2009/05/31

Round-up piece on the news

Excellent piece on the assassination of abortion provider George Tiller

This person apologizes for her lack of eloquence in describing the kind of doctor that George Tiller was, but I think she did a great job

Kansas TV station 12 has the latest on the hunt for the killer


Speaking of ranting, raving hatemongers, George Miller, the highest-ranking Republican officeholder (Senate Minority Leader), refuses to condemn Rush Limbaugh, et al, who are making wild, hysterical claims about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee

Obviously, Miller is absolutely terrified to get on Rush's bad side.

People are suggesting that Sotomayor, as a member of the National Council of La Raza, is thereby a member of a hate group, akin to the Nazis and the KKK. Here's their side of the story

Rachel Maddow takes that talking point apart

Ed Rendell does not wish to see Joe Sestak run for Arlen Specter's seat

Oh, and I did a piece on different computer operating systems and how they interface with each other. Short answer - you can work with documents that are created on other operating systems, but you can't move programs that are designed for one operating system to another. You can work with a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on Linux Ubuntu (add to it, delete from it, print it and save it), but you can't move the MS Excel program to Ubuntu.

2009/05/30

Ubuntu vs Windows

As yer resident techno-geek, I spoke with a buddy of mine today and he was unclear as to the distinction between Microsoft and Linux operating systems. There are essentially three operating systems in use today, with many, many smaller, more specialized ones in use. They're Microsoft Windows, Ubuntu Linux and the whole Apple line.

Microsoft has two versions of Windows out today, the home version is XP, the business version is Vista. Linux has many, many versions, but the primary, flagship version is Ubuntu. Apple has some interoperability between itself and both of the other systems but essentially if you want an Apple computer, it's because you're working on projects that don't really need to interface with other systems, i.e., graphic design.

Do Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux interact?

We-l-l-l, that depends on what you mean by that. Can you install a Windows program like Frontpage or Powerpoint onto an Ubuntu operating system?

No.

Ubuntu comes with Open Office, which is very similar to Microsoft Office. Ubuntu has many other programs which are very similar, but no, you can't take a Windows program and install it onto Ubuntu.

Can you open up and use Windows documents, like a Powerpoint presentation on an Ubuntu operating system?

Yes.

There may be a problem with documents created via more complex programs, such as with graphic design or database programs, but straightforward word-processed documents or basic spreadsheets will have no difficulty being translated.

Creating HTML, or Internet-readable documents, is a bit of a special case. HTML was specifically designed to work on any and all operating systems. If you download or call up a document that's been written in HTML, then no matter what kind of operating system you've got, you should be able to read it. I use the program Mozilla Seamonkey to write HTML documents on both my Windows XP desktop computer and on my Ubuntu Linux laptop computer. The program comes in both "flavors," Windows and Linux, but the documents that I create don't need any obvious adaption procedures to be written on first one machine and then the other.

So yes, there's a high degree of interoperability between Windows and Linux operating systems, but they're not identical. There is a very high likelihood that a document written on one operating system is readable and writable in the other, especially if the document is written in HTML.

Update: a buddy of mine responded to reading the above: "Good job! But one question: why do you use Mozilla to create your documents rather than Microsoft Office Word ?" My answer:

When I do my weekly report for new visitors to my church, I do it first in Linux Open Office Spreadsheet, then I keep the original copy and create an exact duplicate in Microsoft Excel (as everybody else has MS Office). The OO sheet is about 10 kilobytes, the MS Excel sheet is over 100 kilobytes! The balance is all just excess code. Worthless filler. I've seen the same thing happen in MS Word vs Mozilla Seamonkey. This is a real problem for modifying a document on the web (Besides being harder to pull up or download, the prawnworks.net home page is about 150 kilobytes as it is) as I often go into the code to find and fix problems. Having so much filler just makes it more difficult.
I'm completely unimpressed with MS Word as when I copy an article and save it to read later, Word takes all the indents out! It doesn't copy the article in a way that I can distinguish the speaker from lengthy quotes. Very aggravating as the blogs I read very frequently use indenting.
Did I mention you shouldn't get me started on why I prefer OO to MS?

And my buddy then wrote back: "I promise I won't do this anymore!
:-))))))))))))))))))))))))
))))))))))))))))))))"

2009/05/26

Bolton's "special interests"

I must say, I truly appreciate the opinion piece by the former UN Ambassador John Bolton. In it, the guy who accomplished pretty darn close to nothing during his tenure in that job, tries to make it sound as though the Obama Administration was doing something wrong by not continuing Bush's failed policies. He complains that Obama, by canceling the highly provocative, destabilizing Missile Defense system in Eastern Europe "is simply giving it away." Well, yeah. When you have an item that's not doing you any good and the other country considers it a threat, i.e., it's actively hurting your relationship with the other country, it's a good idea to get rid of it.

I was most puzzled by the following statement:

Fortunately, Russia seems likely to save us from the dangerously low warhead levels proposed by Senator John Kerry and others, but the risks of foolish, unnecessary concessions remain high. [emphasis added]

What in the heck is a "dangerously low warhead level"? I learned during the late 1970s that nuclear weapons are only good for deterrence, so if both sides have say, 50 weapons of each type, plane-delivered bombs, ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles, then both sides are "deterred" and everybody's happy. China has 100 to 200 warheads. That appears to be a completely appropriate amount. It's hard to see why any more are needed. With the US currently having almost 6000 nuclear warheads and Russia having over 4000, it's not at all clear what a "dangerously low warhead level" would be.

Bolton wants the US to preserve tactical nuclear weapons. It's difficult to understand why. They're the worst of both worlds. They're harder to secure and as they're less destructive, they have less deterrent effect. They can't be used as any sort of true "tactical" weapon (Any use short of national deterrence) as any use of nuclear weapons will inevitably escalate into full-scale, all-out world-wide destruction. As someone who was a history major during college, I generally hate using the word "inevitable," but this scenario was gamed out during the 1970s and no one ever came up with a way to prevent the situation from escalating all the way up to the complete destruction of the human race.

Why Bolton wants to pursue an arms race in outer space is another puzzle. If there's currently no threat to our satellites from any other nation, why create a threat that others will have to respond to? Why does the US want to create a threat where none currently exists? Does that serve any purpose other than creating jobs in the arms industry? Back during the 1980s, President Reagan would derisively refer to "special interests." Are arms manufacturers pitting their own "special" financial interests against the interests of the American taxpayer?

2009/05/25

Free speech, Iran & the Taliban

I don't know if I'm exactly disappointed by the Iranian action against Facebook. In order to be disappointed, one has to expect good things. I guess I'm miffed that Iran has failed to come up even to the sorry free speech standards set by G. W. Bush, who had set up "Free Speech Zones" at Republican campaign events, usually allowing protesters to set up only in places that were at a good distance from where they could be seen or heard. Bush's 2004 campaign rallies were often by-invitation-only affairs.

In any event, Iran has decided that as supporters of Reformist candidate Mir Husain Musavi were using Facebook to help conduct a campaign for him, that they would shut off access to Facebook. This is a pretty sorry response that shows a real lack of confidence, demonstrating that the Iranians have an authoritarian fear of free speech.

Bad news for the US, the Taliban in Afghanistan is showing smarts and savvy in the public relations component to their fight against the government of Hamid Karzai. The US dropped a number of bombs in a battle near Farah, Afghanistan, on May 4. On May 20, the American command finally came out with an interim report on the Afghani casualties.

By contrast, the Taliban typically engages in a firefight with US and/or Afghani troops and the US has timed them at being able to get a report on the air with the BBC in 26 minutes after the firefight has concluded. One of the big problems of course, is that the US doesn't want to put out anything false, so that results in some unavoidable delays. The US is trying to do better and to respond more quickly.

In what's a clear case of good news, Pakistan had a few battles with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but had aroused suspicions as to whether they were really and truly fighting or whether they were conducting a campaign that consisted more of press releases. The Pakistani military took a strategic hilltop overlooking the valley, then invited Aljazeera English to the hilltop to film the fact that, yes indeed, the hilltop was now in their hands.

2009/05/23

A "conflict" that never should have been

We've seen people arguing that the current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was briefed on torture while she was still House Minority Leader and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. The lefty response to this accusation has been two-fold. If she is indeed guilty of having "enabled" or "approved" of torture, sure, okay, let's have her standing in the dock along with the known criminals of the Bush Administration. The "Bushies" are the guys who should be doing hard prison time here in any event. If Pelosi should join them there, okay.

The second question is "Is the accusation accurate?" The answer to that is a bit less clear, but as of this point (23 May), those who say she wasn't accurately briefed on waterboarding have pretty much won the argument.

As to what the current debate is all about, member of al Qaeda Abu Zubaydah was captured on a raid on safe houses in late March 2002. The FBI had custody of him at first and claim that their reasonably gentle methods of persuasion got some useful information out of him. The CIA took custody of him in April and immediately began torturing him via waterboarding (What US soldiers in the Philippines in the early 1900s referred to as "the water cure").

A major problem with the accusation that Pelosi was informed as early as September 2002 though, is that the reference in the CIA notes of the briefing state simply that she was informed of "EITs" or Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. That indeed might mean that she was informed of waterboarding, but that's an awfully thin reed upon which to rest one's case. Deprivation of sleep could count as an EIT, but would not immediately or forcefully "shock the conscience." There's no reason anyone would remember such a reference as a particularly shocking act, but it also would fit under the definition of EITs. Some careful parsing of DCI Porter Goss's version of events asks the question as to what exactly Pelosi and others were told and it's far from clear they were told of waterboarding.

It's also far from clear just what she could have done about it.

Should Sen. (sic, she's actually a Rep.) Pelosi have held a press conference and outed Bush? Should she have leaked classified information? Should she have tried to stop Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld by any means possible? And how do you suppose the Republicans would have responded if Pelosi had tried to impede Bush? (which is something they now condemn her for NOT doing)
The GOP controlled the House and would have given Bush anything he wanted. Why then didn't Bush take the lawful path and simply ask Congress to change the laws banning torture?

The House of Representatives allowed the issue to get so far out of hand that Republicans were able to get a vote (They lost, 252 to 173) on an investigation, just of Speaker Pelosi and not of the torture issue as a whole. Of course the traditional media, as hopelessly corrupt and decadent as it is, despite having been informed right from the beginning that "the CIA's list might not be accurate," didn't really focus on that crucial point until Time Magazine finally acknowledged on 20 May that there really was no conflict between Speaker Pelosi's recollection and Bob Graham's (Retired Representative D-FL) careful, exhaustive notes and the CIA's version. It's just that the CIA's version is obviously incorrect. Amazingly, the WaPo is not yet ready to give up on the clearly wrong interpretation and continues to insist that there just might be something to what is, by now, clearly a non-story. Pelosi herself has said:

"I have made the statement that I'm going to make on this," Pelosi (D., Calif.) said yesterday at a televised news conference from Washington. "I don't have anything more to say about it. I stand by my comment."

Sadly, to view the whole discussion on waterboarding as a partisan "gotcha" talking point, as a Democrats vs Republicans or better yet, as a "hard left" vs "non-partisans" issue appears to be the only way that our NY Times/WaPo/Sunday talk shows traditional media press corps is able to comprehend the issue, or indeed, much of any serious issue. It's an extremely, pathetically sad commentary that parts of the press corps even concentrated on criticizing a 69-year grandmother's looks. This was an extremely good point about the press corps in general:

Additionally, this staunch avoidance of anything approaching a substantive assessment of the actual illegal conduct, in favor of a petty fixation on the partisan "helps or harms" game, helps only the "side" that has committed the crimes and wrongdoing.

As the news guy Mark Halperin put it: "Drudge rules our world." The press corps is obviously infatuated with a reporter whose stock-in-trade is gossip and triviality.

2009/05/21

Traditional media's take on Republicans

Interesting piece in Yahoo! News today. It features a "challenge" by Rush Limbaugh for MSNBC to not mention him for a month and see what happens to their ratings. He claims that the network is getting good numbers because they're featuring him. Of course, ignoring Limbaugh is an awful idea because like mushrooms and vampires, demagogues like Limbaugh need darkness to really thrive. YN presents his challenge as a "win-win" because

If MSNBC takes Limbaugh's challenge, everyone will be watching the "little TV network" to see if it's keeping its promise; ratings will rise and both sides will get a whole lot of free publicity. Done and done.

The piece mentions Dick Cheney and features a video screen capture of him up top, Limbaugh is pictured further down and there's a further item on Cheney. So what does the RNC Chairman Michael Steele say about the Republican efforts to steal the limelight away from President Obama?

"He's young. He's cool. He's hip ... he's got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he's going to be popular ... but this is not American Idol. This is serious ... and we are going to take them on."

Okay, so clearly Obama beats the stuffing out of two old, heavyset white guys who are both losing their hair, but it's not at all clear that they're any more "serious" than he is. The item further down in the piece is one where Cheney and Obama are both scheduled to make speeches on the same subject on the same night. The "storyline" is that they're making "dueling" speeches. Um, no they're not. Cheney is clearly just repeating the same ol', same ol' worthless junk he's been repeating for months now. His motivation is obvious. He's worried that the Bush Administration will come to be seen just as the Salem witch trials are or as the Joe McCarthy era is. He's worried that the years 2001-2008 will come to be seen as a dark blot on American history, as an era best forgotten or glossed over.

The American people decided last November that Barack Obama best represents them. According to CNN in late April, 69% of Americans approved of his job performance. Obama really appears to be enjoying the job and is clearly putting everything he's got into it. Also, Obama has never insisted that he be surrounded only with friendly people who agree with him. Bush did rallies during the 2004 campaign that were attended exclusively by friendly audiences. We know that when Bush found himself dealing with a critical reporter, he got really bent out of shape about the whole experience. I do not believe that Cheney, on the other hand, has ever done an interview with a hostile or even a vaguely critical, reporter.

2009/05/15

Right-wing commenters

In response to a Inky piece about the Army Experience Center, we get comments like:

Posted by ark 06:00 PM, 05/14/2009
I can envision one day the use of real people as targets. The protesters, code pink, ACORN, MADD. Well, one can dream can't he!

followed by:

Posted by steimel 08:27 PM, 05/14/2009
ARK, I share your dream.

shortly before that:

Posted by steimel 08:25 PM, 05/14/2009
Do you protestors ever take the time to protest a cop killer, or a video game? ... Its about your hate for the armed services of the USA.

Erm, okay. We peacenik lefties are the ones consumed by hate. Right. Sure. Okay.
We then see in comments for a piece about Speaker Pelosi and the CIA's briefings on waterboarding:

Posted by STEVE5444 03:13 AM, 05/15/2009
Damm Nancy.. You were kept out of the loop,, shucks, Everyone knew except you.. maybe because you have a BIG MOUTH and don't know when to shut it...

Posted by blombard 06:14 AM, 05/15/2009
This woman should be convicted for stupidity. How in the world did she get elected. Ohhh..now I remember she used the millions of dollars her husband stole from military contracts to fund her political agenda. Off with her head.

Posted by nuggett 07:06 AM, 05/15/2009
Yeah right ????? What a crock !!! She and her party will bring down Obama with their greed and pork....Not hard to believe that this woman is a politican.....She lies and back stabs and must have pictures and lots of money to get wehre she is.....If George and Chenney are the best the republicans can produce....they should not be embarrassed as Pelosi is the cheese of the Democrats......NOW that is embarrassing....

Posted by snad264 07:17 AM, 05/15/2009
This broad is an idiot! The fact that she is House Speaker is quite disturbing. She is an embarassment to the Democrats, and drags down the Party in a similar way former V.P. Cheney hurts the Republican Party.

Posted by PhillySteve21 07:24 AM, 05/15/2009
Actually, it sounds as if she knew about it the WHOLE time and is only now trying to distance herself! This woman is absolutely insane.

Have to say, though, that the funniest comment came a little later than these first five:

Posted by tr88 07:38 AM, 05/15/2009
Good to see the Inquirer getting on this story a month after the Drudge Report isnt it? And Drudge is free. The difference is Drudge is a real news source, not an advocate.

Drudge is not an advocate - Bwah-hah-hah-hah!!!!! Heh, that's a good one. As if Drudge was ever anything other than a partisan hack. Now do online sources like Drudge out-scoop traditional news sources like the Inky? Unfortunately, yes. That happens all the time. The blogger emptywheel displays her impatience with the traditional media:

Mark, Mark, Mark. I spelled this all out here, back when it became apparent to anyone with a command of the English language that Goss' dispute with Pelosi had nothing to do with her contention (which was clear even then) that the CIA hadn't told Congress that it had already been using waterboarding.

And here's an interesting one:

Posted by TylerDurden 08:32 AM, 05/15/2009
If she [Pelosi] were a Republican, the media would be outraged. Since she's a Democrat, it's ok that she's clueless.

Um yeah, sure, I remember the outrage over there being no connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. As the WaPo put it in
June 2004:

The finding challenges a belief held by large numbers of Americans about al Qaeda's ties to Hussein. According to a Harris poll in late April, a plurality of Americans, 49 percent to 36 percent, believe "clear evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda has been found."

Problem of course, was that there was no documentation for any such connection. Had there been any substantive outrage over the conscious and deliberate deception, why did so many Americans believe as late as this that there had been such a connection?

Unfortunately, a lot of this unhinged hatred for progressives results in eliminationism, a desire to simply eliminate whole categories of people. It's very distressing, but the tendency is far more widespread than most folks would like to believe. I'm pleased to note that the author of the piece I linked to is a bit of a free-speech fanatic. I share his belief that the answer to bad speech is better speech. Ignoring the bad speakers or trying to suppress them is a losers game. It's far better to put a spotlight on them and to show people what we're battling than it is to try and sweep everything under the rug.


2009/05/14

Mary Matalin speaks up for Dick Cheney

Mary Matalin has come to Cheney's defense:

“If Barack Obama had come in and done what he said he was going to do and look at the stuff and see what is working, then Cheney would have continued to do what he was doing — working on memoirs, finishing his house,” she said. “He’s got a good life. He’s got stuff going on. He doesn’t care about being on TV. There’s no more politics there. He’s not settling any scores. He just wants people to understand.“

Okay, what did Obama say he was going to do? In MyBarackObama in the defense section, he speaks of "restoring" frayed alliances. That sounds to me like GeeDubya messed things up and Obama felt he had a mandate to fix them. It doesn't sound like there was much investigation to be done. Alliances needed to be restored because they were obviously frayed or broken.

Was torture "working" in any meaningful sense? Not according to former Army Intelligence Officer Stuart Herrington, who said:

"We have lost the moral high ground,"
"If we use torture when we question prisoners, we forfeit the right to demand that anyone treat our soldiers decently if they are taken prisoner,"
"If we engage in that kind of activity, we put our soldiers at increased risk."

It wasn't necessary to "look at the stuff and see what is working," it was already obvious that it wasn't "working."

If there are no "politics" to his appearing on the teevee, why won't Cheney appear with interviewers who will challenge him? If he's just going to be talking with people like Bob Schieffer of "Face The Nation," who didn't ask any tough questions or as Air America pointed out "he'd have no problem testifying before Congress about the torture memos, but stopped short of promising to do so under oath." Meaning he doesn't want to, y'know, actually be held accountable for anything he says.

What I find very disturbing is the tendency of people in the press corp's "village" to try and find some sort of middle ground in the "debate" (If you can dignify the discussion with that highfalutin' term) over torture. Folks, there IS NO "middle ground"! It's wrong, period! The idea that we should let people like former President Bush trust their "guts" is insane! Bush's "gut" is absolutely the worst guide to anything wise or sensible I can imagine.