Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iraq Statistics

Back Talk has a post Distinguishing the Insurgency from Sectarian Violence in Iraq. He points out that Bob Woodward's new book and the New York Times are focusing on the number of attacks statistic and ignoring the other available metrics ("the number of troops killed, the number wounded, the number killed by IEDs") that show a different story. His conclusion is that the mostly Sunni insurgency (Iraq v US) is not strengthening but that the Sunni v. Shiite sectarian violence is a lot worse. "Sectarian violence is not caused by the presence of American troops. Instead, even the editors of the New York Times understand that US troops are preventing Sunni-vs.-Shiite slaughter on a massive scale"

He pointed me at the Brookings Institute's Iraqi Index. The latest on is a 57 page PDF and it makes all the statistics on Iraq publicly available. Draw your own conclusions. I mostly agree with Back Talk but I note that the insurgency is not weakening so I don't think we're succeeding and if it is Sunni v. Shiite I'm not sure it's worth the US being in the middle of that.

In addition to hard statistics on security (attacks, troop levels0, infrastructure (number of phones, internet connections, news outlets) and the economy (unemployment, number of doctors, etc.), the index includes a poll of Iraqis from June that shows they are less optimistic, 59% says economic opportunities are poor and 75% say security is poor. 66% strongly disagree with segregation on religious or ethnic lines (so much for the Bidon plan). A poll from January shows 47% approve of attacks on US forces and 87% approve a timeline for US withdrawal. They want us out so they can kill each other, what a wonderful position to be in (and yes we knew this already).

9/11 Hijackers Video

The (London) Times has the article: Chilling message of the 9/11 pilots. "A video shows two of the world’s most infamous terrorists joking and laughing while filming their ‘death wills’ at Osama Bin Laden’s lair in Afghanistan. The journalist and author Yosri Fouda explains the terrible significance of the new find"

Colin Powell

The Washington Post has a long article Falling on His Sword on Colin Powell's Reign as Secretary of State. It's an excerpt from Karen DeYoung's upcoming book Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell. It's about the UN Speech and his "resignation".

"Powell's irritation at the White House was coupled with a growing anger at the CIA. Right or wrong, at least Bush had willingly shouldered the ultimate responsibility for the decision to go to war. Powell felt he had done his own duty by privately voicing caution even as he gave the president his full support. But it was increasingly apparent that the intelligence community had been careless with the truth and hence with Powell's most precious commodity -- his credibility with the American people."

Republicans Gut Constitution and Freedoms

Miles Mogulescu writes in the Huffington Post Bush and Republican Congress Erase 800 Years of Human Rights. "And now that the Congress has taken away 800 years of fundamental civil liberties, it is poised this weekend to authorize wiretapping without a warrant in violation of the 4th Amendment. We are witnessing a silent coup by President Bush and the Republican Congress to undo our basic liberties enshrined in the Constitution."

And the reason to vote Democratic in November (even if you think they don't deserve it): "It is likely now that the Supreme Court will strike down these unconstitutional acts of Congress. However, if Bush gets another Supreme Court nomination, and Republicans continue to have enough votes in the Senate to bloc a filibuster, we may see a right wing Supreme Court majority allow our sacred liberties to be destroyed."

The Page Scandal

In late 2005, Rep Mark Foley (R-FL) had sexual email and instant messager conversations with a 16 year old male page. Foley resigned yesterday.

It seems Republican House leadership knew of this almost a year ago. "Chairman of the House Page Board, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) interviewed Foley last year about some of the contacts with the page. The House clerk, who is also a member of the Board, was also present. Speaker Hastert's office was informed of the interview, but according to GOP leadership sources who spoke to Roll Call, Hastert himself was not informed."

Yesterday, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told the Washington Post, he had learned of Foley's behavior this spring and that he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) then. Today Boehner he changed his story saying he couldn't remember if he told Hastert. Think Progress has a timeline.

Apparently at the time, Republicans choose not to punish Foley in any way. Sounds like the Catholic Church doesn't it? Oh and the only Democrat on the House Page Board (Dale Kildee, D-MI), wasn't told about any of this. The House Ethics Committee is now investigating the whole thing, but they've done next to nothing lately.

said Rep. Mark Foley, R-FL Sep 1998 on Bill Clinton: "It's vile, It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction." In the House, Foley was one of the foremost opponents of child pornography.

With Foley giving up his seat, it seems the Democrats have a better chance to win another seat in the House.
In a New York Times Op-Ed today, Robert Harris compares our present political situation to the fall of ancient Rome...

"In the autumn of 68 B.C. the world’s only military superpower was dealt a profound psychological blow by a daring terrorist attack on its very heart. Rome’s port at Ostia was set on fire, the consular war fleet destroyed, and two prominent senators, together with their bodyguards and staff, kidnapped."

Blogging Space

Anousheh Ansari's Space Blog including: The Trip Up, The Ride Down. and others worth reading. Nothing profound but more details on space travel than I've ever read and very interesting.

House Discourages Gov't v Religion Lawsuits

This from the Washington Post: "With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion."

Friday, September 29, 2006

White Hosue to Abramoff: Don't Put This Stuff in Writing

The Washington Monthly has an email thread between the White House and Abramoff where they talk about overturning an Interior Department decision for the benefit of his tribes but also how this message wasn't supposed to make it into the White House email system. Nice.

Your Phone Records

Ah yes, nice irony: House Chastises Hewlett-Packard Surveillance, Ratifies NSA Surveillance. Oh I'm sorry, I meant disgusting and ridiculous inconsistencies.

Bush's Federal Judges

People for the American Way have released a report Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears that documents "troubling trends identified in earlier reviews have continued as more Bush appointees gain more experience and tenure on the appellate courts – more and more opinions seek, sometimes successfully, to cut back broadly on Americans’ rights under our Constitution and laws."

I haven't read the report yet, but the summary seems similar to others I've read. E.g., this is from page 4:"For example, two controversial Bush appellate judges on two different courts of appeal -- Michael McConnell on the Tenth Circuit and Lavenski Smith on the Eighth Circuit -- cast deciding votes in different cases that significantly restricted individuals’ rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, including one decision that struck down a Department of Labor regulation protecting workers." The real question is was the regulation a good one or a bad one?

The problem is, it's very hard to evaluate a judge. It's easy to know if they lean conservative or liberal, but neither is a crime. People can differ on how government should work, in fact the founders had great and famous differences. The Great Compromise that allowed slaves to count as 3/5 of a person for representatives in the House and equal representation for each state in the Senate won with the votes of just 5 states (CT, NJ, DE, MD, NC) of the 13 (MA was split, RI didn't attend and NY and NH lacked a quorum).

It's much harder to know if they are making good decisions or bad. Bush's rhetoric about judges interpreting the law rather than creating it is useless. Judges are supposed to overturn bad laws and many laws are necessarily vague and need interpretation in specific situations. Nevertheless, in the above example, the details they describe (p. 89), seem to suggest it was a bad decision.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Millions of anchovies die in a mass beaching in northern Spain.

Sandra Day O'Connor Talking

Sandra Day O'Connor has a few interfaces and public appearances lately. I saw her on the News Hour last night. This article seems to sum up the stuff pretty well. She's very busy and is worried about "attacks on an independent judiciary system".

Media Not Reportiing Administration's Abramoff Lies

So I posted yesterday about the new House Report that Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials and of course the media like abc and the New York Times reported on it's facts.

But they don't go back and report that Scott McClellan lied to us, for that check out Think Progress where they quote him on 4 separate instances saying there were 1-2 meetings at a holiday party and "a few staff meetings". That's a bit different than 13 meetings with White House Staff (at least 10 with Rove) for a total of 32.3 hours billed to his clients and 485 phone calls (82 with Rove's office). And yes, McClellan did claim "Well, I did do a check, and I indicated to you exactly what I just told you." I wonder if the "I indicated" was a planned slip or just a transcription error.

Blogger Beta

I've switched this blog to be blogger beta. The obvious new feature is Labels which are like Categories or Tags. I'll look into allowing feeds for specific labels so if you just want to subscribe to movie reviews :) For now I'm coping with things that are broken (BlogThis, backtab in Safari). While there's no more wait time to publish an article, it's harder to create the content. If you have a blogspot blog, I recommend not upgrading yet.

Glenn Greenwald on Democrats

Glenn Greenwald writes Beltway Democrats are seriously flawed, but the election is still critically important. Yes the Democrats suck but 2 more years of an unchecked Bush administration would be worse.

"A desire for a Democratic victory is, at least for me, about the fact that this country simply cannot endure two more years of a Bush administration which is free to operate with even fewer constraints than before, including the fact that George Bush and Dick Cheney will never face even another midterm election ever again. They will be free to run wild for the next two years with a Congress that is so submissive and blindly loyal that it is genuinely creepy to behold. A desire for a Democratic victory is also about the need to have the systematic lawbreaking and outright criminality in which Bush officials have repatedly engaged have actual consequences, something that simply will not happen if Republicans continue their stranglehold on all facets of the Government for the next two years."

Cenk Uygur on Democrats

Cenk Uygur states the (maybe it's not so) obvious in The "We Have to Win" Myth. The Democrats are too afraid to even try to win.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bill Of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six

An Onion article from 4 years ago: Bill Of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six.

Rice Lies

Think Progress reports on Rice's Strategy on Darfur: Stay The Course. Yesterday Rice "bragged that the Bush officials are 'bend[ing] every fiber of our being to ease the suffering of people of Darfur.' That is flatly false."

The Huffington Post has Condi Rice: Liar, Stupid, or Both?. "No other logical possibility accounts for her delusional claim to the New York Post that, 'We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda.'" There's more but these sentences should do it: "There is a documentary record and it is unambiguous. In fact there are two documents. First, is the strategy itself. Comprehensive and straightforward. Second, is the memo from Clarke to Rice."

House Report Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials

House Report Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials

"A House committee has documented hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates, as well as tens of thousands of dollors worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts that were offered to these officials during a three-year period starting in early 2001."

Law Professors' Letter Against the Torture Bill

Text of the Law Professors' Letter Against the Bush-McCain Torture Bill. They mention S.3929 and the bill that passed was S.3930, I don't know how different they were.

Senate Aftermath

I agree with Glenn Greenwald entirely in his article George Bush's vast new powers of detention and interrogation. I think the Democrats blew it and in spite of trying not to look soft, looked soft. I heard Jay Rockefeller's speech and Greenwald is right. If they plan to run as an alternative to Bush and Iraq, then they need to be an actual alternative.

I also agree with Reid's statement.

We're in a Bad Star Wars Movie

The Emperor: [to the Senate] In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.
[Senate fills with enormous applause]
Padmé: [to Bail Organa] So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause

What's Wrong With the Detainee Bill

Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, explains what's wrong with the detainee legistlation (S. 3930) in The White House Warden.

"BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights."

Read the whole article.

Amendements to Torture Bill, Failing

TPMmuckraker September 28, 2006 12:21 PM:

"The Senate just killed an amendment to ensure federal courts could review the legitimacy of individual' imprisonment on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. The amendment had been proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It is a fundamental protection woven into the fabric of our Nation," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who supported the measure. It was defeated 48-51, largely along party lines."

"Former torture victim Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), portrayed as a "maverick" by earlier bucking the White House on the issue of detainee treatment, voted against the amendment. The White House also opposes the changes the amendment would make to the bill. Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had also challenged the White House over the bill, joined McCain in voting against the amendment."

I don't know what's going on. Kennedy (D-MA) is proposing an amendment that specifies that we can't torture Americans. Really. And it's going to lose. Where am I?

Senator Byrd (D-WV) is propsing a 5 year sunset provision (co-sponsored by Obama (D-IL) and Clinton (D-NY). That means it would expire 3 years into the next president's term?

Some Senators Speak

Some Senators Speak. I've been watching CSPAN. Kennedy just gave a good loud angry impassioned rant. Hillary is giving a rambling speech, "I fear it will cost our nation dearly" but it sounds like she's just up there talking because that's her role.

I don't know why there isn't a filibuster. The Daily Kos makes a good argument to at least delay the bill a few days. "Seems like it's worth a day or two of thought, especially given that the supposed McCain 'torture compromises' and the impact of a whole host of other 'compromises' on this rather ramshackle bit of hurried-up legislation are still not quite clear. Unless, of course, we're talking about authorizing the torture of human beings merely because certain Senators believe it will provide them a good talking point in their election battles, and haven't really thought through the rest of it too much."

Dan Froomkin on Detainee Legislation

Dan Froomkin writes:

"The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that's just for starters."

"Today's vote will show more clearly than ever before that, when push comes to shove, the Republicans who control Congress are in lock step behind the president, and the Democrats -- who could block him, if they chose to do so -- are too afraid to put up a real fight."

He then has outtakes from many articles on the subject.

Our Freedom

Bush said they hate our freedom. The writ of habeas corpus is one of the foundations of our freedoms. It allows the courts to oversee that the government doesn't wrongly imprison people. Bush and the Republicans are passing a bill that suspends this. The US Constitution, Article I, section 9, says "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Bush is doing more harm to our freedom than they are.

Stephen Colbert Opposition Party

Who's To Blame?

I like this article by Kevin Drum in The Washington Monthly.

"Various luminaries in the liberal foreign policy community have been proposing Iraq policies right and left for over three years now. Initially, that perhaps we should have kept our focus on Afghanistan and stayed out of Iraq altogether. Then, once we were there, liberal thinkers suggested more troops, dialogue with Iran, a multilateral council to accelerate regional investment in Iraq's progress, a variety of counterinsurgency strategies, a variety of partition plans, more serious engagement in Israeli-Palestinian talks (Tony Blair practically begged for this), and on and on. Every single one of these suggestions was ignored.

Would they have made any difference? Who knows. But to blame Democrats now for not being aggressive enough in trying to trisect this angle is like blaming Gerald Ford for losing Vietnam. George Bush fought this war precisely the way he wanted, with precisely the troops he wanted, and with every single penny he asked for. He has kept Don Rumsfeld in charge despite abundant evidence that he doesn't know how to win a war like this. He has mocked liberals and the media at every turn when they suggested we might need a different approach. The result has been a disaster with no evident solution left.

It's one thing to ask for 'debate,' but it's quite another to ask for a pony that doesn't exist anymore and to blame Democrats when they're unable to produce yet another one after three years of trying. That makes no sense."

Tony Snow: I Know You Are But What Am I?

I just don't know what to say about this. Think Progress reports on Tony Snow's press conference yesterday where his reply to questions about the NIE was "I know, but look for, 'We’re not winning.' Please show me. Well, the President says we’re winning". He really says this, it sounds like third grader. It's unbelievable to me that this is the voice of our government.

But, as usual Think Progress just reports a clip. So I read the whole transcript and right after they cut it off, Snow goes into a long explanation. The problem is, it's completely oblique and nonsensical.

After a while Snow starts to draw a distinction between people who support bin Laden and those that will do more than just talk, they would actually do violence. Ok, this is moronic since the administration is trying to capture people before they do the act, so I don't know what this means. But at least the press core called him to task on this:

Q But it does say that --
Q That's exactly what this is suggesting --
Q Jihadists aren't on the sidelines. They're not just spectators.
Q By definition, they're not spectators.

and then I liked this:

Q Finish that sentence, "jihadist is somebody who says," what?
MR. SNOW: A jihadist is somebody who says that they believe -- that they believe that these kind of actions, that terror, in fact, will provide a road to glory. So they believe it. They buy the ideology.
Q So you're suggesting we've created more people who dislike us, but not more people who want to harm us.
MR. SNOW: Well, they may even want to harm us. The question is operationally, do they have the capability, and are they going to move forward to do so?

And now read this exchange towards the end:

Q -- that the report says that Iraq is creating more jihadists, but that this doesn't necessarily mean it's creating more terror.

MR. SNOW: No, what it says is there are contributing factors to the jihadi movement. It does not try to render a judgment about what's -- if there is a single factor creating more. As you go back and take a look at the four parts, you have a number of things that are fueling the growth in the jihadi movement. You know what? It's perfectly possible that the war in Iraq is creating more people who say that they want to be jihadis.

Q Right, so --

MR. SNOW: Perfectly possible.

Q But that doesn't mean that these people are terrorists, is that what you're saying?

MR. SNOW: It does not mean that they have the operational capability, because we have been, in fact, on a very aggressive and continued campaign that has succeeded. And the President laid that out. A number of terror plots have been intercepted and interceded.

Q But you're making a distinction that the report doesn't make. I mean, the report says, using the word "jihadist," it says, "We judge that most jihadist groups -- both well known and newly formed -- will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attack." It says, "CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups."

They're saying jihadists, not terrorists. If Iraq is creating more jihadists, doesn't that according to the logic of the report mean that it's creating more terrorists?

MR. SNOW: Okay, it's creating more people who want to commit acts of terror. And it gets back to the practical judgment, which is neither addressed nor answered in here, and I will try to get "greater granularity" for you, about whether or not the operational capability is the same.

I guarantee you, though -- and this is the important issue -- that if, in fact, this had been allowed to continue untouched and unabated, it would be worse. And, number two, the key challenge before the United States is to make sure we continue to give ourselves the tools to fight them.

Q I'm not arguing --

MR. SNOW: And, furthermore, if we had not engaged in this battle, it's not as if they all would have become computer programmers in Silicon Valley.

Q I'm not arguing with your other point, which is simply that there's more terrorists but they're less effective. What I'm saying is that this report seems to be very clearly stating that Iraq is creating more jihadists, which it equates in this report with terrorists. And, furthermore, there's another phrase that specifically mentions terrorists that says, "We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives." Those are more terrorists.

MR. SNOW: Yes, no -- more terrorist leaders and operatives. Absolutely right. And once again, in part because you have a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives, in part because the old generation has suffered significant casualties -- Zarqawi and others -- but, yes, you've got a new generation. And the question we have to keep asking ourselves is, operationally, what can they do and how can they do it. And I don't disagree.

NOAA Blocks Hurricanes and Glocal Warming Report

"The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday."

The article reports how Nature reported that they many different NOAA officials said different things: "wasn't done in time", "it needed to be less technical", "merely an internal document". And check out the various headlines given to this same AP story by different papers.

And another reason to be annoyed with science reporting: "Just two weeks ago, researchers said that most of the increase in ocean temperature that feeds more intense hurricanes is a result of human-induced global warming, a study one researcher said 'closes the loop' between climate change and powerful storms like Katrina. Not all agree, however, with opponents arguing that many other factors affect storms, which can increase and decrease in cycles." So is there consensus? Is it 90-10 or 50-50?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Al Gore's speaks

Al Gore gave a long speech at NYU on global warming last week. Why are the only Democrats I hear from lately not running for anything?!?

TSA Experiences

From the IP mailing list, TSA: Incompetent and Not Afraid to Cover It Up. When you go through airport security, don't let them give your driver's license to someone else.

Legalizing Tyranny

Andrew Sullivan also pointed out how bad the compromise is in Legalizing Tyranny and then someone wrote him to point out how its worse than he thought in Legalizing Tyranny II.

Cenk Uygur on Iraq

Cenk Uygur is convinced We Have No Friends In Iraq. His argument is that the three factions are just out for themselves and hate each other, and therefore, "There is no one on our side in Iraq. There is no effective force in Iraq fighting for the same cause we are. That is why the Bush strategy in Iraq is destined for complete failure."

The AP article he links to describes incidents with the Iraqi army in Baghdad that suggest a complete lack of dedication to the job. "Everything we do in Iraq that does not lead to an orderly partition of the country is a waste of time. There are only two possibilities. Either Iraq will split apart or someone like Muqtada al-Sadr will capture most of the country and become a strong man just like Saddam Hussein, except he will be an Islamic fundamentalist."

Bush is Angry, So He Declassifies

Joshua Micah Marshall reminds us about the last time they declassified an NIE.

And More Officials Lie

This time Media Matters shreds Wolf Blitzer interviewing White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend. "[He] claimed that "there's no question that terrorism was a priority" in the Bush administration before 9-11, and that "[t]here had been multiple meetings" to that effect. Townsend also claimed that no one in the Bush administration was familiar with a "comprehensive strategy to proceed with the war on terror," which former President Clinton said he left with the incoming administration. Blitzer failed to challenge Townsend on either of these statements, even though the 9-11 Commission found to the contrary."

John Bolton

The Washington Note reports John Bolton Confirmation Battle Really, Really Dead. I don't pretend to understand this. He's been our Ambassador to the UN for over a year. I think his current status lasts until January 2007, but I don't know what happens then.

Condi Rice Lies

Think Progress reports Rice Falsely Claims Bush's Pre-9/11 Anti-Terror Efforts Were At Least As Aggressive As Clinton's.

I just saw this reported on WHDH (Boston channel 7) news. They quoted Rice, "The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false...I think the 9/11 Commission understood that". Of course, because this was crappy TV news there was no followup as to what the Commission actually said. The state of journalism in this country is pathetic.

Update: There's more: Rice Falsely Claims Clinton Administration Did Not Leave A ‘Strategy To Fight Al Qaeda’.

We Will Torture Our Own

The Washington Post describes how the torture compromised was weakened over the weekend. Here's a good example of how tricky it can be to read these laws. Previously the compromise said it applied to people "engaged in hostilities against the United States", now it also applies to those "engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." For comparison the military's definition of unlawful combatants covers only "those who engage in acts against the United States or its coalition partners in violation of the laws of war and customs of war during an armed conflict." With the new definition, the administration can designate anyone, anywhere as an unlawful enemy combatant, not just people on the battlefield.

But it gets worse. "Under a separate provision, those held by the CIA or the U.S. military as an unlawful enemy combatant would be barred from challenging their detention or the conditions of their treatment in U.S. courts unless they were first tried, convicted and appealed their conviction." So there's no habeas corpus, which is just a fancy term saying that if you're arrested you have the right to go to court to make sure the arrest was legal. Oh and the bill "does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant".

The Daily Kos has a good article comparing this to Korematsu v. U.S. which was the infamous case that allowed the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The first amendment guarantees citizens the right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Maybe one of our elected officials will remember this.

TBogg puts it simply: "This is how the world sees us: In America they torture people, including their own, in secret prisons."

Americans are not safer, but this time the threat is from our own government, and they've made mistakes already. If this "compromise" passes, the president can arrest you, declare you an unlawful enemy combatant, move you to a secret prison, and torture you, and you have no legal recourse. That's not an exageration, it's real.

Bizarre Strip-Search Hoax

"It's a scam dubbed the "strip-search hoax," and it works like this: a man calls a fast food restaurant, pretending to be a police officer or restaurant corporate official. The caller convinces a restaurant manager that an employee -- invariably female -- is implicated in some criminal wrongdoing, such as theft or drug possession. Per the caller's instructions, the manager has the employee searched, in a progressively invasive fashion."

On Feb. 2, 2003, at the Hinesville, Georgia McDonald's it went way too far and resulted in a 55 year old male employee performing a 30 minute body cavity search on a 19 year old female employee. It also resulted in a court case.

Apparently there were over 60 such incidents and they all came from one guy in Panama City, FL. Details are here in a really amazing article. Apparently people trust authority too much.

Scientists Turn Dead Cells Into Live Tissue

I must be misunderstanding something here, because the headline, Scientists turn dead cells into live tissue sounds far more significant than the article. I also don't understand why scientists think this would be less controversial than using embryonic stem cells. I'm picturing Gene Wilder...

Maps of War

Maps of War has interesting graphical representations of what's happening in Iraq. The most interesting one is the first one, which is a 90 second flash animation of the Imperial History of the Middle East over 5,000 years.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Hot

Global warming is real and the Earth's temperature is near its highest level in a million years. If you believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old you don't believe this and I don't know what to say to you (the Earth is by current estimates about 3.5 billion years old).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Skeptic's Annotated Bible

I never saw this before. The Skeptic's Annotated Bible includes the text of the King James version of the Bible and highlights the "contradictions and false prophecies show that the Bible is not inerrant; the cruelties, injustices, and insults to women, that it is neither good nor just." There's also an annotated Quran and an annotated Book of Mormon.

FOX Spinning Clinton Interview

It's no surprise, but it is disgusting how Fox is spinning the Clinton interview. They are showing clips and pointing out how aggravated he is. They bring on Democratic senators and ask them questions like is Clinton accurate and the Democrats say yes and Fox does no followup. But they do keep asking such questions which gives this sense of doubt. They never show the clip of Clinton asking Wallace why he hasn't asked Bush the question and no anchor asks why Bush didn't followup after the Cole. Really disgusting.

Update: Ugh it gets worse. They're harping on him saying "this is a conservative hit job". They brought out Liz Trotta ( former New York bureau chief of The Washington Times and Fox news contributor) who says "Clinton's temper is legendary" and "have you ever seen the Clinton's not blame someone else for their problems?". This after admitting he didn't do all he could but he did more than others. Also the caption at the bottom of the screen was "Clinton's outburst: real anger, or coolly calculated"

Update: If you want a good interview, watch Clinton on Meet the Press. Props to Tim Russert who asked questions and let Clinton talk as long as he wanted for an answer, just as he does with Republicans. I wish the press pressed politicians more but this was at least fair.

Update: Clinton asked Wallace how many times he or Fox asked the administration why they didn't do anything as a result of the USS Cole bombing. Media Matters has the answer.

Update: Yet again I agree with Cenk Uydur, Why Don't All Democrats Do What Clinton Did?.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why We Shouldn't Torture

Susan Taylor Martin writes in the St. Petersburg Times why torture shouldn't be used. The use of torture on suspects, a common practice around the world, rarely achieves its goal. In fact, other techniques are far more effective at yielding correct intelligence than torture.

I'm TiVo'ing Fox News

Yep, tomorrow night I'm taping Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace so I can see this interview with Bill Clinton. Clinton has been making the TV rounds (he was on the Daily Show this week) about the Clinton Global Initiative to solve the worlds biggest problems. Apparently it's been pretty successful.

Clinton says Fox said they'd spend half the time talking about the CGI. The second question was why didn't you do more to catch bin Laden. The part that's interesting, is that Clinton tears into Wallace and Fox. Read a transcript here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Clinton Weighs In on Detainees, Iraq and Iran

Ok, there's one Democrat speaking about the torture issue and he's making a lot of sense. Unfortunately it's one not in office and who can't be president, it's Bill Clinton on NPR yesterday. Maybe he should be feeding lines to his wife, I hear she might run for something.

Bush v. Musharraf on bin Laden

This is two days old, sorry. Bush would send troops inside Pakistan to catch bin Laden. That seems ok, except for the fact that Pakistan's leader, Musharraf said "We wouldn't like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves." You'd think after five years of coerced cooperation, they might have already agreed on a plan if they had info on where bin Laden was.

Senators Cave on Torture

Apparently the torture bill compromise was a gift to the administration. "More careful analysis of the compromise language is probably needed, but at this point it looks like the three Republican 'moderates' gave in completely. If that's the case, the only question remaining is whether this was all staged from the beginning to put Democrats in an impossible position, or if they genuinely caved in on practically every detail." In the mean time, Democrats do nothing.
Update: Now the media (NPR, PBS) is saying the Senators won. The Geneva Conventions hold, the president still has his constitutional power to interpret them but must put any new interpretations in the federal registry, no secret evidence in trials, etc.

Vote With Paper

Reporting the problems with Diebold voting machines can have an effect. The Maryland governor calls for paper ballots for this November's election.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

With Us or Agin' Us

Musharraf says Bush threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" if they didn't help us after 9/11. It seems this administration has only one method of dealing with others, intimidation by force. Some of the things we demanded Musharraf rejected including "turning over border posts and bases to US forces" and "barring anti-US demonstrations". Apparently Bush wants to violate civil rights in more than just the US.

Gonzales Lies

So we've been responsible for torturing innocent people. Yeah there are some details, we deported him to Syria because that's where he was originally from and they did it, but still. Our Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Tuesday: “Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria.” and “I’m not aware that he was tortured.” Which is just a lie. Now the Justice Dept. Amends Remark on Torture Case.

Increasingly Popular Iraq War

It urns out that support for the Iraq war is increasing, not decreasing. I'm not talking about supporting our troops, but support for the war. And it seems the press has been getting it wrong when it says "increasingly unpopular Iraq war". I'm dumbfounded.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cheney Biographer Thoroughly Discredited

The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes will write an official biography of Dick Cheney. Media Matters reports that much of his writings on the Iraq connection to 9/11 are "thoroughly discredited by Senate Intelligence Committee" report.

Guessing the Weather

Find out how accurate the weather forecasts are for your city.

Pope v Islam v Jon Stewart

I have to agree with Kevin Drum on this Pope uproar.

The Pope's speech aside from being boring, didn't need to mention Islam or violence at all. The point of his speech was that science is good and theology is good too, they both do different things and both should be studied.

The excuse that the Pope didn't say Islam is violent, he only quoted someone that said this is moronic.

The violence that errupted perhaps proves the point.

Jon Stewart nailed all this. "Mea kinda", gotta love it.

Congressional Corruption

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have released their second annual report: Beyond Delay "The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress". 17/20 are Republicans as are 4/5 of the Dishonorable Mentions. Is your representative here? is he up for re-election?

Nuclear Proliferation

So as we tell Iran they can't have nukes and support using the IAEA for inspections, remember back in March U.S., India Reach Deal On Nuclear Cooperation. We said India can have nukes, but we only have to inspect the civilian reactors not the military ones. Don't think the rest of the world doesn't find this hypocritical.

Blogging a Coup

See Not a lot of info but pictures.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Truth about Sushi and Japanese Restaurants

A conversation of two Japanese people, one whom has returned from a trip from Australia and explains their global practical joke.

What a bunch of Sushis indeed!

Quicken's Bad Support

Your process for converting from Quicken 2005 for Windows to Quicken 2007 for Mac needs improving. I understand the two programs don't offer compatible features nevertheless I encountered problems I shouldn't have. Also now that I am using Quicken for Mac I do hope you'll improve the product soon, it's is far inferior to your Windows product.

I followed the instructions for the conversion from this site:

First off, making me limit various strings to 15 characters in this day and age is ridiculous. And if you're going to do it, add a function that identifies all the long strings I need to convert for me. You also explained to convert some transaction types to other types but it would be nice if you offered details as to the specifics of how to do so. Finally, the instructions did not mentioned checking the box when exporting to include info for a Mac, they should.

I created the .qif file and while importing to Quicken for Mac I received 144 errors saying "Invalid investment transaction in account: account-name". I clicked continue and had most of my 6 years of data in Quicken for Mac, however I had no way of knowing which transactions were not imported. It's a basic rule of software (I'm a software engineer and VP of R&D) to provide a user enough information to handle the error.

I went to your website and after finding no other info to help me I tried a live chat. Connecting was no problem, here's my first conversation:

Bishnu C.: Hi, my name is Bishnu C.. How may I help you?
Howard: I'm converting from Quicken '05 for Win to '07 for Mac
Bishnu C.: Ok
Howard: I followed the instructions at
Howard: on inport, 3 of my accounts had incorrect balances
Howard: during input there were several errors reported
Howard: that specific transactions could not be inported
Howard: fair enough, but it didn't identify the transactions that were problematic
Howard: how do I find them?
Bishnu C.: Please give me 2-3 minutes while I check my resources to provide you with the best solution.

I do appreciate your patience and apologize for the delayed response.
Bishnu C. Has Disconnected

Alright, maybe there was a connection problem causing the disconnect, I connected again:

Thomas T.: Hi, my name is Thomas T.. How may I help you?
Howard: Hi.
Howard: I'm converting from Quicken '05 for Win to '07 for Mac
Howard: I followed the instructions at
Howard: on inport, 3 of my accounts had incorrect balances
Howard: during input there were several errors reported
Howard: that specific transactions could not be inported
Thomas T.: Howard, thank you for details.
Howard: fair enough, but it didn't identify the transactions that were problematic
Howard: how do I find them?
Howard: The errors were all: Invalid investment transaction in account: xxx
Thomas T.: What I understand is that when you convert your file the balance is not correct.Is this so ?
Howard: yes for 3 of the accounts
Thomas T.: In this case, I will request you to open the file in Quicken 2005 and perform reindex steps and convert again.
Thomas T.: This will fix your issue.
Howard: reindex?
Thomas T.: Yes, I will provide you the steps.
Howard: ok
Thomas T.: Here are the steps :- Open the data file. Go to Lists -> Accounts.
Press Apple key + Option key + B together and release the keys when you see "Reconstructing Lists" message.
Go to File -> "Save a Copy" of current file or specify a date range on the Desktop.
Howard: ok, do you want me to do the on the mac? you said in quicken 2005, but I'm going from quicken 2005 on Windows to Quicken 2007 on mac. also by data file do you mean the .qif?
Thomas T.: No, it is qdata file.
Thomas T.: I am sorry that is for the Mac.
Thomas T.: I will provide you the steps for windows.
Thomas T.: Here it is :- 1. Please choose File->File Operations->Copy. Please click Ok. Please wait while Quicken makes the copy. Please choose **new copy** after the copying is done.
2. Please go to File-File Operations and then select Validate. Please choose the name of the file (copy) and click Ok. Please click Ok when we get the message 'Validation is completed'.
3. Now please go to file-file operations- and this time click on validate keeping the CTRL+SHIFT keys pressed. Please locate the file that we just validated (Copy), then select it and then click on OK. This will super validate the File.
Howard: ok, so you want me to do this on the data file on the original (windows) machine and then reexport a .qif

I found the notion of a "super-validate" fairly humorous but followed the instructions and rexported and imported and still had the same problem. So I chatted again:

Pradeep K.: Hi, my name is Pradeep K.. How may I help you?
Howard: I'm converting from Quicken 2005 for Windows to Quicken 2007 for Mac
Howard: I'm following the directions at:
Howard: I've successfully importing the qif but there were some errors
Howard: e.g., "Invalid investment transaction in account: xxx
Howard: but it didnt' tell me which transactions
Howard: I asked one of you earlier who suggested I do a super validate
Howard: I did but it didn't help
Pradeep K.: Thank you for the details.
Howard: I then looked through some transactions and realized that the ones that caused problems (at least some of them) were MiscExp
Howard: (I'm a programmer, I understand how to give bug reports :)
Howard: so MiscExp wasn't listed as a bad transaction type, what should I do with them?
Pradeep K.: So, you want to convert Quicken 2005 for Windows to Quicken 2007 for Mac. Correct?
Howard: yes
Pradeep K.: May I provide with a web link to convert your Quicken windows data file in to Quicken for Mac program?
Howard: well if it's different then the one I said I'm following
Pradeep K.: yes
Pradeep K.: Title: Converting data from Quicken for Windows to Quicken for Mac
Pradeep K.: Howard, If you are interested in our Cross-Platform Conversion service, please contact us at (800) 811-8766 to have your case escalated to Quicken Data Services. A Quicken data service specialist will be in contact to explain in more detail the services offered. Our cross-platform service is absolutely free for you.
Howard: ok, so those are the same instructions in a slightly different format :)
Howard: I guess a MiscExp is the same as as MiscExpX
Pradeep K.: I can understand, you can try the steps in case face any problem you can contact us on the above number.
Howard: so I can call that number and just ask questions, is that right?
Pradeep K.: correct, Our cross-platform service is absolutely free for you.
Howard: that's nice, I thought it was $65
Howard: when I call that number it says teh office is currently closed
Pradeep K.: Please call (800) 811-8766 M-F 5am-5pm PST
Howard: ok, will call tomorrow, thanks

So your live support didn't help answer any of my questions but you offered me a $65 conversion service value. I'm not that thrilled about sending all my financial information to you but if that what it takes. That evening I reduced my errors to about 60 by removing some old accounts that I didn't really care about tranferring. I twould be really convenient if I could export several accounts instead of just one or all. Instead I copied the whole file, deleted the accounts and exported.

The next day I called. Someone answered and I explained my situation as I have 3 times above. I explained that Pradeep said the conversion service would be free but realized how dumb that sounded since I had no proof I could offer. I said all I really wanted was to ask a question of technical person about finding the invalid transactions. The person walked me through the web site to the same conversion instructions I already mentioned I used. He then said he just wanted to confirm that there wasn't a conversion program to use. That took several minutes. He then asked more for info to escalate me for the free conversion service. That's reasonable: name, phone, address, email, version. He asked for the path to my data file which seemed ridiculous to me. If I'm going to send it to you why do you care where it is on my machine? The real problem was gathering all this info too 25 minutes. My phone has a call timer this call was 40 minutes long. He then ends with boilerplate question of whether or not he's completely resolved my issue for today, it's was a long question I had to listen through and the answer was unfortuantely yes because he moved me to the next step but in 4 contacts you've done nothing to help me solve the actual problem. Then I get forwarded to a 30 second survey which was similarly gathering extraneous data.

I then get two survey forms in email from you:
Reference Number: 060913-000910
Reference Number: 060913-001011

So I while waiting to be contacted by the conversion service to hear where to upload my datafile I figured I'd try to solve it on my own, I had now had a copy of my data file to play with. The remaining 60 errors were all in two accounts. Going through them I found sevearal transactions without transaction codes though they were mostly transfers from accounts that no longer exist. Within an hour I had all 60 found and entered.

But I wasn't done. After exporting and importing two accounts each had one security which were off, one by 9 cents the other by 4. I went through all the transactions and there were all accounted for an accurate. I was stumped. Since the transactions amounts were right but the total was different I figured going through transaction by transaction would find it. I created a spreadsheet with the transaction details from the Windows account and computed a running total of the number shares held. The QuickReport in the mac version couldn't help me here but the Transactions tab of the Security Detail view was just right. Please consider updating the QuickReport capability. I went through and in one account found a transaction with the correct amount but that produced the wrong total of shares. Yes Quicken's math was off and that is not comforting. I deleted and reentered the transaction by hand and all was fine. I did the same for the other account but found the 4 cents were off becasuse of two transactions that added incorrectly (one for 8 cents the other for 4 cents). So I solved my own problem with no help from your support staff or your documentation.

I also have yet to hear from your conversion service. It's been 5 days, 3 business days.

It seems to me your support organization is too concerned with trying to make sure you're meeting some internal metrics rather than actually solving a customers problems. Your's wouldn't be the first organization to fall into such a trap. To sum up:

1. Improve your Quicken for Mac product, it's far behind your Windows version and you obviously know it. See the low rating the product has on Amazon, I put off buying this product for 1.5 years because of that, but it was the last thing I was using my PC for.
2. Improve your instructions and processes for conversion. Describe the troubling transactions more explicitly and how to address them. When an error is reported include enough info to find and correct it. And don't make the user do things like reduce strings to 15 characters or make sure symbols are all in uppercase. These are tasks computers are good at, not humans. Fix it on import or at least add a super-duper-validate that does this for me.
3. Train your support people more techincally or provide a 2nd line of support that can be reached. Have them care more about solving the customer's problem rather than passing them off to the next person to check off they did what they were supposed to.
4. Change your metrics to measure the things that really matter.
5. Fix your internal systems to better hand off customers between systems, not send multiple surveys for the same issue and actually contact them when a support person says they will.

PS. I had a very long informative response but when I clicked submit it didn't fit in the URL to send you. If you provide me some way to send it to you I will. I will also post it on my blog for all to see. In the future I suggest you conduct surveys with email responses or at least use HTTP POST.

Don't Believe Their Lies

If you don't believe in global warming you can now blame Philip Morris for your ignorance. Apparently they were the first to create fake organizations to doubt the science. At first they just doubted the dangers of smoking, but to be convincing they attacked other science too. Exxon jumped on the bandwagon. I'm done with both companies (not that I bought much from them already).

Read the whole article, an exert from the upcoming book Heat. Here's a paragraph:

By May 1993, as another memo from APCO to Philip Morris shows, the fake citizens' group had a name: the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. It was important, further letters stated, "to ensure that TASSC has a diverse group of contributors"; to "link the tobacco issue with other more 'politically correct' products"; and to associate scientific studies that cast smoking in a bad light with "broader questions about government research and regulations" - such as "global warming", "nuclear waste disposal" and "biotechnology". APCO would engage in the "intensive recruitment of high-profile representatives from business and industry, scientists, public officials, and other individuals interested in promoting the use of sound science".

Right Wing Bloggers Protecting Terrorists

Why is moral authority important? Glenn Greenwald writes in Well beyond satire about how upset right-wing nutcase Michelle Malkin is that 3 convicted terrorists in Indonesia face the death penalty. Her complaint is that there were irregularities in the trial and wants to go to the International Criminal Court in Geneva for protections. Of course she has no complaint with Bush having irregular trials for terrorists or flaunting Geneva conventions or avoiding the jurisdiction of the ICC. Oh she seems to care about these terrorists because they're Christians who apparently killed 200 innocent Muslims. How do these people talk out of both sides of their mouths so well?

Why Do I Read This Stuff?

Just about everything in today's Talking Points Memo is worth looking at:

The largest funder of the Swift Boat veterans is at it again. Bob Perry has given $5 million to the Economic Freedom Fund, a new 527 group. "They appear to be targetting only Democratic incumbents [in 5 districts], at least so far, presumably to force the Democrats to divert funds from Democratic challengers to potentially endangered incumbents."

Senators Reject White House Torture Compromise Senators John Warner (R-VA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) seems to have some backbone.

Keith Ellison is running for Congress from MN. The GOP is accusing him of supporting terrorists. Ellison would be the first Muslim in Congress. He's taken campaign money from Nihad Awad's organization, CAIR, who they claim supports Hamas. This came from a March 1994 statement where Awad said "I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO" because they were more moderate, less corrupt, and responded to the daily needs of the people. "The statement came before Hamas had set off its first car bomb in Israel and more than a year before the United States designated it as a terrorist organization. Since then, CAIR has issued dozens of statements condemning terrorism." But the really amazing thing about this, is that Bush on 9/17/2001 stood with Awad saying he feels "just the same way I do". I think Ellison got it right, "The Republicans are in a tough situation, Iraq is a failed policy. They haven't done much for homeland security. We still have a health care crisis. The Earth is warming up, and they're not doing anything about it. What are they going to do? They have to try to engage in smear politics." I hope it doesn't work.

This story is so disgusting I don't know where to begin. Allegedly the parents of a 19 year-old kidnaped their daughter in Maine to take her to NY for an abortion because the father of the child was black (the parents and daughter were white). The daughter escaped in NH and called the police.

Don't Trust Your Government

This is why civil liberties are important, because evil people like Gonzales want to turn the US into a police state. He wants all ISPs to retain records of what you do on the internet for 2 years. He claims this is so they can fight child porn. Let's think about this.

We could probably eliminate child pornography if we put a police officer inside every house all the time. This would clearly make children safer and yet we don't do this and no one is stupid enough to propose it. Yet having ISPs keep records of everything you do online (every email, web site, download, purchase, chat, image looked at, etc.) is essentially the same thing. So Gonzales' argument is we'll only use this info for suspected child pornographers. But what's the guarantee? It's supposed to be warrants, but we already know the administration doesn't always get warrants.

Why Bush is Wrong

When Bush talks about using alternative interrogation methods on important al Qaeda prisoners he really is talking about torturing people. And what's most important, they sometimes are not al Qaeda members. Remember that whole innocent until proven guilty thing? It's important because of cases like this. We tortured an innocent canadian citizen for 10 months. As Brad DeLong says, this should be reason enough to impeach Bush.

Bush Approval Rebounds

USA Today reports on their latest pool andfinds rebound in Bush approval. Disgusting. Blogs are already reporting that the Democrats might not gain seats in Congress.

How can they blow this? I haven't heard a single Democrat in the news in two weeks. Well I saw Bill Clinton on the Daily Show last night but that doesn't count. Katie Couric isn't showing any.

Maybe Rove pushed for this crazy torture plan so that Congressional Republicans could rein it in so they look reasonable and the Democrats look unnecessary.

The Rules Don't Apply to Bush

Bush just arrived at the UN in New York to give a speech. CNN covered the all so important arrival. They showed him walk right by the x-ray machine without going through it. I wonder why he didn't have to?

Smile for the Satellite

There was an old Steven Wright joke, "Every once in a while I look up and smile for satellite photographs." Well with Google Maps/Earth that's starting to be true. Even when you might not want it to be.

"Imagine having a quiet afternoon’s sunbathing on your private, secluded, back patio - and then one day discovering that your nearly naked body has been posted all over the Internet!" And of course with Google Sightseeing there are teams of geeks combing every image looking for such things.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Giants 27, Eagles 24

Basically the only thing in sports I follow is the New York Giants. Sunday they played the Eagles in Philadelphia and I was at the game.

I have to say it was ugly. The first drive of Giants was good, even out of character good. But then the Eagles came back and dominated the first half. But until the last couple of minutes of the half the Eagles were only up by 7 and it felt like that was a gift. I think the defense showed up for 3 plays and it happened to be 3 in a row. A few penalties against the Eagles didn't hurt.

The Giants lost both lines. On offense, Philadelphia's rush destroyed Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He had no time, even when he wasn't sacked he was under pressure and not really composed. Worse was the defense, they put no pressure on McNabb. He had all the time in the world to throw the ball and he did, I think for 254 yards in the first half (184 in the first quarter), Eli had something like 67. I have no idea where all-pro defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were let alone the secondary. Oh and the Giants not going for 4th and 1 with 4 mins left in the 2nd at mid-field seemed a bit wimpy.

The 3rd quarter just went by; I looked up and there were 3 mins left and all I could remember was an Eagle's drive and a Giant's drive. Both were long and uneventful except for the Eagles hitting the upright on a field goal attempt, it wasn't even a long attempt. Eagles scored again at the end of the quarter. The guy next to me was a reasonable Eagles fan unlike those around us. He was worried the Eagles would blow their lead. At the beginning of the 3rd I told him that the Giants would come back to within 3 but would blow a field goal or something to not win it.

So the 4th quarter starts and the Giants had a reasonable drive down field and then scored stupidly. Plaxico Burress fumbles (hard know if it was stripped we were in the other end-zone) and the Eagles don't recover but WR Tim Carter does in the end zone. A touchdown is always nice, and good heads up by Carter, but it was a cheap score. So we're down 10 with about 13:40 left and I think we have a shot and I realized that our last real score was on the first drive and think we're being out played, so things are going about par.

There was a box behind us with about 10 Giants fans and at this point they started cheering "Defense". Most of the Eagle fans around them started screaming at them to shut up or go home or Giants suck or oh-and-two. We kept cheering for the Giants and held our own. Anyway the defense held and we had the ball back. We drive a bit and Eli passes to running back Tiki Barber who bobbles it or something and we have the first interception. Really this brought back all the bad images of both Tiki and Eli. But the defense held again, well really Philly just didn't do anything. They were looking sloppy. I don't think we were putting any more pressure on McNabb but they tried running to kill the clock and that didn't work all day. Anyway we got the ball back and then started throwing to Toomer and got 7.

With a little under 4 mins left we didn't try an onside kick, ok. Eagles get the ball and they run and we call time outs. When we used our third I understood the reason but I really thought it would come back to bite us. I could see that being the reason we couldn't get the field goal unit on the field or something. But we held on the 2nd set of downs and got the ball back at around the 2 minute warning. Manning finally started doing some short yardage throws over the middle under the seam. I honestly have no idea why it took them so long to do this. When your QB is pressured the whole game and your running game isn't doing that well this is what you do. I turned to the guy next to me and said there was another standard in the Giant's book, tie and lose it in overtime on the first drive or by missing a field goal. So we score with 5 seconds left and then we go into OT.

At this point both teams are exhausted. The Giants win the toss and drive and lose it and then the Eagles do the same thing. At this point I realize it's anyone's game. The Eagles have no rush at all so Eli finally has some time. They had these problems all day long but I really noticed it here. First they only had about two sets, an I formation or one back off to the side. Second, I found their play calling really obvious. In overtime I would call "Tiki runs" or "pass to Toomer" and was right more than half the time. Eli didn't seem to have any presence in the pocket and didn't look for secondary receivers. I think it was the end of the 4th where I saw Shockey wide open several times on the left for short yardage and Eli throwing to the other side of the field into coverage. I don't think Shockey was in during the last drive and I don't know why, but the Giants had 4 WRs in and one back, further proof the Eagles pass rush collapsed.

Anyway, it seemed the only player with enough energy to run was Tiki and he did. The 12 year-old behind wanted someone to run into Tiki with his helmet and break his sternum. Nice things those Eagles fans teach their kids. Then they put Brandon Jacobs in for Tiki and he seemed fresh and had two good runs. But then a holding call, a tackle in the backfield and it's 3rd and long. Now it seemed like neither team wanted to win. What do the Giants do in 3rd and long? They throw to Plaxico and thankfully it worked.

I hadn't been to a regular season game in a long time. It's certainly fun but I didn't bring a radio and you miss a lot of what's going on. From our view, the Giants looked pretty bad, it was the Eagles that blew this game. The Giants have a lot of tools at their disposal but couldn't handle a good competitor. Eli has an arm but now in his 3rd year still can't handle pressure. I'd really like to see some new coaches. I hope I'm wrong, but I think it will be a long season.

Bush Sings U2

Who knew Bush could sing Bono: Sunday Bloody Sunday By Bush

Not So Fast Specter

I keep wanting to like Arlen Spector but he keeps blowing it. Glenn Greenwald points out that Arlen Specter is lying about his own bill -- again. He also describes the details that are important in understanding what's at issue with the NSA wire tapping cases and having FISA review the cases.

Oh Yeah Global Warming Again

Global Warming expert sees 10-year window.

Halliburton: Don't Sue Us

Further proof Halliburton is bottom-feeding scum. "Halliburton will help its combat-zone employees get the honors and recognition they deserve -- if they promise not to sue the company."

LCDs v. Plasmas

I haven't kept up on this but in LCDs Vs Plasmas: Brightness Ain't a Thing it seems plasmas still have a slight lead.

Getting Lebanon Wrong

Interesting interview with Michael J. Totten author of RIght to Exist, A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars. In Getting Lebanon Wrong he says that Israel's two wars with Lebanon are "not defensible".

Will Your Vote Count?

Hotel Minibar Keys Open Diebold Voting Machines

Pizza Recipe

This guy reversed engineered his favorite New York Pizza and after 6 years finally got it right. He documents it all here.

Exercise = Weight Loss, Except When It Doesn't

Good article from the New York Times on Exercise.

On Point : The Utility of War

On my drives this weekend I caught up with podcasts. I particularly liked On Point : The Utility of War which had historian Howard Zinn on. I mostly agree with him but think he goes a little far in his descriptions and that isn't helping him win people over. That's basically the comment of a woman caller (I think from Brookline) near the end who made a lot of sense to me.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Powell v. Bush

Colin Powell wrote a letter to McCain on the administration's efforts to redefine torture. "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk."

In the Huffington Post, Martin Lewis picks part of one line of Bush's statement, "Article III of the Geneva Convention is hard for a lot of citizens to understand...", and compares it Powell's statement and what Bush said about Powell when appointing him Secretary of State: "I know of no better person to be the face and voice of American diplomacy than Colin L. Powell. An American hero, an American example, and a great American story. ...providing good counsel, strong leadership and an example of integrity for every one for whom he serves."

Here's the rest of Bush's statement during yesterday's press conference: "Article III of the Geneva Convention is hard for a lot of citizens to understand. Let's see if I can put it this way for people to understand -- there is a very vague standard that the Court said must kind of be the guide for our conduct in the war on terror and the detainee policy. It's so vague that it's impossible to ask anybody to participate in the program for fear -- for that person having the fear of breaking the law. That's the problem."

First off I find it hilarious that Bush is going make something complicated easier for us to understand. Aside from that, he was asked several times about this yesterday. His first statement on the topic was clearer "And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal."

Vague isn't as good a word to describe it as non-specific, which like many laws (e.g., "unreasonable searches and seizures", "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law", "abridging the freedom of speech") it needs to be. The part he's leaving out is that in 50 years of the Geneva Conventions we have a good idea of what it means. And moreso the practices he is asking the military to perform are generally considered banned by Article III and that's why he's trying to explicitly legalize them. And he justifies not saying that because he doesn't want to describe specific techniques for fear the enemy will adopt. Of course techniques used are already public knowledge so that argument doesn't hold, nevertheless Rove or Gonzales came up with the excuse and Bush is sticking to it. Prick.

Bush's Secrecy

Harry Reid wrote a letter to Frist complaining about Bush not declassifying part of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report even though "A bipartisan majority of the Intelligence Committee disagreed with the Administration’s decision to classify certain portions of the report’s findings and conclusions and said that classifying this information is 'without justification'."

Counter Insurgency Tactics

We still haven't agreed on them.

Coercing the JAGs

Just apalling.... "The White House's last gambit to legalize war crimes was to force the military lawyers to sign a letter disowning their previous opposition to the Bush administration military tribunal and Geneva-breach proposal." And people said Clinton hated the military.

So Is Torturing A Daughter OK?

I liked this Huffington Post article by Chris Weigant,
So Is Torturing A Daughter OK?. It reduces the torture debate to a stupid question that works, and laments this is what the level of debate in the US has reduced us to.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Economist is Funny

Someone has finally topped George Carlin's bit on the airline safety speech and of all people, it was the Economist. In Welcome aboard they say "In-flight announcements are not entirely truthful. What might an honest one sound like?" Read it an laugh out loud.

I still laugh every time I hear the safety speech. I remember a car ride with a few friends where someone was quoting Rita Rudner "Do you think the oxygen masks do anything or are they just there to muffle the screams" and I followed with "Please muffle your own screams before muffling those of your child". We all broke out in hysterics (ok, maybe you had to be there) and I still remember it every time I fly.

Lebanon: Who Won?

I saw this blog post referring to this op-ed in the Jerusalem Post though they didn't seem to realize it was an op-ed. The premise is that the Lebanon war really damaged Hizbullah's image in the Arab world.

"Even a cursory perusal of the Arab press, will reveal that Hizbullah's status in Lebanon has changed for the worse, as many Lebanese come to the rather shocking realization that the south of their country, unknown to them, had in fact been transformed into an Iranian and Syrian launching pad against Israel posing an existential threat to their own livelihoods and to their entire country. Hizbullah is now on the defensive, trying to protect its political assets against a more assertive Lebanese domestic majority, that seems more determined than ever to contain Hizbullah's "state within a state," so that they are not drawn again into a destructive war with Israel, without as much as a word of consultation."

"Hazim Saghiya, writing in Al-Hayat, questioned whether victory could be celebrated on the ruins of Lebanon by a leader who had to remain in hiding."

Then of course I think the op-ed shows it's colors: "None of this would have happened had it not been for the severe damage Israel inflicted upon Hizbullah's civilian, political and military infrastructure. The civilian backbone of Hizbullah, the Shi'ite community of Lebanon, has incurred heavy loss of life and enormous property damage, which will take years to repair." It may be true, I don't know, but it sounds like justification.

Deibold Voting Machines Suck

Avi Rubin, a computer security professor, also works as an election judge in Maryland. Read about his experiences using Diebold voting machines this past Tuesday's primary election in My day at the polls.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Today's Snow Job

Here's the transcript of today's Press Briefing by Tony Snow. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Q Can you give me the administration's reason why 72 hours and 60 days isn't enough, and you don't want to get a warrant to wiretap?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure if I understand exactly --
Q You oppose getting any warrant for a wiretap.
MR. SNOW: No, we've been working -- what we're trying to do is we are working with Congress to find ways to reform FISA so that you're able not only to have a court proceeding that allows you to gain court warrants when necessary, to do so in a quick and timely basis.
Q But why -- you think a warrant is not necessary?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm just -- look, call me later. I'll talk to the lawyers, I'm getting over my head.

Q Let me ask you about this debate the President said is so important with regard to interrogation techniques, because he wants now for Congress to clarify what's permissible. The President said he did not authorize torture.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q What did he authorize?
MR. SNOW: Can't tell you.
Q Why can't you say that, given that the President wants a national debate about what's permissible?
MR. SNOW: Because there are also classifications. I think if you listen to what the President said last week, you have a conversation that's permissible -- you have a conversation about what's permissible and a lot of that is classified, and for a very good reason. You do not want to tell the enemy what you do in terms of interrogation because they will adjust and you won't get information. Indeed, some of the al Qaeda training manuals went in great detail about ways to resist known interrogation methods that have been used in the past. So, yes, it's important to consult with Congress; no, it's not advisable to advertise it to the entire world.
Q One technique that's been widely reported on and widely debated is water-boarding. Does the President consider water-boarding to be torture?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to go beyond what the President has said, which is that we do not have torture, there have been orders not to torture, and that everything that has been done -- and I'm not going to say yes or no to water-boarding -- everything that has been done has been deemed by the Department of Justice, which has been the arbiter of such things, as consistent with U.S. law, international law, and our treaty obligations. In the wake of the Hamdan decision, we're going to make sure that that continues to be the case with each and every method used.

By the way, it's judges that decide the laws, not the dept of justice. -Howard

Q Just one more. Back to something from yesterday, you said that the President never said there was an operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi. Are you saying he didn't suggest there was a relationship --
MR. SNOW: He said there was a relationship --
Q What does that mean?
MR. SNOW: What it means is -- again, had you been in Iraq before the war? You may have. And I had, too. And you understand --
Q Before the war? No, no --
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, let me tell you about the old days, when you went in before the war, strangers didn't just sort of wander into Baghdad when Saddam was there. They knew who was there. And Zarqawi was in Baghdad. And he, in fact -- as we've said, they organized the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Amman, Jordan. We also know that there were other members of al Qaeda operating within Iraq. But what we've taken pains to say is -- being a little colloquial about it -- but they didn't have a corner office, the Mukhabarat. They were not line-items in the Iraqi budget. They were people who were there, but they were also not officially part of the Iraqi government and there was no official or functional coordination, at least as far as we can tell. And this was what the CIA has told us, that there was no operational relationship -- no direct, demonstrable operational tie between the two --
Q They said there was no relationship.
MR. SNOW: They weren't -- a relationship means that they were there. We knew they were there.
Q So all of your comments about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi -- we just knew they were there. Did we know what they were up to? I mean, how far does that go?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. We'll have to look at the documents --
Q No, but that's important, Tony.
MR. SNOW: How so?
Q You don't know -- I mean, there was a lot of rhetoric coming out of the White House in the build-up to the war, and since, that there was this relationship between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi, and thus linking them to al Qaeda.
MR. SNOW: No, the argument has been that Saddam Hussein was a supporter and sponsor of terror. And we talked more often about, for instance, the fact that people who went in and committed suicide bombings against Israelis were getting paid bounties, and that Saddam was working as best he could to try to support and foment terror.
Q -- no relationship with al Qaeda, no relationship with Zarqawi.
MR. SNOW: That's right, no operational relationship, as far as we can tell. But they were there. And Zarqawi was committing acts of terror while he was in Baghdad, but we don't -- look, if we had the goods, we'd share them, but we don't have the goods to demonstrate --
Q But Saddam Hussein didn't know about that?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know if he knew about it. What we have been unable to demonstrate or discover is whether they're sitting around in the map room, spreading out the map, saying, okay, you bomb there. We just don't have that kind of granularity in terms of the relationship, and therefore, we're not going to go -- we're going to -- not going to out-run the facts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New TiVo

The new TiVo Series 3 is out. I'll be ordering one soon. :) Note if you want to transfer a lifetime subscription you have to buy from the website before the end of the year (i was going to buy at Best Buy, but won't now).

Path to 9/11 Analyzed

So I'm glad I didn't write up the faults of what I saw of the Path to 9/11, because of course Media Matters would do it, Part two of ABC's 9-11 "docudrama" contained falsified scenes bolstering Bush.

It's Gotten Worse

I really think the Bush administration has gotten a lot more blatant in the ridiculous statements. Here's what the Senate Report said the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda: "Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and…the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi." Pretty clear huh?

Except Cheney on Sunday said their was a relationship, Bush said there was one, and now Tony Snow repeats the lie. What the video or read the transcript.

QUESTION: Saddam Hussein knew they were there. That’s it for the relationship?
SNOW: That’s pretty much it.
QUESTION: The Senate report said they didn’t turn a blind eye to that.
SNOW: The Senate report — rather than get — you know what? I don’t want to get into the vagaries of the Senate report.

This has to be a bad dream. It's Orwellian. It's a bad Saturday Night Live skit. I'm literally getting nauseous as I think about this.

Bush v. Lauer

Matt Lauer made President Bush look like Tom Cruise. If only he called Matt "glib". What it here: YouTube of the Day. Andrew Sullivan says: "Three cheers for Matt Lauer. He's the first mainstream journalist I know of to directly confront the president over what exactly he has authorized in terms of detainee treatment and torture. Watch the president's body-language. Watch his early aggression. And repeat after me the obvious: We Torture."

The Answer to the War on Terror

So Bush's argument goes this way. We took the war over there to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here. And while where safer than we were before, we're still not safe. But if we pull out of Iraq now we'll embolden the terrorists. Honestly that moronic string of ideas is what I think he keeps saying but I think I have a possible solution.

Now that we've (probably illegally) invaded another country, occupied it for 3 years and been a catalyst for a huge growth in terrorism and terrorists there might be something to not leaving it half finished. So the goal is to get the insurgents to stop fighting. Well since they try to fight us a lot, us leaving might remove their incentive. There will still be internal fighting, but Iraq security forces are stepping up (Bush keeps saying so). But what about all those newly trained terrorists? If we leave won't they want to fight us over here instead of over there? Well if they still think we're a threat they will. The problem is our leader has lied about reasons to go to war, used huge amounts of military force against a nation that did nothing to us, tortured captured enemy combatants, eliminated freedoms at home (warrantless state sponsored eavesdropping, secret laws on travel, dismantling the separation of powers, making voting less secure, the federal government interfering in family medical matters, etc.), failed to protect our citizens during a natural disaster, and angered most of our of our allies. Why would the Iraqi terrorists the Iraqi terrorists think Bush wouldn't go after them again?

Fortunately Bush came up with the only answer. Regime change.

Really what better way to show democracy works than to vote out a corrupt leader. Well in our system, vote for another party, since obviously the Republicans are too bankrupt to vote out someone who's the opposite of their principles that leaves the Democrats (even if you think they aren't deserving, they are the only other choice) and let them impeach our president and vice president and we can move on.

Don't get me wrong, we still need to go after al Qaeda and other terrorists, but without the burden of fighting an unnecessary war and perhaps with the help of old allies who might trust a new regime we'll probably succeed.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What does the Director of National Intelligence Do?

I haven't heard much about John Negroponte. He's the new Director of National Intelligence. This article from Congressional Quarterly in March says he spends 3 hours a day for lunch at the University Club, "getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club’s library".

Path to 9/11, Bah

I caught the end of the Path to 9/11 tonight, about the last hour. Bleech. I had issues with just about every scene. Mostly how information was readily available to people. After the first plane hit someone said this has bin Laden all over it. AFter the first plane hit they weren't even sure it was a plane and certainly not sure that it was deliberate. They showed Bush speaking about terrorism on TV before the Pentagon was hit and didn't show him sitting in a classroom reading My Pet Goat. It's inaccurate and wrong.

If you want to see what a docu-drama should be on the topic see United 93. It's an excellent film. Watch it and you'll understand what non-politicized mean. You'll also understand that a docu-drama can be accurate. And you'll understand why the end of the Path to 9/11 was complete crap.

Yelling at Bush on the TV

Ugh, I'm reduced to yelling at the TV when Bush speaks. Here's what he just said:

"On September the 11th we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores, whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states. I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat. And after 9/11 Saddam's regime posed a threat that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."

I yelled at the TV: "What was the threat?!?!" Really what was it? It wasn't WMDs, he had none. It wasn't a strong military, it wasn't an economy. It wasn't a relationship with al Qaeda. What was it?

And this crap of the Congress and UN knowing the threat? They thought there were WMDs because the Bush administration lied and said there was. Cheney said there was no doubt he had WMDs. That was a lie. The intelligence community had doubts and others had doubts and they were right. Colin Powell told the UN he had WMDs. That the aluminum tubes could only be used to build nuclear weapons. Wrong again. So now saying that the Congress and UN knew the threat, when all they knew is the lies you told them, is really contemptible.

Oh and the Congressional vote was merely to go to war if you determined the need, and it was also a good diplomatic tactic. The idea being the other side would negotiate to avoid the harsher penalty of not doing so. But you didn't want to negotiate.

Oh and the sanctions were working. Skipping over all the crap of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, his report after his visit was right. Saddam didn't get yellow cake. He did ask, but Niger didn't give it to him because they didn't want to violate the sanctions. And one of the things lost on Meet the Press yesterday was Dick Cheney saying that Saddam would have been a threat if the sanctions ended. Well who was going to end the sanctions? That little "if" let him suggest a falsehood while still saying the truth. And fuck Tim Russett for letting him get away with that crap for a full hour.

So again, what was the threat? Cheney also cited that he used chemical weapons on his own people. Yes that's bad, but he did that in '91 and we already had a war where we used that as a rationale. And remember we launched a pre-emptive war, that means we attacked him. Our rationale was an imminent threat. It better have been real or else we invaded a sovereign nation.

What was the threat!??!

9/11 Timeline

"To mark the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, ThinkProgress has created a comprehensive timeline documenting the key events since September 11, 2001. [It] charts five threads:
- The steady increase in international terrorism and the growth of al Qaeda
- The campaign to block and obstruct the work of the 9/11 Commission, and the failure to carry out the commission's recommendations
- The failure to stablize and rebuild Afghanistan
- The downgrading of the hunt for Osama bin Laden
- The steady decline of America's image abroad"

They also have a Timeline of the Iraq War.

Cheney Speaks I Cringe

I watched Dick Cheney on Meet the Press on Sunday. He was in glorious form twisting every word, ignoring various facts, and trying to sound reasonable. Russet didn't help much. I'll never be able to pick it all apart and write it down so I'll just point to various postings on the topic. I honestly don't think any of these do a good job at refuting what he said. The details of what he said were often wrong (sometimes right) but the big picture of what he said was usually wrong.

Think Progress: Cheney Ignores Senate Intel Report, Cites Zarqawi As Evidence of Iraq/Al Qaeda Connection

Daily Kos: Deception Is A Hard Habit To Break

Media Matters: Russert failed to challenge Cheney on terrorism, national security issues

Huffington Post: Cheney, 9/11 and the Truth about Iraq