Friday, October 06, 2006

An Evening with Bill Moyers: Writer's Symposium by the Sea 2005

Legendary journalist Bill Moyers criticizes the Religious Right for misinterpreting the teachings of Christianity as he reads from his book ... all » Moyers on America and follows with a celebration of poetry with excerpts from his Fooling with Words in this unforgettable program with host Dean Nelson marking the 10th anniversary of the Writer's Symposium by the Sea sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University. Series: "Writer's Symposium By The Sea"

Ira Glass on Storytelling

The host of "This American Life" explains the elements of good storytelling for audio and video. Sharp, cogent and very interesting.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The legal mind behind the White House’s war on terror

Most Americans, even those who follow politics closely, have probably never heard of Addington. But current and former Administration officials say that he has played a central role in shaping the Administration’s legal strategy for the war on terror. Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share—namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside. A former high-ranking Administration lawyer who worked extensively on national-security issues said that the Administration’s legal positions were, to a remarkable degree, “all Addington.” Another lawyer, Richard L. Shiffrin, who until 2003 was the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for intelligence, said that Addington was “an unopposable force.”
The overarching intent of the New Paradigm, which was put in place after the attacks of September 11th, was to allow the Pentagon to bring terrorists to justice as swiftly as possible. Criminal courts and military courts, with their exacting standards of evidence and emphasis on protecting defendants’ rights, were deemed too cumbersome. Instead, the President authorized a system of detention and interrogation that operated outside the international standards for the treatment of prisoners of war established by the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Terror suspects would be tried in a system of military commissions, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, devised by the executive branch. The Administration designated these suspects not as criminals or as prisoners of war but as “illegal enemy combatants,” whose treatment would be ultimately decided by the President. By emphasizing interrogation over due process, the government intended to preëmpt future attacks before they materialized. In November, 2001, Cheney said of the military commissions, “We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”
Yet, almost five years later, this improvised military model, which Addington was instrumental in creating, has achieved very limited results. Not a single terror suspect has been tried before a military commission. Only ten of the more than seven hundred men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo have been formally charged with any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, three detainees committed suicide in the camp. Germany and Denmark, along with the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have called for the prison to be closed, accusing the United States of violating internationally accepted standards for humane treatment and due process. The New Paradigm has also come under serious challenge from the judicial branch. Two years ago, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled against the Administration’s contention that the Guantánamo prisoners were beyond the reach of the U.S. court system and could not challenge their detention.

Church Execrises Right to Display Ahistorical Kitsch

As the congregation of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church looked on and its pastor, Apostle Alton R. Williams, presided, a brown shroud much like a burqa was pulled away to reveal a giant statue of the Lady, but with the Ten Commandments under one arm and "Jehovah" inscribed on her crown.

And in place of a torch, she held aloft a large gold cross, as if to ward off the pawnshops, the car dealerships and the discount furniture outlets at the busy corner of Kirby Parkway and Winchester that is her home. A single tear graced her cheek.

It was not clear if she was crying because of her new home, her new identity as a symbol of religion or, as the pastor said, America's increasing godlessness. But although big cheers went up from the few hundred onlookers at the unveiling, and some people even wore foam Lady Liberty crowns bearing Christian slogans, she was not universally welcomed.

CIA disbands unit set up to hunt for bin Laden

The CIA has disbanded a unit set up in the 1990s to oversee the spy agency's hunt for Osama bin Laden and transferred its duties to broader operations that track Islamist militant groups, a U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday.
The bin Laden unit, codenamed Alec Station, became less valuable as a separate operation as counterterrorism operations eliminated top al Qaeda operatives and the movement's focus shifted more to regional networks of militants, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Friday, June 23, 2006

St Petersburg Times: Rove, Satan plot GOP fall campaign strategy

Compiled from Times wires
Published June 23, 2006

At a joint press conference today in Washington, White House adviser Karl Rove said that he would be plotting the Republican Party’s fall election strategy with his longtime comrade-in-arms, Satan.
The Prince of Darkness, wearing his traditional red horns and cape and carrying a smoldering pitchfork, appeared to beam as Mr. Rove, his protege, talked about how much he was looking forward to working with him on the fall campaign.
“Every time Satan and I get together, good things happen,” Rove said, adding, “Or should I say - bad things happen!”
The two of them then dissolved in laughter, demonstrating an easy collegiality that has made them an unbeatable team in past GOP campaigns.
Satan’s partnership with Rove goes back to 1994, when the two of them teamed up to orchestrate George W. Bush’s first election as governor.
But their work together reached its apogee, perhaps, during the 2004 presidential election, in which Rove and Satan devised the infernal “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign.
While Satan let Rove have most of the spotlight in the hour-long press conference, he did take the microphone to say that he had been “relieved” recently when the White House advisor was cleared of all charges in the CIA leak investigation.
“I can’t imagine running a Republican campaign without my buddy here,” he said, giving Rove a bear hug. “There are plenty of Satans out there, but there’s only one Karl Rove.”
Elsewhere, Dan Rather retired from CBS after 44 years there but said that he would remain active in news and misinformation.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Privacy Schmivacy

On the eve of its hearing on charges that it assisted in the government’s illegal spying on millions of Americans, AT&T, the largest phone company in the United States, has changed its privacy policy to clearly establish its ownership of its customers’ personal account information. In its revised policy, AT&T makes it clear that “while your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process." Oh, really? [from]

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frontline: The Dark Side

After 9/11, Vice President Richard Cheney seized the initiative. He pushed to expand executive power, transform America's intelligence agencies and bring the war on terror to Iraq. But first he had to take on George Tenet's CIA for control over intelligence.

FBI Shadowed Playwright Arthur Miller

In the summer of 1956, playwright Arthur Miller married screen idol Marilyn Monroe in a Jewish ceremony, an event of high-level gossip for much of the world and of high-level curiosity for the U.S. government.
"An anonymous telephone call" has been placed to the New York Daily News, an FBI report notes at the time. The caller stated that the "religious" wedding — Miller was Jewish and Monroe had converted — was an obvious "cover up" for Miller, who "had been and still was a member of the CP (Communist Party) and was their cultural front man." Monroe also "had drifted into the Communist Party orbit."
The memo is one of many included in Miller's FBI files, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. Miller, who died last year at age 89, was a longtime liberal who opposed the Vietnam War, supported civil rights and, in one play, "The Crucible," linked the Cold War pursuit of communists to the Salem witch trials of the 17th century.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Street Legal Jet Powered VW Beetle

What can you do with a GE Model T58-8F helicopter turboshaft engine, converted to jet? With Ron Patrick’s custom VW Beetle you can have lots and lots of dangerous fun exploiting all 1350 horsepower. This monster is powered by two engines (original up front, jet in back) and is perfectly street legal since you’re only using the gasoline powered engine in normal driving conditions. But if you’re feeling adventurous, fire up the jet engine - which spins up to 26,000 rpm/13,000 rpm idle - and watch the afterburner come to life.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who is the US fighting in Iraq?

A February 2006 report from the International Crisis Group which provides a detailed look at the evolution of the insurgency, and describes its four main groups: Tandhim al-Qa’ida fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (recently decapitated), Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna, al-Jaysh al-Islami fil-’Iraq, and al-Jabha al-Islamiya lil-Muqawama al-’Iraqiya. In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse [particularly their websites], reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising. [from]

"This is my happening, and it freaks me out!"

A sequel far removed from its namesake, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the 1970 sex-drugs-rock-violence classic by Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert, gets a special-edition DVD release this week. Also, at retroCRUSH, a trio of interviews with Casey, Roxanne and the ultra-eccentric Z-Man. [from]

Happy Bloomsday!

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
-- Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
-- Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!
Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

"Do you know how many Ronald Blankenships there are?"

Ronald Wayne Blankenship, a candidate in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for Jefferson County sheriff, says it's coincidence that a man with a criminal past shares his name and birthdate.
It's strange but true, he says, that both he and a man who faked his own death in 1990 are married to women named Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship.
Blankenship calls himself an underdog. The Bessemer shoe shop owner received 12,218 votes or 25.9 percent in the June 6 primary last week. He did little campaigning and spent little money. He is vying for the Democratic nomination for sheriff with Ron McGuffie, a former sheriff's deputy and dispatcher. Blankenship, 63, beat out veteran lawman C.D. Horton to make the runoff.
Little was known about Blankenship during the campaign. He refused to release personal information and declined to be interviewed, citing fear of identity theft.
Blankenship, who said he's a former policeman, 20-year Ford Motor Co. worker and U.S. Navy veteran, said he's never been in trouble. "I stand before the Lord," he said. "I've never been convicted of anything."
Vestavia Hills police Lt. Rick Miller said he's surprised Blankenship is running for public office because he knows Blankenship is the man he arrested in 1990.
"I will be happy to meet him at the county jail and take his fingerprints and compare them," Miller said. "I want to get to the bottom of it, too. If Mr. Blankenship says that's not him, that way we'll know once and for all."

Colbert Interviews Congressman Westmoreland

Colbert was priceless last night. His guest was Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland and I guess he never heard of The Colbert Report before. He will now.
(rough transcript)
Colbert: You have not introduced a single piece of legislation since you entered Congress.
Westmoreland: That's correct.
Colbert: This has been called a do nothing Congress. Is it safe to say you're the do nothingest?
Westmoreland: I, I, ..Well there's one other do nothiner. I don't know who that is, but they're a Democrat.
Colbert: What can we get rid of to balance the budget?
Westmoreland: The Dept. of Education.
Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments?
Westmoreland: You mean all of them?--Um... Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal Um... I can't name them all. emailer Ruth asks: Does this guy deserve a $3,300 pay raise?
The guy co-sponsors a bill about the Ten Commandments and doesn't even know them. Priceless.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

IAEA chief: Iran not an immediate nuclear threat

Iran does not pose an immediate nuclear threat and the world must act cautiously to avoid repeating mistakes made with Iraq and North Korea, the head of the U.N, nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the world shouldn't "jump the gun" with erroneous information as he said the U.S.-led coalition did in Iraq in 2003, nor should it push the country into retaliation as international sanctions did in North Korea.
"Our assessment is that there is no immediate threat," the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize told a forum organized by the Monterey Institute of International Studies south of San Francisco. "We still have lots of time to investigate."
"You look around in the Middle East right now and it's a total mess," he said. "You can not add oil to that fire."
The recent violent history in Iraq bears an important lesson for diplomacy with neighboring Iran, the diplomat said. "We should not jump the gun. We should be very careful about assessing the information available to us," he said.

Friday, June 09, 2006

First-ever cancer vaccine approved by FDA

The vaccine, Gardasil, blocks infection by two types of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which account for about 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Gardasil also blocks infection by two other HPV types that cause about 90% of genital warts cases. Spread by skin-to-skin contact, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the USA. More than 90% of cases clear up on their own, but persistent infection with certain HPV types causes virtually all cervical cancers.

Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites

From the fine folks that brought you the Total Terrorism Information Awareness program, another wickedly-named branch of the NSA, the Disruptive Technologies Office (formerly ARDA), is funding research into the usefulness of the Semantic Web for combing through and profiling the 80 million members of MySpace. [from]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

CDC Defines all Women as "Pre-pregnant"

Not planning on getting pregnant? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t care. As far as it is concerned, if you are one of the 62 million U.S. women of childbearing age, you are pre-pregnant--a vessel. You are a future fetal incubator.
In April, the CDC issued a report detailing measures to be taken to intervene in the life, healthcare and behavior of all women, “from menarche [first occurrence of menstruation] to menopause … even if they do not intend to conceive.”
The CDC report calls for a radical shift in medical care so that at every point of interaction, women’s doctors are to stage “interventions” to make sure they are healthy and prepared to give birth. Want to take your newborn in for a checkup or your 8-year-old in for a high fever? Expect an “intervention” into your eating habits, weight and behavioral risk factors.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

GNC quits selling Robertson's protein shake

Despite Pat Robertson's assertion that he leg-pressed 2,000 pounds, the protein shake the religious broadcaster credits for this astounding feat will no longer be on store shelves.
The Christian Broadcasting Network recently posted a video on its Web site showing Robertson leg-pressing 1,000 pounds.
A version of the video posted on on May 25 has been viewed more than 11,000 times, according to the Web site.
According to a related news release, Robertson has leg-pressed 2,000 pounds. H e is 76 years old, and the current world record is 1,335 pounds.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Mushroom cloud blast in Nevada delayed

The federal government on Friday indefinitely postponed a massive explosion that planners said would generate a mushroom cloud over the Nevada desert and critics feared would spread radioactivity across the West.
Officials said delaying the non-nuclear explosion dubbed "Divine Strake" would allow time to answer legal and scientific questions about whether it would kick up radioactive fallout left from nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site about 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
"The previously announced date of no later than June 23 is no longer accurate," said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration in North Las Vegas. "The experiment will be scheduled at a date later to be announced pending the legal action."
Anti-nuclear activists, an Indian tribe and Utah and Nevada congressional lawmakers have pressed the government to address safety concerns raised since James Tegnelia, director of the federal Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said the blast "is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons." He later retracted the statement, saying it was inaccurate.
A federal judge in Las Vegas let government lawyers on Friday withdraw a finding that there would be "no significant impact" from the blast without acknowledging any shortcomings alleged in a lawsuit filed by the Winnemucca Indian Colony and several Nevada and Utah "downwinders."

US Blocking International Deal on Fighting AIDS

The Bush administration, heavily influence by the Christian right, is blocking key proposals for a new United Nations package to combat AIDS worldwide over the next five years because of its opposition to the distribution of condoms and needle exchanges and references to prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals.
The United States is being supported by many Muslim countries, including Egypt, and various conservative African and Latin American nations. "There are a lot of unholy alliances all over the place," said a European official attending UN talks in New York last night.
Fraught negotiations were continuing to try to salvage as much of the package as possible. More than 140 nations are attending the UN summit in New York which began on Wednesday. The meeting is intended to update a 2001 declaration that provided the momentum for a worldwide campaign against AIDS. A new declaration is due to be agreed today.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, told the summit: "The world has been unconscionably slow in meeting one of the most vital aspects of the struggle: measures to fight the spread of AIDS among women and girls. These shortcomings are deadly."

U.S. to drop Geneva rule, officials say

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Conventions that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
The decision culminates a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department opposes the military's decision to exclude Geneva Conventions protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the defense officials acknowledged.

CBC Radio Available in Podcast Form

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is pumping out a pile of podcasts that have covered the importance of offensive comics to Art Spiegelman, 600 bands over 54 shows, Captain America versus the American government, Amy Sedaris and geekdom, the journey of young immigrants, French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut and Harper's publisher John MacArthur discussing Europe and America perspectives since 9/11, the after life, sex with monkeys, what radio producers do, the french word "corps", Bonnie Fuller's "The Joys of Much Too Much: Go For the Big Life — The Great Career, The Perfect Guy, and Everything Else You've Ever Wanted (Even If You're Afraid You Don't Have What It Takes)", Veteran Washington reporter Helen Thomas and some other bits & bobs.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Gonzales pressures ISPs on data retention

In a private meeting with industry representatives, Gonzales, Mueller and other senior members of the Justice Department said Internet service providers should retain subscriber information and network data for two years, according to two sources familiar with the discussion who spoke on condition of anonymity.

How the NSA wiretaps spiraled out of control

A security consultant working with a major telecommunications carrier told me that his client set up a top-secret high-speed circuit between its main computer complex and Quantico, Virginia, the site of a government-intelligence computer center. This link provided direct access to the carrier's network core -- the critical area of its system, where all its data are stored. “What the companies are doing is worse than turning over records,” the consultant said. “They're providing total access to all the data.”
“This is not about getting a cardboard box of monthly phone bills in alphabetical order,” a former senior intelligence official said. The Administration's goal after September 11th was to find suspected terrorists and target them for capture or, in some cases, air strikes. “The NSA is getting real-time actionable intelligence,” the former official said.
The NSA also programmed computers to map the connections between telephone numbers in the United States and suspect numbers abroad, sometimes focussing on a geographic area, rather than on a specific person -- for example, a region of Pakistan. Such calls often triggered a process, known as “chaining,” in which subsequent calls to and from the American number were monitored and linked. The way it worked, one high-level Bush Administration intelligence official told me, was for the agency “to take the first number out to two, three, or more levels of separation, and see if one of them comes back” -- if, say, someone down the chain was also calling the original, suspect number. As the chain grew longer, more and more Americans inevitably were drawn in. [from]

Robert F Kennedy Jr: The Stealing of the 2004 Presidential Election

Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)
The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)
Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ''We didn't have one election for president in 2004,'' says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ''We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.''
But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

House Passes McDermott Depleted Uranium Study Amendment

Shortly after passage, Rep. McDermott received a letter from James King, the national executive director of AMVETS, the American Veterans organization:

This is a very important issue for AMVETS and its membership. Our ultimate goal is to provide atomic veterans with the tools necessary to file a claim and be considered for due compensation. Your amendment will help begin this process.
Again, thank you for your amendment and your support of veterans and their families.

Gagged librarians break silence on Patriot Act

The Librarians, members of Library Connection, a not-for profit cooperative organization for resource sharing across 26 Connecticut library branches sharing a centralized computer, were served with a National Security Letter (NSL) in August of last year as part of the FBI's attempt to attain access to patron's records.
The NSL is a little known statute in the Patriot Act that permits law enforcement to obtain records of people not suspected of any wrongdoing and without a court order. As part of the NSL, those served with the document are gagged and prohibited from disclosing that they have even been served.
The foursome of Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, George Christian, and Jan Nocek were automatically gagged from disclosing that they had received the letter, the contents of the letter, and even from discussions surrounding the Patriot Act.
The librarians, via the national and Connecticut branches of the ACLU, filed suit challenging the Patriot Act on first amendment grounds.

Amir Tahiri

Who is Amir Taheri? And why is he considered an Iraq expert by the Bush Administration when he's been accused of fabricating stories about Iran. [from the Rachel Maddow Show]


"Emergency Broadcast Network" has been mentioned before (EBN), but you have to see it for yourself: YouTube --> We Will Rock You, Sinatra, Get Up Get Down, Suddenly, Comply, Hello, Documercial, Psychoactive Drugs, and even Homicidal Schizophrenic.
EBN has something to do with MBM. [from]
EBN also gave us this gem.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"History of Oil"

Google Video of performance by British comedian, Rob Newman. [thanks, Kathy]

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.
It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice...

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.
It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice...

The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos

One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. Otherwise, right and wrong would be mere matters of social construction, and any society would be at liberty to decide that raping and killing children is actually a wholesome form of family fun. In the absence of God, John Wayne Gacy could be a better person than Albert Schweitzer, if only more people agreed with him.
It is simply amazing how widespread this fear of secular moral chaos is, given how many misconceptions about morality and human nature are required to set it whirling in a person’s brain. There is undoubtedly much to be said against the spurious linkage between faith and morality, but the following three points should suffice...

Richard Dawkins: God’s Gift to Kansas

Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it, “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery – that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand – is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do. Maybe we don’t understand yet, but we’re working on it! Each mystery solved opens up vistas of unsolved problems, and the scientist eagerly moves in.
Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. It is worse than galling. It threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect creationism or ‘intelligent design theory’ (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well-financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.

Strict Net neutrality passes House Committee, but fate is rather uncertain

The US House Committee on the Judiciary today approved the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act (HR 5417) in a vote of 20-12, helping to improve the provision of equal network service regardless of who receives it, without added surcharges, along with other antitrust measures. Carriers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon suggest no problem exists that requires this legislative solution, despite pushing their lobbyists hard to get Congress to enact opposing laws, and suggesting that prioritizing network traffic is required to develop newer products, such as high-definition video. Meanwhile, the FCC continues to encourage mergers while prices for telecommunications products continue to rise at rates manyfold higher than inflation, despite price gouging provisions enacted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. [from]

Follow Up: Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission releases its report

On Nov. 3, 1979, in Greensboro, N.C., Klansmen and Nazis fired on Communist Workers Party demonstrators, killing five and wounding 10. The gunmen, though captured on TV-news videotape, were acquitted of all charges in two criminal trials in the early 1980s. Two years ago, a Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission was convened, following the South African model, to look into the case. It posted its report on its Web site, shedding some additional light on an incident that has divided the city for more than a quarter-century.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bush Excusing Cooked Coporate Books

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.
Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Red Cross Barred from US Secret Prisons, Rebukes US Policy

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday deplored the refusal of the U.S. administration to allow its neutral delegates to visit people being held in secret detention.
In an unusually strongly worded statement, the agency known for its discretion expressed disappointment that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials refused to yield to the demand.
“No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person's whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained,” said Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, following a series of top-level meetings in Washington.
The ICRC is designated by the Geneva Conventions on warfare as the organization to visit prisoners of war. It is the only independent body the United States lets visit terror suspects detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but it has long been demanding access to detainees held in “undisclosed locations.”
“Speaking after his meetings, Mr. Kellenberger deplored the fact that the U.S. authorities had not moved closer to granting the ICRC access to persons held in undisclosed locations,” said an ICRC statement issued Friday.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Do Pigeons (and us) Perceive Time Logarithmically

There are asymmetries in the way animals perceive numbers and time, and a recent experiment showed that pigeons underestimate the midpoint between two time intervals.
In the experiment, pigeons were trained to tap one lever when a light flash was "short", perhaps 1 second long, and another lever when the flash was "long", say 16 seconds. When the birds then saw flashes of intermediate length, you would expect them to distinguish long from short around the mid-point of 8 or 9 seconds. But instead they switched at 4 seconds.

Imaginary Weapons

The military subculture that pursues the development of fabulous, physically impossible weapons concepts at taxpayer expense is the subject of a new book by defense reporter Sharon Weinberger called "Imaginary Weapons."
Weinberger introduces the hafnium bomb, a hypothetical weapon that would supposedly harness the energy released from a nuclear transition within a hafnium isomer. It is a purely speculative notion that has been largely discredited, but one that attracted nearly cultish attention -- and millions of dollars -- within the defense establishment.
It is akin in its eccentricity, and lack of reproducibility, to "zero point energy," "psychic teleportation," and other notions that Weinberger terms "fringe science."
Fringe science, she contends, "has reached new heights under the Bush Administration. We have fewer and fewer scientific experts in the government, and an increasing unwillingness by the government to turn to outside scientific advisers." "The real danger in this story is not the existence of fringe science, but of fringe science in government, particularly when it receives substantial funding or guides decision-making."
"I see this problem getting worse, not better. If the government doesn't take steps to shore up its scientific expertise, I think we are facing a future filled with imaginary weapons." Her highly readable new book, filled with entertaining or disgusting anecdotes, has just been published.
See "Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld" by Sharon Weinberger, Nation Books, June 2006:

The Perfect Mark

This might be the most well researched, comprehensive and well written coverage of the 419 Scam written.
Also known as the Nigeria Scam, the 419 scam continues to bilk people under the "something for nothing" pretext.
This article is a must-read for crime-fighters everywhere.

Pentagon's Black Budget Soars to Cold War Heights

The Department of Defense budget request for 2007 includes about $30.1 billion in classified or "black" spending, according to a new analysis by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
"In real (inflation-adjusted) terms the $30.1 billion FY 2007 request includes more classified acquisition funding than any other defense budget since FY 1988, near the end of the Cold War, when DoD received $19.7 billion ($29.4 billion in FY 2007 dollars) for these programs," wrote author Steven Kosiak. See "Classified Funding in the FY 2007 Budget Request" (pdf) from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The study was reported in "Classified military spending reaches highest level since Cold War" by Drew Brown, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, May 19:

Wired Posts Documents Detailing AT&T's Internet Surveillance

complete text
Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class-action lawsuit against the telecommunications company, which alleges that AT&T cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.
In a public statement Klein issued last month, he described the NSA's visit to an AT&T office. In an older, less-public statement recently acquired by Wired News, Klein goes into additional details of his discovery of an alleged surveillance operation in an AT&T building in San Francisco.
Klein supports his claim by attaching excerpts of three internal company documents: a Dec. 10, 2002, manual titled "Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco," a Jan. 13, 2003, document titled "SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure" and a second "Cut-In and Test Procedure" dated Jan. 24, 2003.
Here we present Klein's statement in its entirety, with inline links to all of the document excerpts where he cited them. You can also download the complete file here (pdf). The full AT&T documents are filed under seal in federal court in San Francisco.

Tape Shows Lawmaker Taking $100G

A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.
At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company's deal for work in Africa.

Pentagon Memo: Guard Deployment to Last at Least Two Years

A Pentagon memo sent to California National Guard leaders this week and obtained by The Associated Press indicates President Bush's planned deployment of troops along the U.S.-Mexico border will last at least two years with no timetable for concluding the operation.
The internal guidance memo sent to National Guard officials in border states does not specify the cost of implementing the decision or how soon troops would be stationed along the 2,200-mile border from California to Texas. But high-ranking officials in the California National Guard said they were told Friday that deployments would not begin before early June.
The memo tells Guard officials the nearly 6,000 troops called for in the President's proposal would be be deployed "up to one year, with a force reduction to 3,000 during the second year."
The memo from the National Guard Bureau's Department of the Army and the Air Force said Guardsmen and women would act in a supporting role for law enforcement operations on the border, while focusing on "surveillance, reconnaissance, aviation, intelligence, engineering, training, vehicle dismantling, linguistics ... transportation and logistics."

Friday, May 19, 2006

CIA Veteran on Today's Intelligence and Mideast Policy

CIA vet Michael Scheuer: "I think Iraq is finished. We’ll just find a way to get out. I frankly don’t think we ever intended to win there." And: "As a professional intelligence officer, the last people you want to report to are generals and diplomats. And if General Hayden comes to the CIA, we’ll have Mr. Negroponte [a career diplomat] as head of the community, and a general as the head of the CIA." [via]

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Little Known Spy Agency Watching Americans From Space

A little-known spy agency that analyzes imagery taken from the skies has been spending significantly more time watching U.S. soil.
In an era when other intelligence agencies try to hide those operations, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency [NGA], retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is proud of that domestic mission.
...Geospatial intelligence is the science of combining imagery, such as satellite pictures, to physically depict features or activities happening anywhere on the planet. A part of the Defense Department, the NGA usually operates unnoticed to provide information on nuclear sites, terror camps, troop movements or natural disasters.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Great Flydini

Old, brilliant Steve Martin bit from the Tonight Show. [from]

TDS: Phone Logs and Fox Pundits

Jon Stewart and his team of very talented writers had a field day with the NSA warrantless wiretapping and the latest news from this USA Today article: "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls."
Stewart: Well now it turns out that there was one specific type of domestic call the government was keeping tabs on. All of them....

The round up of FOX News pundits defending this new development was hysterical. Neil Cavuto wins the top prize as the biggest suck up when he says:

Cavuto: Yes, it is not great to necessary hear they're collecting our phone records, but it's a heck of a lot better than collecting our remains...

Stewart: Wow, the entire network of anchors has been hired to be the press secretary...

The Daily Show website hosts a ton of past video clips. Always check it out if you're looking for segments that you've missed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Darfur reality: More killings, more rapes

Despite a cease-fire, the horrible situation in Darfur persists. Based on Google Trends data, it appears that, as of January, people are becoming interested in Darfur again (or at least they're researching it more), which may be a catalyst for politicians to act. Or maybe not... [from]

Christian Nationalism

Christian Nationalism is just one name for that ideological and aggressive species of Christianity just may be more organized, ambitious, and successful than you imagined. The dream transcends the elimination of abortion, the teaching of intelligent design, and the preservation of marriage within American politics, but instead reaches out to restore America to an imagined Christian state. Or more? "World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish." Or maybe just 29% of it. But some resistance from within Christianity is starting to appear. [from]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Things to look forward to

We have about 4 billion years left until our planet is going to be destroyed. If a meteor doesn't smash us in first, over the next 250 million years the continents will continue drifting to form another pangea. If we're all still friends having survived the climate change and each other, we'll be roasted by the expanding red giant after our sun exhausts its interior hydrogen supply. In about 5.5 billion years time the helium left in the core will get hot and dense enough to burn, flaring up in a massive helium flash engulfing what remains of the solar system. When the helium core is gone, hydrogen in the outermost layers will drift off to form a ring nebula, leaving in the middle a bright white dwarf star that will slowly cool down into a cold, dense black dwarf: a silent and forgotten fossil, floating through infinite space. In other news: cats are funny! hahahahaha!


Brian Eno is the godfather of electronica, the inventor of ambient music, and producer of the best work by bands like the Talking Heads and U2. Tchad Blake has helmed the mixing board for Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Soul Coughing and the Bad Plus, to name just a few. Paul Simon is one of the most recognized names in pop music both for his work with Art Garfunkel and for his fusion of American pop music with African and South American music. Surprise is the the album they collaborated on, the new Paul Simon record featuring Eno's signature sonic landscapes all over it, and the entire lovely thing, complete with liner notes, is available to listen to on Simon's website. [from]

Living without Numbers or Time

The Pirahã people have no history, no descriptive words and no subordinate clauses. That makes their language one of the strangest in the world -- and also one of the most hotly debated by linguists.

Halliburton Solves Global Warming

SurvivaBalls save managers from abrupt climate change
An advanced new technology will keep corporate managers safe even when climate change makes life as we know it impossible. [Speech, photos]
"The SurvivaBall is designed to protect the corporate manager no matter what Mother Nature throws his or her way," said Fred Wolf, a Halliburton representative who spoke today at the Catastrophic Loss conference held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida. "This technology is the only rational response to abrupt climate change," he said to an attentive and appreciative audience.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Expunged Report on Domestic Wiretaps

Administrative Office of the US Courts removes report about wiretaps. The Memory Hole restores it:

Each April, the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts is required by federal law to submit to Congress a report detailing the number of federal and state wiretaps approved or authorized during the previous calendar year. On 01 May 2006, the Office posted this report here:
One PDF file contained the main body of the report, and multiple separate PDFs contained the 9 text tables and 4 appendix tables.
A press release about the report is here.
On the evening of 03 May, a librarian reported on an email discussion list that all the files had been deleted from the US Courts website. A copy was not in Google's cache, although the cache did show a page with a deleted link to the 2005 report.
I contacted several journalists who had written about the report to see if they still had a copy of it on their hard drives. They didn't, but on 04 May, one of the reporters called the US Courts' press officer, who said that the report had been yanked because it contained information that is still under judicial seal. A sanitized version of the report is expected to be posted soon.
Soon after I contacted Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center about this, Sherwin Siy of EPIC kindly emailed the body of the original, uncensored report, which he had downloaded and saved.

PDF of report here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cato: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush

In recent judicial confirmation battles, President Bush has repeatedly—and correctly—stressed fidelity to the Constitution as the key qualification for service as a judge. It is also the key qualification for service as the nation's chief executive. On January 20, 2005, for the second time, Mr. Bush took the presidential oath of office set out in the Constitution, swearing to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." With five years of the Bush administration behind us, we have more than enough evidence to make an assessment about the president's commitment to our fundamental legal charter
Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes

  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
  • a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
  • a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and
  • a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.

President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

Full Text (PDF, 966 KB)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Junking their fast food addiction

“The image that is most disturbing to me,” says Schlosser, “is the rooms full of very intelligent adults with lofty degrees in psychology and anthropology sitting around trying to figure out how to manipulate three and four-year-olds.”
He could also have mentioned the picture of a child with his head in an MRI machine that scanned his brain activity as he watched commercials — research into “neuromarketing”. Lolly-maker Chupa Chups is very keen on this type of research, hoping to harness activity in the brain associated with its brand image to “create loyal customers”.
Schlosser wouldn’t mind those brainy graduates’ machinations to hook pre-schoolers on burgers and fries “if it was incredibly healthy and good for them, but thinking about getting them to do something that’s going to harm them . . .”

The Music Animation Machine

...A way to visualize complex music - fugues and sonatas and all that. Other tools, such as those mentioned previously here and here, accomplish a similar task in a way, but this is still very, very cool. Watch and download all the videos you can. Bach, Chopin, Scarlatti... if only there were more! Of course, you could buy the DVD. [from]
{I bought the tape for this years ago via Edward Tufte. One-of-a-kind video! -- McLir]

Feds Go All Out to Kill Spy Suit

Bush administration signals intent to invoke the obscure state secrets privilege in order to stop the EFF lawsuit against AT&T, (previously discussed here) for providing the NSA direct access all 312 terabytes of its customers' telephone and internet traffic since 2001, (including those Good Vibrations charges you racked up). In a nutshell, according to legal experts, invoking the privilege kills the judicial process dead: the courthouse doors are closed, and there's nothing but grownup stuff to see here; move along, kids. [from]

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bush challenges hundreds of laws

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.
But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Friday, April 28, 2006

U.S. prepares to face U.N. on torture as Amnesty report blasts 'war crimes'

As the United States prepares a team of 30 to defend its record on torture before a U.N. committee, Amnesty International has made public a report blasting the United States for failing to take appropriate steps to eradicate use of torture at U.S. detention sites around the world...
U.S. compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be the topic of May 5 and 8 U.N. hearings in Geneva.
...The Amnesty report reviews several cases where U.S. detainees held in Afghanistan and Iraq have died as a result of torture. The group also lambasts U.S. use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in "super-max" security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system -- including sexual abuse by male guards, shackling while pregnant and even in labor.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

U.S.: More Than 600 Implicated in Detainee Abuse

Two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, new research shows that abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay has been widespread, and that the United States has taken only limited steps to investigate and punish implicated personnel. A briefing paper issued today, 'By the Numbers,' presents findings of the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project... the first comprehensive accounting of credible allegations of torture and abuse in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo. The project has collected hundreds of allegations of detainee abuse and torture occurring since late 2001 – allegations implicating more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel and involving more than 460 detainees.

Google Releases Sketchup for All

Google has released a free version of SketchUp (video and tutorials), quite possibly the coolest and most intuitive 3D authoring tool. An added bonus of SketchUp is it's integration into Google Earth. Google has also provided a 3D Warehouse for the posting of your models, which can be downloaded into either application (SketchUp for editing, Earth for displaying). Kind of gives you some insight into their plans for using Google Earth as an Automotive (Honda and Volkswagen) GPS service. (Sidenote: how long until this is seen as a threat to national security?) [from]

SNL Funhouse: "Conspiracy Theory Rock" '98

This cartoon "Conspiracy Theory Rock" by Robert Smigel was shown on "Saturday Night Live" during the March 14, 1998 broadcast but edited out of reruns. For that broadcast, the host was Julianne Moore and the musical guest was the Backstreet Boys.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mary McCarthy ‘categorically denies’ being the source of the leak on agency renditions

McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, told NEWSWEEK this afternooon that contrary to public statements by the CIA late last week, McCarthy never confessed to agency interrogators that she had divulged classified information and "didn't even have access to the information" in The Washington Post story in question.
After being told by agency interrogators that she may have been deceptive on one quesiton during a polygraph, McCarthy did acknowledge that she had failed to report contacts with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest and at least one other reporter, said a source familiar with her account who asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities. McCarthy has known Priest for some time, the source said.
McCarthy, 61, a career CIA analyst who was working in the inspector general's office, was then told on Thursday that she was being fired. She was not escorted out of the CIA buiilding, the source said. She also had been assured that the CIA would protect her privacy--just one day before her name became publicly known as the agency official who had been dismissed for leaking to the press, the source said. Ironically, McCarthy, who presvously worked as chief intelligence official for the National Security Council during Bill Clinton's second term, was planning on retiring from the CIA soon to pursue a new career as a lawyer working on adoption and family cases.

FEMA's Dirty Little Secret: A Rare Look Inside the Renaissance Village Trailer Park, Home to Over 2,000 Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

"Turn it off man, I don't want no problems." Democracy Now attempts to interview Katrina evacuees at a FEMA trailer park. FEMA's private security guards claim that the residents don't have 'the privilege' of being able to speak freely on FEMA property without a FEMA 'minder' present. [from]

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

Part 1 - Baby it's Cold Outside (1.0 GB)
Part 2 - The Phantom Victory (1.0 GB)
Part 3 - The Shadows in the Cave (1.3 GB)

Summaries from Wikipedia:

Part 1 - Baby It's Cold Outside

In the 1950s Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian civil servant turned revolutionary, and Leo Strauss, an American professor of political philosophy, both came to see western liberalism as corrosive to morality and to society. Qutb had been sent to the U.S. to learn about its public education system but was disgusted by what he saw of its society. They each argued that radical measures, including deception and even violence, could be justified in an effort to restore shared moral values to society, and their arguments heavily influenced radical Islamism and American neo-conservatism, respectively. Senior American civil servants and politicians influenced by neo-conservatism came to believe anti-communist propaganda and saw communism as an evil force against which the U.S. should be presented as a force for good. This propaganda included Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney's formation of Team B, which over-estimated Soviet military technology, and the William Casey-led CIA assertion that various terrorist organisations were backed by the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Qutb became influential in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and was then jailed after some of its members attempted to assassinate President Nasser.

This was first broadcast on Wednesday 20 October 2004. Its title is taken from a popular song which Qutb heard played at a church-organised dance for young people, which he saw as symptomatic of the immorality of American society.

Part 2 - The Phantom Victory

In the 1980s the Islamist mujaheddin and the neo-conservative-influenced Reagan administration temporarily cooperated in fighting a common enemy, the Soviet Union and the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. Although the Soviet Union was already on the verge of collapse, both groups came to believe that it was their actions in Afghanistan that had caused it to fall. However, other attempts by Islamists to incite popular revolution failed, and the neo-conservatives lost power in the U.S. as the presidency passed to George H. W. Bush and subsequently to Bill Clinton. Both groups, having failed to achieve lasting political influence, identified new targets to attack: the neoconservatives sought to demonise Clinton while the radical Islamists decided that those who had not aided their cause were legitimate targets for violence.

This was first broadcast on Wednesday 27 October 2004.

Part 3 - The Shadows in the Cave

In the late 1990s the Taliban set up military training camps in Afghanistan for Islamist fighters. Most were only interested in fighting in their home countries, but Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and follower of Sayyid Qutb, paid the Taliban to allow them to recruit volunteers for attacks on the U.S. from these camps. Prosecutors for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings believed bin Laden organised them and wanted to convict him in absentia by showing that he headed a criminal organisation. Jamal al-Fadl, a former associate of bin Laden, conveniently described just such an organisation to them, which the investigators called al-Qaeda. While bin Laden apparently aided the attacks he had no organisation through which he could command and control them; al-Fadl seems to have told investigators what they wanted to hear in return for money and witness protection. Similarly, while bin Laden provided funds and volunteers to carry out the September 11, 2001 attacks, they were actually planned by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Following this attack, the neo-conservatives were able to convince George W. Bush to begin a War on Terror and to paint al-Qaeda as an international network of terrorists. The war in Afghanistan removed bin Laden's main source of recruits, but the U.S. military and the Afghan Northern Alliance also captured and killed many people in the Taliban camps that had nothing to do with him. The story circulated that bin Laden and the core of al-Qaeda had retreated to an underground complex in Tora Bora, but an exhaustive search revealed no sign of this. Al-Qaeda could not be found because it never really existed; Islamist terrorists are connected only by ideology and not by an organisation that can be cut off at its root.

The arrests of various groups of suspected terrorists in the U.S. following the September 11 attacks failed to find any substantive evidence, but did show a lot of imagination on the part of investigators. Similarly, in the U.K., arrests under new terrorism laws have resulted in only 3 convictions of Islamists, all for fundraising. Much of the media coverage of potential terrorist attacks is also highly speculative and sensational. For instance, a terrorist attack using a radiological weapon, referred to by the media as a dirty bomb, wouldn't kill many people from fallout because the radioactive material would be spread thinly by any explosion. However, the neo-conservatives had found they could use the threat of Islamist terrorism, and the claimed possibility of sponsorship by Iraq, as an enemy against which to unite the U.S., and other politicians such as Tony Blair claimed an important role in protecting their countries from attack. Politicians and counter-terrorist agents have decided that they must be proactive in imagining the worst possible attacks and in stopping those who seem likely to carry out attacks.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Richard Feynman: The Horizon/Nova Interview

"The 1981 Feynman Horizon is the best science programme I have ever seen. This is not just my opinion - it is also the opinion of many of the best scientists that I know who have seen the programme... It should be mandatory viewing for all students whether they be science or arts students"
- Professor Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Scott Ritter: A Path to Peace with Iran

Many in the anti-war movement seem to recognize that there is a need to expand the base of this movement to be much more inclusive of mainstream America. I suggest that the pace of current events dictate a much more dramatic solution -- that the anti-war movement begin to reach out to the very institutions that it condemns and make common cause for the preservation of a way of life -- the unique blend of corporate capitalism and individual rights -- that is at risk from the policies of the Bush administration. It is not likely that there will be many points of agreement on the long-term path that America should take regarding achieving the ideal balance between these two competing, and somewhat contradictory, concepts. But one thing is certain: if the Bush administration has its way regarding war with Iran, both concepts will be put at risk in the chaos which will follow.

US Emissions Rise 16% Above 1990 Levels

The report looks at four main categories of greenhouse gases pumped out by human activities in the United States. It lists all emissions in 'carbon dioxide equivalents', which reflect the amount of a gas that would cause the same amount of warming in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Methane and nitrous oxide emissions have declined, but carbon dioxide is up so much it completely swamps these gains (see 'Changes in US annual emissions between 1990 and 2004').
Total emissions topped 7 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent in 2004.
...The United States is the biggest national emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide, and these figures reinforce that position.
Many other countries have committed to reducing their emissions to below 1990 levels, although it is questionable how well they are doing (see 'European greenhouse emissions climb again').
UK emissions, for example, came to about 656 million tonnes CO2 equivalent in 2004 (less than a tenth of US emissions), which is 14% below its 1990 levels. The British government says it is on track to hit targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Media Link Dump - YouTube

- Jean Michel Basquiat - Painting Live, Downtown N.Y. (1981)

- Jean Michel Basquiat Interviewed By Glenn O’Brien On His New York City Cable Tv Public Access Show Tv Party

- Andy Warhol: The Complete Picture - Pt1 | Pt2
Documentary by Chris Rodley. Starring John Cale, Salvador Dalí (archive footage), Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper, Mick Jagger, Udo Kier, Lou Reed, Donatella Versace, Andy Warhol, Mary Woronov.

- Andy Warhol - TV Commercial Braniff Airlines

- Andy Warhol - TV Commercial TDK

- CIAO! MANHATTAN Lost Footage
Filmmaker David Weisman recently discovered over 30 hours of pristine 35mm outtake footage from the film, believed lost for decades.

- Edie
“After Hours” by The Velvet Underground

John Lennon 31st Birthday Home Movie - 1971

- Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures - Pt1 | Pt2 | Pt3
Directed by Jan Harlan

- Johnny Cash: The Last Great American
BBC4 Documentary profiling Johnny Cash (also available as torrent)

- Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138:4EB
Short movie directed by George Lucas in 1967 while he attended the University of Southern California. USC sums up the movie as “A nightmare impression of a world in which a man is trying to escape a computerized world which constantly tracks his movements.”


CIA warned White House -- no WMD programs in Iraq.

A retired senior CIA official interviewed by 60 Minutes claims that the White House ignored intelligence from Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri in the run-up to the invasion. CIA Director George Tenet delivered the information to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking officials in September 2002, according to the CIA official. A few days later the administration said it was no longer interested. "...we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' " The interview airs on CBS, Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT. [from]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Union of Concerned Scientists: Explaing Use of Nuclear "Bunket Busters"

This animation depicts a proposed weapon with a one megaton yield. The funding for this weapon was cut in 2005 defense appropriations. However, the United States still has a B61-11 nuclear 'bunker buster' in its arsenal which has a 340 kiloton yield, which could still cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and spread radiation to other countries. Learn more. [thanks Tom P.]

Nearly 30 percent at Guantanamo jail cleared to go

Nearly 30 percent of the Guantanamo detainees have been cleared to leave the prison but remain jailed because the U.S. government has been unable to arrange for their return to their home countries, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The Pentagon refused to identify these 141 men despite having released on Wednesday its first comprehensive list of detainees held at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Of these 141 detainees among the 490 still at Guantanamo, various military reviews have cleared 22 to be freed in their home countries and the remaining 119 for transfer to the control of their home governments.
"It's just an outrageous situation where people have gone through this system that has been established, such as it is, and the (U.S.) government itself has found there's no reason for them to be held any longer, and yet they continue to be held," said Curt Goering, a senior Amnesty International USA official.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Worst President in History?

Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.
Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies."

Friendly Dog Needs Home

Mint writes:
This is the dog I found Wednesday, April 19th. He doesn't have a name yet. The Ann Arbor Police and local Humane Society do not have anyone looking for a lost dog of his description. He does not have an ID chip. He's about 2 years old and very nice. He likes getting a bath. I'd keep him except I have to take care of my 14 year-old dog Grace who has leg problems.

If you think you might know anyone that is interested, I will make fliers that you can take to work, church, or where ever to show to people.

Thanks for your help. Ciao and be well -- Mint

Friendly Dog Needs a Home
Doesn't tear up the house.
Guards house and car.
87 lbs.
Likes to play ball.

M-F 9-5 (734) 647-8723
All other times (734) 604-3886

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Top Court Rejects Appeal at Guantanamo

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider whether a federal judge can free two Chinese Muslims who remain imprisoned unlawfully at Guantanamo Bay, despite being cleared as "enemy combatants."
The justices refused to review the judge's decision that a federal court cannot provide any relief to Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu Al-Hakim, two members of the Uighur ethnic group held at Guantanamo while the United States searches for a country to take them.
Their attorneys urged the justices to decide whether a federal court has the power to craft a remedy for those who are indefinitely and unlawfully imprisoned at the U.S. military base in Cuba.
They took the unusual step of appealing directly to the high court after the ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robertson.
The two men, who were captured by Pakistani forces in Pakistan, have been detained since June 2002 at Guantanamo, where the United States holds about 490 terrorism suspects. In March last year, the U.S. military determined the two Uighurs should no longer be considered enemy combatants.

FBI Seeks First Access to Jack Anderson's Files

The Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to review the files of the late muckraking journalist Jack Anderson and confiscate any documents it believes are classified before they are opened to the public.
This amazing story was first reported yesterday by the Chronicle of Higher Education (see Update below).
There has long been an unwritten agreement the government may do what it must to deter unauthorized disclosures of classified information and to punish leakers but that, once disclosed, the government does not pursue those who receive or publish the information.
Yet the Bush Administration and some on the political right seem intent on disrupting that longstanding convention through subpoenas of reporters, prosecution of recipients of leaks (as in the AIPAC case), threats of prosecution against the press for reporting classified information, and now the FBI pursuit of the Anderson files. A series of email messages on the FBI matter from Jack Anderson's son Kevin were posted yesterday by Don Goldberg on his blog here:

CIA Expands Categories to Deny FOIA Requests

The Central Intelligence Agency conducted a review of its "operational files" last year, as it is required to do every ten years under the CIA Information Act of 1984, to see if any such files could have their "operational" designation rescinded, making them subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
But instead of removing any files from operational status, as contemplated by the 1984 Act, the CIA added nearly two dozen new categories of files that will now be exempt from search and review under the FOIA, according to a newly disclosed report to Congress.
Remarkably, the CIA report to Congress misstated the requirements of the 1984 law. The CIA told Congress that:

"The CIA Information Act... required that not less than once every ten years, the DCI review the operational files exemptions then in force to determine whether such exemptions could be removed from any category of exempted files or portion of those files, and whether any new categories of files should be designated as exempt."
Only the first half of that sentence is true. The statute that governs these reviews -- 50 U.S.C. 432 -- refers only to the removal of the operational file exemption based on "historical value or other public interest." It says nothing about adding new designations.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rumsfeld Alleged to be Personally Involved in Abusive Interrogation

A December 20, 2005 Army Inspector General's report, obtained by this week, contains a sworn statement by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt that implicates Secretary Rumsfeld in the abuse of detainee Mohammad al-Qahtani. Based on an investigation that he carried out in early 2005, which included two interviews with Rumsfeld, Gen. Schmidt describes the defense secretary as being �personally involved� in al-Qahtani's interrogation.
Human Rights Watch urges the United States to name a special prosecutor to investigate the culpability of Rumsfeld and others in the al-Qahtani case.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Library of Congress Selects 50 Recordings for Preservation

The Library of Congress has competed its annual selection of 50 sound recordings for the National Recording Registry. But the task of preserving the likes of Martha and the Vandellas' 1964 “Dancing in the Street” and the broadcast of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight is just beginning.
As mandated by the 2000 National Recording Preservation Act, the Library is responsible for annually selecting recordings for the registry that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Registry recordings must be at least 10 years old.
On Tuesday, library officials selected a wide variety of spoken and musical recordings that from 1903 to 1988. Among the artists whose music is now in the registry are Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino, Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth.

MIT: The War on Terror and the Cold War: They’re Not the Same

The Cold War was a great power contest that had many dimensions. There was a "war of ideas," and there were military confrontations. But there were also proxy wars, vast alliances, and institutions for managing the conflict -- indeed, it was a highly formalized affair, with mechanisms, treaties, ambassadors, and so on specifically dedicated to defusing potential conflict. It was, most important, an inter-state competition. The states could and did speak with each other, negotiate with each other, trade with each other, sustain cultural and educational exchanges, and the like, for decades.
While the causes of the end of the Cold War remain a contentious topic, there is much to suggest that these dense networks, institutions, global norms, rational discourse, and civil society advocacy had enormously powerful effects in lowering tensions and opening opportunities to conclude the rivalry. The military competition was essentially a stalemate. Up to the end, American hardliners warned of Soviet nuclear superiority, for example, or their numerical advantages in the European theater. And the major proxy war -- Vietnam -- was a colossal failure for the United States.
The Cold War was ended by engagement, rather than "destroying the threat," and that is a powerful lesson. But because of the highly formal and state-centric nature of the confrontation, one has to ask if there is any relevance to the "twilight struggle" with Soviet communism.

"Photon Holes" May Behave Like Particles

In some semiconductor devices, such as light-emitting diodes, an applied voltage can dislodge electrons from some atoms, leaving behind a hole which behaves in some situations as if it were a positively charged particle in its own right.
A "current" of holes can move through the material and the holes can recombine later with electrons to produce light. In very loose analogy, James Franson (Johns Hopkins, 443-778-6226, suggests that photonic holes might be created; a photon hole, to give one example, would be a place in an otherwise intense laser-beam wavefront where a photon had been removed, for example by passing the laser beam through vapor.
Not only can there be photon holes, Franson suggests, but the holes can be entangled, meaning that their quantum properties would be correlated, even if far apart from each other. Such entangled photon-holes would be able to propagate through optical fibers just as well as entangled photons, but might be even more robust against the decoherence -- the undoing of the quantum correlations -- that plagues present efforts to establish quantum information schemes.