There Is No Spoon

"The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes
to blind you from the truth...that you are a puppet, Neo."

The Muppet Matrix
It doesn't get any better than this!

Mandatory Data Retention - Good for Europe, Good for Us

In a future courtroom:
Mr. Kvatch, did you surf "flies-gone-wild.com" and the ACLU's website on June 30th, 2006?

Well Your Honor, I might have. I can't really remember, but let me jus--

SILENCE! You're sentenced to 5 years for violating the American Safe Surfing Act (ASS-Act 2006).
The omnibus telecommunications bill working it's way through the House has a lot in it that you won't like. It's so-called "net-neutrality" provisions will essentially do away with the concept. But add to that a new provision to be introduced by Diana DeGette (D. CO) that will mandate data retention, i.e. surfing habits, emails, and protocol usage in sufficient detail to identify individual users. Similar to a provision introduced in the EU last year, this amendment takes retention one step further be placing the burden on businesses in addition to ISP's, telcos, and protocol providers (VOIP, etc...).

Although this measure is ostensibly about fighting Internet kiddie-porn, it's widely known that the idea has the backing of the Department of Justice. If you combine DoJ's interest with the lack of judicial oversight engendered by the Patriot Act, you get a mighty scary scenario where federal law enforcement abuses it's ability to obtain warrantless records access in order to track "undesirables".

The DoD's doing it, right? The EU's doing it. So let's give a huge sieve to DoJ.


Another Day, Another Meme

Tom Hilton memed me last night. So here are my responses to the "The Alphabet Meme":

Accent - Nobody can tell, but Pacific Northwest comes up frequently enough
Booze - Vodka martini, usually dirty, occasionally slutty (dirty with pepper vodka)
Chore I Hate - Household fixit jobs
Dog or Cat - Neither, with the exception of the frogette, nothing that depends on me for life
Essential Electronics - iPod and more laptops than you can shake a stick at
Favorite Cologne - Can't touch the stuff (way bad allergies)
Gold or Silver - Silver
Hometown - El Paso, Texas but Babylon by the Bay is home
Insomnia - Never
Job Title - Staff Computer Security Engineer
Kids - None (see dogs and cats)
Living Arrangements - Flat with the little frogette
Most Admirable Traits - Blatent honesty and willingness to live my principles
Number of Sexual Partners - Bwahahahahah! Oh, you're serious...
Overnight Hospital Stays - Yup, a few
Phobias - Airplane turbulence, drowning
Quote - "Where love is concerned, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Religion - Agnostic (it's the only logically defensible position)
Siblings - One younger brother
Time I Wake Up - 5:00a
Unusual Talent or Skill - The freakish ability to estimate...anything (cost, time, effort, whatever...)
Vegetable I Love - Spinach (ironic considering I hated it as a kid)
Worst Habit - Challenging authority (even when there's no reason to)
X-Rays - Sure...what? Couldn't think of anything else for "X"
Yummy Foods I Make - Hungarian Goulash
Zodiac Sign - Picses, but more importantly...Year of the Dragon

And for my tag, I choose the Zen Yenta and Betty Cracker. Gimme links to your answers ladies, and I'll post 'em here.

Making Television Completely Valueless

In an attempt to preserve a TV revenue model that is already dead, Phillips Electronics has come up with an innovation that is sure to please Big Content and infuriate consumers: The ability for broadcasters and freeze the channel during commercials.

But...before we turn this idea into a pile of smoking rubble, let's start with a question. Why did you buy your PVR (Tivo, PC, whatever...)? To time-shift programming and avoid commercials, right? I mean, we pay for the frackin' cable already (well most of us do)! We should be able to tailor programming to suit our schedules. This increases televisions value.

Broadcasters don't see things this way though. They're not interested in increasing television's value to you the consumer. They want you to watch what they program, when they program it, and they want you to remain captive through the inane commercials because it fattens their bottom line.

So here's the thing: This innovation would deal with commercials, but if think that it won't be abused to deal with lousy programming, think again. How are you gonna like it when you're channel surfing and suddenly discover that your TV is stuck on "America's Funniest Home Videos" for the next hour?


Don't Want Illegal Surveillance? Cut NSA's Funding!

Senator Arlen Specter (R PA) may mount a novel attack on Bu$hCo's illegal use of NSA for domestic surveillance: He wants to cut the agency's funding. Speaking to reporters yesterday, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee stated that the Senate has the authority to choke off the money if the Bush administration doesn't come clean on how the program works and whether it complies with privacy rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

More power to you Senator, but here is the conundrum, Congress has always had this power. They simply haven't been willing to use it. Though I dare say that if the Democrats win a majority in the upcoming mid-terms, using the "power of the purse" maybe the only option for dealing with Bu$hCo.

Dr. Hugo (Evil) Chavez

Dr. Hugo 'Evil' ChavezApril 19th, f-A-ke. P. (Caracas) -

In response to persistent rumors of US designs on Venezuela's oil fields, President Hugo (Evil) Chavez said Wednesday -
I've got pescados--pescados with frickin' lasers on their heads. These little pendejos will swim for the revolution and destroy our oil fields if you attack us.
US State Department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Yeah, I know that that most of Venezuela's oil is in the so-called "Orinoco Belt" and is not offshore, but I just couldn't resist. HT to Denisdekat for the inspiration.)


Kvatch Kvetches - Bush Embodies Joseph McCarthy's Spirit

More stuff that's been languishing in my post queue (maybe I should make this some kind of feature?):

Who Do the Democrats Remind You Of?
Do you remember that team that always used to play the Harlem Globetrotters? I think they have a different name now, but when I was a kid they were called the Washington Generals. They always played a decent game but without flair, and they always lost. The Democratic Party of Pelosi and Reid are the Washington Generals of Politics. Need proof? Just read the DNC's Real Security agenda.

What Will Constitute the October Surprise?
Well I can tell you it won't be an attack on Iran. We're all expecting that. So how about a new terrorist attack on the US, miraculously thwarted at the last moment--straight out of 24!

The Spirit of Joseph McCarthy Inhabits 'The Decider'
Read this excellent article over at FindLaw that talked about how Bush is becoming an increasingly dangerous President. "This Administration goes through scandals like a compulsive eater does candy bars; the wrapper is barely off one before we've moved on to another." This got me to thinking about who Bush reminds me of, and then it struck me: Bush is Joseph McCarthy! I mean, he bullies like McCarthy. He blusters and ignores the truth, like McCarthy. Though he attacks no one's patriotism personally (well except for John Kerry), he has armies of minions to do it for him. And...he's enjoyed his moment in the sun, like McCarthy. So hopefully, he'll fall--soon--like McCarthy.


Chernobyl - 20 Years Ago Today

At 1:23 AM local Kiev time (3:23 PM PDT, April 25th) the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded blowing the top of the reactor building and spewing radiation over a 77,000 sq. mile swath of Europe and the former Soviet Union. Thousands died in the desperate attempt to contain the disaster and the cleanup that followed.

Take a moment to remember the brave men and women who fought to contain one of the worst environmental disasters in history, but while you do also consider the following: Chernobyl's nuclear reactors had no containment; They were of a type (graphite-core) that is no longer used and even at the time was considered a very high-risk design; The operators at Chernobyl where performing an operation that they should never have been allowed to try and practically blew up their own reactor.

We should strive to ensure that a Chernobyl-like disaster can never happen again, but we should also not let ourselves be cowed into disregarding nuclear energy out of fear and ignorance about what actually happened that day.

Doctor, There's a Chip In My Butt!

OK, this is just surreal. Some months ago, Cincinnati based surveillance company CityWatcher.com instituted a policy requiring that employees needing access to their data center, be implanted with an RFID microchip.

Now Wisconsin may become the nation's first state to 1) ban implantation of RFID microchips as a condition of employment and 2) (get this!) ban implantation without a person's knowledge. So...setting aside the obvious privacy issue, can anyone imagine a scenario where an employer would try to "tag" you without your knowledge?

Puts that celebratory lunch on your first day in a whole new light, doesn't it?


So Much For Controlling America's Addiction to Cheap Oil

Prices are up and consumers are howling.
Polls they are dropping and pundits are scowling.

The Kowboy Koward though knows what we need...
A shot of cheap oil...oh my, yes indeed--
Suspended our deposits to the reserves,
Diverting the crude to the market he serves.
He's told E-P-A to bypass the clog
Of rules that keep us from choking on smog.

But don't you worry, it's all for the best
Cause our Kowboy Koward is up to the test.

Updated: So much fine verse...
Betty Cracker's response

Windspike's response
RichM's response

Uber-Economy - Standing Room Only Air Travel

Airbus thinks that they have a solution for squeezing the maximum number of passenger miles out of existing aircraft: Standing-room only. Being pitched to Asian carriers, the idea of a padded backboard, a harness, and a very small amount of space is newest configuration for aircraft "seating". Think of it as a Japanese subway...in the skies and hope that it's an idea that never catches on.

Fair Use Under Attack - The Son of the DMCA Is Here

For those of you who don't keep up with copyright issues--the continual erosion of your right to use the content you've purchased as you see fit--the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the law that keeps you from making copies of your DVDs. (Well...ok...maybe it doesn't prevent you from doing it, but it makes the door prize 5 years in the Federal pen if Universal decides to take it out on you.)

Well, "fair-use" advocates have been trying for years to roll back the DMCA's provisions, and it looks as if Congress is going to blow them off and do exactly the opposite. A new bill, the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006, is a Bu$hCo backed hodgepodge of laws that the RIAA and their ilk are drooling over.

Remember Sony's "Root kit", the bit-o-software installed when you played their CDs on your computer? It not only opened up your PC to Sony but exposed it to the rest of the world. Under DMCA, the Princeton researchers who uncovered the root-kit could have been prosecuted for revealing it to the world. Under DMCA-II, they could be prosecuted merely for discovering it's presence.

And what about the issue of piracy itself? Well DMCA criminalizes the act of bypassing copyright protection with the intent to redistribute. DMCA-II makes it a crime merely to possess the means to bypass copyright protection. This also has an interesting side-effect: Researchers of security vulnerabilities could be prosecuted under DMCA-II just for going about their work, even if they choose not to publish their findings.

Finally, here's a little gem for all of you bloggers out there, DMCA-II boosts penalties for non-commercial piracy of photos, news, or video from 5 to 10 years in prison when the damage can be demonstrated to be over $1000.00.

All in all, this bill is a messy giveaway to Big Content that is backed by the Justice Department (duh!) and a gaggle of representatives with ties to the entertainment industry.


Kvatch Kvestions - The Wisdom of Attacking Iran

What makes us assume that an attack on Iran will be met with anything but even greater determination to acquire nuclear weapons? Or...If the Iranians had originally intended to enrich uranium only for nuclear power generation, wouldn't a US attack simply convince them that they must have nuclear weapons?

Democratic Talking Points - "Real Security" Begins at Home

Late last month the Democratic Party put out their Real Security agenda as a counter to the Bush administration's National Security Strategy. Short on specifics and long on platitudes, this document reads like the typical Republican-lite commentary that we've come to expect from Reid, Pelosi, and the DNC.

Now I don't intend to critique this document. I'm late to the game, and there are literally thousands of analyses out there. Read it for yourself. (It's not that long.) No, I'm going to suggest an alternative based on the notion that, when it comes to providing security, a rigorously applied defense is better than a badly coordinated and recklessly applied offense. So with that in mind, here are the talking points I wish Democrats would use:
  • Apply security where it matters most: At home
  • Apply security where it's most cost effective: At home
  • Apply security where we have the greatest level of control: At home
  • Apply security where we have the best chance of success: At home
Republican's are really good at distilling policy down into convenient, media-ready points that can be easily understood by the electorate. I wish the Democrats would articulate a fundamentally different direction and take a hint from the party that has managed to outmaneuver them through two disastrous election cycles.


Be All That You Can Be...But Not At Sea

We still have a volunteer army and one that is stretched to the limit in Afghanistan and Iraq. So what does that mean? A draft? Nope...sailors, being trained at the Army's base at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, because the Marines didn't have the facilities to handle the 10's of thousands that are expected to come through in the coming months. The Houston Chronicle reports on many sailors who expect to be deployed to Iraq in the near future -
"This is excellent training, really. It will be very helpful. I'm headed to Iraq. I need this," said the 34-year-old reservist nurse from Columbus, Ohio.
Anyone want to take bets of why it's so critical to get existing members of the military on the ground in Iraq? The military says it's to relieve the pressure of repeated deployments. I'm willing to bet it's something else.

Vacation - Time For A New Strategy

A post over at Educational Whisper got me to thinking about vacation. Frankly, when it comes to the amount of recreation time we get, it sucks to be an American. While Europeans luxuriate with their 6 weeks of mandatory time off, corporate America achieves spectacular advances in productivity on the backs of their hard-slogging workers. Show of hands...how many of you get as much as 3 weeks off per year? Wow! How about 2 weeks off? Uggghhh!

There was a time, not so many decades ago, when one could expect to have the same employer for 10 years, 20 years, or even a lifetime. And during your tenure, your allotted time off would increase to what I would call a "reasonable" level, but that's no longer the case. Companies usually throw new employees (and studies show that you will be a "new" on average once very 5 years) back to the "two-week-a-year" level. When you couple that with the American ethos of "as many hours as it takes to get the job done," time off becomes more important than ever.

The Blognonymous Immodest Proposal

So here's the deal: Like everything else in the corporate world these days, from training to compensation, our careers are in our hands. So why not vacation? The next time you're in a job negotiation try the following tactic (which BTW I've been using for the last 5 years over 3 different employers): When the issue of vacation comes up look the prospective employer in the eye and say: I take 4 (5, whatever...) weeks off per year. You may subsidize whatever portion of that time you feel like. I other words figure out what you need, assume you won't be compensated, and adjust your salary requirements accordingly.


The DARPA iPod?

So with his administration swirling down the bowl, one wonders where Bush can look now for accomplishments in the run up to the midterms? Well, how about Apple Computer? Sure enough, in a speech at Tuskegee University, Bush highlighted how DARPA funded research was responsible for the iPod.

"Say what," Mr. President? Did you forget about all of those foreign manufacturers like Hitachi and Toshiba that developed the micro-drives? Did you forget about the Fraunhofer Institute, inventor of the most successful audio compression technology of all time, the MP3? Or how about Sony, who worked with Apple to develop their own AC3 compression?

Perhaps Bush believes that if he gets in good with Jobs, Steve will project his trademark "reality distortion field" over the administration to obscure it's many, Many, MANY failures.


Blognonymous Is Rated NFFEoC-18


Future Headlines: Bill Clinton To Be The New Press Secretary

The administration announced today that Bill Clinton has been appointed to take Scott McClellan's place as Press Secretary. When asked about the wisdom of appointing a former President and prominent Democrat to such a visible post, President Bush replied, "Well you know, nobody connects with the American people they way Bill Clinton does. I think the American people deserve that."

Pundits hailed the move as the salvation of Bush's ruined second term, and overnight polls show his approval rating leaping 20 points.

My eternal gratitude to Hellpig for his inspired commentary on the subject without which this post would not be possible.

The Kommandos To Be Reinforced

As of 6:30 PM on the 19th, Kvatch's Kommandos still held San Francisco's Montgomery Street BART station and Market Street between Montgomery and Kearny. Nobody knows how long the Kommandos will hold out, but reinforcements are on the way. Generik's Guerrillas have completed their training and are about to mount an offensive in San Francisco and South City in the coming days.

Bush's Lament

I went to find my legacy
To the pundits who said with glee
My administration's full of crooks
Liars, charlatans, and schnooks

I want to find my legacy
But congress says they will not see
Fit to pass my bills and laws
They're too expensive, full of flaws

I need to find my legacy
But SCOTUS says I am not free
To wield my power as I please
Jail and torture, lie with ease

I cannot find my legacy
And teachers say they all agree
For these reasons, through the ages
I'll not be found in history's pages

Poetic Responses:
EPM's Proverb
Snave's Foursome of Couplets
Betty Cracker's Nursery Rhyme
And a bonus--Betty Cracker gives us Green Eggs and Hamas!


Scott McCellan's Gone - Who Should Replace Him?

Josh Bolten undertakes The Great Rearranging of the Deck Chairs and Scott McCellan is sent packing back to Jesusland. So Blognonymous asks: Who's your fantasy pick for Scott's replacement?

For this frog it's got to be either Ed McMahon -

...or the ubiquitous voice-over guy from PBS (you'll never see him at the mike, he'll just talk) -
The Kowboy Koward emerges slowly from his ranch in Krawford hoping the evil terrorists haven't destroyed his beloved country...

Thanks to Windspike at the Educational Whisper for getting the ball rolling on this one.

Kvatch's Kommandos Take Market Street

In a daring raid this morning, a brigade of Kvatch's Kommandos established a beachhead on San Francisco's Embarcadero and then swept up Market Street advancing as far as Powell.

Rumor has it that Hilton's Heroes will see action on California's north coast in the next few days.

Like a Poll Tax Only For Free Speech

Here's a bit of political chicanery that won't make it past the first court challenge. In Lee County, Florida commissioners are planning to discuss billing protesters for the costs incurred in a recent 75000 person march through Ft. Myers.

This, of course, is nonsense. As with poll taxes, you can't charge people for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights--in this case the right to peaceably assemble. And with the ACLU already promising to step in with a challenge, one wonders why the county would even bother. Could it be that the commissioners would like to put the chill on any further gatherings of uppity citizens? Even if the whole thing gets dropped, the rumors will get around and pretty soon people who might take to the streets may hesitate because they won't want to pay the "free-speech tax". Forget the fact that it doesn't really exist.


Texas Is The New California

Caught this in the Houston Chronicle--major deja vu for us left coasters -
Rolling blackouts as Texas heats up
Wonder if the power trading jackals are gathering to feast on the bones of the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)? Wonder if their state's distribution system is as broke as our's was?

There is one thing I do know. When it comes to heat, California ain't' got nothing on Texas. Houston is hell...with humidity! Austin is a beautiful sweat-box. The only place you want to be in Texas right now is El Paso. Why? Cause it's just like most of California, hot and dry!

Josh Bolten Had A Really Tough First Day

The Bu$hCo Prior To Her SinkingWashington (f-A-ke P) - Signaling a possible shake-up among President Bush's senior advisers, the new White House chief of staff announced, "I shall now proceed to rearrange the deck chairs."

Washington (f-A-ke P) - After rearranging the deck chairs, new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten expects smooth sailing ahead.

Halifax (f-A-ke P) - At 1:20 AM this morning the Bu$hCo, purportedly the unsinkable ship of state, struck an iceberg in the shape of Iran and went down with all hands. The steamers Republicrat and Neoconican are searching for survivors.

New York (f-A-ke P) - The steamer Neoconican reports many casualties from the loss of the unsinkable Bu$hCo. Although many first-class passengers made it to the lifeboats, almost no steerage passengers survived the tragedy. Administration spokesperson Scott McClellan remarked, "Well, if the steerage passengers had simply invested in their Frigid Arctic Waters Savings Accounts (FAWSA), generously offered to them aboard the Bu$hCo, more would have survived."

Many thanks to the Reality-based Educator for the interchange that led to this foolishness.


How To Eliminate The Oil Dependency

In the State of the Union, President Bush said, "Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." But to date Bu$hCo has done nothing to decrease our dependence, not as a matter of policy and not in proposed legislation. In fact, this year's energy bill would increase our dependency because the administration rejected a provision that would have mandated a 1M barrel a day cut by 2015.

So Blognonymous asks: What would it take for Americans, on their own initiative to cut 1M barrels of oil from the rate of US consumption, and for simplicity sake I'm going to focus on cars--not CAFE nor miles driven, just cars.

The US uses 20M million barrels of oil per day and has about 210,000,000 cars, so one way to cut our dependency is to eliminate 1/20 of all the cars, around 10.5 million. Can it be done? I think so, and here's how... Start with the premise that not everybody needs to drive. I don't and, if you live in NYC, 40% of the population doesn't either. So what if we assume that 1/2 of 1 percent of cars could be eliminated by people, mostly living in big cities, who don't really need to drive. There... you've got 1,000,000 cars off the road already.

Now what about multi-car families? Do you own 3 cars? 4? Could you make due with 1 less? I bet you could. So lets say that 1/3 of all remaining cars belong to multi car families with an average of 3 cars per family. That's about 69M cars of which I think you can thin another 23M. Giving us a grand total of about 24M! We not only achieved Bush's mythical 1M barrel a day reduction, we doubled it!

Would this involve sacrifice? No question. People who've never lived without a car would have to try it. (It's easy let me tell you.) Your teenagers might have to share a car rather than getting their own. You might have to try car pooling with your spouse or others. But these kinds of reductions, coupled with renewed interest in Nuclear power and other alternative energy sources could go a long way to achieving energy independence. Not to mention helping to reduce the enormous burden that the US places on the environment through it's CO2 emissions.

Defense by the Numbers (of cookies)

As usual, it's a slow Monday morning in the blogsphere. So here's a cool little animation from TrueMajority.org explaining defense spending in terms of Oreo cookies. Pretty enlightening stuff.

Cost of the Iraq War so far? 39 cookies and counting.


Sith Lord of the Defense Department

Donald Palpatine RumsfeldThe DoD Sith Lord
Donald Palpatine Rumsfeld

"You have paid the price for your lack of vision.
And now my dear general...you will die!"

(Many thanks to Michael the Tubthumper for the name and to Rex Kramer of Spurious George for the inspiration.)

Nuclear Power - A Fear That We Need To Get Over

An OpEd in today's Washington Post by Patrick Moore, former co-founder of Greenpeace, addresses why we must consider nuclear power for our future energy needs.

I agree with almost everything in this excellent article but want to focus a bit on why nuclear power has been left out of the equation for 30 years. In a word, it boils down to fear--fear that we can't dispose of the waste properly and fear that the plant next door will melt down. But these fears are unfounded, and the United States no longer has the luxury of ignoring nuclear power as a, perhaps the most, viable alternative to fossil fuels. Consider: The US currently generates 20% of it's electricity from nuclear and 60% from coal. Burning the latter releases 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air (10% of global emissions). If that ration were reversed, the United States could meet the Kyoto limits with no further action.

Nuclear waste is also not as serious a problem as most people think. Though the US has shown reluctance to deal with the issue, we do know what to do. First, most spent fuel can be reprocessed and used again as 95% of it's energy is still locked up inside. Second, 40 years after being extracted from a reactor, spent nuclear fuel has only 1/1000 of its original radioactivity.

The only nuclear plant accident to happen in the US, Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island, was completely contained by a reactor design that did exactly what it was supposed to do. Chernobyl, arguably the worst nuclear and environmental disaster in history, was a very different situation. There a criminally faulty plant design contributed to a situation where poorly trained operators practically blew up their own reactor. But even with all of the deaths from Chernobyl the toll doesn't approach the number of people who have died in 170 years of coal mining and doesn't approach the number dioxin related deaths from burning coal and cracking petroleum.

Unfortunately, even if the United States where to begin constructing new nuclear power stations today, it would be 20 years before we'd see a major shift in our power generating mix. That's not a reason to delay. We must not delay! We don't have an alternative, but it's not the only step we should take.


Kvatch Kvetches - Redistricting In Texas Will Stand

Many late nights of work; Really too tired to be creative today; Hopefully back in the saddle tomorrow. In the meantime here are some random thoughts that have been languishing in my post queue:

On Texas' Redistricting Court Battle:
With Tom Delay's impending resignation from the House, and more importantly his getting out of the spotlight while his trial continues, the pressure will be off, and the Texas court that is examining DeLay's gerrymandering will let it stand.

On the "Nuke Iran" Hullabaloo:
Conservative pundits are predicting a Bush popularity surge with an attack on Iran, and the blogsphere is filling up with predictions of an "October Surprise", but I disagree. With the polls where they are, I think that a strike on Iran will do Bu$hCo in, and if it's nuclear strike, the administration will go down faster than one of Cheney's hunting partners.

Whatever happened to the 'Party of Lincoln'?
It's gone. Doesn't exist anymore. All that's left is are the Neoconicans, and the few remaining Republican's are trying to figure out how to jump ship with their souls intact.


The Art of Immigration Policy - Christo's Border Fence

Christo's Border Fence
Washington, f-A-ke. P. -

With negotiations over the upcoming immigration bill at an impasse and angry rallies taking place nationwide, Republicans have decided to backtrack.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced today that plans for the 700 mile long concrete and steel border fence have been scrapped due to the controversy. In it's place Congress, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Arts, have decided to commission Christo, world renowned architect and designer, to create a "fence" that will stretch from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to California. The Speaker called it the best compromise we could come up with considering America's overwhelming support for something on the border.

Christo called the commission, "Zhe project of a lifetime!"

MSM Shilling for the Feds On Iran's Nuclear Capabilities

So I'm reading story after story where the MSM distills the State Department's most recent blurb on Iran's uranium enrichment efforts down to the following (as quoted from Bloomberg):
Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says
Well it's not exactly a bald-faced lie, but it sure-as-sh*t isn't the truth either. What Stephen Rademaker of the State Department actually said was that Natanz, the facility they intend to use, could hold up to 50,000 centrifuges, a critical component in the enrichment process, but then even he went on to apply a little Bu$hCo-approved spin:
Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days.
...except that, Iran doesn't have 50,000 centrifuges! In fact, they only have 164 and have informed the IAEA that they plan to construct 3000. And as if all this spin weren't enough, Mr. Rademaker does not discuss, and Bloomberg does not mention, what a massive investment in time, manpower, and capital constructing 50,000 centrifuges would be.

So where am I going with this? Simply here: Many Americans, especially those predisposed to consider Iran a threat, won't care about how long it would actually take for Iran to construct a bomb. So...if the MSM refuses to accurately report what comes out of the administration and insists on embellishing the headlines in order to make better copy, there is no chance that a groundswell of public opinion will arise to stop Bu$hCo's plans for attacking Iran. But then, maybe that's the point. After all, a shill's job is entice the prospective rubes; Bu$hCo is going to need to apply a lot of lipstick to the pig that is a US strike on Iran; And, for the MSM, war is way more interesting than diplomacy.


Tonight on 24 - President Logan Channels Tricky Dick

Separated at birth?

AT&T Defends Their "Fat Pipe To NSA"

In response to the EFF's lawsuit against AT&T for funneling...well...everything--all the data that goes through their systems--straight to the NSA, the telecom giant revealed yesterday how they intend to defend themselves: Deprive the plaintiff of the evidence.

In a move straight out of some "Rovian" playbook, AT&T asked Federal judge Vaughn Williams to force the EFF to "return" key documents and to restrict the EFF from referencing those documents in support of it's case. Put more simply, AT&T asked for the documents to be quashed, a move that would effectively destroy the case.

Unfortunately, things don't bode well for the EFF or the public's interest. Judge Williams has a long history of taking stands in favor of corporations at the expense of the people.


Mars Rovers Go On...And On...And On

Just in case you'd forgotten, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still up there, still doing their thing more than two years after they landed. Two years! Imagine that--for machines that were designed to last only 3 months! IMHO, that puts the rovers right up there with Pioneer, Voyager, and Cassini in the annals of space exploration. The guys at JPL deserve medals.

Opportunity is still in pretty good shape and continues to explore Meridiani. Spirit, on the other hand, is further from the Martian equator and has lost a wheel, is down to about an hour of driving time per day, and has been desperately trying to reach a north facing slope so that it can survive the upcoming Martian winter. But it looks like the Rover team just got a break. After struggling through soft sand for weeks, Spirit has made it to an outcropping called Low Ridge Haven where it can get enough power to survive till next spring.

So with luck we'll see another year of exploration for the astounding rovers.

Kitten Biting Republicans

What does the term Yellow Dog Democrat mean? Well, it usually refers to a Democrat, so loyal to the party, that they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the ticket.

Kitten Biting RepublicansSo then what do we call Republicans that are so loyal to their party and to the man at the top--the Dear Leader, the Kowboy Koward of Krawford--that they would vote for him no matter what? You surely know the type: Rust-belt Republicans so beholden by the Bu$hCo spin machine that they'll vote against their own economic interests in order to have the illusion of a strong, secure America; Apocalyptic religious rightists that believe Bush heralds the second coming; Extremists of all stripes for whom the term "liberal" equates to "traitor".

These people would vote for Bush even if he went on national television and bit the head off of a live kitten! They're the...Kitten Biting Republicans!

(Though I'd like to take credit for this phrase, I really must share the credit with the The Local Crank who provided the inspiration.)

Kvatch Kalled It - Americans Want To Combat Global Warming

Back in February, I speculated that a day would come when the economic floor drops out from under "Big Oil" because of their lack of investment in alternative energy. My scenario depended on a consumer backlash that we may be seeing the first signs of. Check out these numbers from the Chicago Sun Times:
  • 53 percent of Americans think warming is caused more by human activity than by normal Earth cycles.
  • 70 percent think the effects of global warming can be reduced.
  • 59 percent think their efforts as individuals can make a difference in global warming.
In addition, as if to add insult to Big Oil's injury, California once again leads the way with a new initiative that would mandate a 25% reduction in the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Anyone want to take bets on how long Bu$hCo will delay before suing California to stop this new plan?


And I Thought My Phone Bills Were High...

This poor guy got a phone bill for $218,000,000,000,000 (that's $218 trillion), and he's only got 10 days to pay.

For that price I hope his DSL is really, REALLY fast! :-)

Vanity Thy Name Is Google

Since Hell will freeze over before the Daou Report picks up anything from Blognonymous, I have to get my strokes from Google.

A couple of weeks ago my daily traffic went through the roof when the Patriot Guard Riders once again challenged the kooks from Westboro Baptist, and when I checked the referrer link (click here) what did I find: BLOGNONYMOUS IS #1!

Oh vanity, thy name is Google. :-)

Data Protection - US Government Gets A Bad Report Card

Recently Blognonymous covered the IRS's attempt to support the sale of its most sensitive data, your tax return, but now we find that it almost doesn't matter. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reports that government departments in general, and the IRS in particular, protect sensitive data so poorly that confidentiality breaches are commonplace and almost comical in their lack of sophistication.

The 2005 Federal Computer Security Report Card, an annual assessment by the House's Government Reform Committee of adherence to federally mandated security standards, shows declines for almost every surveyed department. Only the Commerce Department improved from its previous rating of "D":
Commerce DepartmentD+
Justice DepartmentD
Nuclear Regulatory CommissionD-
Treasury DepartmentD-
Defense DepartmentF
Deptartment of Homeland SecurityF
Notice how the grade goes down as the sensitivity of the information managed increases. In fact the situation is so bad that, in one particularly egregious incident, a consultant spent months collecting information about taypayer political affiliations due largely to lack of IRS oversight.

Maybe the US government needs a crash course in how to protect personal information. Because if it had been your kid with a report card like this, she/he wouldn't just have to repeat second grade, she'd be punished with having to repeat 1st grade as well.


When You Can't Break the News, Make the News

Hot on the heels of local TV stations being exposed for using fake news reports, we have Dateline NBC's ethically challenged investment in "news manufacturing". The SF Chronicle reports on how Dateline NBC paid over $100,000 to the pedophile watchdog group, Perverted Justice to run sting operations in which hapless would-be pedophiles are solicited in Internet chat-rooms, confronted by Dateline reporters, filmed, and then turned over to police.

Now you may say, "These are pedophiles. Who gives a sh*t what happens to them?" But the question arises, if Dateline is willing to "pay to make the news" what's to stop them from say... hiring someone to bribe a public official that's already suspected of wrongdoing just so that they can film the result? Or, in an example that hit's a little closer to home:
  • Going on the Internet to incite right-wing bloggers to express their coup fantasies, informing on the bloggers to the FBI, and filming the results when the Feds arrive...
  • ...or maybe encouraging left-wing bloggers to discuss presidential assassination so that Dateline can turn 'em in to the Secret Service.
Or, in a really extreme case, how about engaging a third party to commit a high-profile murder that Dateline then prevents by informing the police at the last moment. If fact, once news organizations unshackle themselves from the yoke of "reporting the news", to what depths won't they sink?

But really, this is an easy call. In order to protect the watchdog group, Dateline got it's participating members deputized, something they neglected to do that for their own producers and reporters. I say arrest every participating NBC employee as an accessory and give them a pedophile rap that will follow them for the rest of their f*cking lives.


Second-hand Smoke Is Toxic - So Ban It!

In the wake of the California Air Resources Board declaring second-hand smoke a toxic air contaminant, the City of Calabasas has decided to take matters into their own hands by adding streets, bus stops, and other public places to CA's already extensive list of locations you can't light up. So just where do smokers get to enjoy their cigarettes? Why in their homes and in designated "smoking" areas, of course. And lest the recalcitrant think that the city isn't serious, non-smokers will be issued cards that outline the law.

When asked to comment on the situation, Dr. Thomas Pfeffer of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles replied -
Having a smoking area in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool...
Though your asthmatic author is considering a move to Calabasas, he's not sure that totally banning smoking in the great outdoors is going to prove to be very practical.


James Lipton Is An Obsequious Toad

But that makes us brothers under the skin. Recently Mr. Lipton posed Bernard Pivot's questions to Kvatch...

What is your favorite word? - Sex?

What is your least favorite word? - Bush

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? - Jazz

What turns you off? - Stephen Spielberg movies

What is your favorite curse word? - Mother puss-bucket!

What sound or noise do you love? - The frogette sighing when we spoon

What sound or noise do you hate? - Cheney's open pie-hole

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? - Reptile

What profession would you not like to do? - H&R Block tax drone

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? - "And all this time you thought I didn't exist."

The Polls - How low can they go?

Looks like it's a very Presidential day at Blognonymous...

Down, down, down the polls do screech
Shortly after each Bush speech.
When Nixon's twenty they do reach
Congress knows they must impeach.

But for right now we have to wait.
Impeachment they will not debate.
Hope November's not too late
For action that seals Bush's fate.

Now even the Republican strategists are saying that the situation may not be recoverable.

Texans Make Bad Presidents - Here's Why

I've often said that Texas is the last state we should use as a presidential proving ground. Why? Well it's got a weak governorship and a constitution with over 300 amendments, making the state practically ungovernable.

But The Local Crank said it far better than I ever could:
The governor of Texas is, for all intents and purposes, the mere hood ornament on the great cadillac of state government.
Well put!


Proving He Is A Man of Integrity, Bush Fires Self

Washington, f-A-ke. P. -

After today's disclosure that he had, in fact, authorized Scooter Libby to leak the name of Valerie Plame to the press, President Bush took the extraordinary step of firing Vice President Dick Cheney and then firing himself. When asked what prompted this unprecedented step, the President replied, "Well you know I said that if someone committed a crime, they would no longer work in my administration. I'm just following through on that promise. The American people expect it."

Speaker of the House and next in line for the Presidency, Dennis Hastert, when informed of the President's actions said "The f*ck you say?!"

Prepare For The Internet Toll Gate

Real quick 'cause I'm short on time. CNET is reporting that Republicans have stripped "Net neutrality" amendment from the current telecommunications legislation. This Democratic-sponsored amendment would have created laws and fines for telcos and ISPs that put in place "pay-for-performance" schemes.

Bad news to be sure. For additional information check out this post: The End of the Internet As We've Known It

When You Can't Make The News, Fake The News

The Raw Story has a link to a Center for Media and Democracy report listing 77 television stations that "fake the news" by showing pre-prepared video news releases (VNRs) without warning their audiences. And just what are VNRs? Well usually they're newsy looking "documentlets" produced by PR firms or corporations. CMD even includes a cool map tracking the offending stations. Seems that fake news is more popular in the South and East. Wonder why?

And I thought that only Blognonymous faked the news. Oh well...At least when I do it, I have the good sense to label it. As with these (shameless whoring follows, proceed at your own risk):

The Department of Homeland Faith
Biological Warfare
NSA Bakes Cookies
Disgusted With Politics, The North Magnetic Pole Emigrates


Future Headlines - A Tom DeLay Trifecta

Houston, f-A-ke. P. -

Today former House majority leader Tom DeLay was shot dead by Texas Rangers as he attempted to flee the state after his conviction on charges of criminal conspiracy. Sources close to the former representative said that Mr. DeLay was on his way to Virginia to begin his new life as a lobbyist for USPest, an association of pesticide producers.

Thanks to Blake at The Next Left for the inspiration and for reminding us that, in Texas, there are only three ways to withdraw from an election: Die, be convicted of a felony, or leave the district.

Ominous Chinese Warning On US Debt

The National Credit CardIn an ominous warning of things to come, Cheng Siwei, a vice chief of the national parliament advised that China trim it's US debt holdings by stopping the purchase of dollar denominated bonds.

Since China, along with other Asian financial powerhouses, are basically financing Bu$hCo's run on the national credit-card, such a move would have profound implications for the US economy.

Q: What's on your laptop? A: Malware.

An astounding announcement from the software giant--Microsoft Security Solutions group program manager, Mike Danseglio, admitted that recovery from the onslaught of malicious malware is often not possible. Though...to those of us in the industry, this is not really news.

Friends often ask me what they should do when their computer is infected with the virus du jour, and my response always takes the form of a question: "Is your data backed up?" If the answer is "yes", then I advise reinstalling Windoze (XP, 2K, whatever...) and then restoring personal data from the backup. If the answer is "no" then I usually respond, "Give up and get a Mac!".

Now that second response is pretty glib, but there is a reason and don't think for a second that Macs aren't susceptible to malware. They are, but with most hackers focused on Windoze, there are far fewer attacks on Mac OS. More importantly though, with a good backups, a virus, worm, or rootkit is an annoyance, not a catastrophe, and Macs make backups easier by centralizing all of your data. With Windoze, the data you need to capture is all over the system.

So cut a CD, compress to an external drive, put it all on a USB keychain, whatever... just get it done, because in these uncertain times loss of one's data is tantamount to plagues of locusts and rivers running red with blood.


Warrantless Snooping? Australians Make Americans Look Like Amateurs

In American we're dealing with Bu$hCo's use of warrantless mass surveillance in the so-called War on Terror But at least in this country scholars mostly agree that the administration's actions are illegal; there's the chance of reversal in the courts; and the 4th Amendment may yet be reasserted to protect the innocent.

Not so Australia, where the Federal Parliament is writing the nearly unfettered ability to snoop on it's citizens into law, and if you think that America's Patriot Act is draconian, Australia's Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Act takes surveillance to a whole new level. The Sydney Morning Herald notes -
...the Government will be able to access communications not only between the B-party (someone a suspect has communicated with) and the suspect, but also between the B-party and anyone else. If you have unwittingly communicated with a suspect (and thereby become a B-party), the Government may be able to monitor all your conversations with family members, friends, work colleagues, your lawyer and your doctor.

The Government may be able to use the information even though the information is not related to the original suspect. It also does not have to tell you that it has been listening in. While there are some remedies if you have been illegally monitored, these are pointless if you do not know you have come under surveillance.

And we thought we had troubles here in the United States.

A Whining DeLay To Abandon Congress and Texas

The blogsphere is abuzz with the news that Tom DeLay will resign from the House by early summer. But more interesting than the fact that he's stepping down is the reason why.

Is it that his advisors are being carted off to prison? No. That his own indictment is sapping his campaign coffers, time, or energy. No again. Turns out that, in the most gerrymandered state in the nation, if Whiney Tom can't win handily, he doesn't want to play any more. Yes, his pollsters scrutinized the electorate and didn't like what they saw: A race too close for comfort. "So Tom...guess that reworked district didn't work out so great after all, huh?"

And, in a final brush off to the state he's represented since 1984, Evil Tom will abandon Texas and his residency by moving to Virginia--perhaps to advise Republicans there on how to achieve resounding victory through redistricting.


The Car, Systematically Impoverishing America

Owning a car is quintessentially American, right? It's necessary, even fun. These beliefs have probably kept more people poor than any other notion of our time, but setting aside all of the other issues with cars--pollution, traffic, vehicular manslaughter--consider just the costs or car ownership.

A garden variety $20,000 US built sedan, with a typical 4 to 5 year loan, will cost $25,000 over the loan's lifetime. Add to that, gas maintenance, and insurance, another $3000.00 per year. If you live in a big city, add parking at $2000 per year minimum. That means you're shelling out between $8,000 and $10,000 a year. Do you own an SUV? Tack on another $1000 to the fuel (that's even if the average SUV only cost $20,000, and it doesn't). How about a $35,000 sports car? That's $1000 extra for the fuel and $500 extra on the insurance--a whopping $12,000, or so, per year. Do you own multiple cars that you bought new, then multiply these numbers for each. Truly staggering.!

But what does $8,000 per year really mean economically? Well, for starters, it's the difference between being poor and being lower-middle class. It's also:
Defenses of car ownership are pretty common. An often quoted WSJ editorial entitled The War Against the Car (reprinted at Out of Control) has columnist Stephen Moore lamely arguing that cars are a liberating invention allowing one to go anywhere, anytime. Well this is true--sort of--but there is a fair argument to be made that without cars, suburban sprawl would not force people to travel extreme distances for life's necessities. Mr. Moore also argues that cars bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and on this point I'd have to agree. Cars are an economic anchor that shackles us, all of us, to a lifetime of debt and wasted opportunities.

Venezuela's End Run Around OPEC

Venezuela has concocted a nifty plan for an end run around OPEC's quota system. The Guardian reports that Hugo Chavez' government is attempting to negotiate a $50.00 per barrel price floor for his country's oil.

"Big deal," many say, "oil is currently in the $60.00's". But there's more here than meets the eye. With guaranteed contracts from 17 buyers and the new price, Chavez can now force OPEC to recognize Venezuela's heavy crude as guaranteed reserves. The key is the price, $10 above the level required to make refining heavy crude economically viable, and since Venezuela's reserves may be as large as 312 billion barrels (50B more than Saudi Arabia's), they would get a huge increase in their pumping allocation. This would guarantee Venezuela's petroleum income for decades to come and fundamentally change the dynamics of world oil markets.

Considering the hostility that the Chavez regime has shown the US in recent years, this turn of events must have Bu$hCo, not to mention the Saudi's, in a snit. Seems that while the US was positioning it's pieces in the competition for access to oil, Venezuela was preparing to change the rules of the game. I'll leave it to wiser heads to determine what effect this will have on the US consumer, but I would say that selling the car is looking better and better all the time.


Once Again Bu$hCo Attacks California Over Emissions

With the auto industry poised to lose their fight to overturn California's new, more stringent tailpipe emissions standards, Bu$hCo steps in to support the manufacturers. On Wednesday of last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued new federal mileage standards. Then, in an extraordinary leap, a NHTSA spokesperson stated that the new standards would pre-empt state rules on greenhouse gas emissions, specifically the 2004 regulations that were approved by the California Air Resources Board and then adopted by 10 other states.

Setting aside the fact that the NHTSA lacks the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; Setting aside the fact that reduced emissions and higher fuel economy are not necessarily linked, as it's possible to achieve the former without the latter; California is allowed by law to set it's own standards. The A.P. notes (in the San Jose Mercury News) -
Because California began setting vehicle emissions standards before the federal government, the state is allowed under the Clean Air Act of 1970 to set its own standards, which other states have the option of adopting.
And so, once again, Bu$hCo proves that it really has no interest in reducing emissions through innovative technologies nor any other means. Though on a positive note, California's senators sent a letter to the President admonishing him for this attack on the country's most populous and, from the standpoint of air quality, most polluted state. Guess it's back to Federal court for CA.


Shake Shake Shake

In honor of the 4.3 that struck near King City in Monterey Co. this morning. I thought that I'd mention that the USGS has a whole bunch of new California earthquake simulations.

Try clicking this link for the best one. (Sorry QuickTime required.) It shows the earth movement under San Francisco during the 1906 quake. Watch those ripples! And try moving the slider manually to really see it.

Makes you want go and sell your place in the city, doesn't it?

Patriots To Crush Gators

Though he rarely speaks to the media, acknowledged college hoops expert, Kvatch Kopf, agreed to be interviewed by CBS's Greg Gumbel prior to tonight's Final Four game.

GUMBEL: So...Kvatch. What do you think about tonight's matchup between George Mason and Florida?

KVATCH: Well Greg, as you know the Patriots are not only the greatest Cinderella story in NCAA history, but they're obviously a team to be reckoned with.

GUMBEL: That may be true, but a lot of people are saying that Mason is a fluke.

KVATCH: They couldn't be more wrong. Look at everything GMU has going for them. A patriotic name; A mascot that, let's face it, created the Bill of Rights; Fans from the reddest of red states. In fact, one might say that George Mason is favored by the Almighty himself.

GUMBEL: "Favored by God"? That's a pretty strong statement. Sure you're not going just a little bit overboard? Florida is pretty tough. Look at what they did to Villanova.

KVATCH: Florida!? Bah! What have they got? A state that can't even make up it's mind who to vote for. Bunch of hippies, gays, and AARP members! Look at those school colors. Orange and blue don't even go together. And don't get me started on their mascot. A gator? Yuch. Stinky, nasty-tempered creatures that nobody likes.

GUMBEL: Then I assume you're going with Mason...despite the odds?

KVATCH: Of course.

GUMBEL: Care to predict the score?

KVATCH: Well Greg...I personally think that GMU will so outclass Florida, that the Gators will be forced to concede at the half.

GUMBEL: Hmmm... I see you're wearing green today. Is that in honor of your alma mater?

KVATCH: Indeed it is, Greg. Indeed it is.