Friday, December 30, 2011

Egypt: NGO Raids, Police, and Office Equipment

I'm still cautiously optimistic about "Arab spring."

What we've seen so far is more about upsetting the apple cart, than building new and better governments. Durable autocracies in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, are gone. Syria's boss got dropped from the Arab League. Bahrain's king may be learning that killing his subjects isn't a good idea.

That's cautiously optimistic.

Years, Decades, Generations

There's a chance that at least some of the countries where folks ousted an autocrat will have trouble for years. Maybe decades. Some may even elect a home-grown equivalent of Iran's ayatollahs.

But I think that enough folks in places like Egypt and Libya have gotten a taste of freedom: and liked it. They've also learned how to use the Internet and other Information Age technologies and social structures: and are catching up on what's happened in the last few thousand years. Particularly since the 18th century.

In the long run, generations from now, I think there's a good chance that folks in the Middle East will develop governments that serve the citizens: not just the local gentry.

Meanwhile, it's rough going.

'Because We Can?'

Egypt's old-school autocrat, Mubarak, is out. Right now, Egypt has a military government. That, by itself, isn't bad news: not in my opinion, anyway.

Raids on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): that's bad news.1

At least two of the NGOs have been observing Egypt's elections. They "...may have received illegal foreign funding and have been operating without licenses from the Foreign Ministry and local ministries...." (CNN) 'Obviously' they're foreign spies?!

Actually, it's anyone's guess why Egyptian police took stuff from these outfits.

Maybe it's just because they have the power to do so: and like to flex their muscles. Or maybe not.

'Commies,' 'Hate Speech,' and Stolen Office Equipment

An op-ed in the United Kingdom2 said that it's probably because Egypt's current bosses don't like it when folks act on their own volition. He may be right about that.

I remember the 'good old days,' when 'regular Americans' had conniptions when commies and pinkos disagreed with them. More recently, defenders of 'tolerance' have labeled opposing views as "hate speech." Tomayto, tomahto.

A partial list of what got stolen confiscated may suggest another motive:
"...Police took laptops, desktops, video conferencing equipment, cell phones and other electronics, Hughes said. They also took between 15 and 20 boxes of documents...."
Here in America, that's several thousand dollars' worth of merchandise. I don't have too much trouble imaging that an enterprising, and ethically-challenged, enforcer might decide to supplement his income with a little informal taxation.

However, I think the UK op-ed author has a very plausible explanation. I think I can understand why Egypt's current bosses want to control what others say, and how they say it. But that doesn't mean I think it's a good idea.

Related posts:

1 News and views:
"NGOs puzzled by Egyptian raids"
CNN (December 30, 2011)

"A day after Egyptian police raided the offices of 10 nongovernmental organizations across the country, the groups remained in the dark about what the authorities were looking for.

" 'We asked them if there was something specific we could help them find,' Julie Hughes, Egypt country director for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), told CNN Friday. 'They refused to answer.'

"Two other U.S.-based agencies, Freedom House and the International Republican Institute (IRI), were also raided.

"Police took laptops, desktops, video conferencing equipment, cell phones and other electronics, Hughes said. They also took between 15 and 20 boxes of documents.

"The actions were part of an investigation into allegations that groups may have received illegal foreign funding and have been operating without licenses from the Foreign Ministry and local ministries, according to Adel Saeed, spokesman for the general prosecutor's office...."

"Egypt rights groups blast raids on NGO offices"
AP, via CBS News (December 30, 2011)

"Several Egyptian rights groups on Friday accused the country's ruling military council of using 'repressive tools' of the deposed regime in waging an 'unprecedented campaign' against pro-democracy organizations.

"The groups' joint statement came just hours after security forces stormed offices of 10 rights organizations, including several based in the United States. The Interior Ministry said the raids were part of the investigation into foreign funding of rights groups.

"The military, which took over control after a popular uprising toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February, has often accused the groups of promoting protests with the help of funds from abroad...."
2 Op-ed about Egypt's police raids:
"Egypt's raids on NGOs are about control"
Brian Whitaker, (December 30, 2011)
"Restricting NGO funding is typical of authoritarian regimes happy to take foreign aid but less happy about human rights

"Imagine you live in Saudi Arabia and want to start a discussion group with some friends. The only way to do it legally is to ask the king's permission.

"Musa al-Qarni dutifully wrote a letter to the king but never got a reply – so he went ahead anyway. A few months later, Qarni was arrested and carted off to jail after secret police commandos stormed the villa in Jeddah where he and several men 'widely known for their advocacy on issues of social and political reform' were meeting.

"In most Arab states any sort of civil society organisation, even something as innocent as a youth group or stamp-collecting club, has to be registered with the authorities, and if the authorities don't like the sound of it they may refuse or simply ignore the request, leaving the applicants in a legal limbo.

"In Bahrain and Oman they can refuse permission on the grounds that the organisation is unnecessary or, in Oman's case, 'for any other reasons' decided upon by the ministry of social affairs. In Qatar, if a society wants to admit non-Qatari members it must ask the prime minister first...."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Grave Trouble: 64,000 Arlington Dead 'Dishonored' - 64,000!

Arlington National Cemetery is in the news again. It's basically the same record-keeping SNAFU that surfaced before, with more detail. Executives got fired in June of last year, when more than 200 graves were lost. I gather that they weren't literally gone from the cemetery: just that records for them were scrambled.

That's not acceptable.

On the other hand, I'm not all that surprised that something went wrong. I'd better explain that statement.

One and a Half Centuries, More Than a Quarter of a Million Burials

Arlington National Cemetery has been around for about 147 years. Or 148, counting from 1863: when the Union confiscated land owned by General Robert E. Lee. There's a brief history of the cemetery online. Quite a few, actually, including:
A few things have changed since the War Between the States and Reconstruction. Take data storage and information technology, for example. Folks maintained Arlington's records, using pens (quill, fountain, and ballpoint), Typewriters, and Database software.

Laws, customs, and practices involving record keeping changed, too. And most of the folks who ran Arlington in previous decades aren't around to answer questions. I'm not making excuses here: just noting that any sort of inventory control is subject to human error.

Then there's the size of the place:1
  • 147 years in operation
  • 259,978 gravesites
    • More than 300,000 burials
      • Some grave markers have two or more names
I've run into the "30 burials a day" fairly often in the news. That may be accurate, but at 300,000 burials over 147 years, I get an average of about five and a half burials a day over the cemetery's history.

Honoring the Dead, Getting a Grip

Like I said, botching the records of 64,000 folks buried in a cemetery is "not acceptable." I wouldn't like it if it were just 64 cases of sloppy record-keeping.

But that's what this seems to be about, sloppy record-keeping: not having burials that involved tossing the body in a potting shed. Compared to some private-sector cemetery horror stories that hit the news, the Arlington affair is comparatively mild.2

Even the 'unmarked graves' are more a matter of folks in the early 20th century not knowing what late 20th century customs would be:
"...One of the biggest surprises uncovered by the review was that in most of the early 20th century, the cemetery did not include the name of a wife on a headstone when she was buried next to her husband. Under current practices, the name of the spouse is etched onto the back of the headstone.

" [Arlington executive director Kathryn] Condon said the cemetery will correct that by adding the spouse's name to the gravesite. She said it is not only the right thing to do but is also required by law.

"Accounting for the forgotten spouses alone will require thousands of corrections, officials said. In some cases, replacement headstones will be made. In cases where the headstones are considered historic, footstones will be added...."
(Associated Press, via
But still - 64,000 is a big number. And I could, by cherry-picking factoids from the news, post something like 'oh, the horror! the horror! SIXTY FOUR THOUSAND BLANK HEADSTONES!!!'

If I shoveled in enough unsupported opinions about the vile wickedness of the American military, I might even be considered 'intelligent' in the 'right' circles.

That's not gonna happen.

It's not that I think U. S. Army brass are supernal beings who routinely take a morning stroll on the Tidal Basin. Stuff happens. Sometimes it's losing track of cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. In this case, it's a botched job of record keeping at a cemetery.

Mistakes happen - and sometimes the 'mistakes' were intentional. Either way, I think it's important to clean up the mess; deal sensibly with whoever was responsible; and take steps to keep the problem from happening again. As far as I can tell, the American military has a pretty good track record for learning from mistakes.

Goodbye Quill Pens, Hello Information Age

I think that, sooner or later, the American Congress will get around to putting the legislative process in an online, searchable, accessible, form. And that's another topic. Meanwhile, it looks like the folks running Arlington have acknowledged the Information Age:"...The most significant part of the review, Condon said, is that the cemetery for the first time has a single, reliable database that will allow officials to fix past mistakes and plan for the future.

"The cemetery is currently testing an interactive, web-based version of its database that will allow visitors to click on a digital map to see gravesites and learn who is buried there, ensuring the cemetery's records are open and accessible going forward.

" 'We'll have 300 million American fact-checkers,' [Gravesite Accountability Task Force co-chair John] Schrader said."

More-or-less-related posts:
In the news:

1 From a description of how the Arlington Cemetery burial records issue is being handled:
"...The process began with a hand count, using simple mechanical clickers, of every gravesite -- 259,978 to be exact. (More than 300,000 people are buried at Arlington, but some grave markers have two or more names.) Then, during the summer, members of the Army's ceremonial Old Guard unit used iPhones to photograph the front and back of every headstone, so the information could be compared against internal records....

"...John Schrader, co-chair of the Gravesite Accountability Task Force, said recordkeeping methods varied widely over the cemetery's 147-year history, from handwritten logs to index cards, to typewritten forms and two different computer databases. That sometimes compounded problems, as transcription errors were common. To avoid those problems, all of the old records have been scanned and digitized, rather than transcribed, to avoid introducing further errors, he said...."
(Associated Press, via
2 Deeds, dastardly and dumb, involving cemeteries:3 Crazy people don't always write like crazy people. I posted a micro-review of some tongue-in-cheek advice in another blog:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not-So-Good News from Iraq: Arrest Warrant; Debatable Confessions, and Politics

American troops are moving out of Iraq. Which may or may not be something that the current administration will want folks to remember next November.

I'd be a whole lot more happy to see Iraq's new lot of leaders pass another milestone, if it weren't for something I read in today's news.

By the way, I've noticed a change in news coverage over the last several years. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but reporters and editors seem to have finally realized that The Masses aren't quite the gullible ignoramuses - - - and I'll get back to that.

On a more immediate and serious note, Iraq's politics are in the news again:
"Arrest warrant issued for Iraqi vice president"
Joamana Karadsheh, CNN (December 19, 2011)

"An Iraqi investigative committee issued an arrest warrant Monday for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of orchestrating bombing attacks.

"The committee of five judges issued the warrant under Article 4 of the country's anti-terrorism law.

"The Interior Ministry, at a news conference, showed what it called confession videos from people identified as security guards for al-Hashimi, the country's Sunni vice president. In the videos, the men described various occasions in which they purportedly carried out attacks under direct orders from al-Hashimi...."

Bombs, Videos, and News

Iraq's Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi may be guilty of ordering terrorist attacks on people in his own country. Or not.

I really don't know.

What I'm fairly certain about is:
  • Bombs went off in Iraq
    • And people died
  • Someone made videos, purportedly
    • Featuring men who
      • Worked for the Vice President
      • Confessed to serious crimes
      • Said the Vice President was the mastermind
The videos are real enough. CNN says they've been shown at a news conference, and I'm inclined to believe that assertion.

Bombings in Iraq have been in the news. People have reportedly died. Again, I'm inclined to believe the assertions.

Confessions, Coercion, and Removing the Opposition

As for whether the new videos are an example of convincing acting, coerced confessions, or something else? Back to that CNN article:
"...One man said he carried out assassination attempts using roadside bombs and guns with silencers. He said some orders came from the vice president and some came through the director of his office. The man also alleged that he and others were told that if they didn't carry out the attacks, their families would be killed.

"CNN could not immediately confirm that the men in the videos were bodyguards for al-Hashimi...."
Hats off to CNN: like quite a few other mainstream news outlets, they're apparently learning that
  • Being told something is true doesn't mean that it really happened
  • It's a good idea to let readers know what is
    • An unsubstantiated claim
    • An assertion that someone verified
Like I said before, I don't know whether the Iraqi Vice President is guilty or not. I do think these confessions popped up at a very convenient time for folks who plausibly might want Tariq al-Hashimi out of the way. If al-Hashimi is captured by his political enemies, I hope that he doesn't 'commit suicide.' Or simply disappear.

Iraq, Politics, and All That

I'll say this for the last few American elections: nobody's tried to finger a major candidate for personally ordering a hit. In a way, that's a tribute to the moral fiber of America's political community.

There's another election coming up, and I hope that American politicos continue to limit themselves to weirdly emotional appeals; mudslinging, ballot box stuffing, and crackpot legal shenanigans when they lose, anyway.

On the whole, I'd rather live in America than anywhere else in the world: but perfect this country isn't.

Getting back to Iraq, CNN, and what could be a really messy situation:
"...Three of the vice president's security guards were detained earlier this month.

"Over the past few days, [Iraqi Vice President] al-Hashimi's office told CNN it feared that his three guards would be forced to make false confessions.

"Confession videos in Iraq have been controversial. Human rights groups have reported previously on allegedly forced confessions...."
If al-Hashimi has been arranging premature deaths for personal gain, what his office said might be an effort to reduce damage from anticipated confessions.

Or, al-Hashimi's staff may have been genuinely - and legitimately - concerned for the welfare of the guards.

Confession? Yeah: Me an' the Boys'll Get a Confession For Ya

"...Ali al-Mussawi, media adviser to Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said over the weekend that confessions would link the Sunni vice president to bombings...."
Maybe the Iraqi Prime Minister's media chap simply had confidence that Iraq's judicial officials would guide those guards down the path of wisdom. And that, filled with enlightenment, they would willingly acknowledge their past deeds.

Or maybe the Prime Minister's media office figured that, one way or another, there would be video of a confession to show at the news conference.

Again: I really don't know what's behind that arrest warrant. But I think it's a too convenient for his political enemies than I find comfortable. Back to CNN:
"...The arrest warrant Monday came amid a political crisis and growing sectarian tensions in Baghdad that erupted just as the last U.S. soldiers exited Iraq over the weekend.

"Iraqiya, a powerful political bloc that draws support largely from Sunni and more secular Iraqis, said it was boycotting Parliament, a move that threatens to shatter Iraq's fragile power-sharing government.

"The move pits the largely Sunni and secular coalition against the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"Iraqiya contends al-Maliki is trying to amass dictatorial power, and many believe al-Maliki was simply waiting for the Americans to leave before making his move...."
I don't envy folks who are honestly working to sort out the mess left by Saddam Hussein's decades in power. They've got hotheads to deal with coming in from several directions: Sunnis, Shiites. And, up north, Kurds:
"...Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said Monday, 'I hope there wasn't a political influence in this arrest warrant, but in Iraq there has been always a political influence.'

" 'This is very upsetting and confusing,' Othman said, adding that if the accusations are true, then al-Hashimi 'should be brought to justice.'..."
I've been over this sort of thing before:

'The Masses,' Assumptions, and Getting a Grip

Here's where I get back to reporters, editors, and assumptions about 'gullible ignoramuses.' Briefly, I think that North America's coastal cultures have cherished beliefs that just aren't true:
"Six Ignorant Stereotypes About Middle America"
Paul Jankowski, Entrepreneurs, Forbes (October 5, 2011)

"What do you think of when you hear 'Heartland', 'the South' or 'Middle America'? If you're like a lot of people I know on the coasts, the first things that come to mind are usually not positive.

"This is a real quote from a marketing exec in New York City: 'I think the Heartland is a nice place to raise children. People are nice, but they're dumb, overweight, and gullible. They wear tacky clothing and jewelry. They're racist, unworldly, and dumb.'

"If you agree with the quote above, you need to get out a little more. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but if you’re trying to build a brand and engage consumers at a deep level, oversimplifications will hurt your cause. Stereotypes, taken to cynical extremes, are big-time brand killers...."
(Originally quoted in footnote 1, "My Take on the News: Jingle Bells, Jangled Nerves, and Good Advice," A Catholic Citizen in America (December 16, 2011))
I live in a state that's north of the 'flyover states,' have a counter-cultural view of folks living outside major metropolitan areas, and I've been over that before, too:
Other related posts:

Kim Jong Il is Dead: North Korea's Ruling Dynasty's Third Generation

Sooner or later, this was bound to happen:
"N Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies"
BBC News Asia (December 19, 2011)

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died at the age of 69, state-run television has announced.

"Mr Kim, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.

"He suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.

"His designated successor is his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s...."
I wrote about North Korea's ruling dynasty about a year ago. (November 25, 2010) On paper, North Korea is an up-to-date nation, with a Chairman: not a king or emperor. Considering the way that territory is run, and how ownership is passed along in the Kim family: I think it's a bit more accurate to think of the place as an old-fashioned domain, ruled by a family of fairly colorful warlords.

I also think that most folks in North Korea will probably be much better off, after the Kim family and their enforcers get replaced. Provided that whoever gets the job of cleaning up the mess is modestly competent: and more interested in public service, than imported lobster and ideology.

That's about as close to a rant about the Kim dynasty as I'll allow myself today. I explained why I don't 'dance on the grave' of dead autocrats, in another blog:

North Korea: So Far, So Good

"North Korea's state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.

" 'All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,' the news agency said...."
In a way, KCNA's official take on Kim Jong Il's death is quite good news. Whoever's calling the shots at the moment doesn't seem to want the 'unified front' to blame the late Kim's death on Yankee imperialism. It's early days, of course. For all I know, someone will get the idea of blaming Kim Jong Il's death on that plot to set up a Christmas tree near the North Korean border.

Christmas tree? I am not making that up.

2,000,000 Dead in Famine; Human Rights Abuses; and Nukes

"...Mr Kim inherited the leadership of North Korea - which remains technically at war with South Korea - from his father Kim Il-sung.

"Shortly after he came to power, a severe famine caused by ill-judged economic reforms and poor harvests left an estimated two million people dead.

"His regime has been harshly criticised for human rights abuses and is internationally isolated because of its pursuit of nuclear weapons...."
Like I said, I think folks in North Korea - those who aren't close enough to the ruling family - could do a whole lot better, with someone else running the country.

They could do worse, too. Quite a few North Koreans didn't die in that famine, and it looks like the Kim family knows how to put on large-scale public entertainment.

And, not to be too pessimistic, someone who believes North Korea's official line on reality might take over - and decide to launch some of their nuclear warheads. That could be a very unpleasant situation.

Somewhat-related posts:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Arab League: Syria Suspended - My Take

Syria is in the news. What's different this time is what a televised set of Syrians is protesting:
"Regime backers rally after Arab League suspends Syria"
CNN (November 13, 2011)

"State media showed throngs of demonstrators rallying in support of Syria's president Sunday, a day after the Arab League's decision to suspend the country's membership...."
What's missing from the CNN article is any mention of the usual denunciation of Israel, accusations of America being to blame for the current embarrassment, or riots over a cartoon.

I find this change of pace refreshing, and guardedly hopeful.

I also think that Arab national leaders who kept up with events of the last few decades may be realizing that times are changing. Have changed.

From an old-school point of view, Syria's boss hasn't been doing anything all that unusual. For folks who noticed changes that started somewhere in the 18th century, not so much. Al-Assad's habit of killing subjects he doesn't like is a little extreme these days.

Back to that article:
"...The Arab League's decision Saturday dealt a stinging blow to Syria, and could open the door for broader international sanctions against the al-Assad regime.

"Why did Arab League move on Syria?

"Eighteen of the Arab League's 22 members voted to punish Syria in an emergency session at its headquarters.

"Only two member nations -- Lebanon and Yemen -- voted against the measure. Iraq abstained and Syria was barred from voting....

"...The punitive measures come after al-Assad's failure to abide by an Arab League proposal earlier this month to halt all violence, release detainees, withdraw armed elements from populated areas and allow unfettered access to the nation by journalists and Arab League monitors.

"But none of that has happened, according to daily reports streaming out of Syria...."
There's more:
  • Syrians who aren't thrilled with Assad as boss man say that some of the eager demonstrators were forced to act loyal
  • Assad's enforcers have killed about 3,500 people so far
    • That we know of
  • CNN acknowledges that they can't support Assad's claims
    • He won't let their reporters ask questions
That's pretty much business-as-usual in that part of the world. A news service saying that they can't confirm some boss man's story is a fairly new wrinkle: one that seems to have emerged around the time that folks started getting news from more than The New York Times and its tributaries, and broadcast networks.

But, as I said: The Arab League suspending Syria's membership is an unusual act. I hope it's more than just a publicity stunt.

Related posts:
In the news:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Freedom, Even For 'Those People Over There'

I've posted about Veterans Day; AKA Armistice, National, Poppy, and Rembrance Day; before. Links to some of those posts are under "Veterans Day posts," below.

This post isn't about Veterans Day, or the folks who served in the military. It's more about why there's been a fairly steady stream of folks willing to sacrifice for this country's welfare.

That other post is about two related threats to freedom of speech: which I think warrants doing links and excerpts here.

"My Take on the News: 'There Oughtta be a Law?' "
A Catholic Citizen in America (November 11, 2011)

"The threat of Islamic laws forbidding blasphemy, and hostility toward religion, have been in the news. I think both are really bad ideas...."

"...I've noticed that many folks act as if it's their duty, or right, to force others to act 'correctly.' I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured American academia when political correctness was in flower, and didn't particularly like what either philosophical fad did to personal freedoms...."
As the blog's name, "A Catholic Citizen in America," suggests, I'm a practicing Catholic. One reason I like living in America is that folks here are free to worship as they see fit, or not worship at all. That's a big plus for someone who's part of a religious minority.

Back to that other blog's post:

" 'Everybody Knows What Those People are Like' "

"On the whole, I'm glad that I've never been part of a self-identified group of self-righteous do-gooders who had the power to make others act the 'right' way. Not being part of 'the establishment' can be an advantage.1"

"If that doesn't sound like what 'one of those religious people' should say: I'm not surprised. I'll get back to that...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America)
After that bit, I discuss bias, and offer a Bias Made Easy checkoff list of qualities often ascribed to 'those people over there.'

Freedom of Religion, Not Freedom from Religion

Editorial views of The New York Times notwithstanding, people with religious beliefs are not necessarily ignorant weirdos.1 Which brings me back to religious freedom and that other blog:
"...I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to support freedom of religion. It's in the rules (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)"

"Freedom: For Everyone

"That freedom is not 'freedom to worship my way.' Even if I could, I wouldn't be allowed force someone to 'act Catholic'..."

"...Today's threat to freedom isn't just 'those terrorists over there.' I think Americans should be at least as concerned about folks in today's establishment who seem determined to protect us from religion.

"'For our own good,' of course...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America)
I am grateful to the generations of American veterans who fought and died so that we could remain a free nation. I sincerely hope that America's upper crust don't accomplish what enemies abroad have failed to do: end this country's long tradition of freedom.

Veterans Day posts:

1 The New York Times ran an editorial recently, that compared people who admit having religious beliefs to those who believe in flying saucers. I am not making this up:I can't know why the NYT editor made the assumptions he did, but I suspect that he may be like the expert who only reads his own books. Old-school American journalism's upper echelons are, I think, an increasingly isolated and insular little subculture. Which may explain why they they act the way they do:Finally, despite what Americans often see in the news, these colorful folks aren't typical Christians. In my view, they're not even representative of American Protestants:

(Reuters photo, via, used w/o permission)

(Oakland Blog, via SFGate, used w/o permission)

I've made the point, in another blog, that not all Christians are dolts:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Benazir Bhutto Assassination Trial: With Real, Live, Defendants

Pakistan's prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated on December 27, 2007, in Karachi. Karachi street lighting just happened to fail when the attack happened. The city's phone service just happened to be not working at the same time.

That's a lot of "just happeneds."

If the assassination had been in lower Manhattan, with a curiously coincidental power failure and communications systems failure, I might be more suspicious than I am. But Karachi isn't New York City, Pakistan isn't America, and not everybody has reliable power and telecommunications services.

I've been over this before:On the other hand, Pakistan's alleged national government has a long and dubious history of 'just happening' to foul up efforts to protect them from terrorists. Then there's the Mumbai connection - and that may not be another topic.

Bhutto's assassination, and Pakistan's national 'government,' are in the news again. Seven people have been charged with having a hand in Bhutto's assassination. Two of them are Pakistani police officers.

They may be guilty of having helped kill Benazir Bhutto. Or not. I really don't know.

I think it's interesting, and guardedly hopeful, that some of Pakistan's bosses are going to the trouble of having a trial. Particularly when it would be so easy for the 'guilty parties' to 'sign a full confession,' and then conveniently 'commit suicide.'

Maybe I'm being too cynical about this. On the other hand, Pakistan's so-called national leaders have not been acting in a way that encourages trust.

Excerpts from the news:
"The anti-terrorism court of Rawalpindi Saturday framed charges against seven accused including two police officers in the assassination case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

"The seven accused including two police officers pleaded 'not guilty' when the judge informed them about the charges of murder. The judge, however, went ahead with framing the charges and asked the prosecution to produce witnesses in the court from November 19 onward. During the in-camera trial held at Adyala Jail, ATC No 1 Judge Shahid Rafique framed charges against seven accused including former City Police Officer (CCPO) Syed Saud Aziz, SP Rawal Town Khurram Shehzad, Sher Zaman, Aitzaz Shah, Rafaqat Gul, Hussnain Gul and Abdul Rahseed.

"The ATC judge charged the two police officers with breach of security as they removed the security box of Benazir Bhutto, ordered the hosing down of crime scene and thus destroyed the proofs. Also they did not order post mortem of any innocent citizen killed in the blast. It has also been charged that they were involved in the Benazir Bhutto assassination plan.

"While the five others were accused of 'criminal conspiracy' for bringing the suicide bomber from the tribal belt in the northwest and keeping him in a house in Rawalpindi. The charges framed against them by the court include terrorism, murder, attempted murder and becoming part of the murder conspiracy.

"According to the investigation team probing the case, accused Hussnain Gul was the handler, who brought the suicide bomber from Waziristan and kept him in his house in Rawalpindi.

"Rafaqat Hussain and Abdul Rasheed were alleged that they knew about the conspiracy and concealed the same. Aitzaz Shah, the juvenile accused and suicide bomber, and his handler Sher Zaman were also accused of the same charges....

"...Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, currently living in self-imposed exile in Britain and Dubai, is also wanted in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case. The prosecutor said Benazir was killed in a bomb-and-gun attack because president Musharraf had not provided enough security to her....

"...Agencies add: The ATC court did not indict Musharraf in the case.
Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said the court would deal with Musharraf's issue later.
(The Nation)
"Seven men, including two senior police officers, were indicted Saturday for conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a defense attorney told CNN....

"...Malik Muhammad Rafique, a senior defense attorney for the officers, Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad, said there was "no evidence connecting the two men to criminal conspiracy to assassinate Bhutto.""
Related posts:In the news:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Libya's Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, or Gaddafi, is Dead: Now What?

The Colonel's name got spelled Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, or Gaddafi: depending on who decided how to transliterate his name into the Latin alphabet.1 However it's spelled, the bottom line this weekend is that he's dead.

'Richest Man in the Cemetery'

The Los Angeles Times says that the Colonel may have earned a place in history. Folks are still piecing together the late ruler's financial records, but it looks like his investments totaled around $200,000,000. That's around $30,000 for each Libyan who wasn't the Colonel.

It's not the sort of accomplishment I'd want to be remembered for: but it is fame of a sort. The odds are pretty good that Qadhafi, Qaddafi, Kadafi, Gaddafi, or whatever, will join that elite cadre of ripoff rulers which includes Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. Both of whom are dead.

Not that there's anything special about their being dead. That happens to all of us, given time. I'm more concerned about what happens after that. And that's another topic, for another blog.2

The Colonel's Death: Oops, There's a Video

Forensic evidence - and a video - doesn't match the official story about how the Colonel died. I'm not surprised: whoever made the official announcement may have been fed bogus information by whoever killed the Colonel. Still, it's not the best way to start a new government. I've put excerpts from recent news and views at the end of this post.3

I sincerely hope that whoever winds up running Libya next remembers that we're living in the Information Age: and that lies don't have anything close to the shelf life they did when I was growing up.

Speaking of shelf life: The Colonel's body was stored in a commercial freezer in a shopping center. Appropriate, in a way, considering the care with which the Colonel siphoned wealth out of Libya's citizenry and into his personal accounts.

The Colonel is Dead: Now What?

Folks in Syria who are fed up with the current regime say that their own autocrat is next on the list. They may be right.

As I've said before, this isn't the 20th century any more. Or the 18th, for that matter. I think we're looking at one of those big changes in world culture. Which is good news, since it looks like there's less room for rapacious rulers: and bad news, since old-school autocrats will probably kill quite a few folks before going down.

Related posts:
News and views:
1 Even when both writing systems use symbols to indicate sounds, like the Latin alphabet, transliteration from one alphabet to another can be tricky. American English, for example, uses either "k" or "ck" to indicate the same sound, but "c" can represent either the "k" sound, or the "s" sound - and "s" can represent the "sh" sound. I've mentioned issues involving spelling a few times:2 No rants about how someone I don't like will burn in Hell. I really don't need that kind of trouble. I've posted about life, death, and all that, in another blog:3 Excerpts from News and views:
"Libyan Official: Liberation to Be Declared Sunday"
Associated Press, via (October 22, 2011)

"Libya's new leaders will declare liberation on Sunday, officials said, a move that will start the clock for elections after months of bloodshed that culminated in the death of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

"But the victory has been clouded by questions over how Qaddafi was killed after images emerged showing he was found alive and taunted and beaten by his captors.

"The long-awaited declaration of liberation will come more than two months after revolutionary forces swept into Tripoli and seized control of most of the oil-rich North African nation. It was stalled by fierce resistance by Qaddafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and pockets in the South...."
"Syrians Rally, Saying Assad Is Next"
Nour Malas, The Wall Street Journal (October 22, 2011)

"Bolstered by scenes of jubilation in Libya, protesters in Syria and Yemen streamed out to rally against their longtime leaders Friday, warning their presidents to take a cue from Moammar Gadhafi's violent death.

"Official reactions were muted in the region. Arab media marked the death of Libya's 42-year autocrat as a remarkable victory for pro-democracy protesters in the Middle East.

"In an image from an amateur video from Idlib, Syria, ralliers' signs call Libyan events 'a victory for all Arabs.'

" 'He will be remembered in history as the chancellor of all tyrants,' an editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat said. Lebanese daily An-Nahar said the event 'takes the Arab Spring revolutions to a new turn, folding a painful page.' ..."
As Libya takes stock, Moammar Kadafi's hidden riches astound"
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times (October 21, 2011)

"New estimates of the former leader's assets — more than $200 billion — are called 'staggering.' If they prove true, he would rank among the world's most rapacious leaders.

"Moammar Kadafi secretly salted away more than $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed, about $30,000 for every Libyan citizen and double the amount that Western governments previously had suspected, according to senior Libyan officials.

"The new estimates of the deposed dictator's hidden cash, gold reserves and investments are 'staggering,' one person who has studied detailed records of the asset search said Friday. 'No one truly appreciated the scope of it.'

"If the values prove accurate, Kadafi will go down in history as one of the most rapacious as well as one of the most bizarre world leaders, on a scale with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines...."
"U.S. and U.N. Demand Details From Libyan Leaders on How Qaddafi Died"
Kareem Fahim, Rick Gladstone, The New York Times (October 21, 2011)

"International calls mounted Friday for Libya's interim leaders to provide a fuller accounting of the final moments before Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's violent, messy death, as new videos circulated that showed him and his son Muatassim alive, apparently while in the custody of the former rebels.

"The United Nations and two leading human rights groups called for a thorough investigation into precisely how Colonel Qaddafi, who was seen on the Internet in cellphone videos bleeding and heaving as he was manhandled by screaming fighters, wound up dead with what appeared to be bullet wounds to the head.

"One video in particular was receiving heightened scrutiny on Friday because it showed a conscious Colonel Qaddafi wiping blood off the left side of his face, revealing no bullet wound. Later videos of his corpse showed a bullet wound in the same spot, adding to skepticism about the interim government's official explanation that he was accidentally killed during a shootout with Qaddafi loyalists...."
"Colonel Gaddafi dead: Libyan tyrant's body stored in shopping centre freezer" (October 21, 2011)

"Colonel Gaddafi's blood-soaked body has been stashed in a shopping centre freezer, it emerged today.

"With his burial not scheduled for several days, the dead tyrant's corpse is being kept in a chiller used by restaurants to store perishable foods.

"The shopping centre is in the coastal city of Misrata, home of the fighters who killed the ousted leader a day earlier in his hometown of Sirte.

"Gaddafi's body, stripped to the waist and wearing beige trousers, is laid on a bloodied mattress on the floor of the room-sized freezer.

"A bullet hole is visible on the left side of his head and in the centre of his chest, and dried blood streaks his arms and head.

"Gaddafi final pleas to his captors emerged in new video today,[sic]

"He is heard to say: 'What you're doing is wrong, guys. What you're doing is wrong.

" 'Do you know what is right or wrong?'..."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Infected Killer Robots! Unstoppable Virus!! MILITARY DENIAL!!!!!!!!!? No, not exactly

I've already done two posts today,1 so this one will be (fairly) terse.

Very briefly, a computer virus has gotten into the network that controls Predator and Reaper drones. It's a persistent little keylogger: but may not be a serious threat.

Those are the facts, as reported by two relatively calm journalists.2

It wouldn't take much to take those facts, and produce tabloid-style headlines. I haven't run into these, by the way:


That heading is accurate, but misleading.

America's Predator and Reaper drones not "robots" in the sense of being fully autonomous; but they are 'robotic' in the colloquial sense of the word. Their pilots are human, but operate the aircraft by remote control. These aircraft sometimes carry weapons, and so - in a way - they're "killer robots."

They're also infected with a keylogger virus: the sort of malware that records commands given by the pilots.

This is not a good thing. No classified data seems to have been copied, and pilots have control of the drones. On the other hand, bad code got into military networks - again - and the next infection might be more than just a nuisance.


Anyone whose knowledge of information technology comes mostly from playing video games and watching movies like Colossus: the Forbin Project or the Terminator movies3 might get the impression that computers are dangerous superintelligences, bent on world conquest and the destruction of humanity. Those of us who actually use information technology should have a better understanding of its potential: and limitations.

Predator and Reaper drones got infected. Or, rather, the network they're part of got infected. Removing the keylogger seems to be easy. But they get infected again as soon as they're reconnected to the network.

This is not good news, but it could be worse. I think this annoying bit of malware gives the folks running America's military data networks valuable experience. Eventually they may figure out how to keep the networks secure - and that all of a network has to be secure. Not just the 'important' parts.


A none-too-serious television drama involved Area 51, with an imaginative twist. In the story, there really were alien spaceships and extraterrestrials in Area 51: and stories about alien spaceships and extraterrestrials in Area 51 were a cover story. Accounts of UFOS and all that were so wildly over-the-top, that nobody would take the idea seriously. Even if some of the 'real' facts were discovered.

That's fiction.

Sadly, there seem to be a fair number of folks who really believe that the American military is run entirely by intellectually-challenged, paranoid, control freaks: who have for decades brilliantly concealed The Truth from us, while stoutly refusing to believe that they've got any problems.

I think America's military is run by human beings, and I've been over that before.4

Out here in the real world, the 'military denial' seems to consist of
  • Not shrieking down the hall in a mad panic
  • Using existing procedures to remove infections as they appear
  • Monitoring the system
  • Studying the issue

Information Technology: Good News; Bad News

My checkered job history let me keep up with developments in information technology. I don't mind being able to store, review, search, analyze, and transmit data with a speed and accuracy you just don't get with manual typewriters. Or quill pens, for that matter.

I think today's online communities are, for the most part, a good thing. Folks can get together and learn about each other - even if they live on different continents. Yes, there's a downside: but we're talking about human beings here. 'Trouble' comes with the package.

The Predator and Reaper drone infection happened when data was transferred via external hard drives. That shouldn't have happened, but I think that sort of problem highlights one of America's remarkable strengths.

We don't lead the world in the development of drop-dead-cute robots: but we've got an information technology industry that often lets our military use off-the-shelf hardware and software. That, and an increasingly tech-savvy population, lets the American armed forces concentrate their research and development efforts on something besides basic computer design.

Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we didn't need soldiers, and if everybody would decide to be nice. And that's another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1 Today's previous posts:
2 Excerpts from the news:
"..."[The drones] are controlled by standard PCs," Ghosh told "None of this should be surprising." The system should be replaced or "re-imaged" with a virus-free, bit-for-bit copy of the data on the drive in order to get rid of the infection, he said.

" 'If they are connected to a larger network they will be infected again," he said.

"A senior Air Force source with knowledge of the drone program and familiar with the virus that was caught in recent weeks told that Wired's story is 'blown out of proportion' and 'vastly overwritten.'

" 'The planes were never in any jeopardy of "going stupid",' the source said, and the virus 'is not affecting operations in any way ... it showed up on a Microsoft-based Windows system. We have a closed-loop system and heavily protected cockpits -- the planes were never in jeopardy.'

"The virus was introduced when the Air Force was transferring data maps between systems using external hard drives, he said. Very quickly the Air Force protective network tracked the virus...."
(Perry Chiaramonte, (October 7, 2011)

"A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America's Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots' every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other warzones.

"The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech's computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the U.S. military's most important weapons system.

" 'We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,' says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. 'We think it's benign. But we just don't know.'

"Military network security specialists aren't sure whether the virus and its so-called 'keylogger' payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don't know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they're sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command....

"...The Air Force declined to comment directly on the virus. 'We generally do not discuss specific vulnerabilities, threats, or responses to our computer networks, since that helps people looking to exploit or attack our systems to refine their approach,' says Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Air Combat Command, which oversees the drones and all other Air Force tactical aircraft. 'We invest a lot in protecting and monitoring our systems to counter threats and ensure security, which includes a comprehensive response to viruses, worms, and other malware we discover.'

"However, insiders say that senior officers at Creech are being briefed daily on the virus...."
(Noah Shachtmanm, Danger Room, Wired (October 8, 2011)

3 I've discussed technology, science, and the Hollywood treatment, in another blog:4 The American military has sometimes blundered. But I've noticed that they also make a point of learning from mistakes. I've posted good news and bad news about America's armed forces:

Pakistan, Threats, Diplomacy, and All That

Pakistan had more news and editorial coverage toward the end of September, 2011, than usual. About 50 imams said that Muslims should attack America if this country attacks Pakistan.

I don't doubt that some imams issued that sort of fatwa. Odds are that around four dozen did so: which even in a nation the size of Pakistan is a noticeable number.

This doesn't mean that I've started digging a fallout shelter under the basement, though: or try to make my house vapor-tight. I'm concerned, of course, but after decades of 'death to the great Satan America' stuff, the shock value of what those imams did is somewhat reduced.

Pakistan: Still a Mess

I don't envy the folks who are apparently trying to establish a plausible national government in Pakistan: and extend the reach of their influence beyond parts of Islamabad and a few other cities.

They've got a country with a long and complicated history, where much of the territory seems to be in the hands of folks whose culture hasn't changed much in several thousand years.

On the bright side, Pakistan is better off than Somalia.

For example, a few years ago Pakistan's bosses lied about how they would use money they got from the United States. The idea was that the money would go to Pakistan's military. Instead, Pervez Musharraf and his cronies used it for domestic programs.

I think it's a testament to their character and ethics that they used it for government projects, instead of simply pocketing it. Granted, those domestic projects probably helped their public image: but hey, they've got elections to think of. (October 5, 2009)

Diplomacy, Cultural Sensitivity, and Getting a Grip

Some op-ed pieces1 about Pakistan's edgy imams were drearily predictable:
"...But don't the American's [sic] understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid...."
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)
There's something to that criticism.

As I recall, American forces had tried several times to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Every time, bin Laden had moved before they arrived. American commanders had been sharing information with their Pakistani counterparts. Showing the 'insensitivity' Mr. Fulton deplores, the Americans decided to launch an attack without telling Pakistani officials. Perhaps by coincidence, that time Osama bin Laden hadn't gone elsewhere: and now he's dead.

Pakistani officials were furious. Naturally enough. Rules of hospitality have ancient roots. I think they serve a useful function in society. But somewhere along the line, Western civilization learned that sometimes dealing with serious threats is more important than accommodating a guest.

I'm assuming that someone in Pakistan's alleged government was passing information along to bin Laden's people: but who knows? Maybe the string of failed raids with shared information, followed by one successful raid without shared information, was pure coincidence.

Diplomacy, Assumptions, and 'Natives'

America seems to have finally flushed overt bias, the sort that drips from Chief Justice Taney's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford,2 out of its system. It's hard to imagine someone describing folks living in the Darfur region as an 'inferior race,' and being taken seriously. Or avoiding legal trouble, most likely.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that too many folks apparently still see humanity divided three ways:
  • Citizens of my country
  • Civilized foreigners
  • 'Natives'
Old ideas die hard.3

I think old notions about what can be expected from 'civilized foreigners' and 'natives' is behind demands for 'cultural sensitivity.' It's like the old movies:
  • 'He's simply not British.'
  • 'You see, Throckmorton? Typical native superstition.'
  • 'An American! You will realize what's at stake!'
Over-simplified? Yes.

Maybe there are diplomatic reasons for ignoring blatantly unethical, and occasionally self-destructive, behavior on the part of national leaders. Maybe an American official wasn't as suave as possible, dealing with yet one more Pakistani government SNAFU.

But I think it's a huge mistake to assume that 'foreigners' can't be held to the same ethical standards Americans should expect from our leaders. And that it isn't
'tolerant, 'open-minded,' or 'diplomatic' to expect the same standards from foreigners.

Ethical Standards? American Leaders?!

I said that Americans should expect ethical standards from our leadership. Competence would be nice, too. As far as the lot we've got in Congress right now? There's an election coming next year: and that's another topic.

Related posts:
News and views:

1Excerpts from news and views:
"Pakistani Threat Escalates as Imams Call for Jihad" (September 27, 2011)

"The United States' strained relationship with Pakistan has grown more tense after 50 influential imams and religious leaders there threatened a jihad if the U.S. attacks the nuclear-armed country.

"The threat came as Pakistan seemed to speak from both sides of the mouth. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar insisted to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the government is part of the solution in Afghanistan.

" 'Pakistan is willing to do its best with the international partners and, most notably, the governments of Afghanistan and the United States, to acquit itself of this high responsibility (in Afghanistan),' she told the 193-nation assembly.

"But her remarks came after Pakistan warned the United States to stop accusing it of playing a double game with Islamist militants and as it showered praise on China....

"...The religious leaders threatening jihad are associated with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), a coalition of local groups. According to Pakistani news reports, the council issued a press release declaring that it is illegitimate to call the U.S. a superpower because only Allah deserves the title.

"The scholars urged the Pakistani government to end the country's role in the war on terrorism and to try to establish a new international bloc made up of China, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan....

"...Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, linked the Haqqani network, the most violent faction among Taliban militants in Afghanistan, to Pakistan.

" 'The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's internal services intelligence agency,' Mullen said...."

"Understanding the duplicity"
George Fulton, South Asian News Agency (September 29, 2011)

"The writer lived for several years in Pakistan, working for various TV channels such as Geo and Aaj. He has now moved back to the UK and does freelance consultancy work
The very public spat between Pakistan and the US which emerged last week after Admiral Mike Mullen, a man known for his straight talking, outed the ISI and called the Haqqani militants a 'veritable arm' of the spy agency, has left many analysts perplexed. Why do it? What benefit would America gain from such a public announcement? Perhaps it was frustration on behalf of the Americans. Admiral Mullen is due to retire at the end of the year. Maybe, with his forthcoming demobbing, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff felt able to candidly blow off steam at the perceived duplicity of the ISI? Unlikely. This evidence given to the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 22 was a designed ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan. The defence secretary, Leon E Panetta, threatened 'operational steps' against Pakistan — a euphemistic term for possible American raids against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan.

"But don't the American's understand the psyche and character of Pakistan's military/intelligence nexus yet? Rather than spurring the ISI/Army into doing more, this public humiliation will have only further dented the frail ego of the military - an ego that has only just recovered from the dishonour of the Osama bin Laden raid. Mullen's announcement will only have helped embolden those anti-American elements within the intelligence services and undermine the pro-Americans within the military...."

"Pakistan won't do more in war on terror: Yousuf Raza Gilani"
AFP, via Economic Times (September 29, 2011)

"Pakistan on Thursday hit back at mounting US demands for action against Al-Qaeda-linked extremists, refusing to be pressured into doing more in the war on terror.

"Washington says it is conducting a final review on whether to blacklist the network linked to Pakistani intelligence as a terror group, which risks then exposing Islamabad to economic sanctions.

"The outgoing top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan of exporting violent extremism to Afghanistan and called the Haqqani network a 'veritable arm' of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency...."

2 Dred Scott v. Sandford, the slavery compromise, and 19th century treaty violations, are part of America's history. But we do, eventually, correct injustices:3 I think it's a good thing that using phrases like 'inferior races' to describe folks without congenital melanin deficiency is something of a faux pas these days. I also think that too many folks cling to old biases, at least unconsciously:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.