Thursday, May 31, 2007

Antiwar to the Corps -

Antiwar to the Corps - "In a case that raises questions about free speech, the Marines have launched investigations of three inactive reservists for wearing their uniforms during antiwar protests and allegedly making statements characterized as 'disrespectful' or 'disloyal.'"

Imagine that, a combat veteran wearing a uniform in an unauthorized manner or at an unauthorized time while speaking out against a war.

In this case, a mock patrol on the streets of Washington, DC, I believe the wear of the uniform was central to the protest and the protected speech.

The USMC is screwing up. The protesters brought no disgrace or dishonor to the USMC. They performed an act of protest while expressing their personal opinions, nothing more.

Furthermore these individuals are in the Individual Ready Reserve. The IRR is a limbo status members serve in after their separation from active duty. Members in the IRR receive no pay and no benefits but are technically still in the military and can be recalled to active duty in times of national emergency. Extending military regulations to a member in the IRR might be legal, but it's a huge stretch.

The protesters are being threatened with Other Than Honorable Discharges. That's actually a big deal. It is the worst discharge you can receive without being court-martialed and is reserved for serious misconduct. Most veteran's benefits are denied to people who receive OTH or lower discharges. Being a disrespectful loudmouth is not serious misconduct and the OTH discharges are unwarranted.

I can't tell you how I know this, but being a disrespectful loudmouth usually results in nothing more than a closed door session with the First Sergeant during which said loudmouth is reminded that nobody cares what he thinks. The loudmouth then serves penance doing assorted dirty jobs until the First Sergeant gets distracted with someone else.

The USMC's reaction to these men attending a protest in uniform is disproportionate to the offense. Particularly in this case, where the offense was committed while exercising their First Amendment rights.

Adam Kokesh, one of the three facing an OTH discharge maintains a blog here.

Police officer mistakenly shoots daughter

Police officer mistakenly shoots daughter: "STRATFORD, Conn. — An off-duty police officer shot and wounded his 18-year-old daughter after he mistook her for an intruder in their Connecticut home."

This guy is a schmuck on so many levels....

I am an NRA life member. I am a former NRA pistol instructor. I just retired from 26 years in the USAF where my job responsibilities included going to war and preparing others to do the same. I know a thing or two about the use of force.

This is the same pocket speech I give my friends when they say they want to keep a gun in their bedroom. These are the things I want my friends to have in their bedrooms in order of importance.
FLASHLIGHT. Most of the time you spend in your bedroom is at night when it's dark. Flashlights should not be black because that makes them hard to find when it's dark. For home defense a small, bright flashlight that has momentary switch on the tailcap is best.

Why is a flashlight important?
It helps you move safely and quickly at night, it helps you identify the problem, it can actually blind a dark-adapted intruder.

MOBILE PHONE. For an increasing number of people their only phone is a mobile phone. For folks that have a landline, keeping the mobile phone in your bedroom gives you a ready back-up form of communication that you can take with you.

Why is a phone important?
It's how you're going to call for help. The sooner you call for help, the sooner help will arrive. Firemen are better trained and equipped than you are for fire. Medics are better trained and equipped than you are for medical emergencies. Police are better trained and equipped than you are for bad guys. All of these people will tell you that the sooner you call for them the more good they can do.

FIRE EXTINGUISHER. Fires can spread very, very quickly. Most fires occur between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m and during most of that time, you're in the bedroom. [more here]

Why is a fire extinguisher important?
It can help you escape. Life is precious. A house is a thing that can be replaced. Additionally, a face full of monoammonium phosphate will at least delay an intruder.

LOADED HANDGUN IN A LOCKED BOX. Loaded because in the very rare instance that you'll need it, you're going to need it right then. A handgun because it's usable with one hand so you can use a phone or a flashlight. Locked box because because responsible gun owners keep their guns out of reach of people who shouldn't have them like kids or crooks.

Why is a handgun important?
Honestly, it's not. I put it last for a reason The number of bad guys that will actually break and enter your home is very small. The best place and time for dealing with these guys is while they're outside your home at the doors and windows and not in your bedroom. Your local police department most likely has a crime prevention officer who can give you lots of really good advice on how to keep the bad guys out.

Credit Pharyngula.

Here we go again

Faulty fax, mistaken as threat, prompts evacuation of stores - The Boston Globe: "ASHLAND -- In a scene reminiscent of the Cartoon Network bomb scare that paralyzed the Boston area in January, police shut down a strip mall yesterday in this small western suburb after employees at a Bank of America branch mistook a botched fax for a bomb threat."

We as a species are really, really bad at risk perception. Yes, terrorists are a threat to your life, but they are not nearly as much of a threat as not wearing your seatbelt or smoking.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TB Patient Says He Was Advised Not to Fly - New York Times

TB Patient Says He Was Advised Not to Fly - New York Times: "A man who may have exposed passengers and crew members on two trans-Atlantic flights earlier this month to a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis knew he was infected, and had been advised by health officials not to travel overseas."

I'm sure stuff like this happens more often than we know. Part of the problem is probably lack of knowledge on his part. The bulk of the problem is that he's a selfish twit who placed his needs and wants ahead of the safety of others. For that, I'd like to see him face criminal charges.

Chapter One In Which Our Hero.....

I've been ranting, so here's some humor.

This guy has been investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers using office supplies. He was kind enough to document his work and share his results with us. Hopefully, this is the first in a series of videos. A stack of flaming modular furniture would be cool.

Ever wonder who actually buys all those penis enlargement pills, healing bracelets and plans to earn millions of dollars by selling other people plans to make millions of dollars? This guy, that's who.

Off of Denialism.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation - New York Times

Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, May 29 — As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable."

Told ya so.

Now, for the attention-span impaired: 1) TORTURE IS IMMORAL and 2) IT DOESN'T WORK.

Can we stop now? Please?

Is Fred Phelps a Christian?

It is long past the time for the US Christian community to engage Fred Phelps. We as a society look askance at all Muslims for their failure to contain extremism within their ranks. Yet where is the public outrage at Fred Phelps' hate speech? Why aren't US religious leaders speaking out about this guy? Why are we leaving the heavy lifting on this issue to the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens? We need public, reasoned, point by point rebuttals to this guy. Wouldn't the most credible people to do this be religious leaders?

Silence is not acceptable. Awkward looks, hand wringing and mumbled qualified apologies are not acceptable. Religion, any religion, must not be allowed to serve as an excuse for bigotry.

If real life were like the movies a ray of sunlight would strike Fred Phelps and he'd vanish in a puff of smoke. But real life isn't like the movies and Fred Phelps isn't going to just go away.

My wish for Samuel Cheney is that he live a long life that's full of wonder and that he be surrounded by people he loves and who love him. And I think he's off to a great start.

First seen on Pam's House Blend.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cellphones can disable Nissans - Los Angeles Times

Cellphones can disable Nissans - Los Angeles Times: "Nissan North America has a warning for customers: Placing your electronic key too close to your cellphone could leave you stranded.

The automaker is asking customers driving new models of two of its flagship sedans to keep their car keys and cellphones at least an inch apart to avoid disabling the 'intelligent keys.' "

I think Nissan is off to a good start but they need to do more. Perhaps they could get the steering wheel to burst into flame if a cellular phone is used by the driver while the vehicle is moving. That would be good.

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ex-Uganda health minister charged

BBC NEWS | Africa | Ex-Uganda health minister charged: "Uganda's former Health Minister Jim Muhwezi has been charged with embezzlement and abuse of office."

Uganda cleans their own house. Good stuff.

This is actually strike two for the guy. He was fired from the post of Education minister but worked his way back into the government.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya clears medics of defamation

BBC NEWS | Africa | Libya clears medics of defamation: "A Libyan court has dismissed defamation charges against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor already sentenced to death in a separate trial.

The six have been convicted for infecting 426 Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes Aids."

The defendants have been sentenced to death. Their final appeal is coming up.

The defamation charges stem from the defendants' claim that they were tortured. Hopefully, the dismissal will open the door to throwing out the confessions.

Releasing the six innocent health workers would somewhat help Libya's crackpot despotic third-world reputation.

There's some good background here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Low caste Indians set to convert

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Low caste Indians set to convert: "Thousands of tribal and Dalit Hindus in India are to embrace the Buddhist faith at a huge gathering in Mumbai.

The ceremony, which may be presided over by Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is billed as the largest religious conversion in modern India.

The converts hope to escape the rigid caste system in which their status is the lowest."

Ah, an opportunity to do a mercifully brief version of a previous post.

One of the roles of a mythology is to either help maintain a societal status quo or provide an initiative for change.

The Hindu religion supports the caste system.

The Dalits are the lowest caste.

Dalits are converting to non-Hindu religions.

Upper castes are passing laws to make conversion harder. [here]

Casting off a belief system that is used to oppress you is good. Replacing the belief system with another one is unnecessary but a personal choice they're entitled to make.

Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons - Los Angeles Times

Animal rights activist gets 12 years for arsons - Los Angeles Times: "EUGENE, ORE. — A federal judge Thursday sentenced Animal Liberation Front arsonist Kevin Tubbs to prison for more than 12 years, rejecting arguments that he was a minor player just trying to save animals and protect the Earth.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken declared that four of the nine fires Tubbs was involved in — at a forest ranger station, a police substation, a dealership selling SUVs and a tree farm — were acts of terrorism intended to influence the conduct of the government or retaliate for government acts. "

Reading the article, it sounds like Tubbs is a dumbass that got in way over his head. Nonetheless, I agree with the judge's ruling.

Let's talk a little about terrorism. I think the term is used way too often. Recently, a Vatican spokesman accused a comedian of terrorism for making fun of the Pope. [here] That's just stupid, but there really is a disagreement on what the word means. Congress in Title 22 United States Code says: "the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents" [here] The US DoD definition is: the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. [here] The best attempt I've seen to define terrorism is this Christian Science Monitor article.

Briefly, all terrorist acts are also criminal acts and include a premeditated theatrical element meant to cause fear in a population or a society.

The public perception that you need to be a Muslim to be a terrorist is bigoted and unhelpful.

Activist groups in the United States seem to be increasingly willing to employ violence to achieve their aims. All of these violent acts are crimes, but more seriously, some groups are willing to commit acts of terrorism. When you talk about a terrorist act, the victims are the public at large.

I am baffled when any organizations is able to maintain political legitimacy and support terrorism (explicitly or implicitly). Let's take the phrase "political wing of a terrorist organization." I believe you can take "political wing" out of the phrase without significantly changing its meaning. You either condone terrorism as a means of achieving a goal or you don't. If you condone terrorism then you don't get to play politics. It's like saying you're a vegetarian that eats meat. You can't be a political organization that uses violence. Violence is what criminal organizations use.

Within the US there are two (often intertwined) groups that dance back and forth across the terrorism line; the animal rights and environmental extremists. (I believe our abortion clinic bombers, while intending to cause fear, are still in the "lone nut" category.) I don't understand how they get away with it. I cannot wrap my mind around the "sure, they lit fire to a car dealership, but they were trying to save the environment so it's okay" logical back flip.

For a nice and easy example, it would seem to me that once an organization like PETA got linked to violence their money and support would quickly dry up.

But I'm wrong. It is absolutely possible to victimize a population and have that same population support you.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What kind of atheist...

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not
one of them myself, although I play one online. They know
the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and
can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned
with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the
people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist




Apathetic Atheist


Angry Atheist


Militant Atheist


Spiritual Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

It's pretty accurate. I would like to see religious beliefs lose their untouchable status in public discourse. If a religious belief is going to be used to form policy, write law, restrict research, or set a school curriculum then that belief's merits are on the table for discussion. Religious beliefs exercised in public forums would have the same status as a scientific hypothesis or a political platform. Otherwise, your personal beliefs are exactly that, your personal beliefs and you're welcome to them.

I wonder if the folks over at Christianity Today know about this poll?

I learned about this on Sandwalk.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Indian laws put Christian missionaries on defensive |

Indian laws put Christian missionaries on defensive | "The law's title seems ironic, given its terms. Anyone wishing to switch religions must inform the district magistrate 30 days before or risk a fine. If a person converts another 'by the use of force or by inducement or by any other fraudulent means,' they may be imprisoned for up to two years, fined, or both. The law is silent, however, on the subject of 'reconversions.'"

According to Joseph Campbell, mythology serves four basic functions: inspire awe, explain the world, maintain social order (or provide a basis for change) and aid the individual through psychological crises. [here and here] The social function is a big one, and interestingly Campbell himself talks about Indian mythology's support for the caste system as a part of the natural order of things.

I believe the root of the Indian backlash against the Christian missionaries has less to do with the belief systems themselves as it does maintaining the societal status quo and keeping India's underclass in place.

India isn't the first to have such legislation and they won't be the last. A number of years ago Russia passed legislation defining what religious organizations were (and were not) and setting rights and responsibilities for those organizations. It was a blatant re-assertion of power by the Russian Orthodox church as a reaction to Christian missionaries.

It's my hope that we'll move away from religion as a tool to maintain social order. In the US, for example, we use Judeo-Christian beliefs to define marriage and what constitutes a family. Admittedly, these concepts may have served the purpose 2,000 years ago. However the world has changed and the concepts have not. Because these concepts are encapsulated in our religions (mythologies), they're immune to modernization. The resulting lack of discussion stunts the growth of US social institutions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

San Jose Mercury News - Liberty student arrested on bomb charges

San Jose Mercury News - Liberty student arrested on bomb charges: "LYNCHBURG, Va.- A Liberty University student was arrested after telling a family member he had made bombs and planned to attend the funeral of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, authorities said.

Mark David Uhl, 19, was arrested Monday night on charges of manufacturing an explosive device, Major Steve Hutcherson said. A family member notified authorities."

It's not clear what he intended to do with the five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) he had in the trunk of his car. We know that Uhl strongly disagreed with the Westboro Baptist Church and that they sent a small contingent of protesters to the funeral. We do not know if they were the intended target. The Associated Press reporter who wrote this story actually spoke to a roommate of Uhl's, a guy named Jesse Benson. Jesse said Uhl wouldn't have hurt anyone out of respect for Jerry Falwell. I think Jesse has it wrong. A guy with five IEDs in the trunk of his car has murder on his mind. Lesser objectives could be easily achieved with much less dangerous methods.

Mark Uhl was a student at an Evangelical Christian university and was studying to be an Army chaplain. I don't think his Christian beliefs are in question.

Some pretty hateful things were said after the Virginia Polytechnic shooting about it being God's will or God's retribution. Now that we've got a devout Christian with five IEDs in his trunk, I would like to hear what those folks have to say now.

Culture Wars has his MySpace page.

"When suddenly..."

A long time ago, I did some volunteer work for an ambulance corps. If these folks had lived in our area of responsibility, I'm sure I would have known the entire family on a first-name basis.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Al Jazeera English - News - Afghanistan's Child Opium Addicts

Al Jazeera English - News - Afghanistan's Child Opium Addicts: "Afghanistan remains infamous as an exporter of opium. However, opium use within the country is just as rampant, with perhaps one million addicts in the country, according to the UN, of whom more than 600,000 are under the age of 15."

I'm having a very hard time wrapping my mind around this. The numbers are staggering. Going off the CIA World Factbook numbers, that's about 4% of Afghanis under the age of 15. It's an obscenely high percentage.

The most recent UN drug use survey I've seen on Afghanistan is 2005. [here] In that report, child drug use for all surveyed drugs was 60,000 or 0.7% of the under-15 population at the time of the report.

The Al Jazeera article has a sixfold increase (150,000 to 1,000,000) in opium use (all ages) in just two years. That seems unlikely without big errors in one survey or the other. If anybody has a link to the 2007 report Al Jazeera is talking about, please post it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, you did ask...

Poll Christianity Today A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
I just have to say that I had absolutely no idea the Evangelical Christian community felt this strongly. There have been over 75,000 votes in this poll and they overwhelmingly affirmed Atheism as the only rational outlook. The last poll about biblical justification for divorce got less than 2,000 votes.

First seen on Sandwalk.

Update: They took the poll down Monday morning. I suppose it's possible that Christianity Today's reader base is not almost entirely made up of atheists. The results could well have been skewed by a script attack, a really funny script attack. I can't wait to read the spin.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hell must be full...

... and the damned are walking the earth.

A company named Homeland Safety International is marketing a dowsing rod called the SNIFFEX that is purported to detect explosives. Dowsing rods don't work. Not surprisingly, the SNIFFEX doesn't either.

There's something called the ideomotor effect that underlies the illusion that Ouija boards, dowsing rods and spirit pendulums actually work. Briefly (you're welcome), gadgets that are based on the ideomotor effect can only tell you things the operator of the gadget already knows. So the SNIFFEX will reliably point at explosives provided the operator already knows where the explosives are. Kinda useless, huh?

The company website says "90% accurate" [here]. But a US Navy test found it could not detect half a ton of explosive 20 feet away [here]. I'm going to side with the Navy on this one.

If Homeland Safety International wanted to honestly market the SNIFFEX, they could truthfully say something along the lines of; "It's a really cool pointer, it doesn't weigh much, and can be used to air dry socks."

Which brings us to Sniffextest here on blogspot. The author of Sniffextest says this:

"In 2006, I tested a widely promoted explosive detector called Sniffex. This may be the only double blind test of Sniffex on the internet. Operated by the president and vice president of the company, Sniffex failed every one of my tests. The company had no explanation and made no changes in ads or promotions. In my opinion, this lack of action is extremely dangerous and irresponsible. If you are considering using Sniffex explosive detectors, you should read this article."

I agree with him wholeheartedly.

I first learned about this on James Randi's site.

I still recommend a good smoke detector

What a load of malarkey. Saw this on Skepchick.

Prince Harry Will Not Serve in Iraq -

Prince Harry Will Not Serve in Iraq - "LONDON -- Britain's army reversed course Wednesday and announced that Prince Harry will not be sent to Iraq with his regiment due to 'specific threats' from insurgents that expose the third in line to the throne to an unacceptable degree of risk."

Told ya so. The troops already there should understand. Prince Harry would have been a shit magnet. Their job will be somewhat easier and somewhat safer without him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Way too close to the truth

The intent of this post was not to be a mirror of Blackfive, who truth be told, I have significant differences with. One of those "agree on the important stuff but probably couldn't finish a beer together" things.

Nonetheless, they had this Doonesbury up today and I had to swipe it. With today's instant media there really is a rush back to the hooch to send "I'm not dead" e-mails.

Monday, May 14, 2007

General Petraeus Values Message

Values Message (10 May 07).pdf (application/pdf Object)

The Pentagon recently released a survey discussed here in this blog in which alarmingly high percentages of US Forces serving in Iraq condoned torture and said that they would not report abuse of non-combatants. General David H. Petraeus, Commander Multi-National Force Iraq has published a values message to his troops:

"Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial proportion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat."

I never had the honor of serving with General Petraeus. He is one of the great warriors of my generation.

I learned about this off of Blackfive. I lifted the quote off of Michael Yon's blog.

Military bans MySpace, other sites from networks, computers | - Houston Chronicle

Military bans MySpace, other sites from networks, computers | - Houston Chronicle: "DENVER — Soldiers serving overseas will lose some of their online links to friends and loved ones back home under a Department of Defense policy that a high-ranking Army official said would take effect today."

For those of you who haven't recently served in a war zone, a lot of communication with family and loved ones is done over military networks. Most of this is done on DoD computers specifically set up for this purpose in morale tents. Others use the same computer they use for duty. A few folks have a DoD LAN connection in their living quarters and some personnel stationed in places like Baghdad are on Wide Area Networks of dubious security provided by locals.

One of the ways the younger troops maintain contact is through myspace pages. As myspace and the other social networking sites have loaded up on the eye candy, they've become an ever-increasing burden on DoD networks. DoD internet access in war zones is frequently carried over satellites. Not the cheapest way to get your bandwidth and certainly not the easiest to upgrade. Bandwidth conservation is a real live military priority.

Which brings us to the here and now. Communicating with mom and dad just got a little harder and the flow of information out of war zones just got a little more restricted.

First seen on Foreign Policy.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Texas Town Approves Ban On Renting to Illegal Migrants -

Texas Town Approves Ban On Renting to Illegal Migrants - "FARMERS BRANCH, Tex., May 12 -- Voters in this Dallas suburb Saturday overwhelmingly approved a measure banning landlords from renting to most illegal immigrants, in the first public vote on any of the more than 90 measures local governments around the country have proposed to crack down on illegal immigration."

Some numbers here: Farmers Branch has 14,100 registered voters [ref]. I've read turnout reported as "over 3,000" [ref] and "just under 6,000" [ref]. Not a great turnout, but significant nonetheless as only about 1,000 folks bothered to vote in the last two municipal elections [ref]. (On December 15, 2005 when Iraqis elected their parliament, they weren't permitted to drive as a precaution against car bombs. Every Iraqi who voted walked to the polls. They braved snipers and suicide bombers. The Iraqi turnout was 70 percent [ref].)

I'm not sure where Farmers Branch is going with this because Title 8 USC is not friendly toward people who harbor or hire illegal aliens. [ref] The fact that it's a federal law means Farmers Branch doesn't have to dedicate any resources for enforcement. I'm betting a town of 27,000 [ref] or so doesn't have a whole lot of uncommitted resources.

And it's a stupid law. Why go after landlords? Why not go after people who sell illegal aliens groceries? Or shoes?

In reading the cited articles it seems that the citizens of Farmers Branch are trying to make a point. They are trying to get attention. Well they're going to get attention. Negative attention. At the very least the city's lawyers are going to spend lots of time in court defending a pointless law.

Friday, May 11, 2007

OxyContin Makers Admit Deception -

OxyContin Makers Admit Deception - "The manufacturer of the potent painkiller OxyContin and three current and former executives at the company yesterday pleaded guilty to falsely marketing the drug in a way that played down its addictive properties and led to scores of people becoming addicted, prosecutors said."

The Washington Post doesn't go into much detail on the impact of Purdue Pharma's evildoing. Here's a snippet out of a 2001 Guardian article:

In this part of West Virginia, and the neighbouring hill counties of Virginia and Kentucky, they call it "hillbilly heroin" or "poor man's heroin". They also call it a plague. In the past two years it has caused scores of deaths in the region in the form of overdoses, suicides and car wrecks. In the words of Michael Pratt, a Kentucky prosecutor trying in vain to combat its influence: "The bodies are stacking up like cordwood".

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The War In Iraq: A Soldiers Perspective - Watch more free videos

A long time ago a very experienced soldier told me to smoke in war zones. Specifically, he told me to smoke those little Tiparillo cigars that smell about as nice as a flaming cat turd. By the end of the day you stink of the damn things but that's a whole lot better than smelling like the dead.

PNG police in gun battle with human sacrifice cult | Oddly Enough | Reuters

PNG police in gun battle with human sacrifice cult | Oddly Enough | Reuters: "Police reinforcements were attacked and forced to retreat. The villagers then went on a rampage killing one man and chopping up his body and burning houses, Wampe said."

You can't make stuff like this up.

What are the tactics for engaging a suicide cult anyway? "Stop! Or we won't shoot!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dems Slam Interior Over Science Meddling

Dems Slam Interior Over Science Meddling: "(AP) -- Democrats said Wednesday an Interior Department official who pressured government scientists to alter their research was just one example of a larger problem.

Julie MacDonald resigned last week as deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks after the department's inspector general said she bullied federal scientists and improperly leaked information about endangered species to private groups. "

Hubris (n) overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

When US taxpayer dollars are used to fund scientific research the results of that research belong the people that paid for it. Deliberate distortion of those results for political ends is an outright betrayal of the taxpayer's trust in their government.

Micky Mouse, Hamas Recruiter

Dispatch: "Hamas militants have enlisted a figure bearing a strong resemblance to Mickey Mouse to broadcast their message of Islamic domination and armed resistance to their most impressionable audience - children."

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my children may have peace."

Thomas Paine

How did Hamas get it so backwards? How did children become cannon fodder? Why have children had their right to exist stripped from them? Since when was it not the role of us as adults to care for children and keep them safe?

Hamas is evil and they're not shy about it. What is interesting to me is the lack of Palestinian backlash. How could Palestinians not love their children too?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Secrecy News

Secrecy News: "'I have considered your request that we remove Army publications from the Federation of American Scientists web site,' I responded today. 'I have decided not to comply.'"

I love those little poindexters over at the FAS. The Army publishes a For Official Use Only (i.e. limited distribution) document restricting blogging and e-mails and the FAS posts it on the web. Hopefully, I'm not the only one who sees the irony in that.

The regulation is a re-write of Army Regulation 530-1 Operations Security and it severely restricts electronic communication in any form. Both blogging (any) and e-mail (any) require supervisory review.

I know, it sounds impossible to me too. But there's a bigger issue which is the abuses during the Vietnam era. During Vietnam the US Government in general and the US Army in particular undertook a campaign to deceive the American people about the progress of the war. The press smelled a rat and went around the press officers. William Hammond in an official Army history concluded that the press reports were "still often more accurate" than the official releases. (quoted in Karnow, History of Vietnam) The Army does not deserve to be trusted with controlling the flow of information.

The Army is facing a technologically sophisticated enemy and blogs in particular are a goldmine of information. Go here, pick out a few blogs from deployed servicemen and read them from the viewpoint of a hostile intelligence officer. The Army has a point.

Still, their implementation was heavy-handed and wrong. The answer is education. A warrior's primary loyalty is to his or her unit. Not to the country or to any other abstract concept like freedom and democracy. Teach the service members how maintain communications without endangering their unit. They'll do it.

Here's the scary snippet form AR 530-1:

g. Consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC Officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.
(1) This includes, but is not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail (e-mail), Web site postings, web log (blog) postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or other forms of dissemination or documentation.
(2) Supervisors will advise personnel to ensure that sensitive and critical information is not to be disclosed. Each unit or organization’s OPSEC Officer will advise supervisors on means to prevent the disclosure of sensitive and critical information.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Troops at Odds With Ethics Standards -

Troops at Odds With Ethics Standards - "More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents [emphasis added], the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier."

Well that my friend is the mother of all "ifs."

I could use the Inquisition as an example, or maybe the Salem Witch Trials, but what the hell... let's use something more current. In February of 2003 then Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the United Nations that Al Qaida had gone to Iraq to learn about chemical and biological weapons. [reference] This statement was based on the "confession" of a man known as al-Libi who, having failed to talk to his US interrogation team, had been rendered to Egypt. The Egyptians play hardball and there is very good reason to believe al-Libi was tortured. [reference] The problem with the confession, and it makes the case for duress, is that al-Libi later recanted. [reference]

Put yourself in the shoes of someone being tortured. What's your focus going to be? Stopping the pain, right? Your primary focus is going to be figuring out what the evil son of a bitch with the jumper cables wants to hear and telling him exactly that. And if the evil son of a bitch wants you to confess to a crime that occurred a decade before you were born, you'll do it.

Torture as a path to the truth? Torture as a means of extracting valuable intelligence? You've got to be kidding me.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

'Invaders' must leave Iraq, says SAS general | Uk News | News | Telegraph

'Invaders' must leave Iraq, says SAS general | Uk News | News | Telegraph: "He said: 'As Lord Chatham said, when he was speaking on the British presence in North America, 'If I was an American, as I am an Englishman, as long as one Englishman remained on American native soil, I would never, never, never lay down my arms'.

'The Iraqi insurgents feel exactly the same way. I understand them. I don't excuse them for some of the terrible things they do, but I do understand why they are resisting the Americans.'"

I have served with British forces and I consider them the finest peacekeepers in world bar none. Sir General Rose, in addition to his special operations time, commanded the peacekeepers in Bosnia from 1994-1995. The General knows the business. His assessment of the insurgency is correct.

The bulk of the killing, however, is sectarian violence. The civilian casualty totals are over ten times the coalition casualty totals. These deaths are overwhelmingly Iraqis killing Iraqis. Nation building is not possible with this level of violence. This is a stand-up peacekeeping mission. Somebody has to stop the killing.

I agree with General Sir Michael Rose. Our very presence is inciting violence. I also believe our presence mitigates at least some of the sectarian violence. In an ideal world, we'd be relieved by a force that's simultaneously tolerable to Iraqis and capable of going head-to-head with multiple heavily armed sects with murder on their minds.

Who's that going to be?

Analysis: Preparing for a French revolution in Mideast policy | Jerusalem Post

Analysis: Preparing for a French revolution in Mideast policy | Jerusalem Post: "Both Nicolas Sarkozy and S gol ne Royal, the candidates of the center-right and the Socialists, respectively, have promised major shifts in France's stance on the Iranian, Lebanese, and Israeli-Palestinian issues if they win."

Other than their standing as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, France doesn't have a whole lot of weight to throw around. Nonetheless, this is an interesting read.

First seen on Michael J. Totten's blog.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Evolution and the Hand of God - The Fix

This post has been pared down considerably in an effort to make a single point. You're welcome.

Last night during the Republican debate, 3 of the 10 participants raised their hands to show that they did not believe in the theory of evolution. That demonstrates the same level of scientific ignorance as saying you don't believe in gravity.

This administration's record on tampering with science is despicable. The two big areas are stem cell research and global warming but there are little political paw prints all over the place. I think it's very fair to say that the Republicans are anti-science.

A decade ago, I wouldn't have said that I could allocate my vote based on a single issue. I just didn't see an issue so over-arching in its importance.

I can now name an issue: "Science." The set of methods we use to understand and explain our universe. If you're willing to cripple our understanding of our world and quite possibly endanger the survival of our species simply to pander to a constituency then you can't run the country.

A snippet out of the Washington Post:

Evolution and the Hand of God - The Fix
: "But one of the strangest moments of the night came when the candidates were asked about evolution. The question was put directly to McCain, who answered with a simple 'yes' before adding, 'I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.'

Then all of the candidates were asked to indicate which of them DO NOT believe in evolution. Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo each raised a hand. But that was it -- the debate moved on -- no follow up question and no chance for the candidates to qualify their answers or not."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bomb suspect 'pleasant, polite'

Whenever an abomination is arrested there's a ritual dance that takes place between the neighbors of the aforesaid creature and members of the media. The media ask insipid questions such as; "So what was he like?" and the neighbors respond with the compulsory "He was such a nice man."

It's utter hooey, of course. The neighbors are never, ever going to say "Well... there was that one time he kept us awake all night throwing kittens into his wood chipper..." I think it's a dignity issue. Nobody likes to look stupid (though personally, I find I've gotten used to it) so instead of saying the truth and facing pointed follow-up questions with embarrassing answers they stick to the cliches. Sorta like professional baseball players.

Below is a snippet on the latest abortion clinic bomber:

Bomb suspect 'pleasant, polite': "Before Evans went on the 2002 crime spree that some Lufkin police still remember — it included holdups of a convenience store and a Whataburger — he lived with his mother and younger brother in a quiet neighborhood shaded by towering pine trees, according to public records and neighbor Paula Legg.

'They were really good people,' Legg said. 'Her little boy, he played baseball. They were just a normal family.'

Evans' mother, Susan Nabors, and her younger son moved in 2002 to a newer house across town, according to neighbors and public records.

People on the neatly kept street, with lawns thick with St. Augustine grass and small flower beds, recalled that Evans had lived regularly with his mother until recent months. They described him as pleasant and polite and said he mowed his mother's lawn."

The Bay Area Reporter Online | Defender of abstinence resigns amid allegations of prostitution

The Bay Area Reporter Online | Defender of abstinence resigns amid allegations of prostitution: "One of the primary defenders of the Bush administration's international abstinence only until marriage HIV prevention program has resigned after his personal cell phone number turned up on the list of a high class escort service.

Randall L. Tobias, 65, was the former head of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and was named to lead the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative in July 2003. He was put in charge of all international assistance programs for the U.S. government in January 2006."

Tobias has actually enforced a policy requiring contractors and grantees to condemn prostitution. This has quite naturally hampered the ability of these organizations to reach out to prostitutes. Prostitutes like the people he himself patronized.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Vatican calls verbal attack on Pope "terrorism"|International News|

Vatican calls verbal attack on Pope "terrorism"�|�International News�|� "ROME (Reuters) - The Vatican's official newspaper accused an Italian comedian on Wednesday of 'terrorism' for criticizing the Pope and warned his rhetoric could fuel a return to 1970s-style political violence.

In an unusually strongly worded editorial, L'Osservatore Romano said a presenter of a televised May Day rock concert, which is sponsored by Italy's labor unions, had launched 'vile attacks' on Pope Benedict in front of an 'excitable crowd'.

'This, too, is terrorism. It's terrorism to launch attacks on the Church,' it said. 'It's terrorism to stoke blind and irrational rage against someone who always speaks in the name of love, love for life and love for man.'"

Actually, no it's not terrorism. It's criticism. Big difference. If you're going to play with the big boys and use your belief system to influence laws, scientific research and school curricula then you're open to criticism.

First seen on Culture Wars.

President Bush Discusses War on Terror, Economy with Associated General Contractors of America

President Bush Discusses War on Terror, Economy with Associated General Contractors of America: "By the way, in the report it said, it is -- the government may have to put in more troops to be able to get to that position. And that's what we do. We put in more troops to get to a position where we can be in some other place. The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy."[emphasis added]

At Hearing in Iraq, U.S. Colonel Is Cast As Flouter of Rules -

At Hearing in Iraq, U.S. Colonel Is Cast As Flouter of Rules - "BAGHDAD, May 1 -- Witnesses testifying at a hearing here Tuesday said a senior U.S. Army officer accused of aiding the enemy kept top-secret papers at his base residence, allowed child detainees to make unmonitored calls on his cellphone and provided former president Saddam Hussein with Cuban cigars at taxpayer expense."

I'm really not sure where this is going. Lt. Colonel Steele is charged under Article 104 "Aiding the Enemy" of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 104 is a no-kidding death penalty offense. Whereas your typical murderer kills one person, someone guilty of Article 104 offenses could quite literally be responsible for the deaths of hundreds.

In light of that, I'm really confused at the carnival atmosphere of Lt Colonel Steele's Article 32 hearing (military analog of a Grand Jury). It sounds like he shtupped his interpreter; are we caring about that? He may have give Cuban cigars to Saddam Hussein; are we caring about that? He mishandled over 18,000 classified documents, possibly a new record, but unless we believe that led to compromise of the information contained in them the offense speaks more to character than criminality.

The meat of the charge, giving aid to the enemy seems to be centered around giving prisoners unsupervised/unmonitored access to a cellular phone. Camp Cropper is a complex place. Some of the prisoners there are very, very bad men. Some of the prisoners are MAMs, Military Aged Males, who got caught up in a roundup. All the MAMs want to do is go home. Problem is, now that we've caged them up with the bad guys, the bad guys have influence over them. So nobody, no matter how innocent they are, can be trusted. Lt Colonel Steele demonstrated horrifically bad judgment in allowing unsupervised/unmonitored communication out of his facility.

Additionally, the charge of fraternizing with the daughter of one of his prisoners is extremely serious. This is because of the enormous amount of power that Lt Colonel Steele wielded in his position as Camp Commander. Even if his intentions were totally innocent, there is just no way that an unprofessional relationship with the relative of one of his prisoners should have been allowed to develop.

So I'm confused. I don't see how giving cigars to a prisoner warrants discussion at an Article 32 hearing for a capital offense.
I do not know what Lt Colonel Steele thought he was doing during his tenure on Camp Cropper. If he takes the opportunity to explain his actions, I'd be interested to hear his side. In the mean time, it's a good thing that he's no longer in charge of anything or anyone.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why I don't do well in the bar scene...

I'm a huge nerd. I'm a nerd that has gone places and had adventures, but I'm a nerd.

The correct response when a woman brings up the apparent accuracy of her horoscope is "It's uncanny, isn't it?" The answer is not "You believe that crap? You know, there are thirteen zodiac constellations, not twelve... *snort* ... and because of precession of the poles the classic twelve are off by over a month and... *snort* ... anyway..." Also excitedly waving your hands around while you explain things frightens the normal people.

So anyhow, a friend of mine sent me this picture of her latest tattoo. I genuinely had to ask what it was. I learned it was her sign. So I sent her the table below off of NASA's kids site. My advice was to take her tattoo back and get the right one. (Follow the link for the full table, I trimmed a column off this one.)

Sagittarius Dec 18 - Jan 18
Capricornus Jan 19 - Feb 15
Aquarius Feb 16 - Mar 11
Pisces Mar 12 - Apr 18
Aries Apr 19 - May 13
Taurus May 14 - Jun 19
Gemini Jun 20 - Jul 20
Cancer Jul 21 - Aug 9
Leo Aug 10 - Sep 15
Virgo Sep 16 - Oct 30
Libra Oct 31 - Nov 22
Scorpius Nov 23 - Nov 29
Ophiuchus Nov 30 - Dec 17

Iraq's al-Qa'ida head killed | News | The Australian

Iraq's al-Qa'ida head killed | News | The Australian: "THE leader of al-Qai'da in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed today in an internal fight between insurgents north of Baghdad, the Interior Ministry spokesman said."

Well, saved the taxpayers the cost of a JDAM. Otherwise, nothing to be excited about.