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Saturday, February 27, 2010

  Marc Thiessen, a former Bush-Cheney speech writer and now columnist for the Washington Post, says that President Obama is the real obstructionist in Washington these days Obama is the real obstructionist at his health-care summit. This is for the bipartisan health care conference he set up last week to hear out republican ideas. Thiessen is up-set over the set-up. That is upset that anyone would call their bluff over their complaints of being shut out of health care reform. They had few ideas on the matter and no real intention of offering even those. All their talk of scrapping the democratic plan and starting over from scratch is merely an attempt to keep any legislation from being passed before the midterm elections. The republicans are advancing the premise that Health Care Reform is unpopular and that the American people do not want it. A state of affairs that only an expensive and sustained public relations campaign relying heavily on fear uncertainty and doubt maintains. Without which (they are well aware) the polling would shift back to neutral or likelier positive.

 Thiessen's main hobby horse (  PostPartisan - Bipartisanship breaks out in Washington ) is apologizing for Dick Cheney's brutalist-lite imperial policies: continual executive wars, amorphous ruled indefinite detention,"interrogation" procedures that intentionally blur any possible boundaries. He has written a book arguing that torture is a perfectly adequate and perfectly Catholic technique, and besides water boarding isn't really torture anyway Beliefs - Marc Thiessen Gets an Earful for Waterboarding Views - This is because US military personnel are willing to undergo the procedure voluntarily. This latter is a reference to what the Navy called SERE school training (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape). Which is misleading for two reasons. In the first instance is not truly voluntary.The Navy didn't require this training of all when I was in, but only of flight crew and intelligence officers. For those it was required to stay in their assigned billet. The officer's in the squadron I was in harbored no fond feelings towards those who conducted this school. Who were for that matter not trying to break them and extract information from them. Not trying permanently shatter the psyches of newly trained officers and skilled enlisted, nor preclude the possibilities of accidental injury fatal or otherwise.  A more genuine test for equivalence would to look for for volunteers, if they were to be stamped with al Qaeda tattoos and handed over to CIA contractors (ex Blackwater) who in turn would be told they were actual terrorist killers and were in possession of certain information about a ticking time bomb. That might be a test.  

 Beyond this one of the primary failings of such enhanced interrogations and detainments is their assumption of perfect knowledge. Essentially punishment is being applied before the mechanisms for establishing guilt or intent. These would be mechanisms of jurisprudence, not coercion. Implicitly guilt is already assumed under the apologist's way. There will be reference at this point to "a state of war" or "taken on the battlefield" but behind these simple phrases there is a world of indistinct particulars that few would care to be on the wrong side of. At some point there has to be a claim, evidence for that claim, and impartial judgement of the claim.  They fired Froomkin only to hire this fool. "Post-partisan?"  More rather Post disgrace.

 At a time when Republican leaders cry crocodile tears over the "Lost Year" for the nation. and bemoan the prospect of three more before this "one-term president" is sent packing. It is worth a quick look at the principles they believe they stand on.  Libertarians in both their teaparty convention (a bunch of mad hatters) and in the conservatives convention Conservative Political Action Conference - Wikipedia proclaim loudly that regular republicans are just disguised democrats. Big government wolves in small government sheep clothing. I'm not sure if that analogy serves. Small governmenters are supposed to be rugged freebooting big dogs, Wolves of the world who don't need no stinking government looking over their shoulder. Libertarian or small-government conservative. the only real definition of this category is they are people currently without power-of-office or purse-string. If those parameters change, small no longer holds.

 Those that have closed the chapter on the era of "big government", understood a particular way - as a Lyndon Johnson style "great society" as Nordic Socialism - should understand that there are many roads to larger governments. The great society was just one. Everybody has some things they like to have money spent on, nurtured senses of natural entitlement or rules that oughta be.

  A certain size and level of involvement of engagement is needed for a government to be sufficiently and necessarily able to effect change on the society it is charge of. To be a government of, for, and by the people. To have elected officials whose names you at least know and political destinies you can to some degree change. Political power does not cease to exist if you simply decline to build a formal institution for it. Nor if removed from government does it simply pool warmly around your feet like a private fortune. It withdraws from points you have knowledge of, or can control. It goes to the wealthy private and ruthless, industrial shadows, who will have control over the shape of your lives, well-being, education and future, at their disposal. The rules and remaining institutions are theirs. These men and women, then, are your masters, your rulers, your princes.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010
Google China or bada Bing Bai(da)du

  About three weeks ago Google made public that a massive internet intrusion attack had been directed against them Google China cyberattack part of vast espionage campaign, experts say - Against their assets in China and G mail, specifically the intersection of google mail with Adobe pdf attachments. One point of these attacks was apparently to gain an idea of the contacts and document distribution networks of Chinese dissidents A New Approach To China | MetaFilter. This immediately placed presumptive suspicion on elements of the Chinese state.

 Something about the attacks, their intensity and sophistication caused Google to react strongly BBC News - Google 'may pull out of China after Gmail cyber attack. To cease voluntarily censoring search results at the instruction and behest of the Chinese government. Further to abandon enterprise activities by Google in China rather than submit to further insidious demands and insidious intrusion Google, Citing Cyber Attack, Threatens to Exit China - It was noted by some that Google wasn't gaining much market share against China's native search engine Baidou anyway.

  In recent days as this affair played out and the results of Google and various US Agencies examining the attacks came in it seemed that the attack originated at two Chinese Universities 2 Chinese Schools Said to Be Linked to Online Attacks -, both with close ties to the Chinese government (in itself no different from most universities), and used code that originated with a single programmer Chinese programmer fingered in Google attack.

 Taken together with China's recommitment to jailing dissidents, it speaks to the emergence and permanence of a largely undemocratic one party state on the world scene. In the same span of weeks Chinese newspaper editor Tan Zuoren known for opposing arbitrary use of state power was sentenced . For the usual vague 'activities against the state charges, but many suspect mainly for researching a story on how so Editor Reviewing China Quake Deaths Is Sentenced - many schools collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake and why so many children died. Also A Chinese court also upheld the cruel and abusive eleven year sentence against, Liu Xiaobo, closely associated with the Charter '08 reform movement Chinese court upholds prominent scholar's 11-year punishment -

 On the international stage China is in many ways fully engaged. China is building a major and modern port facility in Hambatota Sri Lanka. Not only to give itself a deep water port for unfettered trade access in south asia, but also to preclude and circumscribe Indian trade expansion India Worries as China Builds Ports in South Asia -

 There is a discernible cast to China's activities that economist and Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson refers to as the "China First" Policy Robert J. Samuelson - The danger behind China's me first worldview - Something that may produce as much divergence as convergence even as China adopts forms of a free market economy. The U.S. has had the outlook of a young country. A century of working across its own frontier as industrialization developed. A century of expansion with only an interlude of isolationism existing largely as an example of wrong headedness. The middle kingdom systematically values security, stability and solidity. The idea that if anything is needed or valued outside China raw materials or oil, the object is to organize its being obtained guaranteed and brought back to China.

 China at the same time is one of the nations singled out for their number of start-ups  enterprises and culture of innovation. The fast company five most often mentioned are China, Brazil, Singapore, India, and Israel the subject of an entire book on this Start-up nation : the story of Israel's economic miracle. China is unique not only for its demographic depth, a vast reserve of human capital but also as a Christian Science Monitor article points out for its "research universities...bottom-up commercial drive, and top-down planning." A focus on "key areas" of technological development.

 The concern in this is not that the US is losing ground or falling behind, but that there is the appearance that an autocratic state can produce wealth and well being as easily as a democratic one.  Top down or bottom up, industrial policy or laissez fair, order or creative destruction. Its all only a matter of convenience and appearance. Local elites in every corner of the globe will be tempted to rule in the interest of the people but without their interest.

 I don't believe that in the end (or for long) an autocratic mass society state can produce happiness. Not by merely substituting  wealth for autonomy. the wealth of a nation is important, for creating temporary contentment in a people, but it is not the only thing. If order and wealth, thwart conscience (faith), and justice it will eventual seem less than complete. The reformers seeking a Chinese democracy see it as a human rights issue.  The officials of the autocratic state may ease restrictions on knowledge and autonomy gradually and without comment, allowing spheres of informality, if they see it having a causal relationship with wealth. In the same manner that they take concern with the environment when it impinges enough on wellness. Without room for conscience social systems degrade. Wealth tantalizes, shimmering just at fingertips reach, but well-being is a delicate weave of intangibles resting on the ability to order one's own comfort and life, to plan for the future. Wealth fades moves sideways then elsewhere. Fortune withdraws into a stark matter of haves and have nots. Nothing is left but subjugation, domination and the paranoia of a one party state. Colored only by shades of loathing and cruelty.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010
Buckfast and BS detectors

 A few things dug out of the preoccupied rubble of the past few weeks, and the far end of unread open windows in my browser. I should mention the snow I alluded to in the last post, that was the previous snow storm. There was another one right after that, rounding things out to about an even 26 inches. My workplace - the University of Maryland seemed to flash out of existence altogether - like that island in the show Lost. They were shut the entire week. Though they apparently blinked back to this time stream over the week-end. I didn't miss the place. If I wanted this much snow I would move back to Massachusetts. I'm not a skier or a skater. Snow, ice, piercing cold, and long interminable winters, these things were always reasons I was able to deal with the bittersweet separation from the marsh and peneplain of my youth.

 First off back on Friday or Saturday the 22nd, 23rd of January the British government finally got around to arresting James McCormick on fraud charges  BBC News - 'Bomb detector' maker Jim McCormick arrested. I had written about this back at the end of November and wanted to note this outcome as it passed. This is the man who sold - not only to Iraq but apparently all over the world and for years - a bomb/explosives detection device, the ADE 651, for $60-80,000 apiece  British Man Held for Fraud in Iraq Bomb Detectors - Which consists of little more than a telescoping tv antenna attached to black plastic case shaped like a pistol grip and filled with a couple of wires and diodes to give the impression of an electronic device. Faced with criminal charges and the shuttering of his magical security factory McCormick admitted it was just a divining rod, that he wasn't really saying they weren't. Adding only that there was no reason a divining rod couldn't find a bomb as easily as water. Export of the devices is banned for the present. Iraqi officials are opening their own inquiry as how this came about  Iraq PM orders probe into 'bomb detector' - Yahoo! News. They pronounce themselves shocked, shocked at the perfidy of it all  BBC News - Iraqi Interior ministry still backing 'bomb detector.

  The other thing in my Firefox back pages was a MetaFilter thread  Buckfast Tonic Wine | MetaFilter about Scotland's attempt to scapegoat and ban Buckfast Tonic Wine (from this  Coatbridge Journal - For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle - ). This is a perennial event for the island Kingdom. Something that comes up every few years. I had never heard of Buckfast until Ted Leo wrote a song featuring it a few years ago. A net search at the time revealed much hand wringing on BTW's account. Apparently the Ted Leo song is not the only ode to Bucky, but I'm willing to bet its the best one. The Metafilter piece has links to the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists song and others, also the Wikipedia page for Buckfast so I need not repeat those here. A picture named BuckfastTonicWine.jpg    

 The British press it seems has been full of concern for the binge drinking and hooliganism of youth culture  for the past season. The press and that part of society that concern emanates osmosis like from that is. As some in the metafilter thread point out there are at least eight other countries that drink more heavily than Scotland.

  Buckfast is; however, a Tonic Wine, a value added wine. It's fortified; with extra alcohol, extra sugar, and caffeine all in one handy bottle. A solid measure more convenient than having to drink both your vodka and your red bull. Sadly Bucky is not available on these shores. 

 Speaking of Vodka, I saw a Mini Cooper the other day down in DC, in a full body advertising paint-job. The vehicle spoke of British Vodka, Something about bubbles too I think. It just seemed unlikely. In a conspiratorial turn of mind it occurred to me that the Brits are really too parsimonious a people to have thrown away all those blighted potatoes that inaugurated the Irish potatoes famine. I see now that possibly they saved them all, in some hidden warehouse coordinated by a secret society all these years. Until the time was right. And now British Vodka is the result. As Terrence Simmion used to say Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler.

11:58:36 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Judge Knot

 In and among dealing with the snow here in the DC area, and with a web log which may never operate optimally again, I wanted to take a moment to speak to the issues and decision of Citizens United vs FEC.

 The facts of Citizens United vs FEC are that there was a Hillary Clinton film, an unflattering documentary Hillary the Movie, paid for  by Citizens United (Citizens United - Wikipedia) a 501(c)(4) movie company and dropped into the middle of primary campaign. The issue that ended up in the courts turned on what monies could be used to run ads for the movie. The question was whether McCain-Feingold prevented Citizens United to to use it's own funds -- revenue generated from other documetaries and activities. Inevitably it was brought up into the judicial process. All the way up and recently the Supreme Court Decided 5-4 that "Yes, sure they can"  Supreme Court Blocks Ban on Corporate Political Spending -

 This treatment of the case does (at least) three things according to the Washington Post:

"1. Strikes down a 63 year old prohibition on corporations and labor unions using money from their general treasuries to produce and air campaign ads for races for congress and the White House.

2. Overturns a ban on corporations and unions airing campaign ads in the 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

3. Keeps in place a century old ban on donations by corporations directly to federal candidates. Also upholds disclosure requirements on campaign requirements." Supreme Court rejects limits on corporate spending on political campaigns -

  A decision that could have been decided narrowly. merely on whether ads for a movie, about a political figure, could be construed as political ads under the sub rules of the laws covering these issues was instead construed startingly broadly. The Court asked that the case already presented the previous term be reargued before them, in order to the question the laws themselves that would ordinarily have decided the matter. The Harvard Law Record - Citizens United: Umpires running amok. Over ruling two precedents the majority crowed for the "most basic free speech principle-that the government has no business regulating political speech.".

 What we see is an open break with the past, with restraint, with the principle of stare decisis. Which Justice Roberts claims cannot be seen as an "inexorable command" High court shows it might be willing to act boldly - Which, thought,  is the way - judicial outrages like Dredd Scot notwithstanding - that it was presented in my udegraduate law courses.  This judicial unrestraint shows a schism in the body politic between conservative court and elected officials (both other branches). Conservatives have sent 12 out the last 15 justices to the court. [ Michael Waldman - Campaign finance ruling reflects Supreme Court's growing audacity -, and it has given them the desire to remake centuries.  Many here also see the developing present situation as a mirror of 1937; FDR's show-down with a conservative court. However Obama doesn't have FDR's expressly vocal margin of victory, five hndred twenty-eight electoral votes to Alf Landon's eight. Obama doesn't have FDR's moment in history.  Without a check from either the legislature or executive the court will continue where the court in 1937 paused. Uniform, directed, and agenda setting.

 There is a deliberate pernicious intent to all this. The notion that corporations have the rights and privileges of free speech as though they were living creatures is obscurist. First corporations are not beings they are limited liability groupings of men and women who are mortal beings and are endowed with rights of freedom and speech in the same measure as the rest of us. Who now help themselves to a further share of priviledge. Second it is not about free speech per se. Corporations do not speak, it is about money. It is about those who control corporations, spending money.

 Under the banner of uncomplexity I would argue that the matter is exactly what it appears to be; an assault on rule by the people. It is explicitly a vote for the notion that the rich powerful and privileged as they exist -- are an elite, are heir and holders of the only opinions that matter. They are owners of the world, which the rest of us inhabit only as dust or chattel. It is a vote for the unexamined notion, bias you could say, that the needs of wealth are what is right and proper. Looking back at last term's Caperton v. Massey [ Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. ] decision by the same core of Justices it is hard very hard to see anything else.  The Robert's court does this not because they believe it will not have the effect of having right-wing corporate money drown out the voice of the people - the voice of any candidate they don't like, especially in judicial elections  Editorial Notebook - Hanging a "For Sale" Sign Over the Judiciary -  They do it because they believe, and steadfastly hope, that it will. That it will deliver precisely that.

  A minor war of words developed on this during the State of the Union Speech. The President scolded the court rather starkly Washington Memo - Supreme Court Gets a Rare Rebuke, in Front of a Nation -,  Alito dissembles soto voci  Obama vs. Alito: Political dust-up during State of the Union / The Christian Science Monitor -  This raised a number of eyebrows, decorum breached and all that. I say decorum was already breached. However, The President ought not take up a permanent place in this argument. This self rightous power grab by the court does a lot to wake my inner activist. I am fairly sprouting tea leaves all over, but it may not be the same flavor of tea as others. I don't feel like starting a revolution though. It is a staple of things revolutionary such as the new conservatism that they cannot not tolerate dissent or even disagreement -- they are by their nature one-party states. I'll say what others are to reticent to say. I see this court as the shock troops of the coming managed democracy. While you can mouth "not true" all you want Justice Alito... if the jackboot fits you are goining to wear it  Doug Kendall: But It Is True, Justice Alito.

 One counter argument made is that unions, trade unions and the like would be free to direct money from their general treasury into political campaigns also. A point not made in any of the majority opinions and not central to their thinking. It is ironic to note that in the same week that this ruling came down, the nominee to the TSA withdrew his name from consideration due to the opposition of a Senator who believed that the nominee might be open to even considering some unionization of airport security workers and stated flatly he would block his nomination on this account.  One does not see here from conservatives any accordance of any legitimacy to trade unionism. Nothing here is intended to empower them.

 Another line taken is that the voters are wise and sophisticated enough to see thorough this avalanche of money. Perhaps, but Lincoln said only that "you can't fool all of the people all of the time." He did allow that you can fool some of people all of the time, and most of the people most of the time.  No political campaign I know of has ever doubted the efficacy of mass infusions of money to move polling numbers and end result. I do not understand why they would pretend it makes no difference now. The entire advertising industry is built on the ground 'truth' that consumer behavior can be successfully manipulated by simple expenditure. Studies in the disciplines of public relations and propaganda -- different words for the same thing really show that organized institutional voice, armed with even a modicum of understanding of the recipient carries great weight. More than diffuse even if more commonly held and longer known information circulating normatively among the body of recipients. The corporation is a hierarchical institution designed to create a great pool of capital and capable of great directed action.  Some have seen a role for shareholder voices, however representative of the people's voice they may be, over a corporations use of their general treasury. It is unclear what the role of management controlled development funds in political campaigns might be. It is also unclear whether disclosure laws will do enough to inform the public about corporations and their owners that they may make a decision not to buy a product or service the profit from which is then used to directly harm them or things they believe in and care about.  Conservatism see no problem in saving workers from the "great" problem of unitary advocacy when it comes to the question of closed or open shops or elections in issues of unionism.

 Barring a wealth of reasoned argument other than by the empty black robes that made this decision.  This should be seen as a transformational moment. A blatant attempt to begin a move of this nation away from rule by the people, by their many and their myriad voices, and towards rule by the deeply reactionary plutocratic few and their thinner narcissistic voices.

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Friday, February 5, 2010
Human-Computer Interface problems

Well I think the problems is sorted out now. A very big heartfelt thanks to Jake Savin, a former Userland employee now at Microsoft who took the time to keep an eye on the Userland message boards as the service closed down. No one else was. What I wanted was to have this software use a folder on my hard drive as the "upstream" target in Radio Userland parlance. Jake responded that there was a little used module in Radio that would do just   that. all I needed to do was rewrite a seven line xml document #upstream.xml to make that happen. This is the fix I should have sought out and put in place back in 2007 when the need to sFTP new material up to my U.Md server space first surfaced. At first I thought it hadn't worked. On numerous attempts over two nights it didn't seem to build a new rendered web log folder in the assigned place and I set the whole thing aside until I had time to figure out what I had done wrong. Today after restarting the Radio software for different reasons I noticed that the new folder was there and things were back in operation. I carry on Atomized Jr. now as if this whole unpleasant interlude largely never happened. Although I did like overhauling the old static page into Atomized Mkii.
Addendum: turns out the problem is not completely sorted out. Making a folder on my hard drive the target also impels the softer to point all URL's ; interior links and all img urls back to the folder on the hard drive rather than  Pictures that I put in post I could edit the urls of easily enough -- the problem is all the incidental images that belong to the template.


29 January 2010. As a consequence of Radio, the weblog software and hosting company Atomized jr has been using, closing down their servers and going ghost I have been unable to update this web log. This goes back to a problem I hacked around three years ago. I am not able to run Radio Userland into a secure server like U.Md's. Until I figure out another hack and either get this weblog running again or switch to WordPress or something I will be carrying on with a simple weblog-like page at  Atomized Mkii. the full URL for that is: .
Thank you.

10:45:18 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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