Wednesday, August 31, 2005
May the Almighty’s peace and love comfort you in your grief.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Center For Immigration Studies, an organization advocating stricter immigration policies has released a study detailing how Al Qaeda operatives and other would-be terrorists took advantage of our good nature in the form of lax immigration controls to enter the country, commit mass murder, and plot more of the same. [Story]
We’re hip. We need another study whipping up on the INS like we need another hole in the head. The only thing that could be less relevant is another scathing report on the lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor on that day which will live in infamy.
We know what’s wrong and we have the unforgettable memory of several thousand dead to remind us. If someone is going to go to all the effort to conduct a study and write a lengthy report – forty-six pages, according to the article – the least that could be done is a short synopsis of shortcomings and some suggestions for corrective action. Specific suggestions.
The military is great at preparing for the last war, witness the “light” divisions of the post-‘Nam cold war, and bureaucrats are great at compiling lists and thwarting Cat Stevens under a new name entry into the US. What they don’t seem to be able to do is think outside the box.
Tom Clancy, the novelist, entertained us with the multi-volume Jack Ryan saga. In one of his books, A Debt Of Honor, a disgruntled air line pilot crashed a nearly fully fueled jumbo jet into the US Capitol. That was during a presidential address of a joint session of congress with all the cabinet members and supreme court justices present as well. The whole of the government, in other words, was wiped out with precious few survivors.
Clancy thought outside the box – as a novelist is supposed to – and in so doing outlined the ready availability of flying bombs. All the bad guys had to do was commandeer some in flight.
INS laxity, faulty air line security, intelligence failures of the bureaucratic bungling variety, and a false sense of well-being were all emphasized after the fact in report after report. There are still spooks crawling out of the wood work who claim to have known about Al Qaeda’s bad boys long before the event.
Okay, it was a big screw up. No argument there. Unfortunately it was not nearly as big a screw up as invading Iraq. It is now the rallying point and training ground for tens of thousands of militants who, under other circumstances, would never have lifted a finger against Western Civilization. You can expect that situation to change.
While all that is going on, Chicken Little’s influence is on the rise. The Terrorists are coming! The Terrorists are coming! On the basis of one disturbed man repeatedly walking back and forth on Wall Street while peering into doorways and windows, we are now advised to be on the lookout for Terrorists disguised as street people so as to be better able to scope out targets.
Furthermore, it has been observed that it would be rather easy for Terrorists to walk across our loosely guarded border with Mexico. Some more of Clancy again. In Teeth Of The Tiger his antagonists infiltrated through New Mexico with the aid of mercenary people smugglers.
Anyone trying to enter the country that way had better be in top physical shape and be very able to withstand the rigors of heavy hiking in triple digit day time heat, plus having a well prepared infrastructure waiting to support their nefarious aspirations once they arrive here.
It’s obvious the government doesn’t believe its own BS, or there would be mass arrests of skells and wetbacks. Making noise to convince us something is being done while no one has a clue as to what needs doing isn’t a new approach. There is no way to stop the repeated rehash of What Went Wrong and specious warnings from Bumbling Bureaucrats. It would be nice, however, if some of that hot air were directed elsewhere.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
An interesting law suit has been instituted against the University of California for its policy of disallowing Christian high schools’ science courses based on creationism when considering applications for admission. [Story]
The school considers a prospective student’s foundation in such science to be inadequate. I quote the article:
I thought this was all laid to rest in 1925 at the Scopes monkey trial. Evidently not. Somebody has the scratch to hire a law firm to chase the issue one more time.
UC spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina said she could not comment, because the university had not been served with the suit. Still, she said the university has a right to set course requirements.
"These requirements were established after careful study by faculty and staff to ensure that students who come here are fully prepared with broad knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary to
The complainant is taking a blunderbuss approach in that it is claiming UC to use a double standard by allowing courses taught through the viewpoints of other religions. The argument is really about science, not religion. Yet religion is what it will come down to.
If pandering to religious beliefs is allowed to dominate scientific inquiry, the US can kiss its bio-tech industry good-bye. That is already happening in the realm of embryonic stem cell research. The basis of the curtailment of research there is the belief that human life is being sacrificed. That is based on the unsubstantiated pronouncement by some Christians that life begins the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. That point of view is roundly debated by other Christians who are staunch members of their own churches. Their point of view is human life happens when the soul enters the body and no one is really sure exactly when that occurs.
For the moment, the fertilized egg theory holds sway. Consequently state of the art stem cell research has moved offshore. Taiwan gets much more venture capital for research than the US. Taiwan?
One only has to look at the history of Islam to see what happens when religious beliefs dominate life issues. At one time the Muslim world was leader in mathematics, navigation, astronomy, medicine, literature, and the like. Original thought was encouraged. Over the years, the preachers took dominance, and today’s Muslim countries, with exception of Turkey, are backward third world stink holes for the most part. Only where the petroleum riches have been shared out has anything like a comfortable standard of living been achieved.
It would be really, really nice if we could get religion out of the courts and back to the pulpit, but this goofiness has been ongoing for most of my life, and as long as somebody comes up with the long green to fund more lawsuits it will continue.
It’s a good thing I’m getting old. I’d rather not see where this will take America.
Friday, August 26, 2005
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) was arguably the most able soldier America ever produced.
Some of his one line utterances are worth remembering and his blunders doubly so.
The two maxims that immediately pop to mind are “Don’t get involved in war on the Asian Land Mass” (We’re in our third. The other two were a tie and a loss; Korea and Vietnam.) and “There is no substitute for victory.” (Korea and Vietnam, again.) Lo and Behold! Here we are one more time in a no win war on the Asian continent.
His blunders, the foremost of which was allowing his aircraft to be lined up wing tip to wing tip at Clark Field was also a painful lesson. He did this, you see, so as to conserve force in the guarding of them. Come December 8, 1941, aerial attackers had no trouble destroying all of his airpower most of which was still sitting on the ground. At the outset of WWII, he was left to defend the Philippines with land forces alone, which spelled the doom of the Phil-American army under his command.
Having all of one’s eggs in one basket, so to speak, is most obviously not sound military policy. Fortunately, the base closure commission now sitting turned down the Air Force request to close Ellsworth AFB, SD – one of the two B1-B bases – and move all the B1-B bomber force to Dyess AFB, TX. [story]
Tom Clancy and Stephen Coonts have treated us to fictional scenarios of the ease a fifth column would have in destroying military assets prior to attacking us. Clancy’s ending scenes in A Debt Of Honor could well have been the inspiration for the 9/11 attacks. The similarities are indeed striking if it were only a coincidence.
We are a free country. We come and go as we please, and if the price of that freedom is dispersal rather than concentration of our strength, then I say we pay that price and call it a good bargain.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
The subscription to the updates for my Norton Antivirus has expired. I've had the message that that was going to happen for the past month now. The day has finally arrived.
I went on line to renew my subscription to find the price was now $29.95 and a lot of bureaucratic crapola of giving them a password and all that. After sending me updates for a year, they still don't know who I am. Their customer appreciation leaves a lot to be desired.
I decided to go shopping. I found an OEM copy of Norton Internet security which includes a year's subscription for twenty-thee Iron Men to be delivered by the babe in brown, herself, one week hence.
Not much of a decision. For $6.99 less I get new software and a year's subscription.
Internet shopping takes a bit of patience; Direct Deals order page was coded by someone who didn't have it all the way together. What the heck; I didn't have to get dressed or drive any where and I ordered what I wanted within 15 minutes.
Two years ago Robert Novak revealed Valerie Plame to be a CIA Officer. It’s a big time no-no at the Federal felony level to do that and for good reason; any citizen of another country who has ever spoken with or been contacted in any way, shape, or form by such a person as a CIA agent will immediately be suspected of treason.
In some places mere suspicion is tantamount to guilt. That could lead to all sorts of unpleasantness; isolation, loss of livlihood, loss of freedom, or loss of life to name a few of the possibilities.
Ms. Plame is spouse to Joseph Wilson who very publicly disagreed with the administration’s WMD assessment in Iraq. The threat of WMD is what the White House and 10 Downing were ballyhooing as a righteous cause to invade Iraq and they wanted no naysayers p***ing in their soup. The White House cabal couldn’t get to Wilson directly, hence the attack on his wife.
The investigation into this matter was slow to begin, it took two weeks for the CIA to notify the Department of Justice that a violation of federal law had probably taken place. Eventually an investigating prosecutor was named. It's two years on now, and not one person is charged for the crime.
Today’s LA Times carries an interesting article offering a time line and naming all the major players. I really like it when, once again, our institutions prove without a shred of doubt that we are a Nation of Laws, of which no one is above.
Oh yeah, and you can expect Osama bin Laden to be arrested any time now, right after the Feds bust all the terrorists posing as bums who are sleeping in the subways and rounding up all the Mexicans crossing the border to insure no Al Qaeda terrorists are among them.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Pat Robertson, the 75 year old televangelist, kicked over a hornet’s nest of protest with his pronouncement that Hugo Chavez, radical president of Venezuela should be assassinated. [Story]
I think our boy, Pat, has been at the sacred peyote buttons. He lumps Communism and Islam together. This is a screwy premise from the get go. There are exactly 5 nations left on the planet who call themselves Communist.
Namely, China, Cuba, Mongolia, North Korea, and Vietnam. China has long been trying to rid itself of a centrally planned economy in order to move to a demand economy. It is communist in name only and not subverting anyone else to the path of world socialism these days. The economies of Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam are a joke. It would make no difference what is proclaimed in the capital, the poor schlubs in the rest of their respective countries are, by and large, reduced to little more than a subsistence level of existence. Oddly enough, the Mongolians elected their government and seem to have no interest in the rest of the world. Somebody should tell the Rev that the Red Menace is passé.
Islamists have no use for the atheist doctrine espoused by Communism. To think they would fall in together is a pipe dream. About as big a pipe dream as Saddam and Osama bin Laden finding common ground, which is the reason put forward to justify the 1,800+ American deaths and 200 billion dollars down the tube war we’re stuck in.
At the other end of the spectrum we have touchie-feelies. Berkeley Firefighters, like many of the rest us around the country, adorned their equipment with decals of Old Glory shortly after 9/11. The City Council made them take the flags off. The reason? They didn’t want foreign born to be offended by the display. My flag decal has been up since 9/12 and I have yet to hear a peep of dissatisfaction from anyone about it.
Nevertheless, this particular brand of idiocy has spread across the bay to San Francisco where the Board of Supervisors expressed its anti-war feelings by turning down the relocation of the USS Iowa (BB-61) to the city.
My friend OWW has a few unkind words on the matter which are summed up thusly:
Blunt-brains. Dumbos. Peaheads. Asshats. Booger-eatin' mohrons. Just out-and-out stupid.I don’t watch Pat Robertson, or any other televangelist for that matter, and I have no cause to go to San Francisco except the annual blues festival, so I’m not sure I can boycott anything there.
The Navy’s precision aerial demonstration team, the highly vaunted Blue Angels, are scheduled to perform there October, 8 and 9 as part of Fleet Week. I hope the Navy decides to take its show elsewhere and let the idiots know that turn about is just where it is.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Pro-war demonstrators gathered on the land next to the President’s Crawford, Texas ranch [story] while cops beat up on anti-war demonstrators in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania injuring two [story] women who failed to disperse when ordered by riot police.
Not to be outdone, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, in protest to the Iraq war, [story] overwhelmingly voted to not have the USS Iowa (BB61) moved to the city as a display in the Maritime Museum. (Don’t ask me, I didn’t connect the dots on this one, either.)
Going further, Salt Lake’s KTVX-TV has declined to run an anti-war ad [story] accusing Dubya of lying to the American people on the matter of WMD.
This all sounds a bit familiar. I was a bright shiny young Air Force Staff Sergeant when ‘Nam came upon us. Not knowing any better, I was enthusiastic to go knock the Godless Commies on their worthless butts and get it over with. That was not to be. Evidently the-powers-that-be decided once again to overlook MacArthur’s Maxim: There is no substitute for victory.
We wallowed in that quagmire for 20 years. The Communists won because we couldn’t muster the political courage to put a decisive end to it. All in all, the money and lives that went down the drain there could have been put to much better use.
The resulting dissatisfaction here at home led to massive internal turmoil. Police declared protesters to be rioters and waded in with riot batons after tear gassing large gatherings in almost every city in the country. Mounted police actually charged protesters in Union Square in San Francisco.
Servicemen who had no say in the conduct of or even their own participation in the war were spat upon and called baby killers by their fellow Americans. I experienced a little of that in the Sacramento Airport on my way home from Thailand in ’68.
Once again we are in a hopeless, no-win war where lives and treasure are poured down the drain and the nation is divided over the issue.
Basic liberties like the right to peaceful assembly are abrogated by police departments. You need authorization, you see, to protest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which is situated some 300 miles from the Cradle Of Liberty. While at the same time a monument to victories in WWII, Korea, and Kuwait is shunned by misguided politicians.
The money being p***ed away could redefine infrastructure, rather than having to finance the recently passed Energy Act with deficit spending.
My personal feelings are that the war was ill advised, but now that we are in it, we are obliged to see it through. The way we are presently going about it leaves much to be desired and will continue to drain the treasury, raise disaffection at home and alienation abroad.
Friday, August 19, 2005
This morning’s Yahoo news carried an article quoting Iraq’s security chief as predicting civil war if thus and such is not accomplished. Federalism, I think he called it.
Not that that’s any news. I’ve been predicting the occurrence of civil war since we got into this morass. The only way Iraq could ever be ruled as it is presently constituted is by the same kind of iron dictatorship Saddam brought to bear.
The minority Sunnis have victimized Kurds and Shiites alike since Ahmad Hassan al- Bakr led the Baathists in a coup to seize power in 1967. To use one of Aunt Winnie’s East Texas aphorisms, the Shiites want to get their wet cotton back. In other words, they would very much like to stick it to the minority Sunnis. The Sunnis are hip to this scenario; thus the terror bombing.
At the moment the Kurds have their own semi-autonomous region, but given the oil riches of Mosul, they need the other two factions like Custer needed more Indians. Turkey, of course, has a large restive Kurdish population and an independent Kurdistan wishing to reunite kith and kin will upset the NATO/EEC apple cart no end.
Unless somebody reestablishes an authoritarian regime, there is nothing in the future of Iraq but suffering and death which will necessarily involve Iran, Syria, and Turkey directly, and every other nation in the middle east over the next few decades.
The US economy is based on petroleum energy from the Middle East. Oil prices now are at an all time high, and if Iraq partitions, we will look back on this time as being the good old days.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
I recently relocated my data center because the afternoon heat in the room where I had it set up was unbearable.
The only other place where three prong electrical receptacles and a telephone outlet was the dining/kitchen area of my small apartment. The number of cables required to hook up a DSL modem, monitor, mouse, keyboard, Officejet, and the attendant wall wart power supplies was staggering and looks like a whole lot of black spaghetti leavened with some tan.
I decided to go wireless so that I could move my desktop out of this area and into the living room. I saw a deal on Tiger Direct for NetGear router and PCMCIA card and a PCI wireless interface card, which I ordered.
It has taken no less than 5 calls to the NetGear tech support desk and one to my ISP to get this thing working. That’s about 8 hours of my time and a lot of theirs. If this thing works from now on, they are at a net loss on this sale.
The NetGear help line has a lengthy telephone tree which in itself is a frustration and the documentation is virtually incomprehensible to a lay person who is so-so competent in technical jargon.
At this point, I am decidedly unhappy with NetGear and would not put a check mark by “Highly Satisfied.” I do hope they get their beans together.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
A few days ago I posted a short eulogy for the fallen Ohio-based Marine reservists. Today’s news reports a high number of deaths of Pennsylvania National Guard troops.
The hall mark of the Marine Corps is the extensive training each member undergoes. Training again is at issue when National Guard or Army Reserve Units are called to active duty. If a unit does not pass an Operational Readiness Inspection, it is required to undergo additional training until it can pass muster.
The reason is simple; well trained units don’t suffer these kinds of casualties. It might be noted that no regular unit has suffered losses anything like what the Cleveland Marines and the Philadelphia Soldiers have experienced.
Training regimes are mandatory and yet the sad results highlight the suspicion that something is amiss in this regard.
It's bad enough to have to send our young people to such a pest hole. Sending them without the proper preparation is criminally negligent. If the service can try and convict an officer for “stealing” an abandoned truck to complete his mission, I would hope they could dig out the officers who "pencil whipped” the ORI and send them for a long stay in Leavenworth.
Monday, August 08, 2005
A couple of years back, before he moved off to Georgia, my friend OWW and I were blue skying the future of computers.
My feeling was then and still is that today’s standard desktop is a dinosaur no matter what the chip clock speed, bus speed, memory size, nifty display technology or adaptability.
What I feel is around the corner of time is a PC that can be worn on a belt or carried in a purse that employs holographic displays, virtual keyboard, natural I/0, and has a bandwidth sufficient to play a 3D movie in real time in addition to most or all the present day features of desktops, cell phones, televisions, camcorders, digital cameras and the like.
A couple of months back I bought a used notebook for use in a new business venture. It’s down rev and the only advantage is that it is much easier to haul around than my desktop. The drawbacks are manifold and I won’t go into them.
Needless to say, I didn’t like the laptop solution at all. Exasperated, I bit the bullet and ordered a Palmone Treo 650 from my cell carrier, Verizon.
It was an irritating (Mercury is retrograde, after all.) exercise, but I received it last Thursday and have since been learning to use it. To quote Keith Jackson, “Whoa, Nelly!“
This little device runs proprietary software as well or better than my desktop and a whole S-load better than my soon-to-be-departed notebook. Telephony is much easier and “synchronizing” it with my desktop’s Outlook contact file is almost magic. It takes digital pictures and movies, offers internet access, text messaging, MP3 Player, and much, much more. I’m still learning to use it, and so far it has been reasonably easy as the User Guide is topical. Mistakes are readily corrected.
My only quibble with this little jewel is that it does not have voice or speed dial like my now-in-retirement Samsung flip phone had. Small price that, and this is a step on the way to the dream machine OWW and I yakked about back when.
It only has 32 megs of main memory which can be augmented by commonly available off the shelf SD memory chips. 1 gig chips are available from both Costco and TigerDirect for 90 simoleons plus shipping, tax, etc.
A few months back there was an electronics show in Germany where a coin sized multi-gig hard drive was unveiled. Gordon Moore’s Law and its corollaries predict a doubling of capacity, halving of size, doubling of speed every 18 months. SD chips which are the size of some decorator postage stamps are now in a race with teeny-tiny hard drives to power the hand helds of the future.
I bought my very first computer used — from OWW, as a matter of fact — back in ’84. (Jeesh, I date women younger than that computer. I used to be able to say that about my car. That’ll show you how time flies.) One of the Radio Shack winners of the time, a TRS80 Mod II that sported two 5¼” floppy drive and a whole 48 Kilobytes, repeat Kilobytes, of RAM. It’s sitting down in the garage in it’s original box. I’m waiting for an antique computer collector to come up with a good reason to let it collect dust elsewhere.
Technology-wise, we have come a long way and there is no end in sight. Keep in mind that we have just got the century going and have a long, long way to go. Too bad I won’t last to see all the magic, but I can envision my grandkids playing with my collection of old calculators, digital watches, and now cell phones, and wondering at the primitive technology much as I wondered at the hand cranked Model A.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
I’m sure all of you breathed a sigh of relief when you read the header. In case you are just tuning in, Maribel Cuevas, age 11, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon by Fresno police a while back.
She was playing in her yard when a group of rowdy boys pelted her and a younger sibling with water balloons. Maribel fought back by throwing a rock at Elijah Vang, age 8. It hit him in the head which caused a cut requiring sutures.
Head injuries bleed copiously. A panicked adult called 911 and the plot thickened. The call was answered by 3 police cars and a helicopter. (Puts me in mind of Robert Redford’s immortal line, “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”)
Maribel who doesn’t speak English resisted arrest when officers tried to hand cuff her. She scratched one goon’s arm sufficiently that Chief Head Knocker Jerry Dyer’s photographer recorded the injuries as a souvenir.
Lawyers for both sides have worked out a deal. (Which is pretty ridiculous when you consider it. Lawyers for a kids’ fight? Next thing you know, ambulance chasers will be hanging out at T-Ball games.) Charges will be dropped if Maribel stays in school and behaves herself. She is not allowed to scratch any more cops, even Fresno cops.
If Maribel were being tried as an adult, the city’s case would have been laughed out of court at the preliminary hearing and rightly so. ADW is felony, as I’m sure you are aware, and a very serious felony at that. To get a conviction, the prosecution has to convince the jury that the accused had criminal intent at the time the act occurred. If I were sitting on a jury hearing this, there is no way I could imagine criminal intent in the heat of a kids’ fight.
What astonishes me is the Mayor and District Attorney backed the police. I think it is right that they show that kind of solidarity when dealing with serious bad guys, but in this case it appears they have endorsed the PD’s idiocy. They need to remember that they are elected by the voters. The police are protected by civil service regulations and are a much more difficult to boot out of office.
Maribel, a pre-teen, has some growing to do. I’ll bet that if the Fresno cops are called to her house over a domestic dispute in later years, they’ll hold off responding until the Gov calls out the National Guard for backup.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Another legendary blues man has slipped into a coma after suffering a stroke. While I hope that he will recover and return to the stage, it is highly unlikely.
The Reuters article details the number of blues standards written by him. I saw him a couple of times over the past few years. He played middle billing at the Long Beach Blues Festival in ’01 and more recently played in a San Francisco Bay Area festival. Which one exactly escapes me at the moment.
He has given us much. I won’t duplicate the article, but his works are prodigious and meaningful. Thank God for letting us have him for the past 71 years.
It's always the wrong ones; it's always the wrong time; and it always hurts like merry hell.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
A while back I needed to get a cell phone. I’m pretty ignorant – well more than that, I didn’t know nothing and I pretty well proved it – on the ins and outs of cell phones, but Verizon was recommended so I went with that.
The reason they got the nod over other carriers is their coverage area. Last year I spent lots of time inside Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores. Calls from inside those monstrous buildings were never a problem for me, but I saw other people who needed to go outside to “catch a cell.”
The only time I saw someone else talking when I couldn’t, was in an underground BART station in San Francisco. As it had been 25 years or more since I had been in one of those, and it could well be that I will never set foot in another one. I figure I’m still ahead of the game.
Other carriers offer superior service insofar as basic nationwide calling plans, minute roll over, evenings and weekends go, but Verizon has proven reliable over broader areas.
I’ve had occasion to talk to them several times in the last few days. I want to upgrade to a Palmone Treo 650 PDA, camera and cell phone. I was given a price over the phone by a customer service representative, but decided to pick it up at the local store so as to have it in my hot little hands sooner.
That didn’t work out. The salesman at the store wanted another $100.00 over what I had been quoted. I wasn’t up for that, so I called the Customer Service people again. Their website is being maintained and I went through 20 different screens on their site to get the phone number again. It was so well hidden, the customer service rep asked me where I found it.
I’m sure you all will all be happy to know that an new Treo is supposed to arrive here sometime this week. Maybe.
Then I needed to talk to them again. They don’t publish their international calling rates. I have a new pen pal in the Ukraine and we have agreed to a telephone call tomorrow morning. It took the customer service rep about 5 minutes to find what it costs to call the Ukraine at 8:00 AM here. It turns out that it is a whopping $1.49 per minute. For what it would cost to talk for an hour you could probably buy the whole country.
Not a problem. My LD carrier is much more reasonable but I don’t know how much more reasonable, and with a little bit of net surfing, I found an outfit that sells international phone cards. A call to a cell phone in the Ukraine is 6.7¢ per minute. The same card ticks off a whole nine tenths of a cent per minute for a call to Moscow.
SBC charges rates up $5.49 per minute depending on which of their calling plans you didn’t sign up for. That’s a factor of nearly 90 times. Somebody is making some sugar in this phone business and it do pay to shop.