Friday, January 06, 2006

Tempbot (Quicktime)

A new short by Neill Blomkamp. This piece combines the ultra-realistic robot CGI seen in Tetra Vaal and Alive in Joburg (QT) with a softer story of everyday alienation very reminiscent to Greg Pak's Robot Stories. [from]

The Hidden State Steps Forward

by (infamous Nation author) Jonathan Schell. A quote says it best: The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush's abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has launched an aggressive war ("war of choice," in today's euphemism) on false grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they were tortured. []

Weekly World News: Bush Converting West Wing into Arrest Wing

"Bush can't function without these people," a top White House aide told Weekly World News under condition that we not tell Karl Rove. "This way, even if they're in prison, Bush will be able to pick their brains."
In fact, the White House is even attempting to put a positive spin on it.
"If all these folks go to jail, this administration will be even more productive since they won't have anything else to do but work," said another source close to Bush, frequent Weekly World News source "CR."
While current rules stipulate that felons can't serve in Congress, Republicans are busy trying to overturn those rules as well.

Florida Strikes Down Nation's First Statewide School Voucher Program

Thursday, January 05, 2006

WANTED: Citizen Journalists To Bust More Jack Abramoffs

Artificial Intelligence, a citizen journalist, began an article about lobbyist Jack Abramoff on our SourceWatch website two and a half years ago. Others, including SourceWatch editor Bob Burton, have added to the article. Now, Jack Abramoff's plea bargain is the biggest U.S. news story, and if you Google Jack Abramoff, one of the top returns will be our SourceWatch article, already read by tens of thousands. This is just one example of the power of citizen journalism, and we invite you to join in. SourceWatch contributors are documenting how lobbyists, public relations firms, think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts manipulate public opinion and policy on behalf of corporations, governments and other special interests. To learn how to become a SourceWatcher, visit SourceWatch:Welcome, newcomers, the Help page, Frequently Asked Questions, or experiment in the sandbox.

What is it that NSA does?

What are or were its legal parameters and its history? This is a quick "NSA 101" course that might be helpful as stories continue to emerge about the agency. Oddly, as large as this organization is, it has been very much in the background, and only recently when some whistleblowers spoke up, has this agency gained a good deal of public attention. Some of you may recall the fuss raised about some spy agency named Echelon and wonder how this group is or is not connected to NSA. And soon at least one whistle blower will testify before congress, though the White House seems to have convinced some 50% of Americans that the president can do whatever he wants in time of war, ignoring legal constraints upon intel branches. And that raises the question (for me): if NSA can skirt the courts to "fight terror," then what of the FBI, also once requied to have court approval for phone taps. Are they too now free to do as they want in this "fight against terror"? [from]

Justice Sunday III Preacher Awarded Over $1 Million of Federal Money

Pastor Herb Lusk, the Philadelphia preacher hosting the Religious Right-led “Justice Sunday III” rally this weekend, has a long history of partisan activity on behalf of Republicans and has been awarded more than $1 million in “faith-based” grants by the Bush administration, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The event at Greater Exodus Baptist Church, which will be broadcast nationwide, is intended to rally support for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., President George W. Bush’s choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
...According to media accounts, Lusk’s ministry has received more than $1 million in “faith-based” grants. Lusk is now allowing his church to be used by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and other far-right figures who want to help Bush stack the courts with judges like Alito, who oppose church-state separation.

The Daily Show on Big Brother

Don't Even Think About Lying

Functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI for short - enables researchers to create maps of the brain's networks in action as they process thoughts, sensations, memories, and motor commands. Since its debut in experimental medicine 10 years ago, functional imaging has opened a window onto the cognitive operations behind such complex and subtle behavior as feeling transported by a piece of music or recognizing the face of a loved one in a crowd. As it migrates into clinical practice, fMRI is making it possible for neurologists to detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders, evaluate drug treatments, and pinpoint tissue housing critical abilities like speech before venturing into a patient's brain with a scalpel.
Now fMRI is also poised to transform the security industry, the judicial system, and our fundamental notions of privacy. I'm in a lab at Columbia University, where scientists are using the technology to analyze the cognitive differences between truth and lies. By mapping the neural circuits behind deception, researchers are turning fMRI into a new kind of lie detector that's more probing and accurate than the polygraph, the standard lie-detection tool employed by law enforcement and intelligence agencies for nearly a century.

The War on Franklin

It's only fitting as we approach the tercentennial of the birth of the First American, Benjamin Franklin, that there is an ongoing debate as to whether we should "sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety" and if we deserve either. To be sure, Franklin is likely the seminal Colonial American, who's philosophy, inventions, self-determination, self-improvement, entrepeneurship, and witicisms underpin most elements of modern American society, politics, and culture, as well as having edited our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. But Franklin the man was also self-involved, a neglectful spouse and parent, and (likely) a serial philanderer, as well as having never held elected office. (History erases many of the sins of the Foundering Fathers). Surely increasing criticism of both the man and his relavency is soon to follow. Perhaps we can all strive to emulate Franklin's greatest skill - the art of compromise. []

Bush's Numerous Recess Appointments

President Bush yesterday made a raft of controversial recess appointments, including Julie L. Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security, in a maneuver circumventing the need for approval by the Senate.
Myers, a niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard B. Myers and the wife of the chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, had been criticized by Republicans and Democrats who charged that she lacked experience in immigration matters.
...Bush appointed Tracy A. Henke as executive director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness. She had been accused in her politically appointed post at the Justice Department of demanding that information about racial disparities in police treatment of blacks in traffic cases be deleted from a news release.
...For the Federal Election Commission, Bush picked Justice Department employee and former Fulton County, Ga., Republican chairman Hans von Spakovsky for one of three openings. Von Spakovsky is widely viewed as a key player in two disputed Justice Department decisions to overrule career staff in voting rights cases.

Did White House Spy on Christiane Amanpour? Why Did NBC Delete Mention of it?

Reports are flying on the blogosphere at the moment about a self-edited portion of this NBC interview with NY Times reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA story.
According to liberal blog Eschaton, who reported this early, the original transcript contained the following passage; the bold portion is now allegedly missing.
Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that.
Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

OTM: Straight Outta Baghdad

Music has always been part of a soldiers' life in wartime, from the fife and drums of the Revolution to the rock and roll of Vietnam. Soldiers have made their own contributions over the years, and those serving in Iraq are no different. This time though, it's coming directly from the war zone. Brooke speaks with Sergeant Neal Saunders, who constructed his own studio and produced a brutally honest hip hop album while stationed in Sadr City, Baghdad.
Transcript Audio

Dahlia Lithwick: Why won't the Bush administration obey the law?

So, which is it? Does the Bush administration refuse to honor its legislative and constitutional bargains with Congress, the courts, and the American people because it believes we are all just getting in its way? Or does it sidestep us because it believes that all these trappings of a democracy—the courts and the laws and public accountability are broken and unfixable? The first possibility is grandiose and depressing. The latter is absolutely breathtaking.

Spectacularly Unpopular Neocon Chalabi Now Iraq Oil Minister

As a fuel crisis deepened in Iraq, the government replaced its oil minister with controversial Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, whose poor performance in the Dec. 15 elections was a setback in his recent attempt at political rehabilitation.

German media: U.S. prepares Iran strike

The Bush administration is preparing its NATO allies for a possible military strike against suspected nuclear sites in Iran in the New Year, according to German media reports, reinforcing similar earlier suggestions in the Turkish media.
The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel this week quoted "NATO intelligence sources" who claimed that the NATO allies had been informed that the United States is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the mullah-led regime into line, including military options. This "all options are open" line has been President George W Bush's publicly stated policy throughout the past 18 months.
But the respected German weekly Der Spiegel notes "What is new here is that Washington appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies for a possible attack rather than merely implying the possibility as it has repeatedly done during the past year."

Firms urged to use unofficial Windows patch

Antivirus vendor F-Secure and the Internet Storm Center, a volunteer security group, separately urged businesses on Tuesday to use the unofficial patch, as Microsoft has not yet offered an authorized fix for the problem.
Microsoft, though, has advised businesses not to use third-party updates, even though its own patch won't be available until next Tuesday.
The WMF vulnerability can be exploited in Windows XP with Service Pack 1 and 2, as well as Windows Server 2003, security experts said.

Here is the third-party patch

Big Brother hits HIV programs

Ever had sex with someone of the same gender, or exchanged sex for drugs or money? The U.S. government now wants to know about it -- if you get an HIV test or participate in a group discussion on safer sex that's supported with any federal dollars.
Starting on Jan. 1, the federal Centers for Disease Control will require a first wave of states to start reporting an unprecedented range of information from federally funded HIV prevention programs. It's called "PEMS" (Program Evaluation and Monitoring System), and it's a mandatory computerized database with hundreds of questions designed to evaluate and monitor HIV prevention efforts.

Bush May Ignore Torture Ban Law

When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.
After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.
''The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief," Bush wrote, adding that this approach ''will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President . . . of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks."
Some legal specialists said yesterday that the president's signing statement, which was posted on the White House website but had gone unnoticed over the New Year's weekend, raises serious questions about whether he intends to follow the law.

Find Out What the NSA Knows About You - How to File a FOIA Request

A proper Privacy Act Request is one in which the individual seeks records on himself that are contained in a file retrievable by the individual’s name or personal identifier. All Privacy Act Requests, to include amendment requests, must be submitted in writing, contain as much detail as possible to identify the information requested or amended, and contain the requester’s signature (a digital signature is required for all on-line submissions).
Submitting a Privacy Act Request - There are three convenient ways to submit a Privacy Act request (no special forms are required):
*By postal service or other commercial delivery to:
National Security Agency
Attn: FOIA/PA Office (DC34)
9800 Savage Road, Suite 6248
Ft. George G. Meade, MD 20755-6248
*By facsimile to 443-479-3612
Privacy Act requests submitted by facsimile are limited to 20 pages and should be marked to the attention of the FOIA/PA Office.
* By electronic e-mail complete with a digital signature. This signature is required for all e-mail submissions. Requests without a digital signature will not be processed. Please include the following items in the body of your e-mail. You can "copy and paste" the following information.

Full name:
Zip Code:
Home Phone:
Work Phone:
SSN: (optional)
Description of the records you seek:

What I heard about Iraq in 2005

In 2005 I heard that Coalition forces were camped in the ruins of Babylon. I heard that bulldozers had dug trenches through the site and cleared areas for helicopter landing pads and parking lots, that thousands of sandbags had been filled with dirt and archaeological fragments, that a 2600-year-old brick pavement had been crushed by tanks, and that the moulded bricks of dragons had been gouged out from the Ishtar Gate by soldiers collecting souvenirs. I heard that the ruins of the Sumerian cities of Umma, Umm al-Akareb, Larsa and Tello were completely destroyed and were now landscapes of craters.
I heard that the US was planning an embassy in Baghdad that would cost $1.5 billion, as expensive as the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero, the proposed tallest building in the world.
I saw a headline in the Los Angeles Times that read: ‘After Levelling City, US Tries to Build Trust.’
I heard that military personnel were now carrying ‘talking point’ cards with phrases such as: ‘We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all.’
I heard that 47 per cent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 and 44 per cent believed that the hijackers were Iraqi; 61 per cent thought that Saddam had been a serious threat to the US and 76 per cent said the Iraqis were now better off.

New Law Eliminates Habeas Corpus Suits

The Bush administration notified federal trial judges in Washington that it would soon ask them to dismiss all lawsuits brought by prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, challenging their detentions, Justice Department officials said Tuesday.
The action means that the administration is moving swiftly to take advantage of an amendment to the military bill that President Bush signed into law last Friday. The amendment strips federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions from Guantánamo detainees.
...the administration separately pressed its case in Congress and found a strong ally in Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who said the challenges brought by Guantánamo inmates were frivolous and were clogging the courts. Mr. Graham, along with Senators Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, and Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, sponsored the amendment to the Defense Act eliminating habeas corpus jurisdiction in federal courts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bolton Testimony Revealed Domestic Spying

This past spring, an explosive nugget of information slipped out during the confirmation hearings of John Bolton - nominated by President Bush to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations - that in hindsight should have blown the lid off Bush's four-year-old clandestine spy program involving the National Security Agency.
...The NSA has always blacked out the names of American citizens when it distributes reports about its activities to various governmental agencies because the NSA, by law, is not supposed to spy on Americans. If the NSA intercepts the names of Americans in the course of a wiretap, the agency is supposed to black out the names prior to distributing its reports to other agencies. The names of American citizens that are blacked out can be revealed to government officials if they ask for them in writing and only if they're needed to help the official better understand the context of the intelligence information they were included in.
But that didn't appear to be the case with Bolton.
During one routine wiretap, the NSA obtained the name of a state department official whose name had been blacked out when the agency submitted its report to various federal agencies. Bolton's chief of staff, Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA official, revealed during the confirmation hearings that Bolton had requested that the NSA unmask the unidentified official. Fleitz said that when Bolton found out his identity, he congratulated the official, and by doing so he had violated the NSA's rules by discussing classified information contained in the wiretap.

What is Your Dangerous Idea?

The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

Cost of mailing a letter will increase to 39 cents, Jan 8

Beginning Sunday, the Postal Service will charge an extra 2 cents to mail a standard, first-class letter, and an extra penny to send a postcard. The estimated $3.1 billion raised by the increase will go into an escrow account mandated by Congress. Its use has yet to be decided.

U.S. implementing post-Cold War, preemptive-based nuclear deterrence

The U.S. military has entered into an implementation phase of President George W. Bush's new nuclear doctrine, including preemptive nuclear strikes against "rogue states" that possess weapons of mass destruction such as North Korea and Iran, governmental sources and nuclear specialists told Kyodo News recently.
The U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, for potential nuclear operations during and after the Cold War set up a new command unit, called the Joint Functional Component Command Space and Global Strike, or JFCCSGS, early in 2005 to accomplish military offensive missions provided by the Nuclear Posture Review, a comprehensive blueprint of nuclear strategy the Defense Department submitted to Congress four years ago.