Saturday, November 13, 2004

Shut Up and Leave

That is my polite request of John Ashcroft, ungranted thus far, as he continues to spout off about, of all things, constitutionality:

Attorney General John Ashcroft declared yesterday that "dangerous and constitutionally questionable" rulings by federal judges that challenge a president's powers in wartime were jeopardizing national security.

Ashcroft's Justice Department has been dealt a string of court defeats in recent months calling into question the administration's antiterrorism strategies. In a speech before the conservative Federalist Society yesterday, he called the trend "profoundly disturbing."

The remarks were Ashcroft's first since the White House announced Tuesday that he was stepping down.

"The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war," Ashcroft said.

"Our nation and our liberty will be all the more in jeopardy as the tendency for judicial encroachment and ideological micromanagement are applied to the sensitive domain of national defense," he said.


Nothing Like Vietnam

For the first time in decades, the Army has issued a field guide to counterinsurgency warfare, an acknowledgment that the kind of fighting under way in Iraq may become more common in the years ahead.

The Army field manual on counterinsurgency operations is the first since the early Vietnam era, and the first ever intended for the kind of regular Army units now embroiled in battles in Iraq, as opposed to the Special Operations forces who have taken the lead in previous counterinsurgencies.



Once we've destroyed the place, shouldn't we at least let in the people who want to help? Apparently not.
Aid agencies called on U.S. forces and the Iraqi government to allow them to deliver food, medicine and water to Falluja on Friday and said four days of intense fighting had turned the city into a "big disaster."

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society, which receives support from foreign agencies including the Red Cross and UNICEF (news - web sites), said it had asked U.S. forces and Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim government to let them deliver relief goods to Falluja and establish medics there.

But it said it had received no reply.

"We call on the Iraqi government and U.S. forces to allow us to do our humanitarian duty to the innocent people," said Firdoos al-Ubadi, Red Crescent spokeswoman.

"This is their responsibility," she said, adding that judging by reports received from refugees and pictures broadcast on television, Falluja was a "big disaster."


Diebold Machines: Hackable Since 1997

More evidence that e-voting is a tremendously flawed idea at the moment:

Diebold was one of three companies -- including Election Systems & Software and Sequoia -- that provided updated technology for the 2004 election.

Computer Science Professor Avi Rubin of John Hopkins University analyzed Diebold's 47,609 lines of code and found it uses an encryption key that was hacked in 1997 and no longer is used in secure programs.

Rubin said Diebold has said it repaired the security flaws in subsequent programs, but that the company has not produced the code for analysis.

Diebold did return a call for comment.

The Digital Encryption Standard 56-bit encryption key used can be unlocked by a key embedded in all the source code, meaning all Diebold machines would respond to the same key.

Rubin, his graduate students and a colleague from Rice University found other bugs, that the administrator's PIN code was "1111" and that one programmer had inserted, "This is just a hack for now."

The implication is that by hacking one machine you could have access to all Diebold machines.


Thursday, November 11, 2004


Iraq is not in good shape, to put it mildly:
US troops were drawn into a new offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday to tackle a tide of insurgency unchecked by the military assault on Falluja.

In Baghdad at least 17 Iraqis were killed in a suicide car bombing as gunmen set up checkpoints on roads in the west of the capital and fought battles with US troops.

Rebels also took to the streets of the northern town of Baiji, home to Iraq's main refinery, clashing with security forces.

The violence suggests the four-day operation in Falluja may have cleared out the most important insurgent stronghold in Iraq, but has done little to curb the burgeoning militant movement.

For two days insurgents have defied a curfew to rampage through Mosul, attacking or setting fire to at least seven police stations as well as government buildings.

Masked gunmen stole bullet-proof jackets and Kalashnikov rifles from police stations and were roaming the city centre yesterday setting fire to police cars and taking control of bridges. The five bridges over the Tigris were later closed to civilian traffic.


Another Anomaly

These electronic voting machines just aren't reliable:
Election equipment counted straight-party votes for Democratic candidates as Libertarian votes, an error that could affect election outcomes in as many as nine counties, the Richmond Palladium-Item reported today.


Bush's New AG Nominee: Pro-Torture, Pro-Death

He'll do what it takes to make sure people suffer and die, according to reports compiled by Some excerpts:
According to Newsweek, the memo "was drafted after White House meetings convened by George W. Bush's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Department general counsel William Haynes and [Cheney counsel] David Addington." The memo included the opinion that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." Further, the memo puts forth the opinion that the pain caused by an interrogation must include "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions – in order to constitute torture."
As chief legal counsel for then Gov. Bush in Texas, Gonzales was responsible for writing a memo on the facts of each death penalty case – Bush decided whether a defendant should live or die based on the memos. An examination of the Gonzales memoranda by the Atlantic Monthly concluded, "Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence." His memos caused Bush frequently to approve executions based on "only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute."
In his briefing on death-row defendant Terry Washington – a mentally retarded 33-year-old man with the communication skills of a 7-year-old – Gonzales devoted nearly a third of his 3-page report to the gruesome details of the crime, but referred "only fleetingly to the central issue in Washington's clemency appeal – his limited mental capacity, which was never disputed by the State of Texas – and present[ed] it as part of a discussion of 'conflicting information' about the condemned man's childhood." In addition, Gonzales "failed to mention that Washington's mental limitations, and the fact that he and his ten siblings were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts, were never made known to the jury, although both the district attorney and Washington's trial lawyer knew of this potentially mitigating evidence."


Michael Moore: He'll Be Back

He's planning a sequel:
Michael Moore met with Harvey Weinstein and Moore says they plan to start working – now – on “Fahrenheit 9/11½.” “We want to get cameras rolling now and have it ready in two-three years,” Moore says. “We want to document and commercialize it. Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election) and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren’t told the truth. We’re communicators and it’s up to us to start doing it now. The official mourning period is over today and there is a silver lining – George W. Bush is prohibited by law from running again.”


Arundhati Roy Takes on Corporate Interests (Yet Again)

Her acceptance speech for this year's Sydney Peace Prize is well worth reading. Some excerpts:

It is becoming more than clear that violating human rights is an inherent and necessary part of the process of implementing a coercive and unjust political and economic structure on the world. Without the violation of human rights on an enormous scale, the neo-liberal project would remain in the dreamy realm of policy. But increasingly Human Rights violations are being portrayed as the unfortunate, almost accidental fallout of an otherwise acceptable political and economic system. [...]

Until recently, while there was a careful record of how many US soldiers had lost their lives, we had no idea of how many Iraqis had been killed. US General Tommy Franks said "We don't do body counts" (meaning Iraqi body counts). He could have added "We don't do the Geneva Convention either." A new, detailed study, fast-tracked by the Lancet medical journal and extensively peer reviewed, estimates that 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion. [...] In ordinary language, it's called butchering. [...]

We know very well who benefits from war in the age of Empire. But we must also ask ourselves honestly who benefits from peace in the age of Empire? War mongering is criminal. But talking of peace without talking of justice could easily become advocacy for a kind of capitulation. And talking of justice without unmasking the institutions and the systems that perpetrate injustice, is beyond hypocritical. [...]

Thousands of activists across the world have been hard at work preparing footholds and securing the ropes to make it easier for the rest of us. There isn't only one path up. There are hundreds of ways of doing it. There are hundreds of battles being fought around the world that need your skills, your minds, your resources. No battle is irrelevant. No victory is too small.

The bad news is that colorful demonstrations, weekend marches and annual trips to the World Social Forum are not enough. There have to be targeted acts of real civil disobedience with real consequences. Maybe we can't flip a switch and conjure up a revolution. But there are several things we could do. For example, you could make a list of those corporations who have profited from the invasion of Iraq and have offices here in Australia. You could name them, boycott them, occupy their offices and force them out of business. If it can happen in Bolivia, it can happen in India. It can happen in Australia. Why not?

Why not?


Targeting Alaska

The pointless and destructive ANWR drilling plan is back in play:

Republican gains in the Senate could give President Bush his best chance yet to achieve his No. 1 energy priority -- opening an oil-rich but environmentally sensitive Alaska wildlife refuge to drilling.

If he is successful, it would be a stinging defeat for environmentalists and an energy triumph that eluded Bush his first four years in the White House. A broader agenda that includes reviving nuclear power, preventing blackouts and expanding oil and gas drilling in the Rockies will be more difficult to enact.

Republicans in the House and Senate said this week they plan to push for Alaska refuge drilling legislation early next year, and they predict success, given the 55-44-1 GOP Senate majority in the next Congress. Democrats and some environmental activists say continued protection of the refuge has never been as much in doubt.

"It's probably the best chance we've had," Rep. Richard Pombo, R-California, chairman of the House Resources Committee and a vocal drilling advocate, said in an interview.


Laying Waste

So, we've invaded Fallujah, bombed some mosques, let many of the insurgents escape to fight another day, and driven the most prominent Sunni faction out of the government. All in a day's work:

Today, the military said in a statement its troops had fought their way through at least half of the city.

It said its aircraft fired guided munitions today at a mosque after troops came under small arms fire from insurgents holed up inside. On Tuesday, American aircraft dropped a laser-guided bomb to destroy a building in the city in which there were "anti-Iraqi elements," the military said.

The insurgents continued to fight and withdraw to new positions as American and Iraqi military forces - relying heavily on artillery and air support - pushed in from the north. Battles continued in the south Falluja neighborhoods of Resala and Nazal as the insurgents appeared to be retreating along a central corridor toward the southern fringes of the city. Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, the commander of day-to-day military operations in Iraq, said Tuesday in a video teleconference from Baghdad that commanders anticipated "several more days of tough urban fighting" before the Falluja offensive was over.
In the first significant political fallout over the offensive, the country's most prominent Sunni party said Tuesday that it was withdrawing from the interim Iraqi government, and the leading group of Sunni clerics called for a boycott of the coming elections.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

They Might Be Morons

Here's some news that will be shocking to you, assuming that your IQ is below 50:
Although U.S. troops have punched into the center of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, they might later encounter many more insurgents who have escaped, perhaps to fight another day in another place.

"I personally believe that some of the senior leaders probably have fled," said Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, the multinational ground force commander in Iraq.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Bush: Once Again, Pro-Lawlessness

Despite the judge's call, Bush will fight for the "tribunals":
The Bush administration said it will vigorously defend its power to try al Qaeda suspects in specially designed war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after a federal court's decision to halt them.

A District of Columbia federal judge on Monday ruled that President Bush exceeded his authority in classifying suspects eligible for the tribunals, which would be the first of their kind held by the United States since World War II.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, a 1994 Clinton-appointee, found that the tribunal system was being conducted unlawfully, outside the guidelines of U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions.

The administration quickly decried the ruling, which came as the result of a lawsuit filed by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former chauffeur for Osama bin Laden. He is one of four suspected al Qaeda members charged so far in the system.

"We vigorously disagree with the court's decision, and will seek an emergency stay of the ruling and immediately appeal," Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said Monday.

"We believe the president properly determined that the Geneva Conventions have no legal applicability to members or affiliates of al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that is not a state and has not signed the Geneva Conventions."

The Geneva Conventions, after all, are so twentieth century.


Massive Glitch

And perhaps a new statewide election in North Carolina. Just more evidence that e-voting has been too hastily implemented:

More than 4,500 votes irretrievably lost in coastal Carteret County could trigger a new statewide election if the official margin of victory in two Council of State races is close enough, state election officials said Monday.

The problem, which one expert called one of the worst election glitches nationwide, occurred on a machine that wasn't set correctly.

"This is one of the few cases in which the votes were totally lost," said David Dill, founder of the Verified Voting foundation.

The votes, all early ballots, could affect the races for superintendent of public instruction and agriculture commissioner, both too close to call Monday.

Counties will add totals from as many as 75,000 provisional ballots to their returns today. If the final margin in any race is within 4,532 -- the number of lost votes in Carteret -- the losing candidate can file a protest with the N.C. State Board of Election.

It's unclear what would happen in that case. Attorneys are studying whether the board could call a new election in Carteret County only, or even ask the disenfranchised voters to vote again. (Local elections officials have their names.)

But state law may not allow that: "The new election shall be held in the entire jurisdiction in which the original election was held," it says. That could mean the whole state.


Handing Down the Evil

Ashcroft is out. I still haven't heard whether his anointment is still in place:
Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans resigned Tuesday, the first members of President Bush's Cabinet to leave as he headed from re-election into his second term.

The resignations were announced by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who said Bush had accepted the decisions of both secretaries.

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," Ashcroft wrote in a five-page, handwritten letter to Bush.

Well, I am certainly glad that we are all safe from crime and terror. Odd how the Bush campaign was all about how we are are vulnerable to crime and terror.


Big Capital Loves Big Religion

And if you don't like it, too bad:

Pundits trying to understand last week's much-discussed "moral values" vote should go back and read (or re-read) Russell Shorto's New York Times Magazine cover story from October 31. While Ron Suskind's article the week before grabbed the headlines, Shorto provided the more illuminating picture of how evangelical Christianity seeks to influence virtually every aspect of American life. Even the workplace--long a bastion of secularism--has now become a target.

Shorto profiles the Riverview Community Bank in Ostego, Minn--a suburb of Minneapolis--where mortgage lender Chuck Ripka speaks to Jesus on a first name basis and "saves" souls in the parking lot, while teller Gloria Oshima prays with customers in the drive-through window. Riverview--whose deposits have jumped from $5 million to $75 million in just 18 months--is one of 900 self-described "workplace ministries" across the country.

"God has begun an evangelism movement in the workplace that has the potential to transform our society as we know it," says preacher Franklin Graham (Billy's son), who delivered the invocation at President Bush's inauguration.

The intersection between money and religion is nothing new. Just ask former televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. But the growing "faith@work" movement is quickly becoming an integral part of a larger social contract peddled by conservative Christian groups such as Billy Graham's Evangelical Association and The Promise Keepers. It's an agenda that's gained ground since the cultural backlash of the early 1990s and grew in popularity after the tragedy of September 11. The Christian Management Association was established in 1976 with only a handful of members. Today it represents over 3,500 CEOs and businessmen.

Proselytizing now occurs in government agencies like the Center for Disease Control and large corporations such as Intel, Coca-Cola and Sears. The laws governing the separation of church and corporation remain murky. Proselytizing is legal. But creating a hostile work environment or using religion as a basis for hiring or preferential treatment is forbidden.


Abdication of Duty

Pharmacists are acting as the front line in the assault on planned pregnancy:
For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey's prescription because she did not believe in birth control.

"I was shocked," says Lacey, 33, who was not able to get her prescription until the next day and missed taking one of her pills. "Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It's just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician."

Some pharmacists, however, disagree and refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. And states from Rhode Island to Washington have proposed laws that would protect such decisions.

Mississippi enacted a sweeping statute that went into effect in July that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience. South Dakota and Arkansas already had laws that protect a pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense medicines. Ten other states considered similar bills this year.

The American Pharmacists Association, with 50,000 members, has a policy that says druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements so a patient can still get the pills. Yet some pharmacists have refused to hand the prescription to another druggist to fill.

In Madison, Wis., a pharmacist faces possible disciplinary action by the state pharmacy board for refusing to transfer a woman's prescription for birth-control pills to another druggist or to give the slip back to her. He would not refill it because of his religious views.

Some advocates for women's reproductive rights are worried that such actions by pharmacists and legislatures are gaining momentum.


Moving Toward the Center

No, of course I'm not talking about Bush's politics, silly reader. I'm referring to the headlines I've been reading all morning long about American (and vague numbers of Iraqi) troops driving toward "the center of Fallujah."

I've been wondering: What is the significance of the center of Fallujah. To read the reports, there must be some magical Gem of Middle Eastern Peace there which, once we seize it, will resolve all problems deriving from our illegal occupation.

It's an occupation, not a fucking football game. We seized Baghdad handily, and are still being hit there by insurgents. Why would Fallujah be any different?

Anyway, here's NTodd's post on the matter, which states the issue very well:

The Economist:

[The assault on Fallujah risks] increasing support for the insurgents across Iraq, whatever the outcome of the battle.

The leaders of the Sunni minority—about a fifth of the Iraqi population—are already divided over whether to take part in the election. If all or most of them decide to boycott it, and at the same time the chaos worsens across the country, the election may not only be near-impossible to stage, it may fail in its objective of giving Iraq a credible and representative power-sharing government. Even if Fallujah is taken quickly and with relatively few civilian casualties, the recent proliferation in attacks suggests that there will still be some way to go before the insurgency is brought under control.

Gee, that's not predictable in the least. Mayhaps we should have listened to Gandhi1:

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary. Then there is increase of ill will between both the parties and each prepares to give battle to the other.

Nah, that's crazy talk. Let's bomb 'em back to the Stone Age. USA! USA! USA!


Good Luck with That

Those crazy Log Cabin Republicans are still plugging away. I wish them well:
Log Cabin Republicans Monday issued a 5 point plan the group says would help ensure LGBT civil rights victories.

The manifesto calls for a de-emphasis on major cities which have large gay communities, developing ties with moderate Republicans, working to develop lines of communication with religious groups, taking the offensive on civil rights initiatives, and placing less emphasis on the courts.

"The November 2004 election represents a historic wake-up call for gay and lesbian Americans and organizations," Log Cabin said in a statement.

"Not only did we lose our fight against 11 anti-gay ballot questions, we lost in the broader social and political landscape of America. If we listen to those attempting to sanitize or sugarcoat the post-election analysis, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes and destined for more setbacks in the years ahead. Winning our principled fight for fairness and equality will require bold, controversial, and strategic change from all of us."

The plan says that rather than putting an emphasis on major gay centers such as San Francisco or Manhattan the focus should be on the American heartland and the South.



Texas is lining up to join the anti-gay parade:
Calling it a biblical issue, a state lawmaker on Monday proposed an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would ban the state from recognizing gay marriage.

Rep. Warren Chisum said he hoped the amendment would send a message to Congress that Texans support a similar amendment on the federal level.

"We really feel very strong about the fact that we don't want the deterioration of the institution of marriage and that's what we see happening across this country," he said.

The Pampa Republican filed the resolution on Monday, the first day of bill filing for the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

Gay and lesbian activists called Chisum's bill an "affront to the ideals of fairness, tolerance and equality."

"Marriage is the foundation, the building block of strong families and we feel it's unfair and doesn't even make sense to deny this to the (gay and lesbian) community," said Heath Riddles, development director for the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas.

Texas already has a law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but putting the definition in the state constitution, Chisum said, would prevent any court decision from overriding the law.


That Sinking Feeling

It's real, and not just a psychological effect of Bush's re-election. And even though this article mentions possible flooding in Florida and Louisiana (I fear for my beloved New Orleans), I have the sneaking suspicion that Bush's inaction on global warming may be the result of his need for vengeance of those disloyal coastal blue states:

NOT ONLY HAS it moved beyond the realm of science fiction, but the Arctic ice cap's melting has been much faster than anyone has suspected. That is one of the important conclusions of a report published yesterday at the behest of the Arctic Council, a forum composed of eight nations with Arctic territories, including the United States. Yet the report, produced over four years by several hundred scientists, government officials and indigenous groups, is not sensational or alarmist. It simply compiles the data, noting that because of long-term global warming, average winter temperatures in Alaska, western Canada and eastern Russia have increased by as much as seven degrees over the past 50 years. If the trend continues, about half of the Arctic sea ice is projected to melt by the end of this century.

The report describes some of the possible environmental effects of this change. Many northern animal species, including polar bears and seals, are likely to become extinct. Vegetation and animal migration patterns around the world will shift. Low-lying parts of the world, including Florida and coastal Louisiana, are likely to experience serious flooding.

According to the Bushies, the polar ice caps are engaged in an anti-American conspiracy:
An advisor to President George W Bush has reportedly claimed that global warming is a fallacy created to disrupt the American economy, in an interview on Radio 4. Myron Ebell, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), claimed that the notion of climate change through man-made emissions was “ridiculous and unrealistic”.
I suggest we bomb the North Pole immediately. Santa be damned!


Monday, November 08, 2004

The World's Stupidest Debate, Cont'd

Maybe it isn't the stupidest (feel free to suggest your own nominations for that honor in the comments section, if you'd like), but it's definitely a contender:
A suburban American school board found itself in court yesterday after it tried to placate Christian fundamentalist parents by placing a sticker on its science textbooks saying evolution was "a theory, not a fact".

Atlanta's Cobb County school board, the second largest board in Georgia, added the sticker two years ago after a 2,300 strong petition attacked the presentation of "Darwinism unchallenged". Some parents wanted creationism - the theory that God created humans according to the Bible version - to be taught alongside evolution.

Shortly after the stickers were put on the books, six parents launched a legal challenge, with the support of the the American Civil Liberties Union. It started yesterday.


About Time

Finally, someone in a position of power is pointing out that the "tribunals" are a sick joke:
A federal judge today halted the Guantánamo Bay trial of a Yemeni prisoner suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda, ruling that the special military tribunals like the one the suspect is facing at the naval base in Cuba are contrary to principles of American justice.


Let the Bigotry Begin

Now that Bush has won the election and his so-called "mandate," he is ready to roll:
President Bush need not worry any longer about getting reelected, but he "absolutely" plans to champion a gay marriage ban anyway, his top political adviser promised yesterday.

"If we want to have a hopeful and decent society, we ought to aim for the ideal. And the ideal is that marriage ought to be and should be a union of a man and a woman," White House political guru Karl Rove told "Fox News Sunday."

Rove, who engineered Bush's victory last week over Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said Bush will use the political capital he has accumulated to make a renewed push on moral grounds to outlaw gay marriage through a proposed constitutional amendment.



There are no words that I can say about this tragedy:
A 25-year-old from Georgia who was apparently distraught over President Bush's re-election shot and killed himself at ground zero.

Andrew Veal's body was found Saturday morning inside the off-limits site, said a Port Authority spokesman. A shotgun was found nearby, but no suicide note was found.

Veal's mother said her son was upset about the result of the presidential election and had driven to New York, Gus Danese, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, told The New York Times.Friends said Veal worked in a computer lab at the University of Georgia and was planning to marry.

"I'm absolutely sure it's a protest," Mary Anne Mauney, Veal's supervisor at the lab, told The Daily News. "I don't know what made him commit suicide, but where he did it was symbolic."