Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


Corporate security? Or IQ test?

Image downloaded from Jeremy Wilson's site, to whom it presumably belongs [via Bruce Schneier's February CRYPTO-GRAM, where it's captioned: "A great photo that illustrates the "weakest link" principle"].

The War on Terror, according to the Bush Administration

A final couple of posts via More Junkmail from Bob (elided material comprises web links only):

Funding Al Qaeda

The Pakistan government has paid Pakistani militants $842,000 so the militants could pay back Al Qaeda ( It seems that Al Qaeda paid the militants 50,000,000 rupees to get them to fight the government. Now the government has decided to give Al Qaeda a refund so the militants will stop fighting. And we have an embargo against Cuba. Did I mention that Pakistan is nuclear power?...


Ahmed Abu Ali grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. He went to college in Saudi Arabia. On June 11, 2003, the Saudis threw Ahmed in jail. A year later he was still in jail and U.S. and Saudi authorities had given no reason for his detention. Saudi officials supposedly said privately that Ahmed would be released the moment some formal request comes from the U.S. government. There were some protests and demonstrations over this last summer....

It looks like this guy was arrested along with three others who were supposed to be involved with terrorists. The others were sent to the U.S. and charged with "conspiracy to wage armed combat against allies of the United States." Apparently there was not enough evidence for Ahmed, so they left him in a Saudi Arabian prison. The FBI has had access to Ahmed in Saudi Arabia ever since his detention....

According to the Washington Post, "Two U.S. officials from different national security agencies said the government did not really want Abu Ali returned. One said the government had hoped the Saudis would find a way to hold him, but was now seeking 'to make the civil suit go away' because it risked forcing the government to disclose sensitive or embarrassing information about his case...."

I don't know whether this guy is guilty of anything, but it's not right when the U.S. Justice Department causes a U.S. citizen to be jailed, and then refuses to file charges or even disclosed the reason of the imprisonment to the citizen or his attorneys. If he's guilty, he should be charged and jailed. If not, he should be released.

There is a lot of stuff in the U.S. Constitution designed to prevent people from being imprisoned at the whim of government employees. I hope we don't throw that all away just because a couple dozen suicidal idiots crashed some airliners into some buildings.

Effects of Indian Ocean earthquake on the Earth

Here is a nice little summary of these effects [via, believe it or not, More Junkmail from Bob]:

[Dr. Benjamin Fong] Chao [of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD] and [Dr. Richard] Gross [of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA] have been routinely calculating earthquakes' effects in changing the Earth’s rotation in both length-of-day as well as changes in Earth’s gravitational field. They also study changes in polar motion that is shifting the North Pole. The "mean North pole" was shifted by about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in the direction of 145°ree; East Latitude. This shift east is continuing a long-term seismic trend identified in previous studies.

They also found the earthquake decreased the length of day by 2.68 microseconds. Physically this is like a spinning skater drawing arms closer to the body resulting in a faster spin. The quake also affected the Earth’s shape. They found Earth’s oblateness (flattening on the top and bulging at the equator) decreased by a small amount. It decreased about one part in 10 billion, continuing the trend of earthquakes making Earth less oblate....

The researchers concluded the Sumatra earthquake caused a length of day (LOD) change too small to detect, but it can be calculated. It also caused an oblateness change barely detectable, and a pole shift large enough to be possibly identified. They hope to detect the LOD signal and pole shift when Earth rotation data from ground based and space-borne position sensors are reviewed.

Homeland Security, according to the Bush Administration

Still another post from More Junkmail from Bob:

Anti-terrorism rules have finally been relaxed for people flying to three small airports outside of Washington, DC. The airports are College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield, and Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field Airport. Now, all I need to do to fly there is receive prior authorization to use the airports, get fingerprinted at Reagan National Airport, pass a criminal background check, get approved by the TSA (they won't disclose their criteria), check in with the FAA in Washington or Baltimore, and present my documents to airport management. It's a good thing the government is protecting me.

Meanwhile, hundreds of illegal people and tons of illegal drugs are entering the U.S. every month. Maybe it's every two months, but there's a lot illegal drug and people traffic. Apparently people in Washington are more concerned about the appearance of security than the real thing. Last time I flew commercial I stood in line for over an hour for the privilege of a body search and shoe removal. (I now rate "special security" status. That means I get extra special treatment in the slow line.)

If I was a terrorist, I'd just add my weapons, explosives, and maybe even subversive literature to a drug shipment, and I'd add myself to an illegal immigrant group to avoid the inconvenience of a public airport. The Mexican border is a long way from Washington and is not as publicly visible as airport lobbies, so there's no need to waste money stopping the flow of illegal people and drugs.

I don't mind Mexicans or other people coming to the U.S. to work. But if there are laws against it, the laws should be either changed or enforced.


Via More Junkmail From Bob:

It sounds like the beginning of a science fiction story: "In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy."

But it really happened. A star blew up and lit up the sky. It became 600,000 times brighter than the sun, the brightest object in the Milky Way galaxy. At that intensity, the light illuminated the dust surrounding the star. The light reflected off the dust that happened to be sitting around in the area.

The dust appeared weeks and months later than the explosion did, because it takes the light some extra time to go off in another direction and then bounce off some dust toward earth. Because of this time delay, we see successive layers of dust farther and farther from the star as time progresses.

The last time this happened was in 1936. Here are some Hubble photos of the event, over a few months. It's pretty amazing.

I've only got one photo link here; there are five more in Bob's Junkmail.

Blogger trouble

I haven't been able to login to Blogger to post entries since 10 February. I'm certainly not the most regular of posters, but when I want to post, I want to post NOW! Grrrrr!

The problem I've been having is perfectly described by one of the symptoms listed for Login Difficulties? on the Blogger Help page: Continual prompting to login. But none of the suggestions there, including those under Last Resorts, seemed to help. I was getting the same thing on different computers, with different operating systems, with different browsers.

Until today, when I discovered an entry from yesterday on the Blogger Status page:

As a result of new code pushed last week, a couple of bugs have been introduced which affect a small number of users.

  • some will get an error page when clicking on the name of their blog from the Dashboard
  • those with long usernames will be unable to log in

We are working on fixes for both problems now.

How long a username qualifies as "long"? Mine in 9 characters. I don't consider that long. I'm still having the same trouble today using Firefox, but I am able to log in using Internet Explorer (Boooooo!). That's why I'm able to post this entry. The next thing I'll do is enable posting by e-mail.

In making this post, I learned that Blogger's spell check tool does not recognize 'Blogger' as a legitimate word. How strange is that?


Blogging Ethics survey

I was randomly selected to be asked (via e-mail) to take this survey. As advertised, it did require about 20 minutes. Before taking it, I checked out a couple of references to it on other's blogs, just to be sure I wasn't being somehow scammed. It sure doesn't seem like a scam; the questions are mildly interesting and I'll be interested to see the results. Anyone who wants to can take it, I think.

And if you would just give us a little additional support, you can mention our survey by posting our link on your weblog post, or forward this e-mail to your friends. We are working hard to have our survey disseminate globally across countries so that a wide demographic can be collected.

Upon the completion of this study, the survey results will be made available to all participants at The Singapore Internet Research Centre. You can visit the home page by following this link:

Firefox exploit

And a quick fix, which I implemented yesterday [via Dave Farber's IP list]:

Many Mozilla based browsers (Firefox, Camino, ...) and khtml based browsers (Safari), plus a couple others, have a vulnerability that is susceptible to phishing attacks, even spoofed SSL certificates. The usual problems-prone IE, in this case, is immune to this issue.

Read about the problem at with the proof of concept at It is a jaw dropper!

No work-arounds so far except for Firefox, detailed at

$2.95 gets you anyone's criminal record

Open to anyone to investiage anyone, apparently. The verbiage says its for New York residents only, but they don't seem to be checking (dislaimer: I didn't try it). Look here [via Dave Farber's IP list].

Global warming

Earth Observatory has some interesting data that seem, to me, to indicate rather strongly that things are heating up here on Earth. This image represents a portion of that data. The graph on the referenced page is the clincher. Of course the important question is, Why are temperatures rising? There's good evidence for a 100,000-year cycle of higher and lower temperatures (the latter being known as Ice Ages).

Here (from, as is the image below) is a graph of temperatures in the lower atmosphere over the last 400,000 years, as inferred from ice core samples from Antarctica. These are from a web page (to which the images link) that looks at the correlation of temperature and CO2 in the atmosphere (again, from Antarctic ice samples). If there is any validity to the concern that high CO2 concentrations lead to increased temperature, then this graph of these concentrations over the last 400,000 years would give serious cause for worry.

OK, so the theory of greenhouse gases leading to higher global temperatures is just that — a theory, an unproven theory. The EPA's global warming site makes this point. But considering what the consequences might be if the theory is even partly correct, shouldn't we be doing much more than we are to reduce those gases?


Prescription drug sales over the Internet

Michael Geist himself has written an interesting article [Email '' and password 'mugsgame' will log you in] in the Toronto Star on the discussion over whether citizens of the U.S. should be able to order drugs from Canada over the internet.

[T]he Canadian and U.S. governments, supported by PhRMA [the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America], have relied on a series of demonstrably false premises to stir fear among the Canadian and American public.

These include claims that online sales of pharmaceuticals from Canadian Internet pharmacies are dangerous, that they will lead to reduced pharmaceutical research and development, and that the sales could result in product shortages in Canada.

Mr Geist then proceeds to discuss each of these claims, and concludes

It is evident that Ottawa's proposed policy is being driven by heavy lobbying from U.S. President George W. Bush (who reportedly raised the issue on his visit to Canada last year) and the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, which retained former American ambassador to Canada Gordon Giffin to lobby Canadian officials on the Internet pharmacy issue.

While there may be good reasons for shutting down the online pharmaceutical industry — it is not Canada's place to solve the inequities in the U.S. pharmaceutical market — the public has yet to hear them.

Once again it seems the Bush Administration's dedication to the ideal of free markets is contravened by the apparent need of big business interests to set artificial constraints based on fallacious arguments in order to ensure the higher profits that come from diminished competition.

Music industry sues 83-year-old dead woman

This headline from a story in the Boston Globe says it all. Has the RIAA no shame? [via Michael Geist's Internet Law News]

More than a month after Walton was buried in Beckley, a group of record companies named her as the sole defendant in a federal lawsuit, claiming she made more than 700 pop, rock and rap songs available for free on the Internet under the screen name "smittenedkitten."

Walton's daughter, Robin Chianumba, lived with her mother for the last 17 years and said her mother objected to having a computer in the house.

"My mother was computer illiterate. She hated a computer," Chianumba said. "My mother wouldn't know how to turn on a computer."

Red vs blue? Or pragmatism vs utopianism?

I found this article from the Boston Globe much more interesting than any of the red state vs blue state analyses I've read recently. The pragmatist is John Kenneth Galbraith and the utopian is Milton Friedman. I'm not much of a student of economics, but I already knew something of both these gentlemen. I learned more about each from the article but its value is more in the thoughts it provoked about today's political climate [via Dave Farber's IP list].

Republicans nowadays count themselves the party of ideas. "Ideas matter," Ronald Reagan proclaimed a quarter-century ago — words that have since become a GOP shibboleth. But with his recent Inaugural and State of the Union addresses, President Bush reminded us that today's conservatives don't love just any kind of ideas, even conservative ones. Big ideas are better than small, and bold ideas — ideas meant to profoundly reshape world history in the name of high principle — are always preferable to cautious ones. Abandoning a once fiercely defended reputation for caution in the face of change, it seems today's proudly swaggering conservatives have adopted the revolutionary role that for 200 years they existed to defeat.

Blog home
Blog archives