Byrd's Brain

Thursday, July 31
Poindexter
 
The creator of the Terrorism Information Awareness Program and the terrorist futures market, John Poindexter is expected to resign shortly.
The Pentagon official who oversaw the development of a plan for the military to operate a terrorist futures-trading market is resigning under pressure, a senior defense official said today.

John M. Poindexter, a retired rear admiral who was President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, is stepping down ``in the next few weeks,'' the official said, following disclosure of a proposal that outraged lawmakers and embarrassed senior Pentagon officials. The plan was to create in essence an online betting parlor that would have rewarded investors who forecast terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

While Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld did not personally dismiss Admiral Poindexter, the defense official said, Mr. Rumsfeld agreed that the admiral's credibility was shot and it was time for him to go.

``It's fair to say that the secretary understood what Admiral Poindexter understands, which is that it's difficult for any work that he might be associated with to receive a dispassionate hearing,'' said the official, who spoke to a group of reporters at the Pentagon today on the condition of anonymity.

Admiral Poindexter first gained notoriety in the Iran-contra scandal during the Reagan administration, and more recently he oversaw a Pentagon program that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists.

Under that plan, Admiral Poindexter envisioned a program of sweeping electronic surveillance as a way of forestalling terrorism by tapping into computer databases to collect medical, travel, credit and financial records.

The current furor centered on an initiative called Policy Analysis Market. Under the plan, traders were to be able to begin registering on Friday to trade futures on developments in the Middle East as of Oct. 1 on a Web site of the Policy Analysis Market, which the Pentagon was operating with private partners.

``We've had a couple of programs of varying degrees of merit that have been seen as certainly as unorthodox,'' the defense official said today. ``It's cutting edge and beyond that in some cases perhaps.''

The official praised Admiral Poindexter for his ``very creative intellect,'' but said it was highly doubtful that the Pentagon would seek his advice as a consultant in the future.
NYTimes
Good riddance.

RFID
 
Retailers have begun using chips t track their inventory. The chips use radio frequency identification (RFID). They communicate with detectors arrayed throughout a store. These "spy chips" are embedded in everything from CDs to shoes and even shirts. A store with an embedded tracking system can track a specific item, that a customer has picked up, as the customer moves throughout the store. In a test in England razor blades were outfitted with the chips and customers pictures were taken whenever a package of blades was picked up and when the same blades were paid for at the cash register.
The supermarket chain Tesco has admitted testing controversial technology that tracks customers buying certain products through its stores. Anyone picking up Gillette Mach3 razor blades at its Cambridge store will have his or her picture taken.
The Guardian, .... has found that tags in the razor blades trigger a CCTV camera when a packet is removed from the shelf. A second camera takes a picture at the checkout and security staff then compare the two images, raising the possibility that they could be used to prevent theft.

....

The trial uses radio frequency identification (RFID) in which tiny chips can communicate with detectors up to 20ft away. The chip can then return information - anything from a unique serial number to more complex product details. Or, as in Tesco's case, it could trigger a camera. The Guardian.
Conceivably, if you use a "loyalty/club card" and/or a credit card when you shop you can be tied to specific items that you purchased. For instance, if you buy a pair of shoes that has an embedded chip and pay for that with a credit card then your name and the id of the specific shoe is entered in a database. If you wear those shoes the next time you come to the store the sensors will know who you are, what you have purchased in the past and they will be able to track you as you wander in the store. Maybe cameras will even take your picture on occasion.

Did you stop to browse CDs? Did you look at books? Did you browse toys? Did you try on clothes? What did you ultimately buy? How much did you spend? Theoretically, if you have something with a chip in it you could be tracked wherever you go. There just needs to be a receiver that is capable of reading the signal.

WalMart is the biggest proponent of this "inventory" technology. The Defense Department is also interested in this technology. (Did someone say, "DARPA"?)
Since the Auto-ID Center's founding at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999, it has moved forward at remarkable speed. The center has attracted funding from some of the largest consumer goods manufacturers in the world, and even counts the Department of Defense among its sponsors. In a mid-2001 pilot test with Gillette, Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart, the center wired the entire city of Tulsa, Oklahoma with radio-frequency equipment to verify its ability to track Auto-ID equipped packages. CASPIAN
These chips could make it easy for the feds too track us too. We will unsuspectingly buy a shirt with a chip. Then feds then will track every where we go. They could even take our pictures with those camerars that are increasingly appearing atop new traffic signals at intersections. I used to think that in order to track us it would be necessary to embed a chip in everyone's forehead, but that concept was too sci-fi and too invasive. Who would put up with that? Instead we are unknowingly and voluntarily paving the way for us to be tracked by using club cards, credit cards and buying items with embedded chips.

Perhaps we are just sheep. Baa.

Wednesday, July 30
I'm Confused
 
Let me get this straight. The attacks of September 11th were the work of Al Qaeda,under the direction of Usama bin landen. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to disrupt Al Qaeda, overthrow the Taliban and get Usama bin laden. This year the U.S. invaded Iraq in order to quell the terrorist potential there since they were developing WMDs, but none have been found. Now the U.S. has a game of chase going on with Saddam Hussein. We seem to have forgotten about Usama and Al Qaeda. Although, if the threat assessments are to be believed, Al Qaeda is planning on hijacking more planes in the U.S. Shouldn't we be focused on Usama and Al Qaeda? Shouldn't we be rebuilding Afghanistan so that the Taliban loses its supporters and the nation is stable?

Finally, if we hadn't invaded Iraq the U.S. would have troops and funds available for other missions, such as peacekeeping in Liberia. How can we spend 3.9 billion per month in Iraq, but balk at paying a paltry $110 million to support peackeeping troops for six months? But no, BushCo had a decade old plan to get Iraqi oil and use Iraq for military bases. Budgets hemorrage while the U.S. pays try to keep some order in Iraq and teh U.S. seems to have left Afghanistan to fall apart and we still haven't found Usama. How can BushCo have any popular support?

We are less safe then when the Supreme Court put his Shrubness into office. We have over extended our military, we have a massive deficit, we have bankrupt local and state governments, an ever worsening economy and an increasingly deteriorating environment. If people can support this state of affairs they will support anything.

Tuesday, July 29
Betting on assassination
 
3:40 pm

A "Pre-Script": This futures market in terrorism has been cancelled.
The Pentagon will abandon a plan to establish a futures market to help predict terrorist strikes, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.

Sen. John Warner said he spoke by phone with the program's director, "and we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped."

Warner announced the decision not long after Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle took to the floor to denounce the program as "an incentive actually to commit acts of terrorism."

"This is just wrong," declared Daschle.

Warner made the announcement during a confirmation hearing for retired Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, nominated to be Army chief of staff.

Warner said he consulted with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Ted Stevens and they agreed "that this should be immediately disestablished." CNN


The original post:

Poindexter and the other folks at DARPA are at it again. This time ,in order to "predict" middle eastern hotspots, instability and terrorist attacks DARPA has created a commodities trading board. This board, the "Policy Analysis Market" (PAM) will begin testing online on August 1st. People who play the commodities game can gamble as to whether or not a government will be overthrown or a leader assassinated. The site describes this process in cold analytical terms:
To illustrate the sort of contracts tradable on PAM, consider two issues tied to the now-historic case of pending hostilities between the United States and Iraq: (a) whether or not the Jordanian monarchy would be overthrown during hostilities between the United States and Iraq and (b) the ability of the Iraqi regime to persist for more than one month of hostilities. Each of these issues has two states; they occur or do not occur. A pair of futures contracts can therefore be defined for each issue and only one of each pair can end up as true:

Assigning the shorthand A to the Jordanian issue, A means overthrow occurs and ~A means overthrow does not occur.
Assigning the shorthand B to the Iraqi issue, B means the regime persists after one month of hostilities and ~B means that it does not persist.
To illustrate why such futures contracts would be traded, consider two PAM traders: a specialist in Jordanian domestic affairs and a specialist in U.S. military planning and operational capabilities – the first would feel comfortable trading in A and ~A while the second would feel comfortable trading in B and ~B. But what about the potential for interaction between these issues and how can these two specialists comfortably express their views on interactions that only partially involve their expert knowledge? This is a job for PAM derivatives.
People are expected to wager real money on this trading board. The Department of Defense has requested $8 million to run the board. This whole concept is grotesque. How would the U.S. react if another noation were taking bets n the liklihood of a presidential assasination?

The good news is that Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has called for this site to be shutdown. He has called the site, "incredibly stupid.”
In a letter to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Dr. John Poindexter today, Dorgan, who was joined by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said they would work to stop funding for such a program. They told Poindexter they want the Policy Analysis Market stopped now.

“The example that you provide in your report would let participants gamble on the question, ‘Will terrorists attack Israel with bioweapons in the next year?’ Surely, such a threat should be met with intelligence gathering of the highest quality – not by putting the question to individuals betting on an Internet web site,” the Senators wrote to Poindexter. “Spending taxpayer dollars to create terrorism betting parlors is as wasteful as it is repugnant. The American people want the Federal government to use its resources enhancing our security, not gambling on it.”

The Policy Analysis Market and the FutureMAP program would work much like other financial markets, with investors buying “futures” in events they think are likely to happen, and selling off futures as they believe events become less likely to happen.

In a letter to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Dr. John Poindexter today, Dorgan, who was joined by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said they would work to stop funding for such a program. They told Poindexter they want the Policy Analysis Market stopped now.

“The example that you provide in your report would let participants gamble on the question, ‘Will terrorists attack Israel with bioweapons in the next year?’ Surely, such a threat should be met with intelligence gathering of the highest quality – not by putting the question to individuals betting on an Internet web site,” the Senators wrote to Poindexter. “Spending taxpayer dollars to create terrorism betting parlors is as wasteful as it is repugnant. The American people want the Federal government to use its resources enhancing our security, not gambling on it.”

The Policy Analysis Market and the FutureMAP program would work much like other financial markets, with investors buying “futures” in events they think are likely to happen, and selling off futures as they believe events become less likely to happen.
Dorgan press release
As news of this project has come to light the website has been altered and some scenarios were removed.
The White House also altered the Web site so that the potential events to be considered by the market that were visible earlier in the day at www.policyanalysismarket.org could no longer be seen.

But by that time, Republican officials in the Senate were privately shaking their heads over the planned trading. One top aide said he hoped that the Pentagon had a good explanation for it.

The Pentagon, in defending the program, said such futures trading had proven effective in predicting other events like oil prices, elections and movie ticket sales.

"Research indicates that markets are extremely efficient, effective and timely aggregators of dispersed and even hidden information," the Defense Department said in a statement. "Futures markets have proven themselves to be good at predicting such things as elections results; they are often better than expert opinions."

According to descriptions given to Congress, available at the Web site and provided by the two senators, traders who register would deposit money into an account similar to a stock account and win or lose money based on predicting events.

"For instance," Mr. Wyden said, "you may think early on that Prime Minister X is going to be assassinated. So you buy the futures contracts for 5 cents each. As more people begin to think the person's going to be assassinated, the cost of the contract could go up, to 50 cents.

"The payoff if he's assassinated is $1 per future. So if it comes to pass, and those who bought at 5 cents make 95 cents. Those who bought at 50 cents make 50 cents."

The senators also suggested that terrorists could participate because the traders' identities will be unknown. NYTimes


One can only fear what other projects these folks will cook up. The inmates clearly are in charge of the asylum.

(If you don't know about DARPA and TIA I have written often about both. Most recently here.)

Monday, July 28
California Recall
 
The recall of Governor Gray Davis is underway. The election is scheduled for October. The fact that an elected Governor can face a recall simply because he is unliked and people have money to burn to pay for signature gatherers is both galling and surreal. Perhaps if a republican is elected at the recall, the democrats should organize a recall of the new governor. We could have rotating Governors in California. Politics at its finest.

Bill Maher, as always has a humorous take on these events. And humor is needed now. I have reprinted Bill Maher's column, that first appeared in the LA Times, in its entirety below.

Recalls Are for Cars, Not California Governors
When did the Target parking lot replace the voting booth?

By Bill Maher
Los Angeles Times

Thursday 24 July 2003

New rule: No do-overs. Once you elect an official, unless he runs off with public funds or gets caught with kiddie porn, you're stuck with him.

He's the governor, not some dude you married in Las Vegas.

What's going on here in California, if you're lucky enough to not have been following this, is that the economy turned, so we're getting rid of the governor. But what if we drive him out of office and the economy still doesn't get better? I guess we'll have to burn him. And if that doesn't work, we'll kill his dog.

Yes, in baseball when the team stinks, you fire the manager. But you don't fire him because it rains. And you don't let the opposing team choose a new manager for you.

And you don't fire him between innings. And replace him with a Viennese weightlifter.

Here's why the economy turned: The dot-com bubble burst. (Obviously on the orders of Gray Davis.) The airline industry collapsed. (Just as Gray Davis planned.) We fought two wars. (Playing right into Gray Davis' hands.) And Dick Cheney's friends at Enron "gamed" the energy market and ripped off the state for billions.

So you can see the problem: Gray Davis.

And the obvious solution: A Viennese weightlifter. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Finally, a candidate who can explain the Bush administration's positions on civil liberties in the original German.

But there are still a lot of Democrats with sour grapes over the last presidential election, and they're not collecting petitions to replace George Bush with Bernie Mac.

Now, I'm not saying that I like Davis. Being enthusiastic about Davis would be like saying your favorite food is straw. But he fought for his country in Vietnam and won a fair election, and he's entitled to his term.

Maybe he's a lousy governor, but he was the one elected by voters who bothered to show up at the polls. Their efforts shouldn't be undone by disgruntled shoppers signing a petition on their way out of Target.

Anyone who thinks this recall is some great affirmation of democracy should review early American history. This is precisely the kind of direct involvement by the howling masses that the framers wanted to avoid.

But, hey, let's have the recall. And then the people who voted for Davis can have a recall and put him back in. And then we can throw him out again. It works well in Italy.

And it'll really help the state economy, too, when investors realize our political system is on par with Belize.

Oh, and a recall election will cost the state up to $35 million. Money we would otherwise just waste on schools and roads. And we'll still have to have a regular election in March.

But this really isn't about elections at all. This is about a congressman named Darrell Issa, a Republican car alarm magnate who wants to be governor and has spent $1.5 million of his own money to fund the recall effort.

Think about that as the silver lining the next time a car alarm wakes you up in the middle of the night.

Bill Maher is host of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher." Rprinted from Truth.org.




This butter cleans your teeth while you eat it
 
The world of mass production has brought us something else to worry about. Land O' Lakes has recalled its one-pound packages of salted stick butter because they may contain small fragments of metal. If this weren't a large corporation in a mass production world this wouldn't be much of a problem. Instead half the U.S. is affected. This butter is distributed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.



Collective Incompetence
 
The Rittenhouse Review has an excellent discussion of the pickle that Condi Rice has put her self in. She is either incompetent (my vote) or a liar (she may be that too).

Thanks for the Memories
 
Bob Hope has died. He was 100. We'll miss you Bob.

Friday, July 25
another farmers' market accident
 
By a strange coincidence, or quirk of fate, another elderly driver has driven into a farmers' market. This time in Florida.

about those photos
 
Did the U.S. really need to release those photos? Is this a precedent that should be set? If many Iraqi's aren't going to believe that the brothers are dead -- because they don't trust the U.S. -- then will these pictures really help that much? Is this small possibility worth taking yet another step into the moraless abyss? Apparently so to BushCo. Now we find out that the corpses have undergone facial reconstruction surgery AND a television crew has filmed the corpses. The U.S. is at another new low. The depths to which BushCo will bring us are unfathomable. Next can we expect BushCo to have their heads mounted on posts in a square in Baghdad?

September 11th Congressional Report
 
The Report of the "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001" is out in redacted form. For instance, information, that probably makes Saudi Arabia look bad, was removed by the White House. The full report is here.

It is 832 pages long. You won't likely read the whole thing. I certainly haven't and won't. Fortunately you can download it in sections. From the "Abridged Findings and Conclusions", Finding 19 is of interest. The intelligence agencies failed to communicate with each other and generally failed to connect the dots, but they knew that something was up in the summer of 2001 and their fears were communicated to the White House, but those warnings were ignored.
"Despite intelligence information on the immediacy of the threat level in the spring and summer of 2001, the assumption prevailed in the U.S. Government that attacks of the magnitude of September 11 could not happen here."
Also, apparently the White House and the National Security Administration were not forthcoming with information. Do you think that they have something to hide?

The mirror slowly cracks...
 
Good news in the offing? Are people beginning to wake up? BushCo's ratings are down. Could this be a trend? No dancing just yet, but there is a glimmer of hope.
For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, rank-and-file Republicans say they are worried about President Bush's re-election chances based on the feeble economy, the rising death toll in Iraq and questions about his credibility.

"Of course it alarms me to see his poll figures below the safe margins," said Ruth Griffin, co-chair of Bush's 2000 campaign steering committee in New Hampshire. "If he isn't concerned, and we strong believers in the Bush administration aren't concerned, we must have blinders on."

The worries emerged as Griffin and nearly two dozen other GOP stalwarts were interviewed by The Associated Press in advance of the Republican National Committee's meeting this week in New York, site of the 2004 GOP presidential convention and the starting point of Bush's wartime surge in popularity.

Bush's poll ratings skyrocketed after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center as he led the nation in mourning and then to war with blunt talk and a confidence that soothed an anxious nation. Polls show that about six of every 10 Americans still approve of the way he's doing his job, a solid rating that buoys Republican hopes that Bush will overcome his current problems and breeze to re-election.

But the president has seen a drop in other early warning indicators, including the number of people expressing confidence in his credibility and leadership along with his handling of the economy and postwar Iraq.

"We've got nine Democrats out there beating up on him. That's the problem," said Joyce Terhes of Maryland, a member of the 165-person RNC.

"The economy is touch and go," said Dick Taylor, another RNC member from Maryland. "I've got to believe it recovers really fast. If not, obviously we'll be in some trouble."

Republicans said there will be trouble for Bush if postwar Iraq continues to claim the lives of American troops. Another U.S. solider was killed Tuesday, bringing the total killed in action to 153 -- six more than during the 1991 Gulf War.

"This guerrilla warfare is disturbing," said former Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, an RNC member from Arkansas.

A recent CNN-Time poll found that 47 percent view Bush as a leader they can trust, down from 56 percent in March. A thin majority of voters said they harbor doubts about his leadership. SFGate


Wednesday, July 23
Can the end justify the means?
 
I know that Uday and Qusay were horrible people and that they may have killed people out of whim and for sport, but does that mean that the U.S. government should have a policy to kill them? I understand that their deaths may weaken the resistance to U.S. and British forces and help pave the way to a stable Iraq, but I am troubled by this hunt and kill philosophy that BushCo proudly declares. I always thought that we were supposed to try to capture people first and that any death was regrettable and sometimes unavoidable. Should we have not held the Nuremberg trials? Should we have just rounded up every Nazi and shot them instead? That sure would have been quicker and more "efficient". The PR impact is much more immediate when no one is taken alive. ANd if there are no prisoners then there are no messy questions about possible torture and prisoner rights...
...who said the pictures show badly shot bodies that were still clearly recognizable.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN the U.S. military is considering releasing the pictures to try to convince skeptical Iraqis of the brothers' deaths.

Such a move, the official said, also would underscore that it's only a matter of time before their father suffers a similar fate. CNN
Officially:
"They resisted the detention and the efforts of the coalition forces to go in there and apprehend them, and they were killed in the ensuing gunfight and the attacks that we conducted on the residence," Sanchez said. Four coalition soldiers were wounded in the operation.CNN
But couldn't the residence have been surrounded and held under siege? The description of the weapons used sure indicate to me that a decision to get them at all costs and as quickly as possible had been made.
The standby OH-58 Delta Kiowa helicopters fired rockets and machine guns.

After securing the ground floor, the troops again tried to enter the house; met with gunfire once more; and withdrew.

They then deployed 50-caliber machine guns and 10 Humvee-mounted TOW missiles.

Although Apache helicopters and A-10 aircraft were on hand, Sanchez said they weren't used because the surrounding neighborhood was too crowded. CNN
Besides, the U.S. still has an official policy outlawing assassinations.
In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a long-standing policy banning political assassination. It was the misfortune of Saddam Hussein's sons that the Bush administration has not bothered to enforce the prohibition.

The brothers were killed during a six-hour raid Tuesday at a palatial villa in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by U.S. forces acting on a tip from an informant. They ranked just below their father in the deposed regime. Odai, in particular, had a reputation for brutality.

Officials said people inside the villa opened fire first - but left little doubt what the U.S. troops hoped to accomplish.

"We remain focused on finding, fixing (what is "fixing"?), killing or capturing all members of the high-value target list," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition troops in Iraq, announcing the deaths of Odai and Qusai. Findlaw


Tuesday, July 22
GOP Moves to Stop Ads
 
The GOP is threatening television stations. The GOP is trying to stop this Democratic National Committee advertisement from airing. The ad shows the lies that Bush made in his State of the Union address in order to justify invading Iraq. Here is the text of a letter being sent to television stations by attorneys for the GOP:
Dear Station Manager:

It has come to our attention that your station will begin airing false and misleading advertisements on July 21, 2003, paid for by the Democratic National Committee. The advertisement in question misrepresents President George W. Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address. The advertisement states that President Bush said, "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." In fact, President Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." By selectively quoting President Bush, the advertisement is deliberately false and misleading. Furthermore, the British government continues to stand by its intelligence and asserts that it believes the intelligence is genuine.

The Democratic National Committee certainly has a legitimate First Amendment right to participate in political debate, but it has no right to willfully spread false information in a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people. These advertisements will not be run by legally qualified candidates; therefore, your station is under no legal obligation to air them. On the contrary, as an FCC licensee you have the responsibility to exercise independent editorial judgment to not only oversee and protect the American marketplace of ideas, essential for the health of our democracy, but also to avoid deliberate misrepresentations of the facts. Such obligations must be taken seriously.

This letter puts you on notice that the information contained in the above-cited advertisement is false and misleading; therefore, you are obligated to refrain from airing this advertisement. source: DNC


Uday and Qusay may have been killed
 
There is new speculation that Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay, may have been killed. Maybe the U.S. is closing in on Saddam. But don't forget about that convoy that was attacked a few weeks ago. Originally we were told that it had high ranking Iraqis in it, including Saddam. Then as time passed it turned out to be something different and there may have been no high ranking Iraqis and certainly not Saddam.
Speculation grew this evening that Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay may have been killed in an American raid on a house in northern Iraq.

Four Iraqis were killed in a raid on a suspected hideout of high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's regime, at the home of one of his cousins. One US official was reported as saying that two of the bodies had a strong resemblance to Saddam's sons.

The raid at a house in the northern city of Mosul sparked a shootout between members of the 101st Airborne Division and gunmen holed up inside the compound, which later burned to the ground, officials said. Independant


Friday, July 18
a smoking gun?
 
Skimble has a map of Iraqi oil fields that was released as part of the official records of Dick Cheney's secret meetings for "Cheney Energy Task Force". The implication is that Cheney and the oil companies were planning on using Iraqi oil in early 2001. I wonder how they planned on getting it? An invasion were sure be helpful, George.

16 Questions
 
Howard Dean has 16 questions for BushCo about the way the U.S. was led to war and failed to foresee the continuing Iraqi resistance.


comeuppance?
 
The key informant on the British Iraqi "dossier" is dead. The body of, weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly was found in a wooded area near his home.
Dr Kelly, 59, had been caught up in a row between the BBC and the government about the use of intelligence reports in the run-up to the war with Iraq.

On Tuesday he told the Foreign Affairs select committee he had spoken to BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan but denied he was the main source for a story about claims that a dossier on Iraq had been "sexed up".


weird
 
Here, have a teddy bear, don't mind the fact that it weighs a lot, there's just a gun inside ...

do we really care?
 
Don't people have better things to do? Don't people have more significant things to worry about? Is it really worth clogging up the courts for this?
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, is going to court to prevent wares bought at rival Kmart from going for a spin at the register.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart has a patent on its carousel that holds its blue plastic shopping bags. The cashier drops items into bags as merchandise is rung up, and spins the rack to make the effort easier for both the cashier and the customer lifting out the bags.

Wal-Mart filed suit Tuesday in a Delaware court to stop Kmart from using a similar device.


Thursday, July 17
Oh What Busy Webs We Weave
 
Be sure to check out Talking Points Memo and Tom Tomorrow for the latest on "uraniumgate". The NSA staffer who pushed for the language has been identified. And read this on how the White House has taken responsibility --not!

Start your day with a smile. It may be your last.
 
With this title I don't mean to make light of this tragedy. Life is short. You have to treasure each moment. When I was a child I had a sign on my bedroom door that said, "Start your day with a smile. It may be your last." People thought it was morbid. I thought that it was far from morbid. I thought that it was to the point. You never know when you are going to go. So you should always strive to live in the present moment. You should cherish what you have while you have it. You don't know when your time is up or when another's time is up. You might go to the farmers market for some strawberries and be plowed down by a runaway car. This accident is tragic for all involved. (password/id: "rbyrd", good for 7 days) I can't even begin to imagine how devastated the parents of the 2 year-old, who was killed, must be. They just went to a market and their lives were changed forever.

(Postscript: A thought occurs to me that the underlying cause of this accident -- a car driven by an apparently healthy elderly person -- is societal. For transportation in the U.S. we depend primarily on our cars. We don't provide enough viable options for people who don't drive. Among other things, our reflexes slow as we age. Thus at some age, no matter how healthy a person is, it is probably wise to stop driving. For instance, before my father died he held steadfastly to his right to drive and took offense at any suggestion that he should limit his driving. Driving for him was symbolic of his health and his independence. If he didn't drive he was trapped at home because he had no reasonable public transit options.)

time for some humor
 
If you read this blog much you know that I am a Mark Fiore fan. His latest is on BushCo's damage control.

Wednesday, July 16
TIA May Be Defeated
 
The Total/Terrorism Information Awareness Project has been a pet peeve of Byrd's Brain. Good news comes by way of Lean Left and Talk Left. A Senate Appropriations Committee panel has proposed killing all funding for the TIA. Could this mean that John Poindexter will join the ranks of the unemployed?


Iraq Invasion Costs
 
BushCo says that the U.S. is spending $4 billion a month in Iraq. Wow. I can hear that deficit growing. Today the Senate defeated a democratic proposal calling for an accounting of the Iraq war and post war costs. If BushCo had nothing to hide what would be the big deal? Could the effort be costing more than $4 billion each month? Could it be that an accounting might bring some questionable costs or expenditures to light? One thing BushCo doesn't like is light. It ruins the smoke and mirrors illusions.

$455 billion!!!
 
Clinton's eradication of the deficit seems surreal now. The federal government ended 2001 with a $127 billion surplus, the fourth straight and second largest ever. Unfortunately, the recession, continuous tax cuts, the war in Iraq and the costs of fighting terrorism and eroding our civil rights are using up the money. BushCo has now projected that this year's federal deficit will surge to a record $455 billion!

I thought that republicans wanted to run government like a business. Is this how one runs a business? Maybe you do run a business this way when you can count on government subsidies and bailouts... And you run a government this way when you want to say -- in a couple f years perhaps -- that you must cut back on more services and privatize more services because there simply isn't enough money.





It's the Economy Stupid
 
Each of us can feel how bad the economy is. Every state has a budget crisis, millions are unemployed. College graduates can't find jobs. Companies are closing. Companies are in bankruptcy. And we read about new layoffs every day. But BushCo keeps touting reports and telling us that the economy isn't that bad. Could statistics lie?i

You betcha. In order to paint a rosy picture of the economy, BushCo is playing fast and loose with the statistics. BushCo has stopped reports that haven't been favorable and changed the reporting periods on others so that the stats aren't as bleak.
The administration muzzles routine economic information that's unfavorable. Last year, for example, the administration stopped issuing a monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report, known as the Mass Layoff Statistics program, that tracked factory closings throughout the country. The cancellation was made known on Christmas Eve in a footnote to the department's final report—a document that revealed 2,150 mass layoffs in November, cashiering nearly a quarter-million workers. The administration claimed the report was a victim of budget cuts. After the Washington Post happened to catch this bit of data suppression, the BLS report was reinstated. (Interestingly, President George H.W. Bush buried these same statistics in '92, also during a period of job losses. They were revived by President Clinton.)

The Bush economic team has snuffed its own reports when they reach conclusions that don't match the administration's rosy scenarios. The administration deep-sixed a study commissioned by then Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that predicts huge budget deficits well into the future. As noted by the Financial Times in late May, this survey, which asserted that the baby-boom generation's future health care and retirement costs would swamp U.S. coffers, was dropped from a 2004 budget summary published in February 2003—at the same time the White House was campaigning for a tax-cut package that critics warned would greatly expand future deficits. "The study's [analysis of future deficits] dwarfs previous estimates of the financial challenge facing Washington," wrote the FT. According to the FT, a Bush official said the study was merely a thought exercise.

The administration also muffled a customary report whose findings would have forced key corporate supporters to pay more to their employees. The annual Adverse Effect Wage Rate establishes the minimum wage that can be paid each year to about 50,000 agricultural "guest workers" in the H2A Program. From AEWR's 1987 inception until 2000, the Department of Labor released the report in February. But in 2001, DOL withheld the wage figure until August, and only published it after the Farmworker Justice Fund threatened a lawsuit. In 2002, the DOL held up the report until May, again releasing it only after the prospect of legal action. The delays helped big agricultural firms, largely in the tobacco states and the South, by allowing them to pay their field workers last year's lower wages, saving the employers millions of dollars. Among those benefiting politically were Labor Secretary Elaine Chao's husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, whose state relies on several thousand guest workers in its tobacco fields and who receives large contributions from agricultural interests.

Another administration trick is playing with the length of its economic forecast periods, which puts the best possible face on bad news while exaggerating the projected benefits of its own initiatives. For example, to heighten the impression that Social Security is running out of money (thereby strengthening the case for allowing workers to divert money from the system into private retirement accounts), the administration has predicted shortfalls far in the future by relying on preposterously long forecast periods. In a superb analysis of the budget in the June Harper's, Thomas Frank noted that in 2002 the administration declared an $18 trillion shortfall in Social Security and Medicare—about five times the current national debt. Frank notes that in order to arrive at the $18 trillion figure—since Social Security is currently in surplus—the administration used a "cumulative seventy-five-year estimate [Frank's itals] based on extreme long-term projections ... ." Meanwhile, even as it relies on 75-year projections for Social Security, the same document replaces traditional 10-year budget projections with five-year ones, claiming the longer-term numbers were unreliable.

President Bush also politicized the Council of Economic Advisers, which is supposed to produce straight analysis, not administration spin. CEA staffers complained that top Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey, not even a member of the council, encouraged them to produce data supporting the president's controversial tax cut initiatives. CEA chairman Glen Hubbard also pushed staffers to find literature supporting the questionable argument that tax cuts created job growth.

On other occasions, the administration has punished economic officials who didn't follow the company line. Treasury Secretary O'Neill left the administration after, among other fits of candor, he expressed skepticism about economic figures the White House had released and suggested that the tax cut could be better used to buttress Social Security. And before Lindsey was made to take a dive, he predicted that the war in Iraq could cost upwards of $200 billion, a figure that infuriated the White House, which was selling the anti-Saddam campaign as a comparatively cheap victory.

Important economic data that casts a bad light on administration policies has been expunged from government Web sites. The Department of Labor removed a report showing the real value of the minimum wage over time, claiming it was "outdated." With no minimum wage hike since 1997, the Web site would have shown minimum-wage workers faring increasingly poorly under the Bush administration, while their real income went up under Clinton. (Some subheadings from the report: "Real Value of the Minimum Wage Continues Decline"; "Minimum Wage Falls Relative to Average Hourly Earnings"; "Minimum Wage Falls Below 2-Person Family Poverty Threshold.")

Earlier this year, a study predicting mediocre job growth from Bush's proposed $674 billion economic stimulus plan disappeared from the Council of Economic Advisers' Web site. The study forecast an average increase of only 170,000 jobs—0.1 percent of the workforce—every year through 2007. The study was pulled just after a major Jan. 7 Bush budget speech to the Economic Club of Chicago. "In the out years, by their own estimate, their plan is a job and growth killer," says Jared Bernstein, economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "Instead of doing what serious analysts would do and going to the drawing board to re-evaluate, they just took the offending document off the Web site." Slate
In politics there has always been spin, but with BushCo everything is spin. BushCo is the great illusionist. It is all smoke and mirrors.



Tuesday, July 15
Operation Hidden Agenda
 
I just found these. Playing cards depicting the Bush regime and its "hidden agenda". The cards have pictures of the "president", Rumsfeld, Powell and others along with quotes. The quotes are mostly from journalists, questioning the rationale for the invasion of Iraq. The backs of the cards feature a 1983 photograph of Rumsfeld shaking Hussein's hand.


Monday, July 14
The Carlyle Group
 
The Economist weighs in on the Carlyle Group.
Perhaps there would be less reason to worry about Carlyle if there were rival clubs of ex-political heavyweights competing within the iron triangle. Alas, this firm seems to be an aspiring monopolist, hoovering up former public officials from across the political divide and, increasingly, from across the world. It is becoming more ambitious in Europe, and keenly eyeing China. Perhaps there would be less reason to worry if Carlyle's activities were more open—but as a private equity firm, it has largely escaped America's recent efforts to improve the governance and transparency of companies, which is unfortunate. At a time when America is aggressively promoting democracy and capitalism abroad, including by military means, it would be helpful if its politicians and businesses were regarded as cleaner than clean. Shrouded in secrecy, Carlyle calls capitalism into question.


better living through chemicals
 
That is me I hope. I have had recurring sinus infections for years. The infections are probably due to my allergies. I am allergic to dust mites and cats and dogs. One can't avoid dust unless you live outside and we have a cat that I have had for years. Some people tell me to give the cat away, but I can't do that.

The sinus infections were coming at a pace of 4 or more a year -- 10 years ago so I had sinus surgery. That helped a lot. I have had very few sinus infections since. But now for the last two months, ever since my plane flights to and from St. Louis, I have been battling a sinus infection. It won't go away. For those of you lucky enough to never have had a sinus infection let me give you an idea of what the experience is like.

Sinus infections give you a headache that aspirin, tylenol, aleve, combined can't stop. They also make you tired, very tired, all the time. You go to bed exhausted. You wake up feeling like you haven't slept. As you can imagine a person with a sinus infection --in constant unrelieved pain -- is not a joy to be around. I have been on four courses of antibiotics. Last Thursday I went to an ENT because the infection was still around and I was losing my voice. Losing my voice was the last straw. As you might imagine, I like to talk.

The infection has moved into my vocal chords. They are swollen. Now to treat the spreading infection, I am on my fifth regimen of antibiotics. This time it is something called "Ceftin" . I am also on a streroid -- prednisone. This is to reduce the swelling in my sinuses and my vocal chords. Each of these has their downside, but I want them to work. The ceftin is supposed to "clean everything out." That experience may not be pleasant -- the good bacteria will go out with the bad, but if the bad goes I will be happy. I am eating a lot of yogurt in hopes of maintaining good bacteria throughout this process.

Then there is the steroid. It can amp me up like I have had 20 cups of coffee. Last night I learned that it can lead to insomnia. Finally, everyone has warned me about the weight that I will gain. My doctor expects me to gain 2 pounds. I am only taking these drugs for 2 weeks, but it might be a rough couple of weeks. I want all of this to work. If it doesn't then I may be looking at another Sinus surgery. I would rather avoid the surgery.

Enough about me. On with the politics.

Friday, July 11
denial is bliss
 
This survey sure helps explain why the world is the way it is. People see the problems around them, but they want someone else to fix them. The age of selfishness is in full swing.

Air pollution is bad. Most air pollution is caused by cars. I drive a car that pollutes. I will continue to drive my car. At least that is the reasoning of a majority of those surveyed.
Californians see air pollution as a major problem and blame automobile use as the main culprit, but few Golden State residents think their own driving is part of the problem, according to a new study released Thursday.

A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 58 percent of Californians believe air pollution is a serious health threat, while 47 percent of state residents see vehicle emissions as the primary cause.

Yet less than half of survey respondents said they are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about how their own driving contributes to poor air quality. Nearly 80 percent reported they were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their vehicle's fuel economy.

"People don't recognize the connection between their own actions and the problems in their region," said Mark Baldassare, the institute's statewide survey director. "There's such a dominant car culture that people don't want to recognize the problem."

The survey had some good news too.
Despite their attachment to a car-based lifestyle, Californians appear willing to change their driving habits to help the environment. About 52 percent said they would consider buying a smaller car to reduce air pollution and fuel use the next time they replace their current vehicle. About 45 percent said they would seriously consider switching to public transportation to commute to work.

The survey also found that California residents continue to be "greener" than the average American. About 65 percent said protecting the environment should be given priority over economic growth, compared to 47 percent nationally. The same number of state residents said they would support tougher air pollution standards even if it would increase the cost of cars.

The majority of Californians said they do not support proposals to reduce dependence on foreign oil by drilling off California's coast or federally protected areas such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge
You can read the survey itself here.

Thursday, July 10
wifi loses its cool
 
Internet cafes were cutting edge, internet cafes were cool. Sipping coffee and surfing the internet. It has an intellectual ring to it. McWiFi is banal, uncool and somehow sad. Eating highly questionable food products and surfing the internet -- for porn perhaps? How could someone even stand to stay at a McDonald's for an hour or more?

PBDEs
 
Many will say that "something is going to get us, so why worry." I'd say it makes sense to take reasonable precautions that protect ourselves and out loved ones.

There are concerns about another chemical additive that seems to be in virtually every type of item that people buy. This additive is PDBE -- polybrominated diphenyl ethers -- can impair brain development in young children and adversely affects a person's central nervous system. High levels of these chemicals have been found in the breast tissues of SF Bay Area women. This is alarming, particularly so because these things are everywhere. We all are exposed to them, more than once every day. People who sit at computers much of the day, for example, are exposed to these chemicals.
The chemicals were developed in the 1960s to protect people by reducing the flammability of polyurethane foam and plastics. Today they are commonly used in foam cushions and mattresses, carpet padding and car and plane seats as well as in hard plastics used in fax machines, computers and hair dryers.

Little is known about how the chemicals get into humans, but scientists fear that concentrations may be approaching levels that could prove harmful.

"PBDEs are in our homes, cars, buses and airplanes. We're constantly surrounded by products that have these chemicals in them. It's my hope that we're catching them before they've reached a level where we demonstrate that they cause harm to people," said Thomas McDonald, a toxicologist with the [California] state Environmental Protection Agency and a national expert on PBDEs.

McDonald noted the chemicals seem to be widespread in the environment. "We're seeing levels in birds and in fish. It's everywhere. It's in streams and lakes and even in remote Arctic regions and the North Pole. Just like PCBs, there's long-range transport," he said.
SF Chronicle
The good news is that in California a bill passed the Assembly in May to ban two of the three forms of these chemicals. The bill is up for a vote today in the state Senate. It is opposed by industry, of course, but it has a good chance of passing.

(A warning for my wife [and me] since we both use laptops that often sit in our laps. "Beware of the off gases that are generated by the heat of those laptops.")

Here is the bill.

Wednesday, July 9
on the train
 
I am travelling for work, so there will be no blogging today.

Tuesday, July 8
privacy legislation
 
I spent the better part of the day in a hearing before the California Assembly. Thus I couldn't post any updates earlier. Although if the State Capitol had wi-fi service I could have blogged and surfed the internet without interruption. You have to understand that although I was attendng a hearing I had an awful lot of time to myself. The substantive part of the hearing likely took two hours, but the part of the hearing that I had to sit through lasted for 5 hours. There was a lot of down time while the committee waited for enough members to have a quorum -- committee members got up and left the room at any time -- and while the committee waited for bill sponsors to actually appear and testify in support of their bills. The audience was comprised almost entirely of lobbyists. I realized today that real people don't attend legislative hearings. Instead they are attended by paid professionals, who most likely would take any position that they were paid to take.

I am not a lobbyist, so during the down time I read work files. On the other hand, the lobbyists were all a buzz and quite active during these "breaks", rubbing elbows with each other and cornering members of the committee.

The legislation that I was prepared to testify on is a privacy bill that has been defeated by business interests three times in the last three years. It was defeated again a few weeks ago, but after much maneuvering it was brought back to life on "reconsideration" today. I was prepared to testify in qualified support, but with some consumer protection amendments that I felt were needed. However, the testimony in support of the bill was limited by the committee chair to comments only on the newest amendments. I had none on those so I had no acceptable testimony. The bill sponsor testified about these amendments. She explained how each amendment had been added in order to address the concerns of one or another industry group. In other words, the privacy bill was being gutted slowly in order to get enough votes for passage. However, when the committee vote was taken enough members were not present to pass or defeat the bill. The vote was placed "on call." Meaning that members would vote if they happen to appear before the last committee matter was heard.

So yes, I sat for five hours waiting to testify and wasn't permitted to testify and as I write this, I don't even know if the privacy bill was passed out of committee or if it was defeated. in a way though it may not matter. This bill is 16 pages long and full of exemptions and exceptions for various sectors of the business community. The bill is supposed to require companies to notify customers of their privacy practices -- who they share consumers' personal information with -- and to mandate that companies permit consumers to opt in or opt out of this information sharing. But the bill has slowly been gutted, so it might be just as well if it failed today.

Much better legislation is being proposed as an initiative that should appear on the March ballot. That initiative is two short pages long. It simply says that if companies want to share (give/sell/rent) a consumer's personally identifiable information then they have to have the consumer's consent to do so. Simple and to the point.

The information is yours and mine and not the property of companies.

(Postscript July 9th: The privacy bill died in committee. The privacy initiative has almost the required signatures needed to qualify for the California ballot. The language of the initiative is here.)

Monday, July 7
we have a duck
 
Dr. Laurence Britt studied the fascist regimes of: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet. He found that the regimes had 14 identifying fascist characteristics:
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
Maybe I am being melodramatic, but these characteristcs sound a lot like BushCo's world.

If it looks like a duck. If it sounds lilke a duck. If it walks like a duck, then it is a duck. Ladies and gentlemen we have a duck.

Britt's entire article is available here.

Thursday, July 3
are you being watched? maybe not yet, but soon.
 
DARPA is at it again. This time it is the "Information Exploitation Office" that now has my attention.

I've lamented about the pervasive presence of video surveillence in the past. My fear has been that these surveillence cameras could somehow be connected so that their images could be shared and people could be tracked. That ability to connect the cameras is now being studied by our friends at DARPA.

The IEO has a project underway that ostensibly is for combat areas -- dubbed "Combat Areas That See" -- but could very easily morph into domestic surveillence. The project involves thousands of video cameras that feed images to a central database. The system is intended to track all vehicles (and people?) in the "combat zone". mcreasong
The Combat zones That See (CTS) program aims to improve situational awareness, extend observation and strengthen force protection in cities that are not under our control and in cities that have been taken, but not fully secured. The program will explore concepts, develop algorithms, and deliver systems that enable the use of large numbers (1000s) of video cameras to provide the close-in sensing needed to support military operations in urban terrain.
True privacy is rooted in anonymity. The less anonymous we are in our daily actions the less private our lives become.

(If you don't know about DARPA and the Terrorism Information Project read here.

Frankenbabies
 
Although the scientists disagree, from a moral, ethical and cultural perspective nothing good can come from this Does the end justify the means? How can one intentionally create human life and then destroy it days later?

Tuesday, July 1
our weapons are the baddest
 
No one can have WMDs except the U.S. Now the U.S. isn't even satisfied with plain ole WMDs. The U.S. wants to build super weapons to be launched from space. I had less of a problem with this -- we have bigger weapons than yours -- approach when U.S. weapons were to be used for defense. But any weapons, much less "super weapons" in the hands of the BushCo first strikers should make everyone nervous. Also, I guess that the weaponizing of space was inevitable, but I am sorry to see it starting. Apparently nothing is sacred if it can be used for weaponry.
The Pentagon is planning a new generation of weapons, including huge hypersonic drones and bombs dropped from space, that will allow the US to strike its enemies at lightning speed from its own territory.

Over the next 25 years, the new technology would free the US from dependence on forward bases and the cooperation of regional allies, part of the drive towards self-suffi ciency spurred by the difficulties of gaining international cooperation for the invasion of Iraq.
These weapons are being created under the auspices of DARPA, the same folks who have brought us the Terrorist Information Awareness System.