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30 June 2003

Is Google God?

Thomas Friedman's rhetorical effusion in his latest column on Google is another illustrative instance of mainstream reporters who just don't get the internet. Brushing aside the factual errors, his pointless diatribe is still full of logical holes. He's won multiple pulitzer prizes, yet I must regard any of his written words with suspicion, as when he writes on any subject that I am intimately familiar with, he appears to be nothing more than a clueless, ill informed hack.
Says Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace, a new Wi-Fi provider: "If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."

Um, no. The power of Google still a minor blot compared to your local library. Content in Google is ephemeral - it disappears after a relatively short duration. Even the massive server farms of the great Google cannot catalog the explosion of web domains fast enough. But even if they did, the historical record derived from the net is purged regularly, and even for major newspapers and news services, only the past few weeks content is available. Perhaps you can go back to the mid 1990s, but be prepared to fork over your credit card at $3 per article (NY Times archive cost). Contrast that to your local library where you can travel to any point in time, view and print an article after locating it via a annotated index. Not to mention the exhaustive research resources, that are nowhere to be found online. Google has got a ways to go before you can "find everything".
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29 June 2003

Cine Capri Returns to Valley

On Friday, Harkins Theatres opened the new Cine Capri at Scottsdale Road and the Loop 101 in Northeast Phoenix. It will boast Arizona's largest screen size, that will actually be 12 feet wider than the original Cine Capri, measuring nearly 70 feet. However, unlike the original, the theater will be tucked within a 14 screen multiplex complex. Also on site will be a Cine Capri museum with relics on display from the old theater.

This week, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is the feature flick. Seems like a crummy movie to grace the screen of such a magnificent theater. Next week, it's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

I loved viewing movies in the old Cine Capri and was saddened when it was bulldozed in 1998. Not enamored with the all of the frills of the gold curtains and other dressings, the giant screen was the primary appealing feature for me. I'd try to get in the front rows too, adding to the immersive experience.

Bush Receives "F" For Environmental Issues on LCV 2003 Presidential Report Card

League of Conservation Voters says Bush is "worst president ever" when it comes to protecting the environment.
"President Bush is well on his way to compiling the worst environmental record of any president in the history of our nation," said Callahan. "Bush’s dismal Report Card is dominated by a disturbing trend: time after time, Bush favors corporate interests over the public’s interest in a clean, safe and healthy environment. Under the Bush administration, corporate polluters have been allowed to write the laws."

Meantime, the Sierra Club runs an advertisement for a new EPA chief titled "EARN $$$ WHILE YOU SLEEP". You must be fluent in doublespeak to apply.

28 June 2003

WMD: Where Did the Phrase Come From?

George Mason University student Will Mallon pens a column on the origination of the phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction":
The term Weapons of Mass Destruction was first used in the London Times in 1937, according to Robert Whealey, writing on H-Diplo. It was used to describe a Luftwaffe German air force attack on the town of Guernica, Spain. The attack reportedly lasted for 3 hours and destroyed 70 percent of the town and killed a third of the population. The attack was ordered by President Franco of Spain to crush the Basque resistance to Nationalist forces. Documents discovered after World War II suggest that Guernica served as the testing ground for a new military tactic -- blanket-bombing of a civilian population to demoralize the enemy. When the London Times reported the bombing of Guernica the paper was referring to the devastation caused by the blanket bombing. Although the phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction" was used to describe the massive amount of damage by conventional bombs, it was not associated with biological or chemical weapons as it is today.

27 June 2003

Howard Dean Wins MoveOn Primary

Dean captured 43% of the vote in the MoveOn Democratic primary poll. Dennis Kucinich placed 2nd with 24% and John Kerry finished 3rd, taking 16% of the vote. No candidate received the minimum 50% to secure the MoveOn endorsement. 317,647 members voted - voting was limited to one vote per email address.

RFID Chips Are Here

Bar codes are going out and RFID chips are in. Tiny chips that can act as transponders (transmitter/responders) that can brodcast a unique ID number back to a transreceiver. Typically, the distance is limited to several feet but increasing the range is possible with a more sensitive RFID receiver.

A Security Focus column by Scott Granneman details how our privacy is at stake with the embedding of these microchips into virtually any physical object.

Michelin, which manufactures 800,000 tires a day, is going to insert RFID tags into its tires. The tag will store a unique number for each tire, a number that will be associated with the car's VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Good for Michelin, and car manufacturers, and fighting crime. Potentially bad for you. Who will assure your privacy? Do you really want your car's tires broadcasting your every move?

The European Central Bank may embed RFID chips in the euro note. Ostensibly to combat counterfeiters and money-launderers, it would also enable banks to count large amounts of cash in seconds. Unfortunately, such a move would also makes it possible for governments to track the passage of cash from individual to individual. Cash is the last truly anonymous way to buy and sell. With RFID tags, that anonymity would be gone. In addition, banks would not be the only ones who could in an instant divine how much cash you were carrying; criminals can also obtain power transceivers.

But let's not stop there. Others are talking about placing RFID tags into all sensitive or important documents: "it will be practical to put them not only in paper money, but in drivers' licenses, passports, stock certificates, manuscripts, university diplomas, medical degrees and licenses, birth certificates, and any other sort of document you can think of where authenticity is paramount." In other words, those documents you're required to have, that you can't live without, will be forever tagged.

Consider the human body as well. Applied Digital Solutions has designed an RFID tag - called the VeriChip - for people. Only 11 mm long, it is designed to go under the skin, where it can be read from four feet away. They sell it as a great way to keep track of children, Alzheimer's patients in danger of wandering, and anyone else with a medical disability, but it gives me the creeps. The possibilities are scary. In May, delegates to the Chinese Communist Party Congress were required to wear an RFID-equipped badge at all times so their movements could be tracked and recorded. Is there any doubt that, in a few years, those badges will be replaced by VeriChip-like devices?

Scary stuff, eh? Soon, all of those employee badges that get you through the doors of your work site will have these smart chips in them. If only Orwell were alive to see that his '1984' world wasn't even as totalitarian as what is now becoming.

Star Wars Galaxies Release

Star Wars Galaxies, the first massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) based on the Star Wars universe went live yesterday, though there some registration problems. For a monthly subscription fee (~$15), SWG offers an immersive, 3D world set in the Star Wars universe to adventure along side with thousands of others.

No you can't be Luke or Han or Darth Vader, but you can be Lars Owen, bounty hunter #474, or Lyn Me the cantina entertainer. The graphics in the game are truly breathtaking - character customization is so refined that you can set how slim or fat your character is, adjust chin shape and size, eye color, hair style, etc. You can gaze at a sunset on Tatooine, harvest minerals, shoot your blaster at lizards, build droids, dance in a cantina or make food for other players in a persistent Star Wars world. Your character's skills increase when you cash in experience points for new skills or improved skills.

You can battle other players if you join the Rebel or Imperial factions, but the scheme of who can attack who is kind of complicated. At least it made my head hurt in trying to understand the difference between an "overt" and a "covert". You could choose to forego any player vs. player conflict and remain a "carebear" but I think there is some nice gear and other game bonuses for signing up for a faction.

Will I be playing? No, I just don't have the time right now. Plus, the game had many features chopped out so it could be released on time - space travel (now, you buy a ticket and instantaneously are ported to another planet) and vehicles are not in the game right now. Also, I expect, as is the case with games of this genre, many launch bugs and problems. Most of all, though, MMORPG require a huge investment of time, which I can't give right now.

Elephants at the Trough

Democrats crying foul at the success of the ""K Street Project", a concerted campaign to oust Democrats from top lobbying jobs, "sometimes through intimidation and private threats". According to the article, the Republicans are in line to increase their substantial advantage in business contributions. The few trade associations where Democrats presently occupy leadership, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have expressed a desire to change their leadership ranks to Republican.

What a sham. Both parties shamelessly bidding to see who can serve as the bigger corporate whore. These lobbyist interests must be successful in getting lawmakers to do their bidding as these lobbyist positions pay more than the legislators earn:

Moreover, by placing Republicans in these high-paying jobs, a whole new class of wealthy donors has been created. Most high-level lobbying jobs pay at least $300,000 per year, and some lobbyists are pulling down two or three times that amount annually.

I think the Democrats should be the party of the people, not vie to be "Republican Lite", beholden to monied interests as the Republicans are, but you can't get to office without a filled campaign coffer. In 2000, 85% of Senate races were won by the candidate who spent the most money. For the House, the figure was 94%. Where there was no incumbent, the candidate who spent the most won 76% of the time.

26 June 2003

Supreme Court Dismisses Nike Appeal

The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a Nike Inc. appeal on whether the shoemaker can be sued for false advertising over a publicity campaign to defend itself against accusations that Asian sweatshops made its footwear.

The case will go back to the California courts and the crucial question to be decided is if Nike can legally deceive and lie about how its products are made and that the 1st amendment sanctions this behavoir, even when it occurs in a commercial realm.

Here is an excerpt from a Public Citizen press release on the case.

Despite Nike’s predictions that it will be forced to censor itself until this case is finally resolved in its favor, we doubt that Nike will shut down its public relations office and refrain from commenting on all matters of public controversy. What we do expect is that Nike will be much more careful when it tries to influence consumers by making claims about how it treats its overseas workers – which is what this case is all about. While Nike and its supporters denounced the case for its chilling effect on the speech of corporate America, a broad victory of the kind that Nike sought might put a significant damper on efforts by federal and state regulators to assure that sellers of products and services do not seek to avoid laws on truthful advertising and promotion by claiming that an issue involves important public policies.

The PBS Home Team

Though this detailed expose concerns the PBS show Think Tank, it offers a instructive roadmap on the rise of right wing think tanks serving as advocacy organizations for conservative causes, elevating fringe politics into the mainstream via their fully stocked financial coffers.

The American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Bradley Foundation, Olin Foundation, Smith-Richardson Foundation, and Scaife (who's funded all of these) foundations pay millions to writers to advocate their agenda which is in near total alignment with Republican politics and ideology. PBS programming influence is increasingly dictated by conservative philanthropies, using tax-exempt monies.

Jeff Flake, Government Appropriations and Pork

Jon Talton, AZ Republic business columnist, posts a take on Jeff Flake's pronouncement to "never again to ask federal budget appropriators to fund any item or project". In my view, though I disagree with his far right politics, he is taking a courageous stand in separating himself from the rest of the Republicans, who prattle endlessly about "limited government", yet don't walk the walk. As Talton notes, the Republicans have held Congress for eight years and yet the federal budget is bigger than ever. However, Talton takes Flake to task for his "utopian conservatism, seeking a Jeffersonian world that never existed".
America has already experimented with the kind of weak government that Flake seems to advocate, with the Articles of Confederation. Its failure led to the strong Constitution of 1789. Hamilton, not Jefferson, prevailed. From the start, Washington energetically funded public works, infrastructure and territorial expansion. And it intervened in the market.

Capitalists shunned the transcontinental railroad until the government backed it. The breadbasket of the Great Plains was not economically viable until the government conquered the Indian nations. Slavery didn't collapse from its economic inefficiencies but from the thrusts of federal bayonets. America's transformation to an industrial giant was forged as much by the Republican tariff as by heroic industrialists.


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25 June 2003

Unauthorized Copying is Not Stealing!

I swear I could fill these online pages exposing the disinformation and misinformation disseminated by the KFYI AM talk show hosts. Morning host Barry Young's comments over the past few days on music file sharing and his equating the act to "stealing intellectual property" is the latest example of egregious malarkey.

Stealing presupposes the presence of physical property. If I forget to bring my bicycle inside and somebody strolls by, hops on it and rides it away, that is theft. They have taken my bicycle away from me and I will be without my means of trusty transportation. I would incur a loss on the transaction. However, if somebody shares with me a digitally compressed copy of their legally purchased U2 CD - there is no tangible physical loss - there is no way to ascertain whether I purposefully refrained from buying a copy because my friend wished to share his CD with me. In fact, if I like the CD, I'll probably purchase it myself on my next visit to Best Buy. But corporate powers and scions like Mr. Young would term this act theft with a definitive loss for the recording industry association and the artist. Never mind that if I could play the CD and record it to a cassette tape (or another CD and it would fall under "fair use" and be perfectly legal). But since, instead of physically handing over the CD, I used a file sharing program (or even more simply, received it from him via any of the popular PC chat utilities), I've committed a great evil such that the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee would wish to destroy my PC. Never mind that there is no true "loss" - no physical property has been displaced, just an imperfect copy of bits has been added.

To equate the two acts is to committ a grave error. The loyal minions and PR flacks representing the corporate barons are well versed in the debate however, and they strive at every junction to set the default argument language to suit their bias. Music sharing, they proclaim, is piracy, as if the act of sharing a song was akin to a deed of barbarous treachery by savory buccaneers on the high seas. They indirectly invoke an image of savage slaughter of defenseless innocents. And indeed, the statues for this loathsome crime have been adjusted to lay down sentences worse than murder in some states, and in nearly all 50 states, this crime of unethical copying is dealt with more harshly than first degree assault. Unsatisfied with that campaign, the RIAA has taken to aggressively targeting the life savings of internet users who "share illegal files" via hundreds of filed lawsuits.

Does unauthorized copying harm entertainment and/or infotainment producers? Empirical results suggest otherwise. In fact, two of the biggest revenue netting digital goods of the past decade have been Microsoft Windows and the Sony Playstation. Both were heavily "pirated", er prone to unauthorized copying, yet the widescale propagation the unlicensed software merely made the brands stronger, and I find it hard to make a case that such copyright infringement actually hurt Microsoft or Sony. On the contrary, it transformed their brands into ubiquitous, familiar namesakes that led to massive sales numbers. Any loss incurred by an instance whereby somebody forewent a purchase in lieu of a bootleg copy was offset by an exponential factor of new customers who, exposed to the product, sought out to secure a "legitimate" version. Anybody who worked with PCs in the late 1980s is well aware of the proliferation of unlicensed Windows software. In the case of the Sony Playstation, it was the Asian markets that made bootleg games readily available for gamers all over the globe.

Richard Stallman, free software champion and computer genius who's created compilers, tools and editors that enabled Linux operating system, succinctly summarizes why the term "intellectual property" is a misnomer:

The term intellectual property carries a hidden assumption---that the way to think about all these disparate issues is based on an analogy with physical objects, and our ideas of physical property.

When it comes to copying, this analogy disregards the crucial difference between material objects and information: information can be copied and shared almost effortlessly, while material objects can't be. Basing your thinking on this analogy is tantamount to ignoring that difference. (Even the US legal system does not entirely accept the analogy, since it does not treat copyrights or patents like physical object property rights.)

I don't believe these draconian measures reflect the intent of the founding fathers who considered copyright an "embarrassing monopoly" for the sake of the American citizenry, useful only for the sole purpose of promoting science and the arts. It seems that the MPAA, RIAA, and their compliant Congress critters are the true pirates, stealing from the public commons and then enforcing that theft with armed thugs. Hired legislators, with full campaign coffers, eagerly do the bidding for the entertainment industry at the cost of our freedom. But I guess this is small potatoes, considering the suspension of habeas corpus indefinitely and secret arrests, and secret trials. Perversion of copyright is low on the list of constitutional truths.
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Man Sues Amusement Park After Being Struck by Lightning on Park Grounds

I present to you the "jackass of the day" winner:
Yes, Cincinnati lawyer Drake Ebner admits, cynics will believe he is suing Paramount's Kings Island because the amusement park makes lots of money.

And yes, the cynics will wonder snidely how the park can be held responsible for Ebner's client being struck by lightning on the park grounds.

"That would be a lot of people's knee-jerk reaction in these types of situations, frankly," Ebner acknowledged.

But they should hold the park accountable, for not telling his client and thousands of others about an impending lightning storm, Edner said Monday. "They could have told the people not to go to their cars, which are large metal objects that can attract lightning."

24 June 2003

MoveOn Online Presidential Primary

1.4 million MoveOn members to cast their votes today and tomorrow for their choice for Democratic presidential candidate to run against George W Bush in 2004. It's not too late to register and cast your vote and/or get involved in a grassroots online movement to bring citizens back in to the political process.

23 June 2003

Al Gore's Support of the Internet

Al Gore never said he "invented the internet". The exact quote was "I took the initiative in creating the Internet." While that statement can be construed to mean invent, it also can be taken as the boasting of someone who used his power and influence to spearhead, as part of a collaborative team, the net's sustainment, nurturing and dissemination during its formative years as it transformed from a text only network of geeks to the commercial, graphical and open online haven it is today.

I know this is all old news but it seems like poor Al is still subject to smirking zingers on this verbal guffaw, especially from many who couldn't distinguish the escape key from the tilde key. From recent news headlines to every corner of the web. Last Friday, KFYI Barry "barely famous" Young repeatedly scoffed at the former vice president's "internet boast" in a diatribe that resembled an audition for a Bush administration Ministry of Disinformation post. While Mr. Young has never let facts get in the way of a entertaining monologue, I thought I'd share the thoughts of those immensely more qualified to comment on Al Gore's internet involvement. Just for the record.

Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn, creators of TCP/IP, the networking magic behind the net, both came forth in September 2000 and presented a strong statement in support of Gore's remarks:
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Seven Hours of G. Gordon Liddy a Day on Tape Delay?

Oh Lord, what hath the Valley of the Sun wrought to deserve such a fate?

Apparently, John Dayl is no longer part of the KXAM AM 1310 programming schedule.

KXAM now down to almost zero local programming - there is the radical libertarian revival morning show with Ernest Hancock, but that show has all the feel of brokered programming, even though I do enjoy it. Matt Gerson still has his person-to-person gig Wednesday thru Friday and Radio Cafe with Don Sandler is still on the Friday schedule. But other than that, it's all bargain bin also ran crusty old syndicated talk fare.

Is Gannett going to swallow up the independent Gerson radio franchise like it is rumored to be bidding for Freedom Newspapers, East Valley Tribune owners?

Media mergermania maniacally manifesting...

Tancredo Speaks Out on Immigration and Unemployment

Tom Tancredo, U.S. Representative (COL) speaks the truth on an issue that has affected me, along with other friends and colleagues, personally. I've excerpted a portion of the comments on the displacement of U.S. high tech workers, but the speech context is immigration's impact on employment.
So this old canard about they only come into the jobs no American will take is just that, it is a falsehood. We employ these falsehoods in order to maintain open borders. Both parties support the concept. The Democrats support it because it adds to their potential pool of voters for the Democratic Party. The Republicans support it because it supports cheap labor.

I will tell my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, if that is the policy that our government is undertaking, then it is simply the policy we should tell our constituents about. We should explain it to them. When my colleagues get a letter like this, handwritten, three pages long, talking about what happened to them, how they were displaced by foreign workers, we should write back and say it is the policy of this government to displace you, to move you into a lower economic income category because we believe in cheap labor and we believe that the politics of open borders helps our party, in this case the Democrats, as I say. The Republicans, it is the cheap labor side of things.

That is what we tell people. That is what we should do. That is how we should respond because that is the truth of the matter; and I hope that when we have people bring bills to the floor designed to do something about jobs, which we hear over and over again, do something about jobs, I just hope that they will think about one thing they could do. There is something that we could do tomorrow to improve the quality of life for millions and millions of American citizens. There is something that we could do tomorrow that could actually add maybe 10 million jobs for American citizens, and that is to enforce our immigration laws. Stop people from coming in here illegally, deport the people who are here illegally today, and we would automatically create 10 million jobs for American citizens.

Audio available here.

You go Tom! Continue preaching the truth...
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22 June 2003

Rob Robb and Patriot Act Rights Outcry Hysteria

Rob Robb penned an AZ Republic column on June 13 calling the civil liberties outcry on the Patriot Act nothing more than "hysterical rhetoric". He argued that the small number of detainees justifies legislative prudence. Eric Gruber sums up the huge fallacy in Robb's argument in a letter to the editor published today.
Under new investigative powers authorized by the federal Patriots Act, five material witnesses were held in custody for more than 90 days (remember these are witnesses - they are not charged with a crime), 14 homes had items removed from them without their owners being notified; 47 other homes were searched without notification to the owner; and 762 people were detained for months at a time without access to legal counsel or release of the information that they were being held at all.

Sorry, Robert, but I was raised in a country where the correct number in each of these categories was zero. If we keep making situational excuses and allow these erosions of our fundamental rights, we will wake up one day and not have any rights at all.

Would Robb be quite as apologetic and sanguine if the attorney general's name were Reno and her boss was named Clinton?

A Better NAFTA?

Corporate spin runs amok in today's Arizona Republic editorial. NAFTA is heralded for cheaper consumer goods, fatter company profit sheets and more job creation. The last claim is dubious , based on Enron-esque accounting. NAFTA's toll on U.S. employment has been heavy: from 1994 to 2000, growing trade deficits eliminated a net total of 3.0 million actual and potential jobs from the U.S. economy.
Yes, the United States has lost many of the blue-collar industrial jobs that were an economic path to the middle class for the less educated. But that employment would pack up for another country even without NAFTA.

Those manufacturing jobs that moved to Mexico? Now they're headed to India, where labor is even cheaper.

No, it's just not blue-collar jobs. White collar jobs are now migrating en masse to developing countries. A recent report estimated over 3 million white collar jobs will lost in the next 10 years. Nearly 500,000 computer jobs will move overseas according to Forrester Research.

The last few paragraphs of this diatribe are truly mind boggling. After arguing that NAFTA has opened up "markets and labor to the world" it is contended that a "a tide of undocumented workers has swept up from Mexico, pulled by the gravitational force of employment" is the "elephant in the living room".

Whoa, this mass influx of uneducated illegal immigrant workers qualifies mainly for blue collar work, yet simultaneously there was admittedly a significant exodus of manufacturing jobs that offered "an economic path to the middle class"? So, in another words, NAFTA was good because companies made more profits and consumers could buy cheaper goods, but the decline in the standard of living for working class Americans and Mexico is just proof that the agreement "needs tuning up" and "could be used more effectively". Huh? The higher cost of living and worsened employment prospects in Mexico resulting from NAFTA are noteworthy:

The cost of living in Mexico is now triple what it was in 1994, but wages are 27% lower than their 1994 level. The number of Mexicans living in poverty has increased by almost 20%, and the minimum wage in Mexico has lost nearly half of its purchasing power.

In my next article, I'll offer some potential solutions - for now, I'm astounded over the myopia in the AZ Republic's editor staff offices. Well, given the history of past editorial stances taken by them, maybe I should not be. I just can not fathom they actually believe the balderdash that was bellowed across the editorial page today.

21 June 2003

U.S. Losing the Peace in Afghanistan

A new report titled Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace?, authored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Asia Society, says Afghanistan is going to revert back to warlord-dominated anarchy unless action is taken soon. Among the authors are ", three retired senior US government policymakers who specialize in South Asian affairs".

6,000+ Items Looted from Iraq National Museum

First report was 170,000 treasures. Then we're told that all the loot was stashed and it was only 33 items pilfered. Now, according to a Washington Post article today, the count is 6,000 and climbing.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have confirmed the theft of at least 6,000 artifacts from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities during a prolonged looting spree as U.S. forces entered Baghdad two months ago, a leading archaeologist said yesterday.

University of Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson said the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him June 13 that the official count of missing items had reached 6,000 and was climbing as museum and Customs investigators proceeded with an inventory of three looted storerooms.

The June 13 total was double the number of stolen items reported by Customs a week earlier, and Gibson suggested the final tally could be "far, far worse." Customs could not immediately obtain an updated report, a spokesman said.

"Double the number" meant up from 3,033, not the 33 that partisan blowhards like Charles Krauthammer and Howard Kurtz erroneously jabbered about. I doubt we'll see a retraction from Krauthammer on his charge of a hoax that served as a "revelation of the cheapest instincts of the antiwar left"...

American Sovereignty, Free Trade, and Jobs

Many Americans shepherd their ire on the United Nations as a evil force of tyranny intent on destroying the sovereignty of U.S. government. Meanwhile, a more sinister entity and its offshoots have already encroached on U.S. laws and superceded the legislative acts passed democratically elected representatives. Special trade tribunals, who meet behind closed doors and unbeholden to citizens, are empowered to solve "trade disputes" and their rulings can force governments to amend domestic legislation or face heavy fines.

Thus far, many cases presented to these "free trade" tribunals are pending. Last August, in one of the more notorious cases, Methanex Corp vs. California, the NAFTA tribunal ruled against the Canadian chemical company's lawsuit for $1 billion. Methanex claimed a California ban of the gasoline additive MTBE, which was polluting drinking water, hurt their sales of Methanol. Of course, there's no such thing as "precedent" to effect future tribunal rulings, since it's not an open judicial system based on codified law. As per standard modus operandi of the Bush administration to embrace hypocrisy at every turn, while embarking on a campaign to curtail lawsuits from injured citizens aka Tort Reform, they are championing the expansion of the "corporate lawsuit" mechanism, via FTAA and "fast track" trade promotion authority.

As jobs continue to be exported offshore, cries from the impacted American workers grow louder to implore government measures to address the problem. While these pleas are greeted mostly by indifference from American legislators, some states have begun to pay heed to their constituents. But they are being met by preparatory PR strikes from developing countries resorting to edicts of free trade law to support their stance. The Indian press is full of articles on the rising sentiment in the U.S. against outsourcing:

"There is a need to put together a cogent case outlining how the American states considering the bill against outsourcing to India stand to lose in a net lose-lose proposition," said the Assocham survey.

"The business case needs to be put together on how much will the states lose in additional costs per call that are taken in the U.S. or Britain versus taken in an off-shore destination like India."

The industry lobby group urged the government to make case under the World Trade Organisation agreements that the bills against outsourcing would act as trade barriers and not allow a fair movement of services.

20 June 2003

General Clark Says White House Pushed Saddam Link Without Evidence

On the June 15 Meet the Press, former general Wesley Clark told Tim Russert that Bush administration officials had engaged in a campaign to implicate Saddam Hussein in the September 11 attacks-- starting that very day.

CLARK: "There was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001, starting immediately after 9/11, to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein."

RUSSERT: "By who? Who did that?"

CLARK: "Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, 'You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.' I said, 'But--I'm willing to say it, but what's your evidence?' And I never got any evidence."

GIF Liberation Day

Today US Patent 4,558,302 expires. It is the patent for the LZW compression algorithm used in .gif files, held by Unisys. There are two main types of image files on the web - .jpg (or .jpeg) typically used for photos and .gif which is still heavily used because of it works better for graphics, can do transparency, and supports animation. There is another format, .png, which can do all that .gif can do and accomplish it much more efficiently (smaller file sizes), but the big hangup with its acceptance is that the popular web browsers of the day don't support all of .png features. Microsoft Internet Explorer, which is used by a majority of net travelers does not properly support even the transparency features of .png. The cash cow for Unisys is about empty. Though I'm not sure what the status is in other countries that uphold software patents.

I still find it incredulous that an entity could claim a trademark on an algorithm. It's like someone saying you can't use the pythagorean theorem or that pi is protected and everytime you use a practical application of a mathematical truth, you are compelled to pay a royalty to the owner of that mathematical "algorithm".

19 June 2003

Bremer is a Baathist

So read the title of a front page editorial in one of the most widely read Iraqi newspapers. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, introduced a new media policy that prohibits broadcasting or publishing material that incites violence against any individual or group "including racial, ethnic, religious groups, and women"; encourages civil disorder; or "incites violence against coalition forces."
Iraqi journalists are not taking kindly to the restrictions. Among the scores of new publications that have flooded Iraq's newsstands since the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, the broadsheet As-Saah is one of the most widely read. In a front-page editorial Wednesday, the paper's senior editor let readers know what he thought of the country's liberators: "Bremer is a Baathist," the headline reads.

In an interview, editor Ni'ma Abdulrazzaq says the press edict decreed by Bremer lays out restrictions similar to those under Mr. Hussein. Not long ago, an uppity writer could easily be accused of being an agent for America or Israel. "Now they put plastic bags on our heads, throw us to the ground, and accuse us of being agents of Saddam Hussein," the editorial reads. "In other words, if you're not with America, you're with Saddam."

"Mr. Bremer, you remind us of Saddam," the column continues. "We've waited a long time to be free. Now you want us to be slaves."

18 June 2003

More Guns, Less Fakery

First, there was Michael Bellesiles's Arming America, that fraudulently claimed that very few Americans owned guns before the civil war, and that the "gun culture" of early America was myth. Bellesiles was disgraced when it turned out that much of his resources and source data were fabricated. Fellow historians, even those who were friendly to his cause, lashed out at him for his shoddy work and/or deliberate deceit.

Fast forward to John Lott, darling of the fanatical second amendment supporters, who authored More Guns, Less Crime and most recently The Bias Against Guns. Well, it appears that Mr. Lott may be guilty of the same overly creative research that Mr. Bellesiles committed. In fact, the same Northwestern University research professor, James Lindgren has chimed in to debunk Lott's research, suggesting that Lott is at the minimum, guilty of sloppy scholarship, and perhaps, more serious, outright fraud.

Like Bellesiles, Lott has responded to queries about his research with equivocations, excuses and denials. Even libertarian and conservative writers like Michelle Malkin have questioned Lott's integrity. He claims he's lost all the data due to computer crashes and can't remember any names of students who helped him with his survey.

But even more bizarre is that Lott lied about using a pseudonym ("Mary Rosh") to post "voluminous defenses of his work over the Internet". He gave himself a good review on amazon.com and attacked his critics under a byline bearing his false handle. Those acts don't sound like an author confident his research and sources can stand on their own merit.
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The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney

Former U.S. congresswomen Cynthia McKinney paid the price for daring to question powerful political forces. The final blow was a quote that was plastered "all over the place", but yet was a phantom quote never uttered by McKinney. She was beaten to death by a fabricated quote.

What was her transgression that led to her ouster? Perhaps it was her audacity to question the shenanigans that went on Florida Election 2000 with ChoicePoint, a strong Republican-tied database company, contracted by Florida to generate a list of felons ineligible to vote. Problem was, that list was erroneous and only a very few of the 90,000 (3%, 97% were innocent and half the list contained non-whites) voters on the list were indeed felons. Only one congress member inquired about the evidence - Cynthia McKinney of Atlanta, also home of ChoicePoint.

Or could it be because she was the only congressperson to demand hearings about a Canadian gold mining company, Barrick, who reportedly was funding both sides of a civil war in Congo? Human rights investigators had evidence that Barrick bulldozed mineshafts while clearing Tanzanian properties and buried 50 miners alive. A lawyer named Tundu Lissu stepped forward with the charges but was then charged himself with sedition by the Tanzian police. McKinney was trying to save his life. But Barrick has friends in high political places - George Bush Sr., or "Poppy" Bush who was serving as an advisor and lobbyist for Barrick. Even prominent Democrats Vernon Jordan and Andrew Young, who distanced themselves from McKinney in the 2002 election, were on the Barrick payroll too.

Intel holds job fairs for 'redeployed' employees, while hiring overseas

The article title says it all. Investing $100 - $200 million in India and hiring 1,000 - 3,000 engineers there while cutting thousands of jobs here in the state.

The Christian Science Monitor is also featuring an article on the exodus of higher-status white collar jobs to India. It's not just programmers and engineers - accountants, market researchers, and medical technicians, all working for "nickels on the dollar".

17 June 2003

Senator Hatch Wishes to Destroy Filetrader PCs

The jackass of the day pin goes to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch, who stated that "he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet."
"I'm interested," Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone's computer "may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights."

The senator, a composer who earned $18,000 last year in song writing royalties, acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, "then destroy their computer."

"If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize" the seriousness of their actions, he said.

Another conservative who claims to admire limited government but really is just another tool eager to employ coercive power of government to help corporate interests stomp all over the U.S. Constitution. In Hatch's view, large companies should be given free reign to destroy the private property of U.S. citizens they suspect are infringing on their copyrights - without any hint of due process or legal proceedings whatsoever.

Not surprising, Senator Hatch was a sponsor of the DMCA. That action alone should have ended his career. How Republicans can lie and say they represent freedom from government intrusion is beyond me.

CPS Loubriel Case Summary

KTAR David Leibowitz has published a copy of the CPS report (still under investigation) on the Loubriel case. CPS has received nine reports on this family, the earliest dating back to January 1999, the most recent being June 4, 2003 - four days before the police went to the home on June 8 and discovered a malnourished Issac locked in a feces littered, urine stained closet for approximately six months. In the most recent case, the assigned case manager was carrying 16 open cases, one of which was a "high risk sexual abuse" type that warranted priority.

Massive Media Facts and Figures

Mother Jones collected some facts from NY Times and Bill Moyers in regard to the recent FCC decision to deregulate further:
Number of trips FCC Commissioners and staff took in the last eight years that were "primarily" paid for by telecommunications and broadcast companies:
2,500

Cost of those trips:
$2,800,000

Number of closed-door meetings FCC has held with industry in recent months:
71

Number of public hearings on the new media ownership rules held in the last year attended by Chairman Michael Powell and the two Republican commissioners:
0

Percentage of the 500,000 comments posted to the FCC's website that voiced opposition to the new rules:
97

Number of owners of full-power TV stations and newspapers in 1975:
1,500

Number as of 2000:
625

Change in the number of commercial radio stations since passage of 1996 Telecommunications Act:
-1,700

Percentage change in average cost of cable rates since then:
+30

White House Reportedly in Peace Talks with Taliban?

You remember Afghanistan? That war where we eradicated the evil Taliban in response for their support of Al Qaeda. Well, they're back, and it looks like they're strong enough to warrant a deal for a "political solution".
According to a Pakistani jihadi leader who played a role in setting up the communication, the meeting took place recently between representatives of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Taliban leaders at the Pakistan Air Force base of Samungli, near Quetta.

In exchange for them returning to a Kabul government, these conditions were put forth:

  1. Mullah Omar must step down as leader.
  2. All Pakistani, Arab, and foreign fighters engaged against the international troops in Afghanistan must exit the country.
  3. Any US or allied soldiers help captive must be released.
  4. Afghans living abroad must be given a part in the government.

Why the need for a reconciliation?

The backdrop to the first meeting is an ever-increasing escalation in the guerrilla war being waged against foreign troops in Afghanistan. Small hit-and-run attacks are a daily feature in most parts of the country, while face-to-face skirmishes are common in the former Taliban stronghold around Kandahar in the south.

According to people familiar with Afghan resistance movements, the one that has emerged over the past year and a half since the fall of the Taliban is about four times as strong as the movement that opposed Soviet invaders for nearly a decade starting in 1979.

Shadowbane Subscription Cancelled

No mas. Enough. Battling with insufferable lag, login server unavailability, game crippling bugs, long existing exploits, and now duping has just drained me of any desire to play Shadowbane.

I haven't even mentioned the missing game experience at higher levels - the drab unimaginitive world terrain, absence of dungeons, limited spawns of higher level monsters, and foolhardy ease of which player built cities can be burninated.

I clicked the Cancel button. Unfortunately, I'm at the beginning of a new three month billing period, so technically my account will be active until August. Maybe by then, Wolfpack and Ubi will have implemented all of the required technical fixes, properly addressed the gameplay glitches, rid Aerynth of cheaters and exploiters, and patched some fun into the game. I think there's a better chance Ralph Nader can be elected president.

16 June 2003

Bishop O'Brien Arrested for Hit-and-Run

Yes, the same Bishop Thomas O'Brien that recently admitted he covered up allegations of sexual abuse by priests for decades. He reportedly was involved in a fatal hit and run accident Saturday night that left a 43 year old man dead.

Everybody's been banging on the bishop, and for good reason. The windshield on the passenger side was concaved and fractured and he's told the police that he's the only one that drives the car, was in the area, and "might have hit something". But yet I find it difficult to believe the bishop knowingly left the scene of the accident or even that he may be a morally debased specimen of human life. Maybe the stress of the pounding just was too much and played a paramount role in this tragedy. Now news reports state that the bishop has been hospitalized.

There for the grace of God go I.

I reckon Arizona media is going to be deluging us with 24 hour round the clock Bishop O'Brien coverage. I don't get the glee that I hear some folks express phoning in to the local radio talk shows, or the sense that some sort of karmic justice has been served. Goodness, a man is dead. It seems folks are so rabidly judgmental - these same people might look at their getting their own lives in order before casting rocks at the tragic legacy of another.

Fibbing It Up at Fox

Dale Steinreich at lewrockwell.com has posted his diary of Fox News campaign to "legitimize" the Iraq conflict. From bimbo reporters who don't have a clue to the dogmatic Colonel David Hunt. Not to mention the lack of objectivity displayed by O'Reilly...

Bush making us less secure, not more secure

Rand Beers, who recently resigned his post as top White House counterterrorism adviser says that the "administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism". Beers, who served under three different Republican administrations, feels that the Bush administration has underestimated the enemy and failed to address the root causes of terror and that it continues to avoid long term issues both home and abroad.
In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said.

U.S. prison population largest in world

With 2 million Americans now locked up in jails and prisons, the United States now has a higher percentage of its citizens behind bars than any other country.

15 June 2003

Leo Strauss: Godfather of the Neoconservatives

An article in the International Herald Tribune by William Pfaff advances the notion that the dominant neoconservative philosophy, striving to "remake the international order under effective U.S. hegemony", was set forth by Professor Strauss.
The main intellectual influence on the neoconservatives has been the philosopher Leo Strauss, who left Germany in 1938 and taught for many years at the University of Chicago. Several of the neoconservatives studied under him. Wolfowitz and Shulsky took doctorates under him.

Something of a cult developed around Strauss during his later years at Chicago, and he and some admirers figure in the Saul Bellow novel, "Ravelstein." The cult is appropriate because Strauss believed that the essential truths about human society and history should be held by an elite, and withheld from others who lack the fortitude to deal with truth. Society, Strauss thought, needs consoling lies.

In another words, we can't handle the truth and need to be cajoled.
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Letter to NHL Center Ice Regarding Cancellation

As an avid hockey fan, I've been a subscriber to the NHL Center Ice satellite television package that enables me to watch up to 40 game broadcasts per week. No, you can not actually watch the entire game of all 40 telecasts, considering that most of the games are played in the same time span. Maybe if I didn't have a job or any social appointments whatsoever, I could catch parts of all 40 games, but hey I got to make money to pay the annual $139 renewal fee.

However, this upcoming season, I'm inclined to cancel. The boring, trap style of tactics employed by the successful teams and the dearth of beautiful offensive free flow hockey is a contributing factor, but not the main reason why I will probably choose to no longer ante up and fill the financial coffers of the NHL and DirecTV. Actually, it's a short list of grievances of which I am fairly certain won't be addressed for the sake of a sole customer. But in case I am presented with a "reason for leaving" form, I figured I should plan ahead and list out my reasons.
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14 June 2003

Fast Food Nation

Just when I thought that true investigative reporting had disappeared from the mainstream media Schlosser comes along and produces a fine piece of muckraking on the fast food industry. The fast food industry is explored in depth - from historical anecdotes from the inception in California in the 1950's, a look at the workers and labor practices, a study of the flavoring factories, behind the scenes "fast-food"-ization of the potato farming and meatpacking industries whose biggest customers now are the fast food chains.

I haven't touched a morsel of ground beef since I read this, and you, if you valued your health, wouldn't either unless you knew the origin of the ground beef (out of the major chains, In & Out Burger is the safest choice).
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Ron Paul on Anti-Internet Gambling Bill

Ron Paul and Barney Frank joining forces in the House to voice their opposition to this Jon Kyl favored legislation to ban internet gambling. Paul is quite clear in his dissent, stating that the federal government has no constitutional authority to ban or even discourage any form of gambling.
Mr. Speaker, HR 2143 limits the ability of individual citizens to use bank instruments, including credit cards or checks, to finance Internet gambling. This legislation should be rejected by Congress since the federal government has no constitutional authority to ban or even discourage any form of gambling.

In addition to being unconstitutional, HR 2143 is likely to prove ineffective at ending Internet gambling. Instead, this bill will ensure that gambling is controlled by organized crime. History, from the failed experiment of prohibition to today's futile "war on drugs," shows that the government cannot eliminate demand for something like Internet gambling simply by passing a law. Instead, HR 2143 will force those who wish to gamble over the Internet to patronize suppliers willing to flaunt the ban. In many cases, providers of services banned by the government will be members of criminal organizations. Even if organized crime does not operate Internet gambling enterprises their competitors are likely to be controlled by organized crime. After all, since the owners and patrons of Internet gambling cannot rely on the police and courts to enforce contracts and resolve other disputes, they will be forced to rely on members of organized crime to perform those functions. Thus, the profits of Internet gambling will flow into organized crime. Furthermore, outlawing an activity will raise the price vendors are able to charge consumers, thus increasing the profits flowing to organized crime from Internet gambling. It is bitterly ironic that a bill masquerading as an attack on crime will actually increase organized crime's ability to control and profit from Internet gambling!

Oh, won't somebody please think of the children!

13 June 2003

U.S. Funded Middle Eastern Television Network to Launch By End of Year

Norman Pattiz, Westwood One chairman, with a $30 million chest full of taxpayer funds, is planning to launch a new satellite TV network to compete with Al Jazeera and counter what's perceived as "the negative portrait of U.S. policy". Children's programming and music videos with "a western flare" will occupy show slots, in addition to news.

Bin Laden Declaration of War

What are the grievances of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda against the U.S.? Why do they hate us? Is it as President Bush says, "They hate our freedoms--our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."?

Well, you can read Bin Laden's Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places online. Lots of religous allegory and cries that the American Zionist alliance is thwarting the freedom of Muslims. Also, conditions for ending the war are embedded within this long winded outpouring.

Al Franken Discusses Calling Out O'Reilly Lies

BuzzFlash has posted an interview with Al Franken, author of the bestseller Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and soon to be published Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. During a recent appearance on CSPAN Book Show, Franken confronted O'Reilly about his repeated fallacious claim that he received the prestigious Peabody award while hosting Inside Edition, a trashy, sensationalist tabloid journalism TV show.
Well, it isn't just that Bill O'Reilly claims he won a couple of Peabody Awards. Whenever he was asked about Inside Edition and it being sort of a tabloid show, O'Reilly would indignantly say that they had won two Peabody Awards. Who says we're a tabloid show? And O'Reilly would offer as proof the Peabody Awards that Inside Edition had supposedly won. And he did this on a number of occasions. I got through watching him once on C-SPAN and then went researching on Nexis. I just followed it up because I couldn't believe that Inside Edition had won a Peabody. And I did the research. And, of course, they hadn't won any Peabody Award. I thought I would call O'Reilly, and that way he could stop saying the wrong thing, which any journalist would be embarrassed about. Instead of being grateful that I had called him, he just got angry. Well it turns out that Inside Edition had won a "Polk" Award a year after he left. And so he got very, very angry and said, "Go ahead – go after me, Al." And so I just thought that it'd be fun to do.

Franken also talks about how some disproven bunk is disseminated from right wing think tanks and morphs into an "echo chamber" of disinformation. Examples given are anecdotal blurbs plucked from Bernard Goldberg book Bias that were taken out of their meaningful context to construct something that just isn't so. And more egregious, when Goldberg is queried about it, he is truly ignorant on the matter, lending weight to the hypothesis that he's a tool, blindly spreading the mantra of some conservative think tank agenda.
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12 June 2003

When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden

At first glance, When You Ride ALONE, You Ride With Bin Laden struck me as a preachy spiel chastising Americans to pitch in and carpool together as our wartime (yes, the vague, non-specific "War on Terror) sacrifice for our nation. I was surprised to discover that the title was a takeoff on a 1943 WWII poster created by a government state side campaign plea to urge Americans to conserve oil by participating in car sharing pools. Interesting. Poster images from the WWII era and contemporary art created in the same fashion grace the pages of this Bill Maher mini rant journal.

Lots of big pictures and not too many pages in this book so those who shudder at the sight of lengthy prose should not be dissauded. Each chapter-ette is a concise 1-3 page Maher rant on some aspect of the post 9/11 American state.
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Egypt Bans The Matrix Movie

Egypt's pre-screening "official" senior film committee has deemed the Matrix harmful and may cause troubles and harm social peace.
One Egyptian critic, Wael Abdel Fatah, said: "The press launched a campaign to stop showing the movie, saying that it reflects Zionist ideas, and promotes Jewish and Zionist beliefs."

So it was banned, because these 15 individuals saw it and think it's bad for the rest of Egypt. Now arn't they tainted by the violent content and religous themes?

What will the Casualty Count be for Gulf War II?

The World Almanac says that the casualty count in Gulf War I 766. However, the US Department of Veteran Affairs has published a report verifying that 221,000 Gulf War I veterans are now permanently disabled. The report also acknowledged that well over 10,000 have died as a consequence of Gulf War I exposure.

As I was driving into work today, one local radio station was trumpeting a scheduled parade to celebrate the return of reserve marines from the Gulf while another was interviewing US Army Major Doug Rokke, who was sharing his message regarding the dangers and devastation caused by our military's use of depleted uranium. Until I heard this interview, I was completely unaware that the U.S. was throwing thousands of tons of this deadly, contaminative, radioactive waste around the world.

Yes, our government really does its best to "support the troops" - by covering up the danger, failing to provide proper prevention and immediate treatment and then dispensing and delaying with treating the symptons caused by this military technology. And in the case of Iraq, we are "liberating Iraqis" by dumping hundreds of tons of radioactive waste (an illegal use of a WMD according to the UN) onto their land and inflicting fatal poision upon millions of natives there.
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11 June 2003

What Fate Do Isaac Loubriel's Parents Deserve?

Because his mother didn't like his attitude and thought he was "being bad", Isaac Loubriel was locked in a dark closet, to starve, abandoned, and left there to curl up in a fetal position in feces and urine. A seven year old child, he was malnourished, being fed at times only once a week, when police freed him from his captivity.

The report of this inhumane, vile act committed by the Loubriels is unbelievable. It just boggles the mind - how could anyone treat a any young child in this fashion, let alone your own son? It's like there is a different twisted, bizarre universe than the one I live in - one where there exist people like Melanie and Ricardo Loubriel. I can fathom evil and crime and hate, but this story is as unfathomable to me as the Al Qaeda 9/11 terrorist hijacker suicide assault. For a period of six months they kept their seven year old child locked in a closet!

There's a volcano of rage inside me that wants to take a baseball bat and viciously swing it in their direction. I pray for their souls, but I just can't comprehend the mental composition of somebody that could do such a thing
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How to persuade conservatives to oppose Bush

An excellent writeup on how the neoconservatives planned for the opportunity that Bush and 9/11/01 gave them. Bernard Weiner provides some background on the Project for a New American Century and it's national security strategy - "attacking possible future competitors first, assuming regional hegemony by force of arms, controlling energy resources around the globe, maintaining a permanent-war strategy, etc." ...

10 June 2003

British Scientist Puts Odds for Apocalypse at 50-50

It's the end of the world as we know it, according to this British scientist...

This is the way the world might end: A genetically engineered pathogen is released, debris from an erupting "supervolcano" blocks the sun or scientists in the biggest "bioerror" of them all accidentally trigger a matter-squeezing "big bang."

The demise of civilization has been predicted since it began, but the odds of keeping Planet Earth alive and well are getting worse amid a breakneck pace of scientific advances, according to Martin Rees, Britain's honorary astronomer royal.

Rees calculates that the odds of an apocalyptic disaster striking Earth have risen to about 50 percent from 20 percent a hundred years ago.

The 60-year-old scientist, author of the recently published "Our Final Hour," says science is advancing in a far more unpredictable and potentially dangerous pattern than ever before.

He lists as mankind's biggest threats: nuclear terrorism, deadly engineered viruses, rogue machines and genetic engineering that could alter human character. All of those could result from innocent error or the action of a single malevolent individual.

By 2020, an instance of bioterror or bioerror will have killed a million people, Rees contends.

Where did the Jobs Go?

It's dated, but still, this four part special TV local news report by WKMG CBS Channel 6 in Orlando, Florida gives an account of an underreported trend that is playing out in many Information Technology departments across the United States.

Local 6 News reported that two types of visas, the H1-B and L-1 visa programs, allow foreigners to come to the United States for employment and work in specialized fields like computer programming and software engineering.

H1-B visas allow U.S. companies, including federal contractors, to hire skilled foreign workers on a temporary basis to supply workers where they cannot find qualified Americans.

However, the technology workers, who are mostly from India, are not filling empty jobs but actually replacing qualified Americans, according to the report.


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9 June 2003

Hoover Dam bypass under way

But it's not expected to be completed until 2007.
Work has begun on a $234 million bypass for the dam that will offer motorists a spectacular straight shot over the river and mountains between Arizona and Nevada, although at least $100 million will be needed to finish the job.

Rehnquist Revival Is Near End

The LA Times reviews the 50-year judicial career of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who, from the start, "defended the 19th century' separate but equal' doctrine," saw civil rights laws as "unneeded" and said that on the issue of church and state separation, "Thomas Jefferson was wrong."

Selling Papers

Newspaper editor Richard Hart describes how the recent FCC decision to allow further media consolidation is going to harm local newspapers. Hart gives a first hand account of what happened to The News and Observer in North Carolina after a buyout - how news coverage was skewed to attract affluent, conservative readers.

The newspaper's focus became improving readership in Wake County--an increasingly conservative, Republican place. The North Raleigh News section was created. Staffing in Durham and Orange counties was reduced. Stories were discussed in terms of their appeal to Wake County readers.

The N&O is filled with talented, professional, profoundly ethical journalists. No one will ever say they were told to skew news coverage for marketing reasons. But it's clear to me that editors at The N&O, which made its reputation as a leading, liberal Southern paper under Jonathan Daniels, did not aggressively look for stories that forcefully challenged the Bush administration on Iraq because they were afraid of alienating conservative, Wake County readers.

So what does this have to do with further media consolidation? McClatchy is considered one of the least profit-oriented chains in the country, one that puts good journalism first. There are also constant rumors that, being a medium-sized media company, it is ripe for takeover by another media giant.

8 June 2003

Poindexter's nutty scheme

Science fiction author, Bruce Sterling, shares his thoughts about Total Information Awareness (or as it has been renamed - Terrorist Information Awareness) with CNET reporter Declan McCullaugh. Sterling believes that Americans, now unable to flee their "data shadow", and will be "decapitated and lobotomized".

I'll tell you what will happen if it were an effective TIA. There would immediately be a series of coups inside the Republican Party as the people who owned the KGB survival mechanism were systemically outed and "Trent Lotted"...It would be profoundly destabilizing. Their sexual affairs would be public. They'd be "Lewinskied." They'd be "Whitewatered."

The common population would stand aghast as these people did one another in. It would not stop once the surveillance mechanism was there. It would eat generation after generation of KGB members until it decapitated and lobotomized the entire population.

There are plenty of Republican senators now who know what happened to Trent Lott--how can they not? They have street smarts. They're aware that he was nailed because people happened to record something that was at the practical funeral of a centenarian.

Oceans overfished beyond repair?

Is it true? Are we raping the oceans of fish and is the quantity of fish diminished from what it was centuries ago, or even decades ago? Environmentalists have been busy sounding off alarm sirens for some time but there still is a substantial segment of the world's denizens that have themselves rooted in disbelief. Corporate PR and the right wing ideologues like Rush Limbaugh paint the environmentalists as wackos and marginalize their arguments, despite the fact that it's often in direct opposition to a consensus of scientists (at least ones not on the payroll of corporate PR soruces) on the matter.

But every once in a while some piece of news brings back that not-very-distant world. The journal Nature this spring published the single most comprehensive study ever conducted of the world’s fisheries. Simply put, it concluded that the world’s oceans are wrecked. In the past 50 years, the populations of every single species of large wild fish have fallen by 90 percent or more. Those sharks, tuna, marlins, swordfish, halibut and grouper that have managed to survive are, on average, one-fifth to one-half the size they were 50 years ago. In the deep oceans, where Japanese fleets use fishing lines many kilometers long, they used to catch 10 fish per 100 hooks; now they are lucky to catch one.


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Saudi Arabia Leading Executioner Says He Leads Normal Life

Yeah, beheading seven people a day with a your sword is how most normal folks spend their typical day.

Saudi Arabia’s leading executioner Muhammad Saad Al-Beshi will behead up to seven people in a day.

“It doesn’t matter to me: Two, four, 10 — As long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute,” he told Okaz newspaper in an interview.

An executioner’s life, of course, is not all killing. Sometimes it can be amputation of hands and legs. “I use a special sharp knife, not a sword,” he explains. “When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint. If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that.”


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Globalisation who benefits?

Insightful article on globalization written by David Korten, Debi Barker, and Jerry Mander. David Korten is the author of When Corporations Rule the World.

So far, almost all evidence from the past several decades (1970-2000) — the period of economic globalisation’s most rapid ascendancy — shows that it is bringing exactly the opposite outcome that its advocates claim.

A report by the United Nations (UNDP, 1999) found that inequalities between rich and poor within countries, and among countries, are quickly expanding, and that the global trading and finance system is one of the primary causes.

Economic globalisation policies as enforced by the World Bank, IMF, and the WTO actually have far more to do with creating poverty than solving it. There are dozens of examples, but let’s look primarily at two: Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), and also the impact of export-oriented production on agriculture and livelihoods.

7 June 2003

GW Bush Lies About WMD an Impeachable Offense?

John Dean, former Nixon counsel, has penned an article asking the question and draws parallels to the Nixon impeachment:

To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.

Nixon claimed that his misuses of the federal agencies for his political purposes were in the interest of national security. The same kind of thinking might lead a President to manipulate and misuse national security agencies or their intelligence to create a phony reason to lead the nation into a politically desirable war. Let us hope that is not the case.

Atticus Finch AFI Alltime Top Hero

The American Film Institute list of the top 50 heroes and villians is out. Gregory Peck in his legendary To Kill a Mockingbird role nabs the the #1 slot. Top villian honors go to Anthony Hopkins famous Dr. Hannibal Lechter role in Silence of the Lambs.

Two films, It's a Wonderful Life and Silence of the Lambs have entries in the hero and villian top 10 charts. Mr. Potter, Clarice Starling, and George Bailey grace the upper slice of the list.

How Hans Gruber (Die Hard) could rank behind Bonnie & Clyde on the villian chart is puzzling. And Erin Brockovich on the list... please...
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6 June 2003

KFYI Goyette Show Stealing Show Theme from KTAR?

This afternoon, KFYI Charles Goyette eagerly launched into his show, asking the listeners to fill in the cast for the new Hillary Clinton A&E movie. Further down the dial, KTAR Michael Hagerty, filling in for Preston Westmoreland, also shared the same exact topic, though his show was not as "fictional" as Goyette's. Hagerty provided some details on the planned movie, specifically, that Sharon Stone has got dibs on the lead role.

Just a hunch, but considering that KTAR runs promos all day billing the day's talk show fare as juicy plugs while KFYI national programming precedes Goyette's show would indicate the KFYI'ers latched onto the competitor's themes instead of coming up with their own show. I guess banging on the bishop was getting old ...

Martha Stewart, sacrificial ma'am

At times, Jon Talton, business columnist for the AZ Republic, seems to be lodged in some sort of mythical magical happy funland, where the shield from reality is uber-thick - lending his brain to outpouring myopic business school textbook mantra that bears no substantive relationship to real life economics. But he is a gifted writer and on numerous occasions has delivered a truly insightful column that is dead on the mark. Today's rant on the the Martha Stewart prosecution falls into the latter category.

Somebody's got to take the fall for the worst corporate scandal in modern history.

It couldn't be the chiefs of the major investment banks. They knew where too many bodies, involving both political parties, were buried in Washington. And New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer might need their help if he decides to run for governor.

It couldn't be the brokers, analysts and managers who pushed fraudulent research and lured investors into a bubble about to pop. You'll find enough of them in Bush Justice Department perp walks. But the public isn't totally stupid - the scandal won't be eliminated as a political liability if only the small fry cook.

It couldn't be the corrupt chief executives with their Caligula-level compensation, or the institutional investors that failed to protect their millions of customers, or the lawyers and bankers who drove mergers that killed jobs but brought big fees. These are some of the biggest donors to both parties. Many are among the closest friends of the Bushes and Cheneys - indeed, the vice president worked among their ranks.

So Martha must go down.

In true Orwellian fashion, the federal authorities are using Stewart as a poster girl for all of the corporate malfeasance, while ignoring the need for real reform ...
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5 June 2003

Welcome to the new look AZplace!

Welcome to the new and improved AZplace!!

No, I am going to preserve the Wiki stuff too - some of the content will be moved onto this here new deal, but for much of it, the online realm will be best served if it is discarded. I still haven't abandoned the Wiki concept, just realized it isn't best suited for material that fits better into a web log format.

ATITD Depot is still up, serving as an example of my PHP authoring skills.

1 June 2003

About AZplace

Blog about politics, computers, technology, radio, Arizona, science, justice, war, world affairs, globalization, economics, sports, history, and whatever else catches the fancy of me or other contributors.

I am Naum, amateur writer and rabble rouser, professional programmer and website developer. I have a bachelors degree in Computer Science, and minor in mathematics, and that renders me totally unqualified to lecture on any subject other than programming computing machines or the wonderous sport of hockey.

If you'd like to submit an article or volunteer to become a AZplace.net writer, .