Chris's Rants

Friday, December 31, 2004

Blogger google search

I saw a reference to this somewhere earlier today (can't find the reference now). The google search bar on the blogger toolbar above doesn't work. I think it is because the blog dows not have a domain name for itself and the path to my blog is appended to the site: token. However, to search this blog (well, to narrow it down to the domain anyway), type site:webpages.charter.net somesearchstring in google, et voila!

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Ethics? We doan need no steenkin' ethics

House to Consider Relaxing Its Rules:
Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said the result would be "a climate more conducive to corruption."
Pitiful really. What a bunch of slimeballs.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Priorities

Today's NYT editorial Are We Stingy? Yes is spot on. The U.S. is miserly in its humanitarian aide, especially to poor, under-developed countries.

IMO, this stinginess is what has helped to shape world opinion against the U.S.

I think Juan Cole has it about right.
Second, Bush is an MBA, so he knows very well the difference between absolute numbers and per capita ones. Let's see, Australia offered US $27 million in aid for victims of the tsunami. Australia's population is about 20 million. Its gross domestic product is about $500 billion per year. Surely anyone can see that Australia's $27 million is far more per person than Bush's $35 million. Australia's works out to $1.35 per person. The US contribution as it now stands is about 9 cents per person. So, yes, the US is giving more in absolute terms. But on a per person basis, it is being far more stingy so far. And Australians are less wealthy than Americans, making on average US $25,000 per year per person, whereas Americans make $38,000 per year per person. So even if Australians and Americans were both giving $1.35 per person, the Australians would be making the bigger sacrifice. But they aren't both giving $1.35; the Bush administration is so far giving an American contribution of nine cents a person.

The apparent inability of the American public to do basic math or to understand the difference between absolute numbers and proportional ones helps account for why Bush's crazy tax cut schemes have been so popular. Americans don't seem to realize that Bush gave ordinary people checks for $300 or $600, but is giving billionnaires checks for millions. A percentage cut across the board results in far higher absolute numbers for the super-wealthy than for the fast food workers. But, well, if people like being screwed over, then that is their democratic right.
The NYT editorial sums up the ignorance of the American public:
According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.
Actually, the fact that Bush was able to win a second term sums up this nation's ignorance of anything resembling facts and reality.

It has always troubled me that when non-U.S. people are asked their opinion of the U.S., they respond fairly consistently that they like us as a people, but dislike our policies and most recently, despise the present administration. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda consistently cite our policies as one of the primary reasons for their terrorist actions against us. While I don't believe for a moment that their cowardly, sick, and senseless terrorist actions can in any way be even remotely justified; maybe they have a point. Maybe we should be taking a look at our policies and balancing our priorities.

Why are we so willing to expend $200B USD to wage a senseless war in Iraq, yet we can muster only a paltry $35M plus a couple of Navy ships to help out in what has amounted to the worst natural disaster in recent memory in terms of the numbers of people affected? It goes way beyond the 100,000 or so who have lost their lives. There are an estimated 5 million displaced people in 12 nations as a result of the earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Most have lost everything.

Compare the paltry $35M in reief to the countries affected by the tsunami to the $11.6B that the Bush administration pledged in its hurricane relief package this year. The level of devastation in Florida from the four hurricanes this past year, while significant, pales in comparison to that in Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and Indonesia.

As some have pointed out, we spend $35M in 3-4 hours in Iraq to kill people, yet when it comes to helping those in dire need, we give bupkiss.

The $200B we have spent (or will spend by the end of this fiscal year) in Iraq could have (IMO) been better spent to fund R&D on alternate energy sources in an effort to wean our nation from its addiction to oil from the middle east. The alternate energy sources might have the side benefit of helping to reduce greenhouse emissions that are causing global warming (which even the Bush administration now admits is a problem... they just refuse to do anything about it). Additionally, it would mean that we wouldn't have to prop up the greedy, despotic, middle-east governments of the oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia, at the expense of their own people, which fuels the hatred that results in the very terrorism we are ostensibly fighting in Iraq.

The Pacific Ocean is laced with a system of fairly low-tech tsunami early-warning sensors, yet the Indian Ocean is not. I'll leave it to the reader to wonder why. The cost for instrumenting the Indian Ocean with the same technology would have been far less than we are spending now in relief aide ($20-30M USD).

Even here at home, our priorities are screwed up. The Bush administration changed the way that Pell Grants are calculated, cutting off some 80,000 from eligibility. So, it's okay to spend the money to fight a sensless war, but not to educate our own children? It's okay to give tax cuts to the wealthy but not to provide for health insurance for some 40 million of our own citizens?

Maybe, just maybe, we need to rethink our priorities. It just might be cheaper in the long run to be seen as a benevolant nation of generous and caring people than one that is hell-bent on waging war to fight terrorism that has its roots in the desperation of peoples oppressed by governments we prop up for the sake of preserving the flow of oil.

Maybe, for starters, we could fund the tsunami sensor project for the Indian Ocean. A small price to pay to win back some of the hearts and minds of those who believe that our priorities and our policies are all wrong, both here and abroad.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Social security crisis is bogus

The Bush administrations claims that there's a "crisis" involving social security is completely bogus because apparently we'll all be dead before the social security trust fund needs to pay out more than it takes in.

The JPL has raised its impact risk rating for 2004 MN4 to a 4 on the Torino scale, with a currently predicted probability of impact at 1 in 37 or 2.7% on April 13, 2029... Friday the 13th no less!

Wikipedia has a good collection of info on 2004MN4.

1 Comments:

  • I like how this administration comes up with "problems" that didn't seem to be there before now. I like how they aren't straightforward with their solutions to these alleged "problems". Finally, I'd like to say how bogus it is that we pay for their retirement with our tax dollars, yet they aren't even part of the social security system. I smell more bullshit from the administration that has a never ending supply of it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 05, 2005 4:25 AM  

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Tsunami

I just awoke to hear the awful news from the Indian Ocean: Quake spawns killer tidal waves. This is reported as the fifth largest earthquake since 1900; 8.9 magnitude. The largest since the Prince William Sound quake in 1964 in which most of the death and destruction was due to tsunami as well.

Sri Lanka appears to be the hardest hit. My thoughts and prayers go out to Sanjiva and his family and to the many thousands of others effected.

A terrible reminder of just how indiscriminate the forces of nature can be.

Update: Sanjiva reports in on the effects of the tsunami.

Update: Sanjiva describes his (frustrating) experiences delivering relief to the effected areas around Galle. Reports of over 63,000 deaths thus far. In one of the most devastated areas in Indonesia (Aceh) which relief workers have been unable to get to because the devastation is so terrible, there are estimates of 40,000 deaths alone.

Simply unimaginable.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Two interesting links

(Via Jonathan Schwartz) This week's i, cringely and a look at a possible future.

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Happy Chrismakwanzakkuh!

I'm growing weary of the incessant blathering of the Right-Wingnutians all over cable news, and even on network news, decrying how the liberals want "Merry Christmas" to become a phrase of the past, and how they want to prevent people from celebrating Christmas.

Here's one from AFP:
"A covert and deceptive war has been waged on Christmas to remove any mention of it from the public square during the Christmas season," declares the California-based Committee to Save Merry Christmas on its website.
What a load of horse shit.

The reality is that we live in a diverse culture. It is the very diversity that makes our country great. However, the Evangelical Christian Taliban wants none of it.

The right-wing pundits would have you believe that there are efforts underway to preclude public displays of the nativity scene, when in fact, the only dispute is its display on public property. There's a nativity scene out in front of the local Catholic Church in town. Has been for years. You can put one in your front yard and no one can do a thing about it (unless it creates a disturbance, which is another thing altogether). No one has ever suggested that these rights be curtailed. However, the way the echo-chamber is covering the (non)issue, you'd be easily left with that impression.

The stories of schools banning the singing of Christmas carols are the latest outrage cited by the right wingnuts. Frankly, if people want their kids to sing Christmas carols, they should have them join their church choir.

So, for those of you who do celebrate Christmas: Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays to all, and a Happy Festivus to those of you who worship Seinfeld:-)

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You go girl!

Senator Feinstein Proposes Abolishing the Electoral College.

About damned time, too. Time to contact my congress-critters to tell 'em I support the idea.

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What's wrong with this picture?

Let me preface this post with a clear statement of intent. I'm about to critique an article written by a couple of my IBM colleagues. It is not my intent to suggest that the article is not well written; it is quite well written. Nor is it my intent to suggest that it is inaccurate in its technical content; technically, it is fine. Rather, what I intend to do is critique the example given in the article, examining why I believe it, and others like it, should not be implemented as a stateful Web service.

The title of the article is: Implement and access stateful Web services using WebSphere Studio, Part 1. The basic jist of the article is to provide the reader with an understanding of how to use the WS-Resource Framework, in conjunction with WS-Addressing, to implement a stateful Web service.

Quoting from the article's introduction:
Web services are generally thought of as being stateless. However, while it is true that Web services are most often accessed over unreliable, stateless protocols such as HTTP, in practice these services can often maintain state or resources on behalf of an individual service requestor or within a particular business context across multiple interactions.
Technically, there's nothing wrong with this statement. A Web service may certainly be designed such that it maintains state on behalf of the client. In fact, many Web services are maintaining some state, usually in a database. Other Web services are purely computational services (e.g. a tax calculator service, a spell checking service, a stock quote service, etc.) which may have some persistent data from which they draw (e.g. tax tables, dictionary, quote feed), but do not expose an interface by which that state can be manipulated by the client. However, simply because a service doesn't expose its state for manipulation, does not necessarily make it stateless. It is the protocol by which it is accessed that makes the service stateful or stateless. If all of the state needed to perform the service is contained within the message requesting the service, then it is considered stateless. If the service provider is required to remember the session state of the requesting client, then it is not stateless.

The article continues:
This article does not debate the merits of the above approaches.
Again, I wish to make it clear that I am not suggesting that the authors should have argued the merits of stateful versus stateless, that was clearly not their intent. My criticism is with the example itself.
We use a simple calculator application as the basis of our samples. First, we implement the calculator for use by RMI/IIOP clients using the J2EE Session Bean Entity Facade pattern. We then show you how the application can be easily exposed to Web services clients via a WSDL interface. Finally, we document the steps necessary to expose the calculator service using the Implied Resource pattern, and show you how to build a client of the calculator service using the approaches outlined in the Web Services Resource Framework (see Resources for a link).

...

Listing 1 proposes an interface for a calculator service that could be consumed by RMI/IIOP clients.

Listing 1. Calculator service interface for remote RMI/IIOP clients
public interface CalculatorService extends Remote { 


public float add(float value1, float value2)
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;
public float sub(float value1, float value2)
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;

}
You can see that the calculator service interface has been designed so that the requestor must input all information necessary to perform an operation; the result is returned as an output of the operation. This type of service is often referred to as being stateless with respect to its interaction with its requestors. This interface design simplifies the job of the service implementer, who can choose to treat each request as an independent interaction.

...

The natural next step in developing this service would be to allocate each user a particular calculator instance. Each requestor could then simply add, subtract, or query the current total from this calculator. A service that maintains information on behalf of a particular requestor is often referred to as being stateful with respect to its interaction with that requestor.

There are many ways in which the service implementer could choose to maintain the calculator total on behalf of a client. It could take advantage of existing context that is available to the service implementation on each request as a means for understanding the calculator state that is to be acted upon.
The article goes on to explain how to implement a stateful Web service using WS-Resource Framework and WS-Addressing, resulting in the following stateful Web service interface:
Listing 9. Implied Resource pattern that allows us to remove the data identifier from the functional interface
public interface CalculatorService extends Remote { 


public javax.xml.soap.SOAPElement
getCalculator(String AcctName)
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;
public float add(float value)
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;
public float sub(float value)
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;
public float getTotal()
throws java.rmi.RemoteException;
}

The article goes on to explain how to implement a stateful Web service using WS-Resource Framework and WS-Addressing. Again, I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the technical content, so I won't bother to quote further from the article.

The problem I wish to call to attention is embodied in this statement in the introduction: "Web services are most often accessed over unreliable, stateless protocols such as HTTP". Therein lies the rub.

Recall fallacy #1 of L. Peter Deutsch's Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing. Because Web services are typically accessed over a network using HTTP(S), absent addition of either WS-Reliable Messaging (WS-RM) or WS-Atomic Transactions (WS-AT), the implementation of a stateful service will be prone to errors of state resultant from inevitable network failures unless some serious error handling and compensation is built into both the client and service. However, for a service as trivial as the one used in the article, application of either WS-RM or WS-AT would, in the immortal words of Elmer J. Fudd, be like hunting wabbit wiff an ewephant gun: overkill.

If a call to the add operation were to fail, what is the state of the calculator? The service could have processed the add call before the failure, or the request message could have been lost before ever reaching the service. Like Schroedinger's cat, the state of the calculator can't be known.

Granted, the client could compensate for a failed call to the add operation by calling getTotal operation to determine whether the call to the add operation had been processed by the service, but then it would also need to be capable of adding, which would call into question why it was using the service in the first place:-)

I will grant that the example of a calculator service was probably used to keep things simple. However, I think that the authors should have at least made the point that in designing stateful services, one should carefully consider the implications of doing so as regards to reliability. If the service's operations are idempotent, then a failed call to such an operation can simply be retried by the client. The getTotal operation is an example of an idempotent operation on a stateful Web service. However, some form of reliability protocol such as WS-RM or WS-AT needs to be employed to ensure that the non-idempotent operations of a stateful Web service are executed reliably.

In the case of the calculator service example, it would probably have been wiser, and far simpler in the long run, to have designed a stateless Web service.

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Not quite as impressive a list for 2004 as Norm, but brutal nonetheless:

AAR, AUS, BOS, CLT, DCA, DFW, DTW, FLL, FLR, FRA, HNL, IAD, JFK, LAS, LHR, MCO, MIA, MSY, ORD, PVD, RDU, SEA, SFO, SJC, YVR

This year, I spent way too much time on planes and in airports! I've already got a full plate for the first 4 months of 2005:

BOS, PVD, RDU, LAS, MSY, PHX, YVR

Indispensable investments in 2004: this and this. They helped preserve my sanity on more than one occasion.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bush talks to his tie

Crooks and Liars has the video... It seems clear to me that Dubya is indeed talking to his tie. It seems all the suspicions during the debates that the Preznit was wired (never really refuted by the Whitehouse) were likely founded in reality.

Bush said that the press wasn't going to get him to negotiate with himself, but here it is caught on tape... Bush negotiating with himself!

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When will we learn?

How true. James Wolcott: Death in the Afternoon:
"We're hearing some of that now, and we'll hear more of it ahead. But face it, those troops in Vietnam did die in vain, as did the Marines who died in the barracks in Beirut, as do most of the men and women who die in war. Most wars are unnecessary, waged on the basis of lies, power, and fear; to justify the unnecessary deaths, the funeral services float the soft consolation that the body lying in the flag-draped coffin died for Peace, or Democracy, or the Good of the Country. When often they died because too many fools wouldn't admit they had made a ghastly mistake and kept perpetuating that mistake even after they and all the world recognized the mission was futile. How many more soldiers and civilians are going to die in vain in Iraq to prove that those who died before them didn't die in vain?"
What really bothers me is that those who refute the comparison with Vietnam by asserting that "we aren't seeing the levels of casualties we did in Vietnam" seem to forget that Vietnam lasted for over ten friggin' years! In the first 5 years, there were a total of 1,864 killed in action with 7,337 wounded. In Iraq, we're nearly at that level after only two years, and thanks to modern medicine and protective body armor, the rate at which our troops are being wounded rather than killed is actually much higher.

The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are striking. In both cases, faced with an assymetric threat. In both cases, unwelcome.

What we need to have is some new thinking. Maybe the three states idea should be resurrected. Do the Turks want into the EU? Then, maybe they'll just have to get over their fears of Turkish Kurds wanting sovereignty with their Kurdish neighbors in Iraq. If states rights were so important to the U.S., maybe something similar is needed in Iraq.

We should set aside our fears of an Islamic theocracy in the Shi'a south. With the Sunnis disengaged from the elections, Iraq will be dominated by the Shi'a regardless. Whatever political forces take the helm in January, they will inevitably be heavily influenced by the Ayatollas anyway. So, let them do so in their own Shi'a state.

The Baathist insurgents in the Sunni Triangle have resorted to terrorist tactics, because they think it the only way to preserve any chance that they can regain their prominence. So what. Give it back.

Let them sort out the mess on their own, without U.S. forces.

Would this work? Who knows. Who cares. What is certain is that the present course is leading us towards another protracted engagement of our brave young warriors for years to come, just as we faced in Vietnam.

Sun Tzu said:
There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
...
Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist
only seeks battle after the victory has been won,
whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights
and afterwards looks for victory.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Yeah, just a few rogue MPs...

Reuters reports some disturbing news on the torture of Iraqi prisoners and Gitmo detainees:
Another FBI e-mail made available in the same package said that President Bush had issued an executive order authorizing a series of harsh methods for interrogations.

The White House said no such directive existed and Justice Department and FBI officials echoed the denial.
The similarities of techniques used by the "rogue" MPs at Abu Ghraib and in Gitmo strongly suggest that it was authorized by the chain-of-command. Either some "rogue" civilian employees in the Pentagon have been suggesting (lying about) the existance of such an executive order to justify their orders (Wolfie), or the executive order exists and the Whitehouse is lying.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Hackers and Painters

(Via Adam) Hackers and Painters and some of the other essays by Paul Graham are definitely a good read.

Reading the essay, I was reminded of an interview for a position in another group in the IT department at The New England as a Lead Programmer Analyst, sometime back around '83. IIRC, it was a two level jump for me at the time. The manager of the group offering the position asked me: "What makes a good program?". I responded: "It's beautiful". She was dumbstruck. "What on earth does that mean?!", she asked. I tried to explain, but to no avail.

Needless to say, I wasn't offered the job. She simply had no clue.

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DaveO: Ruminations ...

Dave has been ruminating. I hope it doesn't mean he's been chewing his cud:-)

In all seriousness, as usual, he's on to something.
Action
The design for Action would have to be something like:
1. WS-Addressing defines/refers to 4 Transfer operations (ooh, kind of like HTTP or WS-Transfer). I had proposed that WSDL 2.0 define 4 different transport independent operations, but they didn't want that so WS-Transfer is better.
2. When these operations are the Action, then a sender can be configured to map directly to the Web Method Property (ie the transfer verb)
3. The receiver of an HTTP Operation will create an Action property from the Protocol operation, or the Action Header. Probably the Action header over-rides the protocol to avoid the "POST" Action problem.
Let's examine this further.

First, I think that w/r/t #1 and #2, these aren't so much an issue for WS-Addressing as much as for WS-Transfer. However, I agree. If the Action is a WS-Transfer action URI, then it could be mapped directly to the corresponding HTTP method for at least GET, PUT and DELETE. WS-Transfer also provides for a CREATE action. This could be mapped to a POST with a Content-Location HTTP header field returning the URI of the created resource.

Of course, the interesting bits come further when we need to factor in WS-Addressing EPR reference properties/parameters, as Dave points out.

With regards to MessageId, I agree that duplicate detection is best handled by WS-RM and that MessageId and RelatesTo are most interesting for correlation in cases where the values cannot be implied (as in the case of HTTP request/response). However, I was struck by the idea that one could define a URI scheme in which the components were:

     <scheme>:<sequence id>:<message number>

which would map directly to WS-RM's Sequence header block expressed as a URI. Hmmm... but, I digress.

With regards to mapping refps, I agree that mapping Reference Parameters to HTTP Cookies is probably the way to go. As for Reference Properties, that gets a little trickier, I agree. Will definitely need some thought. He wraps up with the following:
I would love it if there was a reasonable way to bridge the SOAP/WS-Addressing world and the HTTP Transfer protocol world, but I just don't see that each side really want the features of the other side. The SOAP/WSA folks want the SOAP processing model for Asynch, and don't care about the underlying protocol. The Web folks want their constrained verbs and URIs and don't care about SOAP processing model.
Personally, I find myself in the "you got your chocolate bar in my peanut butter" camp.



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Just Letters

Now, this is fun!

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Whack job or gut instinct?

Thomas Schaller thinks that the botched Kerik nomination was some kind of a Rovian hatchet job, taking out both Giuliani and Kerik in one swell foop. The NYT's Elizabeth Bumiller thinks it was more likely that the bond between Dubya and Kerik, forged in the fires of the aftermath of 9/11, that led el Presidente to announce his nomination before the Whitehouse had a chance to fully vet the nomination. Other reports suggest a breakdown in the Whitehouse's vetting process.

I'm thinking that given Dubya's management style, that Bumiller's analysis comes closest to the mark.
"The president had his own independent relationship with Kerik that had formed over the last several years, and he made his own decision," a White House official said last weekend.
The fact that this will likely destroy any prospect of future political ambitions of "America's Mayor" in the process is more likely mere coincidence than some Machiavellian scheme cooked up by Dr. Evil (Rove).

Given the relative ease and speed with which the press has been able to dig up a seemingly never-ending stream of dirt on Kerik, including ties to the N.J. mob, corruption both in NYC and possibly in Iraq, and repeated infidelity (what must the Evangelicals think!), it is hard to imagine that the DOJ, lead by our next Attorney General, wouldn't have come up with serious questions about Kerik had they been given an opportunity to vet the nominee.

So, there you have it. An impatient president who doesn't concern himself with annoying facts, but instead bases his decisions on "gut instinct", pushes ahead with a nomination without thoroughly vetting the nominee. The Whitehouse staff has been scrambling ever since to clean up the mess, insisting that their vetting process is not broken and trying to pin the blame on the nominee for not being forthcoming in his interviews.

As they say: Rarely right, but always certain.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Steady Earl's Rant

Steve makes an interesting proposal. Hmmm...

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Red state values

44% in poll OK limits on rights of Muslims:
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.
Ahh, those good old red state values.

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked by this. These poor saps are, after all, fed a daily diet of Fox News and have spent most of the past year tracking the Scott Peterson trial as if it mattered to their lives.

The so-called "Christian Right" is neither. It is not okay to limit the civil rights of some simply because of their religious beliefs, the color of their skin, or their country of origin. Civil rights are, by definition, the rights of all citizens, not a select few.
The survey indicated that 27 percent of the respondents said they supported requiring all Muslim Americans to register their home address with the federal government.
So, to 27 percent of the nation, being Muslim is akin to being a sex offender?

I wonder when will the administration announce their version of Kristallnacht against the Muslim community? Will they round up all the Muslims and put them in concentration camps the way the Roosevelt administration rounded up all those of Japanese descent during WWII?

Geof Stone ran a series of articles as a guest blogger for the Lessig Blog on the topic of (curtailing of) civil liberties during times of war.
The United States has a long and consistent pattern of unduly restricting civil liberties in time of war. Time after time, we have panicked in the face of war fever. We have lashed out at those we fear and allowed ourselves to be manipulated by opportunistic and exploitative politicians. We did this in 1798, when we enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, during the Civil War when Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, during World War I when the nation brutally suppressed all criticism of the war and the draft, during World War II when we interned 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent, during the Cold War when we humiliated, abused and silenced tens of thousands of individuals for their political beliefs and associations, and during the Vietnam War when the government engaged in an aggressive program of surveillance, infiltration, and surreptitious harassment designed to "exposre, disrupt, and neutralize" antiwar dissent.
I would highly recommend giving the series a read. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

iPhone?

Forbes.com: Get Ready To Call ITunes. If you're as old as I, then you remember the old dial interface to the telephone. Imagine a plug-in for your iPod mini that allowed connectivity to your wireless provider, through a bluetooth headset using the iPod interface to make a call. How cool would that be!

Whatever it is, I hope that the Apple industrial design team has some say in the design/form-factor.

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Version Identifiers and XML

Norm Walsh carries on the discussion of DaveO's essay on Version Identifiers and XML here and here.

Norm makes the comment about Dave's suggestion that XML1.1 be called XML2.0 because of its lack of backwards-compatibility:
One can argue that it should have been called 2.0 because of its tiny backwards incompatibility, and that's an entirely valid argument, except that it ignores the fact that all specifications are developed in both a social and a technical context.

Here's a rule that could help: Version identifiers should be rigorously used to identify compatible or incompatible changes.

Yep, that would have made it 2.0. But users have non-technical expectations about version numbers and it's not clear to me that the community would have benefitted from the larger number. Maybe the lesson here is that putting version numbers in the title of your specification muddies the waters.
This reinforces the argument I made last month that use of version numbering schemes to convey forwards- and/or backwards-compatibility is misguided.

What many specifications have done though is to document the changes that break forwards- and/or backwards-compatibility. It would be nice if subsequent versions of all specifications would make formal statements to this effect in the front-matter where developers can easily find it (without having to wade through all the details of the spec).

Update: DaveO strikes back. However, his points reinforce my position that version numbers not be imbued with any semantic.
Norm and Chris Ferris both point out that the choice of version identifiers has various stakeholders - Chris points out the J2SE version identifiers - and various criteria - Norm points out the cost of implementation. I agree with all of that, but I'm pointing out that people using (sic) think of version identifiers being associated with compatibility.
Who would be the arbiter of the various positions of all the various stakeholders?

As for the case of XML1.x, Dave makes an important point. It isn't enough to simply add a version identifier in your vocabulary and expect that serves as a coherent versioning strategy that will permit forwards- and/or backwards-compatibility. Any software needs to have a coherent versioning strategy baked into the initial version. Version 2.0 (or 1.1, or 1.0.1, or whatever) is too late. By then, the horses have already left the barn. When calculating the TCO and ROI for a software project that does not have a coherent plan for enabling loosely coupled versioning that can enable forwards- and/or backwards-compatible changes, the initial deployment cost (at least) should be used as a measure for the inevitable version dot next and added to the overall support cost. That'll wake up a few bean-counters and make it clear to senior manglement that there is a real cost associated with NOT doing the right thing in the first place.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Never underestimate your adversary...

Army Spending $4B to Send Vehicles to Iraq:
"Defense officials say it wasn't a matter of poor planning but that insurgents have proven very smart. U.S. forces changed various tactics, including driving convoys fast through problem areas and getting jammers that foil insurgents' ability to detonate bombs by remote control, Smith said."
Sun Tsu would be disappointed in Rummy.
I. LAYING PLANS
...
17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials
for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when
not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior
and inferior forces.
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same
spirit throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take
the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is
not interfered with by the sovereign.

18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy
and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.

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Bada Bing

Josh Marshall pulls together the continuing saga of the Kerik nomination and subsequent withdrawal as Sec'y of Homeland Security.

As they say, the plot thinkens... Was there a nanny? Apparently, Kerik is mum and the press, including the Times and the Post can't find anyone who can substantiate the claim. But the story keeps unfolding, with stalking charges and now with shady ties to the Gambino family and a mob financier, Lawrence Ray who has been indicted in a "$40 million, mob-run, pump-and-dump stock swindle."

You'd think that the Bush administration could have done a better job of vetting the nomination before they announced it. If the press can dig up all this dirt in a week, you'd think that the administration could have done at least as much and nixed Rooodeee's strong recommendation.

Seems that Dubya squandered a bunch of his "political capital" on this one. Talk about your Nanny-gate!

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Kewl new stuff from Alphaworks

Now, this is cool. W3C XForms support for mobile devices.

A pattern I'd like to see emerge is Web services access via an XForms interface, something discussed as early as 2001 by HP Lab's John Barton.

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Quote of the Day

The NYT's Qoute of the Day:
'It would have been messy, ugly and an embarrassment to President Bush, so I withdrew my name.' BERNARD B. KERIK, who was nominated to be Homeland Security secretary.
I wonder if Kerik was referring to his potential future as Secretary of Homeland Security, or to the Senate confirmation hearings for his nomination:-)

On a more serious note, you'd think that the first question asked by the legal team that vets Bush's propspective nominees would be: "Have you, or anyone in your immediate family, ever employed a Nanny?" after the nannygate incident that derailed Linda Chavez's nomination in Bush's first term.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again?

The real loser in all this controversy is Roooooodeeee. Gee, what a shame. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Breaking news...

Gudge and Marc get along, play nice. Film at 11!

No, really... this is news? Engineers from Sun and Microsoft working together in a W3C WG? OMG! Will wonders never cease!

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rummy to troops: suck it up

Rumsfeld Gets Earful From Troops (washingtonpost.com):
'A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon,' said Wilson, an airplane mechanic with the Tennessee Army National Guard, according to a transcript of the meeting released by the Pentagon. 'Our vehicles are not armored. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up . . . picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper . . . vehicles to carry with us north.'

Rumsfeld replied: 'As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.'
According to Larry DiRita, the article continues:
The Army is moving to produce as many armored Humvees as it can, he added. In the fall of 2003, there were only 15 made each month, he said, but after the need for more became clear, the rate of production was boosted to 450 a month.
Let's examine this. We knew we were going to war probably as early as the fall of 2002. The Rumsfeld and Cheney "doctrine" was that this would be a cake-walk and that we would be "greeted as liberators". Most of those in the "reality-based" world, including Powell and Shinseki, thought at the time that this was a recipie for disaster. But their input was discounted and cavalierly discarded by Rumsfeld and ultimately by Dubya. There were plenty of signs that despite the declaration of "mission accomplished" in May 2003, that the situation on the ground was getting progressively worse by the day and that the U.S. military was in for the long-haul. Yet, because the idiots in the Whitehouse and Pentagon refused to be distracted by inconvenient "facts", the lack of preparation and planning continued until late in the Fall of 2003. Of course, you don't just ramp-up production quotas from 15 to 450 over night. A sensible reporter would have asked for production numbers beginning in the fall of 2003 when DiRita says they boosted production. It might have made sense to also ask about the rates at which the deployed units were being blown-up, rendering certain quantities of increased production capacity as just maintaining the status quo.

The real problem with Rummy's response to the troops is that he doesn't appologize for his failure to plan effectively, he basically just tells them "shit happens, suck it up". No wonder recruitment efforts for the all-volunteer army are inadequate.

Despite the fact that Rumsfeld has been the most inept cabinet member of the Bush administration, Rummy is one of the few Doofus is keeping on for his next term!

[Update: Apparently, the NYT editorial staff share this opinion.]

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

OASIS Symposium CFP

The OASIS Symposium 2005 CFP deadline is drawing near. Have you submitted your proposal?

Last year's Symposium was quite a success (despite the alleged controversy:-)

Join us in N'awlins!

1 Comments:

  • "Alleged"? I can only hope for the sake of the attendees that something as entertaining happens at the next Symposium. Has anyone proposed a talk on policy yet?

    By Blogger Marc g, at December 08, 2004 1:15 PM  

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Spinsanity

From today's WaPo: Army Spun Tale Around Ill-Fated Mission. Recall the tale of selfless heroism of an NFL Linebacker who gave up the american dream of becoming an NFL star to defend his country:
"He ordered his team to dismount and then maneuvered the Rangers up a hill near the enemy's location," the release said. "As they crested the hill, Tillman directed his team into firing positions and personally provided suppressive fire. . . . Tillman's voice was heard issuing commands to take the fight to the enemy forces."
Makes your chest swell with pride, doesn't it. Almost brings a tear. You almost can hear the 1812 Overture or Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background.

Well, as it turns out, the story is even more tragic than we were first lead to believe. Corporal Pat Tillman was the victim not of the Taliban and/or al Qaeda fighters, but of friendly fire from members of his own platoon.
But the Army's published account not only withheld all evidence of fratricide, but also exaggerated Tillman's role and stripped his actions of their context. Tillman was not one of the senior commanders on the scene -- he directed only himself, one other Ranger and an Afghan militiaman, under supervision from others. And witness statements in the Army's files at the time of the news release describe Tillman's voice ringing out on the battlefield mainly in a desperate effort, joined by other Rangers on his ridge, to warn comrades to stop shooting at their own men.
I recommend reading the whole (long) article.

The reader's digest version.

Pentagon lies about Tillman incident in an effort to turn public attention away from Abu Ghraib. Pentagon brass protect their own kind while reserving punishment for the grunts.

Sad, really, but not surprising.

3 Comments:

  • Reminds me of Jessica Lynch fairy tale...
    "truth is the first casualty of war" as they say.
    Jacques Durand

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 07, 2004 8:23 PM  

  • I wonder if there have been any stories out of Iraq that have been "truthful". I've heard credible doubts raised about every story, from Jessica to Tillman to Fallujah to Abu Ghraib coverups to "passivating resistance" to complete lack of reconstruction to why Chalabi was *really* being arrested to the democracy goal (the US proposed Iraqi Constitution had 1 clause that they wouldn't give on, that would enshrine current contracts for 20 years )

    Dave Orchard

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 14, 2004 4:06 PM  

  • One thing I found that helps on increasing the quality of the information you get, is to use foreign sources. Its amazing how more you can learn by listening to BBC, Canada, and other reputable news in Europe (unfortunately not all french news are translated I believe ;-) Reporters from other countries may not have "embed" privilege, but they can tell you a lot with less restraint.
    In other words, the medical advice applies: "when consulting for sickness, always get a second or third opinion" !!
    Jacques Durand

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 12, 2005 7:46 PM  

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Not Born in Arizona?

Steve Martin explains:
King Tut was not "born in Arizona."

He did not live in a "condo made of stone-a."

King Tut did not "do the monkey," nor did he "move to Babylonia."

King Tut was not a honky.

He was not "buried in his jammies."

The song does, however, make a valid assertion that scholars still regard as a breakthrough: King Tut was, as explained in the song, "an Egyptian."

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

When does he sharpen the pencil?

(Via Tom) this is pretty cool. Wonder when he has the time to sharpen his pencil?

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Cognitive dissonance

First up, we have this story: US army investigates new allegations of Iraqi prisoner abuse.

Then, there's this one: U.S. OKs Evidence Gained Through Torture.
Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday.

...

Boyle said torture was against U.S. policy and any allegations of it would be "forwarded through command channels for military discipline." He added, "I don't think anything remotely like torture has occurred at Guantanamo" but noted that some U.S. soldiers there had been disciplined for misconduct, including a female interrogator who removed her blouse during questioning.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday it has given the Bush administration a confidential report critical of U.S. treatment of Guantanamo detainees. The New York Times reported the Red Cross described the psychological and physical coercion used at Guantanamo as "tantamount to torture."
So, on the one hand, when public evidence surfaces of prisoner abuse (whether it be in Iraq or Gitmo), the administration's goons act all surprised and shocked, determined to investigate the charges.

Yet, on the other hand, we have the administration's legal beagles arguing in court that "evidence" gained through torture be allowed to be used against the detainees.

Confused? I know I am. Why would they argue in court that "evidence" derived through torture be admissible as evidence against the detainee if there is no use of torture?

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Version one dot what?

Dave Orchard muses once again on the topic of versioning. This time, he takes on the sub-issue of version identifiers. I am usually in full agreement with Dave when it comes to the subject of versioning and extensibility. This time, unfortunately, I have to disagree with some of his conclusions.

He writes:
Too often, people use version identifiers to indicate the amount of work that has gone into a version, or as marketing tool. Version identifiers are rarely used to rigorously identify compatible versions.
(emphasis mine). Here, I am in complete agreement. I have emphasized the last sentence because that is, I believe, the reality of the situation. Version identifiers are mostly used as a marketing device. Whether to suggest the amount of effort that went into producing the new version, or for rebranding.

He goes on to state:
Here's a rule that could help: Version identifiers should be rigorously used to identify compatible or incompatible changes.
Here's where I have a fundamental disagreement. You can't wish away the marketing considerations/forces that factor into the selection of a version identifier. They are inevitable. Do you think for a moment that the technology team would have won the argument that J2SE 1.5 needed to be called J2SE 1.5 because it was forwards- or backwards-compatible with J2SE 1.4 when the marketing team insisted that it needed to be called J2SE 5.0? ROTFL! Yeah, riiiight. That might have happened. NOT!

I am all for developing a coherent versioning strategy for a vocabulary that preserves the original namespace, but I am highly skeptical when it comes to exclusive use of version numbering schemes to deal with forwards- and backwards- compatibility.

There are occasionally cases where significant thought has gone into developing an effective versioning strategy. XSLT is such an example.

[Note: a versioning strategy needs to be designed and integrated into the initial release of a system. It is not something that should ever be left for some subsequent release. Adding a version identifier without a clear plan as to how it will be used isn't a versioning strategy.]

Note that the rule that XSLT1.0 used to determine if forwards-compatibility were in effect was to check that the [xsl:]version attribute have a value that was, simply, not '1.0'.
An element enables forwards-compatible mode for itself, its attributes, its descendants and their attributes if either it is an xsl:stylesheet element whose version attribute is not equal to 1.0, or it is a literal result element that has an xsl:version attribute whose value is not equal to 1.0, or it is a literal result element that does not have an xsl:version attribute and that is the document element of a stylesheet using the simplified syntax (see [2.3 Literal Result Element as Stylesheet]). A literal result element that has an xsl:version attribute whose value is equal to 1.0 disables forwards-compatible mode for itself, its attributes, its descendants and their attributes.
The version identifier could just as easily have been an integer. In reality, it serves mostly as an indicator that forwards-compatible mode is enabled. A boolean would have served with equal utility.

However, I personally think that it was a mistake to preserve the XLST1.0 namespace for XSLT2.0 and to use the version identifier to denote backwards-incompatible language features.

Here's why: XSLT2.0 changed the semantics of some of the XSLT1.0 elements and attributes.

Take a look at Appendix J of the XSLT2.0 spec.

Sure, it may be possible to write 2.0 stylesheets that are backwards-compatible. But, as you can see from the long list of incompatibilities, it would be a non-trivial exercise. Most likely, without really effective tools, nearly an impossible task for your average developer to get right even some of the time.

Heck, most developers thought XSLT1.0 was too complicated, and that's without having to deal with the semantic incompatibilities introduced in XSLT2.0.

Imagine the dismay of the poor developer who develops a 2.0 stylesheet (using none of the new features because s/he hasn't had time to learn them) using an XSLT2.0 processor to test it when s/he finds that the results of processing the same stylesheet in a XSLT1.0 processor are different! Oops.

IMO, XSLT2.0 should have defined a new namespace for XSLT2.0 stylesheets, period.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mr. Chicken goes to Warshington?

Now this is pretty funny!

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Attack of the clones?

I was going to blog about Lycos' "Make Love, Not Spam" screensaver campaign, making use of idle system cycles in the same manner as the SETI@home project, to attack spammers. Unfortunately, Blogger was down when I had the inspiration (grumble... I've noticed lots of complaints in this regard lately. Granted, it's a free service but this isn't good for Google's reputation.) Bruce Schneier has a post that reflects my initial thoughts, followed up with an update that the spammers had retaliated.

Maybe at some point we would achieve the equivalent of MAD (mutually assured destruction) and suffer a Cold War-like period of detente? I doubt it. This was simply a bad idea.

I hate spam as much as anyone, and because I frequently post to public email lists on the W3C and OASIS, I probably get a ton of it, although I don't actually see most of it anymore. The spam filters that IBM has deployed do a pretty good job of filtering out spam to the point at which it is merely a nuisance. I maybe get 10 per day that I can usually immediately identify as spam by the sender, subject, or the fact that it is in a language/character set I can't read/understand:-) My GMail, Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts all have spam filters that do a reasonably effective job and all have a "Report Spam" button which helps to improve their filters.

Clearly, Lycos has gone a bit off the reservation with Make Love, Not Spam.

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Should the NYT be worried?

This is interesting:
Welcome to Wikinews, a free content news source. We started in November 2004, and have currently written 111 articles. Our mission is to create an environment where citizen journalists can independently report the news on a wide variety of current events. Find out how you can get involved right now.

Please give us some time to sort out the policies and procedures before relying on Wikinews as a source. Voice your opinion on policies at the talk page
I think this bears watching.

Browsing the RecentlyChanged RSS feed, I noticed this gem:
The World gets dumber

Most of them thaught do be Americans...

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Another Shoe Drops

The NYT carries another article on the matter of airport screening: Another Shoe Drops on the Subject of Airport Security.

As an all-too-frequent flier, I am always amazed at the inconsistency of screening policies between one airport and another. I almost never wear shoes that will set off the magnetometer; usually sneakers or loafers with no steel shank. Yet, some airports insist that you take them off anyway, which is just ridiculous if you ask me.

I mean, really. It is more than just an inconvenience, it means you end up with dirty socks and then there's no convenient place to put them back on unless you walk across the area that has no clean carpeting to a chair... leaving you with dirty socks! Blech. All because one idiot decides to claim his fifteen minutes of infamy by packing his nikes with C4. God help us if some whacko tries something foolish with his boxers!

And why the heck is it necessary to remove laptops, and now apparently camcorders, from their bag? This isn't necessary in Europe. Do european screeners have more powerful x-ray vision? Or, do they simply recognize that it serves only to slow down the screening process without adding to any increase in security?

And why is it that the ones who get targetted for extra screening seem to be someone's great-grandmother? When did Osama start recruiting confused, frail septuagenarians? Maybe Tom Ridge has been watching too much Monty Python. In all my travels, I have yet to see someone who would be more likely to fit the profile of an arab terrorist subjected to the additional screening. What's up with that?

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