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Friday, April 29, 2005

HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining?? Yes--definitely! It may not make everyone laugh throughout the movie, but there's something in there somewhere that will do it for you.
Technically any good? FX were superb. I'm familiar with the radio show and the TV series and felt that the script was a fairly spot-on adapation of them both. Casting was almost 100% solid with Zooey Deschanel leaving me wanting a couple more takes from her. The only real flaws from a technical standpoint would have to be the fact that there's no passage of time. It all feels like it's happened in precisely real time (the same 2 hours you spend watching the movie).
How did it leave me feeling? Really, quite immensely satsified. I would have preferred a darker ending (like the TV series) but overall, I think everything was quite well done.
Final Rating? SIYL (Remember--the story is supposed to be wacky and random and goofy and frenetic!!)

I would reeeally like a Marvin action figure!!

BUSH SCARED BY CLOUD

Yep, it's true--well, more or less. I'll let a clip from an article at Guardian.co.uk tell you the story:
President George Bush was bundled into an underground bunker, Dick Cheney was evacuated to an "undisclosed location" and heavily armed secret servicemen took up defensive positions when a fast-moving cloud scudded towards the White House, it was reported yesterday.

The cloud that materialised 30 miles south of Washington on Wednesday morning was so dense it triggered radar monitors on the Domestic Events Network, intended to prevent a repeat of the September 11 attacks.


Yes! It's the MIGHTY AMERICAN PRESIDENT who is so sure God is on his side, he doesn't wait for an actual threat to materialize--his Dad's ex-enemy (ex-friend?) doesn't like him? INVADE!

Strange, fluffy blip on the radar screen?

RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

You'd think it was a rabbit with little pointy teeth!

The guy is as paranoid as they come.

From Guardian.co.uk :

Incoming cloud forces Bush into safe bunker

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday April 29, 2005
The Guardian

President George Bush was bundled into an underground bunker, Dick Cheney was evacuated to an "undisclosed location" and heavily armed secret servicemen took up defensive positions when a fast-moving cloud scudded towards the White House, it was reported yesterday.

The cloud that materialised 30 miles south of Washington on Wednesday morning was so dense it triggered radar monitors on the Domestic Events Network, intended to prevent a repeat of the September 11 attacks.

As an anti-aircraft missile battery on the roof of a nearby building was raised to the fire position, a Black Hawk helicopter was scrambled to take a look, but saw nothing except some clouds, one of which turned out to be the suspected aggressor.

The customs and border protection agency did not return calls seeking comment yesterday, but a spokesman, Gary Bracken, told the Washington Post that a cloud was to blame. "It does happen," he said. "We have to deal with weather anomalies showing up on the radar screen."

Such false alarms are common, triggered by clouds, flocks of birds or private aircraft wandering off course, but the White House confirmed yesterday that this was not the first time since September 11 2001 that the president has taken refuge in the hi-tech bunker beneath the building, the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre.

It was not clear yesterday what it was about Wednesday morning's cloud that created such havoc. It was moving at about the speed of a helicopter, disappearing and then appearing again on the radar screen, but the same could be said of many clouds.

The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the president was in the bunker for only a short time - the all-clear was sounded about 20 minutes after the first alert. US officials claimed that the incident showed how smoothly the alert system was functioning.

By federal law since the September 11 attack, air passengers have to remain strapped in their seats within half an hour's flight time of Washington. Private aircraft have also been stopped using the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, just across the Potomac river from the Capitol building and the White House, although that ban is expected to be lifted soon.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Yahoo Mail=1gb

Hey, did anyone notice? Mail.Yahoo.com now offers 1gb of storage space for your email.

Cray-z!

I guess Gmail giving up 2 gigs was just too much for 'em...

FRIST UNAMERICAN

This kind of thing really pisses me off. Frist and his fellow Theocrats have not only accused anyone who opposes them of being anti-Christian, but they are now saying that any Senator who doesn't just shut up and vote is now failing to do their job as Senators.

Who the hell is Frist to tell anyone how to do their job? How would he like it if Reid, a Democrat, were to tell him to shut up and enjoy a filibuster?

Answer? Frist would fight Reid and accuse him of being anti-Christian.

Why is a filibuster part of a Senator doing his or her job? This is simple. A filibuster exists to give the minority party a voice and the ability to force more debate and a larger amount of pro-votes in order for a nominee to be confirmed. This is not bad for America--this helps America have more effectively vetted people in control.

Here's a quote from an article from AP.org:
"Judicial nominees are being denied. Justice is being denied. The solution is simple, allow senators to do their jobs and vote," Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.
No, Senator, allow senators to do their jobs and filibuster your ass.

Al Gore, winner of the popular presidential vote in 2000 was quoted in an article from AP.org available at CNN.com as saying:
"What makes it so dangerous for our country is their willingness to do serious damage to our American democracy in order to satisfy their lust for one-party domination of all three branches of government," Gore said of the GOP in a speech. "They seek nothing less than absolute power."
In a discussion on this very topic at Drudge.com, one commenter calling herself Gal Tuesday said this:
My bottom line question is this: if there is no filibuster, then doesn't the Senate's responsiblity to "advise and consent" become in effect merely a rubber stamp of every judicial nominee Bush recommends? Might as well just do away with the judicial committee of the Senate because it will merely be a sham.
As I said in a recent post, taking away the minority party's voice (no matter which party it is) removes a major check and balance to stop the majority party from getting away with too much stuff.

This isn't a partisan issue as so many Theocrats like to say. This is an issue of running government the way it is supposed to be run--with no single person or entity able to make easy, quick decisions that can change the lives of millions of Americans, or even a few. Look at the Terri Schiavo case. The Theocrats in Washington passed a law to save her life, alone. That's not what a government is for. Government is supposed to be a slow, deliberate entity that takes its time and gets it right.

But who needs getting it right when you can get your way?

Oh and anyone who thinks Gore should just shut up since he "lost" the 2000 election or because he didn't really create the Internet? Consider 2 things:

1) Gore won the popular vote in 2000 (much like Bush pointed out he had done in 2004)

2) Both Gore and Bush have said things that weren't true. Cases in point:

Gore: "I invented the Internet."

Bush: "There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

'Nuf said.

From AP.org:
Apr 28, 6:29 PM EDT

Frist Won't Budge on Filibuster Demands

By JESSE J. HOLLAND
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused to budge Thursday on his demand that Democrats forgo filibusters against all of President Bush's past or present appeals court nominations.

"Throughout this debate, we have held firm to a simple principle, judicial nominees deserve up-or-down votes," Frist said.

He offered to allow senators to retain the right to filibuster District Court nominees as part of an arrangement in which confirmation votes would be guaranteed on the nation's highest judgeships after 100 hours of debate. The Senate's top Republican also said that under his plan, senators would no longer be able to block nominees in the Judiciary Committee.

"Judicial nominees are being denied. Justice is being denied. The solution is simple, allow senators to do their jobs and vote," Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he would look at Frist's offer, but wasn't all that charitable in his description. "It's a big wet kiss to the far right," he said.

Reid said that Frist's offer would mean that Democrats would lose their ability to block Bush nominees, a condition he is not willing to accept. "After 100 hours the rights of the minority are extinguished," he responded in a corresponding Senate speech. "This has never been about the lengths of the debate. This is about checks and balances."

Frist suggested in a Thursday letter to Reid that he would be willing to set time limits on committee consideration of nominees, a proposal that Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., made last year before taking over the Judiciary Committee chairmanship.

Specter suggested that the committee be forced to hold a confirmation hearing within a month of a nomination. The panel Committee would then be forced to hold a confirmation vote within two months of the hearing. The Senate would be forced to start debating the nomination within two months of committee vote, and a final confirmation vote would happen within 30 days.

"I believe (it) is a worthy model to discuss as it applies to Circuit Court and Supreme Court nominees," Frist said in the letter.

One of Democrats' biggest complaints has been that more than 60 of President Clinton's nominees were bottled up in committee, leaving positions available for Bush to fill.

"Whether on the floor or in committee, judicial obstruction is judicial obstruction," Frist said. "It's time for judicial obstruction to end no matter which party controls the White House or the Senate."

Liberal groups almost universally panned Frist's offer, while conservatives said it was a good deal.

Frist's proposal is "a rational compromise that is more than fair to both Republicans and Democrats," said Wendy Long, lawyer for the Judicial Confirmation Network.

But Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, called Frist's compromise "political posturing to give cover for an unprincipled and unprecedented plot to break Senate rules."

Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush's appellate court choices through filibuster threats, which means those nominees would have to get 60 votes in the 100-member Senate before they could be confirmed. Democrats have threatened to block again the seven that Bush renominated this year, as well as future ones they consider outside the mainstream of legal thinking.

Republicans in turn have threatened to use their majority to change senatorial rules to require a simple majority vote for confirmation, in part because they fear a Democratic blockade could affect a Supreme Court vacancy if a high court seat opens in Bush's second term.

Frist has long said he would make a public offer to Democrats to try and resolve the filibuster problem before seeking a change in Senate rules.

Reid made his own compromise offer earlier in the week. It included allowing confirmation for three nominees - Michigan nominees Richard Griffin, David McKeague and Susan Neilson - plus one of the four most controversial nominees: Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Myers and William Pryor.

The others would be dropped.

Frist said previously that he would not accept any offer that lets Democrats filibuster past or future judicial nominees. And Reid said he would not accept any deal that keeps Democrats from blocking future nominees.

Specter wanted to advance Pryor's nomination out of the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but the vote was called off after Democrats invoked a procedural rule.

© 2005 The Associated Press
From AP.org and CNN.com:

Gore: Filibuster flap about GOP domination

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 Posted: 5:12 PM EDT (2112 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday blamed Republican "lust for one-party domination" for the GOP campaign to change Senate rules on filibustering judicial nominees, and he assailed religious zealots for driving the effort.

Wading into the political fight that has roiled the Senate, the 2000 Democratic presidential candidate and former Tennessee senator warned that altering rules that have served the nation for 230 years would result in a breakdown in the separation of powers.

"What makes it so dangerous for our country is their willingness to do serious damage to our American democracy in order to satisfy their lust for one-party domination of all three branches of government," Gore said of the GOP in a speech. "They seek nothing less than absolute power."

The Senate is bracing for a showdown over Republicans' threat to use their majority to change the parliamentary rules to ban judicial filibusters -- a tactic in which opponents can prevent a vote on a nomination with just 41 votes in the 100-member body.

Minority Democrats have used the filibuster to block confirmation votes on 10 of President Bush's appeals court choices, arguing that the nominees are too conservative for lifetime appointments.

Gore bemoaned the "outright threats and intimidations" of judges by some Republicans after recent court rulings, warning that independent judges would cower for fear of retribution.

He also cited recent comments from leaders of two conservative organizations -- the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family -- about disenfranchising certain courts or denying them funds.

"This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place," Gore said as many in the audience stood and applauded. The speech was sponsored by the liberal group MoveOn's political action committee.

Gore recalled that when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Bush v. Gore in December 2000, handing the presidency to George W. Bush, he accepted the decision.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said that "if Democrats wonder why they are the minority party, they should look no further than Al Gore's comments today. Americans have moved on, and want their leaders to focus on an agenda, rather than obstruction."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

DON'T BELIEVE THE OIL HYPE

A funny thing happened yesterday. I read about oil prices going down. I thought to myself "Hm, is this a trend? I'll have to blog on this and admit that I might have been wrong about my theory on oil going up and never coming back down."

Then, today, I find an article from AP.org available at BusinessWeek.com that reports oil has gone back up.

All right, so I was slightly wrong in that oil prices aren't on a steady climb upward. However, my guess is that from here on out, oil prices may have a few modest drops, but generally oil will only go up from here. In other words, if you can afford to invest in oil now, I'd do it now because in the coming years, prices will be higher.

Make Your Own Pinhole Camera Out of Paper

Back in the late 1970s in Communist Czechoslovakia a magazine for teens called ABC came up with a great way to get cameras into the hands of kids--print them in the pages of their magazine. Check out that pic to the left, there, to see what a finished Dirkon looks like (roughly). Now check out David Balihar's site Pinhole.cz to learn more about pinhole cameras and go here to download a PDF of this camera and instructions for assembly so you can take 35mm photographs with a pinhole camera!

Now, if they'd only update this design to take digital pics, then I'd be really happy!

DISTRIBUTED INTELLIGENCE ROBOTS FOR REAL

If you've watched Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on DVD or on Cartoon Network (or read the original GITS manga) you're familiar with those lovable sentient tanks, the Tachikoma. (GITS manga fans know the Fuchikoma.) These cute-sounding super-mobile tanks use a concept called distributed intelligence in order to function.

Think of it like 6 PDAs that get used heavily throughout the day. When one doesn't know what to do and there are no human operators around to tell it what to do, the PDA syncs with one of the other 5 PDAs in search of instructions on what to do. Now, a Canadian company has created robots that do this sort of thing for real. These aren't walking robots, but they do have tank treads but are not armed (yet). Engadget.com reports in a post:
Ottawa-based Frontline Robotics have developed robots that use distributed intelligence to make decisions as groups. The Robotic Open Control (ROC) software essentially operates by allowing the robots to elect a leader to make critical decisions at crunch times. In the event that the lead robot is unable to fulfill his duties, the team elects another.
Trippy stuff, huh? Just wait until one of them starts stuffing the ballot box then we'll see some serious Terminator shit!

Look out!!

ATARI FLASHBACK 2.0 THIS SUMMER

RETRO GAMES REJOICE!

If you like old skool games--seriously old skool game--you're in luck this summer. Atari has announced that they are releasing the Atari Flashback 2.0. You may be familiar with the current Atari Flashback that features 20 Atari 2600 games in a device that looks more like the Atari 7800 than the original game console. Well, the good news is that the FB2.0 will with look a LOT more like the Atari VCS (2600)--it will come with the original joysticks and a console featuring wood panelling.

Remember the wood panelling? Back when technology had to match your TV set and record player??

Ahhhh... sweet, sweet analog!!

Anyway, so there are no official pictures out of it yet, but Kotaku.com reports on a press release that announces a $30 price tag which is half the price of the FB1 available at the Atari.com website for $60. The even better news is that this new console features hardware that will run the original ROMs and not feature software emulation of the original hardware like other retro game systems feature.

Finally they get it right! Now, if only they'd leave the cartridge slot in so we can raid the swap meets and tag sales for cheap games!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

THE ISLAND (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining?? Looks like more of the same "insisting" type of film making director Michael Bay likes to do. Like Armageddon was an important movie or something.
Technically any good? FX look fine, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are both good actors (and easy on the eyes!) but all of the scripts Bay usually go with are general, shallow and not terribly original. The trailer for this movie looks like it's just more of the same.
How did it leave me feeling? I enjoy the premise of cloning, but this really just looks like a remake of the MST3K "classic" Parts: The Clonus Horror. When will Hollywood tire of making movies that are shallow, stupid, "important" films that move me about as far as I can budge George Bush's foreign policy?

Check out the trailer for yourself.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Don't Know Who Marla Ruzicka Was?

Raed posted a nice little piece yesterday about his experiences with Marla Ruzicka and the work she did with him in Iraq. Check it out and remember that she was not alone and died for what she believed in--helping others.

Here's hoping more of us will have the kind of effect on other lives that she did.

OK, back to the job hunt... gotta stop hitting my blogroll when I have "important" things to do!!

Let the Job Hunt Commence

Anybody know anybody who needs to hire a copywriter who can project 35mm movies?

Or perhaps write science fiction for them?

Just thought I'd ask...

Friday, April 22, 2005

WANT UNBIASED COVERAGE?

Wow, I never thought I'd find truly unbiased news reporting in the 21st century. Where did I find it? C-SPAN.org.

Now, don't get me wrong--their coverage is often quite biased because they still look at things from the middle of the left/right perspective. The reality is that there are a great many more perspectives than simply the left, the right and the center. So, when I was perusing the latest C-SPAN schedule email I get from them every day I clicked through to read more about the Capitol Spotlight for that day and read some of the most unbiased reporting I've ever read. Of course, the writing isn't from C-SPAN.org--it's actually from CQ.com--Congressional Quarterly. You can check out the Capitol Spotlight page at the C-SPAN website.

Here's the bit that I read that seemed to be a nearly embelishment-free detailing of the specific story:
Unfunded Mandates Issue Snags Progress of Energy Bill April 21, 2005
by Congressional Quarterly

Republican hopes for quick and tidy House passage of an omnibus energy bill hit turbulence today as Democrats won a procedural battle that could force a vote and perhaps lengthy debate on the most contentious provision in the legislation. Lois Capps, D-Calif., succeeded in introducing an amendment to remove from the bill a liability waiver for companies threatened by water-contamination lawsuits over a fuel additive called methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Although Republicans had blocked an earlier effort, her new proposal was in order because the Rules Committee did not specifically protect the bill from amendments regarding the 1995 Unfunded Mandate Reform Act (PL 104-4), aides said. The Congressional Budget Office earlier this week said the liability waiver represents an unfunded mandate to local governments, which would have to pay for MTBE cleanups if the bill is enacted because they could no longer sue makers of the additive to recoup those costs. GOP leaders were huddling over options for dealing with the threat to the provision.
Isn't that great? It seems mundane to point out something like this, but I do think it's important. So many "journalists" let spin or influence effect how they report on a story. These guys nail it on the head, in this blogger's humble opinion!

PRICES UP ACROSS THE BOARD

Whip inflation!

Remember that old saying from the 1970s? If you don't, you might want to say it a few times just to get used to it. It turns out prices have gone up on just about everything from oil, to food, to clothes and more. Even hotel prices spiked. Inflation is rising, too. Read more about it in an article from AP.org available over at SignOnSanDiego.com. It's a good article filled with all sorts of depressing facts. One thing it doesn't provide, however, is a reasonable explanation of inflation. You know what inflation is, right? It's so funny because everyone thinks they know what it is but they really don't.

Inflation is what happens when you add more of a thing to a supply of that thing thus driving down the value of each individual thing. All right, that's a little confusing. Let's take Star Wars figures, for instance. I was talking to my friend Mark recently about the new Star Wars movies and he told me how General Grievous is going to be the new badass of the Star Wars universe. He's got four lightsabers he stole from Jedi he has killed--like Mark said--the new badass. Mark goes on to tell me how Hasbro, the toy maker that produces Star Wars action figures, is limiting production of the General Grievous figures to just a few per case. This means the value of each Grievous figure (!!) will be high because of how rare each figure is.

Now, if they were to add to the production level and produce more Grievous figures, logically the value of each individual Grievous figure goes down. This is what happens to our money. Every time a bank loans money, it's actually creating a goodly chunk of that money from nothing since banks (I think) can loan out $10 for every $1 they take as a deposit. That makes the value of all other dollars go down. Ironically, they call this "inflation." I guess it's because the amount of total dollars out there is inflating, but really, there's no substance behind it, like inflating a balloon.

Isn't it funny how no one ever talks about it in such simple terms?

When interest rates go up, it is supposed to discourage people from taking out loans--AKA, less money will be created by the bank, thus slowing the devalueing (is that a word?) of the USD.

There are two things that make matters worse.

First, Bush 43 keeps borrowing more money from the Fed. I've blogged on it a bit in the past--if memory serves, Bush has upped his credit no fewer than 3 times since he moved into the White House (it might be more) which puts America's credit limit with the Fed at $8 trillion. That's a lot of devaluing of the dollar going on.

Now to the second thing making matters worse. In theory, our wages should be rising in rough sync with inflation--at least, that's what is always supposed to happen so we don't end up a country of poor people. Guess what...

It hasn't been--in fact, our wages as a nation have actually gone down.

Now we can't blame all of this on Bush--some of it is the system's fault. I mean, every time a loan is given out the value of the USD goes down. That's just financial physics. Kinda makes you wonder why we go with this system at all, doesn't it?

Well, the people who like the system say it has been what has allowed us to have unlimited growth. If we based everything on metals, like we did before 1913, we'd have caps on our wealth. There is only so much gold and silver in the world and that would mean we could only be so rich. Creating money from nothing means that we can grow and grow and grow.

Which makes sense, I suppose.

However, I do worry that eventually, the USD will be worth so little, we'll be the poorest country on the planet. I mean, that's the direction financial physics of inflation is invariably going in. Loans will continue to be given out (including those to the guy in the White House) and the USD will continue to drop in value--forever.

"What about all that gold in Ft. Knox?" says you?

If there's any gold left in Ft. Knox, it's owned by foreign investors.

Another thing that article I linked to at the top of this post fails to do is suggest how long these price/inflation hikes and wage drops will last. My guess is that it will last quite a while. Of course, I hope I'm wrong....From AP.org and SignOnSanDiego.com:

Prices are surging – and it's not just gasoline

By Martin Crutsinger
ASSOCIATED PRESS

2:40 p.m. April 20, 2005

WASHINGTON – Americans got hit with an economic double whammy last month. They had to pay more for gasoline, clothes, airline tickets and a lot of other products. And their wages did not keep up with inflation.

It was the second month in a row that wages, after adjusting for inflation, had fallen.

"Wages aren't keeping up with the higher prices for gasoline, health care and even clothing," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

President Bush, pressing Congress to pass his long-stalled energy plan, said the measure would boost exploration for new domestic supplies. But he acknowledged it would not come in time to help motorists facing the prospect of gasoline staying above $2 per gallon during the summer driving season.

"I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow," he told a Washington audience.

Politicians from both parties were scrambling to deal with the two new economic reports Wednesday that contained bad news for families.

The Labor Department reported that its closely watched Consumer Price Index showed prices rising by 0.6 percent in March, the biggest advance since last October, as the cost of gasoline and other energy products shot up.

And even more worrisome, prices outside of the volatile energy and food categories, rose by 0.4 percent, double what analysts had expected, and the highest increase for so-called core inflation in 2½ years.

While inflation was rising, the Labor Department said in a separate report that the average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers, after adjusting for inflation, fell by 0.3 in March after having dropped by the same amount in February. Real weekly earnings had risen by 0.2 percent in both January and December.

Underscoring that inflation pressures are mounting, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its latest survey of business conditions in the Fed's 12 regions that "price pressures have intensified in a number of districts and most report that high or rising energy prices are a concern across sectors."

The higher consumer prices and the Fed's report on rising inflation pressures led to another triple-digit loss on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 115.05 points to close at 10,012.36, the lowest close since October.

The Labor Department reported that gasoline prices climbed 7.9 percent last month, the biggest increase since an 8 percent surge in October.

Both times, the increases were driven by soaring global oil prices – a record $55 per barrel in October, a new high of $57 per barrel at the beginning of this month.

While crude oil prices have retreated recently, gasoline prices are expected to remain above $2 per gallon through the summer driving season.

So far this year, inflation at the consumer level is rising at an annual rate of 4.3 percent, compared with a 3.3 percent increase for all of 2004.

Excluding food and energy, core inflation is rising at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the first three months of this year, significantly higher than the 2.5 percent increase in 2004.

The Fed gradually has raised interest rates over the past year as a hedge against inflation. Analysts said the central bank could find itself in the difficult position of choosing between fighting slower growth by cutting interest rates, or higher inflation, which would require rate increases.

The Fed's latest survey of regional conditions said that economic growth was continuing from late February through early April but that the growth ranged from "robust" to "moderate" to "uneven."

"The Fed is caught," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "The Fed would like to keep interest rates low to keep the economy moving, but on the other hand they have to fight against inflation."

Wyss and other analysts said the Fed probably would continue to raise rates by one quarter of a percentage point at its upcoming meetings, though a one-half point jump could happen if energy-driven inflation worsened.

"Energy prices are the key wild card for the economy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com.

For March, energy costs shot up 4 percent, the biggest one-month gain since a similar rise in October. Prices for gasoline, home heating oil and natural gas all increased.

Food costs rose by 0.2 percent in March, following a gain of 0.1 percent in February. Prices for pork and fresh fruit fell.

Clothing costs, which had declined, jumped 0.8 percent in March, the biggest one-month gain in 12 months. Hotel room prices rose a record 3.9 percent.

Some analysts suggested that both increases were one-month aberrations that reflected the government's inability to adjust for the impact of an early Easter, which was in March this year.

Airline ticket prices rose by 2.7 percent, the largest increase in nearly four years, reflecting efforts to deal with surging fuel costs. Health care costs were up 0.5 percent in March after an increase of 0.6 percent in February.



On the Net:

Labor's Consumer Price Index: www.bls.gov/cpi

Federal Reserve's economic survey: www.federalreserve.gov

© Copyright 2005 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

GET YOUR SOLAR JONES ON

One of the things I've been watching for years is the development of solar energy production. There's been a lot of talk of oil and the dwindling supply of it lately and I came across a couple of things that, if you're a fellow solar-power-enthusiast (SPE?) like me, you might be interested in picking up or at the very least saving up for.

First up, we have the Voltaic backpack from VoltaicSystems.com. It's big (but not too big), can power any handheld-size gadget and even has an on-board battery for energy provisions when the sun ain't shining. Take that, all of you simpletons who always fought against solar power because of the retarded excuse "What do you do when the sun isn't out?" Click the pic to go to the product site or check out a review of the bag at TreeHugger.com. This bag lists at $229 which is not bad considering you'll never need to plug in your myriad gadgets again. And if you're like me--and I know I am (HA!), there's nothing more annoying than having to plug in your myriad gadgets every night--well, aside from forgetting to plug in your myriad gadgets every night. That really sucks.

Next up we have the SCOTTEVEST (SEV for short) which has a buttload of pockets for all of your various devices. The solar panel on back, like the Voltaic, charges a battery that can charge any device that can be powered via USB. What's more is that you can take the solar panel off if you're worried that you'll look too forward thinking in front of your friends. (Don't worry, the jacket isn't actually transparent--the pic to the left just shows you were the pockets are.) The SEV lists for $424 but a lining is extra. Is this worth it? Dunno--couldn't find a review of this jacket, but since it powers anything that takes power through USB, that makes it pretty versatile. Click the pic to go to its product page at ScottEVest.com. I'm wondering if they'll decide to release different colored versions--black is great, but maybe not for everyone.

Also, I'd love to see a version that allows you to unzip the sleeves--remember, it is called the ScottEVest, right?

Here we have the Solaris 25 portable solar panel from Brunton.com. It provides enough power to charge your laptop battery or the batteries of other large electronic gadgets (like a MiniDV camera) and, according to the description, can fold up into a package akin to a closed laptop. Pretty sweet. The only catch is the price--it lists at $400. It doesn't come with an onboard battery, but in theory could charge external rechargeables. Again, no luck finding a review (their customer service is very polite and ready to answer questions, however). Click the pic to check out its product page.

Finally we have something that doesn't use solar energy to provide electricity but does use solar energy to make water safe for human consumption. It's called an AquaPak from SolarSolutions.info. What it does is actually pasteurize water killing off germs, bacteria and so on so you don't have to drink them. This is ideal for campers or people living in third world countries with no clean water facilities to access. They can provide up to 4 gallons of safe drinking water per day and can be used for three years. For us westerners in first world countries one bag costs $20 but for emergencies, it might not be a bad idea to have one around. For third worlders AquaPaks (as the company calls them) can be produced for just 1USD per bag. Pretty cool, huh? Why do we have to pay more? Because we can afford it. Click the pic to check out the product page.

See? So, while solar power isn't as cheap as we'd like it to be, it has come a long way. Sure, it's still got some distance to go, but these are fairly affordable if you consider how much you'll save in the long run. Also, if we support this technology now, more companies will begin making solar-power products which will bring the price down.

I know solar won't solve all of our energy problems, but it can certainly solve some of them and in the face of rising oil prices and shrinking supply, isn't it a good idea to start diversifying our energy sources?

GENETIC TESTING: WHITES IN WESTERN ASIA BEFORE ASIANS

I didn't know there was a competition, but apparently there is, if you look at the way China's government has been behaving. Apparently, these two well-perserved mummys found in the Tarim Basin in China have only recently been allowed to be tested genetically to determine ethnicity thanks to the Chinese government not allowing the tests to be done. I'm not sure what they're worried about since white people aren't going to be moving to China demanding their land back. Then again, the Chinese government might be racist.

Regardless, it turns out that testing proves that Caucasians were in the Tarim Basin and most likely settled it before Asians did 4,000 years ago. Pretty wild to think about stuff from that long ago, huh?

Read more about this fascinating story in an article from www.AFP.com available at KhaleejTimes.com.From www.AFP.com and KhaleejTimes.com:

Genetic testing reveals awkward truth about Xinjiang’s famous mummies

(AFP)

19 April 2005


URUMQI, China - After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived.

The research, which the Chinese government has appeared to have delayed making public out of concerns of fueling Uighur Muslim separatism in its western-most Xinjiang region, is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades.

“It is unfortunate that the issue has been so politicized because it has created a lot of difficulties,” Victor Mair, a specialist in the ancient corpses and co-author of “Mummies of the Tarim Basin”, told AFP.

“It would be better for everyone to approach this from a purely scientific and historical perspective.”

The discoveries in the 1980s of the undisturbed 4,000-year-old ”Beauty of Loulan” and the younger 3,000-year-old body of the ”Charchan Man” are legendary in world archaeological circles for the fine state of their preservation and for the wealth of knowledge they bring to modern research.

New findings and discoveries

In historic and scientific circles the discoveries along the ancient Silk Road were on a par with finding the Egyptian mummies.

But China’s concern over its rule in restive Xinjiang has widely been perceived as impeding faster research into them and greater publicity of the findings.

The desiccated corpses, which avoided natural decomposition due to the dry atmosphere and alkaline soils in the Tarim Basin, have not only given scientists a look into their physical biologies, but their clothes, tools and burial rituals have given historians a glimpse into life in the Bronze Age.

Mair, who played a pivotal role in bringing the discoveries to Western scholars in the 1990s, has worked tirelessly to get Chinese approval to take samples out of China for definitive genetic testing.

One expedition in recent years succeeded in collecting 52 samples with the aide of Chinese researchers, but later Mair’s hosts had a change of heart and only let five of them out of the country.

“I spent six months in Sweden last year doing nothing but genetic research,” Mair said from his home in the United States where he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

“My research has shown that in the second millennium BC, the oldest mummies, like the Loulan Beauty, were the earliest settlers in the Tarim Basin.

“From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid.”

East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Mair said, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842.

“Modern DNA and ancient DNA show that Uighurs, Kazaks, Krygyzs, the peoples of Central Asia are all mixed Caucasian and East Asian. The modern and ancient DNA tell the same story,” he said.

Mair hopes to publish his new findings in the coming months.

China has only allowed the genetic studies in the last few years, with a 2004 study carried out by Jilin University also finding that the mummies’ DNA had Europoid genes, further proving that the earliest settlers of Western China were not East Asians.

Mixed opinions…

In the preface to the 2002 book, “Ancient Corpses of Xinjiang,” written by Chinese archeologist Wang Huabing, the Chinese historian and Sanskrit specialist Ji Xianlin soundly denounced the use of the mummies by Uighur separatists as proof that Xinjiang should not belong to China.

“What has stirred up the most excitement in academic circles, both in the East and the West, is the fact that the ancient corpses of “white (Caucasoid/Europid) people’ have been excavated,” Jin wrote.

“However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons, (styling) themselves the descendants of these ancient “white people’ with the aim of dividing the motherland.”

Further on, in an apparent swipe at the government’s lack of eagerness to acknowledge the science and publicize it to the world, Ji wrote, “a scientist may not distort facts for political reasons, religious reasons, or any other reason”.

Meanwhile, Yingpan Man, a nearly perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old Caucasoid mummy, was only this month allowed to leave China for the first time, and is being displayed at the Tokyo Edo Museum.

The Yingpan Man, discovered in 1995 in the region that bears his name, has been seen as the best preserved of all the undisturbed mummies that have so far been found.

Yingpan Man not only had a gold foil death mask -- a Greek tradition -- covering his blonde bearded face, but also wore elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon garments with seemingly Western European designs.

His nearly 2.00 meter (six-foot, six-inch) long body is the tallest of all the mummies found so far and the clothes and artifacts discovered in the surrounding tombs suggest the highest level of Caucasoid civilization in the ancient Tarim Basin region.

When the Yingpan Man returns from Tokyo to Urumqi where he has long been kept out of public eye, he is expected to be finally put on display when the new Xinjiang Museum opens this year.

China has hundreds of the mummies in various degrees of dessication and decomposition, including the prominent Han Chinese warrior Zhang Xiong and other Uighur mummies.

However, only a dozen or so are on permanent display in a makeshift building until the new museum is completed.

© 2004 Khaleej Times

THE NEW FOOD PYRAMID

Bored at work? Check out MyPyramid.gov and see if you can make heads or tails of the US Government's new food pyramid. Seems they might be admitting that we're not a "one size fits all" species of humans. Go figure!

Looks more like the gay pride pyramid to me. I do like the T-1000 Terminator with his pointy hands ready to kill Vasquez from aliens, though. If he's made of liquid metal, why does he need to eat right?

PROJECT BLUE BOOK ONLINE

Back in the 1950s and 60s, the United States Air Force began investigating UFOs. They wanted to determine just what they were. Random natural phenomena? Russian aircraft? Aliens? They spent years doing investigating and you can probably guess what they came up with: "nothing conclusive" or something like that.

However, if you're a UFOlogist, a person with an interest in UFO history, UFOs in general, or are just curious about how the USAF would go about such an investigation, you're in luck. Much of the Project Blue Book documentation is now available online at BlueBookArchive.org and more documents are being added every so often. If you're into this sort of thing, check it out--you might catch something that no one else has.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

LAW PASSED TO SCREEN SMUT/PUT BOOTERS IN JAIL

Wow, here's just a quicky for ya. According to an article at BusinessWeek.com, Congress has passed a law that makes it legal for people to use devices that will allow them to screen out "objectionable" material from DVDs. For instance, if you wanted to watch a 5 minute version of Robocop you could use a device to screen out all of the violence. You'd also have a pretty shitty movie. But I'm cool with anything that gives the consumer more power over the media they purchase. Of course, in an ideal world, we could all be grown-ups and simply not watch movies we think might contain objectionable material. As an artist, myself, I don't like the idea of a device that can recut my film to be less "offensive," whatever the hell that means. I guess as long as everyone understands that I wrote my projects a certain way to create a certain effect that will likely go away once the average joe starts monkeying around with it.

Speaking of purchasing media (or not purchasing media), there's a catch with that there law that just got passed. It turns out that the full title of the bill is "The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act." I added the bold there. See, this law also makes using a video camera to record a movie off a movie screen a federal offense punishable with 3-6 years in prison. It also will put anyone who shares a movie or song(s) before their commercial release behind bars for ten years.

There's government protecting the rights of citizens I mean, corporations. I think this could be described almost exactly by the word "fascism."

Huh, NEAT.

The combination of corporations and government working together to excessively punish people for committing non-violent civil crimes, while not a technical definition of fascism, is certainly close enough for me.

A wise man once said:

"There it is... take it."




A free Gmail invite to the first person who can tell me what famous Angeleno said that.

UPDATED 4/27/5 5:41pm PT:
Here's an article from NewsDay.com if you want to read more about it.

FIGHT WALMART!!

To me, it seems like an awful lot of the world's problems would go away if corporations would start putting the betterment of humankind in front of profits. I know that will never happen unless they are forced, but hey, there's no crime in dreaming about it.

Anyway, so here comes this site called WalmartWatch.com. It's a site dedicated to exposing just how harmful the mega-chain is to humanity. Not just in how they underpay their employees or even how they buy products made with sweatshop labor, but also how they are directly taking money from Americans. One of the first things you'll see on the WalmartWatch.com site is a counter counting up the dollars Wal-Mart costs American tax payers directly and indirectly through tax incentives and also forcing their underpaid employees to take advantage of food stamps, medicaid and other government programs.

It's also a great way to follow Wal-Mart in the news--usually it's the negative things that show up there, all of which help prove my point that big business does much more harm than it should. Some could even argue that they do more harm than good.

Personally, I think corporations are fine, in theory. The original corporations had death-dates they would dissolve by. However, they've long since given that up in favor of immortal lifespans that blow past their original creators. The point is that it is this "extreme corporation" mentality that allows corporations to ignore the cost of human life in favor of the cost of profits. This has got to stop--if only politicians would stop taking money from corporate interests we might actually have hope of at least slowing down big business. Alas, to pass laws stopping big biz abuse, you need the politicos.

Don't forget to check out WalmartWatch.com...

WHAT ABOUT RIGHTY DOMESTIC THREATS?

Hey, check it out, according to an article from AP.org, Democrats are actually DOING SOMETHING!! WHOA!!

Anyway, the Democrats are actually accusing the Homeland Security Department (the security mouthpiece of the Bush 43 Admin) of ignoring right wing extremist groups while lumping in environmental and animal rights groups into a pile of domestic threats that the HSD needs to keep an eye on. Isn't that nice?

The funny thing is, the right wingers are clearly the bigger threat to the American people compared to the hippie-types. Of course, most Americans don't know why this is. Back in January of 2004, I blogged about how TheMemoryHole.org had posted info and articles about a group of white supremacists who were caught red-handed with a small arsenal of weapons, explosives and chemicals. TMH in their post goes on to explain that over a hundred subpoenas were issued for further investigation on these guys. That's how serious the situation was back in May of 2003.

What ever happened to these guys?

Who knows?

Perhaps we'll find out if the Homeland Security Department actually bothers to do its job.

Why wasn't this covered by anyone in the American mainstream press?

Beats me.

Apparently, it was covered by local news in Texas where the arrests were made, but beyond that, TheMemoryHole.org was the only place I found reference to it.

OIL AT $52, US SUPPLY DROPS, GAS STILL SELLING

Just read this article from Reuters.com over at News.Yahoo.com. It talks about how the US supply of oil is down ahead of the peak summer driving season, how oil is just shy of $52 a barrel and idiot Americans keep buying gas despite the fact that gas prices are massive.

When are we going to stop buying so much gas?

I know we have to get around and therefore most of us will always need gas, but for crying out loud--where are the protests? In LA--where we apparently take our driving very seriously--gas is hovering between $2.65 and $2.75 a gallon.

We've got to start complaining about these prices--if we don't, we'll soon have to decide which we want more: cable TV or gas for our cars. Hell, as it stands it costs about the same amount of money to fill a tank as it does to pay for cable for a month. How often do you fill your tank?

I was feeling the hurt of rising gas prices two years ago when prices were still shy of $2 a gallon. I sold my car and bought a scooter. Now it costs me about $2.70 to fill my tank and I hardly ever drive thanks to living in an area where I can shop for almost anything within walking distance. This means I fill my tank maybe once or twice a month. You'll have to make a life change like this, too, if we don't do something about this.

I'm not sure what should be done, but complaining to the companies that supply our gasoline might be a start. Writing to your senators might be a good idea, too.

Oil looks like it's going to be in short supply soon which means the prices will only get higher.

Just watch...

NO QUEER FOSTER PARENTS IN TEXAS

Well, thank God for the new bill that the state of Texas is working on!! It says that fags can't be foster parents! YAY!!! Now all the kids that have no parents in the state of Texas will have even fewer opportunities to find parents!!

HOO-ZAH!

This means that even more kids will grow up without the care and nurturing parents give kids. They MAY even drop out of school and become criminals!! Wouldn't that be neat?!? Then they could get arreseted, convicted and thrown in jail! Then they'd be living off of the public dime!

All because a bunch of Texans couldn't follow God's rules!!

Those damn homos deserve to burn in hell for wanting to raise kids!!

We are a culture of life, ya know!!

dot dot dot

Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

It is true, of course--the Texas House of Reps is working on a bill that would allow the state to refuse gay couples who were interested in being foster parents. Here's a clip from an article from www.AFP.com available at News.Yahoo.com:
If the bill gains approval from the Texas Senate, the state will be allowed to investigate the backgrounds of current foster parents and remove children living in non-heterosexual households.

All future foster parents will be required to disclose their sexual preference on an application form, a legislative aide said.

The move was denounced by local activists.

"More than 43,000 gay and lesbian couples in Texas are forming families and raising children, and this attack on LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered) Texans will tear apart our families and remove our children from loving, stable families," the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas said in a statement.
Well, color me conservative, but I don't see what's so "stable" about a Transgendered parent, but on the other hand, it's not my place to judge. To me, I don't see them as transgendered so much as I see them as a man or a woman. I don't care what they used to be, just so long as they stick to what they are now. THAT creates stability. Constantly wearing your ex-gender on your sleeve creates instability in a world where genders are rarely changed.

Aaaaanyway, I think we can chalk (chock?) this one up to the stranglehold Christianity has on America right now. States making choices based on 2000 year-old rules that even 2000 years ago ignored basic realities about humanity.

So, let's hear it for old skool idiocy that keeps kids parentless in a world that desperately needs more parents!!From www.AFP.com and News.Yahoo.com:

Texas bans gay foster parents

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill banning homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals from being foster parents.

If the bill gains approval from the Texas Senate, the state will be allowed to investigate the backgrounds of current foster parents and remove children living in non-heterosexual households.

All future foster parents will be required to disclose their sexual preference on an application form, a legislative aide said.

The move was denounced by local activists.

"More than 43,000 gay and lesbian couples in Texas are forming families and raising children, and this attack on LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered) Texans will tear apart our families and remove our children from loving, stable families," the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas said in a statement.

"In an already over-burdened foster care system, the effect of reducing the pool of foster parents does nothing to protect Texas children," it added.

© 2005 Agence France Presse

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NEW POPE IN THE HITLER YOUTH! WOW!

Don't worry--I don't think this means he's a Nazi. I don't even think he should be judged any differently because he was in the Hitler Youth. I've actually met another man who was in the Hitler Youth when he was young and the man has nothing against Jews now and never did. Just because you were in the Hitler Youth doesn't mean you hate Jews. What's the big deal about Ratzinger/Benedict XVI being a ex-Hitler Youthian? I think it should be interesting to see how often this fact is mentioned. It is, after all, apparently true. According to the FAQ at RatzingerFanClub.com:
The truth is that as Ratzinger mentions himself in Milestones: Memoirs: 1927 - 1977, he and his brother George were both enrolled in the Hitler Youth (at a time when membership was compulsory), and discusses family life under the Third Reich in chapters 2-4 of his autobiography.


I also find it interesting how people will no doubt find talk of Benedict XVI's past in the Hitler Youth completely offensive. He's the Pope! But facts are facts... we've all got to grow up and realize that even the Pope could have been part of the Hitler's machine. So were American capitalists and bankers. Don't forget that George W. Bush's grand dad, Senator Prescott Bush was a banker to the bankroller of that same Hitler machine. If anything, King George has a pretty tight in with the new Pope thanks to their shared connections with Nazi Germany.

I kid the Pope and Bush because I love them... or not.

UPDATE 4/20/5 11:35am PT: Just came across this article at UK.News.Yahoo.com that quotes Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's big bro as saying that Ratzy is probably too old to be Pope. Here are his exact words:
"I am very concerned. I would have thought his advanced age and his health which is not very stable would have been reason enough for the cardinals to pick someone else," said a visibly moved in an interview on German television after the election of his 78-year-old brother.
The age cut-off point for popes apparently is 80 years of age. So, Ratzy beat it by just 730 days (or so). Seems like age would be enough of a concern but throw in the unstable health his bro mentioned and it's like "God chose him?"

Better start hoarding Benedict XVI collectibles because they're going to be rare!!

There I go, kidding about the Pope. This freedom of speech thing is fun. Good thing I don't have a job to lose :D

(ALMOST) BEAT THERMAL CAMERAS

OK, this isn't a gadget story directly--but it is about how to beat a gadget. The gadget in question is a thermal camera. This is a camera that picks up heat signatures of people. Well, according to a post at DefenseTech.org (found via Gizmodo.com), there's an Italian company called Intermat that is producing a fabric and a cream that will help mask the wearer's heat signature. While it doesn't fake out thermal cameras completely, it does make the person much harder to see, much like the thermoptic camouflage used by the characters in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Of course, in GITS, they're nearly invisible to the naked eye--where as with the cream you're only nearly invisible to thermal cameras. Regular cameras can see you just fine.

Hey, nothing's perfect. However, if you're a commando, this stuff could keep you alive at night or in the dark.

On a side note, anyone know what's up with Engadget.com, Kotaku.com and Hackaday.com? I can't get any of them to come up. I need my gadget fixes!!

WOMAN DITCHES DIABETES WITH TRANSPLANT

Japanese scientists transplanted insulin producing cells from a woman's pancreas into her daughter, who was diabetic only to discover that she was no longer diabetic after the transplant. The woman suffered from type 1 diabetes and had to have daily insulin shots to keep her glucose (blood sugar) levels where they need to be. All of this has been published in the medical journal The Lancet according to a post at EarthTimes.org.

Here's a quick clip from that post:
In Japan on January 19 this year, Kyoto University Hospital’s Shinichi Matsumoto and his team isolated islet cells from the 56-year-old woman and planted them into her daughter’s liver. The patient’s blood glucose levels were watched on a regular basis and she was subsequently taken off insulin. In about 22 days after the operation, the diabetes victim became insulin-independent and has so far remained that way. No complications have been seen in both the donor and the recipient and doctors are hopeful that the islet cell transplant would last up to five years.
Wow--it seems so simple. I'm surprised no one's thought of something like this before. Let's hope it works for all those people who suffer diabetes.

ACTIVIST JUDGES ON BOTH "SIDES"

It seems like we're hearing nothing from the Republicans but how battered they are by their opposition, the minority. Republicans tells us with every step they take, the minority is being partisan--using political and personal motivations to guide their decisions. A popular target of Republicans is the infamous activist judge!

Well, many of us on the "left" or "center" (where yours truly is located) feel that Republicans calling certain judges "activist" is like the pot calling the kettle black. This opinion is shared by Adam Cohen who has written an opinion piece available right now at NYTimes.com. Here's a taste:
The idea that liberal judges are advocates and partisans while judges like Justice Scalia are not is being touted everywhere these days, and it is pure myth. Justice Scalia has been more than willing to ignore the Constitution's plain language, and he has a knack for coming out on the conservative side in cases with an ideological bent. The conservative partisans leading the war on activist judges are just as inconsistent: they like judicial activism just fine when it advances their own agendas.

...

Conservative politicians insist that courts should defer to the democratically elected branches, but conservative judges do not seem to be listening. The Supreme Court's conservative majority regularly overturns laws passed by Congress, like the Violence Against Women Act and the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The court has even established a bizarre series of hoops Congress must jump through to pass a law protecting Americans' 14th Amendment equal-protection rights. Congress must prove in many cases that the law it passed is "congruent" and "proportional" to the harm being addressed. Even John Noonan Jr., an appeals court judge appointed by President Reagan, has said these new rules - which Justice Scalia eagerly embraces - reduce Congress to the level of an "administrative agency."
More hypocrisy from those in charge--who just happen to be Republicans.From NYTimes.com:

Psst ... Justice Scalia ... You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too

By ADAM COHEN

Published: April 19, 2005

Not since the 1960's, when federal judges in the South were threatened by cross burnings and firebombs, have judges been so besieged. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, set off a furor when he said judges could be inviting physical attacks with controversial decisions. And last week the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, called for an investigation of the federal judges in the Terri Schiavo case, saying ominously: "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts."

Conservatives claim that they are rising up against "activist judges," who decide cases based on their personal beliefs rather than the law. They frequently point to Justice Antonin Scalia as a model of honest, "strict constructionist" judging. And Justice Scalia has eagerly embraced the hero's role. Last month, after the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for those under 18, he lashed out at his colleagues for using the idea of a "living Constitution" that evolves over time to hand down political decisions - something he says he would never do.

The idea that liberal judges are advocates and partisans while judges like Justice Scalia are not is being touted everywhere these days, and it is pure myth. Justice Scalia has been more than willing to ignore the Constitution's plain language, and he has a knack for coming out on the conservative side in cases with an ideological bent. The conservative partisans leading the war on activist judges are just as inconsistent: they like judicial activism just fine when it advances their own agendas.

Justice Scalia's views on federalism - which now generally command a majority on the Supreme Court - are perhaps the clearest example of the problem with the conservative attack on judicial activism. When conservatives complain about activist judges, they talk about gay marriage and defendants' rights. But they do not mention the 11th Amendment, which has been twisted beyond its own plain words into a states' rights weapon to throw minorities, women and the disabled out of federal court.

The 11th Amendment says federal courts cannot hear lawsuits against a state brought by "Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." But it's been interpreted to block suits by a state's own citizens - something it clearly does not say. How to get around the Constitution's express words? In a 1991 decision, Justice Scalia wrote that "despite the narrowness of its terms," the 11th Amendment has been understood by the court "to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms." If another judge used that rationale to find rights in the Constitution, Justice Scalia's reaction would be withering. He went on, in that 1991 decision, to throw out a suit by Indian tribes who said they had been cheated by the State of Alaska.

Conservative politicians insist that courts should defer to the democratically elected branches, but conservative judges do not seem to be listening. The Supreme Court's conservative majority regularly overturns laws passed by Congress, like the Violence Against Women Act and the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The court has even established a bizarre series of hoops Congress must jump through to pass a law protecting Americans' 14th Amendment equal-protection rights. Congress must prove in many cases that the law it passed is "congruent" and "proportional" to the harm being addressed. Even John Noonan Jr., an appeals court judge appointed by President Reagan, has said these new rules - which Justice Scalia eagerly embraces - reduce Congress to the level of an "administrative agency."

Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go. In his view, the 14th Amendment prohibits Michigan from using affirmative action in college admissions, but lets Texas make gay sex a crime. (The Supreme Court has held just the opposite.) He is dismissive when inmates invoke the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to challenge prison conditions. But he is supportive when wealthy people try to expand the "takings clause" to block the government from regulating their property.

The inconsistency of the conservative war on judges was apparent in the Terri Schiavo ordeal. Mr. DeLay, an outspoken critic of activist courts, does not want to investigate the federal trial judge and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit for judicial activism, but for the opposite: for refusing to overturn the Florida state courts' legal decisions, and Michael Schiavo's decisions about his wife's medical care.

The classic example of conservative inconsistency remains Bush v. Gore. Not only did the court's conservative bloc trample on the Florida state courts and stop the vote counting - it declared its ruling would not be a precedent for future cases. How does Justice Scalia explain that decision? In a recent New Yorker profile, he is quoted as saying, with startling candor, that "the only issue was whether we should put an end to it, after three weeks of looking like a fool in the eyes of the world." That, of course, isn't a constitutional argument - it is an unapologetic defense of judicial activism.

When it comes to judicial activism, conservative judges are no better than liberal ones - and, it must be said, no worse. If conservatives are going to continue their war on the judiciary, though, they should be honest. They do not want to get rid of judicial activists, a standard that would bring down even Justice Scalia. They want to rid the courts of judges who disagree with them.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

ROVE BACKS DELAY

Rove backs up DeLay, calls critics 'desperate' (WashingtonTimes.com)

Well, it only makes sense that someone who is well known for having shady ethics, himself, should back a guy with ethics problems.

Karl Rove, I wish you had been picked on less as a child. However, your adult life is not where you get payback. You're helping criminals (and probably are one yourself) get more power. I know you're not Christian because if you were, you'd know you're going to hell.

I just wish there was one so I'd know you'd be getting yours in the end. Well, let's just hope you get your ass handed to you in the meantime, then.

UPDATE: OH yeah! You can learn more about Karl Rove and how he was picked on in childhood by checking out Bush's Brain which is both a documentary on DVD and a book. You can also read my Pocket Review of the documentary.

Monday, April 18, 2005

BUSH LIKES HIS PRIVACY

In an article from AP.org, Bush 43 is quoted as saying that he believes in open government. He literally said that--that's almost an exact quote. This is funny since he lies about his programs' successes and failures in fake news propaganda stories and holds a tiny amount of press conferences. However, he's even more full of crap, read what else he said when addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors:
I've always believed in open government. I don't e-mail, however. And there's a reason: I don't want you reading my personal stuff.

...

"You're entitled to how I make decisions and you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to read my mail between my daughters and me."
Wow, well, according to the Patriot Act YOU are entitled to read our emails and follow us around on the Internet--does that seem fair?

And GUESS WHAT, GEORGIE--we are entitled to know what you're using company computers for. Get it? The US Government is supposed to be of the people for the people--we're your boss dickweed. We're entitled to know a helluva lot more than just what you're telling your daughters on the company computers.

Hell, man, everyone knows that email is perfectly un-private. That's why you don't use it--which is your right, certainly, but why is it also your right as a government employee to digitally follow me around on the 'net? Gotta thank the Patriot "Act" for that. The answer is: you don't have the right. Before that act, law enforcement authorities needed a warrant to follow someone around. Now they don't need one as long as they have suspicion that you might be up to something terroristy.

Great--trusting the USG with deciding who's a terrorist and who isn't.

They did SUCH a good job with Sadam Hussein. He had all of NOTHING to do with 911, meanwhile, bin Laden is still out there.

It's SO nice to have King George let us know what we're "entitled" to.

Thanks, your Highness.

Oh and want to learn more about secrecy in the Bush 43 Administration? Check out what else that article linked to above talks about:
Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project, said, "Protecting the president's personal e-mail does not in any way justify the pattern of withholding that we've seen."

Aftergood said classification activity is increasing, records are being withdrawn from government Web sites and access barriers are being put in place at reading rooms at federal agencies.

"Information which used to be easy to obtain is now difficult or impossible to get," he said. "Trivial things such as the Pentagon phone directory have been marked for official use only and are no longer public."


Has anyone else aside from me noticed that Al Qeada is nowhere near the threat the Soviet Union ever was? So, why all the excessive secrecy?From AP.org:
Apr 15, 9:08 AM EDT

Bush Says His Privacy Must Be Protected

By DEB RIECHMANN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush said Thursday that the public should know as much as possible about government decision-making, but national security and personal privacy - including his - need to be protected.

"I believe in open government," Bush said at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "I've always believed in open government. I don't e-mail, however. And there's a reason: I don't want you reading my personal stuff."

Bush once was a prolific e-mailer. But he signed off from cyberspace just before taking office in 2001 after lawyers told him that his presidential e-mail communications would be subject to legal and archival requirements.

"There's got to be a certain sense of privacy," Bush said. "You're entitled to how I make decisions and you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to read my mail between my daughters and me."

White House records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which allows reporters and others to obtain unclassified government records that officials would not otherwise release.

Official presidential documents are subject to eventual release under the federal Presidential Records Act unless they are classified or otherwise exempt for reasons, including personal privacy.

Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project, said, "Protecting the president's personal e-mail does not in any way justify the pattern of withholding that we've seen."

Aftergood said classification activity is increasing, records are being withdrawn from government Web sites and access barriers are being put in place at reading rooms at federal agencies.

"Information which used to be easy to obtain is now difficult or impossible to get," he said. "Trivial things such as the Pentagon phone directory have been marked for official use only and are no longer public."

Claiming national security concerns, the Bush administration clamped down on declassification of government documents after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The trend toward keeping more government information secret began even before that and those who advocate for openness in government are worried that the freedom of U.S. citizens is eroding with every file they are not allowed to read.

Just a month after the terrorist attacks, the administration set a higher threshold for releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Clinton administration, federal agencies were urged to resolve disclosure decisions by releasing, not withholding, government information. In October 2001, however, former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed that policy.

In a memo, Ashcroft required federal agencies to carefully consider national security, law enforcement concerns and personal privacy before releasing information. Ashcroft reassured the agencies that the Justice Department would defend their decisions not to release any information there was a "sound legal basis" for withholding.

Bush said he knows there is "tension" about how the government decides what can be released without jeopardizing the fight against terrorism and that there's a "suspicion" his administration is too security-conscious.

He said he will review a Senate bill to create a 16-member panel that would recommend ways to speed FOIA requests, which can drag on for years.

"We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that would help put a free press' mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see," Bush told the editors.

"I will tell you, though, I am worried about things getting in the press that puts people's lives at risk. It's that judgment about what would put someone's life at risk and what doesn't is where there's tension," the president said.

Bush refused to discuss a high-profile case about a news column that disclosed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her name was first published in a 2003 column by Robert Novak, who cited two unidentified senior administration officials as his sources.

The White House has been criticized for outing Plame's identity. Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times have refused to disclose their sources, which federal prosecutors say have stalled their case into who leaked the information.

Asked whether he thought the reporters were right not to reveal their sources, Bush said: "You think I'm going there? You're crazy."

© 2005 The Associated Press

CONGRESS: FAKE NEWS SHOULD BE BANNED

Don't worry--this isn't an attack on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This is an attack on the Bush 43 Admin for their practice of producing commercials for various government programs, the catch is, they make these commercials look like news reports complete with fake reporters and NO disclaimers. I've blogged on this a bunch of times and the funny thing about the Senate wanting to ban this practice is that it's already illegal. In fact, it's already a violation of federal law--or so says the General Accountability Office. Read my blog post about it.

Yep, in case you missed it the last few times I blogged about it, the Bush 43 Admin is in violation of federal law. I'd imagine that would be an impeachable offense.

So, now we live in a country where you need not just one law banning government propaganda, but two. Hell, I think I might just write Senator Boxer about this.

Read more about the Senate's move to ban fake news at AP.org.From AP.org:
Apr 15, 5:12 PM EDT

Senate Votes to Ban Video News Releases

By LAURIE KELLMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate passed a measure Thursday that would stop government agencies from using taxpayer funds to disguise video press releases as real news, putting the brakes on a product Democrats call propaganda. President Bush cautioned that some responsibility for full disclosure rests with news outlets.

"It's deceptive to the American people if it's not disclosed," Bush told the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Thursday. "But it's incumbent upon people who use them to say, 'This news clip was produced by the federal government.'"

Senators voted 98-0 to attach the measure, sponsored by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to the $80.6 billion emergency spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under it, taxpayer funds would be prohibited from being used for prepackaged news stories unless those stories contain "clear notification within the text or audio of the prepackaged news" that discloses it was prepared or funded by a federal agency.

That way, said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the authors of the packages cannot be held liable for news outlets that do not disclose the funding source on their own.

The amendment writes into law a Government Accountability Office opinion that said the Bush administration has violated rules against "publicity and propaganda" with releases from several agencies.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy, for example, released a series of videos in which a narrator, sometimes identified as "Karen Ryan," said she was "reporting" on the office's activities. Separately, the Health and Human Services Department's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services produced video news releases, also narrated by "Karen Ryan," touting changes to Medicare.

The tapes were offered to local television stations for news programs. Some stations aired the videos without identifying their government origins.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on March 11 countered that the GAO report "fails to recognize the distinction between covert propaganda and purely informational video news reports."

In other action on the spending bill, the Senate voted to:

-Prohibit military hospitals from charging soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan for meals.

-Change the name of the death benefit given to soldiers' families from "death gratuity" to "fallen hero compensation."

-Provide $5 million to promote democracy in Lebanon.

© 2005 The Associated Press

Friday, April 15, 2005

PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY?

...I don't think so:



UPDATE 4/18/5 12:08pm PT: According to this article from FT.com and News.Yahoo.com, the Japanese stock market took a bit of a dive today. Seems like investing is a quite a gamble these days. I mean, more than usual.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

REPUBLICANS CAUSE US TO LOSE MORE RIGHTS

Wow, what do you do when you have near total control over a government? Get the last semblances of checks or balances out of the way. That way you can pass all the laws you want without anything resembling dissent (well, dissent that matters) and rule the country as an essential dictatorship.

Odds are you've heard the phrase "checks and balances" right? Do you know what it means? You probably do. But I'll review it now since so many Americans seem blissfully unaware of the true concept.

See, the founding fathers had this idea that a government shouldn't be too powerful so they divided the US federal government up into three peices. There was no such thing as parties the way we know them now, so keeping the government slightly decentralized meant that no one part of it could do too much without the other parts agreeing.

This plan works until the guy who runs one portion of the government stacks the other parts of the government with his buddies. You know them today as the Republican party. In theory, the so-called "two-party system" works fine until one has the majority. You know that majority in modern times as, again, the Republican party.

However, there is one thing that can stop the majority from getting their way--it's called the filibuster. It essentially allows the minority to indefinitely hold up voting on a particular piece of legislation by giving a speech until the majority caves.

This has been a basic part of American politics for a very long time and it is, essentially, the one thing that guarantees the minority (regardless of party) gets to have a say.

Predictably enough, Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (a Republican), wants to see the filibuster done away with.

They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts... absolutely.

Well, for Frist and other Republicans, majority in the Legislative and the Judicial branches of the USG and full power in the Executive branch just isn't enough. They want it all.

With the filibuster taken away, what would stop Congress from passing a law saying that Bush can stay in the White House indefinitely? This is just a hypothetical question, of course, but the non-hypothetical answer is: nothing.

Read more about this in an article at WashingtonPost.com.

For more on the good idea that the filibuster is, check out SaveTheFilibuster.org--but don't stop reading this post just yet...

Frist isn't stopping at banning the filibuster, he's also going to, as an article at NYTimes.com reports, "join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees."

So, not only does he want to stop the minority from having a say, he's attacking their character--accusing the minority of blocking nominees and legislation not because of legitimate concerns, but because they are against Christians.

If you can't see what's wrong with that, you need to grow up and get interested in protecting the true American Way of life.

From WashingtonPost.com:

Frist Likely to Push for Ban on Filibusters

Failure Risks Conservatives' Ire; Success May Prompt Legislative Stalemate

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 15, 2005; Page A04

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is all but certain to press for a rule change that would ban filibusters of judicial nominations in the next few weeks, despite misgivings by some of his fellow Republicans and a possible Democratic backlash that could paralyze the chamber, close associates said yesterday.

The strategy carries significant risks for the Tennessee Republican, who is weighing a 2008 presidential bid. It could embroil the Senate in a bitter stalemate that would complicate passage of President Bush's agenda and raise questions about Frist's leadership capabilities. Should he fail to make the move or to get the necessary votes, however, Frist risks the ire of key conservative groups that will play big roles in the 2008 GOP primaries.

Frist feels he has no acceptable options to seeking the rule change unless there is a last-minute compromise, which neither party considers plausible, according to senators and aides close to the situation. "I think it's going to happen," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said this week, although he would prefer that Frist wait to allow more legislation to pass before the Senate explodes in partisan recriminations. Aides privy to senior Republicans' thinking concur with Thune.

In response to the rising stakes and sense of an inevitable showdown, Frist and his allies are churning out speeches, articles and talking points, and enlisting the aid of Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the National Republican Committee. Frist said he is trying to catch up to Democrats and their allies, who set up a Capitol "war room" and are spending millions of dollars on TV ads denouncing the proposed rule change -- or "nuclear option" -- as a power grab.

Frist aides said he still hopes to offer a compromise Democrats might accept, but Democrats who have spoken with him say they would be astonished if he presents something they could go along with.

Democrats have used the filibuster to prevent confirmation votes this year for seven of President Bush's appellate court nominees, whom the Democrats say are too conservative. Filibusters can be stopped only by 60 votes in the 100-member Senate. Republicans, who hold 55 seats, say the filibusters thwart the Senate's constitutional duty to approve or reject a president's appointees. Democrats say the Founding Fathers wanted to empower the Senate's minority members to slow or stop controversial legislation and nominees.

While Democrats and Republicans alike say the filibuster issue is a matter of high principles and constitutional rights, Frist's choice is inextricably linked to presidential politics. At least two GOP colleagues who are pressing him to seek the rule change -- George Allen (Va.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.) -- also are weighing presidential bids. Both of them are wooing key conservatives clamoring for the filibuster ban.

Some independent analysts say that Frist -- a comparative newcomer to politics who unexpectedly gained the majority leader's post in early 2003 -- has created his own dilemma, and his handling of it will be an sign of whether he has the skills to seriously vie for the White House.

"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don't see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn't come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can't get anything done. I think the guy's in a real jam."

Conservative activists are giving Frist little wiggle room. "If Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hopes to capture the Republican nomination for president in 2008, then he has to see to it that the Bush judicial nominees are confirmed," Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, wrote in a recent article. "If he fails, then he is dead as a presidential wannabe."

Frist says he is basing his decision on constitutional principles, not politics. "I just want a reasonable up-or-down vote on the judicial nominees that come to the floor," he said this week, so that senators can "give advice and consent, which is our constitutional responsibility. It is something that we absolutely must have."

Frist had mixed results yesterday in his scramble to find 50 Republicans who will promise to vote for the rule change (Vice President Cheney could break a 50-50 tie in Frist's favor). Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said he will side with his party's leader, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC, "I will vote against the nuclear option . . . because we won't always be in the majority."

Some allies say Frist can burnish his image if he wins the judicial nominations fight. "From a political point of view, if he's forced to change the Senate rules to end the filibusters, that will only help him in the Republican primary for president," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former presidential candidate. "It's a top issue among most Republican primary voters."

Alexander said Democrats "are badly misreading this politically" if they think the public would blame Republicans for a Senate breakdown orchestrated by Democrats. GOP aides say Frist has drawn the same conclusion. Nonetheless, Senate Democrats are vowing a scorched-earth response, noting that a single senator can dramatically slow down the chamber's work by insisting on time-consuming procedures that are normally bypassed by "unanimous consent."

They also are portraying Frist as a tool of GOP extremists. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), asked this week if the radical right is driving Frist and his lieutenants, replied: "If they decide to do this, which it appears they are going to, the answer is unequivocally -- underlined, underscored -- yes."

Santorum and Allen, meanwhile, are pressing Frist to act. "We've got to go for it, call their bluff," Allen said in an interview. In talking with Frist, he said, "I've been prodding, goading, encouraging such action. I think we need to move sooner rather than later."

"If there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court" -- which many senators expect this summer -- "we want the playing field set," said Allen, a former college football player. But only Frist, he said, "can call the snap."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
From NYTimes.com:

Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

Published: April 15, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 14 - As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Organizers say they hope to reach more than a million people by distributing the telecast to churches around the country, over the Internet and over Christian television and radio networks and stations.

Dr. Frist's spokesman said the senator's speech in the telecast would reflect his previous remarks on judicial appointments. In the past he has consistently balanced a determination "not to yield" on the president's nominees with appeals to the Democrats for compromise. He has distanced himself from the statements of others like the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, who have attacked the courts, saying they are too liberal, "run amok" or are hostile to Christianity.

The telecast, however, will put Dr. Frist in a very different context. Asked about Dr. Frist's participation in an event describing the filibuster "as against people of faith," his spokesman, Bob Stevenson, did not answer the question directly.

"Senator Frist is doing everything he can to ensure judicial nominees are treated fairly and that every senator has the opportunity to give the president their advice and consent through an up or down vote," Mr. Stevenson said, adding, "He has spoken to groups all across the nation to press that point, and as long as a minority of Democrats continue to block a vote, he will continue to do so."

Some of the nation's most influential evangelical Protestants are participating in the teleconference in Louisville, including Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson, the born-again Watergate figure and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The event is taking place as Democrats and Republicans alike are escalating their public relations campaigns in anticipation of an imminent confrontation. The Democratic minority has blocked confirmation of 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees by preventing Republicans from gaining the 60 votes needed to close debate, using the filibuster tactic often used by political minorities and most notoriously employed by opponents of civil rights.

Dr. Frist has threatened that the Republican majority might change the rules to require only a majority vote on nominees, and Democrats have vowed to bring Senate business to a standstill if he does.

On Thursday, one wavering Republican, Senator John McCain of Arizona, told a television interviewer, Chris Matthews, that he would vote against the change.

"By the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we, effectively, in the Judiciary Committee blocked a number of his nominees," Mr. McCain said.

On Thursday the Judiciary Committee sent the nomination of Thomas B. Griffith for an appellate court post to the Senate floor. Democrats say they do not intend to block Mr. Griffith's nomination.

That cleared the way for the committee to approve several previously blocked judicial appointees in the next two weeks.

The telecast also signals an escalation of the campaign for the rule change by Christian conservatives who see the current court battle as the climax of a 30-year culture war, a chance to reverse decades of legal decisions about abortion, religion in public life, gay rights and marriage.

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group's Web site. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."

Democrats accused Dr. Frist of exploiting religious faith for political ends by joining the telecast. "No party has a monopoly on faith, and for Senator Frist to participate in this kind of telecast just throws more oil on the partisan flames," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

But Mr. Perkins stood by the characterization of Democrats as hostile to faith. "What they have done is, they have targeted people for reasons of their faith or moral position," he said, referring to Democratic criticisms of nominees over their views of cases about abortion rights or public religious expressions.

"The issue of the judiciary is really something that has been veiled by this 'judicial mystique' so our folks don't really understand it, but they are beginning to connect the dots," Mr. Perkins said in an interview, reciting a string of court decisions about prayer or displays of religion.

"They were all brought about by the courts," he said.

Democrats, for their part, are already stepping up their efforts to link Dr. Frist and the rule change with conservatives statements about unaccountable judges hostile to faith.

On Thursday, Mr. Schumer released an open letter calling on Dr. Frist to denounce such attacks. "The last thing we need is inflammatory rhetoric which on its face encourages violence against judges," he wrote.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company