Saturday, June 29, 2002

OK, I was about to declare posting done until the relaunch, but damn:

The Israeli army has destroyed most of the Palestinian Authority's local headquarters in the West Bank town of Hebron, which it says has been used as a refuge by 15 wanted militants.

Soldiers and bulldozers are working their way through the rubble of the building looking for the Palestinians. No-one has been found - dead or alive - according to Israeli officials...

The Israeli army said it had used more than a ton of explosives in the operation. It left an enormous pile of rubble and overturned cars.

That's from the BBC report; but its all over, pick the news outlet of your choice.

One aspect that's kind of subtle in the story is that the Israelis permitted a PA negotiator to enter the compound to attempt to discuss an end to the siege. When he returned, he claimed he found nobody to talk to.

Nobody in there who wants to talk about a peaceful settlement? Well OK then.... BOOM.

I can't help but wonder if he was lying... thinking perhaps he might buy time for his buddies....?

The technical term for that strategy in this situation would be, of course, "Whooops."

In the same story, you should also note towards the bottom this passage, which should exactly how serious the PA was about constraining Hamas:

In the Gaza Strip on Friday, the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, joined more than 1,000 Palestinians at a rally.

It was his first appearance in public since he was put under house arrest a week ago.

Palestinian police at the demonstration made no attempt to detain Sheikh Yassin.

He is reported to have said that he was unaware of any order restricting his movements.

In other words: not very.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Pledge Roundup

Lots of interesting thought going on around this issue; here's a roundup of the comments I've received from folks:

Dave the Redwood Dragon firmly agreed with my position, and added:

To his sentiments I'll add only this: that the genius of the Founding Fathers in regards to the place of religion in political affairs was the insistence that their intersection take place only on an individual level, not the collective level of government action or support. The Pledge is, by virtue of its recitation in schools and other public, government-supported forums, just such a collective expression, and so the phrase "under God" is, as I said above, a blot on the Constitution.

Well said.

Allen at Cockalorum, however, finds me damp, and my arguments unconvincing, writing:

You're all wet.

Tolerance is not helped when one person can exercise a veto over everyone else. The whole thing is based on the idea that the plaintiff's little girl is somehow harmed by hearing or saying "under God." This is an endless road to go down, trying to shield everybody from having their feelings hurt. A wise parent would tell her to get over it. There are lots of things in the world that I don't like, but I don't expect the court to change them for me. If we allow this, we turn our society into a bunch of little groups angry at each other, and claiming Constitutional protection for their own parochial view.

I don't believe that the Constitution was ever intended to create the kind of church-state wall this decision seems to call for. The fact that it guarantees freedom of religion on one hand and outlaws establishment on the other indicates that what it is after is tolerance, both by the majority and the minority. But this decision favors intolerance by a minority. For you to compare the pledge to religious fascism is more intolerance. We really need to get rid of the "I'm being picked on" mentality and learn to live together. If the girl had been kicked out of school or subjected to actual abuse and maltreatment by the school administration for her refusal to say the pledge, she'd have a case, but that isn't the case here. Basically, this is a case of censorship masked as a constitutional imperative.

Sorry, but I don't buy it. This isn't about tolerance: I would not support a lawsuit that tried to bar children from reciting the "under-God" version of the Pledge at recess on their own, for example, so long as there wasn't any nefarious coercion or encouragement going on from teachers or faculty. Treating this like a censorship case totally misses the point that we're talking about a state-sponsored loyalty oath, not something published in a newspaper or discussed among individual citizens. There's a big difference. And for the record, I didn't compare the Pledge to religious facism --- I pointed out that we are at war with religious facism, and that at such times, it is important for us to consider what kind of society we want to be (I prefer a secular one). I actually said quite clearly that I did not think the "under God" phrase was the first step towards the Talibanization of America; and in fact, pointed out that this is used as a strawman argument by those who want to make secular folks like myself look unreasable and stupid (without actually going to the work of providing solid arguments against us).

One note of concession: I don't have the legal or Constitutional background to have a firm opinion on whether the Constitution was truly intended to build as severe a wall between Church and State as I would like to see; I suspect it probably wasn't. So I'm fine accepting that potentially, on Constitutional / legal grounds, this decision might have been in error. My arguments are aimed at what decision would be right for our society; I leave the legal analysis to those more qualified.

I also attempted to goad some of the Christian bloggers I know into commentating; I met with partial success with Dean over at HealYourChurchWebsite --- he dropped me some interesting thoughts in e-mail, but pleaded server-movage when I bugged him to actually blog them. So here are some key exerpts:

"...First of all, we're talking Constitutional Law here - and me being a guy with a bach' in Music/Opera and masters in Computer Science/Operating Systems - if I can't abstract it into neat, reusable and easy to perform axiomatic semantics --- hmmm ---... To me, the very same code monkey who brought you the Mean Dean Anti-Spam E-Mail Obfuscator [cool technique --- you should check it out -NZB] , it appears that "Separation of Church and State" has been confused with the "Establishment Clause" - and those whose religion is a to be anti-religious have taken opportunity of this confusion to rid society of any mention of God.

In other word, this has more to do with judicial activisim than anything else - and will be struck down when it gets to the Supreme Court. A point well made by Pejman Yousefzadeh

And here's my rub on all this. If more Christians would spend more time reading Os Guinness than watching TBN, we would have a group of people who could intelligently and articulately argue this point before it ever got the 9th US C.C.A.

There will always be God haters. Just as there will always be those who hate in the name of God. By our society dumbing down our kids as to what is and is not in the Constitution, rulings like this are no surprise.

Personally, I think this is just another sign that Christians have abdicated being an influence on their society with a fortress mentality. That is, we need more believers in all areas of law, media, the universities, everywhere if we are indeed going to be the Salt and Light Jesus compelled us to be.

For me, I do it with and writing software that saves lives...

I'll predict right now that all these various "separation of church-n-state" cases will 'blow-up' in the face of those who are anti-God. Because at some point, some clever lawyer is going to successfully argue that athiesm _IS_ a religion ... and when that happens, there will be an entire backlog court history to prove that the U.S.Gov't has been actively endorsing _ITS_ tennants.

You heard it here first."

Well, not surprisingly, I don't agree with many of Dean's comments (but I thank him for obliging me by sharing them). Quick responses:

First, I disagree with the argument that this is about being "anti-God" or attempting to install atheism as a state religion. There is a difference between making the Pledge --- or any other document --- not mention a deity, and making the Pledge explicitly declare the non-existence of any deity. When the court case comes around that wants to make the Pledge read "One nation, under no God, indivisible", then I'll be willing to agree that this is anti-God. Until then, I stand by the position that this is about making government God-neutral, leaving the practice of religion to individuals (as Dave points out so well above).

Second, I still believe that there is something inherently special about this particular case because it is an oath of allegiance. That's about as symbolicly important as it gets. And so I do think it is different than having "in God we trust" on our money. The note on my money doesn't bother me terribly much --- although I wish we didn't --- but the Pledge does trouble me, simply because, as I've written previously, it sends such an explicitly contradictory message to the one group that we should always try our hardest to be honest with - our children.

And third, I think the cry of judicial activism is a bit overstated. If the Pledge had existed in this form for 200 years, coming down from the Founding Fathers, then perhaps it might be accurate to accuse the court of activism. But let's remember: the phrase is question was explicitly added by Congress in 1954. I would look at this less as judicial activism, and more as fixing a dumb law that should never have been passed by Congress in the first place.

One more thoughtful email from a reader I need to quote/post/respond to here, but that will come later...

Site redesign / relaunch status

Making great progress; the new design seems to be holding up well under the critical eye of those folks who voluntered to check it out in 'beta'. Most everything is done; a few more tweaks and then I'll tackle the (hopefully not too odious) task of converting my Blogspot posts.

The final conversion will occur over the weekend, so don't be surprised if the Blogspot site (here) starts doing funky things (which will be required for the conversion). If all goes well, I'll relaunch first thing Monday morning PST.

Also: I will not be doing an Ecosystem update this weekend; sorry. Only so much time in the day & my non-writing blogging time is full up with the conversion. There will be a new update next week/weekend.

If anyone is feeling particularly helpful, I'd love some pointers on the following:

a) Any warnings/gotchas about converting posts from Blogspot to MT
b) Suggestions on how best to create redirects so folks going to my old Blogspot pages will go to the new MT site

I could also still use a few more Beta examiners; the more the merrier. No requirements other than to look at the new site sometime over the next 72 hours and tell me what you think; if you're interested, drop me a line.

Ouch! Lileks couldn't make it to the panel either.

No InstaGuy, no BleatMan. That really sucks...

Instaguy (fresh from a failed attempt at heading to the blogging panel --- sorry about that Glenn!) - refers us to a challenge from TAPPED:

WE CAN'T BELIEVE THIS. You can say a lot of things about the Pledge of Allegiance ruling released the other day. But never did Tapped believe that anyone -- even Cal Thomas -- would say this:

"On the eve of our great national birthday party and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when millions of us turned to God and prayed for forgiveness of individual and corporate sins and asked for His protection against future attacks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has inflicted on this nation what many will conclude is a greater injury than that caused by the terrorists."

So although he hedges slightly, it seems that Thomas basically thinks the pledge ruling is worse than 9/11. This is simply stunning -- and at least as bad as dumb statments by Falwell/Robertson on the right or Chomsky on the left. The blogosphere ought to get itself whipped into a frenzy about this one.

Nah. Whipping and frenzying is not required for situations like this. They can be handled calmly, rationally, and dispassionately. Observe:

Mr. Thomas, you, sir, are an idiot. Good day.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

I want one of these.

Wow. I feel like I'm "flying blind". SiteMeter has been down all day, and I have no idea how many folks are visiting, or who's linking to me.

Is anyone out there?


Interesting lawsuit filed against Gator for (effectively) putting pop-up ads on websites that it doesn't own.

I'll wait for the Blogospheric Legal Eagles to weigh in on this one, but seems to me there's no case here. Gator's agreement is with its users; if they agree that they are willing to have ads be served while surfing, the people who own the sites they happen to visit don't seem to have much of a say about it.

Take an extreme example: What if I built a browser that had, covering the entire bottom half of a screen, a bigass add for Hair Club For Men. And I sold that browser to people to use.

So would the American Association of Sexy Bald Guys then have reason to sue me because people visiting their site with my new browser also see an add for the Hair Club? (Or try Ford on my browser and surfing to Toyatas site, if you want to keep it all strictly commercial).

Seems to me like that's exactly what Gator is doing, just in a more sophisticated fashion...

Suman Palit takes a break off from subcontinental politics to give us brilliant insight into the twisted and sad world of software development.

Been there, done that, my friend. I feel your pain.

And while I've got your attention, Suman: could you help me understand Pervez's little little changes --- minor, minor things, so tiny nobody will ever notice, honest --- that he'd like to make to Pakistan's Constitution? Like, oh, giving him the power to sack the (elected) PM and his cabinet and replace them with people he thinks are prettier?

CNN quotes a 'government document' as explaining: "The objective of the proposals ... is to prevent excessive concentration of authority, create a domain of state responsibility ... provide checks against precipitate or autocratic use of authority..."


Call me crazy, but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you're not going to tell me that they restore your faith that Musharaf is a paragon of virtue and democratic values...

Wow. I actually think VodkaPundit is flat-out wrong on an issue. That doesn't happen too often.

He's right when he says that a functioning society requires manners and understanding; but he's flat out wrong when he applies that principle to the Pledge case.

It's a secular society, Stephen. Either you agree with that principle --- in which case the ruling makes sense --- or you don't, in which case I'll be expecting you to show up at a church / mosque / synagogue of my choice this weekend (and yup, that means you have to miss the Blogger Bash).

The attitude of some folks towards this fellow seems to be "Siddown and shaddup; what's the big deal about one little phrase?"

To be clear: Stephen's position is that everyone involved in this case --- from Congress who enacted the "Under God" clause to the fellow bringing the suit to the appeals court --- are idiots, for not 'shrugging off the little stuff'. Which is indeed a more sensible position than just bashing the guy bringing the suit; Stephen seems to be squarely with the "it's not a big deal one way or another" crowd.

But it is a big deal, and now more than ever. The man filing on behalf of his daughter shouldn't have dropped the case after 9/11 -- as some has suggested -- he should have pursued it with even more vigor. Because we are at war with religious facism --- a point that the Blogosphere, at least, has become relatively clear about for some time. We are at war with what happens when religious ideology runs amok and becomes all-consuming.

Do I think the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge is the first step towards a Taliban-like government? Of course not. But that's a strawman argument. The real argument is that if we are a secular society --- and I for one hope we are --- then we should damned well act like one. It is a matter of principle. And like many matters of principle, sometimes they involve things that are trivial on their face, but symbolicly, extremely important.

Take a step back and remember, folks: what we're talking about is, de facto, an oath which is sworn by young children every day in which they state their dedication to this country. Now, there's an interesting debate to be had on whether that is a good idea in the first place.

But geez, if you're going to have such an oath, I think it's pretty important that you make it represent the true ideals of our society. The "under God" phrase in the pledge has been teaching kids for decades (me included) that the idea that the U.S. is secular has always come with a wink-wink nudge-nudge; of course we're secular, it says, but in a very, you know, Judeo-Christian kind of way.

The decision may have been lousy law (it sounds like it was, based on prior judgements), and it may be struck down as soon as when the full Appeals court sits on it. But it was still right.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Blogging has been light, and it's late and I'm tired. But I feel the obligation to catch up a bit here, so here's the quick capsule Bear Truth on all the latest issues:

Bush Speech: Dug it --- groovy riffs and a beat you can dance to, all the way from Ramallah to Riyadh.

Lilo and Stitch: Still haven't seen it, damnit.

Pledge of Allegiance Ruling: Two thumbs up. People are saying this is trivial, but it's not. Given that we are in the middle of a war against religious facism, I think its vital to refresh our own memories that we are a secular society. I have no opinion on the legal basis (or lack thereof) of the ruling, but it feels right to me. And to those who say "what's next, getting rid of 'in God we trust' on money? I say "yup", and good riddance. The sign says "shall make no law respecting" and I for one would be happier if we took it for what it meant. The whole "but God is as generic concept" argument is nonsense --- just ask a polytheist.

Worldcom: Hey, everybody makes mistakes. This one just had nine zeros after it.

World Cup Finals: Huh?

That is all.

Folks -

If you haven't done so already, you need to sign up to sponsor somebody in the Blogathon. Coming up on July 27, it's a marathon session where bloggers get "sponsors" to donate $$$ to charity in return for the bloggers pulling a 24-hour session of blogging (minimum one post per 30 minutes, if I understand correctly.)

I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon of my good buddies Meryl Yourish and Lair Simon --- you can find more info on the charities they are sponsoring and how to sign up on their pages.

Go. Now !

A federal appeals court has ruled the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconsititutional as it endorses religion. (Found via InstaP)

Interesting. I seem to recall that the "under God" portion of the Pledge --- which I presume was the part causing the court heartburn --- was only added in recent times. I want to guess at the President, but I'll surely get it wrong --- but I think it was somewhere between 1950-1970. Little help, anyone?

Anyway, assuming the ruling stands, does that mean we should just go back to the old pledge, sans deity?

Update: Folks have written in to contribute that the year was 1954; the President was Eisenhower. Michael Hankamer also notes the following:

"This version of the Pledge of Allegiance was taken from the CNN website. Now I could be wrong, but it seems to me that CNN - and the Court (?) - has lost a comma.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

"Correctly, it should read:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Silly pro journos. "Professional Fact Checking" indeed...

Sir Reynolds, being a gentleman as well as a scholar, indicated to me that he'd rather I blog my info on the case of Judge Patterson and he'll link. So never one to refuse the InstaGuy, here it is, in slightly-less-edited-for-primetime form than usual (I'm low on time, so mostly just cutting & pasting from my email to Glenn):


OK Glenn, here's some additional info. (This will definitely teach me to keep my big mouth shut... or at least, it *should*):

1) I found a slightly more independent confirmation of some of the judge's remarks. Still clearly partisan, but at least it's not the actual parties to the case. ((I found this link via "End the War On Freedom")

Interestingly, the substance of the judge's remarks quoted are similar to the quote you found, but the language and phrasing are different.

2) To go for the even *less* objective source, I found Stanley's Senate election campaign homepage, and in particular, the subpage he's maintained on this
particular court case
. It includes a press release which appears to be the primary souce for the article you cited (it contains the exact quote you noted

3) Unfortunately, it sounds like a transcript of the court appearance in question won't be available for some time; Stanley's web site indicates they will post
it when it becomes available, but that it may not be on the web until August.

4) I've struck out on finding any more 'objective' sources... sorry. If I stumble across anything further I'll certainly pass it on.

ANYWAY: My conclusion on this is I am a bit more convinced of the accusations against this judge; Stanley's site makes some pretty compelling-looking
arguments. But I would still sure feel a lot better if I found a source *other* than one of the parties directly involved (or clearly biased to favor Stanley)
to document exactly what Judge Patterson said.

Sorry for the light (in other words, nonexistent) updates this morning; probably won't be much new until tonight. I just burned through my lunchtime blogging doing some additional research on the case of a judge in Denver who is alleged to have dissed the Constitution: believe it or not I'm just going to send you over to Glenn's site rather than repeating it here; I haven't blogged the issue myself and I've sent all my info to InstaGuy. You'll see an initial update with my skepticism on the quote, and probably another one will follow soon with the additional sources I dug up. (If you can't stand the suspense: I remain skeptical of the quote as I can't find a truly objective source to verify it, but am a bit more convinced than when I started out as Stanley (the accused in the case) appears to be making a fairly credible-looking argument against the judge...)

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Wanted: Beta testers for new site design

Folks -

Yes, I'm getting real serious about this site redesign. And yes, I'm equally serious about trying to ensure the design works well for all users. Therefore, I'm looking for folks to volunteer to check out the new design and verify that it looks passable on your platform/browser combo.

I'm running Windows on all my machines, and have IE5, IE6, and Mozilla 1.0 covered for browsers.

If you are running anything else (particularly Netscape on anything, and Linux with any browser) and are willing to spend a few brief minutes poking around the new site pre-launch, drop me an email and I'll point you at the URL.

Beta-time will likely be later this week; it's close but not quite soup yet.

Thanks all...

In case anybody had any doubts remaining that Colin got his hat handed to him with Bush's speech last night, here's a revealing quote from Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for the Arab newspaper Al Hayat, during her appearance on WBUR radio's The Connection this morning (RealAudio here):

"Instead of listening to his Secretary of State, Colin Powell who actually --- two weeks ago I guess it was when I interviewed him --- I sat with him for a half hour and he had a very extensive discussion with me on what should we be expecting of the American strategic policy. And everything he said --- practically almost everything has been reversed by the President. That is quite embarassing and its an insult to our Secretary of State too for the President to just send him out on a limb and then [come] out with this so-called strategic policy and side with the Prime Minister of Israel."

Yeah, I doubt Colin's having too good a day today.

Paging Tim Noah: The O'Neil Death Watch never quite worked out: is it time for a Powell Watch ?

(To be clear: although Ms. Dergham works for Al-Hayat, a pan-Arab, Arabic language newspaper, her bio indicates that she is an American, so the "our Secretary of State" comment is not the Arab Freudian slip that it might appear to be).

PS - Unfortunately, WBUR doesn't appear to have a transcript for the program posted, so you'll have to rely on the RealAudio. The quoted comment is at about nineteen minutes in.

It has been pointed out to me (not that I didn't know it already) that as we add more and more blogs to the Ecosystem, the ratio between the microbes vs. the elite non-microbes is growing increasingly large.

So, at some point, it would seem logical to either increase the size of the higher levels of the food chain, or add more levels.

So (2): Any suggestions for new levels we could insert? They must of course fit the theme, even though the existing names already make Meryl grumpy (she's just a big meanie anyway).

Send your ideas here ...

I Have a Dream... Set My Pixels Free!

Significant progress being made on the site redesign. It is now becoming actively painful for me to look at the current site, given how lousy it looks, and how nice the new version is turning out.

Patience, friends! Soon your eyeballs shall no longer be assaulted with this miserable excuse for a design!

Cool! John over at Right Wing News has a roundup of the "10 Best 'Unknown' Political Bloggers".

I know a few folks on the list (and agree they're good 'uns); others are new to me. Go check 'em out for yourself.

And note: John indicates he's using the Ecosystem list to identify bloggers not getting enough attention --- which as I've noted, is exactly one purpose I hoped folks would use it for.

Above and beyond the narcististic self-referential enjoyment quotient of it, of course.

Kofi still doesn't get it:

"Reacting to a speech today by United States President George Bush, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the US leader's reaffirmation that the outcome of the Middle East peace process should be the establishment of a viable and credible State of Palestine - based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 - and security for Israel."

Actually, I suspect Kofi got it just fine; he's a bright guy. But I don't think he quite knows how to deal with the "it" of an American administration that refuses to play by the usual Middle East Rules: i.e., treating murderers like negotiating partners.

At the risk of stepping on Charles' (extremely competent) toes, I draw your attention to MEMRI's translation of the Palestinian "open letter" regarding attacks on civlians within Israel.

This feels slightly like old news this week, but I recommend it nonetheless, as MEMRI provides some additional detail and background on the two versions of the communique that were issued --- and the reasons for changes that appeared in the second version. According to MEMRI, the second version of the letter was published on June 21st, it included a new statement at the end:

"Needless to say, all the signatories to this communiqué strongly condemn all measures implemented by the Israeli repression against our people, including the policy of incursions, assassinations, and siege, and stress that the occupation is the basis of the tragedy to which our people is subject and that resistance is a right and an obligation."

This was apparently added after the letter was criticized for being too one-sided (!) by prominent Palestinians, including Palestinian Legislative Council member and Fatah leadership member Hatem Abd Al-Qader, who said:

"This communiqué is not acceptable to the Fatah movement. It is an unbalanced communiqué because it refers to operations against Israeli citizens but not to crimes being perpetrated by Sharon against the Palestinian people. The [signatories] should have also focused on these crimes. If these operations are terrorist, then what Sharon is carrying out is also terror, and terror cannot be looked at with only one eye."

MEMRI provides further information on an interview with Al-Qader (unfortunate name):

The interviewer proceeded to ask, "What are the conditions for stopping the martyrdom operations?" Abd Al-Qader replied: "Concrete efforts could be invested in stopping these operations if Israel would commit to five things:"

"First, it must undertake to stop the aggression against the Palestinian people ? that is, stop the incursions. Second, it must withdraw from the occupied Palestinian areas. Third, it must lift the siege from the Palestinian people living inside prisons. Fourth, it must release all [Palestinian] prisoners. Fifth, the international community must provide us with guarantees that [we will be able] to actualize our right to maintain resistance in the 1967 areas..."

The interviewer then stated: "But President Yasser Arafat issued a communiqué in which he demanded a stop to the operations; he even attacked them."

Abd Al-Qader responded: "The ones who carry out these operations are local leaders... Even the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades decisions depend today on the political situation... The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is Fatah's military wing, is not subject to a central decision of the political leadership... Arafat has almost no control and the one who bears the responsibility is Israel..."(3)

Ah. So this fellow is empowered to provide a (quite detailed) list of conditions for what Israel must do before the killing of children stops. But of course he and his thug of a boss have no control over the terrorists!

I am rather pleased that Bush's speech yesterday makes it increasingly likely that we won't have to listen to this bullshit anymore.

PS - BTW, I don't link to Charles much, mainly because I hold the belief that everybody knows that his site is the place to go for the latest debunking of Islamist nonsense. But for the record: he's required regular reading.

If you are looking for a downright amusing attempt to spin Bush's speech yesterday into a positive endorsement of Palestinian policy, check out NPR's RealAudio interview yesterday with Palestinian representative Hassan Abdel Rahman, in which even mild-mannered Robert Siegel appears to be struggling to contain the urge to giggle as Rahman whirls round and round and round.

Mr. Rahman clearly had his reality-distortion generator cranking at full blast when he listened to Bush's speech; individual quotes don't do him justice, so go listen to the whole thing...

(whoops, there's one of those nasty links again...)

All you radio scanner freaks out there: beware! Your kind ain't welcome in the Queen's Kingdom.

BBC news reports:

The safety of the Royal Family and top politicians is at risk because classified security details are being published on the internet, it has been revealed.

Radio scanning enthusiast Paul Wey is intercepting Special Branch and other communications and publishing their details on internet news groups, BBC Radio 4's Today programme has learned.

Apparently, Wey has a scanner and has found some of the interesting frequencies used by police and emergency services in Britain, and is publishing information on them on the Internet.

The gov'ment doesn't take to kindly to this:

An intelligence source said Mr Wey was a "menace", whose actions could help terrorists commit atrocities and may have already been used to counter police operations.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the government must consider banning radio scanners, which are currently illegal to use but not to own...

The intelligence source said Mr Wey and his website were "a severe danger to the public and to national security". ..The source called for the site to be closed down, as well as for scanners to be made illegal. She said: "They can only be used for illegal activity. It's similar to saying to somebody: 'It's OK to have a gun, as long as you don't put bullets in it'."


Point The First: Ms Unnamed Intelligence Source may want to rethink her classification of dangers to public and national security. I would submit to her that the danger to public and national security is that the Special Branch is using open frequencies to transmit sensitive information. Mr. Wey makes this point himself: "Mr Wey suggested that his activities could prompt the authorities to take better care of security - for instance by ensuring that Special Branch's radio equipment was updated as it should be." Well, uh, yeah.

Point The Second: Scanners can only be used for illegal activity, you say? Well, tell that to the good folks over at, and the many citizens of Colorado who are reading Pinecam's summaries of emergency service scanner transmissions to stay informed of the Hayman Fire's progress, and now, are even listening into those same scanner transmissions via a dedicated RealAudio stream.

You may conclude that Pinecam's zeal to inform the Colorado public is --- well, overzealous --- but I don't think anyone for a second would accuse them of any nefarious intent.

Oh, and if you're looking for a link to Mr. Wey's site on the BBC site, don't bother --- it's not there. Apparently he's got some deep-linking policy that prohibits anyone linking to his site without prior written, wait, I'm confusing him with someone else...

Monday, June 24, 2002

Since I'm already clearly making trouble today (what with calling for an American Empire and all) I might as well keep it up. I'm sure this one has been suggested before elsewhere, but how about this for a solution to the "Palestine" question:

Israel formally and unilaterally returns the West Bank and Gaza to Egypt and Jordan, and declares that those Arab states have 30 days to shut down terrorism in the territories. After that time, any acts of terrorism launched from the former territories will be considered acts of war by the respective nation now holding them, to which Israel (and hey, let's go all the way, and the United States) will respond to with the full force of arms.

Palestinian statehood would then become a purely internal Arab matter; if the Egyptians and Jordanians are comfortable with that risk, then by all means, they should set up Mr. Arafat with his own little state.

But with this plan, they bear the full price should the risk prove unjustified...

A new American Confederacy

Jackson Diehl points out the (obvious) contradictions in the Bush policy of condemning corrupt, dictatorial Arab regimes when they happen to be run by Yassir Arafat, but looking the other way when they are run by our "allies" in today's WaPo:

So why not press political reform not just on the homeland of Hamas and Islamic Jihad but on those of al Qaeda -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen? Because policymakers have concluded that it's not a good idea to be so aggressive. They say the consensus is that liberal reform is a security interest of the United States and that the status quo of supporting Arab autocrats in exchange for oil and security cooperation is no longer workable. But the prevailing view is that it would be counterproductive to move too fast, that policy has to be aimed at achieving gradual change over years or even decades...

Why shouldn't Arab states be pressed to commit themselves formally to guaranteeing basic political and religious rights and to the creation of an international mechanism, such as the former Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to hold them accountable?"

Why indeed.

There was an argument to be made, years back, that in a coldly realpolitik sense, that leaving corrupt tyrants in place in the Middle East was the correct policy for at least the United States' short-term interests. They kept the oil flowing, and didn't pose any threat to us, so why in the world would we risk all that just to guarantee some Arabs a decent life?

The argument was never a very good one, but now, it's a completely stupid one. "Asymmetric warfare" imposes a new reality on the planetary political landscape: and that is that if there is even a single country of modest means anywhere that harbors and supports lunatic murderers like al Qaeda, then those murders will continue to be able to inflict massive damage --- to lives, to property, to economies --- worldwide.

We all know this, deep down and instinctively. But it has not filtered through everyone's rational minds yet to allow the realization that this creates a tremendously different world than the one that we previously lived in. Because it is now in the United States' direct, selfish interest, to ensure that every single nation on this planet provides a stable, democratic government to its people where freedom is respected, and the rule of law enforced. This used to be the stuff of idealists : now, it is the bread-and-butter of hard-nosed cynics and pragmatists.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any nation willing to step up to the plate to address this problem, and start toppling these regimes. For most, "national sovereignty" --- as if that concept has any honor or dignity without the sovereignty of the people living under a nation's rule --- remains a holy concept that must not be violated, regardless of the barbarism a particular "sovereign" chooses to inflict upon their society.

And so, as has often been the case in the past century, it's left to the United States. We will accomplish this task, or it will not be done --- with dire consequences for the world, I fear.

Let's not mince words: we are talking about using all means necessary --- support for dissident groups, sponsoring coups, assassinations, and flat-out military invasions -- to establish what could be called a new American Empire across a swath of twenty or thirty countries. Trust me, if you weren't thrilled about American Imperialism during the Cold War, you are going to absolutely hate this.

But Empire is not really the correct word to use here, although it will be used by those who oppose this effort. The appropriate word is "Confederacy".

Yes, some interesting resonances with American history there, but nonetheless, the term fits. Dictionary definition (from Encarta ) : "an alliance of people, states, or parties for some common purpose, or the people, states, or parties in an alliance."

This is what we need. An alliance of states that recognize the threat that faces us --- such as our ally Britain --- and of those states which have been 'flipped' from threats to allies --- such as Afghanistan. We can turn enemies into allies, given time --- we proved that at the close of World War II, and we must brush the dust off those skills for this conflict.

I've said it before in this space: there is much work to do. President Bush has taken the right first steps with his concept of an "Axis of Evil" and the idea that you are "with us or against us". But he needs to put action behind the words, and bring these ideas together to form a coherent policy with the express goal of ending the regimes of all those who would support the murder of innocents, and oppose the rights of all human beings, across the globe.

You can focus on the selfish benefits to the United States in living in a world where these threats are ended, or if you prefer, you can focus on the morality of bringing democracy and freedom to people who have neither. Either view is fine, for the days when realpolitik was in conflict with the goals of human rights are over.

They are now one in the same.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Another week, another run of the ole Ecosystem.

Revised data is up; no major changes to the process this week. Just added a few new blogs on request.

Yes, I'm still trying to automate it; yes, it still takes too damned long, and yes, there's still some bugs in there (although for the record, with the exception of last Saturday's screwup, I have yet to see anyone present actual data to prove a bug.... yes, that is a challenge ! )

Anyway, enjoy, don't take it all too seriously (defined as all values of seriously where seriously > 0 ) and take care...


Update: I just uploaded the raw .csv data file of links extracted (unfiltered, so it includes links from blogs-to-themselves as well as links from blogs-to-URLs-not-on-the-list-of-blogs, both of which get filtered out); the link is here. Please please please do not click on that unless you are seriously attempting to debug; it is 600K even zipped and my bandwidth is running low. Thanks!

Wanted: A Few Good Fonts

OK, I'm surprised that I haven't been able to find this information yet myself, so I'll put out a call for help.

I'm looking for information regarding which fonts are available on which browsers and platforms. In my dream, I'd like to see a table that lists Times Roman, and then tells me which of the major platforms/browsers have that font. And so on, for every other font in existence (or at least the biggies).

This is, of course, related to the redesign. I hate boring fonts --- but I hate unreadable sites even more, so I'm trying to do the best job I can coming up with a slick layout & snappy fonts, but I don't want it to just look snappy to me and look like crap to everyone else...

Anyway, so far I've struck out in finding much info beyond the basics that Arial and Verdana are good. Anybody with a link or two, send 'em my way, please.
al Qaeda gophers tape, declares support for Bush

Yet another al Qaeda spokesminion popped up out of his gopher hole today just long enough to praise Allah & pass an audiotape.

I skimmed the CNN report briefly... al Qaeda organization in tact... blah blah... bin Laden alive... blah blah blah... more attacks coming... blah blah blah. All of it Allah willing, of course.

But the last bit really caught my eye, where the spokescreature referred to the controversy around how much Bush knew pre-September 11:

" is a cover for the attack of the Democratic Party on the Republican Party after the America president announced that he knew about the September 11 attacks and big economic problems that the American government is suffering from."

Is this fellow just being incoherent, or did he just declare that he's on Bush's side in the who-knew-what-when argument?

Damn, now if Bush can just get Andrea Yates and Charles Manson to endorse him, he'll have the coveted psycho-murders trifecta. 2004 will be a lock.

Maybe Daschle needs to offer to build bin Laden a new cave or something; he's falling way behind here...