Friday, December 26, 2008

A Ponderous Chain

I think that this made it up here last year at this time, but not nearly enough has changed in the world since then so back it returns. We start with a delightful tidbit of reading, then finish with the much loved feel good retort.

To begin, take a look at Frozen Scandal a New York Review of Books discussion on Scandal in America. Quick snippet:
Scandal is our growth industry. Revelation of wrongdoing leads not to definitive investigation, punishment, and expiation but to more scandal. Permanent scandal. Frozen scandal. The weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. The torture of detainees who remain forever detained. The firing of prosecutors which is forever investigated. These and other frozen scandals metastasize, ramify, self-replicate, clogging the cable news shows and the blogosphere and the bookstores. The titillating story that never ends, the pundit gabfest that never ceases, the gift that never stops giving: what is indestructible, irresolvable, unexpiatable is too valuable not to be made into a source of profit. Scandal, unpurged and unresolved, transcends political reality to become commercial fact.
Weigh this against the constant stream of nonsense on television.

Now comes our man Marley:
"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
"You are fettered," said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"

"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

Scrooge trembled more and more.

"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Perhaps next year at this time it will be somewhat less applicable? I suspect not.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Punch Drunk

Things have been, as usual, a little busy here at the set.element household. Life in the body politic has been quite busy as well. Not everything happening is bad for a change so I am still trying to get my head around it.

I will take a moment of Peace while I think of an actual Scientist being places in the position of Secretary of Energy. I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dr. Chu in the past and am thrilled that he will be in a position to influence policy and create the possibility of change.

Moment of Peace complete.

That out of the way, I have a couple of things on my mind. The first is something that has received considerable press - and quite reasonably so. There is little original to add to this, but still a little complaint seems to be in order. Rick Warren is a smirking pinhead used car salesman (again, my apologies to that profession). He is a graven homophobic shit who deserves nothing but spite but will get the sort of recognition that will improve his Dr. Phil like book sales tremendously. I do not know what the real rational is for the Obama administration to provide a nod of acceptance, but Warren is the shiny face of false centrism. I am not an Obama Fan Boy and feel quite comfortable complaining about this - lord knows the right has been whining like a bunch of little kids for months now. If we do not complain about this and any other decisions that are made, the left will not get a place at the table.

By the way, that fucktard Warren demonstrated yet again why I dislike him so. From this:
All of the great questions of the 21st century will be religious questions.

This thought being tempered by the inclusion of a number of actual adult like people in the administration.

The second thing is the drect confession of the Vice President in war crimes and the continuing whitewashing of the (still) current administrations wrongdoings. In yesterdays Boston Globe a column by Derric Jackson said the following:

VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney said this week that he directly approved waterboarding to torture terror suspects. "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney told "ABC News." Asked if he believes the simulating of drowning is an appropriate technique, he said, "I do." ...

...Cheney told us after 9/11 that the administration would protect us by working on "the dark side . . . in the shadows in the intelligence world." Cheney, Rumsfeld, and President Bush turned the dark side into a blind eye, the shadows into a shroud, and obliterated intelligent discourse on terrorism with raw fear. That was only the warm-up for twisting intelligence to invade Iraq for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.
Currently there are no serious plans for repercussions for the wholesale violation of international, constitutional and local violations of the law. Crimes against humanity, theft of trillions of dollars, countless infractions of individual rights will go punished by lucrative positions in NGOs and Boards of Directors.

At the same time there is a great deal of 'aw shucks' going on by the press and the series of players. They know that nobody is going to do anything about this and honestly do not seem to give a shit.

I have been saying this for years now. With the dissolution of Rule of Law, comes the dissolution of Constitutional Democracy. We have come to a period of hard choices and if we do not make them, they will be made for us.

Must go. BAB will be waking shortly and I have to get some graphs done on a research paper.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Social Networking

Tired of being mocked as a grumpy old fart, I have established a Facebook presence. This will probably get to be as ignored as my blog here in light of the frantic state of work and life, but the style of dialog seems to be driven less by the essay and more by the blurby stream of conscience. I am doomed.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I have been thinking for the past few days about the fundamental changes that have taken place in government. Not just the gross (haha) effects, but larger world view changes that will not necessarily ever return.

While the flashy 'good vs. evil' dialog absorbs our attention (and quite reasonably so), I can not help but to feel that there are more subtle things going on which are not receiving press or dialog.

We as a country (or at least me as a person) are so exhausted at the thought of freaking out yet again, or even trying to keep track of the latest indignity heaped on our plate that it is difficult to give a shit. But it is more than that. The infection that has torn into the financial system - not just rampant deregulation which is bad enough - but the will to cause such global suffering to make yourself more rich is one part aspect of it. A lesser advertised, but more dangerous part is the dark cynicism which blinds the politicians to the will and desire of the people in order to pay these same fools to fix what they already broke.

Corruption and cronyism are hardly some shiny new thing, but I wonder if this time we are standing just past the brink of fundamental social change with regard to the relationship between the government and the governed. Transcending the usual tactic of the signing statement, we have the executive branch taking the position that a bill signed into law will not be enforced because it is a constitutional infringement on his executive powers. From the New York Times:
The Bush administration has informed Congress that it is bypassing a law intended to forbid political interference with reports to lawmakers by the Department of Homeland Security.

The August 2007 law requires the agency’s chief privacy officer to report each year about Homeland Security activities that affect privacy, and requires that the reports be submitted directly to Congress “without any prior comment or amendment” by superiors at the department or the White House.

But newly disclosed documents show that the Justice Department issued a legal opinion last January questioning the basis for that restriction, and that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, later advised Congress that the administration would not “apply this provision strictly” because it infringed on the president’s powers.
[Emphasis added]
This was discussed at some length at the fine blog Cab Drollery. The title of the post is "Return of the Unitard". Who the fuck are these people? They are a Lame Duck Administration with some of the lowest polling numbers Ever Seen for a living president. You explain to me because I am out of ideas - except for the conclusion that the Democracy that we know and love is no longer a living organism.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quick question

Who the heck keeps landing on my post using a search term of "what does fedishism"? Not that I really care about your personal browsing habits, but you might want to tighten up your search terms a bit...

Ok, I just ran the query on google and land as the first search result of five. For the record I was using a phrase coined by William Gibson in Neuromancer which I think was "Nihalistic Technofedishists". Go figure. Now I really have to hurry since PAB is having friends over and the kitchen looks like a bad science experiment.

Short sharp shock.

I have little time so will have to just cut and paste my way through this. At times people say things that are so spot on that there is nothing that can be added to them.

Sarah Palin gave a policy speech yesterday which had a section which went something like:
Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.
The entire thing can be found here - as a disclaimer I have not watched it in it's entirety.

Mr. PZ Myers ( a somewhat well known Atheist and professor of Biology ) made this comment which I shall print in it's entirety. The post can be found here at his most excellent blog.

I am appalled.

This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

This is where the Republican party has ended up: supporting an ignorant buffoon who believes in the End Times and speaking in tongues while deriding some of the best and most successful strategies for scientific research. In this next election, we've got to choose between the 21st century rationalism and Dark Age inanity. It ought to be an easy choice.

Thank you Dr. Myers. Perhaps one day I will have the pleasure of meeting you in person. That will kinda blow this whole pseudo-anonymity thing though...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
Sinclair Lewis.

Quick game of opposites. One thing creepy, and another thing creepy-funny.

Evil creepy:
No comment needed...

Funny creepy. WTF? Who picked the balloons?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Empire of Dirt

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way
This is going to be a short and angry post. Like the previous there is nothing here that you don't already suspect. We (errr, the people that is) no longer are a meaningful component in our government. I dare you to prove otherwise.

Two thinks are pissing me off.

Financial workers at Wall Street’s top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.
The link goes to a site which is ripe with tedious "Obama is a bad bad man" left on left ratfucking action. I have ranted on this before and hold strong and largely inflexible opinions on the subject. Since the internets are a largly anonymous and full of people who take advantage of said anonynimity to act less than adult like, this sort of think must be put up with. Sorry.

I digress.

The second is simple. A quote and a picture.
When the Treasury Department's bailout czar provided an update this week on the government's $700 billion plan to rescue troubled financial institutions, he vowed that it would be an "open and transparent program with appropriate oversight.''
The article is quite interesting and worth a moment of your time. Better than coffee.

Moving on to filed documentation, we see:

Click on the image to read the print. Transparency.

Honestly at time I wonder what is the point of this ride.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Every breath you take.

I have been spending too may hours reading papers that somehow missed one of the ideas in the introduction of "A Brief History of Time" - that you will lose approximately 50% of your readers for each of the formula included in the writing. I have always been a little suspicious of that claim, but can not really seem to escape that nagging feeling that the number of folks that have dug through this work is a little thin...

In trying to escape my actual work, a number of interesting factoids have wandered into my limited attention span and stuck there. You, gentle reader, can decide for your self if there is any real connection.

We are on the last weeks of the administration run by the Worst President Ever. While they are busy doing last minute run-arounds on consumer rights and trying to hide the most egregious of their deeds, the world as a whole trundles on toward the situation where any notion of your privacy is disappearing. Once it goes away you will never get it back.

Off to the land down under, where in order to help police people against themselves the government will be filtering All internet content:

Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government's pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist, experts say.

Under the government's $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material.

Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether.

The government will iron-out policy and implementation of the Internet content filtering software following an upcoming trial of the technology, according to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Department spokesman Tim Marshall said the filters will be mandatory for all Australians.

"Labor's plan for cyber-safety will require ISPs to offer a clean feed Internet service to all homes, schools and public Internet points accessible by children," Marshall said.

This plan is so breathtakingly stupid that I am not really sure just how to add to it. The least offensive of the options still provides the "shucks, illegal is illegal" second grade gutless rational.

Pausing for a moment, we head back to the US where ISP's are being pressured to directly monitor users traffic under recently passed legislation which will - you will never guess this one - protect the children.

As reported in msnbc:
But such monitoring just became easier with a law approved unanimously by the Congress and signed on Monday by President Bush. A section of that law written by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gives Internet service providers access to lists of child porn files, which previously had been closely held by law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Although the law says it doesn't require any monitoring, it doesn't forbid it either. And the law ratchets up the pressure, making it a felony for ISPs to fail to report any "actual knowledge" of child pornography.
Short version: the ISP looks at the signature of every file that is passed to and from your computer. This signature is created by a third party (or law enforcement) and the ISP has no actual notion of what is in the file. The ISP then blocks the transmission of the file, and reports the IP address and local account information to law enforcement. At this point we can assume that the already in place no-knock FBI team can then come in to your home, accuse you publicly of a henious crime and take away all your possessions. Guess they forgot to mention that in the article.

How does the company defend it's product?
A spokesman for Brilliant Digital Entertainment disputed that, saying the technology would be "non-invasive," would not compromise privacy, would be legal in the U.S. and elsewhere, and most important, would curtail the global proliferation of child pornography.

"I don't think it takes many voices before the Internet industry separates out those who are prepared to build a business on the trafficking of child sexual exploitation," said Michael Speck, Brilliant Digital's commercial manager in charge of law enforcement products. "If boxes started turning up with Pablo Escobar's special-delivery cocaine inside, they'd stop it, they'd do something about it."

The mind boggles.

In doing what I do for a living, there is an expectation that general principles of what an ISP is legally allowed to do. At least in California, I would guess that this would be allowed if law enforcement (or any other government funded institution) is not involved such dragnet activity (without per-person warrent). This is of course ignoring all of the moral aspects of this technology.

For the record it would be trivial to avoid this technology as it is reminiscent of antivirus software in the late 1990s. This is hardly a ringing enforcement.

There was another entry about the NSA hoovering up yet more data - phone calls, email, network traffic - but really if you think that that is not happening now there are larger problems.

The destruction of our personal privacy will not take place via some great momentous declaration with tanks in the street. It will be digested one tiny bit at a time. For our own good and yes, for the children.

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

(for the whole thing see this)

I hope that a change in government will begin to undo all this madness.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DOJ to you: "What COINTELPRO? Bitches."

There may come a time
When youll be tired
As tired as a dream that wants to die
And further to fly
Further to fly
"Further to Fly"
Simon and Garfunkel
Just a little something in case you think that I am imply fixated on fiscal short bus that is running around and around the block. Oh no. In an effort to avoid confusion amongst agents who are bound by rules of conduct based on the type of investigation that they officially declare, DOJ has declared that for the assessment of a criminal threat, the FBI can:

• Conduct surveillance without an otherwise required court order

• Obtain grand jury subpoenas for personal telephone and e-mail accounts

• Recruit informants for feeding information about a group or person to the bureau

• Examine records maintained by federal, state and local government agencies, which are typically not accessible to the public, like police databases profiling past criminal suspects.

Groups or individuals targeted for an assessment may simply resemble to an agent a risk to public safety without any advance information indicating that was the case. It's not clear, then, how the bureau determines what groups or people should be spied upon if they haven't broken any laws and whether that process is arbitrary.

From The Center for Investigative Reporting:

In particular, the powers allow agents to "collect information relating to demonstration activities," according to the guidelines, for the purpose of protecting "public health and safety" before a major event, like the party conventions that occurred in St. Paul and Denver. The bureau can gather intelligence to determine where political demonstrators are lodging during the event, how they're traveling there, where demonstration activities are planned and how many people will attend, all without advanced proof that a national-security threat exists.

Agents can also access commercial databases containing large volumes of personal information on U.S. citizens, like those maintained by the private company ChoicePoint, which specializes in serving government agencies.

The fucking Attorney General of the US says:

"Under the new guidelines, the investigative steps that the FBI may take in a particular investigation will not be driven by irrelevant factors, such as the type of paperwork the agent uses to open the investigation," Mukasey told a crowd during an August anti-terrorism conference in Oregon. "The revisions also aim to eliminate distinctions in the existing rules that make it, in practice, harder to gather information about threats to the national security than it is to conduct 'ordinary' criminal investigations."

Think about what was said - irrelevant factors like the type of paperwork are the sort of important detail oriented things that a society's top law enforcement organization should be interested in. If a person can't get that right, why are they in a position of power to begin with?

These rules and laws were put into place on purpose after the DOJ proved again and again that they were incapable of not doing the Wrong Thing. COINTELPRO anybody?

Ugh. I have to go get some work done

Monday, October 6, 2008

A short diversion

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at
dawn looking for an angry fix..."

The truth is, I have been completely at a loss to digest the goings on from the last month or so. It has been so inconceivably stupid and out of control that no amount of digestion, drinking or hope has made a damn bit of difference. We no longer live in a Representative Democracy.

The best background that I have found on the mortgage/banking clusterfuck is found in a stick figure montage. Seems fitting somehow.

There is so much more though. The averace which spawned the mess that we are in today is not being cleaned up. The same basic fear driven policy which has been the hallmark of the current administration is pushing forward with this sick desire, this pathological need to take every little scrap of goodness and hope and sell it to the insiders for maximum profit.

The rise of the Italian Fascist movement involved a corparitist form of government.

We are entering a new relationship between government and the people it is charged to represent. Seems like ages ago I wrote at some length about Rule of Law. Again and again and again.
Rule of Law.

We sit and wonder what new found horror will creep out of the television today. What new 'fuck you' will be unceremoniously delivered, uncommented, by the news. What new expression of privilege and contempt will fall our way. Keeping track of the ever changing and ever growing mess is becoming more complex. New cards for the pile.
When the elections were originally stolen in 2000 there was a great deal of confusion. We were pissed, but our representatives did not want to make a stink. As most effectively expressed in this usenet post:
The Republicans' use of fraud and force has been shocking. Let's go beyond that shock for the moment. What's truly troubling is that their tactics have been so blatant -- for example, the organized mob attack on the vote counting operation in Miami by a gang of out-of-state Republican operatives, including known staff members employed by highly placed officials. They didn't bother to conduct that as a covert operation. They didn't even hide the cashflow that paid for it.

Such an approach is not sustainable long-term under our present system of law and government. But there's no use in seizing power just long enough to get inaugurated if all you do is spend the next four years pinned down in a hopeless tangle of legal actions and political countermeasures. Therefore, we have to assume that they are planning to consolidate their power shortly after Bush is inaugurated.

If you're not following me: This is the equivalent of that moment in the plot where the guy who's being held captive by the bad guys realizes they're planning to kill him because they're letting him see their faces and hear their names spoken. They're not worried about the consequences.

The Republicans are not worried about the consequences of their blatant abuses. The logical conclusion is that once they've consolidated their power, things are going to get a lot worse.
Compare our tepid response to the whole sale sacking of our democracy with the Nixon era exchange:
Within two years after congressional Watergate hearings in 1973, President Richard Nixon had resigned in disgrace. Nineteen corporations and sixty-one people, including Nixon's own chief of staff, four former cabinet officials, and his personal lawyer, had been charged with crimes relating to Watergate; dozens of the president's men had already been convicted and sentenced to prison. In the next presidential election his party was driven from power.
When the DNC took the threat of impeachment off the table, then entire balance of power shifted. It had already been shown that they were willing (and perhaps even desirous) to have the Executive branch set the tone, agenda and perhaps most important, the language of debate. While arguably the notion of trilateral power (Judicial, Executive, Legislative) lost a wheel when the supreme court elected Mr. Bush, the unwillingness of the House and Senate members to do their jobs killed it dead.

I am more fearful now for the fabric of our Democracy than ever before. There is so much more to say, but so little time.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
Milton Mayer in They Thought They Were Free

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I just have a moment to comment on the current state of psychological dissonance in the political sphere.

There is a great deal to say about the current set of democratic holdouts for which nothing the party candidate can do or say will be enough. If I have to read "But how do you know that Obama will be better than McCain" one more fucking time I will crawl through the godsdammed interweb and strangle the shit out of the moron on the other end. It is ok to be disappointed or to have reservations about some candidate other than the one you wanted, but get a grip folks.

On the other side of the divide we have a republican VP candidate who is willing to say:

"what is it exactly that the VP does every day"

Crap. One step away from POTUS. This honestly has to be a show, but this is taking the Forrest Gump thing a little too far. I had this foolish notion that our nation has had it's fill of short bus politics. Guess I call it Moronathon for a reason.

As a proponent of full disclosure, this is a sentence fragment yet the lack of context does not change the intended meaning. See HERE for a link to the complete conversation.

This is going to be a race to the bottom between the racism on the right (and left...), and sexism on the left. On the off chance that the Democratic side fails in it's built in sexism - and trust me that it will not - there will be a constant stream of Ratfucking going on to make sure that that meme gets propagated effectively.

I am hoping that there will be a little more time to vent my spleen (yum!), errr, share my informed opinion, but that is difficult to say. We are just a little busy around here.

Like PAB says: "I ate some fuzz!"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Live Not By Lies

When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: ``I am violence. Run away, make way for me--I will crush you.'' But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally--since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies--all loyalty lies in that.
Excerpt from Live Not By Lies, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Please take a moment and go read the whole thing. It sits on one side of a balance. With it sit the quaint notion of Rule of Law and all that it represents.

On the other side we have one of the more despicable judicial proceedings of our time. The first military commission trial goes to jury today and it is a sad cynical affair. It has been called Potemkin in nature, but I wonder if such a term could truly encompass the layering of lies, double speak and grotesque posturing that makes up this event.

From the LA Times we have:
The war crimes case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan today goes to a jury of his enemies, hand-selected by the Pentagon official who charged him on behalf of a president who has ordered him imprisoned even if acquitted. ...

Hamdan's defense was encumbered by "protective orders" that prohibited even the mention of the CIA or its handling of Hamdan during a month in late 2001 when the defendant disappeared into "a black hole" in Afghanistan, said the tribunal's deputy defense chief, Michael J. Berrigan. He called the two-week trial an "obscenity." ...

Citing national security concerns, none of the agents nor the reports from CIA interrogations of Hamdan were available to the defense. Four prosecution witnesses testified anonymously, and two Army special forces officers called by the defense were questioned behind closed doors, with no media or independent observers allowed.
What riles me the most is that this is a war crimes tribunal. Think about that in all of it's grotesque irony. The ACLU has a few things to say:
"This trial has been an embarrassment. It's embarrassing that the United States would convene the first tribunal since World War II to prosecute such a lowly and marginal figure, and it's embarrassing that this system has been devised to allow prosecution of the alleged crimes of the detainees while covering up the crimes committed against them," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. ...

"From Hamdan's perspective, this is a Potemkin proceeding," Wizner said, a dry run to provide assurance that no barriers arise to the introduction of coerced evidence or hearsay in future trials. [Emphasis added]
(text and form borrowed heavily from a Cab Drollery posting on this).
We have been so hopelessly dehumanized that for today's modest ration of food we are willing to abandon all our principles, our souls, and all the efforts of our predecessors and all opportunities for our descendants--but just don't disturb our fragile existence. We lack staunchness, pride and enthusiasm. We don't even fear universal nuclear death, and we don't fear a third world war. We have already taken refuge in the crevices. We just fear acts of civil courage.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

language redux III

One more time (though perhaps not the last) we have another linguistic fuckaduck brought to you by the Current Administration.

A summary of the effects can be found here, but a short quote might be illuminating:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is poised to put in place new barriers to accessing common forms of contraception like birth control pills, emergency contraception and IUDs by labeling them "abortion."

The effect of this is vastly multiplied on people who can not really afford to just pay out of pocket in the event that this passes. The primary focus of this part of the bill would probably be recipients of title X and Medicaid. As described, the changes would also supersede state laws forcing equal access to contraception. New York and California are expressly described as part of "the problem" since they require prescription drug insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives. These rules would even interfere with New York State law that ensures survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.

The anti-choice movement has always had the elimination of contraception as a significant part of their agenda. These proposed changes are just another step toward these vaulted goals.

The second part of this would be the codification of a persons right to refuse to perform procedures or distribute medication that they disagree with. I personally find this part of it at least as offensive as the first part. In the comments section of the article we find the proverbial:

Read a little more about the proposed bill. It is NOT about banning birth control pills! It is an antidiscrimination bill that would protect the right of healthcare workers who do not want to take part in abortions.

Two quick comments:

1) If you do not like the processing and sale of meat, do not go and work in a meat packing shop. Oh, and then go and say that your belief in the gods damned flying spaghetti monster forbids you to sell hotdogs so the rest of the world needs to deal with it. You got into healthcare or pharmacy or whatever as an adult like person knowing damn well what you would be doing. Transfer to another department.

2) Note here the redefinition of the term 'abortion'. It moves from an actual surgical procedure complete with volatile and politically charged baggage to contraception. Listen to what the ratfucking author of the message says - this bill protects (her) right not to perform or assist in 'abortions' which have been redefined to include contraception (and even the discussion of contraception). So when the only pharmacist in town refuses to sell the pill to you cause baby jebus tells him not to even when he works at a publicly funded hospital, tough luck.

More information can be found here as well regarding additional appalling things about this administration and reproductive rights. I have to go pick fucking LICE out of Mrs. set.elemet's head thereafter she will return the simian favor

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A What?!?

I just need to get this off my chest. From the New York Times Opinion page we have a tedious hack job from a so called 'Card-Carrying Civil Libertarian' who says amongst many enlightened things the following pandering nonsense. (This was written some months ago, so the tedious ratfucking political side of it does stand out a bit more than it might have at the time.)

But BBBBBB’s approach to the subject is that of a top-down progressive. BBBB speeches about privacy suggest that BBBB has boundless faith in the power of experts, judges and ultimately herself to strike the correct balance between privacy and security.

Moreover, the core constituency that cares intensely about civil liberties is a distinct minority — some polls estimate it as around 20 percent of the electorate. A polarizing president, who played primarily to the Democratic base and refused to reach out to conservative libertarians, would have no hope of striking a sensible balance between privacy and security.

AAAAAAAA, by contrast, is not a knee-jerk believer in the old-fashioned liberal view that courts should unilaterally impose civil liberties protections on unwilling majorities.
I blocked out the names as much as possible since the content of the discussion is the relevant part.

Hmm. How about "We hold these truths to be self evident" or perhaps the entire framework built into the constitution and related documents which help avoid the tyranny of the majority. So who the fuck cares about these civil liberties being imposed on us by experts and judges besides some deranged minority? Better reach out to the untold masses of conservative libertarians and their sensible balances. Sounds like the usual republican "Father knows best" bullshit.

I really hope that this was just a particularly cynical Modest Proposal.

Either was I really need a drink.

Phone Fun

Another mixed drink here at Moronathon - geolocation and the everlovin need of Congress to act like a sad mix of boot licking toadies. My apologies to any toads out there who may feel slighted by this, perhaps unjust comparison.

Scene I: Enter Department of No Stinking Badges Justice
Agent1: There is this cool new feature where I can track my delinquent, err, godfearing teenager on a web page.
Agent2: Wow. I wonder if we can leverage this to track US citizens without court order or even probable cause?
Agent1: Sounds like a plan!
As per a BetaNews article (as well as slashdot) :
"Court decisions indicate that USAOs claim not to need probable cause to obtain real-time tracking information. News reports further suggest that some field offices are violating a Department of Justice 'internal recomendation' that 'federal procecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas.'"
Think about this for a moment. This is real time information about your location. But don't worry, you really have nothing to lose if you have nothing to hide. Right?

Yes, the EFF/ACLU are suing for information on DOJ practices. Must do that before you can nicely ask them to quit being such assholes.

In a COMPLETELY UNRELATED and otherwise inconsequential bit of information, congress is ignoring US District Chief Judge Vaughn Walkers ruling against the government regarding immunity for telecoms in the NSA wiretapping case. In case you missed it, Walker (hardly a DFH) ruled:
Congress appears clearly to have intended to -- and did -- establish the exclusive means for foreign intelligence surveillance activities to be conducted. Whatever power the executive may otherwise have had in this regard, FISA limits the power of the executive branch to conduct such activities and it limits the executive branch’s authority to assert the state secrets privilege in response to challenges to the legality of its foreign intelligence surveillance activities.
This provision and its legislative history left no doubt that Congress intended to displace entirely the various warrantless wiretapping and surveillance programs undertaken by the executive branch and to leave no room for the president to undertake warrantless surveillance in the domestic sphere in the future.
Since this decision is now mute we can thank the DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY for caving in to the pack of craven goofballs running the executive branch. They (the craven goofballs) must have some Really Awful Stuff on the loyal opposition...

None the less, thanks folks for shitting all over the 4th amendment.

So tiny, and yet so Evil...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

At last!

Short and sweet personal note. Mrs. set.element is hitting send on her medical school application. Rock on Mrs. set.element!

Mr. set.element.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Heartland Redux

I have a bunch of griping to do, but this was just a little too stupid to pass up.

A 12-YEAR-old American girl and her friends were astounded when a man walked up to their lemonade stand and demanded their takings.

"The guy came up and was, like, 'Give me your money,''' said 12-year-old Dominique Morefield of Terre Haute, Indiana, who was running the lemonade stand with her friends.

"I was shocked. It was just my immediate reaction to chase after him.''

She chased the man, who made off with $US17.50 ($18.50), to a nearby house before calling police, the Associated Press repported.

It took police 45 minutes to persuade Steve Tryon, 18, to come out of the house, where he was arrested and charged with robbery, the AP said.

He is being held in jail on a $US50,000 bond.

"I didn't think anyone would come up to a lemonade stand and steal. That's really low,'' 12-year-old Fred Erstine said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

John Yoo is Evil's Bitch

That was kind of fun to write.

I have been reading a great deal about the torture memo and the additional revelation of Evil from the executive branch. Best one line summary:
"No civilian laws bar us from torturing prisoners because this is a war; the law of war doesn't apply to bar us from torturing prisoners because this isn't the kind of war where the law of war applies."
I started this back in April and it has sat in the 'Edit Posts' pile for some time now. There was some hope of examining the tension that the academic world seemed to be expressing about the tenure of John Yoo. Perhaps it is my lack of sophistication when it comes to matters of right and wrong, but when you build the legal framework that is used to torture and murder people there is something gods dammed wrong with you. Evil I think they call it?

Unable to leave well enough alone, our stalwart anti-hero jumped to the attack on the restoration of habeas to the detainees in Guantanamo by the Supreme Court this week. A brief aside:

(1) Our society is such a collection of lamer couch potato sheeple that the debate and decision of a 900 year old right goes un-noticed by the singular majority of the population. We ought to be out with pitch forks and torches. Mumble mumble mumble - I couldn't get child care either...
(2) We are discussing rights for the smallest minority of people illegally held by the US. What about the other 99% that are locked up in prison ships and in other countries?

In the article - a WSJ Op-Ed - he accuses the court of "judicial imperialism of the highest order". Imperialism. That's rich. The argument follows where he suggests that "an alien who was captured fighting against the U.S. to use our courts to challenge his detention." While this is hypothetically true, we need to pause and examine how the vast majority of the people who find themselves under lock and key in US held Cuba get there. Give you a hint - it has little to do with people fighting. Perhaps some examples would be most illuminating?
Canadian citizen Maher Arar was also detained at the airport -- on a stop-over at JFK Airport on his way back from a family vacation to his Ottawa home -- and then sent to Syria to be tortured for 10 months, only for it to be discovered thereafter that he was completely innocent, that U.S. officials apprehended the wrong man. German citizen Khaled El-Masri was snatched up while on vacation in Macedonia, accused of being a Terrorist, shipped around to multiple countries, denied access to the outside world, tortured by the CIA for months, only to be released once they realized it was a case of "mistaken identity." And the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Lakhdar Boumediene, was a Bosnia citizen, living in Bosnia, who was arrested by Bosnian authorities at the request of the Bush administration, investigated, and determined by the Bosnian Supreme Court to be innocent. But upon his being released, U.S. forces inside Bosnia immediately seized him and shipped him to Guantanamo.
This argument embodies such a transparent attempt at fear mongering and outright lying that we once again stand gape jawed at the heartlessness of it all. As I have mentioned once or twice, this group of scoundrels deserve the sort of Justice that they have so aggressively denied so many others. It is the only way that we as a nation can begin to look one another in the eye again.

I leave my gentle audience (all three of you!) with this sequence from Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" which sums it up nicely:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

decaf freedom

While puttering about the internets, I ran across an interesting factoid. At The Guantanamo Blog there was a a quesion brought up regarding the remaining 99% of US prisoners. This referenced an original article by Chris Floyd which discussed the disposition of the remaining majority.
The United States government is holding some 27,000 human beings in secret prisons around the world. The overwhelming majority of them are being held indefinitely, without charges, without rights, cut off from the outside world, and subject to "harsh interrogation techniques" (to use the prim locution for "torture" used by the Bush Administration and universally adopted by the American media).
27,000 human beings. A line of people 12 miles long, shoulder to shoulder.

As an interesting foil, we have the DOJ Inspectors General report on U.S. complicity in torture.

“These were not random acts,” The New York Times editorialized. “It is clear from the inspector general’s report that this was organized behavior by both civilian and military interrogators following the specific orders of top officials. The report shows what happens when an American president, his secretary of defense, his Justice Department and other top officials corrupt American law to rationalize and authorize the abuse, humiliation and torture of prisoners.”

One of those top officials, who stands revealed in the inspector general’s report as approving the torture policy, is Condoleezza Rice, who in her capacity as White House national security adviser turned away the concerns of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft as to the severe interrogation measures being employed. Rice, as ABC-TV reported in April, chaired the top-level meetings in 2002 in the White House Situation Room that signed off on the CIA treatment of prisoners—“whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called water boarding. ...” According to the report, the former academic provost of Stanford University came down on the side of simulated drowning.

You draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

You are a Blockhead Charlie Brown

In reading a short article on the excellent legal web site 'Balkanization' on the indefensibility of
torture from a legal standpoint, I ran across a now classic attack pattern:
Perhaps I missed it, but does Mr. Horton's campaign define what he thinks is torture? Its difficult to ban what one cannot define.
# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 7:50 PM
Bart here seems to be the resident troll for the site. What I find so interesting is the response to this. Now mind you, this sight is hardly a bastion of mindless liberal tree hugging - there is all sorts of things that discussed that I violently oppose. But the discussion rests on the bedrock of rational debate and exchange. Let us focus on this argument though.

There are few readers out there who might miss this as a classic Socratic attack on the original author. You can not escape a philosophy class without at least reading the Apology which is darn near dripping with this stuff.

So why the hell do we fall for it every time? Like Charlie Brown kicking the gods dammed football being held by Lucy, we actually engage in a discussion about term definition completely moving the discussion away from the original topic all together. Again and again. This style of debate is used against the 'rational' wing of the left with devastating effectiveness. If you just repeat the question again and again ignoring or egging on the rebuttals (which are in themselves an effective way of turning the conversation), some dammed fool with just have to try to make adult like conversation.

Back in my community college days, I had an instructor who invoked 'Big Bob' as the blunt instrument of philosophical menace to instruct us about the potentially reckless power of rhetoric. Little did I suspect (lo those many years ago!) that the left had somehow not been inoculated against the Big Bob meme.

This ideology has taken hold and drives the direction of debate with the executive branch. Rule of Law has been corrupted because the language used to define the core elements (can you say torture?) has been corrupted. Response to this has been confused as is expected.

So lets take back the language of debate, ok?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Quick Read

In looking at the previous post, I wandered on the following. Take in the full thing, and enjoy a little snippet:
Our representatives -- and to a great degree we as a culture -- are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man's corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty ... dammmnnnn.

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying "You don't have the balls to take down a government. You don't have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don't. What's beyond that abyss -- what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation -- terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way."

And to a great degree, the White House is right. You peel this back, and you reveal that the greatest country in the world has been run, for the last six and a half years, by men who do not give a shit about the Constitution, or fair play, or honesty. No, not just run by corrupt men, or bribe-takers, or adulterers or whatever, we could handle that --no we'd be admitting It Went Wrong.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dragged Down by the Stone

Not really sure why this resonates with me. Perhaps it will make sense at the end of this thing.

Things have been a little skinny here at Moronathon. Life is intervening with increased ferocity and we are working quite hard at doing that full speed ahead, chin up thing. Leaves little time for complaining. None the less, we return to our friends Responsibility, Justice and Rule of Law. Hmm. Perhaps we had better start with Paranoia instead as it is a little easier to find in this day and age.

Those of you who read this blog with regularity know that I have a fascination with the relationship between our Government and our Privacy. In reading the following, please think about the utility and reasoning behind keeping even the idea of a government keeping an organization or plan secret. A rational might be created for hiding details - ie we hold up the following people in the event of a flying gerbil attack on Gotham City - but this gets a little less strong when you feel the need to hide the existence of the FGAPP (Flying Gerbil Attack Preparation Plan) or more likely the whole DFGAP (Department of Flying Gerbil Attack Preparation).

Attack Preparation... The US Government has quite reasonably developed plans for dealing with rotten things happening to the country and itself in order to maintain a continuity of operations. This is a Good Thing. For the past thirty years though these plans have added a significant inward looking component which is somewhat troubling. A very interesting article by Christopher Ketcham goes into a great deal of detail with regard to a good number of these changes. The points I make in this section are shamelessly taken from that reading.

The 'enemy lists' of Hoover's FBI are well known and understood. During the same time period the Federal Preparedness Agency (now known as FEMA) maintained a database of at least 100,000 Americans located at Mount Weather, which was publicly investigated in 1975 by Senator John V. Tunney. From the Ketcham article:
The senator's findings were confirmed in a 1976 investigation by the Progressive magazine, which found that the Mount Weather computers "can obtain millions of pieces [of] information on the personal lives of American citizens by tapping the data stored at any of the 96 Federal Relocation Centers"—a reference to other classified facilities. According to the Progressive, Mount Weather's databases were run "without any set of stated rules or regulations. Its surveillance program remains secret even from the leaders of the House and the Senate."
Moving ahead 10 years enter Oliver North. I am unable to express my contempt for this POS, except to say that he gives the usual group of political scoundrels like Donald Rumsfeld a bad name. We are also seeing the same distancing of the executive branch from congressional oversight via the same legal condescension that is being enjoyed today. Another quote:
A report in the Miami Herald contended that Reagan loyalist and Iran-Contra conspirator Colonel Oliver North had spearheaded the development of a "secret contingency plan,"—code-named REX 84—which called "for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, [and the] appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments." The North plan also reportedly called for the detention of upwards of 400,000 illegal aliens and an undisclosed number of American citizens in at least 10 military facilities maintained as potential holding camps.

North's program was so sensitive in nature that when Texas congressman Jack Brooks attempted to question North about it during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings, he was rebuffed even by his fellow legislators. "I read in Miami papers and several others that there had been a plan by that same agency [FEMA] that would suspend the American Constitution," Brooks said. "I was deeply concerned about that and wondered if that was the area in which he [North] had worked." Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Iran, immediately cut off his colleague, saying, "That question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area, so may I request that you not touch upon that, sir." Though Brooks pushed for an answer, the line of questioning was not allowed to proceed.

Wired magazine turned up additional damaging information, revealing in 1993 that North, operating from a secure White House site, allegedly employed a software database program called PROMIS (ostensibly as part of the REX 84 plan). PROMIS, which has a strange and controversial history, was designed to track individuals—prisoners, for example—by pulling together information from disparate databases into a single record. According to Wired, "Using the computers in his command center, North tracked dissidents and potential troublemakers within the United States. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon's enemies list or Senator Joe McCarthy's blacklist look downright crude." Sources have suggested to Radar that government databases tracking Americans today, including Main Core, could still have PROMIS-based legacy code from the days when North was running his programs.

I am going through the information a little differently than the original article - 'Main Core' is the current implementation of the big unregulated database holding personal information about suspicious people that might need special attention in the event of a 'national emergency'.

The exact details are less important than the main points: information is being collected outside of the normal scope of regulation and oversight whose main purpose will be the detection and survaliense of American Citizens. The decision to use these rests with the executive branch as defined in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (also known as NSPD-51), issued in May 2007, which reserves for the executive branch the sole authority to decide what constitutes a national emergency and to determine when the emergency is over. Finally, the historical firewall between states and the use of Federal troops - Posse Comitatus - was reduced in scope as well.

For the record I am somewhat skeptical that any notion of regulation or oversight is meaningful in the context of this sort of operation. It exists at a layer of government which is not all that well defined for those of us brought up in the now quaint notion of three house government.

I am also skipping the Military Commissions Act of 2006 as there has been some further clarifications act brought to us by the Supreme Court which I would need to look up and do not really have the space. Google "Salim Hamdan and Military Commissions Act" for more details.

So what? Those fans of the old X-Files series remember the tin foil hat brigaded talking about FEMA and a Vast Conspiracy to lock up countless Americans. Such a joke right? Until quite recently I felt the same way. Where we sit today the people with the power to do this are without shame or dignity. They have expressed contempt for the Rule of Law. They have sullied and destroyed our national reputation and treasure. American Citizens can and are being held without constitutional protections. They feed on the hopes and dreams of us leaving nothing but bitter ruin.

We - the United States - are currently holding more than 27,000 human beings in secret prisons around the world. The overwhelming majority of them are being held indefinitely, without charges, without rights, cut off from the outside world, and subject to "harsh interrogation techniques" (to use the prim locution for "torture" used by the Bush Administration and universally adopted by the American media).

Do you really think that they would be afraid to use this if it was in their best interest?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

free advice for new visitors

The traffic profile for the previous post picked up a couple of interesting visitors. I suspect that one or more staff people for one or more of the mentioned senators spend some chunk of the day looking to see what stupid bloggers such as myself are saying about their employers. This seems like a reasonable and well thought out thing to do.

For my new visitors from washington: Quit browsing the web right now and go update your flash versions. Folks the versions on the browsers I saw are both really old and really vulnerable, and if you are not currently nodes for the Russian Business Network you sure will be soon. The thought of that bothers me a little...

This in no way changes what I think and feel, it is just a little public service net hygiene.

To help ensure the return of our friends from washington, I will re-post the bits of (todays) post which has names and whatnot.
Republicans, meanwhile, made their feelings about the hearing clear from the outset. In his opening statement, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) declared the hearing an utter waste of time. "These cases are old news," he fumed. His colleague, the former Texas judge Louie Gohmert, echoed those sentiments. "Why are we here today?" he demanded, noting that the committee had to cut short a markup of seven important crime bills to convene the hearing that he claimed was born out of "desperation." Gohmert ticked off a list of items he found more relevant for the committee's attention, including a random and inexplicable reference to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who Gohmert thought ought to be investigated for perjury based on his numerous appearances before the committee regarding the outing of his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. Then, the Republican congressman stormed out of the hearing room, never to return.

Monday, May 19, 2008

These cases are old news, why are we here today?

That will be the theme of the next eight years.

We will hear again and again how this is all just old news and should be left to rest. Nothing to be seen here. Move along.

Congress holds an oversight committee, about things that happened less than 8 years ago. Illegal attacks on our system of government. The DOJ - a major player in this mess - doesn't even show. Just a no-show, like the fucking rule of law that they are supposed to stand for, that we the taxed are paying for, just does not really mean anything when you are supposed to be investigating violations of the law that got you in power.

And what does the GOP have to say:
Republicans, meanwhile, made their feelings about the hearing clear from the outset. In his opening statement, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) declared the hearing an utter waste of time. "These cases are old news," he fumed. His colleague, the former Texas judge Louie Gohmert, echoed those sentiments. "Why are we here today?" he demanded, noting that the committee had to cut short a markup of seven important crime bills to convene the hearing that he claimed was born out of "desperation." Gohmert ticked off a list of items he found more relevant for the committee's attention, including a random and inexplicable reference to former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who Gohmert thought ought to be investigated for perjury based on his numerous appearances before the committee regarding the outing of his CIA wife, Valerie Plame. Then, the Republican congressman stormed out of the hearing room, never to return.
Fire them. How fucking long would you last if you skipped out of a court appearance? Fire them and let the same rule of law that they have alternatively ignored or perverted provide them a little more down time on the tax payers dime.

Life has been complex as of late and I have not had the time or energy to work much on this endeavor. I am hoping to fix that a bit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

note on goings on

I am working on a pair of posts that discuss the Yoo torture memo/discussion that top white house staff were expressly invloved in the decition making process for torturing captives. See this ABC news link for a little more.

The second is a breakdown of the recent revelations that white house legal thought that the 4th ammendment did not necessisarily apply. Nice writeup from the EFF:
"The EFF has uncovered a troubling footnote in a newly declassified Bush Administration memo, which asserts that 'our Office recently [in 2001] concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.' This could mean that the Administration believes the NSA's warrantless wiretapping and data mining programs are not governed by the Constitution, which would cast Administration claims that the programs did not violate the Fourth Amendment in a whole new light — after all, you can't violate a law that doesn't apply. The claimed immunity would also cover other DoD agencies, such as CIFA, which carry out offline surveillance of political groups within the United States."

More later ...

Spit please!

Another quick post.

Short version: Having completely lost the distinction between an individual accused of committing a crime and an individual convicted of said offense, Congress has authorized the justice department (no big 'J' for you!) to gather DNA samples from anybody who gets arrested.

This includes all those international travelers who have not even been charged with anything.

See DNA is the new duct tape of law enforcement. Just like all the wire tap infrastructure, we have nothing to fear with regard to our privacy given that there are rules by which law enforcement has to follow in order to get at the data.

Interesting quote:
Ablin said the DNA collection would be subject to the same privacy laws applied to current DNA sampling. That means none of it would be used for identifying genetic traits, diseases or disorders.
Perhaps I have been drinking the paranoid juice just a little too long, but that disclaimer is quite specific. Think for a moment of things not in that list that you would not like the justice department to be able to do in a large dragnet database sort of way. Do you have something to hide?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Money for Nothin'

Just in case you thought the state of the educational system was not quite crappy enough, I bring you a sad tale of the big corporation and the Really Stupid Book. This book is a favorite amongst the up by the bootstraps middle class, but alas, it is no Frankenstein.

Perhaps more of an ideological bodice ripper.

This may all be an act of fiction since I did not bother to track down the original sources. It would surprise me somewhat if that was the case. With that in mind I leave you with the complete quote:

The charitable arm of BB&T Corp., a banking company, pledged $1 million to the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2005 and obtained an agreement that Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” would become required reading for students. Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, say they also took grants and agreed to teach Rand….

“A corporation crosses a line and a university is complicit in crossing the line if it accepts money” and accedes to a request to assign specific books, said Jonathan Knight, director of the program on academic freedom, tenure and governance for the American Association of University Professors, in Washington. “It’s unique in my experience.” Knight has worked in the field for 31 years….

After BB&T mandated that some schools teach “Atlas Shrugged,” grant seekers became aware of Allison’s interest and now tailor their applications by stating up front their interest in Rand, Denham said.

Scholars scoff at the Rand bounty, saying her ideas are too shallow to build courses around her.

That last line has got to hurt just a little though...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Grown up Pants

Life has been just stupidly busy, so I have not had the pleasure of sharing my wit and charm with the legions of loyal readers across the globe. While waiting for some numbers to crunch for a homework set, I had the misfortune of reading a few political blogs. Jesus Mary and Joseph, what the fuck is wrong with the democrats? Do they have to shaft themselves at every opportunity?

From team O we seem to be getting a recycling of old Right Wing talking points about the Clintons. Did you not read my previous post? * The only thing that this is doing is providing free cannon fodder for the right.

From team C we get sentence dissection and other sophomoric crap. People mis-speak - if I had every thing I said or did dissected to this degree it would be a real horrorshow. To make my point clear, I will provide context for the quote since it is yet another stupid question script derived from a 24 like mentality. By the way, can someone please tell me just exactly why "Hardball" (sweet jebus...) is relevant.

MATTHEWS: Let me give you a scene that may face you in the next year or two, where the national security adviser calls you at 3:00 in the morning and tells that you a couple of jet — commercial jets have been hijacked. And they believe it is al Qaeda. And, as we know, al Qaeda always tries a second time. They tried for the World Trade Center after ‘93. They came back in ‘01. They’re heading for the Capitol. What do you do?

OBAMA: Well, look, I am hesitant to engage in hypotheticals like that, because…

MATTHEWS: But it has been predictable.

OBAMA: Oh, well, the — I don’t think anybody predicted 9/11. And, so, we don’t know what kinds of circumstances are going to come up.

Let me make my point - issues issues issues. The more time the left spends tearing itself up over sound bytes and fluff, the more disgusted actual people are getting with them. I want to know what the candidates are going to do about the economy, the war, the constitutional crisis, health care, corporate welfare, the mortgage crisis, New Orleans, the debt, jobs and what not. Do not fucking tell me about anything else. Quit with the racism and the misogamy and get it together because we do not have four more years to give to John McCain.

For the record, you get some really crazy shit for putting 'pants' into googles image search.
* Three people read it actually.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ratfucking et al

While I recognize that the current debate and consternation between the two Democratic candidates is good and healthy (what with being a democracy and all), the tone that some members of each camp seem to be taking with one another has always seemed a little over the top.

There is a term which emerged out of the Watergate investigations which might be useful here: ratfucker. This is a political operative who has the interesting position of thinking up rotten things to do to the opposition party.

Let us for a moment step into the way back machine and embrace the greatest ratfucker of them all - Karl Rove. He began the public segment of his career with - this will shock you - Richard Nixon. Before then he did whateverthefuck one does in preparing for a career steeped in Doing Evil. Pulling the wings off of flys and the heads of off dollies, worshiping cathulu, squeezing that little bit of humanity out of his soul so that it would not accidentally pull a Grinch on him. Bastards. Who the fuck knows?
Segretti recruited Karl Rove, the executive director of the College Republicans, to work in this dirty tricks campaign. In the fall of 1970, Rove had used a false identity to enter the campaign office of Democrat Alan J. Dixon, who was running for Treasurer of Illinois. He stole 1000 sheets of paper with campaign letterhead, printed fake campaign rally fliers promising “free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing”, and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters, with the effect of disrupting Dixon’s rally.
Segretti went to jail for that one, Rove just moved up the food chain. As a protégé of Segretti, Rove helped to paint Nixon opponent George McGovern as a “left-wing peacenik”, in spite of McGovern’s heroism during World War II piloting a B-24.

I am stealing much of this from a deliriously hysterical post which really is a must read. In a classic move he took the position of the Director of the College Republicans from Robert Edgeworth by using a different version of the C.R. constitution. The election was a tie, so the decision was made by George Herbert Walker Bush. Ok, tell me with a straight face that the republican party is not composed entirely of creepy incestuous back scratchers.

Oh, my point? Well is was supposed to be simple. When you get some troll showing up and being all psycho and reactionary - serving no purpose at all except to sow disagreement, maybe you are just being visited by a ratfucking stooge. Reading the comments on the above mentioned post and you will come to realize that this message just bounced right the hell off the pointy heads of the commenter's. Things have gotten to heated up and crazy, that I don't think that they need to have stooges any more.

Imagine how proud this makes Karl.

Two quick comments: (1) I do not labor under the impression that the Democrats are somehow not creepy and incestuous. They just lack the high gloss approach that the repos have. (2) I have waited a long time to use the phrase 'ratfucking stooge' in my writing. Thank you for humoring me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Click on the link, knock knock.

In looking for the graphic on this posting, I ran across a number of fringe organizations and people whose sights I might not normally find myself at. This is not all that unusual when you enter a series of words - like "thought crime" in to the google images search.

Keep this in mind, and also think about how many times you have found yourself in a site that might be considered illegal or immoral by the standards found in the local community.

Enter the DOJ. From a article:

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

Two things quick. First, players in the kid porn world deserve the wood chipper. Second, that 'gibberish' was probably a nice attack vector with call back code in it.

Regardless, think about what is going on here. Someone connected to a linking using the IP address registered to your account with the ISP - maybe it is you, maybe not - and accesses a link watched by the FBI. On the strength of this information alone, your door gets kicked in and you are accused of a crime to which you really have no chance of defending yourself against.

When anyone visited the site, the FBI recorded the Internet Protocol address of the remote computer. There's no evidence the referring site was recorded as well, meaning the FBI couldn't tell if the visitor found the links through Ranchi or another source such as an e-mail message.

With the logs revealing those allegedly incriminating IP addresses in hand, the FBI sent administrative subpoenas to the relevant Internet service provider to learn the identity of the person whose name was on the account--and then obtained search warrants for dawn raids.

What troubles me about this (besides the nature of the accusation) is fairly complicated. First the person did not actually access illegal material. In a more traditional (say drug related) situation, you must exchange money for drugs before a crime takes place. Here a link is accessed from some IP address. There is no strong causality - either in terms of who did the access (remember, we only have records for the internet address, not the person) and more importantly the fact that the transaction never actually took place. Nothing illegal was accessed - only 'gibberish'. In addition, how the address accessed the link was not recorded (as per the quote above), so there is no indication of what means the illicit link was accessed by - say in an email or web site or even as an image referral in a particularly broken email client.

In addition, it is not unusual to have legal precedent created for a crime like drug use or porn where there are few people who look at this as a potential civil rights infringement. Hell, they are happy to see that sort of asshole locked up no matter what the means. The problem is, such legislation tends to suffer from feature creep.
When asked what would stop the FBI from expanding its hyperlink sting operation, Harvey Silverglate, a longtime criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge, Mass. and author of a forthcoming book on the Justice Department, replied: "Because the courts have been so narrow in their definition of 'entrapment,' and so expansive in their definition of 'probable cause,' there is nothing to stop the Feds from acting as you posit."
It is not the individual described case that concerns me as much as the big picture. There is a layer of abstraction happening here which seems a bit slippery. It is not the notion that intent is irrelevant - think about conspiracy charges. It is the lack of causality between the act of someone accessing an internet site, and the FBI kicking in your door and dragging you away in front of your neighbors. You are not just accused of a crime that is poison in our society, but also having the FBI dig through your personal items and papers:
The search warrants authorized FBI agents to seize and remove any "computer-related" equipment, utility bills, telephone bills, any "addressed correspondence" sent through the U.S. mail, video gear, camera equipment, checkbooks, bank statements, and credit card statements.
You tend to get this stuff back when they are quite ready to give it to you.

It is the feature creep that is causing me the most grief.