Friday, October 24, 2003

Truth, Lies and Duct Tape

Great article by Sara Paretsky, on the Patriot Act, libraries, and being a writer.

Truth, Lies and Duct Tape

Earth Put On Solar Storm Alert

Imminent disruption is predicted for satellites, power systems and even mobile phones because of a solar storm.
Welcome to the 19th Century!

Ashcroft accuses Greenpeace of 'sailor-mongering'.

Students, Nuns, and Sailor-Mongers Beware

In a Miami federal court, the attorney general charged the environmental group Greenpeace under an obscure 1872 law originally intended to end the practice of "sailor-mongering," or the luring of sailors with liquor and prostitutes from their ships. Ashcroft plucked the law from obscurity to punish Greenpeace for boarding a vessel near port in Miami.

This doesn't even pass the giggle test:

1. Were inducements such as alcohol and sex provided to tempt sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
2. Was violence or the threat of violence applied to induce sailors to leave the vessel in question? No.
3. Were sailors induced to leave the vessel in question? No.

So, how can it be sailor-mongering if um, no sailors were...'mongered'?

As silly as this seems, it is actually quite a serious matter.

Typical Greenpeace Protest Leads to an Unusual Prosecution

The group is charged with violating an obscure 1872 law intended for proprietors of boarding houses who preyed on sailors returning to port. It forbids the unauthorized boarding of "any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination."
The last court decision concerning the law, from 1890, said it was meant to prevent "sailor-mongers" from luring crews to boarding houses "by the help of intoxicants and the use of other means, often savoring of violence."

Bush Administration Targets Greenpeace

The charge:

One violation of U.S.C. section 2279, which prohibits persons, "not being duly authorized by law for the purpose," from "[going] on board any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination, before her actual arrival, and before she has been completely moored".

Now then.

Point the First:

Greenpeace as an organization has been indicted, not the individual members. This is substantially different from past suits or charges against the members committing actual protest activities.

Point the Second:

Charges under this law have not been made since the 19th century. Yet Greenpeace members have performed plenty of 'direct-action' protests of this nature. What has changed?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Go, Teddy!

Ted Kennedy's Senate Floor Remarks

Nearly six months have elapsed since President Bush flew out to the aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. Today, we all know all too well that the war is not over; the war goes on; the mission is not accomplished. An unnecessary war, based on unreliable and inaccurate intelligence, has not brought an end to danger. Instead, it has brought new dangers, imposed new costs, and taken more and more American lives each week.
We all agree that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and his brutal regime was an affront to basic human decency. But Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one.
Come up with a good reason, I dare you

East Timorese Labour intends to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly minority neighborhoods, a move that [minority] leaders yesterday called blatant intimidation.
The election workers, most of whom live outside the targeted precincts in western and central East Timor, will be on hand to challenge voters who they suspect aren't eligible.

Sound like voter intimidation? I think so, too.

Only it's not really East Timor. It's Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Jefferson County Republicans intend to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly black neighborhoods, a move that NAACP leaders yesterday called blatant intimidation.
The GOP election workers, most of whom live outside the targeted precincts in western and central Louisville, Portland and Newburg, will be on hand to challenge voters who they suspect aren't eligible.

What's so magically special about *black* precincts that they need this special treatment?

Well, they are predominantly Democrat.

Like I said. Come up with a good reason. I dare you. I think whenever Republicans send challengers to a precinct, Democrats should, too, to challenge *their* challenges. It's the election official (the Inspector or Assistant Inspector) who determines if the challenge is upheld. So, be there. Present a dissenting view.

GOP to put challengers in black voting precincts

Just found this when Googling for swear words in German (for reasons I shan't go into at this time, but, I assure you, with the best of intentions. *Ahem*.) :

Swearsaurus : How to swear, insult, cuss and curse in a wide variety of languages. Too bad the Latin ones are mostly made up.


Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem
"In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags."

has a nice ring to it.

Oh, and I like this one in Polish:

Czys ty sie z chujem na glowy pozamienial?

Have you changed heads with your dick? (Are you nuts?)

Oo! Ooo!

Mermelada de huevas -- "Testicle Jelly", an extremely idiotic person (Chilean Spanish).


Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy

I just want to say I'm impressed with and proud of Mr. Brown for standing up to President Bush during his address to Parliament (in Australia).

Opposition leader Simon Creane reminded us,

"...there remains an essential truth in Prime Minister Curtin's words 62 years ago - 'Australia still looks to America'. A truth not just for Australia, but for democracies everywhere. It is a profound historic truth, which derives its power - not from the might of America - but from the democratic promise upon which America was brought forth, conceived and dedicated 227 years ago: The equal rights of all nations. Respect for the opinions of all peoples. And the idea that all men are created equal. These principles, taken together, form the true and imperishable basis of the promise of, and the friendship between, our two great nations. May they never perish from the face of the Earth."

[full text]

It's also worth noting that Bush's statements were again good/evil black/white remarks, including the WWII quote from MacArthur, demonstrating his simplified -- I think dangerously simplified -- moral view. Has any politician *ever* spoken like this before, on a regular basis?

I mean, I remember Tony Blair saying, basically, that civilized nations can't abide this kind of act after the WTC/Pentagon attacks, but that's not exactly the same thing. When has any world leader used this kind of terminology (evil, good, right, wrong) so constantly? Blair's statements evoked and were based on the agreements that we make domestically and internationally to *be civilized with one other as people and sovereign nations*, and that considered action is an appropriate response when someone violates those agreements. Bush's say "we're right and anyone not a member of 'we' is wrong".

Bush's language has bothered me since day one.

The quote I'd like to discuss, however, is the following:

America, Australia and other nations acted in Iraq to remove a grave and gathering danger, instead of wishing and waiting while tragedy drew closer.
Since the liberation of Iraq, we have discovered Saddam's clandestine network of biological laboratories, his design work on prohibited long-range missiles, his elaborate campaign to hide illegal weapons programs.

[full text]

Iraq = imminent threat, only without the use of the word "imminent".
"We have discovered..." = WMDs, we did too find them, or stuff just as bad! Except, we didn't. We found a vial of botox in someone's fridge, and some long-abandoned trailers. This is the big threat?

And, what is the Proliferation Security Initiative Bush mentions?

Oh, here's some stuff on it:

PSI:Statement of Interdiction Principles
Proliferation Security Initiative to Stem Flow of WMD Matériel (Center for Non-Proliferation Studies)
Proliferation Security Initiative (at

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Late Term Abortions

Remarkable article over at Alas, A Blog on why there isn't a ban on late-term abortions, the political usefulness (to Republicans) of Republicans keeping the issue alive as long as possible, the potential source of split in the GOP over first-trimester abortions, and that it's better to have a mother's health loophole in a late-term abortion ban than to not. Read it.
More Voting Stuff

Spotted on my votingtech mailing list today:

Md. Democrats Want Outside Voting Machine Audit

[Maryland legislators] asked that the agency [Md's Department of Legislative Services] examine a report issued in September by Science Application International Corp. on security weaknesses in a new computerized voting system the state is prepared to purchase for $55.6 million.
The SAIC report on the system, developed by Diebold Elections Systems Inc., found serious flaws that could allow tampering with election results. The study was a response to a July report by Johns Hopkins University computer scientist Aviel Rubin and colleagues who said the voting system was vulnerable to manipulation.

Electronic Voting: What You Need To Know -- This one's a great intro into the complexity of software, voting and otherwise.

Without a careful security analysis, you can't know what kind of outsider attacks may be possible. Except in the case of the Johns Hopkins paper from last week, where they managed to get their hands on the code through Diebold's carelessness and lack of security. Two graduate students noticed what turned out to be severe security blunders. I don't think it is important to emphasize whether people can hack these particular machines in these particular ways, although I find the problems these grad students found to be worrying. I think the most important thing about that is that it disproves any claim that the manufacturers or the independent testing authorities are actually carefully scrutinizing this code, or for that matter, know anything about computer security. I think we have conclusively disproven that there is anything in this process that guarantees these things are secure. -- demo on paperless machines producing inaccurate voting results while testing out correct.

Voter Suppression: It Can't Happen To Me -- Includes an overview of fishy election practices from 1982 onwards, and touches on the Republican Party's co-option by the religious right in America.

Chips in Your Library Book?

RFID Moves Into Public Library

Tien from the EFF has an excellent point. If I have one of these chips in a book,

a. I have no way of knowing it's deactivated or not, meaning;
b. It could remain activated when I depart the library without my knowledge or consent.

It's not so much worry about a library's intentions, as of those who might want to run roughshod over said library's intentions. The Patriot Act already lets the FBI peruse my lending records while barring my library from informing me. How, then, could such location devices be misused?

Yeah, Hypocrites

America owes talk host Rush Limbaugh a debt of gratitude, Libertarians say

"WASHINGTON, DC -- The entire nation owes radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh a debt of gratitude, Libertarians say, because his ordeal has exposed every drug warrior in America as a rank hypocrite."

Thanks to K, for the tip!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Interesting Blog , for those interested in on the ground reports from the middle east. Society, Economics, Politics, and Other Matters.
Once in a *Century* Find

A member of a family of frogs thought extinct millions of years ago:

Old purple frog danced with dinosaurs

Monday, October 20, 2003



New Power Source Found

"A team of Canadian scientists has discovered a completely new way to make electricity from nothing more than flowing water, it was revealed today."

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Friday Five, Late

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.
Chicken bones (so the cats don't get them), smoked sausage, squishy-dead eggplant, chocolate bars from the Endangered Species Chocolate Company, 2.5 gobs of carrots.

2. Name five things in your freezer.
Chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, ahi, corn niblets, ground beef.

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.
Comet, dishwasher detergent, garbage bags, liquid plumber stuff, an old bottle.

4. Name five things around your computer.
Wineglass, notebook, bookcase with dictionaries and foreign-language material, a book on Civil War-era medicine, my little book that holds other people's business cards.

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.
Floss, cold cream, hair gunk, some other hair spritz I never use, facial astringent.