Saturday, December 31, 2005

Calling their Bluff

Over at Townhall, Tony Snow has excellent advice for the President: "Call their Bluff." He reckons that forcing a vote ought to flesh out the propriety of the NSA international wiretaps once and for all.

Note who has not spoken against the NSA program since the Times story broke. The list includes Harry Reid and Dick Durbin in the Senate; Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer in the House; and members of both intelligence committees. In other words, Democrats in the know either have supported the surveillance program or just kept their mouths shut. A straightforward vote would shut up the rest, highlighting vividly the gulf that separates a president responsible for national security from critics responsible to nobody.

Commenter "Hyman Roth" begs to differ and asks:

The president does and should have increased powers in times of war, but do you really think the "war" on terrorism qualifies as a real war?

Let's see if we can figure this one out.

1) Has the enemy launched a massive surprise attack on the scale of Pearl Harbor? Check.
2) Has the enemy has promised to kill four million Americans, including "two million children"? Checkety-check.
3) Has the enemy repeatedly tried to acquire nuclear, chemical and/or biological weapons? Check and mate, bezatch.

Do the math, "Hyman". That is, if adding one and one together won't tax your noggin.

Ms. Coulter, in a highly entertaining column, also savages the Times for its NSA reporting, using everything but a taser and a cattle prod. The money quotes:

After 9-11, any president who was not spying on people calling phone numbers associated with terrorists should be impeached for being an inept commander in chief...

...Either we take the politically correct, scattershot approach and violate everyone's civil liberties, or we focus on the group threatening us and ...worst-case... - run the risk of briefly violating the civil liberties of 1,000 [out of] 300 million.

...In the Democrats' world, there are two more options. Violate no one's civil liberties and get used to a lot more 9-11s, or the modified third option, preferred by Sen. John D. Rockefeller: Let the president do all the work and take all the heat for preventing another terrorist attack while you place a letter expressing your objections in a file cabinet as a small parchment tribute to your exquisite conscience.

Jay Rockefeller's public display of CYA behavior is as weak-minded as it is disenguous. Why lock up a circumspect memo, when he could simply register a formal complaint with the Attorney General -- who was fully aware of this particular program? Oh, that's right, because there would be no political hay to be made with a practice the AG had already ruled legal.

And, despite the breathless reporting of the Times regarding the legality of the NSA intercepts, one need only check their archives to find this news report dated November 7, 1982:

A federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents.

Would that the Times could even bother to check their own microfiche.

Top 8 Media Mulligans of 2005

The invaluable NewsBusters crew has awarded its Top 8 Media Mulligans of 2005. A "media mulligan" is similar to its cousin from the game of golf: pretend what happened really didn't, though everyone knows it did.

The winners include:

1. The utter failure of the UN
2. Hillary Clinton - handle with kid-gloves only
3. Politicians on boths sides of the aisle aren't taken to task over the Border Problem
4. Iraq - the untold stories...

[Iraq reporting] can be summed up with one little paragraph from a story buried in the back of a single San Francisco Chronicle.

Friday June 3, 2005 -- U.N. satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.

I'll assume those are the same biological and chemical weapons that never existed.

5. They ought to print the The New York Times on plexiglass, because their anti-administration agenda is just that transparent
6. Fair Tax - a NYT best-seller, but you wouldn't know it by the (lack of) media coverage
7. Free Speech - no longer tolerated in certain circles
8. The Economy - shhhhhh... the economy is kickin' butt and takin' names.

Need I even say it? Read the whole thing™.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Paging James Wolcott

Reality -- in the form of Clifford D. May -- just left a message.

[Bin Laden and other militant religious extremists] -– the 21st century's most dynamic and dangerous form of totalitarianism -- is attempting to appeal to 1.2 billion Muslims living in more than a hundred countries...

...there are grievances to cite as [their] justification: For the poverty, unemployment and oppression that plague many Muslim societies, Militant Islamists blame Christians, Jews, Hindus and the “apostate” Muslims who collaborate with these “infidels.”

...Bin Laden and his ideological brethren promise that the conflict that has begun will not end until Muslims have the lands, power and status they demand and deserve. Lesser peoples are to be annihilated or subjugated. The Caliphate, the ancient empire established by Mohammed in the 7th century, is to rise again – and mosques will be built where churches and synagogues now stand. Tolerance and mutual respect among the great religions are, in their view, ludicrous concepts. More than that: They are blasphemous because they put the true religion on an equal footing with false faiths.

Postmodern Americans and Europeans may believe wars of conquest are obsolete, a discarded relic of the distant past. They may even see war itself as an aberration, an unnatural disruption of what they have convinced themselves is the “normal” state of peaceful coexistence. But our enemies view the world differently. Their perspective is of an older vintage...

"Postmodern Americans" includes, of course, the covey of useless pedants like Wolcott who have articulated the sum total of, at last count, zero solutions to the big-picture problem of Islamofascism. I mean, aside from retreat and appeasement, which didn't work for Communism or Nazism either.

But the track record of the Left ain't exactly stellar over the last thirty or so years. Maybe someday, Democratic leadership the likes of JFK, FDR and Truman will return, but that would take excising the cancerous Michael Moore/George Soros "monied moonbat" wing of the party, so don't count on it anytime soon.

Cat-fight: Parker vs. Dowd in a bitterness-fest

In case you missed it, Kathleen Parker appears to have entered her Maureen Dowd-style, middle-aged bitterness phase. Jaded and close-minded is no way to go through life, hon.

Combined with the recent Washington Post "drive by" of blogger Bill Roggio, the paranoia of old-style journalists is touching, if not humorous. Jack Kelly strikes an exposed nerve in describing the WaPo's hit-piece:

Journalists don't like bloggers because they fact-check journalists. Bloggers like Bill Roggio and Michael Yon, a former Special Forces soldier who embedded with a Stryker battalion in Mosul, expand the threat posed by the new media. They're reporting news, and doing it better than "professional" journalists are.

Messrs. Finer and Struck weren't reporting news when they slimed Bill Roggio. They were launching a preemptive strike against a new, but increasingly muscular, competitor.

Here's a news flash, Kathleen, Finer & Struck: bloggers who are consistently wrong and/or uninteresting have no audience. The market decides. The blogosphere represents the most democratic publishing system on the planet. Better get used to the idea.

Hugh Hewitt wraps up the 2005 political season

In a nice wrapup of the 2005 political season, Hugh Hewitt is joined by Mark Steyn, Fred Barnes, and other notables for a memorable fire-side chat. Or, perhaps, just a chat. In any case, Radioblogger has the transcript, which is more enlightening than shining a halogen maglite into a coal mine.

HH: Mark Steyn, what about the attempt by Democrats to turn the president's ordering of surveillance of al Qaeda communicating with their American agents into the Nixon plumbers, part 2?

MS: ...I think Rasmussen had a poll a day or two ago showing that 2/3rd of Americans believed that [the] National Security Agency should be allowed to intercept phone conversations between terrorist cells in other countries and people living in the United States. And the idea that the Democrats can go to the country and say oh, it's outrageous that this Achmed in Hamburg was calling a number in Virginia and New Jersey, and the government was listening in on the conversations. That is simply not going to play... the president has essentially become like one of these sort of creatures in a horror movie where the Democrats pump evermore ineffectual bullets into him, over Katrina, over Abu Ghraib, and now over this thing. And none of them resonate with the broader public...

One Red Paper Clip

Here's a neat stunt that has "publicity bonanza" written all over it. Blogger Kyle MacDonald is on a quest: starting with a single red paper clip, he wants to trade up. All the way to a house. Using only trades -- and no currency -- MacDonald has already swapped his way from the lone paper-clip he started with to a snowmobile.

One Red Paper Clip

Thursday, December 29, 2005

In the land of Brother Leader

The glories of socialism are described in exquisite detail by Michael Totten. His visit to Libya, home of "Brother Leader" Muammar Kaddaffi, is at once eye-opening and nausea-inducing. Of course, it's certain to be ignored by the barking moonbat brigade and "journalists" the likes of James Wolcott. Their real-world exposure to suffering is limited to a brief tooth-ache one afternoon following a Mounds Bar binge.

Consider this yet another chapter in the list of catastrophic crimes inflicted against humanity by Communists and Socialists.

When you visit another country, it’s hard to get a feel for what it’s actually like until you leave your hotel room, go for a walk, take a look around, and hang out while soaking it in. Not so in Libya. All you have to do there is show up. It will impose itself on you at once.

My Air Afriquiya flight touched down on the runway next to a junkyard of filthy, gutted and broken-down Soviet aircraft in an airport otherwise empty of planes. When I stepped out of the hatch into the jetway, I came face to face with three uniformed military goons who scrutinized me and everyone else from behind reflective oversize sunglasses...

LA Weekly: Michael Totten's In the Land of the Brother Leader

Book Review: Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald

Terrifying, Memorable, and Unique
Level 7 represents the journal of Officer X-127, a member of an elite Armed Forces unit. X-127 reports to the bottom-most layer (level 7) of a highly secure facility, where he is then ordered to set off a massive nuclear attack. The facility is a city unto itself, four thousand feet underground and fully prepared to withstand a direct attack and the resulting radiation for many decades.

Chosen for their ability to follow orders and to withstand the confines of the facility, X-127 and his fellow officers must now come to grips with the fact that they may, in fact, never leave. The surface of the Earth has been transformed into a radiological wasteland, but those in the facility -- some of whom represent a "continuity of government" operation -- will be safe.

Or so it seems. Reports of radiation poisoning begin to filter in from the higher levels of the facility. With a gripping, impending sense of doom, Roshwald takes us on a journey into the true meaning of mutually assured destruction.

I first read this book upwards of 30 years ago. It has never left me. Was it because I was young? Impressionable? I don't know, but the book certainly left an indelible footprint in my mind that few, if any, other work can match. Whatever Roshwald constructed in Level 7 was utterly unique and memorable beyond description.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Holiday in Wartime

Received this email from a friend a few days ago. When I asked, he told me I could share it. And, as you'll see, it's certainly worth sharing.

This is from one of my 'brothers' from the Gulf War - he was a platoon leader and I an XO/FSO at the time - who is in Iraq right now. Brings back memories. How things have changed there, but also how similar we all are, no matter where we come from or what we have done.... Most of all, Peace on earth and goodwill towards all. May you have the best Christmas ever. B

Sent: Friday, December 23, 2005 8:54 PM
Subject: FW: Holiday in Wartime

So, this is Christmas. My 'home' is one half of a modified steel shipping container. Holiday decorations-wise, there is not a while lot that you can do with that. Mistletoe would only freak out my Georgia-born good ol' boy roommate 'Rusty' and tinsel is not available.

Moreover, in central Iraq it can be rather a bother to find even the smallest of pine trees. Accordingly, on Dec 25 my trailer will look pretty much the way it looked on July 25 or Feb 25 for that matter. My day will begin as every day does, with white steel walls, relieved only be a few pictures of my daughters and my fiancée, and a map of Baghdad.

Coffee, on Christmas morning, is what really starts my day. I head over to the headquarters where I work, doff my 'battle rattle' and start in on my list of tasks. Within minutes three things will have occurred: I will notice that I have emails from fiancée, but not from my children; I will see that my convoy through Baghdad for the next day is scheduled; and I will seek out my friend and sometime translator, Achmed.

I was 23 and an infantry platoon leader in the first Gulf War. Achmed was the same age, and doing the same things, on the other side. We both advanced in opposing armies - though being a Shia, Achmed could not advance beyond a certain point in Saddam's Army. All of our adult lives we faced each other as enemies, though we did not know each other. Our lives were, however, parallel in ways. We both taught at our respective military academies, for example: I at West Point, he at Rustimayah. On April 9, 2003, Achmed was on his way to his post at the Iraqi military academy. Some of the lieutenants I trained, doubtless led by American soldiers, shot his vehicle and cost him his arm. By the same token, some of those he trained have certainly been leading elements of the opposition these past two years. We find this amusing, in the dark humor common to soldiers of all armies.

We will sit down over a table of cigarettes. I will have coffee, Achmed will have tea. Achmed will talk about his two boys. I will talk about my three girls. I will explain an American Christmas, specifically as I knew in Northeastern Ohio, near the small town of Chagrin Falls. He will compare it to the 'Feast', the celebrations that come at the end of Ramadan. We will smoke too many cigarettes. In comfortable silences we will think of a different life, and perhaps of a future when neither of us need carry our rifles anymore. Then we will return to work.

Harry Reid: Unfrozen Caveman Leader

From James Taranto's never-to-be-missed Best of the Web:

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! . . . When I see my image on the security camera at the country club, I wonder, are they stealing my soul? I get so upset, I hop out of my Range Rover, and run across the fairway to to the clubhouse, where I get Carlos to make me one of those martinis he's so famous for, to soothe my primitive caveman brain. But whatever world you're from, I do know one thing--in the 20 years from March 22, 1972, when he first ordered that extra nicotine be put into his product, until February 25, 1992, when he issued an interoffice memorandum stopping the addition of that nicotine, my client was legally insane."-- Phil Hartman as "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer," "Saturday Night Live," March 23, 1996

"Mr. President, maybe I didn't have the education of a lot of my friends. I was educated in a little school in Searchlight, Nev. We didn't have English class. Maybe my choice of words wasn't perfect. Maybe I should have said we killed the conference report. But the fact is, that is what we had done. People can try to change the words and the meaning of it all they want, but that is what happened. I may not have the ability to express myself like the folks who were educated in all these private schools and fancy schools, but I understand the Senate rules. Everyone knows that cloture was defeated, killed, whatever you want to call it. That means that cloture was defeated and that bill is still before the Senate."-- Harry Reid as "Unfrozen Caveman Leader," "U.S. Senate," Dec. 19, 2005

The echo chamber

The invaluable D.J. Drummond, writing at PoliPundit opines:

I didn’t note it yesterday, but on Sunday I was watching the “Meet The Idiots” and what to my flu-sick eyes did appear, but Tim Russert, Ted Koppel, and Tom Brokaw, discussing the proper role of humility and candor in a President.

It was baffling, I have to admit, trying to see how these chattering hairpieces say the same thing to each other, echoing various Democrat talking points from the year past, then effusively praise each other for the insight in repeating what they have been schlocking all year.

I guess they ran out of sound-byte politicos and DNC mouthpieces, and were reduced to interviewing each other.


Dad, what's the blow-hole for?

Top-rated quotes from Family Guy:

(Brian and Stewie are on a German tour bus.)
German Tour Guide: You vill find more on Germany's contributions to ze arts in ze pamphlets ve have provided.
Brian : Yeah, about your pamphlet... uh, I'm not seeing anything about German history between 1939 and 1945. There's just a big gap.
Tour guide: Everyone vas on vacation. On your left is Munich's first city hall, erected in 15...
Brian : Wait, what are you talking about? Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and...
Tour Guide: We were invited. Punch vas served. Check vit Poland.
Brian : You can't just ignore those years. Thomas Mann fled to America because of Nazism's stranglehold on Germany.
Tour guide: Nope, nope. He left to manage a Dairy Queen.
Brian : A Dairy Queen? That's preposterous.
Tour guide: I vill hear no more insinuations about the German people. Nothing bad happened. Sie werden sich hinsetzen. Sie werden ruhig sein. Sie werden nicht beleidigen Deutschland. You will sit down. You will shut up. You will not insult Germany. (Throws his hand up in a Hitler salute.)
Brian : Uh, is that a beer hall?
Tour guide: (Snapping out of it) Oh yes, Munich is renowned for its historic beer halls.

Peter (after Lois tells him he's childish): "If I'm a child that means you're a pedophile, and I'll be damned if i'm going stand here and take this from a pervert."

Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'
Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.

Peter: Well, I'm gettin' something really special too. And by special I don't mean special like that Kleinaman boy down the street. More special like... like Special K, the cereal. Hey, what do they do with the regular K? And for that matter, what ever happend to K. Ballard? You know, if you said mallard and you had a cold, it would sound like ballard.
Brian: Do you listen to yourself when you talk?
Peter: I drift in and out.

Chris: Dad, what's the blow-hole for?
Peter: I'll tell you what it's not for, son. And when I do, you'll understand why I can never go back to Sea World.

Top-rated Family Guy Quotes

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Your modern Mediacratic party in action

The Telegraph reports that Europe's recent rollup of terrorist cells helps outline the scope of Zarqawi's network. It is thought to encompass 40 countries -- but the Mediacrats would have us believe that the United States isn't one of them, since they'd render the NSA's international wiretaps off limits if they have their way.

A growing number of terrorism investigations in Britain, Germany, Bosnia, Denmark and most recently Spain and France are linked to [Zarqawi]... counter-terrorism officials are worried [he] could be planning to use his base in Iraq to start attacking Europe... officials are particularly worried by indications that he wants to recruit white extremists who will be more difficult to detect than Arabs or Asians. [A British source noted,] "Even before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi had a network in Europe that provided funds and recruits..."

Germany's leading intelligence official, August Henning, said... "We are seeing increasing noises in Europe and that causes us great concern,"

But, no, we shouldn't intercept communications from Al Qaeda cells in the US to international destinations. That would violate the terrorists' privacy. At least that's what the Mediacrats are telling us.

Michael Barone, writing at Real Clear Politics:

[I]t would be a very weird interpretation of the Constitution to say that the commander in chief could order U.S. forces to kill America’s enemies but not to wiretap - or, more likely these days, electronically intercept - their communications.

Yes, it would be weird, but no weirder than the New York Times choosing to ignore all available legal research behind the NSA wiretap story, including this snippet from a New York Times story dated 11/7/1982:

A federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents.

And it's certainly no weirder than naming Howard Dean the chairman of your party. Or inviting Michael Moore to sit in a presidential box-seat during your convention. Or inventing birdcage liner like the Al Qaqaa story, which was nothing more than a gussied-up cow chip dressed as newsprint and positioned to swing a presidential election. Or dispensing thousands of stories advocating the pursuit of those who disclosed Valerie Plame's identity, but none advocating an investigation of the far more damaging NSA leak.

But, hey, that's your modern Mediacratic party in action.

And, of course, regarding Barone's article: Read The Whole Thing™.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Book Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring

You won't be confused by the plot

Book Review: Girl with a Pearl EarringI'm a sucker for historical fiction. Gary Jennings' Aztec and Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth are probably the most enjoyable examples of period fiction based upon historical fact (with plenty of author's license utilized, to be sure). For an educator, historical fiction is a great way to introduce the study of a period without the usual commensurate pain.

Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring was laying around our house (required reading by my 16 year-old for her AP history class, I believe). The reviews on the back cover were stunning: the Times, Journal, Chronicle and others waxed eloquently; depicting the novel as a compelling blend of 17th century Holland, the paintings of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, and the origins of one of his most famous paintings.

The painting is, of course, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," also known as "the Mona Lisa of the north." An enigmatic young woman is featured in the painting (and on the book's cover). She is imagined by Chevalier to be one of Vermeer's maids named Griet. Griet is shy, intelligent, and too-pretty-for-her-own-good. Forced into servitude by her father's unexpected blindness, Griet becomes an essential part of Vermeer's busy household.

Cleverly navigating the domestic politics of a household spilling with children, a grandparent, and other maids, Griet soon finds herself receiving attention not only from Vermeer's wealthiest patron but also the great master himself. How she deals with these difficulties forms the very essence of the book.

Unfortunately, the book's plot is so simplistic as to be almost 233 pages of nothingness. Imagine a Seinfeld episode taking place in the 17th century without any humorous characters, and you've pretty much got the idea. As for 17th century Holland, consider it unvisited. There were few details that would satisfy the mildly curious, not to mention someone truly interested in the period. Despite an elegant writing style, this book could have been the length of a magazine article without missing a beat.

Book Review: Old Man's War

A worthy successor to Starship Troopers
Book Review: Old Man's WarIn my biennial foray into the Science Fiction genre, Scalzi's first novel came highly recommended by Amazon's algorithms. As a huge fan of Heinlein and, especially, Starship Troopers, Old Man's War promised a similar terrain of interstellar warfare spearheaded by Earth and mankind.

Scalzi doesn't disappoint. His clever, to-the-point plot introduces John Perry, a widower just turned 75. By dint of his age, Perry is now eligible to join the Colonial Defense Forces, a shadowy crew pledged at expansion of mankind's footprint throughout the galaxy. Perry doesn't have much to lose, after all. Though details of his transformation into a CDF soldier remain classified on Earth, he's lost his beloved wife and is fully aware of his diminishing physical and mental abilities.

After signing up for what appears to be a two-year stint, he soon finds out that his term is going to be closer to a decade. But he'll have the body to match. His physical transformation into a super soldier -- no spoilers here -- is truly remarkable. But he'll need every bit of his new capabilities because the enemies arrayed against humankind are powerful, enigmatic, and quite violent.

Scalzi has woven together compelling technical details (the physics behind the interstellar "skip" drive), including genetic engineering, the tactics of interstellar warfare, human-computer interfaces, and robotics into a first-class story. Fans of Starship Troopers won't be disappointed. And those who relish Heinlein stories will be clamoring for more Scalzi.

BlackBerry War: Analyzing the Latest News

Let's summarize the recent news in the legal battle between RIM and NTP; and we'll try to play Kreskin regarding where the case is headed:

11-12-2005 - [T]he federal government injected itself in the protracted BlackBerry court fight, where NTP is suing BlackBerry's maker, Research In Motion, over patent infringement. The feds filed a "statement of interest" with the court, saying the U.S. government is a major BlackBerry user, and the court should refrain from issuing any injunction that would shut government BlackBerries down... "It’s really like eminent domain," says patent lawyer Jesse J. Jenner, partner at Ropes & Gray. "It’s very powerful..."

12-14-2005 - Visto's newly-filed patent infringement suit against Microsoft and its teaming with NTP could result in the entire [mobile email] market grinding to a screeching halt...

12-15-2005 - The Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announces that it will create a dedicated team to complete the review of NTP's patent claims. Its statement is telling: "Given the district court's concerns that the office has delayed the proceedings and the outstanding public interest in ensuring that these proceedings are acted upon with special dispatch, the office has assigned a dedicated examining team to handle all of the co-pending proceedings..."

12-16-2005 - U.S. District Judge James Spencer has set final brief filing deadlines of February 1st for NTP and Research in Motion in the NTP vs. RIM patent infringement case. Both sides have until January 17th to file briefs and until the start of February to respond to each other before filing final briefs...

12-17-2005 - Research In Motion spokesman Mark Guibert notes that, "NTP has been improperly attempting to slow down the anticipated rejections from the patent office, even going so far as to recently attempt to bog down the patent office with a highly unusual request to process filings for over 30,000 new patent claims..."

12-19-2005 - The United States Patent and Trademark Office took the unusual step of notifying the companies that it expected to reject the five patents held by NTP in its final rulings... The office has issued preliminary rejections of all five wireless e-mail patents in the past. The final rulings may come by mid-February, earlier than expected. [The Judge in the RIM/NTP case] ...has set a timetable for hearings on issuing an injunction against R.I.M. that could coincide with the timing of the patent office's final rulings...


Combine the following factors: all of Congress toting their BlackBerries, the Federal Government asking for a delay, the Patent Office dedicating a team to the final review of NTP's IP (to specifically address the Judge's timing concerns), the Judge pushing court timing past what most analysts had assumed, and NTP's co-founder as much as admitting that the PTO would overturn his patents, and I think we can see the writing on the wall.

My take is that: (a) The USPTO will rule in early February that all of NTP's relevant IP is invalid; (b) NTP's legal case will (mostly) evaporate; and (c) RIM will still settle with NTP -- but for a drastically reduced sum reflecting only the diminished chance of a successful NTP patent appeal. The winners will include BlackBerry shareholders -- along with related firms currently burdened by the specter of this dispute. This includes other mobile email vendors -- Microsoft among them -- embroiled in related tussles.

I think that by the second or third week of February, RIMM could be poised to soar.

Update: an unverified description of the RIMM, "just in case" workaround is circulating.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Alexander McClure, writing at PoliPundit, notes that New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were the only states to lose population year over year.

...Of course, these are the three most Democratic and liberal states, with the possible except of Vermont. Meanwhile, the Southern and Western states are growing (states like Arizona and Utah). The urban areas in purple states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania continue to lose population.

If Democrats sound desperate and hysterical today, just wait until 2010 rolls around.

Tom Daschle, Poster Boy

The mediacrats have no traction. There's been a heartening lack of uptake achieved by old media with its NSA international wiretap story. The new media -- talk radio and the blogosphere -- has successfully repelled the bizarre and highly illegal disclosures of said taps.

The mediacrats always seem to forget that stark, gaping hole in the middle of Manhattan, which represents -- to most Americans, anyway -- the fact that we are still at war. And they won't show us pictures of jet planes flying into skyscrapers or the Pentagon any more, perhaps for fear of whipping the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.

In their zeal to defeat the Republican agenda, the mediacrats have conveniently "dis-remembered" the fact that we're at war. The latest example? Tom Daschle's feeble and revisionist op-ed in the Washington Post, the gist of which was (and I'm paraphrasing here, because Daschle's piece is well nigh unreadable):

"Our authorization for use of force that Congress gave the president September 14th, 2001 never included 'in America'. It only included people that had any association with al-Qaeda."

Tom here's a news flash: there are, were, and will be affiliates of Al-Qaeda living in America.

Tom Daschle is the poster boy for the Democrats' unseriousness about the war on terror. Do a little thought experiment. It's September 15, 2001 and the NSA finds a terror cell in Oklahoma City making regular, suspicious calls to a satellite phone in Kandahar. In the bizarro-universe Tom Daschle has constructed, the US would be unable to pursue these calls and shut down the cell.

Although, to be fair, that makes about as much sense as anything else the Democrats have done lately. And this is precisely why, at the conclusion of the op-ed, Daschle is described this way: "a former Democratic senator from South Dakota". The electorate knows his type is as extinct as the mastodon. He's an ex-senator on an arthritic revenge jag with an agenda as transparent as glass in front of an arc-light.

The Democrats are now in full swing with their campaign of historical revisionism. And the mainstream media simply calls in the cavalry, doing things like running "news stories" on Daschle's column. That's right, not only do they publish a pathetic op-ed penned by a political has-been, but then they accompany it with a "news story" calling attention to the op-ed. In the same issue.

No matter, the mediacrats have no traction at all. The polls plainly show it. The President's rising approval numbers, the economy barreling down the tracks, the drawdown from Iraq, victory in sight... the mediacrats are simply spinning their wheels, not making any headway with the public.

After all, who can take them seriously? Their continual attempts to rewrite history books won't cover up their agenda, which has failed them year after year and decade after decade.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wireless Hacking at 30,000 Feet

Daniel Hoffman, writing at the Ethical Hacker, points out an interesting vulnerability scenario that most folks ignore: using a laptop on a plane with wireless enabled...

Let's say you are on an airplane and you open your laptop to do some offline work. Unbeknownst to you, this probe request is being sent out on a routine basis, seeking the wireless network(s) you have defined in your Preferred Networks section. Another, malicious person on the plane is also using a laptop and running a program called HotSpotter. This program will see those probe requests, compare them against a list of well-known SSIDs, then turn itself into a Wireless Access Point with the matching SSID of the wireless network(s) in your Preferred Network List. In doing so, the user working offline can automatically become connected to the hacker's "wireless network." If they don't have a personal firewall running and are not patched completely, they can be easily hacked in a situation where they probably feel quite safe...

It's just another reminder that you should take appropriate measures (e.g., running an industrial-strength firewall) at all times.

Reason #4,824

The irreppressible James Taranto, writing at Best of the Web, points out an interesting dichotomy:

[John Kerry] said the alleged White House leak of a CIA agent's identity was more serious than the media's disclosure of the spying program.

This is proof, as if any were needed, that Kerry is not serious. Remember that in January 2004, Kerry described the war against terror as "primarily an intelligence and law-enforcement operation" rather than a military one. If he is to be believed--admittedly, a big "if"--a President Kerry would have been more concerned with terrorists' "rights" than with gathering intelligence to prevent terror attacks.

Some Democrats, less hinged than Kerry, are even using the I-word, presumably in part because they're still sore over Bill Clinton's impeachment. Almost every Democrat opposed Clinton's impeachment, which we guess tells us something about their view of proper presidential conduct: Self-serving lies under oath are no big deal, but protecting Americans from terrorist attacks is unforgivable.

And, yes, this is reason #4,824 in my continuing series entitled, "Why the Mediacrats can't be allowed anywhere near the levers of power in this country."

The Gray Lady takes on Powerline

Top-flight legal counsel at Powerline engages the New York Times in an email conversation relating to (a) the legality of the NSA international wiretap program; and (b) the legitimacy of the Times' spin on said national security effort.

Spoiler: it ends badly for the Times.

As expected, Powerline also has the most comprehensive legal analysis on the international wiretap story - anywhere.

Quote of the Day

ACLU co-founder Roger Baldwin on his agenda:

I am for socialism, disarmament, and ultimately, for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek social ownership of property, the abolition of the properties class, and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal. It all sums up into one single purpose -- the abolition of dog-eat-dog under which we live. I don't regret being part of the communist tactic. I knew what I was doing. I was not an innocent liberal. I wanted what the communists wanted and I traveled the United Front road to get it.

The anti-American wing of the ACLU is destined for history's dumpster, just like Baldwin's ideal: the Soviet Union.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Real outrage over faux news

The depths to which the mainstream media will sink to wage its propaganda war against the President truly knows no bounds. The NSA's international wire-taps, used by the administration to track fast-moving enemy operatives, are only the latest example. Putting American civilians at risk? The Times doesn't care. Demoralizing the troops? Whatever - just so long as the Bush administration is discredited.

The manufacturers of faux news have their very own hall of shame: Al Qaqaa, the CIA's not-secret-anymore detention areas, the Texas Air National Guard memos, the slander-fest aimed at the Swiftboat veterans, and the Joe Wilson fabrication-o-rama are simply the most obvious, recent entries.

EIB thinks Congress should hold hearings regarding the NSA intercepts:

If they ever get hearings on this NSA business, can you imagine what that would be? I don't believe they ever really want hearings. I don't think that's what this is about. They would not be able to withstand any hearings. The facts would come out and bury them. They'd be buried by the facts. You call Bill Clinton up there. You call Jimmy Carter up there. You call their attorney generals. It's over. Call... [John] Schmidt [who] wrote the piece in the Chicago Tribune today. Call Richard Posner. It's over. I mean, it's amazing. Literally, folks, news is being censored in order to [facilitate] propaganda...

By the way, John Schmidt served under President Clinton from 1994 to 1997 as the associate attorney general. The headline in his op-ed piece reads, "President had legal authority to OK taps."

And that's a legal muckety-muck from the Clinton Administration.

And here are the executive orders executive orders from Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter saying precisely the same thing.

Bet you haven't seen that reported in your daily newspaper.

There's a propaganda war going on here, folks. And, we, the American people are losing that war. But there's a way we can fight back

If you're a Nielsen family, don't watch ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN or MSNBC. Watch Fox. Watch it all day and have the whole family watch.

If you're a subscriber to the Old York Times, the Washington Post, or the Boston Globe, cancel your subscription immediately and re-up with the Post or Sun, the Washington Times, or the Herald -- respectively.

This will accelerate the MSM's already catastrophic ratings and subscription slides... and hasten the demise of these Pravda-equivalents. We'll continue to put a beating on these outlets the way Ivan Drago bludgeoned Apollo Creed in "Rocky IV"... and Creed died as a result of that fight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The unmitigated hypocrisy of the Mediacrats

Jed Babbin, writing at The American Spectator describes the legalese in language anyone (even Russ Feingold) should be able to understand.

...the FISA court issues warrants based on findings of probable cause, like other U.S. courts issuing criminal search warrants. There are too many situations -- like the one we were in before 9-11 -- in which too many possible terrorists are talking to each other and their helpers to sort them out one by one and get individual warrants. Which is why the law, and the regulations that implement it, allow the Attorney General to bypass the FISA court.

...Under Section 4 of USSID 18, communications which are known to be to or from U.S. persons can't be intentionally intercepted without: (a) the approval of the FISA court is obtained; OR (b) the approval of the Attorney General of the United States with respect to "communications to or from U.S. PERSONS outside the United States... USSID 18 goes on to allow NSA to gather intelligence about a U.S. person outside the United States even without Attorney General sanction in emergencies...

Oh, and that's right, the Attorney General did approve these international wiretaps. And, as President Bush explained, so did others:

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland... [Each] review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups...

Thank you, Mr. President:

The Belmont Club also notes the ramifications of the glad-handing, serial leakers who used the Times the way Magic Johnson's Lakers used the Clippers:

...the fate of this particular operation was effectively decided -- not by the New York Times, it's fair to say -- but by whoever took it upon himself to leak it to them. The judgment on the wiretap's operational security had been handed down, as effectively as a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court. If your life had to depend on this operation's secrecy, then kiss your a... goodbye.

The Journal pays special tribute to the hypocrisy of the Mediacrats:

...Mr. Bush yesterday called [the Times' latest leak] "a shameful act." We won't second-guess the New York Times decision to publish. But everyone should note the irony that both the Times and Washington Post claimed to be outraged by, and demanded a special counsel to investigate, the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which did zero national security damage.

By contrast, the Times' NSA leak last week, and an earlier leak in the Washington Post on "secret" prisons for al Qaeda detainees in Europe, are likely to do genuine harm by alerting terrorists to our defenses...

The NSA wiretap uproar is one of those episodes, alas far too common, that make us wonder if Washington is still a serious place. Too many in the media and on Capitol Hill have forgotten that terrorism in the age of WMD poses an existential threat to our free society. We're glad Mr. Bush and his team are forcefully defending their entirely legal and necessary authority to wiretap enemies seeking to kill innocent Americans.

Remember, until the Mediacrats take national security seriously, you and everyone you know should vote Republican.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

BlackBerry Etiquette

From the twenty-first century version of Miss Manners comes this trés useful guide to when and where to use your BlackBerry. I've added a few more at the end (in blue).

To thumb or not to thumb? That is the question of the day for many slaves of the BlackBerry. They check their e-mail without even realizing it -- at the theater, during dinner, in bed. Below is a BlackBerry etiquette guide gleaned from numerous devotees and the people who have to put up with them.

In Meetings: Just because no one says it's rude doesn't mean checking your BlackBerry during a meeting is well-received. Everyone who doesn't have a BlackBerry thinks it's annoying. Unless everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, is doing it, check it on breaks only.

With your spouse: Never during mealtime or on dates. Be discreet on weekends, i.e. when she goes to the bathroom at Costco, or when he is testing a new putter at the golf store.

Business lunches: It's rude to do at the table, but if you have to attend to your e-mail, excuse yourself and why.

At sporting events: Thumb away -- unless your child is on the field.

At the theater: Intermission only, please.

On the golf course: Fine when you are waiting in the fairway for the group ahead to clear the green. Otherwise, keep your eye on the shots made by the rest of your foursome.

If you're being interviewed for a job: no.

If you're a surgeon: while in the operating room -- no.

If you're a pilot? No, anytime while jet engines are engaged.

New York City Nuclear Truck Bomb... and the Patriot Act

There's this:

December 18, 2005 — Federal officials are investigating the deaths and horrific injuries that would result if a nuclear truck bomb were set off by terrorists in Manhattan, The Post has learned.

A national medical expert has told them the aftermath of such an attack would be a blood-curdling picture out of Dante’s “Inferno” — and the city is ill-prepared to relieve the horror.

Cham Dallas, director of the federally funded Center for Mass Destruction Defense, discussed his conclusions at a Nov. 10 closed hearing of a congressional panel. He showed lawmakers data predicting 1.6 million New Yorkers could be killed, maimed, burned or sickened if a 20-kiloton nuke exploded at Broadway and Warren Street downtown.

“We are not prepared for the 100,000 burn victims,” Dallas said. “It will be a picture out of Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ with all these people screaming in agony for days, and you won’t have enough people there to help them.”

A bomb that size, similar to the weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is considered “relatively small” by today’s standards for thermonuclear weapons, and could be detonated from the back of “a small rental truck or even a van,” Dallas said.

And then there's this, the 16 provisions of the Patriot Act that go by the wayside...

"Section 203(b) permits the sharing of grand jury information that involves foreign intelligence or counter-intelligence with federal law enforcement intelligence protective immigration, national defense or national security officials."

In other words, that is a part of the Patriot Act that goes away. Does that sound familiar? You know what just get's re-erected? The Gorelick wall! The same thing that prevented us from being able to "connect the dots" prior to 9/11 goes back into effect on January 1st, because that provision's dead, the provision that permits the sharing of grand jury information that involves foreign intelligence or counter-intelligence with federal law enforcement, federal intelligence, protective immigration, national defense or national security officials. That's gone. So now anything learned by one agency can't be shared with another. Thanks to the Gorelick wall. It's back.

"Section 206 allows federal officials to issue roving John Doe wiretaps for spy and anti-terrorism investigations."

That's gone.

"Section 207 increases the amount of time that federal officials may watch people they suspect are spies or terrorists."

That's gone.

"Section 209 permits the seizure of voice mail messages under a warrant."

That's gone.

"Section 212 permits Internet service providers and other electronic communications and remote computing service providers to hand over records and e-mails to federal officials in emergency situations."

That's gone.

"Section 215 authorizes federal officials to obtain tangible items like business records, including those from libraries and bookstores, for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations."

That's gone.

"Section 217 makes it lawful to intercept the wire or electronic communication of a computer hacker or intruder in certain circumstances."

Computer hackers will now be, once again, protected because that provision is gone.

"Section 220 provides for nationwide service of search warrants for electronic evidence."

That's gone.

"Section 225 amends FISA," this is the court, "to prohibit lawsuits against people or companies that provide information to federal officials for a terrorism investigation."

That's gone.

Here's how the vote to end filibuster on the Patriot Act went:

YEAs -- 52
Voted for the Patriot Act

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
George Allen (R-VA)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)
Pete Domenici (R-NM)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
John Kyl (R-AZ)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Pete Lugar (R-IN)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
John McCain (R-AZ)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Jim Talent (R-MO)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
John Thune (R-SD)
David Vitter (R-LA)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
John Warner (R-VA)
Not Voting -- 1
Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
NAYs -- 47
Voted against the Patriot Act
(Republican Saps Shown in blue)

Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Joe Biden (D-DE)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Robert C. Byrd (D-WV)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
Larry Craig (R-ID)
Mark Dayton (D-MN)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Jim Jeffords (I-VT)
Teddy Kennedy (D-MA)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Barak Obama (D-IL)
Bill Pryor (D-AR)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Ken Salazar (D-CO)
Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Bill Frist (R-TN)*
*Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) changed his vote at the last moment when he saw the NAYs would win. This allows him to call for a new vote at any time.

The Democrats (and handful of RINOs) are playing with fire. In fact, playing with nuclear fire. They're gambling with American lives that their partisan machinations won't result in yet another catastrophic attack on the United States. They are re-erecting "the Gorelick Wall" that prevented intelligence agencies from sharing information that could have prevented 9/11.

Only the next time may not be a conventional attack.

And this is reason #4,812 in my continuing series entitled, "Why the Mediacrats can't be allowed anywhere near the levers of power in this country."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Do you believe in magic?

This recent Powerline article by Paul Mirengoff speaks for itself. Go ye therefore hence and read it all, for it is good.

Liberal Democrats do. They believe that our economy can roar along producing prosperity and millions of new jobs no matter how over-regulated and over-taxed its participants are. They believe that if we properly salute all the gods of political correctness, our enemies will finally recognize our fundamental goodness and lay down their arms. Until that day, they believe we can discover our enemies' plans without properly funding our intelligence agencies and without allowing them to engage in serious spying. Al Qaeda may use our public libraries to figure out how to make their attacks more lethal. It may communicate with their agents in the U.S. through cell phones. But we must not aggressively spy on these activities. We are expected to thwart al Qaeda through magic.

The Carter administration represents the apotheosis of the Democrats' reliance on magic. The unmitigated disaster that administration produced paved the way for Republican ascendency. The Clinton administration (constrained by a Republican Congress) eschewed a magical domestic policy, and thus produced only half of a disaster.

Clinton also taught the Democrats not to publicize their magical thinking. Thus, many now vote for hard-headed measures in which they do not really believe or, if no vote is required, hold their tongues. If they later wish to oppose these measures, they can always claim that the administration misled them.

The president's decision to have NSA listen to terrorists' phone calls provides the latest example. The Bush administration advised leading members of Congress, including Democrats, about what he was doing and, as far as appears, they had no objections. Can one even imagine Democrats, in the aftermath of 9/11, telling the president that, no, he shouldn't act promptly to listen to conversations in which new attacks might be discussed, but instead should wait for a court order? I can't.

But now the Democrats are again claiming that they were misinformed...

Yes, misinformed. Not to mention visionless and ill-prepared for leadership.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

BlackBerry War: News Roundup

The latest news on the RIMM/NTP dispute, carefully gathered from hand-picked news sources around the planet:

USPTO to complete patent review with "special dispatch"

The LA Times reports the Patent Office will move with alacrity:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it would try to complete with "special dispatch" a review of patents that could result in the shutdown of Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry e-mail device in the U.S...

Bloomberg News adds more detail:

``Given the district court's concerns that the office has delayed the proceedings and the outstanding public interest in ensuring that these proceedings are acted upon with special dispatch, the office has assigned a dedicated examining team to handle all of the co-pending proceedings,'' the patent office said in a Dec. 14 letter.

The patent office was responding to a request by NTP to give it more time to respond to actions by the agency. The patent office shortened the normal 60-day response time to 30 days. The agency, in rejecting NTP's request, said the 30 days was all that was required by law.

There were five patents involved in the lawsuit. Two were found to be infringed, two were found not to be infringed, and one was sent back to the trial court by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in patent law.

The patent office, in a first round of review, rejected all five patents. The three non-final rejections were in a secondary review, and the agency has said it expects its next step to be a final rejection.

Spencer yesterday ordered the two sides to submit written arguments on the injunction issue to him by Jan. 17, with responses due Feb. 1. He said he will set a hearing date in January.

... The court case is NTP Inc. v. Research In Motion Ltd., 01cv767, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).

Is NTP trying to "bog down the patent office"?

RIMarkable reports:

The reason for the urgency is because the USPTO claims that the patent holder, Virginia based patent holding firm NTP, is improperly attempting to slow down anticipated rejections of the patents RIM was found guilty of infringing upon.

“NTP has been improperly attempting to slow down the anticipated rejections from the patent office, even going so far as to recently attempt [sic] to bog down the patent office with a highly unusual request to process filings for over 30,000 new patent claims,'’ Research In Motion spokesman Mark Guibert said in an e-mail.

Court timing details

RIMarkable also has more clarity on court proceedings and their timing:

U.S. District Judge James Spencer has set final brief filing deadlines of February 1st for NTP and Research in Motion in the NTP vs. RIM patent infringement case. Both sides have until January 17th to file briefs and until the start of February to respond to each other before filing final briefs.

Judge Spencer will contact representatives from both sides to schedule a court hearing next month and it is believed that it would occur about a week after the final brief deadline.

Microsoft Mobile Devices Under Legal Fire

There's no safe haven for mobile email users, based upon this article by David Haskin:

Research In Motion's ongoing legal battle against NTP has been much-discussed and could well lead to BlackBerry service being stopped in the U.S. Now, Visto has sued Microsoft, claiming that Windows Mobile 5.0 infringes on its mobile e-mail patents. And, even more intriguingly, it has licensed NTP's patents and is now co-owned by NTP...

...Visto would like you to think that it is a safe harbor compared to either RIM or Microsoft. But from where I sit, its gambit is risky; should it lose, a relatively small company like Visto could disappear in a hurry. In either case, as has been the case with NTP, it could take years for it to win or lose its case against Microsoft.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"...the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages... national security..."

Today's Presidential radio address simply nails it:

...Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad...

The Defeatocrats, as usual, end up on the wrong side of history. First they criticize the President for not following the 9/11 Commission's dictates. Now they pillory the administration for following the commission's recommendations. But that's typical of their divided party, which can't reach consensus on anything important, least of all the war on terror.

By the way, you have to get about fifty paragraphs into the original New York Times article to read this little gem:

...[In 2002,] Justice Department lawyers disclosed their thinking on the issue of warrantless wiretaps in national security cases in a ... brief... [which said] that "the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority."

In other words, the practice was considered by the Justice Department and ruled legal.

Times two-fer: compromising national security and flogging books

The New York Times headline read:

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in the United States After 9/11, Officials Say

The story goes on to say how W instructed the NSA to start spying on Americans as they made international phone calls or conversed via email with those outside the US.

The author of the story is James Risen, who -- shockingly -- has a book coming out. In about a week. On this very topic.

Can you guess who the book is published by? How about Simon & Schuster, which is owned by Viacom. You may remember Richard Clarke's "scandalous" 2004 book, which was accompanied by a 60 minutes feature. Clarke's ridiculous tome was, of course, another S&S book. Oh, did I forget to mention that Viacom owns CBS too? Talk about an integrated marketing campaign.

Not very secret

So, back to the Times: was a decision to tap into suspect international calls really a super, duper W secret? Apparently not. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), other congressional representatives, a FISA court, and a judge presiding over the FISA court all knew about and approved the taps.

Interestingly, Risen has no interest in anyone else's involvement. Risen doesn't care about Rockefeller. Or other members of Congress. Or the FISA court. Or the Judge.

The Barrett Report

EIB points out an interesting parallel with the Barrett Report. Remember the Barrett Report?

This was the product of an independent counsel investigating the Clinton administration's abuse of the IRS in targeting its political foes. An investigation that finished in 2004 but has not been released to the public due to political maneuvering by various Clinton-era officials.

I don't know about you, but I don't recall much interest by the Times in the civil liberties issues raised by this investigation. That is, the Times has plainly ignored the Clinton administration's alleged use of the IRS as a vindictive tool to suppress political targets. And if an administration deploys the IRS to abuse citizens, isn't that an affront to all we hold dear? Isn't that an affront to our civil liberties?

Well, the Times couldn't care less.

The Times: Selling out National Security to Pitch Books?

Risen's book comes out next week. In the course of its daily efforts, the Times continues to spit out national security secrets like a Pez dispenser, with the express purpose of politically damaging the administration. And, apparently, to sell more books for Viacom.

I can't wait for the investigation of this particular leak. We can compare and contrast the amount of media coverage with that of Plamegate. Of course, the Times' latest blundering efforts truly impact national security. So my guess is we'll see more coverage of the forthcoming Rocky VI movie than any related leak investigation.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The case of the missing fax

Just another scandal

If Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith had only found that missing fax a few months earlier, this whole painful mess could have been resolved long ago.

The NCAA had earlier ruled center Randolph Morris ineligible for the entire 05-06 season. According to ESPN, Morris had taken funds from an agent -- SFX -- in advance of the draft. In fact, the agent issued a press release stating that Morris, come hell or high water, was going to stay in the draft. Morris thus lost his college eligibility.

Then the bucket of ice-cold reality doused Morris and SFX: the talented big man went undrafted by the NBA.

So Morris appealed the NCAA's ineligibility ruling for the 05-06 season. Over the summer, the NCAA requested documentation that would have shown Morris had intended to return to school and had simply misunderstood the agent's representations.

Memo to readers

Let's suspend our disbelief for a moment and gloss over the fact that the rules are quite explicit: retain an agent, lose eligibility. Those five words capture their entire complexity.

So where was the documentation that Morris had intended to return to UK? It had gone AWOL. A May 9, 2005 fax from Morris to the Coach had been misplaced.

Luckily, this week, after carefully cleaning out his desk, Coach Smith found the letter with the magical phrase that all of Ruppland had hoped for:

I would like to announce my intentions to 'test the waters' in the 2005 NBA draft. My intent is not to obtain an agent so as to maintain my collegiate eligibility.

After receiving the documentation, the NCAA ruled that Morris would retain eligibility after serving a relatively brief 14-game suspension. What a coincidence! Just after a vicious pounding by arch-rival Indiana exposed the Wildcats' need for a true center... and just before the brutal SEC season.

Thank goodness Coach Smith found that fax this week!

The accompanying image is a parody illustration only and does not imply that the University of Kentucky cheated, forged or bent the rules. While UK's history is, uhm, illustrious, I know of no evidence that the current program has violated any rules whatsoever.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Firefox Extensions and the end of Windows?

For some time now, the pundits of the software industry have speculated on Google's affinity for the Firefox browser. When Google registered the Gbrowser domain name, for instance, the whole blogosphere was abuzz. And hiring some Firefox developers certainly did nothing to quiet the rumor mill.

Recent stories on Google's blog point to further development of Firefox extensions, which are modules used to -- uhm -- extend the capabilities of the Mozilla-based browser. For instance, Google's Blogger Web Comments extension allows a surfer to see what other bloggers are saying about the site they're visiting... and to add related commentary on their own blog.

But this is tangential to the point of this post. The key question remains: what is Google really up to?

A Google PC?

In May, SquirrelNet had an interesting take:

GBrowser would make it easier for Google to control both data and applications, bypassing Microsoft entirely. In fact, it's conceivable that Google could launch its own PC which wouldn't need any Microsoft software. Here's what the Google PC could look like:

* A low-cost PC running the Linux operating system (saves $100 to $150 versus Microsoft's operating system)
* Features the GBrowser, the much speculated Google Browser

Throw OpenOffice into the mix, Evolution as a thick-client email package, well, you get the picture. Google could offer a full-fledged PC -- virtually indistinguishable from a Windows-based system -- at a significant discount from any competing Windows platform.

Firefox as the OS?

A parallel path is simply to continue to augment Firefox with capabilities until it is the operating system. Tight integration with Google's online properties (search, email, local services, etc.) is happening as we speak. Future integration will come in the form of VoIP (voice-over-IP) telephony, IPTV (television delivered over the Internet), and converged services we have yet to imagine.

Furthermore, Google's continued experimentation with -- and support of -- AJAX portends a day in which thick-client applications are altogether unnecessary. AJAX (a universally loathed acronym among developers) represents a set of technologies that allow faster, easier user-interfaces on browsers. An example is the drag-and-drop interface used by Google Maps.

Continued development and support of AJAX by the Google and Firefox teams mean that more and more users will simply not need thick-client applications like Word, Excel, or Access. Over time, those applications will run as commodity services -- over secure connections, mind you -- at a server farm.

These services could run at Google's farm or could be installed within a company's firewall. Google already sells a bright yellow box called the Google Search Appliance, which delivers internal network (intranet) search for organizations.

Google Search Appliance

The Google search appliance is simply one example of a plug-and-play box that companies can simply strap into their infrastructure.

Consider a Google Office appliance that would deliver Microsoft Office capabilities for a fraction the cost of licensing Office for every desktop.

The roadmap...

The roadmap might simply be: hook users on free services that leverage the tremendous power of Google's serverplex. Deliver an increasingly capable set of services without requiring licensing costs. Upsell companies appliances that securely deliver similar services within the corporate firewall.

At what point do we become so dependent upon Google for the services that facilitate our every day lives (and our businesses, for that matter) that the OS becomes irrelevant? For many users, that day has already come and gone.

The end of anonymity on the Internet?

The slogan for MSNBC is, if memory serves, "we're the lowest-rated cable news outlet!" The following, near-hysterial description of the "Trusted Platform Module" possesses all the intellectual rigor of a calculus contest with Jessica Simpson as judge:

...over 20 million PCs worldwide are equipped with a tiny security chip called the Trusted Platform Module, although it is as yet rarely activated. But once merchants and other online services begin to use it, the TPM will do something never before seen on the Internet: provide virtually fool-proof verification that you are who you say you are...

...once you’d registered yourself and your computer with an Amazon or an e-Bay, they’d simply look for the TPM on your machine to confirm it’s you at the other end...

Uhmm, suuuuuuuuurrrrrre. Let's see... I routinely use at least four machines to access the Internet. And, on any given day, I might use someone else's machine (say, my Dad's computer) to shop or surf. So Amazon is going to not let me order because I'm not on my "trusted platform"?

The odds of this happening are about the same as MSNBC beating Fox News in the Nielsens.

MSNBC: The end of anonymity on the Internet?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts

This will set the hairs on the back of your neck to tingling...

#10 The Grooved Spheres:

Over the last few decades, miners in South Africa have been digging up mysterious metal spheres. Origin unknown, these spheres measure approximately an inch or so in diameter, and some are etched with three parallel grooves running around the equator. Two types of spheres have been found: one is composed of a solid bluish metal with flecks of white; the other is hollowed out and filled with a spongy white substance. The kicker is that the rock in which they where found is Precambrian - and dated to 2.8 billion years old! Who made them and for what purpose
is unknown...

The 10 Most Puzzling Ancient Artifacts

The media's war

The invaluable Thomas Sowell just nails it in his latest at Townhall:

The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses. Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy's declining strength...

...The fact that these [doom-sayers] have been proved wrong, again and again, does not [stop the media. They] claimed that terrorist attacks would make it impossible to hold the elections last January because so many Iraqis would be afraid to go vote... But a higher percentage of Iraqis voted in that election -- and in a subsequent election -- than the percentage of Americans who voted in last year's Presidential elections...

If Churchill had had to contend with the negativism of today's mediacrats, the British population would today speak German. To the extent that the defeatocrats refuse to take global Islamofascist terror seriously, the electorate should likewise refuse to take them seriously. As candidates, appointed officials, or anywhere near the halls of power.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Microsoft's Local Live

Here's a "bird's eye" view of a neighborhood in Maryland, courtesy of Microsoft's Local Live service. Zooming around the country, I now half-expect to see people coming out of their houses and waving their fists at me to quit spying on them.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Visual Studio 2005: "Upgrade with extreme caution"

T has an entertaining description of attempting to migrate his Visual Studio projects to Giant Cluster**** of incompatibility version 8, *er*, I mean Microsoft Visual Studio 2005.

...First up is the new winforms-based UI that immediately takes a 200MB chunk of your system memory. You'd think that with that much system memory being used, the entire application and all supporting libraries would be running directly out of RAM, thus making the interface very snappy...but you'd be wrong. It is easily 30-50% slower for things like button clicks, menu pulldowns, and most disturbingly, compilations. These inefficiencies all seem to root from the "highly-polished" (read: stupid animations) of just about every thing on the screen...

Giant Cluster**** of incompatibility version 8

BlackBerry 7290 Review: Outstanding convergence device

I'd heard lots of complaints about the 72XX's abilities as a phone. It's definitely not an ideal form-factor, but it works. And with the hands-free device (included), you should have very, very few issues.

As an email and web-surfing device, it excels. While it may not have the full GUI of the "brick-style" (heavier and larger Windows Mobile) devices, you get most of what you really need without having to download entire attachments. That's right, the BlackBerry server will download and read the attachment and send only the fraction you need to see on your display. It works seamlessly and saves a lot of time and effort - there's no need to download an entire file when you just want to read the first page or two.

I've played with all the latest devices (even new Windows devices that haven't come out yet) and I wouldn't trade any of them for the BlackBerry 72XX. It's lighter, smaller, and easier to use. The convenience of the thumbwheel acting as a selector and the button next to it "escaping" out of any menu is something that 98% of all other devices haven't figured out yet.

A couple of nits to pick: the earpiece on the hands-free needs a better way to attach firmly to your ear. In addition, I haven't yet figured out how to keep my place on a web page and check my email (without backing out of the web page). Maybe there's a way, but no one I know has figured it out either. Other than that... great device. Highly recommended.