Friday, September 30, 2005

Monkeymagic: Wifi, Cafes and Solitude ruminates on an interesting phenomenon - wireless coffee shows are getting quiet. There's just as much business, just a whole lot less conversation. Well, there's probably a lot of conversation, just none taking place between the people in the shop. Everyone has a laptop, and is busy IMing and blogging with people who are elsewhere and elsewhen.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A statistically insignificant protest

There were some anti-war protestors in DC this weekend, we're told. About 100,000 according to the reports I've seen. The media is breathlessly reporting it, no doubt, as a sign of the public's decreasing support for the US mission in Iraq.

Let's take a deep breath. Poll questions are usually asked as yes/no questions - it's easier to parse out for public consumption. But another method is to use a Likert scale - the familiar five-point strongly agree / agree / neutral / disagree / strongly disagree.

It's safe to say that 99% of the protesters in DC this weekend would fall on the "strongly disagree with the war" end of the scale. After all, they gave up a weekend (which they could have spent getting pre-positioned to provide relief services to hurricane victims) and no small amount of money. (DC is not a cheap place to stay, and I don't think they all camped out on the Mall or found crash space with symathetic locals.)

So these folks are committed to their cause. Customer service experts tell us that for every customer who complains, there are ten just as dissatisfied who don't take the trouble to complain. Let's give that number to the protestors and bump it by an order of magnitude. Let's assume that for every person on the Mall waving signs like "Bush is the terrorist" or "Socialist Revolution is the Only Answer" or "We support our troops when they shoot their officers" there are 100 people back home (or getting pre-positioned to help the communities devasted by Rita and Katrina) who support their cause, who are strongly opposed to our mission in Iraq.

So that rally on the Mall represents 100 x 100,000, or 10^2 x 10^5 or 10^7. 10,000,000. Out of a country of 300,000,000. Ten out of three hundred, one out of thirty.

That's 3.3% - the sampling error for most national polls. Way out on the tail of a normal distribution, beyond two standard deviations. Statistically,the anti-war protestors are indeed out on the fringe.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Stuck on stupid.

NB: As of Friday MID-DAY, the freeways out of Houston were clear. But here are a few notable phrases from the AP's "national writer" in a story that appeared on the web Friday EVENING:
Panicked drivers ... a spectacular, deadly bus fire clogged traffic near Dallas], and freeways were red rivers of taillights that stretched to the horizon. ... an age of terrorist danger and with [MSM-fueled] memories of the nightmare in New Orleans ... Thousands of drivers [most of whom DID NOT NEED TO BE ON THE ROAD] ... extreme heat, out of gas — as gas trucks, rumored [rumours spread HOW??] to be on the way ... never came. ...frustrated, angry and growing desperate, [which explains the massive outbreaks of road rage... oh, wait. Reports of people sharing food and water in line, giving each other gas? Doesn't fit the narrative. Carry on.] scattered and stranded ... monster storm .... etc. etc. etc.
Media hysteria? naaaaaahhhhhhh......

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Global warming affects Mars, too.

Mars Orbiter Spots Changes on Red Planet

"The planet may be undergoing a climate change, according to images that show a shrinking of carbon dioxide deposits near the south pole. For the last three Martian summers, the deposits have shrunk from the previous year"

BushCheneyRove's environmental plundering even traverses interplanetary space! Who knew?

If for no other reason...

...than to give some webcrawling linkbot a raison d'etre to link to it, here's Professor Reynolds' money quote as transcribed at Radio Blogger: "I have never known reporters to be especially good at accepting constructive criticism."

That could apply to a lot of folks. Especially them what is stuck on stupid. (That link is to an MP3. Here's the transcript.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Some things you simply don't countenance (PG-13 at least)

ht Roger L Simon Gay Patriot - Iranian Authorities Torture Gay Youth As a theologically and socially conservative Christian, I do not condone or celebrate homosexuality. (This despite the fact that I have had many fine gay coworkers, not to mention a couple of family members whom I dealy love.) I am tolerant, in the original sense of the word. Merely tolerant, perhaps, but tolerant at least. But this. This. Is savagery.

I can hardly wait for the reviews

Working with wordsmith Mary-Rose Hayes, Sen. Barbara Boxer has penned - literally - a suspense novel about the inner workings of Washington politics.

For mindcandy I usually go in for technothrillers in the vein of Clive Cussler, John Nance, and Dale Brown and Tom Clancy back when they were readable.

This one should - ok, could - be interesting. It would be truly fascinating, though, to compare the handwritten manuscript with the finished typeset work. Not that it'll be possible.

Might even be more interesting to find out whether the galleys were corrected by Sen Boxer or Ms. Hayes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Next International Right?

Professor Reynolds links to this article. Key takeaway - genocide doesn't happen to armed populations. Ever. Period. So why, if the UN wants to eliminate genocide, does it want to ensure that no private citizen has the right to keep and bear arms?

Internet Time Blog: Another way of looking at instructional design

Internet Time Blog: Another way of looking at instructional design

I need to carve out a little time to look at this in detail. He may have a point. On the other hand, he might just be ranting. Not quite sure, yet.

UPDATE: He's ranting. Move along.

Well, DUH!

As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, astute members of the Connecticut library community have figured out who was ordered by the FBI to turn over the record of a patron who is a suspect in an ongoing anti-terrorism investigation.

Even better, a judge has ruled that the library organization that recieved the order can publicly identify itself next week, pending the government's appeal.

So follow this, civis students. The Legislative Branch passes a law - the Patriot Act - which contains a proviso intended to protect ongoing investigations. The Executive Branch enforces the law, requesting the library records of an individual suspected of something having to do with terrorist activities.

The ACLU posts on its website a whiny affidavit from the library official who got the order. The affidavit laments the fact that she's been "put under a gag order" and so - alas! - she is prevented from warning her fellow librarians about the - shock! gasp! - intrusiveness of this nefarious law. (A law which should not have surprised her with its provisions if she were really as knowledgeable about patron privacy issues as she gives herself credit for being.) ACLU's thin redaction of the affidavit makes it easy to figure out who this individual is and who she works for. But to make absolutely sure that the person being investigated is thoroughly tipped off to the fact that he's under investigation by the feds, the ACLU goes crying to the Judicial Branch, trying to get it to override the other two branches and allow the library to identify itself.

As a result, someone who may have been plotting another 9/11 is going to go underground. Sleeper terrorists already in the US will be tipped off that their use of American taxpayer-funded public libraries to reseach ways to kill large numbers of American taxpayers can be monitored. Hopefully their plans are still too embyronic to be put into motion once they catch the clue that they can be rolled up.

Somehow, I don't think that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind by "separation of powers" and "checks and balances."

The Roberts Court will likely rule that the national interest in preventing a terror attack trumps an individual library patron's expectation of absolute privacy. Unfortunately, the damage was done when the ACLU posted its warning to the terrorist.

Friday, September 16, 2005

NASA to unveil plans for 2018 moon mission

Yes. Yes indeed. Let's get going. What's keeping us? We're three decades late.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another reason not to go to Holland

"Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, all citizens will be tracked from cradle to grave in a single database — including health, education, family and police records — the health ministry said Tuesday.

As a privacy safeguard, no single person or agency will be able to access all contents of a file. But organizations can raise "red flags" in the dossier to caution other agencies about problems, ministry spokesman Jan Brouwer said


"Child protection services will say, 'Hey, there's a warning flag from the police. There's another one from school. There's another one from the doctor," Brouwer said. "Something must be going on and it's time to call the parents in for a meeting.""

Or it's time to call in the doctors at Groeningen for a meeting. Not now, OF COURSE! Not even perhaps soon, but eventually.

Eventually... "

Sunday, September 11, 2005


FLASH! The US might possibly consider thinking about not entirely disregarding the potential application of its entire range of deterrent force!!

IOW, you nuke us, we just might nuke you. This is new??

Friday, September 09, 2005

Eject! Eject! Eject!: TRIBES

Bill Whittle is back. As usual, his excellent writing could benefit from a good editor, but he is well-spoken in this thoughtful essay.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A professional's response to the Katrina carping

I work with a fellow who is a retired Fire Chief and FD Training Director. Currently, he is the Program Director for a national Emergency Management training program. I asked him for his take on the response to Katrina, and the response to the response. Here's what he wrote:
Hi Corrie: I wanted to wait a couple days before responding so I could "take in" the various accounts of the situation. Here's my perspective:
  • While FEMA has been slow and inefficient, they were NEVER designed to be an "emergency response" organization. They are an umbrella agency that coordinates response of other agencies. That said, they have been overly bureaucratic and inefficient in doing their job.
  • FEMA has been blamed for too much! For as long as I have been around, local and state government has been repeatedly told they should expect to be on their own for 48-72 hours and plan accordingly. It can take 48 hours for the national guard to arrive, likewise for a USAR team, and FEMA.
  • NO exercise design or drill has ever taken into account responders would be shot at nor receive assistance from able bodied evacuees. Every book or course I have read/attended assumed able bodied evacuees would do everything possible to assist the responders and those around them. In many cases this did not happen in New Orleans, and will certainly be included in future plans.
  • Had cautions been heeded this probably would not have happened. It is my understanding the levees were designed to withstand a maximum Cat-3 storm. It was also known the levees needed repair/upgraded and sufficient funds were not allocated to do this.
  • To some extent, I am unsure about the "race" issues the media repeatedly brings up. I truly believe the problem is overwhelming and multiple problems such as the unusual combination of hurricane, destroyed levee, flood, roads out, bridges out, shooting at responders, and lack of communications due to the systems being down, and not a matter of blatant racism.
  • The sad part is much could have been prevented directly by those most affected. Thousands ignored a MANDATORY evacuation issued 48 or more hours prior to the hurricane. FREE public transit was provided to anyone who needed a ride to the evacuation centers. Some of the evacuees screaming the most are those who ignored the MANDATORY evacuation orders - and even today some still are !
  • Because of our "federalism" form of government, home rule, and laws certain steps have to be taken to get federal assistance in a disaster such as this. There is a lot of arguing going on as to when each step was or was not accomplished, but basically the following usually must occur for federal help:
  • (1) The local head of government must declare a state of emergency to the county/parish.
  • (2) The county/parish must declare a state of emergency and notify the governor.
  • (3) Only once the governor makes the declaration can even the national Guard unit - even a block away - be activated.
  • (4) Once the governor declares the state of emergency a request can be made to the President for a federal declaration and federal (FEMA) assistance. I know it's a lot, but that's the form of government we have lived with for 200+ years, and any elected official should know what has to be done to get the needed help.
  • The Red Cross and others get there faster than FEMA because they don't have all the steps government has to take to respond.
  • I am very frustrated we have not taken better advantage of the international aid. Last count 98 countries had offered assistance. I think it's disrespectful we have not either accepted the aid or cut the red tape to get it here.

That's my two cents (or maybe a buck or more?). Thanks for listening. Lee

Friday, September 02, 2005

How disingenuous, how dangerous

In the course of an ongoing counterterrorism investigation, the FBI used a tool authorized under the Patriot Act, called a national-security letter (NSL), to request library records. The DoJ has argued that revealing the name of the library will irreparably harm the investigation. One of the provisions of the NSL is that a recipient can't disclose that they've gotten it. The gag order sensibly protects ongoing investigations.

So what does the ACLU do? They get an affidavit from the librarian decrying the use of the NSL, block out some information, but leave enough info that one could if so inclined identify the librarian through her description of her professional activities on behalf of patron privacy.

It's hard to believe that a librarian so intimately concerned with the issue of patron privacy would not be aware of the provisions of the NSL. It's highy disingenuous for the ACLU to post an affadavit chock full of statements such as, "If not for the gag order, I would tell other librarians about XYZ..."

And it's dangerous to an ongoing counterterrorism investigation to post information that will let a bad guy know he's being watched.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Going the last mile

Americans Open Homes to Katrina Refugees:

It's wonderful - and unsurprising - that Americans are willing to open their homes to strangers in need.

It's also no surprise that a website, Craigslist, has sprung up as a cleaninghouse. But as the article says, there needs to be a way to get that information to the people who need it.

We need to go the last mile. We need folks with laptops in refugee centers with wireless connectivity - and wireless needs to be set up in places like the Astrodome if it's not there already - to match up refugees with folks offering shelter.

Hopefully Hugh and Glenn will pick up on this and give it some visibility.

Katrina Relief

Instapundit has a list of organizations that are accepting donations for victims of Katrina. The recovery will be long and painful for these people. Please donate generously. Right now, cash is the best thing to give, as it's fungible. Later, there'll be a need for able-bodied workers to hep rebuild, and tools and materials to rebuild with.

Most of all, pray.