Thursday, October 28, 2004

GOP: God help us if the Democrats Find Out

Secret GOP e-mails land on Democratic site

GeorgeWBush.org (a Democratic parody site) recently noticed that its mail server had been quietly gathering erroneously addressed Bush campaign e-mails for several months. The letters are now viewable on their site at www.georgewbush.org/deadletteroffice. Some were used by Greg Palast in his Oct. 26 BBC Newsnight investigation on Republican plans to obstruct voting.

[Excerpt]
-----Original Message-----
From: ardean anvik [mailto:ardeananvik@hotmail.com]
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 12:47 PM
To: chrisvance@wsrp.org
[Note: Chris Vance is Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.]
Subject: Federal Campaign Law

May I request that you or someone on your staff send directions
regarding what Counties can and cannot do as it pertains to newsletters and phone banks usage for federal candidates.

There is a great deal of ignorance out here and many counties are violating the campaign law as I understood it from you. God help us if the Democrats find out.

I think we all need direction. Can you help us?

Thanks, Chris

Ardean A. Anvik
State Committeeman, Mason COunty
Via Declan McCullogh's Politech Digest


Cross-posted to BOP News.
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Blame it on the Russians

Russia tied to Iraq's missing arms - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - October 28, 2004

If the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times is good for anything, it can be counted on to weave a good yarn, especially if that yarn exonerates the Bush Administration from acting incompetently.

Today's tale for conservative story hour? Blame "Dumb Ivan" - the Russians - for the missing high explosives, and while you're at it, you might as well pin Iraq's missing WMDs on them, too.

The Washington Times has "scooped" the rest of the world's press and intelligence apparatuses and discovered that in the days leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, Saddam hired Russian Special Forces to spirit away his stockpiles of weapons and munitions to secret locations in Syria and possibly Lebanon. The Russians acted not only in the interests of their employer, Saddam, but in their own interests as well, destroying "hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq."

"Defense officials said the Russians can provide information on what happened to the Iraqi weapons and explosives that were transported out of the country. Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs."

It would have been too obvious to blame it on the French. Conservatives still harbor a deep hatred for Russians - "once a red, always a red" - so they were a logical second choice. One has to admire the pugnacity and sheer genius of pinning not only the missing explosives but the entire dismantling of Iraq's WMD programs on the Russians at this late date. The story only has to hold through next Tuesday. I would imagine that flowers and olive branches are already on their way to Moscow through back channels to appease the Russians through this smear that will be quietly buried after election day.

Meanwhile, (Via Eschaton), back in the "reality-based community," a news crew from KSTP news in Minneapolis-St. Paul reports having visited the al-Qaaqa installation on April 18, 2003 with members of 101st Airborne Division and seeing "bunker after bunker" labeled "explosives" and box after box similarly labeled.

[Update: Conservative cheerleaders Michelle Malkin and Drudge link to the WashTimes article.]

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Election Protection with MoveOn

The good folks at MoveOn have put together a wallet-sized card that has all the numbers and information you need if someone tries to stop you from exercising your right to vote. You can download it now at:

http://cdn.moveonpac.org/content/pdfs/ep_card.pdf

Plus, they have the following tips to make sure your vote counts:

  • Find your polling place ahead of time. Having this information ahead of time will help make sure that you can zip to the polls and back during that half-hour lunch break. You can locate your local polling place using your zip code at http://www.mypollingplace.com. In most cases, the site will tell you what kind of voting machines to expect and how they work. (By the way, if mypollingplace.com conflicts with information you've received from your county or state election officials, use the official information.)

  • When in doubt, ASK. Poll workers are there to help you. They'll show you how to work the machines, and if you're at the wrong polling place, they should tell you how to get to the right one. Every polling place should also have a posted list of your voting rights, and instructions for filing a complaint if your rights have been violated.

  • Know your rights. If you're an eligible voter, you have the following rights:
    • If your name is not on the official voter list but you believe you are eligible to vote in that precinct, even if an election official challenges your vote, you have the right to cast a "provisional ballot."
    • If you're in line when the polls close, you should stay in line because you're entitled to vote.
    • In many states, your employer must allow you time to vote at some point during the day. You can't be fired for being late due to long polling lines.
    • You have the right to vote without being intimidated by anyone.
    • For your rights in your own state, check out this website: http://www.ourvote.com/

  • Bring photo ID, preferably government-issued ID or a utility bill, phone bill, or paycheck with your name and current street address. If you're a new registrant, it may be required.

  • Vote in the morning. In a great majority of polling places, everything will go smoothly, but by going early you can help prevent lines later in the day.

  • A regular ballot is better than a provisional ballot. If your eligibility to vote is questioned, ask if you can cast a regular ballot by providing additional ID or by going to another polling place. Only cast a provisional ballot if there's no alternative available.

If you experience any difficulties in casting your vote, report it. There are lots of organizations that will be working to respond quickly to complaints of voter intimidation, suppression, and fraud. Here's who to call:

  • The Democratic Party: Call 1-800-322-1144 in Virginia. In each swing state, the Democratic Party has set up a special hotline you can call if you're concerned that your vote won't count. Just call 1-800-322-1144 . This should be your first call if you run into a problem.

  • MoveOn PAC: Go to http://www.moveonpac.org/. On election day, our website will host a form where you can post your problem and get help.

  • Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. Common Cause has set up a hotline that you can call to report any problems you have voting. They'll document where problems are occuring, watch for wide-spread voter suppression, and provide real-time legal help to the hot spots.

  • 1-866-OUR-VOTE. This hotline has been set up by a coalition of nonpartisan groups to deal with the most serious problems on election day. They have hundreds of lawyers standing by to immediately respond to the most egregious problems. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the "911" of voter suppression hotlines. Please don't call unless your problem is serious enough that you have to talk to a lawyer immediately.
You may be getting tired of the same old song, but I can't say enough about election protection right now.

Please make sure you are prepared to protect your own vote, and pass the information on.


Crossposted to BOP News.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

In Your Face

This is a topic for discussion inspired by the comments on a post on BOPnews.

The post asks for feedback on an animated .gif that one might call a mini Fahrenheit 9/11, telling the story of how Osama bin Laden got away. The animation is complex and verbose and there is much debate as to the purpose it serves.

My question:

Assuming that the purpose at hand was to change minds in this final week leading up to the election, and assuming no constraints in technology or budget, what would you "show" the electorate? What would you whisper in everyone's ear?

There have been any number of attempts at this:
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 did a superb job spelling out any number of misdeeds, conspiracies and lies, but only over the course of two hours and to audiences that already wanted to hear its messages.
  • MoveOn.org's Uncovered did the same over an hour specifically about Iraq, again to volunteer audiences only.
  • The Texans for Truth have had an easy to digest message about Bush's Air National Guard service (or lack thereof).
If you could magically rub everybody's nose in an image, a soundbite, a quote, a videoclip, what would it be? What is the most compelling self-evident "story" that could be used to turn people away from re-electing Bush next Tuesday?

Respond and discuss in this post's comments, please.

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The True Cost of War


"A group of individuals concerned about the enormous human cost of the US' war in Iraq has created a large anti-war installation at 324 Wentworth Hill Road (Rte.109) in Center Sandwich, NH. The installation, titled "The True Cost of War," will be on display from Friday, October 8 throughout the Columbus Day Weekend.

The display, in the form of a military cemetery, serves as a visible reminder of the 1,000+ American soldiers killed in Iraq. The exhibit features brick "coffins," each with the name, age, date of death and hometown of a fallen serviceman or woman."

http://www.truecostofwar.com/
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Monday, October 25, 2004

Flavors of Frustration

Stirling Newberry has stirred up quite a discussion on BOP, around an excellent piece entitled "Shrub Heil, Y'all," where he makes the case that we get the government we deserve...and if the US votes Bush back in for four more years, it is because we deserve to be stuck with him.

While I understand the point he's making (and do go over and read him in his own words), I beg to differ because:
- the rest of the world doesn't get to vote for Bush and certainly doesn't deserve him;
- the American children who will bear the brunt of the burden for Bush's destructive policies can't vote him out and don't deserve him;
- the American voters who are making their voting decisions based on lies spun by Bush, government agencies, and the American media don't know they're on the wrong end of a con-job and don't deserve to be victimized twice.

[I know mostly political people and very few "normal" people. Do Americans really grasp that a Bush election victory, legitimate or illegitimate, will in the eyes of the world be an endorsement of the Iraq invasion and Abu Ghraib? For now, the global community has been incredibly generous in making a distinction between the American people and the American government...and that should last for oh, about 8 more days....]

Ultimately, I think Stirling is speaking from frustration and I'm speaking from...terror? desperation? Maybe just a different flavor of frustration.

In elections as flawed as we are facing this year...do you think the US will get the government it deserves?
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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Uxory Files

The reality of extended insomnia is that on many days, I am so exhausted and by extension brain dead that I'm not up for much beyond playing spider solitaire. Seriously.

Neil sources out new games for me to play, and got me a subscription to Stardock.net where I can download their games and any new games or upgrades for a flat fee for a year. They make the much-vaunted Political Machine game, which was how we heard about them--it turned out to be a horrible disappointment, that ignores the real mechanics of political campaigns (okay, I'm a snob) and reinforces the worst misconceptions about how campaigns work, I presume because it was created by gaming people, not campaign people. (If anyone wants to write a REAL campaign game, let me know; I'd love to help create one that doubles as a game and a training tool.) However, some of their other games are quite good, and I have whiled away many insomniac hours playing The Corporate Machine and Celtic Kings: Rage of War.

Make that many, many, many hours. I've been ready for something new for a while.

So last night, we picked up Sims2. I love AI (cf The Blog Pet post below), I love random generators, and I love games that incorporate unintended consequences. We thought Sims2 would be a good match. Got it home, tried to install it on my laptop, and discovered the hardware was too slow and the game didn't run. Great disappointment.

This morning afternoon, when I woke up, Neil was chomping at the bit, so excited to show me what he'd been up to: he was in the process of *building* a computer, out of our random hardware collection, that would run fast enough to play the game.

We used to spend great weekends like this when we lived in Texas: hardware and cords and cables spread out on every level surface in the living room (including me, if I stayed still long enough); Neil building computers, swapping out hardware, installing software, programming; me helping when I was up to it or else just hanging out, happy to see him in his element.

I spent a lot of my early childhood in the corner of my dad's workshop, watching him work, helping by sanding things, or else playing with wood chips or the shapes (like snakes!) that he'd cut out of scrap with his jig saw, or playing with the pound-and-pound toy he built me (this is when I was super small) where I could pound dowling through a board with a soft mallet and then turn it over and do it again, ad infinitum. I am coming to realize that so many of the really cool things my parents did with us as kids that conditioned me to enjoy being married to a hacker.

From 2003-2004, we were in random temporary living arrangments for over a year, due to the move from Texas to Northern Virginia and then to Richmond, thanks to first my career and then Neil's, and our things have been in storage scattered around the continent, so we haven't been up for bricolage so much.

It is really, really good to get back to the hacker living room again. And to see Neil so happy.
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Margaret Cho on Troll Patroll

Via Norwegianity, the Fabulous Ms. Cho teaches us the Fine Art of Troll Patroll:
...I was deluged with hate mail, from the Freerepublic.com site. It wasn’t about political discourse. None of it was: “Ms. Cho, I believe you are being unfair to our administration. Please look again at our foreign policy.” It was: “You Mongolian chink dyke. Four more years! Go back to your country, pig ####. Jesus Saves! Four more years!”

So since I wholeheartedly believe in free speech, I took all of their e-mails and I posted them on my Web site and included their return e-mail addresses. And these people who really like George W. Bush, they’re not that smart. They had e-mailed me from work. Well, I found out there are people out there who really like me, and who are pissed off to begin with. And they just need that much of a reason to go off. So when I had posted all these e-mails, I inadvertenly activated al Gayda. That’s one sleeper cell you do not want to wake up. These queens get up on the wrong side of the bed. They started an al Gayda training camp where they offer Pilates. Soon, the apology emails began flooding in. “I’m sorry! You’re an American. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m sorry I called you a Mongolian ####. Please make these gay people leave me alone! I’m afraid! Oh god, hurry, I think Cirque du Soleil is warming up on my lawn!”
Shades of Maddox, dahlink. Brava.

Norwegianity assures us that the whole In These Times article from which the quotes are taken is well worth a read.
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War on Fiction Writers

Dedicated to my many, many writing friends...

Gail Online points out that in her list of our escalating wars of the peoples of earth, she missed the war on fiction writers:
Federal agents did a full out terrorising raid on a fiction writer because they didn't like her research activities, like buying and reading books about Cambodia, checking out books from the library and surfing the web. Then they sabatoged her computer and CD's before they gave them back. (They did not return all her property.)
"If you think that as women’s fiction writers, we’re immune from scrutiny under the Patriot Act, think again. Last fall, the home of a multi-published author for an RWA-recognized publisher was raided and her writing in materials confiscated. The writer, an RWA and PAN member who asked to be referred to as Dilyn, agreed to he interviewed for this column to alert RWA members of potential risks when conducting research."

Link: Patriot Act Hits Close to Home

"I can understand why they might have had a conversation with the woman based upon her web surfing. A little investigation was probably warranted to find out that she was a FICTION WRITER who often researches unusual practices. But a full on raid of her house and seizure of her property is the mark of an out of control incipient police state."

Link: Writers Are Terrorists

Am I the only one thinking about the words of Martin Niemöller right now?
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He puts the Potty in POTUS

Via King of Zembla, I was just stunned to read Guardian television critic Charlie Brooker's reaction to the American presidential debates:
Quite frankly, the man's either wired or mad. If it's the former, he should be flung out of office: tarred, feathered and kicked in the nuts. And if it's the latter, his behaviour goes beyond strange, and heads toward terrifying. He looks like he's listening to something we can't hear. He blinks, he mumbles, he lets a sentence trail off, starts a new one, then reverts back to whatever he was saying in the first place. Each time he recalls a statistic (either from memory or the voice in his head), he flashes us a dumb little smile, like a toddler proudly showing off its first bowel movement. Forgive me for employing the language of the playground, but the man's a tool.
Oddly enough, my conclusion while live-blogging the third debate on BOP News was startlingly similar:
When Bush smiles...he looks like a child in toilet-training who is boasting about a particularly successful bowel movement.

If you've spent time around children in toilet training you know exactly what I mean.
Parents! Back Charlie and I up on this one.
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One for the Cat Bloggers...

Via Dohiyi Mir.

'monsters' chasing a kitten with the caption 'Everytime you vote GOP...God kills a kitten. Please, think of the kittens'

Click on picture for larger version.
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New EnjoyTheDraft.com Ads

Two New Ads:


Plus, the current popular favourite:



Which do you like best?
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Friday, October 22, 2004

The Ultimate Election Fatigue Antidote



Triumph the Insult Comic Dog takes on Spin Alley, aka Poop Valhalla.

Click here or try this mirror site.


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Voting Due Dilligence

Via Laurel at My Chiron, Kos reports in The Guardian on vote suppression by robocall:
...voters in heavily Democratic Cleveland have been receiving mysterious pre-recorded calls telling them their voting location has been changed. Local election officials are investigating the malicious calls. The so-called "robocall", in fact, is now a staple of dirty campaigning.
Two words: due dilligence.

The ultimate responsibility to preserve and protect the vote falls on individual voters. Thats not right and it's not fair, but that's the reality of voting this year.

Here are things you can do RIGHT NOW to ensure your vote counts.
1. Contact your county election office to verify that you are registered to vote, that your voting registration address has not been changed, and that your name has not been stricken from the voter list. Michael Moore offers a state-by-state list of voter hotline numbers and Secretary of State/State Board of Election Offices if you need contact information.

2. There is a high likelihood that in some areas (i.e., Republican-controlled swing states) polling places will be changed at the last minute. In many states, if you vote by provisional ballot at the wrong polling place your vote will NOT be counted. Using the above list, please plan ahead to verify your polling place today, AND on November 1, AND on November 2 before you go to vote.

3. Get your information from non-partisan, primary sources.
  • Expect websites to be hacked or hit with Denial of Service attacks around the election. Do not bank on being able to find telephone numbers or addresses you need on the Internet; write them down now. Do not bank on Internet information being accurate. (Hey, take me at my word and PLEASE re-verify anything I write in this article.)
  • If you receive printed information, email, or telephone call from an "authority" about election day logistics or your eligibility to vote (or your neighborhood is beset with sound trucks or posters or flyers), verify the information with a non-partisan source. Look up the contact information yourself and don't trust the one given in the phone call, flyer, etc.
  • Multi-source. Double check and triple check.


  • 4. Know your rights and obligations, aka read the fine print (read the big print, too). Information about your right to vote in your state and your eligibility to vote is available from your Secretary of State or State Board of Elections. (See the list in #1 above.) Or, visit ElectionProtection2004.com's partial but growing list of state-by-state voters' bills of rights. Make sure you take multiple copies of identification to the polls so no one has a pretext to challenge your right to vote.

    5. If anything is fishy...RAISE HELL.
    ...if you get funny information, if you are harassed, if someone tries to stop you from voting, please contact your state Democratic party office, and they can put you in touch with your state legal team--so you can protect not just your vote but also the votes of people in your community. (I haven't had any luck finding a comprehensive list of state party offices--I wish the DNC had a list on their site--but a Google search should do the trick. Make sure you have the number handy *before* election day.) I know a number of organizations are working on programs to protect the vote *on* Election Day; if any BOP readers can share resources on whom to contact in the days leading up to the election, please pass it on and I will update the information here.

    6. If you are eligible in your state, vote by absentee ballot. We know with certainty that there will be problems with voting machines. They leave no paper trail and they can not be audited. Voting by absentee ballot not only leaves an auditable paper trail, but also frees you up to volunteer on election day, and ensures your vote counts in the case of unforeseen circumstances that keep your from the polls.
    Does this seem like a big hassle? Well, it is. It's called vote suppression and disenfranchisement and it is how Republicans are counting on stealing the election: by subverting the system to steal your right to vote.

    Don't get mad, get even. Go to the polls, drag your friends to the polls, take up the responsibility to make sure your vote counts, and vote the Republicans out of office.
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    Conspicuous Omissions

    The Stanford Prison Experiment
    + The Milgram Experiment
    = Abu Ghraib?
    The Stanford Prison Experiment: a landmark 1971 psychological study of the human response to captivity, in particular, to the real world circumstances of prison life, conducted iy a team of researchers led by Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University. Volunteers played the roles of guard and prisoner, and lived in a mock prison. However, the experiment quickly got out of hand, and was ended after only 6 days.

    The Milgram Experiment: a famous scientific experiment of social psychology, conducted circa 1963 by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, to measure the willingness of a participant to obey an authority who instructs the participant to do something that may conflict with the participant's personal conscience. 65% of participants demonstrated sadistic behaviour, a percentage that remains remarkably constant when the experiment has been replicated by other researchers.

    [Herr van der Rohe was correct that God is in the details. If you are not familiar with the studies, I encourage you to follow the links to learn more.]

    Why isn't everyone talking about both of these studies, everywhere, all the time, in reference to Abu Ghraib?
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    The Powerfully Fissiparous Quality of Dissent

    While commenting on Islamic extremism, Abdul-Hakim Murad writes:
    "Zealotry itself is not normally refuted, it has to subside. Often that subsidence is enabled by schism: Cromwell could not be replicated because of the powerfully fissiparous quality of Dissent. Calvin’s Geneva hardly outlived him. Hutterites, Levellers, Anabaptists, and the other fragments of the Protestant detonation could perpetuate themselves, but their energy source seemed to have a half-life."
    I fervently, fervently hope that his observations apply equally well to American Neo-Cons/Movement Conservatives, and bode well for a rapid return to normalcy/sanity/humanity in America.
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    Reframing Al-Quaida

    Indigo Jo shares two outstanding links that reframe Al-Quaida as an ideological creation not of Islam but of the West.
  • Abdul-Hakim Murad on the origins of suicide-bombing in non-Islamic culture.

  • The Guardian on The Power of Nightmares, a BBC series about the links between Islamic extremism and neo-conservatism, from their foundation in the 1950s to their collaboration in the 1980s, to their enmity today.
  • 1. Murad's article is a long, challenging, and wide-ranging--well worth the effort to read. Here are some samples:
    "Traditional Sunnis intuit that al-Qaida is a Western invention, but one which cannot be defeated in a battleground where the logic is Western. This was one of the messages that emerged from the 2003 summit meeting of eight hundred Muslim scholars at Putrajaya.[21] Al-Qaida is inauthentic: it rejects the classical canons of Islamic law and theology, and issues fatwas that are neither formally nor in their habit of mind deducible from medieval exegesis."
    "...Here predictions about Islamism may not be so different from predictions about a certain kind of exhibitionist postmodernism. Take Foucault, for instance. On his death, he had been praised by Le Monde as ‘the most important event of thought in our century.’ He was an iconic Western iconoclast, but more honest about the consequences of modernity than most liberal seekers after virtue. He had been strongly pro-Khomeini, and had also praised the Baader-Meinhof terrorists. Like many Islamists, he was a lapsed Marxist, concerned with making a statement, with angering the middle-class West, with disruption. A second Bakunin, he was concerned not with advancing a detailed and realistic agenda, but with a passionate desire to shock. And like his hero Nietzsche, he died of a venereal disease, his immensely careless sexual habits indicating the powerful allure of suicide for the sake of making a statement. We need to ask: is this too close for comfort to radical Islamism, with its penchant for épater les blancs by whatever means? For how long can the West portray the Islamists as its own polar opposite? Will it be harder to forget the zealots than to forget Foucault?
    Please don't shortchange yourself by attempting to draw conclusions based on these two snippets from the much longer work; I encourage you to read Murad's essay yourself.

    2. The Power of Nightmares series producer Adam Curtis explains to The Guardian how an investigation of the rise of American Neo-Conservatism under Leo Strass led to the series on Neo-Con's common ground Islamists, including the 80's collaboration in Afghanistan that created Osama bin Laden, and how this relates to Al-Quaida and the American "War on Terror."
    ...The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, now the US deputy defence secretary. They came to prominence by talking up the Russian threat during the cold war and have applied a similar strategy in the war on terror.

    As Curtis traced the rise of the "Straussians", he came to a conclusion that would form the basis for The Power of Nightmares. Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the "fantasy" of the war on terror."

    (...)Almost no one questions this myth about al-Qaida because so many people have got an interest in keeping it alive," says Curtis. He cites the suspiciously circular relationship between the security services and much of the media since September 2001: the way in which official briefings about terrorism, often unverified or unverifiable by journalists, have become dramatic press stories which - in a jittery media-driven democracy - have prompted further briefings and further stories. Few of these ominous announcements are retracted if they turn out to be baseless: "There is no fact-checking about al-Qaida."
    There is a wealth of information contained in this (much shorter) article and I encourage you to read it in full.

    I recognize that both articles radically challenge the official Neo-Con narrative and I am braced for the trolls to come out in their full trolly glory. I am nonetheless optimistically looking forward to a civil discussion on the disruptive ideas presented.
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    Canadian Content

    Two great links via Lt. Brent Rolston at Flit:

    Plans for an Android Getty Lee

    and, on a serious note, "A particularly hazardous duty", the story of two Canadian intelligence officers captured and executed by Nazis.

    Canadians don't know or celebrate our heroes enough--probably partly in over-compensatory reaction to what many Canadians perceive as the hyperbole and jingoism of our neighbours, but it is to our own detriment.

    (Now your asking, does the robot replication of Rush members constitute a celebration of Canadian heroes? And I answer, Absolutely!)
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    Blog Pet

    Inspired by Melissa at Anything But Ordinary, I have added to the sidebar a Blog pet. Because...what this site really needs is more javascript. Really. Click on the pet to make it talk.

    The development side of the blogpet project is pretty cool. Blog Pets read your blog when you update it, guess what kind of mood you're in and tell visitors what it thinks. Apparently they even know jokes. Coming features include recognition of people, profiles, who likes who, etc; and linking of blogs and profiles between pets, so your pet will talk about your friends' blogs too (if they have a pet).

    Does the geek factor redeem me for essentially putting a tamagochi in my sidebar? ...I didn't think so.

    Okay, perhaps this may serve as a cautionary tale to real bloggers why insomnia blogging changes to your template is a really, really bad idea. [FYI, I considered "Blog Template Seppuku" as an alternate title for this post.]

    I think this is also a new blogging landmark, showing I have thrown blogging machismo to the wind along with any pretentions of being a Very Serious Blogger. [In times of tribulation I take refuge in absurdism. In other words, it only gets worse from here. Be warned.]

    Maybe we should start a pool on how long I'll leave it up? Any takers? I realize I have inside information since I, er, know me better than you do, and I can also rig the game, but I promise I'll play straight up. My guess is 48 hours max. Anyone else?

    Maybe this is what will finally get my father into blogging...
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    Not guilty by reason of insomnia

    My sleep cycle is almost completely upside down these days. I am falling asleep between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., and the hours I am awake I am neither clear-headed nor energetic. This is a temporary set-back in my insomnia war, due to the excessive rain lately, and should gradually right as the weather clears up.

    In the meantime, I have a number of favors promised but not delivered, unreturned email, and unmade phone calls. It is like living in a nightmare where I put off physically or mentally taxing tasks (amazing what can be taxing right now) in the hopes that I'll be up to it tomorrow, only tomorrow never comes.

    Jeff, Ellen, Mike, Bob, Matt, everyone else...I will get to you, I really will, as soon as I can.

    I blog on autopilot to pass the time (hence my many hella-typoes, particularly in comments on BOP); please don't take blog activity as an indication that I am functional but willfully neglecting you. I'm really not, I swear.

    I appreciate your patience and generous forebearance. If you can indulge me a little longer, I will come through and try to compensate with quality for where I err in tardiness.


    Update: I'm (still) up at 8:00 a.m. and it looks like I'll be resetting the odometer today (our house-speak for skipping a sleep shift to correct my internal clock). I am supposed to get to a doctor's appointment at 4:00, which will be dodgy if I pass out in the late morning/early afternoon; keep your fingers crossed for me.
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    branding question

    Anne Galloway's great post on lingerie shopping prompted this thought:

    When did g-strings become thongs, and when did thongs become flip-flops...and why would someone want to wear either one outside of a strip club or a beach?
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    Deus Irae

    wrath

    Via Reality Stick.

    Click on the picture for the game. As Doug points out "It doesn't give you a score, but damn it's satisfying!"

    Um...what is it about this game that reminds me of playing floor hockey with a cow in a can for a puck?

    [If that doesn't identify me definitively as a Canadian of a certain generation, I don't know what it takes.]
    |

    Preserve & Protect the Vote: Making Sure Overseas Votes Count

    When fine print is involved in American politics, there is a mysterious trend where Republicans tend to win and Democrats tend to lose. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has instituted changes in the last few days regarding the availability of Federal write-in ballots (details below), and overseas voters must also comply with the local state regulations for their voting locations. In other words, there is a lot of fine print, and much of the responsibility to preserve and protect overseas votes falls on individual voters. Please make sure that you and the other Democrats abroad you know are fully informed about all relevant regulations.

    If your absentee ballot has not arrived from the US, it is imperative to vote using a Federal Write-In Ballot--or your overseas vote may not be counted.
    URGENT: Know Your State Deadlines

    Many states only require that the ballot be mailed from overseas, with clear postmark, by election day and received in the States up to 10 days after the election. You can check this at: www.democratsabroad.ca . Other states, of course, require the ballots be received on or before election day -- you are the ones who need to use the Federal write-in ballot right away. For a full list of ballot return deadlines go to: http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh3561.html. A few states are extending their own deadlines inc. Colorado and Illinois, PA is in court about an extension as I write this.

    The basic rule in order to utilize the Federal Write-In Ballot is that you must have registered at least 30 days before the election. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is now saying that if you have been registered in year's past as a Special Federal Voter living abroad, but didn't send in your FPCA this year -- the absentee voter request & registration form - that you can use the Write-In ballot. This is a large turn-around for them and only happened in the past couple of days. Democrats Abroad are not sure that the FVAP will enforce this ruling in all states and counties. However, it is worth a try, but ONLY if you are in that category.

    In other words, those of you who have sent in your late registrations by courier in the past couple of weeks, are not allowed to use the FWAB. People in that situation just have to hope that they receive their ballots from their counties and send them back immediately.

    To reiterate, you are eligible to use a Federal Write-In Ballot if:

  • You requested your absentee ballot using the federal voting application form. (If you obtained a form from Democrats Abroad, the OverseasVote2004.com site, or from the Federal Voting Assistance Program site you used this form.)

  • AND your form was sent in time to be received by October 2. (If you faxed your form before October 2 and posted the original as instructed then you are also eligible.)
  • How to obtain a federal write-in Ballot

    1. You can request a Federal Write-In Ballot from Democrats Abroad (voting2004@aol.com) or the Federal Voting Assistance Program (http://www.fvap.gov/). Please provide your current mailing address and the state, county, and town where you last resided in the US.

    2. Federal Write-in Ballots may be available from your nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy Office. For example, Democrats Abroad British Columbia provides this advice for BC residents:
    Go to the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver. Ask for citizenship services and you won't have to line up in the big non-U.S. citizen visa lineup. They are at 1095 West Pender St. Vancouver. They require photo-ID, presumably a passport, for pick-up. THIS IS THE BEST OPTION. We only have 500 here in Vancouver, so we only want to use them if absolutely necessary.
    3. In many areas, Regional Democrats Abroad chapters have set up local pick up spots. Contact Democrats Abroad for Further information:
    US Democrats Abroad Headquarters
    +1 202 863 8103
    info@overseasvote2004.com

    Democrats Abroad Canada
    (877) 336-2008 (toll free)
    A list of regional contacts is available here.

    Democrats Abroad UK
    020 7724-9796
    4. The FVAP announced yesterday in the New York Times that an online version is going to be available to civilians as well as to the military.

    The Kerry campaign, Democrats Abroad, Americans Overseas for Kerry and the website www.OverseasVote2004.com have been working very hard for this to be available. Since voting is a local state responsibility, it is still not clear whether the online versions will actually be accepted in all places. Therefore, only use this option if none of the above are possible. It is available at: http://www.fvap.gov/pubs/ofwab.pdf

    How to complete the Federal write-in ballot

    Detailed instructions are available online from Democrats Abroad, Democrats Abroad Canada, and Overseas Vote 2004.

    The Democrats Abroad Rapid Response Legal Team are offering a new service to investigate any voting problems. To request help, please use the web form available at www.DemocratsAbroad.org/problems

    Voter Registration Verification

    Remember, the deadline for voter registration has passed in almost all states. Go to www.democratsabroad.ca and/or www.MichaelMoore.com for the deadlines and links to your county elections office to verify your registration and to www.OverseasVote2004.com to fill in your forms. They have a system to evaluate whether it is possible to accomplish in your county at this point. IF YOU GO AHEAD, YOU NEED TO SEND THEM BY COURIER. Remember to keep a copy.
    Absentee ballots played a huge role in Florida 2000, and are expected to be a deciding factor in this year's election. Please pass on this information to make sure that the Democratic voters among your friends and family abroad have the power to make their votes count.

    Information courtesy of Democrats Abroad and Democrats Abroad Canada


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    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Awesome tracking software to stop the draft.

    [Note: the tracking software they are using for this is absolutely brilliant. I'm in geek love. Check it out.]

    I have signed the open letter to George W. Bush at NoIraqDraft.com, and I hope you will too.

    Sign here!

    To: President Bush
    From: The Men and Women of America

    I believe in fighting for democracy and freedom everywhere in the world. I am willing to sacrifice when the cause is just and the strategy is strong. But I don't want anyone to be forced to die for a terrible, unplanned war.

    President Bush, you say there will be no draft. Why should I trust you?

    Sign the letter right now!

    Then:
    * Forward the letter to your friends and continue the chain.
    * Check out an animated map of who has answered your invitations.

    If that link up there doesn't work, try copying this one into your web browser:
    http://tinyurl.com/3n5d6">http://tinyurl.com/3n5d6

    Peace,
    ==Michael Whitney==

    [P.S. This takes you to my husband's page]
    |

    Enjoy the Draft!

    EnjoyTheDraft.com just went live!



    I had the pleasure of helping out with some of the editing.

    Go on, check it out!. And spread the word.
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    Temperature Rising

    I am really rattled by the story below about the Oregon schoolteachers who were kicked out of a Bush rally on the pretext of the obscenity of their t-shirts that read, "Protect Our Civil Liberties."

    It makes me think about slippery slopes, Martin Niemoller, and the theory that you can boil a man to death by slowly raising the temperature of the water (the name of which theory I chanced across on a blog recently, and I thought it was The Liberal Avenger, but for the life of me I can't track it down).

    I'm an immigrant in the US; my husband is American with family all over the country; we have undergone expensive, humilating, and extremely stressful immigration procedures to get my current immigration status, which we would forfeit if I live outside the country for an extended period of time. My husband has a great job he enjoys, we have wonderful friends where we live in a city we really like, and we would like to be able to stay.

    And...I read the news...and I wonder, where do we draw the line? How warm do we let the water get before we jump out of the pot? And will we recognize before it is too late?

    I don't mean to be a pessimist, but I'm awake in the middle of the night feeling sick, and feeling particularly scared. I work in politics, so that I can make a difference, so that I can contribute to setting things to rights--and because otherwise I don't think I could live here, in this political climate.

    Will stealing the election do it? Will re-instating the draft do it? If we wait until they reinstate the draft up to age 44 for special skills (my husband could potentially be drafted under that mandate), would we be able to leave the country? Do we wait for mandatory mass chickenpox vaccinations? We live fairly close to DC--do we wait until there's a biochemical attack or nuclear attack on US soil? If we get hit by enough fallout will it matter?

    I really want to stay. And I really don't want to believe what I'm seeing happen around me. And, I feel like there is a moral imperative to stay and fight this for as long as possible.

    I also have a gut feeling that if we don't really think about it, and set some thresholds, that we won't notice the temperature rising.

    Am I the only one thinking this way? Do you already know where you would/will draw the line?


    Update


    Okay, let me ask again: where do we draw the line?
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    Reality Bites

    Via Kafka-Orwell 2004 Blog, Reality Bites the GOP
    The Republican Party has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rock the Vote because -- this is amazing -- they claim that by suggesting a national debate about a military draft, they are violating their responsibility to be non-partisan. Read RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie's letter to Rock the Vote and Rock the Vote's reply, here.
    In the words of Rock The Vote President Jehmu S. Green:
    [Gillespie's letter] struck us as just the sort of "malicious political deception" that is likely to increase voter cynicism and decrease the youth vote. In fact, it is a textbook case of attempted censorship, very much in line with those that triggered our organization's founding some fifteen years ago.
    Attempted Censorship? Abuse of Power? Fascism? The GOP? Couldn't be.

    In related news, The GOP Bites Back
    President Bush taught three Oregon schoolteachers a new lesson in irony – or tragedy – Thursday night when his campaign removed them from a Bush speech and threatened them with arrest simply for wearing t-shirts that said “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” the Democratic Party of Oregon reported.

    The women got past the first and second checkpoints and were allowed into the Jackson County fairgrounds, but were asked to leave and then escorted out of the event by campaign officials who allegedly told them their T-shirts were “obscene.”
    Attempted Censorship? Abuse of Power? Fascism? Er.... Seigheil.

    Link and pointer thanks to Doug's Dynamic Drivel, Shameless Agitator, Common Dreams, and The Reality Stick.


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    The God Lottery

    Natasha at Pacific Views does a great job of deflating the myth of the God lottery:
    ...when people say that they owe their success to God, what does that say for the rest of us? Does God listen to their prayers better? Are the less wealthy and famous among us suffering because God decided that we didn't deserve to be blessed like wealthy performing artists, sports heroes, or politicians who claim to have the Lord on their side? Aren't they really just saying that God loves them more than other people?

    Doesn't sound so humble that way.
    Of course, Natasha was writing about P.Diddy (or whatever his name is this week), but the post certainly got me thinking about everyone's favourite I-was-a-cokehead-but-now-am-found, born-again, evangelical Texan.

    I have previously noted myself that I find the American notion of a pom-pom wielding god very curious.

    Read the rest of Natasha's excellent post here
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    Unfit to Serve

    Via Blanton & Ashton's and Corrente today, we get this story, in which someone actually went through the records the White House dragged its feet on releasing and found that the reason George W. Bush was discharged early was because he was found to be "unfit for service in the United States Armed Forces".

    Here are the latest findings from Paul Lukasiak of The AWOL Project:
    New information with regard to the meaning of a special code which appears on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard discharge papers indicates that he was being thrown out of the Air National Guard for failing “to possess the required military qualifications for his grade or specialty, or does not meet the mental, moral, professional or physical standards of the Air Force.” In other words, despite the fact that Bush had an unfulfilled six year Military Service Obligation, he was discharged from the Air National Guard not because he moved to Boston [the official White House line], but because he failed to meet his obligation to maintain his qualifications as an F102 pilot.

    The special code is “PTI 961”, and is found in the “Reason and Authority for Discharge” section of Bush’s NGB-22, his “Report of Separation and Record of Service in the Air National Guard of Texas and as a Reserve of the Air Force.”

    “PTI” stands for “Personnel Transaction Identifier”, a code which “identifies the controlled personnel management action being accomplished the personnel data system.” And although the particular meaning of “PTI 961” remains unknown, all “900” series PTIs mean that someone is no longer considered part of “Air Force strength.”

    From AFM 30-3 (1977)

    AFM 30-3 explains how “transactions” involving the “movement of a member within the Air Force strength which does not affect the total strength, that is, movement….to a different command” would have been “reported by PTI 201.” Bush’s discharge and reassignment appears to have been a “movement to a different command” (i.e. from the Air National Guard to the Air Force Reserves).

    However, when an “action is reported by the 9xx PTIs” it represents a “loss to the Air Force strength.” In other words, despite the fact that Bush had almost eight months left on his six year Military Service Obligation at the time, Texas Air National Guard officers were signaling that Bush was essentially worthless to the Air Force, and should not even be retained in the “Ready Reserves” for call up in the event of a national emergency.

    From Bush’s 1/30/74 Points Summary

    This interpretation is fully consistent with the fact that Bush was placed in an “Inactive Status” retroactively, effective September 15, 1973. “Inactive Status” meant that Bush was no longer eligible to accrue time served toward “gratuitous” membership points.

    AFM 35-3, Chapter 19, Para 2

    In fact, under Air Force regulations, someone like Bush, who had an outstanding Military Service Obligation, could only be placed in an “Inactive Status” if he was being “completely severed from military status.”

    This“complete severance” was an extraordinary event. Under ordinary circumstances, an obligor would be retained in an active status upon being discharged from the Air National Guard and reassigned to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver Colorado. ARPC had two special “paper units” designed specifically for those with unfulfilled Military Service Obligations:

    1) the Obligated Reserve Section, aka ARPC(ORS) which contained obligors who continued to be Ready Reservists and thus liable for mobilization upon order of the President, or

    2) the Non-Affiliated Reserve Section which was dedicated to obligors, aka ARPC(NARS-B), which was an “active status” section of the Standby Reserves who members were not subject to mobilization on a Presidential order for various reasons (such as hardship, or holding critical civilian jobs.)

    PTI 961 meant that Bush was unfit for service in the United States Armed Forces, and that there was no point in keeping him around in case of a national emergency.

    This can be established through examining the relevant regulations.
    ANGR 36-05, which was the “authority” cited in Bush’s discharge papers, has a limited number of “separation criteria” that are consistent with a “900 series” Personnel Transaction Identifier, all of which could only be the result of Bush being thrown out because he wasn’t doing his job. The most likely of these criteria is that Bush was discharged for “standby screening”, and an examination of the rules under which discharges could be accomplished ... in this fashion lead to only one conclusion—that Bush was thrown out of the Air National Guard because he was “unfit to serve.”
    On the off chance that your local paper is not featuring this story prominently, you may wish to avail yourself of this newspaper finder search engine for their contact information.
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    Bush's War on Chronic Pain Patients

    Via Blondsense, High Times Magazine officially supports John Kerry.
    Bush Jr. spent the first half of the 80's getting wasted (perhaps on some of his father's Contra coke), and the second half letting Daddy's rich friends bail him out of failed businesses, and make him managing general partner of the Texas Rangers. Now he's our President. Last year, 700,000 people were arrested for pot in the United States, and Bush's Justice Department continued to raid state-sanctioned medical marijuana gardens at gunpoint.

    John Kerry has promised to end the raids on medical marijuana gardens, immediately, and will have a policy towards marijuana and other drugs that makes sense. The alternative, four more years of Bush, is a continuing disaster for the rights of pot smokers (and many other Americans).
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    Tuesday, October 19, 2004

    Stop!!! One question before you leave

    Matt at Zen Dreaming poses the following challenge to readers:
    Before moving onto the next blog, can you answer one question?

    What are looking for when you are surfing blogs?

    Great question, Matt.

    Between BlogExplosion and the Blogger Surf Bar, I'm getting more surf-by's as well. And I'd love to know what they're looking for, too.
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    Monday, October 18, 2004

    Embrace mackereality

    Speaking of the horrors of 70's dieting (because, tangentially, I have been), via Buddha Stew we get these two treasures.

    1. The "What Weight Watchers recipe card from 1974 are you?" Quiz

    Here's my result.

    rosy perfection
    You are Rosy Perfection Salad!! Though your name
    may be innocent and cheerful, your jello-sweet
    exterior hides a foul, sinister core.

    Well, as usual, Quizilla's 5 amateur-written, non-scientific questions have nailed me to a tee.

    Go take the quiz yourself. (And report back! I want to know!)

    2. The Whole Shebang

    Better yet, Candyboots brings us the whole 1974 recipe card collection--annotated!. E.g.,

    'mackerelly' recipe card

    Sometimes mere adjectives for mackerel are not enough. Sometimes mackerel is mackerel unto itself. Sometimes you just have to let go. Mackerelease yourself. Embrace mackereality.

    This is better than Napoleon Dynamite and Maddox in a Home Ec class together.

    Don't miss out. Go enjoy the whole collection yourself.
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    Pants POWER

    Good news! I FINALLY went clothes shopping.

    I do this wierd/stupid thing where I don't buy clothes forever when I'm unemployed or working from home, which means most of the past 5 years, because I can't justify the expense when I hardly have call to leave the house. [On the other hand, when I dress for business, I dress to kill--and consider it an investment.] Then, I get down to one pair of pants that fit, only they don't fit, and they are worn out and horrible, and I feel so bad wearing them that I don't want to get dressed and leave the house, and I can't get out to go shopping. The Pants Trap. In fairness, the clerks in women's clothing stores can also be Intergalactic Bitches from Hell.

    I was down to the one pair of Horrible Pants, and afraid to try on new ones (I can wear skirts comfortably but I've just had a bad run trying on pants for a while--since they seem to be cut for 10 year old boys, not post-pubescent women). Lo and behold! I bought three pair that were regular price (horror! I never do that) but are attractive and comfortable and are not fat pants--black jeans, blue jeans, both boot cut, which means I have something to wear safely when we revive the motorcycle (nothing but denim or leather or kevlar on the bike, thank you very much), and a pair of charcoal-grey, microsuede, boot-cut cargo pants.

    [I live in horror, after my mother and her sisters' many dieting years, of the dreaded all-elastic waist black polyester Fat Pants. I don't mean to be size-ist; I'm admitting it is a childhood trauma. AND it angers me that there are so few options for comfortable, attractive clothing for women--especially "women" over the age of 12.].

    FYI, for any curvy pants-buying female readers, in the past I've done well with pants at Chico's when I was ready to cough up the $$ for them, but had no luck on this trip. Instead, I found my fabulous new PANTS! at J. Jill, a store I had never even heard of before moving to Virginia.

    Well, the new pants are like a miracle. I forgot what a difference comfortable clothes make--we went out AGAIN today just because I wasn't scared to get dressed.

    For an intelligent person, daily life sure baffles me, and I allow small things to trip me up. Nice thing is, as my awesome chinese doc points out and my husband reiterates, it's not me, its the sickness--I'm not like this when I'm healthy.

    And in the meantime, I have pants! I have pants!

    If the timing all works out I think I'm going to try to walk to the doctor's office tomorrow, its' about 1.5-2 miles...in my pants!

    Amazing, what can make a difference. I feel like a new person...a person with Pants Power!


    Tough question now is what to do with the Horrible Pants. They are truly horrible...BUT...they also have a hole in the leg where I was skewered in a swordfight at the 2003 Paddy Crean International Stage Combat Workshop in Banff. The pants saved me and the sword didn't go through my leg. Naturally, I have a certain sentimental attachment.

    Maybe I'll cut that part out and get it framed. My family does things like that.
    |

    I'm out of words...

    ...but here are some pretty pictures.

    Simpsons' character Ralphie with finger in nose stating 'I'm for Bush'


    Bush making peace sign with slogan 'I Bet You'll Vote This Time Hippy'

    Via Youngox Canada


    (Steve Bell - Guardian) Via Youngfox Canada


    John Edwards debating Simpson's character Mr. Burns

    Via You Forgot Poland


    row of marching skeletons
    Voting begins in Florida, the retirement and voter fraud capital of the nation
    Via Mr Sun.



    I particularly like how we all start out as turd-like sinners, with the believers evolving through stages of squashed beetle, corn flake, potato, lima bean, and pea, while the stubborn refuseniks remain doomed to spend eternity roasting in Satanic turd-dom.


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    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    Women Bloggers on Ownership Economics

    Thanks to des femmes for a great roundup of what (invisible) women bloggers have to say about the politics of ownership economics, presented in suggested reading order:
    How to disenfranchise people without even trying
    (Pinko Feminist Hellcat)
    Maybe people don't care because they don't have time to think
    (BlondeSense)
    The faces behind the numbers
    (tsuredzuregusa)
    Jobs (or jorbs, if you're the coach)
    (Utopian Hell)
    Life on the edge
    (Suburban Guerrilla)
    Work hard for the money
    Strong and getting stronger for the multi-millionaires
    (Just a Bump in the Beltway)
    Hello Bush, bye bye jobs
    (Democratic Wings) Self-Made Billionaires
    (echidne of the snakes)
    My apologies to the many talented writers in this collection (and I'm honored to be on the list with you); I really ought to take advantage of my access to the big fat soap box that is BOP News and put this up, but I'm really tired these days and I don't have the resources to handle the ensuing bitch slap from the misogyny police who feel compelled to enforce the "rule" that women shalt not write about economics.


    Update
    Ah, hell. I'm cross posting this to BOP despite my reservations, at Matt's encouragement, because it deserves a wider audience than I can give it on my own. But I truly do not have the energy to take the flack over it, and if things get ugly, I'm putting out an SOS.
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    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Live Debate Thread - Take It Away!

    By request, here is a live debate thread for the final debate.

    True confession: I have no tv set.

    So, if you are watching the debate, let me know what's going on! :)

    The comments are wide open. Have fun. I'll enjoy watching through your eyes.

    Update - We moved the party over to BOP news. (And, I watched the debate online. It was...less painful than I was braced for.)

    If you'd like to sample the house snark after the fact, come on over.
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    Now THAT'S a Powerful Ad

    Operation Truth, a group of Iraqi war veterans, has created the following ad and is seeking financial help to get it aired. Their goal is to raise $200,000 in the next four days. Watch the ad then head over and make a donation.


    Windows Media Quicktime

    Thanks to Comments from Left Field for the link.

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    Twisted Web

    Remember the Swarthmore, PA students who exposed e-voting company Diebold's internal memos advocating fraud?

    And remember how, during the recent spate of reports on wacky FBI partisan-agenda incidents, the FBI confiscated 20 Indymedia web servers from London, England ISP Rackspace as part of their rampage to shut down indy media centers around the globe? [Yes, that's why it's been so hard to hit Indy media sites lately.]

    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) thinks there's a connection. The link? Election-related intimidation.

    When Diebold lost its copyright case against the ISP for Indybay, the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, the US. District Court ordered Diebold to pay damages and fees for illegally threatening ISPs for copyright violation while knowing that the documents posted by Indymedia weren't copyrighted.

    Diebold had tried to block Indymedia from posting the memos encouraging employees to commit fraud online, but Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled that IndyMedia's posting of Diebold memos and other documents was proper, saying in part:

    The e-mail archive was posted or hyperlinked to for the purpose of informing the public about the problems associated with Diebold’s electronic voting machines. It is hard to imagine a subject the discussion of which could be more in the public interest. If Diebold’s machines in fact do tabulate voters’ preferences incorrectly, the very legitimacy of elections would be suspect.

    While Diebold has been busy trying to scrub their email archives, the memos were still available to the public on the IndyMedia servers.

    That is, until the FBI seized them.

    As much as Diebold doesn't want the public to know about their business practices or how easy Diebold voting machines are to hack, the memos are still available (for the moment) on Denis Kucinich's Voting Rights page (scroll down).

    E.g.: Permitted easy access to vote audit logs. Without requiring so much as a password, anyone could access the tabulation of votes and change the contents.

    Nel Finburg: "Jennifer Price at Metamor (about to be Ciber) has indicated that she can access the GEMS Access database and alter the Audit log without entering a password. What is the position of our development staff on this issue? Can we justify this? Or should this be anathema?"

    Ken Clark: "Its a tough question, and it has a lot to do with perception. Of course everyone knows perception is reality. ..."

    VERY interesting reading.

    The International Federation of Journalist has called for an inquiry into the FBI action in London. You can read updates from Indy media here.



    Cross posted to BOP News.

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    End run after end run

    Voters' Outreach of America (aka America Votes*), a private voter registration compan, gets caught throwing out voter registration cards in Nevada.

    Coincidentally, the trashed forms were filled out by Democrats.

    Coincidentally, the company has been funded by...the RNC.

    In plain speak, boys and girls, this is called a front group, operating a scam, defrauding the American people, to tamper with an election. And it smells really bad, and very familiar.

    From KLAS-TV 8 News in Las Vegas:

    Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

    Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.

    The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at democrats. Thee focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

    The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

    Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.

    "We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assisatnt to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.

    Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

    So the people on those forms who think they will be able to vote on Election Day are sadly mistaken. We attempted to speak to Voters Outreach but found that its office has been rented out to someone else.

    The landlord says Voters Outreach was evicted for non-payment of rent. Another source said the company has now moved on to Oregon where it is once again registering voters. It's unknown how many registrations may have been tossed out, but another ex-employee told Eyewitness News she had the same suspicions when she worked there.

    It's going to take a while to sort all of this out, but the immediate concern for voters is to make sure you really are registered.

    ...The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.

    Via King of Zembla.

    This is not just Florida redux, it is also the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming debacle all over again. Sure the FBI may get called in, and some small to medium Republican fish may face some penalties. (And then...be recycled as voting machine company execs? Or presidential appointments?) But, the investigations all seem to tie up AFTER the election results are officialized.

    The GOP takes the slap, but they walk away with the election win. And they're trying to do it again this year. Damn.

    I'll state again, for the record, that before we can move towards an open (read: non-polarized) society, we have to win the partisan battle to seize power, restore the checks and balances that have been systematically dismantled since Reagan, and enforce the law. The reality is, we are in a power war to control the future of this country. Get the cossacks out of the village and *then* plant new cabbages.



    *Note, this is a separate entity from the Democratic 527 America Votes that is affiliated with America Coming Together.

    However, this does seem to be the same Voters' Outreach of America whose director, Aaron "A.J." James, was hired as a contractor the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party and current head of the No Taxpayer Money For Politicians" initiative (a right-wing effort to ban candidates from receiving public financing), Nathan Sproul, to get as many signatures as possible for Ralph Nader in Arizona. For the full details, see the Arizona Independent Media Center article, Nader's Dubious Raiders in Arizona.



    Cross posted to BOP News


    Updates
  • There is speculation that Voters' Outreach of America deliberately misrepresented itself as Democratic 527 America Votes.
  • In Oregon, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and Attorney General Hardy Myers have promised an investigation into the destruction of Oregon (Democratic) voter registration forms, that may be linked through a paid canvasser named Mike Johnson to Voters' Outreach of America. [Requires site registration.]
  • In Missouri, Neal Breitweiser, a low-level Republican operative from St. Louis, has submitted a petition to the the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners. He asks the board to investigate registration fraud he alleges has been commited by the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, America Coming Together, and MoveOn.org. Note that in Missouri no party affiliation is stated on the voter registration form, so the Republican accusation is bizarre as well as baseless.

    It looks like Republicans are trying the typical Rovian maneouver of covering their asses by attacking opponents for their own crimes. [Requires site registration.] In the "balanced, objective" coverage mandate of big media, the groundless allegations are highly likely to get equal news time as the actual stories from Nevada and now Oregon. The result: voters think both parties are corrupt, and fail to place culpability on the GOP. And which voters are most likely to stay home from the polls in disgust?--liberals. In other words, twice the voter suppression accomplished.

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    Tuesday, October 12, 2004

    Help David help out kids

    David Scott Anderson is working on a project to bring schoolbooks to Costa Rican Schoolchildren. Project Apollonia is an ongoing project of In Search of Utopia to help in this effort.

    1. Follow the links to contribute to the project.

    2. Include the links above on your own site to help David googlebomb the project to raise it's visibility.
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    Bridging the Great Divide

    I've already been writing today about how to get past preaching to the choir, and another opportunity has materialized.

    Jay Tea at the conservative blog Wizbang asks readers to share why they support John Kerry.

    It strikes me as a rare opportunity to cross the abyss of polarized American politics and "talk to the other side."

    Jay has some ground rules for posts on the thread:
      1. Only serious, positive statements about John Kerry will be tolerated. Sarcastic or cynical "positives" will be edited or deleted, as the mood suits me. (Unless, of course, I find them way too funny to mess with.)

      2. Absolutely no mention of President Bush will be tolerated. This is to limit the discussion to "why vote FOR John Kerry," and not "why to vote AGAINST Bush." If you want to discuss that, there are a couple zillion web sites out there you can do that. You might want to start with Democratic Underground, the site so dedicated to free speech they TWICE banned me for not toeing their party line finely enough.

      3. This will be a watched and moderated discussion. Although I am loath to do so normally, I will be exercising my authority to edit and/or delete comments. And by "edit," I mean I might remove words, sentences, or even completely rewrite postings as the whim strikes me. For example, "I'm gonna vote for John Kerry because Bushitler is an evil, stupid, drunk cokehead who has wet dreams of global tyranny and apocalypse" might get edited into "I'm gonna vote for John Kerry because I'm too stupid to read the rules and think they apply to me, and Kerry will make sure there's plenty of social funding programs to keep me happy and drugged and well-fed while I continue my existence as a waste of oxygen." Consider yourselves warned.
    I'm confident that Tsuredzuregusa readers are up to the challenge of expressing their support for Kerry in a civil, persuasive way.

    Take the challenge and go make your case at Wizbang.

    You are welcome, of course, to share your thoughts here, too (I'm genuinely interested), but let's take advantage of the chance to get the message out to someone other than the choir.


    Update

    Simon on BOP has picked up the ball and is now asking the question, "Why do you support Bush"? I don't expect this applies to many tsuredzuregusa readers, but if you are indeed voting for Bush, feel free to join in on Simon's discussion.

    I've just opened up a parallel thread on BOP. You are all invited to add your comments in support of John Kerry here: http://www.bopnews.com/archives/001919.html#1919

    and against Bush here: http://www.bopnews.com/archives/001920.html#1920
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    Monday, October 11, 2004

    The faces behind the numbers

    Paul Kedrosky of Infectious Greed and Matt Stoller of BOP News are taking about unemployment in the IT sector.

    Kedrosky reports on WSJ highlights of findings from a recent Sphere Institute report:
    More than half of the people working at technology companies in California in early 2000 had left the technology field or the state by the end of 2003, and more than 40% experienced declining incomes over that period, according to a study on the impact of the tech bust.
    Then again, those who stayed behind in the tech sector didn't do so badly:
    Those that [stayed a tech firms] enjoyed rising incomes -- up 11% after accounting for inflation. But workers who left tech for other industries saw their wages stagnate or decline. Those who shifted from semiconductor makers to health care, for example, made 31% less in the fourth quarter of 2003, compared with the first quarter of 2000, after accounting for inflation.
    Matt Stoller notes in response:
    The technoconomy is becoming a hard place to live. From what I've heard, if you're talented and ambitious, you can make a lot of money. If you're either lacking in talent or salesmanship, you're in trouble.
    As someone who was paying very close attention to the technology field during the period discussed (in my double roles of technical recruiter and spouse of a job-seeking programmer), I'm not sure why what strikes me as self-evident struck the WSJ as newsworthy.

    When the dot-com bubble crashed and IT workers started losing jobs in California, especially around Silicon Valley, the cost of living did NOT drop commensurately. In other words, you had large numbers of people, accustomed to heady lifestyles, living on some of the most expensive real estate on earth (maybe not in the same league as Tokyo, but pretty damn high)...who just had their income cut from 6 figures plus perks to a $1000-odd monthly unemployment check. If you had equity in a home and you were willing to relocate, and start from scratch somewhere else, great! But if you were renting...there was no way to stay in the area on UI.

    I'm not sure why the WSJ finds this worthy of comment. People either switched industries, so they could find a way to afford to live in their homes or general areas and not radically relocate (think employed spouses, children in school, ties to the community, etc. for those of you who are still footloose); or else, faced with a glut of workers and a paucity of jobs, relocated to they could stay in IT. I helped some of them move... In other parts of the country people may have hung on longer looking for local IT jobs but in California, long-term unemployment wasn't an option.

    This was all out in plain sight the whole time; not sure why the WSJ thinks it is headline material today.




    I'd also like to address the notion that "ambition" is a key to making money in technology.

    The great thing about tech, and especially pre IT-bubble tech, is it is a great meritocracy. Either you can code or you can't; it's that simple. If you can, you tend to do well. Before dot-com entrepreneurs dangled the shiny carrot that a 6-month certificate in Java would get you $90K out of collage and the keys to the company jet, tech people weren't locked in the basement banging out code because it was sexy or prestigious, but because they loved what they did. (A hacker hacking is a happy thing.) Hacker culture awards ability. So, if you're good, you have some job security, even in hard times, maybe even moreso than in other industries.

    But ambitious? Ambition doesn't get you anywhere if you are talking hands-on tech people (i.e., vs entrepreneurs, or non-tech people in tech companies), at least not in the vertical-ascension sense. There are a limited number of technical jobs, a pretty flat heirarchy, beyond which you get "promoted" into management and admin jobs...that are no longer technical, and drive real techs crazy. (One of the most vicious and pitiless examples of the Peter Principle you'll ever witness.)

    Now, ambition helps if it is an ambition to learn new technologies as they come out, ambition in a professional development sense. For example, if you are a MicroSoft programmer and you've been dead-ended into .Net...it's time to get ambitious and learn some competitive technologies, before your career track dead-ends completely.

    The people I've worked with in IT rank pretty high on Maslow's scale, generally. The majority were strongly commited to self-improvement, but usually inversely interested in self-promotion.

    But people, with talent, in IT, who aren't interested in learning? I met very few, and those few I did meet didn't last long--they tended to fall out and gravitate into more static fields of employment.

    IT/Technology industries evolve quickly. If you work in those industries and you aren't interested in developing your skills on an ongoing basis, yes you will run into trouble--as in any other fast-paced industry.

    It's like saying, I learned how to do repairs on model T's back when it was cutting edge, and now I still want to be a mechanic. The demand in your industry is for a broader or different skillset, so you're out of luck.

    Salesmanship as a key to success for bang-on-the-metal IT workers? Irrelevant, in my experience--unless, perhaps, you are interviewing strictly with non-tech HR people in large corporations, but as soon as you have to deal with other tech people, they'll not only see through it, they are more likely to despise you for it. :)

    (Hacker culture: a great antitode to the "free market," A-type personality, MBA-ridden, social darwinist world.)

    If you're still in tech (i.e., if you survived this long), it's not as cutthroat as Matt makes it sound. Of course, it's also not the cakewalk it was in the late 90's when there was a labor shortage, either--especially given the increasing number of highly-skilled technical jobs being sent overseas. And, unless you are really well networked, it's a better time to be a perm than a contractor.

    As my husband, who is a programmer who works both permanent and contract jobs, points out: you contract under Democratic administrations, and if a Republican looks to get elected, grab the first permanent job you can find.




    I would like to also address the trollism, expressed by in a comment on Matt's post, that "in a free market economy, there is plenty of work for able, well educated people."

    I was recruiting primarily in the telecom sector in Dallas in 2001, when the Sept 11 attacks crushed the optical telecom industry and put a big nail in the coffin of a general telecom industry that had already seen multiple waves of layoffs that year.

    I worked every day with brilliant, accomplished, educated people...who were unemployed--and desperate and terrified. Men and women in their 40's and 50's, in tech jobs and management, with MBA's or multple PhD's, deciding between what to lose first: the kids' college fund, the house, or the car (and usually losing all of it--at that point, the affluent and tech-heavy Plano, a north Dallas suburb, had the highest reposession rate in the nation, and one of the highest bankruptcy rates). These people had gone to school, excelled in their fields, paid their dues...and they and their families were destroyed by the layoffs.

    In 2001, when everyone got scared and stayed home, and the economy was tanking, telecom was one of the hardest hit industries, and nobody was stepping up to hire this talent-I'm talking some of the creme de la creme of Nortel, Lucent, Bell Labs, AT&T, Texas Instruments, out on the streets.

    To hell with social darwinism. These people did everything "right" that they were told to do. And then their industry dried up; other industries didn't want to hire someone who wasn't already a specialist in women's shoes or canned soup or deodorant; consulting wasn't an option because there was no one left in business to consult to. They were applying for jobs out of state and overseas; a few found work but most didn't. And when they finally showed up at Walmart and CompUSA or McDonald's or Foot Locker, no one would take their resume because they were "over qualified"...or "too old." I was trying to find jobs for candidates, guys my dad's age, who were showing up at 6:00 a.m. at Manpower and LaborReady to go dig ditches with ex-cons, because it was the ONLY work they could find. And, as they lost their pensions and their retirement savings and their cars and their kids college funds, many marriages broke up, an increasing number turned to substance abuse, and more than a handful did themselves in. One of my best friends in Dallas lost her home, declared bankrupty, her marriage broke up; her retired parents took her in, in another state, and she finally got a job selling cars, where I'm sure she put her Master's degree to excellent use. Good people by any humane and decent measure, who found out there was no net for them when they needed it and just kept falling.

    There was no work at all, for many of these well-educated people, not even cleaning floors or picking up garbage, through no fault of their own.

    I have ZERO patience with people who try to place personal blame on others who did nothing wrong but grow up in a country beset by inhumane, parasitic, mammon-worshipping, social darwinist republicans.

    The people I worked with in Dallas aren't the problem: republicans that equate wealth with moral triumph and adversity with personal failure are.
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