Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Not to Say 'I Told You So'...

In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the arrest of a man who wore a jacket reading "Fuck the Draft" to an appearance at the Los Angeles County Courthouse. Alito's been on the bench for less than a day, and just look this mess. And you thought the Capitol was a 'Free Speech Zone'.

Oh, and in case there's any doubt that this sort of offense will remain the norm - it's about to be enshrined in law:

A new provision tucked into the Patriot Act bill now before Congress would allow authorities to haul demonstrators at any "special event of national significance" away to jail on felony charges if they are caught breaching a security perimeter.

Land of the free....

DailyKos :: Conversations with Daniel Ellsberg

'SusanG' has conducted a six part interview with Daniel Ellsberg, the journalist who broke the Pentagon Papers. Part 1 is background on those papers and other contemporaneous leaks.
Part 2 may be of more interest, in view of the military's recently declassified psyops plan(.PDF). There, Mr. Ellsberg describes the relationship between reporters and intelligence services in America - especially with regards to Judith Miller and Plamegate - and the degree to which the American media is controlled.
Part 3 concerns how secrecy undermines democracy - see censored story #1 from the post below -, part 4 concerns whistleblowing and its consequences, part 5 outlines parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, and in part 6, Mr. Ellsberg describes the coming security state. All are worth a read.

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006

Project Censored's list of neglected and under-reported news stories for 2006 is up. 25 facts stories that just weren't as important as Paris Hilton or that missing girl in Aruba.

#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government

...“The Bush Administration has an obsession with secrecy,” says Representative Henry Waxman, the Democrat from California who, in September 2004, commissioned a congressional report on secrecy in the Bush Administration. “It has repeatedly rewritten laws and changed practices to reduce public and congressional scrutiny of its activities. The cumulative effect is an unprecedented assault on the laws that make our government open and accountable.”

Cheap Entertainment

WorkingForChange presents the 2006 State of the Union Drinking Game!

If George W actually says, "If Al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why." first person to finish a whole beer gets to toss Li'l Smokies at any of the others until they finish their beer. Use the toothpicks.

Fight The Net

"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public..."

A recently declassified report(.PDF) has surfaced, laying out the administration's plans for enhanced 'information flow control' in the wired age. As the media's increasingly become the White House propaganda arm, 'the Net' has emerged as a primary threat, to persons of a certain mindset. Soon bloggers will be the new 'insurgents'.


Monday, January 30, 2006

How Sony Borked Its Customers

Two Princeton faculty members are posting excerpts from a forthcoming paper examining Sony's recent malware debacle. The most recent is here.
BoingBoing's collected a five part round-up of news articles surrounding the sony rootkit.

Climate Change and Cover-Up

...the biggest obstacles to the take up of technologies such as renewable sources of energy and "clean coal" lie in vested interests, cultural barriers to change and simple lack of awareness.

According to a recent environmental study, ignorance may be even more costly than we believed. With the effects of global warming in plain view, it's worth questioning what interest certain parties have in maintaining our ignorance.

...James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.
Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public,"...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Everybody Banh Chung Tonight!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Common-Sense Religion

The Chronicle of Higher Education raises a cogent and subtle question that is likely to get a lot of incoherent, shouted responses:

What should we do about those whom we honestly think are being conned? Should we leave them to their comforting illusions or blow the whistle?...

... That's why those who have an unquestioning faith in the correctness of the moral teachings of their religion are a problem: If they haven't conscientiously considered, on their own, whether their pastors or priests or rabbis or imams are worthy of such delegated authority over their lives, then they are taking a personally immoral stand.

Abra Who, Now?

"The President does not know (Mr. Abramoff), nor does the President recall ever meeting him," -- Scott McClellan, for whom I daily discover new respect, in the act of losing it..

Joanne Amos has admitted that her company, Reflections Photography, was hired to remove the President from photos taken of him and Jack Abramoff. The White House of course has its own such photos which are just not important enough for anyone to ever need to see, tut-tut..

Reflections Photography received $140,000 from the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. (That's right, received from. Ms. Amos was, of course, a significant contributor to the President's 2004 campaign as well.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Few Bad Apples, Yet Again

In the wake of another peon's ritual sacrifice, we return to the Post's previous recap of the death of Abed Hamed Mowhoush:

The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such "claustrophobic techniques" were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents.

Jeanne d'Arc comments:

... the convicted interrogator actually sought and received approval for the technique he used, and his boss thought she had approval from higher up. Did she? Well, we’ll never know, because the investigation stops with the conviction of one soldier for negligent homicide.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

John Conyers on Illegal Wiretapping

A short statement, concisely laying out the facts, in the wake of the Democrats' recent not-a-hearing on the Hill:

Perhaps what is most troubling of all is that if we let this domestic spying program continue, if we let this president convince us that we are at war, so he can do what he wants, we will allow to stand the principle that the president alone can decide what laws apply to him.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Bunnyblogging

Woolybunny has his winter coat on!


What Do We Know That The Washington Times Does Not?

Well, for starters, we know that Abramoff never gave a single dime to a Democrat:

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show.

So why won't this lie die quietly? Well, the tribes for whom he worked also donated money to Democrats - actually they were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors to donate more money to Republicans than to Democrats:

Of the top 10 political donors among Indian tribes in that period, three are former clients of Abramoff and Scanlon: the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of California. All three gave most of their donations to Republicans -- by margins of 30 percentage points or more -- while the rest (the other 7 tribes not associated with Aramhoff ) favored Democrats.

Now someone tell Deborah Howell. And tell her to do her job while you're about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Execution of Logic

Clarance Ray Allen was put to death yesterday. That's not the remarkable fact. What's remarkable is this little peek into an alien mindset:

Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.

Why do some people's heads not explode?

How Abramoff Pimped Out The President

According to the Texas Observer:

Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President.

So we can expect the 'honor and integrity' administration to come clean about their connection to Mr. Abramoff - oh - when Hell freezes over:

The Bush administration said Tuesday that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff had a "few staff-level meetings" at the White House but refused to disclose who met with Abramoff or what they talked about.

"We don't get into discussing staff-level meetings," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Faster Than A Speeding Lunar Probe

Pluto's finally getting some well-deserved attention! NASA's New Horizons probe - rescheduled to launch tomorrow, now - will be the fastest spacecraft ever built, passing the moon's orbit in just 9 hours.
It will still take the probe a decade to reach Pluto.

Indispensible Windows Utilities

Scott Hanselman presents an exhaustive list of his favorite programs for getting things done in Windows. I prefer TextPad to Notepad2, but his list is impressive.

The Sinking Feeling of Inevitability

Long reported dead, the voice of sweet reason was recently spotted, in a comment posted to Matt Yglesias's post about Iran and nuclear weapons:

Let me offer up one small datum which may completely change the equation for you. According to the CIA, Iran is at least five years away from a nuclear weapon.

Five years. Assuming that the CIA has any credibility whatsoever left, its five years. Five years, is time for diplomacy to accomplish a hell of a lot.

In the meantime, I would also point out that the Atomic Energy Commission, that various other international bodies, that inspections have essentially found no sign that Iran is even working on a nuclear weapon.

The only actual evidence that Iran has anything close to nuclear weapons technology is blueprints *that the CIA gave to them!*


You're Not Poor If You Have Cable

Ezra Klein spends a moment debunking the Heritage Foundation's latest spate of nonsense:

Among right-wing think tanks, there's a surprisingly vibrant subset of poverty experts who attempt to disprove the idea that the poor are poor by listing off their appliances. The general of this churlish army is Heritage's Robert Rector, who once made news for claiming that tens of thousands of poor folks had pools and Jacuzzis. The implicit aim is to crush the concept of material deprivation, thus destabilizing the liberal attitude that poverty is, in large part, an issue relating to lack of money. Rector and his ilk would rather claim it as caused by single-mother households or an uncivilized, unemployable underclass.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Domestic Wiretaps Predated 9/11

In fact, it's one of the first things Bush did on taking office in 2001:

James Risen, author of the book State of War and credited with first breaking the story about the NSA's domestic surveillance operations, said President Bush personally authorized a change in the agency's long-standing policies shortly after he was sworn in in 2001.

"The president personally and directly authorized new operations, like the NSA's domestic surveillance program, that almost certainly would never have been approved under normal circumstances and that raised serious legal or political questions," Risen wrote in the book. "Because of the fevered climate created throughout the government by the president and his senior advisers, Bush sent signals of what he wanted done, without explicit presidential orders" and "the most ambitious got the message."

So, if the use of force resolution isn't the source of his authority - and his crime predates the resolution, of course - then what was?

Oh, right. He had none.

Mass Domestic Wiretaps Led FBI To Dead Ends

From the 'Who Knew?' department, this update: Mass domestic surveillance is ineffective in catching 'evildoers':

[T]he National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month. But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans...”

Mass surveillance has only ever served one purpose: to remind 'the people' to watch what they say and do. This would not seem in keeping with the American character, but perhaps times have changed.

Or, then again, perhaps they haven't.

Martin Luther King Jr., Anti-War Activist

Now that we've all heard a thousand excerpts from Rev. King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, let's remind ourselves of the rest of his legacy:

"Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The San Francisco Chronicle Plays the Race Card

With all respect due to Ms. Cannick, the reason that we haven't seen a flood of protests surrounding Clarence Ray Allen's upcoming execution isn't because he's white - in fact he's a Choctaw. No, the reason is that he is slime:

Clarence Ray Allen committed murder in 1974 and was convicted in 1977. He was sentenced to life in prison. From within prison, he ordered the murder of the witnesses to the first murder. In September 1980, his assassin shotgunned three people to death and gravely wounded a fourth.

However, Mr. Allen's case might be a good opportunity for those who oppose captital punishment in one sense. If we oppose the death penalty, we oppose it for everyone - even outright scumbags like him. We can't defend one guy we like here or one guy there and ignore the people we dislike - rallying around a few charismatic people doesn't send the correct message.

Why Wiretapping Matters

I love the title of this column: Letters at 3AM. Mister Ventura sounds like a blogger. Here he lays out the significance of the administration's wiretapping crimes, in a few concise paragraphs:

...The law is agile. The law maintains secrecy. But the law insists on a "factual basis" for wiretaps, on (minimal) checks and balances, and on (an again minimal) respect for the First Amendment – all of which this White House cannot tolerate.

According to our Constitution, Congress and only Congress has the power to make laws. If a law is not appropriate to a situation, you present your case to Congress and Congress changes the law, or not, as it sees fit. Explicit in the Constitution is that the president cannot make his own laws. Explicit in the Constitution is that every citizen, including the president, is accountable to our laws. President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Attorney General Gonzales have broken the law. If they are not held accountable, we no longer live in a republic.

The New York Times Discovers Camwhores!

You know this little six-month 'investigative series' began with a Times employee trying to rationalize the hours upon hours he spent each day browsing camwhore sites from work, too. I wonder at the person to whom this might be news:

Minors who run these sites find their anonymity amusing, joking that their customers may be the only adults who know of their activities. It is, in the words of one teenage site operator, the "Webcam Matrix," a reference to the movie in which a computerized world exists without the knowledge of most of humanity.

Admittedly, this would have been an actual story three or four years ago, so that's not too far behind the curve - for the Times. Also, watch them try to contort reality to fit their existing narratives:

In this virtual universe, adults hunt for minors on legitimate sites used by Webcam owners who post contact information in hopes of attracting friends. If children respond to messages, adults spend time "grooming" them - with praise, attention and gifts - before seeking to persuade them to film themselves pornographically.

Because, you know, it takes a lot of effort to make receiving cash and gifts straight off your Amazon wish list, along with the adulation of thousands of semi-anonymous people - all without leaving the security of your bedroom - seem attractive.

Friday, January 06, 2006

More On The WMF Vulnerability

The official Microsoft patch for the WMF vulnerability has been released in advance of their usual 'second tuesday of the month' patch schedule. In case you have the earlier 'unofficial' patch installed, here is what SANS recommends you do:

1. Reboot your system to clear any vulnerable files from memory
2. Download and apply the new patch
3. Reboot
4. Uninstall the unofficial patch, by using one of these methods:
a. Add/Remove Programs on single systems. Look for "Windows WMF Metafile Vulnerability HotFix"
b. or at a command prompt:
"C:\Program Files\WindowsMetafileFix\unins000.exe" /SILENT
c. or, if you used msi to install the patch on multiple machines you can uninstall it with this:
msiexec.exe /X{E1CDC5B0-7AFB-11DA-8CD6-0800200C9A66} /qn
5. Re-register the .dll if you previously unregistered it (use the same command but without the "-u"):
regsvr32 %windir%\system32\shimgvw.dll

Or else just leave it in place, as long as it works. Here(.PDF) is some more technical background on this vulnerablility, for the curious.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Internet Stormwatch

The SANS Internet Storm Center is the most up to date source for internet worm and virus reports. Check out the coverage of the Windows metafile exploit. (Hexblog has the earliest available patch.)