Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lugar and Political Patience

I caught Fred Barnes on FoxNews being the only commentator to point out just how wrong Lugar is. I saw and read Lugar's speech earlier and was appalled at its complete lack of historical understanding of insurgencies. He calls for a plan B when Plan A hasn't even gotten a chance to begin.

Barnes has a decent basic analysis:
Lugar makes two major mistakes in his speech. The first is obvious: the surge hasn't had a chance to work. The troop buildup was just completed this month and the strategy is only now being fully implemented. And Petraeus won't report on the progress of the new strategy until sometime in September. Yet Lugar says it won't succeed because of "political fragmentation" in Iraq, "the fatigue of our military," and constraints imposed the "political process" back home in Washington. Maybe he's right, but we won't know that for months.

His second and more important mistake is misunderstanding the effect an American pullback in favor of a diplomatic offensive would have. Lugar insisted the new approach would help achieve America's "four primary objectives" in Iraq. These are: preventing the creation of a terrorist haven, curbing sectarian violence, preventing Iranian dominance of the region, and "limiting the loss of U.S. credibility in the region." These are worthy goals. The problem is his Plan B would not achieve them--quite the opposite.

It's the surge that's designed with these four goals in mind. Abandoning the surge strategy would cause the opposite of what Lugar wants. It would leave al Qaeda and Baathist diehards with a staging area, either inside or near Baghdad, for their attacks. It would mean sectarian violence in Baghdad and elsewhere would increase, particularly because Iranian agents would be free to provoke it. Iran's role in Iraq would grow. As for American credibility, Lugar's plan would have the same impact on it that the pullout from Somalia had in 1993 and the retreat from Lebanon a decade earlier. Our credibility would plummet. Al Qaeda would gloat and declare victory.

Even worse:
The heart of his Plan B is diplomacy. "A diplomatic offensive is likely to be easier in the context of a tactical drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq," he said. "A drawdown would increase the chances of stimulating greater economic and diplomatic assistance for Iraq from multilateral organizations and European allies, who have sought to limit their association with an unpopular war." But would these groups and "allies" really want to jump in as American troops are standing down and the prospects for chaos, especially in Baghdad, are increasing? I don't think so. And do Syria and Iran really have a constructive role to play? So far, what we've seen from them is a consistent strategy of promoting disruption and violence and instability in Iraq.
Again, like most of the nervous Nellies in politics they miss the point that political solutions require security. Those politicians in Iraq who must come to the table and create solutions can't just sell their constituency down the river. They know that the situation is unbalanced. If the US can accommodate a good level of security, then the politicians will be able to move ahead because they will know and feel that they aren't putting their constituents at risk.

Security must come first. The Iraq army is slowly standing up, and they are a key part of the security role. But the US has the lead and any withdrawal will ensure that security will back slide.

Take a good look at any of the successful counter-insurgencies in history and my point is easily proven.

Sadly, this smells more of politics than of correct solutions.
“Unless we recalibrate our strategy in Iraq to fit our domestic political conditions and the broader needs of U.S. national security, we risk foreign policy failures that could greatly diminish our influence in the region and the world,” said Lugar.
This is strikingly wrong. You don't alter your tactics in a war to meet political conditions at home, you alter your political conditions to face the war. Unfortunately, the later is highly improbably and the former is a recipe for failure.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another "Security" Overreaction

This is precious.
SOMERSWORTH — West High Street resident Darin Paige thought he was reporting a prank when he called police about piles of flour he found inside his mailbox Saturday evening.

But what he got was a full-blown, two-hour investigation, which shut down a portion of West High Street and brought out the Seacoast's hazardous materials team.

The precautionary response was put in place to make sure the white, powdery substance was not anthrax, a standard procedure that police and fire officials say is necessary in a post-9/11 world.

"We take no chances until proven otherwise," said Somersworth Fire Lt. Mike Clough. "We can't determine what it is by looking, and in the event that it is (anthrax), we need to take our precautions."

Paige, who lives at 214 West High St., called police at around 5:45 p.m. when he went outside to get the mail and found approximately three cups of what he called flour inside and on top of the mailbox. Having a daughter who just graduated high school, Paige thought it may have been a graduation prank and was hoping to report the incident as vandalism.

Yep, three cups of flour. Wonder what that cost?

So, the guy smells flour and calls the police. They then over react and go into full hazardous materials drill. I'm thinking these guys don't have enough real work to do. Three cups of Anthrax powder would be a huge volume, and what made them think that there was any reason that this guy would be attacked so unsurreptitiously with something that is quite difficult to make? If he was being attacked you'd think they would be more subtle.

Further proof that terrorism works very well.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Moore's Moronic Proposal

What a surprise. And the Dems are scurrying about trying to figure out where to stand. Well, at least their thinking about it. Too bad that bloated piece of crap Moore is the catalyst.
Rejecting Moore's prescription on healthcare could alienate liberal activists, who will play a big role in choosing the party's next standard-bearer. However, his proposal — wiping out private health insurance and replacing it with a massive federal program — could be political poison with the larger electorate.

At a special screening in Washington this week, politicians, lobbyists, media pooh-bahs and policy junkies flocked to see Moore's film. And its slashing demand for action on an issue that voters care deeply about, and Democrats hope to capitalize on, generated plenty of buzz. Moore hopes that, after its general release June 29, "Sicko" will exert significant influence on the presidential campaign.
I'm thinking the thought of putting all healthcare under the government is asking for failure. Depending on the government that has screwed up medicare and social security for healthcare is just foolishness.

Sadly, I find it improbable that this will end in a reasonable debate.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Turd By Any Other Name...

A Turd By Any Other Name Still Stinks.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he was dropping his Republican affiliation, a step that could clear the way for him to make an independent bid for the presidency.

The announcement was released during a campaign-style swing through California, during which Mr. Bloomberg, 65, a billionaire businessman, used increasingly sharp language to criticize both parties in Washington as too timid to take on big problems and too locked into petty squabbling to work together.
Right, he criticizes the squabbling, while he breaks the law to get what he thinks is right.

What in the hell is the BATFE doing in their investigation any way? Or is this another investigation in league with the William Jefferson bribery case?

A third party candidate would be good for this election, the only problem comes with the fact that Bloomberg isn't the candidate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sir Target and Muslim Extremism

Does this sound odd to anyone else?
Religious affairs minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq told the parliament in Islamabad: "This is an occasion for the (world's) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision.

"The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism.

"If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British Government apologises and withdraws the 'Sir' title."

Nope, no extremism there.

Duke Lacrosse Players and Duke

Wonder how much the players are getting out of the school? I wonder how much the school is punishing the faculty who slandered the players. Of course they must have been right to condemn the players even if the facts didn't support their contention and the case was thrown out.
The university reached an undisclosed financial settlement with three former lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, the school said Monday.

"We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure," the school said in a statement. "These young men and their families have been the subject of intense scrutiny that has taken a heavy toll."

The players' families racked up millions of dollars of legal bills in their defense, and appear likely to file a civil lawsuit against Nifong.

Duke said it reached a private agreement with each former student after determining "it is in the best interests of the Duke community to eliminate the possibility of future litigation and move forward." Earlier this month, Duke said it had reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Pressler, who is now the coach at Division II Bryant University in Rhode Island.

The players said in a joint statement, also released by the school, they hoped the agreement would "begin to bring the Duke family back together again."

"The events of the last year tore the Duke community apart, and forcibly separated us from the university we love," they said. "We were the victims of a rogue prosecutor concerned only with winning an election, and others determined to railroad three Duke lacrosse players and to diminish the reputation of Duke University."

Funny, no mention of the jackasses in the faculty.

Personally, I'd be suing everyone of the profs that signed the condemnation of the players.

Monday, June 18, 2007

When Will Politicians STFU?

More grousing about the Iraq Study Group report and "changes" in tactics. And thus leading to more information broadcast to the enemy on troop levels and associated tactics. Does anyone in the Congress get the point that there are some things you just don't talk about during a war?
The Republican leader in the Senate said Sunday that support in the GOP is growing to follow recommendations from the Iraq Study Group.

“The president himself has spoken favorably of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which…basically involves still having troops forward- deployed but getting them off the point which would obviously reduce our casualties, and possibly reducing our numbers as well,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

He pointed to the September military and diplomatic report on Iraq as a critical point at which strategy and troop levels can be reevaluated.

“I think everybody anticipates that there’s going to be a new strategy in the fall,” McConnell said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I don’t think we’ll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now. The Iraqis will have to step up, not only on the political side, but on the military side, to a greater extent.”
So wait until fall and the US will be changing again and the confusion will open up new avenues to continue the fighting. Thanks Mitch. You want to give them a withdrawal date as well?

Then there is the "no military solution" blather:
Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, said Sunday that the situation in Iraq is “grave, dire, deteriorating” and pushed for a non-military solution to quelling violence and bringing stability to Iraq.

“There is still no military solution to Iraq,” he said. “The military plays a hugely important role, but you must have vigorous, robust efforts to get a national reconciliation.”
If the military plays a "hugely important role" then they are part of the solution. No one is claiming, or ever has claimed, that there is only a military solution. This imbecile seems to think the military and the Administration don't already understand this. The thing he's missing is that the military is the first step to providing security which then allows the population to feel that they can resist the insurgency and can participate in a political solution. National reconciliation can come about when those parties who feel the most threatened begin to feel secure enough to participate.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pants: Another Reason to Hate Lawyers

Ok, not hate all lawyers, but this specific variety. He's a judge after all, so his pants must be worth $54,000,000.
The charcoal-colored pants at the center of a $54 million lawsuit were unfurled in a Washington courtroom on Wednesday, introduced into evidence by a defense lawyer who called the lawsuit a nightmare for his clients.

Roy L. Pearson Jr., a District of Columbia administrative law judge, is suing the owners of a neighborhood dry-cleaning shop.

Pearson is alleging that the shop, Custom Dry Cleaners, returned the wrong pair of pants to him and, along the way, broke promises made in signs saying "Same Day Service" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed."

Judge Judith Bartnoff is hearing the case and is expected to make a ruling by the end of next week.

They don't mention it, but the Judge Pearson was so distraught that he cried on the stand when testifying about the pants. That really is galling. Maybe he should be given a padded cell, or a swift kick in the ass to get him straightened out.

Personally I think he's doing a punishment by trial. He'll milk these people dry with legal fees. No doubt the legislature of this country will do nothing for litigation abuse like this, since they are mostly lawyers in the first place and enjoy making big money for stupid people.

I'm rethinking that misanthropy thing again.

FedEx Sucks

No link, just comment. And yes, I've been really busy so posting is limited.

Why does anyone use FedEx for home delivery? I made an order and missed that their default delivery method is FedEx. I personally am not home during the day to sign for the package in person, and their pick up hours are 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Those are hours that if I can't be home to sign, I certainly can't get there for a pickup.

So that means I have to go on Saturday and find their well hidden facility. They don't have directions on their website to it. They leave them in a message on your answering machine. Nice.

Must remember never to use FedEx.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another "Gun Disease" Study

I've only glanced at this report linked at Alphecca. No doubt it's the usual finely researched and vetted study we've come to expect from the health care industry.
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The potential for gun shows to serve as places where criminals obtain firearms can be curbed through increased regulation without adversely affecting attendance or business, according to a pioneering study published this week in Injury Prevention, an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals.

The embargoed study and the accompanying editorial are available at and

The study, based on field observations made by Garen J. Wintemute, director of UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program, also found that undocumented gun sales between private parties and illegal “straw purchases” in which a person with a clean record buys a weapon for someone with a criminal record were much more common at gun shows in states with little regulation.

The study, titled “Gun shows across a multistate American gun market: observational evidence of the effects of regulatory policies,” was funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation and the Broad Foundation of Los Angeles and was approved by the UC Davis Institutional Review Board.
I don't know the Broad Foundation, but the Joyce Foundation is a well known anti-gun group. No doubt their research is responsible, or not.

I especially enjoy their continued view of gun ownership as a disease.
While gun shows — commonly held at convention centers or county fairgrounds — have long been suspected as a venue where criminals can obtain firearms, “before this no one to my knowledge has actually gone to these shows and observed what guns were being sold and to whom, or checked whether laws were being adhered to,” said Teret, a leading expert in addressing gun violence as a public health problem.

“It’s real shoe-leather epidemiology,” added Teret, who has co-authored papers with Wintemute on the public health impacts of gun violence. “Now for the first time the public policy discussion on gun shows can be based on data rather than speculation.”

Wonder how they treat people who are brutalized in their homes by criminals? Probably see legal ownership of firearms as the same thing.

The "research" was observational. Meaning they walked around and watched. Talk about lacking in integrity. Was there any second party making the same observations with clearly segregated documentation of the activities?
Wintemute’s first challenge was to find some way to eavesdrop on gun transactions without attracting notice. At first he tried recording his observations by speaking into a hidden tape recorder that he carried with him, but the quality of the recordings were poor.

“Then I realized that everybody at the gun shows was using cell phones,” he said.

Wintemute decided to do likewise. He recorded his observations by calling up his voice mail, the capacity of which he had expanded for the study. The voice mail messages were then transcribed by members of Wintemute’s staff. He made visual recordings of the gun shows by taking pictures with a hidden camera.

Guess not.

I suppose I'll have to read this thing completely. No doubt their fine research will stand up just fine to peer review, but will likely not stand to the light of non-peer researchers.

No Confidence BS

The Dems failed to get their "No Confidence" vote through. Not that our government has any such thing, but hey why not piss away more time when you have real work to do. God knows taking that immigration bill off the floor to make way for this was a reasonable step toward solving issues of importance.
The Senate yesterday rejected a bid to conduct a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, as Republicans declined to defend the embattled presidential confidant but rejected the effort as a "political stunt."

On a 53-to-38 roll call, Democrats fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture and begin the debate on a nonbinding resolution condemning Gonzales. Seven Republicans broke with the administration and refused to support the attorney general.

Democrats had hoped their one-sentence resolution would be a step toward forcing Gonzales, under siege for the firings of nine US attorneys last year, to resign.
As political stunts go the GOP hasn't any right to be throwing stones, but in truth this is even more moronic than most of the recent GOP political games.

And if Gonzales is so bad why don't they impeach him? Unless, of course, they have nothing above political games and speeches to add as evidence of wrong doing.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Internet Gun Trafficking Problem

Internet Gun Trafficking. Yep, That's the problem. At least if you're completely freakin' clueless.
This year's mass shooting incident at Virginia Tech shone the spotlight directly into this murky commercial sector. The Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, purchased his 22-calibre Walther semi-automatic pistol from, a Wisconsin-based online gun dealer for a mere US$ 267. A snip. In this case, state legislation prevented the pistol from being shipped directly to Cho's campus dormitoryroom, and it was instead delivered to a nearby pawn shop – always a wise precaution.

In addition to handguns, most states allow the online sale of militaryor military-type weapons and ammunition as well. One of the leading online firearms retailers in the USA,, offers hundreds of personal defence items for purchase over the web.

You couldn’t make this up, so here it is straight between the eyes as it were. Impact Guns is currently running a "Father's Day Special" on semi-automaticAK-47 assault rifles. For example Dad mightask junior to buy him the Kalashinikov modelAMD65 7.62x39 with a 30 round magazine and folding stock, which apparently makes the weapon easier to conceal. Pops might also get a kick out of a WASR10 7.62x39 AK-47 assault rifle complete with bayonet. So handy for the rush hour don’tcha know.

These weapons are "in stock" ready to be shipped "within 48 hrs" of purchase at the Father's Day sale price of $415.79 dollars, marked down from $461.99.
Now, for those of you with a clue, what do they completely fail to mention here? Could it be that federal law requires that all interstate gun transfers be made between companies or people who have federal firearms licenses? The Cho incidents relation to the gun being purchased on line completely ignores that he had to go through the pawn-shop because it has an FFL. They mention the and completely fail to mention that their site specifies that the transfer must be through an FFL. They're in WI so the transfer to VA required the involvement of an FFL.

Didn't mention that Cho passed the NICs check either, but hey, when you're distorting the truth you don't actually need facts.
Internet gun sales were, in fact, officially recognised as a problem as far back as 1999, when New York Senator Charles Schumer proposed a bill in Congress called the "Internet Gun Trafficking Act", which sought to "plug a gaping loophole in the enforcement of federal firearms laws--the ability of felons and minors to find guns for sale on-line and illegally acquire those guns without detection."

Schumer's bill got nowhere but, in 2005, a particular piece of legislation covering aspects of the gun industry and weapons ecommerce in the US was voted into law . The "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" legally "prohibits civil liability actions from being broughtor continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products."

That pretty much says it all.
Yep, it does indeed say it all. The only problem is that this is the biggest lie I've seen in a very long time. If someone buys a gun online and it doesn't go through an FFL holder, the seller and the buyer are committing a felony. About the only way you could buy a gun online would require the user to purchase it from an individual in his own state who is making a private sale and then must meet all local and state requirements. I would also bet that in the majority of states, even that is illegal.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Million Mom March Propaganda Control

Ravenwood posted this and it is pretty nauseating. You can go to his site to find the Youtube links for the actual recordings.
The tax-exempt Million Mom March (NoVa chapter) scheduled a public meeting at a public place, but when people showed up with video cameras they asked them to sign releases saying they wouldn't show the video to anyone. When one cameraman refused to sign away his First Amendment rights, the Million Mom Marchers became mean-spirited, belligerent, and cancelled their meeting so that they could hold it in private.

VCDL's Philip VanCleave notes how they played the victim:

"We have been threatened by them [gun owners] so many times. And abused and badgered by them so many times that it is nothing to us." [Threatened and abused? Oh, please. Laughed at, yes. - PVC]

"Can (we take turns) standing in front of the camera? I mean legally we can do that."

"We apologize for him [the gun owner who wouldn't sign the MMM's agreement]."

"He can't help it. His penis size is too small."

"Permission to call him an asshole?"

I first thought they were making fun of the MMM speaker, then I watched the video and found out they are actually being nice.

Go and watch.

Russian Missile Defense Shield Proposal

This made me say Wow. This actually sounds reasonable and from what I can see the proposed country is a better placement for the radar installations for the earliest warning possible.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin proposed Thursday that an existing missile defense radar system in Azerbaijan be used to protect Europe from a possible attack by Iran, and President Bush said the United States and Russia would begin talks to find areas of potential strategic cooperation.

The surprise proposal from Putin, and the reaction from Bush and other American officials, suggested that the two leaders were seeking ways to step back from their heightening confrontation over a U.S. plan to deploy a missile defense network in Poland and the Czech Republic. Prior to Putin's proposal, U.S. officials had been preparing for a confrontational meeting with the Russian president.

Bush did not immediately accept Putin's offer but said that his Russian counterpart had "made some interesting suggestions." Bush's national security advisor, Stephen J. Hadley, characterized Putin's idea as "bold" and "interesting."
Location Location Location.

There would still be questions about stability and security for the US facilities there and what would be allowed for a backup system in case Azerbaijan followed the path that so many of its regional counterparts have taken in the anti-US sentiment.

Let's hope that level heads run this thing, because having the Russia with us on this type of thing would be telling to the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Military Body Armor Tests

Appears that the Dragon Skin claims aren't up to par after all.
The technical expert solicited by a major news network to certify its tests of Dragon Skin body armor admitted Wednesday that the controversial vests weren't "ready for prime time."

In an investigative report broadcast by NBC May 20, the network used the expert opinion of Dr. Phillip Coyle - the former director of test and evaluation at the Pentagon during the Clinton administration - to certify results of side-by-side tests conducted at NBC's expense in Germany.

In testimony submitted to the House Armed Services Committee during a June 6 hearing in the issue, Coyle stated Dragon Skin - manufactured by Fresno, Calif.-based Pinnacle Armor - was "better … against multiple rounds and in reducing blunt force trauma" than the Army's current rifle-resistant Interceptor armor.

But after being confronted with conflicting information by lawmakers who questioned the NBC test results and provided Army-supplied data of vest failures from a May 2006 test, Coyle backed away from his staunch defense of Dragon Skin.

"You're saying today ... that you cannot say that it's ready for prime time. That's your testimony?" Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) asked Coyle.

Coyle agreed that the NBC tests fell short of proving Dragon Skin was ready for fielding.
The Dragon Skin company spokesman:
Sitting beside Coyle at the hearing, Pinnacle president Murray Neal put forward a vigorous, if disjointed, defense of his product, telling lawmakers in written testimony the Army was manipulating test results, conducted unfair shots on his armor and released contradictory data to lawmakers and the media.

"Nothing jives, nothing makes sense," Neal told committee members. "The information coming from the Army is fraught with inconsistencies."

I'd like to know what an "unfair shot" is. And the only relevant data point comes down to whether the testing of the competing armor was done in the same manner. Once those identical tests are performed, then analysis of design specific weaknesses should, and must be done. One issue I see is the problem with the small scales in the Dragon Skin. Can a shot turn that scale sufficiently to allow penetration? And what about weight?

This also comes down to the question of what changes have been made in the armor since first field implementation. Are the tests being performed on the latest system or on the systems as originally analyzed by the Army. Part of the deception here is that they want to make you believe that the military screwed up the original testing, when in fact they have made changes to their system. I don't see any issue with the military reassessing the armor for ongoing contracts of new equipment, especially considering that better technology will come along. The issue comes down to the military must meet standards that they themselves are willing to stand behind. (As in they will be willing to wear the armor in combat.)

This also ignores the issues with weight. The original tests showed the Dragon Skin being nearly double the weight of the Interceptor. That's bad when you need to run. I wonder if that is still at issue? They only discuss penetration testing here and not any other criteria.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Homeland Security Sensors on Your Cell Phone

I started reading this and thought what a stupid idea, just from the false positive standpoint. They discuss how they wouldn't trigger an alert based on a single phone alarm.
American cell phones can already check e-mail, surf the Internet and store music, but they could have a new set of features in coming years: the Department of Homeland Security wants them to sense biological, chemical and radioactive material.

Putting hazardous material sensors in commercial cell phones has been discussed in scientific circles for years, according to researchers in the field. More recently, the idea gained support among government agencies, and DHS said publicly in May that it wants businesses to start coming up with proposals.

At the 2007 DHS Science and Technology Stakeholders Conference, S&T Director of Innovation Roger McGinnis outlined how the system could work. Cell phone sensors would continually test the air for harmful compounds and digitally relay any information to a central monitoring system if they find anything amiss.

“It’s a great way to get millions of detectors out there,” McGinnis said.

Like the built-in GPS function many cell phones now offer, customers would have the option of turning the sensors off, McGinnis said.

S&T spokesman Christopher Kelly said the theoretical system’s strength would lie in the sheer number of sensors. The cell phone sensors might be less sophisticated than highly advanced ones some developers are fitting into hand-held models, but they would make up for it in what Kelly called “ubiquitous detection.”

If just one went off, it could be ruled a false positive, he said. But if several detected a harmful compound, emergency workers would know there was a problem, triangulate the phones’ location react to the situation.

That sounds pretty clever. Though I think that they still could run into false positives when groups of users run into something that appears to be hazardous, but is just incidental. Like smoke from a fire. If the smoke is hazardous, it would still be a concern. I wonder if the system would call those people and tell them to get out of Dodge.

I'm still trying to figure how they are going to add a detector to those razor phones.

Radiation seems to be a first concern:
Pennsylvania-based eV Products, which manufactures x-ray and gamma ray detection equipment, and Gentag Inc., a company with offices in Washington, D.C., and the Netherlands that designs radio frequency identification (RFID) and other sensors for cell phones are stepping up to the plate. For now, their primarily goal is to create a cell phone-based platform that detects only radiation.
I wonder what level they'll set them at for an alarm. A shipment of radioactive material could easily set off a bunch of detectors in a short time and be totally innocent.

Still, it is an interesting idea.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ethics Mandate, That Was Then, This Is Reality

Dems are sticking with that mandate for cleaning up congress. Oh, wait, their not.

FoxNews has a quote from David Obey that I really want to find the complete context of. The topic is still a clear example of lots of motion and no actual movement.
Despite promises to reform the earmark system — in which lawmakers request funds for specific projects back home — House Democrats have come up with a way to make the process more secretive than it is now.

Instead of putting earmarks in bills during the committee process when they can be discussed, Appropriations Chairman David Obey has ordered that the requests not be added until bills are in House-Senate Conference — an eleventh hour, often closed door process that will keep the earmarks from being debated.

When asked about the inevitable criticism the move will receive from Republicans and others — Obey told The Washington Post — "I don't give a damn if people criticize me or not."
That's an interesting opinion from someone that has to run for election again. Interesting how the earmarks got moved to another place of hiding rather than brought out into the light. How is this reform?

If they were indeed given a mandate to reform the earmark practice, they certainly appear to be making great strides to nowhere.

Then there is "Dollar Bill" Jefferson.
Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) was indicted Monday on charges that he used his congressional office to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery and corruption that spanned five years and two continents.

The charges — the first against a Democratic member of Congress in the wake of the Justice Department's recent crackdown on public corruption — follow a two year-investigation that gained public notoriety when FBI agents raided Jefferson's home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer.

In an unusually sweeping 94-page indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., Jefferson is charged with soliciting millions in fees and company stock in exchange for using his office to promote wide-ranging business interests in West Africa, including a telecommunications start-up, an oil exploration company and a waste-recycling firm.
Wonder if he's still up for that seat on the Homeland Security committee? I'm guessing that the fact that the indictment was 94 pages long, that they may have a lot of various things to take him to trial on. I'm thinking this will be interesting and that the politics of this mess will be quite telling.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Algore's Assault

Looks like Algore isn't getting the best press from all corners. It's pretty easy to find reviews giving him accolades on his crusade, but less easy is those who analyze his arguments in context outside of the global warming constituency.

Robert Tracinski:
Early coverage of Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, has focused on the fact that the book is largely an assault on the Bush administration. But they have glossed over the most significant and alarming theme that Al Gore has taken up: his alleged defense of "reason" includes a justification for government controls over political speech.

Judging from the excerpts of Gore's book published in TIME, his not-so-subtle theme is that reason is being "assaulted" by a free and unfettered debate in the media--and particularly by the fact that Gore has to contend with opposition from the right-leaning media.

And Thomas Mitchell:
You have to give Al Gore credit for one thing: Truth in labeling.

His new book, "The Assault on Reason," is precisely that -- a relentless assault on reason, as well as science, history, Republicans, news media, the president, corporations, the wealthy and any ignoramuses who do not fall in line with his soft-core socialist friends.

The former veep makes sweeping generalities such as "hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake." Reminds one of the liberal journalist who was shocked Richard Nixon got elected because she didn't know anyone who had voted for him. That's what you get when you surround yourself with sequacious lefties.

I like this quote from the book:
"This coalition gains access to the public through a cabal of pundits, commentators, and 'reporters' -- call it the Limbaugh-Hannity-Drudge axis," Gore declares. "This fifth column in the fourth estate is made up of propagandists pretending to be journalists."
So he's ranting against the media propagandists who work against him, but seems to ignore the media propagandists that support him. Funny that debate that disagrees with him is solely defined as propaganda. Petulant? I think so.

I suppose the thing that these reviews tell me is that Algore's book isn't so much a scientific look at the topic but a political tirade. With that in mind, I suppose he has every right to profit from his opinion, even if it is of questionable value.

English Privacy Plummet Continues

This is truly sick. [h/t Schneier]
PRIVATELY-employed `super wardens' are to go on patrol in Greater Manchester wearing head-mounted video cameras.

The 20 parking attendants, who work for NCP Services, will be the first in the country to be issued with the equipment.

Their main role is to issue parking tickets but under legislation brought in last year they will also have powers to give on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour.

Salford council has asked the wardens to issue penalties up to £80 for offences which include littering, flyposting and allowing dogs to foul the pavement. NCP will use the film as evidence to back up their wardens if any fine is challenged and also in the event of any attack or abuse.
I suppose in some ways this has a benefit, but I wonder to what level the decision making on what is "anti-social" behavior. I also don't see how this will prevent attacks or abuse since the person perpetrating such acts won't likely do it while the guy is facing them. It may lower the amount of abuse, but will it lower the amount of power abuse by someone wearing this camera?

Another thing comes down to the privacy of the individual. This is a private company recording and storing this information, not the government. What protections are there to prevent abuse by private companies?

The Immigration Bill

Now to the issue of Immigration.

Interestingly, Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer are both supportive of the Immigration Bill. Of course they would like some changes, but they do think that this is better than nothing.

Conservatives are sometimes blind to what's in their own best interest. This is especially true on immigration, all the more so on the narrower matter of the bipartisan immigration reform bill now before the Senate. The bill gives conservatives a large chunk of what they've wanted for years, plus some things they don't want. The balance is heavily in their favor, though, and they're crazy to oppose this once-in-a-lifetime chance to stop illegal immigration and enact sensible policies for legal immigration.
Krauthammer discusses the media distortion of the polls related to the immigration topic overall.

But the campaign for legalization does not stop at stupidity and farce. It adds mendacity as well. Such as the front-page story in last Friday's New York Times claiming that "a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status."

Sounds unbelievable. And it is. A Rasmussen poll had shown that 72 percent of Americans thought border enforcement and reducing illegal immigration to be very important. Only 29 percent thought legalization to be very important. Indeed, when a different question in the Times poll -- one that did not make the front page -- asked respondents if they wanted to see illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported, 69 percent said yes.

I looked for the poll question that justified the pro-legalization claim. It was Question 61. Just as I suspected, it was perfectly tendentious. It gave the respondent two options: (a) allow illegal immigrants to apply for legalization (itself a misleading characterization because the current bill grants instant legal status to all non-criminals), or (b) deport them.

Surprise. Sixty-two percent said (a). That's like asking about abortion: Do you favor (a) legalization or (b) capital punishment for doctor and mother? There is, of course, a third alternative: what we've been living with for the past 20 years -- a certain tolerance of illegal immigrants that allows 12 million to stay and work but that denies them most of the privileges and government payouts reserved for legal citizens and thus acts as at least a mild disincentive to even more massive illegal immigration.

I believe his point is very important. The MSM cherry picks information without bothering to point out the differences in how the questions are asked. Frankly, I find this a drastic failure of the pollsters. They provide multiple questions asking very similar things, but supply different answer sets. Then the press picks the poll question that meets their political agenda and publishes.

And here is his conclusion:
Indeed, unless the immigration bill is fixed, that alternative is what the country will in essence choose when the bill fails. My view is that it could be fixed with a very strong border control provision. But let's make sure we know what's really in the bill and not distort what the American people are really demanding, which is border control first. And for God's sake, keep Einstein on the fast track.
Krauthammer also finds issue with how the Visas are issued, which I find really odd. But you can read that yourself.

There is little chance that I'll read the immigration bill. At 380 pages of political/legal contortive text, I think I'll pass. Fortunately, there are commentators on both sides that can help with understanding the issues.

More PR Blunders By the Bush Administration

I'm not talking about the immigration bill bruhaha, though that is obviously pissing on the choir. I'm talking about the discussions from a week ago about withdrawal from Iraq in September. I was substantially irked by this flimsy leadership and I found this Weekly Standard article by Kristol and Kagan that makes the point well.
The ghost of Donald Rumsfeld lives in some quarters of the Bush administration. See, for example, the repeated suggestions by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the administration might pull the plug on the current strategy in September and begin a drawdown, and the appointment of a known skeptic of the strategy as "war czar." Some officials still speak as if what matters most in Iraq is to turn over responsibility to Iraqi forces forthwith. But the Iraqi army, while gaining in experience and effectiveness as rapidly as one might expect, is still too small to make up for the withdrawal of the 170,000 U.S. soldiers actively engaged in establishing order. And there are still bad actors within the Iraqi government and security forces that are pursuing sectarian agendas. The Petraeus-Crocker campaign plan recognizes this fact. Moving to withdraw U.S. forces in the coming months--even expressing eagerness to remove U.S. forces prematurely--empowers extremists within the Iraqi government just as they are beginning to lose power, and offers al Qaeda forces the chance to regain the positions in the Sunni community they are steadily being forced to yield.

Meanwhile, the State Department toys with fantasy diplomatic solutions based on overtures toward Iran and Syria. The Iranian regime has resolved to help Iraqi militants kill as many Americans as possible. The Syrian regime permits al Qaeda terrorists to move into Iraq for the same purpose every day. These actions are not the result of some sort of miscommunication that could be cleared up with a frank discussion of real interests. They represent policy decisions in Tehran and Damascus to defeat us in Iraq. Diplomatic engagement by itself is a trap, at least until we have turned the tide in Iraq and regained leverage.

I'm not always a fan of Kristol, but Kagan is pretty rock solid on this topic and most military topics I've read from him. The problem really appears to be a major propaganda loss that they give up willingly to the enemy. Instead of staying the course on the present strategy and keeping the information war on track as well, they just throw that bit into the gutter. No doubt the Dems and the anti-war crowd are happy with this line, since it gives them more reason to call Bush a fool, but why hasn't the Bush administration been more careful in how it uses all of it's assets?

More disappointment from the Bush administration.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Gun Ownership and Mental Health in NH

This one I find quite odd. Though why I should be surprised that the legal system is any stranger here than elsewhere is a good question.
CONCORD – A person found mentally incompetent to stand trial doesn’t necessarily lose the right to own guns, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The court overturned a finding by Concord District Court Judge Michael Sullivan in the case of Scott Buchanan, who was charged with theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a 2004 outburst at the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Police sought an order to destroy two guns seized from Buchanan after he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on the charges.

In its ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court directed Concord District Court to hold another hearing to reconsider whether Buchanan meets the “mentally defective” criteria outlined in federal law.
The charges were dismissed after Buchanan was found incompetent to stand trial, following an examination by Dr. James Adams, the state Department of Corrections chief forensic examiner.

Adams concluded that Buchanan was incompetent to stand trial because of his excessive and unusual paranoia about police and government, according to court records.

Buchanan subsequently asked for his guns back, and police asked permission to destroy them. Sullivan ruled that because Buchanan was incompetent to stand trial, he also was ineligible to own firearms under federal law.

The 1968 federal Gun Control Act prohibits gun ownerships by persons who are judged “mentally defective” by any “court, board commission or other lawful authority.”

The law defines “mentally defective” as a person who either poses “danger to himself or to others” or someone who “lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs” as a result of “subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

Competence to stand trial involves different standards, the high court ruled. In such cases, courts consider a defendant’s ability to understand the proceedings, consult with lawyers and make decisions about the case.

“Because it appears that the trial court ruled as a matter of law that ‘adjudicated as a mental defective’ means the same thing as incompetent to stand trial, we hold that it erred,” Justice Linda Dalianis wrote, in a ruling backed by Justices James Duggan, Richard Galway and Gary Hicks.

Competency to stand trial “is not directly related to dangerousness or the ability to contract or manage one’s own affairs – requirements of the federal definition of ‘adjudicated as a mental defective,’” Dalianis added.
I don't really see that there is any difference. Especially to the point that if a person who isn't competent to stand trial is not likely to be competent to own a firearm. If the guy isn't mentally competent, doesn't that mean he's mentally defective? I suppose I'm missing part of the logic, not being a lawyer or a mental health practitioner.

This one I just find a bit baffling.

File Under "Why Am I NOT Surprised"

So Libby is going to sentencing, and Fitgerald is demanding punishment beyond reason. Who gave this guy this position?
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is due to be sentenced next week, and -- just in time -- Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has decided this was a leak case after all. Last week he filed a brief with the court arguing that Mr. Libby should receive a prison sentence in line with crimes that neither he nor anyone else was ever accused of committing. If the court accepts Mr. Fitzgerald's logic, the sentence meted out in this fantastic case would at least double, to a minimum of 30 months. So it goes in a case brought by an unaccountable prosecutor now requesting an unreasonable penalty based on evidence he never introduced at trial. This is America?

Throughout Mr. Libby's prosecution, Mr. Fitzgerald insisted it made no difference to the case whether CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was undercover. At one pre-trial hearing, he went so far as to argue it would make no difference to the case "if [Ms. Wilson] turned out to be a postal driver mistaken for a CIA employee." He also objected to defense requests for documents concerning her status, insisting this was a perjury trial, not a trial about leaking classified information.

His stonewalling on this point before the trial led the defense to seek an instruction from the judge barring the prosecution from discussing the nature of Ms. Wilson's job at the CIA. But now that the time for sentencing has come, Mr. Fitzgerald has decided that Ms. Wilson's role is relevant after all.

Federal sentencing guidelines permit the court, under certain circumstances, to take into account the seriousness of the original crime under investigation in a perjury or obstruction case. But Mr. Fitzgerald's attempt to introduce the Espionage Act and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act at this stage, given the lengths to which he went to exclude any consideration of the underlying non-crime during the trial, is Kafka-esque.
Another reason to throw out the use of "Special Prosecutors."