Monday, February 28, 2005

Rich security experience.

This Boing Boing post mocks Telus's new policy of disallowing servers for residential customers. Telus's stated reason for not allowing home users to make use of these ports is "security." However, if you pay them more money (for a business account), you can host a service again. How does paying more money make the insecure suddenly secure? It doesn't, of course.

That being said, I can see the reasoning. Business users have more invested in their computers (in terms of valuable work kept on them) and so are more likely to secure them. A user who "doesn't keep anything important on the computer" is less likely to bother with a firewall or other security measures.

I detest such policies, personally. I like to be able to host things at home, and I think I'm capable enough of protecting myself against intruders.

A new bug for the programmer.

Remember that milestone? A few hundred miles later, the engine halted at a stop light and refused to restart. Towed to the shop, it started. The mechanic there couldn't see what was wrong with it but did notice it had no oil.

I hadn't changed the oil in a long time. I'm not proud.

Another commute or two later, I notice it's making a sound I don't like. We drop it off at a different shop, and they tell us at the end of the day, the engine is shot. It'll last a few hundred miles more, and then it's kaput. That sound I heard is some shaft, and they could fix it, but there's no point.

That night, we car shop. I have a Beetle in mind, and that's where we focus. My sister has one, so we talk to her for some pointers. "Don't get a '98 or '99," she says. "They have problems. Even 2000 is iffy." With that in mind and CARmax floating around my screen, we call some dealers in search of (what else?) a deal.

In Orland Park, there's a 2002 Beetle with 15K miles on it. I compare it to the price of something somewhat comparable on CARmax, and this deal is looking just a little better than that. The next morning, we pack up the family in the minivan, pit stop for a fast-food breakfast, and ride off for some big decision-making.

I'll skip the harrowing experience at the car dealership. Suffice it to say we made it out with our lives and a car. At home, we discovered clues linking this car to its previous owner (bills stuck in the owner's manual). Also, there was a dead cell phone in there.

We've discovered a couple of warts on the car since getting it, but mostly we really like it. I thought seat warmers were for wussies, but I'd forgotten how much colder leather is compared to cloth. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it after I've commuted with it more than twice.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Spelling checker, meet thy match.

My mother once wrote, "I am the werst speller." It was true. People who hadn't read her writing before thought it was a joke, that she'd misspelled "worst" deliberately. That's not true. Searching old emails (some of which Mom wrote), I find 'werst' eight times. For instance:
I've had the werst f'n headache sence I got home.
This one made me laugh, then cry:
Vacation was a combination of the werst and the best. FL was very hot and humid, over 90 every day. (I just spent 5 min trying to spell werst in every way I could think of to get the correct spelling on spell check. Sad I know)
I miss her.

An above average post.

Abigail points out on her blog that 39% of Americans think they're in the top 1% wealth-wise—or will be someday. This reminds me of a couple of similar statements I've heard:
  • Most people believe they are above average drivers.
  • You can't convince 80% of parents that their children aren't above average.
I've been believing these things with no evidence for years. You may find them more palatable with sodium chloride.

TTLB Ecosystem reality check

The Truth Laid Bear has this Ecosystem set up that ranks blogs like mine with names like "Adorable Rodents" and "Lowly Insects." Toehold is described as a Slimy Mollusc, as of this writing.

The standard practice is to put some JavaScript on the page, and in the browser, it appears to say (in my case):

I'm a
Slimy Mollusc
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

Since it's JavaScript, it's always current with the blog's status. (My intent when I started this post was to include the JavaScript in the post, but it turns out Blogger won't let me do that. The above is static.)

Perhaps I'm just being contrary, but I wanted it to say something else, something nobody else's says. I replaced the JavaScript with this:

I'm a
Flesh-eating Zombie
in the
TTLB Ecosystem

The links are the same as what the JavaScript produces, so it's just as functional. The down side is that I won't notice whether my status has changed without following the link.

It occurs to me that if I wanted to, I could declare myself a "Higher Being" (or something less obvious), and visitors might not know otherwise if they didn't follow the link. I think I'd remove it completely before playing that trick.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Theory of the One Jennifer

(Originally sent in an email dated Sat, 14 Sep 96 17:24 CDT)

According to the Theory of the One Jennifer, there is only one Jennifer. Every Jennifer you meet is the same person. For the sake of simplicity (and since it doesn't really change the effects of the theory), I'll assume that only people named Jennifer are this person, and people whose real names are Jenny or Jen or other variants of Jennifer are not the One Jennifer. Besides, I don't really want to talk about Jenny Jones.

Clearly Jennifer has a severe multiple personality disorder. In fact, Jennifer will hardly ever admit to knowledge of what she said or did in one of her other personalities. Sometimes the personalities will talk to each other, and even appear in groups.

The Theory of the One Jennifer raises some questions. First and foremost is, how the heck does she manage to be in multiple places at once? The only explanation I can find is that Jennifer is actually a minor deity (though Jennifer Connelly may be evidence of her being a full goddess). One of the special abilities given to Jennifer in her demigoddesshood was the ability to be in more than once place at once. Q. E. D.

Since she can be in more than one place at once, she probably makes herself into different appearances to avoid confusing herself (while simultaneously confusing everyone else who thinks that she's multiple people). It makes it hard to share IDs when getting into the bars, but I'm sure she considers that a small price to pay when you consider what a hassle it would be to have Jennifer Aniston's fans chasing her all the time.

If J. Random Woman changes her name to Jennifer, is she then swept up and made part of the One Jennifer? What if an incarnation of The Jennifer changed her name to, say, Joanna? I don't know, and I don't think Jennifer knows either. From talking to her in various forms, I've found that a very small percentage of her knows that she's one person. Thusly a name change might change one's Jenniferness, or it might not, and pretty much no one would know the difference.

I figure the One Jennifer is fairly old as beings go (but don't tell her I said that). She's somewhat analogous to that grove of trees which appear to be distinct but are actually all connected at the roots. Jennifer's roots clearly run all the way back to the origin of the name. In spite of this, she hasn't figured out how to take a male form (or—more likely—she doesn't want to).

If one of the One Jennifer shoots another of the One Jennifer, is it murder or suicide? If she makes a deal with herself, breaks it, and goes to court, who wins? If one Jennifer writes a biography about another, is it an autobiography? Jennifer might be the only person in the world who can chase her tail and catch it (I shall now avoid making the obvious comment on lesbian incarnations of Jennifer). Of course, I don't often hear about Jennifer really doing battle with herself. I suppose it could sometimes happen by mistake since she doesn't always know herself on sight, but for the most part she stays out of her own hair (when not washing it).

There are those who say that all people are part of some single God or some other entity. Maybe Jennifer's non-aggression pact with herself should be some kind of lesson. This is completely different from the lesson occasionally learned when some poor family has a pet and a daughter named Jennifer. This can cause extreme confusion, especially during potty training.

I'm tempted to compare and contrast pets and small children, but I won't. Bob knows many times I may have already offended Jennifer.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Interpreting facts.

There was some talk about a quote from Chris Cox at CPAC last week. Salon quoted him thusly:
"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame America first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq." Apparently, most of the hundreds of people in attendance already knew about these remarkable, hitherto-unreported discoveries, because no one gasped at this startling revelation.
Now, Brendan Nyhan has a response from Rep. Cox. Brendan's take is that Salon was wrong (having taken Cox out of context) and Cox is wrong (having misinterpreted available evidence). Have a look.

My take is that this is similar to the "interpreting Eason Jordan" problem that I yacked about incessantly for a couple of weeks.

Speek freely, fuckers.

Go read "THE X-ON CONGRESS: INDECENT COMMENT ON AN INDECENT SUBJECT" (which I heard about from this post at Does This Look Infected?).
This is bullshit -- unconstitutional bullshit and also bad policy bullshit. To violate your ban on indecency, I have been forced to use and overuse so-called indecent language. But if I called you a bunch of goddam motherfucking cocksucking cunt-eating blue-balled bastards with the morals of muggers and the intelligence of pond scum, that would be nothing compared to this indictment, to wit: you have sold the First Amendment, your birthright and that of your children. The Founders turn in their graves. You have spit on the grave of every warrior who fought under the Stars and Stripes.
(Written by retired trial judge, Steve Russell.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

(Light) Torture on TV.

Reality TV show recreates Camp X-Ray
Volunteers on a reality TV show have been subjected to sexual humiliation and physical cruelty in a copy of the Guantanamo Bay military camp.
In the immortal words of "Weird Al" Yankovic:
Network execs with naked ambitions
"Next week on FOX, watch lions eat Christians"
(From "Couch Potato" on Poodle Hat)

I've been thinking for a while that I'm tired of seeing people exploited by "reality" television shows. There are folks enduring terrible situations for our entertainment, and in return they get to "be on TV." Now there are people literally agreeing to be tortured for fleeting fame.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

My grieving daughter.

At dinner tonight, my daughter said she wanted to see Grandma again. "Please, can we keep her?" she asked. We explained to her again where Grandma is and that we can't see her anymore. We explained at the funeral that it was the last time we'd see Grandma, but out of the blue tonight, our darling wanted to see her again.

Scandal? Outrage? Nothing to see here!

Power Line on Jeff Gannon: What Scandal?

Toehold on Eason Jordan: Eason Jordan outrage is recreational. (But see also, "Eason Jordan had to go.")

Toehold on Jeff Gannon: The administration of the Onion. (Basically, I make it a joke.)

Power Line on Eason Jordan: Jordan Story Explodes
What this story shows, I think, is how badly the left-wing media have damaged the United States with their incessant accusations and over-the-top coverage of stories like Abu Ghraib.
Jordan and Gannon are probably not comparable, but the interesting thing I'm pointing out is that the sympathetic response in both cases is, "nothing to see here, move along."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Popular opinion.

I read Power Line (and much more) through Bloglines, and one of its features is to tell me how many other blogs (that Bloglines also tracks) reference a particular entry. Something stuck out as I caught up last night.

From Friday, "A Joke..." has 6 references.

From Saturday, "Have They No Shame? No, Actually, They Don't" has 14 references (10 when I looked last night)

From Sunday, "The Insanity of the American Left" has 15 references (6 when I looked last night).

Also from Sunday, "Baathist Surrender In Works?" has 4 references (2 when I looked last night).

From this alone, I think,
  • People love a joke about Osama Bin Laden dead and disappointed (or maybe they like puns).
  • Attacking "the left" gets lots of responses.
  • Good jokes are more popular than (possible) good news from Iraq, neither of which can compete with attacking "the left."
I had a look at the links to the anti-left articles. In both cases, most of those linking to them were positive (i.e., the linkers agreed with what they were linking). From this I conclude that Power Line's attacks on "the left" are popular with its readers.

My white board is not funny.

My new white board reads:


Despite its clear and unequivocal statement, someone snickered at it within minutes of me writing it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Eason Jordan, the continuing story of bias.

Power Line has heard the mistaken identity explanation for Eason Jordan's remarks but doesn't believe it.
Baker to the contrary notwithstanding, the source of the controversy over Jordan's remarks was Jordan's statement that American soldiers (not "coalition forces") had "targeted" journalists in Iraq, not mistaken them for enemies and killed them. Many readers wrote to point out the basic factual error in Baker's story.
I find it interesting that the "mistaken identity" concept is flatly rejected, as though it's impossible that's what he meant.

Without context, I agree that "troops targeted reporters" sounds very different from "troops mistook reporters for terrorists and killed them." However, in the context of the discussion at Davos, Jordan was trying to draw a distinction between other "collateral damage" (where a reporter is killed by an explosion meant for someone else) and these less common mistakes. In that context, I think that saying "targeted" could still be confusing, but it makes more sense than the statement alone.

Recall Hugh Hewitt writing:
Even at this late hour, it would be useful if commentators on the controversy became familiar with its basic facts.
This is par for the course. I said from the beginning that this story is a matter of Jordan's listeners interpreting him differently, based on their preconceived notions. There can't be consensus when we can't agree on "basic facts."

Think Progress.

I've been enjoying Think Progress since it started up last month. It's clearly partisan, but I agree with most of it, and I like the way it provides links to factual information (just as I try to do).

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The administration of the Onion.

I quote myself:
More than once in the last four years, I saw real headlines that looked as if they came from The Onion, and I heard others remark similarly.
Later, I gave an example.

Today, I bring you "Bush admin credentialed gay prostitute," the satirical aspects of which are best summed up in "I've Seen The Light":
Everyone is still missing the point of the story. The story is not, as nitwits like Howie Kurtz maintain, that people are being mean to someone just because he's conservative. The story is not that Gannon is a hypocrite for promoting an anti-gay agenda. The story is not even that the White House gave such access to a reporter for a dummy news service operating under an assumed name, and may have used him to expose Valerie Plame. This is not the story.

The story is that God exists.

Think about it: what are the chances that a media whore like Gannon would turn out to be an actual whore? It's impossible. It boggles the mind how infinitely unlikely this is. It's like if you found someone pirating CDs, and it turns out he actually had a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder and sailed around the Caribbean saying "arrrrrr!" and plundering booty. You wouldn't believe it. But there it is: impossible, but true. Impossible truths are miracles, and only God can work miracles. Ergo, God exists. Q.E.D.
See also "The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show'" and "Daily Show on Gannon blogtroversy" and maybe "The Daily Show" itself.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Be Cool, it's just Ad Analysis.

We went to our nearby movie theater to see "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" with our Disnified daughter. While there, I saw a banner ad for "Be Cool" with John Travolta and an actress I didn't recognize. On my way to work, there's a billboard for the same movie, and it also has Travolta, but there's Uma Thurman next to him instead.

Are they just putting out different ads randomly, or were these targeted at the demographics of the locations? If the audiences at the theater are more often teenagers, more familiar with Cedric the Entertainer, then it makes sense to put him on the ad rather than someone else. If the drivers on the tollway are more often adult commuters, it might make sense to put Thurman on the billboard because she's more familiar to them.

On the other hand, considering Thurman was just in "Kill Bill" and Milian was just in "Torque", it would seem to me that Thurman is the better face to put on every billboard, so maybe there's not any thought going into these things after all, let alone demographic differentiation.

Eason Jordan had to go.

A comment on an article by Jane Galt has finally convinced me that Eason Jordan had to go:
As Mr. Walser points out, Jordan was damned if he did, damned if he didn't. If the accusations had any merit, he was guilty of chickening out of his duty to follow up on them and report them - the ultimate sin for a professional journalist. If they were baseless, then he is guilty of the vilest slander. In retrospect, it's no wonder he was forced out.
Thusly convinced, I am still thinking about the opposite perspective, which I'll now share.

What would be the reaction to publishing one of the stories that Jordan was talking about (such as this one)? I suspect it would be the same as the reaction to Jordan's remarks themselves: how dare you criticize the military! Viewers of the story would (correctly) note that it was an honest mistake on the part of a soldier in the fog of war, and they'd ask, why is this a story? Here's the kind of reaction I'm talking about, to a story in which a soldier shot an unarmed and wounded enemy.
Yes, it's technically a war crime. Yes, he should have grabbed him and taken him prisoner instead of shooting him. But did we really expect him to do that? Do we really expect that our soldiers are in full possession of their thoughts and senses all the time and that they always do the right thing, even in combat? Are we that naive, do we think that war is that sanitary and easy?
Is this why CNN didn't report the stories? We can only speculate. Does that make them negligent in their duty to inform the public? I think so.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Social (in)Security calculator.

I went over to the calculator and discovered that Bush's Social Security plan would be a 25% cut in my annual benefits. I was shocked and awed. Perhaps if I really really believed in "more responsibility and personal control" rather than my future security, I might want to take the cut to get closer to my utopia.

I haven't looked at the calculator's assumptions or done any math myself, so I can't speak to its accuracy. Perhaps it's propaganda. In any case, I already believe that there is no crisis, and after all that about McCarthy, I think I've challenged enough of my assumptions this week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eason Jordan's mistake.

As part of my dubious practice of promoting contentious comments to articles, I bring you this remark on what was to be my last post about Eason Jordan:
McCarthyism?? [...] BTW McCarthy was basically CORRECT in his assertions and is backed up by recently released KGB documents.

Jordan's "mistake" was not merely a mistake it was part of a pattern.
I didn't call this mess McCarthyism, someone else did. I quoted that someone else, taking care to distance myself from the remarks by saying, "more severe than my opinion is this."

Alert readers may wonder why I linked to it at all when I didn't completely agree with it, and I also didn't argue against it. The answer is, I found it to be an interesting perspective, and I still do. Consider the outrages we're seeing here.Criticize the military, and you're in for it. Journalists are another story. Is military honor worth more than media lives?

Since I didn't say "McCarthyism" myself, I don't feel compelled to answer what the commenter says about McCarthy, but I did spend a little time looking into it. I found a defense of Joe McCarthy which contains this quote:
Just how many did McCarthy catch? Darn few. Of the 10,000 government employees who were exposed as Communists, security risks, or of questionable loyalty and lost their jobs, at the least, only forty can be attributed to McCarthy.

Any of the major players? None, as most had either been moved laterally by Truman or snared by the FBI.
McCarthy's defense here seems to be that there really was a problem, according to documents found after the fall of the Soviet Union, and intelligence intercepts, not that McCarthy did a good job solving it.

It may be unfair to say McCarthy was on a witch hunt because witches don't exist, but there really were communists. On the other hand, I cannot condone the means used to achieve the end.

The poster also asserts (with a link to Hugh Hewitt) that Jordan's comments at Davos were part of a pattern. That article links to an article with this quote:
"Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the US military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by US forces," Mr Jordan told an audience of news executives at the News Xchange conference in Portugal.
Later in the article, Jordan names a journalist who was arrested and held with no reason given. Looking through "Eason Jordan and the names of 12 journalists 'deliberately targeted' by US troops" (which I linked to earlier), I find this story in which a group of reporters are arrested and mistreated by US military. So here we have other reports of US troops doing just the things Jordan said they did.

Back to Hugh Hewitt:
Every single commentary on the matter that does not bring up the first slander is either incompetently assembled or ideologicially blinkered.
I'm not a lawyer, but this says "defamation" is "spoken or written words that falsely and negatively reflect on a living person's reputation" and slander is "spoken defamation." As previously discussed, I don't think that what Eason Jordan said was false, and therefore it's not slander (or defamation).

(Is accusing someone of slander, in print, considered libel?)

So what's the pattern? Making this claim in front of an audience? More to the point, how could I think he made a mistake when he did it twice? If you think the "mistake" offered as Jordan's defense is "claiming the military did something they didn't," then, yes, the fact that he's done it twice negates that defense (though I would be ashamed to admit how many times I've locked my keys in my car, always claiming it was a mistake).

The mistake I think Jordan made was making his remarks unclear. People heard what he said, and I think they thought he said something other than what he actually meant. As I said in my previous "final" post about this, perhaps this mistake is still grounds for putting Jordan's head on a pike. I don't think so, but, this blog aside, journalism is not my profession.

Some have said that it's irresponsible for Jordan to have made the remarks he did in front of a foreign audience because it reinforces anti-American sentiment. That's a valid point, but being a "full disclosure" kind of guy, I think that hiding our follies compounds them.

Hugh Hewitt's final comment is the best part. I've been saving it.
Even at this late hour, it would be useful if commentators on the controversy became familiar with its basic facts.
Why do I not see Hugh Hewitt talking about soldiers mistaking reporters for terrorists? It's probably because I don't read Hugh Hewitt, but I also wonder if he's "ideologically blinkered."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Making an example of Eason Jordan

What I've said about the Eason Jordan affair has mostly not been about the scandal itself, but I thought I'd collect it into a post anyway.
  1. Media consumer bias: I think observers of the media (who claim bias) are biased themselves.
  2. More on Eason Jordan and the biased media: Mostly a response to a Power Line post on the subject. I dispute that the media are as bad as it says.
  3. Eason Jordan outrage is recreational: I say that what's going on is not so outrageous.
  4. Eason Jordan resigns: I say that releasing the tape won't settle the debate.
I think my comments were mostly about the debate rather than part of it. It may be obvious from reading them that I think Jordan got worse than he deserved, but I tried to keep my mind open.

More severe than my opinion is this, which likens Jordan's criticism to McCarthyism:
Sad conclusion in the Eason Jordan affair (see below the New York Times article), sad day for the freedom of expression in America and sad day again for the future of blogging: the defense of the US army honor seemed more important to some bloggers than the defense of reporters' work (and sometimes life)!
Less severe is a veteran journalist's remarks, which I found via this post at Michelle Malkin's site:
The "mis-spoke" defence is all very well, but if there's anyone who knows or should know how to be quoted, how not to be quoted and how to avoid being misquoted it's a journalist with Jordan's experience.

If he were a "civilian" I could understand the "tempest in a teapot" view but this guy is a journalist who quotes people everyday.

Ditto, for telling stories that CNN hadn't aired. If they hadn't broadcast the story about the Al Jazeera journo forced to eat his shoes, it's because they couldn't get people to talk about it on the record. A news executive can't go passing on those rumours in a semi-public forum. If the standard of proof wasn't good enough to get it on CNN, it 's not good wnough to discuss at a forum in Davos. Maybe at JOrdan's dinner table but not Davos.

To me, these two mistakes are inexcusable coming from a news executive. And they are indeed grounds for firing or resigning.
That's something I hadn't thought of. He may have thought he was off the record, but maybe that doesn't matter. I have been thinking "he just misspoke" and I hadn't considered that it might still mean the man has to go. What's a mere mistake for me may be a sign of incompetence for Eason Jordan.

Ultimately, the story of Eason Jordan will be much less about what happened at Davos and much more about what happened afterward. I've talked about that a bit, but from a different angle from the "media suck; blogs rawk" perspective I see elsewhere.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Stealing vs. infringing.

This notes that the legal penalties for shoplifting media from stores are lighter than the penalties for illegal copying of media from the Internet. It proposes that this is unfair because robbery is a worse crime than copyright infringement. That's a pretty straight-forward view.

I've seen comparisons of criminal penalties in the past that make this same point. For instance, I think abusing animals in certain ways gets you a worse punishment than if you abused a child the same way. No doubt the laws are riddled with unfairness like that. It might be an interesting project to rank crimes by penalty to see which are the most and least punished.

This article is about the use of an automated system to detect a particular violation of the law. It makes a point that may be relevant here:
Wholesale surveillance calls for something else: lessening of criminal penalties. The reason criminal punishments are severe is to create a deterrent because it is hard to catch wrongdoers. As they become easier to catch, a realignment is necessary.
Is shoplifting punished lighter because it's easier to catch shoplifters than downloaders? I doubt that's the reason. Still, I doubt that relating penalties to each other is as simple as it looks.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eason Jordan resigns

Now that we've established that the witnesses disagree, we know that Jordan must have been misinterpreted. Who's right? Well, the only way we'll know is to see the tape ourselves.

I find it interesting that this is considered a solution. We already know that people who were there saw the same thing but saw it differently. Now we're going to get hoards of others to look at a tape of the event and get clarity? I don't think so.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Some will answer one way, and some will answer another. More broadly, consider any question on which people disagree. How do you determine the truth? It seems to me that taking a vote tells us mostly which bias is more prevalent. That may be good enough for some decisions, but I think it foolish to think that qualifies as objective truth.

This is not to say that truth doesn't exist, just that we can't always be sure when or whether we've found it. I don't mean to get philosophical here; let me get back to the point.

Releasing the tape will only lead to more debate (but no conclusions). Perhaps the tape will change minds (though I doubt it), and perhaps people will think they know the whole story after watching it (but they won't). In any case, if the debate really is as recreational as I said yesterday, then releasing the tape lets the fun continue, but it won't settle anything.

This reminds me of a scene in the movie "Hero" in which a reporter played by Geena Davis discusses the onion metaphor of journalism. You peel away the layers of the onion as you get closer to the core, the truth. She cuts apart an onion as she speaks, and when she's done, there's no onion left. There's no core, no truth, just a lot of story.

I'll sit here eating popcorn, watching the show. At this point I think of it as a show. There are facts, but that's not the point anymore. The point now is to get the tape and keep peeling the onion.

(Between writing this and posting it, Eason Jordan resigned, but his critics still want to see the tape. Boy, don't let victory stand in your way; the show must go on!)

Bush supporters are still misinformed

Today I see that supporters of Bush Social Security plan are misinformed, and I am reminded of The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters.

Long story short, people who favor Bush's Social Security plan don't really know what he's proposing, and most of them no longer favor it when they find out. Before the election, Bush supporters mostly thought that Iraq was dangerous (but the Duelfer report said otherwise), and most of them would no longer favor the Iraq war if it were otherwise.

Bush and Kerry supporters disagreed on the facts, but they all agreed that the Bush administration was the source of the beliefs that Bush supporters held and Kerry supporters didn't.

Have a look at the Think Progress article for a more detailed look at the Social Security facts versus the perception.

White board code

New white board! I know it's early, but sometimes you just have to let it happen when it happens.


It's kind of a long one, so I wonder if it will be ignored by passers-by who are used to reading without having to pause on their journey from one cube to another.

The elite milestone.

A friend who hadn't seen my 100,000 mile milestone post sent me a link to his friend's 31,337 mile milestone. Maybe I can keep my eye out for that with my next car.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Eason Jordan outrage is recreational.

A couple of posts I wish I'd taken the time to make:Each documents instances of troops killing reporters.

I note that a number of outraged critics say that what Jordan said was that the military targets journalists as a matter of policy. It may have sounded that way at first, but he's clarified what he's saying:
Most importantly, I do not believe the U.S. is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. To the contrary, the U.S. military has worked hard to protect journalists in Iraq. Nevertheless, there have been several tragic episodes in which U.S. forces killed journalists in what turned out to be cases not of collateral damage but of mistaken identity.
I think what we have here is real evidence of exactly what Jordan is saying, and no evidence of what Jordan isn't saying (i.e., there's no evidence that journalists are killed as a matter of policy, and no one says otherwise). The only way this is an outrage is if Jordan believes something he hasn't said. It's an outrage out of thin air.

Still more on torture.

The definition of torture I discussed earlier relies on the phrase "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." I think this may be what Jay Bybee was talking about when he referred to "pain equal to that associated with organ failure." I think someone familiar with the "severe pain or suffering" definition asked further, "how much pain is 'severe?'"

Imagine torturing someone with only "moderate" pain. I can't imagine anyone "breaking" for a stubbed toe. If part of the interrogation is moderate pain that goes on indefinitely, then someone might suffer enough to "talk," but I think at that point we're talking about mental suffering. After all, water torture causes no physical pain, but it's still torture. In short, if the interrogation isn't severe, it won't work on anyone.

Our would-be torturers are left with a choice:
  1. "Moderate" interrogation techniques that don't work.
  2. "Severe" interrogation techniques that are illegal.
What to do? Redefine "moderate" so it's severe enough. That's how we arrive at "organ failure."

Asking "is it really torture?" sounds to me like asking the cop "what's the worst I can do without being arrested for assault?" Wanting to know where the line is implies wanting to cross it but willingness only to get close to it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The best dog watcher.

As we bolted out the door to be with Mom, we had to find someone to look after our two golden retrievers in our absence. We came up with Lori Malczewski of 4 Legs & More Pet Sitting & Grooming (630-620-9343), and she was fantastic.

Lori has a grooming service also. We didn't ask her to, but while we were gone, she groomed both of our dogs. They looked and smelled better on our return than when we'd left. I don't think it's a regular feature of her service. Maybe she had some extra time on her hands; I don't know. In any case, this was just the first above-and-beyond thing she did.

She disposed of a dead mouse that she found in our kitchen. Ugh! Not wanting her to have to do any more of that, I said she could trigger the remaining traps, but she left them set. What a trooper!

When we left, we thought it would be a shorter trip than it was. Lori had no problem continuing to care for our dogs beyond her original commitment. She also took care of our rabbit, even going so far as to change her bedding.

Our neighbors confirmed that she'd take the dogs out and throw the ball for them. Before we got home, she vacuumed. When we got there, she'd left a note and a pitcher of flowers on our counter.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More on Eason Jordan and the biased media.

This Eason Jordan thing at Power Line is getting too fun. I tried to keep my distance and be neutral, but it's time to get the popcorn.

I start with this:
If the U.S. military were targeting journalists for death, it would be the story of the decade (Abu Ghraib to the 100th power).
I think if the "MSM" were really the scoundrels they're made to be here, they'd be publicizing the story and the facts that back it up. Why let their arch-nemesis, the blogsphere, attack one of their own (and let the military kill them) when they could be raising Hell about tanks firing on reporters? I'm trying to be an understanding American here, understanding that men with guns sometimes shoot the wrong people, but I'm starting to think we really ought to drag this whole affair through the muddy light of day and see what happens.
But even if I'm wrong about all of this, I don't think it can legitimately be disputed that if a conservative had made a statement of comparable significance (or insignificance, as Charla would have it) the MSM would have reported it immediately and would be discussing it ad nauseam.
I have five words for you: Al Gore invented the Internet. Long story short, Gore chose some words poorly, which were then exaggerated and repeated (one might say, "ad nauseam") until all but a few think he's a liar.

Does this prove a conservative bias? I don't think so. However, I do think it shows that the mighty media are not always as one-sided as we think.
So in trying to push this story into the public's consciousness, conservative bloggers aren't being petty. They are merely applying MSM standards in quest, among other things, of a level playing field.
Best for last!

Bloggers are "applying MSM standards" after talking about how bad the MSM standards are. It boggles the mind. Perhaps this is similar to saying, "I am getting so sick of people wanting us to be civilized in the face of barbarism." Or maybe it's just schoolyard "my victim hit me first." Either way, I disagree with it; my enemies are not responsible for my behavior.

Another word for nothing left to say

My new white board (with apologies to Janis Joplin):


Perhaps this is too political for work. It's really just the first thing I thought of after thinking that my last white board has gotten old.

Full of myself.

In my post last night, I linked to a story about a Reuters cameraman who was killed by Americans in Iraq. This morning, the same story is in a post at Power Line, which refers to a story at the Washington Post.

When I first heard of the Eason Jordan story, I thought of the Reuters cameraman story immediately. I just didn't get around to saying anything about it until last night. Perhaps in the future I can blabber faster and really get ahead of the game.

Media consumer bias.

There was a guy from CNN at Davos, and he said something like, "the U. S. Military has deliberately targeted 12 journalists and killed them."

It sounds outrageous. Some are outraged, and they note that upon further questioning, he "backed off" or "walked himself back." Others who witnessed the same thing say he "clarified." Whether he regretted what he said or merely had to repeat it with a better choice of words (or both), I don't know.

There are a lot of other implications that fall out of the regretful interpretation. First is that this is a story about the media because here we have a media man saying something outrageous for effect, or, one might say, lying. He gets called on it and declines to stand by what he said. Then, the rest of the media hide the story because they agree with him or because they feel some loyalty to each other. Why aren't they talking about it? becomes a burning question in this interpretation. It's implied that news organizations all over the United States are doing a poor job of reporting, and it's such a sensational story, they must be doing it deliberately.

If you subscribe to the clarity interpretation, there's no story. He pointed out that, for reasons unknown, some soldiers pointed their weapons at some journalists and killed them. He didn't say they have it in for journalists. It's probably just a mistake. All he's saying is, not all of the journalist deaths have been "wrong place at the wrong time" accidents. It's not always the case that a reporter was in a blast radius by mistake. Once in a while, guys in tanks mistake a big camera for an RPG launcher.

The fact that the media isn't talking about this means one of two things, depending on your interpretation. Either it's a case of obscuring the truth, or they've figured out already that there's no story. Either way, the fact that the media isn't talking about it reinforces the view we already have of the media itself.

I haven't looked deeply into the question of what the guy said or what he meant. What's interesting to me here is the disconnect between the two interpretations and how a casual listener will get one or the other exclusively. It's also interesting how our prejudices about the media color our view of this story.

This may be a bad example of what I'm trying to talk about. It's possible what's happened here is completely clear-cut, and there'd be no controversy if I spent the hours necessary to look into it fully. Still, I have a point, and it's about how our prejudices color our interpretations. Ask yourself these questions. Do you think the media is biased? Does that opinion itself qualify as bias?

Monday, February 07, 2005

It's just like I said.

I didn't really expect anyone to come out and say the things I thought they were thinking, but then I saw "Shooting enjoyment". It's like I read his mind. It flat out says, "I am getting so sick of people wanting us to be civilized in the face of barbarism." It goes on to speak badly of the Geneva Convention. Compare to "What is and is not torture?" where I say:
Is it more important to survive the attack of the uncivilized or to remain civilized even during conflict? I think the proponents of the former are saying, "I'll be anyone I need to be to stay alive." Proponents of the latter are saying, "I'd rather be dead than a monster."
Compare also to "Torture is legal, after all." in which I characterize one view of the Geneva Convention as "it sucks."

My favorite part of the article is actually this:
What's next: "shoot to wound" orders?
I'm no army man, but it seems obvious to me that wounding the enemy is far preferable to killing. A wounded soldier is often out of the fight just like a dead one. The difference is his three friends who are also out of the fight while they carry him off the field of battle and the resources the enemy uses to patch him up.

I'm not advocating a "shoot to wound" order, understand, but I don't think it would be ridiculous for soldiers to aim in that direction, so to speak.

Tin can purse.

We saw a license plate hand bag from Littlearth at the mall. It's actually kind of pretty (as I think Illinois license plates are attractive to start with), but it's too flashy for serious adults. If they're still around when my daughter is in the market, maybe I'll get her one.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Wilton Mortuary

After Mom died, she went to Wilton Mortuary, and I'm here to say they did a good job with the visitation and funeral.

There's someone on staff there who does a hand-drawn portrait of the deceased from a photograph provided by the family. We gave them a picture of Mom from her wedding five years earlier. The result looked really good, and many of the folks who came to see us remarked on it.

When we were making the arrangements, my aunt asked the woman who was helping us a little about her background. She said that she'd wanted to do this work since she was a little girl, and she went to college knowing that's what she'd be doing. The story she told was that when she was nine, a relative of hers died, and she saw the people at the mortuary being rude and inconsiderate to her surviving family members. She thought that was wrong, and she wanted to create something different.

Before she told this story, I took the good treatment of the mortuary more-or-less for granted. They deal with people in grief every day, I thought. They have their moves down like car salesmen. They're delicate and considerate, and it's all part of the job. After hearing the story, it was more personal. Here's someone who saw injustice in the world and dedicated herself toward eliminating it. It's not a front; she means it.

Here's more about Wilton Mortuary.

Friday, February 04, 2005



Fly paper

Another one from the State of the Union Address:
Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
Talking Points Memo addressed this a long time ago:
As a TPM reader put it to me both hilariously and brilliantly more than a year ago, this 'fly paper' thesis is like saying we're going to build one super dirty hospital where we can fight the germs on our own terms.
I don't think that terrorists who would have attacked America are now attacking us in Iraq. I think that terrorists attacking us in Iraq mostly didn't exist before we got there, but who knows?

It's still tempting to believe the fly paper idea, even though I was convinced of its falsehood a long time ago. I honestly can't tell if the President believes it, or if he's just offering an idea to make people feel better.

A beef with Juan Cole.

A response to my "Iraq's elections" post makes a lousy argument and links to an article I find confusing. Its points seem to be:
  1. Juan Cole contradicts himself when discussing the elections in Iraq.
  2. This idea that the Bush administration supported and Sistani shot down was actually not Bremer's idea, as Cole says.
  3. Going with Sistani's suggestion was a bad thing, contrary to what Cole says.
Whether going Sistani's route was a bad thing or not, Bush is now talking about how great it is that Iraq had elections which he did not originally support. Regardless of whose idea it was to appoint a government rather than elect one, the Bush administration supported it. Whether to attribute that idea to Bremer or someone else seems to be an irrelevant detail.

As to the contradiction, Cole practically points it out himself. His point seems to be that while it really is of huge significance (I agree), it's also not nearly the model we'd hope it would be. This is like having Droopy Dog catch Jeffrey Dahmer. It's a triumph, yet embarrassing.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

The same-sex marriage debate comes to Toehold

A response to my State of the blessed Union post attacks same-sex marriage thusly:
I wonder if I could be married to my platonic same sexed friend? Or do I have to start having sex with them in order for it to be condoned? Homosexuals simply do not have the right to change the definition of marriage that has stood for millenia; male and female. Homosexuality is no more an immutable characteristic; like race or gender; than liking garlic a lot.
I'll take these in order.
  1. Friends marrying each other 'just for the hell of it' is already legal.
  2. Churches have the right to change the definition of marriage that has stood for millennia since it was their definition in the first place. The state has no right telling God who's allowed to marry.
  3. Denying rights to some people based on sexual orientation strikes me as arbitrary (and unjustified), just like denying rights to people who like garlic a lot.
It occurs to me that people who like garlic a lot might have trouble finding partners anyway. Then they'd marry each other. Is that a same-taste marriage?

Random brain dribbles: The day the music died

My friend at Random brain dribbles remembers that today is The day the music died.

State of the blessed Union.

I didn't watch the State of the Union; I read the transcript. Reading the President's speeches is a chore. I know he has something to say, but I also know he'll pick obscure and flowery ways to say it. As a result, it's a hard read, with a lot of effort put into interpretation of the message. As I write this, one passage stands out:
Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage. (Applause.)

Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable...
Because I'm such a backward kind of guy, I immediately reversed these statements into something like so:
A society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable. For the good of society, I support withholding rights from a vulnerable minority (gays).
In case it's not obvious, I support same-sex marriage. As such, I don't see how intolerance for the rights of gays is good for "families, children, and society." Did my powers of interpretation fail me, or did the President just not say?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Torture isn't really legal.

When I discussed the argument that torture is legal, I said, "I'm not going to argue that; I'll take it as a given." I should have mentioned that I disagree that torture is legal, and that I just didn't want to go to the trouble of arguing the point. Mea culpa.

Luckily, Obsidian Wings says torture is not legal, and I can just link there and go back to napping.

On a semi-related note, Technorati is a really great tool, not only for confirming that no one links to me, but also for finding others who are discussing the same things I am.

Iraq's elections.

Since phoning in a post about Iraq elections, I came across Juan Cole's post that seems to say a lot of what I have on my mind today.
  • Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani should get the real credit for the elections in Iraq.
  • Bush originally didn't want free elections.
  • Many of the candidates were anonymous.
It's interesting to read the lengths Sistani went to so that Iraq could have real democracy.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Torture is legal, after all.

My favorite part from "Previewing the Gonzales Debate" is where it refers to "the alleged failure to find WMDs in Iraq." It's as if maybe we didn't fail to find the weapons of mass destruction, or maybe the fact that we didn't find them wasn't really a failure. I can't tell if it was meant to be ironic, but it sure is hilarious. Perhaps I'll start referring to Saddam Hussein as an alleged bad bad man.

The point of the article, though, is to point out "Rewriting the Laws of War for a New Enemy," which makes the case that, as a legal matter, the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists. I'm not going to argue that; I'll take it as a given. My question is: so what?

Why, I ask you, gentle reader, do we abide by the Geneva Convention at all? I have two answers:
  1. It sucks, but it's the law; we just gotta do it because some bureaucrats made this decision for us decades ago.
  2. We believe in treating people (even our enemies) humanely.
I take the latter explanation, personally, but I recognize that opinions vary. If you take the "it sucks" view, then any excuse to get out of acting like a grown-up nation is a good thing.

One might observe that the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists, and that we could not be held responsible for torturing them, without actually wanting to do so. Perhaps that's Gonzales to a tee. I think it's worth asking the guy.

The LA Times article talks about non-state actors and how to combat them.
[Gonzales' critics] obscure a basic and immediate question facing the United States: how to adapt to the decline of nation-states as the primary enemy in war.
This is a good question and a tough problem, but torture is not part of the answer.