Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Buying Time

Condi Rice is probably buying time chatting with the Mullahs while the US deploys the systems needed to destroy them.
The US announced Wednesday its willingness to enter multilateral direct talks with Iran, if Teheran agrees to halt its nuclear enrichment activity. The American move is seen as a final chance for negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program.
Oddly, the Mullahs think the US plans to invade them:
Iran, apparently anticipating an American invasion, has quietly been restructuring its military and testing a new military doctrine that calls for a decentralized, Iraqi-style guerrilla campaign against an invading force.
But the Iranian people hate and despise their horrible despots, so all we need to do is remove the latter and their nuclear facilities with minimal damage to the former.

Killing the Mullahs just needs drones equipped with precise knowledge of their movements. That database takes time to accumulate - they'll have spider holes all over.

The nuclear facilities can be safely and cleanly eliminated as previously suggested, using Trident missiles equipped with kinetic warheads - advanced versions of the ones the Brits used to destroy deep German bunkers in WW2. This work is under way:
The Pentagon is seeking congressional approval for development of a new weapon able to strike distant targets an hour after they are detected, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The International Herald Tribune said the weapon would be a non-nuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident-2 missile and be part of a president's arsenal when considering a pre-emptive attack.

The report quoted military officials as saying it could be used to hit terrorist camps, enemy missile sites, suspected caches of weapons of mass destruction and other urgent threats.

General James Cartwright, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, said the system would allow U.S. forces to attack targets conventionally and precisely and "limit the collateral damage".

The Pentagon would like the system available in two years, the report said.
I’m sure it won’t take 2 years, but there’s no harm in keeping the enemy guessing.

So look for the Administration to engage in long, tedious (and of course unfruitful) discussions with the Mullahs while mapping their spider holes and deploying the bunker busters.

DU's Iranian readers should consider the suggestions in this post may just be Great Satan Misinformation, and prepare for all the other attack modalities - land, sea, air, space, internal, Israeli, or any of the 100 or so combinations of these.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The CPA And The DNA

The London Times reports DNA tests show a Florida accountant is descended from Genghis Khan via his paternal great-great-grandfather who came from England’s green-and-pleasant Lake District. But there’s a better theory.
Tom Robinson, 48, has become the first man outside Asia to trace his ancestry directly to Genghis Khan, the 13th-century Mongol leader whose empire stretched from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf.

And, since his paternal great-great-grandfather emigrated to the United States from Windermere, Cumbria, many more descendants are probably scattered across the Lake District.

Genetic tests have revealed that Mr Robinson, a professor of accountancy at the University of Miami, shares crucial portions of his DNA with the Mongol ruler.

He has little in common with his infamous ancestor. He is not a keen horseman. Though a Republican, his politics are moderate. And while Genghis Khan may have fathered thousands of children, Professor Robinson and his wife, Linda, have no offspring.
But his ancestor is not necessarily GK (my emphasis):
The link is revealed by the Y chromosome, a packet of DNA that determines male sex, which is passed down from father to son. Men who share a Y chromosome are invariably descended from the same man at some point in the past, and the accumulation of mutations can be used to date the common ancestor.

(A) 2003 study found that large numbers of Asian men from the regions that once made up the Mongol empire shared a single Y chromosome, and that this originated in a man who lived in the early 13th century…

Genghis Khan lived from about 1162 to 1227 and fathered hundreds or even thousands of children as his armies swept across the continent. This makes him by far the most probable source of the common chromosome.
Seems pretty implausible to me – running an army of 200,000 while laying waste to Asia and Europe wouldn't have left much spare time for impregnating thousands of women. No doubt he did collect lots of wives - having massacred their men - but these would have been survivors, and hence smart enough to keep quiet about who really fathered their kids.

My theory is that GK had an army of accountants to manage the finances of his complex operation. They - as accountants do now - would have stayed out of the battles, turning up only for victory feasts. So, when each new fresh crop of females was captured, these accountants alone had the time and energy to procreate.

This explains why their descendants immigrated to the Brit Lake District – a known hotbed of liberal-minded accountants - and hence why the chap in Florida has the special DNA.

QED.

The WSJ Supports Crooked Lawmakers

Wall Street Journal editorials of late have become rather elitist – one last week described people opposing the Senate’s amnesty as “Nativists”, and today one claims the FBI and Attorney General are politicized & that the offices of crooked lawmakers are immune from search. These positions do it discredit.

It’s arguments (my subheads and emphasis):

1. The FBI raid was reasonable, but not necessary:
In the case of Mr. Jefferson, Justice clearly had reason to consider a search. The Congressman is suspected of taking bribes, individuals have already pleaded guilty to paying him and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and a search of his home found $90,000 in his freezer.

Yet with all of this evidence in hand, the question is why prosecutors also felt the need to raid Mr. Jefferson's office in the middle of the night--the first such raid in the history of Congress.
2. The FBI should have cut a deal:
If they really believe Mr. Jefferson is running a criminal enterprise out of his Capitol Hill office, they could always negotiate the parameters of such a search with House leaders.
3. The FBI and Attorney General acted in bad faith, and the President should have terminated the AG:
Justice also hasn't helped its case with its bullying behavior after Speaker Denny Hastert denounced the raid. Someone leaked to ABC News that Mr. Hastert was himself a target of a Justice probe…

Someone also leaked that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy AG Paul McNulty had threatened to resign if President Bush returned material confiscated in the raid. So here we have someone at Justice trying to intimidate not just the House Speaker but also President Bush. If we were Mr. Bush, we'd have accepted both resignations on those grounds alone.
4. The President & Congress will suppress the evidence
Mr. Bush's sensible decision to seal the Jefferson evidence has had the useful effect of calming this dispute down. If it turns out that Justice has to prosecute its case without evidence obtained from Mr. Jefferson's Congressional office, so be it. Prosecutors have to work around such limitations all the time. Congress's right to legislate without being intimidated by the executive is a core element of the Constitution, and bullying prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to violate it.
This piece paints the FBI as politicized, without advancing any evidence. It says the AG – the man sworn to enforce the laws of the United States - should have been terminated for objecting to suppression of evidence. It advances the principle that the offices of politicians – no matter how crooked - should remain sacrosanct.

The EU anti-fraud supremo used similar arguments to hide its own corruption, so it’s sad to see the voice of American conservatism talking the same claptrap.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the US, the equivalent of Brit Remembrance Sunday.

This is again a wartime Memorial Day, and Scrappleface has a moving post.

I take some comfort that the deaths of our fighting men and women have not been in vain - here's VHD’s retrospective of the Iraq war:
...what did 2,400 brave and now deceased Americans really sacrifice for in Iraq, along with thousands more who were wounded? And what were billions in treasure spent on? And what about the hundreds of collective years of service offered by our soldiers? What exactly did intrepid officers in the news like a Gen. Petreus, or Col. McMaster, or Lt. Col Kurilla fight for?

First, there is no longer a mass murderer atop one of the oil-richest states in the world. Imagine what Iraq would now look like with $70 a barrel oil, a $50 billion unchecked and ongoing Oil-for-Food U.N. scandal, the 15th year of no-fly zones, a punitative U.N. embargo on the Iraqi people — all perverted by Russian arms sales, European oil concessions, and frenzied Chinese efforts to get energy contracts from Saddam.

The Kurds would remain in perpetual danger. The Shiites would simply be harvested yearly, in quiet, by Saddam’s police state. The Marsh Arabs would by now have been forgotten in their toxic dust-blown desert. Perhaps Saddam would have upped his cash pay-outs for homicide bombers on the West Bank.

Mohammar Khaddafi would be starting up his centrifuges and adding to his chemical weapons depots. Syria would still be in Lebanon. Washington would probably have ceased pressuring Egypt and the Gulf States to enact reform. Dr. Khan’s nuclear mail-order house would be in high gear. We would still be hearing of a “militant wing” of Hamas, rather than watching a democratically elected terrorist clique reveal its true creed to the world.

But just as importantly, what did these rare Americans not fight for? Oil, for one thing. The price skyrocketed after they went in. The secret deals with Russia and France ended. The U.N. petroleum perfidy stopped. The Iraqis, and the Iraqis alone — not Saddam, the French, the Russians, or the U.N. — now adjudicate how much of their natural resources they will sell, and to whom.

Our soldiers fought for the chance of a democracy; that fact is uncontestable. Before they came to Iraq, there was a fascist dictatorship. Now, after three elections, there is an indigenous democratic government for the first time in the history of the Middle East. True, thousands of Iraqis have died publicly in the resulting sectarian mess; but thousands were dying silently each year under Saddam — with no hope that their sacrifice would ever result in the first steps that we have already long passed.

Our soldiers also removed a great threat to the United States. Again, the crisis brewing over Iran reminds us of what Iraq would have reemerged as. Like Iran, Saddam reaped petroprofits, sponsored terror, and sought weapons of mass destruction. But unlike Iran, he had already attacked four of his neighbors, gassed thousands of his own, and violated every agreement he had ever signed. There would have been no nascent new democracy in Iran that might some day have undermined Saddam, and, again unlike Iran, no internal dissident movement that might have come to power through a revolution or peaceful evolution.

If many in the Middle East once thought it was cute that 19 killers could burn a 20-acre hole in Manhattan, I am not sure what they think of Americans now in their backyard not living to die, but willing to die so that other Arabs might live freely.
The Americans have born the brunt of the fighting, but soldiers from the UK, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Bulgaria, Spain, Australia, Canada, Hungary, Slovakia, Netherlands, Denmark, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Romania and Latvia have died and should also be remembered, along with the many Iraqis who have died for their freedom.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What Is It About Islam And Rape?

Islam sanctions violence by males against their against wives and daughters, and some extend this violence to all women. So a practical first step to cleaning up our societies would be deportation of all immigrants guilty of violence against women.

The rules by which Muslim males can victimize women are carefully defined, and don't include rape and murder. But that's the liberals version - outside of our societies, Muslim males brutalize any woman unable to defend herself.

It’s not just women – as Lawrence of Arabia famously discovered when the Turks captured him.

In the Gulf War, the only American woman captured by the Iraqis was sexually abused while suffering from serious injuries.

Here are the two reports that triggered this reflection. First, the murder of an Israeli kid (my ellipsis):
(an) eight-year-old…, whose body was found a few weeks ago in the open market in the city, was raped by her Palestinian attacker before he killed her...

The suspect… reenacted the crime - which was premeditated and meticulously planned, for police.
Arab rape of Israelis is a daft crime. If they’re lucky, the cops catch them as in this case. If they’re unlucky, the victim’s relatives (most will be IDF) will track the rapist down and administer their own justice – in one famous case, the brother of a murdered Israeli woman, helped by fellow soldiers, is said to have killed the murderer's entire tribe.

The Iranian regime is built on violence against women – they stone to death rape victims, or - if the victims are kids - hang them in the town square. And rape is the weapon of choice of their security services - they raped the Canadian reporter murdering her, and today we read this woman’s story:
A leading Iranian pro-democracy and women's activist, who was jailed on trumped-up charges last year, has revealed how the clerical regime cynically deploys systemic sexual violence against female dissidents in the name of Islam.

Roya Tolouee, 40, was beaten up by Iranian intelligence agents and subjected to a horrific sexual assault when she refused to sign forced confessions. It was only when they threatened to burn her two children to death in front of her that she agreed to put her name to the documents.

"When I asked how he could do this to me, he said that he believed in only two things - Islam and the rule of the clerics…"

"But I know of no religious morality that can justify what they did to me, or other women. For these people, religion is only a tool for dictatorship and abuse. It is a regime of prejudice against women, against other regimes, against other ethnic groups, against anybody who thinks differently from them."

Miss Tolouee's account of her ordeal confirms recent reports from opposition groups that Iranian intelligence officials use sexual abuse against female prisoners as an interrogation technique and even rape young women before execution so that they cannot reach heaven as virgins.
Eventually, we'll finish the Mullahs, but we can make a start in our own societies by deporting all immigrant males in any way connected with honor killing or rape.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Third Impressions Of The Mac

The Mac gets better the more I use it, though Apple’s Singapore-style DVD policy is still driving me crazy.

Mac Calendar and Address Book Beat Microsoft Office


MS has cut Office for the Mac a big step down from Office 2000. Its Outlook equivalent (Entourage) can’t automatically file new emails by folder (a must for high-email-volume multitasking), and its Calendar is dreadful – to enter an appointment, rather than enter it in situ you have to pull up a screen-obscuring dialog box. Its address book is similarly clunky.

So I’ve switched to the Apple iCal and Address Book which do most of what I need (barring spellcheck), and am testing Apple’s Mail. If that works out, I’ll deep-six Entourage. Plop.

That leaves Word and Excel, which don't have equivalents in bundled Apple software. This is annoying because both load and run slowly on Rosetta, in spite of 1 GB of RAM and 1.66GHz Core Duo.

The OpenOffice folks are still working on their Apple Intel port (odd, since I thought it was all Java), but if that turns out to run faster, I’ll ditch all of MS Office.

UPDATE: OpenOffice is available for Intel & I'm downloading now.

PC to Mac Networking

Excellent, now running smoothly over the wireless network to Mrs. G’s PC laptop and my dead PC's file backups.

Dashboard

This pops up a bunch of user selected tools (weather reports, unit converters, language translators etc) when you mouse-off a selected corner. I’ve downloaded some of the thousands of available widgets. Some are useless – a car hire widget told me that there were no cars available at Rome’s Fiumicino airport in August! On the other hand I found a tasteful white Calculator & so was able to ditch the orange-bordered default

Installation

Installing new software on the Mac is vastly faster than Windows. Instead of tiresome Install Shield-Wizard-navigation then reboot, you download the install file, double click it, and a few seconds later it’s ready to run.

The Great DVD Conspiracy

I now know more about Apple, Matsushita, DVD firmware etc than I ever wanted to.

Turns out the reason I didn’t pick the issue up before purchase was censorship on the US review site I've hitherto relied on. Before buying, I carefully checked it for DVD problems, finding none.

So, having found the issue, I posted a comment on the site to warn other users. It was suppressed, I assume because the site considers discussion of multi-region DVD to be illegal.

This confirms SecDef’s wisdom: “you don’t know what you don’t know”.


A quick look at the law suggests the reviewer is over reaching – region coding is part of a civil-law contract between the media producers, the DVD drive manufacturers and the PC vendors. Users aren’t party to that contract & so aren't bound by it - which is why Amazon sells multi region DVD players and why the media producers haven't been hit for restraint-of-trade by the WTO.

Anyway, I think I’ve figured a way around this evil conspiracy on the Mac & will report results.

The entire process is very annoying, but at least I’ve learned not to trust the review site.

Ejecting Incumbents

Americans are just as smart as Brits at spotting the corruption of their elected representatives – even before the latest outrage, 83% viewed Congressional corruption as a serious problem. Voters can remedy this in November.

The poll (reported May 17 – WSJ ($)):
...three times as many Americans disapprove of Congress's job-performance as approve, according to last week's Gallup Poll. Those are Congress's lowest numbers since the Democrats were last in power a dozen years ago.

According to Gallup, 83% of Americans view congressional corruption as a serious problem.
And almost half think most are crooks (my emphasis):
Forty-seven percent of Americans think most members of Congress are corrupt, a significant increase from the beginning of this year.

The vast majority of Americans believe corruption in Washington involves both parties equally.
Until last week, I thought that an extreme view – all organizations have some crooks, but that doesn't necessarily mean the entire outfit is crooked.

But events since the poll show the pessimists are right (WSJ - $, my ellipsis & emphasis):
According to numerous press accounts, after videotaping Mr. Jefferson receiving a $100,000 bribe from an FBI informant, the government executed a search warrant of his home and found $90,000 of that money hidden in his freezer. In another case, a Kentucky businessman pleaded guilty to paying Mr. Jefferson $400,000 in bribes for official favors; and one of the congressman's key staff members has already entered a guilty plea to aiding and abetting the bribery of a public official.

Based upon such compelling evidence and Mr. Jefferson's refusal to comply with a subpoena to surrender key documents for eight months, a federal judge issued the search warrant that was executed in the congressman's Capitol Hill office last weekend. The FBI took exceptional measures to ensure that no privileged documents would be surrendered to investigators, with any close calls being made by a federal judge.

One might expect that others in Congress would be grateful that a scoundrel in their midst has apparently been caught red-handed. But there is obviously a more fundamental issue here, as (Republican) House Speaker Dennis Hastert quickly joined forces with (Democratic) Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, not to commend the FBI for its outstanding work, but to vehemently denounce its actions on the theory that members of Congress are above the law.
These scoundrels expect to avoid electoral penalties because:
Due to gerrymandering, fewer than 10% of all House seats are contested in each election cycle...over 90% of House members are guaranteed reelection every two years, due to lack of electoral competition...
And:
...barring major scandal or controversy, about 95% of congressional incumbents win re-election to their seats.
That may be about to change (my emphasis):
..there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challenger demonstrates this fact to the voters.
Come November, one third of the Senate and the entire House is up for re-election, so Americans can clean house.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Handy Reference

The following are hereby designated Kierkegaards in the Ethel The Frog Ecosystem - the 23 RINOs are bolded.

VOTING FOR THE BILL

Akaka (D); Baucus (D); Bayh (D); Bennett (R); Biden (D); Bingaman (D); Boxer (D); Brownback (R)*; Cantwell (D); Carper (D); Chafee (R); Clinton (D); Coleman (R); Collins (R); Conrad (D); Craig (R); Dayton (D); DeWine (R); Dodd (D); Domenici (R); Durbin (D); Feingold (D); Feinstein (D); Frist (R); Graham (R); Gregg (R); Hagel (R); Harkin (D); Inouye (D); Jeffords (I); Johnson (D); Kennedy (D); Kerry (D); Kohl (D); Landrieu (D); Lautenberg (D); Leahy (D); Levin (D); Lieberman (D); Lincoln (D); Lugar (R); Martinez (R); McCain (R); McConnell (R); Menendez (D); Mikulski (D); Murkowski (R); Murray (D); Nelson (D, Fla.); Obama (D); Pryor (D); Reed (D); Reid (D); Sarbanes (D); Schumer (D); Smith (R); Snowe (R); Specter (R); Stevens (R); Voinovich (R); Warner (R); Wyden (D)

Despots Delight

Against the strongly held views of most Americans, the Senate just voted to amnesty 10 million illegals, invite more to come, and to covertly open the border with Mexico. For the sake of American democracy, we must hope these incumbents don't get re-elected.

These killers and America-haters were proud of their coup:
After the vote, more than a dozen giddy lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathered before television cameras to again commend one another.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, center, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MASS) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), right, at a press conference yesterday. Daniel Rosenbaum (THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The Senate yesterday easily approved an immigration bill that allows 10 million illegal aliens to become citizens, doubles the flow of legal immigration each year and will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $54 billion over the next 10 years.
They nixed all the obvious measures (my ellipsis):
Chief among them was an amendment…that would have delayed implementation of the amnesty and guest-worker provisions until after the secretary of homeland security had certified that the border had been secured. The Senate killed that suggestion.

(Another) amendment…would have barred illegal aliens from collecting Social Security benefits for past illegal work. The Senate rejected that proposal, even if the aliens had forged Social Security documents to get the employment.

(Another) amendment…would have required that the 200,000 new workers ushered into the country each year under the guest-worker program be allowed to stay for only a set period of time rather than permanently. The Senate rejected that proposal as well.
And to cap it all:
Buried in a 125-page last-minute amendment was a requirement that local, state and federal officials in the U.S. consult with their Mexican counterparts before they can start building the fence.
Perhaps they hope that voters will forget, or the corrupt system that favors their incumbency will keep them in place regardless, or that all those extra Hispanic votes will balance those of Americans.

Probably all of the above, plus - cocooned in their power bubble - they have no idea of this probable fate:
A revolt among Pennsylvania conservatives gained national attention on Wednesday after challengers toppled at least 12 state lawmakers they deemed insufficiently committed to small government and fiscal restraint.

Among those losing their positions in a Republican primary on Tuesday were the two State Senate leaders, Robert C. Jubelirer and David J. Brightbill, who had 56 years of incumbency between them and vastly outspent their upstart rivals.

Facing a tire salesman with little political experience, Mr. Brightbill, the majority leader, outspent his opponent nearly 20 to 1 and still captured just 37 percent of the vote...
Wouldn't tire salesmen be excellent replacements for these despots?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

SOXholm Syndrome

The CEO of Deloitte & Touche is an apologist for the Sarbanes-Oxley train wreck. Maybe Stockholm Syndrome, or maybe fat cats like D&T got no fee income from the start-ups that fueled the US economy so don’t miss them all moving to London.

WSJ ($):
A Small Business Advisory Committee to the SEC recommended earlier this year that a majority of all public companies be exempted from at least a portion of these requirements, acting on a concern that the cost fell disproportionately on smaller issuers.

The SEC has opted against such exemptions… I believe that the SEC and PCAOB acted wisely, shifting the debate to a discussion of how to make the law work effectively for all companies and their investors.
The only debate should be about the caliber of bullet to put through SOX’s ugly head.

There Go The Grandkids

The Supreme Court has held the lead in damaging the society that pays it. But now their Brit equivalent has surged ahead, making marriage unacceptably risky for wealth-creators.

Jane Austen famously wrote:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Not any more:
In the most important judgment on divorce for more than 20 years the law lords ruled that women who sacrifice careers to bring up children and look after the home should be compensated and may claim a share of their husband’s future income.

…they said that (a woman of 36) could keep the £5 million that she was awarded from the £17.5 million fortune of her husband…
That was:
after a childless marriage that lasted two years and nine months)…
This breaks new ground:
Family lawyers said that wealthy young men and women would be better off not marrying at all after Britain’s highest court ruled that a wife may be entitled to half the assets created during even a short marriage.
The husband’s lawyer said:
“My advice is: 1, don’t marry; 2, if you do make sure your other half is as wealthy as you are and 3, do a prenuptial agreement and keep your fingers crossed.”
Apparently Brit pre-nups can be fairly easily cracked.


The problem isn’t restricted to the rich - ambitious young people plan to make money, and if a brief and failed marriage will deplete their assets, they’ll stay single & childless.

Who do those law lords expect will pay the taxes that fund their fat pensions?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How Legal Immigration Works

While 12 million non-deportable illegal immigrants wait for their amnesty, here – based on my own experience – is how Brit nuclear physicists, brain surgeons, rocket scientists, etc. are faring in their attempts to enter the US.

They might start - as I did before college - by visiting the US as a tourist under the visa waiver program. At their port of entry, they’ll be photographed and fingerprinted – to ensure they don’t overstay the allotted maximum of 90 days.

After graduating, they might visit on business – my first was as a customer of a US company. For that they’ll need a B-1 visa, which will cost $100 and a visit to the US Embassy in London for an interview with the INS. You have to be patient:
The average Appointment Wait Time for all non-immigrant visa categories is generally 30 to 40 days.
At the interview they’ll be photographed and fingerprinted. The application should be processed in 3 days, so their stamped passport should arrive about a week after the interview.

To actually work in the US, they’ll need an H1B visa, which allows a US company to employ an alien for up to 6 years. The catch is that numbers are limited - just 65,000 of them worldwide this year, plus you have to be a professional:
The H1B visa is designed to be used for staff in "speciality occupations", that is those occupations that require a high degree of specialized knowledge.

Generally at least the equivalent of a job-relevant 4-year US Bachelor's degree is required (this requirement can usually be met by having a 3-year degree and 3 years' relevant post-graduate experience).
To get the H1B needs more form-filling, affidavits to back the forms up, and an interview at the US embassy in London. The company employing you may also have to jump through hoops:
...certain employers, called 'H1B dependent employers' to advertise positions in the USA before petitioning to employ H1B workers for those positions.

H1B dependent employers are defined as those having more than 15% of their employees in H1B status (for firms with over 50 employees – small firms are allowed a higher percentage of H1B employees before becoming 'dependent').

In addition all new H1B petitions and 1st extensions of H1B's now require a fee (in addition to the usual filing fees) of US$1,000 to be paid, which will be used to fund a training programme for resident US workers.
Finally, after you’ve worked in the US, and paid your taxes, you may want – as I did - to normalize your status by applying for a Green Card. i.e. an Immigrant Visa. Assuming you don’t marry an American, or have family members who are US citizens, you might think of entering the Green Card Lottery - but you can't if you're a Brit:
For this year's DV-2007, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because they sent a total of more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years: Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haita, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland which is eligible) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
So that leaves an employment-based Green Card:
EB-1 These visas are designed for certain multinational executives and managers; outstanding professors and researchers; and those who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics

EB-2 This category is for foreign nationals professionals with an 'advanced degrees' (masters degree or higher) and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for foreign nationals with 'exceptional ability' in the sciences, business or arts and with a job offer from a U.S. company; and for foreign nationals with exceptional ability, or an advanced degree, who can show that their activities will substantially benefit the U.S. national interest

EB-3 This category is for 'professional workers' with a U.S. bachelor's or foreign equivalent degree and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for 'skilled workers' for positions that require at least two years of training or experience and with a job offer from a U.S. company; for 'unskilled workers' for positions that require less than two years training or experience and with a job offer from a U.S. company.
When I applied for Mrs G’s and mine I’d been CEO of a US company and paying taxes in the US for years, and the process was much the same as the other visas. However you need an immigration attorney to deal with all the forms, and help you provide (as my attorney put it) “proof that you won’t throw yourself on the ample bosom of the US welfare state”. You and any family members accompanying you must take a full medical exam, and this plus wait time and interviews will take a full working day. I don’t have current costs, but mine cost multiple thousands of dollars and many days of prep. Plus I had to apply in the UK, even though I was at the time based in California.

The above procedures are probably similar to those Americans go through to visit the UK.

However in the US you now have the alternative of avoiding all of the above by flying to Mexico City, paying $1,000 to a smuggler to get you into the US (they don’t bill you until you’ve actually made it), and waiting for the next amnesty.

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re a professional, since your employer is much more likely to obey the law regarding employing illegals than the average Republican-contributing day-labor outfit.

The net of all this is that the US has set high barriers to entry for English-speaking high achievers, and low barriers to entry for non-English-speaking low achievers.

From which it follows that the US Congress seeks an electorate of low-achievers.

Funny that.

Republican Death Wish

Republican lawmakers, while changing the law to amnesty 12 million illegal residents (who won’t for them), just hiked taxes for Americans working abroad (who will also now not vote for them).

US multinationals depend critically on the Americans they send abroad. It can take years to find trustworthy local talent, and while they’re doing that, multinationals rely on Americans uprooting themselves and their families to strange places. London is full of them, and I’ve yet to encounter one who was less than good – probably only the best volunteer for these high-profile jobs.

Senate Republicans just took time out from their rush to amnesty minimum wage illegals to take a swipe at these essential expats (WSJ -$):
Unlike citizens of most other countries working overseas, Americans pay taxes both abroad and at home. Until last week, Section 911 of the U.S. tax code allowed these unofficial ambassadors to exclude up to $80,000 of their foreign earnings from U.S. taxes and provided a tax break on additional compensation, including housing costs, which in places like Hong Kong or Paris or Dubai can make apartments in Manhattan look affordable.

Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, slipped a last-minute amendment into the tax bill that President Bush signed into law last week. The changes nudge up expatriates' tax exemption to $82,400 but substantially raise taxes on additional compensation and effectively cap housing benefits. They are also all retroactive to January 1.

The point of this exercise was to "pay for" the bill's other tax relief. Under the static analysis favored by the Joint Tax Committee, the expat effrontery will raise $2.1 billion over the next decade.

The U.S. is one of only a handful of countries that taxes its citizens' incomes regardless of where they reside. And unlike Eritrea and North Korea, other members of this exclusive club, the U.S. actually collects taxes from its nationals abroad. A better idea would be for the U.S. to follow the example of virtually every other developed country and adopt a territorial tax regime that leaves its citizens overseas alone.

Some 4.1 million Americans are living abroad. In an election year when Republicans are down in the polls, they have just offended a constituency they can ill afford to lose.
Hillary will be delighted.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Attack Of The Flashers

Google is adding video clip ads to their hated moving/flashing ads. I’m not a fan of Google, so with luck this will trigger their demise.

WSJ($):
Google Inc. today plans to begin selling Web advertisements that include video, in a move that it expects will increase the number of Google advertisers and the amount those advertisers spend.

The new advertisement formats will appear on Web sites that carry ads brokered by Google, rather than appearing on Google's own sites. The ads will play advertising video clips when a consumer clicks on them.
Why are moving ads so annoying? My guess is because they grab out attention by crying Wolf, using the ancient survival mechanism of peripheral motion detection.

All animals have this, often tied to a (hard wired) response. If I, or my lizards, see something move in our peripheral vision, we both slew to view it. That’s because the movement can be a predator or food. Frogs have a fancier system – if the motion overshadows them, they automatically jump, if it doesn't, they stay where they are and treat the movement as potential food. So now you know how to hunt frogs - stay low.

Anyway, since humans are a bit more advanced than frogs and lizards, we can suppress the slew-to-motion response, at the cost of a feeling of mild annoyance.


The flashing ad use of this mechanism is akin to getting a theater audience’s attention by holding an ad up and shouting “Fire!”

Hence every decent browser blocks these horrible things. Firefox just made the job more labor intensive, but Mac users have a better solution in Camino, which kills them all right out of the box (though it’s tabbing isn’t as good as Firefox).

It’s possible that Google has realized this, and is making the flashing effectively optional – you have to click the “play” button to get movement. But I doubt it since that would lose them revenue – their ads will probably have flashing play buttons.

If so, Google will be toast when advertizers find nobody plays their ads.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Breach Of Trust

The UK is the founding High Trust society, and a survey today shows Brits no longer trust their political parties or the EU. Besides confirming Brit's good sense, this tells us that they're getting ready to throw the bums out.

The highlights of the survey are:

Five Least Trusted Groups

The number is % of Brits trusting the group:

(Real) Estate Agents (11%)
Tabloid Journalists (12%)
Senior EU Officials (16%)
Leading Opposition Tory Pols (19%)
Labour Government Ministers (20%)


Five Groups Losing The Most Trust Since 2003

The bolded number is the % change of Brit trust in the group since 2003

Senior EU Officials (went from 35% trust to 16%, a loss of 54%)

Managers In NHS Hospitals (went from 36% to 24%, a loss of 33%)
Estate Agents (went from 16% to 11%, a loss of 31%)
Leading Lib Dem Pols (went from 36% to 25%, a loss of 31%)
Senior Police Officers (went from 72% to 52%, a loss of 28%)

I'm guessing the collapse of trust in two big parties is caused by their soliciting hidden payments from big donors, and in the case of Labour, offering Lordships in return. Here was how Blair’s Labour did it (my ellipsis):
(Police) are concentrating their inquiries on the £14 million of secret loans obtained by Labour last year.

Of those who agreed to lend the party money, four were subsequently nominated by Mr. Blair for a peerage... All their nominations were later blocked by the appointments commission.

(The) Labour chairman...was asked while he was in hospital between two life-threatening bouts of heart surgery to sign certificates stating that Labour's nominees had no hidden financial links to the party.

He signed the forms - only to discover later that all four had loaned Labour money.
The opposition Tories used the same system of loans to hide contributors, although as far as I know did not give peerages in return.

Very yucky.

The EU Commission has lost Brit respect by refusing to accept voters' rejection of the EU Constitution – Brits are great believers in following democratic rules.

On past performance the next election is due by end 2009. That’s probably too fast for a new party to get established, so expect very low voter turnout, unstable coalition government, and then – with luck – a new broom government by 2012.

Move Gitmo To The UN!

The UN Commission Against Torture demands the closure of Gitmo and the release of all prisoners – though not to places where they might be tortured. The only place meeting the UN's strict criteria is, er, the UN building.

First, Scrappleface reports that – for balance - the UN chastized Al Qaeda:
UN Calls on Al Qaeda to Open Detention Facility

The panel’s report laid out a process designed to move al Qaeda in “baby steps” from its current practice of beheading and blowing up innocent civilians, to taking them prisoner and torturing them, to eventually running a clean, safe, modern prisoner-of-war camp in full compliance with the United Nations protocols.
With that out of the way, the Committee addressed the US:
The Committee recommended that the United States cease to detain any person at Guantánamo Bay and that it close that detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible, ensuring that they were not returned to any State where they could face a real risk of being tortured.
The Commission was advised by its Committee Against Torture, which it boasts:
...is made up of: 10 independent experts who are persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.
So to which of the 10 nations supplying these paragons could the Commission send the Gitmo detainees?


The membership is here, their homelands’ human rights records are here and here, and here’s my assessment of them as havens for suspected Islamic killers.

Fear States: Russia, China, Morocco, and Ecuador

These are Not Free or Partly Free - countries run by despots who use torture routinely – not a nice place for anyone, let alone an Islamic terror suspect.

Pariah States: the US

Nuff said.

Muslim Haters: Cyprus, Spain

Both are rated Free, but both will be nasty to Muslims.

Cypriots attack Muslims from the Turkish part of that island.

Spain complied with Muslim instructions after the Madrid bombings, but would not welcome more potential mass murderers.

Sanctioned By Amnesty International: Senegal and Chile

Senegal gives sanctuary to real torturers, while Chile protects mass murderers. The UN is probably cool with that, but the released detainees will see these places as just too dangerous!

The Only Good Guys: Norway

I have family there, and can confirm that the place is fanatically neutral, honest, rational, and nice. But in consequence, they've been deporting Muslim fanatics since way before it became fashionable. So Norway's no good.

****

Which leaves the UN itself - it has the space in the useless top 10 stories of the UN tower, where the detainees can amuse the UN secretariat with tricks like this:
Ten Guantanamo prisoners lured U.S. guards into a cell with a staged suicide attempt, then attacked them with light fixtures, fan blades and other improvised weapons while guards fired rubber balls and used a grenade launcher to subdue them, U.S. officials said on Friday.

“The detainees had slickened the floor of their block with feces, urine and soapy water in an attempt to trip the guards. They then assaulted the guards with broken light fixtures, fan blades and bits of metal,” said Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, who commands the Guantanamo facility.
Go for it Kofi, you’ll make John Bolton a happy man!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Iraqi Freedom

After three years of blood, sweat, toil, and tears the Iraqi people have the first democratically chosen Arab government in history. They, and we, have achieved that in the face of campaigns of slaughter by deposed Sunni despots, Iranian puppets and what’s left of al Qaeda. George Bush and Toby Blair can be justifiably proud.

Not that you’d know it from the MSM – here’s AP, which has been predicting civil war for months:
Iraq's New Government Meets for First Time; 13 Killed

A homicide bomber killed at least 13 people and injured 17 when he blew himself up Sunday in a downtown Baghdad restaurant frequented by police. The attack came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to soon fill vacancies in his two key security ministries.
AP won the Snuff Pulitzer for its presence at the murder of two Iraqi election workers, so seeing their sacrifice bear fruit must hurt. Which is why they won’t tell you of these indicators of progress (my ellipsis and emphasis):
The first indicator is...refugee(s). During bad times, Iraqis have fled, or attempted to flee, the country en masse. Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, however, more than 1.2 million Iraqis have returned.

The second indicator is pilgrimages. From 1991 to 2003, there were virtually no pilgrimages to the religious shrines in Karbala and Najaf. In 2005, these sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims. Moreover, the return of 3,000 Shiite clerics from exile has helped re-establish Najaf as a center of religious learning. As such, it provides an alterative to Qom in Iran where a radical and highly politicized version of Shiism is taught. By contrast, Najah provides for the study of more traditional quietist forms of the religion.

The next indicator is the value of the Iraqi dinar. It was in free-fall during the last years of Saddam. Today, (the dinar) is rising against the Kuwaiti dinar, the Iranian rial, and for that matter, the U.S. dollar (which is not to express any opinion on whether our readers should invest in this currency).

Fourth,...the level of activity by small and medium size businesses. In the past...whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply shut down. Since liberation, however, the private sector is booming. According to Taheri, the IMF and World Bank have found the Iraqi economy to be outperforming all others in the region...

For the first time since the 1950s, Iraq is exporting foodstuffs to its neighbors. And...even the oil industry, a constant target of the terrorists (to the tune of more than 3,000 attacks and attempts at sabotage), is progressing. Iraq has resumed its membership in OPEC, returned to the world markets as a major exporter, and is projected to meet its full OPEC quota of 2.8 million barrels a day by the end of the year.
Iraqi politicians are just as flawed as ours – even worse (if possible) given their low trust society. But, after more suffering, they’ll likely end up governed no worse than Greece or Italy – infinitely better than Saddam’s barbaric dictatorship, or any other Arab government.

The Disgraceful Treatment Of Trooper Williams

The disgraceful details of the Brit Army’s leadership’s part in the Blair's government’s indictment of Trooper Williams have emerged. When Brits finally elect decent political leaders, the spineless generals and malevolent politicians should face a reckoning.

Here’s what happened (my ellipsis):
Trooper Williams was on patrol with other soldiers when they discovered six Iraqis moving a cart containing heavy machine gun ammunition. Three of the men were detained. A fourth…ran off, pursued by Trooper Williams and Corporal Jeffrey Blair. When caught, (the fugitive) refused to be handcuffed and, amid attempts to restrain him, was shot by the trooper who…believed he was trying to get hold of Cpl Blair's weapon.

On the advice of military lawyers, the commanding officer said Trooper Williams had no case to answer. Under military law, this meant he could not be court martialled.
But then the Brit Army’s leaders handed Trooper Williams over for political prosecution by Blair’s hatchet man, Goldsmith (my emphasis and ellipsis):
…Lt Gen Sir Alastair Irwin, in charge of Army personnel, wrote to Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of general staff: "With the current legal, political and ginger group interest in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in (Iraqi Freedom), there is a significant possibility that this case, our investigation and subsequent failure to offer for prosecution, could become a cause célèbre for pressure groups and a significant threat to the maintenance of the military justice system.

"If the Attorney General (Goldsmith) became aware of it in the meantime, it is possible that he would himself order a review of the case. If, on the other hand, we, the Army, accept that we have made an error, we would reinforce the perception of an organisation that is mature enough to identify failings, and robust enough to regulate for those errors.

"In the long term therefore, it is in the Service's interest to ask the Attorney General to review the case… Instinctively I think of our duty to Trooper Williams, but that duty cannot extend to covering for him, if he has indeed behaved unlawfully."
Yeah, the B word. So the generals offered up Trooper Williams (my ellipsis):
…the Army Prosecuting Authority…passed the case to the attorney general (Goldsmith) who…referred it to the CPS (Brit civilian prosecution agency), which asked the Metropolitan police to investigate further.

The soldier was charged in September last year and committed to trial at the Old Bailey (criminal court for civilians).
Fortunately, the case was heard by the splendid Mrs Justice Hallett, who:
…commented about the dangers British troops faced.

"The troops worked in dreadful physical conditions, never knowing when, in a moment, an apparently benign situation would turn into a lethal attack." Her remarks prompted the CPS to review the case. It concluded there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution.
She also said:
...there was no suggestion of an army cover-up or of the civil charge being brought because of political pressure.
Now we know she was misled and Brits
have an army led by political generals who allow serving soldiers to be persecuted by the pols that sent them to war.

When the Brits finally elect a decent government, all these creeps should be called to account for the damage they’ve done to the British Army.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Second Impressions Of The Mac

This follows on from my initial post. After three days of intensive use of the Apple Mac Mini, I’m impressed – but it’s surprisingly unstable, comes with odd initial settings, and is useless as a multi-region media player

I’m a software entrepreneur who last used a Mac (SE30) in 1990 & has since lived off PC laptops. Currently using a Mac Mini to assess a family switch from PCs to a couple of Mac laptops & 2 media players hanging off wireless networks in our two bases in Europe.

Acquisition

System

Ordered online from UK store – Mac Mini with 1.66 GHz Core Duo, 1 Gbyte RAM, Bluetooth Apple keyboard and Mouse, and MS Office for Mac.

Delivery

Awful - 11 days from Ireland to London!

Packaging

Very good - can be removed without the traditional need for scissors, sharp knives, bayonets etc.

Engineering

Very good – manufacturing tolerances are less than the PC world. Very quiet except for the optical drive

Set Up

A breeze. On first power-up it found the BT keyboard and mouse & then our wireless network, waited while I gave it access to the router, then immediately connected to the Internet. Downloaded huge updates for all components & installed without reboot (hooray! – but did the same a week later and this time wanted 2 reboots!). MS Office installed quickly & easily.

File Sharing With PC

Couldn’t get this to work – it could see the non-password protected files on my laptop; but wouldn’t let me at them without a password. Windows networking is a black art, so will give Apple a pass on this and RTFM. My laptop has died so it’s academic until I recover it.

Use

User Interface

Surprisingly, Apple shares the Microsoft vice of giving the new user bizarre default settings. For example, it places the window scroll arrows together at lower right, rather than at the top and bottom. You can change that in System Preferences, but surely the top/bottom model is best for the bulk of users, who either scroll up or scroll down & don’t care about the mouse movement to switch from one to the other.

Still, this odd default reminds you to explore System Preferences and fix other oddities. There you also find Expose, which provides a Xerox Star-like way of identifying and moving between windows. Much nicer to use than the W2K taskbar.

Now forewarned, you need to go through the system and every app and set its Preferences to sensible values. No big deal, but as Apple becomes mainstream, it needs to work on getting its initial preferences set to the normal user.

Dialog boxes lack a Confirm button, so you just make changes and then shut the dialog down to confirm. This is less intrusive than the W2K nannyish insistence on confirming everything, so I’ll probably learn to live with it.

The other oddity occurs when you start a new app on top of an existing one. For example, opening Excel on Word pulls up the Excel menu bar with the blank spreadsheet below it. If you shut the spreadsheet down, the Excel menu bar stays on top of the Word document & you only get the Word menu back when you restore focus to the Word document by clicking on it.

On Windows, if you close the spreadsheet, the app shuts down, which seems to me to be more intuitive.

Single Button Mouse

The single button mouse is the buggy whip on the Porsche-like Mac & the sooner Apple drops it, the better.

It’s hopeless for intensive browsing – you have to keep one hand on the keyboard and do fiddly movements to right-click and scroll. A kindly commenter explained that OS X supports two button mice, so I plugged in my little Sony USB mouse with scroll wheel and bingo, it works fine! Now all I need is a wireless version that gets good reviews – suggestions welcome.

Browser

I spend 1-2 hours a day browsing, so tabbing is essential. A kind commenter on my earlier post explained how to get Safari to provide a tabbed interface. But am not impressed with Safari – no history drop downs on Forward and Back buttons – a must for nested searching, Also Blogger doesn’t support Safari & its only search engine is Evil Google.

So installed Firefox, my PC browser of choice – it supports Blogger, has excellent tabbed browsing, Add-Ons to stop those annoying flashing ads that advertisers insanely believe will captivate us, and you can use lots of different search engines & delete Google. Nirvana.

Well, not quite – it crashes several times a day. Since it’s never crashed on my PC, I suspect the Mac environment – if it’s a Universal Binary it would be running on Rosetta. The only good part is that Apple makes online error reporting very easy

MS Office

It looks prettier than the Office 2000 on my PC, but does the same things – after you’ve hacked it into normality by changing its preferences, of course!

The apps take about 10 seconds to load –slower than I’d expect on a machine this powerful. Could be the Evil Empire’s fault, or the overheads of Rosetta emulation. If it’s the latter, it’s worth buying the fastest processor, since emulators are CPU hogs.

Bundled Apps

I expected Apple to bundle amazing graphic apps, and was disappointed with iPhoto. It’s OK for display, but provides only basic photo editing - you can’t draw on images. For example, add an arrow to some important feature in an image (crucial if, like me, you’re poor at zooming!). It too is unstable – I just pulled it up to review the Edit functions & it crashed.

The calendar, mail, & address book seem OK for newbies, but not a patch on MS Office.

MS also provides poor bundled apps, but shouldn't Apple aim higher?

Dashboard

Nice idea, poor execution. You can pull up a calendar, a clock, a weather forecast and a calculator by mousing into whichever corner you select.

But you already know the time from your top toolbar & the default weather forecast comes set for a US city– Paris, Maine in my case, tsk, tsk. This may be fixable though – the provider (AccuWeather) provides European forecasts.

The calculator is OK, although I prefer the one I get with Firefox. And its orange color scheme looks terrible!

UPDATE: I just found out you can add many other widgets to the dashboard - unit converters, translators, dictionaries, multiple weather reports, etc. And remove any you don't like. Makes the dashboard a splendid feature.

DVD Playing

Dividing our lives between the US and Europe means we have a mixture of region 1 and region 2 DVDs – about 300 of each. We don’t have or watch TV, so play these on projectors or external monitors attached to our PCs.

We’d hoped the Mac Mini would – after we’d completed our evaluation and bought ourselves Mac Books - become a media player. It has the right footprint, is very quiet and has a remote.

But it turns out that it has a so-far-unbroken lock in the Matsushita DVD hardware that restricts you to one region (after 4 switches). I've duplicated the other users' problems mentioned in the link.

There are workarounds – stream to the Mac from a PC (but why?), attach an external DVD player (loses the point).

So the Mac Mini, and all Macs with the same DVD drive supplier will only function as single region media players & so won’t be bought in the many parts of the world where people use multiple regions, or of course by mobile folks like us.

This isn’t entirely Apple’s fault – they have to fall in line with the complex monopoly of Hollywood. But they could have chosen a player that could be easily subverted, like most PC vendors do!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Alas Poor Italy

In my experience, most Italians are steadfast and straightforward. Unfortunately for them - and us - they've elected a Prime Minister who has neither of these qualities.

Romano Prodi supports fighting terror, announcing:
...he would “consolidate and enrich” Italy’s relations with Washington, and remain “on the front line” against terrorism.
Provided that doesn't involve fighting!
..vowing to bring home the country’s 3,000 troops from Iraq and calling the war there “a grave error”.
Prodi is expert at such cognitive dissonance. When Aldo Moria - a previous Prime Minister - was kidnapped and murdered, Prodi was amazingly well-informed of his whereabouts (my ellipsis):
Prodi has told a parliamentary hearing into Moro's murder that he had taken part in a seance for fun with some of his academic colleagues.

To the surprise of everyone, the spirit of a dead Christian Democrat politician began speaking to them through the ouija board. They asked where Moro was being held. He spelt out a number of place names, and then the word "Gradoli".

Prodi said no-one understood what that meant, but his friends found that it was actually an Italian village (sic) near Rome. Word of the seance soon reached police ears and within a week hordes of police descended on Gradoli, but found nothing.

In fact, Moro was being held as a prisoner in a block of flats in a street called Via Gradoli, in Rome.

Almost two months after his kidnapping, Moro was shot dead. Police subsequently discovered where the Red Brigades had hidden him and pressure was put on Prodi, a devout Roman Catholic, to reveal the truth behind the seance.

He has always stood by his version of events.

If you don't believe in ghosts, this guy is complicit in kidnapping and maybe murder. With him in charge, Italy is in for a rough time - during which it will not be our ally.

Anglo-American Eccentricity

The pleasant north eastern town of Darlington is doing its bit to foster the Brit reputation for eccentricity.

Darlington has a pretty town center, and hosts a famous Real Ale festival and a dog show. But many southern Brits still stigmatize its inhabitants (along with other northerners) as spending too much time breeding
whippets. Now some locals have put this stereotype firmly behind them (my ellipsis):
Mr Thompson...was banned from a butcher's shop in the town for turning up with a young woman on a leash, said: "I have been called sick but I don't think what I do is bad."
Neither apparently did the young woman:
..police uncovered a sect whose followers base their lives on science fiction novels advocating the sexual enslavement of women.

However, a police spokesman said no criminal activity was discovered and all those involved were "consenting adults".
Turns out this is another Anglo-American collaboration:
The so-called Kaotian sect is a splinter group of the Goreans, who have about 25,000 followers in Britain. They base their lives on a series of novels written by John Norman, the pen name of the elderly American university professor, John Frederick Lange.

The books describe life on the planet of Gor, where society is divided into castes and women are kept as slaves.
Tipper is not going to like this.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One Of Those Days

On returning from London yesterday my laptop locked up & needs its (London based) W2K install disk. Still, being forced to use a Mac while losing access to all one's files, bookmarks, emails, calendars and contacts is liberating!

The problem is likely a Firefox extension - Filterset.g Update 0.3.0.4 for Adblock - Firefox users be warned.

I'm not back in London for 3 weeks & in the interim have moved to a Mac Mini I'm using to evaluate a switch to Apple. After not using a Mac for 15 years, this is like moving from a democracy to Singapore - things are cleaner and neater but there's a lot you can't do.

The cleaner and neater part is nice packaging, cute graphics, painless wireless connection, and a very good implementation of MS Office.

The downside includes:

- A horrible navigation experience - the (wireless) mouse has no scroll wheel, and right clicking requires Ctrl/click, twice the effort.

- Intel Macs have 3 layers of DVD region code protection (hardware, firmware, software) so you can only play disks from one region (the French VLC workaround doesn't work). So unless you live in a pre-globalized world, Macs are useless as media players.

- The free apps are flimsy - iPhoto image editing is worse even than Paint’s, and the Safari browser has no tabs!

- The latter is a shame, because Firefox is very unstable on the Mac, crashing unrecoverably every 30 minutes. We'll see if Opera holds up better.

Three weeks is a long time, so I'll probably get Stockholm Syndrome & end up a Mac zealot...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Political Suicide

The WSJ favors the president's arguments on immigration - here's a quick counter.

Their opinion piece ($) makes three daft errors (my ellipsis).

1. Confusing Means And Ends
House GOP leaders were lukewarm to hostile (to the President's proposals), with Majority (at least until November) Whip Roy Blunt saying he'd oppose any broader immigration reform "until we have adequately addressed our serious border security problems." Just what that would take he didn't say. Perhaps 100,000 new agents? The 82nd Airborne?
The WSJ champions capitalism, but seemingly doesn't know that only the bottom line counts - Rep Blunt is presumably thinking of doing whatever it takes to cut illegal immigration from 500,000 a year to, say, 50,000. If that can't be done, then any amnesty for existing illegals will pull in another 12 million, and so on ad infinitum.

2. Confusing Hopes And Facts
The President('s)...proposal for a guest-worker program is a serious attempt to reduce the incentives that immigrants have to enter the U.S. illegally. He also realizes that, for the illegals already here, mass deportations are impractical and would spell political suicide for the GOP.
But his guest worker program is not serious, precisely because if mass deportation of illegals is "impractical", then the bulk of the 12 million must stay -see below. And while deporting illegals may carry electoral costs with legal hispanics, allowing illegals to stay carries political costs with the other 280 million Americans.

3. Inability To Reason
Hence, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is trying this week to garner more support for a bipartisan plan that would put these illegal workers on a path to citizenship if they pass a background check, pay fines, learn English and satisfy other requirements.

This is derided in some circles as "amnesty" -- a scare word thrown around to end discussions -- but the 11 or 12 million illegals already here are hardly likely to come out of the shadows if they know they will be deported.
If illegals fail those tests, they will presumably be deported - otherwise why waste the money on them. But the WSJ says they can't be deported and the illegals won't "come out of the shadows" to face that risk! So the only solution consistent with these constraints is a set of tests and fines set so low that they achieve a 99.9% pass rate.

The nation will rightly judge this to be an amnesty and the GOP will indeed have committed political suicide.

QED.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Amoral Anglo American Attitudes

Bush and Blair just promised their electors that they're changing their ways and will now enforce the rule of law. I'm sorry to say that I think they are not telling the truth.

President Bush said:
...by the end of his presidency, he will have doubled the size of the Border Patrol to 12,000.
This is like the CEO of a bankrupt company congratulating himself for doubling R&D spend. In the real world, outputs matter, not inputs, and the outputs are 12 million illegals - 4% of the US population! His amnesty proposals are just as weak:

"We must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here. They should not be given an automatic path to citizenship...

"I believe that illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law -- to pay their taxes, to learn English and to work in a job for a number of years. People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship -- but approval would not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."

But if he considers the millions of illegals already in the US an unchangeable "reality", he's saying that the US has no choice but to make them citizens. So all his assurances are window dressing and Americans should expect his citizenship rules will be applied as rigorously as his border security - i.e. not at all.

There are plenty of solutions available - here for example (hat tip Rottweiler) - so why hasn't the president employed his courage and resolution to confront this problem? I fear he's decided that a) the US population has to grow fast, and b) the only mass population available is Mexico's. If so, he should tell American people so they can debate these assumptions. Instead, by first trying to suppress the problem and now proposing band aids, he's stifling that debate.

Blair is singing from the same hymn book:

Tony Blair admitted yesterday that he had failed to sort out the criminal justice system during nine years in power and had left the public at risk from violent and drug-abusing offenders...

His admission that the system was failing the public came despite an avalanche of new criminal justice laws and special initiatives since Labour took office in 1997.

Downing Street sought to show that the Government was pressing ahead with a reform agenda by releasing letters from Mr Blair to four Cabinet ministers setting out his priorities.

Writing to John Reid, the Home Secretary, Mr Blair raised the prospect of new legislation to overrule human rights judgments.

The failure of the UK judicial system has - like the open US borders - been common knowledge for years. Foreign criminals are not deported - some are even given citizenship. Immigration is uncontrolled. Sentencing is weak (10 years for taking someone's life), and perps are released early, the better to kill, rape, brutalize or steal.

As a result, every Brit I know has been on the receiving end of criminality, and they don't trust politicians, cops or judges.

As NYC showed in the 90s, the Brit epidemic of criminality isn't a hard problem to fix. Locking criminals up longer keeps them from re-offending & deters others. To do that needs changes in the law, more jails and new judges. Blair could have done this anytime - he has no problem passing laws, and after raising Brit taxes above German levels, has plenty of cash. He's proved ready to change the Constitution so he could fire most of the House of Lords and fill it with his placemen. Busting the Brit judge class is easy by comparison.

There are other easy measures to stem the epidemic - automatically deporting all foreign criminals, hiring more cops, and replacing their PC managers. He's passed on these measures too.

Blair is no fool, and we should assume his toleration of illegality is deliberate. The most plausible explanation is that he thinks the same as the president - he wants immigrants and isn't choosy where they come from and whether they obey Brit laws.

His new good intentions are as unbelievable as the president's and he also will not abide by his new promises.

Both men presumably calculate that their parties won't suffer politically since their opponents are even softer on crime. They may be right, but I think it more likely that voters in both countries are past the point of no return.

So Americans can look forward to Hillarycare, and Brits to Socialism With a Tory Face.

Australia anyone?