Archive for June, 2006

Once again, it seems that the Bush Administration is using 9/11 to justify unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of Americans. This time, they’re looking at our financial transactions:

Since late 2001, the government of the United States has been running a program that lets intelligence officials search the international banking transactions of thousands of Americans.

Run through the CIA and the U.S. Treasury Department, the program examined financial records from an international banking co-operative known as Swift, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times first reported in their online editions Thursday night.

Swift, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a Belgium-based service that routes millions of messages from 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries.

Under the program, which was initiated shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. intelligence officials could search Swift’s database by entering names, said the New York Times report.

This is a huge coup for the Bushies. They love having access to all this information; it gives them more power and more control, and that’s what this is all about: Control. They want to keep tabs on us and make sure we aren’t doing anything they don’t approve of. Whatever happened to getting a warrant first? Whatever happened to probable cause?

This will be abused. It’s just a matter of time if it hasn’t happened already. Power corrupts and the more the Bush clan chases after absolute power, the more corrupt they become. They had plenty of power to hunt down terrorists before 9/11, they just didn’t use it. They were either asleep at the switch or they let it happen on purpose to bolster their foundering agenda. Bush was not considered a legitimate president by much of the nation on September 10th, 2001.

I swear, the more the Bush administration abuses the memory of 9/11 to gain more and more and more and more power for itself, the more I suspect that they were involved with the crime itself. How can they exploit 9/11 so shamelessly? Isn’t it suspicious that they leapt into action so quickly after 9/11 in an attempt to use it to fulfill their wishlist of unconstitutional powers, all assigned to the executive branch? So far, we’ve got the Patriot Act, the NSA wiretapping scandal and now the data mining of financial records. Am I forgetting a couple? Probably. Regardless, we have to watch these guys, and we have to consider the horrible possibility that we were attacked on 9/11 not just by Osama bin Laden, but also by our own government. It’s a horrifying thought, but knowing the Bush administration as I now do, I wouldn’t put it past them. They’ve already dragged us into a war in Iraq that has cost the lives of (hundreds of?) thousands of people.

White House officials quickly defended the program, saying it fell under the president’s emergency powers in his administration’s war on terror.

Question: Is there anything that doesn’t fall under the president’s supposed emergency powers? Seems to me that George is busy making himself emperor. You realize that this is how Rome turned from a democracy into an empire, right? Even if Bush has the purest of intentions (he doesn’t), this is a dangerous increase in his powers. Alberto Gonzalez basically told Congress that the president can do whatever he likes in a time of war. But that’s not what the constitution says. And how does that fit in with the fact that the War on Terrorism is so open-ended that it could go on forever? Doesn’t that result in a defacto dictatorship under Gonzalez’s interpretation? And wasn’t Gonzalez also arguing in favor of torture as a legitimate tool? How long before his administration starts using torture against political opponents? “Trust me,” they say. Fuck that. I’d sooner trust the devil himself.

White House officials lobbied the newspapers not to publicize the story, arguing it could jeopardize its effectiveness, said the New York Times. The story first appeared on the websites of the three newspapers on Thursday night.

Bill Keller, the New York Times’ executive editor, said the paper carefully considered the Bush administration’s argument, but decided it was in the public’s best interest to know.

No shit the White House would love to bury this story. Glad to see that they didn’t succeed.

This is just one more example of the Bush administrations fascism. They look at Congress the same way a teenage girl looks at a zit in her mirror. It’s something to be expunged, hidden, routed around, abused, hated, popped or outright destroyed. The Congress is the only thing standing between us and full blown dictatorship. Only problem is Congress is full of toadies and it’s controlled by Republicans who are also, conveniently, fascists. Congress as a whole has an approval rating slightly above rugburn: 23%.

That’s a mandate, if I’ve ever seen one; a mandate for change.

Will Congress act to challenge Bush’s usurpation of power? Of course not. That’s why we need to vote the bums out in November. But we’ve got to be mindful of the last couple elections and the fact that they were probably stolen. We cannot let them get away with that again. Do not let them call you a moonbat for insisting on fair elections. The polls clearly show that the people hate what the Republicans have done to the country. We must stand firm. And we can’t let the Democrats chicken out as usual, the weak-ass bitches. Neither party stands for us, but we’ve got a better chance with the Democrats, who are too weak to stand up to… anybody, really. Which means DKos has a shot. I’m not a Democrat, but I wish him the best of luck and I hope he takes control of the party away from the Vichy Democrats who are currently suckling at GW’s teat. Fuck party politics. Stand up for AMERICA!!

Looks like the FBI nabbed some potential terrorists. I wonder if the Bush administation will argue that we should let them go… that way they can blow up a building and GW’s approval ratings will go sky-high again.

I never understood that part. Why did Bush’s approval ratings “explode” right after 9/11? Clearly we weren’t thinking clearly. The Bush administation was supposed to be on guard, but they failed. And don’t get me started on the gaps and distortions in the official story.

This administration has been either evil or incompetent from the get-go. It’s time for a change.

Dick Cheney should be Indicted

I just finished watching the PBS Frontline documentary called The Dark Side, which focuses on Cheney’s role in manipulating intelligence to get us to declare war on Iraq. Cheney used intimidation and subtle applications of shadowy force to get his way.

From stories of Iraq buying yellowcake uranium from Niger to claims that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, “The Dark Side” dissects the now-familiar assertions that led the nation to war. The program also receounts [sic] the vice president’s unprecedented visits to the CIA, where he questioned mid-level analysts on their conclusions. CIA officers who were there at the time say the message was clear: Cheney wanted evidence that Iraq was a threat.

At the center of the administration’s case for war was a classified October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that found evidence of an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program. But Paul Pillar, one of the report’s principal authors, now admits to FRONTLINE that the NIE was written quickly in a highly politicized environment, one in which the decision to go to war had already been made. Pillar also reveals that he regrets participating in writing a subsequent public “white paper” on Iraqi WMD. “What was the purpose of it? The purpose was to strengthen the case for going to war with the American public. Is it proper for the intelligence community to publish papers for that purpose? I don’t think so, and I regret having had a role in it,” Pillar says.

Dick Cheney should be charged with violating his oath of office, impeached and removed from office. Thereafter he should be indicted for crimes against humanity in both international and national courts and — if the evidence truly supports it — convicted and sentenced to prison. I’m sure we can find some other crimes to charge him with as well, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. There probably is no crime that really fits what he did. We’ll have to create one and name it after him.

AOL just won't let you quit

Slashdot has a post about how AOL routinely and deliberately tries to screw its customers into continuing with the service, no matter how hard they try to cancel the service. This is news to no one who’s ever tried to quit AOL, of course. Just read the comments for more.

I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I (in desperation) signed up for AOL and then tried to quit. Of course, that was my plan the whole time. I didn’t want to pay for AOL so I tried to quit every month and every time they would give me a free month. Every now and then I forgot to cancel, but for the most part I used AOL as a dialup ISP for close to free. That’s a little judo technique for you.

When it came time to quit for real, I refused to take any more free months and demanded that they cancel my service. I can be a bit of a hardass, so it wasn’t hard for me. But if you’re “too nice” and trying to quit AOL you may need to build up a head of steam first. Just wait until you’ve had a really shitty day and everything is going wrong and you want to tear into somebody. Then just call up AOL and cancel. If you lose your cool, so much the better. Don’t let them fuck you. Be firm and demand your rights as a customer and don’t take “here’s a free month” for an answer!

America Online: where being a jerk is the only way to get them to treat you like a human being.

Sony Rootkit debacle continues

I never got a chance to blog about this as it was happening, back when my blog was a bitch to update, but I’ve always felt very strongly that this was a horrible, unforgiveable and unprecedented move on Sony’s part. What the fuck were they thinking?!

Who knows, but my man Greg over at Perfect Porridge was infected by the rootkit when he bought a Trey Anastasio CD (his first mistake – haha,… just kidding. I like Trey). This resulted in a reformatted harddrive and lots of emails to Sony support as he winded his way through the settlement process.
It’s been 230 days and he still hasn’t managed to get Sony to pony up the settlement in iTunes tracks. They’re trying to screw him into using Sony Connect, whatever the hell that is. Why should he use Sony’s store after Sony screwed him over royally? Head on over to PP and lend Greg some much needed support. Don’t give up man!

Salon has a new article about the NSA spying scandal (icky day pass thing required). It adds to earlier reports by whistleblower Mark Klein, and it includes the same type “secret room” that requires top secret access:

The details provided by the two former workers about the Bridgeton room bear the distinctive earmarks of an operation run by the National Security Agency, according to two intelligence experts with extensive knowledge of the NSA and its operations. In addition to the room’s high-tech security, those intelligence experts told Salon, the exhaustive vetting process AT&T workers were put through before being granted top-secret security clearance points to the NSA, an agency known as much for its intense secrecy as its technological sophistication.

“It was very hush-hush,” said one of the former AT&T workers. “We were told there was going to be some government personnel working in that room. We were told, ‘Do not try to speak to them. Do not hamper their work. Do not impede anything that they’re doing.'”

The importance of the Bridgeton facility is its role in managing the “common backbone” for all of AT&T’s Internet operations. According to one of the former workers, Bridgeton serves as the technical command center from which the company manages all the routers and circuits carrying the company’s domestic and international Internet traffic. Therefore, Bridgeton could be instrumental for conducting surveillance or collecting data.

They’re listening in on a backbone, so that means they’re catching a massive amount of internet traffic. It’s no doubt being filtered and entered into a database for later search and retrieval. Scary stuff. The government should not be allowed to do this without explicit congressional approval. But this is George Bush’s America, and he’s considered to be above the law by his allies. Personally, I think this is either insanity and paranoia or a deliberate step towards dictatorship and totalitarianism.

And it’s also the first day of summer, which means that the sun will set very late tonight. But it also means that we’re starting our long, slow slide into the abomination of winter. God, how I hate winter. But there are a few months of warmth left before the northern hemisphere freezes over again and frost and snow and death cover the wretched land. Aye, we should embrace these few warm months because the weather generally sucks up here in Minnesota, and winter seems to be longer than the other 3 seasons combined.

Up here in the north we like to say, “Winter is the best 7 months of the year!” (ironically) and then we go back to drinking, shivvering and wishing for a quick death. It’s safe to say that I wish I lived somewhere warmer, but MN has it’s charms. The mosquitos can’t survive in the winter, so at least while you’re freezing your ass off and cursing the 23.45 degree tilt of the earth’s axis you don’t have to worry about wind-borne, blood-sucking, disease-carrying parasites drinking your precious life-juice.

But I don’t just let the planet push me around (is a “no spin zone” possible on a planet that spins on it’s axis every 24 hours? Discuss.) like some insignificant lifeform living at the pleasure of a spherical host. Nay! I spray CFCs into the air like there’s no tomorrow. I drive an SUV big enough to fit a smaller SUV in the back seat (sideways). I light forest fires for no apparent reason! I’ve developed a tractor beam which slowly pulls the earth closer to the sun with each passing day! That’s right; I’ve encouraged global warming; nay, I created it!! Muhahahaaaaa!! Sweet, sweet warmth; you will be mine!!!! [/insanity]

Okay, I’m kidding, but I really do enjoy global warming. The winters are dramatically milder than they were when I was a kid, and I love it. Of course, there’s much less snow so it looks ugly as hell, but at least it doesn’t get below zero as much.

Anyway, enough winter-talk. I’m going to enjoy these last few months of warmth and sun before they’re gone. Pull yourself away from the computer and get outside if you can.

Scientology Sucks, part 2

Remember my post about Scientology about 4 posts ago? Well, the website I linked to has been taken down by Scientology’s lawyers. All that remains is a copy of the notice they were served with. Fucking pricks.

Luckily, somebody has mirrrored the original post here. Censorship fails again. Also, here’s the Digg article about the take down.

I’d like to send a big “fuck you” to the Scientologist leadership. You’re just making things worse for yourselves. To prove that, I would like to direct you to yet another site critical of Scientology: YTMND’s The Unfunny Truth. Oh, and don’t forget

All hail Xenu!… or we’ll sue you!!

Open Source movie — Elephants Dream

No, it’s not a movie about open source software; it’s a movie made (almost) completely with open source tools and on an open operating system (Ubuntu Linux). I just downloaded the movie and watched it and it’s stunning! The 3D graphics are amazing. These guys have really put some time and effort into creating a realistic world. Check it out for yourself. It’s called Elephants Dream.

Using free 3D graphics software called Blender, this crew of open source believers has created a work of art that I didn’t know was possible for “nobodies” to make. It looks like a big-studio, Hollywood production. The backgrounds, the character animation, the sound design — it’s all top notch. A wonderful achievement.

It’s about 10 minutes long, and I have no idea what the hell is going on plotwise (there are no elephants for one thing), but it looks and sounds gorgeous all the way through. Well worth the download!

Where's the harm in gay marriage?

Another great article from Rolling Stone, this one on gay marriage and how Republican attempts to split the electorate and rally their base may backfire this time (assuming the election isn’t fixed):

Indeed, Bush’s attack on same-sex marriage was so transparently political that even the nation’s most virulently anti-gay activists recognized the president’s insincerity. ”He’s some kind of demagogue without any core values whatsoever,” says the Rev. Fred Phelps, the reactionary, anti-homosexual crusader behind the infamous ”God Hates Fags” campaign. ”His only dominant value is expediency. He’s only doing this because he’s losing what core support he had, and anyone with half a brain can see it. He’s shameless.”

Being called a shameless demagogue by Fred Phelps? Damn, that’s gotta hurt. Of course, it’s sorta like being called a “partisan hack” by Tom DeLay, but still!

Personally, I’m shocked that Fred Phelps can speak. I thought he would drool, mostly, and rattle his chains while hissing at anyone who comes near him, rather like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. I think I’d still rather have dinner with Hannibal.

”The same rhetoric that’s being used today against the gay community was used then against interracial couples,” says Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor who elevated the struggle for marriage equality to the national stage by presiding over nearly 4,000 same-sex weddings in early 2004. ”Nothing has changed. It is the same playbook, and it is as shameful today as it was then.”

Yeah, when people talk about “traditional marriage”, what exactly do they mean? ‘Cause, traditional marriage, in my book, is arranged marriage, which was commonplace for centuries, and is still the norm in some countries. Is that what they’re harkening back to? Or are they saying that men should own their wives like property? ‘Cause that’s traditional marriage, too. Or maybe they just don’t want any black people marrying white women. I suppose they’re still bitter about that; which means they’re really pissed about two guys marrying each other.

Ah, social conservatives. They’re so fun to tweak. Their tiny brains explode at the slightest provocation. Heck, that’s half the fun, just watching them fume. It would be much more enjoyable if they stakes weren’t so high, however. The views of the social conservatives should not become the law of the land. If they don’t like it, it’s their problem. Accept responsibility, you whiney little brats. They’re so keen on personal responsibility until it’s their problem, then all of a sudden we’ve gotta get the government involved! Hypocrites.

”Homophobia is replacing the set of flag and race issues of a generation ago,” says Kevin Phillips, the one-time Nixon strategist who coined the term ”Southern Strategy” to describe the GOP’s leverage of racial prejudice to wrest the South from Democratic control. ”It’s the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

Basically, that is correct. Just as terrorism has now replaced communism as the new Fear-word, homophobia is the new cultural issue to replace racism. I don’t understand these people who insist upon being wrong all the time. Can’t you see which way the wind is blowing? Gay rights are the new civil rights. As a straight man, I want to be on the right side of this debate, even if I get called a fag-lover. Of course, there are plenty of racists, even today, but a lot of the old ones are dying off and being replaced with a new generation of kids that listen to hip hop and sees Jim Crow laws as ancient history.

When will everybody be free in America? I’m not interested in freedom just for white males who own land. I’m talking about every single person feeling that they have the freedom to conduct their lives as they see fit, no matter what gender, race or class they belong to. It’s a long, hard road, and we’re not there yet. But I hope one day we will be.

In a way, maybe we should thank George Bush and his cadre of neo-fascist goons. They are showing the world the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of their entire movement, and every day more people are waking up and saying, “hey, waitaminute — these guys are assholes! They’re not looking out for me; they just want power!”

Just to prove it, what is the right’s main argument against gay marriage? That it “destroys the sanctity of marriage,” right? Well, instead of a consitutional amendment, what they should do is sue a gay couple in civil court for monetary damages. Let’s put the onus on the gay-bashers to come up with a rubric that shows how having a gay couple in town causes actual, measurable financial or emotional harm. Let’s see it, bitches: Money talks, and bullshit walks.

Sorry Tom Cruise, but Scientology is just a stupid little cult with an amazingly bizarre creation myth. Check out the linked article for a hilarious Flash animation showing you the real creation myth of Scientology.

You will learn to fear Xenu, you puny thetan!

Isn’t it amazing how the creation myth for a religion started by a science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard, so closely resembles the plotline of a shitty science fiction novel? What an amazing coincidence!

It’s a little known fact that Dianetics was actually found crammed up L. Ron Hubbard’s ass, all in one piece; it just took 12 years to pry that fucker out.

Until next time, remember to fear the return of Xenu. He can scare the livin’ thetans right outa ya! And if John Travolta ever asks if you want to be audited…. RUN!!

Happy Weekend

Happy weekend, folks. Ain’t it great to have some time off from the saltmines? Unless you work on the weekends, that is. In that case, may your earthly overlords grant you mercy and let you off early on this fine summer day. As for me, I’m running around trying to get the things done that I couldn’t get done during the week. But tonight we rock. More later.