Friday, December 17, 2004

Time Out: I'll be gone for the rest of the year. Enjoy the holidays, and I'll start my ranting again in 2005!

Disturbing: I'm doing a lot of my Christmas shopping online (yes, on company time). My 8-year-old niece wants this Hair Beader, which evidently puts beads in your hair (Bo Derek style). Anyhow, I first tried, and they were sold out. So I did a search for other toy stores to see if they had any. But just about every toy store that advertises it tells me to go to to buy it. I was unaware, but did buy up every freakin' store already? Or are all small stores just giving up and voluntarily pointing you to the behemoth?

Well, I finally found it on eBay -- for more than twice as much as it would cost on were it not sold out. 'Tis the season ...

Bay Area Blues: San Francisco wants to be the next on a short list of cities that bans the ownership of handguns (via Insta). This is a disturbing trend of government trying to crack down gun rights. And that's not just because of the fact that other cities that have banned guns, such as Chicago and Washington, DC, have the highest crime rates in the country.

Now, because I live in Virginia, y'all might wonder why I care about what's going on in some Blue State. I could go on at length about how nobody should have their rights taken away, especially ones guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. I could even include the quote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

But I also have personal reasons. My girlfriend is originally from California, specifically Los Angeles. And if things keep going the way they're going, I'll probably end up moving there with her (commence *whipping* sounds now). The problem is these "reforms" tend to move through cities like some contagious disease.

It has already come to my attention that a shotgun I currently own, legally bought and paid for in Virginia, is illegal in California. It's a Saiga 12 -- a Russian-made, semi-automatic 12-gauge with a five-round magazine. I would not even be allowed to keep this gun in my home, were I a California resident. This gun's only "crime" is that it is similar in design to the AK-47, which is no more deadly than most other rifles, but people who don't know any better believe this is the quintessential killing machine.

To point out how absurd this ban is, you should know that I also have a Remington 870 Wingmaster -- an American-made, pump-action 12-gauge with a three-round capacity (including one in the chamber). This shotgun is perfectly legal in California and most other places.

The funny thing is, these guns fire the exact same ammunition the exact same way and, as a result, are just as deadly as each other. While the Saiga is semiautomatic, the Remington pump can be fired just as quickly. And although the Saiga does have a slightly larger capacity, the Remington can be fed ammo continuously while I would have to remove and reload magazines to continue firing the Saiga.

Unfortunately, the people who make the most restrictive laws regarding firearms seem to be the people who know the least about them. Liberals blaming crime on guns makes as much sense as conservatives blaming crime on rap music. Nothing should be outlawed in America without compelling reason. And prohibiting citizens from owning handguns only leaves them in danger of being hurt or killed by criminals who (surprise, surprise) don't obey the law.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Connectivity: The FCC is looking to bring high-speed wireless Internet accessibility to airplanes, and is toying with the ideas of allowing passengers to talk on their cell phones during flights.

The wireless Internet is obviously popular, but so far I have heard mostly negative comments about the cell phones. People really hate to hear other people gabbing on the phone, it seems.

But why? I've never understood this. I don't talk on my cell phone much, but it doesn't bother me to hear someone else's conversation. And it's not like there's no talking allowed on the plane. If this goes through, it would be similar to listening to two passengers talking to each other. Except, with the cell phones, you would only hear half the conversation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Enhancements: I've added a link to an RSS Feed. You can find it permanently in the side column, just underneath the "About" section.

In addition, I also tinkered with some of the fonts. I never liked the Blogger default. I hope you like this new version. If not, too bad. I'm not trying to cop an attitude or anything. It's just that I fiddled with the fonts so much that I wouldn't even know how to get it back to the old version.

Anyhow, back to work.

??? George "Slam Dunk" Tenet won the Presidential Medal of Freedom? I wonder how tempted Bush was at this moment to strangle his former CIA director. The fact that Bush is giving Tenet this award leads me to believe that he was not forced out of the CIA, that he retired on his own. And now he's being honored despite his role in two of the biggest intelligence failures in the history of the United States.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

You may say I'm a dreamer: Mahmoud Abbas, the likely successor to Yasser Arafat's position as Palestinian leader, has denounced the armed conflict against Israel. Even if he is elected, he'll be hard pressed to control the autonomous terrorist cells that have waged war against Israel for decades. But it would be nice to finally see an end to the Palestinian Authority's giving active support to the terrorists.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Working the Clutch: Most major shifts in party philosophy usually come when one political party is out of power for an extended time. We may be seeing the makings of such a shift with the Democratic Party moving to Bush's right when it comes to immigration policy. President Bush has been proposing everything just short of amnesty for illegal immigrants, likely to court the growing Hispanic vote. Sen. Hillary Clinton has openly criticized Bush for being too lenient on immigration, which should appeal to many heartland conservatives who are wary of open borders.

Granted, this doesn't signify a substantive change just yet. But if the Democrats can gain traction in the Red States on the immigration issue, they may be open to shifting on other issues. Of course, the party's biggest liability is still its weakness on the War on Terrorism. So you can expect the immigration issue to be framed at least partly as a national security issue.

Oddball: I don't know how I get on these guys' mailing lists, but I'm receiving press releases from the ReDefeatBush organization.

ReDefeatBush Protests Fraudulent Election Saturday at LaFayette Park in Front of the White House

The Committee to ReDefeat the President, a federal political action committee, is calling upon its members and other citizens to demonstrate against the growing evidence that fraud and deception were used to secure Bush's re-election. The demonstration, from noon to 2:00 PM in LaFayette Park in front of the White House, will be the third organized by ReDefeatBush in this location since election day.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the protest. But I have a funny feeling that I'll have plenty more chances to observe such genuine delusional behavior as long as I keep an interest in politics.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Breaking the News: If you want to keep something a secret, don't send the information through an e-mail. I'm almost suspicious that the Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter wanted everybody to know that he was the one who prompted that soldier to ask his now famous question to Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for military vehicles in Iraq.

Nevertheless, some people are criticizing the reporter for involving himself in a news story. Perhaps the reporter could have handled the situation differently, but he didn't do anything wrong.

So long as the reporter didn't try to buy off the soldier -- with money, favorable coverage, etc. -- it doesn't matter so much that a little coaxing was involved. The soldier could have declined to do it. So it was obviously a concern of the soldier's, and it seems to be a concern of all the troops who cheered loudly at the question -- and I'll bet the reporter had nothing to do with that.

It was, perhaps, dishonest for the reporter not to mention in his story that he talked the soldier into asking the question. He simply could have mentioned that Rumsfeld wasn't taking questions from reporters, but a soldier agreed to relay one reporter's question on an issue that has been on the minds of many of the troops in Iraq.

I always tell my sources, Don't get mad at the questions, just answer them. This was a legitimate question. And given the attention the question and Rumsfeld's response have received, it seems also to be a serious issue that, I'm guessing, now may actually be resolved.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Stuck in the Middle: Iraq's new government has already started to take a hard line against Iran, giving a stern neighborly warning to stop interfering with the upcoming elections through its support for radically religious candidates with money and a flood of new voters. As we know, Iran has already been a key sponsor to the Iraqi insurgents and their terrorist activities.

At the same time, U.S. officials are finding that Syria is still sending support to the terrorist insurgents in Iraq as well. It seems that two of the worst regimes in the Middle East are doing everything they can to make sure Iraq's new found freedom and democracy don't succeed.

This battle is and always has been a fight against terrorism and its sponsors in the Middle East. And that is why we have to be in it in the long haul to win.

Cemetery Gates: A gunman killed metal guitarist Dimebag Darrell at an Ohio concert last night. The shooter continued to fire into the crowd and kill three other people before a police officer arrived and shot the gunman, killing him.

For those of you who aren't metal fans, Dimebag Darrell was one of the most talented rock guitarists out there. He first made it big with the band Pantera. After that band broke up, Darrell and his brother/bandmate formed a new band, Damageplan, whose concert was where the attack took place.

The members of Pantera hail from Dallas -- my neck of the woods -- and some friends and I even had the privilege of drinking with Darrell and talking to him briefly outside a bar. He was a cool guy who didn't talk down to his fans. Even when one of my friends accidentally dropped and broke the bottle of whiskey we were sharing, Darrell just laughed and joked, "Oops! Party's over."

Thank God a police officer was able to respond quickly and kill the shooter before more people were hurt. But the music world has lost a truly gifted and talented artist. Darrell will be missed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Intelligence Design: Congress is set to pass a bill that will bring our many intelligence agencies under one czar who will oversee their personnel and finance. This will possibly bring about greater coordination among our intelligence agencies, but I wouldn't expect any dramatic improvements to spring up from this piece of legislation.

Although it has taken three years since the 9/11 attacks to revamp our intelligence network, I still get the feeling that this was a quick fix that was rushed through the system. The 9/11 Commission made the recommendation that one guy needed to control all of our intelligence gathering, and politicians on both sides of the aisle latched onto the suggestion wholesale without much regard to what actual benefit would come of it. We didn't have hardly any substantive discussion during the election. And now a lame-duck Congress is trying to hurry this bill through before both houses adjourn.

The 9/11 attacks and the Iraqi WMD "slam dunk" were two of the biggest intelligence lapses in American history. Part of the problem was that our agencies latched on to certain assumptions early on and didn't adequately question their own beliefs. We needed more voices, a diversity of opinions, new perspectives, and different interpretations of the evidence. How is making all our intelligence gathering the responsibility of one guy going to accomplish that?

Everybody agrees that we need to overhaul our intelligence agencies and that the CIA needs a good house cleaning. Some people wanted an immediate overhaul. I can see, during the uncertainty right after 9/11, that we didn't want to make any panicked decisions. It's better to contemplate real change than to rush something for the sake of doing anything.

Now more than enough time has passed, but nothing real is being done. Despite the failures, only one major figure, George Tenet, has lost his job (and nobody knows for certain whether he was really forced out or he just got bored and left). And even though Bush's new CIA appointee is cleaning house, some opponents are crying foul -- although there are some legitimate questions as to whether Bush is stacking the agency with loyal worker bees.

Bureaucratic shifts may look good to the public, but I don't expect any substantive results from the reorganization. The only way we can safeguard against future failures and catastrophic attacks is to improve the intelligence gathering on the ground. We need more spies inside the terrorist groups and among the hostile regimes. Doing so will take years to do. And I hope that such actions are quietly underway.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Left Wing Nuts: Environmentalists apparently torched more than 40 houses under construction in Maryland in opposition to urban sprawl. This will do nothing to prevent the housing development from being completed. But the fires itself created all kinds of pollution. And it was also a waste of resources, culminating in the need to chop down more trees to rebuild the houses.

For some reason, ultra-liberal environmentalists have taken to torching things as a form of protest. Nonlethal terrorists, such as the Earth Liberation Front, have burned resorts and SUVs, causing many times more environmental damage than if they had decided to stay at home and do something productive.

Update: New evidence suggests this might not be the case in this particular incident.

Right Wing Nuts: In light of reports that the FCC has been deluged with complaints about indecency on television, the truth is 99.8 percent of the grievances were submitted by one conservative group called the Parents Television Council.

An advocate of artists made the comment that one small group was trying to dictate what the rest of America could watch on television. "It means that really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio," said Jonathan Rintels, president and executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists’ advocacy group.

The PTC's response was utterly amazing. "I wish we had that much power," said Lara Mahaney, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based group. Indeed, these people want the power to censor what everybody else watches. Short of that, they'll just fondle the political system to get what they want.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Changing Their Tune: Despite the high profile whining by Metallica's Lars Ulrich and the RIAA, most musicians don't mind if people download their music for free, according a study. It seems eternal song swapping online does little to affect the bottom line for musicians, and most are happy that their work is getting circulated.

The recording industry, and now the movie industry, is still going to fight online file sharing tooth and nail. But they're going to lose. The technology is out there for everybody to trade music, so it's best that they accept the change and learn how to make it work for them.

Besides, trading songs online is no different than making a copy of an album onto a blank tape, which people have done for decades. People can hear anything they want for free on the radio already. The Internet is just a new medium.

And like the first VCR, the creative industries will scream and shout that they'll go bankrupt if new technology is allowed to exist. The movie industry tried to shut down the Betamax VCR, even fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. But the Court, in its wisdom, ruled against the movie industry, allowing a revolution of watching movies at home. And now the movie industry makes more money from VHS and DVD sales than box office tickets. It's time for them to find a way to do the same thing with online technology.

Friday, December 03, 2004

UNSCAM: The United Nations has been very critical of Bush over the war in Iraq, missing WMD, and prisoner abuse scandal. Bush, for the most part, has been forthcoming in answering those critics, even if they haven't been satisfied with the results. Now it's time to turn the tables.

Bush is calling for the United Nations to answer why it and its member countries accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein so he could use the oil-for-food program to buy weapons. What was supposed to be a humanitarian program became rife with corruption and dishonesty.

With President Bush demanding answers, he brings much needed attention to a scandal that the world media has largely overlooked. While some Republicans are already calling for Kofi Annan's ouster, Bush has decided to take a diplomatic approach by holding off on such drastic measures -- for now.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

More Strength: The number one concern of the war in Iraq has always been whether we have enough troops there. The Pentagon finally relented and plans to increase the troop strength in the coming months. Now we'll just see if it will be enough.

The number of troops will increase from 138,000 to about 150,000 -- which is the highest number since the war began. But press reports indicate that some officers would like several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq.

It's obvious by now that the post-war occupation of Iraq has not gone as planned. While we easily toppled Saddam Hussein and his military, the urban guerilla battle with terrorists has grown worse than we feared.

This is a new type of war, one that we're not used to fighting. We made some mistakes, such as disbanding the Iraqi army and not leveling Fallujah earlier. At the time, those seemed like the right moves, but Monday-morning quarterbacks have acted like they knew what to do all along that they were setbacks. Honestly, though, I can't think of a single war in which everything went exactly to plan.

The terrorists are going to increase their activities in the run up to the Iraqi elections. It will be a tough time, especially because the terrorists' aim is to get the American people to turn against the war. But bringing democracy to the heart of the Middle East will have long-term benefits in the region that diminish the threat of Islamic terrorism over the years. We'll have to see it through.

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