Monday, October 31, 2005

Is this the 80s?

It's certainly sounding a LOT like the 80s. For those who don't remember, that was a time when certain politicians participated in a class war against the poor and the middle class while funneling money to the most wealthy of the country (trickle down economics). They even had the chutzpah to label those who disagreed with their policies as socialists participating in class warfare. Well, some of us were...

Facing a huge deficit and a looming deadline to concoct a budget agreeable to both chambers of Congress, lawmakers recently made a number of decisions that would adversely affect the poorest and least-influential people in the United States. In the name of cost cutting, several Senate and House committees agreed to or proposed to slash huge amounts of money from several key anti-poverty programs, including Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps last week.

The proposals arise from Congress’s need to reconcile competing Senate and House appropriations packages. The final package is expected within the next few weeks. Both houses are also considering steep tax cuts and possibly expanding a number of exemptions that would directly benefit the nation’s wealthiest.

Studies went on to prove that trickle down economics really didn't work. Bush the first even tried to stem the tide of some of the more Draconian effects of the theory by working with Congressional Democrats to balance the budget. Of course, in order to do so he had to break his "No new taxes" pledge and was promptly punished for that by corporate America (a redundant phrase if ever there was one). In the report above we see 2 staples of trickle down economics: a) tax cuts to the wealthy instead of tax increases to balance the budget (why shouldn't the wealthy be more than happy to contribute more during war time?) and b) no mention of reducing Pentagon expenditures which outnumber most of the other countries in the world combined. For a pro-life party, Republicans sure love to promote weapons of mass destruction and death.

Belt buckle


Quick! Buy one for someone you love!

Sexploitation posters

Definitely NSFW: Posters and lobby cards.

Dickie's Quickies

Please note the new Support the Commons button on the left margin. The Creative Commons needs a lot of small donations from many donors in order to maintain its charitable status with the IRS. Give a little and spread the word.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and 2 other scientific bodies are using copyright laws to combat so-called "intelligent design" theories in Kansas.

AAAS has long held that students are ill-served by any effort in science classrooms to blur the distinction between science and other ways of knowing, including those concerned with the supernatural.

After carefully reviewing the latest version of the standards, the leadership of the National Academies’ National Research Council and the National Science Teachers Association have decided they cannot grant the Kansas State School Board permission to use substantial sections of text from two standards-related documents: the research council’s National Science Education Standards and Pathways to Science Standards, published by NSTA. The organizations sent letters to Kansas school authorities on Wednesday, Oct. 26 requesting that their copyrighted material not be used.

SweetDaddy Tiki's Mugshot Gallery
. Zen for the day.

Zen of another, NSFW, flavor: a blogger shares images scanned from The Erotic Coloring Book. Click on each image for the full view.

This video (fairly large .mov file) for Taiwanese rock band LTK Commune features a catchy, bouncy tune paired with images of a man taking a chainsaw up the butt, an elderly woman grabbing some guy in the crotch, a poorly done version of rope tricks in an S/M way, and a couple (blurred) screwing. It's all done in good fun which, from what I can tell is mocking the tabloid press...I think.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dyson visits Google

George Dyson paid a visit to Google's headquarters in California and, luckily for us, he wrote a fascinating essay about it.

We can divide the computational universe into three sectors: computable problems; non-computable problems (that can be given a finite, exact description but have no effective procedure to deliver a definite result); and, finally, questions whose answers are, in principle, computable, but that, in practice, we are unable to ask in unambiguous language that computers can understand.

We do most of our computing in the first sector, but we do most of our living (and thinking) in the third. In the real world, most of the time, finding an answer is easier than defining the question. It's easier to draw something that looks like a cat, for instance, than to describe what, exactly, makes something look like a cat. A child scribbles indiscriminately, and eventually something appears that resembles a cat. A solution finds the problem, not the other way around. The world starts making sense, and the meaningless scribbles (and a huge number of neurons) are left behind.

This is why Google works so well. All the answers in the known universe are there, and some very ingenious algorithms are in place to map them to questions that people ask.

Another quiz

gender nazi
You are a Gender Nazi. Your boundary-crossing
lifestyle inspires awe in your friends and
colleagues. Or maybe they're just scared you
will kick their asses for using gender-specific
language. Either way, the wife-beater helps.


What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

From the mouths of babes...

..."The reason for not misleading the Congress is a very practical one," said Rep. Richard Cheney, R-Wyo. "It's stupid. It's self-defeating ... Eventually you destroy the president's credibility." ...
-- From a July 20, 1987 Associated Press report on the Iran Contra investigation.

And this, Rep. Richard Cheney (R-Wyoming], vice chairman of the House committee, at the conclusion of public hearings on the Iran-Contra affair, as reported by the AP, August 4, 1987:

...Mr. Chairman, I think it's _ a couple of quick points I would like to make in closing. Questions have been raised about why we had these committees established. I think it was preordained that there would be such an investigation once it became clear the administration was trading arms to Iran. Congress clearly has a legitimate role of oversight in reviewing the conduct of foreign policy by the administration, and the president himself supported these activities and encouraged us to form these select committees.

I also think it's important that credit be given to the president. He's given his complete cooperation and support to our investigation throughout. He's provided administration witnesses without ever claiming executive privilege, provided thousands of pages of documents, classified and unclassified, provided access to his own personal diary, and given these committees and the nation an in-depth look at some of the most sensitive and excruciatingly painful events of his administration....

It takes a strong, confident leader to subject himself and his administration to the very thorough nature of this congressional investigation. And we are here today, concluding the public phase of our hearings, on time, in large part because of the president and his administration.

President Reagan has enjoyed many successes during his more than six years in office, clearly, this was not one of them.

As the president himself has said, mistakes were made...

Clearly, there is plenty of work to be done if Congress is going to equip itself to play a constructive role in the conduct of U.S. _ U.S. foreign policy in the years ahead. And I fervently hope that future presidents will take away from these hearings one important lesson, that no foreign policy can be effective for long without the wholehearted support of the Congress and the American people. It is often easier to develop a policy to be pursued overseas than it is to muster the political support here at home to sustain it. Covert action has its place in the kind of world we live in, but it is no substitute for the kind of effective political leadership that brings around a recalcitrant Congress and persuades the American people of the importance of supporting those who share our faith in democracy.

Text copied from Laura Rozen, who goes on to write:

And ask yourself this. When Congress and the relevant committee leadership knows it's being stonewalled, when it doesn't say a word (until the eve of an investigation's anticipated indictments that could embarrass it), when it doesn't use its Constitutional powers and access to the American public to demand compliance, when it pretends that there's nothing even there to investigate, then who really is at fault? The stonewaller? Or the stonewallee? And would you call the problem stonewalling at all? Or collusion?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Three things that will not get you laid

and, if they do, then you should be suspect of whom you're sleeping with:

1) Boob scarves
2) Vagina Panties (scroll down for the penis boxers)
3) Naked People sheets.

Forgot this one!


Definitely, not safe for work. Italian art collection of sexy, erotic, and some pornographic illustrations. The one above is by Julie Bell. There is a ton of variety on this site.

Women in British Advertising in WWII




Some great ads and magazine covers.

Friday art sampling


Two, including a seasonally correct one, by Robh Ruppel. Second link is directly to his site.


Claire Wendling


Kenichi Nakane



The two above are from the French design firm, Agent 002. Lots of terrific art there in a variety of styles.


Sam Cobean


Thorsten Hasenkamm

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shocked!

That's sarcasm, folks. I've longed complained that H-1B visas were primarily a tool for corporations to import foreign workers in an effort to suppress tech job wages locally. It's simply cheaper for a company to import workers here than to build a factory overseas and, if they can get Congress to do their bidding, then all the better. Mind you, I don't have a problem with foreign workers. On the contrary, I wish that labor standards were better world wide and that workers - citizens of the world that elect the governments - were allowed the same fluidity that corporations currently have.

This article in InfoWorld, titled, "The H-1B Swindle" is hardly surprising to me.

Terrorism is spelled B-I-N-G-O

Kentucky officials have gotten a grant to protect Bingo halls from terrorism.

Lovely art

From Mu Pan

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dickie's Quickies

Ugh...the lawn just about did me in yesterday, but after 2 breaks and over 2 hours, it is done.

Sadly, singer Shirley Horn has died. She was truly a jazz great.

New Orleans' residents are wondering if they'll have homes to return to or if they will be displaced again by greedy developers. Will this nation allow this to happen to our neighbors?

Concerned New Orleans homeowners are anxious to return to the city, fearful that developers or government authorities will steal their land. Many are alarmed by reports that the government is planning to bulldoze swaths of low-income communities, including many properties in the heavily damaged Lower Ninth Ward.

New Orleans homeowner and ACORN activist Derwin Hill said, "They’re picking homes that really could be, you know, put back together. And they want to just wipe out the whole area."

Hill predicted that those whose homes were completely destroyed, or who lack the financial resources or insurance money to hold onto damaged property, might be preyed upon by real-estate speculators seeking "to buy them out cheaply. They’re not going to get what their property’s worth."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Search engine

Exalead is a pretty cool search engine. It uses RSS, separates returns into a variety of categories, and will also located country and/or continent of the web page location so you can more localize your search.

Pretty quiet today: Long work week and mile high grass that needs to be addressed. Be back ASAP.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Heard back from The Seattle Times

I got an email this afternoon from David Birdwell, National/Foreign News Editor at the Seattle Times regarding my opinions about omissions in stories printed in the Times within a week of each other (on 2 different occassions) that served to mislead readers. As noted, I do not think that this is a conspiracy of any sort, but rather a couple of mistakes that perhaps needed to be pointed out and corrected. From Mr. Birdwell's reply:

Mr. Stringfellow:
Thanks for the note. It's always nice to hear from somebody who is so obviously informed and reasoned.
You make a lot of good points.
Regarding the Sandi Doughton piece concerning George Taylor, I think our wire desk generally does a good job of reading the newspaper. Of course, nobody sees every single thing written by every other department. People go out of town, take vacations, have family emergencies, etc. In a perfect world, our environmental reporters would take a look at all our environmental wire stories, and vice-versa, but only the largest publications have that kind of manpower. Our local reporters have their projects, and our wire editors have only so many hours in the day. I think the Times has an excellent wire operation; we do so much more with our wire report than other newspapers in our circulation class. That said, we can't always spend as much time as we'd like on every story. As in every profession, it's a matter of priorities.
Fair enough. As I said, I just wanted to raise it up a notch. It continues:

Some other things to consider: The Doughton piece and The Washington Post story you cite are apples and oranges. Doughton's package was as comprehensive as anything we do, examining many different factors on both sides of the argument. She literally had months to work on that package. In contrast, The Post article was short in length, and I'm not sure it would have been the best use of space to spend several paragraphs poking holes in Taylor's credentials; it's also not fair to refute the credibility of the only critic in the story.
Here, we disagree a bit. Yes, the stories are apples and oranges to some extent, but not for the reasons cited. Both stories were about Global Warming. The Doughton piece, however, is how the media manipulates public opinion in the debate by allowing skeptics with suspect credentials to post views without mentioning either the credentials or offering rebuttal of the skeptics so that it appears that Global Warming is a hotly debated topic amongst scientists. Ms. Doughton pointed out herself that the vast majority of scientists agree that the planet is warming and that man made causes are part of the problem. She said, however, that the media, by presenting energy-funded skeptics who are sometimes not peer reviewed publishers, gives the public the impression that the debate is 50-50 when it's really 99-1 with the majority believing global warming is an issue. So, yes, the pieces are apples and oranges in that the Washington Post piece published later is actually an example of Ms. Dougton's reporting, complete with using a skeptic who was debunked in her article. Note Mr. Birdwell's comment about fairness. That's exactly the problem: how fair is it to print the skeptic's views without also telling readers that his project was funded by Exxon, et al, and that he has never published in peer review journals? How is that fair to readers? Since when does "fairness" or "balance" give way to veracity of the story; the integrity of the news reported?

The rest of the letter:

As for the flu-vaccine story, yes, I'm sure there are many reasons why we aren't prepared for a potential flu pandemic, and I'm sure the government deserves a good deal of the blame. Yes, the story would have been better with the previous elements that you cite. It's a matter of time and resources. To be honest, the Chicago Tribune story arrived very late in the evening, and we had to react quickly to even put it in the newspaper. This is the case with many stories from papers such as the Tribune, LA Times, Washington Post, etc.
I think your comments are worth noting, and I will pass them along to my staff. They're worthy of consideration. We will continue to try to do better. I ask in return that you give consideration to the things that I have mentioned.

All good points and I accept them at Mr. Birdwell's words. It's good that the Times replied and I think that they generally do a good job. These just happened to be two glaring instances that I wanted to bring to their attention so that they can improve their product.

Silly patent

A cereal bar (who knew?) chain has threatened a lawsuit against against another cereal restaurant based on apparent patent rights to pouring milk into cereal. From FreeCulture.org:

Cereality has patents pending to give them an exclusive right to six business methods, including "displaying and mixing competitively branded food products" and adding "a third portion of liquid." If these patents are approved by the U.S. Patent Office, Cereality would have a complete monopoly on cereal bar business--just for being the first to put together the legalese necessary to describe mixing breakfast cereal.

Dickie's quickies

Tiki-Tim's has some new Halloween postings: albums featuring The Munsters and, separately, Boris Karloff.

U.S. News is reporting that some members of the White House staff are considering what would happen if Dick Cheney is prosecuted and resigns. They do admit it's idle speculation at the moment, but some have floated Kindasleazy Rice as a possibility. There is some opposition to such a notion:

The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008.

"Isn't she pro-choice?" asked a key Senate Republican aide. Many White House insiders, however, said the Post story and reports that the investigation was coming to a close had officials instead more focused on who would be dragged into the affair and if top aides would be indicted and forced to resign.

The key Senate Republican aide did not go on to say, "My God, and she's a woman, too. Plus, she's black, which puts her one step behind Libby Dole. And who would take her seriously with that back to front comb over? Did you know she got a melatonin transplant from Michael Jackson? Just a rumor, but I've heard whispers."

The Financial Times is reporting that Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Chief of Staff, confidant, and friend to Colin Powell for 16 years, is the latest former staffer to break his silence on his views on what has gone wrong in this White House. Long quote from the article:

“What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

“Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

...

Among his other charges:

■ The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was “a concrete example” of the decision-making problem, with the president and other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. “You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it.”

■ Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and now secretary of state, was “part of the problem”. Instead of ensuring that Mr Bush received the best possible advice, “she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president”.

■ The military, particularly the army and marine corps, is overstretched and demoralised. Officers, Mr Wilkerson claimed, “start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam. . . and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel”.

Mr Wilkerson said former president George H.W. Bush “one of the finest presidents we have ever had” understood how to make foreign policy work. In contrast, he said, his son was “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either”.

“There's a vast difference between the way George H.W. Bush dealt with major challenges, some of the greatest challenges at the end of the 20th century, and effected positive results in my view, and the way we conduct diplomacy today.”

So, Kindasleazy Rice would side with her husband the president to build her intimacy with her husband the president? Maybe she is in for the VP job?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Walker in UK harassed by police for using cycling path

Sally Cameron was walking on a cycling path to work. Apparently such disregard for rules leads one to be suspected of being a terrorist in the UK. And you thought that the U.S. was the only one who had it bad.

She said: “I’ve been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn’t use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I’d be arrested.

“The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, ‘You’re trespassing, please turn back’. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing.

“But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and (saying that), because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged.”

Ms Cameron, who said that at one stage one of the officers asked her to stop laughing, described the incident as “like a scene from the movie Erin Brockovich, with all the dock workers cheering me and telling me to give them hell”. She said: “I was told that the cycle path was for cyclists only, as if walkers and not cyclists were the only ones likely to plant bombs. There are no signs anywhere saying there are to be no pedestrians.

“They took me to the police station and held me for several hours before charging me and releasing me.”

She said that she was particularly galled by the letter from the procurator fiscal’s office, which said that she would not be prosecuted even though “the evidence is sufficient to justify bringing you before the court on this criminal charge”.

Keith Berry, the harbour master at Forth Ports Dundee, said yesterday that Ms Cameron had been seen as a “security risk”. Speaking about the incident, which took place in May, he said: “We contacted the police in regards to this matter because the woman was in a secure area which forbids people walking. It was seen as a security risk. We were following guidelines in requirement with the port security plan set up by the Government.”

A spokesman for Forth Ports said: “We will robustly prosecute anyone who breaches these new security measures because they have been introduced by the Government and we are obliged to enforce them.”

There you go again

Heh, rarely will readers ever see me reference Ronald Reagan's rhetoric, but today it's appropriate. Once again I find myself sending an email off to the Seattle Times. It's not likely to end up in the paper as it's a rather long missive. Still, for the second time in a couple of weeks, I've read articles in the Times that leave out facts referenced in an article previously published in the Times that I think would help readers reach different conclusions about what they are reading in the current article.

Previously, as I blogged about here, The Seattle Times had published a great article by one of their science reporters on global warming and the public's perception of it. They followed that article up less than a week later by re-printing an article from the Washington Post using quotes from a "skeptic" whose work was shown in the Times' article to questionable (paid for by oil corporations and not peer reviewed). Nowhere in the second article was information from the first article questioning the skeptic's work mentioned. Leaving out that information could, ironically, lead to the same problems of public perceptions of global warming that the Times' excellent piece sought to explore.

A similar error of omission occurred in an article in today's paper titled Bird-flu vaccine: We may be last in line. The article goes on at great length to describe the lack of vaccine or treatment for the bird-flu as a problem of a lack of domestic production facilities (on a side note, expect legislation soon for tax breaks for drug companies to "correct" this "problem"). From the article:

"There's no secret about the fact that our vaccine-manufacturing capacity domestically is not what we need it to be," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt said after a meeting this month with vaccine makers.
In fact, after that "meeting this month", the Seattle Times ran an article re-printed from the Washinton Post on October 8th titled Bush asks drug execs to develop flu vaccine. In this earlier article another dimension of our lack of treatment stockpiles is offered:

The United States has 4.3 million 10-dose courses of treatment stockpiled — enough for less than 2 percent of the population — and has ordered 8 million additional courses.

By contrast, several European nations have placed huge orders to cover 20 to 40 percent of their populations.

In fact, this blog noted that Times re-print and went on to quote a NY Times article on the same topic which stated (emphasis, my own):

Terence Hurley, a Roche spokesman, said that 40 countries had ordered Tamiflu to fill medical stockpiles in case of a pandemic. Many countries in Europe - including France, Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland - have ordered enough to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their populations. The American stockpile would treat less than 2 percent of the population.

The government and industry officials, however, said that Roche had committed to delivering seven million courses to the United States next year and would not be able to deliver substantially more until 2007.

That's right - 40 other countries had better planning and had placed orders for a potential treatment before the Bush administration had gotten their act together. Indeed, according to this news there is a production capacity dimension to this problem, but it is not solely a production issue. Rather, this government in the U.S., and I include congressional leaders as well, has failed to recognize a potential problem with devastating consequences and therefore has not taken the appropriate measures needed to protect it's citizenship. It's a pattern.

One might excuse the Seattle Times for not citing the NY Times article, but surely it's editors should have known what was printed in their own paper. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy of any sort. Rather, this is most likely a mistake or oversight on the behalf of editors at the Seattle Times. Still, the Times and it's readership might be better served if it's editors spent more time becoming familiar with the news that they print instead of just becoming familiar with the business of printing news. That's basically what my email to the editors will say today when I send it. Unfortunately, the Times website is partially down so I cannot confirm the email address for the opinions at this moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fetishdollies


The homepage.

Dickie's Quickies

From the world of crisis and politics: The Guardian is asking the question, Are We Going To War With Iran? The answer is maybe.

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe. Scott Ritter, the whistleblowing former UN weapons inspector, points out that few in the Democratic party will stand in the way of the destruction of those who conducted the infamous Tehran embassy siege that ended Jimmy Carter's presidency. Mr Ritter is one of the US analysts, along with Seymour Hersh, who have led the allegations that Washington is going to war with Iran.

For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year's congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair's position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb "come what may" as he did with Iraq.

Assuming, of course, that Mr. Cheney doesn't go all Agnew on us (we can only hope).

Another story in The Guardian today points out that one of the most helpful groups providing relief to earthquake survivors in Pakistan is an extremist group.

But Jamaat-ud-Dawa is not only in the aid business. It is widely seen as a fundraising front for Lashkar-i-Taiba, one of the largest militant groups fighting Indian troops in disputed Kashmir. Banned by the Pakistani government in January 2002, some of Lashkar's senior members have been linked to al-Qaida.


Finally, from a more amusing perspective, Horton Hears A Heart by Edgar Allan Seuss.

His manner was pleasant; his tone, quite humane,
But something about him did things to my brain.
It wasn't his eggs that made my temper fly,
Not the plate, not the spam - I think it was his Eye!

His sinister orb was most eerily green,
Like his grass-colored eggs; O how vile, how obscene!
That stare seemed to make my flesh crawl and blood chill
And I knew right away - it is Sam I must kill!

Monday, October 17, 2005

EULAlyzer

From the great team at Javacool software (who brought us Spyware Blaster) comes the EULAlyzer. It scans EULA agreements looking for possibly alarming items such as giving access to your computer and all it's contents. Since most people don't read those things all the way through, even if it isn't perfect, it's a step in the right direction for a useful tool.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Airport Security

As effective as the real thing! Train your children to respect authority and play nice in airports, lest they be detained for further terrorist investigation. Prevent missed connection flights!

Dickie's Quickies

OK, now y'all know what I want for my birthday.

I haven't commented on it, but the news in Pakistan (and Nicaragua, for that matter) is just heart breaking. The BBC reports this morning that the death toll in the South Asian quake stands at 38,000+. Aid is rushing in, but not fast enough. Not to rate one over the other, but this really makes Katrina look small in comparison. The world needs to react and react more quickly. Eight helicopters and aid from the U.S.? C'mon, we should be able to do better than that.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Roxanna Bikadoroff's illustrations. Courtesy of Drawn!

Red Doris is at it again

In the second substantive post on her site, Doris Nicastro launches her mission statement:

Any private-sector employee who even mouths the words "Man! What we need around here is a union!" within 50 feet of any private-sector employer will be at the curb, sans ID badge, faster than if he did lines of coke at his desk.

Our ancestral political party - The Democrats - just pick our pockets.
During the Clinton administration we wound up begging for scraps at the back door of a mansion we used to fucking own!

...We need a more energetic, post Depression Era working class persona. One that thinks and talks like today's workers think and talk. Our issues aren't in the public arena because we aren't in the public arena. We don't write. We don't publish. We don't even blog.

Finally, since this may seem like a daunting task, let me offer some advice...
Ignore the far right's "End Of History"/"Braveheart" masturbatory fantasies.
History is full of chest-pounding blowhards claiming eternal verities at the very moment that the political movement that will replace them is serving up coffee and donuts in another part of town.

Red Doris says: Get off the ropes and at the very least - blog your working class angst!

Another Halloween recording from TikiTim

Famous Ghost Stories with Scary Sounds. It's a 46 MB download. While there, give Tiki Tim some love and click a Google ad or two.

Why stop at mp3 players?

Courtesy of Ananova:

Musical breast implants

Computer chips that store music could soon be built into a woman's breast implants.

One boob could hold an MP3 player and the other the person's whole music collection.

BT futurology, who have developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years.

BT Laboratories' analyst Ian Pearson said flexible plastic electronics would sit inside the breast. A signal would be relayed to headphones, while the device would be controlled by Bluetooth using a panel on the wrist.

According to The Sun he said: "It is now very hard for me to thing of breast implants as just decorative. If a woman has something implanted permanently, it might as well do something useful."

The senors around the body linked through the electrical impulses in the chips may also be able to warn wearers about heart murmurs, blood pressure increases, diabetes and breast cancer.

Times reporter responds

Yesterday I commented on how the Seattle Times had printed up a terrific story in Sunday's paper about Global Warming, the public's perception of it, and the role the media plays in the discussion. Then, in yesterday's paper the Seattle Times re-printed a story from the Washington post on warming in the oceans only to include a comment from one of the skeptics that was exposed and debunked in the earlier story in the Times. I sent an email pointing out the discrepency to the editor, Michael Fancher, and the original story's author, Sandi Doughton, and promised to convey any response from them or anyone else at the paper here. I got this email from Ms. Doughton this afternoon:

Thanks so much for the note. I skimmed the Washington Post story yesterday, but didn't notice the quote from George Taylor. Most newspaper still feel obligated to include something from the skeptic side, to give their stories "balance." There's a lot of compartmentalization here, and it's possible the editor who handled the Post story hadn't read our earlier global warming piece.
I appreciate you pointing this out.
With best regards,

Of course, "balance" was the exact complaint I had. It's the question hidden in her original article: when does balance triumph over ethics? Or put another way, when is the public served by "balance" if the so-called "balance" presented stems from a compromised source and is possibly deceitful? I've sent a follow-up letter to Ms. Doughton asking many of these questions. I doubt that I will receive a reply, but it I do I'll be happy to share it here.

Taking care of the troops

I note that in this article in the Washington Post, the Pentagon says it already addressing the problem, which is good. We probably shouldn't be sending loan default notices from the Pentagon to troops in fire, let alone those who return home missing limbs. In another forum this week I ranted about how our government officials from both parties tend to cut funding for veteran care after a war is over - showing the shallowness of their support for the troops. And yet, people who tend not to support war, like myself, are out there complaining loudest about the lack of care. The article above just goes to prove my point, even if the problem is being addressed and only appears to affect 331 people, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. Now, if the good congressional folks who are helping these troops out can remember to do the same 5 years out of Iraq for the injured - physical and mental - I'll be impressed.

Kelly had been wounded in Iraq in July 2003, when his Humvee was blasted by a roadside bomb. "It blew my leg pretty much clean off," he said.

Like Loria, Kelly spent months at Walter Reed, recovering and learning to walk again without his lower leg and foot. The Army staff sergeant struggled with questions about his future. Because he had been injured as a reservist, he was told, there was no guarantee he could deploy to Iraq again. "I didn't want to stay in the Army if I was just going to be a warm body, filling a slot," he said.

When Kelly left the military last year, he recalled, "it was an intense, emotional time." He thought little of the final two checks totaling $2,700 because he was owed vacation and travel pay, he said. Later, he was bewildered as pay stubs continued to come in the mail, each blank except for a notation of a $2,230 debt.

Frustrated, Kelly called the Disabled Soldier Support System, a unit where a counselor told him the Army had mistakenly paid him for an extra 22 days. But Kelly said he was told it would all work out well because the military owed him for his leave and travel. A few weeks later, he said, "I got a check, and I thought, 'Oh, that's nice.' "

But after he and his wife moved to Arizona, he received a bill for $2,230 -- with the threat of a referral to a collection agency. "I was pretty speechless," he said.

When Kelly called the GAO, he learned that the debt was already listed on his credit history.

"What benefit is the Army getting, aggressively going after disabled service members for $500 or $1,000 or whatever? Why not give injured service members a little leeway?"

That sentiment is common.

Friday Random Ten

A pretty nice edition this week:

1) Top Choice Clique - Peace of Mind
2) Holly Figueroa - How It Is
3) Thievery Corporation - A Gentle Dissolve
4) The New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno
5) Marie Boine Person - Free At Last (live)
6) The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Introducing The Quantic Soul Orchestra
7) Queen - I'm In Love With My Car
8) William Indelli and His Orchestra - Elementary, My Dear Watson
9) Soul Family Sensation - I Don't Even Know If I Should Call You Baby
10) Dick Hyman - Be In (Hare Krishna)

Bonus: The Clovers - The Rotten Cocksuckers Ball

Dickie's Quickies

Mozilla announced yesterday that the Firefox 1.5 Release Candidate will come out on October 28th. Thunderbird 1.5 Release Candidate will also be released on that day. This is right on schedule. As it turns out, I've been using Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 2 since it came out. The new webmail extensions are working fine as is the RSS feed reader. In fact, I'm coming to really like getting the RSS feeds in the one program. While Bloglines is a terrific online reader (and for some feeds, I prefer it since it blocks out ads), I like being able to open my email and read my news feeds in one app. One complaint about Bloglines: the lack of an exporting feature for the feeds so I can conveniently import them into Thunderbird *. Thunderbird does have such an export/import feature as does Google's new Blog reader. One thing I'm still waiting for in Thunderbird is the integrated calendar feature - having this will give me a reason to drop Outlook altogether.

This morning I took the plunge and installed Firefox 1.5 Beta 2. I had been putting this off because I use a lot more extensions for Firefox and many extensions have not yet been upgraded to be compatible with the new version (Greasemonkey, for instance). As we get closer to a release candidate, however, more extensions will become compatible. Earlier in the week I tried to install Beta 2, but it wouldn't run, so I went back and reinstalled 1.07. This morning I did a backup of all of my bookmarks and preferences using MozBackUp. Then I uninstalled FF1.07 and deleted the contents of the folder on my hard drive. Then I installed FF 1.5 Beta 2 and used MozBackUp to restore all of my bookmarks and preferences (and extensions) from my 1.07 profile. It worked. Many of the extensions are still not compatible but some of the ones I rely on most (Adblock Plus, No Script, Bloglines, Gmail Notifier, Forecast Firefox, et al) are available. Even Spellbound worked once I went back to the website and reinstalled it. This Beta version still hogs up memory, but I don't hear my hard drive fan kicking like it used to (and, as far as the memory goes, I've got 5 tabs open at the moment). So far, so good. I'm looking forward to getting my Theme (Pimpzilla) and remaining extensions back.

More conservatives complain about the Miers nomination. Choice comments (emphasis, my own):

The dissension has been particularly visible within the Federalist Society, a group of conservative lawyers that has provided many of the jurists who Mr. Bush has picked for the federal bench.
"I have found very few people who are pleased at all," said Mr. Smith, who is vice president of the New York City chapter and author of "The Official Handbook of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy." "The mood ranges from anger to depression."

...Miss Miers' record is so thin that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said she needs "a crash course in constitutional law."
"That's like saying you need to bone up on your baseball techniques because we're putting you on the New York Yankees next week," Mr. Smith said.
Many conservatives also have been shocked by the administration's handling of the negative reaction from its longtime and ardent supporters. They have been called "elitist" and "sexist," and some Republican Senate Judiciary Committee staff lawyers say White House officials have stopped communicating with them.
They also have gone to great pains to tout Miss Miers as an evangelical Christian in an apparent effort to shore up that bloc of voters. The tactic is insulting, say conservatives -- especially conservative jurists who think religion and personal views have no place in the debate.
Anyway, Mr. Smith said, "Jimmy Carter was an evangelical Christian from Georgia, and what did that do for us?"
Ouch! Jimmy Carter, eh? Maybe we should support her. (kidding!)

It's been a while since I posted a link to what's been going on in New Orleans since Katrina. Of course, the release this week of a videotape of NO police beating a black man whom they claimed was drunk and disorderly has stirred up many emotions (and rightfully so!). According to reporter Jessica Azulay, it's not the only injustice in the wake of the hurricane. She describes forced labor, terrible prison conditions and more in this article.

*Update: A friend informs me that indeed Bloglines does have this capability, but it might need some tweaking for it to work in Thunderbird. I haven't played with it yet as I need to clean up my Bloglines subscriptions before I mess with this in Thunderbird. This same friend points out that there are calendar extensions for both Firefox and Thunderbird and, while that's true, I'm really waiting for some sort of more integrated solution. Another Firefox feature I'm liking: when I click a link in Thunderbird, Firefox opens in a small window and opens the link in a new tab.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

FDA decision on Plan B was politicized

Not news except that the GAO has a draft report that confirms it:

When Steven Galson, then-acting director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, announced the rejection, he said the decision was his own, had been recently made and was based on scientific concerns. The GAO report, however, indicates the decision was solidified months earlier and that other top officials were involved in the decision.

...The draft GAO report indicates that Galson voiced concerns in FDA meetings about how easier availability of Plan B would effect sexual behavior by girls.

Translation: We're doing this to keep girls from becoming sluts despite our overwhelmingly successful abstinence education. Our morals trump yours.

Seattle Times' follow through is lacking

Last Sunday I praised the Seattle Times for their article on global warming. In that post I wrote the following:

So, why does the media put the so-called skeptics on the air and in print? Why mislead the public? I think it boils down to most journalists not knowing which side to believe, so they offer balance. Balance is a tendency in journalists to attempt to show a lack of bias in coverage. However, when the so-called balance is filled with deceit, where does good journalistic investigation and ethics come in? Sandi Doughton, author of the Times article, did her research. She spent time learning about the subject and understanding it. She was then able to report on how overwhelming the research is and on the source of the skeptics and their false arguments. She frames the issues well. Why don't other media outlets do the same? Why don't they spend the time and money investigating the issue and applying good ethical standards by correcting the record when the liars are deceiving the public? Do the interests in "balance" trump the interests in "ethics" and disseminating accurate, factual information?


Imagine my dismay today when I read a piece about global warming in the Seattle Times (a re-print of an article from The Washington Post) and they quote one of the very people Ms. Doughton exposed as a corporate energy funded "skeptic". Indeed, Ms. Doughton even published scientists who debunked the claims made by the "skeptic" in both articles. From today's article, Climate data hint at record hot 2005:

But one skeptic, state climatologist George Taylor of Oregon, said it is difficult to determine an accurate global average temperature, especially since there are not enough stations recording ocean temperatures.

"I just don't trust it," Taylor said of the new calculation, noting that Goddard's findings are "mighty preliminary."

From the original article on global warming penned by Ms. Doughton:

Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor is a featured author on the Web site Tech Central Station, funded by Exxon and other corporations and described as the place where "free markets meet technology."

He has a master's degree in meteorology and runs a state office based at Oregon State University that compiles weather data and supplies it to policy- makers, farmers and other customers.

Taylor is not a member of OSU's academic faculty and has no published research on Arctic climate, but Sen. Inhofe cited Taylor's claim that Arctic temperatures were much warmer in the 1930s as proof global warming is bogus.

James Overland, a Seattle-based oceanographer who has studied the Arctic for nearly 40 years, analyzed temperatures across a wider area than Taylor. His conclusion: The 1930s were warm — but the 1990s were warmer. Two other peer-reviewed analyses agree.

Even more significant, Overland found the 1930s warming was typical of natural climate variation: Siberia might be warm one year and normal the next, while another part of the Arctic experienced unusual heat. Now there's persistent warming everywhere.

Taylor said in an e-mail that Tech Central Station paid him $500 for global-warming articles. United for Jobs, an industry coalition that opposes higher fuel-efficiency standards and greenhouse-gas limits, also paid Taylor and a co-author $4,000 for an article published on Tech Central Station.


The emphasis is my own; not that of The Seattle Times. Once again, by giving this bought and paid for skeptic equal time without mentioning his energy corporation funding or his lack of peer review, the Seattle Times has participated in perpetuating to the public the view that the debate is 50-50 and not 99-1 in favor of global warming (to use Ms. Doughton's words). Granted, the Seattle Times did not write this new article. But they did re-print it without the proper editorial oversight. In that, the Times failed on it's follow through of it's fine original piece of journalism. It allowed "balance" to triumph over editing and/or ethics and that's a shame. I have written to both Ms. Doughton and executive editor Michael Fancher (since he posted an editorial on the global warming piece, touting it as top notch journalism - as he should) about this. If I hear a reply, then I will definitely report back on it in this space.

Dickie's Quickies

It's not exactly news, but USAToday.com is reporting on an internal CIA investigation that confirms what we already knew: the Bush administration paid attention to reports that helped them sell the war (the inaccurate reports on so-called WMDs) and ignored reports on what would happen after the invasion (the accurate ones). I believe if you look up online the phrase "fuck up" you'll find a new definition entry that is linked to the report.

The authors had access to highly classified intelligence data and produced three reports concerning Iraq intelligence.

...The report determined that beyond the errors in assessing Iraqi weaponry, "intelligence produced prior to the war on a wide range of other issues accurately addressed such topics as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight."

The intelligence "also provided perceptive analysis on Iraq's links to al-Qaeda; calculated the impact of the war on oil markets; and accurately forecast the reactions of ethnic and tribal factions in Iraq."

Speaking of the war, if you missed The Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night, you missed one helluva show. Olbermann suggested that there's an amazing coincidence between the raising of terror alerts in the United States and the Bush administration getting into hot water with bad news reports. He said that the latest such alert - the one about possible plots for the NYC subway system - was just one of 13 such incidents and he went on to enumerate them all. He noted that these could just be coincidences, but his viewers (or listeners, since I get the program on XM) should draw their own conclusions. Luckily, if you missed it, he put the whole commentary on his blog here.

Newsweek is reporting that the administration has been caught off guard by an internal report on the possible effects of an avian bird flu pandemic. Last week, if you'll recall, Bush held a meeting with drug manufacturing execs urging them to research and make a vaccine. He did this after he found out that the US is way behind other countries in ordering the most promising drug and that our supplies couldn't possibly be filled until 2007 (in fact, as I blogged here, we're behind 40 other countries on placing orders). Now the administration is holding top secret meetings with Congressional leaders and other cabinet officials on the topic.

A leading public-health expert questioned the wisdom of discussing epidemiological policy in secret. Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s school of public health, said, “This is old-fashioned cold war secrecy being applied to a public-health issue--a very bad idea.” Redlener has criticized President Bush and other administration officials for hinting recently that in the event of a pandemic bird flu outbreak, the federal government might rely heavily on the military to establish quarantine zones and restrict public movement to limit the possible spread of disease.

Redlener and other experts say that the United States is seriously unprepared to cope with an avian flu outbreak, although there is no clear indication if or when such a pandemic might strike the United States. According to the intelligence-community paper, the World Health Organization has reported that since 1997, 132 people have been reported to have contracted the H5N1 strain, and “so far about half of the people infected” have died.

I've read some conflicting opinions on this issue. One blogger likened it to the swine flu scare and another to Y2K. That may be, but it cannot hurt to be prepared. The flu strain is spreading fast as these 2 reports on the BBC this morning show.

Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Halloween music

It's that time of year again. Prepare yourself with some groovy Halloween oriented downloads.

Ghouls With Attitude
- back from last year this 2 disc set presents surf guitar, horror movie trailers and more!

Tiki-Tim's Exotica Lounge currently features 2 albums: Music for Monsters, Munsters, Mummies, and other TV Fiends and Bloodcurdling! Terror! Horror! Songs to Make You Shiver!

WFMU presents The Horror Compilation - a broadcast from 2001 featuring all manors of music and samples in a truly scary mix. This clocks in at 97MB and over an hour long.

Create - The Haunted House Soundtrack 2005. This is presented in a 7 minute or 33 minute mix.

Banks bilked of $6 million

A con man in France convinced bank operators that he was an agent for the government tracking down terrorism. Furthermore, he convinced them to give him money. When they went to capture the man, they got his wife and mother-in-law, but he phoned from Israel to say that he's on the beach and plans to lay low and spend some of his booty.

An hour later, Gilbert rang, posing as the agent. He told the manager to buy a mobile telephone, to give him the number, to keep it switched on day and night and to speak to no one else about their conversation. He phoned her 40 times over the next 48 hours.

During the final call he asked for the names of her six richest customers. When she revealed them, he said that one was involved in financing terrorism and was about to withdraw a large sum.

Gilbert then demanded all the cash at the bank so he could mark the notes with microchips and keep track of the terrorist. A total of €358,000 was to be put in an briefcase and slipped under the door of a brasserie lavatory. The manager did as she was told. The money disappeared.

Gilbert’s next fraud was even more audacious, police say. He acquired information about important financial transactions and telephoned France’s biggest banks. Again posing as a DGSE agent, he said that some of the transactions were terrorist money-laundering operations and that the secret services needed to follow the money. But they could do so only if it were transferred to accounts abroad, he said.

The bankers believed him. Two payments of €2 million were made to accounts in Geneva and Hong Kong. However, both were blocked before the fraudster could withdraw them.

A third payment of €5.18 million was made to an account in Estonia. This time Gilbert was quicker. Police identified him by tracing his calls, but by the time they caught up with him he was in Israel.

Dickie's Quickies

Here's a scary thought for the day: on Hardball with Chris Matthews last night, Michael Wolff, Howard Fineman, and Matthews spent much of the first segment talking about the Plame case and it's effect on the White House. The discussion turned to that fact that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove don't seem to be around much anymore and speculation as to why that may be happening. One theory posed was that Bush is distancing himself from both men because of possible indictments. Chris Matthews let Michael Wolff have the final thought:

WOLFF: You know, one of the interesting things to remember here is that, is that, if these guys are out of the loop, if Cheney is out of the loop, if Karl is out of the loop, that really leaves the B team in charge.

MATTHEWS: Right.

WOLFF: I mean, Andy Card, Dan Bartlett, these are—you know, these are perfectly decent, I suppose, guys, but they have never been in charge.

MATTHEWS: Right. And they have got to play the second half of the season with the second team.


You mean, these second tier players could actually be worse?!!?

What would a day be like without a round up of political sniping at the Miers nomination? After Laura Bush commented that there was a whiff of sexism in the right's attacks on Miers, the Washington Post contained this nugget from Bill Kristol:

"It is striking to me they are spending less time explaining the merits of Harriet Miers and more time . . . using liberal talking points to criticize the critics," he said. "I think it is going to backfire."


A similar quote was also rendered in the same article from Jonah Goldberg. Meanwhile, Newsweek has a report on some of the conservative lawyers who assisted the White House with the Roberts nomination process, but don't appear to be going anywhere near Miers. Choice quotes:
"We are keeping quiet. And hiding from the media," wrote Abigail Thernstrom, the Bush-designated vice chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and a prominent critic of affirmative-action policies, in an e-mail copied to other members of the network. "As for undermining trust in the president, I am afraid he has accomplished that all on his own—without any help from us."

..."It no longer matters whether she's the second coming of John Marshall; the cronyism charge has stuck, bec. [sic] it's so obviously true," wrote Michael Greve, a legal scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Greve wondered what was next. Would Bush, he asked, replace Fed chair Alan Greenspan with "a young lady in the basement of the West Wing who did a terrific job on the TX Railroad Commission [and was the] first Armenian bond trader in Dallas ..."
And the final word on this topic comes from a NY Times article on how Senate staffers feel about the Miers nomination. Choice quotes:
"Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact," a lawyer to a Republican committee member said.

..."You could say there is pretty much uniform disappointment with the nomination at the staff level," another Republican on the committee staff said. "It is clear there is quite a bit of skepticism, and even some flashes of hostility."

Another Republican aide close to the committee said, "I don't know a staffer who approves of this nomination, anywhere. Most of it is outright hostility throughout the Judiciary Committee staff."

In other Bush news, Hit and Run reports today on research by Veronique de Rugby, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute (noted above as being a conservative think tank). She studied inflation-adjusted increases in discretionary spending (mostly defense and non entitlement spending). I'll let Nick Gillespie's words make the point:

The gap becomes even bigger when you stretch the comparisons out to the first five years of each prez's budgets. Here are numbers for all recent presidents who oversaw at least five budgets prepared by American Enterprise Institute analyst Veronique de Rugy. All are based on Office of Management and Budget and all are adjusted for inflation. The Bush figure for fiscal year 2005 is based on OMB midsession review numbers; the figure for fiscal year 2006 is based on the OMB midsession review of the budget Bush submitted earlier this year (if anything, the final figures will be higher than his provisional budget):

First Five Years, Percentage Changes in Real Discretionary Spending

LBJ: 25.2%
Nixon: -16.5%
Reagan: 11.9%
Clinton: -8.2%
Bush: 35.2%

Note: Clinton's and Nixon's spending fell in the first five years. Bush, Reagan, and LBJ's spending rose in that time. But let's call Bush the clear winner and the American people the clear loser.

Microsoft Windows Update

Forgot to mention yesterday, but it's that time of the month again. Yesterday was "Black Tuesday", otherwise known as the second Tuesday of the month aka - Microsoft Update Day. Yesterday, Microsoft released 9 new "high priority" updates. Seven of those updates were for Windows XP, one of them was for the Malicious software removal tool, and the last one was a cumulative security update for Internet Explorer. The IE update weighed in at 7.1 MB and was by far the largest part of the 8.3MB of updates. Your PC will require a restart once these have been installed.

Sad tale

The Oregonian reports that the leader of the Christian Coalition in Oregon is being accused of child molestation. The alleged crimes span decades and involve multiple family members. This is a sad, sad tale. In response yesterday, Louis Beres announced that he would "withdrraw from public life" while the charges are investigated. He went on to proclaim his innocence.

The Oregonian talked to three of Beres' female relatives, including two who told reporters that he molested them. All three said they have been interviewed for several hours by detectives.

"I was molested," said one of the women, now in her early 50s. "I was victimized, and I've suffered all my life for it. I'm still afraid to be in the same room with (Beres)."

Beres, 70, whose group champions socially conservative candidates and causes, confirmed he is under investigation for alleged molestation. He blamed "personal and political enemies" for the reports and said, "I never molested anybody."

Two of the alleged molestations occurred decades ago and likely would not result in criminal charges because state law limits prosecution of certain crimes. For example, the statute of limitations on sex abuse expires after six years.

One case, however, may fall within statutory timelines, authorities confirmed. That investigation involves a female family member who was allegedly molested by Beres when she was in elementary school, authorities said.

Beres family members told The Oregonian that they called the child abuse hot line last month after several women in the family said they openly discussed for the first time what happened with Beres. The names of the family members have been withheld because The Oregonian generally doesn't identify alleged sex abuse victims.

Another family member said she does not recall being abused by Beres, but said she would often wake at night and see him in bed with another young female family member.

Rich Galat, 41, of Oakland, Calif., is Beres' nephew. He said he told detectives that Beres has molested several female family members over two generations.

"My family has gone through hell," Galat said. "Lives have been ruined. Those of us who have come forward have been ostracized, verbally abused and the victims of character assassination. . . . It must stop."

Monday, October 10, 2005

England uses anti-terrorism act to stifle political speech

From Scotsman.com:

MORE than 600 people were detained under the Terrorism Act during the Labour party conference, it was reported yesterday.

Anti-Iraq war protesters, anti-Blairite OAPs and conference delegates were all detained by police under legislation that was designed to combat violent fanatics and bombers - even though none of them was suspected of terrorist links. None of those detained under Section 44 stop-and-search rules in the 2000 Terrorism Act was arrested and no-one was charged under the terrorism laws.

Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, was thrown out of the conference hall by Labour heavies after heckling the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

When he tried to get back in, he was detained under Section 44 and questioned by police. The party later apologised.

But the Home Office has refused to apologise for heavy-handed tactics used at this year's conference.

A spokesman insisted: "Stop and search under Section 44 is an important tool in the on-going fight against terrorism.

"The powers help to deter terrorist activity by creating a hostile environment for terrorists."

He added that the justification for authorising the use of the powers was "intelligence-led and based on an assessment of the threat against the UK."

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said: "Laws that are designed to fight terrorism should only be used against terrorism."

Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 2 and Webmail

Some time ago, I downloaded Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 1 and I found that I wasn't able to access either my Hotmail of my MSN accounts. That was a drag. I updated the extensions and still wasn't able to get them. Then I updated to the Beta 2, but still couldn't get the updates. I just went to the Mozillazine forums and into the extensions discussion and sure enough, there have been new updates for Webmail and it's Lycos, Hotmail, Yahoo, and MailDotCom extensions. I downloaded, updated, re-created my MSN and Hotmail account settings (just to see if that would help), and sure enough, I've got access to them again! Yay! Since I went to the trouble of importing my address book into Thunderbird and cleaning it up as well, and since Thunderbird receives all of my accounts and has native spell checking, I can now seriously think about switching over to it for my mail, newsreader, and RSS feed reader.

Dickie's Quickies

The Firemonger project is a CD (lite version is 20MB, full version just 40MB) that contains the latest official releases of Firefox and Thunderbird along with themes, extensions, plug-ins, and a get started guide. You can download it, burn it and share it with those you care about. It's a good idea. Don't wait until the new versions of these products are released in another month. It's worth taking the time now to ween your loved ones off of IE.

Speaking friends, with friends like these does Miers need enemies? From the NY Times:

"If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of America as a whole," Mr. Coats said in a CNN interview.

Mr. Specter, asked about that remark, laughed and wondered if it was "another Hruska quote" - a reference to an oft-quoted comment by the late Roman Hruska, a Republican senator from Nebraska, who defended G. Harrold Carswell, a Supreme Court nominee who was rejected by the Senate. "Even if he is mediocre," Mr. Hruska said, "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?"

That would be former Senator Dan Coats, who is shepherding Miers nomination through the confirmation process for the White House.

Yahoo has begun a podcasting site complete with search. It's pretty slick. I must say, I've been finding Yahoo's search engine results more relevant lately. I still go to Google, but if I cannot find what I'm looking for quickly, I've been clicking over to Yahoo and finding th results sometimes faster with it. MSN's search engine is still the worst of those three.

And, finally, in what is sure to become an urban legend, reports from England of possibly crack addicted squirrels. I'm sure the squirrels started with softer drugs like pot and alcohol and worked their way up to crack. Anyone got a picture of a squirrel crack whore? What's next? crystal addicted squirrels? Squirrels shooting heroin?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Global Warming

The Seattle Times today has a great story on global warming, including side bar analysis of the points raised by skeptics.

Every major scientific body to examine the evidence has come to the same conclusion: The planet is getting hotter; man is to blame; and it's going to get worse.

The article goes on to explore why so many people, including leaders in this country, do not believe in global warming despite the overwhelming evidence that it is happening. One reason: the media contributes to it:

By giving equal coverage to skeptics on the fringe of legitimate science, journalists fuel the perception that the field is racked with disagreement.

"You get the impression it's 50-50, when it's really 99-to-1," Steig said.

The article goes on to describe how the work of the skeptics is typically not published in peer reviewed papers. It also does a terrific job of discussing how many scientists were skeptics of the global warming theories and how, over time, the evidence mounted and by the turn of this century, most in the scientific community now accept the conclusion that the earth is warming and that humans are contributing to the process.

So, why does the media put the so-called skeptics on the air and in print? Why mislead the public? I think it boils down to most journalists not knowing which side to believe, so they offer balance. Balance is a tendency in journalists to attempt to show a lack of bias in coverage. However, when the so-called balance is filled with deceit, where does good journalistic investigation and ethics come in? Sandi Doughton, author of the Times article, did her research. She spent time learning about the subject and understanding it. She was then able to report on how overwhelming the research is and on the source of the skeptics and their false arguments. She frames the issues well. Why don't other media outlets do the same? Why don't they spend the time and money investigating the issue and applying good ethical standards by correcting the record when the liars are deceiving the public? Do the interests in "balance" trump the interests in "ethics" and disseminating accurate, factual information?

Global warming isn't the only topic in which balance trumps ethical standards in journalism. In the lead up to the recent war in Iraq, the media offered up a few skeptics of the administration policies. Scott Ritter appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, MSNBC, and so on. However, for every Scott Ritter, there were many more mouthpieces for the administration's policies. Media outlets gave equal weight to both sides of the arguments rather than investigating why and how each side reached such different conclusions. Hence, it was only after the invasion, that the media began discussing how Hans Blix and Scott Ritter were correct and there were no weapons of mass destruction. Balance trumped the reporting on factual information.

During the election campaigns, major media outlets spent so much time worrying about balance that very often they didn't investigate the claims made wildly by both Democratic and Republican candidates and their operatives. Indeed, they often let these candidates make assertions without challenging them on the topics. Candidates finally suggested themselves that people turn to Factcheck.org and other websites to look into their opponents allegations because the media was just letting those allegations go unchallenged.

When will the media develop some backbone, spend the money and resources for investigative journalism, and stop promoting balance above accuracy? The Seattle Times made an effort along those lines with the report in today's paper. I can only hope that this is a trend.

Dickie's Quickies

You know things are bad for Miers when Bork Borks you.

A Montreal math teacher spent her evenings working as a prostitute. Her checkbook balanced out perfectly.

A 4th circuit court judge decides that dirty dancing is OK for professionals, but don't try it out for your personal enjoyment. Since the link requires registration, I post the whole thing below. I used bugmenot to get to it.

Dirty dancing is not a form of speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, unless you are a professional, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., decided that the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech does not apply in the case of Rebecca Willis, a resident of Marshall, who was banned from attending public dances at a community center because of her "provocative" moves.

"Most forms of dance, whether ballet or striptease, when performed for the benefit of an audience, are considered expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment," Judge William Traxler wrote for the panel, affirming a lower court's decision. "Willis, however, was not a performer in any meaningful sense -- she was simply dancing for her own enjoyment."

Willis' dancing style, including gyrations and "simulated sexual intercourse" with a partner, was "sexually provocative," prompting the ban by dance organizers, lawyers for the town said in court documents. Willis admitted her dancing was "exuberant and flamboyant," but argued the town had no right to throw her out of the event.

Marshall's prohibition of "lewd" dancing is a legitimate use of government power, no different from banning alcohol or requiring restaurant patrons to wear shoes, and because such activity is not protected speech, Willis cannot challenge the ban on First Amendment grounds, Traxler said.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Unprepared - again

Remember when the Bush administration was unprepared for the number of needed flu vaccines for the population? Remember when they were asking people not to be vaccinated because the elderly needed to be treated first? Then again, this was the administration that was unprepared for a terrorist attack, unprepared for an Iraqi insurgency, unprepared for rebuilding a nation we attacked, and unprepared for a hurricane that was predicted, so why should I be surprised by the Washington Post story (reprinted in the Seattle Times), that they are once again unprepared for a flu? Listen, I'm not a fan of flu vaccines, but if the Asian flu breaks out, then shouldn't we be as prepared as European countries? I mean, the President's press people made a big deal out of calling drug manufacturers together to produce vaccine, but the fact of the matter is in both the Seattle Times and the NY Times article:

The United States has 4.3 million 10-dose courses of treatment stockpiled — enough for less than 2 percent of the population — and has ordered 8 million additional courses.

By contrast, several European nations have placed huge orders to cover 20 to 40 percent of their populations.

"The World Health Organization has recommended that countries stockpile enough anti-virals to treat at least 25 percent of their populations," the senators wrote.

Indeed, according to the NY Times story:

Preparing the vaccines usually takes nine months and involves the eggs of thousands of chickens. Because chickens themselves could be wiped out in a pandemic, the present system of manufacturing vaccines is highly vulnerable.

...

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, is among those who have been insisting for months that the government buy more Tamiflu. But he said the Bush administration largely ignored his and others' warnings.

"And now that they're finally worked up about it, the store is closed," Dr. Redlener said, referring to Roche's supply problems. "The U.S. is now in line behind much of the rest of the world."

Terence Hurley, a Roche spokesman, said that 40 countries had ordered Tamiflu to fill medical stockpiles in case of a pandemic. Many countries in Europe - including France, Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland - have ordered enough to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their populations. The American stockpile would treat less than 2 percent of the population.

The government and industry officials, however, said that Roche had committed to delivering seven million courses to the United States next year and would not be able to deliver substantially more until 2007.


(my emphasis). In other words, this government is making a big deal about playing catch up - again.

Dickie's Quickies


It's probably bad taste, but I'll follow up that post with a link to a male corset.

In completely unrelated news, Mozilla's Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 2 is out. Mozillazine has no posting on it at the moment, but all the info can be had at The Rumbling Edge.

For those who haven't heard yet, Google has an RSS feed aggregator/reader online now. It's designed to compete with Bloglines. It's in beta for the time being. I played with it yesterday and there are a couple of features that I liked (such as importing and exporting feeds). Either traffic was extremely heavy, however, or it was just clunky. Anyhow, if you have a Google account, then you can use the feeder. If you need a Google email account, give me a valid email address in the comments and I'll get you one (or ask a friend...anyone who has one has about 100 invites to hand out right now).

Spyware Warrior reports on New.net installations - a possible malware install that goes undetected by most anti-spyware applications.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Random Ten

There seems to be a minor theme towards the end of today's list:

1) DoppleBanger - Spectacle
2) Dick Hyman - The Windmills of Your Mind
3) Lloyd Cole - Trigger Happy (seems to be a weekly pick)
4) Seksu Roba - LA Freeway
5) The Sugarcubes - Water (also picked often)
6) Queen - Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
7) Frank O'Hara - Having A Coke With You (poetry)
8) Joe Jackson Band - Take It Like A Man
9) The Motions - For Another Man
10) Jaga Jazzist - Swedenborgske Rom

Dickie's Quickies

Laura Rozen points to a Newsweek article on a provision snuck into a Senate appropriations bill that critics say would allow the Pentagon to spy on U.S. citizens. Troubling as that is, the real problem of this is that there has been no debate on the topic and it's being rushed in at the last minute. Rozen's link also has a link to the actual bill, if you want to read the PDF.

The provision was included in last year’s version of the same bill, but was knocked out after its details were reported by NEWSWEEK and critics charged it could lead to “spying” on U.S. citizens. But late last month, with no public hearings or debate, a similar amendment was put back into the same authorization bill—an annual measure governing U.S. intelligence agencies—at the request of the Pentagon. A copy of the 104-page committee bill, which has yet to be voted on by the full Senate, did not become public until last week.

At the same time, the Senate intelligence panel also included in the bill two other potentially controversial amendments—one that would allow the Pentagon and other U.S. intelligence agencies greater access to federal government databases on U.S. citizens, and another granting the DIA new exemptions from disclosing any “operational files” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). “What they are doing is expanding the Defense Department’s domestic intelligence activities in secret—with no public discussion,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil-liberties group that is often critical of government actions in the fight against terrorism...

The Seattle Times reports today on a new vaccine that Merck has produced which seems to prevent cervical cancer. While such an advance might seem like a great step forward for most of us, the social conservatives have a different take on it:

Bachmann, of the Women's Health Institute, said that to fight the disease, youngsters would have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, in high school, middle school, even elementary school.

Conservative groups including the Family Research Council have raised concerns that giving a sex-related vaccine to young people might encourage them to have sex.

These nuts would rather be worried about kids having sex (an almost inevitability) rather than them dying of cancer. Remember, they take the same attitude when it comes to using condoms and birth control pills rather than face pregnancy, syphilis, and AIDS. These people are NOT interested in public health, but rather are an anti-sex lobby that wants to impose their views of God and morality on the rest of society. Merck is not likely to give into this minority, but the rest of us should remain vigilant just in case.