Friday, September 29, 2006

A sad, sad day

“A Total Rollback Of Everything This Country Has Stood For”: Sen. Patrick Leahy Blasts Congressional Approval of Detainee Bill

AMY GOODMAN: You gave an example, Senator Leahy, when you talked about what would happen here. And, I mean, even the fact that “habeas corpus” is in Latin, I think, distances people. They don’t quite understand what this is about.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: “Bring the body.”

AMY GOODMAN: You gave a very -- sorry?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: “Bring the body.”

AMY GOODMAN: You gave a very graphic example. You said, “Imagine you’re a law-abiding lawful permanent resident. In your spare time you do charitable fundraising for international relief agencies that lend a hand in disasters.” Take that story from there, the example you used.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: You send money. You don’t care which particular religious group or civic group it is. They’re doing humanitarian work. You send the money. It turns out that one of them is giving money to various Islamic causes that the United States is concerned about. They come to your house. Maybe somebody has called into one of these anonymous tipster lines, saying, “You know, this Amy Goodman. I’m somewhat worried about her, simply because she’s going -- and I think I’ve seen some Muslim-looking people coming to her house.” They come in there, and they say, “We want to talk to you.” They bring you downtown. You’re a legal alien, legal resident here. And you say, “Well, look, I’ve got my rights. I’d like to talk to a lawyer.” They say, “No, no. You don’t have any rights.” “Well, then I’m not going to talk to you.” “Well, then now we’re twice as concerned about you. We’re going to spirit you down to Guantanamo, and we’ll get back to in a few years.” And, I mean, that could actually happen under this. And these are not far-fetched ideas, as the professor knows. He’s seen similar things.

And with that, and I would love to continue this conversation, unfortunately I’ve got to go back to my day job, back to the judiciary. I think this is going to go down as one of those black marks in the Congress. You know, I wasn’t there at the time, but virtually everybody voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution. When I came to the Senate, you couldn’t find anybody there who thought that was a good idea. They knew it was a terrible mistake. You had members of congress supported the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. Everybody knows that was a terrible mistake now. That day will come when everybody will look at this and say, “What were we thinking?”

AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Leahy, thanks very much for joining us. We only have about 30 seconds. Michael Ratner, president of Center for Constitutional Rights, your final comment on this.

MICHAEL RATNER: This was really, as the senator said, probably the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in my 40-year career as a lawyer. The idea, and even the example Senator Leahy gave, of someone being picked up, you don’t need anything. The President can decide tomorrow that you, Amy, or me, or particularly a non-citizen, can be picked up, put in jail forever, essentially, and if you're a non-citizen in Guantanamo or anywhere else in the world, you never get a chance to go to court to test your detention. It’s an incredible thing, and any senator who voted for this, in my view, is essentially guilty, guilty, guilty of undermining basic fundamental rights and may well be guilty of war crimes, as well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

do you want lots and lots of pie or would you like a kidney infection

Stevens' Net Neutrality Poll Down The Tubes

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-09-20

Ted Stevens thinks we're stupid. Trying to put this Net Neutrality debate to rest in the Senate, Stevens (R-AK) distributed the results of a "bipartisan" poll indicating that the vast majority of Americans would rather watch more TV than have a neutral Internet.

Neither Stevens nor the pollsters mention that Verizon paid $60,000 for the poll, or that the questions were phrased using classic push-poll tactics.

In fact, the poll didn't seem to even be about the "series of tubes" that comprises "an internet."

The poll questions centered around cable TV choice and didn't mention anything related to Net Neutrality until the end of the poll. There was mention of a Consumer Bill of Rights, which would guarantee full access to legal Internet content, matching language already in Stevens' telecom bill. Opponents have said the "bill of rights" doesn't provide any meaningful protection of Net Neutrality.

The majority of respondents agreed that the bill of rights was important, but it was last on the list of important issues when compared to making sure nobody dies because communications networks don't work, or ensuring that poor kids get an education, or getting more TV channels, or making sure the blind and deaf can "participate more fully in the modern information economy."

But the real kickers came at the end of the poll. When the 800 respondents were asked if they'd heard of Net Neutrality (this is the first mention of the concept in the poll), about 7 percent had heard of it.

Does this mean that Net Neutrality is a non-issue because America doesn't care? Or does it mean that the pollsters at Glover Park Group and Public Opinion Strategies conducted a biased, telecom-funded poll, asking people that know nothing about the issue how they felt about it?

The last question tops it off:

Which of the following two items do you think is the most important to you:

Delivering the benefits of new TV and video choice so consumers will see increased competition and lower prices for cable TV


Enhancing Internet neutrality by barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services like faster speed and increased security for a fee
Well, since you put it that way…more TV sounds a lot better than slow Internet and bad security. Turns out 73 percent of respondents agreed.

"The rest of the questionnaire is similarly structured along the lines of 'do you want lots and lots of pie or would you like a kidney infection'," writes Matt Stoller.

"What's particularly amazing is that 17 percent of the respondents chose the kidney infection," answers Tim Karr at, where 1.3 million people have heard of Net Neutrality, compared to Stevens' 800 people who missed part of a Seinfeld rerun to answer the poll.

A rough translation of the questions:

1. Do you like TV?
2. Would you like to watch more TV?
3. Which is better: cheap TV or expensive TV?
4. What if your TV breaks? Would you like someone to fix it?
5. Do you like good TV or bad TV?
6. Put these in order from most important to least important:
a.) helping people stay alive
b.) more TV
c.) healing the blind
d.) slow Internet, less TV, and killing people

Stevens and company interpreted the results to mean that "onerous Net Neutrality regulations" would interfere with the nation's TV watching and therefore should be put to rest.

This poll is the next in a string of recent dirty tricks attempted by bridge-to-nowhere-but-a-series-of-tubes Stevens. The octogenarian telecom-funded senator in charge of rewriting telecommunication laws recently tried to sneak a vote while opposition was away for the August recess, and secretly put a hold on a bill that would make federal funding more transparent.

But it's not all so bleak. Rumor has it that Stevens plans to retire soon. But then, who will protect our TV?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Life After Net Neutrality

In his article Replaced by a Chimp: Life After Net Neutrality, in The Nation online edition this week, Jeffrey Chester argues that, if Network Neutrality protections are not included in Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens’ telecom bill, which may yet be put to a vote by the senate this year, not only will the public interest of equal access to information, goods and services be undermined, but the network will become little more than another conduit for mainstream, low-brow “infotainment.”

The global media landscape has become fragmented at the same time that media power, that is the power of media outlets, has become consolidated. In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90% of the media. Today it's 10 companies. That equal access to the data housed and shared on the Internet is at risk directly threatens the democratic value of the World Wide Web. But by allowing corporate interests to control that access, through tiered pricing, we further erode the principles of equal access to information for all. Chester writes, “The Stevens bill not only proposes to scuttle network neutrality rules but also undermines key policies designed to insure community influence over how broadband networks serve the public interest . . .” Not surprisingly, the Bush administration and much of the GOP are arguing for less government control, not more. But if the services of telecom companies aren’t regulated, it’s likely that the greater proportion of information and messages crisscrossing the network would do what autocratic government media do: support the administration’s goals, which these days lean toward suppression of information rather than disseminating it. The telecom companies are spending piles of money, mostly heaped on those in the ruling party, to defeat Net Neutrality. This point is clearly stated in the article: “Stevens's talking points are actually being scripted--and paid for--by phone industry lobbyists.” What do the telecoms have to gain? One can surmise it would be mountains of money. And what would the ruling party gain from telecoms having more control over levels of access? For the administration, it’s a consistent message, which seems to include the persistent admonition not to change our way of life, to keep everything status quo. The status quo doesn’t appear to include protecting the current rights and protections afforded by the constitution, no, it seems to mean preserving the right of comfortable complacency. Remember, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we were encouraged to go back to our daily lives, get back to the mall. “Such dumbing-down of broadband is more likely in the absence of network neutrality rules. Expect media conglomerates and advertisers to flood our broadband networks with chimps selling beer and ketchup-colored clowns pushing fast food.” To this end, global mass media is more efficient than local, community-produced media. And it’s no coincidence that the telecoms lobbying for the authority to set their own usage fees are the same cabal that supplied the administration’s security agency with the phone and email records of their customers earlier this year.

The representatives who are reaping the cash bonuses are hardly of one mind (or even one party). Republicans may not all have the same motivations as the administration, but they are acting from the same playbook: they want to continue as the ruling party. “The GOP--including the White House--is still pushing hard to kill network neutrality. For example, at a hearing last week before Stevens's committee on his renomination for another term, FCC chair Kevin Martin came out in defense of the big cable and phone companies. The FCC chair said he thought it was fine for Verizon and others to begin charging extra fees to those content providers that want to be placed on faster Internet lanes.”

It’s clear that at least one outcome of media consolidation is global, social hegemony, assurance of complicity of the public at large in the objective of the ruling class. The message that society receives from the Power’s That Be comes in many forms: news, advertisement, “infotainment,” etc, and the media corporatocracy controls most outlets. It’s a tragedy that the Internet, perhaps the last public commons, may be incorporated into that entity (no pun intended). Hugo Chavez described what many believe is the sinister objective at the UN on Wednesday: “The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blood from a turnip

Amazing, an insurance company selling ersatz malpractice insurance to CIA agents to cover their asses if they are sued for torturing detainees. Guess who ultimately picks up the tab for these policies?

Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance

Plans Fund Defense In Anti-Terror Cases

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 11, 2006; Page A01

CIA counterterrorism officers have signed up in growing numbers for a government-reimbursed, private insurance plan that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing, according to current and former intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the program. Read on . . .


Hahahahahaaah! I wish that weren't funny, or that it wasn't an issue in current events that a cartoonist was compelled to characterize. I wish a lot of things, as we all do these days, of course.

Looks like the talk about Iraq being a staging ground for military forays (doesn't 'forays' make it sound fun?) into Iran, etc, wasn't all that cynical. After all, we had to pull out of Saudi Arabia after the attacks of 9/11/01, which was what bin Ladin (and possibly the House of Saud) was aiming for, and if we're gonna shine the light of Democracy across the Middle East, we need a base of operations.

If you haven't yet picked up the Guardian muckraker Greg Palast's book, "Armed Madhouse," you must. I was up later than I should have been reading and even laughing - thankfully, or I would have been crying. He's a bit of a ranter and kinda hard to follow in some of his narratives, but he sure has uncovered a tangled web, and man-oh-man is our government up to some shit. They can't even agree on what their mission is in the Middle East; it's unfortunate they agree we oughta be there. With the "madhouse" chock full of megalomaniacs, it makes sense they would all have their own ideas about how to run the world.

Rob Brezsny says:

Philosopher William James proposed that if our culture ever hoped to
shed the deeply ingrained habit of going to war, we'd have to create a
moral equivalent. It's not enough to preach the value of peace, he said.
We have to find other ways to channel our aggressive instincts in order to
accomplish what war does, like stimulate political unity and build civic

Astrology provides a complementary perspective. Each of us has the
warrior energy of the planet Mars in our psychological make-up. We can't
simply repress it, but must find a positive way to express it. How you
might go about this project?

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I haven't been sleeping well for what seems like months. I wake up around 3:00 am, and, realizing I am wide awake, read for a little before trying to go back to sleep. Then, if I can go back to sleep, I often feel worse because I get into that deep dreaming sleep and then have to be yanked out it. Or, I start to fall asleep at around 5:00 am, right around the time the cat starts crying to either get fed or be let outside. It's such torture, too, even though I am getting more reading done, because I am an 8-hour a night girl - otherwise I just don't feel right. It makes it hard to keep up an exercise routine, and when I get home, I just don't want to do anything but sit on the couch and watch t.v. I have tried several things, only herbal, and they do help sometimes. Keep your fingers crossed for me tonight.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Particles of Truth

I watched an intriguing movie this weekend, a little indie written, directed, produced and starring Jennifer Elster. I watched it because I just finished the final season of Queer as Folk, and wanted to see some more of Gale Harold, aka Brian Kinney. It's a really original story, very well-written and acted, and, since I'm still thinking about it days later, I guess it's also memorable, unlike so many other movies these days. Oh, yeah, it was called "Particles of Truth."

Other movies of note viewed recently:

Cowboy del Amor, which was a Netflix recommendation. A documentary about a cowboy cupid who sets up lonely American men with lonely Mexican woman for possible marriage. The guy is a real character, and the movie is a hoot!

Marilyn Hotchiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. Robert Carlysle of Full Monty fame is a grieving widower who finds life and love again at the D&C School. Has a cast chalk full of great actors, like Marissa Tomei (love her, see The Guru, among other things), Cameron Manheim, Donny Wahlberg, John Goodman, Sean Astin and many more great character actors you'll recognize. You'll also learn something about dancing, and the current instructor, Marianne (?) (Mary Steenbergen) Hotchiss, daughter of Marilyn, articulates well the bliss that comes in dancing, something about magenta tones, wish I had written it down.

Everything is Illuminated. I liked the title, and I knew it was a best selling book first, but I was a little turned off when I found out it was yet another story about survivors of nazi brutality, but it turned out to be lovely, a little different than the rest, and well-acted by a mostly unknown cast - except Elijah Wood as the lead.

Mad Hot Ballroom. Saw that one a while ago but still makes me smile thinking about it. Along those same lines - movies with kids I actually liked - was Spellbound. Those are both documentaries, maybe that's why they were tolerable, the kids were real, not overly precocious or adorable.

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. An Indian movie that was slightly corny (in true Bollywood fashion) but beautifully written and not too preachy.

I love movies with dancing in them, and recently I bought my very own copy of Strictly Ballroom, and Dirty Dancing ("Nobody puts Baby in a corner!") I would also consider buying Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights - great dancing in an otherwise lame movie. I got Brokeback Mountain as soon as it came out on DVD and when mom was here we watched it with subtitles; I have to admit I got some of the dialogue I'd missed the first couple times.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The House Guest

I am feeling very low today. The thought of Bush and his posse getting their hands on Cuba; the likely commission of ballot fraud in the next election; having brought down the world trade centers to create a neo-con revolution, or at the very least, having used the attack to carry out their agenda; the immoral wars in Iraq and Lebanon; the possiblity of journalists and activists being targeted via phone and email tapping and then accused of abetting terrorists so they can be rounded up and thrown into Halliburton's state-side internment camps; the inevitability of rapid climate change and ecosystem failure; the slow rebuilding of poor neighborhoods in disaster zones like the gulf coast; the potential demise of an equal-access Internet; the outright unfairness of life; the return of my hot flashes; and the fact that Americans are so goddamn ignorant to all of this, really makes me want to cry.

I haven't posted lately because I've just not had anything constructive to say. Let's face it, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But I don't want to get bogged down in the negative completely, I've been working on my own evolution, and keeping my eyes open for opportunities to have a positive effect, I haven't wanted to slog around in the shit that is current affairs and then blog about it.

So, like I said, I am blue this morning, and then this arrived in my inbox, from Rob Brezsny's Astrology Newsletter:

"The Guest House"

by Jelaluddin Rumi,
translated by Coleman Barks in his book *Essential Rumi*

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

That really helped (I'm not being sarcastic). I have a different attitude already, and the sun is even coming out! Doesn't it make you feel like singing??

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Expect blessings

Lately, I've been trying to practice gratitude and the sense of having enough, instead of resentment, envy and desire. I have a bad habit of looking around and seeing what I don't have and feel I deserve, rather than enjoying and being thankful for what I do have. I don't like this particular characteristic.

I also realized recently that I still have the fears of a 10-year-old in my dreams. When I sleep at night, I often have dreams that have an edge of fear, oppression, entrappment, themes of trying to escape someone or something scary but not being able to. I feel both of these emotions are linked to some part of my psyche or soul that is stuck and needs a kick in the pants to move beyond it, not just for growth, but for cultivating abundance (see, it's still about wanting!).

Here's what came to my email today, an excerpt from Rob Breszny's book "Pronia."


With the authority vested in me by the little voice in my head, I'm pleased
to give you permission to add another job title to your résumé: prophet.

Am I being ironic? Only partially. The truth is, you generate numerous
predictions every day. The source is your imagination, which tirelessly
churns out visions of what you'll be doing in the future. The featured
oracle of the moment may be as simple as a psychic impression of
yourself devouring a fudge brownie in an hour or as monumental as a
fantasy of building your dream home in Hawaii.

Your imagination is a treasure when it spins out scenarios that are aligned
with your deepest desires. Indeed, it's an indispensable tool in creating
the life you want; it's what you use to form images of the conditions
you'd like to inhabit and the objects you hope to wield. Nothing manifests
on the material plane unless it first exists as a mental picture.

But for most of us, the imagination is as much a curse as a blessing.
You're just as likely to use it to conjure up premonitions that are at odds
with your conscious values. Fearful fantasies regularly pop up, many
disguising themselves as rational thoughts and genuine intuitions. They
may hijack your psychic energy, directing it to exhaust itself in dead-end

Meanwhile, ill-suited longings are also lurking in your unconscious mind,
impelling you to want things that aren't good for you and that you don't
really need. Anytime you surrender to their allure, your imagination is
practicing a form of black magic.

These are the imagination's unsavory aspects, which Zen Buddhists
describe as the chatter of the "monkey mind." If you can stop locating
your sense of self in the endless surge of its slapdash fantasies, only then
might you be able to be here now and want what you actually have.

But whether your imagination is in service to your noble desires or in the
thrall of compulsive fears and inappropriate yearnings, there is one
commonality: Its prophecies can be pretty accurate. Many of your visions
of the future do come to pass. The situations you expect to occur and
the experiences you rehearse and dwell on are often reflected back to you
as events that confirm your expectations.

Does that mean our mental projections create the future? Let's consider
that possibility. What if it's at least partially true that what we expect will
happen does tend to materialize? Here's the logical conclusion: It's
downright stupid and self-destructive to keep infecting our imaginations
with pictures of loss and failure, doom and gloom, fear and loathing. The
far more sensible approach is to expect blessings.

I hope I learn this lesson soon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

USSR Posters

This is a Soviet poster for a book exhibition from 1924. There are many, many more beautiful and intriguing such posters on a website I was lead to from the City Pages, called USSR Posters.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The black hole where tax dollars go

    This isn't new, but this article details some what was to be paid for with the lost funds.

A new report says the Pentagon's finances are in disarray

By Drew Brown
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - The Defense Department's accounting practices are in such disarray that defense officials can't track how much equipment the military owns, where it all is or exactly how they spend defense dollars every year, according to a report Thursday by a nongovernmental group. . .
In reports to Congress in recent years, the GAO found:
  • 94 percent of Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers experienced pay problems in 2004.
  • $100 million that could be collected annually from defense contractors who underpaid federal taxes. The federal government had collected less than 1 percent of that - less than $700,000.
  • $1.2 billion in Army supplies shipped to Iraq that couldn't be accounted for. As a result, military units ended up short on "tires, tank tracks, helicopter spare parts, radio batteries and other basic items."
  • $35 billion worth of excess supplies and equipment, plus an inability to track the movement of supplies.
  • $100 million in airline tickets that were never used.

And the hits just keep on coming!

It's not surprising that the NSA spying scandal is growing, with revelations of broader spying programs bobbing to the surface. Attorney General Gonzales was questioned about the wiretapping of international calls of suspected Al Qaeda operatives during his confirmation hearing in January. Feingold's comments suggest to me that he believed (as I did) there was likely more to the story, more the program beyond what was leaked in the memo about warrantless wiretaps.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Finally, will you commit to notify Congress if the president makes this type of decision and not wait two years until a memo is leaked about it?

MR. GONZALES: I will to advise the Congress as soon as I reasonably can, yes, sir.

Of course, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has been covering news about spying on activists. before the USA Today article came out. Last week she had a journalist on her show who says he was the target of an FBI surveillance operation. And yesterday she had another show about the USA Today revelation. We know also that Halliburton has been building detention centers to hold "illegal immigrants," and that news was commented on and on several sites, including ZNet and Now we find out that Telecos are helping the government collect call and email data on Americans (interesting that these are the same business interests that have their sticky paws all over the attempt to regulate Internet use to their benefit. Coincidence? You decide). Law makers are standing there with their jaws dropped like this is a big suprise, but apparently some of them, both Dems and Repubs, were aware of it. They are even threatening to make General Hayden, the newly nominated head of the CIA, who was head of the NSA when the wiretapping was authorized, answer some questions about the program during his confirmation hearing next week. Boy, that's reassuring.

But, this may be the one that finally opens the eyes of the sleeping masses. On today I found an article that begins this way:

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens.

Russell Tice, who worked on what are known as "special access programs," has wanted to meet in a closed session with members of Congress and their staff since President Bush announced in December that he had secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without a court order. In an interview late Thursday, Tice said the Senate Armed Services Committee finally asked him to meet next week in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

Tice was fired from the NSA last May. He said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden, who has been nominated to become director of the CIA. Tice said one of his co-workers personally informed Hayden that illegal and unconstitutional activity was occurring.

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold Hayden's confirmation hearing next week. "I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It's pretty hard to believe," Tice said. "I hope that they'll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn't exist right now."

The investigation that was started on the program had been shut down, but maybe this testimony can get the ball rolling again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Politicians, guns and money

It is ironic that the big corporations, who are most often decrying loudest the intervention of regulation, are now bringing out the big guns (read: money) to bring more regulation to the Internet. It is self-serving regulation, to be sure, meant to benefit the big guys and their friends, but hypocritical. If you have been living under a rock, you may not have heard the buzz of the season: Net Neutrality. Major telecom companies and others who stand to gain are lobbying heavily to have control over what they charge various users of the Information Super Highway. "The telco and cable giants want to fence off the Internet: one area for the haves — who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane — and the other for the have-nots." Robert McChesney, who runs the Free Press website and emails me the news articles that affect the free press everyday, was on Democracy Now! a couple days ago, and put it this way:

ROBERT McCHESNEY: Their lobbying money, which is an extraordinary amount. And they can't spend too much, because the future is they can control the internet. And what they want to do desperately is be in a situation where they can rank order websites. And websites that come through the fastest to us, to the users of the internet, are the ones that pay them money or the ones they own. And websites that don't pay them come through slower, much harder to get, or in some cases, they’ll have the power to take them off the internet altogether.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, right now, the user pays per month for use of the internet, and that’s how these companies get their money. So they’d be both charging the user and the content provider, the one who makes the website?

ROBERT McCHESNEY: And there’s no technological justification for this. There’s no economic justification. It's pure corrupt crony capitalism. They're basically using their political leverage to change this so they get a huge new revenue stream, and it gives them an inordinate amount of power over the internet. I mean, I think what people have to remember is that I think what’s excited us all about the internet was the idea that anyone could start a website at a fairly nominal fee and be competing equally then with General Motors, with General Electric, with Rupert Murdoch. We all had a shot at it. Democracy Now! had a shot right next to FOX News.

What this will do is change that, because that genius was built on policy, not technology. It was a common carrier requirement of the Telecom Act, which required the phone companies to give all websites equal access. They want to get rid of that, because they see enormous amounts of money if they can decide which website gets the inside lane and which website is on the dirt path.

But, he also said, with public outcry reaching a fever pitch, congress is showing signs of resistance to the bill being lobbied by these media oligopolies. Among the unlikely but less hypocritical opposition to the bill are the Gun Owners of America. "The concept of Network Neutrality has unfortunately been misunderstood by many conservatives, libertarians, and other champions of the free market. That’s too bad, because the free market essence of the Internet is exactly what would be lost without Network Neutrality," says the director of their Internet operations.

So, is it hypocritical of me, a socialist, to also be a champion of Net Neutrality? No, because Net Neutrality, as the first amendment of the Internet, means the Internet is accessible to and useable by everyone, not just fat cats who want to get rich off the spoils of the market, but don't want to share it with the country whose infrastructure made it possible.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good news

"My prediction is that we will see ourselves more and more connected to
the quantum field, not physically but through the mind. This "mind field"
is invisible and universal; it encompasses all living things; it weaves the
fabric of nature. As our prejudice in favor of solid, concrete things fades
away, certain fringe phenomena will become everyday. Healing without
touch will be legitimized, since the human body can be altered by altering
the field. Telepathy and clairvoyance will seem ordinary, since time and
distance are compressed to a single point in the field; Intuition and
epiphanies will be explained as subtle field interactions.

"The best outcome would be that wisdom will reemerge as a vital human
capacity, for there is no doubt that our spiritual forebears were deeply in
touch with the same invisible reality that still surrounds us. We have shut
out that reality in our stubborn, rigid insistence on believing our senses,
but seeing with the eyes of the soul is possible. In the end, a new
humanity is also possible once we escape the prison we have sentenced
ourselves to for far too long. The so-called sixth sense isn't a separate
sense at all, but a new opening for human evolution with unlimited

-Deepak Chopra, *Forbes* magazine

Well, that's good news! We need some of that, these days. Yesterday I got some good news, too. The proof that this war is about oil, about Imperialism, a new world order, has been amassing, and finally, a scholar from the Institute of Policy Studies, seems to have put it succinctly into a book, "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time." The author, Antonia Juhasz, was one of yesterday's guests on my favorite gut-wrenching show, Democracy Now! She was very articulate, and for once, I didn't have to re-read the transcript to get the gist of the guest's train of thought. She laid out the pre-invasion plan, outlining the details of firing and shutting down Iraqi institutions so that they could be taken over - privatized - by multi-national corporations. You know all the players already. She said:

Now, there's two intimate connections between the war and the price of gas. But first, I think it’s very important for people to understand that the vertical integration of the oil industry, which has been absolutely exacerbated under the Bush administration. For example, ChevronTexaco and Unocal merging into one company, the completion of Exxon and Mobil's merger, all of these little companies merging into enormous behemoths, so that you have ExxonMobil being the company that has received the highest profits of any company in the world, over the last two years, ever in the history of the world. That is because of the vertical integration and monopoly power of these companies. That means that they control exploration, production, refining, marketing and sales.

The price of oil at the pump is about 50% the price of a barrel of oil, about 25% taxes, and then the rest is marketing and just the price determined by the company at the pump. So that means that about 18% to 20% is absolutely determined by the oil companies themselves and governed by the companies themselves. So they could reduce the price of oil and reduce their profit margin, or they could jack up the price of oil and increase their profit margin. They have chosen to do the latter.

And one of the things that has helped them do that is, first of all, the United States is receiving a tremendous amount of oil from Iraq. Oil is down in overall export and production, but not tremendously so. We were -- at prewar was 2.5 million barrels a day. We’re now at about 2 or 2.2 million barrels a day. But 50% of that, on average, is coming to the United States, and it’s being brought to the United States by Chevron and Exxon and Marathon. The myth of dramatically reduced supply has helped them create an argument to the American public, which is, you know, it’s a time of war, we’re suffering, gas prices are going to go up, everyone needs to come in and support this because this is war. Well, that's just not true. The companies are using that as a myth to help make it okay for them to receive these utterly ridiculous profits.

AMY GOODMAN: In your chapter "A Mutual Seduction," you have a quote of Ken Derr, the former C.E.O. of Chevron, 1998. I know his tenure well. It was the time in the Niger Delta that Chevron was involved with the killing of two Nigerian villagers, who were protesting yet another oil spill of Chevron and jobs not being given to the local community as they drilled for oil. But your quote here says, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas, reserves I would love Chevron to have access to.” And then you follow that by a quote of John Gibson, Chief Executive of Halliburton Energy Service Group, who says, “We hope Iraq will be the first domino and that Libya and Iran will follow. We don't like being kept out of markets, because it gives our competitors an unfair advantage.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ: I love it when they’re honest. It doesn’t happen very often. Yeah, these companies have been explicit, for decades, that they want in, particularly to Iraq. The reason is obvious. Iraq certainly has the second largest oil reserves in the world, but some geologists believe it has the largest, at least on par with Saudi Arabia. That's a tremendous pool of wealth. And not just have the companies been clear that they want access to that oil, U.S. leaders -- for example, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld -- have all been explicit for the past 20 years that what the U.S. needs to do is gain increased access to the region's oil, and most explicitly during the ‘90s, Iraq's oil, that this is something that shouldn’t be in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

The difference, going into the current Bush administration, was that the rhetoric changed to and the reality changed to not just we need a new leader, we need a new -- a fully new political and economic structure in Iraq, and we need to be in that country to make sure that that structure gets put into place. And that is exactly what they have achieved, and now Halliburton, Chevron, Bechtel, Lockheed Martin have profited tremendously from this process already. Chevron’s -- the U.S. value of Iraqi oil, imported Iraqi oil, has increased by 86% between 2003 and 2004. Those profits have gone to Exxon, Chevron and Marathon.

She goes on to explain how, when these companies actually get into Iraq and start working, they will need security.

Chevron, Exxon, the other companies are sort of hovering on the outside. They’ve signed what are called “memoranda of understanding,” essentially free services. Chevron has been training Iraqi workers in the United States for years, mapping -- doing mappings, free services, so that they are ready, when the permanent government is in place, to sign contracts. And then, I believe, once those contracts are signed, they will get to work, but they need security. And what better security force than 150,000 American troops. And I do not think that those troops will leave, unless we all have something to do about it, until the oil companies are safely at work.

And she talks about the rebuilding effort:

The most harmful provision thus far has been the national treatment provision, which meant that the Iraqis could not give preference to Iraqi companies or workers in the reconstruction, and therefore, U.S. companies received preference in the reconstruction. They hired workers who weren't even from Iraq, in most cases, and utterly bungled the reconstruction.

And the most important company, in my mind, to receive blame is the Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco. They have received $2.8 billion to rebuild water, electricity and sewage systems, the most important systems in the life of an Iraqi. After the first Gulf War, the Iraqis rebuilt these systems in three months' time. It’s been three years, and, as you said, those services are still below pre-war levels.

It sounds like a good book, but sure to keep you tossing and turning at night. You check out the transcript of the show here.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Oh my god, Newt just said this administration reminds him of Lincoln. I'm listening to this forum (I think it's at MacCalester) on the future of the conservative movement, which of course is just pissing me off, but I feel it necessary to know what they're up to, what they are thinking. Vin Weber, who I used to consider somewhat tolerable, actually likes Bush. It's mystifying, because these are smart guys, but they sure aren't reading the same stuff I am. They at least aren't talking like cheerleaders and boasting that Republicans have got it all going on, "go pachyderms!." They've admitted that unless there's big change the elephants will be shown the door.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Comic material is coming out our asses these days, isn't it? Just limitless shit!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Horoscopes and sails at sunset

Pat's buying a truck, today, so we'll be able to haul Monique's Misery out to the river. I got to do some sun bathing beside Mudhen Lake in Wisconsin on Sat, that really put me in the mood for summer. We've just come back to normal temps after enjoying 9 days of freakishly warm spring weather, 70 or above each day. Feels like global warming to me.


From this week's Freewill Astrology, by Rob Brezsny:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): As you enter the Season of Unleashed Desire, here are a few guidelines to help you navigate your way through the interesting complexities ahead. (1) Consider the possibility that you have a lot to learn about what you really want. (2) Find out whether your chronic anger is obstructing the full bloom of a potentially beautiful desire. (3) Be careful about desiring experiences you don't understand.
(4) Meditate on the likelihood that some of your desires are superior to others, and that maybe you should cultivate those superior desires with more determination than you do the mediocre ones.



I am feverishly working on my final project for my journalism class. It's pretty much all I can think of, especially when I wake up from night sweats at 3 a.m. This little post is my brief respite from my assignment: a pitch for an interpretive story on off-reservation casinos. I have a slightly obsessive character, so I'll probably even be going over various details of the assignment in my head for days after I hand it in. On the other hand, I am easily distracted, so, while I finished the above hours ago, I walked away and completely forgot to post it! How do I reconcile these opposing character traits? I don't have an answer to that right now . . .

Monday, April 10, 2006

Glorious spring weather!

It's 71 degrees outside, 20 degrees warmer than it was on Friday. The sky is clear and blue, and a delightful breeze is wafting into my office. It's a little early for such warm temps, but they are welcome, and glaring white skin can be seen all around campus. Tulips are bursting through the soil. The lilacs should be blooming in about a week, sweetening the air with their heavenly odor. The season of enchanment is upon us! I can't wait to get out my skates for a spin around the lake.

O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day!

William Shakespeare, from "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The enemies of virtue are on the march!

Tom Delay's recent withdrawal from the 2006 campaign, and his impending resignation from Congress, takes the fun out of what would have been a riveting pageant of defeat. But he's still providing some laughs, thank GOD, as is evidenced in a The Nation article by Robert Scheer, posted today, entitled "Anti-Christian Conpirators Slay Delay," in which he quotes the absurd ex-speaker:

"We have been chosen to live as Christians at a time when our culture is being poisoned and our world is being threatened," thundered the Texan pest-control entrepreneur who rose to become one of America's most powerful politicians. "The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won."

Naturally, Republicans are all a-quiver with hopes that, with about a 5-month buffer between his slithering from the scene and the November elections, Democrats won't be able to use him as a blatant example to voters of why they deserve to win back the majority. But we know Delay and his pals didn't corner the market on corruption and scandal. Why, just today, the press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security was arrested for soliciting sex online from a 14 year-old girl. He even told her he worked for the DHS. See? Plenty of dumb moves and foul behavior left in the grand old party. The next 6 months might be fun to watch, or they might just give us heartburn.

Sad but true . . .

You may or may not know this, but Pat and I don't have cable - GASP!! I know, I'm behind the times. I'm what's called a "late adopter" in Innovation Diffusion Theory. There's "innovators," "early adopters," "early majority," "late majority," and "laggards," or "late adopters." I think "laggards" might even be a more descriptive term, since it implies that we eventually DO adopt. This other guy has an argument against the "late adopter" name, saying that those folks called "late adopters" in Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation Theory, NEVER will adopt.

But that's not me. I just sit patiently with my perfectly good piece of current technology, until I feel comfortable that the new technology is either a) proven, b) affordable, or c) the thing I have breaks and I can't get anything BUT the new technology. That happened with our t.v. After years of listening to Pat grouse about watching movies in "pan and scan," I finally broke down and bought him a DVD player (dual DVD/VHS, of course), only to find out that that particular piece of technology did not work in our good 5-year-old 19" set, the plugs were not compatible. So I had to upgrade to a bigger, more remote-reliant set. I understand that HDTV is just around the corner, when all t.v. sets will have to accommodate that type of emission, but that's not now. I held out about 7 or 8 years before I succommed to CDs and about 10 years for a cordless phone (the cord on the bitchin' turquoise dial phone I insisted on using kept coming detached - I didn't think that was a problem until I hung up on one my cousins calling from France). I'm still holding out for cable. It's highway robbery, I declare! and now, with the whole concentration of telephone/cable/internet issues, which will not, I predict, decrease, rates, I don't see it in my near future.

What that means is I don't get a lot of the shows that the rest of America is watching, unless we rent them on DVD from Netflix (Netflix is the best thing since sliced bread - I think I might have been in the early majority on that service). We have seen all the "Sex and the City" and "Sopranos" episodes, and we're currently almost through the penultimate season of "Six Feet Under." We lost patience with American"Queer as Folk" - the English version was preferable, maybe because it was more succinct. "Angels in America" was an experience, and I've just added "Entourage" and "The Shield" to our queue.

Which brings me around to "The Daily Show." People have been telling me for years that, with my political bent, I would LOVE "The Daily Show"! The only thing they've released on DVD is "Indecision 2004," which are the 4 shows they did covering the Democratic convention in Boston that year. Gaffaws and belly laughs were enjoyed! With the distance of a couple years, we were able to laugh through the pain of the memory of how bamboozed we had been by that spectacle. Sad, but true.

I am also a late adopter of spring fashions. Right now, spring fever has infected the population. Here on campus, students, not known for being practical, have abandoned their parkas, long pants and snow boots in favor of skimpier wear and zorries ("flip-flops", in the local parlance). This starts happening every year when it is still 35 degrees out, for chrissake! It's not much warmer than 50 right now! Until the thermometer reaches at least 70, I will remain in my prudent fall/winter fashions, thank you.

I just saw two outrageous items of clothing on my way back from class

1) a brand new pair of black and white saddle shoes
2) a girl wearing a strappy, backless shirt, she was dressed for dancing, not for school! (Man, am I starting to sound like a crotchety adult, or what?)

Monday, April 03, 2006

A simple plan

The spin machine is already wound up for the upcoming election, with heavy-handed ads from the GOP, attacking the dems for the censure/impeachment talk. In this one, you're asked to either stand with Bush while he breaks the law OR invite the terrorists to come after you and your family (If the link doesn't work, try pasting this address into your browser, that worked better for me:

William Rivers Pitt wrote a great editorial last week for his website, called "Incompetent Design." In it, he so articulately agrees with my argument that Bush and the boys are not stumbling around blindly, but following a well-laid plan and enjoying great success with it.

Also an interesting read is this Nation article about Christian Coalition co-founder, Ralph Reed.

On the lighter side, this came to me in an email today. I did not check out New York Mag to see if that truly was the source . . .

The following are winners in a New York Magazine contest in which contestants were asked to take a well-known expression in a foreign language, change a single letter, and provide a definition for the new expression.

HARLEZ-VOUS FRANCAIS? - Can you drive a French motorcycle?

EX POST FUCTO - Lost in the mail

IDIOS AMIGOS - We're wild and crazy guys!

VENI, VIPI, VICI - I came; I'm a very important person; I conquered

J'Y SUIS, J'Y PESTES - I can stay for the weekend

COGITO EGGO SUM - I think; therefore I waffle

RIGOR MORRIS - The cat is dead

RESPONDEZ S'IL VOUS PLAID - Honk if you're Scots

QUE SERA SERF - Life is feudal

LE ROI EST MORT. JIVE LE ROI - The King is dead. No kidding.

POSH MORTEM - Death styles of the rich and famous

PRO BOZO PUBLICO - Support your local clown

MONAGE A TROIS - I am three years old

FELIX NAVIDAD - Our cat has a boat

HASTE CUISINE - Fast French food

VENI, VIDI, VICE - I came, I saw, I partied.

QUIP PRO QUO - A fast retort

ALOHA OY - Love; greetings; farewell; from such a pain you should never know

MAZEL TON - Lots of luck

APRES MOE LE DELUGE - Larry and Curly get wet

PORTE-KOCHERE - Sacramental wine

ICH LIEBE RICH - I'm really crazy about having dough

FUI GENERIS - What's mine is mine

VISA LA FRANCE - Don't leave chateau without it

VENI VIDI VISA - I came, I saw, I bought

CA VA SANS DIRT - And that's not gossip

MERCI RIEN - Thanks for nothin'

AMICUS PURIAE - Platonic friend

L'ETAT, C'EST MOO - I'm bossy around here

L'ETAT, C'EST MOE - All the world's a stooge


And for more fun, check out Diablo's new stipper pole and other news from the wild child.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Diablo kills Dave!

Also, on Monday night, Diablo Cody made a visit to the Letterman show, and KICKED ASS! Check out the clip of the interview and leave her a love note!!


If you were listening to the national news on Tuesday, you might have heard that, at one of Bush's recent Iraq pep rallies, he allowed questions from the crowd for the first time in, geez, has he ever taken questions that haven't been cleared in advance? Anyway, although his audiences are so scrupulously screened, the first question was from a woman who asked if his views on the Middle East were in line with those eho believe that Iraq is the staging ground for the apocolypse. He stuttered, of course, and then talked in circles, and doesn't answer the question:

Q: Thank you for coming to Cleveland, Mr. President, and to the City Club. My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips, in his latest book, American Theocracy, discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is -- I haven't really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow. I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. And my attitude, of course, was affected by the attacks. I knew we were at war. I knew that the enemy, obviously, had to be sophisticated and lethal to fly hijacked airplanes into facilities that would be killing thousands of people, innocent people, doing nothing, just sitting there going to work.

Well, on-the-ball Amy Goodman had the author (a former Republican strategist) of the book referred to above on her show the very next day! It was a very lively conversation (which he begins by calling Bush "an embarassment") about the faction of the Republican party that caters to the zealots who actually believe the whole "left behind" mind-fuck, and other tidbits about peak oil and the rise of the credit card industry. Read the transcript, it's wild!

He's the second person to say he believes that Bush/Neo-Cons/Halliburton went to Iraq for the oil. Also on Monday, Greg Palast, who's been watchdogging this administration since the get-go, sends out the following email to us ITMFA (Impeach the Motherfucker Already) junkies:

Bush Didn't Bungle Iraq, You Fools
by Greg Palast
for The Guardian

20 March 2006

Get off it. All the carping, belly-aching and complaining about George Bush's incompetence in Iraq, from both the Left and now the Right, is just dead wrong.

On the third anniversary of the tanks rolling over Iraq's border, most of the 59 million Homer Simpsons who voted for Bush are beginning to doubt if his mission was accomplished.

But don't kid yourself -- Bush and his co-conspirator, Dick Cheney, accomplished exactly what they set out to do. In case you've forgotten what their real mission was, let me remind you of White House spokesman Ari Fleisher's original announcement, three years ago, launching of what he called,


O.I.L. How droll of them, how cute. Then, Karl Rove made the giggling boys in the White House change it to "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the 101st Airborne wasn't sent to Basra to get its hands on Iraq's OIF.

"It's about oil," Robert Ebel told me. Who is Ebel? Formerly the CIA's top oil analyst, he was sent by the Pentagon, about a month before the invasion, to a secret confab in London with Saddam's former oil minister to finalize the plans for "liberating" Iraq's oil industry. In London, Bush's emissary Ebel also instructed Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, the man the Pentagon would choose as post-OIF oil minister for Iraq, on the correct method of disposing Iraq's crude.

And what did the USA want Iraq to do with Iraq's oil? The answer will surprise many of you: and it is uglier, more twisted, devilish and devious than anything imagined by the most conspiracy-addicted blogger. The answer can be found in a 323-page plan for Iraq's oil secretly drafted by the State Department. Our team got a hold of a copy; how, doesn't matter. The key thing is what's inside this thick Bush diktat: a directive to Iraqis to maintain a state oil company that will "enhance its relationship with OPEC."

Enhance its relationship with OPEC??? How strange: the government of the United States ordering Iraq to support the very OPEC oil cartel which is strangling our nation with outrageously high prices for crude.

Specifically, the system ordered up by the Bush cabal would keep a lid on Iraq's oil production -- limiting Iraq's oil pumping to the tight quota set by Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel.

There you have it. Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get MORE of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing TOO MUCH of it.

You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping LESS of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price.

It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it. So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just LOVE it.

Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less. I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon.

No so, gentle souls. Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.

As per Plan Bush, Bahr Al-Ulum became Iraq's occupation oil minister; the conquered nation "enhanced its relationship with OPEC;" and the price of oil, from Clinton peace-time to Bush war-time, shot up 317%.

In other words, on the third anniversary of invasion, we can say the attack and occupation is, indeed, a Mission Accomplished. However, it wasn't America's mission, nor the Iraqis'. It was an Mission Accomplished for OPEC and Big Oil.


What a delightful occurence of syncronicity, don't you think?

Republican Lexicon

This arrived in my inbox today, very clever!

Repulican Lexicon

alternative energy sources n. New locations to drill for gas and oil.

bankruptcy n. A punishable crime when committed by poor people but not corporations

Cheney, Dick n. The greater of two evils.

class warfare n. Any attempt to raise the minimum wage.

climate change n. The day when the blue states are swallowed by the oceans.

compassionate conservatism n. Poignant concern for the very wealthy.

creationism n. Pseudoscience that claims George W. Bush's resemblance to a chimpanzee is totally coincidental.

DeLay, Tom n. 1. Past tense of De Lie 2. Patronage saint.

democracy n. So extensively exported that the domestic supply is depleted.

Fox News fict. Faux news.

free markets n. Halliburton no-bid contracts at taxpayer expense.

girly men n. Males who do not grope women inappropriately.

God n. Senior presidential adviser.

growth n. 1. The justification for tax cuts for the rich. 2. What happens to the national debt when Republicans cut taxes on the rich.

habeas corpus n. Archaic. (Lat.) Legal term no longer in use (See Patriot Act).

healthy forest n. No tree left behind.

honesty n. Lies told in simple declarative sentences--e.g., "Freedom is on the march."

House of Representatives n. Exclusive club; entry fee $1 million to $5 million.

laziness n. When the poor are not working.

leisure time n. When the wealthy are not working.

liberal(s) n. Followers of the Anti-christ.

neoconservatives n. Nerds with Napoleonic complexes.

9/11 n. Tragedy used to justify! any administrative policy. (see Terra, Terra, Terra)

No Child Left Behind riff. 1. v. There are always jobs in the military.

ownership society n. A civilization where 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth.

Patriot Act n. The pre-emptive strike on American freedoms to prevent the terrorists from destroying them first.

pro-life adj. Valuing human life until birth.

Senate n. Exclusive club; entry fee $10 million to $30 million.

simplify v. To cut the taxes of Republican donors.

staying the course interj. Slang. Saying and doing the same stupid thing over and over, regardless of the result.

shit happens interj. Slang. Donald Rumsfeld as master historian.

voter fraud n. A significant minority turnout.

Wal-Mart n. The nation-state, future tense.

water n. Arsenic storage device.

woman n. 1. Entity; can be trusted to bear a child but can't be trusted to decide whether or not she wishes to have the child.
2. Entity; must have all decisions regarding her reproductive functions made by men with whom she wouldn't want to have sex in the first place.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What the fuck is a Mandelbrot set?

I had a vague idea that these existed because of the picture of a nautilus on the cover of my calculus textbook. It's the shapes that are defined by plugging different values or colors into the "recurrence" equation


There was a show about PBS last night about it, called "Colours of Infinity." This is one of those instances where, you instinctively know something on a metaphysical or psychic level for, say, a few thousand years, and then some scientists or mathematicians come along and are able to explain it in terms that make sense to them. Because some of us are not linear but abstract thinker-feelers, we don't necessarily need these tools to feel moved and understand a meaning behind the beautiful chaos that is life. But the linear-thinking types do need them, and so we get these groovy pictures to set as wallpaper on our monitors.

I'm sure I can't explain it as well as they did on the show, so, thanks to the nearly limitless font of information that is the wild wacky web, I'll copy what I think is the gist of the thing from Wikipedia:

Periodic cycles in the Mandelbrot set

Periodic cycles in the Mandelbrot set

Periodic cycles in the Mandelbrot set

Inside the Mandelbrot set, the iteration of sequence zn+1= zn2+c evolve in different ways for different values of c. For values of c inside the big cardioid, the iterations converge to a point. For c inside the big bulb to the left of the cardioid, the iterations converge to a cycle of period 2. For other bulbs, the iterations converge to a cycle of a different period n, according to the numbers shown in the following figure.

Period values for the bulbs

Period values for the bulbs

Notice that in the bulb in the middle of bulb with n=2 and the bulb with n=3, the period of the cycle is n=2+3=5;in the bulb in the middle of the bulb with n=2 and the bulb with n=5, the period of the cycle is n=2+5=7; in the bulb in the middle of the bulb with n=2 and the bulb with n=7, the period of the cycle is n=2+7=9. In fact, there are so many bulbs as the real numbers between 2 and 3 in that quadrant of the main bulb!

The number of rays coming out of the antena of each bulb corresponds to the period of the cycle that bulb. In the corresponding Julia sets, the number of rays also corresponds to the period of the cycle the corresponding bulb.

cycle periods and rays

cycle periods and rays

If we look at the trajectory of the periodic cycle in a bulb with n=5, we see that the cycle jumps always 2 components counterclokwise, in each iteration (i.e. the cycle rotates by 2/5 of a revolution, in each iteration). And the same happens in the corresponding Julia set.

animated cycle of period n=5

animated cycle of period n=5

So the bulbs with n=2,7,5,8,3,7,4,5,6,7 in the figure can be represented instead by the rotation parameters r=1/2, 3/7, 2/5, 3/8, 1/3, 2/7, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/7, which are ordered as a sequence of decreasing rational numbers.

Notice that the bulb in the middle of the bulb with r=2/5 and the bulb with r=1/2, r=2/5+1/2=3/7; and in the middle of the bulbs with r==3/7 and 1/2, there is also a bulb with r=4/9, etc... There is a bulb with r=p/q for each rational number between 0 and 1, and they are correctly ordered around the cardioid in a counterclockwise fashion. In the bottom part of the Mandelbrot set, the cycles rotate clockwise.

Adding color

Mathematically speaking, the pictures of the Mandelbrot set and Julia sets are "black and white". Either a point is in the set or it is not. Most computer-generated graphs are drawn in color. Under the most common rendering method, for the points that diverge to infinity, and are therefore not in the set, the color reflects the number of iterations it takes to reach a certain distance from the origin. This creates concentric shapes, each a better approximation to the Mandelbrot set than the last. One possible scheme is that points that diverge quickly are drawn in black; then you have brighter colors for the middle; then you have white for the points in the set, and near-white for the points that diverge very slowly.


Got that?

9 things that keep me from being fully swallowed by rage

  1. My ever-expanding music collection. Recently, I’ve grooved to
    1. Seu Jorge Carolina
    2. Joni Mitchell “Blue”
    3. “Is it rolling, Bob?” A reggae tribute to Bob Dylan
    4. Juan Formell y Los Van Van “En el malecon de la Habana”
    5. Tom Petty “Greatest Hits”
    6. Steve Earle “Transcendental Blues”
    7. Paolo Conte “Aguaplano”
    8. Sean Ardoin & Zydecool “Pullin’”
    9. Jeff Buckly “Grace”
    10. Bossacucanova “Uma Batida Diffente”
    11. Dale Watson “The Truckin’ Sessions”
    12. “West Side Story” original Broadway recording
  2. Reading, currently
    1. Philip Roth “American Pastoral”
    2. The New Yorker Magazine
    3. Saveur Magazine
    4. Journalism class texts
  3. Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology Newsletter, with excerpts that inspire, from his book “Pronia”, and a weekly horoscope. This week’s:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): At its best, a study of astrology illuminates your choices and leaves the choosing up to you. It helps you understand that your fate is never set in stone, but is always susceptible to the command of your free will. In that spirit, I've got a quiz for you to take. Here are four pairs of equally possible outcomes. Meditate on each pair, and decide which you'd prefer to induce in the coming week: (1) simmering happiness versus crazed longing; (2) love packed with chewy riddles versus infatuation that only temporarily frees you; (3) practical enthusiasm versus dizzying highs; (4) slow, epic bursts of subtle progress versus out-of-this-world fantasies.

  1. KFAI, mainly the world music shows from 1:00 – 3:00 every day
  2. City Pages weekly column “Savage Love” where you learn that your sexual idiosyncracies are not that kinky
  3. Various web logs, including
    1. Diablo Cody - Her blog "Pussy Ranch" (and her book "Candy Girl") reminds me that it's okay to just be a girl having fun
    2. Bfylist – a friend’s web log of fun and thought-provoking lists (inspiring me to create this list)
    3. Butenoughaboutme – husband of friend’s web log (see 6b) that feels kind of like a satisfying one-way phone call catching me up on daily life in New York City
    4. The Best Page in the Universe - irreverent, misogynistic (maybe fully misanthropic) and hilarious! Once the target of a cease and desist campaign by a group of mothers
  4. Mandelbrot Sets: TRIPPY! Math is so cool!
  5. The World Wide Web, maybe the final frontier of democracy (also may be a party to it’s final ruin)
  6. – I know, not exactly a Blue company, but I try to give my business mainly to the independent sellers who have contracts with Amazon

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Crashing Disappointment

I may as well add my 2 cents about the Oscar's last night, everyone else in the blogosphere has done:

The last time I watched the Oscars, or followed the buzz with anticipation, was in 1991, when Kevin Costner won for the top 2 prizes over Martin Scorsese - "Dances with Wolves" vs. "Goodfellas". "Goodfellas" is in my top 10 of all time, maybe top 5. That outcome soured me on the Oscar's. Until last night. I need, as we all do, some hint that the world is evolving, going forward instead of backwards, and I actually got excited thinking about the real possibility that a beauty like "Brokeback" could win. Bamboozled again! I will not be watching or giving credence to the Oscars again, at least not for another decade or so.

To be fair, the Oscar's, like the Grammies (Celine Dion, please), are a reflection of the popular culture, where People Magazine and reality t.v. are the plats du jour. So, maybe we all shouldn't have been so surprised (did you notice the collective silent gasp from everyone at the Kodak?). Plus, it's really the Steven Spielberg Show, isn't it? His movies are so nauseatingly moralistic . . . . . I think I may be on to something.

I did, however, like Jon Stewart, the gay jokes were hilarious, Salma's sapphire dress was a knock-out, and then there was Jake, my boy toy. MMMMmmmmm, Jake (drooling). And Gorgeous George was a sport. For mindless entertainment, it didn't suck. But 3 hours of Desperate Housewives would have been more satisfying.

Carry me away, Dwight!

I'm listening to Dwight Yoakam this wintry Mondy morn. Dwight is my Elvis. First I played "A Long Way Home," and now I've got my favorite album of his on, "Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room."

"I've had to buy back damn near everything I own, from a little man whose name is Saul, and has a lot of money to loan.
I drive a beat up '67 Chevrolet, with a torn up seat that pokes a brand new hole in my back near every day.
I got a letter from the folks over at Bell, just to let me know for my next phone call I could walk outside and yell.
Hey, I know my life seems a mess, but honey, things to me still look real swell . . . 'cause I got you to see me through . . . "

I need something to counterbalance the horrifying revelations of the day. What could it be today? Halliburton/KBR has been building dention centers in right here in the US of A. Yes, that's what they do, build prisons, but these are for rounding up "suspected terrorists," aka political dissidents, World War II style.

Following the news first given wide attention by this website, that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root had been awarded a $385 million dollar contract by Homeland Security to construct detention and processing facilities in the event of a national emergency, the Alternet website put together an alarming report that collated all the latest information on plans to initiate internment of political subversives and Muslims after the next major terror attack in the US.

What's more, something which y'all may have heard of but I certainly had not, subsidiaries of theirs are also engaged in sex slave trafficking. Perfect.

On March 11th 2005, McKinney grilled Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers on the Dyncorp scandal.

"Mr. Secretary, I watched President Bush deliver a moving speech at the United Nations in September 2003, in which he mentioned the crisis of the sex trade. The President called for the punishment of those involved in this horrible business. But at the very moment of that speech, DynCorp was exposed for having been involved in the buying and selling of young women and children. While all of this was going on, DynCorp kept the Pentagon contract to administer the smallpox and anthrax vaccines, and is now working on a plague vaccine through the Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program. Mr. Secretary, is it [the] policy of the U.S. Government to reward companies that traffic in women and little girls?"

Rumsfeld: "Thank you, Representative. First, the answer to your first question is, is, no, absolutely not, the policy of the United States Government is clear, unambiguous, and opposed to the activities that you described. The second question."

McKinney: "Well how do you explain the fact that DynCorp and its successor companies have received and continue to receive government contracts?"

Rumsfeld: "I would have to go and find the facts, but there are laws and rules and regulations with respect to government contracts, and there are times that corporations do things they should not do, in which case they tend to be suspended for some period; there are times then that the - under the laws and the rules and regulations for the - passed by the Congress and implemented by the Executive branch - that corporations can get off of - out of the penalty box if you will, and be permitted to engage in contracts with the government. They're generally not barred in perpetuity."

I need Dwight more than ever today. I think I'm going to be sick . . . I need a good cry . . . maybe I should go see Brokeback Mountain again.