28 July, 2007

Jews Not-necessarily For Jesus (Or Endless Occupation, For That Matter)

I wanted to quickly quote this letter from the comments on a Glenn Greenwald post from earlier this week:

I am a Jew who has had the opportunity to live and work in Israel.

God, I hope that the people who read Lieberman's garbage do not think it represents the thinking of any but the most minute fringe in Israel.

I never met anybody in Israel who believed this sort of junk.

Lieberman is a sick, perverted man with no sense of honor or decency. When he says things like this, he speaks neither for the Israeli government nor for the Israeli people.

The letter is in response to a post by Greenwald in which Greenwald dissects the strange bedfellows of AIPAC activist and cheerleader Joe Leiberman (I-CT) and frothing-at-the-mouth Rapture lunatic Reverend Hagee.

I commented on this earlier this week in the LJ Atheist Community here: http://community.livejournal.com/atheist/1445891.html.

My point being, I know that not all Israelis are evil Zionists, rabid Likudniks and in fact most of them are reasonable, moderate people living in one of a very few Social Democracies in the Middle East (ironically, Iran is much more democratic than our allies Saudi Arabia or Egypt). But American politicians like Leiberman play to the worst extremes of pro-Zionist politics, and Israel gets a bad rep as a result (and reactionary pundits will go after politicians like Senator Obama, who are a voice for moderation when they address the very real plight of the Palestinian people; right-wing Israeli politics are endemic and ubiquitous among the Beltway elite).

What is it about our system of government, and our media, that give the biggest audiences the loudest and most extreme veiwpoints?

From Tehran With Love: Our Pre-Iraq Intel Foibles

Here is an edifying bit on Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress' now thoroughly shamed (but illogically non-imprisoned) neocon go-to guy for pre-war dirty work.
In 1996, the CIA was trying to organize a serious attempt to overthrow Saddam using the INA, headed by a former Saddam hit man, Iyad Allawi who had broken with Saddam and walked in to work for MI-6 in the late 1970s. The Brits eventually brought him to the CIA in 1992. Allawi had assets inside Saddam's military but Chalabi betrayed the coup out of jealousy. The INA was the preferred CIA instrument, its intelligence was being checked out by technical means, and its success would have meant the end of Chalabi's funding.
In any case, Chalabi got caught fabricating information and the CIA cut him off. He merely went to the Pentagon and the checks kept coming because his fabricated intelligence on Iraq's WMD was so essential to selling the war, this from a man who had already failed four CIA polygraphs so that the agency had issued a "burn" notice on him by the late 1990s.
In 2004, Chalabi betrayed to Iran the fact the NSA was listening to mail belonging to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Milt Bearden called me in real distress the day the Iranian channel went off the air.
But Chalabi's real goal was to get rid of the Baathists in Iraq, and get rid of the army. In spite of promises we had made to senior Iraqi military, some of whom facilitated our entry into Iraq in 2003, Bremer, Wolfowitz and Chalabi broke all those promises and the Iraqis joined the insurgency.
In fact, so famous is the burning of Chalabi in US intel circles, the very term "burn notice" has entered our common cultural lexicon and is the name of a USA Network action-comedy. Wikipedia even has an entry for burn notice and Chalabi is prominent amoung the examples.

The main difference, as Richard Sale points out above, is that after being "burned", top administration officials continued to parade Chalabi out in front of Congress, the UN and on ther Sunday pundit circuit in their coordinated efforts to sell, continue to justify and obfuscate the realities of the Iraq war. Verily, it is possible that there are those in the United States who still consider him an asset, even if clearly Chalabi is at best a war profiteer and a scumbag and at worst a spy for Iran (likely, all of the above).

We (They) Are Fighting Them Over There

On this week's Bill Moyers Journal, a montage of young, college aged Republicans show each of them, in lockstep, answering the question of why we are fighting in Iraq with the Party Line of "We Are Fighting Them Over There So We Won't Be Fighting Them Over Here."

Nevermind "they" being al Qaeda represents a small minority of the armed insurgents "we" are fighting in Iraq, who is "we" anyway?

Well, "we" is not the hawkish youngsters polled by the reporter in the segment: each young adult who had said they favored our continued presence in Iraq, one by one, listed off excuse after excuse as to why they were not serving in Iraq. Only one claimed to have a medical issue, the rest were fit, coiffed, healthy men and women, ages from 19 to 25.

Perhaps they were afraid that their hair would get ruffled.

27 July, 2007

20 July, 2007

Impeach now

Glenn Greenwald's latest post highlights the primae facie abrogation of the independent prosecutorial powers of the judiciary by exerting "Executive Privilege" en masse to the executive branch as a whole, and to the US Justice Department, that branch's largest constituent. This is nothing new, but, continues Greenwald:
(4) I confess some difficulty here in becoming particularly outraged over this latest theory. There is nothing new here. As has long been known, this administration believes themselves to reside above and beyond the reach of the law. What else would they need to do in order to make that as clear as can be? They got caught red-handed committing multiple felonies -- by eavesdropping on Americans in precisely the way the law we enacted 30 years ago prohibited -- and they not only admitted it, but vowed to continue to break our laws, and asserted the right to do so. And nothing happened.

This latest assertion of power -- to literally block U.S. Attorneys from prosecuting executive branch employees -- is but another reflection of the lawlessness prevailing in our country, not a new revelation. We know the administration breaks laws with impunity and believes it can. That is no longer in question. The only real question is what, if anything, we are willing to do about that.

Yes, it is true that, as various Democratic statements are claiming, this theory poses a constitutional crisis since, yet again, the President declares the other two branches of government impotent and himself omnipotent. But we have had such a crisis for the last five years. We have just chosen to ignore it, to acquiesce to it, to allow it to fester.

There is no magic force that is going to descend from the sky and strike with lighting at George Bush and Dick Cheney for so flagrantly subverting our constitutional order. The Founders created various checks for confronting tyrannical abuses of power, but they have to be activated by political will and the courage to confront it. That has been lacking. Hence, they have seized omnipotent powers with impunity.

At this point, the blame rests not with the Bush administration. They have long made clear what they believe and, especially, what they are. They have been rubbing in our faces for several years the fact that they believe they can ignore the law and do what they want because nobody is willing to do anything about it. Thus far, they have been right, and the blame rests with those who have acquiesced to it.

It has been six months since the Democrats took over Congress. Yes, they have commenced some investigations and highlighted some wrongdoing. But that is but the first step, not the ultimate step, which we desperately need. Where are the real confrontations needed to vindicate the rule of law and restore constitutional order? No reasonable person can dispute that in the absence of genuine compulsion (and perhaps even then), the administration will continue to treat "the law" as something optional, and their power as absolute. Their wrongdoing is extreme, and only equally extreme corrective measures will suffice.

Dear (progressive, lefty or even centrist readers), the time to rattle your Congressperson's cage is now. George Walker Bush and Richard Cheney must be brought before Congress to answer for their crimes, and John Yoo and Richard Armitage and others need to stop creating the policy that enables the unitary executive.

Now, I have advocated impeaching or otherwise removing Bush 43 from office from the beginning, and it is no secret that I am not a fan. But what, in October of 2001, may have seemed a radical position is now one which any sane American should, when presented with the evidence, surely come to believe as I do: Impeach Now.

Because, well, in spite of Keith Olbermann's best efforts, I sincerely doubt our POTUS and VPOTUS will resign as asked.

19 July, 2007

Datacenter Confidential #5

Why is baking bread, or brewing beer better than systems adminstration?

When making bread, you have millions of yeast cells eating sugar and dividing in an orderly fashion. They expel alcohol and carbon dioxide.

When system administrating, you have billions of (and sometimes trillions of) resistors blinking on and off in an orderly fashion, but you have dozens of idiotic human beings telling you to do one thing, do another, often completely in contradiction of one another; worse, you have to find a way to secure each of those precious bits in spite of the idiots who are telling you what to do with them.

Bread rises. Beer ferments. Dot-coms fuck you in the ass. Over and over and over again.

17 July, 2007

From the DC Madam to Late Night Shots

[Updated 7/18/2007]

These are the animals running our country:

Late Night Shots

Think Pretty In Pink where Blane is a young Republican blueblood and Andie is another young Republican (although tragically nuveaux riche) making a sharp right turn down a dark, soulless rabbit hole where privilege, class and premarital sex between 20 something social Conservatives finds its way onto the a'la minute gossip pages of the internets.

Here is an edifying quote:
RE: optimal number for a woman
Posted By: Guy on 10-23-2006 1:35 pm
I could put up with 12. Anything more than that without a good explanation, and the girl is incapable of being in a serious relationship.

RE: optimal number for a woman
Posted By: higher the better on 10-23-2006 1:39 pm
I prefer high 's. It usually means they really like to have sex, and that they are very good at it. And the idea that you might be exposing yourself to a serious disease is thrilling and really gets my blood flowing.

RE: optimal number for a woman
Posted By: SF on 10-23-2006 1:58 pm
I think one sexual partner for every 2-3 years is acceptable for a girl from a good family. Sex just isn't something girls should be doing if they are interested in marrying me.

Getting tainted by older men
Posted By: Roger Chillingworth on 07-02-2007 9:16 am I'm concerned with a lot of the younger ladies in DC who are hooking up with and dating older guys. Whenever I first start seeing a girl I go through a checklist of what is acceptable, and having dated a guy who is 10+ years older than her is a tremendous red flag. I hope some of these younger girls realize the scarlet letter they are attaching to themselves by engaging in this scandalous behavior.

RE: Getting tainted by older men
Posted By: Steve Pimpington on 07-02-2007 9:21 am
I agree wholeheartedly. Nothing says "I blow guys for money" like dating some old rich dude. And the scarlet letter they are attaching to themselves is "W." For "whore."
I haven't read anything so infuriatingly mysogynistic since coming across the LA Times articles about Girls Gone Wild autere Joe Francis.

Where is this disdainful new paradigm coming from? The rule of law, the very rules of civility, and the constitution itself is but toilet paper to the jet-set of privileged brats we have roaming DC, New York, LA and even pinko San Francisco. "They" are taking over our bars, our parks and our government with their fuck-all, I do what I want life philosophy -- it is shocking to me that the Neoconservative movement hasn't made an effort to co-opt Paris Hilton (who certainly is from old enough money, and if its not old enough, it is plentiful enough) as a coifed, younger version of Anne Coulter -- oh, but she's a whore. Tsk.

And now, a photo of our Dear Leader:

ETA - I suppose this entry is as good a place as any to mention en passant the following Glenn Greenwald blog from today which refers to a Johann Hari article about a Neocon cruise in the Independent. This is what happen when polo wearing date-rape thugs grow up, discover Botox and the "white man's burden." An excerpt:
I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, both chilling and burning, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

I am getting used to these moments – when gentle holiday geniality bleeds into... what? I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

Is there any question in a sane person's mind that this is simple racism and xenophobia? Not only are all Muslims out to "get" the "European" (white) world, but they are doing it my breeding like the sweaty brown little monkeys they are. This is the same sentiment eternal Frat-boy high-fiving motherfucker Bill O'Reilly has expressed, again and again, with regard to the brown menace of Latino encroachment on "European" Americans:
O'Reilly continued: "So they, under the guise of being compassionate, want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, to change the complexion -- pardon the pun -- of America. Now, that's hatred, too." O'Reilly later asserted that the Times "want[s] to change the white, Christian male power structure" and concluded: "So you've got racism on the anti-Latino front, and you have racism on the anti-Christian, white male front. Aha! Isn't that interesting?"
Yes that is interesting Bill. We're living in a culture of death because not enough white people are having babies -- Bill himself has two, which as any anti-Zionist mouth-breathing White power advocate will tell you, having mastered mathematics, that this does not offset the brown people out-breeding whites 2 or 3 to 1.

But, I have to admit that I agree with Bill at least in that "they" (meaning me) want to disrupt the "white, Christian male power structure" in this country -- see above for stunning examples of this zeitgeist. White, Christian men have had their way with America and I honestly believe we are worse off for it. Sure, George W. Bush may in fact be a true believer, and I can't say one way or the other if he is genuine in his proclamations of faith, but if he is a true believer, what he truly believes is delusional and sociopathic; there is no shortage of evidence, anecdotal though it may be, that he is not alone is his pathological disdain for human life in general in the upper echelons of America's white, Christian-male power structure.

03 July, 2007

July 3rd Special Comment by Keith Olbermann

Posted in full, until I get a C&D from MSNBC:
“I didn’t vote for him,” an American once said, “But he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

That—on this eve of the 4th of July—is the essence of this democracy, in 17 words. And that is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The man who said those 17 words—improbably enough—was the actor John Wayne. And Wayne, an ultra-conservative, said them, when he learned of the hair’s-breadth election of John F. Kennedy instead of his personal favorite, Richard Nixon in 1960.

“I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

The sentiment was doubtlessly expressed earlier, but there is something especially appropriate about hearing it, now, in Wayne’s voice: The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we have survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others.

We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a president’s partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world—but merely that we may function.

But just as essential to the seventeen words of John Wayne, is an implicit trust—a sacred trust: That the president for whom so many did not vote, can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire Republic.

Our generation’s willingness to state “we didn’t vote for him, but he’s our president, and we hope he does a good job,” was tested in the crucible of history, and earlier than most.

And in circumstances more tragic and threatening. And we did that with which history tasked us.

We enveloped our President in 2001.And those who did not believe he should have been elected—indeed those who did not believe he had been elected—willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and shaped it to a razor-sharp point and stabbed this nation in the back with it.

Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers.

Did so even before the appeals process was complete; did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice; did so despite what James Madison—at the Constitutional Convention—said about impeaching any president who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes “advised by” that president; did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at the chain of events and wonder: To what degree was Mr. Libby told: break the law however you wish—the President will keep you out of prison?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental com-pact between yourself and the majority of this nation’s citizens—the ones who did not cast votes for you. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party. And this is too important a time, Sir, to have a commander-in-chief who puts party over nation.

This has been, of course, the gathering legacy of this Administration. Few of its decisions have escaped the stain of politics. The extraordinary Karl Rove has spoken of “a permanent Republican majority,” as if such a thing—or a permanent Democratic majority—is not antithetical to that upon which rests: our country, our history, our revolution, our freedoms.

Yet our Democracy has survived shrewder men than Karl Rove. And it has survived the frequent stain of politics upon the fabric of government. But this administration, with ever-increasing insistence and almost theocratic zealotry, has turned that stain into a massive oil spill.

The protection of the environment is turned over to those of one political party, who will financially benefit from the rape of the environment. The protections of the Constitution are turned over to those of one political party, who believe those protections unnecessary and extravagant and quaint.

The enforcement of the laws is turned over to those of one political party, who will swear beforehand that they will not enforce those laws. The choice between war and peace is turned over to those of one political party, who stand to gain vast wealth by ensuring that there is never peace, but only war.

And now, when just one cooked book gets corrected by an honest auditor, when just one trampling of the inherent and inviolable fairness of government is rejected by an impartial judge, when just one wild-eyed partisan is stopped by the figure of blind justice, this President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war.

I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.

I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient.

I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons, and sisters and daughters, and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but to stifle dissent.

I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought.

I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents.

I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to Grand Juries and Special Counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20th, 1973, Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously.

“Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men, is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people.”

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people.

It had been about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break in to a rival party’s headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover-up that break-in and the related crimes.

And in one night, Nixon transformed it.

Watergate—instantaneously—became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law of insisting—in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood - that he was the law.

Not the Constitution. Not the Congress. Not the Courts. Just him.

Just - Mr. Bush - as you did, yesterday.

The twists and turns of Plame-Gate, of your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the “referee” of Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen.

But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush—and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal—the average citizen understands that, Sir.

It’s the fixed ballgame and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one—and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon’s mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment.

It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of non-partisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to “base,” but to country, echoes loudly into history. Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush. And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney. You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route, no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is irrelevant.

But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a King who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them—or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them—we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms.

We of this time—and our leaders in Congress, of both parties—must now live up to those standards which echo through our history: Pressure, negotiate, impeach—get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our Democracy, away from its helm.

For you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9th, 1974.


And give us someone—anyone—about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.”

01 July, 2007

Datacenter Confidential #4

Recently, when hanging out with a couple of old friends in my apartment, I raised the specter of the "geeklab rule."

The originator of the rule, we'll unkindly refer to him as "NRH", was someone I met on the "Internet Relay Chat" network in 1992.

At this time in the narrative I need to make a few things clear. First of all, in 1992 there was an "internet" but there was no such thing as the web. I can't emphasize that point enough, because in 2007 the internet is synonymous with "the web" as we know it today.

Explaining the internet without the web to the average person is like trying to explain to a blind person what colors smell like.

It can't be done.

But there was an internet before browsers. And it was a world of text, by and large.

The "Geeklab Rule" came into being probably in 1993 or 1994. The rule was very simple: "given a group of people in the same room or building, if there is a terminal available, speech is not permitted".

If someone I wanted to communicate with was a mere 3 feet away from me, I was not permitted to speak to them if I could otherwise message them using IRC or ICB (Internet Citizens Band).

The rule was enforced in varying degrees of severity or apathy, depending on who was speaking to whom. But NRH was the most adamant enforcer of the rule, and the most annoyed by violators.

That I lived with NRH not once, but twice, is a testament to my abiding patience and tolerance of pedantic bullshit.

As controlling and pedantic as NRH is, I still love him like a brother; and he had better feel the same way about me given the number of times I have rescued him from certain ass kickings or worse.

This morning I thought about the "geeklab" no talking rule because I wanted to have terminals in my roommate's room, and for our couch surfer, so we could text each other back and forth without moving around or talking (in my case slurring) to each other.

I was reminded of the rule last night, however, when my roommate and I were at the bar down the street where the rock band was so loud we couldn't hear each other talk. So we sent each other text messages using our cellular phones. Two feet away from one another.

Mostly, we were talking about how much the band sucked.