Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Saturday, August 17, 2002

Family Outing

The wife and I loaded the little one (8 weeks old now) into the car to go to a park today. Well, actually, all we did was push an unconscious baby around in her stroller and we got out of the house. Without fail, the baby falls asleep within five minutes of being driven. I don't know how long that will last, though I'm hoping for about ten years. Still, the wife and I enjoyed Penitentiary Glen. It has a lot of educational stuff for kids, that we will enjoy taking Angela to in the next couple of years. Kind of an old school nature center. It has displays with stuffed forest animals, and an actual coyote pelt (complete with the paws) to touch.

Definitely a cool feature was the Wildlife Center, that also serves as a kind of injured animal home. The euphimisms to describe some of it, though, is a little much.

Each year, nearly 2,000 injured or orphaned animals receive first aid and rehabilitation at the Wildlife Center. Many eventually resume their life in the wild. Patients include backyard wildlife, such as rabbits and songbirds, and endangered species such as the peregrine falcon and bald eagle. Those that cannot be returned to the wild may become our permanent animal ambassadors and can be viewed on the Center's grounds.

Folks, you do a lot of good, and the fact that you actually have a blind heron (detached retinas, according to the placard) in the menagerie is something very different, but spare me the "ambassador" crap. You keep them in cages, and feed them. If you released the permanently injured animals they would quickly die.

Everything From the 70s...

is being recycled

I suppose this was only a matter of time but I figured this franchise would get the big screen treatment

USA Cable Entertainment is developing a remake of The Bionic Woman...

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Paranoia is too low

Personality Disorder Test Results


-- Click Here To Take The Test --


Close Enough

You happy Eric! I finally got the friggin' Blogger Fiesta image up on my site. Managed to do it without running to the wife for help (after about 9 false starts). I just hope no one came to the site while I was messing up the template while putting the damn image up (and judging from my site meter activity, that was unlikely).

Praise for (Harvey) Pitt?

I had to reread this editorial in the NYTimes. It actually approved of something said by SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt. Not only that, it failed to take a swipe at Pitt for his previous employment or statements when he became chairman.

Mr. Pitt, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, admonished lawyers to play an active role in preventing further corporate scandals, or risk the "fate visited upon the accounting industry." ... Mr. Pitt's speech was tough, and rightly so. ... Mr. Pitt put it well when he said, "Lawyers for public companies represent the company as a whole and its shareholder-owners, not the managers who hire and fire them."

Strange days indeed.

House of Saud/Cards

Add George Will to the list of those who foresee the end to the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

The House of Saud almost certainly is a dead regime walking. Saudi Arabia's male unemployment rate is 30 percent. Its population growth -- birth control is disapproved -- is among the most rapid in the world (3 percent per year). Eric Rouleau, a French diplomat, writing in Foreign Affairs ("Trouble in the Kingdom"), says that since the overthrow of the Taliban, Saudi Arabia is the Islamic world's most rigorous theocracy: "Universities require male professors teaching women's classes to give their lectures through a closed-circuit one-way television system . . . 30 to 40 percent of the course hours in schools are devoted to studying scripture." Furthermore, the marriage rate is dropping sharply:

"Unable to afford the traditional dowry, many young Saudi men are now doomed to a prolonged celibacy. At the same time, growing numbers of young women are refusing to marry men chosen for them by their families, men whom their would-be brides are not allowed to meet before their wedding night. As a result, an estimated two-thirds of Saudi women now between 16 and 30 years of age cannot, or will not, marry."

Am I the only one who sees something of a disconnect though between some of the facts cited by Will and part of the article he cites approvingly?

It's a Start

Bush is linking additional foreign aid sought by Egypt to the treatment of Saad Eddin Ibrahim and its poor treatment of pro-democracy organizations. In other words, no additional aid to Egypt -- Egypt will still get its regular aid. To complete the bizarro world atmosphere of this rather symbolic and empty gesture, Bush was actually praised by Human Rights Watch.

Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch's Washington office, said the decision could be "the most significant step the United States has ever taken to defend human rights in the Arab world."

Tom, the bombing in Afghanistan did more for human rights in the Arab world (I know, Afghanis aren't Arab). Letting House of Saud collapse, and getting rid of Hussein in Iraq will do more for human rights in the Arab world. I don't want to knock this too much, since it is one of the more public actions than the US has ever done to rebuke its Arab "allies," but it really does nothing to help bring changes to Egypt or the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

and you get to keep your nail clippers

Larry Miller goes to Israel.

As many of you know, El Al puts at least one armed marshall on each flight. This is a good idea, one of two good ideas El Al gave to all our airlines about five years ago, when the Israelis were invited over to discuss security on airplanes. We didn't take that one. The other good idea they had was that maybe we should have something more than a beaded curtain separating the pilot from the passengers. We didn't take that one, either. (Apparently, both these ideas cost money, and that ended that.) The second Carol and I walked onto the plane, I leaned over and whispered, "I think I spotted the armed marshall." This was not because I have the observational powers of Conan Doyle's hero, but because a perfect idiot could have spotted the armed marshall, because as you hand your boarding pass to the smiling ticket agent, and walk past the smiling flight attendants making coffee and handing out pillows, you come face-to-face with a guy standing right in the middle of everything who is built almost exactly like "Oddjob" from "Goldfinger." Only bigger. He was wearing an El Al uniform (or five) and you knew three things very quickly: (1) That the bulges all over his sport coat probably weren't wallets; (2) That, most likely, he was not the guy you would later be asking for an extra sour-dough roll; and (3) It would be an immensely bad idea to run over to him suddenly, grab his lapels and scream, "Death to Israel."

The Line

Let me just remind some of my friends who work for the Allegheny County Public Defenders Office (you still don't have a website?):

Do not cross this line. (via InstaPundit)

Failing Badly

A long, but well worth the read, article by Charles Mann in the Atlantic; concerning cryptography, homeland security, technology, and unintended consequences. It spends a lot of time demonstrating how overreliance on technology for security creates greater problems

Face-recognition software could be useful. If an airline employee has to type in an identifying number to enter a secure area, for example, it can help to confirm that someone claiming to be that specific employee is indeed that person. But it cannot pick random terrorists out of the mob in an airline terminal. That much-larger-scale task requires comparing many sets of features with the many other sets of features in a database of people on a "watch list." Identix, of Minnesota, one of the largest face-recognition-technology companies, contends that in independent tests its FaceIt software has a success rate of 99.32 percent—that is, when the software matches a passenger's face with a face on a list of terrorists, it is mistaken only 0.68 percent of the time. Assume for the moment that this claim is credible; assume, too, that good pictures of suspected terrorists are readily available. About 25 million passengers used Boston's Logan Airport in 2001. Had face-recognition software been used on 25 million faces, it would have wrongly picked out just 0.68 percent of them—but that would have been enough, given the large number of passengers, to flag as many as 170,000 innocent people as terrorists. With almost 500 false alarms a day, the face-recognition system would quickly become something to ignore.

This is what we want to do to make the country safer? The stuff on the ease of fooling biometric readers is even more disturbing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Obviously Speaking

Either it's a slow news day, or there is just nothing grabbing my attention when I read the news today.

Still, this entry into the "dumb and obvious" category supports the former. One Cameron Morfit writes a substance free piece for the NYTimes Op-ed about how people really care about Major League Baseball and would miss it if there was a strike. To which I can only say:


People rail and bitch about baseball precisely because it has some importance to them. No one is that bent out of shape over the bad economic condition of the NHL and not too many people got concerned when the NBA had a lock-out. While the cost of a ticket for a single pro hockey or basketball game is around $50, it's the cost of attending a baseball game for a family of four that gets people fired up.

Don't even bother clicking to read it. It is so cliche and empty, I am pissed I wasted time thinking about it.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Whitless on MEMRI

Guardian columnist Brian "Whitless" Whitaker takes on MEMRI. Rather, he is going to smear MEMRI. He can't argue that their translations are inaccurate:

Nobody, so far as I know, disputes the general accuracy of Memri's translations but there are other reasons to be concerned about its output.

So, he concedes (buried 25 paragraphs into the story), but that isn't important. What is important is to find ways to go after MEMRI

Its work is subsidised by US taxpayers because as an "independent, non-partisan, non-profit" organisation, it has tax-deductible status under American law.

Excuse me? That would make Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also subsidized entities.

The second thing that makes me uneasy is that the stories selected by Memri for translation follow a familiar pattern: either they reflect badly on the character of Arabs or they in some way further the political agenda of Israel. I am not alone in this unease.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Washington Times: "Memri's intent is to find the worst possible quotes from the Muslim world and disseminate them as widely as possible."

Not that they are untrue, it's just that they really make the Arab Islamists look less than friendly.

Earlier this year, Memri scored two significant propaganda successes against Saudi Arabia. The first was its translation of an article from al-Riyadh newspaper in which a columnist wrote that Jews use the blood of Christian or Muslim children in pastries for the Purim religious festival.

The writer, a university teacher, was apparently relying on an anti-semitic myth that dates back to the middle ages. What this demonstrated, more than anything, was the ignorance of many Arabs - even those highly educated - about Judaism and Israel, and their readiness to believe such ridiculous stories.

But Memri claimed al-Riyadh was a Saudi "government newspaper" - in fact it's privately owned - implying that the article had some form of official approval.

Private huh? How Private? According to this report regarding press freedom in Saudi Arabia:

The local press acknowledges this policy with phrases such as "space is Saudi", referring implicitly to Saudi Arabia's effective control over Arabsat, the satellite collectively owned by Arab states, and explicitly to the activities of Saudi-backed companies such as MBC, ART and Orbit operating from London, Rome and elsewhere. The two leading pan-Arab newspapers, Asharq al-Awsat and Al-Hayat, are also Saudi-owned. This state of affairs blurs the dividing line between national and "foreign" media; for example MBC is a London-based private commercial broadcaster but is widely regarded by Saudis as "theirs". Meanwhile audiences for boring Saudi state television are shrinking rapidly, especially since viewers have also recently discovered the attractions of late night entertainment programmes from the Lebanese satellite broadcasters, LBC-Sat and Future TV.

The Saudi government's ability to control media coverage of news and current affairs inside and outside the country by direct and indirect means also gives it a weapon against the opposition. During 1995-96, London-based Islamist activists campaigned against the authorities in Riyadh by fax and e-mail.
According to the PPC, the Ministry of Information may confiscate or destroy without compensation any issue of any newspaper published in the Kingdom and may press for imprisonment of up to a year and/or a fine of up to SR30,000 riyals ($8,000), or both. The Code gives the Ministry of Information broad authority to control the finances of the media and all institutions that operate under the Press and Publications Code, including deciding on prices and advertising rates.
The two top titles in this category are Okaz and Al-Riyadh. Okaz, with circulation estimated at 135,000 and nearly 1.5 million adult readers1, is one of the country's oldest titles, having been founded in 1960. Published in Jeddah, it enjoys a reputation for relative openness and sells most copies in the western regions of the Hejaz and Asir. Al-Riyadh, with circulation of around 121,000 and readership of just over 1 million, circulates mainly, as its name implies, in the central region of Nejd but also reaches the western and eastern provinces. Its editor-in-chief is Turki bin Abdel-Aziz al-Sudairi, one of the seven sons borne to King Abdel-Aziz al-Saud by Hassa bint Ahmad al-Sudairi, who are known as the "Sudairi Seven". Prince Turki's six full brothers include King Fahd, Prince Salman the governor of Riyadh, and the ministers and deputy ministers of defence and interior.

Yeah, seems pretty independent to me. To continue.

Memri's next success came a month later when Saudi Arabia's ambassador to London wrote a poem entitled The Martyrs - about a young woman suicide bomber - which was published in al-Hayat newspaper.

Memri sent out translated extracts from the poem, which it described as "praising suicide bombers". Whether that was the poem's real message is a matter of interpretation. It could, perhaps more plausibly, be read as condemning the political ineffectiveness of Arab leaders, but Memri's interpretation was reported, almost without question, by the western media.

And, as I recall defended by that Ambassador as being exactly that. Clearly this is a plot.

These incidents involving Saudi Arabia should not be viewed in isolation. They are part of building a case against the kingdom and persuading the United States to treat it as an enemy, rather than an ally.

It's a campaign that the Israeli government and American neo-conservatives have been pushing since early this year - one aspect of which was the bizarre anti-Saudi briefing at the Pentagon, hosted last month by Richard Perle.

"bizarre anti-Saudi briefing." Amazing what people will call the truth these days.


Diminished Capacity

The problem with not getting enough sleep, is that it makes it damn difficult to properly set about breaking down the bulls**t. This is an admittedly half-assed effort. Take this odious op-ed from Robert Jensen. You may remember Prof. Jensen from last September. He is the professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, who wrote such stunning articles like: Why I Will Not Rally Around the President ("We are told that in this time of crisis, all good Americans should rally around the president and the flag. I will rally, but not around a leader calling for war or a symbol of nationalism.") and this piece from September 12, 2001 Stop the Insanity Here ("But as I listened to people around me talk, I realized the anger and fear I felt were very different, for my primary anger is directed at the leaders of this country and my fear is not only for the safety of Americans but for innocents civilians in other countries. ... But this act was no more despicable as the massive acts of terrorism -- the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes -- that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime. For more than five decades throughout the Third World, the United States has deliberately targeted civilians or engaged in violence so indiscriminate that there is no other way to understand it except as terrorism.") Well, Jensen, still awaiting the massive response that will kill innocents (see "stop the insanity") is also (big surprise) a lifelong supporter of the Palestinians.

He details an alleged "argument" he had in an airport starting with: "I was wearing a pro-Palestinian T-shirt; he was wearing a yarmulke." (translation -- I will be debating a passionate, pro-Zionist, Jew; the most wily and dangerous of the species) Jensen of course was reasonable and dispassionate, while the other was passionate and hate filled.

I tried to make sure that two fundamental facts were not lost in the discussion: The ethnic cleansing of about 700,000 Palestinians in 1948, driven from their homes by the Israelis during the birth of that nation that year; and Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, captured during the 1967 war. He said Arabs want to destroy Israel, and therefore Israel's attacks on Palestinians are justified. We challenged each other's facts and interpretations. He invoked God; I cited international law. It was tense, but civil.

Got to love the two "fundamental" facts. All Palestinians were forcefully and without reason, dispossessed of their property by the Israelis. No discussion of how every Arab state immediately attacked Israel, the majority of Palestinians left voluntarily on the premise that their "Arab" brothers would help them destroy the Jews. That some Palestinians ended up being kicked out after the Israeli War for Independence is not in question, but not the majority, and certainly not all 700,000.

The second being the "illegal occupation." Gee, another war, and Israel won again. This time capturing the West Bank and Gaza. Of course it's illegal because the UN, after giving no support to Israel declared that Israel should give the land back without any guarantee fo peace, unlike any other country who fights in a war.

The op-ed goes downhill from there.

sank into my seat feeling defeated -- not because I thought his arguments were better than mine, but because the argument I had made about the humanity of the Palestinians didn't seem to matter to him. My sense of defeat was not about an argument lost, but about the consequences.

Those consequences are clear: So long as Americans ignore these basic issues about justice, U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support for Israel will continue. And as long as the United States supports Israeli expansion and aggression, there is no hope for an end to the violence.

Jensen is an incredibly depressed guy. Everything America does depresses him. (again, see his other articles for the same weary, depressed tone.)

Track and Field

The European track and field championships are taking place this week. I could care less except that it is occurring in Munich, Israel is participating, and they and the other countries' athletes are staying at the Munich Olympic Village. The same spot, where 30 years earlier the Israeli olympic team was taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

The Israelis say it was an important symbolic gesture for them to be here.

"You feel shivers when you close your eyes and think about the terrible things that happened,'' said distance runner Nili Abramski. "But we had to come and show that even the most terrible things won't stop us.''

Abramski said the massacre was on her mind as soon as she learned the championships would be held in Munich. The dark chapter in the city's history only made her want to compete even more. Seventeen athletes qualified for the championships, the most for Israel in the 18-year history of the meet.

"We wanted to show that we are even stronger -- that we never give up,'' she said. "We know we are targets everywhere we go, but you can't live in fear.''

This is the first time since the '72 Olympics that they are using the village to house athletes.

A large stone tablet, often adorned with fresh flowers, marks the site of the abduction at Connollystrasse 31. The victims' names are written on the tablet in German and Hebrew, with the words "In honor of their memory.''

"They should also write it in English so that everyone knows why it is there,'' Abramski said.

On Sunday, the Israeli team will be joined by the families of the 1972 victims in a service at the site of the memorial.

I hope there will be some way for me to watch this.

Mortality Watch

A couple people at work have noted that today is my birthday. (I don't buy into astrology, but what is the deal with all the bloggers who are Leos?) The common question has been how old I am. To which, I have been responding. I'm a Rolling Rock. (Please note, that this in no way implies my support for Rolling Rock beer, which I find to be incredibly bland and am, to this day stunned, that this minor regional beer from Western Penna. has the popularity it enjoys.)

The other question is what are my plans for today. I have none. I get too little sleep, with the little one happily dictating my activities at home to do what I would enjoy -- mixing up a nice little pitcher of extra dry martinis (Bombay Sapphire Gin, of course), and kicking back to watch some of my favorite flicks any combination of -- Blazing Saddles, Dark City, Silver Streak, and The Big Sleep. What I would like can't be given. I would like some more time each day. To some how squeeze in a couple more hours of sleep, and a couple hours of free time so I can get some exercise and down time. Oh, well. Guess I'll have to make do with whatever present the wife bought me.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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