Archive for April, 2007
30 Apr 2007

Roger Simon Interviews John Hinderaker

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Roger Simon celebrates 4 1/2 years of Power Line with an interview with John Hinderaker at Dartmouth.

Fortunately, Power Line isn’t going anywhere.

30 Apr 2007

Sandmonkey Interviewed by Atlas

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Pamela Geller, of the Atlas Shrugs blog, has posted an interview with Sandmonkey, the much-respected Egyptian blogger who recently announced that he was closing down his blog in the face of crackdown on blogging by the Egyptian Government.

Evidently, the democrat victory in the last election has more than a little to do with his blog shutting down.

SANDMONKEY: “Any kind of democratic reform in the country [Egypt] for the past 3 years has been rolled back specifically because there is no more pressure coming from Washington anymore.”

ATLAS: Why? What happened to the pressure in Washington?

SANDMONKEY: You know what happened to the pressure in Washington. The Democrats won the Congress. There is no more pressure coming from Bush because he is not able to push people anymore to do those things. He is not able to push the Egyptian government anymore because the American public is suddenly not interested in reforming the Middle East because of what’s going on in the Iraq. So suddenly the Egyptian government is not afraid of the American pressure. They are doing whatever they want to do. They are beating up demonstrators, they are cracking down on activists, they are changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties once and for all and they are using proxies to take down bloggers.

Read & listen to the whole interview.

Sandmonkey Blog closing story.

30 Apr 2007

Al Qaeda Winning Only in the Media

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Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page notes that Al Qaeda isn’t doing particularly well in Iraq, and is on the run in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, North Africa, Somalia, and Europe. Its only victories are to be found in media coverage.

Qaeda is having a bad year so far. While many media pundits like to paint the Islamic terrorists as on a winning streak, it doesn’t look that way from the other side. In Iraq, al Qaeda continues to bomb Shia “heretics” and Sunni “apostates”. Most of the victims are unarmed Moslem civilians, and this is regularly condemned throughout the Islamic world. Al Qaeda believes that all this carnage will somehow arouse the Sunni Arab world to make war on the Iraqi government, and get the Iraqi Sunni Arabs back in power. As absurd as that sounds, remember that al Qaedas ultimate goal is to establish a religious dictatorship in Iraq, and throughout the Islamic world. World conquest and all that.

The Al Qaeda leadership knows that they are dealing from a position of weakness. So the emphasis is on playing the media, and the impact the media has on the political and military situation. In that respect, al Qaeda takes heart from efforts in the American Congress to force U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq. Again, we have a perception problem here. While al Qaeda would count that as a major victory, the outcome would be disastrous for them. Without U.S. troops to restrain them, Shia militias would be able to go after the remaining Sunni Arab community in Iraq and destroy it. …

Al Qaeda is still enormously popular among some segments of the Islamic population. Young, unemployed men remain eager al Qaeda supporters, as do educated men frustrated at the sorry state of their government and economy. Saudi Arabia turns out far more college grads with degrees in Islamic Studies, than in things like math, finance or engineering. There aren’t enough jobs for all those religion majors, and foreigners have to be imported to do the math, finance and engineering jobs. It’s a self inflicted wound that Saudi Arabia, and many other Moslem nations, are trying to address. It’s hard, though, as old habits are hard to change in a hurry.

So al Qaeda, lacking any concrete achievements, tries to at least gather more mentions in the media. Google is keeping score for the terrorists, and that may be good for the soul, but it won’t take you anywhere else.

30 Apr 2007

Bad News for East Bay Commuters

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A tractor trailer carrying 8600 gallons of gasoline hit a guard rail, then burst into flames. The burning tanker melted one of the overpass connectors from eastbound Interstate 80 to Interstate 580 and caused the collapse of 250 yards (228.6 meters) of the roadway.

AP story

1:56 video

29 Apr 2007

How About a Nice Trans Fat and Sugar Bar?

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Hershey, Nestle and some other big companies are up to no good.

Would chocolate containing trans fats and sugar substitutes taste as sweet as the real thing? Hershey Co. and other candy-makers say yes.

The Chocolate Manufacturers Association, whose members include Hershey, Nestle SA and Archer Daniels Midland Co., has a petition before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to redefine what constitutes chocolate.

They want to make it without the required ingredients of cocoa butter and cocoa solids, using instead artificial sweeteners, milk substitutes, and vegetable fats such as hydrogenated and trans fats.

“They are trying to pull one over on us,” said Cybele May, 40, publisher of CandyBlog, on which she has encouraged more than 200 people to write the FDA to protest what she calls “mockolate.” “What they are asking for is permission to confuse the consumer for what we readily accept as chocolate,” she said. …

A pound of chocolate contains roughly 25 percent cocoa butter at a cost of $2.30, while vegetable oils are as little as 70 cents a pound.

29 Apr 2007

Iran Facilitating Al Qaeda Operations

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Depkafile reports:

The US Pentagon states that the senior al Qaeda operative was captured by the CIA at an undisclosed location while attempting to reach his native Iraq after meeting al Qaeda operatives in Iran. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources say this disclosure points to four significant developments:

1. Iran is again providing al Qaeda members with a path to Iraq from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2002, the Islamic Republic afforded defeated al Qaeda groups an escape route from Afghanistan.

2. Iran is allowing al Qaeda terrorists operating in Iraq to strike from within its borders. Evidence of this, if confirmed by al Hadi ,would further exacerbate the military tensions between Washington and Tehran.

3. DEBKAfile’s sources surmise that he was picked up crossing the Iranian border into Iraq.

4. Word is awaited to clarify if the CIA’s capture of al Hadi’s capture was a fluke or the result of a tip-off by an Iraqi informant, whether in Kurdistan or from inside Iran.

29 Apr 2007

The Generals’ Failure

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Lt-.Col. Paul Yingling, in Armed Forces Journal, argues that America’s generals today, like Prussia’s 18th century commanders, remain fixated on past successes and continue failing to adapt to new wars fought by insurgency.

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq’s grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war. …

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice. Global conflicts such as World War II require the full mobilization of entire societies to provide the men and materiel necessary for the successful prosecution of war. The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results. …

(Frederick the Great’s) innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia’s security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick’s successors were checked by France’s ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia’s generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick’s prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America’s Valmy. America’s generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.

Whole article

28 Apr 2007

DC Drops Charges Against Senator Webb’s Aide

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AP reports:

Authorities dropped charges Friday against an aide to Virginia Sen. Jim Webb who carried a loaded gun into the U.S. Capitol complex.

“After reviewing and analyzing all of the evidence in the case, we do not believe the essential elements of the crime of carrying a pistol without a license can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor, top prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said in a short statement.

Well and good, readers probably think.

But Mr. Taylor and the Associated Press are overlooking the fact the Second Circuit struck down the District’s gun law in Parker v. District of Columbia on March 9th. Mr. Thompson was arrested on March 26th.

Charges have been dropped, but you can rest assured that thousands of dollars in defense legal fees were accrued. (Let’s hope Jim Webb is paying them.)

And a record of Mr. Thompson’s arrest and his fingerprints have been retained by the FBI.

Original report

Follow up

28 Apr 2007

Sandmonkey Quitting Blogging

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The anonymous Egyptian blogger writes:

Today is going to be the day that I’ve been dreading for quite sometime now. Today is the day I walk away from this blog. Done. Finished.

There are many reasons, each would take a post to list, and I just do not have the energy to list them. As anyone who has been reading this blog for the past month, I think it is apparent that things are not the same with me. There are reasons for that:

One of the chief reasons is the fact that there has been too much heat around me lately. I no longer believe that my anonymity is kept, especially with State Secuirty agents lurking around my street and asking questions about me. …

He will be missed.

Best wishes, SM, for your safety, and a further wish that one day citizens of your country will be able to express their thoughts and opinions freely without fear of retaliation from religious fanatics or the state.

28 Apr 2007

Mint Julep

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The Wall Street Journal has a regular Saturday cocktail column by Eric Felten. This week’s edition discusses the Mint Julep.

Felton quotes Walker Percy, who wrote that Juleps

are drunk so seldom that when, say, on Derby Day somebody gives a julep party, people drink them like cocktails.” A proper cocktail is made with a couple of ounces of liquor at most. By contrast, “a good julep holds at least five ounces of Bourbon,” Percy noted. After folks unthinkingly toss back a few Juleps, “men fall face-down unconscious, women wander in the woods disconsolate and amnesic, full of thoughts of Kahlil Gibran and the limberlost.

28 Apr 2007

Tracking Down Spammers

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Internetnews:

Some of the worst spammers in the United States could be in for a rude surprise shortly, as Unspam Technologies has taken the first steps in tracking them down, with help from the ISPs.

The company filed a lawsuit yesterday in the Eastern District of Virginia seeking the identities of spammers under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act and the state of Virginia’s own anti-spam statute. The suit seeks damages that could potentially reach $1 billion, but Unspam said it would be happy with driving spammers out of business.

The idea of suing spammers may seem as ludicrous as suing God; where do you deliver the subpoena? But Jon Praed, the lawyer on the case, founding partner of the Internet Law Group and one of the top lawyers involved in spam suits, said not to think that way.

“We cannot fight them by treating them as if they are everywhere, because it lulls us into a false acceptance of the inevitability of the outcome,” he told internetnews.com. “If we focus on what they are using or make it hard to use those tools, we’re going to beat them. We are not fighting Acts of God, we are fighting criminal acts.”

Unspam’s secret for dealing with these non-deities? Project Honey Pot, a trap for spammers. Spammers use crawlers to crawl through every page on a Website for valid e-mail addresses, and then add these addresses to their database.

Any Website operator can download the Honey Pot software and it will set up a dummy page that gives a fake, unique e-mail address to the crawlers. When spam comes in to that unique address, it’s a double gotcha; both the IP address of the crawler that harvested the fake e-mail address is known, and Honey Pot also scores the IP address of the sender of the spam.

As a result, Honey Pot has collected 2.5 million IP addresses of spam senders and 15,000 IP addresses of crawlers. Now comes the one-two punch. The company has released what it calls the http:BL, a blacklist of the 2.5 million compromised computers.

Most spam today is sent out by a compromised computer with a zombie, or bot (define) installed on the computer. The users of these computers almost always have no idea they are compromised, because they have no antivirus software installed to stop such infection in the first place.

Well, with the http:BL they will find out. The blacklist can be installed on any Apache-based Website, so when one of the 2.5 million IP address with a botnet running on them visits that site, the site can deny them access to the home page and inform the user of their infection.

Punch number two is for the 15,000 IP addresses of crawlers. Those are the people collecting and selling e-mail addresses. Harvesting is a slow process and botnets are expensive to rent by the hour, so the spammers do it themselves, on their own computers with a constant connection, since one is needed.

Gotcha, said Matthew Prince, CEO of Unspam and Project Honey Pot. “Those will be some of the first targets from this litigation,” he said. “We’ve identified very specific targets. In some cases have a good sense of who these people are. Then we can bring the full weight of the law down on these people who are breaking it.”

The worst offender for spam crawlers is the U.S., with 22.7 percent of harvesting coming from U.S. IP addresses. Romania is second and Japan is third, both with less than ten percent of the harvesting addresses.

The lawsuit grants subpoena power, which the ISPs wanted. …

Russia has the bad reputation for spam and viruses, but Prince said there is a delineation between spam of U.S. and foreign origin. “I would say that in terms of selling physical products, anything that has to be shipped, they tend to be here. Mortgage types are here too. The ones in other countries are committing straight fraud, like the Nigerian princes or fake bank account,” he said. …

Praed doesn’t expect to squash all spammers but he does hope to make life rotten for a lot of them. “We don’t have to catch them. We just have to make it so costly for them that they move on,” he said. “We know we have limited resources and it’s one lawsuit, but we realize acts of spam are not like Acts of God. By targeting the case on the worst of the worst we think we can have an impact.”

Complete article

28 Apr 2007

Katsujin-ken Satsujin-to

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Dan Simpson‘s editorial is an unfortunately typical expression of the excessive and exaggeratedly phobic attitudes of members of our over-domesticated, metrosexual intelligentsia toward firearms.

Guns are regarded as detestable and intrinsically dangerous objects which need to be kept under official control at all times, ideally in bank vaults. Their complete removal from American society is so unquestionably desirable that even house-to-house searches, and the shredding of the Bill of Rights, would be a perfectly acceptable price.

Obviously, this kind of policy proposal represents not a practical response to a real problem, but rather an irrational and emotional outburst, indifferent to benefits and costs, oblivious to process and law, expressive of an overwhelming combination of fear and aversion so profound as to dispense completely with practicality, proportionality, and cause and effect.

This kind of hostility toward firearms, this hoplophobia, needs to be recognized as the kind of irrationalism that it is.

In a sane society, familiarity and skill with arms, possession of the ability to defend oneself and others would be looked upon as essential components of every man’s education.

In dojos offering training in kendo and aikido, the following phrase written in the grass script on a scroll is commonly hung for purposes of admonition and inspiration.

These Japanese radicals are pronounced Katsujin-ken Satsujin-to (sometimes, Katsujinken satsujinken) meaning “The sword which kills is the sword which gives life.”

They are often rendered more explicitly in English as “The sword which cuts down evil is the sword which preserves life.”

This adage is attributed to the masters of Yagyū school, the Tokugawa shoguns’ personal instructors in swordsmanship.

And those Yagyū school sword sensei-s were right. The rightful use of weapons is essential in an imperfect world to defend innocent lives against unjust violence.

A wider commitment to skill at arms and a more common readiness to defend the innocent would be infinitely more effective at saving the lives of victims of attacks by madmen and criminals than a totalitarian program attempting to enforce universal disarmament.

Katsu-tempo satsu-tempo.

At Virginia Tech, a gun in the hands of the right bystander could have been the gun which destroyed evil and the gun which preserved life.

27 Apr 2007

A Liberal Fantasy: Disarming America

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A liberal indulges in a pretty repulsive bit of fantasy in the Toledo Blade.

Now, how would one disarm the American population? First of all, federal or state laws would need to make it a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine and one year in prison per weapon to possess a firearm. The population would then be given three months to turn in their guns, without penalty.

Hunters would be able to deposit their hunting weapons in a centrally located arsenal, heavily guarded, from which they would be able to withdraw them each hunting season upon presentation of a valid hunting license. The weapons would be required to be redeposited at the end of the season on pain of arrest. When hunters submit a request for their weapons, federal, state, and local checks would be made to establish that they had not been convicted of a violent crime since the last time they withdrew their weapons. In the process, arsenal staff would take at least a quick look at each hunter to try to affirm that he was not obviously unhinged.

It would have to be the case that the term “hunting weapon” did not include anti-tank ordnance, assault weapons, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, or other weapons of war.

All antique or interesting non-hunting weapons would be required to be delivered to a local or regional museum, also to be under strict 24-hour-a-day guard. There they would be on display, if the owner desired, as part of an interesting exhibit of antique American weapons, as family heirlooms from proud wars past or as part of collections.

Gun dealers could continue their work, selling hunting and antique firearms. They would be required to maintain very tight inventories. Any gun sold would be delivered immediately by the dealer to the nearest arsenal or the museum, not to the buyer.

The disarmament process would begin after the initial three-month amnesty. Special squads of police would be formed and trained to carry out the work. Then, on a random basis to permit no advance warning, city blocks and stretches of suburban and rural areas would be cordoned off and searches carried out in every business, dwelling, and empty building. All firearms would be seized. The owners of weapons found in the searches would be prosecuted: $1,000 and one year in prison for each firearm.

Clearly, since such sweeps could not take place all across the country at the same time. But fairly quickly there would begin to be gun-swept, gun-free areas where there should be no firearms. If there were, those carrying them would be subject to quick confiscation and prosecution. On the streets it would be a question of stop-and-search of anyone, even grandma with her walker, with the same penalties for “carrying.”

A fine fantasy, if the idea of living like a herd animal under the complete control of the state appeals to you.

I also find it remarkable how eager liberals are to trample the rights of hundreds of millions of Americans in order to attempt to prevent the crimes committed by an infinitesimally small number of deranged people. And I find the limitless faith in these kinds of ameliorist schemes even more remarkable. If you are a liberal, the calculative power of human reason expressed via governmental force is omnipotent. Just pass yourself a law, and “so let it be written, so let it be done.”

Liberals don’t believe that a lot of people would bury or otherwise conceal their guns. Liberals don’t realize that new guns can be built in American basements with hand tools the same way the are built in Afghan villages. Liberals don’t understand that black markets invariably spring up to provide any banned commodity. Existing laws would not have stopped the Virginia Tech shooter from obtaining heroin and cocaine if he wanted them.

27 Apr 2007

Don’t Try This in My House

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Things artists do to books.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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