Typhoon Haitang is our first typhoon of the year, and it’s looking like it’ll be a big one, and it’s almost certainly going to hit us head-on. Since I’ve lived here, our neighborhood has had major flooding twice. About four years back we had flooding over two meters deep outside the house where we used to live. Ours was on the second floor though. But Maggie’s shop’s basement got flooded and they lost some equipment, the TV, etc. That area is a bit higher, so the ground floor was OK.

We started getting rain for this 颱風 early this afternoon. Maggie was getting nervous, so she decided to go over to her shop to get things ready. As we were leaving, my mother in law came back and said that shops were running out of food, so we went over to the Landis Hotel bakery down at the end of our lane to buy some bread and donuts. Other than that we’re pretty well stocked with food.

There was a lull in the rain so getting to Maggie’s shop was no problem. Some of her apprentices were there to help, so it was pretty quick work, though things like the 30″ TV and a mid-size refrigerator were pretty difficult to get up. By the time we were finished, the rain was pouring down and wind was blowing pretty strong, so it was quite an adventure getting back home. We took a bit of a long way to maximize use of covered walkways. Maggie had a rain jacket and I had an umbrella, but I think I got the raw end of that deal because with the wind blowing, I ended up getting soaked anyways.

On the way home the grocery store and the Blockbuster Video were both packed with people, and the convenience stores were doing pretty brisk business too. The Landis Hotel was putting boards up on their windows. The hotel also had flood gates installed, and the work just finished a bit over a week ago, so good timing. That intersection tends to flood a meter deep or so during a big storm.

Our lane slopes upward, a fact I hadn’t really noticed until after the flooding last time. The end down by the hotel was flooded, but our end was just above the flood level. We’re on the 5th and 6th floor, but flooding would mean we’d probably lose electrical and phone (and DSL!!) service, and we’d probably have to chip in to pump water out of the basement and probably replace the water pump that pumps city water up to the tanks on the roof. Still, we’re just high enough upslope that we’ll probably be OK.

Right now we’re just getting the edge of the storm. The eye is still several hundred miles offshore. The prediction has the brunt of it hitting us tomorrow, and we’ll probably be stuck inside most if not all of the day.

Debunking RNC Talking Points on Rove/Plame

Thanks to akibare who pointed me to a leaked copy of the RNC Rove/Plame talking points. As I suspected, it’s a mish-mash of half-truths and deceptions. Let’s examine some of them.

“Once Again, Democrats Are Engaging In Blatant Political Attacks”

Wait a minute here! Are we talking about the same Democrats? The Democrats I’ve seen haven’t been able to muster up a mild criticism, much less a political attack. And to remind you, President Bush was the one who said he’d fire whoever was responsible for the leak. I guess he was politically attacking the Republicans too?

“Rove Discouraged A Reporter From Writing A False Story”

However, the fact that Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent and played a small role in organizing his trip was way more information than was needed to refute the story. And again, at least four reporters were told the same thing, it was more than just “A Reporter”.

“Assessments Wilson Made In His Report Were Wrong”

Weaseling. The report may not have been 100% correct, but it was mostly correct. On the other hand, the administration’s contention that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger was indeed 100% wrong.

“Joe Wilson Endorsed John Kerry”

Oh my god, if he supported a Democrat, he must automatically be wrong about EVERYTHING. And yet months after Kerry lost, the story is still in play. I guess the Kerry connection wasn’t the main reason behind the claims.

“Wilson Falsely Claimed Cheney Sent Him To Niger”

This claim is the one that is mostly laughably false. Their best ‘evidence’ of Wilson making this claim is this quote: “What they did, what the office of the vice president did, and, in fact, I believe now from Mr. Libby’s statement, it was probably the vice president himself…”

Which turns out to be completely taken out of context. In fact, Wilson said JUST BEFORE this quote: “Well, look, it’s absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. Rice nor even George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.” See, right there, he says plain as day that Cheney, Rice and Tenet knew nothing about his trip.

And then JUST AFTER that quote he goes on to say: “They asked essentially that we follow up on this report — that the agency follow up on the report. So it was a question that went to the CIA briefer from the Office of the Vice President. The CIA, at the operational level, made a determination that the best way to answer this serious question was to send somebody out there who knew something about both the uranium business and those Niger officials that were in office at the time these reported documents were executed.”

So IN CONTEXT, his quote that “I believe … it was probably the vice president himself…” refers to Cheney requesting the CIA look into the allegation. He clearly says that Cheney’s office requested the CIA look into the matter, the request filtered down to a departmental level where they decided to send Wilson to ask some questions. It is CRYSTAL CLEAR that Wilson is CLEARLY SAYING that there were at least three degrees of separation between Cheney and the decision to send him to Africa. He explicitly says that Cheney, Rice and Tenet had no idea he was sent. And yet through some kind of twisted logic, the Republicans think this proves he said that Cheney sent him. Incredible.

Go read the CNN transcript for yourself to see exactly what was said.

“Wilson Denied His Wife Suggested He Travel to Niger”

In fact, Wilson has denied that she was part of the decision making process. Let’s look at exactly what he said in the interview the RNC cites as evidence of this:

WILSON: “But the fact of the matter is, the decision — the invitation, the offer, or the request that I go out to Niger was made at a meeting, after this issue was discussed in a group of involving analysts from the CIA and other agencies. My wife was not at that meeting, and she specifically absented herself from that meeting, so as to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

BLITZER: “And I spoke to David Ensor, our national security correspondent, who says that a high-ranking CIA official does say the Senate Intelligence Committee report got it wrong on that specific point.”

WILSON: “Well, on July 22nd of last year, a Newsday journalist asked the same thing. And he was told by a senior intelligence official that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked alongside, but said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment.”

Go read the CNN transcript.

“Wilson’s Report On Niger Had Thin Evidence”

In fact, what Wilson’s report had was very little evidence at all. It’s not surprising that this is the case, since there hasn’t been any solid evidence of any Iraq-Niger uranium deal other than a forged document. He had been sent to talk to his contacts to find out if there was anything to the story of a uranium deal. His contacts were unable to support the story. Maybe his report contained little evidence because the uranium deal was a complete fiction?

Don’t be fooled. Besides being misleading half truths and political bluster, most of these points have little to do with the fact that Rove had a verified role in publicly exposing a CIA agent. That’s the central issue.

China Buying Up US Companies?

There’s been a lot of controversy over the threat of China buying up US companies lately. Most of the arguments are a bit flimsy though. This is the real reason to be concerned: Foreign ownership of Chinese steel mills will be barred. China continues to heavily restrict outside investment in Chinese companies, yet they want a free hand to invest in US companies. China needs to be told that their investment in the US must be reciprocated by lifting restrictions on US investment in Chinese companies. It is only fair that they need to play by the same rules in both cases.

Gaining Traction

It’s nice to see that the allegations against Karl Rove are starting to gain traction, with both the press and more Democrats speaking up about it. Unfortunately, the Republican camp is still way too organized in fighting this story. It’s been reported than the RNC put out a 3 1/2 page guide of talking points when discussing the story. While I haven’t seen these talking points, it’s clear from the latest coverage what the broad strokes are:

1) Deny There’s Any Evidence – Point out that nobody is really sure what grand jury testimony has been. Except that many reliable reports — including published excerpts of Matt Cooper’s emails — clearly identify Rove as the primary source. Clearly there’s more reliable evidence than there was that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. This seems to be the ‘big lie’ tactic where a half truth repeated often enough tends to become believed by people.

2) The Comments Were Misinterpreted – This theory has it that the intent of the information divulged was to counter claims that Wilson’s uranium expedition was approved at a high level in the CIA. The information was not intended to be published, but was intended to prevent other information from being published. This falls flat because the same story was told to at least four reporters, and two of them actually published it. It was also completely unnecessary to give as much detail if this was the point; it would have been sufficient to just say the funding decision was made at a departmental level.

3) He Didn’t Reveal Specific Information – The current claims are that Karl Rove was not in violation of law because he did not reveal specific information; that he did not know or reveal her name, and by implication that he didn’t know her role at the agency. This is at first plausible if you read Cooper’s notes which say that Rove stated that the trip was recommended by Wilson’s wife who is apparently agency (CIA). But this falls apart because this only requires the most basic additional information to fill in the gaps. And again, he told substantially the same thing to at least four reporters, and the two who published articles based on the information were both able to easily fill in the gaps. Such consistency indicates that it was a very deliberate release of information, not an off the cuff remark. This is splitting legal hairs, and while it may or may not work in a court room, it should not work at all in the court of public opinion. And Rove should know that the court of public opinion is ultimately what matters in politics.

It’s quite clear that those involved are trying to weasel their way out of this becoming a full blown scandal by these intentionally misleading half truths. The real story seems to be that Rove thought he could do a political hatchet job on someone critical of the administration’s fabricated Iraq WMD claims, and it’s finally blown up in his face. The Republicans should be careful in how much they invest themselves into protecting Rove, when that might end up blowing up in their faces. If they are smart, they’ll find a way to let Rove step down for some plausible unrelated matter and hope it blows over. I’m hoping they’re not so smart. My feeling is it could go either way. The Republicans have been nimble at avoiding scandal previously, but on the other hand they also tend not to do anything that would imply that they were even possible mistaken about anything.

There’s a good article, Just The Facts M’am by Steven Brant which provides excerpts on White House and Rove’s official responses on this issue over the last two years in case you want to see exactly the way they are trying to weasel the issue. By the way, I highly recommend reading the The Huffington Post which is a refreshing source of intelligent political commentary. (Though it’s a bit odd – Arianna Huffington used to be the wife of our local Santa Barbara conservative politician, Michael Huffington.)

On Media Bias

The standard cliche about the ‘liberal media elite bias’ has justly been turned on its head in The Indisputable Media Bias by Cenk Uygur who examines the difference in coverage of scandals in the Bush and Clinton eras. I’ve already alluded to that in my rants about the Karl Rove scandal, so it’s nice to see a more complete analysis of the subject. However, I also give a big portion of the blame to Democrats who can’t seem to come together on any coherent, consistent message about practically anything when getting in front of the press. By contrast, Republicans are quite good at distributing focused talking points, and hammering on them in unison every time they get in front of the press. You can sometimes even hear the same key phrases uttered nearly verbatim by multiple people. The Democrats don’t seem to have quite the same level of organization as this, to their detriment.

Googlebot broken?

While my server frequently sees a decent number of hits from the googlebot crawlers, they have always been very good about spreading out the hits so that they don’t put a large load on the server or network.

So imagine my surprise to find that for the last three hours straight, a single googlebot crawler at crawl-66-249-65-166.googlebot.com has constantly had multiple connections open to my web server continuously downloading file after file with no pauses, using up all my bandwidth. I had to do something I never thought I would have to, and had to put google IPs into the firewall.

Anyone else getting pounded by googlebot today?

Justice Is Served in Valerie Plame Leak?

So let me get this straight…

The White House official (allegedly Karl Rove) responsible for the leak continues to feel no political heat or legal repercussions over the illegal identification of a CIA agent.

Robert Novak who first published this illegally leaked information has faced no legal repercussions at all.

A reporter who also was leaked this information and wrote a followup story on the subject after Novak’s, and refused to reveal his source got a walk because his employer turned over some of his emails.

But reporter Judith Miller who also was leaked this information but decided not to write an article about it, and refuses to reveal the source is jailed for standing up for press freedom?

Is that justice?

I would have preferred they had jailed people starting from the other end of that list.

Made In USA

It’s pretty common these days to find “Made In Taiwan” when shopping in the US these days, if not some other country on the label. Seems like it’s pretty hard to find anything still sporting the “Made In USA” label anymore. These week I’ve noticed that label more often than I expected when buying things here in Taiwan.

The first was when I went to get some lubricant because the lock on the front door was getting stubborn. I went over to the SL store (local hardware and knick-knacks store down the street), and found a bottle of actual WD-40. The label was (mostly) in Chinese but on the back was in big letters, “Made In USA.”

The second was when my wife brought home a bag of microwave popcorn from 7-11. Again, “Made In USA.”

And lastly, today when we went out to buy a reverse osmosis system, the shop down the street recommended one that was made locally but all the filters and the RO membrane were all “Made In USA.”

So looks like there’s still some things that are actually made back home.

As mentioned above, we bought a reverse osmosis system today. Over the last two days a team of guys has spent hours cleaning out our building’s water tanks, patching things up and putting in some new piping to replace the ancient crap that was there before. With that cleaned up, I wanted to get a better filtration system for the drinking water to avoid any problems at all with bad water. We had previously had a single stage Everpure filter, but for best filtration, nothing beats Reverse Osmosis. The one we got has a 5 micron charcoal filter, two 1 micron mesh filters, the reverse osmosis membrane, and a mineral flavor enhancer. The chances of any nasties getting through all that is slim.

One unusual feature of this model is that it has a built in pump. It’s pretty common for water pressure of RO systems to be fairly weak, especially when the reservoir tank is low. So this will probably be a useful feature, especially since water pressure here is already fairly weak to begin with.

One of the nice things about living in Taipei is that if you buy something, you can usually get it delivered and/or installed the same day. For this system we bought it this morning just before 11am and the guy was there to install it the same day before 6pm. And installation was included in the total price, not some big expensive add on service, plus they gave us four replacement filters (one year’s worth) as well.

I recently got a few DVD sets in the mail. A couple of weeks ago my dad sent me for my birthday the complete original box set of Battlestar Galactica and the season 14 box set of Law & Order. Then when Deep Discount DVD had a 20% off sale (they already have very low prices, free shipping to the US and reasonable International postage rates), I ordered the new series Battlestar Galactica mini-series set and the Firefly complete box set.

The new Battlestar Galactica is really good. The initial mini-series is out on DVD now, Season 1 recently finished showing, and Season 2 starts up on July 15th on Sci-Fi Channel in the US. Repeats of Season 1 are showing in some areas. I highly recommend it, especially to anyone into science fiction. It’s a lot different from the original series which will bother purists, but standing on it’s own, it’s very good.

I’ve been watching Firefly the last few days and am pretty impressed by it. It’s kind of a “Cowboys in Space” series, but that label probably does it a disservice. Basically it is set in a future of planetary expansion where the ‘border planets’ are a kind of lawless new frontier similar to the old west. The interesting thing is the way it mixes up cultural influences, which would be expected in such an environment.

One of the oddities is that they mix in Chinese into the English dialogue, just bits and pieces here and there. I didn’t notice at first, but I turned on subtitles to figure out what they were saying at one point and the subtitles just put in [Chinese] in those spots. After a while I could figure out what they were saying occasionally, but the pronunciations are pretty screwed up, so it’s kind of hard. It’s sort of neat though. I sometimes stick Chinese in my LJ posts and akibare often posts in a mix of Japanese and English, but it’s odd to see that sort of thing on American network TV.

It’s a bit cornball at times, but it’s well worth watching for the science fiction fan. There’s also a movie ‘Serenity’ coming out in September that’s based on the series. You can watch watch the trailer now.