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.