Sunday, April 30, 2006

Colbert Roasts Bush to His Face

Stephen Colbert performed at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. He roasted Bush for a half hour. Bush was seated two seats away! The room was filled with Washington insiders. Scalia was there and Colbert gave him the Italian salute! "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq." He ends with a pre-recorded demo tape of him as White House Press Secretary. This is a pretty good summary of the performance and mentions “You could see [Bush] stopped smiling about halfway through Colbert,”

YouTube has it in 3 parts. If you know what BitTorrent is, here's the torrent of the whole dinner, which is about 1 hour and 20 mins long, Colbert starts at 54 minutes in. WATCH THIS! or at least read the transcript.

My Feet Hurt

I just got back from doing the March of Dimes Walk America. I walked 6 miles around the Charles River on the Boston and Cambridge sides. That's from the Museum of Science down to the Double Tree Hotel by River Street and back. It was a beautiful day, sunny, 63°F, with a light breeze. It took about 2 hours and was a nice time, but my feet hurt now :) There were several stations along the way handing out water, fruit (bananas and apples), Trader Joe's was handing out fruit chews and oddly enough, one station was handing out boxes of rice (they were one of the sponsors), so if you took it, you had to walk the last three miles, carrying a box of rice. Oddly random.

I was walking with a friend who had done the 3-day 60 mile breast cancer walk. As she said, the misery hadn't even begun to set in. On that walk at 6 miles your feet started to hurt and you were less than a third done with the first of three days. I'm not complaining. :) We raised money to help premature babies, it was a good day.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Visiting the Supreme Court

I've been to Washington DC many times and have seen most of the things there to see. But I've never been to the Supreme Court. In November I found out you can sit in on the complete oral arguments of a case and had planned to do so. But, I'm an idiot and haven't done it yet. The term ended this week and my next chance is October.

Daniel Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page and he'd never been to oral arguments either, at least until Monday. He wrote about the experience. "It is an 11-piece orchestra playing a complex legal concerto, and at the end the impulse is to applaud." In a bloated government, the 9 Justices do their own work with the aid of only 37 clerks, ya gotta respect that.

Henniger ends by saying Spector is wrong about televising the Supreme Court. I'm not sure I agree. I don't think it's C-SPAN that's made Congress so dysfunctional. And I'd like to experience some more of the court's "majesty" without having to arrange a trip to DC.

White House Stonewalling Katrina Probe

"Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-CT., accused the White House on Thursday of not only failing to cooperate with the Senate's Hurricane Katrina investigation, but of telling key federal agencies not to turn over documents that he said could have shed light on the botched federal response to the nation's worst natural disaster." The White House of course says it has been giving the committe "unprecedented cooperation" but Lieberman describes the stonewalling in 43 pages of details.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is running the investigation. The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, of course didn't agree and refused Lieberman's request to subpoena the White House, though they did subpoena the Dept of Justice which has been even more uncooperative. At least one Republican agrees with Lieberman. Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA., issued a report in February that was critical of the White House and said last month: "What are they hiding? It must be ugly."

Mac Backup Software Survey

Some guy tested a bunch of Mac backup tools to see how they did with metadata and found Mac Backup Software Harmful. He wrote a nice summary of The State of Backup and Cloning Tools under Mac OS X which explains the various issues the tools face.

Only one tool, SuperDuper got the highest rating meaning it had "no perceivable problems with metadata preservation". It's not free, but is under $30. I use the free Silverkeeper which got the 2nd highest rating because it handled most things except "BSD flags, HFS+ extended attributes, and ACLs" which I don't use anyway. I expect he'll do a followup in a little bit and I'm curious to see what he finds.

Rush Limbaugh Arrested

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports Rush Limbaugh arrested on prescription fraud charges. It turns out it's for the same stuff in 2003 we knew about, but they found out a little more.

Limbaugh "was quickly released after posting $3,000 bond, jail officials said. Prosecutors alleged that Limbaugh violated the state's 'doctor shopping' law by getting four doctors to write overlapping prescriptions and failing to tell them about each other. Limbaugh, who pleaded not guilty, struck an agreement with the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office that calls for the charge to be dropped in 18 months provided that Limbaugh continues to seek treatment from the doctor he has seen for the past 2 1/2 years and must refrain from breaking the law during that period, Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, said in a statement." He's also paying some fines.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. In Oct 2003, Limbaugh said "I want you to know I'm no role model", no kidding.

C For Cookie

C For Cookie is a spoof of the V For Vendetta trailer, done with muppets. Fantastic.

Huge Bomb Test June 2nd

A few weeks ago Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that many in the Pentagon were upset that the Bush Administration wouldn't remove using a tactical nuke against Iran from consideration. The reason they wanted to do so was to get at Iran's nuclear test facilities which apparently are far underground and hence protected from all but the largest bombs. So the question is, how protected are they?

Usually to find out such things engineers run tests, in this case the test is called Divine Strake. It's to happen on June 2, 2006 in Nevada. Now testing nuclear weapons, even tactical nuclear weapons, is something frowned upon by the world. As near as I can tell the closest thing to a ban on nuclear tests is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which the US and others have not ratified. But we don't want to look too bad, so instead we'll just test "700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (the equivalent of 593 tons of TNT)".

So you might be saying, well wait, if it's just testing conventional weapons, what's wrong with that? The reason is that 700 tons is big, really big. " The test would be the largest controlled conventional blast in military history and the biggest overall weapons test since the Cold War. Its explosion would create a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud and shake the surrounding earth at roughly 3.1 to 3.4 on the Richter scale while gouging a 36-foot-deep crater." It's apparently to see how tunnels and underground structures would be damaged in such a blast.

Still, what's wrong with that? According to this Washington Post article, Bush is committed to the nuclear test ban and "The test is aimed at determining how well a massive conventional bomb would perform against fortified underground targets." (This article also says the 36 foot deep hole is what the bomb will be set of in, not what it will gouge out.) So not much is wrong.

However this article from Worker's World (which I've never heard of) calls the test a Pentagon end-run around nuke test ban. It says the Pentagon budgets says Divine Strake would “develop a planning tool that will improve the war fighter’s confidence in selecting the smaller proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage.” It then says that as of April 10, the DoD changed it's tune and says the test is just for conventional weapons. The article also says "The B-2, with its immense bomb bay, can only carry a weapon of some 40 tons." (And I'm not sure about that, the wikipedia page for the B-2 says "20 tons of 500 lb class bombs". So the test is for a conventional bomb we could not deliver to the target.

Doug Bruder is " director of the counter-weapons of mass destruction program for the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)", the group sponsoring Divine Strake. The Las Vegas Sun quotes him as saying: "The detonation could simulate 'a number of weapon concepts'...It could be nuclear or advanced conventional...A charge of this size would be more related to a nuclear weapon." He also said: "There are some very hard targets out there and right now it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to defeat with current conventional weapons. Therefore there are some that would probably require nuclear weapons."

Hearing this, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) is upset: "Officials who say they are using this Divine Strake test in planning for new nuclear weapons seem to be ignoring congressional intent about no new nuclear weapons, and that concerns me." Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is okay with the test because James Tegnelia, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said the test had nothing to do with development of a nuclear device. (who I've also never heard of) has this detailed description of Divine Strake. "The DIVINE STRAKE full scale test is planned to be a large-yield, buried burst detonated at the Nevada Test Site. Divine Strake would appear to be associated with the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP, or possibly the B61-11 Earth-Penetrating Weapon, a fact that is obscured in most press coverage"

It was this Bunker Buster page on that gave me enough background info to understand all of this. Destroying something deep underground is difficult. Conventional weapons dropped from planes are limited in their destructive capabilities. Nuclear weapons of course affect larger areas and "cannot be engineered to penetrate deeply enough to prevent fallout. Based on technical analysis at the Nevada Test Site, a weapon with a 10-kiloton yield [Hiroshima was about 15 kilotons] must be buried deeper than 850 feet to prevent spewing of radioactive debris. Yet a weapon dropped from a plane at 40,000 feet will penetrate less than 100 feet of loose dirt and less than 30 feet of rock. Ultimately, the depth of penetration is limited by the strength of the missile casing. The deepest current earth penetrators, the B61 Mod 11 [a nuclear bomb], can burrow is 20 feet of dry earth. Casing made of even the strongest material cannot withstand the physical forces of burrowing through 100 feet of granite, much less 850 feet."

So what could this test be for? Well it could be testing what would happen if 18 B-2s dropped a full load of conventional bombs on exactly the same spot (probably not possible). Or it could be to see what effect a close to the surface small nuclear explosion would have on underground complexes, even though such a blast wouldn't contain fallout. Since the latter is what's in the 2006 budget request (p. 25) I'm going with that.

The sad fact seems to be that there doesn't seem to be a way of destroying a deep underground facility by dropping non-nuclear bombs. Since using nukes, even small ones, on non-nuclear capable countries would be politically evil, we had better find some other way of dealing with the problem, perhaps diplomacy or ground forces. Joy. Bush is right, his job is hard, but that's no excuse to do something stupid.

Congressional Photo-op Scammers

Yahoo via AP has the gas prices won't come down and how Congress is filled with liars seeking photo-ops.

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)., center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a new conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive back the few block back to the U.S. Capitol."

If Women Ruled the World

A friend sent me a joke email message with various pictures with the caption, "If Women Ruled the World". I found the Worth 100 Photoshop Contests on the topic, they're pretty funny.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Europe Says CIA Used Rendition

Apparently the charges that the US has been secretly sending terrorist suspects to foreign countries to be tortured, thereby skirting the law of the US, has been merely speculation. Even charges is too strong a term. Until now.

On Wed, the EU Accuses CIA of Secretly Transporting Terror Suspects. "European Parliament investigators said Wednesday they had uncovered evidence that the CIA has organized more than 1,000 flights through European airspace since 2001 as part of a secret program to transfer and detain terrorism suspects."

Apparently the committee has limited powers but we'll see where this goes.

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers

Rick Jacobs in the Huffington Post wrote It's the Money Stupid: Bush, Inc. in Iraq. It makes a stark comparison I'll repeat below and then makes a plea for us all to try to spread the word so we vote the bums out.

"No one's surprised that Saddam Hussein paid cronies to do fake work so that billions of dollars earmarked for humanitarian purposes instead went into private bank accounts. And no one's surprised that he and his cronies are now in jail, wading through a trial"

"George Bush et al are paying cronies [Halliburton] to do fake work in Iraq so that billions of dollars [well at least $75 million in a no-bid job] earmarked for humanitarian purposes [in this case fixing an oil pipeline, not humanitarian in my mind but okay] instead goes to private bank accounts. And they are not on trial. In fact, most people don't even know it's happening." The damning part being "Halliburton knew that the way they were trying to restore the pipeline absolutely would not work."

Word spread. Apparently there's a movie coming out too: "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers"

Some Celebrities Care (Eventually)

It seems George Clooney and Oprah are trying to save Darfur. Maybe the world will do something now that celebrities care.

Oprah asked Clooney point blank: "OK so a genocide is taking place, now 10 million people know about this. What can they do?"

"They could go online to or they could call the White House, that's 800 224 2084 " he replied.

Congress Gets a Spine?

Arlen Spector (R-PA) has a spine and is trying to rein in Bush. He's threatening to block NSA funds if the administration continues to not allow Congress to perform oversight on intelligence activities. "Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment...If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it." We'll see how successful he'll be.

The Daily Kos wrote about this and other related things. They end with a damning statement, "The House of Representatives defeated an amendment requiring intelligence agencies to comply with the law." I can't find that bill. The closest I can find is H. R. 4976 which has some of the listed sponsors but not all and is from March, it also does a little more than say comply with the law. I agress Congress is weak, but please, let's remain factual.

In Praise of Loopholes

Here's an interesting article In Praise of Loopholes by Matthew Baldwin covering all manner of loopholes including the Pudding Guy, Bill Clinton, Dutch property taxes, and the new to me, Anus Defense.

State Dept Plagiarize Wikipedia

I'm not sure what this site is but they seem to have found that the US State Department is plagiarizing Wikipedia. The author was looking up info on the African nation of Cameroon and looked first at the wikipedia page and then at the State Dept page and found them nearly identical. And looking at the revision history it seems like the wikipedia page was first. Great job Condi.

Galactica Spin-Off

The Sci-Fi channel is considering a Battlestar Galactica spin-of series (not mini-series) called Caprica. It would be set 50 years before the Battlestar Galactica series and would be a family drama about the Adamas and the Graystones (who I don't think we know) and would occur just when the first cylon is created. I'm not so sure I love the idea, but more Galactica is good.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Detainee Abuse Widespread

Human Rights Watch released a report about
U.S. Detainee Abuse. They found that "abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay has been widespread, and that the United States has taken only limited steps to investigate and punish implicated personnel."

They have "documented over 330 cases in which U.S. military and civilian personnel are credibly alleged to have abused or killed detainees. These cases involve more than 600 U.S. personnel and over 460 detainees."

"No U.S. military officer has been held accountable for criminal acts committed by subordinates under the doctrine of command responsibility...Only three officers have been convicted by court-martial for detainee abuse; in all three instances, they were convicted for abuses in which they directly participated, not for their responsibility as commanders."

Bush flip-flopped on Oil Reserves

Media Matters reports that Bush's announcement that he'll use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices is something he criticized both Clinton and Kerry for proposing. And they point out that the media isn't reporting the flip-flop.

Of course it doesn't matter. He didn't raise fuel efficiency standards and prices are going to stay high for a while anyway.

White House Easter, the Full Story

This video is the full story of Easter at the White House this year.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bush Challenging Nixon Moreso

With Bush's approval rating at 32% he's even closer to even closer to Nixon's low in the low twenties. Hopefully the same thing happens to him.

Bush's Tired Response to our Energy Problem | The Huffington Post

Gene Karpinski writes in the Huffington Post about Bush's Tired Response to our Energy Problem. In short, raise mileage standards, stop tax giveaways to oil companies and vote the bums out of office.

SCOTUS and the Death Penalty

Slate has a really interesting article called Death math which describes some of the Supreme Courts questions during Kansas v. Marsh. In Kansas cases, juries are asked to weigh aggravating factors vs mitigating factors in coming up with a death sentence. In a tie you die and that was at question. The Justices apparently have some strong opinions about this. It's a good read.

Chuck Norris is Passe

There are apparently a number of these, Top 24 Jack Bauer Facts. "Jack Bauer could get off the Lost island in 24 hours."

Lights, Camera, Justice

Arlen Specter (R-PA) has an op-ed in today's Washington Post entitled Hidden Justice(s). He argues that the Supreme Court should allow TV coverage like other branches of government. In fact, using Congress' constitutional authority to regulate the court (term, number of justices), Specter has introduced a bill to mandate television coverage. Justices Kennedy and Thomas have objected.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Book Publishing

Here's an interesting article on mass market publishing. It's an example but it's using real numbers and funny sci-fi TV show names.

1,000 Days Left of Bush

Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. writes in the Washington Post about Bush's Thousand Days. There are 1,000 days left in Bush's second (and constitutionally last) term as president.

Most of the article is a condemnation of Bush's doctrine of preventative war. He cites that if JFK listened to his Joint Chiefs' call for preventative strike against the Soviet Union in Cuba, it probably would have started a nuclear war since we now know "Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons and orders to use them to repel a U.S. invasion."

"There is no more dangerous thing for a democracy than a foreign policy based on presidential preventive war."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Good News Only

If the news is depressing you, try The Great News Network, which only "reports positive news which has the potential to inspire and motivate our readers to make a better world."

Slowly Convincing Ourselves Bush Lied

60 Minutes had an interview with a former CIA Official who said the everyone knew in the fall of 2002 that Iraq had no WMD. He was annoyed that the administration was blaming it all on an intelligence failure and says that the intelligence community had a correct consensus but the administration was cherry picking and it was really a policy failure.

The second part of the SIC investigation into pre-war Iraq intelligence is late. The committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KN) is letting delays mount up and it's amazing how those involved in Iran-Contra are again popping up. So do we really need to wait for Democrats to win the majority in Congress before anyone does something about the president lying and getting us into a war?

Bush v. Gore Lives

SCOTUSblog has Analysis: Bush v. Gore lives. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio decided Friday about the issue of using different voter machines in different precincts when they have different accuracy characteristics. It turns out that punch cards produce far more over- and under- votes than other devices, and that devices that produce a receipt work well. Well if different precincts use different devices, that means voters have different odds of having their votes counted accurately and is that a violation of the Equal Protection Clause?

An Ohio court originally found that it wasn't. The 6th Circuit on Friday reversed that decision and based it's opinion heavily on the US Supreme Court's Bush v Gore decision of 2000. Remember that one? It's the on that said "Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." Basically, this decision is just for this case and not for precedent. Scalia once explained that that case was very unusual in its time constraints, they only had a couple of days when they normally have several months for such a decision, hence their warning.

But the 6th Circuit decision cited the Bush decision 116 times saying: "Even if the Court was playing fast and loose with the law, we, as an inferior court, are not in a position to disregard Supreme Court precedent because we think they got it wrong....Whatever else Bush v. Gore may be, it is first and foremost a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States and we are bound to adhere to it." So was Bush v. Gore binding or not? You'd think counting votes was simpler than this. Where's Jimmy Carter when you need him?

Tying Your Shoes

I never would have guessed that this much information exists about tying your shoes.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More Trek

This CNN article is much clearer. Abrams will direct. The film comes out in fall 2008. It's set when Kirk and Spock meet at the early days of the Starfleet Academy and their first mission. Fun casting challenge there.

Star Trek Revived

Seems like there is going to be another "Star Trek'' movie. The guy "in charge" is ever-present J.J. Abrams, he of Alias, Lost, Felicity and the soon-to-be-released Mission Impossible 3. I'm not sure what "in charge" means, it looks like co-writer and possibly director. Two of the Lost producers are also involved.

I like Abrams a lot but I'm not sure he's right for this. I usually think of him as doing very complex puzzle-like plots and that's not Trek. It will also be an odd numbered film and that's not been a good sign for Star Trek.

Ignoring Science

Again, the Bush administration ignores science. F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana

Vista Flaming

Slashdot has a posting about How Vista Disappoints. It's typical Slashdot flame bait kind of stuff. But I did really like this comment:

"The problem is, most of the actual features were ripped out and mothballed, while most of the anti-features were left in. For features you get a graphics card accelerated UI, some security enhancements that reviewers claim are really annoying and poorly implemented, Some dev tool improvements, and that is about it. For anti-features you get DRM restricting use of your data, intentionally crippled OpenGL performance, a built-in proprietary replacement for the open PDF standard in an attempt to lock you in even more, etc. You do get indexed files (done less well than Google desktop or OS X), you don't get a database file system, you don't get resolution independent UI, you don't get a usable shell environment, etc. All the reasons to get it were ripped out while all the reasons to avoid it were left in. This makes sense for Microsoft. You have to buy a new computer eventually so you'll be forced to buy a copy of Vista bundled with it, regardless of the feature set. It just sucks donkey balls for users."

And I got a pointer to this wonderful video of "Microsoft Vista feature presentation with the video replaced by a OSX desktop".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why Rumsfeld Won't Go

Tim Russet on Imus this morning said two very interesting things. First that Pentagon officials told him in confidence that Jack Murtha (D-PA) was right about Iraq and that "we have the equivalent of a civil war going on at the Pentagon. The generals are trying to reclaim control of the war because they do believe serious mistakes were made. " The other thing was that Bush won't let Rumsfeld go " because it would be the equivalent of firing himself. He can’t acknowledge that it was such a big mistake, in so many ways." Pride in place of competence, that should be impeachable.

Crazy Cellphone Design

Here's a funky design for a new cellphone. It's shaped like a comic voice ballon and has a screen that displays text as if being a voice balloon.

Shoot the Messenger

In the dramatic "shakeup" at the White House, Scott McClellan Leaves White House Press Office. I don't know who his replacement will be. Since his briefings have been contentless, maybe they won't replace him and his salary will go to balancing the budget.

The other news is that Karl "Rove is giving up oversight of policy development to focus more on politics" I'm not sure I see that doing anything to Bush's policies. This role is now going to be filled by Joel Kaplan, who I've never heard of but was " the White House's deputy budget director." Given that we have the largest deficit ever, this seems like a brilliant choice. Josh Bolton is the new Chief of Staff. He was the head of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget). His old position is now filled by trade representative Rob Portman. Given we have the largest trade deficit ever, this seems like status quo is in order. Whew!

Here's an interesting theory on Rove's move. You might think it's just to use that evil genius of his to help the republicans not get slaughtered in the mid-term elections. Or it could be that he gave up his security clearance.

Update: Rove is keeping his security clearance.

2006 Pulitzer Prizes

The The Pulitzer Prizes for 2006 were announced Monday. There are two divisions of awards, a set for Journalism and a set for Letters and Drama. if you download the pdf you can see the list of winners and other finalists with descriptions of what they won for.

The public service and breaking news categories were won by the Sun Herald in Biloxi and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans for their Katrina coverage. Makes sense, local papers shined during this disaster. Washington Post writers won awards for reporting on the Abramoff scandall, US government attempts to bring democracy to Yemen, US secret prisons, and fashion criticism. New York Times reporters won for reporting on NSA domestic spying, justice in China, and genocide in Darfur. Neither of these two leading papers were even finalists for their editorial content which matches my experiences reading them. Read them for news (with a critical eye) but not opinions.

In the Letters and Drama Prizes, I think the only book I knew was American Prometheus which won for Biography (of Robert Oppenheimer). There was no award for Drama this year, even though there were 3 finalists, sucks to be them. Special Citations went to Historian Edmund S. Morgan and Jazz legend Thelonious Monk "for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz." Gee seems a little late to me.

Torturing UFO Nuts, Maybe

I found this story in UK News Headlines in Life Style Extra,
"Computer nerd" hacker could face torture by US Government It's got quaint prose such as "A forty-year-old computer nerd who, with a twopenny-halfpenny computer, embarrassed the United States by hacking into their sensitive computers."

So now we want to torture 40 year-old British hackers. Well maybe, but we won't rule it out and we're doing things that suggest we want to. It turns out that between Autumn 2001 and March 2002, "Gary McKinnon, 40, remotely-controlled 97 US army, naval, airforce, NASA and defence department computers". He's being tried in Britain and is out on conditional bail. He's admitted that he accessed some U.S. military computers, but has denied causing serious damage. Apparently he went searching for info about UFOs. Here's some more details on the charges.

But the US government wants him extradited to the US, however they won't say why. People are guessing it's to impose harsher penalties or even so they could subject him to rendition, torture, or indefinite imprisonment. What we know comes from the defendant's lawyer, Edmund Lawson, but apparently the US embassy in London said he would not be tried as a terror suspect. All we have is a diplomatic note that "is anonymous and unsigned and is neither effective or enforceable." Mr. Lawson added "The President himself has the right to say who can be dealt with under the order. The President has made it quite clear that he is not going to promote discussion in the area to be hampered or restricted by British or the US courts." And he's right. See what happen when you act like a omnipotent bully, people stop trusting you.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Rhymes with Impeach

Neil Young and lot of other musicians want to "Impeach The President".

Germany to Open Holocaust Records

Germany agreed today to allow access to the archives at Bad Arolsen which contains 50 million documents on what happened to more than 17 million people who were executed, forced to labor for the Nazi war machine or otherwise brutalized during the Holocaust. Since 1998, about half the documents have been digitized.

Bush Reads Paper!

CNN has an article on the public debate about firing Donald Rumsfeld. They quote Bush who says "I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld." In fact they title the article "Bush: 'I'm the decider' on Rumsfeld" which I think is a mistake.

The full sentence was: "'I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.'" I think the bigger news is that he reads the front page. Previously he's said "I glance at the headlines, just to get kind of a flavor.". Well maybe that's the same thing in this case. Perhaps the better headline would be "Bush hears voices"

Oh and if you think this image is disrespectful to Bush, I have much more respect for Gromit.

Falling Behind on Stem-Cell Research

Todays Boston Globe has an Op-Ed called Falling behind on stem-cell research written by two Stanford professors. They must be smart, using a word like "hegiras", or maybe just a bit pretentious. Regardless, they talk about the effect of Bush's stem-cell research policy on American efforts in the field. "NIH officials admit the agency has ceded leadership in the field." In 2002 US researchers published 1/3 of the papers, in 2004 just 1/4. Just what we need.

It seems two bills affecting this have passed the house and are in the Senate. One by conservatives will criminalize stem-cell research and therapies and one by liberals will overturn Bush's ban. "Bush has promised to veto any law that would overturn his policy." I'm not sure if that includes the conservative bill or if Bush could actually veto anything. Bush is destroying science in this country, can't we get rid of him.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Eric Alterman Summarizes The Latest

Eric Alterman, in 'The Open Mouth of a Snake Filled with Poison' in The Huffington Post gives a good summary with links to all the important articles and editorials on Bush and the crap going on this weekend with Bush, leaks and nuclear plans.

More Anti-Terrorism Stupidity

In Ohio they are trying a new tactic to prevent terrorist attacks (has there ever been a terrorist attack in Ohio?), they are going to, get this, ask people if they've assisted terrorists. As of last Friday. "Ohioans registering a charity, getting a public job or landing a major government contract must fill out a new form declaring they've never assisted terrorists." Anyone saying yes, probably said they didn't pack their own bag at the airport. So everyone in Ohio now has to deal with addition bureaucratic nonsense.

The law, "also requires anyone, when asked by police, to show ID on bridges, ports and buses and at airports and train stations or any other 'critical transportation infrastructure.'" It seems that every Ohio cop has memorized the names of every past and future terrorist. Papers please.

US Marine on No-Fly List

The US airports are now protected by the TSA. They run the security checks and also keep a no-fly list of people for extra checks. This list is lame because names are not unique and terrorists use aliases. Also the whole list is secret (which makes sense) but the policies of the list are secret too (which makes no sense). So if you find yourself on it, there's no good way to get off of it. And people do find themselves on it.

There have been plenty of stories of ridiculous stops because of this. Sen. Ted Kennedy was on it, if you can't recognize him, there's a problem. "TSA explained to Sen. Kennedy that there was a terrorist who once used 'T. Kennedy' as an alias. 'T' is not one of the Senator's initials; his full name is Edward Moore Kennedy." There was a report recently of an infant prevented from flying because his name was on the list.

The latest stupidity was the stopping of Daniel Brown. First off, that common a name being on the list seems like a really bad idea, but in this case it was worse. This Daniel Brown is a Staff Sergeant in the USMC Reserve. He had had his military ID card and was traveling in full uniform. Oh and if that wasn't enough, "he was traveling with the other members of his Marine Reserve Military Police unit, which was heading home to Minnesota from eight months of combat in Iraq."

"After attempts to stonewall under claims of 'security,' TSA spokesmen finally admitted that Staff Sergeant Daniel Brown was placed on the no-fly list, and ultimately detained, because they had detected gunpowder on his footgear -- not on this flight, but on a prior flight, which earned Brown a permanent place on the TSA's mysterious terrorist lists."

Keeping a list of names and checking passengers against that is just dumb. Why? Because criminals lie. Really. Notice how they've stopped asking the moronic "did you pack your own bag" questions? And how they've stopped asking you to show your id at the gate as you board the plane? Does anyone think we are less safe as a result? The no-fly list is a waste of money and an unnecessary inconvenience to every flyer. They wanted to make the system bigger, but fortunately, for now, that's suspended. TSA should work at preventing weapons from getting on board, and from reports they need practice at that.

Kudos to Brown's unit. Even though he was delayed enough to miss his flight, his whole unit stayed with him. "We don't leave anybody behind. We start together, and we finish together."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Slow-Motion Trap

"Sidney Blumenthal, a friend of Joe Wilson from the Clinton administration, writes in The Slow-Motion Trap a very good summary of the current state of the Libby leak and Bush's lies.

Jefferson's Birthday

Today is Thomas Jefferson's birthday, he was born in 1743. I'm not sure why we don't celebrate it. Here are a collection of quotes from him, including "It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all." Here's one I wish Congress would listen to: "I am... against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents."

Motorized Singlemolecule Car

"In follow-on work to last year's groundbreaking invention of the world's first single-molecule car, chemists at Rice University have produced the first motorized version of their tiny nanocar." It's a molecule and has car parts and is powered by sunlight. Just astonishing.

NASA's Computer Lab

Yesterday was the 25th anniversay of the first shuttle launch. This is a short video tour of some of the computing facilities NASA has. One machine, 10,000 CPUs, petabytes of storage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reality TV

I'll admit it, I watched Project Runway. A friend in the fashion industry said it was good, I tried it and it was. It had fashion designers in weekly competitions, that were actually making clothing. I thought this was much better than the Apprentice which I liked for a little bit but then got tired of people trying to be real estate executives being tested by grooming dogs in central park or selling some new fast food promotional item on the street. It seemed to unrelated. In Runway, they've had to make ice skating costumes, red carpet gowns and new post office uniforms. The judges are good and the contestants have had interesting personalities that weren't all about backstabbing and game strategies.

Today's Boston Globe had this article on the spinoff show
Top Chef. It's by the same Runway producers and is about chefs (who have guessed). The contests are in a kitchen, cooking food which is appropriate. I tried it a bit and didn't much care for it. To me it was a harder sell than Runway because in Runway, the viewer can see and judge the garment, but with Chef, the viewer can't taste the food created. The article doesn't mention this but does bring up the better point that the judges and host have no personality and the judging itself wasn't interesting (even in the Apprentice, the boardroom is the most interesting part). Iron Chef is a good show, and I can't taste the food for that (but you can go to the restaurants) but it works better because of the good commentary and detailed descriptions of the dishes. Top Chef needs some celebrity chef judge, and I guess Heidi Klum couldn't hurt either. :)

Irreducible Complexity Debunked

Irreducible Complexity is the main argument Intelligent Designers use against Evolution. It says that evolution can't explain how complex systems evolve since the intermediate steps wouldn't be useful to species. Well, according to Evolution Of Irreducible Complexity Explained, "Using new techniques for resurrecting ancient genes, scientists have for the first time reconstructed the Darwinian evolution of an apparently 'irreducibly complex' molecular system."

Of course they did this for how the hormone aldosterone work which isn't as readily understood by the layman as how flagella work, so I'm sure people will still cling to the pseudo-science.

"The stepwise process we were able to reconstruct is entirely consistent with Darwinian evolution," Thornton said. "So-called irreducible complexity was just a reflection of a limited ability to see how evolution works."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Rock Paper Scissors Championship

Yesterday was the USA Rock Paper Scissors Championship in Las Vegas. Yep, it's real, with a $50,000 grand prize. Apparently the party was so huge they didn't update the website with the results or even get out a press release.

The Real Leak Relevation

The International Herald Tribune puts the leak relevation in perspective in
Data from Cheney aide disputed before leak

"Fitzgerald, in his filing, said Libby had been authorized to tell Judith Miller, then a reporter for The New York Times, on July 8, 2003, that a key finding of the 2002 intelligence estimate on Iraq was that Baghdad had been vigorously seeking to acquire uranium from Africa.
But a week earlier, in an interview in his State Department office, Powell told three other reporters for The Times that intelligence agencies had essentially rejected that contention, and were 'no longer carrying it as a credible item' by early 2003, when he was preparing to make the case against Iraq at the United Nations."

The Washington Post as a similar story.

What the new information shows is that Bush was in fact manipulating intelligence and lying to the American people. That's got to be impeachable.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wired News: Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room

Wired has an article Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room. "Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an affidavit in support of the EFF's lawsuit this week." He tells of how AT&T let NSA build a secret room adjacent to one of their facilities and then let all the traffic flow into that room. Big Brother.

Leak Cartoon

DoE Science Advisory Board Abolished

The New York Times reported: "Science Advisory Board is Abolished - Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman has decided to abolish his department's Science Advisory Board, a panel of experts that has served energy secretaries since the Carter administration. The board includes scientists, business leaders and former government officials who assign thorny technical questions from the secretary to subcommittees that respond with detailed reports. A spokesman for Mr. Bodman confirmed the decision, first reported in the journal Nature, and said Mr. Bodman, a former chemical engineer, judged the board to be unnecessary after President Bush set the department agenda in his State of the Union address." Just what do you think that last sentence really means?

Corps of Engineers, Not Katrina, to Blame

Harry Shearer (yes, that's Mr. Burns) has been one of the few public figures actually still following the New Orleans story. In the Huffington Post he wrote New Orleans. It's Official: Nobody Cares. Go read his post so his hit count increases and it looks like someone cares, but here's the bit you probably don't know.

On Wednesday in Senate testimony (under oath) the Army Corps of Engineers chief, Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock, admitted their design failures were responsible for the flooding in New Orleans. Harry Shearer calls New Orleans not a natural disaster but "the worst man-made disaster in American history". And he points out that this amazing relevation received no coverage from the media aside from this from the Times Picayune.

Apparently it's more than just the media that isn't writing about this. I tried to find the transcript of the testimony from the Senate but haven't had any luck. The Times Picayune story did't even say which sub-committee he testified to. I did find this fun fact on the Senate's web site It takes several months, or even years, for a hearing to be published. After digging a little I think he testified at the Committee on Appropriations: Subcommittee on Energy and Water on Wednesday, but I don't see a transcript.

Unofficially Official, But Officially Unofficial

Andrew Sullivan points out A Classic bit from the British comedy series "Yes, Minister" which seems to be where the White House got it's policy from.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fred Flintstone's Dentist

The BBC is reporting that Stone age man used dentist drill. 9,000 year old teeth from a Pakistani graveyard show clear signs of drilling. "Analysis of the teeth shows prehistoric dentists had a go at curing toothache with drills made from flint heads." Apparently it was quite effective at remoting rotting dental tissue, enamel removal and cavity well carving. Apparently they did this for 1,500 years before stopping for some reason (no dental insurance?). As unpleasant as these procedures are now, I can't imagine undergoing them then.

3 Movie Reviews

V for Vendetta -Set in a future totalitarian London, we see Evey, a young woman out after curfew attacked by police forces. She's rescued by a vigilante wearing a Guy Fawlkes mask known only as V (Hugo Weaving). V begins a series of terrorist acts to overthrow the government and Evey learns more about herself in the process. It's based on a comic by Alan Moore from the early 80s, it was adapted by the Wachowski brothers (of Matrix fame) and updated with words like "rendition" and "avian flu". V's speeches are a little preachy at times and his tactics are clearly questionable, but the underlying message of being responsible for your government comes through strongly. "People shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people." I liked it a lot even though I found a few points a bit slow.

The War Within - An independent film from 2005 about a Pakistani named Hassan who is in New York to perform a terrorist act. He's staying with old friends who don't know what he's here for. This is not a dumb action film with one dimensional villians and Bruce Willis saving the day. As Hassan spends more time with his friends he begins to question what he's doing. Through flashback we find out how he was recruited into this cell after he was mistakenly apprehended and tortured by the CIA. This doesn't glorify or justify terrorism but it does suggest that not all terrorists are unthinking religious fanatics. I got a lot out of it.

Fever Pitch - A romantic Comedy about successful business woman (Drew Barrymore) dating a rabid red sox fanatic (Jimmy Fallon). They meet during the off season and she doesn't realize the extent of his obsession, this has happened to him before. Once the season starts he's in conflict as he's never missed a game in 23 years. It's a Farrelly brothers film, but without the grossout scenes. The characters aren't idiots and the situations aren't forced and while there's not much depth, it was a lot of fun. I can't imagine anyone not liking this film.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Plame Scandal Takes Presidential Turn

Scooter Libby testified that Cheney told him Bush authorized the leak. Wow. If true it makes Bush's statement of we'll cooperate with the investigation and fire those responsible pretty damning. Or it could be Cheney lied to Scooter and we'll see what Bush does. Or Scooter could be lying now.

This is a case where the typically biased Daily Kos coverage can be short while getting the details right and showing some of the Bush hypocrisy. However the usually more objective Washington Post is longer because it has to describe the whole Plamegate affair and loses some of the impact on the Bush administration.

It's also a case where I want to link to the Washington Post coverage so my blog entry shows up on the "Who's Blogging" box. :)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

World's Largest Magazine

If you fly to Las Vegas you might see a 75x100 foot Maxim magazine cover (featuring Eva Longoria). Publicity stunts, gotta love 'em.

The Architects Of War: Where Are They Now?

Think Progress has produced a report, The Architects Of War: Where Are They Now?. It reviews 15 members of the Bush administration responsible for the war in Iraq and tells what's happened to them. I disagree with their summation: "a review of the key planners of the conflict reveals that they have been rewarded". Certainly some have gotten promotions, some are still in the same position, several left office, and I still can't figure out if Wolfowitz moving to the World Bank was a promotion or merely getting him out of the DoD.

Touching Story

This is just an amazing story from Kevin Sites. "Married at the age of four, an Afghan girl was subjected to years of beatings and torture, finally escaping to discover that within all the world's cruelty, there is also some kindness." Given what the news reports typically are, I had to remind myself that this isn't common practice in Afghanistan. "I think that all people are good people," she says, "except for those that hurt me." It's amazing that she could have such an attitude.

John Dean on Bush (Worse than Nixon)

This is from December 30, 2005, but it's a good read on the domestic wiretapping issue. John Dean (yes that John Dean) claims George W. Bush as the New Richard M. Nixon

"There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons."

"Indeed, here, Bush may have outdone Nixon: Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope...later reports have suggested that NSA is "data mining" literally millions of calls...In sum, this is big-time, Big Brother electronic surveillance."

Why DeLay Quit

This Washington Post article,
Federal Probe Has Edged Closer to Texan, gives the real reason DeLay dropped out (well ok, a theory). As of Feb 15, according to FEC filings, DeLay had $1.3 million in campaign funds.

"DeLay also is entitled under federal election rules to convert any or all of the remaining funds from his reelection campaign to his legal expenses, whether or not he resigns, is indicted or loses the election. Election lawyers say one advantage of bowing out of the election now is that the campaign cash can be converted to pay legal bills immediately, instead of being drained in the course of a bid to stay in office."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

01:02:03 04/05/06

Today, at two minutes and three seconds after one pm (I missed the am one) the time and date will be: 01:02:03 04/05/06.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

McCain is Now Useless

Ari Melber writes in the Huffington Post Will McCain Condemn Rev. Falwell's Bigotry? McCain used to be a Republican worth considering, someone with principles and a brain, not any longer, he's just one of the gang. Arianna Huffington has more.

Obama Rips Bush's Oil Policy

Think Progress reports on a Barack Obama (D-IL) speech to the AP. He called Bush's Oil Policy: It's Like Admitting Alcoholism and Then Skipping The 12-Step Program. "His funding for renewable fuels is at the same level it was the day he took office. He refuses to call for even a modest increase in fuel-efficiency standards for cars. And his latest budget funds less then half of the energy bill he himself signed into law - leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in under-funded energy proposals." About time a Democrat said something. The whole speech is actually pretty good.

Skyrest Travel Pillow

Gizmondo reports on the Skyrest Travel Pillow. Is it just me, or does this look like the most uncomfortable thing imaginable.

Record Companies Greedy

Record Industry Pushes Apple to Raise iTunes Prices: "Record labels make about 70 cents per download, and that's more profit than they make selling CDs, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. 'If they want to raise the prices, it just means they're getting a little greedy,' Jobs said at the Apple Expo in Paris in September."

Apple Envisioneering Group Director Richard Doherty said: "I would challenge the studios to open their balance sheets and show where they are losing money on this...If digital download costs are going up, the recording industry must be using a different Internet than the rest of us."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Democratic Cockroaches

According to the Discovery Channel Cockroaches Make Group Decisions and divide up their resources equally among the group. Seems the US political landscape could learn something from cockroaches.