Sunday, October 12, 2008

In Times of Crisis, Turn to Socialism?

Do our political & financial leaders believe in free market capitalism?

The recent financial meltdown has been met with calls for unprecedented governmental intervention--taking stakes in the leading banks and ownership of financial institutions, short-term regulatory quick fixes, and the transfer of unlimited taxpayer dollars to the Treasury with no oversight.

In the depths of a crisis, the first instinct of our supposedly free enterprise-loving leaders is to stampede headlong in the direction of socialism as the answer to our gravest problems. Clearly, they don't believe in capitalism, and governmental interference is contributing to the panic.

Syncronized with the declining financial values on Wall Street are John McCain's political fortunes. Just as the stock market began its precipitous fall, so did McCain's poll numbers.

Barack Obama is the closest thing to a socialist in the political race, and he is the beneficiary of the turmoil. So not only our governmental leaders turn to socialism in a time of crisis, but apparently the American public and voters do as well. McCain has favored the bailout as well, but the socialism candidate in this race is Obama, not McCain, and socialism is winning handily at this point in time.

The liberal Congress is expected to become even more liberal after the November elections. Socialism is yawping on the horizon.

Why the sudden eagerness to jettison free enterprise? Hasn't it given us the greatest country on earth, with millions and millions attempting to move here legally and otherwise? And hasn't socialism proven to be a terminally failed idea that hasn't succeeded anywhere?

What is the attraction to an idea that is in the trashcan of history? Does anyone really expect anything good to come of it?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gitmo Terrorists Next Door

One of the strongest arguments against giving the terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay their day in court and the same rights as anyone else, is the prospect that the legal evidence against them might not be sufficient. Therefore, they might get to walk and go back to their terrorists ways--as previous Gitmo inmates have done.

But I doubt few considered that our legal system might not only set some of the Gitmo terrorists free, but allow them to live free in the United States!

The Wall Street Journal has a story on this likely scenario--courtesy of the US Supreme Court and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The onus is now on Congress to legislate a solution preventing "the terrorists next door." But will this Congress have any interest in doing so? A liberal Congress perhaps joined by a socialist president, Barack Obama? Seems absurdly unlikely to me, as their opinions would coincide with Kennedy's judgment.

Wall Street isn't the only American institution suffering a meltdown; it is joined by our legal and legislative branches of government as well. Once we've "turned ourselves upside down" and seen the other side, then what?

Wall Street Shudders at First Socialist President

Barack Obama is the likely next President of the United States, based on the opinion polls, and Wall Street knows what that means: A socialist president and the end of American capitalism.

Investor's Business Daily published an editorial stating this as the reason why the stock markets in the US and around the world are crashing. And I find it a plausible theory.

Obama and his minions can try to market him as a moderate to the general electorate and succeed, but those who aren't so easily led know the truth. Not only is Obama the most liberal senator in the Senate, he is in truth a socialist with a socialist agenda that will manifest itself and become clear to all after the November election.

The prospect of Obama raising taxes across the board as the start of a redistribution of wealth agenda has caused 100 economists, including Nobel winners, to warn of a deepening economic crisis if his ideas are implemented.

Yet the general public has bought into the idea of Obama as the messiah of a positive kind of social change with little discernible effect on the type of government we have. Most who vote for Obama appear oblivious that they are voting against themselves and their way of life that surpasses that of any other nation on the earth.

Meanwhile the questions continue to be raised on Wall Street: What is the true source of the problem, and is it different this time?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

FBI Warning on Suicide Attacks

The FBI has recently notified law enforcement agencies that al Qaeda could use suicide bombers to blow up public buildings.

This is always a possibility but I would imagine al Qaeda wants to destroy very high profile buildings that are guarded better than most (I would hope).

What interested me about the story was the point made by the terrorists that many publicly accessible buildings have poorly trained or unarmed security guards. And it reminded me of local shopping malls and the security guards I see there. Looking them over with a critical eye, they don't make me feel secure at all; quite the opposite. I imagine if real terrorists attacked, they would be in big trouble and so would the customers, such as myself.

Al Qaeda could have done something like this by now but they haven't. It isn't such a desirable scenario for them.

New Poll: Boot All Congressmen

A new poll says 60% of voters want to boot out all Members of Congress and elect an entirely new Congress.

Do you believe that will happen this November? I don't.

If this is true, at least 60% of incumbents up for re-election will be defeated. But we know that in every election, over 90% of incumbents are re-elected. This is because voters don't do their job and merely vote by name recognition or party affiliation regardless of how incompetent the incumbent may be. 90% re-elected every time! Those are Soviet "election" numbers. Are our Members of Congress so fantastic that they deserve automatic re-election? Obviously not. Approval ratings of congressmen are at historic lows.

But now, I'm supposed to believe the voters are really mad this time and will vote for new blood in Congress. In November, we can forget that 90% re-election statistic. Historic "change" is coming and most of the incumbents will be voted out, right? Or is it just temporary anger with business as usual from the voters once again?

Cofer Black: 9/11 Couldn't Be Averted

Cofer Black, former head of the CIA's counterterrorism division, said in a new interview that nothing could have been done to avert 9/11. He said he can't think of a thing "we could have done that would have changed anything."

It's a ridiculous statement with the apparent intention of exculpating himself from any blame for the 2001 terrorist attacks. Somehow, I don't think anyone will go for it. There is plenty of blame to go around and Black should accept that he deserves some of it.

If he could have done nothing, then that is an indictment of his tenure in that job at the CIA. Why are you in the counterterrorism business if you really can't think of anything you could have done to prevent 9/11? Aren't you in the wrong business if you really believe that?

Shouldn't the CIA hire people who know very well that something could have been done to avert 9/11 and know very well what those actions were?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Al Gore's Descent into Radicalism

Did something happen to Al Gore's psyche in 2000 when he lost the presidential election to George W. Bush?

Since then, he has become a global warming messiah and his words have become increasingly radical:
"If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."

The next logical step would be for Gore to recruit and train his environmental jihadist army and send them out on missions of "civil disobedience." Is "civil disobedience" a euphemism for advocating domestic terrorism against coal companies?

Elsewhere, Gore said new coal plants should be banned in the United States.

The problem is that coal accounts for about 50% of U.S. electricity, and without it, how do we make up that 50% from other sources, and how do we keep utility bills from skyrocketing? We don't.

As I said elsewhere some time ago, Al Gore believes what he says. He made a conscious decision following the events of 2000 to try to become some kind of modern day Gandhi, or John Brown, or Martin Luther King. The election loss may have precipitated a psychological break in him.

He is now advocating for "young people" (not himself, obviously) to break the law in the service of his so-called "planetary crisis." How far will he go to guarantee this happens?

How can he stay relevant and in the public eye with many countries, especially in Europe, balking at green initiatives because they are so expensive, with dubious results, and with a recession looming? Not to mention evidence the earth is cooling, not warming?

Are we seeing a fissure opening inside Gore? How radical will he feel he needs to go? And what internal conflicts are at the root of it all?

No Suicide Note from Ivins

Bruce Ivins, the anthrax killer, left no suicide note, according to recently released FBI documents.

The absence of any mea culpa is consistent with his behavior as a loner refusing to accept responsibility or take the blame for anything.

We learn that a couple days before Ivins killed himself, he went to a public computer and read comments from FBI Director Robert Mueller that the anthrax case would soon be solved. That same day, Ivins had been released from a psychiatric hospital where the FBI had obtained a DNA sample from him. He knew the game was up at that point.

A Washington Post article claims there are "two irreconcilable versions" of Ivins: the supposed anthrax killer and the respected scientist who was kind to people. But really, can anyone in this day and age not believe that someone who appears kind and gentle can be a mass murderer as well? We know it's true, and certainly was the case with Ivins. There is nothing "irreconcilable" about it at all. Quite the contrary.

More quotes from his co-workers who, they say, just cannot believe it and want more proof. Why do they think he had guns and ammo at his house? Because he loved target practice? The FBI discovered that this great guy had tried to deceive them by doctoring samples from his lab. In light of the evidence, the doubts of Ivins' guilt by his co-workers takes on a bizarre tinge, as if they can't psychologically accept the truth, no matter what. It's eerie.

The source of Ivins' damaged psyche? His brother Tom said when they were kids, there was physical abuse in their family house. Were the anthrax victims stand-ins for the people he really wanted to kill but couldn't?

There is precious little in the way of statements or quotes from Ivins' family. The silence is deafening. They must know a great deal more than we've heard. Don't they have an obligation to the victims and their families? Yes, many questions remain unanswered in this case.

More evidence of Ivins' violent mind emerge. He told a counselor that he went out of town to watch a woman play soccer and if she lost, he was going to poison her. "It was not a crime of impulse. It was planned with cunning," she said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Ivins Documents Reveal Mind of a Killer

How can anyone doubt Bruce Ivins is responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks? New documents reveal more evidence that Ivins was a sick, evil man often thinking about harming others while fretting that the feds were on to him.


Ivins sent an email (to himself) in 2007 announcing that he had discovered the identity of the anthrax killer. He didn't reveal the name of the killer, preferring to keep his own identity hidden from himself.

If he was innocent and had discovered the killer, he had ample opportunity to tell someone, but he didn't. The email to himself sounds like he was creating an email to possibly send to others around him at a later date to take suspicion off himself.

He talked about killing co-workers as well as the actress Kathryn Price from the TV show "The Mole," and sent an email to someone with her name asking if she was the actress and if she made public appearances where he could meet her.

In early 2008, Ivins spilled anthrax on himself and then tried to blame the accident on someone else.

Ivins was such a basket case, it is a puzzle why he was not the first and primary suspect all along, and further than that, why didn't his co-workers, knowing his mental problems, alert the FBI and insist he might well be the killer? Instead, the other scientists display surprise that the FBI points the finger at him! One even called him an "honorable man."

Without doubt, the FBI made many mistakes in its investigation of the killings. The National Academy of Sciences will review the scientific aspects of the investigation. But what about the non-scientific aspects?

Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey wants a national commission to study the anthrax attacks. But why is the extra cost and effort of a national commission necessary, rather than a congressional investigation? (Anthrax letters were mailed to a post office in his district.) Why not then have a national commission study any and every crime where several people were killed? Holt needs to answer the question why a national commission is necessary. Standard and unnecessary congressional overkill, but luckily, some are balking at the idea.

If anyone truly believes someone other than Ivins is responsible for the anthrax killings, they should speak up and tell us who they have in mind. This would include Sen. Patrick Leahy who has yet to present any details of his theory that someone else is responsible. I think it would be entertaining.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarah Palin Exposes the Left's Personal Inadequacies

Why does the Left hate Sarah Palin to such an extreme? Talking heads on CNN and scribes in the print media have quickly devolved to adolescent schoolyard attacks against her. The final verdict explaining this behavior might reveal a lengthy list of ingredients in this strange stew, but an immediate (while not incorrect) answer is what I propose for now.

Sarah Palin exposes the personal inadequacies of men and women on the Left. It isn't just that she is a Republican and they are Democrats. This isn't about politics--not even close. The virulence of the attacks against her are proof enough of that.

Men on the Left are distingushed as abhorring war, afraid of guns, running away from religion, extremely pro-gay, and more than eager to stunt any trace of traditional masculine values. Palin, the pro-war, pro-guns, moose-hunting strong woman in effect reveals the self-castration of men on the Left. That explains the anger against her, and tellingly, men on the Left often try to hide their anger by couching their attacks as "jokes" and laughing while they talk about her. Campbell Brown's show on CNN tonight was a textbook example.

"Palin Fear" is rampant among the Left because she holds up a mirror to them and the result is embarrassment. The response from the men is to pretend Palin doesn't belong on the national stage and to attack her personally. But to attack a woman in public like that is to betray a personal lack of manhood and to accept the truth of that deficit as well.

For women on the Left, Palin represents the ultimate "goal" of the female that they have rejected and need to deny as worthy and rightful. She calls into question the validity of their womanhood.

The anti-Palin hate has a strong undercurrent of psychological chaos boiling within it. We are supposed to believe the "cover story" that this is about politics, but the political angle is a mask that serves to hide the true "argument" the Left has with Palin. It's personal and it hurts. I think of that every time I hear a guy on CNN laugh as he tries his best to diss a pretty, intelligent woman on national TV.

Al Qaeda's October Surprise

Al Qaeda wants to influence the US presidential elections, acording to a news story. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said al Qaeda does 3 things related to elections:

1. Attack before an election (Spain 2004)
2. Attack when a new leader takes command (Pakistan this week)
3. Send messages to populations in elections


A McCain official has said any al Qaeda attack will benefit McCain in the polls, and I believe there is no dispute about that. I also take it for granted that al Qaeda would prefer Barack Obama to win the election, primarily because he is so much weaker on national security than McCain, and secondarily because those in the Muslim world who are anti-American feel a kinship with the Democratic Party.

But any attack before the November election will benefit McCain. Any attack after the election will cause the US government to shift more attention and resources to national security.

A message to the American public that might change their votes? Al Qaeda is in a position whereby the only way to support Obama (other than doing nothing and hoping the votes are cast their way) is to use reverse psychology. Osama bin Laden will need to appear in a new video endorsing McCain for president. That would win Obama some votes. And that's not going to happen.

The New York Times As Democratic Party Shill

Steve Schmidt, a John McCain aide, said today that the New York Times is an "Obama advocacy organization." I see no reason to dispute that obvious point.

The mainstream media, led by the likes of the Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and CNN, has been moving further leftward for at least the past 40 years. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the media outlets mentioned above and radical leftist blogs such as Daily Kos. All pretenses to objectivity are gone, and I think even the casual reader of the media is aware of that. It's never been so obvious as it is now, as the media seems uninterested in hiding its partisanship.

When did the leftward slant start? With the fallout from Watergate, the media tasted blood, and realized they had the power to bring down a president. Or did the slant begin earlier, with the radical changes that came along with the 60s? Or did the end of objectivity begin with the assassination of JFK?

Regardless of when it started, what could possibly cause the media to shift en masse back in the other direction and be respectable and trustworthy again? Newspaper circulation figures are rapidly declining: will a lack of subscriber and advertising dollars strangle some sense into the papers or has the agenda been enthroned to such a degree that not even the threat of oblivion will prod a regime change?

Or is it nothing more than a matter of the baby boomer generation gradually dying off to be replaced by a different mindset somewhere down the road?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Anthrax Weaponization Mystery

It was recently announced to the public about a month ago that the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks shortly after 9/11 was not weaponized. That determination had been made back in 2002 by researchers at Sandia National Labs, but they weren't allowed to say anything until now.

Scientific American has now published an article about the science behind the Sandia investigation.

It's been public knowledge for at least 2 years that the anthrax wasn't weaponized.

But this past Wednesday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Arlen Specter asked FBI Director Robert Mueller, "Was the anthrax weaponized, that is, engineered to make it more deadly or not?"

I'd suggest Specter's staff read the Scientific American article or the Sandia press release cited here for the answer. There is no longer any mystery.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Leahy Believes Group Responsible for Anthrax Attacks

Sen. Patrick Leahy believes more than one person was involved in the anthrax attacks of 2001, of which he was one of the targets. The FBI has identified Bruce Ivins as the sole attacker.

Who are the others Leahy suspects of the murders? The leaders of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? Al Qaeda? He offered no evidence anyone else was involved, and even questioned whether Ivins wasn't a scapegoat.

What I find interesting is the total lack of logic or reason in the statements of those who have some involvement and are commenting about the anthrax case. Leahy didn't even dare mention any of the unfounded conspiracy theories he probably has been told about and believes, out of fear of additional embarrassment.

Al Qaeda? Not nearly enough people were targeted for it to be one of their operations and even if it were, they would have made sure everyone knew about it.

Co-workers and friends of Ivins insist he was a wonderful guy despite solid evidence to the contrary. And now millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent on a review of the investigation that will unlikely change anyone's minds from whatever they want to believe.

Sen. Arlen Specter wants to name people to the review committee to ensure "objectivity." What's there to consider? Politics, Senator?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anthrax Probe: The FBI Fingered the Right Man

The National Academy of Sciences will review the science used by the FBI to link Bruce Ivins to the anthrax letters sent to congressional offices and media organizations in the days after 9/11 in 2001. FBI Director Robert Mueller made the announcement at a congressional hearing today.

Fox News revealed the text of the "Quantico Letter" today, and its similarities to the texts of the anthrax letters is undeniable. It would be incredible if they were written by different people, although the FBI, somewhat absurdly, says the Quantico Letter has nothing to do with the case. It apparently was an attempt to frame Dr. Ayaad Assaad who worked alongside Ivins, and Assaad said they were friends. But a "friend" like Ivins is capable of anything. It seems incredible to me that Assaad and other scientists would doubt Ivins was responsible. This suggests other problems among this particular community.

Assaad said: "Bruce Ivins is an honorable man." This is demonstrably untrue, as we know from many facts of the case, such as Ivins adding derogatory information about Kappa Kappa Gamma in the Wikipedia entry, and his threats to kill his co-workers, and many other similar incidents. These are not the actions of an "honorable" man.

Some who knew him are portraying Ivins as a mild-mannered guy who would never do anything to hurt anyone, but a social worker accused him of stalking and threatening to kill her. Her own credibility has been attacked, but Ivins' brother said he isn't surprised by such charges, and said Ivins "considered himself like a god."

Pathological characters like Ivins are capable of anything, and I would be shocked if Ivins was not responsible for the anthrax attacks and the Quantico Letter, with no one else involved.

The review of the probe will cost plenty and several members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are demanding it.

I see no conspiracy here except the one orchestrated by Ivins. I expect the probe will corroborate that finding.

Monday, September 15, 2008

McCain Adviser: Intelligence Community is Bloated

John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan who is now advising John McCain, said the intelligence community is bloated. He spoke at a conference last week sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association ("New Directions in Homeland Security").

Lehman said he would rather receive a briefing from the New York Police Department intelligence unit than the CIA. Things are worse than at 9/11 in terms of producing usable intelligence for the president.

Lehman's comments come on the heels of McCain's plans for a "New OSS" that would take risks and cut through the bureaucracy that hampers the intell community today.

A New OSS would require its own bureaucracy, so to accomplish the objective of reducing IC bureacracy, something would have to leave--perhaps a chunk of the CIA.

I hear no one saying the Intelligence Community is good as is. Nobody says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Everyone agrees there are problems, including Rachana Bhowmik, an Obama adviser, who spoke along with Lehman, and wondered about the role of intelligence within the Department of Homeland Security.

Can the "bloated" intell community be reformed without suffering the same problems we saw during the Clinton years? A lot of talk and some effort was made in revamping intelligence after 9/11, but success is a long way off.

In today's Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz laments that "intelligence agencies stockpile silos of unshared data in a large bureaucratic structure more suited to a predigital age." Fewer than a third of the FBI's security branch agents have the internet on their desktops! "Washington has build a massive, unwieldy intelligence structure" at the Office of the Director of National Security.

The solution? A New OSS? Perhaps. No one doubts we need new ideas. New leadership? Or a revamped organizational structure that makes it difficult if not impossible for turf wars and bureaucracy to hamper the fight against our enemies? The destination is a known quantity; the path that leads there, uncertain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Intelligence Budgets During the Clinton Years


The annual U.S. Intelligence budgets declined greatly after the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton gutted intelligence during his presidency according to many, and I wanted to track down some sources to corroborate that judgment.

The Intelligence budget was not made public for most of Clinton's tenure in the White House, so it's not easy fnding good figures.

The best source I've seen is a document from 1996 called "Preparing for the 21st Century: An Appraisal of U.S. Intelligence."

Chapter 13 is entitled "The Cost of Intelligence" and includes a chart on Intelligence spending from 1980 and projected to 2000 (see chart on the right). Intelligence spending enjoyed a tremendous increase from the beginning of Reagan's presidency, then started a decline during Bush's years and continued downward throughout the Clinton years.


Former CIA Director George Tenet wrote in March, 2004:
The record shows that despite the well-documented resource reductions we took in the 1990s and the enormous competing demands for our attention, I and a series of DCIs before me saw to it that the resources committed to the counterterrorism effort were not only protected but also enhanced.

The cost of the post-Cold War “peace dividend” was that during the 1990s our intelligence community funding declined in real terms, reducing our buying power by tens of billions of dollars over the decade. We lost nearly one in four of our positions. This loss of manpower was devastating, particularly in our two most manpower intensive activities: all-source analysis and human source collection. By the mid-1990s, recruitment of new CIA analysts and case officers had come to a virtual halt. NSA was hiring no new technologists during the greatest information technology change in our lifetimes. Both Congress and the Executive Branch for most of the decade embraced the idea that we could surge our resources to deal with emerging intelligence challenges, including threats from terrorism.

From a budget perspective, the last part of the 1990s reflects CIA’s efforts to shift to a wartime footing against terrorism. CIA’s budget had declined 18 percent in real terms during the decade and we suffered a loss of 16 percent of our personnel (this is slightly less of a cut than the 1 in 4 cited for the Intelligence Community as a whole earlier).
Tenet also said in April, 2004:

By the mid-1990s the Intelligence Community was operating with significant erosion in resources and people and was unable to keep pace with technological change. When I became DCI, I found a Community and a CIA whose dollars were declining and whose expertise was ebbing.

  • We lost close to 25 percent of our people and billions of dollars in capital investment.
  • The pace of technological change and a $3 trillion telecommunications revolution challenged the National Security Agency’s ability to keep up with the increasing volume and velocity of modern communications.
  • The infrastructure to recruit, train, and sustain officers for our clandestine services—the nation’s human intelligence capability—was in disarray.
  • We were not hiring new analysts, emphasizing the importance of expertise, or giving analysts the tools they needed.
In a 2004 article called "How the Left Undermined America's Security Before 9/11," David Horowitz wrote that a study by Terry Cooper showed that the Democratic congressional leadership in the 1990s often voted to cut Intelligence funding. Unfortunately, I don't see a link to the Cooper study anywhere.

UPDATE: Did Clinton gut the Intelligence Community budgets during his presidency? I've noticed some sites on the internet running cover for Clinton by noting that decreases in the intelligence budget began while George H.W. Bush was president, therefore somehow that means Clinton didn't gut the budget or Bush gutted it first.

The intelligence budget reached its peak sometime between 1987-1990. When Bush was president, he faced a hostile, Democrat-led Congress. He was a former Director of the CIA, and had no interest in cutting the intelligence budget.

Why cut at all? Because the Soviet Union collapsed and many commentators on the left felt this meant that we didn't need much in the way of intelligence anymore. In January 1991, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) introduced legislation to abolish the CIA and hand over its duties to the State Department! Other democrats felt the intelligence budget needed to be cut drastically. Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont wanted across-the-board intelligence cuts of 10% every year for years! That's what Bush had to work with in those days.

Bush remarked in November 1991:
We need a strong intelligence community to consolidate and extend freedom's gains against totalitarianism. We need intelligence to verify historic arms reduction accords. We need it to suppress terrorism and drug trafficking. And we must have intelligence to thwart anyone who tries to steal our technology or otherwise refuses to play by fair economic rules. We must have vigorous intelligence capabilities if we're to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But Congress had other ideas and voted to cut intelligence. Even Sen. John Glenn (D-OH) was concrened about those cuts. He offered an amendment to keep funding at current levels for the proposed FY1992 budget but it was badly defeated:
Of greatest concern to me are the reductions in the intelligence budget contained in this legislation. I remain unconvinced of the rationale for these reductions. Our concerns with the intelligence community's priorities should not be addressed by deep budget cuts, but rather by restructuring existing resources. I am convinced that during this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty in the international system, the need for a strong and reliable intelligence capability is particularly compelling.
I am convinced that significant reductions in our intelligence capabilities, especially during this period of international instability, are unwise and could ultimately be damaging to U.S. national security.

After the intelligence budget had been cut, Bush said:
I am concerned that the authorizations for appropriations below my request do not adequately provide for today’s intelligence challenges.

No, Bush didn't want to cut intelligence, but Congress did, and that's what happened.

Let's move forward to the FY1993 budget. Bush proposed an intelligence budget without any major reductions. This infuriated the congressional Democrats, who were discussing how necessary it was to make significant cuts because the Soviet Union was no longer around. Therefore, we didn't need much in the way of intelligence did we? That was the level of the discussion by our elected leaders.

Congress cut the intelligence budget for FY1993 by about 6%, and assuming the numbers thrown out by the press in those days, that meant about $1.5 billion.

Enter Bill Clinton. How did he feel about the intelligence budget? Did he want to protect it at current levels as Bush had wanted? Not exactly. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton promised that if elected he would slash the intelligence budget by $1.5 billion every year for 5 years from 1993-1997. That represented something like an annual cut of 5% for 5 years, or 25% total. Ouch.

Clinton promised that. Unlike Bush, he wanted to cut intelligence, and said so. Did he succeed?

As he was about to leave office in early 1993, Bush warned:
As we face a more turbulent and unpredictable world, and as our military forces are being reduced, I just don’t think that we ought to be contemplating significant reductions in the intelligence budget. We need more intelligence, not less.

Next month, Sen. Moynihan said $10 billion could be cut from the intelligence budget and no one would ever miss it. Former CIA Director Robert Gates criticized Congress for not properly exercizing their oversight responsibilities of the intelligence budget in any meaningful way.

When discussing the budget for FY1994, Clinton said:
It is clear that the intelligence community must do more with limited resources. As I promised during the campaign, we will save a total of $7 billion over the years 1993-1997 from the previous administration's request for
national and tactical intelligence programs.

The congressional bill sought about another 4% in cuts from the FY1993 budget. Socialist Bernie Sanders wanted 10% cut. Rep. Barnie Frank (D-MA) agreed. Clinton, sensing political trouble if the far left got its way, repsonded by saying the 10% reduction proposal was just a bit too much:
I will oppose any amendment on the House floor which seeks to reduce intelligence spending beyond the reductions already proposed by the committee.

The Sanders amendment was defeated, and the budget ended up slightly less than the previous year. Democratic Senator Dennis DeConcini warned:
Last year, the cut imposed by Congress was particularly severe, the largest percentage cut in at least 20 years. In addition to these funding cuts, Congress levied an across-the-board 17.5-percent reduction in personnel in all
intelligence agencies, including the CIA, by 1997. So, there should be no mistake, Mr. President, intelligence has been cut and cut severely over the last 5 years.

For FY1995, it was noted that Clinton's goal of cutting intelligence by $7.5 billion in 5 years had been realized in only 3! As Rep. Larry Combest (R-TX) said:
There is no shortage of facts and figures I can cite to demonstrate the rather remarkable, indeed reckless, slope of decline on which we have put the intelligence community. Despite a consensus of informed opinion that intelligence cuts should be avoided or at least minimized in a period when we are cutting our defense capabilities, we are again this year cutting intelligence more than defense at large. It is downsizing at a rate twice that recommended by the President's National Performance Review for the Government. President Clinton made a campaign promise in 1992 to cut the Bush administration's proposed intelligence budget over a 5-year period by $7 billion. This was an incredibly ambitious--and many would say a foolhardy--goal. Yet, as Director Woolsey has stated publicly, this has been accomplished with 2 years to spare, and it appears the cuts over the 5 years will likely be more than $14 billion. This irrational urge to keep cutting intelligence has taken on a life of its own and it will, unless stopped, inevitably lead to disaster.

The final appropriation was about 1.5% less than FY1994.

What did Clinton have to say about all this? When FY1996 came around he said:
Today, because the cold war is over, some say that we should and can step back from the world and that we don’t need intelligence as much as we used to, that we aught to severely cut the intelligence budget. A few have even urged us to scrap the central intelligence service. I think these views are profoundly wrong. I believe making deep cuts in intelligence during peacetime is comparable to canceling your health insurance when you’re feeling fine.

One can only wonder what he thought had been happening the past few years! His remarks seem directed at Sanders but he had already presided over steep, or even reckless, cuts.

But something positive finally happened: Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, took control of Congress. Not coincidentally, the intelligence budget began increasing. And that fact affected Clinton's behavior. Knowing intelligence cuts were a thing of the past, he started recommending increases. The new Republican Congress enacted increases larger than his. The intelligence budget for FY1999 went up around $3 billion--the largest increase in 15 years! It was orchestrated by Gingrich, not Clinton. His budget was ignored.

Clinton, you might say, rolled with the punches. He promised to cut intelligence and he did. But the Democratic congresses cut even more and faster than he had proposed. Once Republicans took over in Congress, Clinton started asking for increases but the Republicans appropriated more than he wanted.

Why the roller coaster ride? Why did the intelligence budget need to be cut so deeply in the early 1990s but then went up again in the late 1990s? It depended on who controlled Congress. The Democrats wanted steep cuts and it didn't matter who the president was. The Republicans then brought the budget up to former levels. It was all political, with a lot of nonsensical talk on the floor of the House and Senate throughout those years by elected officials who knew nothing about intelligence.

Clinton, ever the politician, proposed whatever he thought would sell and wouldn't endanger him politically.

George H.W. Bush fought against cuts; Clinton promised them. But Congress was the ultimate decider.

Friday, September 12, 2008

DNI Open Source Conference Day 2


CIA Director Michael Hayden was the keynote speaker on the second and last day of the DNI Open Source Conference in Washington, DC.

He emphasized the CIA's commitment to open source information and said the Open Source Center (OSC) was one of the original top 3 objectives of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Placing the OSC under the CIA made the most sense, he said. The OSC focus is on the "mission" while the CIA is focused on housekeeping chores associated with it. The OSC director is included at all Hayden's staff meetings, which are held 3 times a week.

"The information is unclassified. Our interest in it is not," he said. Open source items have been included in the President's Daily Brief. Open source helps define what is truly secret and helps us understand the viewpoints of others around the world, both friends and adversaries, he said. We need to do a better job of understanding other cultures.

An open source board of governors will meet quarterly and discuss IT strategy, centralization of services and set the direction and priorities that make the most of our capabilities, Hayden said.

While Hayden defended the decision to place the OSC within the CIA organization, another speaker at another session offered a different view.

Rob Simmons, ex-CIA and former congressman, felt it was a big mistake to place the OSC within the CIA. Simmons said the OSC should be removed from the CIA because that intelligence agency is viewed as a "black mark" by a lot of people in the academic and private realms. Some of those people will never work for OSC as long as it is associated with the CIA, thereby making it questionable whether the OSC will have the best resources at its disposal.

Simmons instead recommended a free-standing National Open Source Center not affiliated with the CIA or any other intelligence agency.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

DNI Open Source Conference Day 1


The 2nd Annual DNI Open Source Conference kicked off today in Washington, DC with about 1,600 attendees from the government, business, and academia. About 3,200 had applied, and I was one of the lucky ones to get in (I'm sure it helps to apply the same day registration opens up).

Glenn Gaffney offered his thoughts on the importance of open source information, answering a question about why his staff is so "zealous" about open source. Because they know it's important.

Some in the Intelligence Community apparently aren't on-board with the open source push, and I was sitting there listening to Gaffney and wondering what was really behind it all, and I think one of the reasons people who enter the intelligence business do so is with a desire to work with secret information. Spending time on open source defeats that psychological objective. Humans in all endeavors desire increased status and work toward that goal. A document marked "top secret" has more status than one marked "open source." Two copies of the same document marked with different classifications will have different levels of status associated with them.

The point was made that it isn't the classification that should determine a document's importance but its usefulness in decision-making and in helping to create deliverables. So an open source document that assists with this is more valuable than a top secret document that doesn't.

I attended the session "Creating Decision Advantage with Open Source" and one of the panelists asked how many in the room had read some of Sayyid Qutb's and Zawahiri's writings, and only a couple people raised their hands. There was some admittance that this is a bad thing for the intelligence community and things need to change. I got the feeling a good part of those in the intelligence community are somehow stuck in the culture of 30 years ago and modernizing to a culture more in tune with today's needs will be difficult.

Higher classification of a document doesn't make it more important, the point was made. It isn't about classification, it's about insights derived from information. Open source is good, but OSINT must be more "close mouthed" about its deliverables--the conclusions and actions that will be taken as a result of sifting through open source materials. Classified info, because of its handling restrictions, isn't very portable, while open source is.

Someone in the audience expressed a fear about open source info and shouldn't it be kept secret, but there is no getting around that these days. Don't worry about "big brother," said a panelist, but instead worry about "little brother."

In another session focusing on Web 2.0, the question was asked how many in the room had a Twitter account, and I was one of a handful that raised their hand.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Murder at the Beijing Olympics

Eventually some novelist will pen a series of historical mysteries set at the Olympic Games, starting with the Athens games and continuing with a new novel for each succeeding event, with the same detective or his descendants solving the murders.

I dont think it's surprising that a real-life murder has just happened at the Beijing Olympics, but I was expecting the victim to be a poor Chinese protester taken away by the police never to be seen again. Instead, a Chinese man stabbed an in-law of the US Men's Olympic volleyball coach, killing him.

But even before the games of 2008 began, they were a disaster. Beijing made a promise years ago, when they were awarded the games, that they would clean up the city's pollution, which has been among the worst of any city in the entire world for a long time. China reneged on that promise. When some US athletes arrived at the airport, they wore face masks, which apparently upset the Chinese authorities, and they subsequently apologized. In a fair world, it would be China apologizing to all the athletes for the horrible pollution that they must endure for no reason except power politics. Beijing is one of the worst places on earth for elite athletes to compete against each other. It's a symbol of the absurdity of the world we live in.

China promised to allow free internet access for journalists, which was then rescinded. Japanese journalists in China were beaten up by the police. China is spying on foreigners in their hotels. More reasons for China to apologize, but that didn't happen, and won't.

A rhetorical question: How can the Chinese communist government lose face when it has no face to lose?

China agreed to accept applications for protests during the games. Last I heard, none of the applications had been authorized.

The Olympic Games are political in nature, taking the form of sporting events. The Chinese communist government is using the games to legitimize their political system and their authority. So far, I'd say they have given themselves two black eyes, as the entire world has seen how terrible their country really is, behind the glitz of the opening ceremony and the fabulously trained athletes.

Russian leaders planned the invasion of South Ossetia to coincide with the Beijing opening ceremonies, so the entire world would be occupied with the "sporting" events, and not their new war.

I can't say it was a good idea to award China the games for the purpose of exposing their warts. You never reward evil like that. Will human rights improve in any significant way in China when all the foreigners take their TV cameras and leave in a couple weeks? No, they won't.

If a country with the human rights record of China can host the games, I suppose any and all other disreputable governments have hope as well. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan--are they the future hosts of the Olympics?

Meanwhile, everyone continues to say nice things about the Olympics, with "journalists" downplaying the pollution and applauding the uniqueness of the Beijing games. History, I think, will find a different verdict.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Google Responds to Our Plain Label Books Post

A member of the Google Book Search team responded to my most recent post on Plain Label Books (The Mystery of Plain Label Books Solved!).

Google didn't purchase any titles from Plain Label Books, as I had speculated. Those books were included as part of their Partner Program. Anyone who has the rights to a book can submit it to Google Books for free. Several different versions of books in the public domain can be found there--some of them from Plain Label, others from Google Books' library partners.

There you have it, folks. Google didn't buy the Plain Label CD, it was Plain Label that signed up as a partner. Why pay when people come knocking on your door.

I wrote about Plain Label Books and its relationship with Google because so many of their books came up in the search engine, and I keep getting hits on those posts from people around the world who obviously saw Plain Label Books on Google and are wondering who they are.

Friday, June 20, 2008

That Random House/Zogby Reading Poll

A recent poll by Random House/Zogby found exactly what I, an ebook advocate, would have expected. Most people prefer print books! Where would we be without polls like this to cast a ray of light in the darkness?

82% said they preferred to read a printed book instead of an ebook. Marketing the results in this manner seems to be designed to inhibit purchases of ebooks and is an effort encourage people to keep buying printed books.

I can take the same survey results and come up with an equally valid headline that paints ebook reading in a much more positive light:

Growing Trend: A Whopping 11% Now Prefer Reading Ebooks Over Traditional Print

To me, the real news here is that the preference for non-print is as high as 11% already. That has to be an increase over previous polls. Why do most people "prefer" print? Because that's how they've always read books. Behavioral changes don't happen overnight. And the social aspect of reading ebooks hasn't gathered steam yet. When people see other people reading ebooks, they'll want to do the same thing.

More book publishers are making ebooks available, but still, I find the biggest problem is a lack of enough titles available in digital format. I've lost track of how many books I would have bought but didn't because there was no ebook format available and I didn't want to buy the printed book. Clearly the publishing industry hasn't embraced the digital format so who could expect readers to follow where publishers are reluctant to lead them? Publishers are keeping the ebook trend line below where it could be right now.

So this new poll told me what I, and I'm sure Random House, already knew, at least in terms of the general public's current acceptance of ebooks, circa 2008 AD. Let's see in a couple years whether that 11% goes up or down--anybody wagering it will go down? I didn't think so.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SLA Seattle Diary Part 7

Space Needle

Leary probably picked the wrong day to visit the Space Needle. Ascending to the top, the wind was blowing very strong and cold, and he avoided pneumonia by the skin of his...skin.

Starbucks

Leary had entertained the thought that the people who work at the various Starbucks in Seattle must be experts at what they do and wouldn't make the same mistakes the employees at the DC area Starbucks do, but he was proved wrong. Ordering a Vanilla Bean frappuccino with no whipped cream, he watched in horror as the girl started spraying it on and he said aghastedly, "That's not mine, is it?" She then removed the cream she had put on and gave it to him. That's the same thing that happens in DC, Leary noted ruefully as he walked back to his hotel. So much for any romanticized ideas about the superior skills of the Seattle Starbucks employees. And it didn't even taste as good as the ones in DC! There is something strange at work here.

Sharepoint Presentation

Finally, a useful and interesting presentation, this one on Sharepoint 2007 and social networking presented by Microsoft people and a guy from Newsgator.

Twitter

Leary is like a lot of people, apparently, and just doesn't get it. It seems pointless and useless. Leary believes the people who hype it are kidding themselves and just pretending it has any real value.

SLA Seattle Diary Part 6

Leary wonders when was the last time he ate 2 breakfasts in one day. Mnemosyne shakes her head. Undoubtedly at a previous SLA conference. It's all about the food. (Shouldn't SLA pay for Food Credits, like it paid for Carbon Credits? Imagine all the third world starving kids who could be fed with all the extra food unnecessarily offered and eaten here.)

OCLC breakfast update on their latest enhancements. IEEE breakfast on the latest news. People were given the wrong room number for this one. The Information Booth provided the correct number. Leary sits next to someone who doesn't belong in the room. Try the incorrect room number we were given for this breakfast, Leary counsels her!

Rain in Seattle, the place is finally living up to its reputation after a few days of sunshine. Long lines at the Cyber computers, luckily Leary left the Dell at home and brought a lightweight 2-pound Asus Eee so no need to wait in line.

SLA Seattle Diary Part 5

Self-Congratulations

A free lunch is offerered all attendees every year at the Info-Expo vendor area. This time it was a giant sandwich with a rice side, a wedge of cheese, a Hershey's chocolate piece, potato chips, and a large cookie.

Leary discussed SLA with someone from the UK. She was disappointed that the vendors didn't want to talk to her because they didn't cover her geographic area, therefore no commission for any sales, probably. Leary suggested they should have an international rep on hand--the larger vendors, anyway.

But they both agreed that the Opening General Session left a bad taste in their mouths because of all the self-congratulations the SLA leadership indulges in. The lion's portion of the opening session didn't involve Vint Cerf and Charlie Rose. Not at all. Most of it was SLA gorging itself on self-congratulations. Probably most of these people deserve an award. Leary says "most" because he's not sure a person should get an award because s/he is a minority or represents an alternative lifestyle. But no doubt most of the people deserve an award. But watching the award handouts at the opening session is like watching a dangerously obese person eat a horse.

Leary has to wonder about the psychology of all this. SLA seems to view itself as one would view a handicapped child--always needing positive reinforcement. And it seems the same people receive an award every year. Not that they don't deserve an award, but this is too much. Leary can't help but wonder about the psychological health (just to mention one aspect of health) of the SLA leadership, and it seems others are wondering as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

SLA Seattle Diary Part 4

Coffee & Seattle

Coffee and Seattle are like reggae and Jamaica. It's it the air you breathe. There are coffee shops everywhere--Starbucks, Seattle's Favorite, Tully's, and lots more. The scent of coffee, if you are really sensitive to it, is everywhere in the city--indoors and out. You can't escape it. Coffee permeates everything. Remove coffee and Seattle is a very different city. Probably a more ominous place.

Seattle Public Library

Leary's final verdict is a thumbs up. This is a fun place. Call numbers on the floor, a strange yellow escalator, unlevel floors. Leary doesn't see a problem, and he has seen some terrible libraries in his time. There are far too many bad library buildings out there. This isn't one of them.

A trip back to Pike Place Market for lunch. Potato & cheese piroshkies. Leary steps inside the Starbucks so he can say he was there. He buys a Starbucks t-shirt from one of the street vendors.

Back at the conference, all the seats are taken for Leary's desired presentation. It just wouldn't be an SLA conference without incompetent room assignments. Whoever is responsible for those is consistent, one must admit. A Web 2.0 social networking conference is a disappointment as well. Not many takeaways from that--an unexpected result, especially coming from people who use those sites all the time. Another disappointment was a war gaming presentation that required one to be a military veteran to get all the inside jokes. The presenter stopped in midstream (probably not a good war strategy) to switch from Windows to Mac and Leary joined others in making for the exit.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

SLA Seattle Diary Part 3

Opening General Session

SLA President Stephen Abram is the master of ceremonies. Awards are announced. The best article published in the last year: "How to Hire Without Regret." Leary casts his mind back and wonders if anyone was ever hired at any library while he was there "without regret." No. Not really. Leary always had "regrets," to put it mildly.

SLA has purchased carbon credits for this conference, Abram announces. Leary wrote earlier about problems with carbon credits and finds it rather absurd that so much is made of carbon credits and "green" sentiments at a conference where some 5,000 attendees are forced to jet all the way across the country to attend in person, wasting untold amounts of jet fuel, among other things. If they were serious about it all, wouldn't they just hold the conference online and save the planet a lot faster? The guilt-erasing credits wouldn't even be needed in that case, would they. Leary realizes he has an uncommon talent for posing uncomfortable, and sometimes maddening, questions.

The main event: Charlie Rose interviews Vint Cerf, "father of the internet." What about Al Gore, Rose prodded. He "deserves a lot of credit" for his advocacy of the internet through sponsoring legislation as a Senator and Vice President, Cerf says, noting also that Gore is his friend. Okay, so we have one friend praising another. Leary notices that the reaction to all this isn't as fervent as he would have expected. Exit Gore from this diary.

Mobile communication and dealing with it poses challenges. Mobile is an additional platform alongside broadband. Cert is a member of the "Geek Orthodox" religion. Yuk yuk.

Cerf worries about the consequences of most information being in digital format. Eventually it will be, since most now is digital and we are catching up with converting the old print stuff. What if we lose the necessary software to read the digital information, making it uninterpretable? We need to preserve the software to read it. People of the future might wonder what we were like because they don't have the means to read what we produced.

Information isn't power. "Information sharing is power," Cerf said. The internet will permit economies to develop and countries like Iran and China will have to accept it whether they like it or not. A democratizing agent? "I hope so."

Cerf is optimistic because the internet knows no boundaries; his fear is that it won't be as open as it has been, due to commercial, political, or social reasons.

Coda: After the session ends, Leary returns to his hotel and takes the express elevator to the top floors of the Seattle Sheraton. In yet another instance of an unexpected and unwanted "brush with greatness," somewhere along the way, Charlie Rose enters, talking with someone. Leary stands in the very back of the elevator, unnoticed by Rose who gradually backs into him closer and closer as the elevator climbs each floor. Leary and Rose apologize as Leary makes his exit, wondering if he should quickly compliment Rose on his performance but decides against it.

SLA Seattle Diary Part 2

Getting all set up and ready to go is half the battle at a conference. Leary arrives at his hotel at the appointed hour to check in. No, they're running late. The rooms aren't ready. Please come back in 45 minutes.

Leary places the care of his bag with the bell desk staff and heads outside. Down the street he sees the Pike StreetMarket and heads for it. Leary can't help but notice no one jaywalks in Seattle, a major cramp on his lifestyle. When was the last time he didn't jaywalk? Mnemosyne shakes her head.

At the market, people everywhere--locals, tourists. Inside, vendors selling things Leary doesn't want to buy. A sea of people traversing the narrow hallway. All Seattle is in here. He exits. Outside, more people walking in the street. A Starbucks store--1912 Pike Place. Singers singing in front of it. Why? Down further, a giant luxury ship moored in the harbor. People laying on the grass.

45 minutes have passed. Back at the hotel. Can Leary check in? No. They're still running late on getting the upper floors ready. Come back in 30 minutes. Leary returns to the convention center and enters the Info-Expo area. Lots of free food around the vendor booths. 30 minutes pass. Leary returns to the hotel. Check in now? But of course. With just a few minutes to spare before the opening general session begins. But he forgot to get his bag! He gives the ticket to the bell desk staffer and waits while others are given their bags and hand the staff money. Leary decides against his better judgment he must do the same.

To Be Continued

SLA Seattle Diary Part 1

An eerie start to Leary's trip to Seattle for the SLA Conference. On the plane, Leary sat next to someone twice as large as their (middle) seat. No, that's not the eerie part, that's rather common. After 5 1/2 hours on the flight, Leary stumbled upon the fabled $1.50 bus from the airport to the convention center. The first bus by the same fabled number (194) was going the other way ("No downtown! No downtown! Welcome to Seattle," sez the driver). The second one really does go downtown so Leary enters and tries hard to find one of the few remaining open seats, even though this is a double bus. Leary's first time in Seattle. He was surrounded by people speaking Russian.

Leary gets off when he sees everyone else leaving, figuring, accurately, that when most passengers exit, we have reached "downtown." Leary spots a downtown map as someone wearing a local uniform and holding what looks like a flashlight (it's noon and the sky is very bright) asks Leary where he's headed and points him in the direction of the convention center, 4 blocks away.

Once inside, Leary registers and then looks for the wireless lounges. One is in the South Atrium area. Several vacant tables. But there are no ac plugs anywhere near the tables! Leary travels to the other advertised wireless lounge, outside the Cyber Cafe. Three sets of couches. It looks like someone ran an ac extension cord to 2 of the couches, but not the third. Naturally, most seats were taken by people not using computers.

Leary discovers a room with tables and no obvious purpose other than to serve as a room for people to sit down at tables. Two people are using computers and they are plugged into ac wall sockets. Leary's ac socket is in the floor, not the wall! Leary's ac plug doesn't fit into the floor socket! Two people (not using computers, it will be a common thread one suspects) leave and Leary commandeers their table because it has a wall plug nearby. His ac plug fits!
No small matter when one arrives with an Asus Eee with a battery that lasts probably no more than 2 hours.

To be continued.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Does Hillary Want?

Hillary Clinton wants herself as vice president with unprecedented power, and a major role for Bill Clinton as well.

Hillary wants another Clinton Administration in which they call the shots and Barack Obama serves as the figurehead president.

Hillary didn't lose because of Bill or Barack. She lost because she is disliked and distrusted by too many people. Hillary lost because of Hillary.

The only question left is if Obama's mesmerizing oratory can fog the minds of the people, like so many with similar skills before him, and win the presidency despite a radical mindset, the most liberal agenda of any Senator, countless gaffes ignored by the mainstream media, and the most unimpressive resume of anyone who ever attained the presidency. Can the oratory card trump all that? It has a pretty good historical track record.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Libraries Spending More on Ebooks

A new survey found 69% of libraries plan to spend more on e-books over the next two years.

The future of books is digital, despite what Ray Bradbury believes, and despite the recent front-page story in American Libraries, the publication of the American Library Association (ALA), in which the author counseled libraries to spend less on e-books. Ignore ALA and its magazine, and you and your library will do fine.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Demise of Microsoft Live Search Books

It was announced this week that Microsoft is pulling the plug on its Live Search Books project. The major players are now Google and the Open Content Alliance.

Microsoft had digitized 750,000 books. I had thought the number must be much higher, so that was a surprise. I remember speaking to a Microsoft rep at a conference and mentioned some problems with the book website and he said they were working to make it better. And later I noticed they fixed something I had mentioned.

I wonder if the average person had ever heard of Microsoft's project. It was Google Books that garnered all the publicity. Most of the news stories in the mainstream media focused on Google with rarely a mention of Microsoft's initiative. Google has marketed itself well--it even has a blog for its book project.

But Microsoft's digital books website always remained hidden from view somehow. I always felt that at some point Microsoft would launch a major blitz to tell the world what it was doing, but it never happened. It hindsight, it all seems pointless, except that the books that were scanned now go into the hands of the copyright holders and they should become available to the public.

Ray Bradbury Disses Ebooks

Legendary Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury attended the BookExpo America convention in Los Angeles this weekend and gave his opinion on e-books:
There is no future for e-books because they are not books. E-books smell like burned fuel.
I've heard several reasons why e-books may not have a future, but not being books wasn't one of them. Can't e-books have a future whether they are or aren't "books"?

I just took a whiff of my Sony e-book reader and it smells nothing like burned fuel. It smells a lot more like plastic. How does one smell an e-book, anyway? What do kilobytes of data smell like? This might be fodder for a science fiction novel. Maybe that's what Bradbury had in mind.

I had considered attending the convention but they didn't post the program online for a long time and I didn't know what authors would be there. Sounds like I didn't miss a thing, except the Prince concert.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Public Rejects Global Warming Price Hikes

The public is showing strong signs of being fed up with global warming scare talk. An amazing 90% of American reject the costs that are tied to the proposed Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Most Americans don't want to pay for the higher energy costs that act would force on them.

According to a recent poll, most Americans don't want to pay one penny more for gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most also reject spending more on electricity in the fight against the "planetary crisis" as Al Gore terms it.

These overwhelming numbers prove the public doesn't believe the global warming scare tactics of Gore and others. People have come to realize this entire scam is nothing more than a rifle scope aimed directly at their wallets. Green initiatives and anti-global warming efforts cost plenty of extra money, and as can be expected, minorities are particularly opposed to paying more to combat the so-called planetary crisis.

When it cost nothing, most people were willing to be led along the phony green path. Now that it's dawning on everyone that Gore and Company want them to pay through the nose, a different perspective about it all emerges, as this poll discovered. It was about the money all along, how about that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bugliosi Wants Death Penalty for Bush

Vincent Bugliosi, author of the new book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, appeared on the Alan Colmes radio show last night. He made it clear he believes Bush is guilty of the murder of 4,000 American soldiers fighting in Iraq, as well as 100,000 innocent Iraqis.

What penalty should Bush face? I’m not sure what the book says, but Bugliosi said he thinks Bush deserves “more than jail time” and “much more than impeachment.” And he wants Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice on trial as co-defendants. They would be “pleading with the prosecutor to testify against Bush and get a better deal—instead of the death penalty, life in prison.”

Bugliosi recently advocated for the death penalty in a column at the Huffington Post, while also noting in passing that the decision would be in the hands of the jury.

But the longtime Democrat Bugliosi has problems with others on the right side of the political aisle as well. He opined that the most unpatriotic Americans of all are “these phony right-wingers,” meaning Rove, Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh, among many others, no doubt.

Back in 2001, Bugliosi, writing in the far-left journal The Nation, called Bush “perhaps the most unqualified person ever to become president.”

Bugliosi’s emotional and even unhinged opinions of Bush and prominent members of his administration led some callers to the Colmes show to question Bugliosi’s mental health. And Patti Thorn, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, said his new book would lead some to conclude that Bugliosi has lost his mind.

But no, this is not political at all, Bugliosi is eager to have the world believe. His only master and his only mistress “are the facts and objectivity. If a Democratic president did the same thing as Bush did, I’d have written the same identical book.” On the Colmes radio show, Bugliosi repeated almost word for word the first paragraph of his column at the Huffington Post, attempting to market himself as an honest broker of information with no political ax to grind!

He concluded by predicting that as a result of his book, there is a “very, very substantial likelihood that George Bush...will be in a courtroom prosecuted for murder.”

I’ll take this opportunity to predict that Bush will never be in a courtroom on trial for murder, nor should he be. I’ll opine further that Bugliosi has an irrational hatred of Bush and other prominent members of his administration—he thinks they should all be on trial for murder with the death penalty on the table!

Bugliosi’s opinions, unquestionably, are politically motivated, that much is clear despite his constant protestations, but has he gone insane as well? I think it depends whether he is “serious” or not. A lot of people and media outlets criticize Bush harshly, as Bugliosi enumerated in his column, but they back off at the last minute because it’s just politics with them. There is a lack of seriousness behind it all. If this is all just politics (as well as personal hatred) with Bugliosi, then he isn’t crazy. But if he’s serious, then yes, the guy has a mental disability.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Libertarian Party Bids for Relevance

Former Republican congressman Bob Barr has just won the battle for the Libertarian Party nominee for president in 2008. The Libertarian Party typically harvests about 1% of the vote every four years.

Barr's prominent name probably assures a result closer to 2% than 1% come November. The only realistic role this year is to spoil the possible election of Republican John McCain by siphoning votes in key states. As such, Barr can expect a windfall of coverage from the mainstream media unseen by any previous Libertarian candidate.

The Libertarian nominee for vice president is Wayne Allyn Root, a sports handicapping expert based in Las Vegas. Root is another political defector, having written a book called Millionaire Republican. Libertarian activists have criticized his nomination on the grounds he isn't a "traditional" libertarian and sounds like a used car salesman. In reality, Root was a smart pick, the best available, because, just like Barr, he isn't "damaged political goods" like so many of his rivals--Mary Ruwart, for example. He can appeal to the majority of normal Americans because he isn't a traditional Libertarian kook. This party can present two responsible people on the political stage, not that that will count for much in the results column.

And that is the significance of the 2008 Libertarian Party Convention. A person with a fringe mentality didn't win either of the top two spots. So now the question to be answered in the years ahead is this: is 2008 a watershed year in which the Libertarians finally realize the futility of championing fringe people and causes and move toward their natural place in the center of the political spectrum, or was 2008 nothing more than a temporary aberration to be "corrected" in 2012?

The Democrat Party owns the Left. The Republican Party owns the Right. The only room for a major third party is the Center, and that makes sense for the Libertarian Party since it draws from both sides. The ideal role would be as watchdog over the other two parties, alerting the voters when they both step too far away from the Constitution or responsible governance. It sounds strange today: the Libertarian Party as a voice of reason!

The Barr/Root ticket is a step toward this ultimate political goal of achieving relevance and its natural place in American politics, if the Libertarians of the future want it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Dawning of the Age of Ebooks

In today's Wall Street Journal, L. Gordon Crovitz writes about the promise ebooks and ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle hold for the future of books ("The Digital Future of Books"). Ebook readers may well reverse the current trend toward shorter periods of time people spend reading these days because ebooks can be accessed instantly anywhere. Imagine any book at your fingertips whenever you want. It is truly historic.

Crovitz quotes Jeff Gomez and his book Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age:
It's not about the page versus the screen...it's about the screen doing a dozen things the page can't do.
And I think that is a point lost on some loud librarians who just don't get it, and write anti-ebook articles that appear on the cover of American Libraries, and can't understand the historic changes ebooks herald in the way we read--and think. Amazingly, I see nothing at all about ebook readers (and almost nothing about ebooks themselves) on the program for this year's SLA annual library conference in Seattle.

Crovitz credits Aristotle as the first to explain that how we communicate alters what we communicate. Ebooks will fundamentally alter the nature of modern communication.

It's great to see some people comprehend what ebooks are all about, that they are here to stay, and they will be a central and an integral part of communication over the next century. The trend toward ebooks has already started with science, technology, and reference books. The rest will follow. One hundred years in the future, in the year 2108, they'll have a fun time hypothesizing why some groups of people fought against all this.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

SLA's Green Guiltfest at Seattle

You'll see it at the very bottom of this page:
Flying to Seattle for SLA 2008?
Would you like to purchase Carbon Offsets and help the environment? Use one of the calculators from NativeEnergy to discover your own CO2 emissions, or choose to offset any of the average CO2 footprints listed on their site. Go here for more information.
SLA is promoting Native Energy, a carbon offset private company. A much-quoted Los Angeles Times article ("Can You Buy a Greener Conscience") questions the entire concept of carbon offsets ("more hype than solution"), and quotes Native Energy's chief executive while detailing the link between that company and--guess who? Al Gore.

"If you really believe you're carbon neutral, you're kidding yourself. You can't get out of it that easily," said an expert from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, throwing cold water on the carbon indulgences.

Columnist Frank Pastore gave the lowdown on Native Energy while commenting on the Los Angeles Times article:
The problem is, Native Energy is only buying a small portion of these alternative energy suppliers but they're declaring a benefit as though they bought the whole thing. They buy a 1 percent piece of the action but claim 100 percent of the benefit.

That's like buying 1 percent of a racehorse and keeping 100 percent of the winnings. Not good.

Furthermore, Native Energy is buying little pieces of companies that are already designed and financed, then acting as though their investment was critical to the whole operation.

The offsets they sell aren't making, creating, or saving anything additional. So, in reality, buying offsets from Native Energy does nothing to benefit the environment.

But, none of this is about reality, anyway. It's all about caring, and compassion, and green guilt.
And it's also all about politics. Al Gore told us to do it, according to a recent SLA press release:
Former Vice President Al Gore spoke in Denver at the SLA Annual Conference...and strongly encouraged members and staff to...take action to help the global environment.
Enter Native Energy, Al Gore's pet carbon offset company. Enter the SLA initiative "Knowledge to Go Green." Exit...now what is this association supposed to be all about anyway? Democrat politics? Wacko environmentalism? Guilt? Political correctness? Naivete? No, we're not hitting the nail on the head with any of these guesses, are we?

Am I the only one laughing over this Gore Virus that has infected SLA? Could be worse. Apparently no one at SLA HQ is friends with Lyndon LaRouche.

"Who cares about green, free wireless at SLA!" said Christina Pikas, proving the membership has more commonsense than the leadership.

Egyptian Book Burner Leading UNESCO Candidate

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said he would "burn Israeli books himself if found in Egyptian libraries."

Leary observes that Hosni sounds like someone who infrequently visits libraries and questions whether said minister would recognize an Israeli book (or those produced in most other countries) if he saw one.

The punchline: Hosni is the leading candidate for UNESCO secretary-general, the United Nations' cultural arm. The world's most accomplished human rights violators administer the UN's human rights wings, while a book burner is likely their next cultural grand poobah. The value of the UN to the free world is minimal at best. A good argument for the creation of McCain's League of Democracies, and moving out of the UN's collapsed house of horrors.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Print Books Don't Work

Print books don’t work.

I can’t carry many print books with me, especially hardback books, because they are too heavy. When traveling, I can only take one or two print books with me. But I can carry hundreds of books with me in my Sony Reader and it weights only about a pound! I can carry a library with me wherever I go!

Print books don’t work.

I want to read classic novels from the 19th century, like those written by Charles Dickens, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money buying them. Print books cost money. Even print books in the public domain aren’t free. But I can download many of these books electronically from the internet for free and read them on my Sony Reader.

Print books don’t work.

I want to search for a word throughout the text of a book. I want to know how many times it appeared, if at all, and where it appeared in the text. That would take forever with a print book! But it’s a simple matter to use the Adobe PDF reader to search for all occurrences of a word in a digital book.

Print books don’t work.

I want to change the size of the text of the book I’m reading. I can’t do that with a print book. I must accept whatever type size it has. But with my Sony Reader, I can adjust the type size so it is bigger or smaller.

Print books don’t work.

Print books worked adequately 100 years ago. But the pages are fraying, yellowing, and coming loose. The binding is cracked. Print can no longer satisfy the needs of modern book readers. Only digital books and digital readers can handle all the necessary tasks demanded by today’s readers. Print books don’t work and they’ll never work again the way they worked 100 years ago. That’s why ebooks and ebook readers are here to stay. They are a necessity of modern life today and tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Sickness That Afflicts ALA

Brent Bozell III makes the point in a recent column that the American Library Association (ALA) doesn't really stand for "intellectual freedom" at all. ALA has become a far Left advocacy group that censors information from opposing viewpoints.

Every year ALA whines about books that are "challenged" by the public, as if there is something wrong with that. As Bozell writes:
ALA doesn't favor open discussion and debate with parents -- which is what the "challenges" represent. It's idea of "freedom" is emboldening librarians to be brave enough to indoctrinate children with what they really need to know, whether their parents object or even know about it. If public debate follows, it's viewed as a distasteful and unfortunate bump on the road to enlightenment.
I think any organization could make it its own business to provide an annual list of popular conservative books not available in many libraries and "challenge" them to stock the books. As Bozell says, the act of selecting some books while excluding others is a censorious act, and one that all libraries engage in. To be a librarian is to be a censor, so it is disingenuous for ALA to scream about censorship when they do it themselves in such an ugly way and, forgetting social agendas, it is the job of librarians to censor, but it is supposed to be done responsibly. ALA's method earns a grade of F.

ALA and its gay roundtable promote the idea of a "reviewer" looking through books in search of "negative attitudes" towards gays and to then censor those books. Bozell writes:
Doesn't this sound like librarians want to appoint a guardian to screen out and counteract "negative stereotypic attitudes"? In other words, an official censor?
It's easy for Bozell and others to point out ALA's hypocrisy, since it is drenched in it in so many ways. The unfortunate losers are the library users who naively expect librarians to be information referees rather than partisan advocates. "Information wants to be free," but it is enchained to ALA's radical agenda in many public and academic libraries.

Will things change once the baby boomers raised in the 60s retire in huge numbers over the next 5-10 years? Perhaps not, because once an organization becomes radicalized, it is self-feeding and becomes more and more partisan regardless of who stays or who goes.

So how to turn the tables and right this leftward listing ship before it sinks? Some of the characters in a novel I'm writing called Murder at the ALA Conference have an idea about that, if I can ever finish it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why We Need to Waterboard Terrorists

A great case for waterboarding terrorists was recently made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). He spoke during a hearing on “Guantanamo Bay and America's Image” a couple days ago. It’s sad that this is a hotly debated issue in the post-9/11 world. I didn’t know much at all about Rohrabacher before I read his words, but he quickly impresses by talking sense about an issue that has become over-politicized at the expense of our national security.

Rohrabacher:

I have no apologies that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who planned the 9/11 attack, the number three man to Osama bin Laden, was waterboarded.

After he was waterboarded, the report is -- and by the way, waterboarding, as we know, has been used three times, at least reportedly; that's what we understand. One was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The other was the man who was responsible for publicly videotaping the beheading of an American journalist. And I'm not sure what the other man who was waterboarded was guilty of.

But the fact is that information from this waterboarding, which is nothing more than creating a psychological sense of fear, and overwhelming fear -- we got a lot of information. And perhaps from that, from this Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who gave us a tremendous amount of information, we were able to do something that actually stopped another event of the magnitude of 9/11 -- or maybe two or three of them, or maybe the fact that Ramsey Yusef, who was part of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's family, was targeting Disneyland in Orange County, where I come from, perhaps when we found his laptop in the Philippines, which lists targets that they meant to kill tens of thousands of people going to Disneyland. This is the type of people we are up against. I have no apologies that we waterboarded three of those people. And that has been turned into, internationally, a horror story. My gosh, we use this kind of psychological pressure on these types of mass murderers. I've got no apologies for that at all.
And Rohrabacher addresses the so-called “human rights” argument of lawyers and leftists trying to gain the release of Gitmo terrorists:

I personally do not believe that a human rights analysis should be based on how you treat a terrorist who has murdered lots of other people, and you're trying to get information from him. But instead, human rights concerns are what you are trying to do to make sure that innocent people are not injured in your attempts to get at people who are terrorists. I've gotten information from the Intelligence Committee, which indicates that over 30 former Gitmo detainees, who were detained but have been released -- over 30 of them ended up going back into some sort of radical and/or violent activity.

And there are some examples here, which I will put in for the record, of individuals who went back and killed other people, after being released from Gitmo. And there are examples here, for example, of people who repeatedly told their interrogators at Gitmo that they were not involved in the Taliban or in the Al Qaida operations that were going on in Afghanistan, and that they claimed to have been farmers or truck drivers or cooks, or had gone to Afghanistan looking for a wife or to study the Koran, or any number of excuses they had. Of those, 30 ended up going back and participating in activity that threatened the lives -- if not took the lives -- of individuals, like the one I just mentioned, that was just reported today, of one who was released and was then involved in a bombing in Iraq, which caused the death of seven people.

So when we're talking about this issue, we have to realize that if indeed people are being lied to -- and we are dealing with terrorists -- they will go out and kill other people. So other people's lives are at stake.
Rohrabacher was referencing al-Ajmi, a former detainee who unfortunately was released and recently became a suicide bomber and killed 7 people. Would the Democrats & leftists have us believe those other 30 or so former detainees were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the victims of bounty hunters? Would the Democrats even think of making these absurd arguments if a Democrat was in the White House? Do you suppose they would be far more supportive of Gitmo under a Democratic administration?

It’s doubtful the anti-waterboarding and anti-Gitmo crowd will heed these words, because in their minds, Gitmo equals Bush, and Bush represents the opposing political party, and this is all about politics, and not what’s best for our country or the world.