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.