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Friday, February 28, 2003

Bloody machines!!!

It's a love/hate relationship between me and my desktop PC. It's just a hate/hate relationship with my laptop since it's dead. But my desktop PC, boy, she's a tease. So often things work just fine and so smooth, I can't help but get addicted to all of the cool things I can DL/do with her. Edit videos, burn VCDs and DVDs, run a web site, learn about the real reason for the Iraq Attack and SO much more. But then there are days like today where all I wanted to do was encode this one file as an mpeg-2. That's it. I've spent more than 8 hours trying to get this one file to encode properly and only now does it seem to be doing the trick. Keep your fingers crossed for me, cool?

The best thing is, I am going to skip writing tonight entirely and just go to bed as soon as this file is done encoding. The reason that is a good thing is because it's not even 3am - this will be the earliest I've been in bed in weeks. Sure, I won't write, but I have tomorrow for that and I'll be very pleased with myself if I can get back on a regular schedule again. Wish me luck...

Thursday, February 27, 2003

ARI FLEISCHER LAUGHED OFF THE STAGE

Well, it looks like the Washington press corps isn't as stupid as they act - check out this great clip from C-SPAN that features White House Spokesperson Ari Fleischer trying to answer a question with an answer that the reporters in the room find... well, laughable. Be sure to listen to the reporters comments as Ari leaves, they're a laugh, too...

ari.rm
(187k file)
(It's a TINY Real Media file.
Sorry for the crappy quality!)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

NOT INSOMNIA BUT...

Well, I don't get it. No matter what I do, I seem to be unable to get into a more reasonable sleep schedule. Every night it's the same. I think to myself "If I can just get to sleep an hour earlier tonight, I can get up and hour earlier. If I keep doing that, soon I'll be back on a normal schedule!!"

But every night I find myself wanting to do one last thing at 4am. By the time I'm done with whatever it is (whether it's writing, web coding, posting to a forum or whatever) it's 5:30m or later.

I just don't get it. Anyone else have this kind of disorder? Sheesh...

Monday, February 24, 2003

OH YEAH, BUSH 43's A LIAR

Once again, we see that the present holder of the title "President of the United States" is of dubious character. Now, it's common knowledge that all politicians are liars. But most are pretty good at covering their asses and at generally avoiding being caught with their hands in the fib-jar. Of course, King George doesn't care who catches him lying because he's apparently brainwashed a good number of people in the US into to thinking he's a good guy.

Well, here's a little proof as to the fact that he is the very opposite of a good guy. In an article posted to Newsday.com's web site on February 23, 2003, James Toedtman points out that King George quoted a report that doesn't actually exist. See, KG wanted to get the world to trust his insane tax cut plan (so insane that other members of the G7 summit have publicly criticized the plan) that he decided it would be okay to lie about a newly released Blue Chip economists forecast that supposedly said that his plan would bring substantial economic growth. Why was it a lie? Well, according to the editor of the forecast in question, Randell E. Moore,there was no such claim made in the forecast.

But wait! There's more!

thepete20030224a (18k image)King George also quoted an International Atomic Energy Agency report that promised Saddam was a mere six months away from developing a nuclear weapon. Well, in a Washington Times article posted last September, Mark Gwozdecky, the IAEA's chief spokesperson is quoted admitting that no such report exists.

It's beginning to look like George W. Bush will say just about anything to convince America and the World that anything he does is justified. This makes one wonder what he's told the American people that was the truth...

Saturday, February 22, 2003

I HAVE BENT THE DIGITAL BEAST TO MY WILL!

In other words... I BURNED A DVD TODAY!!! YEAH!!! After HOURS of dicking around with applications of all kinds, DLing various versions, plugins and upgrades, I HAVE TRIUMPHED! It's too long and boring to go in to ALL of the steps, but I finally got an ultra simple menu together and burned it to disk. It even played on my standalone DVD player. It was truly weird seeing something I shot play on a TV off of a DVD.

But it shall not be the last time I have that feeling!!!

THIS I DECREE!!!!

That is how you spell "decree" right? I have to get a spell check for my blog script...

Here's a screencap of the ludicrously simple menu - click to make it larger:


Thursday, February 20, 2003

US GOVERNMENT TO RAISE CEILING ON BORROWING FROM THE FED

You think you're having credit problems? Well, believe it or not, the money the government gets does NOT come from taxes - most (if not all) of the money the USGov gets from tax payers goes to pay off the national debt. Which, according to this website, currently resides well past the six trillion dollar mark. Just to put that in perspective, according to this site the US population is approaching 300 million people. Do the math and you'll see that the USG is so deep in debt if every SINGLE human who lives in America today (including the poor and the infants) gave $20,000 to the USG, they STILL wouldn't have enough money to pay of the debt.

The other important thing to note is that the National Debt goes up roughly a billion dollars a day because the USG keeps borrowing.

So, what are they doing raising their limit on how much they can borrow? Good question. While Bill Clinton actually felt it was a good idea to just shut down the USG for a very limited amount of time back in the mid-90s, the present government knows it's in no position to pull something like that. (It makes you wonder why Al Qaeda didn't attack us back then...) So, as they have done in the past, the USG will move to raise the ceiling on borrowing limits. According to this article at the New York Times this raising of the limit will be the second time in less than a year.

This is important because we're in a time of war, the war hasn't begun yet, but it might has well have. The USGov is spending millions every day mobilizing troops, getting them ready for the Iraq Attack. Just running the government costs a lot of money. Oh and once the war begins, it is said that it will cost billions per day. This probably won't be the last time the USG votes to raise borrowing limits in the coming months.

What's even worse is that the Republicans are trying to hide this raise in borrowing limits inside an overall budget resolution - kind of like how the Iraq Attack is a big fat distraction from how small and skinny the US economy is right now. (Well, smaller and skinnier than it should be in most economists minds, anyway.)

But don't be too concerned about the borrowing limits being raised, Alan Greenspan was quoted in that NYT article as saying that this ceiling does nothing to curb deficit.

...Especially if you keep raising it...

Another thing to not worry about is the credit of the USGov. Unlike American citizens the US Government will never be told that they are "over their limit" by their credit card company. That's because their credit card company is the Federal Reserve Bank. Why will the Federal Reserve Bank never tell the USGov they're out of credit? First, the FED can just create more money out of nothing. Second, the last time a major government was refused credit from a banking institution, the banking institution was banned by the Pope and all members of that institution were sentenced to execution.

(See this article to learn a small bit about the end of the Templar Knights circa the early 1300s.)

In the end, there's not much we regular citizens can do but watch the the USGov borrow more and more money and watch the value of US currency go down.

Well, there is a chance protesting and demonstrations could make a difference, maybe sending your concerns to Washington DC...

...naaaah...
For more on the Debt, please visit this site.



From
http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/:

U.S. NATIONAL DEBTCLOCK

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 20 Feb 2003 at 11:07:08 PM GMT is:

$ 6 , 4 1 3 , 7 9 6 , 6 8 9 , 2 5 6 . 4 7

The estimated population of the United States is 289,188,482
so each citizen's share of this debt is $22,178.60.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of$1.29 billion per day since September 30, 2002!
Concerned? Then tell Congress and the White House!




the population clock.

From
The New York Times:

The New York Times
Sponsored by Starbucks

February 20, 2003

Federal Debt Near Ceiling; Second Time in 9 Months

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 — With budget deficits climbing rapidly, the Bush administration acknowledged today that the government had reached its legal limit on borrowing and would run short of cash by early April unless Congress once again raised the debt ceiling.

Because Congress inevitably does raise the ceiling after intense jousting, the announcement will have little, if any, effect on operations. But it highlights the new era of red ink that the government faces even before President Bush's latest proposals for more than $1 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

Two years ago, administration forecasters predicted large budget surpluses. But the economic slowdown and the faltering stock market sent tax revenues plunging, even as government spending continued to increase.

The White House now projects a deficit of more than $300 billion this year and next, as well as deficits for at least the next decade.

Democratic lawmakers have begun to attack the administration over raising the borrowing limits. The Blue Dog Budget Watchdog Group, 34 Democrats who emphasize reducing deficits, has created the phrase "debt tax" to discuss the additional interest that will have to paid on the growing debt.

Hoping to minimize the embarrassment associated with raising the ceiling, House Republicans reinstituted a rule last month that lets them include such increases in an overall budget resolution. That procedure, which the Democrats used when they controlled the House, lets the party sidestep a separate recorded vote.

"They're trying to raise the debt ceiling in the cloak of night rather than in the sunshine of the morning," said Tom Kahn, staff director for Democrats on the House Budget Committee.

The Senate does not have a comparable rule, which means that Senate Democrats may be able prolong a fight on the debt ceiling.

Congress raised the limit nine months ago by $450 billion, to $6.4 trillion. That was less than the $750 billion increase that Mr. Bush had requested, at least partly reflecting the determination of Democratic lawmakers to make the administration endure a repeat battle as soon as possible and to continue to highlight the return to deficits.

Such jockeying has prompted some experts to propose scrapping the ceiling entirely. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, told a House hearing last week that having an official ceiling did nothing to force deficit reduction.

To make ends meet for the next month or so, the Treasury Department said it would postpone making mandatory contributions to two big investment funds for government employees.

Such shuffling tactics can allow the government to keep borrowing money without technically breaching the overall ceiling. But the Treasury Department said the tactics might not be enough to carry the government to the point when new cash starts pouring in from tax returns due on April 15.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow pleaded in a statement today for "prompt action" by Congress.

"I know that you share the president's and my commitment to maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. government," Mr. Snow said in a letter to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company | Privacy Policy

http://www.ucalgary.ca:

End of Europe's Middle Ages

Templar (Knights Templar)

Also called the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, the Templars were a military order founded in 1119 by Hughes de Payens in Jerusalem in an attempt to combine monastic discipline with the duty of fighting the infidel. It began when eight French Knights formed an association to protect pilgrims on their journeys to the Holy Land and took the three monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The Templars' devotion to the order and their independence from secular authority made it difficult for the king of Jerusalem to control them. Often, they were accused of putting their own interests before those of the kingdom. Eventually, the Templars became involved in international banking, particularly with the French monarchy's revenues.

In his efforts to obtain greater control of the French government, Philip IV took the financial offices away from the Templars. To evade the crown's debt to them, he attacked them with charges of heresy and iniquitous behaviour. In 1312, he obtained the support of the pope, the order was condemned and dissolved at the Council of Vienna with their fiefs transferred to the Hospitalers.


Return to New Monarchies: France

The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
Copyright © 1998, The Applied History Research Group

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Once again, MICROSOFT SUCKS

So, I'm cutting the titles sequence onto the OJ docu I shot back in 1995 thinking that once I finished that, I'd be good to go to DVD. But of course, Winduhs 98 has one last surprise in store for me. Because they were too friggin' stupid to recognize a little thing called THE FUTURE, they failed to include in Win98 a way for it to recognize files larger than 4 gbs. As a result, the 9gb file that would be the final cut of my OJ docu can't be written to my hard drive.

Is there a way around this? Sure - upgrade to XP. Wonderful, an operating system that reports back to big brother and only lets you install it like twice a month, so if you have a lot of trouble installing it and you can't get it right the second time, you're screwed. See, they claim that pirating is so bad that they have the right to tell us what to do with their product. I'm sorry, but that's crap.

But of course, I have little choice. I suppose I could try outputting to MPEG-2, which would by default make the file much smaller than the 9gbs it would be as an AVI. I think I'll try that tonight before I go to bed. This better work because I REALLY don't want to go through an install of XP. Hell, I'd buy a Mac if I could and then not have to deal at all with the problem.

Well, if you see ads pop up around the site for OJVX on DVD, you know I found a way around the several day process it will take me to install XP. (I need to format my drives differently than they are right now... tough to do when they're packed with video files!!)

But once again, I'd just like to reiterate... MICROSOFT SUCKS!

Monday, February 17, 2003

DAREDEVIL

Daredevil (Director's Cut)Entertaining? No chance. Actually quite irritating to watch.
Technically any good? Aside from how truly crappy an adaption it is from the comic, it has stacks of problems on it's own. Characters do things that don't make any sense - they meet twice and they're in love, yet we totally don't buy it. I could go on, but it's just not worth it.
How did I feel as the credits rolled? Worried - VERY worried that there will be a sequel. I can only hope second weekend bo office receipts remind us why this movie opened in February and not May or June like better dumb action movies.
Final Rating? DNS (This movie is WAY unsee-able.)

Friday, February 14, 2003

USG IS TOLD TO KEEP KILLER ASTEROID A SECRET

So, would you want to know the world was going to end? Geoffrey Sommer a consultant to the United States Government from the Rand Corporation has advised that the people of Earth not be warned in the case of a planet killer asteroid heading toward our planet. His idea is that if there's absolutely nothing to be done to stop the asteroid from slamming into the Earth, we'd be better off to die in complete ignorance.

Now, let's think about this for a moment. If there's nothing to be done and we're all going to die anyway, what difference does it make? In an article on Independent.co.uk, Sommer is quoted as saying "As a matter of common sense, if you can't intercept it and you can't move people out of the way in time, there's nothing you can do in terms of reducing the costs of the potential impact..."

So... how is that a reason to not tell people?

Wouldn't you want to know roughly when the thing was going to slam into our planet causing planet wide destruction and death so you could perhaps have sex a few more times, say good bye to your family and friends and generally do all the things you wanted to do before you die?

Or would you rather just be snuffed out?

The thing is, you wouldn't be just snuffed out - you'd live through the terror of first seeing the giant fireball in space heading toward us, then you'd see it impact and then you'd die a VERY painful, but equally quick death.

What if you were sitting on the john when it happened? Or perhaps stuck with a person whom you really don't like?

I suppose the worst case scenario suggests that people would panic, freak out and start running around killing, stealing and raping. But why would they? Raping, I could see, but killing and stealing? All material goods would be destroyed momentarily and killing is irrelevant since we'd all be dead soon, anyway. And if someone was stupid and did try to steal something from you, why would you fight them? We're all going to be dead, so who cares? Let him have it! The jokes on him, since he'll be dead and the thing he just stole from you will be destroyed with him and you.

So, here comes a big powerful "non-profit" group who gets donations from all sorts of places, who claims to be dedicated to "furthering and promoting scientific, educational, and charitable purposes for the public welfare and security of the United States" telling the USG that it should keep it's citizens (and the rest of the world) in the dark, regarding any planet killers.

How is keeping the truth from the people of the Earth like furthering and promoting scientific, educational, and charitable purposes for the public welfare and security of the United States??

Go here for the article at Independent.co.uk.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

KING GEORGE, GETS MISSILES

But WE don't! Yep, you read it right - Washington DC is now armed - they've got Avenger missile systems mounted atop hummers. Check out this pic, y'all:


Isn't it nice that our "president" believes that he's more important than us? I mean, do YOU have an Avenger Missile system in your front yard?

NO??

What if a suicide bomber tries to blow up your local supermarket? YOU GOTTA HAVE SOME MISSILES TO BLOW THE SUCKER UP!!

Of course, you don't have an Avenger Missile system in your front yard, which pretty much makes clear that King George sure believes that all men AREN'T created equal, or else, we'd all have missile systems - or he wouldn't.

Here's the original article if you don't believe me.

If that link doesn't work, check out below.

Oh yeah and I bet our founding fathers are real proud of the country America has become...

THANKS MICROFLACID - I MEAN - MICROSOFT!

Quite randomly, a few weeks ago, Microsoft Word stopped allowing me to save Word documents as HTML files. It quite suddenly decided that the converter I was using was older than the version of Word I was using. This is totally absurd since I used this exact same application all last year while typing up TheKey and it worked fine for over a year.

And yes, I did the obvious, tried reinstalling the converter, uninstalled Word, reinstalled Word, I even uninstalled MSOffice all together and reinstalled it - same problem. I copied the entire Office directory over from the CD but still, no-go. I searched the web for someone who has had the same problem, but nothing. On top of that, I searched for an alternative application, but couldn't find one that actually functioned the way it promised. Some converted the doc files, but then stripped all of the formatting out of it, losing bold text, italics, fonts and so on. I even tried saving each entry as a PDF that I then uploaded to my site, making it available for the Adobe site's PDF-to-HTML service to get access to it, but they formatted it all wrong as well. Their script put linebreaks where there weren't any and placed odd pagelinks throughout. I also tried downloading the trial version of Corel's WordPerfect, but guess what? They only have the XP version available and I haven't upgraded to XP yet and don't plan to since I find new OS's often have bigger bugs in them than the OS's they are replacing...

Now, I could just copy and paste the text right out of Word, but then all of my formatting would go away as well. And as the Henri character begins to read his father's journal, I switch the font to signify that it's Jacques writing and not the narrator of the story. This on top of my common use of italics and various other formatting makes conversion a lengthy and tedious procedure. So, I've decided to shut down TheDaily until I can figure out a solution.

I will continue to write PSW, since I am only a couple hundred pages away from finishing. I do want to finish the story and write a couple more books (at least) in the PSW universe. It's just that doing it for my site was a great way to stay disceplined.

Thanks again, Microsoft! (Dickweeds...)

Saturday, February 8, 2003

PATRIOT ACT 2: THE QUICKENING

Yep - Bill Moyers and www.Public-I.org are talking about some serious bad stuff. Apparently, Rumsfeld and Co. have drafted a new and improved Patriot Act that will expand all sorts of powers. I haven't had time to read everything there is to read about it yet, but I have read enough to be scared to the point a laxative wouldn't help at all... (Sorry, ya gotta unpack that one.)

The thing that worries me the most here is that there is absolutely no justification for expanding the Patriot Act - none. Why does this worry me? Well, King George's administration has had the uncanny knack of getting almost precisely what it needs to do what it wants. From the Supreme Court "decision" to the infamous trifecta, they've been "lucky" enough to get what they needed to get what they wanted through the paperwork and into existence.

With all this chatter about new possible terrorism on US soil to have this story come up is an absolutely terrible thing...

[http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/lewis.html|Go here to Bill Moyer's page on this story.]

[http://www.public-i.org/dtaweb/report.asp?ReportID=502&L1=10&L2=10&L3=0&L4=0&L5=0&Task=Print|Go here for Public-I's page.]



From http://www.pbs.org/now/printable/transcript_lewis2_print.html
Transcript - Bill Moyers interviews Chuck Lewis

MOYERS: Chuck Lewis, whom you just saw in that piece is with me now. He is the Executive Director of the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, the organization responsible for obtaining that document. Chuck Lewis, thank you for joining us.
LEWIS: Thank you.

MOYERS: The Patriot Act was passed six weeks after 9/11. We know now that it greatly changed the balance between liberty and security in this nation's framework. What do you think � what's the significance of this new document, called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003?

LEWIS: I think the significance is it just deepens and broadens, further extends the first Patriot Act. That act in 2001, they had six weeks, which was not a lot of time to throw something together. Now there's been 18 months of all kinds of things that have happened and court decisions that have tried to roll back some of the Patriot Act.

And other concerns, law enforcement, people have, and so they've had time to sift and sort what they want. And it's arguably might be a more thorough rendering of all the things law enforcement and intelligence agencies would like to have in a perfect world. It's sort of how I look at it, and I think it's a very tough document when it comes to secrecy and surveillance.

I understand the concerns about fear of terrorism. And it certainly�

MOYERS: We all have those�

LEWIS: We all have those and there are things in the legislation that make sense, and that are reasonable, I think for any American. But there are other things that really take some of the Patriot Act civil liberties issues that folks were concerned about and go even further. And I think it's gonna be very controversial. Some of these sections are gonna be debated for weeks and months.

MOYERS: So many of these powers latent in this draft legislation were powers that were taken away from the intelligence community some years ago because they were abused.

LEWIS: That's right.

MOYERS: Do you see any protection in here against potential abuse?

LEWIS: I don't think there's very much � there's a lot more authority and power for government. There's less oversight and information about what government is doing. That's the headline and that's the theme. And the safeguards seem to be pretty minimal to me.

MOYERS: I just go through here, you know? "Will give the Attorney General the unchecked power to deport any foreigner?"

LEWIS: Right.

MOYERS: Including lawful permanent resident aliens. It would give the government the power to keep certain arrests secret until an indictment is found never in our history have we permitted secret arrests. It would give the government power to bypass courts and grand juries in order to conduct surveillance without a judge's permission. I mean these do really further upend the balance between liberty on the one hand and security on the other.

LEWIS: Well, they do. They reduce judicial oversight with the secret intelligence courts instead of saying the court may do this now it's the court will do this. They can have ex parte conversations where they go into the judge without anyone else around. In terms of information about detainees, not only can they detain anyone they'd like to detain, there is no public information about it.

Journalists cannot find out the names of � we detained over a thousand people after September 11th because we thought they might all be terrorists. Not one of them was really found with any criminal charges to be a terrorist. And we don't know the names of almost all those people, still. And so it does appear that everything that folks might be concerned about with the Patriot Act, this is times five or times ten is what I look at it. I see it very serious.

MOYERS: You and I have had this kind of discussion often, we go back a long way together. The foundation that I serve on has been a big supporter of yours and you've been a big supporter of our journalism. If we were fighting terrorists instead of being journalists, wouldn't we want this kind of power in our hands?

LEWIS: Well, we would, but we operate in a democracy and there's other considerations. I mean I think, you know, there's no question, if you're in law enforcement, this is gonna make it easier for you to do your job. The problem is, we have a history in our country, just in our lifetime, in the last quarter century.

Where we've seen FBI and CIA abuses of ordinary citizens. Where mail has been opened, where homes have been broken into. Where infiltration has occurred in political groups. Informants have been used, misused. People's lives have been ruined. People have committed suicide because of the pressures brought against them by the government, by these kinds of secret intelligence agencies.

This is not a completely crazy idea to worry about the power of the government. And it was curbed and rolled back in the '70s. And there is something obviously occurring here in the public space around the whole issue of liberty and security right now.

And it is clearly changing and it's moving towards security. And the question for us as a people is what is the right balance. And I think my biggest personal concern is that there ought to be a debate about this. So the Patriot Act jammed through Congress in six weeks.

There was a Congressional � there was a Senate hearing that lasted an hour and a half, there were no questions to the Attorney General by the senators. This is too important for our country. Whatever anyone's point of view, this should be a conversation that the country should have.

And if I'm afraid they're waiting for a war or something and then they're gonna pop this baby out and then try to jam it through.

MOYERS: You mean that if it were not rolled out and discussed publicly until the United States has had war in Iraq, people might not pay as much attention to it as they would now.

LEWIS: They wouldn't pay as much attention and you know, our worries and our fears are gonna be different than they are now. And there will be less of � all these things will melt away. These are nice concerns about liberties but we'll be at war. And we'll have presidents and attorneys general and other government officials telling us things. And I just see a � I see that it wouldn't work quite as easily for them if it comes out in the next few weeks as opposed to then.

MOYERS: Congressman Burton, Dan Burton, of Indiana, a very conservative congressman, who is Chairman on the Committee on Government Reform. He said recently, "An iron veil is descending over the executive branch."

Now your forte is moving information around in Washington trying to find out what's going on. Would you agree with what Congressman Burton has said here?

LEWIS: I absolutely agree with what he's saying. I mean there have been 300 roll-backs of the Freedom of Information Act since September 11th. All over America, at the state and local level, as well as the federal government. The Attorney General sent a message to every federal employee, when in doubt, deny any Freedom of Information request.

We have other things like presidential papers being sealed off. We have reporters trying to cover things in Afghanistan being locked in a warehouse and not able to file their stories. Even before September 11th, we had one reporter's home phone records seized by a grand jury without telling him or his news organization.

There's a lot of things happening with information, access to information, and efforts to stop journalism that I have not seen in 20 plus years of watching Washington and journalism and government interact. And it's not just information. It's not information for information's sake. This is about health, safety, lives�

MOYERS: What do you mean?

LEWIS: Well, you have this whole thing in this current draft legislation that there's a worst case scenario type requirement that every company that is making hazardous or toxic materials has to make that information available to the public. So if something terrible does happen they know that it's possible that it could happen and there's some sort of assessment about it. Well now that is not gonna be required. Chemical companies will not have to tell the world about these problems.

And they will � the citizens in that community will not have access to that information in an easy accessible way. And that's new and that affects their life. If some problem occurs, they're unrelated to the terrorism. Something just goes wrong, they will not know anything about that in their community.

So we're rolling back health and safety and environmental and other considerations and sensitivities that have been in our culture now for decades. Are melting away because of � all in the name of fighting terrorism.

MOYERS: What would be the Attorney General's justification for wanting to restrict access to information about toxic chemicals?

LEWIS: Well, the � I haven't heard one. But I think the rationale is that terrorists could get information about a chemical plant and its security, bad security, inadequate security and somehow then bring about a threat.

But the problem is sunlight is the best disinfectant. If these plants have bad security or they're not being well run and they're actually unsafe it's usually exposing it and talking about it and the public being aware of it that ends up improving the plant or the facility or whatever it is.

I actually find that that's how change occurs usually. And so the ostensible rationale is to keep it away from terrorists. But I think it's also a rationale to protect companies frankly in this instance. Well I happen to know that's been the chemical lobbyist's dream for a long time.

A long time before 9/11. They did not want this information made available.

LEWIS: I see a lot of opportunism here around the fear and paranoia in the wake of September 11th. And taking advantage of the insecurity that we all feel today. And that is, to me, incredibly offensive. And that's why a conversation about it, there's 40 sections in this thing. The public needs to have a sense what exactly are we getting here. There needs to be a chewing over. This should not jam through Congress. This should be out there and being � be talked about. I mean the realm between public and private, between foreign and domestic, all these things have morphed into the citizen against all of this out there � this morass of regulations and rules and intrusions. And at the same time they can come after you, get your credit card data, your library records, your Internet searching, everything. And they'll decide whether or not you're a suspect or not.

Whether or not they like you. If you're a disfavored political group, or from the wrong ethnic background, then you might become on the radar screen of some folks that you don't know about, you can't find out about, and they can do things. They have � this is incredible power.

MOYERS: One of the provisions in here as I understand it is that the government could actually strip citizenship from someone if � for example, if you were found, according to this, if you were found making what you thought was a legitimate contribution to some non profit organization.

LEWIS: Right.

MOYERS: Foundation. And months from then, that foundation were deemed by the government or that organization were deemed by the government to have been in some way supporting terrorists, you could lose your citizenship because of your contribution, even if you didn't know�

LEWIS: That's right.

MOYERS: That you were contributing to an organization like that.

LEWIS: No, that's absolutely � they have that power. They can also extradite all over world, even if we don't have treaties. I mean, some of the things in here are � strain credulity for legal scholars. They're not sure, they've never seen these kinds of provisions trotted out. I mean, a lot of the question is if it does pass Congress, what would the courts do with it later.

I mean I think there are some legitimate issues there.

MOYERS: What do you make of this? This is the document that went from the Department of Justice with this draft legislation to certain very key people in government. Among them, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Vice President, Richard Cheney, for their comments on this obviously confidential document.

Why the Speaker of the House and the Vice President and not the committee chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate or the appropriate committee in the House?

LEWIS: It's a way to say you've consulted Congress to some extent by sending it to the Speaker and not really consulting Congress.

As far as I can tell, and we have not polled every member or anything like that, but it appears that virtually no one on Capitol Hill, except for the Speaker, has seen this legislation. I'm talking about the people at the judiciary committees in the House and Senate don't have this legislation. And have even been kind of yanked around a little bit for months about whether there will even be legislation.

MOYERS: The House Judiciary Committee actually asked the FBI a few months ago how it has used the new powers that had been given to it under the Patriot Act. And the Justice department said, "We can't tell you that information, it's classified."

And this prompted then-Congressman then Bob Barr, from Georgia, another conservative, by the way, he said the attitude of the Justice Department seems to be that even Congress isn't entitled to know how they are using the authority that Congress gave them.

LEWIS: It's incredible. I mean, if Congress doesn't have oversight over the Justice Department and these programs, who does? That's how it's supposed to work in our constitution and in our set up for government.

MOYERS: That's one of your real concerns, isn't it? That there's no oversight when secrecy is this tight.

LEWIS: Absolutely. The Congress is the people's chance to monitor the executive branch. That is the only� it is the closest branch of government to the people. The House members are up for election every two years. If the House of Representatives and the Congress in general cannot keep a watch on the executive branch and cannot be informed about their activities. There's something very serious here.

MOYERS: Chuck, I hear people out there in the audience thinking, you know, I'm scared. We're � this is a new ballgame, to put it trivially. War on terrorists, they came on 9/11, we keep getting reports they're coming again, who knows where it'll happen. Everybody's scared.

You guys are living in Lotus Land, you journalists talking about this sort of thing. Because we really want the government to protect us from another World Trade Center attack on the Pentagon, which is not far from where your office is in Washington.

LEWIS: Right.

MOYERS: What about that?

LEWIS: Look, I wanna be protected by the government as much as anyone.

But actually, in some ways that's beside the point. There are also freedoms and rights and liberties that, you know, millions of Americas have fought for over 200 years to make sure that this is a special kind of country. And isn't it possible that to be secure and have liberties?

Why give all the power and authority and have no oversight and accountability. What are the safeguards. And that's the question.

MOYERS: When someone inside government, inside the Justice Department, presumably, gives you a confidential document marked, "Not For Distribution," The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, knowing that this administration has been cracking down on watchdogs and leaks from inside government, do you consider this person a patriot?

LEWIS: I really do. I think it takes incredible guts to take something that bothers someone, and for whatever reason, they feel they must give it out. And they know they're gonna be polygraphed, they're gonna be questioned. There's gonna be a clampdown found, there's gonna be a witch-hunt after this occurs. They could very likely not only lose their job but-- maybe worse.

MOYERS: Be sued by the government?

LEWIS: Be sued by the government and otherwise ruined professionally. That is the most incredible kind of courage. And I have an incredible respect for anyone who does that.

MOYERS: I should make this clear this is not marked "Top Secret" � this is not a classified document. It is stamped "Confidential" but nobody is betraying the Secrets Act.

LEWIS: Yeah, that's right, I mean, I've � I'm glad to say that that's right.

MOYERS: There was a story this week in Congressional Quarterly, which is a very respected non-partisan journal in Washington. It says "Pentagon's proposed changes strike some as difficult, dangerous and destabilizing." And one of the things Donald Rumsfeld wants is wavers of environmental laws so that troops can conduct more "realistic exercises."

And then this magazine, which is non-partisan, says this is part of the administration's broad campaign to run the federal government more like a private business. And with private businesses you have more control over employees, you have more control over information. Do you see that developing as a syndrome of this administration?

LEWIS: I think it's incredible what's happening. I see a wholesale assault on access to information in this country that has not really been seen, I have to just say it, since Richard Nixon.

When you look at the roll-backs of freedom of information, when you look at things like meeting with energy companies with the Vice President. It's simple things though in government property with government officials getting paid by taxpayer money and it's not available to the public.

When you see some of the things that we have talked about earlier with reporters from detainees to military actions not being able to see things. I see a lot of very aggressive behavior by government officials towards the act of getting information out and information itself. I think that we're in a very unusual situation right now. And it really worries me actually.

MOYERS: Chuck Lewis, Center for Public Integrity, thank you very much.

LEWIS: Thank you.


From http://www.public-i.org/dtaweb/report.asp?ReportID=502&L1=10&L2=10&L3=0&L4=0&L5=0&Task=Print


Justice Dept. Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act

By Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle


(WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003) -- The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft, dated January 9, 2003, of this previously undisclosed legislation and is making it available in full text (12 MB). The bill, drafted by the staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, has not been officially released by the Department of Justice, although rumors of its development have circulated around the Capitol for the last few months under the name of �the Patriot Act II� in legislative parlance.

�We haven�t heard anything from the Justice Department on updating the Patriot Act,� House Judiciary Committee spokesman Jeff Lungren told the Center. �They haven�t shared their thoughts on that. Obviously, we'd be interested, but we haven�t heard anything at this point.�

Senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee minority staff have inquired about Patriot II for months and have been told as recently as this week that there is no such legislation being planned.

Mark Corallo, deputy director of Justice�s Office of Public Affairs, told the Center his office was unaware of the draft. �I have heard people talking about revising the Patriot Act, we are looking to work on things the way we would do with any law,� he said. �We may work to make modifications to protect Americans,� he added. When told that the Center had a copy of the draft legislation, he said, �This is all news to me. I have never heard of this.�

After the Center posted this story, Barbara Comstock, director of public affairs for the Justice Dept., released a statement saying that, "Department staff have not presented any final proposals to either the Attorney General or the White House. It would be premature to speculate on any future decisions, particularly ideas or proposals that are still being discussed at staff levels."

RELATED LINKS
For additional information, watch the PBS program "Now With Bill Moyers" tonight at 9 P.M. EST. (Check local listings.) The show will also air an interview with Charles Lewis.

An Office of Legislative Affairs �control sheet� that was obtained by the PBS program "Now With Bill Moyers" seems to indicate that a copy of the bill was sent to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Vice President Richard Cheney on Jan. 10, 2003. �Attached for your review and comment is a draft legislative proposal entitled the �Domestice Security Enhancement Act of 2003,�� the memo, sent from �OLP� or Office of Legal Policy, says.

Comstock later told the Center that the draft "is an early discussion draft and it has not been sent to either the Vice President or the Speaker of the House."

Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of Terrorism and the Constitution, reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation �raises a lot of serious concerns. It�s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they�ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.� This proposed law, he added, �would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive �suspicion,� create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups.�

Some of the key provision of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 include:

Section 201, �Prohibition of Disclosure of Terrorism Investigation Detainee Information�: Safeguarding the dissemination of information related to national security has been a hallmark of Ashcroft�s first two years in office, and the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 follows in the footsteps of his October 2001 directive to carefully consider such interest when granting Freedom of Information Act requests. While the October memo simply encouraged FOIA officers to take national security, �protecting sensitive business information and, not least, preserving personal privacy� into account while deciding on requests, the proposed legislation would enhance the department�s ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through FOIA.

Section 202, �Distribution of �Worst Case Scenario� Information�: This would introduce new FOIA restrictions with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency. As provided for in the Clean Air Act, the EPA requires private companies that use potentially dangerous chemicals must produce a �worst case scenario� report detailing the effect that the release of these controlled substances would have on the surrounding community. Section 202 of this Act would, however, restrict FOIA requests to these reports, which the bill�s drafters refer to as �a roadmap for terrorists.� By reducing public access to �read-only� methods for only those persons �who live and work in the geographical area likely to be affected by a worst-case scenario,� this subtitle would obfuscate an established level of transparency between private industry and the public.

Section 301-306, �Terrorist Identification Database�: These sections would authorize creation of a DNA database on �suspected terrorists,� expansively defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups, and noncitizens suspected of certain crimes or of having supported any group designated as terrorist.

Section 312, �Appropriate Remedies with Respect to Law Enforcement Surveillance Activities�: This section would terminate all state law enforcement consent decrees before Sept. 11, 2001, not related to racial profiling or other civil rights violations, that limit such agencies from gathering information about individuals and organizations. The authors of this statute claim that these consent orders, which were passed as a result of police spying abuses, could impede current terrorism investigations. It would also place substantial restrictions on future court injunctions.

Section 405, �Presumption for Pretrial Detention in Cases Involving Terrorism�: While many people charged with drug offenses punishable by prison terms of 10 years or more are held before their trial without bail, this provision would create a comparable statute for those suspected of terrorist activity. The reasons for presumptively holding suspected terrorists before trial, the Justice Department summary memo states, are clear. �This presumption is warranted because of the unparalleled magnitude of the danger to the United States and its people posed by acts of terrorism, and because terrorism is typically engaged in by groups � many with international connections � that are often in a position to help their members flee or go into hiding.�

Section 501, �Expatriation of Terrorists�: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated �if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a �terrorist organization�.� But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be �inferred from conduct.� Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a �terrorist organization� by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act is the latest development in an 18-month trend in which the Bush Administration has sought expanded powers and responsibilities for law enforcement bodies to help counter the threat of terrorism.

The USA Patriot Act, signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, gave law enforcement officials broader authority to conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps, and gives the president the authority, when the nation is under attack, to confiscate any property within U.S. jurisdiction of anyone believed to be engaging in such attacks. The measure also tightened oversight of financial activities to prevent money laundering and diminish bank secrecy in an effort to disrupt terrorist finances.

It also changed provisions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was passed in 1978 during the Cold War. FISA established a different standard of government oversight and judicial review for �foreign intelligence� surveillance than that applied to traditional domestic law enforcement surveillance.

The USA Patriot Act allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to share information gathered in terrorism investigations under the �foreign intelligence� standard with local law enforcement agencies, in essence nullifying the higher standard of oversight that applied to domestic investigations. The USA Patriot Act also amended FISA to permit surveillance under the less rigorous standard whenever �foreign intelligence� was a �significant purpose� rather than the �primary purpose� of an investigation.

The draft legislation goes further in that direction. �In the [USA Patriot Act] we have to break down the wall of foreign intelligence and law enforcement,� Cole said. �Now they want to break down the wall between international terrorism and domestic terrorism.�

In an Oct. 9, 2002, hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher testified that Justice had been, �looking at potential proposals on following up on the PATRIOT Act for new tools and we have also been working with different agencies within the government and they are still studying that and hopefully we will continue to work with this committee in the future on new tools that we believe are necessary in the war on terrorism.�

Asked by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) whether she could inform the committee of what specific areas Justice was looking at, Fisher replied, �At this point I can�t, I�m sorry. They're studying a lot of different ideas and a lot of different tools that follow up on information sharing and other aspects.�

Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy Viet Dinh, who was the principal author of the first Patriot Act, told Legal Times last October that there was �an ongoing process to continue evaluating and re-evaluating authorities we have with respect to counterterrorism,� but declined to say whether a new bill was forthcoming.

Former FBI Director William Sessions, who urged caution while Congress considered the USA Patriot Act, did not want to enter the fray concerning a possible successor bill.

"I hate to jump into it, because it's a very delicate thing," Sessions told the Center, without acknowledging whether he knew of any proposed additions or revisions to the additional Patriot bill.

When the first bill was nearing passage in the Congress in late 2001, however, Sessions told Internet site NewsMax.Com that the balance between civil liberties and sufficient intelligence gathering was a difficult one. �First of all, the Attorney General has to justify fully what he�s asking for,� Sessions, who served presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush as FBI Director from 1987 until 1993, said at the time. �We need to be sure that we provide an effective means to deal with criminality.� At the same time, he said, �we need to be sure that we are mindful of the Constitution, mindful of privacy considerations, but also meet the technological needs we have� to gather intelligence.

Cole found it disturbing that there have been no consultations with Congress on the draft legislation. �It raises a lot of serious concerns and is troubling as a generic matter that they have gotten this far along and tell people that there is nothing in the works. What that suggests is that they�re waiting for a propitious time to introduce it, which might well be when a war is begun. At that time there would be less opportunity for discussion and they�ll have a much stronger hand in saying that they need these right away.�

To write a letter to the editor for publication, e-mail letters@publicintegrity.org. Please include a daytime phone number.

Copyright 2001, The Center for Public Integrity. All rights reserved

Friday, February 7, 2003

GAO LETS CHENEY GET AWAY WITH IT

The General Accounting Office has decided to let their lawsuit against Cheney drop. They were trying to get him to admit what super-powered businessmen were on his so-called "energy taskforce". This being important since those men on his taskforce could have easily been major donors to the Bush/Cheney campaign - thus, suggesting that perhaps they bought favors with the current so-called "administration". Now, we all know that sort of thing goes on, but here Cheney would be falling JUST short of admitting it openly. Instead, the government has let us down again.

They're letting the rich former CEO of Haliburton (a company that made a lot of green off of post-Desert Storm Iraq) keep his not-so-little secrets. Here's an excerpt from an article at Yahoo News:
WASHINGTON - The investigative arm of Congress is giving up its court battle against Vice President Dick Cheney, who has refused to disclose the industry contacts he and his aides had in formulating the Bush administration's energy plan.

The General Accounting Office on Friday declined to appeal a recent court ruling in favor of Cheney, leaving the fight to private groups that say the Bush White House must reveal which business executives and lobbyists had a role in influencing the plan.

The administration is calling for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers.

Comptroller General David Walker said he decided not to appeal the case after consulting with congressional leaders and others. Both the House and the Senate are under Republican control.

The White House said it was pleased with the GAO's decision. Spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the White House was fighting to uphold the principle that the president and vice president receive "unvarnished advice."
Unvarnished advice? As if. It's the whole office of the presidency and the vice presidency that's varnished. People thought Clinton getting some action under his desk was bad for the country - what about selling out the office completely??

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Why Check Out CNN.com??

Why even link to the very epitome of mainstream coverage? That's a good question. The answer is simple: We have to know what the majority is thinking so we the minority (read: the smart people), will know how to counter their arguments. It's a very easy thing to do, by the way. Most mainstream arguments are pretty flimsy which says a lot about the state of the world today.

Hey, check out CNN right now and check out what's being fed to the majority... pretty sad what they'll believe, huh? Man, in preparing for this little blurb, I just stopped by CNN.com and MAN, it's chilling - partyline stuff EVERYwhere! Rice and Powell are within inches of each other and links to articles on terror warnings, Nuclear Korea news and murder cases extraordinaire. Visit CNN, but keep your head - it's mainstream rhetoric runneth over...

Monday, February 3, 2003

What a Lousy Weekend Across the Friggin Board...

Well, aside from the obvious horror of the weekend (for which I've dimmed the site logos for a week) I dealt with a bunch of hardware problems on my computer. I was having weird problems with my power supply - my machine would just randomly crap out. I was debating what to do about this. It was realy annoying since there was no warning when my machine would just cut out. At least, that's what I thought. I spoke to my buddy Avi about it and he suggested it was because my power supply was a 250 watt deal and I have almost every slot taken up and every USB port used as well. OH yeah and don't forget my three hard drives and my two CDRW drives as well.

But, I was broke so I hung tight and hoped the problem wouldn't continue. Then, on Sunday, it died again. I turned off the main power and waited a while like I always do. After 30 minutes or so, I turned the machine back on and all was cool - well, actually the power supply itself was still pretty warm. So, I got to wondering how hot it gets before it shuts down. I opened up my case while the machine was on and noticed the heatsync fan for my graphics chip wasn't spinning. I unscrewed it and tried spinning it by hand. No go.

I hoped replacing the fan would somehow solve my power supply problem. So, this morning I was up before noon (BEFORE NOON!!) and made a trip to CompUSA where I bought a new fan for my graphics chip. Of course, the damn bracket that sits on top of the chip itself and holds the fan was bolted to the motherboard and I couldn't get it off without taking OUT the motherboard. So, I had to do just that.

When I went to install the bracket for the new fan, I discovered the damn thing doesn't FIT MY BOARD!! GRR. Luckily, I thought fast and found that with some creative adhesive applying I could use the new fan with the old bracket. I plugged in the fan, powered the machine back up and WHAMMO - within 5 minutes, the thing dies again. It's GOT to be the power supply, I decided.

After a call to my dad for a donation to my computer fund (I'm hyper broke right now), I headed down to Fry's and picked up a thick, juicy, 400 watt power supply - a full 150 watts more than I had. I got it for $70 with tax, so I figure it was a pretty good deal. Anyway, I took it home and after screening a movie at my part-time job, I installed the thing in minutes and it works just fine. I've got my webcam going, the scanner's plugged in, my keyboard and trackball are both USB, basically, everythings connected and running fine.

Pain in my ASS.

Well, it WAS, anyway. But now it's done.

I added a new woman to TheBeauty section - good old Diane Lane. I know she's not played really edgy "out-there" characters, but I think she's beautiful and has put in good, solid performances in everything I've seen here in - yes, even Perfect Storm - not that the rest of the movie was any good.

Anyway, there's a somber episode of The 5 Minute Show coming up on Wednesday. It's a bit of a tribute that I shot myself. Please try and check it out.

Welp, plenty else going on, but no time to type about it. Maybe tomorrow... oh yeah check out TheMall for new stuff every day!!