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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IMPEACHY KEEN ON BUSH

The following clip is from an article from the Boston Globe available at Boston.com:
THE IMPEACHMENT of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse.

Minutes from a summer 2002 meeting involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveal that the Bush administration was ''fixing" the intelligence to justify invading Iraq. US intelligence used to justify the war demonstrates repeatedly the truth of the meeting minutes -- evidence was thin and needed fixing.

President Clinton was impeached for perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing Clinton's misbehavior to a destructive and costly war occupation launched in March 2003 under false pretenses in violation of domestic and international law certainly merits introduction of an impeachment resolution.

Eighty-nine members of Congress have asked the president whether intelligence was manipulated to lead the United States to war. The letter points to British meeting minutes that raise ''troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war." Those minutes describe the case for war as ''thin" and Saddam as ''nonthreatening to his neighbors," and ''Britain and America had to create conditions to justify a war." Finally, military action was ''seen as inevitable . . . But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."


This is why all Republicans who aren't persuing impeachment proceedings (whether said Republicans are politicians or not) are hypocrites for not standing up for their own principles and impeaching when the rules are broken. In this case, it's not just the rules, but the law--both domestic and International Law.

Kofi Annan even tried to point it out once but he was told to shut up by the USG.

Read that Boston Globe article at Boston.com for more info.

You can also read about the likelihood of a Bush Impeachment in an opinion peice at CommonDreams.org.

From Boston.com:

The 'I' word

By Ralph Nader and Kevin Zeese | May 31, 2005

THE IMPEACHMENT of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse.

Minutes from a summer 2002 meeting involving British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveal that the Bush administration was ''fixing" the intelligence to justify invading Iraq. US intelligence used to justify the war demonstrates repeatedly the truth of the meeting minutes -- evidence was thin and needed fixing.

President Clinton was impeached for perjury about his sexual relationships. Comparing Clinton's misbehavior to a destructive and costly war occupation launched in March 2003 under false pretenses in violation of domestic and international law certainly merits introduction of an impeachment resolution.

Eighty-nine members of Congress have asked the president whether intelligence was manipulated to lead the United States to war. The letter points to British meeting minutes that raise ''troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war." Those minutes describe the case for war as ''thin" and Saddam as ''nonthreatening to his neighbors," and ''Britain and America had to create conditions to justify a war." Finally, military action was ''seen as inevitable . . . But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Indeed, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor any imminent threat to the United States:

The International Atomic Energy Agency Iraq inspection team reported in 1998, ''there were no indications of Iraq having achieved its program goals of producing a nuclear weapon; nor were there any indications that there remained in Iraq any physical capability for production of amounts of weapon-usable material." A 2003 update by the IAEA reached the same conclusions.

The CIA told the White House in February 2001: ''We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has . . . reconstitute[d] its weapons of mass destruction programs."

Colin Powell said in February 2001 that Saddam Hussein ''has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."

The CIA told the White House in two Fall 2002 memos not to make claims of Iraq uranium purchases. CIA Director George Tenet personally called top national security officials imploring them not to use that claim as proof of an Iraq nuclear threat.

Regarding unmanned bombers highlighted by Bush, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center concluded they could not carry weapons spray devices. The Defense Intelligence Agency told the president in June 2002 that the unmanned aerial bombers were unproven. Further, there was no reliable information showing Iraq was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether it had established chemical agent production facilities.

When discussing WMD the CIA used words like ''might" and ''could." The case was always circumstantial with equivocations, unlike the president and vice president, e.g., Cheney said on Aug. 26, 2002: ''Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

The State Department in 2003 said: ''The activities we have detected do not . . . add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing . . . an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."

The National Intelligence Estimate issued in October 2002 said ''We have no specific intelligence information that Saddam's regime has directed attacks against US territory."

The UN, IAEA, the State and Energy departments, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center, US inspectors, and even the CIA concluded there was no basis for the Bush-Cheney public assertions. Yet, President Bush told the public in September 2002 that Iraq ''could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given." And, just before the invasion, President Bush said: ''Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

The president and vice president have artfully dodged the central question: ''Did the administration mislead us into war by manipulating and misstating intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al Qaeda, suppressing contrary intelligence, and deliberately exaggerating the danger a contained, weakened Iraq posed to the United States and its neighbors?"

If this is answered affirmatively Bush and Cheney have committed ''high crimes and misdemeanors." It is time for Congress to investigate the illegal Iraq war as we move toward the third year of the endless quagmire that many security experts believe jeopardizes US safety by recruiting and training more terrorists. A Resolution of Impeachment would be a first step. Based on the mountains of fabrications, deceptions, and lies, it is time to debate the ''I" word.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate. Kevin Zeese is director of DemocracyRising.US.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


From CommonDreams.org:
Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

Impeachment Fever and Media Politics

by Norman Solomon

If you think President Bush should be impeached, it's time to get serious.

We're facing huge obstacles -- and they have nothing to do with legal standards for impeachment. This is all about media and politics.

Five months into 2005, the movement to impeach Bush is very small. And three enormous factors weigh against it: 1) Republicans control Congress. 2) Most congressional Democrats are routinely gutless. 3) Big media outlets shun the idea that the president might really be a war criminal.

For now, we can't end the GOP's majority. But we could proceed to light a fire under congressional Democrats. And during the next several weeks, it's possible to have major impacts on news media by launching a massive educational and "agitational" campaign -- spotlighting the newly leaked Downing Street Memo and explaining why its significance must be pursued as a grave constitutional issue.

The leak of the memo weeks ago, providing minutes from a high-level meeting that Prime Minister Tony Blair held with aides in July 2002, may be the strongest evidence yet that Bush is guilty of an impeachable offense. As Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in late May:

* "First, the memo appears to directly contradict the administration's assertions to Congress and the American people that it would exhaust all options before going to war. According to the minutes, in July 2002, the administration had already decided to go to war against Iraq."

* "Second, a debate has raged in the United States over the last year and one half about whether the obviously flawed intelligence that falsely stated that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was a mere 'failure' or the result of intentional manipulation to reach foreordained conclusions supporting the case for war. The memo appears to close the case on that issue stating that in the United States the intelligence and facts were being 'fixed' around the decision to go to war."

The May 26 launch of www.AfterDowningStreet.org comes from a coalition of solid progressive groups opting to take on this issue with a step-by-step approach that recognizes the need to build a case in the arena of media and politics. The coalition is calling for a Resolution of Inquiry in the House of Representatives that would require a formal investigation by the Judiciary Committee.

"The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq," attorney John C. Bonifaz recently wrote to Conyers. "If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution: 'The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.'"

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war -- and the argument can be made that White House deception in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq amounted to a criminal assault on that constitutional provision. But "high crimes and misdemeanors" is a very general term. And history tells us that in Washington's pivotal matrix of media and politics, crimes of war have rarely even registered on the impeachment scale.

In 1974, President Nixon avoided impeachment only by resigning soon after the Judiciary Committee, by a 27-11 vote, approved a recommendation that the full House impeach him for obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal. Only 12 members of the committee voted to include Nixon's illegal bombing of Cambodia -- and his lies about that bombing -- among the articles of impeachment.

Another war-related impeachment effort came in response to the Iran-Contra scandal. You wouldn't have known it from media coverage or congressional debate, but the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra maneuvers were part of a Washington-driven war that enabled the U.S.-backed Contra guerrillas to terrorize Nicaraguan civilians, killing thousands in the process. When Rep. Henry Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas, pushed for impeachment of President Reagan (and, for good measure, Vice President George H. W. Bush) in 1987, he stood virtually alone on Capitol Hill.

Gonzalez was back on high moral ground the day before the first President Bush launched the Gulf War. On Jan. 16, 1991, the maverick Democrat stood on the House floor and announced he was introducing a resolution with five impeachment charges against Bush. The National Journal reported: "Among the constitutional violations Bush committed, according to Gonzalez, were commanding a volunteer military whose 'soldiers in the Middle East are overwhelmingly poor white, black and Mexican-American or Hispanic-American,' in violation of the equal protection clause, and 'bribing, intimidating and threatening' members of the United Nations Security Council 'to support belligerent acts against Iraq,' in violation of the U.N. charter."

In the past, attempts to impeach presidents for war crimes have sunk like a stone in the Potomac. If this time is going to be different, we need to get to work -- organizing around the country -- making the case for a thorough public inquiry and creating a groundswell that emerges as a powerful force from the grassroots. Only a massive movement will be strong enough to push over the media obstacles and drag politicians into a real debate about presidential war crimes and the appropriate constitutional punishment.

Norman Solomon's new book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," comes off the press in June. For information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com

© Copyrighted 1997-2005
www.commondreams.org

DING DONG MY MAC IS DEAD... AGAIN!

I kept telling myself I wanted to write something positive about my wonderful PowerBook lately. I love the thing so much and it stands up to all of my abuse, I should really blog a bit about it, I'd tell myself.

Ironically, after just short of a year with it, my PowerBook has let me down for the first time. Just ten days shy of the waranty expiration (thank GOD), I noticed the machine moving more and more slowly. I thought it was my recent install of Tiger (a virtually useless upgrade--if you're a Mackie considering it, don't bother!) so, I backed everything up and did a clean install of OS 10.3. I then began to upgrade with dmg's DLed directly from the Apple site. 10.3.2 went fine. 10.3.3 took over an hour to install--which I knew was crazy considering it's less than 100 mbs. Finally it said that installation had failed and that there had been an error.

K, so I tried installing 10.3.4 which seemed to not care that I hadn't fully installed 10.3.3. 10% into the install, it stalled and froze.

Did a forced shutdown and tried to reinstall 10.3 straight, again. This time it took forever. Took a shower while it was going only to come back and have it still going with out moving past 3% installed.. Did another forced shutdown. Restarted from the install cd and in disk utils erased the disk. Then started another install. The catch? It couldn't see the HD at all. I went back to disk utility (which could see it) and erased it again. That seemed to go fine, but then I thought I'd better verify the disk in the first aid section.

First verification failed.

Second verification failed.

K, try disk repair: Failed.

Kaaaay, try disk repair again.

Failed again.

I go back to the install and try that again just for fun.

No go--no disk, no nothing.

So tomorrow (6/1/5), I plan to drive TheFiancee to work and drive myself and my beloved PowerBook to the Apple store at the Grove. Then I get to watch them prove to themselves what I already know (the HD is dead). Then I get to wait a week while they send off my Mac, swap out the HD and send it back.

I'm debating whether or not to tell them about my past experiences with an iBook. Regular readers of ThePete.com may recall that Apple-corporation-based debacle. In a nutshell, it was two failed logic boards (motherboards to PC gearheads) and a failed hard drive and every time something bad happened I asked for a replacement computer which they refused to do. Finally, they lost my iBook in the mail and finally wanted to give me a replacement. If they'd done that in the first place, I'd have avoided a LOT of frustration. So, I demanded a refund (they couldn't even replace my machine with a PowerBook to compensate me for my month combined of lost time), which they hemmed and hawed about but finally gave me. I added $200 to that refund and bought my PowerBook.

Hey, Apple may be a lame company like any other lame company (in other worse, they're a company), but OSX is more stable and less high-maintenance than any version of Windows that I've ever used (and I've tried a few). After all, PowerBooks are the Porsches of the laptop world and even though mine was the cheapest one out there, it still rocked ass from the day I bought it.

Now, just 355 days later, the HD dies.

All I can say is: WHEW!

Sure, I'm disappointed, but I always try to back my stuff up once a month (or so) and since the warranty is still good, I feel like I dodged a bullet. I just hope they take the damn thing and replace it without hassling me. I have no idea how they could hassle me, but I won't be surprised if they come up with some reason.

I'll, of course, let you know how it goes. I may even put it in a Phlog entry on my way home from the Grove since I've got that scheme worked out (I think). (Phlog=PhoneBlog)

WISH ME LUCK!

Oh and one last thing: Since my PowerBook is dead for now I am back on my 6+ year old Win98 laptop which is not at all portable, very slow (366mhz/256mb RAM!!!) so I may not be able to update as much as I'd like. Maybe I'll bug Jen, Chad and Tim to guest blog some more. Anyone else interested in guest blogging? Shoot me an email using the email form in the sidebar just above TheMagnets. Thank god I use Gmail--no backing up of my email required, which is one less thing to worry about.

Hm... maybe I should send a quick email to Steve Jobs about this. That seemed to help resolve my problem the last time...

Jesus, no laptop. What the hell am I going to do with myself??

And wouldn't you know it? I just beat Super Mario 64 DS so I've got nothing to play on my DS now. Hey, it is my birthday next week. Perhaps someone could check out my wishlist and give me a little Christmas miracle.

Wait--that won't work, I'm an Atheist. DAMN!

BUY GAS FROM A DEMOCRACY

Hey, wanna buy gas from a democracy? Think about that for a sec--none of the major oil producing countries is a democracy, save one. That's Venezuela. They happen to own Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., which in turn owns PDV America, Inc. which in turn owns Citgo. So, when you buy gas from Citgo, you're actually supporting a democratic government. Pretty cool, huh?

What's even better is that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, actually gives the people of his country a chunk of the profits from oil sales.

Imagine that! The people of a country benefiting from the sale of their own resources!

The forces of globalization are falling down on the job!

Find a Citgo near you by going here:
http://www.citgo.com/CITGOLocator/StoreLocator.jsp

Read more about Citgo and a BUY-cott against dictator-oil in an article at CommonDreams.org.

USG TO REGULATE POLITICAL BLOGS?

This is where my conservative side comes out. I don't like big government when it tells us how to live our lives. I think regulating communication, in particular, is tantamount to treason. After all, one of the pillars that America was founded on was the freedom of speech. Regulating what we say on blogs or anywhere else seems an infringement of that freedom of speech.

Now, I'm all for regulating campaign fund raising. I think it's absurd that some rich guy equates giving money to a campaign as a form of speech.

With that in mind, check out this clip from an article from News.Yahoo.com and ChicagoTribune.com:
Web loggers, who pride themselves on freewheeling political activism, might face new federal rules on candidate endorsements, online fundraising and political ads, though bloggers who don't take money from political groups would not be affected.

Draft rules from the Federal Election Commission, which enforces campaign finance laws, would require that paid political advertisements on the Internet declare who funded the ad, as television spots do.
I don't know about you, but it seems like they've got that backwards. A blogger should not be compelled to admit taking money from anyone if he or she doesn't want to. If anything each campaign should be forced to explain where every thin dime of their funds go after they receive it. Regulate the spending of campaigns not those whom they spend their money on. Besides that, bloggers are not under any requirement to tell the truth, to check their facts or to get anything right at all. That's the great thing about blogs--it's up to you to choose which one is right for you. Unlike TheMedia which is all about giving you what they think you want--which is a tiny number of news channels that all report the same crap.

The only thing I think bloggers should be held accountable for is when they lie about someone. Libel/slander laws should still count, but nothing else. I'm not saying this because I hope that some Democrat will pay me in 2006 to talk up their compaign (no Democrat would be dumb enough to hire me, a devout independent to talk them up!)--I'm saying this because we need to remember who's job it is to tell the truth.

Most bloggers blog for themselves. They blog because they want to and don't make very much money (if any) at it. It's the job of TheMedia to get it right. It's the job of the media to check their facts, to disclose conflicts of interest, and to admit when they're on the take from someone whom they've reported positively about. Legislating blogs is just distracting from the fact that it's the blogs that are doing a better job of covering world events than the people whose job it really is.

So, the USGov is going to go after bloggers. This will not solve the real problem of TheMedia doing a shit job. This will only make bloggers more responsible and TheMedia less.

Brotherly Hate

Have you heard of Christopher Hitchens? He is the Kissinger critic and columnist who went all pro-American after 911 despite his earlier stripes as a critic of the USG. Anyway, I've heard of him and even agree with him sometimes but one thing I didn't know about him is that he's got a brother whom he's been estranged from since shortly after 911. It seems his little brother, Peter Hitchens, is a successful columnist in their home country of Britain and mentioned that his big brother once said that he'd like to see the Red Army in Hendon, which is a suburb of London, I think.

Anyway, this comment came shortly after 911 when people were giving the elder Hitchens crap about going all ga-ga for George Bush. He refused to talk to his little bro for four years. Finally, the Guardian prints a transcript from their first meeting in that time. It's short, but an interesting read if you're a follower of either of the Brothers Hitchens.

Check it out here at Guardian.co.uk.

WEAPONS IN SPACE? I'D PREFER PIGS

Wow, every once in a while I stumble across news and/or info about the US wanting to weaponize space. This comes despite the 1967 treaty the US and other countries signed promising that space would never be weaponized. Well, the USG blew off the UN Charter, what's another International Law?

Why do we need weapons in space? No, it's not to defend against anything as absurd as alien invaders. Instead, it's to dominate Earth from the heavens. Here's a snippet from an article from CapeCodOnline.com (the website of the Cape Code Times):
As you read this, defense officials are developing plans to put weapons in space, things like hypervelocity rod bundles, which insiders call ''Rods from God,'' whose purpose is to penetrate subterranean targets.

Our policy planners and so-called leaders are provoking China and Russia in their pursuit of God-like powers to dominate the earth, which is the most dangerous form of idolatry imaginable.

Meanwhile, most Americans have never heard of this stuff, even from the ''liberal'' media, as conservative Christians, who seem to be hogging the national microphone, debate about same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

If it's ''the kids'' and future generations we're really concerned about, we had better get more acquainted with ''full-spectrum dominance'' and re-acquaint ourselves with words like proportionality, priorities and moral discernment.
"Full spectrum dominance" is the term used by theUSMil to describe what they're after in one publication entitled: "Full Spectrum Dominance and Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan FY06'' I tried to track this publication down online, but couldn't do it. I have read scores of reports regarding the current drive of the USG to weaponize space at FAS.org. If you're bored, head over there and do a search. You'll be surprised at what you'll find.

Anyway, so like the article I linked to above says, while the people in power are keeping us busy being scared of Al Qaeda, Social Security and gay marriage, the USG is quietly planning to put weapons in space.

I'd prefer to stick with Pigs in Space, thank you very much.

From CapeCodOnline.com:

Military creating 'Rods from God"

By SEAN GONSALVES
This week's phrase - ''full spectrum dominance'' - came to me thanks to Nobel-prize winner Helen Caldicott, who now heads the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

She invited me to a bipartisan seminar on the militarization of space at the Airlie Conference Center in Warrenton, Va., about 45 minutes outside of the nation's capital. The conference was attended by top defense experts, scholars, diplomats and a handful of reporters. (Disclosure: The research institute, an anti-nuclear advocacy group, partially funded Gonsalves' attendance.)

''Full-Spectrum Dominance'' comes right out of U.S. military doctrine as outlined in documents such as ''Full Spectrum Dominance and Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan FY06,'' which states that the U.S. military goal is to fight war ''in, from and through'' space, based on the Rumsfeld logic that whoever controls space will dominate earth.

Dr. Craig Eisendrath, who helped write the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, gave an overview on the history of ballistic missile defense. The U.S. actually deployed a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in North Dakota in 1976, which cost $6 billion. Four months after it was set up, it was dismantled because it didn't work.

Dr. Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology and national security at MIT, talked about why we're barking up the wrong circuit-tree, having spent about $130 billion on BMD research and technology to date. Postol, probably the best-known expert critic of BMD, began his talk by saying ''I like weapons that work.'' He explained, in technical detail, why scientists can't make a viable BMD system. He called it the ''problem of discrimination.''

''Imagine looking for a bomb in a suitcase but you can't look inside the suitcase, even though it's the contents that need to identified...if multiple objects have the same appearance, then discrimination is impossible.''

Simple decoys like aluminum balloons look like missiles or light-seeking warheads. And even when a ballistic missile is targeted by the ''eyes'' of interceptors, their sight is analogous to looking at a target ''through a drinking straw.''

A half-dozen distinguished scientists agreed, including two Nobel prize winners, Dr. John Polyanni, chemistry professor at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Steven Weinberg, director of Theory Research Group at the University of Texas in Austin.

In fact, Weinberg went so far as to say that manned space exploration has far less scientific value than do unmanned space exploration, which has all but gone down the tubes with the decommissioning of the Hubble.

President Bush announced manned-space exploration as a goal of his administration, which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Wasting money on a costly, unworkable system that offers the illusion of absolute security; taxpayer money that could be better spent on public needs like health care, he said, is ''criminal.''

As you read this, defense officials are developing plans to put weapons in space, things like hypervelocity rod bundles, which insiders call ''Rods from God,'' whose purpose is to penetrate subterranean targets.

Our policy planners and so-called leaders are provoking China and Russia in their pursuit of God-like powers to dominate the earth, which is the most dangerous form of idolatry imaginable.

Meanwhile, most Americans have never heard of this stuff, even from the ''liberal'' media, as conservative Christians, who seem to be hogging the national microphone, debate about same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

If it's ''the kids'' and future generations we're really concerned about, we had better get more acquainted with ''full-spectrum dominance'' and re-acquaint ourselves with words like proportionality, priorities and moral discernment.

For more info, go to www.nuclearpolicy.org.

(Published: May 31, 2005)

Copyright © 2005 Cape Cod Times.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Welcome to the New Site Design

Here's the deal, I wasn't bored with the old design, but there were some things I just couldn't get to work behind the scenes so I decided to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress, my incredibly versatile blogging tool, in the hopes that my problems would be fixed. The good news is that most of my problems have gone away. However, because there was something with my past layout that caused some of the problems (I just couldn't figure out where or how) I decided to go with the default design that comes with WP 1.5.1.1 (like that version number?? SHEESH!) with some tweaks.

Of course, you know me, "tweaks" to me are more like "major alterations" to anyone else. Still, I got the new design up and running in under 48 hours. That's definitely a record for me.

I did quite a bit as you can see--while the original design is the uber-common/popular Kubrick layout, I've cluttered it up nicely. ;) I've even redone the html behind TheBlurb pages. I think that's the first time I've changed them in nearly 5 years! They're so pretty now!

The things I need to do still are as follows:

1) Add contact info/forms in the sidebar (Managed to fix this before bedtime--ack! It's 4:20am!)
2) Add a new tag board/shoutbox (Done! Why not try it out now?)
3) Figure out why WP won't take emailed posts from Blogger.com (Done! It turns out Blogger timestamps emailed post in advance--apparently, if I had just waited long enough each of my test posts would have ended posting properly. Live and learn! Thanks be to Rusty for the tip!)
4) Finish recategorizing all of my entries from my GreyMatter days (that's taking forever!)
5) Build a Pocket Reviews page that will display only PokeRevs

So, I've got a tidy little list of things left to do, but I'm sure those five things will keep me busy. In the meantime, if anyone feels like telling me what they think of the new layout, feel free to post a comment or three :)

PS This design should look brilliant in any browser. If it doesn't, definitely let me know what browser it looks lousy in. Thiiinx!

Wrong Franchise!

I forgot to post this pic from the midnight show of Revenge of the Sith:

A Picture Share!

Wrong franchise!

Friday, May 27, 2005

NIN NOT PLAYING MTV AWARDS?

Now, I'm the last person to sit through an awards show. If I care (IF I care) I'll find out who won by reading the news later. However, TheFiancee just called me to say that she heard on the radio that Trent Reznor, the brains behind Nine Inch Nails, one of my favorite band, was told he/they couldn't perform at some MTV awards show the way Reznor wanted to.

See, there's this song on his new album that is called "The Hand that Feeds" and it's essentially Reznor challenging the listener to challenge the people who "feed" them. Now, he wanted to perform this song on this MTV awards show in front of a giant picture of George W. Bush. MTV said no way to the pic of King George, so Reznor apparently said no way to MTV.

As if he really gives a crap about publicity at this point in his career.

Anyway, so I'm digging around to find out anything on this and I come up with zip. When I do a search on Google News, the damn thinks I am trying to search MTV as the source. Check it out--I enter "nine inch nails bush mtv" and when the results come up, I get no results. Then I notice in the text window, instead of the above text string, it has: "nine inch nails bush source:mtv"

What's up with that?

Oh, hang on--I just messed around with it and managed to get some actual news by using the "advanced search" feature.

Ironically, the first story I found was from MTV.com. Here's what they say about the story:
"While we respect Nine Inch Nails' point of view, we were uncomfortable with their performance being built around a partisan political statement.


I am getting SO FRIGGEN TIRED OF THAT WORD.

"Partisan."

If NIN was known for being pro-Democrat, like writing songs about how great Clinton was, or how Gore really won the 2000 election and would have been a better president, I could see labelling this a "partisan" move by NIN.

When does partisanship end and honest political difference begin, anyway?

When can I say I don't like someone without it being attributed to some pre-existing bias against the type of person the unliked person is?

Is it possible to not like someone for their actions and not simply their politics? I think so.

If tomorrow, Bush apologized for Iraq and announced plans to withdraw US troops and dismantle those 15 permanent bases in Iraq, I'd be so happy. I don't give a shit about his Republican-ness or anyone else's Democrat-ness. I just want KILLING TO STOP.

Sure, it'll never stop completely, but Bush stopping would certainly be a step in the right direction!

Regardless, this is a blatant attempt by the corporate media to censor and silence the opinion of a buttload of Americans--not just Reznor.

There is no liberal media. There is no conservative media. It's all about the corporate media that thrives thanks to the USG's lax regulation. It surely doesn't bite "the hand that feeds" it, but it sure does "kiss the ass of that which feeds" it.

Does this blatant censorship offend anyone else?

Sure--it's MTV's show they can do what they want with it. But if the song is about challenging what we're being fed by the Bush admin already, why is throwing up a pic of Bush suddenly too much for MTV?

When I was in college, I took an easy-A class on MTV. No joke--we studied not just music videos and MTV's other programming, but also who the musical evolved into the music video. On the final exam there was an extra credit question that asked: "What do you think MTV really is and why?"

It was multiple choice with the expectation of an essay written and not just a tick in a box to get the extra credit. I don't recall the other choices, but the one I went with was "message from God."

In many ways religion tells us how to behave in the world. The Ten Commandments are not just guidelines, their supposed to be God's commands to us (hence the word "commandments"). From the beginning, MTV was telling us what was cool and what wasn't. Not just music, but clothes, and celebrities and more. In this way they were literally telling teens how to behave in the world.

Well, here we are again and MTV is telling us to not overtly dissent against Bush, the Great.

How many of today's obese, lazy, brain-dead teens are going to listen? All of them.

Now, I just hope there are enough teenagers who are not obese, lazy and brain-dead who did what I did at that age and turn off the TV and think for themselves.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Corporate Crap or I Love America!

America is great. You want to know why? It's because corporations are allowed to roam free like the bufallo! Buffallo? Anyway, they free graze on our hides and pretty much do what they damn well please with just the slightest interest in providing an actual service or product. Regular readers of ThePete.Com know my adventures with Apple and now I add Sprint PCS to my corporate shit list. These guys are astounding.

WHILE I was on the phone with them last night, they cut off my service. It's OK, though, since it's free to call customer service on my phone. (We ditched the landline because Verizon was charging too much for something we never use.) Anyway, the guy can't take my credit card payment (it's all of 4 days late) without charging me a $5 processing fee but, I can hang up and dial *3 and make an automated payment for free. Yay. I hang up and see a text message saying my phone service has been disconnected. I can still dial *3, however. So I do. I pay $72 which was what the guy said I was past due and wait for my service to be restored. They say it could take as long as 4 hours.

So, I wait.

And I wait some more.

And more.

Finally, this morning I call up and complain (*2). It turns out the guy told me how much was past due without telling me it wouldn't be enough to restore service. Nice. So I ask how much that is from the collections woman (yes, my bill is 3 days late and it's in collections). Another $40 is what they need. Seems they've tacked on my current charges already and somehow I'll still owe another $105 after this--there's GOT to be a mistake here since I NEVER go over my 1000 minutes.

Flegm.

^^my new swear word^^

Anyway, so I give the woman a check over the phone and point out how the guy I spoke with last night (a chappy called "Quentin") claimed I could see what my current charges were online at sprintpcs.com. I told him I didn't believe him because I've gotten conflicting info from telephone operators before (see my MacStories category). He insisted that I'd see the same thing he saw on his computer. I told him: "No offense, but I don't believe you."

So, after I get off the phone with him (I should have done it while I was on the phone with him) I check my account on the website. Guess what--all I saw was April's bill. WHOOPS. Thanks Sprint! So I mention this to the collections woman and all she says is something like "Yeah, no, I know."

Of course, the real irony in all of this is that I'm in the process of getting a new dayjob and if they can't reach me because my phone service is disconnected, then they may decide that I'm a 'tard for not having my cell bill paid off. Too bad they have no way of knowing that I always pay that damn thing off. I have a very strong feeling that there's something screwed up about how high that bill is. Like I said, I never go over my 1000 minutes.

Thanks to their stupid system, I can't even look at what they are charging me for to see if it was indeed my screw up or theirs (their's?).

Why can't it just be simple? Every time you use your cell phone, it should trigger a script on a computer that pulls a minute out of your balance, which is recorded in a database. Then, their website could draw data directly from that database to give users an EXACT amount of minutes used. Instead, they use a system that isn't exact, isn't in real time and is confusing. I mean, why is there a difference between total minutes and total credit available?

The whole experience inspired me to give Skype a try. I voice-chatted (voice-chat?) online with my pal Tammy for about an hour, or so, and paid nothing for it. The connection was so clear it almost sounded like she was in the room with me. Sheesh. I just wish I could get Skype for my DS so I could walk away from my desk without carrying my laptop with me.

OH WELL, enough of my anti-corporate venting session. Just needed to blow off some steam. I'm sure you all can understand that!

May your day be crappy-corporate-customer-service-free!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

USGov's WORST NIGHTMARE

Recently, George Galloway was answered accusations that he had made money off of Saddam's oil in that whole oil-for-food-but-really-for-money debacle. See, the USG is trying to distract from its own failings in Iraq by pointing out the failings of others in Iraq. Of course, the irony is, Galloway is used to dealing with the UKGov and in case you've never watched "Prime Minister's Questions" on C-SPAN (I highly recommend it!), you don't know that the UKGov is quite as respectful and "proper" as the USGov is and Galloway proved that when he took no shit from US politicians and gave shit right back in their face.

Here's an example of Galloway's comments to Senators excerpted from an article at TimesOnline.co.uk:
"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.
KICK ASS, MY BRITISH BRUTHA!

It's so refreshing for someone to actually utter a contrary word or one thousand on the Hill. To think we rebelled against this dude's country--how the tables have turned!

Galloway is setting an AWESOME example for Americans everywhere--too bad he's not American, himself!

And he does go on. Go ahead and click over to page 2 of this post to read his entire statement to Senators as quoted in that article from the TimesOnline.co.uk.

Here's one more quick excerpt from later on in his statement that is just incredible:
“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.


Damn, he kicks ass!!

Isn't it sad how refreshing someone stating the truth is these days?

Does anyone know if his statement was covered on the American mainstream news? I didn't see anything, but I've been swamped lately.
From TimesOnline.co.uk:
May 18, 2005

Galloway v the US Senate: transcript of statement

By Times Online
George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, delivered this statement to US Senators today who have accused him of corruption

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

"Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

"I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defence made of his.

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.

"You will see from the official parliamentary record, Hansard, from the 15th March 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do and than any other member of the British or American governments do.

"Now you say in this document, you quote a source, you have the gall to quote a source, without ever having asked me whether the allegation from the source is true, that I am 'the owner of a company which has made substantial profits from trading in Iraqi oil'.

"Senator, I do not own any companies, beyond a small company whose entire purpose, whose sole purpose, is to receive the income from my journalistic earnings from my employer, Associated Newspapers, in London. I do not own a company that's been trading in Iraqi oil. And you have no business to carry a quotation, utterly unsubstantiated and false, implying otherwise.

"Now you have nothing on me, Senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad. If you had any of the letters against me that you had against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have been up there in your slideshow for the members of your committee today.

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted bank robber, and fraudster and conman Ahmed Chalabi who many people to their credit in your country now realise played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that committee included the former secretary to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, the former head of the African National Congress Presidential office and many others who had one defining characteristic in common: they all stood against the policy of sanctions and war which you vociferously prosecuted and which has led us to this disaster.

"You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have something on me, I've never met Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner, I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes charges, punishable by death. In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say, British citizens being held in those places.

"I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances. But you quote 13 words from Dahar Yassein Ramadan whom I have never met. If he said what he said, then he is wrong.

"And if you had any evidence that I had ever engaged in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be before the public and before this committee today because I agreed with your Mr Greenblatt [Mark Greenblatt, legal counsel on the committee].

"Your Mr Greenblatt was absolutely correct. What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money. Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them today.

"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Whilst I'm on that subject, who is this senior former regime official that you spoke to yesterday? Don't you think I have a right to know? Don't you think the Committee and the public have a right to know who this senior former regime official you were quoting against me interviewed yesterday actually is?

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that you have made. You assert on page 19, not once but twice, that the documents that you are referring to cover a different period in time from the documents covered by The Daily Telegraph which were a subject of a libel action won by me in the High Court in England late last year.

"You state that The Daily Telegraph article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you are dealing with documents dating from 2001. Senator, The Daily Telegraph's documents date identically to the documents that you were dealing with in your report here. None of The Daily Telegraph's documents dealt with a period of 1992, 1993. I had never set foot in Iraq until late in 1993 - never in my life. There could possibly be no documents relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for the Oil-for-Food scheme did not exist at that time.

"And yet you've allocated a full section of this document to claiming that your documents are from a different era to the Daily Telegraph documents when the opposite is true. Your documents and the Daily Telegraph documents deal with exactly the same period.

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph action with the Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor did indeed publish on its front pages a set of allegations against me very similar to the ones that your committee have made. They did indeed rely on documents which started in 1992, 1993. These documents were unmasked by the Christian Science Monitor themselves as forgeries.

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which you're such a hero, senator, were all absolutely cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely convinced of their authenticity. They were all absolutely convinced that these documents showed me receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. And they were all lies.

"In the same week as the Daily Telegraph published their documents against me, the Christian Science Monitor published theirs which turned out to be forgeries and the British newspaper, Mail on Sunday, purchased a third set of documents which also upon forensic examination turned out to be forgeries. So there's nothing fanciful about this. Nothing at all fanciful about it.

"The existence of forged documents implicating me in commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a proven fact. It's a proven fact that these forged documents existed and were being circulated amongst right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi regime.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.



"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.



If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.



"Have a look at the real Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch. Have a look at Haliburton and other American corporations that stole not only Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer.



"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a look at the $800 million you gave to American military commanders to hand out around the country without even counting it or weighing it.



"Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own Government."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

BOOTS OF EP3 FOR $2.50 IN BEIJING

Wow, this is kind of amusing. We're all aware of how the latest Star Wars movie was bootlegged within 24 hours of the film screening for the first time in theaters. Well, it only took another day for Chinese bootleggers to start selling copies in Beijing. There is one catch with them, however--apparently the version they are selling is the Chinese dub with English subs--but the subs are from a 2003 Dolph Lungren movie called Detention. Here's a clip from an article from AP.org available at StarTribune.com:
In one scene, Anakin Skywalker is dueling with light sabers, but the subtitle reads, "I have enough trouble with students having sex like rabbits."
I want to see that version of the movie--it might actually make it enjoyable.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Whoa...

Check it out, I haven't played my DS in a couple of days now because Super Mario 64 DS pissed me off so much. I haven't been mature enough to just put that thing down so I could cool off in MONTHS! And now, I'm actually going to sit down and do some writing! YES!!

The View from My Office Today

A Picture Share!

The view from my office today.

I may not get paid much, but I've got a pretty cool job.

Friday, May 20, 2005

US GOVERNMENT FACES KIDNAPPING/TORTURE ACCUSATIONS

Huh, this is neat.

I remember just as the Iraq Attack was first on the horizon after we attacked the alledged Al Qaeda theme park, Afghaniland, a friend of mine asking me if I was aware of how the US Government gets around anti-torture international laws. I told him I didn't and he went on to explain how the USMil would ship suspects to countries where torture is legal, hand the suspects over to local authorities who would then torture the suspects while the American "observers" would be in the room asking questions.

Now, I got this story not from some conspiracy guy--this is a dude who is pro-Iraq-Attack and feels that while Bush isn't perfect, has a good head on his shoulders.

Whatever.

The point is, he's not some guy making crap up in between fashioning tinfoil hats for himself and his conspiracy pals. This is a college-educated, level-headed, Fox News watching guy. (OK, I take back the 'level-headed' part. I'm trying to say that he's not going to say anything like this unless he believes it to be true.

That said, here's an excerpt from an article from Reuters.com that I found via CommonDreams.org:
Pressure is growing on the United States to respond to allegations that its agents were involved in spiriting terrorist suspects out of three European countries and sending them to nations where they may have been tortured.


D'OH!

Looks like he may have been right and nothing surprises me anymore these days.

Read more about it in the article at Reuters.com or find it here at CommonDreams.org. If neither link works, click on to page 2 of this post.
From Reuters.com:

U.S. faces questions over 'kidnappings' in Europe

Fri May 20, 2005 09:53 AM ET

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent

BERLIN (Reuters) - Pressure is growing on the United States to respond to allegations that its agents were involved in spiriting terrorist suspects out of three European countries and sending them to nations where they may have been tortured.

In Italy, a judge said this week that foreign intelligence officials "kidnapped" an Egyptian suspect in Milan two years ago and took him to a U.S. base from where he was flown home.

In Germany, a Munich prosecutor is preparing a batch of questions to U.S. authorities on the case of a Lebanese-born German who says he was arrested in Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003 and flown by U.S. agents to a jail in Afghanistan.

And in Sweden, a parliamentary ombudsman has criticised the security services over the expulsion of two Egyptian terrorism suspects who were handed over to U.S. agents and flown home aboard a U.S. government-leased plane in 2001.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch said there was credible evidence the pair had been tortured while being held incommunicado for five weeks after their return. One was later convicted in a "patently unfair" trial.

"We know it's not right to send people back to torture. That's criminal. That's the one factor that ties all these cases together right now," Julia Hall of Human Rights Watch said in a telephone interview.

"But whether they're kidnappings, whether they're abductions, whether they occur always with the collaboration of security services in the host country -- these are things that still have yet to be determined."

ASSURANCES AGAINST TORTURE

Secret transfers of suspects to foreign states for interrogation are an acknowledged tool of the United States in the war on terrorism, but it denies charges that the practice -- known as rendition -- amounts to outsourcing torture.

"(In) the post-9/11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack ... And one way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured," President George W. Bush said in March.

"We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured when we render a person back to their home country."

Human Rights Watch argues such assurances are worthless.

The latest twist came in the case of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who disappeared from a Milan street in February 2003.

Italian judge Guido Salvini said in a court document, obtained by Reuters: "It is now possible to affirm with certainty that he was kidnapped by people belonging to foreign intelligence networks interested in interrogating him and neutralising him, to then hand him over to Egyptian authorities."

Although he did not identify the foreign agents responsible, Salvini said Nasr had been "taken to an American base, interrogated and beaten and taken the next day on board a U.S. military plane" to Egypt.

It was not until a year later, Salvini said, that Nasr was heard from again in phone calls, including one to his wife. Italian media have reported he told her he was tortured in Egypt and partially lost his hearing.

Salvini is investigating suspects linked to Nasr and is not responsible for the probe into his disappearance. That case is being handled by the Milan prosecutor's office, which said Salvini did not have access to all the documents and expressed surprise at his conclusions.

But his comments were the hardest yet by judicial authorities in Europe on the alleged renditions.

GERMAN PROBE

In Germany, Munich prosecutor Martin Hofmann said he was finalising an official request to the United States for information on the case of Khaled el-Masri.

The German citizen says he was arrested in Macedonia on Dec. 31, 2003 and flown by U.S. agents to an Afghan jail. Only five months after being seized was he flown back to Europe and dumped without explanation in Albania, from where he made his way home.

NBC News reported last month that Masri was snatched because he shared the same name as an al Qaeda suspect. It said even when investigators realised the error, he was held another six weeks in an Afghan jail dubbed the Salt Pit before being freed.

"I'm investigating kidnapping, physical injury, duress and deprivation of freedom," said Hofmann, who is also seeking information from Macedonia and Albania.

But investigators face formidable obstacles to prove what happened and hold anyone to account. Hofmann said he could not bring any charges unless he could identify those individuals involved in Masri's alleged abduction.

"The problem is, I need the persons responsible. So far the investigation is into 'unknown persons'," he told Reuters.

© Reuters 2005

Superman Returns Pic

Here's a pic I found not too long ago of the new Superman from the movie due out next summer, Superman Returns.



All I can say is: WHEW!

After Batman was given an all black costume, the X-Men were robbed of their blue and gold uniforms, and Spidey was given a costume that looked more like it came from a department store than his Aunt May's sewing machine, I was concerned that they'd change the costume of the Jesus Christ of super heroes. Thankfully, as you can see from the pic, all they did was darken the red and inexplicably add an "S" to his belt. It could have been worse...

Much worse...

Like casting Kelsey Grammer as The Beast.

Oh wait...

AUSTRALIAN CITY ALMOST OUT OF H2O

If worrying about TWAT, the Earth's dwindling oil supply and whether George Bush will ever face the criminal charges he deserves weren't enough to be concerned about, we now are seeing areas of the world facing a dwindling supply of the most important substance on Earth: Water.

A city in Oz called Goulburn (about a 2 hour drive from Sydney) has found that its water supply is fading fast. What is really frightening is that the hills around Goulburn have been lauded for over a century as some of the best land for grazing. Now, an article from AP.org available at CNN.com describes them as being "as bleached and lifeless as old bones."

This may not be a world trend, however. Some seem to think that various trends in weather are causing inconsistent, but not ultimately life-as-we-know-it-ending changes. In other words experts are not even touching on the idea that this could be the beginning of a world-wide drought.

Which is good, I guess, since scientists are never wrong.

Of course, the human population is going up while Earth's resources are not.

But I'm sure there's nothing to worry about... ;)

From AP.org and CNN.com:

Aussie city almost out of water

Friday, May 20, 2005 Posted: 1:09 AM EDT (0509 GMT)

GOULBURN, Australia (AP) -- The rolling hills around this historic city were once renowned as some of Australia's best grazing land. After four years of drought they are as bleached and lifeless as old bones.

Goulburn is perilously close to becoming Australia's first major settlement to see its reservoirs run completely out of water as a Big Dry grips much of the nation.

The crisis in Goulburn is a stark warning to Australia's largest city, Sydney, which is just 200 kilometers (125 miles) away and whose reservoirs should be filled by water running off the hills around Goulburn.

"It's a major wake up call for Sydney," Goulburn Mayor Paul Stephenson told The Associated Press. "If we're dry up here, then there's nothing going into their catchment because we are their catchment."

Drought-stricken farmers have become a big focus for the federal government. Prime Minister John Howard flew to the Outback of New South Wales state Friday to meet hard-hit farmers, who already get millions in handouts to survive but want more.

"When disaster strikes abroad, this government shows compassion and assistance to those who need it," New South Wales Farmers Association President Mal Peters said this week.

"The only difference here is that this drought has slowly sucked the life out of rural NSW over four years. Mr. Howard must decide if this government wants farming communities to prosper or die, it is as simple as that."

Meanwhile, Sydney's more than four million people face their own shortages. City reservoirs are at 40 percent capacity and leaders are considering extreme measures, including a desalination plant to turn seawater into drinking water.

Desalination isn't an option for landlocked Goulburn, one of Australia's oldest settlements. Experts say the water supply in the city of 22,000 will run dry by year's end without significant rain.

Homes are now restricted to just 150 liters (40 gallons) per resident per day -- about enough for a 10-minute shower.

The city's sports grounds have been closed because the grassless, hard-packed surfaces are no longer considered safe. Its major reservoir, Pejar Dam, is down to 10 percent of its 9 billion liter (2.4 billion gallon) capacity. It was brimming in late 2000, but now much of its exposed bed is a patchwork of cracked, baked mud.

Jodie Marnell said the little town water that remains is no longer fit to drink. She spends Aust. $30 ($23) a week on bottled water for her four children, aged 18-months to 10 years.

"It was making the kids sick; it's the bottom of the dam," Marnell said.

Adding to the city's concerns are signs of a developing El Nino weather pattern, caused by fluctuations in ocean temperatures and believed to spur drought conditions in Australia.

"This is our fourth year of drought now," Goulburn's water engineer Matt O'Rourke said, adding that if another El Nino forms, "then we may be faced with the prospect of another couple of years of drought."

Charlie Prell, whose ranch is just outside Goulburn, fears the drought could last another decade.

A fourth generation rancher, he already has sold all his cattle and two-thirds of his 6,500 sheep because he can no longer afford to feed them.

"The big issue for this whole area and probably the whole country is at the end of the drought, are we going to be profitable enough to make enough money to pay back the money that's we've borrowed through the drought?" Prell said. He is considering branching into wind farming.

Goulburn's economy is being buffeted, with key employers such as an abattoir and wool plant recently ordered to reduce water consumption by 30 percent.

While small Australian communities of a few hundred that have run dry have survived by trucking in water, Goulburn's thirst for four million liters (one million gallons) a week is too large.

The mayor believes the longer-term solution is reusing waste water and a pipeline to a more reliable water source.

He wants the federal government to contribute Aust. $30 million ($23 million) for a water treatment plant that could clean sewage sufficiently for it to be used for outdoor watering and some industrial uses.

"I'd be quite happy to put it into our drinking water but I don't think the powers that be in state and local government are quite prepared for Australia to do that yet, even though we are the driest continent in the world," Stephenson said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

Still Processing Star Wars Disappointment

Sheesh... I know I have a lot to say about Episode 3, I just haven't had the time or clarity to put it all down in a blog entry. There is so much to consider. How is Ep3 as a movie unto itself? How is it as a part of the Prequel Trilogy? How does it do as a part of the overall Star Wars saga?

I don't want what I write to be entirely negative, but I can't think of anything cool in the movie that wasn't immediately ruined by something stupid.

I think I need to step away from the whole scene for a little bit and come back to it. I'll try and blog on some other stuff and then maybe work on something over the weekend.

Oh and check out what's available as a convenient Torrent:



Ah, Hollywood...

The more you tighten your grip, the more movies slip through your fingers...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

STAR WARS: EPISODE 3: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining?? Sure, in a mindless, FX-laden, character and depth-free kind of way.

Technically any good? Heh-heh... not at all. Plot holes, inconsitencies in tone, structure and logic mar this movie through and through. However, thanks to all the whizbang stuff (see question #1) most viewers will be completely distracted from the failings of this film.

How did it leave me feeling? Disappointed but not surprised about it. There were some points I found myself happy with what was going on, but now I'd be hard pressed to tell you what they were. This is probably because something stupid would come along just as I started enjoying myself. One thing is for certain: the full sequence of Vader-human to Vader-machine was a moment like that. You'll know the moment where it goes from truly kick-ass to WTF. It got a laugh from the opening-night crowd I saw it with.

Final Rating? SAM (Hey, it's Star Wars, you didn't think I'd give it a DNS--Do Not See...)

Inside the National for Episode 3

A Picture Share!

Inside the National (still some tix left!)

The Fox Village Opening Night of Ep3

A Picture Share!

The Fox Village

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith: The Last $10.50 I Put in George Lucas' Bulging Pocket

"Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith: The Last $10.50 I Put in George Lucas’ Bulging Pocket"
2:57 pm, May 17, 2005 by ThePete

Ha-ha. OK so maybe that’s not the full title of the new Star Wars film. While I’ve been on record as saying I wasn’t that enthused to see Revenge of the Shit–er–Stich–er–Sith, In recent days I’ve come to experience a new sensation regarding seeing the final new Star Wars movie to be produced.

My friend and frequent guest blogger here at ThePete.Com, Jen, was able to see a screening of Sith last night and without realizing it described exactly what was going through my mind. She said something to the effect of: “You know, I was sitting there in the theater and there was a strong sense of satisfaction in just putting a cap in this thing.”

I had been noticing the urge to see the film and knew that it wasn’t because I thought it was going to be some great film (Jen has confirmed that in at least her opinion, it is not) but because I just want to move the hell on with my life. You know? Let’s just get this crap over with already. Of course, it’s not that easy.

I did come into some scratch today, which was a welcome and happy surprise, so I decided to go ahead and pick up tix for TheFiancee and I to see the dreaded third ep. She was almost not caring at all. If there were matinee shows on Wednesday she told me she wouldn’t be upset if I went without her since her tomorrow is very busy.

Oh, how things have changed since 1999! Back then, TheFiancee did her best make-up impression of Darth Maul (as best as she could do having run out of almost all of her red make-up!) for the big Ep1 opening at the Chinese Theater. She even got interviewed by a local Fox news affiliate. Of course, she was stoned off her gourd on caffeine, too much movie popcorn butter and adrenaline at 5:30am after seeing the 3:30am show of Episode 1 at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood (I was there, too). But that was 6 years ago. Like I said: how things have changed. Back then we both spent a disgusting amount of money on Star Wars crap (I have video footage of myself and two friends at Toys R Us when they released the toys at Midnight of some day in early May/late April--yes, I brought my camcorder to record the event). And now, 6 years later, she won’t spend a dime on merchandise, and I’ve spent less than $20 so far on random Revenge of the Sith merch. I picked up two R2 units so far and I’m thinking about picking up a pair of cheapy Vader gloves, but that’s really it.

So, we go from literally hundreds of dollars that night in May, 1999 to probably $50, all told (including movie tickets).

Ah, George, how you’ve let your franchise fall.

So, I stopped by Mann’s National today to see if they had any seats left for the midnight show tonight. Strangely, there is no midnight show tonight, despite the fact that Ep3 is supposed to open on May 18, 2005. Every Star Wars movie has opened on a Wednesday (except for the special eds and I don’t count those) and both Eps 1 & 2 had midnight Tuesday night screenings. For some reason, they’re having midnight Wednesday screenings in Westwood. There are no daytime screenings on the 18th–which I think is rather odd.

Regardless, I bought two tix there, assuming that the Fox Village (reported to be Lucas’ favorite theater in LA) would be sold out. Apparently, there were still quite a few seats left at the National–not the best theater in the world but worlds better than your average multiplex and still within walking distance of my apartment.

The funny thing is if you look at the tickets, themselves, you’ll see that they are timed and dated “12:01am 5/18/5″ which would indicate to a person who understands how calendars and the passage of time works that the screening is, in fact, tonight. The fact that people are already standing in line for the first show at the Fox Village theater seems to confirm this. However, both the woman who sold me my tix and the guy at the box office at the FV said that the screening was in fact Wednesday night.

Hm… why do I still feel like I should drive by the National tonight juuust to be safe?

K, I’m going to go bug Jen to do a Pocket Review on SW:E3:ROTS:TL$IPIGLBP now and of course you can all expect a Pocket Review from me late Wednesday night. I may even do an extended phone blog entry guest staring TheFiancee.

My Ep3 Tix

A Picture Share!

My midnight Ep3 tix.

The Star Wars line formeth!

A Picture Share!

The Star Wars line formeth! (With just 36 hours to go!)

NEWSWEEK KORAN DESECRATION STORY *NOT* FALSE?

Well, by now you've probably read about the story Newsweek magazine has now retracted about USMil desecrating the Koran at Gitmo, in Cuba in order to upset Al Qaeda "suspects" being held there. It was a big deal because Newsweek said it happened which pissed off a whole lot of Muslims and, in fact, inspired protests that led to deaths. Obviously, a very bad situation.

Pakistan has said that it doesn't accept the retraction and I don't think I'd feel any differently. If I was from a country other than America, I'd suspect that Newsweek was trying to cover for the USMil. After all, the US Government is constantly being accused of being masters at manipulating American media.

The thing is, that while Newsweek said they couldn't confirm the desecration story as much as they should have, this is not the first time a Koran-desecration story has been reported on. Thanks to the eagle-eyes at DrudgeRetort.com (please note the "t"), we can all read an article at TheAge.com.au from March 27, 2003. The Age, is a mainstream Austrailian news source, by the way. In the article, they mention (bold added by me):
Afghan men freed on Tuesday after spending months in legal limbo as United States prisoners in the war on terrorism said that they were generally well fed and given medical care, but they were housed in cramped cells and sometimes shackled, hit and humiliated.

...

The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how US forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some flashed medical records showing extensive care by US military doctors, while others complained that US soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them.
So, there you have it--it probably did happen, assuming the two reporters who wrote that article did their jobs.

Join the discussion going on at DrudgeRetort.com about this unfortunate story.

From TheAge.com.au:

Afghan prisoners 'shackled, hit, humiliated'



March 27 2003
By Marc Kaufman, April Witt
Kabul

Afghan men freed on Tuesday after spending months in legal limbo as United States prisoners in the war on terrorism said that they were generally well fed and given medical care, but they were housed in cramped cells and sometimes shackled, hit and humiliated.

After a chaotic day in which it was uncertain when, or if, all the prisoners would be released from Afghan custody, 18 men wearing new American sneakers and carrying colourful gym bags walked out of a run-down police compound in Kabul. Some hugged jubilantly; others left feeling bitter and vengeful.

The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how US forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some flashed medical records showing extensive care by US military doctors, while others complained that US soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them.

Only one prisoner was met by his family. Most of the men are from distant southern or eastern provinces and there were no relatives to meet them, as there had been no time to notify them. Neither the Afghan authorities nor the US officials had given them any money, they said.

"We have no relatives here and no money to get home," said Sher Ghulab, 30, a labourer from the eastern province of Jalalabad.

The men uniformly said that American forces treated them more roughly during initial interrogation and captivity in Afghanistan than during the detainment at Guantanamo.

All of those released said they were not terrorists. Some acknowledged that they had fought with the Taliban, but not by choice. Others said that US forces snatched them away from ordinary lives as farmers, students or taxi drivers.

Sarajudim, 24, who like many Afghans uses only one name, was one of several men who said they were forced to fight with the Taliban after the US declared war on terrorism. Prisoner Merza Khan said that Americans in Kandahar tied him up and alternately forced him to lie face down on the ground, then squat with his hands on his head for hours.

Sulaiman Shah said he was a businessman captured for no reason in northern Afghanistan. "I was in such a small (cell) and couldn't go outside for many days," he said. "My toilet was next to my bed, and it was a very bad way to live."

The US military is investigating the deaths of two Afghan prisoners interrogated at a US military centre at Bagram air base north of Kabul. A military doctor had listed the two deaths as homicides.

- Washington Post, New York Times

Copyright © 2003 The Age Company Ltd

Monday, May 16, 2005

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining?? Yeah, but only in the same way that all "epic" films are entertaining--the whizbang factor. "Wow! Look at all those men fighting! Neat!"

Technically any good? Well, if you consider movies with strong character development, solid stories and great execution "technically good" this is not the movie for you. The only thing impressive to me was the scale of the movie. It was BIG, but the script, acting were not and the story wasn't deep either. In fact, the script suffers from making neither side as bloodthirsty as they probably were.

How did it leave me feeling? Annoyed because if there's one filmmaker who can toss political correctness aside and tell it like it was, it's Ridley Scott. In Alien and Blade Runner he pulled no punches--but we didn't get that director for this movie, instead we got Tony's idiot brother who made the Christians out to be way nicer than they really were (yet still meaner than modern Christians would have liked) and the Muslims as way nicer, too. The film makes you wonder why they were fighting at all since they were all pretty reasonable folks.

Final Rating? DNS (In a world where movies cost $10 a pop, this movie should be MUCH better than it is. Unless you LOVED Troy and Alexander, don't bother with this one.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Ep3 "Makes Up for" the Last Two?

So, I'm out for a mind-clearing walk this evening and I stop by my old hang-out, Boba Loca to see my friend John who runs the place. It turns out that a mutual friend of ours got to see Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith at a press screening or something. John said the one thing he was curious about was if Ep3 made up for the last two crapfests (my word, not his). The mutual friend said that it did make up for them.

I find this hard to believe. There is NOTHING in my mind that can make Ep3 make up for Eps 1 and 2. Nothing can make the less-than-lackluster performances of Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen suddenly good. NOTHING can make the bizarre convoluted plot of Ep1 or the completely unbelievable love story of Ep2 more acceptable to anyone with a fully functioning brain. Likewise, NOTHING about Ep3 can fill the massive plot holes and sheer idiocies of Eps 1 and 2.

Ep3 may be a better movie than Eps 1 and 2. Ep3 may be (by default) a more fulfilling movie than Eps 1 and 2--in fact it had better be based on the virtue of Ep3 portraying the birth of Darth Vader.

To be perfectly honest, I won't be going into Ep3 with an open mind. After the terrible films that were Eps 1 and 2, it would be impossible for me to do so. However, I'm not a child--I can recognize a strong movie when I see one. If it's at all good, you can rest assurd, I'll be honest and admit the strong points of the film just as quickly as I'll bag on its weaknesses.

I have yet to decide when I'll be seeing it. The midnight show in the Village (here, in Westwood) is only 82% full as I type this, which means I bet there will be a matinee with seats available on Wednesday. Perhaps I'll see it then. There's also a chance I could see it sooner than even Tuesday at midnight--how could this be? Oh, I have my ways... :)

Do You Appear to be Between the Ages of 16 and 24?

A Picture Share!

Faced with a lack of talent, MTV turns to noobs who APPEAR to be between 16 & 24.

What a Weird-Ass Friday the 13th!

I used to be superstitious about a lot of "old wives tales." You know, black cats, umbrellas indoors, Friday the 13th and so on. I think right around the time I decided that organized religion was just a way for the powers that be to control the rest of us I decided that if God was simply a fabrication, so must other "beliefs." A similar smashing of a previously accepted personal world order occurred for me when I asked my mother point blank if there was a Santa Claus.

She answered my question flatly, without any hesitation.

"No."

My jaw dropped and instantly, I realized that if Claus didn't exist, neither did the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or any other benevolent being who never showed his face directly to me. Of course, I didn't connect this to the Big G, until I was about ten or eleven years of age sitting in Sunday School. I remember hearing the Hitler-youth-esque teacher insisting that God was all around us, inside of us and inside of everything else.

I looked to the center of the table I was sitting at with two or three other kids and asked aloud: "So, God is right there?"

A girl at my table looked where I was pointing and said as enthusiastically as the SS (Sunday School) teacher had, "Yes! Of course!"

My kid-brain had a problem with that. I smirked and said: "WHY?"

That was when I became an Atheist. Sure, I bandied about the idea that I might be an Agnostic, but that would suggest that I believed their was a God and that I just didn't know Him. After all, the word "agnostic" means "without knowledge" (A=latin for without and Gnostic=latin root for knowledge). Atheism is the one label that fits me best because I am quite sure that there is no god in any sense that has yet been defined. There may be a creator of the universe or a grand spirit or even a plan for this giant cosmos we all exist in, but is his name "God," "Yahweh," "Allah," or "Jesus?" Definitely not (especially the last one!).

I'm not sure when this godless universe view spread to superstition, but it happened during my adult years. It was probably when I was researching the Templar Knights and learned that the Templars were outlawed by the Pope back in the late 1200s/early 1300s--on October 13th--it was a Friday. (I forget the exact year.) The Templars, although not well known these days, were quite literally the Jedi Knights of the dark ages. They were known throught Europe (the entire western world, at the time) as just, but unfuck-withable knights who were both diplomats and warriors. They fought the British alongside William Wallace (Braveheart) and loaned money to kings for wars. Think of them as the Federal Reserve of the time period (which is a more ironic comparison than you know).

The point is, the fear of Friday the 13th probably comes from the banning of these guys on that day. Imagine if all of the sudden Democrats were outlawed by Bush. Imagine then that every Democrat was hunted down and killed--this is what happened to the Templars (well, some escaped). How shocking would that be for modern society? No doubt the day the decree from Bush came down would go down in history as that bad day. Like 911.

So, following that logic, black cats, umbrellas indoors and passing under ladders all became things I was no longer afraid of. However, I still eye each Friday the 13th with a bit of trepidation. When I was a teenager, I visited the now closed theme park Action Park in New Jersey and seriously messed up my left knee--I sport a scar on it to this day. Of course, Friday the 13th had nothing to do with the accident--Action Park was a well-known death trap. On another trip there, my ex-step-brother rode a waterslide and got turned upside-down. When he came out, he slammed his head on the bottom of the pool and had to have brain surgery--no joke.

Still, I can still picture my torn up knee in my mind to this day--that Friday the 13th is stuck in my head forever. So, as yesterday began, I tried to shove the thought of the date out of my mind. I had a job interview and then was going to spend 6 hours driving around LA on a scooter trailing a billboard behind me. (Ah, dayjobs!) The last thing I wanted to do was have Friday the 13th be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I went to my interview and while I kind of expected it to go poorly (they said they weren't hiring, but were interested in "changes" whatever that means) and lo' and behold, it turned out that they were very happy with me and are very interested in having me come work for them. They just need to figure out how it will work. This is not to say that I got an official job offer, but considering I expected nothing from the interview, I think it turned out pretty well.

Next was the scoot across LA. The first bit of luck was that we hit all of my favorite locations in LA save for the center of Hollywood. 3rd Street Promenade, Sunset Strip and my old neighborhood in WeHo (West Hollywood). Along the way we got a lot of people asking us about the company we worked for and so we got to talking to one guy who ended up being a movie producer. He has a friend who is a director of movies for the SciFi channel. He told me that he'd be happy to forward a script on to his friend.

!!!

Considering, I've been working on a screenplay that I am tailoring specifically for the SciFi channel, I fount this to be an extraordinary coincidence. I got his business card, stupidly didn't think to give him mine and was giddy with excitement for the rest of the night.

So, not exactly a bad Friday the 13th, huh?

Boy, it sure took me a while to get to my point, didn't it? Oh well. I like to write long blog entries every once in a while, so shoot me.

Anyway, gotta go work on that script. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 13, 2005

BOXER BLOCKS BOLTON

Thank you Senator Boxer!!

As usual, Boxer is the only person doing her job despite the fact that she's a Democrat.

The news comes a day after 4 Republicans out of ten Republicans on a Senate panel (staffed with 8 Democrats as well) voiced their concerns yet agreed that Senators should vote on whether Bolton should get the UN post. Good plan--so, you think someone's a bad choice but you risk the Republican dominated Senate to vote against him. Good luck. As for the Boxer block, here's a little somethin' somethin' from an article article at News.Yahoo.com from www.AFP.com:
Democrats in the US Senate have made a fresh bid to derail the appointment of John Bolton, the embattled White House pick for UN ambassador, after a Senate panel declined to back him ahead of a floor vote.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer "put a hold on the nomination" of Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations, her spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said without indicating how the process could be delayed.

The move is intended to either force further negotiations or ultimately to prevent his nomination from reaching the Senate floor.
So, thank you Senator Boxer for stepping up to the plate. I wish it wasn't so lonely for you in Washington. Keep setting a good example and hopefully soon you'll change things.
From www.AFP.com and News.Yahoo.com:

Senate Democrats move to block Bolton UN nomination

Fri May 13, 8:01 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democrats in the US Senate have made a fresh bid to derail the appointment of John Bolton, the embattled White House pick for UN ambassador, after a Senate panel declined to back him ahead of a floor vote.

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer "put a hold on the nomination" of Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations, her spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said without indicating how the process could be delayed.

The move is intended to either force further negotiations or ultimately to prevent his nomination from reaching the Senate floor.

A Senate panel took the rare step Thursday of refusing to endorse President George W. Bush's choice for UN ambassador, although it did send the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.

The White House had hoped that Bolton would receive the seal of approval of the committee's 10 Republicans, whose backing would have improved his odds for success in the Senate vote.

Instead, Bolton barely squeaked out of the polarized Senate committee.

His nomination was apparently saved after several Republicans agreed to forward his nomination for the UN post, without giving him explicit support.

Despite the lack of a congressional endorsement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "pleased" by the outcome, and expressed hope for Bolton's quick confirmation.

Rice argued that Bolton, currently undersecretary for arms control and international security at the US State Department, would bring the "skill and dedication necessary to advance the president's reform agenda" at the UN.

A date has not been set for the vote in the Senate where Republicans hold a 55 to 45 majority. But Democrats promised they would continue to fight tooth and nail against the nomination as it moves to the chamber.

"If this comes to the floor, we're going to have a fight," Senator Barbara Boxer said during the committee meeting.

Democrats have been united in opposition to Bolton, while four of the committee's 10 Republicans expressed serious reservations.

Chief among Bolton's Republican critics was Senator George Voinovich, who expressed grave reservations about allegations Bolton mistreated staff during his long Washington carreer and shaped intelligence to fit his views.

He also issued a scathing denunciation of the nominee, saying the president could have chosen any one of a number of equally qualified, less controversial, candidates.

Nevertheless, the Ohio senator said he would approve sending Bolton's nomination to a vote before the full Senate, in deference to the White House.

The debate in the divided committee was the latest showdown between Senate Democrats and Republicans, after weeks of bitter wrangling over Bush's nominee.

Bolton's Republican supporters acknowledge that he has at times been "blunt," but they say his direct manner is just what is needed to help whip the scandal-plagued UN into shape.

"I think the American people want someone at the United Nations who pushes strongly for reform," said Senator George Allen. "We are not electing 'Mr. Congeniality.' We do not need 'Mr. Milquetoast' in the United Nations," he said.

The panel has spent weeks examining allegations that Bolton misused or hyped flawed intelligence on issues including China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Even his ex-boss, former secretary of state Colin Powell, reportedly told lawmakers that Bolton had been a problematic official. Powell's former chief of staff was quoted by the US press as saying that Bolton would make an "abysmal ambassador."

If confirmed by the Senate, Bolton would have to fight the US case on vital foreign policy issues, ranging from nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea to the future of the world body itself.