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Radically Inept
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
  This is why I Blog, GROUPIES!!
Okay, so that was a cheap attempt to get your attention, but, I mean, well...
Salon.com | A mash note to the blogosphere: "April 7, 2004 |
I've got a confession to make. I've got a big-time crush. I'm talking weak-in-the-knees infatuation. But it's not Brad or Orlando or Colin or any of the cinematic hunks du jour who have set my heart aflutter. No, it's Atrios and Kos and Josh Micah Marshall and Kausfiles and Kevin Drum and Wonkette. Bloggers all. Yes, when it comes to the blogosphere, I'm a regular cyberslut. And I don't care who knows it. Bring on the fines, Michael Powell!

Although I've only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I've been a fan -- and an advocate -- ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene."
Hey, Arianna Huffington!! Since she has found 'Common Sense', well, she's turned into a babe.

Alright, one more procrastination vehicle, but hey, blogger groupies! Geek revenge!! Ah, what more could you want? Well, a paying job, but other than that...
 
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  Wow, and we thought it was a new phenomenom

From Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly comes this sweet little find: "Joseph Kalvoda, a history professor at St. Joseph College, apparently had a bit of trouble of his own figuring out whether Rice was male or female, but otherwise his criticism of Rice's methods in the American Historical Review still rings eerily true two decades later:
Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this 'former military scientist' (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago.

....Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example....Rice's discussion of the 'Czechoslovak Legion' that was 'born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire' (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was 'born' on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought."
In a probably stupid attempt to avoid being an obvious plagerizer, I'm not going to past Kevin' conclusion (so keeping my standing as an un-obvious plagerizer). 
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  Geez, just how much deja vu can a person take?

I'm really trying hard to avoid blogging on Iraq. Absolutely not because I don't think it is the most important story going on right now, but because I think most of you are well aware of current events. But I found this story via 'alex' in the comment section over at Whiskey Bar: Body Counts:
Headline news from Sky News - Witness the event: "130 SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ - REPORTS
A Pentagon source has said up to 130 US troops have been killed in fierce fighting in Iraq.
The large scale battle, described as 'intense', has taken place in the town of Ar Ramadi, 20 miles west of Fallujah.
Sky News' David Chater said: 'None of this is official yet - none of it is confirmed.'"
I'm just wondering how accurate these figures are. Because if they are at all accurate, then let the escalation begin!

Geez, if these people (our administration) had any capability to think outside of the box, we could still salvage some good out of the current mess. But if all we do is add more troops and use more force, I think the body count (US soldiers), just goes up w/o accomplishing a thing. 
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  North Georgia "D"

I'm not sure what the 'd' stands for in NGD, but I think the NG is North Georgia. Maybe they'll let me know, or maybe I'm just too obtuse to find the info on their site. Regardless, I really like NGD: Blogdom's Triple Threat. I especially like debating/arguing w/ 'ricky'.

They do a great job of staying curent on the issues, and I'd put them a little right of center, but if you look at their content, it strikes me as more center (sorry, ricky). Anyway, I'm updating my links, and they're one of the new ones.

Besides, they're Georgia boys. 
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  Atheism in court

I was checking out Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall, and I caught an ad for this is an excellent article:The New Republic Online: Under God and Over on his sidebar and felt compelled to post a couple of excerpts (from about half way into the article):
"...Some of the individuals to whom I am attributing a hostility to religion would resent the allegation deeply. They regard themselves as religion's finest friends. But what kind of friendship for religion is it that insists that the words 'under God' have no religious connotation? A political friendship, is the answer. And that is precisely the kind of friendship that the Bush administration exhibited in its awful defense of the theistic diction of the Pledge. The solicitor general stood before the Court to argue against the plain meaning of ordinary words. In the Pledge of Allegiance, the government insisted, the word 'God' does not refer to God. It refers to a reference to God. The government's argument, as it was stated in the brief filed by Theodore B. Olson, was made in two parts. The first part was about history, the second part was about society. 'The Pledge's reference to 'a Nation under God,'' the solicitor general maintained, 'is a statement about the Nation's historical origins, its enduring political philosophy centered on the sovereignty of the individual.' The allegedly religious words in the Pledge are actually just 'descriptive'--the term kept recurring in the discussion--of the mentality of the people who established the United States. As Olson told the Court, they are one of several 'civic and ceremonial acknowledgments of the indisputable historical fact that caused the framers of our Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say that they had the right to revolt and start a new country.'..."
And from further in the article comes this:
Needless to say, Newdow's objection did not disappear, because it is one of the admirable features of atheism to take God seriously. Newdow's reply was unforgettable: "I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' which is exactly what I think. I deny the existence of God." The sound of those words in that room gave me what I can only call a constitutional thrill. This is freedom. And he continued: "For someone to tell me that 'under God' should mean some broad thing that even encompasses my religious beliefs sounds a little, you know, it seems like the government is imposing what it wants me to think in terms of religion, which it may not do. Government needs to stay out of this business altogether." So the common ground that Breyer depicted was not quite as common as he thought it was. In fact, Breyer was advocating the Lockean variety of toleration, according to which it would be based on a convergence of conviction, a consensus about the truth, among the overwhelming majority of the members of a society. The problem with such an arrangement is that the convergence is never complete and the consensus is never perfect. Locke himself instructed that "those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God." The universal absolute is never quite universal. And there is another problem. It is that nobody worships a "very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing." Such a level of generality, a "generic" God, is religiously senseless. Breyer's solution was another attempt to salvage religious expression by emptying it of religious content. But why should a neutralized God be preferred to a neutral government? The preference is attractive only if religion is regarded primarily from the standpoint of politics...
And, still further into the article, this:
Many modern believers, and modern commentators on religion, resent this. A recent historian of atheism, a Jesuit scholar, laments that in modern theology "religion was treated as if it were theism," as if it had no resources of its own to guarantee anything generally binding and true. But if religion is not theism, if its ground is not an intellectually supportable belief in the existence of God, then all the spiritual exaltation and all the political agitation in the world will avail it nothing against the skeptics and the doubters, and it really is just a beloved illusion. Others denounce the abstraction of the God of the philosophers, and the impersonality. Before such a deity, Heidegger demagogically complained, "man can neither fall to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance." But this is not philosophy's problem, or even religion's problem, if by religion you mean something other than an excuse to fall to your knees or to dance with your feet. If the impersonal God does not exist, I do not see how the personal God can exist.
In fact, I have been meaning to share my atheistic vision of existence for some time, but keep procrastinating. I think I will gin something up this evening for posting. But in the mean time, I suggest you go read this article. I hope not to continue my procrastination, though I may not publish this tonight because to present a well reasoned position, may take a little while. So, much for ginning something up. 
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  We couldn't help if we wanted to, and I doubt we want to

I really hope Kofi is wrong about this:International News Article | Reuters.com: "By Thomas Atkins and Nima Elbagir
GENEVA/KHARTOUM (Reuters) -
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Wednesday a Rwandan-style genocide may be in the making in Sudan and said international military force could be needed -- a suggestion at once rejected by the Khartoum government.
The U.N. chief issued his warning in a speech in Geneva on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which about 800,000 died. He left no doubt he feared something similar might be under way in west Sudan, where U.N. officials say 'ethnic cleansing' is carried out.
'The international community cannot stand idle,' declared Annan, who has acknowledged more should have been done to halt the orgy of killing in Rwanda in 1994. 'The risk of genocide remains frighteningly real.'
Annan said humanitarian workers and human rights experts needed to be given full access to Darfur, a western region in Africa's biggest country, to administer aid to hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes, many into neighboring Chad.
'They need to get to the victims,' Annan said in his speech to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
'If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action. By action in such situations, I mean a continuum of steps which may include military action.'"
But, as I alluded to in the title, we can't help if something goes down. Our military is stretched so thin, we could spare the units needed to help. Of course, I doubt Baby Bush would want to help...well, wait a minute, Sudan does have oil. 
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  Dividing the future by five

Also courtesy of "Institute for Alternative Futures" comes this blurb from a summary of the July 18-20, 2003 World Future Society Conference in San Francisco:
Five Regions of the Future. Joel Barker, president of Infinity Limited, Inc.,
wowed the closing plenary by introducing five regions of the future he calls
TechnoEcology. Different world views determine the technologies that are
emphasized. SuperTech stresses technological solutions; LimitsTech stresses
limits to growth and conservation thinking; LocalTech is centered on
community-based solutions; NatureTech takes its design cues from the biological
world; and HumanTech supersedes and surrounds the other regions and relies
upon breakthroughs and insights in human consciousness. His new system will
be described in an upcoming book, Five Regions of the Future.
I haven't been successful in getting anymore information on Joel Barker's book, so I'm guessing it has yet to be released. Found lots of teasers for the book, and he seems very adept at self promotion, which is neither here nor there, just an observation. Also, I can't seem to locate a web presence for Infinity Limited, Inc., which seems ironic given how often is press releases mention the company.

Well,I'm not sure, obviously, how he defines his terms, for instance, the distinction between LimitsTech and NatureTech, but it sounds intriguing. So, if anyone out there has any more info on the topic, I'd be interested in hearing about it. 
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  Nanotech and Military apps

A little slow in finding this, but thought many of you might find it of interest. This is from the May 2003 newsletter put out by "Institute for Alternative Futures"
Emerging Issues
Military applications for nanotech in R&D. Military applications of nanotechnology
will develop in three stages, according to Senior Futurist Richard Smith speaking April
22 at the WINFORMS 2nd Joint Symposium. WINFORMS is a DC area operations
research professional organization.
The three stages of development will be passive nanoscale materials, active
nanodevices, and active self-assembled nanosystems. Smith described current R&D
with military applications. The new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) at MIT
will be staffed by 150 researchers at a cost of $90 million over five years ($50M from the
government and $40M from MIT’s industry partners DuPont, Raytheon, and Mass
General Hospital). The objectives of the ISN are to:
• Create a bullet-deflecting soldier exoskeleton
• Cut the weight of soldiers’ packs from 90 lbs. to 15
• Create clothing that can shield against chemical and biological agents and even
"heal" an injured soldier
• Create networked soldier health sensors
• Develop other innovations like night-vision contact lenses
Nanotech R&D at the Naval Research Lab includes:
• Sensors (e.g., fiber optic chemical and biosensors; high performance structural
sensors)
• Materials (e.g., controlled release antifouling paint additives; machinable ceramic
superconductors; laser direct-writing process)
• Electronics (e.g., advanced silicon-on-insulator technology, microfabricated
electron source)
• Optics (e.g., electrode-less high-intensity light source; portable pulsed x-ray
source)
• Oceanography (e.g., high-resolution seafloor classification survey system;
localization of submerged lost towed body)
• Artificial Intelligence (e.g., machine vision for the integrated autonomous
vehicle)
At this stage, nanotechnology research isn’t risk-free nor intimidating. “Until we have
developed active nanodevices, such as “mechanical solvents”, the risks are not
substantially different from those we are already accustomed to—like asbestos,” Smith
said. In another decade or two, this may not be the case. Informed managers,
researchers and policymakers should begin now to consider what plausible dangers
might lie ahead. A logical first step, Smith said, is to study whether molecular assembly
techniques (MAT) are reasonably likely (as suggested by Eric Drexler), highly unlikely
(believed by many chemists and physicists) or somewhere in between. With MAT, the
prospects for revolutionary advances and frightening risks are far greater.
 
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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
  Google explained in 'almost' layman terms

Found this post via Brad DeLong's, Topix.net Weblog: The Secret Source of Google's Power:
"Much is being written about Gmail, Google's new free webmail system. There's something deeper to learn about Google from this product than the initial reaction to the product features, however. Ignore for a moment the observations about Google leapfrogging their competitors with more user value and a new feature or two. Or Google diversifying away from search into other applications; they've been doing that for a while. Or the privacy red herring.

No, the story is about seemingly incremental features that are actually massively expensive for others to match, and the platform that Google is building which makes it cheaper and easier for them to develop and run web-scale applications than anyone else.

I've written before about Google's snippet service, which required that they store the entire web in RAM. All so they could generate a slightly better page excerpt than other search engines.

Google has taken the last 10 years of systems software research out of university labs, and built their own proprietary, production quality system. What is this platform that Google is building? It's a distributed computing platform that can manage web-scale datasets on 100,000 node server clusters. It includes a petabyte, distributed, fault tolerant filesystem, distributed RPC code, probably network shared memory and process migration. And a datacenter management system which lets a handful of ops engineers effectively run 100,000 servers. Any of these projects could be the sole focus of a startup."
I'm no computer wiz, but even I got a lot of info out the post. I recommend going to Topix.net Weblog and reading the comments from the readers over there. Very informative. 
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  Armed Services Chairman's Statement on Iraq transfer of power

In its entirety:

U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES, DUNCAN HUNTER, CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN

Hunter Statement on Transfer of Power in Iraq

Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), responding to suggestions that the transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government be delayed, today made the following statement:

"It would be a mistake to postpone the transfer of power to an Iraqi government. Any delay would represent a victory for the terrorists and subversives who have attacked coalition forces and civilians in recent days. If the transfer were delayed until June of 2005, we could be assured that the same upsurge in violence would occur.

"The recent attacks are the isolated actions of a small anti-democratic minority. This is not an issue of troop levels in Iraq.

"Our task is not an easy one. What we must do is hold steady, maintaining a high state of alert and, working with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqi Governing Council, and the United Nations special advisor to Iraq, craft a smooth transition of power."

Hunter also stressed that the transition of governmental power would not constitute a transfer of security responsibilities. Coalition forces would continue to maintain a security apparatus in Iraq. Also of note is the nation's progress in providing for its own security. Iraq is on its way toward completing the largest law enforcement training program in history with 25,000 new police officers. Hunter further noted he is confident that a national assembly will be elected by the end of January 2005.

 
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  Cheney and his secret game

This is an issue I have been following since the Baby Bush/Cheney Energy Task force released its report, so here's the current status:CNN.com - Supreme Court accepts Cheney appeal on energy taskforce - Dec. 15, 2003: "WASHINGTON (CNN) --
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Vice President Dick Cheney's challenge to a court ruling that would force him to disclose details of meetings between his energy policy task force and the industry.

The high court Monday accepted Cheney's appeal and will hear the case sometime after February, with a ruling expected in June.

Cheney has balked at turning over documents relating to the controversial energy policy task force that he headed for the Bush administration. A lawsuit claims he had made improper contacts with the energy industry when developing government policy.

Cheney is appealing a federal court's order that he release internal files of the task force. The White House has argued the courts and Congress have no business making inquiries, even limited ones, into the decision-making power of federal agencies and offices. Cheney has said executive power needs to be increased in such confidentiality cases."
And maybe, just maybe, they'll be forced to go back to the original policy recommendations and actually cite their sources. It's the only time I've ever seen a 180 page policy paper,smack full of numbers and graphs, w/o citing a single source. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

For those of you who haven't, it does make interesting reading. You can learn to measure oil production in gallons so the numbers look really big, and measure oil spills in barrels so that the number looks real small in comparison. It's really not a policy report, it's a learning aide for those trying to master spin in an academic formatted paper. 
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  Refusal by justices thwarts developer

Well, this isn't a Supreme Court ruling, but it is in many ways a victory for clean water ways. Refusal by justices thwarts developer:
"Nationally, developers, environmentalists and regulators were interested in the outcome of Newdunn Associates v. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As is its custom, the Supreme Court offered no explanation Monday when it disclosed it would not hear Newdunn and two similar wetland cases in Maryland and Michigan.

Conservationists and regulators are happy. Developers feel crushed.

The Supreme Court's refusal leaves intact an earlier decision by the federal 4th Circuit, which affirmed the Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction over wetlands - even lands that aren't wet most of the year or near major waterways.

Wetlands can be swamps or marshes, but they can also be upland areas that flood or have saturated soils for part of the year. Wetlands are important because they filter water and provide habitat for plants and animals.

The court's decision is horrible news for landowners in the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, said Douglas Kahle, attorney for Newdunn."
In effect, this allows three lower court rulings to stand for the time being. These rulings basically come down as allowing the Army Corp of Engineers to regulate water ways, and anything that flows into those water ways including drainage ditches. It would be nice though to have a clear ruling from the Supreme Court on exactly falls with the Corps' authority, but for now, this is good news. 
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  DSL is on the fritz It looks like posting will be lighter today than I had planned. My DSL just came back on a little after eleven, but I'm not convinced it will stay that way. Oh well... 
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  USATODAY.com - Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home Via Eschaton comes this article USATODAY.com - Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home: "WASHINGTON -
A decision by the Pentagon to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is a reversal of its plan to steadily reduce the U.S. force level there.

[Photo caption from story: Senior military leaders gave assurances to troops and their families that Iraq duty would be no longer than a year.
By Gervasio Sanchez, AP]

Since the war began a year ago, senior military leaders have given frequent assurances to troops and their families that Iraq duty would be no longer than a year.

Now, those assurances have met the reality of Iraq, where military leaders are planning for the possibility that anti-U.S. violence will spread. U.S. troops are stretched thin around the world, and the Pentagon has few options to increase the force in Iraq if necessary.

On Monday, a senior official with U.S. Central Command said that the return home of about 24,000 U.S. troops who were scheduled to leave in the next few weeks would be delayed as their replacements arrive. Central Command's responsibility includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
I don't know, but I think this is how it could start, a large military build up in Iraq. Call it a troop rotation, but only do half a rotation, and double your military presence, which would get you very close to the Gen Shinseki told congress we would need in post-war Iraq and was promptly re-moved for his candor and accuracy. Okay, the part about candor is editorializing, but it's what I believe.

Now, there are some obvious repercussions to a move like this. One, I suspect enlistment and re-enlistment rates drop even further. Two, if the military was stretched thin before, it will be wafer-like if they go in this direction. Third, you are really going to have to ramp up your logistics team if your supporting a force double the size originally planned for, so more contracts for KBR and others. All of the above will mean ultimately a greater financial cost for this war, one that many suspect could have been predicted and planned for, but that the administration did not want to present.

 
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Monday, April 05, 2004
  Internal links/anchor tags

I don't know why I feel obligated to confess these things, but maybe it will help anyone reading this who's starting their own blog.

As it turns out, the template that BLOGGER(TM) provides includes auto anchor tags:
You shouldn't have to enter anchor name tags manually, since your template
should already include them at the top of each post. If you click the time
stamp at the end of a post on your published blog, you should see that it
will take you to the permalink for that post.
Courtesy of Graham at Blogger Support, who also corrected my major malfunction. And don't I feel like a maroon. I probably could have just read the instructions on the support page. But hey, instructions only help to save you time, and to make things work better. Other than that, they're about worthless ; )
 
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  Secret prisons

I really don't know that I can add much to this article, so I am just going to provide the teaser below, and highly recommend you read the article. What it describes, is not what I think most Americans would consider appropriate actions by our government, and it's one more step deeper into secrecy. And, I whole heartedly echo his call for journalists to investigate these hidden 'detention' systems, and thier consequences. This is an area that needs a little sunhine put on it.

TomDispatch: Into the shadows
"In a rare piece on the subject in a major newspaper, last December as Saddam entered our offshore prison world, James Risen and Thom Shanker of the New York Times wrote of 'what has developed into a global detention system run by the Pentagon and the CIA...a secretive universe...made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world...Officials described the network of detention centers as a prison system with its own unique hierarchy, one in which the most important captives are kept at the greatest distance from the prying eyes of the public and the media. And it is a system in which the jailers have refined the arts of interrogation in order to drain the detainees of critical information.'

Ah, those 'arts of interrogation.' You would want to keep them from 'prying eyes,' wouldn't you? And the Bush administration has done so with remarkable success. It seems that, for them, even Guantanamo is too exposed and so, oddly enough, that ultimate lockdown facility seems to hold no significant al-Qaeda or Taliban figures. They are held 'elsewhere.'

Around us, as Americans, the shadows have been deepening. They weren't first cast by this administration, but its powerful urge to scare us all into 'preventive wars' and unparalleled global domination has caused them to deepen immeasurably. Every now and then, as with Richard Clarke's testimony or in Fallujah recently, something in those shadows is, unexpectedly, sometimes horrifyingly illuminated, whether we care to exercise our prying eyes or not. Under an assault of almost unbelievable brutality, lit up last week was the semi-secret world of private armies in Iraq -- those four dead and mutilated men, working for a firm called Blackwater USA, part of a $100 billion global-boom business for which our government is the largest customer.

Just for a second, that business sat in the spotlit glare and we learned that the second largest force in our Iraqi "coalition of the willing" was not the British military contingent of 8,000-plus in southern Iraq but the 15,000 well-armed, well-paid mercenaries who protect everyone from U.S. and British officials to private business contractors. Some of them learned their skills under the old South African Apartheid regime, some under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile; some are Gurkhas from Nepal (reminders of a British colonial past), some islanders from Fiji, and some like the four who were dismembered in Fallujah had backgrounds in the U.S. Special Forces. As a legion, they truly make up a "coalition of the billing."
Coincidently(if you believe in coincidences), it makes a great lead in for the post below. 
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  A better way to fight terrorism?

My brother forwarded me this one. titled: Calling for the adoption of a Sensible, Multilateral American Response to Terrorism (SMART) security platform for the 21st century It is a concurrent resolution, which means it really is only a 'call' and not an actual new program, but it can lead to change. I would highly recommend you call your Representatives and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors. The text includes the following:
"Whereas to effectively implement such a response to terrorism, the United States needs a SMART security platform for the 21st century that--

(1) prevents future acts of terrorism by strengthening international institutions and respect for the rule of law;

(2) reduces the threat and stops the spread of weapons of mass destruction and reduces the proliferation of conventional weapons;

(3) addresses root causes of terrorism and violent conflict in the Middle East and other regions;

(4) shifts United States budget priorities to fulfill unmet security needs; and

(5) pursues to the fullest extent alternatives to war: Now, therefore, be it..."
And, from there goes on to provide specific policy suggestions/guidance each of the five points, which make more sense then our current policies, in my opinion at least. 
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  Science Mondays

Rather than make a bunch of separate posts, I'm going put the links I find most interesting from the KurzweilAI.net newsletter into this one post. And as I find more Science related articles today, I will just add them below, so that in fact, this single post will grow. It's organic posting?

PhysicsWeb - Physicists move closer to the quantum limit:
"The researchers positioned the arm about 600 nanometres away from a single-electron transistor - which acts as a motion detector - and coupled the two together via a capacitor. They then applied a voltage to make the arm vibrate and cooled the system down to a few millikelvin. Cooling the system to such low temperatures reduced thermal vibrations close to the point where just 'zero-point' quantum fluctuations remain. This zero-point motion results from the uncertainty principle, which prevents the arm from remaining completely at rest.

As the arm moved towards the detector, and then away from it, the amount of current flowing through the transistor changed. By measuring this current, the physicists were able to measure the displacement of the arm with a sensitivity that is only about a factor of 4.3 larger than the amplitude of zero-point fluctuations."


I saw an article concerning this in yesterday's AJC. I knew they were going to try to generate super computer power in a 'flash mob' type setting, but had lost track of the date. Anyway, they didn't get to their goal of breaking into the top 500 super computers, but I'd call it a qualified success non the less:

Computer networking event doesn't compute as planned:
"``It's something you can't practice,'' said Patrick Miller, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a part-time USF computer science professor, at midafternoon as the crew struggled with balky computers. ``You'll never find a thousand identical laptops . . . when you're begging and borrowing.''

By the end of the day, FlashMob was a partial success. The crew managed to get 256 computers working together at almost half the speed required for the top 500 status.

More important, the organizers demonstrated that their idea for bringing ordinary PCs together as a temporary supercomputer isn't an idle college daydream.

Modern supercomputers are made by clustering together hundreds or even thousands of the same processors used in PCs, then unleashing the behemoths to work on hugely complicated problems such as weather forecasting, designing new pharmaceuticals and making aerodynamically efficient automobiles.

Supercomputers cost millions or tens of millions of dollars, putting them beyond the reach of almost everyone except government agencies and giant corporations.

If the FlashMob software can be perfected, a typical mid-size corporation or university could have almost unlimited supercomputing time by tapping its existing PC network on nights and weekends.

USF is making its software freely available, and researchers from as far away as Australia and England are looking to stage their own FlashMob events.

The University of Virginia built the world's third-fastest supercomputer last year by purchasing 1,100 PowerMac G5 computers from Apple and wiring them together. That was relatively easy compared with Saturday's FlashMob, because the G5s were identical to each other -- so no hardware problem had to be solved more than once."
Okay, this isn't so much science related, as much as it points to the juncture of science, technology and politics: Bush Calls for Universal Broadband by 2007:
"President Bush has set a goal of broadband access for all Americans in three years to boost competitiveness with other nations and create new business opportunities at home.

'We ought to have a universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier,' Bush said during a recent campaign swing through the Southwest.

In addition to economic advantages of broadband, Bush said the technology could advance tele-medicine and distance learning.

For years, IT firms pushed plans to deliver high-speed Internet access rural areas not served by cable of digital subscriber line service, only to stumble in a thicket of questions, such as who would pay for the extension of infrastructure into rural areas?

Bush didn't raise the issue in his speech and an administration spokesman did not return a call seeking additional details."
Great idea, but just like the whole 'we're going to Mars thing', no follow through on how this should be financed, or even could done. That's a lot of cable to be laid in three years, and it's not like would be dealing with one company like the ol' Ma Bell, a monopoly that had significant power and political support during the rural electrification days.

On the other hand, Baby Bush has actually finally said something I agree with. Well, okay, there may have been one or two other things in the past, but they've been so long age, I don't remember them. Anyway, he said:
In his remarks, Bush also criticized some lawmakers for attempting to block a bill that makes the ban on Internet access taxes permanent.

"We don't need to tax access to broadband," Bush said. "The Congress must not tax access to broadband technology if we want to spread it around."
I think trying to tax access to the internet is an absolutely terrible, and totally unmanageable policy. As more and more items access the net, like cars, and phones and toaster ovens, this would become a tax collection nightmare.

Wow, another step toward designer diseases and/or cures I guess. For me, this is a troubling area. Certainly we shuld continue to do the research, my fear is the capacity to do massive harm is just that more readily availabel to nuts:KurzweilAI.net:
"Reuters, March 31, 2004

Scientists have completed the final analysis of chromosomes 19 and 13, a major step toward developing personalized antidotes.

Chromosome 19 has nearly 1,500 genes, including ones linked to inherited high cholesterol and insulin-resistant diabetes.

Chromosome 13 has 633 genes, including the BRCA2 gene, linked to breast cancer, and others for the eye tumor retinoblastoma, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia."
You better not be shootin' anything up my nose! KurzweilAI.net:
"NewScientist.com news, April 1, 2004

A new 'air cannon' device can track an individual, shoot an aroma directly at their nose, and leave the person next to them completely unaffected.

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan developed it for directing evocative smells to people exploring virtual-reality environments.

The device tracks the person it is aiming at with a camera mounted on top, which follows the target's eyes. Software on a PC analyzes the video images and controls motors that steer the gun in three dimensions. Once it has a fix on the eyes, it aims low to direct the puff of air at the target's nose.

Marketing specialists could seize on the air cannon as a way of tempting shoppers by wafting the scent of the latest perfume or an expensive blend of coffee in their direction -- perhaps in conjunction with in-store video ads. Or street poster sites could fire ad-related odors at you as you wander past."
And, please, please keep this out of the hands of marketers. My wife can go into an asthma attack just from getting the mail due to the perfume samples they stick in the magazines. Of course, it might be that this is not the way they are used. My wife is not alone in these reactions, and I can just imagine the laws suits that will result from firing the 'wrong' scent at the 'wrong' person.

"Life! Life, I say!!" Okay, so this isn't about sewing dead body parts together and re-animating a corpse, but it sure has the potential to rock a lot of people's world views.Science on verge of new `Creation': South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"Such concern is escalating as more than 100 laboratories study processes involved in the creation of life, and scientists say for the first time that they have just about all the pieces they need to begin making inanimate chemicals come alive.

Unlike any other technology invented by humans, creating artificial life will be as jarring to our concepts of ourselves as discovering living creatures on other planets in the universe would be. It also would bring into sharper focus the age-old questions of 'What is life?' and 'Where do we come from?'

'The ability to make new forms of life from scratch--molecular living systems from chemicals we get from a chemical supply store--is going to have a profound impact on society, much of it positive, but some of it potentially negative,' said Mark Bedau, professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and editor-in-chief of the Artificial Life Journal.

'Aside from the vast scientific insights that will come, there will be vast commercial and economic benefits, so much so that it's hard to contemplate in concrete detail what many of them will be,' he said.

But the first artificial life also is likely to shock people's religious and cultural belief systems."

 
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Sunday, April 04, 2004
  Taxes disrupt blogging

While I have several things in mind to blog, including a commentary on tonight's 60 Minute's story of the slurry spill, I am being forced to turn over the computer to my tax advisor (wife). On the positive, we (she) are doing it before the 14th or 15th of April. In contrast to my previous history of attempts to comply w/ federal tax laws, which has always resuted in my reception of courteous notices explaining where I had made mistakes in my filing of the return (including penalties and interest) (and usually, two or more years after the filing date), these are improvements. Since I have delegated this function to her 10 years ago (she refuses to allow me any input as she thinks I'm inept and would cost our household money), we have successfully filed on time, and apparently accurately, so this too, is a positive.

In the brief time I have, I would like to ask one question that has always troubled me: If the IRS is going to go to all the work of pointing out my mistakes, why can't I just pay them a nominal fee to go ahead and just figure out what I owe w/o me having to spend hours filling out incomprehensible forms and getting the instructions wrong?

Just a thought. I'll resume blogging in the morning, and since it will be a Monday morning, expect a lot of science and environmental info. Thank you for your patience... 
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  Al jazeera.Net v NYTimes v CNN coverage of Iraqi protests turned violent

Thought it would be interesting to compares sources and style of coverage between these three media outlets. As it turns out, the similarities are far greater than the differences, and it's my impression that the NYTimes might be the most alarmist in coverage style. So, here are some cut and pastes, and the links to the stories, I intentionally tried to be overly redundant in selecting the quotes below. If you go into the articles, you'll see they are largely in agreement on the facts.

Aljazeera.Net - Iraq protests turn bloody:
"Occupation soldiers have clashed with Iraqi demonstrators marching in support of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leaving at least 25 people dead and more than 150 others injured.

In a separate incident at least seven people were wounded in clashes between US forces and the al-Mahdi Army, al-Sadr's militia, who seized a number of police stations in the al-Sadr City suburb of Baghdad on Sunday.

The al-Mahdi Army earlier occupied at least three police stations in the area, forcing police forces out of the buildings.

Earlier, Spanish occupation forces killed at least 20 Iraqi demonstrators and injured more than 150 others in the southern city of Najaf, reported Aljazeera's correspondent Muhammad al-Sharif.

Four occupation soldiers from El Salvador were killed and nine wounded near Najaf, said the Spanish Defence Ministry.

Some 15,000 of al-Sadr's supporters staged a peaceful protest heading towards the Spanish headquarters in the southern city."
Violent Disturbances Rack Iraq From Baghdad to Southern Cities:
"At nightfall today, the Sadr City neighborhood shook with explosions and tank and machine gun fire. Black smoke choked the sky. The streets were lined with armed militiamen, dressed in all black. American tanks surrounded the area. Attack helicopters thundered overhead.

'The occupation is over!' people on the streets yelled. 'We are now controlled by Sadr. The Americans should stay out.'

Witnesses said Mr. Sadr's militiamen had tried to take over three police stations in Sadr City, a poor, mostly Shiite neighborhood of northern Baghdad named after Mr. Sadr's father.

Franco Pagetti, an Italian photographer, said he was caught in the crossfire and witnessed several American tanks firing into the ground.

'The tanks were shooting into the pavement, not at the height of the people,' Mr. Pagetti said. 'It looked like they were trying to clear the streets.'

Mr. Pagetti also said he had watched a group of militiamen launch three rocket propelled grenades at American Humvees but the militiamen had missed each time.

'The situation is getting worse,' Mr. Pagetti said. 'I saw injured people getting put in cars. The people said they had been wounded by American helicopters.'

As the fighting raged, Mr. Sadr called on his followers to 'terrorize' the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use. Last week, his weekly newspaper, Hawza, was shut down by American authorities after it had been accused of inciting violence. The closure began a week of protests that grew bigger and more unruly at each turn.

'There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples,' Mr. Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa today."
CNN.com - Seven U.S. soldiers die in ambush - Apr 4, 2004:
"The chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq denounced Shiite protests in Najaf Sunday, saying the lethal demonstrations had exceeded the democratic rights to protest, speak and use the media.

'A group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and have moved to violence,' Paul Bremer said. 'This will not be tolerated by the coalition. This will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people. And this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.'

Protesters opened fire on a Najaf garrison housing Spanish troops, and troops responded with return fire, a coalition spokesman said. Maj. Vicente Bizarroso said one coalition soldier was killed and 10 were wounded. Some news agencies said there were more troops killed, but the coalition did not confirm the reports.

Whether protesters were killed or wounded in the clashes remains unknown."
What stood out to me was this quote:
'A group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and have moved to violence,' Paul Bremer said. 'This will not be tolerated by the coalition. This will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people. And this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.'
Um, not that this stuff is spreading, why are we assuming it won't be tolerated by the Iraqi people.

Lastly, while this certainly is no 'Tet Offensive', it is most certainly not a good omen for things to come in the coming months. This type of stuff will not bode well for Baby Bush's re-election efforts. The more the situation appears out of control, the more Kerry can point. Just point might be all he has to do if this keeps up. 
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  Ah, contrast the Tyco verdict with the one on James Olis Modulator pointed me over to this: the talking dog: April 2, 2004, Don't Trust Your Soul to No Urban Northern Jury...:
"J'Accuse', and leave it at that.=; Juror No. 4, a 60-something retired schoolteacher who went to law school in her 50's, flashed the 'OK' sign to the defense table, to signify that the brown paper bag arrived where it was supposed to (this is all on information and belief, and IMHO; I have no idea HOW Koslowski and company managed to get the juror to side with them-- maybe they even did it with their case; I'm just playing the odds). Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau's office has already vowed to re-try the pair of corporate pig-whores.

You see, when you steal over $600,000,000 from shareholders, and thereby help the Bush Administration along in its holy mission of destroying the Middle Class for the benefit of a privileged few, there are probably a few bucks left lying around to buy yourself a recalcitrant juror. It became obvious that Juror NO. 4 was not-- ever-- going to vote guilty, despite the firm convictions (as it were) of the other 11 jurors. Yes, that's what the jury system is all about: if she did not feel the prosecutor didn't prove its case, its her sworn duty to hold out for an acquittal-- regardless of the other juror's opinions if they could not sway her (nor she them)."
I like the Talking Dog's style, and we agree.

Now contrast how you feel about the Tyco acquital w/ this:
"The judge said he was required to give Olis a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, five years shy of the maximum, based on the massive losses Dynegy shareholders suffered as a result of Project Alpha's repercussions.
Which outcome fills your heart w/ joy?

For more on the James Olis CONVICTION, see my post below on April 1st.

Sorry, still haven't learned how to link to posts w/in the blog. Last time I tried to but in an html anchor, I lost managment access to a couple of weeks worth of posts, so until I get some better guidance, I'm not trying it.  
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Saturday, April 03, 2004
  Georgia Tech plays for the NCAA Championship

It's cool...But, do you think some hiring manager is going to go, "Wow! This job candidate graduated from GA Tech, and they just won (must think positive) the National Championship. Let's hire him."

Over, let's say a Harvard or Yale grad. Especially if the Yalie is a 'skull and bones' member. Somehow, I doubt it means that much in my career progression.

On the other hand, "Go Tech!" 
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  Wow! I've evolved!

Okay, it's not far, but being a Crunchy Crustacean is a huge improvement over being an Insignificant Microbe. Though I do think Iwas higher, for whatever that's worth, in the past few days, the The Truth Laid Bear: The Blogosphere Ecosystem has been experiencing some difficulties in their assessment system the past few days.

The Truth Laid Bear:
"Ok folks, the Ecosystem should be back to normal. Quite a passle of problems.

For those who care, there were not one, not two, but three separate issues that turned out to be causing the difficulties we've seen over the past few weeks."


Alright, it's not much, but it does help to have a benchmarking system to know if your making a dent in the blogosphere. And, I guess I'm making a crusty dent, which is better than a wriggley dent. I think.

By the way, The Truth Laid Bear is an excellent blog in its own right, besides providing a convenient benchmark rating system.
 
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  Contractors/Mercs

I've been following a whole lot of the controversy in the blogosphere concerning the four contractors whose bodies were mutilated in Iraq. Some say, 1) 'oh, hero's to be mourned', or 2) 'how immoral for them to be treated that way'; this includes two points, and others, 3) 'mercenary dogs who got what they deserved'; which also has two separate points. All sides to the arguments I've seen, heard and read appear to me to be w/o merit. Really.

1) 'oh, hero's to be mourned': Hey, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred." I'm sure part of the motivation for some of these guys, was in fact the danger. They just plain didn't like the idea of living in a 9 to 5 world, where they were more likely to receive an ignomious death at the hands of a drunk driver, or worse, die of some friggin' disease, and having to spend the last part of their lives having someone change their bed pans. Sure, I'm certain some were there just for the money.

This as an morality issue seems to play out in two different contexts. The first, they were only there for the money. Okay, if you don't believe that we had any reason to go to war, why else would you be there? (posted something similar to the following somewhere else) When my father returned from Vietnam and arrived at San Francisco Airport, he was accosted by some girl with a protest sign asking, "What the Hell for?" My father responded w/, "$548.30 a month."

Is that being mercenary? He did go on to do twenty years active US military service, and another 14-15 years of US government service.

I personally believe that the invasions of Panama, Grenada, and the first 'Gulf War', were ill conceived actions. But, I would gladly have volunteered (and, did for two of them) to go. As an officer in the American military, was I acting as a mercenary or a patriot, given the fact that I thought all three were w/o merit? Does that make a difference?

Does having a power elite in charge of the country providing a 'patriotic' veil, if often idiotic reason for war, make a difference? If you believe it and all you succeed in doing is lining the pockets of the military industrial complex, aren't you in fact a SAP? If you go anyway, w/o patriotic fervor, and do your job as a professional soldier, are you acting as a mercenary? Where is this line drawn? I could go on with more examples, and I will if asked, but I think the above succeeds in getting my point across.

this does bring up a queston. What would we have to pay you to take the chance? "There's not enough money in the world," you say? Good for you. Now, was that answer based on morality or cowardice. I found out in high school that a lot of the biggest, strongest football players didn't mind kicking some runt's ass, lacked the stomach to join the military.


2) 'How immoral for them to be treated that way': The second morality issue I see being raised, is 'was there something heinous in the actions of the people of Fallujah?' If so, so what? Well, I think this may be the simplest and most complicated of the points raised. I'll take a stab at them anyway. First, and for me the most important question, is 'was there anything innately immoral about their acts involving the mutilation of bodies? Now, I will look at this separately form the idea that they were tortured. Torture as an act, may be related, but for now let's leave that aside.

Is there anything inherently immoral in these alleged acts. Americans and the rest of the modernized West, but especially Americans, feel that somehow dropping bombs on a building and 'incurring' collateral damage, or napalming a village of suspected VC, but knowing that civilians are likely to be casualties in the effort, is somehow more moral than up close and personal killing. Americans especially seem to feel that if forty thousand feet, or four hundred miles separate them from the impact, that they have some how avoided the moral consequences of the damage, and the screams of the victims. And, yes, they have avoided the screams, but I will argue that no amount of distance or separation from the consequences relieves one of moral responsibility. As a matter of fact, the ability to cause mass destruction from a distance w/o any risk or having to see the direct impact of your actions, allows even more immoral acts than torturing someone. It gives cowards the ability to act w/o fear, and allows people to feel separate from the very pain and harm they have inflicted. At least when someone has to 'personally' drag the blade across a person's throat, or run the sword through someone's gullet and feel the gush of blood on their hands, or even to, with forethought, take a child's life, that person feels, hopefully, committed to some higher cause. But it takes nothing, or relatively so, to these cause these same levels of harm from a distance, hiding behind technology.

The second point I wish to make concerning this issue, may in fact be moot. I, don't have any information confirmed whether any of the 'atrocities' were done to living people, and I don't think very many of us do, or just acts after the deaths for revenge upon bodies already killed 'cleanly'. If the acts were committed upon living beings, well then, I find them morally reprehensible. But if they were done do 'carcasses'? So what? I feel zero, if they just burned dead bodies. My wife knows that my greatest wish upon my death, is to have an American Indian (I forget which specific tribe) type of disposal of the dead. Just string a piece of animal skin across for posts and place my carcass on it. Let the animals and the insects benefit from the energy stored in my body, rather than trying to seal it away frrom the natural world in some steel coffin. Hell, when I'm dead, I don't care what you do with the remains. I care one second before I'm dead, but once I'm dead, I don't care if you stuff the body with candy and use it as a pinata.

3) 'Mercenary dogs who got what they deserved': Based on what? Well, I think an important distinction might be going to war vs defending your country (notice I didn't use 'Homeland'? I'll get into that more in to that in another post[that's called a teaser in the business{I'm actually not in the business, but what the H}]). Defending your country, your family, your way of life, these are not choices, they are necessities. 'Going' to war is not a necessity. It's usually done because a group of political and/or corporate elites (I'm not sure there is a distinction) are trying to gain power for themselves, or deny power to 'their' competitors. It almost never has anything to do with what is good for the country. Defending your country from outside invasion is very different. Yes, I admit their are certain economic arguments that can sometimes blur the issue, but that's what they do: blur the issue (are you actually fighting to defend your way of life or the profits of an employer?). I will try to lay a case for this later (note how often I defer the real thorny issues by promises of 'later'. Very political don't you think?).

Well, sort of the second point to the issue: When is the line crossed between mercenarism and people wanting to get paid well for doing what most people won't ,can't or don't do? What would it take the average American to go to Iraq to help 'bring democracy?' I don't see long lines at the recruiting station. So, Americans are more than willing to let other people go fight their wars for them (or their elites), but they want them to believe in a cause they obviously don't believe strongly enough in themselves to go fight. Long sentence. But I think very accurate. If the war is so right, why aren't you having your children enlist or go to ROTC, or whatever?

Anyway, I think the whole thing may just come down to a whole bunch of pampered pussies used to dissecting a football game on Monday morning. Worthless. If the people that were making these arguments really backed up their positions, we would have a totally different situation from the one we have.

I'm sure that much of the above is unclear, but i wanted to make this argument in a timely faction. So as usual, I reserve the right to come back and re-edit based on your feedback...Or, not. 
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  Wow, finally a liberal media

Found this at Ajeeb News IHT: Tuning in to anti-Bush barbs: "

"Hollywood's criticism of president hits prime time WEST HOLLYWOOD, California Galvanized "

Can't blog any part of the article, but they point out that in current TV programing, Baby Bush is taking a huge hit. Check it out. 
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  The federal building bomb scare

The other night, 'a friend', who works at a local federal building related this story:

Everything was going as usual, though they did have a few disruptive meetings to attend. Anyway, eveyone is working in their cubes when the supervisor starts walking a round telling everyone to go outside. There was no alarm, so it wasn't the usual drill, but government buildings are known targets for terrorists, and historically right wing extremists. Well, they have learned to take these things fairly seriously.

My friend, who's familiar with the deal, said she made sure she had her security pass, car keys, driver's license, and credit cards, before she exited the building. When they, as my friend likes to phrase it, "moo'd" their way outside, she noticed they really weren't far enough from the building for safety's sake, if it were indeed a bomb, and they were not even in their fire drill designated area. She brought that to people's attention, so they proceeded to 'moo' their way across the parking lot further from the building.

It was also a very cold night, and most people hadn't brought jackets. Again, good thinking on her part, she suggested going yak style. Gather up close, and those with the warmest clothing designated to the outside to act as wind breaks. Well the even lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of a half hour before they were moo'd back through the only security check point. One guy checks all two hundred employees security passes; those that remembered to take them outside with them,anyway.

It is about this time that word comes down that this had been actual bomb scare. Someone had found a box that no one could account for, labeled in marker: B-O-M-B. Well, when whoever responded were to the call finally opened up the box and found jars of handcreme.

B-A-L-M not B-O-M-B. That's the problem with America's low literacy rate. It costs people money, and potentially endangers people. So, after the cute story, just pretend I give huge rant here on our education system with sources cited.

Done? Good. You probably wouldn't have read the boring statistics anyway on a Saturday morning.

Well off to do the aluminum recycling. Turns out the only day the place is closed is Fridays. But, it's the only part of my recycling that pays a pittance. All the rest of my recycling efforts, except newspapers, are just that, my efforts. There is no county pick-up, no deposit on bottles, etc. And, I wind up sorting all this crap and going to three different places to get rid of it. For Free.

But, let me thank the DeKalb Farmer's Market for providing a fairly comprehensive recycling center, and Publix food stores for taking plastic bags and Styrofoam egg containers and the like.

Off now... 
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Friday, April 02, 2004
  One more step to empire

Well this is an interesting tidbit from over at Orcinus:
Grogan - 2004, April 02: "There needs to be a law passed where any person who disrespects the 'Office of the Presidency' by making false accusations and spreading deliberate rumors about the president, should be charged with a felony or at the very least a high misdemeanor. President Bush has been falsely accused (with nothing concrete to back the accusations up), from being negligent in stopping the 9/11 attacks, to making up fraudulent reasons to go to war in Iraq."
The only positive is that Opinion Editorials - Freedom Writers - CURRENT maybe these guys don't have readership. If they do, they're a little scary. If they have a lot, they are real scary. 
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  Rant in general, I guess

Just finishing watching Now with Bill Moyers. An excellent three pieces including a great interview w/ John Dean on the problem of secrecy in the Baby Bush administration. I say excellent, but probably it's one of those preaching to the chior deals. You know, the same goes for the story on Baby Bush's desire to develop and field new nuke capability. The best thing about this story was Stanfield Turner and an ex-4 star coming out against the idea. And I would, and most ceratinly will post a link to it, but it seems everyone is hitting their site, and I can't blog it yet. I'll come back to it if I can get to the link, but right now I can't even get to PBS.

Okay, now it's 8:21am and both the PBS and NOW Links are up:
NOW with Bill Moyers. This Week | PBS:
"John Dean is in the news again. Thirty years ago as counsel to Richard Nixon he mesmerized the country with his testimony in the Watergate hearings about 'a cancer growing on the presidency.' Eventually Nixon would resign and John Dean would go down in history for his role in the Watergate scandal. Now Dean has written a new book - his sixth - in which he concludes that the obsessive secrecy and deception in Washington today is 'Worse Than Watergate.' The conversation with Bill Moyers is Dean's first television interview on 'the hidden agenda of a White House shrouded in secrecy and a presidency that seeks to remain unaccountable' and his book WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH."
They don't provide as good an overview for the segment on Baby Bush wanting to increase are nuclear capability, but it too, was a good piece. It does look like they have excellent summaries of last week's show, so maybe they post more later. I'll try to remember to go back to look.

In the area of secrecy, check out my most recent post at Rogue Analyst. I've done a fair amount of research in the area, and I've posted a work in progress.
"Of course, much of this must rely on extrapolation from the data available, as this regulatory system self regulates itself into intentional/unintentional levels of obscurity. The report states that secrecy is the ultimate mode of regulation; leaving citizens unaware that they are being regulated. Regulations of the normal nature inform a citizen about his required behavior and are therefore disseminated to inform the citizen. In contrast, secrecy regulates what knowledge a citizen may have, but does not let him know what he legally may not know."
Check it out and let me know what you think.
 
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  Odds and Ends

Playing with some html code, so I thought I'd post some sites i've run across in the past while I'm expermenting

A humor site (includes FoxTrot):


(that was centering!)

Welcome to uComics --The Best Comics Site in the Universe!

9/17/2003 - Gollum And Smeagol Debate "Two Towers" DVD - Happenings - Chattanoogan.com

Wow, italics!

And, this is just some interesting history(in a really bright color and super huge font)

Schools Doing Vietnam Vietnam War BioChem Research

Well, enough play for now. I tried to create an anchor link in html, and now have lost access to the post I was trying to link to. I may post more in a while; let's call it a smoke break.
 
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  More on the jobs front

Well, It's this kind of stuff that makes wonder. Predictions like thisObserver Business News Section3: "US manufacturing boosts growth
WASHINGTON
"American manufacturers boosted activity for the 10th straight month in March and factory jobs growth accelerated, cementing a key pillar in the recovery, a survey showed yesterday. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) purchasing managers' index, based on a survey of supply executives, rose 1.1 points from February to 62.5 points in March. It was the 10th month in a row above 50 points, indicating expansion in manufacturing activity. 'It looks like the factory sector is really ramping up and is now in the midst of a strong, broad-based recovery,' Wachovia senior economist Mark Vitner said.

The survey showed factory jobs growth picked up, with the employment index rising 0.7 point to 57.0. It was the fifth month of expanding manufacturing employment in the survey following a 37-month contraction. Official figures show manufacturers have shed 2.8 million jobs since January 2001. Private economists on average predict the government figures will show the economy churned out 123,000 jobs in March, after a paltry gain of 21,000 in February. Some economists even tip a gain in manufacturing employment in the month, after a 43-month stretch of net factory layoffs.

Vitner forecast a surge of 225,000 jobs in March, putting in place the last piece of the economic recovery. He tipped US economic growth of nearly five per cent in 2004. A weekly reading of the numbers of recently unemployed was only mildly encouraging. The number of people lodging new claims for unemployment benefits fell 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 342,000 in the week ended March 27, after a gain of 12,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said."


And then jobs report comes out with 307,000 jobs added in non-farm payrolls for the month of March, but I expect the numbers to be revised down, as they have been consistently over the past half year. I suspect a whole lot of political and business interests round up all of the supporting numbers to get these, and then when most people aren't looking, the numbers drop significantly. Though, the January numbers were revised up from about 97,000 jobs to 157,000. So, who knows? Certainly no one I've read or heard has any kind of accuracy rate over the long term to have earned any credibility with me. 
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  Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal writes on Outsourcing

Over at Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal :
Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong have been thinking About Outsourcing
and have posted a first rough cut "Our Outsourced Future" Draft 1.3"
It is well worth the read, so go read it, or my comments may not make sense.

I agree with much of what they say, but I think they, as economists are wont to do, over complicate the obvious. When the supply of available labor exceeds demand, the value of labor falls. I think that's fairly simple. When women entered the work force, the nearly doubled the available labor, and real wages have been stagnant ever since. Now we have globalization, which will increase the pool of labor enormously, so expect wages to stay stagnant, and probably fall in real terms, for the next generation.

The other problem I see with their argument is that it appears to isolate the effect of outsourcing from productivity gains resulting from improved technologies. And, I think that is why they can write it in such a non-alarmist fashion. When the cost of capital is cheaper than the cost of labor, business invest in machines not workers. I think that when you add the future gains in productivity, just from improved technologies, with the increased competition from a world wide labor pool, you should become alarmed. If the market pursues this direction unchecked, the only people that will make money are those who already have enough money to invest.

Third, this transition will not be easy regardless of what policies we put in place, but I think one place to start changing the focus of education on preparing the student to enter a work force in a job, to one where the student is prepared for a life time of entrepreneurship. Those have been, are and will be the best skills for success. But, that still leaves us in a Darwinistic mess of only the strong will survive. Which many may find acceptable, but I personally do not like the idea of billions of people starving and shut out of the economy.

I have no final ideas on the subject, but I do think my post Rogue Analyst: "It's your information, WHY SHOULDN'T YOU GET PAID?!!", which is in the archives from Feb 2, '04, is a valid approach to some sort of transition vehicle.

And on a lighter note, if you haven't read it yet, my attempt at satire from 12 March '04 in the archives about here: BLOGGER :: Manage Posts: "A Modest Proposal: A Solution to the Problem of Poverty in America". It should be relatively easy to find, as it's the only one that I've gone back and put a title to from that period. 
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  The "Infinite Fractal Loop"

Oh, I see that something actually did post last night just before my ISP went down. It's happening more and more often and I am wondering how bad it has to get before Earthlink does something about it.

Anyway, I wanted to post this last night.

Infinite Fractal Loop is a fun place to play. Lot's of pretty pictures, and the ones that are animated can be astounding. Many of you may have already played here, but I offer it as an enertainment filler while I go do the recycling and hit the Farmers' Market.

I enjoy hitting the random selection option at the bottom of the pages, but some might like a more measured selection method, so try: Infinite Fractal Loop: Index

And, here's a sample gallery: fractalus gallery: full title index 
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  The Infinite Fractal Loop Infinite Fractal Loop 
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Thursday, April 01, 2004
  get your war on - page thirty-three

Well, as usual, it's sadly accurate, and very funny: www.mnftiu.cc | get your war on | page thirty-three 
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  And yet, the Tyco trial looks to be on the way to a mistrial

From TCS: Tech Central Station - Where Free Markets Meet Technology comes this: TCS: Tech Central Station - Jamie Olis's Tragedy, And Ours, by James K. Glassman:
"On Thursday, a 38-year-old Korean immigrant named Jamie Olis, with a wife and a six-month-old daughter, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in a complex scheme to hide the difficulties of the company where he worked as a mid-level executive.

It was a brutal punishment for a relatively minor crime. The Associated Press, noting that Olis reaped no personal gain, called the sentence 'jaw-dropping.' Since there is no parole in federal cases, he will have to serve at least 20 years.

Olis helped concoct Project Alpha, which inflated Dynegy's cash flow in 2001. According to a Wall Street Journal story in 2002, the scheme relied on corporate heavyweights, including Citigroup, which provided a $300 million loan, and the once-respected and now-defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which gave its official blessing.

The sentence -- the result of a recent stiffening of federal guidelines -- was out of all proportion. By comparison, the median term for murder is 13 years; for drug trafficking, four years; sexual abuse, three years."
And, up until this paragraph, I was sort with the argument, but the next paragraph:
The Olis sentence is just the latest manifestation of the hysterical reaction of politicians to the corporate scandals that broke in the fall of 2001. Olis is a tragic victim, but millions of Americans, many of them without jobs, are also suffering as the U.S. economy struggles under the weight of poorly conceived new rules -- with more on the way.
And he lost me. In fact, I had to re-read it before I realized the whole article was a set up. Feel sorry for the poor guy who's dad left him and his mother. He grows up poor but makes good. All is well until he gets involved in a minor corporate conspiracy to defraud shareholders. Excuse me? He violated his fiduciary responsibilities, got caught, and now I'm supposed to have sympathy for the guy? You know, I don't think so. Well, and am I to believe this is the only time he has done this. If so, based on what? Let's look at a few more sources before we pass final judgment.

[Inserted April 4th: I should have pointed the reader's back to the title of Glassman's article: Jamie Olis's Tragedy, And Ours. Wow. Our tradegy?]

Gene S. Foster, Jamie Olis and Helen C. Sharkey: Lit. Rel. No. 18188 / June 12, 2003:
"U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Litigation Release No. 18188 / June 12, 2003

Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 1800 / June 12, 2003
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Gene S. Foster, Jamie Olis and Helen C. Sharkey, Civil Action No.H-03-2044, United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (June 12, 2003).

On June 12, 2003, the Commission filed an action in United States District Court in Houston charging three former employees of Dynegy Inc. with fraud in connection with Project Alpha ('Alpha'), a structured financing transaction. Alpha was the subject of a settled cease-and-desist order issued by the Commission in September 2002; in the order, the Commission found that Dynegy violated the antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws, by reflecting Alpha's impact on its financial statements in the form of $300 million in operating cash flow and $79 million in net income. In re Dynegy Inc., Exchange Act Release No. 34-46537 (September 24, 2002). The Commission found in its order that the Alpha-derived funds were actually loan proceeds, representing, therefore, cash flow from financing activities, not operations, and that the Alpha-derived tax benefit was invalid. In settling the Commission's action, Dynegy also paid a $3 million civil penalty."
Well, that's legalize, but not really all that much help, so let's look a little further.Former Dynegy Inc. tax executive Jamie Olis sentenced - Mar. 25, 2004:
"The judge said he was required to give Olis a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, five years shy of the maximum, based on the massive losses Dynegy shareholders suffered as a result of Project Alpha's repercussions.

Olis, who was already choked up as he stood before the judge, had no visible reaction to the sentence, which read in a courtroom filled to capacity with his family, supporters and ex-Dynegy colleagues.

New laws enacted last year in response to a wave of corporate chicanery and corporate fraud laws passed in 2001 stiffened the penalty range for white collar crimes, putting them equal with offenses like bank robbery.

Michael Shelby, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas said Olis' harsh punishment was deserved because thousands of investors lost their savings over Project Alpha."
A slightly different picture, but wait, lets look a little further down:
"Dynegy's stock lost more than half its value on April 26, 2002, the day after the Houston company disclosed a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Alpha.

It also had to reclassify the $300 million as debt, pay the SEC a $3 million fine and restate its 2001 earnings downward by 12 percent. The total losses to investors were in the billions.

Two other Dynegy employees, Helen Sharkey and Gene Shannon Foster, Olis' boss, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Lake is due to sentence both on Aug. 19, and each faces a maximum of five years in prison."
Wow, now he looks like a thief who wasn't bright enough to confess before the state went to the expense of a trial. Did ya'll catch that part about billions in losses to investors? [Here's a nice sympathetic photo of the criminal and his wife and daughter: http://a1112.g.akamai.net/7/1112/492/03312000/news.lycos.com/news/ot_getImage.asp?op=img&id=571790]

You know, this crime took place in Texas, why couldn't we convict him under state law, and then fry his sob story ass. Bet you executives would think a little more about those fantasy classes they had in business school called business ethics, if ethical violations included hanging. 
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  The Latest Eonomist Cover?

Well, anytime you find something like this on April first, well obviously you have to take it w/ grain alcohol, er, grain of salt. The April cover to the Eonomist, well if not, it is funny: lIssue Cover

Oh, found that via Asymmetrical Information
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  The best Baby Bush question ever

From Lambert over at corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy & the Farmer comes this absolutely simple and brilliant question:
"Say, why doesn't someone ask Bush if he thinks the earth is 6000 years old?"
I suggested the question should be worded, "do you believe in the bible or in evolution?" I don't think Baby Bush is capable of coming up w/ nuanced answer, and he risks losing voters if he takes any side at all. Think of all those fundamentalists believing that Baby Bush's soul (yeah, they probably believe he actually has one) will be doomed to hell if he says anything other then 4-6 thousand years old. And the rest of the planet will know he's a complete moron if he doesn't say he believes in evolution.

Thanks Lambert! 
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  Internet speed is getting irritating

I'm logging off for a while. I'll be back when I think my DSL will be capable of downloading a site in less then a minute. I'm not sure where the problem is; who's server? I am just tired of dealing w/ it for now. 
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  I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied Wow I found this via Suburban Guerrilla, who apparently got it from BAD ATTITUDES: Bush�s Shell Game on Terror Continues. Anyway, it must be kizmet because it dovetails in so nice from the posts below.

I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied: "I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied
By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON

Published: March 31, 2004


ASHINGTON, March 30 - The Bush administration has scuttled a plan to increase by 50 percent the number of criminal financial investigators working to disrupt the finances of Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations to save $12 million, a Congressional hearing was told on Tuesday.

The Internal Revenue Service had asked for 80 more criminal investigators beginning in October to join the 160 it has already assigned to penetrate the shadowy networks that terrorist groups use to finance plots like the Sept. 11 attacks and the recent train bombings in Madrid. But the Bush administration did not include them in the president's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year."
What's up with this? I've always thought you were supposed to 'follow the money'. Unless, you don't like where it will take you. 
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  More on mercenaries, or the rise of PMCs
From the comment section at Whiskey Bar: All the News That's Fit to Punt, "annalivia" directs people's attention to this:
Guardian | The privatisation of war: "The privatisation of war
*$30bn goes to private military
*Fears over 'hired guns' policy
*British firms get big slice of contracts
*Deals in Baghdad, Kabul and Balkans
Ian Traynor
Wednesday December 10, 2003
The Guardian
Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.

While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground."
It's worth your time to go over to Whiskey Bar for this one, and make sure you read the comment section. Billmon's reader's provide a lot of information, besides this Guardian article. 
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  Afghan poppy crop Found this item Crooked Timber: Unfortunate names:
"In which context, it is perhaps unfortunate that the "Air America" people have (presumably unintentionally) named themselves after the CIA's heroin trafficking operation in Southeast Asia (the subject of a movie which, in a better world, would have crushed Mel Gibson's career before it took root). The well-meaning liberal radio types must be taking lessons from these guys."
And, well, it reminded me that we had soldiers and the CIA on the ground in a region w/ somewhat similar characteristics as Laos and Cambodia, just w/o the jungle. Which prodded memories of 'once upon a time' articles we all heard and read back in November '01, similar to this: Britain and USA plan to buy Afghan opium crop:
"BRITAIN and America are to devote tens of millions of pounds to an attempt to end Afghanistan's notorious heroin trade.

One option being considered is to buy this year's entire opium harvest at black market prices - on the condition that farmers then plough up their poppy fields and sow a different crop.

The move to tackle the menace of heroin came as disturbing new evidence emerged that warlords of the Northern Alliance are conniving in the renewed planting of poppy fields under the cover of war."
So, I'm curious. If we understood going in that heroin was a problem, and we were planning to buy the crop in its entirety, or in some other way deal with countering opium farming, why do we get this, from January '04 Washington Times: Osama bin Laden: a 'heroin dealer' and 'narco-terrorist':
"'It seems clear to me heroin is the No. 1 financial asset of Osama bin Laden,' Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, told The Washington Times. 'There is a need to update our view of how terrorism is financed.

'And the view of Osama bin Laden relying on Wahhabi donations from abroad is outdated. And the view of him as one of the world's largest heroin dealers is the more accurate, up-to-date view.'

Mr. Kirk wants a pronounced shift in how the Bush administration tries to stop al Qaeda funding. Up to now, Washington has focused on bin Laden's traditional sources: Islamic charities and his family fortune.
But the Bush team has choked off much of that flow, forcing bin Laden to adjust. In Afghanistan, bin Laden has the benefit of the world's largest poppy crop, as he evades capture in Pakistan's notorious border areas.

He is reaping $24 million alone from one narcotics network in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to Mr. Kirk's investigation."
Oh, the quotes above are courtesy of this interesting site: Opioids : past, present and future.

Anyway, I'm in the process of trying to locate some information right now, which will increase the size of this straw man. If anyone knows where to find the list of banks whose assets were frozen for alleged terrorism connections, let me know. There's a point in the info which should tie in well. I hope...Back later...

By the way, system seems real sluggish today. Well, not the whole system, just a lot of reference sites are slow downloading. So, this might take a few minutes. (added 10:21am)

What I've found so far is: Tracing bin Laden's Money::
"Another company reputedly owned by bin Laden is the 'Wadi al-Aqiq' Company, an export-import firm. For many years, bin Laden owned and ran the Taba Investment Company Ltd., which deals in global stock markets. He was also part-owner of the "el-Shamal Islamic Bank" in Khartoum, a joint effort with the NIF, in which bin Laden is said to have invested $50 million."
And from the same document (published September '01) comes this tidbit:
U.S. Senator John Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that there are strong indications that bin Laden's al-Qaida network has profited handsomely from the opium trade. Al-Qaida militants have frequently been deployed as smugglers or as guard details for smugglers.

Opium, used in the manufacture of heroin and morphine, has an added attraction for terrorists because such drugs head to the United States and lead to problems such as addiction and crime, he said. "That's part of their revenge on the world," Kerry said. "Get as many people drugged out and screwed up as you can."


So, then I get somewhat confused because Executive Order 13224 blocking Terrorist Property doesn't mention "el-Shamal Islamic Bank" in Khartoum. All references that I find to the bank are in past tense, but I can't find out what happened to it. Actually, what I've run across so far, is a lot of sources using the exact same wording, even in different languages. So, I guess no straw for the man here.

Regardless, the Taliban had shut down opium production to near zero during their final three years in power. Whatever else they did, they did shut down the opium trade. But, going in, we know about the potential for resurgence in poppy growth when the Taliban is ousted, and we say we are not going to let it happen. And then we pull out most of the military and financial support, shift focus to Iraq, and now no one is paying attention to what's going on. It's supposedly moving through Pakistan under control of the Pakistani 'Intelligence' community. Do you think there is potential contact between foreign intelligence collection people and that of our Pakistani allies? I don't know, but it is interesting that where the CIA goes, drugs flow. Really historically. I'll try to rmember to get some stats here for you on CIA/OSS and drug flow since WWII. It's kind of interesting having so many coincidences.

I'm still going to have to re-edit this.
Minor re-edit @2:46pm
 
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