Thursday, December 29, 2005

Classic Movie Trailers

Sydney Schanberg: The story is Bush's spying, not the story's messenger

While previous presidents have at various times claimed the legal right to authorize searches and electronic surveillance without court warrants so as to gather foreign intelligence, those decisions have undergone scrutiny by either courts or congressional hearings.
It's fair to say that Bush had no intention of allowing public scrutiny of his act, since he personally summoned the top executives of The New York Times to a private meeting on December 6 and pressured them not to run the story about the domestic spying. The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication. It appeared on the Times' front page on Friday, December 16.
Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece. On the other hand, some journalists have attacked theTimes for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is.

Media Matters: Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal

Media Matters presents the top 12 myths and falsehoods promoted by the media on President Bush's spying scandal stemming from the recent revelation in The New York Times that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on domestic communications without the required approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

NSA Planted Cookies on All Computers Contacting

The National Security Agency's internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their web-surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.
These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for web privacy."

Bush Changes Presidential Line of Succession

The three military service chiefs have been dropped in the Bush administration's doomsday line of Pentagon succession, pushed beneath three civilian undersecretaries in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's inner circle.
A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army chief, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.
The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and mirror the administration's new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in 21st century warfighting.

List: Top 50 Music Videos Of 2005

With links to the videos.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Federal agents' visit was a hoax

The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.
The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.

Call & Response (MP3)

While excoriating the Times for disclosing the NSA’s surveillance program, President Bush trotted out an old chestnut about the danger of leaks. He cited a 1998 newspaper story that disclosed Osama Bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, and claimed –as many have before – that the disclosure led Bin Laden to stop using his phone. Brooke wonders if we can really blame the media for the failure to capture Bin Laden.

Media Matters: Most outrageous statements of 2005

Here are the most outrageous statements Media Matters for America has documented this year. From attacks on women, Muslims, and African-Americans to a call for the assassination of a foreign leader to an open invitation for Al Qaeda to "blow up" San Francisco to a claim that gay marriage would lead to unions between "a man and his donkey," these statements acutely represent the extreme conservative speech we found in the news media in 2005. (We tried to limit the comments to a Top 10 list, but it was simply impossible.)

Rice authorized National Security Agency to spy on UN Security Council in run-up to war, former officials say

President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.
Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency's campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.
The former officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also participated in discussions about the plan, which involved "stepping up" efforts to eavesdrop on diplomats.

U.S. stalls on human trafficking

Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy.
But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking.
A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.
The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.


Text and audio of public domain literature available for free download.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War

[The following are links to the Investigative Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff. PDF Files]

Chapter 1 - Executive Summary

Chapter 2 - Chronology: Last Throes of Credibility

Chapter 3 - Detailed Factual Findings; Determination to go to War Before Congressional Authorization

Chapter 3 - Detailed Factual Findings; Misstating and Manipulating the Intelligence to Justify Pre-emptive War

Chapter 3 - Detailed Factual Findings; Encouraging and Countenancing Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment

Chapter 3 - Detailed Factual Findings; Cover-ups and Retribution

Chapter 3 - Detailed Factual Findings; Thwarting Congress and the American Public: The Death of Accountability under the Bush Administration and the Republican-Controlled Congress

Chapter 4 - Legal Analysis

Chapter 5 - Recommendations

Exhibit A -- Relevant Law and Standards

Exhibit B -- Analysis of Powell Statements to UN

Exhibit C -- House Government Reform Committee Democratic Staff Report Iraq on the Record

Exhibit D -- Key Documents

Chalabi Appears to have Huge Defeat in Iraq

Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi appears to have suffered a humiliating defeat at the recent Iraq polls, according to the uncertified preliminary results.
The news comes just a month after Chalabi had conducted a tour of Washington in an effort to patch up his tattered image in America. Paperwork shows that in November Chalabi’s Washington representative hired a powerful D.C. lobbying firm.
The election results in Iraq may present Chalabi’s ardent U.S. supporters with a quandary: Chalabi, as well as other losing candidates, is alleging fraud in the election, even though the Bush administration hailed the vote as a historic step for democracy in Iraq.

Europe 'behind on Kyoto pledges'

The UK is almost alone in Europe in honouring Kyoto pledges to cut greenhouse gases, a think-tank claims.
Ten of 15 European Union signatories will miss the targets without urgent action, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found.
The countries include Ireland, Italy and Spain.
France, Greece and Germany are given an "amber warning" and will not reach targets unless they put planned policies into action, the IPPR said.

Judge rejects fees for parades

In a ruling that city officials said they likely would appeal, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock Jr. strongly rejected most aspects of a city ordinance that requires marchers to provide 30-day notice, pay fees and meet with the police chief.
"To march is to speak," Woodcock wrote. "A parade, as speech, especially as political speech, invokes the First Amendment and commands this Court's protection."
Lawyers on both sides of the case declared Woodcock's decision a landmark ruling with potentially wide ramifications - particularly his conclusion that the city must waive parade fees for those who cannot afford them.

Graphs Showing Income Disparity

Senate Bill 9, the Ohio Patriot Act

Governor Taft of Ohio is about to sign Senate Bill 9, the Ohio Patriot Act. Among its provisions:
  • Police can deny entry to "transportation infrastructure" to anyone not showing an ID;
  • Police can demand the name, address, and date of birth of anyone suspected of having committed a crime or being about to commit a crime, or having witnessed a crime or a plan to commit a crime. Failure to provide this information is an arrestable offense -- so basically all demonstrators could be required to give their names, addresses and dates of birth or face arrest;
  • Reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's famous question, many state licenses will begin with the question "Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?". Failure to answer means no license; answering affirmatively is self-incrimination.
  • Perhaps worst of all, the original version of the bill simply prohibited state or local governemnts or government employees from objecting to the USA PATRIOT act. The current version allows criticism, but threatens local government with the loss of funds if they in any way "materially hinder" Federal anti-terrorism efforts.
"Welcome to Ohio! Ihre Papiere, bitte!" [from]


Hey Kids! Want to learn about how to spy on your friends? Do you like to snitch on your siblings? Here's a fun site for you where the U.S. Government can start to let you know about the fun world of cryptography and violating the Fourth Amendment rights of your fellow citizens. For you parents, check out the NSA's Responsible Citizen page! Note the funny ellipses after the references to the Fourth Amendment and Government Oversight. Your tax dollars at work. [from]

E-tracking, coming to a DMV near you

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees."
Now electronic tracking and taxing may be coming to a DMV near you. The Office of Transportation Policy Studies, part of the Federal Highway Administration, is about to announce another round of grants totaling some $11 million. A spokeswoman on Friday said the office is "shooting for the end of the year" for the announcement, and more money is expected for GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking efforts.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Jim Earl, Kent Jones and More

Morning Sedition is gone from Air America Radio.
But loads of bits have been saved at this fansite

Some good examples...

Jim Earl:
The War on Brains: Updates on the Bush administration's attack on our brains.
Rapture Watch: Milf Cardinal Milfington prophesizes off today's headlines -- more Dada than Van Impe
Sammy The Stem Cell: A misanthropic stem cell with a cute voice
Morning Rememberance: Obituaries with Grief Correspondent Mort Mortenson

Kent Jones:
Planet Bush: Lawton Smalls keeps trying to recruit Marc to Smalls's fragile universe of Bush true believin'

The Liberal Aggressor (became a regular, later known as Pendejo)
Swift Boat Vets vs the AARP

Hope you enjoy these.
They each run under 10 minutes.

Cheney Seeks 'Unimpaired' Presidential Power

President Bush's decision to bypass court review and authorize domestic wiretapping by executive order was part of a concerted effort to rebuild presidential powers weakened in the 1970s as a result of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday.
Returning from a trip to the Middle East, Cheney said that threats facing the country required that the president's authority under the Constitution be "unimpaired."
"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Cheney told reporters traveling with him on Air Force Two. "Especially in the day and age we live in … the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy."

The Onion: Rove Implicated In Santa Identity Leak

The recent leak revealing Santa Claus to be "your mommy and daddy" has been linked to President Bush's senior political adviser and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.
"If this devastating leak, which severely undermines the security of children everywhere and has compromised parent-child relations, came from the highest levels of the White House, that is an outrage," said former Bush counterterrorism adviser and outspoken Bush Administration critic Richard Clarke.
The identity of the mythical holiday gift-giver, previously known only in grown-up circles, was published in the popular Timbertoes cartoon in the December issue of Highlights For Children. Jean Abrams, a conservative firebrand known to have close ties to Bush appointees in the Department of Education, revealed "Santa" to be a code name for anonymous parental gift-giving.

How to Submit Links to Boing Boing

Just a friendly reminder that the only way to suggest an item for BoingBoing is by following the directions here. We really appreciate your submissions, but we can't accept them via email sent to our personal addresses. Also, please don't add us to any email lists without our permission. Thanks so much! Link

Full Text of PA Ruling on Intelligent Design [PDF]

The court concluded that creation science “is simply not science” because it depends upon “supernatural intervention,” which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable. Id. at 1267. Accordingly, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas deemed creation science as merely biblical creationism in a new guise and held that Arkansas’ balanced-treatment statute could have no valid secular purpose or effect, served only to advance religion, and violated the First Amendment. Id. at 1264, 1272-74.
...Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

FISA Court Judge Resigns, Reportedly in Protest

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.
Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Listening In and Naming Names

"...The press tends to shy away from covering America's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, fearing precisely the kind of scolding President Bush delivered to the New York Times. But the truth is that the NSA—which has an estimated $6 billion annual budget bigger than those of the CIA and the FBI combined—has a decidedly checkered history when it comes to playing by the rules." And yet, NSA abuse seems not limited to Bush. Now, possib ly, Carter and Clinton also used NSA for spying on civilians. That said, NSA seems also to have been used for non-miltary spying, to help selected American firms compete against rival companies elsewhere. What is curious about this agency is that it is the single biggest intelligence organization in our country and yet so few people know what they do, where they are, what they had been legally allowed to do. If, as we are told, tapping phones is necessary in our fight against terror, why then doesn't the FBI do this? If any mobster worth his blackjack knows not to use phones because they are potentially tapped, why are we told that NSA doesn't want terrorists alerted to our tapping their phones and therefore there ought not to be any discussion of this "strategy."? In sum, my suspicion is that a lot more is going on than we have thus far been told, and that in fact email and the internet are more involved in what is taking place than is phone tapping. [from]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The 2005 Koufax Awards -- Nominations Are Open for Blog Excellence

Best Blog
Best Blog -- Pro Division
Best Writing
Best Post
Best Series
Best Single Issue Blog
Best Group Blog
Most Humorous Blog
Most Humorous Post
Most Deserving of Wider Recognition
Best Expert Blog
Best New Blog
Best Coverage of State or Local Issues
Best Commenter

Bush in 2004: Warrants always sought before surveillance

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

This American Life: Heretics

The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, an evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the Reverend, he was denounced by almost all his former supporters, and today his congregation is just a few hundred people. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse ... he stopped believing in hell.
Video of Carlton Pearson and other ministers (including Bishop Yvette Flunder, who he talks about in his story) at a Harvard Divinity School conference last spring, talking about new directions in Pentecostalism.

Alaska 2004 Election in Question

The official vote results from the 2004 general election are riddled with mistakes and discrepancies, are impossible for the public to make sense of, and should be corrected as soon as possible, the Alaska Democratic Party says.
To most Alaskans, the election may seem like a long-done deal, something that concerns only political junkies, candidates and analysts. But questions have been swirling ever since the polls closed about how the results were tabulated and the reliability of the electronic voting machines, said Kay Brown, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party.

Censure motion introduced in House over Iraq, torture

Ranking House Judiciary Democrat Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced a motion to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for providing misleading information to Congress in advance of the Iraq war, failing to respond to written questions and potential violations of international law, RAW STORY has learned.
The resolutions were quietly introduced Sunday evening along with a third resolution (HR 635) to create a Select Committee to investigate the administration’s intent to go to war prior to congressional authorization. The committee would also be charged with examining manipulation of pre-war intelligence, thwarting Congressional oversight and retaliatory attacks against critics. As part of this resolution, House Judiciary Democrats seek also to explore violations of international law as pertaining to detainee abuse and torture of prisoners of war.

PA court rejects 'intelligent design' in science class

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.
Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.
The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.
"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote.

Remote Island of Nauru Loses Sole Passenger Jet to US Creditors

The loss of the Air Nauru 737 to a U.S. Government credit agency has forced the struggling airline to charter planes from other Pacific airlines to prevent the island's 10,000 residents from being cut off from the outside world.
The Australian newspaper says Nauru has entered secret discussions with the U.S. to try to persuade Washington to give back the 737, which was handed over to US officials at Melbourne airport at the weekend.
Nauru argued that repossessing the plane would breach secret promises of financial aid made to Nauru by the U.S. Government in return for its help in fighting terrorism.

for more on Nauru hear this from This American Life.

Legality of Bush Eavesdropping Order Questioned

Morning Edition · President Bush has claimed that a legal measure passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks gives him the authority to authorize domestic spying. His critics say that another measure, passed in 1978, severely limits such spying. [Excellent piece from NPR]

Monday, December 19, 2005

When Nixon Met Elvis

Dear Mr. President.
First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs three weeks ago and expressed my concern for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do NOT consider me as their enemy or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help The Country out. I have no concern or Motives other than helping the country out.
So I wish not to be given a title or an appointed position. I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through my communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. I am on this plane with Senator George Murphy and we have been discussing the problems that our country is faced with.
Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. I have two men who work with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good.
I am Glad to help just so long as it is kept very Private. You can have your staff or whomever call me anytime today, tonight, or tomorrow. I was nominated this coming year one of America's Ten Most Outstanding Young Men. That will be in January 18 in my home town of Memphis, Tennessee. I am sending you the short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.

Elvis Presley

P. S. I believe that you, Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America also.
I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and you can accept it or I will keep it for you until you can take it.

Studio 360 on Failure - Guest: Chris Elliott

Chris Elliott got his break on David Letterman's show, playing an assortment of creepy losers like "the guy under the stairs." In the '90s his TV series Get a Life, and his film, Cabin Boy, were considered huge bombs, but both went on to become cult favorites. Elliott's new novel, The Shroud of the Thwacker, is a historical time-traveling murder mystery, written with absolutely no research.

Feds Visit Student's Home Over Book Request

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

Op-ed Payola, not just for the White House anymore

An outcry arose over the Bush administrations payments to multiple columnists to push the Bush agenda without disclosing the payments. Now it turns out Jack Abramoff had op-ed columnists on his payroll too. Doug Bandow has just resigned as a senior fellow of the Cato Institute after being discovered taking payola from Abramoff's clients. Josh Marshall claims this practice is endemic in DC. There are even shops in DC that specialize in ginning up bogus 'man on the street' opeds which they then get placed on major oped pages. Another area where my reporting showed this to be very common was among foreign lobbyists, a number of whom had ex-foreign service officers and various other foreign policy bigwigs on retainer to write opeds advocating on behalf of their clients. Actually, 'write' overstates the matter. The lobbying firm writes the OpEd and the expert signs it. [from]

Friday, December 16, 2005

Illegality of NSA Spying on Americans

I just wanted to echo what Shakespearer's Sister said about the report that Bush signed an order allowing the NSA to spy on US citizens without a warrant.
This is against the law.
Here is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Its Section 1809a makes it a criminal offense to "engage in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute."
FISA does authorize surveillance without a warrant, but not on US citizens (with the possible exception of citizens speaking from property openly owned by a foreign power; e.g., an embassy.)
FISA also says that the Attorney General can authorize emergency surveillance without a warrant when there is no time to obtain one. But it requires that the Attorney General notify the judge of that authorization immediately, and that he (and yes, the law does say 'he') apply for a warrant "as soon as practicable, but not more than 72 hours after the Attorney General authorizes such surveillance."

The Inventor of "="

"To avoide the tediouse repetition of these woordes: is equalle to: I will settle as I doe often in woorke use, a paire of paralleles, or gemowe lines of one lengthe: ======, bicause noe .2. thynges, can be moare equalle." Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde (1510–1558) invented the equals sign in his 1557 work The Whetstone of Witte, which also introduced "Zenzizenzizenzic", the eighth power of a number. Recorde had advocated the + and – symbols in his 1540 work The Grounde of Artes. He died in debtor's prison in 1558. Read, watch, or listen to a recent lecture that links the equals sign to developments in art, navigation, and astronomy. (Wikipedia) [from]

Senate Strike Down Patriot Act!

The 52-47 roll call by which the Senate voted to reject reauthorization of several provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Sixty votes were needed to overcome a filibuster of the bill.
On this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote to end the filibuster and a "no" vote was a vote to continue a filibuster.
Voting "yes" were 2 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
Voting "no" were 41 Democrats, 5 Republicans and one independent.

Democrats Yes
Johnson, S.D.; Nelson, Neb.

Democrats No
Akaka, Hawaii; Baucus, Mont.; Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Bingaman, N.M.; Boxer, Calif.; Byrd, W.Va.; Cantwell, Wash.; Carper, Del.; Clinton, N.Y.; Conrad, N.D.; Corzine, N.J.; Dayton, Minn.; Dorgan, N.D.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis.; Feinstein, Calif.; Harkin, Iowa; Inouye, Hawaii; Kennedy, Mass.; Kerry, Mass.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; Lieberman, Conn.; Lincoln, Ark.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Nelson, Fla.; Obama, Ill.; Pryor, Ark.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Rockefeller, W.Va.; Salazar, Colo.; Sarbanes, Md.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.; Wyden, Ore.

Democrats Not Voting
Dodd, Conn.

Republicans Yes
Alexander, Tenn.; Allard, Colo.; Allen, Va.; Bennett, Utah; Bond, Mo.; Brownback, Kan.; Bunning, Ky.; Burns, Mont.; Burr, N.C.; Chafee, R.I.; Chambliss, Ga.; Coburn, Okla.; Cochran, Miss.; Coleman, Minn.; Collins, Maine; Cornyn, Texas; Crapo, Idaho; DeMint, S.C.; DeWine, Ohio; Dole, N.C.; Domenici, N.M.; Ensign, Nev.; Enzi, Wyo.; Graham, S.C.; Grassley, Iowa; Gregg, N.H.; Hatch, Utah; Hutchison, Texas; Inhofe, Okla.; Isakson, Ga.; Kyl, Ariz.; Lott, Miss.; Lugar, Ind.; Martinez, Fla.; McCain, Ariz.; McConnell, Ky.; Roberts, Kan.; Santorum, Pa.; Sessions, Ala.; Shelby, Ala.; Smith, Ore.; Snowe, Maine; Specter, Pa.; Stevens, Alaska; Talent, Mo.; Thomas, Wyo.; Thune, S.D.; Vitter, La.; Voinovich, Ohio; Warner, Va.

Republicans No
Craig, Idaho; Frist, Tenn.; Hagel, Neb.; Murkowski, Alaska; Sununu, N.H.

Others No
Jeffords, Vt.

Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds

[thanks, Tom P]

John Dingell's response to Jo Ann Davis' (R-VA) bill to save Christmas

Recited on the floor for the House of Representatives:
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI):
"Madam Speaker, I have a little poem.

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House,
no bills were passed `bout which Fox News could grouse.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near.

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds,
while visions of school and home danced in their heads.
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan,
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell.
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ..... well.
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily,
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

We will pretend Christmas is under attack,
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back.
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger.

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy
when this is the season to unite us with joy.

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite.
We don't need a made-up reason to fight.
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs.
You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.

'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch.
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight,
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, happy holidays.
Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas."

Elections Official: Some Voting Machines Could Be Hacked

After watching his computer expert change vote totals this week, Sancho said that he now believes someone on the inside did the same think in Volusia County in 2000.
"Someone with access to the vote center in Volusia County put it on a memory card and uploaded it into the main system," Sancho said.
Sancho has been raising red flags about the system for months after other hackers were able to change votes during earlier tests. But Sancho said he's gotten nowhere with the company or with the Florida secretary of state's office, which oversees elections.

The Occupation

Economically, how have things gone?
For the middle class, what dominates life is insecurity, as basic law and order have broken down. Many of the wealthiest Iraqis, terrified of kidnapping, have left the country. First the rich went, then the fairly well off. Now you have people leaving who are probably making $300 or $400 a month—not much money. But the lack of any safety, and the lack of jobs, is producing a flight to the neighbouring countries: first Jordan and Syria, now—as they become full up—increasingly to Egypt. Some benefits have accrued to the professional classes: for instance teachers and civil servants, who got practically no money under Saddam, are now getting several hundred dollars a month. A lot of people who stopped being teachers are now going back to the job. But prices have also gone up. If you owned property in Baghdad, values at first increased—though they’ve come down a bit now—because previously there was a ban on non-Baghdadis getting residence in the capital.
Just after the fall of Saddam there was also an enormous influx of cars, particularly second-hand vehicles. But a huge number of these were stolen, and then taken off for sale in Kurdistan or Iran. To cross the street in Kurdish towns became a hazard—you risked your life, with shepherds who’d just bought a car for $600, which had been stolen in Baghdad, driving around, wondering which way to turn the wheel. The initial complete breakdown of all rules led to a certain economic activity. For example, if your car was stolen, you could go to the main stolen car mart, which at that time was in Sadoun Street, and get a reduction if you were trying to buy back your own car. It was very unwise to make a fuss, because the vendors were all armed; and you needed to get there quickly, before it was sold on to Iran, or taken to Kurdistan. This was quite open, and known to everybody—apart, conceivably, from Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority. But this upsurge of market activity tended to peter out towards the end of 2003, when people began to realize that the insurgency was getting more and more serious, crime was steadily increasing, and that the Americans had taken over control of various parts of the economy. The incompetence of the us arrivals didn’t help. You would have thought they would at least have got the stock exchange, which had naturally languished under Saddam, going again. But Washington sent in a 24-year-old with strong family connections to the Republican Party. He forgot to renew the lease on the building for it, and there was no stock market for a year. After about six months, Iraqi stockbrokers were so fed up they sounded like Islamic militants in Fallujah.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

CPI: Like DeLay's committee, groups run by 30 other members of Congress took corporate money and transferred funds to national party accounts

While the Texas courts have yet to decide if DeLay broke any state campaign finance laws, a study by the Center for Public Integrity1 shows that the former House majority leader was right about one thing: his committee's actions are hardly unique.
At least 30 other current members of Congress accepted a total of $7.8 million in corporate donations to their non-federal leadership committees from 2000 to 2002, the study has found. These organizations then transferred a combined $3.5 million to national party committees, which later gave $14 million to candidates in state elections.
The state laws governing such transactions are not uniform: 23 states prohibit corporate donations to candidates in state elections, while 27 allow some use of corporate funds. Of the $14 million contributed by national parties to state candidates, $5 million went to those in states which ban corporate donations.
Until 2002, members on both sides of the congressional aisle—13 Democrats and 18 Republicans—accepted such corporate donations. Those ranks include former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., (DASHPAC - non-federal Account), Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum, R-Pa., (America's Foundation Non-Federal Account), and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. (Volunteer PAC - Non Federal)

A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation

Wayne Carlson, professor of design, art and more at OSU, has put together an exhuastive (and exhuasting), 20-part critical history of computer graphics, complete with images and movies of rare early works. [from]

PR Problem for Big Business

Source: New York Times, December 9, 2005
"More than ever, Americans do not trust business or the people who run it," reports Claudia H. Deutsch. "Pollsters, researchers, even many corporate chiefs themselves say that business is under attack by a majority of the public, which believes that executives are bent on destroying the environment, cooking the books and lining their own pockets." Deutsch cites polls from Roper and Harris, in which 72 percent of respondents feel that wrongdoing is widespread in industry, only 2 percent regard the executives of large companies as "very trustworthy," and 90 percent say big companies have too much influence on government. [from]

Get ready for a new U.S. border fence

Homeland Security plans to finish a job begun in 1996: building a 14-mile-long wall, 10 to 15 feet high and three layers deep, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the San Ysidro Mountains. So far, construction on the remaining three and a half miles was held up by environmentalists. U.S. officials claim that the triple fence is essential for protecting national security. According to environmentalists, 2,500 acres of federally protected wetlands near the border could be destroyed.
The wall will devastate the Tijuana Estuary, home to some of the rarest plants, birds and coastal land in the country. Besides, immigration experts and human rights advocates argue that the real issue is flawed immigration policy, not terrorism. History has shown that walls don't work; they just push migrants into more dangerous crossing areas where they are more likely to die.
Data compiled by the Mexican Migration Project shows that in 1988 about 70 percent of crossings occurred either at Tijuana-San Diego, or in Texas at Juarez-El Paso, while 29% crossed in more remote border regions. After the construction of walls, that 29% had grown to 64%. Undocumented migrants simply started going around the more fortified sectors.
That has made border crossings more deadly. The chance of dying while crossing is triple what it was a decade ago. The inland landscape east of San Diego is harsh, outside temperatures range from over 100 degrees to well below zero, and there is no water. This year, 472 have died as of Sept. 30 and 26,000 have been rescued.

Great Punk Era Photos

Foreign Policy: The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2005

Nature: Wikipedia comes close to Britannica for science entries

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.
Considering how Wikipedia articles are written, that result might seem surprising. A solar physicist could, for example, work on the entry on the Sun, but would have the same status as a contributor without an academic background. Disputes about content are usually resolved by discussion among users.
But Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and president of the encyclopaedia's parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation of St Petersburg, Florida, says the finding shows the potential of Wikipedia. "I'm pleased," he says. "Our goal is to get to Britannica quality, or better."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Penn & Teller take on the Bible [Flash]

"A Helpful Hand" - Penn & Teller call Bullshit! on the "bestselling book in the world," the Holy Bible. [via]
"Take some time and put the Bible on your Summer reading list. Try to stick with it cover-to-cover. Not because it teaches history, we've shown you it doesn't. Read it because you see for yourself what the Bible is all about.
It sure isn't great literature. If it was published as fiction, no reviewer would give it a passing grade. There are some vivid scenes and some quotable phrases but there's no plot no structure. There's a tremendous amount of filler and the characters are painfully one-dimensional.
Whatever you do, don't read the Bible for a moral code. It advocates prejudice, cruelty, superstition and murder.
Read it because we need more atheists. And nothing will get you there faster than reading the damn Bible."
(link is to entire episode approx 29mins)

Soldier's Bodies Sent Back via Commercial Freight

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.
But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.
...The bodies of dead service members arrive at Dover Air Force Base.
From that point, they are sent to their families on commercial airliners.
Reporters from 10News called the Defense Department for an explanation. A representative said she did not know why this is happening.

Shattering Iraq

Civil war. Surely this is an adjectival misnomer of the first rank. Of all of the various types of war, civil war -- that is, a violent conflict waged between opposing sides within a society -- has generally been the least mannerly and the most savage... By just about every meaningful standard that can be applied -- the reference points of history, the research criteria of political science, the contemporaneous reporting of on-the-ground observers, the grim roll of civilian and combatant casualties -- Iraq is now well into the bloody sequence of civil war. Dispense with the tentative locution "on the verge of." An active, if not full-boil, civil war is already a reality.
Shattering Iraq
See also Iraq: see no evil, hear no evil
Iran gaining influence, power in Iraq through militia
Bush's Strategy, Iraq's New Army Challenged by Ethnic Militias
Outside View: Iraq's Grim Lessons

Iraq: 1,000 days of war

It has been the strangest war. A thousand days ago, on 20 March 2003, the US and British armies started a campaign which ended a few weeks later with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
It seemed so easy. President George Bush announced that the war was over [actually he said "major combat operations" ended - McLir] . The American mission had been accomplished. Months passed before Washington and London realised that the war had not finished. In fact it was only just beginning. Of the 18,000 US servicemen killed or wounded in Iraq, 94 per cent have been killed or wounded since the fall of Baghdad.

Is the Pentagon spying on American Protesters?

A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.
A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

Newsweek: Bush in the Bubble

He has a tight circle of trust, and he likes it that way. But members of both parties are urging Bush to reach beyond the White House walls. How he governs—and how his M.O. stacks up historically.

They Might Be Giants Podcast

They Might Be Giants' very first podcast is available right now right here. To subscribe to this unique free service subscribe here. This first episode is approximately 20 minutes long and features a number of exclusive recordings and some unusual tracks we suspect you'll find interesting. The host is the Duke of Dead Air- Cecil Portesque- broadcasting from an undisclosed, very rainy location. Future podcasts are already in the works. Please check it out, and we sincerely invite you to hip as many people you know about this show- especially you blogtopianists out there.

If you never podcasted before, you might want to check out your iTunes application if you are on a Mac. Just open the application and click on the "Podcasts" button. Under "advanced" select "subscribe to podcast" and paste the below link in the field.

PC users may want to also use the PC version of iTunes and follow the same direction as above. Go to to download it now.

Or if your browser is set up for rss feeds, you might be able to just click on the below link to just view and play the mp3 file through your browser or default rss reader.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Diebold CEO resigns after reports of fraud litigation

The chief executive officer of electronic voting company Diebold who once famously declared that he would "deliver" Ohio for President Bush has resigned effective immediately, RAW STORY has learned.
"The board of directors and Wally mutually agreed that his decision to resign at this time for personal reasons was in the best interest of all parties," the company's new chairman said in a statement.
O'Dell's resignation comes just days after reports from that the company was facing imminent securities fraud litigation surrounding charges of insider trading. It also comes on the heels of a RAW STORY interview with a Diebold insider, who raised new allegations of technical woes inside the company, as well as concerns that Diebold may have mishandled elections in Georgia and Ohio.

Ukraine's University of Hate - Anti-Defamation League

This year alone, Ukraine's 300,000 Jews have endured physical assaults and the desecration of their monuments and cemeteries. A yeshiva student was beaten by a group of anti-Semitic thugs and now languishes in a coma, just clinging to life.
Following this attack, 30 Ukrainian rabbis declared: "Calls to violence against Judaism and Jews are published in the press, freely distributed and sold. On the walls of synagogues, buildings and bus stops along the road, anti-Semitic symbols appear more and more often."
The main source of anti-Semitism in Ukraine is a university which is home to more than 50,000 students: The Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, known locally as MAUP. [thanks John A]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oil industry targets EU climate policy

Lobbyists funded by the US oil industry have launched a campaign in Europe aimed at derailing efforts to tackle greenhouse gas pollution and climate change.
Documents obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian reveal a systematic plan to persuade European business, politicians and the media that the EU should abandon its commitments under the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement that aims to reduce emissions that lead to global warming. The disclosure comes as United Nations climate change talks in Montreal on the future of Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012, enter a critical phase.

900,000 Undisclosed Government Employees

Breaking a tradition of openness that began in 1816, the Bush administration has without explanation withheld the names and work locations of about 900,000 of its civilian workers, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
''Citizens have a right to know who is working for the government,'' said Adina Rosenbaum, attorney for the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group at Syracuse University, who sued to get the data.

Short Story: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

They were raised on small, poor ranches in opposite corners of the state, Jack Twist in Lightning Flat, up on the Montana border, Ennis del Mar from around Sage, near the Utah line, both high-school drop-out country boys with no prospects, brought up to hard work and privation, both rough-mannered, rough-spoken, inured to the stoic life. Ennis, reared by his older brother and sister after their parents drove off the only curve on Dead Horse Road, leaving them twenty-four dollars in cash and a two-mortgage ranch, applied at age fourteen for a hardship license that let him make the hour-long trip from the ranch to the high school. The pickup was old, no heater, one windshield wiper, and bad tires; when the transmission went, there was no money to fix it. He had wanted to be a sophomore, felt the word carried a kind of distinction, but the truck broke down short of it, pitching him directly into ranch work.
In 1963, when he met Jack Twist, Ennis was engaged to Alma Beers. Both Jack and Ennis claimed to be saving money for a small spread; in Ennis’s case that meant a tobacco can with two five-dollar bills inside. That spring, hungry for any job, each had signed up with Farm and Ranch Employment—they came together on paper as herder and camp tender for the same sheep operation north of Signal. The summer range lay above the tree line on Forest Service land on Brokeback Mountain. It would be Jack Twist’s second summer on the mountain, Ennis’s first. Neither of them was twenty.

Zombie-Claus 2005 in Ann Arbor

News Alert!!!
November 22, 2005

The latest sources tell us that the Zombies will gather the evening of December 16th in the city of Ann Arbor!!!!
We are looking for people to document the gathering if you would like to provide this service please contact Kurt A
We would also like to find people that would like to work with us to protest the zombie protest. Please only protest if you have read
'The Zombie Surivial Guide.'


Nothing is funnier than an academic or scientist explaining humor. [from]

Friday, December 09, 2005

Britain Bars Evidence Gained by Torture

Evidence obtained through torture in other countries cannot be used in British courts, the nation's top judges said Thursday, ruling in favor of eight terror suspects who said they were detained on evidence elicited by torture in U.S. camps.
The Law Lords, Britain's highest court, ruled unanimously that torture was an abhorrent practice that had no place in the British justice system.

Bid for Prewar Iraq Files Raises Political Heat

The resolution, proposed by Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, asks the president to turn over drafts and documents related to his October 2002 speech in Cincinnati and his State of the Union address in January 2003. Democrats want to find out why the president omitted from the earlier speech any reference to allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa but included such a claim in the State of the Union address.
The discussion on Thursday reflected seething public emotions about the war, which have recently generated a White House campaign to persuade Americans there is a workable plan for victory.
Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, offered the fiercest comments from his side, referring to "the president who lied" and "the lying administration." Scolded by other members, he refused to back down. "They misled and lied; I'll say it again," Mr. Ackerman said.
The Republican committee chairman, Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, fired back by reading from The Congressional Record remarks by Mr. Ackerman in October 2002 before he voted in favor of the Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, "We cannot simply hope that U.N. inspections will rout out Saddam Hussein's weapons of terror."

US bars Red Cross access to terror suspects

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.
The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.
Correspondents say the revelation is likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

An interview with Don Wise, creator of "incompetent design"

Wise cites serious flaws in the systems of the human body as evidence that design in the universe exhibits not an obvious source of, but a sore lack of, intelligence. Seed asked him to chat about his theory, reactions he's received to it, and the anthem he penned to rally people to his cause.

New Oxford American Dictionary: "Podcast" is Word of the Year

Also considered this year: bird flu, trans fat, sudoku (the puzzle), lifehack, rootkit.

Diebold insider alleges company plagued by technical woes, Diebold defends 'sterling' record

In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY, a whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the company’s electronic voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.
The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation “Dieb-Throat” in an interview with voting rights advocate Brad Friedman (, was once a staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential to produce more accurate results than punch cards.
But the company insider became disillusioned after witnessing repeated efforts by Diebold to evade meeting legal requirements or implementing appropriate security measures, putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of voters.

25 Years After Death, 10 Pages of Lennon's FBI Files Still Secret

[Jon] Wiener and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California first filed the Freedom of Information lawsuit in 1983 to gain access to the secret files on Lennon.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before the FBI settled in 1997, agreeing to release the files except for the last 10 pages.
In September 2004, a U.S. District Court judge in California ordered the FBI to release the last 10 pages, but in the latest twist, the FBI on October 20 of this year filed a notice of appeal of that ruling with the court.

Harold Pinters Nobel Speech

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Five-year GM ban on way for Switzerland

Switzerland has voted in favour of a five-year ban on the use of genetically modified plants and animals in farming, putting in place some of the toughest measures in Europe.
The move will force the Government to impose a blanket ban on the cultivation of so-called GM crops and the import of animals whose genes have been modified in the laboratory.
The moratorium does not apply to research into GM nor does it stop the import of GM food, but its supporters say the victory is a clear signal that the Swiss want GM-free produce.

Disney Seeks Narnia Product Placement in Sermons

Walt Disney Pictures is so eager for churches to turn out audiences for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which opens Friday, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest.
The only catch is that the sermons must mention Narnia, based on the hugely popular children's books about four British children who walk through an uncle's magic armoire into an enchanted kingdom.
Sermo-mercials are just one of the ways promoters hired by Disney and its production partner, Walden Media, are peddling Lion as a kind of Christian-themed Harry Potter.
Hollywood has been doing this sort of thing since The Ten Commandments in 1956, when Cecil B. DeMille had study guides sent to schools.

EPA to Scale Back Testing at Ground Zero

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it will no longer test for World Trade Center dust contamination in Brooklyn and north of Canal Street in Manhattan, a reduced testing plan that has outraged many politicians and health advocates.
The $7 million testing plan also excludes buildings slated for demolition. The EPA will test for four toxic contaminants -- asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs, and man-made vitreous fibers -- released when the twin towers collapsed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

VA To Review Over 72,000 PTSD Claims, Possible Cuts Pending, Oregon Vets Could Be Hit Hard

A bipartisan group of 54 House members joined U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) to urge their colleagues to stop the Veterans Administration (VA) from unfairly cutting a veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compensation. The VA is preparing to review 72,000 individual cases of veterans who were rated at 100 percent disabled and unemployable within the last five years due to PTSD. The review comes after a Department of Defense Inspector General report found that the number of 100 percent PTSD ratings granted to veterans varied widely among regions across the country.
..."This is another cheap attempt by the Bush administration to save a few bucks at the expense of our veterans who put their lives on the line for us," said DeFazio. "Veterans should not be subjected to trauma and emotional stresses of proving for a second time the wounds they suffered on the battlefield. Nor should our veterans be punished for inconsistency and inadequate training at the agency. The review is limited to those who were granted full compensation, but completely ignores the tens of thousands of veterans who were unfairly denied compensation. In fact, there are probably more veterans whose PTSD ratings are too low, and stand to receive increased compensation, compared to those who are receiving unnecessarily high compensation. I am disgusted by this administration’s actions."
Text of the letter.

Report: FBI faked terror probe documents

FBI officials mishandled a Florida terror investigation, falsified documents to try to cover mistakes and retaliated against an agent who complained about the problems, The New York Times reported in its Sunday edition.
Citing a draft report of an investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general's office, a copy of which was obtained by the newspaper, the Times said that in one instance correction fluid was used to alter dates on three FBI forms to conceal an apparent violation of federal wiretap law.
It was not known who altered the forms.

FBI Plants Fake Candidate in W.Va. Race

Thomas Esposito's campaign for the Legislature seemed to be following the usual pattern. The longtime Democratic mayor issued press releases, raised money and bought newspaper ads. Signs bearing his name popped up in yards around rural Logan County.
But less than a month before the May 2004 primary election, Esposito dropped out, saying he had to withdraw because of his ailing mother-in-law.
The real reason surfaced only later: The FBI had planted Esposito among the field of candidates to help find evidence of vote-buying in southern West Virginia.
Federal prosecutors say the gambit worked.
They allege Esposito gave $2,000 in government-supplied money to a resident who had offered to bribe voters on his behalf.

Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right'

The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Nation Under God

The Old Testament—with its 600 or so Mosaic laws—is the inflexible guide for the society DeMar and other Reconstructionists envision. Government posts would be reserved for the righteous, as long as they are male. There would be thousands of executions a year, with stoning a preferred method because it would turn the deaths into “community projects,” as movement theologian North has noted. Sinners in line for the death penalty would include women who commit adultery or lie about their virginity, blasphemers, witches, children who strike their parents, and gay men (lesbians, however, would be spared because no specific reference to them can be found in the Books of Moses). DeMar told me that among Reconstructionists he is considered something of a liberal, because he’d execute gays only if they were caught indulging in sodomy. “I’m happy to just drive them back into the closet,” he said.
In introducing Moore at the Trinity Chapel rally, DeMar told the crowd that he supports a “jurisdictional separation of church and state.” But he was not mounting a defense of the First Amendment so much as outlining an organizational distinction. In his book Liberty at Risk, DeMar writes that “the State cannot be neutral towards the Christian faith. Any obstacle that would jeopardize the preaching of the Word of God…must be opposed by civil government.”

Wired Interviews Soderbergh

When Steven Soderbergh releases his next film on January 27, it will have not only the critics squawking, but Hollywood studio execs, too. Bubble, an all-digital thriller, is set in an Ohio doll factory, and all of the actors are completely unknown. But that's not even the interesting part. The movie goes out to theaters, DVD, and high-definition cable TV - all on the same day. It's an experiment that threatens to uproot the film industry's long-standing "release window" formula, which staggers a picture's release on various platforms to maximize profits. Wired caught up with Soderbergh, director of sex, lies, and videotape, Traffic, and Ocean's Eleven, while he was in Los Angeles shooting The Good German, with George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.

Wikipedia now requires registration

After he discovered a false biography on Wikipedia that claims he was responsible for the death of JFK and his brother Bobby, John Seigenthaler wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today refuting those claims and rebuking Wiki admins and the ISPs that host them. Now, in light of Seigenthaler's outrage, the once open access Wikipedia now requires registration to submit new articles to the English language version of the site. [from]

John Lennon: The Wenner Tapes

Listen here
An in-depth portrait of John Lennon, told through the audio of Jann Wenner's seminal 1970 New York interview for Rolling Stone magazine.
The most famous interview Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner ever did was an extensive interrogation, on tape, of Lennon shortly after the Beatles had broken up.
Lennon and Ono had already given the magazine a blessing of sorts by posing nude for its first anniversary issue in late 1968. Their's was a relationship of trust. An edited version of Wenner's interview went to press in 1971, and the two issues in which it appeared both sold out overnight.
The Lennon interview remains one of the most important ever done with a popular musician. Lennon himself regarded it as definitive.
It documented the Beatles' career and split with painstakingly emotional (at times excruciating) detail, and served as a major, and controversial, point of exorcism for Lennon in his coming to terms with the '60s, the legacy of the Beatles and particularly his ruptured relationship with Paul McCartney.
He holds forth throughout on the subjects of art and politics, his own musical genius, his love for Yoko, drugs, primal therapy and mysticism.
It was the last interview he ever spoke with such candour. He's on terrific form - acidly sharp, furious and funny, philosophical, exuding confidence, at times disarmingly vunerable.
The audio archive for the programme centres exclusively on Wenner's own tapes. It also contains new interviews with both Yoko, who sat beside John throughout, and Jann, who look back on the interview and Lennon's state of mind at the time.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bush Words Reflect Public Opinion Strategy

In shaping their message, White House officials have drawn on the work of Duke University political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher F. Gelpi, who have examined public opinion on Iraq and previous conflicts. Feaver, who served on the staff of the National Security Council in the early years of the Clinton administration, joined the Bush NSC staff about a month ago as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform.
Feaver and Gelpi categorized people on the basis of two questions: "Was the decision to go to war in Iraq right or wrong?" and "Can the United States ultimately win?" In their analysis, the key issue now is how people feel about the prospect of winning. They concluded that many of the questions asked in public opinion polls -- such as whether going to war was worth it and whether casualties are at an unacceptable level -- are far less relevant now in gauging public tolerance or patience for the road ahead than the question of whether people believe the war is winnable.
"The most important single factor in determining public support for a war is the perception that the mission will succeed," Gelpi said in an interview yesterday.

'Renditions save lives': Condoleezza Rice's full statement

Excerpt: For decades, the United States and other countries have used "renditions" to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held, or brought to justice.
In some situations a terrorist suspect can be extradited according to traditional judicial procedures. But there have long been many other cases where, for some reason, the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option. In those cases the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in a rendition. Such renditions are permissible under international law and are consistent with the responsibilities of those governments to protect their citizens.
Rendition is a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism. Its use is not unique to the United States, or to the current administration. Last year, then Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet recalled that our earlier counterterrorism successes included "the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001".

'Renditions save lives': Condoleezza Rice's full statement

Excerpt: For decades, the United States and other countries have used "renditions" to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held, or brought to justice.
In some situations a terrorist suspect can be extradited according to traditional judicial procedures. But there have long been many other cases where, for some reason, the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option. In those cases the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in a rendition. Such renditions are permissible under international law and are consistent with the responsibilities of those governments to protect their citizens.
Rendition is a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism. Its use is not unique to the United States, or to the current administration. Last year, then Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet recalled that our earlier counterterrorism successes included "the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001".

U.S. Command Declares Global Strike Capability

The U.S. Strategic Command announced yesterday it had achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons, after last month testing its capacity for nuclear war against a fictional country believed to represent North Korea (see GSN, Oct. 21).
In a press release yesterday, STRATCOM said a new Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike on Nov. 18 “met requirements necessary to declare an initial operational capability.”
The requirements were met, it said, “following a rigorous test of integrated planning and operational execution capabilities during Exercise Global Lightning.”
The annual Global Lightning exercise last month tested U.S. strategic warfare capabilities, including the so-called CONPLAN 8022 mission for a global strike, according to publicly available military documents.
CONPLAN 8022 is “a new strike plan that includes [a] pre-emptive nuclear strike against weapons of mass destruction facilities anywhere in the world,” said Hans Kristensen, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kristensen first published the STRATCOM press release on his Web site,

Friday, December 02, 2005

Abuse of prisoners in Iraq widespread, officials say

Iraqi authorities have been torturing and abusing prisoners in jails across the country, current and former Iraqi officials charged.
Deputy Human Rights Minister Aida Ussayran and Gen. Muntadhar Muhi al-Samaraee, a former head of special forces at the Ministry of the Interior, made the allegations two weeks after 169 men who apparently had been tortured were discovered in a south-central Baghdad building run by the Interior Ministry. The men reportedly had been beaten with leather belts and steel rods, crammed into tiny rooms with tens of others and forced to sit in their own excrement.
A senior American military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he suspected that the abuse wasn't isolated to the jail the U.S. military discovered.

Refusal to present ID sparks test of rights

Federal prosecutors are reviewing whether to pursue charges against an Arvada woman who refused to show identification to federal police while riding an RTD bus through the Federal Center in Lakewood.
Deborah Davis, 50, was ticketed for two petty offenses Sept. 26 by officers who commonly board the RTD bus as it passes through the Federal Center and ask passengers for identification.
During the Thanksgiving weekend, an activist who has helped publicize other challenges to government ID requirements posted a Web site about the case, which he said had logged more than 1.5 million visitors by lunchtime Monday.

Gulf of Tonkin intelligence called 'deliberately skewed'

The National Security Agency has released hundreds of pages of long-secret documents on the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that played a critical role near the beginning of the Vietnam War. ... The most provocative document is a 2001 article [PDF] in which an agency historian argued that the agency's intelligence officers "deliberately skewed" the evidence passed on to policymakers on the crucial question of whether North Vietnamese ships attacked U.S. destroyers on Aug. 4, 1964. Based on the mistaken belief that such an attack had occurred, President Lyndon Johnson ordered air strikes on North Vietnam, and Congress passed a broad resolution authorizing military action.
...In his 2001 article, an elaborate piece of detective work, Hanyok wrote that 90 percent of the intercepts of North Vietnamese communications relevant to the supposed Aug. 4, 1964, attack were omitted from the major agency documents going to policymakers.
"The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened," he wrote. "So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred." [from]

Army ethics inspector's death in Iraq ruled suicide

After a three-month inquiry, investigators declared Westhusing's death a suicide. A test showed gunpowder residue on his hands. A shell casing in the room bore markings indicating it had been fired from his service weapon, a 9mm pistol.
Then there was the note.
Investigators found it lying on Westhusing's bed. The handwriting matched his.
The first part of the four-page letter lashes out at Petraeus and Fil. Both men later told investigators that they had not criticized Westhusing or heard negative comments from him. An Army review undertaken after Westhusing's death was complimentary of the command climate under the two men, a U.S. military official said.
Most of the letter is a wrenching account of a struggle for honor in a strange land.
"I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied," it says. "I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored. Death before being dishonored any more."

SETI and Intelligent Design

What many readers will not know is that SETI research has been offered up in support of Intelligent Design.
The way this happens is as follows. When ID advocates posit that DNA—which is a complicated, molecular blueprint—is solid evidence for a designer, most scientists are unconvinced. They counter that the structure of this biological building block is the result of self-organization via evolution, and not a proof of deliberate engineering. DNA, the researchers will protest, is no more a consciously constructed system than Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Organized complexity, in other words, is not enough to infer design.
But the adherents of Intelligent Design protest the protest. They point to SETI and say, "upon receiving a complex radio signal from space, SETI researchers will claim it as proof that intelligent life resides in the neighborhood of a distant star. Thus, isn’t their search completely analogous to our own line of reasoning—a clear case of complexity implying intelligence and deliberate design?" And SETI, they would note, enjoys widespread scientific acceptance.
If we as SETI researchers admit this is so, it sounds as if we’re guilty of promoting a logical double standard. If the ID folks aren’t allowed to claim intelligent design when pointing to DNA, how can we hope to claim intelligent design on the basis of a complex radio signal? It’s true that SETI is well regarded by the scientific community, but is that simply because we don’t suggest that the voice behind the microphone could be God?

Electronic Voting Examined; Deadline Nears

Even in this election off-year, the potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability.
Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills that beset computers.
This isn't just theoretical — problems in some states already have led to lost or miscounted votes.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding computerized ballots — their frequent inability to produce a written receipt of a vote — has been addressed or is being tackled in most states.
Still, an October report from the Government Accountability Office predicted that overall steps to improve electronic voting machines' reliability "are unlikely to have a significant effect" in next year's elections, partly because certification procedures remain a work in progress.

Flight Logs Reveal Hundreds of CIA Flights to Europe

More than 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports, a British newspaper said, adding a new element to claims that Washington has been transporting terrorist suspects to secret prisons in Europe.
The Guardian daily said it had seen flight logs documenting the flights by 26 planes operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The information showed an "unprecedented" amount of travel by the agency but did not reveal which planes took part in alleged prison transfers, it said.
The CIA has been accused in reports of using European countries for the transport, illegal detention and torture of suspected Islamist terrorists in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Outrage over the reports mounted in Europe this week as EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini threatened sanctions on Monday for any member nation hosting CIA prison camps on their soil.

Global Warming Triggers Dramatic Weakening Of Gulf Stream

The powerful ocean current that bathes Britain and northern Europe in warm waters from the tropics has weakened dramatically in recent years, a consequence of global warming that could trigger more severe winters and cooler summers across the region, scientists warn today.
Researchers on a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean measured the strength of the current between Africa and the east coast of America and found that the circulation has slowed by 30% since a previous expedition 12 years ago.
The current, which drives the Gulf Stream, delivers the equivalent of 1m power stations-worth of energy to northern Europe, propping up temperatures by 10C in some regions. The researchers found that the circulation has weakened by 6m tonnes of water a second. Previous expeditions to check the current flow in 1957, 1981 and 1992 found only minor changes in its strength, although a slowing was picked up in a further expedition in 1998. The decline prompted the scientists to set up a £4.8m network of moored instruments in the Atlantic to monitor changes in the current continuously.

Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.
The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

Rights groups lists 'ghost detainees' held by US overseas

The prisoners, suspected of involvement in such acts as the September 11, 2001, attacks, the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, are being held indefinitely and incommunicado, with no access to counsel, Human Rights Watch alleged.
According to the New York-based monitor, US government officials, speaking anonymously to journalists, have suggested that some of the detainees have been tortured or otherwise seriously mistreated in CIA custody.
"President (George W.) Bush speaks about bringing terrorists to justice, yet not one of these suspects has actually been brought to justice," said John Sifton, the watchdog's terrorism and counter-terrorism researcher.

Grandma's Little Helper

The following are among the 1,200 statements in the repertoire of “Yumel,” a talking doll for sale in Japan. The doll is marketed as a “healing partner” for nighttime use by the lonely elderly. According to Tomy, the doll’s manufacturer, over 8,000 have been sold to date. Translated from the Japanese by W. David Marx.

I love you!
Won’t you sleep with me? Promise!
Did you brush your teeth?
Ask me a lot about my dreams.
I had a dream where Mr. Squirrel ate a huge cake.
I had a dream where a chicken was washing dishes.
I had a dream about a beach . . . Never mind, it’s a secret!
Even though I slept a lot, I’m still sleepy.
Are you waking up in the middle of the night?
I want to help out around the house.
I’d be very happy if you played with me.
It feels good when you sing in a loud voice.
[thanks, Mint]

Grandma's Little Helper

The following are among the 1,200 statements in the repertoire of “Yumel,” a talking doll for sale in Japan. The doll is marketed as a “healing partner” for nighttime use by the lonely elderly. According to Tomy, the doll’s manufacturer, over 8,000 have been sold to date. Translated from the Japanese by W. David Marx.

I love you!
Won’t you sleep with me? Promise!
Did you brush your teeth?
Ask me a lot about my dreams.
I had a dream where Mr. Squirrel ate a huge cake.
I had a dream where a chicken was washing dishes.
I had a dream about a beach . . . Never mind, it’s a secret!
Even though I slept a lot, I’m still sleepy.
Are you waking up in the middle of the night?
I want to help out around the house.
I’d be very happy if you played with me.
It feels good when you sing in a loud voice.
[thanks, Mint]

Free Press: The White House's Assault on the Press

The current administration is more inhospitable to truth and an informed citizenry than any before it. In fact, the administration seeks the opposite: a public that buys a carefully constructed myth over reality. This deception has manifest in seven lines of attack:

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Original Intent

Revisionist rhetoric notwithstanding, the founders left God out of the Constitution–and it wasn't an oversight.

When the Supreme Court, in one of its most important decisions of 2005, ordered two Kentucky counties to dismantle courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments, Justice Antonin Scalia declared that the Court majority was wrong because the nation's historical practices clearly indicate that the Constitution permits "disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists."
The Constitution permits no such thing: It has nothing to say about God, gods, or any form of belief or nonbelief—apart from its absolute prohibition, in Article 6, against any religious test for public office and the First Amendment's familiar declaration that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." From reading Scalia, a Martian (or polytheist) might infer that the establishment clause actually concludes with the phrase "free exercise thereof—as long as the faithful worship one God whose eye is on the sparrow." The justice's impassioned dissent in McCreary County v. the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is a revealing portrait of the historical revisionism at the heart of the Christian conservative campaign to convince Americans that the separation of church and state is nothing more than a lie of the secularist left.
For the 21st-century apostles of religious correctness, the godless Constitution—how could those framers have forgotten the most important three-letter word in the dictionary?—poses a formidable problem requiring the creation of tortuous historical fictions that include both subtle prevarication and bald-faced lies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press

Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.
The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.
The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are pledging to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption.
It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society." Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations.
Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.
The military's information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military's credibility in other nations and with the American public.
"Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.
The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs — the dissemination of factual information to the media — and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign.

Phone Tree Cheat Sheet

Do you hate having to wade through phone mazes when you call a company for customer service? So did Paul English so he put together this nice list of shortcuts to get to a live person quickly.
American Express is simple (press 0 for operator) but others, like Discover, are tricky (press ****) and Dell Service is downright cryptic (option 1, xt 7266966, option 1, option 4, option 4). [from Thanks, Kris]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Trophy' video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers

A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.