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  • Archive for December, 2003

    Saddam in the Dock

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Everybody is assuming that Saddam will get a Nuremburg-style trial. Everybody also seems to assume that it will go well for the “prosecution” and end without too much hassle in Saddam’s execution. See, for example, Eliot Cohen’s piece from today’s WSJ. (subscription required.)

    I worry. Recall the performance of Hermann Goering at Nuremburg. Prison agreed with Goering. He dried out of his morphine addiction, he lost a ton of weight and he came out swinging. The fat, effeminate junkie was gone, the street-fighter, the air ace, the ruthless bastard who had clawed his way to the top of the Third Reich was back in the game. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson cross-examined Goering, and it is generally acknowledged that Goering kicked his ass, with a combination of unrepentant pugnacity, an avalanche of irrelevant and self-serving facts, and open contempt for his interrogator and the whole proceeding. Then, he even cheated the hangman, by taking cyanide he had hidden in a dental filling.

    William Safire seems to be thinking along the same lines.“[Saddam] is looking forward to the mother of all genocide trials, rivaling Nuremberg’s and topping those of Eichmann and Milosevic. There, in the global spotlight, he can pose as the great Arab hero saving Islam from the Bushes and the Jews.” Saddam didn’t go down fighting with bullets because he wants to go into history fighting with rhetoric. He may actually have the initiative and be executing his own end-game. Like Goering, Saddam was once a tough bastard and a survivor, a man who was willing to kill people with his own gun or his own hands in cold blood if it served his interests to do so. Saddam may still have a lot of fight in him. (Plus, as Wretchard of the always brilliant Belmont Club points out Saddam holds a valuable bargaining card — information: about the location of caches of money, about WMD, about other Ba’athist still fighting us, which he may hope will lead to a deal that spares his life.)

    And Saddam is going to have allies and supporters to help him. Watch what is going to happen now. The French, the Left, the ACLU and everybody of that ilk are now going to make Saddam their darling, their hero, a man denied due process, a man being railroaded. French lawyers will try to go to Baghdad to represent him. American lawyers will argue that he should immediately be brought to the Hague. He will be the new Mummia. Even the way he looked when he got captured will help him with the Left — he looked like a cross between a homeless person, Karl Marx and Che Guevarra, all icons of holiness to those people, images which touch the deepest wellsprings of their sentiments. And anybody who is fighting the American army starts to look like a “resistance fighter” like the Sandinistas or the Viet Cong, and hence a heroic figure to the Left. Moreover, anybody who is Bush’s enemy must be OK. This is going to lead to more and more grotesque configurations. It is going to get really weird. (This is all consistent with Wretchard’s insightful thesis that with the demise of communism, Islamic extremism is going to merge with the activist Left, and become its most dynamic element. Watch Saddam in court. He is going to play up the “Islamic” element big time, even though he may have killed more Muslims than any other single leader in history.)

    And I don’t put it past Bremer and his crew to seriously botch this whole thing. It occurs to me that the civilian management team over there might not even have a plan in place at all to handle a live capture. That would be consistent with much of the reconstruction effort so far, where every major decision, other than the actual combat operations, seems to have been made on the fly. This may be yet one more half-assed extemporization. It is not good to under-estimate an enemy, especially someone like Saddam, who is going to try to extract the maximum vengeance on his opponents before his corpse is flung onto the trash heap of history.

    UPDATE: Holy crap. Even National Review is already talking about an “international tribunal” for Saddam. I say, put him in a room, bound with rope, with duct tape over his mouth. Have a stream of Iraqis whose relatives were murdered come in, scream obscenities at him and spit on him, then, after a few hours, have an Iraqi “judge” say, “the sentence is death”, then have an Iraqi firing squad kill him. I’d like this to be done by next Saturday. The longer it drags on and the more lawyers get involved, the more of a mess it is going to be. And I’m a lawyer myself. This is about politics, it is not about law, and the less lawyering occurs, the better. But it looks like the lawyers have glommed onto this thing, and I bet Saddam is still alive and well in a year, while the “procedures” grind away.

    UPDATE II: This early report (via Drudge) states that Saddam is a “broken man” who has provided intelligence to the US, even that he “felt safer” with the Americans. This may be true, which cuts against the Goering scenario. Or it could be disinformation to dishearten his remaining followers. I hope it’s true, that Saddam is just a beaten down old man who will go sullenly to the noose, without any surprises or fireworks. That would be the best-case scenario. But then there’s this, saying he’s defiant. I hope our people can extract a large quantity of useful intelligence out of him before he is turned over to the Iraqis for “trial” and execution. We should promise him some kind of life sentence if he spills his guts, then renege. In the immortal words of Richard Nixon, “You cut a deal. Cut a deal, then screw ’em.”

    I was very disappointed to see Bush say that Saddam would get “a fair trial”. I don’t want our enemies to think they will get, or are entitled to, a “fair trial”. I want them to think they will get swift, unannounced and violent death. Bush is way too much of a liberal, way too nice.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments »

    The Positioning Begins

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Note Howard Dean’s comments:

    WEST PALM BEACH — Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said Sunday he hoped the capture of Saddam Hussein will change “the course of the occupation of Iraq.”


    “This, I hope, will change the course of the occupation of Iraq but I think the first order of business is to say this is a great day. I congratulate the Iraqi people,” Dean said.

    Dean is right that it’s a great day, and it’s decent of him to congratulate President Bush. But note Dean’s repetition of his comment about “[changing] the course of the occupation of Iraq.” He appears to be setting up the argument for U.S. withdrawal: Hussein is gone, now it’s time for us to get out.

    Look for it.

    UPDATE: Power Line comments.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Compare and Contrast

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 14th December 2003 (All posts by )

    EU Stares Into the Void Without Constitution with Karzai begins debate on Afghanistan future, which appeared simultaneously on Google News at midday Central Time (UT – 6 hours). Looks like Afghanistan will have a constitution before the EU will.
    One is tempted to advise certain people to read this

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Compare and Contrast

    An Unqualified Victory for All the World

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 14th December 2003 (All posts by )

    One good ace-of-spades reference deserves another …

    The above image is from Saddam’s capture gives major boost to Coalition mission in Iraq, in Jane’s Defence Weekly.
    Now to keep up the momentum; as Iraq settles down, we can start dealing with the source of the problem and the WMDs we actually know about (80 kB *.pdf).

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    The Ace of Spades

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th December 2003 (All posts by )

    They got the last ace. Bravo and high-fives to all the soldiers who have worked so had to run Saddam down. They’ve brought justice to him, as W likes to say.

    My hope is that there will be a firing squad staffed by the new Iraqi army, soon.

    I’ve got no more information than anyone else in Blogistan, so I’ll spare you my opinions for now.

    All morning I have been breaking into a smile and Motorhead’s Ace of Spades has been running through my head:

    I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,
    The only thing you see, you know it’s gonna be,
    The Ace Of Spades

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Digital vs. Film Photography

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds has a thoughtful post, with many links, on this subject. There are arguments.

    Most of the arguments are silly. Use the technology that’s best for you. Image resolution is far from being the only dimension of comparison or even the most important one.

    I carry a camera partly to capture interesting sights and scenery that I run into, but mainly as an aide-memoire. Keeping a record of where I’ve been and who I’ve been with seems increasingly important as I get older. So while the easy workflow of digital cameras is important for pros who make large numbers of images, for me it is most important to create a permanent record. Film, especially conventional B&W film, is good for this. (Digital archiving requires, at best, regular attention to transferring files as computer equipment is upgraded and standards change.)

    For the unplanned slice-of-life and people photos that I like to make, small digicams are too slow to use and have mediocre viewfinders and too much depth of field, while digital SLRs are too big. The kind of camera that best suits my needs is the old-fashioned compact rangefinder, for which there is not yet a good digital substitute. I suspect that such an substitute will be introduced eventually, and when it is another bunch of film diehards will painlessly convert. This kind of switch-over should occur with increasing frequency as photographic subspecialties catch up with technological advances in the mass market.

    However, some people will probably continue to prefer film, if only for its archival properties. For this reason alone it seems likely that film, particularly silver-based B&W film, will be available for the foreseeable future, even if only as a boutique item.

    Also note that whatever cameras people use, the files generated by scanning film are practically the same as digicam files. And note that Photoshop and similar software are already well on their way to replacing the traditional darkroom. In other words, much professional and high-end hobby photography has already been digital for years, so does it really matter what kinds of cameras were used to produce all those digital files?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    First Blog To Have Its Own Navy?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 12th December 2003 (All posts by )

    (Ref this earlier post.)
    After we buy that MiG, let’s get this, which I saw mentioned over on Dave Barry’s blog.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Hitch and the Jews

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th December 2003 (All posts by )

    The boy seems a bit, um, hostile.

    (Via gefen)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

    Voting Machine Follow-Up

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 12th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Cringely’s promised conclusion is here; he notes that

    If you could prove with an official receipt that you voted for Mr. Big, then it would be practical for Mr. Big to buy your vote, becoming Mayor Big …. My favorite voter receipt idea is the Vreceipt, which creates an auditable receipt that can’t be read by the voter or by Mr. Big.

    — and ends up suggesting, whaddaya know, pencil and paper ballots, counted by hand.

    UPDATE: InfoWorld has the latest (~1,000 words; reading time 5 minutes).

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    The Nine Ten Nations of North America?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 11th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Andy Cline of Rhetorica forwards a fascinating political map of the US reminiscent of the Nine Nations. The accompanying analysis suggests that a Bush blowout next year is far from certain: “No matter whom they nominate for president, the Democrats have a pretty good template for an Electoral College win, since Gore fell only three electoral votes short in 2000.” Indeed, the NAACP get-out-the-vote drive came within an eyelash of electing Gore, and if enough Republicans disenchanted by Bush’s spending habits stay home next November, the result could be the surprise of the decade. But thanks to internal migration from the Great Lakes to the West, an exact repeat is impossible: “If every state votes the same way it did in the last election, Bush would win seven more electoral votes – a total of 278 votes, up from 271 in 2000.” RTWT.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

    Whose Kids Are They Anyway?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 11th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Some yet-to-be-created bureaucracy’s, according to Ellen Goodman.
    My sister pointed me to this flabbergasting column, in which Goodman describes personal responsibility (for child care!) as “a political stumbling block” and asserts that “we don’t have what every European country has … because Americans don’t regard children as a common good” — as though such an attitude is a symptom rather than a strength.
    Actual quotes, which I am not making up:

    Kathy Rodgers, the head of NOW LDEF, points out, “no one ever says, `it’s my responsibility to educate my own child, or to doctor my own child when she’s sick.”‘ How do you shift the dialogue to the responsibility of demanding help?

    We need a new mirror that reflects child-raising as something more than a private luxury.

    Personally, I think it takes The Village to raise a child … ;)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    Optimization Idiots

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th December 2003 (All posts by )

    I am trying to get a programming task done using a version of BASIC that produces super-fast code but has a crummy debugger. Execution speed is a big deal for what I’m doing, and I already know how to use this compiler, so I don’t really want to switch. And I don’t particularly like Visual Basic — the obvious alternative — because it’s relatively complex and probably doesn’t produce code that runs as fast.

    However, VB has an excellent debugger, and right now I am dead in the water because I can’t figure out how to get a particular bit of code to run. I assume that there is a subtle syntax error or variable mismatch, but my debugger doesn’t provide enough info to diagnose such problems without a lot of trial and error. I don’t think I would have had such a difficult time if I were using VB.

    So the tradeoff is between the time I spend debugging and the time I save by using the fast-executing code generated by this hot-shit compiler. Maybe there would be no problem if I were a better programmer, but I’m not, and I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have been better off overall if I had used VB from the start.

    I’m also not sure who is the idiot here. Probably it’s me. The compiler designer is merely doing what he does best, he represented the product accurately, and I chose to buy it, so I can’t blame him. But maybe I shouldn’t have been so attracted by the siren song of fast code at the expense of easy debugging. (And maybe I should have realized that a specialized product designed by an individual is likely to have flaws reflecting the designer’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, a brilliant designer of compilers might see less need for a first-class debugger than would a marginal programmer like me.)

    Compilers are like vehicles and other technology in that speed is not necessarily the most important feature from a user’s perspective. Speed needs to be balanced against ease of use and other characteristics, and each user will have his own preferred set of tradeoffs.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

    Creepily-Out-of-Context Lawn Ornaments Dept.

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th December 2003 (All posts by )


    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Why Do We Hate Voicemail “Customer Service” Systems?

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Automated phone systems that provide assistance to customers should at most play quiet, light music or sound a mild tone every ten seconds or so, when they put you on hold. That way you can continue comfortably to do what you were doing, and put the phone on speaker or hold it on your shoulder, until someone picks up the other end of the line. The too-frequent alternative subjects the caller to repeated recorded messages that are useless beyond the initial iteration and needlessly interrupt thereafter. It’s even worse when they vary the recordings, especially to advertise something. Then not only are you forced to wait, you are periodically distracted and must process messages for products and services in which you are not, at the moment, even slightly interested. Who enjoys such an experience? It’s like being transported to the hospital while being subjected to a sales pitch for the ambulance attendant’s auto-repair business.

    But the most annoying business voicemail practice is the one where the chirpy recorded voice suggests that if I am really in a hurry I should consult the company’s website. At this point I am ready to yell something rude, both because this kind of announcement is a plainly hostile attempt to make me go away — Our time is more valuable than yours! — and because it ignores the possibility that I am calling precisely because I couldn’t find what I needed on the Web site, which is usually what happened. So they are doubly incompetent. They should be soliciting (and using) my feedback. Instead I get the feeling that I am calling one of those old-fashioned businesses where the phone rings for ten minutes straight while the guy at the counter gabs with the mailman.

    The people who design these voicemail systems should consider the possibility that abusing captive callers may antagonize some of them into doing business elsewhere. It certainly has had that effect on me. And the way for a business to deal with this situation is not via the default, Dilbertesque response of making voicemail so burdensome that using the company’s Web site becomes the lesser evil. It is to improve the Web site to the point where customers will want to use it, will enjoy using it. Some companies have caught on, but many continue to act as if they think they’re doing customers a favor by answering the phone. I have a low threshold for avoiding such companies now, and I’ll bet that a lot of other consumers do too.

    [I wrote the first draft of this post while on hold.]

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Can You Dig It?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 10th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Speaking of voting — well, not really, but anyway, via AtlanticBlog, I found this from Will Allen, in a comment over on Matthew Yglesias’ blog: “Politics in a republic with democratic processes is an ugly little business about building a large enough coaltion of factions to force opposing factions to submit to one’s will …”
    Reminds me of the greatest political speech ever made:

    Can you count, suckers? I say the future is ours if you can count ….
    You’re standing right now with 9 delegates from 100 gangs. And there’s a hundred more. That’s 20 thousand hard core members! 40,000 counting affiliates, and 20,000 more not organized, but ready to fight. 60,000 soldiers. Now there ain’t but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it? Can you dig it? CAAAANNN YOUUUU DIG ITTT! (Roar)
    Now here’s the sum total. One gang could run this city. One gang. Nothing would move, without us allowing it to happen. Tax the crime syndicates, the police, because we’ve got the street, suckers! CAAAANNN YOUUUU DIG ITTT! (Roar)

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Can You Dig It?

    A Semi-Prediction of Doom

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th December 2003 (All posts by )

    A while back, I wondered: “How long can the equilibrium of technically incompetent rulers lording it over technologically advanced societies be maintained?”
    Possibly not much longer at all. Via InstaPundit, we find Robert X. Cringely’s diagnosis of the touchscreen-voting … uh, situation (emphasis added):

    In the case of this voting fiasco, there was a wonderful confluence of events.  There was a vague product requirement coming from an agency that doesn’t really understand technology (the U.S. Congress), foisting a system on other government agencies that may not have asked for it.  There was a relatively small time frame for development and a lot of money.  Finally, the government did not allow for even the notion of failure.  By 2004, darn it, we’d all have touch screen voting.
    Oh, and there are only three vendors, all of whom have precisely the same motivation (to make as much money as possible) and understanding (that Congress would buy its way out of technical trouble if it had to).  This gave the vendors every reason to put their third string people on the project because doing so would mean more profit, not less.
    One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, somehow expecting a different outcome.  In this instance, the issue isn’t whether Diebold and the other vendors were insane (they aren’t), but whether the government is.

    Cringely’s analysis is worth reading in its entirety for its insight into how project management in IT usually works, which is to say, not well.
    Returning to the problem at hand, here’s your geeky analogy of the day: if this doesn’t get fixed in the next few months, the effect on American democracy will be analogous to acid rain from a cometary impact turning Earth’s oceans into vitriol — the annihilation of the base of the marine food chain. The reliable exercise of the franchise is the base of the electoral food chain. Cast enough doubt on enough results and the legitimacy of every elected officeholder dissolves like the calcareous shells of so much phytoplankton doused in nitric and sulfuric acid. Publicly-funded bureaucracies suddenly and explicitly become the tools of an arbitrarily-chosen oligarchy, and one that doesn’t even know enough to demand elementary accountability, at that.
    Others have suggested that the election of 2004 may be pivotal, as important as, say, 1860 or 1932. Since most such 72-year cycle arguments rely on astrology or numerology, I remain unconvinced. But unless the homeostasis characteristic of American society operates on the voting security issue, universal suffrage could become, at least temporarily, a bad joke in the next eleven months. Not knowing who’d been elected President until December 13th last time around was one thing. What if we didn’t know who’d been elected to anything 5 weeks after the election, and had no good way to find out?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    No Way

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th December 2003 (All posts by )


    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on No Way

    The Baghdad Boil

    Posted by Lexington Green on 7th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Our troops in Iraq are being afflicted with the Baghdad Boil:

    Leishmaniasis, which soldiers have coined the “Baghdad Boil,” is carried by biting sand flies and doesn’t spread from person to person. It causes skin lesions that if untreated may take months, even years, to heal. The lesions can be disfiguring, doctors say. … Sand flies are active during warm weather, and soon after U.S. troops arrived in Iraq in late March, “we started seeing soldiers basically eaten alive,” Coleman says. “They’d get a hundred, in some cases 1,000 bites in a single night.” … Insect repellants and bed nets are standard issue, Coleman says, but many units failed to pack them when they were deployed.

    (Via The Command Post).

    This story reminded me of something I’d read a long time ago in The Road to Oxiana, that most snide of travel books, by Robert Byron. Byron was an even more eccentric and less PC writer than his contemporary Evelyn Waugh. Byron passed through Baghdad in 1933, and wrote this:

    The prime fact of Mesopotamian history is that in the thirteenth century Hulagu destroyed the irrigation system; and that from that day to this Mesopotamia has remained a land of mud deprived of mud’s only possible advantage, vegetable fertility. It is a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. The people are mud-coloured; they wear mud-coloured clothes, and their national hat is nothing more than a formalised mud pie. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favoured land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing is it now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.

    (Emphasis added.) If Iraq was famous for its boils 70 years ago, why was no adequate provision to have the appropriate medication available to treat our troops, when we were going to station tens of thousands of them there? One of many such questions.

    The Bush administration is vulnerable to much, much criticism for the failures of its pre-war planning for the occupation, and the actual handling of the occupation. I have only skimmed this lengthy essay from the New Yorker entitled War After the War in the New Yorker. (Via Arts & Letters.) It is full of specific criticisms of the prewar planning and the actual conduct of the post-war occupation, which seemed to have contained far too much wishful thinking. It is a blue print for the Democrat presidential candidate.

    The situation has changed in the last few weeks. It used to be that the “Left” media was criticizing the Bush administration unfairly, and the “Right”, especially the Blogosphere would respond that things were going fine. The media seem to be trying to do their homework and come up with better-founded criticisms. This article even seems to be trying to be fair. Most impressive to me is how it shows our soldiers struggling to do an extremely difficult job. If you’ve got time, read it all. Meanwhile, we need to move from thinking that any criticism of Bush and his team is simply malicious, to trying to understand what is actually happening there. This essay by Anthony Cordesman is a good item to read, as is this worrisome report from the front. (both via Soldiers for the Truth.) We need to be willing to offer constructive criticism and analysis rather than cheerleading or we will be doing “our side” a major disservice.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments »

    December 7, 1941

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Remember Pearl Harbor.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on December 7, 1941

    Steps Toward an “Active Shield”?

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 6th December 2003 (All posts by )

    So, okay, suppose the bad guys start using these. What do we do about it?
    To explain a bit further — if I were a Bad Guy™, here’s how I’d do it: develop a design optimized for range, payload, and accuracy, deprioritizing things like speed and small size; conduct a few test flights of > 5000 km; set up numerous (10+) manufacturing facilities in northern South America, each of which included only one person who added the payloads to the finished airplanes; set up many more (100+) launch sites in the same general area; begin launching the airplanes around the clock, but concentrated to arrive at their targets (mostly bridges and busy stretches of urban highways) near the morning and evening rush hours. Ramp the launch rate up to 100 per day or more. If possible, add terminal guidance systems to the airplanes just good enough to pick out the largest vehicle on the bridge or highway they’re flying over and aim for it.
    Each plane carries a kilo of explosive, sufficient to demolish any non-armored vehicle and, in heavy traffic, cause a massive pileup. Some of the trucks are bound to have hazardous cargoes (typo in article — it’s I-29, not “I-20”), resulting in high death tolls. Imagine ten of those every day for a month, in cities all over the country. Highways closed — sealed off — for half a day at a time. For every incident, tens of thousands of people unable to get to work — unable to get home — unable to get to day care, hospitals, you name it. Imagine the downward economic spiral, the public panic, the hysteria and scapegoating, the growing despair.
    This does not happen now only because massive nuisance attacks and (relatively) low body counts do not give the Bad Guys™ enough thrills. But suppose they become about 5% more rational and start working on ways to really hurt us. Then what?

    My stock answer is that we get nanotech and build an active shield defense. And we will, but we’re not there yet. Besides, that’s a little bit like saying we’ll just scale up a bottle rocket to get a moon rocket. Some steps are missing.
    I’d be delusional if I said I know what the missing steps are. But I’ve got a couple of ideas, and what’s blogging for if not to share half-formed ideas with total strangers?

    1. So, OK, I’m lazing around the in-laws’ house over T-day weekend and watching The Life of Mammals, and Attenborough is talking about bats, specifically vast colonies of them that live in caves in Texas (not to mention the Congress Avenue Bridge crowd, which has to be seen to be believed). Since said in-laws’ house is in central Texas, I perked up a bit at the local-chiroptera-makes-good angle.
      These critters show up on radar:
      In the spring of 1995, “bats aloft” came to full boil when the U.S. Weather Service’s new Doppler radar was turned on at New Braunfels, Texas, only a few miles from Bracken Cave. Every night the Doppler radar detects the huge numbers of free-tailed bats that come out of Bracken Cave and other major roosts. It documents their dispersal over the Texas landscape, and it plots the altitudes and directions from which they return every morning.
      The McCracken study also mentions another method of detection:
      This summer, working with John Westbrook and his colleagues from the USDA, we placed radio microphones on weather balloons that floated freely with the moths. The radio microphones recorded bat orientation calls as high as 3,900 feet (1,200 m) and feeding buzzes at 2,400 feet (750 m), proving that free-tailed bats are indeed flying and feeding at the same altitudes and locations as the moth migrations.
      But the analogy I’m drawing here isn’t between the bats and the Model Airplanes From Hell. It’s between their prey — on the order of a million kilograms of corn earworm moths, “the number-one agricultural pest in America,” every night — and the MAFH.
      We need the mechanical equivalent of Mexican free-tailed bats. And it doesn’t need to be nearly as capable as the MAFH. The historical analogy would be to the galleons of the Spanish Armada, which had to be general-purpose assault vessels, versus Drake’s galleons, which only had to be able to stop the Spanish ones. The mechanical Mexican free-tailed bats (MMFTBs) wouldn’t have to carry any armament at all; they would be purely kinetic-kill weapons, destroying their opponents by ramming them in midair.

    2. Not only that, the MMFTBs could get their target area assignments from a decentralized network of amateurs. The Feds could just dump the raw Doppler radar (or weather-balloon microphone) data out there and let anybody use it. Via Virginia, I wandered into the MIT Technology Review weblog and found this post, which in turn points to this Fast Company article, from which I excerpt:
      Rob McEwen, chairman and CEO of Goldcorp Inc., based in Toronto … triggered [a] gold rush by issuing an extraordinary challenge to the world’s geologists: We’ll show you all of our data on the Red Lake [Ontario] mine online if you tell us where we’re likely to find the next 6 million ounces of gold. The prize: a total of $575,000, with a top award of $105,000.
      From concentrations of MAFH, the amateur network could begin tracking them back to their points of origin — though of course the final identification of launch areas would, in my scenario, require operations overseas, in other nations, with all the complications that implies. But at least we’d be able to make the things crash in the middle of nowhere without killing anybody.

    “A pack, not a herd.”

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    The World Famous Pontani Sisters …

    Posted by Lexington Green on 5th December 2003 (All posts by )

    … will be coming to your town. Soon. Don’t miss ’em.

    the world famous Pontani sisters

    (See this post to find out more about these lovely and talented young ladies, and the ongoing Christmas Pageant tour.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Anniversary Follow-Up

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 5th December 2003 (All posts by )

    (Ref this earlier post.) Coincidentally, “… the Something Awful Forum Goons … recreate historic moments in the guise of classic video games,” and Chicago Pile 1 is one of them.
    For lots more, much of it breathtakingly tasteless, graze on over to Photoshop Phriday.
    I’m being really vulnerable here. I had no idea when I started guest-blogging that I’d be sharing my private vices so quickly …

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Anniversary Follow-Up

    The Anti-Homicide-Bomber Wall WORKS

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th December 2003 (All posts by )

    So, why the heck are our politicians against it? I guess so no one will say they are being mean to the Pals. Pathetic. This article demonstrates that the fence is effective at stopping both terrorists and ordinary property criminals too. Good.

    Higher, more barbed wire. And quit apologizing for it.

    (Via Betsy’s Page.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Hillary Made Troops Wait in Line for Chow!

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th December 2003 (All posts by )

    On Thanksgiving! Whoa. I hope this is true. It sure sounds like the old inconsiderate, self-centered Clintonian behavior:

    U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton forced U.S. troops stationed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to wait for their Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday while she and her entourage arrived late, then cut in line and were served first.

    Spread this tale far and wide, O my brothers … .

    (Via Stone.)

    (Stone also had a link to this astounding story, from Not Pretty, The Unkindness and Kindness of Strangers. It’s got nothing to do with Hillary, but damn. Hair-raising. Go read it.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Is the U.S. Dollar Near a Low vs. the Euro?

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th December 2003 (All posts by )

    Sure feels like it but what do I know.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »