« December 2005
February 2006 »


Justice Alito

After threat and counter-threat of Armageddon, Sam Alito was sworn in as a Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor. After weeks of invective and vitriol, a party-line vote in committee, an overwhelming vote for cloture (ending debate and the possibility of filibuster), and a comfortable 58-42 vote today, Alito was quickly sworn in and Ms. O'Connor can finally comfort her dying husband. Already we know that in the future if the Democrats swing to power, and bring another Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the table, that it's all right to say things about a competent but politically opposite candidate we'd never say in front of our mothers or in front of opposing spouses.

So ends another chapter of Bork Barrel politics.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 31 2006 10:02 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


Humor via email…

Do you have feelings of inadequacy? Do you suffer from shyness? Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Tequila.

Tequila is the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Tequila can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Tequila almost immediately, and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live. Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past, and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Tequila.

Tequila may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Tequila. However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it. Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, erotic lustfulness, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, loss of virginity, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth, and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night rounds of Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare, and Naked Twister.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Monday, Jan 30 2006 09:26 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Carnival of Cordite .45

The Carnival of Cordite .45 is up at Resistance is Futile!

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Friday, Jan 27 2006 05:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Feline Friday

Church on Pink Blanket by Josh Poulson

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Friday, Jan 27 2006 09:57 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  1 trackback

My Lawn Today

Addition Formed by Josh Poulson

Tomorrow we will be visited by the Concrete Fairy and have a foundation, but today we have forms and rain.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Thursday, Jan 26 2006 02:07 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Hamas Wins

Hamas has apparently done well in yesterday's elections in Palestine, winning 76 seats in the 132-member parliament. Hamas has run on a platform of armed conflict, no peace negotiations, and no recognition for the state of Israel.

Fatah, the old party in power, only won 43 seats. Fatah had supported a cease fire and peace negotiations with Israel.

Hamas has deep ties with terrorist organizations in Palestine, and the elections results do not bode well for improving stability in the region.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics, Terrorism” Thursday, Jan 26 2006 11:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Linus Torvalds: “I don't think the GPL v3 conversion is going to happen” for Linux

Linus Torvalds stated (in a linux-kernel email) that it is unlikely that the Linux kernel will be moved to the version 3 GPL license:

The Linux kernel is under the GPL version 2. Not anything else. Some individual files are licenceable under v3, but not the kernel in general.
And quite frankly, I don't see that changing. I think it's insane to require people to make their private signing keys available, for example. I wouldn't do it. So I don't think the GPL v3 conversion is going to happen for the kernel, since I personally don't want to convert any of my code.

The key issue with GPLv3 is the restrictions on DRM (which I highlighted before), which Linus apparently accepts from a practical standpoint. I have to agree with the position that a license term that makes use of code less free is not in keeping with the goal of release software as open source. If it's “open” then you have to accept that some people may do things you find repugnant (like using it to access restricted content).

Linus only speaks for his code, of course, but that's a significant portion of the Linux kernel.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Linux” Thursday, Jan 26 2006 11:09 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

CNN's “101 Dumbest Moments in Business”

CNN is running a feature covering 2005's “101 Dumbest Moments in Business”, worth reading if you need a giggle.

Some of my favorites:

18. Perhaps they should change the motto to “Don't be stupid.”
New Google employee Mark Jen adds a post to his blog in which he says he spent his first day in an HR presentation about “nothing in particular.” Apparently, Jen snoozed through the company's strict disclosure rules. In a subsequent post, he reveals that the company expects unprecedented revenues and profit growth in 2005, projections that Google has yet to share with Wall Street. Jen soon receives another presentation from HR: a pink slip.
38. Jeez, it's just a little beeping noise. Don't go having a heart attack.
In June, Guidant recalls 50,000 heart defibrillators—about 38,600 of them already implanted in people's chests—that might, in rare cases, short-circuit when they're supposed to deliver vital electrical jolts. The recall comes after the devices were reported to have failed at least 45 times, including two instances in which the patients died. Guidant fixed the flaw in devices made after mid-2002 but neglected to inform doctors and continued to sell units produced before the fix. The recall advises patients that, should the device malfunction, it will emit a beeping noise, at which point they should contact their doctors or head to an emergency room.
45. May I see my ID?
In February, ChoicePoint—the self-proclaimed “leading provider of identification and credential verification services”—admits that it sold the personal data of 145,000 people to a number of unauthorized recipients, including an identity-theft ring in Los Angeles. ChoicePoint thoughtfully offers the victims a free credit report—but still makes them pay to see the detailed information that was provided to the criminals. The incident kicks up an identity-theft furor serious enough to draw congressional hearings; the company later reports the incident cost it $21 million.
51. How much extra does it cost to have the telemarketers join our loved ones in the great beyond?
The Direct Marketing Association rolls out a Deceased Do-Not-Contact list to stop calls to dead relatives. The fee for preventing telemarketers from reaching to the grave: $1 per person.
64. Told you we shouldn't have rented that list from the Department of Homeland Security.
Blaming a mailing-list vendor for providing bad information, JPMorgan Chase apologizes for sending a form letter about its credit card services to an Arab American man in California addressed to “Palestinian Bomber.”
66. No late fees. Honest. Sort of.
In January, Blockbuster kicks off a “no late fees” policy. The catch? If customers keep their movies more than a week past the due date, their credit cards are charged for the full purchase price; when they return the items, their refund comes minus a “restocking fee.” By March the company settles with 47 states for $630,000 and agrees to pay refunds to consumers who felt misled.
69. The irony is rich. Shareholders, alas, are not.
In June, H&R Block announces a review of its recent financial statements, estimating it will find discrepancies in its favor of about $19 million. Two months later it reveals that the review found $77 million in errors—in the other direction. The company explains that it had “insufficient resources” to identify and report complex transactions in its corporate tax accounting.
94. Thus giving a whole new meaning to “crash-test dummies.”
After a live demonstration of the radar-powered automatic braking system in Mercedes-Benz's new S-Class sedans turns into a nationally televised three-car pileup, the company claims that the steel walls of the safety center where the test took place interfered with the radar and confounded the system. An investigation by the Stern TV network, however, shows that the demonstration was staged (albeit poorly). Mercedes later admits it knew all along that the system would not work inside the safety center and had enlisted the vehicle's driver to “simulate” the experience.

Make sure you check it out.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Thursday, Jan 26 2006 06:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Gun Pictures Are Popular

I get a lot of hits on my website looking for gun pictures, even more than cat pictures or my commentary. Here's a little more for the folks that come here looking for guns!

Gripped 1911 by John McEnroe

John McEnroe took the picture, but it's my hands and my Wilson Combat Protector (a very nice 1911, if I say so myself). Notice all the wear and tear on the poor thing as it's my day-to-day carry piece.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging, Guns, Pictures” Tuesday, Jan 24 2006 06:23 PM  |  Permalink  |  5 comments  |  1 trackback

Feline Friday

We Didn't Do Nothin' by Josh Poulson

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Friday, Jan 20 2006 07:50 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  1 trackback

Osama Bin Laden Offers Threats, Truce

Coming on the heels of an allied attack in Pakistan targeted at Al Quaeda “No. 2” Ayman al-Zawahiri (and possibly successfully killing Mustafa Usman, Khalid Habib, and other high-ranking lieutenants), segments of an audiotape aired on Al Jazeera bring us some bravado and threats from Osama Bin Laden, as reported by Fox News:

Our people are able to infiltrate through your security measures no matter how strong.

Any complex system is vulnerable to breaches, and the security measures for entire borders of countries or for delivering small bombs into major metropolitan cities are clearly complex. However, we've caught a lot of people trying, so we are consuming Al Quaeda people and money in the process.

As for the delay in similar operations in America is not because of your security measures; operations are being prepared and you will see them in your homes.

It always makes you look better to say you have huge plans afoot than to say you've had a divided focus. This “veiled fist” negotiation technique hasn't exactly worked for him in the past. Even when his attacks are successful, they don't seem to be moving the world to adopting Sharia (Islamic Law) or kicking the allies out of the Middle East.

Oddly, he also offers a truce:

We do not mind offering you a long-term truce with fair conditions that we adhere to… We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America.

He also demonstrated his abillity to pick up anti-current-strategy talking points from the mainstream media:

Reality shows that the war on America and its allies is no longer limited to Iraq as he claims, on the contrary Iraq has become a magnetic point for qualified powers and the Mujahideen have been able time after time to breach all the security measures set by coalition countries and the evidence is the bombings you have seen in some major European capitals of this coalition.

Well, sure, it is very hard to have effective security measures and a free country simultaneously, and our terrorist mastermind understands this. Terrorism is a battle of wills, and he is resolved to break down our willpower with withering, relentless attacks. In this sense he has been losing, as worldwide attacks were clearly not forthcoming, and many attacks have been stopped. It has taken significant resources to effect relentless attacks in Iraq, and those resources cannot be used elsewhere once they are consumed. Other attacks have occured, most notably in London and Barcelona as he points out. The Spanish attack changed a government, a giant victory for Al Quaeda. The English attack did not.

What worries me about the plan to draw Al Quaeda into (relatively) open warfare in Iraq is that Al Quaeda survivors are learning something and can either train others or do more spectacular displays. While the armed forces are also learning, they are learning in a completely different environment than the US. If similar operations started here, we'd be hard-pressed to mount a similar response. It takes a large sympathetic, or at least cowed, population to operate openly, however, so as long as there are few (if any) that would offer that much aid and comfort to the enemy, we need only have to deeply fear WMDs and must steel ourselves against “demonstrations” like the plane, train, and bus bombings we have seen outside of the Middle East.

Update: Add Midhat Mursi/Abu Khabab al-Masri and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi to the list of Al Quaeda lieutenants bombed in Pakistan.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Terrorism” Thursday, Jan 19 2006 09:05 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

GPLv3 (draft) v. GPLv2

The folks at GrokLaw have posted a “diff” of GPLv2 and v3 here.

Some of the new language is particular hostile to recent events in Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), where copyright holders go to extreme measures to prevent the misuse of intellectual property by means of encryption, hidden programs, and other programatic means that may, in fact, be harmful to end users and their computers.

Digital Restrictions Management.
As a free software license, this License intrinsically disfavors technical attempts to restrict users' freedom to copy, modify, and share copyrighted works. Each of its provisions shall be interpreted in light of this specific declaration of the licensor's intent. Regardless of any other provision of this License, no permission is given to distribute covered works that illegally invade users' privacy, nor for modes of distribution that deny users that run covered works the full exercise of the legal rights granted by this License.
No covered work constitutes part of an effective technological protection measure: that is to say, distribution of a covered work as part of a system to generate or access certain data constitutes general permission at least for development, distribution and use, under this License, of other software capable of accessing the same data.

Interesting language, but I wonder about its enforceability. Who's going to pay to argue in court about the nuances of the words above? The RIAA, for example, loves suing people in order to establish precedent, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I'm sure they wouldn't mind suing some open source developer in order to edfend DRM.

Another change is that the loaded language “distribute” has been softened to “propagate” in order to avoid the way some copyright laws are worded.

To "propagate" a work means doing anything with it that requires permission under applicable copyright law, other than executing it on a computer or making private modifications. This includes copying, distribution (with or without modification), sublicensing, and in some countries other activities as well.

Also, care is taken to define Source Code and Object Code.

Source Code.
The "source code" for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. "Object code" means any non-source version of a work.
The "Complete Corresponding Source Code" for a work in object code form means all the source code needed to understand, adapt, modify, compile, link, install, and run the work, excluding general-purpose tools used in performing those activities but which are not part of the work. For example, this includes any scripts used to control those activities, and any shared libraries and dynamically linked subprograms that the work is designed to require, such as by intimate data communication or control flow between those subprograms and other parts of the work, and interface definition files associated with the program source files.
Complete Corresponding Source Code also includes any encryption or authorization codes necessary to install and/or execute the source code of the work, perhaps modified by you, in the recommended or principal context of use, such that its functioning in all circumstances is identical to that of the work, except as altered by your modifications. It also includes any decryption codes necessary to access or unseal the work's output. Notwithstanding this, a code need not be included in cases where use of the work normally implies the user already has it.
Complete Corresponding Source Code need not include anything that users can regenerate automatically from other parts of the Complete Corresponding Source Code.
As a special exception, the Complete Corresponding Source Code need not include a particular subunit if (a) the identical subunit is normally included as an adjunct in the distribution of either a major essential component (kernel, window system, and so on) of the operating system on which the executable runs or a compiler used to produce the executable or an object code interpreter used to run it, and (b) the subunit (aside from possible incidental extensions) serves only to enable use of the work with that system component or compiler or interpreter, or to implement a widely used or standard interface, the implementation of which requires no patent license not already generally available for software under this License.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Linux” Wednesday, Jan 18 2006 03:09 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law

Gonzales v. Oregon: Amazingly, in a 6 to 3 vote, the Supreme Court has voted for states' rights: Oregon's 1994 Physician-Assisted Suicide Law trumps the Federal power to regulate doctors!

Justice Kennedy has a strong start for a case with moral, ethical, and Federal implications:

The question before us is whether the Controlled Substances Act allows the United States Attorney General to prohibit doctors from prescribing regulated drugs for use in physician-assisted suicide, notwithstanding a state law permitting the procedure. As the Court has observed, “Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.”

The first issue is whether a Federal agency gets to bend and interpret the law without explicit authority from Congress to do so, even though it has wide law-making powers granted to it by Congress. The Attorney General issued an interpretive rule claiming that physicians that used CSA-regulated drugs to assist suicide could have their licenses revoked.

“…assisting suicide is not a ‘legitimate medical purpose’ within the meaning of 21 CFR 1306.04 (2001), and that prescribing, dispensing, or administering federally controlled substances to assist suicide violates the Controlled Substances Act. Such conduct by a physician registered to dispense controlled substances may ‘render his registration… inconsistent with the public interest’ and therefore subject to possible suspension or revocation under 21 U. S. C. 824(a)(4). The Attorney General’s conclusion applies regardless of whether state law authorizes or permits such conduct by practitioners or others and regardless of the condition of the person whose suicide is assisted.” 66 Fed. Reg. 56608 (2001).

The SCOTUS didn't like that “interpretation” instead thinking that this was upending the intent of the law.

The regulation uses the terms “legitimate medical purpose” and “the course of professional practice,” ibid., but this just repeats two statutory phrases and attempts to summarize the others. It gives little or no instruction on a central issue in this case: Who decides whether a particular activity is in “the course of professional practice” or done for a “legitimate medical purpose”? Since the regulation gives no indication how to decide this issue, the Attorney General’s effort to decide it now cannot be considered an interpretation of the regulation. Simply put, the existence of a parroting regulation does not change the fact that the question here is not the meaning of the regulation but the meaning of the statute. An agency does not acquire special authority to interpret its own words when, instead of using its expertise and experience to formulate a regulation, it has elected merely to paraphrase the statutory language.

Another question is whether states have any powers at all, which is obvious here, because the CSA explicitly indicates the states have an interest, and powers:

“No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as indicating an intent on the part of the Congress to occupy the field in which that provision operates… to the exclusion of any State law on the same subject matter which would otherwise be within the authority of the State, unless there is a positive conflict between that provision… and that State law so that the two cannot consistently stand together.” §903.

So, what follows is pages of point by point knockdown of a list of reasons the Federal folks cited for their interpretive rule being appropriate, but they all fall:

For all these reasons, we conclude the CSA’s prescription requirement does not authorize the Attorney General to bar dispensing controlled substances for assisted suicide in the face of a state medical regime permitting such conduct.

And we end with a states' rights smackdown:

The Government, in the end, maintains that the prescription requirement delegates to a single Executive officer the power to effect a radical shift of authority from the States to the Federal Government to define general standards of medical practice in every locality. The text and structure of the CSA show that Congress did not have this far-reaching intent to alter the federal-state balance and the congressional role in maintaining it.

Amazing to see this after Kelo, isn't it?

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Tuesday, Jan 17 2006 09:00 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

GPL Version 3 Draft 1

A draft of version 3 of the GNU Public License is out in the public for folks to look at, with a detailed discussion of the rationale here.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Linux” Tuesday, Jan 17 2006 06:41 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Guncrafter Industries Model No. 2

Guncrafter Industries is showing a sneak preview of their Model No. 2 1911-style .50 GI handgun. It has a full-length dust cover, solid reverse plug, and a equipment rail (best used for a light). I don't think I'd use the equipment rail—I consider lights to be bullet magnets and I don't want it near me—but I like the extra weight of the dust cover as well as the reduced chances of getting crud in the gun because of the redone reverse plug. Add a ambidextrous safety and I like it a lot.

The .50 GI cartridge is controversial, however. Some people don't like unusual case head design, others don't like the low velocity. I kinda like the idea, but I'm worried about the cost of ammunition. This one is really designed for people who reload, and I'm not set up for that (yet). I am a believer in .45 ACP and find it to be comfortable to shoot. The .50 GI is supposed to be similar in recoil and makes for large holes in the target.

The next question is “would I carry it?” There are risks in carrying an unusual caliber, and there are also risks in carrying a gun whose reliability has not been proven in your own hands yet, so for me the jury has evidence yet to hear (let alone being “out”). I have a few 1911s I trust carrying, primarily my Wilson Protector and my Kimber (I sold my Springfield—it hard really sharp edges). I like the familiarity of the Model No. 1's design, therefore, and I'd love to give it a try. I just need three spare kilobucks to try it out…

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Monday, Jan 16 2006 10:58 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Cops With Switchblades

Washington State Senator Jerome Delivin has introduced SB 6295 allowing law enforcement to carry switchblades here in Washington, but hasn't gone so far as to allow gravity knives, brass knuckles, or silencers. Makes sense to me—sometimes you only have one hand free to work your knife when you're dealing with a situation. But law enforcement is hardly unique in needing knives. <irony>However, private citizens with spring-loaded knives are scary.</irony>

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 14 2006 08:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Survived the Marketing Plan Presentation

We presented our marketing plan today and survived! Onward to the financial plan in a few weeks.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “School” Saturday, Jan 14 2006 06:41 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Feline Friday

Church and Snowball 2 Look For a Fly by Josh Poulson

Church and Snowball look for a fly.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Friday, Jan 13 2006 12:32 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

2006 Dodge Challenger Concept

The Detroit Auto Show is in full swing, and there's a Dodge Challenger coupe concept car (from AutoBlog):

Dodge Chellenger concept by AutoBlog

Lots more pictures on AutoBlog here.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Wednesday, Jan 11 2006 09:47 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

WSJ Washington Wire

Looks like I missed the online launch of the Wall Street Journal's “Washington Wire”. Sorry about the oversight.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Monday, Jan 9 2006 10:40 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Guy Kawasaki's “Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs”

Via Signal vs. Noise I found Guy Kawasaki's latest piece, “The Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs.” This is a great list:

  1. Our projections are conservative.
  2. Gartner says our market will be $50 billion in 2010.
  3. Boeing is going to sign our purchase order next week.
  4. Key employees are set to join us as soon as we get funded.
  5. No one is doing what we're doing.
  6. No one can do what we're doing.
  7. Hurry because several other venture capital firms are interested.
  8. Oracle is too big/dumb/slow to be a threat.
  9. We have a proven management team.
  10. Patents make our product defensible.
  11. All we have to do is get 1% of the market.

I've encountered thoughts like these reading through business plans in my own preparations for finishing school, and there have certainly been plenty of similar lists I've seen on the various VC blogs and in the book The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar with Kent Lineback. Perhaps these are obvious but they deserve restating for people that think they're immune to this.

What's more important about this latest top ten list is the commentary by Guy and Jason Fried's “Guy Gets It Right” post at Signal vs. Noise. Guy collects what his response would be if he was the VC listening to the pitch and gives some good advice. Jason's advice is similar.

I've not had a plan torn apart by a VC, yet, but I've watched others tear apart presentations. I'm not sure I could offer any advice over and above the list of don'ts above. Perhaps I should mention a list of dos:

  1. Do make projections with solid supporting evidence. The market itself, and perhaps your target segment, could be relatively easy to define and show. People prefer to invest in growing markets and growing companies so you need to show growth is likely.
  2. Do acknowledge what the experts are saying. Gartner is making numbers up with projections, but they tend to know what they are doing when they do current market research and analysis. There are plenty of other experts to consider too.
  3. Do indicate what customers you have lined up, that you understand their unmet needs and that they are going to benefit by your proposed solution. If you present a plan that doesn't focus on customer pain you aren't going to be taken seriously.
  4. Do indicate what skills and strengths you have and what gaps remain to be filled. If you are asking for money to grow a sales team, make sure you have someone on board that knows how to hire sales people and has experience doing so. Nothing scares me more than a plan that says a team of five people is hiring a hundred people in the next year and that team has product development milestones in the first quarter.
  5. While it's true that anyone can do what you're doing if they made the same choice, indicate what you are doing to sustain a competitive advantage. Indicate why others would have a difficult time decided to do what you're doing.
  6. Similar to the previous item, talk about what barriers lay in the way of others that want to do what you're doing. For example, a competing drug would have have to go through FDA approval, or people in this kind market are extremely loyal so because we are first to solve their problem and sign them on, it will be hard to steal them away from us.
  7. Do indicate where your money has come from and what investors are already at the table with a piece of the pie. Some angel investors are amazingly good for your credibility. The dedication of the founders in mortgaging their lives to the gills is important for gauging their passion.
  8. Instead of insulting the big players in your market, indicate how it would hurt for them to make the same choices you've made. Southwest Airlines made a series of strategic decisions (no connecting flights, no first class, all planes are 737s, no checked luggage) that resulted in a way to attack a market with prices lower than others, and when Continental tried to copy them with Continental Light, it hurt their other business that relied on the high margins offered by other choices. Beating the big boys relies on strategy, not arrogance.
  9. Do indicate that your management team can do what it takes and is dedicated to making it work. History is good, but passion is important. (I'm echoing Guy and Jason here)
  10. Yet again, it is more important to indicate how you will sustain your competitive advantage rather than relying on IP to save your bacon. The IP wars are miserable and expensive, so rely on something else to protect your hard work. Part of the cautionary tale here is that all it takes is a big idea. It takes a good idea that makes someone's life better (besides your own) and the skills and willingness to make it work.
  11. Guy nails this one. Indicate how you will dominate a niche of the market and expand that. Read Geoffrey Moore.

There you have it. I'm not sure I added anything that was not also obvious, but maybe it's good to say it all again.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Monday, Jan 9 2006 08:25 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Carnival of the Cats #94

The 94th Carnival of the Cats is up at pages turned. Church and Snowball have returned to the carnival after a short break over Christmas.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Monday, Jan 9 2006 06:16 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Carnival of Cordite #42

After a holiday break, Carnival of Cordite #42 is up at Resistance is futile! Send congrats to Gullyborg for his marriage over the break, and to the many others with gun-related Christmas presents.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Guns” Sunday, Jan 8 2006 10:26 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Congressional Research Service on NSA Wiretaps

The Congressional Research Service has released a report, “Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information” on the recent NSA surveillance issue:

Recent media revelations that the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect signals intelligence from communications involving U.S. persons within the United States, without obtaining a warrant or court order, raise numerous questions regarding the President’s authority to order warrantless electronic surveillance.

The Washington Post has offered its own conclusions in “Report Rebuts Bush on Spying”:

A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments.

But Powerline's John has indicated we should actually read the doggone thing:

The Post's coverage of the CRS report is deeply misleading.

I love such a simple disagreement, so let's take a look! The report has a ton of background information and the following conclusion:

Whether an NSA activity is permissible under the Fourth Amendment and the statutory scheme outlined above is impossible to determine without an understanding of the specific facts involved and the nature of the President’s authorization, which are for the most part classified. If the NSA operations at issue are encompassed in the definition of “electronic surveillance” set forth under FISA, it would seem consistent with Congress’s intent that such surveillance must be carried out in accordance with FISA procedures. Although section 109(a) of FISA does not explicitly limit the language “as authorized by statute” to refer only to Title III and to FISA, the legislative history suggests that such a result was intended. The exceptions to the criminal prohibition under Title III, however, are specifically limited to those mentioned within Title III. Even if the AUMF is read to provide the statutory authorization necessary to avoid criminal culpability under FISA, it does not necessarily follow that the AUMF provides a substitute authority under FISA to satisfy the more specific language in Title III. To the extent that any of the electronic surveillance at issue may be outside the sweep of FISA or Title III, Congress does not appear to have legislated specifically on the subject, nor, by the absence of legislation, to have authorized or acquiesced in such surveillance.

We start with a mixed bag. We're not sure what the issue is, and as a result we have to look in a variety of areas. The last sentence leads to a discussion on whether not Congress can limit Presidental authority by statute.

Whether such electronic surveillances are contemplated by the term “all necessary and appropriate force” as authorized by the AUMF turns on whether they are, under the Hamdi analysis, an essential element of waging war. Even assuming that the President’s role as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is implicated in the field of electronic surveillance for the collection of foreign intelligence information within the United States, it should not be accepted as a foregone conclusion that Congress has no role to play. By including the emergency authorization for electronic surveillance without a court order for fifteen days following a declaration of war, Congress seems clearly to have contemplated that FISA would continue to operate during war although such conditions might necessitate amendments. Amendments to FISA in the USA PATRIOT Act and subsequent legislation further demonstrate Congress’s willingness to make adjustments. The history of Congress’s active involvement in regulating electronic surveillance within the United States leaves little room for arguing that Congress has accepted by acquiescence the NSA operations here at issue.

It's patently obvious that electronic surveillance is essential to conducting a war. All it takes is a simple understanding of the effect of Enigma intercepts on the conduct of World War II to illustrate that, let alone the millions of other examples. The leap here is that because we are at war with terrorist organizations that seek to undermine the US, its democracy, and its interests, we need to conduct such intelligence operations whenever and wherever the terrorists operate. Sophisticated intelligence gathering is required to combat an enemy that uses the civilian population as concealment and as a target, but I'm not the one writing this report.

To the extent that the Administration seems to base its interpretation of the AUMF and FISA on the assumption that a reading contrary to the one they rely upon would be an unconstitutional violation of separation-of-powers principles, it appears to regard the matter as deserving the highest level of deference under Youngstown’s first category simply by virtue of the assumption that it would survive scrutiny under the third category. To conclude that Congress’s enactments are unconstitutional and therefore could not reflect Congress’s intent seems to beg the question.

Legal trick denied, sorry. Use of a legal trick undermines the entire argument as well. I do not put a lot of weight on this argument or it's counter. They are side issues.

Court cases evaluating the legality of warrantless wiretaps for foreign intelligence purposes provide some support for the assertion that the President possesses inherent authority to conduct such surveillance. The Court of Review, the only appellate court to have addressed the issue since the passage of FISA, “took for granted” that the President has inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence electronic surveillance under his Article II powers, stating that, “assuming that was so, FISA could not encroach on that authority.” However, much of the other lower courts’ discussions of inherent presidential authority occurred prior to the enactment of FISA, and no court has ruled on the question of Congress’s authority to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence information.

An appellate court (the FISA Court of Review!) takes the President's authority for granted and doesn't think FISA limits it in this area, but other courts are silent on the issue. Score one for precedent for the President.

From the foregoing analysis, it appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here under discussion, and it would likewise appear that, to the extent that those surveillances fall within the definition of “electronic surveillance” within the meaning of FISA or any activity regulated under Title III, Congress intended to cover the entire field with these statutes. To the extent that the NSA activity is not permitted by some reading of Title III or FISA, it may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb, in which case exclusive presidential control is sustainable only by “disabling Congress from acting upon the subject.” While courts have generally accepted that the President has the power to conduct domestic electronic surveillance within the United States inside the constraints of the Fourth Amendment, no court has held squarely that the Constitution disables the Congress from endeavoring to set limits on that power. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has stated that Congress does indeed have power to regulate domestic surveillance, and has not ruled on the extent to which Congress can act with respect to electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information. Given such uncertainty, the Administration’s legal justification, as presented in the summary analysis from the Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests.

So, Congress did not authorize the intercepts, domestic intercepts are indeed regulated, so it all depends on the nature of the intercepts. On the court side, there is a little evidence for the Administration's interpretation but definitely a danger that once the nature of the intercepts is determined, of the justification being tenuous.

Looking at the report, I have to say that the Washington Post has pretty much done a hack-job here by cherry-picking the parts of the conclusion it likes. John at Powerline is right in that actually reading the CRS report brings us to a different conclusion than “Report Rebuts Bush on Spying.”

In fact, John points out a set of court precedents that support the power of the President to conduct warrantless surveillance on foreign powers:

The critical issue, as I have argued repeatedly, is the President's inherent power under Article II of the Constitution to take military actions appropriate to protect the nation's security. That inherent power has been recognized again and again by the federal courts. In at least five appellate decisions, as I noted here, the federal courts have specifically held that the President has the inherent constitutional power to order warrantless intercepts to gain foreign intelligence information (which is defined to include information on terrorism).

I'm still siding with the President on this one, and certainly not with the cherry-picking of the Washington Post.

Update: I went a little crazy with my highlighting, so I've backed it off and added to my discussion slightly as to why I highlighted what I did.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Saturday, Jan 7 2006 11:06 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Terrorists In Italy Arrested Due To Wiretap Evidence

NewsMax is carrying a story about 3 Algerian terrorists arrested in Italy who were planning major attacks in the United States. The story highlights the use of wiretap evidence:

Italian authorities recently announced that they had used wiretaps to uncover the conspiracy to conduct a series of major attacks inside the U.S.

These attacks were aimed at shipping, railroads, and stadiums. Certainly juicy targets. The NewsMax story indicates that they intended to surpass 9/11 with a series of bombings.

Italian authorities stepped up their internal surveillance programs after July's terrorist bombings in London. Their domestic wiretaps picked up phone conversations by Algerian Yamine Bouhrama that discussed terrorist attacks in Italy and abroad.
Italian authorities arrested Bouhrama on November 15 and he remains in prison. Authorities later arrested two other men, Achour Rabah and Tartaq Sami, who are believed to be Bouhrama’s chief aides in planning the attacks.

They focus on a lack of coverage in the MSM, and allege conspiracy to hide this. A quick look around Google, however, came up with not much media coverage outside of the US either, unless it has already expired off of their radar (these arrests go back to mid-December). There certainly was some coverage, however:

Could it be that a December 23rd story could disappear from most high volume news sites? The NewsMax article indicates that the Associated Press did have an article, omitting details about the wiretap, but did not include a citation. If anyone has a link to the AP article, please link to it in a comment. I certainly have a low opinion of the AP but I want to see if they really omitted wiretapping from this story or not.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Terrorism” Friday, Jan 6 2006 09:23 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Feline Friday

These two are cats now, not kittens. Not only have they had important non-reproductive surgery, but they've grown from these sizes:

Dec 19 2005 Church and Snowball 2 by Josh Poulson

…to these:

Snowball 2 on a Chair by Josh Poulson

Church on a Chair by Josh Poulson

Okay, so maybe they don't look that much bigger after Christmas vacation, but take my word for it: they're adults now.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Friday, Jan 6 2006 07:48 AM  |  Permalink  |  2 comments  |  1 trackback

Gates Fears IBM

Bill Gates, currently showing his face at CES keynote, has cited IBM as the biggest threat to Microsoft, surpassing Google and Apple:

“The biggest company in the computer industry by far is IBM. They have the four times the employees that I have, way more revenues than I have. IBM has always been our biggest competitor. The press just doesn't like to write about IBM,” said Gates.

Don't I like to hear it? After all, IBM is the biggest proponent of open standards in the world, too.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Business” Thursday, Jan 5 2006 10:35 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Quote of the Day (Drucker)

From The Daily Drucker (by Peter F. Drucker with Jospeh A. Maciariello) entry for January 4th:

Eventually every activity becomes obsolete. Among organizations that ignore this fact, the worst offender is government. Indeed, the inability to stop doing anything is the central disease of government and a major reason why government today is sick. Hospitals and universities are only a little better than government in getting rid of yesterday.

Having worked with government, in universities, and hearing horror stories from Misty—a RN who has worked both VA and regular hospitals—I have to say this claim is true of our experience.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics” Wednesday, Jan 4 2006 04:12 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

WSJ Launches Law Blog

The Wall Street Journal has launched a law blog. I'll add it to Groklaw, Professor Bainbridge, and the Volokh Conspiracy as a regular source on law and business.

The WSJ law blog is already darn prolific. There's a ton of articles on there from the past few days. Peter Lattman's “Welcome” posting gives an idea of what they will try to do:

Our mission: to scour the universe for compelling stories in two related areas: business and law, and the business of law. Law and business is a broad intersection, encompassing such current news as the Enron trial, the Merck litigation and the RIM patent dispute. The business of law is focused on law firms and in-house law departments. We’ll write about industry news and legal trends, with a sprinkle of good old-fashioned gossip.
We’ll link to the best coverage of law and lawyers from around the Web, report some news of our own and look to you for contributions. We heartily invite your comments, tips and insights.

Looks like I have more reading to do.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Blogging” Wednesday, Jan 4 2006 10:54 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Marble Chutes and Ladders

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Pictures” Tuesday, Jan 3 2006 08:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Amazon Best of 2005

Amazon.com has posted their best of 2005 lists. I'm not surprised that I'm horribly behind on my science fiction reading, but amused that a lot of my picks for non-fiction made it to the Editor's Choice lists.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner comes in at the top of the editor's choice list. I enjoyed the book, although I found some of the links to be strained. I appreciated the humor, but I have most of my doubt reserved for the claim that easier abortions caused a decrease in crime in the past 25 years.

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman is another set of interesting cloth-bound claims. Much of what he says rings true, especially with respect to the spread of knowledge work around the globe. Where the book loses steam is when it moves from descriptive to prescriptive writing. Friedman has three Pulitzer Prizes for his work at the New York Times, but I won't hold that against him. (Despite his association with the NYT, I recently purchased Friedman's Longitudes & Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11.)

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell is a great exploration of snap decisions, and how to train them, and when to trust them. I haven't actually purchased this book except in Audiobook form. The other two above I have in both hardback and Audiobook.

As for books I haven't bought, but I've read summaries and articles about, number one on my list and appearing on the Editor's Choice list, is Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. I've read my share of Harvard Business Review coverage of this book, and I need to add it to my shelf.

The book I think should be on the list and didn't appear? The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun, hands down. If I ever need to teach Project Management, this book will be on my list. Far more down to earth than most books on the subject—and I've read more than my share—I heartily recommend it to anyone thinking they understand how to manage the business of making software, and a few others besides. Other picks from me would include Database in Depth by C. J. Date and Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror by Richard Miniter.

We'll see how the new year works out. I'm done getting piles of books for class, unless I start taking new classes in April—unlikely after the two year push to finish my MS. I suspect I'll finally have time for fiction again. I have a ton of Harry Turtledove to read (he is quite prolific, and two years of downtime has buried me in unread novels from his various series). I've always wanted to read the Results-Driven Manager series from Harvard Business School Press. And, based on a great start, O'Reilly's Theory In Practice series (of which Database in Depth and The Art of Project Management are the start) is probably a must read. I guess I'm going to be busy.

Amazon.com links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “General” Tuesday, Jan 3 2006 07:19 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


Affiliate advertising

Basecamp project management and collaboration

Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate