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]