Wednesday, May 03, 2006


XiTi is a French monitoring company. According to them, Firefox usage in half of the European countries monitored by the firm has broken the 20% mark. There's a map here. In other Firefox news, version has been released. Those who are already using the browser will receive the update seamlessly. Those who are not, should go here.

Secondhand smoke is often cited as a dangerous problem and a reason that smoking bans should be implemented. It's a very persuasive argument, but is it factual? The Independent reports that those making the argument are blowing smoke up our asses. I don't like smoking bans and never supported them. They are part of a puritanical temperance movement by those who would tell others how to live and make life as bland and boring as possible for the rest of us. FWIW, I don't smoke and never have. Think I'm over blowing the issue? The nut case who proposed the ban in Washington state now wants to make it a crime to smoke in the presence of children.

The Brits think that an Iraqi government may be ready to take the reigns of it's own security in 2 years, but that there will need to be significant foreign involvement to help defeat the militias for at least 10 years. No doubt the U.S. government will use this as an excuse to maintain those bases.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the Taliban is making some military gains in the south while U.S. troops pull out, being replaced by British and Canadian troops. This really needs to be stopped. I'm not in favor of our presence there, but we need a decisive defeat before we leave that country. In order to do that we're going to need to establish order and bolster the government's ability to maintain that order (squash fundamentalist rebellion). To hell with the poppies. Let's focus on the enemy.

Sweatshop conditions in Jordon. Who is buying the goods? Our friends at Wal-Mart and Target, of course. The cover? Inspectors from Wal-Mart confirmed some of the problems and are working with the manufacturer to address the issues. Typical bullshit. Fuck that. Pull your goddamned orders and take them elsewhere, even if it costs you a few cents per item more. Do so often enough and with integrity and these abusers will get the word out and things will change. But rather than show integrity, the firms send in inspectors which are just fig leafs for their profit above all agenda.

Talking Points Memo and TPM Muckraker have been working on reporting on the Limo-hooker scandal in Washington. It turns out that the limo company was in financial straits, so how did they earn a $21 million contract from Fatherland Security last year? Also, a defense contractor was on the board of the company for a number of years and he was introduced to another contractor (Brent Wilkes who was one of the people who bribed Duke Cunningham) by a former congressman, Bill Lowry (who lost his seat to Cunningham when their districts were merged). As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo writes:

Shirlington limo's owner Chris Baker has a long criminal record. He's tight with Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes and reportedly provided the transportation services for the parties Wilkes used to sauce up members of Congress and various intel folks as well as get them set up with hookers. Only, aside from squiring Duke Cunningham around with his daily prostitutes, Shirlington seemed like a really screwed up company. They're getting their buses repossessed, their DOT authority to take people across state lines yanked, and pretty much sued right and left. If Shirlington had taxis and you flagged one down to drive you a few blocks, you might tell them you weren't willing to take the risk. But the Department of Homeland Security, which has various law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities (and if you remember some general thing with protecting the homeland) decides Shirlington is the company it wants providing transportation for its senior-most appointees, the folks who run the place.

Anything sound fishy to you?

Sure does sound fishy to me! Over at TPM Muckraker, they have another story on Wilkes as reported in Roll Call. Since I don't subscribe to Roll Call, here's the text from their site - delicious:
In the irony-on-steroids category, guess who was defending his graduate thesis on Congressional ethics Monday? Cover your eyes and guess, then sit down for the answer.

It was Michael Scanlon. Yes, that Michael Scanlon, the one who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. His topic, as Scanlon himself confirmed, was an "evaluative history of the House ethics process."....

Our source says Scanlon got up and gave a roughly one-sentence introduction of his thesis before taking questions from the four faculty members and nine other students in the room. He says Scanlon talked about the House ethics committee and argued that the "system now is not broken, but functioning in the same manner it has since its creation."

Scanlon essentially argued that the House ethics process is "political in nature" and that Members were never expected to do a very good job at policing each other, the source says.

Asked why he was now getting his master's degree at such a precarious moment in his life (precarious being an understatement), [Scanlon] said he actually finished classes at [Johns Hopkins University] six years ago but never got around to arguing his thesis.

"It was just a loose end in my life," he said.

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