Sunday, November 25, 2007


I did tell you . . .

The United Nations Committee Against Torture said this past Friday that use of taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Well, duh.

Who'd a thunk it?

Confronting an enormous fund-raising gap with Democrats, Republican Party officials are aggressively recruiting wealthy candidates who can spend large sums of their own money to finance their Congressional races. My, my.

Ignore those facts behind the curtain.

Mitt Romney appoints a judge. Some years later, the judge releases on "own recognizance" a prisoner who has served his full sentence but is now accused of assaulting two prison guards. The man crosses the country and commits a double murder. Romney now descends on his appointee like an eagle on a rabbit, demanding that she resign and deciding--manifestly either in ignorance of or despite the facts--that her acts "showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment in a hearing that decided to put someone on the street who had not only in the past been convicted of manslaughter, but had threatened the lives of other individuals and was a flight risk." Romney's campaign was quick to point out that the subject, Daniel Tavares, had, while imprisoned in Massachusetts, threatened to kill Romney and other state officials in a letter (to whom?) intercepted by prison officials.

Ahem. Mitt, my man: the hearing transcript shows that prosecutors did not mention Tavares's alleged threats against Romney and others, and did not ask for a hearing on whether he would be dangerous if released. Instead, they cited his history of violence and asked that, if released (meaning they contemplated the likelihood of release), he be monitored with a GPS device. The judge declined to impose a monitoring system, saying she was presented with no evidence that he was a flight risk, and ordered Tavares freed on condition that he call probation officers regularly.

In other words, the prosecutors screwed up (and royally), not the judge. But who does the tough-on-crime crowd dislike? Judges or prosecutors? That's why they call them cheap shots. Case closed. Sorry, Mitt: come back when you develop either some wits or some conscience.

Friends no one needs

Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez spoke on the Democrats weekly radio show, gathering headlines by generally opposing the Bush administration's positions on Iraq. The headlines come not only because of his sheer rank, but because he was the commander of coalition forces in Iraq for a year, from June 2003 to June 2004.

Perhaps the headlines are enough, but I'd reckon it a chancy game. Sanchez's credibility is, ah, open to question, in that it was chiefly his butt that got kicked over the Abu Ghraib abuses, which might make the disinterested think of an axe wanting grinding; a fellow who calls the ACLU "a bunch of sensationalist liars" is not, to my mind, prime material for Democrats to trot out. Worse, perhaps far worse, is that throughout his term he was at daggers drawn with Paul Bremer, the civilian leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority, a situation considered by many one of the major failures of the first year of the Iraq War. Bremer was no crown jewel himself, but the fact is another flaw in Sanchez's credentials.

Mind, I am not saying Sanchez is wrong or insincere, or even that he was himself at fault for any of the bad things that happened during his term (nor am I saying he is not or was not). I am simply saying that I very much wonder if pushing him so hard isn't creating vulnerabilities for the Democrats down the line.

Is there any other way to fly?

While this post is being composed on my desktop OS/2-based system (well, really eComStation), I do love my new laptop and especially the Ubuntu Linux I am running it with.

While not everyone necessarily has the same experiences--something that depends on your exact hardware configuration--on a new T61 Thinkpad (according to my research, the best general-use laptop currently available) it was flawless, fast, and simple. It would have been even faster and simpler had I not chosen to set up my own custom disk partitioning; one can go with just the defaults and do pretty well, but I'm a persnickety fussbudget about customization and optimization. (Partitioning no longer seems to get the attention it deserves in "easy" desktop systems.)

I get daily notifications, via a little screen widget, whenever any software whatever that I have installed has updates available; and installing (or removing) anything, update or new package, is child's play and almost completely automated (about all one does is select the new package wanted). There are apps available to do just about anything, from the routine stuff to desktop publishing or three-D modelling.

And not only does it all really Just Work, but it's all open-source, meaning thousands or millions of knowledgeable nit-pickers are forever improving everything right out in the open, where the code can be seen by all. Oh, and it's all 100% free. Rather different from a certain other Operating $ystem.

OK, right, nothing's perfect, there are always small issues, and anyone who says any OS is without flaws or shortcomings is an idiot or a liar; but the nits are few and don't bite much, and the system is overall stable as a rock. I've always thought, and still think, that OS/2 was and in most ways still is the best desktop OS ever, but even with eCs's best efforts, it is just falling too far behind in terms of hardware-related things like device drivers, and in updates of proprietary software like Flash. Flash may be, as many think, An Invention of the Devil, but so many sites not only rely on it, but provide no alternative pages for those who eschew Flash, that de facto one has to have it.

I use my desktop now only because: a) even though the Thinkpad keyboard is about the best laptop sort there is, it still isn't a "real" keyboard; and b) I have an awful lot of legacy self-written scripts in Rexx, a wonderful scripting language. Rexx is available in other OS's, including Linux flavors, but they lack the many powerful third-party add-ons that OS/2 Rexx has available. But the future is clear.

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