Saturday, December 22, 2001

And to all a good night

I'm taking a break for the holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and to all those over there keeping us safe over here: Thank You.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Those Wacky Russkies

The Russians have been watching too much Austin Powers. They've ruled that the Salvation Army is a paramilitary organization.
The deputy head of the Moscow city Justice Ministry Vladimir Zhabankov said that the organisation's use of rank and uniforms was being questioned.

He told the BBC: "The Salvation Army has all the attributes of a military organisation."
You can't make this stuff up.

Drink Yourself to Happiness

The BBC has a humorous report on the benefits (or not) of drinking. I don't know about the Brits, but I plan to lift a few mugs for freedom this holiday season whether its good for me or not. As long as I don't end up like some addle-brained vagrant stroking a half-empty bottle of Miller whilst slurring "My precious", I should be good to go.
Making the Mall more Attractive

The Washington Post reports that a plan to remove the jersey barriers around the Washington Monument has been approved.
Two 12-foot-wide sunken walkways, walled in stone, would loop the monument. The walls and the paths' three-foot drop would be enough to stop a vehicle trying to approach the monument, said Laurie D. Olin, principal of the firm. But the paths would not be visible from a distance because they would be cut into the hill on which the monument stands, he said. Pedestrians would be able to leave the walkway and go up to the base of the monument.

The makeshift visitor-screening facility recently added to the monument grounds would be removed. Instead, visitors would enter the Lodge, a nearby structure that is being used as a concession stand. From there, they would travel through a 400-foot-long tunnel to reach the monument.

Along the way, they would stop at a 20,000-square-foot underground visitor center that would contain skylights, restrooms, displays and a booth issuing free tickets to ride the elevator to the top of the monument.
There's no Congressional funding yet, and the Park Service doesn't have an estimate for cost either. If the artist's conception and the above description hold up, it will at least look better than those damned jersey barriers.

It'd be interesting to see what future archaeologists make of all this.
Osama bin Wallace

We had an interesting discussion the other night about Osama and how people would see him 100 or so years from now. We were watching Braveheart and somebody mentioned that someday some dipshit will make a movie about Osama casting him as a noble freedom fighter who fought the brutish and evil Americans. From there, we talked about comparing Osama to Robin Hood and how through time the popular story of Osama could become a legend that had little basis in fact. Other stories and legends were brought up, but the single thread that linked all of them was that all the main characters managed to elude authorities. This seems to be the key element in all the legends. Wallace manages to stay out of the clutches of the English, and his legend grows. Robin Hood managed to hide out in Sherwood Forest, free from Nottingham's grip. The longer the outlaws eluded "The Man" and continued their activities, the higher in regard they came to be held by the people, and the more exaggerated tales about them became.

I think there is a very real chance of this happening to Osama. The seeds of legend are already planted. He has the sympathy of a sufficiently large group of people, truth is mixed with fiction when people talk of him, and important elements of his background are simply ignored (and can later be forgotten). If he remains on the run and still manages to pull off terrorist attacks, I'm sure there will be those in his world that will keep popularizing and embellishing his story to the point that it will hit critical mass and he will simply never be forgotten no matter what fate he meets. The bastard can become a folk hero if he's not caught soon enough.
Windows XP Users

If you haven't done so already, you need to download yet another security update to keep bad people from doing very bad things to your computer. You should be able to download it from here.
Not exactly the Bastille...

Palestinian terrorists are finally turning on their own according to the BBC. The article itself is pretty informative, but the picture in it was one of the goofiest I've seen in some time. Check it out:
It looks like the Palestinian police have picked up the weaponry of past empires laying about and fashioned together some mish-mash resembling riot gear. My first thought was "What the hell are the Celts doing in Gaza?" soon followed by, "I'll never cease to be amazed by the myriad applications of wicker."

Thursday, December 20, 2001

More Saudi Stuff

ABC News also has a report on the state of U.S.-Saudi relations. The tone of the piece is sympathetic to the Saudis, but there are some good parts.
They are bitter about what they regard as a U.S. media campaign blaming Riyadh for tolerating or even breeding religious fanaticism, financing guerrilla and terrorist movements like bin Laden's al Qaeda, crushing zealous reformers and tolerating widespread corruption.
Well, it's just not the media anymore. There are thousands of U.S. military personnel who've had to do time in their Kingdom and have all sorts of stories about that backwards place. I'm also certain that as time goes on, we'll start hearing from military women about the humiliation they must suffer while pulling their rotations, like having to ride in the back seat of cars everywhere like second class citizens and being forced to wear the head-to-toe garment when off base.
Crown Prince Abdullah's pre-Sept. 11 letter, citing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a reason why "it is time for the United States and Saudi Arabia to look at their separate interests," worries U.S. analysts.
This would jive with internal statements he's repeatedly made calling for the removal of U.S. troops from Saudi after King Fahd dies. We had one guy in the Command-and-Control field that had to go to KKMC for 60 days and reported that their electricity would be randomly cut-off, or petroleum deliveries would be halted from time to time for harassment purposes. The feeling he got was that once King Fahd dies, some serious shit was going to go down.
Complete and Thorough?

It should be no surprise, but ABC News has learned that the U.S. government ommitted parts of the transcript in the bin-laden tape that would make the Saudis look bad. They found this out when making their own transcript of the tape.
Bin Laden's visitor, Khalid al Harbi, a Saudi dissident, claims that he was smuggled into Afghanistan by a member of Saudi Arabia's religious police.

He also tells bin Laden that in Saudi Arabia, several prominent clerics — some with connections to the Saudi government — made speeches supporting the attacks on America.

"Right at the time of the strike on America, he gave a very moving speech, Sheikh Abdulah al Baraak," bin Laden said on the tape. "And he deserves thanks for that."

Sheikh al Baraak, to whom the visitor refers, is a professor at a government university and a member of an influential council on religious law.
I don't think I can say anything I haven't said already. Just add this onto the pile.

Santa's not playing around anymore

A woman in Sao Paulo was shot by Santa.
``The woman was wounded in her wrist and face but was not seriously hurt,'' the spokeswoman said Tuesday. She said the incident did not appear to be a botched robbery but gave no other explanation for the shooting.
I'm thinking "naughty".

People in glass houses...

In one of the most interesting cases of the pot calling the kettle black, a French envoy purportedly referred to Israel as "that shitty little country".
``He doesn't remember saying that,'' the ambassador's spokesman, Yves Charpentier, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Well, selective amnesia can pull your ass outta the fire when it comes to international relations, but I hereby declare that I have called France a "shitty little country" at one point or another. I have also used that line in reference to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Italy, Rwanda, Japan, and Mississippi.

My old foe, the Anthrax Vaccine

At last, the American public is forced to consider all the pros and cons of the Anthrax vaccine, and the very painful and personal decisions that workers must make. Here's a nice bit of trivia: We don't get a choice. Expect to hear that again, it's going to be a recurring theme for this bit as I contrast what the Federal government is doing for it's civilian employees and what it does for it's military ones. The quotes are taken from an MSNBC report.
Each person who elected to receive the immunization had to sign a consent form that outlined the risks of possible side effects. The form also noted that it is unknown whether the treatment provides any more benefit than giving antibiotics alone to prevent illness.
We don't get a consent form. We get a briefing telling us that failure to comply will result in UCMJ action for failure to obey a direct order. We have also been briefed over the years that the Vaccine is effective.
People who get the vaccine must keep a diary about their health and undergo regular questioning from the CDC for the first few weeks of the shots. They will be asked to participate in follow-up health monitoring for two years.
Military folks who get the vaccine receive none of this type of after-care. If we develop symptoms, we are told that what we are experiencing is in no way related to the Anthrax Vaccine. Not in a million years. Because it's safe. Here, have some Motrin.
Those opting for the vaccine were set to receive a series of three shots given over four weeks.
We get six shots, each more painful than the last. The fifth shot leaves you with the sensation that your arm is literally aflame for about a week.
Federal officials have stopped short of recommending the shots, saying each person must make an individual decision after consultations with a doctor. Other options are taking an extra 40 days of antibiotics without being vaccinated or self-monitoring and reporting any symptoms immediately.
Well, the Federal government never exercises such discretion when it comes to military folk. We're their bitches and they know it. There's no "personal decision" and we were never, not once, ever told that there was an antibiotic treatment for Anthrax. Not once in six years was there ever a mention of a treatment other than the vaccine, so imagine my surprise when people automatically started taking Cipro after they were exposed to Anthrax. Thanks for omitting that important piece of info, DoD.
“I fully understand it’s frustrating for those who have been exposed that the government cannot make a strong recommendation,” Koplan said. “The reason is we have inadequate science upon which to base such a strong recommendation.”
Well, the government's not only been making a strong recommendation, it's also mandated the use of it for military folks, and has said the science is sound and strong. Why does it change it's tune now?
But some members of the U.S. military who were given the shots have charged that the immunizations caused long-term health problems
Thanks for distilling the biggest and most painful debate in the military for the past six years into one sentence.
Americans: Don't Go Home!

An official for the U.N. wants us to stay in Bosnia after Rumsfeld told NATO that America would probably have to reduce its commitment by a third to help fight the Terrorist War. The Bosnians don't seem too concerned, but the U.N. is positively scared:
A Bosnian Foreign Ministry spokesman had said that the cut would not be worrisome if Bosnia continued to move toward stability.

But a spokesman for the United Nations police mission in Bosnia, Stefo Lehmann, said that such a reduction would be premature and that NATO's presence in leading the Stabilization Force, or SFOR as it is known, "should not be reduced until the job is done."
How do we know when the job is done? When the U.N. says so?
Any change in peacekeepers' ability to foster cooperation between the still distrustful ethnic groups "will have serious consequences," Mr. Lehmann said.

"Reducing the numbers now would send a message to the obstructionists in Bosnia that they have succeeded in weeding us out and can resume the policies of division which have been so detrimental for this country and its citizens," he said.
Okay, here's my take: I'm sorry that the Bosnians can't seem to get along with each other. It's too bad that they prefer spending their free time killing their neighbors rather than building something good that would benefit everyone, but such is man's lust for power. What I don't get is how long are we supposed to remain? We are there as a stabilization force. I would assume that once the situation has stabilized, we might depart leaving the Bosnians to decide their own fate.

There is a danger here, though. Never underestimate the power of institutional inertia. Once something's in place, it's easier to keep it in place than replace it with something else. There would also be those that say we must stay, else the old rivalries would flare up and the killing would start again. To that I would respond with a shrug. We can only keep them from killing each other for so long. They must choose between nursing centuries old grudges or joining the rest of their continent in the 21st Century.



Paper Trail

A reader who lives in London sends in his observations about newspapers in the UK in response to my post about them:
In the UK you can generally tell a person's political persuasion by the newspaper they read.

The Independent and the Guardian are what someone who voted Labour or Lib Dem would read if it wasn't something less mainstream (more nutty). You read the paper that generally suits your political persuasion and everybody knows about how it works.


I so wish the US had that.
So do I.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Breaktime

I'm taking a break from posting tonight. I have too much stuff to do, plus I'm working on a nice little essay on Air Power that should be up this weekend.
Poll Position (I know, it's a lame pun. I'm tired, it's late. So sue me)

Little Green Footballs has neat new poll feature up. Check it out, and let your voice be heard!
Yer Yeller!

I know a lot of people have been blasting the Independent for it's wildly biased commentary disguised as reporting, but through some profound but brief neurological fluke, I actually remembered something they taught me in AP History. When discussing the newspaper business during the late 19th and early 20th Century, our teacher mentioned the emergence of "Yellow Journalism", whose most popular example was William Randolph Hearst's New York Times. One of the hallmarks of Yellow Journalism was the extremely biased and sometimes factual reporting of various papers in order to drive sales. It was Yellow Journalism, we were told, that drove us into the Spanish-American War. Nothing sells papers like a good war, I guess.

It's only in our recent past that newspapers have decided to hail the "neutral" stance as the only responsible way to report the day's events. They started calling themselves "journalists" instead of newspapermen, and began referring to their career as a profession, in order to drive home the idea that theirs was a serious and important business requiring integrity and honesty. Most in the media would not consider themselves biased, but a cursory reading of any messageboard would indicate otherwise. I honestly think that the majority of those in journalism strive to be honest and fair in their coverage of the facts, but no matter how hard they try to remain neutral, they cannot escape their humanity. Everyone has their biases and preferences, and reporters are no exception. They may not be as extreme as their British cousins, but the way they choose to characterize an event, and the very words they use to report the news betrays their opinions and influences.

So keep "Yellow Journalism" in mind when reading the Independent. Though our papers have made great strides in ensuring the reporting of facts and not the airing of opinion, some of the papers in the UK have not evolved in such a manner. Who’s to say which is the better system? No matter what you think of the Independent, at least you know where they're coming from. It would be nice if our American journalists would just fess up and say, "Yeah, we may be a bit biased, but we try our best to be fair.", instead of just trying to fool themselves, and their readership, into buying their supposedly vaunted neutrality.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

What the-

Okay, the ad up there is gone, but I didn't pay for it. According to InstaPundit, people can pay to have ads removed from a site even if they aren't the owners of it. If this is the case with me, can the generous person please contact me via e-mail? Not only would I like to convey my thanks, but I can set something up to pay you back as well.

UPDATE: The mysterious benefactor has revealed himself, but prefers not to be named. Thank you, sir. Expect a reply to your email this afternoon after I wake up.
Um, no

A prisoner in India claims that Al Qaeda hacked Microsoft. According to this informant,
members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, posing as computer programmers, were able to gain employment at Microsoft and attempted to plant "trojans, trapdoors, and bugs in Windows XP".
I don't think Microsoft needs the help of some terrorists to make Windows a buggy security nighmare. They seem to be able to do a good job of that on their own.
Here we go again

India is now mulling various responses after Pakistani terrorists stormed India's parliament and killed several MP's. This situation has the potential to become very dangerous not only because both are nuclear powers, but the U.S. in its war on terror is also courting both of them.

You could make the argument that if Bush had done more to enlist India's help (a democracy) rather than Pakistan's (a military dictatorship), this issue could've been cut and dried. Two democracies acting together against terrorists trained and funded by Pakistan's Intelligence service. We could've made some real progress at strengthening our bonds that were strained during the Cold War when India favored the Soviet Union. But since we've made a deal with a dictator in the name of expediency, the U.S. is caught in a bind between two countries that've been at war with each other three times already. What's better, we're sending financial aid to Pakistan for its "assistance" during the Afghan Campaign- aid that can be used to help fund operations against India.

The U.S. has a decision to make. Will it side with a dictator, a democracy, or neither? It could fill the role of peacemaker between the two, but the fact that we've gotten in bed with the dictator could prevent India from seeing us as a neutral third party and might breed suspicion.
Fool of a Took!

A friendly Reminder: Lord of the Rings opens in U.S. theaters tomorrow, just in time for my holiday break.
No copying, right?

Wired reports on a new music industry intiative that will require consumers to pay for the same music twice. First, you buy the CD, but the CD is encrypted so you can't play it on your computer (or rip it). If you want to listen to the same music on that disc on your computer, you have to pay another fee to download the same song you already paid for. The music industry says it is doing this to help stop piracy and fight declining record sales (though record sales have increased since Napster), though I think they run the risk of curing the disease by killing the patient.

Expect copyright issues to be one of the major new battles of the 21st Century. Alot of conglomerates are pushing Congress for tougher copyright laws that favor the producer but leave the consumer out in the cold. Hopefully, the vagaries of capitalism will help keep this trend in check.

Finally

The Archive Odyssey is over and there is joy in Mudville.
More Thanks

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link over to this place.
Alcohol Abuse

Not ones to be outdone by the dinks in Cleveland, fans in New Orleans decided to launched a barrage of their own into the endzone on Monday Night. The incident Monday night didn't get as bad as what happened in Cleveland, because of a quick security response. It also helps that New Orleans only has twelve fans, 3 of whom are of legal age to consume alchol.

GO PACK

Reader Mail

Alert Reader Dan Hartung sends in his insights about Hamas (and others) in reply to my item exclaiming surprise at Hamas having actual public offices:
The thing about these groups is that they're BIG. Hamas is a huge organization that runs schools, provides welfare benefits, organizes communities, acts as a quasi-political party (in a land with no elections) and all sorts of non-terror types of things. What's galling is that they've used these activities as fronts for terrorism. Until recently Americans could legally donate money to Hamas.

Same thing used to happen with the Irish, too. Money to "widows and orphans" funds was used to support the families of terrorists.
Getting rid of the ad up there

Speaking of InstaPundit, Glenn Reynolds would like us to pay the $12.00 to remove that bit of annoyance at the top of the page in order to help Blog*Spot out with it's recent bandwith troubles. I will probably pay sometime after Christmas to have it removed, but can't afford it right now.
Rumblings from Yemen

Some time back, I posted a rant where I basically slammed President Bush for cozying up to brutal autocracies in order to win the war on terror. While I'm not crazy about this at all in principle, I do realize that it has practical benefits (it worked for FDR). In the same post, I linked to an article about Bush pushing to help train the Yemenis in order to help them combat terror. We appear to be seeing some fruits of these initial talks with the Yemenis, as they have attacked an apparent 'al-Qaeda hideout' (BBC).


Bigger than I thought

I drove by the Pentagon recently and noticed that the gaping hole is tremendously larger than the original damage done by the aircraft. From what some friends who work there tell me, they're demolishing C, D, and most of E ring in that section due to severe structural damage. They also say that there's a big push to have that entire section rebuilt before Sept. 11, 2002, but that looks like a tall order considering the sheer amount of space. If you've only seen the damage on Television, you're not really getting the sense of the enormous amount of damage that was done. If you drive by on 395, the Pentagon takes up almost your entire field of view, and this great void looks absolutely gigantic. I'd really like to see that section rebuilt by the target date, but those guys have their work cut out for them.
Thank You

I got home from work awhile ago, fired up the browser and steered it over to InstaPundit.com for my daily dose of Glenn Reynolds, and was surprised to see a link over to this site. His site was one of the main inspirations for me to start this thing up. Thanks for the nod, Professor Reynolds. It really made my day after a bad night at work.

To everyone else: If you're not reading InstaPundit, you should be.

Monday, December 17, 2001

More on Israel

Israel has more claim to the West Bank and Gaza than anyone else. That's the thrust of an article in the Jerusalem Post. The article details the recent history of the region, as well as the Carter Administration's attempts to delegitimize Israel's claims to the territory it occupied after being attacked in the 1967 war by pushing an intentionally misleading interpretation of the Geneva Convention Accords. This article presents a good argument that Israel has the strongest claim to the West Bank and Gaza.

The article, however, does not explain how completely phony the notion of "Palestine" is, though it does lightly imply it.

First, even the name "Palestinian" isn't native to the region, and is not a word that even existed prior to the late 19th Century. "Palestine" is a corrupted form of the word "Philistine". The Philistines , you'll remember, are a people mentioned in the Bible, and it was a group of British Christians who popularized the term. During the Campaign against the Turks, there was a strong movement to have the British reclaim "Palestine" and establish a Jewish homeland. "Palestine" was soon constructed as a mandate after the war, but the intention of settling Jews there (Zionism) was abandoned due to a complex web of politics involving the French, Sherif Hussein, and even the Russians. Second, the Palestinian Flag is not even their own. A British military officer designed it during the Arab Uprising in WWI as a means of unifying the various tribes "under one banner". Prince Feisal flew the flag during his brief reign in Syria. He was ejected by the French and made King of Iraq by Britain.

Finally, the Palestinians would not even have a concept of nationalism if it weren't for Christian British rule. The whole area was just a neglected backwater of the old Ottoman Empire, and tribal affiliations are what mattered most. Most of the region had the catchall name of "Syria", whose borders were never well defined. During the great land grab of post WWI, when Europeans and those who took part in the Arab uprising were jockeying for land, this hazy region posed a problem. The British (specifically Churchill) decided to solve the geopolitical problem by just drawing lines on an empty map. The artificial states of Iraq, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine were all created in this way. The French took control of Syria. The British installed the Hussein family in the other newly created countries, and kept Palestine as their own mandate. The Sherif Hussein, whose family had been the guardians of Mecca and Medina, and who had led the Arab Uprising, lost Arabia to the warlord ibn Saud and was given the Kingship of Trans-Jordan.

During the Inter-war years, the British sought to foster a sense of nationalism instead of ancient tribalism in the areas under its control, and I think that it was quite successful. Every country in the British-designed Middle East today has a strong sense of nationhood and firm borders. When the U.N. voted to create the nation of "Israel" in 1948, it was decided that "Israel" would replace the British mandate of "Palestine". The British left, and all hell broke loose. The Jordanians, Syrians, and Egyptians, who all saw their opportunity to gain more land for themselves, set upon the infant state. Jordan was particularly hungry for a Mediterranean port and managed to snag the "West Bank" before Israel eventually emerged triumphant, but never at peace. It claimed the West Bank and Gaza/Sinai from Jordan and Egypt respectively during the 1967 war. It relinquished control of Sinai to the Egyptians during the Peace Accords, but has incorporated the West Bank into its territory.

The "Palestinians" are a recent phenomenon, and are a continuation of the old Arab drive to annihilate Israel. It would seem that during its brief rule, the British managed to completely sell the inhabitants on nationalism, but it is odd that the whole notion of "Palestinians" as we know them never even existed until after the 1967 war.
Next you'll be telling me they're listed with the BBB

Arafat shuts down Hamas offices. Let me get this straight: Hamas and Islamic Jihad are known terrorist groups who've waged a campaign of terror against Israel for years. Everybody knows this. Why the hell do they have offices? I always imagined these groups meeting secretly in private homes or across the border in Lebanon, but they actually have public offices. No wonder the Israelis claim Arafat's been full of shit all these years.

Even if these offices were fronts, Arafat obviously knew about them for a long time, and allowed them to continue their operations even as he was talking peace with the Israelis.
The Next Winner Could be You!

Alert reader Bob Moran sends this link from Slate, who remind us to always read the fine print.
Phase II: Pakistan? I Think Not

The NYT is playing the "Where next?" game. The interesting part:
But if Mr. bin Laden does not head for Somalia, then he will probably try to melt into the complex political contours of Pakistan. In fact, though they will not say so publicly, some administration officials say that Pakistan may be where the next phase of the war must unfold.
Haha, hardly. The U.S. does not fuck with nuclear-capable countries, especially when said country is the mortal enemy of another nuclear power across the border that we are trying to be friendly with as well.
Where's Osama?

Interesting and funny theory brought up at work last night : We captured Osama some time ago, but we're keeping that fact a secret so we can prosecute the war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion, instead of being told to stop short like last time. Once Afghanistan's over, we'll start plonking Osama down in countries that we have problems with.

"Look! We have video of Osama in Somalia, let's go!"

"That wiley bastard got away in Somalia, but look over there! He's in Iraq! Go et 'im, boys!"

Osama will be our ace in the whole for the rest of his life. If a nation starts gettin uppity with us, "Holy Shit, Osama's in your country! It's on!".
An American in Kabul

Fox News has another report (taken from Newsweek) about the continuing spiritual journey of John Walker. Rumor has it that not only was he a member of the Taliban, he was also trained to be a part of the Al-Queda network. Aside from that, the article makes an odd prediction, backed up by Herr Ashcroft:
But his punishment in America's consciousness has already been decided: eternal disgrace.

"History as not looked kindly upon those have forsaken their countries to go and fight against their enemies," Attorney General John Ashcroft told senators last week.
They don't know Americans very well, do they? Walker might enjoy some notoriety in the short term, but if there's one thing that makes America great, its the fact that everyone's usually given a second, third, or fourth chance by the people. All he has to do is hang around long enough, and eventually he won't seem that bad, especially if he assembles a good PR team (paid for by his parents) to aggressively convince everyone that he's really a good guy who got caught up in the wrong crowd.

Eventually, the only people who'll really care about John Walker's status will be a bunch of opinion columnists and lawyers.

Big Deal

U.S. Officials Say Al Qaeda Is Routed From Afghanistan. Great. They're in Pakistan or someplace else now.

UPDATE: Bin-laden is still not dead. Mullah Omar is still on the lam.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Friggin Blogger

My archives are all dicked up for some reason.

UPDATE: I've come up with a temporary solution. It appears that Blogger isn't republishing my archives like it should, so I've had to manually enter the archive dates and links.