Friday, November 9, 2007

Free Sound Effects (

Sound effects, if used properly, can add a good bit to slide shows or other presentations. Here is an interesting site with a variety of sound clips that are very easy to download.

Iraq Reconstruction Index (Brookings Institution)

For those interested in Iraq, Brookings has created a very interesting index of reconstruction activities.

Spooks Refuse To Toe Cheney's Line On Iran (Asia Times Online)

A number of sites have picked up this report by Gareth Porter that indicates that an NIE on Iran is being held up from release due to political reasons.

Comment: It can be difficult to determine the reliability of something like this if you are new to the topic or the process. On the one hand, the report reads like a typical news story. A very quick background check (which is often all anyone has time to do these days...) into the author and the source raises some reasons for concern but again, nothing to automatically disqualify all of the report.

Parts of it rings true: "...the Iran estimate was ready to be published a year ago but has been delayed because the director of national intelligence wanted a draft reflecting a consensus on key conclusions - particularly on Iran's nuclear program. "

It is actually fairly easy to imagine this happening and for very good reasons. It is virtually certain that the IC has been asked to write an NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Given the press reporting on the issue, it is also not too hard to believe that there was no consensus within the intelligence community on the issue a year ago. Finally, the DNI or the White House has every right to ask the IC to come to some sort of useable conclusion on an issue of such importance (Everyone knows what the possibilities are; the decisionmakers need to know what is likely). Under this line of reasoning, the community is doing what it is supposed to do -- collect more information, resolve the inconsistencies and deliver an estimate that is actionable.

What is less believable is the cause of the delay: "The aim is to make the document more supportive of Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran..." Given the post WMD report fallout, it is much harder to believe that the IC would actually get or cave into such pressure.

The real kicker, though, is the fact that all of this is based on hearsay -- "...according to accounts provided by participants in the NIE process to two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers." Kudos to Porter for identifying it as such but it makes the entire story much more questionable.

In the end, the story will likely get picked up by both conservative and liberal blogs (for different reasons, obviously) but, unless one of the major news sources spends the time to track it to ground, the overall reliability of the report will remain questionable but unresolved.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction

If you are interested in reconstruction in Iraq, this appears to be a very thorough and interesting site. It contains full reports, maps, congressional testimony and Lessons Learned.

High-Priced Oil Adds Volatility to Power Scramble (NY Times)

The NY Times does an excellent job of laying out the oil issue worldwide. The interactive map is worth a look all on its own.

Free Document Templates (

The thoroughly excellent blog,, has a very good article on where to download free document templates.

Low Airfares Online (Productivity Portfolio)

There is a very good article on how to find low airfares online at the Productivity Portfolio.

SketchUp Tutorials And Download

SketchUp is an extremely powerful tool for drawing virtually anything and rendering it in 3D. Even novices can get good results very quickly. The tool is available for free through Google here and there are some very god tutorials posted on YouTube here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ODNIs 500 Day Plan Available For Download

The Office of the Director Of National Intelligence has made the "500 Day Plan" available for download here.