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Showing posts from July, 2002
About that accord....

Toyota vehicles post highest emissions increase

From 1990 to 2000, Toyota had the highest increase among major automakers in the amount of carbon dioxide its vehicles emitted into the air, according to a report released Tuesday by the Washington, D.C., group Environmental Defense.


When statistics from 2000 were compared to those from 1990, Toyota's carbon burden grew 72 percent, compared with 13 percent for GM and 26 percent for Ford.

"They charged heavily into trucks, "DeCicco [report's co-author] said.Isn't Kyoto in Japan...?
A moment of silence

Let us all bow our heads at the sad news: Ford Excursion Near the End, Sources Say

[T]he Excursion stumbled from the start, in part because of a wave of negative publicity fanned by environmental groups like the Sierra Club. Even before the Excursion was officially introduced, the group ran a contest on its Web site to choose a nickname for the vehicle. The winner was the Ford Valdez, after the Exxon tanker that ran aground in Alaska.

Tonight, Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, hailed the Excursion's pending demise. "I think this is a sign that the age of dinosaurs is about to come to an end," he said.No, not really. After all, the Sierra Club is still thudding about....
But...where'd he go?

Heaven-or-hell argument ends with shotgun slaying

An argument over who was going to heaven and who was going to hell ended with one Texas man shooting another to death with a shotgun, police said Monday.So they're arguing about who would go to heaven. Dimbulb #1 says he'll settle the argument, and goes in and gets his shotgun. But he doesn't just point at someone; he puts the muzzle in his mouth, prepatory (apparently) to pulling the trigger and finding out for himself.

So Dimbulb #2, with whom #1 was arguing, pulls the gun from the guy's mouth, and witnesses quote him as saying, "If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me."

#1 accomodated #2 and is now facing a first-degree murder charge.

(As seen at Best of the Web.)
Strange world

You know it is a strange turn of events when you find something that James Taranto (editor of Best of the Web Today) and Ted Rall (opinionated left-wing wack-o) agree on something, even if only at a single point.

From Best of the Web Today, July 30, 2002:

The U.S. is partly to blame for this shameful state of affairs, but not because we have supported Israel, the only country in the region that has democracy, free expression and the rule of law. Rather, the problem is our support for Arab governments that provide none of these things.And from Ted:

Withdrawing our support for the corrupt Saudi dictatorship might lead to a less pro-American regime, for example, but it would begin to inoculate us from the mostly-justified criticism that we pro-democracy Americans promote oppression wherever it suits our business interests.All right, all right, much of the rest of Ted's column is the usual nonsense, but here is a single point of commonality. Gives one...hope.
Good grief!

Man On Trial For Letting Friend Drive Drunk

A 40-year-old laborer is on trial in New Jersey in a groundbreaking case experts say could clear the way for the prosecution of anyone who lets a drunken driver get behind the wheel.

Kenneth Powell was asleep at home two years ago when police called and asked him to pick up best friend Michael Pangle, who had been arrested for drunken driving after a drinking session in a strip club.

Powell picked up Pangle and took his friend back to his sport utility vehicle, which was parked beside the road where he'd been arrested.

Pangle, 37, drove off into the night. Less than an hour later, his SUV collided with another car...Pangle was killed, along with a man in the other vehicle. Pangle's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was 0.26, more than twice New Jersey's legal limit. Powell, the friend, is being held responsible and has been charged with both deaths; as a result, he faces a possible 15 years in prison.

I'm sorry, but flat-ou…
Oh, let's trot out the denials

U.N. denies team investigated Afghan bombing

The United Nations denied Tuesday that it is investigating the July 1 U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan that Afghans say killed more than 50 civilians at a wedding party, claiming it has conducted a humanitarian fact-finding mission.What's remarkable is the destruction of language. First Kofi Annan says that the UN was "not involved in either an inquiry of an investigation...." A few paragraphs later, he is quoted as saying, "The U.N. team went there to see what had happened...." [Emphasis mine.] That's not an investigation?

Why wasn't it an "investigation"? Well, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard says, "Our people weren't qualified to do an investigation."

Well, the part about qualifications is certainly accurate.

A later story plays even looser with the words:

The United Nations insisted the U.N. group that went to the village shortly after the incident was not an &…
Rush, I say, RUSH to make a judgement

X-Factor post regards Draft U.N. Report Indicates U.S. Cover-Up of Afghan Wedding Attack:

American forces may have breached human rights and then removed evidence after the so-called wedding party air strike that killed more than 50 Afghan civilians this month, according to a draft United Nations report seen by The Times.It hasn't even been a month, yet their investigation and report are finished? Methinks the rough rough draft was typed up a few months ago.
About that peer-to-peer

Eric Olsen at Tres Producers, has this post about the latest bills seeking to criminalize your use of your computer (you bastard, you). In turn he refers to this article by Farhad Manjoo. Gads, this is getting interesting.
bin Laden's declaration

All right, I keep saying the Osama bin Laden himself said that our withdrawal from Somalia, after the Battle of the Black Sea (Black Hawk Down), showed him we (the US) could be defeated. So, in the interest of documentation, here is his 1996 DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST THE AMERICANS OCCUPYING THE LAND OF THE TWO HOLY PLACES. Scroll down a bit (and a bit and a bit, because he's a long-winded S-O-B), and you get:

A few days ago the news agencies had reported that the Defence Secretary [William Perry] of the Crusading Americans had said that the explosions at Riyadh and Al-Khobar had taught him one lesson: that is not to withdraw when attacked by cowardly terrorists.

We say to the Defence Secretary that his talk could induce a grieving mother to laughter! And it shows the fears that have enveloped you all. Where was this courage of yours when the explosion in Beirut took place in 1983 CE (1403 A.H). You were transformed into scattered bits and pieces; 241 sold…
Fascinating tale of collapse

The Washington Post has a series of articles on the collapse of Enron. Strange that they keep mentioning Republican this, Republican that, but the actions that lead to ultimate collapse pre-date Bush.

From Concerns Grow Amid Conflicts, article 3 of 5:

His [Robert J. Hermann, then the company's top tax attorney and a managing director] tax department made a huge and unique contribution to Enron's bottom line. Members of his staff, working with some of the most prominent banks and law firms in the nation, engineered a series of intricate tax-reduction transactions that had boosted Enron's reported profits by nearly $1 billion between 1995 and 2000.(Emphasis mine.)

From Visionary's Dream Led to Risky Business, article 1 of 5:

In the 1990s, banks and law firms began aggressively peddling "structured finance," complex deals in which companies set up separate affiliates or partnerships to help generate tax deductions or move assets and debts…
The intellect of Homer Simpson

A genius article in the New York Times: Profound Effect on U.S. Economy Seen in a War on Iraq

An American attack on Iraq could profoundly affect the American economy, because the United States would have to pay most of the cost and bear the brunt of any oil price shock or other market disruptions, government officials, diplomats and economists say.Well, no shit. The mind boggles at how much work went into producing that self-evident statement. No doubt tomorrow the Times will carry an article declaring that experts and researchers worry that ice is cold.

Lovely little quote that the Persian Gulf War "set off an economic recession." Funny, I thought Clinton said it was just all (senior) Bush's fault. So, by extension, the stability that little fracas (temporarily) brought to the region must have caused the economic recovery and never mind anything that Clinton might have (not) done.

And really, I could give less than a fig for the opinions of so…
What Leftists Hate Most

As heard on Rush Limbaugh, and written by Chris Weinkopf, the list:

[W]hat outrages politicians, activists, and political movements often sheds more light on their motivations than any of their publicly stated positions, I've compiled the following list of some of the modern American left's most reviled people, objects, institutions, and ideas.A great read.
Saudi Arabia first, Iraq second

Time Magazine, that bastion of conservative reporting, asking the question Do We Still Need the Saudis?

People in Saudi Arabia are sick of talking about Sept. 11. They have little interest in examining why 15 of their countrymen hijacked U.S. commercial planes and killed 3,000 civilians; many prefer to believe that the attacks were the work of the CIA or the Mossad, and that the 15 hijackers were unwitting players in someone else's plot. "They were just bodies," a senior government official says. Spend an evening in Jidda, the hometown of Osama bin Laden, where young Saudis today flock to American chain restaurants and shopping malls to loiter away the stifling summer nights, and you rarely hear bin Laden's name. "They find it silly when people talk about al-Qaeda," says journalist Mohammed al-Kheriji, 28, as he sips a latte at the city's newest Starbucks. "People are worried about their own problems."The article …
Eco freaks

Sorry, couldn't think of a nicer thing to say. Give me a moment of personal opinion, reflection if you will. No links, because these are either matters no necessarily exposed to the public, or involve something seen on television.

So last night I'm watching the tail end of a show on, I believe, The Learning Channel (though it might have been The Discovery Channel, because they're right next to each other and I often just toggle back and forth; it's all a blur). The show was about the Grand Canyon, and the portion I caught was on the Glenn Canyon Dam. Much controversy (surprise!) and some danger, too, as illustrated by footage from the 1983 flood season along the Colorado River, which is the river the dam blocks up.During that year, water in the lake rose faster than the dam's flood gates and spillways could handle, threatening to destroy the dam itself. Apparently, a project is now in the works to tear the dam down, rather than risk its sudden, catastrophi…
"It is worth the effort to do all we can to stem the tide."

Declain McCullagh writes Pirate this, go to jail, and notes that, "Sen. Joseph Biden has become one of the newest field marshals in Congress' intellectual property wars." This is the same topic Glenn Reynolds was on a tear about.

Biden's report about the issue is now available. I'm still perusing the executive summary, but already it uses familiar and inflammatory rhetoric.

At the bottom of page iii is the grand old stand-by: "Billions of dollars are being stolen, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost." I remember that been trotted out during the grand debate over software piracy, and thus was used to justify the "need" for copy protection features. Yet, Microsoft grew by leaps and bounds, as did most of the complainers. Indeed, those that perished did so under the mighty sword of MS, or another competitor. Arguments that pirated software equalled lost sales were irrelevant; compe…
On a tear

Glenn Reynolds goes on a tear about the latest piece of legislation to make how you use your computer today illegal:

How can they even pretend to be protecting people from Evil Big Corporations when they're actually serving as those corporations' paid lackeys?"They" are your classic Democrats. Brief blog entry has links to relevant sites.
A day (or two) at the airport

George McGovern writes Flying the Unfriendly Skies:

[W]hat terrifies me at the airports now is not the terrorists or drunks. It is the fear that I won't be able to get through all the checkpoints, or that my car will be seized for parking within a mile of the airport, or that I will have forgotten my identity card, or that I'll forget one of my shoes while my toes are being examined for explosives, or that my foot odor will offend some examiner and get me arrested as a public nuisance.I do not fly all that often (well, other than a ride on my motorcycle). Indeed, I haven't flown for well over a decade. But last month I put my daughter on an airliner for a trip to Colorado to see her dearest friend in the known universe. Oy, the little Nazis they have working security, made more so by the stark contrast with the dear souls working the check-in counters (unlike McGovern's experience). What they saw was a dad putting his daughter on an airliner…

'Austin Powers' sequel glitters at box office

"Austin Powers in Goldmember," the third film in actor Mike Myers' spy spoof series, earned a record-breaking $71.5 million during its first weekend at the North American box office, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.Is it wrong to admit that I thought it was funny, especially the opening sequence?
Warning signs

Glenn Reynolds points out this Dan Gillmore column, Hacking, hijacking our rights:

If you or I asked Congress for permission to legally hack other people's computers, we'd be laughed off Capitol Hill. Then we'd be investigated by the FBI and every other agency concerned with criminal violations of privacy and security.There is a bill running through Congress that grants the movie and music industries these very rights, and grants them immunity from prosecution (criminal or civil) for any damage they might cause.

It's good to know that Our Representatives are looking out for us, right? Like vultures looking for a fresh kill.
Shaken, not stirred. Or is it...

Stephanie Zacharek on The spies who thrilled me, and why we like them:

While we all publicly claim to prefer substance to style, there's something to be said for rolling around naked on a revolving futuristic bed verdant with $20 bills or smashing around in a silver-gray Aston Martin D.B.5. Those are just a few of the pleasures that the '60s spy genre offers us -- vicariously. You can't have everything, especially a sports car with an ejector seat and a rear bullet shield.Nicely said, though my favorite Connery Bond film is "Goldfinger." And she earns a warm spot in me heart because she's the other person (besides me) who likes "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
Oh, I get it now

Charles Krauthammer writing on No-Respect Politics:

Liberals suffer incurably from naivete, the stupidity of the good heart. Who else but that oracle of American liberalism, the New York Times, could run the puzzled headline: "Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling." But? How about this wild theory: If you lock up the criminals, crime declines.

Accordingly, the conservative attitude toward liberals is one of compassionate condescension. Liberals are not quite as reciprocally charitable. It is natural. They think conservatives are mean. ...Rather priceless contrast, really.
This year's "trial of the century"

Dahlia Lithwick writes the entertaining and, gasp, informative I’m guilty! No, I’m not!, recounting some of the latest escapades of the trail against Zacarias Moussaoui.

I’m guessing that either Judge Leonie Brinkema read Getting Past No over the weekend, or someone slipped a Xanax into her Cap’n Crunch. (Moussaoui may have gone the Xanax route as well because he, too, is better-behaved today.) Indeed, Moussaoui and Brinkema seem to have reached an unspoken arrangement wherein she’s become, for all intents and purposes, his lawyer. They don’t cut each other off, they grant small courtesies, and, as the death penalty looms larger, each of them seems focused on trying to comprehend the other.I don't necessarily agree with her conclusion that the government has no case, but her description of the exchanges between The Accused and Her Honor are excellent.
When do we get to call it a war?

Palestinians hit a strategic military target again.

Four Israelis were killed at Hebron Friday when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on two cars driving along a settler road, Israeli officials said.Just as with the rabbi they were obviously striking at vital Israeli interests, or armaments production facilities, or command and control centers, or leaders of terrorist movements.

But wait, there was this cease fire in the works before those despicable Israelies struck.

Darn their insistence on self-defense!

Why online email sucks:

Hotmail policy drives users to tears

In the throes of a tech depression, companies including Microsoft and Yahoo are aggressively trying to push people to paid services by making it harder than ever to rely on the free ones. Apple Computer is cutting free e-mail service altogether.I'll deal with spam, just let me manage my email on my computer, not theirs.
The Lady can write

Peggy Noonan writes that we live in A Time of Lore.

And Wednesday came reports that an asteroid hurtling toward earth could hit us in 2019. Which gave me cause for optimism. Think of all our warring parties. We'd come together to battle the asteroid, pooling our best talent and sharing our genius, wouldn't we? And then once we blew the asteroid up, and had a party, and felt safe, we'd get back to fighting again.

It is amazing that all of this is happening, isn't it?So much of this is good that I want to cut and paste the entire thing, but I won't. Click, read, enjoy.
Oh, the expertise of some people

While catching up on Best of the Web, I clicked over to the Washington Post editorial, Just the Facts, Mr. Ashcroft. Written by Jean AbiNader (managing director of the Arab American Institute) and Kate Martin (director of the Center for National Security Studies), it as slanted as an editorial can get, and demonstrates a marked lack of understanding simple, basic police work. For instance:

Rather than build investigations based on what is known about al Qaeda and the hijackers, the attorney general has directed the roundup and jailing of hundreds of individuals and compilation of dossiers on thousands of individuals and groups -- a dragnet targeted at the Arab American, Muslim and immigrant communities. While no one of any rational persuasion denies that Arab Muslim males perpetrated the horrific terrorist acts of 9/11, that fact hardly serves as justification for the racial profiling that characterizes initiatives coming out of the administration.And...…
One ringie-dingie, two ringie-dingie

Lisa Napoli on what your cell phone ring tones say about you:

For example, on the ring tone site, you can download the "Funeral March" for free. Now, maybe if you’re in the cast of "Six Feet Under" that’s kind of cute. Maybe if you’re a Marine, it’s kind of charming to have "The Star Spangled Banner" on your phone. And maybe if you’re Al Gore, it would be kinda kooky to download the "Macarena". Such exceptions, however, are rare.
And we thought the Fritz bill was bad

Could Hollywood hack your PC?

Congress is about to consider an entertainment industry proposal that would authorize copyright holders to disable PCs used for illicit file trading. A draft bill seen by CNET marks the boldest political effort to date by record labels and movie studios to disrupt peer-to-peer networks that they view as an increasingly dire threat to their bottom line.I can just hear the media execs screaming, "Stop this techie world, we want off! No, better still, give us control."

Jerry Pournelle perchance says it best in The DRM Abyss:

The conflict between what Fritz Hollings and the people who run him want, and what Microsoft's customers want, is creating another. There are lots of people out there who think they know where all this is going. I doubt they have more or better information sources than I do: And I freely admit I don't know what's going to happen. It's not too late for Microsoft to step …
Software reliability

MSN TV prank prompts 911 calls

Microsoft Corp. has discovered that some users of its MSN TV service have downloaded a program that makes their set-tops dial the 911 emergency number instead of regular dial-up numbers, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.This from the people who want us to trust their .NET, Hailstorm, and Palladium initiatives. Wonderful.
Surprise, hypocrisy in Washington!

Why am I not surprised?

Daschle seeks environmental exemption

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle quietly slipped into spending bill language exempting his home state of South Dakota from environmental regulations and lawsuits, in order to allow logging in an effort to prevent forest fires.


Mr. Daschle, a Democrat, said the language to expedite logging is essential to reduce the timber growth that can fuel wildfires.

"As we have seen in the last several weeks, the fire danger in the Black Hills is high and we need to get crews on the ground as soon as possible to reduce this risk and protect property and lives," Mr. Daschle said in a statement late Monday night after a House-Senate conference committee agreed on the language.

The language was tucked inside the defense supplemental spending bill, which passed the House last night by a 397-32 vote. The overall measure, which spends $29 billion, will be taken up by the Senate today.

The provision s…
Today's "hmmm"

So there I was, reading Eric Alterman's Altercation, when he writes that he was reading Jonathan V. Last's The Case for the Empire, and lost the link. I found it and, voila:

STAR WARS RETURNS today with its fifth installment, "Attack of the Clones." There will be talk of the Force and the Dark Side and the epic morality of George Lucas's series. But the truth is that from the beginning, Lucas confused the good guys with the bad. The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good.All right, it's date 05/16/2002, but I just found it.

Strange read. Sorta makes me wonder, since by the end of "Attack of the Clones" I was beginning to like the Old Republic less and less anyway.
Remind me....

...why we liberated this place?

Kuwait University separates the sexes

Six years ago, Muslim fundamentalist legislators pushed through a law banning the mixing of the sexes in classes, libraries, cafeterias, labs and extracurricular activities at Kuwait University. Compliance was lax until lawmakers grilled Education Minister Misaed al-Haroun about it in April, and he committed to full segregation by the end of the next school year.Oh, I guess it's just their culture. Just like terrorism....

(Story found via Best of the Web.)
Wowzer news of the day

Plane designed for space tourists

Astronaut wannabes looking for a short space jaunt may soon have an alternative to shelling out millions of dollars for a trip to the international space station. Space Adventures, a Virginia company that also offers flights aboard Russian fighter jets and a micro-gravity "vomit comet" for private citizens, announced Thursday its partnership with XCOR Aerospace in California. The aerospace company is developing a suborbital rocket vehicle designed specifically for space tourists at a bargain price when compared with private trips to the space station.Well, I supposed I need to pay more attention to these things, not that I saw much coverage of this earlier story. And that's from 2001. Seems to me that time was that such an event would have gotten tremendous coverage, even with 9/11, a brewing war in Afghanistan, etc.
Junk science scores

California to slash cars' carbon gases

When California Gov. Gray Davis signs a car emissions bill into law on Monday, he'll be taking on not just the U.S. automotive industry but also President Bush. The law will require sharp cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide, a gas many scientists fear is warming the Earth. The industry and the president oppose mandatory cuts, but several other states -- New York among them -- could follow California's path.Wonderfully slanted article, but is "fair and balanced" compared to the radio news report I listen to this morning on NPR, which didn't even bother to present any opposing view, just Cal EPA director Hickox.

The numbers are simple, and they say that if California eliminated all "greenhouse gas production" it wouldn't have a squat's worth of influence on the global numbers. It's all show, a demonstration of state "leadership." Oh, it is to gag. What I loved about Hickox, …
Thirty-three years ago this past weekend....

It happened 33 years ago, plus a day or so (sue me, I was absent a computer the entire weekend, damnit). Read it, remember it, and wonder why we threw it all away.
Quietly making decisions

Tech activists protest anti-copying

Enthusiasts of free software disrupted a Commerce Department meeting Wednesday, insisting on their right to debate the entertainment industry over anti-copying technologies.It seems the only way some activists get heard is by being obnoxious. There was the recent spat at the AIDS conference in Spain. The difference there, of course, was that they targeted a single representative--from the US--rather than the conference as a whole. In this instance, this was a group that was protesting their exclusion from the discussion.

I especially got a laugh out of Brett Wynkoop sneaking onto the panel and joining the discussion. I can imagine the faces when someone realized, "Just who the heck are you?"

Jack Valenti, movie picture flack, was gratious enough to allow the protestors to participate, at least to an extent. But his past history catches up with him, showing a consistent cry for government control and unwillingness to co…
Lies, damn lies, and statistics

When I took basic statistics and and statistical analysis, Disraeli's quote about statistics (that lies, damn lies, etc.) was always in the forefront of the discussions. There are ways to keep an eye on such things, on the distortions possible via our love of numbers and statistics, but you seldom see them used, especially in the popular media.

So it was with some interest that I saw in yesterday's Best of the Web a reference to a piece of statistical analysis done by the Israel-based International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, called "An Engineered Tragedy". In it, the authors assert that the "scorecard" typically used in the media for comparing the number of Palestinians killed versus the number of Israelis lends a certain distortion to the reporting. Thus, they write that their "database shows a total of 561 Israelis killed, compared to around 1499 Palestinians, up to 30 June 2002." These numbers are ess…

Richard Muller writes for Technology Review, Who's Afraid of 1984?:

1984, that dreaded Orwellian year, has finally arrived. The phenomenon George Orwell predicted reached full bloom around 1989, and has been straggling to completion ever since. Few people noticed, however, because of a simple error in Orwell’s prediction. His analysis was right, but he got the sign wrong.

His novel 1984, written in 1948, contained the foremost prophecy of the cold war: that technological advancement would render Stalinism unstoppable, with individual liberty the inevitable casualty. However, when the technologies that would enable this totalitarian global village reached fruition, the victim was not democracy, but totalitarianism itself. What went right?While I can agree that technology had a major hand in the downfall of Communism in East Europe, and probably elsewhere, I can see signs of rising totalitarianism throughout the West, facilitated by that very same technology. Look at how many…
What the world is coming to?

So, now there is benign editing?

What does Yahoo Mail have against mocha? That’s what users of the company’s free e-mail service may be wondering if they try to send a message using the word "mocha" and discover that while in transit, "mocha" mysteriously changes to "espresso." To protect users from malicious code, Yahoo uses an automated filter to swap out a handful of words such as "mocha" that pertain to Web code known as JavaScript.Egads, has past litigation led to this, a company seeking to "protect" us from some cracker or another?

Of course, I can't help but notice that "MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture," as the article points out. Then it neatly says how MS's HotMail files such tags without changing wording, and that Outlook can be set to filter out JavaScript entirely. (plug plug plug). Maybe this should be seen as classic Microsoft FUD, in that they want Java and Javascript …
Some humans are loathesome

The latest chapter in an on-going horror story is that they've found her body:

Authorities in Orange County, Calif., confirmed Wednesday that the body found Tuesday is 5-year-old Samantha Runnion.Samantha was kidnapped from near her own home, dragged kicking and screaming into her assailant's car. This is any parent's worse nightmare, to be afraid to let your child play outside, even in your own front yard. How do you respond to threats such as these?

The suspect is described "Latino man in his 20s with short black hair and a mustache and wearing a powder-blue button-down shirt". There is a composite drawing available. The police suspect he is a serial rapist and they expect another victim within 24 hours. (Criminal profiling often provides even more horrifying information.)

This is the sort of criminal that the death penalty is designed for.
The wonders of communism

Fascinating review of a fascinating book, "Koba the Dread," by Martin Amis:

[Martin] Amis' tone doesn't match the earned belligerence you find in Conquest's revised post-glasnost version of "The Great Terror." His prose gives off a sense of appalled wonder. Underneath the steady accumulation of facts and horror stories, Amis is asking how anyone in his or her right mind can still consider Marxism as a means to a more just world; how people (like his pal [Christopher] Hitchens) can joke about their communist past without invoking the horror that someone who joked about his fascist past would; how the apologists for Stalin, despite having plenty of evidence as to the truth of Soviet Russia before glasnost, can be thought of any differently from Holocaust deniers.The descriptions would make for unbelievable fiction, only it all happened. So much for the glory of Communism....
Oh, the wonders of higher math

Thomas Bray writes on "A No-Account System," aka Social Security:

By 2017, the Social Security system is scheduled to begin running a deficit. By 2041, the deficit could accumulate to $25 trillion. To avoid that would require either a 25% reduction in benefits or an increase in Social Security taxes to 17% from 12.4%, experts tell us. Moreover, many Americans still think the money they have paid in Social Security taxes is sitting in a trust fund on their behalf. Wrong. The money for decades was used for general fund purposes, leaving the trust fund with a mountain of nonnegotiable IOUs from the U.S. Treasury--to be repaid from higher taxes down the road. Talk about phony accounting.He makes the point that all this talk about bad accounting practices on Wall Street is never directed at how the Fed's manage their books (or any government body, actually). To do so, of course, would cause horrific panic that would make any tumble in the stock ma…
Rotating styles

I was bored with the old look, so went looking for another, and here we are. The musings on web site design and "rules" by Eric Costello inspired much of this, to the point of theft. If you go over his site, specifically the page on CSS, this might look familiar. But, heck, he encourages "theft" so I took him up on the offer. The original layout is pretty much pure XHTML & CSS, but that doesn't fly well on Blogger, so Some Changes were made.

This page "fails" much more gracefully on old browsers. The Netscape we run at work, for instance, just displayed a blank page on the old template. Now it's ugly, but can be read.

Such is progress.
al-Qaida suffers another defeat

Well, if you want to be picky, the Taliban did, as a "convert" verts again:

Lindh pleads guilty to aiding Taliban

Lindh pleaded guilty to one charge of supplying services to the Taliban, the hardline Muslim government of Afghanistan ousted by a U.S.-led military coalition, and another charge that wasn’t in the original indictment alleging he carried explosives in the commission of a felony.


Under terms of his deal with prosecutors, Lindh, 21, would serve two 10-year prison sentences consecutively and would cooperate fully with U.S. authorities in the investigation of al-Qaida and terrorism. Lindh’s lawyers agreed not to ask to have the sentence lowered at sentencing, which had not yet been scheduled. Lindh will get credit for the time he’s served since he was jailed in December.Oh, but I thought the defense had a great case? When I was driving in to work, just this very morning, there was the story on NPR saying how difficult it might be for t…
Tell me again why we like these people?

A Few Saudis Defy a Rigid Islam to Debate Their Own Intolerance

A fatwa from Sheik Muhammad bin Othaimeen, whose funeral last year attracted hundreds of thousands of mourners, tackles whether good Muslims can live in infidel lands. The faithful who must live abroad should "harbor enmity and hatred for the infidels and refrain from taking them as friends," it reads in part.

Saudis in general, and senior princes in particular, reject the notion that this kind of teaching helps spawns terrorists.

"Well, of course I hate you because you are Christian, but that doesn't mean I want to kill you," a professor of Islamic law in Riyadh explains to a visiting reporter."Well of course I hate you...." Oh, the twists of the mind....
What sneaks by when you're having fun

Microsoft's anti-piracy plans spark controversy

A recent software update for Microsoft's Windows Media Player requires users to permit the automatic installation of undisclosed future anti-piracy measures.The article draws your attention to a little bit of the EULA (end user license agreement) that came with the latest Windows Media Player update which reads:

In order to protect the integrity of content and software protected by digital rights management "Secure Content", Microsoft may provide security related updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer.That's bad enough, but the next sentence in that paragraph is -- for me -- the killer:

These security related updates may disable your ability to copy and/or play Secure Content and use other software on your computer. [Emphasis mine.]Microsoft will, of course, "use reasonable efforts" to let you know.

Uh huh, sure.
Some people gotta mess around

Michael Rogers, the "Practical Futurist", asks readers for their suggestions of a "business model" for the Internet. I have what I humbly think is a better question:

Why is the Internet in need of a business model?

It seems terribly clear to me, so maybe I'm blind. The Internet is an example of what can happen with a little government funding, a clear directive, and a bunch of eggheaded hackers. Poof, simple, direct, nearly indestructible communication between computers. Now, along come stomping a group that is collectively referred to as Big Business, and they are demanding a business model, damnit, right now, right quick, or they'll take their toys and go home.


My favorite "business model" to date is charging more for an e-book than for the same title in paperback -- despite the fact that the "production" costs have got to be close to nil. Certainly a publisher has to recover the cost of setting up the comp…
Oh my my my my!

Over at there is this short post about someone else who found this article in the Washington Post, which essentially indicates that the entire Newdow case against "under God" in the Pledge of Alleigance is, voila, a fraud. Great and entertaining read, especially for the quote from Newdow:

Newdow also said that taking an 8-year-old to church doesn't mean the girl is choosing to be religious – and at any rate, it doesn't matter what the child believes.

"The main thrust of this case is not my daughter, it's me," he said. [Emphasis mine]
He's still around?

Ex-prez Clinton Wows Young AIDS Crowd. Of course, being who he is, he can't help but slap at Bush, saying not enough is being spent on the global AIDS epidemic. The UN estimates it'll take $10 billion annually to fight the epidemic.

"Our fair share would be $2.5 billion," he [Clinton] said. "The difference of where we are and where we need to be is less than two months of war in Afghanistan."Two questions: 1) How is 25% of the bill "our fair share"?

2) How much each year did Clinton spend/contribute?
A space odessey

Michael Benson views the cosmos via his computer.

In the evenings, when my particular piece of Earth has turned away from the Sun, and is exposed instead to the rest of the cosmos, I sit in front of a keyboard, log on, and seek out the windows that look down at the planets and out at the stars.
A man of humor

Sometimes you need a good laugh, and sometimes the oddest people turn out to be comedians.

Gadhafi: 'Libya is against terrorism'

"As a matter of fact, actually, we are only the victims of terrorism and Libya is against terrorism," he [Gadhafi] said.He is quite the comedian, yes, yes he is.
Amazing report

In an amazing turn of events, Amnesty International condemns attacks on Israelis! I can't help but wonder what brought this change about? On the other hand, I also can't help but nothing to reaction from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas:

Ahmed Abdul Rahman, the Palestinian Cabinet secretary, told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, "All that is happening to Israeli citizens is a normal consequence for their occupation and rejection of Palestinian rights."

Ismail Abus Shanab, a Hamas spokesman, called the Amnesty International report "completely biased."

Hamas has claimed responsibility for more suicide bombings than any other Palestinian group and has vowed to continue the terror attacks despite a call from the Palestinian Authority to halt them.But if the attacks are a "normal consequence," which is the PA calling for them to be stopped?

Well, because Arafat and his Palestinian Authority think it's just peachy keen to blow up Is…
The Conservation Bomb?

Yet another interesting MIT Technology Review article, from last June (see, I pay attention, duh), this one on the long-term benefits of conservation. Interesting factoid mentioned is that the amount of energy needed to generate a dollar of gross national product (GNP) has dropped over the last hundred years. Thus, we're making more money while using less energy, and this at a conservation rate of 1% a year. The author calls for an increase to 2% a year, a rather painless increase, and this alone will handle even the UN's predicted population increase (to 10 billion by 2100).

Good read.
Stop! Put down the remote!

Henry Jenkins has written Treating Viewers as Criminals, an excellent article over at MIT Technology Review. Apparently some exec at Turner Broadcasting has decided we're all thieves. Our theft? Well, when you tune in to a particular network show, according to this exec you agree to a "contract" that requires you to watch the commercials. Failing to watch the commercials, either by leaving or using the features of your VCR or other digital recording device, is a violation of contract and, therefore, a theft of services.

Nice logic, which Jenkins addresses thus:

Name-calling is the last resort of once powerful institutions that are finding themselves losing control in the face of rapid media change. Never mind that the same media giants are often the manufactures of the new media technologies we are using to skip their commercials or that some of the advertisements they want us to watch are marketing us features which allow us to skip advertisemen…
And thus did the mole hill grow

Videotaper Of Alleged Beating Subpoenaed

The tourist who videotaped police beating a handcuffed youth in Inglewood, Calif., is being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury Thursday.

Prosecutor Curt Livesay told local radio station KFIAM that Mitchell Crooks was ordered to bring the original videotape.And he didn't sound very happy at the prospect. Indeed, Mr. Crooks doesn't sound too happy about the entire affair. Listening to him on the radio yesterday, he told about how he had been a past victim of police brutality, etc., and his predisposition toward the entire affair was quite clear. Namely, the police have no business hitting anyone anytime.

Love this little bit in the story: "The officer, Jeremy Morse, is white, and Jackson is black."

The media coverage keeps pointing this out, why I don't know. Even in the lawsuit and statements that I've heard, neither the kid nor his lawyer claim this as a racist event. However, the pres…
Local interest

Sacramento: Car Explodes At Gas Station

"I was going to the DMV, but I stopped to get some gas. And so here we go. And it was smoking. I opened it up, and it was on fire," Whitfield said.

Whitfield said that she has no insurance and is most likely out the $450 she just paid for the car. [Emphasis mine.]Spectacular photo accompanies brief article. Lovely comment on insurance, though. She's had the car "several days," yet....

Ah well. What a fire, though.
More Dot Com fall-out?

For those who want to blame all the current Wall Street frauds (Enron, WorldCom, et al) on Bush, consider Bay Area has seen rise in corporate fraud:

Even before Enron, WorldCom and President Bush's call for a crackdown on corporate crooks, local executives have been hauled into Bay Area federal courts in unprecedented numbers in recent years, accused of cooking the books, lying to securities regulators and insider trading.

In fact, as the president Tuesday declared a fresh emphasis on cleaning up company boardrooms, federal prosecutors in Oakland were culminating a nine-year investigation with the trial of a former executive accused of orchestrating one of Silicon Valley's earliest investor fraud scandals.Personally, I think it's all an outgrowth of the dot-com eruption. Little companies made major bank on little more than promises. When the bubble burst...well, that's history. Large companies saw how it was done and started instituting similar &quo…
A new focus

Claudia Rosett changes the focus of her column to The Real World.

Some societies, we often hear, are simply accustomed to authoritarian rule--maybe they like it? And in any event, or so we have often heard: better the devil we know. Who can predict who might replace Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il or the House of Saud?

Listening to such rationalizations, I am sometimes reminded of an underground pamphlet, written in English and handed around in Beijing just after the 1989 Communist Party killing spree that ended the huge democratic protests that centered in Tiananmen Square. "Stability the Key to Absolutely Everything," ran the headline on this screed. It was a satire, poking fun at the regime's insistence that the Chinese army had murdered Chinese civilians in order to preserve the vaunted stability that the Communist Party insisted that it, and it alone, could confer on China.Europeans love stability, having been so unsettled for so long. They are a…
Quick, to the neighbors!

Cable firms cracking down on Wi-Fi

Broadband providers are cracking down on popular Wi-Fi networks, threatening to cut service to customers who set up the inexpensive wireless systems and allow others to freely tap into their Internet access. Time Warner Cable of New York City has given 10 customers less than a week to stop using their accounts to provide a wireless local area network available to anyone within 300 feet. The letters are just an initial volley; Time Warner expects to send additional letters, while AT&T Broadband also is preparing similar letters for some of its customers.

The crackdown is reminiscent of the cable industry’s attempts to target cable thieves in the 1980s, and it reflects the soaring popularity of wireless Net access. After being introduced just a couple years ago, so-called Wi-Fi "hot spots" that tap into cable or digital subscriber lines (DSL) are now in at least 15 million homes and offices.Oh, this is annoying for t…
Victor Davis Hanson on With friends like the Saudis, who needs enemies?

The Saudi royals are thus these days an increasingly troubled bunch. They are quite understandably exasperated that they have failed to earn needed capital by developing nonpetroleum industries, and that their citizenry lacks either the practical skills to create thriving commercial enterprises or the individual drive and initiative to build businesses from the ground up. They are even more irked that their imported gadgets have brought with them hostile ideas, critical lectures and unwelcome advice, as if air-conditioners and neurosurgeons should come without consequences and as freely as oil out of the desert. And they are still more dyspeptic that some people persist in thinking there is something unhealthy in the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudi nationals.And still we take aim at Iraq....
Wah! I wanna it my way

So I'm perusing Wired and come across the headline U.S. Rep Hooted Off AIDS Stage, and read:

"They're expressing themselves and that's their freedom of speech," he [Anthony Fauci] said. "Now they've got to give the secretary his freedom of speech."

It was not to be. [U.S. Secretary of Health] Thompson continued with his speech before stopping several minutes into the protest, by which time about a dozen of the activists had climbed onto the stage with him. When their shouts faded and they retreated to the back of the audience after about 20 minutes, Thompson resumed his speech, only to be drowned out by a second round of booing and screams of "murderer, murderer."...and I'm left shaking my head in wonder, at the sheer hypocrisy of things, not to mention the whining and crying. Act Up is not one of my favorite activist groups because they are, as a group, assholes. No, that's not sound reasoning, but that's …
And Ms Pot, what color is the kettle?

This is just too rich. Best of the Web has a link to this story, about a British academic that fired two other scholars for the high crime of being Israeli, shame on them. She said:

Despite a storm of complaints raised by her action, Prof Baker stood by her decision, telling The Telegraph: "I deplore the Israeli state. Miriam [Shlesinger] knew that was how I felt and that they would have to go because of the current situation."All the while I'm reading, I'm thinking that this Professor Mona Baker would be the first to howl if someone were to do likewise to her, just because, say, she's British. Lo and behold, further into the story:

She [Prof Baker] alleged that since the sackings she had been the victim of a hate campaign.

"My husband and I receive hate mail every day, up to 50 [letters] a day, some of it extremely obscene," she said. "I can't read it out it is so obscene and very threatening. It is also sent …
John Frankenheimer, gone

This is just depressing. Moriarty, over at Aint-It-Cool-News, does an excellent obituary:

...Frankenheimer had a long and important career as a filmmaker, and leaves a filmography that should make most young filmmakers today tremble in awe. This is the guy who directed BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY and THE TRAIN and SECONDS. Any one of those movies would be enough to cement his name, but to have essentially directed them back to back to back is staggering.Every one of those is a memorable film. "The Manuchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May" illustrate how to make a political thriller without the need to condemn one party over another (a la "The American President" and "The Contender"). And I can't watch "The Train" enough, as much as for Frankenheimer's direction as Burt Lancaster's extraordinary work.

The beauty of film, of course, is that the work lives o…
Hey, you, give us more!

Call for action, and access, on AIDS

A sense that the worst plague in human history remains out of control dominated talk on Sunday as 15,000 scientists, health workers and activists gathered here for the opening of the world’s biggest AIDS conference.The article goes on to, of course, say that the wealthy countries have to give more. More money, more free drugs, more of everything. There's even an idiot statement that AIDS could create "potential havens for terrorists."

Give more. Give more. Give more. Meanwhile, no one wants to treat this like a plague. It's a political football.

And as for giving more, as for making drugs more accessble, was it just yesterday that Glaxo -- and others -- was coerced into granting licenses to a South African producer of generics? No, that was September (!) 2001, and that was six months after concessions had already been made.

Give more, give more, damnit you rich boy, give more! Drugs grow on trees, see, and all t…
Defending old empires

Steven Levy writes in Newweek, courtesy Labels to Net Radio: Die Now.

...In the Webcast world, however, it’s possible for Jim and Wanda Atkinson to run one of the more popular sites--and one day, they hope, a profitable ad-supported business--by playing the tunes of, say, Dashboard Confessional. Possible, that is, until Oct. 20.

That’s the day the bill comes due for a government-imposed performance fee brought about by pressure from the recording industry. The fees, retroactive to 1998, “would put us out of business along with 90 percent of the industry,” says Jim Atkinson. It would be the day Web music dies--and a classic instance of an Old Economy industry leveraging its power to kill a promising alternative.Gotta love it. Just as Microsoft seeks to raise barriers to competition, record labels proclaim that for our good, webcasters have to pay exorbinant fees in order to play songs over the Internet, fees that conventional radio does not have to pay.

Arabs and Democracy

An editorial at OpinionJournal refers to a new study published by the United Nations Development Program, specifically its new Arab Human Development Report:

The UNDP assembled a panel of distinguished Arab authors, including Clovis Maksoud, the former Arab League ambassador to the U.N., to take a hard look at the state of their own society. And while they don't fail to mention the evils of Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, they clearly realize the plight of 1% of the Arabs can't account for all the region's ills. Nor is this yet another plea for more aid from the rich countries. The report places blame squarely where it belongs--unaccountable and unrepresentative governments in the Arab countries themselves.An indication of this, taken from the report, are the "Quality of Institutions in the Arab countries: standardized indicators," from Chapter 7, "Liberating human capabilities," page 113 of the report. Table 7-1 presents…