Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cole - Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005

One of my favorite blogs, that I have not linked to recently, is Juan Cole's Informed Comment. It has always incurred the wrath of the right wing. No surprise there. But it has also recently caught a lot of flack from the left side of the aisle. Cole is no pacifist, and he has not been supportive of the idea of a simple withdrawal from Iraq. For some, that is unacceptable. Not me. Maybe it comes from having two nephews serving in the military. Maybe I'm just too MOR. Maybe I just distrust simple minded solutions.

Against that backdrop, you can see why I really like his recent Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005

  1. The guerrilla war is being waged only in four provinces...
  2. Iraqi Sunnis voting in the December 15 election is a sign that they are being drawn into the political process and might give up the armed insurgency...
  3. Iraqis are grateful for the US presence and want US forces there to help them build their country...
  4. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, born in Iran in 1930, is close to the Iranian regime in Tehran...
  5. There is a silent majority of middle class, secular-minded Iraqis who reject religious fundamentalism...
  6. The new Iraqi constitution is a victory for Western, liberal values in the Middle East...
  7. Iraq is already in a civil war, so it does not matter if the US simply withdraws precipitately, since the situation is as bad as it can get...
  8. The US can buy off the Iraqis now supporting guerrilla action against US troops...
  9. The Bush administration wanted free elections in Iraq...
Cole is genuinely more interested in the truth of what is happening in Iraq and the Middle East than any particular political agenda. It just so happens that this bent makes him a liberal ally. Funny how that works...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

What happened to Santa?

The best Christmas card we've received in a long, long time:

Thanks George!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Impeach Bush? The world's Christmas present

Upon hearing that Bush's domestic espionage scandal could lead to impeachment, my son said, "It would be awesome if he was impeached on Christmas. It would be like the world's Christmas present!"

From the mouths of babes...

Wiretap roundup

Lots to read about Bush's espionage arrogance. Is it my imagination, or has the weakened president become a much riper target for the press? He does not seem to be getting the free pass that they have since 9/11.

Nice to see the press doing there job. But we live for blogs, so let's sample two strong ones. First Josh Marshall has been insightful. Here with what a disingenuous thing to say

Wiretaps are conducted around the country every day. The FISA Court alone approves something like a half a dozen a day in highly classified national security or espionage related cases.

The only issue here is why the president decided to go around the normal rules that govern such surveillance, why he chose to make himself above the law.

Another favorite blog, Defense Tech was the first place I read the insight that maybe we are not talking about garden variety wiretaps here. Maybe there is more than meets the eye. New Tech Behind NSA Snoop Case?
That's all assuming, of course, that the wiretaps in this case are the same as in any other. But maybe they're not. Maybe there's something different about this surveillance. It could be in its scope, as Laura suggests. But I'm guessing -- and this is just a guess -- that the real difference is in the technology of the wiretaps themselves.
Josh is following up this line of inquiry with fishing expedition
I'm not sure it's data-mining precisely. Perhaps they're doing searches for certain patterns of words or numbers, perhaps something as simple as a phone number. But unlike 'traditional' wiretapping, in which you're catching the conversations of a relatively small and defined group of people, this may involve listening in on a big slice of the email or phone communications in the country looking for a particular phone number or code or perhaps a reference to a particular name.

From a technological point of view there's not really much outlandish about this at all. This is just the sort of thing the NSA is in the business of doing overseas. But you can see how this would just be a non-starter for getting a warrant. It is the definition of a fishing expedition.

Let me bring this back to Captain Fishback's quote, "Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession." Bush as always been an amoral, cynical, gutless puke. This is just more proof.

2005 Top Searches? OMG

One look at the 2005 Top Searches make one thing clear. If I want to attract an audience, I'd better make some big changes around here.

Yeah right. Not gonna happen...

BBC - US sets Saddam's scientists free

Gotta wonder what these people will be saying to the press in the near future. US sets Saddam's scientists free

Eight former aides to Saddam Hussein - including two women accused of making biological weapons - have been released from US custody in Iraq.
I'm sure the press will focus its attention, if it pays any attention at all, to Dr. Germ. But the other scientists and weapons program experts that have been under detention are more credible and are more likely to make explosive revelations. What this story.

War and Piece - Separation of Powers

I love Laura Rosen's War and Piece. She's all over the wiretap story. Check out here Separation of Powers

And while it seems unprecedented in American life, in democracies governed by the rule of law, this is the typical state of affairs in dictatorships. Dictators, typically, are the law, and they find the individuals like Yoo easily enough to interpret the piece of paper that is known as the law to justify whatever the leader wants, all in the name of national security of course. A permanent state of emergency. Yoo and Rice are not the exception. Their type are typical features of dictatorships, familiar to anyone who has lived in the Soviet Union or Belgrade or East Germany. The technocrat intellectuals that put the intellectual, legal gloss on such shortcircuiting of the law, that make such abuses easier, the enablers.

'Just World News' by Helena Cobban: Chaos in the US antiwar "movement"

Helena Cobban posted an excellent analysis of the sorry state of the organized opposition to the war in the US: Chaos in the US antiwar "movement"

At the national level here there are two big antiwar coalitions, which have had a frequently stormy relationship with each other. And now is, sadly enough, one of those times.

These coalitions are United for Peace and Justice, and International ANSWER.

She duly notes both the scary Stalinist character of ANSWER and the ineffectually bloated nature of the lesser known UPJ. Her conclusion sounds right to me:
I have a suggestion. Maybe we should all stop having any faith at all that either of those two existing organizations is capable of coordinating an effective antiwar movement at this time.

Maybe we should ask Tony Benn, the President of the British Stop the War Coalition, and his six very able Vice-Presidents, for permission to form a fraternal branch of their organization here.

Stop the War Coalition-US would adopt the same organizing approach that has proven so effective for the parent group in Britain:

  1. A tight focus on ending the war, and
  2. Strong organizational cohesiveness-- including organizational lean-ness, integrity, and full accountability of all its leaders and officials.
Going this route would have huge advantages. For one thing, we could fold into such a movement the many sterling folks in the US who are not on the political left, who share the growing desire to bring the troops home[...]

When you're doing coalitional work, it is almost always, imho, important to focus strongly on the goal. Now is surely such a time.

I hadn't really thought about the disorganization of the war opposition. It's truly sad that there is such chaos and impotence when in fact public opinion is so clearly in favor of ending the conflict and opposing the war effort.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Google & Opera?

Here are a couple links to a rumor that's running round the web: Google to buy Opera? Ars Technica: Google interested in Opera?

As you might expect, Google had no comment. Opera, however, gave a firm 'no' to the rumor, saying, 'Rumors come and go. Google is not buying Opera.' But the Internet can't live without a Gbrowser rumor every few months. This one, however, doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.
SearcheNgineWatch.com: Rumor Mill: Acquisition Time? Is Google Going To The Opera (Browser)?:
Google is going to acquire Opera. That's right, the wonderful and powerful Opera browser from Norway (Opera Software ASA to be precise) might become Google's latest acquisition.
As a long time Opera user, fan and customer, and as a satisfied Google users, I would love to see this happen. I've switched to using FireFox most of the time since it flat out gets into more sites than Opera. I almost never have to fire up IE now that I use FireFox, but it was a frequent annoyance with Opera. In most cases it was the fault of the web site for locking Opera out unnecessarily. But for a web surfer it really doesn't matter if the fault lies with the web site authors or the browser.

So I've joined the Mozilla army now, and I've laid down the law with my family (who really resisted using Opera because of the need to switch to IE for many of their gaming sites, banking,...) we now use FireFox exclusively.

Except I still prefer Opera. It is just a better browser and a much better UE/UI. They nail MDI much better than FF. Much better keyboard shortcuts. Much, much better handling of images. True page scaling. Much better user style overrides, image load controls, fastforward, periodic page loading...

So if Google wants to scoop them up, open their deep pockets, and put some distribution muscle behind them, I'll be oh so glad to switch back to Opera. Or GBrowser. Or whatever they become.

Blood for Oil?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A prayer for Ian Fishback

Once again, the blogosphere's attenuated attention span disappoints me. Remember Captain Ian Fishback? No? Well, he's dropped off the media radar, both the blog media and the "MSM". As far as we know, he's probably rotting in some brig, holding out bravely against attempts to break him and make him rat out the Sergeants who joined him in testifying about the way torture has been practiced and sanctioned in Iraq.

We should all take a moment and send him a prayer. Or better yet, send him an email. I just did.

And to be fair, Andrew Sullivan continues to invoke his name in his ardent effort to expose and abolish the use of torture by the U.S. Andrew cites his words in his recent New Republic article, "The Abolition of Torture". He also cites him in a recent blog post, Wakey Wakey

National Review's Mark Levin wakes up, stretches, rubs his eyes and asks:
And where is all the evidence that U.S. armed forces and intelligence serves are engaged in torture? Is it widespread? Where is this occurring? McCain hasn't made the case. We get mostly the same kind of platitudes he was famous for during the campaign-finance reform debate, e.g., the system is "corrupt," money equals corruption, and so forth. Shouldn't we stop beating up ourselves over this until such evidence is presented? We seem to be making law here based on hypothetical arguments, or worse -- left-wing and enemy propaganda.
I refer Levin to the Schmidt Report, the Taguba Report, the Jones-Fay Report, the Schlesinger Report, the mounds of evidence collected by the International Red Cross, the hundreds of carefully checked newspaper reports documenting torture, abuse, murder, rape, and beatings in every single theater of this war by every branch of the armed services against defenseless military detainees. I refer him to the testimony of West Point graduate Ian Fishback and countless others. I refer him to the many memos constructed by the Bush administration defining and redefining "torture" to the point of meaninglessness. May I offer him a cup of coffee and a warm welcome to reality as well?

Thank you Andrew Sullivan for keeping the anti-torture torch burning. And thank you, Captain Ian Fishback, wherever you are, for your brave patriotism. We are forever in debt to selfless warriors like you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Willie Mays Field!

I got an email from a colleague that we all need to listen to. Daniel Ben-Horin has a great idea that needs your support. This is what Jon Caroll had to say about it

Computer guy and baseball fan Daniel Ben-Horin has long been agitating for the name of SBC Park to be changed. Now that the name is going to be changed anyway -- to, apparently, AT&T Park -- the iron is hot and needs to be struck. Ben-Horin's suggestion: 'Willie Mays Field at AT&T Park.' He'd rather have plain old 'Willie Mays Field,' but he's trying to live in the 21st century, never an easy job here in the 21st century.

Ben-Horin recently wrote to Eric Fernandez, who is in charge of naming things at SBC headquarters: 'San Francisco is blessed to have in our midst the greatest baseball player who ever played the game. For almost half a century the name 'Willie Mays' has been associated with the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Giants franchise. Willie Mays is one of the most beloved players of all time. We believe that this presents the new AT&T with a tremendous marketing opportunity.'
Here's where you come in. He's put together an on-line poll to collect signatures in support of the idea. If you've read this far, you know you want to sign it.

John Battelle on Alexa

The first place I read about the new Amazon search play was on John Battelle's Searchblog: Alexa (Make that Amazon) Looks to Change the Game

Every so often an idea comes along that has the potential to change the game. When it does, you find yourself saying - 'Sheesh, of course that was going to happen. Why didn't I predict it?' Well, I didn't predict this happening, but here it is, happening anyway.
Sounds exciting. And this follow up resonates with the Google Map API fan in me:
In other words, Alexa and Amazon are turning the index inside out, and offering it as a web service that anyone can mashup to their hearts content. Entrepreneurs can use Alexa's crawl, Alexa's processors, Alexa's server farm....the whole nine yards.
Unlike Google's map API, Alexa is for paying customers only. Hobbyists like me (or a search tinkerer hobbyist) won't be taking up this offer. It is clearly a play for more serious inventors.

Batelle know so much more about the search market – that's why I read his blog – so if he's uncertain about what it means, I'm totally without a clue. Yet, this does sounds like a game changer. For a price, anyone with a business plan and some capital can jump in the custom search game. A very large barrier just got a lot lower. How much lower? What do I know? I get Google does. This is the ground they stand on that may be shifting.

Body and Soul: "We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies."

Every now and then my daughter asks me what's up in New Orleans? She's bright, that girl. Too bad the media doesn't have that bright a bulb.

Thankfully, some folks are paying attention, like Jeanne at Body and Soul

I have only one remaining question about this administration's response to the devastation in New Orleans. Are they killing the city deliberately, out of incompetence, or because they just don't care?

That they are killing the city is so obvious even the New York Times won't deny it.

What a tragedy this Bush presidency and Republican government continues to be. Will the public call them on it?

Sorry, no Crips fan here

Atrios is the only writer to come close to expressing my sentiments about the Toookie Williams drama -- Death Penalty

I'm against it for numerous reasons (depending on when you ask me a different reason is the most important one), but I really can't quite see how Stanley Williams is really the poster child for the cause. The cause is still just, and I'd argue for clemency for everyone on death row and therefore support those who have taken up his cause, but the wrong poster child doesn't help a cause
What really galled me about the whole story is the fact that Tookie was a media star because of his gangsta life. He got the headlines because he was famous. I bet he was rich from his filthy crips past too. And Snoop Dogg? Seeing him paying tribute to this creep is supposed to make him more sympathetic? Sorry. I respect the activists who are truly, morally opposed to the death penalty. I oppose it for the simple reason that it kills poor and minority males disproportionately — our courts cannot fairly administer such a penalty. But singling out Tookie Williams as some sort of martyr?

I'm glad this media travesty is done. Time for the real activists to continue their real work, making real progress in opposition to state killings.

Four Star Gazing

I don't post about Bernal enough. Make that my first New Years resolution, to spend more blog ink on local items.

Like, how much I'm digging Four Star's blog. I love the recommendations. I love knowing what's new. Especially for the non-commercial release titles. Beth does most of the renting, so I really need to get her hooked on their blog. For now I just want to share some blogger love.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Time for Stern to retire!

They must be kidding. Or just too over-the-hill for words. ESPN - Union objects to long shorts fines:

Have the NBA's fashion police gone too far?

The players' union thinks so, and it wants an arbitrator to decide whether it was fair to fine 13 players $10,000 apiece for wearing their shorts too long.

Russian River Success

Good news for the Russion River via Science Daily: Russian River Coho Recovery Project Seeing First Hopeful Signs Of Success:

Surveys of three streams in the Russian River watershed show the first encouraging signs that a ground-breaking recovery effort is making headway rescuing coho salmon from the brink of extinction in part of its historic California range.
Winter-run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River are experiencing a dramatic return from near extinction following a similar recovery effort. Other efforts to restore coho populations exist elsewhere in California and the Pacific Northwest, but the Russian River project is one of few attempts to resurrect viable coho populations with a captive broodstock program. Fisheries managers had little choice. These fish were on the verge of extinction in the Russian River.
If we humans are going to screw the world up, I guess we'll just have to figure out how to fix it. Time to hack the Earth!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Dieb-throat" blows the whistle

My friend Wayne was apoplectic about vote fraud after the 2004 election. I have to admit I was dismissive of his obsession, and his daily email barrages. My feeling was there was nothing new about vote fraud, we lost, move on, and if you have to obsess, devote your energies to preventing future frauds.

I'm beginning to think I was wrong. e-voting is really dangerous. This whistleblower interview on Raw Story is enough to change my thinking: Dieb-throat

a whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the companyÂ’s electronic voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.

The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation "Dieb-Throat" in an interview with voting rights advocate Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com), was once a staunch supporter of electronic votingÂ’s potential to produce more accurate results than punch cards.

But the company insider became disillusioned after witnessing repeated efforts by Diebold to evade meeting legal requirements or implementing appropriate security measures, putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of voters.

Chilling. I emailed this link to my friend and he came back at me with this one: With new legislation, Ohio Republicans plan holiday burial for American Democracy
A law that will make democracy all but moot in Ohio is about to pass the state legislature and to be signed by its Republican governor. Despite massive corruption scandals besieging the Ohio GOP, any hope that the Democratic party could win this most crucial swing state in future presidential elections, or carry its pivotal US Senate seat in 2006, are about to end.
Time to pay more attention to this issue. Have the ultimate levers of power already been stolen from us?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Isreal to Bush: Please chill!

When Likud and the IDF start telling the wingnuts to bugger off, you know we're in deep, deep shit. TPM: Please chill!

U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that toppling Assad could be "transformative" and dismissed concerns about an Islamist regime taking his place. Israel and the United States favor pressure on Syria to force it to stop hosting Palestinian terrorist groups and supporting Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization.
I guess since we've never overthrown a secular Arab strongman only to have the whole thing blow up in our face, it's just hard to know whether the Israelis' concerns might be well grounded.

Skiing in Dubai???

OK, this is just stupid:

I wonder if this will show up on the SkiBonk map?

Friday, December 02, 2005


Crooks and Liars gives us this report of a "$10 million Bat Mitzvah" paid for by profits from selling defective armour to our soldiers. Just another obscene example of profligate Republican degeneracy?

ABC News: Dead Sea Is Dying

Surely finding some way to use Red Sea or Mediterranean water to replenish the Dead Sea is better than watching it dry up. ABC News: Dead Sea Is Dying:

'The Dead Sea is dying,' Bromberg said. 'The Dead Sea is shrinking. It's falling by a meter in depth every year.'

The Dead Sea relies on the fresh water of the Jordan River. And, that once-wide river is now just a contaminated trickle. As the sea's water disappears, it creates large sinkholes that make it dangerous to even approach the sea in certain spots.

'If the Dead Sea goes away, we lose the ability to connect what's really central about Earth and humanity and, ultimately, the divine,' Feiler said.

To save the shrinking sea, some have proposed building a canal from the Red Sea to bring some much-needed water. Bromberg said he doesn't think that's a good idea.

'We're highly skeptical because it would be mixing marine water with that unique mineral composition that we find here at the Dead Sea,' Bromberg said.

I've always wondered about the primeval environment of the Middle East, and to what extent man has contributed to the desertification of the region. Has it always been as arid as it is today? Or are we witnessing some form of climate change, possibly anthropogenic?

Somewhere in the back of my mind is a meme that says the future will involve man taking more of an active role in mitigating and adapting earth's damaged habitats — to terraform earth.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Molly Ivins speaks for me

"It is my humble opinion that some folks should do a lot more listening to God and a lot less talking for Him."

NIMBYism I can understand

Pretty funny: The Cyclotron Comes to the 'Hood:

Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

I seriously doubt there is any real risk posed by the cyclotron -- they are relatively mundane and safe. But I can definitely understand where naive neighbors would be alarmed.

WorldChanging: Too Good To Be True?

I heard this from a few sources, but I'll post WordChanging's report cus, like them, I'm skeptical: Too Good To Be True?:

UK online retailer Good Gifts wants you to buy a Kalashnikov rifle (most likely an AK-47) -- £25. Or perhaps a rocket launcher (£55). Or a tank, for £1000. Not for your own use, mind you, but to provide the raw materials for enterprising blacksmiths and metalworkers in Sierra Leone, who turn the iron and such into 'farm implements... hoes and axe heads... pickaxes, sickles and even school bells.' A single tank will provide a year's work for 5 blacksmiths, they say, and convert into 3,000 items.

This sounds amazing and clever. Although the Good Gifts site provides few details about how it's accomplished (and how everyone's certain that the AK-47 goes to the blacksmith and not the local militia), the organization behind the site, the Charities Advisory Trust, is reputable, and several UK media outlets have profiled the Good Gifts program.

It's not every day we actually get to turn the modern equivalent of swords into plowshares.
Our family has been donating to The Heifer Project for the past few Christmases. I think we'll keep going with that before considering this charity. Somehow the idea of buying someone a goat seems more plausible than giving them an RPG/plough.

Hullabaloo - "Nice Tries"

I read Josh Marshall's TPM all the time -- most days I check in multiple times a day. But, as has happened before, I find Digby does a better job of summing up the muck that TPM rakes. Here Dibgy dives into the lame attempt to portray the GOP corruption volcano as a bipartisan status quo: "Nice Tries"

Josh Marshall is collecting "nice tries," which are the brownnosing, he said/she said statements by the media implying that all this nasty corruption business is a bi-partisan matter.

It's obvious that the "culture of corruption" charge is scaring the GOP because they've clearly put the hammer down on the media to portray the looming scandal tsunami as something "everybody does." This, of course, is utter bullshit. As Marshall says, it comes from the proximity to power and the Democrats are way out of that game.
But don't take Digby's work for it. Check out TPM too:
Republicans must be purer than Caesar's wife?
Would you like to join our 'Nice Try' brigade?

The Rude Pundit on the effectiveness of torture

I've been away from the rude pundit for too long. Here's a tasty bit of gristle he's gnawing on today: Newsmax Says Torture Worked On John McCain, So He Should Shut Up About Its Effectiveness

No, really. The editorial is titled 'John McCain: Torture Worked on Me,' and oughta be required reading for anyone who thinks these wads of fuck on the conservative side deserve anything more than scorn and bile.

Here's the end: 'That McCain broke under torture doesn't make him any less of an American hero. But it does prove he's wrong to claim that harsh interrogation techniques simply don't work.' They are lower than the scum under the Rude Pundit's refrigerator. They're the dirt the scum eats to grow.

More on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Digging digg

So yesterday a colleague turned me onto digg.com as a better-than-slashdot place for geek linkage. Sure enough, I'm diggin it. One link that I'm in the midst of learning from is this one that gives a very brief scan on how to disinfect / protect your PC: gHacks ? Beginners Guide to Securing a Pc:

You'd probably heard this before. Everyone should secure his personal computer. You read stories like this in every other computer mag, your geeky friends probably tell you the same and even name some programs that you should use because they are the best and most secure. I know that you would like to have a secure computer, well a secured computer, there is nothing like 100% security if you are on a network or the internet. Keep that in mind.
It's not the simplest cookbook to use -- if you don't know what safemode is and how to boot into it you probably won't be able to use some of the more useful and obscure tools they link to.

But I'm in the midst of trying to expunge some nasty web filth from the upstairs machine. Wish me luck. And check out digg. There's fun in there too -- like this picture of an astronaut holding a "For Sale" sign during a space walk. That's my desktop background now.

Seymour Hersh's latest

Be sure to read this one:
Where is the Iraq war headed next?

Laura Rosen on US sponsored terror in Iraq

Laura Rosen, author of the War and Piece blog, is one fire about the turn of events in Iraq. Check out two recent posts:

Death squads, torture squads ... :

Is this what Rumsfeld and Cheney were going for? Are the neocons satisfied? Is this enough organized application of violence for their tastes?
"The Salvador Option.":
So the US is no hapless bystander to the Shiite death squads we are seeing, but they are the product of deliberate Pentagon policy? Is Cambone going to be hauled before Congress or what? Talk about missing the black helicopter crowd. One cannot but long for justice for these guys. Could some forward looking European nation please arrest them next time they stop over, just to give them a scare? A little Pinochet-like unpleasant episode, if not a full fledged trial?
You knew it when the same despicable characters that brought us the El Salvador and the Contras during the Reagan administration were put in positions of power in Iraq and the GWOT that detestable horrors would ensue. Sure enough. It looks like they are dragging the good name of the USA through the mud again. This time it seems even worse. Not that we can tell by reading the press.

Fred Kaplan on Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal

Over on Slate, the ever readable Fred Kaplan offers some predictions in Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal - Wednesday's speech will set the agenda for withdrawal from Iraq:

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.
Any move to de-escalate the Iraqi insurgency, particularly by removing the primary fuel feeding the fires—US troops, is to be welcomed. But I doubt that Bush's moves will be anything more than political cover. At Kaplan concludes in his article,
More to the point, does the president have a plan for all this? (The point is far from facetious; it's tragically clear, after all, that he didn't have a plan for how to fight the war if it extended beyond the collapse of Saddam.) Has he entertained these questions, much less devised some shrewd answers? If he's serious about a withdrawal or redeployment that's strategically sensible, as opposed to politically opportune, we should hear about them in his speech Wednesday night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Just World News' by Helena Cobban: Modalities of imperial retreat

Helena Cobban has been blogging about the inevitability of a military draw-down for months now, way before the current consensus emerged. She is a dedicated pacifist, a Quaker, who will not be satisfied with anything short of complete withdrawal -- which I just do not see in the cards. But she was the first person I read who anticipated the pragmatic necessity of the coming troop reductions.

Today she has a powerful post, Modalities of imperial retreat:

[...]the loss of Algeria was nonethless part of a worldwide retraction of French imperial power. Britain's worldwide empire was also very busy indeed retreating in those days. Both those formerly sizeable global powers were losing global power at a rapid clip between 1950 and 1970, and it is important to remember that.

Now, the same kind of erosion of global power is happening, to some degree, to the United States' globe-girdling military behemoth. And all of us who seek a world that is not dominated by military force and that is not structured to provide privilege to the US citizenry over and above everyone else in the world should be very clear about that fact, and should welcome it.

I'm less of a pacifist than she, and I don't really embrace the idea of the coming decline of Imperial USA. But she is very persuasive. Check it out. Also check out here most recent post, Christian Peacemakers abducted in Iraq.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Funny start to Thanksgiving

Doesn't look like the start of the best Thanksgiving ever, does it? But there it is, lying on the living room floor just a few hours before 19 of us sat down to my best Thanksgiving yet. A whole Costco sized bottle of Ketchup all over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Spectacular.

After Sam and I stopped laughing, which took a while, we took a few anspshots, hurriedly clean up the mess, and got back to work. OK, Sam sat on the couch watching the tube. I kept jamming.

I love Thanksgiving. I love hosting it at my house. I love sharing it with friends.

Just about my favorite day of the year.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Manufacturing in the Bush Era

I found this over on Brad DeLong's blog. Does Manufacturing Matter?
Manufacturing employment has gotten hammered to an unbelievable degree in the Bush era:
Pretty dramatic, and damning.

A compforting map

Today we're getting all graphic on ya! Kos gives us this: The new map
How can Utah and Idaho be so stubborn?

Worst President Ever?

Love the graphic. Don't you? I found it here: Discourse.net: Worst President Ever?, where there is actually a pretty interesting discussion on the proposition Turns out there have been some spectacularly bad presidents that give W a run for the title. Somehow I find that comforting...

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Fly on Engadget

The secret product I've been working on over the past year+ is finally on the shelves. It hasn't really been a secret for months now. We showed it off at lots of trade shows and gave peeks to lots of press. Now we're selling it and selling it hard.

And the press is lapping it up, and the retailers are pimping it hard. Here's an offbeat clip from Engadget LeapFrog Fly pentop computer reviewed by New York Times:

LeapFrog’s much-ballyhooed Fly pentop computer has finally made it onto retail shelves — just in time for the holiday shopping season — and David Pogue of The New York Times has a review that highlights some of its features, many of which will attract adults as much as the kids LeapFrog hopes will use this. The Fly can, for example, be used as a scheduler, with remarkable ease: write down the time and date of an appointment, and the pen will turn itself on and speak a reminder at that time. Need a quick calculator? Draw one with the Fly and start using it immediately. Of course, kid stuff is what LeapFrog has built its name on, and the Fly includes plenty of kid-friendly features... Ultimately, the edutainment features are what will determine whether the Fly, er, flies off of shelves this season, but we’re already looking forward to picking one up off of the playroom floor and snagging it for ourselves once the kids get bored with it.
I hope he's onto something. We would love nothing more than to have grown kids crave this one. No matter how grown they might be.

TPM: Murtha on Cheney

OK, so its a few days old now. So is the relentless, shameless, bald propaganda counterattack by the Cheney Administration. So let's revist TPM quoting Mutha on Cheney:

'I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'

Intel Dump in defence of dissent

Here is a powerful rebuttal by J.D. Henderson at Intel Dump to the administration's FUD campaign against the newly energized war critics: They spoke the truth then and they speak the truth now

Questioning the president on such vital issues does not mean I am in favor of pulling out of Iraq in defeat - I think we will be better off with a stable Iraq that does not threaten us - precisely why I favored containment in the first place. And questioning a president's possible deliberate deception of the American people is NOT questioning our troops. That he dares equate questioning his policies and decisions with lack of support for the troops is craven and cowardly.

Mislead on, Mr. President. But beware the words of another republican president - you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Daily Kos: . . . Meanwhile In Iraq

Dusting off another good one from my recent blog grazing. Here's Kos with . . . Meanwhile In Iraq:

Does Bush even know what is going on? Who can have any confidence in this Administration on Iraq? It becomes virtually impossible to even discuss the relative merits of alternate strategies when the Bush Administration is involved.

This is the worst President and worst Administration in the history of the nation. The situation would be near impossible to manage for the best of Presidents and Administrations. When we are governed by the worst, it is little wonder that folks like John Murtha advocate withdrawal as soon as is practicable.

Worst Ever.

Time to Leave - Krugman

Sorry about the TimesSelect link, but I can't stop quoting Krugman, can I? Here's a quote from his latest, Time to Leave:

Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nosy sons save mom

Engadget is not my main source of news. But this is pretty interesting: Nosy sons save mother via webcam

If you thought webcams were only good for video calls, monitoring coffee pots and traffic conditions and, of course, pr0n, think again. Karin Jordal, a 69-year-old artist was recently rescued by her far-flung sons after they discovered, via her webcam, that she had collapsed in her California home.
I know my mom, in her final days of living independently while fighting cancer, detested the idea of wearing one of those emergency call necklaces, the I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up gizmos. Even when she we really needed it, she refused to wear it since it was a sign of weakness. The image of weak frailty and incompetence used to sell the device in their ads turned her and her friends off in a big way. I'm pretty sure she would not have objected to a webcam monitor.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

TPM - Kerry on Cheney

Kerry on Cheney:

'It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq than Vice President Cheney. The Vice President continues to mislead America about how we got into Iraq and what must be done to complete the still unaccomplished mission.'

Avian Flublog on flu policy

The post-Katrina trauma led to a spastic surge in media attention to the pandemic danger. That media alarm seems to have subsided a bit, which is a good thing. But the science and policy risks of bird flu are very real. The one source I rely on for bird flu news and analysis is the blog, Avian Flu - What we need to know. Tyler Cowen, on of the blog contributors, posted an interesting synopsis of, My avian flu policy piece:

To combat a possible avian flu pandemic, we should consider the following:

1. The single most important thing we can do for a pandemic—whether avian flu or not—is to have well-prepared local health care systems. We should prepare for pandemics in ways that are politically sustainable and remain useful even if an avian flu pandemic does not occur.
2. ...

We should not do the following:
1. ...
5. We should not obsess over avian flu at the expense of other medical issues. The next pandemic or public health crisis could come from any number of sources. By focusing on local preparedness and decentralized responses, this plan is robust to surprise and will also prove useful for responding to terrorism or natural catastrophes.
There are so many good reasons to invest in our public health infrastructure. Now we can add bird flu to the equation. When will we fix this health care system?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sunlight = Disinfectant

Here's an interesting Political Animal post that's already scrolled off into the archives: Sunlight = Disinfectant:

....Barney Frank has introduced a piece of legislation that I like. Executive compensation has been taking a bigger and bigger bite out of corporate profits over the past decade (up from 4.8% of profit in 1993 to 10.3% in 2003 just for the top five executives at the average company), and he thinks that companies ought to be a wee bit more open about who's getting all this dough.

To that end, he's proposed a bill that does nothing at all to tell corporations how much they can pay their executives, but does force them to be open with shareholders about how much they're shelling out.

I'd love to hear more about this. It is the kind of idea that I think fits well with the notion of a new progressivism that Kevin Drumm is championing. Don't put the burden on government or regulators. Instead, empower individuals with the information they need to act effectively.

Skiing + Google Maps = Happy geek!

Ok, so this is not as exciting as actual snow and the start of the new ski season. But this makes me very happy. Here is a Google map mashup showing ski resost data on a google map: Ski Bonk - Ski Resorts, Live Weather Conditions, and more on a Google Map.

Now, can we have some snow please?

Quantum biomechanics, anyone?

Here's some really cool research. WorldChanging reports on a new type of microscope that has been used to observe protien folding related to DNA transcription — in real time. Pretty amazing stuff.

Tackling the Central Dogma with an Optical Trap:

...But this technology can do more than resolve some existing biological questions; it may well kick off entirely new fields of study and application.

'If I look in my crystal ball and see where this is going, I think this blows open the field of single-molecule biophysics,' Block says. [...] Not only are we doing all this with one molecule at 1-angstrom resolution, we're doing it in real time while the molecule is moving at room temperature in an aqueous solution.'

... This new tool enables us to learn how biological mechanisms work at an unmatched scale and resolution, a scale where effects previously only of concern to physicists start to come into play. It could allow us for the first time to explore deeper questions about how we function at the scale of the atom.

Don't expect to "see" single-angstrom resolution imagery or movies from this microscope – not if I understand this correctly. That's not the point. It is able to make real-time measurements of single atoms as they undergo reactions. This promises to unlock much greater understanding of quantum physical phenomena in biological systems. If there are images, I would expect them to be figurative, like the quark images above.

This will take a while to sink into our collective subconscious. But it sure feels like a significant breakthrough in our ability to perceive our phsical world. Very cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Progressivism: Live Free or Die!

Whoa. Here's a meme I hope to hear more of. This is a vision for an updated progressivism that really appeals to the little-l libertarian in me. From Kevin Drumm we have, THE NEW PROGRESSIVISM....

E.J. Dionne ponders the mission of the Democratic Party today and offers up this quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

"The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government of economics — or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women."

....Government's task, Roosevelt argued, was to intervene "not to hamper individualism but to protect it" by helping the less powerful confront economic difficulties and abuses of the system by the powerful.

Whatever message Democrats come up with, they will continue to lose ground and be untrue to what's best in their tradition if they fail to stand up for this affirmative government role in enhancing both individual liberty and self-sufficiency.

Dionne's inspiration for this idea is a package of stories in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly. Its theme is simple: protecting people against corporate abuse is a longtime progressive mission, but Democrats need to figure out ways to do this that empower individuals to fight back, rather than relying solely on centralized federal agencies and ever increasing government regulation.

Empowering the individual. Protecting them from the predation of global capital. That's worth developing. More on this soon, I hope.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Arnold the One-Term-inator

Kos nails it with CA-Init: Arnold the One-Term-inator:

To call California a disaster for Arnold is the biggest understatement of the year. Schwarzenegger spent $50 million of taxpayer money in an election in which every single ballot initiative failed, and failed handily (the closest prop, the parental notification one, failed by over 5 percent).
As I mentioned over on the sfschools blog, this good election news could quickly turn into disaster if SFUSD and the SEIU cannot avert a strike. There is so much at stake for SFUSD — and for my kids! I'm obsessed with the conflict and holding my breath, hoping that we will have more good news soon.

Doing Iran's bidding

In her most recent post, Movies and Dreams..., Riverbend lays out a thesis I'm hearing a lot of these days — that the unintended consequence of the Iraq was has been to advance Iran's power in the Middle East.Baghdad Burning:

The agony of the long war with Iran is what makes the current situation in Iraq so difficult to bear- especially this last year. The occupation has ceased to be American. It is American in face, and militarily, but in essence it has metamorphosed slowly but surely into an Iranian one.
I heard Richard Clarke on an KQED broadcast making the same point. And other Iraqi bloggers see it the same way. We have done what Iran failed to do in the Iran Iraq war. Allow me to quote extensively from the broadcast:
What were the war aims of Iran (in the Iran Iraq war)? They were:
  • To throw Saddam Hussein out of office.
  • To eliminate the Iraqi military threat, including its weapons of mass destruction
  • To take the Shia religious group inside Iraq, which was the largest religious group, and have it become the largest influence in the running of the government
  • To allow the Iranian people to come and visit the shrines in Najaf and elsewhere
  • And finally, to have the revolutionary government in Tehran have great influence in the government in Baghdad
Those were the war goals. [...]

We have no created the circumstance, at the cost of all of our dead and all of our money, we have now created the circumstance where all of the Iranian goals have been achieved. And Iran, probably at this point, is either the second or third largest contributor to the coalition, although it's not formally a member of the coalition. But Iran probably has, after the United States and Great Britain, more troops and intelligence officers in the country than anybody else -- covertly. And overtly giving billions of dollars in assistance to the new government in Baghdad -- the new government in Baghdad that consists of so many people who spend the last twenty years in Tehran.

When the defense minister of Iran visited Baghdad earlier this year, he held meetings with his Iraqi counterparts, and they all spoke Farsi. And the Iranian defense Minister said, "The United States will eventually leave. And when it does, we will still be there." So we have made Iraq safe for the Ayatollahs in Iran.

Clarke makes many good points about our goals and our options in Iraq. His views are pretty close to mine, and not too far from the phased withdrawal plan that people like Kevin Drumm, and now John Kerry have been advocating. If you have the bandwidth, I recommend downloading the broadcast and listening to the whole thing.

The Future of Flying?

WorldChanging caught my eye with this post: The Future of Flying is Batwing:
Airline passengers of the future will have to do without window seats and fly in "batwing" aircraft as a result of aviation industry proposals to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from flights.
Seated 40-across in the body of the wing? Sounds cool to me. Seems like we've been flying the same 7x7-like contraptions for way too long. I hope I live long enough to fly in such a craft.

Krugman on U.S. health care

Once again, the worsening labor conflict in my kids' school district really underscores for me the critical need to deal with the national health care fiasco. So this recent Krugman article really struck a chord with me: Pride, Prejudice, Insurance(TimesSelect article, sorry):

Why does American medicine cost so much yet achieve so little? Unlike other advanced countries, we treat access to health care as a privilege rather than a right. And this attitude turns out to be inefficient as well as cruel.

The U.S. system is much more bureaucratic, with much higher administrative costs, than those of other countries, because private insurers and other players work hard at trying not to pay for medical care. And our fragmented system is unable to bargain with drug companies and other suppliers for lower prices.

Employment-based health insurance is the only serious source of coverage for Americans too young to receive Medicare and insufficiently destitute to receive Medicaid, but it's an institution in decline. Between 2000 and 2004 the number of Americans under 65 rose by 10 million. Yet the number of nonelderly Americans covered by employment-based insurance fell by 4.9 million.

The funny thing is that the solution - national health insurance, available to everyone - is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.

It's so hard to imagine any current politician having the guts, the vision, and the power to move this issue forward. But it is possible to imagine lots of major, disruptive changes in the near future. Who knows when the door will open. Hopefully soon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Torturer in Chief

Another excellent post for Laura Rosen at War and Piece, Torturer in Chief.

From the WaPo's Dana Priest and Robin Wright:
Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials...
If he had been supporting the very same policies he is now advocating while representing a regime like Serbia's, the big man would be in a Hague jail cell. The same support for torture. The same naked contempt for democratic processes. The same contempt for law. The same contempt for their people.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, another man of honor

We have a new blogger in the family! When I got home tonight, Beth is asking me if I'd heard the news. One of Powell's staff is spilling the beans!

Damn. Beth, as far as I know, won't even read this blog. Now she's my source. I can handle that. Cool. So thanks to Google News, I figure out that she heard Larry Wilkerson on NPR.

And here it is. First the Editor & Publisher report based on the NPR interview. Then we have links to the audio interview itself.

Check it out. Really. Listen to the interview. He names names. David Addington in particular. This is important stuff.

First the news report, that puts the interview in the context of Wilkerson's other recent revelations. Wilkerson Charges Cheney Responsible for Prisoner Abuse:

His initial blast, on Oct. 19, at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. drew wide press attention. Now Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, is at it again. In an interview for National Public Radio he charged that Vice President Cheney's office--and new chief aide David Addingtoon--was responsible for directives which led to U.S soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here is the NPR interview: Ex-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq War:

Steve Inskeep talks with Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney's office over Iraq war policy. Wilkerson claims the vice president and others bypassed the rest of the government to control key decisions.
I transcribed what I thought was the high point. But there were many other blockbuster allegations. On the role of the VP and SecDef in detainee abuse:
I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the Secretary of State asked me to assemble, on how this [detainee abuse] all got started, what the audit trail was. ...It was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the Vice President's office through the Secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that, in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that, that to as soldier in the field meant two things. We're not getting enough intelligence. And you need to get that evidence. And, oh by the way, here're some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the Law of War.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Clinton: fight back

Here's a good one from Steve Gilliard's prolific blog Clinton to Dems: Don't Fear Tough Issues:

Democrats can't be afraid to talk about hot-button issues, including abortion, and should fight back against personal attacks from conservatives if they want to regain power in Washington, former President Bill Clinton said Saturday.

'You can't say, 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here,' Clinton said. 'If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do.'

read the rest here.

A bouncy wish come true

Boing Boing has this post from last weekend, "TV commercial of 10,000 250,000 superballs let loose in San Francisco" that is a dream come true for me. In July I posted a link to a Boing Boing story about the same thing: mass releases of superballs on steep SF streets, and I commented, "I want to see the video" The Flickr shots of that first shoot were just a tease. There had to be more. No one would go to all that trouble without taking lots more imagery.

And now here it is. Totally. Awesomely. Cool.

Even if it is an ad.

Way better than whatever happened in July. That must have been a demo, or a test. The streets are changed. It's shot in both Potrero and Nob Hill. They obviously did multiple ball drops. Way better light. What they have in the add is just beautiful.

Check out the Sony ad site here. And here are some direct links to the adds. The Really Big One(19.2M). Less big one. (Warning, the big one requires the latest QT, and my old home PC is simply unable to play it smoothly even with that. Too much information for its old brain.)

For lots and lots of stills, click on these images. We have various ad pages and Flickr sets from the photo shoot. Wow. How I wish I had been there...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gmail and Blogger outages?

What is up with gmail? And blogger.com? Is this a bad day for google IT? Sure seems like it from where I'm sitting.

Last night I couldn't get emails at my gmail.com address. Today they're so slow. And I can't post to my other blog (sfschools.org) due to ftp problems. (I think.) And the emails to support are bouncing... And there are other blog reports of problems. Lots of them now, by the time I'm posting this...

Looks like a bad day. But maybe it was just my bad luck to get hit with two outages. I'm not seeing other complaints of blogger.com outages... but I sure am having sudden, new problems with one of my blogs...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2005 Nikon Small World - Photomicrography Competition

With a tip of the hat to Boing Boing, where I found this site, I bring you more cool sciencie pictures! 2005 Nikon Small World - Photomicrography Competition:
Small World is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope. For over 30 years, Nikon has rewarded the world's best photomicrographers who make critically important scientific contributions to life sciences, bio-research and materials science.

2005 Bernal Soapbox Derby

I'm so bummed I missed it: 2005 Illegal Soapbox Derby
A proud Bernal Heights neighborhood tradition, the Illegal Soapbox Derby Society enforces only one rule: Every car must have a beer holder.
I've seen it other years and both the crowd and the racers are a trip. Check out the Flickr photoset to get a pretty good flavor for the event. And what I like best of all is the way the racers all pitch in before the race and thoroughly clean the roadway, sweeping and shoveling away all the gravel and sand that washes over the road. And they leave the part pretty clean too. These people know how to party!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Now serving Libby on a stick

Just what the blogging world needs, another post about posts about Fitzgerald, Libby, and Plame. They are so hard to come by...

But seriously, I read so many this weekend. As I plowed along through my favorites -- TPM, Political Animal, Whiskey Bar, War and Piece, Just World News, Kos... -- I noted my favorite points. And in the end I looked and saw that almost all that I recorded were by Digby and Tristero on Hullabaloo. Coincidence? I think not. They just put the finest point on what has happened. No offense to the others who are all over the story, and the back-story of the incredible corrupt putresence of Dick Cheney's administration. They're all doing good work. But Hullabaloo digests all the layers of the story and puts it in plain, strong English. If you want to read at length from one place. Skip the rest of this and just read Digby and Tristero.

Or let me indulge you with my favorite passages:

The Big Picture:

If the Republican leadership of congress weren't spineless Bush toadies and insane religious fanatics they would do their job and investigate this honestly for the good of the country. But they won't. They are nothing more than braindead fatcats gorging at the pork barrel with a fistfull of C-notes in one hand and a bible in the other.

The Republicans will do anything to advance their agenda. They are fundamentally undemocratic --- they do not believe that the people have a right to vote, to see their elected politicians allowed to serve a full term, to know the reasons for their government's policies or even why they are going to war. They believe that they can do anything. That's what this case is about.

Rove Must Resign, Too
Karl, stop wasting my taxes and go back to whatever rock you crawled out from under. Oh, and one more thing. Fuck you, traitor.
On or about...:
Can there be any doubt that the Bush administration bet the farm on the idea that the press would keep their mouths shut? And can we all see that they were very close to being right? If Fitzgerald hadn't been willing to take it to the mat, they would have gotten off scott free.

The Republican (Washington) estabishment very wisely have figured out that they can use the press to disseminate anything they choose and the press will either eagerly report it or 'decline' to follow up. They consider the press a cog in their noise machine and the press is willing to be a cog as long as they are given access.

Turdblossom In The Punchbowl

Karl Rove is spinning like Tanya Harding at the nationals right now, telling everyone who will listen that he wasn't part of any conspiracy to leak Plame's identity to the press, that he has a major case of CRS disease (can't remember shit.) But it just doesn't hold water.
Do I want to see Rove indicted? Is the pope Catholic? Do bears shit in the woods? But would it be enough for me to have Libby locked up and skinned by the media? As long as his story told, sure. I'll take it.

But you can bet I will be celebrating even more if Rove goes down in flames.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Don't mess with The Onion

Did you hear that the White House (someone working for Harriet Miers no less!) has demanded that The Onion stop using the presidential seal? Who's bright idea was that? Well, the Onion is having fun with it. (Was there any doubt? Earth to Bush: don't mess with educated satirists.) In fact, they're getting all rude on the royal family: "I Just Wish I Could Stop Shitting Blood". The sacred seal of the POTUS is still displayed proudly on their parody Weekly Radio Address. This week is a sorta funny one about Halloween. Put that in your litigating pipe and smoke it, idiots!

OK, the Halloween joke wasn't that funny, but this audio clip is: Catholic Nutritionists Warn Of Transubstantiating Fats. "holy lipids", "Bile of Christ", love it...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Picturing quarks

PhysicsWeb, a site that features news of physics research, has this cool bit of news: Particles come to life:
What does a quark, a photon or a gluon look like? No one knows for sure but Jan-Henrik Andersen, an artist at the University of Michigan in the US, has created a series of visual images of elementary particles based on conversation with physicists at Michigan.
Totally weird, but cool.

My neighbor, the Freeway Blogger

The Freeway Blogger was one of my heros during the 2004 election. Turns out she moved to Bernal a while back and is now active in my hood. And she's opened up a freeway blogging yahoo group! Right on.

Wal-Mart's logic on healthcare

Kevin Drumm gets this just about right: Wall-Mart and Healthcare:

In any system that doesn't cover the entire population of a country, each individual insurer has an incentive to cherry pick only the healthiest workers and leave the sick ones to someone else. This problem is rarely stated as baldly as it is in the Wal-Mart memo, but it's always there. Our entire system is built around an incentive to make sure that it's always someone else who's responsible when someone gets sick.
SFUSD is faced with the threat of a strike that is laregely about healthcare costs. It just drives the truth of this home to me. We so need universal health insurance. How long 'til the entrenched health care status quo can be routed and real reform happens?

Kerry's withdrawal plan

Kevin Drum, who has been advocating for establishing a timetable for withdrawal from Iray, offers this repot of Kerry's plan for getting out: Benchmarks for withdrawal:

....John Kerry is calling for a withdrawal plan from Iraq based on concrete benchmarks:
The insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down,' Kerry, D-Mass., said in a speech at Georgetown University.

To undermine the insurgency,' he said, 'we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of December elections, we can start the process by reducing our forces by 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.'

...blogging about this subject has persuaded me that a benchmark-based plan retains most of the advantages of a timetable approach (reduces support for the insurgency, forces the Iraqi government to take security seriously, relieves strain on the American military) while avoiding some of the drawbacks (primarily that it gives the insurgents a withdrawal date to hold out for).
Why oh why isn't this man in the White House now?

Paul Begala channels the Rude Pundit

Paul Begala dishes up one of the most enjoyable blog reads in recent memory over at TPM Cafe. While we all wait for Fitzgerald to drop his bomb, check out this Clinton vet's take on What It's Like:

The pressure of a federal criminal investigation - especially one in the media spotlight - is bone-crushing... Already we hear rumors of President Bush exploding at his aides, at the President blaming Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and anyone else in sight for his woes.

This I know first hand: when The Boss explodes like that, there are two kinds of aides -- those who fight and those who flee. When he came to Washington, Mr. Bush surrounded himself with tough-minded people who seemed not to be afraid to stand up to him. But now his team is loaded with weak-kneed toadies, and Mr. Bush is home alone. Karl Rove, of course, is fending off a potential indictment. His prodigious brain has not entertained another thought in months...

Mr. Bush would do well to augment his current staff, a C-Team if ever there was one, with some stronger characters. But to read the Bush-Miers correspondence is to gain a disturbing insight into Mr. Bush's personality: he likes having his ass kissed. Ms. Miers' cards and letters to the then-Governor of Texas belong in the Brown-Nosers Hall of Fame. You can be sure the younger and less experienced Bush White House aides are even more obsequious. The last thing this President wants is the first thing he needs: someone to slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek and make him face the reality of his foul-ups.
Yeah, I know, this is the same Begala that brought us the debased WWF-style politics of Crossfire -- and it was just as much Begala's baby as Carlson's. So shrill bombast is his stock and trade. But you gotta love reading "slap his spoiled, pampered, trust-funded, plutocratic, never-worked-a-day-in-his-life cheek".

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sever the head

So many leaks: "The limbs keep moving even after the head is severed, but not with the same coordination."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Daily Dish update on Ian Fishback

Have I railed enough about how blogs chasing the meme-of-the-moment? How they all flock to whatever story is hot right now? I hate it.

So let's take a second and check up on Captain Ian Fishback. A few weeks ago his story broke and helped compel Congress to pass legislation banning Bush's torture insanity. Well, time passes, blogs move on, and the law is in jeopardy and Captain Fishback apparently remains incarcerated in an Army brig.

Andrew Sullivan has the most recent update on Fishback and the risks to the anti-torture legislation:

I'm still forwarding emails of support to Ian Fishback, who tried for months and months to get clear guidance from his superiors about treatment of military detainees, and whose letter to Senator McCain helped shift momentum to pass an amendment to codify the existing ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of any prisoners. President Bush and especially vice-president Cheney are determined to prevent the amendment from becoming law. Senator McCain is hanging tough. If you want to send a message of support to Fishback, you still can: supportfishback@aol.com.

Plame, Plame, everywhere. Praise Jesus!

The political blogs are on fire with the story, The Plame Game. Rather than link hither and thither, I'll point you to Digby. First with the chance that Cheney is caught lying:

Normally, I would be outraged at the thought that someone not under oath could be indicted for lying. I thought Martha's case was a total sham because the underlying crime was insignificant and commonplace. I'm not big on 'send a message' prosecutions. But I'm willing to make exceptions when it comes to a group of criminal thugs who are bamboozling the press and stealing elections to gain power so they can start wars for no reason and bankrupt the country. I just don't know what else can stop these people.
I'm fine with it too. But then he goes and turns it into bad news with this: And now for something completely different.
Atrios reports that the rumor that there are rumors that Cheney might resign are true. Got that?

Well let's just say Cheney does resign (be still my beating heart!). Who do you think Bush would choose to replace him?

Now unfortunately, the link Atrios chose mentions my first choice, Condoleeza Rice. So for those of us who say Condi as the new Veep, I don't want you to be left out of all the fun and games. Here's a question for youse (as we used to say back in Jersey):

If Condi becomes the Veep, how many hours/weeks/months/hours will it take for Bush to resign, Condi to become president, and all the Democratic hopes for a weak opponent in 2008 to be dashed?

Condi '08? A small price to pay for cleaning out Cheney's Augean Stables and ridding the union of the dangerous idiot Shrub. Oh how I hope this turns out to be true!!!

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, there goes Antarctica

Another New Scientist story puts some more mortar on the climate change edifice, Antarctic glaciers calving faster into the ocean:

The edges of the Antarctic ice sheets are slipping into the ocean at an unprecedented rate, raising fears of a global surge in sea levels, glaciologists warned on Monday.

The findings confound predictions made just four years ago, by the UNÂ’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that Antarctica would not contribute significantly to sea level rise in the 21st century.

Something tells me that we don't really understand the sea level equation well enough yet. Another recent story talked about the Amazon basin sinking about three inches under the load of a rainy season drainage -- which makes me wonder if the continental crust isn't somehow more adaptive — maybe even buoyantt — than we think. Maybe all the ice melting into the ocean will just cause some tectonic compensation?

Or maybe it's a bad time to invest in low-lying coastal land...

Should we be rushing a bird flu vaccine to market?

New Scientist sounds off on the need for action on bird flu: Bird flu: kick-start vaccination or face the consequences

Substantial commercial, political and bureaucratic barriers remain that will stop us being able to vaccinate enough of the world's people to contain any pandemic. What is urgently required is a global plan to combat the threat.

The problem boils down to numbers. A hybrid vaccine virus has already been produced that could immunise people against the H5N1 bird flu virus. But manufacturers can't make enough of it.

Then, when most observers flinch at the analogy to the swine flu scare, they raise it as a hopeful example.
The science is in place. Now the world needs to push forward to test and license a vaccine. When pandemic fears surfaced with swine flu in 1976, the US government developed, tested and licensed a vaccine, then made enough for most of its people, within six months. "We did it in 1976," says Fedson. "Why can't we do it now?"
Most people think that swine flu vaccination was a waste because it never progressed beyond a scare, and many people died from the hastily concocted vaccine. Interesting that they feel differently; that it is an example of how we can protect ourselves against a threat before the threat becomes a disaster.

I really don't know how scared to be about this...


Saw Gus Van Zandt's Elephant a couple days ago. It's about Columbine. But not the story of Columbine as much as the state of mind of those kids. And it's really stuck with me:

His film is a highly stylized, dreamlike tone poem that defies linear conventions and is almost surreal in its approach. Using flashbacks and recurring images from different points of view, the film captures the mood and tone of its adolescent world: its perceptions, its self-absorption, and ultimately its darkest instincts.
Definitely recommended.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sudoku ate my brain

OK, so Planarity was interesting. But it got kind of tedious after about level 10. Didn't stop me from playing it to cringe level 23. But I'm not proud.

Sudoku is a much better. A much more powerful time sucking machine. Not as deep as chess or go. Each new game has its own challenges. Lots of fun. Check it out.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Riverbend recommended Iraqi blogger...

Recently Riverbend the blogger behind Baghdad Burning recommended a few new-to-me Iraqi bloggers (who write in English). Among them was this interesting one. Check it out: Truth About Iraqis: The death squads of Iraq:

I am not against the Shia Arabs of my country (how could I be, there are Shia in my family). I am not opposed to any Iraqi who supports pluralism, gender rights, recognition of minority rights, and the unity of the country.

But I am opposed to those who would prostitute this great country to an occupier, whether it be the US or Iran.

I believe the Americans have been royally duped into this. The greatest threat for Iran was Saddam. He has been removed.

The only deterrent to an Iranian takeover of the Middle East is, was, and always will be Iraq.

GCC: Cow Power!

Continuing with my Green Car Congress obsession, here's an article on cow manure:

Biomethane from Dairy Manure Could Power 1M Cars in the US:
There are 8.5 million cows in the United States, each producing enough manure to potentially generate about 30 cubic feet of biomethane per day, which could replace significant amounts of natural gas at today’s prices. If used as vehicle fuel, biomethane could power a million cars.
OK, so I don't really care about manure of methane. I just wanted an excuse to link to Ms. Cow Power!

O'Reilly on Google Maps Data Providers

Here's an interesting insight into the business behind google maps from O'Reilly: Google Maps and Their Data Providers

Never assume it's easy to bring a free API to fruition. Check out Google Maps as web app versus Google Maps as API. Notice something different about the two maps? The former has "map data (c) NAVTEQ" whereas the latter has "map data (c) TeleAtlas". In the past, both API and consumer maps credited both companies, but it's a safe bet that Google has had a battle with NAVTEQ to offer their free API. The provider changed occurred around October 4 and prompted a discussion on the developer list about the greater number of errors in the TeleAtlas tiles
OK, maybe that's only interesting to me, a map geek and google map hacker.

Life's building blocks found all over space

Cool. NASA Discovers Life's Building Blocks Are Common In Space

'NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has shown complex organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in every nook and cranny of our galaxy. While this is important to astronomers, it has been of little interest to astrobiologists, scientists who search for life beyond Earth. Normal PAHs aren't really important to biology,' Hudgins said. 'However, our work shows the lion's share of the PAHs in space also carry nitrogen in their structures. That changes everything.'

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

James Yee - An American in chains

Found a lot of links to this story today. Definitely worth a read: An American in chains - Sunday Times

James Yee entered Guantanamo as a patriotic US officer and Muslim chaplain. He ended up in shackles, branded a spy. This is his disturbing story

Google Maps census and housing data mashup

I love the Google Maps Mania blog. No doubt what they're about. They listed my SFUSD mashup recently. How cool is that?

They list tons of cool map apps -- you'll like this one: US Demographic Information Geocoding mashup

American debacle - Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski penned this op-ed for the LA Times: American debacle

Some 60 years ago Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental 'Study of History,' that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was 'suicidal statecraft.' Sadly for George W. Bush's place in history and — much more important — ominously for America's future, that adroit phrase increasingly seems applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11. ...
Because America is extraordinarily powerful and rich, it can afford, for a while longer, a policy articulated with rhetorical excess and pursued with historical blindness. But in the process, America is likely to become isolated in a hostile world, increasingly vulnerable to terrorist acts and less and less able to exercise constructive global influence. Flailing away with a stick at a hornets' nest while loudly proclaiming "I will stay the course" is an exercise in catastrophic leadership.
"suicidal statecraft" and "catastrophic leadership". Sounds like the Bush administration to me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pandemic worrying

In recent days I've been ruminating about pandemics. Yes, I've been bitten by the flu worry bug. It is truly scary stuff. I tried to put my thoughts down in a blog post on sfschools, "Kids and flu" where I disguise my worry about avian flu under the guise of basic public health info about managing flu. I do think that we're getting ahead of ourselves worrying about avian bird flu. There are plenty of potential disasters in the world. And this one is still just potential.

But I really am a bit freaked out. There is a flu wiki that (in typical wiki form) is a mix of interesting info and gaping holes where info will hopefully be added. The one good source of info I've found is this blog: Avian Flu - What we need to know. Check out their analysis of A Bush plan for avian flu:

I am hoping to write a longer piece on what we should do, but frankly Bush's idea had not crossed my mind. For a start, quarantines don't usually work, especially in a large, diverse, and mobile country. The Army would if anything spread the flu. A list of better ideas would include well-functioning public health care systems at the micro-level, early warning protocols, and good decentralized, robust plans for communication and possibly vaccine or drug distribution. Might the postal service be more important than the Army here? How about the police department, and the training of people in the local emergency room?
More on this in the future, I'm sure.

Disturbing news of fascism in China

Laura Rosen at War and Peace tossed a link to this really disturbing Guardian article about a mob attack against a Chinese activist: 'They beat him until he was lifeless'.

The last time I saw Lu Banglie, he was lying in a ditch on the side of the street - placid, numb and lifeless - the spit, snot and urine of about 20 men mixing with his blood, and running all over his body.

I had only met him that day. He was to show me the way to Taishi, the hotspot of the growing rural uprisings in China. It felt like heading into a war. Taishi is under siege, I was warned. The day I arrived a French radio journalist and a Hong Kong print journalist were rumoured to have been beaten somewhere around Taishi.

This BBC article gives more details of the events in Taishi: Chinese activist attacked by mob

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hullabaloo's perspective

"for no good reason at all, 37 % of the American people still approve of Bush. Incredible how many people remain duped."


One more from Green Car Congress makes a hat trick: Sales of Full-Size SUVs Crater in September

Combined sales of full-size SUVs dropped 43.5% in September from the year before. GM and Ford, the most dependent on SUV sales, were the hardest hit, with drops of 42.5% and 54.5% respectively.
One month doesn't mean much. But it runs deeper than that:
For the first 9 months of the year, sales of full-size SUVs are down 16.8% year-on-year.
The bad news about SUVs is that even if the new car buyers wise up, we will still have to endure a period when older, dilapidated SUVs become the "cheap wheels" on the roads. And they are likely to share the roads with much lighter, smaller vehicles.

Still, nice to see the gas guzzling, dangerous beasts turning into turkeys — or maybe white elephant is more apt.

too bad the New Yorker no longer runs those "block that metaphor" bloopers!

Good times for transit agencies

More good news from Green Car Congress: US Mass Transit Ridership Increasing:

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that ridership of mass transit in the US is increasing in a number of metropolitan areas.

Transit organizations are reporting indications of ridership growth such as increased fare revenue, more crowded rail cars and buses, higher traffic on web sites, and more inquiries about vanpools.

Increased use of public transportation is the single most effective way to reduce AmericaÂ’s energy consumption, and it does not require any new taxes, government mandates or regulations. With todayÂ’s growing concern about energy security, transit is emerging as a critical part of the solution.
— APTA president William W. Millar

While high gas prices have contributed to the recent growth in ridership, numerous transit systems were seeing increases even before the gas prices started skyrocketing this summer.

I hope to be part of this trend, for many reasons that go beyond the price of gas. I want to commute by bike + BART a few days a week — partly to get out of the car, partly to get off the Bay Bridge, and partly to get another regular workout. If only I worked in SF, I'd commute by MUNI, drop our 2nd car, and sign up for Car Share. If only...

SF to Pilot Next-Gen Heavy-Duty Trucks

Green Car Congress brings us word that San Francisco to Pilot Wesport Next-Gen LNG for Heavy-Duty Trucks:

The City of San Francisco and Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the city’s refuse collection, recycling and transfer company, will deploy and demonstrate Westport’s second-generation High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) LNG technology for heavy-duty trucks in a pilot program through 2011.
I hate getting stuck behind those stinking big rigs filled with trash. There are so many of them headed east with me on the Bay Bridge. Now I'll have a reason to take a second look. Might be powered by some cool harbinger of post-diesel truck power.

Unfortunately, it will still stink.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

To the most arrogant secretary of defense in our history

Joe Galloway is Knight Ridder's senior military correspondent. He has serious credibility when he says, as he wrote in a recent editorial, Military higher-ups get to the bottom of abuse scandals:

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.
You can bet they will again try pin this on the bottom-most soldier they can. But can there be any mistking what's going on? Can we all sing along, "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear. ..."

TalkLeft sums up the Ian Fishback story

TalkLeft has a good summary, with some quotes from Fishback, in It's Not a Game: Blame Rumsfeld:

When the military plays the blame game, the blame rolls downhill. Capt. Ian Fishback, the primary source of information about detainee abuse in a recent Human Rights Watch report, fears that military investigators are making no serious effort to trace knowledge of or participation in the abuse up the chain of command.
'I'm convinced this is going in a direction that's not consistent with why we came forward,' Captain Fishback said in a telephone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he is going through Army Special Forces training. 'We came forward because of the larger issue that prisoner abuse is systemic in the Army. I'm concerned this will take a new twist, and they'll try to scapegoat some of the younger soldiers. This is a leadership problem.'
... Fishback was interrogated soon after the military learned that he was speaking to Senate aides, and he was interrogated repeatedly after it learned that HRW was going public with his complaints. The investigators want to know the names of the individuals who corroborated his reports, but Fishback has honored his promise not to divulge their identities.
'They're asking the same questions over and over again,' he said. 'They want the names of the sergeants, and they keep asking about my relationship with Human Rights Watch.'
Investigators have threatened Fishback with criminal prosecution if he doesn't nark on the soldiers he persuaded to talk to HRW.
Captain Fishback said the investigators who have questioned him in the past 10 days seemed to be less interested in individuals he identified in his chain of command who allegedly committed the abuses.
One might hope that investigators would be less obsessed with outing HRW's sources and more interested in the details of Fishback's observations. Fishback is right about the failure of leadership. Has Sen. McCain heard enough? Is he ready to investigate Rumsfeld's military mismanagement?
Really, is McCain an honourable soldier? Or has he fully made his bed with the corrupt status quo? Time for him to show his cards.