Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stratfor Research: Fear as Force Multiplier

Stratfor's latest terrorism update -- you can register here for their email updates -- speculates that terrorists have succeeded despite the recent bustup of the London liquid bomb plot.

...At least 17 public incidents involving airline security have been reported in the United States and parts of Europe since Aug. 10. Most of these were innocuous, but many resulted in airliners making emergency landings off their scheduled routes, sometimes escorted by fighter aircraft.

The spate of incidents -- each of which rings up significant financial costs to the airline company and governments involved and causes inconvenience and delays for travelers -- is a reminder that terrorism, philosophically, is not confined to the goal of filling body bags or destroying buildings...

...On Aug. 25, Irish discount airline Ryanair filed the lawsuit it had previously threatened against the British Department for Transport. The lawsuit represents an effort to change the new restrictions the department placed on carry-on items following the disruption of the airline plot. Ryanair officials have publicly called the new restrictions "nonsensical and ineffective" and have called for "a return to common sense" regarding airline security. The company claims it has lost 3.3 million pounds (nearly $5.9 million) in earnings as a result of the new measures.

....With that psychological component in mind, terrorist acts do not have to be tremendously successful (in terms of physical casualties or damage) in order to be terribly effective.

...Bin Laden outlined this very clearly in his October 29, 2004 message to the American people. In that recording, he estimated that it cost al Qaeda only $500,000 to carry out the 9/11 attacks, whereas the estimated cost to the United States from the event and its aftermath was measured at $500 billion. In the same message, bin Laden also mused about how easy it was to "provoke and bait" the U.S. administration... "So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy..."

...To wage this war of attrition, al Qaeda's chief requirements are to survive -- or answer the bell at the beginning of each round -- issue threats and conduct an occasional strike to prove they are still relevant. The large number of media releases from al Qaeda leaders this year show that they have indeed survived. The statements also may be an attempt to overwhelm and exhaust the enemy. Obviously, the United States and its allies cannot conceivably protect everything, and attempts to do so take great tolls on human resources and finances.

Viewed through this lens, the responses to the disrupted airlines plot may, in fact, be a form of success for al Qaeda, despite the failure of the actual plot.

Stratfor: Weekly Intelligence Reports

Thought for the day

One wonders... is Microsoft : Encyclopedia Brittanica as RedHat : Wikipedia?

Paul Hackett Unhinged

Apparently it wasn't embarrassing enough to lose an election to an exceedingly weak Republican candidate in the '04 Congressional elections. Last night, on national television, former Democratic golden boy Paul Hackett suffered a cranial implosion of monumental proportions. On the O'Reilly Factor (guest host: John Kasich), he called Fox News contributor Dan Senor, "Herr Senor" and "Little Unterfuhrer of Propaganda."

While certain to endear himself to the far left bank of American politics, Nazi stylings don't play well in red states. Hackett -- in addition to being a losing candidate -- is also a disgrace. Unfortunately, this sort of thing doesn't seem to be an anomaly.

HotAir: Hackett unhinged

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rumsfeld lays a smackdown on the MSM

A couple of days ago, SecDef Rumsfeld laid down some metaphorical bodies like John Gotti. I'm hoping this only signals the onset of a long, vicious campaign that fully leverages the bully pulpit. First on the agenda: to expose the bizarre, self-destructive tendencies of the New York Times and friends.

You gonna put some ice on that, Eason Jordan?

[W]e find ourselves in a strange time:

* When a database search of America's leading newspapers turns up 10 times as many mentions of one soldier at Abu Ghraib who was punished for misconduct than mentions of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the War on Terror.

* When a Newsweek senior editor disparagingly refers to the brave volunteers in our Armed Forces as a "mercenary army."

* When the former head of CNN accuses the American military of deliberately targeting journalists and the former CNN Baghdad bureau chief admits he concealed reports of Saddam Hussein's crimes when he was in power so CNN could stay in Iraq.

* And when Amnesty International disgracefully refers to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay - which holds terrorists who have vowed to kill Americans, and is arguably the best run and most scrutinized detention facility in the history of warfare - as "the gulag of our times."

Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and lies and distortions being told about our troops and our country. This watchdog role is even more important today in a war that is to a great extent fought in the global media - to not allow the lies and the myths be repeated without question or challenge, so that at least the second and third draft of history will be more accurate than the quick first allegations...

DefenseLink: Rumsfeld delivers the smackdown

Open source's biggest services gun?

When you think professional services and open-source, odds are the name "Unisys" doesn't come to mind. Infoworld reports that Unisys has begun rebranding itself and retooling its business model to take advantage of OSS. What's next: a Sperry-Univac deal with Zend?

Bet you didn't think "Unisys" when you read that subject line, but it's true... Julie Giera of Forrester has an interesting report on Unisys' open source services. The report deals primarily with Unisys, but also has interesting things to say about the larger open source services market...:

...Unisys has announced a set of service offerings, called OASIS, for companies with open source platforms. It is the first time that a major IT service provider has offered a fully integrated set of services - including installation, configuration, maintenance, and enhancement - for a predefined open source stack. Competitors like HP and IBM have long had a menu of open source services that customers could choose from, but they have been reluctant to put a stake in the ground around a specific set of open source components. The OASIS announcement is an early indication that the open source services market is starting to mature. Through the OASIS offerings, open source customers can expect to achieve some of the same benefits as commercial software customers - predictability, cost savings, and strong service-level guarantees. With the OASIS set of services offerings, Forrester believes that Unisys should be on the shortlist of vendors for open source services.

Infoworld: Open source's biggest services gun?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Google's SiteStatus

Google's Site status provides webmasters with metrics on how the popular search-engine interacts with their sites. Here's how it works: you are first required to verify the site is yours by adding a meta-tag to the central index file of the site.

One you've done that, Google can provide relevant statistics including the top queries that landed Google searchers at your site. For example, one of the top Google searches for visitors to my site was for the phrase, "my food pyramid". As of this writing, I'm #9 behind the US Dept. of Agriculture, the Dairy Council of California, and Fat Elvis. Just kidding about that last one, I don't think Fat Elvis' personal food pyramid would attract a lot of visitors. The ninth result lands searchers at my blog post entitled, oddly enough, "My Food Pyramid."

Anyhow, if you don't routinely track referrals to your website, Site Status is a useful tool that provides additional insight into how folks found you.

Google: Site status

Monday, August 28, 2006

Guy Kawasaki interviews the CEO of MySQL

Guy Kawasaki has a fascinating interview with Marten Mickos, who has served as MySQL's CEO since 2001. The company is now the "second largest open-source software company" (behind RedHat, one supposes... and omitting Novell, which still sells proprietary software along with SUSE Linux) and is the fastest-growing database vendor in the world:

Question: What’s the biggest MySQL DB?

That’s like asking what’s the biggest Ferrari! What counts is performance and scalability. Omniture runs over 250 billion transactions per quarter on a farm of MySQL servers. Google uses MySQL for AdSense and AdWords. Other large installations include Wikipedia, Travelocity,, etc. The databases can be hundreds of gigabytes. Sites run on hundreds of servers, some on thousands...

...Even the Oracle FAQ runs on MySQL...

Guy Kawasaki: Ten Questions with Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL

Your First Bit of Cake (CakePHP, that is)

In the unceasing quest to bring order to PHP's inherently unstructured landscape, various frameworks have cropped up. One of the latest attempts tries to emulate Ruby on Rails, which has received a great deal of attention for its structure and rapid web development characteristics. The latest such environment for PHP is called CakePHP and SitePoint has a good, quick introduction:

...In recent years, PHP has re-invented itself, allowing Object Oriented Programming (OOP) to enter the scene with a plethora of new rules and functionality, all of which are ingrained in more mainstream programming languages like C++ and Java. Gradually, more and more PHP developers have embraced this new philosophy and started developing frameworks, drawing their inspiration from other more-established languages in the pursuit of creating a structure for an inherently unstructured language.

Many frameworks are available on the Internet, each with its own specific set of rules and conventions, achievements and failures. Some degenerate into unusable and intricate collections of pre-built libraries and tools that enslave developers into complex and truly unusable programming methodologies; others do not.

Ruby on Rails has definitely played a key role in inspiring the quest for the perfect web framework in programming languages other than Ruby. Thanks to the Rails phenomenon, more frameworks have appeared on the scene, offering functionality that's very similar to Ruby on Rails. These frameworks are often labeled Rails Clones.

Some of the frameworks' developers have openly admitted that they tried to port Rails to other languages, but often they overlook the fact that Ruby on Rails was built in Ruby for a reason: Ruby has features that no other programming language offers. At the same time, at least one person gave up on the idea of totally cloning Rails in PHP, but instead, decided to borrow its structure and basic concepts to make PHP more organized...

SitePoint: Your First Bit of Cake (CakePHP, that is)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"...Man learns nothing from History..."

On August 23rd, the bipartisan House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its Report on Iran (PDF). It makes for ominous reading. I've culled out a few of the more foreboding bits for your review:

“The annihilation of the Zionist regime will come... Israel must be wiped off the map... And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism”

“They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets.”

“I officially announce that Iran has joined countries with nuclear technology.”

-- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

...Threats against the United States and Israel by Iranian President Ahmadinejad - coupled with advances in the Iranian nuclear weapons program, support for terror, and resistance to international negotiations on its nuclear program - demonstrate that Iran is a security threat to our nation...

- Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and despite its claims to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons...

- Iran likely has an offensive chemical weapons research and development capability...

- Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program...

- Iran has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. The U.S. Intelligence Community has raised the concern that Tehran may integrate nuclear weapons into its ballistic missiles...

- Iran provides funding, training, weapons, rockets, and other material support to terrorist groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere...

- Elements of the Iranian national security apparatus are actively supporting the insurgency in Iraq...

...The IAEA reported on February 27, 2006 that Iran has produced approximately 85 tons of uranium hexafluoride (UF6).20 If enriched through centrifuges to weapons-grade material - a capability Iran is working hard to master - this would be enough for 12 nuclear bombs...

Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz. Iran claims it will have 3,000 centrifuges at this site by next spring...

...To produce plutonium, Iran has built a heavy water production plant and is constructing a large, heavy water-moderated reactor whose technical characteristics are well-suited for the production of weapons-grade plutonium. In support of this effort, Iran admitted in October 2003 to secretly producing small quantities of plutonium without notifying the IAEA, a violation of its treaty obligations...

And for those slow "progressives" in the audience, it's crystal clear that Iran has been simply lying its collective buns off regarding the purpose of its nuclear program:

...there is no rational reason for Iran to pursue a peaceful nuclear program in secret and risk international sanctions when the International Atomic Energy Agency encourages and assists peaceful nuclear programs. If Iran sincerely wanted a peaceful nuclear program, the IAEA would have helped it develop one...

...One of the most disturbing aspects of the Iranian WMD program is its determined effort to construct ballistic missiles that will enable Tehran to deliver conventional or, potentially, chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads against its neighbors in the region and beyond. Iran claimed last fall that its Shahab-3 missile can currently strike targets at distances up to 2,000 km (1,200 miles), including Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and southeastern Europe... It is believed that Iran's Shahab-4 will have a range of 4,000 km (2,400 miles), enabling Iran to strike Germany, Italy, and Moscow...

Allowing Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons is akin to the appeasement of Hitler in 1938. That year, Hitler's forces marched unimpeded into Austria and the Sudetenland while Britain's Neville Chamberland proclaimed, "I believe it is peace for our time." After the latter incursion, Hitler announced the formative stages of a thousand-year Reich and stated, "Thus we begin our march into the great German future."

With little media fanfare, Ahmadinejad -- like Hitler -- has plainly announced his intentions. His stated goals include the destruction of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel. His agenda includes the acquisition of nuclear and biological capabilities along with ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's words -- "History teaches us that man learns nothing from history" -- remain as true today as the day they were written.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I know where you've been

Jesse Ezell has discovered a very clever trick to determine which websites visitors to his blog have already visited. Jesse uses a predetermined list of sites that he's interested in testing for and then checks the style of the hyperlink to determine whether its been visited!

Suffice it to say it's a damn neat trick.

Jesse Ezell Blog: Stealing History

Friday, August 25, 2006

NewsBlaze' Top 5 People-powered news sites

Newsblaze has offered up its top five people-powered news sites. The winners are:

#1 Digg
#2 Reddit
#3 Care2 News Network
#4 Shoutwire
#5 Netscape

I've never visited #2 or #3, so I guess now is the time to start.

One thing I noticed about that list: perhaps the first general "democratic" news sites was Newsvine. And far from dying on the vine, as I truthfully expected, it appears to be much improved and far more active than when I first looked at it in '05. It's definitely worth a look-see.

NewsBlaze: The five most popular people-powered news sites

'Ahmadinejad would sacrifice half of Iran to wipe out Israel'

The JPost has a pulse-quickening story (hat tip: NewsVine) about leadership succession in Iran. It contemplates the Mullahs handing over full control to President AhmadinnerJacket Ahmadinejad, the psychopath with "divine dancing ability."

Iran's president routinely urges listeners to imagine a "world without America or Zionism" and exhorts his audiences to chant "Death to America." A while back, after listening to this rhetoric for months, Mark Steyn asked whether we should, "wait 'til we we've got absolute definitive 100% proof that [Iran's] got WMD - the absolute definitive 100% proof being a smoking crater where Tel Aviv used to be, or maybe London."

But I guess this story still isn't big enough for the likes of the New York Times.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if he ever became the supreme decision maker in his country, would "sacrifice half of Iran for the sake of eliminating Israel," Giora Eiland, Israel's former national security adviser, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

At present, Eiland stressed, the ultimate decision maker in Iran was Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 67, whom he said was "more reasonable." But, Eiland went on, "if Ahmadinejad were to succeed him - and he has a reasonable chance of doing so - then we'd be in a highly dangerous situation..."

A commenter provides an unverifiable -- yet ominous -- postscript:

Israel's response to Iran's nuclear pursuit has already been formulated. Either Iran backs down or there will be a strike the likes of which world has never seen. Plans already made to divide Iran into sectors for strike by each of the coalition. Advanced weapon systems (including tactical nuclear munitions) have already been transferred to coalition states. Strategy and gaming have been underway a year. Ahmadinejad and regime's days are numbered. Only thing that will stop attack is Iran's acceptance to complete and verifiable halt to UF6 enrichment. As world will soon see, Iran is defenseless against oncoming onslaught. Initial attack will cut communications & GCI rendering Tehran blind. Iranian aircraft taking flight will be downed well before leaving its airspace. Larger missile silos/bases will be targeted in initial strike, leaving only mobile launched missile threat. Israel has decided to absorb sizeable conventional missile attack....

JPost: 'Ahmadinejad would sacrifice half of Iran to wipe out Israel'

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New York Times Op-Ed Page Explained

CNet reported yesterday that Thomson Financial has turned to computers to write business stories. Software (CNet terms it "robo-reporters") will be used to crank out earnings stories.

In fact, a company spokeperson announced that computers will be used to write increasing numbers of business stories for Thomson. It makes sense, since a program can punch out an earnings story in less than half a second after results are released.

The author of this article -- the JournalistPro 6000 Series (just kidding, it's actually Greg Sandoval) -- is perhaps embittered by the outsourcing of his profession to a small, air-cooled box. He tosses in the following sneer at the end of his piece:

What's unclear is how a PC will stand up to accusations of a liberal bias.

At last! Finally, we have a suitable explanation for the New York Times op-ed page! Or, as I like to call it, the Axis of Ignorance: Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, and Frank Rich.

I mean, what other explanation is there for the axis' 156 stories in a row, all pillorying the Bush administration? That's right, of 156 stories, each and everyone took a negative view of the administration.

Consider the DowdHerbertRich algorithm: throw in some references to "Bushie" and "Rummy". Toss in a a few random phrases such as "Abu Graib" and "Halliburton." Ignore 9/11 and the ever-expanding war on terror (and, of course, fake stories like Al Qaqaa that have outlived their usefulness). And finish off the piece with a reference to Daddy (Bush 41) and rich kids.

Damn, it all makes sense now! Maybe that's why we've never seen Maureen Dowd and the New York Times' P-Series in the same place at the same time!

Thought for the day

The JPost reports on an Israeli defense deal that comes on the same day Iran rejected calls to cease uranium enrichment (hat tip: Best of the Web):

Israel signed a contract with Germany last month to buy two Dolphin-class submarines that will, according to foreign reports, provide superior second-strike nuclear capabilities...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Purge of the New York Times Archives falls short

Siccing James Taranto on the New York Times is roughly equivalent to unleashing a rottweiler on a pound of grilled hamburger. There's so much exposed meat... so much fat... well, it reminds me of that sequence from White Men Can't Jump:

S***. That's just too easy!

No. that s*** is too easy!

It's too easy!

No. that s*** is... too easy!

F*** it.

I don't want to play no more.

We won't play no more.

It's just too easy to pick on the Times. But, daggone it, it's still fun!

Two papers in one!

Taranto features an ongoing series entitled Two papers in one!. The latest entry deals with the ACLU's judge-shopping exercise that ended up in Michigan and one Anna Diggs Taylor, an appointee of (yes, you guessed it) Jimmah Carter.

Just to refresh your memory, the ACLU wanted to find a federal district or judge that would look favorably on its case regarding the NSA's warrantless wiretaps of international calls. It therefore avoided any circuits that had already looked favorably upon warrantless surveillance by the executive branch. Instead, it found the Sixth Circuit and Judge Anna Diggs Taylor -- a '79 Carter appointee described by the local paper as, "a liberal with Democratic roots."

To demonstrate how clueless her decision was, consider warrantless international wiretaps and their physical equivalent: entering or leaving the country. Without a warrant, Customs can search and question you. They can physically go through every one of your belongings, rip apart your suitcases, strip-search you, detain you for a period of time, intensely interview you... all without a warrant. That's what Customs does.

Apparently Anna Diggs Taylor doesn't know that. Of course, the Times had not one but two views on Taylor's decision:

"With a careful, thoroughly grounded opinion, one judge in Michigan has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do. She has reasserted the rule of law over a lawless administration." --editorial, New York Times, Aug. 18

"Even legal experts who agreed with a federal judge's conclusion on Thursday that a National Security Agency surveillance program is unlawful were distancing themselves from the decision's reasoning and rhetoric yesterday. They said the opinion overlooked important precedents, failed to engage the government's major arguments, used circular reasoning, substituted passion for analysis and did not even offer the best reasons for its own conclusions. Discomfort with the quality of the decision is almost universal, said Howard J. Bashman . . ." --news story, New York Times, Aug. 19

Purge of the Times Archive fails

Taranto also points to a Times op-ed that notes Saddam Hussein's new trial for a campaign, code-named Anfal ("Spoils of War"), designed to exterminate Iraq's Kurdish population:

...Over six months in 1988, at least 50,000 Kurds were killed, many of them victims of the mustard and nerve gas rained down by Iraqi planes. Tens of thousands more were tortured or saw their villages turned to rubble, their fields and rivers and newborn infants poisoned by the chemical attacks...

Those would be the same weapons of mass destruction that Saddam never had. Taranto points out that the Times -- true to form -- pins the genocide on (who else?) Ronald Reagan:

...Mr. Hussein was America's ally of convenience against Iran, and it was easier for the Reagan White House to look the other way...

Of course, the Times hasn't censored their archives the way they tend to censor their news reporters (heard about the 500 WMDs found in Iraq since 2003? Or Al Qaqaa since election day 2004? Didn't think so...). So they forgot to purge this 1988 op-ed that pilloried the Reagan administration not for siding with Iraq but instead for urging a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war:

...Credit the State Department at least for condemning Iraq's ''abhorrent and unjustifiable'' use of poison gas. The department has rightly ignored Administration officials who seem to believe that saying anything might complicate the gulf war [i.e., Iran-Iraq war] cease-fire talks...

Can you say 'revisionism'?

Meanwhile, if we fast-forward to today's op-ed, the Times trots out the so-tired-its-expired Abu Graib soundbite along with a fascinating addition:

...One of the biggest tragedies of the Bush administration's gross mishandling of the occupation of Iraq--the lack of basic security and jobs, the shame and horror of Abu Ghraib, the thousands of civilian deaths--is that the rest of Iraq will likely not take the time to mourn the victims of Anfal...

As Taranto notes, "The Iraqis aren't mourning and it's Bush's fault!"

The paper fails to recognize the unintentional irony that, had the U.S. steered to the Times' preferred course, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and mass genocide would remain the order of the day*.

If there's a 2006 Pulitzer for Hypocrisy, the Times is a slam-dunk lock for this year's award. Come to think of it, there might be an award for a decade in there somewhere.

*Along with those WMDs that "never existed", uranium from Niger that Iraq tried to purchase in 1999, etc.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

FTC chief critiques Net neutrality

The head of the FTC just weighed in on net neutrality and the news ain't good, McGee.

The head of the Federal Trade Commission on Monday expressed sharp skepticism toward proposed laws that would levy extensive Net neutrality regulations on broadband providers... Deborah Platt Majoras, the FTC's... chairman, said extensive Net neutrality legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate is unnecessary...

"I ask myself whether consumers will stand for an Internet that suddenly imposes restrictions on their ability to freely explore the Internet or does not provide for the choices they want..."

Hmmm. Let's do the math: 98% of consumers have between zero and two choices for broadband. The competitive landscape for high-speed access isn't exactly trench warfare for the carriers.

BellWest's new Internet Service Tiers - click to expandThus, the straw-man argument that consumers won't "stand for" a restricted Internet is weaker than a scarecrow on muscle relaxants.

Consumers have no voice to protest. What would you do if your friendly, neighborhood telco decided to offer its own search engine (and, in the process, also chose to slow down Google, Yahoo and MSN to make its own offering more competitive)?

Some folks might choose dialup... but most would probably shrug their shoulders and put up with the inconvenience.

And things could be expected to get worse as time went by.

Christopher Yoo's paper (critiqued here) is held up by the carriers as academic "proof" that net neutrality isn't needed. Suffice it to say that Yoo points to a future where the Internet has been transformed into cable television. Where the carriers control the content. And pay-per-view toll roads rule the day.

Sound desirable? Hitch a ride on over to Save the Internet now and take action. FTC chief critiques Net neutrality

Quote of the Day: Declare Victory, Get Out

James Taranto is today's honoree. His award consists of a laminated certificate and two free tickets to Cirque de Soleil when it next visits Tulsa, Oklahoma.

...They said they would be greeted as liberators for toppling the old regime. Instead, they find themselves caught in a quagmire--a vicious, unwinnable civil war with incalculable costs in both resources and prestige.

We refer, of course, to the Democrats in Connecticut...

Taranto's Best of the Web

How Future Combat Systems (FCS) will work

HowStuffWorks provides an informative view of the armed forces' Future Combat Systems (FCS) programs. FCS is a combined forces platform -- linking air, land, and sea warfare -- and emphasizes speed and lethality over heft and mass.

Just as the Internet is a "network of networks", FCS is a "system of systems." Eighteen systems make up FCS and each represents a type of combat or support platform (e.g., a manned tank or an unmanned aerial vehicle).

The four principles of FCS are good lessons for software designers everywhere. Modularity, efficiency, and agility appear to be the key tenets:

- Improve strategic agility - An Army with large, inflexible units that take months to deploy can't react quickly enough or deal with all of the problems at hand. Some military analysts refer to this as "having a pocket full of $20 bills and a lot of $5 problems..."

- Decrease the logistics footprint - The logistics footprint represents the support crews, fuel, parts and ammunition needed to keep a unit operational. Long supply chains, large refueling vehicles and the need to set up large maintenance depots work against agility and makes the forces that they're attached to more vulnerable.

- Reduce operating and maintenance costs - Creating multiple units based on the same basic structures allows for exchangeable parts and gives maintenance personnel the ability to repair a wider range of units with the same amount of training. This also contributes to a smaller logistics footprint and greater agility... The Army is focusing on smaller, lighter vehicles that are faster and more maneuverable. Instead of heavy armor, units will use stealth strategies and smaller profiles to reduce casualties. Lighter vehicles are also easier to transport and use less fuel. The Army will combine its efforts with other military branches and other nations. This makes the ability to communicate with coalition forces a vital facet of future warfare.

- Increase battlefield lethality and survivability - Tomorrow's soldiers need to destroy their targets and survive attacks a greater percentage of the time. This reduces the number of units needed in any particular engagement, reduces the need for extensive reinforcements and eases the burden on medical and repair units.

HowStuffWorks: How Future Combat Systems (FCS) will work

Monday, August 21, 2006

The failure of Digg-style general news sites

Though websites like Digg are incredibly successful for vertical topics like technology, it's increasingly clear that general news can't be treated quite so cavalierly. For that, simple collaboration sites are rife for abuse.

As I discussed in January, general news is a special breed of animal. Any collaboration sites for these topics will have to account for the political leaning of its authors and readers. That's because each news article and op-ed piece could be treated as if it has a certain "spin."

A general news site that doesn’t account for this will lose at least half of its audience as one side polarizes the other.

And there's ample evidence that this phenomenon has already occurred on Digg. In a recent front-page post ("Introduction to socially driven political news"), the author noted the following abuses:

Users are... allegedly organizing themselves in groups that support articles with specific agendas... many users consider [this a way] of gaming the system.

At the time of writing this, 10 of the last 30 stories promoted to the front page of Digg from the Political News topic have been marked as possibly inaccurate by the community. 11 of the last 30 stories promoted from the Political Opinion topic have been marked likewise. What does this mean? If one were to take this at face value, one would think that either Digg is an exceptionally bad source of political stories, with more than 33% of them being inaccurate, or the burying feature on Digg is being grossly abused.

Reading through the comments on these submissions reveals that it is the latter...

Commenter Helix400 notes:

...The author left out a major abuse of a small band of left wing diggers going through the upcoming stories and burying any right leaning submission out of the list altogether. In one thread, for example, 5 diggers actively worked together to mark a story as spam. Once it was off the upcoming stories (even though it was clearly headed for the main page), other posters continued to make comments in that thread because they previousy dugg the story.

When anybody questioned why the story was buried, their comments were within a few minutes buried to -4. Hmm…pretty suspicious for a story already off the upcoming stories list. The user gronne was one of these people, and admitted to burying right leaning submissions as “Spam”. Here is one of these threads....

This fundamental flaw in the Digg-approach to general news is worth pointing out: some users -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- will abuse the collaboration tools in order to push their own side's agenda.

Some new sites like Spinr attempt to address the problem. So far, though, none of the sites has it mastered. The first collaborative news site that comes up with this magic formula will do extraordinarily well.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Steorn: the Free Energy Challenge & PR Campaign

Disappointed that we don't have cold fusion-based blenders yet? Still haven't gotten your fill of perpetual motion machines? Steorn -- an Irish company -- set off a firestorm of controversy last week with its claim of a magnetic machine that manufactures energy. Notwithstanding the minor stumbling block facing all such inventions -- the first law of thermodynamics -- Steorn was able to gain incredible amounts of publicity by taking out a full-page ad in The Economist. The ad threw down the gauntlet to scientists, researchers, and engineers:

...During 2005 Steorn embarked on a process of independent validation and approached a wide selection of academic institutions. The vast majority of these institutions refused to even look at the technology, however several did. Those who were prepared to complete testing have all confirmed our claims; however none will publicly go on record.

In early 2006 Steorn decided to seek validation from the scientific community in a more public forum, and as a result have published the challenge in The Economist. The company is seeking a jury of twelve qualified experimental physicists to define the tests required, the test centres to be used, monitor the analysis and then publish the results.

In 2003 Steorn undertook a project to develop more efficient micro generators. Early into this project the company developed certain generator configurations that appeared to be over 100% efficient. Further investigation and development has led to the company’s current technology, a technology that produces free energy. The technology is patent pending...

An incredible scientific breakthrough? Or a fantastic marketing experiment? I tend to think it's the latter.

With a YouTube marketing video, a serious company website, and some interesting viral marketing efforts, Steorn's PR is worthy of Snakes on a Plane, m#&$*%rf$&*%#r.

Doug's Top 20 Political Blogs

Lots of folks have asked me, "Doug, what are your favorite political blogs?" Well, actually, no one has asked me that, but I'm prepared to answer the question anyhow. As of mid-2006, my top twenty political blogs are:
1) Little Green Footballs
2) PowerLine
3) Hugh Hewitt
4) James Taranto's Best of the Web
5) Michelle Malkin
6) Captain's Quarters
7) PoliPundit
8) Real Clear Politics
9) Gates of Vienna
10) CounterTerrorism Blog
11) Neil Boortz
12) Right Wing News
13) Right Wing Nut House
14) Belmont Club
15) Blame Bush
16) BlackFive
17) DefenseTech
18) Gateway Pundit
19) Wizbang Blog
20) HedgeHog Blog

Money quote of the day

Walter E. Williams is today's award-winner. His quote appeared in a column on Academia's communist sympathizers, the on-campus leftists attracted by ideas and not deeds.

...From 1917 to its collapse in 1991, the Soviet Union murdered about 62 million of its own people. During Mao Zedong's reign, 35,236,000, possibly more, Chinese citizens were murdered. By comparison, Hitler's Nazis managed to murder 21 million of its citizens and citizens in nations they conquered...

...Often, when people evaluate capitalism, they evaluate a system that exists on Earth. When they evaluate communism, they are talking about a non-existent Utopia...

...Rank nations according to whether they are closer to the capitalism end or the communism end of the economic spectrum. Then rank nations according to human rights protections. Finally, rank nations according to per capita income. Without question, citizens of those nations closer to capitalism enjoy a higher standard of living and a far greater measure of liberty than those in nations closer to communism.

Walter E. Williams: Are academic elites communists?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Worst cars ever Made

The brilliantly-named AutoMotoPortal (doesn't that roll trippingly off the tongue?) has an intriguing list of the worst cars ever made. Among them:

* Yugo: this very, very inexpensive tin-can compact car was plagued by every type of maintenance problem imaginable. Good news: it only exploded on very rare occasions.

* Ford Pinto: well, this car actually did explode with frightening regularity. The location of its gas-tank was the primary culprit. I could be mistaken, but if memory serves, the gas-tank was cleverly secreted within the rear bumper.

* Chevy Vega: many believe this car was constructed with shaped rust. You don't see many of these on the road anymore for the same reasons you don't see snowmen in the summer. These cars would disintegrate as you drove them.

I'll add a few more:

* Buick Century: GM made the brilliant decision to keep manufacturing the exact same car for about 25 years straight. I'd call the design dated and horrifically ugly, but that overstates how attractive it looked.

* Merkur XR4Ti: I don't know what XR4Ti stands for, but it easily could have been labeled X-cruciatingly ugly. The X came from the school of design that said, "Hey! If one spoiler doesn't cut it, try two!"

Iraq blocks missile resupply of Hezbollah by Iran

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could have exploded into something far worse... had U.S. forces not been positioned in Iraq. USA Today reports:

The United States blocked an Iranian cargo plane's flight to Syria last month after intelligence analysts concluded it was carrying sophisticated missiles and launchers to resupply Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, two U.S. intelligence officials say.

Eight days after Hezbollah's war with Israel began, U.S. diplomats persuaded Turkey and Iraq to deny the plane permission to cross their territory to Damascus, a transfer point for arms to Hezbollah, the officials said.

...Their account illustrates the quiet support the United States gave Israel during the 34-day war, even enlisting help from Muslim nations where acting on Israel's behalf is politically anathema...

Of course, don't look for this news in the New York Times. Like so many other stories, it's been censored.

USA Today: Officials: U.S. blocked missiles to Hezbollah

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Politics of Newsweek

It's been a while since I last visited the Newsweek site. What with its bogus Koran-in-the-toilet scandal, anti-administration pundits like Howard Fineman, and story lines utterly consistent with Democratic talking points, I could always get pretty much the same content by reading Howard Dean's blog.

Take Fineman for example. Newsweek's Fineman Archive is nothing less than a feeble collection of Democratic Party press releases disguised as analyses. Take a gander:

• To Win, Dems Must Forget D.C.
• If Not Hillary, then Who?
• How Enron Tarnishes Bush Era
• Gore as Selfless Oracle
• The Political Unpopularity Contest
• Rove's 'Nightmare' Election Strategy
• Carville Test-Markets a Hillary Message
• Fineman: Four Challenges for Tony Snow
• Bush Shuffles Staff, But Policy Unchanged
• Iran's New Hostages Are Bush and the GOP
• White House Shuffle Isn't a Shake-Up
• White House Calls in Script Doctors
• Is Hillary Taking a Page From Bush's Playbook?
• Port Deal Highlights Bush's 'Explanation' Problem
• Winners and Losers in Abramoff Saga

Rather than demonstrate even a scintilla of balance, literally every article in the Fineman Archive is uncanny in its ability to: (a) demean the Bush administration (that's right, Bush has done absolutely nothing right over the last six years); and (b) pump up the minority party's ostensible presidential candidates.

Consider this thinly-disguised infomercial for Hillary Fineman penned in May:

...It’s true that Hillary Health Care was a political disaster. Still, the pitch will go, she knows how to get things done...

...She’s the one who kept her family together—its finances, its marriage, most of its parenting function—and that is the role she will cast herself in as she tries to win the White House. After eight years of what she will call the perhaps worthy but disastrously administered dreams of George Bush, it’s time to restore some discipline. Think of the iron-willed mom in “Malcolm in the Middle...”

Yes, that's exactly what most of want in a war-time President: not Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, no -- not them, we want the iron-willed Mom from Malcolm in the Middle.

If we need a poster-child for the unseriousness of the Democratic Party, one need look no further than the feeble Fineman.

Given all that, the last time I linked to a Newsweek article, Herbert Hoover occupied the White House, Betty Crocker had her own radio show, and Jack Dempsey was the heavyweight champ. Despite all that, Michael Gerson's "How 9/11 Changed Bush" is well worth delving into.

Gerson offers an utterly clear-eyed view of the war on terror; he thereby grabs the rare and coveted linkage from this site. Money-quote:

...the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is messy, difficult, but no one has a better idea... We may have limited time to take the side of democratic forces—not merely as an act of altruism, but as an act of self-defense...

Gerson's piece, though, is an anomaly.

Let's review some of yesterday's headlines from Newsweek's august (or shrill, take your pick) "Politics" section:

• Could Terror Help Lieberman? - The politics of terror may just keep Joe Lieberman in office
• Congress: A Gang Under Siege
• Clift: Holding Pattern on Iraq
• U.S. Plans for Post-Fidel Cuba
• How Bush Handled Mideast Crisis
• Congress: Leveraging the 'Corruption Issue'
• Is the U.S. Screwing Up the World?
• Hirsh: How U.S. Makes Enemies

Detecting a theme in those last two?

• Wolffe and Bailey: Karl Rove Tries to Shore Up GOP in Ohio
• A New Crackdown on Immigrants
• Politics: A Test for Stem Cells—And for Senator Talent
• Clift: Stem-Cell Veto Will Factor in Close Races

My theme-detector just went off again...

• Samuelson: Washington Has No Shame About Unbalanced Budgets
• Bush Unscripted: What It Means
• The Gitmo Fallout
• Wolffe: Bush’s Mideast Balancing Act
• Clift: How Far Will Israel Go?
• Bush Must Act on Mideast


• Wolffe and Bailey: Will Gitmo Reversal Help Bush in Europe?

I just knew Gitmo had to be in here somewhere.

• Can the United States Trust Russia’s Putin?
• Can Daily Kos Control Dems?
• Right Marries Talk Radio, Web
• Alter: How to Beat 'Cut and Run'

Try 'Stand and Fight'?

• Bush’s Cautious Response to N. Korea
• Clift: Behind the GOP Media Bashing
• Rove on the Warpath
• Clift: Profit and War Debate in D.C.
• America’s Bad Rep in Europe

And my favorite (from Newsweek's partner site), MSNBC:

• Do Democrats need an Iraq plan?

Hey, it's 2006, the Dems have plenty of time!

Bottom line: If you're looking for an exceptional collection of Democratic Party press releases, look no farther than the pages of Newsweek. It's Dem-tastic!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

An open-source platform for real-time Democracy

In the age of wikis, community-based news sites like Digg, discussion forums and blogs, is it natural to expect a change in how Democracies operate sometime soon?

Consider our current form of Representative Democracy. Here in the U.S., we elect Congressional proxies who ostensibly vote on our behalf. But one downside of this approach is the centralization of power in the hands of a very few parties. This power can be abused -- one could point to William J. Jefferson of Louisiana or Tom Delay of Texas as examples.

In the U.S., the mitigating means to control the potential for corruption is a Constitutional Democracy, which layers a set of institutions -- the Executive and Judicial Branches of Government -- onto the Legislative Arm as checks and balances.

With the advent of the Internet, could a Direct Democracy be in the offing?

A comment in this TechDirt article (entitled, "Isn't Competition Supposed To Lower Rates? on the topic of net neutrality) sparked the thought:

...People knock democracy as an impossible concept. Even the Greeks gave up on it. Everybody likes to point out how we don't actually live in a democracy but rather an oligarchy... [This] oligarchy has a kind of stability built in to it, usually just a slowly reciprocating slide between left, right, and back to left again over a few decades.

A truly dynamic democracy abandons all notion of the two part see-saw. Maybe there is still hope for true democracy. If the Diebold voting machines weren't rigged [Ed: Ha!] and there was really a credible method for massive quickfire referenda on a number of... issues can you imagine how dynamic and interesting participatory democracy in real time might be?

I would happily give it a shot over the current system of special interests paying for laws behind closed doors...

Would there ever be room for an "Open-source Platform for Democratic Government": an Internet-enabled direct Democracy that would transfer power to the people in a way never envisioned by the Framers?

Somehow I doubt it, but it's interesting to contemplate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Exposing Earmarks: Sunlight Foundation

The image is easy to conjure: fat-cat politicians of every stripe using leaf-blowers to dispense our money in the form of "earmarks."

Finally, the Sunlight Foundation is leveraging the power of the Internet and a motivated community to bring light into the darkest corners of Federal spending bills. It has created a new platform where citizens can investigate, expose, and publicize earmarks.

And just what is an earmark?

...An earmark is a line-item that is inserted into a bill to direct funds to a specific project or recipient without any public hearing or review. Members of Congress—both in the House and the Senate — use earmarks to direct funds to projects of their choice. Typically earmarks fund projects in the district of the House member or the state of the Senator who inserted it; the beneficiary of the funds can be a state or local agency or a private entity; often, the ultimate beneficiary is a political supporter of the legislator...

Why is this needed? Because most earmarks are authored anonymously! Under the current rules of Congress, no demand is made that an earmark's author is identified.

And there are over 1,800 earmarks in the proposed spending bill. And you can help!

Sunlight Foundation provides spreadsheets, interactive maps, politican pop-ups for your web pages and plenty of research help.

Ready to do your part to expose the waste in Washington?

Go ye therefore hence, and sip the sweet nectar of wisdom: Sunlight Foundation: Exposing Earmarks.

Romney seizes control of 'Big Dig'

Question: what was estimated to cost $2.6 billion, ended up costing $14.6 billion, and isn't done yet?

Answer: that would be Boston's Big Dig project, the estimation process for which failed to account for little factors like, oh I don't know, inflation.

Today, Gov. Mitt Romney officially seizes control of the Dig, with a hand-picked new Mass Pike Chairman and revocation of perqs for Big Dig managers (like their free FastLane electronic passes).

Last month's tragic accident, which killed a 39-year old Boston driver when 12 tons of panels fell from the roof of a Big Dig tunnel, was only the latest incident in the long-running construction debacle. Leaks, cost overruns, and a series of bizarre management gaffes have been constants over the course of the project. I could use a cheap-shot here (specifically, which party dominates Massachusetts politics and has a long history of questionable behavior?), but I won't.

Suffice it to say, I'd rather eat a fire-ant sandwich than have this cast of characters manage anything more complicated than a sandbox.

Boston Globe: Romney officially seizes control of Turnpike board and Big Dig

George Soros: at the helm of the Terror-crats

As a veritable fountainhead of currency for the Democratic Party, George Soros talks softly and carries a big wallet. His purse is sufficiently large to warrant an op-ed piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The piece, entitled "A Self-Defeating War," is the predictable stew of Bush-hatred and anti-Americanism wrapped into a logical conundrum worthy of Ernő Rubik or Wayne "Soduku" Gould.

I've annotated Soros' key points for sheer entertainment value. Believe me, expending the energy to scroll down the page is worth the price of admission.

The war on terror is a false metaphor that has led to counterproductive and self-defeating policies. Five years after 9/11, a misleading figure of speech applied literally has unleashed a real war fought on several fronts -- Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Somalia...

...What makes the war on terror self-defeating?

• First, war by its very nature creates innocent victims. A war waged against terrorists is even more likely to claim innocent victims because terrorists tend to keep their wereabouts hidden... [the death of innocents] in turn serves to build support for terrorists...

As opposed to simply executing hundreds of school-children in cold blood at Beslan. Or gassing thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Halabja, Iraq. Or intentionally killing scores of innocent office workers in downtown Manhattan. Or the thousands of other related attacks, most intentionally directed at civilians.

As opposed to that.

Soros' "fighting _________ causes more _________" meme didn't work for any scourge throughout the annals of history, whether we use the Khmer Rouge, Communism, Nazism, the Mongol Hordes, or anything in between to fill in the blanks. And, in fact, the key takeaway in each case is that more civilians died -- millions of them -- because good people failed to respond in time.

• Second, terrorism is an abstraction. It lumps together all political movements that use terrorist tactics. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Sunni insurrenction and the Mahdi army... are very different forces...

But they all have something in common. Trying to put my finger on it... trying... trying... I suppose I'll have to do a little research.

Perhaps extremist terrorism is an "abstraction." But it's sufficiently focused and dangerous enough to have intentionally targeted millions of innocent civilians for death and succeeded in killing plenty already... throughout the world. Saddam Hussein and other terrorists have killed a hundred times more Muslims than Allied forces (not to mention the millions of Muslim lives saved in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq).

• Third, the war on terror emphasizes military action while most territorial conflicts require political solutions... Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large, we need to focus on finding them...

Interesting. Within a few paragraphs, Mr. Soros has succeeded in wrapping himself around the axle. His first bullet points out that weeding out terrorists who hide among innocents causes more terrorism. This, his third bullet, states the opposite: that we need to find terrorist leaders hiding among innocents, which will certainly require deadly force and result in civilian deaths. So... which is it? #1 or #3? And how far down the terrorist leadership hierarchy are we permitted to go?

As for "political solutions", Israel has tried to live peacefully on its tiny sliver of land for nearly sixty years. For decades it has begged the world community for a diplomatic solution. Surrounded by hundreds of times its population and land-mass, it has been unable to achieve any semblance of a "political solution." Why would Soros claim that extremists, who have launched murderous attacks throughout the world, would listen to any sort of reason when there is absolutely no evidence it would make a difference?

We can only come to one of two conclusions, both of which are outlined below.

• Fourth, the war on terror drives a wedge between "us" and "them." We are innocent victims. They are perpetrators. But we fail to notice that we also become perpetrators in the process...

At last, Soros pulls out the tired and intellectually bankrupt "moral equivalence" card.

The United States and its allies have nuclear weapons and are loathe to use them. The extremists, on the other hand, have promised -- up to the point of issuing religious edicts ("fatwas") to use any and all weaponry including nuclear arms ("We have the right to kill four million Americans - 2 million of them children..."). There is no need to treat that promise with anything less than utter seriousness.

It will only take one nuclear weapon in the hands of Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or any other extremist group to usher in a new era of violence on this planet.

Moral equivalence in the face of this disparity is not naivete. It is either base ignorance or high treason. Which is it in your case, Mr. Soros?

Taken together, these four factors ensure that the war on terror cannot be won...

Soros, at last, comes clean and plainly states the key platform of the Terror-crats: surrender.

Because the extremists have plainly stated that their endgame is to detonate nuclear devices in multiple Western cities -- whether to bring about Armageddon or simply to eradicate vast numbers of "Crusaders" from the face of the earth -- surrender to these murderous zealots means the annihilation of modern civilization.

If we don't vigorously and aggressively defend the West from this catastrophic endgame, our children and grandchildren will pay the price.

How many Americans have to die before the terror-crats join in the fight against terrorism? A hundred thousand? A million? Ten million? When will survival of the West take precedence over raw partisanship? I'd just like to know that number.

Recommended Reading: Hugh Hewitt's If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Open Source Metasploit Improves Evasion

H.D. Moore, author of the Metasploit Framework, spoke at BlackHat last week in his characteristically frank and humorous manner. The framework, one of several projects branded under the aegis of Metasploit, is a tool that assists in the development and execution of exploit code against remote machines.

...Few tools are freely available to security researchers that are as powerful for developing and testing exploit code as the open source Metasploit Framework...

The new version is a complete rewrite all done in the Ruby language and includes many new features designed to expedite exploitation, as well as infuriate Intrusion Detection System (IDS) vendors...

The charismatic Moore explained to the assembled faithful that the current Metasploit 2.6 Framework has a number of problems, among which is it's written in Perl. According to Moore, there is no stable release of Perl 6 in sight.

"Perl 6 should be written by the time hell freezes over," Moore told the audience...

...Metasploit 3 is written in Ruby, a language that allowed Moore and his cohorts to compress the code by 40 percent... [new] Multitasking via Ruby threads allows Metasploit 3 users to conduct concurrent exploits and sessions. Exploit delivery is enhanced with new payload-closed and auxiliary modules, which can be integrated without security tools for target enumeration.

Metasploit 3 also takes aim at evading detection by IDS with strong evasion techniques that Moore claims will defeat most solutions.

"We really want to scare the IDS guys, and it's time to put our foot down," Moore said. "I'm not sure how they get past QA [quality assurance]; I'm not even sure they do QA..."

Ya gotta love this guy! He's the Chad Johnson of open-source developers*!

Enterprise IT: Open Source Metasploit Improves Evasion

* Johnson is the NFL receiver famous (or infamous) for his trash-talking. Some of my favorite Johnson quotes:

[On Packers cornerback Al Harris] "There are two things for Brother Harris this week... the bad thing is, he has to cover me. The good is, he can save 15 percent by switching his insurance to Geico"

"Last night, I felt like I wished I wasn't Chad Johnson. Last night, I felt like I wished I wasn't good. I had to keep from crying on the sideline because I wished I wasn't that good because I wouldn't be getting the attention I'm getting."

"On the highway, I hit a deer... I kept him. He's at home in the garage. I'm going to use him for the celebration this weekend. He's a prop. They might suspend me for the last game, but I think this one is worth it."

Microsoft: Open source is too complex

Interesting tidbit from ZDNet Asia:

...Although open-source software can be customized to meet a company's specific needs, its inherent complexity could dent the profitability of independent software vendors (ISVs), says Microsoft.

"One of the beauties of the open-source model is that you get a lot of flexibility and componentization. The big downside is complexity," Ryan Gavin, Microsoft's director of platform strategy, said on the sidelines of the company's worldwide partner conference in Boston last month...

Microsoft has a point for all-purpose ISVs, but certainly strong partners of RedHat and Novell don't seem to be suffering. Just like MSFT's various partners, ISVs for RHAT and NOVL -- who specialize in the RHEL and SUSE distros, respectively -- don't have to worry about that sort of complexity. They specialize, just like MSFT's dedicated partners.

I'd call Gavin's remark a straw-man argument, but I don't think it's quite that sturdy.

ZDNet Asia: Microsoft: Open source is too complex

Star Trek 2.0 Videos

Funny, funny takeoffs on the original Star Trek series using action-figures, toys, and boomin' sound tracks. It's just a pity they're so short.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The plot: 9 plans, 29 terrorists, 2700 would-be victims

Brendan Loy has assembled the details of the latest terrorist plot into a cohesive whole:

A total of 24 individuals were arrested in Britain overnight... five still remain at large. Their plan was to smuggle the peroxide-based liquid explosive TATP and detonators onto nine different planes from four carriers — British Airways, Continental, United and American — that fly direct routes between the U.K and the U.S. and blow them up mid-air. Intelligence officials estimate that about 2,700 people would have perished...

...Worries another U.S. official: "Plan A has been stopped, but the concern: Is there a Plan B?"...

...One official said: "We were very lucky to have acquired the intelligence about the modus operandi of the attacks. If we hadn’t got the intelligence, they probably would have succeeded and there would have been little or no forensic evidence showing how they had done it. The modus operandi could have made waves of attacks feasible..."

...The suicide bombers allegedly intended to carry out three "phased" attacks on nine or 10 jets over a period of several months. The plan, it is understood, was to blow up the aircraft over the sea so that investigators would be unable to discover how the explosive - possibly a peroxide-based liquid explosive - was taken through the airport security without being detected.

...Imagine the terror if three airliners went down over the Atlantic — followed by three more airliners a few weeks later. Followed by three more airliners a few weeks later...

Brendan Loy: The plot: 9 plans, 29 terrorists, 2700 would-be victims

"None of this would be happening if Bush had not invaded Iraq"

The Anchoress methodically answers the revisionists who claim that the Administration's policies in Iraq have resulted in more terrorism. Ignore, for a moment, their unstated claim that things would be better with Saddam Hussein in power (he of the Salman Pak terrorist training camp, $25K checks to suicide bombers, and a hotel for world-class terrorists). Also ignore the fact that the "fighting [blank] causes more [blank]" concept doesn't work for any scourge throughout history, whether we're discussing Nazism, Communism, Pol Pot, the Mongol Hordes, etc.

Instead, consider what I call the cold metrics of reality:

Because before we went into Iraq, there were no terrorist attacks anywhere...

World Trade Center 1993

Khobar Towers 1996

Nairobi 1998

East Timor 1999


Gee whiz…looks to me like in the 1990’s we were seeing an attack (on specifically American holdings, interests or vessels) almost every 18 months, or so! Then…

New York City 9/11/01

New York City 9/11/01

Washington, DC 9/11/01

Bali 2002

But - Let’s not forget the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, during which Abu Abbas murdered wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer - before taking refuge in Iraq.

Let’s not forget the 1983 Bombing of American troops, in their barracks, in Beirut.

Let’s not forget the taking of American hostages, in 1979, held for 444 days.

Let’s not forget the Munich Massacre of 1972.

Let’s not forget The Bojinka Operation of 1995.

Did President Bush’s "moronic policies" do all of that stuff? Oh, wait... we’re not seeing attacks every 18 months, anymore - are we? In fact... it looks like President Bush’s terrible policies helped foil this latest attempt, despite the best efforts by the NY Times and others to cripple necessary programs.

The [latest] plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

In short, Democrats who claim to want "focus" on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite "cooperation" with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated...

I keep remembering Harry Reid crowing, "we killed the Patriot Act..."

The Anchoress: "None of this would be happening if Bush had not invaded Iraq"

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The incredible saga of Maurice Clarett

Tom Friend, writing in ESPN The Magazine, has a stunning description of the events leading up to Maurice Clarett's latest brush with the law. If you happened to miss it, Clarett -- perhaps looking to sign on as a free-agent with Hezbollah -- was arrested this week.

Already facing trial for armed robbery, his bail was raised to $1.1 million after a traffic stop. Clarett was allegedly transporting a loaded AK-47, three other firearms, and an open bottle of vodka. The 6-foot, 245-pound ex-running back reportedly refused to get out of his SUV after a chase. Arresting officers attempted to tase him, but his bulletproof vest presumably rendered that tactic less than effective. Multiple officers were needed to handcuff him; the Sun-Times reports that he kicked the doors of the transport vehicle on the way to the police station.

Anyhow, that's the background of his most recent brush with disaster. Friend reports that Clarett called him the night of the arrest. I would recommend reading the entire article, but the highlights are fascinating in a sort of holy-crap-is-that-tragic sort of way:

* On July 17, his girlfriend Ashley had given birth to a baby girl
* Several months ago, Jim Tressel had called Clarett, offering his help despite the latter's accusations that OSU offered cars-and-grades-for-football
* After he was kicked out of OSU, he moved to LA and hooked up with management types in the rap community
* The managers arranged for a trainer to start working Clarett out; Maurice weighed 256 pounds and wanted the entire gym shut down while he worked out so he could focus - he ended up quitting when the trainer started pushing him too hard
* He switched to David Boston's trainer (Charles Poliquin), who denies supplying Clarett with illegal substances -- Boston, though, has been suspended for testing positive for steroids -- and moved to Phoenix
* His sponsors, though, were in LA, and Clarett wanted to be closer to them, so he quit Poliquin's regimen
* Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who believes that his system makes the running back rather than the other way around, took the troubled player in the third round of the draft, but things turned sour fast
* With Denver, he carried the same water bottle around until the team became suspicious it was Grey Goose vodka
* He got into a shouting match with the Broncos' 11-year strength coach Rich Tuten; he then demanded the team replace Tuten
* Clarett rejected the Broncos' offer of a $416,000 signing bonus, against the recommendations of his former agents
* After 18 days on the sidelines with a groin injury, he was cut, having never even carried the ball in a preseason game
* Friend reports that his associates in the rap industry had financed him in LA and Phoenix, figuring he'd repay them with NFL and endorsement wages (does that explain the weaponry and Kevlar?)

Friend paints a portrait of an incredibly insecure athlete who has made an uncanny series of bad choices. One hopes he gets the help he needs.

ESPN: Clarett's call came two hours before arrest

WAMP Stack bridges the chasm on the way to LAMP

Ever since the eWeek bakeoff of application-serving stacks -- demonstrating intriguing performance stats for the WAMP stack (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python) -- there's been increased coverage of enterprise WAMP usage. eWeek's key conclusion:

...most surprising was the solid performance that came from the stacks that contained a mix of a Windows server and open-source components. Traditionally, these kinds of WAMP setups have been considered suitable only for development and testing purposes, not for production systems. But, based on the performance we saw in our tests, businesses should seriously consider the combo for their enterprise applications...

CIO India ("Users Mix Open-Source, Windows for Server Apps") reports that there is increasing willingness to mix-and-match OSS technologies with Windows infrastructure:

...The need to interoperate and cut costs led Sherwin Lu of Le Petite Academy Inc. to install the JBoss software on top of Windows Server 2003 last year. Lu, director of application infrastructure at the Chicago-based preschool chain, said moving from a Visual Basic 6 development environment to J2EE "felt a little risky."

But the cost of training his staff on J2EE was about the same as it would have been if he had upgraded to a .Net infrastructure. Moreover, by adopting JBoss rather than proprietary application servers, Lu figured that he saved about US$1 million in license fees alone. And he said that by staying on Windows, he avoided the pain and cost of hiring an all-new systems administration and support team...

Even Microsoft is talking WAMP:

...Faced with the allure of open-source applications among its customer base, Microsoft has toned down its .Net-only rhetoric. "It's a myth that open-source and Windows can't work together," said Ryan Gavin, a director of platform strategy at Microsoft. "Customers just aren't religious about these things..."

From LinuxWorld, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols reports that Linux on enterprise server infrastructure is the status quo. But the real news relates to the forthcoming sea-change in enterprise desktops:

...The good news here, is that Linux has become so accepted that CFOs are more than willing to give Linux a try. The bad news for bad-boy Linux fans, is that Linux is no longer a revolution -- it's the establishment.

The only place where Microsoft is really still the IT establishment is on the desktop. But that's changing, too... It's not just that Microsoft is fumbling Vista more than a third-string halfback against the Chicago Bears' defense. This summer, we've seen not just good Linux desktops arrive, but great Linux desktops... Novell's SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 is a no-holds-barred business replacement for XP...

WAMP stacks appear to be a credible, mainstream bridging technology on the road to LAMP.

SandHill's Guy Smith has an even more aggressive take in, "Is Enterprise Software Doomed?"

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Today's Rant: Party of Weakness vs. the Nihilistic Cabal

Thursday's news highlights the simple arithmetic that seems to baffle many on the Left. We are at war with extremists who seek mass-murder and, ultimately, the utter destruction of the West.

Thursday saw the exposure of a plot to kill thousands of civilians traveling on US airliners. The same day, Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets hammered apartment buildings in Israel. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised a response to the UN's demands that Iran cease uranium enrichment on August 22, a date with religious significance for devout Shiites. India's intelligence services reports that Al Qaeda is active in Kashmir and may have been responsible for the attacks last month in Mumbai. Also in July, North Korea's bizarre leadership launched ballistic missiles near Japan.

...When the jets were in midair over American cities, they planned to combine the explosives and detonate them using an electric charge from an iPod, the security services believe. [British Airways] flights were among the targets. US officials said the bombers had been seeking to hit New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles. Other airlines targeted were thought to be United, American and Continental...

In this dangerous world, the Democrats have skirted responsibility for national defense. Beyond Iraq, they have pilloried warrantless wiretaps, the SWIFT international funds-tracking program, data-mining of inter-country phone records, interrogation at Guantanamo, rendition programs... in other words, every tool used by the British to reverse-engineer a plot to kill children and other innocents over the Atlantic.

We can look at Joe Lieberman for the direction of today's Democratic party. Michael Moore, the ostensible voice of the hard Left, placed his threats to fellow Democrats directly on his website:

...Kerry and Edwards who have now changed their position and are strongly anti-war... while I'm glad they've seen the light -- their massive error in judgment is, sadly, proof that they are not fit for the job. They sided with Bush, and for that, they may never enter the promised land...

To Hillary, our first best hope for a woman to become president, I cannot for the life of me figure out why you continue to support Bush and his war... I'm here to tell you that you will never make it through the Democratic primaries unless you start now by strongly opposing the war...

JFK, FDR, and Harry Truman would have been excommunicated by today's George Soros-funded Democrats. JFK cut taxes, raised defense spending, and invaded Vietnam. Truman ended war in the Pacific theater by nuking Japan. And FDR battled the isolationists to launch a multi-front worldwide war on fascism.

Running as the antiwar party in a world torn asunder by suicidal extremists will be anathema to the vast majority of US citizens. Today, we face a threat more challenging than the Third Reich: Iran's mullahs are Hitler with nukes. Worse, they represent only the leadership of a worldwide, nihilistic cabal of extremists bent on destruction.

Apparently, the attacks in Manhattan, Washington, Bali, Beslan, Madrid, London, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Israel, Mumbai, Kashmir, Thailand, Darfur, Somalia, Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are of no concern to the Left. Either that, or they haven't sufficient intellect to connect the dots.

Instead of facing up to the threat, today's Democrats have abdicated that responsibility and sacrificed country for partisan advantage. In today's environment, when the question is one of national security, the answer can never be a Democrat.

At least not until the day they decide to take this war seriously. Until that day, the Left will continue to lead the Democratic Party in the direction it knows best, which is to lose elections. My prediction is that the GOP will maintain control of the House and Senate. The Party of Weakness will never win favor with most Americans. That is, until the the Democratic party becomes suitable for the likes of FDR, Truman, and JFK once again.

While cutting-and-running from Iraq may bring a brief respite, history repeatedly demonstrates that appeasement of terrorists, dictators, and extremists only defers the inevitable. How many decades did US troops maintain a presence in Japan after World War II? How many decades in Germany? Did the presence of the US Military bring stability and, ultimately, incredible economic gentrification to those regions?

The US War on Terror should be a bipartisan effort. That is what Joe Lieberman represented. And that effort is no more. The Democrats are opposed to every tool and every tactic used to defeat terror. Each and every Republican running for office this cycle will point this fact out and ask his opponent to describe how this war can be won. There will be no answers forthcoming from the Party of Weakness and Appeasement, now that its strings are pulled by Kos, Moore, and Soros.