America under surveillance
Granted new power to spy inside the U.S., the Bush administration may be doing more than eavesdropping on phone
calls -- it could be watching suspects' every move. By Tim Shorrock
Aug. 9, 2007 | In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 1, 2005, a U-2 surveillance aircraft known as the Dragon Lady
lifted off the runway at Beale Air Force Base in California, the home of the U.S. Air Force 9th Reconnaissance
Wing and one of the most important outposts in the U.S. intelligence world. Originally built in secret by
Lockheed Corp. for the Central Intelligence Agency, the U-2 has provided some of the most sensitive intelligence
available to the U.S. government, including thousands of photographs of Soviet and Chinese military bases, North
Korean nuclear sites, and war zones from Afghanistan to Iraq.
But the aircraft that took off that September morning wasn't headed overseas to spy on America's enemies.
Instead, for the next six hours it flew directly over the U.S. Gulf Coast, capturing hundreds of high-resolution
images as Hurricane Katrina, one of the largest storms of the past century, slammed into New Orleans and the
The U-2 photos were matched against satellite imagery captured during and after the disaster by the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Relatively unknown to the public, the NGA was first organized in 1996 from the
imagery and mapping divisions of the CIA, the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office, the
agency that builds and maintains the nation's fleet of spy satellites. In 2003, the NGA was formally inaugurated
as a combat support agency of the Pentagon. It is responsible for supplying overhead imagery and mapping tools
to the military, the CIA and other intelligence agencies -- including the National Security Agency, whose wide-
reaching, extrajudicial spying inside the United States under the Bush administration has been a heated
political issue since first coming to light in the media nearly two years ago.
The NGA's role in Hurricane Katrina has received little attention outside of a few military and space industry
publications. But the agency's close working relationship with the NSA -- whose powers to spy domestically
were just expanded with new legislation from Congress -- raises the distinct possibility that the U.S.
government could be doing far more than secretly listening in on phone calls as it targets and tracks
individuals inside the United States. With the additional capabilities of the NGA and the use of other
cutting-edge technologies, the government could also conceivably be following the movements of those individuals
minute by minute, watching a person depart from a mosque in, say, Lodi, Calif., or drive a car from Chicago to
Found via Charles2,
on whose thread I suggested we all raise our middle fingers skyward on sunny days as a salute to those who keep
us safe from privacy.
There's a new tool out there that lets you search the destination IP addresses for people editing wikipedia
entries. Arthur Bergman found that folks at Fox News's IP address were editing Al Franken's entry. Apparently,
Fox News propagandists deleted Franken's statement that Fox News's legal case against Franken was ""literally
laughed out of court" and that "wholly (holy) without merit" is a good characterization of Fox News itself."
The Fox News users also added a 'liberal' adjective when characterizing the NPR show 'Fresh Air'.
There are two takeaways here. One, though I'm sure that bloggers and the internet generically will somehow be
blamed for vitriol and this very episode, let's remember that unethical stuff done on the internet can be done
by journalists or propagandists at media organs like Fox News as easily as it can be done by bloggers. We got a
lot of shit for 'hacking' Lieberman's web site the day of the primary, simply because we write for a web-only
audience. That's beyond stupid. And two, Fox is an advocacy organization that works against Democrats and
seeks undermines legitimate news outlets.
I just checked Franken's entry. The quote about Fox News has been restored. "Liberal" is now applied to
Franken's political views, which I find unobjectionable.
This is of course not the first time a corporation or politician has modified a Wikipedia entry. Some are
repeat offenders; it's not a whim, it's a staff assignment. But it's the first time I can think of that an
alleged news organization has attempted to vandalize a wiki about a political candidate, apparently to prevent
the public from learning what the candidate said about the alleged news organization. One expects
misinformation and disinformation from Fox, but actual removal of information is a new low. At least one branch
of the Fox multimegacorp uses the broadcast airwaves: should someone be investigating possible violations of the
terms of their license?
UPDATE: Paul Kiel of
writes at length about the firing of U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton for "insubordination" when Charlton sought
a few minutes of Gonzales's time to persuade Gonzales that his order to seek the death penalty in a case in
which the evidence was adequate to conviction but not (in Charlton's opinion) adequate to the death penalty...
and was denied an opportunity to speak to Gonzales about the matter.
the Senate weighs in
against immediate implementation of the Justice Department rules giving Gonzales more authority to speed up
Gonzales, like his boss, like so many other officials in this administration, likes killing people. It's their
preferred solution to just about any problem. Think about that. Whatever your feelings on the death penalty,
do you believe it should be the first resort in all cases? Gonzales does. Bush does. No man (and in Bush's
case, "no woman")... no problem. Think about where that attitude leads. It isn't just politics as usual when
the AG has the power to intervene in not only federal but also state proceedings in matters of life and death.
(Original post follows.)
Just when you think the administration can't get any more authoritarian...
Gonzales could get say in states' executions
Proposed rules would let the attorney general sign off on 'fast tracking' death penalty appeals.
By Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 14, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen.
Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the
power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.
The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the
attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in
death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.
Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use "fast
track" procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal
courts after conviction in a state court.
The move to shorten the appeals process and effectively speed up executions comes at a time of growing national
concern about the fairness of the death penalty, underscored by the use of DNA testing to establish the
innocence of more than a dozen death row inmates in recent years.
Regular readers know I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances. But what has that to do with this?
Should the nation's Attorney General be able to interfere directly with a state's implementation of the appeals
process for Death Row inmates? Where's the justice in that?
Alan Berlow wrote an article in
in 2003 about Gonzales's treatment of clemency requests by condemned prisoners to be ruled upon by Bush. Here
is the summary paragraph at the head of that article (emphasis mine):
As the legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales—now the White House counsel, and
widely regarded as a likely future Supreme Court nominee—prepared fifty-seven confidential death-penalty
memoranda for Bush's review. Never before discussed publicly, the memoranda suggest that Gonzales repeatedly
failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand.
Clemency is a last-ditch effort in a case in which an inmate's appeals process has been exhausted... and
Alberto Gonzales was willing to cheat in what he submitted to then-Governor Bush to assure that Bush
This is not one of my occasional appeals (pardon the unavoidable pun) for a moratorium on the death penalty; I
am sure I shall write one of those soon enough. For the moment, I ask only that this most serious of judicial
processes... the one that condemns a person to death and, through appeals, validates the legal propriety of the
due process leading to that condemnation... not be tampered with by an Executive branch official known for his
history of malfeasance regarding condemned persons. In my opinion, the
of the Wild West could do no worse than Alberto Gonzales.
I missed this one yesterday. Via
we found a
about a shot fired through a window at Houston's Pacifica radio station KPFT:
A bullet blasted through a Plexiglas window at KPFT radio early this morning, missing a woman's head by about 18
inches, said general manager Duane Bradley.
The bullet was fired while another staff member was talking to three people at the station's front door, about
12 feet from the smashed window, Bradley said. The station is located in the 400 block of Lovett.
No one was injured in the shooting, Bradley said.
Bradley said the sometimes-controversial station airs blues, folk and other types of music as well as
"alternative" programming about gay and lesbian issues and a program geared toward Texas prison inmates and
But he said programming logs indicated no hot-button topics in the hours before the bullet struck the station's
window at about 1 a.m. today.
Bradley said Mary Thomas, the programmer who came close to being hit by the bullet, was not engaged in any
controversial on-air activity at the time.
So it has come to this again. That is really bad news. Back in my college days, KPFT was literally dynamited off
the air... twice... presumably by people who disapproved of its content. The station's antenna, not located with
the studio, was hit; I've heard it is now located in a place not quite so accessible as it was then. Arlo
Guthrie came to sing at the fundraiser to replace the antenna; I remember hearing him sing, to the tune of a
familiar spiritual, "You get bombed... I get bombed... All God's chillun' get bombed." Yeah, Arlo had a crazy
sense of humor; so do I.
Will someone explain to me how Pacifica's programming is "sometimes-controversial" according to the local rag,
but Limbaugh and the local equivalents on other stations are never remarked upon as controversial?
Advocacy of peace is controversial; advocacy of war and murder is not? Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" is
controversial compared to, say, Michael Savage? C'mon, gimme a break!
People who bomb or shoot at their neighbors and their neighbors' property are indeed noncontroversial in my
book: they are noncontroversially criminals.
In an interview published this morning in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Rove said, “I just think it’s time,”
adding, “There’s always something that can keep you here, and as much as I’d like to be here, I’ve got to do
this for the sake of my family.”
Mr. Rove said he had first considered leaving a year ago but stayed after his party lost the crucial midterm
elections last fall, which put Congress in Democratic hands, and as Mr. Bush’s problems mounted in Iraq and in
his pursuit of a new immigration policy.
He said his hand was forced now when the White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, recently told senior
aides that if they stayed past Labor Day he would expect them to stay through the rest of Mr. Bush’s term.
He's going to "do this for the sake of [his] family"? Thanks; I needed a good laugh this morning.
I don't have a lot to say about this that isn't obvious:
As long as Rove is on this Earth, we'd better keep a close watch on him. I don't believe his resignation is
credible; he's just getting out of sight. And... d'ya think AT&T could spare one of those wiretaps for
his home phone?
He "stayed after his party lost the crucial midterm elections"? Will no one refer to his part in that loss?
Now that he's no longer even arguably part of the Executive branch, how will that "executive privilege"
shtick apply? Can we haul him before the Judiciary committees now?
What deserts a sinking ship? and in this case, is the question an insult to rats?
Oh, and there's this:
He said he intended to write a book, which had been encouraged by “the boss,” and eventually to teach.
May he and his students all wear wide horizontal stripes.
Don't expect any sympathy from me for Rove or anyone involved with him. Rove can go to hell.
Last night, Stella and I were invited to join a group of friends for pizza and a movie at the home of one of
the friends. A good time was had by all. The organizer of the gathering was kind enough to give me permission
to post this picture of the back of her car. Look well: the face of Texas politics is changing, and you'll be
seeing more of this. If you know anyone who thinks Texas is a monolithically "red" state, please point them to
All the candidate stickers are from campaigns by local Democrats from "my" side of the party, the kind of
candidates who give me some hope in these awful times. Here's what is noteworthy: the last time around, one of
them actually won. As to the other stickers, I believe "War is not the answer," "We are all family / We all have
value," and "Eat your Veggies" are self-explanatory... as is "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS / IMPEACH BUSH-CHENEY."
Once again it isn't really a sign; it's a slip inserted into a package containing a wire-frame webbed laundry
hamper. A warning was most definitely needed, but the last line break could lead to a parsing of the text that
had disastrous consequences:
First, Bush administration flunkies
tampered with scientific reports
before publication. Now, employees within AT&T... call them censors; there's no other accurate word for
it... are revising performances, presumably to the Bush administration's liking, if not actually to their
has decided not to submit quietly. Good for them. Good for us, too.
Remember that late Sixties movie,
The President's Analyst?
Remember who the bad guys were? Right... The Phone Company. Who is better positioned to spy
on your telephone conversations, email, etc. on behalf of elements of The Government than The Phone Company.
Now, some part of The Phone Company has decided to enforce a sort of Bushist political correctness on the
artists you view and hear.
Draw your own conclusions about what is going on. Are you happy with what you've concluded?
In an interview with NPR, the White House’s “war czar” Gen. Doug Lute said that “it makes sense to certainly
consider” a military draft. “I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table, but ultimately, this
is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another.”
Young man, bend over, here it comes again. And not in a good way. And not for a good reason. Your life will be
tossed away as casually as Bush pours out cold coffee after breakfast. Actually, Bush has someone to pour out
that coffee for him; just as surely, he has someone to waste your life, so that he never has to think about it.
Military service is an honorable occupation. It is also a professional skill set, requiring all the training,
practice and experience the word "professional" implies. However noble you may think the idea of
having every able-bodied citizen participate in the nation's defense, however much the idea of shared sacrifice
appeals to you, a military draft will throw a spanner in the works of our all-volunteer professional armed
forces. Believe me, they don't need more burdens than Messrs. Bush and Cheney have already placed upon them.
And for what? Are terrorists coming over the borders in hordes? Look quickly; are they under your beds? Is a
massive invasion of the U.S. occurring, one that would justify sucking up an entire generation of our young
people, providing them scant training and inadequate equipment, and sending them out to die? Even if such an
invasion of the U.S. were imminent, could draftees stop it? The spirit might be willing, but the flesh could
be very weak indeed.
No, this is not about saving the homeland. This is about covering Bush's and Cheney's asses... and satisfying
Bush's deeply perverted need to inflict suffering and death... and satisfying Cheney's craving for power and
And of course if there is a draft at some point, the preznit's and veep's children will be spared induction. The
notion that a draft, under current circumstances, would result in a fairer distribution of the burden of service
is simply not credible in the real world. Right now, poor kids sign up; rich kids stay home. Under a draft, poor
kids would be conscripted... and rich kids, with access to good lawyers and good connections, would stay home.
Like Cheney, they would have "other priorities." Like Mitt's kids, they would serve the nation by serving their
favorite GOP candidates.
If this comes before Congress, I urge you to do everything in your power to convince them to put a stop to it.
Just as no reasonable person expects Bush and Cheney to use warrantless spying powers responsibly now that
Congress has so foolishly given away that store, if a draft is put in place, these evil men will continue
pursuing ill-advised, dangerous, discretionary wars... until America runs out of young people to draft. It's
up to you to stop the madness.
While I wait for my client to revise some assignments, I've been reading... big surprise, eh? Here are some
things I found today, as well as some I missed earlier, about the "Protect America Act":
said the Washington Post in an editorial a few days ago. That's putting it mildly, but getting any reaction
of this sort from the WaPo should tell us how really, really dangerous this law is.
discusses the dangers to civil liberties in considerable detail, as well as the political perils to the
If the Democrats fail to stand up to the bullying of this weak president, and ignore his demands for more
unaccountability, they might as well start looking for another line of work. Not only are their fellow rank
and file Democrats going to turn on them in 2008, but the overwhelming numbers of independents who assisted
them in regaining power are going to desert them in droves.
At bottom, Democrats truly only need to add one fix to this dangerous law: meaningful accountability. They
must do so, or face the consequences.
He's certainly got that right.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!
Glenn Greenwald and Marjorie Kohn about the PAA. Essential viewing. (If you are an avoider of Real Player,
as I admit I am, you can find a YouTube version
Marty Lederman of
Balkinization uses information made available to
by an anonymous "White House official" about the meanings of the terms "directed at" and "targeting" in the PAA
and other intelligence-related laws, including FISA itself. Lederman has concerns that the use of a new term
may be an attempt to include people not previously authorized for surveillance, particularly individuals in the
U.S. who are simply engaged in ordinary communication with people who live in other countries.
Glenn Greenwald, in Salon, has several posts on the subject, including texts from interviews with Sen.
Chris Dodd, both the one at Yearly Kos and some of Greenwald's own follow-ups. Start
(written near the time the House passed PAA) and work your way forward.
The new law is about to get its
first legal challenge,
by lawyers for Guantanamo detainees and the Center for Constitutional Rights, among others. I don't have
much hope about the outcomes, but there's no time like the present to begin challenging this almost
certainly unconstitutional law.
your portfolio is surviving.
I haven't even had the nerve to look. Most of my investments are of the so-called "socially responsible" kind;
there's no historical consistency on whether they do worse or better in a market crisis than your typical
investments, but at this moment, I just don't want to know. I know people who will house and feed me if
And now I need to install some source code version control software called (no kidding; I couldn't make this up
if I tried) Subversion. So if anyone asks you what Steve Bates is up to today, you can accurately answer,
"Subversion." Do you think anyone will be surprised?
returns from blog silence to offer a stock speech for congressional Democrats to use when confronted with
demands from White House supporters to compromise constitutionally mandated civil liberties.
points out that some parts of the "Protect America Act of 2007" (the FISA modifications) allow the AG to
extend the powers beyond six months, to at least a year. (CORRECTION thanks to
Bryan of Why Now:
the extension by the AG can be a year itself, so that consequences of the law can extend 18 months in all.
This means it could still be in place after the next presidency begins.)
Mike Huckabee (R-Almost Reasonable)
says the GOP must stop acting like the party of the wealthy. Um, Mike, who's gonna make 'em? You and, um,
Jeralyn reminds us that this
is not the first effort by a presidential administration to spy on us. Last time, it wasn't a
Republican. But last time, conservatives put a stop to it. Where are those self-proclaimed
"conservatives" now? Right... in Bush's back pocket. Hypocrites!
examines the relationship of trust and power regarding AG AG, Hillary and the DLC, etc.
UPDATE: Mr. Powledge has written me another extended email, which I will not
republish, because this is primarily a political blog, and I have other uses for the real estate. But I have to
say he makes good arguments, with particulars, that Symantec is trying seriously to address the issues I raised.
I do not wish to effectively advertise a product with which I am at present dissatisfied, but if anyone wishes
to see the additional information Powledge provides, I'll be happy to forward the email.
(Original post follows.)
A truly amazing thing happened: someone purporting to be a VP for product management at Symantec (and I have no
real reason to doubt his identity) wrote me an email in response to my earlier
regarding Symantec Norton Antivirus. Here is his email, followed by my reply:
I saw your post regarding your experience with Norton AntiVirus 2006. I’m sorry you had a problem with the
software. We have significantly reduced the performance impact of the latest version of the software – Norton
AntiVirus 2007. If you would like, I’d be happy to send you a copy of the software at my expense. In any event,
if you have time, I’d like to speak with you about your decision to switch to another software provider. My
phone number is below. If you would rather not take the time, no problem, I understand.
By the way, I was the Norton Utilities product manager back in the 90’s. So, the “Norton” spirit is still alive
and well at Symantec.
With due respect, and with thanks for your concern (better late than never), by way of my significant other (who
appears as Stella on the blog), I have direct experience with Norton AntiVirus 2007. If there is a substantial
performance improvement, I cannot find it: while her computer is newer and faster than mine (having been
purchased for use in video editing), subjectively, Norton A/V 2007 appears to impose about the same relative
performance penalty as Norton A/V 2006 did on my computer.
There is also the matter of service:
Five years ago, upgrading the then current NAV on my old Win 98 machine wrought havoc on the system. NAV's
fault? I don't know; perhaps not. But it took a lot of tinkering to get the computer back to a usable
condition. If I recall correctly, your web site helpfully advised me to reinstall everything.
Three years ago, there was a problem on a Win XP machine, something to do with logging into a Symantec
account that didn't even exist when I purchased NAV for that machine.
Two years ago, after I had gone through the entire online renewal process on that machine, after my credit
card was charged and I was provided whatever was required to download the new version, the download was
repeatedly refused. Finding a phone number to contact Symantec was not as straightforward as looking on your
web site. When I finally found the number, your representative was indeed helpful, manually tweaking the
account from her end so that I could receive the download and upgrade the product.
Once I made the decision to uninstall NAV from my laptop, I visited the page of instructions on the
Symantec web site. One early step was to acquire the product key from my account. I managed to open NAV,
click the link to open my account, remember my password (!), and request the product key. Several times in
a row, a server error prevented my getting the key. Finally, I dug through my notes in Outlook, and found
the key. It's a good thing I keep good records... but wouldn't it be better if your company did the same?
As it turned out, the key is necessary only if one wishes to reinstall the product. How likely do you think
Then there's the noisiness. NAV placed not one but two icons in the notification bar, and that's after I managed
to reverse its attempt to place a huge icon in the taskbar itself. NAV popped a notification for every damned
little thing, and there didn't appear to be a way to turn that off.
Finally, once a week, come hell or high water (and as a Houstonian, I know all about both), NAV ran its full
system scan; I suppose I could have disabled it, but I got the impression it was a bad idea to do so. Oh, and in
the latest renewal, NAV reset my rescheduling of the weekly scan, forcing it back to the middle of Friday
evening... great, perhaps, for regular offices, but very inconvenient for a contractor like me, whose hours are
anything but regular. It's hubris to reset people's selected options.
I am sorry, but it should not have to be that way.
My latest purchased desktop machine came with a 10-day trial version of a competitor's A/V, NOD32, preinstalled.
I was pleased with its relatively quiet, noninvasive, trouble-free operation, and purchased a year's license.
A few days ago, my laptop notified me that my NAV was up for renewal. I almost got up and danced with glee. The
laptop now runs NOD32... even on that two-year-old, not particularly high-end machine, there is a noticeable
performance improvement... and your product is now history in my shop. I will not say I'll never use it again...
things change over time, and someday, NOD32 may go the way of NAV... but for now, I've moved on.
You mentioned you were the Norton Utilities project manager in the 90's. Thank you for your work on that
product; several of my clients used it to good effect in their operations. I wish I felt as good about NAV
in the past few years as I did about the Utilities back then.
explains, following the substance of
Matt Stoller's post
at OpenLeft. Well worth a read. The short version: it was a full-blown procedural fuckup by the Democratic
leadership. For the likes of that, we lose our constitutional rights for at least six months, and IMNSHO
probably forever. Why wait for the movie when you can see the stage play: When Harry and Nancy Met
Damn it, Congress guyz 'n' galz, it's your fucking JOB to stop things like that.
Well, not quite. It took me three or four hours to uninstall Symantec Norton Antivirus 2006 from my laptop, and
replace it with NOD32. Granted, the problem was neither with the much criticized Norton Uninstaller, which
happened to work fine, nor the NOD32 install CD, which also worked fine. So what was the problem?
What afflicts every human, beast and machine in the southern part of the nation these days? Right...
HEAT. After about an hour's worth of downloading, uninstalling, etc., the laptop, which has a propensity
to overheat anyway, reached a point at which the DVD-RW drive practically shook the table every time a read was
attempted. A further attempt not only made ferocious noises; it crashed Windows. There was nothing for it but to
put aside the effort, allow the machine to cool off thoroughly, set it back on the improvised stand that
assists adequate heat dissipation (I used it all the time a year ago) and resume when it cooled off. If you did
any lawn work today, you can sympathize with my poor laptop... sometimes, you just gotta stop and cool off.
NOD32 works as well as I had hoped in removing the performance penalty imposed by Symantec A/V. It is almost as
if I had bought a new laptop: apps merely plod methodically, as opposed to moving at a snail's pace.
Off-topic: I may have a small amount... no, a tiny amount... of paid work in a couple of days. No certainties
yet, but it could happen.
(The post title? Old-timers will remember Norton
Utilities for MS-DOS. There's a modern descendant for Windows, but I try hard not to use such things
any more than I absolutely have to.)
... to blogger
(that's his current peace blog; see also
professional oboist and decades-long colleague JJ (sorry; she doesn't blog because she is too busy making
music), and of course, me. Birthday wishes to any other peace-loving person who shares the day with us.
It's about time for another plunge into the dark waters of the history of this day, the day on which the first
atomic bomb was inflicted in war on the entire population of a city, military personnel and civilians alike. For
a summary of the important stuff, see my
post from 2003,
which emphasizes among other things Thomas Merton's deeply moving essay/poem,
Original Child Bomb
(as far as I can tell, it is not available online).
The atomic bombs deployed on Hiroshima 62 years ago today and on Nagasaki a few days later were the subject of
one of the few disputes my late father and I regularly engaged in about W.W. II: he was convinced they were
necessary, and that I would not have been born if they had not been dropped; I, not surprisingly, disagreed.
In any case, the deeds were done, and the era of nuclear warfare, in all its fascinating, horrible and
arguably immoral glory, was begun. I will conclude this post with this year's annual
Hiroshima Peace Site,
but first I have a few words to offer (when do I ever not)...
I do not condone Japanese actions in W.W. II. The U.S. was the target of a devastating and completely
unjustified attack at Pearl Harbor, and had every right to respond with a declaration of war... and to wage that
war. I do not question that fact in the slightest. Whatever else I may say, whatever else I may advocate for or
against, I understand that the U.S. had no choice but to respond to the Axis powers with everything available
But that is not the issue here. The issue is the introduction of actual nuclear warfare into the world, the
eventual destruction of no fewer than 90,000 human beings in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.
has more details if you are interested.)
To date, America is the only nation to use nuclear weapons against an enemy population. I spent a portion of my
youth working for one of the leading American researchers on the long-term consequences of the two atomic
bombs, and I can assure you those consequences were worse than you can imagine, even if you yourself have been
in combat in conventional warfare, horrible though that may be. Nukes are, indisputably, the one true weapon
of mass destruction. There is nothing else like them. Period. Not poison gas, not biological weapons, not
MOABs, nothing. Only nukes can obliterate tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of souls at one time.
Mr. Bush is itching to use nuclear weapons. If you doubt that for a moment, please
Weapons development proceeds apace, absent anything resembling an arms race. Bush wants to nuke Iran, even if
it is avoidable, even if Iran could be helpful in stabilizing the region. Bush, for whatever reason... religion?
politics? a desire to be perceived in the same light as Harry Truman? simple fucking nut-case insanity? wants to
use nukes on people, for the first time since 1945.
For my birthday, I'd like at least one thing: I'd like someone to stop Mr. Bush from using nuclear weapons,
"tactical" or otherwise, in a combat situation, against a human population, military or civilian. I've seen the
data firsthand; I know what nukes do to people.
Of course, I'd like Bush to cease and desist from pursuing endless war, avoidable war, imperial war. But if no
other restraint can be managed, let us at least stop him from ordering the use of "small" nukes... remember,
today's small nukes are at least the equivalent of those used in W.W. II against Hiroshima and Nagasaki...
against a nation that neither has attacked us directly nor deployed nuclear weapons (which to all appearances it
does not have yet, and would not need if the U.S. were not threatening it) against us.
If I can have only that, I'm willing to give up the two books I know I'm getting for my birthday. Please?
I promised you the 2007 Hiroshima peace declaration. Here it is:
August 6, 2007
That fateful summer, 8:15. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then
suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast -- silence -- hell on Earth.
The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin
of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. Their hair stood on end. Their clothes were ripped to
shreds. People trapped in houses toppled by the blast were burned alive. Others died when their eyeballs and
internal organs burst from their bodies - Hiroshima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead.
Within the year, 140,000 had died. Many who escaped death initially are still suffering from leukemia, thyroid
cancer, and a vast array of other afflictions.
But there was more. Sneered at for their keloid scars, discriminated against in employment and marriage, unable
to find understanding for profound emotional wounds, survivors suffered and struggled day after day, questioning
the meaning of life.
And yet, the message born of that agony is a beam of light now shining the way for the human family. To ensure
that “no one else ever suffers as we did,” the hibakusha have continuously spoken of experiences they would
rather forget, and we must never forget their accomplishments in preventing a third use of nuclear weapons.
Despite their best efforts, vast arsenals of nuclear weapons remain in high states of readiness - deployed or
easily available. Proliferation is gaining momentum, and the human family still faces the peril of extinction.
This is because a handful of old-fashioned leaders, clinging to an early 20th century worldview in thrall to the
rule of brute strength, are rejecting global democracy, turning their backs on the reality of the atomic
bombings and the message of the hibakusha.
However, here in the 21st century the time has come when these problems can actually be solved through the power
of the people. Former colonies have become independent. Democratic governments have taken root. Learning the
lessons of history, people have created international rules prohibiting attacks on non-combatants and the use of
inhumane weapons. They have worked hard to make the United Nations an instrument for the resolution of
international disputes. And now city governments, entities that have always walked with and shared in the
tragedy and pain of their citizens, are rising up. In the light of human wisdom, they are leveraging the voices
of their citizens to lift international politics.
Because “Cities suffer most from war,” Mayors for Peace, with 1,698 city members around the world, is actively
campaigning to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.
In Hiroshima, we are continuing our effort to communicate the A-bomb experience by holding A-bomb exhibitions in
101 cities in the US and facilitating establishment of Hiroshima-Nagasaki Peace Study Courses in universities
around the world. American mayors have taken the lead in our Cities Are Not Targets project. Mayors in the Czech
Republic are opposing the deployment of a missile defense system. The mayor of Guernica-Lumo is calling for a
resurgence of morality in international politics. The mayor of Ypres is providing an international secretariat
for Mayors for Peace, while other Belgian mayors are contributing funds, and many more mayors around the world
are working with their citizens on pioneering initiatives. In October this year, at the World Congress of United
Cities and Local Governments, which represents the majority of our planet’s population, cities will express the
will of humanity as we call for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The government of Japan, the world’s only A-bombed nation, is duty-bound to humbly learn the philosophy of the
hibakusha along with the facts of the atomic bombings and to spread this knowledge through the world. At the
same time, to abide by international law and fulfill its good-faith obligation to press for nuclear weapons
abolition, the Japanese government should take pride in and protect, as is, the Peace Constitution, while
clearly saying “No,” to obsolete and mistaken US policies. We further demand, on behalf of the hibakusha whose
average age now exceeds 74, improved and appropriate assistance, to be extended also to those living overseas or
exposed in “black rain areas.”
Sixty-two years after the atomic bombing, we offer today our heartfelt prayers for the peaceful repose of all
its victims and of Iccho Itoh, the mayor of Nagasaki shot down on his way toward nuclear weapons abolition. Let
us pledge here and now to take all actions required to bequeath to future generations a nuclear-weapon-free
And thanks to the miracle of the intertubes, or at least YouTube, we can watch her do it:
Despite Rep. Jackson-Lee's straightforward description of the consequences, the House got down on its knees and
gave Bush exactly the blow job he wanted
regarding FISA. Not only that, the vote was 227 to 183, meaning a large number of Democrats voted for it. (The
Senate has already passed its version of it.)
Do I have any representation left in Washington?
Now that Bush has received a BJ, can we impeach him now?
So... what's different now? After all, Bush was already spying on all of us last week, last year, all the way
back to 2001, from what we've been told. Well, I doubt I have to spell it out for anyone reading this blog, but
here it is: once this bill is reconciled and signed into law, BUSH CAN SPY ON AMERICAN CITIZENS IN THE U.S.
... WITHOUT A WARRANT... LEGALLY. According to conventional wisdom, Democrats saw passage as inevitable, and
rolled with it, so as not to be politically bullied over it... not that there's even an election this year...
but that's what "they" are saying.
It's late. I'm wakeful, tired and wired. Maybe things will look better in the morning, but it's hard to see
how they could. The Democratic leadership keeps building us up, giving us hope that they are really trying to
save America from the egregious excesses of the Bushists. Then... inevitably, it seems... they do shit like
this. Many of us, including me, have had, in our past, lovers who behaved like this, so at least we recognize
the buildup followed by the betrayal, the letdown, the overarching disappointment. That's just what we need: a
dysfunctional relationship with our political party. Can someone convince me that this is somehow different?
Fans of Lilian Jackson Braun may remember when Qwilleran, Riker and crew decided to start a newspaper in Moose
County ("400 miles north of everywhere"). Someone says (approximately), "We have to call it something!" And so
the newspaper becomes the Moose County Something. If you visit this site and find its name changed to the
Yellow Doggerel Something, you may assume that this vote had something to do with it. I did not bust my
tail to send Democrats to Washington to give away the store... repeatedly.
And damn, I hate the notion of being spied upon, with no judicial oversight, when I am talking to or emailing
with another American citizen. We're talking about our fundamental civil liberties here: THIS ISSUE SHOULD
NOT HAVE BEEN SETTLED ON THE BASIS OF A POLITICAL CALCULATION ALONE.
UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi... remember her, Speaker Pelosi, who could have steered
S. 1927 onto the trash heap in the House...
wants a do-over.
This is at Hobbit Cafe on Richmond. Trust me, you don't want to miss any meal there, second breakfast or
otherwise. Not to worry, portions aren't half-sized. (Neither are prices.) Warning: dining there immediately
after seeing the Harry Potter film may result in wizard confusion. (More on the film later.)
Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Hunger) has always been relentlessly partisan (understand, that is
NOT a tradition in the Texas Lege) and a rude fellow, but
this beats all:
Craddick Snubs Speaker Laney By Denying Ceremony For Bust Unveiling
We all know that Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) is less than ethical. Now, it seems he can’t even
Sources tell Capitol Annex that House Speaker Tom Craddick has refused to allow any ceremony for the unveiling
of the bust of former House Speaker Pete Laney in the annex of the Texas Capitol.
Former Texas House Speakers including Gib Lewis and Billy Clayton have been honored by having their likenesses
sculpted as bronze busts and placed in the capitol annex near the Capitol Cafeteria.
And, each of the past several speakers was invited to small unveiling ceremonies when their busts were
Craddick has, however, refused to allow any honor for his predecessor.
According to Capitol Annex’s sources, Rep. Toby Goolsby (R-Dallas) approached Speaker Craddick about a ceremony
for Laney. Craddick reportedly replied with only the word, “no.” Goolsby reportedly persisted and Craddick
consented that the bust could be placed by the others but forbid any ceremony and allegedly forbid anyone who
knew about the placement of the bust from letting anyone know about its arrival or inciting anything to be done
to mark the occasion.
I'm not saying Texas politics has a history of exceedingly polite people, but until now, it has had a history of
bipartisan comity even in the midst of bloody political battles. Something has definitely changed since the
arrival of Bush, DeLay and Craddick. This is over the top.
I like the idea of honoring Texas House Speakers with busts rather than Governors. For one thing, in Texas,
the Speaker of the House has about as much power as the Governor, perhaps more. For another, the Speaker is
arguably a representative of our Representatives, a sort of first-among-equals in the people's house of the
Lege. That Craddick would do this to the Democrat who held that office before him, Craddick, who has depended on
Democrats for his own continued tenure as Speaker, is just plain rude... even for Craddick.
Perhaps a ceremony could be held after the bust is in place. Is Craddick going to ban people from even
looking at the bust? or from even going into the Capitol Annex? At this point, after his behavior near the
end of last session, I wouldn't put it past him.
DNI Mike McConnell is now offering a sort of post-facto review by the FISA court, though the details are
sketchy. (What a surprise.)
Perhaps as significantly, I received word in an ACLU mailer that the House may take up the matter TODAY.
You may want to
call your member of Congress
and register your disapproval of extending any more unchecked warrantless surveillance powers to the president
or any part of the Executive branch. That link is from an ACLU email to a secure ACLU page; I'm not sure if it
will work from here. If it does, and if you call your congresscritter, you may, if you wish, register the fact
of your phone call with the ACLU; they're keeping count.
As mentioned below, I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night, and now I'm depressed.
By how it came out? no, and certainly not by Ms. Rowling's stellar display of skill in handling the conclusion.
In my not-so-humble opinion, the book is everything it was supposed to be, and more. It is arguably the finest
of the seven books... your mileage may vary, but I'm happy to argue in its favor.
So why am I depressed? Because it's over, it's done, and I have no more of it to read.
I'm providing separate comment links for those unafraid of spoilers and those who, like me, prefer to learn
from the author how everything comes out. In that interest, I've disabled trackbacks for this post, and
temporarily removed the recent-comments widget. Anyone who puts spoilers in the no-spoilers thread will be
Houston's voting machines, by Hart InterCivic,
are also vulnerable,
according to the same study described below:
The tests, administered by the University of California at Davis, found that absent tighter procedures, hackers
could alter vote totals, violate the privacy of individual voters and delete audit trails.
"The laboratory experiment, as conducted by the UC-Davis researchers, seems almost impossible to replicate
outside that laboratory environment.
"Thus, voters in Harris County should be aware, but not be concerned by the results," said Hector DeLeon, a
spokesman for Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, whose office administers elections.
Right. Republican Beverly Kaufman, who once made a testimonial video for Hart InterCivic's eSlate,
can kiss my vote-dialing finger. One of the study's authors had something to say about that:
It's true, in order to devise the attacks, researchers had unfettered access, said UC-Davis computer science
professor Matt Bishop, who led the study.
But he said it didn't take long to devise attacks; some took five minutes, others took a few days.
"Relying on security through obscurity is a terrible thing to do," Bishop said. "(Attackers) can get the info,
the only question is how hard do they have to work to get it. Any defense that relies on ignorance
underestimates how ingenious attackers can be and overestimates how fallible people are."
Exactly. Hackers of voting equipment are liable to be highly motivated, probably well-paid (directly or
indirectly), and placed to have access to the equipment for as long as they feel they need. It is obscenely
hypocritical of Kaufman to pretend otherwise.
Diebold Election Systems Inc. voting machines are not secure enough to guarantee a trustworthy election, and an
attacker with access to a single machine could disrupt or change the outcome of an election using viruses,
according to a review of Diebold's source code.
"The software contains serious design flaws that have led directly to specific vulnerabilities that attackers
could exploit to affect election outcomes," read the University of California at Berkeley report, commissioned
by the California Secretary of State as part of a two-month "top-to-bottom" review of electronic voting systems
certified for use in California.
The assessment of Diebold's source code revealed an attacker needs only limited access to compromise an
"An attack could plausibly be accomplished by a single skilled individual with temporary access to a single
voting machine. The damage could be extensive -- malicious code could spread to every voting machine in polling
places and to county election servers," it said.
The source-code review identified four main weaknesses in Diebold's software, including: vulnerabilities that
allow an attacker to install malware on the machines, a failure to guarantee the secrecy of ballots, a lack of
controls to prevent election workers from tampering with ballots and results, and susceptibility to viruses that
could allow attackers to an influence an election.
Incompetency or malicious intent? We retort; you deride.
Tabitha keeps watch over Stella's apartment, actually, mostly over Samantha, who was on a tear that sent
Tabitha seeking a higher vantage point:
I suppose this is the kitty version of TIA, Tabitha Information Awareness. Remember... Tabitha
is watching you!
Speaking of homeland security, Trent is flinging a
Lott of crap
at Washington, DC residents, calling on Congress to pass the preznit's requested changes to the FISA law (you
can probably guess most of the proposed changes, but the one allowing Gonzo to monitor programs instead of the
FISA court is the most outrageous), or else DC residents should get out of town for their own safety. Someone
please put a cork in that guy.
I finished the Harry Potter book. Ms. Rowling did not disappoint; on, no, far from it...
has a good summary of Rove's nonappearance and Fielding's unprecedentedly broad argument for Rove's immunity
from testimony. Clearly, Bill Clinton, in his day, had obligations to Congress to provide his aides to give
testimony to congressional committees, but Bush has no such obligation. IOKIYAR.
(Expect slow posting; I'm still busy Potter-ing. That said, cats and signs will appear as usual Friday and
A man walked up to Dick Cheney, calmly told him he thought his Iraq policy was reprehensible, and walked away. A
few minutes later he was arrested by the Secret Service, in front of his 8-year-old son, for "assault".
When he asked what would happen to his child, the Secret Service said, "He can be sent to Child Services."
Luckily, the boy found his mother and was safe.
But the citizen who practiced his free speech spent a few hours in jail before he was released.
thanks to hipparchia of
Over the Cliff, Onto the Rocks,
in the comments to this post. The only problem: it's old news, having happened in October 2006. You
know, if I would just learn to use Teh Google... (YDD hides face in hands)
That is not to be confused with "potty break," which, contrary to some people's opinion, I also take
occasionally. No, I've finally found the time to plunge into the final Harry Potter book, and it has drawn me in
as I had hoped. I'm just under halfway through. If I don't blog quite as often over the next day or two, you'll
Emissions from office laser printers can be as unhealthy as cigarette smoke, according to an Australian
professor who is now calling for regulations to limit printer emissions.
Office workers breathing easy since smoking was banned in public places in the U.S. and U.K. can start worrying
again, according to research from the Queensland University of Technology's Air Quality and Health Program, led
by physics professor Lidia Morawska.
The average printer releases toner particles that can get deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems and
cardiovascular trouble, according to Morawska's team, part of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and
Health, and specialists in atmospheric particles.
The team tested 62 laser printer models--all relatively new--and found that 17 of them were "high emitters" of
toner particles. Despite using similar technology, office photocopiers do not emit particles, the team found.
The particles have not had a full chemical analysis, but some are potential carcinogens, according to a report
in The Sydney Morning Herald. Several of the high emitters were Hewlett-Packard LaserJet models, such as the
1320 and 4250, although eight HP LaserJet 4050 series printers were shown to have no emissions, according to
This will be solved by a warning label attached to the printer, right? "WARNING: the Surgeon General has
determined that printing can be hazardous to your health..." as if any of us working in an office with a
laser printer have a choice. Why, they might as well attach a label to my apartment about the hazards of paint
I know there's a lot of political stuff going on this morning... Obama is giving a
of some kind to prove
he is Tough on Terror™GOP, and every Bushist from Gonzo to the DNI to Dick Cheney is
of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program(s)... but I need to go breathe some printer-free, paint-free air for
a bit. Later!
Other roles: child laborer to help support his family during the great depression, first in his family to attend
college (much later, first to attend graduate school), editor of the college newspaper, college athlete in four
sports, gunnery officer (Lieutenant SG, USN) on a troop transport ship in W.W. II, oil tool supply worker,
railroad worker, schoolteacher (secondary school science), school counselor, loving husband, loving parent,
lifelong Democrat, unapologetic liberal. Also, amateur artist, photographer, and master of snark and of adult
humor, when he chose to be. His greatest failure was as a fisherman; even in that activity, he clearly enjoyed
the undisturbed solitude. Oh, and Dad couldn't sing worth beans, not that he didn't enjoy the attempt.
Twelve years after his death, I still miss him... a lot.
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... I'll have them tonight if I stay in this paint-fume-filled apartment.
Want a political nightmare instead? Read
about Florida's wonderful voting machines. Don't expect my usual rant on the subject, though.
After today's trip to a different library with a different
WiFi system, I spent a couple of hours trying to connect, succeeding in obtaining a wireless connection but
failing ever to get DNS. So I came back home and breathed some more poison, and by now I have about the
intelligence of a flower in a box...
... though actually I believe some of those flowers are brighter... and I'm about ready to give up my quest for
representative democracy and substitute rule by horses (aside: this picture is dedicated to our most frequent
... hoping that someday, some rainbow...
... will eventually lead our nation to something golden...
... say, would you hold this shovel for a moment, please?