You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature

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To me Andrew Sullivan is a pimple on the ass of the blogisphere, as is Drudge (Telling Lies Online
), but Sullivan gets clicks. Like so many on the fringe AS loves to mangle studies and statistics, so who better then Sullivan to take Google Trends and see what he wants to see even if on examination a rational person could fit a cow through the holes in his conclusions, The following example is lifted from Andrew Sullivan's blog.

By "normalization", one assumes they are removing the effect of the total number of searches, or else the US will always end up at the top. Normalization is forever a double-edged sword: if you are the marketer, even if you see Peru as having the highest % of searches using "blog", you can't conclude that Peru is the market you should go after, since you may be worried just how widespread Internet/Google penetration is in Peru. By hiding the scale (again), Google Trends stubbornly remains just a toy.

Cheney's Guy – Chief of staff David Addington is the most powerful man you've never heard of

This was what is known, in the cloistered world of constitutional lawyers and scholars, as a "signing statement." Such statements, in the years before President Bush and his aides moved into the White House, were rare. A signing statement is a legal memorandum in which the president and his lawyers take legislation sent over by Congress and put their stamp on it by saying what they believe the measure does and doesn't allow. Consumed by the 9/11 attacks, Americans for the most part didn't realize that the signing statement accompanying the announcement of the Brown v. Board commission would signal one of the most controversial hallmarks of the Bush presidency: a historic shift in the balance of power away from the legislative branch of government to the executive. The shift began soon after Bush took office and reached its apogee after 9/11, with Bush's authorization of military tribunals for terrorism suspects, secret detentions and aggressive interrogations of "unlawful enemy combatants," and warrantless electronic surveillance of terrorism suspects on U.S. soil, including American citizens.

The "invisible hand." Much of the criticism that has been directed at these measures has focused on Vice President Dick Cheney. In fact, however, it is a largely anonymous government lawyer, who now serves as Cheney's chief of staff, who has served as the ramrod driving the Bush administration's most secretive and controversial counterterrorism measures through the bureaucracy. David Addington was a key advocate of the Brown v. Board and more than 750 other signing statements the administration has issued since taking office–a record that far outstrips that of any other president.

Frequently some conservatives that see the administration stumbling and even some center-left pundits will claim that Bush is something of a pawn, thus not completely responsible for an agenda and concept of governance that has resulted in both lawlessness and ineptitude at a level not seen in any administration since Harding. When we add up all the Darth Jrs. like Addington, Cheney, Rice, Bolton, you get a clear picture of a president who's world view is not befuddled, but hell bent on a kool-aid acid tripping Machiavelli-like remaking of executive powers.

Addington is a strong adherent of the so-called unitary executive theory, which is cited frequently and prominently in many of Bush's legislative signing statements. The theory holds that the president is solely in charge of the executive branch and that Congress, therefore, can't tell him how to carry out his executive functions, whom to pick for what jobs, or through whom he must report to Congress. Executive power, separation of power, a tight chain of command, and protecting the unitary executive–those became the guide stars of Addington's legal universe.

U.S. News tips its conservative bias by portraying the Bush/Cheney/Addington concept of executive power as just a simple delineation of the separation of powers. Congress is empowered to make laws and as long as those laws are found to be constitutional the president is legally bound to adhere to and carry out those laws. The Bush Cult will never  come out into the light of good government because to do so would be to openly challenge the constitutionality of any laws that they feel impinge on executive power rather then going through the back alleys of purely speculative legal theory aided and abetted by a irresponsible and complicit congress. By not fully engaging the law in a way that is honest, both Bush and his congressional apologists are breeding contempt for the law.

If you expose any of the administration's wrong doing you may be prosecuted, Prosecution of Journalists Is Possible in NSA Leaks. If the administration uses reporters to spread its "official" leaks then that is OK, A Bad Leak

This fits the pattern of Mr. Bush's original sales pitch on the Iraq war — hyping the intelligence that bolstered his case and suppressing the intelligence that undercut it. In this case, Mr. Libby was authorized to talk about claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa and not more reliable evidence to the contrary.

In a saner world the Attorney general would be investigating the Bush Whitehouse. These scroundrels are not just bending and breaking laws, they are creating their own reality.

'We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation — anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.'

'But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not conquered them yet.'

'Unimportant. We shall conquer them when it suits us. And if we did not, what difference would it make? We can shut them out of existence. Oceania is the world.'

from Chapter 3 of the novel 1984 by George Orwell

I know you can. I know that. I don’t want to be assured

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When People Talk, General Hayden Listens!
Warning: This cartoon may have undergone NSA monitoring

New Face, Old Evasion, Is 'waterboarding' still practiced by the CIA?

AT THE SENATE intelligence committee hearing Thursday on Gen. Michael V. Hayden's nomination to head the CIA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked the nominee a simple question: Is "waterboarding" an acceptable interrogation technique? Gen. Hayden responded: "Let me defer that to closed session, and I would be happy to discuss it in some detail." That was the wrong answer. The right one would have been simple: No. Last year Congress banned cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of detainees; one of its explicit aims was to stop the CIA's use of waterboarding, which induces an excruciating sensation of drowning and is considered by most human rights organizations to constitute torture. So why couldn't Gen. Hayden say clearly that the technique is now off-limits?

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure some Democratic blogger will say that supporting Hayden is a smart political move because there are far worse candidates waiting in the wings. Another Goss or maybe a John Bolton who will be chasing agents down hall ways yelling that they better put aside their objectivity and tow the ideological line. They'll say that Hayden doesn't like Rummy, which is a little lame since the only people on the planet that still like Rummy are Al-Queda, George W., and the freepers ( kind of a political circle jerk of sado-masochists). Democrats would be better off voting against every single candidate that Bush proposes, because no matter who it is they'll have skeletons in their little conservative closet and the chorus will sing, Well Dems voted for him too…

Just for fun someone with more energy then me may want to do some research and find one package, one group of policies on which conservatives have shown some consistency. I don't mean things like they have consistently screwed over the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, that is all of one policy. I'm thinking more in terms of the big picture, like their domestic security policies. From TPM

Consequently, the Coast Guard has started forewarning ships that they're going to be inspected in order to reduce the delay. Which is fine. Unless, of course, the ship you're inspecting actually does have some mischief taking place on board in which case the warning stands a good chance of tipping off the malefactors. After all, advance notice sort of undermines the point of random inspections.

OK, maybe research isn't necessary, they just have a contradictory bone headed world view that encompasses pretty much everything.

Our side has a few dust bunnies under the bed, the sooner they're cleaned out the better, FBI Searches Congressional Office of Louisiana Lawmaker

"The government's actions in obtaining a search warrant to search the offices of a United States Congressman were outrageous," Trout said in a statement, the Associated Press reported. "There were no exigent circumstances necessitating this action. The government knew that the documents were being appropriately preserved while proper procedures were being followed. We are dismayed by this action. The documents weren't going anywhere and the prosecutors knew it."

Jefferson said last week that he will not resign his seat in the face of a federal investigation that has resulted in guilty pleas from two people who implicated him in a bribery scheme.

Jefferson, a Democrat wouldn't have to be outraged about the searches if he would tender his resignation effective immediately. That would save his party some embarrassment and be a small step toward cleaning up the pay for play atmosphere of DC.

Should You Be Fired for Using the Internet While at Work?.
Since I've worked with people that wasted at least 3 or four hours a week on personal phone calls I can't see how the net is much different. The real underlying issue is getting people to be responsible and use good judgement. The workplace is not supposed to be a salt mine or a playground. There has always been those bosses that think you should be totally work focused from the time you enter the door to the time you leave and those employees that think their work day is a game where they try and do as little work as possible without getting canned. It's amazing how great a balance one gets in a true team environment where there are indiviual and team goals and a lot of self policing. In a team no one wants that sought of intervention where team members pull someone aside and tell them their excessive use of the phone or the net is ruining it for everyone else. Peer pressure finally serves a useful purpose.

MORT:(back to Shooter) I can assure you.

SHOOTER:I know you can. I know that. I don’t
want to be assured.

MORT:(sounding a bit pompous and hating it)
If you want to talk to someone about some grievance you feel have, you could call my literary agent in —

SHOOTER:This is between you and me. We don't need any outsider Mr. Rainy. This is strictly between you and me.

-Pump the doq limps into the doorway, wagging his tail
enthusiastically.

MORT:I don’t like being accused of plagiarist, if that is what you’re doing.

SHOOTER: I don't blame you for not liking it. But you did it.You stole my story.

MORT: You'll have to leave. I have nothing to say to you.

SHOOTER: Yeah I’ll go. We’ll talk more later.

from the screenplay Secret Window by David Koepp, based on the novella by S. King

Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding

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How to – The Book Of Cool, which begs the question; if you have to read a book or watch a video to learn how to be cool, are you ever going to be cool. Since part of being truly cool is not giving a damn about being cool. There are scooter tricks, football slight of hand and head, pool tricks -always useful, gun tricks- which has nothing to do with turning out your gun for money, and the not always but sometimes dangerous card tricks -disclaimer, try these card tricks at a betting table in Lake Tahoe and you risk loosing two inches in height. Just from the site itself you could learn something about cool site design. It is possible to be too cool, so cool in fact that you become somewhat inaccessible, see Miles Davis.

I like movies about conmen, Confidence and The Grifters for example. As viewers we're safely removed from the action. We're not the ones caught up in the sting or the consequences. While these two examples are thankfully not pure morality tales, they do contain some lessons worth learning. From the safety of our overstuffed sofas we can even empathize with some of the characters, in Confidence especially. In surreal real lives conmen/conwomen are some of the very same people that swear an allegiance to values, and one assumes that honesty is still a value. With honesty as our part of our guidelines which includes foresight and prudent judgement one could say that many of our fellow citizens and their elected representatives are trying to pull a fast one when they harp like spoiled millionaires at a Holiday Inn without room service that tax cuts are the holy grail of a healthy economy, National debt is destroying us

Our rapidly growing national debt is a serious national crisis, yet it is hardly mentioned in this newspaper.

If more citizens knew the facts of about our debt and what the consequences are likely to be, Congress might be forced to act responsibly.

The national debt will exceed $8 trillion by the end of this year. More than $2 trillion of this debt is owed to foreign governments. Last year the $400 billion interest payment on the debt was the third-largest part of the federal budget, just behind Defense and Health and Human Services.

How does the government pay the interest on this debt? They borrow it of course! It is estimated that they will borrow an additional $600 billion in to pay the ever-increasing annual interest payment!

How long do the president and Congress think they can continue this fiscal disaster?

So far the president's only remedy has been to print huge amounts of new money to help pay the debt. In the past this practice has always led to high rates of inflation, double-digit interest rates, and economic recession.

Like their disastrous foreign policies, we the people will be left holding the bag for conservative tax policies for not just a few years, but possibly for the next generation. Since I'm not running for office, nor am I anywhere near being a top tier blogger I would also blame a large part of the American public. We're seeing a pyramid scheme of a tax scam. The movers and shakers of conservatism have convinced many people that their economic prosperity is endangered by taxes, people the next level down buy this scheme and sell it to others. meanwhile all the levels of the pyramid pay fewer taxes, but keep using the same level of services that taxes were meant to provide, from street lights, highways, libraries, police protection, subsidized flood insurance to disaster response, schools, medical research, and our military and so on. So who is to blame for this perpetual pyramid scheme; there is plenty of blame for those at the top, but its the millions of Joe and Jane Sixpacks at the bottom that really keep the con going. Tax cuts are never going to make Joe and Jane rich no matter how many bumper stickers they put on their car that say otherwise or how often one of the professional liars at Fox or the op-ed page at the WSJ say so. We've become a nation of tools for a false promise that you don't have to chip anything in, but you can keep making withdrawals. Maybe even more then the big lies about Iraq being a threat to America, the tax con is the biggest sucker play of our time.

Interesting service, Housing Tracker

Real Estate market statistics (including median asking prices and home inventory numbers) for cities/metros across the United States.

GUTMAN:(purring) We begin well, sir. I distrust a man that says “when”. If he’s got to be careful not to drink too much, it’s because he’s not to be trusted when he does.

-Spade takes the glass, smiling. The fat man raises his glass, holds it against the window’s light, nods approvingly.

GUTMAN: Well, sir, here’s to plain speaking
and clear understanding. (he regards Spade shrewdly)
You’re a close—mouthed man?

SPADE:(shakes his head) I like to talk.

GUTMAN:(exclaims delightedly) Better and better. I distrust a close—mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice.

-He picks up the box of cigars, holds it out to Spade. Spade takes one, trims the end of it, lights it. The fat man pulls another plush armchair around to face Spade’s, takes a cigar from the box, lowers himself into the chair. His bulbs stop jouncing and settle into flabby rest. Gutman smiles comfortably.

GUTMAN:Now, sir, we’ll talk if you like, and I’ll tell you right out that I’m a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk.

SPADE:Swell… Will we talk about the
black bird?

-Gutman’s bulbs ride up and down on his laughter. His pink face is shiny with delight.

GUTMAN:You’re the man for me, sir. No beating about the bush but right to the point. Let us talk about the black bird by all means… But first, sir, answer me a question. Are you here as Miss O’Shaughnessy’s representative?
Spade frowns thoughtfully at the ash-tipped end of his cigar.

from the screenplay The Maltese Falcon by John Houston

Swell… Here’s another one for you

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I stumbled across this the other day The Sam Spade Radio Show, free MP recordings of the radio show from the 1940's and 50's. Unfortunately the radio script is performed by Howard Duff rather then Humphrey Bogart, but the scripts were based on the stories by Dashiell Hammett.

U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia

More than a decade after U.S. troops withdrew from Somalia following a disastrous military intervention, officials of Somalia's interim government and some U.S. analysts of Africa policy say the United States has returned to the African country, secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.

The latest clashes, last week and over the weekend, were some of the most violent in Mogadishu since the end of the American intervention in 1994, and left 150 dead and hundreds more wounded. Leaders of the interim government blamed U.S. support of the militias for provoking the clashes.

snip

"We would prefer that the U.S. work with the transitional government and not with criminals," the prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, said in an interview. "This is a dangerous game. Somalia is not a stable place and we want the U.S. in Somalia. But in a more constructive way. Clearly we have a common objective to stabilize Somalia, but the U.S. is using the wrong channels."

Many of the warlords have their own agendas, Somali officials said, and some reportedly fought against the United States in 1993 during street battles that culminated in an attack that downed two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and left 18 Army Rangers dead.

This reminds me of two things. One that conservative foreign policy is generally guided by the ideology of expediency and moral relativity. two, it reminds me of Reagan and Latin America, where in a choice between intervening to help grow a nascent democracy by helping what at first was a moderate socialists coalition he threw in with a brutal right-wing government that dealt out justice with death squads and torture. Bush is backing warload death squads with the hope that this will discourage the growth of Al Queda. Bush's plan isn't so much a plan as a reaction. Short term some very bad people will have killed some other bad people, but what about next year or years down the road. is he creating the next generation of African terrorists in the same way that his bungling of Iraq has created the next generation of Middle-east terrorists.

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls, yet Hayden at his 2002 confirmation hearings said,

"We need to get it right. We have to find the right balance between protecting our security and protecting our liberty. If we fail in this effort by drawing the line in the wrong place, that is, overly favoring liberty or security, then the terrorists win and liberty loses in either case."

Then there is the general's tendency to spin rather then live in what some of us call the real world,

Had this been in place prior to the attacks, the two hijackers who were in San Diego, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, almost certainly would have been identified as who they were, what they were and, most importantly, where they were," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Facts or propaganda aimed at boosting support for the domestic spying program? Hayden doesn't mention that the two hijackers were living with an FBI informant. He doesn't mention that several investigations, from the 9/11 commission to investigations by the Justice Department, concluded that the two hijackers were able to attack us not because of a lack of surveillance powers, but because the FBI screwed up

More on the tact that if you constitution hugging freedom loving liberals would just let us do whatever we want there will never never ever be another 9-11, The Lie Lives On … and On … and On

The truth is that Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar are the poster boys for missed opportunities. If the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and the White House had not screwed up so royally, mostly by cherishing their secrets, they would have had al Hasmi and al Mihdhar several times over.

Here are the facts.

Both of them were in the NSA and CIA files. They'd fought in Bosnia. They'd been to Afghanistan. They had friends and relatives who were jihadists and who were in Al Qaeda and they had associations with bin Laden.

In December, 1999 the NSA picked up several names in relation to an upcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the capitol of Malaysia. They got al Mihdhar's full name but only al Hazmi's first name, Nawaf. They could have figured out who he was if they had checked in their own data base. But they didn't.

Just as a point of pride, one would have to stop being a paranoid tin-foil wearing conservative just to stop the embarrassing array of screw-ups and falsehoods that you're constantly being caught in.

  BRIGID: Look at me and tell me the truth. Would you have done this to me if the Falcon had been real and you had been paid your money?

    SPADE: Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be. That kind of reputation might be good business bringing in high-priced jobs and making it easier to deal with the enemy.

    -She looks at him, says nothing. Spade moves his shoulders a little.

    SPADE: But a lot of money would have been at least one more item on your side of the scales.

    BRIGID:(whispers) If you loved me, you’d need nothing
    more on that side.

    SPADE: (his voice a hoarse creak) I won’t play the sap for you.

    -She puts her mouth to his slowly and is in his arms when the doorbell RINGS. Before he releases her he calls:

    SPADE: Come in.

    -Lieutenant Dundy, Tom Polhaus and two other detectives enter. They look back and forth from Spade to the girl.

    SPADE:Hello, Tom… Got them?

    POLHAUS:(nods) Got them.

    SPADE: Swell… Here’s another one for you.(he pushes Brigid forward) She killed Miles —— and I’ve got some exhibits.

From the screenplay The Maltese Falcon by John Houston

We can open our eyes to death, and feel that it’s real

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From the Army Times, Murtha: Marines may have killed Haditha civilians in cold blood

Rep. John Murtha, an influential Pennsylvania lawmaker and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, said today Marines had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood” after allegedly responding to a roadside bomb ambush that killed a Marine during a patrol in Haditha, Iraq, Nov. 19.

The incident is still under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Multi-National Forces Iraq.

and from the San Jose Mercury News, Pentagon report said to find killing of Iraqi civilians deliberate

A Pentagon report on an incident in which U.S. Marines shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians last November will show that those killings were deliberate and worse than initially reported, a Pennsylvania congressman said Wednesday.

"There was no firefight. There was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed those innocent people," Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said during a news conference on Iraq. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood. That is what the report is going to tell."

Murtha's comments were the first on-the-record remarks by a U.S. official characterizing the findings of military investigators looking into the Nov. 19 incident. Murtha, the ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and an opponent of Bush administration policy in Iraq, said he hadn't read the report but had learned about its findings from military commanders and other sources.

Military public affairs officers said the investigation isn't completed and declined to provide further information. "There is an ongoing investigation," said Lt. Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. "Any comment at this time would be inappropriate."

First, one can say that they hope that what Rep. Murtha says is not true, but given that Murtha is and has been under somewhat of a microscope by his critics ever since he dared exercise his right to free speech regarding a redeployment of the troops in Iraq it is unlikely that he would be making such serious claims without some evidence to back it up. While those that have been accused of alleged crimes in Haditha should be accorded the benefit of the usual innocence until proven guilty; it is also true that until Murtha's rabid detractors can offer up some concrete evidence that Rep. Murtha is wrong they have no basis for their invectives other then the usual unfounded knee jerk reactions ( and hypocrisy).

A cowardly blogger named the California Conservative writes, John Murtha, Traitor

Frankly, this is the actions of a traitor or a sellout. He deserves to be ridiculed, excoriated and frog-marched off Capitol Hill, then remanded to jail. No bail. Doesn’t this idiot know the type of damage this inflicts on the Marines? Or is it that he’s so intoxicated with the thought of becoming the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that he’ll say anything?

I'm not linking to him because I try not to link to people that are utterly insane, with every breath CC and his supporters exhale the stench of false patriotism fills the air, and their unamerican bile leaves trail of slime. The investigation is not officially complete and while it would be wrong for me or others to make an absolute final judgement one way or the other, there is reasonable evidence available that indicates some wrong doing by a few Marines( It is not a small betrayal of CC's ignorance in these matters when he refers to Marines as soldiers. Marines are Marines or even troops, but not soldiers). So far several officers have been relived of their command. After a report by Time magazine the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Multi-National Forces Iraq found enough evidence to indicate that an investigation was called for. I have reserved my judgement and would encourage others to reserve their final judgement until all the evidence that Rep. Murtha and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has is released. Certainly it is bizarre and unhinged for those that have supported the likes of G.W. Bush, Tom Delay,  Duke Cunningham, and echoed the bald faced lies of the Swiftboaters to be calling retired marine Rep. Murtha a traitor. Should the mousey right-wing hypocrite brigade and their chickenhawks bloggers be pulling out these tired Swiftboat tactics against yet another decorated veteran.

The National Enquirer of wing-nut conservative blogs Newsbusters leads with the headline, " Murtha Makes An Outrageous Allegation". As stated previously, while we do not have the benefit of the final report from NCIS Newsbusters offers not a single fact to back up it's claim. What we're seeing here is the assumption that there is nothing to investigate, everyone in camo is not just assumed innocent as a point of law, but is innocent regardless of the findings indicated by the Congressman's inside sources. What a dangerous would view, that no one in uniform may ever be investigated or is ever guilty of a crime or should ever be held accountable for their actions. I'm not going to paste up quotes from the military code of conduct, even these chickenhawk conservative bloggers know that even under battle conditions Marines are held to certain standards of behavior. To take this attitude, to hold as a deeply held conviction that no member of the military is ever guilty of anything is deeply unamerican. I don't use the term loosely. The very foundation of this democracy is that justice is blind and that regardless of our race, creed, color, religion and including our military affiliations all Americans are all equal under the law. Those on the fringe right that believe otherwise have a choice of various military dictatorships to which they are more then welcome to move their pajama clad asses to.

A search of recent news stories that involved the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found these stories,
Sailor to be sentenced after being found guilty of kidnapping, assault

‘Botherder’ Dealt Record Prison Sentence for Selling and Spreading Malicious Computer Code

Military Hearing into Base Murder Closes

The pretrial hearing to investigate whether an American service member charged with the murder of a fellow service member should be court-martialed closed yesterday in Keflavik, Iceland.
Air Force Airman Calvin Eugene Hill, 20, faces five charges, including murder and obstructing justice by allegedly murdering Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner to prevent her from testifying against him. ( My note. The wingnuttery can just ask the military if they're in favor of running a lawless culture and start with Airman Turner)

Marine sentenced to life imprisonment for killing mistress


Members of the military aren't hatched out of some special factory, they are human beings, no better and no worse then any other American. Some commit acts of heroism and some have been found to have commited horrendous acts. The day we as a nation start assuming that any group of people is above criticism or above the law will be the same day that we stopped being a Democratic republic.
These patriotic blogs are also justifiably outraged at the sick reaction of the right-wing noise machine, Conservatives and War Crimes, The Difference Between Left And Right, Haditha Civilian Killings: "This One Is Ugly", and this just in from MSNBC – Lawmaker: Marines killed Iraqis ‘in cold blood

Military officials told NBC News that the Marine Corps' own evidence appears to show Murtha is right.

A videotape taken by an Iraqi showed the aftermath of the alleged attack: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.

The video, obtained by Time magazine, was broadcast a day after town residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes on Nov. 19 and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

Another kind of investigation, A PAINTING’S SECRET

“We tried to clean a section of the painting, what would be the sitter’s left hand,” Williams said. “We applied solvent on black fingers and saw….

You'll just have to go read the rest. Another saga of the truth may set you free, but sometimes it dissappoints.

(note: updated for some grammar and new links) 

I was never mad at Jenny. I would be lying if I said I was. You can't control the thoughts in your head sometimes. And you can't control who you love. It's a strange feeling, loving someone. It can be so sad sometimes. Even sadder than death, I think. Love is something we'll never really understand. We can open our eyes to death, and feel that it's real. We can watch it happen right in front of us, and we can accept it, even though it isn't always easy. But love isn't like that. Love makes us weak and desperate. Love kills parts of us we never even knew we had. I guess I still love Jenny, because I can't remember a day that I ever really stopped. But I do remember the day she told me she didn't love me anymore. The day she told me that she loved someone else.

from the story Connor + Jenny by Kate Peterson

what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish?

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Wired has a good summary of where we are now as far as the various ways and means in which the Bush administration and a complacent, if not complicit Congress have bent, circumvented, or broken the law. As I wrote previously it is important to keep the activities of the NSA separate from those of the FBI. Both agencies have different missions, operate under different internal guide lines, and each has their own restrictions and prerogatives under law. With that in mind it is reasonable to look at the big picture. That we are now in a deeply immersed in a society of paranoia, surveillance, and partisan exploitation of fear. Clearly most Americans want a certain level of protection and it is equally clear to those that believe in democracy first, party politics second, that the administration has erred too far on the side of over reaction. As usual much of the public is more concerned with paying for their kids dental bills and their mortgage at the end of the month then whatever the powers in Washington are up to. Yet there is, according to the polls anyway a large segment of the population that has real concerns about government overstepping its bounds in disregarding Americans constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. Bush has been both reluctant to fully inform Congress, the American people and has been stingy about disseminating information. We're back to the the infamous modus operandi of Bush and most conservatives, trust us and we'll do the right thing. Our founders and our history teach us that many of those in power are easily morally corrupted by said power and we were conceived as a nation of laws for that very reason ( Other then perhaps the first two decades after the Declaration of Independence I don't think any single political movement has enjoyed such unfettered political power as modern conservatives and exercised that power in such malevolent ways). Democrats could be making more noise about the situation, doing more in focusing a national spotlight on Bush and the conservative side of the aisle, but with a few exceptions have failed to fight on against this culture of paranoia as hard as they should. I know the strategy is to play it safe with midterms looming, but as more and more surveillance abuses unfold voters may get so fed up that a certain percentage will stay home thinking why expend an effort on voting for a party that in general been so quiet on these issues of grave impact on the future of our country. As expected most, though not all conservatives are in fact comforted by Big Brother. I can take some personal satisfaction in my life long suspicions that the conservative mistrust of big gov'ment were carefully crafted propaganda to appeal to the Timothy McVeigh crowd and corporate America, but that is cold solace at best. Not that those in power give a damn, but the concerns of moderate minded American could be rather easily assuaged. Just briefly,

Obviously the FBI is abusing its powers under the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act should be amended to include judicial oversight of NSL letters. The FBI leadership should be changed and people with excellent records of competence and respect for constitutional safeguards of civil liberties put in leadership positions.

The president and NSA should be held accountable for any directives that were/are in violation of FISA laws. The president should be censured.

Congress should strongly assert its oversight role in operations regarding national security ( If for no other reason then that of competence; we are spending too much of secuirty assets on chasing down empty rabbit holes). This president and every president is bound to uphold the rule of law and respect the role of Congress and the courts.

Those members of Congress, such as Senator Pat Roberts should be censured for complicity in the administrations usurpation of laws passed by Congress and for failure to carry out his oath of office.

A four member bi-partisan panel from the Senate should be appointed to investigate and give general administrative guidance to the NSA and to report any wrong doing to the Senate Intelligence Committee ( for those that say we shoudn't mind being spied on if we have nothing to hide. If the NSA's activities are all above board they shouldn't mind a little investigation). The FISA Court should be able to review any and all activities regarding the FBI's spying on journalists and recommend legal action against those that have abused the Patriot Act to the DOJ.

Davis Neiwert on the distinction between christians and christianists. The later which has a particularly unamerican political and social agenda.

New Nude Dude Ranch Opens in Arizona

The 30-acre Mira Vista Resort has opened as a "clothing-optional" resort, where nudists can enjoy lounging by the pool, playing tennis, doing yoga or even Pilates.

"It's hard to go back to wearing a bathing suit once you've tried it nude," Dave Landman, one of six new owners, told the Arizona Daily Star.

One, I wish he hadn't used the word "hard". Two, being nude on horseback in the hot western sun will almost always lead to discomforts better left for the imagination.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 20
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,

from The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Perhaps the eye of a scrutinising observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure

phonesecurity.jpg
Two related items, Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling and FBI Acknowledges: Journalists Phone Records are Fair Game
The arcane legal language, the precedents, executive orders are diffcult and time consuming to dig through. These events in themselves are frustrating, but what may be even more frustrating is that they may be wrong in terms of ethics, but there may be a legal grey zone. Brian Ross notes at the end of the second story concerning the FBI and its' powers not the NSA,

"The FBI will take logical investigative steps to determine if a criminal act was committed by a government employee by the unauthorized release of classified information," the statement said.

Officials say that means that phone records of reporters will be sought if government records are not sufficient.

Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).

The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.

If this was a newspaper, think of this nest part as a little box in the right margin. The thoughts of ill informed cloudy thinking individuals who have a difficult time wrestling with the complexities involved of living in a democracy,

Good! I hope they do find out who is leaking national security info to the press. I'm tired of the press helping our enemies. Maybe you guys should start trying to "FOR the USA" instead of "AGAINST the USA" ALL THE TIME. I hope the FBI nails lots of idiots who are out to destroy the intelligence agencies and cost us more soldiers and spys!

Posted by: Grace | May 15, 2006 11:09:57 AM

'Bout time you guys are roped in.

Posted by: Brad | May 15, 2006 11:11:50 AM

Excellent the Media needs looking after, Traitors most of them…….

Posted by: ken wiley | May 15, 2006 11:12:07 AM

good, you seditionist creeps deserve what you get. who knows how many serviceman have died because of your "right to know"

Posted by: jeff bynum | May 15, 2006 11:12:10 AM

I hope the information they gain allows them to catch the scum that leak information, and helps them arrest the communist scum who publish it.

As far as the comments go, I think we all know people like this. They used their civics text books as food trays for their pork rinds and think the constitution is fine as long as it doesn't interfere in their eliminationism.
There is one imporatnt thing to keep in mind, while the right-wing reactionaries will give their knee jerk approval to almost anything Bush and big government conservatism does supposedly in the name of national security, the progressive side of blogtopia should be careful to keep the details straight. The story from ABC is about the FBI, not the NSA which is not another shoe dropping, its a different set of rules as Ross points out in regards to the NS letters.
Now back to the NSA. I'm not going to link to the tripe that WaPO published by Richard Falkenrath in defense of the NSA's activities, but Orin Kerr exposes Falkenrath's lie about the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986,

3. Falkenrath is just wrong about ECPA. He states that “the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 explicitly permits telecommunications companies to provide customer records to the government if the government asks for them.” No, it doesn’t. There is no “government request” exception to the ban on disclosure.

The telcos turned over records without a warrant which may make them liable. The case could also be made that the NSA acted in bad faith and by nature of its authority, intimidation could have been a factor in how the telcos that did cooperate came to do so. In Orin's comments Bruce sites some case law that may apply,

Even if, however, the government ultimately proves to be right in its assessment of § 2703(c)(1)(B), the Plaintiff has plead § 2703(a) and (b) as alternative grounds for relief. In his claim that the government, at the least, solicited a violation of the ECPA by AOL, the Court finds that there is likely success on the merits with regard to this issue. The government knew, or should have known, that by turning over the information without a warrant, AOL was breaking the law. Yet the Navy, in this case, directly solicited the information anyway.

So when the NSA approached AT&T etc and did not provide a warrant they knew they were asking those telcos to break the provisions of ECPA. So what the argument goes, the NSA got phone numbers which were are supposedly not personally identifiable no harm done, Kevin Drum points out the obvious,

Even a child knows that phone numbers can be linked to names and addresses using ordinary commercial databases. There is absolutely nothing anonymous about this data, and only a shameless con man would try to convince us otherwise. Why does the Post give space to this obvious agitprop?

So legally as far the information that is available as I write this where do we stand. The NSA is in over its head as a result of the massive grab of telephone numbers that they have monitored without a warrant and clearly cannot show to any remotely reasonable degree that millions of Americans are or were an immient threat to our national security, Questions and Answers on Potential Telco Liability

In sum, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) prohibits handing over the records, and it provides at least $1,000 in damages per customer for violations. For 50 million or more customers, that leads to big damages indeed.

This post responds to the legal questions and comments that we’ve seen so far. We still don’t see any decent legal defense against liability, and that may be why Qwest refused to go along with the NSA demands:

1. Isn’t the conduct covered under another part of the SCA? Maybe. If the phone companies “voluntarily” gave the records to the NSA, then 18 U.S.C. 2702(c) applies. If the phone companies were required to turn over the records, such as through a court order, then Section 2703(c) applies. The bottom line is the same – none of the exceptions apply, and liability exists.

2. What about the emergency exception? Section 2702 has an exception for “an emergency involving immediate danger of death or serious physical injury.” Other emergency exceptions in the wiretap laws have time frames such as 72 hours, giving time for the government to get a court order. This exception won’t cover the NSA program, which is now going on five years.

3. What about the consent exception? Section 2702 and 2703 both have an exception for disclosure with the consent of the subscriber or customer. Simple question – did you give your personal consent for a top-secret program to turn over all customer calls to the government? Will a federal judge think that all customers did so? It would take a huge factual leap for the judge to agree that everyone gave actual consent to what has happened here.

4. Does the SCA apply to phone records? Yes. The rules apply to an “electronic communications service,” which includes both phone and e-mail communications.

5. Does it matter that the telcos took out customer names and addresses? No. Phone numbers themselves are treated as personally identifiable information in American law, such as under the federal Privacy Act. The reason is that the NSA can instantly match the phone numbers back to subscribers using widely available services. It won’t work for the telcos to say: “We temporarily took out customer names, knowing that the NSA could put them back in moments later.”

Probably most of the folks that drop by here are well aware of the reverse number look up services available for free on the internet. I f I have you're phone number, I have you're name and I have your address. If I have your name and address I can have your social security number in 24 hours or less. If I have your social security number, your phone number, your address and name I also have as much of your personal and employment history as I care to dig up, including legal filings ( stocks, divorces, bankruptcy, child custody, etc) and real estate transactions. Private information can be a domino. One piece falls and everyting else follows. The administration is doing what it usually does, states its lies wrapped in dubious pretenses, knowing that its supporters will follow along like sheep and baa at anyone that doesn't swalllow the lies and the pretenses. I think that liberals, the remaining tiny group of small government conservatives, and most libertarians have taken a long look at the utter ineptitude of the current Washington cabal over the last six years and concluded that their concerns about genuine security balanced with respect for traditional American liberties are better for America then modern conservatives. The far right's case is that if all of breaking and bending of the 4th Amendemnet, FISA, and other privacy statutes prevents another September 11th then its all worth it. Isn't that contrary to the principles on which we were founded and though we've had some bumps in the road, principles that we've tried to live up to. Let's say we all agreed to make that big trade, give us safety, liberty is just a luxury we can't afford anymore. Will we still be America ? Will we still be the land of the free and the home of the brave? Or will be be the great experiment in democracy that dies on the altar of grand illusions of absolute safety? Wikipedia defines sedition, an admittedly antiquated term, as

a deprecated term of law to refer to covert conduct such as speech and organization that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often included subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discolouration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen, and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaption of parts and the crumbling condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the spacious totality of old woodwork which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinising observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.

from The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

there will be only one course of action open: total commitment

timeisticking.jpg
The clock is ticking, Medicare Deadline Spurs a Debate Over Penalties

Enrollment in Medicare's new prescription drug benefit lurches to a conclusion on Monday, with beneficiaries, insurers and many lawmakers saying Congress should eliminate the financial penalty for people who sign up late.

Under one idea that is gaining momentum, Monday would still be the deadline for enrollment and beneficiaries would not have another opportunity to sign up until November. But people who sign up at the end of this year would be spared the late enrollment penalty, a permanent surcharge that would otherwise increase all future premiums by 7 percent or more.

Prospects for waiving the penalty will become clearer in coming weeks, as a picture emerges of whether people who failed to enroll want to do so. If the drug benefit becomes a big issue in fall campaigns, more Republicans may embrace the idea as a way to deflect Democratic attacks without changing the structure of the new program.

So if you and someone you know did not sign up by the end of the day you're out of luck for the next six months. Then if you have not managed to figure this program out and that includes an awful lot of people, you may be harnessed with a never ending surcharge. One thing that Americans can do that mistakenly signed up for the wrong plan because it was so confusing, or folks that missed the deadline, or people that have been assigned the wrong co-payment plan, or maybe you're one of those folks that make the staggering sum of fourteen thousand dollars a year and been disqualified because of your "assets", is while waiting for the Bushcracy to fix their screw-ups or crossing your fingers while waiting for the November enrollment; try to figure out what "compassionate conservatism" means, what's so conservative about being a conservative and what dictionary were conservatives using when they decided to define their actions as compassionate.

– How do you know that a Democrat has instilled real fear into a conservative, other then the usual paranoia they usually thrive on?
– It is almost always the case that when a conservative media pundit attacks a Democrat for said Democrat's concerns about ethics in Congress or the Whitehouse its because the pundit is afraid of any investigation into conservative's ethics violations.
– It is always the case with the media and conservative pundits that Democrats are held to a higher standard, one which the media and conservatives never live up to.
– When a conservative says that a Democrat has gone off the reservation, they really mean that said Democrat will not be intimidated by shrill conservative attacks.
– Why are the conservative attack dogs drooling more then usual lately? Because for one, midterms are getting closer, and two conservatives have all the real power, squandered it, came up empty handed except for some very irresponsible tax cuts ( which they claim is fueling the economy while its actually being floated on deficit spending). Now that the conservative bag of "bold" ideas has been found to be empty, personal attacks are all they have left.
While they would never, never, ever admit it, they can't believe that they blew it all on their own and somehow blame must be shifted to anyone who day after day has been a reasonable, but determined opponent. Harry Reid has been quiet lately so I guess they had to shift to another target for now, Whack-a-Dem 2006: Nancy Pelosi . Pelosi is a kinda two-fer for conservative pundits, she is not only a Democrat, but a woman. While Pelosi has said she thinks impeachment is a bad idea ( politically I think she's right) that still leaves censure, not just for the lies about Iraq, but the breaking of over 270 laws. Rather then attack Pelosi, conservatives should be grateful that Democrats aren't talking about having people locked up in stocks on the Capital steps.

Woman, 62, fights $1,431 cable porn bill

Lee said the only regular visitor to her house is her 81-year-old mother, "and I don't think she wants to watch porn."

MANDRAKE
Do I take it, sir, that you are threatening a brother officer with a gun?

RIPPER
Mandrake, I suppose it never occurred to you that while we're chatting here so enjoyably, a decision is being made by the President and the Joint Chiefs in the war room at the Pentagon. And when they realize there is no possibility of recalling the wing, there will be only one course of action open: total commitment. Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenzo once said about war?

MANDRAKE
No. I don't think I do sir, no.

RIPPER
He said war was to important to be left to the Generals. When he said that, fifty years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the raining, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

from the screenplay Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George

If I go to jail…?

dream1.jpg
Federico Fellini as Auteur: Seven Aspects of His Films

The study explores Fellini's narrative form and visual presentation, includes materials from his dream notebooks and dream-related film scenes, and examines the fictionalized autobiography, contending that the filmmaker created an "autobiographical legend" of himself and then filmed the legend. Drawing on a wide range of materials, including documents written in Italian and largely unavailable to English-language scholars, Stubbs details the collaborative relationship Fellini had with his wife, actress Giulietta Masina. He focuses on the creative tension between director and actress, which contributed to the effective portrayal of Masina's two predominant characters, the waif and the betrayed wife.

La Dolce vita was the first film I ever watched by Fellini when I was in my teens. I'd didn't have any background knowledge about the film, like Marcello Mastroianni was Fellini's projection of himself or that the film was a mix of reality and dream where different narratives would drop off and then suddenly pick up again. Yet I easily projected my self into that part of the idea that so much of what Mastroianni/Fellini sought remained out of reach. You know that dream where you move closer to some person or place, you walk toward it, then as you're just about there, you reach out and you're back where you started walking toward your vision.
On the other hand Fellini could make ill concieved trash like Satyricon in which he seemed to totally give in to his worse impulses, one of the most awful self indulgent films ever made.

Fired Officer Believed CIA Lied to Congress

But McCarthy's friends, including former officials who support aggressive interrogation methods, resist any suggestion that she handled classified information loosely or that political motives lay behind her dissent and the contacts she has told the agency she had with journalists. She was, in the view of several who know her well, a CIA scapegoat for a White House that they say prefers intelligence acolytes instead of analysts and sees ulterior motives in any policy criticism.

They allege that her firing was another chapter in a long-standing feud between the CIA and the Bush White House, stoked by friction over the merits of the war in Iraq, over whether links existed between Saddam Hussein's government and al-Qaeda, and over the CIA-instigated criminal inquiry of White House officials suspected of leaking the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

"When the president nominated Porter Goss [as CIA director in September 2004], he sent Goss over to get a rogue agency under control," Steven Simon, a colleague of McCarthy's at the National Security Council from 1994 to 1999, said Goss's aides told him. Simon said McCarthy's unusually public firing appeared intended not only to block leaks but also to suppress the dissent that has "led to these leaks. The aim was to have a chilling effect, and it will probably work for a while."

This makes sense in that really persuing leakers through legal channels would entail the administration having to answer some very embarrassing questions in regards to adherence to the law and international conventions. We could say that the administration might be embarrassed over the moral questions involved in appointing itself judge, jury, and executioner, but the Bushies have shown that they have no qualms about being completely amoral.

DOJ Moves to Dismiss AT&T Class Action under Cover of Night

Early Saturday morning, in the darkest hours of the night, the Department of Justice made good its threat to file a motion to dismiss our class-action lawsuit against AT&T, contending that AT&T's collaboration with the NSA's massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications (which violates the law and the privacy of its customers)–despite being front page news throughout the United States and the subject of government press conferences and Congressional hearings–is a state secret. The motion was accompanied by declarations by Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, Director, National Security Agency and John D. Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence.

Faces of the Fallen
Recently updated database of those that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bend to Baja
This is one of those dreams I walk towards and it never materializes into reality. I try and get some nice company like Patagonia to sponsor a months long trip where I get to live out all my more adventurous day dreams, but they always choose someone else. Darn it.

A Fresh Focus on Cheney

In the margins of the op-ed, Cheney jotted out a series of questions that seemed to challenge many of Wilson's assertions as well as the legitimacy of his CIA sponsored trip to Africa: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. [sic] to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for Cheney's own notes to be made public. The notes—apparently obtained as a result of a grand jury subpoena—would appear to make Cheney an even more central witness than had been previously thought in the criminal probe. Fitzgerald's prosecution has created continued problems for the White House. Karl Rove, the President Bush's chief political advisor, recently made his fifth grand jury appearance in the case and remains under scrutiny while Fitzgerald weighs whether to file criminal charges against him.

How many times have we heard a variation on that theme, "Or did his wife send him on a junket?" from Fox News and conservative zealots on the net. Do they all think like clones or do they all use the same fax machine.

JOE
I'm supposed to give my Deposition…?

COP
We'll be with you in a minute.

ANN
I'll wait for you…I'm proud of you.
I'll be waiting.

JOE
If I go to jail…?

ANN
I'll knit you a sweater.

from the screenplay STATE AND MAIN by David Mamet