Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time Paradox!

First, from the Register:

In a meeting that will go down in internet history, the United States government last night conceded that it can no longer expect to maintain its position as the ultimate authority over the internet.

Having been the internet's instigator and, since 1998, its voluntary taskmaster, the US government finally agreed to transition its control over not-for-profit internet overseeing organisation ICANN, making the organisation a more international body.

Well, who thought we'd ever see this happen? But what's the story at the LA Times?

The federal government appeared unlikely to relinquish oversight of the system for assigning and managing website domain names after a Commerce Department hearing Wednesday raised broad concerns about giving an obscure Marina del Rey nonprofit unsupervised control.

They keywords here should be 'plausible deniability'. The US will retain true power over ICANN, holding onto root, but other countries have been given the appearance of greater control so they can't complain quite as vigorously. The US has only given up a share of the admittedly densely overgrown beaureaucracy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Still Easier Than Arresting Actual Criminals

All these showboat arrests make me wonder if there's an election coming! Especially since this Triumph in the War on Terra was kept under wraps for three months before someone called the media. And again, we find a group of 'terrorists' with no real association with one another, no resources and no demonstrable real intent to commit a crime that it now turns out wouldn't have worked anyway.

“The so-called New York tunnel plot was a result of discussions held on an open Jihadi web site. They are not professionally trained terrorists, however, and had no resources with which to carry out the operation they discussed.

“Despite press reports that they had asked Abu Musab Zarqawi for assistance, there is no information to confirm that. It is known that the members discussed the possibility of approaching Zarqawi but none of them knew him or had any access to him.

“In sum, the plot, if that is what we would call it, was not well conceived, and there was no possibility of flooding Wall Street. There was no connection to a cell in the US. Finally, professional terrorists generally do not discuss targeting on open channels. As it was being monitored from the beginning of the open discussion, there was little chance anything concrete would have developed.”

Election year or no, the blatherings of a bunch of nitwits on some web forum somewhere don't constitute a crime. Or at least, they didn't used to.

Torture Reports Ignored By Top Commanders

Or, if you look at things less charitably, they simply agreed to look the other way:

When senior officials failed to respond as to whether those techniques were appropriate, the ground command in Afghanistan subsequently adopted their own techniques as policy, acting on the theory that "silence is consent."

And what would happen if that policy were applied to other areas of life? What a surprise that this time, atrocities happened.

"Silence Is Consent"


SWIFT Boated

This administration will not let any opportunity pass to demonstrate their hold over a cowed domestic media, but the casual bandying about of the 'T' word should set even America's notoriously low-sensitivity bullshit detector to ringing:

The Bush administration has repeatedly bragged about its efforts and self-proclaimed success tracking terrorist financing since the September 11 attacks. The government described its quest to catch financiers in numerous public documents, reports and Capitol Hill testimonies. Even as far back as 1990, the Council on Europe called for greater cooperation between Interpol and agencies like SWIFT – a global banking hub that monitors millions of transfers worth trillions of dollars...

... “The U.S. was touting quite loudly its tracking of terrorist financing,” said Comras, an attorney and consultant on terrorism financing. “If they’re doing that, it’s only logical that they’re following the funds through the clearinghouses. How else would they do it? For us, it was an obvious no-brainer.”

These men have once again underestimated the brainless!

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

Gee, someone gave John Negroponte a billion dollar embassy and 500 CIA officers, and death squads started popping up all over. Who would have thought?

At least 40 people, apparently all Sunnis, were killed yesterday by Shia militants in a rampage in a Baghdad suburb - one of the capital's most deadly sectarian pogroms - that revived fears of civil war.

You'd almost think someone wanted a civil war, especially considering what the Iraqi police have been up to:

Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.

Remember, folks, a stable Iraq means the money train has to stop!

The Sorcerer Of Lightning Turns 150

And we're still playing catch-up to Nikola Tesla. A Blog Around The Clock has celebratory links galore. Wireless power transmission, the induction motor, radio, and he even had a death ray! The Second Industrial Revolution owes its existence to this prototypical 'mad scientist'. Zivili, Mr. Tesla.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Man Who Has Everything

Birthdays are tough to figure out. Especially 'milestones'. But this one's especially tricky. What's a good gift for someone with lots of money and no soul?

Oh, of course!

We'll ship it to you in the pen, George. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Shrinking Bootprint

If the amount of Iraq under our control is equal to the combined area beneath our soldiers's feet, than our control is slipping with each passing day:

The Army, Navy and Air Force face shortages of elite special operations forces that are playing a leading role in the war against terrorism, military records show.

And why should even the most motivated elite troops stay in uniform, when we're paying the administration's friends three times as much per 'private contractor'? It's like being a soldier, only with much better pay and absolutely zero accountability.

As for the regular troops facing a shortage, here's a suggestion:

'Dead Or Alive', Redux

On a holiday weekend, the watchdog media reports that the CIA task force charged with tracking Osama bin Laden and his inner circle was disbanded - sometime last year.

Agency officials said that tracking Mr. bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened. Instead, the officials said, it reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.

Translation: when efforts to capture him in Afghanistan were ineffective, the administration decided they 'weren't concerned' with him any longer, and forgot all about him.

And if those evil 9/11 widows would just be quiet and forget about him, too, everything would be fine again!

An Inconvenient Consensus

The AP reports that every climatologist asked to review Al Gore's recent film gave it high marks for accuracy and agreed on its basic premises:

those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

As before, noted climate scientist Jim Inhofe disagrees. Tim Lambert takes him to task.

Start By Teaching The Math

MarkCC over at Good Math, Bad Math debunks a recent anti-evolution screed:

There's a technical term for this kind of writing. We call it "bullshit".

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Long Emergency Did Not Begin On 9/11

And it didn't begin on Election Day in 2000, either. But some time in between those two dates, the American Police State was founded:

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court."

So if 9/11's 'blank check' doesn't give them the authority to behave in this way, from what does their authority derive?

And if these measures are so effective and necessary to the War On Terra, why didn't they stop 9/11?

Good thing there's a nice long holiday weekend to release this news over. The media has four days to blast vacationers with the message that anyone who questions the government is a traitor, and then the Attorney General can get up in front of the press and declare that these wiretaps are needed to combat pornography.

And then another middle-class white girl will go missing somewhere, and the entire thing will be forgotten.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Does This Remind You Of Anyone?

Reading this study (.PDF) by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, one can't help but be struck by the thought that they're describing someone we know...

1. Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.

2. Incompetent individuals will suffer from deficient metacognitive skills, in that they will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize competence when they see it–be it their own or anyone else's.

3. Incompetent individuals will be less able than their more competent peers to gain insight into their true level of performance by means of social comparison information. In particular, because of their difficulty recognizing competence in others, incompetent individuals will be unable to use information about the choices and performances of others to form more accurate impressions of their own ability.

4. The incompetent can gain insight about their shortcomings, but this comes (paradoxically) by making them more competent, thus providing them the metacognitive skills necessary to be able to realize that they have performed poorly.