Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Relating to Point #3 Below

JOSH MARSHALL, TPM - The United Church of Christ (UCC) plans to run a major ad campaign in December to raise public awareness of the denomination. One of the ads is meant, in the words of a UCC press release, to convey the message "that -- like Jesus -- the United Church of Christ seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation."

You can see the ad here -- it features two burly bouncers turning various people away from a church service. And if you watch it you'll see that the broad message of inclusion over intolerance places a prominent emphasis on acceptance of homosexuals in the life of the church.

Yet, according to a press release out this evening from the UCC, both CBS and NBC have refused to air the ad because the subject matter is "too controversial."

Again, look at the ad because the spot raises the topic in about as innocuous and uncontroversial a way as is imaginable. Homosexuality is never even broached explicitly. . .

According to the UCC press release, CBS explained its decision, in part, as follows...

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Watch the ad... THIS is supposed to be too controversial for TV? WTF?

Things That Upset Me

1. The fact that Blogger decided not to work this evening, preventing me from posting stuff earlier.

2. Berclebutt. (Oh, what I'd like to write...)

3. This.

Uh Oh.... Court Rules Cops Can Shave You Without Cause

SHERRY F. COLB, FIND LAW - At the end of last month, in the case of Coddington v. Evanko , the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that police officers may constitutionally shave large amounts of hair from a suspect's head, neck, and shoulders, without a warrant, probable cause, or any basis for suspecting that the hair would provide evidence of crime. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the people the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. But according to the court, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to hair removal.

In so ruling, the Third Circuit followed its own 1982 precedent, In re Grand Jury Proceedings (Appeal of Mills) , which held that taking hair samples from visible parts of a suspect's body does not invade any reasonable expectation of privacy. Such investigation therefore does not qualify as a Fourth Amendment "search."

The court in Coddington did not specifically address the question of whether shaving a large amount of hair from a suspect might constitute an unconstitutional "seizure." But it did reaffirm what it understood to be the holding of Mills : "that the taking of hair is not subject to restrictions imposed by the Fourth Amendment." Since the Fourth Amendment governs seizures as well as searches, it follows that there is no right under any part of the Fourth Amendment to be secure from police unreasonably shaving large amounts of hair from the visible parts of one's body.

Could this be the handiwork of a certain Prince of Persia?

BBC - Iran has stepped up its campaign to ensure the body of water between Iran and the Arabian peninsula is known as the Persian, not the Arabian, Gulf. It is said to have withdrawn an invitation to National Geographic magazine to attend a festival because they refer to the Gulf as both.

Iranian bloggers also launched a web action on the Google search engine. The words "Arabian Gulf" elicit a spoof message: "The Gulf you are looking for does not exist. Try Persian Gulf." . . .

Iranian officials objected to the fact that the latest issue of the magazine's atlas refers to the stretch of water as "The Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf)". National Geographic has already been banned from going on sale in Iran, pending a "correction" of the atlas.

On Monday, Iran threatened the Arabic satellite TV al-Jazeera with action for an online animated cartoon published in the wake of the National Geographic ban. It shows an Iranian cleric ignoring regional problems in favour of taking action over what to call the Gulf.

Google Search: Arabian Gulf

Thursday, November 25, 2004

My Stylin' New Braids

Courtesy of the coolest hairdresser in the world (Libby):

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

Doubleplus points for anyone who can guess which song(s) was/were my favorite.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!

I have found that I go in somewhat of a repeating emotional cycle.

Depressed -->
Until I see/hear something really stupid -->
Pissed Off -->
Take Action, Get Stuff Done -->
Feel Good About Accomplishments, Efforts -->
Monkey Wrench Gets Inserted (Things Get Screwed Up) -->

I think I like being pissed off most. I'd rather be angry than sad. Happiness is delusion. As the old saying goes, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." It's too hard for me to turn a blind eye on the injustices around me and settle into some false sense of bliss.

First and foremost, I'm a skeptic. I trust science, I trust reason, but faith.... this I lack. Countless people go to church every week, listen to the sermon, and for them, that's enough. "Salvation" is within their reach, their spiritual needs are fulfilled. Why question what makes you happy, what makes you content?

If that's all it takes for you, then I salute you. You will be a much happier person than I will ever be. But as far as I'm concerned, this life is all we've got... we need to make the most of it, not for selfish purposes, but with the aim of living up to our potential as a species, as individual human beings. Whoever said faith alone in Jesus Christ is enough to get into Heaven is an idiot. I don't believe in a belligerent or spiteful God, mind you, but if one thinks that a mind-numbing acceptance of a "savior" is all it takes, then what's the point of life? Actions speak a lot louder than words. Put your belief in a higher order into what you do, not what you say.

The question came up the other day: "Do you eat to live or live to eat?" If you've accepted Christ simply in order to live (eternally), then you're missing out on the flavor and opportunity that exists right now - in this world. Don't just buy into a particular spiritual belief as though you're purchasing a life insurance policy; your connection to Life/God/Whatever has to be more three-dimensional than the cardboard cut-out outline that preachers offer you. Realize that religion is inherently selfish, unless you use it as a tool to direct positive social change here and now (and that doesn't mean "spreading the Word of God" - it means helping people eat). If you do the latter, the former won't even need to be spoken. Your actions will have reverberated louder than any religious passage from 2000 years ago ever could have.

I don't mean to bore you with another diatribe against holier-than-thou types, as that's not my intent, but such people are representative of those things which I find distasteful in this world. It's like listening to a piece of teeny-bopper pop music: if it doesn't have soul or originality, but was recorded and produced with the primary intention of selling records, then it's not worth my time. Oh, by the way, have I mentioned lately how much Jessica Simpson disgusts me? No? Well, she does.

So yeah.... so far, phase two (lame SNL joke) has not been a tremendous success with regards to me. I have not been lulled into a false sense of security or happiness. As Howard Beale says in the movie Network:
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad.

You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:


I've spent a quarter of my life - that's right, 25% - hating George W. Bush. My visceral loathing for the man is palpable, but it's an emotion based on five long years worth of experience watching him try to tear this country apart. Perhaps one day another emotion will be better able to define who I am, but for the next four years, I'm probably still going to be plenty pissed off.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

GOP Bill Cuts Back College Loans - 100,000 Students May Be Cut Off

NY TIMES - The federal government will be able to require millions of college students to shoulder more of the cost of their education under the new spending bill approved yesterday by the House and Senate. The government moved to change its formula for college aid last year, but was blocked by Congress. Now, however, no such language appears in the appropriations bill lawmakers are considering, clearing the way for the government to scale back college grants for hundreds of thousands of low-income students. Nearly 100,000 more students may lose their federal grants entirely, as Congress considers legislation that could place more of the financial burden for college on students and their families.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Network Fined $1.2 Million for Complaint of Three Viewers

NY POST - A blogger has discovered that only three people were responsible for the FCC complaints that sparked the [FCC's] whopping $1.2 million fine against Fox. Jeff Jarvis, the author of a Web log called Buzz Machine, claims to have filed a Freedom of Information Act request last month to see the 159 complaints that led to the record fine because of "sexually suggestive" content on the reality show "Married by America." In a letter to Jarvis, William H. Davenport, chief of the FCC's chief of investigations and hearings - posted on Jarvis' blog - admits that there were actually only 90 complaints. And it turns out, almost all the complaints were sent by just 23 individuals. All but two of the complaints are identical, likely written by an individual, photocopied and mailed to the FCC many times. Only two of the letters were not the form letter, Jarvis found.

Toilet Summit Opens in Beijing

BBC - The fourth world toilet summit has opened in Beijing with declarations that having a loo is a human right. Four hundred delegates from around the world are spending three days discussing the humble water closet... Organisers say it is an attempt to break the taboo surrounding toilets, which is preventing developing countries from tackling the issue.

The founder of the World Toilet Organisation, Jack Sim, said that when it came to sanitation, people ought to demand more. "In the past, there were women's liberation, leprosy, Aids, the sexual revolution. All these are taboos that have been broken. The toilet problem is probably the last one," he noted.

"The entire toilet movement is taking on the world scale. People are saying, 'We want good toilets'....because you see a toilet is a basic human right and this basic human right has been neglected. So the world deserves better toilets," he said.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Right Wing Tells Moderate Republicans to Go Over to Democrats

DAILY KOS - I will repeat what I have written several times: If you are a moderate Republican, the message is clear. Your party does not want you. But, thanks to the conservative group Concerned Women for America, you no longer have to take my word for it. Their chief counsel has made that abundantly clear.
"If they can't agree and support the president and the platform, then they ought to go over to the Democrats," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative group Concerned Women for America.[...]

The to-do list includes defending traditional marriage, banning human cloning, reforming Social Security, passing more-restrictive abortion laws and stepping up enforcement of obscenity laws, said Ms. LaRue of Concerned Women for America.

And if moderates don't agree with those objectives, perhaps they don't belong in the GOP, she said.

Ms. LaRue calls Mr. Specter a RINO - Republican In Name Only - and questions why politicians such as Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island remain in the Republican Party when they didn't even vote for Mr. Bush.

"Get real," she said. "These are Democrats in Republican clothing."

How do some moderates feel about this? Let's hear it from them:
"There is no future for moderate and progressive Republicans in the Republican Party," said Jim Scarantino, president of the centrist GOP group Mainstream 2004. "The far right wing and the fanatics have seized control."

Mr. Scarantino isn't sure where his brand of Republican politics fits into the GOP. Some Christian conservatives say it doesn't.[...]

While big-name moderates such as John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudolph Giuliani took the stage in New York, conservatives controlled the party platform.

"The party has ruthlessly exploited moderate Republicans," Mr. Scarantino said. "I think they're deluding themselves thinking they're ever going to get anything more than the opportunity to be on the stage."

Reason and independence are no longer welcome in the GOP... Get in line with the right wing or get out.

Dissent Will Not Be Allowed

KEVIN O'HANLON, AP - Charges against a Vietnam-era veteran who flew an American flag upside down to protest the war in Iraq have been dismissed. The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that Loup County [NE] authorities agreed to drop the charges against 64-year-old Larry Lentz.

The case began last month when Loup County Sheriff Dan Kling warned Lentz that he could be ticketed for flying the upside-down flag in his yard. Kling returned later, took the flag down and had Lentz ticketed for violating a 1977 state law that prohibits "mutilation of a flag." Nebraska's flag law says "A person commits the offense of mutilating a flag if such person intentionally casts contempt or ridicule upon a flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon such flag."

Lentz then bought another flag, but this time flew it upside down on his backyard flagpole. When the sheriff returned a third time and threatened to issue another ticket, Lentz called the ACLU for help.

The Growth of Secret Law

SECRECY NEWS - Last month, Helen Chenoweth-Hage attempted to board a United Airlines flight from Boise to Reno when she was pulled aside by airline personnel for additional screening, including a pat-down search for weapons or unauthorized materials. Chenoweth-Hage, an ultra-conservative former Congresswoman (R-ID), requested a copy of the regulation that authorizes such pat-downs. "She said she wanted to see the regulation that required the additional procedure for secondary screening and she was told that she couldn't see it," local TSA security director Julian Gonzales told the Idaho Statesman

"She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the regulation], and she was not allowed to fly," he said. "It's pretty simple." Chenoweth-Hage wasn't seeking disclosure of the internal criteria used for screening passengers, only the legal authorization for passenger pat-downs. Why couldn't they at least let her see that? asked Statesman commentator Dan Popkey. "Because we don't have to," Mr. Gonzales replied crisply. "That is called 'sensitive security information.' She's not allowed to see it, nor is anyone else," he said.

Thus, in a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know. . .

A new report from the Congressional Research Service describes with welcome clarity how, by altering a few words in the Homeland Security Act, Congress "significantly broadened" the government's authority to generate "sensitive security information," including an entire system of "security directives" that are beyond public scrutiny, like the one former Rep. Chenoweth-Hage sought to examine.

Much of the CRS discussion revolves around the case of software designer and philanthropist John Gilmore, who was prevented from boarding an airline flight when he refused to present a photo ID. (A related case involving no-fly lists has been brought by the ACLU.) "I will not show government-issued identity papers to travel in my own country," Mr. Gilmore said. Mr. Gilmore's insistence on his right to preserve anonymity while traveling on commercial aircraft is naturally debatable -- but the government will not debate it. Instead, citing the statute on "sensitive security information," the Bush Administration says the case cannot be argued in open court.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

EPA Using Poor Kids as Guinea Pigs

ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSN - The Environmental Protection Agency, led by Bush appointees, plans to launch a new study in which participating low income families will have their children exposed to toxic pesticides over the course of two years. For taking part in these studies, each family will receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and a framed certificate of appreciation. In October, the EPA received $2 million to do the study from the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry front group that includes members such as Dow, Exxon, and Monsanto. The EPA's Linda Sheldon says the study is vital, because so little is known about how small children's bodies absorb harmful chemicals. As of press time, none of the EPA's employees are offering to have their own children take part in this research project.

Dean: Bush Appealed to Homophobia, Sexism, and Racism to Win

EDITOR & PUBLISHER - Speaking Thursday night to 500 Northwestern University students, many of them journalism majors, Dean noted there was little "statistical difference" between the percentage of voters who deemed moral values the top issue (22 %) and those who ranked as their top concern Iraq or the economy/jobs, according to exit poll data.

"How can you get to the conclusion morality was the most important issue in this campaign?" Dean asked. "It's beyond me, but that was what the media was riding. They're entitled to their opinion. It doesn't happen to be the opinion of thoughtful people who are looking." ...

"The truth is the president of the United States used the same device that Slobodan Milosevic used in Serbia. When you appeal to homophobia, when you appeal to sexism, when you appeal to racism, that is extraordinarily damaging to the country," Dean charged. "I know George Bush. I served with him for six years. He's not a homophobe. He's not a racist. He's not a sexist. In some ways, what he did was worse... because he knew better."

Dean also criticized Bush for the ballot initiatives in 11 states calling for gay marriage to be outlawed, saying this "had only one effect, which is to appeal to homophobia and fear and gay-baiting in order to win a presidential election."

And he took a shot at Rev. Jerry Falwell: "Most Americans are decent people -- not all. I mean, there are those hate-mongers. I wouldn't call Jerry Falwell a decent person."

Hallelujah! Preach on, Brother Howard!

Two Heads are Better than One

BBC - A two-headed tortoise has come out of its shell in Dorset to find itself in the media spotlight. The unusual case of a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, born two months ago in an incubator, made the headlines in various papers on Friday.

Owner John Jones, from Dorchester, who has 37 tortoises and has kept them for 55 years, said: "I was really surprised - I had never seen anything like it. It is perfectly healthy and is running around with all the other tortoises. I think each head has its own little brain because they do try to move in different directions." . . .

Mr Jones, 66, from Dorchester, said he had named the tortoise Solomon and Sheba as he was not sure what sex it was.

"It likes lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cress and runner beans - but its favourite food is thistle milk," he said. "Both heads eat and sometimes they start on the same piece of food and meet in the middle."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Pothole Predictor

CHANNEL 5, AGAWAM, MA - Some Bay State high school students are on the brink of a technological breakthrough -- they're developing a device that is sure to make millions of commuters happy. The device is an odd combination of metal work, tubes and wires controlled by a video game-like joystick. . . The Agawam High School Robotics Club [has] devised the pothole predictor. Using money from an Massachusetts Institute of Technology grant they created a machine that can find hollow places under pavement, drill in and fill them. In other words, stop potholes before they form. The students are testing it now on a strip of road outside the school and they may try it on city streets next month.

We Already Have Public Campaign Financing

PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - According to NPR this presidential campaign cost the candidates $1.2 billion. That's sounds like a lot until you realize that a calculation we did in 1997 came up with $34 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for just six major industries that had contributed only $31 million to the campaign. In other words, they got about $1,000 back in public dollars for every $1 they contributed.

In short, we have public campaign financing today. You just pay for it after the election. Paying before hand would be a lot cheaper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Key Events in Yasser Arafat's Life

-Aug. 4, 1929: Born in Cairo, Egypt, fifth child of Palestinian merchant Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini.

-1949: Forms Palestinian Students' League.

-Jan. 1, 1965: Forms Fatah guerrilla movement, which becomes core group of Palestine Liberation Organization; two days later attempts first attack on Israel.

-March 21, 1968: Israeli army attack on PLO base in Jordan; thousands join PLO.

-Feb. 4, 1969: Takes over PLO chairmanship

-Nov. 13, 1974: Addresses U.N. General Assembly.

-Oct. 1, 1985: Survives Israeli air raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia.

-Dec. 12, 1988: Accepts Israel's right to exist, renounces terrorism.

-Aug. 2, 1990: Supports Iraq invasion of Kuwait, resulting in PLO's isolation.

-November 1991: Secretly marries 28-year-old secretary, Suha Tawil; daughter Zahwa born in 1995 in Paris.

-Sept. 13, 1993: Signs Israel-PLO accord on Palestinian autonomy negotiated in Oslo, Norway; shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on White House lawn.

-July 1, 1994: Returns from exile, setting foot on Palestinian soil for first time in 26 years.

-Dec. 10, 1994: Wins Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

-Nov. 9, 1995: Makes first visit to Israel in secret trip to offer condolences to widow of assassinated Rabin.

-Jan. 20, 1996: Elected president of Palestinian Authority in first Palestinian elections.

-Oct. 23, 1998: Takes part in Israeli and Palestinian meeting at Wye River, Md., agree on interim land-for-peace deal on West Bank.

-July 11, 2000: Sequestered with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for nine days by President Clinton at "Camp David II''; summit fails.

-Dec. 3, 2001: Effectively confined in West Bank town of Ramallah after Israel destroys his helicopters.

-March 29, 2002: Declared "enemy'' by Israeli Cabinet.

-April 2, 2002: Says would rather die than leave West Bank in response to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's offer of permanent exile.

-Oct. 29, 2004: Leaves Israeli-besieged West Bank headquarters for first time in nearly three years for treatment at military hospital near Paris.

-Nov. 11, 2004: Arafat dies at age 75.

Today in History

1988 - An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association documents 15 cases in which men trying to get a can out of a soda machine were crushed. Three died, the other 12 required hospitalization for injuries such as fractures of the skull, toe, ankle, tibia, femur, and pelvis; intercerebral bleeding; knee contusion; and one punctured bladder. Because the sodas are located in the upper half of the machine, the center of gravity of the machine is abnormally high and the machine will fall after it has been tipped only 20 degrees, a deceptively small angle. A large, fully loaded machine can weigh in excess of 1000 pounds.

One More Map

Using final vote tallies from each state, this map approximates the percentage of "red" vs. "blue" votes throughout the country. The color on top of each state shows the party that won that state's electoral votes.

It's a nation of.....


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Churchill's Parrot Still Alive

MIRROR, UK - SHE WAS at Winston Churchill's side during Britain's darkest hour. And now Charlie the parrot is 104 years old. . . and still cursing the Nazis. Her favorite sayings were "F*** Hitler" and "F*** the Nazis". And even today, 39 years after the great man's death, she can still be coaxed into repeating them with that unmistakable Churchillian inflection.

Monday, November 08, 2004


"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals. Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown." ~Walt Whitman

Pic of the Day

Worse Than 2000: Tuesday's Electoral Disaster

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT, TRUTHOUT - Everyone remembers Florida's 2000 election debacle, and all of the new terms it introduced to our political lexicon: Hanging chads, dimpled chads, pregnant chads, overvotes, undervotes, Sore Losermans, Jews for Buchanan and so forth. It took several weeks, battalions of lawyers and a questionable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to show the nation and the world how messy democracy can be. By any standard, what happened in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election was a disaster.

What happened during the Presidential election of 2004, in Florida, in Ohio, and in a number of other states as well, was worse.

Some of the problems with this past Tuesday's election will sound all too familiar. Despite having four years to look into and deal with the problems that cropped up in Florida in 2000, the 'spoiled vote' chad issue reared its ugly head again. Investigative journalist Greg Palast, the man almost singularly responsible for exposing the more egregious examples of illegitimate deletions of voters from the rolls, described the continued problems in an article published just before the election, and again in an article published just after the election.

Four years later, and none of the Florida problems were fixed. In fact, by all appearances, they spread from Florida to Ohio, New Mexico, Michigan and elsewhere. Worse, these problems only scratch the surface of what appears to have happened in Tuesday's election. The fix that was put in place to solve these problems - the Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 after the Florida debacle - appears to have gone a long way towards making things worse by orders of magnitude, for it was the Help America Vote Act which introduced paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines to millions of voters across the country.

At first blush, it seems like a good idea. Forget the chads, the punch cards, the archaic booths like pianos standing on end with the handles and the curtains. This is the 21st century, so let's do it with computers. A simple screen presents straightforward choices, and you touch the spot on the screen to vote for your candidate. Your vote is recorded by the machine, and then sent via modem to a central computer which tallies the votes. Simple, right?

Not quite.

[worth reading.....]

Media Killed, Delayed Stories Critical of Bush

FAIR - Five days before the presidential election, the New York Times killed a story about the mysterious object George W. Bush wore on his back during the presidential debates, journalist Dave Lindorff reveals in an exclusive report on this week's Counter Spin, FAIR's weekly radio show. The spiked story included photographic and scientific evidence that would have contradicted Bush's claim that the bulge on his back was just a matter of poor tailoring.

"The New York Times assigned three editors to this story and had it scheduled to run five days before the election, which would have raised questions about the president's integrity," said Lindorff. "But it was killed by top editors at the Times; clearly they were chickening out of taking this on before the election."

Lindorff says two other major newspapers, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, also decided not to pursue the story, which featured a leading NASA satellite photo imaging scientist's analysis of pictures of the president's back from the first debate.

The Times' bulge story is the latest example of possible self-censorship by major news media during the election campaign. In September, CBS's 60 Minutes decided to delay until after the election an investigative segment that questioned the Bush administration's use of forged Niger uranium documents in making its case for the Iraq war, saying that "it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election"

And on September 10, CNN reporter Nic Robertson said of a CNN documentary on Saudi Arabia, "I don't want to prejudge our executives here at CNN... but I think we can be looking forward to [it] shortly after the U.S. elections." The segment is now scheduled to air this Sunday, five days after the election.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Google Censors Photos of Abu Ghraib

SLASHDOT - I'm guessing that this is another case of our administration confusing "National Security" with "Politically Undesirable."

MERKIN OF BAPHOMET, ANDANTECH - I was discussing Abu Ghraib with a friend this weekend. She mentioned that, in one of the photos, the word "rapist" was written on the backside of a prisoner. The thing is, it was misspelled r-a-p-e-i-s-t. She seemed to think it was pretty sad and one of those "icing on the cake" moments.

Having never noticed the spelling, I went to Google Images to search for it. "Abu Ghraib" brought up only photos of the outside of the prison. Not a single photo from the scandal. Next I searched for "Lynndie England", not a single picture. Next I decided to look for "Charles Graner" her boyfriend who was also prominently features in the pictures, nothing.

I tried many different spellings for each name, used quotes, didn't use quotes and checked to make sure SafeSearch was not enabled.

Needless to say, I was a little confused. Less than two weeks earlier, I had searched Google Images for Abu Ghraib photos with great success. Where did the Agu Ghraib photos go?

I have heard that Google cooperates with a few countries to filter search results, blocking some content in France and Germany. Is this happening in the US also? If so to what extent? I know some websites are permanently de-linked, but I thought they were primarily concerned with drug trade, terrorists, improvised weapons and illegal pornography pages. Am I being naive?

Isn't Google Images a bot? Wouldn't the pictures have to be removed by an actual flesh and blood person? I know Google Images often misses pictures, but there are none!



Your search - Lyndie England - did not match any documents.

[Tried this Sunday morning - the facts in the above posting were correct.]

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Catholic Book Urges More Sex

TELEGRAPH, UK - A Vatican-sanctioned sex guide is encouraging churchgoers to make love more often in an effort to offset "impotence and frigidity" and address papal concerns over declining birth-rates among Italian Roman Catholics. The controversial book, It's A Sin Not To Do It, written by two theologians, promises the reader answers to "everything you wanted to know about sex but the Church (almost) never dared to tell you".

In their attempt to galvanise the faithful, Roberto Beretta and Elisabetta Broli, who write regularly for the Italian Bishops' magazine, Avvenire, have written one of the raciest works ever to deal with the Church and sex.. . .

The pages of It's A Sin Not To Do It feature a frank interview with Cardinal Ersilio Tonini in which he emphasises that "the Church is not an enemy of the flesh". He argues that Vatican doctrine has always defended the "nobility of sexuality", which is regarded by the Church as a "treasure" of humanity.

Another chapter likely to raise eyebrows unearths theological justification for post-coital masturbation for women who fail to achieve orgasm during intercourse.

Beretta told The Telegraph: "The Church is not against sex. Something needed to be done about the cliches and stereotypes. The Church is not only about forbidding the use of contraception and warning against the sins of the flesh. In view of the trivialisation of sex and the rise of impotence and frigidity in consequence, as well as the increasing number of only children, it is better for the Church to promote sex in the right circumstances, instead of just focusing on prohibitions and perversions.". . .

The Vatican has regularly expressed its concerns over Italy's low birth rate, which stands at fewer than nine births per thousand inhabitants. Two years ago, in an address to the Italian parliament, Pope John Paul described the declining rate as "a serious threat that weighs on the future of the country".

Coca-Cola = Pesticide

JOHN VIDAL, GUARDIAN - Indian farmers have come up with what they think is the real thing to keep crops free of bugs. Instead of paying hefty fees to international chemical companies for patented pesticides, they are reportedly spraying their cotton and chilli fields with Coca-Cola. In the past month there have been reports of hundreds of farmers turning to Coke in Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh states. But as word gets out that soft drinks may be bad for bugs and a lot cheaper than anything that Messrs Monsanto, Shell and Dow can offer, thousands of others are expected to switch.

Gotu Laxmaiah, a farmer from Ramakrishnapuram in Andra Pradesh, said he was delighted with his new cola spray, which he applied this year to several hectares of cotton. "I observed that the pests began to die after the soft drink was sprayed on my cotton," he told the Deccan Herald newspaper. . .

One litre of highly concentrated Avant, Tracer and Nuvocron, three popular Indian pesticides, costs around 10,000 rupees (£120), but one-and-a-half litres of locally made Coca-Cola is 30 rupees. To spray an acre would be a mere 270 rupees. . . Yesterday a spokesman for Coca-Cola in Atlanta said: "We are aware of one isolated case where a farmer may have used a soft drink as part of his crop management routine. "Soft drinks do not act in a similar way to pesticides when applied to the ground or crops. There is no scientific basis for this and the use of soft drinks for this purpose would be totally ineffective".

Red States Mooch From Blue States

TAX PROF - The Tax Foundation has released a fascinating report showing which states benefit from federal tax and spending policies, and which states foot the bill. The report shows that of the 32 states (and the District of Columbia) that are "winners" -- receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 76% are red states that voted for George Bush in 2000. Indeed, 17 of the 20 (85%) states receiving the most federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are red states.

In contrast, of the 16 states that are "losers" -- receiving less in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 69% are Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000. Indeed, 11 of the 14 (79%) of the states receiving the least federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Blue States.

Two states -- Florida and Oregon (coincidentally, the two closest states in the 2000 Presidential election) -- received $1.00 in federal spending for each $1.00 in federal taxes paid.

Fun Facts: Poverty and Gays in the Bible

DONNA BRITT, WASHINGTON POST - The Bible mentions poverty more than 2,000 times. The good book refers to homosexuality fewer than a dozen times, often obliquely. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality; same-gender sex didn't even make God's TOP TEN list of no-nos. Adultery and premarital sex, also biblically frowned-upon, abound.


It's a purple country....

How the young voted....

Sure to offend someone....

How things have changed....

How the world voted....

The Exit Poll Anomaly and Cyber Warfare

These charts show the difference between exit polls and final tally in states with paper ballots (L) and with electonic voting (R)

ROBERT PARRY, CONSORTIUM NEWS - Theoretically at least, it is conceivable that sophisticated CIA-style computer hacking – known as “cyber-warfare” – could have let George W. Bush’s campaign transform a three-percentage-point defeat, as measured by exit polls, into an official victory of about the same margin.

Whether such a scheme is feasible, however, is another matter, since it would require penetration of hundreds of local computer systems across the country, presumably from a single remote location. The known CIA successes in cyber-war have come from targeting a specific bank account or from shutting down an adversary’s computer system, not from altering data simultaneously in a large number of computers.

To achieve that kind of result, cyber-war experts say, a preprogrammed “kernel of brain” would have to be inserted into election computers beforehand or teams of hackers would be needed to penetrate the lightly protected systems, targeting touch-screen systems without a paper backup for verifying the numbers.

Though there's still no proof of such a cyber-attack, suspicions are growing that the U.S. presidential election results were manipulated to some degree. Voting analyses of some precincts in Florida and Ohio have found surprisingly high percentages for Bush. Others have noted that the large turnout among young voters and the obvious enthusiasm of John Kerry’s voters would have suggested a better showing for the Democrat.

But the most perplexing fact is that exit polls into the evening of Nov. 2 showed Kerry rolling to a clear victory nationally and carrying most of the battleground states, including Florida and Ohio, whose totals would have ensured Kerry’s victory in the Electoral College.

Significantly, polls also showed Republicans carrying the bulk of the tight Senate races. However, when the official results were tallied, the presidential exit polls proved wrong while the Senate polls proved right.

Explanations from the architects of the exit-poll sampling system also sound specious. Their report said Kerry voters were simply more willing than Bush voters to answer the exit pollsters’ questions. But this “chattiness thesis” seems more like a post-facto excuse than a serious argument.

Another explanation from some pundits was that the exit polls were adjusted by late in the day to rectify pro-Kerry exaggerations from the earlier samples. But that is not what happened. As the New York Times reported, “The presumption of a Kerry victory built a head of steam late in the day, when the national survey showed the senator with a statistically significant lead, one falling outside the survey’s margin of error.” . . .

By the mid-1990s, cyber-war - “ also known as "information warfare" - “ was such a hot topic within the U.S. military that the Pentagon produced a breezy 13-page booklet called "Information Warfare for Dummies.". . . Indirectly, the booklet acknowledged secret U.S. capabilities in these areas. . . The primer also gave some hints about the disruptive strategies in the U.S. arsenal. "Network penetrations" include "insertion of malicious code (viruses, worms, etc.), theft of information, manipulation of information, denial of service," the primer said.

The booklet also recognized the sensitivity of the topic. "Due to the moral, ethical and legal questions raised by hacking, the military likes to keep a low profile on this issue," the primer explained.

Despite the Pentagon's nervousness, the booklet said the cyber-war tactics do have advantages over other military operations. "The intrusions can be carried out remotely, transcending the boundaries of time and space," the manual said. "They also offer the prospect of 'plausible deniability' or repudiation."