Proudly afflicting the comfortable [and collecting shiny things] since March 2003

Send Magpie an email!

RSS Feeds
Click button to subscribe.

Subscribe to Magpie via Feedburner  Magpie's RSS feed via Bloglines
Add to Netvibes

Need a password?
Click the button!

Bypass 'free' registration!

Cost of the Iraq War [US$]
(JavaScript Error)
[Find out more here]

Hooded Liberty

Alas, a Blog
Back to Iraq
Baghdad Burning
Bitch Ph.D.
blac (k) ademic
Blog Report
Blogs by Women
Burnt Orange Report
Confined Space
Daily Kos
Dangereuse trilingue
Echidne of the Snakes
Effect Measure
Eschaton (Atrios)
Follow Me Here
The Housing Bubble New!
I Blame the Patriarchy
Juan Cole/Informed Comment
Kicking Ass
The King's Blog
The Krile Files
Left Coaster
Loaded Orygun
Making Light
Marian's Blog
Muslim Wake Up! Blog
My Left Wing
The NewsHoggers
Null Device
Pacific Views
The Panda's Thumb
Peking Duck
Pinko Feminist Hellcat
Political Animal
Reality-Based Community
Riba Rambles
The Rittenhouse Review
Road to Surfdom
The Sideshow
The Silence of Our Friends New!
Sisyphus Shrugged
Suburban Guerrilla
Talk Left
Talking Points Memo
This Modern World
The Unapologetic Mexican New!
War and Piece
wood s lot

Body and Soul
General Glut's Globlog
Respectful of Otters

Image by Propaganda Remix Project. Click to see more.

Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!

Ask Technorati.
Or ask WhoLinksToMe.

Politics Blog Top Sites

Progressive Women's Blog Ring

Join | List |
Previous | Next | Random |
Previous 5 | Next 5 |
Skip Previous | Skip Next

Powered by RingSurf

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Check to open links in new windows. Uncheck to see comments.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

West Point doesn't like its anti-war grads.

The US Army has sent a letter warning an anti-Iraq War group to stop using 'West Point' as part of its name. That group, West Point Graduates Against the War, is made up of former cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point cadets who oppose Dubya's policies in Iraq.

While the Army says that there's nothing political about the warning — a spokesperson claims its merely a case of protecting a trademark the Army registered six years ago — the political implications seem to be pretty clear.

"At West Point, we were taught that cadets do not lie, cheat or steal — and to oppose those who do," said [group co-founder] William Cross, a 1962 West Point graduate. "We are a positive organization. We are not anti-West Point or anti-military. We are just trying to uphold what we were taught." [...]

An attorney hired by Cross and his colleagues said the warning raises questions of First Amendment speech protection and selective enforcement. Joseph Heath said he noted the concerns in a response sent to the Army on Monday; he has not yet received a reply, he said.

Via AP.

More: Group co-founder James Ryan has more to say about the Army's cease-and-desist letter here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:17 PM | Get permalink

Ooooooh, shiny!

London's definitely calling as those kids at Bedazzled bring us video of the 1980 Clash performance on the LA-based TV show, Fridays, just after the band had released their best album, 'London Calling.'

London calling!

The late Joe Strummer, calling from LA in April 1980.

This magpie preferred the bigger images available on YouTube to the small ones on the .mov files. But you can take your choice:
  • Part 1 contains 'London Calling' and 'Train in Vain.' Watch via YouTube here or the .mov file here.
  • Part 2 contains see 'Guns of Brixton' and 'Waiting for the Clampdown.' Watch via YouTube here or the .mov file here.

I saw the Clash at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1979, and this video really brings back what a kick-ass and unabashedly political live band they were. You really don't want to miss this!

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:43 PM | Get permalink

Your local police: To protect and serve spy.

With all the attention given to spying and surveillance that the feds do, such as the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, it's easy to forget that there are way more state and local police than there are FBI and other federal agents — and that these state and local agencies are doing their own spying.

An article by David Kaplan in the current issue of US News is one of the best efforts by the 'mainstream' press to shed some light on what these local spy shops are doing, as well as on the federal money and technical support that's behind these local surveillance and intelligence units and on the threat they pose to civil liberties and privacy.

U.S. News has identified nearly a dozen cases in which city and county police, in the name of homeland security, have surveilled or harassed animal-rights and antiwar protesters, union activists, and even library patrons surfing the Web.... [Federal] officials have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into once discredited state and local police intelligence operations. Millions more have gone into building up regional law enforcement databases to unprecedented levels....

Despite a tendency to give too much credence to official assurances that these new local spy shops won't be prone to the abuses that characterized the old police 'red squads', Kaplan does a good job of showing how common surveillance by local and state police has become and how often it has already been turned against people and groups who are exercising their constitutional rights to political activity and free expression.

Further blurring the lines over what constitutes "homeland security" has been a push by Washington for states to identify possible terrorists. In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security began requiring states to draft strategic plans that included figures on how many "potential threat elements" existed in their backyards. The definition of suspected terrorists was fairly loose--PTEs were groups or individuals who might use force or violence "to intimidate or coerce" for a goal "possibly political or social in nature." In response, some states came up with alarming numbers. Most of the reports are not available publicly, but U.S. News obtained nine state homeland security plans and found that local officials have identified thousands of "potential" terrorists. There are striking disparities, as well. South Carolina, for example, found 68 PTEs, but neighboring North Carolina uncovered 506. Vermont and New Hampshire found none at all. Most impressive was Texas, where in 2004 investigators identified 2,052 potential threat elements. One top veteran of the FBI's counterterrorism force calls the Texas number "absurd." Included among the threats cited by the states, sources say, are biker gangs, militia groups, and "save the whales" environmentalists.

"The PTE methodology was flawed," says a federal intelligence official familiar with the process, "and it's no longer being used." Nonetheless, these "threat elements" have, in some cases, become the basis for intelligence gathering by local and state police. Concern over the process prompted the ACLU in New Jersey to sue the state, demanding that eight towns turn over documents on PTEs identified by local police.

You can read the full article here.

Via Follow Me Here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:30 PM | Get permalink

Something changed. But what?

Since November 2004, 23 million people who voted for Dubya somehow came to the conclusion that he really isn't a very good president. Ted Rall thinks he knows why they changed their minds.

It all seemed so plausible

[Cartoon: © 2006 Ted Rall]

If you want to see what other reasons fomer Dubya supporters are offering, you can see the rest of the cartoon over here. And if you want to see more of Rall's stuff, check out his website.

Via Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:04 AM | Get permalink

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

That's the first thing that came to my mind when I read that the likely replacement for resigning CIA head Porter Goss is Air Force General Michael Hayden. Washington sources have told the AP, Time, and others that Hayden's appointment will be announced by Dubya on Monday. (Given that the prez often has a replacement picked out before a resignation is announced, this would seem to confirm suspicions that Goss didn't resign, but was fired.)

Hayden, Dubya, Negroponte

Gen. Michael Hayden (left) with Dubya and John Negroponte after Hayden & Negroponte were sworn in for the National Intelligence jobs on 18 May 2005. [Photo: Paul Morse/White House]

Why does a CIA headed by Hayden make me so nervous?

To begin with, Hayden is currently Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence under John Negroponte — the guy who made right-wing death squads a way of life in the 1980s in Central America. You don't go working for a guy who has blood on his hands unless you might be comfortable putting yourself in the same position, I'd suggest. But lest you accuse me of making Hayden guilty by association, let me point out that, before he took his the job as Negroponte's deputy, Hayden headed the National Security Agency for five years. During that time, he was not only in charge of the NSA's secret wiretapping of people in the US — he was one of the main designers of that illegal program.

As you'll have to admit, Hayden heading up the CIA is pretty bad news for anyone who's concerned about civil liberties, the right to privacy, and the Constitution. But it gets even worse.

Consider this exchange between Hayden and Knight Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay at a press conference that Hayden gave on January 23:

Landay: I'd like to stay on the same issue. And that has to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures.

Hayden: Actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.

Landay: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

Hayden: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

Landay: But does it not say probable --

Hayden: No.

Landay: The court standard, the legal standard --

Hayden: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

Landay: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, ?We reasonably believe.? And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say ?We reasonably believe.? You have to go to the FISA court or the Attorney General has to go to the FISA court and say, ?We have probable cause.? And so what many people believe, and I would like you to respond to this, is that what you have actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of ?reasonably believe? in place of ?probable cause,? because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief. You have to show a probable cause. Can you respond to that, please?

Hayden: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order, alright? The Attorney General has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear, okay -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees at the National Security Agency is familiar with, it's the fourth, alright? And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. So, what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer and don't want to become one -- but what you?ve raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is reasonable. And we believe -- I am convinced that we're lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

As you read, Hayden repeatedly disagreed with Landay's contention that the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause in order for a search warrant to be issued. According to Hayden, that amendment only protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The obvious way to settle the argument is to look at the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As you can see, Landay was right about probable cause.

And Hayden — the man who is about to head the CIA — has no clue as to what the Constitution requires of law enforcement and federal agents before they can legally conduct searches and seizures, electronically or otherwise. Hayden not only ran an illegal wiretapping operation most of the time he headed the NSA, and staunchly defended that wiretapping while Negroponte's deputy at National Intelligence, but he apparently has so little knowledge of — let alone respect for — the Constitution that he was clueless as to how illegal that wiretapping was.

If that doesn't scare you, too, I'm really scared.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:01 AM | Get permalink

Does this creep you out as much as it does me?

From a story at the Aussie ABC News:

Mr Bush told the CNBC television network the revolt of passengers on the hijacked flight 93 on September 11, 2001, was the "first counter-attack to World War III".

He said he agreed with the description by David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month the act was "our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war — World War III".

Mr Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III.

"It was unbelievably heroic of those folks on the airplane to recognise the danger and save lives," Mr Bush said.
[Emphasis mine]

If Dubya really thinks that the 'war on terror' is the same as World War III, it would explain a lot of his behavior since 9/11. And it certainly tells us all how desperately we need that man out of the White House.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:00 AM | Get permalink

Friday, May 5, 2006

I bet you thought that you owned your computer.

But you don't, says computer security expert Bruce Schneier:

It used to be that only malicious hackers were trying to own your computers. Whether through worms, viruses, Trojans or other means, they would try to install some kind of remote-control program onto your system. Then they'd use your computers to sniff passwords, make fraudulent bank transactions, send spam, initiate phishing attacks and so on. Estimates are that somewhere between hundreds of thousands and millions of computers are members of remotely controlled "bot" networks. Owned.

Now, things are not so simple. There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.

Here's the money paragraph:

Just because computers were a liberating force in the past doesn't mean they will be in the future. There is enormous political and economic power behind the idea that you shouldn't truly own your computer or your software, despite having paid for it.

Read all of Schneier's article here.

Via Making Light.

| | Posted by Magpie at 4:51 PM | Get permalink

Sitting there in limbo, waiting for the citizenship papers to come.

Amid all the right-wng whining about all those immigrants who supposedly don't want to be citizens, I'm sure you're not going to hear them mention anything like what a group of Muslim men in Chicago are facing: These men want to become US citizens but can't — all because of footdragging and stonewalling by the feds.

And before you say that the government doesn't have to grant citizenship to anyone unless it wants to, and that the feds naturally have to run security checks to make sure that terrorists don't become citizens, know this: The men have passed all the requirements for citizenship, other than the security check. And some of their wives applied to be citizens at the same time, and have already been granted citizenship. If that situation isn't suspicious, I don't know what is.

Working with the Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center, the Muslim men have <filed a federal class action lawsuit against against US attorney general Alberto Gonzales and top officials at Homeland Security and the FBI, alleging that the delays in granting their citizenship are based on the mens' religious beliefs and gender &#!51; in other words, on the fact that they are Muslim and male. They're asking the court to order that they be sworn in as citizens, and to force the feds to produce records on how long members of different ethnic groups have to wait to become citizens. Immigration rights activists have already tried to get that information via the Freedom of Information Act, but the goverment has refused to produce it.

From the Chicago Tribune story:

The men are permanent legal residents who say they should have been sworn in as citizens within 120 days of meeting all the requirements. Instead, they said they have been kept waiting for a year or more.

Meanwhile, "hundreds of thousands of other people seeking to be naturalized" have had their swearing-in ceremonies, the lawsuit said.

"They're in limbo," said Christina Abraham, civil rights coordinator for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, an advocacy group that represents the plaintiffs. "These are people who don't have any criminal record whatsoever. ... They don't know why they've been delayed. They've done everything they can do."

And from the Chicago Sun-Times story:

The plaintiffs, including the Council on American Islamic Relations' Chicago office, agree the government must conduct background checks on all potential citizens. But they say Muslim men, more than any other group, have their cases delayed too often with no explanation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Marilu Cabrera said 99 percent of background checks are resolved within six weeks and 80 percent within three. "Until we get clearance from the FBI, for national security reasons, we cannot grant citizenship," she said.

CAIR's Chicago office says that it's received 80 complaints about similar delays in granting citizenship, and that similar reports have been made to the group's offices in other parts of the country.

It's all just another reason to be oh-so-proud to be an American, isn't it?

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:47 PM | Get permalink

New poll has more bad news for the GOP.

The most recent AP-Ipsos poll isn't going to help Republican strategists sleep well at night.

First off, there's another new low approval rating for the prez — 33 percent. This is down three points from his standing in early April and, more worrisome for the GOP, 45 percent of voters who describe themselves as conservative think the Dubya's performance is lousy.

But, as we love to say when there's bad news for the White House, there's still more.
  • A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.

  • The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.

And that's still not all of the bad news. As other polls have suggested, Dubya and the GOP are getting hammered by increasing gas prices. AP/Ipsos found that only one in four of those polled approves of how the prez has handled the gas price issue. The worst omen for how the GOP will do in November's election comes from the depth of public disapproval: The poll found that the number of people who strongly disapprove of how Dubya has dealt with gas prices far outnumbers those who strongly approve — 55% to 8% respectively.

Via AP.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:27 PM | Get permalink

Head of CIA leaves unexpectedly.

You spend the morning offline, trying to get new broadband service, and what happens? CIA director Porter Goss leaves his post. While Dubya and Goss presented this change as a resignation, it's anyone's guess what's really going on.

Here's what the intelligence geeks at Stratfor have to say about Goss leaving the CIA [subscription firewall]:
With the war of words ratcheting up recently between the CIA and the administration over Iraq intelligence and information leaks, the removal of Goss appears to be a bid by White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to help ease the rift between the administration and the agency. The criticism of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte in recent weeks, and the confrontation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by a former CIA analyst at a televised event all play into this ongoing public bout of one-upmanship. Bolten has already reshuffled personnel in the White House, and is now reaching out to the agencies and Cabinet.

Goss' replacement is likely to come from within the old guard of the CIA as part of Bolten's attempts to appease the agency. But the replacement is likely to be too little too late. The fury over Iraqi intelligence and CIA leaks has taken on a life of its own, and the administration's troubles are far from isolated to the rift with the agency. The flurry of attention around Goss' resignation is, to a great degree, just one more bit of Washington gas.

The main thing to watch now is to see whether there is a short-list of successors put forward relatively quickly. If there is, then it will be clear that Goss was fired. If not, he resigned.

More: Washington journalist Laura Rozen has some interesting speculation about Goss' resignation/firing here. And Josh Marshall offers this comment.

Still more: Alternet's PEEK has a round-up of blogger commentary on Goss' resignation here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:50 PM | Get permalink

A pitiful, helpless giant.

Why can't Dubya's administration extricate the US from the Iraq quagmire? Why does it continue to think that making tweaks to a strategy that's proved itself disastrous will somehow turn things around. According to Tom Engelhardt, it's because of a fascination with the supposed 'preponderance' of US power in the world, and all it has to do to win in Iraq (or anywhere else) is to just exercise that preponderant power intelligently.

Talk about power and preponderance, then [early 2002] and now. When administration officials peered out from the capital of the globe's only "hyperpower" at desperate, starveling, grim-faced North Korea with its possible nuclear weapon or two, riven, fundamentalist Iran with all that oil but a per-capita income level of something like $2,000 a year, and, of course, war-ravaged, sanctions-weakened, pitiful Iraq, held together by engineering ingenuity, mad dictatorial power, and baling wire, how could they not have been dazzled by the preponderance of possibility that seemed to lie before them?

Still -- and it's a big still -- when they struck, they chose by far the weakest of the three evil lands, the one least likely to be able to whack back. They decided to send the cavalry against Saddam's by-then hopelessly fifth-rate military. They were going to stomp his forces, take him down, locate themselves in the non-Saudi part of the Middle East, and then turn around and intimidate the rest of the "axis" (as well as Syria, and anyone else in sight). It would be, in neocon Kenneth Adelman's famous prewar word, a "cakewalk."

Okay, we all know now that these oh-so-practical plans were part and parcel of a set of fantasies meant for the consumption of the American public, but no less believed in by them for all that. In fact, although just about everyone on the planet then believed, to one degree or another, in American preponderance, no one believed in it more firmly or deeply than the top officials of the Bush administration. And what glorious, theocratic dreams they had based on that belief. Best of all, they could dream on the cheap, so sure were they that their foes would be as dazzled by our preponderance as they were. As Paul Wolfowitz put it, Iraq was a country that "floats on a sea of oil" and we, of course, were going to be floating atop it. We would have, in the phrase of that moment, "permanent access" to Iraq for all time to come. Now, a cool $300-400 billion later with only perhaps another trillion dollars to go...)

As it happened, a bunch of Sunni "bitter-enders" weren't as impressed with us as we were and the rest of the unraveling you know; and now, it seems, nobody's all that impressed. Not the North Koreans. Not, certainly, the Iranians, who are, if anything, too radically unimpressed with the preponderance of American power for their own good.

Anyway, you would think, under such circumstances, that someone up there might perhaps ponder a bit. But, by the evidence, no such luck -- despite the revolt of the retired generals (seven or eight of them standing in for a bevy of disgruntled, angry non-retirees). What rethinking there has been seems just so completely retro-imperial, so-Vietnam, that it's hard to even find words to sum it up.

And, as if to prove that their thinking is 'so-Vietnam,' the big thinkers in Dubya's administration are ready to widen the current war in Iraq by attacking Cambodia Iran. Engelhardt sums up the intelligence of such an attack concisely:

Question: What's the difference between the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and a future massive air assault on Iran?

Answer: When it comes to Iran, the nature of the catastrophe will be evident on day one.

There's a whole lot more to chew on in Engelhardt's piece, which you can read here. You'll be sorry if you pass it up.

Via TomDispatch.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:01 AM | Get permalink

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Ooooooh, shiny!

The coolest picture of Saturn ever! Calling it stunning would be an understatement.

Coolest picture of Saturn ever

[Photo: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA]

The photo was taken in March by the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. It shows the planet pretty much the way it would look to a human observer from Cassini's location.

Here Saturn's majestic rings appear directly only as a thin vertical line. The rings show their complex structure in the dark shadows they create on the image left. Saturn's fountain moon Enceladus, only about 500 kilometers across, is seen as the bump in the plane of the rings. The northern hemisphere of Saturn can appear partly blue for the same reason that Earth's skies can appear blue -- molecules in the cloudless portions of both planet's atmospheres are better at scattering blue light than red. When looking deep into Saturn's clouds, however, the natural gold hue of Saturn's clouds becomes dominant. It is not known why southern Saturn does not show the same blue hue -- one hypothesis holds that clouds are higher there. It is also not known why Saturn's clouds are colored gold.

You can see a much larger version of the image if you go here.

Via Astronomy Picture of the Day.

| | Posted by Magpie at 4:44 PM | Get permalink

What's the Constitution between friends, anyway?

On Sunday, we posted about a Boston Globe article by Charlie Savage, which looked in detail at Dubya's use of 'signing statements' when he gives final approval to a law passed by Congress. In those statements, Dubya has asserted the authority to unilaterally interpret the Constitution, and ignore all or part of a law based on that interpretation. He's done this far more often than any other president — 750 times since he took office in 2001 — and he shows no signs of slowing down or deciding that the laws of the land also apply to him.

As Savage's article points out, this has grave consequences for the rule of law in the US.

You'd think that Dubya's probable wholesale violation of the Constitution's separation of powers and limitations on presidential and executive authority would be big news, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong. According to Media Matters, almost no major US news service or newspaper has picked up the story since the Globe published it on Sunday.

According to a Nexis search, the media has yet to acknowledge Savage's latest findings or the response from the Democratic senators (as of this posting), with two exceptions: journalist Eric Umansky, who excerpted Savage's April 30 article in his May 1 "Today's Papers" column for the online magazine Slate; and MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who interviewed Savage on the May 1 edition of Countdown. Also, National Journal's Hotline weblog referenced Savage's April 30 article in a May 1 post.

This failure to report the story repeats the 'mainstream' media's performance regarding two earlier articles by Savage, also about Dubya's use of signing statements.

I imagine that the 'mainstream' media also won't think it important when Dubya finally decides suspends the Constitution altogether. But by then, they wouldn't be allowed to report on that decision, even if they wanted to.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:01 AM | Get permalink

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Hey, look! It's Carnival of Feminists 14!

This one took me by surprise, I have to admit. For some reason I thought it wasn't coming out 'til next Wednesday. Luckily, Magpie's log had some visits that were referred by a website whose URL was only vaguely familiar. When I checked to see who was sending these folks over, lo and behold, there was the 14th Carnival in all of its feminist bloggy glory. And, even more of a surprise, I found my own post on Mother Jones was part of the Carnival. My thanks to whoever nominated it!

So where is the new editions of the Carnival? Right over here. You'll find that Morgaine at Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements has put together one of the most interesting and wide-ranging Carnivals ever. It starts out looking at Africa and Asia, and then switches over to North America, which is the part I'm choosing to excerpt:

Now, before you start congratulating yourself on being lucky enough to be born in a country where women aren't treated as chattel, consider Bark/Bite's post on the disturbing Christian phenomenon of the Purity Ball. It made my skin crawl even before I grokked the racism it expresses. Not restricted to the auspices of the Radical Right, even Progressives sometimes express A Pathological View of Girl Babies. Holly introduces A Guy from Dorking, who apparently thinks young girls exist to do his cleaning free of charge. On a more positive note, Martin is pleased to see that little girls can play soccer and still wear pink sweaters, though he expresses some doubt as to whether this has any importance in Beer and Football with the Girls. Which do you think he'd prefer - a note when my cousin Chrissy gets her soccer scholarship, or a picture of her playing first base for a boy's baseball league? She's only 13, but I'm pretty sure she could kick Martin's ass

Then there's the effect of Booze, Education, Male Bonding, the Cooties and Rape, which converged tragically in the persons of the Duke LaCrosse team.

There's a ton more, on a variety of subjects, if you go look at the rest of the 14th Carnival over here.

The 15th Carnival is coming up on Wednesday, May 17th, and it will be hosted by Self Portrait As. So far, no theme has been announced. To nominate a post, — and it's definitely okay to nominate one of your own — send your suggestions to holly AT mclo DOT net or use this submission form at the Blog Carnival home page. Posts should be submitted by midnight on Saturday, May 14.

And if you want to keep posted on what's up with the Carnival of Feminists in general, bookmark the home page.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:38 PM | Get permalink

Canada's prime minister eats babies!

Or maybe he doesn't.

Via Toronto Star.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:09 PM | Get permalink

Would you like homophobia with that?

When I'm out on the web crusing feminist blogs, one of the places I always stop is Broadsheet, which almost always has one or two extremely interesting posts. But when I went over there just now to check things out, I was somewhat distressed pissed off to see a post by Joan Walsh that started out like this:

It saddens us at Broadsheet when some readers complain we don't like men. We love men, so many men we don't know where to begin to tell the world about it. But let's start with three who made the world a better place over the weekend: Bruce Springsteen, George Clooney and Stephen Colbert.

I certainly have nothing against Springsteen, Clooney, and Colbert — they're great guys in this magpie's book, too. But Walsh's choice of a 'snappy' lead for her story — responding to criticisms that Broadsheet hates men — is not only lame, but it's homophobic to boot.

Walsh has been around the block a few times so I'm certain that she knows that one of the classic ways that men try to control women is by accusing them of 'not liking men' or, more bluntly, of being lesbians: Women who have strong opinions get told that they're man-haters. Hell, women who have any opinions are man-haters. The lesbian-baiters' goal, of course, is to shift attention away from whatever issue is being discussed over to the supposed sexuality of the woman (or women) involved in the debate. And, sadly, that goal is often achieved.

The thing about lesbian-baiting is that, like many other forms of social control, it works best when the targets of the baiting submit to being controlled. In other words, it's really hard to lesbian-bait a woman who's more concerned about getting out her point of view — or (shudder) actually winning the debate — than she is about whether anyone thinks she's a lesbian.

All of which brings us back to Walsh's story lead: By framing her story in terms of how much Broadsheet likes men, she's giving in to whatever lesbian-baiting emails have been dropping into the Broadsheet mailbox. Admittedly, talking about how much Broadsheet just lurves men isn't the most egregious case of lesbian-baiting the world has ever seen, but the matter-of-factness of its homophobia is a large part of what irks me. Why does the attitude toward men of Broadsheet's women writers matter at all? Would the journalism there be any less credible if the whole staff was a bunch of man-hating lesbians? Or happily married straight women with children? Of course not. Which is why Walsh should have known better than to start off her story with a dose of homosphobia.

By the way, if you don't buy that lesbian-baiting matters — or even that it exists — you might want to download Written Out: How Sexuality Is Used to Attack Women's Organizing (PDF file). This report from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission gives an excellent worldwide and cross-cultural view of how homophobia is used to control women.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:56 AM | Get permalink

Those spring styles for conservatives.

Mikhaela's got 'em.

Those new conservative fashions

[© 2006 Mikhaela B. Reid]

To see the rest of the cartoon, go over here.

And if you want to see w whole bunch more of Mikhaela's political cartoons, take a look at this.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:33 AM | Get permalink

'The government is sweeping it under the rug.'

When this magpie looks for political commentary, the first place we think about is never Sports Illustrated.

But in his Monday Morning QB column this week, Peter King goes offsides to talk about New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, and what hasn't been done:

Well, my wife and I were in a car last Wednesday that toured the hardest-hit area of New Orleans, the Lower Ninth Ward. We worked a day at a nearby Habitat for Humanity site on Thursday, and we toured the Biloxi/Gulfport/Long Beach/Pass Christian gulf shore area last Friday. And let me just say this: I can absolutely guarantee you that if you'd been in the car with us, no matter how much you'd been hit over the head with the effects of this disaster, you would not have Katrina fatigue.

What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace. I am ashamed of this country for the inaction I saw everywhere. [...]

How can we let an area like the Lower Ninth Ward sit there, on the eve of another hurricane season, with nothing being done to either bulldoze the place and start over, or rebuild? How can Congress sit on billions of looming aid and not release it for this area?

I can't help but think that if this were Los Angeles or New York, that 500 percent more money -- and concern -- would have flooded into this place. And I can't help but think that if the idiots who let the levees down here go to seed had simply been doing their jobs, we'd never have been in this mess in the first place -- in New Orleans, at least. Other than former FEMA director Michael Brown, are you telling me that no others are paying for this with their jobs? Whatever happened to responsibility? [...]

I'm a sportswriter. It's not my job to figure how to fix what ails the Gulf Coast. But the leaders of this society are responsible. And they're not doing their jobs. I could ignore everything I saw and go back to my nice New Jersey cocoon, forgetting I saw it. And I know you don't read me to hear my worldviews. But I couldn't sleep at night if I didn't say something.

Via Daily Kos.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:24 AM | Get permalink

These are strange times indeed.

Dubya shreds the ConstitutionThe reason I know they are strange is because I keep finding myself agreeing with the right-wing libertarians at the Cato Institute. The latest example of this is a new Cato white paper by Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch called Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush, which looks at the various ways in which Dubya has ignored constitutional limits on the powers of the presidency and federal government. In doing so, the report warns, Dubya endangers the very foundations of constitutional liberties in the US.

In its official papers and public actions, the Bush administration has endorsed a vision of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a vision that includes
  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
  • a president who can launch wars at will, and who cannot be restrained from ordering the commission of war crimes, should he choose to do so;
  • a president who can lock up American citizens at will and forever—without any meaningful oversight by the judiciary; and
  • a federal government with the power to supervise all areas of American life, from education to marriage and through the end of life.
It is a vision, in short, unimagined by our Constitution's Framers.

On the campaign trail in 2000, then-governor Bush typically ended his stump speech with a dramatic flourish: he pantomimed the oath of office. But the oath is more than a political gimmick; for the founding generation it was a solemn pledge, designed to bind the officeholder to the country and the Constitution he serves. Throughout his tenure, President Bush has repeatedly dishonored that pledge. And because of that, he has weakened the constitutional order on which the American way of life depends.

That differs very little from my own evaluation of Dubya's presidency, and I find myself in agreement with much of what Healy and Lynch say in the rest of the paper. And when an unreconstructed leftist like this magpie finds herself in same ideological bed as the Cato Institute, you know that the country is in deep trouble.

The executive summary of the white paper is here. You can download the whole thing in PDF form here.

Via Cursor.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:50 AM | Get permalink

Ooooooh, shiny!

Early 20th century news photos from the US Library of Congress!

The photos come from the George Grantham Bain Collection, which includes the bulk of the photo files of one of the earliest news picture agencies in the US. The LOC acquired the collection in 1948, but has only recently put the collection online.

I had big fun perusing the collection, and had a hard time picking the photo I'd include in this post. I think I found a winner, though.

Striking tailors in New York, 1910

Striking women tailors on a New York sidewalk, February 1910.
[Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection,
Library of Congress, LC-B2-956-14]

From the description of the collection:

The collection richly documents sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, political activities including the woman suffrage campaign, conventions and public celebrations. The photographs Bain produced and gathered for distribution through his news service were worldwide in their coverage, but there was a special emphasis on life in New York City. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1900s to the mid-1920s, but scattered images can be found as early as the 1860s and as late as the 1930s.

Available online are 39,744 glass negatives and a selection of about 1,600 photographic prints for which copy negatives exist. This represents all of the glass plate negatives the Library holds and a small proportion of the 50,000 photographic prints in the collection.

A really cool thing about the Bain Collection photos is that they're not covered by copyright. They can be used and reproduced without restrictions.

Via MetaFilter.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:00 AM | Get permalink

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Putting in a garden. At Guantánamo.

Gardeing is something that lots of us — including this magpie — like to do in the springtime. While a successful garden always takes hard work and a special knack, there's probably no place where this is more true than the prisoners' gardens at Guantánamo.

For some time we lawyers have been asking the military for a garden. Gardens are commonplace in prisoner-of-war camps, and these men aren't even enemies. They live in a pen, but it has a small patch of ground. Why not? The military refused.

I was trying to explain this to [his client, Saddiq Ahmad Turkistani], along with other inexplicable things (such as how it is that innocent men can be held for years in an American prison), when he said, "We planted a garden. We have some small plants -- watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe. No fruit yet. There's a lemon tree about two inches tall, though it's not doing well."

"The guards gave you tools?"

He shook his head.

"Then -- how do you dig?" I was struggling to grasp this.

"Spoons," he said. "And a mop handle."

Saddiq, incidentally, has the honor of having been imprisoned and tortured by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and then by the US for allegedly being a member of those groups. He was cleared for release by the US last December, but is still being held at Guantánamo because, say US officials, they can't figure out what country to send him to.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:15 PM | Get permalink

Valerie Plame was monitoring Iran's nuclear program.

Yes. You've got that right: When the White House leaked the fact that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, she was examining nuclear proliferation issues involving Iran.

This information isn't brand-new. Raw Story's Larisa Alexandrovna reported it back in February, but the story sunk like a stone in the 'mainstream' US media. Officials who spoke to Alexandrovna said that Plame's outing had 'significantly hampered the CIA's ability to monitor nuclear proliferation.'

The February has now been confirmed by MSNBC reporter David Shuster:

MSNBC has learned new information about the damage caused by the White House leaks.

Intelligence sources say Valerie Wilson was part of an operation three years ago tracking the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson's cover was blown, the administration's ability to track Iran's nuclear ambitions was damaged as well.
[Emphasis mine]

What this all means is that the White House was so worried about how Joseph Wilson's revelation that there was no evidence Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa would affect Dubya's re-election chances that it was willing to sacrifice a CIA operative who was trying to find out how close Iran was to developing nuclear weapons. This puts a very different light on the administration's current attempts to whip up public support for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, doesn't it?

You can view video of David Shuster's MSNBC report here at Crooks and Liars or here at BradBlog.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:01 AM | Get permalink

Oh say can you see?

That the cooked-up 'controversy' over a Spanish-language version of 'The Star Spangled Banner' ['Nuestro Himno'] is even more of a load of crap than this magpie had thought?

While Dubya has moaned about how the national anthem should only be sung in English [go here, scroll down about half-way], it turns out that 'Nuestro Himno' is far from the only Spanish version of 'The Star Spangled Banner.' In fact, this US State Departement webpage lists three of them. Which brings us to the image below:

Sheet music for 'La Bandera de Estrellas'

That images shows the front page of sheet music for the first version of 'La Bandera de Estrellas' listed by the State Department — one written in 1919 by Francis Haffkine Snow. If you go over to this page at the Library of Congress, you'll find that this version was commissioned by the US Office of Education and, as the image makes obvious, the feds sent the song off to New York for publication as sheet music by G. Schirmer. I don't know exactly why this version was commissioned — my guess is that it was to be used in schools in the Southwest and in the recently acquired colony of Puerto Rico.

One thing I am sure of, though: The hypocrisy of Dubya and others who are trying to make an issue out of 'Nuestro Himno' is appalling. But then, whipping up xenophobia and paranoia is the usual GOP tactic for winning elections, so I'm really not surprised that the Republicans are trying to run with such a non-issue.

You can view images of the sheet music for 'La Bandera de Estrellas' here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 10:32 AM | Get permalink

Monday, May 1, 2006

No comment needed.

The latest from political cartoonist John Sherffius.

No immigrants, no Liberty

[Cartoon © 2006 John Sherffius]

The full-sized cartoon is here. You can see more of Sherffius' cartoons over here.

Via Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:12 PM | Get permalink

Doesn't time fly when you're not having fun?

Today marks the the three-year anniversary of Dubya's 'victory' speech on the aircraft carrier Abrahm Lincoln.

Can we say 'stage managed'?

Mission not accomplished.

In that speech, you might recall Dubya saying the following as he stood in front of that now-infamous 'Mission Accomplished' banner:

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

Since then, the battle of Iraq continues in the form of an insurgency and civil war. Security has become a sick joke. And the task of reconstructing Iraq has been tossed out the window. Dubya was wrong on all counts.

The one thing that continues, however, is that the prez continues to be wrong whenever he speaks about Iraq — always claiming progress despite what the facts on the ground show. Just today, the prez once again used the phrase 'turning point' in his remarks about the recent visit to Iraq by Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. That new Iraqi government is going to get things right in hand, says the prez.

I'm reminded of a speech by President Lyndon Johnson in November 1967, in which he said that he could see 'the light at the end of the tunnel' in Vietnam. Three months later, of course, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army launched the bloody Tet Offensive. While a military failure, that offensive was a trememdous psychological victory for the insurgents, and began a rapid erosion of support for the war among the US public.

This magpie figures that Dubya should be telling us about the light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel any day now.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:09 PM | Get permalink

Attention US residents: Get your wheelbarrows ready.

You're going to need them to carry around your spending money if, as this UK Sunday Times article suggests, the US dollar is about to start sliding. The reason for that slide is — you guessed it — Dubya's deficit.

Burning money

German woman feeds worthless money into furnace, c. 1923.

The dollar has been under pressure following last weekend's meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers, which emphasised "global imbalances" and said currencies should reflect economic fundamentals. Then China raised its key interest rate to 5.85%, its first hike for months, and Ben Bernanke, the new Federal Reserve chairman, hinted that American rates would pause at 5% after a rise in May.

Analysts say that without interest-rate support, the dollar will be weighed down heavily by America's imbalances.

"I think this is it," said Tony Norfield, global head of currency strategy at ABN Amro. "The dollar has been supported by high yields but markets are saying that is no longer enough. The question for policymakers is going to be how to manage the dollar's decline. It won't be a one-way street but the fall is likely to be biggest against Asian currencies."

The dollar has already been falling against some currencies. The Euro is up now worth about US$ 1.26, and the perenially weak Canadian dollar is almost up to 90 US cents — its highest level since 1977. [When I drove across Canada in 2002, the loonie was worth around 65 cents, which makes that pile of Canadian dollars I still have the fastest-growing investment I've ever made.]

Cernig at NewsHog puts the future of the US after a dollar slide into stark perspective: 'Anyone remember the last time a nation had an elected expansionist garner all political power to himself and you had to take a wheelbarrow of currency with you to pay for a coffee?'

| | Posted by Magpie at 2:19 AM | Get permalink

No comment.

The first 'graph of a story about Dubya's plan to deal with high US gas prices:

Gasoline prices will remain high for years to come and will be largely unaffected by a new White House plan to bring them down, Bush administration officials said Sunday.

Via LA Times.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:58 AM | Get permalink

'Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.'

A big magpie welcome to visitors from Carnival of Feminists 14!

I hope you enjoy what I've posted about Mother Jones. As you'll see, there's a definite reason that we in the US don't get a unit on this hell-raising woman in our high school classes! And while you're here, please do take a look around the place. Hopefully you'll find some other posts that you'll like.

May 1, 1830 is the day generally celebrated as the birthday of Mary Harris Jones, better known to the world as the hellraiser and labor organizer 'Mother Jones.' In her long life, Mother Jones was a tireless agitator, labor organizer, and advocate for the poor and dispossessed. She was especially well known for her agitation and organizing among US miners in Colorado and West Virginia. Those organizing skills led one government official to call her 'the most dangerous woman in America.'

Mother Jones

Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones, 1830?–1930.
'There are no limits to which powers of privilege will not go to keep the workers in slavery.'
[Image: Robert Lentz]

Writing in 1907, labor leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs wrote a tribute to Mother Jones for the Appeal to Reason, in which he could not say enough about Mother Jones' contributions to the US labor movement:

From the time of the Pullman strike in 1894, when she first came into prominence, she has been steadily in the public eye. With no desire to wear "distinction's worthless badge," utterly forgetful of self and scorning all selfish ambitions, this brave woman has fought the battles of the oppressed with a heroism more exalted than ever sustained a soldier upon the field of carnage....

For many weary months at a time she has lived amid the most desolate regions of West Virginia, organizing the half-starved miners, making her home in their wretched cabins, sharing her meagre substance with their families, nursing the sick and cheering the disconsolate - a true minister of mercy.

During the great strike in the anthracite coal district she marched at the head of the miners; was first to meet the sheriff and the soldiers, and last to leave the field of battle.

Again and again has this dauntless soul been driven out of some community by corporation hirelings, enjoined by courts, locked up in jail, prodded by the bayonets of soldiers, and threatened with assassination. But never once in all her self-surrendering life has she shown the white feather; never once given a single sign of weakness or discouragement. In the Colorado strikes Mother Jones was feared, as was no other, by the criminal corporations; feared by them as she was loved by the sturdy miners she led again and again in the face of overwhelming odds until, like Henry of Navarre, where her snow-white crown was seen, the despairing slaves took fresh courage and fought again with all their waning strength against the embattled foe.

Deported at the point of bayonets, she bore herself so true a warrior that she won even the admiration of the soldiers, whose order it was to escort her to the boundary lines and guard against her return.

Mother Jones 1903?

Leading a protest march in Trinidad, Colorado [c. 1903].

This excerpt from chapter XI of Mother Jones' Autobiography gives a good idea of how she got her reputation as such a tenacious organizer:

Lattimer [Pennsylvania] was an eye-sore to the miners. It seemed as if no one could break into it. Twenty-six organizers and union men had been killed in that coal camp in previous strikes. Some of them had been shot in the back. The blood of union men watered the highways. No one dared go in.

I said nothing about it but made up my mind that I was going there some night. After the raid of the women in Coaldale in the Panther Creek, the general manager of Lattimer said that if I came in there I would go out a corpse. I made no reply but I set my plans and I did not consult an undertaker.

From three different camps in the Panther Creek I had a leader bring a group of strikers to a junction of the road that leads into Lattimer. There I met them with my army of women again. As I was leaving the hotel the clerk said, "Mother, the reporters told me to ring their bell if I saw you go out."

"Well, don't see me go out. Watch the front door carefully and I will go out the back door."

We marched through the night, reaching Lattimer just before dawn. The strikers hid themselves in the mines. The women took up their position on the door steps of the miners' shacks. When a miner stepped out of his house to go to work, the women started mopping the step, shouting, "No work today!"

Everybody came running out into the dirt streets. "God, it is the old mother and her army," they were all saying.

The Lattimer miners and the mule drivers were afraid to quit work. They had been made cowards. They took the mules, lighted the lamps in their caps and started down the mines, not knowing that I had three thousand miners down below ground waiting for them and the mules.

"Those mules won't scab today," I said to the general manager who was cursing everybody. "They know it is going to be a holiday."

"Take those mules down!!" shouted the general manager.

Mules and drivers and miners disappeared down into the earth. I kept the women singing patriotic songs so as to drown the noise of the men down in the mines.

Directly the mules came up to the surface without a driver, and we women cheered for the mules who were the first to become good Union citizens. They were followed by the miners who began running home. Those that didn't go up were sent up. Those that insisted on working and thus defeating their brothers were grabbed by the women and carried to their wives.

An old Irish woman had two sons who were scabs. The women threw one of them over the fence to his mother. He lay there still. His mother thought he was dead and she ran into the house for a bottle of holy water and shook it over Mike.

"Oh for God's sake, come back to life," she hollered.

"Come back and join the union." He opened his eyes and saw our women standing around him. "Sure, I'll go to hell before I'll scab again,' says he.

The general manager called the sheriff who asked me to take the women away. I said "Sheriff, no one is going to get hurt, no property is going to be destroyed but there are to be no more killings of innocent men here."

I told him if he wanted peace he should put up a notice that the mines were closed until the strike was settled.

The day was filled with excitement. The deputies kept inside the office; the general manager also. Our men stayed up at the mines to attend to the scabs and the women did the rest. As a matter of fact the majority of the men those with any spirit left in them after years of cowardice, wanted to strike but had not dared. But when a hand was held out to them, they took hold and marched along with their brothers.

The bosses telephoned to [United Mine Workers president] John Mitchell that he should take me and my army of women out of Lattimer. That was the first knowledge that Mitchell had of my being there.

When the manager saw there was no hope and that the battle was won by the miners, he came out and put up a notice that the mines were closed until the strike was settled.

I left Lattimer with my army of women and went up to Hazelton. President Mitchell and his organizers were there. Mr. Mitchell said, "Weren't you afraid to go in there!"

"No," I said,

"I am not afraid to face any thing if facing it may bring relief to the class that I belong to."

There are links to lots more about Mother Jones here.

You can read her Autobiography online here. While it's good reading, don't take it as gospel truth — Mother Jones used her autobiography as much as an organizing tool and to reinforce her own legend as to tell the facts about her life.

A very readable alternative — and a far more accurate account of Mother Jones' life — is Elliott Gorm's 2001 biography, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America. There's an excellent review of the book here and other one here.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:29 AM | Get permalink

Lie detectors look so scientific. Let's use them a lot.

That's the pretty much the attitude that Dubya's administration has taken toward polygraphs, despite the mounting scientific evidence that they don't accurately tell when people are lying. Despite these findings, the FBI, CIA, and other Dubya administration agencies are relying more heavily on polygraph tests when screening job applicants, identifying lawbreakers, and ferreting out employees who talk too much to the press.

Many researchers and defense attorneys say the technology is prone to a high number of false results that have stalled or derailed hundreds of careers and have prevented many qualified applicants from joining the fight against terrorism. At the FBI, for example, about 25 percent of applicants fail a polygraph exam each year, according to the bureau's security director....

In settings in which large numbers of employees are screened to determine whether they are spies, the polygraph produces results that are extremely problematic, according to a comprehensive 2002 review by a federal panel of distinguished scientists. The study found that if polygraphs were administered to a group of 10,000 people that included 10 spies, nearly 1,600 innocent people would fail the test -- and two of the spies would pass.

"Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies," the panel concluded.

But hey, you have to break some eggs to make an omelet, right? After all, the ends always justify the means, don't they?

Via Washington Post.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:07 AM | Get permalink

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dubya is everywhere.

Including peoples' list of the biggest problems facing the country. Check out this list:

CBS News Poll. April 6-9, 2006.
N=899 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" [Open-ended]
 War in Iraq27% 
 Terrorism (general)6% 
 Health care5% 
 President Bush4% 
 Gas/heating oil crisis4% 
Via Thanks to BTC News for the tip.

| | Posted by Magpie at 7:46 PM | Get permalink

Casting a cloud over the rule of law.

Or, given Dubya's penchant for ignoring any law he doesn't like, perhaps the current situation in the US could better be described as running category-five hurricane over the rule of law.

In a shining example of what good journalism should look like, the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage provides us with a long article that looks in detail at the more than 750 laws that Dubya has 'overruled' since he took office in 2001. While the use of signing statements has increased since the mid-20th century, Dubya's use of these statements far exceeds that of any US president. For each signing statement that Bill Clinton issued during his presidency, for example, Dubya has issued more than eight.

Laws? I don't need no stinkin' laws!

[Graphic: Joan McLaughlin/Boston Globe. Source: Signing statements analyzed by political science professor Christopher Kelley of Miami University of Ohio, and by the Boston Globe.]

While Dubya's use of 'signing statements' to void laws related to national security has been fairly well covered by the US press [although the long-term ramifications of those actions have not], Savage shows how the signing statements are being used in an attempt to increase presidential power in many other areas of government and law:

Bush has also challenged statutes in which Congress gave certain executive branch officials the power to act independently of the president. The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed the power of Congress to make such arrangements. For example, the court has upheld laws creating special prosecutors free of Justice Department oversight and insulating the board of the Federal Trade Commission from political interference.

Nonetheless, Bush has said in his signing statements that the Constitution lets him control any executive official, no matter what a statute passed by Congress might say.

In November 2002, for example, Congress, seeking to generate independent statistics about student performance, passed a law setting up an educational research institute to conduct studies and publish reports "without the approval" of the Secretary of Education. Bush, however, decreed that the institute's director would be "subject to the supervision and direction of the secretary of education."

Similarly, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld affirmative-action programs, as long as they do not include quotas. Most recently, in 2003, the court upheld a race-conscious university admissions program over the strong objections of Bush, who argued that such programs should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Yet despite the court's rulings, Bush has taken exception at least nine times to provisions that seek to ensure that minorities are represented among recipients of government jobs, contracts, and grants. Each time, he singled out the provisions, declaring that he would construe them "in a manner consistent with" the Constitution's guarantee of "equal protection" to all -- which some legal scholars say amounts to an argument that the affirmative-action provisions represent reverse discrimination against whites.

Golove said that to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court's precedents, he threatens to "overturn the existing structures of constitutional law."

A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, Golove said, can make the Constitution simply "disappear."

In a sidebar to the main article, Savage gives ten examples of laws that Dubya has signed, and the signing statements he's issued to claim the power to ignore those laws. The extent of Dubya's assault on the rule of law is breathtaking. And scary.

Saveage also notes that the idea of using signing statements to expand the president's powers at the expense of Congress and the courts dates back to the Reagan administration and a memo written by a certain Samuel Alito. Alito, of course, recently took a seat on the US Supreme Court. I'll leave the implications of those two facts for you to ponder.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:04 PM | Get permalink

I think there's another smoking gun around here.

This one's connected to the the illegal wiretapping of phone and internet communications that the US National Security Agency has been conducting at Dubya's behest. That domestic spying started shortly after 9/11 and, even though the threat of terrorist attacks has receded since then, the amount of illegal wiretapping has continued to rise.

Where exactly is this supposed smoking gun, you ask? Well, that takes a bit of back-story.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the main ways the NSA conducts its spying is via a sweetheart arrangement with AT&T. To prove this, the EFF filed a federal class-action lawsuit against AT&T this past January, alleging that the telecommunication giant has illegally given the NSA full access to its customers' internet and telephone communications, and has been providing access to its extensive database of caller information. The lawsuit asks the court to order AT&T to immediately stop giving this customer information to the feds.

Earlier this month, EFF filed additional documents with the court to support its request for an injunction. These included three internal AT&T documents that outline how the surveillance was being conducted at facilities in San Francisco. AT&T has been very unhappy that these documents have surfaced, and has asked the court to make EFF give the documents back and not refer to them further in its lawsuit.

This magpie isn't a lawyer, but that sure strikes us as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

But there's more — and this is where we get to the smoking gun part. A hearing has been set for June 21 at which the court will determine whether the AT&T documents, plus other evidence currently under seal by the court, will be made public. But on Friday, both AT&T and the feds took action to prevent that hearing from ever happening.
  • AT&T filed notice [PDF file] that it will be asking the court on June 8 to dismiss the EFF lawsuit on grounds of lack of jurisdiction. AT&T is arguing that, because it's a holding company, it doesn't actually operate in California. You basically have to read the filing to appreciate the chutzpah of this argument.
  • The Justice Department filed a 'Statement of Interest' {PDF file] announcing that the government would "assert the military and state secrets privilege" and "intervene to seek dismissal" of EFF's lawsuit. This move to dismiss will be made by May 12. Interestingly, the main authority that the government cites for why the NSA spying is legal — and should therefore be protected under the state secrets privilege — is Dubya's own claim, made in a December 2005 press conference, that his authorization of the spying was legal. Yes, the government is essentially asking a federal court to buy the argument that that because the president says something is legal, that makes it legal.
Given that AT&T and the feds are very anxious to keep EFF's case against the NSA's domestic surveillance from continuing, I have to wonder just what's making them so nervous. Could it be that those sealed AT&T internal documents show that the feds are, as a former AT&T technician alleges, doing 'vacuum-cleaner surveillance' of internet traffic? Or are the feds worried that any examination of the NSA's authority to conduct domestic wiretapping will show that Dubya didn't have the authority to order that wiretapping?

Inquiring magpies want to know.

Note: For more on the EFF lawsuit against AT&T, see this earlier Magpie post. There's more on the NSA's domestic surveillance network in this post.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:48 AM | Get permalink

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


Mail & Guardian [S. Africa]
BBC News
CBC News
Agence France Presse
Associated Press
Inter Press Service
Watching America
International Herald Tribune
Guardian (UK)
Independent (UK)
USA Today
NY Times (US)
Washington Post (US)
McClatchy Washington Bureau (US)
Boston Globe (US)
LA Times (US)
Globe & Mail (Canada)
Toronto Star (Canada)
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
Al-Ahram (Egypt)
Daily Star (Lebanon)
Haaretz (Israel)
Hindustan Times (India)
Japan Times (Japan)
Asia Times (Hong Kong)
New Scientist News
Paper Chase

Molly Ivins
CJR Daily
Women's eNews
Raw Story
The Gadflyer
Working for Change
Common Dreams
Democracy Now!
American Microphone
The Revealer
Editor & Publisher
Economic Policy Institute
Center for American Progress
The Memory Hole

Irish-American fiddler Liz Carroll

Céilí House (RTE Radio)
The Irish Fiddle
Fiddler Magazine
Concertina Library
A Guide to the Irish Flute
Chiff & Fipple
Irtrad-l Archives
Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann
BBC Virtual Session
JC's ABC Tune Finder

Propaganda Remix Project
Ask a Ninja
Boiling Point
Cat and Girl
Dykes to Watch Out For
Library of Congress
American Heritage Dictionary
Dictonary of Newfoundland English
American's Guide to Canada
Digital History of the San Fernando Valley
Blithe House Quarterly
Astronomy Pic of the Day
Earth Science Picture of the Day
Asia Grace
Gaelic Curse Engine
Old Dinosaur Books