Saturday, April 08, 2006

Seymour Hersh: The Iran Plans

The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.
American and European intelligence agencies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.), agree that Iran is intent on developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. But there are widely differing estimates of how long that will take, and whether diplomacy, sanctions, or military action is the best way to prevent it. Iran insists that its research is for peaceful use only, in keeping with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it will not be delayed or deterred.

Writers Guilds Announce 101 Greatest Screenplays

101 NOTORIOUS Written by Ben Hecht
100 MEMENTO Screenplay by Christopher Nolan. Based on the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan
99 THE WILD BUNCH Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah. Story by Walon Green and Roy Sickner
98 THE GRAPES OF WRATH Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson. Based on the novel by John Steinbeck
97 THE SEARCHERS Screenplay by Frank S. Nugent. Based on the novel by Alan Le May
96 THE HUSTLER Screenplay by Sidney Carroll & Robert Rossen. Based on the novel by Walter Tevis
95 HANNAH AND HER SISTERS Written by Woody Allen
94 PATTON Screen Story and Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North. Based on "A Soldier's Story" by Omar H. Bradley and "Patton: Ordeal and Triumph" by Ladislas Farago
93 DO THE RIGHT THING Written by Spike Lee
92 PSYCHO Screenplay by Joseph Stefano. Based on the novel by Robert Bloch
91 THE VERDICT Screenplay by David Mamet. Based on the novel by Barry Reed
90 SIDEWAYS Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett
89 FORREST GUMP Screenplay by Eric Roth. Based on the novel by Winston Groom
88 FIELD OF DREAMS Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson. Based on the book by W.P. Kinsella
87 8 1/2 Screenplay by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, Brunello Rondi. Story by Fellini, Flaiano.
86 HAROLD & MAUDE Written by Colin Higgins
85 LA GRANDE ILLUSION Written by Jean Renoir and Charles Spaak
84 THE PRINCESS BRIDE Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on his novel.
83 REAR WINDOW Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Based on the short story by Cornell Woolrich
82 COOL HAND LUKE Screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Based on the novel by Donn Pearce.
81 BEING THERE Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski. Inspired by the novel by Jerzy Kosinski
80 WITNESS Screenplay by Earl W. Wallace & William Kelley. Story by William Kelley and Pamela Wallace & Earl W. Wallace
79 THE PRODUCERS Written by Mel Brooks
78 ROCKY Written by Sylvester Stallone
77 ADAPTATION Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman. Based on the book "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean
76 RAGING BULL Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin. Based on the book by Jake La Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage
75 HIGH NOON Screenplay by Carl Foreman. Based on short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham
74 BEING JOHN MALKOVICH Written by Charlie Kaufman
73 AMADEUS Screenplay by Peter Shaffer. Based on his play.
72 THELMA & LOUISE Written by Callie Khouri
71 THE LION IN WINTER Screenplay by James Goldman. Based on the play by James Goldman
70 THE AFRICAN QUEEN Screenplay by James Agee and John Huston. Based on the novel by C.S. Forester
69 DOG DAY AFTERNOON Screenplay by Frank Pierson. Based on a magazine article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore
68 STAR WARS Written by George Lucas
67 E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL Written by Melissa Mathison
66 JERRY MAGUIRE Written by Cameron Crowe
65 SINGIN' IN THE RAIN Screen Story and Screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Based on the song by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown
64 TERMS OF ENDEARMENT Screenplay by James L. Brooks. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry
63 JAWS Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
62 MOONSTRUCK Written by John Patrick Shanley
61 THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Screenplay by Ted Tally. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris
60 L.A. CONFIDENTIAL Screenplay by Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson. Based on the novel by James Ellroy
59 IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT Screenplay by Robert Riskin. Based on the story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams
58 ORDINARY PEOPLE Screenplay by Alvin Sargent. Based on the novel by Judith Guest
57 CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Written by Woody Allen
56 BACK TO THE FUTURE Written by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
55 APOCALYPSE NOW Written by John Milius and Francis Coppola. Narration by Michael Herr
54 MANHATTAN Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman
53 ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN Screenplay by William Goldman. Based on the book by Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward
52 THE LADY EVE Screenplay by Preston Sturges. Story by Monckton Hoffe
51 BROADCAST NEWS Written by James L. Brooks
50 THE SIXTH SENSE Written by M. Night Shyamalan
49 SCHINDLER'S LIST Screenplay by Steven Zaillian. Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally
48 THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI Screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
47 THE MALTESE FALCON Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
46 THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE Screenplay by John Huston. Based on the novel by B. Traven
45 ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST Screenplay by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey
44 THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES Screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood. Based on novel "Glory For Me" by MacKinley Kantor
43 TAXI DRIVER Written by Paul Schrader
42 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. Story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
41 GOODFELLAS Screenplay by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese. Based on book "Wise Guy" by Nicholas Pileggi.
40 WHEN HARRY MET SALLY Written by Nora Ephron
39 THE STING Written by David S. Ward
38 AMERICAN BEAUTY Written by Alan Ball
37 THE PHILADELPHIA STORY Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart. Based on the play by Philip Barry
36 MIDNIGHT COWBOY Screenplay by Waldo Salt. Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
35 THE USUAL SUSPECTS Written by Christopher McQuarrie
34 THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS Screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. From a novelette by Ernest Lehman
33 THE THIRD MAN Screenplay by Graham Greene. Story by Graham Greene. Based on the short story by Graham Greene.
32 FARGO Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
31 HIS GIRL FRIDAY Screenplay by Charles Lederer. Based on the play "The Front Page" by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur
30 UNFORGIVEN Written by David Webb Peoples
29 SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS Written by Preston Sturges
28 SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
27 GROUNDHOG DAY Screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis. Story by Danny Rubin.
26 DOUBLE INDEMNITY Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Based on the novel by James M. Cain
25 THE WIZARD OF OZ Screenplay by Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. Adaptation by Noel Langley. Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
24 ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman. Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth.
23 GONE WITH THE WIND Screenplay by Sidney Howard. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell
22 THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Screenplay by Frank Darabont. Based on the short story "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King
21 NORTH BY NORTHWEST Written by Ernest Lehman
20 IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Screenplay by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett & Frank Capra. Based on short story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern. Contributions to screenplay Michael Wilson and Jo Swerling
19 TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Screenplay by Horton Foote. Based on the novel by Harper Lee.
18 ON THE WATERFRONT Screen Story and Screenplay by Budd Schulberg. Based on "Crime on the Waterfront" articles by Malcolm Johnson
17 TOOTSIE Screenplay by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal. Story by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart
16 PULP FICTION Written by Quentin Tarantino. Stories by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
15 THE APARTMENT Written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
14 LAWRENCE OF ARABIA Screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. Based on the life and writings of Col. T.E. Lawrence
13 THE GRADUATE Screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Based on the novel by Charles Webb
12 DR. STRANGELOVE Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern. Based on novel "Red Alert" by Peter George
11 BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID Written by William Goldman
10 THE GODFATHER II Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Based on Mario Puzo's novel "The Godfather"
9 SOME LIKE IT HOT Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. Based on "Fanfare of Love," a German film written by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan
8 NETWORK Written by Paddy Chayefsky
7 SUNSET BLVD. Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman Jr.
6 ANNIE HALL Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
5 ALL ABOUT EVE Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Based on "The Wisdom of Eve," a short story and radio play by Mary Orr
4 CITIZEN KANE Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles
3 CHINATOWN Written by Robert Towne
2 THE GODFATHER Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo.
1 CASABLANCA Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play "Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dexie's Midnight Buggers

American military chiefs are developing plans to use Valium as a potential weapon against enemy forces and to control hostile populations, according to official documents seen by The Observer.
...US documents reveal that two years ago the Pentagon commissioned scientists at Pennsylvania State University to look at potential military uses for a range of chemicals known as calmatives. The scientists concluded that several drugs would be effective to control crowds or in military operations such as anti-terrorist campaigns. The drugs they recommended for 'immediate consideration' included diazepam, better known as the tranquilliser Valium, and dexmedetomidine, used to sedate patients in intensive care. The scientists advised that these drugs can 'effectively act on central nervous system tissues and produces a less anxious, less aggressive, more tranquil-like behaviour'.

FCC chair urges lifting of cross-ownership media ban

[T]he chairman of the Federal Communications Commission called on newspaper publishers Tuesday to help his agency revive a push to lift a ban on the ownership of both newspapers and broadcasting outlets in the same city.
Chairman Kevin Martin, addressing a gathering of publishers at an annual industry convention in Chicago, said newspaper owners should do more to educate the public about the vast changes that have occurred in the nation's media marketplace since 1975, when the ban was put in place.
“A lot has changed since the days of disco and leisure suits,” Martin said, noting an explosion in the number of broadcasting outlets since then, as well as the rise of cable television and the Internet, all of which have made media much more competitive.
“We can't take on this process alone,” Martin said. “Your job is to educate the public about the changes in the media landscape.”

Yes we have hundreds of channels.
I have several water taps in my house, but that does NOT mean I have a wide choice of water suppliers. (BTW, "leisure suits" are not the issue.)

-- McLir

Unemployment rate back to 4-1/2-year low

U.S. employers added 211,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate unexpectedly slipped back to a 4-1/2-year low 4.7 percent, the government said on Friday in a report that underlined a relatively vigorous labor market.

Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room at AT&T

AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full access to its customers' phone calls, and shunted its customers' internet traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San Francisco switching center, according to a former AT&T worker cooperating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against the company.
Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an affidavit in support of the EFF's lawsuit this week. That class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco last January, alleges that AT&T violated federal and state laws by surreptitiously allowing the government to monitor phone and internet communications of AT&T customers without warrants.
On Wednesday, the EFF asked the court to issue an injunction prohibiting AT&T from continuing the alleged wiretapping, and filed a number of documents under seal, including three AT&T documents that purportedly explain how the wiretapping system works.
According to a statement released by Klein's attorney, an NSA agent showed up at the San Francisco switching center in 2002 to interview a management-level technician for a special job. In January 2003, Klein observed a new room being built adjacent to the room housing AT&T's #4ESS switching equipment, which is responsible for routing long distance and international calls.
"I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room," Klein wrote. "The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room."

Evidence Suggests White House Conspiracy

Fitzgerald wrote in the filing, "There exist documents, some of which have been provided to defendant and there were conversations in which defendant participated, that reveal a strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr. Wilson before and after July 14, 2003."
Although Fitzgerald makes it abundantly clear that Libby is not charged with conspiracy, he argues that Libby's suggestion that there was no White House plot to discredit Wilson is ludicrous, given the amount of evidence Fitzgerald has in his possession that suggests otherwise.
"Once again, defendant ignores the fact that he is not charged with participating in any conspiracy, much less one defined as a 'White House-driven plot to punish Mr. Wilson,'" the filing states. "Moreover, given that there is evidence that other White House officials with whom defendant spoke prior to July 14, 2003, discussed Wilson's wife's employment with the press both prior to, and after, July 14, 2003 - which evidence has been shared with defendant - it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson."

Latest Re-Enactment from Barndon Hardesty: Pulp Fiction link above.
His other re-enactments here.

Bandon writes:
In this famous scene from Pulp Fiction, Christopher Walken has just returned from the Vietnam War to give his friend's son an heirloom gold watch. He goes into great detail telling the boy about the watch's origins, and how he managed to keep the watch all these years...
This scene was by far the hardest one I've done, but easy to edit. Since I did it all in one take, I didn't have to edit anything, besides the opening title.
It was either this scene or the "Say what again" scene with Samuel Jackson. I absolutely LOVE that scene, but I'd feel dirty after cursing so much.
Christopher Walken... you are a frightening man. Funny as hell, though.

War medals on jacket = some random pins
Watch = an old prop from a play I was in

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jack Handey: Ideas for paintings

Because I love art, I am offering the following ideas for paintings to all struggling artists out there. Some of those artists may be thinking, Hey, I’ve got good ideas of my own. Really? Then why are you struggling?
These ideas are free of charge. All I ask is that when you have completed a painting, as a courtesy to me you sign it “Jack Handey and [your name or initials].” And, if the painting is sold, I get approximately all the money.
Good luck! Let’s get painting!...

Dick Cavett Interviews Sly Stone in 1970

For fans of surrealism.

Citizens Lobby Congress for Reliable Electronic Voting

Hundreds of citizen lobbyists from across the nation will be in Washington, DC, this coming Thursday and Friday, working to help secure the future of safe, reliable electronic voting through the passage of HR 550 -- the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. HR 550 would ensure a voter-verified paper record of every vote, establish mandatory random hand-counted audits, and prohibit the use of secret software and wireless communications in voting machines.
The "Lobby Days" were organized by the HR 550 "I Count" Coalition, which includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Common Cause, Verified Voting, Voters Unite, VoteTrustUSA, and Working Assets. The coalition will hold a lobbying training session for activists before they go to work on Thursday.

The Onion: Critics Blast Bush For Not Praying Hard Enough

President Bush, already facing the lowest approval ratings in history, is coming under fire from former supporters over what they call his "ineffectual and incompetent" use of prayer for national guidance and assistance.
"Every time the president is criticized, he insists that the nation is in his prayers," said the Family Research Council's Bob Jensen. "That may be, but it's becoming more and more clear that these prayers are either too infrequent, too brief, or not strongly worded enough to be effective."
Jensen added: "This nation deserves more than a president who just pays lip service to prayer. It deserves a president who demands that his prayers get real-world results."

U.S. Officials Are Mulling Iran Strikes, Experts Say

Key players in the Bush administration think a military confrontation with Iran is unavoidable, leading to stepped up military planning for such a prospect, according to several experts and recently departed senior government officials.
Some of these observers stressed that military strikes against Iran are not imminent and speculated that the escalated war chatter could be a deliberate ploy to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Still, they made clear, the tone in Washington has changed drastically.
"In recent months I have grown increasingly concerned that the administration has been giving thought to a heavy dose of air strikes against Iran's nuclear sector without giving enough weight to the possible ramifications of such action," said Wayne White, a former deputy director at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. White, who worked in the bureau's Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia, left government in early 2005 and is now an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute.

U.S. Officials Are Mulling Iran Strikes, Experts Say

Key players in the Bush administration think a military confrontation with Iran is unavoidable, leading to stepped up military planning for such a prospect, according to several experts and recently departed senior government officials.
Some of these observers stressed that military strikes against Iran are not imminent and speculated that the escalated war chatter could be a deliberate ploy to ratchet up diplomatic pressure on Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Still, they made clear, the tone in Washington has changed drastically.
"In recent months I have grown increasingly concerned that the administration has been giving thought to a heavy dose of air strikes against Iran's nuclear sector without giving enough weight to the possible ramifications of such action," said Wayne White, a former deputy director at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. White, who worked in the bureau's Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia, left government in early 2005 and is now an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute.

Surveillance drones over LA skies

UAVs have long been used by military forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere -- but now, law enforcement agencies back home are exploring uses here in the US.
In a recent House hearing, police agencies and private entities argued for more widespread use, and the FAA has launched a new office for drone-related regulations.
Just this week, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department began using a drone called SkySeer for rescue operations and tracking "persons of interest" during foot pursuits. NPR "Day to Day" producer Rob Sachs and I traveled to an undisclosable location east of LA for a private demo of SkySeer with Commander Charles "Sid" Heal, head of the LASD's technology exploration project. Representatives of Chang Industries, the small defense contracting firm that developed SkySeer, were also on hand.

Truth Markets

Proposed is a system which achieves two goals:
1. Create an unbiased and trusted rating mechanism for claims that purport to be true statements as well as a related rating mechanism for those who make truth claims.
2. Offer incentive for such a system to be created and self-sustaining without undermining the credibility or impartiality of the system itself.

Battery electrodes self-assembled by viruses

Genetically modified viruses that assemble into electrodes could one day revolutionise battery manufacturing.
Researchers in the US have created viruses that automatically coat themselves in metals and line up head to tail to form an efficient battery anode – the negatively charged component that channels electrons to generate current. These nanowires could be used to make revolutionary new forms of lithium-ion batteries, the researchers say.

Three Ohio Officials Indicted Over 2004 Vote Recount

After the 2004 presidential election, Cuyahoga County election workers secretly skirted rules designed to make sure all votes were counted correctly, a special prosecutor charges.
While there is no evidence of vote fraud, the prosecutor said their efforts were aimed at avoiding an expensive - and very public - hand recount of all votes cast. Three top county elections officials have been indicted, and Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter says more indictments are possible.
Michael Vu, executive director of the Cuyahoga County elections board, said workers followed procedures that had been in place for 23 years. He said board employees had no objection to doing an exhaustive hand count if needed, meaning they had no motive to break the law.
Internet bloggers have cried foul since 2004 about election results in Ohio, one of the key states in deciding the election. They have been tracking Baxter's investigation with online posts about the indictments.

Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had received "approval from the President through the Vice President" to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to the court papers. Libby was said to have testified that such presidential authorization to disclose classified information was "unique in his recollection," the court papers further said.
Libby also testified that an administration lawyer told him that Bush, by authorizing the disclosure of classified information, had in effect declassified the information. Legal experts disagree on whether the president has the authority to declassify information on his own.
The White House had no immediate reaction to the court filing.

Report on Corporate Agitprop as "News"

Over a ten-month period, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) documented television newsrooms' use of 36 video news releases (VNRs)—a small sample of the thousands produced each year. CMD identified 77 television stations, from those in the largest to the smallest markets, that aired these VNRs or related satellite media tours (SMTs) in 98 separate instances, without disclosure to viewers. Collectively, these 77 stations reach more than half of the U.S. population. The VNRs and SMTs whose broadcast CMD documented were produced by three broadcast PR firms for 49 different clients, including General Motors, Intel, Pfizer and Capital One. In each case, these 77 television stations actively disguised the sponsored content to make it appear to be their own reporting. In almost all cases, stations failed to balance the clients' messages with independently-gathered footage or basic journalistic research. More than one-third of the time, stations aired the pre-packaged VNR in its entirety.

Federal Scientists Under Increasing Pressure from Bush Administration

Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.
These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.

The Ditty Bops

The Ditty Bops are the most exciting musical act I've heard in years.
I'm a fogey. The last three acts I got this excited about were Jack Johnson, Ben Folds Five and Nirvana (all debuts, all before they hit big). That's a long time-span.
Now I'm young again. The Ditty Bops are brilliant!
It's as if k.d. lang impreganted They Might Be Giants in the early 80's and these bad girls were their genius progeny.
Like Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, they have attracted some inventive artists to create a wonderful visual style for the group.
Like true students of music, the Ditty Bops execute humorous, complex and thematically rich music and deliver it all as pure entertainment.
In addition to their own video links you can find earlier work at this YouTube link.
They are soon releasing a new CD, and I can't wait.
(By the way, their web site is a work of art!)

The Ditty Bops have my love.
Please, Ditty Bops, keep bending our brains!
-- McLir

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"South Park" Wins Peabody Award (For Real! ...And Desereved.)

"Primitive animation is part of the charm of TV's boldest, most politically incorrect satirical series. Its simple style also makes possible the show's unmatched topicality." For its "notoriously rude, undeniably fearless lampoon of all that is self-important and hypocritical in American life, regardless of race, creed, color or celebrity status," South Park was announced today as a recipient of the George Foster Peabody Award, arguably the most prestigious award in television news broadcasting. [from]

Senate Rejects Office of Public Integrity

The U.S. Senate defeated today, by a vote of 67-30, an amendment by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) to create an independent Office of Public Integrity to oversee lobbying disclosure.
Leading the opposition were Senators George Voinovich (R-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.
"Overall the Senate [Ethics] Committee has been doing what they were supposed to do," said Voinovich from the floor of the Senate.
"The truth is, the Senate Ethics Committee operates effectively and in a bipartisan fashion," Johnson added.
Unfortunately, such statements are not rooted in either facts or reality. According to Center for Public Integrity research, while under the oversight of the Senate Ethics Committee, lobbying disclosure has been glaringly un-enforced.
  • Nearly 14,000 lobbying documents that should have been filed periodically with the Senate Office of Public Records are missing;
  • Nearly 300 individuals and entities lobbied without registering;
  • 49 of the top 50 lobbying firms failed to file required forms;
  • Almost one in five companies have missing lobbying forms; and,
  • Almost 20 percent of all forms are filed late.

In addition, a forthcoming study of congressional travel by the Center has found that:

  • Rules prohibiting lobbying firms to pay for travel are often ignored or waived;
  • Forms are commonly filed late, are incomplete, and often amended after media scrutiny; and,
  • Members of Congress frequently ignore or have gotten the ethics committee to waive rules restricting the number and relationships of companions they take on privately financed trips.*

As the numbers and recent lobbying-related scandals show, the Senate Ethics Committee has had difficulties regulating the lobbying industry.

Jon Stewart: "Are you going to Crazy Base world?" John McCain: "I'm afraid so."

"Jon Stewart grilled John McCain last night about McCain's recent efforts to cozy up to Jerry Falwell and demonstrated that sometimes fake journalists do their jobs better than real ones. He pressed McCain harder than Tim Russert did last Sunday and got McCain flustered enough that he finally ran out of ways to defend himself. Here's their closing exchange:

Stewart: You're not freaking out on us? Are you freaking out on us? Because if you're freaking out and you're going into the crazy base world — are you going into crazy base world?
McCain: I'm afraid on

Singing Along with "The Clash" Causes Terror Scare

"British anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said Wednesday. Detectives halted the London-bound flight at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northern England and Harraj Mann, 24, was taken off. "The taxi driver had become worried on the way to the airport because Mann had been singing along to The Clash's 1979 anthem "London Calling," which features the lyrics "Now war is declared -- and battle come down" while other lines warn of a "meltdown expected." Also reported here, where we learn this is not the first Clash-related terror scare. Joe Strummer is looking down and laughing, not least because it wasn't terror song Spanish Bombs. [from]

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Interview with the director of "Why We Fight"

Eugene Jarecki's previous film The Trials of Henry Kissinger was widely acclaimed and won the 2002 Amnesty International Award. He spoke to us from New York about making Why We Fight and his concerns about America.

BBC Four: What was the spark for such an ambitious film?
Eugene Jarecki: It really followed on from the experience we had making The Trials of Henry Kissinger. That film came out in about 130 US cities, and in every one I met with audiences and talked about the film. I thought I had made a film about US foreign policy but the audiences seemed to be most interested in talking about Henry Kissinger the man. To me, that felt politically impotent because the forces that are driving American foreign policy are so much larger than any one man. With the next film I wanted to go further - I didn't want to stop at an easy villain or a simple scapegoat. I wanted to have a much more holistic approach that really took on the whole system.

BBC Four: Did the film become bigger in scope than you initially imagined?
EJ: I didn't expect it to be this ambitious when we started out. I knew we were making something called Why We Fight, and I knew I was going to try to look deep at the heart of America's predilection for war. But I did not know what an extraordinarily tangled web the American military landscape is. You also underestimate people. I originally thought that I'd just talk to a few people and get their viewpoints, but before long their viewpoints became stories that drive the film. So the film ended up combining these critical viewpoints with an emphasis on story and the human cost of war. When that started to happen I think the film became a more far-reaching enterprise than anyone of us had anticipated. [more] [thanks, Leo]

Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Confession Allegedly Under Torture - Amnesty

Amnesty International remains seriously concerned that the trial of Ahmed Abu Ali was flawed as the jury was not allowed to hear evidence supporting his claim that he was tortured into confessing while he was held for one and a half years without charge or trial in Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the case may have set a worrying precedent on the admissibility of torture evidence in US courts. Amnesty International urges that, if appealed, the courts will address this issue.

34 ISPs subpoenaed by US government

The controversial Department of Justice inquiry that asked Google Inc. to turn over millions of Internet search queries is much broader than previously known, with subpoenas going to at least 34 companies, according to newly available public documents.
The Justice Department demanded documents from 34 companies, including local security companies Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc. and San Francisco Internet company LookSmart Ltd., according to subpoenas obtained and posted online by technology publication InformationWeek. Also subpoenaed were Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T, EarthLink and the former SBC Communications.

U.N. nuclear chief says Iran is no threat, shouldn't be sanctioned

United Nations atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei urged the international community Thursday to steer away from threats of sanctions against Iran, saying the country's nuclear program was not "an imminent threat" and that the time had come to "lower the pitch" of debate.
...His comments publicly expressed the dismay that many diplomats privately have voiced about what they consider an air of crisis that the Bush administration and some European governments have created with recent statements.
He spoke on the same day that ministers of major powers meeting here struck a more conciliatory tone on Iran than heard in recent weeks. The meeting followed agreement Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council to give Iran 30 days to respond to requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, that it halt uranium enrichment research.

Campus Wars: Academic Witch Hunts?

University professors denounced for anti-Americanism; schoolteachers suspended for their politics; students encouraged to report on their tutors. Are US campuses in the grip of a witch-hunt of progressives, or is academic life just too liberal?
...Few would argue there are direct parallels between the current assaults on liberals in academe and McCarthyism. Unlike the McCarthy era, most threats to academic freedom - real or perceived - do not, yet, involve the state. Nor are they buttressed by widespread popular support, as anticommunism was during the 50s. But in other ways, argues Ellen Schrecker, author of Many Are the Crimes - McCarthyism in America, comparisons are apt.
"In some respects it's more dangerous," she says. "McCarthyism dealt mainly with off-campus political activities. Now they focus on what is going on in the classroom. It's very dangerous because it's reaching into the core academic functions of the university, particularly in Middle-Eastern studies."
Either way, a growing number of apparently isolated incidents suggests a mood which is, if nothing else, determined, relentless and aimed openly at progressives in academe.
Earlier this year, Fox news commentator Sean Hannity urged students to record "leftwing propaganda" by professors so he could broadcast it on his show. On the web there is Campus Watch, "monitoring Middle East studies on campus"; Edwatch, "Education for a free nation"; and Parents Against Bad Books in School.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ray Davies on "Fresh Air"

Lead singer and songwriter for The Kinks, Ray Davies started The Kinks in 1964 with his brother, Dave. They are said to be the pioneers of the rowdy garage band genre of rock music. Their many hits included "You Really Got Me," "Lola," "All Day and All of the Night" and "Tired of Waiting for You."
Davies is now 61 and on tour for his first solo album, Other People's Lives. He says an experience in 2004 gave him incentive to finish the album: He was shot in the leg in New Orleans after confronting a thief.

Reason Magazine Asks People 3 Questions on Iraq

1. Did you support the invasion of Iraq?
2. Have you changed your position?
3. What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?

America's war on the web

Military and intelligence sources in the US talk of “a revolution in the concept of warfare”. The report orders three new developments in America’s approach to warfare:
- Firstly, the Pentagon says it will wage war against the internet in order to dominate the realm of communications, prevent digital attacks on the US and its allies, and to have the upper hand when launching cyber-attacks against enemies.
- Secondly, psychological military operations, known as psyops, will be at the heart of future military action. Psyops involve using any media – from newspapers, books and posters to the internet, music, Blackberrys and personal digital assistants (PDAs) – to put out black propaganda to assist government and military strategy. Psyops involve the dissemination of lies and fake stories and releasing information to wrong-foot the enemy.
- Thirdly, the US wants to take control of the Earth’s electromagnetic spectrum, allowing US war planners to dominate mobile phones, PDAs, the web, radio, TV and other forms of modern communication. That could see entire countries denied access to telecommunications at the flick of a switch by America.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Kevin Phillips, Former GOP Strategist

Former GOP senior strategist Kevin Phillips wrote the political Bible of the New Right, The Emerging Republican Majority. He coined the term "Sun Belt." He voted for Reagan twice and still considers himself a staunch Republican. But now Phillips, the author of a new book called American Theocracy, is warning that the party of George Bush and Karl Rove ("W brand Republicans," in the phrase of GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen) has become "God's own party" -- the champion of a convergence of "petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex." Phillips also cautions that the W-brand party's "sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution." [Phillips was also discussed here.] [from]

Culture Jamming Chevy Ads

Chevy posted an online tool to make your own commercial for their SUV.
These people are using the tool to make stinging PSA's about global warming.

Common Cause, League of Women Voters Decry FBI "Intimidation"

"Our country faces many serious threats to our security, but surely none of those threats come from Common Cause or the League of Women Voters," Pingree said. "It is troubling to think that the FBI would scrutinize my remarks about the Patriot Act at a public meeting organized by the League of Women Voters. Surely the FBI's resources could be put to better use."

Amnesty: Tasers have Killed over 150 People

Sixty-one people died in 2005 after being shocked by law enforcement agency TASERs, a 27 percent increase from 2004's tally of 48 deaths, finds an Amnesty International study released today. Including 10 TASER-related deaths through mid-February of this year, at least 152 people have died in the United States since June 2001 after being shocked with the weapons.
"Despite a lack of independent research on TASER safety, police officers are using these weapons as a routine force tool -- rather than as a weapon of last resort," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "These weapons have a record that's growing longer each week -- and it's not a good one. The increasingly frequent TASER-related deaths underscore the need for an independent, rigorous and impartial inquiry into their use."

Soldiers flee to Canada to avoid Iraq duty

Hundreds of deserters from the US armed forces have crossed into Canada and are now seeking political refugee status there, arguing that violations of the rules of war in Iraq by the US entitle them to asylum.
A decision on a test case involving two US servicemen is due shortly and is being watched with interest by fellow servicemen on both sides of the border. At least 20 others have already applied for asylum and there are an estimated 400 in Canada out of more than 9,000 who have deserted since the conflict started in 2003.

New Definition: Wetland

Dig a hole in your back yard and fill it with water. Outgoing Secretary of Interior Gale Norton might send you a letter of commendation for adding to the nation's wetlands. And that is no joke.
One of Norton's last acts in office (she recently announced her resignation) was to brag that for the first time in more than 50 years, the nation had an overall gain of wetlands. Although a half-million acres of natural wetlands have been destroyed, 700,000 acres of artificial wetlands have been added.
And what replaced those swamps, marshes and salt flats that are the incubators of life and natural water filters? Norton counts golf course water hazards, ornamental ponds and wastewater treatment lagoons among the legitimate substitutes for nature.
"A significant amount of the increase has been in ponds," Norton said. "People like having ponds as an amenity. . . . Even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands."
It would be hard to find anyone with expertise in such environmental matters to agree with that statement.

Agent Orange: The Legacy of a Weapon of Mass Destruction

Agent Orange, so-called because of the orange stripe on the drums in which it was stored, contained dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known. An estimated 80 million litres of the defoliant, containing 386kg of dioxin, were sprayed on Vietnam. One millionth of a gram per kilo of body weight is enough to induce cancers, birth defects and other diseases when exposure persists over a long period - as the US veterans discovered in the years after the war.
Cancers, birth defects and other diseases struck the returning veterans in unexpected numbers. Those who had had contact with the chemical sued the manufacturers and in 1984 won what was then the largest ever settlement of $180m against seven of the world's biggest chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto. But more than 20 years on, while the Americans who did the spraying have been compensated, the Vietnamese who had the toxic chemical sprayed on them are still waiting for redress.
Last year, Vietnamese veterans sued the same US chemical companies claiming that they knew Agent Orange contained a poison - dioxin - and their action in supplying it to the US government breached international law and constituted a war crime. They lost in the first round but they are pinning their hopes on an appeal, due to be heard in Brooklyn, New York, this month.

Alleged Scientific Fraud in Missile Defense System

A senior Congressional investigator has accused his agency of covering up a scientific fraud among builders of a $26 billion system meant to shield the nation from nuclear attack. The disputed weapon is the centerpiece of the Bush administration's antimissile plan, which is expected to cost more than $250 billion over the next two decades.
The investigator, Subrata Ghoshroy of the Government Accountability Office, led technical analyses of a prototype warhead for the antimissile weapon in an 18-month study, winning awards for his "great care" and "tremendous skill and patience."
Mr. Ghoshroy now says his agency ignored evidence that the two main contractors had doctored data, skewed test results and made false statements in a 2002 report that credited the contractors with revealing the warhead's failings to the government.
The agency strongly denied his accusations, insisting that its antimissile report was impartial and that it was right to exonerate the contractors of a coverup.
The dispute is unusual. Rarely in the 85-year history of the G.A.O., an investigative arm of Congress with a reputation for nonpartisan accuracy, has a dissenter emerged publicly from its ranks.

South Korea Looks to Make Robots Full Members of Society

South Korea, the world's most wired country, is rushing to turn what sounds like science fiction into everyday life. The government, which succeeded in getting broadband Internet into 72 percent of all households in the last half decade, has marshaled an army of scientists and business leaders to make robots full members of society.
By 2007, networked robots that, say, relay messages to parents, teach children English and sing and dance for them when they are bored, are scheduled to enter mass production. Outside the home, they are expected to guide customers at post offices or patrol public areas, searching for intruders and transmitting images to monitoring centers.
If all goes according to plan, robots will be in every South Korean household between 2015 and 2020. That is the prediction, at least, of the Ministry of Information and Communication, which has grouped more than 30 companies, as well as 1,000 scientists from universities and research institutes, under its wing. Some want to move even faster.