Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's better because, well, because--it's European!

The Washington Post ran an article this morning on the European Space Agency's launch of the first satellite for the Galileo navigation system. The system is intended to "break the U.S. monopoly on space-based networks", according to the article.

While I don't particularly care if the EU chooses to deploy its own global positioning satellites, I do have a couple of problems with the story. The first problem I have is with the tone of the article, which, typical of the Post, makes its best effort to portray America in a bad light.

The second problem I have is with the EU's apparent motivation behind deploying their own GPS constellation. The EU is embarking on a project estimated at $4.5 billion, and it appears to be driven more by pride than by necessity.

In the first paragraph, the Post incorrectly uses the term "monopoly" to describe the existing American GPS service. While it's true that the U.S. is currently the sole provider of GPS signals, the whole truth proves there's nothing sinister about our "monopoly".

The U.S. military conceived, funded and deployed the current GPS system for military applications, then later made the system open and available, free of charge, to consumers. Not just U.S. consumers, but everyone on the planet. As a result, an entire industry developed worldwide around providing GPS-enabled products to consumers. This not only resulted in huge added convenience and safety to GPS users, but resulted in global economic benefit by the creation of jobs in the new consumer GPS industry. All courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers.

The article goes on to describe advantages Galileo will have over the current GPS system:
  • Improved accuracy
  • EU civilian control
  • Directions to points of interest
  • Time-keeping capability
These purported advantages bear further scrutiny.

Improved accuracy: The EU claims that Galileo will provide accuracy to within one meter (about 3 feet). This is, indeed, a very good level of accuracy. The current GPS system generally provides a level of accuracy of about 16 feet, but with wide-area augmentation service (WAAS), most GPS receivers, including my own, can achieve accuracy to about two meters (about six feet). I don't know about you, but if my GPS receiver gets me to within six feet (or even 16 feet) of my destination, I can generally find it with my own two eyes.

EU civilian control: The EU complains that the U.S. warns that it may shut down GPS in the event of national emergency. The article goes on to say that the EU would also cut off service in the case of direst emergency. The EU won't say what constitutes "direst emergency".

Directions to points of interest: The article states that Galileo will be able to direct users to places like restaurants, hotels, hospitals and parks. What the article doesn't say is that this is not a function of the satellites, but rather the device that receives the satellite's signals, and is already available in a GPS device designed to provide that information. As a constant traveller, I've used my GPS device to direct me to the nearest hotel, gas station, or restaurant of a given type.

Time-keeping capability: Finally, the article states that Galileo will provide time signals accurate to "a few hundred millionths of a second per day". I'm not sure to what degree of accuracy the existing GPS system provides time signals, but suffice it to say that it's absurdly accurate. Time keeping is critical to positional accuracy in GPS, and the GPS units benefit by receiving these time signals.

This all begs the question of why the EU feels compelled to deploy Galileo. Europeans, along with everyone else in the world, already enjoy the benefits of GPS, without having born the cost of deploying the system. They'll now be forced to fund, with their taxes, the cost of deploying a 30 satellite constellation
simply because they're too proud to rely on a service provided free of charge by us ugly Americans.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Following a familiar pattern of Red Sox greats past, Johnny Damon has flipped and gone over to the Evil Empire. After reading his book "Idiot", I thought he was a true baseball player, the kind that will stick with a team because he identifies both with the team and its fans, regardless of the temptation of more money.

Damon has proved that he's just another overpriced whore. He's dead to me.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Treasonous Times

The US Code collection is amazingly easy to read, even for someone with no background in law. It's written in plain english, and is mostly free of legalese.

Consider the following from section 1801 of Title 50 of the USC, Chapter 36, Subchapter I, entitled "Electronic Surveillance":
(b) “Agent of a foreign power” means—
(2) any person who—
(C) knowingly engages in sabotage or international terrorism, or activities that are in preparation therefor, for or on behalf of a foreign power;
Now, consider the following from section 1802:
(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order (my emphasis) under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—
(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;
Next, it's worth taking a look at Title 18, Part I, Chapter 37. This part of the USC deals with the penalties for willfull disclosure and unauthorized possession of defense information:
(d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or
(e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or .... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
The law is pretty clear on this, even to a layman. From this it's easy to arrive at the following conclusions:
  • The President was operating within the law when he authorized electronic surveillance of terror suspects operating within the United States, and;
  • The New York Times and the person or persons disclosing this information to the Times are both guilty of unauthorized disclosure of defense information.
The Justice department must initiate an immediate investigation into the actions of the New York Times, and force them to reveal their source within the government who provided the information. The administration's political opponents have caused grave damage to national security by revealing this operation, and they should pay the price for doing so.

Update 12-22-05: In retrospect, this is probably not my most well-advised post. Not because I've changed my mind and suddenly think the whole thing is illegal, but because I've violated the rule on writing about things you know. I'm not a lawyer, and I have no legal training. I was considering removing the post, but I think I'll leave it here as a monument to my own arrogance.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Trouble Down Under

Reports from Australia suggest there are problems there with certain segments of the population. Based on articles in The Daily Telegraph and The Australian, one might conclude that gangs of drunken Aussies are descending upon hapless minorites of "middle eastern descent" without provocation. And that's partly true. The whole truth is even uglier.

The truth is that for years, Muslims of middle eastern descent have been imposing their Islamic "sensibilities" on beach-goers at Cronulla beach and elsewhere by harassing women who dare to wear bikinis, men who choose to drink alcohol, and in some cases, even raping women who have the audacity to swim without a burka.

The tensions reached their peak last week when some men "of middle eastern descent" attacked a couple of life guards who'd asked them to quit playing soccer in the middle of people who were trying to relax on the beach. It's important to know that lifeguards on Australian beaches are all volunteers, and are as highly regarded as our volunteer firefighters here in the US. Their job is very important there, given the surf conditions and the prevalance of sharks (the kind that swim), and the public is very fond of them.

So it was no surprise when the weekend following the attack on the lifeguards, some 5000 Aussies showed up at Cronulla to "take back the beach". Unlike the French, they'd had enough and decided to stand up and say so. Unfortunately, there was also a less desirable element among the throng who were drunk, spoiling for a fight, and determined to take out some "wogs".

The root of the problem, that is, Muslim immigrants and their descendants who not only refuse to adopt the customs and social mores of their host country, is exacerbated by the press who pass the whole series of unfortunate events off as "racial tensions". The implied message is that it's a bunch of drunken bigots picking on innocent minorities, when in fact the problem is more profound than that. Muslims taking up residence in non-Muslim countries can either assimilate themselves with their adoptive country, or they can simply stay where they are. Forcing their customs on the citizens of their new homeland is not an acceptable option.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

All In The Family

There's an old joke that goes something like this: Q: What's the (insert favorite backwards hick state here) definition of foreplay? A: "Hey, awake?".

It seems that may not be too much of a stretch in some quarters. The First Post today has an article about the muzzling of British MP Ann Cryer, who called for a debate on the genetic risks of first cousin marriages. It's not that her critics actually favor such marriages, it's just that they're afraid of offending the practitioners of the vast majority of this inbreeding -- Pakistani Muslims.

The advocates of this practice claim that it results in lower divorce rates and "strong family support networks". I'll bet it does...if your first cousin/wife starts getting too westernized, you can count on your "family support network" to kill her to defend your family's honor.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

What's Wrong With the Democrats?

In a word: everything. Let me preface my comments with this: I used to be a Democrat. Dyed in the wool, as they say. My Mom and Dad are Democrats, God love 'em. I campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1976. I didn't vote for him then, but only because I was still a couple years away from voting age. In 1980, I did vote for him, but we all know now how that worked out for the better.

I continued to vote almost exclusively for Democrats through Bill Clinton's election in 1992. Yes, I voted for Clinton then, and as it would turn out, he was the last Democrat I've voted for.

I used to have this perception of Democrats, as did many others back then, that the Democrats were "for the little guy". The foreign policy aspects of a candidate didn't seem to carry as much weight, for the simple reason that there was one bad guy: the Soviets. Even the Democrats knew that, so I never had to consider whether a candidate was for us or against us. So being a "little guy" myself, I went with the Democrats.

But a funny thing happened to the Democrats on the way to the end of the cold war. They became socialists. More accurately, they allowed their latent socialistic tendencies to come to the fore. Suddenly, the "peace dividend", all that money that was going into stopping the Red Menace at the Fulda Gap, could be used for social programs. Coincidentally, this was at the same time Bill and Hillary Clinton became co-President.

Clinton (Bill, that is), wasted no time in eviscerating the Pentagon budget while Clinton (Hillary, that is), just as quickly set up her sub rosa task force to establish nationalized health care. With hungry eyes on all that money formerly wasted on defense, Hillary figured she'd have a nearly unlimited budget to set up a national health care system to rival that of, well, Canada's I guess. Fortunately, the outcry both inside and outside the beltway succeeded in both spiking Hillary's health care scheme and putting Hillary in her place. Which, in case anyone's forgotten, was that of first lady.

Since that time, the Democratic party has been in accelerating decline. Sure, they won the White House again in '96, but in the absence of any other pressing issues, it could only be because 49% of the electorate wanted to see what sexual shenanigans Clinton would pull off next. Were they rewarded, or what?

Without belaboring Clinton's other transgressions, he did one thing (well actually, a series of things) that set the tone for the Democratic party we have today. By authorizing the sale of sensitive weapons technology to China in exchange for contributions to the Democratic National Committe and other Democratic campaign interests, Clinton set the tone for today's Democrats. That tone is to forget about doing what's right, do what's right for the party.

Ever since Bush beat Gore in 2000, the Democrats have been a seething mass of lunacy, viewing everything through the prism of that defeat. No matter what Bush says or does, it's wrong in the eyes of the devout Democrat. In fact, I'll bet you next week's paycheck that if Bush were to propose, verbatim, Hillary's 1993 health care plan as his own, the Democrats would be howling from the rooftops that it's a Rove-Cheney-Halliburton profiteering scheme.

The American voters must come to grips with the fact that the Democratic party does not have the nation's best interests at heart. Their only priority now is to win elections, but they have no plan for what to do if they regain power. Sure, we know they'll abandon Iraq, raise taxes and ignore the threat of Islamofascism, but what else are they going to offer us?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

With the anti-war rhetoric reaching Woodstock proportions, it's time for someone in that crowd to justify the moral high ground they claim to hold, and explain their opposition in detailed terms. As Victor Davis Hansen said in his National Review Online column today, "They should have been forced to explain why it was wrong to remove a fascist mass murderer, why it was wrong to stay rather than letting the country sink into Lebanon-like chaos, and why it was wrong not to abandon brave women, Kurds, and Shia who only wished for the chance of freedom."

They should also be forced to explain why they cling to the "no WMD!" mantra, when in fact coalition forces have found the following since the invasion of Iraq:
While that may not exactly be the bonanza we'd been told to expect prior to the war, it probably represents just a portion of what was overlooked by Saddam Hussein in his frenzy to send his stockpile to Syria in the months leading up to the invasion. And since I don't have the time or energy to spend on more research, I'm sure this list is far from complete.

Next, they should defend their insistence that Saddam's Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda or with international terrorism at all.

Consider that both Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal had found protection under Saddam. Then read Deroy Murdocks's National Review article on these and other ties Saddam's regime had to international terrorism, including Al Qaeda. Mr. Murdock is far more learned and more eloquent than I can ever be.

The loonier ones need to also explain how this was a "war for oil" when I'm still paying two bucks a gallon for gas, and not one drop of Iraq's crude oil has found its way to our strategic petroleum reserves. And I don't even want to entertain any explanations of how this was a war for Israel.

The sad, simple fact is this: the anti-war movement is being fueled by an amoral, disingenuous Democratic party that will stop at nothing to win back the White House and regain seats in the House and the Senate, and national security be damned.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Adam and Eve and The Time Machine

I recently came across a web site called The stated purpose of the site is "A network, where Muslims come to learn from each other on how best to convey the message of Islam with beauty, wisdom and tolerance; so that the souls of humanity may find peace by connecting with their Creator, Lord of the Universe." The site also has links for non-Muslims to learn about Islam.

Dawa, by the way, or Dawah, is an Arabic word meaning to invite, and is commonly used to mean proselytize.

Curious, I pulled up a few of the pages. I don't mind saying that I quickly got pretty creeped out. Consider the following line from this page:
"Definitely, leaving our children with non-Muslims more hours a day than they spend with Muslims is potentially dangerous." Oh, my. There's a voice of tolerance. Then there's this line from the same page: "In addition, we can share the message of Islam with our child's teacher, an excellent Dawa opportunity." Yikes. Nearly as scary as an Amway sales rep.

In fact, on page after page, I found the common thread was that everything is a Dawa opportunity! Going to an infidel neighbor's house for a cookout? Dawa! Meeting your kid's new school principal? Dawa! Yeesh.

So, with some trepidation, I clicked on this link for non-Muslims. It links to another site called Islam 101. The first line that caught my eye was this: "
Islam was the religion of the first couple, Adam and Eve." Huh?

Let's see...Islam was founded by Mohammed in the 7th century. That means Christianity pre-dates Islam by more than 600 years. Judaism long pre-dates Christianity, and was founded by descendants of Adam and Eve, so that means Adam and Eve pre-date even Judaism. So, in order for Adam and Eve to have been Muslims, that can only mean they had...a freakin' time machine!!

That's it. My head hurts. I think I'll go help my wife cook a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Something Stinks in Washington

A couple of days ago, on November 20th, an exotic plant called Titan Arum bloomed at the US Botanical Garden in Washington. The plant, found naturally only in Sumatra, exhudes a powerful stench, similar to that of rotting meat. It's also known as the corpse plant. The plant blooms only every few years, but its timing couldn't have been more appropriate.

In another part of Washington, Democrats are pumping out their own rank odor with their calls to withdraw from Iraq. It's not so much the demands that stink as it is the motivation behind them.

The Democrats know full well that to leave Iraq now would cause that country to descend into all-out civil war. This would allow the Democratic party, in coming elections, to point fingers at the Bush administration and say "See? Look what they did to Iraq!". The Democrats' worst nightmare is success in Iraq, in which the Iraqi people are living in a free society, with a freely elected leadership.

The Democratic party has proven that they care not one bit about the Iraqi people, or about national security. They'd rather do what's right for their party rather than what's right.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Proper Image for a Wartime President

When I saw this AP photo on the Fox News web site, I was hoping the caption under it would read "President Bush takes fashion tips from Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar". Alas, that wasn't the case.

But damn! How cool would that be?! Screw the $800 suits and striped red ties...put on a helmet and some body armor and get on a horse. Hoist a broadsword or maybe a battleaxe, and have your staff do the same.

Go around the country on horseback making speeches promoting the war on Islamofascism looking like that, and maybe people would sit up and take notice!

Just as a point of note: Mongolia may only have 160 troops in Iraq, but that makes them third in per capita troop contributions there. And during the visit, President Bush recognized two Mongolian soldiers who took out a suicide truck bomber in Iraq before he could reach a mess tent. Good on ya, guys.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Arab World Rises Up Against Terrorism...

...well, sort of. Almost. Not really.

The Washington Times is reporting that some 200,000 Jordanians demonstrated against Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's bombings that killed 59 people, many of them family members attending a wedding party.

Over at Little Green Footballs, some are hailing this development as an indicator that the Arab street is finally waking up and taking a stand against Islamic radicalism. How I wish that were the case.

Nearly all the dead and injured in the Jordan hotel bombings were Muslims, and that's really what's being protested. I suspect that if a few dozen Americans and/or Israelis had been killed, there'd be 200,000 Jordanians celebrating instead of protesting.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Selective Outrage

On October 30th, our local paper, the Fredericksburg Freelance-Star, ran an editorial piece by Paul Akers, the Freelance-Star's opinion pages editor, titled "Why Islam Didn't Conquer The World". The article discusses the Battle of Tours in 732, in which a Muslim army led by Abd er Rahman was defeated by a European army led by Charles Martel. I can't attest to the accuracy of all the points made in the article, but it made for interesting reading.

Within a day or so, letters to the editor of the Freelance-Star started pouring in from all over the country. The vast majority of those out-of-state letters were from Muslims expressing outrage over the depiction of Islam, and included rants about the Christian Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, etc.

The sheer volume of the letters led me to wonder if the article had been picked up by other newspapers. To the best of my knowledge, opinion pieces from our little ol' hometown paper are not widely syndicated. So, what led to this rapid response in defense of Islam?

A quick Google search for Mr. Akers' article revealed only a handful of hits -- 18 to be exact, ten of which Google deemed "relevant". One of them was my own blog entry prior to this one. A few were the article itself from the Freelance-Star's web site and a few blogs which included or referenced the article. One of those blogs was, which claims to be "Watching global Islamic relations for better understanding".

Islam Daily appears to be one of those sites that trolls the 'net for relevant news items, in their case relevant meaning news items relating to Islam. That's fair enough, and the site seems to carry a fair balance of views with regards to Islam. If you search the site, though, what's notably absent are any articles covering such recent events as the beheading of Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia or the attack on a Christian church in Egypt by Muslim mobs.

This indicates to me that while America's Muslim community is ever so vigilant for anything deemed insensitive to Islam, that same community completely disregards atrocities committed in the name of their faith. Where is their outrage when their co-religionists lop off the heads of teenaged Christian girls? Where is their outrage when Muslims in southern Thailand force shopkeepers to observe the Muslim sabbath at the risk of having their ears cut off?

The silence of the supposedly moderate Muslim world makes them complicit in these acts. Until moderate Islam speaks up and starts condemning these acts in both word and deed, the non-Muslim world will continue to view Islam with suspicion.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Why Islam Didn't Conquer the World

Last Sunday, our local paper, the Fredericksburg Freelance-Star, ran an editorial by Paul Akers discussing the Battle of Tours in 732. This was a battle in which a Christian army under Charles "The Hammer" Martel defeated a numerically superior Muslim army invading Europe. Conventional wisdom has it that if the Muslims had won, we'd all be Muslims today.

Naturally, the article touched off a storm of letters expressing outrage over this "defamation" of Islam. Of course, I felt compelled to respond in this letter which I hope will be published:

I read with interest the flurry of letters in response to Paul Akers' piece, "Why Islam Didn't Conquer the World". Predictably, the majority of those letters expressed varying degrees of outrage at this latest "defamation" of Islam.

A few of the letters are quick to mention that in lands conquered by Islam, Christians and Jews were allowed to live under the protection of the Islamic state and the state even "tolerated their religious practices". While this is more than can be said of some of the civilizations taken by Christian conquerors, it only tells half the story.

The rest of the story is that these non-Muslims were considered "dhimmi", meaning that while they were under the protection of the Islamic state, they remained non-Muslims and considered less than equal to Muslims. Furthermore, they were only protected for as long as they paid the "jizyah", a tax levied on non-Muslims who agreed to subservience in exchange for a degree of tolerance.

In just the past week or two, we've seen three Christian schoolgirls beheaded by Islamic paramilitary death squads in Indonesia, Muslim mobs storming and burning a Christian church in Egypt, and the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map". There have been Muslims rioting in Denmark and France, and Muslim attacks on non-Muslims in southern Thailand. There's been no Muslim outrage over these events, yet there's plenty of seething over Mr. Akers' article.

It will be up to moderate Muslims to rein in the militant practitioners of the religion, and prove to the rest of the world that Islam is the tolerant “Religion of Peace” the PC pundits say it is.

From Traitors to Folk Heroes

The First Post has a great editorial comparing the fate of Guy Fawkes to modern-day terrorists. Fawkes conspired unsuccesfully 400 years ago to blow up Parliament.

Required reading.

Updated to correct link.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hindus Take Offense to British Stamp

Today's Daily Telegraph has an article describing the offense taken by Hindus over a stamp being issued for Christmas. The stamp is a detail of a 17th century painting showing a Hindu man and a Hindu woman worshipping the baby Jesus.

Absent, however, is the burning of churches and beheading of Christian schoolgirls made popular by the other "Religion of Peace".

Monday, October 31, 2005

Confrontation good, appeasement bad

The Telegraph's columnist Mark Steyn gets it right again. In this column, he explains how Bush disregards the Clinton-style popularity contest approach to his presidency in favor of getting done the things he thinks matters.

Right on, Mark.

The Alito Debate

At 8:00 this morning, President Bush announced Judge Samuel Alito as his nominee to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. At around 8:03 this morning, the howls of outrage from the batshit loonball left began.

Now, don't get me wrong. There should be honest, informed debate over the nominee for a position of such profound importance, especially when the nominee may hold that position for the next 40 years. But the agonized screams were mostly coming from people who couldn't possibly have known a damn thing about Alito at the time of the announcement. This pretty much removes "honest" and "informed" from the equation.

Senator Chuck Schumer, who almost certainly did have advance knowledge of the pick, was predictable in saying "This controversial nominee, who would make the court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and from the American people." What Sen. Schumer doesn't say is that there wouldn't be any controversy if he and his fellow moonbats didn't fabricate it. There would (and should) be serious debate, but labeling Alito as "controversial" before the guy has even had a chance to answer a single question is dishonest in the extreme. But then again, that same habitual dishonesty the Democrats collectively possess is one of the many things that drove me from the party in the first place.

So right away Alito's opponents forfeit their credibility and will reduce the debate to name-calling and mud-slinging. I hope the President gets a chance at replacing a couple more Supreme Court justices between now and 2008 since the process exposes the Democrats for the liars they are.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Prince Charles, Islam's Newest Spokesman

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, will launch an eight day tour of the United States this week to promote better understanding of Islam among us ignorant, bigoted Americans. It seems Prince Charles is concerned that we're too intolerant of the religion since 9/11. (Link)

I guess Chuck expects us to be more tolerant of, and demonstrate more respect for, a religion/culture which has absolutely zero tolerance for
other religions and cultures, regards women as little more than breeding stock, is collectively responsible for more acts of terrorism than all other terrorist causes combined, and has bullied his own subjects into banning Winnie the Pooh's Piglet from work places and piggy bank iconogrophy from banks.

Earth to Prince Charles: Why don't you stay home and help round up the terrorists that are trying to kill your own citizens?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Religion of Peace Speaks Up In Indonesia

Those peace-loving Muslims in Indonesia are at it again, this time attacking and beheading three school girls from a Christian school, and severely injuring a fourth (link).

Of course, AP is too squeamish to state directly that the attackers were Islamic terrorists, describing them instead as "unidentified assailants". The article goes on to describe sectarian violence in Central Sulawesi, which is roughly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

But one shouldn't jump to any conclusions, right?

Friday, October 28, 2005

And These Guys Want Nukes?

After Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spewed forth his tirade against Israel, the reaction from the rest of the world was swift and predictable. That is to say it was swift and tepid. Sure, a few countries called their Iranian ambassadors in for an explanation, and Iran's embassy in Moscow tried to spin Ahmadinejad's words, saying"Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict". Well, when one states unequivocally that "Israel must be wiped off the map", it's reasonable to believe that he did indeed intend to engage in conflict.

Now remember, this is not some press release from Al Quaeda or Islamic Jihad. This isn't the Islamic lunatic fringe, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of Iranians rallying in the streets of Iran echoing Ahmadinejad's sentiments.
This is a public policy statement from the president of a country with a seat in the United Nations.

Iran needs to be suspended from the United Nations, and all countries with diplomatic relations with Iran must recall their ambassadors and expel all Iranian embassy staff in their countries. Iran needs to be completely isolated from the community of nations.

Let's not forget that Iran is close to becoming a nuclear power.

How The West End Was Lost

The last time I visited Dallas, around 1988 or '89, the West End was very much a happenin' place. There was every kind of bar and restaurant one could imagine, and they were all packed, every night of the week. My, how things have changed.

I've just spent the past two nights in Dallas, and I couldn't have been more disappointed. The West End is nearly a ghost town. Tumbleweeds blowing down the streets would not have been out of place. Sure, there are still a few tourists and business travelers who've strayed a couple of blocks too far from the infamous Dealey Plaza, but they all seem to have a "what the hell are we doing here?" look on their faces.

Most of the eateries and watering holes of which I have fond memories are gone, and a few big corporate chains like TGI Fridays and On the Border have moved in. Sure, The Palm is still there and seems to be doing a decent business, but Dick's Last Resort has moved, and Dallas Alley is nothing more than, well, an alley.

Last night, I went to Hoffbrau Steaks and got a beer at the bar and headed out to the patio, since one no longer has the liberty of smoking indoors in Dallas. I figured on asking for a menu and having dinner (and maybe another tasty Hoffbrau Oktoberfest beer or two) before heading back to my hotel.

I sat down at a table on the patio at around 6:15PM, sipped my beer, and waited for one of the five or six waiters tending the patio to come my way so I could look at the menu. By around 6:45, my beer was gone and I continued to wait. At this point, I had no intention of spending another dime there, but I was curious how long it would take for someone to notice me.

Finally, at around 7:30, a gentleman who looked like he might have been the manager came to my table and asked if I needed anything. I proceeded to describe the past hour of my life to him, and explained that no, I had no desire to give Hoffbrau Steaks any more of my money. I left and went in search of more hospitable surroundings.

Rounding a corner, I came across another establishment which shall remain nameless, not because it's a strip joint or anything like that, but because they allow their patrons to smoke. More accurately, they don't actively prevent their patrons from smoking. I've come across a couple of places like this in California, but I think their proprietors have since been herded off to camps. But since the anti-smoking Fatwa is only a few months old in Dallas, there are still some foolish souls who think they can resist, progress, that is.

So I sit down, order a beer (and light up a smoke), and start perusing the menu. After my dinner, I chatted with the bartender for a bit. He lamented how the West End had already seen a bit of a decline in popularity, but since the smoking ban went into effect, it's been dead (queue the tumbleweeds). I guess their passive defiance of the smoking ban is as much a statement as it is a bid to remain solvent.

I sincerely hope that the West End recovers, because it was once such a great place to spend an evening. But unless service improves and the whiz kids running the city of Dallas realize they're not everyone's mother, I don't see much hope.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Of Avian Flu, McDonald's and Radical Islam

Columnist Mark Steyn once again gets it spot on in this column which veers oddly from Abraham Lincoln, to bird flu, to McDonald's to radical Islam.

But don't let the disparate topics fool you...Mr. Steyn, as usual, knows what he's talking about.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

But, Syria-ously, folks...

There's much to find in both the online and offline press today about the UN report on Syria's role in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In the publicly released version of the report, top Syrian officials are said to have initiated the plot to kill Hariri. In not-so-public versions, however, names are named, including members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. makes mention of the two different versions of the report, but the Times of London comes right out and says it: the report was doctored by the UN after its completion. It seems the report was written using Microsoft Word, and that the Word document was sent out...with the "Track Changes" feature turned on. The track changes feature allows the viewer to see what edits were made to the document along the way, and while the final version lays the blame for the assassination on "senior Lebanese and Syrian officials", the original version named specific names, including al-Assad's brother.

This is yet another disturbing development in Kofi Annan's UN that warrants more scrutiny, but sadly, most media outlets seem to be ignoring it.

Demonstrate Like an Egyptian reports (courtesy of AP) that the distribution of a DVD recording of a play performed at a Coptic Christian church in Egypt has sparked outrage among Muslims. There are two disturbing elements in this story.

The first, of course, is the now-familiar Muslim outrage at anything they find offensive to Islam. The play is about a young Christian who converts to Islam and becomes disillusioned. In this instance, the mob turned out after Friday noon prayers at a local mosque (hmmm...I wonder what the sermon was about that day?) hurling stones and smasing windows and trying to storm a Christian church.

It's never enough to voice a formal complaint or even to demonstrate peacefully. The first reaction is always one of violence and destructuion.

The second disturbing element is AP's coverage of the story. AP blandly reports on the Muslims' reaction, then goes on to complain, "A photographer for The Associated Press saw police fire rubber bullets into the crowd, causing injuries. Police claimed officers fired rubber bullets only into the air while trying to disperse the crowd.", and "One protester, Mohammed Zakaraya Hassan, 48, died after being trampled and inhaling tear gas". Oh, those poor, poor militants.

Once again, the media portrays militant Muslims as the victims rather than the perpetrators.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Back Home

Fredericksburg, Virginia 20:00 Saturday evening (delayed post)

As chaotic as it was for me to get to Berlin, getting home was just the opposite. My itinerary called for a flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta, with less than an hour and a half before my connecting flight to Richmond. Having flown this same pair of flights before, I was a bit concerned about making my connecting flight. An hour and a half is plenty of time for domestic flights, but when you arrive from a foreign city in Atlanta, you have to do the following:

  • Go through passport control (15 minutes minimum)
  • Claim your bag (15 minutes minimum)
  • Clear customs (5-10 minutes)
  • Re-check your bag (about 5 minutes)
  • Clear security re-screening (15 minutes minimum)
To make things even more interesting, all international flights use concourse E, and flights to and from Richmond are nearly always at concourse A or B. Best case scenario is I'll arrive huffing and puffing for my Richmond flight and find all the overhead bins full.

Not today...the gods of travel are smiling upon me.

I arrive at passport control, just as about eight windows are being opened up for arriving US citizens. Passport control takes all of 30 seconds.

I get to my flight's baggage claim belt just as the first bags are coming out. Mine is the fourth or fifth one off, and I'm out of there in less than five minutes.

There's a bit of a line at customs, but I'm still done with that in less than five minutes.

Baggage re-check has only a handful of passengers there, and more than enough handlers to move things along. Another 30 second stop.

Security re-screening (why do they have this anyway?) has a bit of a line, but it's moving right along. I'm in and out of there in about five minutes.

I arrive at the B concourse with at least 15 minutes to spare before boarding starts (not before departure!), and have time to grab a smoke in one of the putrid smoking rooms and call Deb.

I'm beat and glad to be back home.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Foot And Rail

Heidelberg, Germany 17:30 Thursday afternoon (delayed post)

Here's how good the public transportation system is in Germany. I left the Hilton in Berlin this morning, walked across the street to the U-bahn station, and took the U2 subway to the Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof in Berlin. From there, I caught the ICE 877 train to Mannheim.

Coming into Mannheim, my arriving train was about five minutes late, so I missed my scheduled regional train from there to Heidelberg. No problem. I look at a timetable, and see that there's an S3 train leaving from track 10 in less than 15 minutes. It's going to Heidelberg, with just a few intermediate stops. The regional train would have been non-stop to Heidelberg, but so what.

I get off the S3 at the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof, and walk seven or eight minutes to the Heidelberg Marriott. Note that at no time did I have to drive, or even hail a taxi. Nothing but trains and my own two feet, and I didn't even have to walk that much. And when I go downtown for dinner tonight, I'll walk one block to the strassenbahn (street car), and walk a short way to where I want to eat.

We take a lot of what I think is unfair criticism from the Europeans, but when they criticize our mass transit system, they know what they're talking about.

Last Day In Berlin

Berlin, Germany 17:30 Wednesday afternoon (delayed post)

Last night we had a big group dinner at Wasserwerk. Wasserwerk (German for water works) is exactly as the name implies. Or was, anyway. It's an old water works facility gutted and renovated to be a restaurant/nightclub. Very cool place.

After dinner, a bunch of us took the early bus back to the hotel, but got off the bus at Potsdamer Platz. The entire commercial area surrounding the platz is new, having been built on the now-prime real estate that used to be the vast no man's land on the Soviet side of the Berlin Wall. I was told by one of my German colleagues that the land had to be carefully cleared of mines first.

We walked around and saw some of the sights, then went to the Reichstag, where the German parliament (Bundestag) meets. The building appears very old from the outside, but the inside is completely modern. It appears that an entirely new structure was built within just the shell of the old building.

There's a clear glass dome at the top of the Reichstag, with a spiral ramp running the perimeter inside it. Unfortunately, the dome was closed for cleaning until 16 October, so we had to settle for just going on the roof. It was still a pretty impressive view.

Today, the schedule is very light with just a handful of seminar sessions, none of which I have to speak at. But I have to meet informally with a few people, and have the tech support guys help out with a remote access problem I've been having for a month or so. Since I don't work at a company facility, I've gotta catch these guys when I can. Luckily, the company brought in some IT guys from our Munich and UK offices for support at the conference, and they were able to set me straight.

After that, I hop on the U-bahn (subway) and go to the KaDeWe store to return the clothes I bought yesterday. As I'm heading back to the U-bahn to go back to the hotel, I hear this odd music that sounds sort of electronic/techno. It actually sounds like some of the music played at a Blue Man group show, and since that show is now in Berlin, I think maybe they've got some promotional thing going on in the plaza somewhere.

So, I head for the source of the music, thinking I might catch a free mini Blue Man group performance. What I see instead is one guy blowing into a hollow wooden tube about six feet long. The tube looks about two or three inches wide, flaring to about five or six inches at the end. He also had a wooden stick about the size and shape of a large cigar, which he used as a percussion instrument against the side of the tube, and sometimes the sidewalk. I thought there was no way that thing could be making that sound, and maybe he had a boom box hidden somewhere, but there was no such thing in sight. That coupled with the pool of spit forming on the sidewalk where the end of the instrument rested convinced me it was for real. I must have watched the guy play for at least 15 minutes. I was so impressed, I tipped him five euros.

I finally got back to the hotel to do some work on a paper I'm writing (and way behind schedule) on. And tomorrow it's off to Heidelberg to meet with a customer, hopefully two.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Let's Go Shopping!

Berlin, Germany 18:00 Tuesday afternoon (delayed post)

My friend Mark, who's an American working at my company's office here in Berlin, calls me and wants to get together. I don't have any sessions to present at until early afternoon, so I say "Hey, great! Pick me up at the hotel and let's go shopping!"

Mark picks me up at around 9:30, and takes me to a store he's sure will be less expensive than the place I went to yesterday. The place he has in mind is a large department store called KaDeWe. I'm sure that's an abbreviation for something, I'm just not sure what. The store is located just inside what used to be West Berlin, and the commies from the other side could actually enter the store and get demoralized by seeing all the stuff they couldn't get. Retail as a propaganda tool.

Well, it didn't take me long to become a bit demoralized myself when I started looking at the prices. To make a long story short, I come out of the store with a pair of Dockers, another light-weight wool pullover and a pair of socks. Total: 155 euros. God bless capitalism.

At around 11:30, Mark drops me off back at the hotel, and as I walk in to the lobby past the concierge desk, the first thing I see is my bag, festooned with numerous airline tags marked "Rush!" and "Expedite!". Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, my bag is here! And nearly $200 of clothes worth $60 can go back to the store.

I steal a quck look at one of the tags to see when it was sent by Delta. Sure enough, Delta, to their credit, did send the bag out on Saturday for arrival on Sunday. It just took Deb's persistent phone calls to both airlines to get them talking to each other and get the damn bag out of customs.

At least I was able to properly dress for the presentations I had in the afternoon, and won't have to pay extortionist's prices for more clothes.

Hundred Dollar Levis?

Berlin, Germany 23:00 Monday night (delayed post)

As I feared, my shirt is still slightly damp in sleeves this morning, but at least the socks and skivvies are totally dry, if a tad stiff. A quick once over with an iron gets rid of most of the dampness, and I'm good to go.

First thing after breakfast, I head up Friedrichstrasse to buy some clothes. I end up shopping at the first department store I find, which is Galleries Lafayette. I browse through the men's department, and quickly come down with a case of sticker shock: the first shirt I see, a simple cotton button-down oxford, is selling for 179 euros. Oh, this is going to be painful.

Lufthansa has stated that they'd reimburse me for 50% of whatever I spend on necessary clothes and toiletries. I had visions of getting some REALLY nice stuff at half price, but at these prices, even with a 50% reimbursement I'd be paying double what I'd pay at home.

So, I come out of the store with a pair of Levis (85 euros, around 103 dollars), a simple light-weight wool pullover, a pair of socks, and a package of three pairs of underwear. Total: 175 euros.

I get back to the hotel, and quickly change. I've got an afternoon session to present at, and I want clean (if somewhat casual) clothes. I find this is not an ordinary pair of Levis. I guess they're a European cut, since they're sort of a low-rise waist, and the bottom of the legs flair out far more than I'm used to. Oh well, they'll have to do. I like the sweater, though.

Later in the morning, I set out to find a store where I can pick up the usual toiletries. I walk south from the hotel a few blocks, and I see a sign saying "You are now entering the American sector". Huh? Then I realize I've stumbled upon the world-renowned Checkpoint Charlie, and apparently, my hotel is in the former Soviet sector. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Berliners have created a monument out of the famous American checkpoint. It was pretty cool seeing that.

After work, everybody at this conference is off for a group dinner. I don't have time to go. It's time to start rattling cages at Delta and Lufthansa and get my damn luggage. I have Deb call me on my cell phone, and while I'm on the line with her, she calls Delta in Atlanta. The lady at Delta posts a couple of urgent messages to the luggage tracking system, then Deb calls Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and the lady there does the same. I'd do all this myself, but I use a pre-paid cell phone plan while in Europe, and the calls would wipe out my pre-paid credits in about two minutes.

I finally get a bite to eat at the hotel bar, and crash. Tomorrow's another day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Berlin, Germany 17:30 Sunday Afternoon (delayed post)

Got up this morning and had breakfast at the hotel in Heidelberg, then packed up my meager possessions and walked to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel.

I caught the 10:10 regional train to Mannheim, where I boarded the 10:31 ICE (Inter-City Express) train for Berlin. If you need to travel between distant cities in Germany, the ICE is the only way to go. As much as I like driving the Autobahn here, five and a half hours of white-knuckle driving can leave you exhausted.

On the ICE, there are these digital displays that show the speed of the train. The German word for speed, by the way, is "geschwindigkeit". On the last leg between Wolfsburg and Berlin, the sustained speed was 250Km/h. That's right around 150MPH. Cool.

In Berlin, the ICE stops at the Berlin Zoological Garden Bahnhof, rather than the Hauptbahnhof. So there I had to transfer to the S7 local train to the Hauptbahnhof, where my plan was to pick up a street map and either (a) walk to the hotel if it wasn't too far, (b) figure out the street car or subway lines and take that to the hotel, or (c) failing either of those two, grabbing a cab to the hotel. Big mistake.

The Hauptbahnhof in Berlin is well into what was the old Soviet sector. The entire area appears to be under (re)-construction. So the main train station turns out to be nothing but a bunch of tracks and platforms where you can get off and on the trains. No information kiosks, no place to buy tickets, nothing. Just some massive structure under construction near the tracks. Taxi stand? Nowhere to be seen.

So, using my impeccable sense of direction, I start walking in the general direction of where I think the hotel might be. At least I got that part right. I come across a Ramada hotel, and ask the desk clerk there how to get to the Berlin Hilton on Mohrenstrasse. The gentleman there is very helpful, and gives me a map showing me where to get on and off the subway for the hotel.

So, I take the U6 about a mile down the road I was already walking on, and when I get off the subway, I'm about a block from the Hilton. Nice.

I walk up to the registration desk, and after checking in, explain to the desk clerk that I was expecting my bag to be delivered at around noon. Does she happen to know anything about that? She shakes her head and explains to me that if the bag had been delivered, there would have been a message for me at check in. Crap...still no luggage.

The concierge is helpful in calling Lufthansa for me. Lufthansa says that my bag never showed up on the flight it was supposed to have, and that Delta has no new information for them. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

I call Deb and let her know what's going on, and she calls Delta stateside. They tell her that the bag probably got held up in customs.

So, I grab my package of the previously mentioned Detergent, Laundry, 1 each and proceed to wash my skivvies, socks and shirt in the sink. I wring everything out, and drape it all on the radiator, which is running just slightly warm. I go to bed secure in the knowledge that I'll have clean, if somewhat damp, clothes in the morning.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Baggage? We dont need no stinkin' baggage!

Heidelberg, Germany 18:30 Saturday evening

Well, at around 16:00 (central European time) I drag my ass off the plane in Frankfurt. As I walk towards the baggage claim area, it occurs to me that with the re-routing of my flight plus a hand-off from Delta to Lufthansa, there's about as much chance of my baggage coming off that plane as there is of George Bush inviting Michael Moore to a state dinner at the White House.

So, I bypass the baggage belt and head right for the baggage service office. I hand my baggage claim ticket to a gentleman there and ask him if he can see if my bag is on the flight. He taps my claim check number into his computer, shakes his head ominously and advises me that my bag is still in Atlanta. On the plus side, Delta has already posted a note to the tracer that the bag will be on a flight arriving in Frankfurt at around 08:00 Sunday morning. Well, that's just fine, but I'm heading to Berlin on Sunday morning.

The nice young man at the baggage claim area advises me to contact the Lufthansa baggage service office to file a claim. So, off I trot to Lufthansa baggage tracing, where a nice young lady takes all my information, including the address of the hotel I'll be staying at in Berlin. The nice young lady advises me that once my bag is received in Frankfurt, it'll be placed on the next flight to Berlin for delivery to my hotel. She also furnishes me with an "Overnight kit-male", which contains the following:

Razor, disposable, 1 each
Foam, Shaving, 1 each
Deodorant, Underarm, 1 each
Brush, hair (w/mirror), 1 each
Paste, tooth (Colgate), 1 each
Brush, tooth, 1 each
Shampoo (Neutrogena), 1 each
Buds, cotton (aka Q-Tips), 4 each
Detergent, laundry, 1 each
Shirt, T (XXL), 1 each

I proceed to meet my shuttle ride to the Heidelberg Marriott. I turn on my cell phone, since I've told Deb (that's my wife) to call at around 17:30 my time. On the ride to Heidelberg, my phone rings right on time...and immediately turns itself off. Shit. Not enough charge on the battery. Luckily, I've got enough battery to send Deb a text message: btry dying, and another one instructing her to call me later. I figure I'd get to the hotel and charge the phone up and she could call me later. Uh oh...guess where my charger is? the bag that's somewhere, but not in Germany.

I finally get to the hotel, and call Deb to advise her not to bother calling and in general trying to coax some sympathy for my plight. While she's sympathetic, her sympathy is offset by her envy of me being in Heidelberg without her.

So, it's off to the Dubliner to have a bite to eat and a few beers. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully, it'll bring my bag.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oh, Atlanta

Manchester, England 11:50 Saturday morning.

I was booked on Delta from Richmond to Atlanta, where I was to catch an 18:25 flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I figured I'd spend a day in Heidelberg, see a few friends, then continue on by train on Sunday to Berlin for a conference.

Lousy weather on the US east coast, with the remnants of some tropical storm bringing wind and plenty of rain. With less than an hour between flights in Atlanta, I figured there'd be problems.

Sure enough, the flight doesn't leave Richmond until 17:00. With a flight time of 1:15, that would put me in Atlanta right about the time my Frankfurt flight is to push back from the gate. Naturally, my Richmond flight arrives at concourse A, and the Frankfurt leg is leaving from conourse E.

So I get to my gate at around 16:35, and I see that the flight has been delayed to 16:50. Woohoo! I made it! Not. Delta had already removed me from that flight and put me on the 20:00 flight to Manchester, England with a connection on Lufthansa to Frankfurt, and a leisurely 4:30 layover.

To Delta's credit, it was probably for the best. There's no way my bag would have made it on the plane with me even if they hadn't already re-routed me. Only time will tell if my bag makes the handoff to Lufthansa and meets me in Frankfurt.

Moral of the story: Never, EVER allow the corporate travel folks to give you anything less than two hours to connect in Atlanta.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Preaching to the Choir

I only caught pieces of President Bush's speech on the war on terrorism to the National Endowment for Democracy this morning. But I managed to read the full text here at Atlas Shrugs (a pretty good blog, by the way).

He finally made the effort to articulate that we're at war not with this nebulous thing called "terrorism" but with an actual living, breathing enemy. The trouble is, who's listening?

Certainly not the lefties suffering from what some conservative bloggers like to call "Bush Derangement Syndrome". Those suffering from BDS will call Bush a liar if he says Tiger Woods is a pretty good golfer.

And certainly not the Europeans, whose disdain for Bush, and indeed America, has blinded them to the fact that they've already begun submitting to Islam without even realizing it.

If people around the world don't start waking up to the creeping danger of Islamofascism the job of eradicating it is going to be that much harder.

UPDATE: Friday, October 07, 2005 @ 07:00
Just as I thought, a quick but unappetizing walk through a couple of the more hard-core left blogs, notably The Daily Kos and Democratic Underground, reveals their undying hatred for anything Bush, or Republican, or anything based in reality. It's still a war for oil/Halliburton/Israel. Never mind those nice Islamofascists killing people everywhere, they're just misunderstood.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oh well...we gave it a shot

After kicking Taliban ass all over Afghanistan, working diligently with moderate factions, making things secure for fair elections and in general trying to drag Afghanistan out of the dark ages, it may have been all for nothing.

The Fox News web site ran an article about the arrest of an Afghan magazine editor for "un-Islamic writing". It seems his opinion on giving adulterers 100 lashes was an insult to Islam. I'll let you guess which side of the fence the editor was on regarding the practice.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Religion of What??

God bless little green footballs. They posted a link today to a First Post (UK) article that regrettably will get little or no attention here in the US media.

The article contains excerpts from an interview with Abu Bakar Bashir, described as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (see my previous post on the Bali bombings). In the article, Bashir gives the following chilling statement in response to the question of how the west can achieve peace with Islam: "If they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam."

And there it is. Nothing about the Palestinian issue, nothing about troops in Iraq, nothing but "submit to Islam or die."

This is not Muslim extremism...this is core Muslim philosophy.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Religion of Peace Speaks Again in Bali

Once again, Muslim extremists have detonated bombs in Bali, resulting in the deaths of more than two dozen people. The group believed to be responsible is Jemaah Islamiyah, which is thought to have ties to Al Qaeda. The same group is believed to be responsible for similar bombings of a Bali nightclub in October, 2002, and the bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August, 2003 and one outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta in May, 2004. That's one major bombing a year for the past few years for those who are keeping count.

The disturbing thing about these acts is that they come without fanfare, before or after the fact. There are no announcements, at least none reported by the international media, that these bombings will cease when certain demands are met. Unlike other groups committing atrocities elsewhere, they're not demanding that US and British troops withdraw from Muslim holy lands, that Israel be exterminated from Palestine, etc. Which makes them probably the most honest group of radical Muslims in the major leagues of terrorism.

No, the only thing that will make JI happy is an Islamic caliphate consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei and Cambodia. Let's see, did I leave anyone out? That would make such a caliphate a pan-Southeast Asia nation of 420 million people, according to Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. Assuming all of them stay to experience the joys of living under Islamic law, that is.

And that's why I find the silence so disturbing. This is not a group that's merely happy to kill innocent civilians and use the excuse that they're doing so to protest the British and American "crusaders". They have a mission, and they're deadly serious about it. They don't pretend to give a damn about Iraq or the Palestinians. And I fear that they're more indicative of the radical Islam movement than the handful of oddballs and losers as portrayed in the media. This is an organized and alarmingly cohesive movement with a deep hatred of everything un-Islamic and I'm afraid that the world will continue to under estimate the size and scope of the problem until it's too late.

Feminism, Hamas-style

The Telegraph of London ran an interesting item today about the role of women in jihad on behalf of Hamas. Apparently a culture that treats women as little more than breeding stock has no problem with women taking up arms, provided those arms are targeting Israelis.

Rasha Rantisi, whose husband, Hamas leader Abdelaziz Rantisi was killed by Israeli Defense Forces last year, has become a symbolic leader for women aspiring to jihad. Says Ms. Rantisi, "I speak for my sisters. Hamas has always honoured women, but now the time has come for Hamas to give a role to women. We can participate in health and education, and politics too."

She goes on to say that Hamas must accept nothing less than Sharia law: "I will not accept secularism." Even more disturbing is her commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel:"I refuse any compromise," she said. "The liberation struggle will continue until we liberate all our land. Even if we enter elections our weapons will not grow dusty against Israel."

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: moot

Even though the Red Sox can tie the Evil Empire in the standings with a win over them today, the EE gets the AL East crown by virtue of having a better record against us this season.

So, here's how it shakes out: Either a Boston win or a Cleveland loss today gives us the wild card spot. If we lose and Cleveland wins, that will force a one-game playoff against Cleveland to determine the AL wild card.

*sigh* And a couple weeks ago I thought we'd be a lock.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 0 (huh?)

I think has a problem with Boston and the Evil Empire being tied for first place, and can't figure out the magic number. They both have a magic number of 0, according to Fox. I suspect the actual number is something more like 3 for each team.

At any rate, it makes this upcoming home stand against the EE that much more crucial.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hold The Pickles, Hold The Blasphemy

I guess it doesn't take much to offend Muslims these days. According to several items in the British press, one Rashad Akhtar of High Wycombe was offended when he noticed one day that the lid of an ice cream dessert from Burger King, when rotated ninety degrees, resembles the Arabic word for Allah. Apparently, it's a sacrilege when random swirls on a product's package design inadvertently spell "Allah".

So, Mr. Akhtar did what any sane, sensible person would have done and launched a "Jihad" against Burger King's blasphemy. Said Mr. Akhtar: "This is my jihad. How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way to the right you are offending Muslims." So, is he also offended by Burger King's Croissanwich's resemblance to an Islamic crescent? I guess he hasn't ordered one yet.

Burger King, of course, immediately and much to their discredit, pulled the tasty but blasphemous treats from its stores and issued an apology, and will have to spend thousands to redesign the packaging.

How about this, you twit: The very fact that you're offended offends ME!

Offensive or tasty? You be the judge:

Friday, September 16, 2005

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 16

Well, the Evil Empire is only 1.5 games behind. This is getting way too close for comfort. Our bats need to wake up and start pounding out some hits!

Friday, September 09, 2005

More Mr. Nice Guy

A month or so ago, my wife and my daughter got me watching "Rock Star: INXS". The show, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is sort of a twist on "American Idol". Fifteen contestants compete to become the new lead singer for INXS, the Australian band whose lead singer, Michael Hutchence, committed suicide eight or nine years ago. Each week, the contestants perform and viewers vote on their favorites. And each week, the bottom three vote-getters are stood up in front of the band, who collectively decide which one of the three goes home.

I was skeptical at first, but since I was a bit of an INXS fan back in the '80s and early '90s, I decided to watch it. I was wondering who among the band members would take on the Simon Cowell persona and hurl put-downs at the poor performers in the bunch. Then I found out that along with the band, Dave Navarro would also be judging the contestants. Now, Dave Navarro is the outstanding guitarist of Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers fame. Navarro also looks like Satan having a really crappy day. I thought "Cool...not only will he mercilessly insult those contestants not performing up to par, but will drag the losing contestant each week, screaming in agony, into the depths of Hell!".

Man, was I EVER wrong.

It turns out that Dave Navarro is a REALLY nice guy. Judging performances each week isn't his only job. He also acts as mentor and cheerleader for the contestants, offering honest but polite critiques to each one, and loads of encouragement. And when a contestant puts on an exceptionally good performance (which is surprisingly frequent), he's nothing short of lavish with his praise.

I guess you just can't judge a book by its cover. Or a rocker with countless tattoos and a demonic countenance.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 22

So, we won last night and the Evil Empire lost. The EE is half a game up on Cleveland in the wild card race. While I think it'd be cool to see Boston play the Evil Empire again in the post season, I'm not sure my heart can take it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina And The Waves

Remember that band? They had a big, bouncy pop hit in the '80s, ironically (in the context of recent events) titled "Walkin' on Sunshine".

The events unfolding in New Orleans and elsewhere along the gulf coast are beyond heartbreaking in their enormity. Some cynics among us are saying they had their chance to evacuate and didn't do it, but that's callous in the extreme. The fact is that far too many couldn't evacuate, many for financial reasons, many more for medical reasons. They just couldn't afford to go anywhere, or were physically unable to.

Another group of people chooses to try and develop political capital out of this catastrophe by saying the government could do more, could have been better prepared, or should have seen this coming. And they're just as bad as those that say the people who stayed deserved what they got. Worse in many respects, because the latter speak out of ignorance, while the former speak purely for political gain.

If everyone would just shut the hell up for the time being and do whatever they can to help, maybe some suffering can be relieved.

Hey, RFK about opening up the Kennedy compound to hurricane refugees?

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 27

So we beat the Devil Rays, and Seattle disposed of the Evil Empire tonight. We're 3.5 games up, and we definitely needed this! Love 'em or hate 'em, the EE is too good a team to turn your back on.

Help victims of Hurricane Katrina!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 30

At least I think it is. didn't update their standings page yet, but we won, and the Evil Empire lost, so that puts us 2.5 games up in first place again.

Help victims of Hurricane Katrina!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Is there no shame on the left?

Just ONE freakin' day after Katrina plowed through the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, the left-wing moonbats waste no time blaming Republicans for the catastrophe.

RFK Jr. blames hurricane Katrina on Republicans: Link

Way to go, moonbats...politicize human tragedy to further your agenda. Absolutely disgusting.

Help victims of Hurrican Katrina!

Monday, August 29, 2005

The War In Iraq: Was It A Good Idea?

For the past two and a half years or so, there's been much discussion over whether the war in Iraq is right or wrong, good foreign policy or bad, waged for oil, Israel or democracy, or just a bad move made by a mentally defective president based on faulty or trumped-up intelligence.

Invariably, the arguments for or against the war fall along party lines, with red staters saying it was a good idea and blue staters saying it was a bad one. But while most of the red state crowd supports the war and can often provide rational explanations why they feel the war is good policy, their blue state counterparts, most of whom side solidly with the extreme left, do nothing but shriek about things like "oil!" and "Israel!" and "Halliburton!". Sometimes for good measure you'll hear that it's "Daddy's unfinished business".

Around late 2002, I was still mostly opposed to the idea of going into Iraq. Not that I thought kicking Saddam's shit to the curb was a bad idea, far from it. I guess I was just thinking too much like a panty-waisted internationalist and worried about our hanging the whole casus belli on WMD, which may or may not still be there by the time we got there. I'm still convinced that Saddam had those weapons, but come on...we rattled our saber for so long there was ample time for not just the weapons to be shipped out of the country, but for their manufacturing and support facilities to be destroyed and/or dismantled.

But by around January 2003 or so, I came to the following conclusion: never mind the marketing campaign, opposition to the war constituted tacit endorsement of Saddam Hussein's regime. In other words, screw international opinion, this guy's gotta go. By the time we entered Iraq in March of 2003, I was firm in my belief that we were doing the right thing. And I still am.

If one wants to argue that we miscalculated the post-war insurgency, fine. That's a legitimate position, and you won't hear any disagreement from me. It doesn't change the fact that through exceptional pre-war planning, outstanding command and control, and brilliant execution, our military forces pulled off in short order and with minimal casualties what many said would become a stalemate and lead to tens of thousands of American casualties without removing Saddam's regime.

Mission accomplished? Yeah, I think that's a fair statement.

The trouble started almost immediately following the victory over Saddam's regime, and here's where I'll agree that we've made mistakes. Serious ones. We didn't (and still don't) have enough forces in place to seal the borders or to root out the many terrorist cells in nearly every Iraqi city. But you know what? In a war of attrition, I wouldn't bet on the bad guys. Wait...since around 45% of America thinks we're the bad guys, let me clarify. The bad guys are the ones setting off road-side bombs and killing innocent children. (Hint for the exceptionally stupid lefties: that's NOT us.)

So, why do I still think this was a good idea? Let me enumerate...

1. Weapons of mass destruction. Just because we didn't find them, doesn't mean they weren't there. Ask anyone in the can't prove a negative.

2. U.N. Sanctions. Given the pre-war status quo, these would have continued indefinitely.

3. No-fly zones. Since the end of Gulf War I in 1991, we've been spending zillions of dollars enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq. This certainly couldn't go on forever.

4. Saddam Hussein himself. Mass graves, Uday and Qusay, rape rooms, you know. 'Nuff said.

If you don't think these are reasons enough, I'd truly love to hear why not. But if they're not enough, there's always Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas. For those of you who don't remember them, consider the following:

Abu Nidal, one of the world's most-wanted terrorists, executed terrorist operations as head of organizations variously known as Fatah Revolutionary Council, Arab Revolutionary Council and Arab Revolutionary Brigades, among others. These operations were carried out throughout the 1980's and into the early 1990's. He was found dead in Baghdad in August of 2002 under dubious circumstances. Saddam's government claims he committed suicide, but the London Telegraph claims in an article dated 25 August 2002 that he was executed by Iraqi intelligence over his refusal to train Al Qaeda fighters based in Iraq. Whichever story is true, the fact remains that Abu Nidal had found safe haven in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Next we come to Abu Abbas. US forces in Baghdad captured Abu Abbas in mid-April 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad. Abu Abbas and his gang of thugs carried out the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in 1985. During the course of this terrorist act, Leon Klinghoffer was murdered in cold blood, and then pushed over the side of the ship. In his wheelchair.

Google this stuff. I'm not making it up. Both of these animals had found refuge under Saddam. No matter how you spin it, there were solid links between Saddam and international terrorism.

When choosing a position on this issue, you can either consider the facts, or listen to the "experts" who say it was all about oil (or Israel, or Halliburton) and want you to vote for their Democratic candidate in 2008.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

She Who Must Not Be Named

Ok, I've held off writing anything about this woman, but I can't any longer. I won't even use her name in this post, but you've probably heard of her. Son got killed in Iraq, camps out in Crawford demanding to see the President, liberal media (not to mention Al Sharpton, David Duke and neo-Nazis) all love her, blah-blah-blah.

I've had a hard time putting my thoughts about this woman on paper (screen), not because I've got mixed feelings, but it's hard to do so without coming across as a right-wing shill or insensitive to a mother's loss. Hell, I've got three kids of my own, two of them are boys at or near war-fighting age. But I just can't take any more, so here it comes.

This woman needs to go away. She needs to just go home and stop embarrassing herself and making a mockery of her own son's death. Every time she opens up her demented mouth, she reaches new heights of anti-semitism and left-wing extremism (as if there were any other kind of leftist). She's made statements such as "America is not a country worth fighting for." Excuse me, ma'm, but what would your son think of such a statement?

She spews the most extreme, hate-filled, left-wing and anti-Semite line that this is a war for Israel. I'm sorry, but would someone please explain to my aging, beer-soaked brain exactly HOW Israel is benefitting from this war?

Maybe if the left-wing dominated media would stop paying attention to her she'll go away. Which is the reason I won't include her name in this post. I don't want to contribute to any Google hits on her name.

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 33

Pretty damn abysmal performance last night (blew a 6-0 lead), but they looked good today. Got 7 good innings out of Wells today, and Manny looks once again like he gives a damn.

I've got hopes, but the Evil Empire is only a game and a half behind.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Red Sox watch

Magic Number: 35

Lost in extra innings to Kansas City last night. Kansas City!! How did we NOT beat them?? Oh well, at least the Evil Empire lost, too.

Is it just me, or is Manny playing like he doesn't give a rat's ass? And how in the hell does a team load the bases three times in one game without scoring a run?

The Evil Empire is in a dead heat with Cleveland and Oakland for the wild card. That should be an interesting foot race.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

No Stopping, Standing or Offending

Well, it's official. One can now find oneself in hot water for offending, even if one is doing one's job.

Doctor reprimanded for telling patient to lose weight

Imagine the following:

Patient: Doc, I'm not getting laid like all my friends are.
Doctor: Hmmm...well, let's have a look. Oh! I see, you've got a bad case of acne! Let's just get you a prescription for--
Patient: What?? How dare you! My face looks great! My Mom says so! (storms out in a huff, heads straight for lawyer's office)

What the hell are we coming to??

G'day mate...need a hand with all that baggage?

Leave it to the Aussies to be blunt and honest: Muslims desiring Sharia invited to leave

Peter Costello, Australia's Treasurer, minces no words in stating that Islamic law and democracy are fundamentally incompatible.

I suspect if a similar statement were to be made by a US government official, the moonbats would be screaming for his/her head.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Oh, Pat, why can't you shut the hell up?

According to Pat Robertson, we should send a team into Venezuela and take out Hugo Chavez. Never mind that former President Gerald Ford issued an executive order proscribing such action, and Ronald Reagan later affirmed that policy -- let's just do it and save a couple hundred billion dollars. Did I miss something? Was there some recently announced plan to invade Venezuela? How do we save $200 billion dollars we weren't planning on spending?

Yes, Chavez is a dangerous, and quite possibly, unstable man. He's cozied up to Castro, hangs out with psychotic mullahs in Iran, and keeps screeching that the United States has plans to invade Venezuela and/or assassinate him. Moronic statements like these from Robertson play right into his hands and will only make the Venezuelan people rally around him.

Our current policy towards Chavez, which is to basically ignore him, will work just fine until such time as the Venezuelan people vote him out of office, or find some other way to depose him. He's not going to shut off the oil supply to us any time soon...he's getting way too much money from us for him to do that.

Pat...please sit down and shut up.

Red Sox watch

Magic number: 37

If we can just keep the Evil Empire at bay through mid-September or so, I think we'll be in good shape. The schedule through the end of August doesn't look too tough, then we've got six against the EE--three in New York and three at home.

Go Sox!!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sharia 'bout that

On the 6th of August, the Bangkok Post had an interesting item that didn't seem to get much traction in the western media. Hell, let's be blunt. Nobody in the west picked it up except for a handful of conservative blogs. In fact, I've since tried both Google and Yahoo to find references to this story, and came up empty.

It seems that in southern Thailand, where there is a Muslim majority, people were told that if they work on Fridays, they would have their ears cut off. Friday is the Muslim sabbath, you see. Needless to say, the threat wasn't just directed at the faithful, but at anybody who dared to work on the sabbath.

The story is troublesome enough in that it speaks volumes of the intolerance of the "religion of peace", but it bothers me more that this wasn't reported more widely. I mean, c'mon...can you imagine if Christians in the Christian-majority region of Lebanon threatened violence against anyone who chose to work on a Sunday? The media would be all over that like a pit bull with a t-bone.

So, what's the reason for the western media's blackout on this story? That's easy. There's nobody in the west to whom they can redirect the blame. It's got nothing to do with "Zionist oppression" of the Palestinians, or with the war in Iraq, or with infidel presence in Muslim holy lands, unless you count the Buddhists who were there more than 600 years before the birth of Mohammed.

The western media needs to set aside their hatred of BushBlairIsrael and start doing their job.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Oh, so THAT'S why...

My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Heidelberg, Germany. I'd been there a couple of times on business, and I knew Deb (that's my wife) would enjoy it, so I cashed in some airline miles and hotel points and we went there for a week. Had a great time.

The hotel we stayed at, the Heidelbeg Marriott, is a great hotel with wonderful service. The only drawback is the TV channels. If you don't speak German, French or Arabic, you basically have two choices for news: CNN International and BBC World News. This doesn't count the English language financial news channels they have like Bloomberg and CNBC.

Well, after a couple of days of watching CNN International trash-talk the US, I thought I'd give BBC World News a try. Like many news channels, BBCWN runs a crawl line on the bottom of the screen with headlines from around the world during their news updates. During one report, the crawl line caught my eye with a headline about the price of crude oil. It said, and I may be paraphrasing here, "Crude oil prices rise to record $66 per barrel due to unprecedented U.S. demand".

My first reaction was "Huh?...Unprecedented U.S. demand?". I guess BBC figures the explosion of demand for petroleum products in China and India has a negligible impact on the world supply and demand equation for crude oil. But there it was. According to the BBC, it's the United States that's solely to blame for the run away price of crude oil and its byproducts.

Now, don't get me wrong. I truly believe that we could be doing much more in the US to reduce our consumption of crude oil until we can make alternative energy sources feasible. But this kind of half-assed reporting is really what's hurting America's image in Europe. It's not what we're DOING, it's what Europe is being TOLD we're doing. Yes, our demand for crude oil has increased year over year, but so has that of nearly every other nation, especially China and India.

But guess what? Europe's demand for crude oil through 2004 was also "unprecedented", according to statistics available from the Department of Energy, although a few nations (notably Germany and the UK) have managed to slightly decrease their demand over the past couple of years. But it'll take a brighter mind than mine to say whether those decreases were attributable to vigilant conservation measures or to economic factors.

So, what is it about the European press that spares no effort in demonizing America? Whether it's by focusing only on negative news items, or by outright obfuscation by leaving out key facts, there definitely seems to be a concerted effort to make us out to be the bad guys. The anti-American media likes to say that the US needed a new nemesis after the fall of the Soviet empire and fabricated one. I think the same might be said about the European, and sadly, much of the American media.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Inaugural Posting

So, I've decided to be like the rest of the sheep and start my own blog. Why? Who knows. I guess maybe it's because I don't work in an office (I work from home when not traveling on business), and thus don't get to vent much around a watercooler like most of you.

I chose to name this blog "The Pool Bar" after our backyard pool where my wife and I enjoy hanging out with our friends and discussing a wide variety of topics over a few cold ones. So in that vein, this blog will cover a range of topics from politics to sports, social trends (and ills), and whatever pops into my head.

So, read, enjoy and feel free to comment!