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 company├é’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 voting├é’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

Bulletproof?

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.