politics

Iraq, incompetence and malice

The real news out of Dr. David Kay's report on the investigation into weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq is being brushed under the carpet by most politicians and pundits because it doesn't suit their arguments. That news: that scientists were running a con on Saddam to get money from him for programs they had no intention of taking to completion.

Kay says the evidence suggests the following scenario: Saddam had basically eliminated any power those underneath him had to vett new programs, and was personally handing out the money to scientists that came to him with cockamamie schemes. They took the money (in Iraq's crumbling economy) and ran with it. While documents and official notices, on the surface, indicated massive biological, chemical and nuclear weapons development programs, none of them was actually doing anything.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to detect the fraud, just as Saddam did. They placed the most dire meaning on any evidence they found. Bush, looking for an excuse to go to war, found it in the evidence he was handed, and like Saddam took the information at face value.

But, in fact, there was no threat. The Saddam government was falling apart at the seams because of internal corruption and the growing delusions of Saddam. He was a nut with what he thought was a gun, but was in fact a bar of soap. There's room for blame all around on this one.

So now, can we finish up with the finger-pointing and figure out how to get out of this mess?

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Administrivia

Easy Upgrade : the ultimate oxymoron

Last night, I attempted the long-delayed upgrade of the operating
system on my trusty Apple G4 Cube (well, perhaps “trusty” is a bit
of an exaggeration) from Mac OS X 10.2 (“Jaguar”) to 10.3
(“Panther”). And it seemed to go well, too.
Until it didn't, that is. After an uneventful installation, I
rebooted and awaited my familiar desktop. And it came up–and then
went away. And then came up. And went away.
For those of you conversant with Mac-ese, the Finder was crashing on
load, and restarting itself over and over (and over). While I could
get to anything that was on the happy bouncy Toolbar, I was pretty
much hosed as far as getting to any of my files.
I dialed up Apple Customer Care. While on hold, I went into the
system preferences panel and set up a new user, to see if this was
just
a problem with my default account or if it was global. Mac OS X,

for those of you not following along in the technology trade rags, is

a multiuser operating system based on the BSD flavor of Unix. All this

nice and fuzzy stuff that most Apple users are content to play with on

a daily basis is just a silk dress on an Abrhams main battle tank. As

a grepper from way back, I was prepared to muck around from the
command line if I had to.
By the time I got to the head of the queue and actually got to speak
with a live support person, I had already established that, yes, it
was just a problem with my primary account. Apparently, something in
my preferences had bolloxed up Finder, and everything behaved fine
from another account. I turned the new account into an administrative

account, and was ready to go reset some bits.
But apparently, that isn't where the tech support guy wanted me to
go. He wanted me to reboot from the installation CD. And the Cube
didn't want to do that. After about a half-hour of attempting to boot

from CD, the support guy said, “Did you put any additional RAM into
this system?”
Yes, I had. “Well, we need to pull it out,” he said. “The RAM is

conflicting with the CD boot.”
It was around this point that he suggested that he could solve my
problem with a brand new G5. I graciously declined.
As we grew closer to the precipice of popping the Cube open, I started

to think we were going very far afield from what was a relatively
simple software configuration problem. Fortunately, my wife was at my

shoulder making noises about dinner–she was going out, and I needed
to feed the kids–so I had an excuse to bail on the scripted
sado-masochism session I suddenly found myself in and get an incident

number so that I could return, if I so wished, for more pain at a
later date.

A few hours later, (kids, don't try this at home) I went back, booted

from disk into my new account, and using the awsome powers of root
access, chown and chmod, regained access to my old files

and moved them into my new account. Then I deleted the old account.
After running chown -R * on a few directories, all of my problems were

history.

Needless to say, I have not called Apple back. Maybe someone should
introduce the Customer Care folks to “Unix for Dummies” or
something. [the dot-communist]

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House of Snow and Blog

It's day 2 of the hostage crisis here at Casa De Chaos; school's
been called off again today, and yesterday's snowflakes have been
replaced by a fine mist that freezes on contact thanks to a bit of
temperature inversion.
So the kids are trapped inside today, and
it looks like there will be snow on top of this tonight and tomorrow
morning; new meaning is being provided for the phrase, “when Hell
freezes over.”

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Globes apart. My wife is sitting in the living room watching the Golden Globes;
I've retired to my office to watch NASA-TV on my computer (I can tell
who's won the Globes in near-real time by watching my RSS feeds).
Opportunity just responded to the first command set correctly; somehow
I find more drama in that than in Michael Douglas' lifetime
achievement award presentation.
Listening to the uber-geeks at JPL as they wait 8 minutes for each
response back from Opportunity, and speculate about the cause of every
delay in response (“Maybe the HNA is taking precendence over the
AVR….or not.”), fluctuation in voltage, and recorded faults is
oddly entertaining and…comforting. I am awash in the soft
whisperings of speeds, temps, and feeds, and the dull hum of circuit
noise,
Now they're sending a command to clear Opportunity's memory of
yesterday's pictures. Meanwhile, Paula is ignoring Danny DeVito's
testimonial speech. I wish we could send a command to delete some of
his pictures.

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Ballerina princess goes to the office

As I was clearing out my office of debris, I came across my old NEC
MobilePro, a Windows CE “handheld” sublaptop. It still works, sort
of; the backup battery is deceased, however, so it won't keep any
settings when it's turned off.

But it is the perfect size for my 3 year old daughter to use for
pretend play. Since everyone else in the house practically has a
computer, it only seemed fair to give her one.

This morning, as I checked my e-mail from a desk in New York (I'm
here for LinuxWorld), I found this picture from my loving wife:

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Rocket Kids

kids_and_shuttle.jpg
I took Kevin, Jonah and Zo? to visit the National Air and Space Museum’s new Steven F. Udar-Hazy Center, a giant hangar complex near Dulles International Airport in Virginia, just before Christmas. It was worth the trip.

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