Is Google Evil?
By Adam L. Penenberg
October 10, 2006

Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two former Stanford geeks who founded the company that has become synonymous with Internet searching, and you’ll find more than a million entries each. But amid the inevitable dump of press clippings, corporate bios, and conference appearances, there’s very little about Page’s and Brin’s personal lives; it’s as if the pair had known all along that Google would change the way we acquire information, and had carefully insulated their lives—putting their homes under other people’s names, choosing unlisted numbers, abstaining from posting anything personal on web pages.

That obsession with privacy may explain Google’s puzzling reaction last year, when Elinor Mills, a reporter with the tech news service cnet, ran a search on Google ceo Eric Schmidt and published the results: Schmidt lived with his wife in Atherton, California, was worth about $1.5 billion, had dumped about $140 million in Google shares that year, was an amateur pilot, and had been to the Burning Man festival. Google threw a fit, claimed that the information was a security threat, and announced it was blacklisting cnet’s reporters for a year. (The company eventually backed down.) It was a peculiar response, especially given that the information Mills published was far less intimate than the details easily found online on every one of us. But then, this is something of a pattern with Google: When it comes to information, it knows what’s best.

From the start, Google’s informal motto has been “Don’t Be Evil,” and the company earned cred early on by going toe-to-toe with Microsoft over desktop software and other issues. But make no mistake. Faced with doing the right thing or doing what is in its best interests, Google has almost always chosen expediency. In 2002, it removed links to an anti-Scientology site after the Church of Scientology claimed copyright infringement. Scores of website operators have complained that Google pulls ads if it discovers words on a page that it apparently has flagged, although it will not say what those words are. In September, Google handed over the records of some users of its social-networking service, Orkut, to the Brazilian government, which was investigating alleged racist, homophobic, and pornographic content.

Google’s stated mission may be to provide “unbiased, accurate, and free access to information,” but that didn’t stop it from censoring its Chinese search engine to gain access to a lucrative market (prompting Bill Gates to crack that perhaps the motto should be “Do Less Evil”). Now that the company is publicly traded, it has a legal responsibility to its shareholders and bottom line that overrides any higher calling.

So the question is not whether Google will always do the right thing—it hasn’t, and it won’t. It’s whether Google, with its insatiable thirst for your personal data, has become the greatest threat to privacy ever known, a vast informational honey pot that attracts hackers, crackers, online thieves, and—perhaps most worrisome of all—a government intent on finding convenient ways to spy on its own citizenry.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to worry about such a threat. “I always thought it was fertile ground for the government to snoop,” ceo Schmidt told a search engine conference in San Jose, California, in August. While Google earned praise from civil libertarians earlier this year when it resisted a Justice Department subpoena for millions of search queries in connection with a child pornography case, don’t expect it will stand up to the government every time: On its website, Google asserts that it “does comply with valid legal process, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas seeking personal information.”

What’s at stake? Over the years, Google has collected a staggering amount of data, and the company cheerfully admits that in nine years of operation, it has never knowingly erased a single search query. It’s the biggest data pack rat west of the nsa, and for good reason: 99 percent of its revenue comes from selling ads that are specifically targeted to a user’s interests. “Google’s entire value proposition is to figure out what people want,” says Eric Goldman, a professor at Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara School of Law and director of the High Tech Law Institute. “But to read our minds, they need to know a lot about us.”

Every search engine gathers information about its users—primarily by sending us “cookies,” or text files that track our online movements. Most cookies expire within a few months or years. Google’s, though, don’t expire until 2038. Until then, when you use the company’s search engine or visit any of myriad affiliated sites, it will record what you search for and when, which links you click on, which ads you access. Google’s cookies can’t identify you by name, but they log your computer’s IP address; by way of metaphor, Google doesn’t have your driver’s license number, but it knows the license plate number of the car you are driving. And search queries are windows into our souls, as 658,000 aol users learned when their search profiles were mistakenly posted on the Internet: Would user 1997374 have searched for information on better erections or cunnilingus if he’d known that aol was recording every keystroke? Would user 22155378 have keyed in “marijuana detox” over and over knowing someone could play it all back for the world to see? If you’ve ever been seized by a morbid curiosity after a night of hard drinking, a search engine knows—and chances are it’s Google, which owns roughly half of the entire search market and processes more than 3 billion queries a month.

And Google knows far more than that. If you are a Gmail user, Google stashes copies of every email you send and receive. If you use any of its other products—Google Maps, Froogle, Google Book Search, Google Earth, Google Scholar, Talk, Images, Video, and News—it will keep track of which directions you seek, which products you shop for, which phrases you research in a book, which satellite photos and news stories you view, and on and on. Served up à la carte, this is probably no big deal. Many websites stow snippets of your data. The problem is that there’s nothing to prevent Google from combining all of this information to create detailed dossiers on its customers, something the company admits is possible in principle. Soon Google may even be able to keep track of users in the real world: Its latest move is into free wifi, which will require it to know your whereabouts (i.e., which router you are closest to).

Google insists that it uses individual data only to provide targeted advertising. But history shows that information seldom remains limited to the purpose for which it was collected. Accordingly, some privacy advocates suggest that Google and other search companies should stop hoarding user queries altogether: Internet searches, argues Lillie Coney of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, are part of your protected personal space just like your physical home. In February, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to this effect, but Republicans have kept it stalled in committee. Google, which only recently retained a lobbying firm in Washington, is among the tech companies fighting the measure.

When I first contacted Google for this story, a company publicist insisted I provide a list of detailed questions, in writing; when I said that I had a problem with a source dictating the terms for an interview, he claimed that everyone who covers Google—including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal—submits advance questions. (A Times spokeswoman told me the paper sees no ethical problems with such a procedure, though individual reporters’ decisions may vary; an editor in charge of editorial standards at the Journal said the same thing.) The Google flack assured me that this was so he could find the best person for me to talk to—more information for Google, so that Google could better serve me.

Eventually he agreed to put me in touch, sans scripted questions, with Nicole Wong, Google’s associate corporate counsel. I asked her if the company had ever been subpoenaed for user records, and whether it had complied. She said yes, but wouldn’t comment on how many times. Google’s website says that as a matter of policy the company does “not publicly discuss the nature, number or specifics of law enforcement requests.”

So can you trust Google only as far as you can trust the Bush administration? “I don’t know,” Wong replied. “I’ve never been asked that question before.”

Laptops give up their secrets to U.S. customs agents
By Joe Sharkey
October 24, 2006

NEW YORK A lot of business travelers are walking around with laptops that contain private corporate information that their employers really do not want outsiders to see.

Until recently, their biggest concern was that someone might steal the laptop. But now there’s a new worry – that the laptop will be seized or its contents scrutinized at U.S. customs and immigration checkpoints upon entering the United States from abroad.

Although much of the evidence for the confiscations remains anecdotal, it’s a hot topic this week among more than a thousand corporate travel managers and travel industry officials meeting in Barcelona at a conference of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Last week, an informal survey by the association, which has about 2,500 members worldwide, indicated that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers’ laptops and even confiscate laptops for a period of time, without giving a reason.

“One member who responded to our survey said she has been waiting for a year to get her laptop and its contents back,” said Susan Gurley, the group’s executive director. “She said it was randomly seized. And since she hasn’t been arrested, I assume she was just a regular business traveler, not a criminal.”

Appeals are under way in some cases, but the law is clear. “They don’t need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law,” said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients. “They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations.”

In some cases, random inspections of laptops have yielded evidence of possession of child pornography. Laptops may be scrutinized and subject to a “forensic analysis” under the so-called border search exemption, which allows searches of people entering the United States and their possessions “without probable cause, reasonable suspicion or a warrant,” a federal court ruled in July. In that case, the hard drive of a man’s laptop was found to contain images of child pornography.

No one is defending criminal possession of child pornography, or even suggesting that the government has nefarious intent in conducting random searches of a traveler’s laptop, Gurley said.

“But it appears, from information we have, that agents have a lot of discretion in doing these searches, and that there’s a whole spectrum of reasons for doing them,” she added.

The association is asking the government for better guidelines so corporate policies on traveling with proprietary information can be re-evaluated. It is also asking whether corporations need to reduce the proprietary data that travelers carry.

“We need to be able to better inform our business travelers what the processes are if their laptops and data are seized – what happens to it, how do you get it back,” Gurley said.

She added: “The issue is what happens to the proprietary business information that might be on a laptop. Is information copied? Is it returned? We understand that the U.S. government needs to protect its borders. But we want to have transparent information so business travelers know what to do. Should they leave business proprietary information at home?”

Besides the possibility for misuse of proprietary information, travel executives are also concerned that a seized computer, and the information it holds, becomes unavailable to its user for a time. One remedy some companies are considering is telling travelers returning to the United States with critical information on their laptop hard drives to encrypt the data and e-mail it to themselves, which at least preserves access to the information, although it does not guard its privacy.

In one recent case in California, a federal court went against the trend, ruling that laptop searches were a serious invasion of privacy.

“People keep all sorts of personal information on computers,” the court ruling said, citing diaries, personal letters, financial records, lawyers’ confidential client information and reporters’ notes on confidential sources.

That court ruled, in that specific case, that “the correct standard requires that any border search of the information stored on a person’s electronic storage device be based, at a minimum, on a reasonable suspicion.”

In its informal survey last week, the association also found that 87 percent of its members would be less likely to carry confidential business or personal information on international trips now that they were aware of how easily laptop contents could be searched.

“We are telling our members that they should prepare for the eventuality that this could happen, and they have to think more about how they handle proprietary information,” Gurley said. “Potentially, this is going to have a real effect on how international business is conducted.”

Glitches cited in early voting
Early voters are urged to cast their ballots with care following scattered reports of problems with heavily used machines.
October 28, 2006

After a week of early voting, a handful of glitches with electronic voting machines have drawn the ire of voters, reassurances from elections supervisors — and a caution against the careless casting of ballots.

Several South Florida voters say the choices they touched on the electronic screens were not the ones that appeared on the review screen — the final voting step.

Election officials say they aren’t aware of any serious voting issues. But in Broward County, for example, they don’t know how widespread the machine problems are because there’s no process for poll workers to quickly report minor issues and no central database of machine problems.

In Miami-Dade, incidents are logged and reported daily and recorded in a central database. Problem machines are shut down.

“In the past, Miami-Dade County would send someone to correct the machine on site,” said Lester Sola, county supervisor of elections. Now, he said, “We close the machine down and put a seal on it.”

Debra A. Reed voted with her boss on Wednesday at African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. Her vote went smoothly, but boss Gary Rudolf called her over to look at what was happening on his machine. He touched the screen for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, a Democrat, but the review screen repeatedly registered the Republican, Charlie Crist.

That’s exactly the kind of problem that sends conspiracy theorists into high gear — especially in South Florida, where a history of problems at the polls have made voters particularly skittish.

A poll worker then helped Rudolf, but it took three tries to get it right, Reed said.

“I’m shocked because I really want . . . to trust that the issues with irregularities with voting machines have been resolved,” said Reed, a paralegal. “It worries me because the races are so close.”

Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it’s not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot — essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.

“It is resolved right there at the early-voting site,” Cooney said.

Broward poll workers keep a log of all maintenance done on machines at each site. But the Supervisor of Elections office doesn’t see that log until the early voting period ends. And a machine isn’t taken out of service unless the poll clerk decides it’s a chronic poor performer that can’t be fixed.

Cooney said no machines have been removed during early voting, and she is not aware of any serious problems.

In Miami-Dade, two machines have been taken out of service during early voting. No votes were lost, Sola said.

Joan Marek, 60, a Democrat from Hollywood, was also stunned to see Charlie Crist on her ballot review page after voting on Thursday. “Am I on the voting screen again?” she wondered. “Well, this is too weird.”

Marek corrected her ballot and alerted poll workers at the Hollywood satellite courthouse, who she said told her they’d had previous problems with the same machine.

Poll workers did some work on her machine when she finished voting, Marek said. But no report was made to the Supervisor of Elections office and the machine was not removed, Cooney said.

Workers at the Hollywood poll said there had been no voting problems on Friday.

Mauricio Raponi wanted to vote for Democrats across the board at the Lemon City Library in Miami on Thursday. But each time he hit the button next to the candidate, the Republican choice showed up. Raponi, 53, persevered until the machine worked. Then he alerted a poll worker.

Are we the Mongols of the Information Age?
The future of U.S. power rests in its Industrial Age military adapting to decentralized adversaries.
By Max Boot
October 29, 2006

GREAT POWERS cease to be great for many reasons. In addition to the causes frequently debated — economics, culture, disease, geography — there is an overarching trend. Over the last 500 years, the fate of nations has been increasingly tied to their success, or lack thereof, in harnessing revolutions in military affairs.

These are periods of momentous change when new technologies combine with new doctrines and new forms of organization to transform not only the face of battle but also the nature of the state and of the international system. Because we are in the middle of the fourth major revolution since 1500 — the Information Revolution — it is important to grasp the nature and consequences of these upheavals.

Until the 15th century, the mightiest military forces belonged to the Mongols. But strong as they were in the days of bows and arrows, the Mongols could not keep pace with the spread of gunpowder weapons and the rise of centralized governments that used them. They fell behind, and Europe surged to the forefront. In 1450, Europeans controlled just 15% of the world’s surface. By 1914 — following not only the Gunpowder Revolution but also the first Industrial Revolution — their domain had swollen to an astounding 84% of the globe.

Not all European states were equal, of course. Some early leaders in gunpowder technology — for instance, Spain and Portugal — were also-rans when industrialization began in the 18th century. At least Spain and Portugal managed to maintain their independence. Numerous others — from Poland to the Italian city-states — were not so lucky. They endured prolonged occupation by foreigners more skilled than they were at new forms of warfare.

The big winners of the Gunpowder Revolution (from roughly 1500 to 1700) were the northern European states, from Britain to Russia. But the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Ottomans did not survive the cataclysmic conflict of the first Industrial Age — World War I — and their empires collapsed, even as Germany and Japan were catapulting themselves into the upper rank of nation-states largely through their growing military expertise. World War II — the major conflict of the second Industrial Revolution, defined by the internal combustion engine, airplane and radio — further shook up the international balance of power.

The conventional assumption is that the outcome of World War II was virtually foreordained: The Allies won because they were bigger and richer than the Axis. There is some truth to this. But by 1942, Germany, Italy and Japan controlled most of the natural resources of East Asia and Europe. This would have allowed them to match the Allies if they had been more adept at marshaling their military and economic power. The Soviet Union and the United States — the biggest beneficiaries of the second Industrial Revolution — did a better job not just in managing wartime production. They also grabbed the lead in the use of such key weapons as the tank (the Soviet Union) and the long-range bomber and aircraft carrier (the U.S.). There are many reasons why once-dominant powers such as France and Britain had become second-tier ones by 1945, but central among them was their failure to exploit advances in weaponry during the inter-war years.

The Information Revolution of the late 20th century upset the seemingly stable postwar order. The Soviet Union had no Silicon Valley and could not compete with the United States in incorporating the computer into its economic or military spheres. U.S. prowess at waging war in the Information Age was showcased in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which, along with the collapse of the Soviet empire, left the United States standing alone as a global hegemon.

But if history teaches any lesson, it is that no military lead is ever safe. Challengers will always find a way to copy or buy the best weapons systems or develop tactics that will offset their effect. Our most formidable enemies, Al Qaeda and its ilk, have done both. They are using relatively simple information technology — the Internet, satellite television, cellphones — to organize a global insurgency. By using such weapons as hijacked airliners and bombs detonated by garage-door openers, they are finding cracks in our defenses.

We have an insurmountable advantage in high-end military hardware. No other state is building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, stealth fighters or unmanned aerial vehicles. In fact, we spend more on the development and testing of new weapons — $71 billion this year — than any other country spends on its entire defense. But all that spending produces weapons systems that aren’t much good for pacifying Baghdad or Kandahar.

Technology isn’t irrelevant to the global war on terror. We can use powerful surveillance systems to break up terrorist plots. And “smart bombs” can be invaluable for dealing with the perpetrators. But our enemies can stymie multibillion-dollar spy platforms by using couriers instead of satellite phones, which helps explain why Osama bin Laden remains on the loose.

New revolutions in military affairs, possibly centered on biotechnology and cyber-war, promise to give smaller states or sub-state actors more destructive capacity. Imagine the havoc that could be caused by a genetically engineered contagion combining the worst properties of, say, smallpox and the Ebola virus. Or imagine how much damage our enemies could inflict by using computer viruses — or directed-energy weapons — to immobilize critical bits of our civilian or military computer networks. In theory, it’s possible to crash stock markets, send airliners plowing into the ground and blind our most advanced weapons systems.

The most threatening weapon of all harks back to an earlier military revolution. Nuclear bombs haven’t been used since 1945, but given their proliferation around the world, it will only be a matter of time. Our scientific sophistication gives us a reasonable chance of shooting down a nuclear-tipped missile, but a nuclear suitcase smuggled into the U.S. would be much harder to detect.

To stop such stealthy threats, we need to get much better at human intelligence, counterinsurgency, information operations and related disciplines. We need more speakers of Arabic and Pashto, more experts who understand tribal relations in Iraq’s Anbar province and Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier province, more diplomats who can win over audiences on Al Jazeera. And we need to set them loose without having to worry about a burdensome bureaucracy micromanaging their every move.

It may sound melodramatic, but the future of U.S. power rests on our ability to remake a government still structured for Industrial Age warfare to do battle with decentralized adversaries in the Information Age. After all, aren’t we the mightiest, richest nation in history? How could our hegemony possibly be endangered? That’s what previous superpowers thought too. But their dominance lasted only until they missed a revolutionary turn in military technology and tactics.


Depleted Uranium Death Toll among US War Veterans Tops 11,000
Nationwide Media Blackout Keeps U.S. Public Ignorant About This Important Story
by James P. Tucker Jr.
October 29, 2006

The death toll from the highly toxic weapons component known as depleted uranium (DU) has reached 11,000 soldiers and the growing scandal may be the reason behind Anthony Principi’s departure as secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.

This view was expressed by Arthur Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter.

“The real reason for Mr. Principi’s departure was really never given,” Bernklau said. “However, a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the U.S. military.”

The “malady [from DU] that thousands of our military have suffered and died from has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. . . . The terrible truth is now being revealed,” Bernklau said.

Of the 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are now dead, he said. By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. More than a decade later, more than half (56 percent) who served in Gulf War I have permanent medical problems. The disability rate for veterans of the world wars of the last century was 5 percent, rising to 10 percent in Vietnam.

“The VA secretary was aware of this fact as far back as 2000,” Bernklau said. “He and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret’s report, it is far too big to hide or to cover up.”

Terry Johnson, public affairs specialist at the VA, recently reported that veterans of both Persian Gulf wars now on disability total 518,739, Bernklau said.

“The long-term effect of DU is a virtual death sentence,” Bernklau said. “Marion Fulk, a nuclear chemist, who retired from the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, and was also involved in the Manhattan Project, interprets the new and rapid malignancies in the soldiers [from the second war] as ‘spectacular’—and a matter of concern.’ ”

While this important story appeared in a Washington newspaper and the wire services, it did not receive national exposure—a compelling sign that the American public is being kept in the dark about the terrible effects of this toxic weapon. (Veterans for Constitutional Law can be reached at (516) 474-4261.)


i just got home from “Dempster Diving”. it was stuart dempster’s 70th birthday and “they” (whoever that is) gave him a birthday party at town hall. in spite of the fact that i took lessons from dennis smith (who i had originally heard about when i was 10 years old), and not stuart, and only attended one of stuart’s master classes (i was somewhat of a trombone snob back then, and stuart’s style of teaching was too “bizarre” for me), he’s been a mentor of sorts for me for a long time. it was stuart who first got “legal” access to the fort worden cistern – i had been in there several times on a “less-than-legal” basis before then and i’ve played in all of the other underground bunkers at fort worden. i was part of a trombone choir that played happy birthday at the beginning, and four pieces in the middle. it was really interesting because there were a whole lot of people who knew me 25-30 years ago, and a few people i know from places like the moisture festival and drunk puppet night. greg powers was the motivating force behind the trombone choir, which turned out to be 25 trombones. he’s a friend of mine who played in the seattle youth symphony and the floating world circus band with me way back when, who got a fulbright fellowship to go to india and study hindustani music played on the trombone while i was pulling weeds at a community farm in bellingham, about the time ezra was born… which has always made me think that i could probably have gotten a fulbright fellowship as well, if i knew how to do it. also part of the degenerate art ensemble performed, as well as the didgeri-dudes, the seattle harmonic choir, pauline oliveros, and wiliam o. smith.


what the fuck? every time i click “Update Journal”, it logs me out before taking me to the update page… screwy!

the only way i have to change my avatar is to post while logged out, entering my username and password at the same time as the posting, and then going back and editing the post… 8/


Iraqis Were Better Off Under Saddam, Says Former Weapons Inspector
October 25, 2006

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Wednesday described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a “pure failure” that had left the country worse off than under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.

In unusually harsh comments to Danish newspaper Politiken, the diplomatic Swede said the U.S. government had ended up in a situation in which neither staying nor leaving Iraq were good options.

“Iraq is a pure failure,” Blix was quoted as saying. “If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn’t seem that the United States can help to stabilize the situation by staying there.”

War-related violence in Iraq has grown worse with dozens of civilians, government officials and police and security forces being killed every day. At least 83 American soldiers have been killed in October – the highest monthly toll this year.

Blix said the situation would have been better if the war had not taken place.

“Saddam would still have been sitting in office. OK, that is negative and it would not have been joyful for the Iraqi people. But what we have gotten is undoubtedly worse,” he was quoted as saying.

Blix led the UN inspectors that searched for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He came under heavy fire from Washington when he urged U.S. President George W. Bush to allow the weapons inspectors and the IAEA to continue their work as a way to stave off a war.

Ultimately a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and no weapons of mass destruction were found.


I escaped from the Dungeon of Przxqgl!

I killed Techieguru the rat, Swaz the troll, Theoldanarchist the floating eye, Adityanath the arch-demon, Hexar Le Saipe the minotaur and Frumiousb the dragon.

I looted a Figurine of Madhumangala, the Armour of Utopia, the Wand of Reason, a Figurine of Crash634, the Dagger of Monism, the Armour of Xydexx, the Armour of Timmcveigh, the Sword of Anandamayi Ma and 212 gold pieces.

Score: 312

Explore the Dungeon of Przxqgl and try to beat this score,
or enter your username to generate and explore your own dungeon…



the interview went fine, and even though i hit myself in the head with a flaming poi, i didn’t do any significant damage apart from what is already there, and the fact that i was swinging fire around my head impressed them no end, whether i had a brain injury or not. the lady reporter asked me if i could teach her how to do it, but as soon as i lit up she withdrew her application. it will get published either on saturday or next wednesday.


about a year ago, i was contacted by a guy in california about becoming a distributor for the Rudra Centre in india. he said the rudra centre doesn’t have any distributors in this area, so would hybrid elephant be interested in taking on the role. of course, i was, and i immediately added a page of rudraksha malas and other jewelry to the hybrid elephant pages, and bought 20 8mm malas with the expressed understanding that i would be ordering more product as i got orders.

earlier this month, i actually got my first order for something other than a rudraksha mala. i sent it in, and there was the previously reported SNAFU concerning it, which got worse before it got better, but was finally resolved last week. as a part of the afore mentioned SNAFU, i called the guy in california again, and he said that the problem was because i had ordered from the web site, and next time i should call him before ordering from the web site, because he can fill my orders much more quickly, and then i won’t have to pay the surcharge for ordering from india.

so, a few days ago, i decided that i would consider adding more of the rudra centre’s product, so i called the guy in california again. this time he said that i would have to order from the web site, and go through the home office in india, because he couldn’t fulfill my orders (!?!?!?). when i asked him why he told me that he could – last week – he said that he hadn’t said that, that he would never say that, and ms. neeta in the home office in india was the only person who could fill orders. so i wrote to ms. neeta. she didn’t respond (and yes, i know that they’re on the other side of the world, and 9:00 am my time is 4:00 pm tomorrow, or something like that, their time), so i called the guy in california again and he said that he would send ms. neeta a message as well. then he called me back, and said that ms. neeta had not received any email from me at all, and dictated exactly what i should send her, so that she would recognise it. that did the trick, and so i sent her a message that said that i had been a distributor for almost a year and i still wasn’t listed on their web site. she wrote back and said that i hadn’t ordered anything in over a year and my distributorship needed to be “reexamined”.

so i went to their web site again, and discovered that they actually have a distributorship agreement, which i have never seen. so i called the guy in california again, and he said that he doesn’t know anything about a “distributorship agreement”, he doesn’t have a “distributorship agreement”, and he’s the american representative for the company, and that ms. neeta would know everything about it, because she’s the president of the company. so i wrote to ms. neeta again, and asked her about this “distributorship agreement”, and she said that to be a distributor, i would have to generate orders of $500 or more per month, and i had only generated orders for less than $100 in the past year…

fortunately, i didn’t do what my brain-injured, massively-depressed first inclination was, which was to write back and say something along the lines of “well, in that case, i’ll find someone who does want to do business with me, like that guy who wrote to me, asking if i wanted to be a distributor for his (bogus) rudraksha business, which is right down the street from you in mumbai” (even though i’m fairly sure, from independent research, that this other guy probably sells fake rudrakshas, i’m sure he must be major competition for the rudra centre), but at the same time, now i don’t know whether i am a distributor or not, and i’m not sure if i’m “allowed” to list their products on my web site, and even if i am, i’m not sure whether i really want to or not any longer. naturally, i haven’t heard anything from the guy in california, who i found out (once again, from my own research) is “a ‘sidha®‘ trained in TM meditation”, which i know to be the worst kind of bogus – and the fact that he is a “trained sidha®” means that he must be at least partially aware of how bogus it really is, especially if “he has deep knowledge on Hindu religion and has read various scriptures” as the web page says he does…


a while ago, someone wrote to cirquechat asking for a person who lives in or near federal way to interview for the federal way mirror, and, as i live “in or near” federal way, i volunteered. they’re coming by today at 5:30. i’ve gone out and bought a quart of lighter fluid and a fire extinguisher, so that they can take pictures of me being a BBWP, i’ve gotten rid of the wasp nest that was in the rhododendron bush, and mowed the dandelions in the front yard, so that they have a place to take the pictures that won’t cause a riot when i light up. i don’t plan on inviting them into the house, and if they want to go somewhere, there’s a park up the street that we can go to, or there’s a coffee shop which is actually in federal way, which is not too far from here. they wanted a demonstration of my flaming tuba, but, unfortunately, the flaming tuba is still in the planning stages, and doesn’t actually exist in reality yet. they also wanted an invite to trolloween, and i didn’t give them one at first, but then i talked to macque and he said that it was okay if they come as long as they don’t actually publish the story until after trolloween is over, so i’ll probably be inviting them tonight, as long as they promise to stick to macque’s request.


When they took the fourth amendment,
     I was quiet because I didn’t deal drugs.
When they took the sixth amendment,
     I was quiet because I was innocent.
When they took the second amendment,
     I was quiet because I didn’t own a gun.
Now they’ve taken the first amendment,
     and I can say nothing about it.

this is from australia, but even so, it probably won’t be long before it starts taking hold here as well… 8/

Criminal link holds back fingerprint acceptance
By Munir Kotadia
20 October 2006

Fingerprinting technology is the most reliable and cost effective biometric authentication technology but it’s not being deployed on a wide scale because people still imagine that criminals are the only ones that have to surrender their fingerprints, according to Sagem.

Users are resisting the switch to fingerprint authentication technologies because they still see the process of giving a fingerprint as somehow related to being caught by the police, according to Gilles Novel, manager for secure terminals and transactions at Sagem Australasia.

“We have to shift mentality away from where people are scared [of giving their fingerprints],” Novel told ZDNet Australia. “The problem we have faced is that people think ‘if I enrol my fingerprint there has to be, one way or the other, a link to the police’. They think criminal activity instead of their own privacy.”

Novel argues that attitudes are slowly changing — especially as people slowly realise that fingerprints are more reliable than passwords and can help increase, not erode, privacy.

“If you are an employer and someone does the wrong thing on your network, that person can say ‘it wasn’t me — someone has used my password’. But in the case of biometrics, how can you say ‘it wasn’t my finger?’.”

He claimed that fingerprinting is a way of improving privacy because it creates a stronger bond between the person’s body and their identity, which is something that is not possible with EFTPOS-style smartcards and PIN numbers.

“Smartcards are a weak link to your body because they can be loaned, borrowed, given or stolen. There is nothing stopping you going to get some cash from an ATM if you have my card and my PIN. It is a bit more difficult with biometrics,” he said.

He gave an example of a Swiss bank, which does not require the account holder’s identity but needs another way of identifying who is authorised to access the account.

“If you want a secure account in a Swiss bank, they don’t want to know your identity but you might authorise yourself with biometrics. This is because they know it’s secure but they don’t know who you are — that is a concept that reinforces privacy.

“If you interviewed 100 people five or 10 years ago and asked them if they would give their fingerprints for a secure system they would say no. I am sure it has completely changed by now,” added Novel.

In Australia, fingerprinting technology was being adopted by Centrelink, the government’s nationwide human services agency. Last year, the organisation decided to ditch passwords in favour of a fingerprint authentication system that would require it to purchase and deploy 31,000 finger scanners. However, the plan was scrapped earlier this year.


Bush: ‘We’ve Never Been Stay The Course’
October 22, 2006

During an interview today on ABC’s This Week, President Bush tried to distance himself from what has been his core strategy in Iraq for the last three years. George Stephanopoulos asked about James Baker’s plan to develop a strategy for Iraq that is “between ’stay the course’ and ‘cut and run.’”

Bush responded, ‘We’ve never been stay the course, George!’ Watch it:

Bush is wrong:

BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]

BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course. [12/15/03]

BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course. [4/13/04]

BUSH: And that’s why we’re going to stay the course in Iraq. And that’s why when we say something in Iraq, we’re going to do it. [4/16/04]

BUSH: And so we’ve got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]

also check out this press briefing by scott mclelland, where he outlined the white house policy on “staying the course”…

Bush uses gay rights flag as backdrop for ABC interview

As some of our commenters have noted, everything this White House does is scripted. There is simply no way that Bush did this interview without his people intentionally choosing to have a rainbow flag right behind his head, framing the entire shot. Look at these photos, that flag was clearly meant to be where it is in the frame. The question is why?

Here’s Bush with the rainbow flag behind him:

Bush and Gay Rights Flag

Here’s a close-up of Bush and the flag:

Bush and Gay Rights Flag

And here’s the gay rights flag:

Gay Rights Flag

In all fairness to Bush, it’s possible this isn’t the gay rights flag at all. It may simply be the PACE flag (“Peace” in Italian) used by opponents of the war in Iraq.

Bush and Gay Rights Flag

They’re simply too similar to be anything else. Yes, there is one more row of color in the gay flag vs. Bush’s rainbow flag, but I’ve never seen flags like this other than the gay flag. Normally I’d say this is just a hysterical coincidence. But after the White House defending Secretary of State Condi Rice’s description of a gay couple as married last week – mind you, not only did the White House defend what Rice said, but Rice made the announcement in front of Mrs. Bush – I’m smelling a subliminal rat here.

It’s very difficult to conclude other than someone in the White House has clearly decided to send out the silent code that “gay is okay” right before the election. It is very difficult to believe that all of this is just coincidence.

Then again, it’s not like the Bush administration, including the White House, isn’t full of gays – so perhaps the pink mafia strikes again. (Anyone see George Allen’s staff, or the RNC, doing any last minute decorating on the set before Bush spoke?).


Terrorist Profiling, Version 2.0
By Shane Harris
Oct. 20, 2006

The government’s top intelligence agency is building a computerized system to search very large stores of information for patterns of activity that look like terrorist planning. The system, which is run by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is in the early research phases and is being tested, in part, with government intelligence that may contain information on U.S. citizens and other people inside the country.

It encompasses existing profiling and detection systems, including those that create “suspicion scores” for suspected terrorists by analyzing very large databases of government intelligence, as well as records of individuals’ private communications, financial transactions, and other everyday activities.

The details of the program, called Tangram, are contained in an unclassified document that National Journal obtained from a government contracting Web site. The document, called a “proposer’s information packet,” is a technical description of Tangram written for potential contractors who would help design and test the system. The document was written by officials in the research-and-development section of the national intelligence office. A tangram is an old Chinese puzzle that takes seven geometric shapes — five triangles, a square, and a parallelogram — and rearranges them into different pictures.

In addition to descriptions of Tangram, the document offers a rare and surprisingly candid analysis of intelligence agencies’ fits and starts — and failures — in other efforts to profile terrorists through data mining: Researchers, for example, haven’t moved beyond “guilt-by-association models” that link suspected terrorists to other, potentially innocent people, and then rank the suspects by level of suspicion.

“To date, the predominant approaches have used a guilt-by-association model to derive suspicion scores,” the Tangram document states. “In the cases where we have knowledge of a seed entity [a known person] in an unknown group, we have been very successful at detecting the entire group. However, in the absence of a known seed entity, how do we score a person if nothing is known about their associates? In such an instance, guilt-by-association fails.”

Intelligence and privacy experts who reviewed the document said that it reaffirms their long-held belief that many computerized terrorist-profiling methods are largely ineffective. It also raises significant privacy concerns, because to distinguish terrorists from innocent people, a system that’s as broad as Tangram purports to be would require access to many databases that contain private information about Americans, the experts said, including credit card transactions, communications records, and even Internet purchases.

“There is no other way that they could do this,” said David Holtzman, former chief technology officer of Network Solutions, the company that runs the Internet’s domain-naming system, and author of the book Privacy Lost. “They want to investigate real-time ways of spotting patterns” that might indicate terrorist activity, he said. “Telephone calls, for instance, would be an obvious thing you’d feed into this.”

The Tangram document doesn’t mention privacy protections or a process for monitoring the system’s use to guard against abuse. In an interview, Tim Edgar, the deputy civil-liberties protection officer for the national intelligence director, said that Tangram “is a research-and-development program. We have been assured that it’s not deployed for operational use.”

Asked whether the intelligence used to test Tangram contains information about U.S. persons, defined as U.S. citizens and permanent resident aliens, Edgar said, “It’s not being tested with any data that has unminimized information about U.S. persons in it.” Minimization procedures are used by intelligence agencies to expunge people’s names from official reports and replace them with an anonymous designation, such as U.S. Person No. 1. Tangram is being tested “only with synthetic data or foreign-intelligence data already being used by analysts that meet Defense Department guidelines for handling of U.S. person information,” Edgar said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence “has not funded and is not planning to fund any contracts for the Tangram program using unminimized data with U.S. persons in it,” he said.

Tangram drew skeptical reviews from technology and privacy experts because of its links to Total Information Awareness, a controversial research program started by the Pentagon in 2002. TIA also aimed to detect patterns of terrorist behavior. Congress ended all public funding for the program in 2003, but allowed research to continue through the classified intelligence budget. In February, National Journal revealed that names of component TIA programs were simply changed and transferred to a research-and-development unit principally overseen by the National Security Agency. The unit, now under the control of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, also runs Tangram.

The Tangram document cites several TIA programs — by their new names — as forming the latest phase of research upon which Tangram will build. In a prepared statement, the intelligence director’s office said, “Tangram is addressing the problem that the intelligence community receives vast amounts of data a day and there are a wide variety of algorithms — mathematical procedures — for figuring out what is relevant. Different algorithms serve different purposes, but we believe that combining them will provide us new insights in detecting terrorist plans and activities. The project will allow analysts to mix and match various methods to connect the dots.”

TIA was similarly envisioned as a vast combination of detection methods. In Tangram, “I see the system of systems that is essentially TIA about to be born,” said Tim Sparapani, the legislative counsel on privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union. “TIA was designed to be one unified system,” he said. “This is the vision, I think, made practical.”

Robert Popp, who was the TIA program’s deputy director, also saw parallels to Tangram. “They seem to be doing something very similar in concept,” Popp said. “Taking data, doing all the sense-making and path-finding, and turning it into a form which a decision maker can act upon.”

According to the document, Tangram “takes a systematic view of the [terrorist-detection] process, applying what is now a set of disjointed, cumbersome-to-configure technologies that are difficult for nontechnical users to apply, into a self-configuring, continuously operating intelligence analysis support system.” Tangram will be “aware” of the various patterns, relationships, and contexts expressed in data, and will automatically configure itself to choose the best algorithm for exploiting that data, the document explains. As envisioned, the system “can reason about how best to produce an answer” on its own.

“Conceptually, the approach would be to perform a succession of automated ‘what if’ scenarios that compute the expected value of acquiring additional information,” the document states. The system would, effectively, suggest other questions for the analyst to ask, and perhaps where to look for answers.

Last month, the government awarded three contracts for Tangram research and design totaling almost $12 million. Total funding for the program is approximately $49 million. Two of the firms receiving awards — Booz Allen Hamilton and 21st Century Technologies — were principal contractors on the TIA program. The third company, SRI International, worked on one of TIA’s predecessors, the Genoa program. Spokeswomen for Booz Allen Hamilton and SRI declined to comment for this article. Repeated calls and e-mails to the Austin offices of 21st Century Technologies went unanswered.

The apparent lack of privacy protections in Tangram dismayed some experts. “Given the history of TIA and other programs, one would expect the proponents of a system like this would at least pay lip service to privacy issues,” said David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog. “The absence of that is a bit surprising.”

The TIA program devoted more than $4 million to research aimed at ways to protect privacy while it was sifting databases, and former officials have said that although it was admittedly controversial, TIA was being designed all along with privacy protection and auditable logs to track those who used it. The privacy research, however, was abandoned when the program moved into the classified budget in the NSA.

Administration officials have singled out the importance of new technologies in the war on terrorism. President Bush said that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance and analysis of phone calls and e-mails protects Americans from attack. Gen. Michael Hayden, the former NSA director, said that were such a system in place before the September 11 attacks, “we would have detected some of the 9/11 Al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.”

But the Tangram document presents a more pessimistic assessment of the state of terrorist detection. For instance, researchers want to find ways to distinguish individuals’ innocuous activity from that which might appear normal but is really indicative of terrorist plotting. However, the document states that, in large measure, terrorism researchers “cannot readily distinguish the absolute scale of normal behaviors” either for innocent people or for terrorists.

The ACLU’s Sparapani called that admission “a bombshell,” because the government is acknowledging that current detection systems aren’t sophisticated enough to separate terrorists from everyday people. Other outside experts were troubled that such shortcomings also mean that individuals intent on doing harm could be mistaken for innocent people.

Popp said that attempts to separate terrorists’ activities from those of normal people are perilous. “When you try to capture what is normal behavior, and then determine non-normal, that’s highly intractable,” he said.

Several times, Popp said, TIA researchers discussed how to characterize nonterrorist behavior. “We avoided it. It was too hard. We had no idea how on God’s earth you would characterize and capture normal behavior. We wouldn’t know where to start.” Instead, TIA researchers proposed looking for specific indicators of terrorist planning — people purchasing airline tickets at the last minute with cash, for instance, or other transactions that fit the narrative of an attack.

Current detection techniques have raised the specter of what the Tangram document calls “runaway false detections.” If analysts tie a terrorist suspect to five other individuals, say through phone calls, how can they be certain that these five people constitute a terrorist network and aren’t simply people with whom the suspect has had innocuous, everyday interactions? The document says that research has been conducted on “the sensitivities of guilt-by-association models to runaway false detections.”

Researchers have made other attempts to move beyond the guilt-by-association model, the document states. One technique, an obscure methodology known as “collective inferencing,” in which the suspicion score of an entire network of people is computed at once, has apparently garnered some interest. But “existing techniques are far too simple” for real-world problems, the document acknowledges.

The Tangram document states that gaps in current detection techniques also owe to the difficulty of tracking terrorist behaviors, which are constantly changing. “The underlying assumption of existing approaches is that behaviors are constant,” the authors write. “Yet, behaviors are not constant…. How can we profile dynamic behavior well enough to be able to identify, with more-or-less confidence, entities who want to remain anonymous?” The answer to that question apparently eludes the researchers, who hope that Tangram might provide it.

GOP terrorism ad sparks Democratic furor
October 20, 2006

Republicans took a page from President Johnson’s Cold War-era presidential campaign with an advertisement set to air this weekend called “The Stakes,” which prominently features al Qaeda leaders threatening to kill Americans.

“Just like in the Cold War, the reality is that our nation is at war with an ideology and not a country,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

Democrats, however, have called the commercial, which is reminiscent of Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” ad, a “desperate ploy to once again try to scare voters.”

The advertisement, which is available on the Republican National Committee Web site, is scheduled to run on national news networks Sunday. Republicans are emphasizing national security and terrorism issues in their bid to maintain control of Congress with about two weeks before the November midterms.

The ad features al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking, but the only sound is a ticking clock in the background. The terror leaders’ quotes are posted on the screen and key phrases in the quotes stand alone as the rest of the quote fades out.

In one instance, bin Laden is quoted as saying, “With God’s permission we call on everyone who believes in God … to comply with His will to kill the Americans.” As the text of the quote fades out, “kill the Americans” remains on the screen.

Another bin Laden quote: “They will not come to their senses unless the attacks fall on their heads and … until the battle has moved inside America” — fades out, leaving only “inside America” on the screen.

Meanwhile, footage of terrorists engaged in martial arts and weapons training rolls in the background. One scene shows terrorists traversing monkey bars over fire.

The ticking clock morphs into a heartbeat as the ad comes to a close, and the only spoken words on the commercial announce, "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising." (View "The Stakes" at the RNC Web site)

The ad plays off of Johnson’s powerful “Daisy” ad, which CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider called “the most famous political ad in American history.” Johnson used the ad in his successful re-election bid against Barry Goldwater.

In the “Daisy” ad, a small girl counts to 10 as she picks petals from a flower. When she reaches 10, the camera zooms in on her eye and an ominous voice counts backward from 10 to zero.

When the countdown reaches zero, a nuclear bomb explodes, followed by Johnson speaking.

“These are the stakes to make a world in which all God’s children can live or to go into the dark,” Johnson says on the ad. “We must either love each other or we must die.”

A voice follows Johnson’s, urging viewers to re-elect the Texas Democrat and says, “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

The Democratic National Committee issued a statement saying the new Republican ad was an attempt to distract voters from GOP failures.

“Once again we see that the GOP will truly do and say anything regardless of whether or not it’s true, they are so desperate to hold onto power,” Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney said in a statement. “Clearly Republicans are so afraid of their abysmal record they can’t offer one example of what they’ve done to keep America safe.”

Republicans contend otherwise and say the ad “underscores the high stakes America faces in the global war on terror by using the words of the terrorists themselves as they describe their intention towards the United States,” according to a statement.


Troops With Stress Disorders Being Redeployed
Oct 19, 2006

Army Staff Sgt. Bryce Syverson spent 15 months in Iraq before he was diagnosed by military doctors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sent to the psychiatric unit at Walter Reed Medical Center, CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports.

“It ended up they just took his weapon away from him and said he was non-deployable and couldn’t have a weapon,” says his father, Larry Syverson. “He was on suicide watch in a lockdown.”

That was last August. This August, he was deployed to Ramadi, in the heart of the Sunni triangle — and he had a weapon.

He’s still there. Under pressure to maintain troop levels, military doctors tell CBS News it’s become a “common practice” to recycle soldiers with mental disorders back into combat.

“It’s flat-out not a good idea,” says Dr. John Wilson, an expert in combat trauma.

One study estimates that about 16 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have PTSD. But military officials say they don’t keep tabs on how many troops still fighting have been diagnosed. Most soldiers are never screened, a GAO report finds.

Wilson says the danger of having someone with PTSD at the front lines is that they are at risk themselves and put their units at risk and could break down under the stresses of combat.

“Basically, it’s like your worst day is every day. It gets worse every day,” says Army Specialist Jason Gunn, a decorated soldier.

Gunn was critically injured in Baghdad when the Humvee he was driving hit an IED. His friend was killed in the explosion.

“I blame myself,” Gunn says.

Gunn became depressed and paranoid. Doctors said he was sick, suffering from PTSD. But just four months after the deadly explosion, he was sent back to Iraq.

“The Army sent us an e-mail saying they recognized Jason was suffering from PTSD, but was ‘in his best interest’ if he ‘faced his fears’ and went back to the front,” says Pat Gunn, his mother.

Wilson says this does not make sense “at all.”

“To put someone in that situation and say ‘face your fears’ is contrary to all current medical and scientific knowledge about PTSD,” Wilson says.

Jason Gunn says he thinks he was re-deployed so the military could keep up numbers in the ranks.

Meanwhile, Bryce Syverson is still in Iraq. He sent this e-mail home:

“Head about to explode from the blood swelling inside, the lightning storm that happened inside my head.”

He wrote that it was the anti-depressants that were making him feel bad, so he told his father he may stop taking them.

“Who knows what could happen? There are soldiers depending on him, and other soldiers are expecting Bryce to react,” his father says. “Who knows how he will react under live combat fire.”


After Pat’s Birthday
By Kevin Tillman
Oct 19, 2006

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman


this evening i’ve got the first rehearsal for a live gig i got from mark nichols, who is someone i know from the moisture festival. i went to mark’s studio back in july and recorded the tuba tracks for an album of harry nilsson songs that is being recorded by a friend of mark’s, and we’re coming up to the release of the CD and they want to put on a live performance of the CD for the release, which is going to be 8 december. i’m only playing for 4 songs, but because of the fact that i’m playing tuba, the parts are essential, and it’s more important than usual that i at least come close to playing all the right notes at something close to the right time, and do it consistently enough that they can rely on at least one live performance from me, so i’ve been practicing with the CD that he sent me. surprisingly, i am more prepared to do this than i expected i would be, and i’ll probably do okay. it’s only 4 out of 15 songs… but now, listening to the CD, i realise that there might be 5 songs that he wants tuba for, but he only sent me the music for 4 of them, so i’ve got something new to worry about. one of the tunes, “Miss Butter’s Lament”, has weird time signature changes and isn’t straight forward enough that i’m not sure i’m going to be able to keep track of the changes in real time, in spite of the fact that i’ve got the music in front of me and have kept track for at least 3 times, going through it with the CD. one of the tunes, “Daddy’s Song”, has music that only vaguely resembles what is on the CD, and, as he told us to “go through the songs with the CD”, i’m not sure whether he wants me to play what’s on the CD or what the music says. hopefully i’ll find out tonight…


Your words are lies, Sir.
By John Amato
October 18th, 2006

Keith Olbermann has been calling it like it is. His “Special Comments” are indeed special because no other talking head outside of Cafferty is willing to step up to the plate and say what needs to be said on 24/7. “Your words are lies, Sir.” They are lies, that imperil us all.’ Sounds about right to me.Olbermann: And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived… as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived… as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid… of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before — and we have been here before led here — by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use those Acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote, about America.

We have been here, when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said, about America.

And we have been here when President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted that Executive Order 9-0-6-6 was necessary to save American lives — only to watch him use that Order to imprison and pauperize 110-thousand Americans…

While his man-in-charge…

General DeWitt, told Congress: “It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen — he is still a Japanese.”

American citizens, in American camps, for something they neither wrote nor said nor did — but for the choices they or their ancestors had made, about coming to America.

Each of these actions was undertaken for the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And each, was a betrayal of that for which the President who advocated them, claimed to be fighting.

Adams and his party were swept from office, and the Alien and Sedition Acts erased.

Many of the very people Wilson silenced, survived him, and…

…one of them even ran to succeed him, and got 900-thousand votes… though his Presidential campaign was conducted entirely… from his jail cell.

And Roosevelt’s internment of the Japanese was not merely the worst blight on his record, but it would necessitate a formal apology from the government of the United States, to the citizens of the United States, whose lives it ruined.

The most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

In times of fright, we have been, only human.

We have let Roosevelt’s “fear of fear itself” overtake us.

We have listened to the little voice inside that has said “the wolf is at the door; this will be temporary; this will be precise; this too shall pass.”

We have accepted, that the only way to stop the terrorists, is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.

Just the way we once accepted that the only way to stop the Soviets, was to let the government become just a little bit like the Soviets.

Or substitute… the Japanese.

Or the Germans.

Or the Socialists.

Or the Anarchists.

Or the Immigrants.

Or the British.

Or the Aliens.

The most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And, always, always… wrong.

“With the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

Wise words.

And ironic ones, Mr. Bush.

Your own, of course, yesterday, in signing the Military Commissions Act.

You spoke so much more than you know, Sir.

Sadly — of course — the distance of history will recognize that the threat this generation of Americans needed to take seriously… was you.

We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

But even within this history, we have not before codified, the poisoning of Habeas Corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow.

You, sir, have now befouled that spring.

You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order.

You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom.

For the most vital… the most urgent… the most inescapable of reasons.

And — again, Mr. Bush — all of them, wrong.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that “the United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values” and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of Waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens “Unlawful Enemy Combatants” and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an “Unlawful Enemy Combatant” and ship you somewhere – anywhere.

And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria… ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.

And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an “unlawful enemy combatant” — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?

“These military commissions will provide a fair trial,” you told us yesterday, Mr. Bush. “In which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney, and can hear all the evidence against them.”

‘Presumed innocent,’ Mr. Bush?

The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they sustain “serious mental and physical trauma” in the hope of getting them to incriminate themselves, and may no longer even invoke The Geneva Conventions in their own defense.

‘Access to an attorney,’ Mr. Bush?

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.

‘Hearing all the evidence,’ Mr. Bush?

The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all.

“One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks,” …you told us yesterday… “said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America.”

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush… they would be “the beginning of the end of America.”

And did it even occur to you once sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know — just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died —

Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a “competent tribunal” of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of “Unlawful Enemy Combatant” for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, sir, all of them — as always — wrong.

Joe Scarborough is next.

Good night, and good luck.



  1. In General- Chapter 203 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 3056 the following:

    Sec. 3056A. Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service Uniformed Division

    1. There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the `United States Secret Service Uniformed Division’. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall perform such duties as the Director, United States Secret Service, may prescribe in connection with the protection of the following:
      1. The White House in the District of Columbia.
      2. Any building in which Presidential offices are located.
      3. The Treasury Building and grounds.
      4. The President, the Vice President (or other officer next in the order of succession to the Office of President), the President-elect, the Vice President-elect, and their immediate families.
      5. Foreign diplomatic missions located in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia.
      6. The temporary official residence of the Vice President and grounds in the District of Columbia.
      7. Foreign diplomatic missions located in metropolitan areas (other than the District of Columbia) in the United States where there are located twenty or more such missions headed by full-time officers, except that such protection shall be provided only–
        1. on the basis of extraordinary protective need;
        2. upon request of an affected metropolitan area; and
        3. when the extraordinary protective need arises at or in association with a visit to–
          1. a permanent mission to, or an observer mission invited to participate in the work of, an international organization of which the United States is a member; or
          2. an international organization of which the United States is a member;

          except that such protection may also be provided for motorcades and at other places associated with any such visit and may be extended at places of temporary domicile in connection with any such visit.

      8. Foreign consular and diplomatic missions located in such areas in the United States, its territories and possessions, as the President, on a case-by-case basis, may direct.
      9. Visits of foreign government officials to metropolitan areas (other than the District of Columbia) where there are located twenty or more consular or diplomatic missions staffed by accredited personnel, including protection for motorcades and at other places associated with such visits when such officials are in the United States to conduct official business with the United States Government.
      10. Former Presidents and their spouses, as provided in section 3056(a)(3) of title 18.
      11. An event designated under section 3056(e) of title 18 as a special event of national significance.
      12. Major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and, within 120 days of the general Presidential election, the spouses of such candidates, as provided in section 3056(a)(7) of title 18.
      13. Visiting heads of foreign states or foreign governments.
      1. Under the direction of the Director of the Secret Service, members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division are authorized to–
        1. carry firearms;
        2. make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony; and
        3. perform such other functions and duties as are authorized by law.
      2. Members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall possess privileges and powers similar to those of the members of the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia.
    2. Members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall be furnished with uniforms and other necessary equipment.
    3. In carrying out the functions pursuant to paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security may utilize, with their consent, on a reimbursable basis, the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of State and local governments, and is authorized to reimburse such State and local governments for the utilization of such services, personnel, equipment, and facilities. The Secretary of Homeland Security may carry out the functions pursuant to paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a) by contract. The authority of this subsection may be transferred by the President to the Secretary of State. In carrying out any duty under paragraphs (7) and (9) of subsection (a), the Secretary of State is authorized to utilize any authority available to the Secretary under title II of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956.’.

Watch Out Wal-Mart!
Mexican Progressives Target Wal-Mart After Its Involvement in the Presidential Election
by Ruben Garcia and Andrea Buffa
October 16, 2006

As we enter the final weeks leading up to the US mid-term elections, interested parties are pulling out all the stops to make sure their candidates win. One such interested party is the corporation Wal-Mart, which newspapers just revealed plans to hand out election materials about certain candidates to its more than one million US employees.

But judging from what happened when Wal-Mart got involved in the recent presidential election in Mexico, the company may want to think twice. Since it was revealed that Wal-Mart’s top shareholder illegally made campaign contributions that supported the right-wing candidate Felipe Calderon of the PAN, Wal-Mart has become the number one corporate target of progressive Mexican activists. In the last month alone, thousands of activists in Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara, Queretaro, and Xalapa have staged rowdy protests inside Wal-Mart super centers. Every weekend sees another city hop on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon.

It’s not that there wasn’t anti-Wal-Mart organizing in Mexico before. Local activists, business people, and academics tried and failed to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a store within site of Teotihuacan, the oldest archeological site in Mexico. They succeeded in stopping Wal-Mart from opening in the towns of Patzcuaro and Atizapan de Zaragoza, a suburb of Mexico City. Despite this, Wal-Mart has become the largest employer in Mexico, with 140,000 employees and some 850 “retail units.”

Mexican progressives are concerned about the low wages that Wal-Mart pays its employees, the low prices it pays to its suppliers (for both agricultural and manufactured products), and the disregard Wal-Mart has for the cities and communities where it establishes its stores. But even worse, Mexicans have realized that just as it does in the US, Wal-Mart supports the politicians and policies that not only don’t bring Mexican working people prosperity, but make the people poorer than they were before.

The recent escalation of anti-Wal-Mart activism was caused by Wal-Mart top stockholder Manuel Arango’s financial contributions to a smear campaign against left-wing presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PDR. Under Mexican electoral law, corporations are not supposed to fund campaigns supporting or opposing candidates, but this didn’t stop a number of corporations from doing just that, through their corporate officers and shareholders. Lopez Obrador of the PDR, who ended up losing to Calderon in the hotly contested election, called for a boycott of corporations that illegally supported PAN’s campaign. These included Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kimberly Clark, Televisa, and, of course, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is accused of not only giving money to the pro-PAN forces, but also distributing campaign literature to Wal-Mart of Mexico employees.

Because Wal-Mart is everywhere, it has become the main target of these anti-corporate protests. Every weekend in a different city, the PRD has organized thousands of people to enter Wal-Marts, fill up shopping carts, take them up to the registers as a group, and then begin chanting and raising a ruckus. The goal is to hurt the corporation in its pocketbook, because it has hurt Mexican progressives by supporting neo-liberal economic policies and the politicians who promote them.

These actions should give hope to anti-corporate globalization activists everywhere. Wal-Mart represents the worst face of corporate globalization, and the company is expanding throughout the world, especially in developing countries. But if Wal-Mart planned to use the model it developed in Mexico when it enters other markets, the recent protests may have thrown a monkey wrench into that plan. Now anti-Wal-Mart organizers in the United States have an ally on the other side of the border. The recent mobilization opens the possibility of a bi-national, if not international, campaign against Wal-Mart.


When they took the fourth amendment,
     I was quiet because I didn’t deal drugs.
When they took the sixth amendment,
     I was quiet because I was innocent.
When they took the second amendment,
     I was quiet because I didn’t own a gun.
Now they’ve taken the first amendment,
     and I can say nothing about it.

heil hitler bush… 8b

A "Clear Message"
By Dan Froomkin
October 17, 2006

President Bush this morning proudly signed into law a bill that critics consider one of the most un-American in the nation’s long history.

The new law vaguely bans torture — but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn’t. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture.

Here’s what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: “The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom.”

But that may not be the “clear message” the new law sends most people.

Here’s the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules. The law would apparently subject terror suspects to some of the same sorts of brutal interrogation tactics that have historically been prosecuted as war crimes when committed against Americans.

Here’s the clear message to the voters: This Congress is willing to rubberstamp pretty much any White House initiative it sees as being in its short-term political interests. (And I don’t just mean the Republicans; 12 Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill as well.)

Here’s the clear message to the Supreme Court: Review me.

I could go on and on. (And maybe I will, tomorrow. E-mail your “clear messages” to [email protected] )

More Unanswered Questions
Bush seems to think history will be kind to him.

“Over the past few months the debate over this bill has been heated, and the questions raised can seem complex,” he said. “Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few: Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously, and did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?”

But history’s questions may in fact be quite different: How far did we allow fear to drive us from our core values? How did a terror attack lead our country to abandon its commitment to fairness and the rule of law? How mercilessly were we willing to treat those we suspected to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power were we willing to hand over to the executive?

Bush’s repeated but unsubstantiated claims about the great intelligence successes reaped through harsh interrogations will hopefully oblige the press to review what we know and what we don’t know about his assertions.

For instance, was any of the information actually valuable? How much of it emerged only after the application of what many would call torture? How much of it emerged in standard interrogations?

And one of Bush’s statement in particular should raise an obvious question. Said the president: “With the bill I’m about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice.”

That question, of course: What about Osama?

Initial Coverage
Nedra Pickler writes for the Associated Press: “Bush signed the bill in the White House East Room, at a table with a sign positioned on the front that said ‘Protecting America.’ He said he signed it in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. . . .

“A coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill outside the White House, shouting ‘Bush is the terrorist’ and ‘Torture is a crime.’ About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police arrested them one by one.”

Steve Holland writes for Reuters: “Shortly after Bush signed the law, the Republican National Committee issued a press release headlined, ‘Democrats would let terrorists free’ and listed the names of many House and Senate Democrats who opposed it.”

Here’s a statement from the ACLU : “The president can now – with the approval of Congress – indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act.”

Stephen Rickard writes in an op-ed in The Washington Post that CIA interrogators have not gotten the clarity they wanted. He writes that “if they yield to White House pressure to renew brutal interrogations, they will be at greater risk than they were last fall. . . .

“The bill’s language on torture is far from perfect, and it has many other objectionable provisions. It should have been rejected. But on its face it criminalizes cruel treatment. An interrogator can go to prison if a court finds that the techniques used caused ‘serious’ mental or physical ‘suffering,’ which need not be ‘prolonged.’ . . .

“[I]f a CIA interrogator is indicted after this administration leaves office, it will not matter whether keeping a naked prisoner standing for 40 straight hours shocks Dick Cheney. It will matter whether it shocks the court.

“U.S. courts know cruelty when they see it, even if the Bush Justice Department doesn’t.”

At yesterday’s briefing , White House press secretary Tony Snow promised some more details today.

“Q I wanted to talk about the bill the President will sign tomorrow.

“MR. SNOW: Yes.

“Q It makes him a final arbiter on torture.

“MR. SNOW: Right.

“Q Does he have any guidelines, does he have any advisory group? And how will he know?

“MR. SNOW: What I’ve actually — Helen, in response to your question, I called White House legal counsel —

“Q Can you repeat the question?

“MR. SNOW: Yes, how will the President know when it’s torture and when it’s not, and avoid having torture.

“Q And how will he approach these cases?

“MR. SNOW: And how will he approach the cases.

“The White House Office of Legal Counsel is actually putting together a paper so that — I knew that this would come up. What they will do is help me describe to you, as accurately as possible. It’s a very complex series of issues, but there are definitions that outline what constitutes torture, and I will be happy to share those. And I’ll get them for you tomorrow.

“Q When are you going to release those?

“MR. SNOW: I’m not going to release it. I’ll share it with you tomorrow. It’s not like a formal release, it’s just me trying to do my homework, and I don’t have it done yet.”

Breaking the Faith
A rare, critical book from a former White House insider continues to make waves in Washington.

E. J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post opinion column: “The very fact that it took David Kuo’s book, ‘Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,’ to put President Bush’s faith-based initiative back into the news proves that the author’s thesis is right.

“His argument — Kuo went on the record with it long before this book appeared — is that the White House never put much money or muscle behind Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism.’ It used the faith-based agenda for political purposes and always made tax cuts for the wealthy a much higher priority than any assistance to those ‘armies of compassion’ that Bush evoked so eloquently.”

Richard Wolffe interviews Kuo for Newsweek:

Wolffe: “Are Christian leaders being naïve in their dealings with the White House or do they understand the nature of the exchange?”

Kuo: “It’s a little bit of both. In some ways White House power is like [J.R.R.] Tolkien’s ring of power. When you put it on, it feels good and it’s dazzling. But after a while it begins to consume you in ways you don’t realize. That’s the nature of White House power. I have no doubt that Christian political leaders have gotten involved for all the right reasons. I just think over time it becomes harder and harder to stand up against that ring of power and the White House, to say no and walk away.

“The Christian political leaders have been seduced.”

Wolffe: “You don’t question the president’s faith. So why do you think he didn’t deliver on his faith-based agenda? Was he being cynical or didn’t he know what was going on?”

Kuo: “I’ve struggled with this for a long time. George W. Bush is a really good, caring person — a caring, compassionate man. He’s unbelievably empathetic for the people around him who are hurting. But President Bush is the head of the GOP. He’s leader of the government. He’s either the perpetrator or the victim of the modern presidency.”

Alex Koppelman interviews Kuo for Salon.

Says Kuo: “There’s been this image perpetuated of President Bush as ‘pastor in chief,’ and I think Christians have fallen into that. What they need to understand is that President Bush is a politician, a very good politician. He’s the head of the GOP, he’s the head of government, but he’s not a pastor.

“I think that this pastoral sense of him that has been perpetuated is preventing Christians from being more critical, objectively critical — in Jesus’ words, ‘wise as a serpent.’ And I also think that it contributes to this sense of political seduction by Christians. When you get to the point where when I mention Jesus people think they know my politics, that I’m pro-life and anti-gay and pro-Iraq war, as opposed to identifying Jesus as someone who will bring life and has good news, I think that’s troubling.”

Remember John DiIulio?
What is it about the office of faith-based initiatives that makes some former staffers violate the White House code of silence? Could it be . . . their faith?

John DiIulio, the first director of the office, famously spilled his guts to Ron Suskind for an Esquire story back in January 2003.

Said DiIulio at the time: “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. . . . What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

In fact, Kuo told Newsweek’s Wolffe that DiIulio was very much a role model.

Kuo: “I wanted to write it because I felt like there’s a seduction that goes on of Christians in politics. It’s hardly new, but it’s right now extremely troubling. Frankly, the other reason is that in my experience at the White House, the single greatest progress we ever made on the compassion front was after John DiIulio did a controversial Esquire article. After that occurred — and I go into this in great detail in the book — the White House paid more attention to the compassion agenda in the 48 or 72 hours after that than they ever paid in the 2-and-a-half years that followed. I’m an optimist and a big believer in the president’s agenda, especially on poverty.”

Reassuring Maliki
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: “President Bush reassured Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq on Monday that he would not set a timetable for withdrawal of American troops and would continue to support the prime minister, despite recent reports that military officials and some Republican lawmakers were dissatisfied with the Iraqi government’s performance.

“The White House also suggested that it would not necessarily accept the recommendations of an independent commission reviewing Iraq policy. ‘We’re not going to outsource the business of handling the war in Iraq,’ said Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow.”

Paul Richter and Borzou Daragahi write in the Los Angeles Times: “Snow said that Bush, who initiated the phone call, encouraged the prime minister ‘to ignore rumors that the United States government was seeking to impose a timeline on the Maliki government.’

“But when asked whether Bush had ‘total confidence’ in Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government, Snow said the president ‘believes the prime minister is doing everything in his power’ to stem the country’s raging violence, adding, ‘There has to be more to be done. The violence levels are absolutely unacceptable.'”

Whenever writing about Bush’s strategy to empower a strong central government it’s important to note how unrealistic that seems on the ground in Iraq. Richter and Daragahi do just that.

They write: “Iraqi officials acknowledge that Maliki heads a government divided along sectarian lines that is fundamentally weak and unable to exert its authority.”

And, they note: “In Iraq’s conspiracy-obsessed political culture, U.S. efforts to pressure Maliki sparked whispers of a possible American-backed coup d’etat against his government.”

The Baker Commission
That independent commission reviewing Iraq policy is co-chaired by James A. Baker III, who was secretary of state to Bush’s father.

Gary Kamiya writes in Salon: “In perhaps the strangest vindication of that old ’60s chestnut ‘The personal is the political,’ the fate of America’s Iraq adventure may hinge on whether George W. Bush can handle being taken to the woodshed by an emissary of his old man.

“For Bush, the day of reckoning is at hand. After years of talking tough, smearing war opponents as appeasers and demanding ‘total victory,’ he must confront the fact that his Iraq war has been a catastrophic failure. . . .

“The Republican Party brain trust, such as it is, desperately needs to find a way to talk Bush off the ledge, pry him away from his neocon delusions and Darth Cheney, and persuade him to cut his losses.”

Peter S. Canellos writes in the Boston Globe: “The commission is widely seen as a face-saving way for the current President Bush to shift strategies in Iraq. With Democrats looking likely to take over the House of Representatives, Baker’s commission takes on extra importance, since it would seem to offer a compromise between either pulling out (favored by liberals in Congress) or staying the course (favored by neoconservatives in the administration). . . .

“If Baker can buy Bush two more years to pursue ‘peace with honor,’ and give Republican presidential candidates a way to express misgivings about the war while continuing to fight for an honorable peace, he will have performed the ultimate service to the Bushes and the Republicans.

“He will have enabled them to evade responsibility for a devastating war.”

Celebration of Ignorance
Tony Snow continues to get good press, in spite of some serious flaws.

For instance, while it may be refreshing and even disarming for him to openly admit he doesn’t know the answer to an obscure question, it’s less so when he cheerfully pleads ignorance about the most important questions of the day.

From yesterday’s briefing :

“Q Going back to Iraq, Tony. You said a couple of times that more needs to be done to deal with the violence. What, and by whom?

“MR. SNOW: Well, obviously, I don’t know what, because I’m not a general. But it is pretty clear that it’s going to be important to continue going after terror elements, especially those who are dug in, and that’s in various parts around the country. And right now it’s joint operations but, eventually, the ones who are going to have to finish the job are the Iraqis themselves. But certainly they’re going to be doing it in concert with coalition forces. . . .

“Q One on Iraq again. Sorry. Just the simple question: Are we winning?

“MR. SNOW: We’re making progress. I don’t know. How do you define ‘winning’? The fact is, in taking on the war on terror — let me put it this way, the President has made it obvious, we’re going to win.”

I’ve written many times about Snow’s tendency to duck questions by trying to put reporters on the spot with questions of his own.

But: “How do you define winning?”

That’s not a question for the press; that’s a crucially important question for the White House that gamely insists victory is still possible, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

The O’Reilly Factor
It’s a good bet that Bush is trying to stoke his base when sits down with Fox News’s bombastic conservative talker, Bill O’Reilly. But at least in part one of the interview, shown last night, O’Reilly actually expressed some skepticism about Bush’s Iraq policy.

At one point, Bush was talking about the importance of Sunnis and Shiites participating in the political process, and O’Reilly jumped in.

O’Reilly: “But why should we be, after three and a half years, encouraged that that will happen?”

Bush: “Well, because it was about six months ago that we had elections where 12 million people said they want it to happen.”

O’Reilly: “Just because they want it to happen, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”

Bush: “Well, it’s going to happen if we continue to — Look, the alternative is to say it’s not worth it, let’s leave. . . . Well, that’s not going to work. . . . ”

O’Reilly: “Sixty percent of American are now against the Iraq war. Why?”

Bush: “Because they want us to win. They believe — they’re wondering whether or not we have the plan in place to win. . . . And I can understand why there’s frustration. Because the enemy knows that killing innocent people will create a sense of frustration.”

But push comes to shove, and O’Reilly is still . . . O’Reilly.

O’Reilly: “Is one of the reasons they’ve turned against the war in Iraq is that the anti-Bush press pounds, day in and day out, in the newspapers, on the network news, in books like Bob Woodward’s, that you don’t know what you’re doing there? That you have no strategy, that you don’t listen to dissent, that you’ve got this thing in your mind and you’re stubborn and you just can’t win it?”

Bush: “Well, I, I’m uh, you know, I’m, uh, disappointed that people would, uh, propagandize to that effect because the stakes are too high for that kind of illogical behavior.

“We, we, we have got a plan, we’ve got to stick to our stated goal.”

Here’s O’Reilly describing his approach to the interview:

“Now interviewing a president is not like interviewing anyone else on the planet. You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States. You can be direct, but you can’t be disrespectful. . . .

“Because every presidential interview is finite — that is time is always a concern — I decided to concentrate on the conflicts — Iraq, Iran, North Korea and terror — rather than on domestic issues. Also, I think it is important to look ahead rather than to look back. What good does it do to rehash WMDs? Does that do you any good? So the question is about what is happening now and whether we are winning or losing the high stakes battles we are fighting.

“Tonight, we’ll talk about Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Tomorrow: terrorism, torture and all the controversy surrounding the detainees — also Afghanistan. Finally on Wednesday, the personal attacks against President Bush, how he sees them and how they affect his job.”

North Korea Watch
Graham Allison , the former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the author of a recent book on nuclear terrorism, has a chilling new piece on NiemanWatchdog.org:

“North Korea is the single most dangerous actor on Earth. It is the only nuclear weapons state whose leader could rationally imagine advancing his interests by selling a nuclear bomb to Osama bin Laden. . . .

“The key challenge for thinking citizens today is to understand the significance of the North Korean test, and most importantly, to move the Bush administration to adopt a principle of nuclear accountability that can prevent nuclear weapons ending up in terrorist hands.”

And Allison turns one of Bush’s favorite words against him:

“As I argue in Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe , success in preventing a nuclear 9/11 requires effective implementation of a doctrine of Three No’s: No loose nukes, No new nascent nukes, and No new nuclear weapons states. On all three fronts, the administration’s first-term performance can be summed up by one word: unacceptable.”

That’s right: Unacceptable.

Cheney Love
These days, pretty much the only events Vice President Cheney attends are Republican fundraisers or rallies at military bases.

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times trails along Cheney on a recent trip — and marvels at the warm welcome.

Reaching Out to Talk Radio
Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: “Conservative radio hosts are breaking with the Republican leadership in ways not seen in at least a decade, and certainly not since Rush Limbaugh’s forceful advocacy of the party in 1994 spawned a new generation of stars, said Michael Harrison, publisher of the industry’s lead trade publication, Talkers.”

The result is “an intensive Republican Party campaign to reclaim and re-energize a crucial army of supporters that is not as likely to walk in lockstep with the White House as it has in the past. . . .

“The effort will peak on Oct. 24, when the administration will hold something of a talk-radio summit meeting, inviting dozens of hosts to set up booths on the White House grounds, where top cabinet officials are expected to sit for interviews. . . .

“But, several hosts said, the most telling development so far this year was the White House decision to invite some of the most popular hosts to the Oval Office for off-the-record time with the president.”

Deconstructing the Stump Speech
David Jackson writes in USA Today: “President Bush’s political pitch boils down to two words and one argument.

“The words are taxes and terrorism. The argument: Democrats are wrong on both.”

Here’s Jackson’s accompanying chart.

Poll Watch
A new CNN poll finds Bush’s approval rating down three points in a week, to 36 — and his disapproval up five points to an all-time high for that poll of 61.

CNN also reports that the poll “suggests support among Americans for the war in Iraq is dwindling to an all-time low. Just 34 percent of those polled say they support the war, while 64 percent say they oppose it.”

Bush’s Failed Democracies
Brendan Murray writes for Bloomberg: “The governments of Iraq and Afghanistan for a third straight year received failing grades in key measures of democratic rule on a score-card of poor nations compiled by the Bush administration.

“The Millennium Challenge Corp., an agency President George W. Bush established in 2004 to distribute aid, said in reports released today that Iraq and Afghanistan failed their 2007 assessments in six categories of ‘ruling justly:’ political rights, civil liberties, control of corruption, government effectiveness, rule of law and accountability.”


okay, this MADE MY DAY!

somebody has apparently been collecting my "modified" political signs, and re-posting them on what is presumably their own, private property! this sign and (i think) this sign now have a new home at military and s. 344th. i took two pictures, front and back, of each of them, here:

The Horned One! The Horned One! The Horned One! The Horned One!

on the other hand, there’s apparently someone named “priest” who is running for some poolitical offace or another, who must be really desperate to get people to vote for him. i have had a number of my “modified” signs removed and replaced with “priest” signs. despite their size, which is too big to put “The Horned One” on (i’m going to have to come up with a new stencil for larger signs), i collected 12 of them this evening, and that’s just on my “regular” 10-mile route around my neighbourhood.


hey, secret service department of clownland security goons, look over here… KILL BUSH!

grumble, mutter, gripe, complain…

Secret Service grills MySpace teen
Now she’s fighting back
By Ashlee Vance
16th October 2006

Not satisfied with creating militants abroad, the US has decided to nurture homegrown government haters.

California teenager Julia Wilson has dedicated herself to organising student protests against the Iraq war in an act of retaliation against a firm visit from the Secret Service.

US investigators last week pulled the student out of her classroom for questioning about a MySpace page that showed President Bush being stabbed in the hand with the words “Kill Bush” scribbled above the photo. Both Wilson and her parents thought the Secret Service’s tactics inappropriate.

“I wasn’t dangerous,” honours student Wilson told the AP. “I mean, look at what’s (stenciled) on my backpack — it’s a heart. I’m a very peace-loving person. I’m against the war in Iraq. I’m not going to kill the president.”

According to reports, the Secret Service agents – apparently huge MySpace fans – first stopped by the 14-year-old’s house (naturally, they would assume that she was a delinquent). The agents contacted Wilson’s mother and then promised to return later when they could interview the lass along with her parents.

Instead, the agents stormed Wilson’s school in Northern California and grilled her for 15 minutes.

“They yelled at me a lot,” she told the newswire. “They were unnecessarily mean.”

The agents also threatened to haul Wilson off to juvenile hall.

Class acts.

Both Wilson and her parents conceded that the Secret Service agents were right to look into the matter, as threatening the President is illegal. They, however, thought the deception and verbal rough-up to be over the line.

Wilson now plans to create a new MySpace page to help students organise protests against the Iraq war.


proof that our troops are using white phosphorus in afganistan!

Taliban takes high cover
Can’t smoke ’em out? Troops struggle with 10-foot Afghan marijuana plants
Oct 12, 2006

OTTAWA – Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy — almost impenetrable forests of 10-foot-tall marijuana plants.

Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana.

“The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy, heat very readily. It’s very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices … and as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don’t dodge in and out of those marijuana forests,” he said in a speech in Ottawa.

We tried burning them with white phosphorus — it didn’t work. We tried burning them with diesel — it didn’t work. The plants are so full of water right now … that we simply couldn’t burn them,” he said.

Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

“A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action,” Hillier said dryly.

One soldier told him later: “Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I’d say ‘That damn marijuana.'”


Terrorism Act 2006 – website owners beware
April 14th, 2006

The newly introduced Terrorism Act 2006 has some alarming clauses relating to websites – particularly likely to affect sites where members of the public can contribute content. Unwary bloggers and forum owners could find themselves held liable (with maximum 7-year sentence) for unwitting “endorsement” of materials deemed to be terrorist in nature.

Organisations that provide web sites or other opportunities for individuals to publish on the Internet should be aware of a new notice-and-take-down requirement contained within the Terrorism Act 2006, which came into force yesterday, and ensure that they have procedures to handle any notices served on them under the Act.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Act enable a police constable to give written notice to an organisation that a particular statement they publish electronically is unlawful, because it relates to Terrorism. If the organisation does not remove or amend the statement within two working days (only Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays, Christmas Day and Good Friday are excluded) then it will be considered to have endorsed the statement and thereafter be liable to prosecution for encouraging Terrorism or disseminating terrorist publications.

An organisation served with a notice is also required to take all reasonable steps to prevent future re-publication of the same or similar statements. Since the law is brand new, it is not clear how “all reasonable steps” will be interpreted, but it seems likely to require at least an investigation into who published the statement and removing that person’s ability to publish in future.

The Act can be found at:

The relevant part of the Act is at:

Parliamentary debate from February relating to this section of the Act:

Why does habeas corpus hate America?
By Jamie Holly
October 10th, 2006

Keith did a great report tonight on what the recently passed Military Commissions Act of 2006 means to America and our Constitution.

This story has been buried by Foleygate, which is a crime in itself. I had the honor of hearing Daniel Ellsberg and John Siegenthaler Sr. speak last night and the key subject was journalism in today’s political environment. We are one of the only countries in the world without an official secrets act, due in a large part to the uniqueness of our first amendment. Sadly this very bill puts us even closer to enacting such legislation and putting a muzzle on the media that would have prevented the extraordinary act of patriotism that Ellsberg exhibited, as well as those that followed in the entire Watergate scandal.

Because the Mark Foley story began to break the night of September 28th, exploding the following day, many people may not have noticed a bill passed by the Senate that night.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and what it does to something called “habeas corpus.”

And before we reduce the very term “habeas corpus” to something vaguely recalled as sounding kinda like the cornerstone of freedom, or maybe kinda like a character from “Harry Potter,” we thought a Countdown Special Investigation was in order.

Congress passed The Military Commissions Act to give Mr. Bush the power to deal effectively with America’s enemies — those who seek to harm this country.

And he has been very clear about who that is:

“…for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.”

So the president said it was urgent that Congress send him this bill as quickly as possible, not for the politics of next month’s elections, but for America.

“The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.”

Because time was of the essence–and to ensure that the 9/11 families would wait no longer–as soon as he got the bill, President Bush whipped out his pen and immediately signed a statement saying he looks forward to signing the actual law…eventually.

He hasn’t signed it yet, almost two weeks later, because he has been swamped by a series of campaign swings at which he has made up quotes from unnamed Democratic leaders, and because when he is actually at work, he’s been signing so many other important bills, such as:

The Credit Rating Agency Reform Act;

the Third Higher Education Extension Act;

ratification requests for extradition treaties with Malta, Estonia and Latvia;

his proclamation of German-American Day;

the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act;

and his proclamation of Leif Erikson Day.

Still, getting the Military Commissions Act to the President so he could immediately mull it over for two weeks was so important, some members of Congress didn’t even read the bill before voting on it. Thus, has some of its minutiae, escaped scrutiny.

One bit of trivia that caught our eye was the elimination of habeas corpus. which apparently used to be the right of anyone who’s tossed in prison, to appear in court and say, “Hey, why am I in prison?”

Why does habeas corpus hate America… and how is it so bad for us?

Mr. Bush says it gets in the way of him doing his job.

Bush: “…we cannot be able to tell the American people we’re doing our full job unless we have the tools necessary to do so. And this legislation passed in the House yesterday is a part of making sure that we do have the capacity to protect you. Our most solemn job is the security of this country.”

It may be solemn…

Bush: “I do solemnly swear…”

But is that really his job? In this rarely seen footage, Mr. Bush is clearly heard describing a different job.

… to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Countdown has obtained a copy of this “Constitution of the United States.”

And sources tell us it was originally snuck through the Constitutional Convention and state ratification in order to establish America’s fundamental legal principles.

But this so-called Constitution is frustratingly vague about the right to trial. In fact, there’s only one reference to habeas corpus at all. Quote: “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

But even Democrats who voted against the Military Commissions Act concede that it doesn’t actually suspend habeas corpus.

Leahy: The bill before the Senate would not merely suspend the great writ, the great writ of habeas corpus, it would eliminate it permanently.

And there is considerable debate whether the conditions for suspending habeas corpus, rebellion or invasion, have been met.

Leahy: conditions for suspending habeas corpus have not been met.

Kerry: We’re not in a rebellion, nor are we being invaded.

Specter: We do not have a rebellion or an invasion.

Biden: The United States is neither in a state of rebellion nor invasion.

Byrd: We are not in the midst of a rebellion, and there is no invasion.

Countdown has learned that habeas corpus actually predates the “Constitution,” meaning it’s not just pre-September 11th thinking, it’s also pre-July 4th thinking.

In those days, no one imagined that enemy combatants might one day attack Americans on native soil.

In fact, Countdown has obtained a partially redacted copy of a colonial “declaration” indicating that back then, “depriving us of Trial by Jury” was actually considered sufficient cause to start a War of Independence, based on the then-fashionable idea that “liberty” was an unalienable right.

Today, thanks to modern, post-9/11 thinking, those rights are now fully alienable.

The reality is, without habeas corpus, a lot of other rights lose their meaning.

But if you look at the actual Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments to that pesky Constitution — you’ll see just how many remain.

Well, ok, Number One’s gone.

If you’re detained without trial, you lose your freedom of religion, speech, the press and assembly. And you can’t petition the government for anything.

Number Two? While you’re in prison, your right to keep and bear arms just may be infringed upon.

Even if you’re in the NRA.


No forced sleepovers by soldiers at your house. OK. Three is unchanged.


You’re definitely not secure against searches and seizures, with or without probable cause – and this isn’t even limited to the guards.

Five… Grand juries and due process are obviously out.

Six. So are trials, let alone the right to counsel. Speedy trials? You want it when?

Seven. Hmmmm. I thought we covered “trials” and “juries” earlier.

Eight — So bail’s kind of a moot point…

Nine: “Other” rights retained by the people. Well, if you can name them during your water-boarding, we’ll consider them.

And Ten — powers not delegated to the United States federal government seem to have ended up there, anyway.

So as you can see, even without habeas corpus, at least one tenth of the Bill of Rights, I guess that’s the Bill of “Right” now… remains virtually intact.

And we can rest easy knowing we will never, ever have to quarter soldiers in our homes… as long as the Third Amendment still stands strong.

The President can take care of that with a Signing Statement.

Why the Frogs Are Dying
By Mac Margolis
Oct. 16, 2006

Draped like a verdant shawl over Costa Rica’s Tilarán Mountains, the Monteverde cloud forest has long been a nature lover’s idyll. Hidden birds flirt to the whisper of rushing streams and epiphytes tumble from the mist, while delicate flowers bloom impossibly from the jungle’s maw. With luck you might even catch the iridescent flash of the resplendent quetzal, the elegant symbol of the Central American rain forest.

There’s one member of this pageant that won’t be turning up, however: the Monteverde harlequin frog. Named after its palette of yellow, red and black, this miniature amphibian—a member of the genus Atelopus—had thrived in these Costa Rican mountains for perhaps a million years. Yet the last time

J. Alan Pounds, an ecologist who has studied the cloud forest’s wildlife for 25 years, spotted one in Monteverde was in 1988. Its cousin, the golden toad, went missing about the same time. Indeed, the more scientists search, the grimmer the situation looks. A study by 75 scientists published earlier this year in the journal Nature estimated that two thirds of the 110 known species of harlequins throughout Central and South America have vanished. And that may be just the beginning.

The loss of a species is sad enough, not least a jewel like the harlequin, which one researcher described as a tropical Easter egg. What has puzzled scientists is why. For millennia, this denizen of tropical America survived by adapting to whatever changes nature threw its way. Suckers lining the underbelly of tadpoles allow them to cling to rocks without being flushed downstream. The adult’s carnival-like costume warns potential predators to stand clear or risk a deadly dose of tetrodotoxin. But apparently there’s one peril the harlequin couldn’t trump: climate change.

Monteverde gets its lifeblood from the trade winds, which blow moisture uphill where the air cools and condenses into clouds. An ark of plants, insects and animals flourishes in the cool misty mountains. Gradually, though, a warming trend has raised nighttime temperatures and increased cloud cover, which makes for cooler days by blocking solar radiation. The subtle change, which might go unnoticed by us bipeds, is thought to have been ideal for chytridomycosis, a disease caused by a waterborne fungus that has flared up throughout tropical Central and South America. Scientists believe the chytrid disease kills the frogs by blocking their natural ability to absorb water through their porous skin (and perhaps also by releasing a toxin), essentially causing them to die of dehydration. What really frightens researchers, however, is the potential implications of the die-off. “There’s basically a mass extinction in the making,” says Pounds. “I think amphibians are just the first wave.”

For years now, eminent researchers have been warning of a gathering climate disaster. The findings at Monteverde, and scores of other research stations around the globe, have shaken people’s complacency. This was not just another computer model spitting out mathematical warnings but a whole living genus on the brink. Alarmed at the portents, a network of conservationists is trying to evacuate the remaining harlequin frogs to fungus-free zones and frog farms. But such heroics may be futile. Scientists monitoring wildlife around the world are echoing Pounds’s research. Their conclusion: many more species will perish.

A global temperature rise of a mere 0.6 degrees Celsius over the last century has sent shock waves through the animal kingdom. From the desiccating rain forests of Australia to the thawing Arctic, the warmer weather is expelling animals from age-old homelands, scrambling mating and nesting habits, and putting competitors on a prickly collision course. As habitable spaces get smaller, competition for food grows fierce. Meanwhile, insects and pests, which flourish in the heat, abound. So may the diseases they carry, like dengue fever, avian pox or cholera. Scholars are asking whether the loss of individual species could have a knock-on effect all through the food chain. “We are seeing problems from pole to pole; we see them in the oceans and we see them on land,” says Lara Hansen, chief climate-change scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. “There are very few systems that I can think of that are untouched by climate change.”

Not all the science points to disaster. Some species can adapt to the changing climate. But to what extent? “Climate change is happening a lot faster than the process of evolution can,” says biologist Camille Parmesan, at the University of Texas. “The fact that species are going extinct is telling you that they didn’t adapt.”

Still others parry that the havoc credited to climate change owes more to deforestation or diseases spread by humans. Yet to many experts, that misses the point. “We already know that all kinds of diseases respond to climate conditions. We also know that the interaction of species, especially predators and parasites, can also complicate the equation—which is something the computer climate models don’t take into account,” says Pounds. “That makes the impact of climate change difficult to predict, but probably even more severe than you’d imagine.”

The trouble at Monteverde only heightened a mystery that had scientists stumped for years: why do whole species of wildlife disappear in apparently pristine parks and nature preserves? There had been no shortage of theories to explain the demise of the harlequins, from acid rain to an overdose of ultraviolet rays. By the late nineties, attention shifted to the chytrid fungus outbreaks, which many amphibian experts concluded were the smoking gun. But Pounds wasn’t satisfied. After all, it wasn’t just harlequins, but all kinds of amphibians that were dying. And if the chytrid disease was killing the frogs, what was behind the deadly outbreak?

In time, Pounds learned that the fungus flourished in the wet season and turned lethal in warm (17 to 25 degrees Celsius) weather—exactly the conditions that climate change was bringing to the cloud forest. More important, he found that 80 percent of the extinctions followed unusually warm years. “The disease was the bullet killing the frogs, but climate was pulling the trigger,” says Pounds. “Alter the climate and you alter the disease dynamic.”

In a broad survey of scientific literature, Parmesan and Wesleyan University economist Gary Yohe recently concluded that hundreds of animals and plants had responded to climate change by jumping their biological clocks. Yellow-bellied marmots stir from hibernation 23 days later than they did in the mid-1970s, when temperatures in the Rocky Mountains were 1.4 degrees cooler. Some 65 bird species in the U.K. are laying eggs nearly nine days earlier than they did in 1971. Others have literally fled, pushing north to cooler climes or to higher altitudes. Nearly two dozen species of dragonflies and damselflies are now wandering nearly 90 kilometers north of their habitual range in the U.K. of four decades ago, while in Spain a steady warming trend has reduced the habitat of 16 species of highland butterflies by a third in just 30 years.

On a boundless planet such artful dodging would not be a problem. But climate change is beginning to crowd animals together. Canada’s red fox has moved 900 kilometers north into Baffin Island, where it is trespassing on the grounds of the Arctic fox. Scientists are reporting a complex ripple effect at Monteverde. The same warming trend that makes for hotter nights in the wet season also provokes prolonged dry spells in summer, attracting all sorts of fair-weather strangers. One is the aggressive keel-billed toucan, which has climbed from the foothills to the cloud forests, competing for food and nesting spots with the quetzal.

On the ground, Pounds’s team has noticed a dramatic decline in the population of lizards, and some snakes like the cloud-forest racer and the firebellied snake, which once fed on the harlequin frogs. The loser, again, looks to be the quetzal, which is already capturing fewer frogs and lizards—a key protein and calcium source for its nestlings. “When interactions between species are disrupted, the outcome can sometimes be devastating,” says Pounds.

Pests are the big winners in a warming world. A parasite called the nemotode, which dies off in the heat, has compensated by breeding faster, which causes fertility to plunge, or even death, among infected wild musk oxen. A kidney disease has flourished in the warming streams of Switzerland, ravaging trout stocks. Meanwhile, the oyster parasite, a scourge to shell fishermen in Chesapeake Bay, has crept all the way to Maine because of milder winters. Though there’s little hard science linking climate change to farm pests, most agricultural experts say it’s a matter of connecting the dots. “There is good evidence that warmer conditions favor more invasive species,” says David Pimentel, who studies invasive plants and pests at Cornell University. “Invasive plants can compete with native varieties and cause extinctions.”

Global warming is taking an especially heavy toll on specialists, species whose biology tailors them to specific geographic areas and narrow climate and temperature ranges. A recent casualty is the honeycreeper, a tiny songbird found only in the mountains of Hawaii. It has been decimated by a plague of avian pox carried by mosquitoes that have moved steadily farther into the highlands.

An even bleaker example is the pika, a small, mountain-dwelling lagomorph related to the rabbit, with a low threshold for heat; it starts to die as soon as the mercury tops 24 degrees, which is exactly what is happening in its native habitat. Nine of 25 pika communities known in the western United States in the 1930s have now vanished, while fully half of those that once roamed the Tian Shan Mountains of northwest China are gone.

One of the most besieged of all the specialists is the polar bear, which hunts seal from floating chunks of sea ice. Warmer currents in the Arctic Ocean have hastened the breakup of ice floes and forced the bears to swim greater distances for their meals, putting them at risk of drowning or starving. Already bear watchers say the average weight of polars in Hudson Bay has dropped from 295kg to 230kg—near the threshold below which they stop reproducing. Polar bears now top most green groups’ endangered lists.

More than polar bears will be in trouble if atmospheric temperatures rise two more degrees—far from the worst-case climate forecasts. The Greenland ice shelf would melt, posing a threat to a whole web of life that depends on ice, including plankton, which feed fish, which are eaten by seals, which are meals for both polar bears and Inuk hunters. In the Southern Hemisphere, many researchers have already linked sharp declines in penguins like the rock hopper, Galápagos, blackfoot, Adélie and the regal emperor to warmer ocean currents, which have flushed away staple food supplies like krill, a coldwater crustacean.

The loss of creatures is alarming enough. What about losing an entire ecosystem? For most of the last two decades, Stephen Williams, a tropical ecologist at James Cook University in Australia, has been studying the evolutionary biology of the Australian rain forests. The sprawling experiment was meant to plot how wildlife evolved in the mountainous cloud forests along the coast of northeast Queensland, where thousands of unique animal and plant species have thrived for 5 million years. But when Williams ran his data through a computer model, testing for a modest rise in world temperatures (3.5 degrees Celsius over a century), he was floored. By 2100, his team concluded, up to 50 percent of all species would be gone. “I expected to see an impact, but this was shocking,” says Williams.

Perhaps what is most alarming about Williams’s study is that even if not another tree ever falls to the chainsaw or bulldozer, one of the planet’s most heralded World Heritage sites will still be under silent siege. “We’re looking at losing most of the things that the protected areas were put in place to preserve,” he warns. Already the populations of the gray-headed robin and a small frog belonging to the species Cophixalusneglectus are beginning to thin, while marsupials, reptiles and a host of forest birds are fleeing the heat ever higher up the mountainside, to where the life-giving clouds have retreated. “Soon,” says Williams, “there will be nowhere to go.” Nowhere, perhaps, but heaven.


today is would be Aleister Crowley‘s birthday, if he were still alive. happy crowleymas.

there’s a new batch of pictures, and some updated text.

they’re rewriting history again. whoopee.

Lost city ‘could rewrite history’
By Tom Housden
19 January, 2002

The remains of what has been described as a huge lost city may force historians and archaeologists to radically reconsider their view of ancient human history.

Marine scientists say archaeological remains discovered 36 metres (120 feet) underwater in the Gulf of Cambay off the western coast of India could be over 9,000 years old.

The vast city – which is five miles long and two miles wide – is believed to predate the oldest known remains in the subcontinent by more than 5,000 years.

The site was discovered by chance last year by oceanographers from India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology conducting a survey of pollution.

Using sidescan sonar – which sends a beam of sound waves down to the bottom of the ocean they identified huge geometrical structures at a depth of 120ft.

Debris recovered from the site – including construction material, pottery, sections of walls, beads, sculpture and human bones and teeth has been carbon dated and found to be nearly 9,500 years old.

Lost civilisation
The city is believed to be even older than the ancient Harappan civilisation, which dates back around 4,000 years.

Marine archaeologists have used a technique known as sub-bottom profiling to show that the buildings remains stand on enormous foundations.

Author and film-maker Graham Hancock – who has written extensively on the uncovering of ancient civilisations – told BBC News Online that the evidence was compelling:

“The [oceanographers] found that they were dealing with two large blocks of apparently man made structures.

“Cities on this scale are not known in the archaeological record until roughly 4,500 years ago when the first big cities begin to appear in Mesopotamia.

“Nothing else on the scale of the underwater cities of Cambay is known. The first cities of the historical period are as far away from these cities as we are today from the pyramids of Egypt,” he said.

Chronological problem
This, Mr Hancock told BBC News Online, could have massive repercussions for our view of the ancient world.

“There’s a huge chronological problem in this discovery. It means that the whole model of the origins of civilisation with which archaeologists have been working will have to be remade from scratch,” he said.

However, archaeologist Justin Morris from the British Museum said more work would need to be undertaken before the site could be categorically said to belong to a 9,000 year old civilisation.

“Culturally speaking, in that part of the world there were no civilisations prior to about 2,500 BC. What’s happening before then mainly consisted of small, village settlements,” he told BBC News Online.

Dr Morris added that artefacts from the site would need to be very carefully analysed, and pointed out that the C14 carbon dating process is not without its error margins.

It is believed that the area was submerged as ice caps melted at the end of the last ice age 9-10,000 years ago

Although the first signs of a significant find came eight months ago, exploring the area has been extremely difficult because the remains lie in highly treacherous waters, with strong currents and rip tides.

The Indian Minister for Human Resources and ocean development said a group had been formed to oversee further studies in the area.

“We have to find out what happened then … where and how this civilisation vanished,” he said.


The Rules Of Spam

Rule #0: Spam is theft.

  • Angel’s Commentary: Spammers believe it’s okay to steal a little bit from each person on the Internet at once.

Rule #1: Spammers lie.

  • Russel’s Admonition: Always assume that there is a measurable chance that the entity you are dealing with is a spammer.
  • Lexical Contradiction: Spammers will redefine any term in order to disguise their abuse of Internet resources.
  • Sharp’s Corollary: Spammers attempt to re-define “spamming” as that which they do not do.
  • Finnell’s Corollary: Spammers define “remove” as “validate.”

Rule #2: If a spammer seems to be telling the truth, see Rule #1.

  • Crissman’s Corollary: A spammer, when caught, blames his victims.
  • Moore’s Corollary: Spammer’s lies are seldom questioned by mainstream media.

Rule #3: Spammers are stupid.

  • Krueger’s Corollary: Spammer lies are really stupid.
  • Pickett’s Commentary: Spammer lies are boring.
    • Salamandir’s Rant: If I didn’t want to hear about it from the spammer, regardless of how amusing, profound, ironic, or whatever you find it, what makes you think I want to hear about it in regular email, on your blog, or verbally?
  • Russell’s Corollary: Never underestimate the stupidity of spammers.
  • Spinosa’s Corollary: Spammers assume everybody is more stupid than themselves.
  • Spammer’s Standard of Discourse: Threats and intimidation trump facts and logic.
  • James’ Axioms of Spammers’ Beliefs:
    • Bandwidth is infinite. It possible for infinite messages to occupy the same box at the same time.
    • The less value a message has, the more people want to see it.
    • The more someone is offended, the more likely they are to buy.
    • Reward is inversely proportional to the work done to earn it.

Rule #4: The natural course of a spamming business is to go bankrupt.

  • Rules-Keeper Shaffer’s Refrain: Spammers routinely prove the Rules of spam are valid.


i got an order for more than $100 worth of incense and jewelry from a jewish doctor in charlotte, north carolina a couple of days ago. i haven’t sent it out yet, because i’m still waiting for part of the jewelry he ordered to be delivered, which should be tomorrow or the next day. it’s kind of bizarre, though, because the last time i ordered product from the rudraksha-ratna centre of india, it took three weeks for them to acknowledge my payment, and then it took another week for them to deliver to me, but this time, i made the payment a couple of days ago, and it went through yesterday, so either ganesha is looking out for my business and removed whatever obstacles were in the way last time, or i’m hallucinating… again…

i’ve recently located an incense supplier that has almost the same lines of incense that i get from sughanda prabhu, but they’re a lot more reliable than sughanda prabhu – meaning that when i call and/or email them, there’s somebody there and i can order right away, as compared to sugandha prabhu, who i email and there’s no response for a week, or i call and leave a message and don’t get any response. i’ve got a bunch of shroff and 8 boxes of ambica hare rama incense that i paid for over a month ago that still haven’t been delivered. don’t get me wrong, sughanda prabhu is a great person, who i have known for more than 20 years, and done business with for more than 10 years, but recently he’s gotten really flaky, and customers don’t understand flaky suppliers.

the new supplier, however, has almost all of the stock i get from sughanda prabhu, and all of the stock i currently get from om imports, and has a lower minimum order than om imports. they have aparajita and 999 lord krishna puja, which is carried by nobody else that i’m aware of, plus they also carry 999 lord krishna puja original lobhan sambrani and sandesh benzoin in the 20 stick tube, and they’ve said that they will inquire about things that they don’t have, like pradhan’s royal life. i’m hoping that The Remover of Obstacles has been active in this area of my business as well.


ezra called me yesterday with some questions… apparently he is applying for a passport, because he has plans on going to europe and england for new years this year. how come he gets to go, and i haven’t been able to go much further than to the next state my entire life?

anyway, then i read ‘s feed () which pointed me towards the following, which didn’t make things any easier on me…

A shameful retreat from American values
by Garrison Keillor
Oct. 04, 2006

I would not send my college kid off for a semester abroad if I were you. This week, we have suspended human rights in America, and what goes around comes around. Ixnay habeas corpus.

The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, has decided that an “enemy combatant” is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter.

If your college kid were to be arrested in Bangkok or Cairo, suspected of “crimes against the state,” and held in prison, you’d assume that an American foreign service officer would be able to speak to your kid and arrange for a lawyer, but this may not be true anymore. Be forewarned.

The Senate also decided it’s up to the president to decide whether it’s OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file “enemy combatants” and throws the poor schnooks into prison, and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble, and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal.

This was passed by 65 senators and will now be signed by Mr. Bush, put into effect, and in due course be thrown out by the courts.

It’s good that Barry Goldwater is dead because this would have killed him. Go back to the Senate of 1964 — Goldwater, Dirksen, Russell, McCarthy, Javits, Morse, Fulbright — and you won’t find more than 10 votes for it.

None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Idea. Mark their names. Any institution of higher learning that grants honorary degrees to these people forfeits its honor. Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson of Florida, Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner.

To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott: Mark their names and mark them well. For them, no minstrel raptures swell. High though their titles, proud their name, boundless their wealth as wish can claim, these wretched figures shall go down to the vile dust from whence they sprung, unwept, unhonored and unsung.

Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and after they’d collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded. Why be a hero when you can be fairly sure that the Supreme Court will dispose of this piece of garbage?

If, however, the Supreme Court does not, then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it’s no longer the United States of America as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.

I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes’ church and that it would be better if I didn’t talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for “Homegrown Democrat,” but they thought it better if I didn’t mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, “I don’t need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics — I’m a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service.” And the audience applauded. Those were their sentiments exactly. We’ve got ours, and who cares?

The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise, so why should they worry? It’s only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing just fine. If you can’t trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?


January 5th, 2005
May 3rd, 2003

Disorder Rating
Paranoid Personality Disorder: High
Schizoid Personality Disorder: Very High
Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Very High
Antisocial Personality Disorder: Moderate
Borderline Personality Disorder: Moderate
Histrionic Personality Disorder: High
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: High
Avoidant Personality Disorder: High
Dependent Personality Disorder: Moderate
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Moderate

Take the Personality Disorder Test
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The Fremont Philharmonic
The 2006 Cirque De Flambé Autumn Char-B-Que
left to right, back row: salamandir – sousaphone and annoying noises, kiki la roue – human theremin, ukelele and percussion, john cornicello – keyboards, kim porto – flute and piccolo, alan friedman – drums, stuart zobel – guitar, heather (i don’t know her last name) – trombone, joseph (i don’t know his last name) – tenor sax. front row: pam macrae – clarinet, “teacher” ted lockery – trumpet, sasha malinsky – drums and rap master, ben (i don’t know his last name) – clarinet and junk chime.


Cheney is back with doom speech casting Democrats as danger to security
By Peter Baker
Oct 8, 2006

MILWAUKEE – Vice President Cheney sometimes starts speeches with a Ronald Reagan quotation about a “happy” nation needing “hope and faith.” But not much happy talk follows. Not a lot of hope, either. He does, though, talk about the prospect of “mass death in the United States.”

The not-so-happy warrior of the past two campaign cycles is back on the road delivering a grim message about danger, defeatism and the stakes of the coming election. If it is not a joyful exercise, it is at least a relentless one. Even with poll ratings lower than President Bush’s, Cheney has become a more ubiquitous presence on the campaign trail than in the last midterm election.

He takes on not only the traditional vice presidential assignment of slicing up the opposition but also the Cassandra role of warning about dire threats to the nation’s security. While others get distracted by Capitol Hill scandal, Cheney remains focused on the terrorists, who are, as he says in his stump speech, “still lethal, still desperately trying to hit us again.” Bush, he says, is “protecting America” while the Democrats advocate “reckless” policies that add up to a “strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies.”

But the message is carefully targeted. More than half of Cheney’s fundraisers in this two-year cycle have been behind closed doors. Even at a lunchtime speech to Wisconsin Republican donors that was open to reporters, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mark Green did not stand on stage, ensuring no pictures of the two together on the news, and some other Republican candidates did not attend at all.

Rallying the party faithful
That is okay with the White House, which at a perilous moment is counting on Cheney’s under-the-radar campaign to rally the base, not the broader public. “The fact that he’s willing to go after Democrats as harshly as the Democrats are going after the White House gets the party faithful going,” said GOP strategist Glen Bolger.

It happens to inflame the Democratic faithful as well, and party strategists consider him a prime target for their own pitch to voters. “When he threatens Democrats and calls them names, it’s something that really fires up our base,” said John Lapp, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure program.

Cheney’s fundraising visits often end up as fodder for opponents of those he tries to help. “Dick Cheney, Big Oil and Big Drug Companies Threw Curt Weldon a secret Washington thank you party,” reads a Democratic brochure targeting the Republican Pennsylvania congressman. “And we got stuck with the bill.”

The campaign comes at a pivotal moment for Cheney. His influence within the administration is widely perceived to be waning as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s star rises. The president in his second term has adopted a more diplomatic approach to problems such as Iran and North Korea than insiders believe would be to Cheney’s liking. And as the 2008 presidential sweepstakes heat up, he will be the first vice president in a generation not to be seeking a promotion, leaving him on the sidelines of the most important national discussion.

Champion of conservatives
But White House aides said it would be a mistake to underestimate Cheney even now. Although he is viewed favorably by just 34 percent of the public in the most recent Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, he remains a champion of conservatives at a time when the right has been angry at Bush over issues such as deficit spending and immigration. So Cheney’s mission is to bring home core Republican voters when they are needed most.

“He’s a good carrier of the Republican message,” said Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis, noting that a Cheney visit to Grand Rapids last month raised between $750,000 and $1 million, a record for western Michigan. “He exudes a confidence. He makes you feel good and comfortable that he’s vice president of the country.”

Cheney’s job is “a lot of volume, a lot of what we call McFundraisers,” GOP lobbyist Ed Rogers said. Cheney has headlined 111 fundraisers so far in this two-year cycle, bringing in more than $39 million and already surpassing his total of 106 events for the entire 2002 cycle. Cheney is also regularly dispatched to conservative radio shows hosted by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. He takes the shots the White House does not want Bush to take or wants to test out first. When Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) was defeated by antiwar challenger Ned Lamont in a primary, Cheney called reporters to say the result would encourage “al-Qaeda types” who want “to break the will of the American people.”

Out here on the hustings, Cheney does not come across as the most natural campaigner. A Cheney speech does not draw its audience to its feet. It plods through an argument that is more sobering than inspiring. He delivers even red-meat lines in a flat monotone, sounding more like a chief executive reporting to shareholders than a politician issuing a call to action.

The vice president, though, goes after Democrats by name in a way Bush rarely does, including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) and party Chairman Howard Dean. At a fundraiser in Sarasota, Fla., last week, he also singled out Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.) and Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) and Barney Frank (Mass.).

He talks mainly about terrorism and Iraq, arguing that U.S. withdrawals from Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing in 1983 and from Somalia after the “Black Hawk Down” ambush in 1993 emboldened terrorists. “If we follow Congressman Murtha’s advice and withdraw from Iraq the same way we withdrew from Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1993, all we will do is validate the al-Qaeda strategy and invite even more terrorist attacks,” Cheney said in Milwaukee. In Houston last week, he accused Democrats of “apparently having lost their perspective concerning the nature of the enemy.”

‘Danger to civilization’
The crux of his pitch is what he calls the continuing “danger to civilization.” Cheney, who warned in 2004 that the United States would be hit by terrorists if Democrat John F. Kerry was elected president, has not gone that far this time but does say that it “is not an accident” that the country has not suffered another attack since Sept. 11, 2001, giving Bush credit.

Democrats regularly punch back, suggesting Cheney is out of touch and desperate. “At a time when the Bush Administration finds itself increasingly isolated on Iraq, Vice President Cheney today went on the attack,” Senate Democrats said in a statement last week. “Instead of ranting and raving on the campaign trail, Bush and Cheney should spend their time on the trail of Osama bin Laden.”

Five years after Sept. 11, Cheney’s message may be wearing. Some find it too limited. “To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed,” David Huibregtse, head of Wisconsin’s Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay party members, said after a speech. “Too much on how great President Bush is doing and very little on why we should vote for the Republicans.”

Yet it still resonates in certain quarters. Between fundraisers, Cheney addressed a Michigan National Guard rally, an ostensibly nonpartisan event that nonetheless provided helpful photos of him surrounded by soldiers in uniform.

Dick Szymanski, a manufacturing executive whose son serves in the Marines, applauded the vice president’s message. “We respect him,” Szymanski said. “It’s a very, very hard job that he and the president have, that they’ve had handed to them. You can belittle people for the things they should or should not have done. But they’re there trying to take care of the public.”



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the horned one

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so, not only have they rejected my photo (which contains none of the things for which photos are usually rejected, but does contain things for which photos usually are accepted), but their "censors" are private, cannot be questioned, and if i call to complain, their "help desk" deliberately knows nothing about it and couldn’t give me an answer, even if they wanted to.

if i read the above correctly, the only thing for which i can guess they might have rejected it would be that it is "objectionable in some way (e.g. it was obscene, offensive, pornographic, too sexually suggestive, violent, threatening, harmful, abusive, defamatory, libelous, etc.)", but, as it is a photo of me, i certainly wouldn’t think it is abusive, defamatory or libelous. but even if it were that, apparently there is no way for me to tell their "censors", which means that i guess i don’t get to be on a stamp… 8/



by Jim Macdonald
October 2, 2006

You are not required to obey an unlawful order.

You are required to disobey an unlawful order.

You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Constitution states (Article VI):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Here is article 3, the common article, to the Geneva Conventions, a duly ratified treaty made under the authority of the United States:

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.

You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.

What all this is leading to:

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:

1. Request that your superior put the order in writing.

2. If your superior puts the order in writing, inform your superior that you intend to disobey that order.

3. Request trial by courtmartial.

You will almost certainly face disciplinary action, harassment of various kinds, loss of pay, loss of liberty, discomfort and indignity. America relies on you and your courage to face those challenges.

We, the people, need you to support and defend the Constitution. I am certain that your honor and patriotism are equal to the task.

Bush says he can edit security reports
Oct 5, 2006

WASHINGTON – President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department’s reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency’s 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it’s appropriate for the administration to know what reports go to Congress and to review them beforehand.

“There can be a discussion on whether to accept a change or a nuance,” she said. “It could be any number of things.”

The American Bar Association and members of Congress have said Bush uses signing statements excessively as a way to expand his power.

The Senate held hearings on the issue in June. At the time, 110 statements challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers combined from the White House and the Senate committee. They include documents revising or disregarding parts of legislation to ban torture of detainees and to renew the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said Bush is trying to subvert lawmakers’ ability to accurately monitor activities of the executive branch of government.

“The Homeland Security Department has been setting up watch lists to determine who gets on planes, who gets government jobs, who gets employed,” said Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

He said the Homeland Security Department has the most significant impact on citizens’ privacy of any agency in the federal government.

Homeland Security agencies check airline passengers’ names against terrorist watch lists and detain them if there’s a match. They make sure transportation workers’ backgrounds are investigated. They are working on several kinds of biometric ID cards that millions of people would have to carry.

The department’s privacy office has put the brakes on some initiatives, such as using insecure radio-frequency identification technology, or RFID, in travel documents. It also developed privacy policies after an uproar over the disclosure that airlines turned over their passengers’ personal information to the government.

The last privacy report was submitted in February 2005.

Bush’s signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill.

Bush, for example, said he’d disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and “demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security.”

His rationale was that it “rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office.”


the second week of performances started last night. i tryed to play the solo tuba part for “Pyros On Parade” (otherwise known as the “siren song”) last night, but the first valve on my sousaphone was slow on the uptake, and so i succeeded in completely massacering it instead. i HAVE to get my workshop set up so that i can do things like hone the valves on my sousaphone and tuba, solder the braces on my sousaphone, and generally do all the other things that people who have a workshop would do.

the cirque de flambé is officially 9 years old, and i have been playing with them for 6 years. during that time, we have been banned from ballard, and various portions of the crew have been arrested at various times, for violating fire codes and suchlike. but sunday is going to be our last official performance in seattle, because seattle has raised the price of permits and insurance to preposterous levels (previously it has been $800 dollars for insurance for 3 weeks worth of shows, now it’s $800 dollars per show), and put so many restrictions on what we can and cannot perform (like the fire cyclone, pyrochaotica, etc.) and put restrictions on how we perform what we can perform (like the meteors, petard, comets, etc.) that it’s not worth the trouble any longer. macque (our head clown in charge of blowing things up) has decided that he’s going to be arrested sunday night, and he’s said that we’re going to do pyrochaotica pretty much regardless of what the fire marshall says, so tomorrow night should be the night to come see the show.

after that, we’re planning on moving to a place that wants us, like burien, or a place that doesn’t have any fire regulations, like algona. take that, seattle.


Criticizing Cheney to His Face Is Assault?
By Matthew Rothschild
October 4, 2006

Steve Howards says he used to fantasize about what he’d say to President Bush or Vice President Cheney if he ever got the chance.

That opportunity arrived on June 16, the same day he says he read about U.S. fatalities in Iraq reaching 2,500.

Howards says he was taking two of his kids to their Suzuki piano camp in Beaver Creek, Colorado. They were walking across the outdoor public mall area when all of a sudden he saw Cheney there.

“I didn’t even know he was in town,” Howards says. “He was walking through the area shaking hands. Initially, I walked past him. Then I said to myself, ‘I can’t in good conscience let this opportunity pass by.’ So I approached him, I got about two feet away, and I said in a very calm tone of voice, ‘Your policies in Iraq are reprehensible.’ And then I walked away.”

Howards says he knew the Administration has a “history of making problems” for people who protest its policies, so he wanted to leave off at that.

But the Secret Service did not take kindly to his comment.“About ten minutes later, I came back through the mall with my eight-year-old son in tow,” Howards recalls, “and this Secret Service man came out of the shadows, and his exact words were, ‘Did you assault the Vice President?’ ”

Here’s how Howards says he responded: “No, but I did tell Mr. Cheney the way I felt about the war in Iraq, and if Mr. Cheney wants to be shielded from public criticism, he should avoid public places. If exercising my constitutional rights to free speech is against the law, then you should arrest me.”

Which is just what the agent, Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr, proceeded to do.

“He grabbed me and cuffed my hands behind my back in the presence of my eight-year-old son and told me I was being charged with assault of the Vice President,”Howards recalls.

He says he told the agent, “I can’t abandon my eight-year-old son in a public mall.”

According to Howards, Reichle responded: “We’ll call Social Services.” Before that could happen, however, “my son ran away and found my wife,” who was nearby, Howards says.

“First of all, I was scared,” Howard recalls. “They wouldn’t tell my wife where they were taking me. Second of all, I was incredulous this could be happening in the United States of America. This is what I read about happening in Tiananmen Square. They hauled me away to Eagle County jail and kept me with my hands cuffed behind my back for three hours.”

At the jail, the charge against him was reduced to harassment, he says, and he was released on $500 bond. The Eagle County DA’s office eventually dropped that charge.

On October 3, Howards sued Reichle for depriving him of his First Amendment right of free speech and his Fourth Amendment right to be protected from illegal seizure.

Howards and his attorney, David Lane, have not demanded a specific dollar amount.

“We will go to trial and let a Colorado jury decide what type of damages are appropriate,” says Howards. “This isn’t about anything I did. This about what I said. There is a frontal assault occurring on our constitutional right to free speech. We brought this suit because of our belief that this Administration’s attempt to suppress free speech is a greater threat to the long-term integrity of this nation than ten Osama bin Ladens.”

Reichle did not return my call for comment. Nor did he respond to The New York Times in its article on this incident.

Lon Garner, special agent in charge at the Secret Service’s Denver office, says he has “no reaction” to the lawsuit. “It’s in litigation,” he says. “We have no comment.”

Before his encounter with Cheney, Howards says he had a clean record.

“I was never arrested before,” he says. “I don’t have so much as a speeding ticket.”


sex scandal in the clinton white house = immediate impeachment

sex scandal in the bush white house = presidential backing and reassurance that it won’t mean anybody’s job.


Foley scandal investigations heating up
06 October, 2006

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Dennis Hastert is getting backup from President Bush and other Republican Party luminaries after vowing not to resign over his handling of the unfolding page cybersex scandal.

“He really ought not be a sacrificial lamb,” former Secretary of State James Baker III said Friday.

President Bush called Hastert late Thursday to reassure him amid allegations that the House speaker did not do enough to protect the teenage House pages from former Rep. Mark Foley’s advances.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., issued a statement supporting Hastert Thursday night. And Bush’s father, the former President Bush, spoke up for him during an ABC News interview.

The boost comes after a week of wavering support from House Republicans in the wake of revelations that Foley, R-Fla., had been sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage pages for years.

Hastert had blamed Democrats for the election-season revelations, but on Thursday abruptly changed course and took responsibility for the matter.

Hastert vowed not to resign over his office’s handling of the scandal — “I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said — but it has cost Republicans in public opinion polls.

“I’m deeply sorry this has happened and the bottom line is we’re taking responsibility,” Hastert said at a news conference outside his district office in Batavia, Ill.

That seemed to quiet rumblings about Hastert’s resignation as the week drew to a close and House and Justice Department officials launched separate investigations.

On CBS’ “The Early Show,” Baker said Hastert deserves credit for urging a probe of a sex scandal in the shadow of the midterm elections. And he offered a pragmatic reason for the party to stand by him.

“If they throw Denny Hastert off the sled to slow down the wolves, it won’t be long before you’ll be crying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to throw somebody else over because they knew about it too,'” Baker said.

The bipartisan ethics panel met Thursday for the first time, approving nearly four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents regarding improper conduct between lawmakers and current and former pages and who may have known about it.

Ethics committee chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., would not say whether Hastert was among those subpoenaed.

The ethics committee’s senior Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman of California, said the investigation should take “weeks, not months.”

Hastings and Berman will conduct the investigation along with Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, and Judith Biggert, R-Ill., whose district is next to Hastert’s.

Federal Election Commission records show that Biggert has received $7,000 in campaign cash from Hastert’s campaign committees while Hastings has received $2,500. They vow their relationship to Hastert won’t affect the way they handle the case.

While the committee — officially the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — is investigating potential violations of House rules, the Justice Department appeared to be moving with dispatch in its criminal investigation.

There’s plenty to investigate.

ABC News reported that three more pages, one each from 1998, 2000 and 2002, have come forward detailing sexual approaches from Foley over the Internet.

The FBI has contacted a former congressional page from Kentucky as part of the burgeoning investigation, said Daniel London, chief of staff to Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Ky., who sponsored the teen.

Attorneys for the Justice Department and the House negotiated on how to give investigators access to Foley’s files without inciting a legal battle like the one after the FBI raided the office of Rep. William Jefferson (news, bio, voting record), D-La., earlier this year.

Ex-Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham met with the FBI. Fordham emerged as a key figure Wednesday when he told reporters that he had talked three years ago with top aides to Hastert about Foley’s conduct with pages.

Fordham’s version directly contradicts an account issued by Hastert’s office on Saturday, saying the speaker’s staff only learned of an “over-friendly” e-mail exchange between Foley and a single page. Hastert’s top aide, Scott Palmer, denies that Fordham warned top GOP aides of Foley and inappropriate conduct with other pages.

Foley, 52, stepped down Friday after he was confronted with sexually explicit electronic messages he had sent teenage male pages and promptly checked into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. Through his lawyer, he has said he is gay but denied any sexual contact with minors.

Hastert, meanwhile, is holding to his assertion that he did not know about messages sent by Foley to a former House page until the scandal broke last week.

He issued a less than ringing endorsement of his staff and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., chairman of the board that overseas the page program.

Shimkus admonished Foley to cease contact with the former page, a Louisiana teen. The matter ended there instead of being pursued in a way that might have led to the far more lurid messages sent to other former pages.

“Could we have done it better? Could the page board have handled it better? In retrospect, probably yes,” Hastert said. “But at the time what we knew and what we acted upon was what we had.”

Added Hastert: “I don’t know who knew what when. … If it’s members of my staff that didn’t do the job, we will act appropriately.”

can we impeach him NOW???


somebody (actually, it was , whoever that is) left spam on my journal! for some unknowable reason, they commented a post that i had made a few weeks ago, and posted a fairly long spam message that had to do with gambling. i deleted it immediately, of course, but i have also changed the settings for comments so that only people who are my friends can comment.

if i haven’t made it clear before,


is now banned from commenting in my journal, i have reported your spamming activities to six apart, spamcop, your ISP, and the washington state attorney general.


Pick 5 favorite books. Post the first line of each book (obscuring names if need be). Challenge your friends list to guess the books.

1. _________ spoke: When in the field of virtue, in the field of ____, assembled together, desiring to fight, what did my army and that of the Sons of _____ do, _______?

2. ___ can be talked about, but not the ______ ___. Names can be named, but not the eternal name. As the origin of heaven and earth, it is nameless: as “the Mother” of all things, it is nameable. “Dao De Jing” by Lao Tzu

3. I have begotten thee, O my son, and that strangely,as thou knowest, upon the ______ _____ called _______, as it was mysteriously fortold unto me in ___ ____ __ ___ ___. “Liber ALEPH vel CXI” by Aleister Crowley

4. Now ____ is explained. ____ is the restraining of the mind-stuff from taking various forms.

5. Some 794 letters make up the words for the numbers from one through to ninety-nine. Among them all, I notice, there are only two l‘s.

i left out The Bible, because anybody would probably recognise that, even with the names obscured.


the first week of performances is over. in spite of all the chaos and disorganisation, the performances are going very well. we aren’t performing “The Ride Of The Valkyries” because Pa-Ooh-Lah and her flaming brassiere couldn’t be found, in spite of the fact that we’ve gone for 2 months of rehearsals with the assurance that pa-ooh-lah will be there “next time”, but we’ve made up for it by having Hacki and Moepi as “special guests”. rebecca, one of the long-time cirquies and half of our “tap-dancing, flaming-baton-twirling clown duo”, is pregnant with moepi’s child (yes, she’s playing up the “pregnant clown” aspect), so it’s not really like they’re “special” guests any more, but they are from germany, and they did make a special trip just for our shows, so that’s why they’re being billed as “special” guests. Big Bois With Poise is also performing in the show, to uproarious noise and appreciation.

i’m getting really frustrated because i keep on breaking braces on my sousaphone, and the only way i have to repair them at this point is with zip-ties. i’ve got one soldered brace and four zip-ties holding the valve cluster on the instrument, and i’m afraid that if the last brace breaks, the whole instrument will be down for the count until i can actually solder them back into place, which would not be particularly good for the show, as i’ve been playing the sousaphone and not playing my E-flat tuba, and if i have to switch, there’s a whole bunch of the music for the show that i will have to transpose and (presumably) learn before friday.

saturday, 23 september, i was at gasworks for the celebration of ted (trumpet for the fremont phil, among other things) and kathrine’s wedding (which actually happened a few months ago) and i sat in with “Banda Gonzona”, which is a latin-american-style wind band, and i found out last night that they’re interested in having me on a more permanent basis. ted is also in banda gonzona, which also contains the fremont phil’s new, substitute clarinet player, ben, our new, substitute (hopefully permanent) tenor sax player, joseph, and one of the tuba players from the BSSB, clayton. apparently clayton is in enough other groups that he can’t make all the banda gonzona performances, and they figured that twice the tuba players doubles the possibility that they will be able to play with a tuba for all their shows… of course, i’m also in the fremont phil, and the BSSB, so the probability that i’m not going to be able to make all of banda gonzona’s performances is increased, but what the hell. if nothing else, it was fun playing with them on saturday, and it’ll give me one more thing to do, so i won’t have that much more time to be depressed.


Legislating Violations of the Constitution
By Erwin Chemerinsky
September 30, 2006

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act – H.R. 2679 – provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

A federal statute, 42 United States Code section 1988, provides that attorneys are entitled to recover compensation for their fees if they successfully represent a plaintiff asserting a violation of his or her constitutional or civil rights. For example, a lawyer who successfully sues on behalf of a victim of racial discrimination or police abuse is entitled to recover attorney’s fees from the defendant who acted wrongfully. Any plaintiff who successfully sues to remedy a violation of the Constitution or a federal civil rights statute is entitled to have his or her attorney’s fees paid.

Congress adopted this statute for a simple reason: to encourage attorneys to bring cases on behalf of those whose rights have been violated. Congress was concerned that such individuals often cannot afford an attorney and vindicating constitutional rights rarely generates enough in damages to pay a lawyer on a contingency fee basis.

Without this statute, there is no way to compensate attorneys who successfully sue for injunctions to stop unconstitutional government behavior. Congress rightly recognized that attorneys who bring such actions are serving society’s interests by stopping the government from violating the Constitution. Indeed, the potential for such suits deters government wrong-doing and increases the likelihood that the Constitution will be followed.

The attorneys’ fees statute has worked well for almost 30 years. Lawyers receive attorneys’ fees under the law only if their claim is meritorious and they win in court. Unsuccessful lawyers get nothing under the law. This creates a strong disincentive to frivolous suits and encourages lawyers to bring only clearly meritorious ones.

Despite the effectiveness of this statute, conservatives in the House of Representatives have now passed an insidious bill to try and limit enforcement of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, by denying attorneys fees to lawyers who successfully challenge government actions as violating this key constitutional provision. For instance, a lawyer who successfully challenged unconstitutional prayers in schools or unconstitutional symbols on religious property or impermissible aid to religious groups would — under the bill — not be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees. The bill, if enacted, would treat suits to enforce the Establishment Clause different from litigation to enforce all of the other provisions of the Constitution and federal civil rights statutes.

Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. The religious right, which has been trying for years to use government to advance their religious views, wants to reduce the likelihood that their efforts will be declared unconstitutional. Since they cannot change the law of the Establishment Clause by statute, they have turned their attention to trying to prevent its enforcement by eliminating the possibility for recovery of attorneys’ fees.

Those who successfully prove the government has violated their constitutional rights would, under the bill, be required to pay their own legal fees. Few people can afford to do so. Without the possibility of attorneys’ fees, individuals who suffer unconstitutional religious persecution often will be unable to sue. The bill applies even to cases involving illegal religious coercion of public school children or blatant discrimination against particular religions.

The passage of this bill by the House is a disturbing achievement by those who seek to undermine our nation’s commitment to fundamental freedoms laid out in the Constitution. Should it come up for a vote, it is imperative that the Senate reject this nefarious proposal. The religious right is looking for a way to get away with violating the Establishment Clause and is now one step closer to this goal. The Establishment Clause is no less important than any other part of the Bill of Rights and suits to enforce it should be treated no differently than any other litigation to enforce civil liberties and civil rights.


Habeas Corpus, R.I.P. (1215 – 2006)
By Molly Ivins
Sep 27, 2006

With a smug stroke of his pen, President Bush is set to wipe out a safeguard against illegal imprisonment that has endured as a cornerstone of legal justice since the Magna Carta.

AUSTIN, Texas — Oh dear. I’m sure he didn’t mean it. In Illinois’ Sixth Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, of planning to “cut and run” on Iraq.

Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. “I just could not believe he would say that to me,” said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?

The legislative equivalent of that remark is the detainee bill now being passed by Congress. Beloveds, this is so much worse than even that pathetic deal reached last Thursday between the White House and Republican Sens. John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The White House has since reinserted a number of “technical fixes” that were the point of the putative “compromise.” It leaves the president with the power to decide who is an enemy combatant.

This bill is not a national security issue — this is about torturing helpless human beings without any proof they are our enemies. Perhaps this could be considered if we knew the administration would use the power with enormous care and thoughtfulness. But of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place.

Death by torture by Americans was first reported in 2003 in a New York Times article by Carlotta Gall. The military had announced the prisoner died of a heart attack, but when Gall saw the death certificate, written in English and issued by the military, it said the cause of death was homicide. The “heart attack” came after he had been beaten so often on this legs that they had “basically been pulpified,” according to the coroner.

The story of why and how it took the Times so long to print this information is in the current edition of the Columbia Journalism Review. The press in general has been late and slow in reporting torture, so very few Americans have any idea how far it has spread. As is often true in hierarchical, top-down institutions, the orders get passed on in what I call the downward communications exaggeration spiral.

For example, on a newspaper, a top editor may remark casually, “Let’s give the new mayor a chance to see what he can do before we start attacking him.”

This gets passed on as “Don’t touch the mayor unless he really screws up.”

And it ultimately arrives at the reporter level as “We can’t say anything negative about the mayor.”

The version of the detainee bill now in the Senate not only undoes much of the McCain-Warner-Graham work, but it is actually much worse than the administration’s first proposal. In one change, the original compromise language said a suspect had the right to “examine and respond to” all evidence used against him. The three senators said the clause was necessary to avoid secret trials. The bill has now dropped the word “examine” and left only “respond to.”

In another change, a clause said that evidence obtained outside the United States could be admitted in court even if it had been gathered without a search warrant. But the bill now drops the words “outside the United States,” which means prosecutors can ignore American legal standards on warrants.

The bill also expands the definition of an unlawful enemy combatant to cover anyone who has “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” Quick, define “purposefully and materially.” One person has already been charged with aiding terrorists because he sold a satellite TV package that includes the Hezbollah network.

The bill simply removes a suspect’s right to challenge his detention in court. This is a rule of law that goes back to the Magna Carta in 1215. That pretty much leaves the barn door open.

As Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident, wrote, an intelligence service free to torture soon “degenerates into a playground for sadists.” But not unbridled sadism—you will be relieved that the compromise took out the words permitting interrogation involving “severe pain” and substituted “serious pain,” which is defined as “bodily injury that involves extreme physical pain.”

In July 2003, George Bush said in a speech: “The United States is committed to worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes, whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit.”

Fellow citizens, this bill throws out legal and moral restraints as the president deems it necessary — these are fundamental principles of basic decency, as well as law.

I’d like those supporting this evil bill to spare me one affliction: Do not, please, pretend to be shocked by the consequences of this legislation. And do not pretend to be shocked when the world begins comparing us to the Nazis.


The U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Senate Intelligence Committee approves new FBI powers in Patriot Act

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI would get expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations under Patriot Act revisions approved Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some senators who voted 11-4 to move the bill forward said they would push for limits on the new powers the measure would grant to law enforcement agencies.

“This bill must be amended on the floor to protect national security while protecting Constitutional rights,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., supported the bill overall but said he would push for limits that would allow such administrative subpoenas “only if immediacy dictates.”

Rockefeller and other committee members, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also are concerned that the bill would grant powers to federal law enforcement agencies that could be used in criminal inquiries rather than intelligence-gathering ones.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the bill places new checks and balances on the powers it would grant, such as new procedures that would allow people to challenge such administrative orders. He called the Patriot Act “a vital tool in the war on terror” and lauded the Democrats who voted for it in spite of misgivings.

Portions of the Patriot Act — signed into law six weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks — are set to expire at the end of 2005. The bill would renew and expand the act.

The bill also must be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Feinstein and other Democrats planned to again offer amendments.

Overall, Rockefeller said, the committee gave a nod to most of the Patriot Act in its first few years fighting the nation’s new enemies.

“We concluded that these tools have helped keep America safe … and should be made permanent,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

Still, civil libertarians panned the bill and the closed-door meetings in which it was written.

“When lawmakers seek to rewrite our Fourth Amendment rights, they should at least have the gumption to do so in public,” said Lisa Graves, the ACLU’s senior counsel for legislative strategy. “Americans have a reasonable expectation that their federal government will not gather records about their health, their wealth and the transactions of their daily life without probable cause of a crime and without a court order.”