Why Now?
Friday, December 31, 2004
  Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Sure, you're smiling now, kid, but remember: this time next year you'll look like me.


  Daniel Pipes’ NightMares

For those who are lucky enough to have remained unaware of the existence of Daniel Pipes, don’t read this.

Old Daniel, that noted “expert” on the Middle East who loosed Laurie Mylroie on the unsuspecting world, who convinced the Reagan administration to back the only Persian Gulf leader who shared our views, Saddam Hussein, is back in the news.

Juan Cole reports that Daniel is now backing a new NightMare, Michelle Malkin. Ms. Malkin wrote a book justifying the World War II internment camps for the Japanese Americans, with an idea of re-establishing a similar system for Islamic Americans, and Pipes approves.

The only reason Pipes hasn’t disappeared into the oblivion that he so richly deserves is because neocons worship at his altar. This is the type of diseased thought that has infected what passes for leadership in the current administration. It doesn’t matter how many times such prophets are exposed as false, they continue to be listened to and to affect policy with disastrous results.


  Wall of Water

The Farmer at Corrente talked about waiting for Hurricane Andrew and its storm surge and made the comparison with the tsunami.

I was in Opal in 1995 with a 10-15 foot storm surge and then Ivan this year with a 20-30 foot surge. I have seen what water can do, playing with bridge spans that weigh tens of tons like they were Legos, lifting 60-foot boats and carrying them a half-mile inland, picking up a four-bedroom house and moving it a quarter mile. After months they were still pulling cars and dumpsters out of the Santa Rosa Sound where the water had left them.

While you might drown in the water, the real risk is the debris that the water picks up and carries with it: you can swim to the top of the water, but not if you have been hit with a slab of concrete flowing with the water. Debris is the killer and the destroyer, remember that the Columbia space shuttle was destroyed by a chunk of foam insulation that hit a wing. Many of the buildings destroyed by tornados and hurricanes are lost when debris impacts weaken the structure and the wind can finish the job. There is a lot of video footage of buildings losing a window and then seemingly exploding. Many of those who drowned were trapped as buildings collapsed around them.

The older condos on the barrier island South of me were designed with "break-away" first floors. The concept, which has been proven through several hurricanes, is for the first floor to surrender to the pressure, which saves the rest of the structure. Only the main structural pillars remain to support the upper floors, but it is not shifted on its foundation. This same concept is the reason that many indigenous people build on stilts, to allow water to pass under the house.


  RIP Arthur Jacob Arshawsky 1910-2004

Better known as Artie Shaw, he was a maverick who will forever be tied to a single performance that no one ever bettered: Begin the Beguine. He was one of the great musicians of the Jazz's Swing Era.

He denied he was married eight times, as was often reported, but he was married multiple times, and to many of the icons of feminine beauty of the time.


  Khaki Flakes Out

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

Wow! Who knew? They had the good 'nip at the party.


  Why Doesn't Bush Get It?

At the end of an earlier post on the reaction of Bush I mentioned a missed opportunity.

This theme was echoed by Juan Cole and Natasha at Pacific Views, as well as by some reporters, and other bloggers.

If experts and non-experts alike, as geographically diverse as this group, can figure out that this disaster was an opportunity for the US government, why can't the US government figure it out?

This is exactly the same "lack of imagination" that was a primary factor on September 11th. By failing to get rid of the people who should have taken action, Bush has left the US as vulnerable to attack as it was on September 10th, 2001.


  Bush's Attempts to deal with Disaster

First, the United States has only actually pledged $15 million to the effort. The other $20 million may be forthcoming from the US Agency for International Development, if they can "free it up". It is also SOP [standard operating procedure] for the bulk of US AID money to come in the form of credit, rather than grants.

Where does the US stand on the list of donors [assuming the entire amount is given]:

UK $96 million
Australia: $46.7 million
EU $44 million
US: $35 million
Canada: $33 million
Japan: $30 million
France: $20.4 million
Denmark: $15.6 million
Saudi Arabia: $10 million

Pfizer, the drug company, has pledged $10 million in cash and $25 million in medical supplies to the region. Many brewers and soft drink bottlers in Asia have switched production to bottling drinking water to send to those affected.

After Hurricane Frances FEMA gave $28 million to Dade County, Florida, which is distressing a lot of people because Dade County experienced only heavy thunderstorms, nothing more severe.

Not only does that put the "stingy" response of the Bush initial offering of $15 million in context, it also highlights a problem with sending his brother, and my governor, John Ellis Bush, to Asia with Colin Powell to coordinate American relief efforts. The official story is that "Jeb" has experience dealing with disasters.

"Jeb" has experience calling his brother to tell him we had another hurricane in Florida, and massive Federal funds were needed to preserve and encourage Republican voters, many of whom live in Dade County. Since there is no election; these people couldn't vote in it, if there were; there is no massive pot of money of available; I must assume this is a blatant attempt to give "Jeb" some international exposure for a White House run.

Update: [4:39pm] US raises contribution to $350 million. I guess "Jeb" was too embarrassed to be associated with the paltry money his brother had put forth and wanted to make a larger statement for his 2008 run.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004
  Instant Books

Ezra Klein talks about printing books while you wait in your local bookstore.

About five years ago I tried to sell this concept to a company that made high-speed page printers. They didn't get it. They couldn't understand the concept. I think the real problem was that someone talked to a publisher about the idea, and the publisher hated it.

Imagine going into a store and asking for any book ever printed, and in minutes leaving with a newly printed copy, in large print if you need it, in a foreign language if you want it.

In my design the system automatically calculated and posted the royalties to authors and a payments to the publishers. No inventory in warehouses, no returns, no removing covers and pitching books into the dumpster, a cover and the first few pages on racks for browsers.

I suggested starting with college bookstores and textbooks as a way to reduce the cost of going to college, and opening up to the broader market after the bugs were out. The files would be encrypted with a hardware key device to prevent theft.

It will happen and I will get the satisfaction of a "I told you so" e-mail to the guy who killed it way back then.


  Learning from Experience

Andante has a post about the island of Simeulue which was feared to be a scene of major loss of life.

There were a minimum of casualties on the island because there had been a tsunami a hundred years ago, and ever since the people knew to run away from the shore after an earthquake.

Learning from history - what a concept!


  Social Security Private Investments

Susie also has a story on a guy who decided to see how much better he would have done investing his own Social Security taxes, instead of letting the government do it.

Hint: he's not unhappy to have had his money invested by the Social Security system.


  State Department-Fotomat Connection

I ran into this at Susan Madrak's place. As if the US's paltry relief attempts weren't bad enough, we are making stranded US citizens pay for photographs for a replacement passport.

These people have lost everything except their lives, and their government is charging them for a replacement government document. Hasn't anyone told the embassy that there's an emergency and it is in America's interest to get as many of its citizens as possible out of the area so they don't use scarce food and water.

All of Acme, Inc. is staffed by jerks, and it is of little surprise that the rest of the world dislikes the US.


  Tsunami Update

John McKay at archy reports that Sir Arthur C. Clarke has survived the earthquake and tsunami in his home in Sri Lanka.

For some reason CNN, et al. felt it was more important to report on swimsuit models and other glitteroti than an internationally famous author and long time resident of Sri Lanka.

The death toll is sure to exceed 60,000 as more areas are reached. Millions are without homes and the infrastructure in the affected areas has been crushed. Some in the Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra would have been trapped by the earthquake and would have lacked the time or ability to flee from the water that washed over the island.

Geologists are reporting that the island of Sumatra was moved 100 feet to the southwest. Sumatra, at about 181,500 square miles is more than 130 times larger than Long Island, it is the sixth largest island in the world.

While the US still hasn't committed to more than $35 million, it has at least sent two carrier groups to the area. The modern US aircraft carrier is a floating city as well as an airport: it has the ability to generate electricity and purified water; it has a fully equipped modern medical facility; it has a skilled work force; it has aircraft available for transportation and search and rescue. I would assume that the military suggested this response.

Bush is still cutting brush at Crawford, rather than making a public statement of concern. I suspect that whenever he leaves his ranch an army comes in to replenish the supply of brush, because I never notice much growing in West Texas. Of course, he may have taken another header while riding his bicycle and doesn't want people to see him.

Of note: China has only offered $3.5 million to the recovery effort, while Canada has already offered an initial $4 million. China is more interested in threatening Taiwan than helping its other neighbors.

Sweden has reported that approximately 1,500 of its citizens are missing in the affected area. Thailand is a popular winter vacation for Swedes.

Aid cannot reach the area as fast as anyone would like. The dismemberment of the roads and rail network impedes progress. The loss of thousands of small boats and the fishing gear that was on them has cut off an available of source food. Any crops in the fields are destroyed and the land has been salted by the ocean water that washed over it.

The destruction is not over and it will be decades before there is anything like a return to normalcy.


Tuesday, December 28, 2004
  US Aid to for the Tsunami

Apparently stung by complaints about its Scrooge response to the disaster, the US has upped its package to $35 million dollars, still not as much as the inauguration budget.

The new figure is dwarfed by the billions of dollars given to the airlines for the shutdown after the September 11th attacks, and the aid given to Florida during the hurricane season this year.

I'm also wondering how much China is going to ante up. It's their continent and they made a few yuan over the last month on Christmas lights. On the other hand, some countries might be nervous about strings tied to Chinese aid.


Monday, December 27, 2004
  Government Reaction to the Tsunami

Listening to the World Today on the BBC I heard officials from governments talking total piffle. They are claiming that there was no way of providing warning to their populations. That is interesting given that Japan, Hawaii, and the US West coast have a tsunami warning system in place. The equipment would have provided up to four hours of warning of the approaching tsunami.

A Cal Tech professor described the Sumatran fault line as a regular center of massive earthquakes every couple of centuries. The professor noted that the American warning systems weren't installed until after massive damage from tsunamis in 1946 in Hawaii and then in 1964 in Northern California. He assumed that the governments around the Indian Ocean would now discover the existence of warning systems.

This AP story has a lot of the facts about warning systems. It has been reported on NPR and other outlets that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued warnings to the countries around the Indian Ocean, but they had no plan in place to use the information.

Excuse me, how about getting on every radio and television station and screaming: RUN AWAY FROM THE OCEAN! Oh, I'm sorry, that would cause panic, which would obviously be worse than a forty-foot wall of water slamming into your house.

The UN has called donor nations "stingy" in the amounts they are pledging for relief efforts. The US has announced it will commit $14 million, which is a lot of money. Okay, so maybe Acme, Inc. is spending $44 million on the coronation, and the Mess in Mesopotamia is costing $1.5 billion/day, but that $14 million would probably pay for three or four vacation trips to Crawford. As CNN keeps pointing out in its story, only 3 dozen non-Asians have died, and Oprah's interior decorator survived, and you have to keep things in perspective.

My perspective would be that the US has a major "hearts and minds" problem at the moment; many of the areas hit are Muslim; a generous demonstration of American goodwill and assistance couldn't hurt.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

I have been in a few earthquakes in Alaska, California, and Japan, but none stronger than 6.5. A level 9 is almost inconceivable. The earthquake scale is logarithmic, i.e. a 7 is ten times as bad as a 6. Because this quake was in an ocean trench and affected approximately 1000 kilometers of the fault line, the shock wave generated a rolling wall of water at least 40 feet high that sped across the Indian Ocean and impacted countries all along the shore line. The effects stretched all the way to Somalia from Indonesia, with islands disappearing beneath the flood.

Approximately 22,000+ people are presumed dead, but that number is far from accurate as many areas have lost all their modern communications beneath the wave. Until islands and shore communities can be inspected, it is a guess.

Aftershocks will continue for days and there is no way of knowing how many were lost in ships and boats swallowed by the flood.

[Updated 12:14AM 12/27]
[Second update of death toll 1:08PM 12/27]


  The Decline in Christmas

Well, it looks like Bill O'Reilly may have been correct for the Republicans regarding Christmas, if there isn't a burst of buying on Boxing Day [the feast of Saint Stephen] this will be a Grinch of a Christmas for big GOP contributors.

The war, deficits, unemployment, maxed out credit cards, no bonuses, and no raises have taken their toll on the consumers and Americans aren't descending into a massive enough debt to maintain profits for corporations.

Actually, it would help if the complainers would meet a few people who don't live in their self-contained little gated communities. I'm not suggesting they meet with non-Christians, Heaven forefend, but with Christians that worship in other churches than their own.

Among the Christians I personally know, some exchange gifts on the feast of Saint Nicholas [December 6], others on the feast of the Epiphany [January 6th, which some call the feast of the Three Kings]. My Orthodox Christian friends will be celebrating Christmas on January 7th on the Gregorian calendar.

I know a few Christians who consider any link of Christmas with any commercial or government entity to be blasphemy, and others who consider Christmas to be a pagan rite with no connection to their faith.

A small suggestion for Mr. O'Reilly and Faux News lemmings: first get Christians to agree on what and when Christmas is, before you start complaining about the perceived attitudes of those not directly involved with it.


  Bush's Greetings to the Military

George Bush, proving he is clueless, calls ten members of the military for Christmas. Knowing how limited long distance time is for troops that are deployed, I imagine the people waiting in line were thrilled that the network was taken up by Acme, Inc., instead of being available to contact family at Christmas.

In another move of startling stupidity, Bush dropped by the mess hall at Camp David to spread cheer to the Marines who are not home celebrating Christmas because Bush decided to go to the Marine base and Presidential retreat. If Bush had stayed in the White House or gone to Crawford to harass the Texas Department of Public Safety many of the Marines could have taken a Christmas leave instead of patrolling the perimeter.

Bush could make significant cuts in the Presidential budget by staying in the White House. We have spent an unconscionable amount of money for Bush to traipse all over the country with his security circus.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Georges Malbrunot, a reporter for the French newspaper Le Figaro who was recently released by Iraqi militants, writes that his captors wanted George W. Bush re-elected President. The insurgents felt that Bush would insure that the occupation of Iraq would continue and give them time to build their organization.

Based on recent events, I'd say the kidnappers were correct.

A Christmas re-supply mission to the International Space Station carrying food and oxygen arrived safely. If the Russian Progress supply ship had failed, the two-man crew, already on short rations, would have had to abandon the station within a month.

The Russians claim the previous crewmembers were gluttons, who left deficits in the protein supplies.

How is the US going to get to the Moon and Mars when we can't even make it to a space station in Earth orbit?

Renaud Van Ruymbeke, a French magistrate is interested in the bin Laden family financial transactions, especially a 2000 Swiss transfer of €241 million to a Pakistani bank account of Osama bin Laden and a Pakistani national.

I thought Osama looked prosperous in his last video, not noticeably stressed by the pursuit of the Pakistani army reported in the media.


Friday, December 24, 2004
  Merry Christmas

As the Solstice has passed it is time to wish my family and friends: [select one]

S Rozhdestvom Khristovym
Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Feliz Navidad
Joyeux Noël
Fröhliche Weihnachten
Buon Natale
Happy Hogwatch
Happy Christmas

and hope they are visited by: [select one]

Ded Moroz
Saint Nicholas
Santa Claus
Kris Kringle
Pere Noël
Babbo Natale
Father Christmas

who leaves good things in their: [select one]

Pillow Case
[some people are greedy]

rather than the: [select one]

Lump of Coal
Raw Liver
Bloody Bones

some of them may deserve.


  Trixie in Her Tree

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

I'm not coming down until you get the fat bearded guy off the roof.


  Rumsfeld in Iraq

The Secretary of Defense visits the site of a massacre caused by his incompetence and the troops are supposed to feel that he cares for their welfare.

In case he doesn't know it, all of the troops feel he should remain while they go home for Christmas. This blatant feel good photo opportunity isn't fooling anyone. Rumsfeld is under a lot of pressure, even from Republicans, to resign.

Let's be clear: it was Department of Defense failed policies that lead to American bases being open to infiltration. The lack of military support personnel and the need to house the newly trained Iraqi forces within American perimeters is a result of Rumsfeld's decisions, as well as the failures of the Medal of Freedom Troika: Bremer, Franks, and Tenet.

After the loss of a similar number of personnel in Somalia [October, 1993], Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, resigned. He hadn't been on the job long [9 months], his President didn't send the troops to Somalia [GHW Bush did], and he hadn't planned the operation [it was a UN operation], but he felt he was responsible and resigned.


Thursday, December 23, 2004
  Crime Around the World

If you focus strictly on murder you are missing a lot of the world's really interesting crime stories.

In New Zealand someone has stolen an aluminum bridge 30 meters [about 100 feet] long. The foot bridge that gave access through a wetlands in Waihola, New Zealand is assumed to have been stolen to be sold for its scrap metal value.

You have to wonder why no one noticed trucks hauling off a bridge.

There was a major bank robbery in Belfast, North Ireland. The Northern Bank was robbed by a gang that gained entry by kidnapping the families of two executives and forcing the executives to open the vault.

The gang stole £20 million [around $40 million], but there are problems. About £17 million is in the unique currency of Northern Ireland which is not used widely outside of that area, and £12 million of that is new, uncirculated, sequentially numbered notes. So they only actually have £3 million of readily convertible cash and everyone in Europe looking for large transactions.

It will make a nice movie when they get caught.

[edited for clarity]


  Cognitive Dissonance

After thinking about it for a while, I'm beginning to believe that Alberto Gonzales may, in fact, be even worse that John Ashcroft.

John Ashcroft was an obnoxious ideologue, but he enforced the laws that were on the books, even if he was extremely selective about which laws received his attention.

As the President's Counsel Gonzales has written options that purport to give the President powers that extend beyond the Constitution and claim that the War on Terror abrogates the need to comply with the Geneva Convention.

For those who don't think much about law this may even seem reasonable: there's an emergency and emergency powers are needed to deal with it.

The basic problem is that all of the powers of the government of the United States are confined by the Constitution, with all other powers reserved to the people and/or states. The government has no power that is not granted by the Constitution, for the granting and restriction of power is the underlying purpose of any constitution. The Constitution is the Law against which all other laws are judged. The Supreme Court was founded with the single purpose of judging legal cases through the filter of the Constitution.

Any actions outside the confines of the Constitution are by definition outside the Law.

The purpose of the Geneva Convention was to establish some minimum Rules of War. Claiming that the Rules of War don't apply to a war is illogical on its face.

What Gonzales has advised the President is the equivalent of saying the police are not required to abide by the law because the criminals have already broken it. Is this the type of thinking that is appropriate for any lawyer, much less the Attorney General of the United States?


Wednesday, December 22, 2004
  Perranoski Prize

To take some of the pressure off the hard working folks at Wampum who are busy tabulating the nominees for the Koufax Awards, the American Street are sponsoring the Perranoski Prize, an extension with additional categories that do not conflict with the Koufaxes.

Go over and give some recognition to some of the hard working people who fill your blog roll.

The Rules for nominating and voting

1) You may nominate more than one per category.

2) Please be clear about which award you’re nominating for. Saying "they deserve to win in every category" is insufficient; you must name the categories. If you plan to make nominations in every category, here’s a list you can copy/paste to ease your task:

Best Designed Blog
Best Art or Photoblog
Best Moving Image Blog
Walt Kelly Best Toon Blog
Best Technical Achievement Blog
Best Humanitarian Blog
Don Drysdale Award
Best Investigative Research Blog
Hall of Fame Award

And where applicable, please add a brief explanation of why each nominee you make deserves to win that category.

3) Make your nominations in comments or by e-mail to: kahlil[at]despammed[dot]com

Please note the e-mail address, because they’re planning some upgrades to their site next week which may take them offline for a day or two. But the e-mail should continue to function.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004
  More Weirdness
NASA currently has two rovers wondering around Mars looking at rocks: Spirit and Opportunity. They recharge their batteries with solar panels and have to shut way down during the Martian winter to conserve energy. As they roll around and kick up dust the solar panels become coated and lose some of their ability to recharge their batteries.

This is exactly what has happened to the Spirit, its panels are operating at about 50%, but Opportunity's have apparently been cleaned a couple of times and it is operating at 100% efficiency.

Either Opportunity has landed in an area that has beneficial winds, or it has found a full service gas station on Mars.


  It's a Weird, Weird World

So I'm sitting here, minding my own business, listening to the radio and the impact of the bombs at the range on the other side of Choctawhatchee Bay and out of nowhere comes this warning box on my screen saying:

Cannot load dialog.

Error 623: The system could not find the phone book entry for this connection.

Since I wasn't asking for a dialog and was connected via the DSL, I thought that this was rather odd.

I went out and looked for a similar problem and found it on a help site. Same occurrence: just upgraded to a high speed connection and sites kept asking about phone books.

The proposed solution sounded a bit odd: open Internet Explorer, go to "tools/options/connections" and select Never dial a connection.

Since I don't use Internet Explorer, I thought this was odd, but I did it anyway, because the way Microsoft has messed with Windows who knows what might work.

I re-booted and the problem has gone away. Even though I use Firefox, Bill insists that IE be involved in Internet connections in a background way. This is why, even though you don't use IE, if you have a Windows box you have to keep downloading and installing the IE patches.


  Kitten Cuddle Kettle

Kettle of Kittens

Hey! Enough of the clicking already! People are trying to sleep. Sheesh, humans.


  Happy/Merry/Joyous Solstice

SnowflakeIt arrived at 6:42AM this morning, but it has warmed up. That is to fool suckers into uncovering plants and such just before the SNOW arrives on Friday!

You think the people in your area don't know how to drive in snow, you should see the mayhem that occurs down here on the Redneck Riviera when the roads freeze. The bridges tend to have high humps to allow sailboats passage, so when that high bridge gets wet and freezes people are trying to drive up a sheet of ice. I can tell you that Billy Bob is not going to be gracious pulling your SUV out of the Bayou on Christmas morning.

I blame this on all of those people wishing for a "traditional" Christmas. Been there: Fairbanks and Shemya in Alaska, Omaha in Nebraska, Rochester, Utica, Hamilton in New York, Frankfurt in Germany, London in England. . .and I don't need to do it again.

I think azaleas in bloom and camellias getting ready to burst are good at Christmas.


  Alive on the Web

Well, I'm now connected via DSL, but I can't recommend it for people who don't have some experience with computers and hardware.

I took the free do-it-yourself option and after fighting with the "helpful" set-up wizard for two-hours I uninstalled everything and called to get the modem settings and did it the "old fashioned" manual way in two minutes [after 37 minutes on hold].

The hardware was fine. I ran a new category 5 twisted pair cable from a dedicated outlet to Sprint's box and avoided all of the filters they wanted to foist upon me. My category 3 telephone wire is fine for voice and if it isn't broke I'm not going to fix it. I have a straight cable with no connections for data, which should be good for years.

The problem seemed to be the earthlink web site, which uses ActiveX controls that were recording information and then telling you that they were unable to complete the transaction. They require you to use Internet Explorer and to disable your firewall and virus software. Of course, when you try to re-enter the information, they say that your choices were already in use. When you change the choices, they came back and tell you that you are already registered under different choices.

Well, it's done and the graphics have been moved successfully from my old site to the new one. Yes, things load much more quickly and that's nice, but it was not something I want to do again anytime soon.


Monday, December 20, 2004
  Peter Pan

Peter Pan, the play will celebrate its 100th year on Dec. 27th. Based on the book by J.M. Barrie, published in 1902, the copyright was transferred to a London charity hospital by the author.

There is no report as to the payments made by Karl Rove for his Texas adaptation of the work, titled George W. Bush, scheduled to begin its second run on January 20th of 2005 in Washington, D.C.


  Mental Health update

TV New Zealand, ever interested in the leading edge of health issues, has an important report on a British panel that just studied the pathology of a patient identified as Mr. Gollum, and described as "a single, 587-year-old hobbit-like male of no fixed abode". The doctors have concluded that the sociopathy of Mr. Gollum was probably related to dietary deficiencies and prolonged isolation.


Sunday, December 19, 2004
  Phone Cards

Len at Philosophical Scrivener says that due to an outpouring of support the wounded have plenty of phone cards to use at Walter Reed, but if you want to extend some NODWISH goodness to "the troops" he has a link to a Stars & Stripes page of groups that are helping in other ways.


  Social Security

Michael has a great Toles' cartoon up on the Acme, Inc.1 attempt to loot the Social Security Trust Fund.

1. See Rook to understand.



Beginning tomorrow I am migrating to a different Internet Service Provider. I've been through two buy-outs of this company over the decade and three of their moves, but a recent accounting foul up has pushed me to finally upgrade to DSL from the dial-up I've been using.

I have clients who have wanted me to do some things over the Internet that I have been able to avoid because of the dial-up connection, and now I must acquiesce.

There may be temporary broken links as I move graphics and such to a new homepage, and posting may be light next week, which shouldn't affect those who celebrate Christmas, as you should be too busy to be reading blogs.

While I have planned the migration and given myself two weeks to complete an operation that shouldn't take more than an hour, I will be dealing with Sprint and Earthlink, so I expect the worse. They have already rescheduled the installation once and it is now scheduled for the coldest Monday we are apt to see this year.

Given a temperature of 30°, a Monday, and Christmas week, I have scant optimism that my local telco will even be up to their usual marginally acceptable level of service.


Saturday, December 18, 2004
  Liberal Icons

By now everyone knows that the Star Wars anti-missile system has failed yet another in a long series of tests. Some are aware that many reputable scientists have tested the underlying principle of the proposed system and have come to the conclusion that the Newtonian laws of physics makes it impossible for the system under development to ever work in the normal space-time continuum.

So what is really going on? Is this simply another Bush give-away to the defense industry, or is there some darker purpose? Personally, I think the fact that the latest test involved a target missile being launched from Kodiak, Alaska provides a clue.

The hatred of the Bushniki for all things liberal, the time of year, the flight path of the target missile, all of these things point to the real target of this system.


  Political Salvation

Well, now that we've decided that we invaded Iraq to promote democracy in the Middle East we are having a bit of a problem. The only political organization allowed under Saddam was the Ba'ath Party, and it is hardly likely that the US could throw its support behind it.

The other parties are ethnic in outlook or dominated by religious leaders. It looks like a truly fair election will result in a government that looks a lot like Iran with Shi'ia Imams in charge of everything. But there is an outside hope.

Since the downfall of Saddam another secular political party has come out of hiding. It has sponsored street demonstrations, understands campaigning, knows about using the media, and is preparing a slate of candidates. If they win, Iraq will have a secular democratic government ready to take its place on the world stage.

There's a catch. You knew when you starting reading there was going to be a catch.

Okay, what could be worse than a Shi'ia theocracy, you ask? How about: The Communist Party of Iraq. Just what the neocons deserve: the oil fields nationalized and strong ties to China, Cuba, and North Korea.

The US is experiencing a tragic and expensive lesson in the meaning of blow back and unintended consequences. Unfortunately the recent election proves that too few citizens understand the lesson.



I love British names: the Chief of Air Staff for the Royal Air Force is Air Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup.

So, Billy Bob, you think gunning down Bambi with an AK-47 and watching NASCAR makes you macho: read about a twenty-something English woman, Ellen MacArthur, who makes you look like a wuss. Make note of the fact that her family is not wealthy and she earned what she has gained.

After the oil runs out, your next power plant may use turkey manure. I guess my Grandfather was ahead of his time. Oh, turkey manure is dryer that what chickens put out, so there's more heat when it's burned.

The explosives that the French police lost during a training exercise at a Paris airport and were probably sent to the US, haven't turned up. The French say that they are not dangerous because there was no detonator with the explosives. Oh, the French didn't bother to find out whom the bag belonged to, just in case there was a problem.

This means that our ace baggage inspection system missed the explosives when they landed and came through US customs. But when the TSA inspectors lost their test bomb during a training exercise at Newark airport, they could say they didn't use real explosives, although they avoided saying anything about the timer and detonator.

I guess it's okay, after all how many Americans can read French? The owner of the bag would never figure out what plastic explosif means, right. It's not like we have construction sites with detonators all over that work with plastic and have large signs warning people what they are and why they shouldn't touch them, right?


Friday, December 17, 2004
  December 17, 1903


Wright Flyer

[Ed: Len over at Musings of a Philosophical Scrivener reminded me of the anniversity.]


  Tip, Sox, Shemp, Dot, and Moe

Friday Cat BloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

Oh, no -- baby pictures!
It's Mom and our cuddle: You, Shemp, me, and Moe. I wonder what Mom and Moe were looking at?
Probably at him taking pictures.

[Ed: My current roomies and your commentators are the mostly black tom at the top: Sox, and the predominately white female at the bottom: Dot. I didn't name them, their original owner did.]


  The Problem for Future Retirees

Future retirees are not going to be as well off as current retirees, but that has nothing to do with Social Security. When Enron went belly-up, nobody said "my Social Security vanished", it was their 401K private retirement accounts that became worthless. Now Bush wants to move people from the secure Social Security system into vulnerable private retirement accounts.

There is a looming crisis in the Federal program that oversees private pension funds, but there has been no action to deal with that problem. A large number of private pensions are under-funded because corporations are managing them badly, failing to fund them, or, in a few cases, looting them and they are going to need a bail out.

The taxpayers had to bail out the savings & loan industry because they weren't properly regulated, several large mutual funds were caught padding profits while screwing investors, the Feds have had to bail out failed banks, and the list goes on. Social Security was started because the private sector did such a miserable job that thousands of the elderly were being left destitute.

At Bush's economic summit there were no representatives of labor or consumers, so who do you think is going to benefit from the changes? They are talking about taking your Social Security payments and giving it to private business interests to manage. Since you had no representatives at the table, who do you think is going to make money? Are you willing to bet your future on the honesty and integrity of corporate America given its record? If he can't even manage to spell "challenges" when he uses it in his title, how can you expect him to meet them?

They also discussed tort reform, but failed to mention that the bulk of civil suits are filed by businesses, not individuals, yet their plans only want to limit the awards that individuals receive from corporations. Look at the children who were sued for down-loading songs from the Internet - Bush's group wouldn't consider those suits "frivolous". Frivolous lawsuits are those filed when a doctor amputates the wrong foot, when people die from inhaling asbestos fibers, when wheels fall off two-year-old cars, when people are incinerated in a 30MPH rear end collision.

If what Bush was going to do was really going to benefit you, don't you think you would have been invited to the meeting so you could applaud?


Wednesday, December 15, 2004
  The Weather Outside Is Frightful

We are bracing for another sub-freezing night on the Florida Panhandle. I've got lights on concrete pads for the feral cats, moved tropical plants inside, and built a "tent" for my Mother's goldfish pond, which should protect both the fish and any cats who chose to go inside.

What I can't do is fix the lack of shelter space for the homeless. We have fewer housing units than ever because of the hurricane, and shelters are already strained to capacity because some of the facilities were also damaged by the storm.

One shelter manager said that after all the pews in their chapel were filled all he could do was offer people a blanket and an MRE [Meal Ready to Eat, military rations].

Our homeless tend to have jobs, but they can't afford the local housing because all most no affordable housing has been built in years. If you are employed and don't have a drug dependency there is no assistance available.

Welcome to Red America.

[Edit for a typo]


  Mary Poppins Whacks Another Politician

According to the Beeb, British Home Secretary David Blunkett resigned after it was revealed that he was involved in attempting to fast-track a visa for his girlfriend's undocumented nanny!

What's going on, is there in international nanny conspiracy to take out politicians? Are domestic caregivers fed up with trying to compete with third world women looking for food and shelter? Is Tony Blair trying too hard to emulate George Bush?

Devolving. . .


Tuesday, December 14, 2004
  Social Security and Medicare

Kevin Drum at Political Animal opines on why the Republicans are pushing Social Security "reform", but ignoring Medicare, which is in much worse shape. He notes that solving the problems with Medicare is going to be a mess and needs to happen much sooner.

The people doing this have little concern for Social Security, any payments they might be entitled to will amount to "lunch money" in their retirement plans. Most will be receiving generous taxpayer-funded retirements and/or are already wealthy people: nobody runs for Congress because of the paycheck. From their point of view, Social Security is an employee expense that they would like to do without. Removing the cap on Social Security taxes while maintaining the cap on benefits would not only fund the system for the foreseeable future, it might enable the rate to come down.

Medicare, on the other hand, is something that they and their friends do use. Medicare will reduce the cost of their medical insurance significantly, so they approve of it.

The problems with Medicare were, to a large extent, exacerbated by the actions of the Republicans in their Medicare Drug Bill. The drug coverage was a nice idea, but they shouldn't have removed the possibility of negotiating for lower prices. In the free market buyers and sellers negotiate, in the Republican market consumers pay whatever the corporations want.


  Medals of Freedom

Bush continues his unbroken string of rewards for incompetents by awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Iraq War's "Three Stooges": Tenet, Franks, and Bremer.

Tenet's pre-war intelligence was uniformly wrong. It was so bad, that it was a wonder the US managed to find the country.

Frank's war skills were so stellar that at a time when the military was recalling 70-year-olds to active duty, he was allowed to retire. Not enough troops, and no attempt to maintain order or secure weapons dumps.

Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority was so inept that his efforts at rebuilding cost taxpayers billions while leaving the Iraqis worse off when he departed than when he arrived.

A note to Bush: when you award a medal that is suspended from a neck ribbon, you fasten the ribbon before hand, face the honoree, and slip it over their head, which they bow to accept the award. It's a medal, George, not a necklace. You have a protocol chief at the White House, he/she can show you how it's supposed to be done.


Monday, December 13, 2004
  Koufax Awards 2004

The folks over at Wampum are once again organizing the Koufax Awards for the Bleft [BLog lEFT, as opposed to BLog rIGHT or Blight].

While I'm not running for anything, there are many fine people among the Sputniki [Russian: fellow travelers] on the right-side who deserve to be mentioned.

If you go and enter a name, have the link ready to save time, and give some exposure to friends.


  Nodwish Gifts

Looking for something different for those on your list, how about a goat or chickens?

The Beeb has an article on charities that provide livestock to the developing nations and links to a number of sites for catalogs.

Use your own discretion when using this suggestion for significant others, especially those involved in the preparation of your food.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

For those who have missed the underlying theme of the Republican Party it is shifting the risks of life from their upper class & corporate base to wage earners and small businesses.

That's what "tort reform" is all about, limiting the risks for corporations and insurance companies. The gutting of EPA and other regulatory agencies reduces the risks for polluters. The tax and Social Security reforms are shifting the costs and risks down to wage earners.

Social Security is good to go for the next 50 years. The only change necessary is to lift the cap on contributions and it is good forever. Social Security is an insurance program, the bare minimum pension.

The people who are now calling for reform screamed bloody murder when Bill Clinton suggested moving some of the Social Security trust fund from T-Bills into the stock market. This was at a time you could make money in the stock market. Now they want to do it when you can make more money in a pass-book savings account than the stock market. You are not going to "save" Social Security by de-funding it; you are just going to drive up the deficit.

I would also wonder about the status of this "personal Social Security fund" in the event of bankruptcy or divorce; is it off-limits, or can it be claimed by a credit card company or hospital?


  What Hath Rumsfeld Wrought?

I've been trying to discern the pattern in Rumsfeld's vision for the military, and I've been able to pull a few threads out of the knot based on weapons systems and organizational changes he's moving towards.

Rumsfeld is creating a military force for peacekeeping missions, brigade-sized operational units of a few thousand with light armor capable of being deployed rapidly.

He is building on the basis of the Stryker brigades currently training in the Army.

He is downplaying heavy armor and artillery, and is attempting to replace them with aircraft.

He wants to replace all of the military support personnel with civilians and contractors.

He is stressing reliance on equipment: unmanned drones, robots, satellites, etc.

It's an interesting concept that eliminates a lot of overhead, like pensions and benefits after 20 years of service for non-combat specialties. He wants to eliminate base schools and commissaries. It reflects his experience in the business world: cut costs by reducing employee benefits, the Wal-Mart model.

This is a vision for the military in a post-Cold War world with little prospect of a major land war.

There are a couple of things wrong with this concept and his continuing pursuit of it: George W. Bush and the Iraq War. He needs the resources that he has been dismantling, and civilians can't supply support services in a live fire area. "Just-in time" inventory control doesn't work when your trucks and warehouses are subject to being blown up.

He planned for a quick war and a cut back to a peacekeeping operation, and that didn't happen. What happened is exactly what his military staff told him would happen, but he ignored them because if they were so smart they wouldn't be wearing uniforms and receiving such piddling salaries.

He had to be forced to order the body armor, the ammunition, the armored Humvees, the upgrade kits for the Humvees and trucks, because his plan said the war would be over shortly and they didn't fit in his vision for the new "corporate" military.

He didn't plan for the occupation, the wounded, the equipment loss, or the manpower requirements and now he's throwing patches on problems.

If they start recalling the people discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", you'll know the draft is coming.

Consider this intriguing situation: Congress has been giving the Department of Defense hundreds of billions of dollars, but Rumsfeld isn't spending it on the military. The Defense Department initially blocked the Intelligence Reform Bill which transfers some budget control from the Department of Defense to a new Director of Intelligence. Exactly how big is Rumsfeld's "slush fund", and what is he planning to do with it?


  From the Rest of the World

I pulled these from a scan of the other former British colonies spread about the world:

John Shovelan of Australian Broadcasting has an interesting take on those going to court over the US military's use of "Stop-Loss" orders. He wonders: if soldiers with contractual terms of service must remain beyond those terms for the length of a declared national emergency, why can cabinet secretaries resign for "personal reasons"?

I would wonder about General Tommy Franks being able to retire, but a 70-year-old military doctor being recalled. It would seem that the commander of the effort wasn't as important as doctors or truck drivers or infantry soldiers.

TV New Zealand reports that their parliament has approved a civil unions bill that recognizes both de facto and same sex relationships. Americans generally refer to de facto relationships as "common law marriages". Such couples will have the same rights and obligations as married couples. Supporters say the bill is a human rights issue since it applies equally to both heterosexual and homosexual couples without discrimination. Marriage is reserved only for heterosexual couples.

Canadian Broadcasting is reporting the personally shocking news of a proposed merger between Molson and Coors! A real brewer aligning with that right-wing Rocky Mountain purveyor of watery equine urine...the inhumanity!


Saturday, December 11, 2004
  In Memoriam


April, 1992 - July, 2004


Koshka means female cat in Russian, but she wasn't always sure she wanted to be a cat. Her favorite active past-time was playing "fetch" with a crumpled wad of paper, and the only way she would go outside was riding on my shoulder.

She loved heights and I had to be careful when closing doors, as she might be on the top, asleep.

She was among a group of three feral kittens that were my first attempt at hand-feeding, having been orphaned at about one month of age. Her mother was a niece of Eve and was lost to traffic. At three months her brothers were adopted, but she decided to stay with me.

Her warm furry body tunneling under the quilt to curl up at my feet is missed as the nights grow colder, and when I wad up a sheet of paper to pitch into the waste basket I still expect to hear her running through the house for a game of "fetch".


  Let Us Go a Caroling

First let me say that I appreciate the thought. People taking time out of their limited store and devoting it to learning and practicing so that they can walk around town singing for those who can't get around any more is really nice.

I know that a lot of work goes into something like this, and some people, like Andante, really worry that all of the vowels are fully formed and projected for a better performance than the intended audience can truly appreciate.

Further, I realize that people are doing it without the expectation of wassail [hot chocolate or sweet tea would be thoughtful] or alms, as was the custom in earlier times, they are simply trying to spread Christmas cheer for its own sake [or in local cases to fulfill community service hours].

I have one small quibble: please, either limit the number of carols so that everyone can remember the words, or use printed lyrics. I can assure you that I am unfamiliar with any carol with a second verse of "dah-di-dah-dahhh-dah-di-dah" [although Little Drummer Boy comes close]. Trust me on this: there are words and the people who remember the words generally do so by wasting no memory space on the music.


  Kerik in Perspective

I'm trying to understand how, when looking for someone to be the Secretary of Homeland Security - the people who determine who is qualified to enter the United States, who is qualified to ride on airplanes, and what primary colors to scare people with - this administration failed to conduct a background investigation on its nominee and blindly accepted what was on his resumé.

They offer up someone who was a "dead-beat dad", embroiled in debt-problems which resulted in an arrest warrant being issued, is a high school drop-out, was involved in unauthorized redirection of government funds at the NYC agency he headed, was involved in a stock transaction that looks suspicious, hired undocumented aliens, and failed to pay taxes. That's what has appeared in less than a week from public sources.

I wouldn't have expected a complete background security check to have been completed in a week, but couldn't they have at least tried a Google search before nominating the guy. People buying shotguns go through a more rigorous process than this.

Do you feel safer now, knowing this is the level of attention this administration pays to Homeland Security?


Friday, December 10, 2004
  Nannygate II

In the end it was apparently immigration problems with his housekeeper and nanny that caused Mr. Kerik, Bush’s choice for Secretary of Homeland Security to withdraw his nomination, according to reports at CNN and the Beeb.

The FBI didn’t notice that the guy had an employee without a green card? The man selected to head the Nation’s Border Patrol and Immigration service didn’t know his home sheltered an undocumented alien? They are going to charge him, right?


  Armor, what Armor?

The NPR/Slate hybrid Day-to-Day covered the Pentagon misdirection on armoring vehicles in two reports on Thursday. Alex Chadwick talks with two NCOs who discuss using 1/8-inch steel plate and sections of wide conveyer belts to make their vehicles safer as they transport fuel in Iraq.

It was the Mike Pesca report that demonstrates how truly clueless this Pentagon is about the real world. An obfuscating Pentagon parrot started talking about all of the preliminary work that needs to be done before adding armor to trucks: redesigning the suspension, beefing up the transmission and drive trains to take the extra weight.

While I realize that the Pentagon is looking for work to funnel to future employers of its civilians and millions to spend on research is tempting, but get a damn grip. We are not talking about race cars, these are trucks! The additional weight of armor? These vehicles transport tanks! Their loads are measured in TONS! Is a couple hundred pounds of steel likely to have any real impact on a tractor-trailer?

Cable television is big on do-it-yourself shows and make-overs, why doesn’t somebody come up with a program that pits teams against each other to armor National Guard and Reserve trucks, a militarized version of Pimp My Ride. The winner gets to specify which unit currently deployed in Iraq will get a package containing maps, radios, and GPS receivers as well as the modified vehicles. Maybe they could get a tie-in with National Geographic, Garmon, Motorola, and one of the satellite radio services.

[Ed: Pimp My Ride is a real show, my neighbor’s oldest son keeps threatening to turn my name in over the appearance of my van.]


  The Deathstar

Apparently engrossed with his Star Wars missile defense system and his mission to the planets [AKA the undebated dollar dump to Tom Delay's district], President Bush may be attempting to build a Deathstar orbiting satellite.

Of course no one will admit that's what's happening, not even Senator Rocketfeller, apparently having problems breathing inside the large black helmet he wore, who protested the inclusion of an obscenely expensive program that he couldn't confirm was actually in the intelligence budget that may not exist, but if it does it's classified.

There was a report from George Lucas's junior assistant's dog groomer that Mr. Lucas has been holding meetings with his intellectual property attorney about the government's continuing unauthorized use of his trademarks which was giving a bad name to fictional evil geniuses.

Anonymous sources said that it might be an armed satellite intended to control neighboring space around the planet in violation of multiple international treaties, or seed money for a Bush project to balance the budget by assisting the relatives of deposed African leaders recover hidden assets.

Devolving . . .


  The Original Momma Cat: Eve

Friday CatbloggingTM [Kevin Drum]

Friday Catblogging

It's Herself!

Momma Eve, the oldest cat ever. I didn't think she allowed pictures.

They say she could catch squirrels and blue jays.

[Ed: All of the cats you will see here, except one, are descendents of this cat, who was at least 16 years old when she died. Her true grey color is shown on her right side.]


Thursday, December 09, 2004
  Happy/Merry/Joyous Solstice Celebration!

EvergreenYes, it's the time of year when the Sun dies and must be re-born through an elaborate ceremony that involves some form or type of sacrifice, such as finding gifts for people you can't stand and smiling brightly as you receive yet another gift based on an urban legend that you actually like truly stomach-wrenching color combinations.

Of course there was a time when the Solstice sacrifices were more visceral and the evergreen was covered in things that pleased only ravens and such, but we have put all that behind us by opting for the possibility of electrocuting one another and causing chaos on the power grid.

What a brilliant idea: moving a large supply of pre-kindling soaked with highly flammable resins into your house, loading it down with petrochemical-based ornaments, lacing it with heat-producing electrical devices, and surrounding the base with cardboard boxes and tissue paper. You just can't have a traditional celebration without a proto-bonfire in your living room.

I do think that followers of Mithras might want to curtail their typical birthday service in light of Mad-Cow Disease, but global warming will certainly make the services in the oak wood in traditional druidic robes more comfortable.

When you put up your stocking on the mantel and put out the turnips for Gouger, Rooter, Tusker, and Snouter as well as the pork pie and sherry for the Hogfather, you can rest assured the Sun will come up, because it just slipped around back to return the lager it rented.

Enjoy! You have nothing to fear, except that sniveling little creep with the camera/phone at the office party or the eggnog that was put out rather early causing you to suspect that the bits on top aren't nutmeg. [The pictures probably won't appear on the 'Net and the brandy will surely take care of the salmonella.]


  Oh, Look Over There!

In another classic case of misdirection, the Pentagon is responding to Spc. Thomas Wilson's question to Rumsfeld in Kuwait by talking about the great strides they have made in upgrading the armor on Humvees. While I’m sure the Specialist is pleased to know about these improved Humvees, he was probably hoping for information about providing armor for the vehicles his unit operates: trucks and tractor-trailers.

Not only is there no existing program to upgrade the vehicles for transport units, there isn’t even a plan to start such a program. For those who remember the recent case of the Guardsmen who refused to haul the tainted fuel, this was their basic complaint.

To be sure, there are explosive devices that will take out tanks, but the transport units would like enough protection to stop bullets from AK-47s and shrapnel.

As has been known for centuries: armies are dependent on supply lines. The fact that our Army truckers are not supplied with: armor, maps, GPS units, or radios, shows the basic failure of our current Defense Department leadership. This isn’t a new problem that is the result of the shift from conventional to guerrilla warfare, this problem has been part of the entire operation: anybody remember Jessica Lynch and her transportation unit?


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ron Zook is apparently going to be a football coach in the Big Ten [Illinois]. I don't know Mr. Zook and couldn't care less about American football, but his story says a lot about the "adults of voting age" in Florida. Mr. Zook had a contract to coach at the University of Florida, but after a disappointing season in which his team only won 7 of 11 games and only received an invitation for the Peach Bowl, Florida decided he had to go, even though it meant paying him $350K+/year for the remaining term of his contract.

These are the same people who voted to re-elect a man to head the nation that has had a dismal four-year term and no major wins against any opponent.

But then again the coach of the Florida Gators receives a compensation package worth five times as much as the President of the United States, so you have to take into consideration the relative importance of the job to the people of Florida.


  Happy Chanukah!

MenorahHappy Chanukah to my Jewish friends. I miss the latkes and jelly doughnuts my roommates received for the holiday at college. [Their grandmothers were afraid they wouldn't celebrate or couldn't get "real" food at that terrible Baptist university.] It was a great break.

[Note: Colgate University was founded by one of my distant relatives, among others, to train American Baptist ministers. Chapel attendence was required, even if you weren't Baptist, but it was primarily a liberal arts institution. All three of my roommates were Jewish.]


  ...December 7th, 1941...

a date that will live in infamy...

Thus America was pulled into World War II. Today 20 survivors of that attack are just down the road attending a memorial service at the Museum of Naval Aviation on NAS Pensacola to honor the sacrifice of those killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor 63 years ago.


Monday, December 06, 2004
  Liberals & Terrorism

Kevin Drum needs to start Catblogging again to harmonize his thought processes before commenting on an article by Peter Beinart and the liberal problem with terrorism.

As near as I have been able to tell liberals don't like terrorism. I would venture to say that your average liberal has a general aversion to all types and kinds of violence. For some, their dislike of violence leads them to pacifism, which rejects any war.

Liberals could adopt the view of the Republican Party towards Communism in the 20th Century, when they called Communists nasty names but undermined any attempt at taking real action. Hold hearings and destroy innocent people with innuendo, but actually do something that didn't involve thugs and payoffs, not a chance.

I think all liberals might get behind a movement to call Osama bin Laden nasty names, but allow him to roam free - except that's Bush's program.

I think the war against Afghanistan was the right thing to do. I think it would have been the right thing to do when Bill Clinton wanted to do it, but couldn't because of the Republicans in Congress. I think it would have been the right things to do when it was determined that bin Laden was behind the attack on the USS Cole. The reality is that it took the death of thousands of Americans to get the Republicans off their tired butts and finally take action.

I think that an attack on the enclave of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Kurdish area of Iraq prior to this stupid war would have been the right thing to do any of the three times it was suggested. Instead, with the Republicans in charge, nothing happened.

Why should liberals waste any brain cells telling people how to combat terrorism when the voters in the US re-elect those who have proved beyond doubt that they don't have a clue: the Republicans were in charge on September 11th, 2001 and the voters have rewarded them for their incompetence. Not one individual has been penalized for that catastrophic failure, and the only person who has rendered a meaningful apology for the failure was a holdover from the Democratic administration.

For the record: both communism and fascism were state-sponsored, while Islamic terrorism has no territorial base. Conventional military tactics and weapons can be quite useful in combating state-sponsored terrorism - you attack the base.

There is no shortcut for dealing with the distributed nature of Islamic terrorism: you have to pick up a thread and follow it back to its origin. This is not something you can do from a cockpit or a tank turret; this is not a military mission. This is best accomplished by those who are trained for it: detectives and spies.

Here's an analogy that bloggers should be able to understand: state-sponsored terrorism is like those who use Blogspot: if the Blogspot server is taken down everyone who uses it is silent. Al-Qaeda is like the independent bloggers, you have to locate individual servers by backtracking on the 'Net and even then they can evade you with mirror sites.


Sunday, December 05, 2004
  Carnivale de los Gatos

People's Republic of Seabrook is hosting the 37th edition of the Carnival of the Cats, titled: Carnivale de los Gatos.

Details for entries are at the main site.


  A Small Suggestion

I had to pick up some things yesterday and noticed in several stores that they have started using "made for Muzak" versions of Christmas music rather than commercial versions.

I have no doubt that someone got a promotion for this cost-saving idea of avoiding royalties to recognizable artists, but if you are going to penny-pinch why not consider recordings from your local music programs. I'm sure that any small [tax deductible] donation would be appreciated by these under-funded efforts, the participants would be flattered by the exposure, the local community would laud the store's civic-mindedness, and there might actually be some spirit injected into the effort.

I feel certain that there is a college fine arts program in the area that would be happy to use their facilities to generate the media necessary for the store's equipment, as there is always a grad student lurking about who needs something to "plump up" their resumé. It could also provide another item for the impoverished music departments to hawk at their fund-raisers, a Christmas CD.


Saturday, December 04, 2004
  Trading on Spaces

Microsoft has announced it’s new web log service: Spaces, and the devil is in the details.

The ever vigilant nose of the Yellow Doggerel Democrat, Steve Bates, detects the all too common Bellevue bend in what sounded like a straight forward proposition. Microsoft has server space and wants to increase traffic and ad revenue so it parcels out space to people who want to express themselves. Blogging is a growing phenomenon on the Internet, and MS wants a piece of it, to ensure its continuing dominance in all things relating to computing.

Having dealt with Microsoft since the days of Mbasic and Z-80 cards for Apple ][‘s I felt I knew the Microsoft Version 1.0 drill: sort of worthwhile software that would be debugged by early adopters at no cost to the company and a result that was vaguely usable and loaded down with features no one could ever imagine using in real life after their entry into high school.

I anticipated tie ins to other MS products and services, probably some really annoying help function that interfered with actually using the product, and a result that would only really look right in Internet Explorer

While all that may be true, what I didn’t foresee were the terms concerning content. Steve lays it out: censorship and a loss of copyrights.

It’s not simply that they can reject your posts, nor that they will have the right to use your work without paying you, they also have the right to edit your work under their terms of use. This sounds a lot like intellectual sharecropping: you do the work and "Massa William" makes the money.

Sorry, Bill. I wouldn’t work for you if you paid me, so I certainly won’t do it for free.


Friday, December 03, 2004
  Talking to the Opposition

"In every age the common interpretation of the world of things is by some scheme of unchallenged and unsuspected presuppositions; and the mind of every individual, however little he may think himself in sympathy with his contemporaries, is not an insulated compartment, but more like a pool in a continuous medium -- the circumambient atmosphere of his time and place."

F. M. Cornford Foreword of Thucydides Mythistoricus

This was an amazing insight for me personally when I stumbled across it in research on a paper regarding heroes in literature. This is a truth: if you are a rebel, what you oppose is determined by your time and place.

We are all biased, but if we recognize the existence of the bias we can adjust for it when looking for the truth. Don't judge history by modern standards; judge it by its own standards.

This concept is vital in the intelligence field. You must see your opponent as he sees himself to understand what he may do. What is insane for you; may be eminently reasonable according to his "circumambient atmosphere".

At its root the word privilege means one's own law. People of privilege don't believe that they are required to live by the laws that are in place for common people. Their world doesn't include a concern for those outside their class.

While most think of money when discussing privilege, expand the view to include a belief system. If you believe that you are one of the select, why concern yourself with the views of those who are not?

What they say can only be understood from within their frame of reference and they are making no effort to understand, nor communicate with anyone who refuses to accept their weltansicht. The burden is for the outsiders to craft their speech using the terms and definitions of the privileged, as that is the only assurance that any communication takes place. You don't have to accept the views of the privileged, but you have to understand them.



Friday Cat Blogging [tm Kevin Drum]

Friday Cat Blogging

Oh, look, it's a picture of Granny.

He must have fixed something, or that replacement for the printer you clogged with hair does tricks.

She must have killed something recently because she looks kind of relaxed in her tree.


Thursday, December 02, 2004
  Cats Blogging

Come on, get off your tired butt and get up here!

I don't think he's going to like this, and I don't see why you need me.

Look, he's busy with something outside and I want to finish before he gets back. I need you to control the black rat.

Mouse, he calls it a mouse.

I know about mice. I have chased mice all my life. I have eaten mice. That is not a mouse!

The only mouse you ever ate was that one Granny hauled in after we refused to go near the dove Mom caught, and you didn't even eat as much as I did.

No one has ever eaten as much as you do! Now let's get going!

Okay, okay...no need to get excited...geesh. What are we doing?

We are catblogging.


It's traditional. We are cats. This is a blog. Ergo, there must be catblogging.

Where did you learn about this? I don't remember Mom or Granny talking about catblogging. Actually, I don't remember Granny talk about anything that didn't involve disemboweling. Granny really liked blood and guts.

You're a tom, you don't think they'd talk about important things with you. There's only one thing toms think about, and you were tutored before that became a problem.

Let's not get into that. That hurt. Nobody said education was going to be that painful.

Stop complaining and get up here so we can blog.

Ooof...Ouch! It's a lot easier when he's here to keep the chair from spinning...Okay, now what?

We go out to Giggle...urr...Google and put in cat and blog...Okay, now hit the button...the other button you idiot!

No need to shout. This rat is slippery and you didn't say which button. It's not like there's an ickron...uhm...symbol saying this is the button.

Bring the arrow down and hit the button on the first one, if it isn't too difficult...hmm...try the next one...next...next. Hey, they don't let the cats say anything, it's just pictures, and some of them aren't even cats, that one looked like a weasel. What's with all of the basset hounds?

Continue...what's this? It's a Labrador and he's blogging and sounds like a Republican! We should sue for misrepresentation.

I don't think it's nice to start frivolous law suits...I mean the courts have important things to do...

Keep it up, and I'll tell him you're a Republican.

Hey, that's not something you should say, even joking. So now what do we do? You don't think he's going to start with the camera again? What a pain, you're just getting to sleep and he blinds you with the flash.

He can't do it. He needs the equipment you knocked off the desk two years ago, after the last bout with the camera...unless he's planning to get another...uhh...scanner, that's what you broke.

Well, he should have known better than to put it in the best sun in the room.

I had hopes of getting something organized, but we'll have to wait until those other cats wake up to the possibilities. Let's shut it down. Stop! What did you hit?

I don't know. I wasn't paying attention.

Oh, well, no harm done...probably. If there's a problem, it's your fault.

Hey, this was your idea. Why is it my fault?

Because you're not the brightest light on the ferris wheel, and humans tend to excuse the mistakes of the stupid. Besides, I've already got him conditioned to think every disaster is your fault. Now hit the blue button on the box...


Wednesday, December 01, 2004
  Advocacy Advertising

A second panblogic1 theme today is the refusal by CBS, among others, to air an advertisement by the United Church of Christ because it is purportedly in conflict with the intention of some people to pass a Constitutional amendment banning people of the same sex from having and enjoying the benefits of partnership agreements.

Aside: Why is it whenever politicians want to limit somebody’s rights, they claim they are protecting children and/or families? Unless politicians have found another way of doing it, every human being was at some point a child, and every human being is the member of a family. That’s the way it works.

I was drawn specifically to the thinking of John McKay at archy, probably because we are both old enough to remember when CBS was worth watching.

CBS was for years the number one network for broadcast journalism with people like: Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevaried, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Daniel Schorr, and Walter Cronkite. Most of the news features that you see today were first created on CBS, and some of those represent the best of American television. They have sold out and that fall certainly qualifies as a tragedy based on the heights they once occupied.

[1] Pan-blog-ic (pan bloj ik) adjective – prevalent throughout the blogging community. [I coined the word in the "Words" entry just below.]



Merriam-Webster has a list up of the “Top Ten Words of the Year” and since blog sits on the top of the list, blogtopia [tm skippy, another marauding marsupial] has exploded with comments. The patron of Friday Cat Blogging found it via Talk Left, the Beeb has an article [Oxford dictionary wonks added the word last year], Steve Gilliard uses it to tee off on heir presumptive to Tom Browkaw, Brian Williams, and so a topic spreads like a panblogic virus.

I have a personal fondness for number ten: defenestration, throwing something [usually a person] out a window. This was a favorite manner of dealing with people who disagreed with your religious views during the Reformation. The forces of the Catholic Queen Mother of France, Catherine de Medici, used defenestration to eliminate approximately 13,000 Huguenots on August 24th, 1572, the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

Actually I find the practice a bit troubling. When you’re pitching Protestants out of the fourth floor windows, how can you be sure there aren’t nuns walking by on the street below? Would you called it a miracle if a Protestant’s life was spared from imminent termination by the intervention of the body of a passing Priest whose robes cushioned the descent to the cobblestones. If the Priest died and the Protestant didn’t, would those who ejected the Protestant receive praise for their intent or penance for the result? Troubling questions indeed.

It is similar to the problem of Witch discovery. The concept had merit: good Christians had souls, souls must have weight, ergo Christians with souls must weigh more than Witches who had no souls [having sold them to Satan]. It was well known that heavy objects sank in water, while light objected floated. This leads to the water test: if a person sinks, they have a soul; if they don’t sink, they must be a Witch without a soul. Some scientific method there, but a rather glaring philosophical problem: no one survives the test.

They could, of course, be relying on the counsel of Arnaud-Amaury, Papal legate to the Catholic forces at the siege of Bézier, who had the task of finding approximately 200 heretics in a town of between 10,000 and 20,000 Catholics. When the town fell on 22 July 1209, he supposedly said: “Kill them all! G-d will recognize His own!” [actually being abbé de Cîteaux, and French, he probably said something like “Tuez-les tous, Dieu reconnaîtra les siens!”]

Edit to correct who Brian Williams replaced. Thanks, Michael.


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