Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


It's The Little Things In Life


You know you've arrived when you receive hate mail:

Subject:
From: "Martin A. Murcek, Jr."
Date: Tue, 19 Aug 2003 23:09:18 -0400
To: blog@pritsky.net

You're a stupid, pathetic dickhead...

For those of you who understand SMTP headers:

Received: from polaris (pa-murraysville2c-165.pit.adelphia.net[24.48.229.165]) by worldnet.att.net (mtiwmhc11) with SMTP id <2003082003043511100duna6e> (Authid: mamurcekjr@worldnet.att.net); Wed, 20 Aug 2003 03:04:35 +0000

Martin apparently lives in the Pittsburgh, PA, area which ain't the Quaker country of Philly. Thanks Martin for your insight! I hope to hear more from you in the near future--your use of "stupid", "pathetic" and "dickhead" in such creative ways has really expanded my horizons. Gosh, my heart's all-a-flutter...

ntodd

[Instant update: seems Martin's daddy is a doctor, and gave 500 bucks to Operation Santa in Pittsburgh. I guess Santa was pretty mean to Junior and didn't buy him a pony. Must be a Marmaduke fan.] 
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Yup, The Uniform Fits


This will bug the crap out of Bill S, who thinks Bab5's CGI effects suck (and I agree to a certain extent), but the sci-fi character I most resemble:

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?John Sheridan

An experienced survivor who has maneuvered around many obstacles, you are looked up to by those who rely on your good judgment.

In the last few years, we've stumbled. We stumbled at the death of the president, the war, and on and on. When you stumble a lot you tend to look at your feet. Now we have to make people lift their eyes back to the horizon and see the line of ancestors behind us saying, "Make my life have meaning," and to our inheritors before us saying, "create the world we will live in."

John is a character in the Babylon 5 universe. You can read his biography at the Worlds of JMS fansite.

(via Folkbum)

This suprises me not in the least. Sheridan was one of my fave characters on the show, and I've always wanted to be Bruce Boxleitner ever since Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

n"sheridan"todd

[Update: apparently I'm also Ireland, according to the country quiz:

Mystical and rain-soaked, you remain mysterious to many people, and this makes you intriguing. You also like a good night at the pub, though many are just as worried that you will blow up the pub as drink your beverage of choice. You're good with words, remarkably lucky, and know and enjoy at least fifteen ways of eating a potato. You really don't like snakes.

All true, 'cept for the blowing up the pub part. Must be that damned blood from Scot-Irish who intermarried with the Cherokee. (via Emma at Notes on the Atrocities)]
 
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Kudzu


Edward Tenner tells us in his book Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences that kudzu, which smothers all other vegetation in the South, was originally promoted by the Soil Conservation Service as a way to improve land and soil--we paid people to plant it, and now it's taking over. I see the darn weed all over suburban Atlanta, Georgia, where I often teach, and rural North Carolina, where I have family. Tenner also observes:

Finesse means abandoning frontal attacks for solutions that rely on the same kind of latent properties that led to revenge effects in the first place. Sometimes it means ceasing to suppress a symptom.

(book quote lifted from Global Business Network because my copy is nowhere to be found)

I've been arguing that we need to stop tinkering in the affairs of other nations. Venezuela, Panama, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Chile, Iraq, Vietnam, Cuba, Iran...but a few examples of our clumsy meddling. In fact today is a dreadful anniversary, as the Asia Times reminds us:

Fifty years ago on August 19, 1953, the Americans, with the help of the British, overthrew one of the few democratic governments in the Middle East. The Central Intelligence Agency carried out a coup against premier Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran and brought the Shah, who was in exile at the time, back to power. The success of this subversion emboldened the US for the coming decades to carry out similar actions in Guatemala, Chile, Cuba, Vietnam, and many other countries in the world (The Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba and the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile that led to the ascendance of Augusto Pinochet to power are just two examples).

Although the whole operation in Iran cost the US less than US$1 million (including money given to mobs and looters to create chaos in the capital), the coup proved to be much more costly for Washington than anyone could have imagined at the time. Today, it is quite clear that that operation paved the way for the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which in turn inspired fundamentalist movements in the Muslim world for decades.

What we have been doing for 50 years is paying people to plant terrorism in various countries. It's biting back.

ntodd 
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This Is What I'm Talking About


We enable terrorism:

Iraq is becoming a major "magnet" for al Qaeda terrorists, who now pose more of a threat than remnants of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, two analysts said Tuesday after a truck bomb killed 17 at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

AQ did not have any connections with Iraq, until we invaded. Now they're in the country and apparently in force. I have no idea what impact their actions will have on the UN mission, but now it's clear there is not going to be any solution without more bloodshed, even with international help. We've really screwed the pooch here.

If you'd like info about UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in the attack along with one American, check out the UN press release:

Mr. Vieira de Mello, a 30-year Brazilian veteran of many UN peacekeeping operations from the Balkans to East Timor to Africa, had been trapped in the rubble of the devastated Canal Hotel, which served as UN headquarters in the Iraqi capital. He was 55 and was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. Annan mourned his death as "a bitter blow for the United Nations, and for me personally."
...
Mr. Vieira de Mello made the establishment of full human rights a major part of his mission to Iraq ever since he arrived at the beginning of June as Mr. Annan's Special Representative and insisted that full sovereignty should be restored to the Iraqi people as soon as possible following the occupation of the country by the United States-led coalition.
...
Mr. Vieira de Mello only took his Iraqi mission as a short-term four-month assignment, so important did he and the Secretary-General consider the global fight for human rights and the urgency of his return to his post as High Commissioner.

He had a long and distinguished UN career stretching over 30 years. Before being appointed to the human rights post in 2002, he was the UN Transitional Administrator in East Timor and prior to that briefly held the position of Special Representative for Kosovo. He had extensive Headquarters and field experience in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, including in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Lebanon.

In response to the bombing, Bush lectured AQ about their "contempt for the innocent". This after we've killed tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. See the healthy debate below for more on how insane I think this crap is. Damn it, I'm so incensed I don't even know if I've composed anything coherent--probably not. Wouldn't be the first time.

As Salam Pax said today:

We have entered a dark dark tunnel and we have no idea what will happen now

Time to change the path we're on.

ntodd

[Update: I was talking about this with my wife, and just responded to a post over at Lunaville about my feelings wrt to Sergio's death: I've been following the UN's "Situation in Iraq" web page for some time, and blogged about Annan's first report to the UNSC (as directed in S/RES 1483). What he talked about basically came from de Mello. He was a very insightful person, dedicated and optimistic, and I am extremely depressed by his death. That's not to dimish the other people killed in the attack, but I felt a more gut-wrenching loss when I heard the news that he had died.] 
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Vermont Soldier Buried


Vermont has lost four promising people in Iraq. 20 year old PFC Kyle Gilbert, who was killed on my birthday, was buried yesterday:

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas was on hand, as was Senator James Jeffords. Jeffords said he'd come to know Gilbert personally because of his commitment to serve. He said Gilbert had sought his help after being initially rejected from the military for medical reasons.

(Jeffords) "It was an emotion I'd never had before, to fight so hard to get somebody into war. And then to have the experience of that individual killed in active duty just brings all things into turmoil. The fight - was it worth it to get him in? But you know it was what he wanted. And he's a hero in my mind. But it really raises questions again, why we're there."

You can either read the transcript of the VPR story, or listen via the above link. You can read more about how a small town honors its hero at the Brattleboro Reformer.

More importantly, read about this good kid:

Gilbert was the kind of guy who you would expect to be wearing the silver wings of the Airborne on his chest. He was a great athlete, earning a black belt in karate as a teen. He loved snowboarding and snowmobiling. He was a whiz when it came to working on cars. He was hardworking and resourceful and Vermont to the core. And he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Robert, who served with the Army's Special Forces.

The 82nd is the Army's elite infantry division, ready to go at a moment's notice to where the action is. It was exactly where Kyle Gilbert wanted to be.

Gilbert graduated from Brattleboro Union High School in June 2001 and went straight from there to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He was fresh out of the Infantry School and set to begin airborne training when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. It only deepened his intensity to serve.

Sorry, I couldn't find anything else to grab biographical info. I recall a Free Press article about Kyle and his dad exchanging their parachute jump pins, but they only archive a week of stories. Anyway, I just thought people should see the face of a young kid from Vermont who was killed in the desert serving his country. I'd like to make sure no more have to die in a far away place.

ntodd 
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Fodder For My Security Book


As faithful readers might recall, I'm going to be writing a chapter on "Anonymity and Identity" for an upcoming book on information security. One of the cool things about blogging is that in many ways it proves the old New Yorker cartoon correct: on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. People will post comments anonymously, or take on CB-like monikers, sometimes providing e-mail and/or web addresses. But really, there's no identifying information that is incontrovertibly linked to a specific person.

Well, that's not true in the strictest sense. One can be linked to the address your ISP gives your machine when you connect to the Internet, but even that can be spoofed (but the work factor for concealing your identity increases). In general, I don't know who most of you are.

So anywayz, I've been arguing with Marmaduke over at Pathological Musings about the William Blum piece I quoted below. Apparently in response to a particularly pissy rant on his site, somebody posted a retort using 'NTodd' as their username, and provided my URL in the comment. Marmaduke posted the ID info on his blog. He also included the IP address purportedly coming from the poster (we blog owners can see the addresses associated with specific comments), which does happen to come from the correct ISP network. This suggests to me that Marmaduke is said poster (his own troll, which at this point wouldn't surprise me), or he's reading the address off the wrong post, or someone has been fairly clever in covering their tracks. Either way, it makes for an interesting case study. Well, interesting to me.

Sometimes, I wish I'd taken the blue pill.

ntodd 
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Lots Of Things To Read


Looks like there's been some good discussion here today! Hmm...I guess you people don't need me. Anyway, I'm going to wade through things after I cram some sushi down my gullet (pausing, of course, to enjoy the beauty and savor the individual flavor of each piece for about 40 femtoseconds). Traffic on Route 2A (which goes by the IBM plant) was at a standstill, so I took an alternate route--delayed getting home all the same. Hungry!

ntodd 
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Things To Do, People To See


Okay, I have to head out in a little bit. I've got to get my driver's license renewed before my grace period ends, so I'm looking to spend some time in purgatory with the fine people at the DMV, presuming their Blaster infection is cleared up. Then it's off to hang out with a very important 12-year-old and 6-year-old for a few hours. I know you'll be waiting with bated breath until blogging resumes this afternoon.

ntodd 
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IBM's Future In Vermont


The Burlington Free Press says:

Today, work on IBM's latest chip technology is increasingly done in East Fishkill, N.Y., home to the company's $2.5 billion semiconductor plant that opened a year ago.

As IBM continues to move ahead with the latest technology -- vying to be the industry leader in semiconductor manufacturing -- it has made no announcements about bringing the latest technology to Essex Junction.

Jeff Couture, IBM's spokesman in Essex Junction, says the Vermont plant is no longer on the cutting edge of semiconductor manufacturing technology.
...
IBM in Essex Junction makes computer chips used in a range of products from cell phones to supercomputers for its own use and for other companies, a business called original equipment manufacturers, or OEM.

Bob Djurdjevic of Annex Research in Phoenix sees no future in semiconductor manufacturing, not only for Essex Junction, but for all of IBM.
...
IBM reported in July that its chip-making business lost $110 million in the second quarter. It is expected to post a loss for the year. A part of the loss was due to excess capacity at the East Fishkill plant.

The problem, Djurdjevic said, is that semiconductor manufacturing is moving toward cheaper labor markets overseas. Anyone trying to compete from the United States is disadvantaged by this country's higher wages and other costs.

Time for a brief anecdote. Vermont competed heavily to get the plant that ended up in Fishkill. Some might wonder why IBM chose to put a huge facility in our state in the first place. Rumor has it that Thomas J. Watson, Jr., head of IBM at the time (1957), liked skiing in Vermont, and wanted to have a plant up here so he could claim his ski trips were business-related. We had no such advantage this time around, and we didn't get the new facility.

Hopefully our state leaders see what's coming down the pike, and we can try to diversify our economy. We're way too dependent on Big Blue.

ntodd 
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Good News In Liberia


From WaPo:

Liberia's government and two rebel groups signed a peace deal today that outlines a plan to build an interim government from scratch, the first cautious steps to shape a new Liberia after 14 years of devastation.
...
The accord calls for a transitional government to take power in October from Moses Blah, who became president when Charles Taylor, indicted for crimes against humanity, went into exile in Nigeria a week ago. The three warring parties will be excluded from the two top positions in the interim government, according to the deal, and elections are to be held by 2005.

That's a good start. That said, we should temper this news with some sobering words from AllAfrica.com:

Recall that, under a cease-fire signed with rebels in Accra on June 17, 2003, Taylor pledged to step down and allow a transitional government formed in which he would play no part. But Taylor reneged, within hours of signing the accord.

More generally, peace accords have had such a dismal track record in Africa in recent times. Essentially, they are a formula for joint plunder of the state.

They attempt to establish "interim governments" "unity government" or a "government of national unity" (GNU) to "bring rebels and opposition leaders into government." A number of ministerial or government positions are reserved for rebel or opposition leaders.

But nobody is satisfied with what they get and, inevitably, bitter squabbles erupt, which often lead to the resumption of the conflict.

More than 30 such peace accords have been brokered in Africa since the 1970s with abysmal success records. Many are shredded like confetti even before the ink on them is dry.

Only Mozambique's 1991 peace accord has endured, while shaky pacts hold in Chad, Niger, and Ivory Coast.

The most spectacular failures were: Angola (1991 Bicesse Accord, and 1994 Lusaka Accord), Burundi (1993 Arusha Accord), DR Congo (July 1999 Lusaka Accord), Rwanda (1993 Arusha Accord), Sierra Leone (1999 Lome Accord) and Liberia (2003 Accra Accord).

Still a long way to go. Now that we're involved, I hope US attention doesn't wander. As we've seen before, these things require full committment and follow-through.

ntodd 
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Juxtaposition


WaPo tells us Bush Revises Views On 'Combat' in Iraq:

In an interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service given on Thursday and released by the White House yesterday, Bush interrupted the questioner when asked about his announcement on May 1 of, as the journalist put it, "the end of combat operations."

"Actually, major military operations," Bush replied. "Because we still have combat operations going on." Bush added: "It's a different kind of combat mission, but, nevertheless, it's combat, just ask the kids that are over there killing and being shot at."

In his May 1 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."

More revisionist history, Mr. President?

WaPo also reports U.S. Taps Media Chief for Iraq - Regulation Attempted Without Appearing Heavy-Handed:

U.S. authorities have appointed a media commissioner to govern broadcasters and the press, establish training programs for journalists and plan for the establishment of a state-run radio and television network -- part of an effort to regulate Iraq's burgeoning news media while dodging allegations of heavy-handed control.
...
In June, L. Paul Bremer, the civil administrator in Iraq, issued guidelines for all media outlets here, forbidding them from inciting violence, promoting "ethnic and religious hatred" or circulating false information "calculated to promote opposition" to the occupation authority.

Occasionally, U.S. soldiers have raided newspaper offices deemed to be in breach of the regulations, and they have closed at least two newspapers and one radio station. But the delicacy of sending heavily armed troops to enforce media rules has prompted the occupation officials to look for other ways to exercise their power to censor.

Wonder what Michael "Regulation Is Bad" Powell thinks about our censor...er, regulating the Iraqi media?

ntodd 
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Monday, August 18, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


How To End Terrorism


William Blum provides the details of what I've been arguing more generally:

If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize -- very publicly and very sincerely -- to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce that America's global military interventions have come to an end. I would then inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but -- oddly enough -- a foreign country. Then I would reduce the military budget by at least 90 percent and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings, invasions and sanctions. There would be enough money. One year of our military budget is equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That's one year. That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House.

I might quibble on the specifics, but this is in line with my thoughts. We need to stop sowing the seeds of terror. That means, quite frankly, we need to stop terrorizing the world ourselves, stop spending billions of dollars to destroy countries in order to save them and stop trying to remake the entire globe in our image.

Blum concludes:

On the fourth day, I'd probably be assassinated.

Sadly, he's probably right.

ntodd 
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Jessica Knows As Much About Security As I Do


Smart kid:


(from the NIPC's Kids Improving Security poster contest)

I'll bet her firewall was configured correctly, and her system was patched, too.

ntodd 
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Ensign Flipper Reporting For Duty


The DoD tells us about our flippered friends doing their patriotic duty:

With terrorist attacks like that against USS Cole (DDG 67) in October 2000 still a very real possibility, the U.S. Navy has a new ally in the global war on terrorism – the Mk 6 anti-swimmer dolphin system.
...
Taking over from the Sea Lion Shallow Water Intruder Detection System, the dolphins, operated by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Mobile Unit 3, provide significant operational force protection capabilities to the 5th Fleet theater. The Navy’s selection of bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions for its operational systems is based on a variety of factors, one of the most important of which is their ability to work comfortably and effectively in a wide variety of environments.
...
With capabilities that humans and hardware lack, the swimmer defense dolphins provide a formidable defense for U.S. Navy ships and facilities. Their ability to operate in diverse environments make them easily deployable to other areas in the Arabian Gulf, providing stability in the region, and a strong deterrent against terrorist attacks.

Plus for any swimmers who dare get near our naval vessals, "death awaits [them] all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!"

ntodd

PS--One frooglepoopillion bonus points for anybody who gets the "pointy teeth" reference. 
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Generation Dean


The AP reports:

Howard Dean personally appealed to young Democratic activists to support his campaign for the presidential nomination with a stinging attack on President Bush as someone who favored the rich and was fiscally irresponsible.
...
The former Vermont governor was the only one of the nine active candidates who appeared in person at the biennial convention of the 43,000-member Young Democrats of America being held in Buffalo.

Asked about that after his speech, Dean said: "I think they missed a great opportunity. This group of people are the people who are putting us over the top." He told the crowd that it was his third, straight YDA convention.
...
Dean aides provided all those attending the convention with pledge cards they could sign, promising to get at least 10 young people each to register to vote. And, Dean was promoting his own special Web site for young voters: www.generationdean.com.

I'm happy to note that the YDA is open to people under 36--nice to know I'm still considered "young".

ntodd 
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We Must Be Winning The War On Terror


'cuz look at how many people we've locked up:

Over the past nearly two years, approximately 10,000 people, invariably branded as al-Qaeda suspects, have been rounded up all over the world in the name of the "war on terror"...Many of those arrested have been described as exceedingly dangerous, although there have been some obvious mistakes, such as an aging, toothless man from Afghanistan who was eventually set free.

Yikes.

ntodd 
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Bad Job News In Vermont


IBM, our largest employer, is laying off workers in Vermont:

IBM cut 500 jobs on Monday at its semiconductor plant in Essex Junction, and told another 3,000 workers they will have to take a week of unpaid leave next month.

The company also cut another 100 jobs at other plants throughout the country.

The news comes on the heels of a second quarter loss of $110 million in the Technology Group, which includes the Essex Junction plant.

"We are not seeing any strong improvement on the horizon," said IBM spokesman Jeff Couture. "Our revenue has declined which has impacted profit. If we can't increase revenue, we need to cut costs. That's why we are taking these steps. We believe they are necessary for the long term health and short term stability of the company."

Workers affected included engineers, technicians, product design and development. Manufacturing jobs were not affected, Couture said. Earlier this months 2,400 manufacturing workers at the plant had their hours cut from 84 hours to 72 hours in a two-week period.

The other 100 workers cut were from IBM sites in Raleigh, N.C., Austin, Texas, Rochester, Minn., and Endicott, N.Y.

The cuts are effective immediately, though workers will be paid through Oct. 17 and receive a severance package, Couture said. Those asked to take a week off will do so during September, Couture said.

According to Vermont Public Radio, the layoffs were in the "manufacturing, management and research and development divisions." IBM employs 7000 people here, so this is a cut of over 7% of IBM's workforce in Vermont. This round of layoffs alone, by my rough estimate based on July employment figures, will nudge our historically low unemployment rate from 4.1% to 4.2% statewide, not accounting for any other changes in the job market.

ntodd 
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Iraqi Poetry


In a post below, an Iraqi quotes a poet's line: "When I visited Tikrit I discovered fire". I haven't been able to find the poem online or in my copy of Iraqi Poetry Today. However, I did rediscover an interesting bit of advice from Mahdi Muhammed Ali:

When the city becomes a vast prison
You ought to be
      Cautious like a sharpened sword
      Simple like a grain of wheat
      And patient like a camel

(translated by Salaam Yousif)

And now I have to be patient like a camel and finish up some work that I didn't complete on Friday. See y'all in a while...

ntodd 
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Common Sense For Robots


The Open Mind Indoor Common Sense project needs your help:

What commonsense knowledge would we expect such a helper robot to possess? Examples of indoor commonsense includes knowledge like coffee is made in a coffee maker which is in a kitchen; to find out if it is raining one needs to look out of an open window; master bedroom usually has a attached bath; and so on. We will be collecting indoor commonsense knowledge in the form of template and freeform sentences.

The second component of this project will be to label images of objects commonly found indoors in homes and offices. What are the objects and indoor scenes we would like the robot to recognize? Examples include cups, telephones, coffee maker labels for images with single objects. Here users will be able to label existing images in the database as well as upload new images.

Submit the most "reasonable entries" into their common sense database and you win a t-shirt in their weekly contest. And speaking of coffee...

ntodd 
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August Morning




a chilly morning
summer's end fast approaches
dew caught in a web

ntodd 
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Recent History Repeating


Sound familiar?

Few hours after a bloody raid on a police station that left 22 people dead, three Afghan soldiers were killed in a fresh raid in southern Kabul, as an American military spokesman said a U.S.-led base came under rocket attack over the weekend in the war-scarred country.
...
Some 20 months after the fall of the Taliban, members of the militia continue to launch regular attacks on the U.S.-led forces and government and foreign targets, particularly in the south and southeast which was its former heartland.

But anti-American and anti-government sentiments are also rising among local inhabitants who are angry at the slow pace of reconstruction process in the war-shattered country.

Is this what Iraq will look like in 16 months?

ntodd 
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Failure Trumps Success In Iraq


The NYTimes brings some disturbing news about the ever-evolving tactics of the Iraqi resistance:

In a turbulent 12-hour stretch, a pipeline supplying much of Baghdad's water was blown up this weekend, a huge new fire was set off along an oil pipeline, and a mortar attack on a prison left 6 Iraqis dead and 59 wounded.

The attacks raised new concerns that the insurgents who have been singling out American soldiers may be widening their strikes to include civilian targets and economic sabotage.

This just drives a further wedge between the occupiers and the people, because our efforts to restore services are critical to our success. Further, if we continue to be viewed as not providing security, public sentiment will only grow more negative. Along those lines, look at what WaPo is saying:

Four months after the fall of President Saddam Hussein's government, the overall U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq has encountered a...mix of success and failure. Although the occupation authority has compiled a lengthy list of achievements -- from setting up municipal councils in 85 percent of the country's towns to distributing monthly food rations and allowing Iraqi judges to dismiss suspects arrested by American soldiers -- glaring troubles persist. Electricity production still is well below prewar levels. The unemployment rate is 60 percent. Fuel is in short supply, causing hours-long waits at gas stations. Murders, carjackings and other violent crimes are rampant.

Those problems have fueled complaints on the streets of Baghdad and other cities that the Americans are not working, spending or devolving authority fast enough.

"Why don't they give all the unemployed people a stipend? Why don't they bring in generators so we'll have electricity? Why don't they give our policemen more cars so they can protect us?" asked Kassim Mohammed, an out-of-work engineer who participated in a recent demonstration over a lack of jobs held outside the gates of the vast Republican Palace, which houses the headquarters of the occupation authority. "America can do it if it wants to."

It appears everybody had unrealistic expectations of the war in Iraq: BushCo, the American people, and the Iraqis. The perception is that we can do anything, and when that perception meets reality, confusion and conflict are the result. Even if I believed that this war were truly about liberation, the fact of the matter is we messed it up and resentment of our occupation is growing every day. Erik over at Timshel says we are not fighting Iraqis. I argued that if we aren't now, we are perceived to be, and likely will truly be fighting them in the future if we don't get our act together. The latest Baghdad Bulletin testifies to that:

"The Americans say that they came to liberate us, but what have I gained from them? Two bullets in my leg and one in my stomach," Rahim said.

The US-appointed governor of Salahuddin Province, which includes Tikrit, said that, "the treatment by Americans of the people is as in any other province." He paused. "However, the Americans can be very forceful."

Far from the airconditioned hallways of power, ordinary Iraqis are increasingly employing a familiar language of oppression and resistance to describe their condition.

"The US here are an occupation force," said Jameel, who would only give his first name. “Their tanks are doing the same as the Israelis’ in Palestine. They will never persuade us that they are liberation forces. When they kill or destroy anything, the resistance will multiply. We are a Muslim people and our religion and tradition will never allow us to be slaves.”

In a press conference the day before, Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer said that the regular attacks on American forces were "carried out by killers who cannot accept the free and democratic Iraq that now exists."

It is hard to reconcile this portrait with Adel, a mechanic who was also afraid to give his full name.

"My neighbour is Kurdish and yet we treat each other as brothers" he said, "I am a Tikriti Sunni and my wife is Shiite. Religion and race will not be a barrier to us. What we want as ordinary people is for our political and religious leaders to take control. We want to live in peace in a unified Iraq.

"However, now if we find out that somebody has been helping the Americans we will kill them. Even if my own son was an informer I would kill him.

"There is no organization behind it. It is not the Baath Party," continued Adel, when asked about the attacks on US troops. "My family and friends are insulted by the Americans every day and every day we sit down in the evenings and discuss revenge. Maybe one day I will carry out some attacks myself. In the past a famous Iraqi poet said, 'When I visited Tikrit I discovered fire.'"

Unfortunately, this fire is not limited to Ba'athists or Sunnis. Shia are also chafing under the occupation. More and more I'm reading in the Arab press comparisons between what we are doing in Iraq with the Israeli occupation. Given how significant a touchstone the treatment of Palestinians is in the Arab world, this is not a good sign. Glossy magazines are not going to help our image--only consistently positive actions will and as time goes on, even those won't be enough.

A few weeks ago, we had a lively debate here about a rapid exit from Iraq. In that post I quoted Edward Luttwak from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (the folks commissioned by Rummy to report on the situation in Iraq):

The perils of a rapid exit are many, but the only alternative is a prolonged occupation that offers no greater guarantees of success, at far greater cost.

I'm even more convinced now than I was before that we need to do whatever it takes to get out quickly.

ntodd 
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Sunday, August 17, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


Shorter Verizon Update


The Boston Globe reports:

As major areas within Verizon's northeastern service territory continued to recover from power blackouts, some industry analysts said the electric grid's woes could create new pressure on the phone giant and its unions to reach a quick settlement to avoid a strike or other disruptions to the dominant phone network in the Boston-Washington region.

Fingers crossed. Maybe the blackout does have a silver lining.

ntodd 
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Time For A Bake Sale


Where the heck are we going to find this kind of money:

Billions of dollars are needed to shore up the faltering North American power grid if more big blackouts are to be avoided, but the incentives needed to lure that kind of cash are missing, energy analysts say.

"We need between $50 billion and $100 billion over several years to upgrade the nation's transmission system," said Kurt Yeager, president and chief executive officer at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, California.

Kinda makes you wish we hadn't already spent that $70 billion on our illegal invasion of Iraq (not to mention the $4 billion a month we're still spending), doesn't it? Or maybe you wish we'd invested some of that tax cut that's going to cost us $54 trillion by 2008. Heck, you might even wish we'd free up the piddling $8.9 billion a year we're spending on missile defense--that would come in handy, no? Well, that's what I wish, anyway.

ntodd 
   |


Brief Note About The Blog


Okay, one more thing, then time to play with the dog. TTLB's Ecosystem is now up and running again, and DM has sneaked (snuck? whatever.) up to #984 (a Slithering Reptile!), and given the rash of visits the past week this blog has skyrocketed to 226th in the traffic ranking (things are returning to a little bit higher than normal, but back down to earth all the same so this ranking will slide). 18 Inbound Blogs, 26 Inbound Links according to Technorati. And of course, 2 links from Marmaduke's Pathological Musings. So what does all this mean? Not much, but I think it's neat.

Oh, that reminds me, maybe you should buy some virtual shares of the blog, just for fun?

And now, some stick throwing...

ntodd 
   |


Nice Day For Sailing


While I hung out at Shelburne Beach today, I saw a lot of sailboats out on the broad lake. It was a pretty nice day to sail (New York's Adirondack Mountains are in the background):



I estimate I own about 15 feet of sailboat. 6 feet and change are in The Tontine*, a 1972 Venture I bought from a friend with 3 other gents back in 2000. I haven't been out on her since the summer of 2001, and now she's stuck on land to repair some damage that occured a couple weeks ago, so I might not get out this year at all. But a couple years ago I bought a little 9 foot Escape Solsa for tooling around in when I'm up at the camp. The pond we're on is only 104 acres, which is perfect for a dinky little boat. I actually have a lot more fun with that tub, depending on nobody else and being so close to the water that a mere 5 knots can get the adrenaline going.

So seeing the boats out on the water made me want to sail, but I enjoyed the day all the same. And now I'm going to go enjoy the rest of it with the dog. I'm sure I'll blog more later--I have an addictive personality, and will likely need a fix.

ntodd

* I came up with the name. I'm so clever. 
   |


Microsoft Declares End To Major Combat Operations


The Financial Times is reporting that Microsoft claims victory over Blaster worm:

Microsoft said it had thwarted a hacker's attempt to attack the software maker's most important website with a computer worm that itself contained a critical flaw.

The so-called Blaster worm, which still infects an estimated 300,000 computers worldwide, was programmed to bombard the Windows Update site from the stroke of midnight in each country Saturday morning. The attacks began midmorning Friday in the United States when clocks on infected computers in Australia struck midnight.

But security experts said the worm was poorly designed because it targeted the "windowsupdate.com" website, which redirected users to Microsoft's update page, "windowsupdate.microsoft.com", rather than targeting the actual update page itself.

I think Microsoft's declaration will have as much validity as Bush's "Mission Accomplished" stunt. I'm still getting scanned about 20 times an hour by computers just on my ISP's network which are still infected with Blaster, and all Microsoft did was skirt a poorly-executed attack. We are not out of the woods yet by any stretch. Given the company's track record with security, I'm not feeling good about the next inevitable incident. I'm sure a programmer who's less lazy than Blaster's is cooking up a good one.

So if you haven't done so yet, patch your machine now. Don't become a poster child for bad security like your esteemed blogger, who really should know better.

ntodd 
   |


Water Situation In Iraq Growing Worse


The BBC is reporting that in addition to sabotage of the Iraqi oil pipeline, the water supply is also a target:

In Baghdad, engineers warned it would take eight hours to repair the breached water pipeline that flooded main roads in the city.

The International Red Cross said some 300,000 residents were without water and warned of people's increasing impatience with the lack of reliable basic services.

Officials say the water pipeline was sabotaged...

That's 300,000 liberated people who could be our allies, and are slowly but surely being turned against our occupation. One source of the problem according to an interim Iraqi government official: "There is a void in security". Again, poor planning is our bane and the window of opportunity continues to shrink. The BBC also notes that "[s]abotage is suspected in a fire at a sewage treatment plant in the south." This is troubling because there have already been problems with water treatment, and it's causing more and more disease, according to ReliefWeb:

"None of the main sewage-treatment plants within Baghdad are working, but most of the main pumping stations are working," Peter Sherlock, the UN coordinator for water and sanitation, told IRIN. "This means that the sewage is being pumped through the system, but that it's basically bypassing the treatment plants and going straight into the river."

For Iraq's most vulnerable populations, especially its children, the consequences can be devastating. "Because of the lack of access to clean water, we've already seen a doubling of diarrhoeal diseases compared to this time last year: these could be typhoid, dysentery, cholera or just diarrhoea," said UNICEF's Geoffrey Keele. "The worrying thing about this is that 70 percent of all children's ailments are linked to contaminated water."
...
Rehabilitation work is under way at water treatment plants, and tankers go daily to an increasing number of locations in the city. But Sherlock believes it could be five years before the country's water system is running efficiently again.

Five years before people of Baghdad have enough clean water? The Iraqis are in trouble. So are we.

ntodd 
   |


DNF


A bit of a disappointing day at the races. Despite the extremely choppy water, Stef finished just a tad behind her usual pace in the swim. And according to her bike computer, she was on pace to finish the 2nd leg in about 1:35; a snafu on the course, however, added an extra half hour to her ride, and she exceeded the time limit by mere minutes. So a sad end to this triathlon, but we do not despair because Stef would have met both her personal goals: finishing well under 4 hours and being ahead of several other racers.

A couple pics from the event:


Stef is the one in the orange swim cap.


Branded like cattle, here's Stef at the transition area after the swim.

On to the next race in September!

ntodd 
   |


A Day At The Beach


For me, a nice relaxing day reading, napping, and occassionally cheering my wife by the Lake Champlain shore. For Stef, a few grueling hours in her second of 3 triathlons. Last month's was the shorter "sprint". This is the full-length, "international" tri. Next month, the half-ironman. Blogging will resume this afternoon.

ntodd

PS--I wonder if this will piss off Marduk. You know, "How can you relax at the beach when people are dying in North Korea? You're lucky you don't live under a communist dictatorship!" Or some such stupid stuff. Thanks for the memo. 
   |


This Breaking News Just In: Marduk Is Still An Asshat


Please send Marduk more traffic, he's clearly desperate for some, and I can only be gracious and help him out.

What bug crawled up his ass this time? My little post about Idi Amin yesterday, labeling it "More fuckwit humour". Unfreakingbelievable. My comment on his blog in this ever-escalating blogwar:

It's amazing how the simplest post can really rile you up. All that needs to be said about Amin has been said, and I was merely bringing up something I remember from when I was a kid. Yes, I'm lucky I didn't live in Uganda or [fill in the blank], as I'll note you are. I'm also lucky I didn't live in Ukraine like the rest of my family when Stalin (and later, Hitler) liquidated the remnants of my family. I don't think that means I have to wring my hands about it in every post.

Thanks for the traffic, fuckwit.

Yeah, I know I shouldn't stoop to his level, but I just couldn't help myself. Frankly, it's fun. Go leave your own pithy comments at his site so he can feel, uh...whatever bizarre emotional fulfillment he obviously craves.

Peace out,
ntodd 
   |

Saturday, August 16, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


Rummy Has Lost His Muse


I'm very disappointed with SecDef. Imagine how happy I was to find the latest transcript from the Pentagon Town Hall Meeting on Thursday. Alas, he composed no poetry that day, which annoys me to no end. The closest he came to anything Rummsfeldian was his thrice-repeated "armies and navies and air forces". I think he is losing his touch.

Anyway, in a fit of pique, I post this picture of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983:



I'm sure you've seen it a million times before, but I'm just so dismayed by the lack of poetic Rumminess that I had to slap back at him some how. If you don't know about the sordid affair, read the whole story about how he was buddy-buddy with Saddam (he gassed his own people!) at the National Security Archive.

Sorry to cover old ground, but he has really let me down.

Rummy lost his muse.
And without SecDef's verses,
I have lost mine too.

(That's not haiku in the strictest sense, but it follows the 5-7-5 pattern. Close enough for government work.)

ntodd 
   |


Our Vulnerable Networks


Slowly but surely, we're dismantling his networks. - George W. Bush

Yesterday, Steve Bates asked in the comments: Are you sure he didn't say "our" networks? between Blaster, the power grid failure, etc., we seem to be losing "our" networks in a hurry.

Well, we haven't had a total collapse of the Internet--which I'll note has been very resilient this week--or of our economy due to the blackout, but it does make you wonder if we're not due. Check out an eerily quasi-prescient article from winter 2002 at Foreign Policy:

It's 4 a.m. on a sweltering summer night in July 2003. Across much of the United States, power plants are working full tilt to generate electricity for millions of air conditioners that are keeping a ferocious heat wave at bay. The electricity grid in California has repeatedly buckled under the strain, with rotating blackouts from San Diego to Santa Rosa.

In different parts of the state, half a dozen small groups of men and women gather. Each travels in a rented minivan to its prearranged destination - for some, a location outside one of the hundreds of electrical substations dotting the state; for others, a spot upwind from key, high-voltage transmission lines. The groups unload their equipment from the vans. Those outside the substations put together simple mortars made from materials bought at local hardware stores, while those near the transmission lines use helium to inflate weather balloons with long silvery tails. At a precisely coordinated moment, the homemade mortars are fired, sending showers of aluminum chaff over the substations. The balloons are released and drift into the transmission lines.

Simultaneously, other groups are doing the same thing along the Eastern Seaboard and in the South and Southwest. A national electrical system already under immense strain is massively short-circuited, causing a cascade of power failures across the country. Traffic lights shut off. Water and sewage systems are disabled. Communications systems break down. The financial system and national economy come screeching to a halt.

Sound far-fetched?

No, it doesn't sound far-fetched, which is why government officials immediately came out and said this week's outage wasn't a terrorist attack. But we are clearly vulnerable. The article continues:

The vulnerability of advanced nations stems...from the increased vulnerability of the West's economic and technological systems. This...vulnerability is the product of two key social and technological developments: first, the growing complexity and interconnectedness of our modern societies; and second, the increasing geographic concentration of wealth, human capital, knowledge, and communication links...

All human societies encompass a multitude of economic and technological systems. We can think of these systems as networks - that is, as sets of nodes and links among those nodes. The U.S. economy consists of numerous nodes, including corporations, factories, and urban centers; it also consists of links among these nodes, such as highways, rail lines, electrical grids, and fiber-optic cables. As societies modernize and become richer, their networks become more complex and interconnected...

Complex and interconnected networks sometimes have features that make their behavior unstable and unpredictable. In particular, they can have feedback loops that produce vicious cycles. A good example is a stock market crash, in which selling drives down prices, which begets more selling. Networks can also be tightly coupled, which means that links among the nodes are short, therefore making it more likely that problems with one node will spread to others. When drivers tailgate at high speeds on freeways, they create a tightly coupled system: A mistake by one driver, or a sudden shock coming from outside the system, such as a deer running across the road, can cause a chain reaction of cars piling onto each other. We've seen such knock-on effects in the U.S. electrical, telephone, and air traffic systems, when a failure in one part of the network has sometimes produced a cascade of failures across the country. Finally, in part because of feedbacks and tight coupling, networks often exhibit nonlinear behavior, meaning that a small shock or perturbation to the network produces a disproportionately large disruption.

Terrorists and other malicious individuals can magnify their own disruptive power by exploiting these features of complex and interconnected networks...

How would a Clausewitz of terrorism proceed? He would pinpoint the critical complex networks upon which modern societies depend. They include networks for producing and distributing energy, information, water, and food; the highways, railways, and airports that make up our transportation grid; and our healthcare system. Of these, the vulnerability of the food system is particularly alarming. However, terrorism experts have paid the most attention to the energy and information networks, mainly because they so clearly underpin the vitality of modern economies.

The energy system - which comprises everything from the national network of gas pipelines to the electricity grid - is replete with high-value nodes like oil refineries, tank farms, and electrical substations. At times of peak energy demand, this network (and in particular, the electricity grid) is very tightly coupled. The loss of one link in the grid means that the electricity it carries must be offloaded to other links. If other links are already operating near capacity, the additional load can cause them to fail, too, thus displacing their energy to yet other links.
...
Past policies are inadequate. The advantage in this war has shifted toward terrorists. Our increased vulnerability - and our newfound recognition of that vulnerability - makes us more risk-averse, while terrorists have become more powerful and more tolerant of risk. (The September 11 attackers, for instance, had an extremely high tolerance for risk, because they were ready and willing to die.) As a result, terrorists have significant leverage to hurt us. Their capacity to exploit this leverage depends on their ability to understand the complex systems that we depend on so critically. Our capacity to defend ourselves depends on that same understanding.

Our energy system--not to mention communications, transportation, and food supply systems--is clearly vulnerable. After Enron manipulated California's faux energy crisis, Haliburton reportedly doing a poor job supplying US troops, Microsoft's continued inability to provide secure products and other examples of "the genius of capitalism" at work on our critical infrastructure, one would hope that we will not leave it to private industry to solve our problems. Somehow with BushCo in office, I don't get a warm feeling about that.

Guess I'd better check our battery, bottled water and ammo supply (well, I'll let Stef check the ammo).

ntodd 
   |


But "Blame Ohio" Just Doesn't Have The Same Ring


So it wasn't Canada's fault afterall:

The failure of three transmission lines in northern Ohio was the likely trigger of the nation's biggest power blackout, a leading investigator said Saturday.

I grew up near Toledo, Ohio, which I believe was hit by the blackout. I'm pretty glad I don't live there any more, although I do miss going to Mud Hens games with my dad. I like living where there are mountains.

In other news, my friend Evan, who was stranded in NYC, "made his way to Grand Central Friday morning and got on the first train out, which went to Stamford, CT." There a happy reunion with wife and newborn son ensued. Yay!

ntodd

PS--I'm going to crash for a while. Maybe I'll have more insightful or interesting stuff later... :-) 
   |


This Breaking News Just In: Former Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin Is Still Dead


I'm sure you've heard by now that Idi Amin has died. I just wanted to share a vivid memory about him. Actually, it's not about him so much as a childhood impression related to him.

In fifth grade (um...1979?), we were playing charades in Mari Draughn's language arts class. A girl named Lisa (I think, or it might have been Tina--if I didn't have to dig for it, I'd get my yearbook and find out for sure) was up for our team. She indicated "sounds like", and kept making this weird kind of ugly face, baring her teeth, and putting her hands up as though they were claws. We totally got off on the wrong track, thinking she was trying to be some sort of monster or animal, and we didn't guess that one. Turns out she was trying to mime being "mean", as in A-min. Yeah, a strange subject for a game of charades in fifth grade. I went to private school.

Anyway, that's what I immediately thought of when I saw Idi Amin had died. I have a lot of weird childhood memories. Someday I'll tell you about my impressions of Watergate.

ntodd 
   |


Next Up: Volleyball Season


So you knew what this post would talk about: our softball season is history. We actually were pumped for our loser's bracket game. The opponent was someone we've been competitives with in the past, they weren't playing very well today, and the game was their third in a row. They turned their bats on, and ours pretty much shut down. I was 1 for 3 with one RBI. That accounted for 1 of our 3 runs. Yup, it was bad.

I played catcher this game, and was pleased with my play (I did okay in right field earlier, but did have an error). I had a few nice putouts, although one guy stomped on my foot when I tagged him. Speaking of injuries, I also banged up my wrist on a collision at 2nd base in the 2nd inning.

To add proverbial insult to real injury, I hit into a season-ending, unassisted double play. I thought I had a good poke into shallow center, but somehow the outfielder snagged it and nabbed the baserunner at 2nd (who also thought I had a solid hit). Damn.

But that's all behind me now. In a few weeks, volleyball season starts. That team is substantially better than our softball team--we actually win games, and sometimes even advance in the playoffs. Can't wait!

ntodd 
   |


Shorter Iraq News


I mean it this time. IslamOnline reports:

Firefighters battled a blaze on Iraq's key oil pipeline to Turkey Saturday, August16 , as another U.S. soldier was wounded in an attack by resistance activists fighting the U.S.-led forces occupying their country.

Super.

ntodd 
   |


Quick Break


Our captain read the schedule wrong and had told us this week our 2nd game (presuming we would lose our 1st) was at 11:00AM. Turns out we play at 2:00PM. So I scooted home to take a nap and eat something.

We did indeed lose this morning, but only 22-16. We had a brief lead after a 9-run fourth inning. I was barely a part of the offense, going 1 for 4. Pretty rainy game, and I pity the folks playing right now because it's a total downpour, at least at my house.

Later,
ntodd

 
   |


A Rational Animal Back Online


Welcome back Lilith! Everybody go read her fair and balanced posts.

ntodd 
   |


Softball Tournament


Our first game is at 8. I expect us to be eliminated by early afternoon. No blogging 'til then!

ntodd 
   |

Friday, August 15, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


aaaabcddefilnnr


I'm fair-and-balanced out. Stef will be home from the radio station soon, and I want to go have dinner somewhere that has A/C.

If you haven't seen spine's Dean vs. Edwards artwork, check it out. Speaking of creative editing, don't miss Bush's shadow puppet show or the classic Iraqi Army recruitment poster (before it disappears into the bowels of the archive).

Be fair and balanced to each other.

ntodd 
   |


Ail Canard Fan Bed


President Bush unveiled his "Healthy Business Initiative" today at a $2000 a cup teaparty fundraiser in California. The bold plan encourages companies to "thin" their workforce, much like wise forest management. By laying off less-healthy people, the overall employee population is expected to be much healthier.

According to a study conducted by the non-partisan group, Americans for Healthy Business (see scientific-looking graph, right), the handful of American workers who are still actually employed somewhere is "substantially healthier than it was during the previous administration". In an interview after the announcement, AHB president Paul O'Neil remarked, "we have clear data showing that as the number of workers in the United States drops, the overall health of the remaining employees has increased dramatically." The data also shows that as each employee takes on additional work with no pay increase, their health eventually deteriorates. "Then they would be laid off, and overall employee health would rise again," O'Neil said.

On the basis of such solid research, the President is putting a great amount of political pressure on Congress to pass his initiative by Monday of next week. Sen. Tom Daschle (Spineless - S. Dakota) indicated he would "allow the President to run roughshod over us. In fact, we won't even ask to be given time to read the bill." Some members of the minority have privately grumbled about parliamentary procedure and having adequate debate, which the president observed was "just politics." "Those who oppose my plan are objectively pro-sickness," Bush declared. With the bill expected to pass with an overwhelming majority, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 15% just before the closing bell.

ntodd 
   |


Hi, A Catalan Beard Fund


That Ayn Clouter is at it again:

Right-thinking moral Americans are always asking me "Ayn, where can I take my family on vacation without exposing them to decadence and acres of exposed flesh?" Here's my suggestion: go to Utah, the most Republican state in the union, where the values of an Old Testament God are still honored (but without all that bothersome Jewish stuff about circumcisions and not eating blood).

And if you haven't already, check out her new fair and balanced book, Jaywalking.

ntodd

[Instant update: whoops, forgot to note that Clouter's book is "fair and balanced".] 
   |


Bogart, Find A Carnal Bead. Cliff: Rene, A Crowd!


What a difference a day makes. Thanks to faithful reader spine's creative PhotoShop work, and his subtle advertising of said work, traffic at DM has gone through the roof. It wouldn't be even a blip on the big guys' blogs, but today I've seen as many visitors as I usually see in a week. It also appears that someone from the same network (Class A address from AT&T's block) as my 3000th visitor yesterday just became my 3500th.

Thanks, spine!

ntodd 
   |


Manila Tiara Loan: Fail A Contraband End


FYI, A Rational Animal is still down and will not be fair and balanced today. Alas.

Lilith will attempt to be fair and balanced whenever the heck her ISP is backonline. Whenever that is, check her blog often!

ntodd 
   |


Bin Laden A Cad, Far


As many fair and balanced people feared, U.S. change of focus gives Al Qaida another chance:

In Jakarta, a suicide bomber dispatched by Osama bin Laden's regional protégés detonates a devastating blast outside an American-owned hotel, blowing apart 10 people. In Baghdad, two days later, a bomb rips through the Jordanian embassy claiming up to 19 lives in what is thought to be a revenge attack by another Al Qaida-linked faction, for Amman's Western-leaning politics.

For the fanatical disciples of the Saudi terrorist mastermind, it has been another murderously good week - even if nearly all the victims were unsuspecting Indonesians and Iraqis who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet the name of the man declared the world's "most wanted" by U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001, attacks is rarely mentioned by senior administration figures these days. Senator Bob Graham, a Democratic presidential hopeful and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently said that Washington had "lost focus" on Al Qaida and bin Laden when it turned its attention to war with Iraq. The Bush administration had turned him into "Osama bin Forgotten", he added.

Bush last spoke of him in public in June, when he insisted to reporters: "If Osama bin Laden is alive, the people reporting to him, the chief operators, are no longer a threat. Slowly but surely, we're dismantling his networks."

The evidence of the past few days suggests otherwise: the tentacles of Al Qaida are still active - as senior Pentagon officials acknowledge. Some fear that the original goals of the war on terror declared by Bush have been sidelined as Washington pours men and resources into Iraq, first to overthrow Saddam and now to track him down.

Unfortunately, BushCo was deaf to our legitimate concerns, and has weakened our security.

ntodd 
   |


Canada A Blind Ref


Newsflash! President Bush announced moments ago the Department of Homeland Security has determined that Canada is to blame for the massive blackout crippling the US economy. "Our Canidarian neighbors have used weapons of mass disruption in an attack against freedom." The president continued, "Right after I get back from vacation, the very first thing I'm going to do is retaliate by lobbing a few MOABs at Ottawa."

When asked if maybe we should invest the necessary funds into our ailing electric grid, Bush responded that it was much more important to spend billions on a missile defense system that "would prevent exactly this kind of attack."

ntodd

PS--Tom Burka reports that he has received different information about the power outage. 
   |


Bar A/C And Fan Idle


No time to do a fair and balanced deconstruction (my download of some necessary work material is almost done), but check out this article on energy deregulation and the current mess:

Sitting in the dark, as my laptop battery runs low, I don't know if the truth about deregulation will ever see the light --until we change the dim bulb in the White House.

Thanks to fair and balanced Atrios reader, ABH.

ntodd

[Instant update: well, it looks like my download is not complete. I hate dialup.] 
   |


France Bad And Ail


As we say in fair and balanced Vermont, jeezum crow. Get a load of this unfair and unbalanced WaPo op-ed:

TO LISTEN TO THE FUSS Europeans are making about their weather, anyone would think that it was actually hot over there.
...
Okay, so maybe it's a bit warmer than usual. Temperatures across the continent have shot up into the 90s and once or twice have topped 100 degrees in London and Paris. But is this really hot -- hot enough to close businesses, hot enough to cancel trains (the tracks might buckle), hot enough to wax nostalgic for the summer rain to which some Europeans, notably residents of the British Isles, are more accustomed?

Last time we checked, the weather here in Washington was in the upper 80s, which is average to low for this time of year. Temperatures in Houston and Dallas in the past couple of days have topped 100, as they usually do in summer. Yet somehow, no one's talking about extraordinary measures being taken by Texans or Washingtonians.

Fair and balanced response: a) gotta love the compassion on display; b) Chicago had almost 800 people die in a 1995 heat wave; c) just as in fair and balanced Vermont, they don't have very hot weather over there, so most people don't have A/C; d) many people in the US are without A/C now, and complaining; e) DC shuts down when there's an inch of snow, but we here in fair and balanced Vermont somehow manage to go to school and work in snow storms.

Oh, and to the person who wrote that piece of tripe: go "fair and balance" yourself, asshat.

ntodd 
   |


A Cabana Fled Rind


A fair and balanced photo:


When informed of the massive power blackout in the East, President Bush was just finishing up his shadow puppet show for donors in California. He reportedly told his aides, "Just a sec, I'm going to do my grand finale: a big scary bear!"

ntodd

PS--Original, untouched photo can be found in this Yahoo! News slide show
   |


A Barnacled Fad In


Asia Times provides this fair and balanced report from Afghanistan:

Notwithstanding the changing of the guard in Kabul, which sees the North Atlantic Treaty Organization taking over command of the International Security Assistance Force, the resistance network that covers large swathes of the country is firmly in place.
...
The evolving situation in Afghanistan - and Iraq for that matter - represents the designs of the International Islamic Front, which aims to draw the enemy (US) to battlefields, where it will be engaged in protracted warfare that will reap a heavy human and economic toll - much as happened to the former Soviet Union in its misadventure in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

To this end, the Front is recruiting fighters from around the world - and especially from Pakistan and the Central Asian republics - to become its new martyrs on the killing fields of Afghanistan.

Fair and balanced analysis: quagmire.

ntodd 
   |


A Canaan Bird Fled


Power Failure Reveals a Creaky System:

We are a major superpower with a third-world electrical grid," said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who served as energy secretary in the Clinton administration. "Our grid is antiquated. It needs serious modernization."

My fair and balanced analysis: At least for a day, some Americans now understand what it's like for the Iraqis. But American cities will get our power back on soon.

ntodd

[Instant update: System's Crash Was Predicted. Fair and balanced swipe at BushCo: you mean like 9/11? Bonus fair and balanced swipe: how's that Energy Task Force working out? And in a sign that the media cycle is becoming fair and balaced, this blackout stuff has pushed the capture of an al Qaeda suspect down the page!] 
   |


A Candelabra Find


Per instructions from my overlord, Neal Pollack, I will be using Fox's trademark "fair and balanced" throughout the site today.

Unfortunately, something not fair has occurred which has put me off balance: I have to work today. I've been on leave for a few weeks, with a couple left to go, but reality has intruded upon my life. I have some quick course development projects to squeeze out. I will make a fair attempt to balance work sessions, blogging and mowing the lawn.

In the meantime, today's Fair and Balanced Poser: Heisenberg was neither uncertain, nor principled. Discuss.

ntodd

[Update, 2:20PM: just finished going over the lawn again. The other day, I mowed at a high setting since it'd been so long since I cut the yard. Today, a lower setting, and the lawn looks great. Forgive me for blogging rapturiously, but I'd forgotten how nice our lawn could be.] 
   |


The Devil's Blog


In the past 7 days I have had 666 visitors. Heh.

Anyway, that's a new weekly high for this blog. And at 12:02AM (actually, SiteMeter is 3 minutes fast, according the atomic clock at NIST) this morning, somebody from the AT&T IP network was my 3000th visitor! That makes 500 visits since Sunday, which is also a DM record. I hadn't planned on announcing this as a milestone, but given how quickly my traffic has increased over the past few days, I just felt like crowing about it. Watch out, Atrios...

Carry on,
ntodd 
   |

Thursday, August 14, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


McFun vs. Edwards


Faithful reader "spine" submits the following photo of the Dean "McFun" campaign bus chasing the Edwards bus in Iowa:



An RV vs. a bus fit for a rock band. Who's the legit populist?

BTW, spine admits there might have been a little touch-up work done (other than a small addition, this is in fact a real photo). One million bonus points to the person who can pick out the "enhancement".

ntodd

[Update: I was remiss in providing a link to the Blog for America post the original pic came from. Humblest apologies.] 
   |


Power Update


Just called my friends in Mt. Kisco, NY. Power came back on at home about 45 minutes ago, but my friend Evan is stuck in the city. He's crashing with a bunch of other guys at a buddy's place in Manhattan, reportedly sitting around a candle, playing poker and drinking beer. Since Ev is a new, extremely sleepy father, I'm guessing that he is in fact enjoying every minute of this mini-vacation.

Apparently New York lost 80% of its power in what is being billed as the Largest-Ever Blackout. In addition to what I noted below in the comments, Stef said that when she was shopping at Home Depot in Williston, VT, the computers were actually fine, but the data center in New Jersey was down so inventory, billing and just about everything was completely hosed.

I heard some early talk on NPR about our electricity generation/distribution systems being programmed to shut down automatically under certain circumstances. What if the controlling software is buggy and mistakenly brought things down? That's what happened in 1990 when AT&T's network crashed, all due to a single piece of faulty code amongst several million lines of programming instructions. Similar bugs caused a power grid failure in '96, a partial shutdown of the Internet in '97, and AT&T's frame relay network in '98. Hmm...

ntodd 
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Dean Leads Dems Nationally


According to the InsiderAdvantage tracking poll:

For the first time, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is leading the Democratic field for the 2004 presidential elections, according to a new tracking poll taken by InsiderAdvantage in conjunction with MWI Research.

Of respondents who said they plan to vote next year for someone other than President Bush, 15.6 percent indicated they would vote for Dean. This nearly doubles his percentage of 8.6 from the previous month’s poll.

The poll was conducted August 6-9. It sampled 500 Americans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

"This is an amazing change of circumstances," said Matt Towery, a Creators Syndicate columnist and co-founder of InsiderAdvantage. "Since the inception of our cumulative polling on this race, Joe Lieberman had led the Democratic field of candidates, usually by a comfortable margin.

But Dean's powerful Internet-based campaign, coupled with the sudden burst of publicity he has received from the national media, has catapulted him to the front of the pack."

Towery, in a special column today in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, termed Dean’s populist style and use of the Internet as “electro-pop” politics.

InsiderAdvantage is conducting a running, monthly tracking poll of the 2004 presidential race and has polled more than 6,000 Americans since early January. The company is known for its accurate polling of political races in the 2002 elections.

Quoted in its entirety because I'm unimaginative. (via Political Wire, via Burnit's comment at Atrios)

ntodd

[Update: Towery has an op-ed/analysis piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Dean, who recently made the cover of three national newsweeklies, appears to be the one challenger to George W. Bush who is putting a new spin on the time-tested strategy of populism. One might even call Dean's style, with its heavy emphasis on the Internet, "electro-pop."

Rather than pandering to traditional Democratic power groups such as trial attorneys, unions or urban bosses, he is focusing on rural America and the thousands of towns and smaller cities that serve it as centers of daily life. Small-town life predominates Vermont, and Dean is promising to help restore rural communities.

He has tied positions on virtually every issue -- from the economy to the environment -- to the development and growth of rural areas, where he contends that President Bush's policies had little positive impact.

For many people in less densely populated areas, the Web has become a primary tool, from shopping to entertainment. So it may be that Dean's "small-town" thinking was the genesis of his campaign's celebrated strategy to have Web-using supporters forward campaign literature to others.

I recall reading a post over at Kos claiming that Dean would never appeal to rural America. I don't need a pollster to tell me that's bunk--what is Vermont, if not rural? Anyway, Towery concludes: "Dean's campaign should give pause to both the president and his Democratic challengers." Indeed.]
 
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For The Birds


The dog is zonked after swimming for 3 hours in some substantial waves. I didn't go sailing--winds were steady and strong from the north, gusting up to 16mph, and I didn't feel like dealing with it--just threw sticks with Cairo. Here's what we saw today:


One of the resident female hummingbirds. We appear to have two pairs, who kept divebombing me as they fought over the feeder.


This is the best I could do with the male. I had some shots as he turned to look at me, with his ruby throat extremely vivid, but they're out of focus. Alas.


As usual, our loon family hung out fairly far away. They do come in close to our shore, but usually not when the dog is out. Anyway, all three of them here, though one is hard to see, mere minutes after landing.

No sign of our resident moose family. Bummer--Stef and I had a streak where we saw them every time we'd visit. Maybe they're on vacation.

Cheers,
ntodd

PS--Sorry for not doing thumbnails. I'm just feeling lazy.

[Update, 8:47PM: BTW, the feeder the female hummingbird went to was less than 6 feet away from me. The one the male was eating from was twice that far.] 
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Quick Alert About Lilith's Blog


Lilith asked me to get the word out: the power outtages in the Northeast right now have knocked A Rational Animal offline. Her e-mail is also down. Unclear when either will be back.

ntodd

PS--No terrorism suspected, probably just the demand for A/C. I was musing about solar flares when I heard the news on VPR, but that's probably not it.

[Update, 8:43PM: Patrick Taylor over at The Poison Kitchen has a map of the area impacted by the outtage.] 
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My Fame Grows


So Marduk, the anti-Idiotarian (suggest his editors DELE the "anti") over at Babylonian Musings had this to say about my post yesterday re: my lawnmower:

A certain anti-war tool by the name of Todd rapturiously blogs about his new "Healthy Lawn" enviromentally-correct lawn-mower:

"Mowed the lawn with my new Neuton cordless electric lawnmower this afternoon. It's sweet."

Fascinating. I didn't know saying "sweet" was waxing rapturous, but whatever. He then ridicules my "wimpy" mower and shows pics of "solid, manly" mowers. Funny, but mine did do the trick. And here's the lone comment he got from his Idiotarian fan club:

I am always amazed at the greenies gullibilty...where the fuck does this asshat think the electricity to charge his "environmentally friendy" POS comes from? Oil and coal burning generation plants...Jeebus.

Shouldn't Todd be pushing a manual mower or grazing a goat? Not charging a "cordless" model.

Stupis is forever.

Just as the fuckwits in their overpriced Prius slogmobiles don't think about the production of batteries, one of the nastiest chemical soups-in -a-brick on the face of the planet...or battery disposal.

P.T.Barnum was right.

My response:

Actually, I know exactly where the electricity comes from, given my wife used to work for GreenMountain.com. The "green" issue is whether I use an inefficient 2-cycle mower, which is part of a distributed pollution problem, versus using power from generating plants that are single-point polluters and thus easier to make "clean". I also do use a manual mower. Further, I've chosen to only mow about 1/4 of my 2 acre plot.

From a more "form over function" POV, I actually like the fact that it's incredibly lightweight, whisper quiet, has mulcher and trimmer attachments, and I don't ever need to go get gas or oil.

In other words, Barnum's maxim doesn't enter into it. You might've learned that had you bothered to investigate my motivations instead of making assumptions about me. But perhaps that's unfair of me, because I've certainly made some about you based on your comment.

Anyway, thanks for the traffic. Lemme know if you ever want to borrow the Neuton, or a DR Field and Brush mower. Can't help you with the goat.

It's so nice to be noticed, even by a silly person. Guess I struck a chord (heh, bad pun intended). Anyway, he was so nice to send traffic my way, I can only return the favor.

ntodd

PS--He also takes Vaara over at Silt to task. I'm in good company!

[Update, 6:31PM: Ed over at Marduk's correctly called me on my comment about a two-stroke mower. My response:

Actually Ed, that was a brain fart on my part. My gas trimmer is 2-stroke, my gas mower is 4. There are still 2-fers out there, but I think they are generally older models (like the one my folks used to have). Serves me right for typing in a fit of pique...

See, we on the Left do admit to mistakes.

BTW, I'm blogging while eating a gardenburger (Stef's in town after her VPR on-air shift, so Cairo and I are on our own). It's a really tasty savory herb chicken flavored soy patty thingy. My wife has been buying this stuff forever, and I've always made fun of her for it--turns out, they're yummy! Bet that annoys Marduk's Idiotarian fanclub.]


['nother update: when my wife was cleaning out the garage this Fall, she found my old 2-stroke mower buried under some detritus in the corner. That'll be going to goodwill...] 
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Heading Out


Going up to the camp for the day. Blogging suspended until late evening. Peruse the archives, chat amongst yourselves. If you've arrived from Eschaton looking for my wife, see below.

ntodd 
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The Wrong Focus


Bush has a tendency to focus on a single person to represent a particular problem. Saddam is a threat to world peace, Kim Jong Il is a dangerous pygmy, Charles Taylor is the problem in Liberia. I guess that's a natural thing, but it's a dangerously simplistic view of the world for a leader to have. Here's an analysis of the Liberia situation from AllAfrica.com:

As demanded by President George Bush, President Charles Taylor - a warlord turned president - stepped down from office on August 11, 2003, handed over power to his vice-president, Moses Blah, and left Liberia.

Rather than advance the cause for peace, his contrived departure adds more confusion and could potentially derail efforts to bring peace to Liberia.

The excessive focus on the departure of Charles Taylor elevated him to a status and conferred upon him a legitimacy he did not deserve.

An indicted war criminal, he committed acts of grotesque atrocities, and sponsored the savage RUF in Sierra Leone, whose trademark was hacking off the limbs of those that stood in their way.
...
Preoccupation with the departure of Taylor diverted attention from on-going peace talks in Accra, Ghana.
...
[T]hose talks, involving the government, two rebel factions (LURD and MODEL), 18 political parties and 5 civil society organizations, are faltering.
...
If the peace talks collapse, Moses Blah would continue to serve as president but would be rejected by the rebel movements as a clone of Taylor and not to be trusted.

It would be nice if simply getting rid of one person would solve all our ills, but it doesn't work that way.

ntodd 
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Skaz


Silt has a short bit on skaz:

The skaz technique was most often used to circumvent Tsarist - and Soviet - censorship.

But now:

[T]he whole concept of skaz [is] turned on its head, as entities steeped in right-wing regressive elitism censor second-hand expressions of noxious bigotry, while leaving the originals unscathed.

Disturbing. Go read the whole story.

ntodd 
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The Republic Of Darkness And Unemployment


Salam Pax in the Guardian yesterday:

Baghdad had no electricity for a whole day. Call me the master of all whiners but do you have any idea what it feels like to sleep in 50C? I guess with the current heat wave you have a taste. Today's office stories: Muhammad, one of the drivers, decided the best place for his family to sleep was in the car with the engine running and the air-conditioning on. Shihab was up every couple of hours getting water for his kids because he was afraid they would totally dehydrate. Everyone who got into the office today had bags under their eyes and a bad headache. Haifa, the nice lady who makes sure we have coffee in the morning, was ranting about having to watch "this Paul something" give us lies on TV everyday. She actually described Paul Bremer as another Saddam; we see him every day on TV, and the news is all about what he says and what he does. Next we'll have statues of him in the streets. Somehow you feel like he lives in a bubble and has absolutely no idea what the people are saying.

Listen to Bremer talk about improvements in the electrical situation while Basra is rioting. I just didn't believe my eyes when I saw the images from Basra. I am guessing that the reason we didn't have electricity for a whole day in Baghdad is because they wanted to patch things up in Basra. Two days of riots and about eight Iraqis injured. At least the Coalition forces didn't call the rioters "Saddam loyalists", at least there is some acknowledgment that these are people who are upset with the way the occupation forces are mismanaging the country. And it is getting out of hand. Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriyah all going up in one day and Baqubah being added to the list of cities not really under control.

And at his blog:

G. my friend got beaten up by US Army last night, he was handcuffed and had a bag put on his head. he was kicked several times and was made to lie on his face for a while. All he wanted to do was to take pictures and report on an attack, he works for the New York Times as a translator and fixer. He got more kicks for speaking english.
his sin: he looks Iraqi and has a beard.

Moja over at turningtables talks to the electrician fixing a shower:

"do you think that iraq will ever have a democracy"..."i don't know...there are to many different tribes and groups that don't agree"..."yeah that's what i think too"...the g.i. escort shows back up with the plumbers...i stand and extend my hand...and he takes it quickly..."my name is sean...it was very nice to meet you"..."yes yes my name is Nasam"...

ntodd 
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Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Go to the new DM blog.


My Wife


Okay, so there's substantial traffic coming from the Eschaton thread in which billy bud declared my wife "a real babe. A doll. A lovely, lovely woman." I concur 100%. I'm assuming this is the only reason people are visiting, given I contributed little value to the thread itself. To make your quest easier, here are two links:

* A couple of pics from several years ago when she had long hair (that's when we first met in Minnesota).

* Our wedding page. She cut her hair a couple years ago.

Three more things:

* Trivia - her cousin is Sandra Bullock. No, she didn't come to the wedding--she hasn't even been to a family reunion in years.

* I might be a Quaker, but I'm very protective of her.

* She owns three guns, and is an excellent shot. She beats men at skeet and trap.

ntodd 
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The Signals Grow On The Internet



PC world has two articles on Blaster:

* Next-Gen Windows Worms Will Be Smarter: Despite infecting tens of thousands of computers worldwide, the recent W32.Blaster worm is poorly written and inefficient, blunting its impact, according to security experts.

However, future versions of the worm could correct Blaster's flaws and spread much more quickly, resulting in service outages on infected networks and causing far greater harm to businesses and individual users on the Internet, experts warn.


* New Blaster Variant Surfaces:Less than two days after it first appeared on the Internet, the W32.Blaster worm has already spawned a variation that is also spreading, warn antivirus vendors.

So take it from your resident doesn't-practice-what-he-preaches security professional, patch your systems NOW, if you haven't already done so (or are a wise Linux or Mac user).

ntodd

PS--One million bonus points to anybody who gets the title reference. Hint: think Peter Gabriel. 
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June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 April 2007

FAIR AND BALANCED

Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards

A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.

Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.

For more about me, go to www.pritsky.net. You can also e-mail me at blog@pritsky.net.

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