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Housekeeping — comments

I just switched my commenting system from Enetation to Haloscan. Enetation has become pretty unreliable and recently a glitch has prevented me from logging in as administrator to edit or delete users’ comments. (Fortunately, I haven’t been hit by a comment spam attack — grateful that FmH isn’t popular enough to attract that kind of attention — so deletions are rare and mostly used to eliminate duplicates, which has been another problem with Enetation.) Haloscan has been around for awhile now, is stable and quick, and offers trackback as well as commenting.

The Enetation comments you have so graciously entered are for the moment inaccessible, but my discovery of a way to export them all from Enetation was the final goad I needed to switch systems. So I have them archived, and it will probably turn out to be possible to import them into the Haloscan system. I’ll figure that out when I have a little more time.

If, for some reason, Haloscan does not end up being satisfactory, I still have the option of going back to Enetation or forward to a different commenting system. Why not try out the Haloscan system by leaving me comments here about how you find the Haloscan system to be working?

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Future Soundtrack for America

“MoveOn.org is co-sponsoring an album featuring powerful and political songs – most of them unreleased until now — from some of the best artists around. It’s called the “Future Soundtrack for America.” For a donation to MoveOn PAC of $25.00 or more, we’ll make sure you get the album before it hits the record stores. These donations will make a real impact, allowing the PAC to run ads that counter the Bush campaign’s negative attacks on Kerry and present a vision for how our country ought to be.

…The album features a pretty amazing line up of artists: Blink-182, Bright Eyes, David Byrne, Laura Cantrell, Clem Snide, Death Cab for Cutie, Mike Doughty, The Flaming Lips, Fountains of Wayne, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Kweller, The Long Winters, Nada Surf, OK Go, Old 97’s, R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits, will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are all featured. In addition, the family of Elliott Smith contributed a mix of “A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free,” a song from Smith’s as-yet-unreleased last record, and the first release of new material since his death in late 2003.

Together, the songs present a passionate rallying cry for all of us to take our country back. Mike Doughty’s song “Move On” hones in on the passion that drives all of our activism, singing “I love my country so much, like an exasperating friend.” Tom Waits’ contribution is a heartbreaking song about a letter home from a soldier in Iraq. R.E.M. takes on Bush and the war in Iraq, and They Might Be Giants (whose John Flansburgh pulled the project together) revisit a campaign song from the Presidential campaign of 1840.

…You can order the album right now and help run ads to defeat Bush.”

Even if you are a P2P music trader, this is one for which you ought to pay the purchase price, IMHO.

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Saddam’s people are winning the war

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, outspoken former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter’s provocative thesis is that the Iraqi resistance is a well-orchestrated affair run by Saddam Hussein’s lieutenants, the culmination of a decade of meticulous planning by Saddam.

“The traditional Baathist ideology, based on Iraq-centric Arab nationalism, was no longer the driving force it had been a decade prior. Creating a new power base required bringing into the fold not only the Shiite majority – which had revolted against him in the spring of 1991 – but also accommodating the growing religious fundamentalism of traditional allies such as key Sunni tribes in western Iraq.

The most visible symbol of Saddam’s decision to embrace Islam was his order to add the words “God Is Great” to the Iraqi flag.

The transformation of the political dynamics inside Iraq, however, went largely unnoticed in the West. It certainly seems to have escaped the attention of the Bush administration. And the recent “transfer of sovereignty” to Allawi’s government reflects this lack of understanding.”

Saddam’s security service melted into the population when the US invaded, waiting to reemerge. And the recent attacks on US forces in Fallujah and Ramadi “were carried out by well-disciplined men fighting in cohesive units, most likely drawn from the ranks of Saddam’s Republican Guard.”

“The truth is that there never was a significant people-based opposition movement inside Iraq for the Bush administration to call on to form a government to replace Saddam. It is why the United States has instead been forced to rely on the services of individuals tainted by their association with foreign intelligence services, or drawn from opposition parties heavily infiltrated by agents of Saddam’s former security services.

Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi’s government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people – all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit.” [via dangerousmeta]

While some of what he says is not surprising — e.g. that lack of constituency the Allawi government has with the Iraqi people — I must say that Ritter’s thesis explains some facts of the resistance, such as the seeming inexhaustability and coordination of the attacks and the utter evaporation of the Republican Guard when the US invaded. It seems quite plausible to me that the crafty Saddam anticipated the rise of fundamentalism and attempted to co-opt it with the modifications to Baathist pan-Arabism Ritter describes in order to maintain his stranglehold. But whether he succeeded is another matter. It seems that al Sadr’s forces, for example, are hardly in league with the reemerging Baathists, and probably neither are the foreign Islamist ‘mujahideen’ coming into Iraq to fight the American devils. While elements of the uprising may be skillfully coordinated, there is certainly a nationalist aspect, a populist uprising against an occupying force already reacting to the illegitimacy of the Allawi government.

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Housekeeping

Does anyone read the “Now playing in iTunes” window to the left? Is it of any interest? I know that it probably slows down the page loads somewhat (although by the time it is rendering, the content here in the main column is already up). Now that I know I can do it, the questions is, should I?

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Reports of casino incident not accurate, Ronstadt says

“Singer Linda Ronstadt was not asked to leave a Las Vegas casino Saturday after she endorsed Michael Moore’s controversial film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ the Tucson native told the Tucson Citizen yesterday.


And she was not booed off the stage by a concert crowd that had erupted in mayhem, she said.


Speaking by phone from San Francisco, Ronstadt said that she left the Aladdin Resort & Casino immediately after the concert and was not aware that the management was irritated by her comments until an hour after she left the show.


Aladdin management declined to comment on the incident yesterday, referring the Citizen to a statement issued Monday.


The statement reads, in part:


‘Ms. Ronstadt was hired to entertain the guests of the Aladdin, not to espouse her political views. In an effort to diffuse the situation, Linda Ronstadt was asked to leave the property immediately following her performance.'” (Tucson Citizen )

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Meet the Bloggers

“The Wall Street Journal Online e-mailed questionnaires to about 30 bloggers who are accredited for the convention, asking about their political views, blogging style, approach to the convention and opinions on mainstream media coverage. Almost all replied. Click on the bloggers’ names to see their responses to the questionnaire (edited for space and readability) and a link to their Web sites.”

And here are links to the weblogs:

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Copycat Convention?

“Even a casual viewer of Hardball knows that the first rule of an election that involves a sitting president is that it’s a referendum on the incumbent. This election, however, has turned out to be the opposite. It’s a referendum on the challenger. Kerry probably isn’t responsible for this turn of events, but he’s benefiting from it: The referendum on the incumbent is over. President Bush already lost it. This presidential campaign isn’t about whether the current president deserves a second term. It’s about whether the challenger is a worthy replacement.

So, even though there are supposed to be only five persuadable voters left in America, I’m inclined to think that the next four nights will be worth watching. Can the Democrats re-enact the successful 2000 Republican convention, a parade of moderation and diversity that convinced the nation that George W. Bush was a decent fellow who could be trusted with the levers of power?” — Chris Suellentrop (Slate)

Related? Kerry’s Wife Tells Reporter to ‘Shove It’:

“Minutes after telling her husband’s supporters to restore a more dignified tone to politics, Teresa Heinz Kerry told a reporter to ‘shove it.’


… Asked about Mrs. Heinz Kerry’s comments, the Kerry campaign said in a statement: “It was a moment of extreme frustration aimed at a right wing rag that has consistently and almost purposefully misrepresented the facts when reporting on Mrs. Heinz Kerry.” ” (Yahoo! News)

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‘I told you so’?

McGovern, Mondale and Dukakis, all spunkily confident of Kerry’s victory and exultant at the impending rehabilitation of the term ‘liberalism’, gather in Boston on the eve of the convention, even though the DNC is keeping these painful living reminders of its prior trouncings out of the spotlight. (Salon)

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Could roaches go away for good?

And would it really be good riddance if they did?: “In 1979, the police in Schenectady, N.Y., responded to a complaint about a barking dog. When they arrived, however, they found cockroaches streaming from the windows of a two-family home, raining down from trees and darting into the street. Inside, roaches had plastered every wall like stucco and had left bites all over a 64-year-old woman and her 24 dogs, which, it turned out, had been barking for good reason. The swarm comprised approximately one million German cockroaches, perhaps the largest household infestation ever recorded.” (New York Times Magazine)

I love the lead paragraphs of New York Times Magazine articles.

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What’s the Presidential Tipping Point?

“…(W)hen voters have enough doubts about a sitting president they begin to consider the alternative. That is not where an incumbent wants to be ‘with little over 100 days until an historic election,’ as Mr. Bush himself described the ticking clock last week.

An incumbent has two choices in this situation. He can work to repair strained bonds with crucial voters or he can try to tear down his opponents plausibility as a replacement. Mr. Bush and his campaign are doing both.” (New York Times)

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"It’s a bit propagandistic—but, so what? The Bush girls deserve a little good press."


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The party girls reconsidered: “With the girls starting to acquire something of a trashy image—and a dicey re-election campaign coming up—the Bush family realized the media could be their friend after all. Now a slick makeover is underway. This month the first daughters have been unveiled to the world with all the coordinated hype of Apple’s latest iPod rollout. First came a Vogue magazine spread, featuring the girls in elegant designer gowns*, and their first-ever print interview. Then Jenna appeared at some of her father’s campaign events, followed soon after by her sister. This week they made solo headline appearances at a handful of campaign events—another first. And on Friday they’ll host an (undoubtedly informative) online chat at the Bush campaign Web site. It’s not hard to guess what this is about: A president seen as a blustery warmonger can surely use a couple of pretty young daughters by his side to help soften his image.” (Slate)
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…and Reading Between the Lines

What’s covered in the 9-11 report? What’s covered up? ‘Business as usual. That’s the message of today’s 9-11 Commission report. No one is held accountable for anything. President Bush, the commander in chief, left the nation’s borders unprotected—even though both he and predecessor Bill Clinton had been warned over a three-year period of a possible attack by planes. Using the same words he used last April, Bush said Wednesday, after he was briefed on the findings, “Had we had any inkling whatsoever, that terrorists were about to attack our country, we would have moved heaven and earth to protect America.” Bush added, “And I’m confident President Clinton would have done the same thing. Any president would have.”

“Inkling”? Three full years of drumbeat warnings, topped off by a top-secret daily brief weeks before the attack? You had no “inkling”? Can’t we have a little straight talk here? You were asleep at the switch, Mr. President.’ — Jame Ridgeway (Village Voice)

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The Pakistan connection to 9/11

“Omar Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant, is waiting to be hanged in Pakistan for a murder he almost certainly didn’t commit – of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Both the US government and Pearl’s wife have since acknowledged that Sheikh was not responsible. Yet the Pakistani government is refusing to try other suspects newly implicated in Pearl’s kidnap and murder for fear the evidence they produce in court might acquit Sheikh and reveal too much.” — Labour MP Michael Meacher (Guardian.UK)
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Maker of Schizophrenia Medicine Clarifies Risks

“The maker of a popular medicine for schizophrenia has notified doctors that it had minimized potentially fatal safety risks and had made misleading claims about the drug in promotional materials.


Janssen Pharmaceutica Products LP sent a two-page letter to health care professionals to clarify the risks of Risperdal, Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, said on Saturday.” (Washington Post)

Risperdal had originally been marketed as an “atypical” antipsychotic, a term used to denote a new generation of antipsychotic medications without the severe side effects of the classical antipsychotic medicines like Haldol and Thorazine. But psychiatrists have been aware since we started using the drug that Risperdal’s freedom from those side effects only occurs at low doses which may be insufficient to control the symptoms for which it is prescribed. At effective doses, it behaves much like Haldol, including causing Haldol-like side effects. Psychiatrists have been lulled by the “atypical” label into preferentially prescribing this medication to the point where it has become the largest-selling antipsychotic medication. Furthermore, “atypicals” as a class have other metabolic and cardiovascular side effects that the classical antipsychotics did not. Partly because of the claims of safety, atypical antipsychotics have been used not only for the severe psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and psychotic mania for which antipsychotic drugs were intended but also for a far broader variety of more benign indications than those for which psychiatrists would have dared prescribe the older medications. So the pool of patients potentially exposed to the complications of their use is vastly expanded. Finally, they have been indiscriminately used in children as well as adults, despite the lack of specific studies in the very different nervous systems of that age group demonstrating safety or effectiveness.

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Mr. Powell’s Mistake

“Like a man who sees a child drowning and won’t plunge in to save him, the world is failing Darfur, the western Sudanese province where more than a million civilians have been driven from their homes by the government and its militia allies. The failure is most glaring in the case of France, which acknowledges ‘the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis’ and calls for ‘the mobilization of the international community,’ as the French ambassador wrote recently to The Post. Despite maintaining a military base in neighboring Chad and another in Djibouti, France refuses to supply the United Nations relief operation with needed helicopters or to enforce a no-fly zone that could end the Sudanese military’s aerial attacks on villagers. But no powerful nation is free of blame. The Bush administration, which has been generous with relief and which has led the charge for tough action at the United Nations, is guilty of equivocation too.” (Washington Post editorial)
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‘Rogue waves’ reported by mariners get scientific backing

‘”European satellites have given confirmation to terrified mariners who describe seeing freak waves as tall as 10-storey buildings, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.


‘Rogue waves’ have been the anecdotal cause behind scores of sinkings of vessels as large as container ships and supertankers over the past two decades.


But evidence to support this has been sketchy, and many marine scientists have clung to statistical models that say monstrous deviations from the normal sea state only occur once every thousand years.


…Even though the research period was brief, the satellites identified more than 10 individual giant waves around the globe that measured more than 25 metres (81.25 feet) in height, ESA said in a press release.


The waves exist ‘in higher numbers than anyone expected,’ said Wolfgang Rosenthal, senior scientist with the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, who pored over the data.


‘The next step is to analyse if they can be forecasted,’ he said.” ‘ (Yahoo! News)

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Air Marshals Say Jacobson Overreacted

“Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, “overreacted,” to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS.


The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service.


Jacobsen, a self-described freelance writer, has published two stories about her experience at womenswallstreet.com, a business advice web site designed for women.


“The lady was overreacting,” said the source. “A flight attendant was told to tell the passenger to calm down; that there were air marshals on the plane.”


The middle eastern men were identified by federal agents as a group of touring musicians travelling to a concert date at a casino, said Air Marshals spokesman Dave Adams.”

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New York Needs a Cosmic Joke

Million Yippie March: ” Do they know that there will be enormous demonstrations against the Naked Emperor? Sure they do. They want them. And they want to crush them. The protesters will become substitutes for authentic uncaptured terrible terrorists. And the Republicans will show by their immense and limitless cruelty, that they not only take care of business on Wall Street.

They want us to come. And we must oblige. But in the time we have before the Republican Convention we must develop tactics that will leave them in the dust of their own mediocre confusion. We must resuscitate the great laughing spirit of Yippie.

Intense harsh but shockingly clever and hilarious protest against the Emperor Bush that will make America laugh at him and see him in an unprogrammed state of his actual evil. Attack us then, you humorless Elephants of the GOP. And America will see you and him, in the unforgiving light of harsh truth. New York needs a cosmic joke. So does America. So let’s start asking just what trick the Yippies have up their sleeves”

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He Can Play Guitar, but Can He Grimace?

“In England they call it, rather elegantly, ‘throwing shapes.’ One American practitioner says he thinks of it as ‘selling a move.’ But to most people who have seen it up close as a rock concert, it is simply that nutty face that the guitar player makes: a contorted grimace, sometimes involving liberal amounts of tongue, that suggests either ecstasy or accidental electrocution….

Now both men and women — professionals, nonprofessionals and air guitarists alike — are being given a chance to put their best swoon-inducing faces on display. As a way to promote a video-on-demand guitar instruction show on cable television called “Guitar Xpress,” the company that owns the service, Rainbow Media Holdings, recently came up with the idea of holding a national “guitar face” contest.” (New York Times)

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UN warns Sudan to disarm militias or face action

“Kofi Annan spoke yesterday of ‘gross and systematic’ human-rights violations in Darfur, and urged the Sudanese government to take immediate action to disarm Arab-backed militias, warning that the international community might step in if it does not act.

Stopping short of setting a deadline for international intervention, the United Nations secretary general and his special representative in Darfur, Jan Pronk, made clear they want to see a speedy restoration of security in the vast region.” (The Scotsman)

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US singer Linda Ronstadt kicked out of casino for praising Michael Moore

“US singer Linda Ronstadt was booed off the stage and kicked out of a Las Vegas casino after praising polemical filmmaker Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, the casino said….

The incident marked the latest backlash against liberal US entertainers who criticise Bush and follows comedienne’s Whoopi Goldberg’s sacking last week by a diet products company following her raunchy rant at the conservative president at a Democratic fundraising concert.” (Yahoo! News)

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The man who invented the future

“‘The whole thing is a movie,‘ says Alan Moore. The comic-book visionary behind such epoch-changing works as ‘Watchmen,’ ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘From Hell’ is actually talking about the war in Iraq. But the statement could sum up his view of the ceaseless complexities of 21st century life, where reality TV and celebrity culture have usurped individuality, and the human body has become not much beyond more information needing to be assimilated.

Every once in a while we are horrified by a beheading (albeit one seen only on videotape) and human culture remembers that it is not much more than a vulnerable collection of flesh, bone and nerve endings. ‘This is what wars are; it’s not Hollywood,’ Moore cautions. But ultimately we return to the womblike safety of our media universe with its push-button wars and Internet porn, where sex and death are hidden behind splashy corporate graphics.” Salon

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A Bush Referendum

“The overwhelming tide of support Bush enjoyed after 9/11 has decidedly turned, and the third of the electorate that identifies itself as moderate is no longer rallying behind their man. Like Sen. Joseph McCarthy was 50 years ago, Bush is poised for the fall from power….Bush too looked invincible after the 9/11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan. With help from his advisers, Bush too intimidated critics into silence by challenging their patriotism. And Bush too eventually over-reached, insisting on a war in Iraq that has now blown up in his face.” — Mark Hertsgaard, author of The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World TomPaine.com
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Desertions to Canada have begun

From Underreported I learned about Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, now seeking asylum in Toronto after deserting his Iraq-bound unit. He had reportedly applied for conscientious objector status but was told by officials they had ‘lost’ his application. [It is a good thing we did not put them in charge of Dubya’s military service records, or they might have been ‘lost’ as well. Oops; they were.] As you might surmise, Underreported is focusing on the scant notice taken of this “watershed event in forming a parallel to the Vietnam War” in the press (Hinzman has been in Canada at least since March). I am not sure I can go along with the speculation that the New York Times and the Washington Post are purposely not covering this phenomenon so as not to encourage a flood of desertions to Canada; it seems more like one of the myriad ways in which they have just dropped the ball in covering the post-9/11 climate altogether and give short shrift to all things ‘unpatriotic.’

I don’t precisely recall the tenor of press coverage of war resisters early in the Vietnam War (before the phenomenon was of a magnitude when it could no longer be ignored) either. As a conscientious objector applicant involved with organizing efforts to resist the draft, I was among those who found it important to spread awareness of the possibilities (avoiding the draft by going to Canada; desertion; c.o. status; or ‘just saying no’ and going to prison on grounds of conscience) to those facing induction who might, despite nascent objections to the immorality of the war, not know what options they had or how much support might be out there for them (“Women say yes to men who say no.”). In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, I posted some material here about options for resistance that I hoped might find its way to enlistees. There was some back and forth with other webloggers, particularly Rebecca Blood, about whether you could actually call it conscientious objection in a volunteer army. Whatever the semantics, Hinzman is right; we again face an immoral and illegal war in which the US is committing war crimes on a scale that I am certain remains untold. My hopes of spreading awareness of resistance options to those enlisted or considering enlistment are undiminished. Bravo to Hinzman; spread the word.

In fact, we don’t know that Hinzman is the only soldier to opt out to Canada, but he is the first to ‘come out’ about his principled opposition to the war. (It doesn’t exactly fit with administration spin-mongering to publicize desertions and other acts of war resistance. That is probably why they describe Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun as being in an ‘extended repatriation process’ or some other similar jargon rather than what may really be going on, that he is in custody and being investigated for possibly deserting and staging his own Iraqi captivity.) Here is Hinzman’s website; among other things, he needs financial support to pursue legal maneuvers toward securing refugee status in Canada. (I wonder if Canada is going to need encouragement to take a stand similar to that it took during Vietnam, that it would not extradite draft resisters back to the US.) Perhaps more than finances, however, he needs a movement, and a community of expatriate resisters similar to that which arose in major Canadian cities during the ’60’s.* In fact, perhaps some of those who went to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam are still there?

Will the US military prevent the GIs serving in Iraq from reading about enlistees who have fled the war, as they prevented soldiers access to the details of the Abu Ghraib atrocities (e.g. issuing an order forbidding them from reading Gen. Taguba’s report on the Internet)?


*Is anyone familiar with any historical or sociological studies of the Vietnam-era Canadian draft resisters? any compelling novels about them? There is Tim O’Brien’s Going Aftter Cacciato and the short story “On the Rainy River” from The Things They Carried; others?

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More on terrorism and the election:

No postponement, just bedlam at the polls and a low turnout on the West Coast is Bush’s plan for ‘victory’. This Online Journal piece by the wonderful Wayne Madsen suggests a provocative scenario. I have previously written about my puzzlement over why Ridge would publicize that the government is making election postponement plans even if they are. Many have noted the implausibility of a postponement even in the midst of a national emergency. So okay, the point of such a dramatic announcement at this time wasn’t that the Republicans really plan to pull off a postponement, I concluded, but merely to sow terror. This article suggests that they are setting the stage for a particular strategy. The Republicans will wait for the polls to close in the East to see how they did in the contested states in the early time zones. If they need to, he suggests, a properly-timed announcement of an imminent threat of an attack in California would allow them to win the state even without closing down the polls there, because the pandemonium it would precipitate would disproportionately disrupt working-class voters’ ability to get to the polls at the end of their work day. Low voter turnout is Republican turnout. If they needed to, they could do the same to Washington State as well. Can’t happen here, you say? The illegal disenfranchisement of thousands of predominantly African American voters in Florida won Bush the White House in 2000, so why not? Madsen doesn’t want to be in the position of saying ‘I told you so’; he suggests steps that democratic-minded (with a small ‘d’) people can take now to stop a plan of this sort. There’s no harm in being prepared. Since it is unlikely that too many California or Washington legislative or gubernatorial staff read Online Journal, readers there ought to bring this to their attention….

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Trudeau skewers Bush

“Cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has skewered politicians for decades in his comic strip ‘Doonesbury,’ tells Rolling Stone magazine he remembers Yale classmate George W. Bush as ‘just another sarcastic preppy who gave people nicknames and arranged for keg deliveries.

Trudeau attended Yale University with Bush in the late 1960s and served with him on a dormitory social committee.

‘Even then he had clearly awesome social skills,’ Trudeau said. ‘He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable … He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation.’

Trudeau said he penned his very first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron.

The article in the campus paper prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a senior that year. Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times ‘it was just a coat hanger, and … it didn’t hurt any more than a cigarette burn.’

‘It does put one in mind of what his views on torture might be today,’ Trudeau said.

Having mocked presidents of both parties in the ‘Doonesbury’ strip since 1971, Trudeau said Bush has been, ‘tragically, the best target’ he’s worked with yet.

‘Bush has created more harm to this country’s standing and security than any president in history,’ Trudeau said. ‘What a shame the world has to suffer the consequences of Dubya not getting enough approval from Dad.'” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer via Looka!)

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"If you want to know about governments, all you have to know is two words: Governments lie." — I.F. Stone

Why the Press Failed: “There’s nothing like seeing a well-oiled machine clank to a halt to help you spot problems. Now that the Bush administration is in full defensive mode and angry leakers in the Pentagon, the CIA, and elsewhere in the Washington bureaucracy are slipping documents, secrets, and charges to reporters, our press looks more recognizably journalistic. But that shouldn’t stop us from asking how an ‘independent’ press in a ‘free’ country could have been so paralyzed for so long. It not only failed to seriously investigate administration rationales for war, but little took into account the myriad voices in the on-line, alternative, and world press that sought to do so. It was certainly no secret that a number of our Western allies (and other countries), administrators of various NGOs, and figures like Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Hans Blix, head of the UN’s Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, had quite different pre-war views of the ‘Iraqi threat.'” — Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley (TomDispatch)
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10 Stories the world needs to know more about

“This list includes a number of humanitarian emergencies, as well as conflict or post-conflict situations and spans other matters of concern to the United Nations, although it is far from embracing all of the many issues before the Organization.

The stories are not ones that have never been reported, but are often second-rung issues that need more thorough, balanced and regular attention. The list itself is a snapshot of the most compelling stories that, at this point in time, the Department of Public Information believes are in need of more media attention. And the top story is merely the first among equals.” (UN News Centre)

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"…opposite of a friendly place to relax…"

Over at boing boing, Cory Doctorow exerts some consumer clout I wish I had. This post tells a simple story of being treated rudely in an overpriced café in Brighton, UK. He may reach enough readers who have occasion to go looking for a place to sit and sip in Brighton that his recommendation of a friendlier more considerate place just steps down the street could have a discernable effect on the P&L statements of these two establishment.

In an era when the expectations customers could once have of considerate service from businesses are rapidly vanishing, I often find myself wishing I had an effective way of letting others who might vote with their wallets know when I have been outraged or, to the contrary, delighted by the service I’ve received from a store or an eatery.

As the weblogging phenomenon has grown, it has usually seemed appealing to me to have a disembodied presence building a community unfettered by geographic limitations. But, while someone like Cory is a globetrotter with worldwide readership, I am at the moment more thinking about the web being a vehicle for the extension of local community. It would seem to be a natural medium for collaborative, community-based exchange of civic views, organizing around community issues and local politics, and, yes, simple consumer recommendations.

I am not talking about the online presence of the local community newspaper, like the Brookline TAB we have here where I live. Just as weblogging has created a populist, grassroots-based track parallel to the mainstream media in the discussion of matters of national and international importance, it would appear to be an effective parallel medium on a community scale. The way I read weblogs, at least, they are an efficient medium for sifting through an enormous amount of opinion and information to drill down and explore the details of areas that grab my attention or interest me. Why hasn’t this developed as a component of the penetration of the WWW into everyone’s lives over the past decade? Or am I missing something? Do other communities have “community bulletin board” types of public weblogs that mine doesn’t appear to?

[Are there any Brookline readers of FmH? Would you be interested in exploring this further? If so, drop me a line.]

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"If you want to know about governments, all you have to know is two words: Governments lie." — I.F. Stone

Why the Press Failed: “There’s nothing like seeing a well-oiled machine clank to a halt to help you spot problems. Now that the Bush administration is in full defensive mode and angry leakers in the Pentagon, the CIA, and elsewhere in the Washington bureaucracy are slipping documents, secrets, and charges to reporters, our press looks more recognizably journalistic. But that shouldn’t stop us from asking how an ‘independent’ press in a ‘free’ country could have been so paralyzed for so long. It not only failed to seriously investigate administration rationales for war, but little took into account the myriad voices in the on-line, alternative, and world press that sought to do so. It was certainly no secret that a number of our Western allies (and other countries), administrators of various NGOs, and figures like Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Hans Blix, head of the UN’s Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, had quite different pre-war views of the ‘Iraqi threat.'” — Orville Schell, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley (TomDispatch)
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Terror in the Skies, Again?

“Note from the E-ditors: You are about to read an account of what happened during a domestic flight

that one of our writers, Annie Jacobsen, took from Detroit to Los

Angeles. The WWS Editorial Team debated long and hard about how to

handle this information and ultimately we decided it was something that

should be shared. What does it have to do with finances? Nothing, and

everything. Here is Annie’s story.” (Women’s Wall Street)

Isn’t it overwhelmingly likely that we would have had a major press

conference with unrestrained crowing from Ashcroft and Ridge if they

had found that the Arab men detained at the end of this flight had been

involved in midair bomb-making? So we can safely say that this piece is

about the writer’s in-flight terror but has nothing to do with

in-flight terrorism; I am confident the men described in the

article were a bunch of Syrian musicians and nothing more. The real

issue is whether the fact that she was supposedly terrorized by her

experience has anything to say objectively about our security. Her

observation that

“(w)hat I experienced during that flight has caused me to question whether the United States of America can realistically uphold

the civil liberties of every individual, even non-citizens, and protect

its citizens from terrorist threats”

strikes me as likely a preconception that shaped her perception of what happened to her that day rather than the conclusion she presents it as. In any case, it is precisely that which a government

interested in the absurd prosecution of a neverending WoT® hopes people

will reach. For this reason, my bet is that no government agency will

ever reply reassuringly to her persistent requests for followup with

the information that the “Middle Eastern men” were innocent of the

suspicions against them.

Right-wing bloggers like Reynolds are linking to this piece admiringly (and Lileks does a typical bleat on the issue), but there are obvious questions about the writer’s

judgment and agenda. In defiance of the likely truth, she makes the

implausible assertion that these suspicious passengers’ carry-on items

were not searched and, furthermore, that it was because of fears of

‘racial profiling’. She draws some outlandish conclusions about

how an interest in preserving civil liberties will inevitably defeat

any efforts at airline security. One frequently-flying weblogger proclaims this a hoax (scroll down to July 15; I couldn’t find a permalink)

simply on the basis of the description of the behavior of the flight

crew. I realized what we were up against, if not before, when she

offered a quotation from Ann Coulter in support of her argument. (Good

for Reynolds; wondering if it is a law enforcement training exercise

rather than a de facto threat

at least betrays some doubt.) Another weblogger who identifies

himself as involved with law enforcement investigations on both

federal and local levels is skeptical of the level of detail Jacobsen puts into her account. As a psychiatrist experienced in the evaluation of traumatic memories, I agree with his assertion that the amount of adrenaline flowing in a terrorized observer usually obliterates their eye for detail, even if they are a trained writer.

Indeed, the WWS editor’s description of ‘long and hard’ editorial deliberations

about ‘how to handle this information’ sounds like code for questioning its veracity, which would not be out of the question. Although she is identified as a writer for WWS, a Google search on the (somewhat common) name

comes up with numerous references to the ‘Terror’ article but nothing

else that I could clearly associate with this particular Annie

Jacobsen, certainly nothing else she has published for WWS before. In

what I find an ironic comment, a link to her ‘last ten articles’ on FrontPagemag.com,

where she is listed in the company of other right-wing poster children

like Coulter and David Horowitz, shows nothing but the ‘Terror’ piece.

Michelle Malkin, a credulous conservative weblogger lauding Jacobsen’s story, is dismayed by the news that the Washington Post

did not deem it fit to print. She did a phone interview with Jacobsen,

who is puzzled by the mainstream media’s ignoring her story. Jacobsen

claims to have received ‘thousands’ of corroborating emails from

airline passengers and flight crews who have had similar experiences on

other flights. To reiterate, this clearly speaks to the danger we are

in, but not the danger from bearded Middle Eastern men (regardless of

whether they do suspicious things like going to the bathroom, reading

the Koran, or eating their fast food onboard); rather the dangers of

insistently implanted irrational memes poisoning credulous people’s

minds with hatred and fear. And the pitiful victims do not realize they

are the dupes of a beleaguered lying administration terrorizing them to

win reelection and further its megalomanic agenda.

The funny thing is that Jacobsen’s argument that we cannot simultaneously

protect civil liberties and prevent terrorist attacks on the US is

probably true. But we cannot prevent such attacks with draconian

restrictions on our civil liberties either. Regardless of whether

airline security is becoming more lax (which though I am not a frequent

traveller I would dispute, although arguably it is becoming somewhat

more reasonable), all the

airline security in the world is not going to prevent some group of

enraged, dedicated and resourceful men from their next attempt at mass

devastation by a different, non-airborne means. And we are of course

making the next attack far more likely by the discord our grandiose and

bigoted international adventurism is sowing in its wake.

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Hawking cracks black hole paradox

“After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that falls into it, Stephen Hawking says he was wrong. It seems that black holes may after all allow information within them to escape. Hawking will present his latest finding at a conference in Ireland next week.

The about-turn might cost Hawking, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, an encyclopaedia because of a bet he made in 1997. More importantly, it might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern physics, known as the black hole information paradox.” (New Scientist )

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A fresh definition of inheritance comes into vogue

“Legally, Breck Arnzen and Lani Peterson-Arnzen had covered all the bases when they wrote their will – everything from guardianship to inheritance for their four children.


But two years ago they realized something was missing when a friend told them about the concept of an ethical will – a love letter, many would say – in which people pass down the experiences and values that have infused their lives with meaning.


Within a few months, the couple had created a 20-page ‘living legacy,’ as Ms. Peterson-Arnzen calls it. They plan to update it every five years or so, but its value to the family was immediate. Instead of tucking it away until after they’re gone, they shared it with their children, then 7 to 14 years old.” (Christian Science Monitor)

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‘Secret film shows Iraq prisoners sodomised’

“Young male prisoners were filmed being sodomised by

American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to

the journalist who first revealed the abuses there.


Seymour

Hersh, who reported on the torture of the prisoners in New Yorker

magazine in May, told an audience in San Francisco that ‘it’s worse’.

But he added that he would reveal the extent of the abuses: ‘I’m not

done reporting on all this,’ he told a meeting of the American Civil

Liberties Union.


He said: ‘The boys were sodomised with

the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys

shrieking. And this is your government at war.’


He

accused the US administration, and all but accused President George

Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney of complicity in covering up what

he called ‘war crimes’.” (Independent.UK)

Also: Here is one weblogger’s transcription of Hersh’s remarks.

Related:

Red Cross Suspects U.S. Is Hiding Detainees Worldwide:

“The International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday it suspects the United States is secretly holding detainees in prisons around the world, since alleged terrorists mentioned by the FBI have not turned up in known detention centers and Washington has failed to provide a complete list of the people it is holding.


“These people are, as far as we can tell, detained in locations that are undisclosed not only to us but also to the rest of the world,” said ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari.


Some individuals whose arrests have been reported in the media and whom the FBI announced it has arrested have not been seen in ICRC prison visits, Notari said. Some media reports have said detainees are being held at the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, where the United States has a military base, but the ICRC has not been notified of prisoners there, she said.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday he is looking into the allegation. “We do work closely with the Red Cross on all detainee issues,” he said.” (UN Wire)

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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…


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Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses: “Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.


They say the prisoners – handcuffed and blindfolded – were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city’s south-western suburbs.


They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they ‘deserved worse than death’.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

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Why not a third sex? And a fourth, and . . .

Book Review: “Joan Roughgarden does not like sexual selection, and her book Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, is a polemic against the idea. Normally, one would not start discussing a person’s thesis by talking about the person herself, but in this case it is both legitimate and necessary. As Jonathan Roughgarden, the author had a very distinguished career as an evolutionary ecologist. Then, a few years ago, he made the crossing over the sexual divide. Although Joan Roughgarden denies that this book is a cryptic autobiography — indeed, one learns that she refused one publisher precisely because this is what they wanted — it is infused with that history, and moreover has been promoted with much fanfare precisely because the author is writing from a personal standpoint.” (The Globe and Mail)
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Ten Reasons to Fire George W. Bush

And nine reasons why Kerry won’t be much better:

“10. He’s making me root for John Kerry. I haven’t voted for a major party’s presidential candidate since 1988, and I have no plans to revert to the habit this year. The Democrats have nominated a senator who—just sticking to the points listed above—voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, McCain-Feingold, and the TSA; who endorses the assault on “indecency”; who thinks the government should be spending even more than it is now. I didn’t have room in my top ten for the terrible No Child Left Behind Act, which further centralized control of the country’s public schools—but for the record, Kerry voted for that one too. It’s far from clear that he’d be any less protectionist than Bush is, and he’s also got problems that Bush doesn’t have, like his support for stricter gun controls. True, Kerry doesn’t owe anything to the religious right, and you can’t blame him for the torture at Abu Ghraib. Other than that, he’s not much of an improvement.

Yet I find myself hoping the guy wins. Not because I’m sure he’ll be better than the current executive, but because the incumbent so richly deserves to be punished at the polls. Making me root for a sanctimonious statist blowhard like Kerry isn’t the worst thing Bush has done to the country. But it’s the offense that I take most personally.” — Jesse Walker, Managing Editor (Reason)

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"I’m not reading this. This is bullshit."

More Proof They Knew: “This morning’s Los Angeles Times

uncovers an explosive document buried at the end of the recent Senate

Intelligence report. It shows that before Colin Powell’s

now-discredited U.N. speech justifying war in Iraq, State Department

analysts told Powell and top administration officials about “dozens of

factual problems” in the address (which was written by Vice President

Cheney’s staff). According to the Jan. 31, 2003 memo, there were

problems with 38 of the claims made in the speech draft, which was

crafted at the behest of the White House. (It was “intended to be the

Bush administration’s most compelling case” for war in Iraq.) In

response, 28 were either “removed from the draft or altered” – but the

others were left in. Powell was reportedly irate when first given the

speech: According to the 9/3/03 U.S. News & World Report,

Powell threw the speech in the air, yelling, “I’m not reading this.

This is bulls–t.” This past May, he reiterated his displeasure with

the speech, saying, “It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and

wrong, and in some cases deliberately misleading.”” (Center for American Progress)

And some are suggesting that Powell might even consider running with

Bush if he dumps Cheney?? If he were so craven an opportunist as to

ditch that many of his principles, he would have done so long ago…

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Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game

“Here’s a fun game… First, look up the most popular and critically-acclaimed books, movies, and music on Amazon. Click on ‘Customer Reviews,’ and sort them by ‘Lowest Rating First.’ Hilarity ensues! It’s the Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game!” (waxy via boing boing) F’rinstance:

Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”

  • “This is one of the worst albums I’ve ever bought. It’s so boring and lifeless. Good to fall asleep to.”
  • “its boredom,nostalgia and scarcely concealed contempt make it the perfect background music for this narcissistic age of ours.”
  • “I found Mr. Davis’ playing to be laughable at best. Finally, it’s irritating; and confusing that so many people laud it.”
  • “If pretension, tedium, and self-indulgence are your idea of what should animate music, then this is the album and Miles Davis is the ‘artist’ for you.”
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The war for the soul of literature

“James Wood is the most admired literary critic at work today, and Dale Peck is the most reviled. Yet they share the same loathing, for a type of fiction that Wood calls ‘hysterical realism’ and that Peck labels ‘recherch? postmodernism.’ Most people who follow contemporary fiction can confidently name some books that fall into this category and can tell you what they’re like: They’re big, they’re full of information, ideas and stylistic riffs; they have eventful plots that transpire on what’s often called a ‘broad social canvas’; they experiment with form and voice; they’re overtly (or maybe just overly) smart. Or at least that’s what they’re supposed to be like.

Maximalism, to use this genre’s most reactionary name, turns out to be a lot less uniform than minimalism. If minimalism’s paterfamilias is indisputably Raymond Carver, maximalism’s is Don DeLillo — unless it’s Thomas Pynchon. (DeLillo is the star that some younger maximalists claim to steer by, but the less solemn Pynchon seems the better fit.) The novelists usually rounded up in this group include Rick Moody, Jonathan Franzen (who wrote a famous 1996 essay on the ‘social novel’ for Harper’s Magazine), Colson Whitehead, Jeffrey Eugenides, Dave Eggers, Richard Powers, Jonathan Lethem, Zadie Smith and, especially, David Foster Wallace. But the books these writers produce don’t always have much in common. Some of them (Eugenides’ ‘The Virgin Suicides,’ for one) aren’t even especially long — which seems like the minimum you’d expect from a maximalist novel.” (Salon)

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It’s not always about you

“…(W)hy does almost all public discussion in the U.S. about the goals of the Islamist terrorists assume that they are driven by hatred for the domestic political and social arrangements of Americans? Because most Americans cannot imagine foreigners not being interested in the way they do things, let alone using the U.S. as a tool to pursue other goals entirely.” — Gwynne Dyer (Toronto Star)

Related:

The Misunderstood Osama: “The anonymous CIA analyst who wrote Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror managed to preserve his cloak of anonymity until two weeks before his book’s publication—a stealth operation that made the agency’s WMD spycraft look masterful by comparison. The Boston Phoenix reports that the analyst’s name is Michael Scheuer.

He spent three years as the Counterterrorist Center’s Osama Bin Laden station chief. In Imperial Hubris, Scheuer argues that Americans misunderstand Bin Laden and al-Qaida and have little sense that we’re losing the terror war.” (Slate)

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The Coalition of the Increasingly Unwilling

U.S. Under Pressure to Sustain Coalition in Iraq: “Four nations have left while four more prepare to leave international force; others quietly planning to depart.” (Washington Post)

And The Nation‘s Tom Englehardt describes how the US is increasingly scraping the bottom of the barrel to get international contributions to the ‘multinational’ effort (TomDispatch)

And among other recent observations of note in his column, Englehardt remarks that US troop deaths in Afghanistan/Iraq recently passed the one thousand milestone with almost no media notice. He also comments, “In the thirteen days before the surprise early “transition” non-ceremonies, there were 19 American military deaths in Iraq. In the thirteen days since, there have been 31.” And he notes that, in all the talk about possible ‘July-‘ or ‘October-surprises’ (and the most recent conspiracy theories about Republicans scenarios for a government-of-national-unity type refusal to hand over power by postponing the elections citing a terrorist threat), no one seems to be thinking about what Bush-Cheney might do in the period between an election defeat in November and Kerry’s inauguration in Jan., ’05.

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Hear the Rumor on Cheney?

Capital Buzzes, Denials Aside: “The Washington summer clamor about Vice President Dick Cheney’s future on the Republican ticket has greatly intensified.” (New York Times) Of course it has, in the run-up to the conventions. Not a joke candidate like Dan Quayle was, Cheney is nevertheless increasingly seen as a liability to the reelection effort, even in Republican circles. For the Democrats, he is a convenient way to get to the President, so much so that many relish the prospect of his remaining on the Republican ticket. I do; I pray Bush doesn’t choose this issue as the one on which to get over his constitutional inability to admit he made a mistake or rethink a decision. Part of Bush’s problem maybe that it is difficult to see whom he might tap for the job — who would be willing to take it, is a prominent enough Republican but sufficiently devoid of polarizing baggage. That lets out the most-commonly discussed possibilities such as McCain, Powell or other cabinet members. My God, what could be worse than Bush-Cheney ’04… Bush-Ashcroft! But a more important reason Bush wouldn’t dump Cheney is that… it is Cheney who has always made such important decisions for Bush.

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Bush Anti-Gay Measure Defeated, But . . .

“Sense visited Congress today, when the constitutional amendment drive by anti-gay marriage activists in the Senate was derailed by a bipartisan host of their more principled colleagues. Conservative Republicans, although publicly backed by President Bush, failed to muster enough support to end debate and force a vote on the innocuously named Federal Marriage Amendment.


The broad rejection may signal that American society has simply progressed too far to concretize discrimination against queer couples among the nation’s guiding principles. But another, perhaps more crucial, test to that progress looms just around the corner.


In Massachusetts — the only state so far where same-sex couples may legally marry — legislators are gearing up for a constitutional battle of their own…” [more] (Village Voice)

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Police ‘Psychics’:

Do they Really Help Solve Crimes? “The subject is nothing if not controversial. On one television show an experienced detective insists that no psychic has ever helped his department solve a crime, while another broadcast features an equally experienced investigator who maintains that psychics are an occasionally valuable resource, citing examples from his own solved cases. Who is right? Is it a matter of science versus mysticism as some assert, or an issue of having an open mind as opposed to a closed one as others claims? Let’s look at the evidence.” (CSICOP)
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Does Kazaa matter?

“The owners of the popular Kazaa file-swapping software have withstood assaults from the record industry for years, but now they’re facing a new enemy that may be even harder to fight: competition. …Having traded billions of files over Kazaa, file swappers are trading in the popular peer-to-peer client for a new generation of software, throwing a monkey wrench into Sharman’s plans to turn its network into a legal and profitable media distribution channel. It’s not clear how many people have jumped ship so far, but one recent study estimated that the service lost some 5 million users between November 2003 and February.

Signs of migration underscore the sometimes evanescent success of media rebels facing attacks from record labels and movie studios. Not only has Sharman itself been hit with lawsuits seeking to shut it down; thousands of its customers have been charged with civil copyright infringement violations, and media companies have flooded its network with fake files to interfere with file-swapping activities.” (CNET News)

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United, Not Divided

“President Bush campaigned on a promise to unite us, not divide us. But now he’s using the politics of hate in an attempt to distract us from the real issues — Iraq, the economy, funding for our schools. Bush wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples. This is unprecedented — never before has our Constitution been amended to take away anyone’s rights… The fate of this Constitutional amendment will be decided in the next few days. Please sign up below — we’ll immediately forward your comments to your Senators and Representative…” (MoveOn)
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Your cheatin’ heart, deficient in vasopressin?

Study says gene encourages monogamy. A single gene, which controls the expression of a receptor for the neuropeptide vasopressin in the ventral pallidum region of the prairie vole, apparently makes all the difference between the monogamous mating behavior of this species and the promiscuousness of the closely related meadow vole species. Inserting the vasopressin receptor gene in the proper brain area in meadow voles makes them strongly prefer their current mate just as the prairie voles do, and blocking the effects of vasopressin at the newly expressed receptors makes them revert to their noncommittal behavior. The implicated region is involved in mediating the brain’s reward system, and it is hypothesized that prairie voles feel a sort of reinforcing pleasure with their mates that is absent in the meadow vole. (Boston Globe)

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Bush Administration Seeks Authority to Postpone Nov. Election?

U.S. Mulling How to Delay Vote in Case of Attack: “U.S. counterterrorism officials are looking at an emergency proposal on the legal steps needed to postpone the presidential election in case of such an attack, Newsweek reported on Sunday.


‘I think it’s excessive based on what we know,’ said Rep. Jane Harman of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a interview on CNN’s ‘Late Edition.’


Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned last week that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network want to attack within the United States to try to disrupt the election.


Harman said Ridge’s threat warning ‘was a bust’ because it was based on old information.” (Reuters)

When conspiracy buffs talk sinister scenarios, creating a state of emergency to postpone the lawful succession of power is always a big part of it. Given how much this dysadministration has done without giving a damn about the will of the people or the rule of law, with a philosophical position that they and only they can best make decisions for the country and that their ends justify any means, this is the first time I can believe in this possibility.

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‘…New insights on how Abu Ghraib was spiralling out of control…"

U.S. News obtains all classified annexes to the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib:

“The most comprehensive view yet of what went wrong at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, based on a review of all 106 classified annexes to the report of Major General Antonio Taguba, shows abuses were facilitated–and likely encouraged–by a chaotic and dangerous environment made worse by constant pressure from Washington to squeeze intelligence from detainees.

Daily life at Abu Ghraib, the documents show, included riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, filthy conditions, sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents. Troubles inside the prison were made worse still by a military command structure that was hopelessly broken.”

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‘…New insights on how Abu Ghraib was spiralling out of control…"

U.S. News obtains all classified annexes to the Taguba report on Abu Ghraib:

“The most comprehensive view yet of what went wrong at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, based on a review of all 106 classified annexes to the report of Major General Antonio Taguba, shows abuses were facilitated–and likely encouraged–by a chaotic and dangerous environment made worse by constant pressure from Washington to squeeze intelligence from detainees.

Daily life at Abu Ghraib, the documents show, included riots, prisoner escapes, shootings, corrupt Iraqi guards, filthy conditions, sexual misbehavior, bug-infested food, prisoner beatings and humiliations, and almost-daily mortar shellings from Iraqi insurgents. Troubles inside the prison were made worse still by a military command structure that was hopelessly broken.”

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The Senate Intelligence Committee Report

Washington Post analysis is headlined, “As Rationales for War Erode, Issue of Blame Looms Large“, while the New York Times says, “Senate Report Does Little to Still Debate on C.I.A.’s Prewar Data“. Here is the full text of the report (New York Times). From the beginning it was clear that the dysadministration would try to limit the scope of the inquiry to avoid any focus on the uses to which the intelligence was put and scapegoat the CIA. The explicit conclusion of the report — that evidence for Bush & Co’s main rationale for the war, the hope to find WMD to which they absurdly continue to cling to this day, has been utterly lacking and intelligence to the contrary was a failure — has been unsurprising to anyone who has been anywhere near a news outlet for the past sixteen months. But The Times knows how to read between the lines. Here is its editorial:

“…The report is a condemnation of how this administration has squandered the public trust it may sorely need for a real threat to national security.

The report was heavily censored by the administration and is too narrowly focused on the bungling of just the Central Intelligence Agency. But what comes through is thoroughly damning. Put simply, the Bush administration’s intelligence analysts cooked the books to give Congress and the public the impression that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear arms, that he was plotting to give such weapons to terrorists, and that he was an imminent threat. “

Not that the committee made it easy:

“Sadly, the investigation stopped without assessing how President Bush had used the incompetent intelligence reports to justify war. It left open the question of whether the analysts thought they were doing what Mr. Bush wanted. While the panel said it had found no analyst who reported being pressured to change a finding, its vice chairman, Senator John Rockefeller IV, said there had been an “environment of intense pressure.” But the issue was glossed over so the report could be adopted unanimously.”

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Blatant Lies Continue

Had to get this taken care of forthwith as the campaign against a distinguished military veteran ramped up: Pentagon Says Bush Records of Service Were ‘Destroyed’:

“Military records that could help establish President Bush’s whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.


It said the payroll records of ‘numerous service members,’ including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.


The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush’s claims of service in Alabama are in question.


The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush’s records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.


The loss was announced by the Defense Department’s Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review in letters to The New York Times and other news organizations that for nearly half a year have sought Mr. Bush’s complete service file under the open-records law.


There was no mention of the loss, for example, when White House officials released hundreds of pages of the President’s military records last February in an effort to stem Democratic accusations that he was ‘AWOL’ for a time during his commitment to fly at home in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.


Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director who has said that the released records confirmed the president’s fulfillment of his National Guard commitment, did not return two calls for a response.” (New York Times via Jerry)

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Reuters headlines this item ‘We’re Not Making This Up…’

“A blind Quebec student, who was denied entry to English classes at a Canadian university because his guide dog responds only to French commands, will be allowed to attend class, the school said on Wednesday.

Yvan Tessier was turned away from an English immersion course at the University of New Brunswick because he would be forced to give his dog, Pavot, instructions in French.

Students in the course are expected to communicate only in English, at all times, during the intensive five-week course. That was to include talking to the dog, but the university relented, saying in a statement that Tessier will be allowed to use ‘essential commands in his native French language to his guide dog.'”

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US disowns Kabul ‘bounty-hunters’

“The US State Department says three US citizens arrested in Afghanistan are counter-terrorism mercenaries operating outside Washington’s command.


Spokesman Richard Boucher said the US government ‘does not employ or sponsor’ the three, who were arrested by Afghan authorities on Monday.


Afghan officials accuse the men of running a private prison in Kabul.


Correspondents say the US bounty for al-Qaeda fugitives has drawn many foreign vigilantes to Afghanistan.


The US government has promised $25m for anyone who facilitates the arrest of al-Qaeda kingpin Osama Bin Laden.” (BBC)

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Effort to Curb Scope of Antiterrorism Law Falls Short

“An effort to bar the government from demanding records from libraries and booksellers in some terrorism investigations fell one vote short of passage in the House on Thursday after a late burst of lobbying prompted nine Republicans to switch their votes.

The vote, a 210 to 210 deadlock, amounted to a referendum on the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act and reflected deep divisions in Congress over whether the law undercuts civil liberties.” (New York Times)

Republican procedural hanky panky to keep the rollcall open until the measure was defeated prompted uncharacteristically heated outbursts on the House floor. But I wonder if the real dirty trick to ensure the defeat of this vote wasn’t going on across town with the announcement of the usual ‘credible evidence of a major terrorist threat’ by ‘al Qaeda’ to ‘disrupt the democratic election process’ this summer or fall. The real purpose of the timing of this threat assessment, however, relates to the Presidential campaign, of course. And could the emphasis on bin Laden’s role in planning another attack be seen in light of the ‘October surprise’ many are expecting, whose timetable may actually be being moved up? Administration pressure on Pakistan to deliver bin Laden before the November elections has considerably ramped up (New Republic).

…the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” What’s more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq’s] meetings in Washington.” Says McCormack: “I’m aware of no such comment.” But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”–the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

However, you cannot trust this report. Not only was it in TNR but it was co-written by a man with an Arab-sounding name.

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Anemia Drug Shows Promise in Treating Several Diseases

“Amgen’s anemia drug, the best-selling product developed so far by the biotechnology industry, might have broad new uses, recent studies have found.

Laboratory and animal studies have shown that in addition to bolstering the body’s red blood cells, the drug, EPO, is present in the central nervous system and acts to protect cells and tissues from damage and death. That could make it useful as a treatment for strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and many other ailments. Testing in humans is in very early stages.” (New York Times)

In my own field, the drug will be investigated as a treatment for schizophrenia, although I think the hypothesized mechanism is such a longshot that it is medically implausible, unlike possible benefits to other CNS pathologies such as stroke or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Ironically, the original purpose of the drug, to boost the body’s production of red blood cells, becomes a liability if used in someone who is not anemic, as it can thicken the blood to the point of increasing clot risk. (Athletes who have used EPO to increase their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity — it is one of the drugs implicated in the ‘doping’ scandal — place themselves foolishly at this risk.) With the discovery of these added potential benefits, a modified version of EPO which does not generate RBC production but still seems to protect tissue is under development.

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Of, By and For

Mitch Kapor writes:

“I’ve co-founded and am contributing to a web site and group blog, Of, By, and For, exploring politics-not-as-usual… The common conviction is that there is an urgent need to change a political system is not working. We need a new architecture of citizenship and real democratic reform. Thomas Jefferson meets the Internet, again.”
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New Scientist links:

Some science news you might find fascinating or useful:

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Weight Watchers

“Which is the more expedient solution, the one that will produce greater happiness — becoming thin; or deciding, through rarefied cultural perspective, that being thin doesn’t matter? A dozen recent ruminations about human body weight — memoirs, science, self-help — trip grievously on this dilemma, stumbling between the options, getting lost even while pretending to reach certainty and, furthermore, victory. Whether viewed as an affliction of the body or the mind, fat is apparently an intractable problem.” — Virginia Heffernan (New York Times Book Review)
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Brain Candy

Review of An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman:

“Her approach is to select a topic that is in its essence ineffable, then gather information about it from the worlds of science and evolutionary theory, literature, myth, popular culture and personal experience, and lavish her findings with elaborately worked, poetic prose. Her intention is to say the unsayable. Here, for instance, is Ackerman defining memory in her newest book, ‘An Alchemy of Mind,’ which considers the human brain and consciousness from her customarily impressionistic mix of perspectives: ‘An event is such a little piece of time and space, leaving only a mind glow behind like the tail of a shooting star. For lack of a better word, we call that scintillation memory.'” (NY Newsday )
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The Limits of Media Dream Machines

“A new gadget that helps people shape their dreams provides new frontiers for the media

Despite the appeal of something like “Dream Workshop,” we don’t need to gain control over our dreams; we need to discover what our dreams truly are. This is the last thing the network programmers want to encourage. They strive to maximize confusion between marketed means and ends. The advertisers they covet are working overtime to confuse our deeper desires with what’s on the market, claiming to fulfill them.” (AlterNet)

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Reunited, and It Feels So … What?

“Without financial aid I wouldn’t have been able to attend this fancy place. Now, two decades later, I received financial aid to attend its reunion. All I had to do was ask, and then tell how much I could afford. When I thanked the woman at alumni affairs who made the arrangements, she told me to thank my classmates. It was their doing. There was a big push to get as many people as possible to come back.

How come? Why are reunions important? What purpose do they serve?

The writer, coming back for her twentieth, finds no one there like herself and wonders if she ought to be looking forward instead of back… or more ashamed of what she had (not) become in the face of everyone else’s success. Oh, yes, and of their financial support of their alma mater.

“Creating a sense of nostalgia for a place where people spent a little bit of time a long time ago seems a good way to get them to open their hearts and wallets.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
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I, Reader: the Rise of Robo-Poetics

How Contemporary American Poets Are Denaturing the Poem: “If this has the same effect on you as it does on me, then you have no thoughts about it. In fact, it is not because such poems are “difficult”, that I turn away from them. Most readers of poetry are attracted to the difficulty of the deeply human, the mystery of its oblique and contrary expressions. Rather, it is because such poems have spurned me, have no use for me, or any reader, would rather go frolic with themselves in a dark place, crossing themselves out, line by line, word by word, then in a yawn of post-language satisfaction, roll over and go to sleep, leaving me to stare at an old wallpaper stain.

Fortunately, a wallpaper stain provides more potential as an aesthetic challenge than staring at a disappearing poem.” (Web Del Sol)

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Demi-Demonstration in Boston?

“During the 2000 election, many activists saw little difference between Democrats and Republicans. This year, however, giving Dubya the boot has become the overriding concern, and the slogan ‘The Evil of Two Lessers’ has been replaced by ‘Anybody But Bush.’ That leaves progressives with a question: whether to demonstrate at the Democratic National Convention in Boston July 26-29 or to give the Dems a pass and concentrate on the Republican National Convention in New York August 30-September 1.

While protesters for the latter have united behind the banner of ‘RNC Not Welcome,’ a coalition of progressives in Boston became bogged down this winter in soul-searching discussions about their message. ‘Although the Democrats turn our stomachs in a lot of ways, we also didn’t want to derail the ‘Dump Bush’ agenda,’ says Cynthia Peters, an organizer with United for Justice With Peace. The coalition eventually decided on a middle road between protesting and not protesting by organizing ‘People’s Parties’ in four Boston neighborhoods to coincide with the DNC’s opening parties for delegates on Sunday, July 25.” (AlterNet)

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Kerry’s Number 2 Is a Number One Choice

Arianna Huffington argues at Alternet that tapping Edwards “wasn’t based on looking at a map and trying to figure out who could deliver the most Electoral College votes… It was based on who was the best choice for the country.” She goes on to list five reasons to be enthusiastic about Edwards which strike me, quite to the contrary, as being about delivering the votes, with no mention of his suitability for his leadership role after the election:

  • He can help Kerry make this campaign about what kind of America we want to live in.
  • Edwards’ core theme of the two Americas – “one for the powerful insiders, and another for everyone else” – helps sharpen the differences between the two tickets, and underlines that, far from being a uniter, George Bush has been the ultimate divider.
  • Without wearing it on his sleeve, Edwards’ comfort with matters of faith, morality, and religion will allow Kerry and the Democrats to make an unabashed appeal to the millions of Americans whose spiritual beliefs are central to their lives.
  • Edwards can help Kerry ride the wave of idealism that was unleashed after Sept. 11. Rare among populist politicians, Edwards radiates optimism and inspires hope… This spirit is the perfect antidote to the pessimism the GOP is desperately trying to tag Kerry with.
  • Edwards has made a very successful career out of eating folks like Dick Cheney for lunch in courtrooms all across America.
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Atticus Finch

This slacktivist post takes on the furor over John Edwards’ being a trial lawyer, which has been by far the most interesting facet of Kerry’s tapping him for the Democratic ticket. As a physician, I am supposed to be all for “tort reform” and contemptuous of attorneys, but I don’t stand with the stereotype of my profession in this respect. Some of my best friends are lawyers… Seriously, though, since a segment of my profession seems to answer only to monetary concerns and not at all to an ethical standard based on the privilege and burden of fulfilling the sacred trust bestowed upon them by their patients, the threat of a lawsuit may be the only effective barrier between them and negligent practices — or legitimately compensating for the damages when nothing stands as a barrier. As this post points out, “Americans despise lawyers, but only until they need a good one on their side.” And they can tell the difference between an advocate and a bloodsucker. Perhaps Edwards’ background will make for a more truly polarized campaign in which “tort reform” finally gets exposed for the corporate shill that it is and populism finally gets pitted against the Republican pro-corporate agenda in the way it has been painfully obvious it has needed to for a long time. If the RNC does not figure out how unwise that route would be. The slacktivist post describes his Republican opponent’s efforts to tar him with the “lawyer” brush in his 1998 Senatorial race. It backfired, with voters coming away impressed with Edwards’ advocacy for the people, and the post goes on to note with amazement and glee the Republican conclusion that they simply hadn’t attacked lawyers hard enough. On the other hand, the North Carolina race didn’t have Karl Rove holding the leash of the attack dogs. In any case, it will be interesting to see how the GOP balances the need to attack Edwards with the need to defend that big mutha liability of ’em all, Dick Cheney. I certainly look forward to the fall’s vice presidential debates; it will be especially fun to see Edward’s legendary oratorical skills from the courtroom used against Cheney.

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Bush’s AIDS Hypocrisy Cons The NY Times

The NY Times bought Bush’s lies in reporting on his laudatory comments about Uganda’s AIDS prevention policy as if he supported condom use. Just one week earlier, Bush’s Centers for Disease Control had issued vicious anti-condon regulations denying federal HIV-prevention funding to any organization that failed to include information on the lack of effectiveness of condoms in their educational efforts. And it was not as if the Times would have had to look hard to find criciticism of the CDC stance. And this is not just another story about the bottomfeeding dishonesty of our dysadministration. Discouraging condom use kills.

“There’s only one word to describe the effect of the new CDC guidelines: lethal. And Bush’s campaign boilerplate on AIDS in Philadelphia was “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” bilge. Too bad the Times didn’t notice.” (The Nation [via walker])

Correction: Rivka did the responsible thing; she looked at the actual CDC guidelines, and concludes that Ireland’s position in The Nation is a distortion. The central point stands — Bush’s compliments to Uganda are hypocrisy. It is not as if Bush actually does support condom use, but the CDC regulations are not the place to look for the evidence.

“There’s plenty of outrage to be found in the Bush Administration’s approach to HIV prevention – say, in their relentless pushing of abstinence-only sex ed programs for teenagers and their political scrutiny of NIH grants. It’s not surprising that people immediately leap to think the worst of anything associated with the present government. But in this particular case, I think that Doug Ireland is frothing up a lot of public anxiety over very minor changes.”
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Powell dumps diplomacy for disco at ASEAN


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“On Friday, Powell danced alongside five other U.S. officials sporting costumes that included an Indian headdress.


The group blasted out a version of the 1970s disco classic, to the delight of foreign ministers from across the Asia-Pacific and Europe.


‘President Bush, he said to me: ‘Colin, I need you to run the Department of State. We are between a rock and a hard place,” Powell and his colleagues sang to the tune of the disco classic.” (CNN)

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Keyless Remotes To Cars in Maryland Suburb Suddenly Useless

“The sporadic incidents — at least five days in the past year, by Drake’s count — have become something of a mystery in Waldorf, a sprawling mix of shopping centers and subdivisions in Charles County. But such outages are not unprecedented.


Three years ago, thousands of drivers in Bremerton, Wash., were stumped on two occasions when their push-button remotes proved impotent. It happened in Las Vegas in February, prompting hundreds of calls to car dealerships and locksmiths. And in May, a two-way radio system being tested at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle jammed remote control garage door openers in communities near the base.


In most cases, remote control failure is little more than a curiosity, as drivers can simply use their keys to unlock the doors. Some cars, however, require the device to deactivate an alarm or start the engine. Charles Vernon, a retiree from Accokeek whose remote first malfunctioned at the mall in Waldorf on May 10, said the problem is a safety issue and an inconvenience.”

I am glad to see someone is tracking these incidents. I hadn’t heard of the Las Vegas or Florida events but readers of FmH may recall that I posted items about the Bremerton, Wash. occurrence when it happened. Speculation at that time related to the possibility that some radio technology employed by Navy warships coming and going in the area was interfering with the keyless entry systems (and, as I recall, garage door openers etc.). The frequency range of these devices falls in a waveband primarily registered for military and law enforcement purposes. Obviously, military derring-do is implicated in the Florida situation as well, and I am certain the Las Vegas area is well-endowed with military installations.

An engineer at an AT&T microwave tower in Waldorf made mysterious allusions to the use of the tower at times for broadcasts for secret government purposes.

“We don’t have a schedule when we use that signal; it occurs when necessary. I think it will go on . . . but we can see about not using that frequency.. I didn’t realize it was disturbing other folks.”(Washington Post)

On the other hand, of course, all of these incidents may be related to alien disruption of the conveniences of modern earthly life as a prelude to their invasion… or merely to teach us a lesson from their own experience about the perils of overreliance on technological inoovation.