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2006 January 03 — Why Now?
On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
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The Tao of Putin*

So the Shrubbery looked into Vladimir’s soul and saw a mirror image, another power-mad megalomaniac.Upset that the Ukrainians failed to follow his instructions in the recent elections, Vlodya decided to up the price of natural gas from $50/unit to $250/unit. The justification was that it was about time they paid the market rate, instead the special former Soviet Socialist Republic rate, with the implication being that if the Ukrainians want to be part of Western Europe they can, by Marx and Lenin, pay Western European prices.

The gas was shut off for a while and a lot of posturing went on about who said what, and who did what, and who was a criminal. The Russians claim that the EU should back them because this is about the free market economic system replacing the old Communist paternalism…blah, blah, blah.

Not to start anything, but Russia sends the bulk of its natural gas to Western Europe through a pipeline across the Ukraine. Now if the Russians what to go all “free market”, how long before the Ukrainians start taking about a increase in the fee charged for the passage of the pipeline? How are the Russians going to respond if the Ukrainians decide that the passage to Western markets is worth $300/unit? This is something that can get out of hand rather quickly.

For the sake of those heating with natural gas in Europe, I hope that reality sets in and the problem is resolved in a reasonable fashion, because the Ukraine needs the gas at the moment, and the Russians need the pipeline.

[* – a bad multilingual pun]

January 3, 2006   Comments Off on The Tao of Putin*

They Really Checked It Was Legal

From a Time article in this week’s edition:

…Because the NSA program was so sensitive, Administration officials tell TIME, the “lawyers’ group,” an organization of fewer than half a dozen government attorneys the National Security Council convenes to review top-secret intelligence programs, was bypassed. Instead, the legal vetting was given to Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel.

So, they didn’t run it by the special court that is staffed with a dozen judges who have been cleared to hear top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act cases, nor their own National Security Council’s team of Justice Department lawyers. Alberto Gonzales was the only opinion they had on the legality of this program.

The only thing that made this program “so sensitive” was the fact that it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

January 3, 2006   Comments Off on They Really Checked It Was Legal

Happy Birthday to Spirit

Today marks the second year since the Spirit rover landed on Mars. It was only expected to last 4 months, but Spirit and it’s sibling Opportunity keep puttering along doing their job of exploring the Mars-scape.

More information at the NASA Rover site.

Think about what this represents: a vehicle designed by a government funded project that has lasted eight times longer than expected, runs on sunlight, produces no pollution. We are still capable of solving problems when we are allowed to without corporate interference except for the product tie-in to LEGO.

[Update: This is the LEGO Mars Rover.]

January 3, 2006   Comments Off on Happy Birthday to Spirit