Saturday, December 01, 2007

Protests force Facebook to change

This is so fucking bizarre I find it hard to wrap my head around it.

People are uncomfortable if their buying habits are shared?

They don't realize the goddamn government is looking at their online purchases, bank, phone and medical records, their emails and chats and who-knows-what? But God forbid Facebook tell Lands' End they're buying a sweater from Eddie Bauer!!!1!!

Give me a fucking break.

Americans (people?) can be teh stupid.
Facebook members have forced the social networking site to change the way a controversial ad system worked. More than 50,000 Facebook users signed a petition calling on the company to alter or abandon its Beacon advertising technology. When Facebook users shopped online, Beacon told friends and businesses what they looked at or bought. Many considered the data sharing to be an intrusion that exposed them to more scrutiny than was comfortable.

Actually, because she has "Eddie Bauer Hazard" (protesting nanotechnology) painted on her back, she probably won't be shopping there even though it looks like she could use a sweater, but many men might be enticed.

Via The Signs.


Chris Matthews on RNC payroll?

No I'm not kidding. Follow the link. Its only the latest example of Chris Matthews not just shilling for the GOP, but appearing to be in their employ.

The guy's a fucking tool at the very least and doesn't belong on TV or in any other "serious" media.

Hey, I'm partisan, interested in politics, can string two or more sentences together and can pronounce Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. OK, I lied about that last one. I'm not sure anyone pronounces his name correctly. Yeah, I swear a lot, but I can tone that down. Got a job for me, MSNBC?

Via Digby.


Evel Knievel dead at 69

Also from Jonco, but it ain't a joke.
Evel Knievel, the red-white-and-blue-spangled motorcycle daredevil whose jumps over crazy obstacles including Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho's Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 69.

A legend has died. Frankly, I'm surprised he lasted this long with all his injuries.

For years Evel Knievel astounded millions with his unbelievable feats. Often his attempts ended tragically and he broke most of the bones in his body. The pain must have been nearly unbearable.

But he was a pioneer in what is now called "extreme sports" and he was always thrilling to watch. Part stupid, part daredevil, part courage and always the showman, there will never be another like him.

Rest now Evel. We will miss you.

Via Jonco.

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Cat blogging

I came damn close to doing this.

Via Jonco.

Hide and seek

And technically this also qualifies as cat blogging.

Via Jonco.

No comment. Nope. None at all. Meat scented and lubricated? Hahaha

Via Jonco.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Putin suspends Russian adherence to Cold War arms treaty: Kremlin

I tried, but can't ignore this story. As always, I'll try to be civil and adult.
President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a decision to suspend Russia's adherence to a Cold War treaty limiting military forces in Europe, the Kremlin said Friday.

Thank you George "fucking" Bush. Your insistence on that damn missile defense shield effected this. It isn't like you weren't warned.
A Russian general has threatened a tough response if the United States goes ahead with a plan to site a missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a decision, the strategic missile force will be able to aim at these installations," said the force's head, General Nikolai Solovtsov, on Monday.

Russia, he said, could easily restart production of medium-range missiles if the decision were taken to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987.

"If the political decision is taken to withdraw from this treaty the strategic missile force will be ready to fulfil this task," Solovtsov said at a news conference.

You. have. been. warned.
The official considered to be a leading contender to succeed President Vladimir Putin criticized a landmark Soviet-U.S. arms treaty as being a "relic of the Cold War," and promised that Russia would have a "sword" capable of piercing a U.S. missile shield.

During a two-hour news conference Wednesday, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov harshly criticized U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying that Moscow does not trust Washington's claims that they are intended to fend off potential missile threats from Iran.

"A radar the U.S. is planning to deploy in the Czech Republic will be capable of scanning airspace up to the Ural Mountains," he said.

Ivanov said that Russia was not going to build a strategic missile defense system similar to the one the United States is developing but would take "adequate steps" to respond to the U.S. move. "A more efficient sword can be found for every shield," he said.

The litany of Russian objections is extensive.

There's nothing like living in a fucking bubble and ignoring what's going on in the real world.

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Its safe to walk now

Someone was given an order to install this pedestrian sign, apparently didn't bother to question the order and just did what they were told.

Now two people look like fools, the supervisor and the installer.

Via Jonco.


CNN apologizes for debate slip-up

I've been ignoring this whole dustup because it was nothing both sides don't do. They throw their little tantrums because people are just not nice to them. Then they demand an apology and a promise it will never happen again. But it will and we're on to another little dust devil.

CNN is chickenshit. Because a bunch of wingers are calling for someone's head, they capitulate and express regret. CNN did nothing wrong.
CNN expressed regret Thursday for allowing a Hillary Clinton adviser to ask a question at Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, even as controversy swirled about two other questioners who have declared their support for Democratic candidates.

Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who asked why gays should not be allowed to serve openly in the military, is a member of Clinton's steering committee on gay-and-lesbian issues, something her campaign disclosed in a news release in June.

"Had we known that, we probably wouldn't have used the question," said David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief, who produced the debate. He added that "you could spend hours Googling everybody. What we cared about was that he was real." CNN deleted Kerr's question from a rebroadcast of the debate.

The New York senator's campaign said in a statement that "Gen. Kerr is not a campaign employee and was not acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign."

Kerr, a Californian who said he became openly gay after 43 years in the military, was one of 5,000 people who submitted videotaped questions through YouTube. CNN also placed Kerr in the St. Petersburg, Fla., audience, where he followed up by calling the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy "destructive."

Moderator Anderson Cooper acknowledged the error involving Kerr after Bill Bennett, the conservative author and radio host who is a network contributor, raised it during a post-debate discussion. Bennett said Thursday that his radio producer e-mailed him information from a National Review blog.

"It shouldn't have ever happened," Bennett said. "You've got to vet that sort of thing."

Since when does a citizen, any citizen, not have a right to ask a civil question of any candidate? We aren't talking about vetting here, its censorship.

CNN should have said they don't care what affiliations the guy had. He offered an intelligent question and it deserved an answer so they used it. Jesus H Christ on Absolut*, if a candidate can't take a little heat in a debate, he sure as hell isn't qualified to rule a fucking country.

HRC or any candidate's planting shills to ask questions they want to answer is far worse. No one wants candidates to stack the deck, but CNN says its sorry it didn't do that for the GOP.

* Technically I believe Jesus was more into a nice Bordeaux. But I'm just guessing.

Via The Seattle Times.


US Coup Planned for Venezuela?

Larry Johnson doesn't buy this story (two posts earlier with same title) at all. He believes Venezuela produced the memo as disinformation and possibly to create a red herring if something goes wrong in the upcoming elections.

How something could go wrong I have no idea considering the control Hugo Chávez has over all things Venezuelan.
As the official bubble burster let me state for the record, this is patent nonsense. State Department officers do not write memos to Hayden. Particularly mid-level Foreign Service Officers. A CIA officer under diplomatic cover sends his communications to headquarters via an encoded message. We call these messages cables, harkening back to the days of telegraphs and telegrams.

Via No Quarter.


Bush urges Congress to approve war funding before Christmas

Do you get the idea Bush is playing a game of poker and has only two cards...the fear and joker cards?
President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.

President Bush wants Congress to approve his request for war spending before the holidays.

He said the Army will have to shut down bases and start furloughing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilian workers by mid-February if Congress does not clear the funds.

Via CNN.


Police: Teen pulled heists, kept curfew

File under: The making of a Republican. Its got oil, stealing and church. A trifecta!
A teenager says he held up a dozen businesses in part to get "gas money" but made sure the heists wouldn't make him miss curfew or church on Sundays with his mom.

Observing curfew is bad, but that can be beaten out of him.

Via Boston Globe.

US Coup Planned for Venezuela?

The only thing surprising here is how long it took. Hugo Chávez has been in Washington's sights ever since he was elected.

It will be interesting to see if the proposed coup d'etat actually materializes now that the world knows about it. Clandestine operations are hardly clandestine when under the klieg lights.
The New York Times had a news article about Venezuela in Thursday’s edition, but it was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he would cut diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia. There wasn’t a word about a memo from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for instigating and backing a coup.

The plot, called “Operation Pliers,” and laid out in the letter to Hayden by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in the US Embassy as a “regional affairs officer,” was intercepted by Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday.


Among the tactics Steele recommends in his letter are:

* Promoting street demonstrations and violent protests

* Creating a climate of ungovernability

* Provoking a general uprising

* Working through the US military attaché at the embassy to coordinate with ex-military officers and former coup plotters against Chavez.

Even more darkly, the letter calls for initiating “military actions” to support opposition mobilizations and strategic building occupations, involving US military bases in neighboring Curacao and Colombia to provide support, and even taking control of parts of Venezuela in the days after the referendum, while encouraging a “military rebellion” inside the Venezuelan National Guard.

Then there's this story:

Headline: CIA Venezuela Destabilization Memo Surfaces

Much is covered by the above story, but there are some new twists.
On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday, December 2, 2007.

The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60 per cent abstention.

The US operatives emphasized their capacity to recruit former Chavez supporters among the social democrats (PODEMOS) and the former Minister of Defense Baduel, claiming to have reduced the 'yes' vote by 6 per cent from its original margin. Nevertheless the Embassy operatives concede that they have reached their ceiling, recognizing they cannot defeat the amendments via the electoral route.

The memo then recommends that Operation Pincer (OP) [Operación Tenaza] be operationalized. OP involves a two-pronged strategy of impeding the referendum, rejecting the outcome at the same time as calling for a 'no' vote. The run up to the referendum includes running phony polls, attacking electoral officials and running propaganda through the private media accusing the government of fraud and calling for a 'no' vote. Contradictions, the report emphasizes, are of no matter.

If you haven't, you might want to read The Invisible Government (Amazon) by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross.

This startling and disturbing book is the first full, authentic account of America's intelligence and espionage apparatus, an invisible government, with the CIA at its center, that conducts the clandestine policies of the United States in the cold war. Many of the revelations about abuses and secret unaccountability were things that Americans had not been aware of until this book was released.

Its actually pretty tame stuff compared to what the idiot has done and is doing as I type.

According to Amazon, no fewer than 85 books written since reference this work.

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Iraqi Contractors Frozen Out of U.S.

The headline is a little misleading in that they aren't really "frozen out", but are being required to demonstrate they are legitimate refugees who worked for US contractors.

The effect might well mean they won't be given sanctuary, but that isn't necessarily the case.
Thousands of Iraqis whose support for the U.S. war effort in Iraq has put them and their families in grave danger at home are being excluded from a new fast-track system aimed at speeding up refugee resettlement in the United States for American allies, officials said Thursday.

The Bush administration within the next month will begin accepting refugee applications directly from the about 100 Iraqi employees of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and their relatives, letting them bypass an often-lengthy U.N. referral process in third countries where they must travel at great expense, they said.

But possibly tens of thousands more at-risk Iraqis - those who worked for private contractors, aid agencies or media outlets and their relatives - won't be eligible due to objections from the Homeland Security Department, which fears that terrorists might use it to slip into the country, the officials said.

Homeland Security is effectively blocking contract employees, like drivers, translators, technicians, from benefiting from the initiative by insisting they provide official U.S. references and sponsors before applying for resettlement, a more stringent standard than for direct hires and even those in the U.N. system, according to the officials.

Meeting that higher bar will be almost impossible for many whose work for private U.S. employers in Iraq ended months or years ago, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations between Homeland Security, which must vet all would-be Iraqi refugees, and the State Department, which wants to widen resettlement opportunities for Iraqi refugees.

The two agencies have been unable to reach a compromise and the issue has been referred to the National Security Council, although the matter may be resolved before that happens through legislation pending in Congress.

That legislation would include Iraqi contract employees in the so-called P2 refugee category. Those in that category are considered to be members of groups of "special humanitarian concern" to the United States and have the right to apply for resettlement in the United States directly instead of having to seek help from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The State Department's position is that security safeguards are already built into Homeland Security's own vetting process and that expanding the P2 category does not guarantee any applicant entry to the United States as a refugee, only the chance to apply directly.

Two quick takes on this. One, Homeland Security should have more faith in its vetting processes or they need to be changed. Two, we should make it as easy as possible for these refugees to enter the US. We've made them targets and have a moral obligation to protect them and their families.

Via AP.


This is rich

Via Jonco.


Cancer Study: 'Graveyard Shift' Might Be a Literal Term

Rejoice in your having a 9-5 job and quit your bitching.
As strange as it sounds, researchers have established that people who work at night may be more susceptible to contracting certain types of cancers.

Hmmm. My CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), which I've posted about before, hit me when I was on graveyard.

And I attributed it to carbon-less paper, Post-It® Notes and too much Diet Pepsi® (lately Pepsi Light®). Duh!

Via Wired.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Philippine rebels surrender after army raid

Photo: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

This is a post about media accuracy. Let me begin by saying Agence France-Presse is one of the most accurate sources out there...usually.

I happen to have inside information on this one.

Let's start with the headline. It was the police SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) and not the army who raided the building. The army had provided a large number of personnel, but they were there if needed and they weren't.
Philippine troops stormed a Manila hotel [It was in Makati City. It's joined at the hip with, but separate from, Manila.] in a flurry of gunfire [The bursts of gunfire happened before any police officer entered and came from inside the building.] and tear gas Thursday, forcing the surrender of a band of renegade soldiers [I don't believe a Catholic priest and cardinal would be described as "renegade soldiers". The 30 people mentioned included many non-military supporters.] who were demanding that President Gloria Arroyo step down.

The rebels, who seized and occupied a luxury hotel [The rebels did not seize and occupy a luxury hotel. They occupied a second floor functions room.] to drive home their criticisms of the Arroyo government, gave themselves up after a dramatic confrontation broadcast live on television screens around the world.

After the rebels ignored an army deadline to surrender, two armoured personnel carriers rammed into the building [There was one armoured personnel carrier which didn't ram the building, but broke down the front doors to the lobby.] and elite troops poured into the interior, which was awash in tear gas and the sound of bursts of gunfire.

So they got only a few things wrong, but we bloggers are suspect at all times.

The real story isn't quite as dramatic as "renegade soldiers" occupying a luxury hotel and the army bursting in under heavy gunfire.

Note: The picture is great. It shows an armoured personnel carrier the same as the one which is, at this point, in the hotel lobby. And if you look in front of the palm tree you can see the tear gas smoke floating out of the lobby. At this point the police have entered the building. The army personnel are just laying back if needed.

Via AFP.


Quote of the day

I have no idea how I missed this one.

"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

-- 2005 quote from Donald Rumsfeld
Former US Secretary of Defense

Via Reuters.


Head of Karl Rove Inquiry in Hot Seat Himself

So what do you think? Does the White House use some sort of points system to decide levels of loyalty? To protect Karl Rove they'll throw Scott Block under the bus?

Block doesn't serve at Dim Son's pleasure, so they needed to find another way to oust him? Just speculating here.
The head of the federal agency investigating Karl Rove's White House political operation is facing allegations that he improperly deleted computer files during another probe, using a private computer-help company, Geeks on Call.

Scott Bloch runs the Office of Special Counsel, an agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers and enforcing a ban on federal employees engaging in partisan political activity. Mr. Bloch's agency is looking into whether Mr. Rove and other White House officials used government agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has himself been under investigation since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management's inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.

Recently, investigators learned that Mr. Bloch erased all the files on his office personal computer late last year. They are now trying to determine whether the deletions were improper or part of a cover-up, lawyers close to the case said.


Mr. Bloch was a loyal member of the Bush administration, serving in the Justice Department's office of faith-based programs, when the president named him to head the Office of Special Counsel in 2003. Unlike many administration appointees, Mr. Bloch doesn't serve at the pleasure of the president. He has a fixed five-year term and may be removed only for malfeasance. That is supposed to ensure his agency has the independence to pursue any probe.

via Mathaba.

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For your amusement

The fact the results show my Logical Intelligence is Below Average seems, in and of itself, illogical.

Your IQ Is 125

Your Logical Intelligence is Below Average

Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius

Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius

Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

The thing is, I have no idea which were the logic questions anyway.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some citizens run afoul of verification system

[Imagine a picture of Big Brother here]

File under: Big Brother run amuck.

But will that stop this program? Come on now, you know better than to ask such a question. Its much better to penalize naturalized citizens if it means you can catch a couple illegals.
Possible discrimination against foreign-born employees remains a concern for an electronic verification system that catches a tiny fraction of workers who are in the United States illegally, immigration officials were told Tuesday.

I could design a program within a week which would pop out a daily list of people who had overstayed their visas. That's how most illegals become illegals. It really isn't that fucking hard. But the government has to go all high tech on their asses with a system that generates obscene false positives.

Via Nation News.


Afghans: US airstrikes kill 14 workers

Let's all hope Jalili is right and the Americans were misled by Afghanistan's enemies and the Afghans can be convinced its true. It won't calm most down , but many will take that as a mitigating factor. Just the fact the workers were employed by the military should also be a huge factor.

We don't need more enemies in Afghanistan.
U.S.-led coalition troops killed 14 road construction workers in airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan after receiving faulty intelligence, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

The coalition said only that it was looking into the incident.

The engineers and laborers had been building a road for the U.S. military in mountainous Nuristan province, and were sleeping in two tents in the remote area when they were killed Monday night, said Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the Kabul-based road construction company Amerifa. There were no survivors, he said.

"All of our poor workers have been killed," Jalili said. "I don't think the Americans were targeting our people. I'm sure it's the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information."

Via Yahoo News.


The Bloglines plumber

I'm really hate dis guy.


I'm the Bloglines Plumber. Bloglines is down for a little fixer upper. We will be back shortly. Bloglines will be all better when I'm done with it.*

The Bloglines Plumber

I'll be back as soon as he leaves.

* Technically, I think the current message is something about adding new system programs or something like that.


Xmas Eve

Usually I'm banging the drum in teh War on Christmas©, but if you insist on celebrating, might I make a suggestion?

A few years back I dated a Chinese Malaysian who said she was taking me and her daughter to Singapore for Christmas Eve. Wow! thought I, that should be the perfect place to spend the night before Christmas, celebrating with a bunch of Chinese in Singapore who are most likely Buddhists to start with (snicker!).

Was I surprised. It is the best place to be on that night.

They block off many streets, most notably Orchard Road (must see), set up stages for their greatest professional performers, shoot off fireworks (they are Chinese, duh), the crowd comes from all over the world, the beer flows like prohibition will start the next day. I think you get the idea.

It is one big fucking party with thousands of "guests". My girlfriend and her daughter decided to call it a night at about midnight, but I decided to go out for one last look around at the festivities. By now most in the crowd were pretty "happy" from all the drinking. I had many and I do mean many girls give me hugs as I walked through the crowd.

I got back to the hotel room at about 2.00 am. Yeah, I'm a lightweight. Had trouble sleeping for a while (probably the hugs) and went to the window at about 3.00 am. The streets were approximately half as crowded as they were at 9.00 pm, but the party was still going strong. I did soon fall asleep and have no idea when the party broke up. My guess would be at sunrise.

Its being Singapore, the street were as clean as Disneyland by about 10.00 am Christmas Day. No evidence the party had even happened.

No you won't see SPIIDERWEB™ on Orchard Street. Can no longer afford such trips.

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The year's best headlines

I'm often posting about headlines that are confusing, inaccurate or downright misleading. These don't quite fit those categories.

Call these: Headlines which weren't carefully produced and, thus, didn't come out quite right.
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-sos!

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Did I read that right?

There are others at the Jonco link.

Via Jonco.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Challenges brew over 'state secrets'

Sometimes I'm surprised by what seems to go unnoticed by bloggers.

Take this story for example. Taking a closer look at Bush's invoking of the "state secrets" doctrine could have monumental consequences in what he can continue doing, do in the future and what future presidents can do.

Yes, its very early in this game, but to ignore the game has started seems queer.
In federal courts and on Capitol Hill, challenges are brewing to a key legal strategy President Bush is using to protect a secret surveillance program that monitors phone calls and e-mails inside the United States.

Under grilling from lawmakers and attack by lawsuits alleging Bush authorized the illegal wiretapping of Americans, the White House has invoked a legal defense known as the "state secrets" doctrine — a claim that the president has inherent and unchecked power to shield national security information from disclosure, either to plaintiffs in court or to congressional overseers.

The principle was established a half-century ago when, ruling in a wrongful-death case brought by the widows of civilians killed in a military plane crash, the Supreme Court upheld the Air Force's refusal to provide an accident report to the plaintiffs. The government contended releasing the document would compromise information about a secret mission and intelligence equipment.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, believes the White House has gone too far in invoking state secrets to halt civil lawsuits.

"We have the authority to define the state secrets doctrine," Specter says. "I don't think that the simple assertion of state secrets ought to be the end of the matter."

Specter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and others are working on legislation that would direct federal judges to review the president's state secrets claims and allow cases with merit to go forward.

Practices among judges vary. Some accept state secrets claims outright, dismissing cases on the government's word. Others read the privileged information and decide for themselves, but almost invariably side with the government, according to legal scholars.

If I don't fall back into my normal lazy ass mode, I'll try to keep up on this story for ya.

Via BlackListedNews.

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Humoring Condi

When it comes to the Annapolis Mid-East peace talks, there's nothing surprising here, but Froomkin bothers to bring it up.

Unless Palestine is willing to completely capitulate to Israel, Bush isn't interested.

Remember this, Bush is always about smoke and mirrors. He says one thing and does another. He stages phony photo ops. He claims "Mission Accomplished". He's a fucking Charlatan and this conference makes him look reasonable and responsible. He is, of course, neither.
President Bush's indolent approach to tomorrow's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis suggests that he's just going through the motions to make his beloved secretary of state happy.

Via WaPo.

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Effect of abuse is shocking! 42% of Qatari women condone beatings

I mentioned in my last post I'd be getting to the "serious" shit shortly and it doesn't get much more serious than this.

Its often amazing what people will accept even when it isn't in their own self interest. And this goes beyond that. They aren't even concerned about self preservation.
A new study in Qatar shows that 42% of women support the use of violence against them, prompting calls for an education campaign in the Gulf emirate with the popular tribal saying that "A sister is one hair in her brother's beard." The study conducted by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Qatar revealed that 41.97% of Qatari women believe they deserve the physical abuse at the hands of their male relatives. [emphasis mine]

An educational campaign? At the least. Duh!

Via The Signs.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Watch your head

This is gonna leave a mark.

Via Jonco.


great name

One of these days I'm gonna post just about the locations of my visitors. Or precisely, the names of such locations. Did you know there was a Clinton Township in Michigan? Me neither.

But for now the great name is:
Valparaiso, Indiana

I'll move on to "serious" posting in a few.


Obama: Yes, I inhaled—that was the point

Please don't take this as an endorsement for Obama or his actions.

I'm posting this because (1) its a great response on Obama's part, (2) to allow you to feel superior because you never did anything stupid when young and (3) because I haven't seen anyone else post about it.
Earlier this week in New Hampshire Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke candidly about his past experimentation with drugs and alcohol in high school, and on Saturday—after a question on medicinal marijuana—Obama was prodded a bit further and asked whether or not he had ever inhaled.

"I did," the senator from Illinois said to light applause. "It's not something I'm proud of. It was a mistake as a young man."

The question was a reference to a line made famous by former President Bill Clinton who, while admitting to trying marijuana, said he did not inhale.

"I never understood that line," Obama continued. "The point was to inhale. That was the point." Duh! [emphasis mine]

Via CNN Politics.


Disasters quadruple over last 20 years: Oxfam (Reuters)

I've had the perception this is true, but have been too lazy ass to research it.

Now Oxfam has confirmed my suspicions. Sometimes being lazy works out.
Weather-related disasters have quadrupled over the last two decades, a leading British charity said in a report published on Sunday.

From an average of 120 disasters a year in the early 1980s, there are now as many as 500, with Oxfam attributing the rise to unpredictable weather conditions cause by global warming.

"This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people," said Oxfam's director Barbara Stocking.

"This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people.

Each photo above is an image of the aftermath of a Pacific typhoon that hit South Asia.

What I've not shown is the devastating mudslides that bury entire villages, killing hundreds of people.

Via Yahoo! News.


Bilal Hussein

This is a comment I posted over at Balloon Juice at John's request for a couple paragraphs about Bilal Hussein.
Can't quite get it down to two paragraphs because of the complexity and the cloak of secrecy, but this is the best info I've found.
A spokesman for the American military in Iraq, Maj. Brad Leighton, said Mr. Hussein was held after soldiers found explosive devices, insurgency propaganda and surveillance photographs of an installation for American-led forces during a routine patrol when they entered his apartment in 2006.

His lawyer, Paul Gardephe, said that the allegations were unfounded and that the American authorities had not disclosed any specific charges to be brought against Mr. Hussein. Mr. Gardephe said that in e-mail messages and other correspondence, military officials had alluded to further allegations, including that Mr. Hussein had made offers to provide false identity papers to an Iraqi sniper seeking to elude American custody, and that he had taken photographs so synchronous with bomb attacks that it seemed that he had prior knowledge of the attacks.

The Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, was quoted by The A.P. on Monday as saying that the military had “convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to stability and security in Iraq as a link to insurgent activity.” He called Mr. Hussein “a terrorist operative who infiltrated The A.P.”

And this.
Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley is highly skeptical of the U.S. military in its treatment of Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi native who has been imprisoned for 19 months under suspicion of "links to insurgents."

In his Washington Post Op/Ed Railroading A Journalist In Iraq, Curley says that, despite Hussein never being charged with a crime, the military has kept him detained with claims, some trumped-up and others false; Curley believes that the real reason Hussein is being detained is because he was "taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see."

Something I didn't post over there is this: The AP seems to be doing a thorough investigation of this situation and finding no creditable evidence Bilal is guilty of anything. Its good to see an organization standing behind one of its own.

But, its terribly unfortunate one has to be "one of their own" to get this sort of attention to detail. This is how most stories should be covered even if its a missing black woman from the South, someone detained at Abu Ghrahib, the bombing of a mosque, or any of an endless number of mysteries and injustices.

Yeah, I'm an idiot who thinks AP has an unlimited number of reporters and sources.

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Damascene Diversion

Christopher has a fine post...again, which is a must read. It pretty much wraps the whole Annapolis talks thing into one neat package.

Please try to ignore the lack of proofreading and editing, something you might expect from me. Am not sure why Christopher's story is so sloppy.
There's a Middle Eastern proverb making the rounds these days: You can't make war without Egypt and you can't have peace without Syria. And if Syria's sitting down at the table, as it's indicated it will do at next week, it's a safe bet that the fate of two key parts of the region -- the Golan and Lebanon -- are up for discussion.

In two of the most intractable problems of the region -- Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- the Syrian regime has been the immovable obstacle. Because outside the U.S., the Middle East isn't just defined by the Israeli-Arab conflict. It's a Gordian Knot of conflicts involving Israelis and Palestinians, Israel and Arabs, Arab Shi'ites and Arab Sunnis, Arabs and Iranians and the West and Iran. They're all intertwined, but the common thread in this tangled skein is Syria and the regime of its President Bashar al-Assad.

There's a lot riding on the Annapolis talks. I think everyone has their fingers crossed on this including their trigger fingers.

I hate predictions because in hindsight they can really look lame, but my guess is they need some success in these talks or all hell is gonna break loose in the Mid-East.

Via Spot-On by way of Back to Iraq 3.0. Note: Same post at both links.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Croats vote with eye to EU, jobs, graft (Reuters)

The story makes it clear what's going on, but that's a damn bad headline. It suggests the Croats want the EU, jobs, graft.
Croats started voting in a tightly contested national election on Sunday, expecting their new leaders to root out corruption, overhaul the economy and take the country into the European Union in the next four years.

Yeah, I know. Some of my headlines/titles suck quite a bit too, but I'm doing this shit at my own expense. I'm not a paid professional.

Via Yahoo! News.

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Edwards Offers Heating Oil Plan

This caught my eye because I vaguely recalled someone else's offering solutions to the high costs of heating oil.

The DiversityInc story starts out with this.
Are the oil companies helping them? Not any of the ones based in the United States.

Will government give them a hand? Well, the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is available, but only 16 percent of eligible families take advantage of this. And some states, especially in the Northeast, do have programs to help low-income families, but again, only a few take advantage of them.

Why? For undocumented immigrants, the fear of registering with a government agency is strong. For others, there is a historic distrust of the government. And in many cases, families just don't know about where to go for help.

Now that's truly a sad state of affairs. There are some programs in place already, but woefully underutilzed.

But back to Edwards.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards will outline a plan Sunday to provide immediate relief to families struggling with high heating oil bills and to ensure affordable prices in the future.

Noting that home heating oil prices in New Hampshire have surpassed $3 a gallon, the former North Carolina senator is calling on Congress to release some of the nation's home heating oil and crude oil reserves as a way to bring down prices by increasing supply. He also is urging Congress to fully fund the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, according to a copy of his plan provided to The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, President Bush vetoed a Democratic health and education spending bill that included $2.4 billion for heating subsidies for the poor, $480 million more than Bush requested.

Via Japan Herald.

Perhaps Hugo Chávez should be running.
So which oil companies are coming to the rescue? Not American-owned or British-owned companies. The main company helping is Citgo, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A., Venezuela's state-run oil company. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently visited the South Bronx to tout his discounted-oil offer.

Citgo partners with Citizens Energy Corporation (CEC), a nonprofit that provides low-cost heating oil to low-income families in 15 states and Washington, D.C. CEC works with oil-heat dealers and local fuel-assistance agencies. This year, it will provide eligible families a one-time delivery of 100 gallons of home-heating oil. CEC has reached out to U.S.-owned oil companies, but only Citgo responded, says Ashley Durmer, CEC spokesperson.

Via DiversityInc. Note: Same link as above.

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Islamic Academy in Virginia on Defensive

Nearly perfect example of 1984's Newspeak.
Its most virulent critics have dubbed it "Terror High," and 12 U.S. senators and a federal commission want to shut it down.

The teachers, administrators and some 900 students at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax County have heard the allegations for years - after the Sept. 11 attacks and then a few years later when a class valedictorian admitted he had joined al-Qaida.

Now the school is on the defensive again, with a report issued last month by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom saying the academy should be closed, pending a review of its curriculum and textbooks.

Abdalla al-Shabnan, the school's director general, says criticism of the school is based not on evidence, but on preconceived notions of the Saudi educational system. [emphasis mine]

We're all for religious freedom except for when we aren't.

Via Guardian.


Officials: Teen girl gang-raped in Brazilian jail

I won't give any more of the sordid details than I already have. You can follow the link.

Its almost impossible for me to wrap my head around how the jailers could have done this to this girl. Even a 15 year old boy would have been in danger, but definitely a girl. And the 21 men are little more than depraved animals.
Girl, 15, locked up with 21 men who allegedly gave her food only after sex



Firefighters Being Trained to Spy on US Citizens

On the face of it, this would appear to make sense. I mean they are there, the evidence is suspicious of terrorist activity, the evidence is out in the open, but...

How long will it take for firefighters to start being viewed as spooks who are snooping around your home when they come in? This is one of the few groups who are almost universally admired right now.

And how could testimony from a firefighter in court ever hold up? No probable cause for collecting the evidence. No Miranda rights. And as the story says, if RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) are found in the basement, They can't possibly be allowed to remain there even for a few hours while the police are alerted.
Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people's privacy.

Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don't need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.

But there are fears that they could lose the faith of a skeptical public by becoming the eyes of the government, looking for suspicious items such as building blueprints or bomb-making manuals or materials.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans have given up some of their privacy rights in an effort to prevent future strikes. The government monitors phone calls and e-mails; people who fly have their belongings searched before boarding and are limited in what they can carry; and some people have trouble traveling because their names are similar to those on terrorist watch lists.

The American Civil Liberties Union says using firefighters to gather intelligence is another step in that direction. Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration's 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes - such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen - report suspicious behavior to the FBI.

"Americans universally abhorred that idea," German said.

Is there a point Americans will finally say they've had enough? I read story after story and think "this is it"! Surely Americans will revolt over this, but I'm always wrong.

Via The Signs.