Saturday, September 25, 2004

don't believe everything you read on AP

Michelle Malkin is joining the leftist fringe in denouncing a mailing from the Republican National Committee. Like the rest, she seems to be denouncing it sight-unseen based on a very ambiguous report on the AP. If so, she ought to know better.

The AP isn't above stretching the truth or leaving people with the wrong impression if they think it will help Democrats. And I strongly suspect that's what happened here. Consider the opening
Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."
Notice that they aren't quoting the letter, they are telling us what it said in their own words. Why is that, do you suppose? And why follow that non-quote with a description of the pictures? After all, the pictures say a lot less than the letter did. If it actually said that.

Or could it be that the letter doesn't say those things at all? Could it be that the article describes the pictures because they just gave us their "interpretation" of what the pictures said? It almost seems implicit in the ordering of the paragraphs that this is what the AP did; they helpfully "interpreted" the images and then described them, leaving the impression that they were relating the text of the message.

If so, then the article is misleading. The pictures only imply that those two things are on the liberal agenda, not that either of them is going to happen in the next four years. And in fact, it is unarguable that gay marriage is on the liberal agenda.

As to Bible banning, I think that picture is reasonable given that the liberals have already managed to ban the Bible from many areas of civic life, that liberal teachers have harassed children for just bringing their own Bible to school, that liberals just recently banned the Ten Commandments from courthouse premises, that there clearly are some liberals who have an ongoing agenda to remove all mention of anything related to Christianity from public view, and that the liberals that don't have this as an agenda mostly keep silent about it.

So please, Michelle, wait until you see the letter before you condemn it.

Atrios now has a scan of the letter on his site. My conjectures seem to have been entirely correct. The actual text accuses liberals of wanting to force their agenda on Arkansas (true) and it says they have the following agenda: removing "God" from the pledge, allowing teens to get an abortion without parental consent, defending partial-birth abortion, allowing gay marriage. All true. The picture of the banned Bible was symbolic of the first item. I don't see how any reasonable person could object to this.

Harvey at Bad Example demonstrates his intelligence and good sense by agreeing with me.


I had to pass on this beautiful line from Susanna at cut on the bias
So we said we were very happy that she and her husband are now in the US. We wished her well in getting citizenship, and truthfully told her the food her husband made for us was excellent. Suddenly the room about us didn't seem so worn, the Chinese lanterns in the 1970s era room so incongrous. We realized that we were sitting right in the middle of her American dream.

a vocabulary lesson

Powerline has a post criticizing Jennifer Loven for a piece in the AP. Sometimes I think we conservatives are too quick to criticize and too slow to help someone who needs advice. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by, er, a weak vocabulary. In that spirit, I wrote the following letter to Ms. Loven:

Dear Ms. Loven,

I recently saw your AP article originally entitled "Bush Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq" and now entitled "Bush, Kerry Twisting Each Other's Words". You write very well. Your article shows careful research and a close attention to details. Let me congratulate you for a job mostly well-done.

However --and I hate to have to use that word, but I really must-- the tone of your article was rather unfortunately distorted by an unhappy use of terminology. For example, you write that Bush made
charges that twisted his rival's words on Iraq and made Kerry seem supportive of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein
In support of this you write:
[Bush] stated flatly that Kerry had said earlier in the week "he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today."

But Kerry never said that. ... [he said] "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."
You see, Bush was not quoting Kerry, so the observation that "Kerry never said that" is not to the point. Bush was, rather, pointing out the consequences of what Kerry said. Yes, yes, we know that Kerry called Saddam a bad man. Bush wasn't claiming that Kerry held any affection for Saddam. Bush was merely pointing out that Kerry thinks the US was better off with Saddam in power. In that sense, Kerry "would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam".

This is an important vocabulary distinction that you should try to internalize. "to twist someone's words" means to allege that the person said or implied something that they did not. What Bush did in this case is more properly characterized with the usage: "to point out the consequences of someone's words".

I can see how you might confuse these two acts. In both cases, one adds to the actual words spoken. But in the first case, one does so falsely and in the second case, one does so truly. It is important to distinguish these two different processes.

In the next segment, you write:
Bush attacked Kerry for calling "our alliance 'the alliance of the coerced and the bribed.'"

"You can't build alliances if you criticize the efforts of those who are working side by side with you," the president said in Janesville, Wis.

Kerry did use the phrase to describe the U.S.-led coalition of nations in Iraq...

But Bush mischaracterized Kerry's criticism, which has not been aimed at the countries that have contributed a relatively small number of troops and resources, but at the administration for not gaining more participation from other nations.
Once again, I must correct your vocabulary. What Bush did in this case is not to "mischaracterize" anything, but, again, to "point out the consequences" of Kerry's rash words. You see, when you insult person A as part of an attack on person B, it is quite common for person A to take offense at the insult even if they recognize that they were not the primary target.

For example, suppose one man says to another, "The only reason she married you is because you're rich and she's a whore." In this case the wife in question is highly likely to take personal offense at the description even if the remark was primarily intended to disparage her husband's skills at romance. The fact is that her virtue was, in fact, called into question.

George Bush is merely pointing out that John Kerry has called England, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland and many other allies of the US virtual whores, and that these other nations are likely to take exception to the description even if the remarks were primarily intended to disparage George Bush's skills at alliance building.

So here's hoping you do better in the future. Keep a dictionary at hand and perhaps ask your editor to be bit more thorough. After all, your editor also bears some of the responsibility for proper word usage in the article.

Doc Rampage

jurisdiction stripping

I originally wrote this as an email to Eugene Volokh, but then I decided to change the wording and post it also:

Eugene Volokh has column on arguing that the act of stripping jurisdiction over the pledge from federal courts might have the opposite effect of that intended. He makes passing reference to people who were trying to "make a political statement". But he did not address my own view --the one I believe is behind this movement.

Frankly, I don't care if those two words are removed from the pledge. In fact I'm sympathetic to the arguments of the people who want it removed. But in my view, the purpose of this law is not really to protect the pledge, or even to just make a political statement; it is to begin the process of taking the federal courts out of the political arena.

The courts have become a political entity, largely serving the interests of the political left. Yet it is risky to try to limit their powers because Americans, for very good reasons, want an independent court protecting their rights against the government. Americans, myself included, are very worried about the process going too far and leaving the courts toothless against an overbearing federal government. That's why the first step has to be very popular, and very innocuous.

It's really quite a dangerous step to take. We don't want to do it. But many of use feel that the courts have left us no choice. If they had upheld their oaths of office, none of this would be necessary.

Friday, September 24, 2004

the Prince de Neufchatel

Robert Franklin has corrected me on this post from last March. He informs me that the ship in the photo is the HMS Grasshopper rather than the Prince de Neufchatel. I'll have to take his word for it, since I don't see any difference. I'd like to know why an HMS ship is flying the American flag though...

Robert has built the scale model of the Prince and has a cool web site about it. Go check it out. It has some interesting history on the privateers in the War of 1812.

I'm having doubts about Robert's identification. Not because of any expertise on my part, but because of the flag and because the file name of the photo is "prince.html". I got the photo from the Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd web site and I don't think I would have changed the name. Here's the photo:

good news on the Bush TANG story

I was worried that after several members of the left main stream media were disgraced for going with those fake memos, the Dems would be properly ashamed and would let the subject die quietly.

How silly is it to expect propriety from the Dems? I feel like an idiot. And I'm greatly encouraged to see a random commenter on another blog promoting this article. The article carries on the crusade campaign to convict Bush on some trivial technicalities for being an irresponsible young man. Even the media is coming back full-bore into the fight against shadows.

Whew! We dodged a bullet on that one! If it were possible to shame the left into behaving like responsible adults, this would surely have done it. But of course, the left is shameless, and they will continue to launch dumb attacks on things no one cares about, leaving the Republicans as effectively the only party running campaign ads. The Dems are going to get slaughtered. And not just in the presidency either, this election is going to be just as much of a Democrat shocker as the 2002 elections were.

I'm reminded again: you can always count on the Democrats to act like Democrats.

Tom Harrison shames me a bit in the comments because he reminds me that some Democrats are honorable people. In fact I believe the large majority of members of the Democratic party are honorable people. I tend to use the word "Democrat" to refer to the currently prominent Democrats: the political leaders, the big funders, the various rabble-rousers you see on sites like Atrios and the DU. It's a poor term for an ill-defined category. I should write more carefully.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

nobody listen to this

We need more flag-burning, not less. After all, if someone hates America so much that he wants to burn an American flag to prove it, isn't it better for us to know about that?

The only people who are helped by flag-burning laws are people who despise their country. By preventing them from burning flags, we help them keep under the radar. We make it easier for them to lie about their loyalties by not making them defend their allies that come out in the open.

On the other hand, I hope nobody listens to me on this because the flag-burning issue is the best shot we have right now for reigning in a judiciary that has gotten out of control. Forcing Democrats to come out of their anti-American closet and vote against the law will be good. And a precedent for controlling the Napoleonic judges will be good too.

The title to this post was prescient. Today Donald Crankshaw posted about the proposal to remove the Pledge of Allegiance issue from the jurisdiction of the courts and I'm thinking, "Hey, they're doing flag burning and the pledge both?" Then I went back to the article I linked to, and it's not about flag burning at all. What was I thinking? I have no idea.

Well I do have an idea: I read Ramesh Ponnoru's article on jurisdiction stripping and he discusses flag burning in there. I just got side tracked. Sorry for the confusion. Nobody pay any attention...

the governator and the redskins

Governator Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would force California schools to stop using "Redskins" as a team name. Political Correctness takes a well-deserved slap. From the Contra Costa Times:
In a message accompanying his veto, Schwarzenegger said local school districts should make their own choices and that the bill "takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest levels."

Donna White, superintendent of Chowchilla Union High School District in Madera County, said school officials were "extremely excited. It will allow the community and the school to keep something they hold in the highest esteem."

"We've got 80 years of support and tradition and it paid off," said Bill Ingram, band director at Tulare Union High School in Tulare County. "We have definitely sent the e-mails and faxes over the last few months."
I'm glad the school administration was fighting for the name and not just letting the state take the hot potato for them.

Jackie Goldberg, the legislator who introduced the measure is a real gem:
"Well, if local control was the issue in civil rights, we'd still have slavery in the South, wouldn't we?" she said. "In this case he chose to treat it as a non-civil rights issue, which disappoints me. He knows better than that."

"It's a matter of record that the word is listed in most dictionaries as a derogatory reference to Native Americans," Goldberg said.
So this woman thinks team names are a matter of civil rights. As in, Jewish women have a civil right not to be disturbed by hearing references to other races, I guess.

I looked up the name in four on-line dictionaries. Two said it was offensive and two didn't. Considering the overwhelming PC-ness of the academic community and the publishing industry, this is a striking evidence that it isn't offensive.

One of the dictionaries that thought it was offensive also listed "Injun" as offensive. If you take this seriously, you will believe that the word "Indian", spelled to reflect a certain dialect, is offensive. I guess some people (probably those racist cowboys) can't discuss Indians at all without being offensive.

Ms. Goldberg is also a paragon of honor:
Although she told colleagues last month it was her "last time" bringing up the issue, Goldberg said Tuesday that was based on the assumption Schwarzenegger would sign it.

Now, to paraphrase an old Schwarzenegger movie line, Goldberg said she'll be back.
Well, I told the bank I would repay that car loan, but that was on the assumption that I would win the lottery. Now I won't be back to repay the loan. Sucks to be them.

take down

From Professor Bainbridge
In a post claiming that the blogosphere's reaction to the Rathergate business was in fact a revolution, in that the blogosphere was providing real accountability for the traditional media, I noted that the columnist in question had misrepresented a Michelle Malkin column. This prompted an email from law prof and blawgger Eric Muller, which I'm quoting with premisison, who correctly pointed out an irony I had missed:
Apropos your post about blogging being a revolution: There is great irony in Michelle Malkin's crowing about the blogosphere's ability to take down an old media fraud. That's exactly what has happened to her in the last six weeks, concerning her absurd book "In Defense of Internment," primarily on my blog. [See, for example, this post and that one.] Somebody ought to point this out to her. I'd do it, but she just ignores my criticisms these days. Sort of like CBS.
I think Eric's exactly right about all this. There is an amusing yet disturbing irony in the juxtaposition of the two cases.

Other bloggers like Joe Carter at theEvangelical Outpost agree with this odd sentiment.

Of course the two cases are in no way parallel and comparing them is absurd. Dan Rather purports to be an objective journalist. 60 Minutes purports to be an objective news show. They used evidence that turned out to be fake. The fake evidence was fairly obviously fake. They made a gesture at validating the evidence and then went with it anyway when their experts told them it might be fake. They got their evidence from an unreliable and partisan source.

None of those features apply to Malkin. Malkin doesn't claim to be objective. She does claim to be making an objective case in the book, but she doesn't hide her overall agenda. The book was manifestly written in support of an agenda. None of her evidence is fake. The supposed "take down" of her book is nothing more than a rehashing of the other side of an old argument. Yes, yes. Academic historians are agreed that her interpretation is wrong. I'm duly impressed. This does not a take down make.

I've "taken down" Atrios several times on my blog, showing unequivocally that the man is a liar. Shouldn't I get my moment of fame too? But there is a difference isn't there? I haven't caught Atrios using fake documents. And Atrios has never claimed to be unbiased.

What happened to Dan Rather is a "take down". What happened to Michelle Malkin is a "disagreement". I should think the two wouldn't be that hard to distinguish.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


I'm going to miss Donald Sensing, but I don't begrudge him some time off. Here's hoping he decideds to resume blogging, but if not, I wish him good luck.

sleep deprivation

I used to have trouble sleeping. We're not talking minor trouble, we're talking at least an hour each night, tossing and turning. And often I couldn't sleep at all. I'd lay in bed, bored, for two or three hours, get up and putter around for an hour, try again for a couple of hours, then get up and go to work. This especially happened when I had an important meeting or a plane trip or something else I had to get up for.

People used to tell me to cut out the caffeine, but I pretty much ignored them. I only had about two cups of coffee a day (or equivalent in sodas). And I never took caffeine past about 5pm or so.

Then about a year ago I had to cut my caffeine in half because of acid reflux and only drink it in the morning. My sleeping problem have almost completely disappeared.

So, if you have trouble sleeping, try cutting back on caffeine, even if you don't drink a lot now.

Christian Carnival XXXVI

According to the mailing list, Christian Carnival XXXVI is up. More as soon as I find the URL...
Thanks to La Shawn Barber, I found it.

things you have to believe to be a Democrat

And old post from Haight Speech:

1. People who use drugs deserve compassion and understanding -- unless their drug of choice is tobacco.

2. Children can be exposed to years of violent and sexually-explicit imagery in popular culture with no ill effects, but an adult who is exposed to a racially insensitive remark is emotionally scarred for life.

3. Banning abortions will only drive them underground, but banning guns will make them disappear.

4. Teaching children about safe sex in school will make them sexually responsible, but teaching children about safe gun handling in school would make them violent killers.

5. The Enron accounting scandal is an indictment of free markets as such, but UNSCAM is no big deal.

6. An unemployment rate of 5.6% during the Clinton administration was unusually low, but an unemployment rate of 5.6% during the Bush administration is unusually high.

7. Successful government programs should be praised and publicized -- unless the program is welfare reform.

8. A work of art portraying Jesus submersed in urine is daring and avant garde, but a work of art portraying Mohammad submersed in urine would be bigoted and hateful.

9. George Bush invaded Iraq for the oil, but the many profiteers from the oil-for-food program opposed the war out of principle.

10. Janet Jackson's breast is protected by the First Amendment, but political advocacy ads are not.

11. Scientists and engineers can't build a safe nuclear reactor, but global warming activists can accurately predict the weather.

12. Education should be value-neutral, except for values like multiculturalism and environmentalism.

13. We need to move beyond 9/11, so we can get back to obsessing over Vietnam.

14. The Second Amendment does not protect the right to keep and bear arms, but the Fourteenth Amendment mandates race preferences.

15. Fetuses do not have rights, but animals do.

16. Parents should have a choice over whether their children are born, but not what school they attend.

17. American corporations outsourcing jobs to poor foreign workers is bad; taxing American corporations and sending money to foreign dictators who promise to give it to poor foreigners, but actually squirrel it away in Swiss bank accounts, is good.


OK, things like this are why I really, really, really, wish I could vote against Bush this year. A woman not only misses her flight, she is handcuffed and driven to the police station because she has something in her purse that is faintly reminiscent of a weapon that would be useless in trying to take over a plane even if it were real. "OK, everyone stand back or I'm going to swing this little lead weight around and smack you smartly on the forearm. I warn you! It will bruise like all heck!"

I don't know how much money she had to spend on a lawyer and other things, but whatever it was, it was too much.

What incompetent boob lets airline security get this out of whack?

Link from Pharyngula, whose comments are more entertaining than mine.

shooting fish in a barrel

This article is so full of lies and misleading statements that it requires a nearly sentence-by-sentence fisking. You can probably guess that the link is from Atrios.
Is there anything more idiotic for the GOP to do than to question John Kerry's war record? Last week, they demanded that he release his full war record, which he did, revealing a man of courage and bravery.
Uh. No, he didn't. He said that he did, but as far as I know he has yet to sign a waiver of privacy rights that would let anyone verify that he has done so. And what's the difference between courage and bravery?
Now, they are bringing up his anti-war positions after he came back, probably not the wisest course of action considering that a) 30 years after the fact, Vietnam is a not a popular cause, even in Red America,
Actually, it is. And even if it weren't, Kerry's slander of his fellow troops would still not be popular.
and b) the similarities between Vietnam in 1971 and the Middle East, 2004 become more and more acute.
Uh, no, it hasn't.
Even the dispute concerning whether or not he ever claimed to have discarded his combat medals in 1971 (the interview in question is unclear as to whether he was referring to his medals or the medals of other soldiers)
No, it's not unclear. I've listened to the relevant part of the interview.
only reminds the public that he won medals in the first place, at a time when most of his adversaries had "other priorities".
along with most of his supporters.
Kerry should do whatever he can to ensure that this story stays on the front page for as long as he can, even if it means dissembling, stonewalling, prevaricating, or just plain flip-flopping; the comparison between the brave patrician warrior and the president for whom truth is a flexible concept can only benefit the challenger.
That's the spirit!
UPDATE: The ABC news producer who broke the story, Chris Vlasto, is well-known for his far-right connections.
Yet in all the following, you couldn't come up with any? And even if he did (just because you're incompetent at proving it doesn't mean it ain't so, I guess), so what?
In 1994, he acted as an emissary from Ken Starr to lobby both James and Susan McDougal to cooperate with his inquisition.
Well, according to the link,, he advised McDougal, who was apparently a personal friend, to cooperate with Starr. I guess that's sort of like being an emissary. If you believe every rumor the Democrats post on a web site, anyway.
In 1995, he produced a report on ABC that accused Hillary Clinton of perjury, based largely on a doctored video clip of the First Lady.
This one is rich. ABC is being unfair to Hillary because they cut out the part of the quote where she specifically admits billing for work she didn't do and only left in the part where she says " It was not an area that I practiced in."
In 1998, he threw a celebratory party for Paula Jones and her attorneys after Bill Clinton was forced to testify before the Lewinsky Grand Jury.
Well, if you go to the link you will see that it actually says he "picked up the tab". We don't know why. And we don't know how anyone has confirmed this, just that it's a rumor passed on by an anti-Republican partisan. And it's not, like, you know dishonest to pick up a tab or anything. Even for a group of people that were mean to Bill Clinton.
In October, 2001, he produced a report that claimed a connection between Saddam and the anthrax attacks on Senator Daschle, et al., as well as being one of the first journalists to detail a link between Muhammed Atta and the government of Iraq; both allegations were subsequently discredited.
Never heard of the anthrax thing, but he can hardly be faulted for reporting on an investigation. The on-line article is careful to point out conflicting evidence. Second, the link with Muhammed Atta has not been discredited.
More recently, Vlasto ran a misleading report suggesting that Howard Dean had covered-up incidents of alleged domestic abuse by one of the state troopers protecting him; it was repudiated as "slime" and denounced by those denizens of the far left, Andrew Sullivan and John Ellis.
No, he didn't suggest any such thing. He reported that Howard Dean filed an affidavit on behalf of an alleged wife-beater. As far as I know, the story was accurate. And it was no more slime than reports of, say Republican candidate going to sex clubs. I wonder how worked up Steve Smith got about that?
And now comes word that the tape itself was made by the Nixon Administration, which viewed Kerry as an "enemy". Despicable.
And the relevance of this is? Oh, that's right, anything Nixon did was despicable. No need to dig more deeply on that one.

One of the most striking things you will see, scanning through leftwing web sites is the lack of even the faintest gesture toward evenhandedness or objectivity. It never even breaks the surface of their little ocean of bile.

Contrast the conservative AIM, for example with the leftist FAIR. FAIR has unflattering pictures of conservatives, nasty articles on conservatives, and articles whining about how they think their side could have been portrayed more flatteringly in news articles or how the reporters could have made the leftist case better. By contrast, AIM has well-researched articles actually comparing the coverage of the left vs. the right. They give numbers on how many stories the media did on two similar events, one of which favors Democrats and one of which favors Republicans. They at least make an effort to give objective evidence. FAIR makes no effort whatsoever.

I would like to believe that most on the left are just well-meaning people who are wrong about matters of fact. But the more I read leftist blogs, the more convinced I become that many of these people are just plain vile, hate-filled partisans with no interest in fair play or the democratic process. It's win at all costs, by whatever means necessary. And the bloggers that fit this profile are frightingly popular.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

the secret to long life

Wow. SpaceMonkey is promising the Secret of Long Life to the world if he can only get like half a million hits in the next two days. This is a real deal folks. I mean we all invest just a couple of minutes clicking on his page and in return we get the Secret of Long Life. Help me make this happen!

storyblogging too

Back of the Envelope is accepting submissions for the next Storyblogging Carnival. Be sure and get your entry in early because Donald has to read all of them and mine is probably going to get there late...


Donald Crankshaw writes in a review on Peter and the Starcatchers:
When magic makes no sense, then every magical solution is deus ex machina, and you never know when a situation is truly dangerous, since it's never clear what poses a challenge to magic.
In a sense this is true in science fiction as well as fantasy, and it is what distinguishes true speculative fiction from modern fairy tales, whether they take place in a fantasy universe or a technological universe.

Star Trek was a major offender for inventing new technology either as a plot device or as an unexpected escape mechanism. That's one of the reasons I sometimes say that Star Trek wasn't real science fiction.

Real speculative fiction has consistent and reliable rules for the universe, rules that the reader can rely on. Sometimes you keep learning those rules throughout the story, but they always grow logically. They don't just pop up to rescue an impossible situation.


La Shawn Barber schools us all in the technique of courteous gloating.

party on (but very conservatively)

Well, the NRO party was a qualified success from my point of view. I got to meet Ramesh and Deroy. Both of them are extremely well spoken and charismatic. You wonder why they are journalists instead of politicians. When I told Ramesh I was Doc Rampage, he told me he has seen my blog. I was absurdly pleased with myself over that.

As I was talking to Deroy, I suddenly remembered I had a camera in a pocket so he let me take a picture of him:

Then I decided that this would be a good way to meet people: go around and ask to take their picture for my blog. I did one photo and then I saw this cute girl sitting by herself at the bar and that kind of blew off the next hour and half. She wasn't even with the NRO crowd as it turned out. She was visiting her boyfriend, the bartender.

So why did I waste an hour and a half talking to a girl right in front of her boyfriend? It's complicated. First, she was really cute. Second, early on in the conversation she made a comment about how other people had talked to her and when they found out she wasn't with the NRO crowd they left. It was clear that she wanted someone to talk to (her boyfriend was too busy. Conservatives drink a lot). So, being the heroic character I am, I felt obligated to keep the cute girl company. And third, I was hungry and it gave me a base station for ordering a meal. The bar was the only place left to sit.

Later, I caught Ramesh again for a picture with the two of us. Ramesh photographs well so here is his half of the photo:

I don't photograph well. It's odd too, because I'm so damn good-looking in the mirror.

I also met a guy in a business that would make a good (OK, spectacular) customer for my company and I tried to sell him our software. Well, I didn't try very hard, but he is currently using a competitor of ours, one that is lots slower and more expensive. I just thought someone ought to point that out to him.

Well, I missed my chance to meet the other NROnicks, which I kind of regret, but she was really cute.

Maybe next time.

Monday, September 20, 2004

this can't be good for Kerry

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
So when John McCain sternly warns the swift boat veterans of ''reopening the wounds of Vietnam,'' it's worth asking: Why is Vietnam a ''wound'' and why won't it heal? The answer: not because it was a military or strategic defeat but because it was a national trauma. And whose fault is that?

Well, you can't pin it all on one person, but, if you had to, Lt. John F. Kerry would stand a better shot at taking the solo trophy than almost anyone. The ''wounds'' McCain complains of aren't from losing Vietnam, but from the manner in which it was lost. Today Sen. Kerry says he's proud of his anti-war activism, but that's not what it was. Every war has pacifists and conscientious objectors and even disenchanted veterans, but there's simply no precedent for what John Kerry did: a man who put his combat credentials to the service of smearing his country's entire armed forces as rapists, decapitators and baby killers. That's the ''wound,'' Sen. McCain. That's why a crummy little war on the other side of the world still festers.
(link from Instapundit)

60 minutes confesses

I just got an email from the local CBS affiliate. They included an article in which CBS news admits that the memos came from Bill Burkett and that they are probably fake. It's about time. I can't find this article either on (my local) or, but I'm still looking.

Here is the reply I sent to CBS5:

Thank you for the reply to my email about the TANG memos.

I appreciate that CBS News is finally admitting that the memos are fake and that they are apologizing for their carelessness. But you know, carelessness was never the main issue. The main issues were (1) that CBS stonewalled and lied to avoid admitting that the memos are fake and (2) that CBS shopped around for an expert to verify the memos. That isn't merely careless, it's dishonest.

We now know that CBS received only copies of the memos, and from a known Bush hater who had no credible story for how he came into possession of the memos. Combined with the pathetic crudeness of the forgery, this shows not merely carelessness on the part of CBS, it shows a deep partisan contempt for procedure, when that procedure may aid the opposition.

It's also rather shocking that your press release doesn't discuss Burkett's history. The man loathes George Bush. He has told some extremely questionable stories about Bush in the past. He has compared Bush to Hitler and Napoleon. By leaving this out, CBS is essentially lying by omission again, trying to cover up just how reckless they were.

Dan Rather is quoted as saying "CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question-and their source-vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome." I don't recall such a vow. I recall Dan Rather specifically and directly denying that the issue was even being investigated. He was belligerent and accused his critics of being partisan attackers. Where is the apology for that?

CBS News and Dan Rather still have a lot of answering to do and I would like to know if your station is going to be part of the group that holds them accountable or part of the coverup.

Dave Gudeman

UPDATE: The Corner has the full text of the article but not Dan Rather's statement. I still don't see either one on the sites, so here is Dan Rather's statement:
Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents used in support of a 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question-and their source-vigorously. And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically. I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.

the good, the bad, and the smelly

As some of you know, I only moved to the San Francisco area about three years ago. Before that, I spent most of my life in Arizona and most of my adulthood in Tucson. There are a lot of things I like about the Bay Area and a lot of things I don't. Just to give you a flavor, here are some things that I've actually seen in San Francisco that you wouldn't expect to see in Tucson:
A marquee advertising a play with an actual famous star in it.
While dining in a nice restaurant and looking out the window: some guy across the street peeing against a trashcan.
While walking through a shopping center (I exaggerate not): every other woman is a hot babe.
A used condom lying in the middle of the sidewalk.
A guy being mugged.
People eating outdoors in the summer.
A naked man (except for a leather vest) having a friendly conversation with two cops in a police car (presumably about his apparel).
Really good bands playing on the sidewalk.
Streaks of urine across the sidewalk.
On one block: a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a Turkish restaurant, and an Italian restaurant.


One problem with the US patent system is that no matter how obvious your idea, once a patent is granted it becomes very difficult to overturn. Back in the days when only rich industrialists could hope to make any use of a patent this was a minor problem. Today, when jackasses are taking out software patents on obvious techniques, and the patents are being granted by idiots in the patent office who know nothing about software, it is a real problem. The difference is that these patents interfere with single amateur programmers. These guys can't afford to fight patent battles, no matter how dumb the patent is.

To help reduce this problem, someone once suggested that we should publish every programming idea we think of. You can't in general patent in idea that someone else has already published. The following is something I wrote back around 1994 with that idea in mind. I never published it back then so it didn't serve its purpose. Still, I think it has some interesting ideas.

Also, this isn't about software, but about a new kind of hardware device. Some of the ideas here have already been turned into products and marketed (not by me). That doesn't make me a genius who predicted the future: the point of this is that all the applications were fairly obvious. This only took me a couple of hours to write.

A kedat is a small device, about the size of a car key that fits on a key ring and is able to store information. It also contains a small processor with cryptographic features and is used to store security keys. With a processor inside, you do not have to give away your key to make a transaction.

Transactions are initiated by transaction devices: electronic devices that let you specify the nature and parameters of the transaction (amount to pay, etc.). A kedat is inserted into a transaction device for a transaction to take place. Transaction devices do not have to be full-scale computers or attached to full-scale computers.

A certified mint kedat is a kedat specially designed and built to allow trusted off-line transactions. The processor is certified to correctly delete amounts that have been transferred to another kedat. Certified mint kedats are designed to make forgery very hard. For example the casing may be bonded to the processor so that removal of the casing destroys the processor. Similarly, the casing might have a higher melting point than the processor to prevent removal of the casing by melting.

The kedat has several advantages over smartcards: it is more convenient to carry, it offers a better package for IC's, it has smaller, cheaper, more convenient readers, and it scales better. It is also more versatile.

Cards are not convenient to carry unless you already have a wallet. But the wallet should be made obsolete by advances in technology. Then you want a small device that can be clipped on a key ring or tossed in your pocket without worrying about bending it. Joggers can carry all their id and money in a single key-sized object. If the object is waterproof, swimmers can do the same.

The shape of kedats offers a relatively bulky package at one end that can be several times thicker than a smartcard. This provides better packaging opportunities for designers and allows more storage and more robustness.

The reader of a kedat is no more complicated than a serial connection (although a parallel connection might be better since it is simpler). In fact it might be a possible to simply use a USB connection directly, but that may not be mechanically rugged enough. Regardless of the sort of connection, the reader is only the size of a keyhole, not the size of a card. And no "swiping" is needed (with the frequent failures of that technique). Instead, you just insert. The size is important for certain applications. For example, you don't want something the size of a card reader on the steering column of your car to turn it on.

Kedats scale better for two reasons. The reading method is much faster, so more information can be read and written, and there is no fixed size. The only part of a kedat with a fixed size is the part that connects to the reader. You could have a kedat the size of a deck of cards with a little probe sticking out of one corner. Of course for some applications such as digital cameras you do want a fixed shape and size, so there should be a few different standard configurations for different uses.

More expensive kedats could also solve the untrusted reader problem. When you put your card through someone else's reader, you have to enter your password number into the reader's keypad. This is not secure because someone could wire a keypad to record your password. Although the same problem would exist with standard kedats, more expensive ones could have a tiny keypad like those found on calculator watches. You would enter your password on this keypad instead of on the keypad of the untrusted reader.

Alternatively, instead of just entering a fixed key, the kedat could present a queue, and the user could enter a function of the queue. This is probably too complicated for most users though.

The kedat interface would not have to be restricted to simple recording devices. The kedat with a calculator-watch keyboard could actually serve as a tiny calculator watch as well. In fact, it could actually be a watch. Or it could be larger, like a credit card sized electronic organizer. Such devices could act as kedats as well as transaction devices that let you plug in another kedat to engage in a transaction.


Use as a floppy disk in a large range of memory sizes with a large range of costs. As technology improves, higher-capacity kedats become available cheaper, and there is no need to change anything on the computer to handle the increased capacities. Useful for personal databases, sound recordings, digital cameras, someday possibly video cameras.

Use as a commercial way of selling recorded data such as software and music. When data density gets high enough, this may be a good media for personal music players to carry around with you.

Use as a login device. In order to log in, you just insert your kedat. In this application the kedat could also contain personal settings for the computer, so that you could log into any computer and have it act like your own computer would. Individual settings can be set up for different OS's on the same kedat. The kedat would also act as a personal encryption device as long as it was plugged in, so you would not have to leave sensitive encryption data on a hard drive.

Keys: a kedat would act as a universal key for home, office, car, etc. They can be electronically assigned by a transaction device and they can be revoked without the key being present. For example an employer could revoke an employee's access to the front door, office door, and company car all from a PC.

As car keys, they can send encrypted electronic signals to a starter buried in the engine compartment so cars are harder to hotwire.

Garage-door openers. Cars can have integrated garage-door openers that send an encrypted signal based on the kedat which is already in the ignition.

Used as a house key, the kedat could turn the burglar alarm off as well as open the door. It's not necessary to enter a code into a keypad.

Toll payment. A slightly more complicated transmitter could allow a car to electronically pay a toll as it drives through a toll booth without slowing down. The payment would be taken from the kedat in the ignition slot.

All security oriented applications can have an optional password, which can be easily changed by putting the kedat in any transaction device. You don't have to go to each place where you want the password changed.

Use at ATM's, phones, vending machines, cash registers etc. as cash. No need for separate phone cards. Also, a kedat can have different accounts on one card, say one for business and one for personal expenses. Accounts should be concealable by steganographic techniques.

Small electronic devices like mobile phones, calculators, daytimers, and handheld computers can have kedat readers and handle off-line transactions. These off-line transactions would probably need to be validated on-line at some later point.

Use a transaction device to transfer contact information. Use as an electronic business card.

Use for various governmental licenses, permits, ids. Instead of separate cards, a kedat would have license and permit information built in. It could have ID data like a picture, fingerprints, retina scans.

Use for tickets at events. That is, you go to a ticket seller (or find one on the internet) buy a couple of tickets, and they get downloaded into your kedat. You then present the kedat at the event.

Use as a customer-loyalty card.

Instead of newspaper coupons, download electronic coupons into a kedat, which gets presented at a store as a payment, a collection of coupons, and a customer loyalty card all at once. Payment is calculated and transacted instantly, with no human intervention.

Emergency medical information. Not just drug allergies and similar critical warnings, but also your personal physician, who to contact and other sorts of information.

Badges. Many organizations require people to wear badges on the premises to make unauthorized access more difficult. Ramcards could be used in place of or in addition to such badges with ramkey locks on all the doors, granting access on an individually controlled basis.

Interfaces: as memory sizes increase data transfer speeds must increase. Ideally even the first version could transfer 10MB in a second. However, many applications will have much smaller speed requirements, which could be met with much cheaper hardware. Ideally there would be both a fast and a slow interface.

Some current communication methods:
Telephone connection: too slow and mechanically too large. However, a very useful tool would be an adapter that goes between a phone and the phone line, allowing one to talk when no kedat is inserted, but then allowing someone with the right equipment at the other end to initiate a transaction when a kedat is inserted.
PCMCIA: mechanically too large and deep. But whatever interface is chosen should be small enough to make PCMCIA edge-of-card adapter.
USB: very convenient, already starting to appear on computers, but not fast enough.
Firewire: fast, but probably too expensive for many applications.
Ethernet: fast, but probably too expensive.

The main priority is to keep the kedat itself small and inexpensive. This suggests that the connection should consist of a simple parallel bus connecting directly to the memory just like it would inside a computer. The port would deliver a clock pulse, power, and address lines in addition to data lines. Adapters would be designed for PCMCIA and USB and possibly other communication devices like serial ports.

Kedats will have several types of memory, and a given kedat may have any combination of memory types. Types of memory include

Random Access Memory (RAM) - memory used by the internal processor that loses its data when power is removed (it may be more efficient and more secure to make this inaccessible to the reader).
Read-Only Memory (ROM) - memory that has its values set at the factory and cannot be changed.
Persistent RAM (PRAM) - RAM that does not lose data when the power is removed. This is the most versatile and most expensive type.
Programmable ROM (PROM) - Memory that can only be written to once, but it doesn't have to be done at the factory. PROM is useful for financial and other applications where non-erase provides a certain legal credibility.
Erasable PROM (EPROM) - Memory that can only be (erased and) written in large blocks (rather than in individual words like RAM and PRAM. EPROM can be used instead of PRAM. It is less expensive but also slower and less convenient.
Hidden memory - PRAM or EPROM that is only readable and writable by the processor.
Input registers - not necessarily memory, but memory addresses that are used to provide input to the processor. They can be written by the port but not read.

Kedats would need to have certain parameters placed in known memory locations. Important parameters include address ranges of different kinds of memory in the kedat, block size for erasable block of EPROM, type of file system being used (there may be several types for different applications), maximum clock speed of the memory and of the processor.

when good hydrogen atoms go bad

Jerry at Milblog is tracking down the elusive hydrino. We had some back and forth about this here, here, here, and here (read the comments too).

I really think it would be really cool if Loch Ness monsters and hydrino atoms were real, but I don't think either one is...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

on lying

I knew from personal conversations that some Democrats just assumed Clinton was lying when he said he wanted Welfare reform. They were shocked and appalled when he went through with it. I also know from personal conversations that some Democrats assume Kerry is lying about his opposition to gay marriage and keeping troops in Iraq. They just figure he has to say that to get elected.

I've always claimed that the Democratic party lives on lies. If they didn't lie about their positions on guns, American sovereignty, religion, and other issues, then
their real constituencies would be limited to a few small regions of the country. If they didn't lie about Republicans, calling them racists, saying they don't care about the poor, they want to starve children, they go to war to get money for their friends and other absurd things, then their natural constituencies would be the only people who would vote for them. They would be the minor party of leftist extremists that they ought to be, given the ideological makeup of the country.

But to keep those lies believable, they rely on the fact that even though they are a minority of the population, they make up a majority of the journalists, teachers, bureaucrats, and heads of opinion-influencing organizations. The situation is similar to what existed in Iraq last year: the socialist Baath organization made up a minority of Iraq, but they made up a majority of those with guns.

In the US, the people with guns obey the duly constituted civil authority, so you want to control the civil authority. But either way, the way for a minority group to keep power is to find the focus of power and control that. You can see where the Democrats think that power lies by what institutions they support. They struggle for increased power of the press and decreased power of the church. They struggle to increase funding for the bureaucracy and for secular "charitable" organizations while they decrease funding for the military.

In fact, those power points explain in large part why the Republican leadership (as opposed to actual conservatives) once wanted to reduce civilian government spending while building up the military: civilian government employees largely vote Democratic and use their budgets to further Democrat causes while military people tend to vote Republican.

The country is now seeing a shift in one part of the power equation. The old main stream media no longer has a monopoly on information. The Democratic party which has depended so much on that monopoly is suffering. And they don't really understand why, because most of them never really understood how their ability to interpret the world let them win elections in areas where they were an ideological minority.

UPDATE: Donald Crankshaw thinks I'm too hard on the Dems. I should qualify the comments above by saying that I'm talking about politicos, not the rank and file. Large parts of the rank and file are segments that I don't think would be Dems if not for the lies.