshape war views on Hill

From the Christian Science Monitor (with a major hat tip to Instapundit) comes an interesting story -- about one third of US Lawmakers (members of House and Senate) have been to Iraq in the last few months and many of those Lawmakers are coming back and voicing a greater support for the Coalitions involvement over there. Here: bq. Unlike during Vietnam, when congressional visits often fueled lawmakers' opposition to the war, these tours of Iraq are tending, if anything, to blunt antiwar sentiment. In many cases, they are solidifying support in Congress for the military effort. and here: bq. Still, lawmakers say that the situation on the ground is more positive than press reports had led them to believe: Schools are functioning, new construction projects are starting up at a rate of 100 a day, and troop morale is better than they had expected. While they also see problems, they're coming back on the side of doing what it takes to make it work. and here: bq. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, the lone GOP senator to oppose the war in Iraq in 2002, returned from a two-day visit last October convinced that US action had been justified. Others aghast at President Bush's $87 billion request for reconstructing Iraq last October - atop of a $78 billion request in April - came back committed to voting the full amount. Democrats, who account for a third of 170-plus congressional visits to date, often come back determined to stay and spend what is needed to win the peace. bq. "It's important to see for yourself and to get some sense of what's going on," says Senator Chafee, who voted for President Bush's $87 billion supplemental request a week after his return from Iraq. He says that his visit convinced him that Iraqis were relieved to see Saddam Hussein toppled. Again, the media is not doing the job of fair and accurate reporting that it should. All media has bias but does so much of it have to be so blatant and wrong? Whatever sells newspapers I guess but still...

Here comes the snow again...


Interesting new legislation in CA

From the Tri-Valley Herald: bq. Animal-rights activists are sneaking into barns to snap photos of penned-up pigs, freeing chickens from cages and vandalizing farm equipment. bq. In response, farm groups and rural law enforcement agencies launched a massive lobbying effort this year to push a bill through the Legislature to strengthen trespassing laws on farms and ranches. They did it in the name of homeland security. bq. Led by state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican who represents a giant swath of San Joaquin Valley farm country, supporters argued that animal rights groups could be infiltrated by terrorists trying to contaminate the nation's food supply. bq. Effective immediately, a trespasser on land or buildings where "cattle, goats, pigs, fowl or any other animal is being raised, bred, fed or held for the purpose of food for human consumption" can be fined $100 for a first offense and, for a second offense, up to $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail. bq. Under the old law, "our officers can do nothing more than cite such trespassers with a $10 fine and ask them to leave the property," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman in a letter to lawmakers, echoing the main argument to strengthen the penalty. There was a case a few months ago where members of the 'Animal Liberation Front' broke into a Mink ranch near Seattle (Sultan, WA to be exact) and 'liberated' 10,000 hybrid minks. Their rationally was that the minks could survive just fine in the wild on their own. The minks could not. Cluebat application time...

Eugene Volokh on First Amendment rights

Excellent article in National Review regarding the right's conception of what the First Amendment means to them. bq. The liberals on the Supreme Court, and in universities, have been undermining the Framers' First Amendment handiwork. The Court's decision upholding campaign-finance restrictions show that Americans are losing the liberties that they've long enjoyed; likewise with the speech codes that some public universities have been instituting. And this loss of liberty stems from liberals' disdain for the text of the Constitution, and liberal judges' willingness to make law, instead of simply applying it. Soon we will lose the freedom of speech that Americans have long taken for granted. bq. That's the story I've been hearing from many of my conservative and libertarian correspondents. And it's just plain false. Interesting analysis! Eugene is a lawyer and moderates a collaborative weblog The Volokh Conspiracy

Drop in sperm count in British Men

A wonderful example of media bias towards an "Environmental" issue... This has been reported in several places but in an incomplete form. bq. 29% fall in men's sperm count worries researchers bq. Researchers are about to deliver another blow to men's self-image by suggesting that there has been a big fall in their sperm count. Is what has been reported. A good writeup can be found at the U.K. Guardian website which reveals that the samples came from: bq. They will report today a 29% drop in the average sperm concentration in more than 7,500 men attending the Aberdeen Fertility Centre between 1989 and 2002. (emphasis mine) and more: bq. The figures may not be typical of the whole male population, since the men or their partners were seeking fertility treatment. but the article is still being spun as an "Environmental" one: bq. "Nonetheless, the drop in sperm counts must cause some concern and needs to be explained. We look forward to collecting data on other aspects of sperm quality to see if there is a similar decline." bq. Advisers to the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency have urged a review of how chemicals, work and lifestyles might affect the sexual development of boys and their future fertility. Great -- just frickin' great -- get a government bureaucracy involved in this and get some more laws passed... These people were coming to a Fertility Center because they couldn't have kids - of course there will be a higher incidence of low sperm count. Sheesh!


Good page on various information regarding DDT, its uses and abuses. (with citations and references) The current epidemic of Malaria in Africa (about one million people per year are killed from this) could be brought to a halt by judicious use of DDT. It is not harmful to the environment when used responsibly and is the best thing out there for killing mosquitoes...

Dumb Criminal

From WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, Pa comes this story: bq. A motorist who cursed at a police officer in an unmarked car was arrested after being pulled over by the officer, who discovered that the vehicle was stolen and contained cocaine. bq. Allentown police Lt. Dwight Steidel said he was driving an unmarked police cruiser at about 11:30 p.m. Friday when he stopped at a red light behind a silver sport utility vehicle. bq. When the light turned green, the SUV driver did not move and continued talking to someone standing on the sidewalk, Steidel said. bq. "I rolled down my window and told him to move or pull over," Steidel stated in his report. "He immediately began to curse at me. I believe he did not know I was a police officer." bq. The SUV driver, identified by police as Rico Cordero of Allentown, had his license suspended and the 2003 SUV he was driving had been stolen in Bethlehem, police said. bq. After his arrest, authorities said, Cordero was searched at police headquarters and was in possession of cocaine and a large amount of cash. DOH!

How to Kill a Country

From the Marginal Revolution website (here) comes a link to an article (here) by Samantha Power in Atlantic Magazine (reprinted with permission here) It details Robert Mugabe's rise to power and his turning Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa (exporting food) into a poor nation that now relies of food aid for its people to survive... Talking about the farming: bq. The tragedy of Mugabe's approach is that it has harmed those whom a well-ordered, selective redistribution program could and should have helped. Generally the farms have not been given to black farm managers or farm workers. Indeed, because of their association with the opposition, more than a million farm workers and their dependents have been displaced, and they are now at grave risk of starvation. In fact, the beneficiaries of the land seizures are, with few exceptions, ruling-party officials and friends of the President's. Although Mugabe's people seem to view the possession of farms as a sign of status (the Minister of Home Affairs has five; the Minister of Information has three; Mugabe's wife, Grace, and scores of influential party members and their relatives have two each), these elites don't have the experience, the equipment, or, apparently, the desire to run them. About 130,000 formerly landless peasants helped the ruling elites to take over the farms, but now that the dirty work is done, many of them are themselves being expelled. bq. The drop-off in agricultural production is staggering. Maize farming, which yielded more than 1.5 million tons annually before 2000, is this year expected to generate just 500,000 tons. Wheat production, which stood at 309,000 tons in 2000, will hover at 27,000 tons this year. Tobacco production, too, which at 265,000 tons accounted for nearly a third of the total foreign-currency earnings in 2000, has tumbled, to about 66,000 tons in 2003. And he is still supported by the U.N.

Liberals v/s Leftists

Excellent essay on Michael J. Totten's website (here) on the difference between Liberals and Leftists -- some examples here: bq. Liberals fly the American flag. Leftists burn it. bq. Liberals see America as the land of opportunity and freedom. Leftists see America as the bastion of Imperialism, Racism, and Oppression. bq. Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because it�s fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred. bq. Liberals want universal access to health care while leaving the system as market-driven as possible. Leftists would destroy the health care industry altogether and replace it with a state-run monopoly. bq. Liberals want to ban clear-cutting. Leftists want to ban the logging industry. bq. Liberals support globalization and trade and see it as an opportunity for economic growth and also as an opportunity to boost labor and environmental standards in the Third World. Leftists hate trade because they think it�s all about the West raping the rest. bq. Liberals blame the September 11 attacks on religious and political extremism in the Middle East. Leftists blame the September 11 attacks on America. bq. Liberals root for success in Iraq whether they supported the invasion or not. Leftists hope (either publicly or secretly) that America will lose and �learn a lesson.� bq. Liberals support the right of Israel to defend itself. Leftists support the Palestinian intifada. Some good stuff - his main website is here and it's one of the websites I check every day.

Iranian Weblog

Fascinating look into the mind of an Iranian Politician. The main site (here) is in Arabic but he offers an English translation here Check it out...

Dumb Lawsuits

From BBC News/Scotland: bq. Chef sues hotel over cut finger bq. A chef who cut his finger is suing a hotel for �25,000 compensation by claiming no-one warned him about the danger posed by an avocado. bq. Michael McCarthy, 21, sliced into his hand when the unripened avocado he was trying to cut slipped and he lost control of his kitchen knife. bq. He claims he had been shown how to cut the fruit, but had not been told the avocado might not be ripe. and more: bq. Mr McCarthy, from Blairgowrie, said the accident killed his dream of becoming an RAF chef and forced him to pursue another career. What do you call 100 lawyers lying dead at the foot of a cliff? A good start... (pa-dum)

Dumb Criminals

From The San-Diego Union-Tribune: bq. A 911 call from a suspect led sheriff's deputies to a sophisticated North County identity theft operation that used credit card numbers stolen from the Internet, the Sheriff's Department said. bq. Three men were arrested late Friday in connection with the operation. Deputies from the Computer and Technology Crime Hi-Tech Response Team were still investigating late yesterday. bq. The investigation began when Michael Broome, 20, of Vista called 911 on his cell phone about 8 p.m. Friday. Broome complained that clerks at the Fry's Electronics store in San Marcos were refusing to return his credit cards, according to the Sheriff's Department. bq. When a deputy arrived, he learned that the clerks refused to return the cards because one had been reported stolen. While both cards bore Broome's name, the information on the magnetic strip listed someone else's name, the Sheriff's Department said. bq. Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Blanco said Broome and another man, Michael Mayfield, 23, of Oceanside, had been sent on a shopping spree to buy computers, MP3 players, digital cameras and other electronic equipment with the falsified credit cards. (emphasis mine) Talk about DOH!

Anti-Semetism in Europe

An interesting article in the Jerusalem Post (registration required). The author is an ex-Marxist, an Italian columnest for the La Stampa Sera. bq. The small bombs that exploded during the past few days in the face of the European community, first in Bologna at President Mario Prodi, then at Trichet, president of the Central European Bank, and lastly at the Europol of AJA, fortunately did not hurt anyone, yet they could not have been more symbolic. bq. Europe has erred in its calculations, and its political and intellectual line of conduct is in the process of drowning it. Its betrayal of Israel that began in 1967 has enveloped it in a torrent of lies, exaggeration and cynicism that has the potential to destroy its moral and cultural fibre. The filth that has risen from its sewers of history is known as anti-Semitism. and more: bq. It is also true that Italian President Silvio Berlusconi was honored in the US with a dinner by the Anti-Defamation League for taking a stand that is opposed to the typical European position. Indeed, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited Rome recently, he was welcomed sympathetically. bq. Yet Italy is not the only country that leaves cause for optimism. Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the countries of the "New Europe" - Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta (that will join the community of European nations in May) - understand that an anti-Semitic Europe is unpresentable and unacceptable to the United States, whom they consider their most loyal friend. and more: bq. For its part, Europe has two choices: either to try and understand Israel's legitimate security concerns in its attempt to achieve peace, or to continue living in denial and attributing to Israel the wicked intent of dominating others. If it opts for the latter, more and more anti-Semitism will erupt, and Europe will be destroyed, as it was in the past. Excellent insights...
From Yahoo/AFP bq. Italy and Spain canvassed Ireland's support in the late 1940s to put the holy city of Jerusalem under Roman Catholic control within the young Jewish state of Israel, according to classified Irish government documents just published. bq. Details of behind-the-scenes talks on the proposal, which also included Portugal, but never got off the ground, were revealed in the documents made public by the National Archives in Dublin. bq. Spain -- then ruled by dictator Francisco Franco -- put forward the first initiative following a November 1947 vote by the UN General Assembly for the partition of Palestine that stipulated that Jerusalem would be established as a "corpus seperatum" under a special international regime. bq. The scheme for the city -- accepted by the UN by 33 votes to 13 with 10 abstentions -- stipulated that it would remain in force for an initial 10 years and would then be subject to revision. Stranger and stranger still... This might have been interesting had it happened, at that time, it was still touch and go whether Israel would survive and there were no other people really vying for the land. Interesting too that the U.N. voted so much in favor of the idea - they like to rule, they do not like democracy...

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Interesting website (here) They are seeking to build a museum in Washington D.C. similar to the Holocaust museum. The Nazi's Holocaust killed about 20 Million people while various communist regimes have been responsible for over 100 Million deaths and some of these governments are still in power. From their website: bq. A Moral Blind Spot bq. It is a great moral failing for a free society to misunderstand the extent of Communism�s atrocities. While the horrors of Nazism are well known, who knows that the Soviet Union murdered 20 million people? Who knows that China�s dictators have slaughtered an estimated 60 million? Who knows that the Communist holocaust has exacted a death toll surpassing that of all of the wars of the 20th century combined? bq. Just as we must grasp Communism�s brutality, we must understand the true cause of this era�s most significant event: the fall of the Soviet Union. As Vaclav Havel said, �The fall of the Communist empire is an event on the same scale of historical importance as the fall of the Roman Empire.� The West�s triumph over the �evil empire� was no accident of history. It was the result of a calculated strategy by a grand alliance of political, military, religious, business and labor leaders. These leaders deserve credit for the victory over Communism many thought impossible.


You all know about Tom's Hardware.com don't you? He opened up another website specifically for networking products and reviews. Just went live today and looks pretty good...

Don't leave Saddam trial to the 'jet set'

Great editorial by Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times bq. Anyone who goes goo-goo at the mention of the words "international tribunal" -- i.e., Clark, John Kerry, Howard Dean and the rest of the multilatte multilateralist establishment -- should look at what it boils down to in practice. Even though the court forbade Milosevic and Seselj from actively campaigning in the Serbian election, they somehow managed to. In other words, "international law" is unable to enforce its judgments even in its own jailhouse. bq. But it's worse than that. One reason why Slobo is popular again in Serbia is precisely because of the "international" trial. In 2000, when the strongman of the Balkans was swept from power, he was a discredited figure, a European pariah reviled as a murderous butcher. After two years of legal hair-splitting at the Hague, he's all but fully rehabilitated. True, Slobo, conducting his own defense, has been a shameless showboater, but not half as shameless as the absurd prosecutor Carla del Ponte. It's received wisdom among battered Serb democrats that every clumsy indictment of Ponte's drove Slobo's poll numbers higher. Had Serbs prosecuted Milosevic, that would have been one thing. But once it became Euro-preeners prosecuting Serbs, an understandable resentment set in. and more: bq. President Bush understands that the transnational establishment's interest in this case is not to pass judgment on Saddam but, by reasserting its authority, to pass judgment on America -- on its illegitimate war, illegal occupation, barbaric justice system, etc. The argument of the trannies is that only a Hague tribunal can confer "legitimacy" -- "legitimacy" being one of those great sonorous banalities that are at the heart of what's wrong with the international order, which, in the main, confers the mantle of legitimacy on a lot of "illegitimate" thugs. Indeed, two years of a farcical trial of the Hague seem to have conferred "legitimacy" mainly on the rehabilitated Slobo. and more: bq. So the only strategic significance of Saddam's trial is whether the transnational establishment gets rehabilitated or sidelined. The argument in favor of an international tribunal is that a full accounting of Saddam's crimes will be made before the whole world. Really? Anyone who doesn't know about the mass graves and torture in Baathist Iraq is someone who's chosen not to. A lot of people fall into that camp -- for example, weapons inspector turned Saddamite shill Scott Ritter. "The prison in question was inspected by my team in January 1998," he told Time magazine, a propos one grisly institution. "It appeared to be a prison for children -- toddlers up to pre-adolescents -- whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually, I'm not going to describe what I saw there, because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace." bq. Ritter is rare in the extent of his depravity: He saw the horror close up and opted to turn his back. But in the interests of "peace," many others in the transnational elites did the same from a safe distance. It's too late for them to claim that the stuff they covered up now needs a full airing in an international court. and more: bq. To allow the transnational jet set to reclaim Saddam would be to reward them for their indifference to Iraqi suffering.

Gov. Dean's security issues...

From Yahoo/AP comes a story regarding Gov. Dean's history of security in Vermont -- this is especially delicious considering his vocal criticisms of Pres. Bush's Homeland Security measures and the fact that Dean was repeatedly warned and later cited as having the worst security of the nations 103 Nuclear Reactors... A hat tip to Little Green Footballs bq. Presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who accuses President Bush (news - web sites) of being weak on homeland security, was warned repeatedly as Vermont governor about security lapses at his state's nuclear power plant and was told the state was ill-prepared for a disaster at its most attractive terrorist target. bq. The warnings, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press, began in 1991 when a group of students were brought into a secure area of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant without proper screening. On at least two occasions, a gun or mock terrorists passed undetected into the plant during security tests. bq. During Dean's final year in office in 2002, an audit concluded that despite a decade of repeated warnings of poor safety at Vermont Yankee, Dean's administration was poorly prepared for a nuclear disaster. bq. "The lack of funding and overarching coordination at the state level directly impacts the ability of the state, local and power plant planners to be adequately prepared for a real emergency at Vermont Yankee," state Auditor Elizabeth M. Ready wrote in a study issued five months after the Sept. 11 attacks. bq. Security was so lax at Vermont Yankee that in August 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staged a drill in which three mock terrorists gained access to the plant. The agency gave Vermont Yankee the worst security rating among the nation's 103 reactors. bq. The NRC has primary responsibility for safety at Vermont Yankee. But Vermont laws required an active state role by creating a panel to review security and performance and requiring plant operators to set aside money for the state to use in the event of a nuclear disaster.

New health idea - De-Hydrated Water

From their own website bq. Every year millions of gallons of crude oil and toxic waste materials are dumped into our oceans and water reservoirs. Many have heard of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. But what about all those other chemical spills that seemingly go undetected under the cover of night. No matter how much your city tries to cleanse their water system, traces of these dangerous chemicals still prevail all around. Cities across the United States and around the world have old, corroded, lead pipes that poison your water. More than ever before, people are turning to bottled water as a safety precaution against all these pollutants. But many of these bottled waters are even worse than public water supplies. Some bottling facilities do not change their filters frequently enough and thus inject hazardous substances into your water. Other bottling companies don't date their supplies and end up selling old water, which is equally dangerous. and more: bq. Unlike traditional water bottling facilities who bottle water only from one specific region, we have designed an innovative blending system that harnesses and compresses the benefits of waters ranging from the French Alps to the Rocky Mountains. Our 27-step process bonds the molecules and rigorously blends the waters together. It then secretes the water molecules and harvests them for the final stage. Once ready, the substance is introduced to the environment and the excess vapors are released. The remaining substance is pure, natural, dehydrated water. Testimonials, Press Releases, FAQs and much much more... Sort of the antithesis of the other site I wrote about here, parent site here
From Yahoo/AP bq. Reporter Alain Hertoghe's book accused the French press of not being objective in its coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. His newspaper fired him. bq. The book, "La Guerre a Outrances" (The War of Outrages), criticizes the French reporting for continually predicting the war would end badly for the U.S.-led coalition. bq. "Readers can't understand why the Americans won the war," Hertoghe said in a telephone interview. "The French press wasn't neutral." bq. The book, published Oct. 15, charges French reporters were more patriotic than journalistic and what was written amounted to disinformation. bq. It examines daily coverage by five major French dailies, including Hertoghe's own La Croix, in the three weeks from the first strikes on Baghdad on March 20 to April 9 when Saddam Hussein's regime fell. bq. "As soon as there were a couple of wounded, of dead, they were talking about Vietnam, Stalingrad," Hertoghe said. bq. In contrast, work by journalists traveling with U.S. troops indicated that "the war was advancing well," he said. Not just one instance, not just one news source - five daily newspapers. The article goes on to say that none of the newspapers have replied to questions regarding this book and only one newspaper -- a freebie handed out in the subway system -- has reviewed it. Seeing what they want to see, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Steven DenBeste on Saddam's capture

Steven DenBeste fisks an 'analysis' by Fawaz A. Gerges in ABC News. Read it here: bq. Gerges says the sky is falling. I bet you can guess what he thinks the solution should be. bq. Yup, you got it on the first try: legitimization through internationalization. We need to turn everything over to the UN. (What an original concept, eh?) and more: bq. I wonder if Gerges is aware of the Iraqi opinion of the UN? A couple of weeks ago a delegation from Iraq went to the UN and made a speech castigating it for its utter failure and betrayal of the Iraqi people. Why does Gerges think that the people of Iraq would be somehow reassured if everything was turned over to them? bq. As to us convincing the Iraqis that we do not plan "to stay for too long", that's exactly the message they most don't want to hear. Obviously they don't want to become an American colony, and we don't intend to make Iraq such a colony. But it's vital that we remain involved there for the long run, and vital that they believe we will be. Polls of Iraqis have consistently shown that one of their greatest fears is exactly that we'd pull out early and leave them on their own. bq. As to "legitimacy", we're earning legitimacy the hard way, by accomplishing things. We're earning it by repairing schools, and by repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, and by delivering electric power, and by making the streets increasingly safe from crime, and by not retreating even though our men are being killed. One bombing attack against the UN caused it to lift its skirts and scurry away out of the country; but after nine months of constant attacks against us, we're still there. That's legitimacy.

Grandiloquent Dictionary

A wonderful compendium of antique words here


Looked out the window and it's Snowing (and sticking) Grew up on the East coast so I'm very familiar with the stuff but it will be interesting driving when I go out later to run some errands...

The left's year of living in lunacy

A wonderful article by Tim Blair in The Daily Telegraph bq. IT used to be difficult keeping track of the left. They came in more categories than could be found on supermarket breakfast cereal shelves: you had your Stalin Death Crispies, your Maoist Flakes, your Anarcho-Syndicalist Bix, your Socialist Bran, your Third Way Brits, your Commie Loco Pops, your Environmentalist Wheat Bubbles. bq. And that was before you busted them down to their various factions-within-factions -- Labor Feminists Against Fast Cars and Molluscs, perhaps, who would be the sworn enemies of the Anti-Mollusc and Rapid Car Collective of Labor Wimmin. bq. After September 11, however, the global left gathered into two main groups: the sane and the insane. bq. The sane left realised that the threat represented by fundamentalist Islamic terrorism was directed mainly at them; Osama bin Laden and his supporters would sooner put progressive, pro-feminist, pro-equality activists against the wall than they would any right-wing businessmen. bq. On the sane left we subsequently found such people as Christopher Hitchens, the British ex-socialist turned defender of western democracy; The Melbourne Age's Pamela Bone, who wrote in July: "I do not see, in the light of those mass graves, how it is now possible to say this war should not have been fought"; Michael Totten, a US journalist and Democrat who now warns his party that your enemies are those who are trying to kill you. Excellent...

Facts Rarely Reported About Progress in Iraq

From The Braden Files bq. Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1... * The first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty. * Over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens. * Nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning. * The Iraqi judiciary is fully independent. * On Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts-exceeding the prewar average. * All 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools. * By October 1, Coalition forces had rehab-ed over 1,500 schools - 500 more than scheduled. * Teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries. * All 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open. * Doctors salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam. * Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons. * The Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccinations to Iraq's children. * A Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of weed-choked canals which now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women. * We have restored over three-quarters of prewar telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production. * There are 4,900 full-service telephone connections. We expect 50,000 by year-end. * The wheels of commerce are turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns. 95 percent of all prewar bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily. * Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses. * The central bank is fully independent. * Iraq has one of the worlds most growth-oriented investment and banking laws. * Iraq has a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years. * Satellite TV dishes are legal. * Foreign journalists aren't on 10-day visas paying mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for "minders" and other government spies. * There IS no Ministry of Information. * There are more than 170 newspapers. * You can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner. * Foreign journalists (and everyone else) are free to come and go. * A nation that had not one single element - legislative, judicial or executive - of a representative government, now does. * In Baghdad alone residents have selected 88 advisory councils. Baghdad's first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council elected its new chairman. * Today in Iraq chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country. * 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraq's history, run the day-to-day business of government. * The Iraqi government regularly participates in international events. Since July the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF and, today, the Islamic Conference Summit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced that it is reopening over 30 Iraqi embassies around the world. * Shia religious festivals that were all but banned, aren't. * For the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam. * The Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of a strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq. * Uday and Qusay are dead - and no longer feeding innocent Iraqis to the zoo lions, raping the young daughters of local leaders to force cooperation, torturing Iraq's soccer players for losing games, or murdering critics. * Children aren't imprisoned or murdered when their parents disagree with the government. * Political opponents aren't imprisoned, tortured, executed, maimed, or are forced to watch their families die for disagreeing with Saddam. * Millions of longsuffering Iraqis no longer live in perpetual terror. * Saudis will hold municipal elections. * Qataris reforming education to give more choices to parents. * Jordanis accelerating market economic reforms. * The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time to an Iranian -- a Muslim woman who speaks out with courage for human rights, for democracy and for peace. * Saddam is gone. * Iraq is free. Something to think about...

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

Robert X. Cringley's annual predictions for 2004 here bq. 1) It will happen late in the year, but Microsoft will make a bold run for video game leadership. Sony and Nintendo have both chosen IBM's Cell Processor for their next-generation game consoles. This is a processor that does not yet exist and for which nobody can fathom how to write games. While the two Japanese companies scratch their heads, Microsoft will be trying to make inroads with game developers and introduce its own next-generation machine. In the long run, though, Microsoft won't succeed in taking the gaming lead. bq. 2) We still won't see a big example of cyber-terrorism simply because nobody has figured out how to actually kill people that way. When it comes to terrorism, all that matters are body counts. We will, however, see dramatic growth in cyber-extortion and plain old theft. bq. 3) Despite new anti-spam laws, we'll still be plagued with unsolicited commercial messages, especially using Internet Messaging protocols. Look for new and unenforceable laws in this area, too. As for old fashioned spam, it will continue to cram our inboxes, making a good business for third-party anti-spam products and services while making e-mail pretty much useless for reliable communication. Microsoft will see opportunity here and propose new protocols to replace SMTP and POP3. They may even offer those protocols as Open Source, but there will be a catch. With Microsoft there always is. He also goes over his predictions for 2003 and claims an 80% accuracy rating. Some of the 2004 predictions are pretty straightforward but some are interesting...

Robert A. Heinlein quote

| 1 Comment
From 101-280 comes a quote from R. A. H.'s Have Space Suit, Will Travel bq. ...Dad was around school a good bit the next few days, which worried me--when parents get overactive they are always up to something. bq. The following Saturday evening Dad called me into his study. He had a stack of textbooks on his desk and a chart of Centerville High School's curriculum, from American Folk Dancing to Life Sciences. Marked on it was my course, not only for that semester but for junior and senior years the way my faculty advisor and I had planned it. bq. Dad stared at me like a gentle grasshopper and said mildly, "Kip, do you intend to go to college?" bq. "Huh? Why, certainly, Dad!" bq. "With what?" bq. I hesitated. I knew it cost money. While there had been times when dollar bills spilled out of the basket onto the floor, usually it wouldn't take long to count what was in it. "Uh, maybe I'll get a scholarship. Or I could work my way..." bq. He nodded. "No doubt...if you want to. Money problems can always be solved by a man not frightened by them. But when I said, 'With what?' I was talking about up here." He tapped his skull. bq. I simply stared. "Why, I'll graduate from high school, Dad. That'll get me into college." bq. "So it will. Into our State University, or the State Aggie, or State Normal. But, Kip, do you know that they are flunking out 40 per cent of each freshman class?" bq. "I wouldn't flunk!" bq. "Perhaps not. But you will if you tackle any serious subject--engineering, or science, or pre-med. You would, that is to say, if your preparation were based on this." bq. I felt shocked. "Why, Dad, Center is a swell school." I remembered things they had told us in P.T.A. Auxiliary. "It's run along the latest, most scientific lines, approved by psychologists, and--" bq. "--and paying excellent salaries," he interrupted, "for a staff highly trained in modern pedagogy. Study projects emphasize practical human problems to orient the child in democratic social living, to fit him for the vital, meaningful tests of adult life in our complex modern culture. Excuse me, son; I've talked with Mr. Hanley. Mr. Hanley is sincere--and to achieve those noble purposes we are spending more per student than is any other state save California and New York." bq. "Well...what's wrong with that?" bq. "What's a dangling participle?" bq. I didn't answer. He went on, "Why did Van Buren fail of re-election? How do you extract the cube root of eighty-seven?" bq. Van Buren had been a president; that was all I remembered. But I could answer the other one. "If you want a cube root, you look in the table in the back of the book." bq. Dad sighed. "Kip, do you think that table was brought down from on high by an archangel?" He shook his head sadly. "It's my fault, not yours. I should have looked into this years ago--but I had assumed, simply because you liked to read and were quick at figures and clever with your hands, that you were getting an education." bq. "You think I'm not?" bq. "I know you are not. Son, Centerville High is a delightful place, well equipped, smoothly administered, beautifully kept. Not a 'blackboard jungle,' oh, no!--I think you kids love the place. You should. But this--" Dad slapped the curriculum chart angrily. "Twaddle! Beetle tracking! Occupational therapy for morons!" bq. [...] bq. Dad switched me to algebra, Spanish, general science, English grammar and composition; the only thing unchanged was gym. I didn't have it too tough catching up; even those courses were watered down. Nevertheless, I started to learn, for Dad threw a lot of books at me and said, "Clifford, you would be studying these if you were not in overgrown kindergarten. If you soak up what is in them, you should be able to pass College Entrance Board Examinations. Possibly." bq. After that he left me alone; he meant it when he said that it was my choice. I almost bogged down--those books were hard, not the predigested pap I got in school. Anybody who thinks that studying Latin by himself is a snap should try it. bq. I got discouraged and nearly quit--then I got mad and leaned into it. After a while I found that Latin was making Spanish easier and vice versa. When Miss Hernandez, my Spanish teacher, found out I was studying Latin, she began tutoring me. I not only worked my way through Virgil, I learned to speak Spanish like a Mexican. bq. Algebra and plane geometry were all the math our school offered; I went ahead on my own with advanced algebra and solid geometry and trigonometry and might have stopped as far as College Boards were concerned--but math is worse than peanuts. Analytical geometry seems pure Greek until you see what they're driving at--then, if you know algebra, it bursts on you and you race through the rest of the book. Glorious! bq. I had to sample calculus and when I got interested in electronics I needed vector analysis. General science was the only science course the school had and pretty general it was, too--about Sunday supplement level. But when you read about chemistry and physics you want to do it, too. The barn was mine and I had a chem lab and a darkroom and an electronics bench and, for awhile, a ham station. Mother was perturbed when I blew out the windows and set fire to the barn--just a small fire--but Dad was not. He simply suggested that I not manufacture explosives in a frame building. Kind of current with today's educational problems...

Belmont Club

Yet another wonderful post by Wretchard at the Belmont Club bq. Without Blinkers bq. The object of war is peace. If that sounds Orwellian, try this: the object of work is leisure. The object of saving is spending. The purpose of fighting is to stop fighting. That may start to make sense, but never to the Guardian. It ran the headline Rebranding Bush as Man of Peace to describe the sudden outbreak of diplomatic breakthroughs that have deluged the foreign ministries of the world. The problem, it seems, is to account for: bq. 1. the North Korea agreement to allow US inspectors to visit their nuclear complexes; 2. the reception of a Israeli humanitarian delegation to Teheran; 3. the acceptance of US humanitarian assistance to the earthquake victims in Iran; 4. the Libyan decision to abandoning its WMD program; 5. the growing international participation in the rebuilding or Iraq; and 6. the dispatch of envoy John Wolf to Israel to restart talks with the Palestinians. bq. The Guardian's explanation is simple. "The White House has retreated from its doctrine of regime change and pre-emptive military action and is returning to traditional diplomacy in an effort to repackage George Bush as a president for peace." There is an alternative explanation. These developments are the first fruits of American victory. Lest this sound too far-fetched, the Guardian may recall that their beloved United Nations was the direct result of victory over Nazism and Japanese militarism. It did not represent an attempt by Roosevelt and Churchill to repackage themselves as peaceful leaders, at the last moment, after more than 5 years of war. bq. The object of a good Leftist upbringing is to instill the correct standpoint, viewpoint and method so that the well-bred Marxist is never mislead by the obvious. That up is down and down is up requires education to perceive. Albert Camus and George Orwell went wrong and left the Party precisely because they thought they could trust their minds. It is a mistake that Guardian subscribers seek never to repeat.

Texas Rep. Hall to Switch to Republicans

From Newsday: bq. Texas Rep. Ralph Hall switched parties Friday night, filing for re-election as a Republican after nearly a quarter-century as one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress. and more: bq. In an interview in which he said he had filed to run as a Republican, he also said he didn't agree with "all these guys running against the president." Something about seeing the light??? Hmmm???

Seattle 911 site

Highly addictive: This site gives a snapshot of the active 911 calls --- updated every 60 seconds. Beats keeping your ear glued to a scanner...

Nikon Microscopy University

Very cool website here published by Nikon and Molecular Expressions (Florida State University) on microscopy. I have a nice optical microscope - if you are interested, some very fine instruments are coming out of Russia - a bit short on the 'fit and finish' but the optical quality is excellent. I got one of these a couple years ago for around $800 and have been extremely happy with it. These are comparable to the Leitz and Nikon $8K units - maybe not quite as good optically (but damn close) and not as mechanically rugged but very usable and very good image quality and a nice flat and even field. Another importer of LOMO also carries very good and inexpensive instruments made in India - these are based on the 'classic' Zeis design and for $135 represent an amazing bargain. I have not seen one personally but if the optics are anywhere near as good as they say (and this is a reputable vendor), this is an amazing deal. I would plan on spending another $100 on supplies (biological stains, slides and some tools) but this is a great introduction into a fascinating hobby!

U.S. Criticized Over Iran Relief Efforts

from Little Green Footballs comes a link to this Yahoo/AP story: bq. "The Americans, by publicizing their aid to Iran, have ineptly tried to implement their duplicitous policy of creating a rift between the Iranian nation and government,� state radio said in an unattributed commentary, adding that �our people�s solidarity� will stop that from happening. bq. Iranian radio said recent conciliatory remarks from top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, were aimed at concealing Washington�s anti-Iran policies at a time when the world�s attention is focused on the devastation from the quake. bq. �One should therefore not trust the expression of opinion, speeches and other optimistic signals that are sent by the American foreign policy authorities toward Iran from time to time,� the radio said. and more: bq. Instead of sending "meager aid" to help quake victims, Washington should unfreeze billions of dollars of Iranian assets, the radio commentary said. bq. In Bam, American aid workers have generally received a warm welcome from Iranian doctors and quake victims, though one cleric was sharply critical Friday and said the American team should go home. bq. "We hate the arrogance of the Americans and we are sure that they haven't come for humanitarian reasons, but for other things like spying," said Abdullah Irani, a mullah from Qum, the main center for Shiite clerics in Iran. Geee - if we hadn't sent anything, they would have groused. Now they are grousing that we aren't doing enough - they want us to unfreeze the terrorist funds (Hizbollah and others) so that it can be used for 'relief work' - yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you... Amir Taheri has an excellent article here placing blame for the high death count directly in the laps of the Mullahs. He says: bq. The racket was backed by a group of powerful mullahs who, in exchange for a cut in the proceeds, issued fatwas (religious opinions) that canceled government orders that banned house-building in the city. The mullahs claimed that the Shah had wished to keep Bam empty because of a secret plan under which the city would be turned into a Zoroastrian centre. They also dismissed warnings from the National Seismological Centre in Tehran that opposed the repopulation of Bam. The mullahs claimed that the Hidden Imam would protect the new inhabitants of the city against all disasters. Thus more than 50 per cent of those who died in the recent earthquake could be regarded as victims of a racket ran by mullahs and their associates with the help of religious prejudice and superstition. bq. Most Iranians knew nothing of the racket that the earthquake has exposed. The discovery that so many people died because cynical developers and bribe-taking mullahs wished to make a fast buck has sent a shock wave throughout the country. Taheri also points out that the city has been destroyed by earthquake several times before: bq. The ancient city of Bam, the epicenter of the �quake, has a long history of destruction. It was first destroyed in an earthquake almost 1900 years ago. and bq. The city was again almost totally razed by an earthquake in 1911. But by the 1930s it had remerged as a trading centre and a producer of dates and pistachios. Then came other earthquakes in 1950 and 1966. By the early 1970s the government had decided not to allow people to build new houses in Bam itself. The city�s ancient monuments were declared part of the heritage of mankind under UNESCO and no new buildings permits were issued for almost six years. The next couple of years will be interesting to watch - the Iranian citizens are watching the good things that are happening in Iraq and they want in on them. Capitalism is a good thing! UPDATE: From Yahoo/Reuters bq. Iranian military engineers said on Friday they had uncovered violations of building regulations in the earthquake-devastated city of Bam and that those responsible would be prosecuted. bq. About 90 percent of the mostly mud-brick buildings in the ancient Silk Road city collapsed in last Friday's quake, killing at least 30,000 people in one of the world's worst natural disasters in recent decades. bq. "We have seen some violations and they are being reported to the Justice Department (news - web sites)," Hamid Eskander, head of a fact-finding team of about 100 engineers from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told Reuters. bq. "People we suspect of not doing their job properly will be contacted and prosecuted," said Eskandar, a U.S.-educated specialist in earthquakes. bq. "There are a good number of cases where there were violations in terms of construction practices, engineering practices, and perhaps even faulty inspections." I would not want to be an Iranian contractor right now - they will probably not get all of the bad ones (the Mullahs are still very much in power and they protect their own when it comes to corruption) but they will certainly make a very public test-case out of a couple companies...

10th anniversary of photo.net

Philip Grenspun's photo.net turned ten in December An excellent resource for any aspect of photography

SUN open sources Cobalt RAQ servers

From Ars Technica bq. Now this is my idea of starting the New Year off right. I've known for a while now that some engineers at Sun were working on open sourcing the software behind my beloved Qube 3, a product that I've often raved about here on Ars. Unfortunately I was sworn to secrecy on the matter for various reasons. Well, now I can rejoice, because the Qube's back-end and UI software has officially gone Open Source under a BSD-style license. The custom BIOS code is available here, and the other stuff, now called Blue Quartz, is available here. bq. Hardcore Linux sysadmin types might be only moderately excited by Sun's move, because I've heard that Sausalito (the Qube/Raq back-end software) doesn't scale too well, but from a consumer standpoint I think this is great news. As I've pointed out time and time again the consumer server appliance market is really beginning to take off. The availability of a robust, open source, and quite user friendly (dare I say idiot-proof?) web-based front-end available for such appliances, in combination with ever-plunging cost of hardware and the growth of SFF computing, will make it that much easier for new companies to help grow this market with very little up-front investment in custom coding. This is very cool - SUN bought Cobalt for 2.2Billion and then let it languish eventually killing it off. These units were very popular - easy to configure and maintain.
From Yahoo/AP bq. North Korea invited a delegation of U.S. nuclear experts to visit its main nuclear complex next week, but the Bush administration said Friday the privately arranged trip should not delay the renewal of six-party negotiations over the North Koreans' weapons program. bq. The visit would be the first exposure of outside experts to the site since Pyongyang expelled U.N. monitors at the end of 2002. bq. The administration is doing nothing to facilitate the mission but would welcome any new information about the activities at the site, located north of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. bq. The delegation is expected to include Sig Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a nuclear weapons research center. First Libya opens their doors, now North Korea. It seems that we have their attention. Check this Cox and Forkum cartoon. Heh...

Project Stardust successful rendezvous

From the JPL webpage: bq. Jan 2, 2004 - All indications are that the Stardust had a successful flyby of Comet Wild 2 today. Data playback is in progress. The principal investigator is Dr. Donald Brownlee from University of Washington.

Victor Davis Hanson

Another excellent essay - this time in Commentary magazine: bq. In an extensive, on-the-ground account of the post-bellum chaos, George Packer in a recent issue of the New Yorker lists an array of missteps that brought us to this sorry pass. We put too much trust in exiled Iraqis; we allowed looters and fundamentalists to seize the initiative right after the war; we underestimated both the damage done to the infrastructure by Saddam Hussein and the pernicious and still insidious effects of his murderous, Soviet-style government hierarchy. Mark Danner, in the New York Review of Books, relates much the same story, emphasizing our tolerance of looting and our disbanding of the Iraqi army as factors contributing in tandem to the creation of the Iraqi resistance, now thriving on a combination of plentiful cash (from looting and prewar caches) and a surplus of weaponry and manpower (from the defunct army). bq. Both authors make good points, including about American naivetE9 and unpreparedness. But lacking in these bleak analyses of failures and setbacks are crucial and complicating elements, with the result that the overall picture they draw is both distorted as to the present and seriously misleading with regard to the future. Read the whole thing...

UN Oil for Food program

Excellent commentary by Roger L. Simon regarding the accountability of the UN in their administering of the Oil for Food program. bq. As one who has blogged several times (as recently as a few days ago ) about the mysteriously evanescent United Nations oil-for-food money for Iraq, I was intrigued by today's Agence France Presse report posted on Aljazeera--UN hands Iraqi funds to occupying forces. According to the AFP, the Security Council transferred $2.6 billion from this United Nations account to the US-led coalition managed Fund for the Development of Iraq "in the closing hours of 2003." bq. Sacr� bleu, Holmes! Something's afoot here. Of course, it's impossible to determine what it is from AFP (not known for its investigative reporting). And nothing turned up about this decision... at least from my search... on the New York Times site. But allow me to raise at least one eyebrow. Why did this happen in the waning moments of 2003? This was the fourth and "largest" transfer from the UN to the US-controlled fund. Is it possible that certain members of the Security Council have suddenly become more "cooperative" with the money? Does somebody know something? The AFP article concludes: bq. "In the ensuing seven years, according to UN figures, the programme has generated oil revenues totaling $65 billion. Of that, $46 billion has been allocated to the food programme, with the rest going to compensate victims of the invasion of Kuwait and financing the costs of administration and arms inspections." bq. So $19 billion falls in the categories of Kuwaiti compensation and (various) administrative costs. How much for each? And to whom was this cash distributed and how did it get there? What were the "fees" involved? It's time for the United Nations to fess up in detail. Until their books are transparent, we American taxpayers have more than a little right to protest (and to withhold our money). Interesting stuff. The entire program is completely proprietary with zero open accounting. As we know from the coalition invasion last year, there were warehouses of food and medical supplies all over Iraq specifically for Baath party member use, not for use by the citizens of Iraq as mandated by the Oil for Food program. Another sterling example of why the U.N. is no longer relevant and needs to be overhauled or disbanded.

Holography website

excellent website for do-it-yourself Holography here don't miss thier collection of links here Just what I need - another hobby...

Sir Tim

from the W3.ORG website: bq. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), will be made a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth. This was announced earlier today by Buckingham Palace as part of the 2004 New Year's Honours list. bq. The rank of Knight Commander is the second most senior rank of the Order of the British Empire, one of the Orders of Chivalry awarded. Berners-Lee, 48, a British citizen who lives in the United States, is being knighted in recognition of his "services to the global development of the Internet" through the invention of the World Wide Web. bq. "This is an honor which applies to the whole Web development community, and to the inventors and developers of the Internet, whose work made the Web possible, " stated Berners-Lee. "I accept this as an endorsement of the spirit of the Web; of building it in a decentralized way; of making best efforts to keep it open and fair; and of ensuring its fundamental technologies are available to all for broad use and innovation, and without having to pay licensing fees." Very cool - there are a bunch of people who have recently gained publicity by 'refusing' this honor but it's nontheless a wonderful occasion and a great tribute to Sir Tim.
from the Australian news.com site: bq. A NSW man has been identified as the rightful King of England by a leading historian. bq. Medieval scholar, Dr Michael Jones says he can prove Queen Elizabeth's claim to the throne is illegitimate and it should belong to Michael Abney-Hastings. bq. British-born Mr Abney-Hastings, who moved to southern NSW as a teenager, is the subject of a British documentary. and more: bq. He says King Edward IV, who reigned from 1461 to 1483, was not of royal blood; he was the illegitimate son of a French archer. bq. Sitting in his home in Jerilderie, 640km southwest of Sydney, in a T-shirt and shorts with a can of beer after a hard day at the wheel of a forklift truck, is the man who it is claimed should by rights be King Michael I of England. Gotta love it!

Coast Guard shuts down Oil terminal

from Yahoo bq. The US Coast Guard, citing the nation's elevated terror status, said it had ordered a major oil tanker terminal on Alaska's south shore shut down for security reasons. bq. "We have ordered the terminal at Valdez temporarily shut down for security reasons," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Commander Jeff Carter told AFP. bq. "This is consistent with the code orange alert status," he said. bq. Tanker loading at Valdez, the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska pipeline, were shut off Tuesday night and remained closed Thursday. bq. Carter would not say how long the port's loading facilities would be out of operation, but said they should resume "shortly." bq. The 800-mile (1280 kilometer) pipeline carries 17 percent of the nation's oil supply from the Prudoe Bay oil fields off Alaska's northern slope.

100,000 march for Democracy in Hong Kong

from the Financial Times bq. Chanting 'we want democracy - one man one vote", protestors wound through busy shopping districts, starting in Causeway Bay and ending nearly three kilometres later at the main government offices in Central. bq. Lee Cheuk Yan, a pro-democracy member of the Legislative Council and an organiser of both Thursday's march and the July 1 event, said about 100,000 participated. Hong Kong police did not give an estimate of numbers. bq. "It is a clear message to the government that the issue of democracy is very much alive in Hong Kong," he added. bq. Thursday's orderly march will remind the government of Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed leader, as well as the Chinese leadership itself that despite an improvement in the economy and the abandonment of controversial security legisalation, interest in democratic reform persists. The July 1 march mentioned in the article drew half a million people.

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