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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!
COMMENTS MAY BE MODERATED

BlogDoggerel
for April 2008

 



BLOGS + MISC LINKS



RECENT COMMENTS

   

Food And Drink In The McCain Household

(H/T August for the "Food" link.)

Steve
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Mr. Spooky Is Watching You

Posted almost without comment:

SURVEILLANCE
Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.
Congressional Critics Want More Assurances of Legality

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2008; Page A03

The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.

"I think we've fully addressed anybody's concerns," Chertoff added in remarks last week to bloggers. "I think the way is now clear to stand it up and go warm on it."

     ...

And you were worried about Google Street View?


Added: I had no idea so many things and people are called Mr. Spooky. Google if you care. I used the name only because Michael Chertoff is one of the spookiest people in government today, and because DHS is about to engage in satellite spying on Americans.

Steve
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Boomers, Sooner?

Where did all these aging people suddenly come from? Some fools are absolutely certain we didn't exist any sooner than the day before yesterday. The LA Times, citing a newly released federal study by The Institute of Medicine, says the healthcare industry is not ready for the Baby Boom as we turn into senior citizens:

Healthcare system unprepared for aging boomers, study finds
The federal report predicts shortages in medical workers, particularly those certified in geriatrics. California's situation is particularly dire.
By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 15, 2008

The American medical system is woefully unprepared for the flood of aging baby boomers, according to a sweeping federal study released Monday, which predicted crisis-level shortages in healthcare workers and serious gaps in training.

The Institute of Medicine report -- "Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce" -- estimates that there currently is only one physician certified in geriatrics for every 2,500 older Americans and that turnover among nurse's aides averages 71% annually.

In California, the situation is even more dire. Although the institute's study focused on the national picture, a state legislative report estimated that there is only one geriatrician for every 4,000 Californians age 65 and older.

     ...

Well, no shit, Sherlock. Since childhood, I've heard of the Baby Boom, and have known I was part of it. The healthcare industry and our government have had no less than fifty years to prepare for the bulge in the population curve. Based on research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, contrary to GOP-spread conventional wisdom, Social Security and Medicare can readily be tweaked to accommodate the boomers, if the political will to do so doesn't succumb to GOP myths first.

I've paid my taxes (you knew I'd work in taxes somehow) to cover my aging and healthcare all my working life. Since I became my own employer 20 years ago, I've paid about twice what everyone else has paid, relative to my income. So tell me... what have the jerks in charge been doing with that money? Why is the Baby Boom a surprise? What is wrong with the complete incompetents who threaten periodically to "privatize" Social Security? Somebody needs to be taken to the woodshed for a bit of instruction, and on this particular issue, it sure as hell isn't the Democratic Party or either of its presidential candidates.

Steve
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Obligatory Tax Day Post

I remember from my childhood an issue of Mad Magazine containing an extended comic in which the IRS hires a PR firm to attempt to improve the public's monolithically negative image of the "revenooers." As you might expect, the attempt fails, and the PR firm launches its campaign with the slogan we still use to this day:

PAY OR GO TO JAIL

Of course, the likelihood that you will go to jail rather than pay a fine has nothing to do with your wealthy status or your political connections. Of course. And if you are a religious organization, the likelihood that the IRS will investigate you has nothing to do with whether you have a prominent presidential candidate as a member. Of course.

Oh, and here's a heartwarming anecdote for you: Texas Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn once declared Unitarian Universalism not a religion for tax purposes. The decision was of course reversed, but not before John, Abigail and John Quincy Adams turned in their graves.

I hope and presume all of you have managed to avoid the last-minute lines at the Post Office. I mailed mine about a week ago, driven by the incentive of a refund this year. (Other small business people know that is not good news. But sometimes it happens.) Good luck to all of you.

Steve
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Who Tracks Your Internet Activity?

And how?

Behavioral targeting groups, for commercial or other purposes?

Businesses full of guys who used to work for The Gummint, targeting, say, environmentalists?

The NSA? (No link needed for that; I think everyone assumes they're watching everything on the 'net.)

And who gets the resulting info? Is it for sale? If so, to whom?

If you're reading my blog, you've probably contemplated these matters. If not, the two linked articles are a good place to start in raising your awareness. In any case, you may assume that anything you put out on the 'net... anything, including even Google search terms... could end up in literally anyone's hands: your creditors and your government and your insurers, of course, but c'mon, be creative... who else could act to their own advantage and your disadvantage if they could join up everything you ever entered into a form on one or another web site?

Are you scared now? Good. If you are, I've accomplished my purpose here.

Steve
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Oops

That was a kinda-sorta scheduled host outage a few minutes ago, but I forgot and neglected to tell everyone. There may or may not be a couple more tonight. My host (also Bryan's) is building the ultimately reliable, redundant system, but in order to do so, he has to bring things down and up a few times. Bear with us.

Steve
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State Rep. Borris Miles Indicted - UPDATED

Local ABC station KTRK:

State Rep. Borris Miles indicted
Monday, April 14, 2008 | 4:35 PM

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- State Representative Borris Miles has been indicted on two counts of deadly conduct.

The indictments stem from two different incidents on the same day back in December. The first incident happened during a Rockets/Mavericks game at Toyota Center. At a facility lounge, Miles allegedly pulled a gun on TSU regent Willard Jackson's wife.

The second incident took place at a party thrown by businessman David Harris later that same night. At the party, Miles allegedly pulled a gun on Harris.

     ...

That's my State Rep. The rumor I've heard, no confirmation, is that Rep. Miles (who has already been ousted by his long-term predecessor Al Edwards in the Democratic primary) may have consumed a bit too much liquid refreshment before these incidents. Did he try to exercise his (ahem)  right to
beer arms
?
UPDATE: I have been unable to find confirmation of these rumors in any primary sources, and I have no business continuing to repeat them unsubstantiated. I retract the statement.

This is sad. I had no direct involvement with Miles, though I helped vote him into his first... only... term of office. But at one time it seemed he might be a rising star in the local community. I confess I am disappointed, to say the least.

Steve
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Principals Vs. Principles

Paul Kiel of TPMMuckraker informed us a couple of days ago of the National Security Council's Principals Committee's approval of torture techniques after the capture of Abu Zubaydah in 2002:

     ...

ABC reported earlier this week that certain brutal interrogation techniques were approved by the National Security Council's Principals Committee following Abu Zubaydah's capture in March, 2002. Among the members of that council were Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and it was chaired by Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Advisor.

The question was what CIA interrogators could do to Zubaydah and by extension other high value detainees. (It's worth recalling what FBI agents say about what information Zubaydah ultimately provided.) The obvious background to all this is that the CIA interrogators did not want to later find themselves prosecuted for using torture. So everything got this high-level sign off, down to the smallest detail, according to the AP:

At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the al-Qaida detainees would undergo.

At the same time, John Yoo and colleagues at the Justice Department were busy working on a clear legal authorization for all of this.

     ...

I almost titled this post, "It Isn't Just Yoo". Indeed, it isn't. "High officials" don't get much higher than those on the Principals Committee. But one of them is higher than all the rest... and he says he signed off on all of it:

Bush: Yeah, We Signed Off on Torture. So What?
By Paul Kiel - April 11, 2008, 6:03PM

ABC finally got a hold of President Bush to respond to its story that top administration officials, as members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, had signed off on "enhanced interrogation" techniques in 2002 that included waterboarding. And Bush doesn't understand what the big deal is:

"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC New s White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."...

Bush said the ABC report about the Principals' involvement was not so "startling."

(Emphasis mine.)

Not startling? All Bush did was to admit that he personally signed off on a secret and very probably illegal decision by the Principals Committee to permit some of the most heinous torture techniques known to humankind! If that's not startling to Bush, it speaks volumes about the man.

Impeach him. Impeach him now, while we still can.

Steve
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Sunday Bonus Cat Blogging - Best-Seller Edition

After waiting several weeks on a library list, Stella finally reads and reacts to John Grisham's latest. Tabitha's reaction is similar:



I considered reading Grisham's book myself, but as with most of his works, I just couldn't see The Appeal.

Steve
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Dully Noted

First the nontechnical miscellany...

  • More than one way to skin a cat:

    Artillery Shell Strikes House, Kills Cat
    Army Suspends Weapon Testing At N.J. Base After Home Almost 3 Miles Away Is Hit
    ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J., April 13, 2008

    (CBS) A New Jersey family had some scary moments Friday after their house was hit by a fiery missile.

    A fragment of a two-pound artillery shell plummeted through the roof of their Jefferson Township home around 2:30 p.m. Friday, landing on their little girl's bed - ultimately killing the family's cat.

    CBS Station WCBS correspodnent [sic] Lou Young reports the shell was fired off from the Picatinny Arsenal, the U.S. Army's sprawling weapons research facility in Picatinney, 2.5 to 3 miles away.

         ...

    I don't know if one can trust a correspodnent to report accurately on shlel fragmnets and dead ctas. But really, how far from a military base must one live to feel safe in one's home?

  • Journalism is dead...

    ... and they're actually admitting it. Why else would they be displaying its remains in a museum (Newseum, whatever)?

Then the tech stuff...

  • IBM bets on 'racetrack':

    IBM Research Spins 'Racetrack' Nano-Magnetic Memory
    The advanced storage technique could eventually replace flash memory and hard drives, IBM scientists believe.
    By R. Colin Johnson
    EE Times
    April 11, 2008 01:14 PM

    PORTLAND, Ore. — A next-generation nonvolatile memory dubbed "racetrack" is expected to initially replace flash memory and eventually hard-disk drives, according to IBM (NYSE: IBM) Corp. fellow Stuart Parkin of its Almaden Research Center (San Jose, Calif.)

    Using spintronics--the storage of bits generated by the magnetic spin of electrons rather than their charge--a proof-of-concept shift register was recently demonstrated by IBM. The prototype encodes bits into the magnetic domain walls along the length of a silicon nanowire, or racetrack. IBM uses "massless motion" to move the magnetic domain walls along the nanowire for the storage and retrieval of information.

    "We have now demonstrated a current-controlled, domain-wall, shift register which is the fundamental, underlying technology for racetrack memory," said Parkin. "We use current pulses to move a series of domain walls along a nanowire, which is not possible to do with magnetic fields."

         ...

    You can never be too rich, too thin, or too full of bits.

  • Windows Is Collapsing!

    Well, no. But there's a session at a Gartner conference in Las Vegas that has that phrase in the title. The column discusses some of the challenges facing Windows in its various versions and Windows users (in their various versions). It's short, and worth a read.

  • Accelerometers!

    When I was in college, one of my friends sometimes placed a book on the panel below the rear window of his car and called it his accelerometer. Today's kids can tilt their iPhones to rotate the screen, swing their Wii remotes, or even survive a car crash thanks to the accelerometer that triggers airbags. This article discusses other computer-related applications.

Have a great Sunday. The weather is nice here; I'm not sure yet just what I'll do with it.

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Good Advice Edition



Who can argue with that advice! These stuffed-toy dogs are sold by the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center (HANC), in their gift shop in the Arboretum classroom building. There are more than a dozen such signs surrounding the display; I hate to think what happens if you do "press the dogs in their side"!

(Afterthought: I once wrote some doggerel about the Houston Arboretum.)

Steve
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Fun And Games, Guns And Fame -- DOGGEREL!

This is for my Florida friends, whose Legislature, in an overwhelming wave of support for the Bill of Rights, um, well, for one of its amendments, passed a "carry" law with some interesting provisions, even by Texas standards. (We've had a concealed weapon permit law here for a long time, and no, I'm not happy about it; few city dwellers would be.)

Reuters:

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Most Florida residents would be allowed to take guns to work under a measure passed by Florida lawmakers on Wednesday.

The bill, allowing workers to keep guns in their cars for self-protection, was approved by the Florida Senate by a vote of 26-13. It now goes to Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to sign into law.

     ...

OK. Sing this to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" ...

If You're Goin' Down to Tampa

If you're goin' down to Tampa, bring your gun;
If you're goin' down to Tampa, bring your gun.
If you should, while you're in Tampa,
Meet a most unhappy campa,
Make him do a hasty scampa: bring your gun!

If you're goin' to Miami, pack your heat;
If you're goin' to Miami, pack your heat.
If your heat is in Miami,
Thank your pop and thank your mammy
That they stashed it in your jammy; pack your heat!

If you visit Coral Gables, take your piece;
If you visit Coral Gables, take your piece.
If while you're in Coral Gables,
You should need to turn the tables,
Shootin' lead beats tellin' fables; take your piece!

If you go to Pensacola, tote your rod;
If you go to Pensacola, tote your rod.
If you go to Pensacola,
And you find the climate pola,
Keep your body with your soul-a; tote your rod!

If you go to Tallahassee, hold your gat;
If you go to Tallahassee, hold your gat.
If you go to Tallahassee,
Don't think everyone is classee;
Every lad and every lassee holds a gat!

     ...

Steve Bates

(As with the original, I encourage you to make up verses of your own. Nothing that would get you or me shot, of course...)

Steve
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Greenwald On Mukasey Again

Anyone who believes that Mukasey is any more honest as an AG than his two immediate predecessors... anyone who believes he will not perjure himself in pursuit of the Bush administration's goals and the justification of its illegal actions... needs to read Glenn Greenwald about Mukasey's false claims, particularly one about a phone call Mukasey claims would have stopped the attacks of 9/11/2001 if only its pursuit hadn't been restricted by FISA.

Of course, FISA would not have stopped the monitoring of any phone call originating outside the U.S. If there was in fact such a call, the fact that it was not monitored is another example of the failure of the Bush administration's security apparatus. But there seems to be some question about whether the call ever happened. In other words, Mukasey may have delivered a soppy, teary-eyed lie about the event that killed 3000 Americans, a lie for his and the Bushists' own sorry political purposes. Sen. Leahy is following up on that in Mukasey's appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee; see Greenwald's post for the link. But is anyone really surprised? "Some people say a lie’s a lie’s a lie / But I say why / Why deny the obvious child?"

If Bush ever appoints an honest Attorney General, don't bother calling the Times or the Post or any of the networks... that would really be news, and the mainstream press and media don't do "real" news anymore.

Steve
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Is This Funny?

I like humorist Andy Borowitz. His wry "news reports", almost but not quite completely fabricated, appeal to me. Curiously enough, this one... Fire in Clinton Campaign Headquarters Destroys Tax Returns... appeals to Google News as well: As I write this, it is linked as a news article, among others about the fire that destroyed Clinton's Terre Haute, Indiana office.

Um, Google developers, you need to tweak your algorithm a bit... I think the humor recognition code could stand some polishing.

Steve
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Friday Chin Scratch Blogging

Unlike some cats, Samantha actively likes having her chin rubbed...



... but not in combination with the flashing silver box...



Steve
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GOP Backing Off On Telecom Amnesty?

Glenn Greenwald notes an article in The Hill (see Greenwald's post for link) leads him to think that is possible. A quote from The Hill through Greenwald:

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and earmark reform to "stop the tax hike."

Oh, yes, the GOP must be right: let's stop all tax hikes and pass the costs of all these wars and all this domestic wiretapping on to our children's children.

Still, it looks as if we may have won one, for now at least. Who is "we"? Greenwald:

This is the first time in a long time that right-wing fear-mongering on Terrorism hasn't succeeded. Given that virtually everyone (including me) assumed that the Congress would ultimately enact the new FISA bill demanded by Bush, it demonstrates that smart strategies combined with intense citizen activism can succeed, even when the Establishment -- its lobbyists, Congressional representatives and pundits -- lines up in bipartisan fashion behind their latest measure. And it removes the Democrats' principal excuse that they cannot resist Bush's Terrorism demands without suffering politically.

Let us hope he is right.

Steve
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Dirty Tricks And Yucky Numbers

Via Suburban Guerrilla, campskunk at MyDD notes that the Obama campaign in California spent the night tampering with who may get to go to Denver as an Obama delegate and who may not... possibly as a reflection on the [perceived or misperceived] degree of commitment to Obama by the delegates who got whacked. The latter are not happy about this. (Bracketed text added after initial posting. - SB)

Meanwhile, at MSNBC, in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released today, McCain "erases" (their word, not mine) Obama's 10-point national lead.

Does anybody in either of the major Democratic campaigns give a good damn whether McCain is defeated in November? Or is it all entirely about who becomes the nominee? (Please don't answer that.)

Steve
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A Curtsey While I'm Thinking - UPDATED

Here, have an evening walk along a bayou...



UPDATE 4/10, 18:15: I'm still thinking. (You can probably hear the noise all the way to your location.) Illness and exhaustion almost drove me to shut down the YDD, but I have decided to try to maintain it for a while longer. While I am too fatigued to write, I am doing some blogroll maintenance. The first step is to remove blogs and other sites that have not posted in six months or more, or have changed content or ownership in ways not consistent with the YDD's criteria. I visited almost every blog on the roll today, so it is unlikely that I have incorrectly omitted your blog, but if I have, please let me know.

Steve
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Another Reason Not To Blog

Apartment maintenance people here are removing apparently rotten segments of outdoor passageway ceilings. The fact that they do this is neither a surprise nor an offense; they take pretty good care of the place. But the hammering, sawing, prying and (in one case) use of a compressor to drive some sort of implement, all taken together, are not conducive to my blogging about serious subjects.

See you later...

Steve
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Primary Runoff Today

No, it's not something that will cause the bayous to rise. Two Democratic primary races have runoffs in my precinct, and there are a couple of others elsewhere in Harris County. Be sure to check with some source about your polling place: because of the anticipated low turnout, you may well be voting in a different location from your precinct's usual haunt. Here's a list (albeit redacted by me) from the County Clerk's office of places you can contact to find the location of your poll today:

  • Democratic Party, 713-802-0085, www.hcdp.org;
  • Republican Party, [look it up yourself; no link from here - SB];
  • Harris County Clerk's Office, 713.755.6965, www.harrisvotes.com;
  • Harris County Voter Registrar, 713-368-VOTE (8683), www.hcvoter.net

This is a true test of your dedication to voting.

Steve
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Blogging Yourself To Death

Do you ever dream of blogging for a living? of getting paid to sit at home in your pajamas (sic: I never blog in my pajamas, but that's the canonical garb for the activity) and tap political rants, or technology-related screeds, or (who knows) restaurant reviews?

If so, this NYT article may change your mind. To no one's surprise, pro bloggers are beginning to die of possibly stress-related illnesses, confronted as they surely are by the 24x7 demand to scoop their competitors on the latest announcement of a new Apple product, or the latest sex-and-drugs congressional scandal. C'mon, speak up if you're surprised...

(Crickets.)

Wired's Lewis Wallace offers some slightly less overheated thoughts... on a blog, of course.

Steve
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Pentagon Unclear On The Concept - Again

Sharon Weinberger of Wired's security blog Danger Room:

Pentagon Looks to Network Science to Predict Future
By Sharon Weinberger ... April 05, 2008 | 11:00:00 AM Categories: Human Terrain, Science!

The University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science just announced that it's been awarded a $7.5 million grant to work in this fast emerging field of network science, which melds everything from mathematics to sociology.

Network science is increasingly the "hot" area for Pentagon research. Why? Because the Pentagon hopes that if it can understand complex networks, then it can understand terrorist networks, and even predict who will join such a network.

What exactly is network science? According a 2005 study done for the Army:

     ... [view quote on Weinberger's original post]

Prediction is a tricky thing, something that researchers involved in the field readily acknowledge:

     ... [view another quote on original post]

     ...

Actually, the emergence of "network science" may prove that prediction does work in at least one key regard. Isaac Asimov came up with the fictional idea of "psychohistory," which combined history, sociology and mathematics to predict the actions of large groups. It seems he wasn't far off.

Nor was I. Asimov's psychohistory, from his Foundation series, was the first thing that came to my mind when I read this article. There's just one thing the Pentagon needs to be reminded of regarding psychohistory:

  • It's fiction.

(Aside: even in Asimov's fictional setting, psychohistory eventually goes astray. Ahem.)

No one doubts that the behavior of large human systems can be predicted... in aggregate... by appropriately focused study of various kinds (NOT, let me emphasize, by dumping vast amounts of trivial raw data through simple algorithms... human behavior is too complex for that). It's not hard to predict that sometime, somewhere, there will be terrorist acts. One may even be able to combine appropriate factors to estimate their frequency over time; I don't know, but that doesn't strike me as impossible.

But it is quite beyond reason to assume that similar processes or techniques can be developed to automate the determination of whether specific individuals may be criminals, terrorists, etc. It also is quite unconstitutional in the United States to attempt such determinations: our Bill of Rights, whatever George W. Bush and John Yoo may think, requires individualized suspicion of particular acts. In America, at least in theory, we don't simply "round up all the usual suspects." Or surveil everyone, all the time. The assumption that such a venture as Penn has been contracted to undertake could ever possibly be effective in determining where terrorist threats may emerge is false on its face, but even worse, it is an unconstitutional pursuit.

A clue to the Pentagon: Give it up. Save some taxpayers' dollars. Apply your efforts to the gritty, tedious, probably unpleasant individual groundwork required to determine who the real terrorists are.

Steve
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Saturday Signs



Obviously, the sign is not the main attraction of this picture, which I took a couple of months ago at the local Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. This was one of many performances... traditional dances in costume, traditional songs accompanied by Chinese instruments, a fashion show of sorts, etc., all guaranteed to please a very large, predominantly Asian American crowd. A good time was had by all, even if I'm not very good at taking pics with an unfamiliar camera in dense crowds and bad lighting.

Steve
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We Are Controlling Transmission

Remember this, from the 1960s?

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.

Well, then, how about this, from last Friday?

Health Database Was Set Up to Ignore ‘Abortion’
By ROBERT PEAR Published: April 5, 2008

WASHINGTON — Johns Hopkins University said Friday that it had programmed its computers to ignore the word “abortion” in searches of a large, publicly financed database of information on reproductive health after federal officials raised questions about two articles in the database. The dean of the Public Health School lifted the restrictions after learning of them.

A spokesman for the school, Timothy M. Parsons, said the restrictions were enforced starting in February.

Johns Hopkins manages the population database known as Popline with money from the Agency for International Development.

Popline is the world’s largest database on reproductive health, with more than 360,000 records and articles on family planning, fertility and sexually transmitted diseases.

Mr. Parsons said the development agency had expressed concern after finding “two articles about abortion advocacy” in the database. The articles, he said, did not fit database criteria and were removed.

Employees who manage the database instructed their computers to ignore the word “abortion” as a search term.

     ...

"We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. [We will control your access to essential medical and public health information gathered and stored at taxpayers' expense if we have ideological objections to the information.]" Just in case you thought the right-wing nut-jobs had already reached the outer limits of dictatorial behavior...

Steve
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I Like The Hague In June, How About Yoo?

Professor Lederman is on a roll regarding the recent Yoo torture memo. In chronological order, oldest to newest:

If that's not enough, he offers a link to a new blog on Slate called Convictions:

... and a note about what Yoo himself has said:

Taken all together, it's a lot of prose. But in the long run, Yoo's memos, legal "theories" and status on a big-name law faculty spell a significant assault on the rule of law in the United States, and in many ways, in the rest of the civilized world. And somehow I doubt this is the last that Lederman has to say on the subject.

Steve
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Friday Full Metal Kit-Cat Blogging

I suppose one could actually keep a bird in the small metal cage surrounded by small metal profiles of kittens, but unless it was a metal profile of a bird, it would probably suffer psychological trauma I wouldn't want to be responsible for.

One of the cats, the tiny pale one in the lower right, is not metal. Indeed, it is not contrived in any way. Stella's father found this piece of candle wax which had dripped and hardened in the image of a cat, back arched, tail in the air. If only it had been shaped like Jesus or Mother Mary instead of Bast, Stella would be set for life!

Tabitha and Samantha are doing fine. Without the least apology to me, they declined to pose in any cute or interesting ways this week. I presume they'll return to the game soon.

Steve
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It's A Start, But Not Enough

DNC Chair Howard Dean has finally said a sensible thing...

Democratic party chief agrees to seat Florida delegation
It's unclear how many delegates can go to convention or how they can vote
By Tamara Lytle
MCT
Published on: 04/03/08

WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said for the first time Wednesday that Florida's delegation will be seated at the party's presidential nominating convention in Denver and will even have some hotel rooms to sleep in.

What he didn't say was how many of the state's 211 delegates would be invited — and whom they'd be allowed to vote for.

After a morning meeting with a Florida delegation, including state party chair Karen Thurman, Dean said that many details still need to be worked out and approved by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

But the Floridians said the chairman's promise to work to seat Florida's delegation was a breakthrough in the impasse that has left state Democrats wondering if they would be left out of the August convention.

"We are committed to do everything in our power to seat the Florida delegation," Dean said after his meeting with Florida's nine House Democrats, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Thurman. It was a marked change of tone for Dean, who has been critical of Florida and Michigan — also stripped of its delegates — for breaking party rules by moving up their primaries.

The DNC took away all 211 of Florida's delegates. Clinton won the Jan. 29 primary by 17 percentage points and has pushed for using those results to allot the 185 delegates that were supposed to be awarded by the vote.

     ...

... but then promptly negated the impact of his announcement by insisting Florida delegates may vote only after a nominee has been chosen:

     ...

Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean came out of hiding last week to announce that there is no reason to rush to resolve the fate of Florida and Michigan. He said he was confident that these delegations, disqualified in 2007 by Dean's own Rules Committee, would be seated at the August convention -- but, apparently, only after a nominee is chosen, which he predicted would occur by July 1. This modern-day Metternich, whose two- fisted handling of this two-state controversy has already had more impact on the 2008 race than his candidacy did on the race in 2004, is promising to mediate the dispute once it's already settled.

     ...

Good grief. Here's a clue for free, Howard: the answers to your questions of how many delegates should be slated to be seated, and how their votes should be distributed, should be "all of them, right now," and "according to results of the primary already held." There, now: how hard was that? It's the Democratic Party; don't you think the results should be based on the results of the democratic process? Rules should never be interpreted to have antidemocratic consequences, especially considering that Florida Democrats demonstrably did not cause this mess themselves.

No matter what the DNC does now, it has already irretrievably lost some members and created a nasty intraparty battle. Bryan has departed our midst, pointing us to a long but worthwhile article (from which we have the second quote above) explaining how this gives the GOP an advantage, and indeed may have been caused deliberately by the GOP.

Isn't that enough? How much worse could it be than seeing formerly dedicated Democrats departing the party, while others squabble vehemently among themselves? Why should there be any question what the party should do next? They should try to make amends, seat all the delegates, give them all votes according to the results of the primary (yes, I know; that will net them some grief from the candidates, who campaigned or did not campaign in Florida based on the Rules Committee ruling, but it's the right thing to do), and go on to win in November.

Ultimately, we are all Floridians now, or we certainly could be in any future election. The very future of the Democratic Party depends on how it handles this matter. And for better or worse, the future of the nation depends heavily on the future of the Democratic Party.

As I noted on a thread at Bryan's site, I am long since pledged to support the Democratic nominee in this election, but after November, I do not know what I will do next. An active Democrat... and by active, I mean a block-walking, phone-banking, money-contributing Democrat... for something on the order of 25 or 30 years, I am rendered a whole lot less committed than I have been, largely by the incomprehensible stupidity of the DNC, especially in the situations in Florida and Michigan. IMHO, the Hillary/Obama, Obama/Hillary mudslinging pales in comparison to the DNC’s table-pounding about the rules for the timing of primaries. If the Democratic Party wants my loyalty, my efforts and yes, my money, after November, they will have to earn it anew.

Steve
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The Truth Shall Make Yoo Flee

One can always hope. The best summary I've found of the ramifications of John Yoo's 2003 torture memo, the one that authorized the Bushist administration to go forward with torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, is by Glenn Greenwald. (H/T Fallenmonk, whose post is very much worth reading in its own right.)

It seems everyone knew pretty much what this memo (part I, part II, both .pdf files) must contain, even as the Bushists refused to declassify it. But until it was released (inevitably, in response to the persistence of the ACLU in its FOIA request), few knew how legally fragile, sloppy and generally self-serving the memo was. One example, along with some more useful analysis, is provided by Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake, who reminds us that John Yoo, as a professor at Boalt (Berkeley), must surely have read Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, the classic 1952 case denying President Truman's claimed right to take over the steel mills in the interest of national security, to prevent a workers' strike against them, absent either a court ruling or an act of Congress.

Personally, I suspect Yoo understands all of this, and is knowingly pursuing an unconstitutional course of action in the interest of future personal power and status. But I confess I am one who does not trust the actors of any part of our government very much, and our present government not at all. Your mileage may vary.

Steve
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War With Iran

Does this Chris Floyd piece (via ellroon) plus this Helen Thomas column (via Avedon) equal a wider, more public U.S. war with Iran before November?

I wouldn't bet against it.

If it happens, with three wars initiated by the United States since 9/11/2001, two of them not in direct response to violence perpetrated against our nation, our actual defenses against possible armed attack against the U.S. will be wearing more than a bit thin. It seems to me, based on Helen Thomas's column, that Adm. William Fallon paid with the demise of his career for observing this fact to Dick Cheney.

Well, too bad for Mr. Cheney; I have no military career to lose, and I've already been involuntarily out of work for a while now. What could Cheney do to me in retribution for reminding him of the sorry condition the U.S. military is in, due to Cheney's obsession with starting wars, as he arranges a third simultaneous war in his term of office? Um, don't answer that... but there it is: Dick and Bush have lied us into two unsuccessful wars, the second for purely political motives, and are about to drag us kicking and screaming into a third war, again for purely political motives. Do you think a mere presidential election will slow these people down? I know Greg Palast is a bit of an agitator, but based on the information he presents in his book Armed Madhouse, I cannot help thinking we face another potential election theft.

Impeach Bush. Impeach Cheney. Impeach them now. Impeach a few other high-level Bushist administration officials as well, just to make sure Bush cannot pardon them on his way out the door. If you do not want to see flag-draped coffins for the rest of your lives, impeach the bastards now. If you do not wish to see your privacy and civil liberties fall to the politically oriented surveillance state instituted by the Bushists, impeach them now. And if you do not wish to see an occasional successful terrorist attack on the U.S., motivated by the atrocities not merely tolerated but encouraged by the Bushists ... impeach them now. Nothing less than impeachment will do.

Steve
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Random Drug Testing - Of Scientists

Regrettably, this is no April Fool's joke. [UPDATE: yes it is. I salute you, Coturnix; it's the most plausible one I've seen in a long time. Ya got me! - SB] From Coturnix (whose many links you may follow from his own post):

NIH getting serious about brain doping
Category: Academia

There have recently been several articles in the media about brain enhancers, so-called Nootropics, or "smart drugs". They have been abused by college students for many years now, but they are now seeping into other places where long periods of intense mental focus are required, including the scientific research labs.      ...

[... various quotes ...]

This is pretty scary stuff. On one hand, these drugs have not been tested very well, so nobody knows what nasty side-effects they mat have with repeated and prolonged use, so this is certainly a worry. But I thought that it was a little bit too much, or at least premature, that the NIH is jumping in on this bandwaggon, with, IMHO, quite drastic proposed measures:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced three new initiatives to fight the use of brain enhancing drugs by scientists. The new initiatives are (1) the creation of the NIH Anti-Brain Doping Advisory Group (NABDAG), a new trans-NIH committee, (2) a collaboration with the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) and the European Commission to create the World Anti-Brain Doping Authority (WABDA) and (3) the adoption by the NIH of the World Anti-Brain Doping Code - a set of regulations on the use of brain enhancing drugs among scientists. "These new initiatives are designed to level the playing field among scientist in terms of intellectual activities," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "These three activities are designed to get NIH ahead of the curve in terms of performance enhancing drug use among scientists."

     ...

Together with WABDA [World Anti-Brain Doping Authority], NABDAG [NIH Anti-Brain Doping Advisory Group] will work to develop the international rules for the use of performance enhancing drugs among scientists as well as testing and punishment procedures. Most importantly they will administer the World Anti Brain-Doping Code, a set of uniform anti-brain doping rules. The NIH and European Commission have formally adopted this Code for the conduct of all scientists which receive funding in any form (intramural or extramural) from these agencies. The Code includes regulations on which drugs are prohibited, what the recommended testing procedures should be, and what the punishments should be for positive tests. More information on the WABDA Code can be found at http://wabda.org/. We note that the implementation will include testing of all NIH funded scientists both at the time they receive funding as well as at random times during the course of working on an NIH funded project. Testing will also be implemented at all NIH-funded or NIH-hosted events such as conferences and workshops and at grant review panels.

     ...

     ...

(Emphasis mine, of course.)

This is getting completely out of hand. First schoolchildren, then pro athletes and now scientists are to be forcibly subjected to drug testing (with consequent punishment, either legal or professional, if the tests show, rightly or wrongly, that they are "using"), because... well, exactly why are the pro athletes and scientist being tested? They're adults. They understand the consequences to their bodies. I'm not going to make any grand arguments about constitutional rights here; rather, I'll simply observe that this world (and especially the United States) must be the only place in the universe in which it may become a punishable crime for scientists to make themselves smarter.

I take a lot of nutritional supplements. All of them are legal, for now. I remember that every time Ashcroft's DoJ went on a major "drug" purge, there was a lot of discussion among those of us who feel we have good and sufficient reason to take supplements of one question: how long before our government bans such foods, or requires a doctor's prescription for them? Several of the supplements I take are authorized, based on federally funded studies, to print on the label that they promote a "healthy heart" or some such language. A couple of them say they may improve memory, or mood, or alertness, or whatever. It seems to me that anything that improves cardiovascular function is likely to improve brain function as well. Will they be banned or regulated? Stay tuned.

Why should the NIH get "ahead of the curve" (see link above) by banning things a priori, before any damaging effects are found? Most certainly, more research should be done on the more potent nootropics, many of which are already available only by prescription. But my sense from the articles Coturnix links is that the main concern is that the entrenched bureaucracies remain in complete control of the ways individuals have of making themselves smart. As with congressional hearings on pro athletes' use of steroids, this is far more about control and political power than about health.


(Standard disclaimer, for the record: I have never knowingly used an illegal controlled substance, yada yada yada. I have been randomly drug-tested once on a contract. Yes, I resented it: I refused a follow-up contract with that company.)

Steve
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All Fools In Election Year -- GIBBERISH!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Steve
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McCain On HIV Prevention

Steve
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Blog Maintenance Again

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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The Wright Letter

Steve
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Miscellany

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Friday Interspecies Nap Blogging

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A Reminder

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Condi For Veep?

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Blogkeeping Note

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Money Money Money Money... (No) Money

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Make It Stop

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Petraeus: Ooopsie, I Lied

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4,000

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Sunday Sign - Easter Edition

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No Act Too Low

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Hillary's Campaign In The Red?

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Fish Food For Thought

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Time To Get Tough

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Saturday Signs - Midtown Art Center

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The Dark Side

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Pollen It On -- DOGGEREL!

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Bill Richardson Endorses Obama

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Friday In-Sink Blogging

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In A Cavern, In A Canyon...

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Best Post Headline: 'Crappy Anniversary' - UPDATED

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Shiite, Sunni, Whatever

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The Speech

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I'm The Taxman, Yeah...

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More 'Presses', Less Freedom?

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Why 'Eliot's Mess'?

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Brother Thelonious

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