Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Col. Ted Westhusing -- Why and how did he die?

I have questions.
A few days ago I linked to a video reportedly depicting random shooting of civilian targets in Iraq.
At the time I posed a cynical question: How long (in hours) will it be before talk show hosts figure a way to marginalize the story, attack the messenger(s) and/or justify what the video is depicting?
I have been watching and waiting now for three days and the story seems to have sunk from sight. My link to KOS now has a followup link to an article in the LA Times regarding the apparent suicide of one Col Ted Westhusing. The common denominator is "private contractors in Iraq.
The death of Col. Westhusing is being investigated.
The story seems to have just started.

Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students. He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq. A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations. Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

There is something wrong with this picture. Very wrong.

I have seen other reports of "straight as an arrow" career military types associated with other stories that do not exactly, shall we say, support the official spin that policy-makers or commanders would have them present. But I don't recall anyone ranked as high as Colonel among them. (There may have been a General or two, but at that level I start to think in terms of political ambitions beyond military careers so arguments about policy take on a different implication.)

A lot of media reporters are "embedded" with the military, which turns out to have been a good thing over all. But I don't know how many media types are embedded with the private sector over there. My guess is that there are very few. And the few that may be there might well be in-bed-with rather than embedded with their host entity. I just don't know.

But this I can be sure of: Wars may be about principles, but the dearest principle driving the war in Iraq is the profit motive. Why else do private outfits compete for contracts? Why else do former men and women uniform return in a civilian capacity? How else do we have a "volunteer" army?
Altruism and a desire to have a warm feeling because they are doing good work?
If that is so, maybe we should renew the Peace Corps and send in a bunch of real volunteers.

It's the economy, stupid. That's what I call stuck on stupid.

The death of Col. Westhusing is a tragedy whether it was a suicide or a homicide. Either way he is a casualty of the war that occurred as the result of the corruption of private contractors paid for by US tax dollars.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"...a civil-military divide has emerged in the United States over the war in Iraq."

Michael O'Hanlon in today's Washington Post points out a sharp and widening difference of opinion about the US adventure in Iraq. Military types are looking through rose-colored glasses, and a growing number of civilian types are growing more gloomy. The writer says both sides of the debate need to be checked.

...military leaders...point to some good news on the economic front: growing gross domestic product, bustle on the streets, creation of small businesses, adequate availability of most household fuels, gradually improving national infrastructure for water and sewage, more children in school, more Internet usage, and lots more telephone service. They also note the gradual improvement in Iraqi security forces, with 30,000 or more now capable of largely independent operations. And they rightly observe the remarkable progress made in drafting the Iraqi constitution. A can-do military officer aware of such information, and also tactically succeeding day in and day out in finding and killing insurgents, is likely to see a trajectory toward victory.

But is that really what is happening? Growing GDP is good for those with access to the twin golden rivers flowing through Iraq -- not the Tigris and Euphrates, but oil revenue and foreign aid. The rest of the economy is, on the whole, weak. Unemployment remains in the 30 to 40 percent range, and the psychologically most critical type of infrastructure -- electricity -- has barely improved since Saddam Hussein fell. Iraqi security forces are getting better, but they are also losing more than 200 men a month to the insurgency. Civilian casualties in Iraq from the war are as high as ever; combine that with the region's highest crime rates, and Iraq has clearly become a much more violent society since Hussein fell. Tactically, the resistance appears to be outmaneuvering the best military in the world in its use of improvised explosive devices. And politically, every move forward toward greater Sunni Arab participation in the political process seems to be accompanied by at least one step back.

Solid observations. Too bad the public is so polarized that neither side wants to contemplate the less dramatic but more realistic view of this writer.
Open-minded readers are urged to read the whole thing.
There won't be much attention paid because the writer is not extreme enough. Too bad. The blogosphere, reflecting the public at large, is getting to be like the evening news: if it bleeds, it leads.

Warrior children

Stanley Crouch points out that children have historically been trained as warriors because

...they possess very malleable minds and have not had enough of the life experience necessary to perceive a clear moral relationship to other people. The revolutionary doctrine or the traditional tribal animus or the religious rhetoric will suffice to corrupt them.

Any reading of history will show the truth of this assessment. I noticed some time ago that most wars are started by adults but fought by children. I know that eighteen or twenty is no longer "childhood." But I have met very few people over fifty who think of twenty-two year olds as peers. Even the Constitution has higher age requirements for becoming president.

Jimmie Briggs has written a book called "Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War," which gives us a contemporary update on the cruelest form of child abuse. That is what we need to realize about the use of children to do the dirtiest of dirty work, the torturing and killing of people. This has become common to tribal wars, rebel units, religious fanatics and totalitarian regimes. It is estimated that 10% of the world's fighting forces are under 18.
This is an important book because it underlines the universal fact that ours is a time in which our perhaps naive sense of childhood innocence is under assault in both the advanced and developing world. The young are exploited either by the popular entertainment that dehumanizes, fills them with terrible appetites, encourages irresponsible behavior, or promotes, like rap, the hatred of women.

That exploitation, however, is no more than the result of decadence, greed, moral ambiguity and indifference, all propelled by the power of profit.

In "Innocents Lost," Briggs reveals to us the power that is sought through the use of children to dominate or destroy others. Yes, this is the worst form of child abuse. So Briggs makes one unwavering fact clear to those of us who don't know: Humanity is not something you are born with, it is a feeling for life that is passed on to you by your culture and is always the responsibility of adults.

It bears repeating: ...always the responsibility of adults. It is for this reason that reports of prison abuse, random shooting of civilians, swapping war pictures for porn, and the rest of the moral lapses deriving from this war in Iraq are so serious. It's not enough to dismiss any of these behaviors as the antics of a few bad apples or a handful of unprincipled adults. Absent clear signals at the command and policy levels these actions become as much a part of our national image as terrorism becomes part of the image of Islam without clear denunciations on the part of those who know better. If these behaviors are not clearly denounced, they become part of our culture. That is why clear official policies forbidding torture are so important.

Yes, I know the book is not about our young people. Heavens, no! It is about savages and other third-world primitives who still haven't learned to pull up their socks. I can anticipate objections to this post along those lines. To people who think like that I don't expect to be persuasive. I can only point out that I have seen a lot of people in my life, both primitive and sophisticated. And I can report having seen both tenderness and savagery among both. Not to mention a serious number of people who seem to make it through life never having left childhood at all.

Looks like I may have to order this book. Somebody else seems to be connecting the dots.
Thanks to Booker Rising for the link.

Egyptian democracy

If the Egyptian version is a touchstone for democracy in rest of the Middle East, the US is on the wrong side of history.

This essay by Baheyya is worth a look. I come away from her analysis with two important conclusions: First, the forces that control Egypt are very unpopular -- so much so that the official policy about voting is to prevent as many potential voters as possible from exercising their right to vote. Second, a group known as the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan, is perhaps the strongest opposition voice in the country.

You don't want to know what the Muslim Brotherhood stands for. As far as I can determine, they are the Egyptian counterparts to Pat Robertson, Michael Savage and a vigilante border patrol group all rolled into one. You also don't want to know how very popular they are.

The Ikhwan have done well to take voters and their needs seriously, and voters in turn are returning the favour by braving security phalanxes and demanding their right to be heard (above). Now I am deeply ambivalent about the Ikhwan, but who cares? As my Egyptian politics guru rightly reminds (that’s right, guru), one cannot impugn their fundamental respect for the ordinary Egyptian, and their superior skills at capitalising on and augmenting seemingly puny opportunities. They are not infallible and they are not without schisms, but they are committed. And they are clean.

So before the pundits begin to produce their post-mortems, moaning and wailing about the supposedly sinister rise of the Ikhwan, let’s be honest and clear-headed here. The Egyptian public is not some drugged mass following the siren song of religion. The Egyptian public is suffering from a regime that is aloof and inept at the very best and dangerous and violent the rest of the time. It is not a mystery nor a ‘problem’ how an uncorrupt, moralising, problem-solving, and politically astute organisation has captured the provisional trust of large swathes of that public. The challenge for the Ikhwan as a political phenomenon will be to maintain and truly live up to voters’ trust. No easy task, and not a foregone conclusion.
Our anaylist is clearly not on the side of this group. But despite her personal views she can see the obvious: the group is undeniably popular. This picture reminds me of that famous image of the lone student in Tienanmen Square facing a line of tanks. As Baheyya notes, "There is something deeply noble to me about this lone citizen trying to negotiate her way into this formidably fortified Alexandria polling station."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

" guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians..."

It's late Sunday as the story breaks.

Question: How long (in hours) will it be before talk show hosts figure a way to marginalize the story, attack the messenger(s) and/or justify what the video is depicting?


Fewer hearts and minds to worry about, I suppose.

* * * * *

Tuesday, November 29

I was wrong. The video "doesn't have legs," as they say in the news business. Maybe it isn't bloody enough. Or specific enough. Or maybe people just don't want to listen to Elvis any more. I dunno. Anyway, it's still on the charts at blogsnow.

Michael Yon to the big screen

Those of us who have been reading Michael Yon can anticipate the movie version, thanks to Bruce Willis. I can't think of a better advocate.

ANGERED by negative portrayals of the conflict in Iraq, Bruce Willis, the Hollywood star, is to make a pro-war film in which American soldiers will be depicted as brave fighters for freedom and democracy.

It will be based on the exploits of the heavily decorated members of Deuce Four, the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, which has spent the past year battling insurgents in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul.

Willis attended Deuce Four’s homecoming ball this month in Seattle, Washington, where the soldiers are on leave, along with Stephen Eads, the producer of Armageddon and The Sixth Sense.

The 50-year-old actor said that he was in talks about a film of “these guys who do what they are asked to for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom”.

Unlike many Hollywood stars Willis supports the war and recently offered a $1m (about £583,000) bounty for the capture of any of Al-Qaeda’s most wanted leaders such as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri or Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, its commander in Iraq. Willis visited the war zone with his rock and blues band, the Accelerators, in 2003.

“I am baffled to understand why the things I saw happening in Iraq are not being reported,” he told MSNBC, the American news channel. He is expected to base the film on the writings of the independent blogger Michael Yon, a former special forces
green beret who was embedded with Deuce Four and sent regular dispatches about
their heroics.

Yon was at the soldiers’ ball with Willis, who got to know him through his internet war reports on “What he is doing is something the American media and maybe the world media isn’t doing,” the actor said, “and that’s telling the truth about what’s happening in the war in Iraq.” [More from the Times of London]

Also from those of us who also no longer read newspapers, thanks Josh Claybourn for the notice.

Panama Canal video

Readers using dial-up will have to excuse me. I am finding more and more multimedia links that catch my fancy.
This one is a time-lapse piece that shows a week in the life of the Panama Canal compressed into eleven minutes. It's not the kind of thing you are apt to come across on television. And if you did it wouldn't be easy to go back and watch it again.
Found at BoingBoing.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sobering look at H5N1

How a virus can morph into a killer...

From MSNBC, reporting the last of a three-part series.
In the last of a three-part series, LiveScience examines how a virus jumps from birds to humans and reaches pandemic proportions.

Other pandemics

In addition to the 1918 flu, there have been two other pandemic outbreaks — defined as spreading around the world within a year of being detected — in the last century. The "Asian flu" H2N2 was detected in China in February 1957. By June of that year it had spread to the United States, causing about 70,000 deaths. In early 1968 the "Hong Kong flu" H3N2 was detected in Hong Kong and spread to the United States later that year, causing 34,000 deaths.

The H3N2 virus is still in circulation today and is included in this year's flu vaccine.

Both of these started in Asia and, like the 1918 flu, contained a combination of human and avian influenza virus.

Shifty genes

Influenza could become a pandemic threat because its genetic information is constantly shifting. The virus can change two ways -- the common and subtle "antigenic drift" and the rare but drastic "antigenic shift."

Antigenic drift refers to the continuous changes in the virus that make it slightly different than previous versions, requiring the yearly production of new vaccines. While your immune system may have developed resistance to previous versions of the H1N1 virus, for example, it can't prevent infection against this year's slightly newer version.

Antigenic shift is a major reshuffling of proteins in the virus that results in a new subtype combination of neuraminidase and hemagglutinin surface proteins, in science-speak. If this new subtype has never been seen in humans, or hasn't been seen in many years, most people won't have protection when it enters the population.

Vaccine must wait

Because the avian virus has yet to mutate to the point where it spreads easily among humans, scientists do not know exactly what characteristics to include in a vaccine. However, a study testing the immune response of the outer portion of an inactivated avian H5 strain in people older than 65 recently got under way. The vaccine is similar to the regular flu vaccine, but targeted to the avian type.

Signs of resistance

Making matters worse, the avian flu has shown signs of resistance to Tamiflu, an antiviral drug that treats the symptoms of the flu and also helps prevent infection in healthy people. It had been thought that the drug could be used to slow the spread of the avian flu until a vaccine is developed, which could take anywhere from six months to a year or more.

This last part is disturbing. Most of what I have been reading has put a lot of stock into the Tamiflu-as-weapon meme.
Read the whole article and follow the links if you want to stay up to date. Good information and education is the best defense.

Middle of the night reading

Not now. Later.
Bookmark this post by Richard Lawrence Cohen and come back at a more quiet time to digest it. A very humbling Thanksgiving offering. If more people had this degree of inner understanding wars could end.

Then read the comments thread.

If my parents had been in any kind of harmony I probably would have gone crazy early in life, but because they were constantly warring I always had at least two viewpoints to choose from, and any hurtful thing one of them said was contradicted by the other. By steering among the contradictions I found space to become a third force in the family, unifying my younger brothers alongside me in a spirit of desperate mockery of the powers above us.

Then see what Ann Althouse said.

This is not the first time these two formerly married people have revealed a degree of empathy for one another that most mortals never know, even in their dreams.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Comment on "Islamofascism"

Here's a good rule of thumb: If you come across the phrase "Islamo-fascist" unironically deployed in an article, there's a 99-percent chance the author doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

This post is a personal bookmark. When and if my archives are ever read I want this sentence to be found among the debris. This nelogism has found its way to common currency in printed and broadcast media and is well on the way to becoming part of everyday spoken English. The effect is as poisonous as lazy N-word, Gook or Jewish conspiracy, all of which I have heard used casually and with no sense of irony. (I can't put my finger on it at the moment, but a few weeks back I came to the conclusion that Islamophobia has become the New Anti-semitism. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced it is so.)

Thanks to Tim Cavanaugh for pointing it out.
And thanks to Matthew Hogan for catching it.


Found it. Link to my other post.

No, eating turkey doesn't make you sleepy

It's a myth. (See also Snopes)

There's reportedly good Thanksgiving news for turkey lovers: Contrary to popular belief, tryptophan in turkey doesn't cause drowsiness.

In fact, scientists told National Geographic News the substance could possibly aid in the treatment of depression and multiple sclerosis.

Purified tryptophan is a mild sleep-inducing agent and that probably led to the idea that foods containing heavy doses of the chemical cause drowsiness. But tryptophan can't function well as part of a meal.

"Tryptophan is taken to the brain by an active transport system shared by a number of other amino acids and there's competition among them -- like a crowd of people trying to get through a revolving door," Simon Young, a neurochemist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, told National Geographic News.

He said consuming tryptophan-rich foods may cause blood levels of the amino acid to rise, but not enough tryptophan will reach one's brain to have a sedative affect. And, scientists told NGN, turkey isn't even unusually high in tryptophan. Many other foods, such as beef or soybeans, have higher concentrations.

And while we're on the subject of turkeys, here's a link to a wonderful thread of comments illustrating that turkeys can engage in navel-gazing just like people...
The turkey that laid a golden egg

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jake says "Thanks"

Remember the contest? Thanks to everyone's support Jake won the contest!
Jake thanks you, I thank you, Jake's Momma thanks you, Mollie thanks you, everyone thanks you. Small pleasures can be great fun!

Here is a picture of Jake and Mollie admiring the prize for winning the contest, a photolithograph made from the winning image.

And here is another shot of Jake striking the same pose. Like I said, what's not to love about a face like that?

The world's ugliest dog is dead

No, this is not about anyone in Washington, although we might find a few runners-up inside the beltway. This is really a dog of a dog. I feel a bit left out since he is already known by a lot of people, has a couple of websites and has appeared in cinema. Via blogsnow, here's a link. Be sure to see the CNN video. At first I wanted to post a picture, but after seeing the video I knew that no still image could do justice to this critter.

(Hope everyone had a good Turkey Day. Ours was good because it was hosted by one of the next generation. And speaking of dogs, there were three or four dogs there, including a three-legged pug. Lost a leg to cancer at nine years old. I shoulda been a vet.)

Alice's Restaurant

No, we don't really believe that we can get anything we want at Alice's Restaurant, excepting Alice. But it takes us back to a time when we believed we might get anything we wanted, even though we wanted the world, and we wanted it now!. Everyone we knew really could imagine fifty people a day walking into the draft board, singin' a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out, creating the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement. And all we had to do was sing along the next time it came around on the guitar.

That's what Ira Chernus, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says about Arlo Guthrie's timeless classic Alice's Restaurant. I listened to the record enough that I have most of it committed to memory. There was also a movie, which included footage of Woodie Guthrie himself but I don't think the real Officer Obie had a part.

There was a time when I imagined that my children would be able to hear my stories of the Sixties and be enthralled but I got over it. Years ago when video rentals first started I was delighted to bring home The Yellow Submarine, knowing how much fun the kids would have with the music and seeing those marvelous graphics of Peter Max. I waited until we could see the film together, anticipating the fun we share across the generations.

Well that isn't what happened. After about twenty minutes they got bored and went into the kitchen to start something else, leaving Dad out there in the family room to watch his old movie. The magic was not there. The excitement was to be mine and mine alone, and any story-telling from me was like those walking-home-from-school-for-miles-in-the-snow stories I had heard from my parents. Sigh... So much for teaching anything to the next generation. Thankfully I have been somehow able to teach some more important basic values. All our kids give us much of which my wife and I can be proud, but make no mistake about it. Their's is its own generation. And the best I hope to garner from them about accounts of my own wonderful development is patient tolerance, transparently tired but polite.

My peers and younger readers with time and curiosity, then, can now link to A Thanksgiving Ritual for '60s-Style Activists, the back to the Thanksgiving post at Talk Left, which talks about the annual ritual on radio station KBCO radio station at noon to hear the 25 minute version of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant. I have to be at work today, so I will have to rely on my memories, but as long as they remain clear, I won't need the radio. I still have the record, of course, but we no longer have a record player. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving story


From the Bruderhoff site's Daily Dig, a short story for Thanksgiving.

Lights for Thanksgiving
A Memory from my Missouri Childhood
by Jean Bell Mosley

Dad was always full of plans and projects. Once he took a look at the old kerosene lamps and said, in the broad expansive manner he employed when launching his many and varied campaigns for the betterment of his family, “These old lamps have to go.” His white hair swept back neatly from his forehead and his stance was like Washington crossing the Delaware as he stood there in the old kitchen surveying the lamps. He smiled tolerantly and reminiscently as if they were already on display in a natural setting at some future museum.

“Why, Wilson, whatever on earth do you mean?” Mama asked, stopping her sewing machine only long enough to turn a corner seam. She was making new dresses for Lou and me for the Thanksgiving program at school.

“I mean—” Dad began, and stopped helplessly, waiting for the sewing machine to quiet down again. “I mean we’re going to have gas lights,” he said...

Allah Made Palestinians Funny

Today's most remarkable post is from a secret blog from arabia...
Local Hero is one three contributors to the group blog, listing his favorite Arab-American comedians. [permalink]

For some reason all of these comedians I have seen are Palestinians , but don’t let that put you off ;-)

There are some other guys like Ahmed Ahmed an Egyptian American guy and Indian American called Azhur Usmon who I think are funny as well but u’ll have to google for last guy to his site. Believe me, if you like good comedy it is better to listen to these guys than to sit through any more crap Arab sitcoms or hidden camera programs that you will find on TV. Ya3ny at what point does a guy wearing a batman outfit jumping out in front of an old lady with shopping stop being funny when you have seen the sketch or ones just like it for a hundred times? Arab comedy needs to get a little more sophisticated like their Arab American cousins.

I'm not sure what to make of this post. It doesn't fit with the bleakly serious picture of the Middle East that we are being fed daily. I linked to Ahmed Ahmed and it really is funny!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When JFK was killed

One of those timeless moments in 1963.
Anyone old enough to remember will recall that time stood still. Those memories are frozen with every detail -- when and where we were, how the word was passed and how people around reacted. Later, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and M.L. King would have a similar impact, but it was the death of Jack Kennedy that shook the nation to its roots.

I sometimes think that the Sixties in all their madness were a visceral response to that event. Children who have lost parents are known to internalize that trauma as guilt. At least that was the theory a few years back and the basis of trauma counseling for kids. I have seen it expressed both in movies and real life so there must be something to it. It's an irrational reaction, of course. There is no reason that a child whose parent has died as the result of an accident or medical condition should feel personally responsible, but that is how it is perceived. It was my fault. I was not good enough. I should have done more to protect him or her. I must have done something wrong.

There are cases, though, where the child really did do something to bring about the loss of the parent. Playing with fire, distracting a driver, handling a loaded firearm... In these cases the guilt is earned. The parent really is lost because of the actions of the child. Forgiveness and release does not come as easily in these cases, but "life goes on," such as it is, as the pain of loss fades but never quite disappears. Such was the case of the Sixties.

Some of us glimpsed a better way. We knew there were social habits that had to change. We knew that a war was underway somewhere in South Asia that should not have been started. We knew that conscripting young men for that war was not the same as doing so for World War II. We knew that the government was not being faithful to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And we knew that if we didn't correct these wrongs then we would have to live with the results. Like the child whose horseplay in the back seat caused the death of a parent in a car wreck, we looked at life with exaggerated seriousness. We sought to correct problems in a generation that later we would learn are endemic to the human condition.

In the process we lost our innocence. And like the young person who has smoked the first pack of cigarettes, finished the first bottle of alcohol with his buddies, or waked up after that first night of lovemaking, a whole generation embarked on a decade or so of boundary-testing. We learned the hard way that boundaries serve a practical purpose. We learned that without boundaries there is no order. We learned that role-modeling good behavior is more important to generational development as saying Do as I say, not as I do.

Unfortunately, and this is the legacy of the Clinton years, we learned too late. It took nearly three decades for the Sixties to work its way through the system to become manifest at the highest office in government. Bill Clinton's presidency represents in many ways the culmination of what began in the Sixties, with all the excitement and hopes for the future, but also with its dark underside of moral turpitude. Having been there and done that I now hope that the lessons of that time have been learned and internalized. Unfortunately, it seems politically impossible for anyone to change his mind or behavior without being called a hypocrite. We saw that plainly in the last election with the pathetic and failed attempt of John Kerry to reconcile the contradictions of his past with mandates of the present.

For many of us the last year or two have been deja vu. I know that Iraq is not Vietnam and the attack on the WTC is not the same as Kennedy's assassination. White phosphorus is not the same as napalm and Abu Ghraib is not My Lai. But our behavior as a nation strikes me as inappropriate and irrational as that of the Sixties. I almost said the "children" of the Sixties, but it was not all done by young people. Many of those whom we followed, who guided our behavior, were adults. They were mature, solid, wholesome, responsible adults. Some were already old and would never live to see the results of what they were encouraging, not because they were killed or sacrificed, but simply because they were too old to live that long.

To the degree that adults can make the same mistakes as children, that happened to us as a nation in the Sixties. And in many ways, the same thing is happening again today.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Christmas lights extraordinaire

Carson Williams from Mason Ohio used 88 light-o-rama channels to control his 16,000 Christmas lights...

Thanks Rocketboom.

(Is this blog eclectic or what? Sorry about that. If I can't link to what strikes my fancy, what's the point of blogging? Sometimes I feel as though I'm drowning in a cloud of seriousness and need a break.)

Behavior watch: Old habits don't die. They hibernate.

This is not encouraging news, except for Christians.

Habitual activity--smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling--changes neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain when habits are formed. These neural patterns created by habit can be changed or altered. But when a stimulus from the old days returns, the dormant pattern can reassert itself, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, putting an individual in a neural state akin to being on autopilot.

So why is this not as problematical for Christians?

There are two reasons. First, and most important, Christians who know and experience the healing power of Christ often lay aside behaviors that have defined their life until the moment of salvation. No need for testimonies here. The New Testament is already full of them. And so are most churches.

Second, there is a teaching that we are to "take captive every thought," which may have been one of St. Paul's most valuable insights into human behavior. It's not news: nearly all behavior begins by thinking about it. What we do with an idea determines our behavior. We have little control over what happens to us, but a lot of control over how we respond.

If the Devil made you do it, you blew it.

Web 2.0 is Google

It's happening. Google seems to be morphing into the Next Big Thing, eating what we now think of as the internet. Top site this morning on Blogsnow. (Actually second after Zarqawi, but that's not as much fun.)

Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid.

While Google could put these containers anywhere, it makes the most sense to place them at Internet peering points, of which there are about 300 worldwide.

Two years ago Google had one data center. Today they are reported to have 64. Two years from now, they will have 300-plus. The advantage to having so many data centers goes beyond simple redundancy and fault tolerance. They get Google closer to users, reducing latency. They offer inter-datacenter communication and load-balancing using that no-longer-dark fiber Google owns. But most especially, they offer super-high bandwidth connections at all peering
ISPs at little or no incremental cost to Google.
There will be the Internet, and then there will be the Google Internet, superimposed on top. We'll use it without even knowing. The Google Internet will be faster, safer, and cheaper. With the advent of widespread GoogleBase (again a bit-schlepping app that can be used in a thousand ways -- most of them not even envisioned by Google) there's suddenly a new kind of marketplace for data with everything a transaction in the most literal sense as Google takes over the role of trusted third-party info-escrow agent for all world business. That's the goal.

All this is based, of course, on Google's proven network and hardware expertise. Have you seen Google's Search Appliance? They ship you a 1U prebuilt server. You connect it to your network, fill out a simple configuration screen, and it scans and indexes your web site (or sites) for you. Google monitors and manages it remotely, and sucks up the data and adds it to theirs. You just plug the thing in and turn it on. It just works. You need do nothing else to keep it running. Google understands how to do this stuff. Microsoft definitely does not.

There will be startups and little guys, but no medium-sized companies. ISPs, which we've thought of as a threatened species, won't be touched, but then their profit margins are so low they aren't worth touching. After all, Wal-Mart doesn't try to own the roads its goods are carried over. And the final result is that Web 2.0 IS Google.

Microsoft can't compete. Yahoo probably can't compete. Sun and IBM are like remora, along for the ride. And what does it all cost, maybe $1 billion? That's less than Microsoft spends on legal settlements each year.

Game over.

So who is Robert X. Cringley?
When it comes to information technology, I know what I am talking about. Twenty years in and around the PC business have earned me wisdom, if not wealth. It's not that I am so smart, but that my friends are smart. The best and brightest in Silicon Valley talk to me all the time. It's my job to sift through their thoughts for valuable bits to share with you. But wait, if I am so great, why is this service free? Good question! Maybe it's time to renegotiate my contract with PBS.

RTWT. More fun than stomping baby chickens.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

H5N1 Must read

From Canada's Globe and Mail, tip to the H5N1 Blog...
Salvation's Army

"Everyone who works at Mount Sinai during the pandemic will receive Tamiflu as a prophylactic," he says. But then he adds that "it might be that there is just not enough of the drug available."

All of a sudden, hands start shooting up like exclamation points.

One father wants to know if he should buy a $70 respirator from Home Depot for his asthmatic kids; a woman asks how much she should stockpile. Gradually, a fine, almost invisible mist of concern rises in the auditorium.

As Dr. Low says, everyone's greatest concern at the hospital during SARS was "taking it home to their families. And that's going to be one of the things in a pandemic."

If you thought the recent rioting in France was bad, wait until there's not enough Tamiflu to go around in a pandemic.

Heavy-duty stuff here, folks.
Serious reading. Very well-written.
Too long to read from the monitor. Printed out it takes six or seven pages. It won't be wasted ink or paper. You can pass it on to somebody who needs to know.
Do it now, read it later when you can pay attention.

Hospitals are grave places, after all, and Leslie Vincent has worked in them (as a cancer nurse, no less) for 30 years, ever since she began her nursing studies at McGill University at the age of 16. "When you're a nurse," Ms. Vincent says, "and you're helping someone who's dying to get in and out of bed every day, you feel their weakness. You experience them getting weaker every day."

But these difficulties never stop her. She can't change the fact that people die, but she can do something about how they die. This approach had helped her to the top of Mount Sinai, where she's senior vice-president of nursing — 1,200 employees, a budget of $115-million, a salary pushing a quarter of a million dollars a year. Not that the money matters that much to her: She still brings her lunch to work. She is still the chief nurse of the hospital.

During the SARS epidemic that made Mount Sinai world-famous, Ms. Vincent had to tell her employees that the hospital was taking in its own staff as SARS patients. It was one of the hardest days of her entire career.

So it is a matter of some note when Leslie Vincent, the salt of the nursing earth, is
scared by the thought of a flu pandemic. The problem is that the bird flu is so confounding, she's not sure this time any of them can make a difference.

It's not just the million practical details of preparing a hospital for an inevitable pandemic — whether there are enough ventilators (probably not), how the infected should be admitted (a flow-chart job no one wants), the gruesome issue of morgue overflow, or even the basic question of how to decide when a pandemic has actually begun.

Susan Poutanen, a microbiologist and infectious-disease consultant who is the vice-chairman of the flu committee, reminds everyone that they have already decided that rather than "relying on the Ministry of Health's stockpiles of Tamiflu, given the quantity that would be available to us from the ministry, it would be prudent for us to consider stockpiling our own" — i.e., the government's 12.4 million doses, which would treat a million people, aren't enough, so it's every hospital, business and essential service for itself.

It's a reasonable precaution: If hospital workers get sick, we're all finished.

Singing unlocks the brain

"The first time we went to Singing for the Brain he did not join in. On the second session he was starting to join in and by the third he was thoroughly taking part.

"It was wonderful for us. The singing had started to change something. It really did make a tremendous difference. He started to come out of himself.

"His personality started to change and he became much as he was before, and he was able to hold a conversation.

"He is 82 and likes all the old-time
songs, but he also started singing some Beatles songs and songs from the Broadway shows and even some modern stuff as well.

"He seemed to be able to slowly learn things again. I would take the song sheets home after the sessions and we would sing them at home. It enlivened him and he really enjoyed doing it."

From BBC News via 3QuarksDaily...

There are so many people I would like to target with music lessons I don't know where to start. Besides, it would be a cheap shot.

God save the queen!

This is probably old, but I haven't seen it before. Still cute.

To the citizens of the United States of America

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen ElizabethII will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, andterritories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rulesare introduced with immediate effect: (You should look up "revocation" inthe Oxford English Dictionary.)

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ize will be replaced by the suffix ise.

Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up vocabulary).
There is a string of items ending with Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

Check the first comment which has a reply from the president declining the offer and informing Her Majesty that the US is undertaking a leveraged buyout of the United Kingdom.
Funny stuff.

Secret Dubai Diary

That's the name of the blog, Secret Dubai Dairy. Not very secret on the internet, but the name tells something of how cautious one sometimes needs to be. The writing is delicious. I have an image of a place awash with money where citizens flush with the luxuries of oil wealth are the top crust of a society teeming with foriegners who are the nuts and bolts of everyday living.

For the past car-less week, due to a severe let-down by Lease-A-Lambo, a peasant-like existence has taken place of trekking daily through the jungles around Cell Block G to forage food and water from Ibn Battuta.

A colleague, horrified by this
Kiplingesque existence, passed on the name of an insider at CheapiCar. Just days after faxing several hundred documents and identity cards over to them, a gleaming Silver Shadow was delivered to the gulag.

Freedom to roam again at last! To ride the wild roads of Sheikh Zayed once more, racing past sluggish white Nissan Sunnies as sheikhmobiles fly up the hard shoulder in a cloud of dust. Being able to snooze peacefully in the late afternoon at the wheel of the Shadow, as it rests in hour-long stationary gridlock.

Driving past the great sights of Dubai: the post-apocalyptic concrete monoliths of Jumeirah Beach Residence with their glittering, clanking cranes; the beautifully landscaped Beach Road with its lovely sandy trenches, lane closures, myriad plastic cones and glorious netting barriers lining each side; the white-trash-christmas flashing neon artificial ski slope at Emirates Mall.

Oh, the joys of driving in Dubai.

Very poetic and descriptive. I imagine that indicates at least a small dose of Western education. The blogroll is another feeding place I have not yet tasted.
Thanks secret blog from arabia for the link.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday radio blogging, Writer's Almanac

Garrison Keillor's little five-minute radio spot is one of the few programs that I take a moment to listen to attentively, even in the middle of a conversation. There are few predictable diversions giving so much reward, having a beginning and end in the space of a few minutes.

Today we are reminded that Abe Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was delivered November 19, 1863. Keillor's remembrance and tribute are worth a few minutes of your time as well. If you don't have the time or inclination to read, there is a link to the audio.

It was a foggy, cold morning on this day in 1863. Lincoln arrived about 10 a.m. Around noon the sun broke out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and the headlining orator Edward Everett spoke for over two hours, describing the Battle of Gettysburg in great detail, and he brought the audience to tears more than once.

When Everett was finished, Lincoln got up, and pulled his speech from his coat pocket. It consisted of ten sentences, a total of 272 words. Lincoln did not mention any of the specifics of the war or any of the details of the battle of Gettysburg. He did not mention the North or the South. He did not mention slavery. Instead, he explained, in ordinary language, that our nation was founded on the idea that all men are created equal, and that we must continue to fight for that principle, in honor of those who have died fighting for it.

Unfortunately for Lincoln, the audience was distracted by a photographer setting up his camera, and by the time Lincoln had finished his speech and sat down the audience didn't even realize he had spoken. Lincoln was disappointed in his performance, but the next day Edward Everett told the President, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes." The speech was reprinted in newspapers around the country, and it went on to become one of the most famous speeches in American history.

It would be tacky to point out the parallels between that tragic time and events of our own time, but the similarities bear thinking about. We are again engaged in a great civil war, but this time it is that of another country. Today's cost in casualties is very small compared with the tens of thousands of past wars. The Battle of Gettysburg alone took the lives of six or seven thousand men. I suppose civilization is creeping along, but there is a long, long way to go.

As an aside, the current debate over torture and atrocities can be put into historical perspective by knowing what has occurred in past wars. Lest we too quickly point the finger at our enemies, it would be wise to take a look at some of our own dirty linen. And I'm not referring to today's despicable but historically unremarkable reports.

Last year Donald Sensing did some research following the release of the movie version of Cold Mountain, coming upon some pretty disturbing history from our own Civil War era.

I am sort of a stickler for historical accuracy in movies that derive the context from history. I found the Home Guard portrayals very offputting. (Other Home Guard detachments of the state hound Inman as he makes his way home.) I had never read of such brutalities being done by during the war by Confederate states to their own people, and reacted to this part of the move - and a major part it is - with scorn. This, I thought, was a fatal flaw of the story. While I had no doubt that Confederate authorities did try to capture deserters, I dismissed the idea that Home Guard "brownshirts" ever had the authority simply to shoot down deserters on the roadside or savage Southern civilian families. So I Googled "confederate home guard" today. And discovered Cold Mountain is accurate. Consider:

Allen Lowery was born 1795 in Robeson County, NC. He died 9 Mar 1865 in Robeson County, NC from Shot to Death by the Robeson County Home Guard and was buried in Lowery family cemetery near Pembroke, NC.

... Allen and his son (William) was killed by the Robeson County Confederate Home Guard, because they where believed to have helped Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Confederate deserter Henry Tucker joined the Union forces following bad treatment by the Alabama Home Guard for failing to respond to the "callup" for men to fight for the Confederacy. He made the mistake of coming home for a visit where he was caught...

... arrested by the Home Guard at his home in Marion County and tortured to death. He was tied to a tree, castrated, his eyes removed and his tongue cut out before he was literally skinned alive. He is buried at Hopewell Cemetery, south of Glen Allen, Ala.

But Tucker's vicious death was avenged. Home Guard leader Stoke Roberts who personally directed the torture of Tucker, was eventually caught by a group of unionists near Winfield. They took a long iron spike and drove it through his mouth and out the back of his head and nailed him to the root of a big oak tree.

We can be in denial, but there are apples today (uh, acorns?) that didn't fall too far from that tree.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pop Quiz

Don't peek.
Here is a quote.
Identify the time (to the nearest year) and source of the quote:

It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.

Answer here.
Thanks to The Duck of Minerva

It's time

Blogsnow is no more political than an outdoor thermometer telling you from the comfort of your kitchen that the temperature outside is cold as ice. Right now (5:00 am) the top hit-collecting sites all link to the same story: Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, retired Marine colonel and thirty-one year representative to Congress, says it is time to end the war in Iraq. It is revealing that he is being attacked, not because of his arguments but because of his politics.

...a statement issued Thursday night by Bush spokesman Scott McClellan compared Murtha with anti-war filmmaker Michael Moore and echoed earlier statements by House GOP leaders in accusing him of "surrender."
And Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, blasted Murtha for his comments.
"It is clear that [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenant on armed services, Rep. Murtha, and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut-and-run," Hastert said in a statement. "They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans."

U.S. Congressman = Michael Moore. Interesting comment. "Prefer surrender...cut and run..." Hmm. I don't think that's what I read.

The press release from Congressman Murtha's office is top-linked.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about you might want to take time to read it. My guess is, however, that most of us already have our minds made up, so reading anything more would be a waste of energy. In all that I have read, I have seen very few instances of anyone's admitting to a changed mind about the war.

#01 Congressman John Murtha - Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District - Press Releases
74 links · 13 hours

Followed by...

#04 Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout - Yahoo! News
65 links · 13 hours

#06 - Senior Democrat calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraq - Nov 17, 2005
52 links · 13 hours

#10 The Stakeholder:: Murtha in Full
35 links · 8 hours

#16 Crooks and Liars
31 links · 7 hours

#26 Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout - Yahoo! News
20 links · 2 hours

#28 Pro-Defense Democrat Calls for Immediate Troop Withdrawal
24 links · 8 hours

To be fair, a number of links are also climbing the chart criticising Murtha's remarks.

#38 -
17 links · 3 hours

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Take the stripes of your flag and give us the stars...

You can tell when a post wells up from the heart. Sometimes it's between the lines, sometimes it's in your face. This one's in your face. The writer is a hybrid whose gentle voice is uniquely balanced in a world of polarized extremes.

The Dove's father is a Lebanese Christian immigrant, with relatives spread out from Lebanon to Australia. Her mother is a Southern WASP whose family lives in Virginia, Texas and other parts. The Dove's father's Christian Lebanese village is right next door to a Muslim Palestinian refugee camp, built on what was once our family farmland. The Dove is married to a wonderful man who does bear a Scottish surname but is halachically Jewish, via his lovely mother, who has a large and supportive family. The Dove herself grew up in the Midwest and South, but spent many long summers and one school year in Lebanon as a child; also lived in Cairo, Egypt for a junior year in college. Full disclosure: a 4 year marriage to a Muslim Egyptian in her 20s gave her an inside view into upper class Cairene families, and an appreciation for secular modern Muslims and their relationship to Islam.

Her posts are quiet and infrequent, but always deeply sincere. She was in class when a poem overtook her emotions.

So I'm reading this and crying, and somebody passes me a kleenex, and when the poem is over we talk about it and I pull myself together, but then we go on a break and I walk down the hall and find a student lounge where I put my face between a bookshelf and the wall and weep.

I got put down pretty hard first thing this morning and don't quite know how to respond. We pacifists are a pretty wimpy lot.
Thank God.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A gathering of hens in a foxden

From the Aardvark, Mark Lynch...

I've written many times about Tunisia's horrific record on press freedoms, and the absurdity of its being the host for the World Summit on the Information Society (or of America's Middle East Partnership Initiative, but that's another story).
Well, the
WSIS is nigh, the Tunisian authorities are playing to form (they actually banned the director of Reporters Without Borders from attending), and now's the time for activists to turn the spotlight on the regime. Ethan Zuckerman is on his way there, and Global Voices Online should have regular roundups.

That's okay, though.
We already know about that. ["Tunisia has been a voice for moderation. Tunisia has been a voice for regional harmony. Tunisia has been a voice for putting effort and resources into development rather than wasting them on arms races or conflict or weapons of mass destruction." Richard Boucher for the State Department.]
It's our fox.

Excellent Flu/Pandemic policy proposals

Tyler Cowen has put together a forty-page national policy proposal for coping with a possible pandemic. It begins sensibly with an obvious reality deriving from our past experience with "Swine" Flu and others that turned out to be less dramatic than advertised:

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.
A quick look at history will reveal that those who have raised concerns have been punished for having done so when their concerns proved to be only that: concerns. This is an obvious mistake to be avoided.

The rest is equally compelling. Lets hope this proposal gets serious study backed by action at the federal, state and local levels.

War spinning

The debate drones on and on...How and why did the war start? Intel? WMD? Whatever...
E.J.Dionne Jr. has two cents worth that is pretty good. He compares and contrasts the very different ways the two Presidents Bush handled the politics of going to war. Here's how it ends:

The bad faith of Bush's current argument is staggering. He wants to say that the "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and Senate" who "voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power" thereby gave up their right to question his use of intelligence forever after. But he does not want to acknowledge that he forced the war vote to take place under circumstances that guaranteed the minimum amount of reflection and debate, and that opened anyone who dared question his policies to charges, right before an election, that they were soft on Hussein.

By linking the war on terrorism to a partisan war against Democrats, Bush undercut his capacity to lead the nation in this fight. And by resorting to partisan attacks again last week, Bush only reminded us of the shameful circumstances in which the whole thing started.
I'm waiting for someone to raise a more obvious question:
Regardless of how and why the US got into Iraq...Why. Are. We. Still. There ???

Dan Drezner provides part of the answer in a dense but inciteful post reacting to Mark Lynch. Policy wonks are interested. I find the comments of both men to be smart, important, timely and understandable.

Returning to my question above, we are still in Iraq partly because the academic community, think tanks and policy advisors who make the best decisions do so with a lot more circumspection than the political types who create the problems. See Dionne's essay cited above. Waiting for clear thinking to penetrate the thick skulls we put into office takes time. Lots of time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Holiday Recipes

Okay, I promise not to become yet another recipe and cooking blog.
But a career in the food business does something to your head when it comes to recipes. I'm like Columbo when he said "I dunno...maybe it's the line of work I'm in...every time I get around a dead body I think somebody killed it..."

Anyway, I found this page of recipe links that looks good. They came via Fr. Karl at Summa Contra Mundum, my one and only Byzantine Catholic link. I haven't done any of them, but I have read enough recipes and done enough cooking that I can tell you they look okay to me.
Never saw a Shepherds Pie with veggie burgers and walnuts, but it sounds like a great idea if you need a meatless entree. Stuffing bell peppers with beans and chilies, and flavoring with cumin also sounds like a good idea.

Okay, I got that out of my system.
Back to other things...

A native son speaks out against terrorism

The Muslims cannot allow America to fight this war on terror, because it is in essence a war against us. It is the Muslims who need to wage jihad against Al Qa3da ,because America and the West are incapable of differentiating between civilians and combatants or Islam and terrorism. We cannot blame them for this confusion because it seems like our own Ummah (the entire Muslim population)cannot tell the difference either.

The biggest sin in Islam is a thing called Bid3ah (innovation). All changes (bid3ah) to how our religion is to be practiced from that of the way our Prophet prescribed for us will ‘lead to the hell fire.’ Jihad is not a bid3ah and as Muslims we should be prepared to fight and kill to protect our religion and our lands…BUT Terrorism IS a bid3ah. There are strict rules of engagement to fighting Jihad that our Prophet Mohamed recommended for us:
1) Women and children are not allowed to be killed.
This is a bid3ah.
2) Only Allah is allowed to take human life with fire. Suicide bombings are a bid3ah.
3) It is not permissible to spill the blood of another Muslim.
This is a bid3ah.
4) Murder is 100% illegal in Islam. To do this and then ascribe it to our religion is perhaps the worst bid3ah.

It is time Muslims got on the offensive and took the war too Al Qa3da ourselves. We cannot allow America to fight this war for us because she doesn’t care for us. This war on terrorism is not about Us or Them as that idiot Bush said. It is simply about us ...and the Iraq situation is not going to remain contained. That family slaughter in Jordan is proof that we are all at risk and should be our wake up call...

A breath of fresh air in a smothering environment. Praise the Lord! Praise God! Praise the Prophet!
Read, inhale and rejoice!

New blog, a secret blog from arabia... started in July, via Aquol.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Paying the rent by blogging

I may presume too much, but I don't think so. Looks like Andrew Sullivan may be. (Thanks, Peaktalk.)

I'm glad to say that in the near future, this blog will have a new home. We're moving to's home-page and will be hosted by their server...The blog has gotten far bigger than I originally believed possible - and much bigger than I want to handle on my own., with all sorts of internet links, technical support and a huge potential audience, will, I hope, make this blog more accessible to more people, bring more advertizing and marketing to the site, and take the blog to a new level of exposure...I will continue to write simply what I believe or think, however misguided I may be. ... the essence of the blog won't change. You will still like it for the same reasons or hate it for the same reasons; or, as many of you keep telling me, both.

Rootkit explained...updated before the next day!

Never heard of it. Well now you have, and so have I.
A couple of weeks ago blogsnow reported a lot of activity at a technical site so full of geektalk that I couldn't read it. My buddy Bob explained it in a line or two and described the high level of techie interest as "flies over molasses," a wonderful image that I have to remember to use.

Here is a Crooked Timber post that goes into more detail and reveals now cd's now can plant programming features into Windows software leaving the system vulnerable to other, less-benign invasive attacks.

It’s bad enough that Sony would do this without giving users adequate notification. But the system they used – licensed from a company called First 4 Internet – did this in a particularly clunky way. Any file starting with the prefix $sys$ would also be hidden from the operating system, leaving the computer open to other hacks that would themselves be hidden.

Additional information update...

I was a bit breezy with my post. BoingBoing, which originally broke the story, says the problem is more serious than first thought. Ed Felten reports on his blog:

Alex Halderman and I have confirmed that Sony’s Web-based XCP uninstallation utility exposes users to serious security risk. Under at least some circumstances, running Sony’s Web-based uninstaller opens a huge security hole on your computer. We have a working demonstration exploit.

We are working furiously to nail down the details and will report our results here as
soon as we can.

In the meantime, we recommend strongly against downloading or running Sony’s Web-based XCP uninstaller.

Saudi teacher jailed for mocking religion

Probably teaching evolution as well.

H/T Crossroads Arabia

Four little stories from Abu Khaleel

Blog-friend Abu Khaleel shares four anecdotes. There is a lot to be learned by listening and reading between the lines.

Illiterates with Mobile 'Phones
Sometime ago, I met a farmer who was an old, illiterate man. He had a mobile ‘phone. I asked how he managed to use it. He said that it was quite simple. Some of his children stored his contacts for him on the ‘phone. He would fumble with the keypad and make a call to anybody at random. He would then ask whoever he was calling to pass on his message to the one he had in mind! Usually the one he was trying to call would call back… making the phone call also less costly!
Go read the others.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Laura Rozen on WSJ and torture

This is one I want to capture. She says it all.

WSJ editorial board comes out for torture. I wish I had 100 WSJ subscriptions to cancel. Appalling and history's scum. I will never post another WSJ story here. Ever. Even their website outreach guy sends me about 3 emails a day with their stories. Save it for the the pro-torture media. Can we get the WSJ advertisers to sign off on the next batch of Abu Ghraib photos to be released? Maybe there are particular techniques they'd like to weigh in on? Yes on humiliating and degrading, no on organ failure? Yes on child rape and using guard dogs on detainees, no on holding the chain of command responsible? Yes on gulags in Eastern Europe? I'd like to hear the advertisers weigh in on what they think seems reasonable and how they'd like to be associated with the forthcoming releases.

Update: Rereading this editorial, the content is so awful, but it's written in that
typical let's be reasonable, contrary to what you've been hearing and taught at church, the kind of torture we're doing is really the only way to win the war. Honestly, this one should be saved for the history books, like those photos of lynching, about a low point in American history. The WSJ editors should truly be ashamed of themselves. And I hope the advertisers are ashamed of their association with such views that do not befit a first world country, or a democracy.
Back in February I was afraid the torture discussion would be swept under the rug. Those of us of the lunatic fringe are forever being swept aside in the name of "common sense" or "utopian thinking" or "zealous over-reactions." We get used to it after a while. In my case, it is almost a way of life. I have had ideas and opinions dismissed so often that when I find someone in agreement with what I have said about a "controversial" subject I wonder I might have failed to make myself clear!

Sometimes, though, we hit pay dirt. Sometimes there is a soft spot in the armor and we are able to penetrate just a little. In the case of the torture question, that "just a little" comes in the form of a Senatorial initiative from none other than John McCain, inspired by the letter of Capt. Fishback, advancing the notion that the US should have a clear and unambiguous policy against the use of torture. Period.

One would think that such a proposal would be as routine as passing a pork-laden highway bill to be signed by the president without further ado. But there is a snag. Seems there are people in high places that don't want to go along with such a clear and all-encompassing official. They use words like "rarely used" and "in some cases" to leave space for those times that torture -- and that is exactly what we are talking about -- is to be officially used.

Enough of that. The public debate is up and running. Smarter people than I are carrying the torch now and I can direct my attention to another related point that has started to come clear in my mind just today. This post is not the place to elaborate on that point, but I feel vindicated that a serious debate is now under way about torture. Here's another reference.

There remains the matter of trading war images for pornography which is related to a lack of leadership in professional expectations. I have learned in life that the tail cannot wag the dog. The same leadership that finds a way to permit torture will consider trading war pictures for porn to be a trivial matter, not an indication that a moral compass needs replacement. These stories could not compete with two hurricanes. Let's hope the ticking Libby bomb will remain out of the spotlight long enough that a meaningful policy against torture can make its way through Congress. We can hope that a veto-proof majority will not be required, but who knows?

The Little Showgirl

Go now and look at this picture.
It will only take a moment (unless you let yourself get trapped looking at others, but for now, this one is worth your time).
When you get there, toggle Function 11 [F11] to get rid of toolbars.
Click on the image to get just the picture.
Now find the icon that enlarges the image to fill the screen.

Blog takedown...big one

Blog: The word "blog" is literally shorthand for "boring;" a vulgar, overused word that strikes your ear with the dull thud of a cudgel to the soft spot of a child. It's an abbreviation used by journalism drop outs to give legitimacy to their shallow opinions and amateur photography that seems to be permanently stuck in first draft hell. Looking in the archives of the blogs, one would expect someone who has been at it for years to slowly hone their craft and improve their writing and photographs, since it's usually safe to assume that if someone does something long enough, he or she will eventually not suck at it. Even with lowered expectations, you'll get a shotgun blast of disappointment in your face.
It's an unspoken rule that every blog must use the same layout as every other blog: long, slender columns of annoyingly condensed text, thousands of links to other blogs, plugs for shitty political books, and more links to yet more blogs...

Maddox, who modestly calls his site The Best Page in the Universe, has been doing his thing about as long as the internets have been in business. The Archive starts at 1998 and a quick glance indicates that he is not losing any steam as the years go by. In fact he is writing a book and there are a couple of fan sites.

I have missed Rachel Lucas. This site will be a suitable replacement for her in my somewhat eclectic reading diet. I think it is important to have a standard of extreme excellence in ranting and harsh commentary in order to keep the rest of the world in proper perspective. That's why I listen to talk radio and read politically conservative websites. If Ambrose Bierce were writing today, I imagine his output might look something like Maddox.

Fragile Reader Advisory: Profanity, Insensitivity, Insults and Occasional Rough Graphics abound at this site. In the same way that you go to the park to walk the dog, enjoy sunshine and pleasant breezes or watch children can go here to work out your frustrations.

If you are an ordinary person who goes to a gym you will see examples of other human beings who look like Grecian statues. They make you want never to go near a mirror again. This site is like that. It lets you know that no matter how frustrated you thought you were, there is a person out there whose frustrations and talent for describing them is just under the gift of Thomas Jefferson who created Monticello in an otherwise savage American Frontier.

Today's link is directed at blogs and blogging everywhere. I feel embarrassed that it has been out there since July and I am just finding it. He has something smart-assed to say about Bloggers, Blogged, Blogosphere, Blogomania, Blogroll, Blogshare, Blogstorm, Blog Swarm, Blogging community, Blawg, Blogumentary, Blogebrity...and the list goes on.

Here's a couple of samples:

Photoblog: Photoblogs make me yearn for the day when cameras weren't digital, film cost money, and it took time to develop pictures. I remember back when it wasn't easy for any random asshole with a camera to go out take countless pictures of nothing. Nothing is exactly what these pictures are of. No focus, no theme, no message, no posturing. Just countless pictures of Denny's at 2 AM. We don't care that you went to Denny's. You're not an artist. You're not deep. Get a new hobby.

Warblog: A blog that primarily deals with war. Filled with whiny blow hards who are fixated on their stubborn ideas and conspiracy theories. For example, there are countless hours pissed away by conspiracy theorists who think the WTC towers were demolished by bombs planted by the government. These armchair engineers write endlessly about how the physics of the collapse was impossible, how the temperature wasn't hot enough to melt steel, and how the planes were carrying missiles. Of course, the one thing they don't postulate is a REASON. My personal favorite warblog was one that had a flash animation with people who were quoted as saying "it didn't sound like a plane to me... it sounded like a missile." Thank you Joe Nobody for giving me your expert opinion on what missile sounds like, because gas station superintendents are usually the best people to ask about the sonic signature of ballistic missile thrust.

This one I especially liked:

Liberal media: Whiny, bitching, cry-baby conservatives love to prattle on and on about the "liberal media." To be fair, except for FOX News (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Neil Cavuto, Steve Doocy, E.D. Hill, Brian Kilmeade, Brit Hume), Clear Channel, Laura Ingraham, Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, Newsmax, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan, Michael Savage, The New York Post, Sinclair Broadcast Group (WLOS13, Fox 45, WTTO21, WB49, KGAN, WICD, WICS, WCHS, WVAH, WTAT, WSTR, WSYX, WTTE, WKEF, WRGT, KDSM,WSMH, WXLV, WURN, KVWB, KFBT, WDKY, WMSN, WVTV, WEAR, WZTV, KOTH, WYZZ, WPGH, WGME, WLFL, WRLH, WUHF, KABB, WGGB, WSYT, WTTA), David Horowitz, Rupert Murdoch, PAX, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, they're right.

I see WGBH in Boston and Minnesota Public Radio didn't make the list. It reminded me of a similar piece I came across a few months ago. (He probably doesn't want to get credit for it, but hat tip to Josh Claybourn for the link.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Good story for the weekend

Read this:

The parents of a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank have donated his organs for use in Israel, in the hope of promoting peace.

Now this:
The vital organs of a Palestinian boy mistakenly killed by the Israel Defense Forces last week have been transplanted into the bodies of six Israelis, after the boy's family donated his organs "for the sake of peace between peoples," Israel Radio reported.

And this:
JENIN: The organs of a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli troops have been used for transplants in Israel, after his family donated them voicing hope that the life-saving gesture could bring peace a little closer.

That's the same story from three sources: Arab, Jewish and the Beeb.

I just learned about it from Rafah Pundits. Their version concludes:
...the Israeli army spokespersons announced that their troops have accidentally killed a Palestinian boy in the city of Jenin during a military operation. They claimed that the victim was mistaken by sniper from the army unit, who thought that the boy was an armed Palestinian man pointing a gun at the operating troops.

Ahmad’s parents were greatly devastated by the killing of their only son, but they decided to do something which really shocked the Palestinians, maybe the Israelis and probably the whole world. In fact, his parents decided to donate his body organs to Rimbam Hospital in Haifa City in Israel. In a very emotional statement to the Al-Quds local newspaper, Ahmad’s mother said:

"We decided to donate our son’s body organs to an Israeli hospital in order to help ill Israeli children to survive. Israel must understand that despite our son’s cold-blooded killing at the hands of an Israeli soldier, the family is absolutely determined to convey a message to his killer and to the rest of the army that you have wasted and continue to waste our lives, however we are humans and we appreciate life and will do anything to give life to other children"

Ahmed’s father said the family made the decision to donate his son’s organs

"For the sake of the world’s children and the children of this country. Ahmad’s body organs will be transplanted to a total of six children patients, including Israelis, Druze and an Israeli-Arab girl who had been waiting for heart replacement Surgery for over five years"

This is a great story. It has been picked up all over the place. Take your pick. Read about it, blog about it, e-mail it and pass it on.

If peace and reconcilliation were pursued as vigorously as hostility and conflict the world could become a better place.

Pretty naive on my part, huh?