Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2+2=5

Don Hinchcliffe has an interest article looking at the ways in which Web software can leverage collective intelligence to particular effect.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Three Branches Of Government, Two Parties, One Decider
The Bush administration is so corrupt and in such disarray that all this new Congress will be able to do is contain the damage and follow the ugly, sordid truth of the last six years. Obviously, Iraq will be the main item on their agenda and all indications are that the President will continue to dig in his heels and press forward in his ill fated mission to “democratize” (read, turn over the management of Iraqi oil supplies over to American interests) Iraq. His daddy’s pals may be trying to provide Junior with an out, but if he thinks that his legacy depends on “winning” in Iraq, he very well may stay the course. What in his presidency would suggest “the decider” would do anything else?The discredited neo-cons are whining that Bush took their great idea and messed it up, but that is just ass covering of the highest order. The neo-cons simply don’t know what to do when their fantasy world collides with reality and we should make sure that they are forever branded with a scarlet N to signify the nutjobs they have proved themselves to be.The Bush administration’s Holy War has spun out of control and the damage will last for generations, how many generations exactly will be determined by how quickly they can be forced to accept their failure in Iraq, because there is no winning and mitigating any further damage will only be possible once this obstinate administration is put down. That can happen while Bush is still in office, but only if the Democrats are willing to flip the switch and take control, at the very least, of the public debate.There are signs that traditional media may be ready to provide a forum for the Democrats to do just that. Hell, even Tim Russert is trying to save face with his audiences by (finally) challenging the architects and executors of the Bush administration’s failed foreign policy. As far as I’m concerned, Russert has already lost all credibility, but that he sees an opportunity to convince some of the American people that he is still relevant may prove to be a good thing. After six years of a free pass, Russert’s attempts at confrontation of Bush administration officials may seem jarring enough to his audience to actually make an impression.The reality on the ground in Iraq has made it impossible for anyone outside the Bush administration to continue to defend anything resembling a stay the course strategy. Even John Bolton can recognize a lost cause when he sees one and now that he’s out as Ambassador to the UN, Bush is left holding the bag. Our President can’t even convince his own Party that his policy in Iraq will work, so how in the hell could he possibly believe there is any way to convince the rest of the world? Does he think he can manage that with his superior diplomatic skills? I think not.I like the synchronicity of finally being rid of John Bolton on the same day that Augusto Pinochet has a massive heart attack. Both men have black hearts that appear to protect them from anything resembling introspection, remorse or empathy for their fellow (wo)man. It’s true that power corrupts, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of evil rising to the top. I don’t think these men were corrupted by the power they wielded, but rather sought power because they had an unquenchable desire to spread their vile ideology and conquer their corner of the world. We’ll all be better off once men such as these are permanently denied any avenue to power or influence on world events. That list is unfortunately, pretty long, but luckily many of them currently work in the Bush administration so they’ll be easy enough to find and neuter so they won’t be able to propagate their special brand of evil in the future. Nature will take care of some of them, but political pressure and public action will be required to make sure the rest of them pay their debt to society and serve as a warning to future “public servants” with a desire to obtain power for the sole purpose of abusing that power for personal gain.The Bush administration and Congressional Republicans hate government, it’s a cornerstone of their ideology, and they have had great success in destroying the institutions they were entrusted to protect and short changing the people they were sworn to serve. The damage is so big and so deep and so wide that it will take many, many years to rebuild the many agencies and programs they infected. Government is meant to serve the people and now that we have a Congress that at least believes in the government’s ability to do that, we should be on our way to a better day. How good things get and how quickly that happens will still depend on how much effort we the people are willing to put into making that happen. We can hope that the Democrats in the Senate and House provide a vision for a better future and we can even hope that a Presidential candidate emerges that will present a path that will take us there, but we must never again detach from our responsibilities as citizens the way we have in the recent past. To make this country work, we must vote, we must educate ourselves on the issues and we absolutely must engage. We have seen first hand the damage unchecked power can do and we must never again allow one branch of government to cede its power to another.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The divorce

A married couple is driving along a highway doing a steady 60 miles per hour. The wife is behind the wheel. Her husband suddenly looks across at her and speaks in a clear voice. "I know we've been married for twenty years, but I want a divorce."

The wife says nothing, keeps looking at the road ahead but slowly increases her speed to 65 mph. The husband speaks again. "I don't want you to try and talk me out of it," he says, "because I've been having an affair with your best friend, and she's a far better lover than you are."

Again the wife stays quiet, But grips the steering wheel more tightly and slowly increases the speed to 75 He pushes his luck. "I want the house," he says insistently..

Up to 80. "I want the car, too," he continues. 85 mph. "And," he says, "I'll have the bank accounts, all the credit cards and the boat!"

The car slowly starts veering towards a massive concrete bridge. This makes him nervous, so he asks her, "Isn't there anything you want?" The wife at last replies in a quiet and controlled voice. "No, I've got everything I need," she says. "Oh, really," he inquires, "so what have you got?"

Just before they slam into the wall at 85 mph, the wife turns to him and smiles. "The airbag."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Serious Games

Now here's a cool idea! Virginia will soon host a "Serious Games Conference" for the discussion of educational and training applications of games. I, personally, don't understand why even educational games need to be "serious", but the idea of using games to learn is spot on.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fred Kaplan Article

Kaplan has a brilliant article over on Slate about the President's recent "moronic" press conference.

Monday, August 07, 2006

McGovern takes on Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld came under fire from retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern at a speech in Atlanta several months back, after security had escorted three protesters out of the building. Then, Rumsfeld began taking questions from the audience. One of those who posed a question was Ray McGovern, who spent 27 years as a C.I.A. analyst.

RAY McGOVERN: And so, I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people, and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I'm not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were?

DONALD RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were --

RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were, “near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and northeast, south and west of there.” Those were your words.

DONALD RUMSFELD: My words -- my words were -- no, no, no, wait a minute! Let him stay one second. Just a second.

RAY McGOVERN: This is America, huh? Go ahead.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You're getting plenty of play, sir.

RAY McGOVERN: I'd just like an honest answer.

DONALD RUMSFELD: I’m giving it to you.

RAY McGOVERN: We're talking about lies and your allegation that there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you misled?

DONALD RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.

RAY McGOVERN: Zarqawi, he was in the north of Iraq, in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s where he was.

DONALD RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren't idiots. They know the story.

DONALD RUMSFELD: You are -- let me give you an example. It's easy for you to make a charge, but why do you think that the men and women in uniform every day, when they came out of Kuwait and went into Iraq, put on chemical weapon protective suits? Because they liked the style? They honestly believed that there were chemical weapons. Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons on his own people previously. He had used them on his neighbor, the Iranians. And they believed he had those weapons. We believed he had those weapons.

RAY McGOVERN: That's what we call a non-sequitur. It doesn’t matter what the troops believe. It matters what you believe.

MODERATOR: I think, Mr. Secretary, the debate is over. We have other questions, courtesy to the audience.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responding to questions by retired C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern at an event in Atlanta on Thursday. Ray McGovern joins us in our studio now from Atlanta. Some of the media said “alleged” former C.I.A. analyst. Ray McGovern has been with the agency for more than a quarter of a century and was one of the top briefers of Vice President George H.W. Bush. He's now co-founder of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, VIPS. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ray.

RAY McGOVERN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, tell us about this event yesterday, a quite raucous event, interruptions and then your questioning. A very rare moment for one of the more insulated government officials to be questioned by, well, a former C.I.A. analyst.

RAY McGOVERN: Well, Amy, just listening to this little clip here, I find it scary. These were ostensibly educated normal people, and their reaction was very much like the one that Goebbels stirred up. You can see it was a very unfriendly audience to anyone who posed any kind of question to the Defense Secretary. So -- and listening to it, I'm sort of scared, because if this is indicative of the brainwashing that has taken place, it's going be a long, long struggle to speak truth to power, as Fannie Lou Hamer so famously said, and Damu Smith, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ray, let's go through the questions and how the secretary responded to you. The issue -- the last one, of Zarqawi, saying that there is a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, that's the best they could come up with after all of this misinformation, with Cheney saying there were contacts between Iraqis and people in Prague and so forth. Zarqawi was up in the north part of the country. He had no contact with Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was not ruling that part of the area.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn't the U.S.?

RAY McGOVERN: Yeah, the U.S. and the Kurds were up there. They could have got Zarqawi in an eyelash, in a moment, but they chose not to. So it was completely disingenuous, and for the people not to be able to listen to that, to hear it, but simply join in the applause for Rumsfeld was a bit disquieting.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And when Secretary Rumsfeld responds about the troops believing that there were chemical weapons, because they were wearing uniforms or chemical suits. Your response?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, talk about that disingenuity. I mean, sure, they wore chemical [suits], because Rumsfeld and his generals ordered them to. This proves nothing, other than they went through with this charade. The Australian troops wore no such protective covering, because they knew there were no weapons there. The Australians knew these weapons were a figment of the propaganda put out by our Defense Department, so they blithely went in there without any protective covering. So it was all a charade.

And I suppose the good news is that finally someone had a chance to ask Don Rumsfeld -- if I were in Washington, I never would have got into a session where Rumsfeld spoke. I have to give him credit that he took questions and answers. But, you know, it's really interesting that when I walked into the place, I wrangled a ticket very surreptitiously. I was met with this little blurb on Donald Rumsfeld, and as I read it, I had to chuckle. It says, “There’s going to be a question-and-answer period, but please adhere to these guidelines. Refrain from using the word ‘lie’ in relation to the war in Iraq. Do not question the secretary’s personal responsibility for torture. And please don’t discuss first use of nuclear weapons against Iran. If you violate these guidelines, you'll be immediately removed from the auditorium, flown to an undesignated prison location somewhere in Eastern Europe and tortured. Thank you for your cooperation. The World Cannot Wait.” A wonderful, wonderful group. Those were the folks that spoke up and tried to brace Donald Rumsfeld with the lies and their charges of him being -- and he is, arguably -- a war criminal. And we shouldn't shy away from saying that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Ray, when you were asking the questions, at one point off camera, you were saying, “This is America.” What was happening at that point?

RAY McGOVERN: Well, curiously enough, a very large man came down with a white coat on, and he stuck his elbow into my chest and started pushing me back. And I pushed back, literally and figuratively. And it was the moment of truth. Would Don Rumsfeld want me thrown out of there, having asked in a very civil manner simply pointed questions, or would he ask them not to remove me? He chose the wiser course. I first thought that this was him being gracious, but when I thought of the P.R. debacle it would have been for him to have me removed after simply posing these questions, which nobody else has the guts to pose him, that he chose the wiser course from a P.R. point of view, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray McGovern, I want to thank you very much for being with us, analyst with the C,I.A. for more than a quarter of a century and one of the top briefers of Vice President George H.W. Bush, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here or call 1 (888) 999-3877. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12632127/

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gonzales: Bush Blocked Eavesdropping Probe

This is amazing. I keep wondering how long the U.S. sheeple will endure this president before demanding impeachment.

WaPo , July 18, 2006; 2:50 PM

President Bush personally blocked an internal investigation into the role played by Justice Department lawyers in approving a controversial warrantless eavesdropping program on calls between the United States and overseas, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified today.
During an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales was questioned by the panel's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), on why staffers in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility were not allowed security clearances necessary to conduct an investigation into the eavesdropping program.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access," Specter asked. "Why not OPR?""The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales answered.
The exchange was part of a wide-ranging and often tense hearing touching on many of the most controversial topics related to the Justice Department, from leak prosecutions to the Supreme Court's recent ruling invalidating the Bush administration's commissions for detainees in military custody.

The eavesdropping program, begun in secret after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and revealed in press reports last December, allows the NSA to intercept telephone calls between the United States and overseas without court approval and has been the focus of months of political debate over its legality.

OPR, the Justice Department's internal affairs office, announced earlier this year that it was unable to investigate the role that department lawyers played in the program because it was repeatedly denied the necessary security clearances. Until today, Gonzales and other Justice officials had declined to provide details on who made the decision to block the Justice probe.
In a related letter to Specter, also released today, Gonzales wrote that Bush decided that limits had to be placed on the number of officials with access to details about the NSA effort, which the administration dubbed the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" several weeks after its existence was revealed.

"The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons," Gonzales wrote. "Every additional security clearance that is granted for the TSP increases the risk that national security might be compromised."
But in a series of memos to Gonzales's deputy also released today, OPR chief H. Marshall Jarrett noted that "a large team of attorneys and agents" assigned to a criminal investigation of the disclosure of the NSA program were promptly granted the same clearances. He also noted that numerous other investigators and officials--including the members of a civil-liberties board--had been granted access to or briefed on the program.

"In contrast, our repeated requests for access to classified information about the NSA program have not been granted," Jarrett wrote on March 21. "As a result, this Office, which is charged with monitoring the integrity of the Department's attorneys and with ensuring that the highest standards of professional ethics are maintained, has been precluded from performing its duties."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Our own piece of the pi

This is fun. I just ran across a website (via Tangled Up in Blue) that allows you to create a composition in a serialistic manner by assigning a note value to a series of intergers, then "playing" the piece by sounding each note in the order that its corresponding interger appears in the number pi. It will play out to the 10,000th decimal.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Finally, a senator with guts!

I've often thought we should get rid of every Senator and start all over but I've decided that we can keep at least one:

Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said: "When the president of the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable." Bush, he said, "authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is an intriguing idea: the world is learning English so well that the previous advantage of U.S. and British native speakers will eventually be eroded:

Global spread of English threatens US, UK: study
By Chris Johnson Tue Feb 21


The dominance of English as the world's top language -- until recently an advantage to both Britain and the United States -- is now beginning to undermine the competitiveness of both nations, according to a major research report. The report commissioned by the British Council says monolingual English graduates "face a bleak economic future" as multilingual competitors flood into the workforce from all corners of the globe.

A massive increase in the number of people learning English is under way and likely to peak at around 2 billion in the next decade, according to the report entitled "English Next." More than half of all primary school children in China now learn English and the number of English speakers in India and China -- 500 million -- now exceeds the total number of mother-tongue English speakers elsewhere in the world.

These new polyglots, and the companies that employ them, have significant competitive advantages over their monoglot rivals, including a vital understanding of different cultures, in a world faced with rapid globalization.

"The competitive advantage of speaking English is ebbing away," said the author of the report, linguistic consultant David Graddol. "Once everyone speaks English, advantage can only be maintained by having something else -- other skills, such as speaking several languages.
"At a corporate level, the UK and U.S. economies have been enjoying a huge benefit from having so many English speakers elsewhere in the world," he told Reuters on Tuesday.
"They can outsource overseas to India, for example, allowing them to cut costs and boost growth."

But Graddol said there were mounting disadvantages for U.S. and British companies if they stayed monolingual.

Companies from other countries could use exactly the same methods to cut costs. And those foreign competitors could also trade and take orders in other languages.

FOREIGN CALLS

"We know from trade associations that small and medium-sized British firms are losing a lot of business because they can't even answer calls from abroad on the switchboard," he said.
"Calls don't get to the right people because the telephone operators don't have the languages needed."

Around 30 percent of the British population speaks a language other than English, but about half of these people have that other language as a mother tongue, Graddol said. In the United States, 22 percent of the population speaks a language other than English, mainly Spanish, and many of these people have Spanish as their first language, figures from the U.S. Modern Language Association show.

British higher education may already be suffering from being monolingual, Graddol suggests.
The number of foreign, particularly Chinese, students entering UK universities was falling as colleges in other parts of the world offered courses in English at lower cost, he said. English-language teaching now earns Britain up to 1.3 billion pounds ($2.27 billion) directly and other education-related exports bring in a further 10 billion pounds a year, the report said.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't give Dick a hard time, now!

After the latest Cheney shooting debacle, libral leftwing licebags have been leaping forth to lambast and lampoon the poor vice president. Everyone wants to make a big deal of this tiny insignificant mistake, ya know. Heck, there have even been those who see some deep lesson in this--as if they should now make hunting illegal just because some old cogger gets sent to intensive care with some buckshot in'im.

I say lay off the man, give him a break. You've got to look at Cheney's overall hunting score--he's hit the birds more often than his friends, after all. And I think that Cheney, just to show the librals up, should go back to hunting just like he did before. And to make a point, he should bring the president with him. And just to really make a point, he should hunt the way he's always hunted. And if the president gets a few pellets through his hide, hell, it's a small price to pay to preserve the lifestyle of the rich and influential; it's a way to protect his God-given right to meet his buddies at expensive game preserves and hunt freshly-released tame birds.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Axe Handles

One afternoon the last week of April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
and go gets it, and wants it for his own.

A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!

"When making an axe handle the pattern is not far off."
And I say this to Kai"
Look: We'll shape the handleBy checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with----"And he sees.
And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wên Fu, fourth centruy A.D.
"Essay on Literature"--in thePreface:

"In making the handle
Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.

"My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe,
I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture

How we go on.

From Gary Snyder's collection No Nature: New and Selected Poems