Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"The Largest Fish Kill the West Had Ever Seen"

Update: Whoa. It's always the ones you don't expect. Thanks to Buzzflash and Crooks 'n Liars for linking.

Got two other takes on the other Cheney stories: the first is that this reminded me of Lewis Black's claim, upon meeting Cheney, that "I've never stood that close to evil"; the second that Cheney exploits the ability to to control the "decider" by controlling his choices, a classic bureaucratic technique for controlling executives.

It's quite impressive, actually. He took the worst-defined job in the Constitution and has used it to hollow out and pervert everything that document stands for.

Tens of thousands of dead salmon; what could possibly be responsible for such a stink?


Yep, it's Part 4 of Becker and Gellman's "Richard Cheney is the most horrible bastard in these United States" series. Wonder why the Bush administration's environmental policy is so bad? Read on!

Sue Ellen Wooldridge, the 19th-ranking Interior Department official, arrived at her desk in Room 6140 a few months after Inauguration Day 2001. A phone message awaited her.

"This is Dick Cheney," said the man on her voice mail, Wooldridge recalled in an interview. "I understand you are the person handling this Klamath situation. Please call me at -- hmm, I guess I don't know my own number. I'm over at the White House."

Wooldridge wrote off the message as a prank. It was not. Cheney had reached far down the chain of command, on so unexpected a point of vice presidential concern, because he had spotted a political threat arriving on Wooldridge's desk.

In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.

Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.

First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.

Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.
At this point, this isn't even surprising. Tens of thousands of dead salmon sacrificed to keep a battleground state? Sure, utterly believable.

The best part? The whole Salmon thing was done to benefit farmers, right? Except that it really, really hurt Salmon farmers, whose Chinook Salmon were a large part of the die-off. So arguing "but it was protecting farmers!" is a nonstarter. Thing is, it protected the right farmers. These farmers were largely Republicans; I doubt the Salmon farmers in coastal Oregon and Northern California were.

The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.

By combining unwavering ideological positions -- such as the priority of economic interests over protected fish -- with a deep practical knowledge of the federal bureaucracy, Cheney has made an indelible mark on the administration's approach to everything from air and water quality to the preservation of national parks and forests.

It was Cheney's insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time, that led Christine Todd Whitman to resign as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, she said in an interview that provides the most detailed account so far of her departure.
Good on her to come forward, although it would have been nice if somebody, ANYBODY had stepped up and said "Dick Cheney is the corruption at the heart of the Bush administration, and no matter how much you like Bush, as long as this ass is connected to it nothing good is ever going to happen.

And, once again, we see how he works.

When the vice president got wind of a petition to list the cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park as a protected species, his office turned to one of his former congressional aides.

The aide, Paul Hoffman, landed his job as deputy assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife after Cheney recommended him. In an interview, Hoffman said the vice president knew that listing the cutthroat trout would harm the recreational fishing industry in his home state of Wyoming and that he "followed the issue closely." In 2001 and again in 2006, Hoffman's agency declined to list the trout as threatened.

Hoffman also was well positioned to help his former boss with what Cheney aides said was one of the vice president's pet peeves: the Clinton-era ban on snowmobiling in national parks. "He impressed upon us that so many people enjoyed snowmobiling in the Tetons," former Cheney aide Ron Christie said.

With Cheney's encouragement, the administration lifted the ban in 2002, and Hoffman followed up in 2005 by writing a proposal to fundamentally change the way national parks are managed. That plan, which would have emphasized recreational use over conservation, attracted so much opposition from park managers and the public that the Interior Department withdrew it. Still, the Bush administration continues to press for expanded snowmobile access, despite numerous studies showing that the vehicles harm the parks' environment and polls showing majority support for the ban.

Hoffman, now in another job at the Interior Department, said Cheney never told him what to do on either issue -- he didn't have to.

"His genius," Hoffman said, is that "he builds networks and puts the right people in the right places, and then trusts them to make well-informed decisions that comport with his overall vision."
Cronies, cronies, cronies. He's got 'em everywhere, who are more loyal to him than they are to their departments or (I imagine) their president. That tendency to place horribly unqualified, counterproductive bastards in key spots that characterizes the Bush administration, so that environmental legislation is in actually a license to rape and pillage? Like everything else, it's the fault of what may well be the single biggest bastard to ever step foot in the White House.

And so we come to the end of the series, I guess. It's too bad. For the first time, the VERY first time, I think I understand how America and the world became what it did. Bush is always going on about the verdict of history and how it will exonerate him. I'm starting to think it will, because it will see him as a sock puppet for the true villian, who managed to run the country into the ground and ruin America's reputation abroad.

I don't think Bush needs impeaching anymore. If you want to do the most good, impeach Cheney.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

At This Point, You Have to Ask a Question:

Is there anything, anything at all, that Dick Cheney isn't responsible for in Washington?

Yes, Becker and Gellman have more on the role, and power, of Richard Cheney. It can be summed up fairly easily: "The president is 'the decider,' as Bush puts it, but the vice president often serves up his menu of choices."

If you know anything about government, you know that real power lies in the latter position, not the former.

(Once again, it's pretty clear where the editorial insertions are to try to blunt the force of the story. That chatter about halfway through of "exaggerated influence" goes against the tone of the story, which otherwise emphasizes that you really can't exaggerate his influence.)

I'll leave the last word to digby:

"I'll never understand why they couldn't find a front man for Dick who wasn't a gibbering moron."

Monday, June 25, 2007

What the heck IS this babble?

Whatzisface seems to think that the iPhone is a Newton, and erects an absolutely fabulous strawman:

Let's conduct a spot quiz, shall we? Locate your cellphone. Examine it carefully.

Does it, like most cellphones these days, take wee photographs? Check.

Does it also have a browser, enabling you to surf the World Wide Web? Does it permit you to send e-messages? Check and check. Most mobile phones do that stuff, too.

Well, does it also play tunes, which you upload or download or somehow acquire? Provide calendar, contacts lists? Yes?

Congratulations! The ever-thoughtful editorial team at the National Post has just saved you $600 (U.S.), and a trip Stateside! You don't need any of the features found on the new iPhone --because you already have the features found on the new iPhone, and at a fraction of the cost! Spray-paint it black and squint at it: it's an iPhone! Yippee!
Yep. Apparently, there is absolutely no difference between all the stuff an iPhone does and what you get on a regular cell phone. If you can take pictures and have ringtones, that just about covers it.

Honestly, I think it says a lot about the Canadian media scene that this guy has a column while the only decent media columnist got moved to doing human interest nonsense. Memo to whatzisname: As long as you've got a paid bully pulpit, write about things that matter. Things like this. This ongoing wankery about the iPhone and "torture porn" and the eeevils of rap just shows why opinion columnists are held in open disdain these days.

Sorry, but her column was objectively better than yours, blogroll links to Robert McClelland or no.

"I've Never Stood That Close to Evil!"

That's how Lewis Black describes his meeting with Dick Cheney, whom everybody knows is powerful, but nobody (until now) really knew how or why.

Thanks to some excellent work by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, we finally get a chance to find out.

(Ignore the boilerplate about "not really being the shadow president"; it was clearly an editorial insertion. Go see Digby and Laura Rozen for more on that. He's not the shadow president, he's pretty much everything else.

Here's two bits that are indicative of just how the "Bush" administration really operates. First, one on how nothing Cheney says or does is transparent:

Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools. Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI." Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."
A document from the Office of the Vice President is stamped "Treated as Secret/SCI" More Cheney photos...

Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.

In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down.
Interesting, that "treated as" stuff. I imagine only somebody whose pets infest half of the senior staff in Washington would possibly be able to get away with it. Since that is exactly who Cheney is, though, it looks like it works.

And that leads into the second bit, which has a direct impact on the things going on right now. Remember that Gonzalez "Geneva is quaint" memo? It was written under his name but, well... it wasn't his.

Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney's office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed "Fredo." Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department's talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.

A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney's lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as "my judgment" to Bush [Read the memo]. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.

Addington, under Gonzales's name, appealed to the president by quoting Bush's own declaration that "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war." Addington described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," casting Powell as a defender of "obsolete" rules devised for another time. If Bush followed Powell's lead, Addington suggested, U.S. forces would be obliged to provide athletic gear and commissary privileges to captured terrorists.

According to David Bowker, a State Department lawyer, Powell did not in fact argue that al-Qaeda and Taliban forces deserved the privileges of prisoners of war. Powell said Geneva rules entitled each detainee to a status review, but he predicted that few, if any, would qualify as POWs, because they did not wear uniforms on the battlefield or obey a lawful chain of command. "We said, 'If you give legal process and you follow the rules, you're going to reach substantially the same result and the courts will defer to you,'" Bowker said.

Late that afternoon, as the "Gonzales memo" began to circulate around the government, Addington turned to Flanigan.

"It'll leak in 10 minutes," he predicted, according to a witness.
Shortly thereafter, Powell came under intense fire for "coddling terrorists", and Gonzalez is still saddled with responsibility for a memo that he didn't even write. Sure, he's still responsible for it, that's his job, but had the American people known that it was actually written by Dick Cheney's lawyer, the whole situation would have made one hell of a lot more sense.

It would have illustrated something that we've all suspected: that almost everything that is terrible, immoral, unethical and counterproductive about the Bush White House and this current administration traces back to Dick Friggin' Cheney. He's the reason why America's foreign standing is nil, why Iraq is a disaster, why Bush's domestic policy has been a dismal failure, and why most Americans believe that their country is "on the wrong track".

We've never stood this close to evil.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007



A little while back there was a comment saying "er, yeah, don't assume digby's a 'him'", which kind of sparked my curiosity, but I had to admit it still comes as a bit of a surprise.

And, for that matter, that digby came out in the first place. Starting to wonder if I'm the last of the "class of 2002" that actually retains his(?) pseudonymity. Choice you make, I suppose.

Onion News Network!

Jon has competition in the fake TV newsfront.

Possibly old news, but it's new to me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Light-Colored Pants Are NOT My Alli

I'm seriously divided over whether Alli is horrible, or absolutely brilliant.

While I'm on Ars...

No, we really don't "need to step back before we balk at the BBFC's decision [to ban Manhunt 2]". It's censorship, it's nonsense, it perpetuates every hack stereotype about games and violence, and it only further reinforces the UK's growing reputation as (and I can't believe I'm typing these words) a "nanny state".

(I actually thought the original Manhunt was underrated. It pulled off what Eli Roth has been trying to do and, largely, failing: to create convincing non-supernatural horror that, while improbable, is disturbingly possible. It being interactive has a lot to do with that.)

Sure, kids shouldn't be playing Manhunt 2. The point of the series is to hold up a mirror to the player's own intentions and expectations of the "game" in front of him or her. Kids wouldn't get that. I'm not sure many teenagers even would; you need to be past that point in your life where you become a little more self-aware about your actions and behavior for this to make sense. If you are, however, I don't want the British government to deny you that sort of experience because of the sort of sketchy, poorly operationalized nonsense that Craig Anderson and the like are peddling.

It's a huge disappointment that Ars Technica is buying into this.

Edit: Hey, just found a very nice demolition of the whole gaming censorship thing from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It mostly gets into how games should be protected speech, as they're storytelling and artistic media, but it also echoes the decision by Judge Kennelly that the evidence of violent video games making you all crazy is questionable at best. At their worst they might make you temporarily more "aggressive". Of course, there's another word for that:


Wow, Go Youtube

Probably should get back to blogging about the real world. First post ain't about politics, though; it's about these here Intertubes, where it's just been uncovered that HTTP traffic now eclipses P2P traffic.

In the Internet traffic race, P2P used to be way out in front. For years, P2P traffic eclipsed HTTP traffic as broadband users slurped down music and movies, some of which were actually legal. But P2P fell behind this year; for the first time in four years, HTTP traffic is out in front.

Ellacoya Networks, makers of deep packet inspection gear for carriers, has pulled together some statistics on one million broadband users in North America, and its findings show that HTTP traffic accounts for 46 percent of all broadband traffic. P2P applications now account for only 37 percent.

Chalk it up to YouTube and other Internet video sharing sites. The surge in HTTP traffic is largely a surge in the use of streaming media, mostly video.

Breaking down the HTTP traffic, Ellacoya says that only 45 percent is used to pull down traditional web pages with text and images. The rest is mostly made up of streaming video (36 percent) and streaming audio (five percent). YouTube alone has grown so big that it now accounts for 20 percent of all HTTP traffic, or more than half of all HTTP streaming video.
Bolding mine. Holy crap. I knew Youtube was a monster, but WOW.

This whole HTTP over P2P thing kills me. P2P has been demonized by everybody in the packet passing business for years now, because of the massive increase in traffic that it supposedly generates. On a certain level, that's true; but the arguments always relied on the argument that it was the very nature of peer-to-peer that was responsible for it, not the content. As it turns out, it had nothing to do with that; it's just that http-based delivery of video hadn't caught up yet.

Now that it has, these guys are in serious trouble. Since P2P has always carried a stigma, it's been easy enough to justify cost-saving techniques like packet-shaping as ways of fighting piracy. Sure, people are annoyed about it, but they can't complain too loudly lest they attract attention to exactly what they're doing with it. It's easy enough to do, too, so why not throttle? Now, though, they're in real trouble; even if they continue to throttle P2P, they'll just find that http-based traffic will take up the slack, as more and more people gravitate to streaming video sites. P2P will simply decline as a percentage, but overall traffic will go up.

They can't easily throttle it, either, even if Ars seems to think so. Even if they can distinguish and throttle the Youtube content on the fly, consumers will notice. Since much of the usage of Youtube and other streaming video sites is entirely legitimate, they will SCREAM over having their "unlimited high-speed Internet" throttled. The sheer volume of angry parents alone will rival anything drugs provoked during the Reagan years. It'll be a PR nightmare that they can't use the piracy argument to steer around.

Either they'll become even less popular (and ISPs ain't exactly the belles of the ball as it is) or one of them will say "we don't throttle" and the consumers will switch en masse, forcing the other guys to follow suit. Plus, if they throttle, they're inching that much closer to violating net neutrality, threatening their attempts to gain something akin to common-carrier status. That would be disastrous; if ISPs ever becomes truly responsible for content, they'll be bankrupt in a week from all the lawsuits.

Personally, since I've always been an advocate of P2P as a way of efficiently distributing legitimate content and dislike throttling "unlimited internet", I'm hoping it'll shake things up a mite. The industry damned well needs it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And That's That

As almost everybody would have figured out by now, the preceding posts were part of "My Elves Are Different"'s Blog Like It's the End of the World event, and, of course, entirely fictional. I hadn't really tried my hand at anything fictional, and figured that it'd be an interesting exercise. I wanted to simultaneously keep the broad analytical scope that I try to employ when writing this blog, while applying it to a (relatively) plausible fictional setting. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Most people, of course, acknowledged that they were just playing. I thought I'd do something a little bit more straightforward, so that someone just dropping by might actually wonder whether or not this is serious. Get some of that Orson Welles action going on. Tomorrow, I'll be dropping a quick "this is fictional" note into each entry, just so that individual posts aren't confusing, and I've put the "zombie" label on each of them. I figured if anything prompted me to finally start using post labels, a zombie apocalypse would.

Thanks to MEAD for a great event and an interesting challenge.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It was a sort of protein.

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

No, I'm not quite sure what exactly that substance is, still. My best guess is that that towel was contaminated by something in the zombies, and I think we'll never be quite sure what it is. All we know is that it combined with the deteriorating hemoglobin proteins in the zombie blood to create an airborne protein that repels zombies. It's the same one that deters them from attempting to feast on each other. It is, thankfully, totally harmless to all mammalian life, although there are indications that it may have a nasty effect on arachnids.

(Giant spiders may be a problem for a little while.)

It isn't perfect by any means. it's still zombie blood, so it can still infect, and there are still a lot of zombies out there, though. Fortunately, now that they know exactly what the two proteins are, it's relatively simple to synthesize them and combine them to create this repellant. Already we're seeing "death squads" fanning out across most of North America, equipped with powerful weaponry and this repellant, wiping out zombies with great abandon while being totally ignored by their prey. Hopefully these squads will be present everywhere in the world over the next 24 hours, and there are no shortage of volunteers among the civilian population to deal with it.

Others may still blog, and others may still die; but don't worry. This Too Shall Pass. We will survive, and rebuild. Many still don't know it exists, and believe that they've reached "the end of the world"; they need not worry. Help is on the way. Help, and the vengeance they desire.

We're also fortunate in that it didn't come to blows between the major powers. While I was hearing stories suggesting that everybody, even the Americans, were trying to hold on to this themselves, wiser heads prevailed and the formula was published for all. I think people realized that there was something more important going on, and that they need to deal with it. Business as usual may resume tomorrow, but for now, peace prevails. We really aren't as dumb as people act in those movies.

I actually got a chance to speak with the family of Mrs. Ayinde. They were understandably shaken, but I think that they can at least take comfort in the fact that their mother and wife had, quite possibly, been the first person in history to literally save the world.

(I wish that we could have gotten to her before the end. I would have liked to have met her.)

I'm so tired. I've been gunning down things that used to be people for the past twelve hours. My hearing is shot, my hands won't stop shaking, and I never want to see another round of ammunition ever again as long as I live. I'm glad I wasn't trapped in the middle of it, like so many others were, but I'm still badly shaken by the experience.

One thing remains: BLITEOWL. I think it's safe to discuss now; the powers-that-be are too distracted to care, and the people responsible are largely dead. So what is BLITEOWL? Essentially, it's the codeword for a Russian military project, dating back all the way to their war in Afghanistan, that attempted to deal with their manpower issues. They were trying to revive the dead to serve as soldiers in place of the living. (It was the inspiration, heavily edited, for that old "Universal Soldier" movie.)

I still don't know the specifics- I only got a chance to glance at the file, and had to track down hints and whispers whenever I wasn't shooting. I think it's scientific, but it might actually be some sort of supernatural process. I don't know. What I do know is that the Americans managed to stop it, but not completely; the attack on the Russian facility that was attempting to revive their dead only ended up delaying things. The original attempt was made on June 13, 1987; the Americans quickly learned that the outbreak would be pushed back 20 years. Predictably, though, the whole thing was buried by the powers-that-be of the time, and DoD filing being what it is, well...

They didn't start this, but they should have known it was coming. Some did: that's where that information clearinghouse came from. As I found out, though, most didn't. Those that did tried to hide it, which is why it was called "BLITEOTW" as a convenient acronym for "Blog Like It's The End Of The World", but they knew very well what was really going on and wanted to signify it to those "in the know".

So that's all. I'm going to get some sleep, before I pass out on top of this bloody grenade launcher.

(Wish I knew what was going on with that comet.)

Things May Quiet Down for a Little While

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

Satellite information suggests that the number of zombies in the immediate area are relatively low, thanks to the near-constant stream of lead and depleted uranium that's been pouring out of the bunker at the top of this complex, that's no surprise. I have no idea how many have been destroyed (there's a device that sweeps away and destroys the bodies using a process that I wish I had never seen), but all appears to be clear near here.

It looks like there's more survivors than I thought. Judging by the viewership numbers at that zombie information clearinghouse site, there's a LOT more. That's good news.

Of course, considering how remote this place is, that may not mean much. For all I know they are simply attracted to the richer harvests of the major cities. While it looks like containment efforts are well under way, the task before them is incredible.

As for Ayinde and her towel... it's going to take a while. It looks like, from what I'm hearing, that they understand the basics of how this works, and the possibilities are vast. Not only may they understand how to stop this thing, but they may have proof about the connection between BLITEOWL and the current infestation. Next time I post, I should be able to let you know about that.

Until then, I'm going to rest a bit, and see if my hearing will come back.

The London Towel Conflict Has Been Resolved

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

First, it looks like the clearinghouse is still up. They're claiming that this is over; it isn't over, at least not yet. Not sure what's going on over there. At least they're optimistic, saying that they'll be spending the weekend looking for "the best coverage". Being around on the weekend... quite a group of optimists.

The Ayinde family and that infamous towel have finally been retrieved. The conflict was still raging, but there were negotiations among the major powers that had people on the ground, and it looks like everybody agreed that they had a common interest in seeing an end to this thing. I don't think this is going to stop the disinformation coming out of all those compromised blogs, but it's a start.

Of course, the facility that they took the towel to is nowhere near this facility, and it may be difficult for me to get over there. There is communication, but no transportation. Besides, representatives from a whole lot of nations will be there- I'm not confident I can stay incognito there. I'll still report more when I find out more.

Cheney's Gone

Damnfool got himself eaten by the zombies. Don't ask me how, I'd rather not think about it. The rest of us in here are fine.

Wish I Knew What Was Going on in London

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

They're keeping that information pretty close to their chest. I keep hearing that somebody managed to get to the Ayindes. Whoever it is, they're having one hell of a time trying to exfiltrate. Attempts to get out are being blocked by other forces still in the city and the resurgent zombie horde pouring in from the suburbs.

Unfortunately, as long as Cheney's here, my access to information is pretty limited. He doesn't know who I am, but he's pretty paranoid about any information getting to anybody.

While I Reload...

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

One of the interesting little "quirks" of the current situation is that the clearinghouse dubbed this "event" "Blog Like It's The End of the World". As an acronym, that's "BLITEOWL".

It's no coincidence.

I don't know if the guys over at "My Elves Are Different" are going to tell you about what BLITEOWL, but I've managed to find out a few things, and apparently that codeword "BLITEOWL" means one hell of a lot more than they're letting on.

I'll let you know more a little later, but right now, my OICW airburst launcher is waiting.

My mistake. The acronym is "BLITEOTW". Not that this isn't all about BLITEOWL, but they didn't quite manage to make that codename an acronym.

Hoo Boy

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

I hadn't realized just how dear a favor I had called in. Looks like this "undisclosed location" is higher profile than I thought.

How do I know?

Because as I was firing off yet more rounds at various "ambulatory targets", Vice President Richard frickin' Cheney just walked in, grabbed a carbine, and started shooting right beside me.

The man can't shoot worth a damn.

Pittsburgh is lost.

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

As far as I know, this is genuine.

London is Getting Worse. Edit: Ayinde is gone Second Edit: Ayinde's husband may have taken over

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

(I'm moving the edits to the top)

Edit: Ayinde, sadly, appears to have passed away from a zombie attack. We didn't get to her in time. Her family still appears to be fine, though.

As I said on her own blog, any further entries by a "M. H. Ayinde" whether on that site or another are disinformation, and not to be trusted.

Second edit: There was a post by her husband. It appears to have come from the rooftop, though it's difficult to be sure considering how messed up telecommunications is right now. Right now it looks like British, American, and Lithuanian forces have the upper hand and are closing on the location, but it's difficult to say how this is going to turn out.

I'm hearing whispers that the Kremlin really, really wants that rooftop.

The battle over Ayinde is intensifying. The helicopter that she heard in her last comment was shortly shot down by an unidentified group using some kind of old Russian rocket system. How they managed to dodge the London zombies to even get that close, I can't imagine; British forces are doing a pretty good job of keeping the streets relatively clear, but it's still touch-and-go. We've got Russians, Americans, Brits, Chinese, and now even the Israelis duking it out near that school, although none of them are operating under their own flag.

(The only way that the people here know who they are is through weaponry and tactics. Even then, we're not sure if other powers might be posing in order to hide their involvement.)

The disinformation is intensifying, too. People, zombies can't and won't type. Any blog you see by someone purporting to be a zombie is disinformation. I have no idea why anybody would do that, and nobody here knows what power is behind a number of these; but it's disinformation nonetheless.

That information clearinghouse is still down, too. Not that they were ever tremendously useful, considering the volume of obvious BS they're letting through.


(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

I should have known it. Firefights are breaking out in London between different groups trying to get at Ayinde.

Ayinde has been located

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

Thankfully we got another comment by M.H. Ayinde. It looks like she's discovered her family and is holed up with them, but for some reason she can't get at her email. Not a big surprise; that exploitation I mentioned extends to a number of mailservers. Nobody here is even sure where MI6 stands anymore. They may have been compromised.

She's been located, and there are teams being sent to her location. She's been bitten, but if the rumors I'm hearing in this complex are true, that bloodied towel may hold the key to that as well. I'm honestly not sure; all my chips are long since cashed in, and the only reason they haven't ejected me is that I've proven pretty handy with a rifle.

What really worries me is that that DoD clearinghouse site appears to have gone dark. The posts are still there, but nothing's getting updated. I know it's supposed to be Australian or in New Zealand or something, but that thing was supposed to be manned around the clock. It's not.

Well, that, and the reports that others are starting to learn about Ayinde as well. DoD may not be the only ones after that damned towel.

Edit: Damn, she was bitten, and it looks like it's starting to take. Ayinde, if you can read this, they're very close. Just sit tight.


(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

The higher-echelon types are getting really, really anxious about finding Ayinde. They've been trying variations on the blood trick, and they can't get it to work. There haven't been any casualties (zombies or no, this isn't one of those movies, people aren't acting like idiots) but they're getting increasingly frustrated. I've heard talk about devoting satellite resources to seeing if they can spot Ayinde.

By the way, be very cautious reading blogs about this subject. There's a lot of misinformation going on out there- different governments using faux fronts (like that "My elves are different" site) to try to turn this to their own advantage. This guy, for example, is actually a front for Khazakhstan. This guy's from the Company. (Yeah, also American, but since when have CIA and DoD gottten along?)

And as for SF Diplomat? You don't even want to know who HE works for.

Edit: And this isn't really John Scalzi, either. MI6 strikes again.

A Quick Warning:

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

While I can understand why people like fantasy writer M. H. Ayinde would think that they can't smell you if you're wearing their blood, it's a little more complicated than that.

I’ve tested my theory twice now, just in my street. They don’t seem to notice me, though I swear they must be able to hear my heart thumping. I’m using a towel to cover myself with blood, an unholy anointment. I feel sick with fear, and revulsion. But I can’t wait here while everyone I love is out of reach.

I've heard these stories, but supposedly it's a combination of their blood and something else. Nobody knows what it is, but it may have something to do (oddly enough) with that towel. Ms. Ayinde, keep trying check your email if you can, as you'll be contacted soon by some scientists who will try to nail down exactly what it might be.

There are a lot of men with guns here who are very anxious to find out what this other substance might be.

Edit: Damn! I was so caught up with the information about the blood that I didn't realize that she had gone on some damnfool errand to save her family. God, I hope that whatever it is that's going on with her towel doesn't run out. We need that towel.

If I hadn't seen it...

I wouldn't believe it.

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

I thought this was all a rather tasteless joke. With all the crap going on in the world right now, there are times when I'd be willing to believe anything. But this? This is just wrong. It's unnatural. It's IMPOSSIBLE.

But I saw it nonetheless.

I had said that it had got quiet outside. It had. Then it got loud, and louder, as I heard emergency vehicles crisscrossing the city. I hadn't thought much of it, figured it was just a five-alarm fire across town, and there was nothing on CNN or MSNBC or the other news outlets about it. Most of the big political bloggers hadn't written anything either. So it may have been bad, but not THAT bad.

That's when I got the call. Remember I said I have contacts? A few are in the military, and they began telling me about all the "training exercises" they're dealing with. One of them, an airman who owes me a few favours, let me know that he could swing by in his helicopter to pick me up. I thought this was a little excessive, but it's been a while since I've gotten a chance to ride with him, so what the hell, right? He said to wait outside on the roof of the building, but to be cautious.

So I get up to the roof. It's normally locked, but they're cleaning, and the cleaners have a tendency to leave the door unlocked. I head to the roof, and that's where I heard the sound. It was this low, long moan, and it was everywhere. That's when I got a little worried. I walked over to the railing. I looked down.

The streets weren't empty anymore.

They were clogged with flooding humanity. Some of them scurrying around at breakneck pace, others moving disturbingly slowly. In the distance, along with the moan, I heard screams and pleading. The roof was too high for me to get a close look, but my first thought was "oh, crap, this Azerbaijan nonsense caused the Russians to launch!"

(But then why the pickup? This city would be ashes already by the time we got clear.)

I waited for something like ten minutes before the transport helicopter arrived. The moan got louder, and closer, and started becoming more distinct. I began to hear individual voices, and some of those voices I recognized. My friend (sorry, have to keep names quiet) screamed at me to jump in, and I was barely in before he already started taking off. I stumbled to a seat, and looked down on the roof I had just recently occupied.

That's when I saw them start to emerge from the door I had walked through, just ten minutes ago. People who I had known for years, people I counted as friends.

They were dead.

They were walking.

We've got zombies.

I'm currently in one of those famous "undisclosed locations". I had to cash in practically every favor I had going in order to get here, but I think it's safe enough. Fortunately, they've got more computers than people here, and they can easily mask the IP so nobody knows where I'm actually blogging from. People will think it's the normal location if they checked the IP. Let them. I found out that the mainstream media is deliberately avoiding covering this because they're afraid of panic, but the military is trying to quietly corral and evacuate as many people as possible.

Bizarrely enough, they've been planning for this for YEARS. You know that Zombie Survival Guide? Well, there is no "Max Brooks." It was actually written by DoD. They wanted people to pick it up as a gag, read through it, but then be honestly prepared when and if this happened. Some of it is truly fictional--there is no "Solanum" virus, the mechanics are somewhat weirder than that--but the basics are the same.

Speaking of DoD fronts, there's no such blog as "My Elves Are Different", either. They wanted a clearinghouse where they could collect realtime observations, but be able to keep them covered up under the guise of fiction. This is no fiction. The authors of that "blog" also know damned well why they chose "June 13th" to reveal its real purpose. They knew what was coming today.

And either they say why, or I will.

In the meantime, I'm going to grab an M-16A4 and an M4 carbine and start practicing my long-rusty shooting skills on the range they have down here. They've got tons of ammunition and weapons here, even a few of those new OICW toys, but not enough people to use them. It may prove handy.

Keep safe, folks.

Ok, Seriously, Stop It

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

Look, I'm a big booster of blogging, but responsibility is important. Whatever the hell is going on right now, scaring people by perpetuating this sort of fantastic nonsense is just reckless. It's going to scare people.

Odd News...

(This posting was a part of My Elves are Different's "Blog as if it's the end of the world" event. It is about a zombie invasion, and entirely fictional.)

Sorry about not posting over the last few days, but I've been a little...distracted. I've been hearing strange reports from friends and contacts of mine of some sort of weirdness going on. It's clearly being kept quiet, though, so it's difficult to tell. There's one theory that I keep hearing but, well, I'm not going to give it any sort of credence right now.

I'll keep you posted.

It is really quiet outside for some reason.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Vladimir Putin: Evil Genius

How else can you describe a man who can simultaneously roll back any and all civil rights in Russia and yet Pull this off?

At first it seemed like a political ploy or even a publicity stunt when Russian President Vlad Putin offered to settle his differences with Bush by having the advanced, anti-missile operation planned for Poland and the Czech Republic situated instead in Azerbaijan.

It turns out Putin's proposal makes a lot of sense unless Bush has been lying through his teeth again.

McClatchey News Service quotes several American experts in saying the Azerbaijan site is superior - if (and here's the "if") Bush genuinely wants to guard against an Iranian missile attack.

"A radar in Azerbaijan would be better able to monitor missiles launched from anywhere in Iran and could monitor missiles aimed at any part of Europe, whereas a radar in the Czech Republic could not track missiles headed toward parts of Eastern Europe, they said.

"Equally important is what a radar in Azerbaijan couldn't do: track intercontinental ballistic missiles Russia fired at the United States. This would reassure the Kremlin that the U.S. system was directed only at Iran, they said.

"'If it is in Azerbaijan, it's unambiguously aimed at Iran and can't be used against Russia,' said Ted Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist and long-time critic of U.S. missile defense efforts.

"'It's closer to Iran. And secondly, it covers all of Europe, which the European site does not,' agreed Phillip Coyle, a former chief of the Pentagon's weapons testing office who also has been critical of the Bush missile defense plan. "It's technically a better site."
Putin has managed to upstage Bush quite thoroughly. If Bush goes with the original plan, it looks like he's sacrificing Eastern Europe in order to do what he promised not to: check Russia's second strike capability.

(I'm sure there are those in the Pentagon who would love to do just that.)

Bush looks like a madman, too, and Putin gets carte blanche to openly develop the anti-NMD capabilities he's probably already got on the go, without attracting significant international criticism. Putin gets significant cover for being the "sane" one in the relationship, Polonium or no Polonium.

If he goes along with Putin's idea, though, then he sacrifices any ability to check Russian armaments, and implicitly admits that Putin knows his own job better than he does; the jobs of many of his employees as well. The Russians look brilliant; the Americans look like idiots. That'll come into play in any future dispute between the two countries.

Either way, Putin wins.

Makes you wonder what the man's chess game is like.

Collective Bargaining: In Canada, It's Now a Right

According to the Supreme Court of Canada, that is, in a story that is going to send shockwaves through both the Canadian business community and labour community.

The right to collective bargaining in the workplace is protected by the Charter of Rights, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday, in a landmark judgment that left the labour movement flabbergasted.

In a 6-1 ruling that served notice on governments that they cannot save money by arbitrarily choking off workers' rights, the majority struck down a controversial B.C. law that had contracted out work in the health-care and social-work sector, throwing thousands out of their jobs.

"The right to bargain collectively with an employer enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Mr. Justice Louis LeBel wrote.

The court suspended the effect of its decision for one year to give the province time to pass acceptable legislation...

...In an extraordinary move, the court majority said it no longer had confidence in its previous rulings that had virtually extinguished any hope the labour movement had of using the Charter as a litigation tool.
It's the bolded part that really feels explosive to me. The Supreme Court changed its mind. That doesn't generally happen. It raises the question of what else is going to be changed by this Court now that that floodgate is opened.

Still, the most readily important aspect of this is that every "right to work" law just ended up being borderline unconstitutional, and labour now has a huge stick to wield when it comes to collective bargaining. This includes labour organizations in fields that (like policing) you aren't normally allowed to organize and strike in.

At some point, I'll have to read this decision; for now, for my (few, but valued) Canadian readers, trust me when I say that this is probably going to change a whole lot. Maybe not quickly, but a whole lot nonetheless.

Friday, June 08, 2007

In Space, No One Will Hear You Vote

Interesting story in the New York Times, about a battle between players and administrators of the niche "massively multiplayer" spacegame EVE Online. The players of the game, which provides no protection for players' in-game property besides what they gain from their own alliances, feel that the game has been rigged in favor of a certain "corporation" by friends and allies in the company that designed it. This matters, actually- the in-game currency of "isk" can be bought by players in exchange for the game cards that let you play month after month, so the in-game spaceships and equipment have a real-world value, value that can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.

(Yeah, that whole thing, that I mentioned a little while ago.)

The way they're dealing with it? Oddly enough, considering the way that corporations usually handle this sort of thing, it's with a bit of democracy.

This specter of corruption has emerged most recently not in some post-colonial trouble spot but in the virtual nation of an Internet game called Eve Online (population 200,000) where aspiring star pilots fight over thousands of solar systems in a vast science-fiction universe every day.

So now, in a sociological twist, the company that makes Eve, CCP, based in Iceland (population 300,000), says it will tackle the problem the way a democracy would. In what appears to be a first, the company plans to hold elections so that players can select members of an oversight committee.

The company will then fly those players to Iceland regularly so they can audit CCP’s operations and report back to their player-constituents. And taking cues from transitions to democracy in the developing world, CCP says it will call in election monitors from universities in Europe and the United States.
I think this actually points the way to where "virtual worlds" are likely to go. As players become more attached to their in-game avatars, a simple producer/consumer relationship doesn't appear to be quite enough. Blizzard has had a heck of time dealing with their restive fanbase, and they're quite religious about the idea that in-game items have no real value. With the exploding notoriety of "Metaverse" style experiments like Second Life that do allow for items to have real value, players appear to stop being simply consumers, and start becoming stakeholders.

And if corruption rears its ugly head, as it did in the case of CCP, the only way to solve it may be to bring the stakeholders in.

The other bit that interests me is the "meta-game" aspect of it. I don't know much about EVE, don't play it myself, but I do know that the players relish the aspects of it that aren't seen in-game... forums, IRC chats, discussion boards and the like. The wars between different fleets and corporations in-game rage throughout these outside environs, and it would appear that this meta-game may be spreading to the mainstream media as well. "Goonswarm" (which is an in-game fleet of fans of the humor site Something Awful) scored a major victory by having CCP's troubles published in a venue with such credibility; CCP can't simply ignore this, as current and potential investors might well be paying attention to this story in a way they didn't before. "Players" are, slowly, becoming a sort of citizen.

An odd story, I know; but damned if it isn't interesting.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Wee Bit of Bad Parsing

Over at Chez Drum, there's a bit of an argument going on about "supporting the troops". As seen in this piece by Washington Monthly writer Spencer Ackerman, there are a lot of soldiers who think that the public shouldn't "just support the troops [but] support the mission". The soldiers need to go, but want to stay. The argument rages over what exactly "supporting the troops" should entail.

Me, I think this is due to missing a few words there. If you support the opinion of the troops, there's a point to be made there. If, however, you support the interests of the troops, then the Democratic argument is perfectly sound. Soldiers on the group may disagree, but as the Ackerman piece points out, they aren't necessarily getting the whole story, and might be interpreting short-term tactical victories for strategic ones.

At the end of the day, I don't even think that the soldiers in question will resent a decision to pull out, if made honestly and for sound strategic reasons. These things happen. I do agree with Ackerman, though, that honesty is key. Unfortunately, that's exactly what makes it unlikely.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Steve Gilliard passed away.

Jen goes into more detail on Steve's old blog.


Edit: Go here, say "keep". Wikipedia has been treading on thin ice lately with a lot of knowledgeable people, and it's time that the Wikipedians start recognizing that influential bloggers MATTER.

And Steve was nothing if not influential.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Vote Bartlett!

Er, I mean Sheen.

If conservatives can nominate fictional presidents, why can't us filthy liberals?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Virtual Worlds: Politics and Economics

There's a conference going on this month at Indiana University. The topic? Public policy and virtual worlds (read: World of Warcraft, Second Life, and all those other massively multiplayer whatchamacallits that are either glorified chatrooms or virtual worlds, depending on who you talk to.) Thing is, the conference itself is being done as a sort of game:

The Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University announces: Ludium II is tentatively planned for June 22-23, 2007. The theme "Videogames and Public Policy" will be explored through a game that puts participants in a 19th century US political convention, complete with smoke-filled rooms and bombastic delegates. OK, due to health concerns we will not allow cigars, but bombasticism will be encouraged regardless of the risks. Gameplay: The delegates will form caucuses and compete to get planks on the party platform. They'll also elect a party nominee for President. Results: A platform recommending 10 (or so) Principles for Sensible Video Game Policy, and a single person, the nominee, who will become our defacto spokesperson for the ideas in the platform. From the Ludium's end until November 2008, we will point to the nominee whenever we are asked about games by the media, legislatures, courts, lobbying groups, or voters. Prizes go to participants who get the most ideas on the platform, and for being a candidate or the eventual nominee. Participation will be open. We have room for 400 people.
Bolding mine. Wish I could go, I can't for various reasons, but I do have to ask- if this is about virtual worlds, then why the hell isn't the conference happening virtually? You'd think this would be ideal for, say, Second Life. (Warts and all.)

Why does this matter, by the way? Because it looks like the central issue of virtual worlds, whether or not virtual property has real value, is about to break wide open. First, because of Linden Labs' ongoing legal problems regarding virtual land deals and the enforceability of their Terms of Service. I think it's more due to a seemingly silly "class action lawsuit" against the gold-selling company IGE by users. From Broken Toys:

Someone filed a class-action lawsuit about World of Warcraft.

But it isn’t filed against Blizzard. Oh no. Been there, done that. No… this is against…


For gold farming.

And devaluing the gold piece.

And throwing Arena matches.

I swear to God, I am not making any of this up...A key assumption in the lawsuit is as follows:

Because of IGE’s infusion of gold, virtual currency being held by honest Subscribers is constantly devalued. The devaluation of this virtual currency has an economic value in real dollars as reflected on Defendants’ website.
First, "Lum der Mad?" Is he really the old Lum the Mad? That was one of my favorite sites way back when. Anyway.

He's missing the point here. I don't think this is even about IGE. This is about a way to get a legal ruling on whether Warcraft "gold pieces" are worth anything. You could never pull this off against Blizzard because they are pretty adamant about virtual items not being worth anything. IGE's very EXISTENCE, though, is predicated on the concept that there's a material value to virtual property. That's why Blizzard never sued them: they really, really don't want to get the law involved.

Now, though, they may have no say in the matter. Even if they come in on IGE's side, they aren't going to be able to settle and keep this out of the courts. Even if the class action lawsuit doesn't work against IGE (and I think it's unlikely to), it will almost certainly provoke a "virtual gold" ruling, and there could be TONS of money in it. Inter-game currency arbitrage schemes alone could make people millionaires, if they knew that the game's owners couldn't simply shut them down.

It seems like a joke because it's a misdirection.

Polling the Electorate

I'm thinking about a template change. I like light-on-dark, and at this point it's nigh-unto-traditional for this here website, but I'm wondering if I should join the masses and flip 'er around.


(Comments, emails, angry phone calls, whatever.)

A Completely Unacceptable Hyphen Count

Maybe they do things different in France, Paul. But C'mon. "Premier Most-Federalist-Premier-in-Prime-Minister-I-Can-Take-a-Punch's-Lifetime-
Seem-To-Actually-Work" is just WAY too much hyphen for one man. You'll strain something.

Funny, though.

DRM's in Trouble? (Edit: Death of the CD?)

With this new announcement, saying that EMI is going to be providing free videos to YouTube, I'm starting to wonder. I think Jobs' speech might have hit home for a few people; it's not like P2P-friendly Canadian outfit Nettwerk is going out of business, after all, and it's not like all this DRM crap is helping the RIAA members either.

Edit: There's a pretty good article in the New York Times about this issue, talking about how this is likely the "last big Christmas" for CD sales- partially due to creative problems, and partially (supposedly) due to piracy- not filesharing, but informal ripping and burning between friends. Apple's sales on iTunes are exploding, but not as fast as CD sales are declining. Hence the no-DRM stuff- not only because Jobs doesn't like it, but because DRM-free AAC tracks can be played on any player, not just the iStuff.

I think the market's pretty much locked-in on iTunes, though. I've said it before, and I still believe it- Apple has been aiming to end up in a dominant position in the music industry as it shifts over to online distribution, and what we're seeing now is Jobs pulling it off. The real question is whether he can pull the same feat for other media, and I definitely think that's a real and significant one. AppleTV may not be as ubiquitous as the Tivo, nor will it ever necessarily be... but it might set the stage for other devices that play nice with iTunes and that blur the line between "television" and "downloaded video". The huge adoption problems that the HD-DVD formats are having are only going to accentuate this- why buy a huge new player and rebuy all your movies when you can just download the things and watch them through your iTivo or whatever?

This makes me wonder, though. With the CD dying, MP3s having the same old fidelity issues, and vinyl still popular among the DJ set, are we going to see a further revival of vinyl records? Sure, they can hiss and pop, but CDs have never quite replicated the warmth of sound that you get from a well-produced record, and CD-scratchers will always be ludicrously silly. The decline of rap won't help that much, but there's always going to be a market for turntablists- it's just too useful for parties.

Props to Michael Geist, who really is the best goddamned source on these here Intertubes on this sort of thing. Welcome to the blogroll, perfesser.

Edit again: Go read this piece in the Lefsetz Letter too on the death of the CD, and what music looks like afterwards. Depending on how you feel about the music industry, it's either depressing or exhilirating.

So much for Barlett

Dan's out.

Wonder what prompted this?