Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top Ten List

I enjoy seeing the list which people seem to compile this time of year. They are intresting, but often give us a little peek into how the author thinks. Greg, a history teacher gives his 10 worst Americans. He also gives a nice explaination for each of his picks.

Little Green Footballs has the Annual Robert Fisk Award for Idiotarian of the Year (Fiskie for short) . I think it will be a toss up, between the two ladys, Cindy Sheehan and Mary Mapes. Mary being my favorite idiotarian for 2005.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Good Sign

Rand Simberg notes another good sign from Iraq, It looks like the Sunnis might be doing some rethinking about who is the real threat to them.

Mithal al Alusi just ran a campaign for a seat on the new parliament while calling for stronger ties between Israel and Iraq, and appears to have won a seat.

In May 2004, al Alusi publicly admitted to visiting Israel the year before and faced repeated assassination attempts apparently provoked by the visit. His only two sons were assassinated in January because of his support of Iraqi-Israeli cooperation, he said.

But he said that some Iraqis are warming to a stronger relationship with Israel, in part because they are frightened of Iran's influence.

"They are afraid of Iran's extremist political system. If Iran were a democracy, they wouldn't be afraid," Alusi said. "We don't have border problems with Israel. We don't have historical problems with Israel," just Iran.

U.S. officials have said that Iranian political groups have funneled money into Iraq trying to influence the Dec. 15 elections.

Attitudes and old prejudices die hard, but threads of hope for this young nation keep on popping up.

Daily News Article on Blogging

I was contacted by Mason Lerner of the Galveston Daily News just as I was headed off to Los Vegas. I emailed him back and gave him my cell number. Mason called me while I was returning to my room and recovering from a bufffet meal gone bad the night before. I was distracted and not in top form, none the less we went forward with the interview.

The point of interview was supposed to be about how my blog, and the blogosphere covers the Iraqi War. The only problem is that I don't blog much about the War. I am not there and others are a lot more capable of giving it the close scrutiny that it deserves. All in all Mason treats me pretty fairly decently for lousy interview on my part.

Cobarruvias uses his blog, BayAreaHouston, to share his views and spark dialogue.

“It provides discussion,” he said. “It provides a way for people to talk.”

Every article a blogger posts allows readers a chance to provide onsite feedback and commentary. Cobarruvias said the reason he became a blogger was to try and make people discuss the issues that they see or read in the news.

“The Iraq war is a perfect example,” he said. “People act as if we just stay the course, it will go away. It won’t.”

He recently featured a piece stating the only way to end the war quickly would be to reinstitute the draft. Such an opinion might seem likely to evoke a massive reader response, but nobody posted a comment.

That is why linking to other blogs and Web sites is so crucial for independent bloggers. With so many news sources out there, it is hard for individual blogs to attract traffic.

That does not faze Lloyd, who posts to his blog under the handle “Liberty.”

“I would write the same if I had a quarter million readers or no readers at all,” he said. “I do it for myself. It’s my means of expression.”

According to his own count, he has had 1,762 visitors to his blog since he began counting on Oct. 2.

He said traffic was up to several thousand hits a day during Hurricane Rita because he posted throughout the evacuation. A few major media outlets linked to Libertysblog for on-the-spot hurricane updates.

He said the main responsibility of bloggers in the context of the war in Iraq was to keep track of “what is really happening as opposed to the mainstream media focusing only on who got killed today.”

I don't get concerned to much about the hit count but its now over 7,000 visits since Oct 2nd, lots of search engine hits on the Osteen affair. While Mason focused on the Trent Lott story on how bloggers can make a difference, I discussed with him the 60 minutes and Rathergate on how blogs can do factfinding and push a story to the forefront. I believe it is a more classic example of the power of blogs and the blogosphere.

While he mentions the both this blog and Bay Area Houston Blog He never gives out a link or URL.

This isn't the first time that this blog has been mentioned in the MSM but it is nice when the hometown paper takes notice. Maybe next time the paper might take notice of some of the other fine sites on the Island. Such as the Galveston Music Scene, or the Real Galveston.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Sinking Faster Than We Thought.

It looks like we not only have to worry about erosion, and rising water from global warming, but Galveston is actually sinking into the Gulf, and not at such a slow pace.

Stretching 1,000 feet into the Gulf and surrounded by sunny beaches, Pleasure Pier is aptly named. But the name belies a dark secret: Since the 1957 installation of a tidal gauge, the water has risen more than a foot. Over a full century, that translates into 2 feet, 5 inches.

A similar gauge at Pier 21 in Galveston's harbor has measured a 2-foot, 2-inch rise in the water level in the past 100 years.

Anecdotally, residents also know something is wrong. One blustery day last month, Lorraine Brown stood at the western end of the seawall at low tide, looked down at the seawall's base and saw swirling water falling upon rocks.

"I remember when you could drive Galveston Island, from end to end, on the natural beach," said Brown, who lives in Sea Isle, a community a few miles from the island's western tip. "I don't think there will ever be any hope of doing that again."

If not for major sand-renourishment projects, the situation might be similar to Pleasure Pier, and the eastern, more touristy end of Galveston Island.

The tidal-gauge measurements tell scientists how much elevation the island has lost, not why. How much has been caused by natural or man-made subsidence, the sinking of the Earth's surface? How much by compaction of sediments thousands of feet below ground? How much by rising seas?

As yet, scientists can only debate these questions.

Thats 2 feet a century. 2 feet is a lot of sinking when when of the people live here at a grade of 10 ft or less.


The most insidious of all illegal aliens has to be bamboo. Those who plant it in Texas should be staked to another a fire ant mound,which is another illegal alien.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

No Sony for Christmas

No Sony Christmas presents from me this year. I was tempted as I was shopping for a flat panel, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm still rather pissed at how they tried to infect our computers with malware, and then they had the gall to deny it all. At any rate I ended up picking out the Akai 32 inch LCD. It was cheaper and had a nicer picture than the Sony. When discussing the malware incident at work, a couple of people mentioned that they wouldn't be buying Sony products because of this. I wasn't aware of any organized boycott of their overpriced crap though. How little did I know!

CHRISTMAS shoppers are carolling past Sony products in a snub for its DRM debacle earlier this month.

Normally Sony would be singing a happy song at this time of year as it is a major market leader for electronic goods. However it looks like consumers are saying humbug to Sony this year.

This is because anti-piracy protection that Sony BMG jacked into music CDs not only turned out to be hard to remove spyware, but happened to be a major hacking risk in its own right.

According to the Globe newspaper, calls for a boycott have been growing on the world wide wibble. Already a No Xmas for Sony graphic designed by Toronto Web developer Gisela McKay's has spread to more than 37,000 sites.

A Google search on the terms "Sony boycott" results in 2,210,000 hits" There is at least one blog dedicated to boycotting Sony. Its all bigger than the DRM thing though, How about their support of the Recording Industry Association of America or the RIAA. These Jackbooted lawyers are running around and suiing thousands of people for what they finding on their computers. Typically they file a suit, and demand blackmail under the threat of a long and more expencive suit. and more at One women is fighting back:

Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn't see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.

"I assumed that when I explained to them who I was and that I wasn't a computer downloader, it would just go away," she said in an interview. "I didn't really understand what it all meant. But they just kept insisting on a financial settlement."

The industry is demanding thousands of dollars to settle the case, but Santangelo, unlike the 3,700 defendants who have already settled, says she will stand on principle and fight the lawsuit.

"It's a moral issue," she said. "I can't sign something that says I agree to stop doing something I never did."

If the downloading was done on her computer, Santangelo thinks it may have been the work of a young friend of her children. Santangelo, 43, has been described by a federal judge as "an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo, and who can barely retrieve her email." Kazaa is the peer-to-peer software program used to share files.

The drain on her resources to fight the case - she's divorced, has five children aged 7 to 19 and works as a property manager for a real estate company - forced her this month to drop her lawyer and begin representing herself.

"There was just no way I could continue on with a lawyer," she said. "I'm out $24,000 and we haven't even gone to trial."

Sony seems to thing of her customers as the enemy. While I really am a big fan of some of her products, I will not be giving them 1 cent. I won't spec out any Sony Monitors at work any more, nor will I be buying PSP game systems, No BMG Sony CDs, and no Sony Pictures movies for me. I work hard for my money, and I would hate to see any of it got to the heavy handed Sony thugs.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Liberal Lies and Hoaxes

Michelle Malkin blogs on another liberal hoax Where a U of Mass. student claimed that he had been visited by Homeland Security agents after requesting Mao' little Red Book the the interlibrary system. Now he's admited he just made it up.

The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.
The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.
But on Thursday, when the student told his tale in the office of UMass Dartmouth professor Dr. Robert Pontbriand to Dr. Williams, Dr. Pontbriand, university spokesman John Hoey and The Standard-Times, the student added new details.
Are these lies and hoaxes all part of a bigger trend? Mary Mapes is still running around claiming denial even after she has proven that she participated in one of the biggest hoaxes. The only real question is whether she is stupid enough to believe in the papers or whether she was a willing participent in the fraud. Recently the Paul Mirecki story popped out about a disenfranchised professor who faked a beating to prove that the right wingers are out to get him. I found a post on TPRS that sported a chart of Red and Blue States with Average IQs on the Chart . Connecticutt had 130 and poor Missisippi only had 85. The only problem is that the chart is totally fiction as exposed by Snopes

Maybe its just me, or I just don't notice, but I don't see the outright lies and fraud comming from mainstream conservatives. The right is subject to critisism, there are many topics that can be fairly debated. Reasonable discussion is closed once one side results to such tactics.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Victoria Osteen Responds

At the Ontario Empoblog I found Victoria Osteen's response to her being ousted off the Continental flight from Houston.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I know that many of you have seen the recent news report on our trip to Colorado. Let me begin by saying that I have received so many of your emails and notes encouraging me and expressing your love and support. Each one of you means so much to me and I love you all dearly.

Regardless of how some have portrayed the situation, please know that it was truly a minor misunderstanding and did not escalate into what you saw or read in the news. Contrary to those reports it was my choice to remove myself from the situation. Nonetheless, it was a most unfortunate event and I truly regret that it happened.

The last thing I would ever want to do is let any of you down. And I promise you that I did not act in any way that would cast a bad light on you, my family, Lakewood Church or our Lord Jesus Christ. I value the position that God has placed me in and I can assure you that I will always walk in love and integrity. While I am not perfect, I will always seek to be a peacemaker and seek the high road.

As many of you have told me, I know that God has me in the palm of His hand. My confidence in God is stronger than ever—and I know that He is faithful to His promises.

Thank you for standing with me and, in spite of what you’ve heard, thank you for believing the best in me. I know that God causes all things to work together for our good— and I truly believe that when faced with adversities we all emerge better and stronger than when we were before.

During this season, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, Joel and I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. May peace and happiness embrace all of us and may 2006 be your best year ever.

She seems to be denying any fault at all. Despite the claims of witnesses and the FBI. What is glaringly missing is an apology to the other passangers who were delayed by her little temper tantrum. I can understand her not wanting to sit on a wet seat, but it could have been sopped up and had a blanket thrown over it to make the seat a little more comfortable. Victoria offers no explanations, just denials. Millions of people manage to fly every year and only a select few manage to get themselves tossed. Victoria seems to be one in a million.

The truth about Eating

For those of you who watch what you eat... Here's the final word on nutrition and health, and it's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting medical studies:

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Canadians, British or Americans.
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacksthan the Canadians, British or Americans.
3. The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Canadians, British or Americans.
4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the Canadians, British or Americans.
5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the Canadians, British or Americans.
6. Ukrainians drink a lot of vodka, eat a lot of perogies, cabbage rollsand suffer fewer heart attacks than the Canadians, British or Americans.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An Osteen Temper Tantrum

Victoria Osteen got a little upset when she discovered that her seat was wet from a spilled drink, and the flight attendents didn't clean it to her satisfaction. Victoria Osteen is the very visable wife of Rev. Joel Osteen who is the pastor of Lakewood Church, the largest church in Houston.
The Osteens run the largest church in the nation, so passengers on a Continental flight were shocked Monday when Mrs. Osteen was removed from that flight after a disturbance.

Taking time off from the high profile hustle and bustle of running a mega-church, Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen and his family boarded Continental flight 1602 Monday morning at Houston's big airport. They were bound for the slopes in Colorado.

Their trip was delayed and so was the entire flight by almost two hours. Fellow passengers blame the popular Osteens, specifically Joel's wife, Victoria.

According to passenger accounts, the Osteens were sitting in first class. Soon after the plane's door was closed, the FBI says Victoria Osteen was removed following what Continental would call only a disturbance. The Osteens' spokesman confirms it involved a flight attendant, but that's all. However, one passenger tells Eyewitness News she was alerted to the front of the plane when she heard a commotion.

"She violently ran towards the cockpit, scaring everyone around her," said passenger Knicky Van Slyke. "Everyone was terrified about what was going on. And a bunch of flight attendants ran up and had to restrain her. She was banging on the door."

"Of the cockpit?" we asked.


It's interesting t o notice how area bloggers note this incident.

At the Lone Star Times, Matt wonders why the family is flying first class just before Christmas, while Laurence Simon suggest it might be a congregational Christian takeover of an airplane and at blogHouston Ann Linehan thinks that Victoria is under some stress. Jessie Bonnner thinks it might be OK for the Osteens to take an expencive vacation if they are properly tything, while at Theoblogia they think it might be just to much enthusiasm. Meanwhile at Continental airlines and at the FBI they aren't talking much.

The FBI reviewed a report from Continental after the incident, Garcia said. No charges will be filed, she said.

The flight was delayed more than an hour while the Osteens' luggage was retrieved, Garcia said. The family took another flight to Colorado, where church spokesman Don Iloff said they were skiing Tuesday.

Iloff called the disagreement with the flight attendant "minor" but would not say what happened.

"In semantics, they might have been asked to be removed," he said. "Really, it was more of a mutual thing."

Continental spokeswoman Julie King would not discuss the disagreement but said in a statement that the situation was resolved.

I don't read much into the whole thing, but her behavior inconvienienced a lot of people, and it would seem that the Christian thing to do would be to apologize publically to the other [assangers who were incovienienced by a 2 hour delay.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tip Jars

As one visits Blogs they might notice a little box, from Amazon, or Pay Pal called the "Tip Jar" I think its a great idea to drop a dollar or 2 into the tip jar of your favorite blogger. Although the Pajama Media members are large get a few advertising bucks thrown their way. The smaller blogs do not generate the hit counts to collect much of anything. In the Christmas spirit it might be a good idea to drop something in one of your favorite blogs tip jar.

Nope, I don't have a tip jar. This venture of mine is entirely personal, and for now I don't accept any advertising dollars either. Although I've run ads I've refused compensation. I might change my mind in the future, but I'm not giving the FEC Gestapo any opportunity to restrict me.

Person of the Year

In their annual announcement Time Magazine declared their Man of the Year.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda, were named Time magazine's "Persons of the Year" along with Irish rocker Bono for being "Good Samaritans" who made a difference in different ways.

"For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono are Time's Persons of the Year," the magazine said in its December 19 issue, made public on Sunday.

Managing Editor James Kelly said the three had been chosen as the people most effective at finding ways to eradicate such calamities as malaria in Africa, HIV and AIDS and the grinding poverty that kills 8 million people a year.
Time in the past has not always selected the nicest of peope, but the people that have affected us and created the most interest. In other words the most newsworthy. Bono's and Gates' efforts certainly deserve notice, their efforts have been very humanatarian efforts. They not only have been effective in bringing money effectively to where its been needed but they have brought attention big problems in Africa.

Yet, African health disastors have not been the topic of water cooler discussions. Most of us are a little indifferent to what doesn't directly affect us, we don't relate to what is going on over there.

Time also named former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton as "Partners of the Year" for their humanitarian efforts after the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and the unlikely friendship that developed from that work.

"Natural disasters are terrible things, but what defines us is not what happens to us, but how we react to it," Kelly said.

I think most of us do relate to the disasters of this year. Some of us were directly affected, many more of us indirectly affected. Hurricane victims were relocated all over the country, Evacuations effected millions of people while others had to help accomodate them. Earthquakes devistated parts of Pakistan, and many of us stood mesmorized by the destruction of the SouthEast Asian Tsunnamis.

In this spirit I declare the first Annual Liberty's Person of the Year.

Mother Nature, I think she is a more approriate symbol for 2005, and certainly she has caught the attention of most of us this year. I just pray that she is kinder to to us in 2006.

Michelle Malkin finds that Time's choice was lame.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What is Victory?

There is the big debate, that asks when will we get out of Iraq? Others argue whether the war is winnable or not.

The point at which victory is achieved may not be so easily defined. We obviously definitively won the invasion and the takeover part of the war. The second part of the war consist of handing over the nation to its own people. It is a war for to create stability. Of course war is the antithesis of stability which may explain why some find it difficult to believe it is winnable. Its also a war of potshots and small scale skirmishes, which means that there will never be a decisive battle that will mean a clear victory in the war. The moment of actually victory could well go unnoticed because there will not be one large decisive victory.

In fact I believe this war has already been won. The only thing I'm not sure of was exactly when this momentous victory has occurred. Was it the first election when it went so smoothly? Was it when the Iraqis approved its constitution? Perhaps it was when we dragged Saddam out of that rat hole. Maybe it was today as the Iraqis selected their own leaders in an open election.

Most people in most places in Iraq are living peaceful lives. They work their shops and jobs, and look forward towards their future in a freer country. The Sunnis who were the last holdouts towards a united government, now understand that cooperation with their Kurdish and Shiite neighbors is their best chance for their own future. Support for Al Qaida is about nonexistent, and most of the leadership of the Al Qaida movement is either dead or captured. Al-Zarqawi himself is reported to be dead.

Still the MSM focuses on the occasional bombing and on the any deaths of our military. These things are important, they remind us of the price we are paying for the freedom of others. Its a terrible cost for us to pay, yet this price we pay is showing dividends and its these dividends that aren't being reported. An embedded reporter writes:

There is garbage on the streets, in yards, in open areas. There is a stench. There is grime. But there are also people.

They are vivid, unlike their surroundings. They are excitable and friendly and conversational. They live in conditions I hope I don'’t have to experience in my own life. Yet, if my neighborhood saw two wars, the breakdown of the national and local governments and decline of municipal services, I'’m not sure I wouldnÂ't be in the same boat.

I still haven't seen U.S. troops engaged or encounter car bombs or explosives. But I did see them play backgammon with some local police and Iraqi soldiers. I saw them take photos with more locals and make jokes mostly lost in translation. They gave advice and expertise to local troops on how to conduct a neighborhood patrol. They drank the local customary tea, and many admitted they’ve become addicted to it. They know several locals by name. I didn'’t hear one slight or ridicule of a very distinct culture. One soldier mentioned it might be a good idea to clean up the trash around one polling place, and another commented on the status of women in the culture, but they were nothing but respectful, friendly and buddy-buddy with the Iraqis they mingled with today.

Read the whole piece.
There will still be more bombings, some solders unfortunatly will likely die. It looks to me though that the worst is over. Its going to get quieter, and more peaceful, just as it has steadly for many months. No one has yet to declare victory in Iraq, so its up to me. Concider it my Christmas present to the solders over there. I expect that we will start to see many of them come home soon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What's in a Name

Transterrestrial Musings has some advice for renaming the Mohave Spaceport.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An issue of Justice

There is a little bit of satisfaaction that Toookie got what he deserved, and Los Angeles is not burning. He was a cold blooded murderer, that never showed any remourse for his senseless violence. Unfortunatly not all accused is given the the many opportunitys that Tookie was given to present their side.

Cory Maye was awakend one night to some men breaking down his door and charging at him while he was sleeping in the same room as his 18 month old daughter. He pulled out a handgun and fired. One cop was dead, the son of the chief of police. The cop was white the Cory Maye is black.
The Agitator puts it this way:

Put yourself in Maye's shoes. You have no criminal record. You've done nothing wrong. In the middle of the night, in a bad neighborhood, you awake to find someone attempting to break down your door. The door flies open, and a man in black paramilitary gear comes storming into your bedroom, where your infant daughter also happens to be sleeping.

Not only is that set of circumstances "reasonable ground" to think that someone is about to do you "great personal injury," and that you're in "imminent danger" of said personal injury being accomplished, you'd be crazy not to take quick action to defend yourself.

Cory Maye is now on Death Row. Radley Balko itterates the facts as well as the uncertainties as well as they are known. Over at the Hammer of Truth, Stephen Gordon is getting out the word. The Main Stream Media hasn't picked up on this story but perhaps the Blogosphere can make a difference. This isn't an issue of Liberal versus Conservative, but an issue of justice. If we make enough noise, perhaps this man will get another chance to have his case reconcidered.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Out of Time for Tookie

Tookie has an appointment with a sharp needle tonite. I've never been a big supporter of the death penalty, but if anyone ever deserved to die for his crimes it's this guy. Now we will watch to see how his disciples behave in Los Angeles. I hope LA has quiet nights, but those who live there will be sleeping lightly for a few nights.

Yahoo and Six Apart Make Deal

As an SBC customer I didn't even know that Yahoo had a web hosting service, but it looks like Yahoo will be offering one stop shopping for a Blog start-up. Yahoo and Six Apart team up. to offer the premium blogging software, Moveable Type. Its still not particularly cheap at the $11.95 price though.

Yahoo and Six Apart were set to announce a partnership on Monday. Yahoo will offer users the ability to create blogs using Six Apart's Movable Type software and have them hosted on Yahoo Small Business hosting service.

Six Apart, based in San Francisco, said it has optimized its Movable Type software specifically for the Yahoo service, which targets companies and professionals. Use of the Movable Type tool will be available with the purchase of a Yahoo Web Hosting account for $11.95 per month.

My web hosting is about 1/2 the price and the software is free. Although one can buy Movable Type at a pretty reasonable price. Yahoo!'s deal might make it easier for some to jump aboard the blogging bandwagon.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Positive Signs

While some leftist are demanding we pack up and leave, and conservatives are expounding on all the reasons we must stay in the war. It looks more and more like we are winning, and that we might be able to start pulling out pretty soon.

In a move unthinkable in the bloody run-up to the last election, guerrillas in the western insurgent heartland of Anbar province say they are even prepared to protect voting stations from fighters loyal to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq

Graffiti calling for holy war is now hard to find.

Instead, election campaign posters dominate buildings in the rebel strongholds of Ramadi and nearby Falluja, where Sunnis staged a boycott or were too scared to vote last time around.

"We want to see a nationalist government that will have a balance of interests. So our Sunni brothers will be safe when they vote," said Falluja resident Ali Mahmoud, a former army officer and rocket specialist under Saddam's Baath party.

"Sunnis should vote to make political gains. We have sent leaflets telling al Qaeda that they will face us if they attack voters."

It's not as though these guys are seeing us their saviours. They figured it out its in their interest to have input into their own goverment, and the quicker it is stabilized the quicker we are out of the way.

Former Baathists who have embraced militant Islam, like Jassim Abu Bakr, are still fiercely opposed to U.S.-backed leaders and say any Sunni politicians who move too close to them will lose their support.

"We are telling Sunnis that they have to vote for nationalist parties and even if they win we will be watching very closely to keep them in line," said the Falluja militant, 28.

In Falluja, renowned as Iraq's "City of Mosques," Sunni Muslim spiritual leaders made clear there would be no repeat of the boycott of January's election which left their minority angrily marginalised.

Fiery speeches delivered in Friday prayers have been toned down, with increasing calls for Sunnis to vote.

Iraq's election commission said on Sunday there would be 154 polling stations open in Anbar next Thursday, far more than in the election in January. Eighty-four of them will be in Falluja and the surrounding area, it said.

Most election posters back two Sunni politicians, Saleh Mutlak and Adnan al-Duliami. Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former prime minister who ordered a U.S.-led offensive that devastated Falluja last year, has some appeal, insurgents said.

The influential Sunni Muslim Scholars Association urged their large community to boycott the "illegal" polls in January.

Nearly one year on, the group has so far been officially neutral but some of its members have called participation in the polls a "religious duty."

Now the big "if". If they can pull off this election peacefully, Iraqis should be able to quickly gain control of their country, and they should be able stiffle the insugents on their own. The Iraqis understand that if they want their own goverment and, not an American puppet regime, that its up to them to reach out and take it for themselves.

But Saddam loyalists have turned against Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant whose fighters travel to Iraq from across the Arab world to blow themselves up in a bid to spark sectarian civil war.

"Zarqawi is an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation," said a Baathist insurgent leader who would give his name only as Abu Abdullah.

The old Bathist might never be crazy about us, but as long as they recognize the insurgents and terrorist as bad they will do alright.

A Tale of Three Cities.

On the other side of the world.

A riot in China. Villagers upset over over a government takeover of villagers property to build a power plant. When the villagers staged a protest of the property grab and their lack of input into the process. The Chinese authorities fired into the crowd killing perhaps 20 people. Currently tanks have sealed off the city apparently in an effort to silence or starve the villagers out.

The villagers in Dongzhou said their dispute with the authorities had begun with a conflict over plans by a power company to build a coal-fired generator in their area, which they feared would cause heavy pollution. Farmers said they had not been compensated for the use of the land for the plant. Others said plans to reclaim land by filling in a local bay as part of the power plant project were unacceptable because people have made their livelihoods there as fishermen for generations. Already, villagers complained, work crews have been blasting a nearby mountainside for rubble for the landfill.

A small group of villagers was delegated to complain to the authorities about the plant in July, but they were arrested, infuriating other residents and encouraging others to join the protest movement. On Dec. 6, while villagers were mounting a sit-in demonstration, police made a number of arrests, bringing lots of people out into the streets, where they managed to detain several officers. In response, hundreds of law enforcement agents were rushed to the scene. Everybody, young and old, "went out to watch," said one man who claimed his cousin had been killed by a police officer's bullet in the forehead. "We didn't expect they were so evil. The farmers had no means to resist them."

Early reports from the village said the police opened fire only after villagers began throwing homemade bombs and other missiles, but villagers reached by telephone today denied this, saying that a few farmers had launched ordinary fireworks at the police as part of their protest. "Those were not bombs, they were fireworks, the kind that fly up into the sky," said one witness reached by telephone. "The organizers didn't have any money, so someone bought fireworks and placed them there. At the moment the trouble started many of the demonstrators were holding them, and of those who held fireworks, almost everyone was killed."

I suppose we might expect the Communist ChiComs to hold such disregard for the people affected and the usage and respect of private property. The power plant will provide power for the increasing industrial growth. The few must pay the price for the many.

Half a continent away.
Riviera, Florida wants to upgrade itself with new yacht clubs high priced waterfront homes. The one only thing standing in their way are 6000 blue collar residents who call this area home.

In what has been called the largest eminent domain case in the nation, the mayor and other elected leaders want to move about 6,000 residents, tear down their homes, and use the emptied 400-acre site to build a waterfront yachting and residential complex for the well-to-do.

The goal, Mayor Michael D. Brown said during a public meeting in September, is to ''forever change the landscape" in this municipality of about 32,500. The $1 billion plan, local leaders have said, should generate jobs and haul Riviera Beach's economy out of the doldrums.

Opponents, however, call the plan a government-sanctioned land grab that benefits private developers and the wealthy.

''What they mean is that the view I have is too good for me and should go to some millionaire," said Martha Babson, 60, a house painter who lives near the Intracoastal Waterway.

''This is a reverse Robin Hood," said state Representative Ronald L. Greenstein, meaning the poor in Riviera Beach would be robbed to benefit the rich. Greenstein, a Coconut Creek Democrat, serves on a state legislative committee making recommendations on how to strengthen safeguards on private property.

They want to take property away for a lucrative construction project. Everyone makes money except the citizens who live there. Apparently they aren't allowed a say in their destiny, and are being given the privelege of getting paid pennies on the dollar for their property values. It will help reduce taxes for the 30,000 others left in the city though. The selected few must pay the price for the many.

Down the street, the other side of Houston.
The Woodlands is a middle class community, on the Northern outskirts of Houston. Upscale middle class home all built outside city limits. The City of Conroe sees a cash cow and is planning on annexing a chunk of the development to help feed its growing budget.

Mayor Tommy Metcalf said now is the right time to consider annexation because the MUD is experiencing strong economic growth.

Metcalf said that if the annexation occurs, the city would see a 16 percent increase in its $2 billion tax base and Harper's Landing residents would gain lower taxes and better services.

But many residents do not think annexation is in their best interest and do not want to be a part of Conroe.

Several residents who spoke at Thursday's council meeting said they're concerned about possible double taxation and the destruction of The Woodlands' sense of community.

They also said they were angry about how city officials handled the issue. Many residents, even those who serve on associations representing Harper's Landing, said city officials never told them of their plans.

''They told us they weren't interested in Harper's Landing, then all of a sudden it shows up as an agenda item," said Ted Stanley, a Harper's Landing resident and director of The Woodlands Association.

The residents said they would like to have a chance to discuss the issue with city officials to see if it's a good idea.

Metcalf assured them there will be plenty of time to negotiate and talk. He reiterated that the council's action only initiates the planning process. He said there will be two public hearings and that the city will prepare a plan to show how the city will provide services.

''We're going to be here with open ears and open eyes if you can show us a plan that would be beneficial to the city," he said.

The MUD provides water and sewer services to about 1,400 homes and 25 business. Harper's Landing residents pay 58 cents per $100 assessed value in MUD taxes and 49 cents per $100 assessed value in assessments to The Woodlands for services such as police, fire and parks and recreation.

The affected residents in the Woodlands won't have a say in the matter, its all about increasing the Conroe tax base. and the decision is entirely in the hands of the City of Conroe. The taxrate of the many in Conroe mean more than the few in the Woodlands. Taxation without represtation is alive and well in Texas. Just ask those of Clear lake and Kingwood, These folks were taken under the protective wing of Houston. Without a vote, without a shot being fired.

Update: 18:50
Chuck Kuffner has something to say about the Woodlands takeover.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

An Urban Legend Taken to Task

Greg does an outstanding job smashing the often repeated and often emailed urban legend that black folks are about to lose their voting rights in 2007.

ChiComs Crackdown on Small Town Police with Shootings.

Pajamas Media highlites an AP story from China Maybe they will be able to live up to our expectations.
It looks like Red Communist China is living up to her reputatation of repression. Authorities shot into a crowd protesting the goverments takeover of land for a windpower project.
During the demonstration Tuesday in Dongzhou, a village in southern Guangdong province, thousands of people gathered to protest the amount of money offered by the government as compensation for land to be used to construct a wind power plant.

Police started firing into the crowd and killed several people, mostly men, villagers reached by telephone said Friday. The death toll ranged from two to 10, they said, and many remained missing.

Firing into crowds to quell civil unrest in Tiananmen Square seemed to have resulted in getting trading conciderations from the US. Perhaps the Chinese are looking for more than a "Most Favorable Trade partner" status from the US.

Some might suspect that this is an isolated incident, but it sounds like the ChiComs aren't through yet.
All the villagers reached by The Associated Press said they were nervous and scared, and most did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. One man said the situation was still "tumultuous."

A 14-year-old girl said a local official visited the village Friday and called the shootings "a misunderstanding."

"He said he hoped it wouldn't become a big issue," the girl said by telephone. "This is not a misunderstanding. I am afraid. I haven't been to school in days."

She added: "Come save us."

Another villager said there were at least 10 deaths.

"The riot police are gathered outside our village. We've been surrounded," she said, sobbing. "Most of the police are armed. We dare not go out of our home."

"We are not allowed to buy food outside the village. They asked the nearby villagers not to sell us goods," the woman said. "The government did not give us proper compensation for using our land to build the development zone and plants. Now they come and shoot us. I don't know what to say."

One woman said an additional 20 people were wounded.

"They gathered because their land was taken away and they were not given compensation," she said. "The police thought they wanted to make trouble and started shooting."

She said there were several hundred police with guns in the roads outside the village Friday. "I'm afraid of dying. People have already died."

They still have the town surrounded and isolated. Perhaps to starve them out?

Update: 16:52
It looks like this might be even bigger than first reported, 70 Dead and the town is surrounded by tanks.

Home Again

It sure is good to be home again. Although we did have a great time in Las Vegas. Coco Greeted us us with hisses and grouchey type meows to tell us her displeasure at our abandoning her. Once that was out of the way we gave her few treats, she has been super clingy since. Its amazing how she can express her anger but her affection within the same moment.

Vegas is a pretty kewl place it was my 3rd time there, and its been 2 years since I've been there. Forget about bringing rolls of quarters. Most machines in Vegas aren't intrested in your quarters. You feed them paper money and paper vouchers. You might find an odd coin fed machine off the strip, but they are quickly becomming an endangered species.

There is a pretty dramatic change in slot machines in Vegas, more of the multidenominational video type slots and fewer of the dollar and 50 cent slots. The penny games are fun but its a little decieving calling them penney slots. These things can cost up to 4 dollars a pull. Many of the games have sidegame bonuses and that is what can make them so fun.

The best gambling deals in Vegas are some of the new signups in the player clubs. Got 40 dollars worth play for 25 at Westin Cassauone place. Equality and I gambled for 3 hours on our $50 dolollar buyin and left with about $100. Wynn's gave us a couple of Buffets real quick on their players card.

We stayed at Mandalay Bay, a beautiful place. Wish the weather was a little warmer, because the grounds were beautiful. One of the nice things about staying and playing at the Mandalay Bay is that the Comps are for some pretty nice things. Reasonable places to eat is Raffles Cafe and of course the Buffet. The Cafe is jewel of a place where one can find a quiet place to eat with a view, the food is pretty good, and the prices are reasonable, The buffet is very good, and included champagne at the $22.95 a head price. Finding good food away from Mandalay Bay wasn't a problem either.

I had a great time and am now recharged till my next trip.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Starbucks new Trademark battle

Starbucks the giant isn't afraid to take on the little guy in its zealous defence of its trade mark. They won a case against Sambucks.

ASTORIA, Ore., Dec. 7, 2005 (AP Online delivered by Newstex) -- A judge has told Sam Buck that she can't call her coffee shop Sambuck's. The judge ruled the name violated the trademark of coffee giant Starbucks. (NASDAQ:SBUX)

But there is a silver lining for the small business owner. Buck won't have to pay Starbucks' legal fees, even though it could under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty.

A Starbucks representative said the company never planned to ask Buck to cover its legal costs.

"It's not about David and Goliath," said May Kulthol, manager of media relations for Starbucks Coffee. "We try to deal with these types of situations amicably and to come to a good conclusion for both parties. The defendant is not required to pay legal fees nor did we seek damages from her."

It might not be over yet though, The court wouldn't buy into the fact that Sam Buck,didn't give up her maiden name when she got married.

Her attorney said the grounds for appeal are strong in several areas. Although the court ruled Buck was a competitor to Starbucks, and that she watered down the company's trademark, Oregon's anti-dilution law "normally doesn't apply between competing companies," Kurt Rylander said.

But the main question, one that "underpins the entire case," involves Buck's name, according to Rylander.

"Sambuck's" was an amalgamation of the business owner's maiden name, Samantha Buck, and she contends "Sam Buck" is how she's known to most people in Astoria.

But Starbucks' lawsuit was filed against Samantha Lundberg, her married name.

The court ruled that Buck abandoned her maiden name by getting married, but Rylander disagrees.

"Women don't abandon their maiden names," he said. "They can still use them when they get married."

He presented two witnesses who testified that Sam Buck is known to community members as just that, but their accounts
were ignored in the court's opinion, he said, providing possible grounds for an appeal.

This looks to me lke the decision is based on shakey grounds.

Fertitta Looking to Expand Gambling in Biloxi

Those of us in Galveston understand that Tillman Fertitta is chomping at the bit to get gambling into Texas, his largest stakes in Texas Galveston and the Kemah Board walk. Its been just a couple of months since Landry's bought up the Golden Nugget here in Vegas (I am still here) and it looks like he is attempting to take part in rebuilding the Biloxi Gambling industry.

A Houston, Texas, restaurant chain that's expressed interest in building a Biloxi casino development complete with a Ferris wheel, thrill rides, dancing fountains and an aquarium restaurant has an agreement with the property owners that expires later this month.

"Landry's Restaurants has until Dec. 23 when its agreement with Gulf Star Inc. expires, but it could get an extension," said George Sekul of Biloxi, who put together Gulf Star Inc.'s 25 pieces of private property that connect with the Biloxi-owned Point Cadet where Landry's wants to build a casino.

Landry's, which owns Golden Nugget casinos in Nevada, still is negotiating with the city of Biloxi for a lease on the waterfront part of the property, said Vincent Creel, spokesman for the city of Biloxi.

Isle of Capri has first right of refusal on the property, which is on the north side of U.S. 90 and was used as a farmers' market, parking lot and seafood museum before Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29. Isle of Capri is on the south side of the highway.

Tilman will be in prime position to move very quickly in Texas when and if the lege allows gambling in Texas.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Packin' Up

We are packing up and heading off to Las Vegas. We've run into a little problem though. Coco wants to go, and is camped on top of our suitcases., and she ain't moving. Apparently she didn't find the big evacuation was all that bad.

Blogging here has been light the last couple of weeks, I've been working on this. Time I spend on the computer learning and studying is time I don't get to blog. Hopefully I will find hotspots in Vegas and will be able to post occassionally untill I get back next week to resume a more normal schedule. Hopefully Coco wil lfogive us for abandoning her for a few days.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

New Firefox Out.

The new Firefox is out. I've been using Firefox for about 6 months almost exclusively. I like the Tabbing (Menu|File|Tab) Too soon to tell much about the new version. It "seems" a little snappier and now I can attach my Google toolbar. Hey its free only about 5 Megs in size, give it a try.

Bin Laden Dead?

Harry Reid mention at a local radio show that he heard that Osam Bin Laden is dead. John Fund is concerned about Reid leaking this.

Is Senator Harry Reid all that swift when it comes to U.S. Intelligence matters? Last Wednesday, the Minority Leader appeared on KRNV-TV's "Nevada Newsmakers" program and dropped a stunning revelation. He had been informed just that day that Osama bin Laden was killed in the giant Pakistan earthquake last month. "I heard that Osama bin Laden died in the earthquake, and if that's the case, I certainly wouldn't wish anyone harm, but if that's the case, that's good for the world."

Intelligence analysts tell me that the only proper action by a top U.S. Senate leader who has been given such information is radio silence. If the report is true, such information is best released at a moment of the U.S. government's choosing. For one thing, as long as the information is tightly held, it can be used to sift out electronic intercepts that might lead to other Al Qaeda leaders. On the other hand, if Mr. Reid's public speculation proves groundless, it only embarrasses the U.S. and contributes to enemy morale. Here's hoping Al Qaeda figures aren't soon appearing on Al Jazeera television chortling about the clueless Mr. Reid.

Well maybe its a little early, but I hope no one minds if I toast his soul burning in Hell with a hearty serving of Millstone. Still no word one Zarqawi perhaps he is listening to the melody of bin Laden screams. One can only hope.