Friday, May 27, 2005

Saudi King Fahd Dead?

the Washington Times is reporting that King Fahd is dead.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May. 27 (UPI) -- Reliable sources in the Saudi capital Riyadh said Friday King Fahd is dead, reports the Saudi Institute.

If memory serves me correctly, Crown Prince Abdullah has been effectively running Saudi Arabia since King Fahd suffered a stroke back in the 90's.

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Hairy Palms?

The New York Times reports that:

The Food and Drug Administration said today that it had asked Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, to amend its warnings on Viagra in response to scattered reports of vision loss by people taking the drug.

What is more important, vision or working equipment? If an individual has problems performing then I can understand the reasons for choosing to take Viagra. But it seems that most people take it for recreational purposes, to enhance their performance above and beyond the normal. They are searching for that elusive four hour erection! The usual drugs used to treat Erectile Dysfunction are Sildenafil (Viagra), Tadalafil (Cialis) and Vardenafil (Levitra). But there are may physical and emotional drawbacks to the use of some of these drugs

From a study published in the current edition of the American Journal of Medicine titled Viagra: The risks of recreational use:

Among the patients who used Sildenafil, there was a worrisome 2- to 5.7-fold increased practice of unsafe sex compared with those patients who did not use Sildenafil. Additionally, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) was nearly 2-fold greater in the individuals who used Sildenafil.

Although this study only looked at data regarding homosexual males, it stands to reason that increased and indiscriminate heterosexual activity would also engender some risks.

This raises a question in my mind. Although media advertising extols the virtues of Viagra (hmmm, virtues and viagra in the same sentence), the main thrust of that advertising is plainly directed at recreational users. I don't recall at the moment which one of the Sildenafil drugs is being advertised, but it includes a warning that an erection that exceeds four hours in length will require immediate medical attention. The choices are limited... visit your personal physician, the hospital emergency room, a local outpatient center, or call 911. How are you going to explain your problem. What kind of 'medical attention' are you going to request? This boggles the mind!

As to the title of this post, does it need explaining?

Update: I think this quote from Science Daily speaks to the recreational use of these drugs more clearly:

[...]recreational use of these drugs is associated with higher risks of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD's), including HIV. In a study in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the San Francisco Department of Public Health evaluated 14 studies of Sildenafil use among men who have sex with men (MSM).

Sildenafil users engaged in unprotected sex with partners of unknown HIV status from twice as often to almost six times as often as non-users. HIV-positive MSM were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with an STD if they were also Sildenafil users and the newly HIV infected were 2.5 times as likely to be users.

Further complicating the situation, 54% of users mixed Sildenafil with other drugs to enhance the sexual experience. One study reported that 36% of all Sildenafil users combined its use with other drugs, including methamphetamines (23%), ecstasy (18%), poppers (15%), ketamine (11%), and GHB (8%). A study among MSM seeking STD clinic services in San Francisco found Sildenafil to be used concurrently with ecstasy (43%), methamphetamines (28%), and amyl nitrate (15%).

Please note that the acronym MSM in the above quote DOES NOT stand for Mainstream Media!

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Dispersed Terrorism

On September 12, 2001, in light of the previous days' attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the failed attack resulting in a crash in a Pennsylvania field, I gave some serious thought on what, were I the terrorist(s), I would do to hold my advantage. Part of the conclusions I reached that day, which have not been changed since, led me to keep silent for fear of facilitating said actions. My reflections were made known only to my immediate family. I read a piece today that brought these thoughts back to the forefront for me, and now they need to be said.

The 9/11 attacks were designed, I believe, to shock and paralyze the United States. From what I understand, bin Laden thought that these attacks would result in inaction, or limited and ineffective retaliation. Instead they served to galvanize the nation into action, and to respond fairly quickly and effectively. Thus the terrorists lost their advantage.

Why was the advantage lost? The 9/11 attacks did cause a reaction of fear or terror in many of those citizens who were in direct contact with the attacks. It caused a reasonable suspicion of any aircraft for a day, or two. But if you were not within sight or hearing of those attacks, did you respond with fear? Most of us did not. We felt loss, grief, hurt, anger, rage, sadness, determination, and a desire for vengeance. This because these attacks did not personally affect the vast majority.

So today we go about our business. Government agencies serve to guard ports of entry, government centers, large financial institutions, events with large attendance, public utilities - the 'big ticket' items. Do we worry about falling victim to another terrorist attack? Not the United States in general, but as individuals? For example, I recently attended an event with an attendance of somewhere around 12,000. Several of the speakers were nationally know figures, maybe even a future President or two. And yes, the thought of a terrorist attack did cross my mind. But security was fairly tight, as far as I could see, and shortly dismissed any concerns that I may have felt. Most of us would probably give some consideration to security under those conditions.

Let me throw in another example here. Last week I went to a shopping mall. Several large chain stores anchored this mall, with maybe 100 small businesses filling the gaps. A food court. People milling about. Certainly not 12,000, but still several hundred. And I did not think once about a possible terrorist attack. Why not? There were security personnel about, but they were mostly concerned with mundane crime. Boxes, bags, all manner of baggage abounded. Vehicles were jam-packed all around the mall. But I did not feel unsafe, or threatened in any manner. I was not personally at risk.

Picture this scenario... a terrorist drives a nondescript sedan packed with explosives into a parking garage beneath a bank (the first WTC attack, writ small) in a mid- or small-sized city. Boom. Another terrorist three states away drives a similarly equipped vehicle to close proximity with an anchor store in a major mall. Boom. A school. Boom. Assume that over a three-day period this happens a dozen times, spread out all over the United States. Now I am going to have second thoughts about going to the mall. Are you? How about fifty incidents... any fear now? The size of the attack is not critical. Approximately 3000 died in the WTC attack. What if it was five deaths, or ten, or even twenty at a time all across the country, totaling 3000? Picture the present day situation in Iraq. How would that affect your behavior? I would hazard a guess that the majority of people would retreat into what they considered relative safety. They would cease to send children to schools, attend community social events, go to movies, go shopping. They would venture forth from fortress homes only for essential activities and to acquire supplies. All of this because the pure randomness of the dispersed attacks would instill in everyone a justified feeling of personal risk.

Consider the Maryland sniper case. Two individuals, John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, striking in a random manner, caused panic across a widespread area. People felt, rightly so, that they were at risk. Compare this to the Oklahoma City bombing, wherein Timothy McVeigh utilized a homemade bomb to cause massive damage to a single site. This incident was more akin to the 9/11 attacks, in that it did not engender a personal sense of risk in the vast majority of people.

A dispersed attack strategy would paralyze the United States. The economy would tank, businesses would fail, and unemployment would skyrocket. We would not have the necessary infrastructure to provide adequate security to prevent these results. Advantage: Terrorists.

It might be that we could develop an infrastructure designed to combat this threat. But would we want to? It would require massive increases in police forces, constant monitoring of civilians, basically a self-imposed police state. I do not think that many of us would find that prospect appealing.

Now the problem with these dispersed terrorist actions, and the reason I was afraid to verbalize it, is that they are relatively cheap and easy to implement. It would only require a cellular organization, financing, and personnel to implement. The terrorists already have all three. It would be very, very difficult to defend against, and the defense itself would have many of the same effects as would result from a terrorist campaign. Advantage: Terrorists.

The article that started me thinking about this again was one by Gary Wolf, appearing in Wired Magazine titled Question Authorities, subtitled Why it's smart to disobey officials in emergencies. (Note: link by Defense Tech via Instapundit.) The main point of the article is that "In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do." He goes on to draw the conclusion that in an emergency situation, ordinary people usually have a better grasp of their environment that would-be rescuers, and therefore should do what they think/know to be correct rather than waiting for and following to the letter instructions from above. But the part that resonated most with me was this:

We know that US borders are porous, that major targets are largely undefended, and that the multicolor threat alert scheme known affectionately as "the rainbow of doom" is a national joke. Anybody who has been paying attention probably suspects that if we rely on orders from above to protect us, we'll be in terrible shape. But in a networked era, we have increasing opportunities to help ourselves. This is the real source of homeland security: not authoritarian schemes of surveillance and punishment, but multichannel networks of advice, information, and mutual aid.

The fact that the borders of the United States are porous is a given. We as a body politic cannot seem to reach an agreement on how to close them, or even if they should be closed.

(Note: I realize that the examples I have cited above involved domestic terrorists, rather than foreign ones. I cited them to illustrate the type of attack, not the origin.)

On the one hand you have people such as those involved with the Minuteman Project, an example of ordinary people, networked, attempting to close the borders to illegal immigrants, and possibly terrorists (some say probably!), because they feel that authority is handling the situation improperly. On the other hand you have more ordinary citizens (including President Bush) decrying these efforts, characterizing them as 'Vigilantism'. Of course, those complaining are working under the assumption that vigilantism is wrong. That remains to be seen.

Regardless, we now have easy entry into the United States providing a route for terrorist attack, we have domestic terrorists to contend with, and we have eager candidates for those positions. Are you at risk? And what are you going to do? We must arrive at workable solutions if we are to survive as a free society.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tennessee State Legislators Arrested

Tennessee local interest

Nashville's Channel 5 is reporting ' Federal Agents Arrest Four Legislators '.

Agents arrested Sen. Ward Crutchfield, (D) Chattanooga; Sen. John Ford, (D) Memphis; Sen. Kathryn Bowers, (D) Memphis; Rep. Chris Newton, (R) Cleveland.

There may be additional arrests. Federal agents on Capitol Hill said they were waiting for someone else.

One legislator, Frank Buck, (D) Dowelltown, said he was surprised to see fellow lawmakers being led out in handcuffs.

There will a news conference at the U.S. attorney’s office in Memphis detailing the charges against the legislators at 11 a.m.

NewsChannel 5 will have more on this developing news as it becomes available.

Judith Tackett of the Nashville City Paper Online reports that is was prompted by the Hobbs Act, involving sale of surplus State equipment.

Update: More information at Bill Hobbs, and from Tenn. Rep. Stacey Campfield. It's growing!

More: Operation Tennessee Waltz... they danced with the devil, now it's time to pay the piper!

Still more, links shamelessly stolen from Bill Hobbs: Indictments in PDF format, and the bill that resulted from these activities are available through the Nashville Channel 5 site.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I feel somehow... DIRTY

I just spent an hour checking out some blogs that lean just a little bit leftwards. LOL, imagine Sen. Byrd referred to as an 'elder Statesman'!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Are Senate Rules In Direct Violation To Constitution?

According to John Jay Hooker, as detailed in his letter to the editor (cc: to Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist), maintains that a supermajority approval for judges is not in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

Is he correct? I am not a scholar, or even a student of the U.S. Constitution, so I cannot say for sure. But I also cannot say he's incorrect.

Read the whole thing, judge for yourself.

On a side note... Mr. Hooker has not been blogging long, having his interest piqued at BlogNashville. He has, however, certainly jumped in with both feet! Welcome to the Blogosphere, John Jay.

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Bush Country and Pax Americana

I posted earlier about the excellent article published in the Wall Street Journal - Online Journal by Fouad Ajami, that makes a good case for the premise that "The Middle East embraces democracy--and the American president." On April 21, John Lewis Gaddis gave a speech at Middlebury College titled “The Past and Future of American Grand Strategy” (Thanks to Chap at Chapomatic for the text of the speech, and the commentary, and to Cassandra at Villainous Company for commentary, and the link to Chap). In his speech, from the perspective of an historian, Mr. Gaddis lays out clearly the overarching agenda of the Bush administration, and hence the United States, in promoting democracy and freedom in the Middle East:

Bush has now conflated ideals and interests. As he put it in the inaugural: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” Freedom itself is to be the strategy, not just the aspiration. It may, in this sense, be radical. It is hardly un-American.

Ideals and interests, frequently divergent in the past, but being guided by the Bush Administration into one unified force, driving us all towards a new world reality.

As Mr. Ajami put it: Bush Country. As I put it: Pax Americana.

(Note: Tigerhawk, Roger L. Simon,Classical Values, Donald Luskin, and others have also weighed in on Mr. Gaddis speech.)

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Bombay Blogs + MSM = Prosumers

This is really interesting, from the Times of India:

Newspapers have conventionally been made by publishers and editors. However the reader is steadily metamorphosing into a prosumer (producer-consumer)—as evident from the huge phenomenon of 'blogs' that have invaded cyber space over the past few years.

Bennett, Coleman & Co, the publishers of The Times of India—and a group that has been known to break with convention—has decided to harness the ever-increasing assertiveness of the reader to launch the first co-created newspaper in the country.

Rather than try an alliance or lesser working relationship with bloggers, India's MSM seems to be trying to pull off an end run, harnessing their readers directly. Wonder if it will work?

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Neo, It's Outsourcing

United States business entities continue to outsource. Automobiles to Mexico, textiles to China and Malayasia, computer programming and help desks to India. Where will it stop? And does it need to stop?

Now comes this, from the Times of India:

NEW DELHI: After high-tech industry, outsourcing of educational services is now a growing business with Indian teachers tutoring American school children at a far less cost than their US counterparts.

A large number of Indian math and engineering graduates has made the country an attractive resource for some US tutoring firms.

If this becomes a trend (outsourcing tutoring), the reasoning will be simple economics.

One big reason for the outsourcing is, of course, cost. Growing Stars, a Bay Area-based small company, with a center with 20 tutors in Kochi, is able to offer one-on-one services for 20 an hour, significantly less than the USD 45 to USD 80 an hour charged by US tutoring companies like Sylvan and Kaplan.

That makes sense, on the surface. However, the article goes on to say:

The Indian tutoring companies say they are simply filling a market void by providing after-hour services.

"My teachers are all highly educated, come from math and science backgrounds, and have prior teaching experience. American teachers of comparable quality would be doubly expensive," the head of one such Indian company says.

Is this a fact? To my knowledge, high schools in my immediate area offer after hours tutoring programs and telephone hotlines for assistance. Colleges offer tutoring free of charge to those willing to partake of the programs. I know this for a fact, because my daughter made most of her income by tutoring math while working on her undergraduate degree in Physics/Math. My son, currently enrolled in a post-graduate program, makes approximately half of his income from tutoring math. These programs are paid for with State funds through the colleges.

Yes, it would make financial sense to spend $20 an hour instead of $45 to $80. Except why not spend that $20 here, instead of overseas?

Update: In the past few days there have been reports that something new is in the mix:

Stroke a chicken over the internet

Scientists have developed a system which enables people to stroke a chicken over the internet.

It's seen as the first step to virtual physical interaction, reports Wired News.

The Touchy Internet system was created by researchers at the National University of Singapore.

Users touch a chicken-shaped doll which duplicates the actions of a real chicken through a webcam link.

Touch sensors on the doll send 'tactile information' over the internet to a second computer near the chicken.

Extrapolating this trend to it's logical conclusion, one day the United States will be nothing more than an idyllic paradise, with all functions outsourced, including walking of the dog, complete with ear scratching and games of 'fetch'. Sex and childbirth? No problem. Sewage treatment? At one time laundry was shipped from San Francisco to Hawaii, so why not sewage?

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Postmodernist Bomb Shelter

This comes via another Free Republic link, from the Sacramento, California (where else?) KRAC channel 3 website:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A home in Sacramento's south Natomas neighborhood is surrounded by sheet metal, and neighbors are calling it an eyesore.

The D'Souza family lives in the home on Timberwood Court, and claims the aluminium pieces are necessary to protect them from unknown neighbors who have been bombarding them with radio waves and making them sick.

"(It's) a shield to protect against radiation, because microwave radiation is reflected off of aluminium, so it's a protective measure," resident Sarah D'Souza said.

The D'Souzas said the bombardment began after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that the radio waves have caused them health problems ranging from headaches to lupus.

MmmmKay! So, what is a person to do if the outer defenses are breached? Why, just as in castles in days or yore, you construct an inner 'keep':

The inside of the house is also covered with foil and the beds are covered with a foil-like material as well," Sacramento Code Enforcement spokesman Josh Pino said.

In an effort to insure that ALL pertinent information is distributed over the Internet, here is a link to personal armor, just in case the keep also succumbs to a persistent enemy.

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Drone, Drone, Drone...

I am currently listening/watching to streaming video of the Chelan County, Washington court hearing concerning the Washington gubernatorial election results. The lawyers are droning on and on, and my eyes are drooping. I am getting sleepy. I am...

Actually, it is quite interesting, although I am personally not hopeful for a valid proper outcome.

Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics is posting on it. His latest post:

Democrats comical defense

I'm listening to Democrat lawyer Kevin Hamilton make some hilarious arguments. If this is their case, they should give up now and spare themselves the expense and embarrassment. Among the howlers:

1) because the Republicans can't prove which (living) person cast the ballots that were cast in the names of dead people, those ballots should not be presented as illegal votes

2) the clearly falsified Mail Ballot Report was not actually falsified, even though its authors already admitted that it was falsified.

Were I there in person, I would soon be removed from the courtroom, as I have an irresistable impulse to snort and giggle when someone makes statements like this.

There are also some Free Republic threads going on this hearing.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pax Americana, Second Call

Fouad Ajami, writing a must read featured article in the Sunday (May 22) Wall street Journal Opinion Journal, says:

"George W. Bush has unleashed a tsunami on this region," a shrewd Kuwaiti merchant who knows the way of his world said to me. The man had no patience with the standard refrain that Arab reform had to come from within, that a foreign power cannot alter the age-old ways of the Arabs. "Everything here--the borders of these states, the oil explorations that remade the life of this world, the political outcomes that favored the elites now in the saddle--came from the outside. This moment of possibility for the Arabs is no exception." A Jordanian of deep political experience at the highest reaches of Arab political life had no doubt as to why history suddenly broke in Lebanon, and could conceivably change in Syria itself before long. "The people in the streets of Beirut knew that no second Hama is possible; they knew that the rulers were under the gaze of American power, and knew that Bush would not permit a massive crackdown by the men in Damascus."

Aptly entitled Bush Country, it eloquently describes what is happening in Arabia, using the word 'bomb' only once:

The insurgents were busy with their bombs and their plots of mayhem: Georgian troops guarded the National Assembly and controlled access to it. But a people were taking to a new political way. A woman garbed in black, a daughter of a distinguished clerical Shia family, made the rounds among her fellow legislators. Religious scruples decreed that she could not shake the hand of a male stranger. But she was proud and wily, a free woman in a newly emancipated polity. She let me know how much she knew about the ways and the literature of the West. American power may have turned on its erstwhile ally, Ahmed Chalabi. But his appearance in the assembly's gallery drew to him parliamentarians of every stripe. He, too, had about him the excitement of this new politics.

Somehow I am under the distinct impression that the New York or Los Angeles Times, or the Washington Post, reporting that paragraph, would have stopped at the first colon, embellishing the first sentence fragment with body counts and gruesome details of blood-splattered walls and shattered lives, before informing us gleefully that this was, indeed, Bush Country! The Associated Press wire would have carried nothing, unless their own stringers had actively participated in the carnage. Newsweek would have been, as usual, pissing in the wind.

Sorry, but there can be no neutral ground in this conflict. You're either for us, or against us. You can no longer straddle the fence.

The tone of Mr. Ajamis article is correct. As I have posted previously, the exporting, encouraging, and supporting of the freedom process must be continued and reinforced. However, restricting the process to regions of Arabia is not enough. It must be expanded to all regions. Persia. Africa. Likening the process to an unleashed tsunami is significant. As in the humanitarian efforts immediately following the Indonesian tsunami, where the ballyhooed UN relief was several days and many dollars short, with massive first response provided by the USA, Australia, Indonesia, and a very few others, the situation in the Sudan must be addressed. East Africa should become Bush Country also. And quickly.

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Doctor Feelgood to ER, Stat

Imagine this... you peel the hide off of a rotting corpse. As you expose the interior, you find that the flesh underneath is rotten. Continuing to peel back that rotting flesh, you uncover a series of organs and, Lo!, and Behold! THEY ARE ROTTING, TOO!

Unfortunately, we are still only scratching the surface. I think the tipping point is long past.

Newsweek, in particular, seems afflicted by

MPD, now known in diagnostic terminology as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), has a fascination as well as a mystery about it. For example, it’s possible to recognize each different personality, or “alter,” from just a few words—in the same way that it’s possible to recognize instantly the voice of a person calling on the telephone. On the other hand, no one can understand the process by which the human brain can create and hold separate and distinct each different personality.

Newsweek and the balance of the Old Media (mostly) also seem to have fallen into Schizophrenia:

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects almost 2.2 million American adults (approximately 1 out of every 100). If you or someone you love has schizophrenia, treatment can help.

People with schizophrenia often have trouble thinking clearly or making decisions. They may have a hard time telling real life from fantasy. They may also find it a challenge to deal with other people. These can all be symptoms of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia generally consists of the following kinds of symptoms.

Positive symptoms:
Such as delusions or hallucinations—which are also known as seeing or believing things that are not real. (These are called “positive” symptoms because they are there but shouldn’t be.)

Negative symptoms: Such as social avoidance, emotional withdrawal—which are also known as a lack of feeling, or expression. Starting to do things, but not following through. Taking no pleasure or interest in life. (These are called “negative” symptoms because they refer to things that are missing.)

Disorganized symptoms: Confused in thinking and speech. Acting in ways that do not make sense.

The above are the most common symptoms of schizophrenia, but they can also happen at the same time as the following symptoms: not being able to focus, unable to solve simple problems, being sad, or not being able to remember things.

Now, I am not qualified to make a diagnosis like this, but when it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

(HT to Instapundit for the pointer)

Update: As I read this after posting, I realized that I was making excuses for this type of behavior as if it were not the fault of the entities involved, that it could be diagnosed and treated. I failed to mention that there is another possible explanation. It is possible that some entities are knowingly and actively engaged in activities specifically designed to subvert the United States.

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