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Journal Journal: A nice thing about Slashdot 10

One nice thing about Slashdot is that - so far as I know - user accounts are not subject to being administratively banned. I had taken that liberty for granted.

Recently, I am sad to say, I have come to appreciate* that as a truly excellent feature of this site. I hope I will not take it for granted again.

[*: No, I'm not going to elaborate; it's not my story to tell. Besides, there's a long and distinguished tradition of /. journal entries that only make sense to people who already know WTF happened. It seems to be my turn to uphold it.]

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ask the subset of Writers 6

A friend of mine* is starting to write again after a loooong hiatus. She's looking for a place to post her writings online, and is considering MySpace.**

Anyone have any suggestions for writer-focused sites or online writing circles?

[*: No really.]
[**: And Multiply, but she's leaning MySpace.]


Journal Journal: Ruh-roh.

When the local paper carried a story about some folks being arrested for public indecency, I didn't spare it a glance. That's not really news I can use, thanks.

But some folks at work read it, and one of them pointed out that one of the fellas pictured is a former co-worker of ours. Even that wouldn't be any sort of big deal at all to me, had his mugshot not shown him wearing one of our company t-shirts... with our logo prominently displayed.


I guess it's a right handy thing that we recently changed our logo, and he was wearing the old one.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Terrorist on trial!

A spokesman for Pontius Pilate informed the Jerusalem News that the accused threatened to overthrow the government and replace it with his own kingdom. "We took a strong stand, because the threat was both broad and deep," said Marcus Spartacus, from Pilate's office. "The sedition laws are clear and will be enforced vigorously."

Well, not really. Or not lately, anyway. It's a lovely bit of wordsmithing from Groklaw all the same. PJ wasn't talking about terrorists, just SCO and their press relations. But it's a great example of the importance of knowing the bias of an information source.

United States

Journal Journal: Defense supplemental 4

U.S. Army leaders warned members of Congress that, unless the 2007 supplemental spending bill is passed, the service is heading toward financial crisis.

Without the supplemental, "it will be dire straights for the Army," Gen. Richard Cody, U.S. Army vice chief of staff, said at an April 17 hearing of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. [...]

"I am also frustrated we don't get our appropriations on time," Cody told lawmakers. "Our troops deserve better. We're throttle-back, and the last place we want to scale back is Afghanistan and Iraq." [...]

The $124 billion 2007 emergency supplemental bill is currently stalled by a disagreement between Congress and the White House. The Democrat-controlled Congress has attached a troop withdrawal deadline for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq to the legislation, a measure President George W. Bush has said he will veto.

It's a crisis. If the Democratic Congress doesn't appropriate some more money for the war - doesn't give the President a bill he can sign - then by June the DoD will run out of money with which to continue the war. Here's the Democratic party failing the troops, just like so many people expected they would.

But... there's something odd. Didn't the last, Republican-controlled Congress pass a budget for fiscal year 2007? By, gum, they did:

In Congress' last week in session, the House and Senate passed a final version of the fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations bill, totaling $436.5 billion, according to the conference report.

The bill, which sets spending limits for the military, includes a $70 billion bridge fund for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Bridge fund? Oh, right. This war is not on the budget. It's being paid for thorough a series of supplemental appropriations. Of course, the President, not wanting to leave the troops at the mercy of Congressional politics, he must have asked for enough for a whole year of warfighting, right?

* Provides $439.3 billion for the Department of Defense's base budget--a 7-percent increase over 2006 and a 48-percent increase over 2001--to maintain a high level of military readiness, develop and procure new weapon systems to ensure U.S. battlefield superiority, and support our servicemembers and their families;
* Requests $50 billion in 2007 bridge funding to support the military's Global War on Terror efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq into 2007; [...]

Wait... what?

Gosh, it looks like that Republican Congress gave the President even more money to fight the war than he asked for... 140% of his request.

So why is it that the warfighters are almost out of money? Why do we have this crisis? Didn't someone see this expense coming? Why didn't anyone ask that money for the war be placed in the regular DoD budget? Didn't anyone complain about the off-budget method of financing the war?

How about the New York Times, May 8 2006:

President George W. Bush is trying to score unearned points for fiscal rectitude by railing against the Senate's outsize $109 billion supplemental spending package, which includes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as hurricane relief. But the real scandal is Bush's own preference for financing much of the cost of the Iraq war outside the normal budget process. That is convenient for the administration, which does not have to count the money when it is pretending to balance the budget. But Iraq is not some kind of unexpected emergency, like Hurricane Katrina. It is a highly predictable cost, now amounting to about $100 billion a year, or just under 20 percent of total military spending.

How about John Kerry in 2004:

Despite all we are asking of the men and women in uniform, the bill we now debate appropriates $87 billion simply by increasing the Federal deficit. It asks no sacrifice of anybody in the United States today who can afford it. This is an off-budget, deficit-spending free ride.

Heck, even the BBC got in on it:

The Bush administration has chosen to finance the war by off-budget emergency supplemental appropriations, rather than include Iraq spending in the budget sent to Congress.

It was only after the war began, on 25 March 2003, that President Bush asked for $75bn extra to pay for the initial costs of the war.

And it was more than six months later before the next supplemental appropriation, for another $87bn, was made.

That has reduced the political flack over appropriations for the war - and has also meant that the war spending does not formally count as part of the budget deficit in the future.

And that deficit is predicted to exceed $500bn this year.

According to economics professor William Nordhaus of Yale University, these costs are "a significant burden on the federal budget, another straw on the camel's back".

"The major problem is the Bush administration's unwillingness to face up to the need to finance any of the additional costs, whether the war in Iraq, homeland security, or most important of all the new Medicare provisions," he says.

"Like a teenager who gets further in debt on a credit card, the Bush administration is racking up costs that will have to be paid in the future in higher taxes or lower government programs.

"The fiscal irresponsibility is really awesome."

You know what, Mr. President? I don't want to hear about what you're willing to sign any more. You got us into this mess. And by mess I don't mean the war... I mean the shoddy and, to be blunt, the deceptive way you have chosen to ask for funds for this war. There's a funding crisis now not because the Democrats are recalcitrant, but because you chose to finance the war using off-budget supplemental spending requests. If we were talking about a supplemental just for the surge, that'd be one thing - the surge was not really expected. But you're financing the whole damn war this way, and in the main the costs for this war have been reasonably predictable.

You're the one who has made the funding for this war more of a political football. If you'd budgeted for this war properly, honestly, there would be money to pay through October already... and you could have got it from a Congress controlled by your own party.

You screwed up, Mr. President, and now your screwup has placed your ability to run the war as you please at the mercy of an unfriendly Congress. It's your own damn fault, so stop whining.


Journal Journal: Who runs Iran? 1

There are some very important questions that folks (including me, in this case) just completely fail to ask. Today's example:

WHO RUNS IRAN? Mark Kleiman is bothered, rightly, by the tendency to treat Iran as a sovereign, Western-style country whose actions "are the results of political conflicts and agreements among Iranian politicians, interest groups, and factions." In other words, when we talk about Iran, we don't take the complexities and oddities of its politics into account. Agreed. Moreover, there's a bias towards evaluating states in basically the analytical frame we use for America, and so the guy called 'the president" who spends a lot of time attending international summits and appearing on the nightly news, is assumed to be basically in control of things. Which is why, of course, Iran is now a pluralistic, open democracy, much as President Khatami wanted it.

Oh, wait. That didn't happen. Because, as it turns out, president is not a particularly powerful office in Iran. Last night, I was talking with a pollster who kept insisting that Ahmadinejad was a nearly unique threat, as not only did he possess the means to eventually construct nuclear weapons, but he had a rationale for using them. I disagree on the last clause, but there is absolutely no reason to think President Ahmadinejad has the power to launch a nuclear strike. On anyone.

In the Iranian political system, the Supreme Leader controls the armed forces, the television, the judiciary, the prisons, and basically every other lever of power. The President, conversely, is a very high-ranking civil servant. His only intersection with the military comes in the appointment of defense and intelligence ministers, who must then be approved by the Supreme Leader and then by the legislature. He is impotent when it comes to the armed forces. Iran, remember, is a revoultionary republic, and Khomeini's "innovation" was to argue that the country should be run by those schooled in Islamist thought. The president, a popularly elected politician, not only isn't the highest leader, but his subordinate position is woven into the deepest fabric of the country's political structure.

So President Khatami, who just wanted to institute some political reforms, was completely stymied by the Supreme Council. And yet we think Ahmadinejad will be allowed to launch nuclear attacks -- which will result in massive reprisal against Tehran -- all on his lonesome? It's nuts! He doesn't have the power. And no one with the power has proven particularly reckless or hungry for annihilating confrontation. And yet, the media still presents the situation, and the administration still prortrays it, as if Ahmadinejad is George W. Bush rather than Mohammed Khatami. This is not clear thinking and it will not lead to sound policy-making -- but it does help with the fear-mongering.

The Gimp

Journal Journal: That town is going to the dogs 3

Dog Store Sign Angers Seattle Residents

SEATTLE (AP) -- A newly opened store catering to very pampered dogs, especially female dogs, is getting more than questioning looks for its name, High Maintenance Bitch.

In Wallingford no less. Freakin' beautiful.


Journal Journal: Serving an underserved market

Introducing the Motion Computing C5. Finally, a handheld computer designed specifically for the healthcare setting.

I want one for the clinic. (Hell, I want six, with docking stations.)

Of course, that's assuming they're as good as they look, that the handwriting recognition is great, and ignoring the fact thay they are underpowered for the price. ($2200 for a Core Solo? Ouch!) Still, the whole gadget looks well-designed for what medical staff does, especially in a hospital setting. The added durability and cleanability may be worth the price premium.

I predict they'll sell like hotcakes.

PS: Looks like you may be too late, Steve.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Language is no barrier, I guess 6

Is it just me, or does it seem a little strange that munitions of allegedly Iranian manufacture are stamped with english-language markings and gregorian dates? (See photos 6 through 9.)

I mean, sure it's possible. I can think of several reasons why the Iranians might use english-language markings. Maybe English is the official language of the international small-arms trade, or maybe they're trying to disguise the origin of the munitions. But given this administration's track record in matters of intelligence, I'm having a hard time swallowing this.

And even if I were to buy into the idea that Iran is supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents, it's hard to think that it justifies an invasion. Yes, I understand that EFP weapons are probably the biggest threat to US forces out there. But as I understand it, making them is just a matter of applying the right geometry in a machine shop, then packing in the explosives. Halting the importation of finished weapons won't make a huge dent in EFP availability if any underemployed schmuck with a cutting torch, a hammer, and access to some basic industrial materials can make 'em from plans. It's not at all clear that taking on Iran would halt the supply, or even slow it down much.

It's just not a complicated weapon. It doesn't take much of a manufacturing base to make EFPs. It's not like, say, a Stinger anti-aircraft missile that's full of microprocessors and software. (And as I recall, there were quite a few of those supplied clandestinely to a bunch of insurgents fighting an invading superpower some years back. But we didn't regard that as causus belli, did we?)

Harumph. Not impressed.

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