Saturday, August 30, 2003

Some have said the attacks against US armed forces in Iraq is similar to what we experience in WWII in Germany after the surrender. No dice.

... the Rumsfeld version, which claimed that "Today the Nazi dead-enders are largely forgotten, cast to the sidelines of history because they comprised a failed resistance and managed to kill our Allied forces in a war that saw millions fight and die."

It's hard to understand exactly what Rumsfeld was saying, but if he meant that the Nazi resisters killed Americans after the surrender, this would be news. According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero.

I'm afraid we'll have to look elsewhere for analogies - or - acknowledge this is another kind of war, and fight it accordingly.

In a story in today's Globe and Mail, is the case against the 19 men originally arrested in Toronto less than it was made out to be? The RCMP think it was:

The RCMP, which is just beginning to sift through 25 boxes of files and 30 computers seized in the raid that netted the 19 men, said this week there is no evidence that Canada's national security is at risk. Immigration officials underlined that they are investigating only the possibility of such threats.

"I can comfortably say there is no known threat; what is being investigated is a reasonable suspicion," said Giovanna Gatti, spokesperson with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. "It's taken the spin that it has taken in the media for whatever reason."

So what about the allegations that they were part of a large plot, that a nuclear plant was at risk?

During this week's detention hearings, unlike at others, the government did not utter the words that had so worried the public: "CN Tower" and "al-Qaeda." And Mr. Mohammed's flight path over a nuclear-power plant turned out to be routine for flight-school students.

Immigration adjudicators released two of the men, noting the case appeared to be one of misrepresentation, day-to-day immigration business that had been manipulated into a national-security issue.
Were bureaucrats attempting to pump up a case that was just immigration violations into something more? Meanwhile, at the Conrad Black owned National Post, they are still calling the group a possible Al Qaeda sleeper cell. It certainly makes a more sensational story. The key question is whether the men were actually a threat to national security, and what intelligence is being used to make that determination. I'm not sure if I'm relieved that this may not have been a terrorist plot, or worried that the government may have misread the situation. Worth keeping an eye on...

Friday, August 29, 2003

The Free Times surveys the post-Cleveland Convention center - the one that is unlikely to be built now - and points out who may be winners and loser. They give a special award to Mayor Jane Campbell:
We're calling her a "winner for losing" because of the enormity of the personal and political LOSER tag she would have been branded with had her role in developing the specifics of this deal been scrutinized over the next two months. Then more people would have known just how out of her league she really is. Ouch!
Personally I think this was a somewhat ill-conceived project, at least in terms of it being a civic project, so I'm glad it didn't come to fruition. Watch for the Plain Dealer and others in the city to try to ram this thing in somehow in the next few years though. For now they are just fuming.

The new "dog ate my homework" defense? I know late summer is not the time you want to be thinking about taxes, but here's a fellow blaming a computer virus for making his numbers on his returns incorrect (link via TechDirt).

There's a rat attack in Halifax, NS. "I haven't slept in two days," said Mrs. Tarbox, a mother of two teenagers. "I found two holes in the sides of my house, so I've got rat poison there. And I went out and bought a cat last night." . I might trust my own cat to hunt mice, but not rats....perhaps a terrier would be a better pick.

Web Monkeys rejoice - free WiFi at Case Western Reserve University. Then they plan to "blanket" Cleveland in free Wifi. George at Brewed Fresh Daily is, um, excited. "Schwing"?

June Phillips at Slate goes to the bullfights. She says "It's also incredibly beautiful - an improvisational art form of exquisite grace, where one misstep or lost focus can mean death and dismemberment.". Reminds me of this one time at band camp...

Sharia law in Nigeria - sentencing a woman to death for sex outside of marriage.

I've never been this afraid," Lawal said, tears rolling down her face as she made her way past police ringing the courthouse in Nigeria's northern Katsina state. "I'm tired of all this.''

The divorced woman was convicted of having sex outside marriage in March, 2002, by an Islamic court following the birth of her daughter, Wasila.

Judges ordered her buried up to her neck in sand and stoned.

Brutal, and reminiscent of the dark ages. The man, presumably the father, denied responsibility and was acquitted. But apparently the problem is our lack of "understanding" of other cultures.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

More Irony

Canada is going to the UN over the death of a Canadian journalist in Iran:

"I believe it is important that we have independent monitoring and reporting on such cases," Mr. Graham said. "Therefore, we will be asking the United Nation's Commission on Human rights to investigate this."

On Wednesday Mr. Graham accused the Iranian government of not showing "the co-operation and transparency that Canada insisted on" after senior officials with the Canadian embassy met with the chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, to discuss a judge's report into the death.
Numerous media reports have indicated that Mr. Mortazavi may have been present for or participated in the beating of Ms. Kazemi.
I'm sure the UN commission will do loads of good in this case - it's led by Lybia right now.

No movement yet on the investigation of the death of a Canadian journalist in Iran

"Although Canada has made repeated requests, the Iranian government has yet to provide us with the report on Ms. Kazemi's death," Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said in a written statement yesterday. "This is not the co-operation and transparency that Canada insisted on."

The Iranians initially claimed she died of a "brain stroke", but have now changed their tune to say it was a "semi-intentional murder." If by semi-intentional, you mean the mullahocracy supports and encourages secret police and thugs to intimidate, harass, beat, and kill any who oppose them...I doubt the Iranian "inquiry" would look very hard, very deep, or very high.

Over at Spinsanity, Ben Fritz is all over the White House playing a bit of a shell game with the past.

Josh Marshall looks at where we got our ideas that Iraq had WMD programs, and how some of those claims may be less than they first appeared. According to an LA Times story that Josh references, some of those defector Iraqis passing us information may have been double agents for Saddam, dupes, or perhaps in the hunt for money and asylum.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

So why do you suppose O'Reilly is so mad at Al Franken? Peter Ames Carlin knows (link via Tapped).

What he never did correct was the implication that he had something to do with winning the award. He didn't: The story that won "Inside Edition" its Polk aired the year after O'Reilly left the show. Nevertheless, O'Reilly tended to whip out the award (whether Peabody or Polk) whenever he was being attacked personally, as in May 2000 when Neville accused him of being "a sellout."

"We won Peabody Awards!" he retorted.

"You got a lot of money, and you sold out!"

"We won Peabody Awards! We won --"

But O'Reilly's "we" doesn't actually include him. Except, as he told my editors last week, in the loose, intimate way a former collegian might say "we won" while describing the alma mater's football team, the alumni "we."

O'Reilly finally callls Aimes back to say "...never claimed I won any award". Not I, so he can weasel out of it, since he did say we....a very loose, foggy we.

Amy Sullivan links to a site that rates the lies of the four most recent US presidents. Speaking of presidents, she's also amiable to drafting General Wesley Clark on the Democratic 2004 presidential ticket. Needless to say, it's worth reading.

The nineteen men arrested in Toronto are now eighteen:

In a blow to the government's assertions that the men — 18 Pakistanis and one Indian National — may be terrorist threats to Canada, a government adjudicator said the Immigration Department has failed to make its case.

Adjudicator Aina Martens ordered one man freed on $10,000 bond, which may be posted as early as tomorrow. The case against the detained man, 30-year-old Mohammad Akhtar, is weak, she said.

So is the case against them all less than it was made out to be?

Got a emails from Tismara over at Tasberry Diary (is that anything like Tazoberry Tea? I'm a junkie for that Starbucks frozen version) saying she liked my blog, but could find no comment section or guestbook. Currently there is none because:

  1. I've been working on the assumption about two people read this, and I'm one of them

  2. Not sure I want to spend time policing posts, or fact checking posts

  3. I have no yet investigated tools for comments whilst using blogger on my webhost, where I'm fairly sure I don't have the ability to run ASP - then I could program it myself!

So I will investigate tools that work on my host, though the caveat of #2 is still in my mind.

Wedding guests gone wild. Attacking children, biting off fingers, and knocking people out. I'll check with Martha to see if this kind of wedding is typical for Corunna, MI, not far from where she grew up. The most unexpected thing that happened at my wedding was clogging to 80's Brit-pop. One of the key cloggers may clog again, this time as the bride at my brother's wedding in September.

No smiling! We're Canadian. Passports specs for Canada now say you cannot smile. Mine looks like a mug shot anyway. Apparently it's leading to try and standardize photo specs so they can be used in biometrics.

A little more on the nineteen men detained in Toronto on suspicion of being a national security threat.

An immigration review board hearing was told Muhammad Asif Aziz entered Canada nearly four years ago at an unknown U.S. border point by hiding in a truck that drove to Montreal.

At the time, the board heard, he gave his name as Asif Yasin Mohammad and a birth date different to what is now on record with Immigration officials.

Mr. Aziz also said he was enrolled in the Ottawa Business College, even though the college ceased to operate in June 2001, said Edith DeCaire, hearings officer for Immigration Canada.

It all sounds strangely familiar, only this time it's being looked at with the suspects in hand. Two of the men had been found loitering outside of a nuclear power plant in April, and some were taking flight training that partly takes place over the same plant.

Salesmen making death threats? What cutthroat industry is this? The newspaper business. More specifically, the free newspaper business in Cleveland. The history runs like this. There were two papers in the town, Free Times and Cleveland Scene. They don't seem to get along - I recall a front page article in Scene depicting the Free Times logo in flames. Both papers were owned by media companies, and said companies also had papers in LA. The company behind Free Times shuttered it in exchange for the company behind Scene closing it's LA paper. But now the Free Times has come back, and the gloves have come off. In the article above, the Free Times editor mentions being challenged to a fistfight by a Scene editor. Scene ran this rambling diatribe when the Free Times rose from the dead. Now two salespeople are accused of making death (and other) threats. I hear Baghdad has dozens of papers running without so much trouble. Can't we aspire to that level?

There's a new grammar blog called "Copy Editing, Dammit". It's a funny and unique site. Not, needless to say, a "very" unique site. Link via TalkLeft. Now if only someone would stop people from pronouncing "ekcetera" that way.

Lynn, whilst Reflecting in D, I would assume, has found some great story sites. I think my printer will be busy a while on these preparing reading material for my trip to Nova Scotia, during which I may not have much net access, being sans a laptop.

Most interesting headline since exploding lettuce - "Man dies after crashing car into funeral home ". Rain on your wedding day may not be ironic, but crashing into a funeral home and perishing - perhaps!.

Computer viruses are wreaking havoc with Cleveland area schools, in a report by Janet Okoben and Ebony Reed of the Plain Dealer:

Computer networks at all high schools and middle schools, which would have been crippled without computerized student schedules, were back up by late yesterday afternoon.

A team of about 100 district employees - including some students who work for the district- spent the weekend and many hours this week getting 30,000 computers at 130 sites up and running.

District officials found all sorts of problems related to the virus. Security cameras, which are wired so that the images caught on tape at schools can be viewed from the district's administration building downtown, had to be taken down. Information about student transfers, enrollment data, and student data needed for planning purposes were all on the computer network.

It was threatening opening day for some schools.

Two years ago

Michele at a small victory has a post about remembering September 11, 2001. As usual, it's worth reading as are the links.

The first I heard of the 9/11 attack out here in Cleveland was a phone call from my fiancé while I was at work. And probably like a lot of people, my first thought was that it was a Cessna piloted by someone trying a maneuver that was too dangerous near the towers, where winds could pose a hazard to small planes. I had no TV or radio where I was, and the net didn’t seem to be working. Information was slow to come out at my office. My fiance called back soon after to tell me that a second plane had hit the towers. I repeated this to my coworkers, but one disagreed, saying she had heard it was a twin engine plane. Soon after a TV was set up and we saw the smoke pouring from the towers. Still not able to get a news feed from the choked internet news websites, I went on IRC (Internet Relay Chat). A couple of people on a channel that I had once frequented lived within sight of the towers. They told us all about what they were seeing and hearing. One of them could see the towers smoking from her window. I still had no idea about the size of the planes involved. Finally the person typed in that one of the towers had fallen.

By the time the second one fell, I was talking with my fiancé again, and we had seen the images on television. People in the office were walking around stunned, and nervous. Rumors were flying about other planes still in the air - these rumors continued all day long. We were not in a skyscraper, but it was the tallest building in the immediate area, and I saw people looking out of the windows, scanning the skyline. Our management did not allow us to go home early that day, so I took the bus back to the city. Normally this bus is crowded, but all the non-heartless companies had sent their people home, so I rode it alone. Normally downtown Cleveland is bustling with traffic and people at rush hour when I change buses there, but not today. Except for the bus I left, and the one I got on, I didn’t see a car or a person downtown. I talked to the Bus driver to try and trade some news - there wasn’t any news really. He did let me know that they had closed the zoo. He laughed at the idea that terrorists would be attacking a zoo in Cleveland. "The damn zoo!" he laughed. A the time, we didn’t know the ill-fated flight that crashed in PA was over Cleveland airspace when it was turned to head back toward Washington DC. A few people got on the bus as we passed the huge Cleveland Clinic complex,. People traded news about what was closed and what was not.

Finally I got home and held my fiancé, and we watched the terrible events replayed endlessly on television. We didn’t sleep much that night, wondering if there were still planes out there, or what was going to be the next attack. We did have some practical concerns as well. We were due to be married on October 6th, and many guests would be flying in, so we watched to see if and when air travel would be allowed again. I know of one friend who’s father died on September 9th, and she was unable to fly back for the funeral.

By the time our wedding came, things were beginning to get back to something resembling normal, although there is always now an undercurrent from the attacks. My Canadian relatives flew in, each having little pins entwining the Canadian and American flags in a show of solidarity. I think it was around this time I decided that I would go down the bureaucratic maze to becoming a US citizen. If I admired this country for it’s freedoms of life and speech so much, it seemed like only logical choice. For those who attacked the US, who think that it's weak, or think that internal debates mean a lack of will, they are going to continue to find out how badly they were mistaken. There's no chance we're going to forget those who were the victims of attack - they are us.

It’s late summer now, nearing the second anniversary of that viscous attack. I’m flying back to Nova Scotia shortly for my brother’s wedding. But before I do, I think I might drop by the zoo.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The fight against the flames in Kelowna, B.C. may be going our way for a change. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and tens of thousand evacuated, but things are looking a little better now. The pictures of homes in front of an eerie night sky turned red are indeed haunting, like having moved to the edge of Mordor. Carla Turner, for CBC news, puts it well:

Most fires are caused by humans: 58 per cent of the wildfires that consume our forests and grasslands every year are caused by carelessness and could have been prevented. The rest, 42 per cent, are caused by lightning. We try to prevent them. We fight them. Sometimes we are defeated by them. But we will likely never stop them: As long as there is fire, there will be forest fires.

Where are the three ships, asks Dale Amon (link via Instapundit)? Remember the three ships from Iraq possibly containing WMD's that were reported on back in February? One report from that time period says they were never confirmed by US or British Intelligence.

Excellent post on Orcinus, all on Judge Moore and the, um, reasonable people behind him. Some faces in the crowd:

Among the other extremist participants:

-- W.N. Otwell, who leads camouflage-garbed protesters at abortion clinics and who has protested "race-mixing," calling America a "white man's country."

-- Greg Dixon, the leader of the extremist Indianapolis Baptist Temple.

-- Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate (and definitively racist, not to mention openly secessionist) League of the South.

-- John Cripps, a noted neo-Confederate.

Very impressive. I don't see why more people aren't flocking to this banner.

Cato the Youngest has been working on a PC based (i.e. no hosted database) system for blogging. The output looks good. Wonder if this will be a saleable product one day?

Laura Rozen on the possible political aspirations of General Clark.

Iran trying to cover the brutal murder of a Canadian journalist? It's like a combination of a power struggle, or a puppet show and a kangaroo court.

Last month, a presidential committee shied away from calling her death intentional, but it discredited an initial official report that Ms. Kazemi had died from a stroke.

The committee said she suffered a skull fracture "resulting from a hard object hitting the head or the head hitting a hard object."

Reformers have openly accused Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, a hardliner, of seeking to distort facts by trying to announce the cause of the death as stroke and seeking a quiet and quick burial of Kazemi
Whatever the results, I suspect justice for the murder victim will not be forthcoming anytime soon. Amnesty International has more background.

Thinking of calling 1-800-DO-NOT-CALL? Don't, it's a scam, trying to get those who have heard of the new do not call list but do not know the exact number. Incidentally, I can't help but note that claims the do not call list will cost jobs is a bit bogus. It's akin to claiming this industry is a form of welfare. If so, it's not very accountable.

Remember the plan to arm airline pilots? Only about 200 have been trained and armed so far...

"They've turned it into a bureaucratic nightmare," said Beall, a member of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance, a grass-roots organization that includes pilots from all the major U.S. airlines. Beall flies out of Dallas.
I'm sure we can take our time, it's not like there's evidence that terrorists may be planning the exact same type of attack as before...oh wait...

News from my old home province where they want the government to stop in, because "please won't somebody think of the children"? It's another case of seeing some behaviour you do not like in others and insisting that means we needs rules and laws to stop it - here's what they say:

"Younger and younger students are wearing less and less clothes," Mrs. Gillis said Monday from Inverness.

"Girls have plunging necklines and bare midriffs. Boys have their underwear hanging out of their pants. Something needs to be done."

Yes, the great history of controlling social behaviour with laws. Somewhat more disturbing to me was this quote:

Catherine Cavell, a psychologist and the director of the Children's Rights Centre at the University College of Cape Breton, said board members might be overreacting.

"This issue is always popping up, and each time there's a generational difference at play," Ms. Cavell said.

"The older generation always sees the younger as being in the throes of great depravity."

But she acknowledged that today's more revealing clothing can create awkward situations between students and staff.

"It's difficult for male teachers when all they see is nubile young flesh," she said.

"It's hard for them not to see it as a sexual thing, even when the girls only see it as being fashionable
I'm sensing a large assumption here that should not be present. I'm hoping that's not what they are seeing, else I wonder why they are teachers at all.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Party like it's Yom Kippur?! , According to a previous memo, apparently...

In addition, we also wish to apologize for having listed Yom Kippur as one of our "Reasons To Party". We understand and respect that Yom Kippur is a Day of Atonement, a day to be taken seriously to reflect and fast, and as such, one of the most important Jewish Holidays in the year.

Irony redefined

The Alabama street, or rather a few scattered people on it, protest the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse - placed there by currently suspended Justice Moore.

A crowd ranging from a few dozen to several hundred kept watch over the 5,280-pound block of granite over the weekend, praying, singing hymns and reading Bible verses, while trying to keep cool in the sweltering heat.

Members of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition, which sponsored the vigil and has vowed to block the monument's removal by civil disobedience if necessary, said they would go to court in Mobile today seeking to block Gorman Houston, the acting chief justice, from having the monument removed.

I can hear it now - "we demand that this court stop this other court from doing this because God told us courts have no such powers!'. I can imagine the cognitive dissonance is something like the abomination "Hooked on Classics".

John Hood studies the arguments from a local (to him) tourist lobby on the economic effects of said tourism. Reminiscent of arguments you may have accidentally read in the Plain Dealer, shy to mention the convention center though they are....John realizes it's not quite what they via Hit and Run.

Another local media outlet is whining and seething, to borrow a phrase from Little Green Footballs, about the fallen Cleveland convention center meme. Chas Rich at Sardonic Views has a few choice words in contrast. I'm sure business leaders would love more taxpayer money for this type of project. Why? Because other financing methods might demand accountability and realism.

Added another blog, "Brewed Fresh Daily". I like this from the quote page:

"In a cat's eye, all things belong to cats.'' - an old English proverb
Mentioned in a recent entry are hosted wikki's. He also has several topical Wikki's on his site. It's an excellent tool for information distribution.

The winds are about to pick up in Kelowna, British Columbia. 248 homes have been destroyed by the fire so far, and about 20,000 people have been evacuated.

Arafat has appointed a crony to be in charge of security.

Palestinian national security forces, who would lead any clampdown, as well as the intelligence services all answer directly to Mr. Arafat. Mr. Abbas has authority over the rest, including the civil police force.

Hmm. Ok.

Arafat fired Gen. Rajoub from his role as West Bank security chief in July 2002 after an argument. At the time, Mr. Arafat tried to punch Gen. Rajoub and pointed his pistol at him. But Gen. Rajoub and Mr. Abbas' security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, also are adversaries, and it appears Mr. Arafat is trying to use Gen. Rajoub in his campaign to undermine Mr. Abbas' fledgling government.

If you had to guess what will happen next would you guess:

  1. Crackdown on armed terrorists by the PA

  2. Speeches denoucing the latest terror attacks, when they occur, noting that whatever action Israel has most recently taken "prevents" a crackdown

Indymedia targets (or is that "Target's"?) Michele at a small victory. Some things are just too stupid for them not to say, apparently.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The Plain Dealer continues to advocate a convention center

There is now widespread public awareness that this area's hospitality industry, which employs tens of thousands of Greater Clevelanders, is extremely fragile, at least in part because the city's main convention hall is an uncompetitive, 80-year-old antique. The need to find development catalysts for downtown, as well as for the city's neighborhoods and for suburban communities, has been established.

Hrm. Not so sure about that. I mean with all the great catalysts like the new baseball and football stadiums, haven't we become awash in so many jobs and economic side-effects that we're just fine now? No? Ah The Dealer continues the Fair and Balanced coverage with an attack on the mayor for abandoning the project. See, the problem isn't that the case hasn't been made for the project, in fact we shouldn't be asking questions about it at all.

Update: 10:57 PM
Bill Callahan agrees.

Nice column by Maureen Down today. My favourite line was from a Bush supporter noting that Bush's every move "isn't calculated". I fear that this statement is untrue in the way the speaker intended, but true in many ways, as we continue to find out, when it comes to the consequences of certain policy decisions. There are a few columnists out there who, for what can only be termed cynical reasons, keep calling Kerry "French-looking". I think this kind of terminology caters to a low standard that no one should be reaching for, not all agree. Well, some people agree. You have to agree with one word used to describe these insults: cheap.

I know the right loves to hate the BBC, but as bad behaviour by reporters goes, this is pretty tough to top. Reporters of the North attacked protestors - not in North Korea, mind you where this probably wins the equivalent of a Pulitzer:

The fight, which lasted about 10 minutes, erupted as the reporters from the North's state-run media tried to seize banners critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il from about 20 protesters outside the stadium.

"Down with Kim Jong Il. Rescue our Northern brethren," one banner read. Protesters also held pictures of starving North Korean children lying in hospital beds.

Well, not impossible to top.

Update: 8/23/2003 10:33 PM
BBC still getting it wrong? this time on the blackout. Perhaps my defense of them (albeit parenthetically in this story) was not the best example.

The sad state of local radio reported in Cleveland Scene

Instead of offering any information about what happened, or news of when electricity and water might return, Keane's lone scoop was a live interview with his boss, who was partying on his boat on Lake Erie, and a breaking news flash that a strip club in Brunswick was still open.

Makes you wish there were more independent radio stations in the area, doesn't it Mr. FCC?

Crime seems to be down a bit.

Experts say a number of factors have driven the crime rate down, including a more mature, less violent illegal drug trade, a drop in gang membership and even improved home locks and alarms that deter would-be burglars.

Australia isn't willing to commit more troops to Iraq.

While government sources stress that no formal request has been made in recent days, US officials continue to informally raise the issue of further peacekeeping contributions from Australia.

The Government insists it will not reconsider its defense contribution to Iraq, with Prime Minister John Howard saying Australia did its share before and during the Iraq war.

You get the feeling we'll hear a "this is all part of the plan" spin from the administration on this?

Edward Tufte opines that PowerPoint is evil.

Particularly disturbing is the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences, children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides -a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.

More localized blackouts in Shaker Heights yesterday, reports channel 5. And also, there's this genius who decided to start hitting golf balls into a substation. I think perhaps we're in more danger from incompetence and stupidity than any terrorist.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Damn Foreigner thinks holding some of the 19 suspicious men in Toronto (noted below) is not such a good thing, in that "no one should be held without being charged with a crime". I think if the process is open in the end, and subject to review, one has to make allowances for that which is not just crime. I think there are few criminal justice systems that can easily accommodate prosecuting terrorists, as Dahlia Lithwick stated. Needless to say, as the story develops we shall see if the process is open.

If we keep hearing so much about where Osama bin Laden is located, what he's doing, what his magazine reading is like, what brand of pretzel he prefers, etc, then shouldn't we devote more resources to finding him? How about a little pressure on our, uh, allies in the war on terror in getting him?

Arab news with a surprising editorial, as much as admitting that the ceasefire by Hamas and Islamic Jihad was bogus before they declared it "over".

In fact, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been disingenuous as regards the cease-fire, which neither had wanted but had accepted as a result of massive Pan-Arab pressure on them to go along with the road map to a Middle East settlement. Within minutes of Thursday’s Gaza attack, both rushed to declare it over. But both had already claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s bomb attack in Jerusalem which killed 20 people and which prompted the Israeli attack. They cannot claim responsibility and at the same time say they are maintaining a cease-fire.

But then they half-heartedly blame the violence that the groups claimed responsibility for on a "rogue group". I am sometimes amazed at the cognitive dissonance that must be echoing through this writers head. It's obvious we can expect more of the same from the two organizations if there is another "cease fire", as per Cox and Forkum. Clearly these armed terrorists need to be removed from Palestine, but is there someone in the PA who will do it, is the pertinent question.

Chief Justice Moore of Alabama, advancing a political career by disregarding federal rulings.

In 2000, Mr. Moore ran for Alabama chief justice, on the slogan "Roy Moore: Still the Ten Commandments Judge." He won easily. In July 2001, without the permission of the other justices, he installed the Ten Commandments monument in the State Supreme Court. He rejected requests to include a statue of an atom or a copy of the Koran. His argument was that American law was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs. His display, he said, was a statement about the moral underpinning of law, not an advancement of one religion over another
Yeah, I'm sure he'd be all for the Hindu festival of lights being held around the courthouse. I'm waiting til this guy starts talking about how the judiciary needs to beware of the Alabama street, and issuing fatwas.

Immigrants to Ohio are apparently better educated than immigrants elsewhere in the US. However, they are coming here in smaller numbers:

Of the 51,999 foreign-born people over age 24 who arrived in Ohio in the late 1990s, 26,398 held college degrees, Frey said.

In comparison, California drew about 704,000 foreign-born adults over the same span, Frey said, but only about one-third of them were college graduates.

With the city of Cleveland losing population, you'd think we'd be encouraging the best and the brightest

Illness in BC not SARS. Turns out the unknown ailment in Vancouver I had mentioned earlier, suspected of being SARS, is not. Early tests had shown an unknown coronavirus.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Now this is a good blackout idea - a glow in the dark light bulb (link from This almost sounds too simple not to have been done before.

Planned Cat Parenthood

In other, less insomnia inducing news, they've come up with birth control for cats. The countless stray cats do not lead happy lives in the wild, instead it tends to be nasty, brutish, and short. It works with one injection, much cheaper than surgery...

19 Pakistani men were arrested in Toronto, under suspicion of being a threat to national security. Here's a part of the story to give one pause:

The document said one of the men was enrolled in flying lessons that took him over the Pickering nuclear power plant, about east of Toronto. One of his instructors reported that the one-year course was taking him more than three years to complete.
Not something to make you sleep easier. The fact that they want to do this, and they don't sound that bright. Let's hope they're all idiots. Then there was this:

The document also said an address used by one of the men was linked to the theft of a nuclear gauge, a device used in construction and containing the cesium-137. The highly radioactive material could be used to make a dirty bomb.
I've seen these types of radioactive gauges once when working for a government transportation department. I was just doing computer programming, but had to wear one of those radiation detection badges - never thought that the gauges could have such nefarious uses though. At the place where I was working, there was little to no security, but then I'm not sure how easy it would be to make these types of gauges into a weapon. Apparently one of the men had 40 grand in a bank account and no job. Now where do you suppose that money might have come from? Surely not one of our allies in the war on terror. I just don't want that kind of information being recognized and acted on after an attack comes to fruition.

There's a huge fire in British Columbia. So far 30,000 people have been evacuated. Dry weather has been a contributing factor. It's got to be tough to leave your house knowing it may not be there when you return.

Rachel Lucas notes souvenirs of Auschwitz. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Charles Cooper wonders who's minding the internet. Heck, it's all just a minor inconvenience, it's not like this stuff can effect a Nuclear power Ohio....where I live....
Not to worry though. According to the government...more or less....

A one-inch thick piece of plywood should be sufficient protection against radiation.

John Ashcroft is on a tour promoting the Patriot Act. Timothy Lynch would like to ask him some questions. One among them:

Mr. Ashcroft, you say that 132 individuals have been convicted or pled guilty in your terrorism investigations, but there have been reports that federal prosecutors are making veiled threats that if suspects fight the charges by pursuing a jury trial before an impartial judge, well, then, they'll be turned over to the U.S. military, where they will be held in solitary confinement indefinitely. Have you investigated these newspaper reports? Is such conduct by a federal prosecutor constitutional, legal, and ethical?

Needless to say, I don't expect we'll be hearing an answer to these questions.

They're fighting the ill-named "Intelligent Design" crowd in Texas.

"Evolution is the most crucial concept we teach in biology. It is the cornerstone for understanding the living world," said Austin biology teacher Amanda Walker. "Evolution is informing medicine on such diseases as prostate cancer, heart disease, SARS and AIDS, and many others."

Let's hope they can hold back the spread of ignorance.

Lynn nails the so called 'Mozart Effect' on the head. I keep hoping I don't have to hear about this dubious theory, but in a slow news month like August, it keeps rearing it's ugly head.

Josh Marshall has the first part of a great interview with al Qaida expert Peter Bergen. Needless to say, this is worth reading.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Cleveland Convention center idea - at least in terms of new taxes to pay for it - has been dumped by the mayor. But Don Iannone has some ideas about how it could be privately funded. I think that private enterprise might do a better job than least it was better than this idea from a previous mayor:

Those include, among other things, a public marina, a children's museum, retail space, an outdoor entertainment venue, an aquarium, and a ferris wheel. Faywell stressed the family-friendly nature of the plan. After the short presentation came a lengthy public comment period. Reaction was largely critical.

Noted one critic:

We see the new Jacobs Field and that whole Gateway project, and the taxpayers was left with this whole sin tax issue. I'm concerned about that. What does that mean for me in terms of my property taxes?

I'm glad they never built this, it looked like a waste of money and lakefront space.

Our friend Diana had some of this kind of thing on her wall, Bar code art (link via Todd Kravos). But in the case of the ones that have multiple bar codes, I wonder how they scan it at the checkout?

Check out the great blackout photo on Filtering Craig. He's trying to find out the source. so if you know, drop him a line! Given the age of photoshop that we live, makes me wonder if it looks a little too good. The resolution isn't high enough for me to tell for certain, maybe a satellite photo wonk can clue us in....

Update: 8/23/03 4:44 PM
Fake. As per Snopes

West Nile Virus has reached my old home province, Nova Scotia. It was transmitted by someone who flew in from Colorado.

The man, who is "doing very well," isn't a recent blood donor, she said.

Despite extensive testing, there has been no West Nile detected in Nova Scotia this summer in dead birds.

As we're going up there in September, I hope it stays West Nile Free. Of course since Ohio, where I live, has West Nile the point may be moot.

Always support terrorists non-publicly

"CAIR does not support these groups publicly". Possibly a bit of the truth accidentally slipping out, told to Rachel Neuwirth of Chronwatch. Charles at Little Green Footballs has the story.

Is the US military overstretched? Tapped would like to know. If we had to fight on another front, James Dunnigan at thinks we would definitely win if the North Koreans decided to attack.

Meanwhile in Iraq, here's what Salam Pax is saying:

I am starting to believe that the chaos we will go thru the next 5 or 10 years is part of the price we will *have* to pay to have our freedom. This Beirut-ification is the way to learn how we should live as a free country and respect each other; it is just too painful to admit. It is too painful to have to admit that the [burn it down to build it up] process is what we will have to go thru.
His take is the US forces will be out of Iraq in a year, though he hopes the UN is still around to assist after that. Hopefully the new government there will be able to deal with the Islamic terrorist threats it faces internally externally and internally.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Synthetic diamonds. I heard Joshua Davis talk about this article on NPR today. Two companies have different methods to create diamonds without mining - that could shake thing up, not just in jewelry, but in tech.

Vote for the worst album of all time (now there's a title anyone would cherish) over at a small victory! Looking over the list so far, I managed to avoid hearing many of the horrorshows.

Check out the great blogs over at the current Carnival of the Vanities!

Reduced infrastructure spending in Canada - I wonder if the same thing is happening in this country.

Back in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when governments were building major highways, nuclear power plants and massive hydroelectric projects, spending on non-residential construction by governments at all levels amounted to about 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product.

In the past five years, it's been about half that.
The blackout looks a bit less unpredicatable in that light.

Maybe they will let the banned Romanian grandmother back in the US. After what I saw in the news yesterday, I think they may have caught some heat over this ridiculous decision. Of course they have not told the family here in the US about the decision yet:
"No one has contacted us to tell us that," said Lee, of Shaker Heights. "It would be great, but until I see a piece of paper spelling it out, I am not celebrating."

The family's attorney, Robert Brown, was equally surprised. He said he had spoken to immigration officials yesterday and was optimistic, but no one alerted him of a decision.
Doesn't seem like the best use of resources, banning grannies, does it? Makes one wonder if decisions at the department are based mostly on how snarky the people are that day.

The new Convention center will likely be a no-go - the mayor of Cleveland has stated she will not support a tax to build it:

Campbell blamed the public's opposition on the slumping economy and a series of recent tax increases, including a 1 percentage-point rise in the state sales tax, property-tax reappraisals and the countywide health and human services tax.
When we already have a convention center downtown, and another one by the airport in some financial trouble, I did not think this was a good idea to begin with. The pols may just be looking for a project that they can complete to try and show they are doing something about the woeful state of the local economy. Of course, the question is, what can improve the local economy?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

A SARS variant in BC? Hope not.

Immigration officials are banning a Romanian grandmother from the US for ten years. Surely her crime must be horrible. Former Nazi prison guard? Ran over a crowd at a nightclub? Directed Gigli? Nope:

Immigration officials asked Missits why she wanted to stay in this country for another two months and she said to help her daughter with her son, Alexander, then 10 months old.

Immigration said Missits violated her visitor's visa by taking a babysitting job, possibly depriving an American of work. They denied
the request and told Missits not to reapply for 10 years.
Needless to say, someone probably gets their job performance graded on how many people they keep out.

According to this NPR report, Cleveland schools have moved from academic emergency to academic watch status. What I found saddening is the graduation rate, which was 62% for black students, and 88% for whites. Good schools are the key to attracting residents of course. In other news, Cleveland Scene noted in a story on the local "Growth Association":

[Since] September 2000, Greater Cleveland has lost more than 70,000 jobs -- the most precipitous decline since the Great Depression, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs & Families and the Council for Economic Opportunities.

The city fell to 49th place in median income among the 50 largest cities in America, and came in dead last in per capita income at $14,291.
Personally, I have found the near West side of Cleveland has a lot of good points, like the Bop Stop, and the West Side Market. Even though I live in a neighbouring suburb, not in Cleveland itself, obviously I'd like to see schools and jobs improve. I just am dubious that a convention center, a current pet project of the city government, will do much.

CalPundit has a moderate set of disagreements with critics of the BBC. A choice quote:

It is no doubt true that — especially in the case of war — the BBC does not automatically assume that everything the U.S. government tells them is ipso facto true.

Perhaps their attitude was not pro-war. However, I didn't think it was their job to be pro-war. I tend to disagree with the attitudes of some of their reporters, but I'm not apoplectic about it, you just have to seperate the facts from the verbiage.

By all means I encourage you to avoid stinking thinking. And writing this bad.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Safe for drinking but not for swimming? That's what they say about the water around here. And as for the now safe to drink stuff, our mayor Jane Campbell said:

Campbell said the water may continue to be discolored because of iron in the pipes, but the water is safe. The only risk is staining to laundry and plumbing fixtures, she said. Small air bubbles may cause the water to appear milky or cloudy

Lovely. It's no wonder my wife prefers bottled water. Unlike many others in the area, we didn't lose water pressure last week during the blackout. In a fit of peak, we did fill several plastic packing crates full of water though. Bearing in mind that once so filled they become completely unmovable. We're still working on our disaster planning.

The beaches around here are usually a bit dicey anyway. We went down for a sandcastle contest one time and we thought we had never seen filthier sand. The beach near our house is always crowded though. This despite the paper publishing the unhealthy level of bacteria. I'm not just saying that because I burn easily, either.

Ok here are some actual tips for blackouts.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

I've been reading a lot of tips for what to do in a blackout and thought I'd supply a set of mine own, free of charge.

  1. Stay at home unless you provide an essential service. Unless you do it badly

  2. Remember people in prior centuries didn't have modern conveniences like air conditioners. Sit in a pool of sweat feeling smug about your clever observations.

  3. Become Amish

  4. Get an eyepatch and a glider, and attempt to glide to the highest building in your city. Assess the situation.

  5. If trapped in an elevator do not try to escape, as you may fall. Instead, engage in a length y discussion with your fellow trap-ees on Russell's Paradox. One of them might just try to escape and bring help.

  6. Do a charcoal sketch of the nightline. If you may a mistake, just fill it in as more of the darkness.

  7. Construct a temporary power generator using a cat strapped to a piece of toast buttered on one side. Since cats always land on their feet, and toast always lands butters side down, it should hover in mid air, spinning.

  8. According to my friend Keith. in Alabama they do not worry about looters in situations like this, as they have a preponderance of firearms and people know it. In the event of a blackout, move to Alabama.

  9. If you set yourself on fire, you both provide needed light to the street down which you run screaming, and burn extra calories

  10. Grab a baton and "conduct" the crickets

Continuing problems in Afghanistan. Not sure of what level of trouble this signifies. Without popular support, the attackers will always be the equivalent of bandits hiding in festering caves. But since I have a cousin on the Canadian military serving time there, it's still disquieting.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Thinking again about light pollution, here's what it looks like with the lights on, and here it is with the lights off. Of course if we just had more consideration to not wasting light by throwing it up into the sky in the first place, then my telescope might be more useful more often...

Friday, August 15, 2003

Blackout versus Light Pollution - a fair and balanced look at the night

On Thursday when the blackout occurred, it occurred to me that my gas gauge was on empty, I was on the other side of Cleveland from my wife, cat, and house, and at that point was not sure it wasn't terrorism yet. We tried to get some radio stations, but several were oddly - and not calmingly - silent. I began to try and wonder if it was just a power grid problem, and how far the nearest Nuclear plant was from the city - not all that far, actually.

Later when I saw the photos of people walking across the NYC bridges I thought I might count my lucky stars that I managed to cruise home on fumes. There may be a few different causes leading to the blackout and as usual something that was ignored and neglected may be to blame.

We invited two good friends over and barbequed the meat they had bought (and feared might not last without refrigeration) by flashlight and candlelight. And finally we looked up to the vast carpet of stars now visible without all of the light pollution. They were always there of course, but our synthetic haze of light hides them from our eyes.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Maybe Ken-who-was-almost-killed-by-a-grenade could have used these Military Hand Signals

In this information soaked age, I keep forgetting I want to see Spellbound, the documentary on spelling bees, but now I remember, thanks to Glenn "puppy drinking" Reynolds for shaking it loose in my mind.

We never had any spelling bees that I can recall in Nova Scotia, maybe we were too busy dodging cabbage fragmentation grenades. I was involved in endless music festivals, singing til my voice broke, playing piano (adequately, as per Tom Lehrer), and eventually the trombone. At one particular piano competition, there was a fair amount of tension waiting to play and be judged, and the girl sitting next to me was nervous as Khadaffi hearing the US is making another deck of cards. I told her jokes, implied the audience were all musical neophytes and not worthy of being feared. She finally relaxed just before she went on....and won, beating me like a rug in the scores. Needless to say, I try not to comfort people anymore.

The Administration, trying to slash the pay of the US armed forces risking their lives for freedom in Iraq? Why, that's crazy talk.

It brings to mind an old friend, Ken, who served in the Canadian armed forces. He was training a recruit in the throwing of grenades. He had her practice with many dummy nades, and she threw them like a champ. Finally it was time to throw a live grenade. This time, inexplicably, she threw it lamely and it landed right at their feet. His job then became to get her to safety by physically lifting (though I imagine throwing may have been involved) her behind some sandbags. Then, and only then, could get to cover. I wonder what he would have thought if, at the moment he was moving her to safety, she started to nab a few bills from his wallet.

Over at Media Bistro, an interview with Diane Ravitch, who has a new book out, "The Language Police". She makes a point lost on some on censorship:

...when the publishers self-censor they're responding to the demands of states, to be sure, which is what makes it censorship. But they should be complaining loudly about it, they shouldn't just go along and acquiesce quietly, which is what they do.

The kind of censorship to fear is the censorship of those that actually give us information...

Brad DeLong has some great mathematical thoughts on pale people getting paler.

1 year, 11 months: thoughts and some questions. Michele at a small victory has some thoughts you should, needless to say, be reading. A sample:

Despite all the increased security, all the color-coded warnings and preparations, we have forgotten the most important thing. We have lost that feeling of urgency, of shared grief, of the solid core of hope we became on that day. We lost our grip on that and now we are like enemies of ourselves, slipping into a wary world where everyone eyes each other as some kind of rival or competitor.

It's so wet the lettuce is exploding

OK, this is a great headline for a problem with too much wet weather back in my old stomping grounds. A tour boat operator in Halifax notes:

"People don't want to go sailing in the rain, and fog and drizzle make the visibility for whale watching difficult," he said. "With the fog we want to make sure it's safe enough to go out, and also that people will be able to see Halifax when they're out on the harbour."

I'm hoping when I take my wife for her first trip there in September that fewer vegetables will be exploding.

There is apparently Dead zone in Lake Erie - not good. We can probably thank pollution, runoff and an invading species - zebra mussels, who are causing no end of problems in the Great Lakes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Finally a reasonable candidate for Gov. of California!

As a commuter it's nice that the Ohio Department of Transportation has set up some web cams.

Also their offline map collection is neat. It also lets you see what Ohio was like with a lot fewer roads. I guess I just like old maps.

Priorities straight? Not so much

Remember the missing Texas legislators? Amy Sullivan makes note of a new report, and states in part:

Let's review: Homeland security activities are already taking understaffed law enforcement away from their primary duty of keeping the streets safe from non-terrorist criminals. Now they're being pulled away from anti-terrorism assignments in order to help expand Tom DeLay's political empire.

Recommended reading, needless to say.

Watching a clock? Why not watch the relatively entertaining Block Clock!

Needless to say

Gigli is bombing like it has GPS guidance. As per the Post:

This just in: According to data published at, "Gigli" continued to run in 2,215 theaters this past weekend but pulled in a three-day total of only $678,640, which appears to translate to something on the order of three people in the theater per screening...

They should have listened to the focus groups...

Here's an interesting article on a speed trap funded police department in Florida.

If you can hum a tune, but don't know what it is, you can find it now.

No one was paid to fudge facts about Iraq having a nuclear arms program, right? That's crazy talk. Josh Marshall, as usual, has some interesting thoughts and links to more developing goods.

I'm not sure if it's the disembodied head, or the look on this fellow's face that I find more worrying...

Something that I wish was included on reports about Israel's security fence:

A security fence already exists around the Gaza Strip and, to date, not one suicide bomber from that area has infiltrated Israel, while approximately 250 came from the West Bank in the last 33 months.

Basic security under horrifying circumstances like being bombed should not be an item for negotiation...

Since I'm flying back to Canada in September, this does not make me feel much better. I actually haven't been on a plane since before 9/11, partly because I was waiting on BCIS (see below). Here's a quote from the aforementioned article:

How flawed is the CTX? It stops 18 to 35 percent of all bags, depending on who's giving the numbers. False positives waste a lot of money; the machines cost millions, and more hand-searches mean more wage-earning workers, raising the total cost of airport security to $5 to $7 per passenger. More important, false positives undermine the efficacy of hand searches. A few alarms a day and screeners investigate every one thoroughly. A few dozen and they become inured to the routine.

Wasn't becoming inured to a boring routine the problem?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003


As my friend Keith would say, save the critters. Technically my wife told me about this site, though I have my doubts she would say 'critters'.

Trombones, beloved of...some

Trombones have some fans out there - always good to know. Of course standing by the side of the road with a trombone is partly why I took a music education and transmogrified it into a career in computers instead.

Government Processing delays, and how to shop your cares away

According to this, processing time for approval of the I-485 (adjustment of status) is hovering at 240 days. The new boss still has some work to do. Since mine was done about 285 days ago, I should try and take my mind off such enraging - make that frustrating topics.

Perhaps I shall consider the one item my wife doesn't consider too hobbitish for a present...

After reading what absurdist questions the government asks of us immigrants, am I tired of pointless bureaucracy? Still, it could be worse, so we should all get together and do something big to celebrate!

But as my wife is back from a well earned vacation, I am off to dinner! The longest journey, single step, etc.