.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sumbawa Rediscovered

Sumbawa Rediscovered

Despite shrubya's onslaughts, science doesn't seem to be faring so poorly this year. First, they found new species in Indonesia; now they've uncovered a "lost kingdom" that was buried by a volcano.

Scientists announced today the discovery of a small "kingdom" on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa thought to have been obliterated by the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

The eruption of the volcano Tambora in 1815 killed 117,000 people in Southeast Asia, including those believed buried under ten feet (three meters) of pumice and ash in the recently discovered village.

The team, led by University of Rhode Island volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson, hailed the discovery as the "Pompeii of the East."

..."[The Tambora discovery] gives us a window of the culture at that time that we couldn't get any other way," Sigurdsson said.

...The design and decoration of the artifacts suggest that the Tamboran culture was linked through trade to Vietnam and Cambodia, Sigurdsson said.

...Peter Lape, an anthropologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said the discovery should add insight into a part of the East Indies before it came under the influence of Western colonists.

"[The Dutch] were trying to regulate shipping [in the East Indies], but they hadn't made much impact on the local political structure," he said. "So for places like Sumbawa, there's not much historical record."


Tags: , , , ,

Monday, February 27, 2006

Et Tu, Mom?

Et Tu, Mom?

I guess I'm easily amused, but I find this hilarious:

Speaking of McClellan, Ken Herman reports for Cox News Service that even McClellan's mom has joined the chorus of GOP critics on the ports deal

" 'Our roads, our bridges, our seaports, our airports and our border crossings are vital to our economy and prime targets for terrorists,' said Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas comptroller, couching it in home-state terms but jumping on the political bandwagon opposing the ports deal. 'Why take the chance and let a private or public foreign operation control vital Texas infrastructure and property?' "

First she registers as an independent and now this. Poor ol' Puffy McMoonface.

Tags: , , , ,

Racist Rita

Racist Rita

Racist Rita, empty shill
nothing can make me watch you
when you come on, I turn the channel off

watching news, the bloviators
when I caught a glimpse of Rita
talking like a bigot on her little "news" show
With her throat she sounds much older
And the chip upon her shoulder
Made her seem a little like a hateful old shrew

Racist Rita, empty shill
may I inquire discreetly
how in the hell did you get on t.v.?

on the vote, she tried to say this:
that the dems were overt racists
because they were trying to gain the "hoodlum vote"
felons are black; Rita said it
sad thing is, I think she meant it
maybe she should go missing in Aruba, too...

Racist Rita, empty shill
too bad they didn't fire you
at least I know i'll never think like you

Ugly racist shill
Rita racist shill
oh, Racist Rita, empty, empty shill

apologies to Lennon & McCartney

Tags: , ,

Sunday, February 26, 2006

When Pigs Take Wing

When Pigs Take Wing

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Calloo, callay!

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, February 24, 2006

More Biased Facts

More Biased Facts

I don't think we were supposed to turn :
this corner:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 25 — The American ambassador to Iraq said today that sectarian violence this week was a threat to the future of Iraq, and that Iraqi leaders would have to come together and compromise if they wanted to save their homeland.

...Mr. Khalilzad's comments are the most explicit acknowledgment so far by an American official of the instability of the situation. The killings and assaults across Iraq that began Wednesday have amounted to the worst sectarian violence since the American invasion.

...The threat of full-scale civil war loomed over the country as Sunni politicians lashed out at Shiite leaders on Thursday, accusing them of igniting anti-Sunni reprisals, and at the American military, charging it with standing idly by as the violence erupted. The most powerful Sunni Arab political group said it was suspending talks with Shiite and Kurdish politicians on forming a new government.

Across the country on Thursday, thousands of furious Shiites flooded the streets in a second day of protests against the bombing of the Askariya Shrine, whose signature golden dome was reduced to rubble by explosives on Wednesday morning in Sunni-dominated Samarra. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, and much of the violence seemed to be tapering off Thursday, though armed Shiites raided several Sunni mosques in Baghdad and set fire to at least two.

Aravosis has more.

Ports of Impeachment

Ports of Impeachment

The 'I' word has hit prime-time television, and rather vociferously at that. Even the American Family Association has a letter campaign going on this! I think the cognitive dissonance finally went too far and some people snapped. Who knew that after warrantless wiretaps, lying us into war, and flouting the Geneva Conventions, it would take shrubya contracting our ports out to the UAE to at long last break the spell?

I can almost hear Condi saying "who could have ever guessed that outsourcing our port operations to a country with terrorist ties would upset people?"

Or maybe it's the corruption that bothers them. John Snow and Darth Cheney both have an interest in this deal; Snow's is in the form of CSX, where he worked before taking his place at the Treasury. Cheney's, of course, is Halliburton, which operates out of Dubai.

When CBS Television's 60 Minutes program visited the address where Halliburton Products and Services is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, they discovered a "brass plate" operation with no employees whose agent - the Calidonian Bank -- forwards all of the company's mail to Halliburton's offices in Houston (instead of the company's operations in Dubai), "indicating that decision-making authority may be in Houston, not the Cayman Islands or Dubai," according to the Senators. In addition, it was reported that Halliburton's operations in Dubai share the same address, telephone and fax numbers as Halliburton Products and Services - an indication that the companies do not function separately.12

"It is extremely disturbing to hear media reports of possible violations of our anti-terrorism laws by prominent American companies through straw corporations established to evade U.S. law. What makes these charges extraordinary is the involvement of the Vice President, since Halliburton Products and Services began operations in Iran during the time that Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton," Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) wrote in a letter to her colleagues.

...During the 1990s, under Cheney's leadership Halliburton did business with the former Nigerian regime of dictator Sani Abacha, a brutal military dictator. The Abacha regime threw thousands of political opponents into prison, and executed nine environmental activists, including the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Freedom is all good and well until it stands in the way of a business deal, dontchyaknow? Can it be that Americans are actually catching on the gaping disparity between what these fools say versus what they do? Is it finally dawning on people that big business might be just a tad too influential in government?

And therein lies the key: in the neoliberal world of Republican, Friedmanesque fantasy, Nation-States as we know them today become increasingly irrelevant. All that matters is business, and the interests of corporations in securing their maximum bottom line. No one on either side of the debate argues this point: for liberals, the exploitation is done to enrich corporate coffers; for conservatives, it is done to maximize growth and lower prices. But no one denies that the Nation-State becomes almost a spectator in this grand opera.

...And the bottom line dictates that products, services, and yes, even national ports, will be sold off to the higest bidder--no matter which country they are from. Because the World is now Flat.

Thus it is that we now live in a world where Americans build Dubai's oil infrastructure (thus ensuring anti-American sentiment in the region), while Arab Emirates control our port security (thus rendering us vulnerable to terrorism). And no one can even complain. Because to complain would be to challenge the very economic system that our elites believe in almost as a religion.


In this brave new FlatWorld, National Sovereignty is a thing of the past.

Perhaps it's simply dawned on people that shrubya isn't really serious about security or much of anything else. And it's not just the wonks - port security is a very visceral issue. Everybody pretty well understands enough after hearing "U.S. Ports, security, country with terrorist friends." This - the idea of our port security being outsourced in this manner - could wind up being that proverbial straw:

When Bush said that we need to justify holding a Middle Eastern company to a higher standard, he showed that he in fact does not agree with the key point of his own doctrine: namely, that in a post-9/11 world, you can never be too careful.

And regardless of whether DPW is a national security threat, the fact that Bush for whatever reason has not taken the same "whatever it takes to defend the American people" approach on this issue that he has taken on Iraq, domestic surveillance, the Patriot Act and torture--that fact paves the way for questioning the motives of the other activities I mentioned--because if Bush really took the "you can never be too careful" approach to everything, why didn't he stop the DPW deal?

Bush has reneged the entire premise of his presidency.

But that's not really news, now is it?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Measure 37: Concentrated Evil

Measure 37: Concentrated Evil

I was mad enough when this p.o.s. passed; now that Oregon's Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional, I can barely type straight. The big question, of course, is "what now?" Unfortunately, it's not an easy one to answer. The next opportunity for the state legislature to address this issue won't be until 2007, unless we can convince Kulongoski to call a special emergency session. Frankly, we need a bill repealing measure 37 yesterday, but with a republican majority in the state house, it's not likely to happen. Contact them anyway.

I doubt Kulongoski could be persuaded to call an emergency session, but we should certainly contact him - if he has any injuctive power as Governor, he should use it. This is a state crisis and as Governor, he should be taking an active role in mitigating the damage. What damage?

Well, for starters, measure 37 provided no means to pay for its implementation and management - the state is already expending a lot of effort and money just to administrate and investigate claims. We pay those costs; is that the best use of our tax dollars, given the budgetary problems of the state? These claims also impose a tremendous burden on the state's courts - there are already neighbor v neighbor lawsuits cropping up all across Oregon. Who pays for those? Every Oregonian.

And it's every Oregonian who pays for every aspect of Measure 37 - if the state pays compensation, that's your tax dollars. Did people really vote in favor of subsidizing someone else's hypothetical profits? Conversely, if the state relaxes zoning restrictions in lieu of payment, that's your community, your scenic heritage, your natural landscape. Did a majority of Oregonians vote for urban sprawl? I doubt it, but these are the realities of measure 37. It's patently obvious that the state would never be able to pay all the various claims; it was never anything but a thinly veiled push for unfettered land development. In other words, it was a really convoluted mechanism to blackmail the state of Oregon.

It was also exceptionally inartful. I really can't understand for the life of me how our Supreme Court could possibly find the measure constitutional. Its wording is too broad and vague; it sets up a system of unequal compensation (via the use of historical property claims); it forces taxpayers to subsidize would-be developers. It is, simply put, overkill. Oregon's land use laws could definitely use a little tweaking; measure 37, though, is a sledge hammer.

Please keep these thoughts in mind and contact your local and state government members. This includes Kulongoski, your state Senators and Representatives, and I have even contacted my city council members - perhaps cities could be individually persuaded to pass laws overturning m37. I started my phone journey by calling Dan Saltzman, Commissioner of Public Affairs. I don't know if this varies by city, but I was referred to the City Auditor:

Gary Blackmer
City Auditor
1221 SW 4th Ave, Room 140, 97204
Phone: (503)823-4078
E-mail: gblackmer@ci.portland.or.us

A woman in his office then referred me to Chris Dearth, Program Manager for Measure 37. He can be reached at 503 823 1110. Frankly, I'm calling everybody. The public input on this needs to be huge - please share this information far and wide and educate as many people as you can on this issue. The Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning will be holding a meeting on March 3 that is open to the public - make yourself heard!

The Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning, established under Senate Bill 82 (2005), has scheduled its first meeting for Friday, March 3, 2006, at 1 p.m., in Hearing Room F at the Oregon Capitol building. [Click here for Meeting Notice warning: pdf]

The first meeting will focus on the organization of the task force and providing task force members with an initial overview of SB 82, the Oregon land use program and Oregon's economy, to establish a context for their work. An agenda of the meeting will be published on this website prior to the meeting.

The meeting is open to the public:

March 3, 2006
1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
State Capitol Building
900 Court St. NE
Hearing Room F
Salem, OR 97301

I also spoke with George Naughton, Assistant Director in the Department of Land Conservation and Development. He said that there's not much to do - measure 37 is law and they are just trying to apply the letter of the law. He said that there's a window of one to three weeks before the new court ruling goes into effect, whatever that might be worth.

I am also calling my city attorneys to see if there isn't some legal recourse for them having this administrative burden thrust upon them. I am also encouraging them to impose filing fees - marriage licenses require it and they're a damn sight easier to manage than these claims. Oregon taxpayers shouldn't have to pay these costs.

Hardy Myers, Attorney General
Oregon Department of Justice
1162 Court Street NE
Salem, OR 97301-4096

The general phone number is (503) 378-4400.
The general email address is: doj.info@state.or.us

I was told that sending letters is the most effective for presenting an issue to the Attorney General. If the state has any legal recourse in this, i.e. suing the measure's sponsors for administrative costs, they should try to stop m37. Basic guideline: call everybody you can think of - city councils, Gov. Kulongoski, city attorneys, Mr. Myers, your city auditors, etc. Explore every angle.

Most importantly, let 1000 Friends of Oregon know you support their efforts to overturn measure 37. They are floating ideas for a new ballot initiative, but won't proceed with it if doesn't look like it would pass. We need to make sure they understand that we've got their back. The deadline for filing the initiative is sometime in July for the November ballot. If you ask me, we have no choice but to file one, no matter what the trial balloon indicates. The more volunteer support they know they have, the more likely they'd be to go for it. They also have a lot of great contact info for state & local officers to contact.

Speaking of ballot measures, some freaknut named Ross Day has filed a slew to boost measure 37 - if anyone knows how to go about contesting those, please drop some info.

And, of course, letters to the editor are always in order. If the general public understood what measure 37 really meant, they would never have voted for it. Conversely, if we have any hope of overturning it, it is imperative they realize what the effects will be. A new ballot measure is the best chance we have to limit measure 37's damage in the short-term. Please share this with every Oregonian (and Washingtonian - it's contagious) you know. And if you have any additional info, please leave a comment.

Keep Tom McCall's spirit alive in Oregon! Thanks!

Other resources: Friends of the Columbia Gorge, 1000 Friends of Oregon,
Land Use Watch, Oregon House Democrats

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Keeping Up With Avian Flu

Keeping Up With Avian Flu

Flu season may be drawing to a close, but bird flu marches on. After Iraq reported its first cases from northern provinces a few weeks ago, the virus appears to be spreading through the country. Iraq's health minister has declared an alert for the southern province of Maysan, where one suspected case has been discovered.

The Iraqi cases are especially alarming because there were no reported animal cases first, which indicates a breakdown in monitoring and reporting of the disease. In a war-torn country lacking infrastructure, an outbreak could quickly prove unmanageable.

More alarming still, officials said, the finding suggests that the disease may be spreading widely - and undetected - among birds in countries of Central Asia that are poorly equipped to pick up or report infections. Bird flu has never been reported in animals in Iraq.

As in Turkey earlier this month, the spread of bird flu to a new part of the world was heralded by a human death, a death that was most likely avoidable. Bird flu only rarely infects humans, late in the course of an animal outbreak, and then only after intense contact with sick birds.

"We shouldn't be seeing human cases first, and this points to serious gaps in surveillance," said Maria Cheng, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization in Geneva. "But given the situation in Turkey, I don't think we'd be surprised to see isolated humans cases in surrounding areas."

...For example, the local government in Sulaimaniya is monitoring commercial poultry flocks, "but they don't really have the ability to monitor what's going on in village flocks," said Rod Kennard, who is managing a year-old UN project to rebuild veterinary services in Iraq.

What do they mean by "the situation in Turkey"? One point is that even though efforts to contain the disease have been largely successful, Turkey has already identified 55 outbreaks in 15 provinces. Like Iraq, Turkey first detected the disease in humans, not animals. Most importantly, at least one patient was infected with what appeared to be a new mutation of the virus.

Mutations that could make it easier for the bird flu virus to infect humans have been found in a sample taken from a patient in Turkey, a report in the journal Nature said Friday.

The World Health Organization is monitoring the situation, but a spokeswoman said it is too early to know whether the virus is changing in ways that would signal the start of a human flu pandemic.

..."It's one isolate from a single virus from Turkey," WHO's Maria Cheng said in Geneva. One mutation found "suggests the virus might be more inclined to bind to human cells rather than animal cells," Cheng said, but there's no evidence that it's becoming more infectious.

The Nature report cites a second mutation that also "signals adaptation to humans."

...The mutations, which were detected by scientists at a lab in London, may "signify the virus is trying different things to see if it can more easily infect humans," Cheng said. "So far, we haven't seen that the virus has the ability to do this. But it's important that we continue monitoring."

Since the previous year's cases, the virus has already weakened the species barrier; it can now pass to humans from even casual contact with infected birds. Does this change have implications for human-to-human transmission? Maybe; maybe not. Nobody is sure what direction H5N1 evolution will ultimately take. But some scientists have been investigating its evolutionary mechanisms.

A recent development regarding bird flu evolution took place in October, 2005, when Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and his associates published a letter in the science journal Nature, stating that the 1918 Spanish Flu did not evolve in the same way as two other 20th century pandemic strains: Asian Flu in 1957 and Hong Kong Flu in 1968.

The 1957 and 1968 pandemic strains evolved when a human with flu also contracted bird flu. Genetic material from the two viruses combined by what scientists call "reassortment" to create a flu that can pass between humans. It's believed that flu viruses created in this way are milder than flu viruses that evolve indepedently.

Taubenberger's work showed that the 1918 Spanish flu evolved by a process of "recombination." In other words, the virus mutated on its own to a form that humans could catch from each other.

...So far, the H5N1 bird flu virus has evolved only by recombination. And flus that evolve in this way are thought to be more deadly to their human hosts, as was the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed millions around the globe.

The virus has recently spread to Nigeria, Egypt, Greece, and Germany, among other places. Currently, it meets all the criteria for causing a pandemic except human-to-human transmission. Hold on to your hats!

Tags: , , ,

Friday, February 17, 2006

Terrorists On the Internets

Terrorists On the Internets

Lovely...our government can't even propagandize right, despite spending $1.6 billion to do so. And even though the Department of Defense outspent all other agencies, Al Qaeda is winning the PR war using tech toys available everywhere to everyone.

The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.

...The Pentagon chief said today's weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but ... our country has not adapted," Rumsfeld said.

Fun though it is to make fun of Rummy for, apparently, not even using email himself, this is actually a very disturbing development: he basically just put bloggers on a par with terrorists. He just declared e-mail, text messages, instant messages and blogs objects of interest in the war on terror. Since Congress seems set to retroactively grant permission to conduct datamining phone surveillance operations, there would be nothing to stop them from similarly monitoring all these communication media as well.

That's a damn slippery slope, especially given the Pentagon's recent declaration to "fight the net."

A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.

...But the true extent of the Pentagon's information operations, how they work, who they're aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public to influencing populations, is far from clear.

...When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.

It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.

And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum".

US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

Consider that for a moment.

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.

I never thought Chris Matthews' odious remarks equating war critics with terrorists could get more sinister, but they just did.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

wing tip to dailykos!

Kinda like starting out in the Last of the Mohicans and ending up in The Matrix

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Passing Bills and Passing the Buck

Passing Bills and Passing the Buck

The Stepford Senators strike again! After a lot of tough talk about insisting on an investigation of shrubya's domestic spying, several members of the (R) Senate caucus have done an about face, after pressure from Cheney and are now pushing a bill to remove the spying program from FISA oversight.

Republican Senate DeWine says he will introduce a bill sanctioning the program, explicitly exempting it from the requirements of FISA. Both Hagel and Snowe are said to be in favor of the bill. So suddenly, Republicans are comfortable with the President breaking the law? Where was the bill in the 90s condoning Oval Office blow jobs and Presidential perjury? Oh, that's right. The lawlessness of a President is exempted only when that President wears a 10-gallon hat and calls himself a "conservative."

This all raises a very interesting point: If they have decided it's necessary to pass legislation exempting the program from FISA, this is a tacit admission that the program is, indeed, illegal. Which is as it should be. Yes; the program would have been legal before FISA, but Nixon ruined that for all future presidents. His abuse of the ability to conduct domestic surveillance necessitated oversight by the FISA court. Given historical precedent for abuse of surveillance programs and absent any guarantees against future abuse, oversight of such programs is absolutely essential.

Please call DeWine, Snowe, et al to demand an investigation and tell them that removing the program from any external oversight would be doubleplus ungood. I can't believe they're even considering such a thing - do they have no respect for themselves as a co-equal branch of government?

This craven maneuver also removes any accountability from the equation. Again, since a bill is now deemed necessary to legalize the spying, it is incontrovertible that shrubya was breaking the law. The response to that should not be "oh...ok. well, let's just make that activity legal so it'll be ok." He broke the law and he needs to be held accountable for that before any decisions are made on revising said law. Any other course of action is a travesty of our constitutional system.

Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, February 11, 2006

They Made Me Do It

They Made Me Do It

I'm as anxious as anyone to find out just how inclusive Abramoff's skybox of iniquity really was. I, too eagerly await documentation that he and shrubya were a little closer than "don't know him;" after all, we know it's out there. We also know that shrubya really doesn't want us to see the pictures.
In his press conference today, President Bush suggested that the existence of photographs of himself and Jack Abramoff are no big deal and generally pooh-poohed the press's focus on the story. But our reporting suggests that the White House is actively involved in covering up and possibly destroying photographic evidence of the two men together.

Earlier this month, we were alerted to the existence of a series Abramoff photos at the website of Reflections Photography, a studio that does photo shoots for many Republican political events and sells copies to the individuals who attended the events and other members of the public through an online photo database. Reflections was an official photographer for Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign events and for the 2005 inauguration.

One of those photos was of Abramoff and Ralph Reed at a party for the launch of Reed's Century Strategies DC office in 2003. We contacted Reflections Photography and purchased the rights to publish that photograph and did so on January 11th.

Things weren't so simple with the late 2003 photograph of Jack Abramoff and President Bush.

Despite the apparantly meticulous scrubbing of these images, the blogosphere has been treated to umpteen "Bush/Abramoff Pics Here!" posts. Yes, little blogger; you were the first to find these thoroughly disappeared pictures of Bush/Abramoff...on the internets. It's quite maddening. I'm sure it makes metajesus weep.

So, please, let the record show that this is NOT Abramoff:

It's Rick Renzi (seen at the link with Katherine Harris). This, however, is a pic of Abramoff (background, far left) at an event with shrubya:

It's not much, but it's what there is for now, apparently. So now that we do have a shrubya/Abramoff picture out there, can we finally put to rest the "BREAKING!!" pic posts? Please?

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Feingold on NSA Shenanigii

Feingold on NSA Shenanigii

I &hearts Russ!

Russ Feingold's website has just posted audio of his floor speech and video of his questioning of Gonzales:

AUDIO LINK: February 7th, 2006 Floor Statment on the President's Warrantless Wiretapping Program

questioning of Gonzales in the committee hearing:

VIDEO LINK: Questioning of Attorney General Gonzales at the February 6, 2006 Judiciary Committee Hearing 1st Round

VIDEO LINK: Questioning of Attorney General Gonzales at the February 6, 2006 Judiciary Committee Hearing 2nd Round

Ladies and Gentleman we have a full on Constitutional crises on our hands. Feingold lays out in very clear language the obvious. Tha Gonzales and Bush have broken the law. It is stunning.

What is the country going to do about it?

Yes, pray tell, what? Congress is obviously not interested. I guess it's really just us vs. Diebold now.

Tags: , , , ,

New Species Discovered in Indonesia

New Species Discovered in Indonesia

"Lost World" Found in Indonesia Is Trove of New Species"
"It really was like crossing some sort of time warp into a place that people hadn't been to," said Bruce Beehler of the wildlife expedition he co-led in December into the isolated Foja Mountains on the tropical South Pacific island of New Guinea.

During a 15-day stay at a camp they had cut out of the jungle, the conservationists found a trove of animals never before documented, from a new species of the honeyeater bird to more than 20 new species of frogs.

"We were like kids in a candy store," said Beehler, a bird expert with Conservation International in Washington, D.C. "Everywhere we looked we saw amazing things we had never seen before."

Here's a small photo gallery.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

But We Weren't At War Then...

But We Weren't At War Then...

Maybe they were actually planning ahead or something:

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

...According to the online magazine Slate, an unnamed official in the telecom industry said NSA's "efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a 'data-mining' operation, which might eventually cull 'millions' of individual calls and e-mails."

It's understandable enough that these calls would get mixed together, especially with the vastness of the data set. It's so understandable, they had a policy in place to handle such mistakes:

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

The NSA's domestic surveillance activities that began in early 2001 reached a boiling point shortly after 9/11, when senior administration officials and top intelligence officials asked the NSA to share that data with other intelligence officials who worked for the FBI and the CIA to hunt down terrorists that might be in the United States. However the NSA, on advice from its lawyers, destroyed the records, fearing the agency could be subjected to lawsuits by American citizens identified in the agency's raw intelligence reports.

What was that about only guilty people having something to hide? Thankfully, their spin really isn't fooling too many people; letters denouncing the program have been coming from all quarters and the story is not dying down in the media. One of the letters is from a group of 14 constitutional scholars, including some former employees of (R) and (D) administrations. Their opinion? "The program appears on its face to violate existing law."

Additionally, "if the administration felt that FISA was insufficient, the proper course was to seek legislative amendment, as it did with other aspects of FISA in the Patriot Act, and as Congress expressly contemplated when it enacted the wartime wiretap provision in FISA"

..."One of the crucial features of a constitutional democracy is that it is always open to the President - or anyone else - to seek to change the law. But it is also beyond dispute that, in such a democracy, the President cannot simply violate criminal laws behind closed doors because he deems them obsolete or impracticable."

Another letter arrived from Jeffrey Smith, former General Counsel for the CIA. I'm guessing he would have been telling the NSA to shred, shred, shred; he thinks it's illegal too. He also gives us a chilling reminder of Justice Alito:

if President Bush's executive order authorizing a covert domestic surveillance operation is upheld as legal "it would be a dramatic expansion of presidential authority affecting the rights of our fellow citizens that undermines the checks and balances of our system, which lie at the very heart of the Constitution."

But it's not all gloom and doom; some members of Congress are actually starting to get squeamish with this whole unbridled executive power bit, especially for shrubya. We even have the (R) chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence calling for an investigation. Here's a thought for her: the searches aren't even effective, at least not for their
ostensible purposes.

Tags: , , , ,

Senator John McCain, Übertool

Senator John McCain, Übertool

Campaigning for shrubya after being viciously smeared in the 2000 primary apparently wasn't enough; recently allowing his anti-torture bill to essentially be gutted hardly made a blip. Now that McCain is shedding any lest vestiges of rationality, I hope we can all finally agree that he is NOT a moderate. On live television this afternoon, he apparently criticized President Carter's address, even though he hadn't seen it himself.

This follows closely on the heels of his outburst at Senator Obama, who decided not to join his bi-partisan committee on lobbying reform. McCain took it a might too personal and neglected to count to ten before writing Obama:
Dear Senator Obama:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere.

...Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won't make the same mistake again.

It stands in stark contrast to Obama's gentlemanly response:

As you will recall, I told everyone present at the meeting that my caucus insisted that the consideration of any ethics reform proposal go through the regular committee process. You didn't indicate any opposition to this position at the time, and I wrote the letter to reiterate this point, as well as the fact that I thought S. 2180 should be the basis for a bipartisan solution.

I confess that I have no idea what has prompted your response. But let me assure you that I am not interested in typical partisan rhetoric or posturing. The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

Not surprisingly, Chris Matthews took McCain's side, lamenting the way Obama had treated him.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at it, because I think the people will learn a lot from this about -- I know you're being nice now -- but the way in which Obama treated you.

...MATTHEWS: Well, more here: "I concluded your professed concern for the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." You're saying to the guy, I thought you were a gentleman and a civil servant, and now you're obviously not. [Laughter]

Of course, he's an Übertool, too. I guess McCain has finally decided "it's politics" after all.

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, February 06, 2006

Are We Really At War?

Are We Really At War?

And is it still Oceana? With all of Herr Chimperor's legal nonsense about "wartime powers," it's a worthwhile pursuit to wonder what exactly is Iraq?

Here is the embarrassing question: Is America actually at war? We have a war president, war hawks, war planes, war correspondents, war cries, even war crimes -- but do we have war? We have war dead, but the question remains. With young US soldiers being blown up almost daily, it can seem an absurd question, an offensive one. With thousands of Iraqis killed by American firepower, it can seem a heartless question, as if the dead care whether strict definitions of ''war" are fulfilled. There can be no question that Iraq is in a state of war, and that, whatever its elements of post-Saddam sectarian conflict, the warfare is being driven from the Pentagon.

But, regarding the Iraq conflict as it involves the United States, something essential is lacking that would make it a war -- and that is an enemy.

...But the war on terrorism is not real war either, since the Pentagon has proven itself incapable of actually engaging Al Qaeda. That, of course, is because Al Qaeda is a free floating nihilism, not a nation, or even a network.

...Bin Laden was a self-mythologized figure of no historic standing until George W. Bush designated him America's equal by defining 9/11 as an act of war to be met with war, instead of a crime to be met with criminal justice. But this over-reaction, so satisfying at the time to the wounded American psyche, turned into the war for which the other party simply did not show up. Which is, of course, why we are blasting a substitute Iraq to smithereens.

...Bush is presiding over a self-serving delusion.

Maybe it's presiding over him...

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Executions at Guantanamo

Executions at Guantanamo

Somebody please stop this train:

The army has just changed the rules governing the location of military executions.

The new regulations are primarily aimed at service personnel sentenced to death at a military court martial.

Previously executions could only take place at a military jail in Kansas but now death sentences can be carried out anywhere, including the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

The army has confirmed the new rules will also apply to any Guantanamo detainee sentenced to death at a specially convened military tribunal.

The move worries anti-death penalty campaigner David Elliot.

"The death penalty should not work in a sequestered manner where the public can not see what's happening," he said.

Tags: , ,

Thursday, February 02, 2006




And What Do Addicts Do When They Don't Get Their Fix?

Steal, lie, rob their grandparents (or grandchildren). They become irrationally violent. Uncontrollable.

In short, Bush just put the world on notice. For the next 20 years or so, America's official policy is "Anything for Oil."

Tags: , ,



It must be awfully demoralizing to do all the hard work of speechifyin' and then have nobody watch your State of the Union address.
So we have, what 300 million people in this country? And few cared enough about this president to give him an hour.

Bush's address clocked about 8.2 million viewers on Fox, according to Nielsen stats.

That beats NBC's 8 million, ABC's and CBS's 7.7 million each, Fox News Channel's 6.5 million, CNN's 2.2 million and MSNBC's 707,000 viewers, according to the stats.

About 33 million, or just over 10 percent of the country, though those are averages and Nielsen claims 41.699 million watched at some point or another. And good thing for averages, because people tuned out

It doesn't exactly help that at least half of those viewers reacted thusly:

Tags: ,

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Heckuva Job, Boys!

Heckuva Job, Boys!

I guess every scandal's got its scapegoats - some members of the CPA have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And a lot of other things.

A former American occupation official in Iraq is expected to plead guilty to bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and other charges in federal court on Thursday for his actions in a scheme to use sexual favors, jewelry and millions of dollars in cash to steer reconstruction work to a corrupt contractor, according to papers filed with the court.

The official, Robert J. Stein Jr., served as a comptroller and funding officer in 2003 and 2004 for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the American-led invasion. Four Americans, including Mr. Stein and the contractor, Philip H. Bloom, have been arrested in the case. Mr. Stein's plea, apparently with the understanding that he will cooperate with prosecutors, is the first to be made public.

The court papers depict a sordid exercise in greed and corruption that was spread much more widely that previously known. Including the four people already arrested, the papers indicate that a minimum of three other still unnamed co-conspirators also played a role in the scheme. In order to give more than $8 million in contracts and millions more in stolen cash to Mr. Bloom, the papers say, the conspirators accepted bribes, valuable goods and other favors.

This racket makes Cunningham look like an amateur:

The goods included first-class plane tickets, watches and other jewelry, alcohol and cigars, the court papers say. They add that Mr. Bloom kept a villa in Baghdad where women dispensed "sexual favors" in exchange for official actions in his favor or for refraining from exposing the scheme.

...The e-mail exchanges between Mr. Stein and Mr. Bloom, as detailed in the papers, are remarkable in their illustration of the daily business of apparently greed and graft. "I love to give you money," Mr. Stein wrote on Jan. 3, 2004, as he began steering work on an Iraqi police academy to Mr. Bloom.

At other times, Mr. Stein warns Mr. Bloom about others who are threats to expose their scheme or may want to get in on it themselves. "I will warn you to be very careful what you say around him," Mr. Stein writes on Jan. 27, 2004, about someone identified only as person D. "If he ever knows what we are doing he will want 'his cut!'"

It's obscene.

Tags: , , , ,