Scott Ritter was Right All Along

I heard him this morning on C-SPAN with Brian Lamb. It’s very interesting that he was perhaps the only one before the war who consistently stated that Iraq didn’t pose an imminent threat to the US and that they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, and prior to hearing him say it in another interview, it didn’t even occur to me that biological and chemical weapons have a “shelf life”. They can expire, like over-the-counter drugs. The man suffered all manner of abuse and harassment, allegations of being “un-American” and a traitor to his country.

Now that David Kay’s report has stated that they’ve found no weapons, and likely never will, Scott Ritter has been completely vindicated. Though their motives may not have been the best, one could say that the French were right as well.

Especially interesting in the Brian Lamb interview was Ritter’s response to a caller who suggested the idea of impeachment. He said the right things about having all the facts, and due process. In addition, he laid out a pretty strong case that Dick Cheney might be guilty of fraud, if he knew some statements he made prior the war to a VFW gathering regarding an Iraqi defector were false.

I especially appreciated the way Ritter placed blame at the feet of Congress for giving the president a free hand to go to war. I’ve always believed that Congress abdicated its responsibility in doing so.

The other valid point he made was that the United States needs to be a fully active member of the UN in order to prevent Iraq from descending fully into chaos. To him, bringing the UN into Iraq did not mean the US completely exiting Iraq.

Overall, a number of the points Ritter made about the war sounded like things Howard Dean has said on the election trail, most importantly that the US isn’t safer as a result of the war in Iraq. Interestingly enough, despite being a self-described “moderate conservative”, Ritter said he was going to devote all of his efforts to getting Bush defeated, despite voting for him in 2000. Hearing more from Ritter in the press about Iraq would be a good thing, especially as the election gets closer.

An Absence of Legitimacy

Excellent commentary by Fareed Zakaria on what’s happening in Iraq. The point that he makes at the end about the transition plan being accelerated to coincide with the US elections does a good job of highlighting one of the key drivers of Bush administration policy–whether or not it helps them politically.

It’s quite fitting the organizations Bush and company heaped such scorn on earlier are precisely the ones they must ask to help them out of the mess.

NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom

NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom

It figures. One of NASA’s most effective projects ever will be dumped in the ocean sooner or later in favor of manned spaceflight.

To me, it’s just one more decision that says we don’t have the first clue about what real science is. I still remember some of the debate over “super-conducting super-collider” vs. the International Space Station. At that time, it seemed clear to me that the likelihood of useful scientific discovery occurring was a lot lower with the ISS than with super-collider. But because it was in Texas, the Dems were in power, and they wanted to stick it to the GOP, the wrong project got killed.

History may not repeat itself exactly, but it sure does rhyme.

The Troublesome, Vote-loving Ayatollah


The troublesome, vote-loving ayatollah

This story from The Economist covers a lot of ground on America’s adventure in Iraq. They do a good job of touching on the political implications for Bush’s re-election plans if things go poorly. On the positive side, it looks like a significant number of our troops will get to come home soon. As misguided as I think the policy was, the men & women of our armed forces have done a great job of bringing it this close to success. I think it would be both ironic and unfortunate if after all this effort to bring democracy to the Middle East, the result was an Islamic republic in Iraq.


Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

Great essay by Peter Norvig that begins by talking about the “Learn topic X in Y Days” publishing phenomenon, and counters with how long it really takes.

His recipe for programming success, and his contention that it takes 10 years to get really good at it both make a lot of sense. Since getting my computer science degree from the University of Maryland (in 1996), the things I’ve learned about programming from doing it for a living have really added a lot to my understanding of what I was taught in school.

Working on projects with other programmers is what I enjoy most. I definitely feel like I learn more and accomplish more when I work with a team. Unfortunately, the position I’ve had the past couple of years means that I have to develop everything by myself. I’ve certainly learned a lot from not having other people to depend on, but I think teams develop the best software.

Working on projects after other programmers has been one of the most frustrating parts of my career. Too often, it’s poorly documented and written in an “ensure job security” sort of way. In other words, it’s not written in a way that easily allows someone else to understand it. Programmers only get away with that if they’re working by themselves. More often than not, if I’m confronted with that situation, I’ll rewrite the application instead of spending a lot of effort deciphering the existing code.

Talking to other programmers about programming is something I don’t do enough of. Finding time to read other good code is a challenge (trying to balance full-time work and a part-time MBA program), but I need to do that as well.

Fiber to the People

Fiber to the People

A Lawrence Lessig article on customer-owned networks. He uses examples from Boeing Corporation and the city government of Burlington, Vermont. Governments, corporations, and individuals (if they have sufficient funds) buying networks definitely has some benefits. No more worrying about Comcast being the only way to get onto the internet. The knowledge that a municipality could hire contractors to build such a network themselves could also work as an incentive to spur competition (if corporations are being too slow about providing access to certain areas). I hope more cities and counties do this.