TheKey Chronicle

$6 back issues!

Ballpoint Adventures mega-T
THE INKSTREME BALLPOINT
ADVENTURES

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ballpoint Adventures for January 1, 2006

Ballpoint Adventures for January 1, 2006!
(click to make it bigger)

"OTIS THE ELEVATOR" RETURNS!

Welcome back, Otis!!

Otis for January 1, 2006!
(click to make it bigger)

THE FINAL POST OF 2005

Wow--it's been a crazy-ass year for ThePete!

The Good:

I got married.
I got to go to Scotland.
(I got to get married in Scotland!)
I wrote and helped put on my first play.
An iPod that plays video came out and I got one.

TheBad:

The world is a mess.
Bush has committed crimes.
No one (important) seems to care that Bush committed crimes.
I've lost virtually all faith in the political system.
It frustrates me to know that a great many of us saw this coming (and see things getting much worse before they get better) but no one (important) wanted to listen to us.
I got a big scratch on my iPod.

OK, so that last point isn't as big a deal as the others on my list. However, I can't really think of too many other things that were bad and as far as good things go, those are pretty good things. Got a wife and an iPod and had a 2 week adventure. Pretty damn sweet.

Here are my hopes for the new year:

1) I hope to get representation as a writer of screenplays, novels, comics, or any other damn thing I enjoy writing.

2)I plan on producing more episodes of The 5 Minute Show (remember that?)--watch for the original 12 episodes to return weekly starting on Sunday (tomorrow).

3) Comic strips will be returning to ThePete.Com (Otis, Ballpoint Adventures, About Face, Mugsy, Jesus Comics, Animal Trex, and others are being considered).

4) Expect to see more vodcasts/vlog entries

5) Expect to see daily (flash?) fiction from me in either TheF Blog or TheFuture Blog :)

6) I want to finish adding in my early blog entries from the very old days before blogging was even called blogging (circa 1998, 1999 and 2000--[http://thepete.com/tag/TheBitch+Archive|read the ones I've posted so far])

7) I want to recategorize all of my entries and add tags as I go.

8) I and some friends will be drawing more content for the second issue of ThePete.Comic in January 2006. The second issue should be out by early February at the latest.

9) I plan on finishing my current screenplay and write two more (at least) before the end of 2006.

10) I plan on writing at least three more short stories and self-publish them along with two others in a compilation.

11) I was also thinking about writing a series of 75-100 page novellas and self publishing them.

12) Figure out a way to get to Japan in a professional writing capacity.

13) Shoot more of my own films (and finish the two short films I've been working on for the past two years).

14) Finish all of my outstanding DVDs (OJX, Director's Cut, my wedding, the two shows I shot in Scotland).

15) If I have time, learn Flash. ;)

16) Oh yeah, I also want to change the smilies to smilies that I've drawn.

That's all that comes to mind. :)

That should serve as a nice checklist for me to refer to throughout 2006. :)

Hope your 2005 has been as good as, or better, than mine and I wish all of my visitors a brilliant new year! Oh yeah, there's one other thing I want to see happen in 2006:

Bush get impeached!

US NATIONAL DEBT LIMIT TO BE RAISED AGAIN?

What follows is part of what [http://thepete.com/us-government-to-raise-ceiling-on-borrowing-from-the-fed/|I wrote waaay back in February of 2003] :
You think you’re having credit problems? Well, believe it or not, the money the government gets does NOT come from taxes - most (if not all) of the money the USGov gets from tax payers goes to pay off the national debt. Which, according to [http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/|this website], currently resides well past the six trillion dollar mark. Just to put that in perspective, according to this site the US population is approaching 300 million people. Do the math and you’ll see that the USG is so deep in debt if every SINGLE human who lives in America today (including the poor and the infants) gave $20,000 to the USG, they STILL wouldn’t have enough money to pay of the debt.


[http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/|That same website], by the way, now has the ND up to over $8 trillion. How do you spend that much? Have a Bush in the White House (I only wish I was referring to greenery in the Rose Garden instead of a George Bush). Here's more from my post two years ago:
The other important thing to note is that the National Debt goes up roughly a billion dollars a day because the USG keeps borrowing.

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

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


Ha, or years--[http://thepete.com/bush-ups-his-credit-limit-to-8-trillion/|I wrote this in November of 2004] :
We live in a world where we are all stuck with the credit limits our banks decide to stick us with. While we can play games and jump through hoops to get that limit raised, all Bush 43 has to do is pass a law and BANG–he gets to borrow $800 billion more than he was previously able to. Granted, he’s not exactly out there buying DVRs, Porches and Playstation 2s, he’s spending the money on government things–all right, war. That is most of what the USGov spends its money on–”defense.” Because, there are, like, a lot of things to defend the US from. Like, ummmm… stuff. Terrorists, even though they’ve only killed around a few thousand of us, it is Al Qaeda who is considered the new Soviet Union.

So borrow, borrow, borrow does Bush, setting the example for a divided country. Debt is ok! Even if you have no way of possibly EVER paying that money back!In case you’re hungry for some “hard” news instead of my commentary, here’s a clip from [http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6867307&src=rss/topNews|an uncredited article] from Reuters.com:
President Bush will sign into law by Monday a measure authorizing an $800 billion increase in the credit limit of the United States, the White House said.

In a statement issued late on Thursday after Congress gave its final approval to increase the limit to a new $8.184 trillion ceiling, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the legislation “was important to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”


Ah, yes--the "faith and credit" of the United States. Like the USG gives a shit?

Well, remember how I mentioned above that the ND had gotten up to over $8 trillion? Yeah, well, as the article I quoted in 2004 said, the limit is $8.184 trillion. Check out the clip below I grabbed from [http://money.cnn.com/2005/12/29/news/economy/debt.reut/index.htm|an article] at Money.CNN.Com (ironically also uncredited and from Reuters.com) that I found thanks to [http://www.livejournal.com/community/peak_oil/257572.html?view=1635876|this post] in [http://www.livejournal.com/community/peak_oil|the Peak Oil community] at LiveJournal.Com:
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow warned lawmakers Thursday that a legally set limit on the government's ability to borrow will be hit in mid-February and urged Congress to raise it quickly.

"The administration now projects that the statutory debt limit, currently $8.184 trillion, will be reached in mid-February 2006," Snow said in a letter to 21 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

He urged quick action to raise it to preserve the government's ability to borrow in global capital markets at the lowest rates possible.

"A failure to increase the debt limit in a timely manner would threaten this unique and important position," Snow said.


So, there ya have it. Well, maybe you don't... There are a couple of links provided by LJ user [http://www.livejournal.com/users/mjmj/|mjmj] that each tell us a bit more about the debt.

http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdhisto4.htm

The above link shows you the annual ND from 1950 to 2005. Notice how the big jumps in the ND occur during Republican administrations. During the Reagan/Bush years, the ND was vaulted from $930 billion to $2.6 trillion--that's a $1.5 trillion climb. From '76 to '80, Carter only nudged it $300 billion, or so.

Of course, when the senior Bush became Prez in 1988, his four years in office would see almost another $1.5 trillion jump from the $2.6 trillion Reagan left him with to the $4 trillion he'd leave Clinton. By the time Clinton handed the ND to the (very) junior Bush, it had only gotten to a bit less than $5.7 trillion. That's a $1.7 trillion jump in eight years. Sure, Clinton was no penny pincher, but he spent just slightly more in 8 years than the elder Bush did in four. Remember inflation, too--but we'll get to inflation later.

Let's now look at how the junior Bush has handled things. From the $5.6 Clinton left him with, Bush, between 2000 and 2004, upped the ND to $7.3 trillion. That works out to a $1.7 trillion jump--the same amount Clinton hiked it to in 8 years.

Neat how inflation occurs and practically demands that the USG borrows more money than it did in earlier years. Still, the wild hikes seen under Republican administrations are not explained solely by inflation.

Here's the second link [http://www.livejournal.com/users/mjmj/|mjmj] posted in [http://www.livejournal.com/community/peak_oil/257572.html?view=1635876|that original LJ Peak Oil thread] :

http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdint.htm

That link sends you to a page that covers the interest part of the the ND that we owe. Yep--with debt comes interest payments. Ours is up to $352 billion.

I'll have to do another post that covers my confusion regarding who all this money is owed to. In the meantime I'll end this post by pointing out that I blogged about the USG upping it's credit limit in 2003, 2004 and now again at the tail end of 2005. Why do I have the feeling I'll be blogging about it more in 2006?

OH yeah... Bush is in office until January of 2008!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!!

6 Hour Best of The Daily Show, 2005 Video Torrent

Check it out--this dude calling himself PhAZe has cut together what he thinks is the best of the Daily Show from 2005.

You can grab the torrent for the [http://ts.searching.com/torrent/489341/The_Best_of_The_Daily_Show_2005_DVD_R_re_loaded|DVD version] of it or snag the torrent for the [http://ts.searching.com/torrent/489042/The_Best_of_The_Daily_Show_Vol_2xvid|Xvid version].

Did I mention it's 6 hours long? He says it's lousy quality which is what allows the DVD version to be just 4.36gb and the Xvid 810.5mb. I'm going to convert it to mp4 anyway, so I don't care what the quality is like--I'm pretty sure it'll look awesome on my 2.5 inch screen :D.

If you're not familiar with the concept of torrents, just download Azureus for PC or Mac, install it and then click on torrent links in a browser. When your system asks whether to save the torrent or open it, tell it to open it in Azureus. Then sit back and wait for it to DL.

Damn, did I just break the DMCA?

Wait--nope, I didn't because I didn't just teach you how to beat digital copy protection, I just taught you one way to file share.

WHEW!

Thanks be to Lisa of OnLisaReinsRadar.Com for [http://www.onlisareinsradar.com/archives/002544.php#002544|blogging on this]. Greater thanks be to PhAZe whom I suspect wanders the forums over at TDSExperience.com.

Friday, December 30, 2005

COWBOY BEBOP LEGO

Ah, it's rare when I have a moment to blog on just fun stuff. Well, maybe not rare, but certainly on the rare side. With this post, I'd like to draw your attention to some Lego mini figures that were custom made by a guy calling himself Knaaker. Check 'em out:



Pretty sweet, huh? The Faye needs a little work, but the hair's spot on. [http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?f=13090|Check out more pics] at [http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?m=knaaker|Knaaker's gallery] at BrickShelf.com.

Funny Apple Support Calls

Got a few minutes and need a quick laugh?

http://colo.slacker.com/apple-support-calls/

My favorite is the one where the Apple support guy has to explain what a paper clip is.

13 Strikes

13 Strikes Against Bush:

1) 911 was allowed to happen. Existing FAA regulations could have minimized the death and destruction on that day, but they were not followed. Either Bush deliberately made 911 worse by ordering those regulations ignored or his administration is incompetent for not following regulations. [http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2000/AAB0001.htm|Remember Payne Stewart's plane?]

2) Iraqi WMD were never found. If we wanted a democracy in Iraq it would have been cheaper in money and blood to pay Saddam $200 billion to institute one (you don't think he'd agree to lick our boots for that much money?).

3) Iraqis didn't welcome us with flowers and candy as was promised. "I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome." -George W. Bush, 12/05

4) The Iraq Attack (which Bush didn't mention [http://thepete.com/uns-annan-iraq-attack-illegal/|was illegal]) didn't go smoothly and quickly came to cost hundreds of billions, instead of just billions. Either Bush and Company are deliberately lying to us or they are idiots.

5) "We'll get Osama dead or alive." Bush once told us. Then he decided the man who killed 3000 people on 911 was a non-entity only to change his mind again in early 2006. (Updated 3/3006)

6) Bush's government cut funding to New Orleans levees because, like when the hell is a really bad storm ever going to hit that city? His government then botched relief efforts. Either the Bush 43 Administration is racist, classist or are fools.

7) The Taliban have not been vanquished from Afghanistan. [http://news.google.com/news?q=taliban&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&sa=N&tab=wn|Do a Google News search and see how vanquished they are.] In fact, [http://english.people.com.cn/200512/28/eng20051228_231395.html|they just attacked a girl's school] and [http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/nbc/nbc_airs_exclusive_taliban_interview_30056.asp|NBC just aired an interview with a Taliban biggy-wig].

8) Iraqi insurgents were NOT in their last throes (throws?) as Dick Cheney promised us. The guerilla war that has been plaguing the US occupation was predicted by the so-called "nay-sayers" who also suggested we wouldn't be greeted with flowers and candy.

9) Iraqi insurgents are actually [http://thepete.com/iraqi-insurgents-not-al-qaeda/|locals and NOT Al Qaeda] or other foreign fighters, contrary to the Bush 43 Administrations claims. See, locals fighting us are bad because they're what you call, uh, freedom fighters.

10) We were told that medicare bill would cost $400+ when [http://thepete.com/the-fax-of-bush-43s-lies/|it actually cost $500+ and Bush hid that fact before the vote].

11) Bush created commercials that he had distributed as news stories to news shows around the country. Said "news stories" weren't sourced to the USG and Bush claimed they were still legal because they weren't slanted in favor of the Bush programs they "reported" on. However, according to the [http://www.gao.gov|General Accountability Office], [http://www.gao.gov/decisions/appro/303495.htm|they are illegal because they weren't sourced to the Bush 43 Administration]. Do a search for "covert propaganda" at www.GAO.gov for more on this.

12) The Bush 43 Administration seems to think torture is a good way to extract intel. It isn't, nor is it moral. What's the point of living with morals if you're going to ignore them when your life is threatened?

13) Bush tells us that spying on Americans is neccesary to keep them safe. How does taking away our rights secure them?

13 Strikes against Bush.

Are we going to let him finish playing the game?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

ThePhlog 12/29/05

Damn, this was supposed to post early Thursday morning but Blogger.com (or WordPress) screwed up. Oh well, here it is now... Luckily as I type this, I'm about to go to sleep and it's only 3:40am (this will make sense after you listen).

this is an audio post - click to play

THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE (2005)

Positive Experience/Entertaining? Wow--definitely. Not the best researched documentary I've seen, but it was nice to see a film that basically points the finger at believers and shakes its head.


Technically any good? I think the film maker only spoke with seven people, though I'm sure he did plenty of reading. Regardless, I know how to make a movie and this one came off pretty damn opinionated. It just so happens that physics, logic and most of modern science is on his side. Plus, through my own research I've already come to believe as he does. So, yeah, more research=good, but how much research do you really have to do to find evidence of Jesus existing? (Actually, quite a bit, since hard evidence is sparse!)


How did it leave me feeling? Pretty damn good to know that there are other people out in the world who agree that there is simply no evidence of a supreme being. This isn't me being disrespectful--believe what you want. Just don't make fun of me when I quote philosophy from the likes of Captain Kirk, Han Solo, or Spider-Man. I know they exist--I saw movies about them! ;)

Final Rating? SIYL (Obviously, a documentary looking for evidence of the existence of Jesus isn't for everyone. But if you've got an open mind, regardless of which faith you practice, why not check it out?)

GOD SEES EMBRYOS AS COMPLETE HUMANS (AND HE SAYS THE POPE HAS A HUGE PENIS, TOO!)

[http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2005-12-28T130846Z_01_KRA847296_RTRUKOC_0_UK-POPE-EMBRYOS.xml&archived=False|A December 28, 2005 article] from Reuters.com reports that the Pope says that God says that He (God) views embryos as full and complete humans.

Pope Benedict!! YOU LITTLE SCAMP!

God told me just the other day that he doesn't view embryos as full and complete humans at all. In fact, he told me that he thought they were kind of funny looking, like chunks of wet Play-Doh--or maybe a blobs of Silly Putty with Charlie Brown only partially transfered to it...

He also told me I had a massive penis and am the master of all things.


...


It's easy to know what God's opinion is on just about anything when you invent Him from nothing and then put words in his mouth.

Awesome scam, Catholic Church!!

Hm... God and Al Qaeda suddenly seem to have a lot of things in common...

ILLEGAL WIRETAPS USELESS--AQ USES MESSENGERS, D'OH!

Yep, we've got Homer Simpson in the White House (have they done an episode like that yet?). What a joke.

Back in April of 2005, [http://thepete.com/bush-scared-by-cloud/|I blogged] on another of Bush's Homer-moments when he was rushed into an underground bunker after what ended up being a cloud was dedected heading right toward the White House. Now, according to [http://www.insightmag.com/Media/MediaManager/wiretaps_0.htm|an article] at InsightMag.com, it turns out he skipped over the rubber-stamp court for domestic spying and broke the law by allowing said domestic spying for nothing. The wiretaps he ordered were useless because Al Qaeda was simply using human messengers to deliver it's information.

MAN, those AQ guys are SMART!!

Of course, if AQ really had a clue they'd use homing pigeons!

Regardless, I sure am glad my rights were violated so the USG couldn't get any intel!

So, let's check the score now:

1) Iraqi WMD

WRONG

2) Iraqis welcome us with flowers and candy

WRONG

3) Iraq Attack (which you didn't mention [http://thepete.com/uns-annan-iraq-attack-illegal/|was illegal]) would go smoothly and quickly costing billions, not hundreds of billions

WRONG

4) We'll get Saddam dead or alive.

WR--OK, well, there's one for the Bush team

5) We'll get Osama dead or alive.

WRONG

6) The USG should cut funding to New Orleans levees because, like when the hell is a really bad storm ever going to hit that city?

WRONG

7) Taliban vanquished from Afghanistan

[http://news.google.com/news?q=taliban&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&sa=N&tab=wn|WRONG] ([http://english.people.com.cn/200512/28/eng20051228_231395.html|they just attacked a girl's school] and [http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/nbc/nbc_airs_exclusive_taliban_interview_30056.asp|NBC just aired an interview with a Taliban biggy-wig])

8) Iraqi insurgents in their last throes (throws?)

WRONG

9) Iraqi insurgents are actually Al Qaeda or at least foreign fighters--not Iraqis fighting the occupation

[http://thepete.com/iraqi-insurgents-not-al-qaeda/|WRONG]

10) Medicare bill will cost $400+

WRONG ([http://thepete.com/the-fax-of-bush-43s-lies/|It actually cost $500+ and Bush hid that fact before the vote])

11) Created commercials that weren't sourced to the USG and were still legal because they weren't slanted in favor of the Bush programs they "reported" on

WRONG (because they were slanted. Check out [http://thepete.com/bush-43-admin-lies-breaks-fed-law-again/|this post] or [http://www.gao.gov/decisions/appro/303495.htm|read about it] at www.GAO.gov)

12) Torture is a great way to exract intel.

WRONG

13) Spying on Americans is neccesary to keep them safe

WRONG

OK, that's 13 strikes that I can count just off the top of my head.

13 strikes--can he be "out" now, please?

13 strikes!!

If this were baseball, he'd have struck out four times!



13 strikes!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

[ThePhlog] 12/29/2005 04:19:57 AM


this is an audio post - click to play


--
Posted by ThePete to ThePhlog at 12/29/2005 04:19:57 AM

YES, I Was Once This "CUUUUTE"

Me and my brother, circa too damn long ago...

IMG_1854

BUSH DRUNK? NO, THANKFULLY

Oh my God, this is stupid but so damn funny:

http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/002733.html

Bush drunk? Not quite, but he might as well be...

[http://video.lisarein.com/thepete/stuff/Cine_Del_Arbusto/bushdrunk.mp4|Get it in mp4 format] compliments of ThePete.Com and OnLisaReinsRadar.com...

BARRON'S CALLS FOR BUSH IMPEACHMENT

Yep, they used the "I" word...

Thanks to Google.com's cache of [http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:D89jWQ9Y2wQJ:online.barrons.com/article_email/SB113538491760731012-lMyQjAxMDE1MzI1NDMyODQ0Wj.html+%22Unwarranted+Executive+Power%22&hl=en&client=firefox-a|the Barron's Online editorial] we can read what Barrons.com has to say about Bush and Spygate without having to buy their magazine. Check it out:
Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years.

In that time, Congress has extensively debated the rules on wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance. Administration officials have spent many hours before many committees urging lawmakers to provide them with great latitude. Congress acted, and the president signed.

Now the president and his lawyers are claiming that they have greater latitude. They say that neither the USA Patriot Act nor the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually sets the real boundary. The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has no power to overrule him.

...

Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

...

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.


Powerful stuff--and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The Barron's editorial goes further than that. The point is, here's [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barron%27s_Magazine|Barron's] a respected financial (and one could easily say conservative) rag saying Bush should be impeached.

COME ON, PRESS--DON'T LET US DOWN!!

KEEP AT THIS!!!

Thanks be to the DemocracyNow.Org podcast for pointing this story out in [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/12/27/1443255|their podcast from December 27, 2005].

From Barrons.com via Google.com's [http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:D89jWQ9Y2wQJ:online.barrons.com/article_email/SB113538491760731012-lMyQjAxMDE1MzI1NDMyODQ0Wj.html+%22Unwarranted+Executive+Power%22&hl=en&client=firefox-a|cache] :
MONDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2005
EDITORIAL COMMENTARY

Unwarranted Executive Power

The pursuit of terrorism does not authorize the president to make up new laws
By THOMAS G. DONLAN

AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers.

It was not a shock to learn that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct intercepts of international phone calls to and from the United States. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to gather the foreign communications of people in the U.S. -- without a warrant if quick action is important. But the law requires that, within 72 hours, investigators must go to a special secret court for a retroactive warrant.

The USA Patriot Act permits some exceptions to its general rules about warrants for wiretaps and searches, including a 15-day exception for searches in time of war. And there may be a controlling legal authority in the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution that authorized the president to go after terrorists and use all necessary and appropriate force. It was not a declaration of war in a constitutional sense, but it may have been close enough for government work.

Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years.

In that time, Congress has extensively debated the rules on wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance. Administration officials have spent many hours before many committees urging lawmakers to provide them with great latitude. Congress acted, and the president signed.

Now the president and his lawyers are claiming that they have greater latitude. They say that neither the USA Patriot Act nor the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually sets the real boundary. The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has no power to overrule him.

"We also believe the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander-in-chief, to engage in this kind of activity," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Department of Justice made a similar assertion as far back as 2002, saying in a legal brief: "The Constitution vests in the president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that Constitutional authority." Gonzales last week declined to declassify relevant legal reviews made by the Department of Justice.

Perhaps they were researched in a Star Chamber? Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make his misgivings public and demand more information.

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.

SENATE DOES IT'S JOB AND BEFORE VACATION

Just before the start of a holiday break there's a mad dash to get a bunch of last minute items in under the wire. During this rush some things make it and others don't. When you're a Senator, there's no difference. Last year at Thanksgiving, it was [http://thepete.com/omnibus-law-almost-snuck-two-by/|the big-ass omnibus bill] that was literally as tall as a small child. (About two-and-a-half feet tall, by my estimation while watching it sit on John McCain's desk on C-SPAN last year.)

This year before the winter break, it was ANWR and cutting all sorts of public "socialist" programs. Hey--when politricians call them "social" programs, most of the time they really mean "socialist" programs, but I'll get into more about this later. First up, we have ANWR (pronounced ANNE-WAR) and that's an acronym for Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. Why was this voted on in the Senate? Why else? There's oil underneath it.

Now, one of the guys who is all for drilling in ANWR is a dude called Ted Stevens. He's a senator, he's greedy and he's pretty obviously mad. Mad, crazy, not mad angry.

How do I know this? Well, over at FedNet.Net, they have a [http://www.fednet.net/|quote from Stevens] saying on the day his pro-ANWR drilling bill was voted down:
"Should I live with the reputation I’ve got for 37 years in the senate? No one's ever questioned my integrity before this year... This has been the sadest day of my life." Senator Ted Stevens concluding his remarks from the Senate Floor after the defeat of the his ANWR amendment to the DoD Appropriations bill.


He said that wearing his Incredible Hulk tie--which he often wears on days when important votes occur. So, the saddest day of his life is the day when the Senate votes down the bill that would let a wildlife refuge in his homestate get drilled in for oil.

Why is he so sad? Over at the [http://www.nwprogressive.org|Northwest Progressive Institute]'s [http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog|weblog] [http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2005/11/ted-stevens-has-problem.html|they say] that:
Stevens has a problem. A big problem. To put it figuratively, he sleeps with oil company executives. His loyalty to them was obviously on display this week.


It's not neccesarily the power he's loyal to. It's his own wallet. It turns out (as far as I can tell) [http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:7VtQw9YUzpoJ:www.oxfordenergy.org/pdfs/WPM27.pdf+alaska+oil+profit+sharing&hl=en&client=firefox-a|everyone in Alaska] gets a chunk of oil profits from any oil sourced to Alaska. So, it's not just his own wallet, I suppose--it's him protecting the wallets of his constituents. The thing is, which is more important? Alaskan wallets or Alaskan wilderness? I'm thinking the latter, but that's only because I like trees, animals and clean air. Personally, the less oil we drill means the less oil we use, etc, etc...

Something else I just came across over at the [http://www.nwprogressive.org|Northwest Progressive Institute]'s [http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog|weblog] is [http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2005/12/payback-for-arctic-refuge-filibuster.html|a post] that mentions the following:
The minute they could no longer use it as a bargaining chip, Republicans in Congress cut badly needed help for low-income households to heat their homes this winter. The director of CBPP Robert Greenstein called it:

"Even though there is bipartisan support in Congress for providing LIHEAP {Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program} funds, congressional leaders stripped those funds out of the defense bill the minute they could no longer use them to help get ANWR enacted."


Nice work Republicans. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.

But how do I know Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is mad? (That's insane, mad, not mad, mad.) Well, check out the below Daily Show clip I grabbed from [http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/002687.html|the larger clip] available at OneGoodMove.Org. It's actually a piece that starts out being about the renewed interest in regulating pay TV but ironically turns into a little bio on everyone's favorite Alaska Senator:

3.8mb mp4


I shudder when considering the "you're-shitting-me-ness" of the last thing Stewart says in that clip.

Regardless, the guy is crazy and we should all be glad his bill got slammed. The bad news is that he won't be leaving the Senate any time soon and we are more than likely to hear more from this bitter, greedy old man.

Meanwhile, we see what some call major cuts to programs that help the poor folks--in other words, those "socialist" programs I mentioned briefly above are getting cut. What's interesting here is how Big Dick Cheney had to cut short his vacation in Saudi Arabia (k, it may not have been a vacation) to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Yep--big surprise--Cheney voted for cutting social programs.

He seems like such a nice guy...

/ sarcasm

Here are a few clips from around the web regarding this story:

From [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/12/22/1521254|a December 22, 2005 post] at DemocracyNow.Org:
The contentious budget bill was passed by a 50 to 51 vote. Five Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in opposing the measure. Their combined votes would have led to a 50-50 tie. However, Vice President Dick Cheney cut short his trip to the Middle East in order to cast the tie-breaking vote.

As president of the Senate, Cheney was able to break the deadlock and pass the measure. Critics of the bill note that the poor and middle class would bear the brunt of the cuts. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid called it "an ideologically driven, extreme, radical budget. It caters to lobbyists and an elite group of ultraconservative ideologues here in Washington, all at the expense of middle class Americans.” The American Council on Education announced this is the biggest cut in the history of the federal student loan program.


Here's a clip from [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/21/AR2005122100748.html|a December 22, 2005 article] from WaPo :
Vice President Cheney took his seat as president of the Senate just past 10:30 a.m. to cast the tie-breaking vote on a hard-fought budget bill that would allow states to impose new fees on Medicaid recipients, cut federal child-support enforcement funds, impose new work requirements on state welfare programs and squeeze student lenders -- all for the purpose of slowing the growth of federal entitlement programs.

The vote was 51 to 50, with five Republicans and one independent joining 44 Democrats in opposing the measure. Maryland and Virginia senators voted along party lines.

Final victory was denied, however, when Democrats used a parliamentary objection to strike three small provisions from the 774-page measure, forcing it back to the House for a new vote, which may not occur until early next year.


That last bit was in reference to the ANWR stuff. I'll let you decide which report is less and/or more biased. Frankly, I like DN's coverage since everyone sounds like WaPo these days, referring to things like "Republican victory" and so on.

To WaPo's credit, they do include the following paragraph:
After hours of negotiations and a bitter denunciation by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who added the drilling provision to the bill, the Senate voted 93 to 0 to approve the defense bill without the drilling authority. Stevens angrily complained to his colleagues that they were sacrificing billions of dollars in oil royalty revenue that could have gone for domestic priorities such as Hurricane Katrina disaster aid, homeland security funds and heating bill assistance for low-income people.
This is funny considering one of those clips in the Daily Show vid I link to above--there's one moment in the vid where Stevens forcefully refuses to endorse a bill that would take money away from his state and would give it to Katrina victims.

To add more confusion to this whole thing the same WaPo article includes:
The Senate also approved a huge spending bill to fund fiscal 2006 health, education and labor programs, as well as defense authorization legislation and a six-month extension of the USA Patriot Act.
So, they cut all this socialist stuff but turn around and fund a bunch of it for next year? Just what's going on here? Oh yeah and there's that Patriot Act again. This is funny since I could have sworn I heard something about the six months turning into five weeks or something.

The WaPo article closes with:
"The Senate vote to reduce entitlement spending is a victory for taxpayers, fiscal restraint and responsible budgeting," Bush said.

"The bottom line is, we stood firm and we made tough choices," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), praising what he called "a very important and proud day."


Yes, it's a proud day when taxpayers (ie, people who make enough to pay taxes) don't have to pay as much into programs that help poor people (the people who don't make enough to pay taxes).

A proud day, indeed, Rick.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TheVlog 12/28/5

Hey look! It's my first vlog entry! Check it out!

thevlog20051228.mp4



It's just 10mbs and in mp4 format--sweet!

US PUNISHES THOSE WHO DEAL MISSILES TO IRAN

This is funny...

According to [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/27/AR2005122700698.html|an article] from AP.org available over at WaPo, the Bush 43 Administration is "sanctioning" several countries for selling missiles to Iran. The reason I find this odd is because Bush didn't sanction the US, which sold arms to Iran during [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-Contra_Affair|the infamous Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s].

Of course, I'm being somewhat sarcastic, but you get the point.

I put "sanctioning" in quotes above because it seemed like an odd use of the word, but was the word the AP article used. What they probably mean is "put sanctions against." Or something like that. Here's a clip from the article that tells us exactly what's up:
The Bush administration is punishing nine foreign companies, six of them in China, for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to Iran.

In making the announcement Tuesday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the sanctions were based on "credible evidence," which he did not disclose.

Two of the companies are Indian and the other is Austrian.

As a result, Ereli said, the United States will not provide export licenses to the companies for doing business here and will ban U.S. government purchases from the companies.


HA! More "credible evidence" no doubt this time supplied by a chappy named "Trojan Horse" or perhaps "Ima Liar."

VOICES GIVEN TO Voices of a People's History of the United States

I've just started reading Howard Zinn's [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060528370/qid=1135737028/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-4305545-1979121?s=books&v=glance&n=283155|People's History of the United States] which covers American history from 1492 to the present from the losers' point of view. Often the sources for this book end up being the winner's own gloating about a massacre of Indians or a glorious battle over someone else who lost. It's a very telling book that kinda blew my mind from page 1. Here's a screencap of part of page 1:


The book originally came out 15 years ago and has been updated over the years to keep it up to date with all of the losers' stories of oppression and loss under the often oppressive heel of the US Government.

Last year, Zinn and Anthony Arnov put together a sequel of sorts to the book called [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1583226281/qid=1135737028/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/104-4305545-1979121?s=books&v=glance&n=283155|Voices of A People's History of the United States]. It's filled with the actual words of people throughout American history, speaking from their own point of view--very few of them are people you've probably heard of, but all of them were on the receiving end of the USG's agenda. Back in October of this year, Zinn held a reading of the book but had various actors come in and read passages from the book. The actors include but are not limited to Danny Glover, Marisa Tomei, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Sandra Oh, and Viggo Mortensen. You can see/hear an edited down version of this reading in the December 26, 2005 broadcast of Democracy Now which is [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/12/26/160202|downloadable] from DemocracyNow.org. They have both mp4 and mp3 formats--check them out. I'm pretty damn sure you'll be as moved as I was.

BUSH TOO MUCH FOR EVEN RUBBER STAMP COURT

So, one of the funny things about this whole Bush-authorizing-spying-on-American-citizens-without-a-warrant thing is that there was already a secret court that would often OK these kinds of situations in this and past administrations. In fact, it would OK so many of these cases that critics began to call it a rubber stamp for Big Brother. So, why would Bush bipass this rubber-stamp-court (which already seems pretty unConstitutional to me) and break the law? Well, as www.UPI.com is [http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20051226-122526-7310r|reporting], it seems like Bush was getting a little too nosey for even their tastes. Here's what UPI said about this:

Bush was denied wiretaps, bypassed them



WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress by Hearst newspapers shows the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The 11-judge court that authorizes FISA wiretaps modified only two search warrant orders out of the 13,102 applications approved over the first 22 years of the court's operation.

But since 2001, the judges have modified 179 of the 5,645 requests for surveillance by the Bush administration, the report said. A total of 173 of those court-ordered "substantive modifications" took place in 2003 and 2004. And, the judges also rejected or deferred at least six requests for warrants during those two years -- the first outright rejection of a wiretap request in the court's history.

© Copyright 2005 United Press International, Inc.


Considering that there was a mechanism for Bush to get away with spying on Americans and that mechanism turned him down, this would seem to me to be pretty cut-and-dry evidence that Bush broke the law.

I really think it's impeachment time folks. Undeniably.

Damn, Missed the iPod Yule Log!

Man, this is what I get for being offline so close to Christmas--I miss out on the perfect holiday accessory for my ViPod--the yule log in mp4 format!!

On Christmas Eve, TUAW.com [http://www.tuaw.com/2005/12/24/is-that-a-yule-log-on-your-ipod/|blogged] on [http://wgntv.trb.com/entertainment/wpix-yulelog-download,0,42952.htmlstory?coll=wgntv-home-5|an mp4-formatted yule log clip] over at WGNTV.com. While the web page shows the clip playing on an iPod, it's my understanding that the PSP can handle mp4 as well. Anyway, grab it for next year, or if you plan on going skiing this year. ;)

Monday, December 26, 2005

We're Home...

Huzzah... we're home... we got a few cool gifts. Yippee... I'm tired.

More later...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Whatever

Howdy folks! Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holiday! Sure, I'm an Atheist, but I do acknowledge that the human race seriously needs to be forced to be nice to each other at least once a year--though I think it could benefit by being forced year-round, but that's just me.

Sure, I enjoy gift giving and getting, but in the end I'd trade every gift I've gotten this year and every other if every human on the planet would stop using violence to "solve" their problems. I also would LOVE to see capitalism take a back seat to, well, just about anything else these days.

That said, here are a few links I found over at TreeHugger.com that are kind of Christmassy and still responsible to the human race and mother nature in the same breath:

First off, TreeHugger.com points out [http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/12/hanukkah_the_pe_1.php|that Hanukkah is the peak oil holiday]. Here's their blurb on it:
In our house we celebrate both Christmas (real tree, LED lights) and Hanukkah, which like much from the middle east, is all about oil. The Temple was recovered after a civil war (another story) and the oil lamps had to be kept burning. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, but it would take eight days to prepare more; miraculously one days supply of oil lasted for eight. We suspect that in years to come a lot more people will be praying for such a miracle, so perhaps a Happy Hanukkah is in order as well as a Merry Christmas to all.


That last bit really made me smile--though I still don't believe 100% in peak oil. I do belive it's something to watch out for.

Next up, TH.c [http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/12/what_can_we_do.php|blogs about Expanded PolyStyrene] (better known as StyroFoam) that is formed into peanuts and other packing material that many of your gifts came to you floating in today. Specifically, how to recycle them. It's a pretty interesting read and something I think we should all learn more about since Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) is so incredibly common our world. You can get a DVD player, TV set or box of cookies from grandma without getting a goodly supply of StyroFoam peanuts, too.

On Christmas Eve, TH.c [http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/12/us_national_ene.php|blogged about the US National Energy Research Lab budget being cut by 10%]. Just to give you an idea of what 10% means in people, that's 100 scientists and researchers who will lose their jobs in the coming year. Guess this lets us see just how much the Bush 43 Administration cares about developing energy sources other than oil. Say, Bush--where are those hydrogren-powered cars you promised a few years back?

TH.c also [http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/12/led_fibre_optic.php|posts on the only fake tree you should consider if you don't want to go with one that was kidnapped from its natural habitat], a plastic one that has fiber optics coursing through it's branches--in other words, it comes with lights built in. The lights are sourced by LEDs and this means they use helluva less energy and you don't have to deal with those stupid tangled lights. Isn't that cool? What's even better is that it comes with a built-in mp3 player with Christmas carols pre-loaded.

OK, well, I could do without the pre-loaded nightmare music Christmas carols. :)

On Christmas, I always like to post something offensive, but this year I can't get my powerbook online thanks to not being anywhere near a wifi connection today (I'm on my parents'-in-law PC and I'd hate to screw anything up with it by say, removing an ethernet cable). This means that my favorite disturbing Christmas image (Santa and his reindeer shot dead by a hunter) will once again have to wait until next year. In the meantime, Images.Google.com has netted me the below shot:

Friday, December 23, 2005

We're About Out the Door

Welp, the Christmas shopping is done for this Atheist and non-practicing half-Jew. :D (Can you really be half-Jewish?) In an hour, or so, TheWife and I are heading up to see her fam in NoCal. If you're a member of my family or a close friend your card is either on its way or soon to be on its way. If you're all wondering where your official wedding announcement is, it's going to have to wait until January at this rate, along with the DVDs my play, Sierra's last couple shows and our wedding.

Never enough flippin' time.

Of course, if George W. Bush could suddenly become the good leader he keeps claiming to be, I'd have a lot less to write about.

While away, I'll try to keep blogging, but I have no idea how close I'll be to any wifi connections. Still, there's a lot to read here at ThePete.Com. Well over 2000 posts--check out the archives from as far back as 1998 (I still have quite a few from that era I need to repost, alas) and if you're looking for some multimedia fun, click "TheVideos" link up, underneath my cam image to check out a whole slew of short vids you can download. They're mostly political clips from the Daily Show goofy George W. Bush clips and more. Check 'em out! Alas, only a few are formatted for the iPod, but I'll be adding plenty of those soon.

OK, that's it from ThePete for now. Watch for a phlog entry or two and maybe even some regular posts should I get near a connection. Wish me luck.

For all who celebrate it: Merry Christmas.

For all with the good sense to avoid this mess we call the Holiday Season: How come I'm not smart like you?

PS I'm still fighting that stupid cough...ARG!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

[ThePhlog] 12/22/2005 08:40:43 PM


this is an audio post - click to play


--
Posted by ThePete to ThePhlog at 12/22/2005 08:40:43 PM

[ThePhlog] 12/22/2005 08:40:48 PM

This one comes to from the middle of a night of Christmas shopping at one of the most posh malls in all of Los Angeles. I noticed something strange about the mall...

this is an audio post - click to play

Glitterrock's Glitterdome...

For those of us who remember MST3K and enjoyed the bad episodes as well as the good, I give you:

http://www.glitterrock.org/glitterdome.html

UK: BIG GAY BROTHER

All right, lame headline but I couldn't think of any other way to marry these two stories...

First up, the UK legalizes gay marriage. Yep, the country we rebelled against legalized gay marriage before we could. I think they should rebel against us, just on principle. Read about [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-gays22dec22,1,6802247.story?coll=la-headlines-world|Elton John's marriage] at LATimes.com.

So, you might be thinking how great it must be in Britain right now--freedom so great, gays can get married!

Well, hold your horses! If Elton and his man had gotten married in 2006 instead of 2005, the UKG could track where they go after the wedding--no, it's not an anti-gay thing, but an anti-freedom thing.

Here's a clip from [http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article334686.ece|an article] at Independent.co.uk that will explain it better:
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.


OK, they now need to rebel against themselves.

This is the most absurd thing I've heard in a while--all right, since [http://thepete.com/bush-spying-the-press-what-a-mess/|Monday], but the point is, why do you need to map EVERY Briton's movements??

Besides the fact that Al Qaeda is not a threat to your country, why track EVERY person in your country when 99.9999% of them are law abiding citizens?

George Orwell, wasn't he from the UK? Guess he had a few things right...

HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE NIGERIAN PIPELINE THAT EXPLODED?

After a quick scan of both CNN and Fox websites I found no mention of a Nigerian pipeline that exploded on Tuesday of this week. CNN, at least, had coverage of it, but you had to use their search engine (powered by Yahoo) and Fox's website had nothing.

Yet, this did happen and according to some reports I read, ten were killed in the explosion, though Reuters.com (it's not on their mainpage, either) is [http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2005-12-21T162605Z_01_MOL139785_RTRUKOC_0_US-ENERGY-NIGERIA-ATTACK.xml&archived=False|saying] it's only 8. Regardless, this is news. Why is this news?

Nigeria is the eighth largest exporter of oil. Every time the oil supply in the world shrinks, even a little, prices go up. Even if the supply doesn't go down, but investors think it might, the price goes up. Ultimately, even a small amount of drop in supply (Nigeria is putting out 7% less than it normally puts out) can have an effect on price.

All I'm saying is, this is news. Yes, it's about Africans (ie black people) but it's also about Oil (ie black gold). You'd think that would make the news.

Oh and as of Wednesday, the fires on said pipeline are still burning. Yummy.

Read more about it in [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4546556.stm|an article] at http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (they also make you dig for the story) or [http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=scienceNews&storyID=2005-12-21T162605Z_01_MOL139785_RTRUKOC_0_US-ENERGY-NIGERIA-ATTACK.xml&archived=False|read about it] at Reuters.com.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

PATRIOT ACT UNBLOCKED FOR 6 MONTHS

So, [http://thepete.com/bush-spying-the-press-what-a-mess/|the Patriot Act is blocked] (sort of) and now [http://today.reuters.com/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyid=2005-12-22T024628Z_01_KRA102363_RTRUKOC_0_US-SECURITY-PATRIOT.xml&rpc=22|it's not].

Apparently Democrats and Republicans who had spines and voted for blocking (at least parts of it) agreed to unblock it for the next six months. Check out a clip from [http://today.reuters.com/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyid=2005-12-22T024628Z_01_KRA102363_RTRUKOC_0_US-SECURITY-PATRIOT.xml&rpc=22|an article] at Reuters.com:
U.S. Senate leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on Wednesday to extend for six months key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act set to expire in 10 days.

The accord, to be voted on later on Wednesday, would provide time for Congress to try to resolve differences over safeguards for civil liberties before making most of the provisions the Bush administration deems necessary for its war on terror permanent.

Democrats and Republicans who helped negotiate the deal voiced confidence that the White House and House of Representatives would give needed approvals.


I'm not even sure that clip makes any real sense as far as explaining what the hell the Senate is doing. I mean, really--the article was posted at 9:46pm Eastern Time on Wednesday. The Senate is going to pass this thing later than that??

Anyway, the point is, while all those Senator guys were acting all upset about the unwarranted spying on American citizens going on, they quickly turned on their heels to let the Patriot Act go for another six months. If I could think of a more free country than ours, I'd probably be seriously considering moving there. This is getting absurd.

1) Pass the Patriot Act without reading it--but it's cool, it'll sunset after a couple years.

2) A couple years pass, you agree to keep the Patriot Act around but block the scary stuff because it turns out Bush has been abusing it. Act all indignant about the abuse and pretend you didn't know about it.

3) While the American people are distracted and you're in the Senate chambers late on a Wednesday before Christmas, expose your second face (you are two-faced, right?) and extend all of the Patriot Act for six more months with the promise from the "opposition" that in that time "we'll work out our differences" on the act.

Yeah, right. Good plan. Meanwhile, more rights are violated.

God Bless America.

More like God Bless the Power-Mad-Corrupt Politicians.

A Fun Time at the Old Dayjob!

Haha--So, I'm at my screening tonight and the take-up reel on one of the projectors stops taking up. I then call the guy who built the room and let him know. In the meantime I get to wind the take-up reel by hand for two reels. Thankfully, he showed up and swapped out spindles and everything was fine after that. It was a real Christmas miracle. Imagine winding 4 out of 8 reels by hand! Yipeee!!

SAY, WHY DOESN'T WASHINGTON POST POLL ABOUT IMPEACHMENT?

Ha-ha, turns out, there's a reason...

According to [http://mediamatters.org/items/200512200006|a post] at MediaMatters.org, WaPo has been attacked with requests by its readers for polls asking about whether Bush should be impeached or not. The catch is, WaPo has now given two different reasons for not doing so, both are full of crap. First, WaPo's polling director, Richard Morin, says that asking whether or not a president should be impeached is inherently biased. Ha, that's funny, because, according to MediaMatters.org, back in 1998 they asked whether Clinton should be impeach if he had lied about the affair.

Regardless of how people answered, it would seem that Media Matters had the goods on Morin, so they told him so. He then changes his story, essentially saying that nobody important cares about whether Bush is impeached or not so why ask?

To be honest, here's the exact (new) excuse Morin gave, according to [http://mediamatters.org/items/200512200006|the Media Matters post] :
we do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion --witness the fact that no member of congressional Democratic leadership or any of the serious Democratic presidential candidates in '08 are calling for Bush's impeachment. When it is or they are, we will ask about it in our polls.

Enough, already.
So, forget that Bush has committed a handful of easily provable crimes. Oh wait, WaPo and the rest of the American mainstream press already has.

What adds urine to my lemonade, though, is how Morin complains about getting all this email regarding WaPo not polling about impeachment:
For the past eight months or so, the major media pollsters have been the target of a campaign organized by a Democratic website demanding that we ask a question about impeaching Bush in our polls.

The website lists the e-mail addresses of every media pollster, reporters as well as others. The Post's ombudsman is even on their hit list.

The website helpfully provides draft language that can be cut-and-pasted into a blanket e-mail.

The net result is that every few months, when this website fires up the faithful with another call for e-mails, my mailbox is filled with dozens and dozens of messages that all read exactly the same (often from the same people, again and again). Most recently, a psychology professor from Arizona State University sent me the copy-and-paste e-mail, not a word or comma was changed. I only hope his scholarship is more original.

We first laughed about it. Now, four waves into this campaign,we are annoyed. Really, really annoyed.


AWWWWWW!

I'm sure WE'RE ALL SO SORRY TO BE ASKING YOU TO DO YOU FRIGGIN' JOB.

It's only our democracy at stake, here.

Are all those emails taking you away from quality time on Free Cell? Or are you the kind to surf for porn at work?

Either way, here's an asshole who doesn't get that he's part of the very structure of society. Without an effective press, functioning as a check and balance, a fair and open society cannot function.

It's not up to the Democrats to decide what is up for discussion and what isn't. It's up to the press. When you guys sit back on your ass and enjoy your salaries and get comfortable, the government can get away with breaking the law--and has been for years!

UN Charter, broken when US invaded Iraq.

Covert propaganda law, broken when the Bush Administration produced TV news spots endorsing administration policies and/or programs without crediting themselves as the source. CHECK THE GAO.gov WEBSITE!! THEY'VE DETERMINED THE BUSH ADMIN'S ACTIONS AS ILLEGAL.

Bush authorizing the NSA to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Is this illegal? Can you be impeached for it? It sure looks that way! Why not ask the American people what they think?

Oh wait--you'd have to get off your fat ass to do it.

Never mind!

Allen and Travolta Dirty Old Men

And I don't blame them. Here's [http://imdb.com/news/wenn/2005-12-21/#celeb3|a blurb] from IMDB.com's [http://imdb.com/news/wenn/2005-12-21/|Entertainment News page] :
Allen and Travolta Obsessed by Johansson's Love Life

Woody Allen and John Travolta are taking an unhealthy interest in Scarlett Johansson's love life, according to the actress. The 21-year-old beauty, who stars in Allen's new movie Match Point and appeared in A Love Song for Bobby Long alongside Travolta, is dumbfounded by their obsession, and puts it down to their fatherly feelings towards her. She says, "You know what cracks me up? He (Allen) is fascinated with my love life. And John Travolta's even worse than Woody, he wants to know everything."


Here are a few pictures of Ms. Johansson:













Oh yeah, I'm sure Woody Allen and John Travolta are all about those fatherly feelings... like the kinds that make them want to father your children.

BILL MOYERS SPEAKS TO THE NSA

No, not to the National Security Agency, but to their arch-nemesis--the National Security Archive--the folks that keep track of everything the NSA and others do in the name of National Security, both good and bad. Bill Moyers spoke to them on their 20th anniversary and spoke of the importance of transparency and of how secretive the current administration is being.

Check out [http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1215-35.htm|the incredibly long transcript of his speech] over at CommonDreams.org. It's got all sorts of great stuff in it regarding secrecy in not only the current administration but in past admins, too. Specifically, Moyers was the press secratary for LBJ and worked in the Nixon admin, too. He's a serious part of American history and a smart man ([http://thepete.com/tag/Bill+Moyers|I've blogged about him before]). Here's a great excerpt from his speach to the NSA:
The country suffers not only when presidents act hastily in secret, but when the press goes along. I keep an article in my files by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon ("30 Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War") written a decade ago and long before the recent disclosures. They might have written it over again during the buildup for the recent invasion of Iraq. On August 5, 1964, the headline in The Washington Post read: "American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers: Move Taken to Halt Aggression." That, of course, was the official line, spelled out verbatim and succinctly on the nation's front pages. The New York Times proclaimed in an editorial that the President "went to the people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans "to face the fact that the communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have escalated the hostilities." It was not only Lyndon Johnson whose mind was predisposed to judge on the spot, with half a loaf. It was also those reporters and editors who were willing to accept the official view of reality as the truth of the matter. In his book, Censored War, Daniel Hallin found that journalists at the time had a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account of what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, but "it simply wasn't used."

Tim Wells, who wrote a compelling book on The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, told Cohen and Solomon it was yet another case of "the media's almost exclusive reliance on the U.S. government officials as sources of information," as well as "their reluctance to question official pronouncements on national security issues." There are many branches on the family tree of journalism where Judith Miller blossomed. I can imagine that one day the National Security Archive will turn up a document explaining how reporters waited outside the Garden of Eden to snap up Adam and Eve's account of what had happened inside, but never bothered to interview the snake.


Now, I love Moyers--he's one of the last American newsmen still interested in doing his job as a reporter of the truth, but he does go on for too long about how he was targetted by Republicans who felt he was too liberal. It's all true, but even after he explains why he goes on about it, I'm a little dubious that him being unfairly attacked by his Republican boss has anything to do with praising the National Security Archive.

Still, it's a good read if you're interested in reading more about secrecy in American Government.

From CommonDreams.org:
Published on Thursday, December 15, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

In the Kingdom of the Half-Blind

This is the prepared text of the address delivered on December 9, 2005, by Bill Moyers for the 20th anniversary of the National Security Archive.

Thank you for inviting me to take part in this anniversary celebration of The National Security Archive. Your organization has become indispensable to journalists, scholars, and any other citizen who believes the USA belongs to the people and not to the government.

It's always a fight to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. And no one in this town has done more to fight for open democracy or done more to see that the Freedom of Information Act fulfills its promise than the Archive. The fight goes back a long way. You'll find a fine account of it in Herbert Foerstel's book, Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Application of the Freedom of Information Act (Greenwood Press, 1999). Foerstel tells us that although every other 18th century democratic constitution includes the public's right to information, there were two exceptions: Sweden and the United States.

But in 1955 the American Society of Newspaper Editors decided to battle government secrecy. The Washington Post's James Russell Wiggins and Representative John Moss of California teamed up to spearhead that fight. President Kennedy subsequently resisted their efforts. When he asked reporters to censor themselves on the grounds that these were times of "clear and present danger," journalists were outraged and agreed that his administration represented a low point in their battle. But Congressman Moss refused to give up, and in 1966 he managed to pass the Freedom of Information Act, although in a crippled and compromised form.

I was there, as the White House press secretary, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act on July 4, 1966; signed it with language that was almost lyrical - "With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded."

Well, yes, but I knew that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets and opening government files; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. And he might have followed through if Moss and Wiggins and other editors hadn't barraged him with pleas and petitions. He relented and signed "the damned thing," as he called it (I'm paraphrasing what he actually said in case C-Span is here.) He signed it, and then went out to claim credit for it.

Because of the Freedom of Information Act and the relentless fight by the Archive to defend and exercise it, some of us have learned more since leaving the White House about what happened on our watch than we knew when we were there. Funny, isn't it, how the farther one gets from power, the closer one often gets to the truth?

Consider the recent disclosures about what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. These documents, now four decades old, seem to confirm that there was no second attack on U.S. ships on the 4th of August and that President Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam on the basis of intelligence that either had been "mishandled" or "misinterpreted" or had been deliberately skewed by subordinates to provide him the excuse he was looking for to attack North Vietnam.

I was not then a player in foreign policy and had not yet become the President's press secretary - my portfolio was politics and domestic policy. But I was there beside him during those frenetic hours. I heard the conversations from the President's side, although I could not hear what was being told to him by the Situation Room or the Pentagon.

I accept now that it was never nailed down for certain that there was a second attack, but I believe that LBJ thought there had been. It is true that for months he had wanted to send a message to Ho Chi Minh that he meant business about standing behind America's commitment to South Vietnam. It is true that he was not about to allow the hawkish Barry Goldwater to outflank him on national security in the fall campaign. It is also true that he often wrestled with the real or imaginary fear that liberal Democrats, whose hearts still belonged to their late fallen leader, would be watching and sizing him up according to their speculation of how Kennedy would have decided the moment.

So yes, I think the President's mind was prepared to act if the North Vietnamese presented him a tit-for-tat opportunity. But he wasn't looking for a wider war at that time, only a show of resolve, a flexing of muscles, the chance to swat the fly when it landed.

Nonetheless, this state of mind plus cloudy intelligence proved a combustible and tragic mix. In the belief that a second attack suggested an intent on the part of an adversary that one attack alone left open, the President did order strikes against North Vietnam, thus widening the war. He asked Congress for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that was passed three days later and opened the way for future large-scale commitments of American forces. Haste is so often the enemy of good judgment. Rarely does it produce such costly consequences as it did this time.

But did the President order-up fabricated evidence to suit his wish? No. Did subordinates rig the evidence to support what they thought he wanted to do? It's possible, but I swear I cannot imagine who they might have been - certainly it was no one in the inner-circle, as far as I could tell. I don't believe this is what happened. Did the President act prematurely? Yes. Was the response disproportionate to the events? Yes. Did he later agonize over so precipitous a decision? Yes. "For all I know," he said the next year, "our Navy was shooting at whales out there." By then, however, he thought he had other reasons to escalate the war, and did. All these years later, I find it painful to wonder what could have been if we had waited until the fog lifted, or had made public what we did and didn't know, trusting the debate in the press, Congress, and the country to help us shape policies more aligned with events and with the opinion of an informed public.

I had hoped we would learn from experience. Two years ago, prior to the invasion of Iraq, I said on the air that Vietnam didn't make me a dove; it made me read the Constitution. Government's first obligation is to defend its citizens. There is nothing in the Constitution that says it is permissible for our government to launch a preemptive attack on another nation. Common sense carries one to the same conclusion: it's hard to get the leash back on once you let the wild dogs of war out of the kennel. Our present Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a plaque on his desk that reads, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." Perhaps, but while war is sometimes necessary, to treat it as sport is obscene. At best, war is a crude alternative to shrewd, disciplined diplomacy and the forging of a true alliance acting in the name of international law. Unprovoked, "the noblest sport of war" becomes the slaughter of the innocent.

I left the White House in early 1967 to practice journalism. Because our beat is the present and not the past - we are journalists after all, not historians - I put those years and events behind me, except occasionally to reflect on how they might inform my reporting and analysis of what's happening today. I was chastened by our mistakes back then, and chagrined now when others fail to learn from them.

The country suffers not only when presidents act hastily in secret, but when the press goes along. I keep an article in my files by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon ("30 Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War") written a decade ago and long before the recent disclosures. They might have written it over again during the buildup for the recent invasion of Iraq. On August 5, 1964, the headline in The Washington Post read: "American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers: Move Taken to Halt Aggression." That, of course, was the official line, spelled out verbatim and succinctly on the nation's front pages. The New York Times proclaimed in an editorial that the President "went to the people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans "to face the fact that the communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have escalated the hostilities." It was not only Lyndon Johnson whose mind was predisposed to judge on the spot, with half a loaf. It was also those reporters and editors who were willing to accept the official view of reality as the truth of the matter. In his book, Censored War, Daniel Hallin found that journalists at the time had a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account of what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, but "it simply wasn't used."

Tim Wells, who wrote a compelling book on The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, told Cohen and Solomon it was yet another case of "the media's almost exclusive reliance on the U.S. government officials as sources of information," as well as "their reluctance to question official pronouncements on national security issues." There are many branches on the family tree of journalism where Judith Miller blossomed. I can imagine that one day the National Security Archive will turn up a document explaining how reporters waited outside the Garden of Eden to snap up Adam and Eve's account of what had happened inside, but never bothered to interview the snake.

I am taking your time with all this hoping you will understand why I have become something of a fundamentalist on the First Amendment protection of an independent press, a press that will resist the seductions, persuasions, and intimidations of people who hold great power - over life and death, war and peace, taxes, the fate of the environment - and would exercise it undisturbed, in great secrecy, if they are allowed.

In a telling moment, the Bush Administration opposed the declassification of 40 year old Gulf of Tonkin documents. Why? Because they fear uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. And well they might. Just as absurd is their opposition to the release of two intelligence briefings given to President Johnson in 1965 and 1968. The CIA claims they should be kept secret on the grounds that their release could impair its mission by revealing its sources and methods of forty years ago. That's bull. The actual methods used by the CIA back then have largely been declassified, which is why I signed a statement in your support when the National Security Archive went to court over this matter. I was as disappointed as you were when the federal judge, who ruled this past summer, preferred the government's penchant for secrecy to the people's right to know what goes on in their name and with their money.

It has to be said: there has been nothing in our time like the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy. This may seem self-serving coming from someone who worked for two previous presidents who were no paragons of openness. But I am only one of legions who have reached this conclusion. See the recent pair of articles by the independent journalist, Michael Massing, in The New York Review of Books. He concludes, "The Bush Administration has restricted access to public documents as no other before it." And he backs this up with evidence. For example, a recent report on government secrecy by the watchdog group, OpenTheGovernment.org, says the Feds classified a record 15.6 million new documents in fiscal year 2004, an increase of 81% over the year before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. What's more, 64% of Federal Advisory Committee meetings in 2004 were completely closed to the public. No wonder the public knows so little about how this administration has deliberately ignored or distorted reputable scientific research to advance its political agenda and the wishes of its corporate patrons. I'm talking about the suppression of that EPA report questioning aspects of the White House Clear Skies Act; research censorship at the departments of health and human services, interior and agriculture; the elimination of qualified scientists from advisory committees on kids and lead poisoning, reproductive health, and drug abuse; the distortion of scientific knowledge on emergency contraception; the manipulation of the scientific process involving the Endangered Species Act; and the internal sabotage of government scientific reports on global warming

It's an old story: the greater the secrecy, the deeper the corruption.

This is the administration that has illegally produced phony television news stories with fake reporters about Medicare and government anti-drug programs, then distributed them to local TV stations around the country. In several markets, they aired on the six o'clock news with nary a mention that they were propaganda bought and paid for with your tax dollars.

This is the administration that paid almost a quarter of a million dollars for rightwing commentator Armstrong Williams to talk up its No-Child-Left-Behind education program and bankrolled two other conservative columnists to shill for programs promoting the President's marriage initiative.

This is the administration that tacitly allowed inside the White House a phony journalist under the non-de-plume of Jeff Gannon to file Republican press releases as legitimate news stories and to ask President Bush planted questions to which he could respond with preconceived answers.

And this is the administration that has paid over one hundred million dollars to plant stories in Iraqi newspapers and disguise the source, while banning TV cameras at the return of caskets from Iraq as well as prohibiting the publication of photographs of those caskets - a restriction that was lifted only following a request through the Freedom of Information Act.

Ah, FOIA. Obsessed with secrecy, Bush and Cheney have made the Freedom of Information Act their number one target, more fervently pursued for elimination than Osama Bin Laden. No sooner had he come to office than George W. Bush set out to eviscerate both FOIA and the Presidential Records Act. He has been determined to protect his father's secrets when the first Bush was Vice President and then President - as well as his own. Call it Bush Omerta.

This enmity toward FOIA springs from deep roots in their extended official family. Just read your own National Security Archive briefing book #142, edited by Dan Lopez, Tom Blanton, Meredith Fuchs, and Barbara Elias. It is a compelling story of how in 1974 President Gerald Ford's chief of staff - one Donald Rumsfeld - and his deputy chief of staff - one Dick Cheney - talked the President out of signing amendments that would have put stronger teeth in the Freedom of Information Act. As members of the House of Representatives, Congressman Rumsfeld actually co-sponsored the Act and as a Congressman, Ford voted for it. But then Richard Nixon was sent scuttling from the White House in disgrace after the secrets of Watergate came spilling out. Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted no more embarrassing revelations of their party's abuse of power; and they were assisted in their arguments by yet another rising Republican star, Antonin Scalia, then a top lawyer at the Justice Department. Fast forward to 2001, when in the early months of George W. Bush's Administration, Vice President Cheney invited the tycoons of oil, gas, and coal to the White House to divide up the spoils of victory. They had, after all, contributed millions of dollars to the cause, and as Cheney would later say of tax cuts for the fraternity of elites who had financed the campaign, they deserved their payoff. But to keep the plunder from disgusting the public, the identities of the participants in the meetings were kept secret. The liberal Sierra Club and the conservative Judicial Watch filed suit to open this insider trading to public scrutiny.

But after losing in the lower court, the White House asked the Supreme Court to intervene. Lo and behold, hardly had Justice Scalia returned from a duck hunting trip with the Vice President - the blind leading the blind to the blind - than the Supreme Court upheld the White House privilege to keep secret the names of those corporate predators who came to slice the pie. You have to wonder if sitting there in the marsh, shotguns in hand, Scalia and Cheney reminisced about their collaboration many years earlier when as young men in government they had tried to shoot down the dreaded Freedom of Information Act that kept them looking over their shoulders (Congress, by the way, overrode President Ford's veto.)

They have much to fear from the Freedom of Information Act. Just a few days ago, FOIA was used to force the Department of Justice to make available legal documents related to Supreme Court nominee Judge Alito's record. The department reluctantly complied but under very restricted circumstances. The records were made available on one day, for three hours, from 3 to 6pm, for reporters only. No citizen or advocacy groups were permitted access. There were 470 pages to review. The blogspot Mpetrelis reckons this meant a reporter had about 34 seconds to quickly read each page and figure out if the information was newsworthy or worth pursuing further. "Not a lot of time to carefully examine documents from our next Supreme Court justice."

It's no surprise that the White House doesn't want reporters roaming the halls of justice. The Washington Post reports that two years ago six Justice Department attorneys and two analysts wrote a memo stating unequivocally that the Texas Congressional restricting plan concocted by Tom DeLay violated the Voting Rights Act. Those career professional civil servants were overruled by senior officials, Bush's political appointees, who went ahead and approved the plan anyway.

We're only finding this out now because someone leaked the memo. According to The Post, the document was kept under tight wraps and "lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule." Why? Because it is a devastating account of how DeLay allegedly helped launder corporate money to elect a Texas Legislature that then shuffled Congressional districts to add five new Republican members of the House, nailing down control of Congress for the radical right and their corporate pals.

They couldn't get away with all of this if the press was at the top of their game. Never has the need for an independent media been greater. People are frightened, their skepticism of power - their respect for checks and balances - eclipsed by their desire for security. Writing in The New York Times, Michael Ignatieff has reminded us that democracy's dark secret is that the fight against terror has to be waged in secret, by men and women who defend us with a bodyguard of lies and armory of deadly weapons. Because this is democracy's dark secret, Ignatieff continues, it can also be democracy's dark nemesis. We need to know more about what's being done in our name; even if what we learn is hard, the painful truth is better than lies and illusions. The news photographer in Tom Stoppard's play Night and Day, sums its up: "People do terrible things to each other, but it's worse in the places where everybody is kept in the dark."

Yet the press is hobbled today - hobbled by the vicissitudes of Wall Street investors who demand greater and greater profit margins at the expense of more investment in reporting (look at what's going on with Knight-Ridder.) Layoffs are hitting papers all across the country. Just last week, the Long Island daily Newsday, of which I was once publisher, cut 72 jobs and eliminated 40 vacancies - that's in addition to 59 newsroom jobs eliminated the previous month. There are fewer editors and reporters with less time, resources and freedom to burn shoe leather and midnight oil, make endless phone calls, and knock on doors in pursuit of the unreported story.

The press is also hobbled by the intimidation from ideological bullies in the propaganda wing of the Republican Party who hector, demonize, and lie about journalists who ask hard questions of this regime.

Hobbled, too, by what Ken Silverstein, The Los Angeles Times investigative reporter, calls "spurious balance," kowtowing to those with the loudest voice or the most august title who demand that when it comes to reporting, lies must be treated as the equivalent of truth; that covering the news, including the official press release, has greater priority than uncovering the news.

Consider a parable from the past, from the early seventh century, when an Irish warrior named Congal went nearly blind after he was attacked by a swarm of bees. When he became king he changed Irish law to make bee attacks criminal. Thereafter he was known as Congal Caech which means "Congal the Squinting" or "Congal the Half-Blind." If this administration has its way, that description will apply to the press.

Which brings me to a parable for our day.

Once upon a time - four years ago to be exact - PBS asked me to create a new weekly broadcast of news, analysis, and interviews. They wanted it based outside the beltway and to be like nothing else on the air: report stories no one else was covering, conduct a conversation you couldn't hear anywhere else. That we did. We offered our viewers a choice, not an echo. In our mandate, we reached back to the words of Lord Byron that once graced the masthead of many small town newspapers: "Without, or with, offence to friends or foes," he said, "I sketch your world exactly as it goes."

We did it with a team of professional journalists recruited from the best in the business: our own NOW staff; public radio's Daniel Zwerdling, Rick Karr and Deborah Amos; Network veterans Brian Ross, Michele Martin, and Sylvia Chase; Washington's Sherry Jones; The Center for Investigative Reporting's Mark Shapiro; Frontline's Lowell Bergman; Newsweek's Joe Contreras. We collaborated on major investigations with U.S. News and World Report, NPR, and The New York Times.

We reported real stories and talked with real people about real problems. We told how faraway decision-making affected their lives. We reported on political influence that led to mountaintop removal mining and how the government was colluding with industry to cover up the effect of mercury in fish on pregnant women.

We described what life was like for homeless veterans and child migrants working in the fields. We exposed Wall Street shenanigans and tracked the Washington revolving door. We reported how Congress had defeated efforts to enact safeguards that would mitigate a scandal like Enron, and how those efforts were shot down by some of the same politicians who were then charged with investigating the scandal. We investigated the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Steven Griles, a full eighteen months before he resigned over conflicts of interest involving the oil and mining industries for which he had been a lobbyist on the other side of that revolving door. We reported on those secret meetings held by Cheney with his industry pals and attempted to find out who was in the room and what was discussed. We reported how ExxonMobil had influenced the White House to replace a scientist who believes global warming is real.

We won an Emmy for the hour-long profile of Chuck Spinney, the Pentagon whistleblower who worked from within to expose graft and waste in defense spending. And the blog, Dailykos.com, speculated that it was our interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson, two weeks before the invasion of Iraq and months before Robert Novak outed Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, that first outraged the administration. "An honor I dreamed not of…"

None of this escaped the attention of the Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, a buddy of Karl Rove and the designated driver for the administration's partisan agenda for public broadcasting. Tomlinson set out, secretly, to discredit our broadcast. He accused us of being unfair and unbalanced, but that wouldn't wash. We did talk with liberal voices like Howard Zinn, Susan Sontag, Sister Joan Chittester, Isabel Allende, Thomas Frank and Arundhati Roy. But we also spoke with right-wingers like Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Cal Thomas, Frank Luntz, Richard Viguerie, Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal editorial page and then his successor, Paul Gigot.

What got Tomlinson's goat was our reporting. After all, we kept after his political pals for keeping secrets, and over and again we reported on how the big media conglomerates were in cahoots with official Washington, scheming for permission to get bigger and bigger. The mainstream media wouldn't touch this topic. Murdoch, Time Warner, Viacom, GE/NBC, Disney/ABC, Clear Channel, Sinclair - all stood to gain if their lobbying succeeded. Barry Diller appeared on our broadcast and described the relationship between the big news media and Washington as an "oligarchy." Sure enough, except for NOW with Bill Moyers, the broadcast media were silent about how they were lobbying for more and more power over what Americans see, read, and hear. It was left to one little broadcast, relegated to the black hole of Friday night, to shine the light on one of the most important stories of the decade.

What finally sent Tomlinson over the edge and off to the ramparts, however, was a documentary we did about the people of Tamaqua, a small town in Pennsylvania. The Morgan Knitting Mill there had just laid off more than a third of its workforce - the last of 25 textile mills that sustained the townspeople after the demise of the coal industry. The jobs were going to Honduras and China. Our report told how free trade agreements like NAFTA had encouraged companies to lay off American workers, produce goods more cheaply abroad and then import the goods back here. We showed how the global economy contributes to the growing inequality in America, with the gap between the rich and poor doubling in the last three decades until it is now wider than in the days of the Great Depression.

Those are the facts - "reality-based" reporting - that caused Tomlinson to tell The Washington Post that what he saw was "liberal advocacy journalism." Well, if reporting what happens to ordinary people because of events beyond their control, and the indifference of government to their fate, is liberalism, I plead guilty.

Tomlinson was now on the warpath. In secret (his preferred modus operandi) he hired an acquaintance out in Indianapolis named Fred Mann to monitor the content of our show. What qualified Fred Mann for the job has been hard to learn. His most recent position was as director of the Job Bank and alumni services at the National Journalism Center in Herndon, Virginia, an organization that is administered by the Young America's Foundation, which is, in turn, affiliated with the rightwing Young Americans for Freedom. The foundation describes itself as "the principle outreach organization for the conservative movement" and has received funding from ExxonMobil and Phillip Morris, among others. But the trail to Mann went cold there. Several journalists have tried telephoning or emailing him. I tried four times just this week to reach him. One enterprising young reporter even left notes for him at an Indianapolis Hallmark Store where Mann frequently faxed data to Tomlinson. No luck. I guess we'll have to wait for Robert Novak to out him.

Fred Mann never got around to writing his full report, but when members of Congress pressed Tomlinson to show them the notes from Mann, it turns out that he had divided NOW's guests into categories, with headings like, "Anti-Bush," "Anti-business," and "Anti-Tom DeLay." He characterized Republicans Senator Chuck Hegel, who departed from Republican orthodoxy to question the Iraq war, as "liberal," which must have come as a quite a shock to the senator.

During all this I sought several times to meet with Tomlinson and the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I wanted to ask them first-hand what was going on and to discuss the importance of public broadcasting's independence. They refused. I invited Tomlinson more than once to go on the air with me, with a moderator and format of his choosing, to discuss our views on the role of public broadcasting. He refused.

But all the while he was crudely pressuring the President of PBS, Pat Mitchell, to counter NOW. And he himself was in direct contact with Paul Gigot, the rightwing editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, to bring to PBS a show that Gigot had hosted on the cable business network CNBC until it was cancelled for lack of an audience. So the Journal Editorial Report came to PBS, with The Wall Street Journal, that fierce defender of the free market, accepting over $4 million of taxpayer dollars courtesy of Ken Tomlinson.

The emails between Tomlinson and Gigot during this time reveal two ideological soul mates scheming to make sure "our side," as they described themselves, gets "an absolute duplication of what Moyers is doing." But as the record will show, Gigot's show was nowhere near what NOW with Bill Moyers was doing. We were digging, investigating, and reporting; they were opining. We were offering a wide range of opinions and views; they were talking to each other. The participants on Gigot's broadcast were his own staff members at the newspaper whose editorial pages are the Pravda of American journalism, where the Right speaks only to the Right. To be blunt about it, we had more diversity of opinion on a single broadcast than Gigot had all year or than he has ever tolerated on his own editorial pages. Reporting? You have to be kidding. In their private exchange of emails Tomlinson informs Gigot that he doesn't really need to do field reporting. Gigot agrees, and goes on to say that he finds such reporting not only a waste of time and money, but "boring" [I'm not making this up: the editor of the editorial page of a great American newspaper finds field reporting "boring."] So it is that ideologues like Gigot can hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality.

I had always thought Gigot an honorable, if ideological fellow. The emails confirm that he is for certain an ideologue - and a partisan. The saddest part of this story, personally, is that on my own initiative - with no prompting from anyone - I had Gigot on my broadcast three times and had asked him to become a regular presence through the elections. I even solicited Pat Mitchell, the PBS President, to urge him to accept my invitation. I had no idea that at this very same time he was secretly negotiating with Tomlinson for his own show. He never bothered to tell me. After reading the emails, I realized this was deceitful on his part. Even as I was asking him in good faith to join me on the broadcast, Gigot was back-channeling with Tomlinson on how they could complete their deal and was advising Tomlinson on "the line" that the CPB chairman should follow.

Of the many disclosures in the email exchange between the two, this is the most intriguing. On August 13, 2004, Tomlinson wrote Gigot: "Protect me on this. I am breaking my word by forwarding this Mintz/Moyers stuff - but it's too rich for you not to see. Please, please don't show it to anyone. But keep in mind as we have fun with this. Cheers-KT."

What's he talking about? Mintz is Morton Mintz, the octogenarian (now retired) and much honored investigative reporter for the Washington Post. I know nothing about his politics; during his long career he broke exposes of both Democrats and Republicans. That August he and I were emailing about the possibility of an appearance by him on my broadcast, and two months later, just prior to the first Bush-Kerry debate, I did interview him about the questions he would put to both candidates if he were an interlocutor who wanted to break through the polite protocol of the staged event in the hope of getting the politicians to touch reality. Neither Mintz nor I can recall the exact subject of our email exchanges that August, long before the debate. Tomlinson somehow gained access to our correspondence - Mintz speculates that he found someone who hacked into our emails -and promised his source that he wouldn't share it with anyone else. Nonetheless, "breaking my word" and begging Gigot to "protect me on this," he forwarded it to his co-conspirator. In a sane world, both men would be drummed out of town for such behavior.

Gigot has now taken his show to FOX News, where such tactics will find a compatible home among like-minded partisans. "Our side" turns out to be the great Republican noise machine. A couple of days after that announcement, The Wall Street Journal published a thoroughly disingenuous editorial, obviously written by Gigot, defending Kenneth Tomlinson and their own involvement with him, while taking potshots at the Inspector General of CPB who had investigated the whole mess at the request of members of Congress. The editorial compared him to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau.

But in a final triumph of reporting and evidence over ideology and spin, the Inspector found that Tomlinson had committed multiple transgressions: he broke the law, violated the corporation's guidelines for contracting, meddled in program decisions, injected politics into hiring procedures, and admonished CPB executive staff "not to interfere with his deal" with Gigot. The emails show Tomlinson bragging to Karl Rove, who played an important role in his appointment as chairman, about his success in "shaking things up" at CPB. They also confirm that he had consulted the White House about recruiting loyalist Republicans to serve as his confederates in an organization that had been created in 1967 to prevent just such partisan meddling in public broadcasting. (Thanks to Tomlinson and his White House allies, the new President of CPB is the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee. She arrives under a cloud that only her actions can dispel. We shall see.)

Curiously, Gigot's Wall Street Journal editorial conveniently failed to mention that the emails between himself and Tomlinson indicate Tomlinson perjured himself under oath, before Congress, when he said he had nothing to do with the agreement that landed Gigot at PBS. Fact is, they worked hand-in-glove. As I just mentioned, Tomlinson told his own staff not to interfere with "his deal" with Gigot. There's even an email in which Tomlinson says to Gigot, after they have been plotting on how to bring the proposed Gigot show to fruition, "Let's stay in close touch." Obviously, lying by an ally doesn't offend Gigot, who is otherwise known as a scourge of moral transgressions by Democrats, liberals, and other pagans.

As all this was becoming public, Tomlinson was forced to resign from the CPB board. He is now under investigation by the State Department for irregularities in his other job as Chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasting sponsored by the United States. As I say, great secrecy breeds great corruption.

I have shared this sordid little story with you because it is a cautionary tale about the regime in power. If they were so determined to go with all guns blazing at a single broadcast of public television that is simply doing the job journalism is supposed to do - setting the record straight - you can imagine the pressure that has been applied to mainstream media. And you can understand what's at stake when journalism gets the message and pulls its punches. We saw it once again when Ahmed Chalabi was in town. This is the man who played a key and sinister role in fostering both media and intelligence reports that misled the American people about weapons of mass destruction. Although still under investigation by the FBI, Chalabi has maneuvered himself into the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. He came to Washington recently to schmooze with the President and to meet with the armchair warriors of the neoconservative crowd who had helped him spin the case for going to war. The old Houdini was back, rolling the beltway press who treated him with deference that might have been accorded George Washington. Watching him knock one soft pitch after another over the wall, I was reminded that the greatest moments in the history of the press have come not when journalists made common cause with power but when they stood fearlessly independent of it. This was not one of them.

In his recent book, The Gospel According to America, David Dark reminds us again of a lesson we seem always to be forgetting, that "as learners of freedom, we might come to understand that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance." He might well have been directly addressing the press when he wrote, "Keeping one's head safe for democracy (or avoiding the worship of false gods) will require a diligent questioning of any and all tribal storytellers. In an age of information technology, we will have to look especially hard at the forces that shape discourse and the various high-powered attempts, new every morning, to invent public reality."

So be it.

The National Security Archive is a non-governmental research institute and library at The George Washington University, in Washington D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Collaborating with him on this speech was Michael Winship. They have been colleagues in public broadcasting for over thirty years, including, most recently, on the PBS weekly broadcast NOW with Bill Moyers. Moyers, who retired from the NOW broadcast last December, is the President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

© Copyrighted 1997-2005
www.commondreams.org