Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blog #31: the Petraeus Dog and Pony Show

Well the big day came and went. Tuesday was THE Red Letter Day, the day that brought testimony in front of two Senate committees from General David H. Petraeus, the army’s commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, and on Wednesday the two House committees had their turn. The testimony was billed as a progress report, and SURPRISE, SURPRISE!, the “SURGE” has been SUCCESSFUL! However, don’t let your enthusiasm RUN AMOK. The success is VERY, VERY FRAGILE. Like Fred Astaire dancing on egg shells, the general and the ambassador never strayed from the basic Bush message, a continual troop presence is needed in Iraq to continue to provide stability.

And despite polls that show two thirds of Americans feel that the war was a mistake and we should not be there, neither man would entertain ideas of any kind of a drawdown any time soon, nor would or could they even indicate any kind of condition it would take in which the troops could begin returning home. It is quite obvious that during the Bush/Cheney watch there will be no troop reductions. Whether or not the general lived up to his nickname of General Betrayus of course, depends on your point of view about the war and the Bush administration. This much is clear, he most certainly did not betray Bush. Far from it, he didn’t waver an iota from Bush’s line. Show just enough success to show the world there has been progress enough to justify the surge, but not enough for people to get the idea that there could be any kind of meaningful troop reduction, even in a small, limited way, any time soon.

The Democritics who have experienced total failure in repeated attempts to alter the nation’s war policy (despite the polls) this time around tried questioning our continuing funding the war in the face of Iraq having billions stashed away in various banks throughout the world, its newfound riches thanks to the high price of oil. It turns out Iraq has over thirty billion stashed away in US banks alone, and at least fifty billion in other banks, Germany for one, and yet we US taxpayers are still funding basic Iraq programs, like the training and equipping of its army, the running Iraq’s electric power plants, etc. When senators asked the general and the ambassador when Iraqis might begin paying their share of the expenses, they both said they could understand the senator’s concerns and would press the Iraqi government for answers upon their return. But of course they could and did promise nothing.

All three presidential candidates used their time period for questions to promote their own view of the war. Each potential presidential candidate got a crack at the Iraqi roadshow. Republican John McCain, an unblushing believer in the conflict, tried the delicate distinction of approving of the war’s direction while trying to distance himself from the many failed policies of the Bush administration. Senator McCain pointed to the “success” of the surge (which he had called for in advance of its being instituted), but as usual warned against “cutting and running” as that would endanger the stability of the entire operation. Senator Hillary Clinton pointed out that recent outbreaks of fighting in Basra and Bagdad call into question once again the wisdom of the strategy, and asked how long such a failed policy should be carried on before some kind of change of course is called for? Obama also stressed the lack of progress and the futility of the operation, and reiterated that upon election he would take steps to remove American forces by seeking talks with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, to help stabilize the region so we could leave.

In short nothing has changed. The situation in Iraq, according to Petraeus, is “fragile and reversable”, and he sees absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. His basic recommendation after the surge is drawn down would leave 140,000 American troops in Bagdad, he didn’t put a time limit on it, but it could quite possibly be forever. After all, we still have troops in Germany and in Korea, and bases in Japan. So why n0t Iraq? Besides such a long term military commitment insures the future relevance and power of the military. The only possible deterrent to a Republican outcome is the possibility that with over sixty-six percent of the American people seeing the economy as a priority and our Iraq involvement as a mistake, that these two-thirds of us just might go to the polls in November and vote the rascals out. We at the Real Little Eddy Blog of course second that motion, and we’ll even offer Senators Clinton and Obama a campaign slogan, “American Dollars for the American People! For a Real Change.”

A communist government uses its dictatorial powers supposedly for the benefit of the workers, the masses. A fascist state uses its dictatorial powers for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Both types of governments attempt to make a religion 0f the military, as the military is instrumental in keeping those governments in power, as well as extending their influence to other parts of the world. The Bush attempt to portray General Petraeus as all wise and all knowing, as well as the way it has conducted the war in general, substituting an understaffed military with highly paid civilian private contractors certainly puts the Bush administration in the realm of the fascist state. The various illegal forays into the gathering of information on American citizens under the pretense of trolling for terrorists, drives it even deeper into the corner with the likes of Hitler and Stalin. However, there is one characteristic of the Bush/Cheney governance that has probably saved our country from completely going over the edge. At least so far. And that is the extreme measure of incompetence which characterizes their operation. God help us, if they had any measure of efficiency to go along with their ideas.
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Before we leave the Petraeus/Crocker dog and pony show, I would like to point you to Dick Cavett’s caustic assessment in Saturday morning’s NYTimes online. Cavett minces no words as he dissects both gentlemen’s language like a middle school English teacher on steriods. Cavett sums up the general thusly: “Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.”

“But I must hand it to his generalship. He did say something quite clearly and admirably and I am grateful for his frankness. He told us that our gains are largely imaginary: that our alleged “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” (Quite an accomplishment in our sixth year of war.) This provides, of course, a bit of pre-emptive covering of the general’s hindquarters next time that, true to Murphy’s Law, things turn sour again.

But Cavett saved his most vituperative cut for the General’s hapless sidekick: “Back to poor Crocker. His brows are knitted. And he has a perpetually alarmed expression, as if, perhaps, he feels something crawling up his leg.

"Could it be he is being overtaken by the thought that an honorable career has been besmirched by his obediently doing the dirty work of the tinpot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas? The one whose foolish military misadventure seems to increasingly resemble that of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn? Not an apt comparison, I admit. Custer only sent 258 soldiers to their deaths.”

For the entire Cavett experience copy and paste the URL below:
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As for an instance of a possible piece of government bungling, here is a story to curl your hair. According to an Associated Press report written by Larry Margasak, the Bush administration is contemplating moving its research on one of the most contagious of animal diseases from an isolated island laboratory onto the U. S. mainland, possibly near herds of livestock, raising concerns about a catastrophic outbreak.

“Skeptical Democrats in Congress are demanding to see internal documents they believe highlight the risks and consequences of the decision. An epidemic of the disease, foot and mouth, which only affects animals, could devastate the livestock industry. One such government report, produced last year and already turned over to lawmakers by the Homeland Security Department, combined commercial satellite images and federal farm data to show the proximity to livestock herds of locations that have been considered for the new lab. "Would an accidental laboratory release at these locations have the potential to affect nearby livestock?" asked the nine-page document. It did not directly answer the question.

“Manhattan, Kan., is one of five mainland locations under consideration. "It will mean jobs" and spur research and development, it was said. The other possible locations for the new National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility are Athens, Ga.; Butner, N.C.; San Antonio; and Flora, Miss. The new site could be selected later this year, and the lab would open by 2014. The numbers of livestock in the counties and surrounding areas of the finalists range from 542,507 in Kansas to 132,900 in Georgia, according to the Homeland Security study.

“Foot-and-mouth virus can be carried on a worker's breath or clothes, or vehicles leaving a lab, and is so contagious it has been confined to Plum Island, N.Y., for more than a half-century — far from commercial livestock. The existing lab is 100 miles northeast of New York City in the Long Island Sound, accessible only by ferry or helicopter. Researchers there who work with the live virus are not permitted to own animals at home that would be susceptible, and they must wait at least a week before attending outside events where such animals might perform, such as a circus. The White House says modern safety rules at labs are sufficient to avoid any outbreak. But incidents in Britain have demonstrated that the foot-and-mouth virus can cause remarkable economic havoc — and that the virus can escape from a facility. An epidemic in 2001 devastated Britain's livestock industry, as the government slaughtered 6 million sheep, cows and pigs. Last year, in a less serious outbreak, Britain's health and safety agency concluded the virus probably escaped from a site shared by a government research center and a vaccine maker. Other outbreaks have occurred in Taiwan in 1997 and China last year and in 2006.

“If even a single cow signals an outbreak in the U.S., emergency plans permit the government to shut down all exports and movement of livestock. Herds would be quarantined, and a controlled slaughter could be started to stop the disease from spreading. Infected animals weaken and lose weight. Milk cows don't produce milk. They remain highly infectious, even if they survive the virus.

“The Homeland Security Department is convinced it can safely operate the lab on the mainland, saying containment procedures at high-security labs have improved. The livestock industry is divided. Some experts, including the former director at the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center, say research ought to be kept away from cattle populations — and, ideally, placed where the public already has accepted dangerous research.

“The former director, Dr. Roger Breeze, suggested the facility could be safely located at the Atlanta campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., home of The United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases. Another possibility, Breeze said, is on Long Island, where there is no commercial livestock industry. That would allow retention of most of the current Plum Island employees. Asked about the administration's finalist sites located near livestock, Breeze said: "It seems a little odd. It goes against the ... safety program of the last 50 years. The former head of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service said Americans are not prepared for a foot-and-mouth outbreak that has been avoided on the mainland since 1929.

"The horrific prospect of exterminating potentially millions of animals is not something this country's ready for," said Dr. Floyd Horn. The Agriculture Department ran the Plum Island lab until 2003. It was turned over to the Homeland Security Department because preventing an outbreak is now part of the nation's biological defense program. Plum Island researchers work on detection of the disease, strategies to control epidemics including vaccines and drugs, tests of imported animals to ensure they are free of the virus and training of professionals. The new facility will add research on diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans. The Plum Island facility is not secure enough to handle that higher-level research.

“Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee also are worried about the lab's likely move to the mainland. The chairman, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and the head of the investigations subcommittee, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., are threatening to subpoena records they say Homeland Security is withholding from Congress. Those records include reports about "Crimson Sky," an internal review about a publicized 1978 accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease on Plum Island and reports about any previously undisclosed virus releases on the island during the past half century.

“The lawmakers set a deadline of today for the administration to turn over reports they requested. Otherwise, they warned in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, they will arrange a vote next week to issue a congressional subpoena. A new facility at Plum Island is technically a possibility. Signs point to a mainland site, however, after the administration spent considerable time and money scouting new locations. Also, there are financial concerns about operating from a location accessible only by ferry or helicopter.”

Think about it, friends. Do you really trust a Bush administration with a track record like it sports to make a decision as vital as this? Scary, isn’t it? Makes it all the more important that we usher in a government with a new way of thinking and level of competence in November.
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The Smoking Gun website reports on an interesting problem. Does the new Google service “Street View” violate a couple’s privacy just by showing images of their house as the Google automobile drives by. A Pittsburg, Pa couple claims it does and has taken the matter to court. APRIL 4 – “A Pittsburgh couple is suing Google for invasion of privacy, claiming that the web giant's popular "Street View" mapping feature has made a photo of their home available to online searchers. Aaron and Christine Boring accuse Google of an "intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion" of their seclusion and privacy since they live on a street that is "clearly marked with a 'Private Road' sign," according to a lawsuit the couple filed this week in Allegheny County's Court of Common Pleas. According to the Borings, they purchased their Oakridge Lane home in late-2006 for "a considerable sum of money," noting that a "major component of their purchase decision was a desire for privacy."

“But when Pittsburgh was added last October to the roster of cities covered by Google's "Street View" feature, the Borings allege, their "private information was made known to the public," causing them "mental suffering" and diminishing the value of their home (which cost the couple $163,000, according to property records). The Borings are seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages and want a court order directing Google to destroy images of their home. You can go to Smoking Gun’s archive page:
Click there for some photos of the Boring property, which is now even easier to locate via Google Maps, since the plaintiffs included their home address on the lawsuit's first page. And while they are litigating, perhaps the Borings should consider suing Allegheny County's Office of Property Assessments, which includes a photo of their home (which was built in 1916 and sits on 1.82 acres) on its web site.

It seems to us that the couple has no case. If they wish to keep their house private they should block the view from the street by means of a fence or shubbery, but otherwise if a passing motorist or pedestrian has a clear view there is no reason why Google “Street View” shouldn’t also have a view. Just another attempt to sue for some imagined or manufactured grievance.
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A pair of Gartner analysts described Windows as “collapsing” and said that Microsoft Corp. must make radical changes or risk becoming a has-been. This is found in a report written by Gregg Keizer which was published in In a presentation at a Gartner-sponsored conference in Las Vegas, analysts Michael Silver and Neil MacDonald said Microsoft has not responded to the market, is overburdened by nearly two decades of legacy code and decisions, and faces serious competition on a whole host of fronts that will make Windows moot unless the software developer acts.

"For Microsoft, its ecosystem and its customers, the situation is untenable," said Silver and MacDonald in their prepared presentation, titled "Windows Is Collapsing: How What Comes Next Will Improve."
Among Microsoft's problems, the pair said, is Windows' rapidly-expanding code base, which makes it virtually impossible to quickly craft a new version with meaningful changes. That was proved by Vista, they said, when Microsoft – frustrated by lack of progress during the five-year development effort on the new operating – hit the "reset" button and dropped back to the more stable code of Windows Server 2003 as the foundation of Vista.

"This is a large part of the reason [why] Windows Vista delivered primarily incremental improvements," they said. In turn, that became one of the reasons why businesses pushed back Vista deployment plans. "Most users do not understand the benefits of Windows Vista or do not see Vista as being better enough than Windows XP to make incurring the cost and pain of migration worthwhile."

“Other analysts, including those at Gartner rival Forrester Research Inc., have highlighted the slow move toward Vista. Last month, Forrester said that by the end of 2007 only 6.3% of 50,000 enterprise computer users it surveyed were working with Vista. What gains Vista made during its first year, added Forrester, appeared to be at the expense of Windows 2000; Windows XP's share hardly budged.

“The monolithic nature of Windows – although Microsoft talks about Vista's modularity, Silver and MacDonald said it doesn't go nearly far enough – not only makes it tough to deliver a worthwhile upgrade, but threatens Microsoft in the mid- and long-term.

“Users want a smaller Windows that can run on low-priced – and low-powered – hardware. And increasingly, users work with "OS-agnostic applications," the two analysts said in their presentation. It takes too long for Microsoft to build the next version, the company is being beaten by others in the innovation arena, and in the future – perhaps as soon as the next three years – it's going to have trouble competing with Web applications and small, specialized devices.

"Apple introduced its iPhone running OS X, but Microsoft requires a different product on handhelds because Windows Vista is too large, which makes application development, support and the user experience all more difficult," according to Silver and MacDonald. "Windows as we know it must be replaced," they said in their presentation.

When you stop and think about it, that makes a lot of sense. When Apple switched from its traditional operating system to OS X it first allowed programs in the former code to run in virtualization. However, with the addition of Intel chips OS X can no longer access those early programs. That, according to the two Gartner presentors is Microsoft’s problem. It is so bulky and weighed down because it is trying to accomodate everything that has ever been written for it, even including DOS. Modular does sound like the way to go. You install only the parts of the operating system you need for certain programs. New programs would include only the newest written code. Say that written for XP and Vista. However to accommodate programs written for earlier versions you would have to install additional modules. We’ll just see if Microsoft’s leadership has the will and the skill to make that happen.
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On Thursday the Washington Post had an excellent piece of Chelsea Clinton, labeled “Chelsea Clinton Finds Her Voice.” The piece written by Anne E. Kornblut talks about the former First Daughter’s evolution from quiet supporter to self assured campaigner. The story pointed out that the other day Chelsea Clinton did what no one around her is ever supposed to do, and that was bring up Monica Lewinsky herself.

“Speaking to a packed crowd of college students and recounting her mother's history of working with Republicans, the youngest Clinton talked for a minute about Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who as a House member during the impeachment hearings against President Bill Clinton was "one of the people who prosecuted my father in the 1990s," she said. Not "someone you would think would be an ally for someone with the last name Clinton," the 28-year-old added wryly.”
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In closing we have good news for any of you out there who like their fiction with a degree of honesty exceeding that found in the world of print. It gives us great pleasure to make note of the appearance of Part One of the fifth novel of Russell Hoisington’s endearing story of the coming of age of Wynter King and her friends. This is not a complete story, but it will give you an extended look into the fifth volume. For those of you who haven’t yet sampled Hoisington’s work there are four completed novels in the series: Wynter, Wynter and Jimmy, Wynter and Cinnamon, and Wynter and Hailey. Naturally we suggest you take them in the order they were created. This new, Wynter and Brinkley, is at: Hoisington’s complete listings are at:

And there you have this week’s blog. Have a good week, and do come see us again next week.

The Real Little Eddy

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