Category Archives: geek stuff

1030

White House, Cheney’s office subpoenaed
June 28, 2007
By LAURIE KELLMAN

The Senate subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s office Wednesday, demanding documents and elevating the confrontation with President Bush over the administration’s warrant-free eavesdropping on Americans.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee also is summoning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss the program and an array of other matters that have cost a half-dozen top Justice Department officials their jobs, committee chairman Patrick Leahy announced.

Leahy, D-Vt., raised questions about previous testimony by one of Bush’s appeals court nominees and said he wouldn’t let such matters pass.

“If there have been lies told to us, we’ll refer it to the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney for whatever legal action they think is appropriate,” Leahy told reporters. He did just that Wednesday, referring questions about testimony by former White House aide Brett Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The escalation is part of the Democrats’ effort to hold the administration to account for the way it has conducted the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The subpoenas extend the probe into the private sector, demanding among other things documents on any agreements that telecommunications companies made to cooperate with the surveillance program.

The White House contends that its search for would-be terrorists is legal, necessary and effective — pointing out frequently that there have been no further attacks on American soil. Administration officials say they have given classified information — such as details about the eavesdropping program, which is now under court supervision — to the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.

Echoing its response to previous congressional subpoenas to former administration officials Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, the White House gave no indication that it would comply with the new ones.

“We’re aware of the committee’s action and will respond appropriately,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “It’s unfortunate that congressional Democrats continue to choose the route of confrontation.”

In fact, the Judiciary Committee’s three most senior Republicans — Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, former chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — sided with Democrats on the 13-3 vote last week to give Leahy the power to issue the subpoenas.

The showdown between the White House and Congress could land in federal court.

Also named in subpoenas signed by Leahy were the Justice Department and the National Security Council. The four parties — the White House, Cheney’s office, the Justice Department and the National Security Council — have until July 18 to comply, Leahy said. He added that, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., he would consider pursuing contempt citations against those who refuse.

Gonzales, in Spokane, Wash., on Wednesday to discuss gang issues with local officials, said he had not seen the subpoena documents and could not comment on them directly.

“There are competing institutional interests,” Gonzales said.

The Judiciary committees have issued the subpoenas as part of a look at how much influence the White House exerts over the Justice Department and its chief, Gonzales.

The probe, in its sixth month, began with an investigation into whether administration officials ordered the firings of eight federal prosecutors for political reasons. The Judiciary committees subpoenaed Miers, one-time White House legal counsel, and Taylor, a former political director, though they have yet to testify.

Now, with senators of both parties concerned about the constitutionality of the administration’s efforts to root out terrorism suspects in the United States, the committee has shifted to the broader question of Gonzales’ stewardship of Justice.

The issue concerning Kavanaugh, a former White House staff secretary, is whether he misled the Senate panel during his confirmation hearing last year about how much he was involved in crafting the administration’s policy on enemy combatants.

The Bush administration secretly launched the eavesdropping program, run by the National Security Agency, in 2001 to monitor international phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States involving people the government suspected of having terrorist links. The program, which the administration said did not require investigators to seek warrants before conducting surveillance, was revealed in December 2005.

After the program was challenged in court, Bush put it under the supervision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established in 1978. The president still claims the power to order warrantless spying.

The subpoenas seek a wide array of documents from the Sept. 11 attacks to the present. Among them are any that include analysis or opinions from Justice, NSA, the Defense Department, the White House, or “any entity within the executive branch” on the legality of the electronic surveillance program.

Debate continues over whether the program violates people’s civil liberties. The administration has gone to great lengths to keep it running.

Interest was raised by vivid testimony last month by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey about the extent of the White House’s effort to override the Justice Department’s objections to the program in 2004.

Comey told the Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, then-White House counsel, tried to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft to reverse course and recertify the program. At the time, Ashcroft lay in intensive care, recovering form gall bladder surgery.

Ashcroft refused, as did Comey, who temporarily held the power of the attorney general’s office during his boss’ illness.

The White House recertified the program unilaterally. Ashcroft, Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller and their staffs prepared to resign. Bush ultimately relented and made changes the Justice officials had demanded, and the agency eventually recertified it.

Fratto defended the surveillance program as “lawful” and “limited.”

“It’s specifically designed to be effective without infringing Americans’ civil liberties,” Fratto said. “The program is classified for a reason — its purpose is to track down and stop terrorist planning. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping Americans safe from an enemy determined to use any means possible — including the latest in technology — to attack us.”


but…

Bush won’t supply subpoenaed documents
June 28, 2007
By TERENCE HUNT

President Bush, in a constitutional showdown with Congress, claimed executive privilege Thursday and rejected demands for White House documents and testimony about the firing of U.S. attorneys.

His decision was denounced as “Nixonian stonewalling” by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bush rejected subpoenas for documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. The White House made clear neither one would testify next month, as directed by the subpoenas.

Presidential counsel Fred Fielding said Bush had made a reasonable attempt at compromise but Congress forced the confrontation by issuing subpoenas. “With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation.”

The assertion of executive privilege was the latest turn in increasingly hostile standoffs between the administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the Iraq war, executive power, the war on terror and Vice President Dick Cheney’s authority. A day earlier, the Senate Judiciary Committee delivered subpoenas to the offices of Bush, Cheney, the national security adviser and the Justice Department about the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

While weakened by the Iraq war and poor approval ratings in the polls, Bush has been adamant not to cede ground to Congress.

“Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Bush’s assertion of executive privilege was “unprecedented in its breadth and scope” and displayed “an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow weighed in with unusually sharp criticism of Congress. He accused Democrats of trying “to make life difficult for the White House. It also may explain why this is the least popular Congress in decades, because you do have what appears to be a strategy of destruction, rather than cooperation.”

Over the years, Congress and the White House have avoided a full-blown court test about the constitutional balance of power and whether the president can refuse demands from Congress. Lawmakers could vote to cite witnesses for contempt and refer the matter to the local U.S. attorney to bring before a grand jury. Since 1975, 10 senior administration officials have been cited but the disputes were all resolved before getting to court.

Congressional committees sought the documents and testimony in their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ stewardship of the Justice Department and the firing of eight federal attorneys over the winter. Democrats say the firings were an example of improper political influence. The White House contends that U.S. attorneys are political appointees who can be hired and fired for almost any reason.

In a letter to Leahy and Conyers, Fielding said Bush had “attempted to chart a course of cooperation” by releasing more than 8,500 pages of documents and sending Gonzales and other officials to Capitol Hill to testify.

The president also had offered to make Miers, Taylor, political strategist Karl Rove and their aides available to be interviewed by the Judiciary committees in closed-door sessions, without transcripts and not under oath. Leahy and Conyers rejected that proposal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said the House and Senate panels should accept Bush’s original offer.

Impatient with the “lagging” pace of the investigation into the U.S. attorney firings, Specter said he asked Fielding during a phone call Wednesday night whether the president would agree to transcripts on the interviews. Fielding’s answer: No.

“I think we ought to take what information we can get now and try to wrap this up,” Specter told reporters. That wouldn’t preclude Congress from reissuing subpoenas if lawmakers do not get enough answers, Specter said.

Fielding explained Bush’s position on executive privilege this way: “For the president to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisers and between those advisers and others within and outside the Executive Branch.”

This “bedrock presidential prerogative” exists, in part, to protect the president from being compelled to disclose such communications to Congress, Fielding argued.

In a slap at the committees, Fielding said, “There is no demonstration that the documents and information you seek by subpoena are critically important to any legislative initiatives that you may be pursuing or intending to pursue.”

It was the second time in his administration that Bush has exerted executive privilege, said White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The first instance was in December 2001, to rebuff Congress’ demands for Clinton administration documents.

The most famous claim of executive privilege was in 1974, when President Nixon went to the Supreme Court to avoid surrendering White House tape recordings in the Watergate scandal. That was in a criminal investigation, not a demand from Congress. The court unanimously ordered Nixon to turn over the tapes.


because…

Following Bush Signing Statements, Federal Agencies Ignore 30 Percent Of Laws Passed Last Year
June 18, 2007

Federal agencies ignored 30 percent of the laws Bush objected to in signing statements last year, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office. In 2006, President Bush issued signing statements for 11 out of the 12 appropriations bills passed by Congress, claiming a right to bypass a total of 160 provisions in them.

In a sample set of 19 provisions, the GAO found that “10 provisions were executed as written, 6 were not, and 3 were not triggered and so there was no agency action to examine.”

The report, which was requested by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-WV), gives the first indication of the impact that President Bush’s signing statements have had on the enforcement of laws passed by Congress.

In a statement, Byrd said the report shows the Bush administration’s desire to grab as much power as possible:

The White House cannot pick and choose which laws it follows and which it ignores. When a president signs a bill into law, the president signs the entire bill. The Administration cannot be in the business of cherry picking the laws it likes and the laws it doesn’t. This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people’s branch of government to the sidelines….We must continue to demand accountability and openness from this White House to counter this power grab.

Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements challenging over 1,100 laws, claiming that he has the right to bypass them if they interfere with his alleged presidential powers. Though signing statements have been utilized by most presidents, Bush has used them to object to more laws than all previous presidents combined.

Here are a few of the laws Bush has controversially issued signing statements about:

– In 2005, after Congress passed a law outlawing the torture of detainees, Bush issued a signing statement saying that he would “construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander in Chief,” which experts say means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions.

– In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring minimum qualifications for future heads of the Federal Emergency Management Administration in response to FEMA’s poor handling of Hurricane Katrina. When Bush signed the law, he issued a statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions and appoint a FEMA chief based on whatever qualifications he wanted.

– In 2006, Bush signed a statement saying he would view a ban on “the transfer of nuclear technology to India if it violates international non proliferation guidelines” as “advisory.” Indian newspapers reported that the government of India took note of Bush’s statement, “raising the possibility it would not take the ban seriously.”

The GAO report makes a point of noting that although “the agencies did not execute the provisions as enacted,” it cannot necessarily be concluded that “agency noncompliance was the result of the President’s signing statements.” It does, however, provide creedence to claims that confusion created by differing congressional and presidential interpretations of laws could lead increased laxity in the proper enforcement of the law.

UPDATE: “We expect to continue to use statements where appropriate, on a bill-by-bill basis,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.


and this is part of the reason why…

Within the architecture of denial and duplicity: The Democratic Party and the infantile omnipotence of the ruling class
June 26, 2007
By Phil Rockstroh

Why did the Democratic Congress betray the voting public?

Betrayal is often a consequence of wishful thinking. It’s the world’s way of delivering the life lesson that it’s time to shed the vanity of one’s innocence and grow-the-hell-up. Apropos, here’s lesson number one for political innocents: Power serves the perpetuation of power. In an era of runaway corporate capitalism, the political elite exist to serve the corporate elite. It’s that simple.

Why do the elites lie so brazenly? Ironically, because they believe they’re entitled to by virtue of their superior sense of morality. How did they come to this arrogant conclusion? Because they think they’re better than us. If they believe in anything at all, it is this: They view us as a reeking collection of wretched, baseborn rabble, who are, on an individual level, a few billion neurons short of being governable by honest means.

Yes, you read that correctly: They believe they’re better than you. When they lie and flout the rules and assert that the rule of law doesn’t apply to them or refuse to impeach fellow members of their political and social class who break the law, it is because they have convinced themselves it is best for society as a whole.

How did they come by such self-serving convictions? The massive extent of their privilege has convinced them that they’re the quintessence of human virtue, that they’re the most gifted of all golden children ever kissed by the radiant light of the sun. In other words, they’re the worst sort of emotionally arrested brats — spoiled children inhabiting adult bodies who mistake their feelings of infantile omnipotence for the benediction of superior ability. “I’m so special that what’s good for me is good for the world,” amounts to the sum total of their childish creed. In the case of narcissists such as these, over time, self-interest and systems of belief grow intertwined. Hence, within their warped, self-justifying belief systems, their actions, however mercenary, become acts of altruism.

The elites don’t exactly believe their own lies; rather, they proceed from neocon guru Leo Strauss’ dictum (the modus operandi of the ruling classes) that it is necessary to promulgate “noble lies” to society’s lower orders. This sort of virtuous mendacity must be practiced, because those varieties of upright apes (you and I) must be spared the complexities of the truth; otherwise, it will cause us to grow dangerously agitated — will cause us to rattle the bars of our cages and fling poop at our betters. They believe it’s better to ply us with lies because it’s less trouble then having to hose us down in our filthy cages. In this way, they believe, all naked apes will have a more agreeable existence within the hierarchy-bound monkey house of capitalism.

This may help to better understand the Washington establishment and its courtesan punditry who serve to reinforce their ceaseless narrative of exceptionalism. This is why they’ve disingenuously covered up the infantilism of George W. Bush for so long: Little Dubya is the id of the ruling class made manifest — he’s their troubled child, who, by his destructive actions, cracks the deceptively normal veneer of a miserable family and reveals the rot within. At a certain level, it’s damn entertaining: his instability so shakes the foundation of the house that it causes the skeletons in its closets to dance.

By engaging in a mode of being so careless it amounts to public immolation, these corrupt elitists are bringing the empire down. There is nothing new in this: Such recklessness is the method by which cunning strivers commit suicide.

Those who take the trouble to look will comprehend the disastrous results of the ruling elites’ pathology: wars of choice sold to a credulous citizenry by public relations confidence artists; a predatory economy that benefits 1 percent of the population; a demoralized, deeply ignorant populace who are either unaware of or indifferent to the difference between the virtues and vicissitudes of the electoral processes of a democratic republic, in contrast to the schlock circus, financed by big money corporatists, being inflicted upon us at present.

Moreover, the elitists’ barriers of isolation and exclusion play out among the classes below as an idiot’s mimicry of soulless gated “communities” and the pernicious craving for a vast border wall — all an imitation of the ruling class’s paranoia-driven compulsion for isolation and their narcissistic obsession with exclusivity.

Perhaps, we should cover the country in an enormous sheet of cellophane and place a zip-lock seal at its southern border, or, better yet — in the interest of being more metaphorically accurate — let’s simply zip the entire land mass of the U.S. into a body bag and be done with it.

What will be at the root of the empire’s demise? It seems the elite of the nation will succumb to “Small World Syndrome” — that malady borne of incurable careerism, a form of self-induced cretinism that reduces the vast and intricate world to only those things that advance the goals of its egoistical sufferers. It is a degenerative disease that winnows down the consciousness of those afflicted to a banal nub of awareness, engendering the shallowness of character on display in the corporate media and the arrogance and cluelessness of the empire’s business and political classes. It possesses a love of little but mammon; it is the myth of Midas, manifested in the hoarding of hedge funds; it is the tale of an idiot gibbering over his collection of used string.

What can be done? In these dangerous times, credulousness to party dogma is as dangerous as a fundamentalist Christian’s literal interpretation of the Bible: There is no need to squander the hours searching for an “intelligent design” within the architecture of denial and duplicity built into this claptrap system — a system that we have collaborated in constructing by our loyalty to political parties that are, in return, neither loyal to us nor any idea, policy or principle that doesn’t maintain the corporate status quo.

Accordingly, we must make the elites of the Democratic Party accountable for their betrayal or we ourselves will become complicit. The faith of Democratic partisans in their degraded party is analogous to Bush and his loyalists still believing they can achieve victory in Iraq and the delusion-based wing of the Republican Party that, a few years ago, clung to the belief, regardless of facts, that Terri Schiavo’s brain was not irreparably damaged and she would someday rise from her hospital bed and bless the heavens for them and their unwavering devotion to her cause.

Faith-based Democrats are equally as delusional. Only their fantasies don’t flow from the belief in a mythical father figure, existing somewhere in the boundless sky, who scripture proclaims has a deep concern for the fate of all things, from fallen sparrows to medically manipulated stem cells; rather, their beliefs are based on the bughouse crazy notion that the elites of the Democratic Party could give a fallen sparrow’s ass about the circumstances of their lives.

In the same manner, I could never reconcile myself with the Judea/Christian/Islamic conception of god — some strange, invisible, “who’s-your-daddy-in-the-sky,” sadist, who wants me on my knees (as if I’m a performer in some kind of cosmic porno movie) to show my belief in and devotion to him — I can’t delude myself into feeling any sense of devotion to the present day Democratic Party.

Long ago, reason and common sense caused me to renounce the toxic tenets of organized religion. At present, I feel compelled to apply the same principles to the Democratic Party, leading me to conclude, as did Voltaire regarding the unchecked power of the Church in his day, that we must, “crush the infamous thing.”

Freedom begins when we free ourselves from as many illusions as possible — including dogma, clichés, cant, magical thinking, as well as blind devotion to a corrupt political class.

I wrote the following, before the 2006 mid-term election: “[ . . . ] I believe, at this late hour, the second best thing that could come to pass in our crumbling republic is for the total destruction of the Democratic Party — and then from its ashes to rise a party of true progressives.

“[ . . . ] I believe the best thing that could happen for our country would be for the leaders of the Republican Party — out of a deep sense of shame (as if they even possessed the capacity for such a thing) regarding the manner they have disgrace their country and themselves — to commit seppuku (the act of ritual suicide practiced by disgraced leaders in feudalist Japan) on national television.

“Because there’s no chance of that event coming to pass, I believe the dismantling of the Democratic Party, as we know it, is in order. It is our moribund republic’s last, best hope — if any is still possible.”

I received quite a bit of flack from party loyalists and netroots activists that my pronouncement was premature and we should wait and see.

We’ve waited and we’ve seen. Consequently, since the Republican leadership have not taken ceremonial swords in hand and disemboweled themselves on nationwide TV, it’s time we pulled the plug on the Democratic Party, an entity that has only been kept alive by a corporately inserted food-tube. In my opinion, this remains the last, best hope for the living ideals of progressive governance to become part of the body politic.


1025

Evolving Towards Telepathy
Demand for increasingly powerful communications technology points to our future as a “techlepathic” species
04.26.2004
By George Dvorsky

I recently read with great interest of researcher Chuck Jorgensen’s work at NASA’s Ames Research Center. It was the kind of news item that made the rounds among the cognoscenti that day, only to be forgotten the next. But it stuck with me for days afterwards.

Jorgensen and his team developed a system that captures and converts nerve signals in the vocal chords into computerized speech. It is hoped that the technology will help those who have lost the ability to speak, as well as improve interface communications for people working in spacesuits and noisy environments.

The work is similar in principle to how cochlear implants work. These implants capture acoustic information for the hearing impaired. In Jorgensen’s experiment the neural signals that tell the vocal chords how to move are intercepted and rerouted. Cochlear implants do it the other way round, by converting acoustic information into neural signals that the brain can process. Both methods capitalize on the fact that neural signals provide a link to the analog environment in which we live.

As I thought further about this similarity it occurred to me that the technology required to create a technologically endowed form of telepathy is all but upon us. By combining Jorgensen’s device and a cochlear implant with a radio transmitter and a fancy neural data conversion device, we could create a form of communication that bypasses the acoustic realm altogether.

I decided to contact Jorgensen and other researchers about the prospect of such “techlepathy.” While I have always entertained the idea that we’ll eventually develop telepathy-enabling technologies, the optimistic responses I received from these researchers startled me nonetheless. And as I suspected, the technologies and scientific insight required for such an achievement are rapidly coming into focus—an exciting prospect to be sure.

The dream of mind-to-mind communication and the desire to transcend one’s own consciousness is as old as language itself. You could make a strong case that there’s a near pathological craving for it, a tendency that manifests through the widespread belief in paranormal telepathy.

ESP aside, it seems that this craving will soon be satisfied. Several advances in communications technology and neuroscience are giving pause about the possibility of endowing us with techlepathy. As we continue to ride the wave of the communications revolution, and as the public demand for more sophisticated communications tools continues, it seems a veritable certainty that we are destined to become a species capable of mind-to-mind communication.

This prospect is as profound as it is exciting. Such a change to the species would signify a prominent development in the evolution of humanity—a change that would irrevocably alter the nature of virtually all human relations and interactions.

The shrinking planet
Our civilization’s current postindustrial phase has often been referred to, quite rightly, as the Information Age. Moreover, the speed at which information is processed and exchanged is only getting faster. There’s no question that humanity’s collective clock-speed is steadily increasing. Indeed, as is Moore’s Law, the communications revolution is still in effect and showing no signs of abating.

Thanks to the rapid-fire nature provided by such things as email correspondence and instant messaging, conversations that used to take weeks or days now only take hours or minutes.

In fact, as I recently read an archived exchange between Charles Darwin and his rival Louis Agassiz from the 19th Century, I realized that the entire exchange must have taken months if not years since their letters had to cross the Atlantic by boat. (Darwin lived in England while Agassiz was in the US.) Today when scientists converse, they debate, critique and collaborate at breakneck speed.

What’s interesting isn’t just the types of communication tools that now exist. It’s also the way in which people use them—ways that hint at a desire for more intimate and open forms of communication.

Sitting at a red light the other day, I noticed a herd of pedestrians crossing the street—each and every one of them with a cell phone held tightly against their ear. These days, information transfer between people is nearly instantaneous, regardless of what they’re doing and where they are.

Many people are also tapping into the power of instant messaging. Programs such as Messenger, ICQ and GAIM are immensely popular, changing the way in which people interact altogether. Family members converse with each other while in the same house (calling the kids down for dinner will never be the same again). Parents chat with their kids while at work. Coworkers, whether they’re in the same building or offsite, can quickly exchange information and work in collaborative ways.

Social networking programs, such as Friendster, Tribe and Orkut, are also contributing to novel forms of communication. These programs are undoubtedly making the world a smaller place by steadily decreasing the number of so-called degrees of separation that exist between people. I’m continually stunned at the efficiency of how this works. I have only 19 immediate friends in my Friendster network, but it explodes out from there to 1,010 second-degree friends and 50,611 third-degree friends. I’m pretty much convinced that if you’re on the Internet there’s no less than four degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the Web, which is two complete degrees below the conventional six degrees of separation that is thought to exist for all people.

One of the most exciting and innovative ways to use the Web is found in the blogging (“Web logging”) phenomenon. While bloggers chronicle the news, they also chronicle their own lives. Some bloggers use their sites to post personal journals and diaries. The difference with blogs, of course, is their public nature. What’s fascinating is how many people want to make the most personal and private details of their life public. The largest segment of the population currently engaging in this are adolescents who use it to communicate with their friends, as an outlet to express their frustrations, anxieties and experiences and to provide each other with support. I’m both awestruck by and jealous of today’s teens.

Bridging minds and machines
Needless to say, the communications revolution and the driving tendencies therein are not going to stop at cell phones, instant messaging and blogs. The work of research labs and universities around the world reveals that some of the most profound developments are still yet to come. It appears that the public’s demand for ever more sophisticated communications devices will soon be met by supply.

We live in a day where neural interfacing technologies are enabling monkeys to move cursors across a computer screen with sheer thought alone and where paraplegics are able to type letters on a computer screen just by thinking about it. Recently, the FDA granted approval to Cyberkinetics in the US to implant chips in the brains of disabled people—chips that will map neural activity when they think about moving a limb. These signals will then be translated into computer code that could one day be fed into robotic limbs or applied to computer interfacing devices.

These advances in neural interfacing technology are now expanding from motor functioning to communications, an area that NASA’s Chuck Jorgensen is actively exploring.

As I mentioned earlier, I contacted Jorgensen and asked him if he’d given any consideration to the issue of techlepathy. His answer was positive, noting that his next goal is to determine whether he can directly correlate auditory speech signals and subvocal signals recorded at the same time by learning nonlinear mapping equations to relate one to the other. Ideally, Jorgensen’s team would like to develop a completely noninvasive process, starting initially with understanding highly intertwined surface measured signals. Such efforts would be in contrast to work focusing on embedded neural probes or surgical intrusions such as those used for highly disabled persons.

I also spoke with graduate student researcher Peter Passaro, a scientist pushing the envelope of human communications in the neural engineering lab at Georgia Tech. As is Jorgensen, Passaro and his team are trying to correlate mappings within a system, but in their case it’s an in vitro system with no native structures. They are trying to determine general rules for how systems set up in response to sensory input and what the state space of their output will be. Once these rules are determined, says Passaro, it will become much easier to produce such things as cortical implants.

Passaro is fairly certain that all that’s required to acquire sufficient neural information is an array of listening electrodes rather than interfacing with numerous single neurons. That being said, he believes incoming neural information is going to be a more difficult case because no one is sure how to use extracellular field stimulation to get information into cortical neural networks except in the simplest of cases. “Luckily,” says Passaro, “cochlear information is the simplest of cases.”

Passaro asserts that the technology required to create an implantable cell phone already exists—it’s just a matter of someone getting around to doing it. He believes that such a device has the potential to be one of the first widely used nonmedical implants, what he dubs the world’s first “killer app” implant.

The next progressive step as far as techlepathy goes, says Pasarro, is to tap into the brain’s language centers, specifically the part of the motor cortex responsible for output for the region of the throat and mouth. With such a system in place muscular movement wouldn’t be required at all to generate a neural signal. Instead, sheer thought alone will produce the desired language output.

Our telepathic future
Cybernetics pioneer Kevin Warwick also believes in the future of techlepathy. In fact, he’s actively trying to communicate in such a manner with his wife by creating an implant that connects his nervous system with hers. “If I have to have a long-term goal for my career,” says Warwick, “it would be creating thought communication between humans.” Of significance, he sees this as a realistic goal within his lifetime.

But Warwick believes that signals other than thoughts or language are transferable as well. Humans will eventually be able to communicate all sorts of signals, he argues, such as “whether you are feeling bad, as well as where you are.” He believes that the body produces an array of information that can be picked out and made to use in a variety of ways.

Indeed, humanity appears to be on the cusp of a rather remarkable development: We are, for all intents and purposes, about to become a telepathic species. Such a development will occur this century and it will likely happen in three major phases.

The first generation of telepathic devices will likely be of the subvocal variety in which communication travels one way, much like a normal conversation. The second phase will also involve unidirectional transmission, but consciousness (i.e. language center output) will be output instead of subvocalized speech. And the third phase will likely involve the seamless bidirectional transference of consciousness and emotions to one or more receiving persons—in other words, telepathy in the truest sense. It’s highly probable that the medium of exchange for such communication will be the Internet, or its future form, the global mind or Noosophere.Given such an endowment, human cooperation and performance, particularly in team environments, will be greatly enhanced—whether it be a search and rescue team or a prog rock band. Indeed, artists will undoubtedly exploit such advancements by creating unimaginably powerful expressions that involve the transference of conscious and emotive experiences.

Come together
While some might be perturbed by the ethical and practical ramifications of techlepathy, I am overwhelmingly in favor. Changes in communication and language have largely captured the human story, giving rise to not only technology and civilization, but also to our enhanced moral capacity and our ability to empathize. Undoubtedly, it is through communication that we learn to relate and understand one another.

As Robert Wright points out in Nonzero and Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, effective communications have historically been the crucial key for humanity’s ongoing survival and progress. In fact, Wright meticulously chronicles how improving communication technologies steadily result in more and more positive sum games and enhanced cooperative social and interpersonal frameworks. This holds true, argues Wright, whether it be a freshly carved path that connects two tribes in the jungle or the Internet.

There’s no reason to believe that techlepathy won’t have a similar impact on individuals, social groups and society as a whole. Moreover, imagine how it will further strengthen the bonds of interpersonal communication and intimacy. As we all live alone in our own minds—forced to live near-solipsistic existences—I cannot think of anything more powerful than the prospect of sharing someone else’s thoughts and experiences. It’s been said that such unions will signify the next phase of not just human communications and social interactions, but of personal and sexual intimacy as well.

Many people complain about the dehumanizing and depersonalizing effects of technology. Personally, my usage of communications technology has only resulted in increased interactivity with the rest of the world.

Further, this tendency seems to be the driving force in the history of the development of communications technology. On the surface humanity appears to be spreading outward, venturing across continents and into space. Yet in actuality we are journeying towards one another. Our globe has never appeared smaller and our proximity to each other has never been closer.

This trend shows no signs of slowing down, pointing the way to a remarkable interconnected future.


also:
Christian Condoms
How to tie a Fundoshi
Heironymous Bosch Action Figures – i want one!

1024

American contractor snared in secret U.S. prison
FBI informant imprisoned and treated like an insurgent for 97 days
June 17, 2007
By Lisa Myers

For Donald Vance, a 29-year-old veteran and an American citizen, the desire to play a small part in a big event would lead to the scariest experience of his life. While in Iraq, he was neither a victim of a roadside bomb nor taken prisoner by insurgents. Instead, he was held captive by the U.S. government — detained in a secret military prison.

“It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever lived through,” says Vance, who along with another American is now suing his own government, which he says “treated me like a terrorist.”

It all started in the summer of 2005 when Vance went to Baghdad. Born in Chicago, Vance had joined the Navy after high school and later worked in security.

He took a job with an Iraqi company, Shield Group Security, or SGS, which provides protection for businesses and organizations. Vance supervised security and logistics operations. Before long, he says he started noticing troubling things at the company — explosives and huge stockpiles of ammunition and weapons, including anti-aircraft guns. He worried they were going to militias involved in sectarian violence.

There was “more ammunition than we could ever, ever need,” says Vance. “We employed somewhere between 600 and 800 Iraqis. We had thousands of rifles.”

Vance became so alarmed by what he saw that when he returned to Chicago in October 2005 for his father’s funeral, he called the FBI office there and volunteered his services. He says he became an informant because, “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Once back in Baghdad, Vance says he began almost daily secret contact with the FBI in Chicago, often through e-mails and with officials at the U.S. embassy, alleging illegal gun-running and corruption by the Iraqis who owned and ran the company.

“I really couldn’t tell you how many days I thought about, ‘What if I get caught?'” says Vance.

In April 2006, he thought that day had come. His co-worker, Nathan Ertel, also an American, tendered his resignation. And with that, Vance says, the atmosphere turned hostile.

“We were constantly watched,” Vance says, “We were not allowed to go anywhere from outside the compound or with the compound under the supervision of an Iraqi, an armed Iraqi guard.”

Vance says an Iraqi SGS manager then took their identification cards, which allowed them access to American facilities, such as the Green Zone. They felt trapped.

“We began making phone calls,” Vance recalls. “I called the FBI. The experts over at the embassy let it be known that you’re about to be kidnapped. We barricaded ourselves with as many guns as we can get our hands on. We just did an old-fashioned Alamo.”

The U.S. military did come to rescue them. Vance says he then led soldiers to the secret cache of rifles, ammunition, explosives, even land mines.

The two men say they — and other employees who were Westerners — were taken to the U.S. embassy and debriefed. But their ordeal was just beginning.

“[We saw] soldiers with shackles in their hands and goggles and zip-ties. And we just knew something was terribly wrong,” says Vance.

Vance and Ertel were eventually taken to Camp Cropper, a secret U.S. military prison near the Baghdad airport. It once held Saddam Hussein and now houses some of the most dangerous insurgents in all of Iraq.

Here’s what Vance and Ertel say happened in that prison: They were strip-searched and each put in solitary confinement in tiny, cold cells. They were deliberately deprived of sleep with blaring music and bright lights. They were hooded and cuffed whenever moved. And although they were never physically tortured, there was always that threat.

“The guards employ what I would like to call as verbal Kung-Fu,” says Vance. “It’s ‘do as we say or we will use excessive violence on you.'”

Their families back home had no idea what was happening. Until they were detained, Vance had called or e-mailed his fiancée, Diane Schwarz, every day while in Iraq — and now he was not allowed to do either.

“I am thinking, you know, he’s dead, he’s kidnapped,” recalls Schwarz.

After a week of intense interrogations for hours at a time, Vance learned why he was detained. He was given a document stating the military had found large caches of weapons at Vance’s company and suspected he “may be involved in the possible distribution of these weapons to insurgent/terrorist groups.”

He was a security detainee, just like an insurgent. And he says he was treated that way.

“The guards peeking in my cell see a Caucasian male, instantly they think he’s a foreign fighter,” says Vance. He recounts guards yelling at him, “You are Taliban. You are al-Qaida.”

Vance says the charges against him were false and mirror exactly the allegations he had been making against his own company to the FBI.

“I’m basically saying to them: ‘What are you talking about? I’ve been telling you for seven months now that this stuff is going on. You’re detaining me but not the actual people that are doing it!'”

A military panel, which reviews charges against detainees, eventually questioned Vance and Ertel. Both men were given a document that said, “You do not have the right to legal counsel.” The men say they could not see all the evidence used against them and did not have the legal protections typically afforded Americans.

But they were eventually allowed very infrequent phone calls, which were very frustrating for Vance and his fiancée.

“He’s crying, you know, he’s not getting any answers and I’m not able to help him,” says Schwarz. “And he’s not able to help himself.”

The military cleared Ertel and released him after more than a month in prison. But Vance stayed locked up.

At that point, prohibited from keeping notes, he began secretly scribbling diary entries and storing them in his military-issued Bible, whenever he had access to a pen.

The military now acknowledges that it took three weeks just to contact the FBI and confirm Vance was an informant. But even after that, Vance was held for another two months. In all, he was imprisoned for 97 days before being cleared of any wrongdoing and released.

“I looked like hell, completely emaciated, you know — beard, shaggy, dirty,” remembers Vance. “They showered me, shaved me, cleaned me up and dumped me at Baghdad International Airport like it never happened.

Throughout the ordeal, the U.S. military said it thought Vance was helping the insurgents. Wasn’t that a reasonable basis to hold and interrogate him?

“They could have investigated the true facts, found out exactly what was happening,” says Vance. “What doesn’t need to happen is throw people in a cell, we’ll figure out the answers later. That’s not the way to do things.”

Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel have now filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and Donald Rumsfeld, who was secretary of defense when they were detained. It is generally very difficult to sue the government, but experts say this case may be different because Vance and Ertel are American citizens; they were civilians held by the U.S. military; and they were detained for such a long time.

Military officials would not comment, but a spokeswoman previously has said the men were treated fairly and humanely. The FBI also declined to comment, as did officials at SGS. The company’s name has changed, but it’s still doing business in Iraq. Neither the company, nor its executives, has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Vance says he hopes the lawsuit will reveal why the military held him so long, and why he was denied the legal protections guaranteed American citizens.

“This is just another step of our Constitution slowly being whittled away,” says Vance when asked why with all the tragedies and injustice in Iraq anyone should care about his story. “It’s basic fundamental rights of our founding fathers.”


Bin Laden may have arranged family’s US exit: FBI docs
June 20, 2007

Osama bin Laden may have chartered a plane that carried his family members and Saudi nationals out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI documents released Wednesday.

The papers, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, were made public by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates government corruption.

One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States.

“The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden,” according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

The flight made stops in Orlando, Florida; Washington, DC; and Boston, Massachusetts and eventually left its passengers in Paris the following day.

In all, the documents detail six flights between September 14 and September 24 that evacuated Saudi nationals and bin Laden family members, Judicial Watch said in a statement.

“Incredibly, not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value,” Judicial Watch said.

“These documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights.

“For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight … on another document the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 to 22 passengers on the same flight.”

Asked about the documents’ assertion that either bin Laden or the Saudi royals ordered the flight, an FBI spokesman said the information was inaccurate.

“There is no new information here. Osama bin Laden did not charter a flight out of the US,” FBI special agent Richard Kolko said.

“This is just an inflammatory headline by Judicial Watch to catch people’s attention. This was thoroughly investigated by the FBI.”

Kolko pointed to the 9-11 Commission Report, which was the book-length result of an official probe into the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“No political intervention was found. And most important, the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals that left on chartered flights. This is all available in the report,” Kolko said.

On the issue of flights of Saudi nationals leaving the United States, the 9-11 report said: “We found no evidence of political intervention” to facilitate the departure of Saudi nationals.

The commission also said: “Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed on these flights.”

Meredith Diliberto, an attorney with Judicial Watch, said that her group had seen a first version of the documents in 2005, although the FBI had heavily redacted the texts to black out names, including all references to bin Laden.

Nevertheless, unedited footnotes in the texts allowed lawyers to determine that bin Laden’s name had been redacted. They pressed the issue in court and in November 2006, the FBI was ordered to re-release the documents.

Diliberto said mention that “either” bin Laden or Saudi royals had chartered the flight “really threw us for a loop.”

“When you combine that with some of the family members not being interviewed, we found it very disturbing.”


How Low Can Bush Go?
President Bush registers the lowest approval rating of his presidency—making him the least popular president since Nixon
June 21, 2007
By Marcus Mabry

In 19 months, George W. Bush will leave the White House for the last time. The latest NEWSWEEK Poll suggests that he faces a steep climb if he hopes to coax the country back to his side before he goes. In the new poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday nights, President Bush’s approval rating has reached a record low. Only 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job the 43rd president is doing; while, a record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans.

The new numbers—a 2 point drop from the last NEWSWEEK Poll at the beginning of May—are statistically unchanged, given the poll’s 4 point margin of error. But the 26 percent rating puts Bush lower than Jimmy Carter, who sunk to his nadir of 28 percent in a Gallup poll in June 1979. In fact, the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon. Nixon’s approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in.

The war in Iraq continues to drag Bush down. A record 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush has done handling Iraq. Despite “the surge” in U.S. forces into Baghdad and Iraq’s western Anbar province, a record-low 23 percent of Americans approve of the president’s actions in Iraq, down 5 points since the end of March.

But the White House cannot pin his rating on the war alone. Bush scores record or near record lows on every major issue: from the economy (34 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove) to health care (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) to immigration (23 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove). And—in the worst news, perhaps, for the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed Bush in 2008—50 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of terrorism and homeland security. Only 43 percent approve, on an issue that has been the GOP’s trump card in national elections since 9/11.

If there is any good news for Bush and the Republicans in the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, it’s that the Democratic-led Congress fares even worse than the president. Only 25 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

In the scariest news for the Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination in 2008, even rank-and-file Democrats are unhappy with Congress, which is narrowly controlled by their party. Only 27 percent of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing, a statistically insignificant difference from the 25 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of independents who approve of Congress.

Overall, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, including 60 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents. Apparently, voters aren’t happy with anyone in Washington these days.


"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical." – “president” George W. Bush, who vetoed Wednesday a bill that would have eased restraints on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, June 20, 2007. i have one word to say in response: IRAQ.

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blurdge

Anything is their carbonated soda which comes in six flavors: Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer. Whatever is non-carbonated teas that come in Ice Lemon, Peach, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape, Apple, and Chrysanthemum Tea flavors, but the cans aren’t labeled beyond the names of ‘Anything’ and ‘Whatever’, so you truly don’t have a clue which flavor you are getting beforehand.

whatever… 8/

there are more bizarre drinks from japan including kimchee drink and mother’s milk.


Genuine Windows is Ubuntu

blurdge

Can cyborg moths bring down terrorists?
A moth which has a computer chip implanted in it while in the cocoon will enable soldiers to spy on insurgents, the US military hopes
May 24, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not too distant future, a moth will take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth’s entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a “reliable tissue-machine interface.”

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts – known from science fiction as ‘cyborgs’ – has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the research and development arm of the US Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is involved with the research, said that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of US military research, and that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

“This is going to happen,” said Mr Brooks. “It’s not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply.”

“Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places,” he continued. “A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and ‘grown’ inside it.

“Once the moth hatches, machine learning is used to control it.”

Mr Brooks, who has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and whose company iRobot already supplies the US military with robots that defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents, said that the military would be increasingly reliant on ‘semi-autonomous’ devices, including ones which could fire.

“The DoD has said it wants one third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there’s no doubt their things will become weaponised, so the question comes: should they given targeting authority?

“The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn’t, but perhaps it’s time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use.”

Debates such as those over stem cell research would “pale in comparison” to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures – including humans – and machines, Mr Brooks, told an audience at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.

“Biological engineering is coming. There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people’s retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we’re going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes.

“There’s going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just? well, there’s going to be a lot of moral debates,” he said.

Another robot developed as part of the US military’s ‘Future Combat Systems’ program was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced ‘sug-vee’) which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment, Mr Brooks said.

The 13.6kg device, which measures less than a metre squared and can survive a drop of 10m onto concrete, has a small ‘head’ with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called ‘Red Owl’ which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

“It’s designed to be the troop’s eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too,” Mr Brooks said.