All purpose vertically integrated publishing empire for cynicism, hopelessness and misanthropy. Mild nausea is common when using this product. Other symptoms may include, but are not limited to: dizzyness, headache, homicidal rage and yellow discharge. Rarely, users may begin to hear voices urging them to kill. If this occurs, discontinue use and seek psychiatric attention. Do not read when pregnant or nursing; the author thinks that's gross.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


When Will I Get My Death Ray?

Epileptic Attack
So an attack on Epilepsy patients is being pinned on Anonymous members.

Or people posing as them.

Internet griefers descended on an epilepsy support message board last weekend and used JavaScript code and flashing computer animation to trigger migraine headaches and seizures in some users.

The nonprofit Epilepsy Foundation, which runs the forum, briefly closed the site Sunday to purge the offending messages and to boost security.

"We are seeing people affected," says Ken Lowenberg, senior director of web and print publishing at the Epilepsy Foundation. "It's fortunately only a handful. It's possible that people are just not reporting yet -- people affected by it may not be coming back to the forum so fast."

The incident, possibly the first computer attack to inflict physical harm on the victims, began Saturday, March 22, when attackers used a script to post hundreds of messages embedded with flashing animated gifs.

The attackers turned to a more effective tactic on Sunday, injecting JavaScript into some posts that redirected users' browsers to a page with a more complex image designed to trigger seizures in both photosensitive and pattern-sensitive epileptics.

RyAnne Fultz, a 33-year-old woman who suffers from pattern-sensitive epilepsy, says she clicked on a forum post with a legitimate-sounding title on Sunday. Her browser window resized to fill her screen, which was then taken over by a pattern of squares rapidly flashing in different colors.

Fultz says she "locked up."

"I don't fall over and convulse, but it hurts," says Fultz, an IT worker in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "I was on the phone when it happened, and I couldn't move and couldn't speak."

After about 10 seconds, Fultz's 11-year-old son came over and drew her gaze away from the computer, then killed the browser process, she says.

"Everyone who logged on, it affected to some extent, whether by causing headaches or seizures," says Browen Mead, a 24-year-old epilepsy patient in Maine who says she suffered a daylong migraine after examining several of the offending posts. She'd lingered too long on the pages trying to determine who was responsible.

Circumstantial evidence suggests the attack was the work of members of Anonymous, an informal collective of griefers best known for their recent war on the Church of Scientology. The first flurry of posts on the epilepsy forum referenced the site EBaumsWorld, which is much hated by Anonymous. And forum members claim they found a message board thread -- since deleted -- planning the attack at, a group stronghold.
When this Anonymous group started I said there'd be trouble with group discipline. How can you possibly keep people on topic, or avoid copycat groups posing as you, if you have no organizational structure? It's madness! Did they think the Scientologists wouldn't just pose as Anon people?

I don't know if this is the work of actual Anonymous people, posers, or people looking to slander them. It hardly matters at this point. When they set up their little internet conglom, they doomed themselves to precisely this kind of irrelevance, one way or another.

Source: Wired

Truly Epic Fail
Bush's moonbase to Mars plans continue to crash on the hard rocks of reality.
Cosmic rays are so dangerous and so poorly understood that people are unlikely to get to Mars or even back to the moon until better ways are found to protect astronauts, experts said on Monday.

And NASA is not properly funding the right experiments to find out how, the National Research Council committee said.

"One of the big issues is they have really cut funding for biology issues," retired space shuttle astronaut James van Hoften, who chaired the committee, said in a telephone interview.

"It is tough on them when they don't have any new money coming in. They are using old data," he added -- including research done on survivors of the nuclear bombings of Japan during World War Two.

"Given today's knowledge and today's understanding of radiation protection, to put someone out in that type of environment would violate the current requirements that NASA has."

The committee of experts agreed that NASA'S existing radiation safety standards can protect astronauts and they urged the U.S. space agency to keep them in place.

The Earth's bulk, atmosphere and magnetic field protect life from the solar radiation and the cosmic rays that travel through space. Astronauts have just a thin layer of shielding.

Van Hoften knows from personal experience.

"My introduction to space radiation came first-hand as a crew member aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in April 1984. 'What the heck was that?' I blurted out after seeing what looked like a white laser passing quickly through my eyes," van Hoften wrote in the introduction to the report.

"'Oh, that's just cosmic rays,' said Pinky Nelson, my spacewalking partner and space physicist. The thought of extremely high-energy particles originating from a distant cosmic event passing easily through the space shuttle and subsequently through my head made me think that this cannot be all that healthy. The truth of the matter is that it is not."


The cosmic rays include galactic cosmic radiation or GCR and solar particles.

"You can put on very thick walls and they just won't protect you from that," van Hoften said. "The younger you are the worse it is," he added, because as with many types of radiation, it can take years for the damage to cause disease.

"It might be OK if you just send a bunch of old guys like me," he laughed.

Any mission to Mars using current technology would take three years, van Hoften said. That long in space would subject astronauts to too much radiation .

"It hasn't really gotten the airing that it needs. In the committee we stewed over this for a long time before we said anything," he added.
There is simply no way to shield people with current technology for a trip as long as the one to Mars. They would all end up dead. It's a suicide mission.

The moon of course you can do, because it's a couple days away. It's still a big risk; the wrong solar flare and everyone dies.

But if the only point of going back to the moon is to build a base (deep underground on the mooon to block radiation since the moon has no magnetic field) that will take you to Mars, and you can't go to Mars... what was the point again?

Source: ABC News

A new technique has been created to scan insects trapped in opaque amber and create three dimensional scans, then models, of the creatures.
It is like a magic trick - at first there is nothing and then it appears: a tiny insect unseen by any eye for 100 million years.

We are with Paul Tafforeau who is scrolling through images on his computer.

His pictures have been produced by a colossal X-ray machine that can illuminate the insides of small lumps of clouded amber (fossil tree resin).

As he plays with the settings, what starts out as grey nothingness suddenly becomes the unmistakable outline of a "wee beastie".

Who knows? This little creature could once have buzzed a dinosaur. It's certainly the right age.

Tafforeau is a palaeontologist. But whilst others of his profession will be in the dirt with a rock hammer and trowel, you'll find him at the end of one of the most remarkable "cameras" in the world.

The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, produces an intense, high-energy light that can pierce just about any material, revealing its inner structure.


"Micro-tomography is based on radiography but instead of a single picture, we are taking pictures during rotation of the sample," explains Dr Tafforeau.

"For a complete rotation, we will take more than 1,000 radiographs - and from all these radiographs, we can reconstruct virtual slices; and after using a 3D processing tool, we 'extract' the specimen from the amber."


But here's the really neat part. All that electronic information can be fed to a 3D plastic printer to make a physical model. A bug that in reality is less than a millimetre long and hidden inside a resin block then becomes a 30cm-long facsimile you can hold in your hand.
Instant prehistoric toys!

That is amazingly neat. I love 3D printers. Someday I shall own one, oh yes.

Source: BBC News

Smoke Gene
More promising genomic research.
Three independent studies released Wednesday have identified a tiny variation in the human genome that make some people more vulnerable to lung cancer than others.

While they all finger the same culprit, however, the studies disagree on whether the genetic glitch -- shared by 50 percent of the population -- increases the risk of cancer by itself, or only in people who smoke.
Basically all three studies agree this gene variant makes you much more likely to die of lung cancer, but they disagree as to why.

One suggests that it makes smokers heavier smokers; one suggests that it makes smokers more susceptible to cancer; one suggests that anyone with the disease is more likely to get lung cancer.

Regardless, not a good gene to have.

Source: Raw Story

Kind of gross.
Fifty rivers in the Philippines have been destroyed because people are using them to dump their rubbish, leaving some ecologically dead, an official said Wednesday.

Of the country's 421 major rivers and 20 large river basins, 50 are "highly degraded because of man's abuse and neglect," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza said in a statement.

"History tells us that rivers have played an important role in the country's economic growth. Yet, we have disregarded this and continue to dirty our rivers and lakes by turning them into giant septic tanks and trash bins," he added.

One of the ecologically dead rivers is the Pasig which bisects Manila. The government has been relocating thousands of squatters from its banks, but those who remain "continue to throw their domestic waste into the river," he said.

Atienza said 53 percent of the pollution in Philippine rivers is due to domestic waste.
Oh well, not like anyone needed those rivers.

Geez. I'm not trying to pick on the developing world here, but.. ewww.

Source: Raw Story

NASA has captured video of a solar tsunami, which is much like the ones on Earth only far, far more exciting.
In a solar tsunami, a huge explosion near the Sun, such as a coronal mass ejection or flare, causes a pressure pulse to propagate outwards in a circular pattern.

Last year's solar tsunami, which took place on 19 May 2007, lasted for about 35 minutes, reaching peak speeds about 20 minutes after the initial blast.

Co-author David Long, from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland, commented: "The energy released in these explosions is phenomenal; about two billion times the annual world energy consumption in just a fraction of a second.


Stereo's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) instruments monitor the Sun at four wavelengths, which allowed astronomers to see how the wave moved through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.

"We were able to show for the first time that this wave actually propagates almost all the way from the surface of the Sun to high up in the Sun's atmosphere," said Dr Gallagher.

The researchers even saw the pressure wave bouncing off irregular regions of the Sun’s atmosphere, generating reflections or diffraction patterns - exactly as tsunamis have been observed to do on Earth when they crash against land.
Nice special effects.

Source: BBC News

The smallest black hole known has been found.
NASA scientists have identified the smallest, lightest black hole yet found.

The new lightweight record-holder weighs in at about 3.8 times the mass of our sun and is only 15 miles (24 kilometers) in diameter.

"This black hole is really pushing the limits," said study team leader Nikolai Shaposhnikov of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "For many years astronomers have wanted to know the smallest possible size of a black hole, and this little guy is a big step toward answering that question."
It's almost four times the mass of our sun, but for a Black Hole, it's tiny.

This is why that idiot who wants to block the Large Hadron Collider being turned on is so silly. Black holes have to be utterly huge to survive more than an exceedingly brief time. This is the smallest one ever found in nature. A black hole the size of an atom would be gone almost instantaneously. It's nothing to worry about.


I don't know what's with videogame bashing but it really is tiresome.

Kotaku has, first, some excerpts of an angry crank writing in the Times Online.
I hate video games, on or offline. I hate the way they suck real people into fake worlds and hold on to them for decades at a time. I hate being made to feel hateful for saying so, and I hate being told to immerse myself in them before passing judgment, because it feels like being told to immerse myself in smack and teenage pregnancy before passing judgment on them.
First of all, smack and teenage pregnancy?

Smack I can almost see, but how is 'teenage pregnancy' a recreational activity?

Secondly, I seem to recall some crank who thought that it was best to judge activities where possible from experience. I wonder who that was...
In the first two chapters, Mill aims to precisely define what utilitarianism claims — in terms of the general moral principles that it uses to judge concrete actions, and in terms of the sort of evidence that is supposed to be given for those principles. In so doing, he hopes to do away with some common misunderstandings of utilitarianism, as well as defend it against philosophical criticisms, most notably Kant. In the first chapter, Mill distinguishes two broad schools of ethical theory: those whose principles are defended by appeals to intuition and those whose principles are defended by appeals to experience; and he identifies utilitarianism as one of the empirical theories of ethics. In the second chapter, he then formulates a single ethical principle, from which he says all utilitarian ethical principles are derived:

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

Most importantly, it is not the agent’s own greatest happiness that matters, “but the greatest amount of happiness altogether.” (ch2) Utilitarianism therefore can only attain its goal of greater happiness by cultivating the nobleness of individuals so that all can benefit from the honor of others. In fact, notes Mill, Utilitarianism is actually a "standard of morality" which uses happiness of the greater number of people as its ultimate goal.

Knowledge and education are fundamental to Mill's concept of the Greater Happiness, and in his famous words, “it is better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied,” (260) Mill touts the importance of being well brought up and knowledgeably curious about the world, and understanding higher pleasures such as art and music, than to be uneducated and complacent. One need not be personally satisfied with his or her life to be able to contribute to the "total sum happiness" of a society.
Oh, right. It was John Stuart Mill.

Silly me. Well, me and all of modern society, being based on Utilitarianism and all.

Seriously though, videogames are a medium, not a message. There are trash books, trash paintings, and Cthulhu knows, bad tv shows. There are also great books, paintings, tv, etc. Pushing aside an entire form of expression as broad as videogames showcases only one's own ignorance.

I mean, seriously. You have everything from Grand Theft Auto III (each of which is an interesting take on gangster culture and movies, from Goodfellas to the Sopranos to Training Day) to Spore and Second Life, which are about as cerebral and non-violent as a seminar on Expressionist Painting.

Only a lot more fun. Well, Spore probably is. Second Life... feh.

Then we have Barack Obama, who seems to buy into the idea that tv and videogames and, well, indoor activities are bad for you.
In a race for the Democratic nomination, Obama hasn't made any passionate speeches about video games with the fervor he has addressed health care, the war in Iraq or Hillary Clinton, but he has continued making jabs at games with little concern. In a recent speech at Wilkes Hall in Pennsylvania, he urged the public, "...turn off the television, turn off the video games..." in a similar rhetoric to just last February when he urged the public, "...parent better, and turn off the television set, and put the video games away, and instill a sense of excellence in our children..."
How about people teach their kids to think for themselves and find their own entertainment?

Honestly. This from a guy who hung out with slumlords. Maybe he'd have been better off staying inside and playing a round of Street Fighter.

Source: Kotaku (crank)
Kotaku (obama)
Wikipedia (Mill's Utilitarianism)

America, Just Like In the Songs

America, America, etc.

Won't Stand on Ceremony
So Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first game of the season, at the first game EVER for the new, all-baseball stadium in DC.

He got a very, very chilly reception to say the least.

Source: Think Progress

Sign Up
So Firedoglake has filed an FEC complaint against St. John McCain for violating campaign finance regulations, ironically his own, from McCain-Feingold.

Maverick is breaking a law you wrote, I suppose.

Anyway, after Jane Hamsher filed the initial complaint, they asked for cosigners. I signed, along with 32,000 other people, and they delivered the signatures to the FEC.

They're up to 34 and change now. Not that the FEC will do anything, but it's nice to let them know that lots of people are watching.

Source: Youtube/Firedoglake Channel

Can't Shoot Straight
A nice summary of Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, who is a total tool.

In his first months as DNI, McConnell did plenty to undermine that rep. He told Congress that three German terrorism suspects had been arrested due to intercepts made possible by the then-new Protect America Act when in fact they were obtained under the old FISA law. Soon after, McConnell offered a especially misleading account to Congress of a supposed FISA Court ruling that had delayed the U.S. from spying on the kidnappers of U.S. troops in Iraq. And throughout congressional debate on a surveillance law he claimed that the debate itself endangered American lives.

Then earlier this year, he suggested that a questioner at a public event at Johns Hopkins was "disappointed" that the U.S. hadn't suffered additional terrorist attacks. And now McConnell has really let lose, framing the Senate debate on the surveillance bill as being between those who think "we shouldn't have an Intelligence Community" and those who do. That has prompted a letter from Sen. Russ Feingold demanding an apology for those false characterizations of the debate.
Yes, that FISA law, which only governs domestic spying, really is an impediment to wiretaping Iraqis in Iraq... err, wait a second...

Plus of course, even if they were making calls into the US, you can tap and apply for warrants up to 3 days later.

Which they weren't. Because there's no reason to, they're not that stupid, Iraq has a few functional hours of power a day and I doubt their phones work all that well... sigh.

Source: Talking Points Memo

Go Keith
So Wal-Mart has dropped their attempt to squeeze a brain-damaged woman for the money keeping her in care and off the street. Finally.
Wal-Mart is dropping an effort to collect over $400,000 in health care reimbursement from a former employee who is confined to a southeast Missouri nursing home since she suffered brain damage in a traffic accident.

The world's largest retailer said Tuesday in a letter to the family of Deborah Shank it will not seek to collect money the Shanks won in an injury lawsuit against a trucking company for the accident.

Wal-Mart's top executive for human resources, Pat Curran, wrote that Shank's extraordinary situation had made the company re-examine its stance.

Deborah's husband Jim Shank welcomed the news. Family lawyer Maurice Graham of St. Louis said Wal-Mart deserves credit for doing the right thing.

"It's a good day for the Shank family," Jim Shank said in a statement.

Wal-Mart has been roundly criticized in newspaper editorials, on cable news shows and by its union foes for its claim to the funds, which it made in a lawsuit upheld by a federal appeals court.

Insurance experts say it is increasingly common for health plans to seek reimbursement for the medical expenses they paid for someone's treatment if the person also collects damages in an injury suit.

The practice, called "subrogation," has increased since a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that eased it.
Thanks a lot Supreme Court!

Pfft. I'm sick of people saying that politics doesn't affect them. The next Supreme Court justice will determine whether we get more of this nonsense. Keep that in mind.

Source: Raw Story

Clinton SMASH
Eep. I hope nobody angers him on his next stop in B-town.
The Bill Clinton who met privately with California's superdelegates at last weekend's state convention was a far cry from the congenial former president who afterward publicly urged fellow Democrats to "chill out" over the race between his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama.

In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process.

"It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended," one superdelegate said.

According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns."

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

"It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us.

"We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself."

When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.
Some people just can't accept defeat with any sort of grace.

Bill, in a winner take all system, a 1% pluarlity is .9999999999999% more than you need to be the winner. You'd think this would have come up at some point in your long political career.


The Pentagon, surprise surprise, is not exactly a bastion of tolerance.
The Pentagon at first blocked Rep. Tammy Baldwin's domestic partner from traveling on a military plane with a congressional delegation on a trip to Europe but gave in after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intervened.

The Pentagon said it was merely following House rules, which do not define domestic partners as spouses. Pelosi's office countered that the Pentagon has its own rules about who can go on its planes.

Both sides agree that Defense Secretary Robert Gates reversed the decision to keep Baldwin's partner, Lauren Azar, off the plane after getting contacted by Pelosi, D-Calif.

"It's a matter of fairness that spouses should be allowed to go, and she is Ms. Baldwin's spouse," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. He said that Baldwin had raised the exclusion with a colleague, who mentioned it to Pelosi. The lawmakers visited France, the Czech Republic and Poland last month.

Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat and openly gay House member, declined to talk about the incident, which was first reported by the political newspaper Politico. Azar, a Madison energy law attorney who serves on the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The Pentagon still has in place its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars gays from serving openly in the military. But that had nothing to do with this case, said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

"This is strictly about following our statutory guidelines and the House rules," he said.

Morrell said that Pelosi asked Gates to honor her decision to waive House rules to allow Azar to travel and that Gates asked her to put that request in writing.

"She did so, and he — in this one case only — agreed to it," Morrell said. "This is not a precedent by any means. This does not open the doors for life partners to travel on congressional delegations." But Gates has agreed to review future requests on a case-by-case basis, Morrell said.

Daly said that both the Pentagon and Pelosi had to issue waivers.
But gay people don't need the same rights as straights!

Personally I don't think being married should get you a free plane ride any more than living together, or just being good friends. You should get one free jump seat a piece. Anything else is religious/cultural discrimination.

Source: Page One Q

Old Man McCain
Man, could this geezer get any more decrepit?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain believes many Americans are cynical about their country, and their idea of liberty is "the right to choose among competing brands of designer coffee."

What these people need, he will argue on Wednesday, is a good dose of public service.

That is one of the messages McCain will give on Wednesday on a visit to his university, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he admittedly bucked authority and slacked off on his studies to the point that he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

McCain is on a nostalgic tour of places important to developing his character as he fights for media coverage dominated by the extended Democratic battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Old Man McCain is on a NOSTALGIA tour, where he gives speeches about how these whipper snappers today aren't like kids used to be!

He comes close to calling some Americans spoiled, saying they are cynical because "the ease which wealth and opportunity have given their lives led them to the mistaken conclusion that America, and the liberties its system of government is intended to protect, just aren't important to the quality of their lives."

Skepticism is healthy, he will say, "But when healthy skepticism sours into corrosive cynicism our expectations of our government become reduced to the delivery of services. And to some people the expectations of liberty are reduced to the right to choose among competing brands of designer coffee."
Oh yeah. They're cynical because everything is JUST SO GREAT.

We're in a full blown depression, our infrastructure is in ruins, our bridges are falling down, factories are closing like bad broadway shows and McCain's solution is to mock people who aren't just GUSHING.

Keep it up, geezer. Keep it up.

We'll stay off your lawn.

Source: Raw Story

Show Us Your Papers!
The Pentagon is going to defund colleges that honor student requests not to have their personal details handed to military recruiters.

The Defense Department has announced a new get-tough policy with colleges and universities that interfere with the work of military recruiters and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs.

Under rules that will take effect April 28, defense officials said they want the exact same access to student directories that is provided to all other prospective employers.

Students can opt out of having their information turned over to the military only if they opt out of having their information provided to all other recruiters, but schools cannot have policies that exclude only the military, defense officials said in a March 28 notice of the new policy in the Federal Register.

The Defense Department “will honor only those student ‘opt-outs’ from the disclosure of directory information that are even-handedly applied to all prospective employers seeking information for recruiting purposes,” the notice says.

Directories are an important recruiting tool because they include the names, birthdates, phone numbers and academic pursuits of college students that can be used to identify people with knowledge and interests that are particularly useful to the military.
So if you want to get any job at all in America now, post-college, you need to take all the harassing phone calls the Army wants to make.

What's next? Mandatory Army exit interviews?

Are we going to start the draft again, or what? Honestly, stop sissying around and do it if you're going to. You'll be surprised at the response. The day after you people try it, there won't be a recruiting center left standing.

Which is of course why they do this backdoor draft to their own people and swindle the poor kids out of their lives.
Federal funding can be cut off if colleges and universities do not give recruiters and ROTC programs campus access. While student financial assistance is not at risk, other federal aid, especially research funding, can disappear if a school does not cooperate.

The Pentagon can declare colleges or universities anti-ROTC if they prohibit or prevent a Senior ROTC program from being established, maintained or efficiently operated.

The new policy is, in part, the result of a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal government’s ability to use funding as a means of forcing equal access for military recruiters and ROTC units on campuses.
Thanks again, Supreme Court!

Also, nice how the school can be penalized if THE ARMY PEOPLE don't 'efficiently run' an operation. Also nice that in a country getting its butt kicked by the EU in science and tech, our first response is to SLASH OUR RESEARCH BUDGETS.

Source: The Army Times

Enough Already!
Prostitutes! Everywhere!
WASHINGTON -- Speaking for the first time about her husband's acknowledgment that he paid for sex with an alleged prostitute, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow told the Free Press this afternoon she's going through a "very difficult and personal" time and will continue to work through it with her family.

The senator from Lansing did not want to talk about whether she and her husband are still together or how she learned of his being stopped by Troy police in February. According to a police report obtained this morning by the Free Press, Tom Athans -- a liberal radio talk-show executive -- told Troy detectives he paid a prostitute he contacted via the Internet $150 for sex at a Residence Inn in the metro Detroit suburb.
What is WRONG with these people? They've got money! If you want a prostitute, by all means, go where it's legal!

This isn't hard folks. People do it all the time for gambling vacations. Just get a ticket to Vegas, Amsterdam, what have you, take a trip, get yourself a legal, regulated prostitute. If you go to Vegas, take in a show too! Amsterdam, you can do shrooms or smoke weed all day and nobody will look twice.


Source: Detroit Free Press

Not Good Enough
Nice try though, Barack.
Chances for an Al Gore presidency may be all-but-nonexistent at this point in the campaign, but Barack Obama said Wednesday the former vice president might just have a spot in his administration, perhaps even cabinet-level.

A woman at a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania asked whether Obama, if elected, would tap Gore for such a position to address global warming issues.

"I would," Obama said. "Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem."

Obama said Gore is "somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues, but climate change is real."
I'm not sure what the cabinet position would be for climate change. We don't have any agency devoted to such matters.

State is involved with treaties, but I'd put a Climate Change guy in at Energy. We're only going to get out of this long-term with new energy sources and technology, and by spending a lot of money on research.

Source: Raw Story

McCain the Anti-Semite
St. John McCain sure has some less than saintly friends.
It was the last recorded act of official anti-Semitism by the United States government. Boy, was it ever recorded! On Sept. 24, the presidential recordings program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs released transcripts of Nixon White House tapes concerning the unauthorized publication in the New York Times and the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers. Some of these conversations were previously transcribed by the nonprofit National Security Archive, but many were not. Among the previously untranscribed conversations is President Nixon's historic inquiry into a topic unrelated to Daniel Ellsberg's leak: How many Jews were employed at the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

Loyal readers of this column are aware of my fascination with this repulsive episode. The Miller Center's new transcriptions are accompanied by audio, allowing us not merely to remember this squalid transaction but to relive it. Kenneth J. Hughes, the Miller Center's Nixon tapes editor, has kindly furnished Slate with the memo traffic concerning the Jew count, including a never-before-published memo by White House personnel director Fred Malek confirming the planned transfer of three Jews to less-visible jobs and the effective demotion of a BLS deputy with a Jewish-sounding surname. Malek, today a very wealthy investor, remains active in Republican politics; this past April, he was named national finance co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign. Last year, Malek was edged out by an octogenarian real-estate tycoon to become owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, despite strong local support. I have my suspicions the Jew-counting episode was a factor in baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's choice, though that isn't the official story.
That's right! McCain's finance bigwig helped Nixon's paranoid attempt to purge the government of Jews!

Boy I'm eager to see a McCain presidency.
Two days later, on July 26, Haldeman sends a memo to Malek. "What's the status of your analysis of the BLS; specifically of the 21 key people?" Haldeman writes. "What is their demographic breakdown?"

Malek answers in a memo the following day. Out of 50 names on the organization chart, Malek has run down the party affiliations of 35. Twenty-five are Democrats, one is a Republican, and nine are either independents, not registered, or of unknown party affiliation. "In addition," Malek writes (someone—presumably either Haldeman or Nixon himself—has underlined this sentence), "13 out of the 35 fit the other demographic criterion that was discussed." Scribbled beneath this (I'm guessing by Haldeman) are the words, "Most of these are at the top." (Malek's method of identifying who was Jewish and who wasn't was to scrutinize surnames, rendering his estimate as unreliable as it was abhorrent.)
So he's not only an anti-semite, he's an idiot.

I'm very much amused by the fact that Jews are supposed to be this evil, supersecret, super devious cabal, but that at the same time they're supposed to be too dumb to change their last names.

Wow. Cognitive dissonance.

Source: Slate

Chemical Cheney
So Cheney is involved in more evil than previously known. Big surprise.
Vice President Dick Cheney opposed the signing ratification of a treaty banning the use chemical weapons, a recently unearthed letter shows.

183 countries pledged never to "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone" under the Chemical Weapons Convention, put into effect in 1997.

But in a letter dated April 8, 1997, then Halliburton-CEO Cheney told Sen. Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that it would be a mistake for America to join the Convention. "Those nations most likely to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention are not likely to ever constitute a military threat to the United States. The governments we should be concerned about are likely to cheat on the CWC, even if they do participate," reads the letter, published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The CWC was ratified by the Senate that same month. And since then, Albania, Libya, Russia, the United States, and India have declared over 71,000 metric tons of chemical weapon stockpiles, and destroyed about a third of them. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and Russia are supposed to eliminate the rest of their supplies of chemical weapons by 2012. But that looks unlikely -- the U.S. government figures it will get the job done by 2017.

Later this month, the 183 countries that have signed onto the CWC will meet in the Hague, to discuss how the Conference can be adapted for the future. An Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today that Iran would like this so-called "review conference" to describe any violation of the 2012 deadline “as a clear case of serious noncompliance,” which could eventually lead to punitive measures.
Ahh, Iran. I'd say that they're right and we're dragging our feet, but I also know just how hard it is to get rid of the stuff the US made in the cold war.

*shrug* If we wanted to get it done we would. I bet the pace of destruction slowed way down when Darth Cheney took over, at any rate.

Source: Wired (Danger Room)

So, why did Maliki attack Basra and almost bring about the destruction of his own government?

Well, it turns out, he hates democracy almost as much as his patron Bush.
The campaign was a predictable fiasco, another in a long line of strategic failures for the sickly and divided Iraqi government, which survives largely because it is propped up by the United States. So why did al-Maliki do it? With no obvious immediate crisis in Basra that called for such desperate measures, what could have motivated the decision to attack?

Three main motivations present themselves: control of petroleum smuggling, staying in power (including keeping U.S. troops around to ensure it), and the achievement of a Shiite super-province in the south. A southern super-province would spell a soft partition of the country, benefiting Shiites in the long term while cutting Sunnis out of substantial oil revenues, both licit and illicit. But all of the motivations have to do with something President Bush established as a benchmark in January 2007: upcoming provincial elections.

The Sadr Movement leaders themselves are convinced that the recent setting of a date for provincial elections, on Oct. 1, 2008, and al-Maliki's desire to improve the government's position in advance of the elections, precipitated the prime minister's attack. It is widely thought that the Sadrists might sweep to power in the provinces in free and fair elections, since the electorate is deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the major incumbent party in the southern provinces, the Islamic Supreme Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Provincial elections could radically change the political landscape in Iraq. Both the Sunni Arabs and the Sadr Movement sat out the last round, in late January 2005. Thus, governments in the Sunni Arab areas are unrepresentative and in one case a Sunni-majority province, Diyala, is actually ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which Sunnis tend to see as a puppet of Iran.

Likewise in the Shiite south, the ISCI, led by Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is largely in power, even though probably a majority of the population favors Sadr. To have a minority in power and the majority feeling disenfranchised is especially dangerous in a violent society such as Iraq. The disjuncture has contributed to endemic fighting in the capital of Qadisiya Province, Diwaniya, for instance, between Sadr's Mahdi army and the paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council, or Badr Corps. In many provinces, ISCI has infiltrated members of its Badr paramilitary into the police and security forces, thus giving them the presumption of legitimacy and allowing the branding of the Mahdi army as violent militiamen with no popular mandate, won at the polls.

That the week's fighting was intended to bolster pro-government forces in preparation for the October provincial elections is at least plausible. During the fighting, the Iraqi army was allied with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the ISCI, which was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. ISCI, the leading Shiite political party in parliament, is now al-Maliki's main backer in the government, along with his own smaller Da'wa (Islamic Call) Party. And U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told a news conference on Wednesday that the Iraqi army's military operation, which U.S. forces aided, was aimed at improving "security" in the city ahead of provincial elections.
So there you have it. Our Iranian trained allies are trying to kill off all their rivals ahead of an election they cannot hope to win.

Thanks, El Presidente!


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Horrorhound Report March 2k8


So we went to the Horrorhound Weekend last Saturday, and I have to say, it was a fun, if somewhat underwhelming experience.

I've been to conventions before, so I know not to expect too much in some areas, but I've also been to The Dark Carnival, which in its first year was so awesome as to be mind-blowing. I think it's really a question of emphasis. DC is a film-festival, with two solid days of things to see, panels to attend, shows, etc. It's focused squarely on the enterainment.

More regular conventions like Horrorhound are, on the other hand, focused on merchandising. Autographs, photos, stuff to buy, and tons and tons of bootlegs.

Seriously. I don't think I saw one legitimate video sale booth, but I saw a buttload of bootleg cartoons and porn.

Well, the porn might not have been bootlegs.

Horrorhound had very little in the way of activities compared to DC. A few movies, a panel or two, and that's it (except for the costume contest, more on that below), over 3 days. The merchandise room was all right, for killing about an hour and spending a hundred bucks. Don't get me wrong; we picked up some cool stuff there.

We hit the Dark Carnival booth of course, and got some t-shirts, and a copy of Stupid Teenagers Must Die, which the roommate loved from the festival itself.

We also got some DVDs autographed by Tom Savini, which was awesome. I know it makes me a pagan, but I really love the 90s remake of Night of the Living Dead. It was one of the first zombie movies I ever saw, on late night tv, and it holds a special place in my heart. It's unrelentingly grim and close and confining, and doesn't go overboard on splash or effects, but keeps everything scary with a no-nonsense directorial approach, facilitated by Savini's brilliant effects, which hold up even today far better than the CG head-splodey you get in so many zombie films.

Savini himself is wonderfully laid back and friendly in person. I was honestly a bit shy around him. Most celebrities I don't feel that awed by, but something about bothering Savini for autographs, even on DVDs we purchased there, made me feel embarassed. He was incredibly nice about the whole thing, and had a policy that if you bought anything from him to sign, he'd sign your other stuff too. Thus we bought 2 dvds and he signed our home copy of Dawn of the Dead for free, which was great. Now I have Night and Dawn signed, and my brother in law Ted got Dawn to take home too.

Maybe I just feel more like he's an artist than most famous people. He created literal, physical art, after all; human sculptures designed to terrify. They work, too, and he is pretty much the undisputed king of his craft. He's the best Zombie Sculptor in the world. That's pretty impressive.

Finally, we picked up some nifty pub glasses that reference Shaun of the Dead rather shamelessly.

I was also able to score an autographed photo of Sammy Terry for my sister, who is a big fan. Terry takes the time to talk with each person, and they're willing to sign things for as little as a dollar, which is really something. The man clearly cares about the fans, coming out at his age to do conventions like this.

So you can definitely find some fun at a place like Horrohound...

But to entertain yourself at a convention like this, you need a lot of money.

A lot.

Dark Carnival was 35 bucks, I think, for 3 days of free screenings, a drive-in performance, and two solid days of the Festival. Horrorhound will cost you the same for 2 and a half days of wandering around in a room full of stuff to buy. There really is no comparison.

Of course, it's still a ton better than the Star Wars Celebration I went to, where there were several times too many people for the event and you couldn't get in to see anything at all. Plus it cost 70 bucks for 2 days.

I don't mean to bash Horrorhound too much though; there was definitely fun to be had. For example, there was a costume contest that the roommate and I crashed at the last minute in our Giant Leech costumes...

We tied for 1st Place in the 'Best Random Costume' contest, which was awesome.

Here are the prizes we got, which are pretty nifty. Except for Alien vs. Predator, of course.

Well, that about wraps it up for Horrorhound. I think we'll go again in August, but probably just for Saturday again. We can really hit all the stuff we want to hit in a day or so, and it helps to staunch the wallet bleed. Plus I'd really like to enter another costume contest; I have an idea for the next one that would be really special.

Random News


So there was recently a crossover between Sally Forth and Pearls Before Swine, where Ted Forth sneaks away from his wife at a hotel to find a prostitute.

Apparently this was an out of the blue idea from the PBS guy and the Sally Forth guy was so amused he tied his comic into what was otherwise solely a gag strip making fun of it.


Sources: Francesco Explains It All
The Comics Curmudgeon

Art Show
A series of photos from an art show featuring reimagined Saturday Morning cartoon characters. I liked this Blip from Space Ghost a lot, but there are some awesome Herculoids in there too.

Source: Flickr

Annoy the Cops
Not the smartest game, but they do have it coming.

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- Cars lining the street. A house full of young people. A keg and drinking games inside. Police thought they had an underage boozing party on their hands.

But though they made dozens of teens take breath tests, none tested positive for alcohol. That's because the keg contained root beer.

The party was held by a high school student who wanted to show that teens don't always drink alcohol at their parties. It has gained fame on

Dustin Zebro, 18, said he staged the party after friends at D.C. Everest High School got suspended from sports because of pictures showing them drinking from red cups.

The root-beer kegger was "to kind of make fun of the school," he said. "They assumed there was beer in the cups. We just wanted to have some root beer in red cups and just make it look like a party, but there actually wasn't any alcohol."

Zebro purchased a quarter-barrel of 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer, and by 10 p.m. Saturday, the scene outside his rural Wausau home had all the makings of a teen drinking party - cars, noise and kids.

Kronenwetter Police Chief Daniel Joling said an officer was dispatched to the home March 1 on a complaint of cars blocking the road.

Juveniles began coming out of the house after the officer used his squad car's loudspeaker to warn that cars would soon be towed, Officer Jason Rasmussen wrote in his report.

Nearly 90 breath tests were done, and officers even searched locked rooms for hiding teens.

"It was a tremendous waste of time and manpower, but we still had a job to do, and our officers did it," Joling said. "If one kid had come there, even hadn't drank there, but had come there and had been drinking and had left and crashed and burned, then what would the sentiment be? Why didn't the police check everybody out?"
Dangerous, and I don't approve of the noisy party part, but still. Cops do have it coming. Ever since the Fourth Amendment went out the window and we lost our right to privacy, I think it's been an Us vs. Them thing. This is a good legal way to fight back against overzealous enforcement practices; flood the enforcers with false positives.

Source: Raw Story

Right-wingers are just terrible at art of any sort. I can't reach any other conclusion.
Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, whose controversial film Fitna finally hit the web yesterday, has made himself even more unpopular - it appears he forgot to secure copyright on footage used in the movie.

Danish newspaper cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose depiction of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban sparked violent protests in 2006, complained on Dutch TV that Wilders used his work without permission, "so it is simply a case of violation of copyright rules".

Earlier this month Westergaard defended Wilders and argued that the Dutch MP should show his film despite government warnings. On behalf of Westergaard, the Danish Union of Journalists says it will now sue Wilders for copyright infringement.

Also, Dutch director Rob Muntz was also surprised to see a clip of an interview he conducted with Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who was stabbed and shot dead in Amsterdam. Muntz says he never gave permission, and will seek legal advice too.

Wilders also mistakenly used a photo of Dutch-Moroccan rapper Salah Edin instead of Mohammed Bouyeri, Theo van Gogh’s murderer. Edin, perhaps unsurprisingly, is also suing.

Seriously though, this is why you didn't need to ban the movie, Dutch authorities. In the marketplace of ideas, conservative thought always ends up in the bargain bin.

Source: The Register

So Comcast has been, it turns out, scamming its viewers on HD broadcasts by secretly pruning the signals. You get the resolution, but it's all distorted and blocky and ugly.

This so they can add more HD channels at a lower cost. Sort of counterproductive, to my mind, if the ones you have suck ass.

This is the way Comcast operates though. And now, I don't say that just because our cable is out at the moment.

Source: AVS Forum

Speaking of Terrible Service
Best Buy!
A Best Buy store in New Jersey foiled one man's treasonous plot to subvert a troubled US economy by discouraging the purchase of an overpriced headset.

According to a report from The Consumerist, the prominent electronics merchant summoned police on a shopper identified as "Alex" because he shared an unfavorable impression of a Jawbone headset to customer considering the product.

Alex told the man browsing Best Buy's mobile section about his personal dissatisfaction with the quality of the Bluetooth headset and noted the retailer marked up the price by $30 compared to his local Verizon store.

A savvy sales associate reportedly overheard Alex's attempted disruption of commerce and promptly informed the nearest authority figure, store's manager, Tom.

Alex was approached by the manager and asked to leave the store. He steadfastly refused — unaware or even perhaps unconcerned that his words wounded Lady Liberty and the national economy she depends upon.

According to Alex, the manager rebutted his insistence that he did nothing wrong by claiming his requested evacuation was "policy." Tom then walked away and instructed an associate to summon the police.

Startled by the rapidly intensifying predicament, Alex attempted to call Best Buy's customer support phone number. He was put on hold.

Two police officers arrived on the scene, accompanied by four Best Buy security clerks to send the subversive customer on his way. Alex was escorted out before he could reach a customer service rep on his phone.
Best Buy of course claims this isn't their policy. But hiring morons apparently is.

Source: The Register

Tower of Babel
A crazy Saudi billionaire is planning to make the world's tallest building.

Tallest by a LOT.
On a clear day, the view from the top will take in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean - providing you've a head for heights.

Plans for a mile-high tower in the Saudi Arabian desert have been unveiled by the billionaire owner of London's Savoy Hotel.

At 5,250ft, the £5billion project, masterminded by two British engineering consultancies, will be twice as high as its nearest rivals, skyscrapers under construction in Dubai and Kuwait, and almost seven times as high as the Canary Wharf tower in London's Docklands.


It is being planned for a new city near the Red Sea port of Jeddah. Behind the scheme is 51-year-old Prince al-Walid bin Talal, who bought the Savoy for £1.25billion in 2005.

The plan gives the Middle East a clear lead over Asian countries and the U.S., who have vied in the past to construct the world's tallest buildings.

None of the other skyscrapers under construction, including New York's Freedom Tower on the World Trade Centre site, will exceed 2,296ft.
The whole scheme is insane. The plan is for it to be so tall that helicopters have to be used to take workers up and down for the day and haul supplies. The temperature extremes at the top will apparently be crazy.

Still, gutsy. Nice to see Saudi money being used for something constructive, no pun intended.

Source: The Daily Mail

St. John McCain and Letterman
So St. John McCain appeared on Letterman to counter the jokes about how old he is.

Some of his digs, no doubt written by Letterman's talented staff, were pretty funny, but this last one...
Then the Arizona Senator gets in the final zinger: "And you look like the guy who enjoys getting into a hot tub and watching his swim trunks inflate."
What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?

Source: Raw Story

Catalog of Unfit Toys

Source: Catalog of Unfit Toys

Not a Joke
T-Mobile sent a nastygram to the tech website engadget demanding that they stop using the color magenta, as T-Mobile does in their own logo.

They think they can own a color now.

This has of course led to a number of websites going magenta in response.

Source: Engadget

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Even More Political News


So there's chatter about Gore as a consensus candidate for the Dems.

That'd be amazing. But it will never happen. The world is not that kind to me.

Plans for Al Gore to take the Democratic presidential nomination as the saviour of a bitterly divided party are being actively discussed by senior figures and aides to the former vice-president.

The bloody civil war between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has left many Democrats convinced that neither can deliver a knockout blow to the other and that both have been so damaged that they risk losing November's election to the Republican nominee, John McCain.


Following a brief flurry of speculation that he might jump into the race last year, Mr Gore claimed he had "fallen out of love" with politics, but he has pointedly refused to rule out another tilt at the White House and said that the only job in public life that interests him is the presidency.

Source: The Telegraph

Tip 'Sharing'
This isn't about the standard 'wait staff share with kitchen staff' sort of thing.

This is where Starbucks stole tips from hourly workers for management.
Starbucks Corp. plans to appeal a San Diego Superior Court ruling last week that ordered the coffee chain to compensate California baristas for tips they shared with shift supervisors.


In a separate statement Thursday, Starbucks said there is no money to be "refunded or returned from Starbucks."

The California lawsuit was filed in 2004, and was granted class-action status in 2006. Last week, San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett ordered Starbucks to pay baristas more than $100 million in back tips and interest, saying state law prohibits managers and supervisors from taking a cut from the tip jar. A hearing is set for May 1 before Cowett on how the California tip money should be distributed.

Starbucks responded in the statement that "shift supervisors are not managers and have no managerial authority," and customers don't differentiate between the supervisors and baristas when they tip.

Cowett also issued an injunction preventing Starbucks' shift supervisors from sharing in future tips, but Starbucks spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil said it would not comply with that order while it appeals the court decision.
Right. The 'supervisor' has no managerial authority.

I'm sorry, but this is absurd. Management stealing from the tip jars? Seriously?

Give me a break. When they want to break a union, companies call nurses 'managers'; when they want to steal from workers, they call managers 'shift supervisors'.

They don't just want to have their cake and eat it too; they want yours.

Source: Raw Story

End Game
So, how does a longtime insurgency, like the one we're facing in Iraq, actually end?

Simple. It ends when everyone gets exhausted.
The first time I visited Belfast, in 1977, it was a city under siege. Stores were closed. British bunkers protected by anti-rocket meshing sat on most intersections. Police and military patrols were the only sign of life on the street. The Europa, which had to be the most bombed hotel in the world, was a sandbagged fortress.

On paper at least, the 1998 agreement between the IRA and the British government was what started to put an end to the violent conflict. But at the bottom of it the IRA lost the will to fight.

This year's IRA parade on Easter morning was one of the most anodyne, sentimentalized events I've ever seen, made up mostly of little boys and old men not even bothering to pose as veterans. A half a dozen marchers carried wooden rifles, but the Republican banners were furled — on orders from the IRA's leadership. Armored police Land Rovers were parked inconspicuously on side streets, but they were there to protect the marchers from Protestants rather than keep a watch on them.

Any lingering doubt I had that the conflict was truly over disappeared when I saw the Europa. There wasn't even a car bomb barrier out front. The place was full of families, many of them American, coming home for Easter. Ex-IRA foot soldiers out front offered driving tours of the old IRA battlefields. Who would ever have thought Northern Ireland would be turned into a theme park?


But it wasn't just in Northern Ireland that there was an end to violence. I was in Palermo on Good Friday and met the city's police chief. It's been 15 years since the Sicilian Mafia has been blowing up judges and prosecutors. Is the violence over? "If I dare say it, it is," the police chief said. "The Mafia figured out it just wasn't worth it, the killing and bombing, drawing the fury of Rome."

To be sure, the Mafia still runs Sicily. But like the IRA it is an anodyne force. It is moving into white-collar crime — where the real money is and the sentences are lighter.


Before I left Beirut last week I sat down with a member of Hizballah's politburo. He didn't look anything like the old Hizballah I knew from the '80s. For a start he asked to meet in the posh Vendome Hotel, in the rooftop restaurant that has a commanding view over the Corniche and the Mediterranean. Clean shaven and carrying a new leather briefcase, he offered me a Cuban cigar as soon as he sat down. He had just come from a class teaching economics.

We started off talking about the Hizballah military commander Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated in Damascus on February 12. "Yes, indeed," he said in fluent English, "Hizballah will absolutely have to respond. But not now. There is too much too lose."

He added that he thought that it was unfortunate the West focuses only on Hizballah's military wing. "Can't anyone see Hizballah is just as much about an economic revolution as it is fighting Israel?"
People complain about the Godfather Pt. III endlessly, but it turns out that the portrayal of the end of the Corleone family was fairly accurate. When people tire of violence, they end up moving on to something else, often something more lucrative.


Sign of the Times
The housing crisis has become so bad that looters are stealing the copper pipes from old houses, which are worth significantly more than the houses they're found inside.
Similar stories are unfolding nationwide as a glut of home foreclosures coincides with record highs in the price of copper and other metals.

Real estate brokers and local authorities say once-proud homes coast-to-coast are being stripped for copper, aluminum, and brass by thieves. Much of it ends up with scrap metal traders who say nearly all copper gets shipped overseas, much of it to China and India.

In areas hit hardest by foreclosures, such as the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, copper and other metals used in plumbing, heating systems and telephone lines are now more valuable than some homes.

"We're in an incredibly unfortunate time where the nonferrous metals commodities market for scrap is at an all-time high. Houses are getting stripped pretty quickly once they go through the foreclosure process," Cleveland city councilor Tony Brancatelli said.

"We're seeing houses sold for $100 that are distressed houses that should not be recycled," he said. Some boarded-up homes in his Slavic Village community have "No copper, only PVC" painted on the boards to stop would-be thieves.
This isn't a joke; houses can go for less than the price of their telephone wiring.

Thanks a lot, El Presidente!

Source: Raw Story

A Picture Says 4 Thousand Names
Portrait of El Presidente and St. John McCain, made from the composite of pictures of the four thousand people we've lost in Iraq.

Source: Huffington Post

Cesar Chavez Day
Clinton and Obama are working to one-up each other, but for a change, in a good way.
Cesar Chavez Day.

That's what Barack Obama is endorsing: A national holiday in honor of the late, legendary activist for farmworker rights (pictured below).

Today is Chavez's birthday -- and Hillary Clinton's campaign was the first to draw attention to that this morning, issuing a statement celebrating the 81st anniversary of Chavez's birth (he died on April 23, 1993).

But Obama, who has struggled to overcome Clinton's significant advantage among Latino voters in state after state, sought to one-up his rival for the Democratic presidential nod by joining the call for creating a national holiday to commemorate the father of the United Farm Workers.
Now if we could only get them doing this on Iraq.

Source: The LA Times

Enough Already
Noah Shachtman at Danger Room finds a 2006 report written for U.S. Special Operations Command that suggests ways the military should deal with the blogosphere. One suggestion is for the military to hire bloggers to “pass the U.S. message“:

Information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence…to pass the U.S. message. … On the other hand, such operations can have a blowback effect, as witnessed by the public reaction following revelations that the U.S. military had paid journalists to publish stories in the Iraqi press under their own names. People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust.

An alternative strategy is to “make” a blog and blogger. The process of boosting the blog to a position of influence could take some time, however, and depending on the person running the blog, may impose a significant educational burden, in terms of cultural and linguistic training before the blog could be put online to any useful effect. Still, there are people in the military today who like to blog.
Yeah. This isn't the least bit unseemly.

Source: Think Progress

I can't believe I agree with a Florida politician, but I've been saying the same basic thing for a while now.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) appeared on CNN to slam both the Democratic Party nominating process and the Electoral College.

Nelson said he would like to abolish the Electoral College entirely, because "people are increasingly dissatisfied when you can have the most votes for president and the other candidate ... ends up being elected, as last happened in the year 2000."

He is also proposing to do away with the current presidential nominating procedures in favor of six large regional primaries, which would be held between March and June of every presidential election year in an order to be determined by drawing lots.

CBS's John Roberts did not comment on the merits of Nelson's proposal, but merely noted that "Iowa and New Hampshire are going to scream bloody murder."

"Of course they're going to kick up and scream, "Nelson replied, "but those states are not representative of America as a whole and why should they have an outsized influence?"
The regional primary is a neat idea. It would curtail travel costs and provide a logical grouping, so that regional issues and focuses would be retained.

On the other hand, 'region' is a bit hard to define. California is big enough and powerful enough to count as its own country. It would easily qualify as two or three regions of its own. On the other hand, the South may be a series of states, but demographically and politically they comprise, with the exception of Florida, one big bloc of Stupid.

I'd suggest a rotation for primaries, with first year determined by lots, rather than lots each time. That could lead to a run of one area being first or last that would be unpleasant.

Other than that, not a shabby plan. As for Iowa and New Hamsphire? Fuck 'em. The current system is the height of anti-democratic behavior.

Source: Raw Story

Death of Death Benefit
So Chrysler is screwing over their middle rank white collar workers.
Chrysler LLC's white-collar retirees are losing free life insurance benefits but are eligible for a one-time pension boost of up to $4,000, according to a letter retirees should receive this week.

Previously retirees were covered by a life insurance policy at no charge, with a death benefit equal to their last year of pay, for those who retired before 2003, or $50,000 for those who retired after that.

Chrysler is allowing affected retirees a one-time opportunity to buy into a voluntary plan through MetLife at a reduced, group rate.


On one hand, retirees' families are less likely to need the life insurance payout to support a family or pay off a mortgage, Wise said. On the other, the cost of a 65-year old obtaining even a 20-year term plan is steep -- $1,600 a year or more, he said.


White-collar retirees will receive from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on their years of service and years since retirement. They may choose to take the payment as a one-time lump sum, roll it into an Individual Retirement Account, or have it paid as part of their monthly benefit.
So they get at most 4 grand in exchange for losing 20+ grand of insurance premiums.

Oh yeah, what a bargain!

Still think we don't need white collar unions?

Source: The Detroit News

King Corn
The Ethanol Lobby strikes again.
BB&T Capital Markets analyst said Monday corn rationing may be necessary this year, following a U.S. Department of Agriculture report predicting farmers would plant far fewer acres of corn in 2008.

According to the March Prospective Plantings Report, farmers intend to plant about 86 million acres of corn this year, down 8 percent from 2007, when the amount of corn planted was the highest since World War II.

Analyst Heather L. Jones said in a note to investors if the USDA estimate proves accurate, the year may produce just 200 million bushels of corn. That, she said, wouldn't be enough to meet demand, given current export and feed demand trends and higher ethanol demand. Both ethanol and animal feed are made with corn.


Shares of Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world's largest meat companies, fell 12 cents to $16.01 in afternoon trading, while shares of pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc. dropped 39 cents to $25.57.

Chicken producer Pilgrim's Pride Corp. shares dipped 19 cents to $20.28. Earlier in the day, the stock reached a new four-year low of $20.08.
Thanks a lot, Flexfuel Fuckers.

Thanks a lot.

Source: Raw Story

Hagee Video
This is still in my browser window from quite a while ago.

Man it's been in there forever.

Source: Attytood

Random and Disturbing News

Disturbing and Disgusting

Dolphin Raid
Here's a story that's so grotesque and seemingly far-fetched that it's hard to believe.

For the first time ever, graphic feature-length footage of the annual slaughter of some 2,500 dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has been captured during a unique yearlong covert operation.

The secret filming by members of the U.S. conservation group Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) — equipped with state-of-the-art technology and financed to the tune of $5 million by Netscape founder Jim Clark — is being turned into a major documentary feature film destined for worldwide release this summer (although distribution in Japan is at present not certain).

The story of how this film of the barbaric killing and subsequent butchering of dolphins was made — together with the resulting sale of their meat that massively exceeds Japanese and international limits for mercury content — is told here, exclusively, for the first time anywhere in print.
That's right; an eco-group with big money backing staged what can only be described as a Black Op to get extensive documentary evidence of a secretive dolphin slaughter in Japan.

Just the still photographs are horrifying. But quite frankly, to me, the sheer scale of this operation is more interesting than the abject cruelty.

I mean, we live in a world chock full of abject cruelty.
The footage of the annual seven-month dolphin "drive fisheries" (as they are known in Japan), and of the brutal practices involved in them — as well as the complicity in the killings by various dolphin trainers and officials from Taiji Whale Museum — is sure to shock the world. But whether Japanese people themselves will be able to see the film and arrive at their own conclusions is still by no means certain.

The annual dolphin slaughter at Taiji, a town with a population of some 3,500 in the beautiful Yoshino Kumano Kokuritsu Koen national park, follows a regular pattern.

First, hunter boats from the Taiji Isana Union (numbering at most 13 skiffs, with two crewmen each) head out to sea and surround pods of dolphins or pilot whales (which are actually large dolphins). Then they drive them into a "capture cove" by banging on long metal bell-ended poles placed in the water to disrupt the dolphins' sonar, causing them to become completely disorientated and panic.

After these animals have spent a night supposedly relaxing in the netted-off capture cove (in an attempt by the whalers to make their meat more tender), they are driven to the neighboring "killing cove." There, behind huge blue tarps strung across the cove to keep prying eyes away — in much the same way that Japanese police cordon off crime scenes — the dolphins meet their gruesome predawn end.
Terry Pratchett says something about the nature of evil in Carpe Jugulum, I forget the exact quote, but the sentiment was that the worst sort of evil isn't the kind that goes on in the dead of night, but the sort that plods methodically, dispassionately forward in grey, daylight monotony. In the book he's referencing, amongst other things, the Nazis, but the analogy holds here too. Truly nasty, inhuman behavior reaches its apex not with the lunatic carving up prostitutes, but with the commandant running the camps, or here, the whalers mutilating semi-sentient creatures to make toxic food.
From their base in Boulder, Colorado, the OPS group made six trips to Wakayama Prefecture, where they were constantly followed by local police and stalked and harassed by Taiji "whalers." Despite this, their mission was successful. Their high-tech film gear was covertly inserted in the "killing cove" and extracted 16 times thanks to the efforts of the film's assistant director, Charles Hambleton, and three members of the OPS team. Their hidden, high-definition (HD) cameras successfully recorded the horror that unfolded behind Taiji's blue tarps. And what they saw was beyond their belief.

Captured dolphins were filmed writhing in pain as Taiji whalers speared them repeatedly or cracked their spines with spiked weapons. Stricken dolphins are also shown thrashing about wildly, blood pouring from their wounds until they finally succumbed. Meanwhile, a number of dolphin trainers and officials from the Taiji Whale Museum are shown cooperating in the slaughter — some even laughing — as the killing cove's bloodied, ruby-red water swept round into the adjacent capture cove.

But perhaps the most iconic scene is one in which a baby dolphin leaps to its death on the rocks after its mother is killed. This really was a surreal and incredibly sad sight to see.
Surreal doesn't begin to describe it.

The lengths they had to go to in order to produce the documentary are equally surreal, to my mind.
With funding from billionaire conservationist Clark, the team was able to use the most sophisticated equipment money could buy. Among their weapons of choice were a battery of HD cameras. Some of those cameras were encased in fake rocks sculpted out of high-density foam by movie-model makers with Kerner Optical (formerly George "Star Wars" Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic Shop). These disguised cameras were strat- egically positioned inside the killing cove.

Also included in the formidable lineup of high-tech gear for this covert operation were standard-size HD cameras, $50,000 military-grade HD forward-looking infrared (FLIR) P-645 thermal cameras (to detect anyone the whalers had on lookout); hydrophones and HD underwater cameras (to record the dolphins' underwater throes); unmanned gyro-stabilized helicopters; a number of "shotgun" microphones disguised as tree branches; walkie-talkies; and a host of ancillary equipment.

The mission objective was to produce a well-balanced, full-length documentary feature for general worldwide release encompassing all facets of the Taiji dolphin cull and its health risks.

"We succeeded," Psihoyos said, "but we also came back with an epic horror film resembling a Steven King novel more than a documentary."


To make this possible, OPS called on Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, a seven-time world free-diving champion, and her famed coach and husband, Kirk Krack, to plant the devices. (Cruikshank recently broke her own world record by free-diving down to 88 meters and back in 2 min. 48 sec.) Both eagerly accepted the risky challenge.

"Good to go Mandy," crackled through the two-way. It was 3 a.m. The OPS support group on land had just completed a thermal-imaging sweep of the capture and killing coves. No security was detected. As the OPS van dropped the two off above the holding cove's small beach, and sped away, the free-diving pair, clad in wet suits, entered the water. The moon was full, helping them to see obstacles.

"Tensions were high . . . we had to get around a barbed-wire fence and hike down over some boulders to get into the water," Mandy said. "Then we swam around to the killing cove. It was about 40 feet (12 meters) deep. We had an underwater camera and hydrophone, and we used a flashlight to get a reference point so we knew where to retrieve them from after we made a reconnaissance, but we had to turn it on and off quickly to escape detection. Then Kirk and I put down the devices fairly easily."


Meanwhile, Psihoyos' team was embedded in their camera blinds on overlooking hillsides, sometimes for as long as 17 hours a day. Dressed in full camouflage gear and wearing face paint, they looked like military sniper teams. Black masking tape covered reflective surfaces on their cameras to avoid detection. For over 3 1/2 weeks, the OPS team survived on a daily ration of 3 hours' sleep. When filming from the camera blinds, they subsisted on energy bars and water. Whaler security men, always wary of outsiders monitoring their hunts, constantly scanned the high terrain, the bushes and undergrowth surrounding the two coves, their flashlights searching for intruders.

Psihoyos recounted his attempt in setting up the initial camera blind in a spot overlooking the killing cove.

"It was a moonless night and I had a full-size def (HD) camera in tow with a large tripod. I scaled a cliff and descended on a rope and perched on a shelf as big as an average office desk — but at a slope of about 30 degrees.

"I braced my feet against a small tree and didn't move them for the next 15 1/2 hours," he said, adding, "the lagoon was filled with pilot whales — they made a protective circle around their young. I shot frantic clips from my unstable perch as I saw whales killed and dragged away."
The whole thing is worth a read. These people put our National Intelligence to shame, that's for sure.

Source: The Japan Times

White Stickers
This is a combination of truly sad/pathetic and hilarious.
Two narcotics officers were demoted from an elite strike force and suspended without pay because of racially offensive stickers found inside a police department locker.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey this week punished officers Scott Schweizer and Eric Dial, transferring the pair out of the Narcotics Strike Force to routine patrol in districts where they started as rookies. The officers were also each suspended for 20 days without pay and prohibited from using vacation days toward the unpaid leave.

Two racist stickers were found inside Schweizer's locker. One sticker read: "White Power." The other depicted a cartoon of a man, half as an officer in uniform and half as a Klansman, with the words "Blue By Day — White By Night."


An Internal Affairs Bureau investigation concluded that Dial created the stickers and put them on Schweizer's locker in the narcotics strike force headquarters in the city's Bridesburg section, Ramsey said.
White Power... stickers?

Excuse me?

Is this what the white supremacist movement is reduced to? STICKERS?

That's progress.

Source: Raw Story

This was sort of inevitable.
North Dakota State University is investigating the NDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club and sorority Alpha Gamma Delta after a racially charged performance at the Mr. NDSU Pageant. The performance featured a student in black face depicting presidential candidate Barack Obama receiving a lap dance while two students dressed as cowboys mimicked anal sex in the background. The Saddle and Sirloin Club, a club for students at the Fargo campus interested in animal agriculture, performed the lip-synching number in front of an audience of 500 people.


A pageant contestant from Saddle and Sirloin dressed as the woman from the popular Internet video "I Got a Crush on Obama" and performed for another student who was wearing dark makeup and an afro wig.

In the background, two male students dressed as cowboys simulated anal sex while holding an Obama sign that one student ripped at the conclusion of the 30-second performance.
Wow. Blackface, Obama with strippers... this is some classy school they've got in North Dakota, huh?

Source: Minnesota Monitor

Bowling for Morons
This is just surreal.
Summary: On Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist repeatedly mocked Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance -- which Scarborough called "dainty" -- at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. Deriding Obama's score, Scarborough said: "You know Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it's a man, to be a real man." He added, "You get 150, you're a man, or a good woman," to which Geist replied, "Out of my president, I want a 150, at least." After guest Harold Ford Jr. said that Obama's bowling showed a "humble" and "human" side to him, Scarborough replied, "A very human side? A prissy side."
It's also what you'd expect when you hire a former Republican congressman as a TV host. The stupid, it burns!

Seriously, what possible relevance does the bowling performance of a Presidential candidate have? Obama is apparently not much of a bowler, let alone a regular one. But even if he was, and sucked, who cares?

Is bowling a major component of Presidential work these days?

Give me a break. Yet again, Republicans try to feminize the Democratic candidate (or hyper-masculinize Clinton), playing the gender bashing card in a sad, outmoded attempt to sway the white male bigot vote.

Are we really supposed to believe St. John McCain, 72, is a star athlete? Even ignoring the damage to his arms from the POW camp, I mean, he's a decrepit mummy.

Source: Media Matters

Fresh from bashing Obama because he's bad at bowling (and thus a woman), MSNBC had another host, Chris Matthews, go on the air to state that Obama was bound to be good at basketball because he's black.
Summary: On Hardball, discussing Sen. Barack Obama's bowling performance at a campaign stop, Chris Matthews said to MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, "You know, Michelle -- and this gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody, but the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder." While showing the video of Obama's bowling, Matthews asserted, "[I]t isn't the most macho form there."

Just... wow.

Source: Media Matters

Lou Dobbs!
So Lou Dobbs got sick of, err, being told not to be a racist by uppity blacks.
Racial healer Lou Dobbs explains how he's sick of "cotton pickin'" black leaders telling him how he can and can't talk about race (he catches himself at the last minute -- sorta) ...

What is WRONG with Cable News these days?

Source: Talking Points Memo

Third Graders?!
Third Graders!
WAYCROSS, GA -- It's the type of news you don't expect to hear coming out of an elementary school. Nine third grade students suspended at Center Elementary in Waycross for an alleged plot to attack their teacher.

"This plot was uncovered at the point that something dangerous was brought to the school," says Lt. Dwayne Caswell with Waycross Police.

Police say the students were hatching a plan to harm their teacher Friday morning. They even brought items from home to carry out the plan.

"They had a broken steak knife, a crystal paper weight, toy handcuffs, several items and tape and stuff," says Lt. Caswell.

Also, before people get all upset about the 'degeneration of modern culture', it's worth noting that child soldiers and killers and what not are hardly an uncommon phenomenon or confined to the West. It's also worth noting that the kids had a mix of weapons and, err, toys.


Source: First Coast News

Circus Slaves
Now this is just bizarre stuff.
ROME (Reuters) - Police rescued two teenage Bulgarian sisters from a circus in southern Italy which forced one of them to swim with flesh-eating piranhas for the amusement of guests, police said.

While the 19-year-old sister swam in a transparent tank, the younger, 16-year-old was forced into a container where the circus staff tossed snakes at her. She was injured by one of the snakes, police said.

Police arrested three Italians who ran the circus south of Naples, in Salerno province, accusing them of forcing the sisters to live in virtual slavery.

The women were paid 100 euros ($155.8) per week and lived in a trailer that had previously been used to transport animals, they said.
I would ask how people could watch that, but honestly, circus performers often do some pretty bizarre or dangerous things. At the Dark Carnival we saw a guy (a highly paid professional there of his own free will, of course) put his face in a pile of broken glass and have an audience woman stand on the back of his head. Well, step on it at least.

Still, you'd at least worry about the poor snakes, right?

Source: Reuters