Monday, February 28, 2005

ExplorerXP - Freeware file manager for Win2K/XP

ExplorerXP is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non - commercial use) file manager for Windows 2000/XP. Unlike the regular Windows Explorer, it displays the total size of each folder and allows you to browse multiple folders from a tabbed interface.

NY Times : : Honey, I Shrunk the Dollar

Thomas Friedman offers his perspective on our current monetary policies:

When a country lives on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed energy, it is just begging the markets to discipline it in their own way at their own time.

SF Gate : : Task Force Criticizes Bush's 'No Child' Law

A group drawn from all 50 state legislatures is calling the Administration's No Child Left Behind initiative 'unconstitutional and impractical'.

"Under NCLB, the federal government's role has become excessively intrusive in the day-to-day operations of public education," the National Conference of State Legislatures said in the report, which was written by 16 state legislators and six legislative staff members.

Nine state legislatures are considering challenges to the law, and the Utah Senate is about to vote on a bill, already approved by the Utah House, that would require state education officials to give higher priority to Utah's education laws than to the federal law. An Illinois school district filed suit against the Education Department this month in federal court, arguing that No Child Left Behind contradicts provisions of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Common Dreams : : What A Rich Nation Should Really Be Doing About Social Security

Gar Alperovitz discusses possible alternative Social Security reforms.

If the United States does merely as well in the 21st Century as it did during the difficult depression and war-dominated 20th Century, we Americans will be producing the equivalent of approximately $1 million a year for every four people by century’s end–and the top 1% of households will be making an estimated $9-10 million. Clearly, if we so choose, we can afford a very, very generous plan.

Oddly so far just about the only people who seem to recognize the obvious reality that a rich nation will be able to afford more rather than less as technological progress continues are a couple of maverick (but very high placed!) conservatives.

Sunday Herald : : Top Former CIA Agent Condemns New Terror War

In this article, former CIA case officer Robert Baer explains why the ‘clumsy, knee-jerk approach’ to al-Qaeda is counter-productive:
An Arabic speaker, Baer spent most of his career running agents in the souks and back alleys of the Middle East, before becoming disillusioned with what he saw as interference by Washington politicians in the CIA’s efforts to root out terrorists.

He believes that at precisely the time when terrorist threats were escalating globally, the agency that should have been monitoring them was being “scrubbed clean” instead.

See also this interview with Mr. Baer.

Lieberman on Social Security

In this 2002 News Release, Sen. Lieberman expounds his deep opposition to the Administration's plans for Social Security.

We're here today to loudly and legislatively voice our opposition to the misguided proposals put forward by the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, which are totally inconsistent with Commission's name, because they would all weaken not strengthen the benefits we provide to retirees. That just doesn't make sense, and we say so with the Sense of the Senate Resolution we will be introducing today.

And now, the inevitable capitulation.

It's Called Torture

New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Bob Herbert relates the experiences of Canadian citizen Maher Arar in Ashcroft's America.

Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen with a wife and two young children, had his life flipped upside down in the fall of 2002 when John Ashcroft's Justice Department, acting at least in part on bad information supplied by the Canadian government, decided it would be a good idea to abduct Mr. Arar and ship him off to Syria, an outlaw nation that the Justice Department honchos well knew was addicted to torture.
Mr. Arar was not charged with anything, and yet he was deprived not only of his liberty, but of all legal and human rights. He was handed over in shackles to the Syrian government and, to no one's surprise, promptly brutalized. A year later he emerged, and still no charges were lodged against him. His torturers said they were unable to elicit any link between Mr. Arar and terrorism. He was sent back to Canada to face the torment of a life in ruins.

A Greek Tragedy in Two Acts

Putin Loses His Smile After Lecture from Bush On Democracy
An unsmiling, visibly irritated Mr Putin squirmed as he listened to Mr Bush tell a press conference he had been told that Washington had "concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling" the "universal principles" of democracy. "Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that," Mr Bush said. "Yet democracies have certain things in common; they have a rule of law, and protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition."
Mr Putin had wanted to talk about the two countries' joint efforts to combat terrorism but was forced instead to defend his domestic reforms and his commitment to democracy.

Iran Signs Nuclear Fuel Deal With Russia
Iran and Russia ignored U.S. objections and signed a nuclear fuel agreement Sunday that is key to bringing Tehran's first reactor online by mid-2006.
The long-delayed deal, signed at the heavily guarded Bushehr nuclear facility in southern Iran, dramatized President Bush's failure to persuade the Russians to curtail support for the Iranian nuclear program during his summit with Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Slovakia.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Los Angeles Times : : We Aren't Fighting to Win Anymore

Andrew Bacevich, international relations professor and former Army colonel, and author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, argues that the Bush administration has "all but given up any expectation of defeating the enemy with whom we are engaged". He expounds his ideas in greater depth in this interview.

Presidential Knob Polishing

Rigorous Intuition takes note of a disturbing trend..
... he's not the only one to've picked up on this, either.

P.E.E.R : : More Than A Thousand Whistleblower Cases Dumped

The U.S. Special Counsel has dismissed more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year, according to a letter from the Bush-appointed Special Counsel released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Special Counsel appears to have taken action in very few, if any, of these cases and has yet to represent a single whistleblower in an employment case.

Reporters Sans Frontieres : : Two Murders and a Lie

Reporters Without Borders called today for the reopening of the enquiry into who was really responsible for the US Army's "criminal negligence" in shooting at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on 8 April 2003 and causing the death of two journalists - Ukrainian cameramen Taras Protsyuk (of Reuters news agency) and Spaniard José Couso (of the Spanish TV station Telecinco).

The call came in a report (.PDF) of the press freedom organisation's own in-depth investigation of the incident, which gathered evidence from journalists in the hotel at the time, from others "embedded" with US Army units and from the US military soldiers and officers directly involved.

The Independent : : "I Saw Americans Kill Terror Suspects"

One of the four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay last month said he was tortured by the Americans at a separate holding camp and spent many hours trussed like an animal with a bag over his head.
Moazzam Begg, 37, who was released by the Metropolitan Police without charge and reunited with his wife and four children after three years' imprisonment, also accuses his American captors of beating two detainees to death at the Bagram air base near Kabul in Afghanistan.

The Conyers Report and the Media

Media Matters discusses the Conyers Report (.PDF) and the media's reactions.

* The allegations, as set out in the report's executive summary, are as follows:
* The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters;
* Ohio secretary of state and Ohio Republican Party co-chair J. Kenneth Blackwell's decision to restrict provisional ballots resulted in the disenfranchisement of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of voters, again predominantly minority and Democratic voters;
* Blackwell's widely criticized decision to reject voter registration applications based on paper weight may have resulted in thousands of new voters not being registered in time for the 2004 election;
* The Ohio Republican Party's decision to engage in pre-election "caging" tactics, selectively targeting 35,000 predominantly minority voters for intimidation had a negative impact on voter turnout;
* The Ohio Republican Party's decision to utilize thousands of partisan challengers concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines.
* Blackwell's decision to prevent voters who requested absentee ballots but did not receive them on a timely basis from being able to receive provisional ballots likely disenfranchised thousands, if not tens of thousands, of voters, particularly seniors.
* Widespread instances of intimidation and misinformation in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Equal Protection, Due Process and the Ohio right to vote.
* Improper purging and other registration errors by election officials that likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.
* A total of 93,000 spoiled ballots where no vote was cast for president, the vast majority of which have yet to be inspected.
* Blackwell's failure to articulate clear and consistent standards for the counting of provisional ballots resulted in the loss of thousands of predominantly minority votes.
* Blackwell's failure to issue specific standards for the recount contributed to a lack of uniformity in violation of both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses.
* The voting computer company Triad has essentially admitted that it engaged in a course of behavior during the recount in numerous counties to provide "cheat sheets" to those counting the ballots.

Nothing New Under the Sun

Somewhat belatedly, here is the Washington Times writeup of Bush I's very own call-boy scandal, circa 1989. Rigorous Intuition supplies a great deal more background.

Spence was a conservative lobbyist during the Reagan-Bush years. The New York Times called him "Washington's ultimate power broker." He was also running a gay prostitution ring which employed adolescent boys. As perks of the job, he treated his boys to after-hour tours of the White House

Etherzone : : Sex, Lies, and Jeff Gannon

Justin Raimondo neatly summarizes the Gannongate scandal. Democratic Underground also has a couple of useful summaries.
Meanwhile, with the exception of the LA Times's shameful appologia, the mass media is continuing to ignore the entire thing.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Waiting for the Unknown God

By Douglas Muder: The Shape of the Next Religion.

Modern America, like Rome at the time of Christ, is in a period of rising secularism and religious chaos. Christianity has lost the power to shape our culture, and no rival religion or philosophy seems able to take its place. We argue that this period of tension will end as the Roman one did--with the advent of a new religion that will synthesize the best features of our current religions into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

How Manadel al-Jumadi Died

Manadel al-Jamadi, whose corpse the recently stockaded Charles Graner was photographed smiling triumphantly over, did in fact die during a half-hour "interrogation session". Although the Associated Press is just now running the story, it remains old news.

Scientific American : : 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Scientific American rebuts common creationist objections to evolution.

8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.

Chance plays a part in evolution (for example, in the random mutations that can give rise to new traits), but evolution does not depend on chance to create organisms, proteins or other entities. Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving "desirable" (adaptive) features and eliminating "undesirable" (nonadaptive) ones. As long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Where Did The New Testament Come From?

Joel Bainerman on the origins of Christianity and the New Testament:

If Roman slaves had begun to see the attractiveness of Judaism as a religion (who wouldn't if you were a slave and Judaism was against slavery and Rome was for it) the Romans had to offer a replacement that fulfilled the same function, i.e., giving the slaves a miniscule amount of human dignity. As they were slaves, it wouldn't take much for them to rise up a notch on the spiritual ladder of first century living but still be beholden to serving the needs of Rome. As slaves they only knew misery and despair. Believing in "salvation through Christ" was a step up and better than continue to be a slave with no end purpose to your life.

Monday, February 14, 2005

U.S. Arming the Insurgency

Not that this is without historical precedent, of course. The Asia Times carries a story about the US's involvement in arming insurgents who will oppose religious rule.
Classic Negroponte, really. Roving death squads were his specialty.

Deja Vu All Over Again

The photo on that CNN story about Iran the other day.. did that look familiar?
Deja vu, indeed.

Barbara Boxer On Social Security

Sen. Boxer delivered a speech in San Francisco Friday, about this and past challenges to Social Security.

Am I being unfair by stating in a very clear way that I believe the true goal here is to destroy Social Security? Not at all. I am simply telling the truth as told by this very White House.

On January 6, 2005, the White House wrote a Social Security memo. Although marked “not for attribution,” fortunately, we have it.

The most telling sentence in the entire memo is this: “For the first time in six decades the Social Security battle is one we can win – and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country.”

The memo also lays out the first priority for the White House and that is to “establish an important premise; the current system is heading for an iceberg” – thus explaining the use of the words “crisis,” “bankruptcy,” and “collapse.” By the way, he has also used the phrase “train wreck.”

ORSC Public Access DNS Nameservers

How to use alternative roots, and why you should.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Daily Kos :: Invidious Bankruptcy Bill Heads to Senate

DavidNYC over at dailyKos offers some insights on the bankruptcy bill under debate once again before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It creates an arbitrary "means" test, which says that those who earn above the median income cannot discharge their debts through bankruptcy, while those below can. This is an outrage - if we want to discourage bankruptcy abuse, what matters is why you went bankrupt, not how much you earn. This bill would thus badly hurt families earning over $43,818 who have crushing medical expenses, while letting people who are genuinely wasteful spendthrifts but happen to earn less than the median off the hook. This makes no sense. (By the way, onerous medical bills are the cause of half of all bankruptcies, and most who go bankrupt for this reason have health insurance.)

The New York Times : : '01 Memo to Rice Warned of Qaeda and Offered Plan

"No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration." - Condoleezza Rice, March 22, 2004

And now we find out of course that was a total baldfaced lie.

A strategy document outlining proposals for eliminating the threat from Al Qaeda, given to Condoleezza Rice as she assumed the post of national security adviser in January 2001...
... laid out ways to step up the fight against Al Qaeda, focusing on Osama bin Laden's headquarters in Afghanistan. The ideas included giving "massive support" to anti-Taliban groups "to keep Islamic extremist fighters tied down"; destroying terrorist training camps "while classes are in session" and then sending in teams to gather intelligence on terrorist cells; deploying armed drone aircraft against known terrorists; more aggressively tracking Qaeda money; and accelerating the F.B.I.'s translation and analysis of material from surveillance of terrorism suspects in American cities.

"I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything...I'm happy to continue the discussion, but I'd like to do it in such a way that it does not impugn my integrity." - Rice, January 18, 2005

Tort Reform and Perspective

Ezra Klein has a poignant take on this American Bar Association report on the quality of legal representation for indigents:

The insurance companies cry, Republicans listen, and all of a sudden medical malpractice is placed on the high priority list and becomes a household issue. But people going to jail due to crappy lawyers is, it appears, considered to simply be unfortunate.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Building Predictable Quantum Dots

Many teams of nanoscientists around the world want to be the first one to build quantum computers. To achieve this goal, they're using artificial atoms -- also known as 'quantum dots.' But even if they're able to use them, not a single team has been able to consistently control their quantum mechanical states -- or their properties -- at the nanoscale. Now, a team from Ohio University claims it found a flaw in quantum dot construction and proposes a solution. And guess what? As it happens often in research, this new finding is based on a very simple fact: an interference between two physical phenomena.
Read more here.

Gannongate At Salon

Salon's running fairly comprehensive coverage of the Gannongate scandal.
See Fake News, Fake Reporter and Giving 'Gannon' a Pass.
According to one current member of the White House press corps, Gannon was the only reporter to skirt the rules that way, obtaining daily passes month after month for nearly two years. "Why did the White House circumvent the process for him?" asks the White House reporter.

Friday, February 11, 2005 : : Survey: Science, politics at odds

Politics trumps science:

According to a survey taken by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, 44% of those who responded reported they have been ordered for "non-scientific" reasons to refrain from recommending protections for endangered species. 56% said businesses used political influence to have science findings reversed or withdrawn. Of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service scientists who replied to the survey, 71% said the agency cannot be trusted to save endangered species.

The New York Times : : Torture, American Style

By Bob Herbert:

Maher Arar is a 34-year-old native of Syria who emigrated to Canada as a teenager. In 2002, he was seized at Kennedy Airport, placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and flown to Syria, where he would be tortured.

Our henchmen in places like Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Jordan are torturing terror suspects at the behest of a nation - the United States - that just went through a national election in which the issue of moral values was supposed to have been decisive. How in the world did we become a country in which gays' getting married is considered an abomination, but torture is O.K.? : : First White House memo on Al-Qaeda made public

And it contradicts Condi's sworn testimony.

The genuine patriots over at the National Security Archive (a group founded by journalists and scholars to enhance the integrity of our government's declassified paper trail, making over two million pages available to the public for free) have just uploaded the Bush administration's very first memo regarding Al-Qaeda, authored by Richard Clarke, dated January 25, 2001, five days after Bush took office.

It's no longer a matter of what Richard Clarke said vs. Condi's version -- we can all now easily read the internal memo in question. Download the memo in .pdf form and see for yourself.

Be sure to also check Claim vs. Fact: Rice's Q&A Testimony Before the 9/11 Commission

More About the Oil For Food Scandal

From Media Matters:

But these attacks on the United Nations frequently deny or ignore three important facts: (1) as members of the U.N. committee charged with monitoring the sanctions regime, the United States and other U.N. Security Council members played at least as large a role in monitoring oil-for-food as the oft-derided "U.N. bureaucracy" but apparently did little to address corruption in the program; (2) Saddam obtained a much larger portion of the illicit revenue used to prop up his regime through oil smuggling outside U.N. auspices than he did through the elaborate kickback schemes he devised under oil-for-food; and (3) oil-for-food achieved considerable success in alleviating the acute suffering of the Iraqi people that resulted from U.N. sanctions following the 1991 Gulf War.

The New York Times : : Senate Passes Overhaul of Rules for Class-Action Lawsuits

The New York Times reports on the administration's recent legislative triumph. Sam Heldman provides a detailed breakdown.

This bill is designed to do much more than solve the so-called "problem" of multi-state class actions. This bill is designed to swamp the federal courts so severely, that the federal judges will look for every conceivable reason to quickly rule for the defendants in every class case so that they can get back to working on other cases.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

FAIR : : CBS 'Memogate' Fallout

From Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

In fact, the CBS review, headed by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh (an appointee of Bush's father) and former Associated Press president Louis Boccardi, was not able to state conclusively whether the documents were forgeries or not. The report also found no evidence that political bias was a factor in the network's journalism. Instead, the report documented a series of misjudgments on the part of several CBS staffers, most notably producer Mary Mapes.

CBS's investigation did document serious failures in 60 Minutes' efforts to check its source's claims--an endemic problem in commercial news. If "Memogate" had called attention to the general issue of credulous journalism, it would have performed a valuable service for the public.

The Dreyfuss Report : : Stupid Intelligence

Named and anonymous intelligence sources go on the record about the United States' lack of knowledge about what's happening in Iran.

The New York Times : : 9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings

According to the New York Times , the FAA received 52 intelligence reports from their security branch that mentioned Mr. bin Laden or Al Qaeda from April to Sept. 10, 2001, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations. The administration blocked release of this report for the last 5 months. The Independent covers this story, with a WTC widow's reaction.

More About Jeff Gannon

Bruce Bartlett on Jeff Gannon

Originally from Romenesko

Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.

Also, some highlights of "Mr Gannon's" now-lost columns, courtesy of Media Matters and Google.

Truth, Stranger Than Fiction

Headline from today's Washington Post:
Iran-Contra Figure to Lead Democracy Efforts Abroad.

Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, was promoted to deputy national security adviser to President Bush.
Abrams, who previously was in charge of Middle East affairs, will be responsible for pushing Bush's strategy for advancing democracy.

More on Mr. Abrams courtesy of The Nation:

"Our military strength and willingness to use it will remain a key factor in our ability to promote peace," Abrams wrote in a book for the Project for the New American Century. "Strengthening Israel, our major ally in the region, should be a central core of US Middle East Policy." Such obvious favoritism prompted the Palestinians to request anyone other than Abrams in diplomatic meetings.

AlterNet : : What Are We Fighting For?

Naomi Klein on the politics of branding:

Identity branding is something that the corporate world has understood for some time now. They're not selling a product; they're selling a desired identity, an aspirational identity of the people who consume their product. Nike understands that, Apple understands that, and so do all the successful brands. Karl Rove understands that too.

ABC News Online : : Bush seeks cash for bunker-buster nukes.

Under this administration, the US has begun building new types of nuclear weapons.

The budget includes $US4 million to revive a study on bunker-buster nuclear arms, called the "robust nuclear earth penetrator".
Congress killed the study in the fiscal 2005 budget due to concerns that it would hinder international non-proliferation efforts.

ALA : : Parents censor high school literature and are allowed to burn books they find offensive

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart-1966.
Parents censor high school literature.
Here in Norwood, a small group of parents sent letters to Superintendent Bob Conder, expressing their concern over, "Bless Me, Ultima," a book being used in the classroom as a literature book. Conder said the books, about 2 dozen in total costing $6.99 each, were pulled from the classroom, and designated to be destroyed. The parents approached the superintendent and asked that they be able to burn the books instead of the school janitor destroying them.

t r u t h o u t : : Tapes Show Enron Caused Rolling Blackouts in California

Truthout reprints a story originally carried in the New York Times and now deep in the memory hole, concerning Enron's activities in California in early 2001.
EVERETT, Wash - In the midst of the California energy troubles in early 2001, when power plants were under a federal order to deliver a full output of electricity, the Enron Corporation arranged to take a plant off-line on the same day that California was hit by rolling blackouts, according to audiotapes of company traders released here on Thursday.

The tapes and memorandums were made public by a small public utility north of Seattle that is fighting Enron over a power contract. They also showed that Enron, as early as 1998, was creating artificial energy shortages and running up prices in Canada in advance of California's larger experiment with deregulation.

C&EN : : EPA Mercury Standard Hit

The Chemical and Engineering News, of all people, takes the EPA to task over their proposed loosening of mercury emissions regulation.
Coal-fired power plants emit 48 tons of mercury annually and are the largest U.S. source of anthropogenic mercury. Federal agencies estimate that 600,000 U.S. children born each year have learning deficits from mercury exposure.

The Nation : : The Online Beat

John Nichols presents Iraq: Images vs. Reality.
Invariably, when the Bush administration tries to tell the world how to interpret images from Iraq, it leaps to conclusions that are far removed from reality.

MSF-USA : : Special Report

Iran in the News | Rice: "Iran must halt nuclear program"
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or the next steps are in the offing."
"And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters.. | Kay, Carter urge caution on Iran
Former weapons inspector: 'It's deja vu all over again' | Kay Warns U.S. Not to Repeat Iraq Mistakes in Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. official who declared the White House's hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq to be a failure driven by faulty intelligence has warned the Bush administration against repeating its mistakes in the current war of words with arch-foe Iran.

CommonDreams | Strike Iran and Risk Huge Backlash, Blix Warns US
'' I think the restraining element in this must be that the United States must know if they launch an attack, there (possibly) could be (a nuclear) retaliation,'' said Blix.

Unicorn Revenue

From The Regular:
Wait what? Bush's budget proposal includes, as Pandagon refers to it, "unicorn revenue." Can they really do this? The budget includes over a billion dollars in revenue from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), even though Congress hasn't authorized such drilling and has rejected President Bush's proposal to open ANWR to oil exploration for the last four years.

The Regular : : Rove Gets Bigger Role at White House

Arguably the only person in the administration who's good at his job is being promoted.
President Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, will take on a wider role in developing and coordinating policy in the president's second term, the White House announced on Tuesday. Rove, who was Bush's top political strategist during his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, will become a deputy White House chief of staff in charge of coordinating policy between the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council.

How to Talk to a Conservative About Social Security (If You Must)

From Think Progress:
CLAIM: “By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt.” [President Bush, 2/2/05]

FACT: In 2042, enough new money will be coming in to pay between 73-80 percent of promised benefits. Even with this reduction, new retirees will still receive more money, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than today’s beneficiaries. [WP, 2/5/05]

.PDF link here

The Gadflyer : : Democracy Promotion Redux

From the Fly Trap:
That Bush claims to be committed to global democracy is not the same thing as actually being committed to it. As Glenn Wright and Robin Kessler pointed out in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago, the Bush administration has in fact cultivated cozy relationships with some of the least democratic, most abusive regimes in the world...

Slightly Left of Center :: Fun With Complete and Utter Horsepucky (Otherwise Known as the State of the Union)

Backtracking a little, part 1, part2, and part 3 of Slightly Left of Center's ongoing State of the Union critique. References abound to the State of the Union drinking game.

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 5

As a followup to the Jeff Gannon story, Gannon has resigned from public life. Revelations about his other revenue sources likely fueled his abrupt vanishing. References to him are disappearing as every conservative website that ever published him scrambles to unpublish him. As word reaches us of his possible involvement in the Valerie Plame affair, Rep. Slaughter and Sen. Lautenberg are calling on the administration to explain itself. Kos provides the last word - for today, at least.

Why should we care about Jeff Gannon?
A potential male prostitute gets White House credentials using a fake name, provides McClellan a welcome ideological lifeline during press conferences, and somehow gets access to classified CIA documents that outs an undercover CIA operative.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Essential Chaos

What is Chaos?: an interactive online course, courtesy of UT Austin.
Also of interest, and by the same people - the Solar System clock.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fiscal Responsibility

Following the President's speech in Detroit, some basic fact-checking regarding the proposed budget.
As an interesting aside in the wake of the recent $80 billion dollar request, the projected cost of our new Iraqi embassy complex is $1.5 billion - as much as it cost to build the Petronas Towers, or the proposed Freedom Tower in New York. Of course, most of this really goes to graft.
Ancillary commentary here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
From the Washington Post:
To meet its claimed target of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, the new budget omits the cost of the war in Iraq; the cost of the president's proposed private accounts for Social Security; and the cost of correcting the alternative minimum tax, which is hitting growing numbers of middle-class taxpayers rather than the rich it is intended for.
And from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Despite cuts to scores of domestic programs, the Administration's budget increases rather than decreases the deficit over the next five years. As shown by its own figures, the effect of the Administration's budget is to increase total deficits over the next five years from $1.364 trillion to $1.393 trillion.
The budget includes $138 billion in reductions in mandatory programs (excluding the effects on outlays of the tax legislation proposed in the budget) over 10 years, including cuts in Medicaid, the food stamp program, and child care assistance for low-income working families. Figures in the budget show that child care assistance would be ended for 300,000 low-income children by 2009. The food stamp cut would terminate food stamp aid for 200,000 - 300,000 low income people, most of whom are members of low-income working families with children.

Faith Based Government

A discussion of 'faith-based' initiatives, by a concerned Christian.
I love supporting crises pregnancy centers and other charities that promote abstinence and counsel women against having abortions. I donate to them regularly. But I don't see any provision in the U.S. Constitution that gives the president of the United States the right to direct billions of dollars of taxpayer money (our money) to the charities of his choice.
Perhaps the most frustrating fact about this faith-based fleecing of American taxpayers is that the gate-keepers of much of this government pork are the very organizations and individuals who sought to de-fund leftist groups during the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.

Turning the Corner, part 5

Iraqi women find election a cruel joke.
The new norm -- enforced at the barrel of a gun by Islamic extremists -- is to see women as the repository of honor and shame, not only on behalf of family and tribe but the nation...
...Take the case of Anaheed. She was suspended to a tree in the New Baghdad area of the capital and then first shot by her father (a solicitor no less) and then by each member of her tribe. She was then was cut into pieces.
This to clear the shame on the tribe's honor for having wanted to marry a man she was in love with. This happened in late 2003, months after the "liberation."

Monday, February 07, 2005

Squashed Philosophers

Squashed Philosophers: 45 philosophers's major works, each in 60 minutes or less. A service for procrastinating students.

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 4

When you can't pay off enough reporters to endorse your policies, why not grow your own?

From Democratic Underground:
Apparently the Bush administration isn't just paying journalists to spout White House propaganda - they're also planting journalists in press conferences to ask helpful questions. At a press conference last week, George W. Bush was happy to take a question from Jeff Gannon of "Talon News." Gannon asked, "Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there.
Of course, Harry Reid never said any such thing - so where is Mr. Gannon getting his facts?

More from Media Matters:
Although Gannon is a regular at White House press briefings and Talon News claims to be a news organization, Talon appears to be little more than an arm of the Republican Party. Talon News' editor in chief, Bobby Eberle, is a Republican activist who served as a delegate to the 1996, 1998, and 2000 Texas Republican Conventions and to the 2000 national Republican Convention.

Tort Reform, part 2

In a further example of what we find whenever we scratch the surface of 'frivolous lawsuit' rhetoric, we learn that WR Grace & Co. spent years knowingly releasing asbestos into the air and continued to lie about it even as people were dying.
And this comes out right after the administration's at the time bewildering comment about 'frivolous asbestos claims'.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The March of Freedom, part 2

Or, how the Iranian Intelligence Service got the U.S. to remove a threatening neighbor, increase the Shia power base in the region, and foot the bill for the entire thing.

Also, a few words about the '80% turnout' and '8 million voters' figures that've been bandied breathlessly about and some snippets about the Iraqi election, and its unfolding irregularities.


The State of the Union Speech. Commentary here, fact-checking here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Social Security, part 4

Since the President's cited Chile's privatized pensions scheme as a model for his Social Security overhaul, now would be a good time to check in and see how that's been working out for them.
Meanwhile, an article in the LA Times outlines the genesis of this latest scheme, and Paul Krugman pokes yet another hole in the administration's phony math.
It really is that stark: any growth projection that would permit the stock returns the privatizers need to make their schemes work would put Social Security solidly in the black.

Democrats Behaving Like Democrats

Sometimes - albeit rarely - Democrats do in fact act like Democrats. Here are some examples.
As an addendum - amidst the lingering hubbub surrounding Sen. Boxer's condemnation of Condi's appointment to Secretary of State - some mention was given to California's other senator. However, even she found the wherewithal to oppose Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.

The Culture Wars, part 8

What happens when someone tells you not to think of an elephant?
Right. Now what happens when someone tells teens not to have sex?
And for the trifecta, how much longer will the right prop up a failed bit of social engineering with taxpayer dollars?

Like Rats From A Sinking Ship

Our mission - as defined this week - to 'bring Democracy to Iraq' having evidently been completely accomplished, US assets led by Halliburton have begun to move on towards greener pastures.
Meanwhile, Kos comments on the hail of self-congratulation raining down us.
So listening to the latest rash of "mission accomplished" talk in the wake of the elections, it's striking how the other side has convinced itself that we have spent $200 billion and over 1,500 US and allied lives so that Iraqis could vote.

The Crossbar Latch

Not just a good name for a prog-rock band, HP's proposed crossbar latch is a switching structure on the scale of a few nanometers. More about this here, here, and here.