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