only the insane have strength enough to prosper. only the prosperous truly judge what is sane.


A Pint for London Paramedics

Nosemonkey's piss-up for London emergency workers went off tonight in London. If you missed the details, one of his readers came up with the idea of buying a pint for hard-working emergency workers after the 7/7 bombings. Nosemonkey followed through and organized the event, giving people all over the world a simple way to show our appreciation and admiration for the guys from St. John Ambulance. Cheers to him for that.

Watch the BBC video here (click the "Watch Thursday's News" link in the upper right corner). The piece begins about halfway through, at 17.40.

UPDATE: Many more details from Nosemonkey here. Brilliant stuff.

(If you're not familiar with Nosemonkey, I should point out that he is one of the Internet's most powerful Website Masters. He's also a noted Online Diarist and an enthusiastic Internet-User.)

Yet Another Reason to Hate Katrina

My friend Pete informs me that Andrew Brott, an old childhood friend from Chicago, is one of the countless New Orleans residents displaced by Katrina. We attended the same church as kids...Andrew has come a long way from being the Sunday School class clown (if he denies it, don't believe him...). He fled with his wife in advance of the storm, and they're currently living in suburban Chicago with his parents. They're not sure of the status of their home...but it's clear that returning to New Orleans in the forseeable future is not an option.

Andrew runs a glass-art studio in New Orleans. His artwork is really quite impressive. Many examples can be found on his studio website, as well as here. Andrew's resume is available here (wow). Since he has no idea how long he'll be displaced, he's trying to find work in the Chicago area.

I'll post more information as I get it. In the meantime, if you'd like to commission a stunning piece of glass art, contact Andrew by email (the address is available on his site).

UPDATE: Donating to the Craft Emergency Relief Fund is a great way to help artists in need. In addition, Tyler Green at ArtsJournal is blogging about the effect of Katrina on cultural institutions in Louisiana and Mississippi. It's an angle of the story that isn't getting much attention, but it's something I'm sure we'll hear more and more about as the humanitarian crisis eases. When the water finally recedes and the dead are buried, we'll find ourselves mourning the loss of the artistic and cultural treasures that make New Orleans so unique.

Remember Beslan

Katrina dominates the news, but take a moment today to remember the children of Beslan, and their grieving parents. It's hard to believe that it was already a year ago.
"I draw the terrorist and burn them for all the children who died in the school. I want to take revenge on them for killing those children."
That's what you've created, Basayev--nine-year-old girls wishing for your death. May Laima get her wish.

You can still help the victims.


Hurricane Katrina - How to Help

Hurricane Katrina has completely devastated large swaths of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. It's going to take a massive effort to get the people of these states back on their feet.

If you wish to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the best way is to send cash. Some organizations that allow you to donate online include:
Many groups are organizing relief efforts for the victims. FEMA has a list of relief organizations here.

If you're looking for a more direct way to help, there are many options that people don't always consider. Make yourself USEFUL! You might not be able to provide immediate help for the victims of Katrina, but this disaster shows just how important it is for every community to have citizens who know what to do in a crisis. Some ideas:

Cheers to the US Coast Guard, the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, the local police, firemen, and first responders. Thank you for your tireless efforts to rescue victims and restore order. You guys are heroes!

UPDATE: Instapundit has much more information on how to help, as well as countless links to other Katrina-related news.

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Status of Public Radio Stations in Katrina-affected Areas

Info that might be of use to Public Radio listeners...this gives a good feel for just how hard it is for people in the affected areas to get any useful information at all.

Status of Public Radio Stations in the Path of Hurricane Katrina

NPR is in close contact with stations affected by the storm, and is working to provide support where it is possible. The following was created by NPR's Station's Relations unit, in Member and Program Services, and was last updated at 5 p.m. Tuesday, 8/30. Questions? Contact Marguerite Nutter at


WWNO 89.9FM (New Orleans) - is off the air. They joined Channel 6 for rolling coverage when they evacuated on Sunday, but have since lost the signal. According to WWNO's engineer, CBS affiliate WWL 870AM may be the only radio station currently on the air in New Orleans, though he's heard that the TV stations have evacuated this morning because of rising water levels in the city. WWNO's transmitter, located in a swampy area south of the station on the University of New Orleans' campus, is under water. The generator is under water. As far as they know, their main tower is still up. They have an additional 400ft tower 30 miles east of the station in Slidell; the status of that tower is unknown at this stage.

WWOZ 90.7FM (New Orleans) - public radio station in NO, though not an NPR affiliate. Info via KRVS' engineer, the WWOZ studio has water on the first floor but the on-air and production rooms are on the second floor and they are ok. The transmitter system is under water. Before leaving New Orleans, WWOZ engineer tried to call his remote control to shut down the entire system including the emergency power generator but couldn’t get a phone line to work at the transmitter site. So he does not know the condition of his system at all.

WRKF 89.3FM (Baton Rouge) - has no power and has been running on a generator since Monday. They were off the air for around an hour Tuesday, but came back onto the air while we were talking on the phone. While they were off the air, they were getting a signal from the board, but the board was not communicating with the transmitter. Other equipment failures are also affecting them today -- their NPR-dedicated demod is not working, they are using other demods to switch manually to NPR programming.

KRVS 88.7FM (Lafayette) - They continue to operate normally, have had no hurricane-related outages. They are helping coordinate information about transmitters and other logistics for WWNO, WWOZ and WRKF, and are also checking in on public station WLSU in Hammond, LA.

KDAQ/Red River Radio Network (based in Shreveport, but with repeater stations in Alexandria, LA / El Dorado, AR / and Lufkin TX) – Shreveport was not directly affected by the hurricane in terms of weather. Broadcast operations continue normally across their coverage area, including the repeater station in Alexandria whose 100kW signal at 1000 feet reaches almost all the way into Baton Rouge. There are 600-800 refugees from New Orleans (and their pets) now housed on a gymnasium on the LSU campus, across from the station.


Mississippi Public Broadcasting (Jackson) – Executive Director Marie Antoon says MPB made it through the storm but have no power at our office. They are on generators to keep radio and television on air. Reports say MPB is doing a tremendous job providing hurricane coverage.

WJSU (Jackson) - Via a very bad cell phone connection, WJSU is off the air. No power on campus or the majority of Jackson. In terms of physical damage, Larry says he’s never seen anything like this before. Staff is safe. The Jackson State campus was evacuated yesterday, including WJSU. Larry was the last person to leave campus.

WURC (Holly Springs) - Just spoke with Wayne Fiddis. Their station is without power, but that's it. Station/equipment/staff are doing fine. Power went out Monday, but should be back Tuesday.


WHIL-FM (Mobile) - Last spoke on Monday at 1:50pm to General Manager Cat Sirten (via cell). All power is out, and nobody is physically at the station. All radio stations in the area are currently playing a local CBS-affiliates TV signal (instead of their regular programming), per arrangement with transmitter contractor. Cat says that water is reported to be at 22 feet in downtown Mobile.

WVAS (Montgomery) - no significant problems. Lots of rain and wind, a few trees down around the city. Staff is doing well. Station is on the air.

WTSU (Troy) - Staff is doing well. Station is on the air. Some rain and wind.

WBHM (Birmingham) – Program Director Michael Krall says everything is doing well. More wind, than rain. Some minor power outages. Station is on the air.


WUWF (Pensacola) - According to Station Manager Joe Vincenza, considering the significant severe weather they’ve experienced recently, they’re doing fine. A little soggy, about 50,000 without power. Station is on the air.


WKNO (Memphis) - According to PD Dan Campbell, one station of their network is down due to power outages. WKNO-Memphis is on the air. Lots of rain, some wind. Overall, everything is fine. Staff is safe.

WPLN (Nashville) - News Director Anita Bugg says everything is ok. Station is on the air.

WETS (Johnson City) - Director Wayne Winkler says they haven’t been affected too badly by the hurricane; they’re a bit north and east of the main damage. We’ve got some tornado watches in some areas, but so far it looks like the worst we’re going to get is a bit of rain for the next day or so. Station is on the air.


How Not To Conduct an Anti-Terror Operation

This is unbelievable.

Devastatingly tragic incompetence.

Sky News mentioned this bit that still has me shaking my head in disbelief:
"The Brazilian was not even seen leaving the flats in Tulse Hill which were under surveillance because one of the officers needed the toilet."
Imagine if the victim really had been a bomber. The security of the United Kingdom would have been jeopardized because an officer needed to visit the loo.

Gads, I wish Nosemonkey wasn't on holiday. I'd pay good money to read him rant about this.

Zotob Wormslaying

Time for a geeky break from political/military rants...

As you may have heard, a new worm is spreading very quickly in the wild. No one seems to be able to pick a name for it—it’s known as Zotob (Symantec), RBOT.CBQ (Trend Micro), Bozori (F-Secure), Tpbot (Sophos) or W32/IRCbot.worm!MS05-039 (McAfee...with a name that just rolls off the tongue!), depending on who you ask. The worm exploits a recent Microsoft vulnerability (MS05-039) that takes advantage of a flaw in the Plug and Play service. Some variants are also able to exploit an older ASN.1 vulnerability (MS04-007), so you should be sure to patch this vulnerability as well.

Here are some brief instructions on how to rid yourself of the worm, in addition to the obvious stuff like keeping your antivirus software up to date. I'd go into further detail, but hey...this is free, handholding costs extra. =)

Worm/Vulnerability Information
Symantec Security Response has good information on the latest variants. Links to each variant are available from their “Latest Virus Threats” page.

Microsoft has a page describing the MS05-039 patch that protects against this vulnerability.

Removing the Worm
It’s possible to remove the worm manually by killing the process, deleting the dropped files, and manually cleaning up the registry, but Symantec created a remover that does all of this automatically. This is probably the easiest way to remove the worm at this time, unless you see a variant that it can’t clean.

1. Identify the worm process
Run Process Explorer (available free from Sysinternals) and check for the presence of a worm process (note that this list will change as new variants are released):

  • W32.Zotob.A – botzor.exe (may be described as “WINDOWS SYSTEM” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.B – csm.exe (may be described as “csm Win Updates” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.C@mm – per.exe (may be described as “WINDOWS SYSTEM” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.D – windrg32.exe (may be described as “WinDrg32” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.E – wintbp.exe (may be described as “Wintbp” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.F – wintbpx.exe (may be described as “Wintbpx” in process list)
  • W32.Zotob.G – windrg32.exe (may be described as “WinDrg32” in process list)
2. Delete the worm with the Zotob Remover
A standalone Zotob worm remover is available from Symantec. Note that you can also run this tool silently from the command line if you'd like to script it...see their instructions for details.
Currently, version 1.30 of the Zotob remover is capable of dealing with 6 variants:
  • W32.Zotob.A
  • W32.Zotob.B
  • W32.Zotob.C@mm
  • W32.Zotob.D
  • W32.Zotob.E
  • W32.Zotob.F
At present, the tool will not remove a newer variant, W32.Zotob.G. It should be manually removed if found, using instructions available here.

3. Patch the System
After deleting the worm, apply the MS05-039 patch, restart the system, and verify that the worm process is not running. Patches from Microsoft are available here:


Word War II Poster of the Week - 3

This week's poster is a dire reminder of the costs of war. Are you saving your waste fats for explosives? Every pound of bacon consumed is another bomb for the 8th Air Force to drop on the Reich. Save your drippings!

Ah, the Good War. "Honey, we should really have a second helping of bacon today--think of all the Liberators we lost over Ploesti! We need to do our part to win this war."

(This week's poster is from the Northwestern University World War II Poster Collection.)


Michael Yon > 'Over There'

Should you find yourself idling in front of the television when the new show "Over There" airs, do yourself a favor. Turn off the television, turn on the computer, and read Michael Yon's latest dispatch from Iraq.

Yon is easily in the same league as John Hersey when it comes to battlefield reporting. We're seeing the Iraq war equivalent of Into the Valley being written before our very eyes.


Sandstorms and Black Clouds In Iraq

Mohammed at Iraq the Model provides us with a graphic example of what we're fighting for in Iraq. Bravery is best captured on film in many cases...and this is certainly one of them. How can we not support these people???

Big Pharaoh sums up these images perfectly:
By God, which group of women look more forward looking, civilized, and hopeful? Which group of women would you like to be filling your country? I am not the kind of person who judges people by how they dress or by how they interpret their religion, but forgive me, I cannot help but say that those who want to suppress women in the name of God are purely wrong and I wish that they vanish from this world. Come on, which group is more likely to produce Iraq's Oprah Winfrey or Iraq's Carly Fiorina.
Not a particularly difficult question to answer, is it?

Bakri's Summer Vacation

Facing possible treason charges, the radical Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed has left Britain for the Middle East:

The spiritual head of the extremist al Muhajiroun group - which is due to be banned under new anti-terror laws - claimed it is "God-forbidden" for Muslims to inform police about terror plots in the UK.

He also said they have a "duty" to fight British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In other words, Muslims should not be subject to British law. The Sky News article leaves off one important bit, which the BBC picked up on: "He said he would stop any potential attack himself, with the help of his "Muslim brothers"." Yes, well, that's all well and good, but the infidel laws that you have no interest in obeying also exist for your protection. Will your Muslim brothers also stop fringe right-wingers from bombing your mosques? Will they stop IRA violence, if/when it resumes? Wishing that the entire world revolves around you and your Islamist pals does not make it true. The legal system does not exist merely to oppress your fellow Muslims.

When speaking to the infidels, of course, Bakri sugar-coats his message:
Speaking to Radio Five Live, he said: "I want for everybody to cool down and live in harmony."
Never mind that the harmony he speaks of involves flying the flag of Islam over No 10 Downing Street ("I would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over number 10 Downing Street, but over the whole world," he said.). Never mind that "cooling down" will never really happen until his dream of world domination is achieved. Burkhas for the women, AK-47s for the men, bullets for the unbelievers who don't accept dhimmitude.

Boiled down, he's really just saying: "I'm out of here a while until these nutty infidels chill out a bit...once they turn on each other and start wringing their hands about how I'm a victim, I'll be back. Then we'll get back to the Master Plan! _long, maniacal laugh_"

UPDATE: Sounds like the vacation isn't going very well so far! No reason has been given for his detention yet...


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Grudgingly Tolerate Anti-Terror Laws (for now)

As the horror of the bombings in London fades, much of the debate has focused on how to combat the the threat at home. One question has continued to pop up--how do we secure our country without sacrificing our freedoms? If this is a war of ideas, then our democratic ideals of freedom and liberty are our greatest weapons. By curtailing freedom and liberty at home in the name of security, are we not fighting our enemy using the wrong strategy? We may well succeed in reducing the short-term threat of bombings, but what price are we willing to pay?

Tim Worstall explains it this way:
Yes, I realise that we’re in a battle. Yet I don’t see the point in winning the battle in order to lose the war. Beating off a bunch of theocratic fascists by becoming a police state ourselves just doesn’t really do it for me. Giving up our own freedoms and liberties because some bunch of (however dangerous) knobheads want to take them from us, I mean, what’s the fucking point?
We must also consider the danger that these "theocratic fascists" pose to us. Are they just a bunch of wankerish amateurs (note that Nosemonkey was calling the 7/7 bombers amateurs, not just the pathetic wannabombers of 7/21...)? What danger do they really pose to our way of life? Nosemonkey dismisses the assumption that we're up against a vast, organized conspiracy:
Of course, what this could be an indication of (my personal favourite theory) is merely that it's a piece of piss to conduct a terrorist attack. You don't need some vast intergalactic conspiracy of bearded men in caves. All you need is some desperate, stupid and psychotic people, access to the internet, and someone with the balls to track down some explosives. Or has every single suicide bomber on the West Bank or in Iraq since the occupation (yet more today, surprise surprise) been part of some vast, James Bond style organisation?
A fair point, and one that seems eerily prescient given that he wrote this just two days before the wannabomber attacks on 7/21. Yet the fact that the bombers often are, in fact, wankerish amateurs is not necessarily comforting--Nosemonkey has identified one of the nastiest weapons in the enemy's arsenal. It doesn't take a highly organized, well disciplined terror network to pose a threat. Anyone with Google and a grievance can not only find instructions on how to build a better bomb, but he can find both justification and support for his cause.

We would be fools to think this hasn't occurred to groups like Al Qaeda. Why should they rely exclusively on sophisticated training, difficult-to-maintain webs of contacts and agents, and the secrecy and discipline that these networks require? Why not just use the internet against the infidel, nurturing potential bombers through message boards and countless other electronic methods? The risk of e-jihad is minimal, the cost is negligible, and the rewards are potentially enormous. As incompetent and amateurish as 7/21 was, it was enormously disruptive and dominated the headlines for weeks. By their standards, it was a victory. It will be very interesting to see exactly where the wannabombers got their ideas.

So what can we do to fight this enemy, if the war is largely waged using ideas as weapons? In the Second World War, Britain made enormous sacrifices in order to achieve victory. Civilian consumption was severely reduced through rationing, voluntary restraint (like setting 'fuel targets' to reduce coal consumption), and countless other programs. Aliens were treated with great suspicion. In his brilliant social history London at War, Philip Ziegler notes that many were rounded up en masse, as in Hampstead in 1939:
The methods used by the police do not seem to have been particularly sophisticated; a constable simply walked into the public library and called for all Germans and Austrians to step outside. The operation may have eased pressure on the library's newspapers, but does not seem to have contributed notably to national security. It was perceived as a great success, however. Florence Speed from Brixton recorded in her diary that in the round-up secret papers had been found giving instructions for sabotage at key points: 'It does look as if all aliens should be interned just to make sure.'
When we talk about fearmongering tabloids and news broadcasts, we should also consider the atmosphere in London shortly after Italy entered the war. Ziegler provides some graphic illustrations of the fear and mistrust that gripped many Londoners:
The instinct that led louts to throw bricks through the windows of ice-cream shops or spaghetti houses did engender a brief madness in London. Cecil Beaton, trying to photograph some bomb damage a week or so before the blitz proper began, was set on by 'a little man with ferret eyes and a pointed red nose' who claimed the Ministry of Information would disapprove. A newspaper seller joined in and Beaton was taken to a police station where he was cautioned for 'provoking the antagonism of the crowd'...A seventy-year-old man stood watching workmen excavating a gas main. A passer-by asked what the men were doing. '"Looks as if they're digging a hole," I said. Well, it wasn't right, was it, asking a question like that. I knew what it was, of course, but I wasn't going to tell him.'...Nobody was martyred, but Londoners exposed an ugly intolerance which ill became the champions of democracy.
Yet unpleasant episodes like this did not reflect the true Britain, as we see now. Ideals like freedom and liberty were not lost for all time; rather, they were safely stored away for safekeeping, to be brought out, dusted off, and placed back on the mantle with the other prized possessions once Hitler was vanquished. Wartime Britain resembled a "police state" in many ways, but ultimately the British people did not forget the freedoms they had stored away for so long. This is important to keep in mind. While we must vigilantly protect the qualities that make our society great, we should also remember this precedent. We're right to be wary of anti-terror laws. We're right to question their effectiveness, and to consider the price we'll pay in our freedoms if such laws are enacted. Yet Britain has seen this all before on a much grander scale, and emerged with her freedoms intact. My point: do not assume that anti-terror laws are permanent, or that they can never be changed!

I would argue that the nature of the threat should dictate what measures are enacted. The difficulty lies in determining the capabilities of the enemy. We can't count the number of Ju87s, Ju88s, Do17s, and He111s we're up against, as in the Battle of Britain. The enemy is much more nebulous, and his order of battle is impossible to assess accurately. This makes it much harder to decide just how to fight him. It's tempting to say "Oh, they're simply wankerish amateurs, and we can live with anything they can throw at us. They're nothing." Yet they do have the potential to cause much more damage than we saw on 7/7. The attacks of 9/11 wreaked far more destruction, and showed an enemy that was both patient and relatively disciplined. We should not give them too much credit, but we must also be careful not to underestimate their capabilities.

And if they acquire a rusty old Soviet nuke?

No, I'm not trying to play scaremonger. If Bin Laden's fantasies come true and a nuke goes off in London or New York, then our civil liberties are sure to be a casualty as well.

Bah...I meant to end this on a happy note.

Word War II Poster of the Week - 2

This week's poster was issued by the British Ministry of Health. Millions of people, mostly children, were evacuated from cities deemed to be at risk from attack by German bombers. The evacuation process was anything but smooth, and caused enormous upheaval.

As David Prest points out in a BBC article about the evacuations, many children suffered great hardships in the process of being relocated. Fear of German bombers led to the evacuations:

The fear of air attack from German bombers at the start of hostilities encouraged parents to send their children to safety. There were predictions of 4,000,000 civilian casualties in London alone, and, as early as 1922 - after the air threat from Zeppelins - Lord Balfour had spoken of 'unremitting bombardment of a kind that no other city has ever had to endure'.

The Government had stockpiled coffins, erected masses of barrage balloons and planned, at least in outline, for the mass evacuation of British cities before 1939. But it is now revealed that these plans were hopelessly flawed.

In the first place, the estimates of casualties were grossly over-exaggerated and the subsequent Government propaganda caused near panic rather than controlled movement.
There are several lessons to be learned from this, but I'll dwell on one in particular. A common thread I've seen running through many blogs these days (particularly Europhobia and other Britblogs, in the wake of 7/7) is that of the government and media overstating the threat. Are terrorist fanatics like Al Qaeda dangerous? Certainly, and to assume anything else is suicidally naive. However, the media prattles on endlessly about the danger, the imminent if there is anyone in London or New York who doesn't already have the thought in the back of their minds. The US government issues a travel warning for Americans visiting the UK, reminding us to "be vigilant". Why? What does that accomplish, other than create an atmosphere of distrust and fear? At best, it makes American tourists worry so much that they're afraid to take the Tube or ride a bus. At worst, it keeps them home--and damages all of the businesses that profit from their travel.

We are at war, of course. But we shouldn't panic. London suffered a terrible attack on 7/7, but look at the city today. Look at what remains untouched by Islamist terror-bombs. Stand wherever you are in London, turn in a complete circle, and note everything that remains untouched.
The Minneapolis Public Library has assembled a rather stunning collection of Second World War posters and other materials. It's worth a visit.