Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted on 2008-01-13 at 16:17

From his sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967 entitled "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam":

I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant! And if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."

rise and be heard

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To continue my latest obsession, I present a new Schoolhouse Rock video called "Pirates and Emporers"

Posted on 2007-11-16 at 22:07

when I can see the light of day again (work has ramped up a bit in the last month) there will be original content on the blog again. Til then, this video says all I feel like saying right now:

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Colonel Davy Crockett, Explorer and Congressman (1786-1836)

Posted on 2007-11-12 at 20:18

"Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything you have."

Fuck anyone that tells me to give up anything out of fear. Terrorism scares me far less than my own government slowly peeling my freedoms away, one onion layer at a time.

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Citing Proof

Posted on 2007-11-09 at 23:16

In a response to yesterday's blog entry, someone asked my to cite my sources for those fairly serious accusations.

In "9/11: Interviews by Peter Jennings" on ABC News and airing on September 11, 2002, Peter Jennings interviewed Colonel Robert Marr of the U.S. Air Force (among others). The Colonel was in charge of NEADS (the Air National Guard component of NORAD, the North American Air National Defense Command). In that interview the Colonel said, "We had 14 aircraft on alert, seven sites, two aircraft at each site." The BBC corroborated the quote and offered more details on the ramifications of an unarmed Air Force in an article entitled "US considered 'suicide jet missions'".

More fascinating than that is that 14 was considered above average. On the morning of 9/11, they were doing significant training exercises. On most days, there would have been fewer aircraft on duty across the US.

Our DOD budget exceeds $400 billion, most of which is spent on overseas operations. Our Air Force is in a better position to protect Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin, and London than New York. I stand by my blog-claim: Policing the world and bombing people that pose no serious threat to our interests leaves our country and its borders largely undefended. 9/11 was proof of that. 14 aircraft left to defend the whole of the U.S. airspace (I mean, unless you think that unarmed F-15's taking kamakazi runs into an enemy is a valid defense?) wasn't enough then, and it's not enough now.

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National Defense and the Art of Incompetence

Posted on 2007-11-08 at 21:07

On September 11th, 2001, there were only fourteen aircraft in place to defend the entire continental Unites States. The results of that piss poor national defense plan were made clear on the skylines of Northern Virginia and New York City. What was our government's answer? They took what was left of our military and moved them to other countries. We now have even fewer national defenses on the mainland. Twenty thousand American soldiers have been seriously wounded or killed in the Iraq war.

So tell me, how does reducing the military presence inside our own borders and taking 9% of our troops out of active combat-readiness through wounding or death make me safer?

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote, published in 1604

Posted on 2007-11-07 at 21:07

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

Sometimes I worry that I identify too greatly with the Ingenious Knight of La Mancha. It's not that I think the world doesn't need people willing to tilt at giants, real and imagined, but rather that things didn't end well for the Don.

In the end, Quixote is left disillusioned with humanity---his fleeting bliss fading in favor of a solemn sanity while he turns his back on the very civility that once gave his life meaning. He dies melancholy, hopeless, and broken.

I'm not down with that part.

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Posted on 2007-10-29 at 07:40

We have a shot: "Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may quickly go from cellar dweller to Republican frontrunner after the New Hampshire primary."

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Blowback

Posted on 2007-10-17 at 07:39

Funny stuff. Apparently my blog support of Ron Paul has had an interesting effect on my inbox. I've had people writing to argue Ron Paul's positions, confess being a closet Paulite, convert to Paulism, and accuse me of being duped by the viral marketing scam of Paulism. It's been a while since I got this much blog feedback from a single entry. And for that, I'm calling it a success.

If my one blog entry gets people talking about these issues that Ron Paul raises, then good. Mission accomplished. This is a dialog we need in this country.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the role of government as you understand it?
  2. Why do you see the role of government in that light?
  3. Is the role you see assigned to our government feasible militarily, economically, and strategically?
  4. When you answered the above question, did you do so from the gut or do you have real numbers to back it up?
  5. Assuming you want to see the Unites States lead the world, would that leadership be militarily, economically, morally, or something else?
  6. Which candidate most closely matches your answers to the above questions and why?
  7. Have you given that candidate support? If not, why not?

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Ron Paul Cured My Apathy

Posted on 2007-10-11 at 20:26

This is a solid video. Watch it:

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." ~ George Washington, First President of the United States of America

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A first for me

Posted on 2007-09-13 at 15:53

I've never donated to a political campaign before. I just donated $50.00 to Ron Paul's campaign.

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul’s Record:

Is he the perfect candidate? No. I don't agree with him on every point. But I do agree on enough to justify my support. He is sincere. He is intelligent. He is right more often than not. In my opinion, we need a few years of that.

See what he's about. Hear him speak. Decide for yourself if he deserves a dollar or two of your money. I think this country has gone about as far downhill as I'm willing to let it go without fighting back. This donation is my first volley. There will be more. When my daughter grows up, I want to be able to tell her I tried to help. Anything else is an excuse and cop out.

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Understanding the Audience

Posted on 2007-05-19 at 08:21

So, a recent online poll on my blog showed that 70% of you found yourselfs allied with Milton Friedman, both socially and economically. In an effort to better understand the audience, I did some quick research and asked a few questions. Turns out, his work "Free to Choose: A Personal Statement" was among his most respected works and well represented his views late in his life. So I bought it. To balance the order out, I also bought "The Communist Manifesto" and to make the myself appear falsely academic, I added a book on the philosophy of language called "Naming and Necessity". My proof follows:

If anyong out there wants a copy of these books, you can get them here:

Next up? Select works from Mikhail Bakunin to better understand a social/economic theorist closer to my current position. It'll be interesting to read the arguments for the claims I've been making.

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George Bernard Shaw (Writer, 1856-1950)

Posted on 2007-05-16 at 07:49

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."

Read it and work through its implications.

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Scattershot patterns

Posted on 2007-05-11 at 08:10

It appears that the majority of the people who read my blog fall into the lower right quadrant of this chart:

The rest all fall within the lower left quandrant. That, to me is interesting for a number of reasons:

  1. No one (as not a single person) fell on the top half (the authoritarian side) of the chart. Socially, my readers are clearly Libertarian. The closest result to authoritarian was a -0.72. The farthest result from authoritarian was my own (-6.26) with most falling between -3.00 and -5.00.
  2. Approximately 70% of the people reading my blog fell on the right side of the chart. Economically, my readers are mostly, but not entirely, neo-liberalists or libertarians rather than communists or collectivists. The farthest right was 4.35. The farthest left was -7.63. The greatest grouping was found between 2.00 and -1.00.
  3. One of my oldest atheist friends and one of my fiends with whom I attend Sunday school scored to within a couple of tenths of a point identically on both axis. Not sure that means anything, but I found it interesting anyway.
  4. One guy treated the chart like a bullseye and scored damn near the perfect center with a Economic 0.75/ Social-0.72 result. He must be that mythic political "center" I've heard so much about.

That is all for now. Thanks for sending me results. They were interesting.

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My Political Compass

Posted on 2007-05-07 at 08:33

The Political Compass test is a fairly short, but pretty decent way seeing where you fall on a two-axis political spectrum. I thought the questions weren't leading and the results didn't seem skewed. They surprised me a bit, but not overly so.

I scored as follows:

Economic Left/Right: -1.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.26

When placed on the chart below, those results put down the Authortarian/libertarian axis with the Dalai Lama, and about halfway between Pope Benedict XVI and the middle mark on the Left/Right axis:

Here's another graph showing the estimated results of some more well known historical figures:

What are your political leanings? I'm curious about the political leanings of the people that read this blog. Even if I don't know you, I'm interested in your results. This sort of thing fascinates me.

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So I received an email...

Posted on 2007-04-26 at 21:14

The subject of the email was "FW: YOU BET I'LL PASS IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!" The contents went something like this:

YOU BET I'LL PASS IT ON!!!- - -

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG, OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND TO THE REPUBLIC, FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

I was asked to send this on if I agree or delete if I don't. It is said that 86% of Americans Believe in God. Therefore I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having "In God We Trust" on our money and having "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I AGREE!

PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING, EVEN IF YOU HAVE PASSED IT ON BEFORE!!

Please send this on after a short Prayer!

Prayer wheel for our Marines, soldiers, sailors, Coast guard, and airmen.. Please don't break it

"Dear Heavenly Father, Hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families For the selfless acts they perform For us in our time of need. Please stop a moment And say a prayer for our troops (land, air, and sea) in Afghanistan , Kuwait , Iraq and all around the world.

This can be very powerful... Just send this to people in your address book. Do not stop the wheel, please...

Of all the gifts you could give our . Military,s Prayer is the very best one!

God will Love You for helping Spread His Word..THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G. I. And soldiers of all nations

One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO PASS THIS ON, AS MANY SEEM TO FORGET BOTH OF THEM.

As you might imagine I have strong feelings on this topic, so I decided to reply:

According to the U.S. Census in 2001 the percentage of Christians is 79.8% (a drop of 8.5% from 10 years earlier), Jews constitute another 1.4%, and Muslims another 0.6%. The rest of the United States does not acknowledge any sort of deity that bears even a passing resemblance to the God of Jewish culture that Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship. Fully 15% of Americans do not acknowledge any religion at all (an increase of 6.6% over the preceding 10 years).

The reason having those statements on our money and in our national pledge is a bad thing is that it tries to sanctify our nation as a religious one. This /is/ a problem. Our nation is a secular one and that's that way it was designed. Our separation of church and state is necessary to uphold the freedoms our military is installed to protect. One of those freedoms is the freedom to be an atheist, an agnostic, a Buddhist, or a Wicca. When we put "One nation under God" in our pledge we are asking those people (nearly 1 in 5 citizens of this country!) to choose between their own faith and being loyal to America. When we put "In God we trust" on our money we are telling those same 1 in 5 Americans that they participate in our culture by our grace as Jews, Muslims, and Christians rather than by the grace of their own birthright as native-born Americans or by the hard-won choice they made when they undertook the road to gain citizenship. We are telling them, those 1 in 5 Americans, that their faith---their spiritual choices---make them less-than-fully American. I may not agree with your choice to be an atheist, but I'd be damned before I let your Right to make that decision be stripped away.

If you are unswayed by those arguments, let me make one that appeals to your self interest. Right now we (religious people who recognize the Jewish God in our faith) are the majority. Re-read the numbers I gave you in the first paragraph. The numbers of people who are not us doubled in the 90s. That number has continued to grow in the 2000s. That growth is at the expense of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations. There may very possibly come a day when we are the minority. If and when that day comes, do you want the new majority to look back on our behavior as a model? If so, what lessons do you want them to take from us? That we forced our views on others? That we made them stand up in class every morning and say a pledge to a God they didn't believe in or be ostracized for abstaining? Not me. I want them to look back and see that we instead treated them as equals, that we allowed them the freedom to choose as they please, they we gave them every opportunity to see our faith but never pushed it on them. That's what I want them to remember if they are ever in the majority, because it is our choices now that will help shape their choices in the future. If we don't recognize the position we are putting them in with a federal endorsement of our specific religious claims, then I promise you that whatever persecution we face as a future minority will be of our own making.

So, no, I won't pass this message on and, no, I won't delete it if I disagree. I'll stand proud as an American with a voice and as a Christian with compassion and reply on behalf of all those people who are not being given a voice in this debate, who are not being given a choice in their pledge or on their currency, who are not being given respect by the majority of Christians who sit damnably silent because it isn't they who are being disenfranchised this time.

Remove God from our federal payroll. He doesn't need our support. We need His. Muhammad once said that difference of opinion in the community is a manifestation of God's mercy.

God bless everyone. No exceptions.

I think my reply said all that needs saying regarding my position on this topic.

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What would you die for?

Posted on 2007-04-03 at 07:51

I was reading about friendly fire killing more coalition soldiers. Friendly fire? What the hell is that? It's like the phrase "Civil War". Makes no damn sense.

And while I'm bitching, let me add a bit about John McCain. Listen John, I understood when you pandered to the extreme right. You need the nomination and you won't get it without appearances at places like Liberty University and telling Republican beleivers that the war is going well, but you crossed a line. I can turn the other cheek when you make outrageous claims about mythical safe Baghdad streets, but to put 100 soldiers in harm's way to prove how safe those streets are? You are damn lucky that none of them got hurt in that little publicity stunt. If they had? What would you have said at their funeral? Do you tell the mother, wife, or husband that their little soldier died an honorable death getting you elected?

So, I'll ask the title question to my audience here. What would you be willing to die for? Don't answer me. Just think about it.

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Thanks, Ms. Rice

Posted on 2007-03-25 at 14:01

Man, this whole Middle East thing has been a horrid mess for thousands of years. People have tried to alleviate the situation, but to no avail.

That is, til now. Surely now that Ms. Rice has stepped up and "urged" them to stop, there will be peace in the Middle East. I mean, what else need be done. Sure she could upgrade her urging to a suggestion, and possibly to a stern-faced finger wag accompanied by a sarcastically-toned "Dudes!" but none of that should be needed, as I suspect this urging should be plenty to straighten things out.

Man, I wish we'd have thought of this one way back! Thanks, Ms. Rice, for showing us the clear path to success. FYI, I urge you and the rest of your worthless administration to step down and let the adults run the country for a while.

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Five things that need correcting

Posted on 2007-03-21 at 18:38

  1. The White House thinks it's above the law. Karl Rove should be forced to testify...and do so under oath. So should the rest of them. They've been treated as untouchable for too long. I am dusgusted and embarrassed to have them leading my country. Plus, being unwilling to testify under oath is just pussy. Be a fucking man about it, George. If you wanna claim all this unprecedented power, at least have the cahones to step up and say it loudly. Nothing worse than a dictator without the guts to actually, you know, dictate.
  2. The FBI is abusing it's power (insert faux shocked look here). They have a history of it. Just look up all the stuff they did under that one cross-dressing dude. People should lose jobs over this. Some jail time would be nice, too. Let's end this debate over whther they did or didn't. Of course they did it. They are the FBI, for God's sake. They take power like a sponge takes water. It's time to squeeze some of the excess back out.
  3. I'm still working...at a job...in an office...with people. Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?!? The fact that I get up and go to work is like a daily miracle on the order of the loaves and fishes.
  4. Google hosted mail service does not yet itegrate all of Google's apps. Get it together, guys! I want to have one interface for my hosted mail service, docs and spreadsheets, reader, and web analytics. You offer them all, but I need a different log in for each service. Laaaaame. This atrocity of inefficiency is made all the more glaringly sinful by its having been perpetrated by Google, who wrote the Gospel of Efficiency. Shine that halo up and reclaim your saint-status soon.
  5. Television is still delivered in channel-sized chunks to my home via the airwaves. OK, one last time: I want my tv à la carte. I want to subscribe to a show, not a channel, let alone a channel "package" of 150 stations of crap. Moreover, TV is cheap now. Where are the really good tv shows produced independant of the hollywood machine and delivered to me via the Internet? Any kid with a Mac can make a sci fi show. Joss Whedon, I'm talking to you! You don't like TV. I get that. They stabbed Firefly and spit on the corpse. 'Nuff said. But why not take some of that bankroll you got and innovate the medium. Do a good show. Answer only to yourself and deliver it via a method that make you beholden to noone. Produce it so long as it's profitable. Do it. Do it now. I demand you do my bidding. And stuff. Please. Pretty please? Grovelling can be a part of the package as needed.

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Dear Mr. President

Posted on 2007-01-10 at 20:20

I am deeply concerned about the signing statement that you issued on December 20, 2006, regarding H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. It raises serious questions about whether the government is reading Americans' first class mail without obtaining a search warrant or other court order as required by statute.

The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act recodified in a different location an existing provision of federal law, without change, that states as follows:

No letter of such a class of domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the addressee.[1]

In your signing statement, you stated that the executive branch would construe this provision "in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection."

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in February 2006 on the National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program, Senator Leahy asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales whether the executive branch was relying in other contexts on the theory that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force gave it the authority to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and other statutes. Specifically, Senator Leahy asked: "Did it authorize the opening of first-class mail of U.S. citizens?" The Attorney General attempted to avoid answering the question, but ultimately stated: "Senator, I think that, again, that is not what is going on here. We are only focused on communications, international communications, where one party to the communication is al Qaeda. That is what this program is all about."

You have already confirmed that you have authorized the NSA to conduct surveillance of communications without obtaining the court orders required by FISA. Your December 20, 2006, signing statement now suggests that you believe you have the authority to violate the law with regard to opening regular mail. The American people and Congress are entitled to know whether you have acted on that theory. Please answer the following question: has your administration authorized any government agency to read Americans' first-class mail without obtaining a search warrant, complying with the applicable court order requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or satisfying Postal Service regulations?

I look forward to your expeditious reply.

Sincerely,

Russell D. Feingold

United States Senator

1: A separate regulation, promulgated in 1996, states that the Postal Service can open a piece of mail when there is a credible threat that it contains a bomb or other explosive device. 39 C.F.R. § 233.11

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Anthropographics

Posted on 2006-12-08 at 08:13

Personalization. Individuation. Micromarkets.

The world is moving from a mass market, appeal to the crowd, nab the largest group economic model to one that seeks ever-smaller groupings. No longer is it a Good Thing to keep up with the Joneses. Now the modern consumer wants to differentiate themselves from the Joneses. Having a menu of generic product choices worked in the industrialized 20th century, but as we march further into a new economy we seek hyper-specialized products. It's not enough to buy the same album as the guy next to me. I must buy just the songs I want. Moreover, it's not enough to buy them in the same format as everyone else, I want choice. You may like your songs in AAC format (Apples lossy iTunes format) but I prefer mine in Flac (lossless encoding). The next guy might want his in simple MP3 format (a ubiquitous lossy encoding standard). It's not enough to buy a pair of Nikes. Now I can get a pair from their web site with customized colors and even words on the side! This is a radical shift in thinking and in markets. But what does it mean?

It means demographics---the study of delineations of groups of people into their respective subsets---becomes less useful to the marketer, who seeks something delineated at the individual level, something I'm gonna call anthropographics---the study of delineations of individual persons.

I have more to say about this. I'll be adding that to a later entry. I'm interested in feedback. What you you think about this "demassification" of commercial interests? What sorts of profound changes do you expect from it? Do you welcome it?

More to come....

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UCLA Police Use Excessive Force On Camera

Posted on 2006-11-21 at 07:47

And we get outraged and wonder why Ice Cube had this to say:

Fuck tha police
Comin straight from the underground
Young nigga got it bad cuz I'm brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority

Fuck that shit, cuz I ain't tha one
For a punk muthafucka with a badge and a gun
To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell

Fuckin with me cuz I'm a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin my car, lookin for the product
Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotics

You'd rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
Still can't swallow bread and water

I don't know if they fags or what
Search a nigga down and grabbin his nuts
And on the other hand, without a gun they can't get none
But don't let it be a black and a white one
Cuz they slam ya down to the street top
Black police showin out for the white cop

Ice Cube will swarm
On any muthafucka in a blue uniform
Just cuz I'm from the CPT, punk police are afraid of me
A young nigga on a warpath
And when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA
Yo Dre, I got somethin to say

Fuck the police

Was the student being a pest? Maybe. Was he non-cooperative? Looks like it. Does that matter? Not in the least. They tasered him 5 times, mostly while he was on the ground or in handcuffs. They threatened to taser the bystander who asked for a badge number. They tasered him, then got mad becuase he wouldn't jump right back up. Obviously they have never been tasered before. I'd be happy to show them how a taser works.

All this because he wouldn't show his student ID in a "random" (he was of Middle Eastern decent) library ID check. I remember growing up in a world where it was the evil Soviet Police who would demand of its citizenry, "Show me your papers." The tasered kid screamed it best: "Here's your fucking PATRIOT Act!" And this is what they are willing to do with cameras and witnesses! Think about it.

Mood: Disgusted and Dissappointed.

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The Return of the Cold War

Posted on 2006-11-20 at 08:18

It appears that old Cold War spies must continue with caution as their are still those who would see them dead.

In short, he was researching the death of someone else killed for speaking too critically of Putin's Russia and found himself the recipient of an old-fashioned James Bond style poisoning in his cocktail. He has survived (so far) but remains in serious condition in the hospital.

I am both shocked that old KGB operatives are still getting poisoned and oddly comforted that such things are still happening in a world where the enemies are barely recognizable. Is it wrong to be just a little happy that, just as when I was a Cold War Kid, I can understand the nature of the crime? Dude pissed off the Russian president. Dude got poisoned! It's almost calmingly familiar---as international incidents go.

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The 2006 Election

Posted on 2006-11-08 at 08:51

It seems the Democrats overcame---albeit barely---their own innate desire to fail at everything to pull a marginal victory over the bruised, broken, and self-bloodied Republicans last night. They've taken the majority in the House. They've taken the majority in governerships. It looks like that might take the majority in the Senate as well. Still waiting on two states to report. If the Democrats take both, they will have a majority in the Senate as well:

Montana Senate
Updated: 6:58 a.m. ET
91% of precincts reporting
Dem Tester 174,045 49%
Rep Burns 172,302 48%
Lib Jones 9,131 3%

Virginia Senate
Updated: 5:54 a.m. ET
99% of precincts reporting
Dem Webb 1,170,564 50%
Rep Allen 1,162,717 49%
Ind Parker 26,048 1%

Of course, this margin would have been less thin had they not dicked Leiberman over in CT and forced him to run as an independent and therefore take a seat from the Dems. Seriously stupid.

"Hey we need every seat we can get to get something done. Let's piss off a sure victory so we have a harder time of things."

How ironic it will be if their own stupidity yet again screws them over.

I voted Democrat this time. I don't particularly consider myself a Dem or Rep, but I was pretty tired of the Republican brand of evil. Looks like I wasn't alone.

OK Democrats. We've given you control. Impress us.

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Too much gray

Posted on 2006-10-19 at 07:25

Starting with a quote from John Stuart Mill's On Liberty:

"The principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That is the only purpose for which power can be rightfully excersized over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."

So with that context in mind, a few questions:

I don't have answers, just questions. The world is a complex mess and it's not getting any easier.

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They've begun pouring in...

Posted on 2006-10-06 at 20:58

Did you hear about the congressman who lost his bookmark? He bent a page over.

What's the difference between the Library of Congress and Congress? The Library doesn't let you lick the pages.

Sure I'm going to hell for posting these jokes, but you're right behind me for laughing. Don't judge me! :-)

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Public Service Announcement

Posted on 2006-10-04 at 20:12

For those who weren't already aware, the deadline for registering to vote is fast coming (this Sunday in most states).

"But Tom," you say, "I've already registered to vote."

Yeah, but...umm...that doesn't matter. Thousands of people are mistakenly (I hope) removed from the rolls each year. Just make sure. There's an easy way to register. Takes like 5 minutes. Just go here and do it.

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That's not Good

Posted on 2006-10-02 at 21:21

"It has emerged that some of Mr Foley's behaviour was known about by senior Republican colleagues - including the party's leader in the House - for a number of months."

Read the rest here.

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Hugo Chavez Address to the United Nations

Posted on 2006-09-22 at 07:04

Hugo Chavez addressed the UN on my birthday (Sept 20th). You should read his address in full. In short, though, he makes some salient points. To wit:

And we must recall in this room that in just a few days there will be another anniversary. Thirty years will have passed from this other horrendous terrorist attack on the Cuban plane, where 73 innocents died, a Cubana de Aviacion airliner.

And where is the biggest terrorist of this continent who took the responsibility for blowing up the plane? He spent a few years in jail in Venezuela. Thanks to CIA and then government officials, he was allowed to escape, and he lives here in this country, protected by the government.

And he was convicted. He has confessed to his crime. But the U.S. government has double standards. It protects terrorism when it wants to.

And this is to say that Venezuela is fully committed to combating terrorism and violence. And we are one of the people who are fighting for peace.

Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist who is protected here. And other tremendously corrupt people who escaped from Venezuela are also living here under protection: a group that bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup. They kidnapped me and they were going to kill me, but I think God reached down and our people came out into the streets and the army was too, and so I'm here today.

But these people who led that coup are here today in this country protected by the American government. And I accuse the American government of protecting terrorists and of having a completely cynical discourse.

We can't fight any "War of Terrorism" without first being willing to amend our own ways in that regard. We currently finance a coup in Venezuela, but are those men we arm and rally terrorists or "Freedom Fighters". Are they the Righteous Few or Guns-For-Hire? If they are the Righteous Few or Freedom Fighters, is that what we called Osama Bin Laden when he was on the CIA payroll fighting in a US Military-funded coup? If it's different, explain how?

The whole mess stinks of deceipt and I'm chagrined to be a tertiary part of it. Should we go after those who attack us? Of course, but we should also be asking ourselves why we were attacked and if we may have earned that anger toward us. We should be leading as a bright example of what a Democratic Republic can be, not goosestepping down an Orwellian path.

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McCain, Warner, and Graham defy Presidential wishes

Posted on 2006-09-15 at 08:07

Four Republican senators sided with Democrats on the Armed Services Committee in a vote rejecting legislation to set up trials for foreign terrorism suspects that would break Geneva Convention rules.

The Armed Services Committee voted to back a more reasonable bill in a 15-9 split. President Bush vows to block the measure should it come to his desk.

Even ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell has joined to fray in a move that seems to have surprised the White House. He wrote a letter stating that this measure would redefine Geneva Conventions and consequeently put US troops at risk. Continuing, Powell wrote, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

In short, the new measure would have granted Guantanamo tribunals the right to use evidence gained through coercive means, such as torture, and to keep secret certain elements of prosecutorial cases from those being accused. The four Republican Senators who opposed the measure---including three prominent members (McCain (R-AZ), Warner (R-VA), and Graham (R-SC))---voted instead for a version that would provide for fairer trials.

On a more personal note, I've been saying for a couple of months now that while I actually like Senators Warner and Allen (our Senators here in VA) I would not vote for them solelyon the grounds that the Republicans have abused their position as senate majority and must be made a minority, even at the expense of Senators I like. News like this makes it hard to vote against Warner. It's not the first time he's made it clear that he would not vote along party lines. Perhaps he's one of the Republicans that should stay. I really don't know.

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Posted on 2006-06-15 at 08:32

"Why are you worried about the NSA tapping your phone unless you've done something wrong?"

We've all heard that line trotted out. Some of you have even used it from time to time. So what's wrong with the logic?

Underlying it is the implication that privacy is about concealing a wrong-doing. Not so. It's my right to be private. It's my perogative to wall my personal life off from those to whom I don't want to share. I haven't done anything wrong in changing my clothes or when I am talking about personal troubles with a friend, but I damn sure want privacy when I do it!

The real question is, "Since when did you assume it was anyone's business what I do in my private moments?"

Is security your concern? Then you are a pursy, weak, pathetic little person. To turn and cower in the face of terrorism is to betray the worst sort of personal failure---frailty in the face of personal trial. You are as those germans who turned a blind eye to the Jewish holocaust out of fear that you might be next if you speak up! ("OH NO! He compared us to the Nazi youth!") Hell, at least those people's fears were grounded in reality, whereas yours has no basis more reliable than your own martyr fantasy. You would give up all the most real parts of being American in priciple for the sake of maintaining sovreignty so you can be an American in namesake only? Yours is the sickest sort of weakness. The sort born from fear and hate and carried forward by the will you abdicated to your leaders the first time you drank their special brand of Kool Aid. Give me a gun and my Bill of Rights. I'll defend them on my own if I must...even against you.

This rant is done now. Continue with your day. Have some fresh lemonaid on the way out.

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Videos to watch

Posted on 2006-06-02 at 08:01

I was telling someone about John Stewart on Crossfire and Stephen Colbert's recent attacks on the President and the Press. Mostly, these are here to make it easy for him to find them. Also, if you haven't seen either of them, do so now.

I normally embed video from Google Video (cuz I know it works well), so if the above embedded video of Stephen Colbert doesn't work right for you for whatever reason you can watch Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner here.

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The Internet stole my outrage

Posted on 2006-05-26 at 08:26

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed... I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war. - Dwight D Eisenhower

The late 60's were a time of upheaval. The country was awash in the phrases of the time like "Operation Dewey Canyon" and the "Tet Offensive" and "Prague Spring" and "Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.". The world was in trouble. So what did we do?

Americans took to the streets. They protested. They fought. They cried. They shed blood and tears and they failed and they succeeded in countless small battles. They did it because the world needed fixing.

The world needs fixing again, but instead of taking to the streets, we've taken to the Internet. Site after site pops up decrying the President and his hijacked war. We complain about government corruption that has reached heights that would make President Nixon blush. We pass around videos of the few people who stand up to him. We blog angrily about the evils this administration has visited upoin us. We vent outrage at watching more of our personal human rights blindly granted to corporations and callously taken from us. We hate and we seeth and we watch the news with bug-eyed incredulity. And we do nothing.

I read recently that we do nothing becuase we are self absorbed as a culture---that we are too busy picking our favorite American Idol and commiserating with Britney's marital issues to worry about such things and Life, Liberty, and our ability to Pursue Happiness. But I don't believe that. I see the outrage and hate and dissappointment every day. This isn't a community that has given up its moral compass just yet. So why don't we see what we saw in the late 60's? Why don't we see people choking the streets in protest, swarming their congressmen at their offices and on the steps of Capitol Hill with questions and demands? Why don't we see people doing something about all this anger?

The Internet. Why bus up to Washington D.C. to complain when we can send a angry email? Why clog the roads with a thousand person sit-in when we can include millions with an online petition? Why bother with physical confrontation when we can spam our representatives with our views? The Internet stole our collective outrage. What once would have had us rising up to storm our leaders in indignation now drives us to our computers to send harsh messages out with closers like "If you feel as I do, then it is your patriotic duty to forward this message to everyone in your contact list!"

The Internet is a great thing---the Great Equalizer for the distribution of knowledge---but it is not a forum for real protest. In our zealousness to embrace all things e- or i- we have forgotten just how formidible a presence 1500 people can be when they are staring you dead in your real-life eyeballs. That makes an impression! That gets the attention of our representatives! That changes things! That matters! Your spunky missive from "An6ry-dood@aol.com" is dismissed with a click. Your face 2 inches from the face of the representative that betrayed your trust cannot be so easily dismissed or forgotten.

I'll end this entry as I began it---with a quote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

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Senator Clinton, that was damn...good?

Posted on 2006-05-11 at 11:09

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has introduced a bill that proposes to link congressional pay with the minimum wage.

No, Our Senators would not suddenly make minimum wage. Nope. This one goes the other way. Firstly, minimum wage is raised to just over $7/hour, and secondly, whenever Congress gives itself a raise, so to does the minimum wage rise.

[The Minimum wage] shall be automatically increased for the year involved by a percentage equal to the percentage by which the annual rate of pay for Members of Congress increased for such year.

Surprisingly, that is just about the entire contents of the proposed legislation! Clean and direct. If you raise Congress's pay by 10%, you have to raise the minimum wage by 10%.

I know it's fairly common to dislike her, but if you do, ask yourself why? Think about it for a minute. Are your reasons sound? Are they clear and direct? Are they based in logic or emotion? Whatever you think of her, what do you think of this idea she has proposed? I have a history of disliking her, but I wonder if it was well founded.

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Captain America versus the Patriot Act and President Bush

Posted on 2006-05-04 at 08:42

Captain America says that our President is an asshole. From the article:

Captain America is about to battle his most fearsome foe yet: The government of the United States.

Today, Marvel Comics is releasing the first in its miniseries Civil War, which can only be described as a gutsy comic-book series focusing on the whole debate over homeland security and tighter government controls in the name of public safety.

The seven-issue series once again puts superheroes right back in the thick of real-world news, just as DC Comics has Batman battling al-Qaeda in a soon-to-appear comic and Marvel's X-Men continue to explore themes of public intolerance and discrimination.

It also recalls the plotline during the Watergate years when Captain America's alterego, disillusioned by White House politics, stopped donning the patriotic costume.

But with Civil War, hero is pitted against hero in the choice of whether or not to side with the government, as issues ranging from a Guantanamo-like prison camp for superheroes, embedded reporters and the power of media all play in the mix.

A bit of a long quote, but the story is just too interesting to me.

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The REAL ID Act of 2005

Posted on 2006-05-03 at 07:52

The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005---attached to one of those military appropriations bills that couldn't be turned down. It requires that all states adhere to a federal minimum standards with respect to the issuance and make of legal ID's (like your driver's license. Such federal minimums as biometrics, SSN, and personally-detailed microchips have been discussed.

The part that is interesting, however, is the state-level alternative. States that don't comply may find that their citizens will need a passport (a federally issued ID) to fly domestically. Perhaps you recall the old Soviet reference "Show me your papers."

Here's the fun part. If all the states comply, we'll never notice the new restriction on movement. But if even one state bucks the new system, then there will be a state where travelling in and out will require a federal ID.

Let's all raise a glass in the hopes that at least one state has the fortitude to say No.

Oh, and in case you think I'm making it up, you should read this article about the REAL ID Act and this site by the ACLU that talks about the problems with the REAL ID.

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Communist China's first international religious gathering

Posted on 2006-04-13 at 08:18

Buddhist monks and scholars from all over the world are in Hangzhou, China for a Buddhist conference and forum.

China has about 100 million Buddhists and China hopes that the World Buddhist Forum will begin the smooth relations between the religion population and the formally atheist communist party. Additionally, China hopes that the conference will help to repair its reputation in the world as a place of religious intolerance.

Undercutting those agendii, the Dalai Lama---the spiritual leader of the Buddhists---was not invited to attend. China regard him as a dissenting voice and a potentially disruptive attendee. Qi Xiaofei, vice-director of the state administration for religious affairs, explained, "The Dalai Lama is not only a religious figure, but is also a long-time stubborn secessionist who has tried to split his Chinese motherland and break the unity among different ethnic groups."

Currently worship is permitted only through state-run organizations. Loyalty to religious groups outside those state-controlled organizations is often punished. In the case of Buddhism, the state has appointed Gyaltsen Norbu as the Panchen Lama---the second most signifigant Buddhist title behind the Dalai Lama---even though the Dalai Lama has already appointed his own Panchen Lama. Gyaltsen Norbu is in attendence at the World Buddhist forum as the figurehead for Chinese official Buddhism. Some reports suggest that the other Buddhists in attendence are shunning the state-appointed Lama.

China's President Hu Jintao will be visiting Washington next week, and there exists some speculation that this conference is partly an attempt to ease relations for that trip.

It seems that religion has not lost its efficacy in the modern world when a government so powerful as China fears it so much as to squelch its practice and when a government so powerful as the United States fears it so much as to take up its causes against all reason.

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President Bush is a liar

Posted on 2006-04-07 at 21:19

From a speech President Bush gave yesterday to a North Carolina Audience:

When the president says something, he better mean what he says. [...] In order to be effective, in order to maintain credibility, words have got to mean something. You just can't say things in the job I'm in and not mean what you say.

From a press conference President Bush gave in 2003 concerning the CIA agent leak:

If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action

From the mouth of the White House Spokesman, Scott McClellan, at the time:

If anyone in this administration was involved in it (the CIA leak), they would no longer be in this administration.

After Scooter Libby testified that it was President Bush himself---not an unknown member of the administration or even a known intermediary---who purposefully leaked the information that endangered the lives of or CIA operatives in the field to harm one politic opponent, The White House, via its mouthpiece Scott McClellan again, asserted the president's right to selectively declassify information, with McClellan noting the difference between leaks that can compromise national security and a president's decision to declassify information "when it is in the public interest." He continued by suggesting that Democrats who fail to recognize that distinction are "engaging in crass politics."

Where are the republicans with a backbone? Where are the members of his party who are willing to stand up and say "You've crossed the line"?

If former President Clinton had been caught doing half the things this president has been proved to do (not counting those things for which the jury is---literally---still out), congress would have put forth a motion that he be put in the stockade! So much for consistency. And I defended those guys during the Clinton trials. I said that if the shoe were on the other foot, the Republicans would do the right thing. I was wrong. It won't happen twice.

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Freenet, Liberty, and Obscurity

Posted on 2006-04-06 at 07:30

The Freenet Project has released Freenet version 0.7 Alpha 1. To quote their own release notes:

Freenet 0.7 represents a major new approach to peer-to-peer network design. To protect the network, and the user's anonymity, Freenet users will now have the ability to connect directly to other people that they know and trust, together forming a "global darknet" making it extremely difficult for any third party, whether a government or another powerful organisation, to determine that a user is participating in Freenet, let alone what they are doing with it.

It's as I said on slashdot, though: I'd rather be free by liberty and than free by obscurity. To quote Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost:

This place our dungeon, not our safe retreat
Beyond his potent arm, to live exempt
From Heaven's high jurisdiction, in new league
Banded against his throne, but to remain
In strictest bondage, though thus far removed,
Under th' inevitable curb, reserved
His captive multitude.
Paradise Lost, Book II, Lines 317-323

Fighting from our dark places isn't really going to win this battle for Freedom. I appreciate what Freenet is doing. It's securing our fallback position. We need that, but we need more a willingness on the part of our citizenry to take the fight to the day-lit streets of the Mall in Washington D.C.

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It comes to about $0.50 per voter

Posted on 2006-04-03 at 21:08

The state of Arizona has placed an initiative on the ballot to offer a lottery-like reward for voting. In short, each person who votes would get a chance to win the $1,000,000.00 award doled out every two years. The money will come from the Arizona Lottery and private donations.

I don't have any comment on this, really, but I found it interesting.

On the same referendum: A property tax rollback, an anti-homosexual marriage law, the elimination of plea bargains, and a recall of an elected official. I also have no comment about any of that...because each one speaks for itself.

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Government Evils Not To Be Forgotten

Posted on 2006-03-30 at 07:30

MKULTRA
In December 1974, The New York Times reported that the CIA had conducted illegal domestic activities, including experiments on U.S. citizens, during the 1960s. That report prompted investigations by both the U.S. Congress (in the form of the Church Committee) and a presidential commission (known as the Rockefeller Commission) into the domestic activities of the CIA, the FBI, and intelligence-related agencies of the military.

In the summer of 1975, congressional hearings and the Rockefeller Commission report revealed to the public for the first time that the CIA and the DOD had conducted experiments on both cognizant and unwitting human subjects as part of an extensive program to influence and control human behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and mescaline and other chemical, biological, and psychological means. They also revealed that at least one subject had died after administration of LSD.

Following the recommendations of the Church Committee, President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued the first Executive Order on Intelligence Activities which, among other things, prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject" and in accordance with the guidelines issued by the National Commission. Subsequent orders by Presidents Carter and Reagan expanded the directive to apply to any human experimentation.

COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) is a program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the formal COINTELPRO operations of 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against organizations that were (at the time) considered to have politically radical elements, ranging from those whose stated goal was the violent overthrow of the US government (such as the Weathermen) to non-violent civil rights groups such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference to racist and segregationist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The founding document of COINTELPRO directed FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these dissident movements and their leaders.

How did they go about acheiving their stated goals? Good question.

Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents. As an example of infiltration of organizations, Bill Wilkinson, the leader of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was an FBI informant. I'm no fan of the KKK, but it perfectly illustrates the point.

Psychological warfare from the outside: The FBI and police used myriad other "dirty tricks" to undermine these movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists. An example of COINTELPRO's work in the media is a series of articles run in the San Francisco Examiner purporting to be interviews with radical Marxist H. Bruce Franklin. A subsequent libel suit showed that right-wing columnist Ed Montgomery had cooperated closely with the FBI in writing the story, and that J. Edgar Hoover had signed off on the articles before publication. In another example, the FBI also carried out a smear campaign against civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo after she was murdered by four Ku Klux Klan members, of whom one was a paid FBI informant.

Harassment through the legal system: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, "investigative" interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.

Break-ins: The FBI conducted "black bag" jobs against the targeted groups and their members. Read this part of the COINTELPRO report fopr more details.

Extralegal force and violence: The FBI instigated violence, and its paid informants carried out assaults, beatings, and, in many cases, murders.[6] (Glick, War at Home). An example of a burglary is discussed here. An example of involvement in violent acts is the 1965 murder of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo by four Klansmen, of whom one was FBI informant Gary Rowe. The Church Committee also found that, "while performing duties paid for by the Government, [Rowe] had ... 'beaten people severely, had boarded buses and kicked people, had [gone] into restaurants and beaten them [blacks] with blackjacks, chains, pistols.'". Another example noted by the Church Committee was "Sending an anonymous letter to the leader of a Chicago street gang (described as 'violence-prone') stating that the Black Panthers were supposed to have 'a hit out for you'. The letter was suggested because it 'may intensify . . . animosity' and cause the street gang leader to 'take retaliatory action'".

See Book III of the SUPPLEMENTARY DETAILED STAFF REPORTS ON INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS for more details on this project.

So what ever came of the investigation of COINTELPRO? Would you be shocked to learn that the answer is Nothing? So much for an accountable government.

The Massacre at Ruby Ridge
After 16 months of surveillance of the Weaver property in preparation for an arrest, A Deputy Director of the Special Operations Group of the Marshals Service recommended against a tactical assault on the Weaver compound and his recommendation that the indictment be dismissed and then refiled later under seal, so Weaver would be unaware of the new indictment. This was in hope that it would cause Weaver to drop his guard. His recomendation was not passed on, and on August 21, 1992, several well-armed US Marshals went to the Weaver property to clandestinely survey it. The group had strict orders that they were to avoid all contact with the Weaver family. According to a Department of Justice report on the incident, the Marshals were detected by the Weavers' dogs and began to retreat. Randy Weaver, his 14-year-old son Sam and his house guest, family friend Kevin Harris, left the house to investigate, all carrying firearms. The DOJ report corroborates this with a statement dictated by Randy Weaver to his daughter, in which he says that "Approximately 11:30 Friday morning....the dogs started barking like they always do when strangers walk up the driveway. Randy, Kevin, and Sam ran out to the rock with their weapons." Eventually the Marshals stopped retreating and took up defensive positions in the woods.

The sequence of events during the ensuing shootout is disputed, with Weaver and Harris saying that the Marshals fired first and did not identify themselves. The Marshals' version of events is they were fired on first after identifying themselves. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, Sam was fatally shot in the back and Harris shot and killed a U.S. Marshal by the name of William Degan.

The next day, an FBI sniper named Lon Horiuchi shot and wounded Weaver while Weaver, Harris, and Weaver's 16-year-old daughter were outside, attempting to visit the dead body of Sam Weaver, which was placed in a shed after being recovered the previous day. As the three people ran back to the house, Horiuchi fired again in an attempt to shoot Kevin Harris, but the shot went through the open door of the cabin killing Weaver's wife Vicki, and only wounding Harris. Vicki Weaver was holding a baby in her hands when shot. Much controversy was later generated by the fact that, after the first day's events, the FBI had changed the rules of engagement. Specifically, that "deadly force could be used against any armed adult male if the shot could be taken without a child being injured."

A stand-off ensued for ten days as several hundred federal agents surrounded the house, in which Weaver and his three surviving children remained with Harris and the dead body of Vicki Weaver. The FBI engaged in psychological warfare, saying over a bullhorn such things as “Good morning Mrs. Weaver,” “We had pancakes this morning. And what did you have for breakfast? Why don't you send your children out for some pancakes, Mrs. Weaver?”. The FBI later maintained that they were unaware that Vicki Weaver lay on the floor of the cabin, dead. This is in conflict with standard procedures by which snipers record the placement of each shot which they take; the level of accuracy reflected by this procedure would mean that Horiuchi knew exactly where his bullet had gone and also that he had intentionally fired at Vicky Weaver.

The Massacre at Waco
On February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) raided the Branch Davidian ranch at Mount Carmel, a rural area near Waco, Texas. The raid resulted in the deaths of four agents and five Davidians. The subsequent 51-day siege by the FBI ended on April 19 when the compound was completely consumed by fire killing seventy-six people, including the Davidian leader David Koresh.

On the morning the raid occured, the Davidians were lying in wait for the ATF agents to arrive. Koresh's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, testified at the civil trial that Koresh told his people, "Don't shoot until I give the order!" Davidian survivors reported that they rushed to take guns out after they were tipped off about the impending raid. One Davidian, who was an attorney known to local law enforcement, phoned the McLennan county sheriff's department to ask why the agents were shooting at them. The resident asked for a cease-fire, and audiotapes clearly caught him saying "Here they come again!" in reference to the helicopters, and "That's them shooting, that's not us!" The sheriff, in audiotapes broadcast after the incident, said he was not apprised of the raid and did not know how to contact the ATF agents involved. They shouted to television news crews to use their cellular phones to call for ambulances.

What does this mean?
It means just what you think it means. When you put people in positions of power you must keep a close eye on them. This sort of power breeds corruption of the most heinous sort. But instead of moving toward a society where we are seeing a more open government, we are moving toward a society that accepts a black-box governmental process. Our current administration has been found to be illegally spying on the citizens of this country. What is the reaction of the people in power? They want to change the laws so he can continue. Whaaaa? The USAPATRIOT Act was renewed again. Whaaa? The populus accepts all this in the name of the War on Terror. Whaaa?

I'm disgusted.

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On Being Human and the Art of the Bitch Slap

Posted on 2006-03-21 at 08:10

What is with people who don't want to help others?

I understand not wanting to help them in the wrong way. I get that. My familial history drove that point deep into my skull years ago. But at all?!?

What is it that makes a human being lose that most basic drive---empathy? What emotional callouses allows a person look at the suffering of others and say "I'm cool with that"?

Sometimes I wish I could be given special dispensation to bitch slap those who need it. It might help.

The Iraqis had it coming! *bitch slap*. Who cares about runaways? *bitch slap*. Poor people are only poor because they are lazy. *bitch slap*. Inmates brought it on themselves, so I don't care if the conditions in our prisons are bad. *bitch slap*. Rascism is gone and black people need to get over what happened 300 years ago. *bitch slap*.

Yes, I think the bitch slap is a form on immediate punishment that should be reinstituted; a sort of Ike Turner style justice of the street. It seems to me that it would work wonders. People wouldn't say as much insensitive, ignorant crap if they thought there was a chance that they might get a red faced smack down over it. I mean, if it's good enough for the Submariner:

But I'm not the policy maker. Perhaps I should write my Senators and Congresscritter....

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Who's watching me?

Posted on 2006-03-02 at 08:44

I just found out that I got over 50 hits on my blog from the Department of Homeland Security. Since I don't want their idle web surfing to be in vain I'm including a link to the wikipedia article on Pipe Bombs.

Ohhhh! I'm so counter-culture and revolutionary. Now back to my sick bed where I will enjoy my breakfast of an ice cream sandwich and a hot coffee.

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Senior Party Leaders Join Battle Against Chinese Censorship

Posted on 2006-02-14 at 12:32

Several former senior Communist party officials have attacked the chinese government's decision to shut down the "Freezing Point" section of the China Youth Daily. Citing history as proof, they said in a jointly signed open letter:

"History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance."

The letter, signed on February 2nd but publicly released on February 14th, includes the signatures of several senior party leaders, including Li Rui, a former aide to Chairman Mao; Hu Jiwei, the former editor of People's Daily, the Communist party's official news outlet; and Zhu Houze, a ranking official formerly employed in the Communist party's Propaganda Department that is directly responsible for the offense.

Just in the last few months, Chinese censors have gone after editors of three prominent news outlets; the Beijing News, Southern Metropolitan Daily and the Public Welfare Times.

But keeping the news under such tight control may not be an option for much longer. Li Datong, the editor at China Youth Daily, a newspaper that targets China's Communist party youth, snapped back at the censors:

"Chinese society's expections of the media are growing, and demands for free speech are spreading---that simply can't be reversed, even if you shut down this or that newspaper."

So what does this mean for Americans? What does this mean for you and I? I don't know, but here are some questions worth considering.

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My Name Is Tom and I'm a Welfare Addict

Posted on 2006-02-10 at 22:06

Over a period of about five years, Reagan told the story of the "Chicago welfare queen" who had 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and collected benefits for "four nonexisting deceased husbands," bilking the government out of "over $150,000. (quoted from The Washington Monthly Mendacity Index)

Reagan's claims have since been discredited, and his facts disputed. I am here to stand by Reagan and his claim. Why am I so certain he was right? Because my name is Tom, and I am a Welfare Addict.

It all began in 1998. I had no problems prior to getting a good job. Sure, I was broke. Sure, I needed the help. But I just wasn't yet well-off enough to warrant help. Those were the halcyon days!

In August of 1998, I started my first well-paying job. Within two weeks I was shaking from my first paycheck rush and within three weeks, I'd already gone to a professional money manager. I needed more. I needed it bad.

I started small. A 401k here, a business dinner there. Soon, I was moving on to harder stuff. Self-incorporation, mortgage write-offs, you name it and I was getting the government to give it to me for free. I was making so much money, the IRS was only too happy to supply me with a steady stream of write-offs to feed my growing welfare habit.

Right about now, you are saying to yourself, "Self," cuz that's what you call you, "Self, What this Tom guy is talking about has a name and it isn't welfare. It's tax exemptions." Right. That's how they hook you! Change the name. If you don't call it "crack" maybe people who've been warned away from crack won't think twice about smoking what you're offering. I knew welfare was bad. I didn't know these things were welfare.

Hey, I could be worse. I understand there are some addicts out more hooked than I. The Donald (That's "Trump" if you happen to have shared a cave with Osama for the last decade) accepts all sorts of givernment money. His addiction goes far beyond tax welfarte and deep into direct cash infusions. I get that. If I were that rich, I be seduced by the allure of the greater monetary high as well. A new federal highway bill contains $37 million for widening and extending the road in Bentonville, Arkansas that is the main access point to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Do they need it? Well, "need" is a tricky word. OK, so last year, Wal-Mart made $20,000 profit every minute of every day for a total of $10.3 billion dollars in the year. But is "need" really about such base things as "necessity"? Of course not. Walmart is an addict for the government juice. Sure, Walmart maybe should pay to widen their own private road if it needs widening, but how would they satisfy their craving for more free money? The list goes on. Just ask Amtrac about it. Ask the Forest Service about their timber operations in the Tongass.

But be warned. You don't need to be The Donald or Walmart to get hooked on the heavy stuff. Look at the Outer Banks. All those middle class taxpayers. They lose their pretty waterfront homes each year. And just where do you think the money to rebuild comes from? That's right, welfare. The government takes a couple hundred a year for insurance, and pays out far more in damages. Why? Because welfare is a powerful drug and it hooks us. And as long as we are hooked, we stay loyal to our pushers. ADM pays every politician egregious amounts of money for legal favors. Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter. What matters is that they are hooked on the welfare flow. Keep giving them those "free" public funds and they'll do whatever is needed to make it happen.

I'm not proud of the business dinners and the "company" laptop and the fact that I'm probably not gonna pay one red cent in taxes this season (yes you heard that right...six-figure income, not one penny in taxes). But don't cry for me. Cry for those poor people who are just about to get a good job and get hooked on the government welfare. And while you're at it, pray for them, that they might stay poor, where the government doesn't offer a single dime of real support. Pray that they can stay in that state of prelapsarian naivety.

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Will the United States lose out to China and India?

Posted on 2006-01-26 at 20:08

We've all heard to claim.

The U.S. is slowing down on the science and technology track and China and India are nipping at our heels.

The reasons cited are numerous, but often boiled down to a few basic points. While other countries are steadily reducing rural anti-intellectualism, America is slowly being taking over by zealots who would rather the bible be our only science text book. Additionally, China and India are putting out many more engineers than the U.S. Our jobs are leaving our shores and going overseas where all these (inexpensive!) engineers dwell. And besides, isn't the Unites States showing all the signs of Roman decay and lethargy?

All these reasons are plausible, but are they true?

I submit that these perfectly plausible reasons do not represent the unfair reality of the situation.

Looking closer at America's anti-intellectual movement (as typified by those who deny such things as evolution and global warming), we can see that while these people may have the attention of the media, they do not have the attention of the researchers and developers of the country, including those funded by the government. If we set aside the media hype about fundamentalists running the country and just look at the numbers, the picture is quite different. The amount of money the U.S. spends on research is staggering. According to UNESCO's 2005 Report on Science and Technology Statistics, China spends about 1.23% of it's GDP on R&D. In the US, we spend 2.67% of ours on R&D and we have a much higher GDP. In an apples-to-apples comparison, China spends $72,014,408,000 in adjusted (ie standardized) currency on R&D (a lot to be sure), but in the U.S. we spend $275,095,956,000. If we rounded down to the nearest 100 billion dollars the rounded amount we drop would be more than China spends in total. And it's a snowball effect. We make advances in-country and those advances bring us both profit and more advances more quickly. It's hard to compete with that. China (a country I have a great affection for!) can't just throw bodies at that problem to see it solved. They simply cannot muster the technological resources to stand toe-to-toe with us in that way, and by the time they get to where we are now, we will have advanced significantly.

They don't fare much better when we look at other numbers as well. Let me start with the numbers you'll hear most often. The U.S. graduated 70,000 engineers in 2004, but China graduated 600,000 and India graduated 350,000 in the same period. Sounds dire until you hear the rest of the story. To hear the full story, we had to wait for Duke University to finish their report entitled "Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate: Placing the United States on a Level Playing Field with China and India." Rather than poorly paraphrase the conclusion of the report, I'll quote it:

Our study has determined that these are inappropriate comparisons. These massive numbers of Indian and Chinese engineering graduates include not only four-year degrees, but also three-year training programs and diploma holders. These numbers have been compared against the annual production of accredited four-year engineering degrees in the United States. In addition to the lack of nuanced analysis around the type of graduates (transactional or dynamic) and quality of degrees being awarded, these articles also tend not to ground the numbers in the larger demographics of each country. A comparison of like-to-like data suggests that the U.S. produces a highly significant number of engineers, computer scientists and information technology specialists, and remains competitive in global markets.

In other words, these numbers that are compared head-to-head really aren't head-to-head data. Our engineers are held to a standard. We have a clear definiton of Engineer, we know what a minimum educational level should be, and we know a minimum school accredidation should be. China and India cannot say the same. Moreover, even if you accept the higher raw numbers of engineers, the number per capita favors the U.S. The report suggests that per every one million citizens, the United States is producing roughly 750 technology specialists, compared with 500 in China and 200 in India. Of those that China and India count, many come from diploma, not degree, programs. Many are little more than copy machine repair techs (technically an engineer by some standards) whereas the U.S. does not use as loose a definition.

I'd refute the outsourcing claim, but anyone who has actually worked with these outsourcing outfits understands all too well the problems with that option.

So are we going to fall behind? In truth, I admit I wish I could say the world will be a fair place where hard work and dedication will see these others join us as leaders of the technolgoy community, but the world isn't fair. The world is no respecter of diligence or equity. The race is long, and I'm not saying we are garuanteed to win, but I am saying that at this point the race is rigged by circumstance to favor us...greatly! Unfair? Yeah, it is. Sadly, the most the international community can realistically hope for is that the U.S. becomes a nation that respects the rest of the world and seeks to lift others up rather than knock them down. As Spider Man's Uncle Ben once said, "With great power comes great responsiblity." Well, we have the power? Are we going to act responsibly or keep on as we have been?

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Considering the success of the Intelligent Design push...

Posted on 2005-12-31 at 13:46

The state senate is considering expanding the initiative to the periodic table:

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The Good News About War

Posted on 2005-10-17 at 08:01

According to the Human Security Report funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, war has dramatically decreased in both frequency and intensity since the end of the Cold War.

The number of conflicts has fallen by more than 40% in the past 13 years, and the number of very deadly wars has dropped by 80%! The average deaths per conflict has fallen from 38,000 in 1950 to just over 600 in 2002. It's 600 too many, but a great deal better than we've ever done in the past.

Indeed, though it's popular (and justified) to lament the situation in Iraq, it's worth noting that the big players (such as the U.S., China, and the UK) have gone longer without fighting a war between each other than they have in hundreds of years.

For the "Just the Facts Ma'am" crowd, here are the numbers.

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My congresscritter sucks

Posted on 2005-08-01 at 08:02

Thelma Drake is an asshat. Look what she had to say about the USAPATRIOT Act. This idiot actually believes that the PATRIOT Act protects our rights rather than limits them. Make sure you know who she is getting her graft from as well. I don't know if her stupidity is congenital, developmental, or accidental, but it's getting on my last nerve that she is in Washington to represent us.

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Creating a dynasty

Posted on 2005-06-16 at 08:01

I don't care which side of the political fence you are on, this is simply wrong! In short, it's a proposal in congress that seeks to repeal the 22nd amendment to the Constitution. In case you are unclear about what the 22nd Amendment is....

U.S. Constitution: Twenty-Second Amendment - Presidential Tenure

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2. This Article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

I've already written my congress-critters with my opinion on the subject. I think it's worth your time to do the same. You can't complain that they never do the Wil of the People if the people never make their will known.

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George Orwell, Writer (1903-1950)

Posted on 2005-03-24 at 08:03

"To imagine the future, imagine a boot stepping on a human face---forever."

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War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

Posted on 2005-02-24 at 08:01

Gator (now Claria) executive, D. Reed Freeman, has been appointed---are you sitting down?---to the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee of the Department of Homeland Security. Well, what do you expect from an agency that hired its own Chief Privacy Officer from Doubleclick? Seriously. Yes, seriously. I feel safer already.

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The FCC does, in fact, control all things...

Posted on 2004-11-17 at 08:03

...at least according to them. Now, hopefully, the EFF and others can convince a judge the FCC is wrong so that we can watch our damn TV without a robotic assistance there to prevent us from harming the industry.

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Gay Marriage

Posted on 2004-11-12 at 08:02

I was talking with someone about Gay Marriage recently. He knows that I am all for it. I see no reason to fret what two adult chose willingly to do as long as they aren't harming themselves or others. He suggested that it was near impossible to change to mind of someone who is against it, however. I told him I disagreed. You just have to know what sorts of things are important to someone opposed to Gay Marriage. It is not disingenous to point out that we should all worry (no matter our views on homosexuality) anytime the government steps in to tell our churches what they can and cannot do. There is room to agree here.

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The election

Posted on 2004-11-10 at 08:02

Just a quick note before I crawl back to my sick bed. The election has passed. Apparently people favor Bush. That surprised me and it disappointed me. Oh well. I can do four more years if I must. Just means I'll need to work harder to convince people of his mistakes in the interim.

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So now he does give a crap?

Posted on 2004-10-29 at 08:01

Apparently Eminem just caused a bit of a ruckus with a video he released today called "Mosh" (REAL|WMV). A quote from the song:

"Let the President answer on high anarchy/Strap him with an AK-47, let him go/Fight his own war/ Let him impress daddy that way/No more blood for oil, we got our battles to fight on our own soil,"

It's quite a departure from his detached don't-give-a-crap image. A visually interesting video too.

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Herman Goering, founder of the Gestapo and one of the main architects of Nazi Germany

Posted on 2004-10-01 at 08:01

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. [...] Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

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Do you want this kind of future?

Posted on 2004-09-02 at 08:01

I sure don't.

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Poor Moore Floored as More Proof is Poured.

Posted on 2004-08-05 at 08:01

Um, seriously, I think I made the right decision in abstaining from the Bash-Bush fest of F911. In case the full article goes away (links tend to do that), here is a local copy of the PDF summary. Really, the country does not need this sort of spin doctoring. Deceipt is deceipt and I don't like it no matter whose side the deceiver is on. Can't we do better than this? It's the OJ trial all over again. Why do people feel the need to frame a guilty man?

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I wrote Lee...

Posted on 2004-06-08 at 08:04

...and as expected good political debate ensued. I can't agree with him on many things, but I can't deny he does a good job of defending his points.

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Right o' Reagan

Posted on 2004-06-07 at 08:01

I saw Lee yesterday. I used to work with him at the schoolyard. Good guy, and as conservative as the day is long. Surely, he'd correct me and say, "Good guy because he's as conservative as the day is long". Anyway, I think I'll write him.

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Burning of the Houses of Parliament

Posted on 2004-05-29 at 08:03

Fires rise bringing smoke to fearful and
darkening skies which scream through choking smog
felling the highest gods in heaven with
the distorted flames of their reckless fury.
      The stone bridge watches yet never judges.

Crowds pulsate in throbbing abandon of
principles of kindness. The blood red beard
of conflagration and terror rages
the collective pulsing heart of spiteful
and petty men seeking liberation
amidst Chthonic storms. "Freedom," they cry,
while red tears wash away decades of filth
and oppression. Together at last for
chaos errands and pitfall dreams; their years
of preaching love left them solitary.
      The stone bridge watches yet never judges.

Yellow, orange, and bluish grays gild the
sky while sad and desperate men float on
hopes with dowsing droplets which the flames drink
haughtily. Paucities of faith and hope
and love are glaringly betrayed in the
crimson shade of an earthly apocalypse.
No trumpets blare now; only the clanging
and banging of screaming bells sound sharply
to the deaf ears of a panicked throng of
satyrs. Guilt still falls from a forgotten
firmament onto the heads of every
ordinary man among them. Drinking
from a goblet of insanity in
a feast of culpability hosted
by Mammon the dead hearted, they cry, "More!"
      The stone bridge watches yet never judges.

Who among them would betray the frantic
anarchy of disaster while buzzards
of revolution brought low the glory
of ancient houses, elder families,
and ruling scepters? Who among them would
resist quitting substance for pure shadow
when the shadow seemed to promise so much?
The din of alarm is slowly replaced
by the expanding moan of funeral
chorus rising from the damned mouths of men,
supplanting the screams for more with cries
of pity, regret, and indistinct shame.
After the fires, new houses are carved
from greater stones with greater craftsmanship
for greater glory. Elder families
resurface and smoke merely mates with clouds.
      The stone bridge watches yet never judges.

   -Tom Caudron
   -Inspired by the painting of the same name by Joseph Mallord William Turner

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So ironic it hurts my head

Posted on 2004-05-10 at 08:03

Sudan, a country that has not abolished slavery, is on the U.N. Human Rights watchdog panel. I mean, unilateral action is bad, sure, but is the United Nations really where we want national oversight to occur? This is a joke!

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The Left better find a new front man...

Posted on 2004-05-07 at 08:01

...cuz this one is kinda shady.

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The president is truly certain that his war in Iraq is a good thing

Posted on 2004-04-30 at 08:02

I don't know. Is this what the world is doomed to? The smartest people live lives full of doubt while the rest of the world's people go through life with absolute certainty in all things. The world isn't black and white, but so many people seem unwilling or unable to view it any other way. It really is bad news for us all if that's the case.

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Intellectual Property is a tool of the modernized, jackbooted thug

Posted on 2004-04-29 at 08:07

Our system of patents, trademarks, and copyrights was never designed for the uses to which our modern world is putting it. Many of us have been saying this for a long time. Thankfully, now it looks like someone important has taken notice:
"As a solution, the council recommended in its report that the patent office and Congress take seven steps to improve the patent system. Those steps include, among other things, hiring new patent examiners, creating a more open system for challenging questionable patents, and rejecting more patents on processes that are deemed to be "obvious" by people in the field." - quoted from Wired's article, New Study Urges Patent Upgrade.

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The government

Posted on 2004-03-19 at 08:03

The Transportation Security Administration (a division of Homeland Security) wants gullible passengers to hand over their privacy and in return they promise to make things go a little smoother for cooperative individuals when they travel.

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