Saturday, October 14, 2006

Raise, Call or Fold

It appears that the UN has passed a somewhat toothy resolution in response to North Korea's alleged nuclear testing.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose financial and weapons sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test in a resolution that Pyongyang called a "gangster-like" action.

The U.S.-drafted resolution, which said the reclusive Communist state's action was a "clear threat to international peace and security," allows nations to stop cargo going to and from North Korea to check for weapons of mass destruction or related supplies.
It's worth noting that while China did not approve of the searching of vessels, they still passed the resolution. I think this reflects just how much China recognizes Kim Jong Il as a madman. China does raise a valid point, we should act on intelligence, but not exercise this power willy-nilly. In stopping a bully, we should take care not to be a bully ourselves.

It does stop short of military intervention, and I think that may be a mistake. North Korea is no danger to privation and the regime has shown its willingness to let its people starve. I still feel military retaliation should be called for if they violate these sanctions, but I'll take what I can get. At least this is an actual sanction instead of a statement of condemnations.

The UN has taken the first step to regaining a spine. Now we just need to see if it takes.

That Rhymes With "P" and That Stands For... er... "Pee"

Classroom trash can used as toilet
A fifth-grade teacher allowed five students — a boy and four girls — to use a trash can as a toilet during a school lockdown drill when no one was supposed to leave the classroom.
During lockdown, the rooms are locked and no one is allowed to leave the room for any reason. These drills are usually practice against the eventuality of an armed intruder entering the school.

Philip Frandino has since been put on administrative leave with pay. And I'm not sure that's the correct reaction in this situation.

Kids, especially at this age, are not really known for their iron will with regards to bladder control. He had girls shield the girls with coats while the boys stood at the far side of the room with their backs turned. And vice versa for the boys. I have to say this is far less humilating than letting the youngsters piss their pants. And while the drill only lasted an hour, who's to say how long a real lockdown could last. I think this was a creative solution that afforded the most amount of privacy given the circumstances.

But we got trouble in River City. It appears he was reprimanded last year for another lapse in "judgement".
The Charleston County teacher, Philip Frandino, was reprimanded last year for putting cardboard around a student's desk and keeping him isolated from his classmates for two hours for talking, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported Friday.
Huh. Reprimanded? For that? Again, sounds like a pretty creative solution to me. Listen, I was a trouble maker in school. Especially in fourth and fifth grade. More than once I had to drag my desk out into the hall because I caused disruptions. I'm sure if my teachers had come up with the cardboard barrier idea, they wouldn't have hesitated one second to use it. That way they could keep an eye on me while still conducting class. They probably would have gotten away with it, too (most likely with my parents cheering them on). I doubt anyone would have raised the issue about the imapact on my self-esteem this cardboard "chamber" would have created when I was in school. Then, it was understood that the need for discipline and acceptable standards of behavior were important parts of schooling. Now, however... well, we don't want to hurt Johnny's feelings, do we?

And what article is complete without a whiny, smugly self-righteous parent. Of course, the quote comes from the parent of the cardboard prisoner.
Last year, Caren Weldon walked into Frandino's fourth-grade classroom and found her son surrounded by a cardboard box.

She planned to re-enroll her child this year, but didn't when she found out Frandino would be her son's fifth-grade teacher, she told the newspaper.

"Thank you, Lord, my child is not in that class," she said. "It just shows he makes poor decisions when it comes to the children."
I'm sure she would have been singing a different tune if her kid had been the one to come home with pee drenched pants. Then, Mr. Frandino would have been making poor decisions regarding children, because he didn't take into account bladder control during the drill.

I really don't see what the uproar is about. Well, I guess I do. I just don't agree with it. And a teacher who has shown that he can think outside the box (and urinal) will probably be replaced by another group-think drone fresh out of college.

Friday, October 13, 2006

But Mine Is Bigger Than Yours

This is a little disturbing.
The United States has evidence of radioactivity from a site where North Korea was suspected of conducting a nuclear weapons test, a U.S. official said Friday.

The official said the evidence is preliminary, but if it is confirmed, the United States will be in a position to confirm North Korea's claim on Monday that it successfully set off a nuclear blast for the first time.
Well, crap.
Officials emphasize the data collected are preliminary and provide no conclusive evidence about the North Korean event.

It is possible there was no radiological data. That could be the case if: the North Koreans successfully sealed the site; it was such a small detonation and so deep underground there was no escape of nuclear debris; or the test was actually conventional explosives
I'd say that's just whistling in the dark, there. We need to go forward with the assumption that not only does North Korea have the technology to create a nuclear weapon, they also have the means to create more.

Unfortunately, the situation is more complex than it appears. China will most definitely block any resolution that includes military intervention. They will also not accept any resolution that would cut off aid and food. At first I thought it had more to do with the with the balance of military might, but I think there's a simpler explanation.


It seems North Korea has threatened to relax border security in the past, and China is absolutely terrified of this. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of refugees seeking to escape DPRK would flood across the Chinese border. This is one of the reasons China has substantially upped the number of forces on their shared border. There have been relatively tiny waves of people crossing before. And usually it was followed by outbreaks of theft and occasionally murder. And China does not want to deal with that.

Japan has already imposed unilateral sanctions on its own, refusing to deal with North Korea (imports and exports) and denying its ports to DPRK vessels. The UN will need to enact something similar at the very least. Demanding search rights for all vessels would be a good addition as well to deny North Korea the ability to sell these things to other countries or groups.

Unfortunately, given the UN's track record and weak-willed resolutions, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wood Chipper Sales at Record Level

I hereby nominate this waste of space for the wood chipper treatment. Willfully harming a child is bad enough, but to harm one because of fucking youth league baseball? How well does the average 8 year old play ball, anyway?
A youth baseball coach accused of offering an 8-year-old money to bean an autistic teammate so he couldn't play was sentenced Thursday to one to six years in prison.

Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman sentenced 29-year-old Mark R. Downs Jr. of Dunbar, Pa. to consecutive six-to-36-month sentences for corruption of minors and criminal solicitation to commit simple assault. A jury convicted Downs in September.

Warman revoked Downs' bond and sent him to prison.

Downs didn't speak at the sentencing but told reporters "I didn't do nothing" as he was led out of the courtroom.
Based on his statement, I'm guessing this brain-trust won't be haunting Mensa meetings any time soon. I'm sure in his small, puerile world he didn't do anything wrong. Anything to get a winning record is justifiable right?

Because, as I'm sure you know, the 8 year old baseball league is a stepping stone to the Majors.

Gift Horse? For Me? Let's Check the Mouth...

The Dems have been practically handed the November elections by the Republicans. But of course they have to show that scandals aren't restricted to the GOP.

First we have voter registration fraud in the form of registering underage voters and dead voters by the ACORN Group.
St. Louis Election Board officials say they've discovered at least 1,492 "potentially fraudulent" voter registration cards - including three from dead people and one from a 16-year-old - among the thousands pouring in before today's voter registration deadline for the Nov. 7 election.

City Republican elections director Scott Leiendecker said the board's staff expects to find even more bogus voter-registration applications among the thousands remaining to be processed. The board plans to turn all the questionable cards over to city Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce for investigation and possible prosecution, said board chairman Kimberley Mathis.
Not only that, but it also seems that the ACORN Group was instructing its workers to encourage people to vote for a Democratic candidate while registering voters. This is a violation of federal election laws.
Several former and current workers demonstrated today in front of the St. Louis office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) demanding to be paid for work they had performed and alleging that they were instructed to tell people to vote for U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill while registering voters in support of the proposed minimum wage increase.

Ten-year ACORN veteran Josephine Perkins claims she was fired last week, in part because she informed the teams she supervised that it was inappropriate and illegal for them to campaign for McCaskill while being paid by ACORN and Give Missourians a Raise, the political action committee which supports Proposition B and, according to campaign finance reports, has given money to ACORN to circulate its literature.
Well, it is only St. Louis and may not affect the Dems nation-wide. And it probably wouldn't.

Enter Harry Reid, senior senator from Nevada. It appears that knowing Sen Reid will make you money. Lots of money. (via Flopping Aces). What I find doubly ironic is that he is vice chairman of the Ethics committee. I think it was the Daily Show that said that committee appointments in the Senate are based on the Senator's greatest weakness.
Now I know a sex scandal is easier to wrap your heads around then a financial one, and a more sexy scandal to gossip about, but this is a easy one. Basically Reid buys some residentially zoned land, he transfers it to an LLC corporation for no profit, but a share of the LLC. Then, the LLC applies to rezone that land to a commercial zone but they are denied. They appeal it and during that appeal Reid’s partner mentions Reids name and bam….the land is rezoned. The LLC then sells the land for a 1.2 million profit. Harry gets a profit and fails to notify the Senate.
Be sure to look at the PDFs Flopping Aces has linked. Also check out the round-up at The New Editor.

Now, I'm fairly sure that this will not eclipse the Foley scandal. But just barely. But of course there are still some weeks left before the election. I've noticed that if you give Dems enough rope and some time, they manage not only to strangle themselves, but everyone else in their vicinity.

This just goes to show that scandal is not limited to one party or the other. Not even sex scandals. What it does show is that we have power-mad, corrupt people serving as representatives and senators in our government. Some of this is to be expected. But it appears that these... people... are becoming more and more brazen.

Until some viable alternative to the Republicans and Democrats appear, we're going to be stuck with these goons for some time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Everyone Calm The Fuck Down

Time to freak out (FOX), everyone.

"Everyone was running down the street, kids were screaming and crying," Rich Behar, a New York City resident and former Time magazine reporter, told FOX News. "There was a lot of horror and terror when it hit," Behar added, saying the whole ordeal reminded him of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

I can kind of understand an initial panic, but to say this reminded him of 9/11... Well, that's stretching hyperbole to its breaking point.

It was a small fixed wing aircraft (CNN) hitting a high-rise residential building. Not two jumbo jets crashing into the symbols of Western capitalism. Yes, two people so far have been declared dead. But that is a far cry from the thousands that lost their lives at the WTC.

The Federal Aviation Administration described the plane as a "general aviation" fixed-wing aircraft flying under visual flight rules, meaning a pilot was flying by visual landmarks.

I have one question. If someone is using visual landmarks to navigate (and if this indeed was an accident), how the hell do you not see the god-damn building?

UPDATE: Well, there's now six additional paragraphs in the CNN story. Makes my last sentence look a little asinine. (thanks, Anne, for pointing that part out - the info not the being asinine)

UPDATE 2: Edited to clarify what news story the links were pointing.

So Long As You Have Your Priorities Straight

Hans Reiser has been arrested on suspicion of Murder.
The estranged husband of an Oakland woman who has been missing for more than a month was arrested today on suspicion of murder.

Hans Reiser, 42, was taken into custody at 11 a.m., hours after Oakland police and FBI technicians searched his home in the Oakland hills. His estranged wife, Nina Reiser, 31, has been missing since Sept. 3, when she dropped off the couple's son and daughter at his home on the 6900 block of Exeter Drive.

This is big news in the OSS/Linux world. Hans Reiser led the team that released one of the first stable journaling file systems built into the Linux kernel. However, when news broke on Slashdot, tacked onto the article summary this comment from a user:

While the disappearance (and possible murder) of his wife is tragic, Linux users will wonder where this will leave Reiser 4. If Reiser is found guilty, will Novell or IBM pick up the pieces and finish up Reiser 4 for inclusion in the kernel or is this the end of the Reiser filesystem project? Will there be any future for the Reiser filesystem, and if Hans is found guilty and the project is continued, will the project be renamed to avoid notoriety?

Slashdot has ceased to amaze me. Geeks truly are socially maladjusted.

Of all things to be concerned about... This blows my mind. While there are probably people concerned about this, I would say this was in poor taste, to say the least, to include this in a report about his alleged involvement in murder. The inclusion of this in the summary seems to equate the the concerns of the state of the latest version of the file system as nearly, if not more, equal to the murder of a human being. A more appropriate way to do this would have been to create a completely different article summary that addressed these concerns.

Of course, comment threads being as they are on Slashdot, they devolved quickly into the morality of the death penalty, how many people are truly psychopaths, punishment vs. rehabilitation in prisons, and, strangely enough, Scott Peterson (started with a comment in his defense, no less).

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Worm! She Turns!

Ok, I am completely confused* now.

Michael Yon claims that "well placed government source" has claimed the explosion in North Korea was non-nuclear in nature.

* - Of course, I can think of one or two (so-called) friends who will say my state of confusion is nothing new.

Bad North Korea! No Dinner For You!

via Rueters.
China, North Korea's most important ally, on Tuesday joined other world powers in calling for a tough response to the reclusive communist state's announcement of a nuclear weapons test.

China and Russia, which both border North Korea, met with other veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss a range of sanctions proposed by the United States and Japan to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

China's U.N. Ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters: "I think that there has to be some punitive actions." He added: "We need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response to North Korea's nuclear threat."

But these "punitive actions" do not include actually doing anything. Instead, we'll all stand around with somber faces and pass resolutions about how bad this is. Kim Jong Il will not stop until someone has a boot on his neck. Similar to how you deal with a dangerous snake. And I don't care who does this. The US, China... In fact I'd be tickled if China could take care of this.

We should just send Chuck Norris over there. He'd round-house kick everyone into submission, smack Kim Jong Il across the snout with a rolled-up newspaper, point at the nuclear test-site, and say in a firm tone, "No! Bad Dictator!"

Firing blanks?

Speculation on the suspiciously low-magnitude explosion in North Korea.

North Korea’s provocative weapons test Monday was either an unusually small nuclear bomb, only partially successful, or possibly even a faked test done with conventional explosives, say seismologists studying the latest freely available seismic data from South Korea and China.

Of the three, I'd probably lean more toward the first option. While the other two are entirely possible, I think it best to assume the worst. One of the best deceptions is to make an enemy think you're incompetent. Of course, I may be crediting Kim Jong Il with entirely too much Machiavellian skill on that count. He doesn't actually present himself as that shrewd of an operator --but of course that may be his point (cue dramatic bad-guy music)

One of the reasons I think option one is most likely, is I believe that they probably have a very limited amount of fissile material. They most likely used just enough mass to create the supercritical reaction necessary for an explosion.

Technology Tuesday!

This is a pretty interesting power generator.

Proponents say other plusses of the merry-go-round generator are the contained cost of 360,000 euros and limited amount of space needed. Even with a modest diameter of about 320 feet (100 meters), they estimate KiteGen can produce half a gigawatt of energy. Emulators for the scalable project envision a 2,000 meter-version that would generate 5 gigawatts of power.

If true, this would be an enormous breakthrough in clean energy production. But most analysts are taking a wait-and-see stance. So am I. A 2,000 meter (that's a little over a mile) kite array (~314
m2) produces 5 gWh. US consumption approaches 3.5 tWh (7,000 times as much). To even produce a 100th of the US power needs around 11,000 m2 of kites. That's a lot of sky.

That's the problem with most alt-energy plants. They don't scale very well. However, for smaller communities (I'm thinking mostly western states, here) This could be a huge asset.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Death. Now.

Ok, this kind of shit pisses me off.
A woman used her 4-week-old baby as a weapon in a domestic dispute, swinging the infant through the air and striking her boyfriend with the child, authorities said. The baby was critically injured in the attack early Sunday, said District Attorney Bradley Foulk.

For Christ's sake, lady! Put down the kid, grab a bat,
and hit your boyfriend with that. I honestly could give a shit about the fact you were fighting. But to swing your baby as a weapon?

Once you hurt a child, especially one this young and that severly (critical condition!), you have voided whatever right you had to being upright among the living. I again forward my idea of appropriate punishment for these types of scum.

Wood chipper. Feet first. Slowly.

I Would Have Seriously Considered It

John Stewart hits the mark.

"Nothing says 'I am ashamed of you my government' more than 'Stewart/Colbert '08,'" Stewart told an audience Sunday at the New Yorker Festival. He was interviewed by the magazine's editor, David Remnick.

It's times like this I wish there was a viable third party. I really don't relish choosing between the Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain Party (R) and the Plan? What's A Plan? Party (D).

Sunday, October 08, 2006

You Be (Kim Jong) Illin'

Well, the idiots went ahead and did it.
North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test and the blast had been successfully set off underground with no radioactive leakage from the site.

An official at South Korea's seismic monitoring center confirmed a magnitude-3.6 tremor felt at the time North Korea said it conducted the test was not a natural occurrence. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition his name not be used, because he was not authorized to talk about the sensitive information to the media.

They seem to think this will intimidate the US into concessions (since they seem to be ignoring the UN). This is actually more of a threat to China and Japan. Chinese policy makers have been quickly loosing patience with North Korea, and this may be the last straw. There have already been troop build-ups on the Chinese/North Korean border. At one point China cut back on deliveries of aid via rail --North Korea was keeping the trains.

But really has China concerned is the current balance of military power in the region. Currently, China is the military power in the Asian sphere. This may change, depending on Japan's reaction in the next few days. It is likely Japan, which has voiced concerns about North Korea's nuclear ambitions before, to use this as an excuse to rebuild it's military and arsenal. Including nuclear weapons. China most definitely does not want a militarized Japan; something not seen since the end of World War II.

Secondly, and perhaps not as obvious (and perhaps less likely than the Japan scenario).. well, I'll just say one word sure to strike terror in China's heart: Taiwan.

A US military buildup in the region is the last thing China want to see happen. Now, China considers Taiwan to still be part of the mainland. In their eyes, the current government is illegitimate. China would love nothing more than to take Taiwan back into the fold. But they don't want to get into a shooting war with the US over it. We consider ourselves allies of Taiwan and would most likely intervene at an invasion by China.

Plus, perhaps even more importantly, the Chinese regulars are becoming disgusted with North Korea.
The North Korean refugee had one request for her captors before the young Chinese soldiers led her back across the steel-girdered bridge on the Yalu River that divides two “socialist allies”.

“She asked for a comb and some water because she said that if she was going to die she could not face going to heaven looking as dirty and dishevelled as this,” recounted a relative of one soldier who was there.

What happened next is testimony to the rising disgust in Chinese military ranks as Beijing posts more troops to the border amid a crisis with North Korea over its regime’s plan to stage a nuclear test.

The soldiers, who later told family members of the incident, marched the woman, who was about 30, to the mid-point of the bridge. North Korean guards were waiting. They signed papers for receipt of the woman, who kept her dignity until that moment. Then, in front of the Chinese troops, one seized her and another speared her hand — the soft part between thumb and forefinger — with the point of a sharpened steel cable, which he twisted into a leash.

“She screamed just like a pig when we kill it at home in the village,” the soldier later told his relative. “Then they dragged her away.”

The one country they cannot afford to alienate is poised to turn against them.

North Korea is going to find it is all alone in world if it keeps on the course it currently takes.

Mistakes In Perception

The Washington Post has an interesting article about the mistakes Hezbollah made in the recent war with Israel. The biggest being the response of Israel regarding the capture of its soldiers.

'What have you done?' Prime Minister Fouad Siniora asked him.

Khalil reassured him, according to an account by two officials briefed by Siniora, one of whom later confirmed it with the prime minister. 'It will calm down in 24 to 48 hours.'

More technocrat than politician, Siniora was skeptical. He pointed to the Gaza Strip, which Israeli forces had stormed after Palestinian militants abducted a soldier less than three weeks earlier. Israeli warplanes had blasted bridges and Gaza's main power station.

Calmly, Khalil looked at him. 'Lebanon is not Gaza,' he answered.

No, it is not. But what Khalil and Nasrallah did not, and perhaps still do not, realize is that Israel is not like other Middles East countries. Israel is a young country; one of the youngest in the world. It simply does not have the inertia of tradition that at times distort the Middle East's view of Western countries. Israel was born in a cauldron of battle and still exists in that state even now. In addition, it has its own cultural inertia; a legacy of the Holocaust. Pervading the country's psyche is a determination never to be that vulnerable again -- never to be put into a position where 6 million of its people can be murdered. As a result, Israel has developed a defiant, almost inflexible, society. It is not until recently that Israel has shown that it even knows what the word compromise means.

'I can reach Haifa and beyond Haifa,' Nasrallah was quoted as answering them, according to Marwan Hamadeh, the telecommunications minister and a critic of Hezbollah who took part in the dialogue. Israel would not risk a Hezbollah missile attack, Nasrallah added, which could strike its petrochemical industry and the northern third of the country, including some of its most populated regions.

'He considered his potential threat as his deterrent,' Hamadeh said, 'that Israel would not escalate.'

Part of this is a legacy of Arabian culture, partly the Islamic feeling of divine righteousness. What they don't understand is that Israel will not respond to bluff and bluster. Or if they do, it's to treat it as a deadly serious threat and react accordingly. They simply did not believe that Israel would respond with such force. Granted, Israel's response left a little to be desired. They took too long to mobilize and let Hezbollah entrench themselves in tactically significant positions for missile attacks. If Israel had moved instantly, Hezbollah most likely would have ceased to exist. At the very least the organization would have been mortally wounded.

In speeches and iconography, Hezbollah has cast the war as a 'divine victory.' But a reconstruction of the period before and soon after the seizure of the soldiers reveals a series of miscalculations on the part of the 24-year-old movement that defies its carefully cultivated reputation for planning and caution. Hezbollah's leadership sometimes waited days to evacuate the poor, densely populated neighborhood in southern Beirut that is its stronghold. Only as Israeli warplanes began reducing the headquarters to rubble did they realize the scope of what the Israeli military intended. Hezbollah fighters were still planning to train in Iran the very month that the soldiers were seized; Hezbollah leaders in Beirut had assured Lebanese officials of a relatively uneventful summer.

This is the big problem with religious justifications for actions. The assumption that somehow your actions are dictated by the courts of heaven. Yes, this can make for indefatigable fighters, but it also gives rise to one of the greatest sins a general can make. Overconfidence and a blindness to one's shortcomings.

Money - Sense = Star Trek Fans

I am constantly amazed how people throw away money.

Picard's Enterprise-E captain's chair, estimated to sell for $7,000-$8,000, went for $52,000. Two prop wine bottles of "Chateau Picard," estimated to go for $500 to $700, sold for $5,500. "That's probably a record for empty wine bottles," the auctioneer quipped.


Props made of foam, latex, and various resins. Why? I must say I really don't get it. I've never understood buying movie/TV show memorabilia.