Saturday, October 28, 2006

Water Over the Damned

by Mxyzptlk

Washington Post, October 28, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday that he was not referring to an interrogation technique known as waterboarding when he told an interviewer this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water was a "no-brainer."

Cheney said aboard Air Force Two late Friday that he did not talk about any specific interrogation technique during his interview Tuesday with a conservative radio host.

"I didn't say anything about waterboarding. ... He didn't even use that phrase," Cheney said on a flight to Washington, D.C., from South Carolina.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Tony Snow said the vice president was talking literally about "a dunk in the water," though neither Snow nor Cheney explained what that meant or whether such a tactic had been used against U.S. detainees.

"A dunk in the water is a dunk in the water," Snow said.

And a dumb shit who believes that is just a dumb shit.

So Cheney, do our folks really dunk people in some water like bobbing for apples to obtain information? Is that what you meant? Perhaps next we'll hear about our guys using a soft cushion to wring confessions from suspected terrorists.

McCain, I hope, is feeling the fool for signing on to the bill that permits this. He said it prohibits waterboarding, but it doesn't have any specific prohibitions and leaves everything up to the judgment of the President. Nice going, McCain, you sucker.

Washington Post, October 5, 2006 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

Darth Cheney can obfuscate all he wants, can join a talk show host in making light of this, but what is clear is that the Administration believes waterboarding to be a legimitate "technique" in interrogations. If they didn't, it would be to their advantage to say so.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bob's Still Here

by Lex Luthier

Being long past my youth and now traveling through middle age, I had never seen Bob Dylan. When I learned that he would be playing in a relatively intimate setting a mile from my house, I decided this was the time. Now I love Dylan, but the most recent album of his I know well is Blood on the Tracks. I know he's done some great work since, and that he is still amazingly popular, but I just haven't tuned into him for some time. I had also heard his live shows were inconsistent and that he only plays keyboards now. So with all that backstory here's my review:

He was f'in'-A fantastic!

Bob DylanVenue was the Fillmore ballroom in Denver, once owned by Bill Graham, and my guess is it holds 2-3,000 people. Only complaint is that all of us except a couple hundred had to stand. That gets more challenging as we age, and while I am younger than Dylan, he wasn't standing in line for an hour and then in the hall for 90 more minutes before the show started.

Dylan's band was great, especially his lead guitarist. But as to the keyboard... he had it on organ voice the entire time, and it turns out that Bob has become a really excellent rock and roll organist. Maybe he was taking notes from Garth Hudson back when, but I can understand why he's left the rhythm strumming to someone else. He was really good, and he was grooving with it. Had no problem picking up a harmonica in his left hand and playing organ with his right.

I had been told that many of his classic songs can be unrecognizable. Well, he certainly changed them and his singing style has changed (as described in his memoir). I didn't have trouble identifying the oldies, and I liked what he did with them. A particular great arrangement and timely one to bring back was Masters of War. This was the closest to an acoustic performance. For the rest, he really rocked out.

Other favorites of mine included Absolutely Sweet Marie, Stuck Inside of Mobile, Like a Rolling Stone and a version of All Along the Watchtower that owed as much to Hendrix as it did to the original. I liked the sound of more recent material, some of which was vaguely familiar including one of the songs from the current CD, but as is usual in rock concerts, couldn't pick up many of the lyrics.

Near the end, Dylan actually mumbled a few words to the audience, and after the encore he and the group stood at the front of the stage, not exactly bowing, but at least it was some sort of acknowledgement of the audience. I've always heard that Dylan says nothing and is generally uncomfortable with performing. Maybe that started when people were booing him for going electric in the sixties.

It occured to me as I watched Dylan that he doesn't have to do this. While he may not be very personable on stage, I think its his choice to let the music speak for itself. There was fine attention to showmanship -- uniform dress for the band (maroon suits with black shirts and a variety of black hats, Dylan all in black), and a well-paced set with roadies handling the tuning and instrument rotation for the string players.

I'm really glad I went, and maybe I'll give some of the newer stuff a try.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Bush Changes the Calendar

by Mxyzptlk

Back in Junior High in the ol' 5th dimension, I had a teacher who, when we were misbehaving (about all the time, especially since it was an all-boys school), threatened to keep us in "'til June 31st." We all thought he was stupid, but of course he was messing with us.

I don't think we can say the same of our President. Note the highlighted text (and click on the image for a larger version):

See also:

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Snow Job

by Mxyzptlk

From yesterday's White House press briefing:

"Question: One on Iraq again...Are we winning?

"MR. SNOW: We're making progress. I don't know. How do you define 'winning'? The fact is, in taking on the war on terror -- let me put it this way, the President has made it obvious, we're going to win."

The White House can't provide a definition of "winning" but assures us we will win. Boy, that makes me feel better.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea says "boo(m)"

Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.

- George W. Bush

by Mxyzptlk

So the Emperor has a double standard. The USA does not need to heed the will of the "international community." We'll do what we want when we want to, and our lookout is our self-interest. But other countries need to do what the U.N. tells 'em.

This bluster is the best he can do in light of the administration's catastrophic failure to forestall this event.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006


They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.

- Bob Dylan

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Foley Truth and Nothing But the Foley Truth

"We have a story to tell, and the Democrats have -- in my view have -- put this thing forward to try to block us from telling the story. They're trying to put us on defense."

- Dennis Hastert

by Mxyzptlk

I don't think we can give the Democrats so much credit. The Republicans these days are scoring against themselves so well the Dems hardly need to mount an offensive.

The point here is that when you promote yourself as the paragon and protector of virtue as the Republicans have, it is fair to hold you to a higher standard.

So yes, Dennis, tell us your story. Tell us what you would have done if, when still a high school teacher you had become aware of a colleague sending such messages to a student as Foley sent in emails to a page (forget the more explicit IMs). Would you have just had a little private chat and told him to stop, rather than report it to authorities and had him suspended?

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the Foley Closet

by Mxyzptlk

Speaking on the Foley incident yesterday, Pat Buchanan made the argument that homosexual men are more likely to engage in pediphilia and other inappropriate sexual behavior than heterosexuals. That argument is analagous to saying that prostitution is bad because it attracts the criminal element.

Prostitution attracts the criminal element because we made it a crime.

In my opinion, gay men who are closeted are more likely to act inappropriately than those who are not.

I won't even talk about Catholic priests.

I'm not for a minute excusing behavior that is wrong. And we know there will always be predators, rapists and the like, both gay and straight.

But let's imagine a world where gay people -- in all walks of life -- had no reason to conceal their sexual orientation. Doesn't it make sense that we'd have fewer incidents like this?

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Froggy, the Voting Gremlin

Hiya, kids! Hiya, hiya, hiya!

by Mxyzptlk

You know the old saw about the frog in a pot of water that, as the water gets hotter and hotter, doesn't realize he's going to get boiled alive until it's too late? Maybe that's where we stand with our democracy right now. The pot went on the burner with the un-Patriot Act, bubbles formed a year ago when the government permitted large swaths of shorefront property along the Gulf Coast to face re-development and gentrification, and steam was observed last week with passage of the McCain-Graham-Warner-Rolled-Over Act. Full boil may come on Election Day.

After the 2000 election there was a movement to replace then-current voting procedures with electronic machines that would be reliable and eliminate confusion. The Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, offered deadlines for migration to "improved" voting systems, but, along with various state laws, left county and municipal voting supervisors confused as to exactly what was required. The pressure to comply with these laws created a frenzy of voting machine purchases. These machines are, in many cases, not being specified and purchased by I.T. professionals. And certainly, they are not being operated by I.T. pros.

Here are key findings in a Princeton University study of the popular Diebold voting machines:

1. Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss.

2. Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to the machines.

3.AccuVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses — computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity.*

4. While some of these problems can be eliminated by improving Diebold's software, others cannot be remedied without replacing the machines' hardware. Changes to election procedures would also be required to ensure security.

If you have 10 minutes to invest in learning more about this visit the Princeton site and watch their demonstration video. Their full report is available as well.

While there are many aspects of voting in America we should be concerned with, this danger is the most insidious. I think there's a role for the Carter Center right here at home.

Let's say we were a patient people. We could devise printed ballots that were clear, have them marked and dropped into boxes, and have the contents of those boxes counted and compiled. It might take longer, we might not have results the same night, but I wonder if those results would be any less accurate or more susceptible to fraud than the systems we will use this November 7th.

*Network connections are not necessary to spread viruses. Computer viruses were a problem long before the internet.

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Naughty Tony

"I hate to tell you, but it's not always pretty up there on Capitol Hill. And there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails. "

-White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on CNN, Ctober 2, 2006

by Mxyzptlk

Yes, there are terrible things happening on Capitol Hill. Like sticking a knife in the heart of the Republic by capitulating to the Emperor on torture and Habeas Corpus for detainees.

We shouldn't be concerned that the GOP leadership knew about Foley's predatory emails to a former and still-underage page. I guess Foley was a closet Log Cabin Republican, so that makes it OK. At least he wasn't a female teacher having sex with a male student. That would be wrong!

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Welcome to America!

"My friends, we're going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas," Sen. George F. Allen told a rally of Republican supporters in Southwest Virginia last week. "And it's important that we motivate and inspire people for something." Let's consider which positive, constructive or inspirational ideas Mr. Allen had in mind when he (then) chose to mock S.R. Sidarth of Dunn Loring, who was recording the event with a video camera on behalf of James Webb, the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat Mr. Allen holds. The idea that holding up minorities to public scorn in front of an all-white crowd will elicit chortles and guffaws? (It did.) The idea that a candidate for public office can say "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!" to an American of Indian descent and really mean nothing offensive by it? (So insisted Mr. Allen's aides.) Or perhaps the idea that bullying your opponents and calling them strange names -- Mr. Allen twice referred to Mr.Sidarth as "Macaca" -- is within the bounds of decency on the campaign trail?

- from a Washington Post editorial, August 15, 2006

by Mxyzptlk

Welcome to the real world of America, George Allen. We know you may feel out of place, being a white, cowboy boot-wearing man. Do not feel uncomfortable. The rainbow people who were in Virginia before you will not look askance, and will welcome you without question. They know that America is the land for all people.

However, they have half a brain and will vote your sorry ass out of office, you bigoted, racist, worthless son of a bitch. Get on the Republican lobbying gravy train while you can, because it stops running in just a little over two years from now.

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