Friday, January 03, 2003

EnviroMission: Austrailian for Power!

So some folks in Oz want to build a really big tower, to point mirrors at, to heat air, to drive turbines, in an effort to generate electricity. It'll cost $1 Billion, and have a 200MW generation capacity. That's $5 Million per Megawatt. Compare this to a coal fired plant at $1 million, a clean burning (gassification) style coal plant for $1.5 Million / MW, or a nuclear plant for $1.2 million / MW.

Tough Times thinks that someone is blowing smoke (or hot air) up someone's, errr, tower.

Tough Times alternate article title: Aussie Tower of Power!

Being Joshed

Joshua Micah Marshall, in his latest column, attempts to deflate the current administrations plans for North Korea by saying, in essence, there is no spoon:
In their view, the Clinton administration went to the mat with the North Koreans in 1994. Instead of facing them down, they appeased them. They agreed to send them fuel oil, food, and perhaps even greetings cards on special occasions. They also agreed to build some non-weapons-grade-material producing nuclear reactors. And this was all in exchange for them agreeing not to do what they shouldn't have been doing in the first place -- that is, producing large quantities of plutonium to make nuclear weapons. But the Clintonites got hoodwinked by the North Koreans who took the goodies and proceeded to start a secret -- uranium-based -- nuclear weapons. The Bush administration found all this out, exposed the folly of Clinton's appeasement, and now has to pick up the pieces.

That's their story. And as the saying goes, they're stickin' with it.

This argument mixes so many distortions, falsehoods and tendentious points that it's not easy to know where to start. But let's begin with one thread.

The problem here is that the thread he goes off on has nothing to do with all of the "distortions, falsehoods, and tendentious points." Instead, we talk about Germany in 1938. Granted, he says he’ll come back to show the errors in the Clinton/’94 treaty argument, but alas, he never does. In his continuation, he goes on to criticise the Germany/1938/Poland analogy (where the USA is England/France and N. Korea is the Nazi horde on the Polski border), and the above referenced criticisms of Clinton policy. In so doing, he uncorks this whopper:
You only get credit for pointing out what everyone already knew -- that the 1994 agreement was an imperfect one and perhaps only a stopgap -- if you've got something better. If you don't, you just look like a fool.

He then proceed to lambaste the Bush White House "plan":
The administration says it has a plan: isolate the North Koreans economically and diplomatically. But how serious a plan is that?

Perhaps he needs to take some of his own persciption - Marshall offers absolutely no alternative to the Bush plan whatsoever. It has been almost 36 hours since the post was made, and there is still no clear alternativve plan. He doesn't even remember to show how the Clinton/’94 argument is mixed with "distortions, falsehoods, and tendentious points."

Tough Times thinks that physician Josh needs to heal himself!

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Back to the Grindstone

Sorry for the lack of posting. I'm an (very) amateur cyclist, and I was resolved to get started on my yearly mileage base early this year. So I've spent most of my time either working, cycling, eating, or sleeping. Blogging has suffered, but no that I have most of my base mileage again, I'll be cranking back up. More posts soon. Very soon.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Bulletproof Chest

This is too funny. If anything new develops, Tough Times promises to keep YOU abreast of the situation...

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Need Some Help Here!

Has anyone seen a link to a transcript of the Lott BET interview? I'd like to read it, and have yet to see one. E-Mail Tough Times with your link. Thanks!

UPDATE: Got it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Oh My Fark-ing God!

Here is my nomination for the next picture to be photoshopped at Fark.

CAUTION: Some offensive content can be found on Fark, though it is well-labled.

Blame Canada!

Here's a dual purpose news item:
WINNIPEG, Canada (Reuters) -- It took an airport metal detector to give a Canadian woman a clue to why she was suffering from persistent stomach aches four months after having abdominal surgery.

Despite the detector's beep, airport security guards in Regina, Saskatchewan, were unable to find any metal on her body before the woman's October flight to Calgary, Alberta.

Yet another commentary on Canadian Health Care. What’s the other part of the dual comment? Tough Times thinks maybe the TSA can take some lessons from their Canadian counterparts - talk about a concealed weapon!

The Truth, or Any Other Convenient Lie

Did anyone see this item on Neal Boortz’s news page today?
If you were watching Paula Zahn on CNN this morning you saw Congressmen Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and J.C. Watts (R-OK) discussing (what else?) the Trent Lott situation. During the course of that conversation Meeks, the Democrat, was doing his level best to portray the Republicans as generally bigoted and racist.

During his rant Meeks told Zahn that he has actually seen campaign literature with the picture of a black family and the words "If they win, we lose." Meeks presented this as an example of the racism that is a part of the Republican Party.

OK … now here’s the rest of the story.

That campaign literature was prepared and used in Georgia. Yes, it did have a picture of a black family; and yes, it did have the words "If they win, we lose." What Meeks didn’t say this morning on CNN was that this campaign flyer also had a picture of a white person … a Republican candidate. In the flyer the "they" referred to the white guy, the "we" was referring to the black family.

Interesting, isn’t it? The Democrats create a bit of campaign literature designed to frighten blacks into voting Democrats by telling them that if "they" (the Republicans) win, "we" (black families) lose.

This has to be the first piece of "dual use" campaign literature I’ve seen. You use the flyer during the campaign to frighten blacks into voting for Democrats; then, after the election is over, you attribute the flyer to Republicans and use it to illustrate their racism.

Here is why Lott needs to go. Every time an issue comes up that has a racial component to it, Lott's record is going to be dragged out and used to flog Republicans into submission because to some Democrats the truth does not matter. Where is the condemnation for it? Tough Times wants an apology from Gregory Meeks - but we're not holding our breath!

Dan Burton - Libertarian?

The drug war has gotten so bad that even the drug warriors are starting to realize where the problem lies.

What Will George Do?

One of the interesting twists in the Trent Lott affair is the reaction of the White House, which so far seems to have been to see which way the wind is blowing, and then react to it without actually calling for any specific action. Bush 43 has derided Lott’s comments, but has not called for any specific action on the part of Senate Republicans. Obviously the White House is very concerned (and rightly so) that the Bush agenda will suffer if Lott does not handle the situation effectively, but remains in the Majority Leader position, as Democrats will have a convenient target any time they need one. At the same time, Bush does not want to alienate the portion of the Republican party that supports Trent Lott and believes him to have been sufficiently contrite. So the White House takes the middle road, condemning action but recommending no course of action, to the consternation of many in the Pundisphere. Tough Times thinks that the President could go a long way towards relieving that concern by stating that this problem is one of the Senate, and that while he has an opinion on what should be done, it would be inappropriate to voice that opinion, because by doing so the Executive branch of government would be meddling in the internal affairs of the Legislative branch.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Winds of Change

Lots of political change today. Al Gore has formally announced that he will not run in 2004. Does this open the way for Hillary Clinton? She has stated that she would fulfill her term as a Senator, but those types of promises have never stopped Clinton before. Well, Bill Clinton, anyway. Also on the front burner is the Republican fol-de-rol over the Senate Majority leader. Many Republicans a privately nervous about the upcoming session with a closet , hmmm, segregationist? Racist? Whatever. Trent Lott has many Senators reaching for their Tums, mostly privately, some publicly. Anyone wondering why there has not been more public condemnation of the Mississippi Mental Midget needs a lesson in how power in the Senate works. Favors are traded, and later called in. Many, many favors are being called in right now. Will they be enough to keep Trent Lott in power? Time will tell. As posted previously, Tough Times thinks that this is the test many black voters have been waiting for: How will the Republicans handle a (even accidental) bigot in their midst. Believe me, not just black voters are watching right now. Here’s a roundup of who else is as well:

The WSJ Editorial Page
Peggy Noonan
John Fund
Andrew Sullivan
Sen. Don Nickles (How Insulting!)
Michelle Malkin
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell Thomas Sowell!!
Charles Krauthammer
Cal Thomas
David Horowitz
Linda Chavez
Cal Thomas (Again!)
Joel Mowbray
William Saletan
Abigail Thernstrom
Republican appointees to the United States Commission on Civil Rights

The list can go on and on and on. In fact, the list of Lott supporters is much shorter, basically consisting of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, as far as I have seen. The man needs allies like a drowning man needs a life ring, and Tough Times doesn’t see many people manning the rails during the man overboard drill. Finally, we have news on the "Who’ll replace Henry Kissinger in the 9/11 investigation" front: It is being rumored that Bob Dole is the leading candidate. Tough Times thinks that Sen. Dole is a wonderful choice, provided that Britney Spears, Pepsi, and Viagra cause no conflicts of interest.

UPDATE: CNN confirms that it's former NJ Governor Thomas Kean who will replace Kissinger.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A Sound of Thunder

Every read one of those stories that makes your insides reverberate like a huge clap of thunder had slammed into you? This is one. The Acidman has gotten very, very good at his trade, and this story shows it. The descriptions of playing with Calvin rend the heart. Tough Times say that if you don't feel something out this story, you need to go to a doctor - your heart isn't working right.

All That You Can't Leave Behind

Drudge is bannering that Lott will soon take to the air to broadcast yet another, more forceful apology. Part of the essence of politics is realizing when you have well and truly stepped in it - and in this one, spectacular instance (drawn out over the last week), Lott has shown that he is unable to grasp the politics of the 1990's, let alone the new millennium. That it appears that the Bush administration will stand behind him provided he make a forceful enough apology is somewhat disconcerting, given yesterday's statement by the President. It seems as if the Republican Party is the proverbial frog in the pot of water, and hasn't yet realized that the temperature is life-threatening. Unless he flat out admits he realized what he was saying last week, and forcefully abjures his past beliefs (which he will not do), there is no way that he will remain as a credible leader in the Republican Party. The politics of segregation and racism must be eradicated from the GOP, and this is a good place to start.

Trent Lott may feel like he’s stuck in a moment you can't get out of, but for the good of the Republican Party, Tough Times thinks it time to walk on.

UPDATE: Volokh co-conspirator Josh Chafetz thinks that Lott will step down from the majority leadership at the 5:30 PM EST press conference. Tough Times thinks that Republicans can only hope…

Hell Hath No Fury...

For those who can’t see how it can get any worse for Trent Lott, just read this. Tough Times keeps hearing the opening bars of the old Cult song Sun King:
"This is where it all ends…"

Thursday, December 12, 2002


While it doesn’t (to some Republicans) seem fair that Trent Lott is taking all this heat, when Hollings, and Byrd, and others in the Democratic party have (in their estimation) "gotten away" without their party’s condemnation, I think that the point is irrelevant. Tough Times thinks that it is important for Republicans to do the right thing in this case, and put someone else in charge of the Senate majority. Does the Republican party really want to be thought of as the moral equivalents to the Democratic party with regards to policing/defending their own? Tough Times thinks not.

What a Difference a Link Makes

Mr. Reynolds flexes his muscles, and links to me tonight (Thank You very much, sir.) - and my counter goes berzerk - 1250 hits in the last two hours. That means that each of the last two hours has seen more traffic to my site than the last month's total. Wow.

Lott of Trouble

It just keeps getting worse and worse for Trent Lott. Recap: Lott makes comments regarding Strom Thurmond's run for the Presidency. Remarks imply country would be better now had Thurmond won then. Lott says this was due to Thurmond's (a Dixiecrat, remember) stance on defense and law enforcement. Excuse me, didn't the Democrat at the time (Truman) nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki? So the only discernible difference between Thurmond and Truman would have been Thurmond's stance on segregation. Lott is found to have made similar remarks in the past as a Congressman. Now this:
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott helped lead a successful battle to prevent his college fraternity from admitting blacks to any of its chapters, in a little-known incident now four decades old. At a time when racial issues were roiling campuses across the South, some chapters of Sigma Nu fraternity in the Northeast were considering admitting African-American members, a move that would have sent a powerful statement through the tradition-bound world of sororities and fraternities. At the time, Lott was president of the intra-fraternity council at the University of Mississippi. When the issue came to a head at Sigma Nu's national convention — known as a "Grand Chapter" — in the early 1960s, "Trent was one of the strongest leaders in resisting the integration of the national fraternity in any of the chapters," recalls former CNN President Tom Johnson, then a Sigma Nu member at the University of Georgia.

Now I know that UGA folk hate Ole' Miss folk, but damn, that's stabbing a (fraternity) brother in the back! I don't think Lott can take many more knives. At least Gingrich recognized the writing on the wall and left before the scandals drug the party down with him. This will be updated with links later. In the mean time, Tough Times says: "Toast, white. Well burned, please!"

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Viewer Mail Alert!

A Viewer (I have one - Amazing!) writes:
I was hoping you would post on this topic. As the weapons expert on Moneyline indicated... Yes it is suspicious to be transporting missiles inside of concrete. But the sale of short range missiles is not illegal by any binding treaty, the only treaties in effect are voluntary, and the N. Koreans aren't party to those treaties anyway.

Tough Times would say that even the Soviet Union had the courtesy to ship their missiles (Legally!) to Cuba on the decks of their transports, in full view. The method of conveyance alludes to secrecy for some reason other than state security - after all, as CNN relates, security in the Middle East comes out of the barrel of a gun, and Yemen would be advertising this gun to all its neighbors, were they Yemen’s missiles. And indeed, Yemen has claimed them. But that does not contraindicate the possibility that these missiles were going to Al Qaeda (spelling of the day!) for nefarious purpose - after all, it could have been part of the plan for Yemen to claim them as their own should they be discovered. Once dispersed inside Yemen, they would have been hard to find, just as Saddam’s were during the Gulf War. Another interesting question: Why did the ship try to flee, if it were a legal transaction? Answer: Its crew knew it was acting in a highly suspicios, if not illegal manner.
We had very little right to board that ship, less right to hold the cargo, and no right from stopping from where it is going. We do have a right to ask whatever port authority was taking the weapons to interdict.

Actually, Spain intercepted, boarded and interdicted, though I assume the "we" you mean is the "anti-terror coalition" we, and not the "USA" we. The Spanish Captain felt that, since the vessel showed no evidence of being flagged in any country, it was a pirate, or outlaw vessel. Such vessels ARE able to be seized under International Maritime law.
My prediction is the same as the weapons inspector. We let the ship go "as is" (unless we find more sinister weapons on board than scuds) and then nobody will accept it in port. It heads back to N. Korea with its cargo...

I was going to post here that if in fact that missiles were legally ordered by, and belonged to the Yemenis, for them to NOT claim them would be an indication of the possibility of nefarious intent. Yemen has stated that they do belong to Yemen, and the latest breaking news is that the missiles will be turned over to Yemen (CNN page just updated, so link above goes directly to the now updated story). Perhaps an innocent purchase, but certainly the delivery was performed in an extremely suspicious manner.

Much Ado About Something

This whole Trent Lott thing is being blogged to death. Tough Time’s simple, no-nonsense take? What Lott said was either A) Very, very stupid, or B) He meant what he said, in which case, it was racist (Sorry, but true, Strom's platform was built on segregation). In either case, the Republican party does not need him as the Senate Majority leader.

You Gotta be Cruel to be Kind

Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a scathing editorial cartoon on the Lott blunder. Quite funny.

UPDATE: Isn't today's Luckovich cartoon remarkably similar to this cartoon in yesterday's Durham Herald-Sun? Tough Times thinks Luckovich needs to comment on this...

Link to the Cole cartoon via InstaPundit.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Sic Transit Scud

So the North Koreans are shipping missiles to somebody. The US Says that it isn’t Iraq. So who could it be? Intelligence officials are "99% certain" that the ship was headed for Yemen, but that it was stopped well off the coast in order to provide the Yemeni government "plausible deniability" - in other words, a way to play Sergeant Schutlz with the rest of the anti-terror world. The vessel carried no flags (except a Cambodian flag that was dug up by the Spanish Boarders), and was crewed by North Koreans. So who could the missiles be for? My bet is Al-Qaeda. Here’s my reasoning:

We know Al-Qaeda have been operating in Yemen. We Hellfired six Al-Qaeda in Yemen recently.
We know that they have lots of cash. Osama’s a multi-millionaire, isn’t he?
We know that North Korea desperately needs cash. We just cut off their oil supply.

The next question would be "What were they planning to do with them?" Well, aren’t we staging large amounts of troops in the gulf region? Aren’t we also operating in Yemen in cooperation with the Yemeni government? You don’t think Al-Qaeda wants revenge for us fricasseeing six of their folk do you? Or on the Yemeni government for their cooperation?

It also leaves the interesting thoughts of what type of weapons were the missiles intended to carry, and who would have supplied them? Just how tight is the Iraq-Saudi-Yemeni border, anyway? Just what else has North Korea possibly sold to Al-Qaeda? Tough Times (and other inquiring minds) wants to know!

UPDATE: Of course, they could have just been for the Yemenis:
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh confirmed in August that it bought Scud-C tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) from North Korea around 1999 and 2000, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

A Day Late, and Many Dollars Short

The signs were all there.
The Air Transportation Stabilization Board called United execs to Washington to explain the recovery plan. The recovery plan that included cost reductions from all represented labor groups. Except for the Machinist’s union, who rejected United’s last offer, and decided not to hold a vote on the latest. Now they feel abandoned:
"We were ready to partner with United, the union coalition and the government to return United Airlines into the nation's premier carrier," said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the Machinists' union that represents the 13,000 mechanics and aircraft cleaners who were to have voted. "Unfortunately, the United States government walked out on that partnership."

And then the inevitable happened - the ATSB rejected United's loan guarantee request.

United is currently in default on almost $1 Billion in debt.

United will be bankrupt by Sunday.

Tough Times has a message for Mr. Buffenbarger: You weren’t ready to partner, and the US government walked well after you (and the mechanics you represent) did.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Where Times Aren't So Tough


I have owned, in my life, a mono record player, an 8-track, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, several dozen cassette recorders, three or four CD players, and one DVD player. Now a DVD player can be had for under 40 bucks. This more than anything else illustrates how capitalism can make incredibly complex and advanced devices available more quickly and more cheaply than any other system in the world. Between America, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, we invent things, we make them better, we make them cheaper, and then we make the commonplace.

You Gotta Be Cruel to Be Kind?

The Air Transportation Stabilization Board today rejected United’s application for $1.8 Billion in federal loan guarantees today. United was counting on these loans to help offset losses that the airline was sustaining due to the events of September 11th, and the decline in high-value business travel that has made the industry outlook grim; especially that of United, which depends on the high revenue business traveler perhaps more than any other airline. The funds were also to be used to offset some rather large debt repayments that were coming due this week, and would allow United to have operating cash to tide the company over until cost-cutting measures, such as employee wage and benefit concessions, to take effect and help reduce the airline’s bottom line. Why did the Stabilization Board reject the loan request?
"The board believes that the business plan submitted by the company is not financially sound," the board said in a statement.

What about the financial plan that was submitted was unsound? Was it due to United’s high cost per seat mile (CSM)? CSM is the cost (on average) it takes an airline to move a seat one mile. All of the majors have CSMs that are appreciably higher than those of the discount carriers (like Southwest, AirTran, and JetBlue). In addition to that, though, United’s cost is significantly higher that that of most other majors:
In the third quarter, Delta said it cost 10.33 cents to fly one seat one mile -- lower than United's 10.90 cents but well above the 7- to 8-cent range of competitors AirTran and Southwest. Delta is launching a new subsidiary next spring that it says will match those costs.

With the impending start of Delta’s low cost product, United will have to compete not only against the aggressive inroads of the bargain carriers, they will also have to compete against another major who’s operating costs would move markedly lower. Maybe this was what led the board to decide not to grant the loan request:
The board, in its statement, also said that United's plan "does not support the conclusion that there is a reasonable assurance of repayment and would pose an unacceptably high risk to U.S. taxpayers."

But others disagree:
"AirTran's presence in Atlanta has a more profound competitive impact on Delta than American's presence in Chicago has on United. American and United don't compete on the basis of price; AirTran and Delta do," he said.

Delta "has done a better job at managing its costs," he said, although its costs are still too high to compete with low-cost carriers.

Or perhaps the mechanic’s rejection of the last contract offer, or their seeming unwillingness to go along with every other represented group in the company by agreeing to wage concessions, helped sway the board’s decision. Labor costs are the major contributor to an airline’s operating expenses, and as previously pointed out in a previous post, the mechanic’s union rejected United’s latest contract offer. That this came one week before the Stabilization Board’s meeting surely didn’t help. The union votes again this week on a follow-up proposal from United, and industry insiders think that this vote is of critical importance - even if United declares bankruptcy:
"It remains critical for the mechanics union to live up to its commitment to labor cost reduction," said Glenn Tilton, chief executive of United parent UAL Corp.

Tilton warned that a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process is fraught with peril for everyone involved.

"There cannot be any misunderstanding about the differences between an out-of-court restructuring of our company and a Chapter 11 filing," he said. "We can navigate our way to success in or out of court. But we have been working to avoid a filing because Chapter 11 is significantly more challenging for our employees and for the company to manage overall."

A Chapter 11 filing from United could spell trouble not only for it’s employee groups, but other airlines as well. If United declares bankruptcy, they will be the second major airline to have done so since September 11th. Having two majors competing on a cost-advantaged basis against an already weakened field of survivors is something the remaining players are not looking forward to. Anyone familiar with the industry can speak of the havoc wrought by Eastern Air Lines when they restarted their operations under bankruptcy. United’s doing so could cause airlines like Delta, who have managed so far to slow the bleeding, to hemorrhage anew, despite cost cutting measures. Certainly American, who recently purchase the almost-dead TWA, and is in a weaker cash position than Delta, is not looking forward to the potential of an unburdened United. This is why, despite all of their talk of the need for consolidation, airline CEOs like Leo Mullin are hoping that United somehow stays afloat - it's far better business to buy a competitor when times are good (at least for you, anyway) than to buy them after they've spent a year or two killing your bottom line. It’s just looking right now like that’s not going to happen.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Blogging will be light today

One of the nice things in life is having friends visit. I will be busy today, and so these may be the only posts, unless something strikes us (my friend and I) as we cavort around the internet this afternoon.

Another Reason for the Day of Infamy?

Iraq will issue its report on its weapons of mass destruction on December 7th.
Tough Times thinks that this is ironic in it's appropriateness.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Commentors and Their Disabled Actions...

Jen's latest post over at "The Greatest Jeneration" labels almost everyone in the known world "IDIOT(s)." Or at least those that don't agree with her on everything:
While I often got thoughtful, funny or just plain nice comments, too often it was some angry young geek, surfing in the dorm, with spots on his face and calluses on his hands (and I don't mean from mousing!), who thought that I was running a glorified chat room and who wanted to air the one and only teeny tiny piece of brain their (SIC) alleged minds possessed.

I don't care if you call yourself a "Conservative" Dimocrat or a "Liberal" Republican: I call you an IDIOT.
Have a nice day and don't forget to vote G.O.P.--We're bigots. We're intolerant.
And they don't call us the Right for nothing!

Message to Jen: I would say you’re most definitely not the G.O.P. I know. Exactly where you fall neither I nor anyone else knows, since you haven’t published your screed on the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything yet. Hint: It isn’t 42.

Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater

The employee-owners of United, or at least some of them, have decided that four days of paid vacation each year are more important than their long-term employment chances. Members of the machinists union, so far, have rejected United management’s offers for a new contract to run through 2007. They are the only major employment group at United to have not come to an agreement with management on contributions necessary to shore up the company’s bottom line:
Randy Canale, president of the International Association of Machinists at United, urged employees in a letter to do their bit to help in the recovery. Mr Levy conceded that the union members had come under pressure from other unions to agree a deal. He added that one of the biggest concerns from the mechanics who had voted against the deal had been the change to vacation pay.

United had proposed the first four days of vacation would be unpaid from 2003 to 2007. "A lot have complained about the four vacation days, and there are some quality of life issues as well," he said.

Perhaps someone should remind them that since they hold the biggest stake in the company (United employees hold approximately 55% of the available company stock in a previous wage concession deal) that continuing paychecks are also a quality of life issue, and that they as employees have the most to lose from the coming bankruptcy. It is no secret that airline industry executives have been talking for the last three years about the coming consolidation. Already we have seen TWA purchased (and now out of business), USAir bankrupt and teetering, and several smaller carriers close their doors for good. Will United be a consolidator, or will they be consolidated? Bankruptcy makes the latter far more likely. Either way will be painful for them, and for the entire industry.
United is the most vulnerable (to bankruptcy and the possibility of being broken up and consolidated) of the three majors, with large debts coming due this week, and the whole industry is (at least for the short term) dreading their fall. Why? United would then be able to write off all previous debts, and since they would have to make no payments on those debts, they would be able to compete very aggressively on fares, driving down the yield of all other carriers they compete against. This in itself might spell financial trouble for American, Northwest, America West and possibly Delta. A United bankruptcy could very well set off a chain reaction amongst it’s major competitors, with no one sure who would be left standing.

We're shocked! Simply SHOCKED!

From Drudge:

All decisions in the White House are political? Tough Times wonders: "This surprises us how?"

"We're not ordinary people; We're Morons!"

From the "So what were they intended to do?" files (Courtesy of CNN):
An adviser to Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Sunday he doesn't believe charitable donations given by a Saudi princess to students in the United States made it to the September 11 hijackers.

Tough Times thinks this begs the obvious question: "So does this mean they were supposed to, and just didn't?"

I'm Back

Well, a bit of an unplanned break - sorry to all who were looking for regular updates, but there were many irregularities to my holiday break that contributed to the absence of posts.

One regularity though was our 23rd annual Saturday-After-Thanksgiving football game. Friends from high school and I gather every year and play the game most of us love best. It has been too long ago that we moved from ten-on-ten tackle football with no pads, to flag football, with (if we're lucky) 10 people total. But the regulars still show, and we always have a good time. See 'ya for #24 guys!

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Sic(k) Transit Steve

Ooooo, Latin.

Relax folks, it's about all the Latin I know. Or think I know. The only reason I "know" it is thanks to one J. Michael Straczynski, creator and main writing workhorse behind the excellent Sci-Fi TV series Babylon 5. If you have never seen the show, I highly recommend renting (or buying) the DVDs, as the show is the progenitor of the multi-year story arc concept. Straczynski makes great use of foreshadowing (and perception of foreshadowing due to the viewer’s relativity to the events) to string together 110+ episodes and five made-for-TV movies into a coherent mega-story.

On to my main point - I am sick. Not run-over-by-a-truck-The Exorcist kind of sick, just sick: Sore throat, fever, aches, and a stuffiness of the head that feel like someone has pressurized my sinus cavities. And so, blogging suffers - I am neither clear of head nor bright of eye enough to provide opinion or commentary on anything more weighty than the paragraph above. I am on the mend; however, and will have some interesting things coming up, including my thoughts on Carol Hallett’s warning that the U.S. government may need to nationalize the airlines if security costs are not in some way brought under control.

In the mean time, an early Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 25, 2002

The Twilight of Privacy

I guess it depends on which side of the fence you’re on...

A long time ago, I wrote an e-mail to a local radio talk show host, discussing issues of privacy in electronic communication, and the necessity for people to become used to using Public Key Encryption in their daily e-mail correspondence. I wrote several paragraphs on what the government had on the horizon as far as wiretap and e-mail interception technologies, and how programs like PGP could be used to continue to ensure our Constitutional freedoms. The year was 1996, and Carnivore was a distant dream. The USA Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act hadn’t even become nightmare material. He wrote back a lengthy message that went like this:

It’s this simple: Before technology started to evolve at such a rapid pace, the police department’s ability to monitor wiretaps and intercept communications was greatly hampered by a single factor: Manpower. You needed huge amounts of it to subject even one individual to electronic and visual surveillance. This required the police to perform good police work and technique before deciding to monitor someone, because they did not have the manpower necessary to follow every lead in any particular case, let alone all of them. Through the use of good investigative technique, they were largely able to reduce the number of people to be monitored down to a more palatable level, and not coincidentally, these subjects were more likely to be the ones of high interest. All of this time and effort meant that the average citizen could reasonably expect for a phone call or his mail to go untouched. Now, with technology so prevalent, the police don’t need manpower to monitor people - they have computers to do so. Computers can even focus police on individuals that meet certain parameters that are established as indicative of criminal, or at least, suspicious behavior.

By now you are asking where and how PGP comes in.

Using a program like PGP to encrypt a significant portion of e-mail traffic would force police to limit their subject of study once again. Each message, having it’s own unique encryption key, would have to be the subject of large amounts of computer time (a limited resource) to crack the message to see it’s contents. This would drive police to go back to those same good investigative techniques to choose who’s e-mail to monitor, as their resources would once again be limited.

"We're not ordinary people; We're Morons!"

In an item that will probably evolve into a regular feature here at Tough Times, we bring you the latest effort by the RIAA to win the hearts an minds of America in their quest to stomp out file sharing of music with a hob-nailed jackboot:
Officials at the U.S. Naval Academy have seized the computers of nearly 100 students in a search for bootlegged music and movies, an Academy official confirmed Monday.
Cadets could face court martial or expulsion if investigators find digital songs or other copyrighted material on their hard drives.
Naval Academy administrators seized the desktop computers last Thursday while students were in class, newspapers in Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland, reported.
An academy spokeswoman confirmed that the reports were accurate but declined further comment.
Record labels and movie studios worry that the wild popularity of programs like Kazaa and Morpheus that allow users to download songs and other material from the Internet for free is cutting into their sales.
Entertainment groups sent a letter to thousands of colleges and universities last month asking them to crack down on the use of such programs on their internal high-speed networks.

Realizing that they have truly stepped in a Kong-sized pile of fecal matter, the RIAA is backpedaling hastily:
"We appreciate institutions who take intellectual property theft seriously," said a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America. "However, we do not dictate what their enforcement policies should be, and, in this particular instance, we do not know the facts of the case."

Tough Times translation: "This is exactly what we wanted to happen, just not where we wanted it to happen, because now we look really bad (or even worse)." Tough Times says that the RIAA needs to grow a pair of stones and stand behind this effort - if it represents illegal activity in on the part of the middies, then they need to reaffirm the RIAA’s strong belief that violators should be disciplined under the honor code and then prosecuted. Sometime when you shovel crapdoodle into the rotary airflow induction unit, sometimes you get splattered with the blow-back. To use another statement you’ll see here often: The RIAA made their bed, and they should be made to lie in it.

Friday, November 22, 2002

A Momentary Lapse of Reason?

I’m trying to figure this one out, and maybe you can help. Charles at Little Green Footballs, in this post, links and comments on this post by James Capozzola, operator of "The Rittenhouse Review," a weblog who’s mission statement is, well, there is none. Nor any "About" link. Simply the sentence that the Rittenhouse Review is "A journal of foreign policy, finance, ethics, and culture." Which I guess is description enough - certainly Tough Times has not yet undertaken the task to, other than in my first post, describe really what I intend for this weblog to be about either. Of course, I’ve only been live for about a week, so I have to say it’s still under construction. The TRR site itself is very well written, professionally laid out, organized, and tasteful to the eye, something I hope this site to look like once I get better at HTML.

Where am I going with this, you ask? It’s not even the content that worries me about this weblog. As a Libertarian, I’m pretty much used to reading disagreement with one or more of my opinions from almost every politically oriented weblog I ever visit. So it’s not Mr. Capozzola’s opinions I worry about, it’s his decision to remove not only any link to Little Green Footballs, but also any link to any other site that refers to it as well. The reason given is:
"the hosts of LGF, while preciously coy about their own political persuasions, all too willingly and not without satisfaction have allowed their site to become a vile cesspool of racism, bigotry, prejudice, ignorance, and hate."

Mr. Capozzola is entitled to his opinion, but it seems to me that this statement that LGF has "...all too willingly and not without satisfaction..." allowed the site to become a septic tank of ignorance, hatred, bigotry, prejudice, and racism," is is ill-advised (or worse). Mr. Capozzola offers no evidence whatsoever that LGF is any of these things. No quotes from objectionable articles, no links to outrageous posts of LGF’s commentators, nothing. I raise this objection for two reasons: 1) I have never seen anything posted by Charles at LGF(in the time I’ve been reading it) that resembles any of these things (except for maybe the first two, and I’d want to see an argument before I even conceded that), and 2) While I have seen, in the commentary sections, some examples of the first four, I have not seen anything blatantly racist that has survived editing, or being shouted down by the general populace. Given his statements about LGF, I find it highly ironic that Mr. Capozzola’s very next post is about the "slandering" of Democrats:
One of the most widespread criticisms of Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) is that he is talking about bold new ideas without offering any. But, on two of the most pressing issues of the day, Iraq and the tax cut, he has put forward views that will take the Democrats further than anything Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has offered. Ford voted for the use-of-force resolution but, in explaining that decision last week, said something simple and profound: ‘September eleventh changed things for me.’ In other words, he recognized -- as few other Democrats seemed to -- that catastrophic terrorism requires a rethinking of how Democrats approach foreign policy.

Can anyone tell me how this would be slanderous and Mr. Capozzola’s piece would not? I see no evidence presented that Charles willingly or with satisfaction "allowed" his site to turn into this yet-to-be-demonstrated pit of evil and malice. Although Democrats are "slandered" when someone offers the opinion that "few other Democrats" failed to realize something that the write believes they should have.
The other thing that bothers me is this comment:
Worse, the site’s unwillingness to tolerate comments that deviate from the house line and its active and aggressive deletion of comments from readers that it deems objectionable -- and the "bright line" test involved is almost totalitarian in nature and scope -- is nothing less than a disgrace. (I know because I have tested it several times.)

I fail to see how the assertion that Charles may as a matter of course remove posts that he objects to (something that fails the logic test when one looks at the Anil Dash saga) would be disgraceful, while Mr. Capozzola’s stated policy of deciding what gets commented upon (See the Letters Policy) is somehow not. TRR's letters policy (and the lack of a Comments section) in my mind is far worse that what Charles does - not only does Mr. Capozzola choose who he gets to argue with, he gets to do it at his leisure, something the comments section, by the nature of it’s size and immediacy, assures that Charles simply cannot do - the logistics of reading all the posts in one day’s commentary at LGF boggles the mind. Once again, Mr. Capozzola offers no proof of any of these doings beyond a testament of witness ("Honest, it happened to me, it really did!"). As opposed to say, Rachel Lucas’s fine Fisking of Michael Moore.

Now to the part where I need your help. Can anyone explain the logic behind this to me? What am I missing here? I’ll post the e-mails I receive (I certainly don’t expect many - site visits still haven’t hit more than 200, total), sans whatever information you wish for me to withhold, along with my further thoughts.

No Posts Until Later Today

Sorry folks, it's a one-armed wallpaper-hanger of a day at work. So I probably will not have time to post until later this afternoon, or early evening.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

In the "One Small Step" Category...

From AvWeb (Scroll down to "Plunge From Plane A Mystery"):
Authorities have found the body of a Texas man who is thought to have jumped from a Cessna 152 last Sunday. Authorities say Russell Filler wasn't wearing a parachute when he exited the plane from 9,000 feet near Waller, Texas, leaving a startled flight instructor, Benito Munoz, alone in the cockpit. (Emphasis Added)

Tough Times observes that Mr. Filler was still not wearing a parchute when a high velocity ground/body interface ended his excursion approximately 9000 feet into his first, and final, attempt at unpowered flight.

Alabama Airport Follies

Tough Times wonders if Roscoe P. Coltrane will ever manage to catch Bo & Luke. Whatever happens, let's not put the FBI on the case.

Tough Times Presents: You Make The Call!

Rachel Lucas says:
Tom Daschle is a scary little man. And I'm not even talking about his politics, which are indeed scary, but about his facial expressions. He reminds me of The Joker from Batman or something. Anyway, that's not the point.

But is it the point? Tough Times says: You Make The Call!

Joker 1 | Joker 2

Thanks for the link, Rachel, and welcome to anyone who has linked over from Piquant & Sassy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

New Meaning to Term "Shoot Par"

The Agitator says Smith and Wesson is going to make and sell golf clubs.
Fire! I mean; Fore!


Those of you interested in the latest in electronic devices should check out Gizmodo.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

The Tough Times Diet

Much Ado has recently been made over the Atkins Diet. To me, it sounds too good to be true, so Tough Times consulted our resident Medical Expert (and wife), PA-C Stacey, who had the following advice regarding diets (summarized by your's truly for brevity):

"Eat less, exercise your fat, lazy ass more, and you too can lose weight!"

Works for me: 30 pounds in 3 months!

Airlines, Security, and Survival

The UPI runs a story today entitled "Airlines seen overly hostile on security". Once again, the UPI runs a "let's create a story" piece. It must be a slow news day. Finally, something I AM qualified to talk about. Before we look at the article, let's talk about Mr. Barnett, our so-called "expert." The only information we have been given as to his expertise is his title: Professor of Management Science. Excuse me, but exactly how does this relate to the airline industry? I have worked as an engineer at a major airline for 10 years, and in the aerospace industry for 12. I'll leave it up to you to decide who's more "expert." Now, let's begin:
A leading authority on airport security said Tuesday the financially struggling airline industry is being overly hostile to new security measures designed to prevent another catastrophic attack such as the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijacking of four U.S. jetliners.
Arnold Barnett, George Eastman professor of management science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned if the commercial airline industry continues to pursue its attempts to roll back security measures, the financial and human toll may be irreversible.

Well, maybe not irreversible. Let's say, for instance, we loosen security to the point that there is none. Does this then mean that if there were another terrorist incident, that we would then not be able to increase security in response? That we would be unable to stop the death and carnage resulting from our poor decision to do so? No, of course not. An extreme case, but extreme cases are used to clearly show fallacies of thought. As to the ever increasing burden of security, of course airlines object to it. It has been made quite clear that many of their customers do. Just as an example, look at the recommendations that Airsafe provides. You may as well add "11. Bend over, grab your ankles, and enjoy it" to the list. To continue:
"No one in his right mind really wants to have security measures that are onerous, but Sept. 11 did happen and it could happen again," Barnett told United Press International. "If they're worried about their passenger numbers now, one imagines what would happen if a large number of their planes were destroyed."

Apparently "Aviation Expert" and George Eastman professor Arnold Barnett is the only one who has. Certainly no one in the airline industry; I mean, what do they care about their aircraft being hijacked?
There are two facts that "the experts" want to avoid in this discussion. The first has been pointed out many, many times: The terrorists took advantage of prevailing security rules (none of the weapons they carried were illegal), and prevailing attitudes (go along, give them what they want, everything will be OK) to hijack aircraft and use them as weapons of mass destruction. The second fact, that hasn't been pointed out so many time, is that terrorists will never again take over an aircraft armed with knives. It just won't happen. Anyone who attempts to do so will be lucky if they don't come back to the gate D.O.A. Just ask Brother Ra'uff. In addition, airlines are currently spending and average of $80-$100,000 per aircraft on armored cockpit doors. These doors won't be broken into by anything that someone could carry on board, short of explosives. by raising the level of force necessary to take control of an aircraft, you make the person attempting to do so much more detectable.
A couple of thoughts to leave with:
Mr. Barnett is worried about human costs, and so am I. Let me ask you this: how many people will die in car accidents next year because the drove instead of bearing the hassle of flying? How many jobs have the onerous security measures cost? How long will the lack of business travel continue to impede the recovery of our economy? And how long are we going to have to prop up an industry (with our tax dollars) that we are, on one hand, literally putting one of their feet in a bucket of cement, and on the other, making them pay for the cost of the bucket, the cement, and the installation? If we as an industry and as a nation continue to look for pins, needles, pocket knives, Medals of Honor, and breast milk at our security checkpoints, not only do we continue to force people not to fly, and airlines to lose money, we also raise the chance that a major breach of security will occur. You will not be able to see the forest of a major threats for the trees of the minutiae.

Leonids and the (sun)spots in my eyes

The Leonids (and here, too) were pretty much a bust where I live. High altitude clouds, haze, and light pollution pretty much obscured all but the brightest of the meteors. Some people had a good show though.

I found these pictures from a Swedish telescope on the island of La Palma to be pretty cool.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Fisk and the Magic 8 Ball

Robert Fisk's most recent editorial got me thinking. Exactly what are these sources he keeps referring to, and how is it they are so reliable. Well, since Fisk names none of them, the only reasonable explanation was a web page I found when typing the following question into Google:
"How does Bob get those seeming mystical answers to the questions floating around in that big old ball of a head?"
This being Google, we had to condense the search to the following: bob mystical head answers
And the result? The Mystical Smoking Head of Bob! Of course!

Bin Laden is alive. There can be no doubt about it. But the questions remain: where on earth is he, and why has he resurfaced now?
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "Concentrate and Ask Again"

When he was recorded, bin Laden was not talking into a tape-recorder. He was talking into a telephone. The man on the other end of the line - quite possibly in Pakistan - held the recorder. Bin Laden may not have been in the same city as the man with the recorder. He may well not have been in the same country.
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "My Sources Say No"

I know Bin Laden and, though I did not meet him after 11 September, I got to understand him over the years. But writing about him is now one of the most difficult journalistic tasks on earth. You have to say what you know. You have to say what you think must be true. You have to ask why he made this tape. The story moves deeper into questions. Why? What for? Why now?
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "Better Not Tell You Now"

Knowledge and suspicion and probability and speculation keep grinding up against each other. Bin Laden survived the bombing of Tora Bora. Fact. Bin Laden escaped via Pakistan. Probability. Bin Laden is in Saudi Arabia. A growing conviction.
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "You May Rely On It"

So here, with all its imperfections and conditional clauses, is what I suspect this tape recording means.
The story is a deeply disturbing one for the West. It is one which is not easy to write. I am frightened of the implications of this tape. One of its messages to Britain - above all others after the United States - is: watch out. Tony Blair was right (for once) to warn of further attacks, though the Bin Laden phone call was not (I suspect) monitored. But it was Bin Laden.
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "Outlook Not So Good "

We should start with Tora Bora in the autumn of 2001. Under heavy bombardment by the US Air Force, Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida fighters realised they could not hold out indefinitely in the cave complex of the White Mountains above Jalalabad. Bin Laden was with them. Al-Qa'ida men volunteered to fight on to certain death against the Afghan warlords paid by the Americans, and Bin Laden at first refused to leave them. He argued that he wished to die with them. His most loyal bodyguards and senior advisers insisted he must leave. In the end, he abandoned Tora Bora in a state of some anguish, his protectors hustling him down one mountainside with much the same panic as Dick Cheney's security men carried the US Vice-President to the White House basement when al-Qa'ida's killer-hijackers closed in on Washington on 11 September. All of the above comes under the label of "impeccable source".
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "Without a Doubt"

Bin Laden went either to Kashmir (possible, though unlikely) or Karachi (most probable). I say that because Bin Laden boasted to me once of the many admirers he had among the Sunni clergy of this great, hot and dangerous Pakistani city. He always talked of them as his "brothers". He once gave me posters in Urdu which these clerics had produced and pasted on the walls of Karachi. He liked to quote their sermons to me. So I'll go for Karachi. But I may be wrong.
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "It Is Certain"

So what comes next? A few weeks ago, I was asked by a member of an American university audience where I thought the next blow would come. The two words I thought of were "oil tanker". This came under the label "total speculation". But I didn't want to give anyone any ideas. So I said nothing. The following week, al-Qa'ida struck the supertanker Limburg off Yemen. Now I search my mind for worse thoughts. And I prefer to end my story.
Mystical Head of Bob Says: "Yes Definitely"

The last paragraph had me thinking of hindsight, and 20/20 vision. Too bad he didn't tell anyone. Bob Fisk, Fisked by a Magic Eight Ball.
You have to love it.

Batting a thousand

Here's an Intelligence Test to amuse yourselves with. I managed 11 for 11, but I was warned. You get the same warning: be careful, because as Gollum would say: "It's tricksy!"
Thanks to Radley Balko at The Agitator for the link.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Where now are the Multilateralists?

Baghdad warns that a US strike will lead it to hit back at Israel
Realizing that, with the most recent UN Security council resolution passed, most if not all of the world is against it, our old friend Taraq Aziz says that Iraq will attack our "friends in the region" if Iraq is attacked.
The ticking you hear is my stop watch recording the amount of time it will take for various columnists, actors, actresses (That's YOU, Babs) and rights groups who have urged the U.S. against unilateral action to warn Iraq of the doing the same to Isreal.
Can you hear the crickets chirping?

Update: OK, my use of "whither" was horrendous. But Hey! - I reserve the right to be wrong....

Hey, Rachel!

Rachel Lucas, attached to Michael Moore like a pit bull with lockjaw, noticed a certain, pre-election victory screed that Mssr. Moore had seen fit to post on his website. Apparently Moore is a non-believer in tempting fate, as the election showed. Now the page has disappeared, but Rachel has kept three screenshots for Moore's posterior, er, posterity.
The interesting thing Tough Times has noticed is this: Moore can't even censor himself correctly on his own website. The 11-03 date is the only date which gets this particular message. All other dates that do not have a post give you a scripting error. C'mon, Mike. If you're gonna pull the wool over our eyes, at least try to learn to knit.
Oh, and Rachel - we here at Tough Times love our dogs too.

Blankets vs Quilts

Radley Balko at The Agitator posted some thoughts recently on the Roe v Wade controversy (2nd item, 2nd paragraph). While I do not intend to discuss the merits of abortion case, his musings on the idea of local control brought to mind a conversation that a friend at work and I had regarding a school issue. The specific issue we discussed has relatively little to do with Radley's point. But my colleague's solution does. The conversation (paraphrased, thus no quotes) on the solution went like this:

Colleague: The Federal Government needs to step in here and come up with laws to standardize education.

Myself: Well, setting aside the fact that the Constitution does not seem to provide for Congress making law regarding standardization of education, what makes you think that the laws would be any better than what you have now?

C: Well, nothing, except that because it would be the subject of national debate, the laws would probably be better.

M: But what if they weren't? What would you do then?

C: I don't know really, except that I don't feel like I can do anything about it now.

M: Well, let me put it this way: There is a chance that a national standard might result in a better system than what you have now. But if it doesn't, don't you think that you have a better chance, as an individual, of changing local law versus a national law?

C: Well, yes, in principle, you would, but it would take getting involved.

M: Yes, I see your point - in order for local law to be a fair representation of what people want for themselves, they would have to participate. But looking at it from the perspective of an individual, don't you think that it would be easier for any given individual to change local law than national law, given that both of those laws impose the same "remedy"?

C: I agree, but it's something that we shouldn't have to do - the government should.

My point being that local laws, by their nature, are not uniform from area to area, and provide for two important considerations: First, variability - people can see what works best and vote with their feet. Second, mutability - If someone else's system is looking better, it's much easier to change, on a local level. For example, local sales and property taxes come and go quite frequently. How often do federal taxes change in any direction other than up? People who' s solution to every problem fail to acknowledge the fact that what may be good for the people of South Carolina may not be good for the people of Minnesota, or Los Angeles, or any other place for that matter. It's one of the reasons that our founding fathers wanted a (relatively) hands off government, with many restrictions on its powers - so that local people would have to make their own beds, and then have to lie in the consequences.

Friday, November 15, 2002

"We're not ordinary people; We're Morons!" - Curley

Is it me, or is Hans Blix a moron?

Some of the Brilliant Observations of Inspector Blix:

"[The Iraqis] certainly did not give accurate answers to the questions they should answer. It could happen again."

Really? Ya think? So what does that say about the answer they gave just two days ago?

"[The Iraqis] have not been under quite the same stress and pressure as they are now. "There is this difference: they know that the consequences might be very serious this time (Emphasis Added). You have a unanimous [U.N.] Security Council that demands Iraq to cooperate. I think it’s a very somber moment and I hope that this is taken to heart by the Iraqis."

Are you saying that they didn't think the consequences were serious with all the other resolutions, Hans? Given the way the U.N. has enforced those previous resolutions, I could see why they might think that (/sarcasm).

"Aggressive is an American quality. You are aggressive in business. That’s fine. Aggression is prohibited under U.N. charter. And as a European, I would rather use the word dynamic and effective."

Words fail me. Apparently something else has failed Hans.

All the guy needs now is a partner named Cato and an outrageous French accent and he'd be the complete package.

Upcoming Posts

Just to keep things from becoming too bland here, I'm in the process of writing a rather lengthy piece on my sole objection to Peter Jackson's otherwise wonderful Fellowship of the Ring, and what I see may be the consequences on the soon-to-be-released The Two Towers.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

The Twilight of Privacy

Sure, he could be a loudmouth, and dead wrong on some issues (Hint: Think "The War on Drugs"), but at times like these I really, really miss Bob Barr's strong civil libertarianism.

What, me worry?

Why do we worry so over the execution of killer Mir Aimal Kasi?


Welcome to all who have linked over from the BlogFather.

Packing a Load of Problems

Glenn Reynolds makes his latest Pack vs. Herd commentary at his TechCentralStation column, and while I generally concur with the idea in a reactionary situation, I do not subscribe to Jim Henley’s assertion that, in the events that are unfolding on the TV show 24, it would be advantageous to utilize the phenomena, either for the TV show, or for reality in general (although it has made for a fascinating thought exercise). Why? Because in reality, the Pack mentality would create more problems than it solves. This is because the situation would be markedly different than the events of 09/11/01 - instead of reactionary, actions taken would be presumptive. Reaction to something that has happened, as opposed to action on something that may happen, are two different phenomena. For example:

The first major flaw is that the terrorist would learn that the government knows, and detonate the weapon on a shorter time schedule, or immediately. These are terrorists, they are not making political points - They are saying "See what we can do." The motivation may be political, but the main goal is terror. In the worst case, the weapon detonates immediately, and the cost / benefit equation of saving at least some people goes right out the window.

The second major flaw would be data management. Who coordinates the data resulting from the announcement? Who gathers it? Who analyzes it? Who determines what leads are valid, and need to be followed up? Another thing that 09/11/01 showed us is that there are crackpots amongst us. One of the major problems police departments across the nation had to deal with in the following days were the false bomb threats that were phoned in. Whatever agency(s), be they government or "Pack," are tasked with handling the data will be swamped, no, drowned in data. They would not have time to analyze the data for the flood of data coming in.

For my third and final point (for now), we’ll deal with the evacuation. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the bomb is on some sort of timer and we know (somehow) that we have 23 hours until detonation. Is it still best to announce the problem and start the evacuation? I would argue not. The simple reason being that while all people will not panic, some will. The exodus of humanity from the LA basin is a pipe flow equation, with the highways as the pipes, and people as the fluid. Only this fluid is contaminated - it’s nature is to clog the pipes, impede smooth flow. The traffic jams and their resultant chaos would not only trap people in the open where, should they survive the detonation and shock wave be exposed to horrific levels of radiation, they would also impede the investigation itself.

For these reasons, I think notification of the citizen "Pack" of the target city would be a grievous error in this situation, both for the TV show, and in real life. We'll save the discussion on how long it would take for the situation to come to the attention of the populace of it's own volition for later.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Welcome to Tough Times

The name for the blog comes from three references, two related to each other, one related to nothing except my taste in music.

The first is a song by the rock group Rush. It’s the source of my first nickname I ever used on the Internet, and one I still use today as my main e-mail address (the one that very few people have). But not to worry, my associated e-mail with this account is one I check every bit as often. I am just less careful when editing out the wheat from the chaff.

The other two references come from the state of the industry I work in (I am an engineer for a major airline), and the state that the United States is in right now. Perhaps for both these are in truth the toughest times that we have ever faced.

Some of the things that I will discuss here are things that affect me directly: what’s happening in the airline world, how the state of national security relates to it, and how policy enacted in this country affects the air transport system. I make no claims on being an expert on these issues, except for the ones that I am and expert on, and I’ll let you know when that is, because those are Few and Far Between. In addition, I’ll hit some things that spur my interest, and to be honest, there will probably be more things from the latter category than the former. So sit up, put your seat backs and tray tables in their upright and locked position - It’s time for takeoff. Don’t forget to buckle your seat belt, as it will probably be a turbulent ride.