From Pine View Farm

February, 2006 archive

Desperate . . . 0

. . . now has a new meaning.


Aviation Videos 0

Update, 2013-10-07: Link updated thanks to the kindness of a visitor.


I recommend this one as a starting point. (This link is probably still broken–I’m looking for the updated one, if that video is still on the site.

(Note: Broadband recommended. These are large files.)


The Troops Speak Their Minds 0

Anonomously and without coaching: from the Zogby poll:

U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

    Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay “as long as they are needed”
    While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
    Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
    Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11 (I find this disturbing, as Saddam had no role in 9/11, as has been amply documented–Frank), most don’t blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks
    Majority of troops oppose use of harsh prisoner interrogation
    Plurality of troops pleased with their armor and equipment


And Bush Says “Thank You” to the Troops 0

Use ’em, turn your back on ’em.

‘Nuff said:

At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half _ if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

In fact, the proposed cuts are so draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better. More realistic numbers, however, would raise doubts as to whether Bush can keep his promise to wrestle the deficit under control by the time he leaves office.


Be Careful What You Put in Your Ears 1

Nothing smaller than an elbow:

Popular technology — not just the personal music player, iPod — could prove harmful to the hearing of the nation, and especially to that of the young, if it is not used properly, testing by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests.

With media attention focused on the ubiquitous iPod, ASHA investigated further, testing the decibel levels of a range of randomly chosen devices that produce sound which is plugged into the ear.

Altogether, ASHA looked at nine examples of popular technology, including the iPod, several additional MP3 players for both adults and younger children, a lap top, and a pocket PC.

Test results underscore the need for a concerted public education so that consumers can safely enjoy society’s most popular technology, ASHA experts say.

“All of the devices we tested can produce sound well above the maximum safety level of 85 decibels,” Pam Mason, ASHA’s director of Audiology Professional Practices, reports. Irreparable hearing loss could result, Mason notes, her concern bolstered by recent research as well as accounts that Boomer icons like rockers Pete Townshend of The Who and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac now have trouble hearing because of their long and constant exposure to excessively loud music.

This means you, Opie (anyone know where I left my Q-Tips?)


Mr. Buckley Declares against “Staying the Course” 0

The invasion of Iraq was based on lies. It doesn’t seem to be going well.

Death spreads in Iraq:

But at the morgue, where the floor was crusted with dried blood, the evidence of the damage already done was clear. Iraqis arrived throughout the day, seeking family members and neighbors among the contorted bodies.

“And they say there is no sectarian war?” demanded one man. “What do you call this?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush has no (second) thoughts:

In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, “Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy.” His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush’s shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.

While Iran thumbs its nose at the rest of the world:

Iran is defying international demands to halt uranium enrichment and to divulge all aspects of its nuclear program, including whether its military was involved in what may have been work on nuclear-warhead design, a U.N. nuclear agency report said yesterday.

Unless Iran cooperates, investigators with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency may never be able to determine whether Iran’s program is strictly for peaceful purposes, as Tehran contends, the report says.

And Mr. Buckley counsels changing the course:

A problem for American policymakers — for President Bush, ultimately — is to cope with the postulates and decide how to proceed.

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure. It can defend itself historically, standing by the inherent reasonableness of the postulates. After all, they govern our policies in Latin America, in Africa, and in much of Asia. The failure in Iraq does not force us to generalize that violence and antidemocratic movements always prevail. It does call on us to adjust to the question, What do we do when we see that the postulates do not prevail — in the absence of interventionist measures (we used these against Hirohito and Hitler) which we simply are not prepared to take? It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn’t work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism.

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

Anyone who can argue that the adventurism in Iraq has been–or could have been–anything other than a wrong-headed disaster lives in willful ignorance.

It is clear the world is tossing in the wake of Mr. Bush’s course, a course that was set in duplicity and steered with disregard of hazards and rules of navigation.

The ship needs a new captain and officer staff.

Lord grant that the ship does not founder before they are found.

Tip of the hat the Eric Alterman for the link.


Dubai Do Buy De Ports, Part 2 0

Emily Messner of the Washington Posts has an interesting post (he alliterated) on this subject here.

Her posts are worthwhile because they focus on bringing out the facts behind the opinions.


Sooooo, What Does He Have To Hide . . . . 0

Quite a lot, no doubt. Like those warning about Osama Bin Laden that he didn’t take seriously.

It was chiefly for this reason that Congress passed the Presidential Records Act in 1978. The law was intended to ensure that after a period of no more than 12 years, presidential records, other than those dealing with existing national security matters and a few other exempted categories, would be made available to the public forever. Thus the law serves as the final check on indiscretion in office and the final basis for presidential accountability.

The law’s presumption of public access held firm for more than two decades, but in 2001 President Bush used post-Sept. 11 security measures as a reason to issue an executive order that turns the law on its head. Bush’s decree allows former presidents and their heirs to bar the release of documents for almost any reason. It flies in the face of congressional intent and forces our nation’s leading historians to take legal action if they want to gain access to documents.


Determination 0

The download here is just too good to be true. The caller to the talk show just keeps talking right through a car crash.


More News about Sony’s Rootkit 0

You may remember Sony’s rootkit:

Now the Department of Homeland Security is involved:

US government officials took Sony BMG to task over its controversial use of rootkit-style copy protection at a security conference this week. If the technology proves harmful to consumers, tougher laws and regulations might be proposed, a senior Department of Homeland Security exec warned.

“Legislation or regulation may not be appropriate in all cases, but it may be warranted in some circumstances,” said Jonathan Frenkel, director of law enforcement policy with the DHS’s Border and Transportation Security Directorate, PC World reports.

Of course, DHS was also responsible for Katrina response, so this probably won’t amount to anything.


War on Spam 0

A sentence:

A Florida man was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison in a computer theft case involving more than 1 billion records that Acxiom Corp., a data-management company, collected in its work for large corporations.

Scott Levine, 46, of Boca Raton, Fla., was handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom after U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson sentenced him for the theft of 4,789 computer files.


Levine owned Snipermail Inc., a Florida company that distributed Internet ads to e-mail addresses. Prosecutors said Levine, working with others, stole Acxiom records that included names, telephone numbers, street addresses and e-mail addresses.

And an extradition request:

US investigators have requested the extradition of four Nigerians accused of running 419 scams in the Netherlands after the arrest of a gang in Amsterdam and the nearby town of Zaandam earlier this week.

It is the first time the US has asked for the extradition of individuals accused of running 419 scams, a clear sign that authorities want to put an end to these schemes. Convicted scammers can expect hefty jail terms.

And a conviction:

A Nigerian 419er was last Friday jailed for 376 years by a Lagos court for “stealing, forgery, impersonation and conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences” contrary to the Advance Fee Fraud Act, the Nigerian Daily Independent reports.

Harrison Odiawa, 38, aka Abu Belgori, managed to extract $1,939,710 from US national George Robert Blake on the promise of a percentage of a bogus $20.45m Ministry of Health contract. The classic advance fee scam saw a duped Blake transfer the “advance payments” after seeing forged documents – including a certificate of registration with the Corporate Affairs Ministry and the aforementioned forged Ministry contract – which convinced him he was indeed about to get rich. Blake raised the cash from his company, Quest Exploration and Development, and his own personal assets.

And advice on how to practice safe hex. (Yeah, I’ve posted this link before. Personally, I think some of the recommendations are a little extreme, but the overall drift of Art’s approach is excellent.)


My Little Gas Price Survey, 2/23/05 1

Down, slightly. At least I can fill up the tank in my little yellow truck for less than $40.00 now. The amount of decrease reflects the difference between today and January 24 and 25. If no decrease is shown, it means that station was not included in the last post.

Looking back over the past few months, it seems that the prices have floated back to the normal relationships in these parts, with New Jersey a few cents cheaper than Delaware (because of lower gas taxes–the only New Jersey taxes that are lower than surrounding states) and those stations that are commonly on the high side, still on the high side.

Gibbstown, NJ, Valero, $2.11, down $.16.

Paulsboro, NJ, Lukoil, $2.09, down $.16.

Paulsboro, NJ, Exxon (TA Truck Stop), $2.09, down $.16.

Paulsboro, NJ, BP, $2.11, down $.18.

Claymont, Del., Exxon, $2.19, down $.27 (for a while, they had a sign out that said, “Exxon posts record profits. Don’t blame us.”).

Claymont, Del., Sunoco, $2.19, down $.16.

Claymont, Del., Getty, $2.17, down $.16.

Claymont, Del., BP, $2.17, down $.18.

Claymont, Del., Gulf (Cumberland Farms), $2.15, down $.16.

Claymont, Del., Gulf, $2.19, down $.14..

Claymont, Del, Wawa, $2.15, down $.16.

Holly Oak, Del, Mobil, $2.15, down $.16.

Penny Hill, Del., Exxon, $2.17.

Penny Hill, Del., BP, $2.15.

Penny Hill, Del., Getty, $2.19.


Dubai Do Buy De Port 2

There’s certainly a lot of upset over the corporate passing of P&O:

There is much gnashing of teeth on both sides of the aisle that Dubai’s acquisition of P&O somehow increases the risk of a terrorist attack at one of the US ports.

I’m not sure I can see that. It is difficult for me to imagine how a change in corporate ownership half a world away will affect day-to-day security on the ground.

This afternoon, on my drive home, I heard this report on my second favorite radio station:

According to the leader of the Maritime Exchange for the Delaware River and Bay, the pending sale of several U.S. ports to the UAE is not about taking control. Dennis Rochford says Dubai Ports World, or any company, would have to operate under established port facility security plans. “The fact of the matter is, there not taking over ports of the United States, and they’re not going to run port security. They’re going to have to abide by established port security rules and regulations that are in place today, enforced by the Coast Guard.” Speaking on WILM’s Midday Report, Rochford says he was surprised by the attention the story has received, and the opposition the sale has generated. But he concedes it’s appropriate for lawmakers to question the deal in a post-9/11 environment.

Earlier today, I heard Senator Joe say that this was not an anti-Arab thing; that the reaction would have been similar had, say, a Venezuelan firm been in the picture:

Biden says the United Arab Emirates is not necessarily a U.S. ally, it doesn’t have forces fighting in Iraq, and it still recognizes the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan. Biden has some concerns with the administration’s approval of the UAE company “Dubai Ports World” take-over of operations at some of the nation’s ports, including part of Wilmington’s. “It’s not racist, it’s reality.” He also questions the administration’s ability to manage port security. “The 9/11 commission, a bi-partisan commission, as late as December 5th of this past year gave it a failing grade on port security.” Biden says the administration should “slow down” and come-up with an explanation as to why its plan is the best way to go.

In the report I heard this morning, Joe did make one comment really worthy of note: That Congress had probably dropped the ball in not realizing how much of our port operations were sub-contracted out to foreign companies.

In the meantime, others are perceiving an element of prejudice in the reaction:

DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers’ strident opposition to a Dubai company controlling major seaports reflects a Western phobia of Arabs which could scare off other Middle East investors, Arab analysts said.

Several congressmen have vowed to block the sale of British port operator P&O to Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates, a staunch U.S. Gulf ally, citing security concerns even though the deal was approved by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, back in the bubble (emphasis added):

(CBS/AP) President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction, which has triggered a major political backlash among both Republicans and Democrats.

(President Bush was unaware. Tagline for the current Federal Administration.)

On the left, Randi Rhodes has been all over this like a bad suit.

The right has its own bad-suit thing going:

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) said the proposed port takeover by Dubai Ports World posed potential national-security risks.

Frankly (that’s the only way I can think, by the way–frankly), I think there is an element of anti-Arab bigotry in this, as well as no small element of hysteria. And the problem with hysteria is that it clouds decision-making.

Do I have a recommendation? Not really. Do I have a thought? Yes.

How many persons care that Royal Dutch Shell is, well, “Dutch”? or that BP is, well, “British”? Or that T-Mobile is owned by a German outfit? It really does seem unlikely to me that a change in the ownership of P&O will in any way affect the day-to-day operation of ports in the U. S.

Little or nothing has been done to improve port security in the last five years; changing the name of the vendor on the contract will not make it any worse and certainly will not make it any better.

I suggest stepping back and taking a calmer view. To quote Andrew Cassel from today’s local rag:

Is it because the Dubai firm is partly owned by the United Arab Emirates’ government? If so, which part of that is the issue? Ownership by a government, or ownership by Arabs?

We need to be clear about this because the global economy is filled with national and multinational corporations, financed by public and private investors from all over.

Moreover, the United States has historically made a point of encouraging open investment across national borders. With relatively few exceptions, we let foreigners buy domestic securities, businesses and real estate – and we encourage other countries to do the same.

If we’re going to have a new policy, what will it be? No foreign money in our ports? No investment by governments? No Arabs allowed?

Whatever we do will have consequences, of course. We can’t slam our doors in foreigners’ faces and expect them to open their own markets to U.S. firms in return.

And as the great engine of globalization shuts down, we’ll have to learn to cope with slower growth, lower incomes, and a no-longer-expanding economic pie.

In other words, we can let the politicians use our national-security worries to erect new walls of fear and nationalism. But we shouldn’t be surprised when those walls also start to hem in our own prosperity.

The right is appealing to xenophobic bigotry; the left is appealing to anti-Bushism (a cause which I whole-heartedly applaud–I am tired of the incompetence). And facts are getting lost.


How To Get Your Job Back 2

Be part of the Bush sideshow.

Some of you may remember this:

The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.

Well, the layoffs seem to be over:

President Bush visited a major energy research laboratory yesterday to promote his administration’s new campaign to develop alternatives to U.S. reliance on oil – an appearance that inadvertently spotlighted funding problems for such programs.

Before Bush’s stop, it took some quick changes to federal spending plans to undo a job cutback at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that he was visiting – staff reductions that would have undercut the message Bush was promoting.

The shameless hypocrital posturing of the current Federal Administration defies superlatives.

I’m glad these folks got their jobs back. Hope they will still have them once the cameras leave.


The Rules 5

208(a) A train that is advanced to a meeting or waiting point where the opposing train receives the order must approach such station at reduced speed. Where location of the train order signal may permit an opposing train to overrun siding switch, a flagman must protect ahead as prescribed by Rule 99.

Makes sense to me.

This is from the Southern Railway System Operating Rules, effective August 1, 1956; they belonged to my first father-in-law, one of the finest men I ever knew. It arrived in a letter from my daughter today.

(Thanks to a merger with the Norfolk and Western, the Southern is now part of the Norfolk Southern, bringing back a famous name in US railroading.)

When I knew Jim Snyder, he was a lobbyist. He wasn’t some kind of consultant for hire, definitely not a Republican who could be had by anyone who had enough money (there’s a word for persons like that); he was elected to the position of Legislative Director for the UTU and obliged to serve his constituents by representing them well and honestly; indeed, he was one of the founders of the UTU.

This was before Abramoff. With Jim Snyder, there was no question of phony deals and under-cover operations; he was effective because he was a man of his word. Congressmen knew he told the truth and that his word was his bond.

Before I got involved in physical security, I worked for the railroad of 24 years. I was never in a road service craft–I was always a staff employee–but I spent my career working with all crafts and classes of employees (as we would say on the railroad).

I walked the track with track inspectors.

I cleared into cubby-holes on the Susquehanna River bridge as Metroliners went by at the reduced speed of 90 miles an hour.

I crawled around broken equipment with mechanical employees.

I knew every officer of the APD from sergeant and above.

I toured the tracks under “A” tower at Penn Station, New York.

I creaked through the Donner Pass on the Amtrak #6 when snow was deep on the snow sheds.

I know how to carry a tray on a dining car on one arm without spilling anything.

I rode the headend from New York to Washington. (That means I was in the locomotive with the Engineer–life looks different at 125 miles an hour.) Indeed, there was the one Engineer–the Rocket (every division has a Rocket–he is the Philadelphia Division Rocket)–who, whenever he saw me on the platform, would invite me ride the headend with him (unless he had some bigwig on board).

And, dammit, when you got on a train wearing 15- or 20-years-of-service pin, nobody tried to pull the wool over your eyes. They knew you were an Old Head, and they played straight with you.

I see that quote from the SR rules, and I see a railroad coming to life. Trains coming and going, trains of the second class giving way to trains of the first class, train crews moving to protect their trains, and, throughout it all, the first rule of every railroad in the United States:

“Safety is of the first importance in the discharge of duty.”

And it is the first rule. The railroad is a hell of a dangerous place, but railroads’ adherence to the first rule has caused most people, even those who ride trains daily and who cross tracks daily, to have no idea of how dangerous it can be out there for the unwary.

I did not see how much the railroad drills that first rule into railroaders, until I left the industry, and realized that how sensitive I am to hazards, as opposed to those around me.

I can’t say I miss my previous employer, but sometimes I sure as hell miss the railroad.


Freedom of Speech and DHS 0

Read this story from the Boise Weekly:

Around 2:15 p.m., Scarbrough says, he answered his office phone and found himself talking to a man who identified himself as Officer R. of the Department of Homeland Security. (I’m withholding the officer’s name; you know, what with Plamegate and all.) Scarbrough was told that he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of rules that govern all executive departments and agencies, and that he was in danger of being cited unless he came out to the parking lot or let the officer come up to his office. Scarbrough chose the first option, and took along a co-worker–also a veteran–and, being an experienced peace activist, a tape recorder. Downstairs, they found two armed officers with “Homeland Security” insignia patches on their shoulders, waiting for them in large white SUVs. Scarbrough informed the officers that he would record their conversation, and what follows is the transcript of that recording.

The transcipt should be scary stuff for any thinking American.

Now, follow this link: Now, more than ever.

With a tip of the hat to Jesus’ General.


I’ve Reached My Tipping Point 0

If I hear one more person say “tipping point” today with the notion that he or she has said something profound and enlightening, I think I shall scream.

Back in the day, there was another phrase that drove me around the bend.

Oh, yeah.

“Back in the day.”


Bill Shein on Valentine’s Day 0

Is having anybody better than having nobody?

(Valentine’s Day) means a night for single, unattached men to enjoy a frosty malt beverage (or 20) and boast that “I don’t need anyone!” and “I am single by choice, man!” and “Unlike my friends who are attached, I never have to go antiquing!” before collapsing into the fetal position and weeping softly until someone carries them home.

It means a night for single, unattached women to have a “girls’ night out” and boast that “We don’t need anyone!” and “We’re single by choice! Am I right, ladies?” and “We never have grumpy husbands or boyfriends cramping our style when we go antiquing!” before collapsing into the fetal position and weeping softly until, well, you know.




The Bushies and the Press 0

Chris Satullo is right:

The Bush White House views the press as a noisy, noisome special interest group out only to inflict wounds and make dough. It scoffs at reporters’ self-flattery that they play a constitutional watchdog role for the republic.


So, reporters, why keep playing along with staged rituals like the White House press briefing? Why cram yourself into rows like schoolchildren, raising your hand to ask questions that a press secretary or president will evade with weary condescension, leaving you only the option of theatrical crankiness to show you’re “tough”?

They don’t care. So why bother? Instead, go out and do some real investigative reporting.

Stop playing games and tell us the truth.


Danish Cartoons 2

In between taking care of things and doing my job, I’ve been trying to make some sense of the whole Danish cartoon thing, at least for myself, if not for anyone else.

I have a long post stored as a draft that I’ve been messing with off and on all week.

In the meantime, I recommend the most recent “Speaking of Faith” broadcast, which explored this issue in a detailed and thoughtful way. I listened to it this morning.

Here’s the blurb from the website:

Our guest, an American Muslim and religious scholar, helps untangle the knot of violent and bewildered reactions to cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.