Saturday, September 30, 2006

If You're Not A Terrorist, Then Stop Asking Questions

I recently finished reading this sequel to You Back The Attack, We'll Bomb Who We Want. I was checking out the web site, and see that he has finished a lot of new posters, and has a book on the way in early Oct.

If you're not familiar with his work, check out to see his work. He takes (mostly) WWII era posters and remixes them for modern purposes with humorous results.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Banned Books Week

Denver has a very nice page up about banned books week here.

While the national page about banned books is interesting, this brings it home for the folks in the local area - a list of "challenged" books and publications - apparently Maxim offends some self-appointed busybody(s), LOL.

I wish they'd also talk about challenges on other issues, too - specifically, computer use . I know a common right-wing talking point at the national level of the Republican noise machine is to know what everyone is doing at all times on all computers at the library, or worrying about kids on Myspace or IM'ing or gaming, hence wasting "our tax money". And they also fret endlessly that people might be watching porn at the lib...I bet there are lots of war stories to share on the librarians' part.

Ubuntu On A New Laptop

So I recently splurged and bought a laptop. My last laptop died years ago, and I never replaced it due to a crappy and unsure economy.

I only had a few criteria - I wanted a graphics card that supported XGL, and I wanted lots of hard drive space. Additionally, I wanted an easy and painless return if there were issues, so I checked out Costco due to their stellar return policy.

I picked up an HP dv8000 at Costco that has 200gig of HD space and an NVidia card that supports XGL. I set out almost immediately to try out Ubuntu since I've been hearing so many good things about it. I've used Linux on and off for years, I use FreeBSD for my email client and things I consider critical.

Anyway, so Ubuntu lets you shrink existing partitions, so I selected the second drive and shrunk it just in case HP had put something there that wasn't obvious - it shows up as empty in XP. I installed Ubuntu, and after an initial false start in which I had the size of Linux partition vs. Windows backwards, things went pretty smoothly.

I was able to install dvd::rip easily (not so easy in some cases, easy on Ubuntu). XGL installation was soooo easy, it was ridiculous. If you haven't seen the XGL demos, I highly suggest checking them out. Sure it's mostly eye candy, but it's damn cool eye candy.

Of course, there are always a few nits:

1. Sound card driver for this doesn't seem to allow me to turn up volume nearly as loud as on XP. Gotta see if there's a fix for that.
2. Spontaneous reboots - this I'm definitely going to see if I can't find why. It always happens while running dvd::rip, many hours in. So either dvd::rip sets it off (during transcode) or a screensaver kicks in during that time that blows it up. I've tried running Prime95, but it doesn't freeze up. Current workaround: I switched to acidrip - the default settings for acidrip vs. dvd::rip result in a MUCH faster rip and encoding.
3. Screensaver - not sure why Ubuntu/Gnome has this different setup (and lack of config) than regular old xscreensaver, but I've found a few howto's on how to put xscreensaver back in, but the lock screen is nearly as slick from what I've read.

Next up, I'm gonna see about getting a Common Lisp on here (I've been going through some tutorials from a book that's online). Also, I'm going to try out installation of Eclipse and/or NetBeans and see how that goes.

I haven't exercised all the hardware to be sure it all works (DVD burner and bluetooth for example, although I don't envision needing bluetooth) but everything but the sound card volume has been fine so far under Ubuntu.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


In Greg Palast's book Armed Madhouse, he also starts one of his chapters off with that great speech from the movie Network (mp3 is here):

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it!! Is that clear?! You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.

It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU WILL ATONE!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state -- Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality -- one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.

Words to think about. I may have to get this movie from the library again...

Armed Madhouse

One may get the impression that I'm just shilling books here, but I get no benefit from putting up good words about these - I generally only comment on books I like, and leave the stinkers uncommented on.

So this is yet another book I've read that I found a quick and fun read, with some new information that I've never known.

One major difference of opinion that Palast has from everyone else is that the Iraq war didn't have just one plan to invade, there were two. Another major difference is that the debacle is caused not just by hubris and hubris alone (and no plan after the invasion of Iraq) it was a pissing match between neocons and Big Oil, with their different representatives chosen to head it up at different points. Also different: he thinks Iraq was indeed about oil, but not so much increasing the supply as making sure they could keep it off the market and that's why the UN sanctions prior to invasion. This also keeps our good, freedom-lovin' buds the Sauds in power and doesn't upset the balance in OPEC - the wild card still being Venezuela, which explains a lot about the current animosity "we" have with Chavez.

Also very different from most commentators is his take on Hubbert's Peak oil - he thinks very different thoughts on that. Among the discussion is the fact that Hubbert had ulterior motives for his predictions, Canada's supply of oil is 15% higher than Saudi Arabia, and that we've passed what Hubbert predicted for the TOTAL world supply a while ago.

Overall, very refreshing take on many subjects - Iraq, voting fraud and stealing elections, Big Oil, etc. The only nit I saw was that Area 51 is in Nevada, not New Mexico and I think he mentions both Roswell & Area 51 as if they are both in NM, but that's a minor point.

If you've seen Bush Family Fortunes, you probably have seen Greg Palast - I cannot remember if he was in the special features or the feature itself, but he's one of the directors. Greg Palast also has a site at

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Contested Quote For Contested Elections

So I thought I'd just paste up that quote from Stalin that goes rougly like this: "It's not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes".

The reason I wanted to put that up here was that just the past 2 days, I read a reference to it in 3 books, plus heard it on a podcast - how's that for weird? When I searched for the exact quote, I turned up this little link questioning that Stalin ever said it.

Well, regardless of whether Stalin said it or not, it seems like a good time of year and good conditions to consider the thought, anyway. I hate to beat a dead horse, but I thought I'd link 20 facts about voting in the USA again.

Here is one more voting fact that I found ironic, and hence why the author mentioned it. I recently finished Greg Palast's book, Armed Madhouse, and he brings up the fact that during the elections in Venezuela they used touch screens that generated a paper trail, so you could actually do something democratic and freedom-loving like, oh, a recount. The final bitter irony is that those machines were made in the U.S. - in Florida.

Palast also says how provisional ballots are usually just thrown out, something I wasn't aware of.

Look, this voting stuff shouldn't even be a partisan thing, but right now it appears to be. Republican politicians have no real interest in changing things because they are currently on top - and Democrats don't seem to be doing much about it either. All I'm saying is that before we start babbling about spreading freedom and democracy abroad, we had better get our house in order here, and citizens should demand consistent voting rules, consistent oversight, including international bodies to monitor it, paper trails, etc.

Ah, but again I'm dreaming. We had better worry more about what Paris is doing this week, or why Tom Cruise didn't show his baby to the press immediately. If we are going to worry about any politics at all, it should be to fret over abortion or the "war on Christmas", etc...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Version of DenverLibPlus Firefox Extension

I had to update the version of my DenverLibPlus Firefox extension. The new version (v0.2) is here.

The reason for this update is it looks like the site now uses a different domain for some bits ( that the extension was not looking for previously. I've added that domain, too, and also updated the "go back to catalog" code to go back to the item in the case that the return to index button is not visible on that page.

Echoes of Forgotten Places

Back at university, I accidentally stumbled upon urban exploration. I think this is pretty common among all students, but there was one place in Middletown, PA that was just incredible - and it dovetailed with my then-obsession with industrial music. For anyone that's ever done urban exploration, or ever thought about it, this is for you.

Sadly, it's a bit on the short side, but the music is nice and it's well shot.

Denver scripts

The Denver library site put up some links and some explanations for my Denver scripts/extensions on their site. Pretty cool.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The ACLU Freedom Files

The guys have done it again...I think it should be the duty of every real patriotic American to watch these 1/2 hour shorts on various aspects of American freedoms. And by "patriotic", I don't mean the faux type - what Mickey Z calls the yellow ribbon crowd.

One takeaway I had from this - what would you call it if someone knocks on your door at some strange hour in the early morning and then rips apart your house? What would you call it if you were shot (and permanently scarred after a brief brush with the possibility of losing a limb - wait until you see the pictures of the damage and the resulting scar) while peacefully demonstrating? What would you call it if you and quite a few others while protesting on city streets were rounded up and effectively kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location for about a day? What about bust into your kid's school and hold guns to children's heads? I think nearly anyone would call that criminal, if not outright terrorism. But because those actions are being carried out by "our" police, somehow we are supposed to view this as okay. A few of the episodes are over here on the ACLU site.

And for the dipsticks who think the ACLU are some sort of godless commies out to destroy America, as one person on here put it (paraphrasing): "I don't think they realize it, but we are fighting for their rights, too" - regarding ID being taught in school. Totally agreed on that - let's say we declare that we can have religion taught in the science classroom - which one? Christianity? That won't cut it, since nearly every sect within Christianity would be quibbling over all sorts of trivia that differentiates the sects of Christianity. As the first episode in the series shows, one sect of Christianity took over a school and town, and effectively ran one family out (also Christian, but not the right kind of Christians, apparently) via fear and intimidation.

The series spends a whole episode on the Drug War and the damage it is causing to people and what it's done to our Bill of Rights. I think the whole idea of the Piss Police is ridiculous and Orwellian - I remember RAW talking about how even Orwell didn't go that far - it would have been beyond parody in 1948 to imagine that it could be this ridiculous. But.... if we are going to have people running around demanding bodily fluids from our citizens, I suggest we start with the police. The more footage I see of these guys, the more I'm convinced that juicing is rampant in the police force. People just aren't that big naturally. If there is one group we don't need on a 'roid rage, it's anyone in any enforcement agency. W was all worried about steroid use in baseball? Screw that, let's focus on the cops - they actually affect people's lives in very drastic ways - sports is just idle entertainment and fantasy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chomsky - Number One With a Bullet

This one is highly amusing - the up and coming contender for the latest American boogeyman Chavez is giving Chomsky more publicity than ever. After Chavez endorsed Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, I thought I'd see just what the Amazon rankings on it were. Yesterday, when I checked it was at #3 for the paperback, and #19 for the hardcover.

I just checked, and the hardcover is now at #9 and the paperback is at #1.

I've read this some time ago, and seems to be usual fare for Chomsky. At some point, I'm going to have to do a rather long writeup on my feelings about Chomsky. The short version of that writeup is that I definitely think Chomsky is worth reading, and if you are too lazy or aren't much of a reader, definitely see one of the documentaries with him in it or one of his speeches - Distorted Morality(on Google Video) or another good one is Manufacturing Consent.


I finished this book a few weeks ago, but wanted to let it percolate a bit in my brain before writing about this.

Ever since I can remember, I've been interested in what might be called sampling in some contexts, hacking in others, or remixing or mashups. Ever since the first time I heard some rap in the 80's as a youngster, I wanted to hear more. Living in the sticks, I bought a few soundtrack albums from movies like Beat Street and Breakin' in order to hear more. Almost everyone I knew hated to hear old songs sampled or used as the bass line, but I thought it was a neat way to make something new again and subvert it into a new thing...flash forward a few years, and the first time I heard Skinny Puppy & Ministry with their multiple movie samples and very unique sound, and I was hooked on that for quite some time. Then I heard some electronica from Orb in the early days and thought it pretty cool - until I actually heard some "rave" mixes - the DJ culture had me hooked, and still does. Much of these sort of things are paralleled in my interest in things like mp3 and FreeBSD and Linux and open source in general and magazines like O'Reilly's Make magazine and 2600 which both champion hardware hacking, while 2600 also champions software hacking. The first time I heard about Greasemonkey fired off the same sort of interest - it seems like you get to remix others' websites and bend them to your will.

All this sort of stuff is the theme in the book. It also talks a great deal about copyright, and the impediments to creativity it can cause, since it's been hijacked by companies like Disney. Also addressed: DMCA vs. fair use. For instance, it is your right to make copies of movies for your own use (fair use), but illegal to circumvent the copy protection according to the DMCA. So, even ministers using clips of movies to make a point in their presentations and are making no profit from that use are breaking the law. Companies that want to provide filters for people by using DVD technology to block out offensive material are being sued and shut down.

Obviously there is a push and pull between what content owners want people to do with their material, but increasingly, Hollywood and RIAA are butting heads with their own customers. They want to be able to dictate when and where people can play things, how often, on what hardware, at what resolution, etc. Obviously, there will have to be some sort of compromise on this, regardless of what a person like Valenti might want. I found it very funny that one executive had actually proposed putting a GPS in DVD players, and it was only shot down because of the added cost.

Now comes the part where I'm dreaming. :) I take the extreme freedom position on this - I hate the idea of DRM and think it should be illegal, I think the DMCA is ridiculous and should be struck down and the right to fair use made clear to everyone, but I also don't think that unfettered copying is the way to go either. Content providers should get compensated for their work, but once it's out there, they should have no say over whether a third party can, say, help make movies family-friendly. People should be able to rip a DVD, and then re-burn it with their own commentary track if they are doing it for their own purposes. And most importantly, I think copyright law should be rolled back to its original form - after 14 years, it can get renewed once and only once for another 14, and then after that, it's in the public domain. Now I KNOW I'm really dreaming. :) As long as companies like Disney are around, and corrupt congresscritters exist, that will never happen. Plus, the perversion of copyright law has been going on so long and for so many generations that people are so poorly educated on this that they think this is "communism" or something.

Some of the greatest things have come out of this remix culture - I loved Danger Mouse's Grey Album. I love the Beatles, and thought it was pretty cool - especially the 99 Problems mix with the Helter Skelter looping. The video for Encore was quite creative, too. Nice re-use of old Beatles footage with a modern hip hop twist. That recent weird video with NIN's "Closer" over top of sepia toned footage of Star Trek was creepy but well-done. If it was up to the content owners, this would be impossible with the next-gen technology - DRM would lock anyone (but "criminals" who would circumvent it somehow, I imagine) out of doing this.

I'd ignore the one star reviews on Amazon - this book is not advocating piracy, or that content owners and creators don't get paid...some people are clearly misreading the book - or outright skimming, or are just ringers. I don't remember the book advocating that copyright be taken away as some of these reviews claim.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bush & Books

A few weeks ago, we were witness to a drastic shift in Bush's image: instead of the usual anti-intellectualism that Bush projects (probably done for the benefit of his religious right base - people can read, as long as it's the Bible or Left Behind, but beyond that, you're in danger of being a "wonk", a "poindexter" or worse, you could "look French"!), we were told that he read something like 60 books so far this year. I really thought that was a lot, being quite the life-time bookworm myself. I was catching up on old Bill Maher's shows and he made such a deal about this, that I got to thinking about it again.

So I decided to go back in my journal and take a look. Including a book I just finished yesterday (American Theocracy), I've only read 57 books so far this year.

Even if all 60 of those books were fiction, and he actually did read that many, I'm impressed.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why Darwin Matters

I read this almost a month ago and just wanted to give it a mention, since I liked this very short treatise on the evolution vs. creationism "debate".

I also just listened to the Skepticality podcast episode in which Dr. Shermer was talking about this very book. He does a better job of convincing people to read the book, so I suggest folks listen to that instead of me doing a writeup. :)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why I Hate America

Mickey Z wrote a great piece on "Why I Hate America". I just cannot believe how closely this reflects my feelings - except for the part about the troops (I'll have to write about that sometime). I in fact love a lot about this country - and I really chafe at the wingnut notion that people think that folks over on, DailyKos, Democratic Underground, Alternet, etc. "hate" this country. I consider myself an independent and I think that's just bullshit.

From the article:

When pressed, I sometimes reply: "I don't hate America. In fact, think it's one of the best countries anyone ever stole." But, after the laughter dies down, I have a confession to make: If by "America" they mean the elected/appointed officials and the corporations that own them, well, I guess I do hate that America-with justification.

Among many reasons, I hate America for the near-extermination and subsequent oppression of its indigenous population. I hate it for its role in the African slave trade and for dropping atomic bombs of civilians. I hate its control of institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization. I hate it for propping up brutal dictators like Suharto, Pinochet, Duvalier, Hussein, Marcos, and the Shah of Iran. I hate America for its unconditional support for Israel. I hate its bogus two-party system, its one-size-fits-all culture, and its income gap. I could go on for pages but I'll sum up with this: I hate America for being a hypocritical white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

After a paragraph like that, you know what comes next: If you hate America so much, why don't you leave? Leave America? That would potentially put me
on the other end of U.S. foreign policy. No thanks.

I like how Paul Robeson answered that question before the House Un-American
Activities Committee in 1956: "My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I'm going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you. And no fascist-minded people like you will drive me from it. Is that clear?"

I'm partway through American Theocracy right now, but I may have to take a detour into Mickey Z's 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know: Reclaiming American Patriotism, since that's something sitting in pile of books in the last Amazon shipment. I think Mickey Z sometimes takes a position further left than I would normally take, but I really liked this piece. He also addresses the exercise of freedom:

Needless to say, none of the above does a damn thing to placate the yellow ribbon crowd. It seems what offends flag-wavers most is when someone like me makes use of the freedom they claim to adore. According to their twisted logic, I am ungrateful for my liberty if I have the audacity to exercise it. If I make the choice to not salute the flag during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, somehow I'm not worthy of having the freedom to make the choice to not salute the flag during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium. These so-called patriots not only claim to celebrate freedom while refusing my right to exploit it, they also ignore the social movements that fought for and won such freedoms.

I love this country - probably mostly due to lots of indoctrination I may have internalized by being raised here - also due to never living or even traveling outside the country. But that still doesn't mean that love cannot be critical when the reality doesn't live up to the supposed ideals or principles. People consider it their duty as close friends or family to call them out on bad behavior - the same goes for citizens with respect to their country. Calling America out on bad behavior doesn't mean you "hate" America.

Penn on Evolution

So if you've read much on this blog, you'll see that I often wring my hands and gnash my teeth over continuing American ignorance about evolution - one thing I haven't mentioned is that America ranks 2nd to last in accepting evolution in this survey. The only country that ranked lower was Turkey. And that still bothers me - very much. I think engineering and science drive a country's prosperity, and I think that the actions of the Religious Right may have some damaging consequences.

However, I did hear something from Penn when he was on Bill Maher's show, and it's probably one of the sanest things I've heard about the evolution "controversy" in some time. Penn said that everyone that needs to accept evolution, accepts it. In other words, all the people jabbering about it and are not doing science are mostly irrelevant (e.g., the Discovery Institute, religious Republicans holding office, and random dittoheads duped by the "teach the controversy" nonsense). This is because there is no real "controversy" in science about evolution - at least not in the way the creationists try to paint it. That is a very insightful notion, even if it does seem obvious once it's mentioned.

The only thing that concerns me is that the wingnuts are trying to choke off knowledge at very impressionable ages. However, as Penn mentioned, Richard Dawkins also had a religious upbringing. And when I thought about it some more, so did Michael Shermer, and that lightens my mood quite a bit. Also, Darwin himself was a creationist at one point. So I guess the point is that at least as long as America remains a free society, these types of people won't stay in the dark forever, and will eventually come around to doing science if that is their wont.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


So a favorite talking point of dittoheads I've noticed is that "we need to find out who is using the computers at the library". Besides actively cheering on a total surveillance society (which I just can't understand why supposedly freedom-loving people would cheer for that), this position just relies on ignorance on the dittoheads' part.

Why do I say that? Well, for a few reasons - one, all the open wireless access points in any given residential (not to mention industrial parks, too - amazing how ill-informed some "administrators" can be) area. Any "evildoers" could just wardrive a bit, find a point to jump on, and then use that to do their evil deeds.

And what about fake IDs - a terrorist could always have a fake ID with a bogus address, no? Well, I guess many of these same dittoheads would cheer on the videotaping of every person in public + use of facial recognition technology at all times, too, so I guess that might catch a few if they tried that.

Another reason I say that is for reasons like Torpark.

This isn't to say that Torpark is used by terrorists only - I'd say everyone should use this - especially those that think their surfing habits (along with most of their day-to-day activities) should not be an open book for their respective governments, ISPs, etc.

It's a good thing that open source and things like public key infrastructure got out there before 9/11. Otherwise, we'd have dittoheads calling the people using related technologies "terrorists" as these things were released. Since things like PGP, SSH, VPN & SSL are already part of the landscape it makes it harder. Hell, even when PGP was created, the Feds wanted to go after Zimmerman for exporting munitions. I wrote a paper on this back in university in the early 90's, so I remember well the Clipper chip and how well it bombed despite some rather blustery talk from some in our government. If that discussion was going on now instead of in 1993, we'd have the clipper chip.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Global Brain

Having read The Lucifer Principle, I looked forward to this book. I actually liked this book a lot, too, but I agree with some of the sentiments on Amazon reviews - there was a little lack of focus.

Even with that - this book was an intense read for me. I think the guys said that the only interview more intense than Howard Bloom was Terrence McKenna, and that seems to come across in the book at times. Ideas and tangents will most likely fire in your mind as you read this - it certainly did for me.

Among many things in the salad of this book was a discussion on how society's norms literally can shape an infant's brain - physically - brain cells not considered useful to adapt to the infant's culture die off. So childhood imprints can actually be considered a physical thing - I wonder if the techniques of re-imprinting are actually capable of doing similar physical changes to the brain? It seems that meditation does. I also wonder what this means for things like NLP - to be fair, I've done nothing more with NLP other than skim a book on it, and never used any of the techniques although I must admit I'm intrigued.

He also talks about what Leary (and RAW) called "reality tunnels" - he has a chapter called "Reality is a Shared Hallucination" - that deals with how language affects "reality", how groups have a shared "reality", etc.

I also found greatly interesting the Athenian-Spartan comparison, and tying in fundamentalists of today to the Spartan tradition. Now this comparison has been around a long time, I can be sure, since our ancient 8th grade text had the same discussion, basically trumpeting the value of Athenian culture with its emphasis on open-mindedness and being well-rounded instead of just trying to breed conformist warrior robots like Sparta did.

It's a lesson worth repeating however, and it's interesting that this book was written in 2000. He mentions how studies have shown that being raised Christian fundamentalist actually retards a child's learning (big surprise) and how many of those raising such children feel that "no education is better than a secular education". Well, that's definitely the Spartan view. The Athenian view is, according to Bloom, the way things are usually run when things are going well. When they turn sour, the Spartan view takes over. Non-conformity is not tolerated, dissent is crushed, and the neural net that generally brings new innovations (which usually come from the fringes of culture) shuts down. Sound familiar? Let's see - "If you're not for us, you're against us", we have people actively waging a war against science in this country, and blaming non-conformists (e.g. immigrants, homosexuals, atheists, etc.) for various ills. The Spartan view is also one of provincialism - we have people bashing virtually every other country on the planet, and I'd be willing to bet many of them never left their state, much less this country. I'd wager the same thing about many of the fundamentalists of Islam.

Very interesting he was talking about this and giving examples of Christian fundamentalist nutballs and their threats of violence as well as Islamic ones before 9/11 - post-9/11, they seem to be only getting more extreme and more vocal.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Wobblies

I found this one via browsing the documentary section at the library. This is a very interesting movie about a bit of history one isn't too likely to get in history class. The interviews were conducted in the 70's - the makers were able to find living members of the IWW to interview.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Well, 9-12-2006 came and went, and whaddaya know, we're still here. Big surprise.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Term "Islamofascist"

Within my remarks on Operation Northwoods, I went off on a tangent about why I think the (PR) term "Islamofascist" is trying to be pushed into the public consciousness.

I forgot to mention the article that made its rounds on the internets about the checklist of fascism. It's from Free Inquiry magazine, and blast, before I started my subscription.

Anyway, if you read over that list, you can see why I think that term will really blow up in the face of the spinners. They should have tried to float "Islamocommies" or something else like "Islamochildmolesters" or "Islamohomos". If they could somehow work in a tie to atheists they could really get people riled up since apparently atheists are the least trusted people in America. Alas, even a total idiot would see that those terms together make no sense.

I think this term will end up on the same heap of PR terms as "freedom fries".

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Ascent of Man

For some reason, I couldn't find this on the U.S. version of Amazon? Strange, my library has it.

I still have not watched the first and last DVD of this series, but I must say how fascinating I found this. Not so much just the content - I think most or all of this I'm familiar with - but the presentation. Also, several times, and at first I thought I might have been listening to too much Alan Watt (I'll have to write some thoughts on what I know/think about his stuff at some point - I'm not really one for the black helicopter crowd, so don't follow that link and think I believe all that stuff - like I said, I'll have to write more on that later) or reflecting on RAW or something, because I kept seeing some rather esoteric references creeping in. Then, later, he specifically names the Freemasons (I forget the exact context). Very odd. I know little about Bronowski, but wonder just what sort of interests and affiliations he had beyond the usual science ones...

Then, to top it off, there was a RAW-like call for humility - we can never know anything with final certainty, and thinking that leads to folly - following Godwin's Law, Hitler and the Nazis are used as an example. It's pretty powerful and he's not just talking about religions. The way RAW puts it this way at times: “Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.” And other times, more to the point: “If you think you know what the hell is going on, you're probably full of shit.” Both quotes are from here. Of course, these ideas are not all that novel, they've been expressed elsewhere, but J. Bronowski's presentation and RAW's turn of phrase do it more justice. :)

Well, if you gloss over the rather odd esotericism - if you've seen Sagan's Cosmos, this will evoke some similarities. Jacob Bronowski has a style that reminds me of Attenborough, but maybe that's just style of that era and that source (BBC).

Letter To A Christian Nation

So I'm partway through another podcast of the Infidel Guy's. This time he's talking to Sam Harris, and when I saw that's who the guest was on iTunes, I definitely looked forward to hearing it.

I've read The End of Faith, he talks quite a bit in The God Who Wasn't There (trailer also here if you don't like QT - definitely check out one of the versions of the trailer - the trailer lets some of the proponents of that other "religion of peace" speak for themselves. yikes.), and I've read a piece he wrote for the Skeptical Inquirer.

I'm not done with the podcast yet - but this time, he's talking about his new book which is due out Sep 19th. He talks about how many responses he had received from his book End of Faith, and how responding individually to them became overwhelming, so he instead wrote this book. I already had this book on hold at the lib, but hearing the podcast definitely whet the appetite. It's interesting that Sam Harris doesn't want to divulge his address, due to safety concerns.

In a similar vein, another interesting-looking book also due out this fall: The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Operation Northwoods Bubbles Up To Mainstream

Operations Northwoods apparently has bubbled up to mainstream media somehow last week - I'm not sure why it's only being discussed now?

I found this story being referenced on the interesting blog Terrorism News.

From the story:

Recently, on August 29th 2006, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recounted what he called "the lessons of history," including the failed efforts to appease the right-wing Adolf Hitler regime of the 1930s.

"I recount this history because once again we face the same kind of challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism," said Rumsfeld.

As a senior media critic, Zwicker strongly recommends that all media people indeed follow Rumsfeld’s suggestions in learning the lessons of Nazi history. He points to researching Hitler’s rise to power and how he created a fascist state where there was suppression of the opposition through secrecy, terror, torture and censorship, all justified under nationalism and patriotism.

He also believes that journalists should research and publish more about how Hitler's Nazis manipulated the German population into wars, using psychological manipulation and behavior modification by inducing trauma and fear in others, a process of trauma-based mind control referred to in the now declassified
CIA files of "MK ULTRA." To order declassified MK ULTRA documents from the CIA, go to:

Zwicker believes that the media must investigate and report on whether these fear-based psychological manipulation techniques have been or are being put into application by US leaders in our post 9/11 world, as they appear to be. 9/11 caused much trauma and fear.

Concerned with the direction that the US has headed since 9/11, Dr. Robert M. Bowman, referring to the Bush / Cheney administration during a radio interview, said: "I think there's been nothing closer to fascism than what we've seen lately from this government.”

It's funny how the far right have been bandying about this term "Islamofascists" - I've heard it for used for years, but lately there seems to be a real push for this into the mainstream corporate media as well, and not just the full-of-crap fringes like Michael Weiner (AKA Savage) and Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham etc.

I suspect pushing this term is trying to serve two purposes. Language can cloud effective thinking, and I'm sure that both purposes serve that. Just like the term "terrorist" is virtually meaningless in the way it is applied by our leaders and corporate media, this term Islamofascists can also cloud the public mind. The goals I think are this:

1. Deflect people from using the term "radical fundamentalists" or "religious fundamentalists". That can only have people notice that we have Christians in this country (some at the top, no less) who are radical fundamentalists and religious fundamentalists. We are not supposed to notice that, we must focus on the Islamic part, not the fundamentalist part.

2. The "fascist" part then allows our "leaders" to draw parallels to WWII and compare today's dissidents with those that would appease Hitler. Of course, absolutely ridiculous and in no way comparable, but this term is not aimed at thinking people, it's aimed at keeping the sheople in line and steering them away from thinking. If it's repeated enough...

The problem is that "fascism" means something along the lines of hyper-nationalism and a strong relationship between government and corporations. I think using that term will backfire on the elite opinion-makers - people just might notice that it rings a bell, and it's way too close to home. It certainly doesn't make much sense when applied to Islamic fundamentalists when it comes to government and corporations getting intertwined.

The Yes Men

I just cannot believe how many great documentaries I've been finding and watching lately. This time, it's the Yes Men.

The basic premise of this is this - the Yes Men had been given Due to GATT being the "predecessor agreement" to the WTO, many folks thought that they were from the WTO, and send them invitations to speak in front of their group.

So these guys then pull off what amounts to a political "Punk'd" (they call it "identity correction", LOL) - if they can raise awareness of just what the WTO is, all the better - although you won't find much description of what WTO is here, at least some folks may become interested to find out exactly what the WTO is, and what those protests are about. The corporate media only really covers those protests when they turn violent, and never touch on the issues, you'll notice.

This one gets a 10 out of 10 from me, if only because I just laughed so much. I cannot say they articulated why the WTO is something they are against, but it at least provides a good entry point for people who never even heard of the WTO. Too bad this one didn't get the high profile release that something like Fahrenheit 9/11 got...

Make sure you see the infamous "executive leisure suit". So funny. Also, during the same presentation, he makes a direct comparison (along with pictures) of modern day workers in 3rd world countries to the slaves pre-American Civil War! And no one bats an eyelash! Then catch the presentation on the "Reburger". Blech. It's nice to see at least the college students haven't sold their soul to their corporate masters yet.

BTW, it can be found over on Google Video.

Those Caring Creationists

I was listening to P.Z. Myers talk on The Infidel Guy podcast about the failure of Intelligent Design. To be honest, I don't remember hearing the name P.Z. Myers before, but I liked what I was hearing, and I heard that he has a very popular science blog called Pharyngula, so I thought I'd check it out. I tend to agree with his sentiments that science people tend to be wayyyy too flip-floppy on coming out against religion, at least when it trys to pretend to be science. It's nice to hear a scientist that has the spine to say it: as more people learn about science, the more religion (at least organized religion) withers away. Also, as he pointed out, the further in people go and the higher up they go, the more non-theist they tend to be. So of course, theists would view that as a threat, and their dogmatic attempts to bring religious superstitious into the science class is clearly a "rational" decision to try to get rid of science at it exists now. It's clearly not just about evolution vs. some crazy religious right flim-flam artists, it's also about trying to pollute the public mind about what science is.

Anyway, on to this guy's blog. When I went over there, I saw the entry on Ken Ham. Normally, I find these gomers over on Answers In Genesis to be an all out great read - if only because I'm laughing at them, the poor things. They believe they are actually thinking. This time, I'm just shocked at what insensitive jerks they are. So, a person like Steve Irwin dies, and this piece of garbage (Ken Ham) takes it upon himself to use that to proselytize his ridiculous worldview because Steve mentioned evolution over the course of his career? Way to go, genius.

BTW, I love when some religious zealot pops up to reply on blogs like Pharyngala. They always come off so (cough) intelligent. For an example, see the comment from a certain fellow named Ronald. I think this guy only reads Jack Chick tracts.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why We Fight

I've been on a real documentary streak lately as one may notice if they look at the history in this blog. This is another very excellent documentary on America's imperialism - although the documentary seems to make the case that this militarism/imperialism is new (well, since WWII). I suppose that depends on your perspective, but that's neither here nor there.

I'd suspect most average Americans wouldn't even like the phrase "American empire" (or American militarism/belligerance/etc.) at all, whether talking about post-WWII or not. However, as John McCain himself is quoted in the documentary - we have 725 military bases in 130 countries. What else do you call that? Let's do a little mind experiment, shall we? Let's take whatever the current boogeyman of America is - let's pick a semi-realistic one and not something like Iraq/Iran/North Korea - Then ask yourself what Americans and American institutions would call it if China had 725 military bases in 130 countries?

What if China spent more than all other militaries combined? What if China claimed and acted on certain exceptionalisms that it reserved to itself, such as unilateral, pre-emptive strikes against sovereign countries? What if China was the only country to have used nuclear weapons against civilian populations?

It's a good thought experiment, and obviously people are starting to think somewhat along these lines, at least when it comes to Iraq. Obviously they aren't thinking along lines that "extreme", but it looks like only a minority now supports Iraq, and many think it has nothing to do with the GWOT. So even in the terms that the spinners frame this war, it's not selling. Once people step outside those terms - like probing into what the definition of "terrorism" really is, for example - the framers of these debates can forget it anyway. But if they lose support while most people they are losing in the PR battle are still using their terms, that's really something.

Anyway, back to the movie - I really enjoyed how much time they spent on Eisenhower. To be sure, his exit speech is used by lots of documentaries - and even in the movie JFK, but rarely do we hear much about the man himself and how he came to openly discuss and warn against the "military-industrial complex". I found that part alone of the movie to be very rewarding and enlightening. For instance, I knew that using atomic weapons in WWII was controversial (despite some patriotic idiotic revisionism later that it was "necessary") but I didn't know that Eisenhower himself recommended against it. I also didn't know his mother was a pacifist, or that he made a speech outlining how much each sort of military spending could have benefited us domestically.

Teaching Dogs New Tricks

So Tiffany and I heard what sounded like our dogs howling in the backyard, but all five of the basset hounds at our house were inside...odd. Maybe our neighbors added a hound to their pool of dogs. Tiffany walks around the block to their house and talks to them - turns out that at least one of their Rottweilers "learned" how to howl like a basset - which they weren't exactly thrilled about. I don't know which one of our dogs they learned it from - maybe all of them - although Brodie AKA "Mr. B" is a likely suspect (seen on the bed)...Wrigley is another suspect - shown squinching his eyes shut when the flash went off. I find it terribly funny - the howl is good enough to fool me until I really listen closely - it doesn't sound exactly like any of ours, so then I know it's not one of ours. But it's sure to fool just about everyone else, so that's the downside - others in the area are bound to think it's OUR dogs making the noise when in fact it's the neighbors'.

On a side note, I'm currently reading Global Brain and in there Howard Bloom is discussing how animals can learn from one another and pass it down the generations (for example, birds and squid). Well, I'm definitely convinced.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Long Emergency

This book is a hard one to grind through. It's not a happy book. The good news is that it probably errs on the darker side of the outcome of Peak Oil.

Sure, the West in general, but Americans in particular, are in for one hell of a shock. However, I doubt it will be as sudden as the author describes. At least, I sure hope not. Some Americans are already waking up from their decades-long slumber and are maybe thinking SUVs aren't the brightest idea on the planet. I also didn't like the fact that there was no index and no bibliography. Reviewers on Amazon also seemed to have a problem with the fact that the author wears his hatred of suburbia on his sleeve. Well, that may be a problem if harped on too much, I suppose, but I think the author is right in saying that the suburbs are the largest misallocation of energy resources.

That's one thing people looking into the future rarely seem to adapt for: changing human behavior in response to changing conditions. Sure, most Americans are still "sleepwalking into the future" as he puts it, but I think as the price of oil keeps ratcheting up and never really coming back down, they will certainly get it and respond accordingly. Some groups are already trying to grow stuff locally, and many farmer's markets have popped up all over the country. What we need is some real leadership on the issue ala Carter. Of course, no politician has touched on that issue in any serious way since then because the coddled and childish Americans still don't want to hear it. They just want someone to tell them that commuting many miles to work in an SUV is normal. That fake "countryside" living (suburbs) is "our way of life". Hell, Reagan wanted to make sure that no one would think he might provide any leadership at all on energy, and tore out the solar panels and woodstove that Carter had put in. Now that's decisive and forward-looking.

Anyway, I'd still read the book, or if you are not much of a reader, see End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream, as it has much the same theme. The real question of the book is - what happens when there is no longer any oil? It's a damn good question, and the author draws a dark picture. I have no doubt things will be dark, especially for those Americans who think "our way of life" is some sort of (think Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism and all that) god-given birthright. They will probably clamor for more wars for "our oil" - I've already heard that expression used in reference to the increase in India and China's oil consumption - instead of any rational look at "our way of life". They will fight against people who violate covenants and zoning laws in order to adapt to a new way of life. I suspect many will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into reality.

Maybe I should move back to PA and start learning from the Amish.

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