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Saturday, January 24, 2004day link 

 GOP broke into Dems' computers
Via Boing Boing from Boston Globe:
The Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Secret Service have concluded that ranking Republicans have been electronically burgling Democrat computer files. Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

Eh, so how is this different from Watergate again? Why does this just pass through the news without anybody getting lined up to go to jail?
[ | 2004-01-24 19:47 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Monday, January 19, 2004day link 

 Do what they say
picture
So, to test pictures right away... Is this maybe who Bush works for?
[ | 2004-01-19 15:13 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, January 14, 2004day link 

 Humiliation and Terrorism
picture Via Metafilter, an article, "Terrorism's new Mecca" by Jessica Stern. It examines the causes of terrorism.
Several possible root causes have been identified, including, among others, poverty, lack of education, abrogation of human rights, the perception that the enemy is weak-willed. I've been interviewing terrorists around the world over the past five years. Those I interviewed cite many reasons for choosing a life of holy war, and I came to despair of identifying a single root cause of terrorism. But the variable that came up most frequently was not poverty or human-rights abuses, but perceived humiliation. Humiliation emerged at every level of the terrorist groups I studied — leaders and followers.

The "New World Order" is a source of humiliation for Muslims. And for the youth of Islam, it is better to carry arms and defend their religion with pride and dignity than to submit to this humiliation. Part of the mission of jihad is to restore Muslims' pride in the face of humiliation. Violence, in other words, restores the dignity of humiliated youth. Its target audience is not necessarily the victims and their sympathizers, but the perpetrators and their sympathizers. Violence is a way to strengthen support for the organization and the movement it represents.
It rings true more than anything else. No, it is not people who "hate freedom". It is people who's family, who's culture, who's religion, who's countries, who's leaders have been humiliated. And it is people who's pride and dignity are more important to them than their lives. It shouldn't be that hard to understand. Stop carrying out programs of organized humiliation. Better yet, help these folks having something to be proud of.
[ | 2004-01-14 03:42 | 24 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 National Debt
More on the U.S. national debt, from Al Martin Raw, the article "Scoreboard 2003". Seems to be in the member area, but somebody sent me an e-mail copy.
The total national debt of the United States on a fully realized basis, inclusive of federal, state, county and local debt stood at a record $20.613 trillion (83.73% of said debt having been created from 1981-92 and from 2001 to present.) The total public and private indebtedness of the United States ended the year 2003 at $39.384 trillion. The total public and private assets of the United States ended the year 2003 at $26.134 trillion. Thus, the United States by the end of 2003 has a negative net worth of approximately $13 trillion. The total debt service of the United States ended the year 2003 at 309.4% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). These are numbers never before seen. This is a higher debt to gross domestic product ratio than any other country on earth, which still services its debt.
Doesn't sound good. I'd like to see some other sources on that, of course. The periods he's mentioning, 81-92 and 2001 to the present, where 83.73% of the debt were generated is when Reagan and the two Bushes have been presidents.
[ | 2004-01-14 03:20 | 9 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, January 7, 2004day link 

 Bush in 30 seconds
picture MoveOn put out a contest to produce 30 second anti-Bush commercials. Some excellent entries there. This is my favorite.
[ | 2004-01-07 16:57 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Sunday, January 4, 2004day link 

 A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies.
Via Metafilter, this article from Harpers. The text is pieced together verbatim from statements given publically by senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. Rather chilling, actually, as these are very blatant lies, given by people who probably hoped they were true, but at best didn't bother to check. And yet they're given with the most absolute and certain words possible.
We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were.
For any of you who maybe hadn't paid attention: that is completely false, even though they tried very hard to find anything, anything at all. As is the rest in the article.
[ | 2004-01-04 14:11 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Thursday, January 1, 2004day link 

 Concerted action
Jon Husband on Wirearchy says:
"Short of a really serious, all-stakes-on-the-table World War (which is not an option, nor thinkable, really) ...

the only way that there will be real and substantive change to the current plutocracy's rule of both the USA and (by economic domination) the rest of the world will be through purposeful and concerted action enabled by wired-together people and information.

Any other form of real change that conceivably could happen involves collapse, I think - of the economy, or the environment. And neither of these should be the target of purposeful and concerted causative action."

Hm, you're right. The self-serving rulers of the United States might cause economic or environmental collapse or world war. And one might help them along to their ends. But that wouldn't be very sensible, as it would be very painful one way or another. So the only real alternative is that sensible well-connected people get better organized and better informed. The only alternative is that the people figure out how to be The People, instead of being ruled by a few unsuited leaders who's main asset is their own tunnel vision of power.
[ | 2004-01-01 15:56 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Saturday, December 27, 2003day link 

 Hypocricisms
From an e-mail:
Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you run for governor of California as a Republican.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

[ | 2003-12-27 17:18 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Chomsky on Iraq
picture Via SynEarth, an article by Noam Chomsky. "IRAQ: Why are we really there?".
"All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal. An indictment of Saddam's atrocities would include not only his slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially, his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in 1991. At the time, Washington and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression," reported Alan Cowell in the New York Times. Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam. With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and Washington's reaction overlooked that support. Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally - a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff." The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages: It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening before our eyes."
That's always convenient, of course.
[ | 2003-12-27 17:18 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, December 23, 2003day link 

 The Kurds got him
picture Apparently Saddan Hussein wasn't just captured due to the excellence of U.S. intelligence. See here or here. The Kurds seem to say that he was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, after a suitable deal had been agreed upon. That'll explain the way he looked, of course.
[ | 2003-12-23 13:13 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Assassins on strike
Washington Post:
JERUSALEM, Dec. 21 -- Thirteen reservists from Israel's elite military commando unit stated Sunday in a letter to the prime minister that they would no longer serve in the occupied territories, joining other influential security officials who have recently criticized Israeli military tactics and treatment of the Palestinians. "We have long ago crossed the line between fighters fighting a just cause and oppressing another people," three officers and 10 soldiers of the army's most secretive unit, the Sayeret Matkal, said in the letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
These are the people from a mysterious and elite unit, the people who carry out daring rescue missions, and assassinations. And they follow other similar public announcements from other groups of soldiers, some of them highly placed and respected. I think that's an inspiring trend to come out of Israel. Soldiers who will follow their integrity and who will simply refuse when their orders just aren't right.
[ | 2003-12-23 13:01 | 26 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, December 16, 2003day link 

 Saddam captured; desert blooms
picture Well, I didn't really know what to say about Saddam Hussein being captured, as I'm not sure I believe the whole scenario. But in the spirit of celebration, getting rid of the bad guys, new beginnings, and general unreality, this piece that I received in the mail today seems to capture it well.
BAGHDAD (Plausible News Service) -- The apparent arrest of Saddam Hussein brought a traumatic chapter in the millennia-long history of Mesopotamia to an end earlier today, with immediate and wide-ranging effects being felt throughout the country. Flowers spontaneously erupted across vast stretches of Iraqi desert. Power and water service were restored to millions of Iraqi homes, some of which have never had it in the first place.

"My cable is working again! I can get Bravo channel now! They must have arrested Saddam!" cried a jubilant Walid al-Jibra, dancing in the street in front of his formerly bombed-out store, which was found miraculously restored moments after the announcement. Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis alike were seen joyfully embracing in Basra, while a number of children previously thought to have been killed during the invasion were found to be alive and perfectly healthy. Hospitals reported increases in stocks of medicines, "but hey, we don't need them anyway, half our patients just got up and walked away," according to one staffer.

A statement released by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden acknowledged the defeat for the radical Islamic movement signified by the Saddam arrest.

"Oh well, we might as well just hang it up, as you say," said the emaciated terrorist leader on a video broadcast by al-Jazeera television shortly after the arrest announcement. "This just shows that you can't mess around with the ol' US of A."

Troops met the news with relief. "Well, I am sure enough glad that's all over with," said Sgt. Paul Tarbabe of Tuskeegee, as he began packing his gear for the return home. "Just in time, too -- we oughta all be able to get back home for Christmas now. I've got a six-month-old daughter to meet!"

Donald Rumsfeld and senior Pentagon officials have indicated that with Saddam out of the picture, "our work here is finished," as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a press briefing at the Pentagon early this morning. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other officials, for whom the planning and execution of the Iraq operation has been an obsession for years, intend to retire next week and "set up a think tank in Samoa or someplace like that," Wolfowitz said.

The forecast for Baghdad for today and the foreseeable future is sunny, with bright blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, warm but comfortable temperatures, and copious birdsong.

[ | 2003-12-16 13:45 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Saturday, December 13, 2003day link 

 We'll take care of the axis of evil
picture
From Strike The Root - a journal of liberty
[ | 2003-12-13 19:00 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Freedom and Responsibility
picture Craig Russell in an article, "Pick and Choose":
Freedom requires responsibility. And yet how many of us are truly willing to take responsibility for our own freedom, for our own lives? How many of us, for example, take true and total responsibility for something as basic and fundamental as our own food, for that essential connection to the earth that sustains our very lives? The vast majority of us depend totally upon Power and its Economic System to provide that for us. We eschew any caring for, or connection to, the land. We’re unwilling to make the effort it would take to produce our own food. We literally refuse to get our hands dirty. We, by and large, much prefer immersing ourselves in the infinite greed of the marketplace and the ease and comforts of “civilized” life it provides – for our cars and our oil furnaces, our roads and our televisions, for our fresh strawberries and pomegranates delivered fresh in the dead of winter. Most of us have lived this way for so long that, like teenagers living off their parents, we simply take for granted the effort, the networks and organizations, that bring those things to us. Just as they don’t really understand what it takes to keep the lights on and put food on the table, we have little if any idea about where food or electricity comes from or how they got here – little if any idea about what, exactly, it took to achieve and maintain this state of being, this level of ease and comfort. And then, wanting the comforts but lacking both true knowledge of (and any responsibility for) them, we complain like spoiled teenagers about the necessary restrictions the System requires of our minds and our lives.
I agree that it is a big problem that most of us are so disconnected from the foundation we're living on. It is a big danger that we have no clue how to grow food or make electricity. Ironically I do think that technological advances, of the right kind, could make that situation better. We could very well be educated in the basics, and have tools in our hands that would allow us to do things on our own. Either if it became necessary, or as an exercise.

How would I create electricity? Eh, despite sort of knowing how it works, I'm not sure. OK, I could think up a dynamo and something to turn it, but I'd need copperwire and magnets. My method of getting those would be to buy them in a store. That's not good enough. I really need more fundamental do-it-yourself knowledge than that. We all do.
[ | 2003-12-13 18:21 | 9 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Friday, December 12, 2003day link 

 Plutocracy
picture From Jon Husband:
From Webster's (www.websters.com)

Democracy

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

2. A political or social unit that has such a government.

3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.

4. Majority rule.

5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

Plutocracy

1. A form of government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the wealthy classes; government by the rich; also, a controlling or influential class of rich men.

2. A political system governed by the wealthy people

You decide ?
Gee, that's hard. Plutocracy seems to be working so well already in the U.S., so why bother importing such commie nonsense as "Democracy" into the country. It probably comes from France. Even better, just drop that whole first section and change the heading of the second to Democracy. Nobody reads dictionaries anyway.
[ | 2003-12-12 15:07 | 10 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Monday, December 1, 2003day link 

 Civil Defense
John Abbe mentions an article from the mid-80s: Nonviolent Warfare: Alternative to Armageddon?
The year is 2010. Russian tanks swarm into a small country in Western Europe, spearheading an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops. But this invasion is unusual because no shots are fired. Instead, the Communist soldiers are greeted by shuttered windows and deserted streets. The nation being overrun phased out its military years ago and now relies on a carefully planned program of civilian nonviolent resistance to deter its enemies. Immediately, clandestine government radio stations broadcast a call for a general strike to oppose the invaders. Factories close down, key machine parts are "lost," industrial experts go into exile, and normal channels of communication and transportation within the country are disrupted.

In an effort to get the country moving again, the Soviets round up government officials and tell them to end the strike or face execution. The few leaders that collaborate are socially ostracized. Meanwhile, an underground leadership begins to function and the economic shutdown continues unabated. Frustrated, the Soviets blunder by ordering troops to shoot at nonviolent demonstrators. As a result, the troops become restless, morale problems develop, and desertions begin to occur. Finally, realizing that the costs of continued occupation outweigh any possible benefits, the Soviets withdraw.
OK, its premises are a bit outdated, but you get the point. It is based on the book "The Politics of Nonviolent Action". Essentially it is like "What if there were a war and nobody showed up?". Or rather, what if nobody cooperated with any invading force, but instead provided concerted non-violent resistance. Of course that doesn't stop bombs and tanks, but it might remove the incentive for trying to take over another country. You wouldn't steal a car if you knew it would impossible to drive it. It is not all stupid, since the majority of wars have an economic incentive. Somebody wants to get their hands on some other people's stuff and want to control those people. If they can't, there would be that much less point to it.

Of course, if nobody cooperated in being an army in the first place, and there were nobody willing to make bombs, the whole thing wouldn't happen at all.
[ | 2003-12-01 06:16 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Wednesday, November 26, 2003day link 

 Who's Winning the War on Terrorism?
Excellent article about the "war" on terrorism from Harlan Cleveland. Harlan is an experienced statesman, and I've heard him speak at the World Future Society's conferences. He thinks clearly about things.
"Terrorism is not a doctrine, like President Harry Truman’s declaration that the United States would protect Greece and Turkey from Soviet takeover. It’s not a purpose, like the postwar recovery of Western Europe assisted by the four-year Marshall Plan. It’s not a deadly disease like AIDS or a chronic condition like poverty, on which metaphorical wars have been declared.

No, terrorism is a tool—“a tool, not an actor,” as Chester A. Crocker, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, puts it in a perceptive analysis of “failing states” in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.

It’s a tool often used in history. Terrorism is usually violent action, often aimed at a few of the innocent in order to terrify much larger populations. The violence has traditionally been directed, by the weaker and less organized, against the stronger and more “established.” It has often been aimed by people who got there first, against other people who came later to muscle the early-arrivers aside: colonial subjects against imperial powers, people of color against dominant whites."
And he goes on to explain very well the self-contradictions inherent in trying to have a war against something like that. And what should be done instead.
[ | 2003-11-26 15:25 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Saturday, November 22, 2003day link 

 Diebold
picture Diebold is a U.S. company that makes electronic voting systems. It has been having a few problems recently hiding what it really is doing.

First it should raise a few red flags that the company is owned and run by Republicans who are ardent and active supporters of the Republican party and George Bush. The head of the company said recently a fund-raiser in Ohio that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year". Well, he really is, and the best way he has of doing that is that they use his voting machines.

A key point in the plan is the concept of black box voting. Essentially it means that there's a computer that spits out the results of the vote and it keeps no record of how the result was added up and who voted what. Everything is nice and anonymous, and the process is supposedly inaccessible from the outside world.

Then somebody incidentally found Diebold's source code on one of their ftp servers. And John Hopkins university went and did a thorough security analysis of it. Read more here. In brief, it is alarmingly full of security holes and very badly written in the first place. And, worse, it seems like it deliberately has many possible security features turned off.

There's a lot more. See a timeline here. According to the blackbox voting concept, the tabulating computers should add up voting results on their own, without contact to the outside world. But then good stuff like this is noticed:
September 3, 2003. A file from Diebold software examined by activist J. March seems to be from a real election, and it contains real votes. This file is from the 2002 primary election in San Luis Obispo, California - SLOanalyze. This file was saved as a “backup file” at exactly 3:31 p.m. on election day (March 5, 2002), about five hours before the polls closed. This file contains a tabulation taken from 57 precincts. The votes in the file correspond with the final vote tally, which can be found on the San Luis Obispo County web site for that election (but only about 40 percent of the votes had come in by 3:31 in the afternoon). This file appears to be problematic for Diebold, because it is illegal to count the votes before the polls close. Furthermore, it raises the question of how the votes went from 57 polling places into a central tally in the middle of the afternoon.
Yeah, that's a little problematic, that they have a modem link in to the voting machines, and that they're adding up the results prematurely. Eh, maybe to be able to make a few adjustments if things aren't going in the right direction?

Then somebody managed to get hold of a lot of internal memos from Diebold. A mixture of great stuff like:
"I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb".”
Mostly the memos just show that the company is a big mess and routinely will fake demos and make things look right even though they aren't.

When all these juicy details came to light, Diebold moved legally to block anybody from posting anything about it. With some success initially. But they're now being met with general civil dis-obedience as it gets posted anyway.

Most recently, presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has had the guts to post the very same memos on his website.

Anyway, just keep this in mind the next time you vote and the results look a bit funny.
[ | 2003-11-22 16:19 | 12 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Monday, November 17, 2003day link 

 Hold On to Your Humanity
Below is an open letter from Vietnam vet Stan Goff to GIs in Iraq. It arrived in my e-mail today. A powerful, touching and sad message.
"They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and committing rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me 'just in country' and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids. ..."

[ | 2003-11-17 14:02 | 17 comments | PermaLink ]  More >


Tuesday, November 4, 2003day link 

 War is Peace
picture A few Orwellian words about war from "1984":
"The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word "war," therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. The peculiar pressure that it exerted on human beings between the Neolithic Age and the early twentieth century has disappeared and has been replaced by something quite different. The effect would be much the same if the three superstates, instead of fighting one another, should agree to live in perpetual peace, each inviolate within its own boundaries. For in that case each would still be a self-contained universe, freed forever from the sobering influence of external danger. A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war. This -- although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense -- is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE."
George Orwell [1903-1950], whose birth name was Eric Blair, was an intense novelist and political essayist; a socialist, he fought in the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, and was a critic of totalitarianism, including Stalinism. He also foresaw the rise of our present post-post-modern bureaucratic authoritarianism.
[ | 2003-11-04 11:03 | 11 comments | PermaLink ]  More >



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