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Thursday, June 30, 2005

ThePete.Comic Issue #1!

Well, today I managed to get my screenplay in the mail to the fellowship people after registering it online at last night--this was not something I knew I could do. But the real big news of the moment is:


Check it out:

It's just $10!! Go buy one now!! THANKS!!

I plan on getting this listed on Amazon as soon as I can figure out how to do it, too.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More On Mortgages and Home Ownership

I hope to do a whole bunch of research on financial stuff in the coming months (along with a bunch of other stuff, too, of course). Why is this? Because I am generally clue-free when it comes to money and based on my understanding of how well my fellow Americans handle their money (not very well at all) I'm guessing most Americans don't know squat about money-stuff, either.

I can't remember where, but I remember hearing that the number of savings accounts kept in America is tiny. I used to have two until Wells Fargo started charging $8 a month to keep them--how absurd is that? The banks have such a great scam going and they have the nerve to charge for a savings account? Well, I digress, this post is supposed to be about mortgages and home ownership.

Let me tell you a story of my parents. It's a long story, so keep reading if you've got some time.

More Headless-Chicken Fun Today

Today, I've got my work cut out for me.

1) Print out 2 copies of finished script but only 1 title page
2) Register one at WGA
3) Print out another cover with new WGA# on it.
4) Fill out fellowship application (but DON'T sign it!)
5) Get application notarized (NOW sign it!)
6) Mail off everything
7) Continue working on ThePete.Comic

Of course, at 6:30pm I stop doing whatever I'm doing so I can leave for Hollywood. I'm checking out a double feature at the Egyptian tonight of Matango (Also known as Attack of the Mushroom People) and a film I've literally waited a year to see H-Man. I was supposed to see H-Man last year at the Egyptian but they said the print vanished so they rant [|Battle in Outer Space] which was terrible. If the print vanishes again, I'm going to ask for half of my money back.

But yes, the first issue of ThePete.Comic will be available on July 1, 2005 come hell or high water!! I also hope to get my first novel out by July 1, as well. We'll see about that though since it still needs a cover. The really cool thing is that July 4, 2005 is the 7th anniversary of this site being online! Unfortunately, the archives only go back to 2000 or so, but ThePete.Com has been online since 1998--well, back then it was called, but that was too hard for folks to remember and to hard for me to type--but the content carried over. I hope to eventually get all of that old stuff online here in coming months.

Always so much to do!

Oh yeah and stay tuned for another post on home ownership--be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I Finished a Script--huzzah!

So, I think my script has to be at the screenwriting fellowship I'm submitting it to by June 30 so I pull an allnighter last night to finish the thing. I do finish it and frantically print it out along with the application form (after discovering that Final Draft doesn't let you have a cover sheet inside the same file as your script--I know, it makes no sense to me, either). I then discover they need a resume and a bio and they need the application form notarized. Ugh... at least there's no application fee.

So, I get a writing-experience-only resume typed up and printed out. I then type a new, only slightly pompous, bio and then contemplate being up another five hours to make sure this thing gets in the mail today. I have to make it to the Kinko's to drill the three holes in my script and add the brass fasteners. Then I have to get to the notary, then I have to get to the Writer's Guild so I can register my script, then to the post office so I can mail it off.

Then, I take another look at the application and discover that I only have to have it postmarked by June 30.


By this point it's a bit after 8am so I go to sleep.

I could have gone to sleep earlier and, in fact, was going to, but I realized that time-wise it would be better to just get everything taken care of today IF I needed to have it to the fellowship people BY 6/30. However, since I don't have to have it in the mail until Thursday now, I can do everything tomorrow.

I am glad that I finished the script, though. I hate it when I leave the writing part to the very last minute.

So, I climbed into bed a bit past 8--but I didn't fall asleep until a bit closer to 9 because I was so wound up. I think my eyes opened around 1:40pm when one of my cats was shaking the bed as he licked himself (he's a fluffy long haired cat who licks with force!)--still tired, I didn't want to get up, so I played Electroplankton on my DS and then managed to create a riff that was really cool so that inspired me to climb out of bed and record it.

I recorded it and continued to mess with EP coming up with 3 more riffs. I should create an Electroplankton or maybe a music category in case I ever mess around with Garageband some more. Making music is fun, but I'm lousy at it--that's why EP is so awesome. It makes making music easy. I highly recommend it if/when it comes out in the US. Although for the amount of fun it's given me, I'd say the $60 to import it is worth it.

OK, shower-time and then off to Jerry's Deli for a "hey I finished a script!" mini-celebration.

Tonight I'll spend many hours working on ThePete.Comic. SOON IT SHALL ALL BE DONE!


Monday, June 27, 2005


OK, I had to re-read this article a couple of times to convince myself it wasn't April Fools in June. This just sounds so bizarre, I'll let [,10117,15739502-13762,00.html|the article] from Australian news source [|] explain in an excerpt:
US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.
I'm thinking [|] has got to be Australia's answer to Russia's [|] because this is insane. I don't have time to research this, but human trials where your blood is taken out and replaced with saline solution??

You'd have to get some seriously suicidal saps to volunteer for this experiment.

Then again, maybe they could just [|find some foster kids].

From [|]:

Boffins create zombie dogs

By Nick Buchan of
June 27, 2005

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.
US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Plans to test the technique on humans should be realised within a year, according to the Safar Centre.

However rather than sending people to sleep for years, then bringing them back to life to benefit from medical advances, the boffins would be happy to keep people in this state for just a few hours,

But even this should be enough to save lives such as battlefield casualties and victims of stabbings or gunshot wounds, who have suffered huge blood loss.

During the procedure blood is replaced with saline solution at a few degrees above zero. The dogs' body temperature drops to only 7C, compared with the usual 37C, inducing a state of hypothermia before death.

Although the animals are clinically dead, their tissues and organs are perfectly preserved.

Damaged blood vessels and tissues can then be repaired via surgery. The dogs are brought back to life by returning the blood to their bodies,giving them 100 per cent oxygen and applying electric shocks to restart their hearts.

Tests show they are perfectly normal, with no brain damage.

"The results are stunning. I think in 10 years we will be able to prevent death in a certain segment of those using this technology," said one US battlefield doctor.

Copyright 2005 News Limited


I'm not the first to call what we've got in our laps an "oil crisis" but I can bet you I will be far from the last. Just have a look at these headlines:

[|Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability] (

[|Industry squeezed by soaring energy prices] (

[|Unrest 'could double' oil price] (

Do you dare do a [|Google News Search for Peak Oil]?

In a nutshell, if you're not familiar with what Peak Oil is, it's the idea that the Earth will reach it's maximum output level of oil at some point. In other words, output levels will keep rising until we start to run out of oil planet-wide and then the planet will begin to run out of oil. If you're familiar with basic supply and demand concepts, you understand that when supply goes down, prices go up.

How much is oil these days? Right around $60 a barrel.

Could we be just past the point of oil production's peak?

Well, mainstream news is probably suggesting that it's just the war and general uneasiness in the middle east that's causing the price of oil to rise so high. I'm not so sure that's enough to explain it. I'm no expert, but [|2 years ago, I blogged about a guy who is].

What is the USG doing to combat these high prices?

Here's another headline for you:

[|U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium] (

Oh, USG! Won't you ever learn?

Posted on Fri, Jun. 24, 2005

Simulated oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability

By Kevin G. Hall

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Former CIA Director Robert Gates sighs deeply as he pores over reports of growing unrest in Nigeria. Many Americans can't find the African nation on a map, but Gates knows that it's America's fifth-largest oil supplier and one that provides the light, sweet crude that U.S. refiners prefer.

It's 11 days before Christmas 2005, and the turmoil is preventing about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from reaching the world oil market, which was already drum-tight. Gates, functioning as the top national security adviser to the president, convenes the Cabinet to discuss the implications of Nigeria's spreading religious and ethnic unrest for America's economy.

Should U.S. troops be sent to restore order? Should America draw down its strategic oil reserves to stabilize soaring gasoline prices? Cabinet officials agree that drawing down the reserves might signal weakness. They recommend that the president simply announce his willingness to do so if necessary.

The economic effects of unrest in faraway Nigeria are immediate. Crude oil prices soar above $80 a barrel. June's then-record $60 a barrel is a distant memory. A gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3.31. Americans shell out $75 to fill a midsized SUV.

If all this sounds like a Hollywood drama, it's not. These scenarios unfolded in a simulated oil shock wave held Thursday in Washington. Two former CIA directors and several other former top policy-makers participated to draw attention to America's need to reduce its dependence on oil, especially foreign oil.

Fast-forward to Jan. 19, 2006. A blast rips through Saudi Arabia's Haradh natural-gas plant. Simultaneously, al Qaida terrorists seize a tanker at Alaska's Port of Valdez and crash it, igniting a massive fire that sweeps across oil terminals. Crude oil spikes to $120 a barrel, and the U.S. economy reels. Gasoline prices hit $4.74 a gallon.

Gates convenes the Cabinet again. Members still disagree on whether America should draw down its strategic oil reserves. Homeland Security chief James Woolsey, who ran the CIA from 1993 to 1995, argues that a special energy czar is needed with broad powers to bypass the bureaucracy and impose offshore oil drilling and construction of refineries.

That won't help now, though, or resolve any short-term issues, counters Gene Sperling, who was President Clinton's national economic adviser.

The energy secretary suggests that relaxing clean-air standards could help refiners squeeze out every last drop of gas. That makes the interior secretary, former Clinton Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, bristle. She blames Detroit for the mess because automakers failed to develop hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars.

The Cabinet can't agree on even the simplest short-term solutions. There aren't many options beyond encouraging car pools and lowering thermostats. There's no infrastructure in place to deliver alternative fuels such as ethanol or diesel made from soybeans or waste products.

Fast-forward again, to June 23, 2006. Emboldened Saudi insurgents attack foreign oil workers, killing hundreds. A mass evacuation follows from the world's pivotal oil producer, the one country that could be counted on to boost production during shortages in global supplies.

A take-charge guy with a Texas accent who led the CIA from 1991 to 1993, Gates calls yet another war-room meeting. Global recession looms. The world economy turns on cheap oil. Without foreign oil workers, how will Saudi Arabia meet its production targets and quench the oil thirst of America, China and India?

Oil prices have reached an unthinkable $150 a barrel. In Philadelphia, Miami and Kansas City, Mo., gas prices reach $5.74 a gallon. Now it takes $121 to fill that midsized SUV.

You get the picture. The scenario is intended to show how vulnerable the U.S. and world economies are because of dependence on oil from places where political instability threatens orderly production and distribution.

This year the world is consuming about 84 million barrels of oil a day. America alone guzzles about 20.8 million barrels a day. Experts think oil-producing nations have only 1.5 million barrels a day or less of unused production capacity right now. A disruption anywhere could cause market panic and spiking prices. That's largely why oil and gasoline prices are so high right now.

Saudi Arabia and other countries are trying to increase production, but that won't help much before next year at the earliest. Meanwhile, any hiccup in production, delivery or refining could cause disaster.

"A million or a million and a half barrels of oil a day off the market is a very realistic kind of scenario. You can think of a dozen different countries around the world ... where you can see that happening. Or even a natural disaster could do that," Gates said in an interview.

Former CIA chief Woolsey described as "relatively mild" the scenarios that the National Commission on Energy Policy and the advocacy group Securing America's Future Energy simulated. Both groups are pushing for reduced dependence on conventional oil.

"It was striking that by taking such small amounts off the market, you could have such dramatic impact" on world oil prices, said Robbie Diamond, the president of Securing America's Future Energy.

Richard Haass was a top adviser to former Secretary of State Colin Powell until 2003. The simulation taught him how little influence policy-makers would have in reversing an oil shock wave.

"I think where most of the work has to happen now, both intellectually and politically, is on demand" reduction, Haass said.


Industry squeezed by soaring energy prices

By Dan Roberts in New York, Bertrand Benoit in Berlin and David Turner in Tokyo
Published: June 26 2005 19:44 | Last updated: June 26 2005 19:44

Energy prices appear to have reached a tipping point for many industrial users, as inflation outstrips companies' capacity to absorb higher costs by increasing the prices they charge consumers.

European, US and Asian stock markets all fell last week as oil reached $60 per barrel and corporate leaders around the world issued a series of high-profile profit warnings.

Shares in energy-intensive companies such as manufacturing and transport were hardest hit. FedEx, for example, the US delivery group that has been a leading beneficiary of booming global trade, broke its winning streak by warning that this quarter's earnings would be hit by jet fuel costs despite an automatic surcharge for customers.

And the metals industry, which had been enjoying its best growth for years, is now squeezed between the high cost of energy-related inputs such as electricity and coal and slowing demand from leading customers.

Corus, the Anglo-Dutch steel producer, last week warned it may have to shut its aluminium plant in Voerde, Germany, because of high electricity costs. Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum maker, warned of 6,500 jobs cuts and plant closures in Germany and the US because of a drop in its prices and higher energy costs.

Energy prices have hit German business on two fronts by weighing on the already feeble domestic demand while eating away at companies' margins, especially in the large industrial sector.

The heavy layer of regulation and comparatively high energy-related taxes, meanwhile, meant German-based businesses were facing higher energy bills than their competitors abroad, he added.

Additional reporting by Andrew England in Nairobi

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2005


Unrest 'could double' oil price

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
(Filed: 27/06/2005)

A warning of a possible near doubling in the cost of oil was issued yesterday as UK prices rose to more than £4 a gallon and the AA Motoring Trust said the price of diesel was approaching £5 a gallon.

Further rises were expected next week, it said.

The price of crude oil could soon reach $100 a barrel, compared with the present historic high of $60, if there was further supply disruption in Russia or a political upset in Saudi Arabia, a leading German institute said.

The IFW World Economics Institute in Kiel said that any number of "unwelcome developments" could provoke a crisis. Given that the industry was already producing at full capacity to meet soaring demand in China and India, there was almost no margin to absorb a sudden supply shock.

The institute cited the risk of unrest spilling over from Iraq into Saudi Arabia and urged governments to lower car use, improve public transport and develop other forms of energy.

Adding to fears, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's new hard-ine leader, called for a crackdown on foreign oil firms.

The concerns of a long-term supply shortage were echoed by the Centre for Global Energy Studies in London, which questioned whether Opec could raise production much even if it wanted.

"There is no credible supply-side solution to the problem," the group's latest report said. "Prices will start to ease only when global oil demand growth stalls."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005

June 27, 2005

U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium


The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

"The real reason we're starting production is for national security," Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, said in a recent interview.

He vigorously denied that any of the classified missions would involve nuclear arms, satellites or weapons in space.

The laboratory is a source of pride and employment for many residents in the Idaho Falls area. But the secrecy is adding to unease in Wyoming, where environmentalists are scrutinizing the production plan - made public late Friday - and considering whether to fight it.

They say the production effort is a potential threat to nearby ecosystems, including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the area around Jackson Hole, famous for its billionaires, celebrities and weekend cowboys, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

"It's completely wrapped in the flag," said Mary Woollen-Mitchell, executive director of Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, a group based in Jackson Hole. "They absolutely won't let on" about the missions.

"People are starting to pay attention," she said of the production plan. "On the street, just picking up my kids at school, they're getting keyed up that something is in the works."

Plutonium 238 has no central role in nuclear arms. Instead, it is valued for its steady heat, which can be turned into electricity. Nuclear batteries made of it are best known for powering spacecraft that go where sunlight is too dim to energize solar cells. For instance, they now power the Cassini probe exploring Saturn and its moons.

Federal and private experts unconnected to the project said the new plutonium would probably power devices for conducting espionage on land and under the sea. Even if no formal plans now exist to use the plutonium in space for military purposes, these experts said that the material could be used by the military to power compact spy satellites that would be hard for adversaries to track, evade or destroy.

"It's going to be a tough world in the next one or two decades, and this may be needed," said a senior federal scientist who helps the military plan space missions and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the possibility that he would contradict federal policies. "Technologically, it makes sense."

Early in the nuclear era, the government became fascinated by plutonium 238 and used it regularly to make nuclear batteries that worked for years or decades. Scores of them powered satellites, planetary probes and spy devices, at times with disastrous results.

In 1964, a rocket failure led to the destruction of a navigation satellite powered by plutonium 238, spreading radioactivity around the globe and starting a debate over the event's health effects.

In 1965, high in the Himalayas, an intelligence team caught in a blizzard lost a plutonium-powered device meant to spy on China. And in 1968, an errant weather satellite crashed into the Pacific, but federal teams managed to recover its plutonium battery intact from the Santa Barbara Channel, off California.

Such accidents cooled enthusiasm for the batteries. But federal agencies continued to use them for a more limited range of missions, including those involving deep-space probes and top-secret devices for tapping undersea cables.

In 1997, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration prepared to launch its Cassini probe of Saturn, hundreds of protesters converged on its Florida spaceport, arguing that an accident could rupture the craft's nuclear batteries and condemn thousands of people to death by cancer.

Plutonium 238 is hundreds of times more radioactive than the kind of plutonium used in nuclear arms, plutonium 239. Medical experts agree that inhaling even a speck poses a serious risk of lung cancer.

But federal experts say that the newest versions of the nuclear batteries are made to withstand rupture into tiny particles and that the risk of human exposure is extraordinarily low.

Today, the United States makes no plutonium 238 and instead relies on aging stockpiles or imports from Russia. By agreement with the Russians, it cannot use the imported material - some 35 pounds since the end of the cold war - for military purposes.

With its domestic stockpile running low, Washington now wants to resume production. Though it last made plutonium 238 in the 1980's at the government's Savannah River plant in South Carolina, it now wants to move such work to the Idaho National Laboratory and consolidate all the nation's plutonium 238 activities there, including efforts now at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

By centralizing everything in Idaho, the Energy Department hopes to increase security and reduce the risks involved in transporting the radioactive material over highways.

Late Friday, the department posted a 500-page draft environmental impact statement on the plan at The public has 60 days to respond.

Mr. Frazier said the department planned to weigh public reaction and complete the regulatory process by late this year, and to finish the plan early in 2006. The president would then submit it to Congress for approval, he said. The work requires no international assent.

The Idaho National Laboratory, founded in 1949 for atomic research, stretches across 890 square miles of southeastern Idaho. The Big Lost River wanders its length. The site is dotted with 450 buildings and 52 reactors - more than at any other place - most of them shut down. It has long wrestled with polluted areas and recently sought to set new standards in environmental restoration.

New plutonium facilities there would take five years to build and cost about $250 million, Mr. Frazier said. The operations budget would run to some $40 million annually over 30 years, he said, for a total cost of nearly $1.5 billion.

An existing reactor there would make the plutonium. Mr. Frazier said the goal was to start production by 2012 and have the first plutonium available by 2013. When possible, Mr. Frazier said, the plutonium would be used not only for national security but also for deep-space missions, reducing dependence on Russian supplies.

Since late last year, the Energy Department has tried to reassure citizens living around the proposed manufacturing site of the plan's necessity and safety.

But political activists in Wyoming have expressed frustration at what they call bureaucratic evasiveness regarding serious matters. "It's the nastiest of the nasty," Ms. Woollen-Mitchell said of plutonium 238.

Early this year, she succeeded in learning some preliminary details of the plan from the Energy Department. Mr. Frazier provided her with a document that showed that production over 30 years would produce 51,590 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

He also referred to the continuing drain on the government's national security stockpile, saying the known missions by the end of this decade would require 55 pounds of plutonium for 10 to 15 power systems. Those uses, he said, would leave virtually no plutonium for future classified missions.

Ms. Woollen-Mitchell was unswayed. In January she told the Energy Department that so much information about the plan remained hidden that it had "given us serious pause."

The Energy Department is courting Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free because it has flexed its political muscle before. Starting in late 1999, financed by wealthy Jackson Hole residents like Harrison Ford, it fought to stop the Idaho lab from burning plutonium-contaminated waste in an incinerator and forced the lab to investigate alternatives.

In the recent interview, Mr. Frazier said he planned to talk to the group on Tuesday and expressed hope of winning people over.

"I don't know that I'll be able to make them perfectly comfortable," he said, "but they know that the department is willing to listen and talk and take their comments into consideration."

"We have a good case," Mr. Frazier added, saying the department could show that the Idaho plan "can be done safely with very minimal environmental impacts."

(c) Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


Remember Nuremburg? Am I even spelling that right? I don't mean do you remember it literally--I mean, I don't think I have readers that are THAT old. But do you remember what it was? Well, if my feeble knowledge on WWII is right, it was a war crimes trial that went after Nazi war criminals. It also would go on to serve as a template and/or basis for the World Tribunal on Iraq, or the [abbr: WTI - World Tribunal on Iraq]. The idea of the WTI is to put Operation Iraqi Freedom under a magnifying glass, hear witnesses talk about the occupation and so on.

It was held in Instanbul (that's in Turkey) between June 23 and 27, 2005. It just ended. Did you read about it in the news? Did you see it on TV? To be honest, I can't tell you if you did because I tend to get my news from alternative sources on the 'net and the Daily Show on TV. Something tells me you didn't hear too much about it. Mainly because it totally slammed America and America's handling of Iraq.

To read about how badly they bagged on the US, [|check out this article] from I'm not even going to quote it right here because you probably have a good idea how harsh it is. It actually goes into some stuff you probably don't even know about if you're from the US. There was a lot of talk about women's rights being ignored under US occupation. Women are being raped, kidnapped and tortured apparently.

I only say "apparenlty" because I know there are conservatives who are reading this who might be tempted to accuse women who testified at the WTI of making it all up.

To this I, as always, say this: What's wrong with at least investigating this stuff?

Anyway, read more about it all in that article or go straight to the WTI website at

From and

Witnesses at anti-war tribunal slam US actions in Iraq

Sat Jun 25, 2:54 PM ET

ISTANBUL (AFP) - The World Tribunal on
Iraq (WTI), an anti-war grouping of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intellectuals and writers, heard witnesses condemn the United States for rights abuses and the worsening plight of Iraqi women.

A former US Air Force pilot called on US troops in Iraq to "resist" the orders of their superior officers in an "illegal war".

"Today Iraq has been turned into a vast prison," lawyer Amal Sawadi told the hearing.

"They come to people's houses in the middle of the night, when everyone is asleep, blow in the door. They point their weapons in people's faces ... they search women in front of their families, they smash everything in the house."

She said lawyers had problems getting news of their imprisoned clients and spoke of rapes and humiliations which amounted to the "systematic practice of torture."

The only journalist present in the city of Fallujah when it was attacked in April and November 2004 said the assault on it amounted to "genocide".

Fadhil Al Bedrani, of the Al-Jazeera network, told how a 70-year-old man died for lack of medical supplies and of the stench of rotting bodies "abandoned in the streets and eaten by animals."

The plight of Iraqi women has worsened badly since the occupation, Hana Ibrahim, an Iraqi feminist said.

"From the day the occupation started there have been systematic violations of women's rights. They have been kidnapped, raped and even taken to other countries by criminal networks," she said.

She said 90 percent of women were out of work, women were now "almost non-existent in social life" while "prostitution was developing" and more and more women were reduced to begging.

Former pilot Tim Goodrich said US troops should realize they were taking part in an illegal war and resist.

"There are some people that have, there are pieces of resistance that people don't know about... some soldiers who refuse to go on a mission," he said.

"The military is part of the problem, not of the solution."

"Some people accuse us of being against the troops or antipatriotic but we are the troops. How can I be antipatriotic by asking our soldiers to come back home alive?"

About 200 non-governmental organziations -- including the environmentalist group Greenpeace, the anti-globalisation ATTAC and Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- as well as a number of prominent intellectuals such as US linguist Noam Chomsky and Egyptian sociologist Samir Amin are involved in the WTI.

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse

Here's the new article that was posted a few days after the above was posted, but it was at the same link.

From and

World tribunal on Iraq condemns US, Britain

Mon Jun 27,10:39 AM ET

ISTANBUL (AFP) - The self-styled World Tribunal on
Iraq (WTI), an anti-war grouping of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), intellectuals and writers, harshly, if symbolically, condemned the United States, Britain and their allies for the occupation of Iraq.

The tribunal recommended Monday "an exhaustive investigation of those responsible for crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity in Iraq."

After three days of deliberations, it singled out
President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister
Tony Blair along with government officials from other coalition partners as being primarily culpable for the war.

The tribunal, the purpose of which was to document the case against the war, did not consider the argument in favor of the US-led intervention in Iraq, and had no judicial status.

The statement, read by Indian author Arundhati Roy, chair of the tribunal's "Jury of Conscience," called for an "immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the coalition forces in Iraq."

Roy, who won the Booker Prize in Britain in 1997 for her novel, "The God of Small Things", told a news conference that "our aim is to have the US and British forces out of Iraq," but conceded that this "will not happen tomorrow."

Roy also called on the US to immediately close down its prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and demanded a review of all treaties signed with post-invasion Iraq, which she said "should be considered null and void."

The WTI criticized the
United Nations for having, it said, failed properly to manage the Iraqi crisis.

It also pointed a finger at a number of US firms active in Iraq, such as Halliburton, Carlyle, Boeing and Texaco.

It recommended "that people throughout the world launch actions against US and UK corporations that directly profit from this war."

The generally studious crowd of participants broke into a chant of "The people united will never be defeated" -- an avatar of left-wing Latin American liberation struggles -- as the tribunal's closing statement was being read.

It also erupted in applause after hearing testimony Saturday from Iraqi women's rights activist Hana Ibrahim.

Ibrahim spoke of the damage inflicted by the war and the occupation on the women of Iraq, with a proliferation of prostitution rings and the near-total exclusion of women from public life.

During the proceedings, about 50 experts and witnesses, from jurists to former soldiers and victims of the conflict, testified before the jury and the participants to demonstrate what they described as the illegality of the war.

Testimony included technical reports, such as one pointing to an upsurge in cases of leukemia among the children of Basra after the 1991
Gulf War, and accounts, backed by pictures and documents, of alleged torture and "collective punishment" inflicted on civilians in such trouble spots as Fallujah.

Organisers said the recommendations of the WTI will be handed over to those the jury found at fault, as well as to a number of international organisations.

The WTI, founded in 2003 and modelled on the 1960s' Russell Tribunal -- created by British philosopher Bertrand Russell to denounce the war in Vietnam -- has held 20 sessions so far in different locations around the world.

It includes about 200 NGOs -- including the environmentalist Greenpeace, the anti-globalization ATTAC and Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- as well as a number of prominent intellectuals such as the linguist Noam Chomsky and international law professor Richard Falk of the United States.

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse


One of my personal heroes is a guy called Bill Moyers. He's what most conservatives/Republicans call a liberal news man. To that label, Moyers says something like this: "You know you're reporting the truth when they start accusing you of being a liberal."

That's not an exact quote, but pretty close.

In fact, what I consider to be [|my very first "hard news" blog entry] was about Moyers being a smart guy and basically warning us that the Bush administration promised bad things for America. This was not because Bush was a Republican, but because of what Bush was doing.

Here's a smidge of what Moyers said in a commentary back in 2002 that I blogged on nearly 3 years ago:
Way back in the 1950's when I first tasted politics and journalism, Republicans briefly controlled the White House and Congress. With the exception of Joseph McCarthy and his vicious ilk, they were a reasonable lot, presided over by that giant war hero, Dwight Eisenhower, who was conservative by temperament and moderate in the use of power.

That brand of Republican is gone. And for the first time in the memory of anyone alive, the entire federal government — the Congress, the Executive, the Judiciary — is united behind a right-wing agenda for which George W. Bush believes he now has a mandate.

That mandate includes the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives.

It includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich.

It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable.

And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming.

And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture. These folks don't even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of God. Why else would the new House Majority Leader say that the Almighty is using him to promote 'a Biblical worldview' in American politics?
By the way, the reason you don't want a party calling itself "God's Party" is becase of that whole separation of church and state. The idea is if you're known as the Christian party, it means you're pretty much endorsing a religion, which is in fact mentioned in the Constitution as being illegal.

But I digress--the point here is that Moyers for years has been coming down on the imagined liberal side of things--but between you and me? He was going for the truth and warning us that moderate government seemed to be gone for the foreseeable future. In that sense he did what many of us did back in 2002 and even before--he predicted the future. What in the above quote hasn't come to pass?

Well, apparently, the guy who runs the Corportation for Public Broadcasting (well, ran it until recently), decided that Moyers should be investigated for being liberally biased with his news coverage. So, he secretly hired someone to keep track of just how liberal he was being. Officially, the report has never been officially released.

There could be a couple of reasons for this. I'm guesing it's because the report showed that Moyers wasn't biased at all. There's also the aspect that it would show that Moyers wasn't the only news source investigated. In fact, he wasn't. NPR also had it's liberalness gauged.

What's wrong with this? Nothing if it weren't done with the intent of using said report to have Moyers and any other liberally slanted news source knocked off the air for being liberally biased, which is an awful laugh considering PBS is supposed to be the answer to big business news sources.

Consider Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and now think about PBS.

Don't we deserve to have an alternative to big budgetted, loud, crappy news?

Well, commentator Frank Rich thinks that the Republicans don't believe we do deserve an alternative. In [|a piece] at he thinks all this stuff we've heard in years past (and again this year) about the USG cutting funding to PBS and killing Big Bird is a big smoke screen to hide what's really up. Here's a quote:
The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

For crying out loud, folks--when are we going to start stopping things? We all saw the signs that the Bush 43 Admin wa going to take us down bad paths years ago, but most of you out there (well, roughly 53 percent of you) trusted him. Trusted him despite the jokes about being an American dictator and the accusations (and proof) of stealing the election in 2000. Well, I'll forgive you guys for that, but how much more are we, as a country, going to take before we say enough is enough?

Will it be too late?

Well, they're working on marginalizing one of the last non-corporate, infotainment news shows left in American TV. What's next, the Daily Show? Because after Moyer's show Now is gone, Jon Stewart is the next viable target--you know, calling it like it is, pointing out the absurdities and the lies... I hope Jon Stewart and his staff have been saving money during their successful run.

June 26, 2005

The Armstrong Williams NewsHour


HERE'S the difference between this year's battle over public broadcasting and the one that blew up in Newt Gingrich's face a decade ago: this one isn't really about the survival of public broadcasting. So don't be distracted by any premature obituaries for Big Bird. Far from being an endangered species, he's the ornithological equivalent of a red herring.

Let's not forget that Laura Bush has made a fetish of glomming onto popular "Sesame Street" characters in photo-ops. Polls consistently attest to the popular support for public broadcasting, while Congress is in a race to the bottom with Michael Jackson. Big Bird will once again smite the politicians - as long as he isn't caught consorting with lesbians.

That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.

There's only one obstacle standing in the way of the coup. Like Richard Nixon, another president who tried to subvert public broadcasting in his war to silence critical news media, our current president may be letting hubris get the best of him. His minions are giving any investigative reporters left in Washington a fresh incentive to follow the money.

That money is not the $100 million that the House still threatens to hack out of public broadcasting's various budgets. Like the theoretical demise of Big Bird, this funding tug-of-war is a smoke screen that deflects attention from the real story. Look instead at the seemingly paltry $14,170 that, as Stephen Labaton of The New York Times reported on June 16, found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS bête noire, Bill Moyers's "Now."

Now, why would Mr. Tomlinson pay for information that any half-sentient viewer could track with TiVo? Why would he hire someone in Indiana? Why would he keep this contract a secret from his own board? Why, when a reporter exposed his secret, would he try to cover it up by falsely maintaining in a letter to an inquiring member of the Senate, Byron Dorgan, that another CPB executive had "approved and signed" the Mann contract when he had signed it himself? If there's a news story that can be likened to the "third-rate burglary," the canary in the coal mine that invited greater scrutiny of the Nixon administration's darkest ambitions, this strange little sideshow could be it.

After Mr. Labaton's first report, Senator Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called Mr. Tomlinson demanding to see the "product" Mr. Mann had provided for his $14,170 payday. Mr. Tomlinson sent the senator some 50 pages of "raw data." Sifting through those pages when we spoke by phone last week, Mr. Dorgan said it wasn't merely Mr. Moyers's show that was monitored but also the programs of Tavis Smiley and NPR's Diane Rehm.

Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and "anti-administration" was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency. Thus was the conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel given the same L as Bill Clinton simply because he expressed doubts about Iraq in a discussion mainly devoted to praising Ronald Reagan. Three of The Washington Post's star beat reporters (none of whom covers the White House or politics or writes opinion pieces) were similarly singled out simply for doing their job as journalists by asking questions about administration policies.

"It's pretty scary stuff to judge media, particularly public media, by whether it's pro or anti the president," Senator Dorgan said. "It's unbelievable."

Not from this gang. Mr. Mann was hardly chosen by chance to assemble what smells like the rough draft of a blacklist. He long worked for a right-wing outfit called the National Journalism Center, whose director, M. Stanton Evans, is writing his own Ann Coulteresque book to ameliorate the reputation of Joe McCarthy. What we don't know is whether the 50 pages handed over to Senator Dorgan is all there is to it, or how many other "monitors" may be out there compiling potential blacklists or Nixonian enemies lists on the taxpayers' dime.

We do know that it's standard practice for this administration to purge and punish dissenters and opponents - whether it's those in the Pentagon who criticized Donald Rumsfeld's low troop allotments for Iraq or lobbying firms on K Street that don't hire Tom DeLay cronies. We also know that Mr. Mann's highly ideological pedigree is typical of CPB hires during the Tomlinson reign.

Eric Boehlert of Salon discovered that one of the two public ombudsmen Mr. Tomlinson recruited in April to monitor the news broadcasts at PBS and NPR for objectivity, William Schulz, is a former writer for the radio broadcaster Fulton Lewis Jr., a notorious Joe McCarthy loyalist and slime artist. The Times reported that to provide "insights" into Conrad Burns, a Republican senator who supported public-broadcasting legislation that Mr. Tomlinson opposed, $10,000 was shelled out to Brian Darling, the G.O.P. operative who wrote the memo instructing Republicans to milk Terri Schiavo as "a great political issue."

Then, on Thursday, a Rove dream came true: Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, ascended to the CPB presidency. In her last job, as an assistant secretary of state, Ms. Harrison publicly praised the department's production of faux-news segments - she called them "good news" segments - promoting American success in Afghanistan and Iraq. As The Times reported in March, one of those fake news videos ended up being broadcast as real news on the Fox affiliate in Memphis.

Mr. Tomlinson has maintained that his goal at CPB is to strengthen public broadcasting by restoring "balance" and stamping out "liberal bias." But Mr. Moyers left "Now" six months ago. Mr. Tomlinson's real, not-so-hidden agenda is to enforce a conservative bias or, more specifically, a Bush bias. To this end, he has not only turned CPB into a full-service employment program for apparatchiks but also helped initiate "The Journal Editorial Report," the only public broadcasting show ever devoted to a single newspaper's editorial page, that of the zealously pro-Bush Wall Street Journal. Unlike Mr. Moyers's "Now" - which routinely balanced its host's liberalism with conservative guests like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot and Cal Thomas - The Journal's program does not include liberals of comparable stature.

THIS is all in keeping with Mr. Tomlinson's long career as a professional propagandist. During the Reagan administration he ran Voice of America. Then he moved on to edit Reader's Digest, where, according to Peter Canning's 1996 history of the magazine, "American Dreamers," he was rumored to be "a kind of 'Manchurian Candidate' " because of the ensuing spike in pro-C.I.A. spin in Digest articles. Today Mr. Tomlinson is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal body that supervises all nonmilitary international United States propaganda outlets, Voice of America included. That the administration's foremost propagandist would also be chairman of the board of CPB, the very organization meant to shield public broadcasting from government interference, is astonishing. But perhaps no more so than a White House press secretary month after month turning for softball questions to "Jeff Gannon," a fake reporter for a fake news organization ultimately unmasked as a G.O.P. activist's propaganda site.

As the public broadcasting debate plays out, there will be the usual talk about how to wean it from federal subsidy and the usual complaints (which I share) about the redundancy, commerciality and declining quality of some PBS programming in a cable universe. But once Big Bird, like that White House Thanksgiving turkey, is again ritualistically saved from the chopping block and the Senate restores more of the House's budget cuts, the most crucial test of the damage will be what survives of public broadcasting's irreplaceable journalistic offerings.

Will monitors start harassing Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour," which Mr. Tomlinson trashed at a March 2004 State Department conference as a "tired and slowed down" also-ran to Shepard Smith's rat-a-tat-tat newscast at Fox News? Will "Frontline" still be taking on the tough investigations that network news no longer touches? Will the reportage on NPR be fearless or the victim of a subtle or not-so-subtle chilling effect instilled by Mr. Tomlinson and his powerful allies in high places?

Forget the pledge drive. What's most likely to save the independent voice of public broadcasting from these thugs is a rising chorus of Deep Throats.

(c) Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


WHOA, talk about an Iraquagmire!! This time, I'm not paraphrasing Rummy for the title of this blog entry--I wish I was. According to [|an article] at, Donald Rumsfeld spoke on Fox News Sunday and said the following:
"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years,"

Ah, yes, he got that figure from Wikipedia--in the section called "Shit That Is Just Impossible to Know."

I mean, come on--can anyone think of a single reason we should believe anything that comes out of this dude's mouth? Last night on the Daily Show they ran a clip of Rumsfeld saying the Iraq Attack wouldn't last as long as 6 months and now he's suggesting it could last up to 12 years?


I don't care if you Republicans out there want to say Rummy's a good guy and that he didn't lie about this stuff, he was just wrong. I hold the same frustration for Rummy as I do Dubya. Fine, they weren't lying, they were just comeplete and utter idiots.

You want idiots in charge here?

"6 months" eh, "12 years," what's the difference, right?

I'm curious what the difference is in human lives.

Ah, and the next question I have for any Republicans reading this page is this: Do you want the US to be responsible monetarily and mortally for Iraqi peace for up to 12 more years?

Hell, I didn't think we should do it for 12 days, let alone 12 years.


Iraqi insurgency could last 12 years, Rumsfeld warns

Last Updated Sun, 26 Jun 2005 21:43:56 EDT
CBC News

The Iraqi insurgency could stretch on for more than a decade, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said as he played down meetings between American officials and militant leaders.

If the fighting continues for years, it will be up to the Iraqi security forces to defeat the militants because the U.S. and other foreign forces will be gone, Rumsfeld said on Sunday.

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years," Rumsfeld told Fox News Sunday.

"Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency."

Americans often 'facilitate' talks between Iraqis
As Rumsfeld appeared on several U.S. current affairs TV programs during the day to field questions about Iraq, he also said senior American officials had met with insurgent leaders.

His comments confirmed a report in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that U.S. government and military leaders held "secret negotiations with rebel leaders" twice in June.

But Rumsfeld minimized the meetings, saying the United States regularly tries to "facilitate" talks between the Iraqi government and the insurgents.

"I would not make a big deal out of it. Meetings go on frequently with people," he said.

Citing unnamed Iraqi sources, the Times said "the talks appear to represent the first serious effort by Americans and Iraqi insurgents to find common ground since violence intensified in the spring."

Rumsfeld said he thought there had been "many more" than the two meetings the paper reported.

The Iraqi government has been struggling to include Sunnis, who are believed to represent the core of the insurgency.

Although they make up only about 20 per cent of the population, they dominated the Shia majority under the regime of deposed leader Saddam Hussein.

The Times report said the meetings had not included Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group which has been blamed for beheading hostages.

But the paper said the Ansar al-Sunnah Army – which claimed responsibility for a Dec. 22 attack that killed at least 15 U.S. soldiers – was there.

Copyright © CBC 2005


Well, as usual, I paraphrase for my entry titles. What Rumsfeld said when he referred to Democrat insistence on a new independent investigation into the treatment of Gitmo detainees was "it doesn't make sense."


Why does it not make sense?

He says that there are 10 others that the Pentagon has already done.

Yyyyeah--the Pentagon. Those are the guys that screwed up the Iraq Attack, right?

Um, yeah, I'm thinking we need an independent investigation.

I mean, I'm really beginning to think that Republicans are the biggest fricken pussies on the planet. Saying we don't need an investigation EVERY time someone suggests one makes you look one of two things: scared or guilty.

Which one are you guys?

Read more about this in [|an article] at

Jun 26, 9:38 PM EDT

Rumsfeld Rejects Outside Panel on Gitmo

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new independent investigation of abuse allegations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "doesn't make sense," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.

Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing for an independent commission to look into conditions at the detention center at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

An estimated 540 detainees - most of them captured during battles in Afghanistan - are being held at the base.

Last week, the White House rejected the idea of an independent commission, citing 10 major investigations by the Pentagon.


"I think that to go back into all of the things that's already been reviewed by everybody else doesn't make sense," Rumsfeld said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on NBC.

"But that's not a decision for me. That's a decision for the president," he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said an independent commission could explore the atmosphere that permitted abuses, how troops were trained, and the length of detentions.

House members of both parties toured the facility on Saturday and noted progress in improving conditions and protecting the rights of detainees. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, acknowledged improvements but still supported an investigation by an independent commission.

Some detainees have been incarcerated for more than three years without being charged. Rumsfeld defended the detentions by citing the prisoners' alleged deeds.

"These are bad people," Rumsfeld said on "Fox News Sunday."

"These are suicide bombers, these are murderers. This is the 20th hijacker from 9/11 down there. These are people who are out to kill people," he said.

Rumsfeld said U.S. policy calls for humane treatment of the detainees. Any U.S. personnel who have committed wrongdoing there have been punished, he said.

Amnesty International has called the detention center "the gulag of our time," a charge the Bush administration has ridiculed.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

©2005 The Associated Press


So, according to [|an article] at, the city of Chelsea, Massachusettes, has blown $250,000 on 27 digital cameras that will be placed in public spaces around the city. But that article says it with a subtlety Big Brother would be proud of:
In mid-July, Chelsea, Mass., hopes to throw the switch on a quarter-million-dollar system of 27 digital cameras with the capacity to monitor and record activity in any of its public spaces, says Jay Ash, city manager. His hope: that the system, which has cut crime in Chicago, will do the same in this high-crime city of 36,000 packed into less than two square miles.
Don't get me wrong--cutting crime is great, but at what expense?

We no longer trust ourselves to not commit crimes? We need to watch EVERYONE because a percentage of us break the law? This is just like that time when everyone in the cafeteria had to go to detention just because five kids started a food fight. Overkill and most of us had nothing more to do with it than the teachers did.

And of course, there's the Orwellian argument--cams in public spaces, but next are we going to put cams in private spaces? What's the difference, really? We shouldn't be breaking laws in private, either, right? A lot of crimes occur in the home, right? Like illegal file sharing and sodomy... oh wait, I don't think sodomy is illegal.

THE POINT IS, do we wait until the government goes too far? Or do we voice our concerns now, before our privacy is irrevocably removed for good?

Oh and if you read the article, I think it's funny how the first few paragraphs of the article at the Christian Science Monitor's website don't cast excessive cameras as being bad. I mean, come on--it's good that society in Chelsea, Mass has gotten so crime-ridden we can't afford to trust citizens to NOT commit crimes in public?


Crime-busting cameras: a US-city experiment

By Clayton Collins | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
CHELSEA, MASS. – Sitting in Bellingham Square, hub of this city just north of Boston, Philip Quaglione remembers when a surveillance camera hung here at Washington and Broadway.

Its pole was knocked down several years ago, he says, either accidentally or by someone who didn't like the unblinking eye.

Now, surveillance cameras are coming back. In mid-July, Chelsea, Mass., hopes to throw the switch on a quarter-million-dollar system of 27 digital cameras with the capacity to monitor and record activity in any of its public spaces, says Jay Ash, city manager. His hope: that the system, which has cut crime in Chicago, will do the same in this high-crime city of 36,000 packed into less than two square miles.

Other small cities have similar aims. Officials in Schenectady, N.Y., reportedly plan to have eight cameras trained on the city's main commercial zone by fall. State funds will be used.

Chelsea's ally is the US government, which will add seven more cameras in a shared-feeds arrangement that has city officials encouraged, civil libertarians concerned, and some residents wondering how electronic policing and a federal presence will affect daily life.

The federal government is involved because a few Chelsea landmarks have special post-Sept. 11 significance. The Tobin Bridge, a major gateway into Boston, plants its northern footings here. Tanks of liquefied natural gas huddle down by the Mystic River.

Anika Hobbs, helping a friend load a car on Winnisimmet Street, says new cameras will do little to make her feel safer from terrorism. While she supports efforts to curb crime, Ms. Hobbs calls the use of terrorism concerns as a reason to boost surveillance "an excuse, especially in a city like Chelsea," with its high minority population.

Others differ. "The more [monitoring] the better," says David Flores, a teen who points to a spot a half-block away where he says a fatal stabbing occurred earlier this month.

Public-safety meetings, attended by residents and local businesses, will help determine where the city's cameras are aimed, says Mr. Ash. (Locations are as yet undisclosed, says Frank Garvin, chief of police, who maintains that the ambiguity effectively increases the cameras' value as a deterrent.)

Ash credits Washington with a new spirit of cooperation concerning the federal cameras. Chelsea is part of a nine-member cluster of communities called the Metropolitan Boston Homeland Security Partnership.

"What the federal government seems to be telling us is, 'We want you to use this equipment for other purposes as well ... but understand that [its] primary role is homeland security,' " says Ash.

"We have at least 10 places around the nation that ... are part of a pilot program," says Michelle Petrovich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington. Ms. Petrovich will not confirm that Chelsea represents one such program. Instead, she describes them collectively.

"[Federal cameras] feed into the local emergency operations centers, for example," she says. "It's intended to give a larger view for state and local law enforcement.... [The feed] goes into our Homeland Security operations center as well, so we have an equal view."

Testing the limits?

Ash says the city would probably not retain digital images for more than 30 days. He says police officers might eventually be able to call up views from any of the cameras through the laptop computers in their cruisers.

But civil liberties groups worry about the "federalization" of local police and the potential for abuse of a growing observational power.

"Where there's a human being in the loop, there's the potential for abuse," says Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Ms. Rose - who says the ACLU is still looking at the Chelsea case - says the legal limits of close new surveillance have not yet been tested in court. She wonders, citing an extreme example, whether a private journal being read in a public space could be discerned by increasingly high-tech cameras.

"We're coming up with protocols to make sure that those who are viewing the cameras are doing so for lawful purposes," says Chelsea's Ash. "And we are putting in place limitations on who has access to the images."

Despite signs of interagency cooperation, the future control of digital image banks remains in question, others say.

"Sharing is political," says Michael Rogers, president of Oracle Surveillance Systems in Baltimore, a $2 million-a-year firm that contracts with several government agencies. His company recently installed monitoring cameras at traffic lights in Fairfax, Va.

"Then the police wanted the feed," says Mr. Rogers. "The traffic-and-signal people didn't want to give the police the power to control anything."

Big business or Big Brother?

Perhaps the most controversial area of monitoring is the proposed inclusion of private-sector cameras. Many cities already have thousands, and demand for electronic-security products is projected to grow 9 percent a year through 2008 to $15.5 billion, according to Freedonia Group, a research firm.

Video related spending, $3 billion of that total, has notched the sharpest annual growth rate, nearly 13 percent.

"We had a discussion with members of the Chamber of Commerce about their own internal systems," says Ash. "We're not sure about the links right now, but ... we're sure they're going to be available tomorrow."

But many of the constitutional protections that Americans have regarding personal information in government databases do not apply where proprietary, private-sector data is concerned, says the ACLU's Rose. That, she says, could lead to their public-sector partners watching individuals without probable cause.

"We're not Big Brother," says a Chelsea police officer who asks not to be named. "If technology enhances our ability to fight crime, that's a good thing."

Copyright © 2005 The Christian Science Monitor


Hey, check it out--according to [|a post] over at, the US Supreme Court has found [abbr: P2P - Peer to Peer] networks, well, Grokster and StreamCast, specifically, liable for any illegal file sharing that is done on their network.

Of course, if we're to use this as an example for other cases, I'm guessing that gun companies are now liable for crimes committed with the guns they produce. Alcohol companies are now liable for drunk driving accidents and for that matter, car companies should now be liable for crimes committed with the help of their vehicles. Hell, it seems like a reasonable person could take it so far as to say parents are responsible for the crimes their children commit.

How absurdly short-sighted is this ruling? Too short to even measure. This saves big business the trouble of alienating their customers by suing them for committing the actual crime of file sharing. This also makes it harder for a lot of independent record-deal-free musicians from getting their stuff heard thanks to file sharing networks being shut down.

One of the things government seems to be doing a lot of lately is making it hard for the little guy to do things on his or her own. Ted Turner said not too long ago that if he tried to start CNN today, he wouldn't be able to. There's no way for just some guy on the street to get a loan and start something like a cable network. Well, now it seems to be happening with recording artists, too.

Of course, it's the Internet--there will be other solutions found.

Halliburton Getting Skewered on C-SPAN

Ha, just watching Rory Mayberry a KBR (Halliburton subsidiary) on C-SPAN talk about how KBR overcharged the shit out of TheUSMil for all sorts of stuff. Mayberry says that when food convoys were shot up, they were told to get the remaining food out of the trucks and just remove the bullets and shrapnel and feed the food to the USGIs.

Ah, this is even better--Mayberry says he was sent to deliver food in Fallujah while auditors investigated his operation because he had admitted he would tell auditors the truth. The convoy he was in was later fired on. So, talk and KBR has you put in harms way.

Damn, I should be recording this--this is horendous for Halliburton. Apparently they charged for 20,000 meals that were never served to USGIs. Nice...

Well, this is according to one guy.

I'm sure he's lying though ;)

Ups, here's a guy called Gary Butters who is testifying now. Let's see if he has anything nice to say.

Damn, I've got a screenplay to finish tonight AND all that blogging to do... Time to activate my DVR!! Yippeee!!

Damn! Outta time!

Well, faithful ThePetesters, you get a respit. (I think respit is the word, I mean...) I got stuck on the phone this afternoon and didn't get the chance to blog about all the bad stuff--so tomorrow, it's all bad all day long.

For now, I've got to head into Hollywood to meet someone about a job. There's a non-profit org that may want to hire me to help out. Wish me luck...


Ever lock up something reasonably important to you with a Master Lock? Well, I'd stop doing that if I were you. In recent days there has been a rash of tutorials floating around various hacker sites on how to beat a Master Lock. Everything from how to suss the combination with 50 or less spins of the dial to picking it outright. How do you pick a combination lock? [| It's easier than you might think].

I'm not trying to encourage anyone to pick Master Locks, just warning everyone to not trust Master Locks as foolproof ways to protect your stuff.

Another thing I'd like to be clear on is that a "hacker" isn't only someone who is a criminal who breaks into computer systems. That may have been the definition at one point, but these days, a hacker is defined as someone who deconstructs things. A hacker is a person who can pick a Master Lock, or build a coffee maker into a PC tower. A hacker can even be someone who doesn't touch computers at all.

"Social hacking" is when you are able to chat with a person to get what you need from them without them being aware that you 1) needed anything from them and 2) got anything from them. This isn't necessarily stealing, just getting information of some kind. Reporters are probably the most common social hackers, but you can find them anywhere.

Think of hackers as the ultimate Lego builders. Not only do they see the castle, but they see the space ship they can turn the castle into. I'm not trying to glamorize them--it's just that generally people think they're just fat, anti-social nerds who only commit crimes by hacking into government computer systems.

Of course, I'm not saying that's not what some hackers do, but that's not all of them.

I think I consider myself to be a wannabe hacker. I'd like to be able to deconstruct stuff and find work arounds for thinks, but I'm nowhere near as sharp as some of the hackers out there. Check out for more on hacking and hackers.

Build Your Own R2 Unit!!

Build Your Own R2 Unit!!
3:58 pm, Jun 27, 2005 by ThePete

Starting off with the official blogging today with a light post (prepare for really depressing stuff later, though) on something most of us know and love, Star Wars. Specifically, how to build your very own R2 unit or as many call them, astromech droids. I’ve seen a “real” astromech in person and while it was very cool, don’t think that building your own will result in a smart-assed robot rolling around your home telling your trash compactor to stop crushing things or your car to reactivate it’s hyperdrive. These R2 units are all about remote control.

Don’t get me wrong–they are AWESOME, but I’d really prefer something MUCH smaller–about the size of my personal R2 unit with a hard drive in it and programable so it can wake me up, get me coffee (ooo! Built in coffee machine!!) and generally be more useful than just a neat thing to have around the house. The one I saw in person had some cool stuff built in, like a car stereo, but again, I’m thinking practical.

Like an R2 unit that could function as my PDA–roll around behind me and beep at me when I have to be doing stuff. Or it could tell me a phone number or, hell, just be a giant flash drive. That would be sweet.

Still, if I had the money and time to build my own full-size Astromech? I’d want to do it. I’d just make sure to add other stuff into it–like a Linux PC or something. There’s just so much potential to an Astromech, you know?

ANYway, enough blathering from me (sorry, just putting off the depressing stuff) you probably just want the link to the site dedicated to helping you build your own Astromech. Well, here it is:

Enjoy and be sure to stop back and let us know how you do!

It's the End of the World as We Know It and I feel...

Oh, man--what a day! And to think I was hoping to stop blogging on current events so much. If you go by the headlines today the world is in serious doodie. I mean, from the new oil crisis, to big brother, to the Iraquagmire, hell, the USG is now talking about making more plutonium!!

I'll blog on all of this stuff later today, but I just wanted to blog on everything all at once. I just hope this is just the press trying to get ratings/sell papers/get people to click on banner ads and not true signs we're heading into a dark, dark time for humanity. Just looking at the headlines alone will give you a dark, dark picture of things.

Interested in investing in the stock market? I don't know jack about investing, but now seems like a bad time to get into it. With oil climbing stocks will be dropping. See, cuz when oil goes up it means our civilization, which runs on oil, will have a more expensive and therefore harder time running. When civilization has a hard time running, people are more interested in survival than getting rich and there goes investments in the stock market. People pull their money out and buy gold. HA! There's my best advice--BUY GOLD! NOW!!

I'd recommend buying it literally in bars and storing it in your basement or under the floorboards. OH wait--I think hoarding gold is illegal unless you do it in the form of coins. SO BUY GOLD COINS!!

Man, this is a bad time to be broke... although I did apply to a temp agency today. None of my part time gigs are frequent enough to keep me fluid. However, thanks to the clicks I've been getting on my post on mortgage/home owning post I am seeing a few cents more coming in from Google Ads which is nice. I still have only made $54 since October of last year when I first started using GAds. $4 of that has come in since I posted said mortgage/home owning entry.

Ha, like pondering home ownership or having a mortgage is even worth bothering with at this point. It's going to be a while before I have repaired my credit and when I finally do, according to some, I'll be looking for a loan on a new horse and buggy.

Those wacky environmental extremists!!

Saturday, June 25, 2005


And now for a bit of a departure or something completely different, which ever you prefer...

With all the depressing stuff going on right now, I'm going to blog about something a bit more down-to-Earth. Well, for us Americans, anyway. I'm going to blog about home ownership.

I'm an adult out in the world now for quite a few years. I've been renting my home for all of that time. I've lived in quite a few apartments since I moved out of my folks' house back in suburban New Jersey all those years ago. I've had many friends buy houses along the way and most seem to agree that owning a house is awesome.

But me? I don't get it. I remember when my old boss refinanced his house. He got a bucket of money, but agreed to pay it back over the span of thirty years! I can't imagine what I'll be doing in thirty years let alone how I'd pay for a mortgage for all of those years.

The benefits of owning a home also seem to be somewhat sparse. Sure, you get to own land that you have ultimate domain over, but--well, wait a minute, you don't really have ultimate domain over your land, anymore. I just blogged the other day on the Supreme Court saying that barring any state laws, it was legal for cities to seize land owned by an individual if the land will supply jobs or tax revenue. Previously, the fifth ammendment said it could be done only if the land were for "public use". Of course, you get compensated, but the point is, what's the benefit of the mortgage if you're not really in ultimate control?

Then there's the other aspect of having a mortgage and that's the fact that you don't really own the house/land you buy until you pay that mortgage off. In fact, I seem to remember reading somewhere that if the bank suddenly needs the funds, they can demand them immediately from you and if you can't pay up, they get the house.

Let's put all of those high-end financing/mortgage/brainiac stuff aside and deal with the practical everyday stuff.

Now, if you own a home, you're responsible for it's upkeep, right? If the gutter needs cleaning it's you who has to clean it. You can pay someone else, but it's still you're responsibility. Not so when you rent. Sure, your landlord may be lousy at getting your gutters cleaned quickly, but it's his or her deal, not yours.

What happens if your refrigerator dies and your food is rotting when you own your home? You've got to go buy a new fridge. If it happens to me, I call my building manager and he'll get me a new one. This happened with our water heater a couple years ago. He had a new one for us within a day.

So, in the end, between having to maintain your place yourself and having to commit to a multi-decade mortgage, I just don't see the advantages of owning. Sure, renting isn't always great either--we don't have much control over doing things like knocking down a wall or putting in new windows. In theory the building owner could sell the place off to someone who wants to tear the place down and build a new building in it's place. We'd lose our home, then, which would truly suck--but how often does that happen?

It happens probably more often than cities seizing land, but still, it hasn't happened once in the many apartments I've lived in.

So, still, I don't see the advantage of owning and the idea of that 30-year mortgage still freaks me out...

Friday, June 24, 2005

[ThePhlog] 6/24/2005 08:33:22 PM

this is an audio post - click to play

Posted by ThePete to ThePhlog at 6/24/2005 08:33:22 PM


What with Tom Cruise being all in the news lately, I thought it'd be a good idea to have an official round-up page for everything I know about Scientology and would like to know. First off, check out this post since it explains my take on Scientology as well as what I want to know about it and why I don't trust it. That post is also good for the comments section--be sure to check them out, too.

In a nutshell, I don't trust any religion 100% as it is--I trust Scientology less because it requires you to pay as you go and it's got a lot of secrets that you don't learn until you go higher into it. Of course, the only way to go higher into it is to pay--apparently. I've also heard that those E-Meters they use to "diagnose" you are just a battery, a meter and some electrodes and not much else. I've just read last night that some have microprocessors in them, so perhaps they do actually do something. Other things I've heard are that they believe all humans are aliens living in shells, when we die we go into space, and also that the real god is an alien called Xenu.

Anyway, so here's a blurb at on an interview that Mat Lauer was doing with Tom Cruise that turned into a virtual firefight on psychiatry which is something Scientology is against.

Next we've got a great look at Scientology:
That link needs more hits--there's some great info there, including breakdowns of the E-Meter and explanations of a lot more. I have yet to read the entire site, but it seems very informative. Let me know if you find something that is clearly full of crap.

Of course, there's always the official story at But I suspect that if you're here reading this page, you're looking for more info than the official story gives you. Yeah, me too.

For the anti-official story, check out AKA Operation Clambake--which is a name that only makes me hungry. Anyway, there's plenty of skepticism at this site, but who knows how much of it is fair... you be the judge.

OK, so that's it for now. I'm sure this post will grow in time.

Things I'd like to learn more about are:

1) Why the secrets only higher-ups can know?
2) Do they really worship an alien called Xenu?
3) Katie Holmes converted to Scientology within days of it being announced that she was marrying Tom Cruise, can Scientologists marry non-Scientologists?
4) Does the Church of Scientology pay for the Jolt cola Cruise has clearly been drinking before every interview he's been giving lately?
5) Isn't Scientology's stand against psychiatry just an inverted advertisement for Scientology itself?


Here's another one being sold to us on the basis of it being for our own good. posts an article from about how the USG is moving to begin a database of enrollment records of college students. The article is from last November, but the concern is still relevant--I mean, it was just 7 months ago.

Anyway, so the concern is, will the USG use this to better choose people to sacrifice for the draft? I mean, at this point, I gotta say that there's going to be a draft. Don't know when but with my somewhat limited knowledge of how wars and our military work I'm thinking it's just going to be impossible to stick it out as long as Bush seems to want to stick it out for over there without more troops.

We've all seen the reports that theUSMil has fallen short on its recruitment quotas--I think I saw one headline that said recruiters were literally chasing teenage men through shopping malls. Could this database be a tool to help the USG decide who is expendible?

Only time will tell.

Thanks be to Morgan for the heads up on this one.

UPDATE 6/25/5 4:56pm pdt: I was just listening to Democracy Now from Thursday and Amy Goodman (whom I'm not a big fan of) mentioned that the Washington Post did a story on this recently. I found the article at The thing that is different here is that the database is described as having a singular use as a recruitment tool for TheUSMil. This is very troublesome to me since I feel that what one does with his or her private life should have no bearing (baring?) on whether or not they would be good in the military--until those personal life choices are admitted by an individual. Having a branch of the government snooping around my education records because they think they can recruit me for the mil? No thanks. I don't like it when private industry snoops around my credit report.

Add the above equation to the possibility of a draft and it gets even more worrisome. How fast do you think the USG would abuse that database if a draft was reinstated?

One thing I forgot to mention about the likelihood of a prolonged stay for TheUSMil in Iraq is this: There are said to be 15 permanent US army bases being built in Iraq.

I wish I could agree with Morgan's comment below that it is as simple as saying that we gave them their freedom and now we can get out. Apparently, that's not the case, nor is it likely to happen. Oh, if only it were that simple...


A Federal Proposal to Keep Data on All College Students Raises Questions of Privacy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 - A proposal by the federal government to create a vast new database of enrollment records on all college and university students is raising concerns that the move will erode the privacy rights of students.

Until now, universities have provided individual student information to the federal government only in connection with federally financed student aid. Otherwise, colleges and universities submit information about overall enrollment, graduation, prices and financial aid without identifying particular students.

For the first time, however, colleges and universities would have to give the government data on all students individually, whether or not they received financial assistance, with their Social Security numbers.

The bid arises from efforts in Congress and elsewhere to extend the growing emphasis on school accountability in elementary and high schools to postsecondary education. Supporters say that government oversight of individual student data will make it easier for taxpayers and policy makers to judge the quality of colleges and universities through more reliable statistics on graduation, transfers and retention.

The change would also allow federal officials to track individual students as they journey through the higher education system. In recent years, increasing numbers of students have been attending more than one university, dropping out or taking longer than the traditional four years to graduate. Current reporting practices cannot capture such trends; a mobile student is recorded as a new student at each institution.

Under the proposal, the National Center for Education Statistics at the Department of Education would receive, analyze and guard the data. In making its case for the change, the center points to a history of working with student information and says it has never been forced to share it with law enforcement or other agencies. The proposal, first reported in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, is supported by the American Council on Education, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, but opposed by other education organizations, like the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

A department overview of the proposal insisted that data would not be shared with other agencies and that outsiders could not gain access. By law, the summary says in capitals, "Information about individuals may NEVER leave N.C.E.S.," the National Center for Education Statistics.

But Jasmine L. Harris, legislative director at the United States Student Association, an advocacy group for students, said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the balance between privacy and the public interest had been shifting. "We're in a different time now, a very different climate," Ms. Harris said. "There's the huge possibility that the database could be misused, and there are no protections for student privacy."

She pointed to the National Directory of New Hires, a register of people who re-enter the workforce, which began as an effort to track job trends. Since its creation, however, the database has also been used to track parents who fail to pay child support or who owe the federal government non-tax debt, she said. "The door is wide open," Ms. Harris said.

Luke Swarthout, higher education associate at the State PIRG for Higher Education, said his civic group, which has always monitored consumer issues and privacy rights, was of two minds about the plan. Improving the available data was important for Congress, policymakers and the public, who finance higher education through government loans and grants, Mr. Swarthout said. "But any time you're compiling a list of millions and millions of students, as they go through college, move and have Social Security numbers, we get concerns from a privacy perspective."

For colleges to hand over information on individual students, Congress would have to create an exemption to existing federal privacy laws, said Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"The concept that you enter a federal registry by the act of enrolling in a college in this country is frightening to us," Ms. Flanagan said.

She said that officials from some states had already announced they would like to match the data against prison records. In states where such data is already collected from public universities, she added, there has been pressure to check the school data on students against housing records, driver's licenses and employment records.


Pentagon Creating Student Database

Recruiting Tool For Military Raises Privacy Concerns

By Jonathan Krim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2005; Page A01

The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits.

"The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service," according to the official notice of the program.

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.

Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country.

School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said the issue has "generated a great deal of angst" among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.

Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data brokers, state drivers' license records and other sources, including information already held by the military.

"Using multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of eligible candidates to join the military," according to written statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in response to questions. "This program is important because it helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services' recruiting and retention efforts."

The Pentagon's statements added that anyone can "opt out" of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be kept in a separate "suppression file." That file will be matched with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon.

But privacy advocates said using database marketers for military recruitment is inappropriate.

"We support the U.S. armed forces, and understand that DoD faces serious challenges in recruiting for the military," a coalition of privacy groups wrote to the Pentagon after notice of the program was published in the Federal Register a month ago. "But . . . the collection of this information is not consistent with the Privacy Act, which was passed by Congress to reduce the government's collection of personal information on Americans."

Chris Jay Hoofnagle, West Coast director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the system "an audacious plan to target-market kids, as young as 16, for military solicitation."

He added that collecting Social Security numbers was not only unnecessary but posed a needless risk of identity fraud. Theft of Social Security numbers and other personal information from data brokers, government agencies, financial institutions and other companies is rampant.

"What's ironic is that the private sector has ways of uniquely identifying individuals without using Social Security numbers for marketing," he said.

The Pentagon statements said the military is "acutely aware of the substantial security required to protect personal data," and that Social Security numbers will be used only to "provide a higher degree of accuracy in matching duplicate data records."

The Pentagon said it routinely monitors its vendors to ensure compliance with its security standards.

Krenke said she did not know how much the contract with BeNow was worth, or whether it was bid competitively.

Officials at BeNow did not return several messages seeking comment. The company's Web site does not have a published privacy policy, nor does it list either a chief privacy officer or security officer on its executive team.

According to the Federal Register notice, the data will be open to "those who require the records in the performance of their official duties." It said the data would be protected by passwords.

The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without notifying citizens, to share the data for numerous uses outside the military, including with law enforcement, state tax authorities and Congress.

Some see the program as part of a growing encroachment of government into private lives, particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It's just typical of how voracious government is when it comes to personal information," said James W. Harper, a privacy expert with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Defense is an area where government has a legitimate responsibility . . . but there are a lot of data fields they don't need and shouldn't be keeping. Ethnicity strikes me as particularly inappropriate."

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Social Security Administration relaxed its privacy policies and provided data on citizens to the FBI in connection with terrorism investigations.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company